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

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Live and direct from Everett

I left Trieste on Sunday so that I could go with my brother to lunch at the home of some friends. We had a lovely time, but I got no sleep that night. The next day it was off to Venice. I wanted to pick up a couple of gifts for some of my friends who have been helping me out, and for my girlfriend.

My brother and I had lunch in Venice and wandered the glass shops looking for just the right thing for Caera. Charles and Patrick got leather-bound journals, made by a woman whose family has been making and binding books in Venice for 85 years. I picked up a card from the shop and will definitely be back again when I am in need of new notebooks. When we finished up in Venice, my brother dropped me off at the hotel near the airport and left me to my own devices. Things went reasonably well, and I spoke a fair bit of my rudimentary Italian. I made it all the way through dinner at a nearby restaurant with no English whatsoever, surrounded by American and other English-speaking tourists. It was a good feeling, even though all of it was simple stuff. I feel like I’m improving, a little at a time.

My flights were uneventful, thankfully. In Frankfurt, the planes were parked away from the terminal and we disembarked onto the tarmac and were bussed to the airport, then back out to the next flight. The Lufthansa people were very nice and quite efficient. I had no trouble at all. I have to call them today to get final instructions about when and where to check my dog in when I fly out on Thursday.

Upon arriving, Charles picked me up at the airport. I was hungry so we headed up to the hill, where I got a bowl of chicken pho, which I’d seen hide nor hair of (skin nor feather of?) since I’d been in Italy.  After that, it was over to Edge of the Circle, where I bought a book and visited a bit with Raven B, who reads cards there. She was one of my roommates for a while when I lived in West Seattle. She plays bass for a local goth band, Legion Within. Then it was up to Everett to see my sweetie and visit the pupster (who was mellow but happy to see me), and get some sleep.

The next day, I got together with a bunch of my friends over at Travelers. I was there from when they opened at 4:30 to when they closed down at 9pm, with company the whole time. It was a lovely evening, and I bought a bunch of my favorite spice mixes from them — curries and sambar and garam masalas. I’ll be happy to have a little taste of home when I get back home to Trieste. Much chai was drunk, thali was had, and there were many wonderful discussions.

The next day I went to visit Shiuwen at Floating Leaves, and to get some tea from her, and meet a friend for lunch in Ballard. I took the bus down, as Caera was at work, and Charles wouldn’t be awake until later. I stopped at Half Price Books and got a few things for myself and some books for the Women’s Space at the American library back in Trieste. When Charles picked me up, we ran by Edge again so I could say hi to Robert, then wandered over to Elliott Bay Books, where I picked up another pile of things, including a big box of Italian word flash cards so I can do review a little more easily. It was nice to be in Seattle again. In some ways, I feel like I never left. In others, I feel quite disconnected. It’s an odd space. It still feels like home, but Trieste is feeling like home these days, as well, even if it’s not yet as familiar as 30 years in Seattle. I’m wondering how that will feel during later visits?

Yesterday was deal with the dog day. We hauled the DoDC+3 off to the vet for his exam and to fill out the mountain of paperwork necessary for the flight. It took quite a while, as the forms are a little confusing if you’ve not dealt with them often. The example forms were in English and had instructions, the target forms to actually be filled out are in Italian. Monday we have an appointment down in Tumwater to have them stamped by the USDA. We took the pup for a long walk, and went to a pet store for supplies and to have him scrubbed down and brushed. When we got back to Patrick’s place, the poor little guy didn’t want to get out of the car and have to stay. He doesn’t understand that it’s only for a few more days.

This afternoon, I’ll be visiting with some of my former neighbors. I’ve signed a little more paperwork about the condo. Later in the afternoon is a reception for some friends who have renewed their handfasting vows. That was happening Tuesday evening when I got in, but I was too tired to cope with the whole thing, and had got back to Caera’s a little too late in the day to get there on time for the start of the festivities.

Tomorrow I’ll be going up to Anacortes to see several of my other friends.  I’m going to stop by the AFK to see if Kayla’s there. She’s been really busy opening a new AFK down in Renton and has been going back and forth between the restaurants. She says she’ll be in Everett in the evening, so we’ll see what happens.

This coming Tuesday, I’ll be hanging out for the evening at the AFK up here in Everett, hoping to see some of my steampunk friends.

Since I’m currently trying to post this from my iPad, I’m having technical problems now and then with the bluetooth keyboard and with the site, so there aren’t any photos for you this week. I haven’t really taken any yet since I’ve been here, as I’ve been far too busy just being here. If  I remember to take some, I’ll try to share a few when I’m back home in Trieste. Until then, I hope you all have a fantastic week!

Doctors and sofas and bills, oh my

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Botanical Garden, last month. I haven’t been back yet but will go soon.

When last we left our intrepid lost soul, I was in need of a doctor and some medications. Having the doctor’s hours, I went that day and waited, arriving a little before he was supposed to show up. He arrived and we talked for a few minutes. He looked up the medication and said that usually it could only be prescribed by a specialist, which he wasn’t. He talked to the pharmacy in the building and did, in fact, give me a prescription after all. He very kindly didn’t charge me for the visit, for which I was deeply grateful, though I had been prepared to pay cash and deal with filing an insurance claim with the VA’s foreign medical program. I’m really glad I haven’t had to deal with that just yet.

I went next door to the pharmacy and dropped off the prescription. They didn’t have exactly what I needed in stock, but said to come back late the next morning and pick it up. I am now the relieved possessor of a 15-day supply of my antidepressants, which will get me back to Seattle to deal with the VA pharmacy, mailing addresses, and all the rest of that mess. I also got a haircut, so it’s up out of my eyes finally. That’s a relief, because it was very annoying.

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I no longer look like a sheepdog.

My first gas/electric bill came in the mail last week, as well. My brother said it was a pretty reasonable amount (around €125 for the last two months), and that he’d seen some Americans come up with bills of over €1,000 because they were using power like they were still in the US. I will admit I’m uncertain whether this is the real amount or whether it was an estimate, given that apparently they don’t actually read the meter but a couple of times a year, if I was understanding the situation correctly. If you use more or less than their estimates, you either get a bill, or you can attempt to pry a refund out of them. Gods only know what the reconciling bill will look like if for some reason I’m using more than I think. I haven’t really had the heat on except the first couple of weeks of February, and I don’t have the lights on except at night or when it’s really dim. The computer’s on most of the time because I’m actually using it. Anyway, it was a reasonable amount, and I’ll find out later if I’m going to have a heart attack or not.

A lot of bills here get paid at the post office. They apparently also have accounts like a bank, for payment of bills and shipping and other such things. I knew I was going to have to brave the post office at some point. The main post office in Trieste is on Via Roma, opposite Piazza Vittorio Veneto. It’s a huge building, and the tourist map of Trieste says there’s a postal museum in there. It wouldn’t surprise me. The windows for paying bills and getting stamps and such are up a set of stairs on the first floor. I took a number, but there was no actual line and so I was immediately able to go up to the window. Being the sort who wants to be prepared, I’d already sorted the amount I needed from the bill and pulled exact change out of my pocket. The guy at the window took it and then started saying numbers at me. I was kind of thrown and he was speaking too fast for me to quite follow. I realized after a moment that I hadn’t given him enough, but couldn’t figure out quite what I’d done wrong. I told him that I didn’t have much Italian, so he showed me the receipt – the post office puts a surcharge on paying the bill, so I owed him about €1.30 for that. Easy enough to fix once I knew what was going on, but I was kind of embarrassed that I had missed it. Next time I’ll know, and will allow for that for the water bill when it arrives, as well.

Having slain the postal dragon with only a small amount of angst and anxiety, I tackled trying to get a pair of shoes, as I wanted something more comfy for walking than what I have. I tried my luck at one of the little stores nearby that carries a lot of everything. I found a pair that mostly fit, and got them, but they were mostly plastic and not terribly comfortable. Returning them was out of the question, so that was a waste. I did mention the whole mess to the folks at the American library. Denise mentioned that there is a Foot Locker on Corso Italia, noting that they were expensive, but that at least one person there spoke English. I wandered over and spent more money (not as much as I’d expected, though) on a pair of shoes that fit properly and are comfortable.

Amidst all this dashing about, I saw that one of the Italian furniture chain stores was having a 70%-off sale. They are expensive, but the quality is good, and I desperately need chairs and a small sofa for the library, so that I have places for people to sit when they come to see me. I wandered over to see what they had, and found some things that I liked. The prices were good but required me to go back to my place to check the balances on my credit cards to see if I had enough. It looked good, so I went over and got a chair and a small sofa, expecting to pay the entire amount up front.

No, they wanted a deposit, but the items would be delivered in June and it would be cash on delivery when they arrived. It was quite a feat doing the paperwork for it all. They needed to see my ID (at this point my passport) and my Codice Fiscale, they wanted my address in the US (I had to give them my APO box), and several other things. I was a little confused, but we managed. On getting home, I pondered for a bit and realized that I actually could afford to get the second chair, so I went back the next day and added that to the order. I’m squirreling away the cash for the items so it will be available when the delivery arrives, sometime in June.

Amidst all of this, I have been trying to talk to people in Italian. Most of them respond in English, if they have it, when it becomes obvious that I don’t have much Italian. I know that I need to speak it more if I’m going to get better at it, so I continue with my mangled bits as best I can.

I have, at several points, mentioned to people that I’m going back to Seattle soon to get my dog. It’s amazing how people light up when I say this. Dogs are everywhere in Trieste, water bowls on the sidewalks outside many businesses, dogs in restaurants, dogs in grocery stores, dogs in the piazza. Triestinos love their dogs. I’m looking forward to having the little guy here. I’m leaving in about a week and nervous already about flying, and about flying him, though I’m eager to see everyone back in Seattle.

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Chris, aka the Dog of Devastating Cuteness +3, in the Everett condo before I sold everything. Soon to be a Triestino dog.

This week, two poems written for Slippery Elm’s anthology. It feels good to get things down on paper.

Directionally challenged

I am directionally challenged.

I came up to Trieste for the weekend to carry some of my things here, and to see if I could go to the antiques market that’s supposed to be on the third Sunday of each month, at least according to a couple of websites I found. “Behind the main squares” (Borsa and Unità, from what I could gather) and “in the Old City” were the only directions I was able to find.  None of this was of much use. I asked one of the folks at Caffè degli Specchi and he had to ask someone. I was told it was “that way” (along the waterfront) about two minutes. I suspect they thought I meant the antique shop/mall (?) on one of the piers. I’ll explore that on a weekday, I think.

“Behind” is such a relative term, really. Did the website mean “behind” from the perspective of the train station? From the waterfront? Did “the Old City” mean up on the hill above the Roman amphitheater? I walked up the waterfront and in a block. I walked up the hill and up some stairs to the streets behind the amphitheater. I walked back down again, toward the public garden. No antiques market was in evidence.

I have no idea if I simply couldn’t find it or if the market is actually only a summer phenomenon. I’m leaning toward “summer market” at the moment. No matter, though. I got a chance to walk through more of the city on a Sunday morning and into the afternoon.

Lunch was pasta with salmon in a vodka sauce at Caffè San Marco. It is a large place with classic-looking art painted on the walls, and classical music playing. The wifi was free and fast, at least at that hour on a Sunday. The food was good, as well.

It will be nice to walk through the city on a weekday, when things are open. I need to get more of a sense of where different types of things are available, and I definitely need to find a shop that specializes in organic food. Yesterday I went into a couple of the small department stores near Piazza Unità; Coin and Upim. Everyone is having sales right now, probably for end of year inventory reduction purposes after the holidays. Coin seemed a little more upmarket than Upim, but now I know where to find a few household things of different types. I picked up a bathrobe and some slippers. With the polished wood floor in here, I don’t want to be wearing shoes in the house, but I’m not keen on wandering around in just my socks, either, in this weather. I haven’t done the shoeless in the house thing since living in Hawaii, back in the early 80s, so it will likely take a little getting used to at first.

I brought pots and pans and flatware with me to the flat this weekend, which means I’ve been able to cook a couple of meals here for the first time. There’s something satisfying about being able to cook in my own kitchen again. I’ve got some curried lentils and mushrooms simmering on the stove right now, which makes my heart very happy. On the phone, I’m playing some Mediaeval Baebes for a little background. Earlier it was Corvus Corax and Abney Park. Let’s just say my musical tastes are eclectic.

This evening I had to call Lufthansa to deal with getting a flight back to Seattle to pick up my dog. With an APO as a billing address for my credit card, it is impossible to book a flight online. I called from my Skype number on the computer. Between the echoes in the room because the flat is nearly empty, and the crap connection, it took us nearly 40 minutes to arrange everything, but I’ll be able to bring him here for about half of what the places quoted me when I checked into getting someone to ship him here without me. And I’ll get to spend eight days back in Seattle, visiting people. I’ll still have to pay for my dog’s ticket ($200) when I check him in at the airport, but that’s rather minor compared to the rest of the situation. Quotes for shipping the dog ranged from $3300 to $3700. With the dog, I’m only paying about $1200. Needless to say, flying myself and visiting everyone wins by a mile.

I’ve found a decent mattress and a bed for the flat. I tried to get store credit for them, but I have to actually have my Permesso in hand, and my Carta d’Itentità in order to do so. It won’t be a problem once I have them, but that’s still probably two to three weeks in the future. In the meantime, I put a little money down to hold the items at that price and have the receipt for later. This does, however, mean that I’ve got cash enough in my accounts to still get some other things I need within a reasonable time frame.

I knew when I sold all my furniture that I’d need to replace most of the material things that make life comfortable. It takes time to find things that I like, though I’ve started locating likely items. A clothes washer is next on the list, as I’ll need to use that frequently and it’ll be easier than hauling clothes down to a laundry and back. Another Real Soon Now item is a desk and chair for the computer. I’ve brought a measuring tape with me so that I know what dimensions I’m looking for. Now that I have them written down, a shopping trip is in order.

My brother took me to Ikea near Palmanova earlier in the week. They are the same everywhere. The vast maze of the place aggravated my dizziness and I suspect that visual overstimulation may well have something to do with it. I’m not fond of them at all, as the styles aren’t really what I’m into, with only a few exceptions. I’ve had Ikea items before and the bookshelves, at least, just don’t hold up to my literary needs. They’re fine for paperbacks and cheap hardbacks, but my books tend to be of the heavy and often academic variety, which seem to weigh about twice as much per square inch. Ikea shelves die under that sort of assault fairly quickly. My brother took me over to the furniture shop on the base, run by an Italian company that custom builds things, but I’m not sure if I can afford shelves there on the scale at which I will actually need them. I’ve taken measurements for the room that the library will live in, but until I get a look at what comes out of the boxes and gets stacked around, I won’t be able to make a fair assessment.

We got lights for the hallway and dining room walls. Those will be installed next weekend, when we come back again and I move my stuff in permanently. I’m still going to have to do some travel back and forth between Trieste and Montereale for the Permesso and ID card issues, but I’ll have enough notice of when that will need to be done to handle it all. It’ll be good for both of us to have our own space again. I’m definitely cramping the sib’s style.

I unpacked two of the boxes I mailed to my brother before I left. Four of the items were damaged but only two of them were unrepairable. They were not the ones that were most important to me, so their loss doesn’t bother me much at all. The other two will be fixable easily with a little glue and it won’t be noticeable at all on one. The other will have a little seam in one place, but that won’t be much of a problem. I set up a temporary Brigid altar on the kitchen counter, which makes things feel much more like home.

Home is such a lovely word, isn’t it?

Meeting Trieste

Monday my brother took me down to the coastal town of Caorla. After the pouring rain of the weekend (we got two inches or so and rained out the Befana bonfires), it was a gorgeous, sunny day, and relatively warm. He didn’t tell me where we were going. When we were nearly there he asked if I could guess.

Frankly, I hadn’t any idea where we were or even that the coast was anywhere near. The only thing I knew was that we were heading south, away from the mountains, but “south” covers a lot of territory from Aviano. Living on a huge, open plain, there are no real vantage points from which to see the surrounding territory, so I had no way to even guess we were near the coast. “Um, no,” I said. “I haven’t got any idea of the geography yet.” I think he was slightly disappointed.

Caorla

Caorla

 

Caorla seems like a lovely little seaside town. We walked along the paved path along the beach, but didn’t actually venture down onto the sand. I would have, had I been by myself, but I wasn’t sure where my brother was going or how long he wanted to spend out of the house. I very much enjoyed it, though.

 

Right on the beach is a little church. One side of the church tower has a large light on it, facing out to sea, so I imagine that it functions as a sort of lighthouse, though the light wouldn’t be visible from all directions. The stones along the sea wall are interspersed with a variety of stones that have been carved by different artists. Some of the carvings are whimsical (one of the first ones I saw was a head with an alligator or crocodile perched atop it like some Egyptian deity), while others seemed more abstract or more serious. They did liven up the waterfront walk quite nicely.

Church tower on the beach at Caorla

Church tower on the beach at Caorla

We finished up our short walk and had lunch at a seafood restaurant. The grilled fish was delicious but the rest of it was really only so-so. He hadn’t eaten there before, so it was a shot in the dark. The place he usually eats there was closed, as Monday was a holiday. Despite the mostly uninspiring food, I was glad to have a bright day, and to get some salt air in my lungs again. I’d been missing it mightily.

Yesterday, though, we got up at about 6:30am to get the train from Sacile to Trieste. My brother prefers to take the train from Sacile rather than Pordenone (which is closer) because you can actually find parking there, and the train isn’t as crowded when you get on. We got first class tickets because he wasn’t sure whether the second class compartments were going to be packed with students and commuters. By the time we got to Udine, there were crowds boarding, but first class remained relatively roomy by comparison.

I enjoyed the train ride up to Trieste. For quite some time, we were traveling over the plain but as we got more into the mountains, I began to feel much more at home. All I could think was, “This is more like it. This feels right.” I’ve been missing having hills surrounding me. I feel too exposed out here with nothing but space around me and I know I wouldn’t be able to live in a place like this, even in a city, for very long before it really started getting to me. I need the steep hillsides and the variety in the terrain to truly feel comfortable. I need the sea close at hand. I need to be able to look up and see the hills ranging into the mist, and the trees on the mountainside.

One of my brother’s friends had commented about the hills in Trieste, suggesting that I might have a rough time with them. Having lived in and around Seattle for so long, the thought mostly amused me. I can’t wait to be living between the mountains and the water again. I’m fine with climbing hills, and I can generally take my time if I’m walking. The exercise agrees with me. So far the only three complaints I have heard from anyone about Trieste are:

  1. The Bora wind. I figure the city is prepared for it and I can learn to live with it.
  2. There’s no parking. Since I can’t drive, this is irrelevant.
  3. Hills. See above.

If these are the only complaints people generally express, it can’t be that bad a place to live, can it? These may well be famous last words, but we’ll see what happens.

Trieste is a border city, on the edge of Slovenia. It was the seaport of the Austro-Hungarian Empire for a couple of centuries. During the Cold War, it was nearly as divided as Berlin, though without the physical wall. There was once a small US Navy base there, long gone now. The British writer, Jan Morris, wrote a book about the city called Trieste and the Meaning of Nowhere, which I read a month or so before coming to Italy. She made the place sound quite melancholy, which wasn’t the impression I got when we visited.

As we approached Trieste, Duino Castle was visible along the coast in the town of Duino, made famous in the literary world by Rainer Maria Rilke’s Duino Elegies series of poems. Not much further along was Miramare Castle, built by the ill-fated Hapsburg Archduke, Maximilian, Emperor of Mexico. He lasted for about three years before he was executed by firing squad. Personally, I’m more of an Emperor Norton fan, myself, but the castle is lovely from the train, situated on a point overlooking the Adriatic. Sadly, the train windows were a little smudged and dusty for taking photos.

When we arrived at the Trieste station, there was a young man walking out into the city ahead of us; he was wearing a long and rather nice black cloak. “Okay,” I thought, “that looks about right to me.” The impression was further confirmed when we stopped at a bar across from the train station. A woman who may have been in her early 40s was one of the baristas, wearing nose and labret piercings with studs. Obviously among the conceptual group of “My People.” I felt a tiny spark of joy at seeing her.

Detail, Serbian Orthodox Church

Detail, Serbian Orthodox Church

In hopes of talking to some people with experience around Trieste, we went over to the American Corner. I’d found them on the internet when I was researching the city several months ago; they’re located at Piazza San Antonio Nuovo, number 6. There’s a library there that used to be part of the no-longer-operating American consulate in Trieste. When the last consul died in 2008, the State Department closed the consulate and never bothered to send anyone else, but the library remained and was taken over by a group of volunteers. Now they manage a library of books and movies, they host movie nights and English-language documentaries, offer English classes and Italian classes, along with other social gatherings. One of the things they host is a monthly gathering for English-speaking newcomers to Trieste to offer some orientation to the city and its services. The next one is on Friday the 17th, and I’ll be hopping on a train to go down for the weekend to attend.

Canal into the Piazza San Antonio Nuovo, Trieste

Canal into the Piazza San Antonio Nuovo, Trieste

The Facebook page for the organization had them listed at number 9, and the map pin on the page had them placed in yet a different location. I asked my brother to call them and we headed off to Piazza San Antonio Nuovo, along the waterfront up to the canal. “It’s after the Serbian church,” he was told.

There is no number 9 after the Serbian church. I don’t think there’s a number 9 at all, actually. I spotted a nondescript door in between a couple of businesses, with the typical column of resident/business labels and doorbells. “Maybe we should look at the door, there,” I said. “They might have a name tag up.”

“Oh, no,” my brother said, “I’m sure it’s around here somewhere. Let’s walk a little more.”

We walked around the block. We walked up to number 1 and down past the Serbian church. I said, “We should call them again.” He did.

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Serbian Orthodox Church, Piazza San Antonio Nuovo

It was, in fact, the door I’d suggested we check out. Naturally.

We went inside, up the tiny, ancient lift and into the offices. It’s actually a fairly nice location, with a number of rooms for their library collections, their movie room, classrooms for adults and kids. The volunteers we spoke to were quite nice and there’s apparently a thriving small community centered around the place. They have regular hours, but are often open if someone’s in the office just because someone is there. We had a very nice chat with Denise, who was helpful and quite informative. She gave me a stack of flyers for classes and events, and some contacts for people in the city who might be able to help with finding a place to live. “We’re always looking for volunteers,” she said. “Do you have any library experience?”

I’m not a librarian, but I live in one, and I’ve worked in bookshops and libraries before, so it’s likely I’ll be spending time there and probably doing some volunteer work myself, to get acquainted with people and start to find community. It’s always easier for me to talk to new people if I have an actual reason to speak with them, rather than just randomly approaching strangers; having A Thing To Do would be very helpful while I got settled in.

After our chat with Denise, we grabbed some lunch and called a rental agency. We had found a few places that looked like possibilities on an online rental site. She said to meet her at one of them at 2:30, so we spent a little time wandering around the area of the apartment we were going to look at. Denise had said the neighborhood was a nice one, and fairly quiet, which was encouraging. The building itself is across the street from the train station, in walking distance of pretty much everything, and at a fairly substantial hub of bus routes. The place was gorgeous inside, as well, so I’m currently in the process of dealing with attempting to get a rental contract. I emailed the agent today and gave formal notice that I want to rent the place; she’d texted my brother and asked me to do so, as they had another inquiry about the place today. I don’t know whether I’ll get it, but it would be ideal if I could, as it’s a lovely large place with a southern exposure and lots of light, in a place that was just renovated. The apartment went on the rental market not three weeks ago, right about the time I arrived in Italy. I’d love a place with light after spending ten years living in a cave.

Friday we’ll be going into Trieste again. Italian banks run very differently than US banks, and the only way you can withdraw cash from the bank without a bank card is to go into the branch where you opened the account. That means I’ll need one in walking distance of wherever I happen to live.

You can’t just walk into an Italian bank. The damned things have airlock doors equipped with metal detectors. With most of them, you can’t even carry your bag inside. You have to leave your purse or backpack in a locker outside the door, provided by the bank. It certainly seems like the sort of thing that would make robberies a lot harder, if nothing else. I’ll admit it all seems very strange to me, used to being able to walk into any branch of my credit union without having to pass through an airlock, and withdraw money if I there is a teller at the branch.

A lot of banks here don’t do online banking yet, either, so I had to spend time today searching Italian bank websites (mostly in Italian) to figure out what services they offered. I did find one on the waterfront, only a few blocks from the apartment I’m trying to rent, that actually has online services something like what I’m used to, including bill paying. It’ll make life a lot easier if I don’t have to deal with walking down to the bank for a check every month when I need to pay bills to places that don’t take cash. It looked like they might even set up automatic payments for rent, though I’m not certain. We’ll have to talk to them when we are in town again on Friday.

Neptune getting his Sea God on, behind the Piazza Unità d'Italia

Neptune getting his Sea God on, behind the Piazza Unità d’Italia

Before we headed back to Sacile on the train, we wandered around the city a bit. The more we walked, the more I thought, “This is a place I could live. I’d like living here.” We found ourselves in the Piazza Unità d’Italia and stopped at Caffè degli Specchi, a very famous and very elegant café. The place has a tea menu along with all the coffee, for which Trieste is quite famous. They have loose leaf tea, served in those wonderful Japanese cast iron teapots. It’s the first place I’ve found in Italy so far that had more than a little box of random tea bags, if they had any tea at all. Loose leaf tea. My day was made.

Tomorrow we’re supposed to go into Montereale Valcellina and see if we can get my ID card. My brother’s landlady was supposed to go file a declaration that I’m living here so that I can get the documentation. I have no idea if she’s had time to do that yet. We shall see.

Me and my bud, James Joyce, taking a walk along the canal

Me and my bud, James Joyce, taking a walk along the canal

Empty of worrying

Be empty of worrying.
Think who created thought!

Why do you stay in prison
when the door is so wide open?

~Rumi

This afternoon the last of my possessions departed. A couple of pleasant, efficient men showed up with a truck and inventoried, boxed, and hauled away everything I own except what’s in the bags I’m taking on a plane, and soon those boxes will be sailing across the eastern ocean en route to Italy, most likely by way of the UK. It took about two hours. I closed out my account with the storage facility, my heart finally light, as this was the last thing I had to do before I get on the plane on Thursday.

I am empty of worrying, and the door is wide open.

This is a rare state of affairs for me. I’m prone to worry, after all, and to anxiety about all manner of things that are beyond my control. Perhaps tomorrow I’ll be worrying again, though I hope that won’t happen for at least a few days. It’s nice to be free of that weight for a while, to just breathe easily and know that everything that must be done has been.

It felt good to watch as the stacks of boxes disappeared, smaller boxes of fragile items put into larger ones to make them safer to ship, and that last load taken from my storage unit out to the truck and loaded. Papers were signed. I was given a copy of the inventory.

Caera and I walked in the cold from the storage place behind Cal Anderson park over to Elliott Bay Books to have a little lunch with Irene and warm up a bit.

Tomorrow I’ll stay here at Caera’s for my last night; Thursday morning very early I’ll have to be up and ready to head out to Seatac to get on a plane. I don’t usually sleep well before I travel, particularly not when I have to travel far. The trip will be about eighteen hours from takeoff out of Seatac to landing at Marco Polo in Venice. I can only hope I’ll be able to sleep between Chicago and Madrid, where I transfer again to Italy.

I’ll likely post from the airport – one of them anyway – on my way out, and again sometime soon after I arrive in Italy, just to assure all my friends that I’ve landed safely.

One more day.

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!