Sunday, September 29, 2013

My "Friday" Venture - Interlude

I have not yet penned Part Two of my canoe-toting venture. I have had to suspend the project for time being because I was on vacation in Italy. Curiously though, while staying in the small Tuscan town of Montecattini Terme, I found a connection to the quirky project described in my prior post (see My "Friday" Venture - Part One). Montecattini Terme is a smallish tourist town, about 50 km to the west of Florence. During our stay here, my wife and I ventured into a municipal building to find out some information about the ICU World Championship bike race that was being held in Tuscany at the very time of our arrival. This event is a really big deal to the citizens of this community. The city was awash in bike-themed displays everywhere you went. Bikes were used as props in store windows to sell everything from purses to bakery goods. A cake shop covered a real bike with decorative, multi-colored icing (much to the delight of the many wasps that took a sudden interest in cycling). One building had even sculptured a hedge in the shape of a cyclist on a road bike.

Horto-sculpture Bike

Of course this is surprising to no one given the passion that Italians have for cycling. However, we were astounded by what we saw when we entered the municipal building.  There in the foyer of this grand piece of architecture was a 'foldie' decked out like the famous raft the Kontiki that once carried Thor Heyerdahl safely across the Pacific. The designer used recycled water bottles glued together and lashed to bamboo poles to form a floating, bike-propelled, pontoon-style boat. The folding-bike was suspended, somewhat crudely I might add, in the middle of the apparatus. You can't see it in the photo but small plastic fins were attached to a few of the spokes on the back wheel to provide propulsion.
Bike-powered raft in Montecattini Terme Tuscany
Overcome by a strong sense of kinship to the object's creator, I became flushed with the notion that I was no longer alone. Alas! There were others like me! It was very gratifying to realize that the architect of this creation and I, although probably quite separate in out linguistic abilities, were united in a way that transcended verbal communication. As I stood there taking in the contraption's quirky features, I pondered the creator's thinking process and compared it to my own. What was he or she trying to accomplish here? Was the raft a project in re-purposing water bottles or was there a pragmatic goal in mind? Perhaps the designer had to cross a waterway to get to work and needed an amphibious vehicle that could handle both roadways and waterways? Maybe its creator was overcome with a surge of artistic expression, this being the birthplace of many masters of the renaissance and all? Or quite simply, maybe the exhibit was winner of a quirky-bike contest that was being run by the organizers of the bike race? Who knows? The essential point is that this person and I shared something in our DNA that spurred us both to apply some ingenuity, however primitive, for the sole purpose of expanding access to the less-accessible features of our surroundings. Through the common quest of modifying objects designed for a singular purpose and then transforming them into altered objects that could be useful for other purposes, we were united. For me the experience was like Robinson Crusoe seeing Friday's footprint in the sand for the first time. (there's that footprint metaphor again). Let me be clear though. I am not placing myself and my like-minded Italian tinkerer among the great minds of the day, but there is something in the spirit of the creative problem-solving process that is common to all of us. Our ability to adapt to our surroundings sets us apart from other species and this should be celebrated.

Blogging is a lot like putting a message in a bottle and setting it adrift in the hope that some curious beachcomber will stumble upon it. Perhaps my Italian soul-mate will stumble upon this post and feel the same connection I did.

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