The keys to our vacation apartments have become progressively more complicated with each trip.. In Venice there was one key that opened the door to the building and our apartment door. In Buenos Aires there were two keys; one complicatedly old fashioned one for the front door and one for the apartment itself. The front door key was hardly ever necessary since there was a doorman at the desk most of the time. Here in Rome we have four keys, all different and requiring unique tricks to function in the locks. Coming home with a bag of groceries can be very difficult.
The key ring
Our apartment building is about six stories of wedding cake with elaborate balconies and window decorations. The ground floor seems to be retail spaces although none of them are occupied. The door to our apartment is in the middle of the block. It is a big double door painted black and maybe ten feet high leading to an entry way where the trash cans reside. (There is a complicated recycling code for the trash which we can’t comprehend so all our trash goes into general trash.) On one side of the entry way is a set of stairs leading to a metal gate (barred- not solid) leading to the lobby area with the stairs and elevator.
The street door key
The front door key is a large ordinary looking silver one. It was difficult to use at first because the lock doesn’t reveal any action. You just have to push as you turn and the door opens. This door is usually open in the daytime which is a big help. The gate key takes a little understanding about how far to insert but once you get the knack it opens easily. Then you climb a half flight of steps to reach the elevator.
The lobby key
There are no keys or tricks to the elevator. It is an old fashioned self-service contraption with an outer door that swings out and two inner doors that swing in. It won’t go anywhere until all those doors are latched. Once engaged it rises in a metal cage around which the stairs ascend. We are especially appreciative that the stairwell in our building is always cool.
Then on our floor there are four doors, two on each side of the landing. This key is an old fashioned key that has to be
The key to our apartment vestibule
inserted correctly with the proper side down to open the door. There is a trick to leaning how far to push the key in but once you find it, the door opens easily. Then, inside there are two more door, the one to our apartment and the one to another apartment. This chamber is dark with the only light switch inside our apartment but the key is a standard one which is easy to insert and operate. You turn the key and there you are, finally inside out
The key to our apartment
Our landlord supplied these keys on a large ring. In addition to the four essential keys for reaching our apartment, there are five or so more keys. We have no idea what they are for or why they need to be on this ring but there they are. Since each of the extra keys resembles one of the important ones, it makes finding the right keys more complicated. I am sure that our landlord has good reason for this that has nothing to do with his rental guests. We can cope and one thing I have learned from our foreign travels is that when it comes to how people do things, asking why never accomplishes anything good. It is just how things are and no one is about to change something that works fine just to make sense to an American.
Image by drp via Flickr
Exploring patriotism and exposing my thoughts and opinions last week leaves me bruised, battered and exposed. This week I intend to fall back into a more contemplative mode. Courage is highly valued in every culture. We speak of courage frequently and often trivially. This weeks posts will explore how courage is understood and appreciated in both classical thought and modern times.
Originally posted 2009-07-11 15:30:57. Republished by Blog Post Promoter
Image via Wikipedia
I have a confession.
My wife of 40 years and I are not compatible. I have long avoided any kind of personality test that purports to match people by personality because what has kept us going for all these years is the fantasy that we actually like each other. I don’t want to be confused by the facts. Let me explain.
We don’t like the same things.
Over the course of our long shared life experience, we have discovered one thing that we enjoy doing together- visiting art museums. Everything else is like walking a minefield. She doesn’t like any activity that involves sitting in a crowd. This lets out concerts, sports events, political rallies and so on. Her idea of a perfect day is to read a book by the fire and listen to the rain. Me, I’m OK with that but I like to get out once in a while. Early on, I stopped trying to get her to go to events and I stopped going myself because I felt bad when I enjoyed myself alone. Continue reading
Originally posted 2011-02-23 06:36:29. Republished by Blog Post Promoter
The Palm Gambit.
My Pindo Palm
Round two of my tussle with my HOA started when I decided that a nice large potted plant or two would make a nice effect at the entrance to my entry courtyard. I have three large palms which I raised from pups and hauled up from out old house in LA four years ago. They are about 4 feet tall in their pots and have a very nice presence. Given the slightly Spanish flavor of my house, I thought they would be just the thing.
They looked great.. but only to me. Six months later they HOA noticed.. and they were not pleased.
This time the letter informed me that I had violated the ‘forbidden plant’ clause of the rules. Palms, it seems, are not permitted anywhere in the community with one exception. They are permitted in pots that are not visible from the street. I would be permitted to keep my babies if I moved them out of sight – like the back yard. This time I didn’t mess around because I knew that the HOA would stand their ground. They already knew I was a wimp. The palms moved to the back yard where they can still find refuge and I am a relatively free man.
Still I wasn’t giving up. I must have some rights in my front yard, don’t you think?
Originally posted 2009-09-14 09:55:45. Republished by Blog Post Promoter
When things go wrong, deal with it and move on
It is a fact of life. Things will go wrong- sometimes a little, sometimes a lot. Don’t let it bug you. Often you will exaggerate the significance of the damage. The more time you think about it, the more you blow up the problem. It is what it is. It happened. It’s over and no amount of second guessing, wishful thinking or regret can change history. Look at it with calm dispassion. Assess the damage and look at the possible steps forward. Pick the best one and act. Don’t beat yourself up. Don’t worry about who is responsible. Don’t look for a scapegoat. Your mission is to enjoy your trip. If there is a lesson, you can study it later. What is important right now is moving one. You are experiencing the trip of a lifetime (every trip you take from now on will be the trip of a lifetime) and you can’t afford to waste one moment dwelling on the negative. Use this travel lesson.
We all want perfection. In the US we are conditioned to expect- even demand it. But perfection only exists in the imagination or the mind of a government bureaucrat. Life is imperfect. Human beings are imperfect. Still we would like everything to go as smooth as clockwork. No one wants errors, glitches, faux pas or anything short of perfection. We don’t want do overs, quick fixes or redesigns. We just want to keep moving, keep our original schedule and, above all, look good. It’s human nature.
Given all the pressure we put on ourselves in stressful situations where there are big investments in doing things right (like a vacation), it is no wonder that things going wrong can make a good man turn ugly. Don’t let that good man (in the old fashioned meaning that includes both sexes) be you. There is a lot of pressure, a lot of money and most important of all, a lot of ego riding on the vacation. In the end, however, what will make the trip a success is not that nothing went wrong. The trip’s success comes from handling the good and bad with grace, enthusiasm and enjoyment.
A true outrageous traveler doesn’t let anything ruffle his feathers. He expects the unexpected. An outrageous traveler understands that when things are perfect, he’s been damned lucky. Don’t get cocky and overconfident. Enjoy the moment. Tomorrow will be normal.
Don’t expect perfection. Don’t think that you can escape reality. Plan for the best but deal with whatever comes along. It’s real. It’s happening. It keeps you on your toes. It opens up opportunities you never anticipated. Best of all, it’s exhilarating- even fun when you relax and go with the flow.
Dealing with a problem from time to time only makes you appreciate life’s pleasures all the more. Those problems, once you move past them also make great stories when you get back from the trip. Perfection is so boring.