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Talk to your parents! January 17, 2007

Posted by dorigo in personal, travel.

I am (like to think of myself as) a rational person, who tries to pay little attention to emotional influences in my ordinary train of thoughts. However, being a human being, I too am sometimes overcome by my emotive side, and reminiscences of the past have a big role in flipping my state away from rational thinking.

This evening I was having dinner by myself in Saint Genis (France, next to the border with Switzerland near Geneve), in a rather stylish restaurant I ran into by accident. And for some reason, as I contemplated myself as a lone traveler of Europe, I came to think of my father, who traveled all around Europe a lot in his heydays, when he was organizing the “Biennale del Teatro” in Venice, acting like a talent-scout for groups of actors.

Traveling throughout Europe in the sixties was definitely a different business. Credit cards did not exist, and you had to have inside your pockets a suitable amount of currency of the countries you would visit. A passport was vital, as was often a visa obtained beforehand. Plane trips were something exclusive, when the crew pampered you during the flight. I imagine how my father felt during his frequent trips to find theatre companies who would accept to perform in Venice for the festival organized by the Biennale. Much more stranded than I feel myself here tonight, I bet, despite his better mastering of foreign languages (my french really stinks). I would love to have him tell me some stories of his visits to foreign countries, 40 years ago.

My father died last July. It is hard to describe how many things you come to think you would like to discuss with a person that is no more, while you feel no such pressure to talk with people that is still around you.

But it is never too late to realize that. My mother will be around for a few more years, and I intend to write down a list of things I want to talk about with her, and then tick items off the list one by one!



1. Tony Smith - January 18, 2007

Tommaso, you are right when you say “… My mother will be around for a few more years, and I intend to write down a list of things I want to talk about with her, and then tick items off the list one by one! …”.

One suggestion is that you might consider talking with her into a recorder, so that you can listen to her voice. Before my father died, I did that with respect to his business history (mining business) and the time in the 1930s when he was in Cuba, and I am happy that I did that.
Nowadays, maybe a video recording would be even better.

Tony Smith

2. dorigo - January 18, 2007

Yes, recording in some way is a good idea… But it largely depends on the person you record – some would not feel good talking freely in front of a cam. Besides, I think that kind of stuff has a limited use, especially if you just want to record a casual conversation. Doing things seriously on the other hand is beyond my goal, which is just feeling I’ve talked what needed to be talked about.


3. Bee - January 18, 2007

Hey Tommaso,

I stayed in St. Genis for a week or so last year. It was in summer though, everything green and just soo pretty between Geneva and the mountains. Sorry to hear about your father. My father died when I was 14, I don’t know very much about him. Interestingly enough, only when I made my MS, my mother told me he originally studied physics! I never knew (he was doctor of medicine). Isn’t that weird? Best,


4. dorigo - January 19, 2007

Hi Bee,

yes, whole periods of the life of our parents – people among those we think we know more about – often remain unknown to us unless we really decide to investigate them. I have a 7yo son, and I know he really does not know much about me, and I doubt I will have a chance of explaining to him many of the things I did and the choices I made in the past – and I am still young!


5. Fred - January 20, 2007

You certainly are. Were you, as a youngster, able to accompany your father on his trips? If so, where was a memorable place you visited, and what were your impressions of Venice at that age?

6. Christian - January 20, 2007

Ogni tanto leggo i tuoi post (naturalmente non quelli in cui parli del tuo lavoro perchè non ci capisco un H) ma quelli di vita di tutti i giorni. Ammiro la tua scioltezza nll’inglese e cerco di carpire qualche frase idiomatica per poterla usare in seguito ma dopo cinque minuti me ne scordo subito !! Sei bravo.

7. dorigo - January 20, 2007

Thank you Christian, drink whatever you like, it’s on me. 🙂

I answered fully in your blog. Here I only replicate in short: I write in English to reach more people interested in particle physics, but I write in English most of all in order to express my love for this language, which I still do not adequately master, but which I really admire for its apparent simplicity and deep subtleties, for its huge vocabulary, for its candidacy to be the language of a unified world here in the internet.
And I love classics, like Coleridge (I know by heart most of the “Rime of the Ancient Mariner”, just to mention one thing), Wordsworth, but also Maugham and more recent writers.

Feel free to visit here for whatever reason you see fit.


8. dorigo - January 20, 2007

Hi Fred,

yes, with my father I did travel a bit. He brought me (that was my first flight) to Rome in 1973, then to Paris in 1977, to London in 1982, to New York in 1985. More recently, we traveled together to Switzerland and Sicily.
I think the most awesome trip for me was Paris. We spent there a whole month in the summer, and had time to visit the just-built Beaubourg (the Centre Pompidou) which had a library based on the same open-shelf concept my father had strongly wanted (invented, in Italy) for the historic archive of La Biennale a few years before.
I think I am in a writing mood today, so I will rather put my reminiscences of that vacation in a post.

9. dorigo - January 20, 2007

And by the way Fred, please don’t hesitate to write here what your own experience was with your own father, if you wish to do so.

10. Christian - January 20, 2007

Visto il tuo messaggio. Dici che abbiamo due diverse visioni della politica e questo può essere. Sicuramente la tua (di visione) è molto più pacata e moderata della mia, che è aggressiva e a volte irrazionale.O se preferisci, prendi la vita da un’angolazione differente, sicuramente più saggia. In poche parole non ti fai più di tanto il sangue amaro . E questa è una bella cosa.
Mi piace la tua tranquillità (almeno apparente) , mi rilassa.

Chiedevi delle esperienze col padre: sono la persona meno indicata, forse. Avendo avuto un padre importante (credo come il tuo sebbene in campi differenti) avrei potuto viaggiare in continuazione ed avrei imparato a conoscere il mondo molto presto. Ed in parte ha funzionato in questa maniera fino ai miei 6 anni. Poi la scuola: una scusa buona per non portarmi. Poi la separazione da mia madre che lui interpretava come una separazione netta da tutto ciò che ella rappresentava, compreso me e mio fratello.
Dal 1975 (avevo 6 anni) al 1989 (19 anni), insieme a lui non ho fatto più niente, se non brevi vacanze in Italia. Nel 1989, non so perchè, mi ha portato a fare un giro dell’Europa del nord (lui era lì per lavoro)
ed ho visitato con lui (ma praticamente era come essere da solo) il Belgio, l’Olanda, il Lussemburgo, la Germania, l’Austria e l’Ungheria. Dal 1994 ho cominciato a viaggiare veramente e da allora non mi sono più fermato: sono andato in ogni stato dell’Europa (tranne Albania, Bulgaria e Islanda) e ho girato il Canada e gli Usa tante tante volte. Non passa trimestre in cui non vada a Colonia o a Parigi (dove ho amici). Ora vorrei andare in Brasile ed Argentina.
Un saluto

11. dorigo - January 20, 2007

Curioso, abbiamo una storia simile (vedi il mio ultimo post sul viaggio a parigi). Si, io ho smesso di incazzarmi troppo con la politica, forse perche’ non mi sento piu’ tanto vulnerabile a questo o quel danno che un premier o l’altro finiscono per fare.
Prendi la ricerca e i suoi finanziamenti, ad esempio: si, Berlusconi ha tagliato un sacco – l’INFN, l’istituto nazionale di fisica nucleare che mi da lavoro, ha visto decrescere il suo budget costantemente e pesantemente negli ultimi anni – ma Prodi non sembra star facendo granche’ meglio, a dispetto delle promesse. Io pero’ per fortuna vivo bene lo stesso, e quindi che si fottano, perche’ dovrei non dormirci la notte ? Ah, nota che l’INFN mi ha promesso un posto fisso, ma ancora non ce l’ho, e con questi tagli non lo avro’ mai!

Insomma, sono un moderato ? Hmmm, non credo. Le mie idee non sono proprio moderate. Sono idee di sinistra, moderate dalla comprensione che per essere attuabili e assorbibili dalla societa’ vanno filtrate attraverso un sistema che le neutralizza in buona parte.

Anche io viaggio molto, ma purtroppo quasi sempre negli stessi posti (Chicago, Ginevra). Non sono mai stato in america latina! Ma ci andro’ presto – e in febbraio intanto vado in Messico per un po’.
A presto

12. Fred - January 23, 2007

Thanks for the opportunity. In brief, I was incredibly fortunate to have lived with my family in Pordenone from ’62 – ’66 as a youngster due to the fact that my father was in the U.S. Air Force. There are many other great places he dragged us to (including La Bella Napoli ’72 – ’74) but none surpassed the experience of Italy during this time. He afforded us a small home ($42/month back then) in an area surrounded by small farms and rarely an American in sight. Interestingly enough, for each of those years, my parents sent my brother and me to a summer camp run by the nuns in Cimolais during the month of July and to Bibione during August. I had my first taste of octopus (yum) in Piazza San Marco at age six (ordered by my mom, who else?) and I am blessed to still have my parents who are in good health and enjoying life just south of here in San Diego. I echo your sentiments.

13. dorigo - January 24, 2007

Aha, now I see why you know the places around here so well!
42$ a month, lol! Inflation makes this sum look absurdly small, but in reality it must have been a nice place your parents rented.
I spent my summer vacations in Bibione for many years – later than you, but Bibione was still the same until the late seventies, when they started to build everywhere.
And you mention octopus 🙂 It’s my favorite seafood! Of course it is not a truly venetian dish, since octopi are not common in the Adriatic, but most of the fish is imported nowadays in any case.
Thank you for your story!

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