Andare, Partire, Tornare


Several ways to sail

Yes, my Saturday rocked, so kind of you to ask! And it's all Cherbear's fault (No link to Cher's diary because she's currently in non-update mode until after school is done in June). She kindly invited me to take a spare ticket available to the Baltimore Aquarium, and since I absolutely positively could live there if they'd let me, I accepted. We drove in, not letting a pre-Preakness parade (complete with marching bands, floats, big giant balloons, and the Budweiser Clydesdales, which I wanted to take home with me) slow us down, and walked to the Inner Harbor, which is a really pretty area full of chic little shops, tourist t-shirt stores, and upscale eateries, not to mention the Aquarium and a few other science center-type places. We met up with the others from our group, but promptly lost them in the Aquarium, so they don't really figure in to the day's events. The current exhibit up is on Seahorses, and it's absolutely stunning to see these graceful little creatures so close. I was most fascinated by the sea dragons, which resemble nothing more than drifting kelp or other plant matter, until you look close and see a little neck frill of fins, an eye regarding you steadily, and a long snout with a little muppet-like mouth at the end of it. They don't really steer anywhere, just sort of drift along and nudge themselves to the left or right.

So we sat, entraptured, and watching these little guys - some of the seahorses seemed to flirt with us, zipping back and forth before our faces or lesurely swimming along as if to make sure we were getting a good look at them. Such perfect little things - movie magic has nothing on Mother Nature. And the day was just getting good, because I still had the stingray tank to sit in front of. I love stingrays - the way they fly through the water with slow, graceful flappings. Some of them were huge, the size of living room rugs. So we parked ourselves in front of that exhibit and just let ourselves relax.

Later that day, on a tip from my boss, whose husband is an Italian chef, we walked to the Little Italy of Baltimore, and went to an Italian pastry shop called Vaccaro's. All they sell is desserts, from eclairs the size of small children to servings of really fantabulous gelato like small mountain ranges. They're famous for their cannoli, so I picked up a couple to take home for Bemo, who is a cannoli addict. They were super-delicious, and I think I will have to make more pilgrimages there, or find the one on Pennsylvania Avenue. There's one nearby in Union Station, but I rarely go there.

For Mother's Day, we went out to lunch with Bemo's mom, and brought a picnic lunch for my mom, along with some flowers she told us we paid too much for. Because my mom's just sweet like that, you know...

And so today, when the car I was slugging in on had a flat tire that had to be changed - it's always something, isn't it? And now I'm immersed in the rich decadence of Byzantium, thanks to my current book.

"Of that Byzantine Empire the universal verdict of history is that it constitutes, without a single exception, the most thoroughly base and despicable form that civilization has yet assumed...There has been no other enduring civilization so absolutely destitute of all the forms and elements of greatness...It's vices were the vices of men who had ceased to be brave without learning to be virtuous...Slaves, and willing slaves, in both their actions and their thoughts, immersed in sensuality and in the most frivolous pleasures, the people only emerged from their listlessness when some theological subtlety, or some chivalry in the chariot races, stimulated them to frantic riots...The history of the Empire is a monotonous story of the intrigues of priests, eunuchs, and women, of poisonings, of conspiracies, of uniform ingratitude, of perpetual fratricides." - W.E.H. Lecky, History of European Morals

Norwich notes that the last sentence sounds far from monotonous. Lecky had to have been out of his mind to think that the word eunuch and the word monotonous can ever appear in the same sentence. (Sorry to all you boring eunuchs out there, but I'm relatively sure you're a miniscule portion of my readership...)

And then, of course, you have Yeats:

Sailing to Byzantium
That is no country for old men. The young
In one another's arms, birds in the trees
- Those dying generations - at their song,
The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas,
Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long
Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.
Caught in that sensual music all neglect
Monuments of unageing intellect.

An aged man is but a paltry thing,
A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing
For every tatter in its mortal dress,
Nor is there singing school but studying
Monuments of its own magnificence;
And therefore I have sailed the seas and come
To the holy city of Byzantium.

O sages standing in God's holy fire
As in the gold mosaic of a wall,
Come from the holy fire, perne in a gyre,
And be the singing-masters of my soul.
Consume my heart away; sick with desire
And fastened to a dying animal
It knows not what it is; and gather me
Into the artifice of eternity.

Once out of nature I shall never take
My bodily form from any natural thing,
But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make
Of hammered gold and gold enamelling
To keep a drowsy Emperor awake;
Or set upon a golden bough to sing
To lords and ladies of Byzantium
Of what is past, or passing, or to come.

Makes me shiver in the same way as the stingrays do.

10:21 a.m. - 2002-05-13


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