Conversing with Paolo Ciccone is absolutely fascinating. My morning began with a cup of coffee across the table from the dapper Italian gentleman from Trieste, Italy. I have taken many adventures in my day, and speaking with Paolo definitely ranks among them.
Paolo is another one of the amazing characters that inhabit the world of 1 Million Cups - Charleston. In a room of lively characters, he stands out. If I were to write an Italian photographer in a piece, I would like to think that character would be like Paolo. He is always present in the moment, in his suit, tan or black, he has a keen eye and a deep love for photographing people. The fact is, on LinkedIn you have a very good chance of seeing his work. My new headshots are actually his doing, and it was the most fun I have ever had having being photographed. When you talk about style with substance, you talk about this man.
Conversing with Paolo reminds me of my favorite conversations. It is easy, winding along paths that somehow, miraculously, get back to the main point you departed from. I remember the streets of Frankfurt, of Caen, of Rome as akin to the stories we tell, the philosophies we ponder. Paolo's life has been a journey, full of unexpected twists and turns. I tell him about my divorces, he tells me about his. I talk about fear and searching for any way to make money after leaving the military, about some of the jobs I hated. Paolo has had to work too, and he has me beaten on the worst job. Temporary gravedigger, he has us all beaten on worst job held. He worked in tech and came to the United States to work for a major tech company. He tells me the story of the right click functionality for your mouse, and it is fascinating, truly fascinating, because he tells it with interest and with excitement.
Paolo loved music from Britain and America. Zeppelin and Pink Floyd, Genesis, so many bands that we both have in common. He would look in the liner notes of albums to see the lyrics and read them, but he didn't speak English. Years later, after coming to the States and learning English, he would hear those songs again, but now understand their meaning. It was magic. Imagine that. To really love something like that music for so long, then to rediscover it with new appreciation for the meaning. We should all be so lucky to experience that once.
Paolo grew up only a bit removed from the end of WWII. He shares stories from his father and feelings of growing up in that part of the world, in that era. I tell him about my grandfather. about his time hunting Nazi war criminals in Europe, about how he was my hero. I tell him about basic training and the military, I tell him about war and learning that the world is not as easy as I once thought it was. He absorbs every word. Sitting across from Paolo and speaking, you can see his eyes looking at you, reading you as his ears absorb your words, the language of your stories.
"Real communication is an act of generosity."
Paolo says these words, these wonderful words, about halfway through our conversation and my mind flashes back a bit. Towards the beginning he called me a great communicator. The compliment is resonant, deep and rich, the kind of moment that, if you catch it, fills your soul for a moment. That is the Paolo I am beginning to know, someone with so much rich knowledge and time, with such a love for people and relationships, that he resonates powerfully all while sitting across the table.
Our lives are populated by these wonderful characters within them. If we are lucky, we get to take the time to speak with them, to share the currency of stories, the commonality of language. In doing so we learn who they are. Not just dapper Italian Buddhist photographers with a love of logic and people, but Paolo Ciccones.
Our conversation wound around like the best strolls, through palaces of memory, down alleys of fears and regrets, and into streets paved in lessons learned. We walked this journey for hours, though it felt like so little time had past when we were finished, though the beauty of it is soon it will be Wednesday and I will see Paolo again, with that smile and that joy. We will say hello, swap some more stories and continue to give, to participate in an act of generosity.
Favorite DInosaur: Triceratops
Why: Pure coolness, the horns and the spikes on the tail, they were great to play with when he was a kid.