Me Too

This post might anger some of you.

I have been sexually harassed several times, one or two of them life-threatening. I’ll give you details. But first, I must confess: I’ve used my sexuality too. More on that later as well.

I am “of an age” when men walked on the street side of the sidewalk to “protect” you from cars and, later, the alley side to protect you from muggers. They opened doors for you, pulled out your chair, helped you onto a bus, opened the car door, and many other things that I would in more modern times scoff at.

There are behaviors that are so ingrained in those of us born in the 1950s that we don’t even think about them. Smiling at a pretty girl. Complementing the color of her too-tight outfit. Talking to her boobs instead of her face. It’s also smiling sweetly up to a good looking man when asking for a favor. Low-cut blouses, 4-inch heels, shaving your legs. Wearing makeup, for god’s sake. Honestly, who are we doing that for, and why?

Attracting attention is ingrained in human interactions. It helps us make friends, collaborators, mates. It perpetuates the species.

But what about all the “Me Toos”? When does it cross the line? How guilty is each of us?

In my younger years, I think I was a “looker.” I remember walking past a construction site in New York. The men whistled at me. On instinct I turned and whistled back at them. Shock and awe, just let me say. And suddenly I felt I had a little bit of power to control how I was treated.

In my opinion, it all comes down to vulnerability. The line between innocent flirting and predatory harassment is how threatened or powerless the other person feels. If I’m making what I think are cute, sexy comments to a male employee of mine, does he feel he has to take it to save his job? If I’m hired for my first job out of college and the boss says it’s because of my legs, do I feel that’s a sexual foray?

So here are my stories of Me Too. My high school math teacher was well known to stop by girl’s desks and put a hand on their shoulder or an arm behind them on the chair to “help” with a problem. On a scale of vulnerability, it was just creepy. Walking to my hotel from dinner on a street in Buffalo, New York, I was grabbed in the crotch by a man who was gone before I could even react. High vulnerability index as I contemplated that it could have been a knife instead of his hand.

My favorite one is a potential advertising client who, at an awards event, followed me into the coat room and pinned me up against the wall. He was six foot something and drunk of course. He said that my boss promised I would handle his very lucrative account “personally” (wink, wink) and, to sweeten the deal, he offered me a red Corvette. When I got home near midnight, I called my boss at home, woke him up, and told him in no uncertain terms to be at my house at 9 AM the next morning. He came, I yelled, and the potential client went to another agency. (Do not ever buy a Chevrolet from a dealership in Albany, New York.)

Personal power trumps vulnerability (unless there’s a knife or physical assault involved). All of us need to be more aware of how our actions and words can impact another person who might feel vulnerable in our presence. We also need to take our own power to another level and call out someone harassing us, even if it means not getting the Corvette.

 

 

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Tripping Along In 2017

It has been said that there are three types of travel:  a holiday, a vacation, and a trip. And you and your partner best agree on which you are on before you set out.

A holiday is to visit family. For some, this might be fun; for others, it is the dreaded, obligatory “time poorly spent” rehashing who is the smartest, prettiest, cleverest sibling and every family story heard hundreds of times before.

A vacation, on the other hand, is personally defined:  for me, it’s the prerequisite 2 or 3 weeks off from work. My husband defines it as palm trees and a lounge chair, with something cold delivered at whim by a gorgeous young woman in a skimpy outfit. I’m not fond of vacations.

My favorite is a trip: sightseeing in beautiful villages in remote locations, exploring vibrant cities, meeting interesting fellow travelers, and learning new cultures. And shopping of course.

So, this has been a year of trips, with a few moments of vacation thrown in (to keep Mr. Tim happy). The year began with the closing of the sale of Canvas Ranch on December 10, 2016. The previous fall doesn’t count, even though we traveled to see the new little farmhouse in Italy we bought . The stress of the finalizing of that sale and the sale of the ranch meant I was still working to keep all the balls in play.

We spent a “vacation” house-sitting the lovely home of friends in Santa Rosa the first three months of 2017. We are so grateful to Betsy and Craig and our dear friend Nan who lent us a car for that time. It was a much-needed break from the previous fall, and gave us a chance to host a great party for close friends from our two previous lives – corporate Santa Rosa and farming Petaluma.

On March 30th, we boarded a flight to London for the start of THE BIRTHDAY CELEBRATION (Tim’s 70th). We stayed at the perfect Rubens Hotel across the street from Buckingham Palace, had perfect weather, and outstanding meals. (You can read more about all of this in previous posts.)

Then it was off to Paris on the TGV train through the Chunnel and three days of art and croissants. Tim’s favorite city, Avignon, was next, where we spent eight days and his actual birthday on April 14th. Provence is beautiful any time of the year, but this year it was especially perfect. We ventured on a “trip” to I’sle sur la Sorgue to the annual antique fair and had a great time reconnecting with two people we had met two years earlier.

Next came a short plane ride from Marseilles to Rome, a rental car, a drive to our home in Santa Fiora, a drive back to Sorgue to pick up all the furniture we bought at the antique fair, and two days in the gorgeous Grand Hotel Henri. Home again via the Italian Riviera and another grand hotel.

Returning to Santa Fiora on April 25th was truly a homecoming. Our good pal Bruno who had spent the previous two months in 7 different hospitals in Italy clinging to life was finally out of the woods. Our neighbors Sandro, Simona, Corinna, Corrado, and Emilio welcomed us back. Sandro had overseen the painting of the upstairs and refinishing of the wood beams on the vaulted ceilings of the bedrooms. The piazza was once again buzzing with men gossiping and families enjoying the spring air, and Christian at Barilotto welcomed me and “Mr. Tim” with big hugs.

For the next three months, I read, wrote, and planted and tended my garden (vacation for me) and Tim refinished doors, designed the remodeled kitchen, worked with the plumber, electrician, and painter to add systems for a washer and new fridge, and cooked and cleaned (a new type of vacation for him).

During this time, my new, high-speed satellite internet (better than anything in the US) allowed me to check Zillow daily for houses to buy. On May 5th, I emailed our friend and realtor, Timo, about a house on Saint Helena Ave in the McDonald Historic District of Santa Rosa. He and his wife, their dog, and close friend Nan went to see it, did a video walk-through, and sent it to us with a unanimous thumbs-up. It had been in escrow, so the pest reports had been done and Timo sent those to us. Our son Adam went to inspect what the reports had to say. We knew we had to act fast, so we made an offer and wired a deposit on May 7th. It was accepted the next day and we closed on May 23rd – all from Italy!

On July 12th, we flew back to SFO via Rome and London stop-overs.  Nan was there at the airporter to meet us, provide us with a car again, and we took off for Santa Rosa. This time we imposed on long-time friends/family Susan and David and their spare bedroom (thank you and sorry we outstayed the fish limit!).

The next day we got our first look at the new house. Despite how small it looked on the video, it seemed the perfect size for us. 1400 square feet, living room, large kitchen and dining room, two small bedrooms, one bathroom, and small front and back yards, plus a nice-sized garage offset from the house for Tim’s studio. The amazing thing is that this is exactly what I described when I imagined our new home. (Ah, those intentions!) The neighborhood is awesome, the architecture of the house is great, and it is full of light. Even our furniture fit!

We spent the next two weeks “moving in” from our two PODS and getting the place ready for our friend/house sitter Barb to come the day we leave. And we had quite the social whirl getting together with friends for amazing dinners, wine, and fun. Thank you one and all!

We flew back to Europe from Oakland to Barcelona on July 30th, taking advantage of a $295 round trip ticket. Never again Oakland Airport and never again Iberia, thank you very much. But our hotel in Barcelona . . . Hotel Omm is magnificent! Stay there. Or at least have cocktails on the rooftop deck overlooking the city. It was extremely hot and muggy, so we didn’t do as much walking as I would have liked. Just means we will have to be back.

But something special happened (as only happens on trips) the last night we were there. We got in an elevator at the hotel with another couple, politely chatted, and followed them into the lobby. As I was about to ask the clerk for a restaurant recommendation, I just turned to the couple and said, “So where are you headed for dinner?” They mentioned a restaurant and I asked (in my best stalker voice) if they minded if we followed them. “Of course not,” they warily returned. So we did. But as we waited to cross streets, we started talking.

All the way to the restaurant we talked. They were from Los Altos Hills, he was a retired investment banker (yes, that kind) and current Professor of Finance at San Jose State and she was a recently retired elementary principal. They suggested they would change their reservation to a table for four, we objected (several times), but he gave the maître d enough to get a table together. By this time we were really enjoying each other’s company. For the next 3½ hours we shared stories of our travels and all measure of other things. Tim and Frank talked about politics and New York. Sally and I talked about our lives, likes, and dislikes. We ate paella and drank wine and champagne. It was a very special kismet adventure, one we will not forget.

So here we are back in our home in Santa Fiora (yes, both Santa Fiora and Santa Rosa feel like home). The heat wave that is plaguing all of Europe has also hit us in what are the usually cooler green hills of Tuscany. But this year there has been very little rain and heavy heat – 98 degrees last week. We are here until our exciting trip to Sardinia with Petaluma friends Ben and Eileen the first part of September, then its off to Perugia and Umbertide in Umbria with Santa Rosa friends Michael and Darlene and John and Laura. Back in Santa Fiora for the first half of October (chestnuts and olive oil!) and then Tim and I head to Majorca for a week on our way home to Santa Rosa.

Yes, this has certainly been a magical year of tripping. Hope you and yours are well, and that we get together somewhere somehow soon!

 

 

Back Home Again, and Again

When we bought this little farmhouse in Tuscany, I never thought of it as “home.”

Home has been California since I was born.  When I moved to New York and then Texas with my parents, I longed to “go home.” I saved up babysitting money to go back for the summer I was 14. I applied to colleges only in California (and one safety school in New York which — good, bad, whatever — gave me scholarship money and work/study to make it the most affordable option).

My parents moved back to California in my senior year. My fiance was in New York finishing school, but I “came home” to care for my mother who was dying. I finished school, married my fiance, and went back to New York. It was never “home.”

After the divorce, I returned. As soon as I crossed the Golden Gate, I felt alive again. Every time I drove through the Waldo Tunnel (the one that has rainbows painted on it and is now the Robin Williams Tunnel), it felt like a homecoming. Whether the hills were emerald or ochre or burnt sienna, I smiled and relished the season.

I bought a house in Santa Rosa and married my new husband in the backyard of our home. We opened a business and became part of the community. We experienced giddy happiness and great tragedy, but we did it together and with friends. We felt safe. And loved.

Fifteen years later, we moved to some of those beautiful hills — a ranch in west Sonoma County. It is interesting that many of our neighbors there called their places Home Ranch. It was where their great greats had settled and grew along with their crops and animals, families . Offspring might have moved next door or down the road, but there was always Home Ranch.

Ours was called Canvas Ranch. (If you’d like to read more about how all this went down, here is a link to an article in Fortune magazine, cover story for Retire to the Job You Love.) On the website I created, I said the following about this new “home”:

The undulating hills, the soft sky, the zillions of stars to look at, even the fog make this a landscape that slows you down. Early in the morning, when the chickens are out looking for their first meal near the compost bin, and the lambs are chasing each other around the back field, and the cashmere goats are stretching to catch the first rays of sun, that’s my favorite time to head into the garden. Everything is so new. And there is so much to discover. More beans sprouting. New buds on the tomato vines. Flowers I forgot I planted opening to the day. 

Yes, this describes home to me. We filled the rolling hills of our home with sheep and goats and chickens and vegetables and orchards and ancient grains and art.

    

And another 15 years later, we said goodbye. It was not a sad goodbye as everything we loved is now in someone else’s hands and doing just fine. It was not sad because we were able to turn one home into two, one in Sonoma County and one in Tuscany. It was not sad at all because a few weeks ago, as we were sitting under our huge fig tree, eating proscuitto and pecorino and drinking fine Italian wine, we looked at each other and said, “It’s so good to be back home again.”

There is a peace here, as there is in Sonoma County. Beauty is everywhere, in the blossoming flowers, ripening tomatoes, bursting chestnuts. And in the faces of the children and the old people and the vendor at the fruit stand. Friends are here, as they are at our other home. It rains, the sun shines, the wind blows, and all the while we watch things grow and die and grow again.

And we know how very lucky we are to be back home again, and again. We have each other.

 

Tripping Along In 2017

It has been said that there are three types of travel with your spouse: a holiday, a vacation, and a trip. And you’d best agree on which you are on before you set out.

A holiday is to visit family. For some, this might be fun; for others, it is the dreaded, obligatory “time poorly spent” rehashing who is the smartest, prettiest, cleverest sibling and every family story heard hundreds of times before.

A vacation, on the other hand, is personally defined:  for me, it’s the prerequisite 2 or 3 weeks off from work. My husband defines it as palm trees and a lounge chair, with something cold delivered at whim by a gorgeous young woman in a skimpy outfit. I’m not fond of vacations.

My favorite is a trip: sightseeing in beautiful villages in remote locations, exploring vibrant cities, meeting interesting fellow travelers, and learning new cultures. And shopping of course.

Luckily. Tim and I agree on this. So, this has been a year of trips, with a few moments of vacation thrown in (to keep Mr. Tim happy). IMG_2149.JPGThe year began with the closing of the sale of Canvas Ranch on December 10, 2016. The previous fall doesn’t count, even though we traveled to see the new little farmhouse in Italy we bought . The stress of the finalizing of that sale and the sale of the ranch meant I was still working to keep all the balls in play.

We spent a “vacation” house-sitting the lovely home of friends in Santa Rosa the first three months of 2017. We are so grateful to Betsy and Craig and our dear friend Nan who lent us a car for that time. It was a much-needed break from the previous fall, and gave us a chance to host a great party for close friends from our two previous lives – corporate Santa Rosa and farming Petaluma.

On March 30th, we boarded a flight to London for the start of THE BIRTHDAY IMG_1508CELEBRATION (Tim’s 70th). We stayed at the perfect Rubens Hotel across the street from Buckingham Palace, had perfect weather, and outstanding meals. (You can read more about all of this in previous posts.)

Then it was off to Paris on the TGV train through the Chunnel and three days of art and croissants. Tim’s favorite city, Avignon, was next, where we spent eight days and his actual birthday on April 14th. Provence is beautiful any time of the year, but this year it was especially perfect. We ventured on a “trip” to I’sle sur la Sorgue to the annual antique fair and had a great time reconnecting with two people we had met two years earlier.

Next came a short plane ride from Marseilles to Rome, a rental car, a drive to our home in Santa Fiora, a drive back to Sorgue to pick up all the furniture we bought at the antique fair, and two days in the gorgeous Grand Hotel Henri. Home again via the Italian Riviera and another grand hotel.

Returning to Santa Fiora on April 25th was truly a homecoming. Our good pal Bruno who had spent the previous two months in 7 different hospitals in Italy clinging to life was val_d_orcia173511_760 IMG_2195 IMG_2072 IMG_2182

finally out of the woods. Our neighbors Sandro, Simona, Corinna, Corrado, and Emilio welcomed us back. Sandro had overseen the painting of the upstairs and refinishing of the wood beams on the vaulted ceilings of the bedrooms. The piazza was once again buzzing with men gossiping and families enjoying the spring air, and Christian at Barilotto welcomed me and “Mr. Tim” with big hugs.

For the next three months, I read, wrote, and planted and tended my garden (vacation for me) and Tim refinished doors, designed the remodeled kitchen, worked with the plumber, electrician, and painter to add systems for a washer and new fridge, and cooked and cleaned (a new type of vacation for him).

During this time, my new, high-speed satellite internet (better than anything in the US) allowed me to check Zillow daily for houses to buy. On May 5th, I emailed our friend and Saint Helena Averealtor, Timo, about a house on Saint Helena Ave in the McDonald Historic District of Santa Rosa. He and his wife, their dog, and close friend Nan went to see it, did a video walk-through, and sent it to us with a unanimous thumbs-up. It had been in escrow, so the pest reports had been done and Timo sent those to us. Our son Adam went to inspect what the reports had to say. We knew we had to act fast, so we made an offer and wired a deposit on May 7th. It was accepted the next day and we closed on May 23rd – all from Italy!

On July 12th, we flew back to SFO via Rome and London stop-overs.  Nan was there at the airporter to meet us, provide us with a car again, and we took off for Santa Rosa. This time we imposed on long-time friends/family Susan and David and their spare bedroom (thank you and sorry we outstayed the fish limit!).

Dining Patio Kitchen

The next day we got our first look at the new house. Despite how small it looked on the video, it felt like the perfect size for us. 1400 square feet, living room, large kitchen and dining room, two small bedrooms, one bathroom, and small front and back yards, plus a nice-sized garage offset from the house for Tim’s studio. The amazing thing is that this is exactly what I described when I imagined our new home. (Ah, those intentions!) The neighborhood is awesome, the architecture of the house is great, and it is full of light. Even our furniture fit!

 

 

We spent the next two weeks “moving in” from our two PODS and getting the place ready for our friend/house sitter Barb to come the day we leave. And we had quite the social whirl getting together with friends for amazing dinners, wine, and fun. Thank you one and all!

We flew back to Europe from Oakland to Barcelona on July 30th, taking advantage of a $295 round trip ticket. Never again Oakland Airport and never again Iberia, thank you very much. But our hotel in Barcelona . . . Hotel Omm is magnificent! Stay there. Or at least have cocktails on the rooftop deck overlooking the city. It was extremely hot and muggy, so we didn’t do as much walking as I would have liked. Just means we will have to be back.

But something special happened (as only happens on trips) the last night we were there. We got in an elevator at the hotel with another couple, politely chatted, and followed them into the lobby. As I was about to ask the clerk for a restaurant recommendation, I just turned to the couple and said, “So where are you headed for dinner?” They mentioned a restaurant and I asked (in my best stalker voice) if they minded if we followed them. “Of course not,” they warily returned. So we did. But as we waited to cross streets, we started talking.

All the way to the restaurant we talked. They were from Los Altos Hills, he was a retired investment banker (yes, that kind) and current Professor of Finance at San Jose State and IMG_2275.JPGshe was a recently retired elementary principal. They suggested they would change their reservation to a table for four, we objected (several times), but he gave the maître d enough to get a table together. By this time we were really enjoying each other’s company. For the next 3½ hours we shared stories of our travels and all measure of other things. Tim and Frank talked about politics and New York. Sally and I talked about our lives, likes, and dislikes. We ate paella and drank wine and champagne. It was a very special kismet adventure, one we will not forget.

So here we are back in our home in Santa Fiora (yes, both Santa Fiora and Santa Rosa feel like home). The heat wave that is plaguing all of Europe has also hit us in what are the usually cooler green hills of Tuscany. But this year there has been very little rain and heavy heat – 98 degrees last week. We are here until our exciting trip to Sardinia with Petaluma friends Ben and Eileen the first part of September, then its off to Perugia and Umbertide in Umbria with Santa Rosa friends Michael and Darlene and John and Laura. Back in Santa Fiora for the first half of October (chestnuts and olive oil!) and then Tim and I head to Majorca for a week on our way home to Santa Rosa.

Yes, this has certainly been a magical year of tripping. Hope you and yours are well and that we get together somewhere somehow soon!

Auntie Mabel

Auntie Mabel’s birthday is today. She died many years ago, but I still think of her often on her birthday. She was my surrogate mother, my teacher, my best friend, and my sort of role model.

Auntie MabelHer name was Mabel Olive Walton Robb Robb (she married Preston Robb, divorced him, remarried him, and divorced him again) Brown Hollinger. She was my father’s older sister (in so many ways) and had six marriages, the last at the age of 83. I said, “Auntie Mabel, why would you get married again at your age?” She said, in her slight British drawl, “Honey, I just don’t believe in sex outside of marriage!”

She was the only woman I knew who worked. She was a teacher, and dressed up every morning in flowing skirts like Loretta Young did on television (look her up on YouTube!). She had bright red hair and drove a gold Pontiac with huge tail fins and push button shifting — so cool! She was always spouting “Auntie Mabel-isms” that taught me about life and how to have fun.

I went to live with her when I was 6. My mother had had a bad fall and concussion, and my father was in no shape to care for three kids — me, my sister who was 5, and my brother who was 2. So we were parcelled out to relatives — my sister to Aunt Elsie, my brother to Nana, and me to Auntie Mabel 400 miles away from my home in Mill Valley.

I was thrilled. For the first time since I was 17 months old, I was an only child. She was between husbands at the time, so we had all kinds of fun. I learned a whole bunch too. Like when two men come to the house at the same time, you should go to bed early. If it’s Friday and you’re Catholic, you get Morton’s Macaroni and Cheese for dinner and Fudgesicles for dessert. When you have blond hair and it gets washed, it MUST be rinsed with lemon juice. And when you go to the Del Mar racetrack, be sure to bet a $2 daily double on the favorites — you almost always get your $2 back!

When it was time for me to go back to school, it was arranged that I would go to the school she taught in. She was a 4th grade teacher, and I didn’t quite understand that she couldn’t be my teacher for 1st grade. But her best friend was the 1st grade teacher, and she was very nice UNTIL…it was time to get polio shots.

Those were the days they gave the shots to all the kids at school because the vaccine was relatively new. So they lined us all up outside the nurse’s office. When I realized what was going on, I threw a fit. I was convinced I had had the shot at my school in Mill Valley and, if I got a second shot, I WOULD GET POLIO! I was hysterical. Auntie Mabel had to leave her classroom to calm me down, call my parents, and determine that I had not had the vaccine before. I still remember how terrified I was.

Then came Christmas. My parents and sister and brother came down to Temple City for the holiday. And then left. Without me. When I was in my 40s, Auntie Mabel asked me, “Do you know why your parents left you with me that time?” I said no, why? She said, “Well, I have no idea!” They never discussed it!

So I finished out the school year and went home to get reacquainted with my family, and begin a life with some major abandonment issues! I spent every summer with her until I was 12 and we moved to New York. I am who I am in large part because of her.

Happy Birthday, Auntie Mabel!

ONLINE SHOPPING

Personally, I am thrilled that Amazon bought Whole Foods. Living in Italy means I can’t enjoy cashew (or even peanut) butter, salsa and chips, Three Twins Ice Cream, or – saddest of all – Korbel brut. (Don’t judge me – I eat really good food at other times, but do love my “healthy” junk food.)

But I’m not sure any of those things would ever make it to me. Stick with me here on this.

I have been an Amazon Prime member (with Smile donations going to Catholic Charities, of course) for several years. I spent nearly 5 months getting satellite internet here in Santa Fiora (read previous entry), and have put it to great use. I download Kindle books and home improvement TV shows. And I order things that I can’t get here without driving for two hours each way on twisty mountain roads.

I am not a spoiled foreigner. I accept that I can only order on the Amazon.it site, so am very limited in what is offered. As requested by Amazon, I have the packages sent to the local post office and pick them up there. It’s called a local drop location, and this has worked fine for three months. We received a shirt for Tim, books, a Sawzall and blades.

And then . . .

Somewhere someone decided this was not a cost-effective arrangement for the post office. Meanwhile, I had ordered a few more things: curtains, a bag of rye flour, a pastry cutter, a blanket, my favorite shampoo, all destined for the post office.

The first tip-off was the curtains. I kept checking on their journey. Instead of heading to the post office, they were with something called BRT. As we were driving around one day, I saw a truck with BRT on the side. I yelled (nicely) to Tim to stop the car, ran over to the driver (who of course didn’t speak any English), and somehow communicated that I was waiting for a shipment that he might have. He seemed to recognize my name, so I gave him my address on a scrap of paper.

Lo and behold, the curtains arrived two days later! (We now wave to the driver whenever we see him around the area!) ((Crazy Americans . . .))

Meanwhile, several other “necessities” were in the Amazon pipeline and due at the post office (and confirmed by Amazon that they were delivered). So every day I’ve checked with them and every day the post office woman would say a whole bunch of things in Italian and throw her arms up, which I took to mean “these things happen” — that the delivery was delayed.

Today Tim drove me down there with my Amazon printouts in Italian clearly saying that my rye flour and pastry cutter were delivered there last week. A little indignantly I thrust the printouts under the post office window to the same woman, who started saying a whole bunch of things in Italian and throwing up her arms. A woman I know came in – I knew she didn’t speak English – and seeing my frustration, tried to help. The papers flew back and forth from the post office woman to my acquaintance and back again, and they both were throwing up their arms.

IMG_1670.JPGAs I was causing a scene and the line was getting longer behind me, the post office woman went online and printed out two different pieces of paper. They showed that the rye flour was indeed delivered to Santa Fiora post office last week, but then “ritorno”-ed to Bologna! My pastry blender was sent to Firenze.

Defeated and having this information in hand, I went next door to the little store where Tim was hiding and showed him and the deaf clerk the printouts. Then my friend joined us too, and another man came in and everyone turned to him and asked if he spoke English.

In broken English he said yes, he learned it in law school, but when he became a lawyer in Rome they forbade him to speak it. Good enough for me. I showed him the papers and the two of us (followed by Tim, my friend, and the deaf store clerk) went next door to the post office lady.

He now translated the whole bunch of things and arm-throwing into the fact that the post office, to save money, decided to contract with delivery companies (like BRT!) to deliver things like rye flour and pastry cutters. So I needed to go online, contact the 6 delivery companies in Tuscany, and give them all my home address. Of course, Amazon.it apparently knew nothing of this.

Home Tim and I went.

IMG_1669And there on our doorstep was an Amazon delivery! Not any of the things I was expecting, but a bedspread I had ordered a few months ago. Delivered by my buddy at BRT. The address on the box? The post office.

Allora . . .

ITALIANESE

I’m not sure Tim and I are becoming any more fluent in Italian than when we left, but there are some things we’re beginning to understand. It’s more about how they speak and what they mean by it, rather than literal translations into English (or ‘Merican).

To give you some idea, here are a few things we’ve learned that our fabulous Italian tutor left out of our lessons:

Allora

This is the most common word in Italian. It is pronounced a-lllooorr-a, often with a deep sigh at either end. If you look it up, it means “then”. Then?? You order a caffe latte and don’t have the right change, allora. You ask your accountant if you need to pay taxes today, allora. You ask to see something in the shop in a different color, allora. And then they proceed to give you or tell you or get you exactly what you wanted. It’s kind of a spacer between “of course” and “I don’t really have time today.”  But it definitely doesn’t mean “then”.

Non è un problema

I think this is the same in Spanish (and Japanese, and Hungarian, and Irish). It means there definitely IS a problem – it could be anything, but it will cost/delay/not work, no matter what it is.

Non possible

This is a corollary phrase. It means whatever it is can’t be done right now, or the way you want, or without a lot more paperwork. It probably can be done, but you will be here for several more hours before you’ll know. And you’ll learn a lot more Italian while you’re here.

Ciao

You know what this word means, but saying it correctly takes some practice. You don’t just say “bye” to someone. You say “bye, bye, bye, bye”. (It’s easier to do in Italian. Try it.) Oh, and Italians love saying “bye” after we say ciao. Makes them feel very hip.

These things happen

Yes, I know that’s English. But spoken by an Italian in a deadpan tone of voice, it means that they know you did something wrong, but who’s going to tell? Certainly not me. It’s kind of like Tim’s favorite saying: “It was like that when I got here.”

Okay, enough of that. We love Italians and they love trying out their English on us. It is true that very few outside of the tourist towns speak English. But they all love to try, and once you can get un piccolo English word out of them, you’re off to the races. But speak piano, piano, which means slow.