Changing Temples Pt. 19 – Magical Exceptionality

Magical Exceptionality

I did not know what else to call it but a gift from the Gods – in this case the Roman versions. A fine, life-loving Venetian named Davide, did a much, much better job than I – he called it “the magical side of an exceptional moment”. That moment was an electricity failure. Usually not an event one would categorize as auspicious or a gift from Olympus. That moment was an out door cafe in a broad street of three to four story 16th and 17th Century buildings, green window shutters thrown open to catch even the faintest of breezes on a 93 degree evening with high humidity. The various pastels of the buildings are nicely toned by the soft street lights and ever softening light of day. The cafes all have full tables spread out on either side of the street; one just down the way filled with a family and friends crowd of at least 40. The street is filled with many casual walk-abouts. Everyone is drinking something! The ambient sound is the buzz of laughter and talking, good humored social engagement.

Then, as middle dusk is settling in, the Spritz before me is mellowing my jitters from having just finished a long travel day from Odessa. I remember distinctly my breathing deeply and observing with consciousness yet one more time the deep ambience of Via Garibaldi and thinking about how much I love that particular scene and how much I want to imprint it into my memory. That moment was eliciting a pleasure in my soul that escapes the poet’s best efforts. Then the lights in the long street flickered, flickered and disappeared. All of a sudden, I felt ever so deeply a part of an exceptional out of time moment that returned me to what I believed in my heart Venice of 500 years ago would have been like with her beautiful pastels and greens and marbles highlighted by the fading daylight.

I extricated myself from friends whose interest was in finding artificial light. I wandered abroad in the now early nightfall neighborhoods. Stunned is the only word I have for it. In the last fifteen years or so I utter the word “Wow” when seeing something or hearing something of extraordinary specialness – Titian’s “Assumption of Mary”, Rembrandt’s “Saint Anne”, an exceptional moment where light and flower and shadow combine into absolute beauty. It is not a particularly intelligent expression, but it usually jumps out of my inner self unsolicited, untainted. Occasionally, I will catch myself repeating it because I can find no way of letting the joy loose from my heart. It is a weak, New Age, burned-again hippie kind of word, but it is my way of acknowledging a beautiful Zen moment, of reveling in this beauty that surrounds our daily existence. That street light deprived night was the first time I have ever caught myself saying “Wow” again and again and again and again; the complete sensory overload of antiquity, history, artistic sentiment in marble and mortar and architecture, softness, and ancestral humanity knocked that word out of me over and over again.

This was the Venice experienced by Lord Byron or Albrect Durer or Rousseau or Edward DeVere or Goethe. As I wandered the streets, I felt I was wandering with them, particularly with their sensibilities. Interestingly, our way would be lit by someone with a torch, with a “link boy”, who would be paid a small sum for the task. Shakespeare’s Falstaff makes reference to such a lad when teasing Bardolph about his shining red face: “Thou hast saved me a thousand marks in links and torches, walking with thee in the night betwixt tavern and tavern.” (Henry IV, Pt. 1, Act III, scene 3).

Occasionally people hurry past me, modern link boys, but oblivious to all but their modern torch being used to get to somewhere else. They leave behind them the last twilight showing steps of a bridge inviting one to say “Wow” and to keep walking in the midst of the Ancien Régime or any period when this city was what it has been for so many hundreds of years.

There was also an additional stillness – no air conditioners, refrigerator condensers, a lessening of foot traffic. Restaurant tables now dotted the way with candles. People were subdued, not so much by the lacking but by the magic of antiquity totally unadorned, unaltered, unfiltered, lighted by the last remnants of day. Windows showed the flickering of candles finally able to cast their shadows in complete abandon. A woman sits on a bench in a now near dark Campo. I am totally in the middle of the hundredth “Wow”, so I say, “Fantastico, Non?” “Yes”, she replies in English, “it is extraordinary”. How tempted I was to sit and share with this stranger who understood and who could speak English! But I did not want the apprehension of a strange man to unsettle such a divine moment; on I walked.

While I happen to cherish my own Romanticism, I think it is fair to ask whether this was truly such a unique experience aside from the cries of joy and pleasure in my soul? The first power plant in Italy was built in Milan in 1883 for the purpose of illuminating La Scala, the famous Opera House. Soon after, Molino Stucky coverted his giant flour mill in Venice from gas to electricity. The Arc lights used at La Scalla would have been in the range of 2000-3000 candle power. Modern, ordinary street lights are 250-440 candle power while an “ornamental” street light is around 400 candle power. So, for at least one hundred years my romanticism would be misapplied.

The torch light of reality also shows that romantic misapplication for many hundreds more years. According to one source, the oldest system of street lighting in the world was established in Venice during the 12th century. The Doge declared the lighting of the streets necessary due to the rash of robberies and murders which were easily carried out in the dark and twisting alleyways of the city. At first devotionals to various Saints held candles at each corner, later followed by oil lamps at the state’s expense. Another source has it that the Arabs had street lamps in Cordoba, Al-Andalus in 1000. Neither source noted the Chinese who, of course, beat everyone, and the word lamp is from the Greek meaning torch, so “lighting” by humans certainly predated even my romantic projections of a “natural” evening.

But I think it fair to say that even a few candles or torches here and there would not have rendered my wild imaginings less romantic during that brief twilight time. All in all I guess it just sheds a little light on something I find more and more convincing as I experience this city. It is best expressed in Davide’s final thought, “we don’t have the quality as humans to forget Venice”.

Continued . . .

Sent from my iPad

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Changing Temples Pt. 18 – Music Has Charms . . .

“It is not in soul-searching or constant introspection that we encounter the Lord.”
Pope Francesco

Thanks to a dear friend who had a traveler’s agenda I would never have pursued, and thanks to my desire to hear authentic music performed within the innumerable churches of Venice, I have visited fantastic basilicas, churches, and friaries. With perhaps one or two exceptions, these churches and their frescos are “depressing” – the greatest exception being a Titian entitled “The Assumption of Mary”. In it Titian inspires one to look through the eyes of Peter, who, with one hand in the coffin and head turned to watch Mary being taken to The Lord, was clearly being that same Peter I have always known and loved for his insistently questioning humanity – “Don’t wash my feet!”, “I’ll never deny YOU”, “We’ve fished all day”, “Is she really up there?” etc., etc.

By “depressing” I mean, of course, a constant refrain of suffering, suffering, suffering. From the Buddha onward, that thematic reference point for human existence is certainly not one which can be denied, but it does get . . . well, depressing.

This whole rendition has to do with another “serendipitous” moment – I want to Easter Sunday Service at a Anglican Church here in Venice. I had been aiming since my early planning stages to attend Easter Service at one of the Grand Basilicas because there is no ritual and ceremony of Easter that can beat the high Catholic. However, the small, comfortable, English speaking community of St. George’s Anglican Church was appealing. I had gone to Maundy Thursday Service (5 people) and to Good Friday Service (13 people), by which time I was considered part of the congregation and asked to read Scripture. I was, ultimately, attracted by the “acceptance”, and the English, of course. At the Easter Service there was a vocalist who sang during the Offeratory and the Preparatory for Communion who was clearly NOT, I repeat NOT, an amateur. It turns out she is an Opera Diva of some local and international renown. She and other colleagues have established a musical ensemble (Venice Music Project, Stagione Di Musica Antica), with several goals – to provide a bit of recompense in an expensive city, to promote Baroque Music with original instruments, and to raise funds for the restoration of Cheisa di San Giovanni Evangelista (the Church of Saint John the Evangelist) – all of which I clearly can support without equivocation. So, I found out from her (New Jersey born) that their group was having a concert that very afternoon to celebrate Pasqua (Easter). I went.

For $26 U.S. (“Ridotto e.g. Senior Citizen charge – my goodness an advantage to being old!!!) I experienced a minor epiphany. This was the music presented: “Musica per Venerdi Santo e Pasqua (more or less, Sacred Veneration Music of Easter/Passover) Musiche di: Vivaldi, Haendle” and “Stabat Mater di G.B. Pergolesi”. The Vivaldi and Handel were instrumental and the Pergolesi was with Soprano, Mezzo-Soprano and instruments. I was so uplifted! I mean UPLIFTED! I saw with new eyes. I felt a degree of sublimity that is altogether too rare. I realized in my own simple-minded way that it was this very sense of transcendence that was what was intended by these masters of music – to lift the heart beyond the suffering and depressive nature of what was depicted around one and show beyond question why those soaring vaults, those frescoes, those statutes, those burial plaques, were meant to remind one of the transcendent nature of faith and hope and life. I will never enter one of these 13th C. – 18th C. churches in the same way again.

Continued . . .

Changing Temples Pt. 16 – How ARE You?

“So get the scrivener part of you activated again and tell me clearly –
not poetically – how you are.”
R.E.

I knew intellectually over the years that the characters in fiction were often alter egos of the scrivener – ‘The Portrait of The Artist As a Young Man’, James Joyce, always, always comes immediately to mind. Goodness how my best friend and I loved that book in our poetic, college years. We WERE that young man; we were captured within character. There is hardly a review of that book where the reviewer doesn’t attempt to convince that Joyce was that character. In fact, you can hardly read a review of any fictional work where there isn’t one or another attenuated attempt to show the author is the character.

As a long time writer of poetry, I acknowledge the relative obscurity of alter ego character hidden within the rhythm and the rhyme. To tell clearly “how one is” does not necessarily require the scrivener’s art of prose, but prose makes it a hell of a lot easier for the reader to ferret out the gophers of personality and spirit from those deep word holes in which they lodge.

Ah yes, how difficult it is to find true, real descriptors of the state of one’s heart and soul – even a scrivener’s deep word holes can be, as they say in the West, a dry hole. The real point, despite all these current lapses into poetics, is that the telling and describing of the state of one’s being (“how ARE you?”), clearly – not poetically, goes straight to the heart of vulnerability. It is a task fraught with the terrible truth of neediness, desire, frustration, immaturity, and, most critical of all, a too bright light shed upon the very reason writers create fictional characters – so that they can parade without hesitation those marching bands of discordancy, those clowns of childish needs, those floating representations of idealism, romanticism, and unobtainable or frustrated desires: pretty girls, tantalizing bosoms that modern costume has so graciously gifted to the male of the species, yachts, 1928 Mercedes Benz SSK Roadsters, Palazzos on the Grande Canale, a U.S. Senator’s seat, Granite Park Chalet at my personal disposal, etc, etc. (I’m sure you can fill in your own personal life-blanks quite nicely.)

I cannot tell others how I am without poetics. I lack the courage. I lack the cover of fiction, that gauzy curtain that allows suspension of disbelief – for I want those I know to believe in me, to believe in that part of me that is good and whole and kind and good humored and normal. After all, what real benefit is there in baring those aspects of personal being that are not the better angels of my nature? For, without a more than adequate suspension of disbelief, that other part of me, that bareness of soul, of how I am (and who I am) would, I fear – and I think all fiction writers fear – lead to condemnation, distancing, complacent bemusement, and a cleverly disguised demeanor of pity.

Oh, I know the endless litany about “those who love you” would accept you; such sureness in that contention. A sureness around which my skepticism swirls; a skepticism that has some powerful history of several thousand years of writers who are also skeptical and who created characters to reveal that which must have the distancing of the comedic, the tragic, and the narrative epic. In other words, are we so truly accepting of the stark naked homo sapiens sapiens – especially a skinny one? 🙂 “Yet, even so, he was very, very unwilling that any other eye should see him naked, see him exposed as a helpless tormented lover, a nympholept furiously longing for what was beyond his reach” Patrick O’Brien, ‘The Fortunes of War’.

Carl Jung said – and forgive me for not having precision here, but I have his deep intent, that I know – “True adult maturity is when we give up the things of the child”. “Things” are, of course, exceptionally universal: desires, wants, needs, hopes, despairs, frustrations, deep longings, deep angers and, especially, deep hurts – I like to describe it with a wonderful metaphor. Each of those (desires, wants, needs, hurts . . . ) is a barnacle that has fastened itself to our ship of being. As such, the accumulation, and God knows how much accumulation of barnacles I have, impedes passage through this life. Impedes in ways that can be so obscure to our own understanding, our own consciousness, that we have, as Jung would say, character aberrations, personality flaws, psychic maladjustments that further again impede us – the damn barnacles reproduce! And prolifically!

How am I? Well, impeded with all of that and more. Does anyone outside the self really want to view such stark nakedness? What is the value? I know, there is said to be therapy in self-revelation (“At times it seemed to him that candour was as essential as food or affection”. Patrick O’Brien, ‘Fortunes of War’), but, hell, that presumes so much, so very much.

Want to know how I am? I am sad that that ultimate harbor we call death is now just around the headland, and I can neither let go of the things of the child nor live contentedly with them, Zen models notwithstanding. Ah yes, impediments, what else is new in the human condition?

For aren’t we all deeply comedic in our weak neediness? Aren’t we all deeply tragic in our universal desire to have everything of the child satisfied, every whim of the child gratified. We have acculturated ourselves to accept denial, we have adopted that thin veneer of civilized acceptance of responsible behavior, but we want, oh how we want! Well, I think what we want is that others do not see such want; that damn pacifier hanging out of the mouth of a 64 year old is not a pretty sight. So, in response to “how ARE you”, you get acculturated application of veneer. I may be doing us both a favor.

R.E., I cannot tell you how I am without poetics. If there is the Great American Novel in everyone, then perhaps I will find those characters that, in composite, tell you how I am. In the mean time be patient with that altogether strange, barnacle impeded course I chart through life. And continue to ask, please, for, who knows, I may find a dry dock and clean the hull sufficiently enough that I can tell you truly how I am. I tend to think that will certainly happen but only in that particular dry dock which lies in that “undiscovere’d country, from whose bourn no traveller returns”.

Continued . . .

Changing Temples Pt. 14 – Disneyland Mediterranean Pt. 2

Changing Temples Pt. 14
Disneyland Mediterranean – Pt. 2

“Even the most hopeful city planners worry that in a few decades Venice will not be a city at all, but a museum, a cultural theme park, a decaying Disneyland for adults.”
Rick Steves

Imagine being in the midst of a truly fine Roman Amphitheatre in Croatia. You are chatting with someone from Holland who asks where you are from. Rather than go through the long dialogue about America, Montana, why I left, the giorno per giorno nature of the stay in Venezia, I just say I am staying in Venezia. “Oh” comes the reply, “that’s a lot like Disneyland isn’t it?” If Venezia is not quite Disneyland Mediterranean, as I contend, then what descriptors would best capture it. For, if Venezia does “not quite” resemble a cultural theme park, what does it resemble.

The term “Venice” is a descriptor itself. To Venezians and Italians it is Venezia – what kind of magic does that convey, what kind of mystery? But, the image, the imagination, the mystery that is conveyed when I say Venice! Venice is probably easier to describe than Venezia, for many of us carry latent images of it in our memory, while some carry them in their hearts – having visited once. Have you ever met anyone who has been to Venice (even those numerous ones who landed in the a.m. and left in the p.m.) who does not convey to you some degree of ambience of delight in their descriptors about the city?

Venice: “Improbable”. Venice: “Otherworldly”. Venice: “A continuous surprise for the eye and the heart”. You walk along a Fundamenta, a walkway along a canal, there just ahead in the early evening light the prow of a gondola juts into view from an even smaller side canal, and rounds the corner in your direction. The gondolier crawls forward to lower the bow so that the magnificent, thrusting prow will not be sheared off by the low ponte he is crossing under.

You have no doubt seen pictures of traffic cops in foreign countries with peculiar white hats, white gloves, uniform always impeccable midst the chaos of traffic, arms extended, almost serene midst the endless stream. In Venezia, those traffic cops are precisely the same, except they are in Piazza San Marco and the endless streams are the swirling, swarming tourists – those waiting to get into the Basilica or the Campanile (Bell Tower) or just trying to transit.

I debate myself often whether Venezia is a city more for doing or more for relishing. I suppose either choice is a strong indicator of being a cultural theme park. Still, I see the difference as Venice being genus to the amusement park species that is Disneyland. For one, it is inhabited (albeit with ever decreasing numbers, as the native population has dropped from around 110,000 to 60,000 in ten years). Venice is certainly 15th, 16th and 17th Century relish for the eye – canals, pontes, houses, flowers decorating nearly every second window – the one rather plain exception, interestingly enough, to the profusion of flower lovers, is on the Grande Canale, perhaps because the wealthy can not be bothered to appear but on show-case occasions like Carnivale or Biennale.

To me, it is a city that startles the eyes: Around every corner is a canal, a ponte arching over, and pastel colored dwellings gently creating a more perpendicular curve with just enough foreground to create a mysterious longing to float down, under, around. Venice startles the eye as it catches the small shrine, they do not call them that, surprisingly, they are simply Maria or Jesu, but they appear in so many places and so surprisingly that they can be said to be common. Venezia jumps into your eye suddenly with the small marble inset sculptures, statues grand or delicate, majestic or touching, friezes. by some of history’s finest. There are constant, every so constant, reminders that those who built did not just build but instilled their faith, their esthetic, their pride (pompous or simple, as the case might be), their desire for a more transcendent atmosphere around them. I speculate it was so because it helps one rise above the pains of this world – pains I contend have scarcely changed in all these hundreds and hundreds of years.

The whole, tutti (all), captures one’s heart or soul just long enough that we too rise above. That rising has somehow occurred in people for all these five to six hundred year. Yea, it can be argued that it has done so for two thousand years if one remembers the floor mosaic – The Punishment of Dirce – in a Roman home in Pula, Croatia for example.

But, do not stop there. There is more, if not deeper, then appealing and absorbing. Waves lapping, church bells deeply toning their duty, rather soft sounds of boats, human voices. Nothing else competes for the ear (OK, occasionally a barking dog or the rather cacophonous sound of a sea gull). Unimaginable to the modern sensibility, there is no automobile drone – the drone that so dominates our world ear that we do not realize its ever present, unrelenting demand upon the senses unless we are lucky enough to escape far onto a mountain trail. One can hardly know anymore, really, what that drone has become in its own pervasive way. We drown it with TV, music, suburban enclave, but it greets us always, ever ready to climb into the ear and make a home where we do not even realize that squatting has occurred. Not so in Venice. Not so in Venezia.

Continued . . .

Changing Temples Pt. 12 – Deportation Pt. 2

Changing Temples – Deportation, Pt. 2: The Anatomy of Panic

Grab your coat and get your hat
Leave your worries on the doorstep
Life can be so sweet
On the sunny side of the street
On The Sunny Side of the Street, 1930

There is a form of incipient panic in travel that I cannot but dread. Particulars: Because my Deportation Avoidance Behaviors were all undertaken within two hours – beginning at about 7:45 a.m. and me across Venezia and on the train by 9:12, there were things that had to give. No soap and shampoo with me. The little apartment I have in Pula has WiFi and nice space, but no soap or shampoo!

It also happens to be in the middle of suburban nowhere in Pula. A consequence of having to use an Internet cafe half way through the journey to try to get a reservation in advance. Foreign computer and internet usage is mostly . . . well, foreign. While the clock is ticking up Euros, you are trying to figure out which combination of keys will give you the @ sign. Seems simple, but I can tell you from the perspective of Costa Rica and here (my two experiences), it is not!

As I mentioned, the booking company map showed 4+ miles to city centre, which distance, of course, was only genuinely visible after booking. The landlords’ son speaks reasonable English and barely explained how to find the city bus but a great job of explaining which bus number to take. He failed to mention that the bus number coming back is not the same!

So, thanks to a nice fellow sitting by the side of his house this a.m., I found the bus stop. Thanks to very friendly fellows at the bus stop, I got off at the right spot. One of them, Swedish by some connection, so with a grasp of English, took the time to show me the bus stop to find when I was ready to return. He then proceeded to walk about with me to orient me. That was such a nice gesture. In part, however, it got me a little panicked about truly NOT being oriented, because we were making turns upon turns and he was using a vocabulary of one-third English to say “you can’t miss it”.

When I am faced with a totally unknown city (my iPad maps would be wonderful, but I do not have a Data Plan for Croatia – especially for 3 days) and only one orientation point for getting myself back to where I am sleeping, my pattern is to do a slow, circular or perpendicular walk about to get familiar.

At any rate, this friendly soul left me at a spot where I had some comfort about a return route, so I walked on thinking that the Roman Amphitheater this town is famous for would be near the water. Sure enough.

So, I whiled away the day (the Adventure of the Amphitheater is the subject of another edition). I decided I would eat an early supper to try to get the best time advantage in finding my way back to my abode.

But, incipient in the background was this panic about where I was to actually exit the bus on my return. It would have helped if I hadn’t had what appears to be the latest in an increasing number of moments of inadvertence on the inbound bus. When I sat down on the bus, but, limited seat availability notwithstanding, I completely forgot that I am supposed to somehow identify this one particular suburban bus stop within the repetitive, unidentifiable sameness of the streets and surroundings. I sit down “going backwards”, not the best for instilling something in memory about landmarks. Several blocks on I remembered what I was supposed to be about. Good luck. This suburb is like every other you have ever seen (especially one that, according to the landlord son, was all built in the last three years), winding streets not well marked. Everything looks alike. I took the kind fellow’s advice and got off at the spot recommended. But I recognized niente! I did not see the bus stop I had used in the a.m. The uphill street looked promising or memorable, but who the hell knows.

There was a nice old lady passing by. I showed her my address on a piece of paper (why try to pronounce a language I can’t). Sure enough she said the uphill street. Here I am. Unnecessary incipient panic, but only in retrospect. I have been in many a situation where it was not nearly as seamless. Dare I tell you about this time in Berkeley CA, full bladder, full failure to take any replica of the address, the phone number, or anything, and taking the wrong exit out of the subway?

Continued . . .

Changing Temples Pt. 11

Changing Temples Pt. 11
Deportation Avoidance Behaviors

“I am trying to move on to Italy as soon as possible as I hate this Catholic country with its hundred races and thousand languages. . . . Pola is a back-of-God-speed place—a naval Siberia . . . . Istria is a long boring place wedged into the Adriatic peopled by ignorant Slavs who wear little red caps and colossal breeches.” James Joyce

I am in violation of the Shengen Agreement! There is no perfect remedy for my violation, only a thin veneer of fakery. I can apply that veneer by going to England or to Croatia (or any country outside of the EU zone). Even that is not entirely accurate for I can come into total, acceptable compliance by just going back to America for 90 days before I can “legally”come back to the EU – which means Venezia to me of course. At this point I do not want to go home, let alone for 90 days. Croatia is closer than England and the transit cheaper, so I am escaping to Croatia.

I am escaping, as will be revealed in more detail below, very much like Bilbo Baggins running off without his pocket handkerchief and other things an altogether complacent Hobbit or human might need. In my case, no maps, an iPad choosing this moment to be completely balky with Internet connection, absolutely no idea of which town I should go to, only the intent to avoid a Shengen Agreement expulsion, fine, and embarrassment.

Perhaps if I work backward this will make some sense. By 9:12 a.m. this morning I had gotten out of bed (a major undertaking), exercised, packed, eaten breakfast, taken a Vaporatto Boat across Venezia, purchased a train ticket to Trieste (at the far Eastern part of the boot top of Italy), and was on the train to Trieste. From there Croatia is close – I cannot tell you how close at this point remember because I have no map and no Internet!

Where did all this start? To really show the instantaneous nature of the intent to be in this train seat at this time of day, I refer to last night’s dinner – which given custom and circumstance did not begin until 9:45 p.m.! I had asked a fellow from the ExPat Group if he would have a rational discussion with me about the “length of stay” issues in Italy. The she of the them is from the US. The he of them is Veneziano by birth, trained and admitted to the law in Italy, the UK, and New York. They have worked their way through all the issues regarding extended stay – all to say I could expect a very rational discussion.

It was way too rational! I had been just drifting along with regard to stay limits thinking because of the official Italian web site I had consulted that I was good for six months. He proceeded to outline the Shengen Agreement – which in short provides that someone from the US can ONLY be in the EU (that is, anywhere in the EU) for 90 days out of 180. I knew my passport had not been stamped or examined by Italian immigration, but I was not sure if it had been stamped by Swiss authorities when the porter took all the passenger passports on the overnight train from Paris to Venezia. At dinner we did not know, as one does not risk the carrying of their passport during everyday activities. But, given the actions of the train porter, it was likely.

The gist of the consult was go to Croatia, try to add a Croatian stay that might be veneered into 90 days just by having the most recent passport stamp be from a non-EU country. Croatia joins the EU on July 1 this year.

Sure enough, this morning I looked and my passport had been stamped on March 5th. By even the most charitable of calculations, as of today I am in violation of the Shengen Agreement. Thus, I am on my way to an unknown Croatian destination. I am hoping the cellular data network will work in Trieste – it will not be any good in Croatia at any rate (all country specific here). All this because I like Venezia, and want to stay for awhile!

I had some recall of my friends saying Poula or something of the sort. In the Trieste train station there were maps for sale. I looked at the cover of several and saw that Pula was indeed closest and near the sea. One bus ticket later, and off I go to find a WiFi spot since my cellular still refuses to give the necessary signal – it gives a signal, but not 3G and thus incapable of connection. Bars and cafes go by in succession. No WiFi signs. I begin to ask, each and everyone refers me to what I translate as an Internet store. After wandering (with bag, of course), I found, used, and got a reservation for lodging, as I am very disinclined to arrive in a strange place late, 5 p.m. in this instance – particularly a popular resort by the sea in high season.

Of course, despite the description, the place is four miles plus from the bus station. Gotta love it.

Continued . . .

Changing Temples – The Highwayman Cont.

Changing Temples – The Highwayman
Pt. 9.5.2

This continues the rather prosaic contemplation about life lines – in particular how an iPad can rise to rise to such, lofty, descriptive heights. It can appear a little ridiculous. Bear with me.

What happened, by necessity, was a forced change in world view. Let me describe what I mean. First, one must shed all sense of worldly organization and envision a personal, apartment sized world (in Venezia) without a clock. Yes, my iPad was my watch. A world without a calendar (with two best friends arriving in a few days and no idea of the date, time, flight and no way to contact them, because . . . no iPad). A world without access to financial accounts of any kind. A world without connection with all those people who have promised a Pizza Night, an afternoon tandem language exchange, a trip to the weekly market. A world without all those history notes so laboriously transcribed – and I mean extensive notes on the history of Venezia, Genoa, Firenze, Italy, the Mediterranean. A world without those Blog editions waiting to be edited, finalized, and posted. A world where you can’t even notify Bog readers of what has happened. A world without all those Italian Language Flash cards you individually typed up and which formed a nice adjunct to efforts to learn the language.

Let me focus for a moment on just one of those deprivations. A time piece. Imagine, if the ubiquitous presence of time pieces in our world can ever allow such imagining, no stove clock, no wall clock, no microwave clock, no bedroom clock, no tv channel clock, no wrist clock, niente! Appointments for Pizza or Market or anything else are meaningless without having some idea beyond “it’s morning” or “it’s afternoon”. I even went so far at one point as to go to an ATM and take out 20 Euro just so I could see the time on the receipt!

The initial shock of the loss was quite powerful – long before all the consequences outlined above had become realizations. Two things unfolded. First, I reasonably accepted the reality. It opened an abyss that the above life line discussion only hints at, but not like canyon sized abysses I have known in the past. Outward Bound taught me a terrific life lesson – when you are pressed to the limit physically, psychologically, and emotionally, future pressure along those lines do not phase one because they do not (at least as yet they haven’t) ever rise to that level of demand.

Second, thanks to the dear ExPat friend I was with when the highwayman struck, I was able to email my dear daughter Hannah to order and bring with her on her impending visit a new life line.

Third, I know there was only supposed to be two, but this was a trauma situation!, I undertook to return to my wonderfully helpful, “local” internet connection businessman (Gianni) to find out how to cancel the internet connection so as to limit the damage. Not unexpectedly in such a situation, I was told I had to take the Vaporatto back to the very area I had just left 40 minutes ago to do that task. I did so.

Fourth, I went back to Gianni, as I had a vague memory of his “selling” internet time a.k.a. an “internet cafe”. Yes, indeed. So, I was able to write and ask the arrival time/day of my friends – one wouldn’t want to miss that plane.

There is more to this though than the gory details of psychic consequences. When one is required (“forced”) to loose “connection” with all that is “outside”: family, friends, time, finance, blossoming community, news, commitments, one – at least this “one” – is forced to ask why am I here (in Venezia)? What does Wayne want? the answer to that opens such vulnerability of heart, I can hardly address it.

I am sitting, as I write this, eating Spaghetti alla Bersoni con scampi and listening to the owner sing and play his guitar. No other restaurant in Venezia, that I know of, has an owner who loves to sing. The other day with Hannah, he was joined by his sister. What a marvel. When the Italian members of the crowd begin singing along, i felt things more important than lifelines. What is critical or important about a life line may in fact be dependent on the gypsy’s reading of it. This gypsy was forced to read anew.

There is more though. The sense that Montaigne, Edward DeVere, Henry III of France, Casanova, all came with only their personal accomplishments and “status”. Though it might be unfortunate that this particular plebeian in 2013 carries little of that, nevertheless, there is the one thing left – that which is the ultimate character description of Casanova by the way – the power of personality, the willingness to grab what ever thin thread Fate casts one’s way; to flesh out from the thinnest threads of Fate a present life, made significant however, by all that results from that willingness. Casanova was a man who rose and fell, rose and fell, rose and fell. (socially, financially, and in terms of his actual freedom – he was thrown into the Doge’s Prison at the top of the Palazzio Ducale in Venezia for a little daliiance with a Senator’s daughter). He was dedicated, totally devoted to giving everything to the moment, be that moment rescuing the above Senator from a health crises or be that moment the particular woman he was with. And so, I too was left with only who I am and what I could make significant without electronics.

It should be added, finally, that the next “first” thing I did was go into “Il Bodegon”, a Via Garibaldi all-purpose store and buy an interesting, Italian version of a pad of paper upon which to write this homage to a highwayman for later transcription. In so many ways, I was required to return to my roots where the keyboard was an old Underwood, sadly lacking in the letter “e” or, merely, a pen and paper.

Continued . . .