All Roads lead to Rome



So, here’s a question: how does one get to Italy by the fastest and most economical route? Answer, one drives from one’s home on the Peninsula to San Diego on a Friday, drives back to the Peninsula the following Monday, pauses three days, then drives to Spokane, Washington. After five days in Spokane he boards a flight from Spokane to Seattle, a second flight from Seattle to New York, and a third from New York to Naples (not Florida, Italy!) Then he rides a train or a car from Naples to Rome, and voila, e’ arrivato!

I kid you not, friends, Romans and countrymen, this is the odyssey, or calvary, depending on your point of view. And I will spare you the details of the trasloco from hell. For there’s beauty, justice and righteousness in this chain of events, as I will explain below.

One goes to visit foreign cultures in part to experience and savor the differences relative to one’s own. In a sense, the starker the differences the more rewarding the visit to foreign parts. But what is the culture we have in the Bay Area? Multiethnic, multilingual, admixtures of Asian elements, European, South American, etc. etc. Everything is diffuse, boundaries are fuzzy, hybrid customs proliferate, cultural transitions become matter-of-fact and ordinary. Transitioning from such an environment to a foreign milieu is inevitably a gentle and gradual process for a traveler already cushioned against cultural shock by years of exposure to foreign customs and practices.

But Spokane? American to the core, undiluted, unspoiled, rugged and individualistic, unabashedly monocultural, blessedly innocent and free of foreign admixtures. The Midwest ethos in full flower, vigorous, optimistic, can-do, self-reliant, hard-working. So, here then is a transition – Spokane to Rome, simplistic youth vs. hoary old age, the beginning of a journey vs. (perhaps!) the end of one, the perception of history as a linear ascent to perfection vs. the perception of history as a random and recurring set of events. A transition sharp and sudden, guaranteed to make you appreciate in full the differences between Italy and America. To say nothing of the physical environments!

So, is this the reason for my convoluted path to Rome? Well, not really, personal circumstances intervened and dictated the sequence of events. But my fictional version is more romantic, is it not? After all, it COULD have happened that way!

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