Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Happy Belated Anniversary to my Folks

First thing, I need to wish my folks a happy anniversary. They have been married 36 years. The anniversary was actually on the 20th. My sister sent a reminder, because my brothers and I aren’t the best at remembering these kinds of things, but I didn’t check email until today (and I didn’t remember). So, Happy 36th Anniversary, Mom and Dad! Sorry to be late in saying it.

Other than that good news… It’s still obnoxiously hot here in the city, and it is more fun for me to continue thinking back to our sailing trip.

So, after an overnight at our port of call we were off sailing. On my first trip to the Mediterranean, the trip on which I met Dora, I was struck by the blues of both the water and sky. On this trip I found myself awed by the land poking through and into those blues. Rock and vegetation rise up and out of the sea at sharp angles. It looks as if it takes effort to hold such postures, as though the land needs to prove its strength in the face of such an overwhelming sea. The rugged coastlines in Italy manage to bring the land and water together with the kind of aesthetic that I believe has been ingrained in the collective consciousness as the way opposites should co-exist.

Anyway, we sailed to Capri. Ahh, Capri. After Courtney visited Capri in 1993, she came back to the States and told me it was the most beautiful place she had ever seen. This kind of superlative is not common coming from my sister, so it sent me to Capri in 1999. I agreed with Courtney’s appraisal then, but on this trip I came to appreciate the island even more. Yes, the city of Capri is a bit too touristy for my taste. The island itself, however, is nothing short of stunning, and from a sailboat, that fact is driven home especially well. We approached from the west, headed for the Marina Grande, but when we got close Andras had us tack so we could navigate around to the island’s more intimate Marina Piccolo.

I am proud to say that I served as first mate on the trip, and I think I did a bang-up job. I knew a bit about sailing, but I learned a lot that day: some knots, the lines on a bigger boat, it was my first time putting out a jib, and… yeah, it was a learning experience and all that.

Once we anchored, we had some drinks and a snack then headed for shore. We planned to return to Capri on our return, so it was enough to just shop around in the city of Capri and find a place for dinner. And my oh my, did we find a place for dinner. The city itself is all white buildings along little winding alleys, no room for cars. We explored for an hour or so when we found a place that seemed to cater as much to the Italians as it did to the tourists. We sat down at eight, the place nearly empty. I ordered a proper Italian meal: antipasti, pasta, mussels, and dessert. I was halfway through the mussels when I noticed the place had filled up. We may have arrived a bit early, but I got the feeling we were seeing a side of Italy that is closer to real Italian than that which many tourists get to see. The wine was good, and the food was better. We got back to the boat close to midnight, and on that note I’ll stop for today.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Getting June Down

It is hot in Budapest, like torture hot… with humidity.

That’s okay, but there’s more. When Sz√≥da was a puppy she peed on the rug once or twice. I have since shampooed the rug three times, but in this heat the smell is resurrected. I hate this smell. I want to do something about it, but I’m not sure what. I’ve shampooed the rug three times for god’s sake. (I actually just took a brake and shampooed the trouble spots a fourth time.) Before this, I had never shampooed a rug in my life, not ever. For those of you who haven’t done it, it’s a pain in the ass. I don’t have one of these big machines that does the job for me. I wish that were the case. I’m sure it would do a better job than my generic rug shampoo and elbow grease.

Anyway, the city is getting to me. I’m going to need to get out this weekend, but seeing as how it’s Tuesday, that doesn’t help me much.

I was at the bank today and yesterday, where I ran into nothing but delays and refusals. Two weeks to get a new PIN code for e-banking?!? And, “Oh, you’ve changed the name of your company? You’re going to need some other papers that you don’t have, and they are very difficult to get. Can you find your way to the door?”

I’ve been back from a killer vacation for just two weeks now, and I already need another break. Actually, work is fine. I have little to nothing to complain about when it comes to work. I have some new students, and I like them, and I like the classes.

Aside from all that, if you’ve read this far, you must know me, because why else would you wade through all that whining. And I know I owe family and friends an explanation of that sailing trip from the beginning of the month. So, here goes. If you want some pictures to go with this, you can see my yahoo slide show thing.

First off, I can’t figure out why the rest of the world won’t just shut up and live like the Italians. They eat well, and I mean both healthy and delicious. They live well. And they appear much more at ease than the other cultures I’ve become acquainted with, including American culture (actually, especially American culture. Now, make no mistake; I’m not being anti-American. In fact I’ve come to view anti-Americanism as an obnoxious incarnation of arrogance, equal to, if not greater than the arrogance of the all-too-common ugly American). Now I know we can’t all live in a Mediterranean climate. Nor can we all live in a location with roots stretching back 3000 years, but we could learn a lesson from these people.

All of that is beside the point. Dora, Lili, and I arrived in Naples early Saturday afternoon. Dora’s folks had arrived only 20 minute before us. We caught a bus to the port that took us through downtown. Scenic downtown n Naples; we saw a car-fire, street crime, a non-stop traffic jam, and lots of friendly Italian gesticulations. Then there was a ferry to Procida where we picked up the sailboat, a 46 foot Oceania. Four cabins. Nice boat. We had to wait an extra hour because the boat wasn’t ready as scheduled, and thus we got our first sample of Mediterranean punctuality. No one seemed to be in much of a hurry, and if you had a problem with that… well isn’t that interesting. I personally found it the perfect attitude for my week away from work. We had pizza that night, and yes it is better in Italy.

So, perhaps tomorrow or the next day I will have time to talk about the sailing, Capri, Amalfi, and Ischia. For now it is bedtime.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Back from sailing

I have been away from the log, because I have been away from electronic communication. I was on a sail boat tooling around the Bay of Naples. Dora’s mom turned 60 last weekend, and one of her presents was a family sailing trip.

Not a bad life they’ve got for themselves down there in Italy. I’d like to go into more detail tonight when I have the time, but for now I’ve got to get back to work.

I should let it be known that I did not win the Maurice Prize in Fiction. It had me down for half a day, but like I’ve said, being a finalist is something in and of itself.