Tuesday, April 24, 2012
La Dolce Vita...Living the Good Life
Often I've been asked where and how I come up with story ideas. It's difficult to answer as there is no set pattern or method to the madness of creative writing. Life experiences, observations and imagination play together, mixing and blending just enough to produce something you hope others will read and enjoy.
I've always been one to have my "head in the clouds" as some would say. As a child, I was a dreamer, imagining stories and putting them to paper. My mind would soar simply from listening to a song on the radio. It was easy to create a storyline from the music I would hear. I still do that, along with the daydreaming, but observing what goes on around me fuels my writing the best. Simple, everyday life occurrences can make the most interesting stories. Sometimes you learn a bit along the way.
On a recent trip to Italy, I was in full observation mode. Of course the language barrier aided this somewhat (I don't speak Italian), but I learned to get by with the basics. It helped that I was visiting my younger daughter who was studying in Rome. I'll give her credit for the assistance. I found how easy it became to watch and absorb when you couldn't communicate well orally. Sights were more vibrant, sounds became sharper. One saw the action and understood without uttering a word.
One day, my daughter and I were enjoying some gelato as we walked down the street (we did that a lot, by the way, gelato and walking and not necessarily together). A young boy of about ten was skipping along quickly, a cone of multicolored gelato in one hand, when suddenly he tripped. Now I'm not exaggerating when I say his little form became airborne. It did. A couple of one-handed cartwheels followed until momentum slowed enough that he rolled to a stop. At first, the look on his face reflected shock at what had happened. Then glancing at the hand holding the gelato cone, his expression changed quickly to something akin to male pride. He had literally saved the cone. Not one speck had been lost in that tumble. And just as quickly, his mother rushed to his side, checking for bumps and bruises. He glanced at the other hand, realizing he'd hurt it, and burst into tears. I didn't need an interpreter to explain the conversation between mother and child. There was no need for an explanation of what I'd just witnessed. That scene was purely simple and innocent and could've occurred (and does occur) anywhere in the world.
Another gelato story (I have a few) came during a very crowded visit to one of the more popular gelaterias. As I waited for my daughter to receive our order, I stood in a corner, leaning against the wall and watching customers. One lady in line kept holding up something that looked like a camera phone. She pointed it in various directions of the room, so I started following the objects of her interest. It was then I realized she had a small video camera, not a phone. I saw her focus on the young men filling the orders...it made me wonder why no women were behind the counter. I probably wouldn't have noticed otherwise. Then she would record various customers; some waiting, some chatting with friends. The place was so packed that I seemed to be the only person who noticed what she was doing. Then she zeroed in on a man eating a gelato cone and he was thoroughly enjoying every minute of it. He was focused on the pleasure of eating and his face reflected bliss. At that point, something about it struck me as being very funny. So I laughed out loud. It caught the woman's attention and she looked at me and laughed too. She continued to record the man, laughing with me as she did so. The gentleman was never aware he was the object of our attention but he took great delight in finishing his gelato with relish. Again, words weren't needed to share the meaning of something humorous. I've no idea why she was using a video camera. Perhaps it was for a class she was taking or maybe she had a great sense of humor. But it was something we've all seen regardless of where we might call home.
When visiting some of the more popular tourist attractions, we often encountered school groups. All would be led by a teacher or perhaps a parent. On one occasion, there were kids who appeared to be in middle school following an adult who looked like a caricature of Alan Alda. He held up a cardboard cut-out of an unknown female whenever he moved. This was so the kids could find and follow him in the crowds. They spoke Italian and the boys and girls seemed to enjoy being in the company of their leader. It then struck me that he was probably a teacher who everyone liked. The kids were laughing and appeared to be having a good time. Even though I couldn't understand a word of what they were sharing, I knew they were happy. I recalled many times over the years, my children taking school trips in the company of their own teachers.
Observations lead to many things. Knowledge. Understanding. Realization. In my quest to write a story or two, I saw that simple experiences connect us as human beings. We all worry about our children, laugh at something funny, cry at sorrow and want a good life. We share compassion and feelings without sharing the words or speaking the same language.
La Dolce Vita...Living the Good Life. Interpreted in various ways and also the name of a 1960 film by Federico Fellini. But universal and straightforward in its meaning. Living a sweet life.