Capri (Not the Pants)


The locals call it La Piazzetta

This is a little public square, in the center of a practically smallest European town, nestled on a tiny island in the Mediterranean. Capri. In contrast, the views are expansive, aroma pungent, and beauty abounding. No wonder Augustus built his Empire Time Share here.

You arrive by streetcar, bus, taxi, scooter, or (if you are totally mad) on foot. Gardens of lemon trees and roses have guided you here after a probable Bellissima boat ride from Napoli or the Amalfi Coast. There was a naval gladiator combat at the Blue Grotto with your tour boat and adversarial dingy’s filled with delighted-confused-frightened client/victims. A dash through the gauntlet of T-shirts, trinkets and tchotchke (never knew how to spell that one) at the harbor precedes your ascent. Between the two mountains, you journey. Now, at this plateau, Piazza di Umberto Primo welcomes you. A quick look around and you grasp why they call it La Piazzetta.

On one side there is the expected baroque church. On the other stands the logical city hall. In front of you is a panorama of sky and sea around the rocks. But behind you is the serpentine artery of Capri. Little alleys (vicolo) and streets (via) are time capsules of their Middle-Ages origin, still housing the human tenants who serve custodial to present day Capri.

From this artery stream the pulse of this and every piazza. Highlights are Mamma and her rambunctious raggazzi, a pair of lovers, one old man with a cart, one old woman with a package, clueless tourists with their heads buried in an app or map instead of looking, smelling, sensing the majesty of it all. It is a symphony played in all piazzas. Yet, like and unlike the others, La Piazzetta has its own unique voice, rhythm, and style.

The antique bell tower clock maintains a faulty display as it tolls. No matter. No one seems to be checking the time, slugging his or her coffee, pounding the pavement, or rushing to anywhere for any reason. Who looks at the town clock? Who cares that the display is flawed? This is Capri. This is Italy. Lavoro la Vita. Not Vita la Lavoro. Work to live. Don’t live to work.

As you sip a Vino Bianco at your postage stamp table in the shoebox Piazza, you can’t help but glance at the waves of hilltops whence came the beverage. Your amber liquid serves as a telescope, giving color to your surveyance of its natural habitat. The looking glass serving its purpose, you slowly drain the contents and savor the taste.
Capri is a microcosm of urban Piazza life. There is culture, historic origins, strategic geography, everything the Roman Empire tattooed to its holdings. No exception here. From Tiberius to Mussolini, the powerful and influential praised and coveted this small island gem. Not particularly tactical or essential in war and aggression, Capri was mostly spared invasion, rape, pillaging and all that fun male civilized stuff. So it survives and thrives, this city center in miniature. “Urbs”, “The City”, is what Rome called municipalities back in the Latin day. Bingo! Urban. And their prized tiny get-away would characteristically assimilate everything civic and urban from the Empire. All roads led to Rome. But all boats went to Capri (if you had the juice, the coin or the connections). Of course, Romans would design, construct and embrace an island city center here. Have to have a place to gather, greet, gossip, gripe, grope, and glean from the great natural nutrients that abound and surround. Vero?

Capri walks a tightrope these days. It is a tourist mecca but maintains elegance void of plastic, strip malls, outlets, chain stores and pub-crawls. In spite of the flea market appearance at the main dock, Capri remains a welcoming host, as long as you wipe your feet. Hospitality and tradition, beauty and conservation, enterprise without greed, meals without phony additives, sounds without noise, smells enhanced by dioxide, not monoxide…Capri is the petite prototype of everything a city center is or should aspire to be.

High-end fashion and services for the elite share this piazza with laborers of the field. The tour guide, city official, teacher, peddler and musician all belly up to the same bar for a café’ lungo. Attuned visitors assimilate the rhythm. They stroll, bask, sit, ponder, smile and sip away the hours, negligent of our friendly-faulty tower clock guardian. It is like any other Piazza in this respect.

Capri is everything a Piazza is or should be. Spectacular location surrounded by indescribable beauty. Clean, cultivated and caressed by proprietor/patrons. Hospitality without hordes. It is arguably the best island outdoor living room in the Mediterranean.

What time is it now? My memory of the Clock tells me to “Forget About It”. Time to save this “doc”. Close the laptop. Dream of my next visit to Capri.






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Tom was born Thomas James Shaker on August 13, 1952, to Mary Katherine Christopher Shaker (daughter of Italian immigrants) and Mitchell Francis Shaker (son of Lebanese immigrants) in the town of Niles, Ohio. He is the fifth of eight children. He scored the lead role in his kindergarten play Frosty the Snowman and never looked back. Throughout his 12-year parochial education, Tom mixed high academic marks with countless arts, sports, and student government activities. This culminated with his becoming a participant, then counselor and finally consultant to the National Association of Student Councils (NASC) and its affiliates in Ohio (OASC) and Pennsylvania (PASC). Tom also was selected and participated in the Buckeye Boys State leadership conference sponsored by the State of Ohio. He continued these activities as he prepared for undergraduate school. Entering Kent State University in September 1970, Tom immediately became involved with activities surrounding the tragic campus shootings the previous May 4. He was a founding member of the Candlelight Vigil Committee and continued to work with the Centre for Peaceful Change. From 1970-74, Tom produced many theatrical works off campus while performing in university theatre department plays. He was inducted into three honoraria and given the Senior Service Award. Tom graduated with countless student activity, government and Arts credits highlighted by his work as the publisher for the Chestnut Burr Yearbook and Kent Stater Campus Newspaper. Tom earned his AEA Actors' Equity Association Card (the union for professional stage actors) in the summer of 1974 as the third cowboy from the left in Oklahoma and fourth Buddhist from the right in The King and I. He was accepted to Akron University Law School, attending in the fall of 1974. But, the draw to the arts was too strong and he left law school to continue his main pursuit, the stage. Tom spent 1975 as a teaching consultant for the Portage County Schools, filming and coaching teachers on classroom presentation and speaking techniques. He began his Masters Degree program at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, autumn, 1976. Again Tom graduated with high marks and a series of honors in spring, 1978, most notably serving as President of the Michigan Union. He also worked on a graduate school scholarship as a counselor in the University Admissions Office. Tom simultaneously spent those years in Ann Arbor battling Hodgkin's Disease, a form of lymphatic cancer that warranted his regular sessions of MOPP Chemotherapy throughout his academic tenure at the U of M. With diploma in hand and a clean bill of health, Tom moved to Detroit and spent twelve years distinguishing himself as an actor, director, producer and Edu-Tainer. He earned union membership in Screens Actors Guild (SAG) and the American Federation of Television and Radio Announcers (AFTRA). His countless commercial, industrial and film credits included national spots for General Motors, the voice for Cadillac and a role in Beverly Hills Cop with Eddie Murphy. He also formed his production company, staging dozens of musicals including Fiddler on The Roof, West Side Story, Guys and Dolls, Oklahoma…and touring schools with creative interpretations of classic works from Shakespeare to Aesop to Dickens. His Edu-Tainment company created an improvisational concept called Storybuilding where student stories and ideas were brought to life before the entire school assembly of their peers, thus building creative writing interest, literacy skills, and self-esteem. He even developed a school outreach program for McDonalds Corporation and actually portrayed the character Ronald McDonald for the dozen years he spent in Detroit. He also served as a board member for The Ronald McDonald Houses (RMC) in both Ann Arbor and Detroit and was a consultant to Ronald McDonald Children’s Charities (RMCC) at Hamburger University in Oakbrook, Illinois. Broadway had always been beckoning. In 1991, Tom moved to NYC and spent another decade in countless film, television, theatre and Edu-Tainment projects. Productions included Law and Order, Ransom, 15 Minutes, Die Hard III and a critically acclaimed showcase of his original musical Birdsville ,(adapted from the Aristophanes farce), staged at the Kauffman Theatre on 42nd Street. In 2000, Tom travelled to Rome, Italy in search of his Italian heritage. A two-week vacation turned into a change of continents and he is now a dual citizen commuting between The Eternal City and The Big Apple. He is Dottore Shaker in Italy, Director of Performing and Visual Arts Education, consulting at Sapienza Roma I University and Link Campus University. He is also a member of the USO committee in Rome, serves as a volunteer warden for the American Embassy, and is a past president of the American International Club of Rome (AICR). He has spent countless hours on various sets and sound stages including Cinecitta, “Hollywood on the Tiber”. Mel Gibson selected Tom for the role of Eyepatch in The Passion of the Christ. Then, the Cinecitta Jerusalem of Gibson became the Roman Forum for HBO and Tom was cast for recurring appearances in the drama mini-series, Rome. He is the Court Lictor in the episode titled Spoils. In Italy, Tom is writing his books, At Home in Rome, 24 Hours in… and Italy with Tom Shaker. He is scouting for his documentary Film "Kissa Grandpa" and producing/singing an album of new jazz standards with his band, "Tom and the Cats", featuring his original tunes, Bella Roma and Italiano-Americano. He has produced and recorded the album, Giggin’ with God, in the Vatican City studios. Tom has completed principal photography for the first fifteen episodes of his International media project, Where in the World with Tom Shaker, Rome 360º, the Churches. He has completed the pilot for his wine series, In Vino Veritas, as well. In Paris, France, Tom co-wrote, shot and starred in the TV series, Forget About It (Fugedaboudit), the story of a bar/diner owner and his screwy clientele. The show was accepted and showcased at the Hollywood Film Festival in December 2012. Works in Progress include: • In Vino Veritas / 30-minute episode series about wines of the world • 24 hours in… / a look at Piazza, Square and Centers around the Globe • Post Production, Rome 360º, Season I • Pre-Production, Season II, Rome 360º, March 2013 • Episode and distribution development for Forget About It 2016 will see the completion of his latest screenplays, The Siege of Malta and Roma Rewrite. Finally, Tom keeps busy in Italy lecture-guiding friends, colleagues, and referrals around the entire boot and islands.

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