Friday, September 30, 2016

Cartoline di Roma (Postcards from Rome) -- And Short Stories from Readers!

You can see why I needed that Cerulean paint, right? (which I've now bought, thanks to Kristine, at the Poggi store near the Pantheon, what a delight!) -- the skies always seem to have something of this colour here.

Don't you think this would make a good photo, if only I could clear all the tourists out of the way, perhaps move a few vehicles. . .

I snapped the photo because a few lovers have clamped their looks onto the teeth of the Roman wolf. So many cities have been dealing with this problem of love locks, the damage they cause, the expense of their removal, and last week, I posted photos of a sculpture recently installed in Vancouver expressly for the purpose of allowing these tangible declarations of attachment. And at the time, I invited short stories -- postcard length -- promising to choose three of those stories and send a postcard from my travels to their writers. . .

It was a very spontaneous idea, and I wasn't sure if it would glean any responses, so I was delighted with the four entries -- two from one writer, who seems to have released a nascent talent for this form. Indeed, I think all three writers handle the tiny narrative form skilfully and engagingly. And because the four entries come from three writers, I can send a postcard to everyone who wrote us a story.

You can hop back to the original post to identify the photograph that prompted each story -- happily, each story here was inspired by a different photograph, although it might also be interesting to see two or three different interpretations for the same image.

I've decided that if any of you are still (or again, or anew) inspired to try your hand, I'll happily send a postcard to any new entries, within reason (I think I'm safe in assuming there won't be a deluge ;-)
Meanwhile, do enjoy the following clever little stories, and Lorrie, Eleanore, and Stacy, please send me your mailing address by email (to fsproutATgmailDOTcom, and I'll send you a postcard from Rome, although it will probably have a French postmark - two, two countries in one postcard!

From Lorrie:

He noticed the way she admired her friends' sparkly rings. Her steps slowed and sometimes stopped while passing a jewelry store window downtown. She never said anything, but he knew. And he wished he could have given her those diamonds, those glittering baubles to wear. She wore her plain gold band always; through the years of scrimping for schooling, raising a young family, and sending the children through university. The budget constraints eased considerably, but diamonds seemed less important than they once did.
For their 30th wedding anniversary, he presented her with a small box. Her eyebrows raised, then contracted. It was much too heavy for jewelry. Opening the box, she saw the heart, covered in diamonds. Real diamonds. She held in her hand, examined it, and raised her eyebrows again. 
"We'll leave it here, in this park," he said. "A symbol of our forever love. No one will suspect these are real."
She leaned in for a kiss, as he pulled the second box from his pocket. "Here's something else."

from Eleonore:

It had not worked out after all. She had always wondered if he loved her the way she loved him and nothing he did could free her from that doubt. When some of her friends had taken their sweethearts to the park to put a lock on those strange statues, it had occurred to her that maybe they should do the same. If he was willing to confess his love for her in such a public fashion, she wouldn’t have to worry any more, would she? She suggested the idea, he shook his head. That was ridiculous. He loved her, he had told her a thousand times, wasn’t that sufficient? It was not, she insisted. She needed the ritual, the formal act. After that, she promised, she would believe in his love forever. He shook his head again and laughed.

But three weeks later, for her birthday, he took her to the park and unwrapped a shiny lock. “Let’s do it”, he said. She looked at the lock, then at him. “Where is the key?”, she asked. “There is no key. The lock opens with a code. You close it, turn the dial, and nobody can open it again.” “Unless you know the code”, she said. “But nobody does”, he said, folded his hands around hers, hung the lock on the statue’s arm and clicked it shut. “There you are”, he said. “Happy now?” She nodded. And wondered. Did he remember the code?

And Eleonore also sent this charming contribution:

It had not been love at first sight between them. Later, they could not recall the exact moment or circumstances of their first meeting. They had worked in the same building, Sam on the fifth floor and Stan on the seventh. They began to exchange looks when they met in the lobby or the elevator, then the looks turned into smiles. They had coffee together at lunchtime. They went to the movies, had dinner, and finally went to bed together when it seemed only natural to do so. 

But the day Sam moved into Stan’s apartment remained special for the two of them. Neither had lived with a partner before. Both were worried that quarrels about toothpaste in the sink and wet towels on the bathroom floor might ruin their love. But nothing of the kind happened. Different as they were, they seemed made for each other. Sam was a wonderful cook, Stan enjoyed doing the shopping. Sam was excellent at planning trips, Stan was able to start a friendly conversation in the most exotic language. Sam never forgot the birthday of any of their friends and relatives, Stan was famous for his ability to invite the most diverse set of people and make them all feel at home.

There was one thing they had in common: they were quite superstitious. Most of all, they feared that their relationship might break up in the seventh year. So when the sixth year of living together drew to a close, they started to throw nervous glances at each other. They treated each other with particular care and tenderness. The year advanced and nothing happened. They began counting the days, feeling more and more confident. When the day of their anniversary arrived, they were jubilant. People in the park turned round to watch the two middle-aged men who radiated happiness while they were hanging a lock on one of the statues.

and from Stacy -- for this story, you really should check out the prompt photo, which shows a lock with the brand name "Fortress" clearly engraved, the "lover's inscription" added above it.
"I'm trapped", she thought. Years went by, children came and went. He decided that she stay in the house and make a home for the family. She felt, at times, like a prisoner. Lovely wallpapered walls enveloped her home, but walls none the less. A few times a year she longed for the sky with no burdens or bounds. The children grew, the finances became easier and she had learned to make peace with her circumstances. It dawned on her one day that being part of this marriage wasn't a warden and a prisoner, it was a team which worked together. One evening in summer, they decided to walk, reveling in their empty nest and calm understanding of each other. At the sculpture, she took a lock from her pocket. She had started writing on it years before, but couldn't finish the thought. Then, with the pen, she changed 'This" to "Their" and finished the sentiment.

Aren't those wonderful? Could we have a round of applause, please? Thank you so much for indulging my spontaneous idea. When next you hear from me, I'm likely to have a different address. Remember that in between posts, you're very welcome to follow my travels on Instagram . . .

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Ciao, just a quick wave from Rome

Jetlag with a 9-hour time zone difference is tough. I slept through my first night here, but scarcely a wink the second. Then last night, I fell asleep about 11 only to wake at 1 for a few frustrating hours. But when I dropped back into slumberland, I stayed there long enough to miss the free hotel breakfast which only runs until 9:30.
So this photo is of me, finally dressed and heading out in search of collazione. Caffe e un cornetto. I'm practicing the words I'll need even as I pose for the camera. 

I'd downloaded directions to get me to the Protestant Cemetery today, on the advice of helpful readers. But as I began walking, I let my body tell me something: I'm tired, in many ways and at many levels. I might try to follow those directions today. But I might also just wander Monti without direction. I might just sit on the marble steps surrounding a fountain in a piazza that's gradually becoming more animated as the sun rises higher in the sky. I might take some time to write a short post on my iPhone. I might just pretend to write a post and instead listen to the sounds around me, all the conversations in language I only catch sparks of....

Breakfast first, though. I pass a few possibilities but off the main drag I'm not seeing those outside tables I've learned the easy drill for: just sit and someone eventually comes to take your order. 

Instead, I pass a doorway that looks so promising. A bar counter, wood tables with patrons lingering over coffee while turning the pages of the morning giornale. The aroma suggests good beans, roasted recently, brewed carefully, and there's a bowl of oranges in the window ready for juicing, a plate of enticing pastries. I hesitate, but can't quite do it. To go inside on my own, to order, either in English or my emerging Italian, to decide where to sit, to feel so vulnerably foreign, exposed. . . I walk on, scanning for an easier venue. 11:00, my tummy wants me to find something. Now.

So I do it. Spin on my heels, walk back to, then through, that doorway. At the counter I say, Vorrei un caffe e un cornetto, per favore. And magically, he's nodding, reaching a croissant onto a plate, sliding it along the counter to me. He puts a small spoon on a small saucer for the espresso cup, which he takes to the espresso machine, whirs out its hot, dark liquor for me and puts it on the saucer. Meanwhile, I've worked up the nerve, found the words, to ask if anche, posso avere un succo d'arancia. And again, magic. He's nodding and I seem to have made sense, but then a torrent of Italian I'm helpless to understand. No problem. Gestures to the rescue, and soon we have both confirmed that the orange juice I'm asking for is to be fresh squeezed. 

And did I mention that I'm doing all this st the counter? Where I'm eating and drinking? As the locals do, along with experienced travelers who know the prices are much reduced if you don't require table service and a place to park for very long. At the counter, there's always a cool vibe, and it feels good to be a part of it, momentarily. 

But I'm on a wandering mission. Cuanto costa, I ask, then fish out the coins for the 4.50 Euro charge, slide off my stool, and out the door, barely restraining my newly recaffeinated self from patting myself on the shoulder. Of course, writing this in a nearby piazza half an hour on, I realise I made one significant error in an otherwise successful foray: I forgot to use an available toilet when the opportunity presented itself. Rookie move! Shame on you, mater--you should know better.

Ah well, that's all for now, as I've consumed untold realms of data to post this. Follow my days in Rome on Instagram if you'd like. I'm happy to have company as I wander. Meanwhile, as you know,Comments always welcome

Monday, September 26, 2016

Did You Guess --- Rome?

Just bursting with adventures to share. Mini-adventures, to be sure, but delicious enough to this temporarily solo-travelling woman-of-a-certain-age.
But I've been out wandering all morning, managed to order my lunch from the table despite the restaurant actually being self-service at lunch and despite my limited Italian (the servers never used English although I'd guess they have some), and the realities of jetlag and vino bianco insist on a nap. Now.
So just a quick OOTD (it's 26 degrees here today, a challenge for my Fall packing, but I'm wearing Vince sneakers, a JCrew T, and my wide-legged Citizens jeans, an M0851 bag), selfie-style...
And a photo of the model of Galileo's pendulum in the Basilica of Santa Maria and the Angels and Martyrs above and of the Meridian Line in same, below

Before I sign off, do have a peek at my last post if you're at all interested in stories...a few lovely readers have thought up some clever "postcard stories" in response to my "love locks" photos. Still time for more contributions before I choose three readers to send postcards to. Not a huge reward, I know, but perhaps such creativity is its own reward. Certainly, I'm delighted by what I've read so far.

But now sleep calls, my friends. A dopo...

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Imagine! Vancouver Love Stories and Taking Flight to Where?

 While I'm busy trying to cram organise ten weeks' worth of clothes into a carry-on case, downloading Boarding Passes, and entering a hand-written version of our digital itinerary into my always accessible little Moleskine notebook (TripIt is a great app, but especially on the day of take-off, it's too easy for me to imagine situations in which electronic info is not available) -- while I'm doing all those myriad pre-flight, slightly frantic activities, I thought I'd take a few minutes to load up some pretty pictures of a new addition to Vancouver's tourist delights for you to enjoy until I tell you where exactly I'll be playing tourist...
 Since I'll be traveling solo for my first two weeks away, I'm not going to be attaching love-locks to any bridges, but we've all seen some version of this once-was-romantic gesture. Before it became a civic nuisance, with cities spending bundles of cash to remove locks that threaten the integrity of various historic structures, there was something charming about the notion of locking two names, a date, and a declaration of love to a memorable and supposedly fixed spot.
 To provide this opportunity, without the accompanying budget headaches,  a Vancouver city councillor suggested commissioning a sculpture, and after a process which involved public consultation on best place, then a sculpture commissioned, this piece, Love in the Rain was designed by Vancouver artist Bruce Voyce, and recently installed in Vancouver's Queen Elizabeth Park on Little Mountain, where I was delighted to discover it serendipitously on my run last weekend.
 Of course, I immediately saw an excuse for a break from the heavy breathing, yanked out my camera, and thought I'd share All the Pretty with you. . .
 The sculpture's only been up for a few weeks, and already is filling up with locks. I'll be very curious to see what it looks like when I'm back in December.
Other sites have been troubled with the litter effect of all the keys discarded, but here the disposal also becomes part of the romantic gesture. . .
I've got to get back to my pre-travel tasks now, but I thought you might like to imagine stories prompted by some of these little locks and the messages written on them. In fact, I have an idea:

Leave me a Postcard-short story prompted by one of the images below. Keep it to the length you could write on the back of a psotcard -- 250 words or less, let's say -- and include details that make it clear which photograph your story is based on. I'll choose three of these stories, and, if you're willing to send me (by private email--we can do that later, once I've chosen the stories) your home mailing address, I'll send you a postcard from somehow on my travels.

Let me know, in your comment below, whether or not you'd like/be willing to receive a postcard or whether you're just leaving your story for the fun of it. And feel free, as always, to comment otherwise -- you don't need to leave a story if you're not so inclined.

There you go. I hope you've enjoyed these photos and perhaps will have fun imagining a variety of love stories to go with them. Next on my list is seeing my little ones before I have to leave them behind to grow for a few months without me. That includes a baby-sitting gig at 8:15, so I'd better get going. We'll chat soon, okay, and I'll let you know where I'm sitting as I read your love stories.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Wordless Wednesday Wanderings

Word-less Wednesday, and I'm throwing a few things in a bag for a quick overnight trip to the island for some toddler snuggles; dinner with my son, daughter-in-law and said toddler; a visit to my hair stylist for a cut and highlights; and a catch-up lunch with a good friend.

When I get home Thursday evening, I'll have a couple of days to do some more packing and organising before I'm off for a much longer jaunt. You'll have to pop in again to find out where I'll land, but I can tell you it's somewhere that encourages wandering and admiring the architecture...
To get my eye ready, but also simply to enjoy my new neighbourhood in the splendid late-afternoon light of a sunny September day, I went for a long stroll yesterday.
Sadly, I suspect this old beauty may not be with us long. Zoning has not been her friend (she will have watched the area become light industrial, and while there's pressure now to introduce more high-density residential here, the market will not work in favour of preservation), but she was doing her faded-denim best to shine in yesterday's sun.
My stroll was actually through an adjoining neighbourhood, but I was back within four or five blocks of home when I discovered a wonderful old brick apartment building. I'm going to have to research a bit to see what I can find of its history. For now, just a few photos of architectural details
Edited to Add: It took my scarcely any time at all to discover this website offering a quick summary of the Quebec Manor's 104-year history. Those bare-breasted nymphs apparently caused some shock and consternation to barely-post-Victorian Vancouverites! I was delighted to find that the building has been a non-profit housing co-op since its tenants banded together to buy it over thirty years ago, incensed by exorbitantly rising rents. 

That's all I have time for this morning. Off to sail some local seas in search of a toddler's giggle....could there be a better quest?

Monday, September 19, 2016

What I Wore: Summer Whites as Fall Knocks on the Door

Super busy with a variety of delightful activities 'round here: grandkids; friends visiting from out of town; long bike rides; unpacking boxes and trying to figure out where to put things; trying to find things you put somewhere that doesn't yet have enough memory triggers. . . . Okay, those last two are not so delightful, but they are necessary, and slowly, but surely, we're getting it done. . .

We've had a couple of seriously rainy days lately, but punctuated by some beautifully sunny hours kissed by that crisp fall coolness. The weather forecast is warning us to expect more rain in the next while, but we're also looking at several more days of sunshine, although the temperature isn't predicted to climb above 15 degrees (Celsius). I've unpacked my sweaters and my boots, and I'm looking forward to wearing them, but I'm also trying to get a few more days out of my white jeans, especially since I just rediscovered these nude Vince flats. The top is a late-season, heavily discounted top from Aritzia, taupe cross-stitch embroidery on a cream field.

Sun and shadows and fountain supplied by Mother Nature and the former owners of our new home. Photography by Pater (who did a much better job than he did here, don't you agree, even if he's caught my face in a funny mix of light and dark)
What about you? Hanging on to summer just a bit longer? Or have you switched over to the sweaters and boots? I'm thinking I might work the white jeans into a fall sweater outfit -- do you make them work for their keep through the darker months or fold them away until next June? Or are you in that part of the world that is shaking all their summer gear out of those storage closets and heading to the beach?

Friday, September 16, 2016

Over-50 (and also Over-60!) Runner's Selfie . . .

You are so right! That Is a Selfie-in-a-Bathroom. And in a Public Bathroom. No, worse, it's in a very spartan Public Bathroom in a park, sporting a metal (so less vandalisable than glass) mirror.

Why, why, and why, you might justifiably ask? Well, in the interests of honesty about running post 50 (oh, who're we kidding here, I'm a well-over-60 runner). . . especially for running over 50 (I know, 60, but I'm trying to be inclusive, right?) when you've had a baby or four sit on your bladder for months at a time. . . Sometimes a runner has to find a toilet en route. And sometimes she has to find one relatively quickly. Sometimes she even plans her route to make sure one will be accessible.

In light of my recent posts on badassery (and how I have very little of said attribute), I thought perhaps you should know this. I don't think you can be a Badass Runner if you have to plot your marathons according to toilets. . . . On the other hand, the sheer audacity of snapping my red-faced, sweaty self in a mirror, in a public bathroom, that might earn me a Badass point or two, no?

And now, to make up for that spectacle, some more edifying photos, all taken on recent city runs. . .  These seem to multiply in my digital photo albums, and I need to share some before clearing them out. . .

This centuries-old pole once graced a First Nations longhouse in a village that was forcibly "moved" just over a century ago. Ironically, it's a welcome pole. . . .

 This industrial building is on a new-to-me running route. I love the sturdy regularity of its very practical architecture, boldly complemented by these tables on the adjoining sidewalk, placed out for workers' coffee or lunch or smoke breaks. That green!
 Is management doubting whether the colour still works this century? Is that why they've let the fading progress to this degree? Whatever, I love the patina almost as much as I find the colour. . . um, compelling? arresting? jarring? Wonderful?!
And just around the corner,  in the clean morning light. . .

 Does it perhaps seem that along with my bathroom breaks, I'm stopping surprisingly often on these runs to snap a photo or two?

You might be right. . . .

But I'm not trying to break any speed records, and there is just so much beauty in such varied, fascinating forms once you start looking around. . . .I can't resist sharing some of it. These back racks, for example. Yes, they're just utilitarian, but the sweet curve of their metal arcs pleases me and seems worth remarking. . .
And really, it's so much better to look at than a Selfie-in-a-Public-Bathroom, no?

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