Hot Sauce

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“Hot Sauce”  |  Anthony Satori

There is a wall at our local fish house which displays various brands of hot sauce from around the world.  It features sauces of many different flavors, styles, origins, and intensities.  When I look at it, it makes me think of how the sharing of food and flavors from different regions and countries has a way of making the world a smaller place, bringing otherwise disparate people closer together, causing us to feel more connected to one another’s cultures and traditions. 

If you want to understand someone better, share a meal with them.  If you want to understand a place better, take the time to seek out and experience some of the local cuisine.  If you want to feel closer to a specific person, cook something that is meaningful to you and enjoy it with them, and then let them do the same for you.  Food can be so much more than just nutrition, so much more than just “filling up.”  Food can play a very real role in both intercultural understanding and interpersonal relations, because it touches at the very heart of the human experience.

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The London Eye at Night

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“The London Eye at Night”  |  Anthony Satori

Strolling along the river’s edge, under the dark of night, it seemed almost as if the London Eye might simply break away from its cables at any moment and start rolling joyfully down the bank of the River Thames like a giant, glowing bicycle tire set free from the confines of its chains and gears…BlogImage-footd

Jack Kerouac: Beat Prophet

“Vesuvio”  |  (San Francisco, CA)  |  Anthony Satori

Some people say that Jack Kerouac wasted his life.  At some level, perhaps this is true.  I certainly wish that he had lived longer.  I certainly wish that he had achieved more balance in his life while he was here.  I certainly wish that he had found more sustained happiness, experienced more enduring love, enjoyed a more consistent flow of success.  And I cannot help but wish that something or someone might have somehow kept him from drowning in depression and alcoholism toward the end.  

All of that being said, I still believe that it is a vast injustice to say that Kerouac wasted his life.  Because, for me, there is an immense redemption to be found:  it is in his words, in his books, in the substance of his work.  He was a writer, an artist, a poet.  He was given a gift by the universe, and he used it.  He had a true talent and he immersed himself in it.  He had a spark of magic inside of him and he spent every day of his life striving to share this light with the world.  This, in my opinion, is enough.  This, in my opinion, is the opposite of a wasted life.

The image above depicts a bar in San Francisco called Vesuvio, one of the favorite watering holes for the Beat Poets in the 1950’s and 1960’s.  Vesuvio is right next door to the famous City Lights Bookstore, owned and run by the great poet/publisher Lawrence Ferlinghetti.  City Lights Bookstore was the location of numerous live readings by Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Gary Snyder and other members of the Beat Generation, and after these readings they would often walk across the alley and have a drink (or two) at Vesuvio.  If you look closely enough at the picture above, you can see the reflection of City Lights Bookstore in the window.  And if you go inside and listen closely enough, you can still feel the spirit of Jack Kerouac spinning tales of joy, kicks and beatific mad love for life.

So, in the words of the Beat Prophet himself, “Live, travel, adventure, bless, and don’t be sorry.”

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Other Spirits

“Woman Walking on Stone Pathway (Bellagio, Italy)”  |  Anthony Satori

Not long ago, I visited a small lake-side town in northern Italy called Bellagio.  On an early morning stroll, I took a photograph of the rising sun washing over a stone pathway that weaved upward from the main promenade.  As I took the picture, I was struck by how this small road had surely remained essentially unchanged for years, decades, even centuries, and I was inspired by the wonder and romance of this notion.

Not long after returning to the States, I came across a relatively obscure collection of photographs taken by one of the most influential pioneers of photography from the early 20th Century, Alfred Stieglitz.  I already knew a fair amount about Stieglitz’ life and work as an early champion of photography as a legitimate medium of creative expression; however, these particular pictures had somehow escaped my experience up until now, perhaps because they were taken before he ever opened his first gallery, even before he moved to New York.

As I was enjoying the discovery of these remarkable early photographs, I ran across a particular image that caught my eye.  It was a picture that Stieglitz took of a small cobblestone pathway in a tiny lake-side town in northern Italy.  The photograph was titled, “A Road in Bellagio, 1894.”  I was amazed.  Here, over a hundred years before my having explored this small village and having taken a photograph expressing my awe at its beauty and timelessness, Stieglitz himself had walked along this very same cobblestone promenade and felt the very same creative impulse to capture an image of a small road weaving upward from its edge.  It is wonderful how art has the ability to connect us with other spirits, even over the centuries.

Here, then, are both of the images.  The image on the left is the photograph taken by me.  The image on the right is Alfred Stieglitz’ photograph, taken in 1894.

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Momento

"Pier Over Lake Como"  |  Anthony Satori

“Pier Over Lake Como”  |  Anthony Satori

It was early morning on the shores of Lake Como, northern Italy.  I took a deep breath and savored the quiet beauty of the surroundings.  A small motor boat appeared through the fog and docked at the end of the pier, waiting for us to board.  Our group began to walk along the wooden planks toward where the vessel gently rocked in the water.  About halfway down the pier, I moved to affix the lens cap to the end of my camera, but as I did, it slipped from my grasp.  There was a gasp as we watched it spin through the air, seemingly in slow motion, bounce one time off the wood, clear the edge of the pier, and then drop unceremoniously through the surface of the water with a quiet bloop.  The lens cap then sank slowly to the bottom of the lake, coming to rest nearly ten feet under water.  We all watched in silence as it settled on the lake floor.  I gave a sigh.  The others looked at me to see what I would do.  I lifted my head, smiled and said, “It’s alright, it’s just a lens cap.  I can get another.”  I then turned and continued to walk toward the boat.  Taking my cue, the others turned to walk with me.

The Italian boatman, however, having watched the entire situation unfold, stepped off his boat and said to me with a thick Italian accent, “No, no, we get it.”  I began to protest, but quickly realized that my protestations would be to no avail as the kind boatman walked back onto his vessel and retrieved a pole with a small fishing net at the end of it.  He returned to where I stood with a smile in his eyes and a look of friendly determination on his face.  He asked me where the lens cap had landed.  I indicated an almost unseeable dark disc sitting deep in the clear water.  The boatman crouched down at the side of the pier and lowered the pole into the water, the net just barely reaching the lens cap where it lay.  He tapped it gently with the edge of the net, nudging it ever-so-slightly toward the shore.  At this point, everyone was watching with bated breath.  Every eye upon him, the kind boatman continued to gently tap the lens cap toward shore, get up and take a  few steps up the pier, and then reach down again with the net to tap it further.  The entire group stood watching each incremental move with rapt attention.  After numerous similar nudges, each yielding only the smallest of advances, he finally got the cap into shallow enough water where I could lean down over the side of the pier and retrieve it.  I pulled it up out of the water and lifted it into the air.  Everyone cheered.  The boatman stood up with a smile of triumph.  I thanked him, saying, “Grazie, signore, mille grazie.”  Feeling the appreciation, he smiled back at me and warmly replied, “Ti prego.”

Thus began our journey into Lake Como.  We started the day with a genuine show of kindness from a new friend, and the bonding that comes from a shared achievement, and this set the tone for the entire day.  As we boarded the boat, I quietly folded the still-wet lens cap into a small silk cloth and slipped it into a side pocket of my camera case.  Since that day, I have never rinsed nor cleaned that lens cap, instead keeping it just as it is, still touched with traces of the very water and earth of Lake Como, and imbued with a warm memory of a foggy morning in northern Italy.

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The Galleria (Milan)

Interior, The Galleria (Milan, Italy)  |  Anthony Satori

Interior, The Galleria  |  (Milan, Italy)  |  Anthony Satori

It is difficult to rival the Italians when it comes to architecture as an art form.  Consider the awe-inspiring Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, in Milan, Italy.  It is a magnificent structure built with dramatically arching panes of glass, intricate cast iron latticework, and an interior filled with paintings, mosaics, and countless other elements of architectural and artistic style. 

It was designed by Giuseppe Mengoni in 1861, and it was built between the years 1865 and 1877, also by him.   The building was named after (and financed by) Vittorio Emanuele II, the first King of a newly unified Italy.

Other interesting facts:

1)  It was intended to be exactly what it is, a shopping mall.  And, over 100 years later, it still is.

2)  Whenever you go to a modern shopping mall anywhere in the world and it is called “The Galleria,” it is a reference to this specific structure.  (Whether the builders realize it or not.) 

3)  In an ironic turn of fate, Mengoni died soon after the Galleria’s completion.  He fell off the roof of his own creation.  (It is 154 feet tall.)

On a lighter note, a few years back I ate a Big Mac there.  Madness, I know.  A Big Mac in Italy, the land of incredible food.  But there was a method to my madness.  First, purely for the sake of the sheer juxtaposition of experience, it was novel and fun.  Second, I have a healthy appetite, so there was no chance that one burger was going to slow me down.  Third, and perhaps most significantly of all, you can’t have a Big Mac there anymore.  That’s right, in 2012 the Galleria refused to renew McDonalds’ lease, and after a protracted round of legal jousting it was decided that the fast food giant would never return to the mall.  That spot is now occupied by a Prada store.  There was, of course, no way for me to foresee this at the time, but it definitely makes me all the more glad that I did it.

I suppose the point is, enjoy the moment.  Have fun.  A Big Mac is only as mundane as you allow it to be.  Engage with the unique texture of wherever you find yourself.  To be alive is amazing… savor it.

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