Sunday, June 10, 2007


Last week's Times was full of interest--the cell-phone parking lot at JFK, the truck that was too tall for the Lincoln Tunnel but went through it anyway, "peeling back the roof of his tractor-trailer as if it were a tin can," and, on the weekend, the plot to blow up the jet-fuel tanks at JFK--but it was all eclipsed here in Amsterdam by the news in La Repubblica that Bush was afraid to go to Trastevere. Pietro was delighted: he lives in Trastevere. But what a pity for Bush to have missed the mosaics at Santa Maria in Trastevere, and the Church of Santa Cecilia with its white marble martyr and the Last Judgment fresco in the choir loft. The change in Bush's itinerary set off the feud between Prodi and Berlusconi (called il Cavaliere). Berlusconi said he was ashamed of the country; Prodi, au contraire, said that it was il Cavaliere who was a discredit to Italy.

So I am still deep into Italian, even though I am in Amsterdam. I'm staying in the Hotel Jolly Carlton, or the Carlton Hotel Jolly, which is an Italian chain, at the expense of the I.I.C. (the Istituto Italiano di Cultura per i Paesi Bassi). There is a three-pronged opening of works by D Artagnan, who was an artist and in the end a homeless person in Rome but who is being celebrated here through the window of his connection with Fellini. There is a show of faces, or masks, in the hotel bar of the Dikker & Thijs Fenice, on the Prinsengracht. It looked to me like a portrait gallery (I'll post pictures). The bar was down a few steps from the street, with a view of the people going by in boats, on bikes, in cars, on foot: trees, a big round kiosk whose purpose seems to be as a posterboard, fresh air, and a glass of prosecco ... Yes, you too can lead la dolce vita.

The party had begun the night before, in the Paramariboplein, where Ella Arps put on a Fellini theme party. Her gallery has a show of D'Artagnan's erotic work. The I.I.C. has a show of priapic art and documentation of his career. Here on Thursday night was a kind of conference on D'Artagnan, with the launch of Pietro Gallina's memoir "On the Margins of La Dolce Vita." This is the saddest book I've ever read: Michele Stinelli, as he was then called, was an orphan, abandoned in Venice; he played the trumpet, was beloved of Fellini—that's him under the black umbrella at the end of "Amarcord"—and became obsessed with finding his true parents. He learned that his mother had been a harpist with La Scala, and it's possible that his father was Toscanini. But he died homeless, never having been accepted by any family except Pietro's, when Pietro's mother rented him a room in her home in the old Roman Forum, back in the fifties.

The life may have been sad, but the paintings are happy, and Pietro is giving his boyhood friend a robust afterlife. There is a new film—not so much a documentary as an homage—"Sognando Fellini" ("Dreaming Fellini"), by Alberto Felicetti, which edits the movies D'Artagnan was in, picking out his silhouette and isolating it on the screen, and making him the star of a three-minute version, while superimposing details from drawings of his that date from the time of the filming (all the works are heavily documented by D'Artagnan himself, on front and back; Ella Arps has figured out ways to frame them so that you can see both sides). The festival culminates this afternoon at the Museum of Cinema with a double feature of Fellini films and another showing of "Sognando Fellini."

The sun is starting to shine in Amsterdam, and it's time I blew this coffee shop. Could it be that I'll need sunglasses? I got caught in the rain twice, once, delightfully, at a bar when I had taken a table inside by an open window and everyone at the outdoor tables had to hustle when the rain and wind came. Then one night when I was supposed to meet some people in the Rembrandtplein, when the sky opened and I ended up in a pizzeria called Pinocchio, where the pizza, like Pinocchio, seemed to be made of wood (it taught me never to eat in a restaurant named for a liar), watching the street flood and the lightning and a parade of tourists with Amsterdam souvenir umbrellas.

Yesterday, in my search for lunch, I went past the Argentine and Thai and Italian and Indian and Indonesian restaurants to an Irish pub in Chinatown, where I had a peaceful table alongside a canal that runs behind the church of St. Nicholas (Santa Claus lived there). It was the best shepherd's pie I've ever had.

Coming Soon: The High Price of Internet Access for Tourists in Amsterdam


erieblue said...

Is that the memoir that you were working on? I loved Trastevere. That's where I stayed last time I was in Rome. All the wonderful restaurants!!

lucette said...

I loved the Santa Cecilia! But I don't think Bush would have sufficiently appreciated it.

MJN/NYC said...

Yes, that was the memoir I was working on. Pietro published it in Italian, in Brazil. We were hoping for a bilingual edition, but perhaps the English will come out separately. There are lots of great photographs and also D'Artagnan works.

Santa Cecilia revived me after I thought I has seen one too many churches in Rome. Did you go to the crypt? It's true, Bush doesn't deserve it.

MJN/NYC said...

had seen

lucette said...

We did go into the crypt--very spiritually creepy.