Tuesday, April 19. 10:15
The trip begins on an auspicious note. Yesterday a Trump-appointed Federal judge in Florida struck down the Biden administration's imprudent and unlawful extension of the mask mandate in airports, airplanes, etc. It will be interesting to see if the Van Galder bus, which takes us to O'Hare, will be unmasked.
It has been over two years since we were able to leave the United States. Testerday, out of the blue, I began to recall scenes from the Croatian film Wrist-Cutters (made in English for a lousy $1 million!). The premise is that some poor shnook commits suicide and finds himself in Hell or Purgatory, which resembles nothing so much as a gloomier drearier more down-market version of his life. Everything seems crumby, even the lightning, and he and some other suicidal pals, whom he meets, end up taking a road trip across the blighted United States. Finally, in despair, our hero says he can't take this lousy world any more, but, when a friend suggests he kill himself, our hero responds: "What, and end up in some place worse than this?"
America under lockdown, probably America forever. Remember the attempt at optimism at the end of Huxley's Antic Hay. They are watching a doctor on a treadmill or exercise bike, trying to escape his misery--his hopeless love for Myra Viveash. Some cheerful soul utters a platitude about tomorrow being better than today. Myra responds that tomorrow will be even worse.
Why, you ask, am I so cheerful? Going to Italy during this dark moment of the failing American Empire is like leaving Illinois in January and going to Charleston. Everyday I check the Rockford weather and chuckle.
Our friend Mark Beesley is traveling with us. Yesterday, as I helped him through some of the tedious paperwork, he confessed that he had been feeling listless and unfocussed, tired much of the time. He wondered if it was the result of his COVID booster or perhaps the anesthesia used in a recent knee operation. I thought, but did not say, that we have finally succumbed to Jimmy Carter's malaise. Reading newspapers or news websites could convince even a person as cheerful as I am that we are living in a world of Zombies, ghouls, and shape-and-sex-changing mutants.
I woke up singing with the birds at 6:00 AM. Yes, it's cruel, but in roughly 30 hours, after 9 hours of misery on a direct flight, we'll be back in Rome.
It is hard to tell how the Italians are responding to the collapse of the COVID project. Northern Italy was hit harder than most places in the civilized world, and the Italian government has been slow to respond to the amelioration. In looking up reviews of some favorite bars and restaurants, I come across complaints from young Italians who condemn a place for not enforcing the mask restrictions or checking the Green Pass (or American equivalent, a CDC vaccination certificate). It gives me hope that the native anarchism of the Italian soul has not been entirely compromised by socialist governments.