Local Carnivale

Carnivale continues. Yesterday was Fat Sunday.

As a small-town guy raised Protestant, I grew up thinking a carnival (“a carnival,” not “carnival”) was 3-4 trucks that came to town, driven by ruffians who set up a Ferris Wheel, the Tilt-a-Whirl, a House of Mirrors, and a few games like Ring Toss, Milk Bottle Pyramid, and the Basketball Shoot. Hey, there’s a carnival in Pinconning. Wanna go?

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Houses and Skin, Spaghetti and Feet

We’re short on time, not sure we can see both Murano and Burano, and make it to the train station on time. We decide on Burano. Which you reach by getting on one of Venice’s water buses, also known as a traghetto, roaring away from the main islands, past the floating cemetery, past Murano and its glass factories, 40 minutes across the lagoon.

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Which Way Do We Go?

Venice is a conundrum. For many, it’s a torture. For some, it’s an ethereal mysterious place that repays repeated visits.

In the summer it’s hot and humid. And in the summer it’s crowded, horribly so. And in the summer, rising from the canals, there can be a smell. Unlike American cities we love, take New York, for example, which is also hot and also crowded and also smelly, Venice is not perpendicular.

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Go Gentle

All roads lead to lunch. 

We are on a trail in San Bartolo, in what they call a “natural park.” It’s an area of rolling hills and stunning views along the sea above Pesaro. You drive up into it on a road called “the panoramica.” The term is apt. Our plan today, like most days, is to be active throughout the morning, work up an appetite, then have a big lunch. Nearby, in Marina Alta, is a seafood restaurant called da Gennaro. The da is like “chez” in French. It’s Gennaro’s place. The food is amazing, at a reasonable price. 

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Where We Are?

It takes a while to get my mouth working.

Tizi and I arrive in San Marino on a Thursday afternoon, focus the rest of that day on getting heat turned on, hot water flowing. After 14 hours of travel, it would be nice to have a shower? From the need-to-do-right-away list, pick one and get busy. Mop the floors. Pick up the carcasses of the cimicie, local bugs that like to come indoors and die. Shake out sheets laid over a few pieces of furniture. And dust.  Dusting is your new career. Launch the washing machine. Make beds. Look out the window to make sure everything is still there. Shaggy pine trees? Check. Mountain? Right where we left it. Elementary school? Check. Adjacent homes, castle, green hillside, park and dog run, construction cranes, vineyards? All checks.

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Waiting for Lurido

So I guess the Maresciallo is still with us. It’s two years since we were last here. He’s two years older, two years harder of hearing. He and his wife are watching television tonight. When Tizi and I stand at the door of our apartment in San Marino, right next to his door in the foyer, we hear the bombast of a loony Italian game show next door. 

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Save Me

The physician will ask–if I see one–was there any trauma? And I will have to answer: I was lying in bed.  

I hurt myself lying in bed. Suffered an injury to my shoulder. Two days now I’ve gotten out of bed lame. It’s a lame excuse for a shoulder, not doing what a shoulder is supposed to do, assist with the raising and lowering of one’s arm. I fell on a ski hill, maybe thirty years ago, and did something to this same shoulder, the one on the left, tore a rotator cuff or aggravated some connective tissue, and for months afterward felt sharp pain shooting down the length of my arm. That wasn’t lame. That was actual pain, legitimately earned, pain you could own, you could announce with pride. Yeah, shucks, an old skiing injury. I think I was at Tahoe. . .  That pain took months to pass. This pain is lame-ass. I got hurt sleeping on my left side. 

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One of the things I like about reading on a Kindle is you can download a sample from the Kindle store or Amazon. How about The Summer Proposal by Vi Keeland? With a name like Vi, it would have to be good. (Wait, Vi’s a guy? I thought Vi was short for Viola, the only Vi I ever knew, Viola Hendricks.)

Samples are cool, samples are convenient, but when you download a sample from the Kindle store, certain parts of your Kindle don’t work. You can’t insert a bookmark. You can’t search, which is a feature I love and, because I am inattentive and read at night, as a prelude to sleep, is a feature I often need. (Wait a minute, who’s this Howard guy they’re talking about now?) And you can’t highlight and save text. Like this, from Under Majordomo Minor, by Patrick Dewitt:

“Wishing is a pastime for disappointment” and “Compromise is a plague of sorts.”

Or this from Kevin Phillips’ Nothing to See Here:

“They wore seersucker, like they were racist lawyers from the forties. I hated them. They seemed like children but they already looked like middle-aged men. I called them Mint Julep Boys, like they missed the Old South because, even if there was horrible racism, it was worth it if it meant that they could be important by default.”

This morning I’m reading Mary Miller’s “The Last Days of California,” the free Kindle sample. And true to form, I need to backtrack. I missed something. Elise is pregnant? Can’t search for the word pregnant. Can’t search without doofusly swiping backward 23 times, squinting at the device, looking for “pregnant.”  

Mary Miller is both funny and perceptive. I’d also like to highlight a few nuggets of text. Here’s a nugget from Carmiel Banasky’s The Suicide of Claire Bishop: “I’m not interested in objective Truth with a capital T. I’m talking about truth, subjective and hairy.“ Hairy truth. I sure love that, though I don’t want to touch it. Highlight saves these AND enables me to copy and paste sometime in the future (see above). In sample mode, nope, can’t do that.

It’s like going to Burt Watson Chevrolet and taking a car for a test drive. Sorry, the radio won’t work unless you buy the car. Sorry, you can’t put this car in reverse until you take out a loan and buy the car.

I can read a sample of a book in a store. There aren’t many of those left, and, party to their passage to extinction, I mourn their loss. At Schuler Books in Okemos, where I go with my wife to buy (mostly) children’s books, I wander around and pick up books. I like the feel of a new book, an actual book, in my hands.  But the chairs are not easy chairs, they’re moderately difficult chairs, and I need to put my feet up. I like to read samples lying in bed, in the dark, or in my comfy chair at 5:00 a.m., with coffee. 

The sample sold me on Mary Miller. I bought/downloaded the whole book at the bargain price of $9.99.  I would give you one example of a highlight, of how funny and perceptive Mary Miller is, but I had to plug in my Kindle to charge it. True, you don’t have to charge an actual book.  But this is an inconvenience I have made my peace with (or if you prefer, with which I have made my peace).  If you prefer the latter, something tells me you will never convert to a Kindle. 

Face It

There’s six of us, Marilyn and Sherrie and Tizi, Rob and Bob and me. It’s New Year’s Eve. We’ve talked about the virus and vaccine and testing, about flights canceled and where we think our kids might be tonight. We’ve opened wine and taken pictures in front of the Christmas tree, first the boys, then the girls. It’s three years since we stayed up until midnight. A couple New Years Eves ago Bob and I faked a drunk pic. Later tonight, at the table, we will raise our glasses to toast Tizi and her squash and sweet potato soup.

“‘Vellutata,’ they call a soup like this in Italy.”

“It’s so velvety.”

“That’s what it means, velutata.  Do you taste the thyme?”

“Thyme reminds me of the Guess Who. No time! No time!” 

“So guys, my sister’s walking with a cane now.”

“Yes, the broken hip.”

“When was that?”

“It’s been a month.”

“I was outside this morning. We have to be careful. Snow on ice. It’s easy to fall.”

“How old is your sister?”


“Is that an actual nutmeg? A nut of nutmeg?”

“Grind a little into your soup. And try a couple drops of this sherry.”

“My brother knows a guy who fell in his kitchen, hit his head, and died. Tizi’s sister’s husband’s cousin fell in the bathroom. Slipped on some water on the floor. He was in the hospital for a week. I’m careful coming down the stairs now. I used to pull a t-shirt on, pull it over my head while I was coming down the stairs in the morning. In the dark.” 

“How old? The dead guy.”


“I wondered how long it would take, before all this old people talk started.”

“We’re old!”

“We’re not old!”

“Look mom, no hands. I’m walking down the stairs with a shirt pulled over my head. I don’t do that anymore. And I count the steps.”

“We’ll never make it to midnight tonight.”

“Shut up.”

“Always count the steps.”

“We don’t even try anymore.”

“I just can’t drink the way I used to. Does my hair look thinner?”

“I’ve been constipated for three days.”

What? Around the table, a moment of silence. The silence lengthens. Whoever said this had gall. Had balls. Whoever said this might as well have said they had VD. Under the Christmas tree the wheels on the train squeak as it makes its transit around the tree. A wine bottle gurgles through a pour. Years past we would hear the TV in the other room, Dick Clark commenting on the crowd at Times Square. Dick is no more.


“Sorry,” they say. “Too much information.”

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Then March On

A couple days ago I was surprised by a John Phillip Sousa march. It was a drippy Sunday morning around 7:00 a.m. I was driving to the local Kroger to buy a half gallon of milk. When I switched on the radio in the car, there it was, this irresistibly jaunty piece of music. I don’t love a march, and my spirits were not particularly low that morning, but this sunny, optimistic music, the latest installment of 90.9 FM’s weekly Sousa Alarm, took me by surprise and awoke something in me, taking me back in time, to high school and marching band. 

When I got to Kroger, I sat in the parking lot, listening through to the end of the recording. Inside the store, I felt a kind of after-march jubilance. I marched through produce, past paper products and frozen foods, and into dairy, thinking about the football field, about the band and the uniform.

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