Friday, January 22, 2010

Pronto Socorro (the emegency room in Roma)

On our way to the Milano Knife Show that is held every November we stay in Rome for the week between the NY Show and Milan Show.  One year we even got married in Rome!   Walking 2 miles in Rome Italy is nothing for me.  It goes by in the blink of an eye.  Partly because I am a fast walker, and partly because there is so much visually to feast my eyes upon.  The architecture draws my eye to so many places.  I grew up in Chicago, where I took architecture for granted.  Where I live now, I joke that there must be a city ordinance against architecture!

So I am happy to wander the streets of Rome, propelled by my last cappuccino, which I found out was not to be drunk after breakfast.  Every corner has a coffee bar that the Italians stand at while they have their shots of coffee.  So I "shot and run."  Bob trying to keep up, always telling me to "slow down this isn't a marcha forzata!".  Wheels of parmesan cheese in windows of shops, pizza slices freshly baked, whole proscuitto hanging by the dozens, and the man slicing me my 1/4 kilo holding up each slice for my approval before placing it on it's own sheet of waxed paper...all common place.  The buzz of traffic and mopeds whining, horns honking don't seem to bother me here, ever.  It has become a second home.  Every day I try to figure out how to justify moving to one of the little apartments full time at Residence Candia.  The people are like dessert...they top off everything. They are passionate, friendly, and endearing as  Italians can be.

Bob and I had been to the open market in the morning.  Shopping for the apartment.  We went to Campo di Fiori (plaza of flowers) while their market was still open.  Mostly watching the people do their biding.  We ate and drank at a little cafe that had outstanding pizza slices.  Our plan was to walk along the Tiber River to Castle St. Angelo to watch the birds perform their dusk aeronautic ritual before settling into the trees lining the Tiber  River. 

Here you see the path that is tree lined along the Tiber River, the bridge going to the Castle St. Angelo, and the beloved wheels of parmesan cheese.  We learned that there are banks in Italy that have wheels of parmesan cheese as collateral.  Imagine a bank bail out with parmesan cheese? You can eat  that kinda bail out.

The streets and sidewalks in Rome are uneven at best.  Cobblestones are everywhere, and are placed on top of thousands of years of civilization.  With the heat and the cold they tend to heave.  Then the few places that there is asphalt or is cracked and pot holed.  Bob and I were walking single file on the path in the photo above.  What you can't see is the holes, cracks and tree roots making their way up and out of the path.  I was walking ahead of Bob (yeah, what else is new?) and I turned back to tell him something about what I saw on the river.  He wasn't there!  I looked around.  He was on the ground laying on his side.  OMG!  I thought he was having a heart attack, or stroke, or some horrible health issue that makes one fall to the ground.

"I'm okay, I stepped in a hole and fell."  he reassured me.  I struggled to help him up, and dust him off.
He kept proclaiming his "fineness", so we marched on, a bit slower to the Castle. 

We crossed the bridge and climbed all the steps of the castle to get our birds eye view of all of Rome.  I love this particular spot for so many reasons.  The 360 degree view is spectacular, the castle itself has sculptures, and adornments like no other.  And I get to watch the starlings turn themselves into "bird lava lamps" that change shape over and over again.  The magpie in me longs to soar with them in their aeriel ballet. Below is a video of the birds.
You have to see it to believe it.  It it truly one of my favorite things to see.

The next morning we were to go on a tour inside the Colosseum.  When I was bringing Bob his coffee from our tiny kitchen and even tinier coffee pot I noticed him looking at his foot.  It was purple and swollen on the top.  He looked as if he'd been stomping grapes in his sleep.  I knew we would be seeing a doctor, or going to the "Pronto Socorro." I asked the building manager if there was a doctor to see.  She laughed and said: "pronto socorro."  We actually took a taxi there. Passing the Castle on our way.  The driver stopped at a driveway leading down under the hospital and pointed to where we should walk.

We walked through double doors into a crowded city hospital.  All signs, and there weren't many were in Italian.  And this is where Bob shines, because his Italian is so much better than mine. 
I'll leave you here and continue this on my next post.

Buona Notte.  Thanks for reading.  It still amazes me that you do.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Haiti, Guatemala, & Las Vegas

As Bob and I watch the news of Haiti and the people there trying to make their way out of the rubble.  He has been telling me "Guatemala Stories" about his experience in the Guatemala earthquakes during the 70's and 80's.  I have never experienced real disaster like that.  When he speaks, I see a sadness come over him.  When I sent a donation to Haiti, I honestly didn't know what or where it would  help.  When Bob shared with me, I realized how he has helped so many people in ways his friends and family don't even know.
Although he tries to be positive about the aid from the US,  I think he saw some pretty devastating things.  I have cut and pasted a post he wrote a few days ago on the USN knife forums.  Bob walks around with all these experiences from his life in Central America.  I'm pleased he could share his experience with us.
The Haitian Earthquake has brought back some memories . Maybe some of you will find them of interest.  In 1974, I was working as a contractor to USAID in Guatemala. The project was the Basic Village Education program in which we had constructed two radio stations and were attempting, over seven years, to improve the production of subsistence level farmers in the Indian and Latino areas of rural Guatemala. I was the field supervisor in charge of statistical surveys of 7,000 farmers. I trained and supervised 30 interviewers who went out to the "campo" to meet with and interview these farmers.
On 4 February 1974, at 3:15 AM, The country was hit with an 8.6 earthquake that lasted 32 seconds and within minutes, 28,000 people were dead across the land, crushed under the tile and adobe of their simple homes.

You've all seen the pictures from Haiti of the collapsed buildings and destroyed roads. That was the scene in Guatemala; no electricity or light, (it was a moonless night), no communication, few passable roads, rubble where buildings used to be-- only moments before. There was an eerie silence, broken only by the baying of terrified dogs. Then the cries for help and the screams of the injured and dying.

And here is a note of pride for all Americans:
By 6:30 that same morning, three hours and 15 minutes after the shock, as the sun was rising, the first U.S.Military planes were touching down at Guatemala's main airport, which was relatively undamaged.

These planes had come from the Southern Command base near Panama City where they were stationed, pre-fueled and pre-loaded on taxiways near the runway.
I had often seen these planes, lined up as if ready to take off, when I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Panama. I wasn't sure what they were all about until that February day in Guatemala.

The planes, C-130 Hercules and giant C5A Starlifters are part of the U.S. contingency plans for disasters anywhere in the Latin American Region. They were always ready to lift off, their engines were started up every few hours to keep them warm for instant deployment. The first planes were loaded with D8 Caterpillars and other earth movers to clear landing strips and open roads for communication. Later, they would bury the dead in mass graves.Following planes carried water, food, medical supplies and even complete hospitals which could be transported by helicopter to the hardest hit rural areas. (More about that in later posts).

In those days, before MRE's, the food largely consisted of C and K rations in cardboard boxes with little cans of stuff like ham and eggs (my personal favorite), cheese and crackers, stew (ugh!), beans, etc. In addition there was a little packet of gum, waterproof matches, a p-35 can opener, a little roll of toilet paper (more like wax paper) and 4 cigarettes ( which I gave away), but no pipe tobacco! We, at the project , mobilized immediately to do our bit. We had four of the very first K-5 Blazers and used them for recon, transporting the injured from inaccessible places and distribution of relief supplies.

I, and two other Americans, Dave Thompson and Gordy Straub ( brother of author Peter Straub) were dropped by Chinook or Huey helicopter several times with dirt bikes to recon some very remote Indian villages in the Highlands near the Mexican border, which had become inaccessible due to land slides. We organized the stricken villagers and prepared the way for air drops or helicopter delivery of relief supplies.
I saw a lot of the country during those two weeks. It was an exhilarating and exhausting period of my life when all considerations other than rescue and relief became unimportant.

I've already mentioned the medical supplies flown into Guatemala after the earthquake of 1974. Here are some details.
It took us ( me and guys from our project) two days to get to a major town in the Highlands called Chimaltenango. This town was about 40 kilometers west of the capitol and was important because it was the crossroads of some major highways, all of which were blocked by landslides. Our Blazers barely made it over the numerous blockages and we set up a base in the house of a Peace Corps Volunteer at the edge of the town.

To our surprise, the U.S. Army was already there and functioning. They had airlifted the portable hospital flown up from Panama in a C5A and had set up most of it by the second day. This was a 100 bed, multi tent hospital, complete with surgical suites,  ICU's,  X-ray machines (no MRI's or CAT scans in those days!), recovery tents, neo-natal facilities and everything else that goes with state of the art medical care.They had even brought a tent full of Pampers disposable diapers. It was explained to me that during a disaster, especially earthquakes, pre-mature births were common.

I was amazed to see three Coke machines installed outside one of the surgical tents. A nurse told me that the stress of disaster management was mitigated by the little things that reminded the staff of home and more normal times, like a can of Coke.

With our four Blazers, our project team was able to reach outlying villages, so we trucked supplies up to them. On one trip, returning from a drop, I was flagged down by two Indian men on the side of the road who explained that they had an injured person they wanted transported to the hospital in Chimaltenango. Four other men emerged from a path at the roadside, carrying the front door of a house upon which was a young woman. She had been badly injured with a broken back, two broken legs and a broken arm. She was awake, but stoic, as so many of the Indian people are. On the bumpy and sometimes treacherous trip back, I'm sure she was in terrible pain-- but she never complained or cried out once. We got her into the Army hospital where she was well cared for. Checking on her, days later, I learned that she was not paralyzed and would heal, scarred but whole.

On another trip I brought back an injured, pregnant woman who was already in labor. That was a long ride, with me mumbling prayers to whomever that she hold out until we reached the base. Fortunately she did!

One day while I was eating a C-ration behind the hospital, I watched a Huey land on a makeshift Landing Zone about fifty yards away. There was smoke pouring out of its engine. Like worker ants, Army mechanics swarmed over the bird, removed its engine and replaced it with a spare one. That Huey was back in the air in no time, I think less than an hour.

Everyone worked at a frantic pace and on little sleep. My team was ordered back to Guatemala City after about a week, for R&R and a shower. The USAID people didn't want us burning out and becoming useless. We went and returned two days later to the same area.

Curiously, food is not usually a big problem after an earthquake. Stores of food in granaries, shops, even homes, though buried under rubble , can often be accessed and used by the survivors, at least for a short time. Grain (corn), beans, and canned goods aren't destroyed as they are in a flood or scattered as in a tornado.

Water was the big concern. Broken mains, poor sanitation and the threat of disease such as cholera made potable water a primary focus. Bottled water on huge pallets had not come along yet in 1974 but the Army had a solution.
They airlifted two huge trucks with water purifying capabilities next to a tiny lake called "Swan Lake", about a mile from the hospital. They set up several large, black rubber tanks, (like above ground swimming pools), threw a four inch hose into the lake and cranked up the trucks. Those trucks purified 25,000 gallons of water per minute! It was a joy to see. Water was lifted, by chopper, in huge rubber bladders to the outlying villages that we had identified during our recon phase.

I don,t know how many lives the U.S. Army saved during those frightful days, I don't think anyone will ever know. But I could not have been more proud of my country to see the response and the determination of those dedicated men and women.
So the man who is leaving for Las Vegas tomorrow to attend the "Tactical Invitational Show", is the same guy eating C rations above. 
I'm proud of the life he lead in Guatemala.  I certainly is different than the life we lead now!  It explains why he is so easy to cook for.  C-rations?  Yuk.

I had hoped to unearth some old photos for this, but he was too busy getting knives ready for this show.   Maybe I will add them later.

This is the second post.  Before I hit publish, I want to thank everyone who read the first.  It's a bit easier to click on publish the second time. :-)


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Sunday, January 17, 2010

In the beginning...

"A   k-n-i-f-e-m-a-k-e-r ??  ...A  k-n-i-f-e   m-m-a-k-e-r??  Susie, now you've really gone and done it!  How does a man make a living as a knifemaker?" asked my late Mother over the phone from North Carolina to Albuquerque.
"Well, he makes these incredibly expensive folding pocket knives, and sells them to knife dealers and at shows." I said with conviction.
To her dying day, (Bob's Mother also) I don't think my Mother ever could get her head around what Bob Terzuola does pretty much 7 days a week...week after week, all year long.  He is so passionate about knifemaking and I just couldn't get that across to her.  My brother asked Bob if he had "samples" like fabric swatches of his knives he showed people.   Bob's mouth dropped open when my dear brother asked him this.
...more silence.
I grew up hearing Bob's name called by my mother: "Bob! Oh Bob!" (my father) she would call.  She too was Susan. So here we are another generation of Susan and Bob.  My brother finds this hysterically funny.

Robert G. Terzuola was born in Brooklyn to Josephine and Frank Terzuola.  He lived in a 3 story house with 4 families, all relatives. "7 cousins in one house"... Bob always says.  For me, a wasp with one sibling who was brought up in an upper middle class neighborhood...7 cousins! Sounds like a blast, doesn't it!  Bob tells stories of midnight home made pizzas for everyone, and his grandfather's victory garden, and the "jug" of home made wine under the table at meals.  New York Brooklyn Italian to the bone he is.

Bob and I were introduced by mutual friends in January of 2002.  Our lives had been shaken by 9/11, and we were both trying to make sense of a world so changed in our lifetimes. I had just moved to New Mexico.  We went to The Range for brunch with these friends.  When Bob walked in the door and saw me.  What was the first thing he said?  "There's been a mistake! She's too beautiful to go out with me." Well, I went to brunch.  He only had 2 hours, as he was very busy.  After two hours he wanted more.  The rest I'll tell you later.

At the end of the "set up" (as Bob calls it) he gave me his business card.  It had a dragon on the front with "Nunquam Secundum" written on it.  I am a sucker for Latin, as I had 4 years in school. It's means "second to none."  For some reason I flipped the card over, and it had this written on it: "INTEGRITY is being good, even if no one is watching."  Hmmm...this was an interesting man, I thought.  On our second date I met him at his shop. What a shop it was!  I got to see pieces of knives (as most do when visiting, cause he ships them the moment they are finished), and the scope of this man's machining abilities. That was 8 years ago.

I thought I would start there as I open this window into our lives.  Bob pretty much started the folding tactical knife craze we know today.  He started out making fixed blades, and soon realized if he was going to earn a living he had better figure out how to fold those knives to use and carry.  He did.  Because of his knife making, I got to meet all the wonderful and interesting people and personalities of the knife world. 

When I saw the knife scraps of exotic materials I immediately thought of jewelry.  I hadn't made jewelry in over 20 years, mostly because when I got out of school I didn't have the tools.  I understood working with your hands to earn a living.  I had done that as a printmaker and farmer back in Illinois.  Bob and I love making things together.  It would be 7 years after that initial meeting that I would make my first piece of jewelry in Bob's shop.   When we moved to our new house, and Bob set up his shop there was an empty bay. That's been filled by my new workbench that I designed with Bob's blessings.  He has helped me when my design ideas far out reached my abilites.  Thanks Honey!

So another blog, oh boy, does the world need one?   I am nervous to press the "publish" button, as I am not a "writer."  It's a bit like when I stood in a little plane looking down with a parachute on my back tethered to a man I had only just met.  I'm stepping off now with faith that my chute will open and it will be a glorious ride.

Thanks for stopping by,

My "Knife Wife" graphic was drawn by a very talented young woman, Lydia Roberts. She is graduating from SVA in NYC this spring.  She is a graphic novelist, and designs tattoos also. Some of you have met her at the New York Custom Knife show.  I hope she can be with us this year so you can see more of her amazing work.  Thanks "L2", your art rocks my world!