I just got back from Italy where I attended my brother in law's wedding. Wonderful adventure through the lakes region of northern Italy and southern Switzerland. One of the many great reasons to travel is to see how other people live and work, and tackle the problems of daily living.
A quite enjoyable part of Europe is the street life in the towns and cities. People walk, talk, enjoy company into late in the evening in a relaxed casual way. We have areas like that here in Boston, the most european of american cities, such as the North and South Ends, Back Bay, Kenmore. I still believe we should amend our Puritan laws to allow some venues to remain open later, at least on weekends.
What always strikes Clara and I when we return to Boston is how dirty our streets are. As soon as we got off the T from the airport, there it is on Mass Ave and Columbus, papers scattered around, food store trash, etc. It is one of Clara's biggest disappointments in this city and we both agree that it comes from a lack of respect and care for the City, and a lack of Pride. I go deeper into the populace's psyche than she, with my theory that it is hard to respect a city that does not respect its citizens but whatever the reason it is clear that Boston could and should be cleaner.
We visited the Ducati Factory outside Bologna last Thursday which was interesting. It was neat to see the names of some contemporaries of mine from my racing career in the Northeast on the walls of the museum extolling their victories. Their motto is "we may not be the best, but there are none better." They have about 1000 employees making the beautiful desmo driven machines, of which I have never owned.
The wedding was wonderful, full of the wonderful things you hope for with a foreign wedding....beautiful Cathedrals, exquisite meals, 10 course dinner, dancing, discussions about business opportunities throughout the world, a hidden away wine cellar, with subterranean arched brick vaulted cielings where the gentlemen from the wedding party, the house chefs and local winemaker retreated to mid ceremony to sample 1000 euro bottles of wine and exsquisite champagne. It was great to relax, be a minor guest and fly on the wall and drink in the atmosphere.
I may have discovered why Italy has such a low birthrate (1.37 children per woman). The mattreses are abomitable!!! We stayed in a few different 3 star hotels at around 100 euros a night and they all had terrible mattresses, often just two twin beds pushed together with a queen sized sheet. Who can get excited about bedtime in that environment! More Vino, signori!!!
We also felt real coldness at times from the public sector. It is clear that the world is not happy with or excited about Americans these days, and that is in Italy which is allegedly one of our stronger allies according to our president. The vast majority of the wedding party was from Columbia, but they almost all speak english and would converse in English with service providers. At the rehearsal dinner of about 40, I noted that Clara's mother and I were the only ones born in the United States. It was very odd to see Italian's treating Columbian's poorly because of the assumed American ties.
Doesn't seem like I missed much while I was gone, more shootings, mudslinging in the governors race, and national republican implosion. There was a great article in the Economist about Intellectual capital and the status of the different EU countries with Denmark and Sweden getting high marks, Italy and Germany low. It reinforced the importance of education, spending time with children by families, and putting people into proper jobs.
Finally, I've been reading Doris Kearns Goodwin's book about Abraham Lincoln courtesy of the Boston Public Library. It is a great read, and wonderful look into the mid 19th century. My favorite quote so far is from the Pennsylvania political boss who intoned "an honest politician is one who, when he is bought, stays bought!"