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

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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

 

Catching up, and my Permesso di Soggiorno

It’s been a busy couple of weeks. My dog lies on a quilt, on the floor in the library, as I still don’t have furniture yet. Next month there will be a loveseat and a couple of chairs for him to choose from when the afternoon sun creeps across the floor but for now, he is enjoying the open space.

My visit to Seattle was short and filled with an overwhelming amount of stuff and many wonderful people. I’m glad I got to see those I did, and sad that I missed others who, for various reasons, weren’t able to be in the same place I was at the same time. To all of those I visited, I am honored by your presence.

I have a string of photos from before and after my Seattle trip, from Duino to the Bavisela. We’ve had some lovely weather here in Trieste in the past week since I’ve been back, and I was able to see the mountains across the water for the first time since I arrived, which was a joyful moment. Duino definitely left me with a sense of why Rilke wrote the Elegies.

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Performers at Piazza Unità

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Duino – the old castle

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The poet contemplating Rilke at Duino

While I was in Seattle, I got notice that my Permesso di Soggiorno arrived. I went in with my brother to pick it up on Wednesday. His is a large sheet of paper, while mine is a plastic card with a chip, like a credit card. It’ll be much easier to carry without worrying about damaging it. My brother only stayed a couple of hours, as he had things to do in Aviano the next day. If the Anagrafe office had been open, we’d have gone in to register my residence with the city together, but this was not to be. I had to go in yesterday alone. Once again, a combination of English and Italian got me through the process.

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Duino castle from near the WW2 bunker

Sometime during the next two weeks, the police will come by my apartment to make sure I actually live here. I have to be at home in the mornings between 7am and noon. She asked what hours I preferred; I wasn’t sure if I could ask for later in the morning, but I suspect that the more time they have, the more likely they are to just get it over with. Once they visit, that will be the end of this particular part of the process. A month from now I’ll have my Carta d’Identita. My Permesso expires near the end of December of this year, so around October, I’ll need to start the process again but, with luck, next year’s will be valid for two years and I won’t have to worry about it so much.

The woman at the Anagrafe office told me to go to have the garbage tax for the apartment shifted over to my name, but we did that with the landlady back in February when I signed the rental contract. I was also instructed where to go to sign up for Italian national health care. I wasn’t told how to do it or how it works, but I did look up the website and click over to the page for foreigners, and it looks doable, though for that I’ll want my brother along to make sure things are clear for me. I’m going to need to find a woman OB/GYN at some point, along with a general practitioner, but I can probably talk to my regular doc about that when I see that person the first time. Issues for Women Of A Certain Age are arising and I need a consult with somebody.

Over the weekend, as noted above, we had the Bavisela. This is Trieste’s marathon, and it’s also a shorter walk/jog for people who don’t do marathons, starting from Duino and ending up at Piazza Unità. Saturday night I went walking out along the waterfront to see what was happening. They’d set up booths for the usual fair type stuff, and a ferris wheel. There was also a stage near Molo Audace and I happened along about the time a band was taking the stage for the evening. They were young guys in suits and narrow ties, kind of rocking an 80s look. They’d have seemed at home doing some Cars or Talking Heads, but they were playing stuff from Buddy Holly to the Rolling Stones, with a diversion for the Happy Days theme. They were enthusiastic, though the vocals needed some work, but they had the crowd up and dancing, and I had fun just hanging out watching the show. Every time I considered taking a ride on the wheel, both Saturday night and on Sunday, the line was too long for me to bother. It would have been a nice view of the city, though.

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Mountains over the Adriatic

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Bavisela crowds in Piazza della Libertà

Sunday morning, I didn’t go to bed until about 5am, but the people in the B&B upstairs were up about 5:30 thumping and bouncing so hard they were literally rattling my doors down here. Most of the time, the B&B guests are reasonably quiet. Occasionally I get thumpy ones, but these were tapdancing elephants. It was egregious and lasted for a couple of hours. I finally gave up around 7:30 and got up, showered, and staggered out to greet the day.

There were already crowds out in the piazza below my window, heading out of the city on buses for the starting points. I got out with the dog briefly but then took him inside so I could go for a walk. He’s not a city dog as yet, and it was a little overwhelming for him with the huge crowd. When I got out alone, I headed toward the center of town, feeling like a salmon swimming against the stream among all the orange-clad participants. I was the only person heading in that direction. The main street into town, Via Miramare, was closed, as was the waterfront main drag, the Riva III Novembre/Riva del Mandracchio/Riva Nazario Sauro. I may never see these main streets that quiet again until next year’s marathon.

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Everybody and their dog at the Bavisela

The weather today is really lovely, sunny and warm, and soon I’m going to finish my tea and wander out to sit on the pier and scribble in my notebook. Tomorrow I will probably hang out online with friends and watch the Eurovision finals. About Eurovision this year, I have only one thing to say: erotic butter churning.

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Detail from Teatro Lirico Giuseppe Verdi

Further adventures with immigration

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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.

All your books are belong to us!

I went to the Questura in Pordenone last week to sign some forms, as noted in my last entry. I’ve been in a sort of legal limbo regarding identity and legal residence for a couple of months now because the people at the comune of Montereale would not give me a Carta d’Identita, apparently due to not having a clue what to do with an Elective Residence visa. The woman we talked to at the Questura was very confused as to why he hadn’t given me the card, as he was supposed to. This led to some questions about my being in Trieste rather than Montereale and we explained the situation and why I had rented here and had not yet legally changed my address and registered with the comune of Trieste.

I apologized for being a problem, even though the situation was largely beyond my control, and said that we’d been trying to make it less complicated. She said that since I am living in Trieste, she will transfer the forms I need to sign to the Questura here, which will mean that once the papers are signed, I can take the required classes here in Trieste rather than going to Pordenone for them. “You are not the kind of problem we have here,” she said, assuring me that everything would be all right, and that I should take the form she gave me to the Questura in Trieste sometime this week, and then register with the comune here to get my Carta d’Identita. Once that’s done, everything will be legal and proper and all the bureaucrats should be happy. The Permesso di Soggiorno is still approved and the current kerfuffle won’t change that; I’ll still be getting it about a month after I sign the papers here. My brother will be in town Thursday so we can take care of this.

After the appointment at the Questura, we stopped and got me an oven (combination microwave/convection) for the kitchen. I had to email the company to get a user’s manual in English; I couldn’t find a download on their website anywhere. I managed enough Italian to set the clock on it, but I didn’t want to take any chances misunderstanding the rest, considering that microwaves can actually catch fire under certain circumstances. Better to know what the different settings are supposed to do!

We also stopped at Ikea, where I got a bunch of bookshelves. I still need about three more, but most of the books, and all the dvds and cd’s are now up off the floor. The packing materials are broken down and consolidated into a mountain in the corner of the library, and some of the art is up on the walls. I feel so much better and more settled now that the clutter has been largely dealt with and that I have my books around me and accessible once again. Disorganized clutter tends to raise my anxiety levels a lot, so dealing with it as quickly as possible was as much for my mental health as anything else. One of the women at the American Corner said that she’d been here in Trieste for seven years and still hasn’t unpacked all her boxes. I do kind of understand that, if you haven’t got a place for things, or if you have closets you can shove less-needed things into and forget about them. I’ve done it before, usually with boxes of papers. Before I left Everett, I sorted through those and recycled about 95% of what was in them as the papers really weren’t relevant or needed anymore. Lightening that load helped a lot, as well.

I spent three solid days building bookshelves and shelving books. I finished up on Friday with what I had here, and am still aching like crazy.

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Books in the office

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Books in the library

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Less of a mess at the desk

Sunday I met some new people. In the morning, I met with Michelle, a young woman originally from South Africa, who came to Trieste by way of London with her partner, who is working at the university here. She’s a photographer. I was introduced to her via Twitter by one of my writer friends, who’d met her in #blogchat a couple of weeks ago. We went to Caffè degli Specchi and sat out with tea (me) and a cappuccino (her) until the rain rolled in, at which point we went and had lunch at the pizza place here in Piazza della Libertà. She’s very interested in museums, as am I, so we are going to see about going to some museums together, possibly this coming week.

Later in the day, I was invited to an art opening at a small bar called Juice, on Via della Madonnina. The art is the thesis work by a woman who is, I believe, the sister of a friend of Giulia’s. We were told to show up at 6pm, only to find that the bar didn’t open until 7, so four of us – me, Giulia, another American, and an engineering student who is a friend of Guilia’s – went looking for a little snack. We grabbed a quick bite in Piazza San Giovanni, then headed back to Juice. Which opened twenty minutes late. We were going to meet Giulia’s boyfriend at Cinema dei Fabbri for a showing of The Imposter at about 8, so we didn’t really have time for more than just ducking in to see the art and leaving. The show was a bunch of sequential art, nicely done, with a manga influence.

Cinema dei Fabbri shows films in the original language. This one was an American film in English with Italian subtitles. I liked being able to see the subtitles to help with my Italian skills, which really do need a lot of work. I’m doing a little better and catching a bit more of the conversations as they go by, but am still having trouble actually speaking much. I did use a little of my Italian over the course of the evening, though.

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Film projector at Cinema dei Fabbri

After the cinema, we went to Taverna del Giglio. It’s a burgers and beer place popular with the university students. They had a pretty extensive menu of flavored grappa, as well. I had a grilled chicken and cheese sandwich with a grappa rosmarino. Usually an herbal grappa would be a digestif for after dinner, but the rosemary flavor was really fantastic with the chicken and cheese. Several of the tables of younger people had ordered a long series of grappa shots, which were brought in on skis. It was an interesting presentation. I hadn’t realized that grappa came in colors, but these were creamy pinks and greens and other milky colors, with sweet flavors like strawberry and chocolate. I’ll have to try some of the other grappas when I go again.

We parted company after dinner, as it was about midnight, but I had a really good time and the people I met were very nice. Giulia’s boyfriend has done an extensive academic history of Masonry in Trieste and is doing a presentation at the university sometime in the next week or so. He’s apparently also done a short film on some of the Masonic locations in the city that I would like to find. I need to ask him if it’s up on YouTube.

Books! And progress on my Permesso

The past week has been crazy busy.

The weather here has been gorgeous, and when I was out walking today I saw that the fountain at Piazza Vittorio Veneto had been turned on. Another was being worked on, so I assume that the city will be turning on the waterworks for the season over the next week or two. I’ll have to get out in the sun and take some photos of the fountains in operation.

I got a call from the Pordenone Questura this week. The woman who makes the determinations about approval or denial of the Permesso di Soggiorno has decided that I can have one. I have to go to Pordenone on Monday morning to sign their integration agreement. Once that’s done, that gets sent to Rome and about a month later I should have the Permesso in hand. It feels like it’s been a long wait, and it’s going to be a bit longer but at least it will finally arrive.

Tuesday my stuff finally arrived! I wrote about the situation in my last post, and there was a lot of subsequent back and forth with the contracting company in the UK. The people who were actually driving it here to my apartment were based out of Sofia, Bulgaria, and the guys who came didn’t really speak either English or Italian. We at least managed to get the “this is your stuff” and “please sign these papers” bits out of the way, though.

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Two views of the office, with packing materials still life.

I have to say that, despite the communications problem, I’m overall very pleased with the shipping service I got. The post office broke more of my stuff than these shippers. Everything was here, and the only breakage was the glass on two of my large pieces of framed art. The frames themselves were not broken and the art wasn’t damaged. One frame has a corner popped out of shape, but a quick trip to a frame shop for a few minutes with a rubber mallet should literally knock it back into shape. I don’t really need the glass for the pieces, as it’ll just add unnecessary weight to the art when I hang them on the wall.

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ART! And also, lots of stuff and things.

I spent three days unpacking my stuff and consolidating packing material. The packing debris is all sitting in the library now, waiting for me to get it out to the recycle bins, a little at a time. I’ve got books sorted into private stuff that goes in the bedroom, the bulk of the collection into the library, and the writing, poetry, language, and Celtic books in the office where I can access them quickly. Now I need bookshelves and will probably end up getting them from Ikea, much as I dislike the idea, because it will be relatively cheap.

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The library. That’s about the same number of books as in the office, but more spread out.

Lunch with Giulia last week was fun. We spent several really fun hours together at the café, walking around Trieste, and popping into a couple of bookshops. We visited a very nice little tea shop, where they also sell spices (berbere spice mix for Ethiopian food! Garam masala!), and talking about film, science fiction, and writing. One of the bookshops we stopped by, the antiquarian shop formerly owned by Umberto Saba, had a couple of copies of a book she’d written on a Trieste author in the window. Her publisher is a friend of the owner, and he’d got a few copies of work from their press. I had actually picked up a tiny book of poetry by Saba a little earlier in the day that was from the same press. The book is in Italian, and I also picked up a copy of some Emily Dickinson poetry in English and Italian to try to help me with my reading and comprehension. Dickinson’s poetry tends toward short lines and relatively simple language, as well as the poems themselves being fairly short.

Giulia said that she’d come help me get a library card for the Trieste library system so that I can do interlibrary loan for some of the things I need for my research. I was really blessed in Seattle, living so near the University of Washington and their fantastic library system. They allow the public to have library cards when they join the Friends of the Library, for about $100 a year, and I always found it a really good deal, because it can be difficult to get your hands on books about the topics I write on. On the other hand, Dublin is a realistic trip for me now, and they print a lot of the stuff I’m interested there, and in Cork. When I was last in Dublin, I shipped quite a few books home from the bookshops there. Still, journal articles are going to be the big thing, and that’s likely what I’ll mostly be using the system for.

I should be back from Pordenone late Monday or early Tuesday, and will be at the opening of the women’s library/space at the American Corner Trieste on Tuesday evening. My brother might drive me back so that we can stop at the Ikea and pick up bookshelves. It’ll be great to get the books up off the floor.

Improvements

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The sewing women on the Trieste waterfront

I’ve been a little overwhelmed in the last couple of weeks with getting things organized here and dealing with the unexpected.

I now have a bed and a computer desk and actual internet that I’m not paying by the gig for.  I have a printer set up beside my desk. My external hard drive is plugged in and all my systems are updated and safely backed up. My landlady has loaned me a couple of storage cabinets and a china hutch from her attic that were delivered by her brother and a nephew.  She’s been incredibly kind. The storage cabinets needed new locks, as the key had been lost sometime over the years, so a locksmith has the old mechanisms and will get them back here and install them sometime over the next week or two. It’s not a priority, as I haven’t actually got anything to store in the cabinets yet.

The internet was expected, but the furniture wasn’t. I’d been waiting (am still waiting) for my Permesso to arrive so that I could get my Carta d’Identita, which would allow me to actually apply for store credit for the stuff I’d put a deposit on. Someone in a dank office somewhere decided that I actually wanted the things cash on delivery and had them sent to me. I had no idea what was going on. When the delivery guys arrived, my brother talked to someone in the office. The desk was paid for already, the bed had only a deposit on it. The person at the office was apparently treating my brother like it was his fault that the delivery had been made before the credit was granted. Thankfully, he had some room on his credit card to pay for it, because I didn’t have enough for everything. At any rate, I’m no longer sleeping on the floor, and I will be paying my brother a couple of hundred euro a month until I’ve paid him back for it. It isn’t what either of us would have chosen, but so it goes.

The delivery of my library and other things is scheduled for sometime between March 11 and 13, and the delivery company said we have to get a parking permit for their truck, which will need to be done when my brother is here early next week.

It will be good to have everything here, as my brain is going into writing space again and I really want to get started on the next book. I need my reference library to deal with that. I’ve done about 5,500 words on another project, and written a poem for the anthology my friend Slippery Elm is doing, so progress is being made despite not having the library here yet. Last week I also received the PDF galley of a book I was interviewed for, so I’ve been going over that and feeling good about having another project I’ll be able to put on my list of books I’ve contributed to when it comes out in May.

I’ve had my third Italian lesson and feel like I’m making at least a little progress, though I’m still having a hard time actually talking to people.  There’s another student in the class now, a young man about 18 who is here for a few months with his parents before he returns to the US to go back to college. I have a phone number for a doctor who speaks English but haven’t called the office yet.

I have the desk and my computer set up in the window of my office, overlooking Piazza della Libertà. The amount of light is fantastic. Even with my reading glasses on, I have a pretty clear view of the treetops and the buildings in the square. It’s a bit blurry but recognizable, which is all I can ask for, given the wonderful sunlight that makes up for damned near anything else.

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Desk!

After spending almost ten years in what amounted to a cave with a north exposure and no real natural light, this is like a miracle. Even on rainy days, I don’t need to turn lights on until nearly dusk. My little sound system is set up in the window behind the computer, and I am feeling much more like myself. I’d been working from the kitchen, which is on the north side of the apartment and very dim. I had to have lights on in there constantly, just like I had back in Everett. It’s hard to express just how much of a difference this relocation to the office (I have an office!) has made for me emotionally.

I did a little volunteer work this week for the American Library in Piazza Sant’Antonio Nuovo. They needed someone to pull a stack of books from the database and enter another stack, so I spent a couple of hours there on Tuesday poking at their computer system. It was nice to have something to do outside of the house that didn’t involve walking for a change. The center also had their TGIF last Friday, with food from Senegal in honor of African-American History Month. I met a really nice Italian woman there who is going to be presenting at WorldCon in London this year on Italian translations of Fantasy and SF literature. She was very excited by it, and I was thrilled for her. I’m sure it’ll be a fantastic time and a wonderful adventure.

Carnivale is supposed to be happening this weekend in Trieste and Muggia. I’m going to see if I can find someone to go with me to Muggia, as I’m not sure where the ferries are or how to deal with the buses here yet. It’ll be nice to have someone along, if I can get company.

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Sarasvati and Seshat, Goddesses of writing and the arts, preside over my desk.