Sunday, September 7, 2008

Milan -- Sept. 6, Day 4

Hi there,

I'm a little bit behind ... sorry about not posting Saturday ... it was a combination of not being able to get on the computer here at the hotel and eventually becoming engrossed in the old Arnold Schwarzenegger-Jim Belushi movie Red Heat, which was being broadcast in German on the TV in my room. (Hearing Arnold Schwarzenegger's voice dubbed into German is a bit surreal, I must admit.) One thing is for sure, it wasn't a hack job, either. Those responsible for movie dubbing in Europe take their job seriously. They went out and found people who sound like Schwarzenegger, Belushi, Peter Boyle and the other stars of the movie.

Anyway, just one more thing about TV over here before I move on to Milan. At the hotel we get stations in five languages: Italian, English, German, French, and Spanish. Frequently, I like to watch the programs and try to figure out what's going on. Lots of police procedurals and kid-oriented game shows on the German stations, news has been on the French station. On the Italian stations, I've noticed a combination of old (Italian) movies and old (American) TV shows. Seeing Jack Klugman on Quincy took me back to third grade again.

Enough of that ... Milan was a complete change of pace from our first few days, and that was to be expected. The lake villages have been quaint and relaxing. Milan was fast, glamourous, and edgy. There is a lot to like about both atmospheres and it was wonderful to mix them.

While we had our chance to sample Europe's fashion campital later in the day, our first stop in the morning was a bit more serios. We saw Leonardo da Vinci's The Last Supper, which is located a few blocks from the center of town. We had 15 minutes with the painting. It wasn't long enough. The more than 500 years that have passed since its completion may have dulled the colors (although extensive restoration efforts have done a lot to fix that), the centuries have done nothing to its impact. You feel your eyes open wider and pace slow as you see it. Our guide touched on the facial expression and actions not only of Jesus but of each of his desciples. It was facinating stuff. Considering that the idea of facial expression in painting was new in Leonardo's time (Italians refer to him by first name), its expert use here is even more remarkable.

Now ... I'm not an art historian, so I don't want to go too much indepth about the painting ... I don't want the real art historians to smack me around ... The best thing I can say about it is that I made sure to back out of the room so I could look at the painting as long as possible.

Following The Last Supper, we moved to the center of the city where we toured La Scala, Milan's legendary opera house, and the Duomo, the third largest church in the world (it took more than 500 years to build and it was worth the weight).

After that, the group was let loose for three and half hours in Milan. Shopping ensued. Scott and I had lunch in a pizzeria about a block from the square ... the pies were the size of steering wheels. After lunch we each ventured off on our own. Trendsetter that I am, I found my way to the fashion district. The people watching was a vacation in itself. Young fashionistas overloaded with paper bags mixed with families keeping track of wandering children mixed with old men squiring much younger women who I assume must have been their very attractive daughters. And all of them mixed with people like me ... tourists content to window shop ... too chicken to actually venture into a boutique.

It took me more than half the afternoon to overcome that. But I did because of a necktie. One of the last windows I spied had a neat necktie display ... best of all, they were affordable. After staring at it for a while, then a longer while, and doing the addition in my head to determine if I could afford it, and checking to see if I could still make the bus back to the hotel ... I entered.

The store was maybe 100 square feet. One wall was ties and Two walls were shirts and there were some other items scattered about. And five women were working. I greeted the one closest to me, boun giorno. I kind of mumbled it. I like to greet people in Italian, but I think I'm concerned I'm not doing it well, so I mumble. Which pretty much guarantees I won't do it well.

She smiled back and asked what she could do help ... eventunally switching to English when I asked. I mentioned I was looking for ties and she waved her arm inviting me to browse. Soon, I picked out two ties and asked her which one looked best on me. She picked the right hand ... a blue and white one (it was my favorite). I then asked if she could help me pick out a shirt. She immediately stepped over to one of the shelves and started pulling out shirts and matching the tie to it. She stopped on the third one. A really nice blue-striped one.

Bella, she said. The choice was made.

Less than five minutes and I've got my Italian clothes. This shopping thing is easy.