Dreaming In Italian


Sunday, October 30th, 2022

This word is written exactly the same in Italian and in English although it’s pronounced a bit differently. So why am I writing a blog post about this. First of all I haven’t written a post for a LONG time as my friend Renata reminded me not too long ago and also because the circuitous train of thought that led me here. Laura and I usually listen to music with our lunch and dinner meals together and today I chose Aretha Franklin. Why, I don’t know, maybe because I haven’t played this music for a long time. The first song was “Freeway of Love”. This set my mind on a journey jumping from one thought to another. Given that my memory is not what it used to be I was really stunned that I remembered exactly where I first heard this song, I would guess it was in 1985 with my then girlfriend Cynthia. We went to a club called Rockin’ Robbin in the Haight Ashbury (very hippy) area of San Francisco and they played this song. The incredible thing is that sometime I can’t easily remember either the English or Italian word for something like a vegetable. It takes a while for it to bubble up from somewhere inside my brain but this was like a flash and crystal clear. A columnist in the San Francisco paper of that era sometimes related such trains of thought as his “monkey mind” and I see why. So the next thought was that like a fair number of black female singers Aretha got her start in choirs in black churches at a young age. Then my mind jumped to a black church that I had gone to in San Francisco a few times called the Glide Memorial Church. It wasn’t purely black and in fact it attracted lots of people like, well, me. Its church service was, I think, typical in some ways of a black church. A big choir, a lot of audience (maybe congregation would be a better word) participation. It served and I’m sure still does the poor people of San Francisco. The minister at the time was very charismatic and inspirational and the service was always a celebration. There was always a point at which he said we should all meet and great those seated near us, to either side and front and back. It became a very personal and at the same time community experience.

I know that nostalgia has more than one meaning. It can be the longing for something in the past and even the desire to return to that past but that’s never true for me. The meaning for me is remembrance of something emotional and inspiring. Sometimes, especially when I have an, er, altered state of consciousness my monkey mind is in high gear. I think it’s open to memories that are little snippets of my life that have always been there and sometimes in amazing detail. It’s a very pleasant journey through long forgotten paths although obviously not totally forgotten. I started this blog post perhaps 2 months ago and stumbled upon the draft today and decided to complete it.

I will add something more current. Twelve days ago I had another hip replacement. This time I was only in the hospital for 4 days after the operation rather than the 7 or 8 last year. I was anxious to get home because frankly unless it’s really necessary it’s quite boring being in the hospital and largely confined to a bed. By the time I left I had demonstrated all of things necessary to go home, walking and going up and down stairs with crutches among the most important but basically showing that I could take care of myself adequately with the help of my wife. When they said that, yes, I could go home they also told me that they could send me in an ambulance at no charge. That sounded great to me; kind of like going home in a limousine. That part of my joy was smashed a couple of hours later when they told me that I had tested positive for Covid. It’s still a mystery to me how I got infected in the hospital. I was totally asymptomatic but the ambulance was no longer an option. So Laura came and helped me dress, packed the little suitcase with the stuff I’d brought with me and we went home in a taxi. I couldn’t start physiotherapy at home right away because of Covid and I started doing it on my own (lots of web sites and videos available). After 5 days I did an at home test (negative) and uploaded the results to the SSN (National Health Service) site and now things are reasonably normal. I’m well along in the physiotherapy although the therapist will probably come next Tuesday or Wednesday.

Now I have a matched set of hips

There is one particularly interesting item about the new hip. Because my pelvis is crooked from when it was broken in an automobile accident 57 years ago my left leg was, in effect, 2 cm shorter than my right one. I compensated by adding 1 cm to the sole of my left shoe and have inserts in the same shoe that total about 1 cm. I had talked to my orthopedist knowing that I would have to have the right hip done and asked if he could add some length to the left leg. He said he could and to lower the risk I asked for just 1 cm although I could have gone for 2. That means I won’t ever need to modify the left shoe again. So he did it. He came to see me afterwards and was proud to show me that the left was indeed 1 cm longer than previous. In the early spring or maybe late winter almost all of the store have sales here so you can guess what I’ll be buying.


Saturday, August 27th, 2022

In August it seems like everyone goes away for vacation. Obviously not everyone but lots of stores are closed and there are lots of parking spaces available in our the city which is a rarity in our neighborhood. It all seems a little bit strange, perhaps like a movie by a quirky director. Today even the coffee bar where I always meet my friend Renata on Saturday mornings was closed but of course the employees and owners also deserve a break. Along with the bar, the butcher shop (macelleria) and by favorite bread bakery (panificio) are closed for the month. So we decided to leave this semi-ghost town and go outside the city for a lunch – after all it’s at least easy to find a parking space when we return.

We went to a place that we’ve been to twice before that’s about 20 kilometers away. It’s the “Antica Hostaria della Rocca di Badolo”. An “hosteria” usually written without the “h” was originally just a pub where you could get wine and maybe beer. There is one in the very center of Bologna that still carries on that tradition, the Osteria del Sole. You can only buy something to drink but are free to bring your own food. They claim that it’s the oldest osteria in the world and has been there since 1465. But I digress.

We have been to the Antica Hosteria 2 times before. I’m always a bit hesitant to drive outside of the city since I often get lost and frankly Google maps sometimes is not very useful. The last time that we went, sometime in the spring I took a wrong turn when returning to Bologna and instead of a normal 35 minutes to return wandered around following the directions of Google maps and it took about an hour and half. This time I found a much better route both to go and return. It has few turns and is easy going in both directions. Should you ever drive a car in Bologna you really have to be careful because at some point the most direct route will get you a traffic ticket because it is a lane reserved for buses and taxis. This route doesn’t have that complication. It’s the blue route below. I used Porta San Mamolo as the starting point to force Google maps to provide this more direct route.

The food at this place has always been exceptional, the view from it’s position on the hill is sublime and the costs are beyond reasonable. We split two generous plates of food, which we shared and they split the portions into two plates in the kitchen. In addition we had a bottle of water, a half liter of wine, two deserts and for coffee for a total bill of 56 euros.

Laura and a hint of the view
Spaghetti with black truffles
Venison stew with grilled polenta

I forgot to take pictures of the deserts before they were half consumed. Mine below had figs and I told the waitress that I love anything with figs. I don’t remember what Laura’s was but it was beautiful and good.

My desert
Laura’s desert

The website for the Antic Hosteria is pretty bare but here is a link for the page in Trip adviser with lots of photos. I was shocked to see the website (here) for the Osteria del Sole. I smell the hand of a marketing consultant.

Death of Peppino

Thursday, May 19th, 2022

Peppino is a name, a diminutive of Giuseppe, just like Joe is a diminutive of Joseph. Peppino was 16 years old which would be a short life for a person but a fairly long life for a cat.

Peppino when he was a kitten
Peppino as adolescent

Laura has had him since he was a kitten and of course my relationship with Peppino has been much more brief, about 3 1/2 years. He was kind of emotionally needy I would say. If I would let him he would spend almost every waking hour on my lap but obviously that wouldn’t work for me. At least he did finally learn that he could stay on my lap longer if he didn’t use his claws to adjust his position. He was doing damage to my jeans.

Peppino as an adult – in Torino still

So while I’d say he was not the smartest cat that I’ve known, he was capable of learning. He had been pretty healthy until recently. At about 6 weeks ago he no longer could jump up enough to get on my lap when I was sitting down so I would give him an assist.

Then about 3 weeks ago things changed radically. He could barely walk and when he did he didn’t seem to be able to see obstacles. He would bump into walls and get stuck in narrow spaces. Laura took him to the vet a couple of times and there was no clear reason for his decline but in the end it was something obviously neurological. So reluctantly about 2 weeks ago Laura asked the vet to come to the house to provide euthanasia for Peppino. Laura has been very sad but is recovering.

That Was The Week That Was (and not a good one)

Saturday, April 30th, 2022

Starting from the beginning: on Sunday April 17 Laura drove to Torino. Her daughter who lives in India was due to arrive with her family a few days later and she had some work to do in the house before they arrived. She planned to then spend another couple of weeks with them before returning. Since that was Easter (Pasqua) day it was ideal for the trip since the traffic should be pretty light – which it was. Of course I knew that I would miss her but that would also give me an opportunity to get together with friends who I hadn’t seen for two years due to the pandemic. On the following Tuesday I went to the main library to do my regular volunteer work. To get some exercise I usually walk the kilometer to arrive there. As I was almost there I tripped and fell down. It seemed that there was no harm done. I got up and went in and found that nobody had made a reservation for the English conversation for the first 45 minute period. To kill time I then found a book that seemed interesting and went to the bar inside the library for a coffee and pastry and read the book for about 45 minutes – still no problem. I liked the book and decided to check it out so I did that and found that I had a big problem with my right ankle. Since I expected that there would be the second person who would come for conversation I hobbled to the place where I would have said conversation, took off my right shoe and elevated that foot to try to recover a bit. Nobody came and the foot did not get any better. Fortunately I had made an appointment with my friend Rita for lunch at someplace near the library and I was really in need of some help. I called her and described the situation and she came to my aid. Like about any person I have sprained my ankle various times during my life but it was never anything as serious as this. I decided that I really had to get medical assistance right away and so I wanted to take a taxi to an emergency room but given that I could barely walk, the taxi needed to come as close as possible to the exit door from the library. With my still somewhat limited Italian that would be hard to describe to the taxi dispatcher. So my friend called for the taxi and in fact she struggled a bit to get the message across. I finally received a message that the taxi was on the way and would be on the side of the street nearest the library. So I then hobbled to the taxi just as it arrived and was off to the emergency room.

Emergency room visits always involve a significant wait time unless you’re seriously bleeding or otherwise in bad shape. I hobbled in, went through the triage process,was put on a bed on wheels and waited for my number to be called. Then a doctor gave me a cursory exam and I was then in the queue for the x-rays. After the X-rays I was then in the queue for treatment. Fortunately nothing was broken and I was given a choice between a cast to support the ankle or a brace. I opted for the brace which would allow more flexibility, I could take it off when needed rather than having to return to have it removed. I still was unable to walk without crutches and I had crutches at home from when I had a hip replacement last fall. Nobody at the hospital had a solution so I called a good friend and described the situation and asked for help. Then I took a taxi home and only had to wait for a few minutes before Renata and her husband arrived to help me. They helped me physically to arrive at my apartment and retrieved the crutches for me. I will be forever grateful for such good friends.

The brace – I hate it but it did it’s job

Of course I immediately called Laura and described the situation. She had planned to stay in Torino for a couple of weeks but quickly revised her plans to return to Bologna after another week. Fortunately there was plenty of food in the house for that period and with the crutches I was pretty mobile. So the emergency room visit was on a Tuesday and on Friday I had a sore throat. I had no fever but with some research I found that one of the symptoms with Omicron version of Covid was a sore throat. Renata had planned to come to the house on Saturday morning for our usual coffee and chat meeting and I asked if she could bring a couple of items (strawberries and milk) and also to buy an at home Covid test. She brought everything but was pressed for time and didn’t stay and I didn’t want to be with her if it turned out that the test was positive. The test was negative and I breathed a sigh of relief. A different friend, Leonardo, came by for lunch and we ordered pizzas from the pizzeria across the street and ate outside on the terrace. So far so good.

The next week my ankle improved a lot but also my sore throat got worse and I also had a runny nose (another symptom of Omicron). So when Laura arrived on the following Wednesday I asked her to stop by the pharmacy and buy another at home Covid test. Also just to be on the safe side I insisted that we stay apart and both wear masks until I took the test, fully expecting that it would be negative. Eeek it was positive! I called my primary care physician and he said that he would call whatever part of the health care organization that deals with Covid and a nurse would come to my house the next day to do a molecular test. She did and I received the results the next day – positive again. Even as the symptoms were already starting to wane Laura and I clearly had to be very careful in the house. We ate apart and slept in separate bedrooms and if in the same room we both wore masks and only stayed briefly in such proximity. By the way I let Leonardo know that I had tested positive and he said that he had no symptoms and wished me well.

Now I have to stay always at home for 7 days. If at the end of 7 days I have been asymptomatic for at least 3 days I can go to a pharmacy for a rapid Covid test which hopefully will be negative and then I can resume a reasonably normal life. So for a review:

  1. Alone in Bologna since Laura went to Torino. – Sunday
  2. Sprained my ankle badly 2 days later and went to the emergency room. – Tuesday
  3. Probably was infected while at the hospital.
  4. Learned that I was infected when Laura returned a week later on Wednesday

So that was my week from hell (well, more like 10 days).

On the bright side, the symptoms are pretty much gone and my ankle seems to be almost completely healed.