Thursday, July 17, 2014

Homeward Bound

My shorts have a hole in the pocket, my sneakers have a hole in the toe, my razor blade is dull. Two clean shirts left, two squeezes of toothpaste, two pages left in my last book— it’s time to go home.

It has been five weeks since I’ve been in my own house and truth be told, I don’t miss that much. What am I looking forward to? My piano. My bike. Asian food. What am I not looking forward to? Fog. Fog. And did I mention? Fog.

Don’t get me wrong. I love San Francisco. It’s a great place to come home to and a great place to stay in for awhile. But there hasn’t been a day in the last five weeks, starting with the Coretta Scott King Room in the Obama Hotel in Accra, Ghana and ending with the Kleopatra Hotel in Naples, Italy, that has been anything less than wonderful. Dzodze, Ghana. Ho, Ghana. Verona, Italy. Salzburg, Austria. Cinque Terre, Italy. Positano, Italy. All now indelibly merged in a lifetime of travel memory, all adding to this composite self created from the meeting with other folks, other places, other ways until the otherness disappears.

To finish the story line: Haven’t mentioned the accordions, tambourines and occasional saxophones or trumpets in the tunnels of Cinque Terre or on the trains to and from Naples. Getting to know the repertoire, with Besame Mucho at the top of the charts. And keep wondering when they split the money if the tambourine player gets equal share. Musically speaking, not as much happening there as in the accordion. But it all adds the hoped-for charm and atmosphere and one accordion player was particularly virtuosic.

Having arrived at our close-to-the-airport hotel, the night was young, so we set off 20 minutes downtownish to find a recommended restaurant. Remember my query from before? “Is there any ugly Italian city?” Well, I can’t judge a whole city by our walk, but let’s just say that garbage on the streets far outnumbered flowers. The rambunctious gang of boys in front of us were not exactly menacing, but also not quite Boy Scout material. The general atmosphere was like Hoboken, New Jersey (of my childhood— hear it’s pretty upscale now). And part of that was fine! Not a tourist in sight, here was a city going about its business of survival and who am I to judge?

The restaurant was outdoors and my wife Karen was thrilled to try the regional specialty, a kind of mussel stew. She gave it five stars, I was content with grilled vegetables and the always-too-big pizza that I’ll eat on the plane for breakfast. The waiter was fun and wanted to show off his German, but a bit lost on us. Back to the hotel and a grueling 4:30 am wake-up call. How different it will be to be on a plane instead of the bus winding down the daredevil turns or the train with the accordion player or, best of all, out hiking up and down the extraordinary terrain of the Italian West Coast.

Thanks to my new trusty friends on this trip— my Marmot day pack, my Clark’s sandals, my Estonian hat, my Hetch-Hetchy water bottle. Thanks to all the path builders who made the stone steps we traversed, to all the drivers, the cooks, the hotel owners, the maids, the gelateria scoopers. Thanks to Rick Steves and Jess Walters and Dan Brown and Anita Shreve and other authors who kept me entertained with one foot always in another story. Thanks to all the great Orff students who joined us in Ghana and Verona, all the Orff colleagues who helped organize it all. I could go on.

But I just remembered that 4:30 wake-up call. See you in San Francisco!

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