October 2009

On my way to the Göteborg airport: the young taxi man, an immigrant into Sweden from Iraq, tells me: “You look like Mick Jagger.” (Curiously, and pleasingly, this misidentification of me with Mr. Rolling Stone has happened more than once).

Going through security at the Göteborg airport: I am told to drop a drop of each of the liquids I am carrying (in my 3-oz.-or-smaller bottles) onto my skin, and when after doing so my skin remains intact, I am permitting to proceed.

After reaching Italy, a tour of Bologna: the famed statue of Nettuno (Neptune); the “whispering corners” near San Petronio; the basilica of San Petronio (Bologna’s patron/protector), with its Meridian Line (which provides calendrical data via a beam of sunlight that streams in through a well-placed hole in the ceiling) & its Foucault Pendulum; and Santo Stefano. The church of Santo Stefano, which shelters the tomb of San Petronio, was originally an Isis temple. It became a church during the 1st century AD, and still contains columns installed during the 2nd century. At the end of our circuit we gazed through a floor-level window into a subterranean room below the gift shop, in which a monk sat playing the piano; next to us, a small girl (age 1, or 1 ½) stared mesmerized at him as he played.

On our way back to the car we stopped in at Bongiovanni, Bologna’s premier shop for recorded classical music (http://www.bongiovanni70.com/). Francesco first met Signor Bongiovanni in the 1970s, and has regularly patronized his establishment ever since. After a thoughtful exchange with the knowledgeable proprietor, Francesco purchased for me a fine recording of Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater.

This year I taught PAC’s aestheticians at the Agriturismo La Palazza (http://www.agriturismodelcimone.it/html/index_en.html), and its attendant ponies, cows, donkeys, and Lamborghini tractor, in the hills above Fanano, in the shadow of Monte Cimone and its shorter brother, Monte Cimonino (http://www.neveitalia.it/ski/sestola/sci.php?name=Webcam&webcam_op=wiewwebcam&sid=428). A few hundred meters up the road: an ancient mountain maple (said to be seven centuries of age). The afternoon that the event ended nearly a dozen members of the Modena Ferrari club passed us one by one on the road between Fanano and Bologna, multiple speedsters in fashionable colors. Further along the road, we passed through two intriguingly named towns: first Muffa, which in Italian means “mold” (the sort that grows on stale bread), then Formica (which means “ant”). At Bologna’s airport (named for Guglielmo Marconi): shops specializing in gear in the colors and logos of Ducati (whose factory sits in Bologna’s Borgo Panigale) and Ferrari (which is near Modena). Lamborghinis are made about five km. from PAC, in Sant’Agata Bolognese.

Back in Texas, it is butterfly season, the monarchs heading south on their Mexican trek, the snout noses fluttering about in force. One evening, in the sky above the house, at least a thousand feet above the ground, a column of a hundred or more big birds flying purposefully toward the southwest …