On Visitors and Hemingway

Sunset over Piazza della Libertà

Sunset over Piazza della Libertà

The past couple of weeks have been very busy here. I’ve had paperwork to do for the renewal of my Permesso di Soggiorno, I finished the pre-submission edit of my manuscript to the publisher, and I’ve had company from the Netherlands during this time. (I’ve also taken up playing World of Warcraft for the moment, but we won’t mention that.)

The Permesso paperwork was slightly less complicated this time, and I have an appointment at the Questura on the 7th of October in the morning. This renewal should be for two years. I have no idea how long it will take or what other hoops they will want me to leap through.

Tuesday I go over to the school where I took the civics class and take a test for placement in an Italian language class. I know already they’ll put me in the very beginning class, but that’s okay. I’m still using the language when I’m able outside the house. People speak English to me and I try to reply in Italian. Sometimes I get stuck and it doesn’t work so well, but it’s a process.

Shortly after my previous post, possibly inspired by the impending Scottish independence referendum, there was a Free Trieste rally down in the piazza below my apartment. The movement has been around for decades but, with public awareness of this sort of thing on the rise, I’m sure they felt it would bring some more visibility to the issue. They had a parade from I’m not sure where, though probably Piazza Unità, given some photos I saw from a friend. They were selling Trieste flags and t-shirts, and there were several speakers. From what I could tell, short speeches were given in Triestino dialect, Italian, Slovenian, German, and English. My brother and I watched some of it from the balcony.

Trieste independence rally

Trieste independence rally

Editing is always a major headache, but my upcoming book being a compilation of shorter pieces from my last 20 years of writing meant that much of it was already done. I’m currently waiting on a foreword from someone before I send it off to my publisher for copyediting and layout. I have a bunch of lovely cover blurbs from people in my community who will be well known among the readers that I’m writing for.

I prefer to edit on paper. Trying to edit on a screen is headache inducing when you’re talking about a few hundred pages of manuscript. That meant having to deal with a printer that refuses to acknowledge its printer cartridge (long story, and very annoying) and waiting for my brother to bring his printer up from storage. But, at long last, the entire manuscript was printed out, and editing could continue apace. One of the pleasures of editing on paper is being able to take a stack out to a café, have an aperitivo, and stare at it with red pen in hand. It’s just not the same on a laptop. My writerly spirit is not fed by laptops, even though they are magnificent tools for the actual writing process and mean I don’t have to scribble and entire manuscript by hand.

Paul Kater at Molo Audace

Paul Kater at Molo Audace

On the 21st, my friend Paul Kater arrived from the Netherlands for a visit, on his way down to more vacation in Crete. Paul is a fellow writer, who has published a bunch of books in English and a couple in Dutch, primarily in the fantasy/SF and steampunk genres. I actually met him through the steampunk community, due to our mutual love for the band Abney Park. He had a girlfriend in Seattle for some years, and I actually met him there on one of his visits back in 2012. We were both delighted that he was able to come and spend a few days.

Paul arrived late on the train from Venice, as it was delayed a bit. I went to the station in the rain to bring him back here, then gave him some dinner and sent him to bed. The next day we toured around downtown Trieste. We had considered going up to the Strada Napoleonica, but the walk around town was enough for one day.

The 23rd we went over to the American Corner, where I’d agreed to lead a short story discussion of a couple of Hemingway pieces. It being the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I, there have been events all over Europe, from what I understand. The AIA is doing a Hemingway month in honor of the whole thing. Paul and I were there, and three other people, all of whom had varying degrees of competence in English (their English was uniformly better than my Italian). We did discuss the stories, and read bits of them, and I spent a fair bit of time explaining English words and phrases that they hadn’t come across before, or that they didn’t understand. Our discussion ranged from Hemingway himself, to American colloquial language, to the changes in literary styles before and after the war. We talked about Modernism and Surrealism as well, and what was meant to be a one-hour discussion turned into two. Everyone asked if I was going to do a short story discussion again. I told them to talk to Denise, who organized that sort of thing. They all enjoyed it very much, and Paul was quite happy to have been along.

We did take the tram up to the Strada that afternoon. We didn’t do the loop trail, but just walked the main road itself, with some really incredible views. The day was perfect for a walk, sunny and just warm enough to be pleasant without being overbearing. We spoke to a couple from New Zealand on the tram. They had been going to take the tram all the way up to Opicina, but I explained that the town really didn’t have much and if they didn’t mind a walk, the Strada was really the thing to do, so they popped off at the Obelisk stop with us and had a wander. I hope they thought it was worth it.


Castello Miramare from the Strada Napoleonica


Seal of the city and territory of Trieste on the cliffs of the Strada Napoleonica

On Wednesday, Paul and I took the bus out to the Barcola and walked up to Castello Miramare. We once again had a really glorious day for it. The walk was beautiful, as the sea tends to be, and I hadn’t been up as far as the castle before. The approach from the waterfront includes a stretch of marine reserve that is partly maintained by the World Wildlife Federation. The WWF has an office in one of the buildings on the castle grounds, though we didn’t visit that. We paid for tickets into the castle and did the walk, though for much of the way through, we were behind a German-speaking tour group. It’s ridiculously impressive and wildly overdone, but parts of it are incredibly beautiful. We didn’t walk the entire grounds, but we did wander up one of the park paths to the café and have some lunch before heading back into town on the bus.


Castello Miramare from the end of the Barcola


So many fish in the sea!

Thursday, my brother saw Paul off to the train for Treviso for his flight to Crete. He was heading out at an ungodly hour of the morning, and I wasn’t awake, but we’d said our goodbyes the night before. That afternoon, my brother and I went and finished taking care of the Permesso paperwork at the post office.

Friday I was at the AIA again, where they were doing a Hemingway readathon of A Farewell to Arms. I was there from the beginning to the bitter end, and there was booze afterwards. Early on in the day, three English-language classes showed up, and most of the kids were persuaded (coerced?) into reading a page each. I read several times of the course of the day, and my brother showed up to do a little as well. We started at 9am and ended around 7pm, I think. I enjoyed it enough, but I’m still really not that fond of Hemingway just generally.

Early next month, my Italian language classes start. My friend Oggie from El Paso will be here later in the month, and then I’ll be going for a weekend in London where another friend is speaking at a conference there. I’m not sure what I’ll do with my Sunday that weekend – it depends on whether there are things happening with the conference people that day, whether Amy’s busy, and if I would rather visit the British Museum or try to see some of my friends at the Comicon in London that weekend instead. In any case, there will be more excitement and more photos to look forward to!


Outside the castle, a view of the Adriatic


Planters on the balustrade


No doubt an Arabic influence


Library porn!


An unexpected moment of Art Deco from one of the imperial relatives who lived here in the 20s/30s


The door hardware reminds me of so many doors I saw in Prague


This satiny stuff? Is wallpaper.


Gryphons on the stairway


Japanese and Chinese rooms were set aside for smokers


This fountain was inside and upstairs




Foliate mask fountain on the castle grounds



Moments of Absence

Editing at Caffe degli Specchi on a drizzly morning

Editing at Caffe degli Specchi on a drizzly morning

Life in the last couple of weeks has been busier than I’d quite anticipated. A writing project that I’d been poking around the edges of for a couple of years finally came together, and last week I signed a contract with my publisher for a collection of essays, articles, and other (mostly) previously-published works to appear under one cover. What this means is that I’ve been busy collecting files, making sure I had permissions from original publications, and messing about with the idea of self-publishing, though that has gone by the wayside, as it is just too much work for me.

The thing about writers is, ideally, that we write. It means that sometimes we disappear into ourselves and our notebooks or computers for days or weeks or months at a time as we work our way through our projects. Stuff gets neglected. Like, say, eating and sleeping. Also, blog posts.

My printer is out of ink and I need to get some more to finish printing out the draft manuscript. I’m spending a good deal of my time editing. In a couple of cases, it means taking the draft file and the published book to make sure that the two match, because editing happened between file and print.

Admittedly, a compilation is a lot easier than starting something from scratch. I’ve got about twenty years of material here to go with, and folks who are familiar with my work are looking forward to it. I’ve been asking around for cover blurbs and have got people working on front matter for me. Once something approaching layout is done, I’m also going to have to work on indexing the book, because nonfiction books without indexes are an affront to humanity.

Poems that I composed earlier this year for an anthology were accepted, so now I’m just waiting to hear about editing, printing, and publication dates. My friend Slippery Elm is editing the anthology and he’s back in Vancouver, BC from his cave in Spain. He says he’ll be returning to Spain after the end of autumn. He also sent me Spanish translations of a couple of my poems that he likes; they look lovely, even if I can’t read them very well. I’m enjoying the bits where Spanish and Italian have similarities.

Italian metal band Rhapsody of Fire in front of Teatro Verdi

Italian metal band Rhapsody of Fire in front of Teatro Verdi

Triestino pedestrian street at night

Triestino pedestrian street at night

My brother is here in Trieste, and we celebrated his birthday last week. We went out for Indian food to a place we hadn’t been before called Krishna, which was pretty good. It’s located just off Viale XX Settembre, across the street from an Indian grocery. I was very pleased that when I ordered chai, I got an entire pot before the meal arrived, as opposed to a small cup at the end of the meal. Of course, this also meant I didn’t sleep that night, but chai is worth it.

Most of Italy right now is shut down for Ferragosto (the Italian Wikipedia site is far more informative.) and the annual summer holidays. Ferragosto began in about the year 18 BCE as a festival introduced by the emperor Agustus, as a time of rest after hard agricultural labor. Today it’s apparently associated with the Assumption of the Virgin Mary by the Catholic Church. Lots of shops are closed outright, or have much reduced hours. Quite a few of my friends are or have been out of town. Ginger, the tea shop I like, has been closed down for the better part of a month now and will be re-opening on Wednesday, so I’ll have to drop by and say hello and see how the motorcycle trip went.

The heat here has been pretty intense for me, with my delicate Northwest climate sensibilities. We’ve had a lot of humidity and quite a few thunderstorms. I’m supposed to start Italian classes in early September. The Venice Film Festival is coming up, and I might go down for a day with some friends to see a movie or two. If I go, there will be pictures and review(s)!


Ballerina performs in Piazza della Borsa


More dance in the piazza

Further adventures with immigration


Palazzo Carciotti, which has nothing really to do with the post, but it’s a lovely building, isn’t it?

I returned to the Questura alone this past week, bearing the necessary papers that had been requested. I had mistakenly assumed that it would just be go in, turn in the papers, and sign the form. I am, of course, an idiot.

I did go upstairs to the office with the guy who needed the papers without having to take a number. After some waiting, I gave them to him. He produced copies of the integration agreement I had to sign – four of them, in English and in Italian. He gave me two for my records and sent me downstairs to request fingerprints. I took a number (because everything requires taking numbers) and waited in line. The first person I tried to talk to didn’t speak English and I didn’t have quite enough Italian to follow his questions, so he sent me over one window to the woman I’d been talking to in my other visits, who does speak English. She took my fingerprints and two passport photos then gave me another form, sending me upstairs again, to a different floor and a different office, where I was once again fingerprinted, with palm prints and the rest of the rigamarole I’d gone through in Pordenone, along with mug shots.

Once that was all done, I was sent downstairs again to the woman who had already seen me, and gave her the form that she’d initially given me, all dealt with and tied up in a bureaucratic bow. She said they would call me in a month and I could come in the afternoon to finally pick up my Permesso di Soggiorno. I knew that there was supposed to be a class involved on Italian civic and cultural life, and civil rights, so I asked her when and here that was supposed to be. There was a note on the very last page of the document, stating the class is supposed to be on April 28th. When I will be in Seattle. Sadly, I have yet to master the art of bilocation. “I’m going to be in the US that day,” I said. “I need to change the date for the class.”

She said that could be done, but it was another office in a different building, with different hours. This, I realized, was going to require my brother’s presence again, as I had no idea what I was going to encounter there. Knowing, however, where the class was supposed to be, I realized I should find it before I had to actually be there for a morning class.

I walked home, though, and then over to the office of the doctor I’d been referred to, as I hadn’t got a phone call in response to leaving my contact information, and the number for getting his office hours didn’t even pick up, it just disconnected without ringing. It’s not far from my place, just off Via Udine, so it was a quick walk. The office was closed, but I did get into the building and found some hours listed on the door of that particular office. I wrote them down and then headed out to see where the school was that I’d be going to the class in when I finally had to deal with it.

It was a rather lengthy walk up the hill into the San Giacomo district, but I found the place. It’ll be a much easier trip if I can take the bus, so I wrote down the numbers on the nearest bus stop to the school in order to look up schedules and routes online when I got home. My walk downhill went by a different route, and I passed one of the public parks of the city; there were some really spectacular views along the streets as I went, and it was a very nice day, so I had an enjoyable afternoon despite being tired by the time I was done.

My brother came by Friday morning and we went to the immigration office at the Prefettura, down on Piazza Unità. The entry is in the back of the building, on the street away from the piazza, but we found the proper office and talked to the folks who schedule the classes. They said it would be no problem to reschedule me for the class, as I had come to them early enough for it not to be an issue. They don’t have another scheduled yet, but will let me know as soon as another is ready to go, and I won’t be docked any points for not showing up at this one. The integration agreement requires me to get 30 points over the course of two years in order to remain in the country. Signing the integration agreement is worth 16 points, but if you don’t show up at the class, they take 15 of them away from you, so it’s pretty important to show up, and I didn’t want to mess anything up so early on in the process. Once that was dealt with, we had some lunch, then my brother headed out to get on with his day. I was concerned about the visit to the doctor but he told me I’d be just fine. This didn’t do a damned thing to ease the anxiety I was feeling, though.

Later that evening I went back to the doctor’s office. The hours posted on the door were for one of the other doctors there. She spoke no English, but I had enough Italian to ask when his hours were, and she showed me a grid on a sheet of paper inside the office doors. Monday evening is the next time I’ll be able to try to get in to see him. Because it’s evening, this may overlap slightly with my Italian class, but I’ve informed Luisella that I might be late (by email, in Italian); it’s really important that I get a prescription dealt with before I run out of the medications. The whole day was a rough one for my anxiety. I was nearly having panic attacks at several points, but still got through everything. Once I had the actual office hours for the doctor I need to speak with, I felt somewhat better.

Yesterday was an easier day on me. I went out for some lunch, then wandered over to Ginger for some tea. On my way back toward my place, I was contemplating stopping at the New Age Center to pick up a book they had on Irish and Celtic astronomical lore, written by what appears to be an Italian academic. The book is in Italian, but it would be yet more incentive to keep learning the language. There’s a lot of stuff written about the continental Celts, in particular, that isn’t translated into English, and isn’t generally available in the US, and I was hoping this might have some of that type of information. I have Mark Williams’s book Fiery Shapes: Celestial Portents and Astrology in Ireland and Wales 700-1700, but one never knows what else might be out there. I’m sure the bibliography alone will be worth perusing, if it’s actually an academic book and not fake “Celtic astrology.”

Before I got to the shop, though, I ran into Giulia and her boyfriend Luca, who invited me to go with them that evening to see the new Captain American movie. Being at loose ends, I happily accepted, and met them later at the Nationale, a small multiplex on Viale XX Settembre, for the 6:40 showing. The movie was in Italian, which I knew was going to be the case; I was up for it anyway, knowing I wasn’t going to get a whole lot of the dialogue. I managed to get enough of it to follow the general plot of the movie, though many of the details were lost. I had fun anyway.

After the movie, we met a couple of their friends for dinner. He’s a researcher at the university and she’s an attorney. They both had less English than Giulia and Luca, but certainly more English than I have Italian. I did try out what little I have during the course of the dinner conversation. They all seem pretty happy that I’m working on it. Giulia told me she’d ordered a couple of copies of my poetry book from Amazon, so I’ll sign them for her when she gets them.

Today is a lovely, warm, partly cloudy day. Now that I’ve written, it’s probably time to get out in the sunshine and enjoy myself before I go get groceries for the next few days.

#1day12pics and my visit to the Questura

Yesterday was our expedition to the Questura. I didn’t actually need to give them fingerprints again, or at least I didn’t need to provide them then. They hadn’t got some of my file from Pordenone yet, and were attempting to duplicate some of it to try to get the process completed faster, from what I could figure out.

We got to the office and saw the woman at the counter who’d called me on Friday. I brought my entire file with me. She wanted to see my Italian bank statements for the last five months (I’d only opened the account in late January) and/or statements from the US, as well as my rental contract, and my health insurance papers. I could provide the rental contract and the insurance papers, but she sent us off to get the bank statements, which I hadn’t thought to bring. “We need to make sure you have at least €5,000 to support you for the year,” she said. I think I’m safe on that one; it’s a hell of a lot less than the consulate wanted me to have, at any rate. For some reason she thought the consulate was supposed to stamp my medical insurance papers, but I’d only taken them down to San Francisco and left them there. If she’s used to seeing them with a stamp on them, it would have had to come from the consulate’s files, not from documents they returned to me, because they didn’t return anything and only sent the visa along in my passport. “If you can be back by noon, you won’t have to come back Thursday to bring the papers,” she said. We had about one hour.

This started a mad dash back to my place via the bank. We managed to get everything she’d asked for just before noon, and were sent upstairs to another office. We had everything, thankfully, except the document registering my rental contract. That I hadn’t received from the rental management agency my landlady uses, but they sent a PDF of the document to my brother after he phoned them before heading back home. He emailed me the PDF late that evening, which I printed out. I’ll take it in with me tomorrow when I go back to the Questura. The guy at the desk upstairs was familiar with the insurance company I’m using and, when my brother translated for him what the documents were showing, he said it would be no problem and he had just needed to confirm what level of coverage I had and what the deductible was, so we were good. With any luck, the registered contract will be the last thing I need to provide and I’ll be able to sign the documents that will let me get the Permesso di Soggiorno without any further delays.

Today I took part in a photography thing that I was told about on twitter – #1day12pics – which is a project where you document your day in 12 photos, one per hour. I’m sharing them here with you, rather than having posted them on twitter, as I preferred taking them with my camera instead of my phone. Anyway, welcome to a window on my daily life.


Breakfast at the computer – macchiato and kiwi fruit


The post arrives – Abraxas magazine and a book for the Women’s Space at the American Library


After paying the rent, lunch on Viale XX Settembre


Tea and a little writing at Ginger


Walking home along the waterfront, from Molo Audace


Mundane stuff has to be done, like washing the dishes


Did some sorting and arranging of the art – ceramics by Denny Sargent, mermaid carving by Reva Myers at Amber Moon


Grocery shopping and other supplies for the next few days


Catching up on some reading – Dark Green Religion by Bron Taylor


Dinner! It was yummy.


From the Sarasavati altar


The end of the day is nigh