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Monday, March 8, 2010

Monday Mug Shot

Antico Caffé del Teatro Marcello
Rome, Italy

The first thing you’ll notice about this mug is it doesn’t look like a mug. Well, okay, you might notice some other stuff first. Like I speak and write in English and the cup isn’t written in English or that it’s obviously not on the mug rack because there is all this stemware behind it, and decent-looking stemware too. Actually the cup and stemware are related too. Let’s go back in time and get some answers! Come join my 12/13-year-old self!

I love irony and cool little coincidental things that bind generations together in ways that you don’t even realize until after they happen. My father turned 13 onboard ship on the way to his new home in America. 21 years later, his firstborn, that’s me, turned 13 in San Marino on a family trip to the Fatherland. I think that’s a pretty cool number stat!

We spent a month in Italy in the summer of 1979. Most of that trip was spent in San Marino, visiting relatives and seeing the markets, the government plaza and the three towers the for which our Republic is famous to tourists. We took a couple swimming excursions, including the beach in Rimini, where my brother was shocked, in a shy but smirky 11-year-old way, by the “bikini tops optional” beach. Years later I still wonder why the people you least want to see with even less on are the first ones to discard their clothing in public. We also took a day trip, which ended up being overnight to Venice, where my Mom had that set of crystal hand blown in a custom set and delivered to Michigan when it as done! But the cup is from the week we spent in Rome.

Grandma, Papa and their good friend Catherine flew into Rome and met us for two weeks of our trip which included the day in Venice and then back to San Marino. Every morning we were there, we took the hotel’s shuttle bus into Rome. The bus stop was right next to the Antico Caffé. We had many sodas, bottled water and espressos sitting at the outdoor tables there during our week in Rome. The café is near the ancient part if the city and the touristy exploring we were interested in doing. Rome was the first place I’d ever heard of “iced coffee,” which I drink all the timer in the summer now. At the time the idea of coffee on ice was repulsive to me!

There was one Afternoon that we were at the café that I remember well and it is a bit of a family fable too. There was a bee buzzing near our table. My brother was afraid of getting stung and Mom was trying her best to gently brush it away but it persisted in returning, tormenting Dave. Papa turned over his empty glass and trapped the stubborn bee. A French woman at the next table stood up and came to our tables emphatically pleading in heavily accented English “Don’t kill it! Please don’t kill it!”

I don’t remember exactly what else transpired. Papa said something appropriately protective of his grandson with that classic Papa air of “don’t make me threaten you.” Through the years more than once Papa used that tone towards someone in protecting Dave and more than once to me protecting me from myself!

I remember one of the greatest impressions I brought home from Rome was the cats. There were more cats than you could count at the Coliseum and I reasoned that when Christianity was small, the cats were huge (lions) and now that Christianity had become big as the Vatican, the cats are small. The scariest part of that is that 30 years later, I still think that makes sense! ;)

There was a restaurant we’d gone to not far from the Antico Caffé early in our trip and a couple times after that. It was great food and excellent service. They also were double kind to the open-minded, and open-wallet, American tourists with the family member that spoke Italian well! The last night we were in Rome, they had ordered a seafood smorgasbord just for us. I remember the adults marveling at the exquisite dinner. Ah, but for just-became-a-teenager-me, fish? Yuck! Actually, most of the meat the whole trip was “different” and something I didn’t even want to try. My dining mantra for a month was “un piatto di pomodori, per favore,“ “a plate of tomatoes, please.” When I ordered a plate of tomatoes in any Italian restaurant, I got a full-sized plate of sliced tomatoes in a wonderful vinaigrette. Dinner was usually salad, Italian bread, pasta and a plate of tomatoes rather than the meat dishes. I’d have probably come home thin as a rail if it weren’t for Swiss chocolate, French pastries and Italian gelato that were too readily available!

When we were stopping for one last coffee at the Antico Caffé, Mom wanted one of the demitasse with the café’s name on it. Dad asked if he could buy one and they said they didn’t sell them. A few moments later as we were gathering our things to get back on the bus one last time, the barista came out with a couple demitasse sets wrapped up and gave them to us, thanking us for the business and wishing us a safe trip home. I guess that’s where my theory of offering to buy advertising cups like that comes from. They’ll either sell it to you, or sneak it into your bag.

1 comment:

Edna B said...

What a lovely mug story. Sounds to me like you had a wonderful time growing up in a very nurturing family. When I was growing up, we had very little family and not much money, so there was not the opportunity to travel and create family memories. This is one of the reasons I like your stories so much. The other reason, of course, is the way you tell your stories. Very creatively and interesting. Thank you for sharing another beautiful memory. Hugs, Edna B.