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Tuesday 6 September

1:30 P.M., after watching the funeral service of Diana Spencer at Westminster Abbey like everyone else on the planet supposedly. Why her life and death are of interest is a fair mystery: the closest anyone seems to have come that I heard was a journalist of Le Monde's who said she'd removed the barriers between private and public life.

And of course, that's what killed her. Her desire for transparency — the famous photo of her with the sun thru her dress was basically an omen — led directly to her death: just as my own openness & vulnerability destroyed me — with evil and insecure people pushing the envelope until they kill you.

Actually, I seem to have (sort of) survived. Physically, there is no better word for me now than threatening; and I favor clothes that make me appear dangerous, strong and threatening. Never again.

[. . .] A sad and meaningless life.

This morning up latish at about 0715; breakfast, etc. then Maria-Paola (Walter's wife)'s mother showed up with in tow Anna, la cameriera. I went shopping down to the supermarket — called an ipermercato, but just a supermarket — with laundry and a pair of trou to dryclean, should be ready Wednesday evening say at 6; also bought plastic dumbbells (manubri) that you fill with water, sand or shot; and a few useful items. Food prices about 20% lower than in the little alimentari up here, but then it's down the hill. The Grechetto I liked so much at the Umbria is ₤6500 there. I found a bright yellow coffee cup and saucer, che mi faranno un ricordo di Spello, for ₤3000 — cheap enough! for my collection.

This afternoon I'll do a church or two, or maybe a tour of the walls; I still haven't seen either the P. Venere or the P. Urbica, nor circumambulated the town: mind you, which can wait compared to the monuments normally closed currently open every day under the Viviamo la nostra città program but only thru the ninth.

Computer ever-worsening situation: if I lose FreePPP apparently I won't be able to reinstall it, the installer now corrupt. FreePPP, MacPPP etc. all befouled no matter what extensions are on or off — quite a mess; I'll make an effort maybe Monday to go to Foligno with my portable actually in hand.

Extraordinary speech of Diana's brother, in which he vowed that he and the family would take care of her sons — in effect declaring in front of the Queen that the British people were regents for the future King of England! The Italian commentator picked up on it at the end of the broadcast, surprisingly.

[. . .] Well, enough of that: a caffé in my little yellow cup in my ostensibly pleasant world — Spello is beautiful, this has been an enchanted trip, it should be a delight — and then off somewhere to continue the motions.

My purely psychological state by the way is enormously improved, apparently by being here: only with James on the phone do I get nervous; and I'm not using my glasses very much, able to read here small print at much closer range etc. than in Chicago, so apparently that too is stress.

The Pope was apparently at the PalaGhiaccio di Marino today: it's near his summer house, of course. He was seated on his throne, shaking and twitching and speaking from a prepared text, somewhat slurred and unclear. I told James on leaving I kinda hoped the Pope would die because it would make for a much more interesting trip: in a week, it's been Princess Diana, Mother Teresa yesterday, today Georg Solti but no luck with the Pope. . . the hot Roman summers — God, yesterday was ghastly — often duzzem in, but this one's still got some life left.


Actually had a little nap, was woken up by a call from James on the cellulare: talking computer, as often. I told him nothing really mattered too much except that if I really am incommunicado here, before he leaves Chicago Thursday I'll ask him to send a note to Lynn Nelson, and post something on my site —

Then a spot of nearby shopping: milk, fruit juices, ricotta, vin santo; and some Umbrian ham, very local, one of the ones hanging over the door of the alimentari — 200g on impulse.

[image ALT: The Porta Venere: a Roman gate in Spello, Umbria (central Italy).]
Spello's Porta Venere: a monumental Roman gate nicely restored.

In and right out again, a little walk around Spello. Not a proper circumambulation (for one thing, clockwise!) but about ⅔ of the town. A bit too late for most photographs, but spots noted: the pretty streets in and near the Borgo S. Sisto are probably at their best around 8 in the morning, and the W side of the city at their continuous best around 6 P.M. or a bit later — but there should be a very short but striking period just before midday as the sun reaches over the crest of the hill and casts good shadows. The Porta Urbica is not too much, mostly because the towers are gone; but the Porta Venere, and in particular the lengths of wall on either side, is stunning, with views nearly to match. There's one place where a single narrow-angle shot should show Roman gate, Roman and medieval walls, S. Claudio, the amphitheatre, Assisi and even S. M. degli Angeli. Anyway, a restful, attractive walk: Borgo S. Sisto seems to specialize in flowers, the actual materia of the walls near the Pta. Venere is beautiful, the sunset was very nice, and almost the whole course of my walk was new to me.

One longish pit stop behind up under the Rocca where one of the old ladies insisted I see her large garden, which in one corner just slightly overlooks my terrace — hint not lost on me, if hint there was. Talked cats, gardening, Umbria. I was pleased to note that I'd already become a spellano of sorts, having already noted and absorbed the arrival today of an American family renting one of the apartments of Walter Zurlo's down below; so had she, of course. It felt just like Tilling.

Back here, newscast — almost exclusively Diana's funeral and Mother Teresa (hers will be next Saturday) — ricotta con Alchermes, now bed. Diana, they broke all kinds of rules: the Queen does not attend funerals, the Royal Standard is not flown at half-staff, no pop musician has ever performed in Westminster; the eulogy was applauded in church. (James sez, with great disapproval, that back in Chicago the British Consulate was having to clear the sidewalk of flowers twice a day. . .)

Still, it seems very odd to have such a Christian funeral for a woman who was apparently all set to have an Islamic wedding. . . and most likely didn't care a hoot about either tradition: which is hardly to her discredit, considering my personal experience. Anyhow, the Brits certainly know how to put on a show: they can't have had that much time to rehearse. Diana would have hated almost all of it, tho' the Italian television commentator claimed that the Verdi Requiem was among her favorite musical pieces — St. Francis of Assisi represented; and they were careful to have a hymn from N. Ireland (BBC subtitling it "from County Derry" — very careful!) and one from Wales: the BBC again most carefully panning over to a few Welsh flags amidst the half-million bouquets in front of Buckingham Palace —

Diana's virtue, such as it was, was to realize that her destiny lay in transcending her catching a future King of England for husband: and having the guts to be who she was (and it wasn't much, really: anyone with $200,000 a month for cosmetics and clothes is going to look good) despite all the pressures. So strong a sense of identity, vulnerability and transparency is in fact a rare virtue, and it killed her, even if she was in a party dress between the Ritz and the gentilhommière of a billionaire playboy at a heathen hour of night [. . .] She would've loved her pallbearers, England came up with some of her handsomest men to carry her into the Abbey. . . Very very hard to come up with any balanced kind of appraisal of her, poor thing. I do wish she'd been brighter — altho' fat lot of good it's done me.

Well I've seen her funeral fifteen (sixteen?) years after seeing her wedding — seated on the floor in that dismal apartment on Oakdale — Like they say, the end of an era. Her concerns and mine (despite extremely different backgrounds, capacities and fortunes) were very close. All the other being leveled out, she was happier, wiser finally and certainly more useful: but I've survived —

I need to make my own peace — or truce at least — with this world; yet I don't see the slightest sign of [how to do it]/[how it might be done] — [. . .]

Having thus delivered myself of all this, what is there left to do? A glass of amaro al tartufo, a chapter or two of my Agatha Christie in Italian — the house is stocked with a half-shelf of light reading — to sleep; and tomorrow I start over again.


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Page updated: 22 Jan 02