Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Milan: trains and goodbyes.

The last 2 weeks happened in Milan, Italy, where we arrived in 30 hs from Calais, France, where all our camping gear had been stolen. Milan purveyed, thereafter, tranquility to organize ourselves, evaluate the damage and continue. It was also a lapse to take important decision.
Whern we stepped down from the 4x4 that had taken us to Milano from Locarno, Switzerland, we were recceived by my sister Verónica and my brother in law. Horacio. I hadn’t seen them for 4 years. My sister is expecting his first son for the end of June. He will be called Jeremías,and in the ecographies he seems, according to my sister, to be sucking his thumb. I suggest he is thumbing… confirming that he takes after his uncle. In that way. Each time my sister would say “ah” we would all stand up, ready to run to the hospital.
The following mid day, we set to the city. New for Verónica, I had already lived in Milan in 1993 for a whole year, and beside famose monuments and landmarks the city was incorporated in me in a more quintessential mode, as if a particular orchid identifiable because of its fragance. Thinking of Milan my mind would thus evoque its old orange trams harvesting sparks among high turn of the century palazzi and an embracing heat. Yes, trams and heat.
For those who prefer more conventional reference points, we quickly arrived to the Duomo, a gothic cathedral which construction lasted over 700 years. No wonder it’s the biggest in its style. Napoleon was crowned king of Italy here in 1802. Crossing the Piazza del Duomo among millons of pigeons who must have bothered Napoleon as well we arrived to Galería Vittorio Emanuelle, goof place to drink an expensive coffee or try clothes from humble designers such as Gucci.
Milan can show off the architecture laid to it by the genious or the megalomania of famous men. The Stazione Centrale was built following Mussolini’s wishes, and if one focuses over the stampid of japanese tourists on the details of the marble one finds the fascio (little axe simbolizing fascism) and the roman number IX at a side. That is 1931, or year 9 in Mussolini era. Modest dude.
On the other side of the city we find the Naviglio a channel that has connected the city with Pavia since the 12th century. The net was improved according to the plans of Leonardo Da Vinci, who among other thing embellished the city with a mural of twelve men waiting for a dinner that turned to be only bread and wine. Since the catering sector has improved. So much that the sculptors and painters that have nestled around the Naviglio area for centuries are challenged now by pizzerias and posh restaurants. The shop owners don’t want to renew the rnt contract to the artist because they receive more tempting offers from gastronomic developers. In this way economic functionalism and estate agents promise to cancel art there where it should grow stronger, close to Leoanardo’s masterpiece. As a way of protest, the Naviglio artists organize singing sessions on the riverside boulevard, which also have politic colours: they sing in milanese dialect. When I told them I was writing for a newspaper they declare their simpaty for Lega Lombarda, a conservative regional party, and their apaty for the clandestine sellers from Senegal that work unmolested and untaxed in front of their atelliers. They artist were also very happy with my comments on air to the radio, in favour of the conservation of the art district, so they invited us to dinner in one of the studios. (picture)
In other provinces of art, Milan is also famous for being the sit of the biggest Centro Socialeof the country: the Leoncavallo, which operates in a unoperating factory. A Social Center pushes arts but is also socially commited with a whole series of issues (as defending the rights of senegalese people to sell in front of the atelliers). No wonder here it also smells of displacement: the directors told us, among batucadas, that they have to move, and not that the factory plans to open its doors again. To summarize the spirit of the place let’s say that we asked for a bottel of wine which label was mute about any harvest, origin or variety, but instead commemorated I don’t know which demostration of the 1970s, with detail of the number of arrested and opressed…
But what do italians think of Italy? Coming from the north of Europe the word ‘crisis’ becomes new. And since when? All agree: from the beginning of Berlusconi era. But they also blame the euro, not so much because the the poor bimetallic coin, but because of the insane way in which italian companies converted prices. When last week France vetoed European Constitution, Lega Lombarda proposed the return of the old lira. The idea generated more than the consistent enthusiasm of old ladies. It left italians thoughtful, thing worsened by the pale draw of the azzurri with Serbia.. At least those from Milan could celebrate Clementina’s liberation from her kidnappers in Kabul.
Milan also marks a giant turn in this trip. Veronica and I decided to take different roads and split for as long as life wants it. She received some nice proposals to work with her paintings in Spain, and it would have been of infinite egoism to ask her to continue such a long trip. Verito, your were brought by a beer in the narrow wooden bar of Centro Cultural Cortázar, your were taken away by the train E327 of plataform 8 at Milan Train Station. Well, I guess trains are often servants of destiny, nothing left to do.
I held my tears as I could, but when they finaly flowed they condensed the sadness of a thousand empty Duomos. But life and this trip continue.Tomorrow I set thumbs to Germany.

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