Intersections between mid-late-life adults with youth; anyone under the age of forty is an adventure in livingness. I remember strangers that counseled; passed on a prized preface to life.
It was my first solo trip to Europe. Emboldened with the freedoms in every cupboard of life: abandoned career, home, and possessions I lived out of a suitcase for about a year. Three of those months were in Ireland, France, and Italy.
I was dining in Venice, alone, down to coupon crushing finances and no interest in going back to the USA. The rise to relocate plunged a new view ; find a job in a glass foundry or a museum, and rent a little room in Venice. The Venetians of my age, artistic, independent, and humanely trusting enchanted a woman who’d been sharking San Diego in commercial real estate. I got eaten alive. Venice was the shore that I wanted to curl around and become fluent in Italian, learn to cook, and wrap a scarf.
I was standing next to a bar-bistro melting in the lustrous conversational elan’ when a couple in their sixties approached me. The corner of the bar waxed us in and for the next hour, that man changed the direction of my life.
” Yea, I knew you were American. Where you live?
” San Diego.”
” Oh! I’d move there if I could. ” I cannot recall where they lived other than the Midwest.
“What kind of work do you do in San Diego?” He shouted.
“I was in commercial real estate–leasing and marketing.”
” Good for you! That’s a great career.”
” It was. I want to live here… in Venice
He set his wine on the counter, I remember that, and pulled at his trousers or tie, and then he said, “What would you do here?”
” I don’t know yet?”
” You can’t beat what you left. Are you crazy?”
Before I answered he continued a breathless sermon peddling the virtues of my life; not jumping into a fantasy, and to forget about moving to Venice. My references to challenge, adventure and change met more opposition than I’d expected. He deplored my naiveté. “You shouldn’t go through with it. San Diego has the best climate. It’s coming up in the world, not just a little getaway resort. If I were your father I’d bring you back myself. ”
They departed when his wife begged him to calm down and I returned to the evening’s allure. There was a scar left, an abrasion of my plan. Over the next few days, I met a group of Venetians, younger than me. After revealing my plan to live in Venice, they drew me into their group. I haven’t any diary of Venice, so the names and dialogue are absent. The memory is vague, a collage of framed vignettes. We went to a friend’s apartment, who had a spare room to rent. This friend, a young man with speedy senses whipped me around the apartment. He spoke English, with saucy speed, and he had more friends. By the end of the evening, I was tumbling in a wave of stimulation. It was too much too soon. The next week I was in Milan unknowingly colliding with Fashion Week.
After three months, my wardrobe was wasted from hem to neckline. My shoes: a pair of lace up boots, lace-up sandals, and flats. I landed in Milan at the Train station, and then where did I go? OH I remember. It was my last night with Julius; my traveling European Chef companion. We stayed at Relais & Châteaux, selections for three weeks. We dined and slept in surroundings that dubbed European film sets. I was dazzled and too overfed.
The last night with Julius was in a very chef gathering restaurant, busy waiters, lots of background noise; the place to say goodbye and not cry. After dinner, we strolled around the Piazza and window shopped.
” Look at these shoes. I’ve never seen shoes like this-not even in Beverly Hills. ” Julius chuckled at my unworldly impressionable outbursts. He enjoyed educating me on all things European.
” In Italy shoes are the most important part of the wardrobe.”
” You mean seriously. ” I asked.
” Oh Yes. They will judge you by your shoes. Not every one of course, but the important types will.”
The next morning I rose to the uncertainty of traveling without Julius. That’s when I got on a train headed for Annecy, France. I have no memory why Annecy, other than the couple I met at Lake Maggoire who might have suggested I visit the Southeastern part of France before going to Paris.