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Friday, April 10, 2009
There is something spectacular about waking up in a strange place. Some mornings there is panic and confusion, but if one is at peace where he is at or know that in the confusion and strangeness of a new place, there is something there that he is meant to find and call his own.
You walk the streets here, never knowing who you are to find or why. Italian, German, English, French, coffee, smoke, and always the smell of something ancient is in the air.
Perhaps it is my nose, or skin color or demeanor, but I am occasionally mistaken for someone that speaks the mystery of Italian. I usually can understand what is being said, so I play the quiet gentleman who smiles and nods, agreeing with most of what is said by the other. And while if the moment is forced to climax and I have to reveal my hand, bumbling something incoherent like “I sorry, speak only English” (an embarrassing confession in itself), it leaves me free to fill in the cracks of the language barrier, to pretend that I missed a long anf dangerous romance or friendship only because my tongue and brain couldn’t work together to form the same letters in only a slightly different rhythm. Every bummed cigarette, ever query for directions is suddenly mysterious, exotic, questionable, and thoroughly justified in its necessity.
Even the little children here, and the teenaged girls and the gossiping old women, all famous of course for there staggering lack of anything interesting to say, suddenly turn into muses, poets, their words tripping off the tongue like little symphonies, me smiling and knowing in the back of my head that they are talking about the same nothing that anyone ever talks about around the world, about love and lateness, neglect, frustration, triumph, last nights dinner, tomorrows disappointments. Its all been said before, but I get to hear it differently, and that fact alone brings me great peace.
Rome last weekend was more than enjoyable. It is the fourth time I have been to that Great city and I think I fall for it more and more each time. I tried to sit down and write some engaging prose about what happened, all that keeps coming are the incongruities, the humor. Like wanted to stay in my first hostel for the “cultural experience” of it, which is basically akin to pitching your tent in the back yard as a kid when you have a perfectly good bed 40 yards away on the coldest night of the year. I somehow wound up in room with all girls, the only other room having been filled with heavy drunk Spaniards speaking Basque so fast that I couldn’t even begin to understand what was happening, smoking inside, and casting disapproving looks towards our English. The room I stayed in was occupied by myself, the two girls I was with, and topped off by two girls from Wis-can-seen (Wisconsin), both who looked like they routinely move large farm animals from place to place, day by day using only their brute strength.
So after a long a strange night of Chinese food eaten down sketchy alley ways with fake waiting lists, a call back to my true home (and loved one) and an Irish pub run by drunken Italian, French, English speaking Australians, and graceful company to discuss the oddities of life, the terrors of the future, and graffiti, wistfulness, flower stands in full bloom at 3:00 in the morning, the year 2024, bad English translations, lapses in judgment (in general I suppose), and a good night sky to rehash and imagine what the hell happened in life that could possibly bring a Texas boy to Rome on the cusp of what is to come…I returned “home” to this hostel.
It’s late to say the least by this point. The two Midwest girls are snoring. As in so loud that if one wants to use the tired, sawing logs metaphor, than I blame them personally for the phenomenon of deforestation. And this isn’t even the worst part. So even though I fell asleep, finger tips shoved in my ears, I awoke a mere hour or so later, to what sounded like air compressor kicking into function: a succession of loud, inescapable flatulence. And then again and hour later. And then again. May I remind you that there was not another male in that room, even though I prayed desperately for a different explanation, to be able to blame it on anything besides the girls that were sleeping maybe 20 feet from me. It was to say the least, a scarring experience. I guess I got my culture though.
This last weekend was my birthday. I’m not going to ramble about it, but I just want to say that everyone who got me this far, thank you. To my parents, to Niki, to my friends that are still alive and well (even if they aren’t around) thank you. 22 wasn’t exactly part of the plan. I missed everyone dearly, but please know that I am happy, healthy, and I could die tomorrow a happy man if need be.
Florence next week for a bit of a family reunion. Hopefully my cousin Sarah can show me the part of Florence that actually speaks Italian.
Until next time…
9:02 AM ]
Sunday, April 5, 2009
I see a man that stands the test of time, beyond, above all the people that stand before him, more numerous, more deadly than the beads of water that are falling, that have always fallen, and will always fall.
Yet does any of this matter or is as real as the pain in the hands and shoulders of the artist that cracked this perfection into stone? Or even as much, as enough as the love and hate of those who turn their backs to Heaven and toss fortunes into the pool?
There is a sense of something greater here, like a watermark of the ancients, the wave of it having broken here in front of me, calling to the thousands, the hundred of thousands, for all corners of the globe saying look, no listen, this is what we are or perhaps what we will never be. A dream of what this city and its people wanted, to be gods, and gods among men.
So look, and long and listen as the four corners come and collapse upon themselves, and rise again, always rising, rising, rising.
Just got back from Rome. I wrote this partly because i was tired of seeing all the artists around me able to capture some of what they were seeing, while i just sat there dumbly. This helped.
I have pictures, and stories, but not for today, I am beyond tired. Rome is long and wide, but more soon I promise. I miss you all.
8:51 AM ]
Sunday, March 29, 2009
It is the end of what has been a long and most strange weekend. I woke up this morning to the winds trying to tear this old building apart, windows rattling and flexing in protest. From my vantage point, my window that over looks the town and the valley below, I could almost see the wind screaming across the hills and up through this little town that I live in. The weather all weekend has done its best to make me feel as if I’m in a twilight zone rerun. Warm rain falls in full sunlight only to be replaced moment later by ominous clouds, then sunlight again. The air has simply hung for the last 3 days, like damp laundry that refuses to dry.
Its been all too quite in the huge monastery, the majority of students have been in Rome for the last 3 days, visiting museums, staying in the little trendy apartments in the quiet parts of town, practicing their sketching, eating the best food. Basically living the hard life. When I first arrived here, I was disappointed that the group was so huge, we are nearly maxed out here with 26 students. It’s impossible to go anywhere as a community without looking like we just dropped in from the Midwest (no offense to my sister who JUST GOT ACCEPTED TO WHEATON! Congrats Mary!). I don't mind the size at all now, but I do enjoy the fact that I can blend in most places that I go, (something about my face maybe) at least until I open my mouth. Ha, I must sound so absurd trying to speak this beautiful language, babbling like a slow yet demanding toddler, pointing at things and saying what translates to basically “I want that one!” I try though, I try and one of the things that I love so much about this culture is that most people truly appreciate the effort. Its both entertaining and frustrating at the same time when the shop owner, or the cashier can tell that you are obviously English speaking, so instead of responding back in Italian, they switch over to their own stilted, yet beautiful sounding English to get some practice, a skill which most here who know any of our language are very proud of.
Random side note. I went to a “show” on Thursday night, per request of an English girl who lives in this town and teaches English to the high schoolers. Her kids were playing so I went to see this group of about 5 or 6 guys, dressed to the hilt, piercings, meticulous hair, upturned collars, putting forth their best rock and roll stance to play such American hits as “Tutti Frutti” and “Twist and Shout” It was all I could do to keep a straight face, and well even then that didn’t work out so well. I guess American culture is good for a few things huh?
This weekend was also the weekend of random crazy people wandering up to me and delivering long soliloquies in Italian even though I fully exercised and enunciated the one Italian phrase I can say like a pro: “I’m sorry, I don’t speak Italian.” Unfortunately, I haven’t mastered yet the phrase “please go away, you’re scaring me and the children around you.” The other part that sucks, is that I can understand just enough to not be completely in the dark, but I can only say “Nooooo” with an aghast expression when the crazy guy asks me such pleasant conversational topics as what I would do to those girls sitting in the corner, or what I think about the Jews, or whatever else the crazy drunk old man wants to be disgusting about. Also, I’m not so good with my transitory verbs yet, so one moment I’ll be half-way following a story about WWII and something about bombs, then suddenly there is something very passionate being said about runway models and the benefits of Walt Whitman. True story. Same thing happens with Italian television. Either people here have the worlds weirdest attention span’s, or I just don’t get it. Maybe a bit of both.
Hope all is well with you who are reading and to those who are getting ready to graduate. You are all in my thoughts. My birthday is in two weeks, and I’m thinking about heading to Florence to see some family, so I will keep everyone updated on anything of note, which in this strange and beautiful country, there always is.
Until next time…
8:50 AM ]
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Did you know that according to statistics, there will not be a single native Venetian left in the city in thirty years. Can you imagine that, your city, perhaps not existing in your lifetime?
It was in all accounts, a perfect weekend. Our group of six traveled to Venice and Bologna for a whirlwind tour of about 70 hours. We spent far too much money and did just about everything wrong, and I don't think I've ever been happier.
Anyone who has been to the city knows its a city of ass backward streets that open into nothing, roads that are bare wide enough for two Italians or one American fast food enthusiast, that open into such wonders as the piazza del san marco (which was a nice break from frescos. sorry Italy) or some guy playing Vivaldi's Four Seasons on perfectly pitched crystal stem ware, or hit a dead end and be at the Guggenheim.
Its too expensive, to old, to hard to get around, too full of English and people pretending to speak English, too gaudy, and destined for failuer. But I dare you, nay defy you to stand on the main arch of the city and watch the sun set over the grand canal without having a conversion experience, I don't care who you are, who you are with, and under what pretense, there is a this hour time spand where you must stop and think to yourself that God might have had some idea what he was doing when he set his eyes on Italy.
Bologna was fantastic as well and by some accounts, is home to some of the best food in the country, which I'm going to go on record as saying I stand by. We had a meal that worked out to the equivilant of around $50/person, but that could have easy moved one to tears. Perfect veal, perfect wine, it was almost crimial. And after that, a quite afternoon in the park without seeing a single tourist, a bottle of wine, a lake, sleep. I think the most stressful part of the day must have been when I had to pony up .20 e for the restroom. Rough life huh?
There are so many more things to say of course, just as there will always be. I told someone very close to my heart before I left that one of the skills I hope to find in this country is the words to describe what I always feel are indescribable. A lofty goal I know, but I find that being here almost leaves me with less to say than more. I am far more content with just leaving things be, without forcing myself to find the worlds. If any of you know me well, you know how big of a deal that it, for words are what I do and for me to go easy on the prose must be a welcome relief, haha. It is difficult at times, how exactly do you write about Rome, or Florence, or Venice. What descriptive hand could you or I possibly lend it? My advice, see it while you can, while it still stands or there are still natives there to point you in the right direction, uphil and inland. And if you are the last one off, don't forget the lights.
Hope you all are well...
12:52 PM ]
Thursday, March 19, 2009
I think it is safe to say that I have hit my stride here in Italy. This week truly marked a turning point for me in this last year, and really these last few years of travel and constant readjusting of my surroundings. It has by no means been easy. My travels have taken me away from many, and one specifically, that I love dearly. I am confident however that no matter where this strange and wonderful life may lead me, I will be far more than just ok. Again to those friends and family who have supported me in all this, thank you, I couldn't do it without you. Know that I am happy with where I am at this moment, but i look forward to seeing you all when I return. It is so comforting to be a peace with knowing that I can find my way wherever I live and with whatever I choose to do.
This week has been crazy, I had a final exam, presentation, and paper due today, but I leave for Venice in the morning for a long weekend of travel. We have a canal ride booked for sunset on Saturday, as the lights begin to give life to a city that is slowly sinking. I have high hopes for these next few days, and I will keep everyone updated.
Much love to all who are reading.
11:13 AM ]
Thursday, March 12, 2009
So yeah, I saw the Pope yesterday. It was unbelievable. As we walked into Vatican city, I expected to be seated in the Protestant section, then we got closer, and closer, and then even closer, until we were literally perhaps 40 yards from the Pope. He blessed our group as we were acknowledged in front of a crowd of perhaps 20,000 people which is a completely manageable crowd in Rome. The service was conducted in English, Spanish, German, French, and of course Italian. It was an amazing spectacle, situated directly in front of St. Peter's Basilica. Breathtaking.
I was speaking with a few of my friends about the fact that, in a way, we felt guilty for being there considering the fact that there are literally millions of Catholics around the world that would kill for the opportunity to look upon the leader of their faith, and here we are, semi-spoiled Protestant kids who barely recognize, try as they might, the gravity and enormity of what it is to see the Pope in Italy in front of the Pope's personal church. I think the most difficult part is most of us as students raised in a Protestant background appreciate the Pope on a historical level, acknowledge the fact that he holds one of the world's longest standing positions of power, and is the spiritual leader of nearly 1 billion people around the world, yet we don't know where to place him in our hierarchy of personal beliefs. I mean, I think we've advanced past the "Whore of Babylon" days, but it is still a quandary. More on this later, we have been intensely studying the the ecumenical drive the the Catholic chruch is spearheading, a revolutionary movement in its self, but dinner nears, and I don't have the proper time for it.
If you want to see where exactly we were sitting, check out my facebook. Actually it might be a few days for facebook, apparently Italian's don't believe in bandwidth. Thats all for now.
10:46 AM ]
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
I am currently reading and interesting collection of essays on sex and sexual morals within the confines of marriage and through the lens of Catholic theology. It is an interesting and in my opinion, almost shockingly conservative document considering some of the paradigm shifts that resulted from the famous and in some circles infamous ecumenical documents that resulted from Vatican II in the 1960’s.
Sex, sexual moral, and sexual piety or lack their off is such a Brobdingnagian topic within American society, and I suppose the world over as well. Whether it is a reaction or expansion/adoption of western sexual ethics, this discussion and force drives so much of societal interaction on both a micro and macro scale. Culture wars rage over it, linguistic wars (pro-life/pro-choice rhetoric), inter-religious wars rage over it, political figures are elected because of it, science is affected by it, family structures and eventually country statistics can be shaped by it.
My upbringing of course, has taught me more conservative views on the subject, yet I had always in a way assumed, as do many of my piers I think its safe to say, that once one gets married (a 1 of the 7 sacraments to the catholic church, on par with communion, Baptist, confirmation, etc.) than it is rather, “game on” to put it delicately. For the Catholic church however, at least in theory, that is only the beginning of your commitment to a chaste life and exerting strength over natural desires. Its been pointed out though by a few of my Catholic friends here, that as with anything, there is usually a huge split between theory and practice. Anyways, that’s enough for now, I just have been very intrigued to learn about the faith in a way that is theological and informative rather than demonizing or ignorant.
The weather has taken a turn for the better, as if trying to make amends for the gloom of last week. We head to Rome again tomorrow, early, for an audience with and a blessing from the Pope. It should be an incredible experience. More on that later and I truly hope all of you are well.
11:24 AM ]