Monday, July 27, 2009

Chiara's Wings

Today I was provided with a good dose of perspective. Today I realized that someone very close to me needs my help. Today, someone I love has received horrifying news.

My very good friend Stefano’s daughter, Chiara- a beautiful five year old, has been diagnosed with one of the most degenerative forms of muscular dystrophy. It has been confirmed, after months of invasive testing and endless waiting, that she has Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD). This disease affects all voluntary muscles as well as the heart and breathing muscles. The symptoms start early and worsen rapidly, as the patient is rendered defenseless.

Chiara has been given a maximum of seven years to live- and in those seven years, her condition will worsen, she will suffer, and her kind and loving family will watch their beautiful little girl disintegrate before she reaches the age of 12.

 I am not a parent, nor am I a member of Chiara’s family but what I am is a friend that has spent time with this little girl and I have watched the faces of her parents crumble as they describe the heartbreaking circumstances and wonder what they could have done differently to protect their daughter.

Chiara must now begin treatment in order to prolong her life, while her loved ones wait for a cure that does not yet exist.

Chiara is sick and she and her family need help.

Therefore, I am asking you- all my faithful blog readers and family and friends to help me because for one of the first times in my life, I feel absolutely helpless.

You will find a link on the right to place a donation under “Chiara’s Wings.” Any amount will help, I assure you. And I promise that your contribution will not go unnoticed or unrewarded. (You can also donate anonymously).

Please feel free to e-mail me should you need any further information about the disease or Chiara and her family;

Lastly, I would like to note that I know we are in the midst of a financial crisis. I know that there are very few people out there with the ability to donate exorbitant funds at a time like this. But what I do know is that I have spent my life surrounding myself with generous and kind individuals and I know you understand the importance of providing help at a time like this. Therefore, your contribution will be doubly appreciated. I wouldn't ask if it didn't mean the world to me.

As soon as I get my hands on one, I will post a photo of Chiara and maybe you too will understand the importance of this little life that will soon be lost.

With your help, Chiara’s family will hopefully be able to shoulder the financial burden and therefore, will be able to provide the best treatment and care for this little girl.

I am always talking about perspective. There are days when I feel like everything has gone wrong. There are days when I feel empty. Today, I realize that I have always had everything as long as those I love are safe and healthy. I realize that I took this all for granted and focused on trivial burdens as excuses to pity myself. I wish, today, that I could take it all back. I would take a million of those days to give Chiara a normal and healthy life. I would take a million of those days to help her family feel at peace again. Regrettably, none of this is possible.

Now what is left is hope. 

This is for Chiara. And this is for everyone who will help Chiara’s family. Thank you. You are all truly wonderful.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


Yesterday, in an excessively long car trip from Milano to Roma, a song came on the radio- It's a new release from Tiziano Ferro- link below.

There was a line in the song that made me think about my own life at the moment;

“Il mondo va veloce ma tu vai indietro”

Translation; The world moves ahead fast but you go backwards”

(It’s much better in Italian- meaning and the sound of the words.”) But anyway- I was in the car, watching the mountains of Emilia Romagna pass me by and change into the Cyprus trees and palazzos of Tuscany when this song came on. I had heard it before- in a restaurant or a store, and immediately recognized it- but for the first time, I listened to the words.

I listened and realized that the serenity I have been searching for may have never had anything to do with me at all- but that everything else around me seems to move at an accelerated rate. “Il Mondo va veloce,” as time moves ahead with a fervor I seem to be incapable of abiding by. I don't think it’s an incapacity to move along with it- I can keep up and have done so in the past. It’s more about the lack of desire to pursue what I know won’t fulfill my desires when the pursuit is over.

Possibly, it’s why I was drawn to Europe in the first place; the slower pace of life, the ability to sit down, step back and enjoy. Although, even if I have somewhat found my place in Europe- the world seems to still move to quickly and I began wondering what it is that I am resisting?

Then this song came on. And Tiziano said, “ma tu vai indietro”- and the sudden thought occurred to me that- I’ve been heading backwards.

I’m still working this thought out in my own mind- in the context of my own life…but I’ve come to the conclusion that I am not so much regressing as moving in another direction. There is this strong current pulling me one way- pulling the world in one way- from medicine, to technology to the simple act of ageing. It has been said that salmon swim upstream. And here I am, a Salmon…swimming upstream my entire life- tiring myself out.

I once had a thought that maybe I would one day eat Salmon- despite my vegetarianism- being that salmon seems to suffer their entire lives- swimming in the wrong direction- struggling against a partly invisible force until they are either caught or die.

Although I don't see myself with quite the same strain as salmon undergoes- it's a mental strain…the desire to move in one direction while the world passes by at an unalterable pace. Its like a train ride through the countryside in a rare and beautiful part of the world- everything flying by the windows is so astonishing that you want to reach out and touch it- but before the view has a chance to register in your mind- it is gone. And even worse, something else even more beautiful shows up in its place and then, without fail, that too is gone. You feel the pull to go back and understand, feel and experience the first thing you saw- the lure to move backwards. By the end of the trip- you have only gotten a taste- a mere glimpse of each landscape. It moved so quickly that even the momentary memories are now fading. All you want to do is go back, all the while trying to figure out where it is you wanted to end up. That's what I’m doing- trying to figure out where it is I would like to end up.

And here I am, going backwards against all the flashing lights pointing me forwards. Maybe its time to give in and swim with the current. Because what is the point of it all? I’m behind and I’m only making it worse for myself because the world will never change directions- time will never slow down- the current will never slow its pace.

The last line in the song, out of line with my current thinking, is “Il bene più segreto sfugge all’uomo che non guarda avanti, mai.” Translating to; the most secret escape is to not look ahead, ever.”

So as with any important decision or fork in the road- there are at least two directions to go in. One, the most reasonable and probably the sanest of options, is to move forward along with the world and two, to ignore the world that is passing me by at the speed of light.

And what’s so bad about being a Salmon? There has got to be a reason they do it- a reason they were put on this earth, and in their streams- only to face a struggle. There has got to be a reason I have spent the bulk of my life moving in another direction. Unlike the salmon, maybe I can be strong enough to beat the current- or to stop the train even for a day. 

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Running Revelations

You know you are no longer in the throes of the tedium of coursework when the content of the communication from and between your schoolmates drastically shifts gears.

During the year, e-mails are circulated from compassionate classmates who are kind enough to provide advice for upcoming exams or hints at how to arrive at the solutions to finance cases. The standard e-mails include ideas as to what would be the best positioning for a new product concept in marketing or good websites in which to find information for upcoming research papers.  

And then, as suddenly as the first year of the MBA ended- the communication between the students shifted as well. I opened my inbox to find emails from the same familiar people with the same guiding tones, but the type of advice was significantly altered.

In the case of Friday’s e-mails, the advice being circulated was regarding the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona. A large group of us decided to partake in the celebrations and were preparing for the yearly festival when the wise-worded reminders began popping up cautioning and advising…

 Should you have the misfortune to fall or trip up, stay down hugging the ground without moving except to cover your head with your hands. When the stampede has passed, someone will give up a tap on the shoulder to let you know you can get up in safety. Don't try to run behind the bulls. Don't attempt to touch the bulls. A lot of people seem to want to touch the bulls for some strange reason. They shouldn’t be touched even in the slightest way, as there is another potential risk in distracting their attention. Don't stand still during the run. When everyone starts running, you must run too.

If you want to be a spectator, stay on the other side of the fence. The only reason you cross over that fence is to run. Fan out when you run into the ring. Spread out when you get through the entrance to the ring and head for the barriers round the edge of the ring. Should you find yourself in the middle of the ring, you are in the path of the bulls who can move much faster than you, you are in a totally defenseless situation, as well as being a disturbance to the drovers in their work. Don't disturb the drovers and herders. These people are responsible for getting the bulls into the bullpen as quickly as possible. The quicker they do it, the less danger there is. Don't carry anything on you when you run. If you can’t find a safe place to leave your pack, video camera or whatever, then just forget about the idea of doing the run."

 And so on and so forth…

Gotta love friendly advice from classmates.

 I suppose kindness and concern can translate from class to the bullring after all.

Another major realization- and one of the saddest ones this year to date is that I have aged considerably. The words, “I think I’m getting too old for this stuff” actually came out of my mouth. I never thought they would- I never thought I would be one of those people who “gets too old” for things.

But at about four in the morning, stumbling around the city strewn with passed out partygoers and mounds of trash, noting the ubiquitous drunkards sprawled across any green patch of land they could find, covered in wine and bodily fluids, snoring and shivering- I realized I was not a part of it. I was wearing the typical white and red- I was drinking- I was being festive- I was happy to be there and I was dancing- but I wasn't really part of it.

Maybe I was too sober. Maybe I was too sane.

Or maybe, as I think I finally realized, I have just grown up too much to savor drunken stupors and citywide slumber parties. San Fermin- the running of the bulls, is no more a cultural festival than full moon parties at Koh Phangan in Thailand (another party I am not so sure I could ever take again). I don't think that the event, the encierro, is any longer like what Hemingway described in “The Sun Also Rises." It's more of a bunch of English speaking tourists (Americans, Brits, Australians)- and a few other cultures thrown in, even some Spaniards- who all made the pilgrimage to the region of Navarra (my pilgrimage being a 6 hour bus ride)- to get drunk and risk being gored by the horns of a mistreated bull. The beautiful and well-kempt city had become a dump- a literal dump.

At least there was uniformity in the clothing. And I did have fun. The fireworks were great. But I really am too old for this stuff- regardless of how much beer I consume before, during and after…I think I’ve crossed over the barrier from festival-goer to resort-guest. Or at least somewhere in between.

Nonetheless, I’m glad I went. Afterall, it was just another experience indicative of my short stint in Spain, getting to know- even better and on different levels- all the people that are sharing this MBA experience with me. Glad I did it. But glad it’s over.

I think that may be the end of festivals for me. To quote (in my own context of course) the man who made the Running of the Bulls famous,"You know it makes one feel rather good deciding not to be a bitch." 
-Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises

Friday, July 10, 2009

Fear of Flying?

My version of “pigs flying” happened to me yesterday. Ironically, they (the pigs) flew when I was about to fly…

Me, the incessant traveler- the perpetual passenger- someone who has probably spent more time in airports than at home, had a panic attack as I was about to board a flight.

It was a standard route- Milano to Barcelona- nothing extraordinary. Yet, all of a sudden, as my car pulled up to the airport- my chest tightened, I couldn't breathe, my hands were sweaty and started shaking, and I felt like I was going to throw up.

My friend, Stefano, who had accompanied me to the airport took my pulse and basically told me I may be having a heart attack- in not so many words. (not a good thing to tell a hypochondriac in the throws of anxiety). Which, of course, made me freak out even more- so I ended up in “pronto socorro” – the Italian version of the emergency room- camped out under terminal one- and a doctor who was all of 21 years old manhandled me by means of an EKG.

Everything was fine until I actually started yelling at the kid for unnecessarily exposing my entire upper body, at which point my anxiety turned into anger and I felt much better. The nurse gave me Valium and I got on the plane and came home.

Not a good start to a summer full of numerous international flights. This is going to be an interesting obstacle to my lifestyle, to say the least. Updates to come…