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Locked down but not out in Italy

Singing from the balconies! One nice thing about this crisis ... solidarity! “Guess you’re not living like a tourist anymore,” was the funny, truthful and somewhat gut-wrenching message of a friend the day the lockdown in Italy began. Today is day 6. My beloved Italia has been hit hard with the COVID19 epidemic. With the second largest elderly population in the world, the epidemic has meant a disproportionate amount of deaths in the country. So though I haven’t been worried about contracting it myself, this isn’t about me or someone like me who, if contracted it would probably have a sucky couple of weeks and then recover. It is about if someone like me contracted it and then spread it to a person with a complicated health history or an elderly person with a weakened immune system. Eerily orderly: Lines for the grocery store, each person one meter apart In a country with no concept (and no physical room really) for personal space, and in a city with reproachable hygie

Through the eyes of a guest

Nothing helps you more to see your own city/country than having a visitor. And I don't mean just physically exploring the city, but also noticing things that seem absolutely commonplace to you, but pretty alien to a guest.

I have had a substantial amount of visitors since moving to D.C., and I have noticed a couple trends that come up whether they come from Italy, Serbia, Sudan or Canada.

Topic 1: Squirrels. Squirrels are not in abundance, or even existent, in many even nearby places in the world. So I have had numerous guests get a kick out of these furry little creatures and their rambunctious ways.

However, I will confess that I, too, am fascinated by squirrels despite, or perhaps because of, having grown up with them (we had "pet" squirrels in out backyard named noiseau et noisette when I was young). As readers of my past posts would guess, I tend to notice how squirrels differ in various areas or countries. In Baltimore, they are almost always gray and fairly scrawny (see above).

In the Midwest, they are a lot bushier and brown like the one below. (I call him stealth squirrel!)

In Italy (I only ever saw them once and it is a rarity), they were quite small and brown and moved even quicker than normal (No picture available).

However, for squirrel-gazing, D.C. is even more of a treat because there are black squirrels here, the only city in which I have seen them though Wikipedia declares that they can be seen from Ontario to California to Ohio.

Apparently, black squirrels are a variety of gray squirrels. Two gray squirrels parents can produce a black squirrel baby! However, black squirrels are generally rare- 1 in 10,000. Except that, according to the Washington Post:

"Black squirrels were introduced to the Washington, D.C., area near the beginning of the 20th century at the Smithsonian National Zoological Park. Since their introduction, the population of black squirrels in Washington has slowly but steadily increased, and black squirrels now account for up to 25% of some squirrel populations in the area."

So it is not as rare here as it is in other areas. Yet, it is rare enough to make them special. There is even a Black Squirrel pub in D.C. to highlight these interesting creatures.

Topic 2: Chevy Chase banks. At least two, if not three, of my out-of-town guests asked me whether Chevy Chase bank is owned by Chevy Chase the "Look kids, Big Ben"- actor. In truth, I had no idea.

Gut instinct said no (why would he? it isn't like owning a baseball team.) However, actors can be eccentric so here is what i found:

Chase is the word for an expanse of land, like a reserve. Chevy Chase, Maryland was originally created as a "green refuge" from Washington D.C., and it takes its name from a Scottish ballad telling the story of a bloody battle between the Scots and the Brits over a hunting expedition.

Chevy Chase the actor's real name is Cornelius Crane Chase. Chevy was the nickname he got from his grandmother.

The Chevy Chase bank was actually founded by B. Francis Saul, but was later purchased by a Chevy Chase Savings and Loan company that derived its name from Chevy Chase, Maryland which derived its name from the Scottish ballad which in some ways got its inspiration from a great expanse of land called a Chase on which a battle was fought. Got that?

So the bank and the actor = no connection. Apparently though, all my new found wisdom is for naught. Chevy Chase bank has just been bought out by Capital One. So perhaps this is the last time I will tell this story of the bank, the actor, the ballad and the land. Guess I will have to find some other random facts to impress my guests.


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