Saturday, November 13, 2004

not an itinerant tourist. unfortunately.

Got L.'s letter yesterday. She's in Salzburg, and at the moment I'm suffering an attack of the green-eyed monster. I keep thinking of my day in Geneva; C. and I huddled under her umbrella as it drizzled and we wandered between gothic cathedrals and down medieval alleys, searching out every chocolaterie we could find and gorging on Swiss pastries, and my fruitless quest to find a bottle of uncarbonated water (why do Europeans drink fizzy water? why?? It's just unnatural). And I read in the paper today that one of my favorite French movies, Les Choristes, has finally made it to Nifty Art House Theatre in Suburban Wasteland, and I'm stuck here in Rural Small Town with "Seed of Chucky" and "SpongeBob SquarePants." I've been trying to console myself with the soundtrack I bought over the summer, but it isn't really working.

All this is just as an excuse to post more Billy Collins.


How agreeable it is not to be touring Italy this summer,
wandering her cities and ascending her torrid hilltowns.
How much better to cruise these local, familiar streets,
fully grasping the meaning of every roadsign and billboard
and all the sudden hand gestures of my compatriots.

There are no abbeys here, no crumbling frescoes of famous
domes and there is no need to memorize a succession
of kings or tour the dripping corners of a dungeon.
No need to stand around a sarcophagus, see Napoleon's
little bed on Elba, or view the bones of a saint under glass.

How much better to command the simple precinct of home
than be dwarfed by pillar, arch, and basilica.
Why hide my head in phrase books and wrinkled maps?
Why feed scenery into a hungry, one-eyed camera
eager to eat the world one monument at a time?

Instead of slouching in a café ignorant of the word for ice,
I will head down to the coffee shop and the waitress
known as Dot. I will slide into the flow of the morning
paper, all language barriers down,
rivers of idiom running freely, eggs over easy on the way.

And after breakfast, I will not have to find someone
willing to photograph me with my arm around the owner.
I will not puzzle over the bill or record in a journal
what I had to eat and how the sun came in the window.
It is enough to climb back into the car

as if it were the great car of English itself
and sounding my loud vernacular horn, speed off
down a road that will never lead to Rome, not even Bologna.


At 11:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hehe, great! Well, I mean, great that you got my letter. Are you applying to teach in France next year? I know you were thinking along those lines this past summer...

...and why would you want still water? Ugh. It's not refreshing at all. Of course, it's all you can find in France. But in Germany and Austria and apparently Switzerland, they know what they're doing! I missed it so much when I was in France or back stateside...seltzer just doesn't do the trick, I'm afraid. ;)

At 7:01 AM, Blogger Andygrrl said...

I really did enjoy your letter, my attack of envy notwithstanding, and I will write you back as soon as I get a moment to breathe. Probably sometime over Thanksgiving break (assuming all hell doesn't break loose this year...). I haven't even had a moment to really do anything WRT my future except apply for graduation, and apparently I can't even do that right. I have no idea where I'll be seven months from now.

As for European beverages, you can keep your freaky fizzy water. I was hanging out with J. and some French girls, and we were commiserating over the joys of Orangina. I know you said you can get it here in the states, but I've yet to find it, and I really miss that stuff!



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