Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Follow



Its funny how you can connect to someone. I didn't speak a word of this guy's language, well I actually did but I really wouldn't count my Spanish as language, but we understood each other. He was tired and I was tired. He wanted to be comfortable and I wanted to be comfortable. He wanted to listen to his music and I wanted to listen to mine. I also was greatly intrigued by him - his LA hat, his Bronx shorts, his throwback street ball jersey, etc. The influence of American pop culture and hip-hop was so prevalent that it almost seemed funny. Someone from South America was such a product of mainstream American marketing that I almost felt like he had been robbed of his true culutre. Nonetheless, upon seeing this, I knew I had to follow him . After some conversing with the chaaracter on our train home from Venice, he fell asleep just as I had wanted to. Thus my first creepy picture of him. This was the perfect opportunity because he really had no idea I was on to him. If I was to snap a shot of him when he was aweek, the awkwardness just just be at an all time high the rest of the ride.

After the train, as I stalked him out further, I was curious to see his next destination. I could have bet money on this but he stopped in the Nike store.



In an almost predicatable manner, he was checking out the latest pair of Nikes displayed in the store. Though I wanted to stay with him longer, I unfortunatley had to leave because he stayed in the store forever! I felt so wierd taking a picture of him through the store because the passerbys along with the Nike employee gave me the most condescending looks.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

2 Hours. 1 Position. 1/100000 of Trestevere

Two hours is a dam long time to spend watching one area of a city. As a result, I looked for a place that my buttox could withstand the conditions. I spotted a comfy looking set of tables and chairs outside of a Pizzaria on a main street of Trestevere. The tram line ran in the middle of the road while cars whizzed by on each side.


Foremost, during my stay it was impossible not to notice the PYT's (pretty young things, specifically women) that kept strolling on by - obviously not giving me the slightest glance. A majority of these women were dressed in a similar fashion, one that gave off the attitude "hey look, im chic, im young, im Italian, and I dam well know I'm hot." I, of course, am a fan of this look that involves lots of belts, beautiful dresses and lots of leg.

Other than the women, I couldn't help but notice the abundance of mid-aged men in business suits with briefcases. It seemed that for every one girl passing by there was at least one man in a suit passing along the sidewalk.

What I found really entertaining during my stay was the way in which people carried themeselves. The overall theme of the street seemed to be to walk nonchalantly, as if they had all the time in the world. Perhaps because it was around sunset and work was over, but everyone just seemed to be strolling through without any real sense of urgency. In fact, one man in a suit stopped by the pizza shop to talk to the owners who appeared to be his friends. Holding his briefcase the entire time, they talked for nearly 30 minutes; at one point I am fairly certain they were discussing a new kind of pizza to make with bruschuto topping.

Seated two tables in front of me were an older couple who seemed to be as romantically in love with one another as you might expect high school sweethearts to be their senior year. Though they were there before I arrived, they stayed nearly an hour of the time I was there. The man sipped on his Peroni extremely slow while the woman sipped on her slender cup of what appeared to be a beer of sorts. Despite my presence, camera included, the couple had no problem outright making out in front of me and appeared to be nuzzling at times the way a mother does with her child.


Trains and buses dominated the sound-scape of the area as every minute or so another would roar by. The trains were blanketed with advertisements which probably was very effective within the area noting the high traffic congestion in the area.

Surprisingly, the area was pretty much dead the entire time I was there. Over the course of my two hours, only about five different parties actually went in and purchased pizza from the store. I always wondered just how well these pizza shops did with all the competition but this one appeared to struggle. And, though people would pass through regularly, few actually stopped in to any of the stores and simply using the street for its transportation purposes.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Drift

We started out as a group of about 8 or so. A few minutes in to the assignment I realized that I had to go off on my own. Feeling slightly more ballsy complements of the glasses of wine from our lunch, I trailed off from the group to truly discover Trestevare and my tour was really amazing.

After stopping for some quick gelato for myself (which was truly amazing by the way) I headed over to this beautiful open plaza with a fountain in the middle. While walking around the fountain I began to realize that all the benches were filled with homeless men sleeping during the day. This came as quite a shock to me because I thought that Trestevere was one of the more upscale towns in Rome.

From the central plaza, which was being cleaned while I passed through it, I made my way down a beautifully decorated street, lush with greenery from overhanging balcony's and house walls. There were a lot of people simply strolling through the street as I photographed as many acquantances as I could. I was obviously near some building of importance because there were groups of people in suits headed into what appeared to be a main building in the district. At this hour of the day, Trestevere was certianly alive and busteling.





Doing some more drifting, I landed upon a nice round plaza that had a certain religious element to it. The entire area of Trestevere seemed to have religious undertones to it which I noticed as I passed by the numerous references to Jesus, the lions, and Saints. In perhaps the most blatent of examples, Jesus was carved in to the side of the building located on an extremely busy street corner.



This is one of the more interesting things about Rome to me - the fact that religion is so intertwined with the state itself. Around every street corner and rooted in nearly all the architectual and artistic work, Christianity is not only prevelant but a constant almost omnipotent point. I would tend to believe this was a deliberate plan by the constructors of Rome who wanted the religion to be the constant guiding force in the masses everyday lives. By having Jesus and other symbolic figures around both Rome and Trestevere, it becomes impossible to escape the constant reminder of morality and the stories of the New Testament.

Yet among it all, its hard not to realize the immoral. Not 20 feet from the corner which Jesus peered over, a group of kids were vandalizing a beautiful wall by carving thier names in it with a stone. It was eery standing there taking a picture of them doing this because I could almost see myself doing something so stupid back when I was younger, thinking that it was a cheap and easy way to engrave my name for all eternity. And that's really exactly what these kids were doing, the same thing that all the great Romans and all the great Popes in Rome have wanted for thousands of years: a legacy. Whether it was a massive bust, an immense statue, a fresco, or a Basilica, Roman culture has always consisted of ordinary men triumphing the test of time by becoming something great, something reveered, something immortal. Though an obvious childish act of minor vandilism, I couldn't help but see the desire these kids had to be something, anything, even if that just meant a name in a wall.



Making my way further through Testevare, working back towards the direction of the river, it began to get much hotter than before. The sun started to really break through the overcast sky that had loomed overhead for the morning. The colors of the city really seemed to come to life at this point, making the city for a bit more fun, young-spirited, and warm.



What I liked best about Trestevere on my first visit was the way the colors mimicked the neighborhoods character. The bright orange houses and terracata roofs really gave Testevere a very "west coast" beach feel to it which is ironic because it is in the middle of the city.



Nonetheless, the use of plants and dramatic green overhangs to drape the walls with natures tapestries is simply a great feeling. More than any other area I have been to in Rome, Testevere felt and looked like what I had envisioned Italy to look like.




As I strolled back to the river, perhaps my favorite element of Testevere, I couldn't help but notice how magnificant the grandeur of the river was. Directly through this district, this massive ancient river with tons of history of its own, seemed to flow as if it owned the place. It was powerful, it was commanding, and it was gorgeous to look at. Adjacent to the river, the cars on the main road darted along too, and as fast as they whizzed by me as I stood on the island in the road, the river seemed so much more powerful and threatening.





Then, in the middle of the river, stood the giant arch that stands only as a symbol for the bridge that once stood there before, swept away four different times by the strong current of the Tibre. I found this entire scenario fascinating. The Romans triumphant arch, the structure imperial emperors would erect once they conquered another country, was left standing in a river, destroyed by natures sheer power. Though the arch still remains, it was knocked down time and time again and I felt this real connection with nature at this point. As I stood in the very middle of the bridge, looking down at the current rushing past me, I really tried to envision those before me, hundreds and hundreds of years ago, doing the exact same thing. The whole experience was really great and peaceful because I just felt so relaxed and at ease. In fact, the trip had inspired me so much that I continued to drift beyond Testevere, in to the Jewish Ghetto, through Via de Corso, and even through Piazza de Poppolo - a place I had been tens of times before but never really just embraced it.

Lost in Translation

Its one thing to be lost back home. Although you think you're lost, you're never really more than a phone call away from someone who can help or really out of contact with a near by local who can point you in the right direction. Here in Rome, when you get lost, you are truly lost. It's a scary feeling being unable to even communicate that you are lost to people verbally. Sure, most of the time they can read it on your face but without a common language between two people, you must rely on fragments to get somewhere.

On our journey to Trestevare, this was just the case. We left with plenty of time to ensure we would get to the site as assigned. Just a short walk from the Colliseum to the Theatre of Marcellus and we would be golden. However, that short walk quickly turned in to one debacle after another becuase what happens is that everybody starts putting in their two sense, all directing you in the general direction but through different means of transportation and different routes altogether. One person says take this bus to one stop while another says walk to the third street and hook a left. It becomes constant skeptisim and luck to find your way anywhere when you are lost.

Not to mention that in Rome, you're hot. And not only are you already a little agitated from the heat, but being lost while being hot is instant anger issues within a group. On the way to Trestevare, we traveled in a group and people begin to turn against each other as the feeling of panic sets in. It's a wierd thing to see people become so frustrated with one another when their own reputation's and ego's are on the line. This feeling of frustration and panic was even heightened as we began to get calls wondering where we were; obviously late we became even more willing to listen to anyone around us to try to find the meeting sport on time. What started as a rare question or two to a stranger, questioning "Theatre of Marcellus?" and a point, became a wild goose chase to ask anyone who looked like they might be credible along the way: men passing by, a women out walking her dog, random people sitting down eating breakfast, a young kid listening to his iPod, etc.

I tried to stay as cool and calm along the road to being lost. I have a really short temper and very little patience so I truly tried my best to start removed from the central tension and frustration that was going on. That being said, I tried to navigate us the best I could - frantakly searching the map for some sense of security that we were headed not only in the right direction but on the right path to get there. I think I deffinitely maintained by calm along the way but towards the end I started to become a little agictated in the way some people seemed to lollygag aimlessly while we were already an hour late. On any other day this would have been totally fine but I just thoguht that under these circumstances we had to be as directed and focused as possible out of fairness to Hannah and ourselves. All in all, getting lost in Rome is really quite a remarkable expereince because it forces you to navigate through territory and develop a sense for the city itself. Becuase we got lost I got probably my best sense of the city in terms of geography and location - later that day I simply walked home trhough all these elaborate routes I discovered along the way which was really enlightening.

To Map or Not To Map

I wish I had a dam map. I really really do. See at first I came over here and I was one of those kids who thought maps are only going to hold me back - they're charted, they're constricting, they're so by-the-book. Coming in to this, I wanted to go out and explore on my own, not with any direction but sheer submersion in the life, finding new things around every corner. I envisioned me strolling around the open concourses of Rome, stumbling upon ruin after ruin and Italian life daintfuly tucked away in each side street. I was an optimist who, in many ways, naively expected my own directional abilities to carry me through the grandiose city. But now, after about three weeks of the program, I have just now gone out and found myself a map.
After using a map relentlessly to navigate around Barcelona, I began to realize the raw value of having an arial view of a city. Ultimatley, what a map allows me to do is visualize the city and understand the geographical and thus societal make-up of the city. While in Barcelona, after only a day of having my map, I was able to fully navigate around the city and understand how the different neighborhoods melded into one another. By plotting different points on each map - points that had specific value and relation to me - I was able to get a contextual feel for the city. In contrast, by not using a map in Rome, I really haven't been able to understand the city and how each Piazza and zone relate to one another both geographically and culturally. Without the entire visual representation of the city, I feel lost and I think that my appreciation for the city has dwindled because of such.
But now, after picking up a map from the porter of the Residence, I have been able to really get a sense for where things are in relation to one another and how to navigate around. And what I feel most special about is that my very fear of locking on to a select path and being oblivious to the surrondings while following it - something I find myself doing at both Temple and my family's home - is non-existant because the city really has that much to offer that it can't help grab your attention. While here, its so hard not to look up and stare and the juxtoposition of old and new, historic and modern, serious and fun, etc. because the entire feel of the city is so different for me.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Public to Private






You know, when I began to do this assignment I really didn't know where to begin. But then I began thinking about what is private in my own public display of life and vice versa. Though not exactly a space, I believe this is best illustrated through the iPod and its uncanny ability to complete block out the outside world, allowing each and every user thier own unique experience completely tailored to thier own wants and needs. Never before in history has their ever been a device so capable of alienizing the entire world into complete isolation and silence. Take this one man on the Metro in Rome: plugged in to his iPod he is completely shut out from the world, his own music kept private from the public sphere of the Metro. Through two small little white ear buds, the transition between the public arena with all its noises and chatter is completely privitized.
In a similar respect, the Police station on the busy corner street does the same thing. Among the chaos and traffic of the every day hustle, four little walls transform this space in to a completely different place. It is as if on the public sidewalk, this little station serves as an embassy on foreign soil.

Within the payphone, the customer is promised reclusivity from the outside world allowing him to disclose secretes and private information to someone on the other line while the public world continues to shuffle about on the outside. Once the door is pressed shut, the box becomes a privite space for only the paying customer, reducing the outside world to sheer background noise to the central conversation.
The secret is perhaps the most common transition between the public sphere and private sphere in that it is - by definition - just that. Whether we whisper romances in the other person's ear or merely gossip about another, a secret is the transition between information meant to be heard by a limited number rather than for the masses. I think in my own life just how many times I have whispered something so quietly the other person could barely hear, sometimes not quiet enough like when we discussed our roomates here in Rome while they were in the room next door.
Yet, more blatent than anything else, these signs clearly distinguish the transition from public to private and private to public. Though I can't read what the signs say, they clearly are not inviting and make clear that no one should enter the private property.