Changing Temples Pt. 22 Music Hath Charms 2nd Movement

Music Hath Powers 2nd Movement

There was a time when I could write like a banshee with certain music playing – I could, quite literally, not stop the subconscious, or what ever that is inside of us speaking and seeking outlet; that flow of mind or soul or heart straight through a pencil onto the page. I cannot describe it accurately. It flowed out without stop, without censor, without the necessity for grammar. I wrote some interesting poetry and letters that way. Now some four plus decades later, the same thing can happen with just the right melody or tune or what ever it is that defines the nature of a song that compels the words to come out like water out of a hose. It closes down the censor, as I call it, and lets nothing but feeling or heart or soul or slop come out. Don’t stop that music!

Vanity Fair: ‘Hitchin’ a Ride’, Moody Blues: ‘Ride My SeeSaw’. In the old days I would lift up the record player stylus and put it down again and again and again just so I could keep writing and see what came forth. Not just so I “could” keep writing really but so that there “would” be an opening of that magic casement from whence unheard, unvisualized, unthought, unimagined treasures of word combinations would flow out in jeweled (or so I thought) strings.

Nowadays, the marvels of modern electronics allow multiple replay with a mere flick of a finger. The right music can still activate that casement – “Open Sesame” works each time. But not with the electronics I have available here and now. The song that just got me going in the old way, the song that gave rise to all this has ended. I was just feeling that old release. Was there depth available? Was there ever really any depth available? What is it in that soul of ours that seeks expression and pretends to depth? Insight? Hardly possible when one looks even slightly askance at that wisdom produced by so many over so many millennium – nothing new to be added there. New variations on the theme? Well, there is some hope there. The theme being of course – at least in this instance – the human condition. That marvel that compels the individual, defines the culture, describes the species. Who are we? Not just as that species but as that individual with desires rampant, mind so engaged that many religions, especially in their esoteric sects, spend their whole essence trying to get us to turn it off, if even for just the briefest of moments. We organize, we memorize, we collectivize, we quantify. We think! We agonize! We contemplate.

Yet, are we all of that merely in response to a recognition that is truly unique to our species – the prescience of death? Not just understanding after it has occurred – elephants have been shown to have a very real cognizance of a death occurrence. But we humans are part and parcel of a condition of temporality realized. I know, so what?

Because the what is that filler we create to add significance. The filler we use to override that horrible rationality that pervades the daylight of modern life and shovels that filler back into some place we can so easily close the door upon. How Keats filled. How Mozart filled. We think it genius. I think it merely some condition of spirit that allowed them to ignore the oppression of the norm, ignore the whole conception that we only pretend at the act of creation. How often have you heard: “I’m not creative”. Bah humbug.

One could say, of course, that we were made “in His image” – so creation is what we do, who we are, and what is to be hallelujahed in us. How many people strive to carve out from the necessities of this oppressive, demanding existence those brief moments of creativity? Think of your mother, your father, your aunt, your sibling – are there not ordinary people of ordinary existence who find a way to create, to seek to outlast temporality. It is not from taking the “long” view but that rare gift of living moment by moment where the mind finally quiets into the task, the censor finally being closeted for an all too brief moment, a moment not of survival but of art – however mean, however common. That is the art that leaps out at you throughout Venice. Countless people took the time – if only to hire someone else who could quiet their mind to let the creative leap out.

So much of political revolution is in response to censorship of thought, word, or deed, or community, or what ever the censor that dominates us finds expedient. Just as in the macrocosm so to in the microcosm. There is a censor that seeks to condition our human condition. Survival it might be. Replication of the species it might be. Responsibility it might be. But censor it is. Go not softly into that dark night. Rebel, I have only my censor to lose. Otherwise, I have a distinct sense that I can count on it marching with me into death, forever talking, forever overriding, forever demanding no until it is too late to recognize its shallowness.

Changing Temples Pt. 13 Deportation Pt. 3

Changing Temples Pt. 13, Deportation Pt. 3

“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

The grand experiment to be able to continue my personal version of the Grand Tour by avoiding Deportation concerns was largely a failure I am afraid. Almost exactly to the minute three days later, I am on the train back to Venezia.

The final important Avoidance Behavior was the “Exit” stamp from Croatia. If buried somewhere inscrutable, then my “exit” from Shengen Agreement requirements within 90 days would be a fairly respectable varnish. Of all the Passport pages to choose from, the border officer choose the same one as the Entry Stamp. So, there visible to even an undiscerning eye is clearly straight forward evidence of only a three day visit to a non-Shengen Country. Well, nice try. Now I have to rely upon other behaviors and hope Fate will smile a bit.

The sunnier aspects of the three days lend some solace. One very unprofound insight for instance. Pula was a nice and even interesting place to visit. The insight for me was a new one in travel. Nice to visit is significantly different than a place where you fell some deep urge to stay. Visiting implies moving on, and Pula was nice within that particular travel concept. I did not make it to Pula’s version of the famous Croatian beaches, which by all accounts are spectacular. But Pula was a place where you have to work the public transit system to get there – to the tune of 20 minutes or so, which wouldn’t be all bad of course.

But the reference point is the kind of place one is tempted to stay in, and by that I mean truly stay in – we’ve all been in a place like that or imagined one. Twenty plus minutes just to see the coast and beach (as opposed to the bay and harbor) does not bring a place up to my “want to stay” standards. I suspect the Croatian coast would reveal villages and towns of that type, but it would take a “back-of-God-speed” effort, concerted research, and either a rental car (meaning one is unlikely to do anything but visit anyway) or the challenges of rural, inter town buses. With only three buses out of Pula each day to the main rail hub of Trieste (65 some miles), you get some idea of the challenges referred to. Of course the discovery might be quite remarkable because no tourist hordes.

The price of living was also a sunny aspect. Roughly only one-half to one-third the cost of Venezia. Because I am paying rent in Venezia I didn’t save anything much really. Probably went in the hole some. But it was still nice to not pay such a premium.

So, I am back in Venezia. I have to say I am past the magic phase, though moments of sun diamonds or moon diamonds on the Adriatic – choose the gorgeous sparkling of your particular preference – belies that on occasion. Still, three and one-half months in, I have returned to the ordinary attempts to fill the day. That is a fascination for another time.

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 – Pt. 10

“We’re not in Kansas anymore Toto”
Dorothy, Wizard of Oz

I have run across several references to Venezia being a variation of Disneyland. If one lends a little credence to that notion, it can probably be argued that it has similarities to ‘Frontier Town’, ‘Main Street’, or ‘Adventure Land’ – which comprised the classic sections of Disneyland of old. I think what is meant by this is that Venezia, like Disneyland, is, in some ways, a replica experience – an amusement park for adults where you journey through antique ambiance. Main Street in Venezia is Piazza San Marco with it’s 13th C. grand palazzos, sculptures of exquisite beauty, and a grand basilica frescoed by some of the greatest artists of the Western world. Piazza San Marco in microcosm and Venezia in macrocosm offers a complete and total ‘otherness’ from one’s own individual world, much as Disneyland does I think.

As someone put it the other day, “Venice is a stage set; a clothes horse as shallow as its closet.” Disneyland could certainly be described similarly.

At first I took umbrage with these comparisons – hell, the food alone is better than anything Disneyland has to offer, even though the cost is certainly comparable, and the wine (do they even serve alcohol on ‘Main Street’?) is of course in a league of its own. However, in favor of the comparisons are at least two things I observed which made me laugh out loud and realize there’s always a bit of truth in anyone’s story (or comparison).

First, I was walking along the Venezian Lagoon (a part called the Canale Giudeca) just before where the Grande Canale joins it. There, anchored on the quay, was a . . . well, ostensibly, it presented itself as the “Jolly Roger” (that’s what the print on the side said). It even flew the appropriate skull and crossbones. It had masts and sails, and “sailors” dressed in what would legitimately be considered Venezian Pirate attire.

Believe me Venezia knows all about piracy – that which they inflicted on others and that inflicted upon them by Barbary Corsairs (predecessors of the Barbary Pirates, whom the United States sent the Marines after – as extolled in their phrase “. . . to the shores of Tripoli”), and by Spanish, English, and Dutch Privateers, etc. I ran across a map in my current favorite historian, Fernand Braudel’s, ‘The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II’, that showed the number of ships taken by pirates in the Adriatic in 10 years in the late 1500’s. Each dot represented a “piracy”; there were literally hundreds of dots, I mean it was practically more dots than Adriatic.

Well, the Jolly Roger was actually a ‘remodeled’ Venezian small trawler, of common occurrence, rigged up to grab a bit of the tourist trade. Their success, not to mention their “rigging” was certainly what one would experience in relative terms at Captain Hook’s Pirate Ship in Fantasy Land. In other words, they both draw the crowds.

The second trigger moment was one example among the countless hundreds of street vendors filling the quay sides of the Grande Canale. This instance was a man and a woman, whose very diminutive size, skin tone, and other aspects told you they were Peruvian Incan or of similar origin. The man was playing an instrument and they had a stand with CDs of Peruvian music – clearly not of their making, but bought wholesale with an eye toward retail. He was dressed in an admixture costume of splayed feather headdress, leggings of beaded work and feathers, and other “add-ons”. I have attended a good number of N. American Indian Pow-wows, and I would swear that the bead work and feather pattern were N. American. But, that sort of Margaret Mead conjecture aside, he was clearly a native of Peruvian Indian extraction. His wife was plainly dressed, but of one type as he. Then he took out a pan flute and began to play “Sounds of Silence”, by Simon and Garfunkle. I spontaneously laughed out loud. The total combination was certainly worthy of a Disneyland attribution if anything was.

Perhaps this comparison of Venezia makes better sense if viewed from a mercantile perspective: the surface economic enterprise of the city is, arguably, not different than the main goal of Disneyland – commerce. Venice was, during an exceptional period of nearly 500 years, one of the great trade centers of the Western world – spices, drugs, cloth, salt, slaves, rice, hides, and countless other commodities were required to be shipped through her port. A requirement enforced by her remarkable navy and necessary for the city as the taxes supported the Doge – Venetian for Duke. From her were shipped the gold and silver to pay for the imports as well as such things as Kersey’s from England, and, of course, the fine Venetian textiles demanded by Pashas, Caliphs, Kings, Queens, Dukes, and Nobles throughout the Mediterranean. Some argue that the Renaissance in Venice only occurred to the extent that it was generated by or subservient to commerce – in other words that she was not a center of inspiration for it.

Today, the trend is almost the same, except now Venice imports tourists and the goods to support them – Disneyland Mediterranean. There then is the comparison. More on that later.

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 . . .