The flip side

I was in Italy last week, up in the northern area of the lakes. It’s a great place, with true quality of life, and some of the best wines in the world. Italy functions, although you need to hunt for internal consistency, not logic, when you try to understand the country. But that is a universal truth.

The italians have fielded dozens of governments since World War II, and thrive despite government, not because of it, humming along on a mixture of soccer, great food, and presumably some Roman organizational genes left over from the times of Caesar.

Also, the country was rife with the new retro baby Fiats. I started off driving one in the late 1970’s, which was christened “the egg”, and cost 43 Portuguese “contos”. The “conto” was short for “conto de reis”, literally a tale of kings. The equivalent in escudos, the old pre-euro currency of Portugal, was one thousand – a huge fairy tale sum. Works out to 5 euros. So that brand new egg cost around 220 euros. The Italians now make them in a host of different colours, from red, green and blue painted Easter eggs to black Chinese preserved eggs.

The old eggs were a huge success in Europe, ported to Tito’s former Yugoslavia as the Yugo, to Franco’s Spain as the Seat, and seen everywhere. The poor family’s car, but with a cross-purse appeal. Like any universal classic, families were started in them (I personally tried to start a couple), transported in them, taught to drive in them, made nicknames for them. And now small is beautiful again, and the Italians have come full circle. Well, almost… If we get any greener, we’ll all be driving Vespas again, and our urban landscape will be a cross between Fellini and Manhattan.

Still in the car world, I’ve been struck by the paradox that China, a communist state, is fomenting the capitalist business model at all levels, while the US, the world bastion of liberalism, is in the business of government-owned manufacturing and banking. As Stephen Stills might say, “there’s something happening here”…

History teaches us about the future, and the present teaches us to appreciate history. As I write, the world is puzzled by the Air France plane which went missing in the intertropical convergence. Our world is now so different from a couple of hundred years ago, where ships went missing without a heartbeat. In the days of the Portuguese caravels, which navigated the route down the Brazil coast where the airliner disappeared, perhaps half the ships vanished. That was one of the reasons for the “Padrão”, or pillar, that was set on newly-discovered lands – in some cases it was the “black box”.

Let me update you on The India Road, which is now contracted for publication by Fronteira do Caos in Portugal, after translation. That is ongoing, so the book launch is planned for this fall. I think a publisher called “Chaos Frontier” is highly appropriate in the context of my life, I just haven’t figured out which side of the border I’m on.

The original (US) version will come out in IUniverse this year, and we’ll see what happens after that. The key thing, as I wrote in a previous post, is to understand that this is a process, like life, and to enjoy every minute. There are no end-points, only milestones. End-points are only good if you’re a strong believer in the afterlife. Next week I’ll be at the Historical Novel Society Conference in Chicago, where I hope to understand better other parts of the process. And to listen to some Chicago blues. Portugal has a version too, it’s called Fado.

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One Response to “The flip side”

  1. Rui Says:

    Keep it up. Always makes an enjoyable read!

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