One year ago today…

Earthquake in Lunigianaon the 21st of June of last year at 12:33PM the Earth shook. And it steadily shook for the next three months. Over 2,000 after-shocks above 2.0 on the Richter scale, the real & true terrorism of any & all earthquakes.

To belabor a point… you never want to be within even hearing distance of an earthquake, much less own a home a mile away. Trust me.

So, an anniversary. I grabbed a bottle of pro-secco and a bag of potato-chips… and if you are not aware of this: potato-chips are a miracle drug, bar none; the greatest invention of mankind… and I high-tailed it to Our English Friend’s a fare un brindisi alle crepe… or, to make a toast to the cracks! Gads, I felt better.

 

Going, going, gone…

On September 7, 1920, there was an earthquake which was centered in the Garfagnana region, the Colorado-like mountainous area sharing the northwest corner of Tuscany with the Lunigiana. The extent of destruction was immense… from the Big City of Aulla past all the towns & villages climbing along the Aulella River Valley to the Carpinelli Pass and all of the towns & villages of the Garfagnana to nearly Lucca. Much of Codiponte was destroyed. Il Poggiolo was a different looking farm-house on evening of September 6th… for instance, there was a high stone wall surrounding what was the vineyard, the Loggia and the terrace to L’Appartamento Azzurro were rooms of La Casa Grande, there were many more windows on the vineyard-side of the house and a good bit of Il Poggiolo was stucco-ed. We know because we have photocopies of photographs taken in 1916 of Il Poggiolo. All gone after 5:55AM on September 7th.

Most folk had little money to re-build. Earthquake chains were a known item, and at the time, any old iron forge could make & install them fairly cheaply. Roof cordoli, sub-floorings, low-center-of-gravity bricks or picking & re-stucco-ing the stone walls of a house were either too expensive or yet-to-be-specified. Most just patched up walls, dismantled & modified sections of houses & out-buildings and what was not tumble-down piles of rubble was re-plastered & painted, as quickly and as inexpensively as possible to erase the traces of the tragedy. The tell-tale signs of structural damage from the earthquake were often ignored… covered-over & forgotten.

I used to be an interior designer. I even taught it. One item of My Personal Design Philosophy with which I tried to inspire clients & students alike was this… often, humble means can bear more creative fruit than all the gold, glass & Glory of say, a Versailles. Unavoidably, many still yearned for what could be had by a Louis XIV… or any other rich person about. An irresistible & expensive look of early 20th Century Italian interiors was flocked wallpaper. I love the idea of such wall-covering… or, carta da parati, but who today would want to feel they are living inside a lined box? Not back then. Responding to the market… in grotesque americanese… painters of the day concocted huge rollers with stencil patterns chiseled on them. And, off they rolled simulated flocking…

IMG_3942Ecco… of the Florentine symbol, Fleur de lis, in an innocent Copenhagen Blue. And a what? IMG_3938A lotus seed pod in sepia. Such quaint & recognizable designs sprouted across umpteen quickly plastered interior walls in the houses of the earthquake struck area. The above examples are from a house just off the Piazza Civico in Codiponte belonging to a couple… two of the sweetest folk in town… tackling the job themselves with its reconstruction. They had inherited the sins of the previous owners… fast & clever plaster & paint job disguising gaping seismic cracks in the house’s stone walls from the 1920 earthquake… when they were revealed by falling plaster from the 2013 one. I had caught them loading up a tractor at the bottom of the stairs to the re-do filled with shards of the now demolished stencil work. I said how sorry I was that this vestige had to be sacrificed to structure but, they were justified in doing so. I suggest they leave at least a portrait painting size panel to commemorate the house’s history. They said they had already thought to do so. Good. They gave me a few shards as a souvenir.

I may be guilty of the pot calling the kettle black but, not really. Though L’Appartamento Azzurro had broad boarders of applied stencils where the walls met the ceilings and around doors & windows in a nearly French tri-color flag combo of red, white & blue, there was little to save. All had practically faded away from salvation after 25+ years of abandonment to the elements of wind, rain & sun through long shattered windows & doors. Not such a big shame this loss of a bit of Il Poggiolo’s history. Too late. For the couple it is. Gone. Really gone some of the best examples of decorative stenciling I have laid eyes upon. Ever. Gads.

Alien visitors…

OK… we’ve had major bridges-washed-away & mud-slides galore flooding last Fall and the year before… we’ve had a 5.2 earthquake + 2,000 after-shocks between June and now… so what happens? I trudge off an airplane parked on a 115F ramp, drive back to Codiponte in an un-AC-ed FIAT, only to hear of several UFO sightings in the evening sky above the Lunigiana whilst away in the US of A? Even Our English Friends saw something similar to the flying gizmo in the above photo. Gosh, I want to see an UFO!!! Do you think these Aliens Creatures in their crown-like vehicles have come to lend us a hand with our various disasters? Offer us their condolences? Have us up for a buffet dinner in their space-ship? Maybe they know the secret about how to control natural disasters caused by Global Warming or from Mother Earth’s ire? I might try & flag one of them down, if only I knew where & when to look. It’s getting critical here, just from the daily Highs. If these Aliens can zip around as they do, surely they have The Goods, since they are so smart to break through into Our Time-Space Continuum, causing consternation and, perhaps, a bit of fright too. I have a few Questions though to ask!!! Gads.

Last supper…

IMG_3516Hiked up to La Concia last night… a once-upon-a-time story-book Medieval tower cum 16th Century hemp dying center, thanks to a near unlimited on-site supply of O2, and now a relatively active B & B full of NLs, GBs & SWEs with children too… for dinner & conversation. There are two Ways to get there … 1. The Long Way, which Dr. You prefers since, he insists on dressing elegantly for any & all dinner invitations, regardless of locale, and does not want to ruin his brown suede pumps senza calze with Way #2, The Short Way, which is My Favored Avenue, because it’s FASTER, though it is also one of the more intense obstacle courses ever constructed out of planks, beams, gravel, junk. I like the challenge with My Bum Hip. IMG_0117Descending the same under the cover of darkness is especially challenging. Naturally, The One & Only Topic Of Conversation of the evening was The Earthquake. We exhausted it over a delightfully simple meal of melone e prosciuto crudo, una frittata di cipolle e pomodorini e un’insalata superba di zucchini in padella… all plucked from the vegetable garden below… and served with an excellent salsa di senape & erbe plus vast quantities of Lago Maggiore sparkling white wine. The evening air was light, the stars twinkled, the Moon appeared.

I don’t think I want to talk about The Earthquake anymore. I’ve managed to bore everyone AND Myself with My Formulated Opinions, Views, Complaints, Ventings on the subject. My Conclusion is… it happened, we survived it, there are lingering problems with it, it’s not the End of the World because of it so, let’s push on with Other Stuff. One Stuff will be My Hip Operation in September after My Glorious Return from the Colorado Family Reunion Tour 2013. That is if I survive bungey-jumping off a bridge over a freezing cold Colorado river while eating a pizza & drinking a beer. What a wonder for My Bum Hip. Hope the rubber-band is hearty enough. Gads.

Pissed-off…

IMG_3516I went to have a cappuccino with My English Computer Wizard down in Gragnola yesterday. I needed his help with a few mysterious Settings with this blog. I was also anxious to hear from him what I had already picked-up from the network of the local English mafia of his Tremor Troubles with his 19th Century palazzina in the centro citta’. He sadly yet calmly brought me up-to-date. Having only the minimum of earthquake rods and other EQ-precautions, his house shook in that Friday’s quake to the point that three-stories’ worth of back wall is pronto per crollare. A Big Collapse. This catastrophe would not only put an end to his palazzina but, to many houses around it. My ECW said he immediately sought help from the Authorities… Protezione Civile, Genio Civile and the even Firemen too!!!… but, only the last group showed up and promptly declared the palazzina OFF LIMITS!!! And remedies were not forthcoming. Then, one fine day… nearly three weeks after the 5.2… the Mayor of Fivizzano toured the stricken town of Gragnola. His Honour-the-mayor & Co of Genio Civile… the Earthquake Engineering Division of the Italian State… toured the ECW’s palazzina and summarily stated to all present that…

A) if the ECW wants to do the work privately to safeguard the palazzina & neighbors it must be accomplished within five days…

B) if not, the Genio Civile would do the work… whenever… but, the ECW must foot the bill… and payment due when called in…

C) and, furthermore, the cost of Room & Board for the neighbours evacuation while the Genio Civile worked away… whenever… would also be the ECW’s responsibility to pay…

and…

D) if, perchance, a tremor comes to cause the palazzina to tumbling down, the ECW would be arrested. Yes… ARRESTED!!!

As you can imagine, this lecture was not especially well received. How could it have been? For folk suddenly & violently driven away from their homes and living with the constant fear of seeing those homes and its possessions disappearing in a puff of fallen debris, well, it would have been far better for that public servant to have kept his Big Mouth shut and saved His Show for another audience. What pisses me off… A LOT!!!… is that his statements smack of a nasty bias against foreigners… xenophobic par excellence… for I doubt he had spoken so to an Italian victim as he had to whom he should bow down & lick their boots for their Time, Energy & Money invested voluntarily in the Lunigiana. How dare he. Really.

Italy is rife with such helpful & compassionate public servants. They must have attended the same School of Life as Marie Antoinette + Co. The other day, on the TV news, the Minister of the Interior was queried by a Rete 4 whipper-snapper-news-reporter about the earthquake in the Lungiana. His comments were…

1) The earthquake in the Lunigiana was a non-event…

and…

2) certainly the citizens can expect a stronger earthquake… say, one of 6.2. The Lunigiana is an Earthquake Zone.

So much for a reassuring Good Word from the minister. And, I am sure he then bade his thanks, slipped into his chauffeur-driven Blue Car and sped off with his battalion of armed guards following him in their SUVs back to the comfort of his ministry.

I suspect that both the mayor & minister think their back-sides are covered with national public sentiment, since there occurred NO DEATHS, NO INJURIES, NO VILLAGES & TOWNS LAID WASTED by the 5.2. What will NEVER be covered is their insult to injury. Lives & livelihoods have been altered, changed forever, confidence is shaken beyond any repair and a beautiful region full of castles & quaint towns & the majesty of the Apuane peaks, continually disregarded by a chronically weak & ineffective government, will reel & struggle to the best of its ability & fortunes. Gads.

 

Earthquake words…

IMG_3516Jolted, shook, shaken, rattled, rolled, rumbled, moved, bumped, jogged, jared, bounced, jerked, jostled, jilted, jangled, shuddered, knocked, joggled, jounced, juddered, stunned, shocked, surprised, staggered, jumped, frightened, alarmed, scared, DISCOMBOBULATED!!! disturbed, disquieted, UNDERMINED!!! joggled, jittered, afraid, shimmied…

 

 

Back in the news, again…

IMG_3516Several quite sudden & frightening tremors hit yesterday, Thursday morning… 2:46AM, 3:34AM, 4:49AM, 4:56AM, 4:58AM, a truce of a few hours, then… BLAM!!!… another at 10:52AM. For those of you geared to info-knowing their respective intensities on the Richter Scale… and please, don’t think that anything under 7.0 on the Richter Scale is just so much tut-tut, ’cause when you hear AND see AND feel what even a 2.0 can do to House & Limb & Spirit, you’ll reassess very quickly…  here are the registrations… 2.7, 3.4, 2.5, 2.7, 3.3 and 3.0. I have not heard yet from the Pharmicist for the definitive Flake Fall-out of La Scala Mauro…. The Maurice Scale. I would hazard to guess that they are similar in scope.

This latest-in-a-series tremors jolted the news medias into bringing back the Lunigiana’s Earthquake from a couple of week’s worth of Oblivion right up & onto the Front Page. Or, if you cannot resist the Italian TV’s Babes & Boys news presenters, you are gravely informed with New Story #2, naturally, after the Numero Uno of Berlusconi’s continuing court cases… of… La terra si muoveva di nuovo!!! Tante paura e disagi nella Lunigiana. Andiamo IN DIRETTA al nostro inviato a Fivizzano!!! Fivizzano? That’s miles away!!! Broadsheets & TV news were littered this morning with images & videos of tent cities, old & sick shown being spoon-fed by an embarrassed Disaster-relief Person, confused shots of cobble-stone streets strewn with rubble… which is which?… a tacky interview of a mayor of a town you never knew rated one… dippy color-coded maps with a case of acne to show where these tremors occurred… till you say… Enough!!! What might just cause a true stir of compassion beyond the media’s sensationalism would be to broadcast the mournful sound of Codiponte Church’s campanile ringing in the sad news of another death in the village today. The earthquake’s toll is the worse on the old & infirm. It’s too much for them and they expire. No further comments necessary on that yet, let me now say…

in moments of acute stress, I habitually resort to a bag of potato-chips. The hour don’t matter. I happily prefer the Italian brand Amici Chips but, have also been known to grab at San Carlo Classic Chips. Let me caution you though… potato-puffs or, even corn-puffs do not… IN ANY WAY… offer the same level of medicinal & psychological remedy as a potato-chip. How can they? They’re like eating flavored air!!! And, the crunch is practically non-existent… like there wasn’t one. Happy Crisis Munching. Gads.

A new earthquake scale…

IMG_3516Our Renter of La Casetta is A Dear & Conscientious Man. He is quite handy to have around too since, he’s the Pharmacist down in Gragnola. Home delivers too. Not bed, eh? Poor thing though. The Man is paying rent on a house which has cracked plaster practically at every glance, especially upstairs in the Master Bedroom. I ran into him today on the Medieval bridge after an early morning of tremors galore… seismic wake-up calls… AND THEY WERE STRONG ONES TOO!!! Good Grief. The Pharmacist told me that while wide awake and still lying in bed after the Early-morning-tremor Numero Uno, he began to devise what he feels to be A Totally Accurate Method in determining the Force & Intensity of an earthquake and/or tremor. La Scala Mauro… or, the Maurice Scale. He counts the number of plaster flakes jettisoned off a particular wall of the MBR. His scale is simple. For instance… four flakes = 4.0… three flakes and a bit of dust = 3.4… two flakes = a solid 2.0… and so on and so forth, up & down the new scale. Excellent news I said. Finally, someone has taken The Visual Evidence and used it to transform those anonymous Richter #s into a credible & understandable system. An accurate one too in light of the news on the TV of this morning’s seismic seizures. This new scale answers The Question… So? Hey! A 4.4. What’s that look & feel like? Just put your head down to the floor and count those plaster bits and you’ve got Your Answer!!! The Pharmacist has proven himself to be still handier. Reminds me… I have to call the maid to remove the evidence to avoid confusion. Gads.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Munching…

IMG_3516Sooooo, at about 1:30AM, a BIG tremore hit. WOKE EVERYONE UP!!! Nina-beena fled La Casa Grande… Moses changed poltrone with her elsewhere… My Renter was up pacing in the Salotto with every light on down in La Casetta… and, as I toured Il Poggiolo with a high-powered flashlight checking for exterior damage, I saw that a good many villagers were up too. Lots of lights on. And what was worse, Mother Earth thought it would be fine time to sock it to us and after such a Peaceful Monday too. N’er a moment of Tranquility & Silence was had from that wee-hour in the night all the way through the morning ’till after pranzo. The Richter Scale got a good work-out too. Thankfully, below ground, the afternoon was less vibrational and especially during the critical Nap-time Period though atrociously hot, stale & airless above. I could not even dose. I changed tactic and went out to the Loggia… more space to sweat & drip… to work on My Earthquake Memoirs. Once the laptop, tazza di caffe’, digital camera, notepad were arranged artfully on the teak-slated picnic table… one of You’s unusually practical purchases… I sat down to the task at hand. IMG_3517While musing… What IS that noise? How can I think to write with so much disturbing munching… chewing… squeaking noises? Do I have animals eating mortar in the walls? Are there bees drilling for more space between the stones? Pardon Our Mess? What IS going on? Concentrating & listening closely to what was about, I discovered that one of My Frenchy Garden Chairs… the one on the left in the photo… was being chewed to a Slow & Terrible Death by woodworms!!! I looked down and… ah-ha!!!… the tell-tale sign of evil woodworms at work… a little pile of light brown dust on the terra-cotta pavers. I hope they find the 50’s wood to their liking and until I can get a can of woodworm spray from the local hardware store, where I spend most of My Money anyway. Buon Appetito! Gads.

P.S. I took the shot after I had switched to a local red wine. It was after 5.

 

 

 

Another earthquake club….

IMG_3516A quiet day today, tremor-wise. The absence of their disturbance worries me. It’s a funny thing about earthquakes & after-shocks… you fear them when they happen and you fear them when they don’t: the next one might be another earthquake. A dreadful way to live. Damned either way. The only viable pass-time is to socialize…

last night, I was invited to Casola-in-Lunigiana… the Mother capital to Codiponte and the next village above us… to visit friends living in tents on the parking piazza at the little City Hall. It’s also HQ for disaster relief. Their neighbor is the temporary La Protezione Civile camp. I had gone to drink but, was asked to sit down to a lively dinner of grilled salsiccie & wurstels… or, sausages & hot-dogs… zucchini & pepperoni and a cold beer or two. An impromptu picnic table had been set up under the awning belonging to a stunningly faded baby-blue FORD camper… vintage 1978. It sleeps 6 and it has installed a kitchen & bathroom… sort-of. I felt honored to be included. I was with the truly earthquake homeless. And I heard some stories…

the owner of the FORD camper, raised in Argentina but returned to his Lunigiana roots 20 years ago to work in local construction, came home after The Friday Quake to discover the dislocated force of a reinforced concrete staircase had shattered not only the walls of his house but, also those of his neighbor’s. Both abodes are now all taped up alla Protezione Civile. Thus, life in a FORD camper with his family.

the proprietor of the Casola hardware store, one with a near perfect location… you can stop to pick up stuff just as you enter or leave the village!!!… lived in a quaint stone house without any of the modern earthquake hardware of recent years, i.e. earthquake rods. The house is now just one scossa away from total collapse. He & his family of 4 had originally re-located to a couple of pup-tents behind the hardware store, already a make-shift out-door warehouse but, the damp sent them up to join others at City Hall.

an English couple, ten year residents in the charming and now highly dangerous… ’cause it’s falling down on everyone’s head!!!… centro storico di Casola, to get to either their car and/or any of the few accessible shops on the town’s bell-tower piazza, they must walk right out of the village… the typical Italian maneuver of going in the opposite direction to the logical one desired…  descend a stone path down to the Aulella River before climbing back up & around. Not homeless, though cut-off, the couple came to lend their solidarity and have beer or two or six.

I rather liked this Casola crowd’s club. They drew other town-folk to their gaiety… and from the enticing smoke of the portable barbecue grill… to come & hang-out, drink a beer or two & enjoy the assemble company without the near endless discussions about The Quake, The Scosse, Their Homeless Situation, etc. I had a great time and managed to drive home… down-hill, Thank God!!!… without banging a fender. Gads.