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.

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Castello Miramare from the Strada Napoleonica

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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.

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Castello Miramare from the end of the Barcola

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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!

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Outside the castle, a view of the Adriatic

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Planters on the balustrade

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No doubt an Arabic influence

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Library porn!

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

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

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This satiny stuff? Is wallpaper.

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Gryphons on the stairway

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Japanese and Chinese rooms were set aside for smokers

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This fountain was inside and upstairs

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Squirrel!

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Foliate mask fountain on the castle grounds

 

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Compleanno in Italia

You may notice that the header on my blog has changed. The old photo was a street in the small mountain town of Poffabro, in the Dolomite mountains. It was beautiful, but it was from my visit in 2012, and it reflects the more rural beginning of my journey here. The new header, I think, is more appropriate to the current themes of my life – living in the city of Trieste, being once again in a city, and entering a new phase of my life.

Also, the Free Territory of Trieste feels kind of like being in a pirate movie, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t want to be in a pirate movie?

My birthday was this past week. The bora blew through town that day, rattling windows, blowing every hidden bit of trash out of its concealing crevice, and staggering the pedestrians as we went about our business. My own windows didn’t rattle at all, due to the lovely double-paned outside windows that are relatively new to the building. It was silence itself inside.

My brother was in town overnight for my birthday. We went over to the Questura to see if they had the papers that had been sent from Pordenone, but the office was already closed for the day by the time he’d arrived and we got over there. We got the hours, though, and also found the office of the Comune di Trieste, where I’ll need to register my residence and get my Carta d’Identita.

For dinner, we went to the Arcoriccardo restaurant, which I linked to in my last post. It was a quiet evening there, and the food was really good. It was, as anticipated, on the expensive side but not over the top. I thought it was worth it for what we got and would certainly go back for a special occasion again. Service was very good, as well.

The next morning, we went to the Questura, where we were told that the papers had not yet arrived from Pordenone. They made sure they had my proper phone number and said someone would call when they were ready for me to come in. After that we walked to the office where I had to register my residence. I wasn’t able to do so, but the question about why Montereale hadn’t given me my Carta d’Identita was resolved. Apparently, the first time you apply for your Permesso di Soggiorno, they won’t register your residence or give you your card until you actually have the Permesso. After that, if you are renewing your Permesso, they don’t worry about that and all you need is the receipt from the post office. So, weirdness resolved, but I’m still a bit in limbo. Regardless, I’ve done everything they’ve asked of me so far, and things appear to be legal and going all right. It does seem there may be a bit more of a delay, though, given the move and the transfer of the papers.

About ten minutes after my brother left to go home, the Questura called. They want me to come in Tuesday morning to get fingerprinted. Again. I don’t know why, but I’ll be there. My brother will come up on his motorcycle and go with me in the morning then head back home after lunch.

He brought more bookshelves with him when he came, so now three more bookshelves were built, and all of my books are finally up off the floor. This is a relief, and I do have room on some of the shelves to let the collection grow, as libraries do. We all know books breed in the dark, when we’re not looking.

Today it has been gloriously sunny. The time shift happened last night, so now the clock has moved forward an hour and dusk comes later. I hate clock shifts, but it will be nice to have more light in the evening again. Feeling like a walk and wanting to get some sun, I headed down to the Molo Audace, the long, narrow stone pier near Piazza Unità. I think all of Trieste was out walking today, in the piazze and along the waterfront. There was a haze over the sea, and cargo ships floating like islands on the horizon. Sailboats skimmed slowly over the calm water like the people walking the shoreline.

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Ships and sailboats on the Adriatic off Molo Audace

I saw an immense number of jellyfish, along with small schools of minnows skimming just below the surface of the water. Beneath the murmur of conversation, if you listen closely, you can hear the tiny splash of dorsal fins. There were two species of jellyfish, their umbrellas rippling gently as they moved, rising and falling in slow motion. I sat on the dock for a while, writing in my notebook and enjoying the warmth of the sun.

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Aurelia aurita (smaller jellyfish) and Rhizostoma pulmo swimming near the pier

Finally, feeling like moving, I rose and headed back toward the Piazza. Along the way, a man with a hookah sat on the stone, putting together a fishing pole. Around me, Italian, German, and Slovenian language in waves. I walked slowly, trying to let go of my need for perfection and my unconscious desire to hurry everywhere. I thought about Specchi, but it was pretty crowded, as one would expect on a brilliantly sunny Sunday afternoon. I walked down to Ginger, but the four little tables inside were full, and there was a line, so I wandered back to Specchi and got a seat anyway, and had a spritz aperol. The presentation was a bit over the top, with a bowl of chips and bits of other snacks on pikes like the heads of my enemies.

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Spritz aperol with food on spikes. NOM.

I talked briefly to the waiter. I think people are starting to recognize me, even if they don’t know my name, as the smiles I get are friendlier than they were the first few times I’ve been into some of these same places. It’s nice, having people recognize my presence as something other than a passing thing. He grinned when I left, at my “ci vediamo.” I can’t say much, but I’m trying to use more of what little I do have in hopes it will become easier. I stopped a couple of blocks from my flat at Gelateria Zampolli, at Via Carlo Ghega 10, which came recommended to me as one of the better places in town. I remember when I was initially researching Trieste online, I’d read one person’s report of the city, complaining that they couldn’t find a gelateria anywhere, and I will admit I find myself wondering if they ever got more than a block from Piazza Unità for their entire visit, as there are quite a few gelaterias here, just like pretty much anywhere else in Italy. I had a scoop of lemon. It was delicious.

Tonight I’ve got some chicken simmering on the stove. I’ll make chicken soup with lentils. My brother brought me baking powder, baking soda, and corn starch for various things, so I picked up eggs and milk to make scones. I usually use an egg substitute because I’m mildly allergic to eggs, but a little bit in a batch of scones isn’t usually a problem. A year ago, I didn’t imagine my life would look like this, ever. It’s strange what life hands us sometimes.

The flat smells like chicken soup. The balcony door is open. The sun is lowering in the sky. Life is good.