Ljubljana and Being Buried in Game Worlds

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

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

Lisa and her husband - photo by Jim Laurie

Lisa and her husband – photo by Jim Laurie

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

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

Taking a break from cooking - photo by Jim Laurie

Taking a break from cooking – photo by Jim Laurie

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


traditional mass production of polenta – photo by Jim Laurie


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



Piazza Unità lit up for the holidays

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


Ljubljana castle


ceiling in the scriptorium


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


window detail

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

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


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

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

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


nuns in the park

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

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

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

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


Restaurants, Frustrations, and New Friends


The clock in Piazza Unità

Apparently buying a plane ticket online is impossible for me right now. My trip to Granada isn’t happening in April, though we’ll be scheduling a poetry reading for later in the year. A lot of websites don’t want to take my credit cards, having decided that none of my addresses are “valid”.

I’ve been to my bank and got a pre-paid credit card from them so that I can deal with situations like this when they come up later. I’ll figure out how much a thing costs, put some money on the card, and use that to buy the ticket or whatever, so long as I have sufficient cash to cover the situation in my account. What will happen if I need something that costs more than I have in my account is kind of an open question at the moment, but as a foreigner living in Italy, they apparently can’t give me just an Italian credit card. I’m not sure what all the laws are, but they are apparently tangled and problematic.

The other thing I’ll be doing when I get back to Seattle in April is going in to one of the mail scanning and forwarding places and opening an account there, then transferring all my billing addresses to that address. Too many websites don’t even have APO/FPO addresses as an option – they will take a state abbreviation, but AE (armed forces Europe) is not even on the drop-down menu, which means I’m nobbled at the gate. Mostly this just means I have to be a little more creative to get some of my more abstract needs met.

The Veterans Administration sent back my form for changing my direct deposit to my Italian bank. I sent it to the address on the website, but it was the wrong address. Rather than sending the form to the right address, they sent it back to me. With the newer form, which doesn’t require a signature from someone at the bank. So I filled it out again, stuffed it in an envelope, and handed it to my brother to mail at the base. Hopefully by May my automatic deposit should be arriving in my Italian account without having to go through my US account and be wire-transferred.


Statue in the Lloyd Triestino building, Piazza Unità


Detail, statue at Lloyd Triestino

The situation with receiving my library and other things is also slightly tangled. The contractors wanted me to arrange for a parking permit for them. I’ve looked over the Trieste municipal website and found what I think they are looking for but (a) I can’t tell if they actually need it and (b) I can’t apply for it anyway. The permit in question applies to restricted parking zones and pedestrian zones, not open parking areas with paid parking on regular public streets. In order to apply for a permit, I would need a driver’s license from one of the people driving the truck, the truck’s registration, and a few other things. I told them I would pay for it, but they had to actually apply. This leaves me wondering if they actually know what they’re doing. You’d think if these people were professional movers, they would have dealt with this and would have been aware that I can’t file for the permit without those documents. At any rate, mail has been passed back to the contractors through the company shipping my stuff, and we’ll see what happens. Everything is due to arrive next week, and I’m unutterably excited. It’ll be nice to pet my books again. Not to mention having to sort through them, stack them, and arrange them in ways that allow me to use them again.

I tried moving my modem from the kitchen to the hallway yesterday and found that when the phone company here activates service to your house, you only get it in one phone outlet. You can’t move your phone or your modem without paying them another €100 or so service fee. I’d wanted to free up the counter space, so I ended up having my brother mount it on the wall in the kitchen behind the door, and we’ve added a plug to the wall outlet so that I can plug in more than one thing there. I’ve got the counter space back and now I can put an oven there when I finally get one.

Carnevale has come and gone. I didn’t make it out to Muggia or up to Opicina over the weekend, but I did get out walking around Trieste. It rather reminded me of Halloween on Capitol Hill in Seattle, but the drag queens here were not nearly so fabulous. People I’ve talked to said that Carnevale was a bit subdued this year, though no opinions were offered as to why. I did, however, take some photos of the city by night, as you can see.


Piazza Unità at night

The American Corner is starting up a Women’s Library as a part of their collection. I was in last week cataloguing some education books for them, and was asked to come in to help early next week with more cataloguing, as well as helping set the space up. Apparently the US Consulate General from Milano will be visiting on March 18th, and they want to have the beginnings of this resource organized by then.

Speaking of books and organizing things, I’m working on my writing again. I downloaded Scrivener after talking to some of my other writer friends and have been organizing what electronic files I currently have for my next book. I’ll be able to get a lot more done once my library is here, but it felt so good to be working on a book again! I did have to spend a couple of days on a tutorial and working my way through some of the manual, but I think the organizational capabilities of the program will be more useful for coordinating my research than just using a word processor. We shall see.

My brother and I went to the covered market on Via Carducci. We’d tried the day before but walked in just as things were closing down. It’s a little like a very small-scale Pike Place Market in Seattle. The fruit and veg stands all close down at 1pm, but the upstairs part of the market – clothes, books, antiques and the like – closes at 5pm.  I’m going to haul a camera over there at some point and take a few photos.

Not far from there are an Indian and a Turkish restaurant, off on side streets, where my brother and I have gone for dinner a couple of times. The Indian place (Yoga on Via Filippo Corridoni) was passable good, and they deliver. The Turkish place (Piccola Instanbul on Via Enrico Toti, one block away from Yoga) was quite good. My brother said the Turkish coffee there compared favorably to the stuff he’d had from some Turkish construction contractors he worked with while he was in Baghdad a couple of years ago.

Last night I went for pizza with my brother to one of the places that was highly recommended by Elizabeth, whom I met at the American Corner. She gave me a list of her favorite places, and I have been slowly working on checking them out. This one is Pizzeria Capriccio on Piazza Libertà, about two blocks from me. The food was excellent, the prices reasonable, and the service was good. I’ll definitely be going back. They have food for carry out as well as dine-in, and the décor and atmosphere were very nice as well.

Tomorrow I’ll be having lunch with Giulia, whom I mentioned in my last entry. We’re going to talk about her upcoming WorldCon presentation. She suggested a place called Knulp – a bar/library/cinema/music venue on Via della Madonna del Mare. She says the menu is rather limited, but they emphasize fair trade items, they have wifi, and they are a great place to hang out, with tables and comfy couches. The website is certainly promising and seems like the kind of place I would really enjoy spending some time. Anyway, slowly but surely I’m finding my way here, and I’m very grateful to the people who are helping me make a home of Trieste.

And, since the weather outside looks gorgeous and my computer tells me it’s a nice temperature outside, I’m going to head outside to explore. I’m thinking about going to Bosco Farneto and the botanical garden, not far from Viale XX Settembre. I’ll be taking my camera!


Fountain at Piazza Vittorio Veneto