Congregation of the Constable 3.00

Gerald "The Constable" Hawkins lives in a world increasingly controlled through the power of his mind: his fears, his emotions, and his imagination. Everything written here is true ... every event herein depicted actually happened as much as anything has ever happened. This is a document.

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Entries are below in reverse order, starting with the most recent.



Entry 050530 : Touring Italia,
in which Gerald Advises on What to See (and Not)

Roma:

E.U.R. – Conceived by Benito Mussolini in the 1930s for the World’s Fair of 1942 (which was cancelled due to the war), the Esposizione Universale Roma is an area of straight, wide boulevards and hulking neoclassical buildings. The best known of these is the Palazzo della Civilta del Lavoro, aka the ‘square coliseum,’ which is now fenced in and apparently abandoned. E.U.R. is easily accessible by Metro and is hardly a ghost town, but its museums are sparsely attended and the square coliseum draws considerably fewer gawkers than the round one.

Museo della Matematica – Imagine, an entire museum dedicated to math. Keep imagining. This two-room exhibit space with Italian-only captions is a nice start, but not even math majors from the University that houses the museum seemed to know of its existence, and while I visited, one of the two rooms was closed for a lecture.

Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Roma – Want a free, personalized souvenir? How about a library card? English-language applications are available, and the cards are nice at the branch di Roma (see entry for the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Firenze for comparison), with an integrated photo. In addition to the computerized card catalogue, a card catalogue is available. Some of the cards are photo-copy versions of hand-written relics. There are a fair number of books available on the shelves (others can be requested from the stacks), split up between sub-library rooms.

Musei Vaticani – There is a mathematics of European queues. Roughly half of European queuees join the line not at the end, but somewhere in the middle. A good place to study European queue mathematics is at the Musei Vaticani, where non-queue-hoppers will have at least an hour’s wait to the entrance. Musei is plural, but at least 95 percent of the visitors are there to see one thing: the Sistine Chapel. After the entrance, the musei are designed essentially as a half-hour queue extension to the chapel itself. The lights are dimmed in the chapel, and silence is enforced to instill a feeling of serenity. Or as serene as one can get in a room packed full of squirming, awestruck tourists. After the chapel, the crowd thins out considerably for the Vatican Library, which includes the church’s impressive (as one might expect) holding of artifacts. Instead of waiting in the line, buy a postcard of the ceiling and tape it on your ceiling at home. As for the Vatican Library, see the Museo Correr in Venezia for a similar experience, minus the queue.

Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna – While its neighbor, the Galleria Borghese, draws crowds of tourists like flies to a ripe corpse, the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna is a thoroughly decent modern art museum, with plenty of space and a wide-ranging collection.

Santa Maria degli Angeli – In 1702, astronomer Bianchini poked a hole in the wall of Santa Maria degli Angeli, and installed a 44-meter brass line, calibrated to indicate the date and time. Despite a blurb in Discover magazine by a writer who seems to have confused Santa Maria degli Angeli with the map room scene in ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’, do not expect to watch as a “pinpoint of light marches along a brass line.” Rather, the light is about the size of a cantaloupe and marches across, not along the brass line. One might expect a huge turnout for the daily event, but when I visited on a Saturday afternoon, only five others were actually aware of the impending spectacle.

Roma Recommended Reading: Petronius' Satyricon

Firenze:

Museo di Storia della Scienza – With an overwhelming collection of instruments from the history of science, the Museo di Storia della Scienza, hidden behind the Uffizi, is well worth a visit. Perhaps even more impressive is their multi-media catalogue, which includes a virtual tour, including photographs and cross-referenced English-language descriptions of every item in their permanent collection (which includes, among other artifacts, Galileo’s middle finger). Outside of the permanent collection, the museo has space for special exhibitions, which, at the time of my visit, were a history of the bicycle and an exhibit on platonic solids that put Roma’s Museo della Matematica to shame.

Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale Firenze – Take a right just inside the main entrance to the admissions office and request an English-language application. The library cards here are quite low-tech in comparison to the branch di Roma, with no photograph, but the biblioteca nazionale centrale branches are autonomous, so you’ll need a separate card here. There are few shelf books available. Almost all items must be requested from the stacks.

Firenze Recommended Reading: Giorgio Vasari's Lives of the Artists

Venezia:

Campo del Ghetto – A short walk from the Statione di San Lucia, the Campo del Ghetto is the center of the oldest Jewish ghetto in the world, dating from 1516, when the Republic of Venice declared that Jews were to be confined to a specific area, until 1797, when Napoleon ended the segregation and the ghetto gates were destroyed. While few Jews still live in the ghetto area, the presence of the Jewish infrastructure (synagogues, kosher restaurants, etc.) still makes this area a social and commercial center for local Jews. Tired of the relentless Catholicism of Italian gift shops? Stop by the Campo del Ghetto and buy a Star of David medallion made from Murano glass.

Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale Marciana – This branch of the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale is located at the Piazetta San Marco, but the location of the admissions office is not readily apparent, and at my visit, the entry control facility attendant spoke no English and I was unable to communicate my wish to apply for a card. She was likely wondering why someone who didn’t even know how to ask for a library card in Italian wanted access to a library where an overwhelming majority of the materials are in Italian.

Giardini della Biennale Internazionale d’Arte – From June to November in odd-numbered years, Venice hosts an international art biennial. Unfortunately, there is nothing to see in the Biennial Garden when the event is not occurring.

Venezia Recommended Reading: Giacomo Casanova's History of My Life (Willard Trask translation)


Entry 050518 : Not As Good As I Used to Be,
in which Gerald minds his own business

Miss S warned me this would happen. Years ago, when she was the age I am now, she told me it didn’t last forever.

“I’m not as good as I used to be,” she admitted.

It was her, I told myself, not me. I talked for two hours straight that night. Each word she spoke triggered a series of associations. My mind was endless and powerful. When we parted I thought she was washed up. I thought it would never, could never happen to me. I was too good.

Now I live in fear that I will meet myself and have to tell him: “I’m not as good as I used to be. It will come for you, too. The great Nothing.”

A meeting this week with the managers. They want to increase my responsibility around the office, put me in charge of a few people.

At first this bothered me because one of these people is a friend, who has worked there longer than I have, and is older (they all are, actually). But I realized later that what really bothered me is that I realized that this was it. I’m not going to be a policeman or a fireman or an astronaut. Nor a poet, a painter, a scientist, or philosopher. I’m a businessman.

When I was five, my mother dressed me in a costume for my birthday—I don’t recall why. She put me in a button-down shirt with my father’s sport coat, and a hideous tie. She painted a curly mustache under my nose and parted my hair in the center. It was a caricature of a businessman—or a car salesman.

It was funny for me to look back at that picture because it seemed impossible.

But I shouldn’t have been surprised. I come from a long line of minor executives and small business owners. I was bred for this sort of thing.

I’m trying to be a people person—something I’ve never been. I’m sure they smell the fraud. I even check the mirror to see if it’s the curlicue mustache that gives me away. Is it my father’s sport coat? It fits me perfectly now, though the elbows need to be patched.


all material copyright 2003 Hawkins Empire
except logo photo by J.S. Coureaux