Ah, lyrical lira, with your colors of Giotto, Leonardo and Tintoretto, lovely lira as big as sails, unfurling in the wind over the steps in Piazza di Spagna just past mid-century, with your promise of pasta and vino at Peppino's trattoria! A mere hundred lira back then, a mere thousand a year later, ten thousand the year after that, inflatable lira, your sails filled with wind, going up, up for decades until landing on the shores of the Euro! Ah, lira, you gave me the courage to hold Maria Pia's hand, and there were never enough of you to hold her attention, but so what? Lira, you were a whistle on the lips of my youth, not a scandal at the Bank of the Holy Spirit! I will remember you always, in your splendid worthlessness, like youth that gives away everything, expecting nothing in return. Ciao, lira, ciao bella, gone with Marcello Mastroianni and Federico Fellini!
And you franc, just holding you was like visiting Picasso in his studio and opening the Champs Elysees of the beau monde, the Montmartres of Moulin Rouge, and the narrow stair to the second floor of Shakespeare & Company, where hippie Swedes without kronen discussed you like a mirage! Ah, franc, I never had enough of you, always landing in Paris at a bad time for the dollar, amazed to watch you melt like butter on a hot croissant, or sugar in the petit cafe. Good-bye, franc, who had once blessed Francois Villon and Henri Miller with pleasures only the franc could buy in France! Au revoir, frankie, I'll keep 50 of you in my souvenir drawer, and one of you in my memory bank. Go with Piaf and Cendrars to the big bank in the sky!
And what can I say about you, peseta, with your glories of Zurbaran and Gaudi? What can I say but what I always say when we lift a glass for Garcia Lorca, Andalusia and Dali: "Amor y pesetas!" "Love and money," only it wasn't money, but something both more particular and more uncertain, like a fluttering skirt in Majorca. Adios, peseta, I never had enough of you either, but thanks for landing, rarely it is true, in hands that spent you on vino and song!
And you, Dutch guilder, solid like an Englishman's biscuit, one could always count on you even when you went mad for tulips! Sturdy like pickled herring, dense like rye bread, brisk like the entrance fee to the Van Gogh museum, I never had to look at you in despair or hope, because you cared about neither, always equal to yourself and to your bank. I cannot bid you adieu because I never grew fond of you, you were too much like the dollar, as good as your word.
And what can I say about you, pound? I never knew you well enough to miss you. Or you, Swiss frank, with your fragrance of pine and whiff of damp guilt. I never dealt in kronen or sewed deutschemarks inside the lining of my coat like some of my relatives who perished before their coats did.
Adieu, all you national currencies with your beauties, intrigues and war. I will miss some of you like I miss my youth when I mostly missed you, and I welcome the Euro, the new exchange of reason, cold but equal. Bienvenido, money without history, bonjour cash without memory.
And for the nostalgists there are still zlotys, leis and rubles, slick with sentiment, nasty with national pride, snarling like toothless lions at the borders! May they also slough off their skins and disappear!