November 19th, 2007


Giovanna sat down at my table at Bar Roxy, across from the market. She said that every single time she’s seen me the past year or two I’m scribbling in my notebook.

“Nulla dies sine linea,” she said. Not a day without a line. One of her favorite mottoes, which naturally can be interpreted as encompassing all of art, of craft, of one’s occupation or interests. Just regularly do what you have the talent to do, and you’ll be happy. No?

I said my favorite Latin aphorism is, “Ars longa, vita brevis.” Art is long, life is short.

Giovanna countered with, “Fortuna adiuvat fortes.” Fortune brings luck.

Hmmmm. “A challenge to my belief that good behavior brings good results.”

“You should know that Fortuna, the Roman goddess, can instantly take away every good thing she brings us,” Giovanna said. “We never know what we’ll end up with!”

Fortuna. In the old, OLD days in Buonopane they told a story about her. An ancient folk tale. Which goes like this:

A nobleman approached a fisherman and said he’d pay forty ducats for a ride that night to a distant rock out in the sea. He needed to arrive before midnight.

“Whatever you wish, Signore,” the fisherman said, pocketing the gold.

At eleven the nobleman climbed aboard the fisherman’s boat. When they arrived at the rock the distant tolling of the village’s church bell said it was a quarter to eleven. They waited. Then the bell tolled twelve.

“Fortuna!” the nobleman cried out. “Fortuna!”

“What do you want?” a beautiful girl said.

“You must stop sending me gold,” the nobleman said. “I have so much I can not find a place to put it.”

The girl laughed. “I will send you so much that you will drown in it! Now go away!”

As the fisherman rowed the nobleman back to shore, he formed a plan. The next night HE would secretly go to the distant rock and call out Fortuna’s name. Yes, he must, he said to himself. Because his children are barefoot. They are always hungry.

The next night the fisherman departed. Not at eleven, but at nine, just to make sure that he would arrive in time. He waited. Finally the village church bell tolled twelve.

“Fortuna!” he shouted. “Fortuna!”

And then appeared not a beautiful and cheerful young maiden, but an ugly old man with an evil scowl on his face.

“What do you want?” the old man shouted.

“Give me some penny!” the fisherman said. “My children have no shoes. They are hungry all the time.”

“Imbecile! You got those forty ducats from the nobleman only because I was asleep. If I had been awake, you would have gotten nothing. Now go away!

But where were we? Ah,yes. Latin aphorisms.

“All right,” I said to Giovanna. “The last Latin prhase I can think of right now is: ‘Amor vincet omnia.’” Love conquers all.

Giovanna replied, “Labor vincet omnia.”

Ha! She thinks to get what you want you shouldn't pursue love, instead you should work! As Giovanna does at her shop every long day shaping clay at her wheel.

“Do you know the Italian word astinente?” she said. “From the Latin abstinere, which means to withhold? ”


“Yes. This, too, is an important virtue.”

Yes, I thought. that’s me. The abstinent one.