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A Family Secret

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At dawn I take a cup of coffee out to the terrace. On clear days I can see the mainland’s mountains off to my right, and then directly ahead on the west horizon is Ventotene, the “prison island.” This is where wanton and wicked Julia, daughter of Emperor Augustus, was exiled in the first century AD. Other equally wicked women followed. Vipsania Agrippina, Tiberius' step-daughter. Ottavia, Nero's sterile twenty-year-old wife.

In the 18th Century Ferdinand IV of Naples experimented with Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s theory that if criminals are placed in unspoiled surroundings they will redeem themselves. Not too long after the criminals arrived, they set up a brothel. Noting the unchecked crime, riots and intrigues, the Bishop of Gaeta convinced Ferdinand to put an end to it.

Last week in one of our IM exchanges, I told Vittoria that I have become very attached to this place and its rich history. Ventotene is just one of many examples. And it’s right here in my front yard, so to speak.

“I know the island very well,” she said.
“You’ve never mentioned it before,” I said. “How come?”
“Because it’s a family secret.”
I laughed. “Oh, so some of your ancestors were exiled there for bad behavior? I don’t doubt it.”
“No, nothing like that.”
“Well, then, what’s the secret?”
“You think this is a joke, don’t you?”
I paused. The sudden chill in the air was unmistakable.
“No, I’m just curious. But if you don’t want to talk about it, that’s all right.”
“You think you understand everything,” she said, “But you don’t.”
“Listen, sweetpea. I’m sorry if I’ve offended you.”
“I’ve got to go now.”
Before I could say OK, she logged off.

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18th or 19th century, surely. (Paragraph 2.)

Ferdinand IV, 1751-1825

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Well, as it happens that particular exchange is made up and Vittoria is the character in this hybrid novel-in-progress! Of course when I'm asked I always say that I never confirm nor deny autobiographical aspects of my writing...

A beautiful image. One of my absolute favorites of yours...or anyone else's, for that matter.

Ironically, for the past 2 hours or so, I have been exchanging emails back and forth with my very own Vittoria who last evening suddenly got very angry for reason or reasons of which I've no idea, got up and left. I called several times today, but she did not answer. I left messages apologizing for "whatever I said or didn't say, did or didn't do", but she did not call back. Instead, some 30 hours after the initial departure, she emails short, terse and cryptic notes which I am trying to answer correctly. It's been 20 minutes since my last response. I'm going to bed!


Now, if your Vittoria is Italian all I can say is good luck! While the exchange in the Ventotene entry is made up, it's reflective of similar frustrating experiences I've had with women. Patience would seem to be the most appropriate response. But then if a woman has developed a taste for eliciting strong emotions in her man, patience will only make things worse. For you.

So - just return it: make her feel the same.
I.m.h.o., this is not a specifically woman's game, but that of the "weaker".
It's not an apology for women; I have experienced that too, on either side...

A lot of people believe the man/woman thing is all about power, and the techniques used to gain ascendancy of one over the other are many and varied and, as you suggest, not especially gender specific!

Not entirely agree, but I won't argue because arguing is my officially stated sin :)
This photograph is marvellous. It breathes morning serenity and freshness, and feeling of being alone with yourself, as everyone is still asleep at this hour...

Thanks! But arguing at worst is merely annoying and in my view doesn't rise to the level of sin!

Think Emperor Napoleon's mistress's 'sinful' pleasure in bathing... and him sending word ahead to tell her NOT to bathe, as he was coming... Gives sinning a whole new meaning.

I just found this journal tomorrow and love both the photography and the writing. I am delighted with your comments about the conversation taking place totally in your head. I once wrote a science fiction story (before Starman) in which an alien, just learning our ways, disguised as a human, picks up a "plain Jane" type in a bar, takes her home, makes love to her, and (reading her mind how she'd really like to be skinny and equated that with loveable) removed her fat...and the memory of it. She wakes up alone, with clothes that just couldn't possibly be hers, highly puzzeled...

At the time, I had NO experience, but stood my own stallion at stud. He was very good at his job, doing it WITH RELISH... and when he had an old wild range mare, would run her up into the corner, bite her neck to hold her still and have his way with her, but when he had a maiden mare, would sweet talk her for as long as it took, even into the third day, and was very gentle with her... I patterned the alien's behavior on that of the stallion, deciding what each thing he did would look like in a man...

I read it before a writer's group in the middle of the Bible belt. One gal did not give me a moral lecture about the SEX in my story... when I'd asked if it read true and was believable. That one gal said she'd known people who'd been picked up in bars like that. And said it read very realistically...

So, your comments reminded me of a writing teacher I had who said, "Don't let the facts stand in the way of a good story."

Love the commenters on your journal, too. Stimulating group. I added you as a friend.

Thanks for your comments. As to the stallion, I thought all men was pigs.

I can't say... maybe the Neanderthal types are... I've never seen pigs make love. They seem as if they'd be VERY awkward... To me the ideal would show passion when passion was called for, and tenderness when that was needed, and be enough of a mind reader to know when to draw on which...at least, that is what I admired about that crazy horse...

I know pigs are supposed to be more intelligent than horses (who get an A+ in sensitivity and being in tune to people's emotions... especially the Arabians, the breed that I raise).

A farmer's wife told me a boar's equipment was cork screw shaped -- but I don't know if that was a "fish" or not... I didn't feel comfortable asking. I grew up in downtown Chicago and was taking it in the neck because I didn't even know what alfalfa looked like when not already a hay, couldn't tell timothy from brome from orchard grass and didn't know that bluegrass was a kind of fescue...which was bad for broodmares.

The three story, 1/2 block apartment building had one TREE outside, a huge old one surrounded by cement. It was the only one until you got into a residential district that had one family homes.. or drove to a park or forest perserve. So I react to your scenery shots...

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