I traveled to Italy from March 20th through April 4th. I was fortunate enough to be hosted by four great friends: Giovanni Fiore, Miriam Sciascia, Jake Pepper & Alisha Young Leverette. I would not have learned as much or enjoyed my days in Italy to the degree that I did without their friendship. Thank you. I jotted some notes on my Blackberry while wandering Italy from its North to its South. I have transcribed a portion of those notes below. I wrote this while en route from Chicago to New York to Milano, Italia. Forgive any poor grammar or misspeeelingssss, but my hope is for the rawness to be part of the charm.
I don’t think you can write about something unless at the moment. The instant breathes. I sit in seat 30F on a flight from chicago to milan that connects I at jfk in nyc. I switched my seat to be able to press my child eyes against the window. The airplane’s windows are small but I can see the world. The bursting, gorgeous white clouds. And now new york crowded onto a point. I cannot see the twin towers. The clouds race across the sky as ocean waves or dashing armies. The neighborhoods surrounding nyc are geometrical. An ocean of clouds stretches further than my eyes can see. The bitchy stewardess forced me to turn off my cell phone, but she cannot stop me from dreaming my body out the window and writing later…We dip into the foam cloud bath. We dance in the clouds. They must be from God. I wonder what da vinci or shakespeare would write of flying if we could instantly transport them to seat 30F. None of their physical experiences were as alien to the frail human body as flying in a jumbo silver plane with its line of windows into imagination.
Many hours later…
Every time I see the wing of a plane from inside a plane, I think of that one Twilight Zone episode and worry about the possibility. (Hilariously, it stars William Shatner. I have posted that classic episode at the end. I recall my father introducing me to this episode and I also remembered the monster being a lot scarier than that cuddly warm bear.).
I am flying at dark night over europe. The ground is lit in hazy warm blankets of orange and in pinpoints of orange in others. The whole of the scene pretends to be the constellations and galaxies of the universe. Human constellations, with God’s constellations dangling in clear above the horizon. I spot rare towers of twirling white light on the ground.
A few hours later…
I am flying over the Swiss Alps at dawn. White snow covers them but patches of black break through. The horizon is from top to bottom light blue,yellow, orange, rose, purple, blue. The Alps shouldn’t be real. This can only be God saying good morning. The dawning sun grants pink crowns to the tallest heads of the Swiss. From afar I wonder whether the Alps are God saying to us, “But you can’t do this.”
While on vacation in Florida, I spotted this casket company truck and found its note of caution curiously self-defeating. Maybe it’s a testament to the strength of the Batesville Casket Company: “Go ahead, take your time. We can wait.” Maybe their Florida customer base is so old they figure it wont make much difference. I’d like to think Batesville Casket Company operates one county over, and they want to promote defensive driving until the enter the local market, then they will paint over “Please Drive Safely” with “Time is Running Out!” or “You Haven’t Got All Day!”
…in honor of my first 24 hours in my new home, from best to worst (note that this is London-exclusive, not all of the UK):
- David Bowie
- The Rolling Stones
- The Sex Pistols
- The Clash
Honorable mentions: Elvis Costello, the Kinks, Bloc Party, the Who
So I arrived last night in London, where I will be staying this semester as part of the Center for Transnational Legal Studies, which is a study-abroad program Georgetown organizes where students and professors from 11 countries around the world come together to study international law-related stuff. I’ll be taking classes in International Legal Institutions (focusing on the UN), International Humanitarian Law, and National Security & Human Rights (comparing the approaches of the US and the UK).
Anyway, I’ve started up a travel blog, which is located here. It will probably be mostly personal stuff where I post pictures of places I visit in London and around Europe, but if I write something travel-related that a broader audience might be interested in, I’ll cross-post it here. Just a heads up for those interested.
One of the most significant things I learned from traveling is that my thoughts are limited by the words in my language(s). You’ve probably heard the saying, “It’s hard to translate,” before. Some notions exist verbally in some languages and not others. Usually these translations involve subtleties, but sometimes it can be entire ideas, as well. If an idea is hard to translate from one language to another, imagine how hard it is to individually generate this idea if your language does not even have words to describe the idea!
A very crude personal illustration:
I was walking in Central Park with my German friend, when I found myself suffering from a wedgie. I asked him if we could stop a moment so I could pick it. Puzzled, he asked what a wedgie was. My explanation began, “Well, a wedgie is when your underwear gets shoved up your ass—and it usually happens while you are walking.” He paused a moment and then a lightbulb went off: “Oh, you mean, ‘Arsch frisst Hose!’” I then paused a moment, and said, “Yes, yes. ‘Ass eats pants.’” What was really astounding to me was that my whole life I considered the underwear as the “actor” in the wedgie process—the underwear shoves itself up the ass—, whereas my German friend saw the ass as the cause of the wedgie, while the underwear passively shoved by…
Moral of the story: the word “wedgie” is very limiting to explain the phenomenon of underwear being eaten by your ass.
**Shoutout to Billy Joe—who is finally getting his passport stamped for the first time this winter. I’m so happy for you!
It was amazing to see so much graffiti in Berlin, especially considering that the prevailing stereotype of Germany is that it is a meticulously clean and orderly country. I shouldn’t have been surprised by the graffiti in Berlin, however, because of the rich history of graffiti on the Berlin Wall. The western side of the Berlin Wall was a gigantic slate for Berlin’s creative counterculture to express themselves for nearly three decades. When the wall fell, the graffiti artists sought new canvases to bomb on sides of buildings, subway seats, street signs, doorways, mailboxes, boats, and almost any other surface you can dream up.
Berlin is an ever-evolving city of culture. Streetscapes, architecture, and fashion are constantly changing. It was truly a pleasure to walk outside my DDR-style apartment building each morning to discover a freshly painted piece of art to ponder for the day.