Day 13

Posted by Whit Barringer , Thursday, June 14, 2007 2:15 PM


CT 3:47 A.M. (6-8-07)
IT 10:47 A.M. (6-8-07)

Dante, Electro-Jesus, and a Bottle of Champagne.

Yesterday was a lot of blah topped with a lot of fun.

I got up at 9:00 to take a shower, get ready, eat something, and meet the rest of the class at the school at 10:30. I had fallen asleep reading Thomas Mann’s “Death in Venice” (if you haven’t read it, it’s cree-py. More to come in a moment), so I was ultra behind on my readings since the roommate that I’m sharing reading materials with hadn’t finished Inferno the night before. So I was just hoping to get some reading done in between the field trip of the day and class time.
The alumni/administration group that came for UCA’s centennial shindig was going to shadow us to the Casa di Dante. Why us? I really don’t know. It may have had something to do with Paulette being our Italian speaker, or the fact that we weren’t trekking all over the city, etc. But we all met at 10:30, roundabout, and then headed for the Casa di Dante. Bane put on the professor face, lecturing us about the plaques all over the city with selections from The Divine Comedy on them. If someone wanted to find them all, it would certainly be a bit of a scavenger hunt. They’re everywhere, inside and outside of buildings all over the city. It would be fun, but I’m not that hardcore into Dante. I would love to do an Orson Scott Card scavenger hunt though.

We arrived at Casa di Dante, and Paulette said the ticket lady directed us to go up to the first floor. I did happen to think this was strange since we had already climbed one huge case of stairs to get there, but I’m not one to question the ticket lady. Turns out she had told Paulette to go up to the first floor, but we were actually already on the first floor. Paulette apologized to our guests like she had committed a cardinal sin, and we all went back down to the first floor of the exhibit.

This is where I say it was really neat and I’m glad I went, but I’m not sure I can muster it this time. It was somewhat of a crock because they couldn’t say a) any of it was Dante’s stuff or b) that it was actually Dante’s house to begin with. It did have some cool genealogies of his family, as well as some models of what the city looked like in Dante’s time (which was fun; as it turns out our street would have been outside the city walls – and we’re a ten-twelve minute walk from the Duomo). They actually think Dante’s house would have been further down the street and unrelated to the building that we were actually in.

They had some interesting histories to try and explain the war between the Ghibellines and the Guelphs. *Cue Explanation.* Dante was fighting with the Guelphs against the Ghibellines for power in Florence. The Ghibellines lost and were either put to death, exiled, or imprisoned, I don’t know which. Anyway, with the Guelphs in power there was another political fracture, splitting the Guelphs into the Blacks and Whites. I think the Whites won, which would have made Dante a Black. They exiled all of the Blacks from Florence forever. Dante had to leave his wife and children and roam the countryside. And that’s when he started his greatest work.
The Italians do so love their Dante. They find every opportunity they can to honor him. Dante and Dante Alighieri restaurants and Tabacchis abound. His “casa” is on Via Dante Alighieri. They have posted quotes from his book all over Florence. He has two museums dedicated to him and his life (one in Florence, one in Ravenna). And, as Dr. Bane keeps pointing out, he’s on their money. The Euro coin has quite a few denominations – 1 c, 2 c, 5 c, 10 c, 20, 50 c, 1 Euro, and 2 Euro. Italy is the only country in the EU that got their own set of Euro coins. The 1 Euro have the Vitruvian Man, the 50 c have some weird artwork, one piece has the Coliseum, etc. But who is on their 2 Euro coin? Who is the most important Italian contribution to the world? You guessed it. Dante Alighieri.

We got done with the three floors of the Casa di Dante pretty quickly and were led outside. For those of you who haven’t read the Inferno (for the rest, a reminder): In the beginning of The Divine Comedy, Dante is in the middle of a dark wood. Virgil is sent to him by an angel named Beatrice (Bee-a-tree-chey for the Italians) to be his guide in Hell. Dante met Beatrice in real life when he was nine and she was eight. As far as we know, Dante never saw her again. But she was so perfect and virtuous that she became Dante’s muse. She also died before he wrote the Divine Comedy, and some suggest that this is another reason why he began the story. The whole reason I say this is because we went to the church where Beatrice is buried next.

It was an extremely small church, only known for holding Beatrice’s remains. Apparently, many people know about it though, because Beatrice has a huuuuuge fan club. Her tomb was absolutely covered in letters, asking for a muse, for true love, for a blessing. Most of us wrote her a letter as well. I can’t say what my letter said of course (I guess it’s akin to wishing on a star). I took a picture of my note on top of the other notes, just so I could look back and say I was there and I did it. There were some weird things about the church though. It was the first one that I’d seen so far that panders for money so blatantly. They had Euro coin machines to turn on the altar lights, electric “candles” (white sticks with bulbs at the end) for prayer, and all sorts of electro-Jesus. I didn’t give any money because of it. I’d rather give to the poor box than to give to what felt like a perversion of purpose.

After that was said and done, we went to a deli sandwich shop next door. Caitlin and I ordered the Dante e Beatrice sandwich with all sorts of stuff on it. We took it all back to the apartment (finding a cheap gelato store along the way) and ate and talked. Caitlin got sleepy, so we sent her to Rachel’s bed. Kim and I chose to stay behind when Halley and Rachel decided to go shopping. We told them that we would catch up but we never did. We left at 1:40 and got to class just before it started at 2. Then we chatted up Circles 1-8 of Hell and talked about Thomas Mann’s “Death in Venice.” Such a weird story.

While we were talking, a thunderstorm blew in –one of those that is preceded by large booming thunder. Then the sky tore open and poured out upon us. We kept hearing a pitter patter, but we chalked it up to the rain on the windowsill. Turns out it was coming under the window sill. Someone went and told the people at Kent State and we kept talking. Then we saw water coming in the roof. We told Dr. Bane who said, “Well, it’s about time to end class anyway” and ran to tell the clerk/secretary guy what was going on. I had to go get online and wanted to use my laptop – one of the few times I take it with me, so I headed out for the WiFi café. Well, both ends of the street were blocked, I got disoriented, and went the wrong way. I got soaked for all of the two minutes I was outside. I came back to the university, got reoriented, and headed out.
I got to the WiFi café, dried out, and realized their internet was slow. Then I headed toward the grocery store to get some necessities (bread, milk, hotdogs, pasta, lunch meat, and cheese). I went and put that up, got online for 30 minutes, and got back to the university to hear the choir sing at 7:00. They were really good, but so was the champagne afterward. Apparently I like champagne.

Last night after the singing was a trip. I went with a bunch of people (I won’t name names for the sake of incrimination of them) to the Kikuya bar, had Guiness which was disgusting after a while, then went next door to the Red Garter, an American bar with karaoke. I have movies on my camera of the funny stuff going on. Let me clear this up: I wasn’t drunk, but nearly everyone else was. It was pretty sad and funny all at the same time.

I walked a girl home whose five roommates were belligerently drunk, and then headed to my own place. I decided against writing a journal entry immediately (nothing happened, really) and went to bed. Rachel got up REALLY early this morning to go to the train station for her trip to Pompeii, and I’m just chilling in the apartment.

Now it’s time for a nap.

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