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Vicarious Italy

Several lucky friends of mine were in Italy lately, and I’ve gone to Italy with them – vicariously.

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As I’ve followed their travels through FB and e-mails, I’ve also dug deep into my collection of art and travel books.

Physically I haven’t been to Italy in many years, but I can go there anytime I want with my books, some old photographs, a few websites, my CDs, and a little imagination.

Anything to get me out of Trump’s America – if only temporarily.

I have my favorite memories of Italy –

… wandering around Venice at night with the Tiny Goddess and no destination … visiting my daughter in Florence when she spent a semester there … two visits to Giotto’s Arena Chapel in Padua … Midnight Mass at the Duomo … a walk around Florence on Christmas Day when everything was closed … a stay at the Villa Serbelloni in Bellagio on Lake Como when the TG and I were very young  … “AIDA” at the Baths of Caracalla in Rome … the Fra Angelicos in San Marco in Florence … the Sistine Chapel with small binoculars … the Tintorettos in San Rocco in Venice … a few fine meals with my family … a room with a view on the Arno.

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There’s absolutely nothing wrong with Italy: it has the food, the people, the scenery, the music, and the art.

As Erica Jong said, "Whenever I go anywhere but Italy for a vacation, I always feel vaguely disappointed, as if I have made a mistake."

She might have a good point.

Here are some instant Italian vacations:

Maria Callas sings “Vissi D’Arte” from TOSCA (1964, Covent Garden) – very late for Callas, but still….

Renata Tebaldi sings “Un Bel Di” from MADAME BUTTERFLY (live)

Franco Corelli sings “Nessun Dorma” from TURANDOT (lip-syncing)

Website for Giotto’s Scrovegni Chapel

The Official UFIZZI Site

The Official PITTI PALACE Site

VENICE IN 3-D – a two-minute tour, thanks to Google

Venice by Night and Gondola ride – a nice, short clip

A good, one hour documentary about Venice and its islands

How Venice Works

A walking tour of Florence

Florence in 4K

The MOTHERLODE – 1.8 million images from the world’s great museums

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Good Things Vs. Bad Things


“Between extremities
Man runs his course”


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This certainly is a time of extremities. So many bad things are happening, and they’re coming in bunches. All these super-storms came and went, leaving wrecked landscapes in Florida, Texas, the Caribbean, and especially Puerto Rico.

And now the horror of Las Vegas.

And Tom Petty, too.

It’s hard to keep up with each day’s new tragedy.

I used to spend time in Puerto Rico in the ‘70s when my sister-in-law lived in San Juan, and I have nothing but good feelings and memories for that island (except for the time I almost drowned in a nasty riptide off Palmas del Mar.) And now to see the pictures of this ruined land and hear the stories of ruined lives breaks my heart. Half of Puerto Rico is still without clean drinking water and 90% is without power.

Where do they go now? And when they rebuild, there will some day be another super-storm to savage the island. I think that’s inevitable. It’s only the beginning of the huge weather events caused by climate change. We’re in for a nasty, calamitous ride.

And every day, it’s TRUMP TRUMP TRUMP. Even the disaster in Puerto Rico is about Trump.

My life, like everyone else’s, is a daily battle between the good and the bad. I’m trying to match every bad thing with something good, but it’s not easy.



My family will help get me through these negative times. Especially my two days a week with my grandson Calder. He is my antidote to Trump.

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Finally ... "HAMILTON"

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The Tiny Goddess and I finally saw HAMILTON at the Pantages Theatre here in LA – and, yes, it’s just as wonderful as everyone says it is: exciting, smart, challenging, and, most importantly, stupendously entertaining. It takes off like a rocket and never comes down.

Lin-Manuel Miranda’s ambitious, off-the-wall concept (a rap opera about one of our Founding Fathers) fuses contemporary slang and attitudes with a serious history lesson from Colonial times, all presented with old-fashioned Broadway razzle-dazzle. I’m not a big fan of rap but what Lin-Manuel Miranda has done is blend rap and hip-hop with conventional Broadway, R&B, soul, and pop music to create Something New. How rare is that?

On a long car trip, the TG and I listened to the CD—both discs—with the TG following the libretto. (And make no mistake: HAMILTON is an opera. It is almost completely “sung through.”) I am very glad we did “study up.” The words fly by so quicky in HAMILTON -- so many interior rhymes, so many creative anachronisms, so many fast jokes and sly references -- that I suspect that I might have been somewhat lost at times. Instead, I knew exactly what was happening onstage, which increased my enjoyment. Quite a few times during the performance, I told myself, “I’m so glad that I know this already.”

Miranda makes a lot of complex historical detail come alive in a thrilling, very-present way. The frequent anachronisms and modern attitudes only reinforce the parallels that Miranda implies between the chaotic Revolutionary Era and ours. Only the “colonial” costumes are specifically from the age of Hamilton. Everything else is timeless, or rather, in Miranda Time.

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