And Another Thing

To continue, we were at this literary festival in Gavoi, a lovely little town without the infrastructure for so many visitors, yet with the charm enough to rationalize them, and it was spent polishing the shine of a very interesting Italian Intellectualism.  I sat in with my new friends on a number of readings and discussions, from a recently deceased journalist’s accounts of life in Iraq during our shameful war, to a young author interview between an attractive girl writing “Patricia Cornwell things,” and a tall, monotone-voiced fellow who wrote an account of a young Austrian girl locked in a cellar for years, forced by her father to have seven children.  Wow.  Anyway, these days were spent with not a word of English between them, and there were times where I felt like I was drowning, but plenty of times, too, where I felt lifted when the light turned on and I was actually able to engage in and comprehend intellectual things in another language.  For me, Italian is like astronomy: if native Italians are able to live up amongst the stars, I was before merely gazing up at a vague cloud of cosmic dust.  Now that my Italian is improving a bit, I feel like I have a telescope, and I can look at the dust and discern little sparkling bits of beauty that I never could before.

In Gavoi we ate a ton, mostly this strange purputzah sausage stuff (very fatty, juicy, perhaps cooked in vinegar and other spices), non-stop pecorino, plenty of table wine and mirtu (an herbal liquor probably exclusive to the island), and, of course, gelato.  I eat gelato every fucking day, and tried sheep salami, but did not like it as it tasted like the smell of a farm, farm too pungeant.  I like the Matteos and all of their friends, but I feel like a drain on them, like a mooch; Sardi are the most relaxed, open, and generous people – generally speaking, of course – that I have ever met.  They constantly give, and I have nothing to give back, though I did give my Wincester switchblade away to my first WWOOF host, who tried to make me a disc of Italian music but failed.  My upbringing makes me think that he tried to do that so he could ask me for the knife, which he did.  After my first experience, I think I can say that I did not love WWOOFing, though I did like it.

I came back to Cagliari the other night en route to new vacationing destinations in the north, and found that in July, all the room prices go up a ridiculous amount.  I decided that I couldn’t afford more than sixty euro per night, and Matteo Number 2 has let me stay here for the three nights until my ferry leaves for Livorno.  I really fucked up, and felt awful about this.  Still, as a result I was invited to his political roundtable, where I was greeted by old men screaming about Gramsci, absolutely shaking about the old days when the Democrats had guts, and of course it was a marvelously, unabashedly ITALIAN evening, one an American like me could never have gotten if I didn’t have such good friends.  I spent the latter part of the night speaking with an ancient old lady, Giuseppina, about many things, mostly the trip she took in the early 70s down the west coast of America, into Mexico.  My nationality became a novelty again, and as a goodbye they gave me these two little novelettes about Italian and French Cinema History (at my request), so that I might practice my Italian more.  Brilliant.  The night was spent in the alley behind the Caffè Barcelona, where all the kids formed a huge circle, sipping their Ichnusa beers, and if anyone felt like speaking, reading a poem or singing a song, or lecturing on a political matter, they could, and everyone was perfectly quiet, intent, respectful, and offered communal advice thereafter.  I had never seen anything like that before, and of course it was a who’s-who, spotting all of the acquaintences I had already made in Gavoi, from the author that bought me the beer to the ex-president’s daughter.

I am at Poetto Beach still, and it is getting close to evening, now.  A fat, defiantly hairy man wobbles on the towel next to me, and a presumed immigrant approaches him, selling towels.  More towels.  The fat man seems to feign interest for a time before the immigrant snaps to his feet: “fankoolo!  Tu, fankoolu,” storming away, waving his hands in anger, as the fat man smiles, satisfied.  Just like that.  The Vertical Belly Button has left.  By now, all the beachgoers have goten older and uglier.  Incidentally, it is time for me to go back to the city, though I shall take a brief hike up the beach, first.

“You just hiked down the boardwalk, past the millions of European tobacco hides stuffed in bulging Spandex thongs, past the swirling white harbour, where you found that boat with its American flag and the unrelated marinara cleaning it, past all the boats that make you think of Brother Brian, recently engaged to be wed, over that long levee and rock wall to the deserted beach with the half moon and the nuraghe floating above, to this little perch on a rock, the Mediterranean licking gently — oop, not so gently, now — below, and remember how you thought: this is it, this moment is purely mine, this is why I traveled so far.

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~ by nearhelsinki on July 10, 2011.

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