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The Euro-Arab Dialogue Friday, November 25th, 2016

The Euro-Arab Dialogue

and

The Birth of Eurabia

Bat  Ye’or *

 

In 2001 a wave of Judeophobia swept violently over Europe; it coincided with the intensification of the al-Aqsa intifada from September 30, 2000. This simultaneity was not fortuitous. In Europe, governments, some of the Churches, and most of the media in fact approved of the 2nd intifada, using fine moral terms for what was a strategy of terror by the Palestinian leadership. The justification and negligence displayed toward these criminal aggressions amounted to an encouragement. The elimination of terrorist leaders was described as ‘assassination’ and the Hamas and other terrorists became  ‘fighters for freedom’ and ‘activists’. While Hamas was translated as a ‘Resistance’ movement, Israel was accused of ‘state terrorism’. Especially in France this condemnation sanctioned the criminal acts committed mainly by immigrants of Arab-Muslim origin, against individuals and Jewish community  ?????

*Bat Ye’or is the author of The Dhimmi: Jews and Christians under Islam (1985/2003); The Decline of Eastern Christianity under Islam. From Jihad to Dhimmitude (1996/2002); Islam and Dhimmitude. Where Civilizations Collide, Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2002/2003). This article is an English translation of “Le Dialogue Euro-Arabe et la naissance d’Eurabia” in Observatoire du monde juif, Bulletin n° 4/5, Décembre 2002, pp.44-55, (78 avenue des Champs Elysées, 75008 Paris).

property. Even in 2003 the French government still refused to place Hezbollah on the list of terrorist organizations, Socialist Prime Minister Lionel Jospin was sharply reprimanded by President Chirac for having said that Hezbollah was a terrorist organization.

The convergence between the specific policies of the European Union (EU) and the Palestinian Authority which it greatly finances, as well as with those policies of the Arab countries, seem to be the result of a long-term process. With slight nuances, the anti-Israel discourse that is heard simultaneously on both shores of the Mediterranean shows identical characteristics. This twenty-first century Judeophobia is rooted in a transnational European structure, born of a historical context and the Euro-Arab policy of the last thirty years. The European populations however remain, grosso modo, unconcerned even if the media have for decades subjected them to an ideology that demonized Israel.

Thus, Europeans run considerable risks of becoming both the toy and the victims of religious hatred, as well as of political and economic interests masked by the Arab-Israel conflict that is intentionally blown out of all proportions in order to hide the global jihad that also targets them. For the ideological structure of this new Judeophobia is imported from the Arab-Muslim world, even if it is expressed in the framework of a European discourse by three sectors:  the political parties, the media, and the religious sector.

As will be seen below, the development of the Euro-Arab Dialogue brought considerable modifications in European societies. It has relayed Muslim Judeophobic anti-Zionism, anti-Americanism and its hatred of the West. It has facilitated the irrepressible Arab ambition to Islamize Europe, its history, and its culture – an ambition that some Islamist leaders, for example, are voicing in the very heart of London. Moreover, the strategy of the Dialogue urged the glorification of ‘Palestinity’, the vilification of Israel, the growing separation between Europe and America, and the flourishing of an imaginary version of Islamic religion, history and civilization in Western public opinion. It forced Europe to revise its interpretation of its own identity and history in order to harmonize them with the Islamic vision of Europe, and by this process, to undergo a self-inflicted Islamization.

 

The oil embargo:  The trigger

 

After World War II, France – humiliated by the Vichy collaborationist government and the loss of its colonial empire – saw any ambitious role it may have had as a great power sharply reduced. The Franco-German union provided Charles de Gaulle with the means to ensure peace in Europe by reconciling traditional enemies, while in the 1960s the alliance with the Arab world enabled France – at an international level – to challenge American power. De Gaulle’s economic and strategic policy aimed at uniting the countries around the Mediterranean in an inter-dependent industrial bloc opposed to America. To achieve this plan, France strove to build an alliance with the Arab states. Hostility toward America and Israel was not only fed by the communist and leftist trends, but also by the heritage of pro-Nazi collaborators from the French Vichy regime, which had survived in the post-war decades, and permeated the French administration up to the highest ranks.

After the 1967 Six-Days war, France became the instigator of a European anti-Israel policy. She did not readily forgive Israel for its lightning victory over a coalition comprising Egypt, Syria, Jordan and the Palestinians – and supported by the entire Arab world. At international forums France voted in favour of Arab anti-Israel resolutions and backed a unilateral boycott of arms sales to the Jewish state (1969). At the European level, French diplomacy supported Arab interests, setting out to bend European policy in a pro-Arab, anti-Israel direction. In this context, France examined the concept of a Euro-Arab Dialogue (EAD) with Libya. (1)

 

The joint Egyptian-Syrian war against Israel in 1973 and the Arab oil embargo, utilized as a weapon of world pressure, favored French schemes. Mortified by the Arab defeat after a successful beginning, the Arab oil-producing countries met in Kuwait (October 16-17 ), where they decided unilaterally to quadrupled the price of oil, to reduce gradually by 5% each month their production of crude oil until the withdrawal of Israel from the territories the Arab had lost in their war of 1967 and failed to recover in their 1973 war. They imposed an embargo on deliveries destined to the countries considered friendly to Israel: the United States, Denmark, and the Netherlands. The consuming countries were classified as friendly, neutral, or enemy countries.

Panicked, the nine countries of the European Economic Community (EEC) immediately met in Brussels on November 6,1973 and tabled a joint Resolution based on their dependence on Arab oil; this Resolution was totally in line with the Franco-Arab policy in respect of Israel. (2)

The EEC introduced three new points in the Brussels resolution: 1. The inadmissibility of acquiring territory by force, already theoretically stated in UN Security Council Resolution 242;  2. An Israeli withdrawal to the lines of the 1949 armistice;  3. Inclusion of ‘the legitimate rights of the Palestinians’ in the definition of peace.

The first proposal seemed admirable but absurd since all territories were acquired by force. What constituted the legitimacy of states? Ottoman Palestine had been conquered by force in 1917 by the British. In the 1948 war against Israel, Egypt took Gaza by force and Abdullah’s Arab Legion had occupied Judea and Samaria by force, as well as the Old City of Jerusalem and the Hebrew University on Mt. Scopus, expelling all their Palestinian Jewish inhabitants. Moreover, all the countries that today are called Arab were originally conquered by Arab jihad armies. Were all these land conquests, imposed by force and war, also unacceptable? What criteria would determine the irreversibility of a conquest and an injustice – the occupation of land or its liberation? Did their indigenous non-Muslim populations “occupy” Spain and Portugal, Sicily, Greece, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Romania and Armenia lands, or were they population of countries freed from dhimmitude? Is the State of Israel the legitimate expression of a free people, whose land had been Arabized and Islamized by one of the cruellest form of persecution against its indigenous Jewish population after the Roman-Byzantine occupation, or an injustice because it has suppressed this persecution and neutralised the evil power of the persecutors?

On the second point, Europe obligingly adopted the Arabs’ denial of their own defeat in 1967, a war that they themselves had triggered after the 1948 invasion to eradicate Israel. In this way, the EEC set the seal on the Arab-Islamic interpretation of Resolution 242, because in fact this Resolution in its original and authoritative English version only refers to withdrawal from territories, an intentional choice of words on the part of those who conceived it. Judea and Samaria were not, henceforth, described as territories open to negotiation but as ‘occupied Arab territories’ that Israel had to evacuate immediately. But these territories had also been conquered by force in the 1948 war unleashed by Arab states. The combined Syrian, Jordanian and local Arab forces that seized them had also expelled all their Jewish Palestinian inhabitants and had confiscated all their land, houses and property.

The third point of the Resolution introduced an innovation into the Middle East conflict that would prove dramatic for Europe in the future. Until 1970, the expression “Palestinian people” did not exist in this context. People talked only about the Arabs in Palestine who were no different from Arabs in the twenty countries of the Arab League, particularly from the Arabs in Transjordan, that is to say from 78 per cent of the League of Nations designated Palestine. Great Britain detached this vast area in 1922 and created an exclusively Arab country, the newly named Emirate of Transjordan.

UN Security Resolution 242 recommended a solution to the refugee problems, which also implied the more numerous Jewish refugees who had fled from Arab lands, abandoning all their possessions. The creation of a “Palestine people” ex nihilo after the Arab oil embargo in 1973, would lead Europe to create its legitimacy, its history and a right – equivalent and even superior to Israel’s – by resurrecting the theology of replacement, constantly nourished with propaganda demonizing Israel in order to justify its demise. This directed Europe along a path of active solidarity with the Arab policy of Israel’s elimination that involved the encouragement and legitimization of international terrorism embodied by the PLO.

 

The formation of an Euro-Arab Economic and Political bloc

 

The EEC’s anti-Israel decision met the Arab conditions to open a dialogue with Europe, and it was rewarded by an immediate increase in oil supplies. Born of the oil embargo, the Euro-Arab Dialogue was set up from the start as a trade-off: the EEC countries undertook to support anti-Israel Arab policy, while in exchange they would benefit from economic agreements with the Arab League countries.(3) The Arab side demanded a European political commitment against Israel, subordinating the economic aspect of the dialogue to the political context of the Arab war against Israel. The economic domain was thus integrated within Euro-Arab political solidarity against Israel.

President Georges Pompidou, and Chancellor Willy Brandt confirmed the wish for a Dialogue at their meeting on November 26-27, 1973. Less than a month later the French president called a summit on December 15, 1973 in Copenhagen to examine the Middle East crisis and lay down the bases for cooperation between the Arab League countries and the EEC countries. Four Arab foreign ministers, invited to monitor the project, suggested various schemes

On June 10, 1974 the foreign ministers of the nine countries of the EEC, meeting in Bonn within the framework of political cooperation, adopted a text that specified the areas and means of developing their cooperation and their relations with the Arab countries. The areas involved were agriculture, industry, sciences, culture, education, technology, financial cooperation, and the civil infrastructure, etc.

In the course of the meetings that followed, the foreign ministers of the Nine laid the foundations of this cooperation with the Arab countries, according to an institutionalized structure linked to the highest authorities of each of the EEC countries. This formula made it possible to harmonize and unify the policy of the European Communities in their exchanges and their cooperation with the Arab League countries.

On July 31, 1974 in Paris, the first official meeting at ministerial level took place between the Kuwaiti foreign minister, the secretary-general of the Arab League, the president of the commission of the European Communities and the current president of the Community in order to discuss the organization of the Dialogue. The Parliamentary Association for Euro-Arab Cooperation was then founded by the nine countries of the European Community with a view to strengthening the political, cultural and economical co-operation between Europe and the Arab world. All the major trends in European politics were represented in its Executive Committee that since met regularly every six months

The Damascus Conference (September 14-17, 1974), organized by the inter-parliamentary Association of Euro-Arab Cooperation, brought together the members representing all the parliamentary parties of the EEC, except Denmark. The Arabs set out the political preconditions for agreements on economic cooperation with the western European countries. The economic area that interested the EEC was conditioned by the Arabs’ political demands concerning the Middle East in accordance with the principle of barter, a fundamental principle of the Dialogue. The Arabs demanded:

  1. The unconditional withdrawal of Israel to the 1949 armistice lines;
  2. The Arabization of the Old City of Jerusalem which had been seized by force in 1948 and from which all the Jews had been expelled;
  3. The association of the PLO and its leader Arafat in any negotiations. (4)
  4. Pressure to be brought to bear on the United States by the EEC in order to bring it nearer to Arab policy and detach it from Israel.

 

The political aspect as an indispensable condition of the Dialogue was confirmed at the 7th Summit of the Arab Conference a month later (Rabat, October 1974). There it was recalled that the Euro-Arab Dialogue had to develop within the context of the “Declaration” of the 6th Summit of the Arab Conference in Algiers transmitted to Europe on November 28, 1973, which established the Arab political requirements concerning Israel. (5) For the Arabs, the Dialogue had to continue until its objectives were achieved. The political and economic aspects of this Euro-Arab cooperation were considered by them as interdependent

A permanent secretariat of 350 members assigned to Euro-Arab cooperation was then created with its seat in Paris. The Euro-Arab Dialogue was structured into various committees charged with planning joint industrial, commercial, political, scientific, technical, cultural and social projects.

On June 10, 1975, a delegation from the European Economic Community (EEC) met with a delegation from twenty Arab countries and from the PLO based in Cairo. More than thirty countries were represented by a general committee at ambassadorial level and by numerous experts. The EEC and the secretariat of the Arab League were represented at the political level. The Jordanian spokesman of the Arab delegation, M. Nijmeddin Dajani, stressed the political aspect and implications of the Euro-Arab Dialogue. The deal between the two parties was clearly defined:  economic agreements with Europe in exchange for European alignment with Arab policy on Israel.

A Joint Memorandum of the Mixed Committee of Experts gave a first formulation of the general principles and aims of the Euro-Arab Dialogue.

In the course of the Luxembourg meeting a year later (May 18-20, 1976), the organization and procedure of the Euro-Arab Dialogue were defined and published in Appendix 4 of the final Communiqué. The Dialogue was composed of three organs:  1)  the General Committee;  2)  the Working Committees;  3)  the Political Committee.

The General Committee consisted of the delegates of both sides, comprising officials of ambassadorial status, members of the League of Arab States and of the European Communities, of the general secretariat of the League of Arab States and of the Commission of the European Communities, as well as the co-presidents and rapporteurs of the Working Committees. The heads of the Arab and European delegations held the presidency of the General Committee jointly. The Committee was the central body of the Dialogue, and was in charge of the general conduct of the Dialogue as well as monitoring its developments in the different areas. It was responsible for its establishment, and for directing it toward the assigned political, cultural, social, technological and economic goals, as well as approving the program of the Dialogue and of its tasks. The varied commitments of the Committee were specified. Its sittings took place behind closed doors and without recorded minutes. At the end of each meeting the General Committee could publish a summary of the decisions taken and a common press release. (6)

The composition of the Working Committees followed the same principle:  each group comprised experts and specialist technicians from the two sides, as well as representatives of the general secretariat of the League of Arab States and the Commission of the European Communities. Each of the two Arab and European groups appointed a president for each Working Committee. The Working Committees proceeded according to the instructions given by the General Committee concerning their mandates. Each Working Committee could create specialized sub-groups whose experts were chosen in conjunction with the general secretariat of the League of Arab States and the Commission of the European Communities.

The Coordinating Committee was composed of representatives of the General Committee and of the general secretariat of the League of Arab States and of the European presidency, with the two parties presiding jointly. The Committee was responsible for coordinating the work of the various working parties under the direction of the General Committee. All information and documentation was transmitted by the general secretariat of the League of Arab States and the Commission of European Communities.

This briefly summarized structure established a symbiosis, an inter-penetration of Arab and European policies, requiring the involvement of the European states at the highest level. It is clear that Europe’s hostile policy to Israel – standardized by the structures of the EEC – is not the result of mistaken judgements, of prejudices capable of being corrected. It rests on a politico-economic construction, meticulously prepared down to the smallest detail, and rooted in its multiform symbiosis with the Arab world.

In the years that followed, this collaboration was strengthened by meetings every six months and by various activities on an international scale: (Rome, July 24,1975; Abu Dhabi, November 27,1975; Luxembourg, May 18-20, 76; several meetings in Brussels in 1976; Tunis, February 10-12, 1977). The European members of the permanent secretariat of the Association for Euro-Arab Cooperation ( PAEAC) travelled frequently to the United States to attempt to influence America policy in favour of the PLO’s claims, and against Israel. The Arabs demanded that Europe recognise Yasser Arafat as the Palestinian leader and a Palestinian state, the implementation of an international boycott of Israel, and a strategy of worldwide political and economic pressure in order to force the Jewish state to withdraw to the 1949 armistices lines. The Working Committee studied suitable methods to condition European and world public opinion to persuade it to support the PLO, whose Charter required the elimination of the State of Israel. According to Saleh al-Mani:

Despite the failure of the EAD, to result in recognition of the PLO the latter was, nevertheless, one of the most active supporters of the EAD. The PLO may have wanted to use the EAD as a channel for airing its demands, and in this regard it may have been successful.

Although failing short of achieving formal recognition for the PLO the EAD did, however, succeed in persuading the Europeans of the need to established a “homeland for the Palestinians” and in “associating” the PLO with future negotiations on the Middle East. Thus the EAD has served certain limited Arab objectives. (7)

 

This comment by al-Mani confirms the direct connection between the PLO and the EEC’s economic transactions. In a speech on 26 August 1980, after describing the PLO’s terrorist war in Lebanon, Beshir Gemayel – Lebanon’s future President-elect – denounced its disastrous role in Europe:

This is a recapitulation of the doings of those people [PLO] on whose behalf the chancelleries of the civilized world are striving throughout the year, and for whose favours the old nations of Europe are competing.  (8)

 

It is clear that the PLO played a crucial role in the exchange of economic benefits that the Arab countries granted to Europe in return for political support in their war against Israel. EAD meetings concluded with declarations by the European delegation in line with those of Arab policy (London, June 9, 1977; Brussels, October 26-28, 1978): Israeli withdrawal to its 1949 borders, Israel’s obligation to recognise the national rights of the Palestinians; the invalidation of all measures and decisions taken by Israel in the territories outside of the 1949 lines, including Jerusalem. Judea and Samaria are described as ‘occupied Arab territories’.

The Israeli-Egyptian peace negotiations at Camp David (1977-78) under the wing of American president Carter, put a damper on the EAD, while the Arab League totally rejected them and expelled Egypt from its ranks. The Arab countries were furious with the success of American influence in the region to the detriment of the European diplomacy that they tried to control through economic cooperation. France abstained from recognising the peace agreements, whereas the other EEC countries accepted them, but – at French instigation – with reservations.

Meanwhile, the EAD resumed its activities and the 4th meeting of the General Committee in Damascus (December 9-11, 1978) approved the creation of a Euro-Arab center in Kuwait for the transfer of technology.

 

The Birth of Eurabia: a new political entity

 

Eurabia is the title of a review edited by the European Committee for Coordination of Friendship Association with the Arab World (Paris). It was published with the collaboration of Middle East International (London), France-Pays Arabes (Paris) and the Groupe d’Etudes sur le Moyen-Orient (Geneva).

In its second issue (July 1975), Eurabia published the resolutions passed unanimously at Strasbourg by the general assembly of the Parliamentary Association for Euro-Arab Cooperation on June 7-8, 1975. Membership of this Association comprised more than 200 Members of Parliament from western European countries, representing all shades of the political spectrum. In other words, the consensus for the program of Euro-Arab entente covered the whole of the European political scene.

Eurabia specified in its editorial:  “the necessity for a political entente between Europe and the Arab world as a basis for economic agreements”, and the obligation on the part of the Europeans to “understand the political as well as the economic interests of the Arab world”. The Euro-Arab Dialogue had to express “a joint political will” [emphasis by the author]. This preliminary condition for any economic agreements with Arab League countries necessitated the creation in Europe “of a climate of opinion” favorable to the Arabs. The editorial stressed that this question had been examined by a large number of experts from the Association de Solidarité Franco-Arabe (Association of Franco-Arab Solidarity) and from the general assembly of the Parliamentary Association for Euro-Arab Cooperation in Strasbourg:

If they really want to cooperate with the Arab world, the European governments and political leaders have an obligation to protest against the denigration of Arabs in their media. They must reaffirm their confidence in the Euro-Arab friendship and their respect for millennial contribution of the Arabs to world civilization. This contribution and its practical application will be one of the themes of our next issue. (Editorial)

 

Arab political demands concerning the conditions of the Dialogue were not limited exclusively to Israel. They also concerned Europe. M. Tilj Declerq, Belgian member of the Parliamentary Association for Euro-Arab Cooperation, submitted a study on the conditions of this cooperation to the economic commission of this Association. It was summarised in the second issue of Eurabia  (July 1975) and entitled, ‘A European point of view’.

Declerq emphasis that “Euro-Arab cooperation must result from a political will. “The political interests of this cooperation must therefore be recognized.” In other words, economic exchanges were subordinate to the EEC’s support of the Arabs League’s war to destroy Israel. As far as Europe was concerned, the Belgian speaker advocated economic cooperation associating Arab manpower reserves and raw materials – probably oil – with European technology.

A medium and long-term policy must henceforth be formulated in order to bring about economic cooperation through a combination of Arab manpower reserves and raw materials and European technology and “management”.

 

This clause could have been at the origin of the massive Arab immigration into Europe from 1975 onwards which seems to have been connected to the EEC’s economic agreements with the Arab world. According to Declerq, recycling petrodollars was to bring about the interdependence of Western Europe and the Arab countries in order “gradually to reach as complete as possible an economic integration”. But this Euro-Arab economic integration would remain theoretical if the political aspect – that is to say the battle against Israel – was not achieved. Therefore, “A genuine political will must be at the base of concrete plans for cooperation and must be demonstrated at three levels:  the national level;  the level of the continent; at world level.” From the same point of view, “Euro-Arab cooperation and solidarity had to be brought about through international organizations and international conferences.” Joint Euro-Arab preparatory meetings and symposiums had “to be multiplied at every level – economic, monetary, commercial, etc. – in order to reach common positions.”

Declerq’s proposals were all integrated into the resolutions of the Parliamentary Association for Euro-Arab Cooperation when it met in Strasbourg (June 7-8, 1975), and were published in Eurabia. The political section of the resolutions targeted three areas: European policy on Israel; the creation of a climate of opinion favorable to the Arabs; the reception of Muslim immigrants into Europe.

Concerning Israel, the Association went along with Arab demands and called for Israel’s withdrawal to the 1949 armistice lines, deliberately misinterpreting Resolution 242. In addition, the Association called on European governments to recognize the PLO as the sole representative of the Palestinian Arabs, a fundamental point that they had to stress in the initiatives that a joint Euro-Arab policy required of them. The EEC had to force Israel to accept the rights of a Palestinian nation and the existence of a Palestinian state on the whole of the “West Bank” of the Jordan, and in Gaza.

Concerning Europe, the Association called for news coverage more favorable to Arab causes and special conditions for immigrants.

The Association requires European governments to arrange legal provisions concerning the free movement of, and respect for, the fundamental rights of immigrant workers in Europe: these rights must be equivalent to those of national citizens.

The Association considers the political settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict an absolute necessity for the establishment of a real Euro-Arab cooperation.

 

In the same paragraph, the Association considers that “the harmonious development of cooperation between Western Europe and the Arab nation” would benefit from the free circulation of ideas and citizens. The economic resolution expressed a concern about the political choices that:

had been prejudicial to Euro-Arab cooperation, such as the creation of the International Energy Agency and the signature of an agreement between the EEC and Israel, before the negotiations between the EEC and the Arab countries had been completed. On this subject, it made a formal request that economic cooperation between the EEC and Israel should not apply to the occupied territories.

 

Eurabia: a new cultural entity

 

The cultural resolution contained several statements, including the following:

Recognizing the historical contribution of Arab culture to European development;

Stressing the contribution that the European countries can still expect from Arab culture, notably in the area of human values;

 

The Association called for the teaching of the Arabic language and culture to be expanded in Europe:

Desiring that European governments facilitate, for the Arab countries, the creation of generous means to enable immigrant workers and their families to participate in Arab cultural and religious life.

 

The Association appealed to the press, to friendship groups and for tourism to improve public opinion regarding the Arab world. It:

asks the governments of the Nine to approach the cultural sector of the Euro-Arab Dialogue in a constructive spirit and to accord the greatest priority to spreading Arab culture in Europe.

asks the Arab governments to recognize the political consequences of active cooperation with Europe in the cultural domain.

 

The Resolution ended with a condemnation and a criticism of Israel.

While recognizing the State of Israel’s right to exist, [it] condemns the Zionist wish to substitute Jewish culture for Arab culture on Palestinian territory, in order to deprive the Palestinian people of its national identity;

Considering that by carrying out excavations in the holy places of Islam – the occupied part of Jerusalem – Israel has committed a violation of international law, despite the warning of UNESCO;

Considering that the excavations could only result in the inevitable destruction of evidence of Arab culture and history;

Regrets that UNESCO’s decision not to admit Israel into its regional grouping should have been exploited, sometimes with a great lack of objectivity.

 

The Strasbourg meeting was followed a few days later (June 10-14, 1975) by a symposium of the Mixed Committee of Experts in Cairo for a first formulation of the general principles and objectives of the Euro-Arab Dialogue. The introduction to the joint memorandum of this meeting specifies that:

The Euro-Arab Dialogue is the fruit of a common political desire which emerged at the highest level and which aims to establish special relationships between the two groups.

 

The two parties recalled that the Dialogue originated in their exchanges at the end of 1973, and, particularly, the declaration made by the nine States members of the European Community on November 6, 1973 concerning the situation on the Middle East well as the declaration addressed to the Western European countries by the 6th Summit conference of Arab counties in Algiers, on November 28, 1973.

The areas of cooperation listed in the memorandum include cooperation in nuclear technology, finance, banking and capital management, business, scientific research, technological development, technical and professional training, the utilization of nuclear power, the building of cities infrastructures, planning, industrialization, transportation, urbanization, health, education, telecommunication, tourism, etc. The training of specialist personnel for the numerous projects envisaged would take place “either by sending teams of European experts with a view to training the Arab workforce, or by training this workforce in establishments Centers in the EEC countries”. The intention was to set up “effective [cooperation] and exchange of information between Arab and European universities” in research procedures, various programs and projects.

The section on “Cooperation in the fields of culture and civilization” stressed that the principal objective of the Euro-Arab dialogue was to bring closer two civilizations that have contributed considerably in enriching the patrimony of humanity. They consider that their cooperation in the area of culture and civilization should englobe education, the arts, sciences and information; and they affirmed that the principal objective of such a cooperation was the consolidation and deepening of the bases of cultural understanding and of an intellectual rapprochement between the two regions

Various measures were envisaged, like the exchanges of experts, and the development of contacts in the fields of education and tourism. Lastly, the problems of the workforce of emigrant workers had to be settled by equality of treatment concerning: 1) employment situation; 2) working and living conditions; 3) social security systems. (9)

After almost three decades, one may ask: what was the impact on the European continent of this policy, which brought theoretically independent sectors – the economy, immigration, politics and culture – into one single block linked to the Arab world and its anti-Israeli/antisemitic paranoia?

The Spiral:  Arab instrumentalization of the European Community

 

In this correlation between the economic and the political sectors, the difference in viewpoints between the EEC’s perspectives and those of the Arab League are immediately apparent. The EEC is looking for economic gain, profit, through a strategy of expansion in the oil, commercial, and industrial markets. Its actions are characterized solely by a business-like pragmatism on the part of management technocrats who formulate programs of assistance and regional development, as well as massive sales of arms and industrial and nuclear equipment (e.g. the Osirak nuclear reactor in Iraq destroyed by Israel in 1981) in pursuit of profit.

The Arab faction, on the other hand, exploited the economy as a radical means to make the EEC an instrument in a long-term political strategy targeting Israel, Europe and America. The Arab political grip on the EEC’s economy would rapidly impose on it the Arab political directives vis-à-vis Israel. One of the Arab delegates, Dr Ibrahim A. Obaid, Director-General, Ministry of Petroleum and Mineral Resources from Riyad (Saudi Arabia), aptly expressed the spirit of the Dialogue, when the experts of Euro-Arab Cooperation met in Amsterdam in 1975:

Together and as equals, the Europeans and the Arabs can through a “strategy of inter-dependence” forge ahead to remove the thorn from their sides – the Israeli problem – and attend to the Herculean task ahead of them. (10)

 

The economic agreements between the EEC and the Arab world went beyond the sphere of trade treaties and led to Europe’s progressive subjection to Arab political objectives. The EAD became – particularly for France – an associative diplomacy in the international forums, where the EEC fell into line with Arab anti-Zionist positions. A vehicle for legitimizing the PLO and for its propaganda, the EAD procured for it international, diplomatic recognition and conferred respectability and international standing on Arafat and for his international terrorist movement. It was within the framework of the EAD that the whole war policy of delegitimazion against Israel was constructed at the national and international levels of the EEC, in the trade unions, the media, and the universities. The EAD was the mouthpiece that spread and popularized throughout Europe the demonization and defamation of Israel. France, Belgium and Luxemburg were the EAD’s most active agents.

In Europe, Arab strategy was mainly directed toward three goals:

  • attaining economic and industrial parity with the West by the transfer to Arab countries of modern technology, particularly nuclear and military technology;
  • implanting on European soil of a large Muslim population, which would enjoy all the political, cultural, social and religious rights of the host country;
  • imposing the political, cultural and religious influence of Arab-Islamism on European space through an immigration which remained politically and culturally attached to its countries of origin.

The EAD also served the Arab League as a channel to apply pressures on America via Europe to persuade it to align itself with Arab policy on Israel. At the geo-strategic level, Euro-Arab cooperation was a political instrument of anti-Americanism in Europe, aiming to separate and weaken the two continents by instigating mutual hostility between them and by constant denigration of American policy in the Middle East.

The fact that the import of Islamic manpower into Europe was synchronized with the expansion of European markets in Arab countries made it possible for several million Muslim immigrants to arrive without hindrance. The speed and scale of this operation was unique in history. Even in the course of the European colonization, the emigration of Europeans to the colonies took place at an infinitely slower pace. The number of European colonists, including their descendants, even after a maximum of one or two centuries, was incomparably lower than that of present-day Muslim immigrants in each of the countries of Europe after only three decades.

The political laxity of the European governments was worsened by the permission granted to Arab countries to export their culture and their mores together with their population (EAD Declaration, Damascus, September 11, 1978).

 

University of Venice Seminar:  1977

 

The Arab cultural implantation into Europe, was bound-up with the immigration – that is to say the transfer of millions of Muslims from Africa, the Middle East and Asia, together with their original culture – into the host countries. This cultural Arabization/Islamization had already been planned at the University of Venice (March 28-30, 1977) by the Euro-Arab Seminar on Means and Forms of Cooperation for the Diffusion in Europe of the Knowledge of Arabic Language and Literary Civilization.

The Seminar was organised by the Instituto per l’Oriente in Rome and the Arabic literature section of the Foreign Languages faculty of the University of Venice. The participants came from 14 universities in Arab countries, 19 Arabists from European universities, numerous other personalities connected with the Muslim world, as well as the representative of the Pontifical Institute of Arab Studies in Rome (Pontificio Istituto di Studi Arabi e d’Islamistica). The seminar was integrated into the Euro-Arab Dialogue, meaning it had the approval of the President of the EEC, the secretary of the Arab League and the foreign ministers of every country represented in the European Community. The Arab participants represented Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Qatar, Sudan and Tunisia. (11)

Among the subjects broached during the four working sessions, the European rapporteurs presented their reports on the diffusion and knowledge of Arabic and of Arab civilization in their respective countries. The Arab delegates, for their part, described the simplified methods of teaching Arabic to non-Arabs practised in their countries. The seminar ended with the adoption of a number of Recommendations. They cannot all be listed here, but the general tenor advocated creating in European capitals centers for the diffusion of the Arab language and culture in every European country in coordination with the Arab countries. This project envisaged appointing to European institutes and universities Arab professors, who were specialists in teaching Europeans.

The participants in this Seminar unanimously forward the following recommendations for consideration by the governments of the member states of the European Community and the League of Arab States

  1. Coordination of the efforts made by the Arab countries to spread the Arabic language and culture in Europe and to find the appropriate form of cooperation among the Arab institutions that operate in this field.
  2. Creation of joint Euro-Arab Cultural Centres in European capitals which will undertake the diffusion of the Arabic language and culture.
  3. Encouragement of European institutions either at University level or other levels that are concerned with the teaching of the Arabic language and the diffusion of Arabic and Islamic culture.
  4. Support of joint projects for cooperation between European and Arab institutions in the field of linguistic research and the teaching of the Arabic language to Europeans.
  5. Necessity of supplying European institutions and universities with Arab teachers specialized in teaching Arabic to Europeans.
  6. In teaching Arabic, emphasis must be laid on different linguistic skills: the teaching of Arabic must be linked with Arab-Islamic culture and contemporary Arab issues.
  7. Necessity of cooperation between European and Arab specialists in order to present an objective picture of Arab-Islamic civilization and contemporary Arab issues to students and to the educated public in Europe which could attract Europeans to Arabic studies. (12)

 

The following resolutions define the forms of cooperation between Arab and European universities and their respective experts as well as the organization of the funds necessary for this Arabization project in the EEC. The last recommendation considers it necessary to establish a permanent committee of Arab and European experts charged with controlling the pursuance and application of the decisions concerning the diffusion of Arabic and of Arab culture in Europe within the framework of the Euro-Arab Dialogue.

  1. In order to achieve the above, the participants consider it necessary as a result of this seminar to establish a permanent committee of Arab and European experts to follow up on the recommendations for disseminating Arabic and Arab culture in Europe; this be within the framework of the Euro-Arab Dialogue

 

This framework signified the approval of the foreign ministers of the EC countries and its presidency, in collaboration with the secretary of the League of Arab countries, as well as the other diplomats represented on the General Commission whose work proceeded in camera and went unrecorded.

 

The Cultural requests from the Arab bloc

 

Thus, from the 1970s the immigration policy integrated into the economico-political conception of the EAD (1973) did not envisage scattered immigration by individuals wanting to integrate into the host country. It planned a homogeneous implant of foreign collectivities numbering in the millions, into the European Communities. It facilitated the creation of groups who were hostile to their secular European environment, coming not to integrate but with the intention and with the right to impose their own civilization on the host country, while rejecting its secular institutions, considered inferior to those of the shari’a given by Allah. Whereas the EAD claimed for the Arab immigrants the rights conferred by the European legal institutions, the latter despised these institutions since they availed themselves of their own Arab-Islamic culture based on the shari’a. Thus, right from the start of the immigration, integration was excluded.

The Hamburg Symposium (April 11-15, 1983) of the Euro-Arab Dialogue was inaugurated with great pomp by the opening address of Hans-Dietrich Genscher, minister for foreign affairs of the German Federal Republic, followed by a speech from the secretary-general of the Arab League, Chedli Klibi. Genscher strongly recalled Europe’s debt to Islamic civilization and emphasized the importance of the Dialogue in cementing Euro-Arab solidarity. He referred to the beginning of the Dialogue in 1973 and the importance of the political aspect which should not be ignored – in other words, the EEC’s anti-Israel policy in the Middle East as a foundation of the whole economic edifice of Euro-Arab cooperation. He stated:

The Euro-Arab Dialogue would indeed remain incomplete if the political side were to be ignored or not taken seriously.

Both parties to the Dialogue, both partners, should always remind themselves of the joint Memorandum issued in Cairo in 1975, the Charter of the Dialogue. The Memorandum contains the following quote: “The Euro-Arab Dialogue is the outcome of the common political will which strives for the creation of a special relationship between the two groups.” We Europeans spoke out in a clear and convinced manner for a revival of the Euro-Arab Dialogue in the Venice Declaration of June 13 1980. Since then, the various working groups within the Dialogue have become more active and the prospects for the future are now promising. (13)

 

After two years during which the Dialogue was interrupted following the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty of 1979, the Venice Declaration totally aligned itself with the Arab political demands relating to Israel. It confirmed the national rights of the Palestinians “which is not simply one of refugees” (art. 6). Article 7 required the participation of PLO in the negotiations. In article 8 “the Nine stress that they will not accept any unilateral initiative designed to change the status of Jerusalem”. In the following article:

The Nine stress the need for Israel to put an end to the territorial occupation which it has maintened since the conflict of 1967, as it has done for part of Sinai. They are deeply convinced that the Israeli settlements constitute a serious obstacle to the peace process in the Middle East. The Nine consider that these settlements, as well as modifications in population and property in the occupied Arab territories, are illegal under international law.

 

At the Hamburg Symposium in 1983, speakers from both sides presented various reports bearing on the integration of the two civilizations. Participants were divided into three workshops. The first, ‘Prospect for Cultural Exchange’ examined the prospects for future cultural exchanges in all areas. The discussion covered : “exchange agreements between universities, exchanges between students and teachers and others, in the field of creative arts, of audio-visual materials, co-operation in translation, in transmitting Arabic publications to Europe, exhibitions and publication”. The areas of this cultural cooperation were to be defined: “by a general cultural agreement between the Arab League and the European Community. This agreement would provide a framework for more specialized agreements to operate”. A small joint committee within the framework of the Euro-Arab Dialogue would be “set up to monitor the working of the agreement, to examine and accept proposals for future projects and to ensure their execution”

The workshop suggested various schemes which were summarized as follows:

 

  1. The publication twice yearly of a Euro-Arab journal devoted to specific topics with Arab and European contributors […] In addition a smaller newsletter is recommended which would list cultural developments in the Arab world, noting such things as intellectual debates, theatrical performances, important publications.
  2. To invite Arab professional Unions and their members to conclude agreements with their European counterparts to further cultural co-operation and exchange. The Arab side specifically made the proposal to conclude such an agreement with the Unions of Arab Writers and of Publishers […] Such agreements should also include the encouragement of periodical meeting between European and Arab Unions of Radio and Television and between Associations of Film Producers and Actors to promote joint productions.
  3. The convening of small, specialized or professional seminars on selected themes. Among topics already suggested are the religious dialogue, Arab historiography, book publishing and librarianship, investigation of the content of text books at all levels in the history of the two regions.

 

The second workshop focused on the: ‘Social and Cultural Consequences of the Migration of Workers and Intellectuals’. The participants noted that, as Arab immigration turned into permanent residence, carrying out the Damascus Declaration (December 1978), was henceforth inadequate for the situation in 1983. It was particularly necessary to supplement the article stipulating the rights of Arab migrants and the members of their families to: “enjoy equality of treatment as to living and working conditions, wages and economic rights, rights of association and the exercise of basic public freedoms”. It was felt that not enough was done to implement the tenets of this declaration. (art.3) The participants recommended the creation of a permanent institution to improve knowledge of migration and to formulate policies and programs “with the purpose of ensuring the highest level of welfare for the migrants themselves and maximum benefit for both countries of origin and employment with a spirit of genuine cooperation among the countries involved in the Dialogue.” (art. 4)

Article 5 contained several proposals:

 

  1. It is recommended that the social integration of migrant workers and their families in the host countries be facilitated by:
  2. a) giving equal rights in access to the housing market, the labour market and the educational system and to vocational and professional training,
  3. b) making the general public more aware of the cultural background of migrants, e.g. by promoting cultural activities of the immigrant communities,
  4. c) supplying adequate information on the culture of the migrant communities in the school curricula,
  5. d) creating special schooling and training facilities for those who have functional relationships with the immigrants (e.g. civil servants, medical staff, members of the police force, teachers, social workers etc.),
  6. e) giving migrants access to the mass media in order to ensure that migrants be in a position to receive regular information in their own language about their own culture as well as about the conditions of life in the host country,
  7. f) broadening cooperation between immigrant groups and the national population and taking measures to increase the participation of immigrant groups in trade union activities and explore their participation in political life.
  8. It is recommended that the Arab countries of origin strengthen their cultural support to Arab migrants in Europe.

 

The third workshop examined cooperation in the field of Arabic and European language teaching. This group stressed that this question was of the greatest importance because it formed a basic principle of the Euro-Arab Dialogue. The decisions of the Venice Seminar (1977) were supplemented by those of the Hamburg Seminar (1983). They repeated the necessity for Arab language and culture to be diffused in Europe by the Arab countries and their specific institutions as well as by Euro-Arab cultural centers created in European capitals. It was necessary to teach Arabic to the immigrant children, and to ensure the publication and distribution of Arabic newspapers and books, intended for a cultured European public in order to give an objective and attractive picture of Islamic civilization. A program for carrying out all the activities examined was planned over a five-year period.

Reading the proceedings of the numerous symposia, one is struck by the difference in the speeches of the two parties. The Europeans employ cautious language, admiring and flattering Islam. Excessive tribute is paid to the great Islamic civilization from which the civilization of Europe has drawn inspiration. (e.g. Hans-Dietrich Genscher, German Foreign Minister, Hamburg Symposium, 1983). Platitudinous, humble excuses are formulated for colonization and Europe’s anti-Arab prejudices. The Arab faction, on the contrary, adopts the tone of a schoolmaster wielding the stick, confident of the tolerance, humanism and greatness of his civilization, the spiritual and scientific fountainhead of Europe. Reproaches are not absent, particularly concerning the inadequacy of European measures against Israel, a central and essential point on which the whole infrastructure of the Dialogue is built. The Arab speeches hammer out in venomous terms Europe’s obligation to deal severely with Israel (Zionist usurpation, the hand of Zionism seeking to kill the Arabs in every country, policy of institutionalized racism. Resolution 3379 equating Zionism with Racism had been hammered through the UN General Assembly in 1975). They remind them of the duty to recognize and teach the greatness and superiority of Islamic civilization and Islam at university level. Preachers describe the Islamic origin of Judaism, Christianity and all mankind, born as Muslims in its original purity.

 

The Alignment of the EEC

 

The EEC had fully aligned itself with the directives concerning Israel formulated by the Arab League as early as 1970, as can be seen in the Declaration of the Nine on the Middle East (London, 29 June 1977). Some of these declarations repeat word for word those issued by the 2nd Islamic Conference of Lahore (1974) and are not to be found in the original English UN Security Council Resolution 242.Thus, article 2 of the Declaration by the Council of Europe (London, 29 June 1977) specifies 1) the inadmissibility of the acquisition of land by force, 2) the necessity for Israel to end the territorial occupation it has maintained since the 1967 conflict, while resolution 242 mentions withdrawal “from territories”; 3) the obligation for Israel – in the establishment of a just and lasting peace – to take account of the “legitimate rights” of the Palestinians, which is not to be found in the valid UNSC Resolution 242.

Article 3 gives the Arab position:

The Nine are convinced that a solution of the Middle East conflict will only be possible if the legitimate right of the Palestinian people to give effective expression to its national identity is translated into a reality which will take account of the need of a homeland for the Palestinian people. They consider that the representatives of the parties to the conflict, including the Palestinian people, must participate in the negotiations in an appropriate manner, to be defined in consultation among all the interested parties. In the framework of an overall settlement, Israel must be prepared to recognise the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people. Likewise the Arab party must be prepared to recognise Israel’s right to live in peace within secure and recognised frontiers. (14)

 

This declaration had been prepared by the General Commission of the EAD meeting in Tunis (February 10-12, 1977). Concerning Jerusalem, the final communiqué published at the end of its second session stated: “the European side … has also marked its opposition to any initiative tending to alter the status of Jerusalem unilaterally. The Arab side said how much it appreciated this attitude.”

On September 26, 1977, Henri Simonet, Belgian Foreign Minister and president of the council of the EEC stated at the UN General Assembly in New York that the Middle East conflict had to be based on security resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973), that is to say on the Franco-Arab interpretation of them, in the French version, as adopted by the EEC after the Arab oil embargo in 1973,

 

as well as on the following fundamental principles: first, acquisition of territory by force is unacceptable; secondly, Israel must end its occupation of territories it has held since the 1967 war; thirdly, the sovereignty, territorial integrity and the independence of each State in the region must be respected, as well of [sic] the right of each State of the region to live in peace within secure and recognized borders; fourthly, the establishment of a just and lasting peace must take account of the legitimate rights of the Palestinians.

  1. The nine countries also continue to believe that a solution to the conflict will not be possible unless the legitimate right of the Palestinian people to give effective expression to its national identity becomes a reality. This would take into account, of course, the need for a homeland for the Palestinian people.
  2. It remains the firm view of the nine countries that all of these elements constitute an indivisible whole.
  3. One should recall here that the nine countries have publicly stated their concern over the illegal measures taken recently by the Government of Israel in the occupied territories …
  4. Looking forward to peace negotiations, the nine countries reaffirm the concern they have expressed on many occasion that the parties of the conflict should refrain from making any statements or adopting any measures, administrative, legal, military or otherwise, which would constitute an obstacle to the process of peace. (15)

 

The second Islamic Conference, organized by the recently created Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) was held in Lahore on February 24, 1974 and its Declaration clearly manifested their policy toward Israel:

 

  1. The Arab cause is the cause of all countries which oppose aggression and will not suffer the use of force to be rewarded by territory or any other gains;
  2. Full and effective support should be given to the Arab countries to recover, by all means available, all their occupied lands;
  3. The restitution of the full national rights of the Palestinian peoples [sic] in their homeland is the essential and fundamental condition for a solution to the Middle East problem and the establishment of lasting peace on the basis of justice;
  4. The constructive efforts undertaken by the Christian Churches, all over the world and in the Arab countries, notably in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and Syria to explain the Palestinian question to the international public opinion and to the world religious conferences and to solicit their support for Arab sovereignty over Jerusalem and other holy places in Palestine should be appreciated;
  5. Any measure taken by Israel to change the character of the occupied Arab territories and in particular of the Holy City of Jerusalem is a flagrant violation of international law and is repugnant to the feelings of the Member-States of the Islamic Conference and of the Islamic world in general. (16)

 

The Culture of Eurabia

 

Whereas the EU offers Israel nothing but verbiage which can only be meaningless for the civilizations of the jihad (“just and lasting peace”, “secure and recognized frontiers”), it demands concrete actions from Israel: 1) cession of territories; 2) redivision of Jerusalem; 3) the creation of a second Palestine, another Arab-Muslim state on the historical Jewish homeland Islamized by jihad; 4) the obligation on Israel to negotiate with Arafat, (Venice Declaration, 1980), acknowledged as a terrorist leader up to the time of the Oslo accords (1994) and converted back to the jihad during the process which followed; 5) peace conditioned by a global settlement including with Syria; 6) Israel’s obligation to admit its responsibility and solve the problem of the Arab refugees from Palestine, although this tragedy was provoked by their alliance with five Arab armies, invading with the aim of destroying the fledgling State of Israel, and their subsequent defeats.

The EU complied with the demands of the Arab League and recognized Arafat as its sole representative. It thus conferred respectability and legitimacy on the godfather of international terrorism, the unrelenting enemy of the State of Israel, of the Lebanese Christians, and one of the modern symbols of jihad against the infidels.

The EU demanded that Israel return to the frontiers of the 1949 armistice, pretending to believe that such frontiers were viable. Its refusal to recognize Israel’s right to its ancient capital, Jerusalem, implies a delegitimization and denial of the history of the Jewish people to which Europe by virtue of its Christian origins is still a witness par excellence. The EU adopted the pathological Arab obsession that conferred an evil centrality on Israel, eclipsing all others world events. On the level of Euro-Arab international policy, it explained, justified and morally legitimized a pathology of Arab hate, which imposed the destruction of Israel as an absolute and universal priority. By enlisting in the Arab-Islamic jihad against Israel, under labels such as “peace and justice for the Palestinians”, Europe was rejecting all its values and even the foundation of its civilization. Thus, it abandoned the Christians in Lebanon to the massacres of the Palestinians, and the Christians of the Islamic world to the persecutions under dhimmitude. The liberation of Israel, a minuscule portion of the lands colonized by the Arabs in Asia, Africa and Europe by war and force, provoked a paranoia that masked the sufferings of millions of victims of modern jihad.

At the level of European demography, the EEC’s immigration policy encouraged the Islamist desire to Islamize Europe, and provides it with very solid bases. The real figures of this immigration were concealed from the public as if this constituted a state secret. The export of the immigrants’ culture to the host countries, an exorbitant and unique favor in the history of immigration, was integrated in the agreements between the EEC and the Arab League as an inalienable right of the immigrants. It created an obstacle to their integration, all the more so as the bonds with the countries of emigration were encouraged and supported to the utmost by cultural, political and economic agreements, and by collaboration and exchanges at the university and international level. The EAD’s European agents utilized anti-racism to eliminate any discussion of the insecurity, criminality and religious fanaticism of certain sections of a population, who generally refused to integrate.

 

EAD ‘s cultural infrastructure made it possible to import into Europe the traditional cultural baggage of anti-Christian and anti-Jewish prejudices against the West and Israel, conceived by the peoples and the civilization of jihad. It was in these years that the theme of jihad was resurrected in order to nurture terrorist activism. Immigrant groups became the vehicles to diffuse it in Europe, with the silent collusion of academics, politicians and the whole of the EAD’s cultural apparatus. The discrediting of ‘infidel’ Judeo-Christian culture was expressed by the affirmation of the superiority of Islamic civilization from which, so they said, European sages had humbly drawn inspiration. Neither the centers of knowledge scattered over Latin and Byzantine Europe during the Middle Ages, nor in the following centuries the creation of printing, essential for the diffusion of knowledge, nor the scientific discoveries of Europe and their technological applications, nor the innovating evolution of its legal and political institutions, nor its artistic and cultural wealth can undermine the axiom of its inferiority to the Arabs, creators of science and the arts. This absurdity, obsequiously repeated by European ministers, actually constitutes a religious principle of the Arab world which acknowledges no superiority on the part of the infidel civilizations. The very term ‘Judeo-Christian’ civilization is rejected by fundamentalist Muslims (17) who only admire one single civilization, the Islamic civilization, which embraces, through Abraham – a Muslim prophet – Jews and Christians. That is why so many ministers no longer talk about Judeo-Christian civilization but about Abrahamic civilization. Moreover, Judaism and Israel polarize such hatred that Europe gladly rallied to Abrahamism, that is the Muslim conception of the Islamic origin of Judaism and Christianity, this latter not being connected with Judaism but with Islam, the first religion of mankind and antedating the other two monotheistic religions in the Islamic viewpoint.

The wave of Arab cultural and religious fanaticism which swept Europe was integrated into the functionality of the EAD. The EU thus repudiated its Jewish roots and rejected Christianity because it was born of them. The ablation of the historical memory of Europe in order to graft on to it the Arab-Islamic concept of history today makes possible the diffusion of a sort of negationist and guilt-inducing pseudo-culture, in which veneration for the Andalusian myth replaces knowledge of the devastating Muslim invasions. The obsequiousness of university circles, subject to a political power entirely dominated by economic materialism, recalls the worst periods of the decline of intelligence. The censorship of thought, the suppression of intellectual freedom, imported from Muslim countries in the package of a culture of hatred of Israel, today leads to the exclusion and boycott of Israeli academics by their colleagues in Europe.

Arab antisemitism/anti-Zionism was re-implanted in Europe in the conceptual framework set up by the Euro-Arab Dialogue and its planning of ‘a movement of opinion’ to support Arab anti-Israeli policy. Arab directives, backed by the Euro-Arab Parliamentary Association – the powerful Arab/Muslim lobby – were transmitted to the highest political, university and religious authorities engaged in the EAD, and were given practical application in the media, television, radio, the press, the universities, the workers’ unions and a variety of political and cultural activities. The major themes of this Eurabian antisemite culture were borrowed from the Arab world where they had already been diffused since the 1950s. Their main arguments are: 1) Holocaust denial; 2) Jews exploited the Shoah as a means to blackmail Europe for Israel’s benefit; 3) De-legitimization of the Jewish state; 4) The transfer of Israel’s history to the Palestinian Arabs; 5) The cult of the destruction of Israel as a source of the redemption of the world; 6) Cultural boycott of Israel and its isolation on the international scene – a policy which recreated the status of the Jew in Christianity, and of the dhimmi in Islam; 7) Culpabilisation of Europe for the resurgence of Israel; 8) Israel is a threat to world peace, which correctly interpreted means that Israel resists the Euro-Arab policy to eliminate it; 9) Anti-Americanism.

The all-encompassing Euro-Arab symbiosis produced by the EAD led the EU to tolerate the Palestinian terrorists on its own territory in the 1970s, and even later to justify and passively legitimize their terror against Israel, and later to actually finance the Palestine terrorist infrastructure and the inculcation of hatred in its schools. The churches and their media network were the most active agents of the moralization of Palestinian terrorism. Internal opposition was swept away by the political pressures and the funds of the religious organs involved in the EAD.

 

It was during 2000-2002 that Eurabia has perhaps erased Europe. In Eurabia the Islamic conception of history has supplanted the memory of the institution of the jihad and of dhimmitude which governed the relationship of the Muslims with non-Muslims from the seventh century to the present day. The culture of Eurabia today displays a combination of anti-Jewish, anti-Christian and anti-American animosity. The politicians and intellectuals who have brought it into the world with forceps have denied the wave of defamation and attacks against the Jews in Europe, a wave which they themselves have made possible and have irresponsibly stirred up for thirty years. They neglect the reality of antisemitism in the same way as they have neglected the attacks on the fundamental rights of European citizens, allowing ideological currents generating delinquency and terrorism to be established with impunity in their countries. The silence and negligence of the French authorities in the face of the wave of antisemitic aggression in the period 2000-2002 is only the tip of the iceberg of a global policy. Throughout the territory of Eurabia covered by the EAD agreements, the same uniformity of thought is to be found – the same taboos and censorship at universities and in the apparatus of information, the same historical and political counter-truths built into a dogma, the same tactics of obstructing publishers and bookshops, the same demonology of the Jews and Israel, the same attribution of guilt to Jews and Christians in regard to the Arab-Islamic world. When future generations will reflect in astonishment on the genesis of Eurabia, they will find that this mutation of European socio-political culture was driven by economic self-interest, financial greed, Judeophobic anti-Zionism, and anti-Americanism. The EAD, which bound the European economy to an Arab political strategy, planning the destruction of Israel, was the Trojan horse of that European drift toward the Arab-Islamic sphere of influence. The sorcerer’s apprentices have opened the way to a disquieting future.

NOTES

 

  1. 1. Saleh A. Al-Mani, The Euro-Arab Dialogue. A Study in Associative Diplomacy, ed. Salah Al-Shaikhly, Frances Pinter (Publishers), London, 1983, p.48. See also Jacques Bourrinet (ed.), Le Dialogue Euro-Arabe, Economica, Paris 1979.
  2. 2. Documents d’Actualité Internationale , Ministère des Affaires étrangères, Paris (henceforth DAI), 1974, n°l, pp.2-3.
  3. See Al-Mani, pp 70-73; 111; Bourrinet, p. 4. Analysing the formula of the EAD, John Waterbury writes: “The eventual bargaining took place in the form of a trade-off: the Arab political demands against European economic objectives”, ibid., p.25; Françoise de la Serre, Conflit du Proche-Orient et Dialogue Euro-Arabe: La Position de l’Europe des Neuf’, in ibid.
  4. Report on Islamic Summit 1974, Pakistan. Lahore, February 22-24, 1974, p. 228.
  5. DAI 1974, Conférence des Chefs d’Etat Arabes (Alger, 26-29 novembre 1973) Déclaration de politique Générale (Alger, 28 Novembre 1973) (Source: Conférence des Chefs d’Etat arabes, in French, n°7, pp.122-26).
  6. As this issue of DAI has disappeared from the collection at the Bibliothèque du Palais des Nations at Geneva, this reference is taken from Bourrinet, pp.331-35: DAI 1977, n° 16-17, pp. 315-19.
  7. Al-Mani, pp.70-73.
  8. Bat Ye’or, Islam and Dhimmitude. Where Civilizations Collide, Cranbury, NJ, Fairleigh Dickinson University Press 2002, p. 253.
  9. Bourrinet, pp. 296-301.
  10. Edmond Völker, ed., Euro-Arab Cooperation. Europa Instituut, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, A.W. Sijthoff, Leyden, 1976, p. 179.
  11. Euro-Arab Dialogue. The Relations between the two cultures. Acts of the Hamburg symposium April 11th to l5th 1983. English version ed. by Derek Hopwood, Croom Helm, London, 1983; see the recommendations of the Venice Seminar, pp. 317-23.
  12. Ibid., pp. 320-21.
  13. Ibid., p.19.
  14. DAI, September 2, 1977, n° 35, Council of Europe (London, 29-30 June 1977) n°137. Déclaration des Neuf sur le Moyen-Orient (Londres 29 Juin 1977) (Source: Ministère des Affaires étrangères, Paris) Textes officiels pp 666-67, translated by the author.
  15. Official Records of the General Assembly.Thirty-second Session. Plenary Meetings, vol.1, Sept.20 – Oct.13, 1977, United Nations, New York,1978.
  16. Report on Islamic Summit 1974, Pakistan. Lahore, February 22-24, 1974, Karachi, pp.222-23.
  17. The rejection of the term ‘Judeo-Christianity’ has often been expressed orally; Bruno Etienne mentions this rejection, in La France et l’islam, Paris, 1989, Hachette, p.l89.

 

 

 

 

ELECTION OF 2004….POLITICS NEVER CHANGE!! Saturday, April 9th, 2016

ELECTION 2004

SONY DSC( I wrote this sometime before the election of 2004 between George W. Bush and John Kerry. Then….I happened to stow it in a memory stick and forgot about it for twelve. Last night I happened to find it again and after reading I was struck as to how all elections are the same and how our feelings to those elections are the same. We just forget. And…..I may add…..politicians bank on the fact that people forget. )

Rhetoric, bitterness and demagoguery abound during the course of presidential campaigns. However, I don’t remember the level of intensity as exemplified during this campaign. Not only are the politicians nasty and playing fast and loose with the facts and events but the populace is reveling in the frenzy. The party hacks such as Lockhardt, Biden, Gore, Clinton(both of them), Sharpton, and Jackson with his Rainbow Coalition are voicing expected diatribes but what is amazing is the conduct of the print and video news media. The rot which is passed as news astounds me. The newsfolks who label themselves as liberal or conservative and express those points of view I respect. I may not agree with them but I respect their method and process. It’s honest.! What is worthy of contempt, though, are the rest of the news hacks who beat their breasts and profess their professional commitment to objectivity. All the while under cover of “the truth” and the sacrosanct duty that the “public must know” proceed to weave the news to promote their agenda. The name Dan Rather comes to mind. And all his stodgy and hoary compatriots who are circling the company wagons on behalf of CBS which now is doomed to the footsteps of Ozimandias. And rightly so, for nature always returns to reclaim remnants of empires whose pride has elevated them to too high levels. I look forward to the day when the Rathers, The Aaron Browns, The Forrest Sawyers and that “Howdy Doody” from Nightline are ceremoniously dismissed to sit under a palm tree on a beach chair to a kaleidoscope of pina coladas, delusions of grandeur and reminiscences of self delusion.

Then, of course, there are the democratic party’s standard bearers for the nation’s top posts. The tall skinny guy with the impeccable gray hair and chiseled face that perpetually squeezes a labored smile stands erect behind his podium with regal distinction. Every time I look at Senator Kerry a mental image appears. It’s Imperial Margarine. For those who like me are old enough to remember the family sitting around the dinner table as the father slices a pat of margarine to instantly have a large crown appear on his head. So, here is imperial John Kerry, married to Theresa Heinz, perhaps the woman with the largest bank account and certainly the woman with the largest disconnect from reality, professing to understand the plight of and be the candidate for the middle class. Why should we believe him? Well, because he has a plan! “The wrong war, the wrong place, at the wrong time”. Don’t worry about it, he has a plan. “He voted for it before he voted against it”. You mustn’t listen to those words because he was really tired. Healthcare—he has a plan! Iraq—he has a plan! Tort reform? He and John Edwards have a plan. John Edwards—the man who made a fortune suing companies in class action suits. Something about the “fox in a hen house”. All financial problems can be solved, according to John Kerry, because he has a plan—roll back the tax cut for the rich. That will take care of it, alright!

Many say that it’s difficult to know where Kerry stands on many issues. When queried Kerry retorts that the world is not the simplistic Manichean dichotomy according to Bush. The world is complex. Way too complex to express it in clear, concise terms. We must speak in nuances. Shades of meanings. Create spheres of influence. Deal in worlds of subtleties. Well, isn’t this very, very French. We should be concerned about the world not liking the good old U. S. of A. We must appeal to old Europe and get their support. John Kerry with his rhetoric of nuance and demagoguery of subtlety can bring the French, the Germans and Russians to our side. He will lead them to see the “way, the truth and the light”. Even if he was to “nuance” and “finesse’ his way to make some progress with these duplicitous European nations the question is at what price. The French, Germans and Ruskis don’t do much, if anything, for altruistic reasons. The French are down right corrupt. The only way Kerry could get the French to move our way would be to return to them “The Louisiana Purchase”. And I don’t think that this would qualify as a “nuance” or subtlety”.

Then there is the comical, bungling figure of Theresa Heinz Kerry. She would be a delightful first lady for the news media. With each turn of phrase there would be a new blundering headline. She would be the re-incarnation of Marie Antoinette and Leona Helmsly. You know, the people who brought you “let them eat cake” and “taxes are for the little people”. However, the sardonic streak in me would rather revel seeing her on the throne unleashing those absurd guffaws while her husband is busy equivocating through the world’s problems.

Perhaps, even with a Bush defeat, there is a silver lining in an otherwise dark cloud!

“The Tuscan

 

GOLF, “THE MOMENT OF TRUTH” Thursday, May 29th, 2014

I remember standing in front of this masterpiece in awe. Once with my little daughter, Gina, of nine. Once with the love of my life, Patricia. It was in Florence in the Accademia delle Belle Arte. Standing bigger than life in the center of the rotunda. The white Carrara marble transcending stone and morphing into sinews, flesh, veins and muscle. Standing erect, calm and resolute, muscles firm but relaxed and eyes with that gaze of focus. Concentration, focus, resolve. I pointed out to Gina the protruding veins on the sinewy arm hanging to the side. A comment which she still remembers to this day some thirty years later. the-david-michelangelo[1]It’s the David by Michelangelo with slingshot draped casually over the shoulder. Ready for the challenge to come with nary a trepidation. Prepared in every way to face his moment of truth. This is what I saw then and this is what I remember now.

The toreador…standing on his tiptoes, back erect and leaning forward, eyes focused on that quarter sized target, right hand extended up high, holding a thin sword, moving stealthily toward his target on the neck of the raging bull;the bull… wounded, possibly panicked, bloody, confused and probably just reacting totoreador[2] self preservation instincts. The bullfighter positions himself for an instant over the bull’s horns to garner the best vantage point to the target. One instant of doubt, trepidation or hesitation and he risks death or  serious injury to himself and butchery to the bull. El momento della verdad! Done correctly…instant death to the bull and resounding glory for the bullfighter. A drama best described in ‘Death in the Afternoon’ by Hemingway.

So, a golfer takes the first tee. All are quiet but there is some tension about. The target seems distant and there are obstacles to the right, to the left and in front. A slight breeze stirs the surface waters of the pond just beyond. He tees up the ball and feels his heart begin to pump…just a bit. Time seems to stop. He’s just hit a dozen drives on the range with smoothness and confidence. He gazes down the target and that sureness begins to drain. One last waggle with a relaxing exhale and the swing is set in motion. Any doubt,

554312_3492895239632_824856396_n[1] (2)

hesitation or caution here and all goes awry. Why all the drama…it’s just a game…right??? Yes, but…and the but is…he is dealing with his inner core. All obstacles out there are static. If he falters and does not allow himself to perform as he knows he can, it’s a personal failure. He will not die or be harmed but he knows deep within that he did not measure up. So…is it a game or a stage for that moment of truth? I believe the latter!

At this point I  have to have a good laugh at myself. This, of course, is hyperbole gone wild. And the laugh…well…it began at the dinner table. And…it wasn’t really my laugh. It was on Patricia’s face and if the truth be told…the laugh was directed at me and my ‘piccolo mondo’ which I create. Sometimes Patricia comments, ‘where do you live?’ Well, Well!! Perhaps so? But if you are a golf aficionado you will understand standing over the ball on the first tee and putting all the importance of the world into that first shot while all your peers are looking. It does reveal something of your inner self. Moment of truth in terms of life and death?…of course not! But…there are other inner tensions which produce the same threshold of importance. In any event….trying to explain it to Patricia was a thorough exercise in futility and the more one tries the more one appears ridiculous. So, I sipped on my Chianti and complimented her on her exquisite shrimp salad and quietly exited the topic.

This is the mental threshold that most golfers bring to the game. There is a veneer of confidence but this confidence can easily and quickly be pierced by several errant shots. As I’ve often said…it’s a long distance from the driving range to the first tee, the world of ‘one shot’, no mulligans or do overs. It’s golf’s ‘moment of truth’ syndrome. Every shot is a moment of truth!

So, this is where the mental journey begins. And…now we embark on successive layers which tend exacerbate the process. The first layer is the static versus the dynamic. Tee up the ball and assume the address position. This is fine and dandy. You can even do a waggle, as recommended. But…eventually youhave to embark on that dynamic journey called the swing. It’s smooth and fluid and efficient. Any

deviation from those three little words produces loss of club head speed. The optimum journey travels one swing plane and one only. Make an adjustment along the way to another swing plane and  you reduce club head speed. The best example of the professional that makes this transition absolutely obvious is Jason Dufner. At address he does not linger at the station he embarks the train in a flurry of motion. What’s that you say…at address he waggles the club continuously and on one undetermined waggle he goes into the swing. That’s his way of overcoming the awkward moment of transition from the static address position to the dynamic and irreversible world of the swing. A more deliberate method is that used by Gary Player. One, two three. A move to his right side and backswing, the shift to the ball and a step through towards the target. On the other hand there is ‘Joe Hackhead’. He addresses the ball and waits with dread and doubt for that moment to begin the swing. There is tension and rigidity. Eventually a lurch or a painfully slow motion to the top. When you watch Gary or Jason or a myriad of other professionals the motion looks easy and balanced. Watch ‘Joe’ and…well…don’t watch. The result is predictable.

Picture you body as a coil. Your right foot, if you’re right handed, is the anchor. As the swing begins, the coil tightens only to reach its maximum tension at the top of the backswing. Typically at the top the left shoulder will be under the chin and the back will be facing the target. Wait…did I say that the shoulders are pointing to the target? And there’s the rub. It’s all wrong the little voice inside says. You gotta get back to the target and pronto. So, the anxiety in various degrees begins to build and continues till the ball is struck. And there’s the irony as the torso coils to be in proper position with the necessary power to strike the ball, the anxiety grows because you are pointing further and further away from the target. Where is the top…how far is the top…how long will it take??Doubt creeps into the mind as the swing attempts to find that magical position at the top.

This is an important and subtle point that it warrants repeating from another point of view…

The properly executed golf swing relies on the torque created from the different attitudes of the hips and

BACK TO TARGET

shoulders. The resulting tension felt in the torso area produces the power.The shoulders must point towards the target. And…this is the rub. As the golfers begins the dynamic golf swing his shoulders begin the journey…a journey which also begins the build-up of anxiety. Something in his little brain begins to signal…hey, hey this is all wrong. The target is that way. You’re facing the wrong way. The closer the golfer gets to the top of the swing with his back square towards the target the louder that little primitive voice becomes. At that point the anxiety is the greatest and then there is a rush to get back to the target line.

 There are many other refinements to the game for those with the talent to capitalize. However those areas I’ve outlined are the major obstacles which the average golfer must overcome to sport a repeatable swing and enjoyable game. Most golfers never get t0 that first stage. I being one. I can play six stellar holes on any golf course. Then the remaining holes tend to bring me back to reality. But….I’m still trying…

No article on golf should end without guaranteed solutions. I leave you with two:

1) Always dress in a splendid fashion. Look like a professional golfer. Then go to your favorite course and put for a while. Then go to the 19th hole and have a couple of bloody marys and talk golf with the fellows. Then…go home!!

2)  Take up bicycle riding as I’ve done. I find that you tend to loose less balls!!

FORE!!!

 

Need to Buy, Sell or Lease Silicon

Valley Real Estate?

Dalmatian Realty of Silicon Valley

Luciano J. Ercolini, Broker/Owner

Landlord & Entrepreneur since 1977***** Realtor since 2000***** Broker/Owner since 2004      

 

 

 

NEW FRIENDS IN THE CHIANTI REGION! Sunday, January 12th, 2014

Once in a while I receive emails from folks around the world. Gente simpatiche.  If you plan a trip around Florence or Siena and you are a bicycle enthusiast….have a look at these folks. I have not tried them myself…yet…but will on my next visit. And….drink some Chianti too!

Ride Montaione Bicycle Adventures (link)

     Tell Lauro Lotti that Luciano sent you!!!

Peasant Farm-Tuscany 40’s, 50’s & 60’s Sunday, January 6th, 2013

Family Pictures 142This was pretty much the summer uniform for a kid growing up in a Tuscan peasant farm in the 1950’s…barefoot, shorts and undershirt. I was fascinated with kites. No one had money for such things in post WWII Italy so we made our own. The kites of choice were in the shape of a six pointed star with tail streaming from the lower points. My brother, Moreno, made the first one for me. I watched him carefully…bamboos cut precisely and straight, paste made from flour and water, two sheets of colored paper bought from Bresciano’s in Molin Nuovo and careful measuring and fastening so that it would fly right and a couple of spools of string. That was one of the favorite activities in the afternoons when there would be an appropriate wind. Soon I was making kites for my cousins and friends.

 

Whenever someone would mention her name he would go off in an ‘ad hominem’ typical Tuscan tirade.Lu 034 That was my maternal grandmother whom I never met. I believe that is she in the stylish clothes with my grandfather, Beppe Magrini, and my cousin Aladino in carriage in 1947. Life was basic and tough in post war Italy in the farm areas of Tuscany. Families were large as the labor was needed to work the fields. All work was done by beast of burden and human labor. The wife would be sent to be a wet nurse after each child was born. My mother, for example, went to Torino after my brother was born in 1937. My grandmother whose name I know not was sent to Marseilles after each of the six children. Then she would have to return to the rudimentary farm, with the chickens and the animals and the smells and the no running water, indoor bathroom, no electricity and lots and lots of manual labor. And then she would be pregnant, have the child and soon leave for Marseilles to tend to rich folks’ children while my mother, being the oldest, would act as the surrogate mother on the farm. I surmise that after each trip to Marseilles the return trip to the backwardness of the farm became more and more unbearable. And…probably, being an attractive woman she probably met some gentleman who was her ticket to a better life. The clothes she’s wearing are stylish and not the type that I grew accustomed seeing farm women wear in that area. Although I never saw or met her I’m pretty sure that is my infamous grandmother.

As a little kid of six or seven I remember my grandfather Beppe…whenever someone would mention her….”Dio cane, puttana madonna, bestia, puttana and on”, and on. Of course, he had it tough. Left alone with six children and a farm to work. But…to his credit he did it. Raised the four girls and two boys, saw to it that all got married with nice weddings and we, the grandchildren would gather about his farm in the summers and have a grand time roaming. He was a nice man and I went to his funeral which happened to occurr during one of my visits in 1980.

Lu 058

The wheat harvest was a family affair. Uncles, aunts, cousins…all would gather and pitch in. Sometime in July there would be the cutting. They would begin at five in the morning for quick coffee and then to the fields. A line of folks with hats and sickles in hand stooped over moving down the field in unison. Wheat stalks would be left on the ground for some time to dry and then bundled. The faggots would be hauled over the shoulder from the fields and spiraled onto the large mound in front of the farm house.The thrasher would be called and that was an exciting day for the kids. Lots of noise, tractor and large machinery, moving leather straps and all the adults moving as a team with excitement and joy. All was ready for the big day.Stacking the wheat and getting ready for the machines in summer of 1947.

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Grandfather, aunts and uncles and my brother, Moreno. My father, Giovanni Pasquinelli, stands atop the stack with cocked hat and proud stature! At center with lite beret hat is Bruno Ercolini, my uncle and adopted father, who brought me to America….the very luckiest stroke in my life!!!

Lu 057

Feeding the thrasher…my cousin, Osvaldo, looking on. 1956

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My brother, Moreno, and uncle, Beppe, stacking the hay for the animals. 1956

Lu 050

My father, Giovanni and workers sacking the wheat. When my grandmother was alive, till the early fifties, the wheat would be taken to Molin Nuovo a half mile away to the mill. It was an old style mill powered by a canal from the Pescia River and with large stone wheels grinding and churning, flour dust everywhere and the sound of rushing water from below the floor. It was rustic and basic and with motion and lots of sounds. Then My grandmother would use the flour on a weekly basis and make our bread. She would make the loaves the night before and let them rise overnight in a wooden cupboard and then rise at dawn on her baking day and light a fire for embers to be placed in a brick oven to heat at the proper temperature. Then a long handled shovel with the loaves in and out. She was dressed all in black and would work till about noon. The golden oval loaves were marvellous. Rich, thick crust, golden and with lots of texture. However, it was done on a weekly basis…so, the ones at the end were a bit tough.After she died my father worked out an arrangement with the bakery in Borgo a Buggiano. He bartered the blour for bread for the year. The breadman would deliver fresh, store bought loaves every couple of days. They were good…but not like the ones grandmother Agnese made.

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Doing the laundry by the well. My stepmother, Eda, in 1956, This was it….the washer and dryer. No running water. Electricity came in 1953.

Lu 078

And…this was the bathroom….no, that’s not correct…the outhouse, right next to the pig stys and indoor stalls. It was basic and had toilet paper to match….usually old newspapers or magazines or such discarded paper. I never saw toilet paper till I went to visit my aunt, Rina in Pescia. On one of my visits after high school my good friend, Michael, came with me and we stayed on the farm for some months. Before he used the outhouse I distinctly remember giving him a good briefing as to what to expect. I’m sure he’s never forgotten it.

Lu 032

My mother, Ida Magrini Pasquinelli. She died in 1953 of nephritis. I remember the trauma to this day when they all came to talk to me. She’s in front of our well and laundry vat. Note the laundry basket behind and to the back. Picture was in 1951 and the well probably had been in use for over 100 years.

Lu 025

In the Valdinievole the water tables were readily available…so we were fortunate to have a well with good water and right in front of our house. Workers clean and scour the walls in 1947. Water by bucket would be poured into a copper vessel(brocca) and placed atop a marble sink in the kitchen. The brocca would hold about 2 gallons of water. Bedroom would have bed pans and portable basins. As a little kid I remember those cold winter days getting ready for church in Molin Nuovo…a G.I. wash at the portable basin on cold unheated brick floors. The process was super quick! At night getting into bed was a challenge too! Cold, cold, cold! So, there was a dome like contraption made from curved reticulated slats which would hold suspended a terracotta pot of embers. It would be placed under the covers for a short while to heat the bedding. Lighting was by candle or an oil lamp with wick and glass tube and of course the fireplace which would be the center of the house on cold nights. It was pretty basic stuff and my brother and I later would comment that we were the last generation to have seen a working peasant farm…a system which probably had not changed since the Romans and the Etruscans.

Lu 033

Getting ready for lunch. No matter how humble the surroundings the table at lunch was always set with clean tablecloth, plates for each course, water, wine and espresso. On Sundays a chicken or rabbit would be cooked and dessert served too. At the well my brother, Moreno and Bruno, fill one of the flasks with water after getting a flask of wine from the cantina. The cantina would have a half dozen large barrels along the walls filled with white and red wine. Usually ten or fifteen flasks would be filled at one time and each flask would be sealed by pouring a small amount of olive oil at the very top. Before serving a wad of flax would be dipped in the neck of the flask to soak up the olive oil and render the wine ready for pouring. To the water there would be a powder added to make it effervescent. It was called ‘acqua di Vichy’. however, non of us knew or cared that it was named after Vichy water of France. Lunch would always be at one pm and would be a joyous affair. Sometimes in summer my father would buy a watermelon and drop it into the well to cool down and then retrieve it by bucket. Other times polenta would be served. My brother, Moreno, absolutely hated it. But it would be stirred in a black pail hanging over the fireplace and when ready it would be poured onto a napkin at the center of the table, left to set for a few minutes and then cut with a thread. It would be served with baccala or some red sauce dish. That was the main meal of the day followed by a nap til about four, chores and then dinner at about soundown. Dinner would be left overs from lunch and much lighter.

Lu 081

Zucchini plants in the foreground, string bean and tomato vines in the back, grass for the rabbits and animals on right and grape vines all around the field. Every inch of the farm was used. In the late afternoons my father would water these plants via a well and electric pump and would pick the tomatoes, beans and zucchini. He would order them in wooden flats with leaves for presentation. Then at five the next morning he would load all on wracks in front and rear of his bike and ride some five miles to Montecatini where there would be a market for fresh vegetables and fruits. Montecatini was a tourist center for the well to do who were wont to come from all about Europe to take the waters. They were mineral waters, saline waters for their purgative health value. You know…cleanse the system. The prices would be determined by pure market forces and prices would change daily. It was pure competition. This was an important cash inflow for the farm and would last all summer.

Lu 084

My father, Giovanni, with a sulphur bellows. Several times before the grape harvest grapes would be dusted with sulphur. It was a whole process of course. It began in the winter when the vines would be cut to bare essentials. Grape vines bordered all fields and were strung on wire with bamboos for support. The bamboos were grown on the farm as was a vine with pliable whip like branches which were used to tie the vines to bamboos or wire. In the spring all the grapes were sprayed several times with a copper solution and all the men would be outfitted with pumps harnessed by shoulder straps with a pump lever jutting out by the right arm. In early summer the grape leaves would be thinned out to reveal the grapes to the sun. In late September the harvest…all members of family to include cousins, aunts and uncles would gather for two or three days to cut the grapes and dump them into vats. A manual wine press would be called and we could see the red juice ooze out into vats as the guys worked the lever around. The juice was poured into wooden bins and allowed to ferment. Then…transferred into barrels and allowed to age for one year…the red, that is….the white was drunk next summer. I remember as though it was yesterday….in the early fifties…me, my brother and father around the lunch table. It was the tasting of the new white wine. My father poured a glass for us to taste. There was a silence. My brother who was always rather outspoken said ‘it’s awful’. I remember the taste to this day, the taste was odd. My father tasted it and re tasted and said ‘mi piace'(I like it!). But with a look on his face. Don’t remember whether the wine was ever drunk, but the scene vividly remains. The meals on the Tuscan table always included wine. The children would be given a light water wine solution. And…I remember not liking the wine much…always preferred a lemonade or orange drink or Coca Cola. As of lately I’ve rediscovered the wonderful childhood delight…the long forgotten zesty flavor of Orangina. It’s a link to my childhood on the farm in Molin Nuovo!

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Need to Buy, Sell or Lease Silicon

Valley Real Estate?

Dalmatian Realty of Silicon Valley

Luciano J. Ercolini, Broker/Owner

Landlord & Entrepreneur since 1977***** Realtor since 2000***** Broker/Owner since 2004      

 

 

 

SILICON VALLEY ACROSS GOLDEN GATE TO WINE COUNTRY!! Monday, September 3rd, 2012

SKYLINERoute-day one

Page Mill Rd to Alpine to San Gregorio, Half Moon Bay, Devil’s Slide, Montara, Pacifica and San Francisco

 

Route-day two

Mission District, Lake Merced, Sunset,Golden Gate Park, Cliff  House, Sea Cliff, Presidio, Golden Gate Bridge, Sausalito, MillValley, Corte Madera, San Anselmo, Fairfax, White’s Hill, Olema, Pt. Reyes, Marconi, Marshall, Tomales Bay, Valley Ford, Round and Round, THE WASHOE HOUSE, Rohnert Park

Route-day three

Sonoma State, Penngrove, Petaluma, Nicasio Lake, Lucas Valley Road, Big Rock, San Rafael, Greenbrae, Corte Madera, Sausalito, GG Bridge, Presidio, Fisherman’s Wharf and Train Station.

Total Mileage—258.5 miles

Flat tires—4

Horrible places—Devil’s Slide, Highway 1 south of Half Moon Bay, Road markings west ofSanta Rosa, traffic attitude in SonomaCounty.

Beautiful places—Vistas from Alpine Road, selected areas of Highway 1, Pacifica, Golden GateBridge, Persidio,Sausalito, Bike path North of Sausalito into Corte Madera, Fairfax, Pt. Reyes, Tomales Bay and that absolutely necessary beer at the Washoe House on Roblar Road, Bike path from GG Bridge through Presidio onto Marina and Fisherman’s Wharf and finally a heavenly and triumphal ride down the Embarcadero to the train station.

 

Mistakes—forgot sun block, did not drink enough electrolytes, did not put new tires on bike, did not have bike rack on bike.

The Narrative:

It was Sunday, the day of final preparation for the bike trip. It was a mild summer day and felt light hearted as I tidied last details and errands dressed in T shirt, shorts and flip flops. Light rock from FM KOIT played gently in the background as I looked forward to the many adventures ahead of me in the next few days. A patch kit and spare inner tube purchased at Walt’s Bike Shop on Carroll St. completed my preparation. I returned home tranquilly and finished the packing. Water, Power Bars, a light backpack, my new Giant Bike, a few bucks and credit cards was all I needed. All was tidily packed and ready.

Six came early the next morning revealing an overcast but warm day. I sipped coffee and watched Lance ride on OLN Network and wondered if I really wanted to do this. Am I nuts or what, I thought. The comfort of the couch and a sleepy body acted as the inertia to the beginning of the trip.

By six thirty I pushed my achy and sleepy body through the garage door with water bottle in hand and set the bike on the pavement. Time to go! Time to go!  At the first stop light on Fremont  I remembered that the water bottle was carelessly left atop Patricia’s car as I had lifted the bike off the ceiling hooks. I rode sleepily and lazily through the morning traffic of Sunnyvale and Los Altos. At Loyola Corners I stopped at the convenience store behind the gas station and bought a two liter bottle of Evian. An older, cheery, tall counter clerk queried me as to what Evian meant backwards. I strained with sleepy eyes and a slothful mind at the label of the bottle almost annoyed at the question. The mental mechanism slowly and painfully began to move.

“Yep, yep, naïve! And how very appropriate for this French stuff”, I said.

The clerk sported a broad self pleased smile as he handed me the change and in a friendly style said, “have a good ride and good day”

“Adios, my friend”, I replied.

Up familiar Foothill Expressway I began to gather momentum. My spirits were awakening to the adventure ahead. My body and energy also began to awaken. The familiar road assumed a cloak of adventure as it was the gateway to my long planned trip up the coast to Marin and Sonoma Counties.

Old Page Mill Road is a throwback. A short stretch of quaint, tree shaded winding and hidden road runs adjacent to the new expressway, a beehive of activity during most times of the day and night. Once beyond the 280 underpass the traffic disappears and the road winds through its two thousand foot ascent to Skyline Boulevard. I’d climbed this road a number of times before and though never easy I’d forgotten how challenging some of the more rigorous climbs truly were. I stopped several times to drink water and chew on a Power Bar. “Tough, tough, tough,” I thought. About three quarter of the way to the summit I stopped and looked back to Silicon Valley sleepily still hidden in the low fog with the sun peering above and shedding soft light on the upper slopes. When the summit finally came my spirits soared as I began to traverse a road never before traveled.

 

THE SUMMIT** PAGE MILL ROAD** HIGHWAY 35, SKYLINE BOULEVARD** ALPINE ROAD

It’s always a moment of triumph at the summit of any climb!!!

Across Highway 35, the summit, from Page Mill Road is Alpine Road, the beginning of the descent to the coast and the town of San Gregorio. The name still rings with spicy thoughts from my younger days of nude beaches somewhere in this wild coast land. The road became a narrow ribbon following the contours of the ridge lines, diving into oak groves, following narrow creeks and rising onto crests revealing the many golden coastal hills in all directions. Ranches and an occasional home interrupted the natural curves of the rolling hills.

It’s only its remoteness and lack of good roads which saves this beautiful unspoiled country from the ravages of housing developments, high density housing and all the modern trappings of civilization. Perhaps this is why I love bike touring so, the capacity to enter this desolate country on my own power without disturbing one iota of the environment.

Alpine Road continues its descent towards the coast for six miles till it junctures with Pescadero Road and Highway 84. The ride is pleasant as it is mostly downhill and darts in wooded areas along creeks and the coolness of the shade is welcome. Just before the Highway 84 junction by La Honda I enter a thick forest of majestic redwood trees. The air is cool, the light, what little there is, pierces the darkness of the giants and I walk by the running stream with steep banks covered with lush fern and giant clover. There is stillness and darkness and piercing beams of bright morning sunshine and I feel the soft ground under my feet. The feeling is serene.  It’s a special place. It’s majestic. It possesses the eerie silence and coolness of the most glorious of European cathedrals.

It’s Heritage Woods and definitely a place worth a second visit-perhaps, a day ride with a picnic lunch eaten under the redwoods and then resume the trip to the coast. It amazes me how some can be bored! With a little effort and a bit of a sense of adventure discovery and excitement are just waiting—just waiting to join the human spirit and contribute to a delightful and uplifting time. Patricia and Domino will love this spot on the way to the coast. Oh! What a pleasant thought that is!

I marvel at clover, lush and green, the size of my hand. Could there be a four leafer? Nope! Can’t find one. No matter-I’m already lucky to have experienced such a spiritual place…..and the wonderful surprise of it all.

I pick up Highway 84 just west of La Honda. It’s a two lane road, wide and with comfortable shoulders. The traffic is sparse and the countryside begins to assume the flavor of the nearby coast. There are some homes and ranches. One such ranch advertises an upcoming rodeo with food and all the rodeo stuff. Just imagine–out here in the middle of nowhere. But perhaps it’s a renowned local event.  I ride easily and enjoy the mild road and expansive vistas. The sun has disappeared and it’s gray and overcast. At Stage Road, a much better route rejoining Highway 1 just before Half Moon Bay, I stop at a delightful building with Spanish facade. The large lettering in front says San Gregorio General Store. A couple of old guys sat on the low window ledges sipping on their morning coffees. A hand written sign by the front door asked bicyclists to remove their shoes. As I entered the businesslike lady behind the counter looked at me and I immediately replied that my shoes had no cleats. She smiled and waved me in.

It was a large open store with an eclectic collection of merchandise. A long counter against the wall served food, drinks, sandwiches, beer, wine and booze. Half dozen neat wooden tables formed a tidy dining area in front of the broad front windows. There were books of interesting and odd varieties. There were lots and lots of bizarre cards—old cowboys, movie stars, antique signs, odd sayings. Every corner was crammed with amusing items. I ordered some coffee and strolled through the narrow isles and noted many items that amused me. As I left I commented that I would be back with four wheels and meant it too. It would be a good addition to that day trip after the picnic in Heritage Woods.

 

From San Gregorio to Half Moon Bay, Highway 1 was somewhat dreadful. It was mountainous and laden with traffic. Packs of ten and twenty motorcycle guys in their leathers and round helmets all in black screamed by at what seemed regular intervals. I could feel the roar of their engines in my chest. There were plenty of motor homes and trucks too. The traffic produced a wrenching and grinding, gritty noise which soon gave me a headache and made me question my judgment in regards to choosing this route. Then my front tire went flat.

 

At least it’s the front tire, I thought. It was cool, noisy and uncomfortable by the side of the road. However, I soon resumed the trip after applying a patch and removing a sticker from the tire. Up ahead one of the motorcycle guys had parked his big bike in the bicycle lane and was chatting away under a nearby tree on his cell phone. After passing him by some fifty yards, boom, another flat in the front tire again. What a pisser, I thought. There I went again with the patches and glue and all that unpleasant rigmarole. Out of the corner of the eye I could see the motorcycler walking towards me as I kept working on the tire.

 

“How you doing”, he said. “My tank gauge must be malfunctioning. I can’t believe it. Fortunately, my girl friend went on ahead to get some gas.”

 

“That’s fortunate”, I said. “Half Moon Bay is just up ahead and she should have no trouble finding gas. I’m not having much luck with these darn tires. It’s the second flat in less than a mile. What a bummer”

 

“Well, good luck”, he said as he began to return to his bike.

 

I continued with my repairs. I noted that he had mounted his bike down the road and heard the roar of the engine. Never thought a thing about it and went on with my repairs.

 

He came to me again. With a sheepish look on his face he said” well, I figured out how to work the spare tank valve.”

 

I began to laugh and momentarily forgot how pissed off I was at the stinking flat. He was laughing, too.

 

“However”, he said, “I’m not going to tell my girl friend about this.”

 

We both laughed again and he returned to his bike. I hopped on mine and resumed my trip north.

 

North of Half Moon Bay the shoulder widened and the traffic seemed to be less bothersome although still heavy.  The coastal communities of Moss Beach, Montara and Rockaway go by as I see occasional sunshine and fine view of the Pacific coastline. At Montara I see a gaily decorated shop, Caffe Lucca. I have to stop. It’s an artsy craftsy type with floors of cement dabbed with different splotches of colored paint. There are two rooms with windows to the highway and a patio to the rear. I sip my coffee at one of the table and note the décor on the walls. The owners must be from Lucca, I thought, as I focus on an interesting rather wide panoramic view of the amphitheater of Lucca. It was a wonderful view of the spot and had never quite seen it done that way. Although….my pictures taken under the arches from either end tended to be more dramatic and artistically better, this one was good and enjoyed looking at it. I thought of asking the counter girl about Lucca and the owners’ ancestry but thought better of it as she was busy and after hearing a few of her comments she sounded like a disinterested and uninformed teenager. She probably did not know anything about Lucca.

The craggy, rocky, rugged mountains which drop to the surf and the thin road lodged on a thin shelf describes the area known as Devil’s Slide. I began the five hundred foot climb with care and deliberation. There is no shoulder but there is plenty of traffic; the matter is further exacerbated by construction all along the climb with cement dividers further encroaching on the road. Cars were passing by what seemed just a few inches and around curves too. “Wow”, I thought,” this is not bright”.  I continued to climb and sped up around corners to minimize my exposure. “Definitely, definitely, this is my one and only time on this infernal stretch, if I make it alive,” I thought. And…just to show that “crazy” is relative, at that moment in a leisurely and placid mood comes a rider on a recumbent towing a small trailer down the slope occupying a quarter of the road with plenty of traffic behind. He was smiling and waved to me seemingly oblivious to the dangers about him. It made me laugh!!! The guys on recumbents are a strange lot.

Beginning the climb to Devil’s Slide.

Never, Ever, Again!!!!

At Sharp Park Highway 1 turned into a freeway with no bikes so I meandered through city streets and found a route hugging the coastline to the Pacific. Remember the song? “Little houses, Tiki Tocki, and …they’re all the same!!! That’s the one! Pacifica on the hills preceeding San Francisco. Well, let me tell you—the neighborhoods are every bit as steep as they look from Highway 280…and it was hot too. But I found my way without too much trouble as I had the foresight to bring a good selection of maps neatly packed in the bottom pocket of my useful Claris, freebie, backpack.

 

Never having traveled this road before I originally had unrealistic expectations as to how far I would progress on this, day one. By now it was fourish and San Francisco seemed like a good place to hole up for the night. As I turned towards Lake Merced my mind turned to dinner. Ah! Yes, dinner, what a wonderful idea. The thought of food, perhaps a veal scaloppini, or chicken parmigiana, a wine, French bread….yes, yes, yes. I had the perfect place in mind, the Granada Café in the Mission.

 

From Lake Merced cut across the San Francisco State campus and took Holloway Street towards the Mission. It was pleasant. And surprisingly so. The residential streets of San Francisco, as I was to find out, were without traffic and pleasant to travel. Without much effort I found myself in front of the Granada Café where I asked the bartender permission to bring my bike in.

I sat, had a beer or two and talked to some of the old guys at the bar. I didn’t recognize anyone from the old days. All dead, old or gone, I suppose. Jose, the chef of twenty five years or more, had just left his day shift but was still running the kitchen. My friend Michael was dead as of a year ago. Charlie Stuhr, the lawyer, comes in once in a while but is very ill, I was told. The place looked precisely as I had remembered it from the eighties. John, the owner, who is now eighty nine, still runs the place and lives downstairs in his basement apartment.

 

Smirian, the head waitress, whom I remember, came over and took my order. I ate a salad with blue cheese dressing, antipasto plate with French bread, rigatoni Bolognese, a delightful chicken parmigiana and a couple of glasses of house red wine. A gourmet meal at the most renowned of places could not have produced more satisfaction.

 

Just down the street I found a motel, The Avalon. Not great but cheap and convenient. It cost $70 for the night and I had a ground floor room. That night when I called Patricia and described the room, she told me to watch out for bed bugs. I thought of that more than once as I dozed off to sleep that night.

 

 

END, DAY ONE!!

The next morning, bright and early, at sixish I found my way across Mission Street to a non Starbuck’s coffee shop run by a serious minded Chinese guy. The storefront was scrubbed delightfully clean and furnished with only the necessities-a counter with display cases, a few tables, a cash register and a plastic lit menu on the wall.  A coffee and a plain donut was my breakfast. I sat at the corner table and watched the workers come in for their morning coffee and roll before their day’s work. Traffic was sparse and many of the stores were not yet open. It was a typical overcast San Francisco morning.

I traced my way back to Lake Mercedand followed Sunset Boulevard to the outer Sunset. The old neighborhood beckoned. 44th to 46th Avenues between Judah and Lawton were my first visions of San Francisco and the US of A when I first came from Italy in the late fifties. I rode slowly around the neighborhoods and must say that the area looked rather shabby but not much really had changed in fifty years.

Down 44th Avenue, across Lincoln Boulevard into Golden Gate Park I cruised and stopped in front of the windmill,Queen Whilomena Park. It was just beautiful with dainty colorful flowers. A few more feet and I was on the Great Highway with a fine view of the Pacific and the Cliff House. Up the hill and onto Clement Street for a mile or so till I turned into Sea Cliff, the area I had always admired when young for their fine homes and neighborhoods. When visiting my Aunt Bruna I would always travel that route and dream that some day when I found my fortune in life I would live in such a place. Those dreams are now somewhat tarnished and dusty and no longer hold the magnetism of youth.

The Presidio is a wonderful old relic of the history of San Francisco and much overlooked. The buildings are picturesque reminiscent of the early Spanish days of California. I rode through Fort Winfield Scott and stopped to admire a fine vista of the Golden Gate Bridge from one of the fortifications built to defend the bay in the 1890s. I’ve lived in this area most of my life and moments like this make me realize the beauty and drama of our environs.

Merchant Road off Lincoln Boulevard on the way to GG Bridge

presents 1890 vintage fortifications defending the bay.

Merchant Road ends at the Toll Plaza to the bridge. Wow! Even to the most uncritical eye the scene commands attention. The Toll Plaza buildings, the coffee shop on the east side, and the majestic bridge all present to the eye a continuous display of style—Art Deco, spanning the entrance to our marvelous bay. One is moved to admit—this is not just a bridge—this is a work of art. Rustic, bold and strong in the brazen rust orange color. The builders knew that this was an icon of greatness. A testament to the human spirit—to build, to progress, to harness the challenges of nature.

I stood in front of the coffee shop looking at the statue of Strauss with his creation behind and just marveled. And….remembered!  Yes, remembered the stories that my mother, Mary Alice, would always tell me with pride. On the first day of opening of this great bridge in 1937 it was only for pedestrians. She was one of those historic people who were the first to walk the span to Marin County. I heard that story many times but never appreciated it till now. Perhaps it takes reaching a mature age to see and savor such things.

STRAUSS AND HIS BRIDGE!

GRACE STRENGTH BOLDNESS

The strands across the span hold up the roadway and thus a bridge exists. Truly simple! And yet, the two craggy faces of the shoals, separated by more than a mile of maritime currents, are spanned by this thin, stylish and resilient ribbon of iron. The currents thrust waters in and out of the bay with savage force. Winds blow the road surface and the cables with rhythmic gusts. The salt waters and sea spray attack the rust colored paint and iron beneath, but it stands. It absorbs the forces, it endures the elements, it sways with the wind, it parts the currents; it has done so since its inception in 1937. It lives in harmony with its environment and has become an iconic symbol of the community.

 

However, to truly appreciate its size and magnificence one must place himself in the most rudimentary form. To walk or run across it—-yes! To ride a bicycle—that’s my way. The winds howl across the strands. The bridge sways subtly but noticeably. Splotches of the orange paint are missing revealing the work of the sea. The vibrations and noise from the ever present traffic force the suspension to vibrate as an instrument. I look to the south and see the San Francisco skyline, Alkatraz and the southern shore of Marin all in the early morning haze. I take pictures as I wish to remember this moment. It will be an instant placed with other iconic moments which are naturally filed under “pinnacles of the aesthetic” to be accessed at random times as life goes by. This moment will rank with “the first sight of the Grand Canal as you climb the steps from the train station”, “the first view of Lake Tahoe from the summit on Highway 267 South from Truckee, “Europabrucke going south onto the Brenner Pass”, “the steely winter waters of Lake Tahoe from the slopes of Diamond Peak’, …..and… many more. But this moment will be there neatly tucked in the synapse world waiting for the call.

View from Vista Point!

Picture taken by a tourist.

Then there is Alexander Drive descending from the world of the urbane to the bohemian. The bay and silhouetted views of the San Francisco skyline display a rich color palate in the soft morning light. However, the voices of the past speak of steamy rapture, bawdy houses, iconoclastic artists, rough and tumble fishermen and beatniks with their coffee houses. Could we ever forget Sally Stanford? The madam! The lady of the house! The mayor of Sausalito! The owner and hands on manager of the Valhalla House, commanding the northern entry to Sausalito and a breathtaking view of the “City”. Good old Sally did things her way and the old fashioned way. It was in the early seventies when I would travel from the south bay to see my aged parents in Fairfax in Marin County. On the way back I would stop at the Valhalla House for a drink, or dinner but really I just loved the local color. The food was mediocre and expensive. At the end of the bar there was a barber chair all decked out in red leather, with the foot rest and all the trimmings done in chrome. Oddly enough it did not stand out nor did it seem bizarre as there were plenty of other quirky things to look at—-wrought iron head boards on the walls, red lights, old pictures of SF, red flocked wall paper. So why not a barber chair! All part of her Barbary Coast Days. Heh!

 

On one such visit the barber chair was occupied. It was Sally. It had to be as it had been made clear to me on prior visits that no one…but no one other than Sally..ever, ever dared to sit in that chair. As I sat at the bar sipping on my wine and looking out the window to the SF skyline a gruff and admonishing voice was heard over the normal chatter of the bar. “Too much booze”, “Not that way” etc. She would be directing the show as the bartenders calmly went on with their task. The drinks were mixed with small bottles of mixes and not with the automated guns as was the norm in every other bar.   Her hair, all gray was up in a tight bun and she reclined in that barber chair dishing out her energy. What a scene. It was worth the price.

 

Now of course Sausalito filled with tourists and the homes and environs have been gentrified. You know- the upwardly mobile with the light colors, the skylights and the corian counters. All light and bright with nary a hint of character. The BMW’s in the garage, day care, ergonomics, herbal teas, Starbucks Frapuccinos for five bucks and no smoking on the sidewalks of Sausalito. I think I wanna barf!

I strolled down Bridgeway Street and noted that my favorite men’s store, Gene Hiller, where I had bought many a fine clothes for my maitre’d days in the restaurant business was gone. I rode easily in light traffic out of the city and stopped at Caffe Trieste. I sipped on regular coffee in a large cup and sat on a sidewalk table looking at the homes on the rising mountain across the street. In a rare empty lot which I gathered was soon to be under construction was a series of very tall stakes with ribbons drawing horizontals to the house just behind. The views! The views! I could just hear the objections and heckling at the city planning sessions. “We were here first”, Our views  to SF”, and on and on with all that tripe. I looked at my new Giant bike leaning on the traffic post just in front of my table and thought—“How beautiful! How simple!

 

A double tap on the horn came from a gleaming Prussian blue BMW convertible waiting to make a left turn as the driver smiled and waved to the couple sitting at the table next to me. A few minutes later they were united. He spread plans on the table and their conversations turned to elevation plans and colors and feel this…feel that. They were probably the owners of the lot across the street. All of a sudden the bike and the road ahead looked unusually attractive.

Beyond the underpass to Mill Valley I happily stumble onto a bike path which traversed the low bay lands of Richardson Bay towards Corte Madera and Geenbrae and Kentfield. By this peaceful route I entered the world of my adolescence. There were joggers and occasional other cyclists but I progressed through the expansive plain effortlessly with the bay behind and the mountains of Marin ahead. As I scanned the scenery the reclining indian maiden captured my focus.  It was Mt.Tamalpais, of course. I remembered my mother telling me about the reclining maiden and I never could see it. But today there it was plain and clear. Of course, what my mother never pointed out was that the profile of the maiden could only be seen when viewing the mountain traveling north and not from Fairfax where we lived. But now, some fifty years later, I got it! I could just see her shaking her head with a wry smile…..Luciano! Luciano!!!

 

I follow the highly trafficked E. Blithesdale out of Mill Valley and climb along Camino Alto for several miles into Corte Madera. I continue through familiar city streets through the town of Larkspur and the trendy Lark Creek Inn, onto Sir Francis Drake Boulevard through Ross, San Anselmo and into Fairfax. I take time to follow a nostalgia trail through the center of town. The only store I recognize is Celoni’s Liquor Store and the Variety Store. Lady Baltimore Bakery, my mother’s favorite and a must stop for a cake every Sunday after church at St. Rita’s up the street, was no longer there. The baseball field where we played little league, St. Rita’s Church, and our old house on Vista Way with a grand view I examined slowly while memories from my youth surfaced.

 

Power Bars, Power Bars and more Power Bars! And lots of water, too! That’s what I would consume throughout the day.  It worked very well but by the third day of riding I determined that the electrolyte balance was way off. The water quenched my thirst but my energy level dropped and felt fatigued.  The water needed to be supplemented with Gatorade or some such drink to replace needed nutrients.

Beyond Fairfax the Marin countryside is sparsely populated and the terrain is mountainous and thick with vegetation. White’s Hill is the fist challenge and the heat of the day it required a good effort to reach the summit. I stopped at Laganitas for a yogurt and a rest as a couple of guys and a girl offered me a seat at their table. It felt good to rest and sit in the shade. We chatted and soon they were spinning their tale of woes. It seems that a member of their party was injured and now on the way to the hospital and their car was on the fritz, and they had to get back to San Rafael to catch a bus and they had no money….and…and… I finished my one of two yogurts I had bought and said, “I’m sorry to hear all your woes. Here is a yogurt and $5 if that helps. Now I gotta be on my way to Sonoma County. Good luck, guys”

 

I’m sure that I was a soft touch but who cares, I thought.  It was shady and pleasant riding through Samuel Taylor state park; the road was narrow and winding; there was no traffic and soon I emerged into the rolling, coastal hills with dry golden grass and refreshing breezes.

 

Pt. Reyes is an interesting town with its blend of ranch and Victorian architecture.Main street is lined with businesses and there is a fair amount of activity. I pass a saloon which catches my eye. I ride on as I never have a beer during the day. Another block and I began to slow. That place is awful interesting, I thought. Perhaps an exception ought to be made. My bike made a lazy u-turn and gathered speed towards that saloon. I climbed the brick steps and brought my bike inside. The little white dog which was slumped at the entrance rolled an eyeball towards me from its comatose pose. It was a western saloon, rough and tumble and picturesque.

“A draft beer”, I said, and began a conversation with the bartender.

“Is that dog the boss”, I asked as I pointed to the reclining pooch.

“That’s Fred”, she said, “the boss and guard dog”

 

We both chuckled. I finished my beer and listened to the idle chatter between the two older locals seated at the end of the long wooden bar.

Highway 1 proceeds north along Tomales Bay, a most unusual natural formation. The wind had picked up and was always in my face, or so it seemed. The town of Marconi, Marshall and Tomales went by. In the middle of a field just off the road were a hand full of folks flying huge kites, brightly colored and briskly undulating with the currents.

 

This entire area of northern Marin is desolate, beautiful and unspoiled. It’s a blend of coastal wet lands, rolling golden hills and isolated villages hanging on to economic life long after the forces for their beginning has disappeared.

FLYING KITES ALONG TOMALES BAY!!

RUGGED COUNTRY AROUND TOMALES BAY!!

TOMALES BAY OYSTERS!!

I was beginning to feel a bit fatigued. It was the effect of the day’s heat, dehydration and the constant head wind. Now I can see that my electrolytes were out of balance. Just drinking water did help. But as I crossed the county line into Sonoma, my spirits surged as I was close to a shower, dinner and rest.

 

However, unbeknown to me at the time, my adventure and fatigue were not over. At the juncture of Highway 1 and Petaluma Valley Road I headed for familiar names without referring to a map. I recognized Valley Ford and that’s where I went. By the time I realized my mistake I was mired in fatigue, mountain roads, dehydration,Bohemian Highway, Sonoma County traffic and aggressive hayseed trucks. My temper was getting short too—partly at myself for making a mistake so late in the day and partly the reawakening at the Sonoma County country/hayseed mentality. In most of the bay area bicycling is viewed as a healthy and accepted sport but in Sonoma County it is considered sport for those speeding ranch trucks probably rushing to their favorite beer dive. It was all coming back and negative feelings were surfacing from the past.

 

After what seemed forever Burnside Road passed by Bloomfield and I was back on Petaluma Road. The Power Bar I had eaten a few miles back was sticking to my throat as I also had run out of water. But soon I was on Roblar Road and with additional effort the red façade and roofline of the Washoe House was discernible over the tree line. “A Godsend,” I thought. I lodged my bike in the entry way so that I could see it from inside and entered. It was déjà vu all over again as Yogi would say. A few red faces were lined around the dilapidated bar. The dirt, the faded dollar bills and cards pinned to the ceiling, the streaky mirrors and the dirt infested floors and a good coating of dust all over—yes! Yes! All the elements were present. Like a museum—all was preserved.

 

I was so glad to be here, though. I sat on the rickety bar stool with a slumping thud. “A draft”, I grunted and shoved a fiver to the slovenly dressed bartender. He gave me the change with nary a word and resumed his loud conversation with his red faced cronies. I phased them all out and turned my attention to the times I had visited this place on the way to golf trips and also those early days which had not been as of yet tarnished with those awful years in Rohnert Park. Back then it was viewed with interest, history and local curiosity. Ulysses S.Grant was reputed to have stayed here. And…if you look closely they probably have the same shot glass—unwashed and all. I sipped the beer slowly and chuckled at the round and about loop that I had taken, the road signs I had missed and the extra miles I had tacked onto my one hundred and ten mile plus day. The garbage dump was close by and this place had a popular following with those country boys who combine the dump and a shot. Just perfect!!!

 

Calm, refreshed and relaxed I finished the last few miles, turned onto Rohnert Park Espressway and viewed my former nemeses—The Olive Garden, Red Lobster and the “lords of the manor”, “the counts of hickdom”, my former landlords, the Coddings. “Don’t go there, Louie”, I thought! It’s all past history and it’s buried.

 

I checked into Motel 6 and a great deal it was– nice clean room, a hot shower and a bill of $49. Perfect! The inconveniences of an electronic key that did not work, a dreadful visit to one of our old haunts, the Boulevard Café, now a drug ridden dive, a failed attempt to get a cold drink at Burger King’s drive through on foot and perhaps one of the worst breakfasts I was to have the next morning, were all overcome by that delightful steak dinner served by a spry and intelligent staff at the Outback Steakhouse. I was back in Rohnert Park but I was not suicidal……I would leave bright and early the next morning.

END, DAY TWO!

 

 

At the Black Bear Restaurant across the parking lot from my room I waited at the counter as the harried waitress became settled with the demands of her two early morning tables. The lone cowboy I noted smoking a cigarette while leaning on his tattered car in front came in and sat at one of the counter seats for coffee. I selected the hearty combo breakfast and waited to order. The small restaurant chain was founded in the Shasta area and known for its friendliness and hearty food or so the back of the menu said. The cook behind the line was getting ready for the day’s business but certainly was not ready for us this early in the morning. I got coffee and ordered and soon the platter was placed in front of me. The waffle was doughy, the bacon was soggy and limp and the eggs were tasteless. I made myself eat as I would have a long day of riding but remembered the very best waffles in the world served at the Hyatt Incline Village. No comparison, I thought as I ate what I could, paid the bill and left.

 

I rode through the shopping centers to see what businesses I could recognize. Most were the same but looked seedy. I rode briskly and somewhat detached and delighted that I was not longer mired in this place. I skirted around Sonoma State University and towards Petaluma to AAA for some maps. I had noted that there seemed to be no direct bike route out of Sonoma County. Nope! Nope! Nope! And…I had examined all my cache of maps but could only get to Novato and then only US 101. I thought to call the police department but by the time I arrived at the triple A office and surveyed the new supply of maps I decided to head inland and meet the juncture at Nicasio Reservoir and come out in Terra Linda. It was a circuitous route, desolate and mountainous but filled with many scenes of the rich golden oak tree laden hills so typical of California. I completed the mental picture of northern Marin and the gentrified expansion from the thin strip of growth along the 101 corridor. It was hot, it was mountainous, and it was difficult. The cumulative effect of dehydration had robbed me of all power and that breakfast was a detriment now sitting in my stomach.

 

The ride was hot and boring. At the top of a promontory I noted a monstrous rock as I descended towards Terra Linda. Good heavens! There is a convenience store with umbrellas in front. I drank two twenty ounce bottles of Gatorade without pause. And…sat for a while. It was elevenish and I had a ways to go before I arrived at my destination, the train station in San Francisco. I chuckled to myself as I noted then name of the store, Big Rock. That’s about it; that was the only distinguishable landmark in fifty miles.

 

The Gatorade did the trick. I was back on track. Terra Linda,San Rafael, over the hill by San Quentin onto Greenbrae and Kentfield to find the gentle bicycle trail by Richardson Bay towards Sausalito. I was refreshed and vibrant again as I looked forward to a rest stop and a beer at some wonderful and lively spot in Sausalito with a wonderful view. But….sometimes plans don’t materialize. At the beginning of Bridgeway Street in Sausalito my back tire blew and with a loud pop, too. The second flat that day.

A fine view of the Missionin San Rafael—picture taken from Third St.

Luciano was awarded “alter boy of the year” from St. Rita’s Parish in Fairfax. Ceremony held here in 1959.

…You never know where life leads you….but this is one place that I rode by and did not stop!!!

San Quentin

I dismantled the bike and began the usual procedure. Upon examination I noted that the tire was frayed and worn. It needed to be replaced and fortunately I remembered a bike shop just up the street. I repaired the tire and limped on in to Mike’s Bike shop.

” New tires, new inner tubes”, I said to the attendant at the shop, “and how long will it take. I’m on the road and wish to get going as soon as possible”.

 

The nice young man said that they could do it right away. “Good”, I said, “I’ll be drinking a beer and I’ll be back.

 

I bought a cold can of beer at the convenience store a few feet away and walked just behind the center where there was a cozy park with fine view of the houseboats and Sausalito hidden life and the reclining maiden of Mt. Tamalpais.

A fine view to sip a cold beer by as the bike is being once again made road worthy!

Sometimes luck is with you!! A beautiful picture. The bike ready to go!!!

Into SausalitoI went. And….with vigor, too! Just ahead of me I recognized a cyclist as the gentleman who had stopped at my flat tire and had advised me to change tires every two thousand miles. We began a conversation as we rode through Sausalito and parted as the road narrowed up the slope of Alexander Drive. I climbed with power and ease. I crossed the bridge and followed the bike trail which skirted the bay towards the Marina. It was sunny, the ride was pleasant, the view was breathtaking and there was no traffic. I felt privileged to be riding through this international city without the impediment of traffic. Through the Presidio and onto North Beach, by the cable cars and in front of the Buena Vista was my route. No cars and crowds were to be seen. Miraculous! I thought.

A rare scene! Riding through San Francisco without cars or crowds.

Once by the Embarcadero, I rode easily on the wide sidewalk skirting the occasional pedestrian or jogger or roller blader. I was close so I rode without a care. I cast my sights on the bay with the bigger than life Bay Bridge looming over the Embarcadero piers. It was almost five and the train station was near. Yes, yes!! The trip was done.

A triumphal beer while waiting for the train!!! (picture taken by biz guy from Philippines)

Just American-Truckee!! Sunday, August 12th, 2012

Last evening was Truckee Thursday. The first in the series of arts and crafts and farmer’s markets for the summer season. Being the first, there was probably more excitement than the remainder would bring. The locals and what tourists happened in the area strolled through the maze of booths on sequestered main street. It was a jolly affair. Even the police rode their bicycles through having as much fun as the rest.

But, this morning it was all over.The locals to their homes and Friday activities and the tourists probably to Tahoe, Reno or points beyond. I gazed down main street. What a lovely sight from my sheltered second floor balcony.

 I had gotten up a number of times in the middle of the night with the blasts of the train’s air horns. It was exciting to stand and look at the passing train just fifty feet beyond. The night air had been cool and pleasant.There were the flashing lights, swinging signs and traffic barriers coming down. I could feel the rumble resonate thought the hotel timbers. There was the grinding of the wheels on steel and another blast of the horn. One train had ninety six cars. Then a rush of air and a surreal suspension of all sounds.  And there I was with jeans half unbuttoned and tee shirt and bare feet mesmerized by the chugging cars lumbering down the tracks. It all fit in the ambiance of the hotel. The trains every hours or so, the rough and tumble buildings along main street, the rugged mountains on all sides and the rushing Truckee river. Yes, it was easy to be transported to the early days of rail and stagecoach and river crossings and snows and wagon roads.

I wanted coffee but I kept leaning on the railing and looking out on main street. It was all over. The excitement of last evening. Just like the last chapters of Hemingway in the Sun Also Rises. Back to the sleepy town. The sign post said Donner Pass Road and Bridge St. Hmmm. That’s where I was yesterday. Up Donner Summit. I lifted my gaze above the tracks to the snow caps beyond. Yep…I had done it. Ridden my bicycle up the summit to Soda Springs. And back down around Donner Lake to Highway 89 and Tahoe City and completed the loop to Brockway and back to the Truckee Hotel. It had been an adventure to remember. I stopped at the River Ranch for lunch and dangled my legs over the wall as I watched rafters and kayakers ending their ride from Tahoe City while waiting for my lunch. Yes…it was much like the fishing trip with all the zest and sportsmanship of Hemingway’s book at Burguete. Just the beautiful parts though. Not the debauchery and ugliness.

I walked down the steps with my Justin cowboy boots resounding throughout. It was a western stairway, a bit rough but perfect for the Truckee Hotel. I imagined Hop-Sing perhaps rushing to the kitchen for the morning meal or even my old tv pal, Paladin from Have Gun Will Travel out on one of his capers from San Francisco. Dressed in jeans, t-shirt and cowboy boots I fit the scene too! I greeted the friendly receptionist and she handed me the corrected invoice with another apology.

I walked across Bridge Street to the broad sidewalks adorned with flowers on the street side. There was a couple up ahead looking over the Squeeze-Inn breakfast menu. I peeked in the windows of the American Bar right on the corner. What a great name for a  pioneer western town. I could see signs for the Sierra Tavern, Wagon Wheel a real estate office, some clothes stores and the rail terminal across the street. There was no Starbucks…Hmmmm. Interesting and refreshing all at the same time. There were no recognizable chain names to be seen. Coffee And….an old time coffee shop. I remember it from the eighties. Chuck and I stopped here for breakfast on our way to play Tahoe Donner Golf Course up the street. Nothing had changed…a vitrine of pastries by the cash register to the left and the small seating area in front of the kitchen. “I’ll have a coffee black and a plain croissant” I said to the smiling, middle aged waitress behind the register. She turned and poured coffee into a Styrofoam cup and handed it to me. No croissants just those in there” as she pointed to the rough hewn vitrine filled with bear claws, cinnamon rings and other sugary things. “Hmmm, the coffee will do. Thank you.” With a smile on my face and coffee in one hand I leaned into the door and mumbled wryly, “None of that frog stuff in here. Just Amerkin. Good old fashion bear claws. And smiled some more and laughed…it all fit.

And here is the original version written from the ambiance of the Truckee Hotel. A reception room with all the look and feel of the pioneer days and the old west!

Waking Up in Truckee

Last night was ‘Truckee Thursday’. It brought tourists and mountain locals to main street. The town was lively, filled with music and dining and drinking establishments busy. But…this morning was a Hemingway description of a town after the fiesta. The sidewalks were deserted albeit a few locals and shop owners. Delivery trucks with beer and restaurant stuffs were parked in front. The tin rattle of their roller doors could be heard opening and closing. There was the occasional bellow of the trains too. But, most notable was the air. Cool, clean, soothing to take deep in your lungs. It felt wholesome.

I walked down the broad sidewalks and I, well….I fit the environment with my jeans and Justin cowboy boots. Stopped to get some coffee and croissant but could only muster the coffee. There was a small vitrine with bear claws and sugary pastries but…No Croissants! Back on the sidewalk I laughed. None of that Frog stuff here. No sir!! Just plain ‘mercan grub’. It made me laugh. It fit. I loved it!

The Cycling Tuscan

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Luciano J. Ercolini, Broker/Owner

Landlord & Entrepreneur since 1977***** Realtor since 2000***** Broker/Owner since 2004

SOMETIMES LOVE MEANS TAKING SEPARATE CARS! Tuesday, June 26th, 2012

Sometimes Love Means Taking Separate Cars!

 

December 19, 2004

 

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            We race to Monterey to see the heralded Monarch Butterflies on their annual epic journey to South America. I did say “race” didn’t I?? Well! That is the precise expression for the day’s motoring. Patricia, for whatever reason, insists on driving. I don’t mind the “not driving” thing; actually, it’s kind of nice to be chauffeured in one sense.  But… it’s all the restrictions which surface along the way. I’m not allowed to touch the radio. And….I know that…so, I touch the radio. She inserts a CD in the player and I ask if it’s Frank Sinatra. She looks at me with “that look” from a more evolved throne and says, “Nooooaahhh”.

 

It’s a twangy country voice singing some caterwauler and as I point to the player with a quizzical expression she informs me, “It’s the BAND”.

 

“Never heard of it”, I reply.” And what kind of name is that anyway”, I dig in.

 

“I’m taking 17”, she says as she readjusts herself behind the wheel as though readying for a competitive run through the Santa Cruz Mountains.

 

I babble on about my readings—Winston Churchill, the Cairo Conference of 1921, the seemingly same problems the near east faced then as now; Islam problems; Spencer Tracy and his classical performances in “Inherit the Wind” and “Judgment at Nurnberg”.

What makes “classics”, classics. The marvelous dialogue and how it appears to be chiseled in granite when it rolls from the lips of the sartorially crumpled Tracy.

 

The conversation is interrupted as we quantum leap onto the fast lane to pass some slower eighteen wheelers. I intently watch as we thread our way between the concrete center divider and the churning wheels of the truck to my right. We reclaim the right lane and I relax again.

 

Patricia comments on the soon to be blooming acacia trees along the way. That sends me on another tangent about color. Acacia and Mimosa are a special color which the word “yellow” seems to inadequately describe, I blabber on.

 

“The mustard flowers” she says, “are very special in that way too!”

 

“When we were in Sonoma County on my bicycle rides through the northern wine country as Highway 128 approaches Healdsburg and Alexander Valley there were beautiful vistas. Dramatic carpets of that mustard glistening in the sun under the neat rows of vines. It was spectacular. That was the best part of Sonoma County and I think that most of the locals missed it.”

 

“Don’t mention those beautiful scenes and Sonoma County in the same breath” she quickly remarks. “I prefer to reminisce of the perfect geometric patterns formed by the alternating fields of flowering mustard and lavender as we drove  in Provence in  the Rhone Valley on our way to Paris some years ago.”

 

I touch the air conditioner and I’m instantly admonished.

 

“Slow down!”, I say, “You’re going almost 80. You’ll get a ticket”. I always say that but she never does get a ticket. I don’t know how she does it,

 

So, we talk about our driving records, a regular thing when we drive together, an event that doesn’t happen that often. No matter which way that conversation goes it always ends up with statements that we both have no tickets or points on our DMV record. She thinks that is a miracle and so do I.

 

By Capitola we marvel at how little the area has changed. We used to have friends here, Les and Liz. We wonder whatever happened to them. They kind of left one day and heard from them no more.

 

There is a new housing development by Pajaro just off to the left of the freeway. I ask if we might stop to look at the new models. She says “Maybe” and speeds right on.

 

At Moss Landing I ask if we might stop so that I can take pictures.

 

“What for” she says, “There are only condos and some dilapidated buildings and sand” And…we speed on.

 

“Are we taking the short cut up ahead?” I ask.  I always perfunctorily ask that question when we arrive at this point all the while knowing the answer.

 

She replies, “Naaaahhhh”.

 

“What about Castroville?”

 

“Naaaaah”

 

“The Giant Artichoke?”

 

“Nope”

 

“What about a bathroom”.

 

“Naaaaaaaaahhh”

 

We speed on right by Castroville.

 

“I’ll bet you were the type”, I continue in a lighthearted way, “that when your children were young they were screaming in the back seat to stop for a bath…..”

 

“I drove a Corvette.”, she laughingly interrupts. “There was no back seat.” Now we both laugh. And then laugh some more. “Boy!” I comment reflectively, “we sure have had great times coming to this area.”

 

“Yeah, we sure have, Poochie” she whispers back.

 

“What about the Dominuccer”, I say as I turn back to see the dog’s head peering out the side window of the Jeep’s back deck.  

 

“Give me a drinker of water” Patricia answers back for the dog. “And a hot greasy deep fried artichoke with lots of salt, too.”

 

I pitch in on the dog’s behalf, “All you guys want to do is this “seeing stuff” thing. How boring! What about eating and all that good stuff. We’ll probably get home late for dinner again.”

 

She looks at the rear view mirror and says, “Aahhh! Pooooor pooochie whooochie!!!”

 

“You missed Lighthouse Drive” I tell her.

 

“I didn’t wannoo go that way” she says.

 

“It’s the best way” I reply, “Besides, we always go that way.”

 

“There were too many people getting off that exit.”

 

“They were all getting off there to go to the bathroom at the gas station,” I say.

 

“Don’t be stupid” she replies with an exasperated expression.

 

We exited on Highway 68 to Pacific Grove. We noted the familiar highlights—signs to Pebble Beach, Pacific Grove Gate to Seventeen Mile Drive, The Fish Wife Restaurant, Asilomar and our favorite, the Sunset Motel. Beyond the Pacific Grove Lighthouse we parked just off the road adjacent to one of the tees of Pacific Grove Municipal Golf Course. The beach, rocks, coves, crashing surf and the majestc blue Pacific was just across the tourist laden road. Joggers, bicyclers, bikers, motorists and locals walking their dogs marched to the rhythms and drama of the continent’s western extremity. We walked along the dirt paths carefully roped off to protect the beach flora—unruly grasses, wildflowers, rugged beach vines clinging to the windblown and rugged sandy and rocky mounds. Gusts of cool wind and the crashing surf isolated us from all other sounds.

 

Patricia is enamored with this Monterey,Carmel and Pacific Grove area. More so than that, she loves the sea, sand and natural environment of ocean meeting land. Perhaps it’s a primal calling. There is one and only one house right on the beach and she says, “I could live there”. We walk on as Domino holds us up at every bush. She is frantic with the new smells and anchors herself every few feet. So we slow down and allow the Dominuccer to examine all the primal scents till done.

 

We walk down steps to private rock girded beaches with tidal pools in crags and crevices. Upon closer inspection the pools are teeming with life as small crustaceans and sea snails with tiny black legs scamper in every direction. Patricia gazes out by the breakers where tiny black heads and feet bob up and down with the rhythms of the waves. “I love those cute little sea otters,” she says. “They are so cute. I want to take one home. They float on their backs. Look, out there! There are dozens of them. See all those little heads?” She gazes out shielding her eyes from the glare and is transfixed with her dog beside her. I take their pictures and think how nice it is to loll about in such carefree beauty.

 

I take Domino to one of the coves near the water. We walk on the rocks and explore recessed and hidden areas. Domino is not much of an adventurer, though. She walks on the rocks gingerly and looks back for Patricia as though wanting to be saved from this male adventure thing. She is more of a shopping, I. Magnin type of dog. Dirt, sand and rocks are just too rough for her. So, I look down on her and say, “Ok, Dominuccer! Let’s go back.” She leads the way with haste although at every water pool she stops to take a lick and disapproves at its saltiness.

 

We stop back at the car to give Domino some water from her bowl we have in the back of the car. Prior trips have taught us that she does not drink out of unfamiliar containers. She makes loud lapping noises as a group of golfers beyond the wire fence a few feet away take the tee. The dog continues her loud drinking as I pull Pat to shield ourselves behind the car as the golfers tee off.

 

Patricia says, “Yeah, just in case. I’m a magnet!”

 

We both chuckle as we think of that moment at Incline Golf Course when she was almost hit in the face by an errant shot.

 

We lock the car and resume our search for the Monarchs which have been noticeably absent thus far. According to the information gleaned from the web they were to be active from ten to two in the afternoon. We walked by the lighthouse, golf course, examined all the trees and nothing. No Monarchs. No butterflies.

 

“We missed the Monarchs, Poochie”, Patricia said as we approached our car. “Look!”,she says as she points to the car with surprise.

 

I look up and see the passenger door ajar. “I can’t believe we did that” I say. “But fortunately we left nothing of value. No harm done.”

 

We drove back by Cannery Row, the Acquarium and down Lighthouse Drive. I took pleasure in pointing out all the familiar places along the way that we have visited over the years. Patricia sped on.

 

The return trip was a blur. I buckled my seat belt, slowly and with purposeful deliberation. It purposely went by unnoticed. With head bobbing, hands occasionally pressed against dashboard, shoulders bouncing off side posts and feet wedged to floorboards we made record time home. Domino was delighted since she was to eat upon arrival. And… she knew it.

 

Finally….Finally…Finally!!! As the pressure builds in the hidden caverns of a volcano mild and occasional plumes of smoke are the only harbingers of eruption to follow. Just a short mile from safe harbor, from home, the words came out. It was a surreal moment, effortless and without pause. I spoke as though watching someone else saying the words, “You probably hate driving with me as much as I hate to drive with you?” The words came out with a machine gun staccato.

 

“I would never drive with you”, she replied in kind.

 

“Good! Next time we’ll take separate cars.”

 

“Next time? You must be dreaming!” she said.

 

The Cycling Tuscan

Need to Buy, Sell or Lease Silicon Valley Real Estate?

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Silicon Valley

Luciano J. Ercolini, Broker/Owner

Landlord & Entrepreneur since 1977***** Realtor since 2000***** Broker/Owner since 2004

 

Saddles Saturday, May 19th, 2012

Heywood Hale Broun was a sportscaster. Howard Cosel was a sportscaster too! Jackie Gleason was an entertainer. Frank Sinatra, a saloon singer; Bingle, a crooner; Bob Hope,  a comedian. When you think of these folks, all gone now, there is a distinctive mental image which flashes in your mind. Howard for his colorful reporting and dynamic use of language. Frank, with his tux wooing a mellow love song in some smoky dark place. Bing and Bob, wonderful entertainers and their love affair with golf. But…you say, who the hell was Heywood Hale Broun. Well…He’s not a ‘fig newton’ of my imagination, I assure you. Heywood did big time horseracing evetns. The Kentucky Derby, The Preakness and Belmont too. He wrote about horse-racing. He was an aficionado, a devotee’, a true sportsman. He would handle the horse race, the show, with class. His depth of knowledge about the racing game and the history of the sport became obvious as his dignified voice took you for a ride till the gates clanged open and the roar of the crowd drowned all.

Heywood had an eccentricity. He liked Madras jackets. You know, those plaid loud colors originating from India on cotton-like fabrics. They were rather popular when I was in college in the late sixties in both shorts and sports’ jackets. Well…that was Heywood’s trademark. Each appearance there he would proudly stand, unique in his colorful splendor. It looked right on him. It was his style.

Somewhere along the way the questions keep arising. Who am I? Why do I do the things I do? How come I like these things and not others? Why do I feel comfortable doing these things? You acquire material things…a house, money, a car, more money, clothes, jewelry. There is an inital high but it wears off. You achieve some success. That feels pretty good. But…that wears off too. You do something exceptional and are recognized by your peers. Yep! …that wears off too. And fades. So, life goes on and you answer those questions. Or…many people do. Some never get to that stage for one reason or another…drugs, alcohol or just failure to really look at themselves with honesty. Probably motivated by fear of what they’ll see!

One morning you wake up and say: ‘I am Luciano, a unique individual and I don’t have to do anything to achieve worth”. With that you accept yourself with all your faults and excellence. What others think is not so important. What others do or have is less important. Material things are just things. Less in the material world is more. You develop skills in various areas because they reinforce your independence. You develop interests in many things because they enrichen your life.  An individual with many and varied interests can travel by himself and never want for company or entertainment. Along all this process self respect develops. You do certain things because you deem them right. They fit with your style.

So, Jackie, the dapperly dressed fatman with ‘how sweet it is”.  And Frankie doing it his way. And Bob with his golf club and Bing with the Clambake at Pebble Beach and Howard with his iconic language and yes, my less recognized friend Heywood with his colorful jackets. All secure with the knowledge of their identidy and comfortable with it. Heralding to the world with iconic and personal symbols….I choose this because it is meaningful to me and represents my uniqueness in the world.

Some time ago I put the shoe picture  above on Facebook with the caption….’Unique, eccentric or just weird?

My daughter, Gina, replied….All the above and I love it!

Luciano

The Cycling Tuscan

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Luciano J. Ercolini, Broker/Owner

Landlord & Entrepreneur since 1977***** Realtor since 2000***** Broker/Owner since 2004

 

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Scenes from Tuscany Wednesday, June 17th, 2009

Cycling Pisa

Over the Arno River on the way to the Leaning Tower! And…what a joy it was. I had been to Pisa a number of times but it was never as free and fun as this time by bicycle.

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Montecatini, Montecatini Alto above, Bar New York. One of my favorite sidewalk bars for caffe e latte and people watching.Ah, ehr…maybe a Cognac, too!

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My paesano, Niccolo, outside the Ufizzi Palace. He got a ‘bum wrap’ from history. To understand the mind of a Tuscan one must understand the mind and times of Macchiavelli.

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Along Via Francigena, the tenth century ‘pilgrim’s road’ to Rome, is the famous town of Altopascio with hospital, refectory and hostel. Pilgrims would be given lodging, medical care and hearty minestrone soup to sustain them on their journey. Above is the cauldron for the soup.

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The hilltop town of Montecarlo. Here begins the ‘Via del Vino’ to Lucca. The town is walled with fortifications of Medieval and Renaissance eras. Many of my riding days began with caffe e latte and updating my journal at the bar on main street. Absolutely delightful way to begin the day!

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North of Pescia along the Pescia River are historical remnants of midieval paper factories. This region was renouned for its fine paper, water marks and all. It is reputed to have produced the paper for the wedding invitations of Napoleon. The above building is Hotel San Lorenzo which was converted and restored from a paper factory. Within the lobby, bar and dining room are fine relics of the paper manufacturing era.

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This is a stretch of the original Via Francigena, the ninth to thirteenth century Pilgrim’s Road to Rome . It is located in the hamlet of Galleno. Via Francigena was a network of roads beginning in Canterbury across France, over the Alps into Italy, along the west coast into Tuscany, inland to Lucca, to Altopascio, Galleno, Fucecchio and south to Siena and Rome. Other lifetime pilgrimage destinations at the time were Santiago Campostella in northern Spain and Jerusalem.

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I sit on the southwest corner of Piazza delle Catene in Lucca-cool, comfortable and relaxed watching busy locals and dazed, hot and sticky tourists. Am about to eat a focaccia prosciutto and cheese sandwich with Montecarlo wine bought from La Grotta Pizzicheria on the north end of Via Fillungo. Isn’t life great?

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The Vasari  Corridor from the Ufizzi Palace(right) across top of Ponte Vecchio to Pitti Palace, Boboli Gardens and Fort Belvedere. This architecture embodies the psychology of the times best articulated by Niccolo Macchiavelli. In the Prince Niccolo advised leaders to be vigilant of threats from within the city and from outside the city….so the times were fraught with danger from everywhere. This corridor protected the Medicis on their trip to and from work from the dangers of the ‘street’.P7190231

The town of Vinci, birthpalce of Leonardo. In the center of town is an interesting museum depicting the mechanical innovations of the ‘Master’ in scale models. Vinci is in the rolling hills adjacent to the Arno River and the beginning of the heralded Chianti region.

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The walled, ancient city of Lucca! My very favorite. An Etruscan city and a Roman castrum, a pawn of Pisa and then Florence in the middle ages…but always a jewel in the heart of Tuscany. The footprint of a Roman amphitheater still exist where I’ve enjoyed many a deli lunch midway a bicycle ride. On one  trip I walked around the city atop the walls examining the fortifications, soldier’s quarters, munition storage areas with views of the inner areas of the city and outer environs fading into the Apuan Alps. A walk down its main street, Via Fillungo, blends antiquity with the luxury and elegance of modernity. It was a stop in the ancient pilgrim’s road, Via Francigena , with the ‘volto santo’, the holy relic, housed in its cathedral, San Martino. But most of all I love the flavor of the city. To shop for fine woolen sweaters. To eat crisp focaccia while window shopping. To while away an hour people watching over an espresso and a cognac at a sidewalk cafe. To visit an ancient church in an out of the way quarter. To climb one of the towers offering magnificent panorama. The city is small, comfortable and friendly.

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Covered bridge over the canal to the hamlet of Ponte a Cappiano. Rebuilt by the Medicis in the mid sixteenth century. Served as a fortified bridge, mill, forge and center of local commerce. This was also en route of Via Francigena which lead to the Arno crossing and south to Siena and Rome.

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Town center of Montelupo Fiorentino some fifteen miles east of Florence on the Arno river. The area is locally renowned for the fine pottery which has been in production for centuries. It is of the same quality and style as Deruta although internationally lesser known. I spent some delightful hours strolling through the pedestrian center and marveling at the colorful and imaginative pottery.

P8020606Hilltop fortified town of San Miniato visible from miles around. Strategically located between Florence, Pisa and Siena and overlooking the Arno plain. It was witness to the many battles of these city-states and suffered the ravages of mercenary armies in middle ages. Today the area is known for the famous ‘white truffle’ and is a popular tourist stop at the gateway to the Chianti region.

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One splendid Sunday morning in July I absorbed the Tuscan countryside. With nary a schedule or place to go. I rode to the beat of my own drummer and thought beautiful thoughts.  I smiled and waved and my pals whom I’ve never met nor will ever meet returned a greeting in the Tuscan sunshine. Life is good…if you know where to look!

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Acquedotto Nottolini==This aqueduct delivered water to the city of Lucca from the Mount Pisano area some three kilometers to the south. The four hundred plus columns are routed through the hamlets of Guamo and San Concordia. Following link is a fine picture gallery of the water collection areas, water temples and environs http://brunelleschi.imss.fi.it/itinerari/galleria/AcquedottoNottolini.html

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The Medici Hunting Lodge in the town of Cerreto Guidi some twenty miles west of Florence. It’s now a museum showing the opulence and lifestyle of the renowned medieval family. There is a most interesting room depicting a series of paintings of seventeenth century turbaned Turks with their spectacular hunting dogs. The museum is free to the public but I had to be persistent as the guard had locked all and was sleeping inside. I rang the entrance bell heartily!!

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On the mountain roads notheast of Lucca are gems to be found around every corner. This might have been an old winery or olive processing facility. Now it’s a relic of interest on a desolate Tuscan byway.

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Just north of Pisa close to the small town of San Giuliano my bicycle seat snapped off the post. I rode for some miles seat-less but was a great distance from home. This lovely lady who owns the hardware store let me fish through her supply of old bolts till I found the right one. I was able to complete my trip through the mountains of Pisa and Lucca and home. No further mishaps that day!

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The Florence Airport(Peretola or Amerigo Vespucci) reminiscent of air travel during the casual and carefree period. Two ground level buildings, departure & arrivals and a walk to and from the plane on the tarmac. I had the pleasure of experiencing this mode on my last journey and leaving the airport on my laden bicycle for city center. For those with a sense of adventure….I heartily recommend this style.

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Piazza Michelangelo overlooking the city of Florence. Built between 1865-1870 when Florence was the capital of the Kingdom of Italy. One day I walked the hills to the southeast of Florence to Fort Belvedere behind the Pitti Palace and meandered through the narrow forested streets. The views of the city were marvellous. I had brought a lunch and ate it right in front of the Church of San Miniato nestled above Piazza Michelangelo which in turn is situated on a hilltop perch offering the best panorama of Florence. It was so breathtaking that the next day I did it again. This time, though, by taking the #13 bus right in front of the train station which was also interesting as it gave a tour of the various neighborhoods of the city.

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Life in the hilltop towns of Uzzano and Stignano. Older ladies in typical Tuscan dress doing daily chores or perhaps waiting for the grandchildren to arrive. Life in these hilltop towns is soooo quiet as all businesss activity is conducted in the valleys just below. The homes’ exteriors are rough and rustic and a contrast to the marbles and woods and fine stucco work found inside.

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It was a long ride. South through the flat-lands of the Cerbaie to the Arno River through Pontedera and the river towns to Pisa. I could feel the coolness of the nearby ocean and I toured through city streets un-bothered by traffic. Then over the Pisan mountains to Lucca where just in the nick of time I bought lunch at my favorite pizzicheria and ate it in the amphitheater just around the corner. A focaccia filled with prosciutto, cheese and basil and…Montecarlo Red. If you ever find yourself in Lucca here’s their mouth watering website  http://www.pizzicherialagrotta.it/index.html

Perhaps the best value while casually traveling through Italy. Bars and Roadhouses. Reminiscent of the gasthaus & restatte I used to love while traveling through Germany.

This is Casa Rossa just outside of Fucecchio near the Arno and gateway into the heralded Chianti Region. It was my first lunch on this Tuscan bicycle trip. I slowly ate two facaccia sandwiches (salame and prosciutto) with cold draft beer for about $10. Just great. These places have an energy of their own. Travelers dash in for quick coffee and snacks and locals come to socialize. I eat and look out onto the road traffic and listen to the local color. It’s a rich way to spend and hour.

This is a leather tannery. My uncle, Enzo, owned such a place. This area along the Arno from Fucecchio to Santa Maria Sul’Arno and along to Pontedera was known for its leather tanneries.

During the forties and fifties my uncle would travel about Tuscany by bicycle and buy the hides from slaughter houses and butcher shops. Burcher shops in those days would slaughter their own animals locally at the shop.

In the seventies during one of my visits to the area I saw the tannery in operation. I remember hides of all varieties in vibrant colors ready for shipping for manufacture of shoes, coats and purses.

Enzo was a true capitalist. A successful businessman and savvy investor.

Luciano

Need to Buy, Sell or Lease

Silicon Valley Real Estate?

Dalmatian Realty of Silicon Valley

Luciano J. Ercolini, Broker/Owner

Landlord & Entrepreneur since 1977***** Realtor since 2000***** Broker/Owner since 2004

408-482-3438         www.dalmatianrealtysv.com      dalmatianrealty@yahoo.com

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