Tuesday, June 12, 2007

In the belly of the beast... or all that beauty that is Italy

I've recently received some e-mails asking me why my family and I are leaving Italy. In an effort to explain, I can only say that some are the reasons you would expect after 15 years in a foreign country... I miss my family, my language, the big wide open blue sky in the West, the deer and alligators and raccoons.

But those are reasons for returning home, not reasons for leaving Italy, which is home to my husband, after all. Italy is the ultimate irony as a country. As I can easily see how Rome was surely the cradle of modern civilization, I can just as easily see that it was of course destined to fall. For anyone who has never lived in Italy, it is next to impossible to imagine the exquisite intricateness of every single stupid thing that every single pathetic normal person needs to do to live an ordinary existence. It is so beyond imagination, so unbelievable, that it makes you forget what life is like elsewhere.

Italy's intense and sometimes chaotic beauty is a reflection of its very nature, so vibrant, so rich, wealthy, gifted, graced by God, and at the same time so corrupt, so decadent, and so slothful. Italy supports a monstrous dinosaur that is the state, and the people inside the belly of this beast spend their days pushing paper and making life miserable for the poor souls trying to carve out a life in all that beauty that is Italy.


I could write forever, literally forever, if I started to recount the many bizarre and perverted ways the state creeps into to your life here (yes, I said perverted). But who better than Caravaggio to create a perfect allegory for the reasons why we are leaving Italy...



See that bitch with the knife? The one who looks like she really isn't quite convinced of what she is doing, but is doing it anyway because someone, somewhere told her to, and because doing it is easier than thinking about it? That's the clerk at the land registry office of our town. She's the one who makes just renting a house that you have owned for twenty years a nightmare, when she takes some dusty maps out of a drawer (yes, a drawer... no digital archives in Italy) and notices that the perimeter of the house somehow grew to encroach on public land... 100 years ago! This surely must be dealt with before the house can be rented! And the term "dealt with" in Italy is something best left to your imagination, that you would not wish on your most hated enemy.

See the old guy looking on and bored while waiting for the guy on the bed to just go ahead and croak? The one wringing his hands who looks famished? That's the Italian taxman! And the reason why he's so old is because he will never die! As soon as she's done beheading, he will then clean the corpse of everything, right down to his teeth, and then leave him the bill for what he still owes.

And who is the poor, honest, tireless, anguished guy screaming his head off under the knife? The one who has muscles from working his ass off from dawn to dusk and a beard because he spends so much time running from one Italian public office to another that he doesn't even have time to shave, all in the hopes that he can leave this country in a couple weeks as a free man?

That's my husband.

11 comments:

Michaelangeloh said...

You miss alligators ?

jennifer said...

Hi michaelangeloh-
Absolutely! Nature and wild things in general... I said alligators because I grew up in Florida, and I think there's something to be said for growing up around wild beasts that don't work in the City Hall!

Jennifer said...

LOL you are so right, but I try not to think about it, and especially not blog about it, since this is tax season and I could go on for hours many a post. I'll spare the internet my anguish.

Jenn in Holland said...

God, that was brilliant. What a perfect way to sum it up. I can't wait to show this to my husband. Matter of fact, I shall email it to him now. We have never lived in Italy, but can certainly validate some of the allusions and experiences you have shared here. Easy to see why it has it's turmoil and troubles. Corruption probably isn't a strong enough word for it really.

anno said...

How perfect! And perfectly awful, too. I hope you are leaving enough of your husband's family behind to have an excuse to visit frequently -- maybe the best way to experience Italy.

jennifer said...

Hi Jennifer- chin up... the laws will change again soon and you'll have to do it all over again anyway...
Jenn, I'll take that as a compliment. Thank you.
Anno- we already have our return tickets, and since my husband's parents are elderly now, our trips back will surely be frequent. Italy is, after all, a great place to visit!

Cate said...

I swear to God you are too funny. That was awesome. Thank your lucky stars you aren't moving to Long Island, New York. That's where I struggled, I mean, grew up. It is a mini Italy. SCARY. My mother once asked me why I never dated any Italians. I told her that growing up amongst Italians was more than enough. However, my husband is half Italian--but he grew up in MA. Surrounded by Irish. Therefore, he's actually American. And if you don't believe me, ask my mother.

Brillig said...

Hahahaha. I've traveled to Italy a whole bunch and had great experiences. But yeah... when I actually went there to live and WORK and go to school, it was NUTS!!! Such a great post. Spot on!!!

And I've thought about you, through my recent move. My move was from one city to another one less than an hour away. I can't imagine moving from one side of the world to the other. Good luck with that!!!

Kataroma said...

Wow - and I thought up there in the North everything was "Switzerland" -that's what they say here in Rome anyway. So, I guess it's just as bad up there as it is down here.

I had no problem paying high taxes when I lived in Australia, which, back in those days, was a welfare state. I got free spotless up to date hospitals, an excellent university education for almost nothing, a social safety net in case I ever lost my job and a government which (although we liked to complain) was not corrupt and which functioned.

Here, I pay more taxes than I did in Australia and I get overcrowded, dirty, hospitals where you share a room with 8 other people and have to bring your own toilet paper, a university system which is falling apart, corruption everywhere and a huge bureaucracy which only works 5 hours a day, if that. I don't want to pay my taxes here becuase here the state is made up of thieves!

Rebecca said...

Brilliant post Jennifer! Beauracracy is bad enough in a relatively efficient and up-front country like Australia - it must be utterly maddening over there.

jennifer said...

Hi Cate- well, as far as dating Italians, that's the what makes all the rest of the crap worth it!
Brillig- Glad you though about me. Not to be to banal, but I literally am on the verge of a nervous breakdown!
Hi Kata- a spade is always a spade, no matter how polished...
Rebecca- efficient and up-front (sigh)... only 2 more weeks and I'll be there