During the third evening of my stay here, another WWOOFer arrived to Hop en Grut farm. My hosts lovingly refer to him as "The Spanish Italian," or "The Italian Spaniard." This handsome, dark-haired European has lived exactly half of his life in Spain and the other half in Italy. The only person I've ever met from Madrid or Rome, Gonzalo has the stories to back up the universal intrigue of both cities and can tell them to you in your choice of English, Spanish, or Italian.

Our first day working together was spent in the vegetable garden, beneath the Netherlands' shy sun. Swapping stories, discussing our passions and pastimes, describing our "other" lives - we became fast friends. Sharing the same position in such a unique experience demolishes any walls that might typically obstruct the path to bonding between strangers. After 20 minutes of chatting that morning, Gonzalo revealed to me that it was his 44th birthday. That night, with our warm hosts, we celebrated with a big dinner, fudge, and a single candle for him to blow out after we sang the b-day in a few different languages. Arthur and Benedetta explained, at a Dutch birthday celebration everyone attending exchanges Happy Birthday's, even if the day is not theirs. So, of course, we went around the table, speaking over each other, "Happy Birthday! Happy Birthday! Happy Birthday..." It wasn't until I was drifting off to sleep, hours later, that I remembered and said out-loud to myself in bed, "Today is 9/11."

As I write this, Gonzalo's 12 day stay at the farm has already come to an end. I missed his company within seconds of his departure.

In the days he was here, we discussed what it was like to be an openly gay man in Rome. I know that LGBT hate exists in this world - I own a television, I have internet access, I've read books, watched documentaries, even taken a class about it - but listening to my new friend describe constant fear of physical violence in the streets of Rome for the unthinkable crime of holding the hand of his partner makes my contribution in the States (signing of petitions, attending the occasional rally or picket, engaging in petty debate with ignorant strangers or acquaintances) seem so insignificant and like a massive failure. "I've seen it. People are regularly beaten. It's not safe. The law is not there for us. I've seen it."

In other similar conversations, G and I agree that Rome being home to The Vatican is not helping matters. But, even more so, this asshole - who says things like this, and this, and this, and even this, not to mention, all of this (are you fucking kidding me?) - being Prime Minister is seriously hindering social progress. When we talked (about this and most subjects) we were engaged in a way that transformed conversation into an art form.

While he was here, Gonzalo and I shared a few adventures: grocery shopping in Germany, a spooky walk to an old Jewish cemetery, and a day in Groningen filled with exploration, window shopping, and a museum visit - where I was introduced to the Photoshop excellence of Ruud Van Empel <3. But, the best time we had together still seems as though it was a scene from an offbeat, Indie flick. We had an impromptu beer tasting, here, with our host, Arthur. On a Tuesday, at around 5 o'clock, after a hard day's work, the three of us shared five different beers - none of which I had ever tasted before - German, Belgium, and Dutch varieties whose original recipes dated back to as far as the 1100's.

After beer number two, the topic of conversation shifted to music. I offered up my long time favorite, The Decemberists. Arthur reminds us of a 1960's Dutch song we heard and loved in the car - Suzanne by Jaap Fischer. Gonzalo and Arthur both turn me on to Antony and The Johnsons. I grab my notebook and start scribbling down artist names and titles as fast as I can. Between each sips-amount taste test of a new beer, Gonzalo would say in a silly voice, "And are the judges ready to try the next?" We sat around the table, talking, laughing and sharing music, for an hour.

Later, while Arthur made us dinner (vegetarian Sun-Dried Tomato Carbonara...omg), Gonzalo and I ballroom danced to the music that was playing. He quietly said to me, "And what more could we ever want?"


  1. You are are meeting the most beautiful people! And living such a beautiful life. Hopefully we all don't lose our magical after all of this :)