Landing in Lucca: The Evocative Thread

The Via Fillungo is Lucca’s equivalent to Seattle’s Highway 5, only it’s a pedestrian street. The Fillungo runs through the heart of the historic walled city, means long thread, and is a major thoroughfare connecting the north end to the south end. I walk this route daily, thinking thoughty thoughts as I go from one haunt to the next. Coffee, Sephora, grocery store, home. Wash, rinse, repeat. It’s not unusual I will travel 10 miles in a day along this smorgasbord where I see young, old, beautiful, and maybe not. Grannies on bikes, sleek women in spiked heels, and families on vacation. In a five minute walk I will easily hear Italian, French, German, and English. I often ‘pull over’ by stepping into a door stoop where I get out my iPhone and begin notating the random reflections that walking this thread evokes. 

Part 1 – Work

I started picking strawberries when I was a kid at age 12. All the neighborhood kids were into it as a way to make spending money. I remember getting up pre-dawn, before the rest of the household, and making my way to the kitchen. There I’d prepare my lunch, stuff my bologna sandwich into a paper bag and walk down to the bus stop as the sun was coming up, alone.  Apparently I was more inspired than the rest.

I have now been working for 50 years. Surely my self-employed father impacted my work ethic and I ultimately ran my own yoga business for 30 years. Although it was a substantial part of my life, when I’m introduced, which happens a lot here because I’m new, I avoid talking about it. My favorite deflection is to say I’m in recovery, have flunked all 12 steps, and am not allowed to engage on the subject of yoga. The truth of the matter is if I open my extremely opinionated public address system, I just can’t shut up and then I feel like a jerk. I’ve decided it’s not a great way to make friends. 

Part 2 – Change

‘What’s it all about, Alfi?’ Cilia Black croons, and with a voice like that it’s hard to contemplate the question. But the phrase crept into my young mind and took up residence there, articulating my preteen angst. It stayed for about 10 years, a touch stone anytime I became disillusioned, which was often. Then one day I saw a bumper sticker that explained it all to me:

  ‘The point of life is to live it.’

It was a profound moment delivered by an unlikely source. I was probably driving to the mall for lipstick, but it satisfied the question for about 40 years.

I’m so over it.

Now squarely in my 6th decade, the corresponding on-the-other-side-of-the-hill angsty question has come to roost: ‘is this it?’ How come nobody sings about that? No cool tune? Or song? I have become tired of what I think, and how I think about it. I was mortified when I realized the mental fatigue with myself extended into how I move, the holiest of holies, and that my movement patterns were of another generation, and let me clarify, not hip. Further more, a hunk of my closet reflected old school ‘hot,’ and although much of that stuff is now considered retro, that doesn’t really help if you are the original owner. I feel like I’m sporting a Farrah Fawcett ‘do’ on every level.

Nothing prepared us for Dan Aykroid and the Bassomatic. I’m the bass.

‘Learning another language felt to me like becoming another person,’ my friend Gary Gregg wrote. Maybe that’s my ticket and fortuitous given my new gig is about words; writing them and learning them in Italian. Add to that having done a continental ‘geographical,’ starting over by moving to a new location, and I’ve pretty much tossed myself into the Bassomatic. Wonder what kind of slurpy is going to pour out in a few years?

Part 3 – Mornings at Momus

What an Italian Sephora looks like.
Old guy on bike optional.

I recognize the young woman standing at the counter in Momus Cafe. She helped me buy lipstick at Sephora two days earlier. I had packed about 10 tubes when we left Edmonds but somehow they didn’t make it. Likely I mistakenly packed them into a box bound for storage instead.  

I’ve been successful finding colors for different times of the day, but I haven’t found a morning lipstick yet; if you use the stuff you know exactly what I’m talking about. However the funny thing is as I stood there at Momus, it was this youthfully exuberant crayola queen’s make-up I recognized, not her face. 

I have a nice morning routine established with Sandy at Momus but I equally enjoy it on my own. A few days ago a table of Italian men sat next to me as I drank my morning coffee. I studied them covertly. They were just so male. So Italian. Nothing non-binary here, no siree Bob. 

Incidentally, I haven’t always known I was a girl, or at least I didn’t think anyone else knew.  Although my given name is Theresa, I was called by the diminutive, Terry, and spelled in the masculine at that. The broad implications of our names became clear when at age 25 I decided to switch to my full name, Theresa. I did not understand, yet, that my pet name Terry conveyed neither male nor female, and the use of that name while addressing me amounted to ‘Hi, neutral androgynous human.’ However upon switching, what I now heard when addressed as Theresa was a blatant calling out of what was or wasn’t in my pants, and you may just as well have said ‘Hi, I know you have a vagina!’ I was mortified. 

Thirty-five years later my pre-married self pops up while contemplating the Nothing Non-Binary Here Machismo’s as a little frame opens in my field of vision, a cartoon manifestation of the process occurring in my head. It’s about two inches wide complete with the sound ears make as they adjust to pressure in an airplane, a bit of animated powder puffing out the sides. I realized how much of the time I am unconsciously aware of that little twinkle of attraction. The sizing up and sizing down, what is said and almost more importantly, what is not said. What is allowable in a look and when to cut it off. The understanding that a conversational spark is not an invitation to anything more than a desire for a few moments of your attention. I’ve got an actuary who loves to slice, dice and julienne fry these situations, and at the moment it’s wondering: when the hell did all this take over? Maybe it’s time to switch back to Terry?

And I thought I was just having coffee. In a classic moment the man I decided was the most attractive opened his mouth, started talking, and his stock tanked precipitously.

On my way home I see a beautiful young woman walking along the Fillungo in shorts. Her glorious Italian skin was complimented by luxurious black hair. But I notice the torsion in her right knee and the tendency to hyperextend it, unlike her clearly functional left leg. ‘Looks like a knee replacement in about 30 years’ I thought. I can’t turn off my inner, technically exacting yoga teacher just because she doesn’t play well with others, but it was the girly-girl in me who got the last word; ‘be sure to shop for those striped shorts. So cute!’

©️Theresa Elliott, all rights reserved

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