Back To The Future

Well then, I just spent three nights in Old Firenzico. The first day was remarkable, spending the night on the ferry, sleeping solitary in the cafeteria hall under the TV, sipping Mirto from a plastic water bottle, “incognito,” chatting with Erika, that tight-haired, green-eyed Slovakian who doesn’t stop smiling only at me, for one reason or another, until I fall asleep with my backpack as a pillow as if I were again living in the old school bus. Arrival in Livorno comes swift in the morning, but the day was spent crawling around that seemingly ugly, hellish city with a cow full of clothes on my back, sweat in my eyes, wringing little fruit from this leisurely form of manual labor. One walks from the port on inch-wide sidewalks, praying not to be sideswept by the passing freight trucks, noting the absence of signage, of end, of a foot-friendly city. Indeed, walking around for one hour and a half offers no sight of, well, anything, and by eight in the morning there is nary a single cafe open in sight. With a string of counsel, from a tabbaconist and his hand-drawn map (to my own discredit, he urges me just to take the bus, but I am stubborn, wanting to get a sight of the city instead of going directly to the train station), to the Tom Waits-with-laryngitis man from behind the train tracks, who users me another 3km to the station, I finally make my way there, even finding a lovely fruit shop en route, and by 11am I am in the seat of the Renaissance. Lee Foust, my old professor, greets me warmly from his empty apartment, and after a long chat full of candor of conquest, he cooks us veggie burgers and as we wait for Connie, the administrator from my old Florentine university. She arrives with her car ready to be packed and, after years of absense, she is brief and direct, barking, “Eric, where are you? Come help us,” efore any pleasantries can be traded, though ultimately she is pleasant enough. By evening we’ve moved all the stuff to Lee’s new place, so we grab some balcony beers for some serious balcony conversation, and considering how well-read he is, I am stuck doing my best attempt to be interesting and intelligent. The rest of the time unfolds like this, drinking and talking and listening to records (Julian Cope, Bongwater, American Music Club, et al), before finding a nearby brewery. After dinner, we watch an episode of THE INvADERS, then pass out. Morning comes and Lee is due to leave for San Francisco, but it is already ten and there is someone asleep in his bed and I am afraid to investigate — it’s his son, after all, thankfully — and with all on the table, I opt to venture out into my old city, into a garden of nostalgia. ostly I get a gelato and search for the old antique shops in town for a gift for my mom’s birthday, then sit under the window of Lungarno Archibusieri 6, eating moldy salame and stale bread, pondering again of why I put myself through this. At that moment I see my old landlady, and involuntarily call out her name, “Patrizia!” She remembers me by name and invites me up to the place to step into a past dream. Upon departure I am in tears for sure, the first time I have cried in years, I think, and we agree to have lunch together tomorrow, leaving me stuck with figuring out what to do with the rest of my day. I wonder and wander and finally it’s dinnertime, which is partly why I came back to Florence, promising myself at least one high-quality meal. I head to Mamma Gina and get the bistecca fiorentina al sangue, coupled with a liter of wine and a salad, and I pretend like I don’t speak English because I don’t want to speak with the people at the table next to me. Soon I am disgusted with myself for such pretense, and once I help them translate the menu I’ve got a bill for 42 euro and a rather luxurious drunk. I drop by what used to be the Michael Collins Pub to see if my old bartender, Alessio, is working there, but he is not, so I buy a cheap bottle of wine to stumble down the long walk home. Snuggling in for an episode of THE INvADERS, I hardly touch the montepulciano, instead falling asleep lonely and a bit sad, touched with, on the fringe, a sense of deep-rooted pleasure.

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~ by nearhelsinki on July 20, 2011.

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