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L'arte sa nuotare.

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This too to remember.

It’s three times since the summer already, that I have read this out to someone, or wanted to.  The last time was a wanted-to but a couldn’t.  And so I decided, for next time, to put it here.

Madrid is a strange place anyway.  I do not believe anyone likes it much when he first goes there.  It has none of the look that you expect of Spain.  It is modern rather than picturesque, no costumes, practically no Cordoban hats, except on the heads of phonies, no castanets, and no disgusting fakes like the gypsy caves at Granada.  There is not one local-colored place for tourists in the town.  Yet when you get to know it, it is the most Spanish of all cities, the best to live in, the finest people, month in and month out the finest climate and while the other big cities are all very representative of the province they are in, they are either Andalucian, Catalan, Basque, Aragonese, or otherwise provincial.  It is in Madrid only that you get the essence.  The essence, when it is the essence, can be in a plain glass bottle and you need no fancy labels, nor in Madrid do you need any national costumes; no matter what sort of building they put up, though the building itself may look like Buenos Aires, when you see it against that sky you know it is Madrid.  If it had nothing else than the Prado it would be worth spending a month in every spring, if you have money to spend a month in any European capital.  But when you can have the Prado and the bullfight season at the same time with El Escorial not two hours to the north and Toledo to the south, a fine road to Avila and a fine road to Segovia, which is no distance from La Granja, it makes you feel very badly, all question of immortality aside, to know that you will have to die and never see it again.

The Prado is altogether characteristic of Madrid.  From the outside it looks as unpicturesque as an American High School building.  The pictures are so simply arranged, so easy to see, so well-lighted and with no attempt, with one exception, the Velazquez of the small maids of honor, to theatricalize or set off masterpieces that the tourist looking in the red or blue guide book to see which are the famous ones feels vaguely disappointed.  The colors have kept so wonderfully in the dry mountain air and the pictures are so simply hung and so easy to see that the tourist feels cheated.  I have watched them being puzzled.  These cannot be great pictures, the colors are too fresh and they are too simple to see.  These pictures are hung as though in a modern dealer’s gallery where they are being shown off to their best and clearest advantage in order to be sold.  It cannot be right, the tourist thinks.  There must be a catch somewhere.  They get their money’s worth in Italian galleries where they cannot find any given picture nor see it any too well if they do find it.  That way they feel they are seeing great art.  Great art should have great frames and needs either red plush or bad lighting to back it up.  It is as though, after having known of certain things only through reading pornographic literature, the tourist should be introduced to an attractive woman quite unclothed with no draperies, no concealments and no conversation and only the plainest of beds.


[nightingaleshiraz] [?]
[Santo Spirito, Firenze]
[lunedì 04 dicembre 2017 ore 12:11:21] []

Common Denominators

On the Frecciarossa from Rome to Florence (and onward to Milan), a family of four sits across the aisle from me.  Italian, and, by a certain, predominant set of Italian standards, well-dressed.  The mother is in a sweater of fuzzy pink wool, on the front of which has been appliquéd a pair of stars in rhinestone bagatelles, and the word “Love” (written out in a lavishly cursive script made up of shiny white pearls).  Black jeans that have been distressed and then reassured with sprays of black sequins.  Black velvet boots with black beaded bows on the toes.  The father is in a brown wool sweater and the kind of jeans that are exactly as interesting and unusual as an Italian man’s jeans must be, but no more.  They—especially the father—are deeply involved in reviewing fractions with the older of the two children, a girl of about eight (though I am terrible at guessing ages).  She is hesitant, trying out words like numeratore and denominatore.  The father leans forward across the tray table, mostly patient, occasionally exasperated.  The mother, less invested, at least in this aspect of her daughter’s existence (as opposed, one would suspect, to something perhaps like the daughter’s sweater, which features an embroidered unicorn with tufts of fuzzy wool in candyfloss pink, blue, and lavender), leans back in the seat, massaging her temples, and chiming in occasionally, when it’s obvious enough to be safe, to say “Georgia, svegliati.”  Towards the end, she shakes her head coyly at her husband, and confesses that “non ho capito niente nemmeno io...”  Something must work though, because later when she comes back from a snack run to the dining car (she has been gone all of ten minutes) and sits down, her husband gets up, steps around the tray table (they are sitting across from each other), bends over her seat, and smooches her for a good forty seconds.  Then he sits back down again.

It’s in those ten minutes (when the mother and little boy go off to get snacks), that the girl, apparently on a break from the hell of her fractions, uses a spare sheet of squared paper, left over from scratchwork, to write what she announces is a story.  When finished, she reads it out to her father as he sits across from her.  A story about a little girl “che va in giro per il mondo.”   She is excited to read it, excited to present and share in the experience of something she has made, the way any human being is excited when she makes something she believes to be interesting.  I hear snatches of the story.  “Un giorno...” and “La mamma era noiosa...” and so on.  It takes all of three minutes for her to read.  When she finishes, the father says “bene,” without looking up from his smartphone.  Inside of me, a hundred little girls are a little bit heartbroken.  Every one of them knows how she feels.


[nightingaleshiraz] [?]
[Frecciarossa 9558, Roma~Firenze]
[venerdì 01 dicembre 2017 ore 20:12:11] []