Sunday, July 10, 2005

Still Kosher, Still Here

I'm alive. You can stop worrying. In fact, you shouldn't have worried at all. (Mom)

Local Italian wine we drank at the centro sociale, a sort of anti-religion, procommunist community center-think the opposite of Chabad-has destroyed any previous thoughts I had for the blog, leaving me to fit all the fragmented pieces back together like a puzzle. And not my cousin's 12 piece puzzle. The 1200 Jigsaw of Monet's Bridge you find only in speciality toy stores, the ones where the cashier laughs when you buy it, because she knows and you know it's never gonna be finished.

Madonna Mia. I guess I should start by explaining what happened those first few days in Bologna, and how I managed to have a good time. 2 things I realized after my third day here: I'm not an Italian citizen, nor do I live here. Second, never agree to stay in a house where the only tenants are 2 Southern Italians who broke up five days before. To quote some Deepak Chopra or Dr. Phil (don't know who said it first), I was living in the past and wasn't living in the now. Which is to be expected, naturally, but not at all benefical. So instead I'm living the Italian lifestyle, b/c that's all I know how to do. Drinking wine, having exquisite panini made just for me, discussing politics and criticizing the war in Iraq lest I get kicked out of the communist stronghold which is the Bologna Dormitory system, figuring out bus schedules and not giving a shit when everything arrives late (it might be time for another Mussolini, it's so god awful here), old-people watching in the South-you know the type: baby blue short-sleeve shirt, grey trousers hiked up to the chin, and a maximum of 8 teeth in the mouth, with a tendency to discuss what life was like in the old days, the days of the Second World War when the American soldiers were some bravi ragazzi, the Germans were all bastardi, and life was a lot more clear. So I survived the test, and now don't want to leave, giving serious thought to starting an English-speaking school here, though the challenges of the Italian beaucracy are counterbalancing any hopes I have.

I met up with my dear high-school friend Shulie, who studied at Reed College in Portland. A kick ass photographer who's been traveling for over a month in Italy by herself. We met up in Napoli and spent 2 days in the city. It met my expectations of a tight, bustling, traditional city with vendors who yell their prices and the best tasting pizza I've ever had in my life. That's what's great about traveling-after spending some time in a country, you can actually say that "This the best ______ I've ever had." Because it's true. The city is infamous as the pickpocketer's Promised Land, and we kept our wallets in the hostel. Currently a war is being waged between Southern criminal groups in certain quarters of Napoli. 2 old Asians were shot the day we arrived. Napoli is nice, but really spooky at night. It's Italy, I should feel safe, but instead of pursuing a sinister looking alley, we got some beers and then went home, woke up the next day for-

a metro, two buses, a train, ten another bus to reach Matera, a UNESCO Heritage Site now famous for being the location of Mel Gibson's The Passion. We stayed in the Sassi, a Arabesque quarter with stone houses built into the caves, smashed together between churches. It looks like Masada, or Jerusalem. I can't tell you how many times I sang "If I was a rich Man" in Hebrew of course, or the first lines of "yerushalayim shel Zahav." No, wait, I only sang the chorus. I think I'm quickly gaining ground with the Italian but my Hebrew is disappearing at an alarming rate. The residents of the 2 Sassis were all evacuated in the 1950s. You won't believe how these people lived. A family of six lived in one tiny ass room, with a donkey. Chickens lived under the one family bed. Little kids slept in drawers right above the ones which held dung, hay, and chicken feed. Smart.

We also stayed at Lecce, which has fantastic beaches and plenty of guys in way-too-tight Speedos. They really have no shame. You could see their like, balls, and stuff, all the time, just there. Whatever. I think it's a remnant of Puritan America, which is somhow in all of us, that makes a piece of Spandex a serious turn off. Though I guess it is more comfortable, so what the hell. I can also attest that I was the whitest person on a beach of maybe 200, and probably one of 2 Americans. here I'm the odd man out.

Enough narrative. The South is beautiful, traditional, conservative, dangerous, and not poor, just neglected from the State, berlusconi, and most importantly, from tourists. Everything is so cheap here-it was like winning the lottery. The food is incomporable to anywhere else in Italy. The focus on farming and lack of industry makes the food so good but keeps the money so far. The sad part is on the new generation-the lack of funds, and growing up in a place where luxuries were sparse, has affected the Southerners' mentality, keeping them stuck in a life where opportunities are out of reach, where dreams can't be realized and chances shouldn't be taken because the risk is just too much. Usually they don't even get to take that financial risk because most parents are laborers, not lawyers or doctors or businessmen so commonly found in the North. On one hand I feel like I've grown in an American Neverland, where if I wanted to do something, most of the time I could. And I'm not talking about things, because fortunately we didn't get everything we asked for. But on the other hand, every person needs to take that risk, step out of the safety net, find an American and engage in language exchange, apply to schools, get a visa. Sure it's hard, but it's feasible.

The Passion. We ask every Italian to say it. I think i've been at this blog for too long. Guiseppe and Rosario are telling me I should put chapter titles, start it with the day I was born. By the way, did I ever mention I got a massage for a 350 pound Hungarian man? Did I mention I was naked? And that I liked it, just a little bit?

Oh, and screw radical Islam and the terrorist bastards who adhere to the good book, because it is a good book. Screw any fanatic who wants to kill other people in the name of God. My heart is with you, Brits.


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