Monday, June 30, 2008

A New Member of My Blogger Family

You can’t imagine how surprised I was when in Italy I received an e-mail message from my friend back home letting me know I had a Blogging fan. Sure enough when I looked at this post, I realized I had a reader I had never met, well at least not formally.

It gets a little more complicated. This reader found my Blog by Googling the name of my doctor, which I thought I had never used in its entirety (it only takes once and the last name is now gone). Said doctor plays in an orchestra with said Blogger. And there you have a very complex picture.

This person has been reading my Blog for over a year and has only recently let it be known that she too has a Blog.

After my return from Italy, we traded a few e-mails and finally got together for lunch today at Busboys & Poets in Shirlington, which seems to be my place to meet up with Bloggers.

She has quite a story to tell about her life as a professional musician and her house which was consumed by fire several years ago but is slowly rising from the ashes through the hard work of her and her husband, also a professional musician. They work on the house in between gigs which often take them far away from home.

Our lives have music and Blogging in common, but otherwise couldn’t be more different. She taught piano for many years. She has seen the world as a jazz musician on a cruise ship while I was selling my soul to the Federal Government.

I admire the fact that she has maintained such a positive attitude throughout the whole house ordeal in the face of shrinking funds and increasing costs. It sounds like the house project may actually draw to a close in a few months.

She suggested her Blog may lose its purpose when the house is finished. I’m hoping she will continue to write about her adventures carting her double bass around the world and the challenges of being a musician.

Meanwhile she has applied to get on DC Blogs. If you are an administrator of that site, please make this happen!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

What a Pain!

I once took a Feldenkrais class which incorporated the technique of looking inside your body to try to understand how it moved. That was years ago, but I still sometimes use that technique.

Last night as I suffered from an unusually bad headache, I tried to visualize what might be causing it. It emanated from the left back of my head. I hadn’t hit my head on anything, so it wasn’t the result of an injury. Were there constricted blood passages in that part of my head? I wondered what even went on in that part of the brain.

Having just come from a pig roast, I wondered if I might suffer from the same allergy that gave my father a horrific headache every time he ate pork. Probably not, since I have eaten pork before with no such headache afterwards.

I took an Aleve and virtually fell into bed. This morning after sleeping a full 12 hours, I don’t have the same pounding headache, but rather my whole head is a little sore and sensitive, as though it has been through a trauma.

I would still like to crawl in and explore what remains of the storm that caused that frightful pain in my head.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Longing for 20-20

Ever since I got my first pair of glasses at 17, I have had excellent vision (with my glasses on), sometimes even better than 20-20. I was always the one who could see the road signs well in advance of everyone else. But I panicked today as my right eye just didn’t quite make it.

For the past few months I have sensed something shifting in my vision. I got new progressive lenses, but I just haven’t had that same crispness to the distance vision and threading a needle has become a challenge.

Yesterday when I went in for my annual eye exam, the technician tried all sorts of combinations to improve my vision. But our dialog was a series of Better? No, Better? No, Better? No.

In a panic, I realized I couldn’t read that last line that I always whizzed by in the past. What’s wrong with my right eye? I asked. The doctor will discuss it with you, she replied.

I really do worry because the reason I have an annual appointment is to check for melanoma on the back of my eye. What if????

Dr. Kolsky checked my eyes and confirmed that I have tiny “age-appropriate” cataracts. He said the one on my right eye may have gotten a tiny bit bigger, thereby causing my slightly less than 20-20 vision. No need for surgery at this point, he said.

I’ll take a cataract over a melanoma any day, even if it spoils my perfect vision score. But I am still somewhat bummed by yet another sign that I am moving toward OLD. I keep wondering what life will be like when I finally get there...

Friday, June 27, 2008

I'm Obviously no MD

Anyone who knows my husband well knows that he has a list of doctors and health practitioners he relies on back home. He’s not a hypochondriac, but he does consult a medical specialist when needed.

He sailed through the month in Italy with only the persistent foot problem he had before we left. He managed to do some fairly strenuous hiking and to haul a 60-pound suitcase on and off trains and buses with no ill effect.

It was the day before we left the Amalfi Coast after he had been packing that he showed up with a bowl of ice water and his hand submerged in it. He had managed to somehow slip on our bedroom’s tile floor as he was sitting down on the floor next to his suitcase, landing on his left hand.

We all looked up from our reading and said, “Soak your hand, it will be fine,” mentally labeling him a drama king. He popped some Aleve and really didn’t complain about his hand much on the long way home.

But this week after it had been almost 2 weeks and his hand was still quite swollen, he decided to go to a hand specialist I had seen several years ago after a fall. I was sure the diagnosis would be the same as I had gotten: bruised and sprained, give it time.

But no, he came home with a removable cast and an X-ray that shows a clean break in his left hand. The doctor was somewhat incredulous that he has been biking since he came home from Italy.

So for the next 2 weeks there will be no biking, the cast on 24 x 7 except for a daily shower, and limited activity that involves a left hand.

I’m a firm believer in wait and see, but this is a case where it was definitely better to get professional help!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Reduced-Rate Parking

Finding a legal parking space in DC is always a challenge. Today I went a little early for my haircut at Axis hoping to find a free space on 19th Street. After my 4th pass, I realized my parking karma was just not strong enough. So I opted for a 2-hour spot at a meter with 10 minutes to spare until my appointment.

The first quarter gave me 15 minutes. But after I reached 30 minutes, the meter just ate my quarters. I stopped at $1.

It’s a blessing and a curse when the meter doesn’t work. It means you get free/reduced parking. But you also have to call in the problem to guard against having to pay a ticket. Here are the instructions on how to report a broken meter.

As I dialed the number, I found myself saying “Oh shit! I don’t have anything to write the case number on or with.” I gave the voice at the other end my meter identification: 201603NW. He asked for my last name.

When he proceeded to give me the 7-digit number, I repeated it several times hoping to commit it to memory. Then I spied a discarded pen in the dirt and looked around for a scrap of paper. The back of someone’s business card in the gutter would do just fine. Now I was armed with the necessary information to nullify any ticket that I might get during the next 2 hours.

I walked into Axis with 3 minutes to spare, knowing I had just purchased 2 hours of parking for $1. Not bad.

It would seem that about half the parking meters in DC are broken. Maybe they are just letting them all die as they install the machines they now use in Georgetown and on Capitol Hill to sell you parking time.

Meanwhile, it seems like you could get a lot of free parking out of a failed meter by simply calling in every 2 hours and giving someone else’s name.

As many times as I have encountered a broken meter, I have never actually gotten a ticket. Could it be their system is sophisticated enough to sense that a call has been placed reporting the failure? Probably not. Today it was probably because every cop with any sense was not walking the street in the 90+ degree weather.

Not only did I get a deal on parking, but I have a wonderful new haircut and enjoyed the chance to catch up with my hair stylist Richard, who knows everything there is to know about DC restaurants. He is so cool!

Opting for Fresh and Local

After picking fresh fruits and vegetables from our garden in Italy, I’m starting to realize that FRESH is far more important to me than ORGANIC. Books like Organic, Inc. and The Omnivore’s Dilemma debunk the organic label in favor of small and local.

I just came from a frustrating trip to the farmers’ market with someone who was intent on finding organic produce. Only one stand advertised being organic and had very few offerings.

We talked to a vendor who said her farm used natural methods and “squashed bugs with their fingers”, but had decided to forego the paperwork that claiming organic necessitates.

When I am confronted with plastic-tasting strawberries from mega-organic farms and bright red berries grown a couple of miles down the road, there is absolutely no choice in my mind.

Bring on the fresh, local produce of summer!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008


Don’t you find you can often size someone up by the bumper stickers on his or her car? As I was driving through Takoma Park today, I saw a car loaded with ads and slogans. Most of them were for music stores, representing all sorts of instruments. But the one that caught my attention said,

If the fetus you save is gay, will you still fight for its rights?

I love the fact that we can say just about anything on the back of our cars, including slams against the current administration of which there are many these days, with no fear of reprisal.

Have you seen a good bumper sticker recently?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

What's the Big Rush? -- Part 2

The good news is I proved to myself that I can ride my bike with the clipless pedals. Those of you who offered your encouragement months ago will be happy to know I finally made the plunge. My husband and I rode from Georgetown to Bethesda on the Capital Crescent Trail and back with only one incident to report. The bad news is I’m still not fast enough to keep up with him.

I had the pedals installed long before we went to Italy, but had been building up in my mind the difficulty I might have learning to ride with them, picturing myself lying on the pavement every time I attempted to stop. Interestingly enough I had worked myself into the same sort of mindset before I drove a stick-shift car in traffic for the first time. In both cases I am happy to report the worry was much worse than the actuality.

From the first CLICK-CLICK as my feet became one with the pedals, I was grateful not to have them slipping off all the time and I could sense the added power of being able to pull as well as push. But I must admit there is a learning curve. Here’s what I managed to learn today:

– I am left-footed as well as left-handed, meaning that I start and stop with my right foot on the ground, not my left as with most people.
– You can actually start riding before clicking in.
– My left foot comes out most easily by turning my heel to the outside. I need to turn my right heel to the inside to release it.
– If you are going through a residential area with lots of starts and stops, it is easier just not to clip in in between.
– When you are attempting to stop and dismount, make sure your foot doesn’t slip back into the clip. That was my undoing.
– I hate walking in those bike shoes on pavement because they have a little thing that protrudes on the bottom of the sole.

I was fine all the way to Bethesda, priding myself on getting on and off several times and negotiating multiple stop signs. It was when I got to Bethesda (facing Woodmont Avenue at the end of the trail) that I had my little incident. I had my right foot on the ground and was taking my left foot off the pedal when it slipped back into the clip and I toppled right over into the gravel.

My pride was probably hurt more than my bloody elbow or my hip as I looked around for a familiar face to find none and was asked by multiple strangers if I was hurt. After I had unclipped the offending foot and managed to right myself and my bicycle, my cycling partner appeared to face my rage about why we couldn’t stay together, definitely fueled by the fact that I had just embarrassed myself by falling over at a dead stop in front of strangers.

He claims that he must ride at a faster cadence so as not to re-injure his knee. When I said, “Bullshit,” he countered with “No one can ride as slowly as you do.” Ouch! Both of us later regretted these hurtful statements, but we had let them fly.

I actually did much better going back to Georgetown, passing 3 bicyclists. That sounds great until I admit the trail is all downhill in that direction.

I took an Aleve when I got home to rid myself of the stiffness in my hand and elbow, the same one that has been waking me up at night and now has another reason to do so.

I have concluded that I must either be willing to ride by myself, find a new riding partner who is not training for a triathlon and doesn’t have a health condition that necessitates riding fast, or in the worst case just get rid of my bicycle. Hopefully it won’t come to that.

I will make the same statement about biking I made earlier this week about walking: If you want to ride and talk to me, be forewarned it will be at a leisurely pace, especially if there are hills. I am 59 years old, retired, and still trying to figure out what’s the big rush!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Let It Go

I have been bombarded with the message “let it go” ever since last Friday. Was it pure coincidence that these three words have become my mantra?

Friday as I relaxed into a much-needed massage, I admitted to being frustrated and concerned about my ability to play the piano after such a long absence from practice. In looking for new music to play, I find I’m constantly saying, “That’s too hard for me.” I don’t want to be the one making mistakes when I play with other people. My massage therapist said, “Can’t you just let this go NOW?”

On the way to meditation this morning, I tuned in to WETA to hear Nicole Lacroix say that it was national “Let It Go Day”. Whoever heard of such a thing?

My wonderful yoga teacher in our class this evening repeatedly urged us to let go of the distractions that keep our hearts from shining forth. The practice of yoga is all about letting go and being with our breathing.

With all of these reminders I am working hard to give meaning to these words in my life. Old habits and an urge for perfection are hard to break. But if I’m to keep music in my life in a way that gives me pleasure, I will need to release the negative feelings associated with making mistakes and dwell on the joy of creating something beautiful with other people.

Is there something you need to let go?

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Some Very Expensive Yogurt

My latest rant at centers around a yogurt maker. It’s the 1-quart Salton I bought earlier this year for $10. I liked it so much that I bought my daughter one at $12. But when I tried to buy one today for my friend Deborah for her birthday, the price suddenly has been raised significantly to $89.99.

Anyone looking at this Web page can easily see it is full of mistakes. It’s fairly obvious when the list price of $24.99 is slashed that the resulting price should actually be $8.99. Even with inflation, the same item would not have increased to such an outrageous price in just a few months. Check out the other two offerings at $98.95 and $100,000.00.

I have always had a great deal of respect for Amazon and have always been pleased with both their products and their service. So I thought a simple phone call would solve my problem and I could perhaps receive the yogurt maker by Wednesday, my friend’s actual birthday.

The first challenge was how to actually talk to a person at Amazon. A simple Google of “ + telephone number” netted this useful information.

I called 1-866-216-1072, still anticipating a helpful staff member who would quickly fix the pricing problem.

Instead I got someone in India who asked me a million questions before ever even pulling up the problematic Web page. Then she tried to tell me there was nothing she could do because the product was being offered by a third party, not Amazon. My complaint that it was appearing on their website had no effect whatsoever. In my frustration I asked to speak to her supervisor.

The supervisor gave me the same pat answer without even bothering to see the problem. When I asked what I would actually be charged if I ordered the yogurt maker listed at $100,000, she said “$100,000" and said it was out of her control. That’s the point when I hung up, shaking my head in frustration.

I even suggested to my husband that we order the $89.99 yogurt maker and just see what happened, with the option of returning it if indeed we were charged that amount. He wasn’t willing to take a chance.

A further look would suggest that for some reason there is a shortage of these Salton yogurt makers on the market. I shot off e-mails to Value-Warehouse, the $89.99 provider, and to Salton itself asking for some clarification.

At this point I still have no good source for a yogurt maker and am pissed as hell at the incompetence of Amazon, a company that has gotten a lot of business from us. They have outsourced this one past the point of providing the necessary customer service.

Redefining OLD

I have just come to realize the extent to which we continue to redefine the word OLD as we creep up in age. Oddly enough, for me it seems to be about 15-20 years older than I currently am, and it’s been that way since I was a young child.

The majority of people I know well have crossed the half-century mark, and many are hovering around 60. Just this week we celebrated the birthday of our long-time friend Michael as he turned 60. I just got back from a whirlwind trip to Hawk Mountain in Pennsylvania for a surprise 60th birthday party for my friend and musical partner Deborah in one of her favorite places in the whole world. I turned this little bird into a home-made card for her.

I still have 6 months before I cross into that new decade, but it is coming. Some days my body feels OLD, but I counter that with young thoughts, hoping my mind can win out.

I had an interesting conversation with my daughter this week in which she bolstered my aging ego. When I mentioned getting older, she told me that many of the patients in her psychology-related job are my age but seem to be in much worse shape than I am. I took that as a compliment.

So as I practice to blow out 60 candles, I plan to just keep moving – walking Jake, doing yoga, riding my bike with its clipless pedals (I’m going to do it this week, I promise!), and just not sitting still long enough to atrophy.

I would love to think that by the time I turn 80, OLD will be defined as 95 in my mind!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Coming to Terms with My Pace

For the past few years I have had trouble keeping up with others as we walk. Most people simply walk ahead, periodically looking back to make sure I’m still there and waiting for me to catch up at intervals. Only my friend Reya, occasionally my husband, and my dog Jake are willing to walk at my pace, which is definitely slow.

I can’t tell you how many times people have asked in genuine concern, “Did you hurt your leg?” When I reply, “That’s just the way I walk,” they feel embarrassed for asking. But it is true that my tendency to swing my right leg around gives me a strange gait that is markedly worse when I am tired or cold and probably impedes my walking speed.

A doctor recently commented that I totally lack depth perception when I walk, meaning that I have to use my eyes to scan for uneven pavement or anything that might cause me to trip and fall. This is perhaps why using walking sticks on a hike makes it so much easier to find my balance.

I don’t remember always being so slow or unbalanced. It seems to just have crept up on me with additional years. But I’m determined not to let that stop me from walking because I feel so good when my hip joints get lubricated and my legs are stretched out.

Jake and I had a wonderful long walk today to drop off a package and mail some letters. It was almost a relief not to feel behind as we ambled along with him sniffing and decorating every shrub and telephone pole we passed.

So be forewarned if you want to walk and talk with me, you may have to slow down and smell lots of roses. But then, what’s the big rush anyway?

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Second Time Around

For two years I have been remembering the afternoon Reya and I went out on the paddle boats (aka “the little boats”) in the Tidal Basin. It was a beautiful Spring day and we were practically the only ones out that day. This afternoon we proved that the second time around does not always live up to our memory of an experience.

Today seemed like the perfect day to do it. The sun was out, the afternoon thunderstorm that may hit was hours off, there were only a handful of boats out on the shimmering water. We were fully protected with sunscreen and hats.

But after about a half hour, we both concluded it was a lot of work to go anywhere and it was unbelievably hot, made more so by the life jackets we were required to wear.

So what was different today? Perhaps it was because there was no goat cheese with crackers, dark chocolate bar, or bottle of chilled white wine (that we had last time). There was only a 99-cent bottle of water from Whole Foods for each of us.

Or was it the myriad of rules for driving the little boats?

Or maybe it was because we were almost rammed by a boat driven by a couple of 8-year-olds.

Whatever the reason, we decided to head back to the dock and release ourselves from the work and the heat. Even the little Tibetan flags couldn't keep us interested.

Like many things in life, sometimes it’s just better not to go for a repeat! Instead let a good memory be just that.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Where's the Rit?

I concluded yesterday that most people don’t bother to try to reclaim ruined clothing, preferring instead to toss it out just like a broken toaster. When did they quit selling Rit fabric dye in every grocery store?

I luckily managed to escape the first load of wash in Italy where it became apparent that there was bleach in the Italian laundry detergent we had bought at Tutti per Tutti. I looked sadly at the splotchy clothes that came out of that load.

Instead I waited until I got back to do the same thing with Clorox! After bleaching some stains out of a white shirt, I rinsed it out (or so I thought) and tossed it in with a load of light-colored clothes. Most of them survived just fine, but a favorite cotton shirt must have gotten a little too close to the white shirt in the washer and the result was devastating.

It was a soft teal shirt I really liked so I decided to try to fix it with fabric dye. I soaked it in Clorox water to remove the remaining color. Then I drove to the super-sized Giant and went to the aisle that carries things like thread and safety pins. That’s where the Rit dye should have been. No sign of any sort of fabric dye. A seasoned employee told me they hadn’t carried it for years.

So I drove across the street to the CVS. By this time the storm had moved in with buckets of rain and 60 mph wind. I managed to make it into the CVS and asked an employee where I might find fabric dye. I knew I was in trouble when he responded “What you use that for?”

I made it back to the car without getting completely drenched and called Pearl Art Supplies (back across the street). Yes, they had Rit in multiple colors at $2 a box. So then I concluded it had been relegated to the craft of tie tying.
I purchased the Rit in teal, an approximate color of the shirt. I subsequently noticed another shirt in bright green also somewhat affected by the original problem. Taking a shortcut I decided to just throw it into the washer of teal dye in hot water.

The first shirt looks better than ever. The second one isn’t so great because I got lazy and didn’t remove all the color first, but it will be fine for yoga and just knocking around.

I can imagine that anyone under 35 reading this will never have heard of Rit. Most people over 35 probably haven’t bought a box of Rit in the last 20 years.

I’ve also been known to fix a broken toaster instead of tossing it out. This is my father’s legacy to me.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Getting Around

I’ve just succeeded in convincing myself that public transportation to and from my neighborhood really sucks. Given we were down to one working car today and we both had appointments at the same time, I opted to find a combination of ways to get home from downtown. Over two hours later I walked in the door.

My appointment was not far from the Foggy Bottom Metro stop, so the first leg of my trip was easy. I bought a $2 fare card, the minimum purchase even though the non-rush-hour fare at 1:00 was $1.65.

I decided to get off at the Pentagon because I thought there were lots of bus connections from there. I asked in the information kiosk and the attendant told me either a 16F or a 25 bus would do.

When I realized I needed $1.35 for the bus, I managed to sound pathetic enough that a nice woman gave me the $.35. But then I came to realize that neither of the buses the man had suggested went to my neighborhood.

After walking up and down and looking at the little maps that showed the routes, I figured out that a 28F or 28G would probably work. I called the number listed to find out when the next would be arriving. “They only run at rush hour,” the woman said. She proceeded to tell me I needed to get back on the Metro and go to King Street to get the correct bus. Knowing that was more money and time and way out of my way, I asked what the best bus leaving from the Pentagon would be. “7A,” she said. I found the place to wait for a 7A and learned that it ran hourly. The next one was coming in a few minutes.

It was a very circuitous route from the Pentagon that dumped me off on Beauregard Street, probably a half mile from my house. So I walked, and walked, and walked, going through unfamiliar townhouses and finally spotting the neighborhood tennis courts. By the time I walked through my door, a full two hours had elapsed. The same trip takes between 15 and 20 minutes by car.

The good news was I got some exercise, I had a chance to catch up with my neighbor who was outside picking up debris from yesterday’s storm, and when I did finally get home, I was greeted with the fact that the electricity, which had been off for almost 24 hours, was back on again.

So I return to the fact that I really would like to have the option of using public transportation for trips into the city, but 2 hours each way is entirely unacceptable.

On a more positive note, we did take a Metrobus from Dulles Airport to Roslyn on Sunday night. The cost was $3.10 each, as compared to probably $75 for a taxi. The 5A runs hourly and stops only twice. It's a great bargain!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Back to Reality

My immune system is getting a good test. I spent 8 hours on our trip home sitting beside a young woman who obviously had a fresh cold. I could almost sense the presence of lots of germs in the recycled air I was breathing as she sneezed, blew her nose, and coughed.

Maybe this is the time to be dosing myself with Airborne. But instead I’m just relying on nature and hoping a month of rest will be my best protection against infection.

My poor body doesn’t know what time it really is. I was up at 6:30 after a short night of sleep. I just plowed through month of e-mail and now will move on to the piles of laundry waiting to be washed.

The food and gas prices are all higher than when we left home. Other than that, it’s a little warmer, but everything is much the same.

Maybe it was the Maypole that watched over our house when the tornado came through, who knows?

Saturday, June 14, 2008

That's Amore

It actually feels strange to be back in Rome for such a few hours before we go home tomorrow. The best thing I can say for Rome is it's not raining. But the tourists are out in full force.

I had this romantic notion of sauntering over to the Trevi Fountain to show my husband this spot that has been the subject of so many songs. Instead of the intimate setting I had remembered, we posed with about 300 of our "best friends" who were all there to do the same thing. I suddenly realized that we really hadn't even encountered that many tourists over the past couple of weeks and we certainly hadn't missed them.

We found ourselves at dinner with a restaurant full of Americans, where the menu was all in English. The pasta with crab was delightful, but the mention of Tysons Corners at the next table made it seem just too much like home.

As we walked off the pasta while treating ourselves to one last gelato, we came upon a performance by the Italian marine band on the Spanish Steps. A good send-off for the four of us. Tomorrow is a long, long travel day. Arrivederci, Italy!

Our Little Town

I’ve spent so much time telling you about where we have gone on the Amalfi Coast that I’ve neglected introducing you to our “neighborhood”, the Chiesa San Luca. We sit well above much of the town of Praiano.

No picture can adequately capture the climb up to San Luca with multiple switchbacks. Once you are at San Luca (a church), there are still 57 steps to climb up to Casa Concetta, our house.

I find it extremely curious that they use a STOP sign that looks just like ours at home and paint the street with STOP. Now I’m thinking the reason no one actually even slows down is because they don’t know what STOP means.

It seems there is a lot of construction going on in Praiano, much of it in areas not accessible by roads. So they use mules to move the dirt and rocks up and down the mountain. Here is one team getting ready to head out.

They actually look much healthier than the mules on Santorini and there is no evidence of the mule dung that gave the steps in Santorini a characteristic smell.

Graffiti seems to be universal these days. This is just a random shot from our recent trip to Herculaneum.

The suitcases are mostly packed and bulging. The refrigerator is looking a little empty. We’re having dinner out at a restaurant down at the beach tonight. That’s the place that is 1,000 steps down from San Luca (and of course 1,000 steps up to get home.) Bring on the lemoncello for our final farewell dinner on the Amalfi Coast.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Winding Down

As the rain falls softly on the Amalfi Coast, we are thinking about going home, putting an end to this Mediterranean odyssey.

We ask each other questions like what did you miss most from home? A cutting board, a microwave, a toaster, a dishwasher, a disposal, a washing machine that completed a load in less than 3 hours, a dryer.

What did we like most about this place? The garden at our disposal with its vegetables and herbs. The daily exercise despite our complaints about the stairs. The church bells that rang on the quarter hour around the clock. The upstairs “deck” where we could read, eat dinner, or just sit and look at the sea. All the lovely little towns just a bus ride away from Praiano. The blue, blue sky. A postcard picture view in any direction.

It’s almost fitting that we leave when the weather isn’t so good, given how lucky we have been for most of the trip. We took one last trip to the pottery store between here and Amalfi this morning and another last trip to Positano this afternoon to just walk and have a final pizza. I tried on the expensive white shirt and it didn’t fit, so there is no regret.

There is actually a dog at the front of this small boat that reminded me of my Jakey, who is living it up back home with Gewels.

Tomorrow we will spend packing up and getting ready for an early departure on Saturday. I am dreading dealing with my way-too-heavy suitcase once again as I carry it down the 60 stairs and roll it downhill to the center of town where we will catch a bus to Amalfi, transfer to another bus to Salerno, take a train to Rome, spend the night, and catch an early train home on Sunday. Every time we move on, I swear never again to bring so much stuff.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Discovering Elizabeth Gilbert's EAT Place

Today we ventured up to Naples with two objectives: seeing the treasures of the National Museum of Archaeology and eating the pizza popularized by Eat, Pray, Love. With a lot of luck both were accomplished and we’re now heading back home on the Circumvesuviano train.

As we arrived at the museum, this sign caught our eye.

It was just fortunate we put off Naples for a day to go hiking yesterday.

The museum was a great way to follow up visits to Pompeii and Herculaneum, seeing the things they discovered when the two towns were unearthed.

The mosaics were the finest I have seen anywhere, almost resembling needlepoint in their intricate detail.

The collection of X-rated material in the room restricted to those 14 and older showed the ancient civilizations of Pompeii and surroundings to be fully aware of sex and its various possibilities.

The villa of Papiri in Herculaneum yielded some of the best pieces in bronze, representing the upper class at the time of the eruption of Vesuvius.

From the museum we took a walking tour through Naples with the goal of having pizza for lunch.

Unfortunately Naples is drowning in trash because of a garbage strike.

It was interesting to see the added stress of a big city: more honking horns, more cigarettes, more scooters ready to run you over.

The pizza at the L’antica Pizzaria “da Michele” was more than worth the 20-minute wait to get a table. It’s a simple choice: either with or without cheese. I’m embarrassed to say I ate the whole thing.

We’re heading home to our little town, leaving behind the hustle and bustle of the city. It was a good day to visit Naples, despite the 5 hours of travel time to get there and get home -- 67 kilometers!