Sunday, January 15, 2017

Who Wears These Shoes?

During my most recent trip to the Pacific Northwest I spent some time in Fred Meyer, because that's what PNW ex-pats do. Where else can you buy a loaf of fresh baked bread, a pair of jeans and parts to fix your toilet at 10:00 pm on any given night of the week. Freddy's is just that kind of store.

As I browsed the aisles I came upon the shoe department, and there they were: the plain black shoes I wore for years while living in the PWN. Not stylish, not fashionable and certainly not trendy, there were workhorse shoes that lasted a long time and took the abuse of walking indoors and out, in good weather and bad, all while still looking like they did when they came out of the box.

My best friend in Medford called them bus driver shoes, as they were what the school bus driver wore when we were kids. She wore them as well, another aspect of our shared history, sense of humor and fashion sense.

I picked up a box of the appropriate sized shoes and sat down to try them on. The fit like a glove, and I let out a small exclaim of happiness, finding a long lost friend and ensuring I would not need to shop elsewhere for shoes that might be trendy or fashionable. After all, us bus driver shoe wearers need to stick together.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Summer Wine

Let me tell you a story.

A story of friends, through thick and thin, through decades and distance, through love and life. We started together, added and subtracted from our number, and moved apart with the ebb and flow of careers, celebrations and circumstances.

A story of coming together more often than drifting apart. A story of parades and floats, of wine and festivals, of the elastic bond that keeps us together.

A story of tears and laughter.  A story of our personal time machines, where memories take us backward in time and dreams propel us forward.

This year, two events collide on one day. During the Soltice Parade, look for the TARDIS, complete with The Doctor atop the structure. If you have an extra bottle of water, find the small slit in the side about eye level and press the bottle through, and clap when it goes by.

Later that afternoon, we'll be enjoying the peacful surrounds of the Museum of Natural History, complete with wine and food. We will regale each other with stories of our lives since we last saw each other, catch up with our rapidly moving present and plan for the future that awaits us.

Once again I am fortunate to be one with the group: meeting at the appointed side street for final assembly, eventually making our way up State Street with the parade, then heading for Mission Canyon and an afternoon of more fun and companionship. As with last year, I can tell my compatriots in crime, my longest lasting friends, my past and future companions, that I love each and every one of them myself. 

Let me tell you a story. Because, in the end, we're all stories. And we are making it a good one.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Infinite Potential

The story of this house begins like most. At one point it was an empty piece of land at the edge of a rise. Above the reaches of a lagoon that filled with a combination of high tides and rain, it was a logical place to put a street, safe from the ravages of water. Eventually a house was built upon it the lot, but was lost to time, possibly a fire. It then became a large garden, providing an immigrant family with fresh vegetables.

Eventually another house rose on the site of the original, crafted by my grandfather and father. The first renters were family friends. When they moved out, my parents, with my sister and me in tow, moved in. We would walk to the market down the street for bread and submarine sandwiches and to the one around the corner for candy and ice cream during the summer. I see my grandfather's handiwork in things like a pocket door between two rooms where a conventional door would have always been in the way. I see the improvements my father made, such as removing a wall to make a more open kitchen.

Over the years it was a home full of stories, of joy and sadness, of history. Small in stature, it is bigger on the inside, holding memories enough for many lifetimes. It contains futures that were never lived, days that should have been that never were, an infinity of unlived days for every day we lived.

Much like where it started, the house is again a rental. We welcome a new family into our corner of the world, and hope they will be as happy there as my family had been.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

The Door Into Summer

Summer Solstice is upon us again. While I miss the over 17 hours of daylight the longest day of the year afforded to us in Bellingham, I don't miss the lack of light at the conversely short Winter Solstice. Both in Santa Barbara, as Goldilocks would say, are just right.

Known by many names, such as Midsummer, St. John’s Eve and Litha, what matters most is the sun is at its full strength, which is traditionally a day to make wishes and then let them go. As I've said before, the parade is just that: a wish made on a summer day, visualized in may colors and dimensions, arising from the heart and soul.

The Summer Solstice parade in Santa Barbara is, on one hand, the most artistically creative event during the year. On the other, it is the most outrageous one as well. Every June,
you you are invited to check your adulthood at the door and celebrate summer.

The heart of downtown Santa Barbara is transformed from the Spanish-style business district into an explosion of color and music filled with illusions and imagery, creativity on steroids, beating back the "June Gloom" that can envelope the area.

This year, look for a shuttle craft from Star Trek TOS complete with Spock atop the structure. If you have an extra bottle of water, find the small slit in the side about eye level and press the bottle through, and clap when it goes by.

Once again I am fortunate to be one with the float, meeting at the appointed side street and eventually making our way up State Street. As with last year, I can tell my compatriots in crime that love each and every one of them myself. 

Today, as with many days, we will go with the flow and let life take us where it chooses...

Sunday, November 23, 2014

I Can See For Miles

The sunrise lit the sky on fire, shades of orange, red and crimson playing upon the blue of the sky and the white of the wispy clouds. It was a perfect backdrop for a Sunday morning of geocaching and I ascended into the mountains behind Santa Barbara in search of hidden treasures.

As it sometimes happens with geocaching, everything I tried to find was elusive, hiding itself from my peering eyes, coming up empty time and time again.  I continued to search, but to no avail.  I looked around to get my bearings and that's when I saw the directional sign for La Cumbre Peak.

As a teenager, La Cumbre Peak was a common destination. Sometimes we would drive the winding road in the darkness to beat the sunrise and watch it come over the mountains; in winter it was typically the closest snow to Santa Barbara, and while there wasn't much it served the purpose for snowballs and the occasional snow person.  Other times it was an escape from the June gloom, rising up and breaking through the fog, looking out onto an ocean of puffy white.

I took the road less traveled and headed up the winding road, remembering some of the curves like I had driven them yesterday.  The road to the peak itself was closed, so I walked the last quarter of a mile, heading to the top.  Not another person or vehicle in sight, I wandered along the potholed road among the pines, maples, manzanita and chaparral. I sat near the inactive fire lookout tower, closed since the early 1980s, void of windows and personnel.  I looked as far as the my eyes could take me; the view of the Channel Islands, Santa Barbara and Goleta, the Santa Ynez Mountains and Gibraltar Reservoir are breathtaking.

Aristotle said that memory is neither perception nor conception, but a state or affection of one of these, conditioned by lapse of time. Today, like all those years ago, I was as far away from home as I could be and yet still see the city of my birth, alone in the present, connected to the past and wondering what the future would bring.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Father And Son

It has been said that an era is truly known only when it is over.  The life of any individual, marked by its distinctive characters and events, may not make the history books, but it was significant nevertheless for those of us who lived it.

My father passed away the other day.  He is no longer burdened by his physical body and the limitations of age, having been freed from that vessel to be one with the universe.  A good friend of mine said he remembered my Dad as kind, warm and genuine; truer words were never said about him.

For my Dad, the act of living was about being the best person that he could be, having friends that loved and appreciated him, and loving his family more than anything that life had to offer him.

He taught me to fish, to select quality tools, and to just be thankful.

He always listened to people, never left anyone out and had a real passion for serving his community. This 

translated into years of volunteer service.  He was well known and respected in the local community, serving his employer, his heritage and his faith. 

He was a very caring and compassionate person, putting the needs of others before his own.  My father fulfilled obligations willingly; his word was his bond, and everyone knew it.

He was self-made and self-reliant. His skill with tools that could fashion wood, brick, tile, stone or cement allowed him to engage the world as a man who would mold these resources rather than be molded by them.

He has always been a constant in my life, giving me advice and encouraging me to be my best.  For that, and for more than I can ever remember and record, I will be eternally thankful.

As we pack up our emotions and memories, take another road to another place and write that next chapter, this finale is symbolic of how things change and evolve, how life goes on despite leaving things on the side of the road, how the future is now.

Today we celebrate the sacrifices he made to his commitment to making the world a better place.  Dad, you did good; you did real good.

Jim Tabacchi, December 16, 1937 - September 28, 2014

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Summer Breeze

Daniel Defoe, in his 1726 book The Political History of the Devil, penned that the only constants in life are death and taxes. Some 2200 years before Defoe, Heraclitus of Ephesus, a Greek philosopher, was known for his doctrine of change being a constant in the universe.

The Earth is thought to have been formed about 4.6 billion years ago by collisions in the giant disc-shaped cloud of material that also formed the Sun. The solstices have been constants for this solar system longer than anything we can even imagine, the grand reminder that we are but travelers on this pale blue dot that circles the sun.

Astronomically, the summer solstice, more commonly known as the first day of summer, arrived today at 03:51 a.m. EDT, precisely what the Earth's axial tilt is most inclined toward the sun, at the degree of 23° 26', its most extreme.

Summer solstice is here. Once again, the heart of downtown Santa Barbara is transformed from the Spanish-style business district into an explosion of color and music filled with illusions and imagery, creativity on steroids, beating back the "June Gloom" that can envelope the area.

This year, look for a Monopoly hotel complete with Rich "Uncle" Pennybags atop the chimney. If you have an extra bottle of water, find the small slit in the side about eye level and press the bottle through, and clap when it goes by.

By the fates I have returned to the float fold, meeting at the appointed side street to assemble our entry and eventually make our way up State Street. This time, I can tell my compatriots in crime that love each and every one of them myself.  

Today, as with many days, my past meets my future, and I, much like the parade, will go with the flow.

My friends, we've come home.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Goodbye My Friend

Time marches on, years pass, people move in and out of our lives. Some are old, some are young, but all are called to that next evolutionary step, the afterlife, the world to come, whatever you believe.

The passing of a friend in your age group causes you to ponder life a little differently. Part of us dies with them, as friends carry small pieces of each other wherever they go. A friend of mine I had not seen in over five years passed away died recently, causing those past memories and shared pieces to rush to the surface. At a former employer where a group of us were born in 1961, we shared membership in "Club 61" and the common bond of age, musical tastes, workplace experiences, friends. With her passing, another connection to the past, a potential future presence, a constant, is gone.

As the dust of my WMS Czarina returns to the earth, I am reminded we witness birth and deaths many times, and that both are a secret of nature not for us to fully understand.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Spinning Wheel

When we moved to Medford, OR in August of 1990, Southern California became a place to visit and from where people came to visit us.  Seven hundred or so miles, 10 or so hours of hard driving and the desire to bridge that gap separated Southern Oregon from Southern California.  Another move took us to Washington State in 2009, adding another 500 miles and 8 hours to the distance that divided the familial landscape.

What goes up must come down... 
Here we are, twenty-three years later, back where we started.  Closer to family than we have been in nearly a quarter century, a December without the remotest posssibility of snow and blue skies instead of is good.

We've been Medfordites and Bellinghamsters, Oregonians and Washingtonians.  We proudly reclaim the demonym of Californians and add Santa Barbarians to the entire household.

Sunday, September 8, 2013


Popular music today lacks vocal harmony. Take a look at the Top 20 for this week and let me know when you find a song with harmonies.  I'll wait, no hurry.

Is this disappearing as a talent?  Is it because much of the popular acts these days are solo and it is difficult to do harmony by yourself?  Or is it because it is a lot of work?

A 2012 study by researchers at the

Spanish National Research Council indicated that contemporary popular music has grown loud, predictable, and simpler than ever.  The study found that, since the 1950s, there has been a decrease in the diversity of chords in a given song and in the number of novel transitions, or musical pathways, between them. While it is true that pop songs tend to be far more limited in their harmonic vocabularies when compared to a classical symphony, past decades saw more inventive ways of linking their harmonies together than we hear now.

The Beatles and The Beach Boys knew how to harmonize, and did it well.  The Eagles, especially in "Seven Bridges Road" where the vocals just jump out and grab you from the start.  Fortunately, groups like The Civil Wars, The Rescues, Beirut, The Lumineers and Mumford & Sons are just a few that keep harmonies alive.  How Alison Krauss managed to wrap her harmonies around Robert Plant's voice on the Raising Sand album still amazes me.

More harmony, less noise...isn't that what we all really want in our lives?

Sunday, August 18, 2013

The First Years

As of late I have been inexorably drawn to the television series "The Paper Chase".  Perhaps it is because I know the next steps in our life will be difficult and I harken to, in retrospect at least, what was a simpler time.  Those next steps (going to college) would, of course, be hard ones.  

Taking classes in auditoriums filled with students made a high school class of twenty-five look like a study group.  No one was looking over your shoulder to see how you were fairing, in some classes there were no familiar faces and your fellow classmates were likely among the best of the best; these things and many others caused me stay up late at night wondering what I had managed to get myself into. Tack on moving away from home and it still amazes me more of us didn't turn tail after the first week.

Looking back on those times from an aged and experienced point of view make them seem much more uncomplicated and easier.  As the reality of our current situation continues to unfold, moving to a new location and starting a new job seem hard.

We've moved many times before and I have had numerous first days at work.  Still, the future is always much more turbulent than the past, as we can gaze behind us to past events with experience and a sense of calm, knowing no matter how bleak things looked at that moment in time that things turn out the way they are going to, regardless of the amount of hand wringing or pacing or worrying we invested in the situation.

Some future version of myself will look back at this time and ask why I was even concerned.  Until then I will work the "all shall be well" mantra and remember that one day I will be saying, "Hey look, we've come through..."

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Mother Nature's Son

We had been living in Washington State for only a few weeks when we saw them. A doe and two fawns, slowly crossing our backyard, gracefully jumping over the four foot fence as if it were four inches. The dog didn't know what to make of them, and the cats, while intrigued that potential prey had come to them, were smart enough to give them a wide berth. 

The deer continue to grace our presence, with forays into the field next door. We were headed to a garage sales the other day and drove past a few deer making themselves home in someone's front yard.  They aren't the only animals to arrive on our doorstep.  Brown and black squirrels use the fence line as a superhighway, moving from yard to yard in search of stores for winter. Rabbits have recently appeared, eating grasses and wild flowers in the adjacent open field.

As I sat at the desk in our home office late one night, I heard a noise at the pet door. Without my glasses I could see a greyish figure through the glass door and figured it was one of our cats on the way back in for the night.  The pet door opened all the way and the dining room light illuminated what was the face of a raccoon. I surprised it as much as it surprised me, and it retreated to the safety of the yard. As I arose from the desk to get a better view, the raccoon also stood on its hind legs and waved its arms in the air, making itself appear larger and trying to scare me off. Safely behind the glass door, I stood my ground, letting the raccoon know it didn't scare me (as long as it stayed on the other side of the door, of course).

I will not miss the 168 days a year with precipitation, nor will I shed a tear for the 208 days with cloud cover. And while both contribute to the shadowy forest dripping with moss and ferns and the almost ever-present green of the area, it is the few weeks of perfect summer weather and the menagerie of wildlife that was right outside our door that will tip the scales of my memory in favor of living here.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Dry Spell

I can't remember the last time I saw rain.  It hasn't been years, or even months at this point.  When you live in a place where three days in a row without rain is the exception to the rule, you tend to expect precipitation; when it doesn't materialize, one day melds into the next, time stands still and the last time you needed an umbrella is a fading memory. 

In what are unusual times here in the Great North Wet, days without rain are certainly welcome.  A lack of sprinklers means that most lawns go from green to gold.  If you are trying to sell your house (as we are), you water the lawn by hand to keep the lush verdant appearance.  The flowers are thriving in the relative warmth, the trees increase their height and the roses bloom and bloom again, all the recipients of long days of sunshine.

The azure sky is book-ended by the pastel colors of dawn and dusk. Too soon it will rain and the normal rotation of clouds with small glimpses of blue sky will return. As the year continues, we will pack away summer for another rotation around the sun.  For the moment, we enjoy it being here, making vitamin D  and taking in all that summer can supply.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

From Where I Stand

The future seems far away for so long, and then it hits you like a dope slap.

My last full day with Sargento was June 10.  I made a few trips into the office during that week, including a goodbye lunch for the Plant Manager, so that stretched it until June 14. I was paid through the end of the month, so (in my mind, anyway) maybe my official last day was June 30.  In early July I still had corporate e-mail access, making it easy to continue to believe I was still tied to my friends and associates in WI and elsewhere.

It was going to happen eventually, and it came sooner than later.  Earlier this week my access was revoked and I could no longer sign on to the external portal.  I continued to deny my true separation from what, with little doubt, was the best company I have ever had the privilege to work for.

There is no denying it anymore.  The electronic thread, tenuous at best, was finally broken.

Time will fly, each week/month/year moving faster than the last. We might stay in touch, but it far is more likely we will move on, the tide of life drifting us apart both in distance and time.

A while back I wrote that an era is truly known only when it is over. This period of time, marked by its distinctive characters and events, may not make the history books, but it was significant nevertheless for those of us who lived it.

The future seems so far away for so long...


Saturday, June 22, 2013

One Summer Dream

Yesterday was Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere.  In Bellingham, the sun rose at 5:07:06 am and set that evening at 9:16:53 pm, for a grand total of 16hrs 09min 47sec of full daylight. If you count civil twilight which begins at 4:24 am and ends at 9:58 pm, the daylight hours stretch out to 17 hours 34 min.

As I have said before, summer doesn't really start until the solstice parade in Santa Barbara is complete. Then, and only then, is summer finally at our doorstep.

If you are watching the parade, look for something that resembles giant colon, or perhaps a wedge of cheese or maybe a cube...only they know for sure.  If you have an extra bottle of water, find the small slit in the side about eye level and press the bottle through (they'll thank you for it, trust me). Clap when they go by and tell them I love each and every one of them.

I dream of Santa Barbara, my family and friends who are there, the times of my life spent there and the times yet to be.  Where our next stop will be is still unknown, but today, as with many days, my past meets my future, and I, much like the parade, will go with the flow. 

In the future I hope to travel further north and experience the never-ending day associated with the far north.  Until then, I relish in the extra minutes of daylight and firmly plant those memories of in my mind, waiting for a day with less light to remember them by.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

On, Wisconsin!

Wisconsin is the home of Earth Day founder and US Senator Gaylord Nelson, Sierra Club founder John Muir, the Green Bay Packers, the Wisconsin Badgers, 29 methane digesters, the kringle (a butter-rich, tender-crusted Danish pastry filled with nuts or fruits, formed into giant ring and topped with a sugar glaze), and The Rock in the House.

More importantly, it is the home of the brandy old-fashioned.  Every bartender there knows the drill: a bar spoon of sugar, three dashes of Angostura bitters, a lightly muddled slice of orange, a slug of brandy, lots and lots of ice, a splash of soda and, of course, a bright red maraschino cherry. It is a pity more bartenders across the country don't know how to make a good old-fashioned.

Most importantly, it is the home of Sargento, a company that truly believes their most valuable asset is their employees.  I was recently in Wisconsin for what will likely be my last visit as a Sargento employee. My time was split between the three plants, so I had the opportunity to see the facilities, the people that make them great, and the rolling countryside one more time.

My heartfelt thanks go out to Janet, Jim, Cory, Erika, Jane, Heather, Julie, Gary, Donna, Cheryl and everyone else in Quality Systems for making me feel at home.  I hope our paths cross again.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Lately I've Let Things Slide

The month of May has come and gone.  What looked like a long time in the future, time enough at last to accomplish many things, is now the past.  

May lasted as long as it should have, from a calendar sense of time, but it appeared to speed by, defying my wish that it linger and allow me to embrace the boundless possibilities that existed.

Decommissioning the plant was in front of us; now it is almost completely behind us.  I wanted more time to absorb those subtle images that will frame my memories, allowing them to linger in my mind.  Instead I find myself fussing over the past and the future, pressing myself toward reality by concentrating only on the present, wondering what will be next.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

The End of Everything Known

For months we waited, wondering when the final day of manufacturing would occur. We wanted the day to be fixed, to know when it was going to happen, to be able to move on with our lives.

The announcement of the date was met with sighs of relief and some cheers. No longer were we adrift on a sea of endless waiting...we knew when the ship would come into dock, when the voyage would end.

As days tend to do, the last day of manufacturing arrived with little fanfare or procession. Stories were shared, tears were shed, handshakes and hugs occurred again and again and again. Some were moving east, some were staying, others were going elsewhere...somewhere.

Those of us who are left will decommission the plant, removing items that signified our time here. Much like the ocean waves remodeling the sand and removing any sign of the castles that once graced the beach, when we are done there will be no physical sign we were ever there.

It has been said that an era is truly known only when it is over. As we pack up our emotions and memories, take another road to another place and write that next chapter, this finale is symbolic of how things change and evolve, how life goes on despite leaving things on the side of the road, how the future is now. 

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Dreams Where I Am Sleeping

Space is the final frontier.  NASA has assembled an inspirational video with the intent of getting more people interested in the subject matter.  The clip speaks to the reasons why mankind explores and how we lay the foundation for future journeys by what we do now.  You can view the 2:36 version at

As a federal agency, NASA cannot legally purchase broadcast time for this video.  Mountains have not deterred climbers, oceans have not stopped sailors and gravity has not stopped astronauts.

Fans of "Veronica Mars" recently funded a movie version of the former TV series through a website called Kickstarter.  To get the movie made, series creator Rob Thomas had to raise $2 million. That goal was reached in under 12 hours.  When all was said and done, a total of 91,585 backers contributed $5,702,153.  To make a movie.  About a TV series.  That was cancelled. 

You can be part of a fundraising effort to place the NASA video "We Are The Explorers" as a trailer to the upcoming "Star Trek: Into Darkness" on as many screens as possible.  I may not be a fan of the 
J.J. Abrams re-boot of my beloved Star Trek, but plenty of people are and will see the movie.  What better way to inspire us to greatness by fanning the flames of space exploration with people who are already enticed by it?

The effort has been tremendously successful so far.  "We Are The Explorers" will air on 50 screens across the nation for the first 8 weeks of  the run of "Star Trek: Into Darkness" as an edited 30 second piece.  The campaign is now working to hit a goal that will enable them to put the trailer in at least one theater in every state in the USA for two weeks.

Get on board at

NASA today, Starfleet tommorow.  As Carl Sagan said, we are capable of greatness.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Light My Fire

Barbecue.  In the United States, the origins of barbecue trace back thousands of years to Native Americans cooking in buried pits, including the tribes of California. When the territory became Spanish Las Californias and then Mexican Alta California in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, the Missions and ranchos of California had large cattle herds, primarily for hides and tallow.  Large pit barbecues cooked the remaining meat when the culling and leather tanning season came to an end.  The outdoor cooking tradition continued in the early days of California statehood for fiestas, becoming popular across the country in various shapes and forms.

Barbecue in my family meant chicken, pork ribs and/or beef tri-tip.  With only one cut per side of beef, for decades the tri-tip found itself cut into cubes for soup meat or ground into hamburger. When butchers carved their own beef it didn't make sense to try and market one of something.  With institutionalized beef packing,  the tri-tip became a staple for the grill.  Once an overlooked piece of meat , it is relatively inexpensive, flavorful and a favorite among those who have tried it.
For decades, the big draw for tri-tip was California.  With expatriate Californians came the pull of the tri-tip, and now it can be found in many areas of the country.  The tapered shape makes it an ideal cut of meat to produce a range of doneness from medium in the center to well done at the narrow tip.

Barbecue is the story of a social institution, acting as powerful social magnets, drawing people together.  Cindy and I were in Santa Barbara last weekend to celebrate my sister's 50th birthday with family, friends and barbecue.  The chicken and ribs were wonderful, but it was the tri-tip that drew me back to the serving table.

Spring has sprung here in the Great North Wet, and like the natives we have learned to take advantage of a sunny day.  I snuck in some grilling yesterday, and yes, it was a tri-tip.  While our family footprint here is smaller than in Southern California, we nevertheless gathered around the table, gave thanks for our meal and enjoyed each others company.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For

My sister gets the blame for many things that happened during our childhood.  Better known as "The Agitator", it was her goal in life to get me in trouble. As previously discussed, she would agitate and aggravate and torment me to no end, until all that poking and prodding resulted in her having an imprint of my hand somewhere on her body, which would then result in me getting yelled at from the front seat by our parents, leaving a smirk on the face of Little Miss Innocent that required removal with another well-placed hand imprint and the cycle would replay itself over and over.

She continues in her ways to this day.  Julie is completely and irrevocably to blame for getting me hooked on geocaching. Like a drug dealer, she told me about how fun it was. She even took me on one when I visited her recently; just the two of us, she found the geocache in short order and made it look sooooooo easy. She made it seem it was socially acceptable by taking me in a group to look for caches. It seemed okay...other people did it.  I became hooked, and then she cut me off, told me I would have to get my own phone app and log my own finds.

Some of the puzzles are impossible to figure out. The other day I stood in the rain in a parking lot looking for a geocache, just trying to find one to satisfy my cravings. I leave work early or reschedule appointments to allow for geocaching, justifying that it helps me relax and provides exercise. I have even logged a cache when I really didn’t find it myself, just so I could run up my total count. I have been questioned by security patrols and received many strange looks from people around me as I stand and rock back and forth wondering what evil person hid a needle in a haystack.

I made Cindy go with me yesterday and talked Laura and Bryan into going today. I'll need another fix by tomorrow, so I'm scoping out possible finds right now. Now I survive by hanging out with other addicts, trading secrets and looking for that next big score.

I blame my sister. Perhaps I can learn to forgive her once I complete the Geocachers Anonymous program.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Telephone Line

March 3 marks the birthday of Alexander Graham Bell in 1847, a scientist, inventor, engineer and innovator who is credited with inventing the first practical telephone. Bell's father, grandfather, and brother were associated with work on elocution and speech, and his mother and wife were deaf.  Bell's work was influenced by his family, and his research on hearing and speech further led him to experiment with hearing devices, eventually culminating in Bell being awarded the first US patent for the telephone in 1876.

March 3 also marks the day in 1885 when Bell established the American Telephone and Telegraph Company, which we know today as AT&T Corporation.  This company maintained what they referred to as a natural monopoly on telephone service in the United States; this meant one firm could better serve the public than two or more.  For much of its history, AT&T and its Bell System functioned as a legally sanctioned, regulated monopoly. The fundamental principle, formulated by AT&T president Theodore Vail in 1907, was the nature of the technology would operate most efficiently as a monopoly providing universal service.  Classic examples of regulated monopolies include the utility industry and the telecommunications industry, which are subject to governmental price control.

It has been said that nothing lasts forever but the earth and sky, and such was the fate for Ma Bell.  In 1974 the U.S. Department of Justice brought an antitrust lawsuit against AT&T, which eventually led to the 1982 breakup of the Bell system into the regional holding companies, or Baby Bells.  Those have come and gone, changed names and been folded and reshaped numerous times.

What does remain, however, is our attachment to the telephone.  Whether it is corded or cordless, comes through copper wire, cables or microwaves, we want to be connected.  Was I walking around with a personal cell phone 20 years ago?  Nope.  Can I imagine not having one now?  Yes, but why would I want that, as the benefits definitely outweigh the costs.  According to Pew Research Center surveys, cellphone ownership among American adults is around 88%.

Numerous other inventions marked Bell's later life, including groundbreaking work in optical telecommunications, hydrofoils and aeronautics.  He became one of the founding members of the National Geographic Society in 1888, and has been described as one of the most influential figures in human history.  Still, in retrospect, Bell considered the telephone, easily his most famous invention, an intrusion on his real work as a scientist and refused to have a telephone in his study.  He knew then, as we try to remember today, that eliminating distraction is the best way to complete our work.

But enough of this...time to get back to the approximately 3,000 advertisements I will see today, not to mention the 5,000 distractions caused by constantly checking messages from phones, emails, IM’s, wall posts, tweets and more.  This is progress, right?

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Smile A Little Smile For Me

Today marks the end of Random Acts of Kindness Week (February 11 – 17). According to the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation, RAK Week encourages people to go above and beyond to make others feel special.

I would argue that we should not need a special week to be reminded to do acts of kindness.  Still, a nudge every now and then can't hurt.  Today, we'll concentrate on smiling.

Smiles are contagious. Smile at someone and they tend to smile too, effectively passing all of the benefits of a smile to the other person. The gift that keeps on giving, a smile is an amazing thing. Other people feel good when they see you smile, and studies have shown that smiling on a regular basis can reduce stress, boost your mood, reduce blood pressure and improve your overall well-being. There is a fascinating TED Talks presentation by Ron Gutman on the power of smiling.  According to Gutman, one smile produces the equivalent brain stimulation as eating 2,000 bars of chocolate, or receiving $25,000 in cash.

Premeditated acts of meanness just aren't good for anyone; smile and make a difference.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

That'll Be The Day

"It was already snowing at Minneapolis, and the general forecast for the area along the intended route indicated deteriorating weather conditions." So begins the Civil Aeronautics Board investigators report six months after the crash that killed Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, J.P. "the Big Bopper" Richardson and pilot Roger Peterson in the early hours of February 3, 1959.

On February 2, 1959, the Winter Dance Party tour was eleven days into a scheduled twenty-four performances.  The distance between events had not been fully considered when scheduling the performances, so many hours were spent on a bus not properly equipped for the weather. The heating system broke down shortly after the tour began, flu spread rapidly among the rest of the performers and Holly's drummer suffered severely frostbitten feet.

Holly chartered a plane for his band to fly to Moorhead, MN, the next stop on the tour.  Richardson, who had the flu, convinced Waylon Jennings to give up his seat, and Ritchie Valens won a coin toss for another seat on the plane.  The rest, as they say, is history.

Paradise Lost by John Milton and The Inferno by Dante Alighieri both speak to innocence lost.  Don McLean's 1971 single "American Pie" expresses another metaphor for the loss of innocence, turning the death of Buddy Holly and the plane crash into moment when the United States lost its last bit of innocence.

Still, it was not, as McLean wrote, the Day the Music Died.  Britain devoured Holly records faster than the record company could produce them. Demo tapes, previously unreleased recording sessions, whatever Decca had to sell, all shot up the British charts and turned Holly into one of the forefathers of the British Invasion that would strike America five years later. John Lennon and George Harrison learned to play guitar in part by listening to Buddy Holly records. Holly presented the model for many bands that came after: write your own songs, two guitars, a bass and drums. The fledgling Beatles, as the Quarry Men, recorded Holly’s “That’ll Be the Day” as their first official tune before renaming themselves with a nod to Holly’s band, the Crickets. The first Rolling Stones' single released in the US was cover of Holly's "Not Fade Away."

In 1959, not even the musical pioneers themselves were certain that rock ’n’ roll would survive much into the 1960s, whether before or after the Day the Music Died.  Seems silly today, as we look back across the years, to have doubted the insistent beat of the music would sustained a global movement.  The beat does go on.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Magical Mystery Tour

It is a story as old as time.  You meet, slightly wary of the unknown, but the uneasiness wears off and you are hooked.  You are inseparable, spend all your available time together, and think about the experience when you are alone.  Life goes on, things change, your interest diverges, and in the blink of an eye a quarter of a century has passed.  Then one day, you stumble upon your old friend, and it is as if no time has passed whatsoever. 

This may not so easy for those of us with greying hair or a few extra wrinkles.  It is, however, much simpler for a computer program, because, well, no time has passed. 

That's right.  It is pitch dark and I am likely to be eaten by a grue.

One of the items that came with my Associated Student fees at UC Davis (go Ags!) was access to the mainframe computer.  Each quarter provided a certain number of hours of computer time.  Keep in mind this was in the days of punch cards, CRTs and Commodore 64, so mainframe access was the 1983 version of leading edge gaming computers like the CyberPower Black Pearl or the Velocity Raptor Signature Edition.  Just without graphics, sound, a mouse or a few dozen other things.

At that time, UCD had Unix machines in a cluster.  Each was named after one of the Marx Brothers: Chico, Groucho, Harpo and Zeppo (Gummo and Mannie were apparently less computer savvy).  Logging onto Groucho (or one of his brothers) would take us to a games area, filled with the wonders of interactive typing.

The first game we found was Zork, one of the earliest interactive fiction computer games.  The authors were members of the MIT Dynamic Modelling Group, the forebears of a company named Infocom that brought forth numerous games before being bought up by Activision.  Zork was a single player game, so it was just you and the challenge of the dungeon. 

Zork created a wondrous, magical realm, a feast for the imagination.  You have stumbled upon the ancient ruins of a vast empire lying far underground.  There are strange rooms to explore, a temple where some prayers are answered, a coal mine, a river with a waterfall and the proverbial pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

And all through typing, much like this:

The Troll Room
This is a small room with passages to the east and south and a forbidding hole leading west. Bloodstains and deep scratches (perhaps made by an axe) mar the walls. A nasty-looking troll, brandishing a bloody axe, blocks all passages out of the room.

Your sword has begun to glow very brightly.
The troll swings his axe, but it misses.

>swing sword
The troll swings, you parry, but the force of his blow knocks your sword away.

>get sword

The troll hits you with a glancing blow, and you are momentarily stunned.

>kill troll with sword
You charge, but the troll jumps nimbly aside.
The axe gets you right in the side. Ouch!

>kill troll with sword
The troll is staggered, and drops to his knees.
The troll slowly regains his feet.

>kill troll with sword
The fatal blow strikes the troll square in the heart: He dies.
Almost as soon as the troll breathes his last breath, a cloud of sinister black fog envelops him, and when the fog lifts, the carcass has disappeared. Your sword is no longer glowing.

In the days before graphics, computer games enticed players with a well-turned phrase, delighting players with clever writing and tearing their hair out with difficult puzzles.  Rightly so, the creators of Zork will be honored this February with a Pioneer Award at the D.I.C.E. (Design, Innovate, Communicate, Entertain) Summit, an annual multi-day gathering of video game executives.  Perhaps by then I will have remembered how to enter the crypt and finish the game.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

The World Spins

Life is filled with choices. We are aware that every choice we make will have a consequence, even if we don't know what it is. We use our past experiences as a guide.  We prepare for every consequence as they happen, and as a result our lives take shape, even though we are uncertain what the outcome will be. It is the unknown that drives us, our monkey curiosity always exploring and looking to the future. 

There are times where our past does not help prepare us for what happens, where the future sneaks up behind us.  We are taken aback, lose our way, can't focus.  We are unprepared for certain consequences, no matter how much we think we have prepared for them.  Life becomes jumbled, tumultuous, turbulent, and we long for order, peace and calm.

Life does not return to normal, for we have been changed by the experience, whatever it may be.  We adapt, adjust and reconcile ourselves to the new normal.  We live, we move along, we spend our time, energy and everything else.  We again make choices, cognizant of what we have learned, experienced, survived.

It has been said that we make choices, but in the end our choices make us, that show what we truly are.  Let those choices make for a better life.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Light My Way

Winter Solstice may have passed, but the dark days of winter are still upon us.  This time of year is associated with light, the lack of it as well as the way we respond to it with candles, sparklers and strings of bulbs. Some use a a menorah to illuminate the night, others an advent wreath or an all-night bonfire for the burning of the Yule log; the list is practically endless.

In these times of question and doubt, we look for understanding, comprehension and compassion.  We look for beacons of light in the darkness, lighthouses to guide our way, to helps us to find truth, illuminating what life could be.  It has been said that when the soul and the brain meet, the truth that is encountered makes sense of the world and you wonder how you could have lived without this discovery.

The lighted candles of an advent wreath were originally designed to signify the persistence of life in the midst of winter; the accumulation of light is now an expression of the growing anticipation of the birth of Jesus Christ, who we Christians see as the light of the world, a beacon of light in the darkness.

Clement of Alexandria is credited to have said that all truth is God’s truth.  Whatever you believe, however you pray, whatever motivates you, allow the light of our humanity to shine bright through your actions.  Don't let the darkness win.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Spirits of Ancient Egypt

Ninety years ago, on November 4, 1922, Howard Carter's excavation group found the steps leading to Tutankhamun's tomb.  This was by far the best preserved and most intact pharaonic tomb ever found in the Valley of the Kings. 

Much of history is lost to us, despite thousands of satellites circling the globe and billions of people living upon this good Earth.  We continue to discover (or rediscover) items that have been hidden for thousands of years.  Some are treasures with monetary value beyond measure, while others have more intrinsic value.  All were of some value to someone in the past, and each bit of history we find reminds us that we too are mere mortals.

What is important is that we keep looking.  Whether it is the Ark of the Covenant, da Vinci's lost mural or my car keys, we don't give up.  Our monkey curiosity propels us forward, wanting to make that connection between the past and the present, and trying to understand what the future brings us.

I recently tracked down the name of my great aunt on my mother's side of the family.  There is certainly no monetary value attached to this, but it fills in a blank in our family tree that has been staring at me for years.  It doesn't appear she had children, so while there are no relatives along that branch to find, discovering that tells me I can stop looking and let my attention drift elsewhere.

While it would take months to fully investigate the chambers and catalog the contents of Tutankhamun's tomb, it all started with a tiny breach to peer into the darkness and gaze upon history, of what Howard Carter indicated were "...wonderful things."  Never give up...keep looking.

Saturday, October 13, 2012


Gaius Petronius Arbiter was a Roman courtier (attendant) during the reign of Nero and believed to be the author of the Satyricon, a satirical novel. One of his more notable quotes is about our tendency to meet new situations by reorganizing: "...and what a wonderful method it can be for creating the illusion of progress while producing confusion, inefficiency, and demoralization."

Welcome to Reorganization 101; I'm your host, Fred Tabacchi.

Recent weeks have found me reorganizing things along lines that keep shifting and changing, requiring more reorganizing and creating, you guessed it, a sense of confusion, inefficiency and downright depression.

It is not all bad, trust me. It is just...a lot.

A relatively simple project to replace a door on the rear of our house turned into a several thousand dollar repair and a gaping opening in the wall for a few weeks, all for the want of the builder having done it correctly the first time.

I finished my MBA, which is a good thing, but I will admit to the completion of the program did not bring the sense of relief I was expecting. Instead, it was as if I had come to the jarring end of a fast roller coaster ride.

My employment situation is fluid and keeps changing. Lots of deep breaths and happy thoughts will get us through this, I know it, but still it is disheartening and uncertain.

All of this will pass, I am sure of it. And in the overall scheme of things, these are little bumps in the road.  The next great adventure is waiting for us. Until then, I will fight the urge to reorganize and spend less time worrying and more time being thankful.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

I'm So Tired

It's been said that writing is hard, that ideas are difficult to come by, that making it all come together is illusive.  Writing is simple; starting may be the most difficult thing, but once you are past the first few words it flows like a broken sprinkler pipe.  Ideas, as Rod Serling once said, “...are born from what is smelled, heard, seen, experienced, felt, emotionalized.”  Putting it together can be tedious, but good things come to those who wait.

I picked up a norovirus or something similar last week and sufferred through the fever/bed/bathroom cycle for a few days.  Once it finally left my body it took another two days before I was able to go back to work.  I am still feeling the ill effects of whatever coursed through my veins.  I tried to complete some light house painting today; what should have been an easy job got the better of me after about three hours.

Writing isn't hard.  Being sick is hard.  Not feeling well is hard.  Being tired all the time with joints that hurt is hard.  And while most of us think we understand what it feels like to struggle through another day when we feel under the weather, we really don't.

Understanding is the key.  May my experiences, however small and limited they be, help me to remember we all have our burdens to carry.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Flying East

It is not the destination, but the direction, that is a problem. Flying east seems to vex me, no matter how small the time change.  My body rebels against me with pitiful sleep the night before and no desire to adapt to the time zone.

Flying west, on the other hand, seems so natural.  I fall into step with the time zone with little effort, likely due to spending most of my life in it. 

I look forward to spending the week with my collegues and learning new things, but when it is over I will be heading west again, chasing the sun and looking forward to the sunset over the Pacific.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Garden Party

As residents of Southern Oregon, for years we drove past the "Visit Beautiful Butchart Gardens" billboard in Yreka.  While the gardens beckoned, it was farther out of our reach than our normal travels, except those to Southern California to visit family.  It was a "back burner" item for when we had time, and that never seemed to happen.

Now, as our days as Washingtonians appear to be waning, there is time.  Time to see the sights, time to visit places we didn't expect to, time for strolling around gardens.  This weekend Cindy and I took the ferry through the San Juan Islands to Vancouver Island and made our way to the elusive Butchart Gardens.

The trip through the San Juans was breathtaking.  The weather was near perfect, with the occasional wisp of cloud along the horizons and the sun shining as it is not often want to do in the land of filtered sunshine.  Passing by Lopez, Orcas and San Juan Islands, the ferry made its way steadily towards the line of demarcation in the water that separates the US from Canada.  My cell phone altered me to the transfer, as the warning text regarding the increased cost of data hit the phone just as we crossed into Canadian waters.


A chance comment by the Canadian customs agent let us know there going to be fireworks at the Butchart Gardens that night, so after checking to out hotel and dinner, we headed west in search of our destination.  The abundant signage made it easy to find and we were able to find a place to sit ans watch the fireworks among the things of others present.  Re-admittance the next morning was a scant few dollars and we spent the next four hours visiting the work the Butcharts and their descendants have done over the last 100 plus years.  Among the wonders we saw were The Sunken Gardens in what was originally a used-up limestone quarry, an indicator that anything is possible as long as you are willing and able.

Our return trip was through the northern San Juan Islands, another treat of beautiful sunshine and wonderful weather.  A stop at Tim Hortons for donuts completed this trip to our neighbor to the north.

There is a sense of permanence attached to large gardens, such as the Butchart.  Stone walls, paved paths and statues fill the areas, reminding of estate garden where my maternal grandfather lived and worked when I was a child.  While I haven't seen those gardens in over 40 years, visiting Butchart gives me hope that it still remains and is more beautiful than I can remember.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

One More Cup of Coffee

It was bound to happen.  I never followed the recommended instructions, always thinking they were unnecessary and didn't apply to me.  Things went along just fine, and I began to take for granted there would never be an issue.  And then it happened.  At first it was just a minor inconvenience, something to clean up and not talk about.  It became chronic but it was too late to do anything about it and I chose to ignore it just the same.  When it failed completely, I stood there, empty cup in hand, with a mess to clean up.

The Brewstation is dead. Long live the Brewstation.

It happened many years ago when our coffee pot gave up the ghost.  I was going to Costco that day, and there I found the most magnificent coffee maker I had ever seen.  It had no glass pot to break, using a thermal-lined insulated coffee tank depressed the trigger with a mug for one-hand dispensing.  Completely perfect for the geek that I am, I put it in the cart and took it home.

Guests would stare at it, trying to figure out how to get coffee.  It was, as Cindy said for years to come, what happens when you send me out to buy a coffee pot.  After a few years and a move it began to leak, so we replaced it with yet another version that would make iced coffee as well.  Eventually that one began to leak as well, so we moved to our most recent version, one that was tall enough to fit a travel mug into the dispensing area.  And now it has failed, leaking all over the counter, leaving me wanting one more cup of coffee.

Much like Ahab, I continue to be obsessed with finding my infamous white whale, a pot-less coffeemaker that does not leak.  Perhaps this time, I will go with the Krups or the Cuisinart.  Paraphrasing Melville, the pot-less coffeemaker does not seeks me; rather, it is me that madly seeks it.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

The Things We've Handed Down

It is easy to float in and out of tracing your family history.  There have been times where it sat on the sidelines for me, waiting to be revived.  There have also been times (such as now) where it seems to consume most waking moments and spins me up and down rabbit holes, chasing after data that may or may not be helpful.

Each person has eight great grandparents, 16 2nd great-grandparents, 32 3rd great grandparents, 64 4th great grandparents, 128 5th great grandparents, etc.  I currently know of approximately 40 ancestors that I share blood with, so there are still plenty of people to find.

Chasing them down has lead me to over 700 shirttail relatives, such as "father of sister-in-law of 3rd cousin to..." or "great-grandfather's second cousin once removed".  They must have shared common experiences in Italy, Brazil, the United States or wherever they lived.  Some of them show up on ship manifests, others on microfilmed records; many have numerous references or points of certainty, while others appear at the right time to fit into existing trees.  They all had hopes and dreams.

Most of these have no direct relation to my family tree, but finding them means other records may exist and the hope of journeying farther back in time prevails.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again

Among the many places we visited in Italy was the cemetery in Crespano Del Grappa.  We were looking for the grave of Alma Angela Rosato Tabacchi, my father's father's mother, who died when my grandfather was 14 years old.   We split up at the entrance and headed in different directions.  The names read like a Santa Barbara telephone directory: Torresan, Zilliotto, Melchiori, Panizzon, Bortolazzo...the list went on and on.

Walking through that cemetery and looking for a specific headstone took me back to an early spring day in the late 1990's in Dunsmuir, CA.  Along with a good friend who was from the area, I was hunting down the grave of Antonio Capovilla, my mother's mother's brother.  There were a significant number of Capovillas in the area, but none that I reached out to could connect the dots.  We walked the Dunsmuir Cemetery, the Evergreen Cemetery in Yreka and struck paydirt in the Winema Cemetary in Weed.  A small weathered upright headstone gave me his dates of birth and death, which eventually lead me to find the manifest from the ship he traveled on to the United States.

Antonio arrived in the United States through Ellis Island on March 20, 1912.  Much like my paternal grandfather, he too left Italy at the age of 18.  Antonio traveled with his cousin Mose', who had previously been in America and worked the coal mines in Thurber, Texas.  Both were bound for Dunsmuir with hopes of a better life.

Antonio's life in the United States was short-lived.  He died during the 1918 flu pandemic (better known as the Spanish influenza).  Between the months of August and November of 1918, this influenza spread quickly around the world, with more people dying of influenza in a single year than in four years of the Black Death Bubonic Plague from 1347 to 1351.

My daydream of the Winema Cemetery was broken by calls and waves, indicating the headstone had been found.  We gazed upon our history, took some photos and returned to the van that would transport us to other places my relatives spoke of, allowing us the opportunity to gaze upon the same sights they did.

Turns out we have had this picture for over thirty years, as I have a scan of a photograph that someone took prior to 1979.  The names weren't very clear, but when compared to the recent photographs we took it is apparent they are the same headstone (with more names added to the family crypt).

Cemeteries are full of stories about the lives of those who rest there; it is up to us to find them and keep those memories alive.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

A Recurring Dream Within a Dream

"America," written by Paul Simon, includes the poignant lyric "Michigan seems like a dream to me now."  Substitute Italy for Michigan and it sums up how my continent-hopping trip now feels, as if it took place in another lifetime.  This past week I went between the past and the present, trying to decide which was the dream and which was the reality.  Feeling sleepy during the mid-afternoon (when it would be the dead of night in Italy) and feeling hungry at 3:00 am (lunch time half a world away) didn't help.

As the week progressed I was no longer craving the afternoon nap nor waking from a dead sleep to a growling stomach.  The patterns of this life fell back into place, the daily repetition becoming once again familiar, all while the images of Italian towns, landscapes and architecture began to shuffle further back in my memory.

Carl Jung would likely have a few things to say about interpreting my dreams.  I am not worried about what someone else may think they mean, as I know they connect me to that place now so far away.  What is more important, at least to me, is that I dream of distant lands and people and know it was true.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Long Way Home

In the time it took my ancestors to travel by ship from Italy to America, I flew there, visited places I had only heard of, met relatives I had never seen and flew back.  As with most trips, you are excited about going and eventually happy to return home. For me, this trip was no exception.  Plans had been made months in advance, allowing for the anticipation to build.  Tickets were purchased, applying another layer of reality to what seemed like a dream.  We arrived and our passports were stamped, and thus began our adventure.

While I am happy to be home and with my family members in Bellingham, I feel the heart strings of Italy pulling already.  I will miss the meals we took together.  I rise earlier than the rest of the household, so my breakfast will once again be solitary and will no longer consistent primarily of prosciutto and bread. Dinner each night will no longer be like the family gatherings of my youth, with lots of good food and many conversations going on at the same time. 

Mostly, I will miss the new members of my family, the ones recently met but now forever a part of my life.  Mauro, Paolo, Laura Uno and Nadine, you took us into your home with open arms and we felt like we had known each other for years.  We found we shared more things than what separated us, and despite the language difference we talked and understood each other.  For that, I will be eternally grateful.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Arrivederci Roma

According to our cab driver, there are eight thousand taxi cabs in Rome.  Each one may tell a story, as they say in Cash Cab, but the story is in Italian.

Rome, the Eternal City, has a history that spans twenty-five hundred years.  Whether as the capital city of the Roman Kingdom, the Roman Republic, the Roman Empire, the Papal States, the Kingdom of Italy or the Italian Republic, it has been a dominant power in Western Europe and the lands bordering the Mediterranean and is commonly regarded as one of the birthplaces of western civilization.

Imagine New York City or Los Angeles as cities that are thousands of years old, rather than hundreds of years old.  Keep the current traffic and population but add in ruins from previous civilizations.  Keep the current visitor load and add in skillful yet erratic drivers, all in cars half the size of the typical American vehicle.  Keep the public transportation and add in more scooters than you will find motorcycles in Sturgis in August.  Keep the modern skyscrapers and add in both ancient and modern monuments towering far above the ground.

We spent the better part of three days touring Rome, by foot and by subway, by bus and by guided tour.  We could have spent three weeks and would still have barely scratched the surface.  As the English scholar Richard Le Gallienne put it, all roads indeed lead to Rome, but theirs also is a more mystical destination, some bourne of which no traveller knows the name, some city, they all seem to hint, even more eternal.