July 21, 2011

Among the heretics

We had a road trip to Ravenna yesterday to check out some Christian mosaics dating from the 4th century. El Cabrero is all about mosaics and prefers Byzantine iconography to all the fancy Renaissance stuff.

One high point of the day was a visit to the baptistery of the Arians, a heretical sect (according to the Catholics and Orthodox anyhow) which regarded the Son as being a creature rather than as being of one substance with the Father. I'm amazed the Orthodox let anything of theirs survive.

Anyhow, about is an Arian mosaic of the baptism of Jesus, which is incidentally the only time I recall seen him represented with full frontal nudity.

July 20, 2011

We climb things

It is a truth universally acknowledged that hillbillies like to climb things. It's in our genes. So, when I got to Siena, Italy to spend a little time with the Spousal Unit, I couldn't help scanning the horizon for things to climb. The Mangia tower seemed like a good fit. It's around 500 stairs to the top.,,

through a narrow spiraling staircase...

...but the view is pretty good.

July 19, 2011

Of telling Toto that we're not in Kansas anymore

El Cabrero is still taking time off in Italy, which is nice but distinctly un-American. I think Sarah Palin would have a hard time campaigning here.

There have been any number of signs of not being in Freedomland. One of these is the fact that the food and wine are better but there is less obesity. Another sure sign is how some streets are named. I think you'd have to scour the US pretty hard to find a plaza named after a revolutionary Marxist theorist like Antonio Gramsci (1891-1937).

Fox News would have a cow.


July 18, 2011

Home sweet home

El Cabrero is taking this week WAY off. Home base these days is a funky building in Siena Italy which was said to have been the home of the Napoleonic governor of the city more than 200 years ago.

It has modern amenities, such as wireless internet and all that. But the gym is strictly old school. It consists of the original kind of stairmaster. And it's only 98 steps from the ground floor to our apartment.

There is an elevator, but that's for candy asses.

Fortunately, it's a room with a view.

July 17, 2011

Of air travel, bardos and hell

El Cabrero is WAY out of town this week. At the moment, I'm in Siena, Italy and will be hereabouts for around a week. It's a beautiful city, about which more later. But getting here was another story.

One way of dating myself is to say that I'm so old I remember when flying was cool. Maybe it always is to kids at a certain age. Nowadays a long flight, with all the layovers and such is a pretty miserable thing, especially for those of us who only fly economy class.

When I'm going on a good trip, I tend to rationalize it. The misery of getting there is a ritual of purification. The misery of getting back is a way of paying, in part anyway, for any good times that were had.

Airports kind of remind me of the bardos of Tibetan Buddhism. Bardos are transitional states between one life an another, liminal "places" where one experiences reflections of one's own karma.

Since one reason for my trip is to join the Spousal Unit who is studying Dante in Italy this summer, airport time also reminded me of how in his Inferno the souls of the damned are anxious to get to their destination, no matter how miserable it will be. It occurred to me that when one is on a long series of air trips, one longs for the next leg, no matter how cramped and sleepless it will be.

This time around, however, I'm pleased to say that even on my first day here the misery of the flight was worth it.