How hilarious is this: I just ran across an advert for an Italian writing retreat this summer– salt rose to my tongue, tears sprang to my eyes, as I read the following:
“Imagine the volume of writing you could produce if you gave yourself two weeks at a traditional Tuscan farm, were fed three meals a day by talented chefs, and drank wine to your heart’s content.
When you wake every morning to birdsong in a forested organic estate and live in an empowering community of fellow writers, you can make headway on even the most daunting creative project.
- One-on-one manuscript guidance
- Enlivening group critiques
- Hatha yoga
- Pranayama breathwork
- Delicious healthy food
- Creative writing discussion and exercises”
In 1973 as my followers may remember, to recover from a nervous breakdown over a relationship gone very wrong, I went on a spur of the moment writing jaunt from Frankfurt to the toe of the boot of Italy. I got to drive a VW bus through a blizzard in the Alps, dance the night away in about fifty discos, see three operas at the Arena di Verona, travel by train down the coast for three weeks in the arms of a testosterone-loaded Italian lover, drink wine, vermouth, latte di mandorla to my heart’s content– swim in the Strait of Messina, listen to Mozart on a jukebox in the exquisite coastal village of Scylla, camp on Corsica over the Mediterranean. Lucky me–I also got to experience having a period in southern Italy where there were no tampons, come down with a bladder infection, deal with a bout of dysentery and instruct my lover in the art of digital manipulation in a nerve-wracking series of private moments, in his language. All of this was possible thanks to my all-loving and all-forgiving friends Caroline and Julia Marshall, who took me to Europe on their dime.
I’ve written a memoir about it, Nightfall in Verona, a chapter of which is listed here on the blog on the banner. Caroline and Doug think the book is fabulous, but the last agent I sent it to said it had a wandering feel– duh– it’s about a trip– and I’ll probably self-publish it through my new imprint Orfea Books, having had it to the teeth with the old school route to fame and stardom.
I hadn’t thought of the trip itself as a writing retreat– but it was, obviously, as I’ve been writing about it for thirty-eight years! I was twenty-five, we went in’73, and this is 2011– I think. I’ve tried to find my old love in diligent online searching and am on the verge of writing a “letter to Juliet” having discovered that since I was in Reggio Calabria, the Mafia has murdered nearly 1000 people in that very town.
As for drinking wine to my heart’s content now, if I did that I wouldn’t write a line, probably; I would have to be taken to the nearest detox after wetting my pants and falling into the ocean, possibly having disrobed in front of my yoga teacher in the process. I’m just sayin’… I’ve since discovered that drinking makes me w-a-a-a-y too crazy and I try not to do it.
Regarding the walks, the swims– ah, to dream of it. I’ve lost most of my mobility, just discovered I have a herniated disc in addition to post-traumatic arthrosis of the right knee so that I drag a shepherd’s crook of a right leg through life– I’m somewhat agoraphobic, rarely sleep, and am writing four hours a day in my subsidized apartment, already on permanent vacation until the curtain falls– still in boring Fort Collins until and unless I move back to the Southwest or manage to get an RV down to Mexico without getting killed.
But what a fabulous idea. The idea of returning to Italy, to Scylla and dwelling in one of the adorable flats battered by the sea absolutely sends me. I wouldn’t want to be too lonely– I’d have to commission a lover– probably a retired fisherman who didn’t talk too much, particularly not in the Calabrian dialect I don’t understand very well, and just wanted to fuck like old goats, float around on air mattresses in the surf, and make fresh pasta sauce from i pomadori rossi, the wild tomatoes.
What’s a dream for? Wild tomato here. xxxj