Crimes of Our Fathers

I had a disturbing call recently with a close friend, who lives in Europe. Her husband, one of the nicest people I’ve ever known, is having some significant health issues brought on my work-related stress. I’d seen him a year ago at Christmas and he seemed to be on the mend, but since then took a turn for the worse.

Owning a Bar/Cafe in Italy is a 7-day a week, 362 day (they close two days of the year) job.
Our children don’t want those jobs either.

Through it all, his wife and friends are there for him, but his two, now adult (mid, high 20’s) children, are MIA (Missing in Action).  Adults in their mid-20’s can get caught up in their own lives and certainly have their own angsts, but this isn’t that.

These two children have decided that their father is guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors. The youngest one hasn’t spoken to her father in over two years.

What’s the crime that so unspeakable?

He worked hard, while getting a college decree, to enable him to have higher paying jobs to provide for his wife and two daughters, including putting them thru university.

It seems in our ever more indulgent society, his daughters expected him to be there more for them.

Sorry, I have no idea what that means. I saw my father, late evenings and on the Sundays, he wasn’t still working. While some of those Sundays had a planned trip, with us going someplace to visit friends . Many were spent waiting impatiently for him to finish fixing the car or washing machine or something else of necessity.

But thru it all, I understood that my father showed how much he loved us by how hard he worked. It wasn’t about face time or sitting on his knee. It was about never having to worry about whether we would have something to eat or a place to live. Besides, if he got home earlier in the evening, we’d have to watch something stupid on TV or listen to classical music all night (which is what we did on those Sunday visits, but at least we got out of the City!)

I asked my best friend, who is also European, what he thought of this.  He said, he never saw his mother because she was working all the time. But in just those words, I gleaned that he fully understood that all he had now, his business and personal success, was because of his hard working mother.

We of the west, expect things to come to us, whether we work for them or not. It is one of our fundamental problems with education and one of the reasons for our dismal success rate in public schools and colleges. And everyone: students, teachers, administrators and politicians own a piece of that failure.

My Vietnam time is coming to an end in a couple of months. So, I am ever more keenly aware of what’s going on around me. Savoring every moment, every observation, like it will be my last, as it will be soon. Thus, I notice the streets packed at 07:00 until 21:00 every day. What are people doing? Working, going to school, doing those things that they must do to be successful, to be happy, to survive.

Vietnam calls itself communist or socialist, but it is less socialist that any European country or even the USA for that matter. It’s a one-party state, but that’s about it. There is no safety net. Children understand that if they do not work hard in school, they will not get a decent job. Adults understand that it’s work or starve.  Simple, maybe harsh, but effective.

That’s one of the things I both appreciate and admire about Asian cultures. They seem to be not so far removed from the basics of life. While we in the west, the USA and Europe, seem to ever more indulge ourselves in a fanciful world in which we do nothing, but want everything. We base our very existence on false stereotypes that never existed in the first place.

But it’s hard to have conversations about real life with our children, when we spend all our time arguing whether it’s a wall or a fence and then make millions suffer to make our nonsensical point.

Our children learn from us.

 

Curiosity

As I flit from place to place, I wonder what drives me. After all, crossing oceans, flying from continent to continent, costs time and money.

View of the Dolomites from Budoia, Pordenone, Italy, Christmas 2017
Budoia, Pordenone, Italy, Christmas 2017

Is it worth it?” I’ve asked myself that question many times, not only since Dauntless entered my life but well before it.

Bahia Guacamaya

In the summer of 1970, I worked driving a cab in New York. Coming home day after day covered in sweat, dust and grime, in the days before air conditioning. But at the end of that long, hot, humid and dirty summer, having survived not only the weather and the traffic, but the escalating crime in the City, I took my money and bought my first car.

Of course, it was a car my father recommended. He was a master a virtually anything he was interested in doing and cars were one of his interests, so there was no thought of getting anything but what he pointed out.

Northeast Italy, December 2017

Good move. My first car was ugly, like a box and battleship grey.  And only a week after getting it, I packed it up and stated the long, 3.000-mile, trip back to the University of Washington in Seattle, with nary a thought. My attitude has always been If other’s have done it, so can I.  Even then, the pattern of not stopping until late into the evening, running on fumes or taking “short cuts” was apparent.

Northeast Italy, December 2017

I never thought I was particularly brave, in fact, I knew I was pretty shy and afraid of the dark.

But that didn’t matter because there was always something new to see over the next hill or around the next curve.

The 21 days on the westward crossing last December were very similar, yet so different.

I looked forward to the day, the sunrise. What clouds would we have today? Rain or showers? The sky always had something new; something I hadn’t seen before. In my first Atlantic Passage in 2014, I had tried to avoid developing rain showers or thunderstorms. But in a boat going 6 knots, that is a futile gesture. Even more so, this last trip, I looked forward to the cleansing rain. I also didn’t want to upset the boat. She gets in a rhythm, let here stay in it without any major course changes.

The only thing I never liked was blue sky. My two years living in southern California were the worst, blue skies every day. I almost died of monotony.  Even now, on the boat, I see a building storm on the horizon and I can’t look away. I’m fixated, as if watching a beautiful woman get dressed, what will the final look be? But storms are even more interesting than people, because their lifetimes can be minutes or hours.

These days, visiting my friends in Italy and Holland, the first time seeing them since my Atlantic Passage last Christmas, I’ve been able to recount the story numerous times.

Many say how brave I am. But I know better; I’m not brave at all, I’m simply curious.

The Price of Friendship

Portrait of Carini
Portrait of Carini

This month marks 40 years since I first set foot in Italy.  Arriving on the plane from the U.S., landing at Malpensa

(north of Milan), we needed to get a domestic flight from Linate (closer to Milan).  This meant a bus ride through parts of Milan to get from one airport to the other.

Having to change airports in a foreign land was in itself an adventure. On that bus, gazing out the window, I realized I wasn’t in “Kansas” anymore.  My preconceived notions of Italy, were disappearing like water in the desert.  The billboards of naked women advertising something or other, were the final straw. I vowed then and there to accept what is and to make no assumptions. Now, 40 years later, I’ve tried to do this in every new country, new town, new face.

There was never a saying so apt, as “When in Rome, do as the Romans.” So I did.

Starting with an open mind always helps, fate of personalities and timing are also clearly important.  Now, 40 years later, my Italian friends are more like family.  In that strange paragon that allows us different family roles, sometimes simultaneously. Thus, in Budoia, I am both the oldest son and the younger sibling. It’s great having an older sister. With Gino, I am the younger brother, carefree, always up for an adventure.  Slipping from my real life, I cocoon myself from my “normal” responsibilities.

So, in this little corner of Italy, nestled against the Dolomiti, in an area that mixes Friuli with the Veneto, I find myself ensconced in the familiarity of friends who are more than family. The family one chose.

My only jobs here are pretty much limited to opening the next bottle of Prosecco, getting up in time to eat, or my favorite, being the chauffeur (picture Driving Miss Daisy).  I love driving and in the western world, much of Europe is still the best.  The recent program to change intersections to roundabouts, traffic circles, has made the driving even sweeter.  Now every road has been transformed into a F1 track.  From Gino’s car showroom to Budoia, a distance of 14 miles, the route takes you thru Pordenone and two other towns, there are only two stoplights.  All the rest of the intersections having been converted to the above mentioned circles, (maybe 25).  A 20-minute trip during the day with traffic, becomes a 14-minute exercise late at night with empty roads. A pure joy to drive, rain or snow, sun or fog.  (Not even on Dauntless have I encountered fog so thick with visibility so bad, less than 20 feet!).

But as usual I digress.

This is post is about friendship or better stated, the value of friendship. Though maybe the driving allows me to be in a space in which I can free my mind to see and appreciate what is?   Forse, Perhaps.

Hanging around Gino’s car dealership, waiting for him to finish work, so we can do what we always do, eat! I thought of the last 40 years since I have known Gino.  This car dealership is actually Gino’s third. Some years were good, some were not, sort of like Trump losing $20 billion.  However, in Italy, one does not get those who did pay taxes to reimburse you for the next 20 years!

In my wanderings, in both body and mind, I noticed a picture portrait hanging on the wall of Gino’s disorganized office. You can tell it’s his office because he has 50 pipes sitting on his desk. My father liked smoking pipes and much like Gino had different pipes or combinations of pipes.  But I never understood why he needed more than one and he was certainly not going explain it to me, as he understood I only had a fleeting interest in the answer. (I think there is a lesson here for me in regards to my own nephews!).

But I was touched by that picture on his wall.  Oh, I certainly knew who it was.

It’s his friend, or really mentor, Senor Carini from Gino’s first car dealership.  I remember meeting and seeing Carini often in the Alfa Romeo dealership that Gino had for 25 years.  A tall, very elegant man, with a chiseled face that always had a pleasant smile and a kind word for someone like me in my stumbling Italian.

Back then, Gino was a young wheeler-dealer, (now he is an old wheeler-dealer), but he always deferred to Carini due to the man’s vast experience and steadfast style.

So, it was appropriate that Gino has Carini’s picture on his office wall, while having no other pictures, not even of his devoted wife and brilliant daughter. (though there may be a picture of them on this cluttered desk)

Carini passed away a long time ago. But seeing his picture on the wall reminded me of how faithful Gino has also been to our friendship.  Though good times and bad, more family than friend. Always there to help, advise, console, even during times that were not so good for him.

That evening, as I thought of Gino and his life, his successes and disasters, one thing remained firm and fast in his life, his devotion to family and friends.  His acknowledgement that his success was due to people like his mentor Carini and his wife and now, also, his daughter.

So now, in his third car dealership, and probably, hopefully, his most successful, his humility is evident for all to see.

Because whose name is on the building? Not his, as it was in the past; but that of his mentor and friend, Carini.

Carini Auto in Pordenone, Italy
Carini Auto in Pordenone, Italy

Had Donald Trump had even an iota of this humility, he would be our next President.

 

 

 

Getting My Head Back in the Game

is easier said than done.  These past three weeks has been a nice respite from the duty and responsibilities of Master and Commander of Dauntless.nettlesboxes

The last 10 days in Italy, at the house of my friends for 40 years, eating, drinking, sleeping, eating, drinking, sleeping, ad infinitum, lulls one in into a stupor sweeter than any chemically induced experiment.

It’s a good life and it’s obvious why it has attracted me all these years.  But it’s also just as obvious, even more so, that I have structured my life in such a way that when I am in Italy, I am truly on vacation.  Sure I am still like the oldest son of the family, but other than some chauffeuring duties, which I enjoy immensely, it’s just eat, drink Prosecco, nap, from morning to late night.

But all good things must come to an and, so I find myself stealing glances at the Atlantic charts.  And in that incessant way that can be both annoying and gratifying, clicking on strange links.

Thus, I found this link: http://www.opc.ncep.noaa.gov/Loops/SeaNettles/prob/SeaNettles.shtml

Indirectly it also answers my questions that I had asked so many in Europe, about the seemingly overabundance of jelly fish in both the eastern Baltic and now also this year in the rivers of Lisbon in particular.  Seems to be related to salinity.  Oh, now I remember that the Baltic is only half as salty as the ocean.  Probably much like the Chesapeake.

In 7 days, we push off from the European Continent and head for darkest Africa, OK, only Morocco, not so dark, in fact, pretty f…ing bright, but allow me some editorial license.

In less than 30 days, we then push off of Africa for the Caribbean. No embellishment needed here.

Ok, got to go, I have a delicacy or two to snack on.

A Cornucopia of delicacies
A Cornucopia of delicacies
dessert
dessert – Chestnuts
A Favorite Spot
A Favorite Spot
A Great Spot of Italian snacks
A Great Spot of Italian Snacks at Affordable Prices
Crostini di Prosuito
Crostini di Prosciutto
Crostini di Lardo
Crostini di Lardo
My Morning Snack
A Morning Snack

 

A Few Pictures of the famous town of Budoia

The Apls above Budoia
The Apls above Budoia
My little Via Pozzi in Budoia
My little Via Pozzi in Budoia
The church of Budoia
The church of Budoia
The Garden behind the Wall
The Garden behind the Wall
Another View of Via Pozzi
Another View of Via Pozzi
I drove to Sacile this morning and yesterday too. I do have responsibilities you know!
The Garden the Day After

It’s tough life; but someone has to do it.

Another View from Budoia on a Cloudy Day
Another View from Budoia on a Cloudy Day

Ireland & Italy

Twelve hours from now, I will be snugged into an aisle seat on Delta Airlines, watching the minutes drag by like hours.

As many times as I have taken the red eye to Europe over eh past 30 years, I still dislike it, a lot. In fact, I’d rather go to the dentist.

Now, I do like my dentist, a lot. Sometimes I even dress us just for her.  One has to stay in the game, even if only in the dugout. When I stop flirting with people, it’ll be time to swim with the fishes.

Speaking of which, in spending more countless hours trying to get my pictures organized once again, I ran across some of our Atlantic Passage pictures.

The water was so blue even with the wind causing some white horses, as many Europeans call whitecaps.

August 28, 2014    250 miles SSW of Ireland
August 28, 2014 250 miles SSW of Ireland

I know it was only months ago when I was gazing at the map in dismay, seeing I have over 1200 miles to do, alone, in September. With summer long gone and autumn rearing it’s windy head I was not looking forward to those miles.

Now I miss it.  I can’t wait to get underway again.  Listening to the purr of the Lehman, the quiet swish of the Krogen hull cutting through the water like a hot knife in butter, is truly music to my ears.

But I still have 5 months for that to happen.

Tomorrow morning, I will arrive in Dublin, even rent a car, for the first time in years in Ireland.  I need to go to New Ross, check on Dauntless, so some winter stuff, minor stuff, defrost the fridge, etc. Talk to the people working on the hull making her look pretty again. And for the right price we will even paint below the cap rail.  On Wednesday, I’ll go to Waterford (about 20 minutes away, 3 hours by boat) for two days.

But as much as anything, I am going to Ireland for these four days just to be there, to wish a Merry Christmas to so many of the wonderful people I have met in Waterford.  I spent about half my winter last winter in Waterford.  IT turned out to be a good mix (half in US, half in Waterford).  This year I am already a bit bored in NYC.  There is only so much I can do here.

So the plan is New Ross tomorrow, Wednesday & Thursday Waterford, then on Friday fly to Treviso and drive to my friends in Budoia, the little town, very little, that is as much as my home as NYC is.

Three weeks in Italy, almost all with friends will be wonderful, though to mix it up slightly, Julie, who join me on the 23rd, and I will spend New Year’s Eve and day in Venezia. Then taking the water bus to the airport on January 2nd. That will be a first for me. I hope it’s foggy, fog is fun when someone else is doing the driving.

The pictures of interest column on the right posts my Instagram pictures and I will try to post a picture a day to give you an idea of my latest hi-jinks.

And the dollar is getting stronger and oil is in freefall.  Can’t ask for much better than that when you have a motorboat that still must cross two oceans and a few seas!

The Viking Tower in Waterford
The Viking Tower in Waterford