|The drive to Siena was punctuated early on by a meal. We stopped in a little town called Santarcangelo di Romagna, and parked; and we let Agostino lead the way, as the Sicilians seem to have a nose for finding the special places. The first place was closed, and I am not sad for it, for reasons which will become apparent. The next place was open, and it was crowded with construction workers and businessmen and families, so we knew it was right. And, you know - the food was very good. The prosciutto and melon was remarkable, whether eaten alone or together, the melon wrapped in the meat. For me, the melon was the extraordinary thing, just perfect: rich, sweet, solid, oh gosh it hurts me inside to think of it! It hurts! This is going to be hard to write, I'm telling you.|
But that was the tiniest of snacks, that prosciutto. And you know that every one of these meals is accompanied by at least one bottle of wine so local that it's got the restaurant's name on the label, right? Except Autogrill, they don't have their name on the label. And the local wine in Santarcangelo di Romagna was delicious.
We ordered far too much food, but ate most all of it: four pastas, a main course for everyone, dessert. The fucking pasta, how does this happen? The first, a creamy mushroom ravioli thing, was so smooth, and those mushrooms are like little steaks, how does this happen? I don't understand it. And after, the fireworks: especially one other ravioli thing, filled with the richest cheese, and this at the same time as this other green pasta with a cheese so strong it burned my mouth and throat like horseradish, but so good! These are flavors that cannot be achieved with limited resources, like for that ravioli, the second one, Giovanna said there are special qualities of the olive oil that are very hard to achieve otherwise, and of course everywhere the salt is so good. Salt and olive oil, I'm telling you. Other things too, the cheese especially, and of course the coffee and the fresh vegetables, the wine, the company, and so good to have several hours to enjoy it all, though Siena is still some kilometers distant.
I've lived far too long, but somehow I'd never eaten truffles until this meal. Tim ordered something like - oh, I don't know, something that translated into maybe the Crawling King Steak or something. It was on a platter, chunks of meat with chunks of mushroom, both with the same tenderness; and gravy, and all covered in truffle shavings. We accepted this as the favorite. The tenderness of the meat and the firmness of the mushrooms, the flavor of both, and oh those truffles. I will find them, I will; and maybe they will cost more than I want to spend, but I want to understand this flavor. It is brand new and exciting.
I only actually screamed once during the meal, when I took a bite of the Crème Anglaise. I will always desire this bite. The chocolate shoveled on top of the cream and pastry was so ideal, like when you go on a vacation and the sun is out and the people are friendly when you talk to them but they don't bother you, and the other Americans are far away and even when you meet them they're soft-spoken, not squealing, and they don't make you sad that you ever have to go back home. They make you want to buy them a beer. I would like to have this chocolate as more than an acquaintance, though; I'd like to have it as a close friend, someone who visits frequently - maybe not every day, but certainly several times a week.
Outside, the sun was, if you can imagine it, shining brightly. The town was quiet, it was just after lunch and all the wise Italians were having a nap. I could not walk so well, having gained much weight in the previous two hours, but the sun felt good; and soon we all gathered in one place and drove off towards Siena.
Siena is in Tuscany. Tuscany seems to be beautiful. It's like they took the greenest Montana foothills and placed an ancient walled village on top of every hill. Siena is one of the bigger of these villages, more of a city really; and it's intact, nothing's been destroyed by war or by graffiti artists or termites or anything else. It's a remarkable place. I wrote a little from Siena already:
That is the place, a remarkable club. And it filled up pretty well, the building and the bar and the courtyard, with people and dogs, all of which seemed to be in heat to one degree or another; and people were doing tricks with fire, wearing ragged clothing, etc. I have been in similar circumstances in my life, these sort of burning-manesque anarchist meat-markets; and though I always feel I should be comfortable in these situations, I am not so comfortable in them. Not terribly uncomfortable, either; but though personal experience would suggest otherwise, I never have much to say or do with these people. Instead, I switched from beer to grappa, and threw myself at the mercy of a remarkably cool and sober bartender; and though I at least once asked her to marry me and move to Chicago she was somehow patient with me.
Nevertheless, I spent a sleepless night alone in a cot, in a cavernous room at the club with the rest of 'em, listening to Ago wheeze wetly through my earplugs. My new friend, though, was kind enough to show me the town in the morning, and more; and I'm telling you, Siena is beautiful, and if you have a chance to have a friend in Siena, a friend who would like you to return to Siena, you should take that chance.
Did I mention the show? Did I? Criminy. We played, and it was alright. Decent sized crowd, nice people, one remarkably drunk girl who was kind of running things early in the night but eventually was not running things any longer due to severe drunkenness. We had an opening band - the first of the trip! - and they were quite enjoyable. For the first time, there was a war-oriented shout from the crowd: a guy yelled "fuck Bush!" I thought he'd said "fuckin' bullshit!" and shouted back the same thing, "fuckin' bullshit!", thinking it was some sort of call-and-response drunken criticism. That was, I believe, the full extent of our onstage political dialogue.
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