Dreaming In Italian

I’m still here

Thursday, April 30th, 2020

I mean that title in two senses. First I’m alive and well in these times when that means more than it usually does and second I’m still in Bologna and in general unable to go very far from my house. You need to fill out a form to go to another town or city. So that means that I can’t go to Torino where Laura is and she can’t come here. Bummer. It is now 44 days since I last saw her other than during a phone conversation with WhatsApp (thank god for WhatsApp).

Here is a blank copy of the form to fill out

In short it asks you where and when you were born, your identification (in my case I used the number of my Italian Identity Card), my phone number, where I live, where I am going and most importantly why I am making this trip. Ah, the Italian penchant for bureaucratese never fails to astound me.

I am currently selling my house in California and ran into a little, well BIG, problem. To sell the house I need to notarize documents. There are 23 states in the U.S. that recognize on-line notarizations but unfortunately California is not one of them. After pursuing various possibilities I concluded that the only option was to go to an American consolate or embassy here in Italy. The closest one is Firenze (Florence) and I was concerned that I would not be allowed to go there. So I went to the nearest office of the Carabinieri, a type of police force here in Italy and somewhat to my surprise they said that, yes, a need to go to the consulate was considered a matter of urgency so I could go. I corresponded by email with the consulate and they gave me a date of the morning of 28th of April. During this period of the coronavirus I certainly didn’t want to be on any form of public transportation so I rented a car for one day. I got it on the afternoon of the 27th, found a parking spot near my house and left the next morning at about 8:00.

I arrived after about 1 1/2 hours. And parked in a lot near the consulate. After a bunch of checks by the guards to verify my appointment and my passport I was allowed inside. Now I know what it must be like to work in a fortress. It is VERY secure. The doors to enter the front and then after the scanners very much like at an airport are so heavy that they must be blast proof or almost so. You cannot go inside with absolutely anything with electronic content so I of course that meant no cell phone. I knew this ahead of time so I locked a lot of my stuff in the trunk of the car before entering.

Next I went to a room where there were several windows, the kind that you see in a bank except more secure. You can pass documents back and forth under the window and communicate mostly with speaker and microphone.

After waiting a few minutes a woman came to the window and I passed the 6 documents (not all for the house sale) that needed to be notarized. She then spent some time preparing the documents for the person who would do the notarization. Finally “the guy appeared”. He was a vice consul who appeared to be all of 25 years old and was about as friendly as a cobra. I really thought that being and american citizen I’d at least get a friendly hello but he was cold as ice. In any case he signed and applied the appropriate seal to all of the documents and then the woman who was a little friendlier stapled the documents together with a brass grommet, something that I have never seen before but it was pretty cool. By the way, the woman whose name I don’t know and probably shouldn’t was much nicer. All business but pleasant both in our email exchanges and in person. Maybe she should have the vice-consul job.

Then I wasted no time in returning to Bologna and arrived back at home at about 1 PM. One interesting thing about this trip is that I fully expected to be stopped at least a couple of times by police of one type or another to check my documents but it never happened. Probably a good thing but it was a little disappointing since it would have added a bit more to the story.

The documents are now in the hands of Federal Express and as of this writing have already left their massive depot in Memphis on the way to California and possible delivery today but surely tomorrow. The house sale should close next week and that will be a huge relief. My thanks to unknown consular woman. Perhaps I will see her again when I register for an absentee ballot.

As a sort of P.S. The car rental was only 27 euros. However gas here is much more expensive than in the U.S. For the 130 mile round trip the gas cost 30 euros and the autostrada tolls were 16.60 euros. That brings the total to over 73 euros or about $80 at the current exchange rate. Much more expensive than the train but certainly much safer right now.

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Starting Week 6 of the lock down (even the blog titles are getting boring)

Wednesday, April 15th, 2020

Whooo boy, this is getting old. Thank God for WhatsApp. I talk to friends here and in California with video. I talk to my realtor, who’s becoming more and more of a friend as she steers the house sale through the process. The severe restrictions on movement has now been extended to May 3rd. So my hope of moving to the new house in April are crushed. I’ve talked to the realtor about starting to pay rent at the new place the first of June instead of the first of May and once he talks to the owner (who I think will agree to that) then I need to tell the owner of my current apartment that I will be staying here during May.

And there are additional complications due to the pandemic. Miraculously there is a buyer for my house in California. The price is significantly reduced from what it would probably be in normal conditions (almost 15% lower) but I’m still happy with the deal. My realtor, Judy, is a real trooper. She’s arranged for all of the home inspections, relatively minor repairs and upgrades as well as promoting the house in difficult times. So hopefully all contingencies should be resolved in a week or so and it will be formally in escrow – at least that is what it is called in California. The buyers seem quite committed so I am optimistic that it will conclude successfully. Some things that need to be overcome are on my end. Since I will not be able to return to put pen to paper to sign the final sale documents then I need to designate a trusted person there as a limited power of attorney for only that transaction. I have that document as well as a couple of others that I need to get notarized. On-line notarization is acceptable in 21 states in the U.S. but unfortunately California is not one of them. Bummer. That means that I will need to go to the consulate in Firenze (Florence) of the embassy in Rome (I hope not) to get the documents notarized. Obviously that cannot happen before the severe travel restrictions are lifted. The consulate in Firenze does not allow on-line reservations for notary services but I hope to plead my case via email with the consulate as soon as it seems likely that I will be able to go there. So I’m a bit (well, a lot) concerned about that. The buyers are aware of my predicament and are allowing up to 60 days to conclude the deal but the sooner the better from my point of view.

I think that I’m becoming a bit more Italian every day, a little bit more “furbo”. That is, finding little ways to circumvent some rules. Last Friday, for instance I wanted to go for a fairly long walk which is forbidden unless you have a reasonable excuse. I knew that the hardware stores are now open and knew that the one that I usually go to for various things was (1) about a half kilometer from my house and (2) closed from 12:30 to 3:00. So I went there at 1:30. I figured that if I was questioned I’d be OK because I could say that I didn’t know it was closed at that hour. So the round trip is a kilometer and I took a long way home through minor streets and manage to have a nice walk of over a mile. Yesterday I was even more bold and kept to little traveled streets and managed to walk about 2.5 miles. It’s nice to be outside. I generally don’t walk for pleasure but these are different times and the weather is nice and streets are mostly deserted.

So my current plans are as follows. First order of business, get documents notarized and sent by FedEx or equivalent back to Californi. Second task; visit the new house and make some measurements to plan where to put Laura’s furniture and generally organize things when we move there. Third; move my stuff to the new house. I’ll need to find a mover but my realtor contact here can probably help me with that. It’s a fairly simple move since I have no furniture. Fourth; take the train to Torino to be with Laura for a week or two to help with preparations for her move. Hers will be a lot more complicated because she’s going to bring a bunch of furniture. Adding to the complication is that she has a lot of stuff. Books, kitchen stuff, clothes and SHOES (I counted 90 pairs of shoes and boots). She can’t bring it all so there’s going to be a lot of agonizing about what to bring and what to leave behind.

I’ll certainly be glad when most of the restrictions are lifted and a reasonable facsimile of normal life returns. Until there are effective treatments and a vaccine it’s going to remain a little scary. The effects will linger a long time. Still there is a least a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel.

I ran across this video on the newspaper La Stampa which is newspaper of Torino. When I searched for it I found that it was in a lot of Italian papers and also, thankfully on YouTube. The range of videos during this period are from very funny to very moving. This is one of the latter. Such a beautiful country. I love living here.

Stay safe. Things are looking better in terms of the rate of increase of infections there but still it’s above 600,000 today and will surely top a million. The captain of the ship is not helping.

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Goodbye John (Addio John)

Wednesday, April 8th, 2020

The news came this morning that John Prine died yesterday.  It was not really a surprise since I knew that he was in critical condition and was highly at risk, having lost a lung to cancer a few years ago. He was a lifelong smoker. This morning I have been listening to a lot of his songs that mean a lot to me. It seems strange that I’ve shed a lot of tears this morning. I remember very few times in my life when I’ve really cried as a result of a sad event. I cried when my father died and really don’t remember other times but this morning I cried. I never knew John personally and only saw him once in concert so that is what makes it strange. I suppose we all have a special place in our hearts that are rarely touched. His songs often touched that place in me. I wish that I was with Laura. Here are a couple (well, 3) songs of his.

Another favorite similar in tone to “Hello in There”

Another song so full of emotion

This one is for Laura

Take care of yourselves in these difficult times.

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Starting week 5 of the lock down

Sunday, April 5th, 2020

It really is almost surreal how life changes when confined to the house for a long period of time. Kind of like being in prison without the the nasty roommates and guards and of course better food since I’m a pretty good cook. Still I and probably the other 60 million residents of Italy are going stir crazy.

I live mostly dressed with sweatpants, sweatshirt and house slippers. I get more suitably dressed a couple of times a week to go to the nearby supermarket and take out the trash. I have busied myself doing some tasks around the house. I started packing up a bunch of stuff anticipating a move in the not TOO distant future (I hope). I had the presence of mind to buy matching paint and spackle to fill the nail holes that were left where I hung my pictures. I even washed the windows – something that I never do normally.

Since I like to cook I made a bunch of ribolitta (a Tuscan type of minestrone) twice. Each time I eat it for a couple of nights and freeze the rest and when that was all eaten I made another big batch. I also made a spezzatino (basically a stew) and did the same eating and freezing routine. I bought probably too much fresh cod and ate that for 3 nights – it was really good so I’m not complaining.

Spezzatino di manzo (beef stew)
Cod with cherry tomatoes, olives and potatoes

I’ve started doing some exercises in the house using just body weight. Now I’ve read that it is permitted to do some outdoor exercise, at least walking around as long as you don’t stray far from your house. So today I went out and walked in the neighborhood for a total of about a mile. There are very few people anywhere to be seen so it’s easy to stay at least a couple of meters distant and since there was a nice breeze there is really zero chance of being infected.

One advantage, yes, an advantage of this need to stay at home is that it’s a great time to buy stuff from Amazon. They still are delivering and I’m always here. So I bought stuff for the new house. A bigger carello (shopping cart) that has 3 wheels to facilitate going up stairs, a smart 43″ TV for the new house, packing supplies, a magnetic knife rack, a microwave oven and a toaster oven. Actually Laura bought that last item and had it delivered to my address.

The new carrello and TV in background

One last thought. This crisis period is going to change behavior patterns and attitudes a lot. In time it will fade as memories fade but it may take a generation. I see it in myself. Right now the idea of being in a train, a tight quarters enclosed space, with a lot of people that I don’t know terrifies me. It will surely take a while after we’re free to mingle before I’ll really feel comfortable hugging friends. On the more positive side I really value the friends with whom I can talk with Whatsapp. I miss interactions even with people that I don’t know well – acquaintances at the gym, Mercato delle Erbe, the library . I’ve talked to others here and we all say that with all of this available time we seem unable to do useful things. We just want to waste it in a sense. Just make it pass; hour by hour, day by day, week by week until we get out of this tunnel and see more of the world and breath.

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