Sunday, October 08, 2017

The Navelgazer’s Last Tour of Italy

Swept away by an apoplectic American destiny in a red plane in October

Nothing above me, nothing below me - So I jump off
One more time, I’m on a plane going from Rome, Italy to America, and the young Gen-Z narcissist sitting next to me is being a dick. The latest generation of Ugly American to emerge from this isolated piece of land, which for the last 100 or so years has dominated the world’s attention. He and his family just spent a vacation in Italy. They bought the posters, bought the t-shirts (probably also bought the coffee mugs) and now he couldn’t wait to get home and see if his Buffalo Bills won or lost. This is going to be one helluva long flight…

How is it someone goes to Italy and Italy doesn’t seem to rub off on them? How can they walk all over Rome and see the amazing energy that humans have put into life and only want to sprawl into a seat, eyes welded to their phone, spilling over into the next seat with their limbs, their heavy metal music thrashing over their ultralight earbuds, their water bottles, their candy wrappers and their absolute undaunted ignorance of history or life or just common sense? That, in a nutshell, is the brushfire that is spreading across America in this time. Not the floods, not the earthquakes, not the hurricanes or fires or tornadoes, not all the things Mother Earth is dropping on us. The humans are setting these cultural fires in motion. And they’ve been doing it for as long as I’ve been going to Italy.

In 1971, it wasn’t hard to see them. They were middle aged, wearing ridiculous shorts and shirts, unable to get into St. Peter’s because they weren’t dressed properly for a church. In the 1980’s they were young college students, on leave from America (and their minds) for a year, wandering across Italy with a bota bag and damn well near no perspective on their place in the civilized world. They were loud and brash and irreverent and, well, goddam boring to be around. I avoided them like the plague. Judging from the recent few nights I spent in Rome, they’re still out there, this time taking selfies to document their unconscious and entitled sense of themselves.

And all along, Italy offers a response. A curved arch here, a plate of pasta there. A Caravaggio, popping up along a wall in a dark corner of a cool church. A sweet little dog in a vineyard, who only wants to have his back scratched. A farmer and his young family, who are living on the edge of a volcanic outcropping, making a red wine for God knows who. Thank God.

Yeah, I reckon the ugly Americans aren’t going away anytime soon. In fact, they’re rising up again. The young man sitting next to me, unable to say anything in a complete sentence (and no, he wasn’t on the spectrum) when he wanted to get up and get a fifth cup of ice cream or another glass of red wine to go with his another Dr. Pepper. Who seethed with so much anger, and who wasn’t going to put his seat belt on, no matter what! Who wasn’t going to turn his phone off, until the flight attendant threatened to bring the captain back. Who could have made many of us (and his family) lose our connecting flight. The drip, drip, drip of the Ugly Apoplectic American wearing down the world, one acid rain drop at a time.

And behind us is Italy, with her pretty little beach here, her lovely wooded area on top of a hill there, with a castle of some sort hidden behind it. Here, a flock of pigeons waiting at someone's feet for a crumb from the focaccia the nice old man handed to them with a smile. All through this Italy smiles, Italy takes the slap across the face, day in and day out, and turns the cheek. And gives an eye contact with a gleam, and pours a sip of their last bottle of 35-year-old wine that someone’s long gone grandfather made. Ahh, Italy, you’re sometimes just too good for the rest of us.

Like the woman in the leather shop said, "When will these $@%ῲ₪№₲! American’s ever learn?"

wine blog +  Italian wine blog + Italy W


magnumvino said...

I do hope that one of these days our paths cross somewhere on the boot. I would enjoy the chat. That flight would certainly have set me off.

Ole Udsen said...

Yes, the resilience of Italy. Ancient, but still there, and still better than the rest.

Marco said...

A temporary but all too common annoyance, amico. When will they ever learn? Beats me. Thank God for the people, land, food, wine, cats, dogs of Italy.

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