Wednesday, May 10, 2006

ABC News "The Influentials"

Testing video on blogger.

Friday, July 23, 2004

Change Is Possible

Friday, July 23rd 2004 Siena

"Change is possible."

Yes, that's merely a machine's bad translation in a Tuscan parking lot as it demands 7 euros for an overnight stay.

But during this time of transition, I'm open to all power of suggestion. So I'm happy to look for writing in the skies or messages on the screens of high tech parking meters.

We followed the only other passenger to alight from this last regional train from Chiancano (the main connection from Rome) as we walked from station to parking lot. He was a transplanted Englishman born in Mississauga, Ontario now residing in Siena for a decade. He was going to drive his moped home so he could get his cab and return to the station to pick up his "crazy Dutch friends."

He loves his life here he told us. "It doesn't matter if you're rich or poor. Here, you always eat well. You always drink well."

Amen to that brother. What could be more important? And Italian food is the lingua franca of global gastronomy. I've had pizza in Baghdad, carbonara in Tel Aviv, prosciutto in Skopje, bolognaise in Bombay, buffalo mozzarella in Kelowna, homemade lasagna in a hospital bed and taglietelles in Villefranche. The Italian love for good food and wholesome ingredients translates into every language. Wasn't it the Medici of Florence who taught the French how to cook and thus inspire the invention of the restaurant a mere few hundred years ago?

My third visit to Rome has been a revelation. The July sun beat us mercilessly. Our feet ached from kilometers of cobblestones.

But this town bursts with fervor and energy. With our good friend (and now good Roman) Amy's help, we got swept up by the enthusiasm. Like Pippin and Merry from "The Lord of the Rings," we searched out sustenance nearly every hour of the day - cafe, bar, geletaria, pizzeria, trattoria. We ordered with a smile in makeshift Italian and received a cheerful salutation and great food in return. On her birthday, Heather was ceremoniously presented with the classic "cacio e pepe" still in the pan. Our charming waiter encouraged her to eat from the silver skillet, which my lovely wife was only too delighted to do.

I had not been similarly captivated during my first visit to Rome eleven years previous. I had just completed my law degree in Paris and I was a uncorruptible Francophile. Compared to the City of Light, Rome was gritty and unruly.

But now, after having witnessed a bit more of the good and evil that men do, I believe I am now ready for Rome. There, to where all roads lead, First and Third worlds collide. Both efficient and inefficient, I now know there is virtue and vice in the two. In Rome, they balance trains that run on time (grazie Mussolini) with grown sons who still live with their mothers. Capital of content, Cradle of chaos with a three thousand year old foundation. This former seat of an empire whose influence still resonates today also best approximates my own yin and yang.

Content, chaotic, war zone yoga, come and go, give and take, to and fro, Rome has seen it all. Time means everything and nothing. Michelangelo's dome at St. Peter's is a masterpiece for the ages. But he did not live long enough to see its completion. Life and death catch up even with our most venerated human idols. If we understand this at some point during our lives, it can help us better manage this short time we have all been given on this earth.

I took the machine's message to heart and inserted a ten Euro note, getting back three coins in return. But I needn't have paid. The gates to the empty parking garage had long been left open and unattended at this late hour.