Saturday, August 6, 2016

Rome invades

As my month long trip to Rome inches closer I keep expecting it to subsume everything. For months and months it has held off, but now I am feeling the first tremors. It is sliding in to my soul.

I have begun counting in Italian. I am living on a diet almost exclusively made up of tomatoes, basil, and olive oil, though I have had a bit of prosciutto and fresh mozzarella as well. But perhaps the strongest element of all this invasion is a kind of displacement, a sense of a different reality surrounding me.

The last time my wife and I went to Europe we went to Venice. I made this video:

Morning in Venice, Italy

And it speaks a little to how I feel now about Rome. Columns flicker at my peripheral vision. I have to double check the ceiling of my library to make sure it isn't filled with frescoes. Is that a baroque fountain out there? No. It is merely a parked car. Do I hear a scooter? Yes, actually, I do hear a scooter. Where can I get some amazing gelato? Nowhere? What do you mean nowhere? Wait, where am I.

I no doubt invited this confusing condition by pouring over and designing maps of Rome for the last half year. I am indeed now engaged in the possibly hopeless attempt to create my own, entirely personalized guidebook. But if Rome were a less spectacular city, one less deep, like Venice perhaps, or Lisbon, or even Paris or London for god's sake, it wouldn't be this bad. Any other city and I would have exhausted the new discoveries. I would have begun to repeat things and memorize them. Not in Rome. Hundreds of hours of studying into it I still open up a map and have my jaw dropped; "Wait, that church has Giottos?" I cry out. Or "You mean this insignificant museum I never remotely considered is full of Roman wall paintings?" Or worst of all "Another gelato shop? There? Four feet from our apartment? How did I miss this!"

So I continue to prepare. And I hallucinate. And I assemble my guidebook in a fever. But I don't plan on letting it consume me. My plan is that when I get to Rome we'll just drink wine at some cafe, wiling away the day, ignoring every last thing I have learned.


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