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June 04, 2009

Lend me cash? (f)or gelato?

June 4. Day 339.

This is kind of embarrassing. But since I'm here to document, indiscriminately, my triumphs and their less exalting cousins (defeats, near misses and total fall on your face screw ups), here it is. In high-def slow-mo.

And consider, gentle reader, consider that it all started with a photo. A photo I shot for this project. To think!

And now... onward...

Judge as you please...

I was supposed to meet an acquaintance, a friend of a friend, for a midday chat over coffee or gelato. He works as a financial consultant, and I invited him out so we could catch up. I was going to be in his neighborhood, and I thought it would be nice to hang out briefly. I'd been working all day and I was definitely craving a walk. And he had told me to call him if I was ever downtown.

Since getting here Monday, I've spent most of the 100 euros I extracted from the airport ATM. One taxi ride to get to a spot with no metro, a few cocktails, some medicine for my cold, one lunch and dinner out, two ice creams, some groceries. Poof! Gone! Just two more coins were snuggling in the coziest recesses of my purse.

On the way to meet this individual, I was planning on stopping at an ATM. Instead, I ended up talking to an old lady about politics. She's the one who approached me. I was taking this picture (your next hint -- a dead giveaway, if you ask me. Better than any marble monument or postcard.)

"Are you a photographer?" she asked.

"Oh, no! I just take pictures for a project I'm working on."

"You're not from here."

"No. America."

"Ah. I have a son in Denver. Nice place. Big highways."

Over the next few minutes, we talked about politics, Obama, the students protesting university funding cuts right in front of us, how the city has changed for the better in recent years, the opera rehearsal she was about to attend thanks to a ticket her daughter-in-law snagged, and the recession. Now a universal "the," she specified, not "mine" or "yours" -- the recession is everywhere. She drove the whole conversation. I was just listening, answering and considering how nice it was to be accosted in a piazza by a random retired elementary school principle in a blue dress, a self-declared socialist, a person I'd never talk to if I were anywhere else but here and now.

I saw the gentleman across the street. Excused myself. Ran over.

We approached Grom, his preferred gelateria.

We stood in line, and he made his recommendation: vanilla with biscotti. I was leaning toward apricot.

All was bene.

And then I remembered. Never stopped at the ATM.

I had invited him. I had asked him to come down from his office for a break, I had suggested coffee or ice cream. And now I had 2 euros to my name.

Of course the place didn't take cards. And the cheapest portion was 2.5 euros.

So I asked.

"Listen... I feel terrible about this, but is there any way you can cover this? Or can I run really quickly to an ATM? I'm out of cash and I didn't make it--"

"Of course!!!!!"

"I'm sorry."


"I got held up and totally--"

"Stop!! Don't be ridiculous!!!"

Gained: Ice cream for two, courtesy of the person I was supposed to treat. $10. D'oh! Or as they say in this country... D'oh!
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