Ergo bibamus, ne sitiamus, vas repleamus!

When last we left our intrepid poet and her sibling, they were in Venice awaiting the arrival of a long-lost cousin.

We hadn’t seen Lisa since she was maybe nine. There had been a rough divorce, I left home shortly afterwards anyway, and she’d spent years not really wanting to be in contact with the rest of us, from what I understand. Funny how 30-ish years changes people.

Lisa and her husband arrived on the train after having been on the road for some days already, doing a tour of Italy. They’d been in Rome and Florence, I think, among other places, and having a grand time. She’s been living in Hawaii for years and works in the medical field these days. We helped them find their hotel, waited while they dropped things off and got themselves together, then went off to find some food. We were so busy catching up with each other that nobody thought to take any photos.

We introduced them to spritz Aperol, which they found instantly addicting, and they spent the rest of their time in Italy having them every day. It was a delight to become acquainted with her once again after so many years, and we’ll stay in touch. She’d love to come back and visit again – maybe next time she’ll come to Trieste!

A few days later, I flew from Ronchi airport, here near Trieste, to Stanstead in order to go to the I:MAGE conference at the Warburg Institute in London, where I wanted to hear my friends Amy and Pam do presentations. The day-long conference was part of almost two weeks of other activities surrounding esoteric art and the occult, including a showing of contemporary occult art at the Cob Gallery in the Camden area of London.

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river boats at the Camden Market above the locks

The city is half an hour or so away from the airport, and I took the bus in. My hostel was in Camden Town, in walking distance of the conference, but also of the British Museum, Camden Locks, and the Camden Market. The place was cheap and clean, but it was also above a bar (where hostel clients got free breakfast and a discount on selected food and drink). The crowd was, primarily, quite young, but that tends to be the sort who stay in hostels. That, and rather more adventurous adults who want to travel cheap and don’t mind sharing rooms with strangers.

I hadn’t realized how much I missed skyscrapers until I got to London. Trieste is beautiful but very modest in terms of tall buildings. There are some apartment blocks up near the Cattinara hospital that are quite tall, but most of the city is pre-20th century, so the buildings are rarely more than five or six floors. I don’t mind that at all, but it was nice to be in a proper city again.

London is immense. There was no way for me to see more than just a tiny part of it in the weekend I was there. That said, I was thrilled to walk streets and see things that I had been reading about or seeing on TV or in the movies my entire life. I walked along Montague Street near the museum, where Sherlock Holmes had his rooms before Baker Street. I walked by a building where Charles Dickens once lived. I had cheap street food at Camden Market, surrounded by a swirling mass of humanity from all over the world.

at the British Museum

at the British Museum

The conference itself was really good. I had a lot of fun and met some fantastic people. One lady, Susan Alberth, wrote a book called Leonora Carrington: Surrealism, Alchemy and Art, which I picked up a copy of at the reception that night at Treadwell’s, a London fixture in the occult scene. I’ve been interested in the Surrealists for a long time, and a lot of my poetry is influenced by that artistic movement, so it was a delight to hear a presentation on Carrington, and to meet Susan. She’s very interested in Trieste, as well, so she may come visit at some point.

The next day, I spent time at the British Museum, at the Witches and Wicked Bodies exhibit, as well as seeing some of the other things I’d always admired from afar. I saw the material from the Sutton Hoo burial, wandered through the exhibit of materials from Sumeria, stood for a time with Hadrian and Antinous, and was dazzled by even the tiny fragment of the museum that I was able to experience.

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Andrea Mantegna’s Battle of the Sea Gods

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detail, Agostino Veneziano’s Lo Stregosso

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detail, Martin Schongauer’s Tribulations of Saint Anthony

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detail, an Italian Isis from about 120-150 CE

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one of the Lewis Chessmen, carved from walrus ivory

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guardsman from the Palace of Darius, Persepolis, Iran

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Zoroastrian senmurw on a gilded silver plate

After that, I made the long hike up to the Cob Gallery for the I:MAGE exhibit. In addition to the collection for the conference, they had a one-day-only showing of an image by Aleister Crowley that has been in a private collection for decades. Considering that many of those in attendance were Thelemites, the rare showing was a bit of excitement for them. Personally, I’m more interested in the work of Austin Osman Spare, if we’re going in that direction. For one thing, I think he was a much better artist.

After the reception, Amy and I wandered off and had some dinner at a pub nearby, called The Spread Eagle. A number of (in)appropriate jokes were made about the name, but the food was good, and the company was excellent. The next day I grabbed a bus back to the airport and headed home to Trieste.

London was amazing and I’ll definitely be going back.

The next weekend, my brother and I went off to Osoppo to the Halloween Fest to see Corvus Corax. He doesn’t have his car so we rode for over an hour on his motorcycle to get there, in the falling dark. We met some of our Italian friends there. I didn’t have enough money for both of us to go to the concert, but my brother said that didn’t bother him. He could hear the music perfectly well from the campsite our friends were staying at, and there was a nice campfire, so he’d be okay.

The concert was supposed to start at 7:30, I think, but didn’t really get started until much later. The first group up was La Corte di Lunas, an Italian group from Udine who were quite good. I’d certainly pay to see them again, though they weren’t the reason I’d gone.

lead singer, La Corte di Luna

lead singer, La Corte di Lunas

Once they left the stage, a couple of guys from Fabula, a German band, played near the booths while the stage was changed up for Corvus Corax, who have a massive set of instruments. (I mean this in the best way. I have severe percussion envy.) They’re influenced by Corvus Corax and Dead Can Dance, among others, and put on quite a nice show for about fifteen minutes. Later in the evening, they joined CC on stage for one tune, and were obviously having a fantastic time. If I’d had any cash, I’d have got a cd from them, but it was near the end of the month and I was broke.

the guys from Fabula

the guys from Fabula

The crowd for the festival was small, but we were definitely enthusiastic! Corvus Corax is the Linnaean name for the Common Raven, and the band is based out of Berlin. They play medieval Latin drinking songs from the Carmina Burana, among other things, and they rocked the house. They put on a hell of a show, and their part of the concert ended after midnight. There was a third act coming up, but we had over 90 minutes on the road on a motorcycle ahead of us, so my brother and I headed home after that. I was just thrilled to be able to see the band live, as I’d wanted to for years. It was the perfect cap to a very eventful month.

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possibly the most badass hurdygurdy in existence

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redefining the pipe and drum band

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in which the poet suffers serious percussion envy

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when these guys walked in, it was like some esoteric priesthood of the pipes

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cymbals can be badass too

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check out those wrist mics – no, I mean really, what a great idea

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this guy always looked like he was having so much fun with the drums

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horns – not just for drinking anymore

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so badass it requires two players

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I’d want these guys behind me on a medieval battlefield, yes I would

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giving horny a new definition

 

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Making a Month of It: Part 1

How do I even get started with October? I’m going to have to give you two posts about it, I think, as this is going to get unwieldy otherwise.

The entire month was pretty much full of visits and travel and planning for visits and travel and recovering from visits and travel, though not in that order. Some paperwork issues have been resolved, Italian classes are finally (sort of) scheduled, and art and music has been viewed and appreciated.

Starting with the bureaucratic necessities, my new Permesso di Soggiorno was approved for two years, and I should be receiving a text from the Questura sometime in the next few weeks to come down and pick it up. A letter arrived for me, dated a couple of weeks prior to the approval, telling me to come down to the office with more papers – that had already been done. Ah, the efficiency of the Italian post. I elected not to freak out on it when I saw the date. What this means is, I will go through the process one more time for another two years when this one is up, then I can apply for my permanent residence, which you can do after you’ve been in Italy for five years.

I took the Italian language placement test and, as expected, fell into the A-1 level. The teacher, Fran, was quite convinced I should be in A-2 and seemed to desperately want to put me there, despite my not having the irregular verbs down too well, and having some trouble understanding some of the conversational stuff. Class lists finally were posted this week, after almost a month of waiting. I’m on a waiting list for an A-1 class, but Fran called and said I could come and sit in as I liked on her A-2 classes until my A-1 class came open, so two nights a week I’ll be going down to the school on Ugo Foscolo to sit in on a class rather more advanced than where I genuinely ought to be, starting this Thursday, because Monday is the local saint’s festa and school is closed. Looks like she got me into A-2 despite myself. Sneaky, that. I’m perhaps understandably nervous about the whole thing and I know I’m going to be desperately behind everyone else but, if I pay attention and work at it, by the time the official A-1 class comes along, I should be able to blow it out of the water.

Thus endeth the bureaucratic report.

There were six big events this past month: a birthday party, the Barcolana, two visits, a trip to London, and the Corvus Corax concert at the Halloween festa. Well, and the flood. Post the first will cover things up to the end of the first visit. Lots of photos ahead. Post the second will have our second visitor, London and the I:MAGE conference, and Corvus Corax. Further photos, I promise.

One of our Italian friends, Denise, was having a significant milestone birthday and threw a huge party with about 150 people in attendance. It was circus themed, with a band and some slackline walkers, and a clown. This wasn’t the scary weird dress up clown like people get for a kid’s party, but a guy who was doing something a little less over the top. I got volunteered as a decorative coat rack for one of his bits. And a shoe rack for another. Probably because of the green hair, I’m guessing (mine, not his). People were encouraged to dress up, but I had green hair anyway, as I’d re-dyed only a week or two prior now that I didn’t have to worry so much about the bureaucratic tangle.

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lazing about on the slackline

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maybe not quite so slack after all

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circus cake!

The Barcolana, Trieste’s immense sailing regatta, came and took over the waterfront for more than a week. There’s a gallery of photos from this year here. I am continually impressed by Italian street fair food. In the US at fairs, you get deep fried everything and beer. Sometimes you get deep fried beer. I shudder to imagine it. Here in Trieste, you get an amazing variety of seafood (some of which is fried, some not) and prosecco. I’ll take the prosecco, thanks. I had very yummy mussels, and on another day there was a lovely rack of ribs, though they don’t do it here with a bbq sauce like they do in most parts of the US. The ribs were mildly seasoned and dry so, while they were a bit messy, it was nothing like the appearance of having bathed your hands in slightly congealed blood as sometimes happens with a spicy sauce.

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on the water at Barcolana

We spent time wandering the waterfront, checking out the boats, some of which were really beautiful. There were fancy restaurants set up in a couple of places along the water, and a Land Rover dealership had a test track set up on one of the piers. The Barcolana is a high-end crowd, as you might imagine. I saw flags and registries from all over the world on the sailboats. The race itself began fairly early on race day, and was so far out on the bay that there wasn’t much to see from the waterfront. I had been too sleepless to get up, but my brother went down to the water and said he could barely see anything but a line of sails in the distance. If I was reading things correctly, the local paper headlines said that over 1500 boats had registered this year, a record for the event.

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the fair on the waterfront

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drive-by lobstering

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fireworks outside my window

The day before our first visitor arrived, we had a huge storm blow through. Thunderstorms last a lot longer here than I was ever used to in Seattle, but this one went on quite literally all night, and the thunder didn’t just stay off in the distance. Rain came bucketing down for hours in an immense deluge. When I got up the next day, the underpass on my street for the train station was flooded almost to street level. I’m guessing that’s a good 12 or 15 feet of water, at least. I saw a few news photos of some of the streets of the city flooded with rushing water like rivers, as well, though I didn’t see it here in Piazza della Libertà. The water here had somewhere to go, obviously. The underpass was closed for over a week. One unfortunate woman died in a landslide in Muggia, just around the bay, due to the flooding. Other areas of Italy were much harder hit. The water was still very high in the underpass when my first visitor of the month arrived.

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a very happy Oggie sailing into Venice

My dear friend James aka Oggie arrived from El Paso and my brother and I met him at the airport. We grabbed one of the water buses (a larger private company contracted with the airport, not the vaporetto) into Venice, so he got to see it by water even before he’d dropped his suitcases. The day, and the view, were gorgeous. He was thrilled. I don’t think I’ve seen anyone squee that hard about something in a very long time.

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behind the green gate, here’s the alley into our B&B

After dropping us at the B&B and settling us in for lunch and a little walking about, my brother headed back to Trieste and I stayed for a few days in Venice. Oggie got a room for us, which was supposed to have two beds but did not, due to a misunderstanding. Thankfully, we’re good friends and he doesn’t snore, so we made the best of it and shared the room amicably. The B&B was just off a canal, behind a gate and down an alley, in a really glorious spot like something out of a novel. I hauled Oggie off to a couple of restaurants I’d eaten at before, and we explored a few new ones as well.

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door knockers of Venice, you amaze me

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floating veggie stand

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art along the Grand Canal

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if you’re going to denounce your neighbors to the secret police, do it in style

The next day we’d intended to see the San Marco basilica and got tickets for a guided tour. I asked repeatedly if it included San Marco. Yes, they said.

It included the neighborhood, not the basilica. It was a lovely tour and the tour guide was quite charming, but it was not what we thought we were getting. In other words, I think I’m doomed to never actually set foot in the building. Perhaps I’m too devilish to let in. As we wandered along the tour route, we saw that there was going to be a performance of Vivaldi in period costume, so we got tickets for that. Oggie had desperately wanted to see something at La Fenice, but it was not to be. The prices left him gasping, as I rather expected. But we did, the next day, take a tour of the opera house anyway, which was much less expensive. He was thrilled to just be there in the building. The bar there is actually pretty reasonably priced, so we had a spritz after the tour.

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the royal/imperial/whoever’s in power this week box at La Fenice opera house

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detail from the box, with the crest of the Savoia family – endless mirrors

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spritz Aperol at the Fenice, as you do

Oggie is a garrulous, charming southern gentleman. He speaks four languages, including Spanish and French, so his Italian, for all he claims he can’t speak it at all, was far better than mine. He was speaking Russian with one of the women working at the B&B one morning. I had a few moments of desperate embarrassment when people found out I live here and that my Italian was, sadly, far less adequate than his. I’m doing my best but I just don’t have that kind of language talent. I did end up using the little I have rather more than I usually do here in Trieste, where my brother tends to translate somewhat more than I actually need, so I get lazy. This isn’t useful for me, but the upcoming class should help a lot.

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I’m always fascinated by the Venitian street lamps

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the eyes of an older Venetian sailing vessel

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Popethulu Ia! Ia!

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Vivaldi’s Four Seasons in period costume

After our three nights in Venice, we hopped on the train and came back to Trieste. I’d wanted to take Oggie up on the tram to the Strada Napoleonica, but it never quite managed to happen. I was too exhausted by the constant walking and playing tourist in Venice, so we did a little walking around the city here, and I took him to see the Roman arch and the theatre, as well as the waterfront, and we had tea at Ginger, where he charmed the ladies who work there.

For his final day with us, we rented a car and went out to Aquileia. He has an interest in early church history and was very interested in seeing the basilica there, as there was once a Patriarchate based in the city, that is now defunct. He was absolutely thrilled with the mosaics, the archaeological dig, and the crypt below the church, and spent quite a while talking with the lady in the gift shop about details.

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basilica and tower at Aquileia

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do fools rush in where angels fear to fish?

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mosaic detail on the basilica floor

We had hoped we might have a little time to go up to the Strada, but it was late by the time we got back, and we wanted to go to one of the osmize, the local farm restaurants, that were having a festival for a few weeks. Many of these restaurants are open only a few days a year. They’re required to serve only things they produce themselves, so it’s wine and meat and bread and eggs and perhaps a little veg, for the most part. The three of us ate a really fabulous meal at the osmiza Sardo David in Zgonik (Sgonico) for less than the cost of food for one in Venice. They are an old Austrian/Slovenian tradition from when the area was under Austrian rule. Because they are open so rarely, there are websites that will tell you which ones are open that day.

We drove up in the dark, as it’s become autumn in earnest now. Osmize are identifiable by the green branches hanging outside. Traditionally it’s pine or another evergreen, but this one had a bough of ivy outside, and I’ve seen others with branches of deciduous trees as well. Most of them ask that you call first, to make sure they’re not fully booked. Depending on the day, they may not be very busy, but it’s wise to be sure, at least to let them know you’re coming. I think a lot of them are very local and don’t see a lot of tourist trade. Everyone else in Sardo David that night was local.

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amazing food at osmiza Sardo David

The next day we were to meet our cousin Lisa, who was vacationing in Italy from her home in Hawaii. Oggie was going to head out to Padua, then to Milano to see another friend, so we all got the train down to Venice together, and he hung out with us until we were scheduled to met Lisa and her husband at the train station. We bid him farewell at the post office, where he had to mail things back to the US, and went off to meet some family.

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Trieste’s Science+Fiction film festival is this weekend but I’m too exhausted to leave the house

The Tram to Opicina

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Vineyard viewed from the tram to Opicina

Along with the editing and other work I’ve been doing on the book lately, my brother has been preparing to leave his place in Montereale Valcellina and move here to Trieste. He’ll be staying with me for a while, until he finds work and his own apartment. With luck, that shouldn’t take more than a few months. He’s supposed to be arriving today at some point, or early tomorrow, depending on how far along he is in the process of storing his stuff.

When he was here last weekend, we took the now functional tram from Piazza Oberdan up to Opicina. Maintenance has been an issue, and the tram hadn’t been operational for the last several years, but the trips started up again around the end of July, from what I understand. It is considered bus route 2 in the Trieste transport system. They are operating now about every twenty minutes, from 8am to 7pm. You can use a regular bus ticket for them, and it’s well worth the very inexpensive price for the ride.

The poet rides the tram. Photo by Jim Laurie.

The poet rides the tram. Photo by Jim Laurie.

The views of the city and the coast from the tram are really spectacular between the trees. The funicular track goes up through the steepest part of the route, where the trams are pushed or braked by separate funicular cars that the tram rests against. They are picked up or dropped off at the top and bottom of the funicular track section. There are stops on the funicular section, consisting of tiny shelters on platforms, with stairways leading up into the streets nearby. Most of the steepest area is wooded. From where I live, and around the places I usually travel, you can’t see most of the city. From the tram, one gets a much better feel for how large Trieste is. It’s only a third of the size of Seattle, but it’s much larger than it feels from downtown and the Old Town, where I spend most of my time.

Tram stop in the funicular section

Tram stop in the funicular section

Of course, given that the trams haven’t been operational for quite some time, people forget about the tracks and park there, even though the areas are clearly marked. We had the joyful experience of sitting near one of the stops while we waited for about twenty minutes – tram operator tooting the whistle loudly, frequently, and long – until some young twit came out of the grocery store where he’d been shopping and finally moved his car out of the way. People were fairly sanguine about it. Most of the tram was filled with tourists going up to the obelisk that marks the trail for the Strada Napoleonica, but there were also locals heading up to Opicina and a few of the other stops along the way. Several people made phone calls to inform others that they’d be late.

Passing a tram headed in the other direction. In some sections, the track is doubled so they can pass one another.

Passing a tram headed in the other direction. In some sections, the track is doubled so they can pass one another.

One of the sights easily seen from the tram is the Trieste synagogue. There’s a huge circular rose window with the Star of David plainly visible from the heights. I’d like to go and see it at some point. Photos I’ve seen of the inside are really quite beautiful.

Trieste from the tram. The synagogue can be seen in the center lower right.

Trieste from the tram. The synagogue can be seen in the center lower right.

I’m also intending sometime soon to go up to the Strada Napoleonica to have a hike. I’ve been told it’s a really good trail. There are apparently places that are popular with rock climbers, though I’m not into that sort of thing myself. Heights and I only get along sporadically, and I am just not fit enough to deal with climbing even if we did. That said, I’m very eager to do the trail and spend some time looking down over the city and the coastline.

Bottom of the funicular section entering downtown Trieste. The small part right in front is the funicular tractor.

Bottom of the funicular section entering downtown Trieste. The small part right in front is the funicular tractor.

Opicina itself, at the top of the line, isn’t very large. My brother and I walked a little bit and had an espresso up there, though not much was open, given we’d gone up on a Sunday. The tram station has a bar and some tram-themed gifts and information. There’s a plaque with some of the history of the tram line as well.

Plaque at the Opicina tram station

Plaque at the Opicina tram station

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Garak the gecko

Ready for his close-up

Recently, my apartment has been shared with a gecko. Or perhaps more than one gecko, as one really can’t tell with these things. It’s a common wall gecko, Tarentola mauritanica. A while back, my dog had caught one and bitten its tail off, but this one was hale and hearty, hanging out near the top of the wall and driving the poor dog insane. I have decided to call the gecko collective Garak, as one does if one is a geek. Given that I am a committed arachnophobe, geckos are my preferred option for control of potential indoor bug populations. I’ve seen Garak about the place several times, usually in the evening or late at night. I’ve had the windows and balcony door open most of the time this past month until I go to bed at night, so they may be coming in and out, or they might be hiding behind the bookshelves and such during the day. In any case, yay geckos!

Yesterday I got invited to go up to the local communist meeting house to see Gino perform. He teaches at the University of Trieste, and I met him back in June or early July. He played some songs in English, then his cousin came up to play keyboard with him and they played some songs that Gino had written. I hadn’t realized we’d be outside, so I was wearing my shorts and a tank top as I went up on the bus to Cattinara, where Cristiana picked me up. The temperature was relatively mild and by the end of the evening I was a little chilly, but not very uncomfortable from it. Gino’s pretty good, and I enjoyed the evening. Cristiana was there to photograph and video the performance. I talked a little with some of their friends, though the people spoke very little English and I speak only a little Italian. I told them a little about Seattle; they hadn’t know that wine is made in Washington state, though they’d heard about California wines.

Communists like music too

Communists like music too

At the end of the evening Gino said, “So, you see, Italian communists aren’t bad people. We don’t eat children or anything.” I admitted that I’d never thought they did, though I realize that US politics tends to demonize communism where it’s mentioned at all these days. I told Gino he had to come by my place for a visit at some point, as he has read my poetry book and really enjoys it. I told him he could check out some of the other things I’d done and have a look at my library.

And, as we are mentioning Seattle, I’ve had a new offer on my condo. The previous sale fell through because it had taken too long. With this one, the people who are going to buy it are renting the place until the sale is finalized so, for a month or three, I will be a landlord. Sort of. I’m hoping this will be over quickly and that I let go of it at last.

Gino performs Sultans of Swing

Gino performs Sultans of Swing

 

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)!

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Ballerina performs in Piazza della Borsa

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More dance in the piazza

Leaving the ghosts of my life

Yesterday morning I moved out of the condo.

Wednesday and Thursday were my last appointments at the Veterans Hospital in Seattle, and I said a lot of goodbyes. I’ve been going there since 1988, and have a long history with the place and its people. Some of those goodbyes were tearful, but we all knew I was going off on an adventure, and everyone wished me good luck and safe travels. A few of them, I know, will be following me here; my friends, don’t feel like you’ve lost me.

Friday I mailed out my desktop computer to my brother and spent time chatting with Lizzie at the mailbox outlet as she built a box for the beast. I’d spent time this week changing my address with the places I needed to online, but the post office and the credit union both needed a signature for an overseas move, so Charles and I drove around and dealt with those items. I called and had the power and the internet turned off at my old place – it feels so strange to call it that.

I’d been anticipating a rather more wrenching goodbye to the Dog of Devastating Cuteness +3 over at Patrick’s but it was quick. When last I saw him, the DoDC+3 was happily sniffing and exploring. He probably won’t even realize I’m missing for another day or two. “Don’t worry,” Patrick said. “I’ll send you pictures every day. I’ll hold up a newspaper next to him so you can see the dates.”

“Reassuring me the hostage is still alive, eh?”

I’m still waiting for that first picture. I wonder if I should worry…

Afterwards, we drove down to Seattle in time to catch Shiuwen Tai for the last half hour or so that Floating Leaves teahouse was open that day, before the tea club met. I hadn’t seen her in several months. Without a car, it was a lot harder to get down to Ballard to have tea with her. Her tiny shop has been a haven for me on more than one occasion. When it was in a larger space further down Market Street, I spent hours there and, as with Travelers, I wrote a big chunk of one of my books there some years back. We tasted a roasted oolong and an aged Kwan Yin (I’ve always regarded Ti Kwan Yin as a little too bitter for my taste), then I bought more tea for my journey. I know you can actually buy tea in Italy, but it won’t be the stuff that Shiuwen imports herself from her home in Taiwan. I’m going to have to find space in my bags for this on the plane. I bought an Alishan, an aged Ping Lin, and a sizeable bag of her House Black tea (my favorite malty black breakfast tea ever); she was very kind and gave me a parting gift of a bag of Oriental Beauty oolong for the road. I told her she should come and visit me if she gets to Italy and she promised she would. Shiuwen is another of my friends who travels a lot and may very well show up on my doorstep one day.

Dinner was Moroccan, as I’d been having a craving. Charles had never had Moroccan before (nor had he done a Taiwanese style tea), so the evening was a culinary adventure for him. He’s been doing an immense amount of carting me around the past several months, so I was pleased to give him a couple of good new experiences for our last day of errands together.

I spent Friday night with Caera, and yesterday morning Qi and Dana were coming by to collect the bed they’d loaned me, and the last three remaining bookshelves. I got there an hour or so before they were due, collecting the last of my things and doing some cleanup. Everywhere around me were the ghosts of my old life. No matter where I looked, there was the afterimage of art on the walls, or altars, or shelves filled with books. Here I had couches, there the dog’s crate, across the room a baker’s rack filled with teaware, over here my desk. There is a worn spot in the floor in the living room where I’d sat in front of my desk for nine and a half years, working on my writing and talking to my friends all over the world.

These are my ghosts – the echo of conversation before a fire, the click of a dog’s nails on the floor, the stain of smoke on the ceiling under an altar where incense and candles once burned, the imprint of a chair at a desk, the scent of feasts cooked and shared with a house full of friends. These have been the gifts of my life.  These are the memories I will take with me from that place. It’s been hard not to cry.

Last night, I went with Caera and Tara and PSV Lupus to a party down in Seattle. Nathan and Tempest were married in California a couple of weeks ago, and having a reception for their friends up here at the Tin Can Studio in the old Rainier Brewery. The building has been a fixture in the Seattle landscape for decades, its red neon R a glowing beacon marking the southern approach to the city. Nathan is a musician and Tempest a dancer, both of them immensely talented and wonderful people. I got to see quite a few more of my friends there as the evening progressed. I was exhausted even before we headed down there in the late afternoon, but it was worth the trip to be able to say more goodbyes and extract promises of visits from some of the assembled. I’m very lucky that I know so many traveling people; I’m sure that a lot of them actually will come to visit me. For some of them, that may mean having to find performance venues for them so that they can afford the trip, but I’m sure I’ll find people in Italy who can help with that after I’ve settled into my own place.

Today I’ll be unpacking both of my bags and taking stock of everything, then repacking more efficiently and so that I can live out of them for the next four days. I was trying to get everything into the main compartment of the checked bag in hopes of avoiding an oversized bag charge, but at this point it will be worth it to me to stuff some things into the more accessible outer pockets and just pay the extra baggage cost. A little convenience at this end will be worthwhile.

Tuesday the shippers are coming to collect my things from storage in Seattle and ship them away. I’ll see Irene and possibly Llyne that afternoon before Caera has to head north to practice with her band; they have an EP coming out on the 14th, with a performance and party at Soul Food Books over in Redmond. I’m sad that I’ll be missing my girlfriend’s EP release party, but timing is what it is. I wish everyone in Chronilus the best of luck and great success, and may the release party be fantastic fun!