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Brian Fleck

The gnomes I’ve known

walkin'

A tiny pipe for smoking marijuana, also know as a one-hitter, is just one of the many odd things I’ve seen or found while mowing the grass at an apartment complex in North Liberty, a small town a few miles from Iowa City, where we live.

The bachelor

walkin'

Sabra is visiting her parents and friends in Denver this week. The trip was planned awhile back so she didn’t go there because of the flooding. As it turns out her family and friends are all okay, although her sister, who lives in Golden, had water in her basement. In any event, that leaves me home alone for five days with only Pearl, the cats and chickens to keep me company.

Poultmanteau

Walkin'

Things in the old hen house have been a bit topsy-turvy lately.
One of the original five chickens, Jezzabelle, turned out to not be all hen, but half hen and half rooster. A hooster or roosten. We knew Jezz was different from the start as he/she had the spurs of a rooster on one leg. We also suspected that she wasn’t laying eggs and was never found on the nesting box. The final, irrefutable telltale came when we began hearing crowing in the morning.
In other words she was a henaphrodite.

Sign, sign everywhere a sign

walkin'

I’ve added a couple of new signs to my collection this summer.
The signs are not physically collected; just the verbiage.
To date, my favorite is the one I ran across on a fishing trip to northern Minnesota several years ago. While taking a break from angling I went for a walk down a rural road and came across this gem: “No shooting/children at play.”

Not born Sicilian

Walkin'

We arrived at my cousin’s place about 1:30 p.m., perfectly timed to share the late and expansive meal Sicilians have about two in the afternoon. A small, fun party was held that evening. The next day we traveled to the reception site, an elegant seaside resort about an hour’s drive along the coast, to help tie ribbons on the chairs in the already elegantly decorated banquet room. My guess is that Suzzie’s to-do list for the wedding ran to about 100,000 and this was number 979,533 or something.

Vic the Sicilian

Walkin'

Victorio Tripoli was the youngest boy in a family of three girls and three boys raised in Bagheria, Sicily.
His mother gave birth to all the children at home, and in Sicilian tradition they were named after relatives. Victorio was name after his uncle, who was a mechanic. Until his uncle passed away, family called him Victoruccio (little Vic). The naming was foretelling as Vic liked working on cars, and as a child helped out in his uncle’s shop.

Final days in Rome

walkin'

Ancient walls flanked us as we rolled out of Rome and then into Acquedotti Park. Here we passed along the remains of Aqua Claudia, an aqueduct commissioned by the Emperor Gaius in 38 A.D. Gaius is also known as Caligula. He is infamous, among many things, for ordering his guards to throw an entire coliseum section of the crowd into the arena during intermission to be eaten by animals because he was bored.

Lake Gandolfo

food for thought

“That’s why there’s fence,” our guide Emanuele pointed to a pile of rocks across the trail in front of us, “there’s, how do you say in English, avalanches in this area.”
The area was on the shore of Lake Gandolfo, about 15 miles southeast of Rome. Among the 8,000 residents that live near the lake are two rather famous ones: Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis (in the summer).

Luck and love in Rome

Walkin'

Our second bike tour, a panoramic cruise of Rome, began at 5 p.m., and we were determined to use public transportation to get to the start.
With the help of several strangers, we were able to get on the correct bus, transfer twice onto the correct trains and select the correct direction to walk from the last station to the tour beginning. As I’ve attested many times in this space, Sabra and I have made getting lost into an art so it was with some gratitude for blind luck that we arrived at the beginning of the bike tour two hours early.

Driving, Italian style

Walkin'

There are no traffic laws in Italy, just polite suggestions.
It’s like going to a tavern and ordering a Margarita. The bartender might suggest Jose Cuervo, but he won’t think twice if you ask for Don Julio.

Only in Italy!

walkin'

After an evening of sharing beers and swapping stories with Udo and Trixie, the German motorcycle riders in Rome for the Harley convention, we called it a night.
The bed in our bungalow was thin but very comfortable, so we slept well. Nevertheless, jet lag left us– or, at least me– a little off-center in the morning. Besides messing up my sleep cycle, mal de Lufthansa plays havoc with my dietary routine. Basically, I want to eat six meals a day, three on Iowa time and three Roman. So it was with a little weariness and a lot of hunger that we made our way to the camp restaurant.

Welcome to Rome, varoom

walkin'

To ease the sense of claustrophobia while flying, we’ve taken to booking aisle seats, even if it means Sabra and I don’t sit together. One of the secrets to a happy marriage, we’ve discovered, is not sharing an armrest on long flights. I regretted this on our leg from Cedar Rapids to Chicago, however, as I was neighbors with one of the world’s grumpiest men. When I accidentally touched his foot with mine, he threatened to call the stewardess if I couldn’t contain myself better.
No doubt he was also a Cardinals fan.