Saturday, November 16, 2013

How It Almost Happened

Today I was planning on waking up at 8-something and adventuring out beyond the studio and hotel doors. I woke up for my alarms but ignored them telling myself "It's Saturday. You need sleep after this week and today you can sleep in." So I did.

I got up around 10-something, came to studio to eat breakfast, then headed down Corso Vittorio Emanuele II. When I passed Chiesa Nuova I saw that the doors were open so I walked in. It's a bit embarrassing that I couldn't remember if I had set foot in Chiesa Nuova this trip because the interior of the church looked familiar-ish but not familiar enough. (Stroikian semi-sarcasm: They're all alike, right? You've seen one thermal window motif you've seen 'em all). Then I saw this:
And I remembered.

I was here as a kid. It was only a decade later when I stood outside with Michael Graves and went into the oratory library and watched the concentration on Professor Ingrid Rowland's face as she tried to read the Hebrew on the ceiling. Most of my memories from coming to Italy as a child are the tombs of saints. Churches blur together into nothingness (except St. Peter's and the Lateran) but I remember the relics.

There were a bunch of seminarians/priests walking around and as I began to head out of the church I happened to turn around and see a chasuble at this side altar. Not wanting to pass up this opportunity to attend Mass said over St. Philip Neri's body, I went back to the chapel and hesitantly stood there for a bit before kneeling down. It was a private mass and I felt awkward being the only person besides the priest and the seminarian serving. An elderly couple soon appeared and the three of us made up the congregation. At some point during all of this I realized that the priest wasn't speaking Italian but was speaking Latin. The server stumbled on the Confiteor and the priest had to help him a bit through the end of it. So I stumbled upon a Tridentine Mass at the altar of St. Philip Neri in Chiesa Nuova completely out of the blue. I was elated. The  elderly couple knew the Latin and before we sat down for the offertory the woman turned and smiled at me for some reason. Maybe she was happy that I knew exactly how to participate and wasn't confused by the Latin. The priest had such a French accent so all the Latin sounded Frenchified. It was great.

Everything was just beautiful until the personification of Italy walked in. A man holding a ridiculous handful of clanking skeleton keys told us to leave right in the middle of Mass. The church was "closed". During the middle of the offertory the church was closed and he wouldn't take no for an answer. We had to leave. So I did.

The elderly couple didn't know what nationality I was and I didn't know what nationality they were so we didn't really bother talking; however, we all exchanged looks that read something like "This is so, so stupid. Why is Italy so lame? Oh well. This was great while it lasted." They seemed like really nice people. Good old Universal Church.

After this I kept walking down the corso and went into the bookshop where I previously found the T.S. Eliot. I wanted to look at their prints because they sell a bunch for reasonable prices. I picked up some small prints because if you got a few it was cheaper and they are small enough not to get ruined on the trip home. 

In honour of hot chocolate escapades. Also that's some sweet lace.
I also saw another Caravaggio today...except it was a copy. I was looking at The Entombment of Christ in Chiesa Nuova and thought "This one is actually a bit disappointing." Then I noticed it was a copy from the late 1700's. Today hasn't been quite what I thought it might be but that's ok. There's always another adventure to be had tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013


Part one of our current project was due today at 2 pm after our professors gave us an extension over the weekend. One might think that there would be ample time to complete it after being given three extra days but this is architecture we're talking about. Last night if you had walked past Sant'Andrea della Valle you would have seen a procession of 5' wooden boards being carried by architecture students back to the hotel. Popcorn was made for the occasion, we changed into shorts or pajamas, and each group set up on a different floor of the hotel. Yes, we will bypass the midnight closing of the studio even if we look ridiculous. There was much laughing last night. Too much actually. We went to bed at 4 am and squeezed in four hours of sleep before waking up for drawing class (which was very brutal). But everything turned out well with the project.

Today one of the professors said "I can't imagine that you guys would have taken your boards back to the hotel..." and the room erupted into nervous laughter because until that moment she didn't know that that was precisely what we did. There already has been a night when some of us stole the St. Mary's girls' study room in the hotel so that we could finish perspectives.

So, anyways, the work has not ended nor will it end until Christmas break. Right now a site visit to look at cafe precedent would be great...if you know what I mean.

Oh, random question to friends who are more proficient in Latin than myself: how would you say "the shade has been cast"? It's a bit of a story not worth explaining immediately and I'm rusty on my conjugations.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Caravaggio and Coffee. Monotony on Monterone.

1. A few days ago I took a break and walked to the Pantheon to stop by an ATM and then decided to keep walking because I had been sitting all day. It was the best "study" break you could ask for. I decided to enter the French church (St. Louis) just to absorb the Caravaggio paintings again. I stood in front of The Calling of St. Matthew and The Martyrdom of St. Matthew for a least ten minutes just taking it in. On the way back to studio I felt that it was a Sant'Eustachio cappuccino worthy day (or night...the sun had gone down but it goes down so early this time of year). How often can you just pop in to see Caravaggios and then get the best cappuccino in Rome before heading back to your desk?

The side chapel where these paintings are is incredible. I find it most striking that the two paintings face each other. On the left you have Jesus picking a surprised St. Matthew out to follow Him and on the right you have the same man dying a martyr's death because he chose to accept the call. I'd love to analyze and talk about these paintings but my time and concentration is short. 

2. It's always unnerving when you aren't stressed during a fact it can be more stressful because then you start wondering what is wrong and why you aren't stressed. You begin anticipating what horrible things are going to occur. This being said, I still haven't felt actually stressed. I think that's due to the fact that we're still doing group projects so all the pressure isn't just on me.

3. Some of us have decided that we are part of a social experiment. We think our lives are like The Truman Show. All the professors are in on it except one of them. It makes a lot of sense actually.

4. Today I reached the Pink Floyd stage of the project. There inevitably comes a time before the project deadline when I turn on Pink Floyd and avoid as much as possible any distractions, outside noise, and conversations. At least I wasn't listening to "Echoes" while staring into a light table during the middle of the night because that happened last year and it was trippy.

5. I was feeling inexplicably irritated tonight, really irritated, so I walked outside to get out of the building. I went to Santa Maria Sopra Minerva and Mass was going on in a side chapel. A schola was chanting during communion time and they sounded beautiful. When I approached our studio building on my way back I saw the NAC seminarians standing outside waiting to get in so I unlocked the door for them. I'm so glad it was Monday because they brought both physical and spiritual nourishment of sorts (though the physical nourishment was American junk food and also my dinner for the night). I'm getting tired of being around the same 40-some people day in and day out in the same building so it's refreshing to have even the slightest contact with outsiders. It was great hearing about the importance of the relationship between prayer and work in an Australian accent. It's just a break from the monotony on Monterone.

6. I'm really tired but too tired to go to bed so while we still have 30 minutes until studio closes I'm stretching my legs out and staring into the distance. We've been painting on the floor kneeling on wood and staples for the past few days. I spilled some of the color for the John Cabot building in our plan and said, "Noooo, John Cabot, why?" so that's a sign it's bedtime.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Electro Italia Swing Routine

We wove our way through the streets of Trastevere, still slick from rain and alive with lights and throngs of people. I was blindly following my friends who knew the place where we were going to knit. When we stepped into the threshold of an Italian bar the smell of incense hit me like a brick and it was impossible not to notice the artsy jewelry, tea pots, handbags, etc. that they were selling. Can you say quirky? I followed them downstairs to a basement where they had couches and chairs, books lining the shelves, and more overwhelming incense sticks. We sat down and I picked up an old, Italian copy of Richard II sitting next to me. Then I noticed the music. I started laughing and was told "They always play stuff like this. It's really weird and hilarious." "What IS it? It's like a remix of 1920's music with modern techno." We eventually asked the waitress and she came back with a piece of paper that said "electro Italia swing routine" and told us it was a Youtube playlist. It reminded us of The Great Gatsby soundtrack so we talked about the movie for a bit while knitting. As we continued listening we came to the conclusion that it would make a great playlist for rendering large washes on a final project.

Yes, all of this is a true story. This was the second time I have joined in knitting with rebellion and frustration in unlikely public places while, in the words of Jane Austen, we "make sport for our neighbours, and laugh at them in our turn". Welcome to our lives.  

This one is a remix of the song "You Rascal You".