Sunday, January 21, 2007

24 June 1956

Dear Folks

For some reason I feel like writing tonight—why I can’t say, and what I don’t know. Someone has spit in the wastebasket; that is one thing that makes me violently ill. I am not the type who usually goes peering into wastebaskets, but when I do, I very much dislike looking into someone’s expectatorial (?) remains. Oh, well….

I have just come back from the beach, and it is only nine o’clock, which proves either that I’m a very good boy or else that I’ve run out of money. In this case, it’s the former; I still have 3,000 Lire I don’t know what do to with, and will probably never have cause to use again.

If there were just some way you could see the interesting places in Europe and yet not have to spend twenty-four hours a day there, it would be very nice. Europe at night is far more alien than Europe in the day; the only possible thing to do is sit in a bar (or, if you’re very wealthy, go to a nightclub, which amounts to the same thing)—television, plays, almost everything else is out unless you speak the language fluently.

America has her faults, as I’ve said often before, but she is still my America.

Tomorrow being Sunday once again, I can and plan to sleep as late as possible; naturally, I’ll get up around nine. The kid two racks above me (I sleep in the bottom rack of a tier of three) has acquired a fondness for the guitar, two of which have mysteriously appeared in our compartment in the last few days. He also likes to sing, and what he lacks in quality, he more than makes up for in volume. Also, he has a friend who thinks anyone remaining in bed past 0600 is mentally deficient, and he does his best to arouse his acquaintances by shaking the rack and bellowing in a stage whisper : "Time to get up now" over and over and over and over and over and over until everyone in the compartment is awake except the one he’s trying to get up. I’m afraid I tend to get a wee bit cross with him at these times.

Whenever I go ashore alone, I try to take a book of some sort (the smaller and least conspicuous the better) to read while waiting in the various lines leaving and returning to the ship. I finished the one I brought today before we even left the ship. You may inform my friend Lirf that I picked up two Fantasy and Science-Fiction books for him at a second hand book stall. He should enjoy them very much, as they are both in Italian. Well, that’s what he said he wanted.

It had been my intention, as was mentioned a few days ago, to go over tonite and get quietly plastered. Whether I did or not, I’ll leave to your judgment (only by the content of the letter—not by the mistakes, which I make all the time). However, I do not feel more than just a little "good;" a fact which I attribute to sticking to Vermouth (via one bitter sweet wine and one gin fizz), eating one pizza (good cheese), and absorbing the alcohol with a large doughnut & a cup of cocoa—which was made in the same container as a pot of coffee and thereby had some features of both.

I went once again to the cemetery, which still fascinates me. I think it would have been even more fun if I’d gone alone, but I got stuck with a guide who rushed me through and out before I really was satisfied. Ran out of film once again, after taking some shots of a few statues (there are 3,500 in the cemetery). Most of them are in long arcades around the grounds, and the lighting was not of the best. Met an American tourist who’d just come from Yugoslavia, where he’d visited his parents’ home town. I definitely think every American child should be taught at least two different languages (one of them preferably not Swedish).

To get back to the cemetery—some of the crypts cost up to 50000 dollars ($50,000). The main part of the cemetery, enclosed within the walled arcades, is for the middle class and poor of Genoa. Here the dead may be buried for seven years; no more (there is a section for nuns and priests with a thirty year option). After that the bones are disinterred and buried in a common grave with 300,000 to 500,000 other defunct Genoans. Remind me never to die in Genoa.

This cemetery is the only one in the city—from twenty five (in the summer) to seventy (winter) dead come to it each day. No burials are permitted between the hours of ten and five; anyone coming in between those hours rest in a large chapel until burying hours are resumed. Outside the entrance to the cemetery is a long row of flower shops and small stores selling candles and souvenir pictures of Genoa. As you walk in the main gate, directly to the right is the chapel just mentioned. Further on ahead is the common grave (entrance below ground—covered with flowers and trees); to the left the solid wall of the mass crypt. Inside this, long corridors stretch away in gloom, the walls on both sides lined with lengthwise crypts. From there you step into the arcade of the statues which surrounds the major part of the cemetery. On the hill which acts as a background for the whole, is a church copied after the Parthenon in Rome. To the far side of it, on a smaller outcropping of the same hill, are the elaborate tombs of the very wealthy (one the miniature of the Duomo Cathedral in Milan—another a complete tiny church with steeple and stained glass), all odd shapes and sizes, giving the effect of a grotesque fairyland, set among tall poplars.

I’ve spoken before about the detail on the statuary; really amazing. I should very much like to have a statue made of myself. I have a habit of placing people in pictures as I would have them painted. Nick, for instance, I pictured standing on a dark, windy hill, dressed in purple, with great storm clouds behind him, and he himself framed in front of a flash of lightning. Myself I rather fancy as dressed in a white and gold toga, complete with laurel wreath, my right hand raised in a sort of Papal blessing.

Well, I see my typing is degenerating almost as badly as my handwriting; besides that it is nearly taps, and I think I’ll go to bed.


Franklyn Roger Margason

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