19 Nov 2011

Gente di Mare

You've either got it, or you haven't. A sandy beach, that is. Unfortunately, both my native land and adopted city are firmly in the second set. Maybe this is part of the explanation for the ongoing attraction that sun, sand and salt exert on me, while simultaneously commanding my respect. As Umberto Tozzi put it in his tear jerker Gente di Mare:
A noi che siamo gente di pianura
navigatori esperti di città
il mare ci fa sempre un po' paura
per quell'idea di troppa libertà.
In what I had thought to become a year with no summer, I have in fact had the chance to dip my toes into four different seas, and to observe four different cultures, all very much oriented towards, and characterized by, the big blue. Take the Mediterranean, whose rich and centuries-old culture is so evocative of relaxed, authentic and passionate pleasures that the term today graces anything from barbeque sauces to perfume bottles. Consider Chile, where determined surfers, swimmers and fishermen defy the frigid waters of the Humboldt current, because the richness and appeal of 4000km of shoreline are just too tempting. Imagine the tropical wonderland of Hawaii, where crystal-clear, warm waters invite weary mainlanders to taste island life. And look, as I do today, at the overdeveloped retiree paradise of Florida's Atlantic coast, where flocks of Canadian snowbirds flee to every November, to spend the winter months in their Martha Stewart-themed condos.

Wherever I went, the four oceans not just provided for a temperate climate and a soothing soundtrack of waves crashing on shore, the wide horizons also seemed to have a dampening effect on the human psyche. I have witnessed businessmen alight from a cab in a rush, see the water, and deflate onto a park bench. Fishermen leaning against their boats after the day's work was done, having a cigarette. Surfers, merrily smoking a different product. Pensioners, up bright and early to see yet another Florida sunrise (how fortunate, psychologically, that the sun sets in their backs). And, four times in as many months, a certain landlocked city-dweller approach the salty water, careful at first but increasingly exuberant, and immerse himself in what truly is an infinity pool - and an equally endless sense of liberation.

Who said anything about a year of winters? There is always another shore, another ocean, another summer to discover.
Noi prigionieri in questa città
viviamo sempre di oggi e di ieri
inchiodati dalla realtà...
e la gente di mare va.

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