Sunday, August 20, 2006

Ciao mom!

It’s 3.57 in the morning, Saturday, August 19th. I don’t feel like sleeping much (for obvious reasons). I’m in the splendid little town of Udine. On Aug. 7th, the day after Madonna’s concert in Rome, I came up to Udine to see how my mother was. Udine had been hit by an incredible heat wave (on July 21st it was 39 degrees Celcius). My father would pass me the phone talk to my mother. We didn’t chat about Lebanon or things like that because for the last 3 or 4 years she was in the phase of senile dementia and/or Alzheimer’s disease. At one pt though, her voice sounded like it came from the grave. I asked my dad what was wrong. He said she was tired. I thought that it was more than just being tired. Dani and I were to have gone on the 20th to Greece on vacation. I thought that it would be a good idea to come up first to check things out. Glad I did. She was in pitiful condition. Thanks to a cousin doctor of mine, we rushed her to the emergency ward. From there, she was transferred to another ward.
My father in the meantime was hit my a severe case of sciatica. This impeded him from being able to go to the hospital to see my mother, which I gladly did twice per day. She basically lost between 6 to 7 litres of water, or 6-7 kilos of water. Her sodium level was at around 176 when for anyone normal it’s around 145. Instead of blood in her veins she basically had molasses. The dehydration was quite a lot for someone who had turned 80 in July (three yrs ago 15,000 elderly people died in France due to the massive heat wave that hit Europe). On Friday he finally managed, with great difficulty, to come to the hospital to see his wife. My mother was on intravenous, as well as being fed that way (she had gotten too weak to be fed via the mouth). She wasn’t doing that well. I had decided Friday nite, alone (Dani was taking care of her step-mother near Rome) to go catch an outdoor movie, just to wind down a bit. As I watching a Korean thriller, I kept on looking at the stars above, thinking for some strange reason that my mother wouldn’t come out of this all that well. I came home, spoke with Dani on the phone, and was reading when around midnight the phone rang. At first, I thought it was Dani. Instead, it was the hospital, advising me that the situation had gotten worse. I rushed out, again alone at 1 am in the morning, to find my mother on oxygen and with a fever of 38.2. The doctor, an Argentine immigrant with whom I got to speak Spanish with, told me that the situation had plummeted substantially. I was holding her hand, also whispering in her ear that “Com’on mom, you’ve survived the bombings over Udine 60 yrs ago not to mention German occupation and two (yes two) tumours (colon and breast), you’re not going to let a little water kill you”! At 1.41 am, with the doctor and three very professional nurses by her side, my mother left us. I don’t know exactly how to describe being physically next to someone as they (literally) breathe their last breath. It comes at greater and greater intervals. The doctor at one pt removed the oxygen, knowing I guess very well that there was little that could be done for her. One nurse said that she reacted in some way when I showed up. I guess she was happy that her "Marietto" (as I had been called for many yrs) was there for her. It was the least I could do after 12 days of going back and forth to feed her and to check up on her. I was glad that the day before my dad had managed—after 50 yrs of marriage—to have seen her and kissed her. While driving back to the hospital with the clothes necessary for her funeral, I thought how odd and ironic life really can be: she had been there 47 yrs ago when she brought me into this world and I, 47 yrs later, was with her when she left this world.
She had been an oustanding mother and wife (me with my mother in slightly better times).
Ciao mom,

Monday, August 14, 2006

Madonna rocks the Olimpico!

Italy’s largest disco was by far in Rome on August 6th! That’s what the mood was like for Ms. Ciccone’s concert at Rome’s Olympic stadium. Some 70,000 people where there, including Puff Daddy (or P. Diddy or P. Whiffy or whatever the man’s name is), Lenny Kravitz, Pedro Almodovar and even Penelope Cruz (with my binoculars I managed to see the first three people as they came into the VIP stands). The stage was set up horizontally in the south curve. We were on the opposite side in the north curve. The pics were taken with a Nikon D70 digital camera and with a 70-300 mm zoom with no flash and no tripod. The evening opened with a well-known DJ who really got the house rocking. Nice to see the kids going crazy. I thought of two things: how Elvis would have been proud (kids just wanna have fun and dance to good music) and how the poor Lebanese kids would have wanted to be present that night rather than hiding from the bombs. He played for an hour. Madonna came on around 9:45 or so and played for two hours. No encores though and no good-byes, that’s apparently how she ends every show. She must have changed about 5 times and had some great dancers with her. And yes, she did come out on a crucifix and wearing a crown made up of spines. No doubt the Vatican probably didn’t appreciate the gesture (her press officer even went as far as to invite Pope Ratzinger to the concert! American-style freedom of the press taken a wee bit too far!). The screen behind her showed images of Africans and their plight with Aids. She sang one of my favourites, “Ray of Light”, and others such as “Music”, “La Isla Bonita” and “Live to Tell”. She actually opened with a Donna Summers hit, “I Feel Love”. The concert ended with “Hung Up”. On the eve of her 48th on August 16th, I must say Madonna was in splendid shape. Unlike Tina Turner, Madonna’s show was more “theatrical” in nature. Turner I think has a much better voice than Madonna. Nevertheless, a young Ciccone left Michigan one fine day on a plane for New York. The first time away from home, the first time in NY and the first time on a plane. She arrived with only 35 dollars in her pocket and lived for a period in misery without asking anyone for help. She’s now sold some 250 million records and is by far THE best female performer in the world. What is also amazing is the following day I had to take a train. I went to the Termini station to buy my newspapers. The main ones were all sold-out. I asked why? “The Madonna effect”!, was the answer from the news seller. Seems like everyone wanted to see the commentaries on her “crucifixion" (all pics by M. Rimati)!

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Borghese Gallery

Some pictures of the Borghese museum gallery in Rome. At the time of writing, the gallery is host to a collection of Raphael paintings from museums around the world (Florence, the US and the Louvre). The gallery itself is quite amazing, perhaps one of the finest in Europe, with works by Bernini, Caravaggio and Canova (all pics by M. Rimati).

Friday, August 04, 2006

Walkabout Rome

A Sunday walk around downtown Rome. A changing of the guard at the Quirinale Palace, home to Italy’s president (and a former papal palace). The Italian wave flagging up high on the left indicates that the president is at home. The equestrian statue is located right in front of the Quirinale (all pics by M. Rimati).

It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there!

Italians have the (very) nasty habit of usually abandoning each summer before going on vacation up to 100,000 cats, dogs, serpents, birds, you name it. The last publicity regards abandoning dogs. The ad says: “Abandon only the city”, with a dog clearly visible in the rear view mirror. And then Italians break Canadians’ balls over the yearly seal hunt (pic by M. Rimati)?

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Blues in a castle

Pics from small town located about 150 km north of Rome. We went there for a small blues festival. The town only has 450 people, including a castle too (all pics by M. Rimati)!

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Bryan Adams and Billy Joel rock the Coliseum!

An Italian journalist was in Vienna a few weeks ago covering the Billy Joel concert there. He said his performance was fantastic. I agree whole heartedly with his observation: Joel was simply great at Telecom Italia’s 4th free concert right in front of Rome’s Coliseum (after Paul McCartney, Simon&Garfunkel and Elton John) on July 31st. But Joel wasn’t the only treat: Canada’s Bryan Adams got things rolling with a 50 minute performance right in front of a multi-colored Coliseum. He opened up with “So Far So Good” and followed with “I Need Somebody”, “Run To You”, “18 Till I Die”, “Looks Good On Me” and “Summer of ‘69” which nearly brought down the ancient Flavian Amphitheatre (the Coliseum’s real name). Adams was in a great mood as he practically dove into the crowd under the stage, taking pictures of himself on a small digital camera amongst fluttering Canadian flags.
Joel? Put it this way, what song DIDN’T he play? You name it, he played it: “Angry Young Man”, “My Life”, “Love You Just The Way You Are”, “The Entertainer”, “Honesty”, “Zanzibar”, “New York State Of Mind”, “Uptown Girl”, “Innocent Man”, “Big Shot”, “In The Middle Of The Night”, “Only The Good Die Young” and “Italian Restaurant”. He played for nearly 2 hours. Another treat for the over 300,000 people present was the duet for his encore with Adams. They alternated one hit each, Joel’s “You May Be Right” and perhaps my favourite Adams song, “Cuts Like A Knife”! The grand finale was left up to Joel for his one and only last encore, “Piano Man”. It was an indeed “hot” night again at the Coliseum, and not just because of the humidity and 30+ Celsius temperatures, but because of two wonderful performers on stage. As we all began to exist the area and the roadies began dismantling the huge stage poised right in front of the Coliseum, the soundtrack to “Gladiator” began blaring out. Indeed a most appropriate sound for the particular atmosphere (all pics by M. Rimati).