Don’t give it a kenahorah (spelling). What it means is, loosely translated, don’t count your chickens before they hatch. I woke up thinking about the fact that so far, about 7 weeks away NO real problems. That set the “curse” on the day.
We had an uneventful flight from Lyon to Bologna. I was practically crying when we left France. We left the Chateau in Bagnols at noon and by the time we got through returning the car, going through all the security bullshit (and you can only imagine the heightened security), got on the plane – HOP, operated by Air France with seats that were all of three inches wide. We were in the last row.
Once we landed in our beloved Italy and I thought back on all the fabulous times we’ve had here, I got excited. I had the foresight to imagine we, especially Jim, would be exhausted, so I booked us a room on the outskirts of the center of Bologna. Turned out to be an ideal setting. The hotel was in a charming little park of its own. We were too tired to go out, so we ate at their restaurant. It was unlike anything we’d be to in Europe or would normally choose. A mix between California and nuevo Italianette and HUGE. It looked like a place in Jersey where the mob hangs out. Turns out the food was excellent. We went back and watched Season Four of “Line of Duty” (great British series if you haven’t seen it) on Amazon. Ten minutes before the end, the WiFi crashed. It was an omen!!!!
We started the morning with a visit to Bologna. It was culture shock. One thing was being in a “big” city. It was so noisy, dirty, covered with graffiti and lots of homeless people begging. Within an hour I started to get depressed and wanted to leave. I started getting angry because I saw all these homeless people, clearly refugees , and I started thinking about why they were in Italy, a place they really didn’t want to be but ended up because the country the came from was in chaos and in ALL likelihood it was because the bloody USA had stuck its big unwanted nose and sticky fingers where it doesn’t belong and essentially helped fuck up the entire world. I was putting all of that on poor Bologna, which is actually quite beautiful and, obviously, a place of enormous historical significance. But the world has changed. If you’re somebody who travels, you really see it.
I see the impact that global corporate capitalism is having on the world. It has decimated small towns throughout Europe. When we visit these places you mainly see older people – many even older than us! Very few young people because they leave because there’s nothing for them to do. It’s tragic. There are five main corporations in the world. Amazon, Google, Apple, Microsoft and I think the final one is Netflix (though I could be wrong). Anyway, they’re all tech related. So what do people who farm or pick grapes know about tech?
Most of all, I see the effects of the never ending wars in the Middle East. All the people who have been displaced. There are more refugees now than at the end of WWII.
After a quick, very light lunch sans alcohol but of course including ham, we started our drive to Parma.If you know me you know that I have a SERIOUS hotel neurosis. I spend more hours looking for a hotel than I spend in the hotel itself. I found the most beautiful castle in Parma, high in the hills with panoramic views. The rates were INCREDIBLY cheap. I read the reviews, I checked with the concierge a hundred times to make sure I got the room I saw on the website, etc.
We drove for an hour and a half, a short ride relatively. Only the GPS send us to the wrong hotel. That’s not accurate, it sent us to an apartment building that was under construction and looked to be about a year away from completion. I reprogrammed it only to find it was another hour and a half, in a completely different direction. When we finally arrived at the right hotel (which had once been a castle), we discovered the road to the hotel itself was closed for construction. The hotel itself was probably another mile up the hill. After shouting at the construction men and moving their enormous metal posts that were supposed to prevent you from entering, a voice came down from high atop the castle to say they were coming down.
A few minutes later an Italian guy in shorts arrives, gets into our car and drives us via the other road to the hotel. The problem with being someone prone to hyperbole is when you say things people think you’re exaggerating. THIS IS NO EXAGGERATION. Keep in mind we are in the Dolomites! The road was so steep and narrow, Jim and to “close” the side mirrors so they wouldn’t hit the edges of the castle walls. Finally we arrive. We walk in and this place looks like something out of Young Frankenstein. There is nobody here but us. The bones of the place are gorgeous but it needs work and lo and behold, it’s going on right now! I think we’re the ONLY people here. When the guy showed us our room, I flipped out. This was NOT the room I chose. The shower wasn’t big enough for even Tootsie (if she wanted to shower, which she doesn’t). Since the man who was behind the desk didn’t speak a word of English nor did the luggage/driver guy, they called on another guy. He was very sweet. Pakistani. I know because he told us that 500 times and kept reassuring us that he would get us anything we wanted. (P.S. He had be in Italy a total of 48 hours). I should’ve asked for drugs, but I knew he wouldn’t understand me even though he claimed to speak English perfectly. When I asked him how we would get back inside the hotel if we left the hotel (because we didn’t want to have to walk a mile from the car to the hotel), he replied “I’ll come with you wherever you go.” Nice offer, but not exactly practical nor did I want a chaperone. He kept repeating “after you stay a few nights, you’ll be happy.” Everyone is happy here, he claimed. The only problem is there is no everyone because no one is in this GIGANTIC castle except us. Oh, it’s located right next to a Catholic cemetery where, like in France, people are enshrined; their graves covered in pictures of everyone in the family, neighbors and the local butcher.
Castles are really fun to stay in when they are like the one in France. But when they’ve been semi-neglected, they’re not so nice. They can actually be kind of creepy. Particularly when it’s Marty Feldman ala Young Frankenstein and two other Italians who look like they forgot to get dressed this morning. When I ask Marty if we are the only people staying in this gigantic castle, he claims no. Everybody else is just “out” for the day.
Turns out the road to the castle was supposed to have been completed three months, but this is Italy. So not only is not done, who the hell knows when and if it will ever get done. So it’s completely killed off business to the hotel. But although that’s a large part of the reason, there’s something else about this place — namely it’s under renovation and nobody mentioned it. Even now, they deny it when you can see all the tools, paint, plaster, etc!
Now, I do have some perspective and realize this is FAR from the worst thing that can happen to a person. The problem is that whatever problem you have you lose perspective when you’re experiencing it. Compared to the homeless beggars we gave money to today, this is not a problem. But when I’m here, I have to keep reminding myself of the homeless beggars so I don’t have a hissy fit that I don’t like the place I’m staying because its not the place they advertised it to be on the internet.
This is the real plight of people like me. The plight is you don’t have any serious enough, thank fucking god, to be unhappy about, so when anything happens that doesn’t go as planned, you become unhappy. And cranky. Man, do I get cranky. Sometimes I try and figure out when I got so bloody cranky. Can I blame it on menopause? The Bushes? The Orange Mental Midget? And when its hot like this, whoa! I can really loose my shit after a long day of irritable events.
If you don’t hear from me for the next week, you might want to send the polizia. And if people don’t read this blog, nobody will ever know if we disappear!
On the upside, I went into an Apple Store in Bologna (can you believe it?) and learned how to use the pano feature.It was the high point of the day.
So since there’s no internet or only very sporadically, I can show you the high point of the day, Jim’s first gelato this trip. It’ll have to wait until we re-enter the 21st century. As I write this I can see/hear what a TOTAL HYPOCRITE I am about virtually everything.