“Men and women who seek to become gods must first lose their humanity.”
Koontz, Dean. Odd Apocalypse: An Odd Thomas Novel (p. 206). Random House Publishing Group.
July 15 is National be a Dork Day. Remember to mark your calendar.
TODAY FROM ITALY:
A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN SABINA:
Casperia in Sabina
Back in Sabina, we spent a few days exploring Casperia, the town Jason grew up in, eating at some of the fine local restaurants and looking for a place to buy as a family retreat. Since the collapse of the economy several years ago, the prices of homes in the area have fallen substantially.
A piazza in Casperia
Jason by the wall
Pookie enjoys an afternoon snack of prosciutto, Mozzarella da Buffala, a local crumbly cheese made from sheep’s milk, a delicious local salami and, of course, a glass of wine from the nearby vineyards.
One day we visited Roccantica, another hill town nearby where about 120 years ago my grandmother was born along with her 12 siblings in a small three-room home. Those 13 siblings grew up and most of them left the town, some to the US, some to Australia and some to other towns in Italy. Now only Rosina, the widow of the grandson of one of those 13, still lives in that home, alone. During the day, she sits on a plastic chair in the shade by the door, talking to neighbors across the alley a few steps away, hoping for visits from her children on the weekends and waiting to die.
Jason, although in America often bitter and angry about the hand fate has dealt him, here in Italy his true home is almost always sensitive, compassionate and insightful.* In our short visit he brought joy and happiness to Rosina.
*Of course, not necessarily in the father-son relationship where we naturally must play endless games of Orestes at the Seashore.
B. A FEW DAYS IN ROME:
A View of Rome
I returned to Rome intending to get only two things done in the week remaining before departing for Thailand. One was to complete some banking transactions at which I was singularly unsuccessful.
One of my minor amusements while in Rome was to plot automobile directions on my computer and watch the contortions which the application goes through to get from one point to another. In the case of the bank, it was located on the corner of the block not more that twenty-five yards away from my pensione. The map showed an image looking like a deranged snake extending about two kilometers before ending at that same corner.
My second goal was to visit Borromini’s mature masterwork, St Ivo’s in Sapienza which was supposedly open to the public on Sunday mornings and which I had longed to visit for forty-five years now. It was open and I was enthralled.
The first thing one needs to notice in Borromini’s church architecture is the absolute absence of an anthropomorphic God. Nowhere does one find his rival Bernini and other architect’s visions of God in heaven, a sky full of rumbling noise, clouds, putties and flashing lights.
True at times he was forced by his patrons to include symbols of their families in his designs, but rarely a hint of God. It seems the Popes and Cardinals that hired him were far more interested in honoring their families then in glorifying God.
Borromini begins his designs with a simple mathematical or geometrical figure and allows it to become more complex as it meets with the restrictions of the site, like some Mandelbrot set cascading from the apex of the dome to the floor. To Borromini, like Steven Hawking, God exists in a mathematical equation — God as the Unified Field Theory.
I was so thrilled with my morning, I celebrated by sitting at one of those execrable cafe’s the line Piazza Navona and drinking the worst cup of coffee I had in Italy.
I sat at the same cafe 45 years ago where my old acting classmate Jon Voight sat nearby during the filming of a few scenes from Catch 22. He did not recognize me and I did not acknowledge him.
An interesting take on the human statue — one floating in air.
Outside of the above, I mostly I spent my time wandering around, primarily in the Villa Borghese. I wonder why I enjoy it there so much?
Of course, I tried again to get into the Borghese Museum but it was sold out until long after I depart. So, the placid Canovas, the hyperactive Berninis, the dead and bilious eyes of the Caravaggios and the etherial Rafaelos will just have to wait for another day and I will have to content myself with a photograph of the palazzo’s exterior for this trip.
One evening I sat listening to a trumpet player playing the blues. The clear high notes shimmering through the quaking leaves and shadows of the Roman evening seemed as appropriate as if they came out of a smokey bar in Harlem.
Another day, I sat and listened to the accodianist play “Toccata and Fugue in D minor” by Johann Sebastian Bach, better known to all as the music the Phantom of the Opera plays when he is sitting alone at the organ. (also recorded by SKY, Deep Purple, Blondie and McFly)
Earlier, a drone hovered above my head. It was a memorable event — my first drone. One never forgets his or her first time.
Although central Rome is notorious for bad Italian food, I found a place just off the Via Veneto, on Via Sardegna that I recommend. Andrea’s Restaurant is a little pricey, but when you can make a simple tommelli pasta with butter and cheese and a sprinkling of pepper taste like a king’s dish, you have something good going for you. I also had a side plate of spinach that was remarkably free of the often bitter spinach taste. Since it is fig season, I finished the meal with almost perfect fresh figs.
On my last night in Italy, I returned to Andrea’s. I had a superb Gnocchi. The place must be somewhat well known. There was a Japanese couple in the restaurant with me. They had a Japanese woman with them whose job it was to stand by the table and interact with the wait staff. When she had nothing to do, she waited in the kitchen for the couple to finish dinner and then left with them.
I enjoy wandering aimlessly around cities like Rome where people spend so much of their time outside on the streets that bits and pieces of their triumphs and tragedies drop like gold coins on to the sidewalks. I walked by a hotel a few steps off the Via Veneto where a little girl was crying desolately, having lost something of great value to her on the bus to or from somewhere. Her parents, the doorman and the bus driver fluttered about trying to comfort her. But, of course, to children the pain of such loses, although at times brief, cannot be consoled.
One day there was a Ferrari rally through the streets of Rome. It was colorful and loud.
At other times I would visit my old haunts.
Pookie happily enjoying an eight euro cup of coffee at Cafe Greco.
Alas, moments after taking this selfie, the background music in the cafe began to play the dying CoCo San’s aria from Puccini’s Madam Butterfly and I began to cry as I always do when I hear it — much to the consternation of the stone-faced waitress as she brought me my bill.
I noticed one morning as I went down to breakfast in my pensione dedicated to servicing impoverished priests and pilgrims, that I was dressed all in black — black shirt, black pants, and even those clunky rubber soled black shoes that priests like to wear so that they can sneak up on you. I wondered if my subconscious was trying to tell me something truly frightening.
The answer to my question above as to why I enjoy the Borghese Gardens so much is because it is a park with benches where old folks like me can sit for free in the shade, watch the people go by and listen to the music of the street musicians, until the biting and stinging insects drive us away.
Rome as it is now and alas, as it will be.
C. STRANGE DREAMS:
I continue to have strange dreams. In one, I am an undercover police officer who works at night in a city like New York battling those who prey on the weak and the disabled. I dress like I am lame, hobbling along on two canes. I often go into abandoned buildings that terrorize me. I work every night seven days a week and live alone in a small room. When I pass people on the streets, no one says hello or even looks at me.
In another, I am a priest in a hospital charged with transferring deformed infants on life support to other hospitals better able to care for them or more likely, dispose of them. I am silently in love with an ebullient red-haired hospital administrator who is three months pregnant and deeply adores her husband.
D. BOOK REPORT:
Good News! Denise Mina is about to release two new mystery novels for publication. Mina is one of the few mystery writers whose heroines appear to be real women — women detectives that have a right to be as screwed-up as their male counterparts.
The first and to me the best, The GarnetHill Trilogy, features a loudmouth, alcoholic slut on the dole — Imagine Nancy Drew as a dipso welfare queen in Glasgow.
The second and my personal favorite features a young overweight newspaper reporter forced to cover women things. She wears clothing too tight and skirts too short, is the constant butt of male newsroom jokes and falls easily into bed with whichever no-good asks her.
The third, Alex Morrow, is a police detective passed over for promotion because of her sex and reviled in the station house for her coldness, competence and sharp tongue. Morrow deals bitterly and cynically with the demise of her youthful dreams and enthusiasm about her career. Somehow I get the impression this is Mina’s favorite character.
Each of these women through grit and insight solve mysteries the men who bedevil them are unable to even remotely decipher.
Pookie says try them, you’ll like them.
A. Quigley on Top:
“ By now it is clear to most thinking people that every decision we make on major public problems simply makes matters worse.”
“We live in a cancer society in which growth has become the enemy of life. In economics this means that our economy cannot sell the consumer goods pouring out of existing factories unless we are simultaneously investing more capital and resources in new factories to make more goods or are otherwise providing more purchasing power to the market by inflationary spending on nonmarketable products such as national defense. This same characteristic feature of our society, that we cannot use what we already have for the satisfaction of our needs unless we devote increasing increments of time and resources to different future desires, now pervades all aspects of our society. Everywhere our activities now have built-in feedback loops which require investment in future technical innovations creating new activities or there will be sudden collapse of our existing activities.”
“Reductionist attitudes and methods now dominate every corner of our lives, defended by an unconscious alliance of special interests, corruption, and irrationality. These would be jeopardized by the holistic methods Ferkiss advocates. We holists are a small minority with little influence. Ferkiss believes that “science” supports his position. Holistic science, such as he and I practice, does support him, but 90% of the American Association for the Advancement of Science are reductionist technicians and would repudiate our version of what “science” is. He ls a holistic political scientist: I am a holistic historian. Each of us is a lonely voice in his own discipline, and our view would be rejected by the majority of our professional associates. Even publication is restricted for holistic views wherever manuscripts are subject to approval by “expert” referees or editorial boards of specialists.”
Carroll Quigley review of Ferkiss “In Search for a Solution to the World Crisis,” 1974
I suggest reading the second paragraph twice. It describes the crisis of our times. The crisis that Laudato Si seeks to address. Sadly, the process of bringing forth a sustainable world will probably be accompanied by economic depression and suffering until it is achieved. The question is not how do we bring about a sustainable world. We already know that. But, how do we take care of people until that revolution succeeds? Because, if we fail at that, we fail with it.
B. Trenz Pruca’s Observations:
“The tragic truth, however, is that the young as they age become conservative, ethnic groups as they move into the middle class do so also. The gay community is now free to vote Republican without shame while the black community is prevented from voting even if they are Republican. And worse of all, the seven and eight year olds of our nation seem to have been indoctrinated in many of our schools to hate others as well as to despise science.”
“We progressives can slap ourselves on the back all we want, but as usual we have failed to grasp the grim realities of politics which is that it is an eternal war of attrition and the opposition is better equipped and trained while all too often all we have is our optimism to sustain us as the barricades are overrun and we wait for popular support that never comes.”
C. Emotions people feel but cannot explain.
OPLA. The ambiguous intensity of looking someone in the eye, which can feel simultaneously invasive and vulnerable.
From the Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows.
“It should be obvious by now that the right-wing fixation on repealing or defunding Obamacare is symbolic rather than substantive. It’s a political dispute that appears to be about the present and about matters of policy, but is really about the past. Most opponents of the president’s healthcare bill neither know nor care whether it contains elements of “socialism” (which it doesn’t). What’s at stake is the ability to roll back reality, as with a spell learned at Tea-Party Hogwarts. If this aspect of a hated new American reality can be undone, then so, at least in the world of right-wing magical thinking, can everything else”
Andrew O’Hehir, Solon.
This photograph is mostly for Bill Yeates and others with a passing interest in the avian world. It is a poster that sits on the plaza that fronts Italy’s Parliament Building. It supposedly represents the birds that frequent the plaza — scavengers all — much like most legislators. In fact from my time in the legislature in California I can attach specific legislators to each species. (Pigeon – Montoya, Seagull – Denny Carpenter, Hawk – Bob Moretti and Willie Brown and those birds that flit around and do nothing, most of the rest.) Let me know how you would categorize the legislators you know.