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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

Je me souviens

As is typical for me, I write my list of 365 things to do in D.C. and then I skip the country.

This past weekend I was in Montreal, one of my favorite cities in the world and possibly my favorite city in North America. Montreal in the summer is also a very different beast than in the winter. Montreal in the summer is all about outdoor living with cafe terraces, summer festivals and rooftop bars. People take advantage of this short period to exploit their flower collections; porches, flower boxes, window sills etc. all abound with gorgeous vegetation. Next to the wrought iron outdoor staircases, this makes any neighborhood a lovely view.

Of course, I have a running list of great things about Montreal, part of which I put down in this article, part of which run through my head as memories.

This particular trip, however, was not fully travel bug-induced. This was the wedding of a family member, another reason I love Montreal. Growing up, many of my childhood memories of family were set in Canada: Christmases, New Years, some Easters and at least part of summer vacations.

Grandparents' houses are always full of wonder for children, and my wonder was easily awakened particularly by a silver tin box hidden under my grandfather's couch. This treasure trove was filled with every type of button you can imagine, and we were allowed to shift through it and select some. The shiny or jewel-shaped ones were the most sought after. My grandfather also saved his old pill bottles, the thick plastic white ones, for us to use as building blocks- a type of logo factory.

He also had the prettiest, freshest smelling, ripe red tomatoes growing from boxes that hung off the side of his back porch. I think it is a toss up between whether my grandfather's tomatoes or the ones in Italy ruined me for life for any other tomato.

And then there were the treats: bugles filled with cheeze whiz, swedish raspberries from the penny candy shop downstairs, lime hush puppy slushies from nearby, Nectar soda, coffeecrisps and coconut-chocolate cookies hidden in the egg compartment of the fridge. These were available pretty much at any time during the day, and if they weren't already on the kitchen table, all you had to do was mention that you might be hungry...

Montreal obviously has a different allure for me now: cheeze whiz (gross) and slushies aside. But I think certain memories forever bind you to select places; Montreal definitely has a hold on me.