Saturday, December 17, 2011

Assisi, Asian Tourists, and Grave Flowers

Spontaneously, I decided to make the most of the moment when Lucio asked if we'd like to go anywhere by asking to be taken to the tren stazione to go to Assisi. The other morning I'd been woken up at some ungodly hour by one of the dogs downstairs and feverishly tossed and turned with a great weight on my mind: how would I get to Assisi and/or Florence before leaving this part of Italy, maybe forever? There seemed to be no way to go until today so I pounced on the free time.

To my delight, I saw snow-capped mountains in the distance. I also surely made the only attractive guy I've seen in weeks uncomfortable with all of my craning and shifting to stay in the warm sunlight whilst on the train. He was a few seats over but, unfortunately, I was hard to miss. You know, dirty hair, dog-haired covered jacket, and (all passerby's personal favourite) my Keen hiking boots completed by cement and dirt from working the last few weeks. I also top out at about 5'10 in the boots. 

Inside the church was beautiful (no cameras allowed so I sneakily took some video which has a quieter shutter). However, upon reaching St. Francis' tomb, I was more enthralled by the glorious smell of fresh flowers than by the renovated stone that was built around his coffin. He died in 1226 A.D. and we still read and learn from him. 

It was interesting to sit and watch people come see the tomb. Most people crossed themselves like they do in Catholic services, some knelt at the altar at the foot of the tomb, and a lot of old women clamored around to reach through the gate and touch the stone. It seems important to note that in 1997 a 5.6 magnitude earthquake rocked central Italy as a whole and damaged a lot of Assisi, including the church. Most of the stone around the tomb appeared to be fairly new. Everyone showed some kind of respect and reverence except for the Asian tourists. It makes sense, considering it's mostly a tourist site now and by enlarge they follow a very different belief system. 

I don't know if that's the politically correct term for the Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and anyone else I'm unintentionally excluding from the term Asian Tourists. You know how it is. They all have nice cameras, are dressed smartly, and they invade a site, snapping photos of everything without smiling much at all, rush through like a whirlwind and the guide with the umbrella or sign ushers everyone back out. This is exactly what happened. Now, I have friends from Korea and have met Japanese and Chinese people who are really great. I harbor no known racial bias towards anyone except white Americans. The fact is, you can spot Asian tourists from a mile away and it's always worth watching them sweep an area. 

Why people felt compelled to pray to St. Francis and made such a fuss about the tomb is hard for me to understand. In that sweet-looking old stone coffin is ashes of a man who's long gone.  The whole point of going is he was such a holy man, which implies he's been with Jesus for eight hundred years. Personally, when I get to heaven, I doubt I'll be checking on my grave to see what flowers are left for me. Unless of course, some weasel leaves geraniums in which I will strike them down with bolts of lightning because no friend of mine would poison my patch of land with a geranium. 

I also don't understand why we spend $13.99 for a bouquet of flowers to put on a grave. Can I ask you why you leave flowers? Nobody's there. The cemetery gardener probably won't enjoy them as much as you would having them on your  nightstand in their memory. 

Oh, if you're wondering what all the hullabaloo is with the carabiniere around the church, you're not alone! It wasn't until I was back at Novole that Lucio heard on the radio that the president of Italy made a visit to the church today! Not that I can tell one suit from another. 

Making dinner tonight (gnocchi and artichoke), Claudia told me about a few celebrities she ran into when she lived in New York City. Leonardo DiCaprio was twitching in line for the bathroom, jonesing for cocaine. Meg Ryan is cute. Sarah Jessica Parker is a hard-core vegan. David Bowie is stingy with his tips, and Claudia told him he had to tip and pretending he "didn't know" because he's English wouldn't fly with her.  I love, love, love her for that. "I don't care who you are!" She said. 

In other news, it's too darn cold in our bathroom (especially when the hot water isn't working) and there are too many cuts on my legs to shave. BUMMER. The gloves I wore for cementing the walls were missing some vital pieces like the finger part of the thumb so my thumb has cement burn. Ready to gain 20 kilos in Sicily like Lucio warned? Heck yes. 

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