fall break in italy


dig if you will the picture...

october 11
the legend says that if you toss one coin in the trevi fountain you will soon return to rome. i'm another victim to whatever swirls of fate pulled me here, the starting place of one of my craziest summers, and now potentially, to steal some of josh's hyperbole, the most incredible week ever. he and i pulled together some summer cash ("this is what we make money for") to fly out here and see wayne in rome, anne in florence, and greg in parma.

while waiting on the bus to meet wayne i saw a dude in a green bandana out of the corner of my eye. wayne hopped on the bus and i was so excited to see the guy that i gave him the biggest hug ever. we then preceded to take the bus to the centro, get massey (also studying in rome) and go to arguably the best pasta place i've been to - the house wine was still bubbling but went down just fine and got us all quite tipsy (drunken moment #1 for the day). three portions of pasta were hollow spaghetti w/ pomodoro and basilico, gniocchi in cream sauce, and ravioli with butter and sage, all for about 5$ each and amazing. then, tipsy, we left off for some sightseeing, after first waving and cheering for a wedding procession of honking fiats driving thru the tiny square. the cars here are so cute the i constantly have the urge to bring one back as a carry-on.

we saw the palace of emanuel ii, various fora, the colloseum - some of the most amazing stuff in the world - all of which were cool to see with wayne and his local/historical knowledge, and all of which we gave about five minutes to. i've discovered that not only are the touristy things skimpy in true meaning, but that the best way to do a city is with a friend, especially crazy uncle wayne. this is why i'm here - to be in italy, with good food and wine, with friends, with my backpack, walking and taking the busses, drinking from streetside fountains, eating bread and cheese, trying to get as real as possible.

ok, some great moments...
bought a bottle of chianti for L7,000 (~4$) and went to the park, downed it while telling the pathmark story to massey (drunken moment #2)... going to the bar, trying grappa (some of the most vile stuff around), smoking and drinking (moment #3)... smelling a large basil leaf as wayne played covers of liz's songs in the centro garden - a short but revitalizing moment... taking a nap in the park today... so many times i have felt so truly happy to be out here. tonight - risotto con funghi porchini, and now staying in the wonderful pension esty (on via trastevere, #108, ~20$ a night for a double) with a balchony and lace curtains and soft european beds.
we live a simple life - a cycle of eating, drinking, walking, and sleeping. that's what it's all about.

october 13
when i woke up this morning the sun was still down over the city, just as we had left it. i noted to josh that it was probably up in romania, an observation which he found rather arbitrary, but i liked thinking about it. being in another country and being casual about it makes the world seem so much smaller (especially in europe) and your mind makes easy travel of the thousands of miles.

yesterday wayne had classes so josh and i went on a quest for the vatican. we, of course, got lost, having chosen to try a road that had two high walls and a foot-wide shoulder, so fiats whizzed exeedingly close. at one point we found a hole in one side, a large door which led to what could be called heaven but was really just a huge park that had been on the other side all this time. we decided not the try the winding paths and instead turned back to the carbon monoxide-filled corridor. eventually we reached the top of a hill and looked out over a valley, red and orange and hazy, with st. peter's sitting in the middle in all its comfotable opulence. after negotiating the decent we entered bernini's colonade from the side, passed the field of chairs being set up for a papal address, and foundthe doors to the basilica under the renovation scaffolding. not a moment after we stepped in a chorus of heavenly voices lifted and floated back to us - you could hear the distance it had traveled over smooth marble - and i was quite overcome by the beauty, and my eyes teared. we were both frozen for quite a few minutes. it's what you'd always hoped but never expected to hear in that place. it bathed everything and echoed so many times that it became more rich than regal velvet. when it came to an end the monotone chant of the liturgy was just as beautiful in it's singularity of origin. i realized, when i got close enough to see the mass, that everything was much more amazing when not attached to the physical humans but rather as some sort of ethereal soundtrack - completing the sensory quintet. the air smelled and tasted of immovable history, the marble was hard underfoot but smooth tot he touch. some of the statues of various popes had a marble of red and orange that was so incredibly beautiful that i found myself carressing it like human skin.

we tried to get to the dome but the line was too long and we wanted to get to the museum. i think my favorite part was a small courtyard, lost somewhere deep within the building, with a big purple marble bathtub. some day i would like to fake some grandeur and have one of those, put it in the courtyard, fill it with worm water, and luxuriate. it actually gave a sense of reality to a bunch of otherwise untouchably distant artifacts. out there was also neracles wrestling from the snake, one of my favorite hellenistic marble pieces becuase the emotion - suffering - is so clear. other parts of the museum were great for their lighting - sometimes stark and white and it would fall on josh in a plain but pure way - i bet he had no idea. being able to sit down near the wall in the sistine chapel was nice - last time i breezed thru, but this time i actually got to decipher the different panels, to realize the artist's power of creation (by creating the Creation). i later sent a postcard to rieffel saying "so i've got this great idea for the ceiling of the aviary..."

we the proceeded (a little more dirrectly) to the campo de fiori (flowers) which is normally an open air market, but it was closing up, so we grabbed some expensive pizza and hit the pantheon. i'd never been inside it, and a few days ago as wayne, josh, and i sat infront of it i realized how curious i was. i had this image in my head of a dark cement-gray plain interior, evoking some sort of ancient simplicity or divine awe, with a bright shaft of light beaming from the pupil of the roof. instead i got a converted marble-floored chapel of some kind and some guy who wouldn't let us sit on the floor against the wall. the one cool part was that you could see the floor's arc that dirrected rainwater off to the edges, to the gutter in which we were sitting. we imagined a collumn of rain falling down the center of the large room, and how neat it would be to stand right next to it. i thought standing in it would be cooler.

that night we went out to dinner at a sardinian restaurant w/ wayne and massey, toasting to our time in rome. wayne let me order the wine and brusceta in my broken italian/spanish. i had veal of course. we walked back to the centro tipsy, said goodbye to massey after a quick wrestling match (on the marble floor), then donned or packs and went to the trevi fountain. there was a croud there, people hurling coins or singing four-part classical tunes, or justsitting and absorbing, like us. josh noted how incredible it was that we were hanging out, thousands of miles from where we started, in front of a beautiful fountain. our three days had been quite full, and rome is in no danger of disappearing anytime soon. as wayne said - parma has beautiful women, florence has art, but rome is rome. we parted ways, at least for a while, with european-style kisses and us-style hugs, and went to our room near the station. we'd gotten a place in a private apartment, a bit expensive but nice - it was kinda strange to have never known the owner's name.

october 15
the train to parma is so crowded that we're all sitting on small seats that fold out of the wall in the narrow train corridor, all writing in our journals because the last few days have been so crazy.

when josh and i arrived in florence ann met us with a flying hug and then we all flew off to find greg. the only directions that she had were stored in drunken memory from the night before, but somehow we found him. the guy at the desk let us into his room and we woke him up into a hangover morning. striaght to food. the city is smaller than rome, the walls are white, and everything exists in relation to the duomo - the big dome in the middle, all situated in a green-rimmed valley. anne took us up to see the grand vista, to eat panini, and catch up on our relative worlds. leaning on the cement of the wall, talking about news from swat and the drunken escapades of the night before, life was so great. it's incredible how we thirst for stories and jokes after only a couple months apart.

by that night we got to the uffizi. greg and anne were the perfect people to be with - she knows the styles and history, he knows the form and religion.
-- greg's theory - art now is about what you can do with what you have - not about true beauty (?) or stories (?)

at one point i turned around and there was the birth of venus.

o beauty born of healing sea
who brings us chills on sunlight wings -
in none of the stories or the pictures of your form
had they told of what i saw
when first i looked upon you -
the gold that you hide in your hair
that shone when i looked up.
and that distant look in your everything eyes -
is it desire for something beyond the canvas
or the euporia of the pure love you know?
i can only look on you so long
before my own imperfect dissatisfaction surfaces.
so guide my eyes and skin and heart
and let me find what you have found.
at another point i looked down a hall and the perspective was so complete that i could visualize it as two dimensional.

josh looks out on the piazza vecchio, the various lit monuments against a deep black sky, the long illuminating and perfect symetry of the wings of the uffizi, a culmination of the night's beauty, and falls to his knees in tears, overwhelmed.

that night we decided it was a moral imperitive to drink red wine on the steps of the duomo. we opened a bottle and passed it round, and upon finishing it, we had no choice but to open the next bottle, and upon finishing that, we went back to the bar and bought two more. the marble was cold beneath us, and the two o'clock air was chill enough to make us hurry thru the streets back to the apartment of a friend of anne, where the marble of the floor was also cold but soft to a tired body.

the next day was to the top of the duomo, surveying the sea of terracota rooves. boboli gardens - lots of green w/ hidden gods and sunset clouds. greg unrolls a cigarette and burns it the goddess ceres who looks over the garden. at the top of the hill was a view of olive trees and rolling hills that almost made me stay - i'd live right there in that yellow villa. greg pulls aside a block to get to the huge bust of zues, offers him a cigarette. he and i sneak under the crumbling brick vaults to relieve ourselves, an air of recklessness. for dinner we try to go to the white boar but end up at a different sot - gniocchi with gorganzola, spinach, white beans in olive oil (+ basil?)

[we've moved into a booth on the train. greg and josh are talking about revolution... he tells me to write this down: "greg is gonna start a revolution and change history." it's about the loss of meaning. we're on a train in europe planning a revolution.]

"i'm the most wrinkled person in the world." josh
"that's not artistic, but, i mean, i'm not an artist." (on making lemonade for the entire campus)

that night at the bebop (a club/bar) - bridge and his sister played hotel california which anne dedicated to lodge 2 - we sang so loud, and for the next two hours of intense music and fire and memories and joy and craziness. walking back greg says he's never been so drunk in his life - quite a statement. "...and if you do that you're fucking with god, and if you do that then you don't get the continental breakfast... and you *want* that continental breakfast... cuz you get eggs and hashgrowns and fuckin orange juice and toast. and you get that shit *every day* man, cuz there are like...... *several* continents. [insert several minutes of histerical laughter and falling down in the streets]" thank you for simplifying the world, greg. lets go sleep on the marble floor again.

today the best lunch - bread, goat cheese, proschuto, left-over wine from my water bottle, carrot, apple.
some guy offers us drugs - "trip" - in a deep wraspy voice.

october 16 (parma)

notes on a bus ticket:
we didn't even talk about last night's drunkenness - cuz that was yesterday.
the pleasure of staying at the table
batfishing in the rainforrest, randy wayne white
crichton, travels

il conto!

"now we start to reconstruct meaning amoungst the beauty and fragments of old gods. here we cry and purge ourselves. we must seek it and seek it incesently." paraphrased from greg's manifesto.

we have so amy ideas we have to choose which ones to make real.

eugenio montale - cuttlefish bones "end of childhood"

dinner at heaven (trattorie del tribunale)
"i'm so glad i live in a world with shit like... food." josh
"josh - you're a hedonist w/o the egocentrism." greg
"josh is a human truism"
i ask for cheese (parmasean) and olive oil, and prosciuto.. the concept of one plate to split between us all does not exist here, so we all get beautiful plates. she brings us balsamic vinegar too (from modena), tells me to put it on the parm - telling me a secret! [i smear a bit in my journal]
greg got wine - sparkling and gold in color - won't tell us what it is.
josh and i have vinsanto at the end - ambrosia, la dolce vita in a glass.
"this is where i should have spent my adolescence." greg
"this is reasonable. we are not." me "this defies reason, ergo we must do it." group motto, translated into italian and latin
"that's my only hope - that my name will be rewritten." greg
the cabinet of all things good
"sigh... i'm just right." me
"we teleport in, we're infused with beauty and freidnship, then we teleport back." josh
we left when we were sure we could stay forever. that's how it should be.


10.08 | october | 10.27