Writing on these images to come!
Since leaving Berlin I’ve spent a few days in Vienna, but mostly I’ve been in Linz Austria assisting a professor prepare exhibitions for Ars Electronica. It’s been a stark difference from months of freedom, and I’m only now appreciating all the time I got to shoot over the summer. I’m glad I’ve carried my camera for so many miles, even on the days it mostly stayed in the bag. This trip is not quite over, and heading back to LA does not mean it has to end. I keep saying that the camera has kept me sane while away from my studio, but it's also changed the way I look at the world around me. I look forward to seeing how this experience effects my sculptural work.
Why I don’t call people Bitches or Assholes
Imagine you have just entered your home. It’s dark inside and you still haven't changed the lightbulb in the hallway. You see something there, not a person or anything obviously threatening, but something. Your mind reels with possibilities as your eyes strain to make sense of the vague form. What is it? Finally you pull out your phone and use it’s light to get a better look. It’s just a chair with a jacket draped over the back, and that’s the last you think of it.
Take a moment and consider about the mental process you went through in your imagination. In the beginning your mind was open, that form could have been anything and you pushed your eyes and mind to figure out what you were seeing. In the end, once you had given it a label, you stopped thinking about it entirely. We often do the some thing to people. Once we have decided what they are, we stop thinking about them in a dynamic way.
Labeling a person is a tool for dealing with them thoughtlessly. Worse, some labels are sexist, racist, or otherwise infer judgement on whole groups of people. Calling someone a bitch associates that person with patriarchally motivated preconceptions about women, and calling people assholes does the same for men. Once people have been lumped into these categories we feel free to defame them without a second thought. There are several issues with categorizing people, but I will focus on two. The first is that after labeling a person, we associate them with the actions of every other person to whom we’ve given that label. The second is that labels imply that people are static. In fact we are all dynamic and capable of growth and improvement, as well as the opposite. Labeling someone a hero or great or “the best” does not make them infallible, though it may bring us comfort to hold such a belief.
So next time you’re about to label someone, I challenge you to stop and think about your motivations. I challenge you to come up with an adjective that accurately describes them in the current situation. I’m betting that if you actually take the time to do this you will realize the petty nature of your thoughts and I hope you will turn them toward something constructive. We all have room for improvement.
Our bodies are programed to make snap judgements that in ancient history kept our ancestors alive. In short, if they did something that felt good such as eating something sweet or having sex they craved more of it. Conversely, if something felt bad such as pain, they developed a strong aversion to it. The more they craved sex and food, and the more averse they were to potentially dangerous situations, the more successful they would be at procreating. And eventually you get to present day us. We still have this mind inside us, the fight or flight response. but we also have developed another mind that can control our older minds.
Consider the following simplified conversation.
So how was the movie? Good. How was your date last night? Bad.
We use these oversimplifications to make our lives more manageable day to day, but they also prevent us from thinking critically about many situations. The movie was good? Good for whom? The date was bad? Bad because you’ve decided not to see the person again? These simple labels require context to makes sense, but the context is rarely provided. Isn’t it good that you know now not to date that person? And what made the movie bad? Is there another situation in which it would be good? Again, I think we need to work harder to find the best adjectives to describe situations, and to give context along with any judgement.
Why I identify as a Queer, but prefer no identity at all
First off, I’m a white-skinned male-born that was raised without ever having to go hungry or lacking anything I needed for my education. We were always in debt, but we always had enough. The older I get the richer I feel. I’m telling you all this because I want to talk about identity, and I’m sure my experiences and appearance have shaped the way I think about the subject.
All my life I’ve watched people seeking identity, sometimes desperately. From seeing kids in junior high (middle school) wearing band t-shirts, to tattoos and religious jewelry, I’ve always been a bit baffled by the desire of so many to be included in various groups. I’ve been told by Jewish people to pronounce my name the Hebrew way instead of the way my mother always did. In elementary school we learned about heraldic symbols and were assigned to create our own shield with four images on it. I struggled deeply as other students quickly drew soccer balls, religious symbols, and other elements of their daily lives. But I was hesitant. I did not want to feel trapped in some category, the idea of self identity bothered me deeply. What if tomorrow someone decided they didn’t love soccer anymore, or if their religious views changed? It seemed to me that self identity assumes people are static, and in fact may assist them in remaining so.
Later, the idea of sexual orientation helped me to process these thoughts. Orientation refers to the direction a person is currently pointing. It may have to do with the past, but it does not define the future. We can speak objectively about the past, and describe our experiences, but the future remains wondrously uncertain. Thinking about what I stand to gain from identifying myself with a given orientation, and what I stand to lose made me realize that for me, there was more to lose. Can self identity act as a sort of self-fulfilling prophesy? If I declare myself to be straight enough times will I convince myself that I am, and maybe miss the love of my life? That’s too much for me to risk losing. I can find only two situations in which self identifying with a given sexual orientation is beneficial. The first, and weaker of the two, is to tell your friends what you are interested in so they have a better chance of setting you up with another person. The second and most important reason to identify is when a given group is being treated without justice. I identify as a queer because I believe in equality. I believe that any two consenting adults choosing to join in matrimony deserve the same rights and tax benefits as any other two. Until justice and equality have been achieved, I’ll identify with the group being mistreated.
The common conclusion is that labeling people is sometimes necessary but also problematic. People are dynamic. Expect them to grow and change. Separate church and state. Demand marriage equality. And when you catch yourself labeling people and making generalizations about groups, think about your motivations. Learn additional adjectives and develop your ability to describe situations more accurately. Be excellent to each other.
My week in Berlin ends today, and I think the locals have still not noticed my presence. I have however, lost most of my shyness with the camera, and after the first few days started making many more pictures on the street and in train stations. I was unable to capture the trams in Brussels the way I wanted to, so I was glad for a chance to get another “shot” at them, though I preferred the aesthetics of the older Belgian trams and cityscapes.
In addition to the constant movement I encountered all over this city I was deeply inspired by exhibitions of photography. The Bauhaus Archive in particular, but also the Berlinische Galerie where I saw the work of many German photographers including Thomas Hoepker, Hans Pieler, Wolf Lützen, Eric Salomon, and Tim N Gidal, and was able to think specifically about what I value in their’s and other photographic work. So far I've identified depth, human expression and experience, movement, containment and compression of information, and strong values or contrast of light and darkness. I do not mean for this study to objectify, define, or contain my aesthetic, but strive to understand better where it is now, and where it comes from. It is the artist’s responsibility to examine why they like what they like, and to challenge and question the the sources and validity of their aesthetics.
I have not shot nearly as many pictures since I left Venice. Sometimes I’m shy with the camera, which was never the case in Italy because everyone, including the Italians, always has their cameras out, taking pictures of everything. Venice is also more familiar to me than the other cities I’ve visited, and sadly it now belongs to tourists and foreigners, whom I don’t mind capturing. The Dutch were generally very polite when they saw my camera out and would want to wait for me to finish my picture before passing, which was awkward because I shoot long exposures in series and am often in one place for twenty minutes to make the right picture. So far, the Germans do not appear to have noticed that I’m here. In Berlin and to some degree in Amsterdam, I almost always see a train moving in the background when I look in one direction long enough. And in both countries I find inspiration in the paneled glass walls and ceilings.
These pictures were made in Antwerp, Brussels, Utrecht, Eindhoven, Amsterdam, and Berlin. I hope I can shoot Los Angeles like this when I get back.
The camera allows for the capture of things which can't be seen, and more importantly it enables these visions to be shared. I used to think a picture was a captured moment in space, but now I’m learning to bend both space and time as I attempt to share what’s flowing by me. Stillness is an illusion; a constructed ideal. We can get close, but we only meet in passing.
In the United States, we blow up mountains to build roads that cut through the terrain most directly. Italian roads wind with the contours of the land and tunnel through mountains to preserve the landscape. The record of the vibrations caught my eye, reminiscent of electrocardiograms. Maybe a poet could help me write something about recording the pulse of the Earth. Maybe a mechanic could help me replace the shocks on the car.
I’m attracted to long exposure photography because I don’t know exactly what will happen. It’s an exercise in intuition. Just like with my ceramic work, I research and experiment and practice, then seek a balance of knowledge and wonder. For me to be interested, the work must be at least 25% experimental, with the other 75% simply acting as support. If I know exactly what something in the kiln is going to look like, than I don’t care to look.
The first time I saw Michelangelo’s Bacchus at the Bargello it ruined all the other sculpture for me. Everything else appeared so course and crude. Upon my second visit, when approaching the work from the front I was first disappointed, and wondered if indeed the sculpture was still where I had last left it. But as I circled counterclockwise, and over a drove of tourists saw the down-pointed finger that had so struck me last time, I felt a fool for my doubts. In that finger I had previously seen more life and softness of stone than anything in my experience.
This year, I was able to look past the finger and stepped back to see a greater composition, and project my own meaning onto the work. While one finger points down, the opposite hand counters by raising a chalice of wine (which was removed then restored, unlike his penis which was not restored). I saw the fierceness in Bacchus’ eyes and in the jutting forward of his chin, and interpreted the down-pointed hand as levying much more force than previously. A gesture of ownership over the ground upon which he stands, and a challenge to any mortal (or other artist) that would dare challenge him. After all, he's a fucking god. Schwasted, but still a god. The ecstasy in the eyes and gesture of the faun eating his grapes creates a contrast that makes Bacchus look even more vicious and ready for a fight.
In short, Michelangelo’s Bacchus is a hip-hop superstar. Hard as fuck, tiger-skin bling, and his bitch in ecstasy, he challenges everyone, but at the same time beckons us to follow him to that which is undoubtably lit. The takeaway is that studying history from afar has sometimes made me feel far from it. This experience with the actual object was a reminder that history is not only something that happened in the past. We are part of it, as it is part of us all.
Stones and stars, young and old. The more I try to stay still, the more I see everything move.
Tuscany is so beautiful it’s cliche. I’m embarrassed to shoot landscapes and historical objects and food.
Between working the restaurant and staying up to make pictures of the stars I don’t sleep any more than I did in LA, but I feel much more rested. Or maybe just more comfortable being tired. Those tiny cups of coffee help.
I don’t think I realized how much of a part of my life Italy would become. Between planning and preparation for the trips, time spent abroad, and mental processing upon return, most of the last year has revolved around Italy and the art center. Pretty cool. For the second trip I did not leave as far ahead of the other students and was able to spend more time helping with preparations at the studio in Long Beach before we left. I did leave a little early though and even planned a few days in Venice before taking the train to Tuscany. I really didn’t like Venice last year. It was simply too much, and too many people. The Biennale sent my mind for a flip, but I was barely able to take in the rest of the city. I think I blocked a lot out just to stay sane. This year was different.
For starters I didn’t check a bag. And my phone pretty much worked in Europe (after a quick 30 minute customer service call). We had booked beds at La Pescheria Backpackers Hostel, but having booked a bit late for the season we didn’t have many options. It wasn’t until we were on the boat from the airport that I realized pescheria means “fish market” and maybe this wasn’t the best place we could have chosen. Once again, I was wrong. The fish market is not only a beautiful attraction, it’s quite centrally located. And the hostel didn’t smell, well not like fish anyway. Last year we had to stay on Lido because of the large group, not that we could have gone out much because of the curfew.
I was tired when I arrived but decided to have a coffee (or three) and not rest until night so I could make the time change. The hostel, like anything not on the Gran Canal was impossible to find. Once we settled in I went for a walk and was immediately struck by just how calm the city was compared to my expectations. The droves of tourists were much thinner, and maybe I had even learned to see past them a little. As the sun began to set I came across a swanky art-opening-looking-affair in a gorgeous palazzo right on the Gran Canal. I took a mental note to return later.
It turns out I had stumbled onto not the Art Biennale, but the Architecture, Theater, Dance, and Music event which happens on even years. In fact I had stumbled into the pre-opening parties full of free wine and cheese and books. I found the work and people presenting it to be much more approachable than at the Art Biennale. Granted, the scale is much smaller and I was not there for the main event. Many exhibitions focused on materials, and the way people physically and psychologically interact with spaces and elements within spaces. I took a much slower pace (there was less to see and I had not created any internal expectation of seeing it all) and found myself spending a lot of time with many works and installations. Much of the work was interactive, which I think lent to a more welcoming and inclusive atmosphere.
I was also able to return to Murano, and rather than having tunnel vision for only the Glasstress exhibition I took a lot of time in the streets and even went into the glass museum. I still went back to the Glasstress site and found another glass rod in the planter out front. Having maps working on my phone was a huge help, but we also spent time exploring the residential side of the island. There are serene walking paths along the fences of prized gardens tended by the elderly. It was also a good launching point to Burano, which I had not previously visited. They were having their Spring festival, so there were more tourists on the island than usual, but it was an exceedingly beautiful day.
To save money we decided to take a night train to Tuscany rather than pay another night in the hostel. The only problem was that the train to Florence only takes 2 hours. I got a little creative and found us a 7 hour trip to Siena which left Venice right after midnight. So my last memories in that magical city was sitting on the steps between the train station and the canal sipping wine from a plastic cup watching the people and boats go by. I’m trying to forget about the train ride.
So how did I go from wanting to get out of Venice as quickly as possible to anticipating my next trip? Part of it was that the crowds were thinner, but part of it was also my attitude toward them. By focusing on all the beauty around me I was able to mostly tune them out. The selfie sticks on the bridges are still a bit much though. I think another big change in my attitude was not being driven to try to get everywhere and see everything while I was there. By going at a more natural pace I was much more engaged in what I was actually looking at and not thinking about the next place I needed to be and how to get there. Now I have fantasies about having my MFA exhibition in Venice 2019.
Not writing for several weeks has left me with way too much to relay. This is going to be long. I’m not sorry.
The last few days in Chiusdino were a whirlwind of last minute preparations including building studio furniture and the arch forms for the firebox and chamber of the wood kiln. Towards the end I realized that whatever we chose to work on would also result in something else not getting finished. A sort of triage took place and our real priorities were clarified. That kiln must be built!
And then we were off to Venice. A local friend gave us a ride to Florence and we had a wonderful meal at a place with a fixed menu for just 13 Euro. Look up “stinco,” it’s probably not what you think. I also had a mushroom risotto and a small plate of fresh white beans cooked al dente. Fresh beans are something to experience. We took a fast train to Venice which was a bit more expensive but very comfortable and smooth. Arriving in the early evening we were treated to an energetic, picturesque reception. From the mainland we immediately boarded a water bus or Vaporetto to the island of Lido where we were to meet the students. We met a nice couple on the boat that helped us with our orientation and somehow ended up looking at my portfolio. On Lido we dropped our things at the hotel and set out to find the group. After popping into every restaurant on the island I finally gave up and got myself an overpriced slice of pizza. Defeated (I’d even lost Brian at that point) and heading back to the hotel I came across some familiar faces and enjoyed a bit more pizza with some Long Beach students.
We got back to the hotel late but merry and hit the sack for an early morning. Hotel Rigel serves a nice breakfast, especially after the espresso-and-a-pastry I had become accustomed to elsewhere. After eating, the group had a meeting and took some photos paralleling the bridal party that was also in the hotel lobby. We all headed to San Marco where I got my first real taste of the crowds in Venice. Just wow; just hold on to your wallet. We made for the Doge Palace and suddenly 28 voices were not quite speaking as one. We broke into smaller groups and I made for the entrance. The courtyard was maybe the most stunning part of all. The patina on the bronze sculptures stood out to me with incredible depth and richness. For many of the students this was the first closeup taste of historical Italian architecture. I felt lucky to have had a little under my belt so I was not stopped completely in my tracks. We continued around the grounds and into the building impressed by room after room of legislative space. As the rooms grew it became more challenging to take in the details of all the paintings and objects surrounding us. Mostly I tried to imagine all the administrative business and daily life that went on there over time. Our tickets also go us into the Museo Correr and the archeological museum. They were boring and I’m rather spoiled after the archeological museum in Siracusa, but we made our way through and saw almost everything.
And then we went to the part of the biennale hosted at the Arsenale and the Arsenale was thinly veiled madness. It took more than a full day to see everything and I'm certain I didn't see everything. Many videos installations went only partially watched. I'm still trying to figure out what I saw so I suggest looking at Instagram and other online sources with search terms like "2015 Venice Biennale Arsenale." I think it's better for you to form your own opinion, though I may post some thoughts in the future as they gestate into something more concrete.
I am also posting images from the Glasstress 2015 Gotika exhibition on the island of Murano which was hosted in an old glass factory. I was intrigued to see the old wood kilns which had been retrofitted for gas and even a little electrical equipment eventually added. This was probably the most exciting show for me and had me bouncing around trying to see everything at once. I was especially glad to find a live camel and chickens. Just look up Koen Vanmechelen. It's good to know there are people out in the world more crazy about chickens than I am. After watching a very short and confusing video portion of the monstra I reflected on all the videos I didn't take the time to watch in their entirety throughout the biennale. Maybe if I had a bit more backstory or interest as I did for Koen's work I would have tried to sit through them. Still I wonder if some of those videos wouldn't be better watched online in a setting under the viewer's control. The majority of video installations I saw were not site specific nor much more than a dark room and a hard bench with people constantly flowing in and out.
The was another Glasstress exhibition on the mainland and there is a lot more to talk about. I will try to write and post my way out of this backlog!
Things are kicking into high(er) gear as our time here grows shorter. In just a few days we head to Venice to meet the group and everything must be ready for them. The ceiling is up in the studio but we still need to hang lights and finish the shelving. Both kilns are now operational but the electrician needs to move one of the power boxes farther from the exhaust port. Basically there are little details like that all over the place.
Yesterday we got up at 6:30am and made an excursion to Montelupo (by way of two trips to the hardware store). A few hours at at supplier called SMARTCOLOR left us with lots of prepared clay, dry white glaze, colors, bentonite, alumina, plastic barrels, and some other little stuff too. They specialize in low-fire and did not even have cones for the wood kiln. Our knowledge of ceramics and the Italian language were put to the test making sure we got what we wanted and that all the materials were compatible. Sabrina was patient with us even as we started to encroach into their lunch hour. Actually I was getting pretty hungry too.
We got a tip on a nearby shop called CM that sells used equipment from bankrupted facilities. Most of what they have is simply too large scale for our operation but the manager was very generous with his time and we all sat and talked about how the ceramics industry in Italy is dwindling. It was rather sad but I was glad to get a first hand account, though it was difficult to understand everything.
We somehow also managed to visit the ceramics museum in Montelupo which is almost exclusively dedicated to majolica. The displays were set up to be quite didactic and helped establish a general timeline of the progression of that type of work. I am certainly still quite a novice but I think I will have more information to share with the students when they arrive. My favorite work included abstract depictions of animals, mythical creatures, and harlequins. I found the style to be full of character and it gave more of a connection to the maker and their time than the exclusively patterned work.
We capped the trip with a visit to IKEA which stayed open much later than advertised. I don’t have much to say about that except that it was late when we got home and we woke up quite early to beat the rain this morning. We are in the home stretch now and more than ever we must make every moment count. Everything we do now precludes us from accomplishing something else. Lucky for us 17 more workers, I mean students, will be arriving shortly.
The days are getting longer but the weeks seem to be getting shorter. In just 10 days I head to Venice to meet with the students and everything here must be ready. We have accomplished a lot on the ceramics side of things including a concrete pad for the wood kiln, getting a concrete ring in place for clay mixing, and making some progress on the ceramics studio itself. We have not taken much time for excursions as we are focusing on the work at hand, but we have made several trips to a brickyard that collects old materials and crushes them to make new bricks. They have a very large pile of assorted bricks they were kind enough to let us dig through a couple times. I love treasure hunting. Also, you could never do this in the states.
There has also been a flurry of acquiring other materials for the wood kiln. After a little research, several phone calls, and a bit of luck we came across a beautiful used brick saw. The price started high but after a few attempts to leave the store, a cup of espresso (they just say café here), and some confusing gesticulations and banter we got a great deal. Previously we would have had to bring bricks to a marble cutter a ways away and pay 50 Euro/hour so this should save time and money in the long run. It will also allow us to make some custom bricks to accommodate the firebox grate and other tricky spots in the kiln.
Somehow Brian and I ended up in central Sienna for a couple of hours and took in the sights with the other tourists. It was a beautiful day and we spent out time walking around as much as we could since we didn’t really have time to get in to the cathedrals or major indoor attractions. Maybe it is the large number of tourists but to me Siena seemed to have a little less character or personality than Florence or Arezzo. The cathedral and giant wall were still quite impressive!
We had gotten a tip on free scraps of colored glass and found the shop in Badessa right down the road from the place that sold us the brick saw. Catarina gave us a tour of La Diana Vetrate d’art and showed us there refuse bin. The mother-daughter shop was restoring old stained glass and creating novel designs as well. She also showed us various fusing experiments she had done. She was so warm and willing to share her time even though it was clear we were not there to buy. Take a look at what they are doing. http://www.ladianavetrate.com/
We also went to buy more cinderblocks for the base of the main chamber but took a detour to visit a guy that sells old brick, stones, and tiles. We ended up negotiating for a pallet of soft brick and some shelves as well. Tom acquired 8 new sets of tiles for his collection so it was a win all around. The also had some beautiful stone sinks but my camera was dead at that point.
There’s much more to say but I’ve got to get back to work!
Ciao a dopo!
We’ve just finished our first month in Italy and it is hard to believe that this leg of the trip is more than half finished. We have accomplished a lot around the property and of course there is plenty more to do. We have not done much traveling since Sicily but we did manage to get out to Grosetto and Porto Santo Stefano. Grosetto was great to explore because we initially took the train there from the airport outside Rome and had only seen a small part of the city. My initial impression did not do it justice!
Porto San Stefano made me again wonder how water can appear so very blue, but also be so clear. There were spots of oil and refuse but for the most part the coast line was pristine and picturesque. Traveling without our host to give us the history and highlights was less intense and certainly more relaxing, but I did find myself missing the stories and drive to see as much as possible.
Back at the property we’ve been focusing on getting work done and being ready for the students coming later this month. A lot of it is rather boring but must get done. A storage shed had to be disassembled and moved to make room for the kiln pad. We received all the tiles purchased in Sicily. I didn’t realize there were so many! My favorite part was discovering a litter of kittens under a tarp covering some wooden boards. We went to some some lumber and found a wonderful surprise. I look forward to showing more progress on the ceramics side soon.
Sicily is full of energy and history; a land of Greek mythology. Until now most of our time has been spent around the small village of Chiusdino, home to around 1000 people. In Palermo the sound of car horns is so consistent I think the passengers and pedestrians must have them as well. We arrived in Palermo rather late and after a tired but beautiful ride into the city found a bar open all night not far from our bed and breakfast. Bar Nuit, but we ended up just calling it “Nut Bar,” since that pretty much wrapped up the after-hours clientele (including us). Between beers we sampled a Sicilian specialty called arancini which are fried balls about the size and shape of an orange filled with rice and various savories. We finally decided to retire and from our balcony in the small B&B we heard the sounds of the city all night, and some yelling and tire screeching from the nut bar as well.
The next morning began our intense tour starting with a trip to the cathedral at Monreal which has an extraordinary mix of Pagan and Catholic Baroque decor. From Norman double arches to opulent nudes to golden mosaics of the old and new testament it was difficult to pin this place down to any one style or time period. We soaked up as much as we could then headed back down to Palermo to look at tiles in a small antique market. We got a hot tip on a discotek from Salvatore at the mobile phone store and ended up dancing all night in an spacious stone building that was once part of the old harbor. There are so many Guiseppes and Salvatoris here!
We woke up late and made it back to the tile shop and then off to a few more. We also got a tour of Casa Zisa, an old hunting lodge in the process of being renovated. It was another example of many architectural styles mashed together and bastardized as generations of families modified it before the state got it back.
After an earlier night we rented a car and made for Caltigirone. On the way there we visited an old roman hunting lodge and baths (Villa Romana del Casale) with incredible tile mosaics on the floors. After many mudslides not everything was intact but my two favorite parts were the room of Roman ladies recreating in bikinis and the Domini’s private lavatory. The ovens for heating water for the baths were also fascinating.
Then we jumped back into our little Punto and made it into Caltigirone (something like “round castle”) and made a beeline for the ceramics museum. There we were granted entrance gratis even though we did not have written proof of our statuses as students of ceramics. We were also furnished with VHS tapes of a film about the museum, also gratis. Probably the most interesting thing about this regional museum was how locally the pieces had been collected. The staff was also quite warm and passionate. I think we were the only visitors. We headed out of town a bit to find a certain ceramics shop called Cotto Calatino. The owner/operator was very kind and gave us a special tour of his studio and talked to us (in Italian) about the technique of glazing volcanic stone.
Then we drove to Siracusa. Siracusa is like, WOW. A freshwater spring just a stones through from the ocean where a little papyrus still grows in reference to ancient times. The cathedral in Siracusa stands out for me because the Greek columns that once surrounded the temple have had the spaces between filled in to create the outer wall. To be able to touch these columns and see the oceanic fossils still in them was such a direct connection to the past. The cathedral is dedicated to Santa Lucia so there are many ominous pairs of eyes watching the visitors.
In the evening some squares fill in with food and drink vendors attracting both locals and tourists. We ate outside and found some places where people were dancing. Well, mostly it seemed they were just interested in seeing how many people could fit into a small room. In the south, people eat dinner much later so we were able to get a table and have my favorite pizza yet which had ricotta and spinach, a much needed respite from cured pork.
The following day we visited the Archeological museum which was simply mind blowing. The sheer number of greek ceramic objects brought the history to life more than anything else I have seen. Both the pottery forms and sculptures were inspirational and again I feel anxious about not having time to make. I forgot my camera in the car so you will have to wait for Brian’s photos.
We headed back to Palermo to drop off tiles to ship back to Chiusdino and to catch our plane to Pisa, but we went by way of Messina to see more of the landscape. Before stopping at Cefalù to see a megalithic wall we took a little break and swam in the sea which was as cold as it was clear. A minor wrong turn put us in Santo Stefano di Camastra, a small town full of ceramics shops and laboratories. Somehow we still managed to put gas in the rental and get to the airport in time for our flight. From Pisa we got so deep in discussion and fatigue we missed several turns. We made it back to the hill after midnight but waxed philosophic until after 3am. I will not forget Sicily.
-Expect it to be colder than you expect.
-Bring your absolute essentials in your carry-on bags (plan on luggage delays).
-Bring your student ID for discounts.
-Try not to overpack. Remember you will have to carry your bags on trains that may be very crowded.
-Avoid exchanging money at the airport or at exchange booths. The best exchange we have found is using ATM machines with debit cards.
-Notify your bank that you are leaving the country and ask them about special charges.
-Notify your credit card company of international travel and ask them about international charges.
-My Chase MileagePlus Explorer card has no international fees and offers free minimal travel insurance.
-Ideally bring a card that has a chip in it. They tend to more widely accepted. Europe has a higher level of credit card security than the US.
-Check with your carrier to see if Mobile Roaming will rack up charges, or what settings you should use. I’ve been using Google Hangouts Dialer to make calls while on WIFI. You must dial 011-then the country code (Italy is 0039) before the area code and number.
-There is no 4G here, I believe it is mostly 3G.
-A small USB charger can be very helpful when you don't get a chance to charge your phone.
FOOD AND DRINK:
-Wine is commonly served with meals but it is uncommon for Italians to get drunk.
-Adding lots of cheese (formaggio) or other condiments may insult the chef.
-Take extra time during meals to enjoy your food and converse with your friends.
-Drip coffees is very rare here. Most common is espresso which is simply called Cafe’. If you want a little milk ask for a Cafe’ Macchiato.
-In general, people appreciate your attempts.
-Buonasera - (bone-a-sere-ah) Most common greeting. Good evening, but works most times of day.
-Ciao - (chow) this works as an informal hello and goodbye
-Scuzi - Excuse me. This can get people’s attention and with hand gestures can mean you don’t understand or various other things.
-Permisso (pear-me-soh) - for when you bump into people, need someone to get out of your way
-Benne - (ben-nay) - Good or Malto Benne - Very good - Non Benne - Not good (“non” in front of a work generally inverts is meaning)
-Toilette - You guessed it! You can also say Baño like in Spanish.
-Quanto - How much? (Say it like a question and present a note pad and pen if you don't know numbers).