Five weeks into my Italian experience and seven weeks to go before I depart Sicily, I started yesterday looking at my next destination. I’ve decided on Greece instead of Turkey and hope the 90-day Schengen zone limitation doesn’t sidetrack me somewhere in transit. So, yesterday, I sent out inquiries to maybe 20 rental landlords in Athens. I haven’t been able to find any apartment listings for Nafplio, my original choice in Greece, but I did notice on the site I’m using that there are a number of apartments available in my price range in Athens. This was a surprise, as most of the listing are for twice or triple what I can afford. As a result, I figured Athens was just too expensive for anything more than a 3-day stay to see the sights (ala Rome). So I e-mailed all of them. Several have already responded negatively. Nafplio is still a possibility but Athens would be more interesting to live in for three months. Stay tuned.
Also, I’ve already researched airfare and I can get a roundtrip from Rome to Athens for about $150. One-way would be at least twice that. Can someone explain why that is? I already have a return flight booked and paid for from Catania to Rome on Feb. 20.
No horse heads, please
I’ve been told that the mafia is still a force in Sicily and runs a lot of the businesses here. I suspect that would include liquor stores. The one I’ve started walking to, about a mile away, has employees who look the part. And you have to be careful about being overcharged. When I was in the store this week, the old man working the register tried to charge me 12 euro more than what I bought. I try to calculate the totals of what I buy in my head before paying so that I can have correct amounts ready and to make sure I’m not being charged too much. This time I was and pointed it out. The total was recalculated, although I don’t think the man was too pleased.
Flirting, or friendly?
I may have received my first flirt from a Sicilian this morning. I go to the same market for groceries across the street at least every other day and, of course, deal with the same cash register employees. They’ve become kind of used to the tall American who can’t speak Italian and barely knows how much money to give them. But they’re always nice.
There is one woman, I think she is a manager, who has smiled at me a lot. She’s about 40, I guess, and attractive – except for the redish-purple hair. I guess she felt the need to radicalize her look. She’s also wearing a ring on her wedding band finger. This morning, she decided to extend her hand to shake mine and said something. I suspect she was wishing me a happy new year and I replied in kind. She was probably just being friendly with someone she felt sorry for being so far from home during the holidays. Nonetheless, I’m trying to learn some new words, such as husband? (il marito?), dinner? (la cena?) and tonight? (stasera?) or tomorrow? (domani?). She doesn’t speak any English.
The going is slow but I’m into the third chapter of my next book. I feel like such a rookie every time I work on it. I’m pretty sure that “Brothers Lost” was not really that good and I hope I get better at this as I practice, practice, practice. Sales of my five published e-books have been slow, but consistent. In fact, I’ve sold enough copies lately that I should be receiving small commission checks soon. I mean really small, like $10 or so each. Those would be on top of the whopping $11 commission I’ve already received from Kindle. Not going to get rich on those first five books, that’s for sure.
I did an accounting yesterday of total sales: Love Letters from Mama -20; Brothers Lost – 2; Mother & Son (poetry) – 2; Costa Rica: An Expat’s Tale – 27; and Visions of Vodice – 0. So, 51 total sales. One of the e-book sites tells me how many samples of each book have been downloaded and shows more than 200 in that category. The other two sites don’t provide that statistic. I am, however, selling about one Costa Rica book daily. I suspect these things build momentum over time if the books are any good, and that appears to be what I’m seeing with the Costa Rica book. But I’m just writing to write anyway, not to get rich.
No big plans here for the evening as I write this on the afternoon of Dec. 31. I do plan to walk to a trattoria I found the other day for dinner. Its tables are covered with red and white checkerboard tablecloths, so Italian. Not sure what they offer but will have my camera with me and will report tomorrow. After dinner, I plan to walk my camera around town to see if there is anything worth photographing on New Year’s Eve.
The bad weather this week delayed my plan to take a bus or train trip to a nearby town. I’m hoping the coming week will be better. Thinking about Taormina, a small town to the north that sits above the sea by several hundred yards and is supposed to be quite beautiful. Just a day trip with a lunch included.
Pool at Metropolis
Finally got into a good pool match with a young local Thursday night. We played the local version of 8-ball and he whipped my butt, although I was shooting the 8-ball in every game. The young guys here don’t often speak English. He was with a group of four or five, including a very pretty young lady who did speak some English. Rachel helped with a bit of translation before she had to leave. The guy I played is a regular so I’m sure I’ll get a rematch. The pool’s not cheap ($8/hour) but it’s the one entertainment I have that gets me out of the apartment. It’s too cold to fish (not that I was catching anything anyway) and I don’t like to go to restaurants by myself. So it’s good there’s a pool hall across the street.
Yesterday, Dec. 30, was the official two-year anniversary of my father’s death. He had been kept alive on the machines for the previous 74 days. That whole scene I left in Atlanta on Oct. 20, 2009, still infuriates me. My reactions then and later to the injustices then and during my life have led to a splintering of my family, which deeply saddens me. I would not, however, change what I did, or have done since. Those who have always been the closest to me will be once again. Patience, patience.
I have also been giving a lot of thought to my sister, Robin, and brother, Jon. I do not know where either now lives, or even if they are still alive. Jon, of course, was the brother who was auctioned off when he was young and ended up a lifetime criminal as a result. Robin is my half-sister, one of two daughters born to my mother with her last husband. (I’m not really sure how many husbands she had.) The other sister, Jennifer, died of cancer in her early 30s. Robin disappeared shortly after her father and sister died, and I have not been able to locate her since. If my life is any guide, they will both show up at my doorstep in the not-too-distant future.
Buon anno tutti! (Happy New Year’s, everyone!)