In late April, Jon Seaborn and his friend Alfredo Grotto were arriving by train to Porta Santa Lucia, a small town in Italy on the Mediterranean coast.
The town itself dates back to the 15th century. The streets are paved with cobblestone, each stone seemingly able to tell it’s own story through its dents and discoloration. If you peek behind the vine covered walls you are able to uncover old Italian architecture with detail down to the interior crown moldings. The streets of the town are lined with trattorias, street artists, writers, actors and photographers just trying to get a break and a buck.
Jon is a photojournalist and newspaper illustrator. His long time friend, Alfredo, is a retired mail carrier who made a small fortune by writing a book, “How to Overcome Obesity in 12 Easy Steps”. Ironic that the words “small” and “obesity” are used in the same story about the same man, 20 years Jon’s senior.
Our story begins with this trip to Italy. The two men were traveling for work and pleasure; to figure out what the hell was going on with an inherited villa and take in the sights of Porta Santa Lucia. In a town known for its historical value, it was only inevitable that Jon and Alfredo began to write their own anecdote …
The villa was perched on the top of a hill overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. The tiny home was located on a street with the English translation meaning “Beautiful View”. The Irony of the villa is soon to come.
Jon and Alfredo’s first visit to the villa was awe-inspiring. A garden full of roses and wildflowers met them outside while vines climbed the walls of the villa. Vivid reds, lavenders and stark white flowers made the men stop in their tracks, their eyes widening from the color and their noses met with an aroma new to both of them.
While the outside of the villa looked like an amusement park of color and beauty, the inside left much to be desired. Dull walls with peeling paint, leaky faucets, broken ceramic tiles and outdated décor made up the interior of the villa.
The condition of the inside of the villa left Jon with a sour taste in his mouth. Technically, that taste could have come from the mold, but that has yet to be determined. Ultimately, the idea was to dump the villa, not dump a ton of money into it. A little discouraged, Jon decided to leave to go into down and find supplies, seek a handy man and figure out a way to band aid the gaping wound that was the villa.
While Jon was off grabbing the supplies and rental car, Alfredo decided it was time to take a trip to the community pool.
Picture the community pool like a crowded Starbucks. It was the place to be, with clicks of Italians quite obviously separated by social status, beauty and age.
See, this is where the story starts to take a skewed turn for the more interesting. Technically, Alfredo really should have accompanied Jon into town…He was the one of the two who spoke Italian. Jon, not a damn word.
Meanwhile, back in town, Jon was crossing a street when he saw a woman that looked like a friend he has back in the states. Convinced this woman had to be her, Jon approached her. Sure enough, sitting at a corner trattoria drinking a cappuccino sat Stephanie Weatherby. At this point, discouraged and upset, Jon was ecstatic to see a familiar face in a place half way around the world from home.
Stephanie was a pretty lady, average at best. She was blonde with blue eyes in her early 40’s. Accomplished, she was the head nurse at Florence Nightingale’s Hospital for the Elderly. Stephanie was on vacation with her two friends, Rose Lilyseed and Missy Dollace but was by herself when Jon found her.
After picking up his rental Honda civic and running most of his errands, Jon invited Stephanie to the trattoria to catch up. Was it fate that Jon ran into his old female friend half way around the world? Was it just pure coincidence?
At the trattoria Jon explained his whole villa debacle to Stephanie and it was at that point that a light bulb went off in Stephanie’s head. He was here with his friend and she was there with her friends, so to her it made sense for her friends to meet his friend and all get together.
Stephanie explained that Rose was in town on business and that she was kind of a “jack of all trades”. She was a freelance writer in town to do a piece for Cinque Terre. Since Rose knew some locals, she thought maybe she could help Jon find some workers for his villa.
Jon really appreciated Stephanie’s help and was greatly obliged. So, the date was set…Stephanie and friends would stop by the villa tomorrow.
So, tomorrow became today and when the clock struck 12 Stephanie, Rose and Missy made their way to the villa to meet up with Jon and Alfredo.
When the women showed up, Stephanie wasn’t the only familiar face to meet Jon. Not only had he seen Rose before, they had met in October 2010 at the 20th annual Notre Dame Pie eating contest in South Bend Indiana. Jon was there photographing for a Florida college magazine and Rose was there to cover the event for a local newspaper.
Once Jon named the venue they met at it wasn’t hard for her to place him. It’s generally not hard to remember anyone you see at a food fight. See, the event being covered was a pie eating contest but when the second runner up was refuting his position things got ugly.
According to the second placer, the winner of the contest didn’t exactly eat the entire pie because there were “remnants of fillings left on his plate”. Angry that his voice wasn’t being heard he took a handful of his own unfinished pie and slathered it on the head of the winner. The winner was none to pleased about the headful of pie he had just received and let’s just say, the rest is history. Anyway, I digress…
After sharing a moment with Jon, Rose broke a semi-awkward silence by jumping right into the villa renovations and repairs. Not only did she recommend some locals to make the fixes, but she offered style ideas, the types of fabrics she thought would work in the villa and even how the furniture should be rearranged.
Rose was used to people being impressed with her, but she wasn’t necessarily used to being offered jobs on the spot. Jon was so drawn in by Rose’s aura that he offered her employment to do the requisition and supervision of the work to the villa. Rose, intrigued, accepted.
Later that night, the gang all headed to a local Bistro for some entertainment and dinner. In true Italian fashion, the ladies arrived via vespas. It was a loud Bistro; the band rocking out on the stage in front of the main window facing the street crowded with Italian locals trying to get from point A to point B. None that could be bothered to even glance at the band so obviously on display. It was a small joint so if there were two people speaking at the same time, it was hard to hear the person even sitting just across the table.
Jon, Alfredo and the women sat at a circular table. Rose and Jon ended up sitting next to each other, but was it coincidence or fate? Rose and Jon began to engage in a conversation of their own centered around Rose’s plans for the villa repairs and her purpose for being in Italy.
On the other side of the table, Alfredo became a wee bit flirtatious with Stephanie. Stephanie was 25-years older than Alfredo and none to interested in a “juvenile” 30-something-year-old that was seemingly on vacation just along for a ride with no purpose. Sensing her friend’s discomfort and annoyance, Missy diplomatically stepped in to ease the situation. Missy was known to have a way of making situations less awkward with her tongue-in-cheek humor and intuition.
“Whoa there Nelly,” Missy said with a chuckle. “Cool your jets, Alfredo. This cougar is not buying what you’re selling right now!” Alfredo blushed and giggled as the two women high fived each other and laughed.
Almost three hours later, the band began to pack up and the restaurant began to empty out. Dessert plates sat in front of the group with a half eaten tiramisu, a flan dish that looked like someone had scraped the glass to get every last bit, and coffee cups that were about an 1/8 of the way full.
With a full day of shopping in Portofino the next day, it seemed like a great time to break. A true gentleman, Jon offered the ladies a ride in his large rental car. It was late in a foreign city and t wasn’t necessarily safe for them to be alone trying to weave in and out of traffic late at night. The women all looked at each and nodded, yes.
The next day Alfredo opted to skip out on a trip to Portofino for shopping to sit poolside for a little R&R. Once in Portofino the three women and Jon took the area by foot. Missy and Stephanie, unlike Rose, are shopaholics and move from store to store like on a mission.
Leisurely walking through the streets, it wasn’t long before Rose and Jon were left in Stephanie and Missy’s dust. Rose explains to Jon that the only reason she wanted to go with the women was to find a charm for her bracelet. “Let them shop all day,” she said. “They loooveee to shop.”
After finding a charm, Jon takes Rose down to the water where they start to discuss more villa repairs and their shared love of painting.
The two walked down the narrow cobblestone sidewalk parallel to the water until they came to a bench for two where they, naturally, sat down facing the water way.
As the sun began to set, the clouds reflected off the water creating sparkling only reminiscent of the facets on a diamond. The conversation about painting progressed into a conversation about writing and photography only for the two to realize they shared more in common with each other than they thought.
For a brief minute in was it was as if time stood still as the two looked into each other’s eyes. They inched closer and closer until their lips almost touched and…”HOOONNNNNKKKKKKKKKKKKK”
Startled by a tugboat’s horn, the two jumped seemingly almost out of their skin. Without hesitation, Rose looked at Jon and said, “I suppose we should go find the ladies.” She quickly got up and began her walk back to the shops.