Sunday, April 19, 2020

Lockdown jailbreak! Ragusa, Sicily

April 19th, 2020

Lockdown jailbreak! Ragusa, Sicily

"If all you did was just looked for things to appreciate, you would live a joyously spectacular life."
~ Esther Abraham Hicks

Today was Day #Infinity of my lockdown here in Ragusa, Sicily. I was looking at photos on my phone, and it turns out that I used to travel around to different countries, go hiking, sit close to friends, even hug them! Can you imagine. It's like I had a whole life that involved other people, and other places beyond this hotel room. Maybe I'm just dreaming it, the whole thing. My phone, the photos on it, the places I think I went. Imagine that you're living in a simulation that is so rich and textured and feels so "real" that you don't know if this is actually your life as it seems, or just an illusion. How would you know? How COULD you know?! Short version: you could not know. Therefore: you Do Not Know! Whoa.

But I digress. I was imagining or pretending to be complaining about lockdown. I haven't taken a single walk in weeks, unless you count the two minutes to walk to my van, plus the (bonus!) two minutes to walk back. I have never been so excited in my life to go get cash from the ATM (cash machine!) It was thrilling. I didn't see any police, though I really expected to be stopped. Don't tell anyone that I didn't take the exact shortest route.

Lockdown is going well for me. The only problems I have are the same imagined ones I have when I'm not in lockdown: procrastination, too much time on my phone even when I'm not enjoying it, feeling like I should be doing something different than I am - even though I (used to?) have this long-standing question: is there something that needs doing? Other than taking care of this body and doing my taxes, I'd have to say there is really nothing that needs doing, and I wouldn't be happier, "better," more fulfilled, or more worthy if I decided that there was something that was lacking that I needed to resolve. Hint for the advanced class: nothing is lacking, not for any of us. Relax, be happy, you are complete just as you are. Only your mind and misunderstanding get in the way of knowing that for yourself. Go forth, and do, if you want! But not to fill a hole or because you'll be a better you. Do it for the love of it and for the love of yourself. Good enough!

Did someone feed me some magic mushrooms or something? Criminy, where's this letter coming from or going. Yeah, you got me - no idea.

Enjoy some photos from my Grand ATM Adventure today...

Love always,
Dave

This is the reverse view from what you might know, being up the hill looking back down onto my hotel, "Il Davemo," I call it when no one is around to correct me. In the lower center of the photo you can see a red building. That's the hotel, and if you squint you can see my balcony. It also gives a better perspective for how steeply the hill rises behind the hotel towards the new part of town.

I kind of wanted to buy this building and renovate this beautiful old building. But it's a 17th century church, so that might not go over so well. But I wouldn't actually buy it, I just want to think I'll buy it. That's fulfilling enough for me!

It's a ghost town! I did see a few people out, maybe six people in half an hour of walking. I heard music and talking coming from inside some apartments. I wanted to go in!

My new best friend! Oh wait, I didn't get enough money. Shoot, I have to go back tomorrow and get more.

To be honest, this place wasn't busy at all when I arrived in February. Hey! I just realized, that was two months ago today! But the town would be jumping by now normally.

I love this view.

I love this view too.


Maybe I like all the views. Stone, people! It mesmerizes me. Arches, especially. And tunnels, also especially. Question: did I "choose" to like stonework so much? Could I "choose" to not like it? Well, if I didn't choose it, who did?! Wouldn't that imply that I'm not really in charge?? (Uh oh, the mushrooms seem to be kicking in again!)

(The End)

ps No mushrooms were harmed in the making of this newsletter.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Lockdown in Sicily: First month of WhatsApp group posts

February 19th, 2020

Lockdown in Sicily: First month of WhatsApp group posts

Oh, my lovely neglected friends. It's not for lack of travel pearls that I haven't been posting. More like too much to post, and wanting to capture a moment and its personal significance, as it happened. That's not easy for me. But you know what is easy? Putting it off. Not satisfying, at all. Welcome to MY life, and its little problems.

I started an experiment, a WhatsApp group - a one-sided conversation, because I'm the only one who can post. It suits me to make shorter posts more frequently. You are free to join the group if you're interested. You'll need a WhatsApp account (free and easy to get) and then, with your phone, click this link:

All the photos and text below are from the posts to that WhatsApp group.

I'm on lockdown in Sicily, and I have to say it's odd and really enjoyable. Some of the story is in the posts below. The rest of it I'll tell on another blog post, or never. I have lost all hope of being a reliable blogger. This post is kind of long, sorry. They start well before coronavirus was on my personal radar. That Has Changed. Enjoy!

Feb-13-2020:
Today I'm wandering around Marsala, at the most western point of Sicily - while I wait for my van to be repaired. This is an amazing crossroads of Mediterranean history. Founded by the flipping Phoenicians, for a start.


Feb-15-2020:
Italy is trying to kill me again. I'm in Selinunte, Sicily, which was a large Greek city 2,500 years ago. They think maybe 30,000 people lived here. Ouch, it hurts so good.


Feb-17-2020:
Agrigento: As I was hiking up the hill, away from yesterday's Greek ruins, I saw this one from a distance that I'd missed. Oops. So I went back today on my way out of town. Built around 450 B.C., burnt down a few years later by the Carthaginians (who are they), restored much later by the Romans, collapsed, restored, restored again. And so it goes. A lot can happen in 2,500 years.


From yesterday, the Temple of Concordia viewed from a distance. It's one of the best preserved ancient Greek temples, partly because it was converted into a Christian basilica in the 6th century.


Feb-18-2020:
I took the video from the other day, slowed it down, and changed the music to a live recording (low quality) from a few weeks ago in Italy. I love the music and wish I had a better recording. But the whole point of the original post was to easily share something Google made me. Now I'm editing a slideshow video that I would have never made on my own, because I don't like that format, at all. Go figure.

This is the wild-eyed beauty who was playing accordion and singing on the video song. Since I'm only carrying a phone these days for photos, I don't get a chance to take many portraits. I miss them.


Feb-19-2020:
I'm Dave Adair, and I approve of this view from my balcony. Ragusa, Sicily. I had no idea what was here, only that I'd heard it was nice. That meant I wasn't prepared for the windy, narrow stone streets on the way, or this view. Some surprises work out better than others.


Feb-24-2020:
Ragusa, Sicily, Italy. After swearing to myself that I would prepare my taxes today, I spent the ENTIRE day reading about the coronavirus situation. I wasn't so interested when it was only affecting millions of Chinese a long ways away. But then when it threatens my forever-holiday plans, all of a sudden I'm all over it. Anyway, it's not going away soon and will likely be coming to a movie theater near you. And starring you.

Many tourist-friendly places shut down in winter, so it can be a challenge to find open restaurants. Tonight I walked up steeply, maybe 300 large steps in 10 different staircases to an area with a little more action. Coming back, this Escher-themed house caught my eye. It's really incredible the complexity and beauty of the architecture on these steep hilltop cities. Amazing.


A little fancier architectural style. The sign dates it to the 18th century. I love the arched walkway to the left.



Oh wow, wicked commentary. Come on, just be a lady, how hard can it be? Watch and find out. (Thanks, lovely Lana.)

Feb-26-2020:
I came out of the restaurant last night and looked up to see this view. I love how the houses wrap around and cling to this giant rock. As startling as this view is to my eyes, it's not uncommon in Italy for villages big and small to be perched high up on top of a hill or mountain. I doubt any new towns would be started there, but these places were built back in the old days when fortifications and defense were paramount. If you couldn't defend yourself, people would just come and take your stuff. Amazing.


Feb-27-2020:
This is "Ragusa Ibla," the old part of town, which was the most developed as of the "big earthquake" in 1693 that locals still refer to. Most of the buildings were destroyed, but not all. The red building on the left is my hotel, which existed prior to the earthquake. The documented history of the area dates to 2,000 B.C., and includes a who's who of that-can't-be-real characters from 6th grade history books: the Greeks, Carthaginians, Romans, Byzantines, Normans, Arabs. Oof, too much history to contemplate, much less really digest.


The Cattedrale di San Giovanni Battista, (St John the Baptist.) It was rebuilt on this site after the original one in the old town was destroyed in "the big earthquake of 1693." Started in 1694, then expanded starting 1718. I guess this is the main church in town, but there are MANY more to choose from if this doesn't suit you.


Mar-01-2020:
The moon looks down on Ragusa, Sicily. Oh, man. Maybe I would get used to these views, given time. I don't think so. I went on a crazy walk yesterday. I'm trying to figure out the best way to share the story...


Mar-02-2020:
I went on a nice field trip two days ago, to an ancient catacomb - a burial site inside a cave. The Grotta Delle Trabacche dates to the 4th century. A.D. and was discovered in 18th century. The cave was carved out of the soft rock, and inside there are maybe 50 body-sized "tombs" carved into the rock. Fascinating little place, and nice to be there on my own.

It was a short walk into this beautiful valley.


The first view from the entryway.


Tombs in the ground, more in the walls.


And two large structures with columns, also carved from the stone.


There's a large opening inside these fancier structures.




Not all the tombs were adult-sized. Some looked like the size of a child or even a baby.


Now, I think a 1,500 year old tomb is damn groovy, and pretty old. But the oldest "undisputed intentional burial site" is 130,000 years old. Ouch, that makes my head hurt.


The walk back. If you don't think stone walls are beautiful, I'm not sure we can be friends.


Mar-11-2020:
Lockdown in Ragusa, Sicily, Italy. I went for a short wander at 9 pm to see what's up.


Nothing is up! Everything is closed, and people are indoors. The almost full moon isn't bothered.


The church just near my hotel.


And this is my room and balcony. Nice place to be quarantined! I'm free to walk around or hike, can't drive except for groceries, emergencies, or to leave the country, and I have no complaints. I'll write a proper blog post soon. Or maybe never. Brace yourselves, friends, we're just getting started on this coronavirus stuff. Enjoy yourselves, even in the midst of it! ❤


Uh oh. The BBC is reporting that Italy is closing ALL restaurants. Since I'm in a hotel room with no kitchen, maybe I have to cook in my van in the parking lot? That might work. BBC: "Italy is to close all shops except food stores and pharmacies in Europe's toughest lockdown yet as virus deaths and cases continue to mount.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said bars, restaurants, hairdressers and non-essential company departments would also close. Home delivery would be allowed."


Mar-12-2020:
I woke up on the night, my head spinning with the torrent of breaking news about the coronavirus. Plunging stock market, NBA season suspended, Tom Hanks infected, flights banned from most of Europe to the US, and maybe most importantly in this moment to me: all restaurants in Italy closing. I asked at the hotel reception about their plans, and he said the restaurant closes completely tomorrow, and the hotel too. I'm nodding my head, and then, wait, what? The hotel is closing?! "Yes, but you can stay here if you want." He says there are also many food delivery places. Hey hey hey, things are looking up! There will be no staff at the hotel, only cleaning, but not every day. Good enough for now. (Photo from my last hike before lockdown.)


Mar-13-2020:
Lockdown update, Ragusa, Sicily. That's my hotel on the left, where I'm now the only person in the building. One customer, no staff. I like quiet, but dang, this is quiet!


My van looks a little lonely. Hotel is to the far left.


All restaurants are closed, but this guy cooks for his wife and two kids, and is willing to feed me. I'm grateful for that! I had my last breakfast today at my hotel, but the hotel restaurant is shut now. I need to go to the grocery store to buy some food for breakfast/lunch, or just eat one meal a day. Strange and fascinating times. I really need to write a proper blog post. Smooch, peeps!


Mar-14-2020:
A walking tour from "my restaurant" (I'm the only one there, every night) to my hotel. First up, kitty cat looking a little scary.


Massive hill, with a massive building perched on top. And at the very bottom of the hill, ballroom sized chambers carved into the rock from old quarries.


Oh, this architecture makes my head spin. I gaze at it, day after day, trying to somehow take it all in. And day after day, I fail.


A little round stairway leads upstairs, and a little round stairway leads downstairs, under the arch. Italy is trying to kill me.


Nearer my hotel, stone buildings above stone sidewalks next to stone streets. For someone with rocks in their head, this is paradise. If you grow up with this, it may not seem special. Is it? Really??


From my balcony. How could it be special? It's been like this for 500 years! Ok, so why does my heart skip a beat?

(The End)

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Pompeii!

From: Dave Adair
Date: Wed, Jan 29, 2020, 00:50
Subject: [newsletter] Pompeii!

Lovely people! Oh, heavens. This is a little scary. It appears that I'm blogging again. I used to know how to do this, but after almost five years, I've forgotten. One thing I haven't forgotten, and that's how to procrastinate. That one is hard-wired.

For now I'm blogging to a different site, since I'm not traveling with my laptop. 

But enough about me - how are you? You look really good!

Love always, Dave


Published by Dave AdairJanuary 26th, 2020

Pompeii!

I visited Pompeii today, close to Naples, Italy, and in the shadow of the volcano Vesuvius that buried the Roman city in 6 meters (20 feet) of ash and volcanic pebbles in 79 AD. Speaking of ancient history - the first and last time I was here was in 1981, when I was married. I got buried by a volcano then, too!

I had come by ferry from Croatia, as I'm driving south towards Sicily.

One of the famous mosaics.


I had forgotten how massive the site is. And it's only about 60% uncovered.

"Venus on a shell," it's called.



I recognize this from setting the modern version in India: a street-side snack bar, serving hot food out of the containers embedded in the counter.

Beautiful, detailed carvings.



I learned today that Pompeii didn't have much plumbing. Mostly it ran into the street, which is why the sidewalks are so high. And why there are large stones are at every junction - so you can step across without stepping onto the street.





In the oldest excavations, they removed all murals and put them in a museum. The new method is to leave them in place as long as they can be protected.

There's an exhibit about Pink Floyd's live concert in Pompeii in 1971. It was recorded in the gladiator amphitheater, with no live audience, only sound recordings and film.

I'm amazed by the level of grooves worn into the rock by wagons. How long would that take?? I see references to the city dating back to 3rd century BC.

The theater (for plays, not gladiators.)

A replica of the original statue.



Some of the public squares were huge and impressive.

The audio guide described the owner of this house like he was a mafia don. In Italy? Maybe not a coincidence.

Beautiful!

Skeletons of slaves (maybe?) that died during the eruption.

(The End)