Monday, September 15, 2008

Buon Viaggio To Me

Sandra and I are off to Italy for three weeks. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve been to Italy, something like 20-25 visits since 1962. Sandra and I have gone together about 8 times. Most of our trips have been to see our dear Italian friends who have a home in Sicily. This time we’ll end our trip with a week in Sicily, but before that we’ll travel to parts of southeastern Italy that are new to us.

I may post some blogs along the way, but then again I may not. So let’s call this a preview.

We’ll rent a car in Rome and head east into the Abruzzo area, stopping for three nights in L’Aquila. We like to locate ourselves in a centrally-located town and make day trips to the various spots we want to visit. Our motivation for the day trips is often to eat in a particular restaurant or drink a specific wine or see something beautiful or historic – whatever suits our fancy.

From Abruzzo we will continue east and south, heading for Lecce, an old baroque city in Puglia. We’ll stop in Trani for a night, a port city on the Adriatic, recommended by friends who stayed there. Fidele, who sells me meat when I shop at Mollie Stones, is from Molfetta, a small town not far from Trani. I thought it would be fun to at least drive through Molfetta.

We’ll be in Lecce for three nights and then head back north to Matera in Basilicata. Matera has received a lot of attention in recent years. It is very old and well preserved. Several films have used Matera to represent ancient Jerusalem. And the Sassi stone, into which people have dug homes for thousands of years, is a major tourist draw. My hope is that since Matera is still off the beaten track and since we’ll be there in late September, we’ll encounter less rather than more foreign intruders. We’ll be there for four nights.

From Matera we go down into Calabria, one night in Cosenza, and then two nights in a small town up in the hills called Gerace. I do a lot of research before these trips, trying to figure out the best places to go, the best routes, the best hotels, the best of everything. For our last stop before Sicily I wanted an offbeat place not too far from Villa San Giovanni, where we need to get a boat that will take us across the Straits of Messina. I found Gerace following various leads on the Internet. We’ll see how well I did.

Part of my research has to do with wine. I went to a little wine store not far from our home, which has only Italian wine. A very good selection from all over Italy. I told Ceri Smith, the owner, I was going to Abruzzo, Puglia, Basilicata and Calabria and I wanted to taste a variety of wines from each of these areas. I went away with a case and had several wines from each place. Drinking them was fun as well as good research. I’ve now got a firsthand idea of what to look for on our trip.

So as I said, Buon Viaggio to Me.

Thursday, September 04, 2008


Leading up to Sarah Palin’s speech to the Republican Convention, the experts were saying how difficult it would be for her to give the kind of speech they thought she should give. I didn’t think it would be difficult at all.

It was very simple. She should introduce herself and let people know where she stands on the various issues that confront us. If she did that effectively and powerfully she would have gotten her job done.

I thought I’d end up disagreeing with her on the issues. Also, based on what I’d heard, I thought I’d end up with some degree of affinity for her. I didn’t think I’d change my assessment about McCain choosing her. It was a cynical move, designed to appeal to women, especially Hillary Clinton women. And it was an irresponsible move insofar as he was setting us up to have President Palin succeed him should he die or be incapacitated. I don’t care how the zealots spin it, no way should that woman be president.

Well, she did introduce herself. She didn’t talk much about issues. She took the attack-dog low road and spent time snarling at and ridiculing Obama. She gushed about how wonderful John McCain is. I could have guessed her handlers would make sure she took this approach, so that wasn’t too surprising.

What did surprise me is that I ended up with absolutely no affinity for her. She seemed (dare I say it?) comfortable in the bitch role.

I know the convention crowd loved it. Of course they would. And I imagine there are plenty of people around the country who loved it. About that I’m concerned. Buying into this cynical, irresponsible choice would be a mistake. Electing this pair would be a disaster.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

News Summary

In case you’ve fallen behind on what’s happening in the world:

1. The news about Sarah Palin’s daughter Bristol confirms that drilling has already begun in Alaska.

2. Benazir Bhutto’s widower, Zardari, a thief who gives corruption a bad name, will be confirmed as Pakistan’s new President on Saturday.

3. Globalization: Yesterday, the Thai owner of the British football team, Manchester City, sold the club to a group in Abu Dhabi, who immediately bought the Brazilian star, Robinho, from Real Madrid in Spain.

4. In order to pretend they were on top of managing Hurricane Gustav, Bush and Cheney cancelled the speeches they were supposed to give at the Republican Convention. You decide whether that’s good news or bad news.

5. In Japan, the young Russian sumo wrestler, Wakanoho, was thrown out of sumo after being caught smoking pot. Good riddance. The guy was a jerk anyway.

6. Vehicles that run on natural gas are popular in Utah. Reduces one kind of pollution; increases another. To skeptics this story smells fishy.

7. Of the top eight women’s seeds in the U.S. Open four are Russian; two are Serbian.

8. There are reports that dinner was late at San Francisco’s Slow Food Festival this past weekend.

9. And Burning Man was put out by a sandstorm.

10. Scientists report that living is bad for your health. Bummer!