Thursday, May 9, 2013

Creatures of habit...

It’s been quite some time since I last posted myself, embarrassingly so!

In keeping with my posts, I’ll leave the itineraries and specifics of where we’ve gone and what we’ve done to Gretchen, Sean and Hailey as they seem to be doing a great job with these things. I’ll continue to post observations on life, people, and culture that I observe during our trip.

In my experience as an anthropologist, I can say that people in general are creatures of habit, and the Italians are indeed no different in that manner. For instance, every day that I ride my bike to work along a system of trails that start at the entrance to Parco del Valentino at the corner of Corso Vittorio Emmanuelle II and Corso Massimo d’Azeglio and run along the Po River all the way to the UN offices just south of Corso Unita d’Italia, I find the same 'characters' along the way.

Each day, I encounter the same people, regardless of when I leave (I might leave from home anywhere between 8 and 9 AM for the 20 minute ride). General ‘rules’ here are to show up for work sometime between 8 and 10 AM—these are rules for everyone not just me so I might enjoy an extra 10-30 minutes with the kids in the morning—more on this in a future post.

At any rate, I encounter the same people, but precisely where and when I encounter them depends on when I leave home. They seem to be on a more precise schedule than I am, so it feels as if I’m joining a “Truman-show-esque” setting in progress. Usually just after the first gentle rise on the path I encounter the “well-dressed old man,” or WOM for short. WOM is always wearing a camel-colored felt-ish sport coat, a light brown fedora, and well-pressed dark dress pants. He has a neatly trimmed moustache and walks in a shuffle. We’ve encountered one another enough times that he gives a neat little nod of the head when we pass.

Just after the rise in the grassy area to my left I see the “dog friends”. Here three men get together, each with their dogs to play with them in the park. Often the scene is the three men standing in a triangle, around a larger dog playing with a little dog who usually rests on his back while the other man shouts training commands to his dog.

I pass the rise, do a short transition over a road, pass a snack shop and a beautifully manicured, tree-covered patio and I continue on behind the Castello del Valentino, and then behind the Borgo Medeivale –the 19th century creation of a castle and medieval village (earlier posts by the kids talk about these things). I pass another snack bar before re-joining the smaller trail that starts after a short rise on the other side of the Borgo Medievale.

Usually I encounter ‘Camera Man’ next. A short, stocky man who appears to be in his 60s, Camera Man is always in this section of the path. He wears a red vinyl jacket and has a 35mm camera hanging about mid-chest from a strap around his neck. Sometimes he’s climbing down the short bank toward the river, but most of the time he’s kind of meandering across the path. His greeting is an abbreviated ‘journo’ as I smile and pass him.

The farther I get from home, the less predictable the characters are, but you get the point. I'm sure many of you also observe these sorts of things everyday too...right?

Since I’ve not included any photos in this post, I’ll stop here...more to come soon!


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