dMo's blog

Sunday, December 09, 2007

The weather took a turn towards the damp and cold this morning. The heating plant broke down. It's Sunday. Nobody works Sundays here. There's no use even trying to get it fixed. The dog's been howling all morning. I'm hungover & can't be bothered to get up & walk with him. But the market closes soon so I've got to get up & go.

Town's been transformed overnight into a christmas ornament. For a country where electricity is so expensive, it's a wonder that the local government will spend so much on a religious holiday. Lights strung out between buildings like so many exploded christmas favours. "Bon Anno" projected onto the church in the central square, three weeks early.

The shop's run out of milk & fresh bread. No deliveries on Sunday. Bakers' day off. We make do with a soup chicken, day old bread, some leftover fruits & veggies. Cat food. A bone for the dog.

The short drive home is unbearably lonely. Days, already shortened by winter are robbed of their resonance by the thick frozen mist that drapes the hills. Visibility sucks. In the hermetic click of a German car door. In the thick fog that dampens all the senses. I'm as alone as I've ever been. I take a breath & watch the windshield fog up. There's no hurry. It's no better at home.

I can't believe I'm bitching about being in Italy!

Truth is, I'm alone in lonely country among friendly people I can't much communicate with which just makes it worse. Except "hello" and "please" and "thank you very much". The language flies through my head, with the occasional word attaching to my brain -- wait a minute... that sounds like french... finestre,,, fenetre... window, yes! Another word in my meagre word bank. At this rate it'll take years to save up enough words to assemble into a conversation!

And people don't hang out in the local cafe. They just show up, drink their essence-of-coffee and jabber as though they've known each other all their lives -- which is probably the case. Then go on about their business, as they do every day.

But I stay. It's too cold at home. The house too big for just one person. Too expensive to heat for just one, even if the power plant hadn't crapped out on me. It had been working intermittently, just to keep the house warm enough to keep the frost out.

I'm glad to be leaving tomorrow. This trip's been a type of fast. Cut myself off from external stimuli & see what happens. Just the dog and Babushka for company. Results have been downright surreal.

Last night, for example, Babushka was on about her cat again. He had AIDS, so we had to put him to sleep. We took him away while her head was turned. Of course we didn't tell her he's dead. We just said he took off. These things happen you know. Maybe he found a girlfriend in the next village. You never know.

The conversation has the same theme with few variations:

"Not my cat" she says. "He wouldn't leave willingly. He was attached to me".

She thinks the local cobbler took him. And put him to work catching rats in his cellar.

We have this conversation every day. "Where's my cat?" She lowers her voice. "I need some help" she says in a voice pitched for me alone. "I need a young man like you to help. Take me to the next village. The cobbler stole my cat. I'd go myself but I'm scared."

"What about Tarzan & Anton & Simon?" I say. "They're our cats. Why don't you take to them?"

"You call them Cats? Maybe. But they're just local village cats, not my cat! Mine was the best one. That Cobbler knows his stuff... why would he steal any but the very best?"

None of this is true, of course, but rituals have a momentum of their own. "Why would a cobbler need your cat?" I say parroting myself word for word from the conversation we'd had every day for the last two weeks.

"Everybody could use a good cat" she normally says, "for the rats you know".

But yesterday the conversation took a new & strange turn. "The cobbler's a waste of space," she said. "Couldn't make a pair of boots to save his life. He just tans the leather & measures it out for the boots. Then at night, the animals get together in the cellar & assemble the boots. They have a workbench down there. A regular factory! Everybody knows. That's why he's able to deliver a quality product. Cause the animals have a sense of pride in what they do. They'll put their hearts into every pair of boots they make. The cobbler makes a good living off their pride!"

I nodded my head sagely. I still don't know if she was shitting me. In any case there was just enough truth in what she was saying that I didn't have the heart to contradict her.