NOTES FROM A PRIVILEGED LOCKDOWN, One Day short of proper “quarantena” (mid 17th century: quarantina ‘forty days’, Italian for lockdown)

Waking up without an alarm allows me to slide into awakeness slowly. The first thing I do is visually explore the room. Which is not always the same room (I have been sleeping around a lot since lockdown…Just always with the same husband).
Then I focus on an object, I try to imagine what the guests of that room did and will think of it and see what thoughts come out.

Unfortunately this morning my eye stumbles upon a little pile of change.
So my first waking thought is about how insignificant coins will be, in the likelyhood of inflation as one of the financial consequences of the pandemic.
That would make health, time and skills the most valuable assets to have, more than ever.

I start looking back with rekindled appreciation at the Accidental Tourist “Barter Program”, which offers 1 night stay in our guest apartment in exchange for 2 hours of work. Any work.

So not an exchange of price tags like:
“I am a lawer, I charge 300$ an hour, that buys me 3 nights in your apartment wich you charge 100€ a night for, and we’ ll both save 30% taxes”.

More like:
I have 16 waking hours – like you and everyone else – and will give you two of them by doing for you something I do well; in return, you will open the door of your home to me.

I now wish I had kept better track of all the memorable experiences we had with that program.


– I think our first was a lovely lady who taught my daughter how to make american apple pie;

– Bianca, hair stylist from LA, cut everybody’s hair in the family! Best haircut!

– A massage therapist gave me the BEST massage I have ever received. I wish I remembered her name! An african american lady with magical powers in her hands. It was 2013 or 2014;

– Beth, serendipitously took our class on my birthday last year, and turns out she is a professor of Social media management… Since then, she has shared many hours of her expertise, and she will soon come and spend time in the tower, with her husband.

– Neeyaz, lovely lady from LA, nutrition expert and creator of “Unspoken Nutrition”, has been patiently caring for our Instagram and assisting me in so many ways! She too will come stay here for 2 months! I look forward to that.

– A group of 6 MIT students sanded down our old wooden wardrobe. Looks great!

I wish I could remember all of the experiences…
But the most surprising was the one with a very special lady, so many years ago.
We had hardly talked about the Barter Program, and a friend of a friend asked if we had a place to stay for Isabel, who was coming from Barcelona to do some work in Florence.

We said sure (as we tend to). This shy, young, petite lady wearing a leather jacket and combat boots and carrying a bulky duffle bag arrives. She says she has something to give us, to thank us for the hospitality. So we gather the family. The kids were in pajamas.
We all sit at the dining table, and she goes up the stairs.
When she comes down, she is wearing a long fancy dress and a feather boa. .. Then she opens her mouth and delivers a piece from LA TRAVIATA. It was an unforgettable, physical experience.

She is now a dear friend and an acclaimed professional, and about once a year we fly her in and arrange a special private event.

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