“If I didn’t believe in the miraculous nature of talent and in the sacred duty of the recipient, by now I would have gone so insane that I’d qualify for numerous high government positions.”
Koontz, Dean. Odd Apocalypse: An Odd Thomas Novel (p. 4). Random House Publishing Group.
TODAY FROM ITALY:
A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN SABINA:
The area of Sabina lies about 40 miles northeast of Rome. It was named for the Sabine tribe that lived around here about 2500 years ago*.
The hills, sky and countryside of Sabina
Jason and I stayed at the home of his long time friend Gianantonio Rando, a farmhouse a short way from Casperia, the Sabina town Jason lived in for a few years when he was young. The farm house and assorted buildings were originally a monastery built in the 1600s. The area is crisscrossed by many tiny dirt and gravel roads. Here and there, fresh water springs still pour water into the tubs where the residents of the area met to do laundry and collect water needed for domestic purposes. Jason having drunk at these same springs every day he lived here as a youth considers the water the purest aqua minerale on earth. I’m not so sure.
The two windows on the corner of the upper story open into my room.
Gianantonio rents, sets up and operates sound and recording equipment for performances and festivals and also produces music videos — one I particularly like, his own group playing “I can’t give you anything but love baby,” including cuts of film from the 1920s and 30s can be found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Zd3RquVvWo (Listen to the follow-up video also. The singer in both is from the Naples Conservatory. The guitarist is a teacher and master of classical and jazz guitar at Santa Cecelia.) Gianantonio lives in Rome and uses the house in Casperia as a video, sound and recording studio, to store some of his equipment and as a weekend retreat.
Gianantonio is also an accomplished musician, a graduate of Santa Cecilia in Rome with a Master on the double Bass. His musical group and company, Mad Cap Official Ensemble can be reviewed at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Mad-Cap-Studio-Musicale-Sale-
The first day we searched for a restaurant for lunch and found most of them closed. (The first phrase in Italian both Jason and Hayden learned was “tutti chiuso,” [It is all closed] reflecting the general status of museums or anything in Italy one would want to visit at that moment.) We did find a fairly good place eventually. Jason ordered a marvelous linguini with local mushrooms and truffles.
That evening Gianantonio and his friend Marcella prepared us a light dinner at the farm house. It included sausage made on the farm, local cheese, and wine, Parma ham, an excellent frittata and finished off with some grappa and organic ice cream that Marcella produces and sells throughout Europe.
The next day at lunch we drank beer from a micro-brewery owned their friends. The beer was named Club 27 in honor of the many musical artists (e.g., Morrison) who died at 27.
Another day, another food fest, this time with family at a Neapolitan restaurant near the Tevere. Most of us had pizza but Jason had tuna cacciatore. The high point of the meal was the antipasti, a collection of Neapolitan delicacies including various forms of zeppole, supli, and fried zucchini.
The next day was barbecue day.
Sitting beside Gianantonio is Claudio, Marcella’s son, who is trying to break into the events business. He and his family are longtime cacciatori (hunters) and so the talk got around to hunting and fishing. What was most interesting to me was that he also hunts mushrooms and truffles on a few properties nearby. He showed us a photograph of mounds of black and the rare white truffles he found recently. When we questioned him about his ability to find truffles without the assistance of specially trained dogs or pigs, he took us out into the nearby countryside and filled a bowl with truffles in about a half an hour. “It’s all a matter of knowing where to look,” he said, “and I do.”
It seems, since arriving in Sabina, all I do is eat and sleep. After lunch and an adequate time for conversation over coffee, I took a long nap.
Eventually, I did manage to get sick — stomach pain and constipation requiring a trip to the emergency room, purchase of various medications and confinement to my room. Nothing has worked yet.
One night Gianantonio’s recording business brought an Italian Ska group in for a recording session and a promotional video. The video required the studio to appear like a nightclub with flashing lights and a smoke machine. About 50 people showed up effectively turning the small house into a nightclub. They sold Club 27 beer, wine, and grappa to the attendees. I was not feeling well enough to get out of bed, but I loved listening to the music nevertheless.
Gianantonio’s music group (Mad Cap Official Ensemble) is headlining a concert on American Jazz (Maratona Jazz a Roma) next week, so the musicians came by the studio today to practice. I felt I had time-travelled back to tin-pan-alley and the Jazz of the 20s and 30s which they treated with the same reverence and respect as the New York Philharmonia treats Beethoven or Mozart. For some reason, I started to cry. They played many of the old standards. Their amazing singer was able to change her voice and phrasing to sound like Josephine Baker, Lady Day or Ella Fitzgerald as the song required.
I spent the day listening and taking a few videos which I cannot send with T&T because of technical space limitations, but here is a photograph.
In spite of my illness, this was one of my life’s more transcendent experiences.
Tomorrow we leave for Sicily. I am still in pain, have not eaten or shit for three days. Perhaps the overnight boat ride from Naples to Sicily and the sea air will cure me of whatever sickness I’ve got.
Because of an airline strike, Nikki will not be able to join us for a night in Naples so I put off leaving here for one more day. The pains have lessened.
Today I had a mild success, some symptoms of whatever I have passed so, Jason and I went to a friends restaurant in Cantalupo and I enjoyed hand-made spaghetti unique to the area in a heavenly mushroom sauce.
Jason with pasta
The next day the sun was shining brightly while we left the farm. After breakfast, we drove to the Autostrada to Naples.
Another photograph of Sabina.
About one o’clock, we had a mediocre lunch and drove up the many switchbacks to the famous Monastery of Montecassino. While there I gave Jason one of my bullshit lectures on the history of the monastery until his eyes glazed and he mumbled “Nice building.”
The Grand Staircase at Montecassino
Returning to the Autostrada, we drove to Naples.
The stress on a 75-year-old father traveling together with his 50-year-old on a long trip like this, is roughly equivalent to the stress on a 50-year-old son traveling on a long trip with his 75-year-old father. I remember taking this trip almost 50 years ago with my 50-year-old father. My brother and I were insufferable, but my father took it all with surprising grace (for him) and reasonable good humor — certainly better than I am now. But, hell, he was only 50 at the time about my son’s age now and I was 25. So it goes, same old, same old. Or, what goes around comes around. Or, about 1000 more tired old cliches.
Arriving a little early in Naples for embarkation onto the boat, I suggested that we drive on to Sorrento and have dinner at a hotel where at least five generations of Petrillo’s have stayed including Jason when he was only a lad. I always stopped there for a night or two whenever I happened to be in Sorrento. It sits right on the edge of the bluffs with Vesuvius to our right and Capri to the left. The last time I had been there was with Margret Azevedo, Denise, and the very young Jessica.
I was shocked when we got there. The place was closed and in ruins.
So sad, so sad.
So, after dinner at a local restaurant that was not to bad, we returned to Naples and boarded the car ferry for the overnight trip to Palermo.
Another picture of me eating.
Although I felt better, I still was not over whatever illness I had contracted and felt exhausted so, I collapsed on to my bed in our cabin and fell right asleep while Jason explored the nightlife of car ferries. There is none.
*Pookie’s fractured history: It was the conflict between an outlying village of Sabines encamped on the Quirinale Hill across the pestilent swamp that became the forum and the Roman tribe camped upon the rocky, smaller, less fecund Capitoline hill that the famous story was written about. One night, the Romans, annoyed that the wealthier Sabines considered themselves superior in intelligence and ability and also believed that the Roman penury was due to their lack of intelligence and general laziness and not the crappy soil of the rocky promontory they lived on, or the sharp dealings of the bastards inhabiting the Quirinale Hill, snuck across the marsh and, in biblical fashion, killed the men and took the women for wives and slaves. (There was little difference between being a wife or a slave at that time, except that a wife could lord it over the slaves now and then.) The Romans realizing how simple it was to get rich and how much less work was needed to kill people and take their land than work the land themselves, attacked other tribes in the area, took their land and made them slaves. Eventually, the Romans began to think they were superior to those others and began to consider them ignorant, lazy and menial — and the rest is history.
A. Quigley on Top:
“For years, I have told my students that I have been trying to train executives rather than clerks. The distinction between the two is parallel to the distinction previously made between understanding and knowledge. It is a mighty low executive who cannot hire several people with command of more knowledge than he has himself. And he can always buy reference works or electronic devices with better memories for facts than any subordinate. The chief quality of an executive is that he has understanding. He should be able to make decisions that make it possible to utilize the knowledge of other persons. Such executive capacity can be taught, but it cannot be taught by an educational program that emphasizes knowledge and only knowledge. Knowledge must be assumed as given, and if it is not sufficient the candidate must be eliminated. But the vital thing is understanding. This requires possession of techniques that, fortunately, can be taught.”
Carroll Quigley. The Evolution of Civilizations. 2nd ed. 1979. p. 420
B. Trenz Pruca’s Observations:
“Western Europe during the Middle Ages was the only society in history to prohibit their brightest minds from reproducing by forcing them into celibate religious orders if they evidence the slightest curiosity or passion for knowledge while at the same time encouraging the most sociopathic and violent to rule and breed at will.”
C. Today’s Paraprosdokian*:
Some people hear voices. Some see invisible people. Others have no imagination whatsoever.
*A collection of paraprosdokians is called a paradox.
D. Today’s Poem:
I saw Mickey Mouse
As Steamboat Wille
On the telly
We both have skinny arms
But I can’t whistle.
(Eat your heart out Emily)
E. Apologies, Regrets, and Humiliations:
Popes: Last issue I indicated the Barberini Pope was Urban VII. That is a mistake. It was Urban VIII. Urban VII was Pope for only 13 days before he died. I should be burned at the stake. Mea culpa.
“The offices of officials were stormed, and the records destroyed. Serfs became lords. The land was revolving like a potter’s wheel. The high-born were starving, and the fat lords had to work in place of the serfs. Their children were hurled against the walls. High honors went to female serfs, who wore precious ornaments, while former great ladies went around in rags begging for food. Weeds were eaten and water was drunk; food had to be taken from the pigs. The learned man had only one wish: ‘May the people perish and no more be born.’ Those who had been poor suddenly became rich. Upstarts now rule, and the former officials are now their servants.”
Papyrus from the Middle Kingdom Egypt 1991-1786 B.C.
(Same old, same old)