“Did you bring a flashlight?” Tizi asks. We’re setting out on our morning walk. It’s January, cold and dark. The snow that fell a few days ago has all melted, leaving puddles in the depressions in the asphalt pavement. She’s wearing her bright yellow Flectson vest over her many layers. A passing car will light up its gray reflector panels, two on the front, one in the back. By the side of the road you can’t miss her. Can’t miss us. I have one too, but i didn’t wear it. I figure one vest is enough. We are, after all, walking together.
When pleasures take you by surprise, they are so much sweeter.
Last night we attended a lecture in the rare book room at the Oliveriani Museum in Pesaro. I was not prepared to enjoy it so much. Not one but two notable art history scholars spoke. The discourse was learned, the vocabulary was specialized, and the velocity of the talk far, far, far exceeded my ability to decode. I understood a few words. When they said “because” I got that. When they said “and” I got that. “Book,” yup, I knew that word. And “therefore,” whereupon my heart leapt because often “therefore” signals the end of the discourse. Alas, these times it did not. At some point, the scholar held aloft an old tome, and Tizi leaned over and whispered, “She said that’s Umberto Eco’s favorite book.” Wow!
I’ll see your 10,000 steps. And raise you 10,000 bites. Let’s hear it for disinhibition.
Case in point: yesterday. If it had been a nice day, we might have walked uphill, from Borgo Maggiore to San Marino’s third tower, gaining thousands of steps on our way to 10,000 and, in the uphill part, climbing the equivalent of 90 floors of vertical gain. But it was raining. And it was cold. As I do on a daily basis, I began to think about lunch. We would be in Italy seven more days. There were restaurants we had not yet re-visited.
I forgot about New Jersey last night.
On a typical night I am awake around 3:00 a.m. Tizi wakes me up, or I wake her up. We’re very quiet about it, being awake at 3:00 a.m., very considerate, very careful not to disturb each other, even though I have already disturbed her, or she has already disturbed me, and there’s nothing to be done about it now. Except wait.
When Tizi and I argue about which of us is the most ignorant, I usually win.
Case in point, we’re walking home from a local grocery store early this afternoon. I’m carrying a plastic bag with a can of whipped cream inside. It’s going to come in handy later. She’s talking about the Futurists, a group of early 20th century Italian artists, and the Fascists. Yeah, those guys.
I was not made for the NBA. I am short. I am not competitive. When I was a kid, in the backyard shooting baskets with Danny Leman and Ronnie Fritz, we played PIG, then HORSE. Possibly we played a little one on one. In this case, it was more like one on one half. Or less.
“Hey, go stand in front of that 3000-year-old tree.”
This is not something you expect to say in your life. We’ve driven to the Fish Camp entrance to Yosemite, where we’ll hike up into the biggest sequoia grove known to us, I guess the biggest known to man. The tree’s name (a tree that old should have a name) is Grizzly Giant. And he-she-it is a giant.
There are days you don’t really feel like it. But this is Butte. So we go.
They should call this the Pile of Rocks trail, not the Blacktail trail. It’s a four-mile loop. Less than a mile in, we start seeing colossal piles of rock. It’s not our first encounter with rocks, but these are different. A lot of them are enormous slabs, stacked side by side. They look like coasters you’d lay underneath a gargantuan cocktail glass. Cheers.
“Climb up on that rock,” Tizi will say, in the most offhand way.
We’re on the trail, any trail, and the viewing is spectacular. She would like me to take a picture, an enhanced picture, improved by my higher elevation, by my closer proximity to the subject. The subject: waterfall, rushing stream, ravine, ridge, meadow, forest, canyon, lake, mountain face, whatever. Yes, we can see it from the trail. But from up there, so much better. It will be a better picture.
I’ve got a whistle. I bought it just before we left on this trip, planning to use it, if necessary, to scare away bears. Actually, I bought two. They’re like referee whistles, stainless steel, on a black string. I bought two just before we left, one for me and one for Tizi. It was foolish. I knew Tizi would not wear a whistle on a string around her neck, not in a million years. But I’ve got mine on this morning, at the trailhead for Apgar’s Landing. A sign next to the trail map says, in so many words, you are entering Grizzly country. Bear spray recommended. Don’t leave home without it.
Deep into North Dakota, Tizi asks: “Do you know the words to the national anthem?”
We’re doing 80 mph on I-94, west of Bismarck. Today is a 700 mile day, La Crosse, WI, to Medora, ND. At Bismarck there’s 120 miles left to go. North Dakota looks a lot like Minnesota, and a lot like Iowa, and a lot like Wisconsin. If you like corn and wheat, which I do, you don’t mind it. The corn farmers cut wide alleys around, through, and across, the hilly fields. They look sculpted. And the wheat fields, harvested and mowed, are astonishing pools of gold. Beautiful. But there’s a limit.
After the convent, we were ready for a drink and a bite to eat.
We were a couple nights in Ferrara, checking out another great Emilia-Romagna city, famous for many things, among them the fortress, the bread, and canoes. The archeological museum actually has a canoe room, where monoxylous canoes (made of wood, by the locals, for paddling around the Po River delta in 300 AD), are on display. Before becoming canoes, they were trees. They were long, they were heavy, they were wondrous.