Ljubljana and Being Buried in Game Worlds

They don’t call it Word of Warcrack for nothing. Yes, that is in large part why you haven’t seen anything from me here recently. That, and much of February spent with evil migraines. But here I am again, with more photos from the last couple of months, and a little bit of natter as well.

While I didn’t have any photos of my cousin from her visit to Venice last year, my brother did take a few. Here’s Lisa and her husband, enjoying themselves greatly.

Lisa and her husband - photo by Jim Laurie

Lisa and her husband – photo by Jim Laurie

My friends from Prague came and went over the holiday in December. Jim and I tried to go out for a traditional New Year dinner at a local restaurant, but that was kind of a disaster. The food was mediocre at best, and the restaurant didn’t tell anyone it was cash only, so every last person in the place had to go to the bancomat for cash to pay for dinner. There were a lot of very unhappy people that night. Despite the freezing cold and the wind, though, there was a huge party going on in Piazza Unità at midnight.

As always, I helped out with food over the holiday at the AIA. In this photo, though, I’m taking a quick break from my duties. The turkey was fantastic.

Taking a break from cooking - photo by Jim Laurie

Taking a break from cooking – photo by Jim Laurie

Piazza Unità was lit up for Christmas, and there was a small Christmas market in town, which was nice diversion. A group from Udine was in town making polenta for the masses. It was pretty tasty, but there were potatoes involved so I didn’t eat much of it.

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traditional mass production of polenta – photo by Jim Laurie

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how to get a huge amount of polenta onto the slab – photo by Jim Laurie

 

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Piazza Unità lit up for the holidays

A couple of weeks ago I went to Ljubljana for the first time. It’s a really lovely city. I toured the castle and walked around the pedestrian downtown area. Franci, the very kind gentleman who showed me around, took me to lunch at a place called Sarajevo, which served Bosnian food and Yugoslavian nostalgia. We had huge sandwiches of ćevapčići served with raw onion and a soft, slightly sour cheese called kajmak, which tastes rather like what might happen if you’d made mascarpone with sour cream. It was delicious and very filling.

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Ljubljana castle

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ceiling in the scriptorium

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stairwell in the observation tower – note the dragons on the stair treads

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window detail

We stopped at a wine bar for a sample of some local wines. (“See that guy at the bar there? He’s the mayor of Ljubljana.”) I had a very nice, hearty red while Franci let me sample his orange wine. The flavor of it was rather like port, raisiny and round, and I quite liked it.

There was an exhibit of Dalí works at a convention center, as well, and I was excited to go and see it. Finding it, though, was a bit challenging. It was in a building that was behind what was essentially a small-scale construction site in a parking lot, so it was difficult to tell that something was actually happening there. Most of the exhibit consisted of a collection of prints from The Divine Comedy, and a selection of his prints illustrating biblical texts. The most interesting thing for me, though, was a series of prints showing each individual color plate for one complete print. I think there were over 30. The resulting print looked more like a painting than a print, and some of the plates had just a tiny spot of color to highlight or overlap on another. It was complex and elegant, and absolutely fascinating.

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winter gets so cold even the fountains have to wear wooly hats

We walked through one of the main parks in town, on the way up to some small museums. There was still some snow on the ground, though the crocuses were showing in sunny spots on the hills. It was cold, but a gorgeous day. We visited the museum of graphic arts, which had a showing by Alenka Pirman, a local Slovenian artist who spent a fair bit of time in New York City. Some of her work was satirical and quite funny. She did a collection of skateboards that were quite absurd. One was upholstered. Another was essentially on stilts. There was a fake book project, and a few other things of that sort, and I quite enjoyed most of it.

Dinner was at a restaurant called Čompa in the middle of the old town. The food was simple and very much like what you would get at an osmiza, but absolutely beautifully done. I talk about food porn, and this was hot sex on a plate. The place was packed and we got in pretty much by chance, when a group cleared out at a table a little earlier than expected. The food was excellent, the wine was very good, and I have to say that walnut schnapps is very tasty stuff.

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nuns in the park

I had traveled to Ljubljana via a service called GoOpti, which is sort of a private bus service that will take you door to door or from point to point through a fair bit of continental Europe. I paid a little under €50 including tax to go round trip from the train station across the street to the central station in Ljubljana. The hours are actually quite flexible compared to commercial bus services, and the service was good. My return trip was at about 10:30 pm, so after dinner we had another walk.

Franci took me to a part of town called Metelkova, essentially an arts district with guerilla galleries, alternative scene clubs, and a lot of young people. It rather reminded me of the artists loft neighborhood that Zoh took me to in Brooklyn when I visited a couple of years ago to do my poetry reading in New York. We sat in an outdoor structure among people smoking and drinking and conversing in several languages as we waited. It was a great atmosphere, and very good company.

On the writing front, Jerome Rothenberg says that the poetry anthology Barbaric Vast and Wild, which will have my version of the cauldron of poesy text, is due out on April 7th, and he was requesting addresses for contributor copies. I’m very excited for this publication, as his anthology Technicians of the Sacred has been very much an influence on my work over the years.

Next month I’ll be making another brief trip to London, this time for a Sherlock convention. Should be a lot of fun. I have my plane trip, my shared hotel room, and my ticket for the event. I’m very excited!

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