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Trip to Italy: The Letter

TRUE STORY



Gimmie a ticket for an airplane…



The people at the office said "No one flies to Milan!" when I said I didn’t want to rent a car and drive there from Paris. When we landed in Milan and the flight to Pescara was cancelled, I understood why no one flies to Milan: the fog.



I couldn't understand what was being said on the public address, so I found the Alitalia window and tried to find out. "Why was the flight cancelled?" I asked, and the woman there put her palm down and made a gesture like a plane flying, first climbing up and then tumbling rapidly down to crash. Then she somehow got the notion of fog to me, which if you think for a second, is not easy to convey without words. We found someone who spoke French or English, and then came the killer: "This ticket is expired, I can't help you." The "Not valid before..." was being understood as not valid after. Anyway, after a long argument and getting three or four other people to come and look, I was issued a train ticket and somehow got the bus to go to the train station and then somehow found the train. What ensued was Twilight Zone material.



Ain't got time to take a fast train



The train: very crowded in spite of the fact that we were leaving late at night. Although it wasn't chickens and goats in the cars, that is the image that I had then and that I retrieve now, total chaos, it looked like the 1920's with ethnic costumes the likes of which I'd never seen, someplace totally out of my time. Only one person spoke anything close to English or French. I had expected to find French speakers, since we aren't that far from France, but I never did in Italy. The English speaker and I exchanged a few words from time to time but he was tired and I didn't want to bother him. There were a lot of workers getting off at tiny hamlets here and there, and large women in all black. This was the Adriatic coast.



Lonely days are gone



I had to make a connection and the stop was at 3AM. I tripled checked and asked my guy and a conductor, yes: I was to sit in an empty station (I think this was Pescara) from 3AM to about 5:45 when my train came. I sat on my suitcase in the dark station. The lounge was closed and no one was around, there was almost no light. I needed to go to the restroom and saw two doors, but there were only words, no symbols to make the sexes clear. "What the hell, it's 4AM!" but I lucked out and got the one with urinals. While I was relieving myself, I heard a dull, rhythmic thumping. When I went outside, I couldn't hear anything. Since I had hours with nothing to do, at about 4:30, I went back near the rest rooms and heard the thumping. I followed my ears around the corner and way down at the other end of the platform, there was a window all lit up, invisible from where I'd been sitting on my suitcase. I went over towards the light. "I'll be damned!" It was a café with probably 50 people in it, huge counters of pastries, meats, sandwiches, and everyone having a great time with their drinks, wine, beer, coffee and a jukebox playing "The Letter" by Joe Cocker, which I played years before in many bars, far, far away from here. I stepped in, grabbed some food and went to the register to pay and order coffee. Not a single person looked at me or in my direction even. Now we're going from Rod Serling to Stephen King. I was given coffee, but for some reason, they wouldn't let me pay anything, and went over to lean on a post (no seats available) and look around.



By the Beautiful C



Warmed by the out-of-this-world café and feeling like a seasoned world traveler now, it was easy to get on the right train since it was the first (and only) one in the station, a little before 6AM. How could it be that this train was the same train I was on a few hours ago. The guy who spoke English wasn't there (there was a young woman who replaced him, very nice, smiling) but who can tell the difference between a dozen ladies in all black? And the extras, they all looked the same, too. Again, men were getting off at the little coastal towns. In about an hour, the conductor came and punched my ticket and asked me a question which I couldn't understand. After a few minutes, he lost patience and left. Puzzled, I turned to my sympathetica neighbor. The girl smiled and said,



"Oh, he just wanted to know why you are riding in third class when you have a first class ticket."



A final smile and she left, getting off at the next stop.



By the C (program)



The trip was to install and test a program my company had sold to a huge glass factory that made windshields. My destination was a town near Vasto or it was Vasto, I'm not sure. What I recall though is that there were two stations with the name "Vasto" in them.



 





Photo: PIERPAOLO PALAZZO 



There was only one thing to do, ask the nearest lady in black, pointing first to the ticket, then to the name on the map in the train car. They had to assemble a committe of five ladies in black, but they assured me it was the second stop, not the first. Then they all got off. It was getting light, and the train was going along the coast, it was really beautiful and I was as high as a kite, drunk on the fatigue and the adventure of my first solo trip to Italy. The previous one was on a 1974 blues-rock tour. What you experience alone and what you see and do on a tour with 8-10 people are two very different universes.



Taxi Driver: You Talkin' to Me?



Getting off at the destination, there was a one free taxi waiting and I let the driver take my bag and throw it in the trunk. Again the fellow didn't speak a single word of either language I knew. Of course he said "where to?", I got that and I reached in my pocket for the scribbled note with the hotel name on it. It was then I realized that I had changed jackets before I left and the name of my hotel was in the other jacket pocket. I don't know how the next part happened, but somehow, with only gestures, the driver said: "I take you past the hotels, you remember maybe the name?".



 



Ok, Vasto or wherever it is, isn't Manhattan I grant you, but there was a whole long street of little hotels, at least 15, so it wouldn't be far from trivial to visit or call each one. The man's idea worked, I recognized the name and he took my bag in and up to the desk. The driver and the hotel clerk (or owner for all I knew) shook hands, and exchanged a few sentences. The man at reception greeted me in English and handed me a key with a large number carved on the wooden part. The driver then launched into rapid fire Italian that, if you went only by the sound of the accents, sounded like an operatic lyric "Death, why cometh you now, please let it not be so, show kindness and mercy in this time of need!" and the clerk still smiling nodded and took my key back and handed me a different one. I looked back at the taxi driver and he smiled and was about to leave, so I shook his hand and gave him what I hoped was a generous tip. The hotel man saw me puzzled again and explained: "He scolded me for not giving you a room with nice view, so I gave you a better one."



And so to work. I was scheduled for a test of the software that morning at the factory and before I was able to go up to my upgraded room, Luc showed up. Luc was a very cool guy, Belgian (francophone), living in this town with his wife who'd even agreed to have me for dinner a couple of times, and she was a great cook, by the way. I asked Luc if I could have an hour to get cleaned up before we go to the factory. He laughs and says,



"Why? We installed and tested the software yesterday without you, it works fine. Go to the beach when you're ready. I'll be back at noon to take you to lunch. Tonight we'll go out for drinks and dinner. By the way, how did you manage to get the room with a view?"



 



Originally published on StrictlyBeta.com


 
 
   
 

DUGTUNGAN

Meron akong kwento

Tungkol sa dalawang tao

Na pinagtagpo ng tadhana

Sa panahong hindi inaasahan.

Sa simula ay pangiti-ngiti lang

Nang lumaon ay panay na ang kwentuhan

Ng mga samu’t-saring bagay.

Mga nakatatawa at nagpapa-isip,

Mga pangarap at panaginip.

Matuling lumilipas ang oras

Pag magkasama sila.

Hindi nila alintana ang init ng araw

O ang malakas na pag-ulan –

Ang mahalaga ay naroon ang isa’t-isa

Kahit pa nga kung saan man yan.

Malimit silang nagtatawanan

At kung minsan mang hindi magkasundo,

Ay madali ring nagagawan ng paraan.

Para silang yin at yang,

Pagsikat at paglubog ng araw,

Pintura at putting canvas –

Pwede ring beer at sisig,

Tapsilog at kape,

Longanisa at suka.

Sa medaling salita, sila ay perpektong magsama –

Pinaghalong tamis at pait,

Asim at alat,

Anghang at sarap.

Ito ay isang kwentong wala pang ending.

May simula na at gitna

Ngunit hindi pa nalalagyan

Ng tamang wakas.

Siguro dahil hinahanap pa ng mga bida

Ang tamang panahon

Para lagyan ng tamang karugtong

Ang katuloy ng istorya.

May alam akong isang kwento

At hinihintay ko pa ang kahihinatnan

Ng istoryang nasimulan.

 

/em

072114mon.

To chixeggs

 
 
 

   
Itinerant

Although I am mostly alone, I take comfort that my dad took part in building many parts of this city. The subsequent realization, though, is that most of the roads he worked on, or

restaurants he applied edging or sheet metal or roofing to, have all already been replaced, by new buildings and roads built by new day laborers or sheet metal men (okay, that was a pet name for him: Sheet Metal Man. I realize I should say ‘sheet metal persons’ don’t get all bent out of shape as if you, perhaps happened to be a ‘sheet metal person’ yourself), or roofers.

 

The road work nearly killed him.

 

My parents were both well educated and had, in the near past, had great jobs. White collar, in my Dad’s case, and dress-up office, in my Mom’s. One thing brought them down, and it wasn’t even me. My mom had been married five years, albeit, to a different man, whom I didn’t know was my father, before they decided to have a child. My step-dad-Father, went into the marriage with her, knowing and fully accepting that there was a me to be raised. The thing that brought them down was his drinking.  

 

His white collar employment had been so great, in fact, that they had sent him to Atlanta, to Peachford (I just love that being in Atlanta, they even squeezed another ‘peach’ into a rehab facility name). He was sitting in a bar within hours of completing his stay.

 

The employers eventually gave up on him. Instead of commuting to Atlanta to work, he, my Mom and I eventually started living in a car and in and out of motels, while he did day labor and she waited tables at family restaurants. I was too young to work.

 

My favorite place to stay was parked right outside of the Krispy Kreme on Ponce de Leon in Midtown. Walk-in convenience for peach drink and donuts cannot be beat, even if you are part of a street family, with your dad wanting beer and your mother not quite having enough in tips for a motel room that night. Hot freshly manufactured donuts make it a bit easier to ignore bickering, misbehaving parents. Of course, I discovered, they won’t just keep buying them for you. They don’t want you to die in a sugar coma because they are down on their luck. They want you to go back to normal after this protracted and strange ‘camping adventure’. And they don’t want you to be unhealthy. So one or two and the horribly unhealthy peach drink and then sleep in the backseat with an according to him, not drunk enough dad, and a tired, worried mother sitting silently in the front.

 
 
   
 

The Story

I used to think that our story is a fairy tale –

You are the prince who’d rescue me,

Slaying a thousand dragons

To keep me safe from harm.

You are my knight in shining armor –

Gallant,

Brave,

Perfect.

I used to think you are my defender,

The person who would never hurt me.

I forgot that fairy tales are stories

Written for kids,

That as adults, we only have reality to face –

Harsh,

Hurtful,

Heart-breaking.

I quite forgot that life is not a bunch of stories

With happy endings

But a series of unfortunate events

Testing one’s resolve.

It takes one you to make me realize

That I am not a princess

Being spoiled by her prince

Rather I am a woman

Feeling hurt and betrayed

By the very person I trusted and loved.

Our story was a myth,

A fiction,

A product of imagination.

 

/em

020314mon.

To the ice queen and jester

 
 
 

   
The Retelling of the Story

The Retelling of the Story

 

You said, I write your story better than you could,

But you forgot one thing –

I may know the words

But you are the heart and soul of it.

I merely retold it,

But you live it.

You feel the different emotions

And the varying degrees of happiness,

The love and passion,

The pain and sacrifices.

I only write what you go through

Thus, the beauty of the story,

The essence that makes it wonderful,

Lies within you.

I am just the storyteller

But you are the inspiration,

The very reason,

Why the story exists.

I am words,

You are feelings.

I create vision,

You weave the dreams.

I write of it,

You are its core.

Ergo, I exist

Because you are.

I merely record,

You create,

You see,

You love,

You feel.

You are the story.

 

/em

072413thurs.

To Strange

 
 
   
 

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