Sunday, October 17, 2010
Rottweilers used to make me nervous, but Titan has changed things. Titan brought his friend Roberto for a couple nights in the treehouse. They are Airbed and Breakfast hosts in Medford, Massachusetts, where Roberto decorated the Victorian house in a manner David Bromstad might approve. The house is surrounded by gardens Roberto spends a couple hours a day tending. Pass under the rose-vined arbor and wind down the stone path guarded by statuary and urns spouting ivy. Or go inside and sit in the green room with violet draperies or perch on the red leather Elvis couch in the media room. Take a shower with orchids nodding overhead. Have breakfast at the kitchen nook and watch the morning news on the television bolted to the wall. Afterward, stroll down to Tufts University or take a bus to Harvard, MIT, BU or BC. I can’t wait to go there.
So what in the world was Roberto doing booking two nights in a treehouse?
“I needed a vacation,” he said. I can only imagine how busy he must be with guests this time of year. “And I wanted the opposite of what I have in Medford.”
Well, you can’t get more opposite than Fern Forest.
Titan was a little shy at first. Fern Forest must smell quite different from Medford. Just before they arrived, I heard a coyote howling close by. When Roberto drove up, his SUV startled some deer grazing by the compost bin. A neighbor sent a message that there was a bear on her deck, sitting on a sweater it had pulled from the clothesline. I guess even bears get a little chilly in Vermont autumn.
In the evening Titan agreed to stay with H and me while Roberto went to the Bobcat for dinner. He was gone so long that H and Titan and I went to bed and left a light on for him. In the morning Roberto said he’d made some new friends at the Bobcat. When H and I stopped at the Bobcat for a quick homebrew the next afternoon, Dana the bartender told us that Roberto had met everyone at the bar. Dana said he’d never seen a patron who could talk to absolutely anyone. Where did Roberto get his good nature?
Could be the Panamanian in him. The canal made Panama a commercial capital and brought people from all over the world—Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas. Each new resident brought some aspect of culture from his homeland—food, dress, music. It’s not unusual to hear Spanish guitar played with African drum accompaniment. Panama is a bilingual country with English spoken as predominantly as Spanish. It’s a melting pot for races and a crossroads for people from all over the world.
And Roberto loves people. He falls in the middle of five children raised in Panama and serves as the family anchor, keeping his brothers and sisters connected from all over the U.S. He’s especially close with his sister Reyna, whom he says is exquisitely beautiful. I'm not surprised because Roberto is doggone handsome. In fact, he encouraged Reyna to enter the Miss Panama contest in 1995. She wasn’t interested, but Roberto offered to train her in how to dress, how to walk, how to speak in an interview. “She had never worn heels higher than flip-flops,” Roberto said.
Reyna won the Miss Panama crown that year and went on to compete in the Miss Universe contest in 1996, finishing in the top twelve and winning the native costume competition. Roberto supplied this photo of her, and I found her scores for the Miss U contest: Evening Gown 8.64; Swimsuit 8.32; Interview 9.02; Average 8.66. I’d say Roberto coached her well.
How'd he learn the tricks of the trade? Maybe because he's an actor and has performed onstage in Panama and New York. Or maybe it's his dancing career. He was one of Ricky Martin's troupe of background dancers. Or maybe it's just that he's Panamanian.
Panama appreciates beauty. In addition to Miss Panama, they have the Realmente Bella Señorita Panamá contest, the Miss Panama International contest, Miss Earth Panama contest, and Miss Supranational Panama contest. And then there’s the natural beauty of the place. Roberto says you can watch the sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean in the morning and drive to the west coast and watch the sunset over the Pacific in the evening, the only place in the world where that is possible due to the shape of the country, like an S on its side.
Not quite like October in Vermont.
After a sleep in the treehouse, Roberto took Titan to St. Johnsbury to visit Dog Mountain, artist Stephen Hunek’s 400-acre dog park with swimming pond and dog chapel. He had taken along a picture of Titan’s predecessor and friend, Gloria—a Rottweiler mix—to post in the chapel along with other gone-but-not-forgotten canine friends. The chapel’s white steeple points to the heavens topped by a winged Lab weather vane. According to Hunek’s website, he got the idea for the chapel after surviving a near-death coma from a fall down a flight of stairs because he wanted to honor “the connection between art, nature, and spirituality.”
The following day was our wedding anniversary, and Roberto presented H and me with this Hunek mug from the dog park. I claimed it for morning coffee and drink from it turned so that H can see the picture. There's a lot to learn from our four-legged buddies.
Even H says that dogs have strong spirits. Titan is an especially sweet doggie. “Gloria trained him,” Roberto says.
Titan looked a little wistful when he hopped back into Roberto's car, but Roberto promises to come back this winter to ski with H. I’m planning to partner with Titan for a snowshoe in the woods behind our house. I could use a lesson in canine spirit.
Posted by Louella Bryant at 8:50 AM