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Thursday, July 31, 2008

Summer Holiday

Like everyone who can, I like my summers to be as different as possible from the school year. We take our children to a beach town on the Adriatic in Italy, where we eat and play for a couple of months. No homework, no planning. It makes a brilliant immersion experience for all of us: The kids have to play in Italian, I have to grocery shop in Italian, and look for novels to read in Italian, the newpapers are Italian, our friends are Italian (even though a few of them speak English brilliantly - a shout-out to Barbara here). We can't get things done when we want, because life doesn't work that way here. We can't go shopping on a whim, or get milk at the last minute, because retail doesn't work that way here. The slower pace is mandatory.

However, I do like to observe the local ritual of the apertivo as faithfully as possible. The idea is to stop around 6pm or 7pm or 8pm for one delightful drink, and a couple of snacks. Each bar offers a particular selection and a particular atmosphere. You know the other patrons, by sight if not by name. You know which weather conditions are best suited to which location.

This year, an old moribund chestnut, Aperol, has been revived by a TV ad (see link) into the absolute in cocktail chic: an Aperol spritz, (or sprizz) made by mixing Aperol with white wine, preferably sparkling, and/or water, preferably sparkling. And it is a fantastic drink! Refreshing after a few hours at the beach, light on the alcohol so you can actually go on to eat comfortably after you've had one. For me it is especially fun because Aperol reminds me of a couple of friends we may not get to see here this year, the most absolute in chic of any people I have EVER met, and the husband has been drinking Aperol all along. Now the world has caught up to him. (Yes, a shout-out to Poul and Gitte!)

This brings me to a project I have underway, that I hope to accomplish before I die (I estimate I have about another 40 years), which is to understand the local winds. A sea-side location, a long history of piracy, and winds of evident character, each with a name, all contribute to the interesting nature of this project. So far I have understood that the winds continually circle around the compass. I have just about memorized the names of the winds of the eight main compass points, and where they come from and how they feel. AH! I can say: like standing inside a blow-dryer (confusingly called a "phon" in Italian), must be a garbino - hot and dry from Africa. OH! Cold and blowing in through the kitchen door, must be a bora, from the north. Overnight we get a wind from inshore. Many late afternoons have a cool and humid scirocco, also from Africa, but more easterly, picking up humidity coming over the Mediterranean Sea. Our doors bang suddenly, open or shut, as the wind moves around.

What I love is the way things work together - ie in a scirocco it is nice to get an aperitivo at the bar by the beach, in a garbino you need a bar with air-conditioning, if it might rain, the bar at the other side of centro is best, and so on. As well, this has been the summer of reading Venice. (Be patient! It does connect.) I started with The City of Falling Angels, by John Berendt and Suffer the Little Children, a Donna Leon murder mystery set in Venice (thanks and a shout-out to Michela). Death in Venice (of which I love book and movie and Mahler - time to enjoy them again) concerns a scirocco in Venice (a wind we know, and we are just down the same piece of coast, with the same weather). When I am back with my library I will get to some books Berendt mentions: Henry James's The Aspern Papers, and The Ambassadors, and the Cantos of Ezra Pound. While I'm here I am looking at The Venetian Empire, by Jan Morris. To tie it all together, I also read Islands and Lagoons of Venice, by photographer Fulvio Roiter (see link), in which there is a lovely old map of Venice with a wind rose. The commentary in this book is by Peter Lauritzen, who figures in The City of Falling Angels! I should be writing this at the bar with an Aperol spritz in hand, but, Oh well.

Although so much seems old-world here, I do have a new-fangled mobile wireless modem, (Do we have those in Canada?) What makes it different from Wi-Fi, which is less common here, is that you don't have to find a Hot-Spot. I would love to move my computer to a bar to write something. That would be cool. I'll be sure to mention it if it happens.

The marigold asks, but not really nervously:
Why can't there be one-world technology? It would be so useful to those of who want to look up archeological info on-site at ruins, or sheet music at the opera, or bird names at the beach, etc, etc. One still requires a number of devices to do it properly. Isn't it micro-chip implant time yet?