Iowa, Florence, Torino. Slightly ahead of the travel loop on this one?

Swell article called Master Class, about a program for adults that want to get intouch with their inter Renaissance Person, artistically speaking. Sounded like so much fun. I could about half see myself running away from the circus and doing something like that.

I know, I know. Many of you were probably laughing haha at my westwardho adventures. Because going west to the Great Plains means I’m obviously not going East to Umbria. Up to where you saw the part about being backstage with the Rolling Stones and Mom’s Apple Rubarb Pie. But we did something else we often do there. Natural as falling out of bed. We got burgers at Taylor’s Maid Rite in Marshalltown. What? You haven’t BEEN to Taylor’s? Nor Marshalltown?

Don’t tell that to the editors of Travel+Leisure. The latest issue (Travel+Leisure March 06) just came in yesterday’s mail. And what to my wondering eyes did appear, but two, full-page photos of Taylor’s Maid Rite, in glorious color. I did not know we were being trendy to go there. We usually just go when we are hungry.

The article describes Taylor’s with this superlative: ”Taylor’s could be the oddest restaurant in the State. Perhaps the Nation.” Ok. Been there. Done that. Got the Tcup, as you can see. (the other side of it says ”. . . but come back again”) The article went on to say ”Their signature dish, loose meat on a white bun — resembles something created in a VA hospital during a catastrophic budget crunch”. Well. Maybe to someone non Native, like the author. He should be so lucky as to be on the receiving end of the income stream the place has been generating for the Taylor family since 1928. Must be doing something Rite.

But lets talk ambience. Old National Geographic maps on the wall that have been there at least since the 1960s. A single U-shaped, Formica-topped counter, the pattern almost worn off. Plus some close packed chrome and red vinyl stools. Normally a bottom planted firmly on every stool. iIts not unusual, or even noteworthy, to have one, two or three people standing behind each stool. The standees are standing, waiting for the sitters to eat up, get up and get out, already. This is, of course, the opposite of Italy’s laudable Slow Food concept. This is efficiency taken to almost dizzyingly poetic heights. There is not even a menu. The name Maid Rite (the name of the burger) says it all. Want a Maid Rite or not? If you do, sit down. If you don’t, keep moving. No swishy fruit salads or omnipresent French/Freedom Fries, or anything really to distract you from the business at hand. There are Maid Rites, a limited selection of drinks, and pie. Homemade, each and every slice. When I was in there last week it looked like you could have any kind you wanted. As long as it was peach. Decision, decision. Oh, and the efficiency of limited selection extends to your choice of condiments. Mustard. Onion, Pickle. Period. You weren’t really thinking about asking for Ketchup, were you? You’ll never pass for a native that way!

FLORENCE/FIRENZE—Rubbing elbows with Marshalltown and trying to horn in on its cachet in this great issue of Travel+Leisure was that quintessential Tuscan town of Florence/Firenze. Swell article called Master Class, about a program for adults that want to get intouch with their inter Renaissance Person, artistically speaking. Sounded like so much fun. I could about half see myself running away from the circus and doing something like that.

TORINO—And further speaking of Italy. How ’bout those Olympics? Will someone please make the announcers quit saying ”Tur-rin”. It just sounds like something bad. Some of the poor things act all offended. As if the town made up the name Torino just to be cute and/or to mess with them. And that is from people reporting ”live” from Torino where they can see signs and maps and everything. Sigh.

Our dear friend Roberta (one of our Italian daughters) lives in Torino. We love her, we love Torino, been there many times over the years. We even got to see the Shroud of Turin with her. And because of her. It is only out once every 25 years or so, and then only for a few days. Roberta is in tourism and she made sure we went way to the head of the line and then right up to say hi to the Shroud itself. Coming through! But for the Olympics, I opened up a big case of the claustrophobias and in the end talked myself out of going. And I LIKE winter sports. I’ve had a downhill ski racing team for several years, and STILL didn’t sign up for this mega event. After reading Roberta’s note, I was sorry I didn’t go for it. Here is her report straight from downtown Torino, by a lifelong native:

Ciao Stew,
Qui tutto bene, Torino é bellissima piena di vita e di
allegria. Questa sera andrò a vedere una partita di Hockey femminile
Finlandia contro USA, ovviamente farò il tifo per gli USA. É un
peccato che tu non possa essere qui a goderti questo bellissimo
spettacolo, Torino é rinata, tutto é perfetto e poi ci sono tanti
turisti da tutti i Paesi del mondo che portano tanto colore e allegria.

She says: Dear Stew, Everything here is fine, Torino is just beautiful, so full of life and happiness. This evening I am going to the girl’s hockey game, the one between USA and Finland. Obviously I will be rooting for the USA. It is a shame that you are not here to enjoy this beautiful event. Torino is reborn, everything is perfect and there are so many tourists here from everyplace in the world, bringing with them so much color and happiness.

Regrets. I’ve had a few. But then again.