Act 2, Scene 13
Missing the Umbrian Jazz Fest

Ancient Rome, The Italian Renaissance, And Postmodern Love

by Frederick Noble

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I was sitting in the library working diligently on this very text when the distant sounds of “The Saints Come Marching In” snuck in the window. I rushed down the street to watch a New Orleans marching band tromping right down main street in Cortona. I was momentarily confused and delighted. It was as if they'd just decided to start marching and had tromped halfway around the globe, pumping out old Jazz and Dixieland standards.
Then I remembered it was the first day of the big Umbria Jazz Festival. Cortona was one of the venues for some of the shows.

By dinner the town was packed with vendors of cheesy merchandise, locals and tourists. It was 25,000 lire for tickets but you could hear the headliners through the whole town - Manhattan Transfer. Later they opened the gates to anyone who wanted to elbow their way through the crowd, and elbow we did. Manhattan Transfer was doing their encore, smooth as expected but not my type of music. We squeezed through to reach Snoopy's gelateria for a scoop and a good view of the stage. They had a killer horn section but drowned it out with Andrews Sisters style vocals that were 100% white bread, hold the soul.

Umbrian Jazz Festival

Heather paid too much for a necklace from one of the street vendors and was thrilled. I had yet to find that perfect souvenir for myself, though my roommate has some glow-in-the-dark plastic baby Jesuses that made me smile, plastic gold halo and all. My budget prevents me any extravagance and I'll likely settle for pictures, this text and all the memories my brain cells can cling to. I'd also love to get things for all my friends and family back home but I'm sure they'd rather I spend the money on wine, women and such so I'll have tales to tell instead of trinkets for the shelf.
Actually it doesn't matter what they want, I'm blowing every dime anyway.

Day 2 of the Jazz Fest had a significantly smaller crowd but did provide a comical site - a monk, complete with gray robes, drinking beer and listening to jazz. Few students could afford tickets, even if they could spare the time from their studies. We felt like locals, more irritated with the crowds of tourists than delighting that they had chosen our small town as a venue.
The final day of the fest was dedicated to gospel. A Chicago group came to bring the Word of the Lord and shout it out loud, and shout they did. Too bad Art goddamn History was taking all my time, I had to miss the whole show. Now my soul is doomed for sure.
Coincidentally, a visiting speaker for Art History class that night quoted an Italian friend as saying “You Americans spend so much time studying art - art is to be enjoyed!”
I looked right at George Bent On Making This Trip Miserable and giggled. If I didn’t think it would get me in trouble I’d have shot him a bird.

There are few Ultimate Truths in life but that art historians are a curse on humanity is definite. I formulated a letter in my head to write to George Bent On Making This Trip Miserable. He irritates me on a personal level, but he's also wasted 80 other students’ final weeks in Cortona with a fucking absurdly difficult, trivia-focused art history test. Next week the torture continues with a research paper. If the paper were any less than 25% of the grade I'd turn in my nasty letter as the paper and eat the resulting grade. Instead I await my test results, hoping I did well enough to resume slack degenerate explorer mode.

The days float by, burning ashes drifting on the breeze, cooling as they fall until they are at last dead. Ashes to ashes, dawn to dusk.

On our daily bike ride today we finally made it to the top of the ridge and over to the other side where there is actually forest, complete with ferns and tall pines. We've seen spots of greenery around Italia, but they're usually small and bordering some field or town. For thousands of years the Italians have been modifying the countryside to suit their needs and they’ve worked over almost every square foot. Stumbling across a piece of land without an olive grove, vineyard, sunflower field, or town was freakish. It was such a shocking sight that Heather and I both literally fell off our bikes. We stood and gawked like we'd landed on a distant planet and were getting our first view of the alien flora and fauna. Funny how you forget the everyday things when they're out of sight long enough. I wonder what it’s like to get out of prison after 20 years? It’s only been a couple of months here and the sight of a few trees can bowl me over.
From atop the hill, Cortona appeared as a speck, though with a town that size... You'll just have to take my word for it, we were way up there! After a short cruise around the backside of the hill we headed back and coasted all the way home, sometimes so fast we couldn't pedal even in the highest gear. An hour of hard riding for 10 minutes of glory.

View of Cortona
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