Sunday, June 8, 2008

Taking The Medicine

I took a blogging hiatus to end my semester, quit my jobs, and travel to Italy (via a few days in France) for nearly three weeks. The day after I came home, I had a cup of coffee with Max, who said I looked different. When I asked how, he said, "You look like you've taken your medicine." It was a perceptive moment on his part, and it's stuck with me. Now that I'm in the middle of a huge life transition back to California at the end of the summer, I'm emptied of all the assumptions, certainties, and confidences that guided me through the past few years. At the same time, I'm bolstered by a fundamental belief in the necessity of what I'm doing. This leads me to be very calm, and very excitable, and in a state of heightened attentiveness. I have grief and elation every day.

In Italy, I felt an expansion of What is Possible, because of all the newness, all the beauty, all the stacking up of incredible moments. Every day was dense with noticing: buildings, sidewalks, churches, food, food, food, each other.

The trip changed me. Here is some journaling:

“On the road from Vence, we marched into Italia to the sound of the national anthem. We watched the cuteness get even deeper, brighter, greener, more overwhelming, and then we stopped to eat rabbits and crustaceans at a terrace restaurant in the ocean town of Bordighera. We drove down some stairs, I peed behind a boulder, then put my feet in the bluest ocean, with the most luscious rounded rocks massaging my feet. The sun was caressing warm without any burning touch. We drank cappuccino and ate gelato in a shop covered in a mural of the tropics. Then a few more hours in the car, watching cute towns clustered on hills, bell towers staring down any potential irreverence. My hair is gummy with beach air, my body thrumming with pleasure, lightness.

“We discovered Albergo Julia, the 300-year-old high-ceilinged tower room and it’s a trip outside inside upside down because we saw a glimpse of the ghostly Duomo at night in Mr. Toads wild tour of Milano.

“An Italian family fortress built earnest brick by earnest brick at Michele and Franca’s, where pasta, fresh parmesan, salami, prociutto, cantaloupe, gelato, tiny teacups of espresso, and a quiet framework for intimacy—made me cry. On the way back to Casano D’Adda after an evening in Milano, I’m cuddled up in train-theater seats thinking about the family huddled under a yellow deck umbrella across the street from the Duomo, in the pounding rain. What a joy to know that forever I will have that moment—sparkling and perfect, our song, our laughter cracking the world open like the lightning behind those swirling Gothic spires.

“Today we explored Venezia and the Dazzling Array—gloves glass masks bags pizza shoes beads shirts and trinkets of every size, shape, color, in baskets and bowls and carts. Ten minutes in the Piazza San Marco to stare in amazed confusion at what is possible.

“I’m wired with circuits that get tripped by newness, so my body buzzes along even when my feet hurt (I wore sandals to a rainy Venice instead of my walking shoes), my eyes burn, and my hunger makes it difficult to think. Look! Look! Look! Every little neuron screams.

“Last night we discovered an effervescent hilarity at a strip-club-turned-restaurant where 100 fascists watched Linz, Carolyn and I giggle ourselves to tears. We zoomed around the mountain to a bar lit with amber sconces, danced and drank and shouted along to a synthesizer and a karaoke singer. Linz and Louie played and sang, and the sound of Linz hollering ‘Ciao ragazzi!’ at the crowd reverberated into my sleep. I drank wine, Grappa, limoncello, and became a mermaid in my fishnets and rhinestone sweater.

“Every day the horizons of beauty get pushed further and further out—my understanding of What Can Possibly Be keeps getting re-imagined, like a dream house with infinite rooms.

“The delirium of a 3-hour buss-walk-train adventure nightmare farcical tragic-comedy from Firenze to Barga involved SO many rotunda, signs read with only one contact lens in, quick decisions and moments of dismay and elation I’m not sure I can remember it clearly even now, immediately after. At one point I was squinting with my one good eye at the map, while Linz tried to stay awake down a feverishly turmoiled mountain road, and we had to stop, get sleepy Anth to drive, and then stop again, to get a 20-minute lesson in “You Should Not Have Left The Autostrade” from a cute Tuscan in an electrician’s van who led us as far as he could.

“Now I am stuffed with visions—Lucca, Viareggio, Livorno, Bagni di Lucca, the paninni caffe gelato focaccia mercato of my daily life exploding through the cracks and seams of my body, room, mouth, dreams. In Livorno, we squealed up a mountain to watch an island emerge from the clouds. Last night I warmed in the glow of Carolyn’s love as a perfect salamino piccante focaccine informed me about what beauty I might create in this world. In Lucca, I rode an old bike through stone alleyways, looking for the inspiration that would make me brave. I found it in a piazza, in a black licorice gelato, in the unbreakable commitment to friendship with Anth.

“Tonight in Livorno the sky turned a solemn indigo and then suddenly the amber streetlamps, perfect spherical worlds hovering above these shining streets, were beacons in the storm. The storm had no silly habits like most rain, no uni-directional simplicity—it was total Element. Water from all sides. Anth, Linz, and I huddled in a doorway and squealed at the lightning, yelling and yelling at how marvelous it is to be tropical in Italy.

"I'm alone for a few minutes on the beach, in Nice. The technicolor water, like a child would draw, all turquoise and sparkle, the art-deco modern buildings and the cliffs, coast, craggy rocks--all fill me with equal parts gratitude and desire."


  1. I love your language. My only problem with this particular blog is that aesthetic beauty and Italy is almost a cliche' by now. What I want to hear about is what pictures can't tell as much: The Italian people, culturally and politically; the politics of Livorno; the mechanics of family and friendship disclosed in that particular group.
    I'd like to see your inventive eye for detail (good writers invent details that didn't exist to those of us who describe things prosaically with our own eyes, ears, nose, tongue and fingers)focus therein.

  2. What a magnificent journey through your words. You know how to travel and therefore, in my limited perspective, you must know how to live. I felt as if I were on your wing. And you brought in your personal moments to bring it closer to your heart. Maybe one day we will meet on some road to somewhere. Of course I will have to speak fast, or perhaps to travel with you a while. Wherever you go and write about we will be the beneficiaries.

    Ciao, Christo