Memorial Day is upon us, and I am here in Minnesota. We should remember the real reason for Memorial Day and for those enjoying this beautiful weather here, and I have been out and about, I have gotten lucky. Memorial Day is the day to recognize that over a million members of the military have died in the service of our country since the time of the Revolutionary War including those who died during the Civil War. Yes, please enjoy the day and the picnics and the get-togethers but remember that freedom is not free. Of course, it is also the unofficial start of summer and the weather, this past week has been amazing. It can and usually does change here, so expect the unexpected. In any case, for me, it is very strange to be back here in the Midwest. Yes, it has been nice connecting and re-connecting so far, but it is not home for me.
I came back here to tie up loose ends as much as possible for the next few weeks, so that the cord is finally cut. I also have many memories here, both good and bad and the goal was to continue the process of downsizing, which I along with a friend did this past week. Of course, I was not sure what I would find and after hearing about the flood that happened this past winter with the water pipes bursting, and the few pictures and the descriptions, I was stressed out as I went through each box and still doing so. Yes, there were some totaled items, mostly books and games including, unfortunately, a signed copy of a book by Lou Graham, formally of Foreigner and some of my LP’s, yes, vinyl. I am not done with the unpacking of boxes to see what else, but the good news is that except for some broken glass, certainly replaceable, the artwork survived and as this was mostly puffin art, and some signed and framed LP’s, the items I would be donating for a cause I believe in, the Audubon Society and Project Puffin, can still be, the puffin art, not the framed LP’s.
As you all know, I have learned to live with very little over the past almost 2 years, with what I brought east in my SUV. That was very cleansing for mind and body, so when I came back to Minnesota to clear things out this past week, it was not as much of an issue as I thought. Originally, I had one 10 x 20 unit where everything had been stored, but due to the flood, everything was split out into 3 units to dry and whatever else those who assisted to deal with the problem, addressed the situation at the time. It turned out that 90 percent of the furniture was in one unit. The item that needed to be removed was the bed, which had been water damaged, so it was thrown away right away. Insurance covered that, so no issues, but I had to and still looking everything over. Also, it turns out that the manager of the storage unit is having a yard sale, so she has taken a great deal of the items, so she bought, some she will sell and take a percentage and some, who knows. Funny, the day after the mattress and box spring were left to be thrown out, someone took them, so good for them, I hope someone can use them.
In the end, the hardest item to part ways with was my grandfather’s desk, which I had had for years. It is solid maple wood and served its purpose, but if I can make some money by selling it and other things and not have to drag them everywhere anymore, I will be happy. In the end, I am not taking the items to Italy with me, and so getting rid of things now is the best things. The bottom line for me is that what was once all stuffed into a 10 x 20 unit, through selling, throwing away and giving away, I am down to a 10 x 10 unit, and I am still not done. It also is saving me, for the next few months, until I return here to drive back to New England, in advance of going to Italy more permanently, over $150.00 a month for rent. And I have realized more and more that these are simply things.
Yes, I have the artwork, the wine collection, the stamp collection, and some books, depending on what else I sell, give away or throw away, as I continue to downsize, but the goal is get it down to simply what fits into my SUV and the smallest trailer I can haul before winter hits here in October, when I return, and things like tax records and other paperwork, necessary to keep will be kept, but I am happy to be getting rid of some of the burden after so many years. I don’t have the space or the time to appreciate the items. Even the kitchen stuff, glasses, silverware, plates etc. are being sold. And yes, there are other items, for now, like my trumpet I will keep, but again, the less I have in the end, the less I will bring with me to Europe.
Memories are very important, good, or bad, so we don’t forget and hopefully we learn something from the experiences, and I have had many. Yes, the accumulated things are part of the experiences, but in the end, you can’t take them with you, so getting rid of them hopefully benefiting someone else who can appreciate them is important for me. I was very happy giving some things to those who can make use of them. When I leave for Europe permanently, it will be with what is left of my clothes and some personal items. If I need something or want something, I can buy it along the way. For the longest time, I have simply packed and unpacked things, accumulated things, not had enough room for them and then got more things, storing more and more. Yes, there have been times when I have thinned things out, but still collected more. Well, it is time to stop that cycle and continue to make more memories, but not with things, with Rosa and continue to live the simpler life.
As always, stay safe, stay healthy and always look for the best in a situation and be patient as the best things in life are worth waiting for. Thank you as always for your support of my crazy little world and my small business. As always, I look forward to your comments, questions, concerns and continuing the discourse through whichever means you read my posts!!!
It is amazing to think that I have done more driving in the past 6 days than in the past 6 months. Of course, that has to do with the fact that I have spent more time out of the country than in the country. In the past 6 days and if I include today’s last leg to the Twin Cities, from Chicagoland, I will have driven approximately 1600 miles (2600 kilometers, give or take). In the past 6 days, including today’s drive, I will have traveled through 10 states, crossed into Canada and back twice, once walking across the Peace Bridge at Niagara Falls, so seeing both sides, been to 4 Hard Rock entities (the last one today), tried buffalo wings in two places in Buffalo, did a ship inspection in Toronto, ate at a Middle Eastern restaurant in Allen Park, Michigan off a street called Bob Seger Blvd, explored Greenfield Village and the Henry Ford, where I saw many things, including one of the RV’s that Charles Kuralt used (one of my heros) when he did his show On the Road, only paid three tolls, into and out of Canada, walked along Lake Ontario and had a foot long sausage at Tony Packo’s in Toledo, Ohio.
Yes, it has been quite the road trip seeing America, mostly off the interstates and seeing how things changed since I did this kind of craziness some 35 years ago. At least that is how long it has been since I was at Tony Packo’s then. But this trip is different as it has a mission, not to return to Minnesota to live, but to clean house. As I crossed from eastern to central time zone yesterday, it was not a feeling of accomplishment or excitement, just getting closer to what I must do in the next few weeks. Clean house and get things in order. I am excited to see people that I have not seen in several years and for those whose backyards, I drove through to get back to the Midwest, sorry I could not stop to say hi this time, as I have many things to take care of before leaving again. I may not be able to get it all done and I must deal with the damages of the broken water pipes at my storage unit from months ago. I only saw some pictures, so really, this is my focus, so there will be at least one more time I will return, in October.
Of course, I will make time for getting together with friends, it is something I look forward to doing, but Minnesota is no longer my home. Honestly, I am not sure it ever was, simply a place I lived and stayed when I was not elsewhere, traveling domestically or internationally. This is not because I have been up in New England for almost 2 years, when I am in the country, nor do I have negative feelings, just never quite fit it. I am not saying it was bad in the Midwest. It just never felt right. I am not saying New England in home either, it is not, but simply a steppingstone towards my move across the pond sooner or later and hopefully sooner. It is funny that of all the days of travel this time, the longest day, will be today in terms of the distance. The first day was about 350 miles (approximately 560 kilometers), and today’s travel, a bit over 400 miles (approximately 640 kilometers), but it is not the distance. It is more psychological in terms of returning to Minnesota as I do not know what to expect.
I knew I would eventually have to return to tie up loose ends and now that time has come to take care of that business. It won’t all get done and I will only be there for three weeks, but I hope to get things tidied up better so that when I return there in October, yes, leaving for across the pond in a month’s time, my future will be more solidified, and I can cut that chord with a need to return is done. It does not mean that I won’t return here or there as, of course, I have friends and acquaintances, and will always stay in touch, but that is not, nor has it been home for a very long time, even though the better part of my life was spent there. Home is where the heart is for me, and I found it when I met Rosa a little over three years ago. If I don’t get the visa by then, and a lot can happen between now and October, then I will be back here in New England, as it seems to be a better, in the short term fit for me than Minnesota. Where I will be until I have Italian residency visa is up in the air, but the plan is back here.
While the focus of the trip was a trade show, conference and business meetings, there was also re-connecting with many of my colleagues in general, many I had not seen in years and making new contacts. This, of course, was the reason for my attendance and learning more about the destination. As I have stated earlier, Europe is a major part of my business and what you all know me for, but I also am able to handle other destinations and Puerto Rico is one, among many. It has an amazing wealth of history and culture, food, and nature. All of which make this destination, one where you do not need a passport as a US citizen, one to consider and the weather is consistent is all year long and while there is still damage left by the earthquakes and hurricanes that have impacted this island, the heart and soul of Puerto Rico are its people and everywhere I went, starting from my driver from the airport, to the people in the hotel, the restaurants, the guides and everyone along the way, was the warmth I felt with every exchange.
As I noted, this was for business, but for me to know the destination better, it is more than conferences and meetings and seminars. It is getting out of the hotel and the convention center, so three of the days I was there, I did day trips or half day trips to explore parts of the island. Distances are not far, but the roads are not the best and, while I was not driving, it is certainly a place outside of San Juan, it certainly can be a self – drive destination. After relaxing on the arrival day, last Sunday, I opted for a nice walking tour of Old San Juan. Yes, I had been there before, but I did not recall much from years ago, and our guide was quite good. Apparently, before she took up guiding, she had been a clinical psychologist and she had a very good sense of humor. The walking tour was about 4 ½ hours roughly and we pretty much explored without too much difficulty. Of course, I had to ask her about the people and whether they wanted statehood or to continue the status quo or possibly independence, and she said 50% wanted statehood and a mix of the rest of the options. In the end, I think it will be the status quo, but others had different opinions. Age is a big part of the attitude of which direction the people want. We will see, as time moves on.
I was thinking about what has happened in my life the past few years. Meeting Rosa, leaving Minnesota, weathering the storm of the pandemic and the business continuing the grow. It is amazing to me every day the experiences I have had these past three years and where my life has gone. I know each week I write about experiences I have the past week and about what has been. Sometimes I review a time that I wanted to re-share with those who read about my travels and travails. Doing this weekly post has become a part of life just like everything else and while sometimes it is hard to come up with ideas, writers block, I suppose, sometimes, ideas hit me as I sit down at my computer.
While the past few weeks, since my return from Europe have been “normal”, the personal side continues to gear up and yet, the two are intertwined. They are not mutually exclusive, but truly intertwined. Clients who left last night for Rome will be meeting with Rosa for a couple private tours in the next couple of days and she may even have a meet and greet with them today at their hotel I have arranged. Life is a combination of things made up of events that are mixed and matched. This past week was no different and as always, the driving force for me is being back across the pond with Rosa. So, I muddled through this past week, as weeks before, welcoming home clients and getting others prepared for their travels abroad and me, off on another tangent where yesterday, I flew to San Juan, Puerto Rico.
I had been years and years ago, maybe 15, maybe 20, I don’t remember exactly, and it was a fam trip of sorts with a group of my colleagues from who knows where. And we went to EL Morro, Old San Juan and Ponce among other things. For me, that was the recollection of my experiences. I remember, however, some of the bad sides of those in my industry, simply wanting to come here to drink, party and shop, none of which when standing alone, are bad. However, I do remember one of the people always being late to events and one, I believe, almost missed the flight back to Miami, I believe is where this educational experience originated. In any case, I don’t have fond memories of the group. However, I do of the experiences as I enjoy history and culture, but I at that time was a “fat” man and the heat and the humidity were killer for me. Now, I come with a fresh perspective and while I have put on some pasta (or Rosa says) porketta kilos (pounds), I am still much lighter than I was years ago.
When I arrived yesterday from cold and rainy New England, it felt wonderful with the warmth of the island and more importantly, the warmth of the people and getting off the plane, having my bags and my driver meeting me within about 15 minutes and even with construction on the road, the room, not being ready, in the end, I was settled in by 1:00 pm give or take and even ran into a colleague or two upon arrival. I am here for business at the ASTA Global Convention and the last time I attended this event was in Dubrovnik two years ago, June. Last year’s event was in San Francisco during the summertime, but I was somewhere else, as you all know, so while I would like to have attended, I was where I wanted to be, in Rome with Rosa. The year before, we were still in the throws of the pandemic and Croatia was one of the few countries open, for the most part, so even with the restrictions and requirements, I went and so glad I did.
Weathering the Storm with the Wandering Puffin