Sharp Monica

An honest voice in Italian paradise.

Proseguimento a Spokane

We’ve been back in the US since July 11, with our little roadshow, and with the exception of two minor hiccups, the schedule has been manageable. I actually dreaded it before we came here; just looking at the calendar, I thought – we are never going to be able to make this Napoleonic march happen. 

But it has, with a ton of help, from Jason’s parents and from mine, as we kept to our calendar of Seattle to Port Angeles to Seattle to Portland to Spokane.

Evening light at lower Manito Park, Spokane.

Our family friend Flavia is along for the ride, on her first trip to the US. She’s plenty traveled, and comes from a traveling family, but had never made it this way yet. We are delighted to be showing her our favorite corner of the US, sharing tall trees, big sky, golden grass, Pacific breezes, ripe berries, espresso kiosks, American coffee (strange), and air conditioning (strong) with her.

I am particularly enjoying her reactions to the last two, because they affront her Italian sensibilities on a daily basis. She guffaws every time we drive through an espresso kiosk, and we order a double shot (me) and a double shot with a splash of soy (her).
That’s all? the baristas say, shaking their heads as though they fear they might have missed something, a confused, slightly crooked smile creeping across their faces.
That’s all? No ice, no milk, no flavor, no whipped cream, BUT WHAT ABOUT THE MILK?!
No, that’s all, we affirm, just the espresso, please, ma’am.
It’s like they are serving coffee to aliens. They do not like it one bit.

This afternoon when we came home from work there was a melted coffee in a plastic cup with a lid and a straw.
Madonna! Flavia cried. All I wanted was a double shot of espresso with soy, and they kept saying, ice, ice, and I said, no, hot, hot, and they gave me THIS! Her expression floated between amusement and disgust. The siena-colored liquid sloshed to and fro in the cup as I shook it and held it to the light to examine its contents.
How much ice did they put in this coffee? she asked. I could not get the to top. How does ‘hot’ sound like ‘ice’?
Fa schifo, I said. Disgusting.
Molto! she agreed.

Flavia is also struggling to understand the American concept of a thermostat set below 70F. In an ice cream shop, or in a home. I can’t eat this in here, she said in Brain Freeze this evening. Monica! You are not bothered by this cold?
I kind of shrugged. Um, not really, I don’t know, I grew up with this idea of walking in from 95F into 65F and thinking it was normal.
Do you feel sick? I am probably getting sick! she said.

I laughed. But then I started sneezing vigorously. I think it is from the dry air here, as the inside of my nose is about to crack.  Look, look, I said, I am getting the cervicale! I laughed, invoking the name of the Worst Illness in Italy that comes from having an unprotected neck or breathing inappropriate air. It is a positively Galenic concept, one that most Americans do not believe in. The cervicale may also be contracted following a shower, if one refuses to use a hairdryer (which is me, always), or if, on the beach or by the pool, one insists on continuing to wear a wet swimsuit as though said swimsuit had a right to dry itself right there on your body. No, one must travel with multiple dry swimsuits and change out of the wet one immediately, lest one tempt fate and contract the cervicale. I love Italians, but I am also glad that I do not have Sicilian in-laws who sit in a stuffy salotto all summer long, refusing to open the windows in the house for the same reason, because, you know, the cervicale lurks on a draft. And, like Liam Neeson, it will kill you.

Coffee without milk? Washington recoils.
Air conditioning this strong? Italy might stop talking to you.

It is strange how life in Florence from afar, and with the benefit of a few weeks already seems remote and dreamlike. It is hard to believe, from here, that we are doing all that, there. And yet moving through the days here almost feeling simple verging on boring, although I am enjoying the lack of language barrier, and driving, and Trader Joe’s, and vintage shopping, and Huckleberry’s. And I purchased cupcakes with buttercream frosting, three mini ones, in fancy flavors, and ate them all over the course of two days. (They were mini.) There are a few small things I miss about America, apart from our families, of course, and that’s a small list there. I would add to it a bagel with a plain whipped schmear and a plate of Mexican cuisine.

Can you see the sunbrellas to the right? Si, it is the Mexican party.

We did hit the Mexican restaurant on Sunday afternoon; across from Brain Freeze (expensive but delicious ice cream), Asian Ginger (eclectic fusion), and 27th Heaven (my cupcake source), it is called Fiesta Mexicana, and I bought lunch for five there to go for $23, which was incredible, and they put in a huge sack of fresh chips and two containers of salsa! What is this heaven! We have been calling it Mexican Party as we have often gazed at it over our ice cream from Brain Freeze. Eleanor cries, Mexican party, Mexican party every time.

I chatted with the waiter who took our order on Sunday and Victor asked me, Mommy, was he speaking Spanish? It sounds a bit like Italian. You said pollo with a Y, but I know it is pollo with an L. And I thought I would explode with pride.

I mention here that Victor is not yet reading by any stretch, but has cultivated the Palace of the Mind like Sherlock Holmes, so neatly does he tuck away his observations for later use.

We have another week, about, in the US; we return to Florence via Amsterdam next Thursday. I am thrilled to report that we will also be staying the night before at the Summit Inn at Snoqualmie Pass, a personal first, although I have driven by there at least two or three dozen times.

I am glad that the America we return to is our home in this corner of the continent.

Snoqualmie Falls in needlepoint, I am so tempted to take this home and leave $25 for it.

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