Friday, September 09, 2005

Fri. Sept. 9
Molloy Braves the Elements, Or Forget the Money: Follow the Blog

On the schedule for today: a beautiful walk through the hills above Fiesole, 20 minutes by bus from St. Maria Novella bus station, the gentlest zephyrs trilling lightly, birds on the wing, tending their young (is this the right season for that, or is Molloy confused in his ornithological lore?). Nature beckoned, Molloy answered the call, ready to return to his pagan roots and worship the local spirits of hill and dale and see the marble and granite mined by the great sculptors.

But other powers had other plans. Jupiter, Yahweh, Jehovah, Allah, Krishna, Shiva, Zeus, the Great Spirit--or whatever other playful spirit, male or female, has a hand on the controls--opened wide the faucets of the cosmos. First a warning drizzle during the night, then a bit of tantalyzing sun through a light cloud cover (just enough to get Molloy out of the apartment, into the cappucino bar, and off to the bus station). Then BLAM, downpour, CRASH, kettledrums and ten-pins, bolts of lightning hurled across the sky, which Molloy unfortunately was not exactly a party to, huddled under the umbrella as he was, thinking of King Lear on the heath, Rip Van Winkle in the mountains, and Max in the forest with the magic bullets.

Shakespeare, Irving, and Von Weber missed a trick, however, with their heroes, that Molloy's historian has not missed. Unlike the great protagonists of literature and opera, (Odysseus is an exception--the conscientious historian and travel guide must be precise), who have been in forests, heaths, caverns, or pubs, Molloy was lost. Guide to Florence in hand (the very same guide he had used to combat the bloodsucking emissaries of Dracula the previous day--only turned in the wrong direction, so that North was South, and East was West, and the Arno was oddly over his head), he had marched confidently off in the opposite direction from the bus station and lost himself in a labyrinth of piazzi not mentioned in any part of the map he was looking at, looking, as he was, at a part of the map which represented a part of the city which he was nowhere near. He was in a distant sector of the labyrinth, waving his umbrella valiantly above him, jousting with the cats, the dogs, and all the other animals of the zoo sluicing down around him, surrounding his feet, invading his shoes, and crawling dangerously up his legs and down his back, toying with his puny defense.

Divinity, in fact, laughs at umbrellas, even more when Molloy walks under buildings especially designed in genius strokes of Renaissance architectural jeux d'esprit, to pour their water directly upon him.

But he was not alone: there were the huddled masses deluged in front of (not to mention around the sides of) the Duomo--lines of convulsing, undulating umbrellas, the hoarse shouts of frustrated tour leaders waving their soggy flags, peering through steamed glasses, locals waiting it all out in shops, restauranteurs lamenting the effect of downpour on their drenched outdoor cafes.

But much depends on perspective, Molloy realized, in this city where Brunelleschi and Alberti invented perspective by painting the baptistry in a mirror looking backwards. The huddled masses, the exorbitant downpour, were not a torment wrought by some omnipotent cynic, but, for all practical purposes, a mass baptism, a cleansing of the unwashed in preparation for their entry into the great cathedral itself. Molloy can understand the exasperation of the Creator with all those eager but sullied--what more expeditious way to provide a kind of anticipatory aquatic purgatory on the steps, so to speak, of paradise, Brunneleschi's vast, sanctified inner void, the triumph over nature who hates a vacuum. Yes, yes! Molloy feels an ecstatic illuminatory trance coming on! What else is such a cathedral, any cathedral, but an imposition, on a grand scale, of human will in the service of God, over the chaos of nature? Molloy changes his mind: instead of a walk in the hills, where nature's meaningless chaos reigns supreme and nothing prevails but trees, breeze and sunlight (downpours today, of course), Molloy should honor the spirit of divinity and make the exhausting climb into the dome, built without supports (God, with only a miniscule fraction of his omnipotence, must be constantly engaged in sustaining that effort), where with painful legs and heaving chest he can spew forth, competing with the thunder, echoing antiphonies of rage at the martyrdoms suffered by aspirants to the realms of glory (at the top of the dome). The divine reward for completion of the rigors: on a nice day, a fine panorama, a few moments to catch one's breath, perhaps a few gulps of pure oxygen provided by a Holy Ghost awaiting with a tank at the summit, then a descent again into the realms of misery and suffering--the pizzeria, the pasticcheria, the cappucineria, a warm shower, a nap that resembles the eternal slumber of death, and then is born again, as they say, into full wakefulness and joie de vivre, that the dream of heaven was only a dream and the shops can be mined for material well being another day. It may be easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to go to heaven, but why would anyone want to put a camel through the eye of a needle, anyway? Let's confine ourselves to realities.

Oy, the breath of inspiration comes in many forms; as Paul opines, those who speak in tongues, what good are they without translators, one of many opinions Paul shares with Molloy, indeed, might even have derived from Molloy in one of his (Molloy's, not Paul's) earlier lives. Each person has his/her gift; Molloy's comes from the UPS man--bits and pieces of talent in a brown box, protected by styrofoam.

Speaking of which, Molloy must off to market to prepare for the evening meal, to be taken with Judith, she of Biblical stature, but not of Holofernic fame.

Perhaps the weather has lightened. Perhaps not. Lear is still bellowing, like Saul. Molloy's readers may have reason to curse the weather, which drove him in to blog.


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