…There was a small garden behind the fisherman’s cottage, but only 50 steps from the beach. You could sleep there in a warm afternoon and hear the waves splash on the sand. Large Italian Stone Pines spread their canopy and their long needles carpeted the sandy ground. Joe parked the VW bus under the trees, safe and snug behind the rock and cement walls, then he pitched the tent.
He and Sharon and Dan and Martin would walk on the short path by the north wall between our terra-cotta roof and the villa that belonged to the Sienese family, (where Jenny’s friend Francesca would call out to her at midnight), past the red tile covered porch and through the flowering Oleanders, out the gate, across the long stretched, tree lined, “Malecon” called Via Roma, to Bagno Netuno, where the boys would lie in the sand, or eat panini’s that Marta would cook, and watch Tessa and the other 13 year old Tuscan girls who flirted with them and other young men.
Joe came back from Sienna with tales of the Palio – long hours with little water packed into the center of that most beautiful of the most beautiful squares of all mankind; sitting on the Campo stones baking, the unsymmetrical shell with hundreds of “nonnes and nonnis” hanging from ancient, towered windows of ochre and umber walls, the Contrade flags barely moving, just as they have for 800 years; measuring the slow, slow movement of the shadows of the Torre del Mangia and wondering if it would get to them; hoping for the horses to start their run, soon, Dear God, “soon before we all pass out”.
Joe and Sharon, and Dan and Martin, and Waynette, and Jenny, and Fran, and baby Nick – we all celebrated two days later the Fourth of July on the red tile porch under the ancient beams and pines and the mulberry trees on the Malecon. Perhaps burgers & chips but certainly red wine & gelato, later, down the Via Roma at the late night gelato shop with the pink, fringed umbrellas. And the next morning our heads hazy, we walked on the short path and across the beach-walk, and with bare feet in the warm morning sand, walked into the soft, salty Mediterranean Sea, flopped onto our backs and floated on that most beautiful blue water, looking at that most beautiful blue sky, and thinking and thanking for that most beautiful life.
Joe – his first sabbatical!
We were warriors once, and brave. We were the front line for our learned friends who moved atoms and counted electrons and would soon build Five Trillion devices each and every day. We were building, as Andy said, perhaps the most significant company in history. And our goal was the best company in the world. We built it on fairness and compassion, honesty and integrity, science and results, visibility, and insatiable measurement; and we delivered each day and looked at each other each day and judged and discussed whether we had measured up that day and how we would do better. And Joe was one of our leaders – learned and fair, honest and welcoming, kind and trusted. Smart Guy!
You know, if you ask around of your friends and acquaintances “Who has heard of the Palio in Siena?” you will find lots of folks know about it and “want to go” – but it is not easy, it takes a commitment, it takes persistence and creativity and imagination, it takes self confidence. You will find damned few of your friends and acquaintance who have actually made it. Oh, lots will have sat in Al Mangia with a glass of white and some olives and put hands in the fountain, and climbed that tower, and watched those shadows, but they never really made it, to the Palio, to watch the Contrade ride on the slippery cobble stones..though they wanted to.
Joe did. He delivered.