Act 2, Scene 14
Back to Firenze

Ancient Rome, The Italian Renaissance, And Postmodern Love

by Frederick Noble

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We decided to head back to Firenze (Florence) for another weekend, just the two of us, while we still had a few moments spare time. We looked up a new hotel in Let’s Go, got the reservations through the tourist office and hopped the train.

Train rides through Tuscana (Tuscany) are often a joy. The routes are almost entirely along picturesque valleys surrounded by sunflower fields, vineyards, ancient hilltop towns and crumbling castles that all beckon for you to stop and visit.

But this trip I ignored the view outside and sat gazing at Heather, working up my nerve. It took an hour but I finally got brave, or manic, enough to say what I'd been feeling these long weeks, maybe months.

Views from the train to Firenze

Views from the train to Firenze

"I love you."

She smiled, "Awww, now I feel all fuzzy inside."
But no, she didn't respond with those three little words back to me. I honestly didn't expect her to, and her response was better than what I thought might happen.
"I've known for a long time but I didn't want to say it," I ventured further.
"Why not?" she asked.
"Because I thought you'd freak out."
"Why??" she said with a tone of voice so innocent that my jaw dropped open, then dropped right off my face entirely. My head exploded. My eyeballs flew across the car and smacked her in the forehead, popping her head back into the wall. The bone shrapnel that had been my skull shattered all the windows in the car and the fluids that had been contained in my body boiled out my neck and flowed to the floor where they melted right through, destroying the tracks below. The train derailed, hurling off into a propane refilling station. The resulting fireball leveled a small town and started a fire that burned down the entire country. All of it. Maybe you heard about it on the news?

 

"Love, n. The folly of thinking much of another before one knows anything of oneself. A temporary insanity curable by marriage or by removal of the patient from the influences under which he incurred the disorder. This disease, like caries and many other ailments, is prevalent only among civilized races living under artificial conditions; barbarous nations breathing pure air and eating simple food enjoy immunity from its ravages. It is sometimes fatal, but more frequently to the physician than to the patient."
Ambrose Bierce, from The Devilís Dictionary

OK, maybe my head didn't literally explode, but my brain turned inside out with the realization that she had no earthly idea what was going on around her. Every muscle in my body was drawn tight and I couldn’t relax and soften up and be the friendly guy I needed to be at that moment no matter how hard I tried.

You shouldn’t require much explanation for Violent Femmes' song Prove My Love at this point:
Just last night I was reminded of
Just how bad it had gotten
And just how sick I had become
But it could change with this relationship
De-derange, we've all been through some shit
And if we're a thing I think this thing's begun
Tell me now what do I have to do
To prove my love to you
Special favors come in 31 flavors
We're out of mints, pass the lifesavers
I'm dropping hints, candy for candy-coated tongue
You'd be so good, so very good for me
What do you think, tell me honestly
I'm wait wait wait w-wait wait waitin for you to come
Tell me now what do I have to do
To prove my love to you
Third verse, same as the first
Just last night I was reminded of
Just how bad it had gotten
And just how sick I had become
But it could change with this relationship
De-derange, we've all been through some shit
And if we're a thing I think this thing's begun
Tell me now what do I have to do
To prove my love to you
What do I have to do
I'd do anything
What do I have to do
I'd do it all
What do I have to do
I'd do it all for you
I'd climb a mountain
What do I have to do
I'd cross the ocean
To prove my love to you?

There were other reasons I was terrified of her rejection.
I had always lived “by the seat of my pants,” haphazardly wandering and doing my best to avoid responsibility in any way. But that life was coming to an end as surely as the train I rode charged toward Firenze. Eventually I’d have to graduate, get a job, settle down.
I was terrified of aging.
Heather made me feel so young, so free. Perhaps it’s because we had so much fun together that every day seemed to last an eternity, making me feel that immortal feeling one only has as a teenager, or a lunatic. The thought of telling her I loved her and having her run away was synonymous with losing that feeling, at least from my perspective.
I’d also had a chronic two-year limit on my relationships. I never felt like I shared enough in common to lead me to stay with someone longer. When I looked at Heather I felt like she could be the one to last, a real shot at a lifelong partner.

It’s probably as obvious to you as it is to me now that Heather didn’t quite see it that way. Thank God for Firenze, with its sights to distract and it’s magic to enchant.

Ponte Vecchio, Florence
Ponte Vecchio, "old bridge", once housed butchers and sausage makers. But eventually the Medici and other bankers got tired of the stench from the butchers tossing their garbage into the river so they were kicked out and replaced with gold and jewelry merchants, who still occupy the bridge today. There is some seriously ugly, gaudy overpriced crap for sale here, though if you look long enough you might find something pretty. Personally, I think the prettiest thing is the bridge itself.
Ponte Vecchio, Florence
I found some antique photos of Firenze in a flea market in the States a few years later. Judging from the cars in the pictures they're from the 20's but otherwise you couldn't tell much difference from then to now. Strange, coming from Atlanta, where you can barely recognize the town from one month to the next!

David has been the symbol of Firenze since long before Michelangelo carved his version, but it's his version you’ll see everywhere you go. The hype is overwhelming and you’ll begin to doubt just how moved you could possibly be by the real thing after seeing replicas of all sizes in all materials from plastic to plaster, countless photos, drawings, paintings, calendars and postcards on every wall of every shop in town. As if that weren’t enough, we had all the background details from class so we knew why his proportions were so odd (he was intended to go on a buttress below the dome of the duomo some sixty feet up so when viewed from below he’d look evenly proportioned), where he originally stood (in Piazza della Signoria, where a replica now stands. He was moved after some 400 years when a stray rock, thrown during a riot, broke his wrist), and the dates when he was begun (1501), when he was completed (1504), who commissioned the work (The Opera del Duomo) and where he now stands (in the Accademia, of course.)

But regardless of how many replicas I see or how much background I know, every time I see the real deal I come away silent.

Michelangelo's David

It's really something you have to see in person to get the real impact of the work, but then you could say that about most of Italia. They've done a marvelous job with his current home, minimizing the distractions and lighting him perfectly. Michelangelo loved men and it comes out in this work. (Unfortunately, he didn't care much for women and that, too, comes out in his work.)

Michelangelo's David
Unfortunately sometime after 1999 the Accademia stopped allowing photos of David.

Michelangelo's "dying slaves," unfinished works intended for the tomb of Pope Julius II, line the corridor leading up to the David and are almost as equally captivating.

Michelangelo's "dying slave" sculpture

Florence
Another of the antique photos of Firenze, and another copy of the David, this one surrounded by copies of other Michelangelo works from the tombs of the Medici. You can see how the Duomo, halfway across town from this hill, towers above Firenze.
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