We wandered around the Vatican, and it was OK. I am not an art kind of guy, but our tour guide, Ellen, gave us the history of Italy in a nutshell as we wandered around. I liked looking at her as much as I enjoyed the paintings. Our fearless leader, Carmella, who runs the nonprofit that sponsored the voice contest and then set up this concert tour for the winners, is forever wearing a jaunty hat, and has a way of putting her fist on her hip which is very Mussolini like. I think she is a little whacky. Hard to say why. Not Mussolini whacky, but maybe arty-whacky, like not too concerned with mundane details like getting us a hotel that isn’t out in the middle of nowhere, or making sure the bus is on time to take us back from Rome when we are standing on the street in the rain at 11 pm. We are dinner at 11 pm, after travelling back on the late bus, and paying twenty euros for a bus that was supposed to be paid for as part of the tour package.
I hung out at a sidewalk café, outside a gelateria, or ice cream shoppe, where I had a few draught Spatens, a German beer. It was good. I said slainte (Irish for salud or cheers) and the fellow at the next table pulled down his shirt to show me a tattoo on his shoulder that said the same. He ended up being from New Hampshire, and thought we had some kind of deep connection, the kind you can only have with complete strangers when you are frighteningly drunk. He started to talk about racial mixing, and I couldn’t tell if he was for or against. I was grateful when he wandered off to buttonhole another group at the next table. I wonder what kind of deep connection he felt for them.
I guess Italy is still a pretty Catholic country. I saw a number of handbills on walls protesting attempts to pass a law legalizing gay marriage. I thought Europe was supposed to be more enlightened than we are. No one has called me an ugly American yet. Tomorrow we see the Borghese gallery.
Today we are going to take the train into town. Supposed to be 70, and it is absolutely gorgeous right now. My fellow travelers are not exactly extras from a production of the Canterbury Tales. They are opera fans the way some people are Star Trek fans. Fanatics, and able to conduct social intercourse only when they are with other fans. We went to a concert last night, and the performances induced a lot of tears among the fans. I was dry-eyed, but I was impressed with some of those impossible notes they hit.
I could appreciate the love for a discipline, an art, these young acolytes have. They were yelling and bellowing and emoting all over the place, and I could see they had put every bit of nerve and sinew they had into practicing and performing their pieces. One fellow, Galliano (does he have a brother Amaretto and a sister Anisette?) is apparently a real prodigy. The whole thing reminded me of a high school theater production, but like I said, the dedication to an art, to love something that is beautiful, unattainable, and is probably not going to love you back, is something I can appreciate. I could have cried for that, for these young and hopefuls who are willing to give, with the ascetic dedication of monks, all for art.
© 2015 Mike Welch