Elsa asked me, “What’s it like in Italy, Mom?” She leaves for Florence in a few days.

I said, “Everywhere you look is a deja vu experience — like you’ve visited it in a romantic dream.”

I continued, “People dress nicer and so you end up dressing up, too, and then you feel beautiful. It’s like being in your own movie in which you’re the star.”

Elsa sighed in happiness and leaned back on the couch. “I’m so excited,” she said. “It’s going to be so wonderful.”

We began to pack. We went through my closet and pulled out all the skirts and dresses we could find that would fit her. She tried on shoes and blouses and scarves and debated on this or that for a day in Sorrento or Rome or perhaps, Milan.

What a gift, I thought. Most people never get a chance to do this in their lifetime and Elsa gets to do it at 14. Her life is charmed. She has beauty, talent, intelligence, depth of feeling to enjoy it all, and now … as a cherry on top of the sundae … she has opportunity. As a mother, I am deeply thankful and grateful to Elida for sharing this time with her. Elsa will never be the same. She’ll want to travel for the rest of her life.

While Elsa is strolling through cobblestone streets and eating in the open air and choosing from colorful piled slabs of gelatto topped with fruit and nuts, Paul is exploring the last American frontier.

I ordered an inflatable jacket for him to be sent to King Salmon. The skipper of the boat told him to just send it to SnoPack Fishery. That’s where all the mail goes and is distributed from there. There isn’t a street address but the company required one — so we just made one up. The skipper assurred us it would arrive. “There’s nothing else out here,” he said.

I pictured burly, bearded men in the cold, wet barren place. It is such a man’s world — the ratio in some places is 400 to 1. Paul related a story from someone who had just been there. The man said he’d asked for what’s on tap and got a glare in return. Later, another man started to look at the menu and wanted to order a cocktail. The men who were with him gave each other knowing smiles and encouraged him to order. The owner of the joint was truly a man of the sea, massive, hairy and mean. “What’d’ya want?” he asked. The cocktail man asked about his choices.

The Man of the Sea got down in his face and yelled, “Get out of my bar!” He was so menacing and intimidating that the man scuttled out the door without ordering anything.

The rest of the men grunted in amusement and the newbies learned their lesson — no girlie drinks available.

I guess the tavern has beer on tap now, so eventually, perhaps even this remote place on earth will have to accommodate to the changing times. But for now, it remains a frozen timewarp from years ago, when men, greedy for gold, wandered in search of fortune.

 

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