Sunday, June 25, 2006

The turquoise blue swimming pool is nestled among the olive trees, perfectly situated in the Tuscan hill that holds the villa where we currently reside.

Roses climb the fences, the walls, lending their fragrant scent to a soft, hot air filled with the sound of hundreds and hundreds of birds, bees, crickets, toads and geckos. No pesticides or herbides here, where the world's finest grapes begin their maturation, in anticipation of fall and the harvest.

The potted lemon trees flank the veranda where we sipped our thick morning coffee, perfectly pruned to allow them to grow in the same pots for years. The fruit has set, grown and is now ripening, pale yellow today--deep, shunshine yellow in a month.

Flocks and flocks of birds hustle across the hills together--ever in search of the best bugs and that one speck of dried fruit on the vine that all the others overlooked.

The hills are criss-crossed with tidy rows of grapes and olive groves and the air is still--almost in suspense. What lies around the next hour of this day?

As I sit and write, a small bouquet of lavendar rests at my hand, carefully picked from the many clumps throughout the grounds. The faint smell of night blooming jasmine lingers, murmuring the memories of last night's magic and mystery in the Tuscan hills. An ancient abbey high on a hill across the valley stands silent in the mid-morning sun, a sun already molto as the smiling, elderly gardeners puts it. Sole molto. This land, these hills are not for the thin-skinned, faint of heart. To survive here, you must be able to bake until a thick crust forms, making you immune to the heat and the harshness that the light can bear upon you, as the perfumed air quickly swirls around you in a slight breeze, then settles and the songs the church bells toll slowly waltz through the hills....

On Location
Panzano, Italy

Princess Alexi, Miss Rhonda and I loved to sit in the piazzas of Firenze and Fiesole and watch the people go by. We were able to conclude, after several days of exhausting research and certain quantities of refreshing Italian beer (huh?), that some things are universal: red pants on well-dressed men; orange ties on well-dressed men; mullets on well-dressed men ; mullets; fanny packs, however are strictly a Milano phenomenon.

I love how the Italians meet each other, young and old, in the piazza and share a bottle of wine or a bottle of water and laugh and visit and spend time with each other. Of course, the Piazza della Signoria was the place in Renaissance Florence where the people were summoned to hear the latest initiatives of their government and in some cases, to express their righteous indignation (read that Savonarola) . These days a number of statues occupy the piazza including a copy of Michelangelo's David and Cellini's bronze Perseus Holding the Head of Medusa and my other personal favorite, Hercules and the Centaur by Giambologna.

At any rate, the Italians enjoy this state of living that allows you to be with your friends in a public place for a social encounter, with nothing but your dialogue and conversation to entertain you. For them, it's entirely enough. American teenagers understand the beauty of this exchange, they call it "hanging out" but as "hanging out" is not a productive effort, in the style of the American protestant work ethic, our teenagers are roundly criticized for these exchanges. They resort to the 'nothing to do' defense, which is entirely unbecoming. American parents would do well to follow their teenagers to the parks to meet their own friends for discourse and conversation, as well as observe and monitor the social interactions of their children. What's the worst that could happen? A few relaxed moments in the afternoon sun or evening air? Some smiles? laughter? Oh dear ...just how would Wall Street take the news?

These particular children had the best Joe Rivetto regalia and as they all spoke brilliant English, had a great time initiating us into the world of Joe and all things hip and cool in Firenze, Italia. The class is not water. The best is yet to come. All this and more. See for yourself.

On Location
Chianti, Italy

Saturday, June 24, 2006

As it turned out, we had the amazing good fortune to be out and about on the Saturday that is the feast day of the patron saint of Florence, San Giovanni Baptista. The Duomo was closed to all visitors, turning all away at the front doors but being long in tooth and wide in bandwidth, we went around to the side entrance, breezed past the guard, muttering "Massa", sailed in and sat down while throngs of people clogged the front doors, hoping for just a glimpse of what is the magical, some would say alchemic transformation of the Catholic Mass. Soon the mass started and the processional came dowm the center aisle, a full-blown spectacle that only the Holy Roman Church can mount. 125 priests preceeded by full choir, another 25 monsignors and a few cardinals following the auxiliary bishop, the Bishop himself, along with assorted men and women in ethnic regalia of varying sorts, all escorted the red Florentine banner to the songs of the people and the doleful churnings of the magnificent pipe organ.

The mass began and although it was said in Italian, was completely familiar. The cadence, rhythm, lyrical beauty translate and transcend all lingual limitations and boundaries. Italian, Latin, French, English--it's all the same; no more, no less beautiful. On this day, heady clouds of incense wafted skyward, to the magnificent dome detailing The Last Judgement, carrying the prayers of the faithful to the heavens on high. The people themselves sat with straight backs and firm lips, in great pride and satisfaction as their beloved Giovanni, the champion of all Florentines, was exalted and glorified. The unmiced words of the bishop's homily rang round and round the gigantic church, a perfect exercise in natural accoustics.

Again, it was an experience that I am helpless to fully describe, although I savor its memory in my quiet moments, over and over. O Florence!

On Location
Firenze, Italia

Friday, June 23, 2006

This morning I sit high above Florence, in the hills of Fiesole. I look out over a verdant valley dotted with villas, olive groves, vineyards. I am sipping cappucino brought to me by the owner, who wears yellow pants. He has built this hotel in the manner of a villa and supervises the final touches on the extraordinary outdoor swimming pool, fit for a Caesar. Nearby are the doctors who are here as well, chatting and laughing in a manner uncharactristic of American MDs as they prepare to head to Florence for their annual medical society meeting. Florence is overrun with these men and their wives. We like the men....

Milan is a blur of Prada, Duomo, Nambuca and the darling Ambasciatori Hotel with its blue doors, coral leather sofas and wonderful reception people. Miss Rhonda played the Mileage Plus VISA Marathon in Milan, outlasting those bastards in Evanston, Illinois to successfully use her credit card in the manner in which it was intended. What would make VISA security think that they could keep us down under any circumstance? While we did come here to pray and to reflect, we came here to shop, too, and so good...(insert small wry smile here).

I am the subject of a certain curiosity as I write to you this morning, sitting on this exquisite veranda, with the magic of the valley and hills spread out as a fan at my feet. I wear my MONTANA work out shirt and my Oakleys and all the doctor stare, unaware I an see them perfectly behind my glasses. They wonder, what the hell is theese MONTANA? Where the hell is eeet? I, of course, act completely uninterested and wholly unapproachable to exacerbate their curiosity. Score at the end of the first half: North Idaho 1, Italia 0. Not many can play with the girls from CHS <insert very small wink here).

I seem to have gathered a certain notoriety with my traveling compansions, Miss Rhonda and the Princess Alexi. Seems I "got" the first butt pinch and the next day, the follow up dry knee hump from Mario, the gr-AA-test WAY-ter een oll off EEEEE-ta-LEE. Quite clearly, Ma-DRE-o is attracted to women who think, with a certain intellect, and who process internally. I'm just about sure that's what he sees in me (sunglasses off, lip curled here) (the service was great, by the way, and I do not think we would have ever order the cantelope gelato by ourselves, which we loved). sigh. Use 'em and leave 'em.

The trick is to save a part of yourself from it all--a part that maintains a sliver of sanity, the part that helps you understand why it's so beautiful and why it almost haunts you, it's so beautiful.

First, the hotels and villas are completely restful becaue they are quiet. No vacuum cleaners in the villas because the marble and composite floors are best kept with damp mops, improvised in some cases by wraping the push broom they just washed and swept the veranda with with a wet rag. Small but important point. No shouts of "HOUSEKEEPING!" up and down the halls.

No paper plates, napkins, cups. Therefore no litter or debris anywhere. Least of all along the walkways and streets or in your wastepaper bakset in your room.

The hot weather keeps the pace brisk but civil and wonderfully, elegant and deliberate.

Miss Rhonda is fascinated with the manner in which the motor scooters, bicyclists, walkers, cars and buses all share the road with no mishap. They all live together peacefully, none claiming victimization at the hand of the others.

Princess Alexi is seen by one an dall as the local with Miss Rhonda and me, her houseguests, hospititi de casa. We love that. (insert happy little huge to self here) And so we romp and dance through Italia, our Italia. On to Tuscany tomorrow, in pursuit of ever greater wonder, bigger, fuller laughing and happy, secret sweetnesses that the day brings, over and over....

On Location
Fiesole, Italy

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Lake Como is all it is supposed to be and more. Brilliant puffs of crimson and tangerine geraniums frame each window. Mysterious, moss-laden stairways made from hand-hewn stone lie around every corner. Tall, tall cypress, spruce, fir and cedar trees stand silent guard over all the terraces and gardens. Shrouds and shrouds of blooming wysteria hang off arbors and pergolas everywhere while bright, white ferries criss cross the diamond blue water of the lake with an endless repetition and an unfailing effort.

Pliny the Elder had two homes here--base camps for his definitive research and works on horticulture and botany.

The textile center of Italy is in the town of Como itself, making exquisite and gorgeous silken blouses, scarves and shawls plentiful and cheap.

The shrine to the patron saint of bicyclists is here, at the church of Madonna del Ghisallo, a mecca for touring cyclists from every country in the world.

The local parish church, Chiesa Parrocciale San Giorgio, has a full color, slick, 3-page duplexed oversized brochure, detailing its art treasures and architectural features.

Spiritualism and industry coexist and coincide here with seemingly no effort and the result is stunning--words cannot describe. Douceur de vie, douceur de vie.

On Location
Varenna, Italy

Saturday, June 17, 2006

This is a morning when I wish my ambitions and talents lay in words, crafting the words in a sequence and structure that could adequately describe this tiny medieval village and the enduring, exercise in perseverance, stations-of-the-cross-like experience one must mount to get here, when starting from The 'Kan EWA.

Even if I didn't remember the three plane changes, subsequent bus ride and the snaking, claimbing trek via train up, into and through the mountains, as I look out over the vibrant diamond of a lake, I would know I am in Italy becaue of the church bells--they ring at 6 pm for mass, again at 9 pm for vespers and now being the day at 7 am, ringing hourly, calling the faithful near.

The morning sun catches the terra cotta of the buildings, creating brilliant swatches of flashing amber in the cliffs that rise quickly and steeply from the lake.

The birds sing and whistle in the olive trees, so glad for the daylight, so glad for another chance in the new day, so glad to be here, in this Eden where the fruit in the gardens serves as inspiration and homage to douceur de vie rather than a temptation.

When we made our final climb via taxi to the steepest part of the cliff where our hotel lay, we passed a shrine to St. Anthony, carved into the sheer rock of the mountainside. Some things are all enduring, I guess. As so begins the Italian leg of the Girls Just Wanna Have Fun Tour 2006. I was born in the mountains, I was raised in the mountains, I become of age and raised my own children in the mountains. But these mountains here....Lake Como is not an escape, but a return.

On Location
Varenna, Italy

Thursday, June 15, 2006

The last time I went to Italy the Iraq war had just begun. The Christ Child and I would sit at breakfast and I would read the morning paper to him, detailing the unraveling of the campaign of Awe and Shock. Later, I would catch him watching MSNBC in an effort to verify what I was telling him the Italian newspapers were saying. He was surprised to find his mother knew Italian.

He also was quite surprised that the Italian people did not take us for Americans and were mildly startled to find we were Americano. I will always remember the one woman who leaned over a counter and put her forefinger gently in my chest, saying "Right now our two countries don't see eye to eye, but your people and my people know the real thing between us and we don't forget that and all that's gone on for many generations . " Her forefinger then pointed back and forth between the two of us as she looked deeply into my eyes and smiled. This was the typical response we received from these beautiful and generous people.

And then there were the flags. They were rainbow striped and they were everywhere. In the tiny villages, all through the city, in the villas, off the apartment windows, hanging from fences, draped across chairs, in store windows, hung from railings, these brightly colored flags that said PACE. The Italians were not highly verbal about our war and our role but rather maintained their stance as gracious hosts and conservators of the world's greatest art treasures in a time that was tricky to navigate worldwise. But there was no mistaking what they were feeling; those flags...those flags fluttered everywhere, a silent but bright reminder, an admonishment, an encouragement. Pace. Pace. Give peace a chance.

So now I go back, fully four years later, and we are still in Iraq. We have lost 2500 men and women who more properly should have died of old age. The Iraqi have lost chilren and parents and still live in the most rudimentary of circumstances, now with Americanos nell'occupazione. Since when did democracy become imposed by the government, rather than as the voice of the people? As I start to end with how did the whole thing go so wrong? I realize that that's not the question. I realize there is no question. This war was a threat to the fate of humanity from the pre-inception and was and is wrong. The rainbows of Italy serve as silent witness to the devastation of aggression and occupation; our crimes against peace can go on no longer. Our Americans in Iraqi must have our highest support and be brought home with no further delay.

We fly the rainbow flag at Bellemaison in support of our troops and in support of peace and note the Prayer for Peace of The Holy Father, John Paul II.

Hear our voice,
for it is the voice of the victims of all wars and violence
among individuals and nations.
Hear our voice,
for it is the voice of all children
who suffer and will suffer
when people put their trust in weapons and war.
Hear our voice,
when we beg you to instill
into the hearts of all human beings
the wisdom of peace, the strength of justice
and the joy of fellowship.
Hear our voice,
for we speak for the multitudes in every country
and in every period of history
who do not want war
and are ready to walk the road of peace.
Hear our voice
and grant insight and strength
so that we may always respond
to hatred with love,
to injustice with total dedication to justice,
to need with sharing of self,
to war with peace.
O God, hear our voice
and grant unto the world
your everlasting peace.
The 'Kan EWA

Monday, June 12, 2006

Publisher's Note: As the Chow Nation and I are approaching our first blog anniversary, we all decided that it would be a good time to have a guest writer. We thought long and hard over who might fill our shoes, or our dishes for a day, and after prudent consideration, we picked PD Pupperelli, more commonly known as 'the Pup'. Pup actually has journalism and English degrees and a fair amount of experience in technical writing. But the Chows wanted her because she's so darn good at ball. She can play in the air, on the ground, in the house, at the airport, just about anyplace. Nobody better with a ball that the Pup, they all agreed. So herewith is Pup's take on soccer, or football as it's properly called outside the U.S. The Chow Nation is a proud sponsor of the World Cup and are currently hosting all kinds of parties where their friends come over and they lay around Club Chow and watch the games. The Chows, of course, are for China. Pup actually wrote the following as a response to those who find soccer 'boring' and 'sleep-inducing', as a comment in The 3 Lions Will March Again, below.

Sport As a Democracy?
(title courtesy of The Chow Nation, Bob Barker Venerated Elder)
by PD Pupperelli

Okay, a few things for you people to know:
If we changed the way the game is scored so that each goal is worth 7 points...THEN, yesterday's Germany v Costa Rica match would have been a thrilling 28-14 score, rather than the equally thrilling 4-2 result. Face it, if you knew the potential score would be in the 20s or 30s, you would watch, but because we call a goal a goal, it's "low-scoring" and "not entertaining."

That's fine if you don't like the world's sport;
keep supporting football and basketball, where it's really a coach's game and it's the coaches who structure, manage and set up plays for the players on the field/floor; rather than a player's game, where the players are prepared by the coaches in the days leading up to the match, and then on the day of the match they have 90 minutes to play beautifully and brilliantly. In the American sports, the teams and coaches are afforded every opportunity to win games with multiple timeouts and free substition which allow the game to drag on and on; in the world's sport, soccer, it's up to the 11 players on the field to enact change and if they don't get it done in the 90 minutes, then they don't get it done.

I suppose it is hard for people who watch a great deal of American sport to support soccer; American sports echo our models of freedom and democracy. They are very structured and rigid, because we want everyhing to be fair, to be equal, and heaven forbid if one team has clearly better players. We better make sure the other team has an equal opportunity to score: in football, baseball and basketball, it's always tit for get a turn to score, then I get a turn to score; you get a turn to score, then I get a turn to score. I would guess that most Americans who don't enjoy watching soccer don't like it because of the chaos and overall parity of the game, and because it can change in an instant. Despite having superior players the best team doesn't necessarily win and it really does come down to who's more passionate and wants it more.

In American football, baseball, and basketball, certain teams are SUPPOSED to win, whereas in soccer, having the best players doesn't necessarily mean you'll win; that's what I think is frustrating for American soccer-haters--the 'being better' and 'still not winning' aspect of it. A quick look at the most popular sports in the U.S. bears me out: take your basketball, where the current "World Championship" structure gives teams multiple chances to win (best of 7, rather than a one-off) or make a "comeback"; take your baseball where the Americans couldn't even win in their own version (albeit a sucky one) of the World Cup; and take your own American football, where some of the arguably best athletes in the country play, but have to be subbed out every other play because they get too tired to compete.

Me? I'll be watching soccer, where Trinidad and Tobago, one of the smallest countries every to qualify for the Finals, in their first World Cup game ever, can tie world power Sweden, allowing no goals and playing (because one of their players committed a hard foul a few too many times) half the match with only 10 men against 11. Which, incidently, we could never do in America: punish a team by removing a player from the field for excessive fouling, because waaaaaaah! it just isn't FAIR...we should be able to foul as much as we like!

Nope, it's not the land of the free and the home of the brave out there on the pitch but it is who's got what it take for the full 90 minutes, playing and living completely in the present with nothing to rely on but your wits and your skill.

And if you're lucky, the fans will sing to you. --Editor

Notes From The 'Kan EWA

Publisher: JBelle Bellemaison
Editors: The Chow Nation, Bob Barker Venerated Elder Club Chow, Bellemaison
Circulation: Get 'er Done gPrep '04

Kerri Thoreseon Coeur d'Alene Press
Dave Oliveria Spokesman-Review HBO

Thanks everybody! Who knew?!

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Had a delicious ride today. It's quiet here now and when I look back on today and think about everything I saw, everything I smelled, everything I tasted, the evening air is almost eery. I am so lucky. I love to ride my bike; I love to. And today was a perfect day on the bike. I rode along the Spokane River to Lake Coeur d'Alene, and then rode along the north shore of Lake Coeur d'Alene until the trail ended at Wolf Lodge Bay and then rode back to The 'Kan. I smelled wild roses and syringa and wet bark of freshly cut logs. I saw tourists from the Resort, daddys with baby girls in bike strollers, retired guys riding shirtless with no helmet. I had a cheese sandwich on perfect bread, ice cold lemonade, perfectly brewed ice coffee, and peanut butter rice krispy treats. A sublimely perfect day. Just when you least expect it, how is it that life is so amazingly beautiful?

The 'Kan EWA

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Ignoring warnings from my bike partner, we rode 15 miles out the Palouse Highway and down to the golf course. It's a hill course and although not long, quite daunting. My partner kept warning me that we were going to catch the rain but I preferred not to listen, maintaining that we could chase the music and find our way home in time to beat the rain. I rode standing up and singing along to very nearly the entire score of 'Jersey Boys.'

Didn't make it. Back on the highway after the 6 mile ride up a steep hill, it began to rain. Then thunder. Then lightning. We're on the highway in thunder and lightning. It's not like he didn't warn me, too. By the time we make it back to the south hill and down the hill, the water is pooled in the streets and we ride in four inches of water down Rockwood. And it's dark. I have long stopped singing. We arrive at Bellemaison to small piles of snow? hail? on the flowerbeds down by the street at the bottom of the driveway. The Chows pounce on me as I put my bike away, saying Are ya out of yer mind there? What were ya thinkin ?

I dunno. I love to ride. And except for getting my nano wet, I loved riding in the dark, in the thunder and lightning. It was sooo cool! And that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

The 'Kan EWA

Friday, June 09, 2006

The 3 Lions Will March Again

That's right. You heard it here first. Brazil's going down. Rooney's healthy and the Brits will reclaim the world championship for the first time since Wembley, 1967. And if any of you ADD, non-IQs types have the BALLS, this is soccer we're talking about, to comment here and tell me how boring soccer is, I say

bring your best. Let's hear it.

The 'Kan EWA

When the Livin' is Easy

One thing that's come up that I didn't expect at all is the first ripe tomato! I have been eating lots of tuna, tomato and whole wheat sandwiches with store tomatoes, but tonight...this beauty is going to be sliced, sprinkled with EVOO and red wine vinegar, fresh basil, salt and pepper. I am then going to go to the front porch , langor in the evening tranquility and savor every piece of longings realized. This is summer, ladies and gentlemen. This is what we yearn for during the dark days of February.

The 'Kan EWA

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

It's come to Cleo's attention that there are people who stop by here, neglect to say hi, yet comment on other people's blogs about the content and information here. Cleo doesn't want to mention any names, certainly not want to talk about anybody who may have attended Central School back in the day, he does NOT want to designate people who live on the most glorious street in the universe, second only to the Champs d'Elysee, that being Foster Avenue; no siree. Cle is a discreet gentlemen, yet gives very few warnings. He says it's very bad manners to do a drive-by without so much as a wave. And would it be such a big thing to come in, sit down, have a drink and "visit", as it were? WOULD IT KILL YA? I think I've got it down pretty much as he said it. P33t says he's with Cleo; totally bad form.

The 'Kan EWA

Monday, June 05, 2006

Rhoddies for Ana!

The 'Kan EWA

Saturday, June 03, 2006

The Girls Just Wanna Have Fun Summer 2006 Tour kicked off in Portland yesterday. And a magnificent kick off at that, it was. Flew in under very cloudy skies and collected our bargain rent car and made our way to Voodoo Doughnuts & Wedding Chapel. The magic is in the hole. Their doughtnut menu is extensive. Just a few of their specialities include: Tangfastics, Red Bull doughnuts, Dirty Snowballs, Bacon Maple Bars, Old Dirty Bastards, Vegan Doughnuts and Cock & Balls. The wedding menu, while not as extensive, does offer some variety: Intentional Commitment Ceremony $20; Legal Commitment Ceremony $175.00; The Whole Shebang $5000; one can only imagine.

Giddy with blood sugar and caffeine, we walked around the Pearl and marveled in the exquisite, thoughtful development that has turned this area into a premier residential area on the west coast. Beautiful, beautiful urban living spaces with parks, services, retail and wonderful restaurants, exquisitely cityscaped. The Pearl District just gets better and better and is a hallmark of responsible urban reclamation and redevelopment. Late morning, we pit stopped at Widmer's for bratwurst, saurkraut, and grilled onions with dark, creamy beer, then went downtown where we completed due diligence at The Rack, and then proceeded, with great determination, deep into the suburbs for the main event: The Nike Employee Store. It was a heady time: Air Max 360s for $55, Cole Hahn's for $30, Tiger! TIGER's shirts for $20; commemorative vintage Tour de France shirts, Nike Frees, 7.0, the best shoe in the history of civilization, bike pants, training shirts and shoes, shoes, shoes. All told 13 pair of them. For me. All told, 25 or so pairs of shoes. Remember, this wasn't the kick off of the summer reading program.

We met the splendid and mysterious Francoise Joyelle for dinner at the Portland City Grill; she brought along her companion, himself quite awed to be included in the Summer Tour. He can't wait for the press, anticipating the papparazzi in his driveway tomorrow. The menu at the Portland City Grill is a wise and all-encompassing resource to which we availed ourselves immediately. We had shrimp, we had rib eyes, we had wasabi mashed potatoes with vanilla Stoli and 7 and raspberry Panna Cotta for dessert. It was a perfect dinner under the Oregon dusk, served by a gorgeous woman from somewhere in Eastern Europe. We were quite intriqued that even the exquisite Francoise was eluded by the origin of this tantalizing accent.

But our return to reality loomed. We had two seats on the last plane out and at the final possible moment, said very quick and impersonal goodbyes, raced to the airport, sweet talked an airport employee into returning our car, checked the body bag with about 20 pairs of shoes and sprinted for the gate with our Chinese Laundry bags full of shopping goodness. We made it just as they boarded our section. It's all in the planning.

Next stop on the tour: Lake Como. Don't miss it.

The 'Kan EWA

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Springtime at Club Chow
The 'Kan EWA