The Power and Perils of Being Liked

Being Liked

Being liked. Am I too motivated by approval?

This question has been percolating for at least a month. In fact, I considered making this subject the launch into the New Year. But, as with many topics, I needed a bit of reflection first. Now, I’m ready to share my musings.

Why, you might ask, is being liked relevant to this blog? As I enter year four of ItalyWise, I’ve been asking myself how influenced my writing is by a need to please other people and generate comments and subscriptions as validation. I ask myself if I’m willing to “damn the torpedoes” and be unflinchingly true to myself. Do I compare myself to others too much? Am I chasing a definition of success that is measured by likes?

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Immersed in a Culture of Train Travel

Train Travel, Italywise

Split Screen – © 2018 Jed Smith

I love trains and train travel.

Ever since I received my first Lionel train set for Christmas at age four, I’ve been hooked. But, the view I had of trains was pretty much all about hauling freight––not people. Fast-forward sixteen years to when I studied art in Italy for the summer, and I looked at trains with fresh eyes. I fell in love all over again. This is so cool, I thought. A country and a continent whose transportation arteries of the railroad network rivaled, and often surpassed, that of the highway system. People have real travel options.

When I returned home after my Italian summer,

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Learning to Dance with Both Life and Death

life and death, Italywise

San Michele Cemetery Angel

I believe spending time in cemeteries helps remind me to wake up to the intrinsic dance of life and death. That’s why I love, in particular, Venice’s San Michele and Paris’s Pere Lachaise cemeteries. They help me to zoom back to the present and examine my life and whether I’m living on autopilot by keeping death at arm’s length and pretending that I’ve got nothing but time.

You may be reading this and proclaiming “How morbid!”––especially as a New Year’s contemplation. Stick with me, as I believe my musings are ultimately hopeful.

Two things conspired to bring the dance of life and death to my attention.

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Venice Postscript: The Working Man and Acqua Alta

Acqua Alta, Italywise

Sloggin’ Through Acqua Alta © 2017 Jed Smith

Yep, it’s that time of the year when Venetians start dealing with the acqua alta more frequently.

The high waters associated with fickle tides keep the people of Venice on their toes. Just a couple of weeks ago I published a photo essay and tribute to the working man of Venice. I forget to point out an added complexity of their lives. That’s the acqua alta. Locals stay abreast of the “odds” given by the local weather reports. Everyone waits and dreads the siren that goes off city-wide to warn people to “get ready”.  Usually, when you hear the sirens, the high waters will be making their appearance within a couple of hours.

Venice is constantly in readiness to respond to the acqua alta.

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Buone Feste! Let There Be Magic!

Buone Feste, Italywise

Buone Feste! May you have the happiest of holidays! © 2017 Jed Smith

I am indeed fortunate to be living in Italy and experiencing yet another magical holiday! I confess, a long career in advertising and marketing had almost depleted my stores of holiday cheer. Yes, a bit of “too much Christmas” for commercial reasons. Yours truly had become a bit of a Scrooge. Until my move…

Thank You, Italy, for bringing back a hearty Buone Feste into my life!

Maybe it’s the juxtaposition of holiday lights with ancient architecture and streets steeped in history. Maybe it is a matter of letting go of the former life and being able to see with fresh eyes. Maybe it’s the unfettered enthusiasm with which Italians celebrate the holidays. Whatever the answer, I just know I’m grateful to feel like a kid again.

Wherever you are, may this holiday season be full of magic and warmth.

Jed

 

A Tribute to the Working Man in Venice

working man, Italywise

Intensity – © 2107 Jed Smith

I love so many things about Venice. The city is a constantly unfolding visual feast. It’s a city that never stops giving even though she will never reveal all of her mysteries. Most visitors are dazzled by the sites in this magnificent city. I’m enthralled with the grout of Venice, the working man. Put another way, the working man is the connective tissue that keeps this city afloat and functioning.

The working woman, too, is part of the grout of Venice.  To give her equal tribute, I am working on a separate photo essay (stay tuned).

The working man in Venice is always battling the elements.

Venice is forever shifting and settling. Perfect right angles and straight lines are an impossibility. Imagine keeping a city going that exchanges boats far cars and trucks. Imagine dealing with the corrosive and rotting effects of so much moisture. Imagine coping with the acqua alta, the high waters. And then there is doing one’s job while dodging throngs of tourists. The working man in Venice must cope with it all.

These seven images capture only a snippet of the life of the working man.

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Trapped in a Thought Bubble?

Thought Bubble

Thought Bubble – © 2017 Jed Smith

If you’ve been following my recent posts, you won’t be surprised that my photography often ends up prompting me to write about a subject that has been commanding much of my attention. I have to laugh at how my subconscious works and slaps me, in a good-natured way, to wake up. This often happens with dreams (I sometimes keep a dream journal), but now it’s happening more frequently with my art and photography, as demonstrated by the thought bubble photo above.

A thought bubble is fine, now and then.

Yes, thinking is necessary to living and taking care of oneself. But when it becomes so habitual

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The Vigili del Fuoco of Venice and “Firetrucks” on Water

vigili di fuoco

The Vigili del Fuoco out and about in Venice © 2017 Jed Smith

 

I’ve made it a mission to create a photo essay of the life of Venetian workmen hard at work in the canals and passages of Venice. I’ve yet to find women working on outdoor crews, including the one female gondolier (I’m hoping that will change and I hope I’m able to capture the evolution as it happens).

Observing everyday life and functions on the water in Venice is endlessly fascinating

How do everyday functions such as trash collection, deliveries (can’t wait to delve into how Amazon.com reaches a person’s doorstep), medical emergency services (i.e. ambulances on water), etc.?

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Italian Holiday Greetings – Prep Yourself and Know the Protocol

Italian Holiday Greetings

The holiday trim and lights already are being prepped and strung across the ancient city streets of Italy. Mountains of panettone (Italian holiday sweet bread) dominate the supermarkets. Christmas and New Year’s are quickly approaching, and the exchange of Italian holiday greetings is ramping up.

Let’s talk about the most often-used Italian holiday greetings…

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Relax into the Unknown

Relax into life, Italywise

Let the river take you…

This has become my mantra.

Why? Because, for most of my life I’ve tried to master and control my experience. Trusting life and knowing how to relax into the unknown were things I gave good lip service, but knew little about in reality.

LIfe continues to heap lesson-upon-lesson in this regard. In response to experiences asking me to “let go”, I’ve usually answered by whining. That is, until I’ve remembered that life has a tendency to repeatedly serve up lessons that can vastly improve life. They aren’t meant to make life miserable. For me, ignoring the lesson “relax into the unknown” is what resulted in pain, unhappiness, and exhaustion.

Moving to Italy requires an enormous amount of thinking, planning and doing.

I realize how fortunate I am now that I’m clearly on the other side of all that up-front stuff. You know, getting the elective residency visa, closing up “shop” (job and home) and getting my permesso di soggiorno and residency. The list goes on. I share this because, if you’re about to do the same, or are in the process, you’ll understand how easy it can be to get stuck in high gear. And when it comes finally to downshifting, you may find yourself mired in hypervigilance.

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