A day in the life: a Friday in Umbria

PANICALE, SAN FELICIANO AND BEYOND — Don’t want to waste this one sleeping so I ducked out quietly and headed to Biano the Barber’s hair cut and gossip salon. I saw him yesterday – almost finished with a client – and I said, give me two minutes. Came back and he’d given me two minutes but he’d given the chair to a guy who was positively gloating to have aced me out of the chair. I win I win. His smile seemed to be saying. So, that was yesterday. I pouted and determined to be first in line today. Now, where is that silver haired rascal?

While I’m waiting for him, I get to watch the town come to life. It is only 8 AM but it is already a hot one in the sun of the spot I’m guarding. In this corner of the piazza there is nothing but sun right now. Being Friday, there market is in town and big trucks are unfurling tent awnings off all sides and setting up racks and racks of stuff I can’t imagine buying. Tshirts and dresses, mud boots, hose clamps and flashlights. Mostly clothes related things.

There goes Andrea from the restaurant on his new new Bee Emmay Vooo. BMW to you. That is him in the photo on his restaurant balcony later in the day. A grocery truck stops in front of me and the driver loads his groceries into a tall wire rack with wheels. And then pushes it, noisily up the cobblestone street. Street is too small for his truck. Its about a block to the store. He really has to lean into it. I did that one time for our friends in the store and it is a picturesque way to break your back or bring on a heart attack. Hey, this guy is young and he does it several times. No fat on him anyway but wow what a workout.

Uh oh, big tall friendly guy in swim trunks and a tshirt is strolling my way, aimed right at Biano’s door. MY Biano’s door. the one I’m staking out. The iron gate is up and usually that means he’s open. He smiles and points at the door and says Chiuso? I shrug Sembra. Closed? Seems to be. He walks off and a couple minutes later returns with long arm draped around diminutive Biano. Am I aced out again? But no. Fabrizio (the tall guy in trunks) and I both tease Biano about being late and then we launch into the cutting of the hair. Hour minimum chair time.
Fab, as he says Americans all call him, stands right by my chair during the process and we just all have a fine chat. Wicked nice guy, low key, engaging. He leaves and Biano quickly says, Harvard MBA, third largest cement company in the world, his company, lives in Cairo, digs classic cars, has the best racing green Jag and some other fun stuff. The guy in the swim trunks? Just when you think here we are, tiny town stuck up on its hill in the middle of Umbria.

ONE GOOD CUP DESERVES ANOTHER

Had coffee once I had it twice I had it once again. totally equal opportunity coffee buyer. My second cup was at Masolino’s and I noted that all the family was there which is rare in the mornings. They’ve all been up till whatever hour closing the restaurant and here they are again. Ran home to tell Midge this is the time to give them the pancake mix. So we ran back bearing Bisquick to go with the Maine Maple Syrup we brought them last trip. What you should know and appreciate is that Italians are pretty blasé to indifferent about food if it isn’t Italian. That is my experience. They are wild and passionate about Italian food. Other foods? Not so much. Well, hey, I like Italian food too but I really need some Morroccan or Mexican or ’Merican Apple Pie every now and then too. Not Italians. Not in my experience. If momma didn’t cook it I don’t need it seems to be the song they sing.
One exception: Maple Syrup. They don’t know what the heck that is or what you are supposed to do with it but if they get a taste of it their eyes light up like Christmas. That was fun and got all kinds of cooking stories going.

COME ON PEOPLE! LETS ACT LIKE TOURISTS!
LETS EAT US SOME GELATI AND WALK US SOME
HILL TOWNS LIKE WE MEANT IT.

And then we got up from our panicale pancake round table discussion and had to really get cooking because Midge needed to see Corciano. Our friend Kiki said that if we had only seen the industrial strength shopping chaos part of Coriano we had missed something. She said the town proper is way up above the commercial sprawl and was really worth the trip. Some times we get all involved in fussing in the house or the garden and forget to be the curious tourists we should be. Resolving to be better tourist in future.

Now, it’s the usual time problem that confronts people shillyshalling about getting long haircuts and drinking too many cappuccinos and chatting on and on: too late for lunch and too early for afternoon shopping. What to do what to do.

Lets head to Corciano (lower right corner of Lake Trasimeno) but stop before that in San Feliciano for a snack to tide us over. San Feliciano is Right smack on the lake. Boats tie up along the park and then there is one small street faced with one seafood restaurant after the other. We like Settimino’s there but today we are so going to sit in the park under an umbrella and watch the world go by. There is a nice stand with all kinds of food, bathrooms, and oh, my God look at the Gelati. JeemenyWhiz! I, I, I, don’t believe that collection of swoops and mounds and ice cream flourishes in every color in the rainbow. So we munched something but our minds we clearly on the gelato prize waiting in that display case. Hugely engaging latin music playing, boats gently rocking at anchor, bikers biking, breeze rustling lightly in the leaves ok, enough of that get me an ice cream cone!

I swear I may only be partially right in remembering how they spelled my new taste treat. Agreto ? di Sicilia. All the citrus of Sicily in one. Pink grapefruit, oranges and lemons. So I had that with cantilope melon flavor. Well! I am a new and better person now. Don’t take my word for the taste or the spelling, get over there and get you some! We must have mindlessly passed the time there, just being, just hanging out for a couple hours. True happiness and hardly any expense. Quiet day in the park. And like I said, it had bathrooms. Always a plus on a tourist itinerary.

I’VE HAD THE BLUES THE REDS AND THE PINKS
Eventually we tore ourselves away and got down the road and up the hill to Corciano. Damd, that town is PINK. Wheeeow. Good pink, pale pink admittedly, but still pink. The stone in every town is a different shade. Our town is more brown. Some like Cortona are golden hued. Corciano is bunny pink. Looks good on it.

Very well kept and pleasant place. And there must be a town bounty paid on pink flowers. Every balcony and doorway was awash in pink geraniums and other fun flowers. They all clearly got the memo. Lots of neutral jasmine too. The whole town is very much of the same fabric and it works. Must have been a bit religiously zealous at some point in time as it was solid covered with churches and bell towers. Now, I’m from Iowa. Well, born in Florida. But FROM Iowa. And if we have two church steeples in town that means we have two churches. Two denominations even. You might have your Presbyterians over here and your gasp oh no you wouldn’t let your daughter marry one of those Methodists over there. Ok, but see, those are two nominally different churches.

This is Italy. Rumor has it that all the churches here have the same label. Very Catholic brand. So how in the world can I stand in one place in a town the size of a strip mall and see seven or eight bell towers? Each one attached to a church-sized and church-shaped stack of stones? Mystery to me. But sweet mystery because it is scenic as all get out. But really. Fund raising must have been a bit less userfriendly than it is today.

PIGGING OUT. UMBRIAN STYLE.
We had to leave sometime. So we did. Someone had been looking for the perfect porchetta sandwich so we remembered that on the way back out of here we wanted to go by one and we would take a photo to show them. Well, now I have the photos but don’t remember who cared. But choices? You bet. Play Pig? Or King Pig? I not sure which of them we liked best – but there were a whole lot of police cars around Re di Porchetta and more streaming in as we went by so I’m betting I would try that one first.

GETTING BACK TO THE GARDEN
Back at home we had a couple hours of pre sunset garden duty. Reading, totally distracted by the changing colors of the long lazy sunset spectacular. How many days can we just go wow, look at that color, did you see those swallows, are they extra bright colors tonight, are the swallows wilder than usual?

But today for the third day running the cherry on the ice cream cone has been the Renaissance flute music wafting, no I mean it, real wafting, over the garden. Its just too, I don’t know, wonderful? for words. It comes and goes out of lower limits of your ability to hear.

One minute very soft but clear and obviously and then it wafts away and you think Did I really hear that? And then there’s more and it is just so nice we had to go check it out at the source which isn’t all that hard as the church is only right over there, a part of a block away.

They were doing a course and some students were inside walking around the Baroque interior lost in their music and every now and then one would step out to a stone bench overlooking the lake, just outside the door, and practice a little piece for awhile and then duck back into joint the group. Even when they were all inside the door was open and we could hear them at some almost subconscious level.

CARLO AND THE CARNIVORE GRAPES OF PANICALE
Then it was to dinner at Elida and Guenter’s. Perfect way to end a perfect day. Picked up some dessert wine like the bottle that we had enjoyed together the other night at a restaurant, and strolled out to their place outside of town. Midge had been there earlier in the day. Cleaning squid? Yes, so she claimed. Here’s my rule, if Elida cooks it, I’m eating it. No questions asked, even if it is squid big enough to have eaten Capt Nemo’s cat. Elida worked over the big industrial range and the rest of us drank her wine and sat in the garden and told lies and watched the chickens pecking whatever they peck in the lawn. And then when the sun had set, we went out on their stone veranda under the grapes with little Christmas lights in them. Strangely and totally wrongly these grapes are somewhat my doing and I’m kind of proud of them in an abstract sort of way. Blind leading the blind will actually work out a certain per cent of the time you might say. This would be one of those times.


Our neighbor Carlo in Maine told me I had to plant some grapes and to raise them right I had to feed them lard. What do I know. I didn’t even want any darned grapes so I didn’t care if they choked on the lard or grew world class Vino Nobile. He kept coming over and bumming beer from me and waving his cane at me till I agreed to DO RIGHT, mind him, get grapes and don’t forget the lard. And. I have serious grapes. Thanks to lard evidently. So, a couple years ago Guenter asked me if I knew anything about grapes and I told him Yes, Lard, Yes. And he, in this land of ancient vines and ancient vintners, took my Iowa/Maine word for it and is presently covered with grapes. Lard. Who knows. So we sat under the extra healthy carnivore grapes of Panicale the Christmas lights twinkled, glasses were filled and clinked, the painted ceramic plates were passed, and we ate some darn stuffed squid. And a potato salad with fish in it. And because we cleaned our plates, we got to have a lovely semi-freddo made with another guest’s fresh apricots. The stars came out, the time went peacefully by and we walked home without saying hardly a word. We were tired little teddy bears. Passing through the gates with home in sight and the tower bells striking twelve I thought You know, I’m pretty happy to be right here right now.

A July in Umbria


Whew. Made it. Arrived. Just ahead of a dramatic summer squall. Dark trees in waving seas of sunflowers. Bathed in bright sun one moment and dense shade the next as white clouds traded places with black ones every few seconds. Changeable as our rental car radio. It’s a Lancetti. Well that seems properly Italian now doesn’t it? But it is a Daewoo. And the radio just comes on full blast whenever it feels like it. If I could only find the off button but it all seems to be in Braille and you know how it is when you jetlag yourself off the plane and first insert yourself back into polite society. More airline stories later.

We are so easily amused. Or another way of putting it is that small pleasures are often the best. One of our great treats in Italy is to arrive dog tired and stay awake long enough to get to Masolino’s restaurant and have the Belfico family cover us in comfort food and then go climb into blissful sleep coma and get two night’s sleep in a row almost and gently get acclimated to this time zone.

When we arrived at Masolino’s on Sunday night there were a couple tables full and then ours with the tiny gold Reservato on it waiting for us. I asked our friend Andrea if it had been a busy summer for him. Over his shoulder he said ”non ti credi”. Within five or ten minutes I saw what he meant as the place filled solid including the outdoor balcony. Which was grand for everyone until the mother of all summer storms hit with wild wind wild rain lightening all at the same time. Waterfalls pouring over the awnings drove balcony dinners running into the already full restaurant with their plates in their hands and napkins flapping like speed streaks behind them. And no place to go till they set up places for them in the bar. We have eaten there a million times (conservative estimate) but never had Mamma Brunna’s Sunday lasagna special and special it was. A drop of prosecco please and lights out.

NOW ATTEMPTING RE ENTRY INTO EUROPEAN TIME ZONES

I can’t really make sense or talk the first day back so seeing houses and trying to take pictures immediately is almost counter productive so I gardened like a maniac the whole first day and got everything how it wanted it. I can garden and prune in my sleep. And sort of did I suppose.

The next two days Midge and I went around like crazy seeing houses with Katia from Citta della Pieve in the south to Cortona in the north. What a fun whirlwind and you will eventually see the results in This Just In and on the web pages. One townhouse in Cortona really rings my bell. Neither words or pictures will ever do it justice. 490,000 euros and well, just totally down town and just stupendous, classy, chic. Architect designed and finished with such good taste. And views out to Tuesday that include high lake views. Won’t tease you any more with that till I have all my photos organized.

MORE MORE PERFAVORE
(more MO ray, pear fa vore ray)

Before gardening the first day we needed artificial stimulation in the form of our morning cup or two of cappucchino our favorite caffine delivery system of choice until they invent a convenient IV drip system for home use. Good trip. Between cafe Masolino and cafe Bar Gallo (they are four doors apart) we got two dinner party offers and one was for that very night. Life is good.

Post gardening Midge did the right thing and took a siesta. I did what was right for me and went for gelato. What’s this? Looks a new flavor to me. MOray. OK, Moray. I’ll bite! And lick too. Black berry is written ”more”. I can remember a yogut in a store with the engaging headline ”piu more” which I kept wanting to translate as more more. But in reality is more blackberry.

This is my flavor du jour for the trip. Must totally be the season. I have at least one blackberry gelato a day and love each new one as much as the first one. That is Aldo at the top of the page handing one of many. Last night I completed the MOray Trifecta. Totally by accident. My favorite dessert is Stefi’s famous Panacotta. Cooked cream never tasted so good. She can do it with chocolate, with a carmel or my favorite Frutti di Bosco. Wild berries. And at this season that means more MOray. Say it with me now! MOray. MOray. And after dinner Andrea brought us complimentary after dinner drinks and asked what we tasted in it. Midge got it on the first try MOray. More more more. I really can’t get too much of this good thing. And the Recioto della Valpolicella classico Domini Veneti was a very good thing.

TUTTO E’ POSSIBILE

Everything is possible in Italy we have found to our delight. The culture is so accommodating. I feel guilty admitting how often our friends here fill needs we didn’t even know we had. We are undeservedly covered with kindness. Just yesterday a neighbor passing by our house noted our highest figs seemed mature and that we needed to harvest them. I agreed in concept and (trying to get out of manual labor) said my ladder was too short.. A couple hours later Bruno was calling over the garden wall with a gigantic ladder and was soon up in the tree. But first he whipped out a bright red train engineers oil can and oiled all our shutters’ tie back mechanisms. When we got to our terrace we saw he had delivered, unasked, a waist high pot of basil. I protested we were only going to be here, as he well knows, a couple more days. He just shrugged and smiled. The next night when we got home, this bouquet of artichoke flowers was on our coffee table. Not for you. For your wife, Bruno said with a wink. Is this a great country!?!

MUSIC IN THE AIR.

We can see a baroque church from our house and today we could see it and hear it. A group of flutes was practicing for a concert later in the afternoon and their notes were wafting magically through the air over our garden and into the streets for anyone who was quiet enough to separate them from the swallows and cicadas. Another day in Panicale. Or. We have died and gone to heaven. Watching the literally unbelievable pink pink Hollywood sunset over the village church and the lake a couple hours later, we started believing that maybe we had slipped off terra firma and into another more peaceable kingdom.

HIGH. AND DRY?
Up in the air over the wide, wet Atlantic. And surrounded by water. In the plane. In the airport. In sport bottles of every size and shape.

Water water everywhere indeed. When did this start? Did I NOT get the memo, again? Every person, on every plane I’ve taken lately has had a bottle of water ready for their use at a moment’s notice. Bottles in their hands, sticking out of pant’s pockets, snugged into special holsters, hung on belts and on all sides of back packs. Ok, how incredibly under-hydrated am I? There are drinking fountains in the airports and places to buy and drink water all around in the airports. And on the plane the waitresses in the sky are handing out drinks rather non-stop. Water, coffee,tea, and excuse me, excuse me. Must step over sleeping giant on aisle seat to go to the bathroom. Now. After 20 hours of being forced fed liquids almost constantly, if anything I’m feeling OVER hydrated. And my hands are full. I would so sit on my bottle and look more out of control than usual.

Lance Armstrong. Middle of France. On a mountain. Several hours into the ultimate aerobic exercise. Now, HE needs a water bottle. I saw whole families with a bottle bolted to every member from baby to teenager to parents with their hands and arms full of strollers and diaper bags. But if we crash into the Sahara, then who will have the last laugh?

SPEAKING OF ALL WET. HERE’s A REAL CORKER

We landed in London. Lines for passports, lines for shuttles. And then we had some off line time waiting for our gate to be announced.

A nice looking middle aged man pulled his bag over and sat across from us. Business man? Manager? Computer technician? Who knows.
As soon as he pulled out a plastic bag and began rooting through a minor league cornucopia of candy and chocolate odds and ends. Wait. now what’s he doing? Yes, I think he has just pulled out a wine glass. A glass wine glass. With a stem on it. Short stem, ok. But a stemed wine glass. Now he is polishing it intently with a Kleenex it appears. And out of a grocery store shopping bag comes a half full bottle of wine. The cork is sticking partially out. He pulls the cork, pours himself a glass of red, crosses one knee over the other, swirls the wine around takes a sip like he is on the Via Venato on a summer evening. Except this is Heathrow. At 5:15 a.m. I was a bit sleepy and confused at the time. But I really don’t think I could have made that up. Later, I thought, do you think maybe he started out by having a sport bottle habit and just took it up to the next obvious level?


IF YOU ARE IN THE MOOD FOR SOME BOLOGNA

Wow. This Grisham book is quite different. No court rooms. Just barely any lawyers. And surprise. It is all in Italy. Just like we are. Full of Italian dialog and characters and places.

It gives the sense that Grisham himself is in the midst of learning the language and the rhythms of the streets as he is writing this. And like his character in a witness protection program, changing into and becoming a real Italian. Good summer beach chair ”thriller” or ”giallo” as they say. (three layer and ja al low. That comes close to how you say them. Well, in StewWorld.) OK, it is not Shakespeare, but it kept me turning the pages much later in the night than I may have intended.

Allora, I hope this stream of consciousness wasn’t too random and maybe gives a peek at one tourist’s week in Umbria.

See you in Italy!

Stew

Ok, I’m back now.

Been crazy since last blogging. First it rained for a few days here in Umbria while we jetlagged about the house and test drove the wood stove. Then we had what are now referred to as the days of wild sunsets. I have a photo, in fact, several photos that will attest to swell levels of weirdness. Then we started Italian gardening in spades. And of course it was necessary to take pictures of new flowers in bloom. I call this Wisteria in the Wind Is anyone buying any of these lame excuses. Anyone, at all? And seeing houses and meeting friends and making up for serious lost time. So, it has been just an Italy bit busy around here these last few days. Our town is called Panicale. It is so fun and social and full of things to do we affectionately call it Panic Alley. Having entirely too much fun, too much food, coffee and gelati. You know. . . That does sound pretty good. Wait right there.

Ok, back now. I must just be an urban kind of guy I guess. Popped my head out, popped right back in for umbrella and off to Aldo’s for gelati with “the family”. Nocciolo and almost black chocolate gelati. Aldo and Nico are talking plants and watching Italian movie sort of. Late at night these town cafes get more like being in someone’s living room. Where you can drop in as late as you want like bad teenagers. We get right into the fertilizers and cosmic issues of light and shade. Should we try to raise lemons in a pot or not? Big issues, weighty thoughts. And the good part is Aldo is sitting and gossiping like all the people he waits on all day every day. Is it obvious why I have trouble getting blog up? Easily distracted here in Umbria. Two stores up the street, and half way to our house is Masolino’s Restaurant and it finally looks like I can get in there. To see for sure if they are open Wednesday when friends from Colorado are racing up from Rome to eat there. Tuesday is still the day of reposo. Plan accordingly. Andrea says “you came in twice before and went back out” I said “cripe yes, era un cassino qui”. Somehow saying something was a bordello evokes crazy busy. Huge crowds every time I went by earlier and decided to pass on that even after I had actually stepped in. “Nobody but Americans still here now” he said without too much irony pointing towards the last couple tables lingering over coffees. Then he poured me a grappa something and we talked about fun things to do in Miami. Did I mention Miami is next month? I do too have a good excuse. Family member has a birthday and they insisted we party like Foridians. What could I say? And I will be reporting in “live” from Caffe Milano there thanks to Andrea’s heads up on that touristic front.

HOME AWAY FROM HOME
Seeing delightful Italian homes in all price ranges up to 2 million euros. And as low as 55,000 euros. Trust me you get what you pay for so if Giancarlo takes you to the 55,000 no whining, OK? Its cheap, already.

Some lovely lovely houses all around this part of Umbria. Places with gardens, with pools, or both. Complete Italian villas with their own woods, fields, horse paddocks like Podernovo, fairy tale hilltop, private homes with garden on all sides in full flowers, near Citta della Pieve. Go to the This just in! section for the full tease and then write me for the photo galleries or more information. This is really just the tip of the Italian real estate ice berg. Hold my feet to the fire when I get back to make me keep sorting and get all these beauties up on the site!

IT’S A BLOODY LURCHER
I went to the theater last night (it is a couple doors down the other way) and saw an amazing production by a local group. High tech, high concept, just a wonderful thing even if it does take place in hell? Astaroth in: La Guerra Spiegata ai Poveri. War explained to the poor people. Written in Italy right after WW2 but relative today as well. We knew several people in it. I loved getting my ticket. I was grocery shopping and my friend Dily wanted to know if I was going to the play and what night and we discussed and she said a ticket would be waiting and it was. Second row, middle, sold out show. I love how everything works here in Umbria.

The night before I walked to a friend’s house just outside the castle gates by full moon light. Chairs packed around the dinner table. A dog under the table. Some of the British people at the table kept exclaiming with great joy “It’s a Lurcher, it’s a great bloody Lurcher’. Which I guess is a breed of dog we silly Yanks don’t know about yet, big thing, mottled like a great dane. No, wait again, make that two dogs, I think there was a Jack Russel under the Lurcher, and if you stood up to get seconds on something a cat would doze off in your chair. Well, one did in mine. We wined and dined. And wined. Prosecco, local white Umbrian wine, Vin Santo, two kinds. Anti pasti, pasti with fresh rape, artichokes baked in a torte, fish (its head was nearly as big as mine) mouse, cookies. As the Egyptians say if I wasn’t standing deep in de Nile, I would admit to a bit of a “morning after” syndrome from all the wonderfulness.

MEANWHILE, BACK IN TUSCANY
The day before that party I really and sincerely found myself lost in deepest Tuscany. Ok, THERE is the map – at the BOTTOM of my computer bag. Boy, I could have used THAT a few hours earlier. Roads were out. Word of the day: Deviazione. Deviate indeed. I was lost. I was on roads that I later saw on maps, and they resembled nothing so much as twisted entrails. My own personal stomach was not doing a bad impersonation of same. If I only had a brain. Or a co-pilot. Or the map. A normal person could do it quite easily with any of those above.

YOUR HORSE WILL LOVE IT TOO
It was worth trip I will admit. Podernovo, was my photographic goal of the day. Acres and acres of Tuscan woods being meticulously manicured and groomed, the pool and its terraces being readied for summer. Multiple stone buildings, all rooms freshly painted in the most luscious and tasteful pastels, old details cared for, restored and flattered with accessories, flowers and vines ready to burst into color. From the villa and grounds you look over at the town of Monticiano. Or you can canter through your own Italian woods to the Monticiano’s horse track where they train horses for Siena’s famous Palio. How many small towns have a horse track. How cool is that?

SEEING SIENA. AGAIN. AND AGAIN.
Wait. How far out of whack am I on this blog? Have I been so blogged down that I dropped the ball and didn’t report on seeing Siena again? I’m here again?

Appears so. The clouds parted and we had run to Siena between the raindrops. By late lunch time we were eating outside in the sun beneath scudding clouds that would have us in coats one minute and down to Tshirts the next.

Its all about food and books and people watching for me in Siena.

Food: pizza, ravioli and salad in il Campo. Porchetta and wild boar sausage in a sack from the deli a few stores away. Dinner solved.

Books: Ones with pictures and even one without: “The Reluctant Tuscan, or How I discovered my Inner Italian” by Phil Doran. We’ll see how that turns out. Had to like the title.

People watching: Note to the fashion forward, pale pistachio is the new black. It is the color in Siena for Spring ’05. My wife took her credit cards and went one way and my daughter took hers and went another and both came back with green. Shoes for one and a jacket for the other and they matched. So I started noting. Once you spot it you see it everywhere in Siena: cloth, leather, silks, walls of stores, on posters and graphics. So now you know. You heard it here first. “Green is Hot”. Ok, some of the pre-schoolers hadn’t gotten the memo on that but aren’t they so cute when with their day glow back packs and umbrellas and they are holding hands two by two like that? Town was aswamp with them.

Been quite a good Italian adventure so far and different friends are arriving every day for the next three days. My, sigh, flight is on the fourth of those days. If only the roses will bloom for me before I go. I hear good things about them, and people even send me photos of them. Never seen them in bloom in person yet. Some day.

Happy Italian Liberation Day Monday, April 25th by the way. La festa della “Liberazione” We asked if they have fireworks and got blank looks. Guess not.

Ok, for at least the next few days we can still say,

See you in Italy,

Stew Vreeland

ATTENTION CONE HEADS: BEWARE BERKLEY SCOOP

The idea of sitting in the warm California sun and getting in a few licks had certain appeal, so one afternoon when we saw a nice looking Gelateria on Fourth Ave in Berkley we thought Italian Ice Cream! and went for it. I’m going to be kind here and not use the name of the place. This being California they had esoteric flavors like Green Tea and maybe that should have been a warning but we pressed on. Now, I have to digress for a minute and make sure you know I really like California and California people. I think they are all fun and cool. Well, all except the boyfriend girlfriend running this wannbe chic but sketchy place. I’ve blanked out what flavor I ordered (not Green Tea) but the young man asked me which size cup I wanted, pointing at an assortment of plastic cups. I’m not a cup kind of guy so I said “Cone”. And that’s when he got up on his back legs, looked down his nose and said “This IS a cone-free zone”. He really truly said that. I have witnesses. And he said it like eating a cone was akin to eating live baby harp seals on a stick. “Wait” I said “You’d rather have me throw away plastic than eat a cone?” Blank look back at me, so I took another tact, pointing at a handy visual aid with pictures of ice cream posing in a variety of tasty ways “What is this? ” “Oh, that is a crepe. We can give you the ice cream in a crepe. Which we present in a conical delivery system”

So we waited for Babs and Chip to deliver said conical delivery system (their names were on the tip jar which was Babs and Chips Honeymoon Tip Jar according to the sign). I do not actually remember their actual monikers. Anyway, while we were waiting, Paulette took a picture of a row of ice cream scoops they had mounted on a blank white wall. Oh, no. No picture taking. “For our protection” Dear God in Heaven if anyone on planet earth was ever closer to, or more deserving of, a wedgie. With optional swirly. I stepped back onto the public sidewalk and took another picture. So there.