~honey gatherers of the mind~

April 20th, 2008

Our treasure lies in the beehive of our knowledge. We are perpetually on the way thither, being by nature winged insects and honey gatherers of the mind. Guess who said that? Hmm…I wonder.

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My day began with the birds and the ocean, in the dark, around six or so I spose (no clock, heaven!).

We had a lovely, silver-served breakfast and then regretfully carried on in our honey-gathering adventure. First things first, the 18,000 square meter Genovese necropolis that is Cimitero Monumentale di Staglieno. Everyone it seems has toured and adored this cemetery–Nietzsche, de Maupassant, Twain, the Empress Sissi (the Viennese chocolate cat tongue lover).

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For the Goths in the readership (all three of you are recovered Goths, admit it!)–the cover images from Joy Division’s Love Will Tear Us Apart and Closer were shot here. And for the sad wives of (ahem) Socratics–Wilde’s wife Constance Lloyd is buried here as well.

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In 1869, Mark Twain in Innocents Abroad wrote

Our last sight was the cemetery and we shall continue to remember it after we shall have forgotten the palaces. It is a vast marble collonaded corridor extending around a great unoccupied square of ground; its broad floor is marble, and on every slab is an inscription–for every slab covers a corpse.

On either side, as one walks down the middle of the passage, are monuments, tombs, and sculptured figures that are exquisitely wrought and are full of grace and beauty. They are new and snowy; every outline is perfect, every feature guiltless of mutilation, flaw, or blemish; and therefore, to us these far-reaching ranks of bewitching forms are a hundred fold more lovely than the damaged and dingy statuary they have saved from the wreck of ancient art and set up in the galleries of Paris for the worship of the world.

My! Naturally we gravitated to the wild, guilty, mangled Boschetto Irregolare (Irregular Grove), thus missing much of the ‘bewitching perfection.’

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Beyond mustachioed merchants and their grieving widows, the place is famous for its erotically charged female figures, often found hand in hand–or even dancing–with Death.

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We marveled at the opulence, fairly certain it did not reflect the life it contained.

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We met the resident kitty, terribly skinny and terribly sweet.

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We were impressed by the lack of pussy-footing around the matter. We could have wandered in the vines and crumbling statuary for days. It was a wild, gorgeous, well-arted park.

We thought (okay, I thought) again of Nietzsche, We have art in order not to die of the truth.

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We then headed on a whim along the coast toward the Riviera. The thought was to not retrace any steps, and to find dinner in Nice or Monaco. We used a vague map of Europe tucked in Ali’s Filofax to determine the viability and route—which is how we managed to turn a 600km return journey into nearly nine hours of driving. Tra la la!

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First there was the road block at Spotorno (D on the map above), which sent us up into the hills and into my favorite view, or mistake Numero Tre. My drive-by camera work missed the amazing valley we zipped through, lined on either side with terraced vineyards and stacked stone retaining walls. All around the tiny houses was wild foliage. The Provincia di Savona pulled at my heart strings. We will meet again.

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Eventually we made it back to the coastal road and to dinner in San Remo. We found a 1940s place–rather the Canter’s of the Ligurian coast–which was hosting yet another wedding. We left about 9pm.

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When we turned North we didn’t realize we had headed directly into a wildlife sanctuary with the most narrow, winding, climbing roads that made it impossible to travel at any normal speed and impossible to turn back. It was thankfully pitch black, as my fear of heights was in full swing. We traveled in this hair-raising manner–sans map or notion of where we were–from Nice to Grenoble. It rained all the way.

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Sometimes when we passed through a tiny town–wondering of the residents over and over, what do these folks DO (to feed themselves)?–we would barely miss squishing a toad nearly as big as your head. The first couple I mistook for slightly crumpled up paper bags. Then Ali would flip the radio dial and find some new music, like a Nino Rota film score. It was a bizarre night.

At 5.30 am my body unfolded like an accordion from our rental car. Ali, in a super-human feat, slept for an hour and went to a full days work. I did not. Instead I pondered–through a fog, a nebbiolo, if you will–the joys and heartaches of getting lost.

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One Response to “~honey gatherers of the mind~”

  1. Habib says:

    I was never a goth. But I wish I could have seen that cemetery.
    XO D

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