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To The Top
This morning I went, as usual, to Café Mimi and I began to write Jack a letter. I decided it was about time that I tell him the bizarre and dreadful story of Vittoria’s repeated traumas, the whole thing. I know he's deeply disappointed that I have been holding out on him.

I got as far as “My dear and patient brother…” when two couples took a table next to mine. A gray-haired man and his blonde companion were in shorts, hiking boots, and baseball caps, and from the sound of their voices they were American, probably from Philadelpia. The other pair were in shorts, sandals and sunglasses. Their accent said England.

The gray-haired American put a book on the table. “Isola Verde,” the green island, one of the many tour guides of Ischia they sell in the shops.

After they ordered their coffees the Englishman said, “Well, how was your hike up the mountain?”
“Don’t ask,” the blonde said.
“We were exhausted when we got to the top, but they had deck chairs and blankets so we could take a nap.”
“But it was COLD,” the blonde said. “And pretty soon it got so foggy that we couldn’t see anything.”


“The food was good, though,” the man said.
“I didn’t know they had a restaurant up there,” one of the Brits said.
“Oh, yes,” blondie said. “We had what do you call it? Tomatos, basil, chopped garlic and olive oil on top of slices of fresh bread.”
“Pane pomodori.”
“Yes, that’s it. But today I don’t want to hike anywhere, I just want to soak up the sun.”

The waiter brought a tray of espressos. Blondie tore open two packets of sugar, stirred them into her cup.
“There was supposed to be a breathtaking view of the entire island,” she said. “But all we saw was a white fog.”
“Clouds, actually,” the man said.
“What’s the difference? It was a whiteout. Couldn’t see a damned thing. I’ll bet when we go to Yellowstone next summer the geyser won’t blow on time.”
They laughed.
“Now that I think of it, the very same thing happened to us when we went to New York. Remember?”
“Remember what?”
“At the top of the Empire State building we couldn’t see anything either.”

“Have you been to the ancient spring at Nitrodi?” the Englishman asked.
“Another big disappointment,” blondie said.
“It's much smaller than we expected, just a couple lead pipes sticking out of a stone wall. There was an old man, stripped down to his underwear. He stood by one of the pipes and let the water run over his arms, which were covered with bright red sores. Ugh! It was awful. I said to Larry, ‘Come on, let’s get the hell out of here before we CATCH something.’”

They went on like this for another ten or fifteen minutes, then they packed up and walked off toward Forio Porto. I tried to go back to Jack’s letter, but couldn’t. Instead I wrote down the conversation I’d just overheard.

Complaints. Repeated disappointments. Matched my mood perfectly.

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I remember trekking to the top of Whiteface Mountain overlooking Lake Placid.

OK, I only had a few hours, so I drove up the Veterans' Memorial Highway and then hoofed it up the final quarter mile to the top, but that's beside the point.

The view was breathtaking, and it was exciting to watch the clouds coming right for me and feeling the fine mist as they enveloped me.

At that point, some hard-core outdoor killjoys behind me commented, "We hiked all the way up here for this? The Rockies are so much better!"

I hope you try the letter to Jack again tomorrow! Curiosity killed the cat and all, but I'm not feeling very feline at present, so I should be able to withstand it.

Sometimes we're better off NOT seeing what is around us. We may gripe, but there's something to be said for surprises.

Even in fog, your photos are lovely. I like the distance the cloud gives in the first one, and the disconnect from everything in the second.

People like the blond would say it looked just like ____ (Fill in name of another landmark) if she HAD been able to see it.

Last year, when I got back from ascending the peak of Vesuvius, a California couple asked me WHY I had gone all that way in the hot sun. Meaning to be ironic I replied, "Why, because Goethe took the same hike in March of 1787."

"Goethe?" the woman said. "Who's that?"

Now, John, you should know better than to talk dirty to people like that!

How Faustian!

Fog is wonderful. Today as I drove through a rustic part of California, I got to see the thick fog pouring over the mountain hills, and the places where fog met land were just breathtaking.

If by 'rustic part of California' you meant Venice, I'm pretty sure that fog had some kind of a hydroponic origin to it, if you know what I mean. ;)

Thank you. This made me pause and think about my own recent disappointments, and how they wouldn't exist if I didn't set so many expectations for people and events.

Yes, expect nothing and you'll never be disappointed.

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