But we decided to hop off in Vernazza with no real plan.
We almost didn’t eat at the small, outdoor café skirting the far left corner of the main piazza. We almost ate on the other side, closer to the sea, closer to the main thoroughfare. But that restaurant had no empty tables.
We almost missed the most memorable experience of our month full of memorable experiences.
But we didn’t.
The sun had already begun to disappear over the horizon by the time we sat down to enjoy our penultimate honeymoon dinner. The following morning we would drive to
and hold up in an airport hotel overnight, and attempt to manipulate our luggage in a way that would transport our myriad acquired objects back home. But before that, we had one more night in Cinque Terre, in all reality the last night of our honeymoon in Milan Europe.
The piazza in Vernazza was mildly buzzing. Our waiter, who I also assumed was the owner, convinced us to order what was marked on the menu as simply, “House Appetizer.” He assured us, in Italian, that it was plenty of food for two. He was incontrovertibly correct.
First a plate of locally fished anchovies in lemon and garlic (sidenote: fresh, local anchovies taste NOTHING like the canned, salty slugs we have in America – they taste like delicious fresh fish, which is exactly what they are). Second, a plate of anchovies cooked differently. Then a came a flurry of plates, five, six, seven, of various local seafood cooked in traditional fashion, from stuffed mussels to rock shrimp salad to fried crab pockets that tasted and looked like Italian crab
. In tandem with carafes of Cinque Terre vino, the flavors were vibrant and unique, Mediterranean at the core with the very noticeable Italian edge. Rangoon
We ate like the royalty of Atlantis and after the last lemon-doused tentacle was consumed, Danielle and I relaxed into our café chairs to digest the seaside scenery and remaining wine.
From the corner of my eye a street musician began unpacking his instrument in the village piazza about twenty yards away. The last bit of sun was just dipping over the horizon. The few streetlamps in Vernazza were warming up, as was the musician.
I refilled our wine glasses from the table jug and breathed in, savoring the freedom that comes with international travel. We talked about the past two weeks, the places, the people, the peace. A few notes from the musician’s guitar floated behind our relaxed conversation. He had begun singing a soft warm-up song.
Danielle paused to drain her glass, slouched a little in her chair and smiled. We were on vacation but we had accomplished something. Three countries, three languages, foreign driving – all good but what I knew she was thinking about was more the three weeks of no worry, no work, no responsibility other than to each other and to living in the moment.
And in that moment, a voice, a musical and delightfully raspy voice, tinkered from the piazza twenty yards away, accompanied by acoustic guitar.
“Yeah dumb and drunk as I was, you know I’d do it all again . . .”
I almost fell out of my chair. Danielle saw realization and excitement wash over my face and the musician continued.
“Back when I bought a switchblade for each of my friends . . .”
I don’t know how many times we both said, “holy shit, I can’t believe he’s playing this.” But I grabbed the two euro coin we had prepared as our waiter’s tip, practically hurdled our café table and headed for the edge of the piazza.
He was older, with his long dusty brown hair tucked up under a black bandana. The orange lamplight was like a spotlight on the old guitar he strummed. When I got to him he looked up and smirked at me. I tossed the coin in the guitar case open at his feet and said, “Keep the Roger Clyne coming!”
His smirk snapped into a full grown smile, a spark in his eyes lit brighter than the lamplight and although in mid-chorus, he nodded.
How did this street musician in a tiny Italian village that hangs from the sea cliffs like grapes from a vine, know the music of an American band that is considered obscure and underground in
By the time I got back to our café table, he had fulfilled my request musically and answered my question lyrically when he broke into an acoustic version of the Roger Clyne song, “I Speak Your Language.”
Danielle and I both laughed at his choice of song but more so at the luck (perhaps fate) that put us in this town, at this moment on this, our last honeymoon night abroad with a musician playing the music of our favorite band.
We immediately walked to him after paying the bill and he had finished “I Speak Your Language.” By then he had been joined by two younger musicians. One had another acoustic guitar, the third a small keyboard looking instrument. The older musician thrust out his hand and chuckled. I shook it and said, “Roger Clyne? Here? How do you know Roger Clyne? This is amazing!”
Before he answered he pointed to the sticker on his guitar case. I should have recognized the Sonoran artist’s logo earlier. This guy was a true fan, I thought. And I was right.
Terry Gully, from
, introduced us to his two sons and their love of local music. He had followed Roger Clyne since the beginning, an original Peacemaker, and he had just started playing “Switchblade” earlier to warm up before his sons arrived. He was beyond thrilled when I revealed myself a fellow fan. Colorado
“Roger’s music unites people all over the world,” he said.
“It sure does,” Danielle said.
We dove into a conversation about our trip, our honeymoon and immediately he asked what we wanted to hear.
“Anything,” we both responded. “But our favorite is ‘Beautiful Disaster.’”
By now a small crowd had gathered near us. We were drawing attention as those two random people chatting with a street musician. People – locals and tourists alike – were intrigued.
Danielle and I sat on a bench about ten feet from the trio and within seconds all the other people who were staring at us, followed suit. They must have thought, hey, these tourists like it, why can’t we?
Terry and his boys – both accomplished musicians in their own right – launched into a set-list filled with Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, Neil Young and of course, a full catalogue of Roger Clyne & The Peacemakers.
During a Bob Dylan song an older couple got up and began dancing in the middle of the moonlit piazza, surrounded on three sides by Italians eating in outdoor cafes and on the fourth side by a row of benches and the sea. The only thing more adorable was the group of little Italian local kids that ran into the piazza and started dancing with each other, mimicking the older couple that had started the trend.
Terry knew we were on our honeymoon and immediately went into “Beautiful Disaster.” Terry and then the older couple and then the group of onlookers beckoned to us, and without really knowing what we were doing, Danielle and I were up in the piazza waltzing over the cobblestones to our favorite song.
There are moments that you never forget. Our trip had plenty. But then there are moments that you will always remember, that are on an infinite loop in your mind’s cinema. This was such a moment. I knew so when I felt the little tear on Danielle’s cheek and saw her beaming at me. This is why we travel.
We received a round of applause and a few women approached us when we sat back on the bench. Some were traveling Americans, a couple were Australian and said we danced beautifully (must be the Outback drinking water or something that skewed her vision). Another woman sat with us on the bench and revealed she was Terry’s wife.
She sat with us and talked while her husband and their sons played, in reality, a full concert. The majority were Roger Clyne songs, which pleased us and the growing crowd. They rattled off
Mekong, Never Thought and Hello New Day, just to name a few, with the ease and energy of Roger Clyne himself.
Their family was on an extended European tour with a loose itinerary. They had been playing in town squares and village piazzas every chance they could. But this was, by far, their largest crowd.
By the time Terry announced, “it’s beer o’clock,” we had made fast friends. Before I could even thank him, Terry thanked Danielle and I. He thanked and said this was the best crowd they’d had. It wasn’t the money. It was the experience they sought. We had given to them exactly what they had given to us. We were grateful for each other and grateful for the music that had brought us together for an everlasting moment.
Just as quickly as the crowd had gathered, it dispersed. Terry and family went to find a beer and Danielle and I strolled up the cobblestone road to catch the last train back to our hotel.
Even though the music had ended, the streets were cleared swear there was a melody still dancing in the air – “Yeah dumb and drunk as I was, you know I’d do it all again . . .”