A Common Thread - by Matthew Gudwin

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The previous chapter  Much Water Has Passed Under The Bridges


Chapter 5

     My cell phone stated ten-thirty a.m. Rolling over in my bed I noticed that I had not turned off my tape recorder. After shutting it off, I rewound it just enough to catch the tail end of our conversation. I needed to know what Francesco had last said before leaving the restaurant and was curious if I had said anything. Was I under a spell or hypnosis? I didn’t think that this was the case but he was a man in his own world, and he was bringing me into it. I rewound too much but needed to hear it over and over again regardless. He began to speak. “Bicci smiled whispering how Bitcoin reminded him of the Florentine Florin and the Blockchain of the Medici Banks Ledger; was a decisive day for me and shortly after I informed my team in Italy and NYC that our network was entering the Blockchain. A few days later we started acquiring Bitcoin to serve the needs of nearly half a million people operating on our websites; some were filmmakers, others photographers and writers, this was another parallel to the Work of the Medici Family who gave special attention in sponsoring arts and supported great artists like Michelangelo, Brunelleschi and Cellini. Bicci and I were on the same page six centuries after our last conversation”. Again I turned it off and thought about what he had said.

     I grabbed a quick shower and proceeded to look up the weather for that 12th day of March. The weather was getting warmer with a high of 51’ and a low of 36. It wasn’t warm enough as far as I was concerned because most days still remained in the thirties. Any temperature in the fifties was preferable to ten degrees or colder. This winter had made something abundantly clear to me. Winter is a necessity that I need periodically because it makes me appreciate and love the outdoors in the summer and warmer months even more than I already do. However, the cold weather usually keeps me indoors which allows for more constructive writing time. I feel guilty staying indoors on nice days and therefore am not very productive. At least this was my thinking in the past. So far being cooped up for several months has been fine as long as I have been able to go out and get fresh air while walking around and experiencing life without getting frostbite.

     I again looked at Francesco’s business card before venturing to the local coffee shop. His first and last name were printed on it but no phone number or website. One side was completely blank. I wondered if that was the point. A bit egotistical but maybe he was well known or a dignitary. If this was someone who wanted me to write for him with no previous ties than this could be a step in the right direction. At the very least a job with nothing but experience to gain. After searching for Francesco online I saw he was from Florence, Italy, no shock there. This would also explain how hard it was for me to understand him at times. Even his notes needed editing, not that those things were big deals. I discovered that he was established and not a nonentity, in fact far from it. He was the owner of a company that seemed respectable and on the up and up. This alleviated concerns that I was working for a complete random person without any credibility. It also brought new inspiration no matter how abnormal and peculiar this assignment was going to be.

     I exited my apartment wearing my tan leather seventies jacket, which meant spring was coming soon. I decided to go on one of my long walks around Astoria while I listened to classic rock and oldies music. I needed to think about how to go about compiling his info and everything that I saw and read. I loved the neighborhood for many reasons, but a big one was how close I live to everything important to me, such as the essentials in life. Living two blocks from the train station and various other stores including restaurants, grocery stores, banks and mom and pop coffee shops made life easier, especially in poor weather. This place had grown on me, especially since last July. Previously I lived in an area of Astoria that I didn’t care for. This sounds crazy, but I lived on a street that was a dead end and coming home every night to that bright yellow sign started subconsciously getting to me. I later realized that I hated living in a place where I was told I couldn’t go any further as inane as that sounds and possibly ironic considering my current small studio. However where I live now versus then is light years apart in comparison and overall comfort.

     I walked down a street named Steinway that is a mix of name brand companies, chain’s and various businesses owned second generation or later. The neighborhood itself has a vast history, and the street is named after the cabinetmaker and later more recognized piano maker Henry Engelhard Steinway. His company Steinway and Sons moved to Astoria in the late 19th century and had an important economic impact on Astoria and eventually what is now called Steinway Street.

      I arrived at a coffee shop that is called the Love Café. It is unique and seemingly small from the outside. It has a window opened to the street for walk by coffee service. I ordered a glass of water that made the barista look at me strangely. After walking inside, down the hall and to the right I noticed a whole back room area with couches, tables and places to sit. The décor of the coffee shop’s backroom resembled an antique furniture shop with actual radios from the 1950’s or earlier which were placed on wooden tables. I plugged my headphones into my digital recorder and began to re-listen to last night’s conversation with Francesco.  It took a long time as I logged each word he said.  I frequently rewound the recording to gather what was implied but unsaid. I decided to look for deeper meanings if there were any. One of the times I noted this possibility was when he said, “Lots of water passed under the bridges of Florence and New York, but a common thread connected the two cities and I had to meet Bicci”.   Trying to connect this symbolism I attributed certain factors that both cities have major historical bridges. I thought that for both places the water that passes under their bridges symbolizes time, change and evolution. Perhaps he was trying to say that Florence was the New York City of the Renaissance. Maybe he was trying to say that New York City was the Capital of a new Renaissance! I wonder with all its arts, banking and vibrant life if this is the continuation of what Florence represented back in the 14th century? I was getting a little deep but considering everything he had told me this seemed to be the most logical connection and thus I noted this. Sipping my glass of water I noticed that Chet Baker started playing in the background of the coffee shop and stopped listening to the recorder. That jazz trumpeter was another favorite of mine.

     As time passed throughout the day I went over material that he had handed me in the envelope. His instructions were clear and to the point. “Take a look at these stories. I want you to just think about them, conceive and come to an understanding of the times from in which I have encountered and many others have”.  There were a few inside. One was about some workers called boia, which in Italian means executioner. Men were paid to be in charge of the decapitation of the guilty. When I think of the Italian Renaissance I associate it with beauty, art, culture, famous painters and architecture. Was there a point or moral to this story that he left for me to interpret and relate? He was showing me the door, but I was the one to figure out what to do with the information he was giving me and how to use it. The following story from Francesco was anything but humorous.

“Florence during the Renaissance was a vibrant city with great bankers, merchants and artists. It’s citizens were very involved in the fast evolution of the city; we would walk the streets admiring the new great creations of artists and architects like Brunelleschi, Giotto, Michelangelo and Benedetto da Maiano; we would also witness public executions on a regular basis, at times two or three times a week. The Florentine justice system was a complicated yet very simple infrastructure to educate, threaten and entertain Florentine citizens and visitors”.

I paused from reading to sip some water and continued reading his story. 

“In 1504 I remember viewing the records of the execution of Ginevra di Nardo di Piero del Prete della Piagentina, a 16 years old girl accused of the terrible crime of Infanticide; she had a carnal relationship with a scholar of Mr Attavante, a famous miniaturist where she worked as servant, she got pregnant and at the time of her delivery she lost her mind and killed her baby girl, after she run away in the country side. The Florentine tribunal of the Eight hired three detectives and condemned her to decapitation; she was found near Siena a few days later. The records documented the following list of costs for her execution: 1 large Florin to Carlo the Boia, the executioner, 2 Liras and 2 large Florins to Benedetto Buchi, the wood supplier, for two pieces of wood and a new carriage for the execution, 10 Liras and 2 Soldi to Luca Tosi dal Ponte alle Mosse for driving the carriage through Florence all the way to the gallows outside the walls of Florence, 2 Liras to the announcers of the execution, 7 Grossi for the food procured to the prisoner in the 7 days preceding her execution. The piece of wood stained by Ginevra di Nardo blood cost many critics to the Florentine justice system and didn't go unnoticed. Every time I passed by the Loggia dei Lanzi in Piazza della Signoria, and looked at the Perseus of Benvenuto Cellini I thought of Ginevra and her tragic ending".

     I spent the rest of the day listening to sounds of beach waves and the calmness of the ocean. I realized something that I already knew, which technically didn’t make me feel better. Death is part of life even in a perfect world. However children and death is a hard pill to swallow or imagine. The sounds of the cooling waves hitting the back of my mind made me think of paradise and I was on an island where relaxation was free. I emailed Francesco some thoughts and headed home.

     It turned into a busy week but I enjoyed working. March twentieth came and I woke up knowing that today was the first full day of spring, the only bad part was the sky opening up and more snow coming down. It wasn’t pouring snow but that was hardly the point.  The NYAC Judo event was coming up in a week and I was very excited. 

Chapter 6  Don't Kill the Referee

About the author


The following is a series of stories based on one’s man’s wisdom gained over the years from either personal experience or from what was taught to him. It also includes ideas and thoughts about modern society and how many of us are losing our way. It is important to have…

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