Ten years later.

Hard to believe I’m getting to age where I can look back on anything with a decade’s worth of perspective. Hell, I appreciate the fact that I’ve been around long enough to have any perspective at all. With that, I’ve returned to Italy as a tourist rather than an ad agency copywriter.

First impression? I’m not sure I’ve changed as much as Milan has. While it’s entirely possible that I was too busy to really experience the city the first time, it seems to be a far more welcoming place these days. We’ve explored old streets, admired the canal and eaten well in nondescript surroundings. The place has its charm—even after nearly thirty hours without sleep.

Oddly enough the most memorable moment wasn’t the Duomo, the massive plate of $4 pasta or the makeshift bidet in our bargain hotel. The stop that really got me on our 11-hour jaunt through cobblestone and asphalt was accidentally encountering the 4-star hotel where I’d stayed so many years before. We stepped into the lobby and it all came rushing back. All the awkward negotiations with the client. All the last-minute decisions. All the early mornings trying to make ungrateful people happy.

It was that trip down past-client-meeting lane that reminded me that I’ve worked hard to get where I am in life. Career wise. Relationship wise. Squeeze-the-most-out-of-every-moment wise. None of this happened by accident. Good luck may have been a factor, but I can’t discount the determination behind each endeavor.

We have nearly two weeks left in Italy. I still have a couple of places to revisit along the way. I doubt they’ll all come with such moments of clarity. One thing’s for sure, I never would’ve made it here in my 30s had it not been for my ability to put myself in the right place at the right times with some kind of solution for a seemingly endless number ambiguous requests.

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Nailed it.

The filthy streets of San Francisco are filled with surprises. It’s wise to watch your step. As you’d expect, my midwestern, good-samaritan tendencies still occasionally surface. I try to kick used needles into the storm sewer, pick up other people’s dog poop and sometimes I’ll gather the drunk litter that collects in front of our apartment. They’re small, lazy gestures that could potentially save someone else from a little unnecessary stress.

So the other day when I noticed a roofing nail along the curb in front of our place, sharp-end up, I grabbed it and put it in my jacket pocket. I didn’t want it to wind up in anyone’s tire (especially one of my own). Three days later, after the nail was long forgotten, Naomi and I were unloading the car along the curb. Bag of over-priced dog food. Bag of over-priced vegetables from Whole Foods. Bag of over-priced toiletries from Target. And my jacket. Feeling satisfied with the fact that our weekend errands were done, she gave me a little hug. And then spotted something troubling.

“What’s that on the ground? Under the car?” she said, leaning forward to take a closer look.

Apparently the nail I’d picked up a few days before had fallen out of my pocket and planted itself in the exact spot I’d found it the first time.

There’s no lesson here. Except be careful out there. Needles are sharp. Poop on your shoe can ruin your day. And nails are almost as good at finding their way to your car tires as they are at holding buildings together.


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Stay behind the yellow line.

One of the simple pleasures of city life is witnessing random strangers successfully rush to make the bus. It doesn’t matter where they’re headed or why they’re running late. The way I see it, if you’re counting on the city bus to get around at 6:45 am, you’re most likely trying to get somewhere you don’t really want to be and therefore 100% worthy of a tip of the hat.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking recently on life, death and the notion of what’s meant to be. Most of us are wound so tight that it’s hard to find any kind of perspective. You can’t blame people for minding their own business—it’s all most of us have time for. Getting ahead isn’t even on the agenda when you’re struggling to get by. Feverishly checking in on the systems put in place to determine our levels of achievement, when true happiness comes from the inside and is usually rooted in some kind of simplicity. Petting a dog. Getting a kiss on the cheek. A random sticky note on the kitchen counter.

Good luck out there. Do whatever you’ve got to do. And no matter where you’re going, I hope you make your bus.

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Another test.

Today I consider all the things we do in life to remind ourselves that we’re alive. So many moves we make to justify the next. And through it all, I’m left wondering whether introspection is worthy endeavor or just another way to make myself feel fancy.

Today there’s a burning sensation somewhere between my heart and my stomach. Like a rock but hard-packed with nerves and blood. It’s made of pieces of what could have been and the challenges ahead. It’s ethereal but ready to throw a punch if you cross it. It’s not afraid to cry but it’d rather not make a scene. It’s taken on a life of its own that, perhaps, wasn’t meant to be.

Today the best reason to be reasonable is because there’s simply no better option.

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Perfect timing (for an imperfect world).

Our city life is a series of pleasant grownup cycles and routines. It’s the reason there’s food in the fridge, a roll of quarters for laundry and the dog has never had to take a shit on the floor. It’s keeping up and keeping track. The city itself is a disaster. Too much traffic. Too much greed combined with too many people trying to get by. San Francisco is a small city full of massive egos.

All good and evil factors aside, I occasionally get home on time—which gives me an opportunity to greet my lady at the bus stop when she’s getting home late. At least this was the plan last Wednesday when I headed out into the neighborhood with Woody the dog.

But we were intercepted by a short chat with one of the people in our building. Woody didn’t mind.

Then we walked by one of the Catholic churches and ran into one of the priests. Woody particularly likes this guy and the feeling seems to be mutual.

Around the bend we saw one of our waiter friends watching traffic go by. I knew Woody would expect love and attention, so I hunkered down for another stop and chat.

When we finally made it to the bus stop, I’d abandoned the notion of seeing the familiar face we’d left the house in search of. We were running late on a schedule that never really existed. And yet there she was. Each chance encounter led to a perfectly paced love connection. Loosely planned, last-minute mission accomplished. We climbed the hill back toward the house, hand in hand in leash.

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