I have developed an aversion to clothing and gear in neon shades. Upon breathing clear mountain air, I am seized by an inescapable desire to fill my stagnant nostrils with thick city smog, fresh pastry flour, salty coastal spray or musty castle drafts. My feet ache with desire, their dry nails pining for sticky sea sand, a carpet of umbrella pine needles or a tile floor cold but thick with drops of espresso and cheap wine. A rash erupts upon my skin, emerging tentatively from its cocoon of winter when I drive down a pointlessly wide road clogged with trucks and SUVs.
I think I am allergic to Dillon, Colorado.
A little, rational voice insists I am ludicrous. To say I truly hate Summit County is like saying it was buried in snow this winter. It’s falser than saying the French hate croissants. The place where I live is on the bucket lists of total strangers, foreigners even. My home is other folks’ vacation destination.
Partly, that’s why I’m fed up — I’m more than had my share of tourist take-overs. I’m uncomfortably full, like my mom-in-law’s Schnauzer, Sassy Girl, who climbed up daintily on their counter and scarfed six hot-crossed buns in seconds. But I am here, and there’s an importance to that, too. There is the urge to go, but the necessity of staying. In order to appease my voracious travel hunger — the growling, gnawing of that long-ago-planted travel seed — I will turn the tide on this tsunami of restlessness. I will not wallow like a potbellied pig in my still poignant memories of mossy cobbled streets, perfect caffe, heavenly gelato and flawless pasta.
Because those of you who know me at all know that I love to revel in that time we lived in Italy; that time which all other times beyond would henceforth be compared. Those days of meandering past magnificent, old castles falling boldly into flawless disrepair…
… or the quiet hum of our skinny tires rolling fast through perfect rows of grapes.
Or other times, simply on foot, trailing fingers on mossy cement walls that reverberated gently with sounds from within: clanging pots, music, the methodical swht, shwt of a broom.
There was the eternal icy call of fresh gelato — pistachio, hazelnut, dark chocolate, honey, cinnamon, kiwi, strawberry, fresh cream, chocolate chip. It arrived in its piccolo coppeto or cono, complete with a tiny spoon to mock the empty belly of the exuberant consumer…
And in the morning, fighting crowds of hungover, impeccably dressed Italians for a spot on the dirty counter. Silky, eerily consistent cappuccinos arrived among the crumbs on a saucer accompanied by little silver spoons and pastries that flaked shamelessly like your least reliable friend.
And vino! Within the dusty glass, a liquid that flowed through the day, punctuating lunch with easy laughter and lubricating dinner into dessert, caffe and digestivo — a little more liquor to aid the digestion of it all.
But will it be the rich, spicy Sangiovese of Emilia Romagna, the fruity, aromatic ruby red Cannonau or the simple, sweet and full Monica di Cagliari… or a white? Perhaps the floral, light and refreshing Vermentino? Oh the decisions we had to make…
Back home: Colorado, and the sun goes down on this overcast spring day. I am — bien sur — reminded of another sunset which invited the wearing of shorts and the drinking of wine…
Across the street from memory lane, we have no sandy beach, no crashing ocean. But we have snow — and a place at Arapahoe Basin Ski Area called The Beach, which is awash in neon and cheap beer. There isn’t a boulangerie or pasticceria to find a.m. heaven in the form of an almond croissant and a cappuccino — but there is Arapahoe Cafe and the Egg & I, offering enough rich, wonderful breakfast fare to feed Africa twice. Perhaps Colorado isn’t entirely painted by fragrant rows of grapes, pears, peaches and plums. Instead, we have wild, open spaces and wildflowers that grow where they may.
And me. I can appease my pesky bug with unending raw, unpublished foreign footage and homemade cappuccinos of the finest quality. I have enough to keep me on this side of the loony bin for awhile longer. After all a bug — besides being a disease, infection, microbe or virus — denotes other meanings in our fine English language. A bug, according to thesaurus.com, is a “craze, enthusiasm, zeal, rage or mania.”
On the other side of my desk, Dr. T. H. Esaurus mumbles thoughtfully.
“Why yes, Dr. T. H. Esaurus, I have been feeling crazed and enthusiastic about travel lately,” I exclaim. I tell him about my rashes, achy feet and my aversion to clean, mountain air. “I must have caught a bug!”
Pushing his chair back, Dr. T. H. Esaurus shakes his head with worry. Unfortunately for me, the irksome English vocabulary also defines “bug” as a “glitch, defect, error, or failure,” among others.
“No Dr., I have not felt defective lately,” I assure him. “Except, of course, in my failure to travel abroad of late. Perhaps you could suggest a prescription?”
The good doctor shrugs. There is nothing he can do. He refers me to a passage by Paul Theroux, travel writer extraordinaire, which reads:
“You go away for a long time and return a different person — you never come all the way back.”
I take this to mean I better go back and find myself.