Friday, June 27, 2008

The "Real" Tuscany

If someone tells me to read one more self-indulgent, rhapsodic travel novel set in Tuscany I think I'm going to hurl something at their head. First of all, I lived there for three years. That means that Tuscany is mine, mine, mine-all mine. I ate the real Tuscany, I slept with the real Tuscany and Senator, you are no real Tuscany.
The second thing that bugs me about those books is that Tuscany is portrayed as a back-drop for the deep soul-searching finding yourself narrative that people would sneer at had it occurred in a kitchen in Jersey. They describe quaint old Italian men who were put on the earth with the sole purpose of smiling wistfully and respectfully while some bored, wealthy housewife "finds herself" near the vinyard he works in. But let me tell you, that quaint old man is more likely to interrupt your run by trying to offer you wine and if you did actually stop he'd probably grab your boob.

The Tuscans I know don't think Americans are so cool anyway. The WWII generation was completely besotted with all things American after our studly perform
ance trouncing the Nazis. Let's be real. Nazis suck and we kicked their Hinterteile. My friend Luisa remembers eating cat (maaaoooo interjects Blicky), and her brother, a partigiano, died in the resistance. They were probably so grateful that their children rebelled and embraced communism with a vengeance. Most dinner tables seem idyllic to the tourist in Italy, especially if you don't speak the language. We imagine them discussing things like "oh isn't family so important?" and "I'm really so happy I spent all morning making your homemade pasta because I don't want a job." But if you're part of the discussion, chances are good that you'll have to answer for electing George Bush, whether we let people die if they don't have health care, why we let children have guns, or why we condone the death penalty. Many people you meet have known hunger and violence of war and they don't understand how we can undertake it so lightly.

Is Tuscany a good place for self discovery? Yes, and some rhapsodizing has it's place when you're admiring the cathedrals in Lucca, the Uffizi in Florence or the view from Fiesole. But there's also some real opportunity for self reflection beyond your traditional garden-variety type. We as a country have a lot to learn about what matters in life and what matters in a society.


Dharma V said...

Hahahah, I think you nailed most of it. Although, I think those sneers from Jersey are a honest and open dialog of a service industry life that a family no longer has to live and breath in. I completely understand the truths of which you are speaking... my mother was named for the "victory" in 1942, my grandfather returned back to Italy because of the blackhand in New York in 1905... etc etc...

With all the difficulty of which my family went through to get to the USA, the mixed feelings of those they left behind, as child of those people and having spent time much with my family in the old country... there is still romance. Actually,when you mentioned grabbing a boob as you did, I found myself in a giggle. Although not what we consider foreplay here in the US, it is course for par depending on the background of the grabber in the old country, and in its own way very romantic... Grabbing is a form of expression that "I" still use (frequently, hehehehhe), and is probably difficult for some people to understand...

Although a large number of people in the world think it is cool to be cynical, and it is with great pomp and circumstance that we tend to display it all for the tourists in out lives, it is a style of for one hope goes away. It really doesn't make us seem as smart as we think.

It is with great love and hope that type that all of us are not so cynical, that deep inside there is still the romance and beauty that we can bring forth in the things we do, in the conversations we have.

Perhaps, just perhaps... there will be just two young people having their passagata and reaching for each other's hands that would prove that I am not the last in the world. ("The last romantic in the world", now wouldn't that be a great title?) That the love in their eyes lasting for longer than their look at each other, even as the young boy sneaks a grab of the girls firm tush while the chaperone looks momentarily away. (The chaperone, of course, in a deep conversation about how George Bush sucks.)

Yes, yes, us romantics do live in the same "fat and happy" world you live in, we see reality and the bitterness it sometimes creates, but perhaps we refuse stop seeing the beauty in all things. There is beauty in the bitter as well as the sweet.

-- The Last Romantic Italian

BlickyKitty said...

Dharma, you've humbled me by being real and you see right through my flippant rejection of all things romantic :). Does this lead back to the practice of loving kindness that I seem to struggle with? The openness and hope that is required of romantic love leaves one so vulnerable... I think it's the braver way to live by far.

I guess my rejection isn't so much about romanticism though as it is with our colonialist habit of reducing other cultures into ornaments for our inner lives. I would like us to view people as living breathing things with flaws and struggles. It feel much more respectful that way. I also lament that we as a culture are so blind to suffering.


Dharma V. said...

Actually, perhaps I should apologize... You are actually one of the more kinder people I know. It has been wonderful to know you. I'm afraid my loving-kindness faltered with this comment.

After walking away from typing this comment I spent the day at a "world beat" festival with my two sides sitting atop my shoulders, much like angel and devil. One the romantic who thought that the celebration of the cultures was so great, and then the other saying... wow how do people get men to dance in skirts like that?

We all have a cynical side, and believe you me my humor probably gets me in more trouble than most. Perhaps it is in my time off that my romantic side is making a grab for it. Screaming for its due time from my world, that has been so demanding as to only allow time for the more cynical parts of me.

I'm sorry if your post triggered my own internal debate upon your blog...


BlickyKitty said...

Dharma mia fata meravigliosa! I always love the opportunity to see things differently. Blicky likes people to feel free to let loose with whatever's on their minds. :)