Anyone can buy a guitar, get some practice (Youtube would be enough), take some lessons or advice from someone who already plays and then say “I play guitar”. That’s what I did. An uncle gave my sister and me his guitar when we were 9 and 11 respectively. We experimented based on the first chords our uncle gave us. And we moved on. I in particular focused on being a guitarist, learning solos as well. Then when I was 16 the electric guitar arrived and by the time I was 20 we had a small band playing the songs of our heroes in the rehearsal rooms. When people say “I play guitar” it doesn’t mean much. I’ve always said that about myself – I play guitar – but what does it really mean? Do I play it alone? In a band? Do I perform publicly or do I play at home sitting on the couch? Even a professional can claim “I play guitar”. It only takes a small-time professional to humiliate someone like me who plays in his spare time. But there are also non-professionals with killer technique. The vast majority have not become famous, not even those who make a living from guitar.
I’ve been playing guitar since I was very young and some sense of rhythm I should have by now. If we extend the concept to everyday life, I see it a bit as a matter of being able to adapt to situations based on what is happening around and what our skills are. In short, being good at keeping the rhythm of life is definitely very useful. Sometimes I’ve been able to do it and adapt to unexpected changes, first and foremost the loss of my dream job. It’s no secret that I see the periods of my life marked by the cars used at that time. It may not be very poetic to tie memories to family cars but I have a whole section of this site dedicated to the subject. And the latest addition to the family bears the name of an award, as if to say that I have been …Bravo.
The southern Italy earthquake of 1980
It was a rather hot day for November. We teens and children were playing outside, in the courtyard and in the surrounding countryside. It was a beautiful autumn Sunday, sunny and cool, but not too much. In the afternoon there was the classic ball game in the courtyard. Our cheap but legendary Super Santos orange plastic ball, very common in Italy even today, had ended up in a balcony on the 2nd floor and one of us had climbed over from the stairs window to retrieve it. He took a risk that today as a parent would make my skin crawl. But over time we had all taken that risk in turn: the courtyard was surrounded by balconies and terraces on the ground floor, it was inevitable that the ball would end up in one of them. Sometimes we buzzed the owner to ask the favor to return it. More often, since the ball was easily confiscated, or worse, cut in two with scissors in a solemn ritual that they made us attend ruthlessly, we took the risk of climbing over before the owner noticed. When it went wrong, we would resort to a desperate fundraiser and rush to buy another one. In practice, we risked breaking and entering to avoid embezzlement by the flat’s owner. But that Sunday afternoon, November 30, 1980, the ball had ended up in the balcony of a friend of ours who no longer lived there, the apartment on the 2nd floor was uninhabited. So someone had to go to retrieve it despite its height of about 6 m…
I had a dream. It was night and the headlights of a car illuminated a gate of a country house. It was as if I was looking at them sideways at their height, as if I were a child. I felt that feeling of security and warmth of going home with your family, a very positive feeling that was imprinted on me with that same image of the dream. The car headlights were round and chrome. There were four of them. In the middle was a V-shaped grille with a round logo on the top that always reminded me of a time when life was different, it had another, more natural rhythm. A time when when you were traveling or simply taking a ride you were untraceable and to call someone you had to look for a pay phone. It was also the most glorious period of the brand of that logo and I associate it with my childhood and a pre-digital period, with more human rhythms. It was the Alfa Romeo logo on a front panel typical of those years: Oo=V=oO.
Things change. Life is a becoming. What happens has consequences. It’s natural. The big changes in life, those that leave a mark, that cause the greatest stress and therefore require a greater readjustment of a person’s life, come sooner or later for everyone: bereavements, changes or loss of jobs, relocations, marriages and separations, births of children. They are both positive and negative stress. You are no longer the same when you become a parent, nor when you lose a loved one. As far as my life is concerned, the most beautiful and intense positive stress was the birth of my son: I discovered that you can’t describe how you feel, you only understand it when it happens to you; the feeling I describe to those who ask me is that I felt finally “complete”. So far the worst negative stress that has happened to me has been the loss of my job.
Two things made it heavier than it normally is: the struggle and sacrifices I made to get to the job I dreamed of and the critical age at which I lost it, shortly after I was 50. It was like being in no man’s land, too young to retire, too old to be hired again.