Dear nice Swiss tourists…

Friday, May 27th, 2011

Sammy and I enjoyed talking to you at Segesta the other day. Remarkable that you remembered having seen us before at Selinunte, specifically, you remembered Sammy from her somewhat distinctive hat.

We were once again struck by the language skills of so many we encounter in Europe. We have trouble crafting a sentence in English sometimes and you’re able to communicate in our language and apparently several others. And we were delighted to hear that you had visited the United States in the past and had wandered from Niagara Falls out to Arizona. I had to tell you that I had only briefly visited one tiny part of Switzerland. The places you mentioned sounded quite beautiful and I hope we get there sometime.

And when you told us that it would be much harder to choose to visit the US nowadays because our government treats people entering our country like criminals, well, I realized immediately what you were saying and, out of embarrassment for the choices our leaders have made and out of embarrassment for the choices the American people have made in choosing leaders, I apologized profusely.

No amount of terrorist threat, real or imagined, justifies a government that treats its visitors—and its citizens—as suspects first and human beings second. I kept wanting to somehow explain that once you get past the Orwellian paranoia of government, the American people are a fairly decent lot, but of course if you can’t get into the country without being searched, scanned, queried, and probed it’s hard to experience that hospitality.

So, again, sorry. And maybe we’ll be able to dig ourselves out from the pile of scanners and security cameras and secret laws and offer a warm welcome to the rest of the world that matches our beliefs and best traditions.

Traveling colors.

Sunday, May 8th, 2011

Sammy tells me that we are looking out from this lovely balcony at the Tyrrhenian Sea. I can tell you it is a calm vastness of water, a blue that would be at home painted on the walls of our Virginia Highland home, and it extends to a soft, defocused horizon.

Our home here for two days, perched on a steep hillside, is a collection of terra-cotta tile colors, stonework old and new, and soft canvas awnings that, taken together says style and comfort and hey, sip some coffee and be contemplative.

So, OK, sure.

Unlike the busy seaways over by the Amalfi coast and between the Punto de Campanella and the island of Capri, these waters seem to be punctuated by just a tiny white fishing boat or two, maybe that’s a sailboat with masts down off in the distance. Still, somehow, you get the sense that the sea is a workplace, a superhighway, a playground.

If I mention that three italian donkeys—Asini in Italian—(Equus asinus domesticus)—are watching me type this, do their shades of cocoa brown and hay-brown add color to the scene, or muddy the picture?

The problem with writing about any of this is as soon as you drop in place names like those, you end up with what sounds like Mythical Typical Travel Writing, an attempt to string phrases as lyrical as the placenames they connect. And if you find yourself hearing your words in your head narrated by Robin Leach, stop, you’ve definitely done something horribly wrong.

So maybe I should practice a bit.