Storytelling was originally an auditory experience
The first stories were spoken aloud. They told you how to find food, which plants were used to heal, and the history of the place where you lived.
Not everyone is able to read
Like listening to audiobooks, podcasts allow people to hear the information they want when they are driving to work, working at a job that allows them to think, or just enjoying a walk or run. Age and eyestrain can make reading a story on a screen more work than enjoyment. Now, when reading hurts, you have another option.
It’s another way to send a message
In the past, messages were sent by pigeon, by smoke, and even invisible ink. Sometimes one person had the job of shouting announcements from a central location. In other examples, a team provided hourly announcements or relayed messages from one location to another, miles away.
I grew up listening to stories on the radio
The radio was always on in the house where I was raised. It was a family radio station. Hosts provided commentary and discussion, and there were scheduled times for story hour. On Saturday mornings, I listened to the adventures of Ranger Bill and his old sidekick Stumpy.
I believe in fostering the imagination
Listening to the radio taught me how to use my imagination. It’s similar to reading a book instead of seeing the movie. The author gives you the details and the descriptions that make the story come alive. You get to fill in the spaces like a coloring book. The story becomes personal when your brain creates the images that bring it to life for you.
We’ve been home for a month now and despite my best efforts, there is no more time to write about our trip to Italy. Instead, these are my notes and reflections of our remaining days in Assisi and Rome in Italy.
Florence to Assisi
We boarded a train for Assisi and found our way down the tracks for two hours.
We arrived under a sprinkle of rain and looked out the window to see the city of Assisi resting on a hill. The city looked like something from a textbook.
We arrived and met our host Francesco at the cafe that he his father and brother owned.
Our check-in was magical and even recorded for posterity.
We spent our first day wandering around and eating a late lunch or early dinner at the little pizzeria next door to our place.
We downloaded a tour from the laudable Rick Steve’s Europe website.
We followed the first tour around the city.
The next day took a tour of the church named after the town’s most famous resident, Saint Francis. The theme that was recurring during the tour and in almost all representation of Francis were the examples of how Francis was willing to surrender the comforts that he had grown up enjoying. for his entire life until that moment.
The repeated story was that Francis confronted his father and removed all of his wealthy clothing as a physical example of his renouncement of all worldly things.
His wife Claire. Followed his bath and with her Poor Claire’s she created a women’s nunnery that lived by the same example that Francis founded his monastery.
We left Assisi and our friend Francesco behind with a sadness. Assisi felt magical and welcoming in the same breath.
Our last stop was Rome
We started with an afternoon landing at the train station. When we checked in and put down our belongings we went outside to find somewhere to eat. then we went to the Vespa rental and secured a pair of two wheels to let us get around town. That evening we drove out to the Coliseum and then around town. It was a challenge to recognize the way the Italians drove.
Lane-splitting is common back home, but there is still an adherence to the need for the double-yellow line. In Italy, lane-splitting is a flexible concept. The double-yellow line is more of a suggestion than a hard rule. When traffic backed up or was just moving too slowly the scooters would dip and drift around and between the cars. It was very common to see a scooter coming straight toward another vehicle. Sometimes it was another scooter, other times a large truck.
We started at the Coliseum. It was really breathtaking to walk around the stones and see the way they fit together like carved pieces. Our tour guides were a little unimpressive. But, the knowledge we gained was decent and we moved on.
Next came the forum. It was probably the most peaceful place I have ever been.
For all the crowds and the growing heat of the day, it felt so comforting. I had the sense that if I needed or just wanted to I could lay down there on a block of stone or a just the ground. I felt like the arms of the place like the past of the place would keep me safe and warm and at home.
The next day Tracy had arranged for us to take a private tour of the Vatican. Our guide was wonderful. She understood where we need to pay the greatest focus. She often pointed to the ways we could stop and rest and enjoy a drink of water.
When we reached the place that stood above the place where St. Peter’s tomb lay there were no pictures allowed and no talking. Our guide warned us that when we entered we would be able to turn around and see the beautiful paintings by Michelangelo.
Later we walked down to the post office and bought postcards for our parents. We took video and stared in wonder at the beauty of the thing.
The church was originally the place where the body of Peter was kept. Peter was one of twelve disciples of Jesus. When he joined up his name was Thomas. Jesus told him that he would be the rock and cornerstone that the Catholic Church would build upon and changed his name to Peter. When planning for the Vatican expanded the church to include an outdoor arena there was an intent made to make the extensions curve so they appear to look like two large arms. The hope was that each person who entered the arena would feel the welcoming embrace of the church.
Our final stop was the Pantheon. It is the largest domed structure to pre-date Roman construction. The width of the dome is the same as the base of the building.
It houses the statues of many old gods and after it was repurposed for the Catholic church it began to hold the bodies of saints. The light through the stained glass at the top was soft and dreamy.
Our trip was over. We dropped off the scooter and had dinner at the same restaurant where we ate every night since we had arrived.
In the morning we gathered our luggage and took a taxi to the airport. We left the city where we first landed more than a week ago. The plane lifted off into the air and we carried memories of Florence, Assisi, and Rome into our hearts.
The story of a community is revealed when it responds to change. Communities claim many things, and the people within them proclaim even more. The decisions that are made when times are bad are a reflection of the possibilities that might be realized when they improve.
The Athletic Club
I ate breakfast with my friend DJ on Monday. We met at my place around 6:45 a.m. and walked down to the Athletic Club. The club opened its doors right before the NBA Playoffs began and even before the Golden State Warriors secured the championship, it had promoted itself as the home for World Cup action. The club was open every game day at 5 a.m. for the earliest matches.
Today the first game did not start until 7 a.m. Our challenge was that there were two games that were playing simultaneously. We had chosen the Uruguay vs. Russia matchup to see just how well Russia stacked up against established competition. Their first two wins were essentially blowouts against teams that struggled to compete. Uruguay has been a major player in the World Cup for decades. Their games had been close challenges and each time the players displayed their mettle. Russia would need more than momentum to defeat Uruguay.
DJ and I both played defense on our college soccer team back when we were old enough to dream about a career in professional sports. We ordered coffee and covered the hot topics in soccer. DJ brought up the newest documentary ESPN 30 for 30 called Nossa Chape about the rebuilding of an underdog soccer program from Brazil after most of the team perished in a plane crash in 2016.
DJ was heartfelt in his descriptions while summarizing the film. I really appreciated that he focused on the value of the community that the team had created before the crash. The players and staff cared about each other and all the families on the team, as much as their own. It made his explanation of the challenges that the club faced when it tried to rebuild the program that much more tragic.
The intention was honorable. The desire to rebuild in the memory of those who were lost is commendable. Honor and intention were not enough. Survivors felt forgotten, the pressure to succeed became an unbearable weight that hampered the players, and a secret that would change the scope of the tragedy was slowly uncovered.
It also brought up an interesting point about the United States Men’s National Soccer Team and its failure to qualify for the cup this time around. When we were younger becoming a member of the USMNT was a dream, and because of our age, we believed that it was still a possibility. If nothing else it was an aspiration that drove us to want more, to try more, and to be more.
I can only imagine what the National Basketball Association, Major League Baseball, or the National Football League represent to the players who dream of attaining professional status. When I was in high school and even after, Major League Soccer was a fledgling program. It was so small that it appeared that only players from international teams and European leagues and maybe the odd USMNT all-star or college standout made the cut.
And there were rumors. So many confusing stories about how to get in or what route to take. We wanted answers and we watched the games on television and we dreamed without any path to reach them.
Islands of Responsibility
The more we talked the more we were reminded of the community that DJ left when he moved from Oahu to California. He told me that the recognition that Hawaii was the nexus for cultures from every part of the world had led to a conscientious decision to recognize each of them equally. It was a shared responsibility that valued the need to work together.
Responsibility is a necessity on an island when the size of the land and the number of people using it guarantees that it will fail without responsibility. This is not an option, but a life and death understanding. Each person’s actions directly impact every other person on the island. It makes them dependent and accountable.
Wrapping Our Arms Around a Community
It also strengthens the bonds of community. By relying on each other, caring for each other as much if not more than we do for ourselves is the backbone of great communities. I do not know that a lack of community was a factor in the U.S. missing a shot at the World Cup in Russia. I do know that its best chances will come when the community values described by my friend, values exemplified by a soccer team from Brazil and the chain of islands that create the state of Hawaii.
The game ended and DJ and I went on to face our separate afternoons and evenings. Later I watched Portugal and Iran battle to a draw, much like Spain and Morocco were doing at the same time. I could not let go of the idea of community that DJ had planted in my head. It invaded the podcast I was recording and it became a theme that was more than I was capable of addressing because I was still wrapping my arms around it.
Hawaii and North America are very similar. Both are masses of land surrounded by water. The amount of land is finite. We can choose to wait for the space to run out and then treat each other like a community that must depend on each other, or we can act now and strengthen a bond that will make us stronger when our growing population requires us to live closer together.
Sometimes you meet a friend for breakfast and enjoy a polite conversation. I was lucky enough to watch the World Cup with my friend and teammate. When it was over I walked away with a reminder of the value that our teamwork created when we were younger, and what it now meant for our friendship.