Venus Di Milano ( Homeless in Milan, Part I)

January 6, 1996
Milan, Italy
We got on the train to Milan rather late; it was around 8pm. We traversed the train, peeping into all the crowded train compartments looking for seats. We ended up in a car that already had 2 occupants, a young Philipina woman named Venus Castillo and a tall, brown haired young man called, maybe, Michael. She seemed very struck with us being "missionaries", saying that her father used to travel around the Philippines preaching. She was living in Milan with extended family and working as a nurse. Michael was American, from Nevada. They were engaged. As we approached Milan, she gave me her address on a postcard she happened to have with her. I remember her turning it over to the picture and saying, "See? This is right down the street from where I live." In a district called Sesto San Giovanni. We cheerfully parted ways at the station.
"Mi scusi, Signor....."
For some reason, I was the Designated Italian Speaker of the group. I studied Spanish in high school, I owned a little pocket Italian phrase book and I was interested in word origins. This made me the expert of our group, which is a little scary. I was elected to call around to pensiones to negotiate a room for the night. (Mama mia!) I talked to a yelling man who told me that he could put all 5 of us up for _lire, to which we agreed. We trekked out of the station and into the industrial underbelly of Milan: the subway. I was very strongly reminded of the subway scene in The Wiz when all the trash cans and tiled columns broke loose and chased Diana Ross and Michael Jackson and the Tin Man. (Which actually is a very scarring childhood memory. I'll move on.) So we got off the subway at the pensione and said, "Hey! This is Sesto San Giovani! Where Venus lives! Huh!" It was grubby and industrial, reminding me of cities I'vd never seen: Detroit, Milwaukee. Just a tad bit depressing.
Dove il pensione, signor?
Well, it was a bad idea electing me the honourary Italian of the group, because the yelling pensione guy actually wanted _lire for 5 rooms, not 5 people, and we couldn't talk him down. There was no way we could afford to stay there, even for the night. Either by design or language breakdown we had been set down in the middle of urban decay, Italian-style, with nothing open anywhere. It was by then around 10:30 pm and a light rain began to fall.

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Read Your Way Through the Garden: Choice Tomes From Garden Literature

  • A Book of Salvias by Betsy Clebsch
  • Botany for Gardeners by Brian Capon
  • Making Bentwood Trellises by Jim Long
  • RHS Encyclopedia of Plants & Flowers
  • Rose Primer: An Organic Approach to Rose Selection & Care by Orin Martin
  • Start With the Soil by Grace Gershuny
  • Sunset Western Garden Book
  • Sunset Western Landscaping Book
  • The Book of Garden Secrets by Patent & Bilderback
  • The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Botany
  • the Gardener's Table: A Guide to Natural Vegetable Growing and Cooking by Richard Merrill & Joe Ortiz
  • The Gardener's Year by Karel Capek
  • The Hutchinson Dictionary of Plant Names: Common & Botanical
  • We Made A Garden by Margaret Fish

lotsa latin: rosa's botanical & etymological ruminations

  • vespertinus: flowers in the evening
  • vernalis:spring
  • veni vidi nates calcalvi: we came, we saw, we kicked butt. This was printed on a T shirt I bought at Abbot's Thrift many years ago. It encircled the NEA symbol. I wish I knew why.
  • superciliaris: shaped like an eyebrow ex: sturnella superciliaris, the White-browed Blackbird
  • rosa-sinensis: species of Hibiscus: Hibiscus rosa-sinensis. Lit. Rosa of China, so named by British plant hunters.
  • placentiformis: shaped like a cake ex: discocactus placentiformis
  • nudiflorus: flowers before leaves show ex: flowering quince, magnolia
  • nivalis: growing in or near snow ex: galanthus nivalis (common snowdrop)
  • muralis: growing on walls
  • mirabilis: marvellous, wonderful
  • formosa: beautiful ex: dicentra formosa, a.k.a.western bleeding heart/dutchman's breeches/lady in a bath
  • carpe vitam: get a life
  • Carolus Linnaeus: Latinized name of Carl von Linne (1707-1778), Swedish naturalist considered the father of plant taxonomy. Whatta guy.