my friends twirl and lindy to Glen Miller or Duke Ellington holiday renditions in the living room, and i overflow like coffee poured before catching a 6:30am train across Switzerland; dreamy and forgetful.

my friends trade leads and rock-steps while the clanging and clamoring of Luzern’s uncountable church bell towers carries on outside, disagreeing with each other about when precisely 22:00 actually is, like old men recalling the birth years of silver screen Hollywood starlets.

my friends carry on themselves, drawing the same runes with their feet that they’ve cast a thousand times before on the mirror-sheen planks of the dance floor back home. their spells are more potent and rare this evening, despite the somewhat austere setting of this attic-level apartment (we left the bar and the big band back in the States), but surely they must be! after all, aren’t we in Europe tonight?

my friends dance with a centripetal force that could trap the world timelessly in its gravity, and it feels so good to be here with you, in the canopy of this old Swiss town — to be dizzy from bells and train schedules, hearts full of stories and stomachs full of bread, and to love you so much.


there’s about a thousand steps between strada provinciale 583 down via coatesa to our villa apartment for the evening, and Adrienne takes them five at a time aboard winged chain loafers. our friends descend effortlessly behind her, sinuous and laminar waterfalls mi scusi-ing their way past villages into the lake, without disturbing a stone.

i am less graceful; a wound sustained during a recent battle with some asphalt — though you should see the other guy — has me rendering with nervous, low-framerate choreography, like a fresh tomato among our groceries seizing its moment of liberation to dive from the bag, shouting “viva la” slogans and manifestos as it ambulates unevenly and tumbles from step to perilous, non-Euclidean, cobblestoned Italian step.

a few hours pass and we read Rilke to each other, sandpaper translations into languages we can hardly pronounce. there’ll be red sauce and red wine on the table later, and the table pushed aside for Lindy later still, but now the kitchen is unrolled R’s and tense conjugations. in English and German and French and English again, we trade locked eyes and make fiery promises with each other to allow ourselves forever the fierce desires of youth:

you see, i want a lot.
perhaps i want everything.
the darkness that comes with every infinite fall,
and the shimmering blaze of every step up.

windows open to cool the room and to listen to the lake pace the stone steps below. Milan tomorrow, and Florence the day after that.


well, Milan is shot on film; we’re making deals with pedestrian traffic and spinning the dials, shutter times and apertures between our thumbs like rosary beads in a quiet prayer that we framed that infinite teen couple kissing under the cathedral perfectly. well, i’ve been talking too much, trying loose-fitting punchlines till i even get on my own nerves cause when y’all laugh it adds a day to my life.

crossing the piazza to take our photos of the church (which everyone has taken) (but these are different of course, because we were really there!) took an hour because dizzy pairs of Italians in brand-new-in-the-box love keep making time slow down with their cinema insistences and professions. every glamorous donna in Bottega boots and beautiful Milanese man in Dolce strutting like new gods of vertical aspect video — i shoot them out-of-focus because my fingers are languorous at the thrill of people-watching; i keep expecting the camera to do the hard work, the careful work of details and accuracy. of course there’s more to it than that. trigger discipline for a Fujifilm x100v.

at the concert in the evening, Einaudi’s music spends its seasons at Walden; sends us into cel-animated fantasies as our minds sprint to explain why the cello keeps making us feel so cavernous, the caustic water reflections flickering onto our collarbones from the inside.

well, it’s a sea of phones set recording between me and the orchestra — i’m unduly prideful, smug because half the attendees won’t remember exactly how the composer moved us in a language we’ve not learned but which we all understand, no matter how pixel-perfectly they try to capture it.

(we’re different, of course, because we were really there.)


we spent our third day in Florence in the hesitance and brume of hazy daylight through the crosshatched panes of the Uffizi, eyes gorging on the satin gleam off dark parade armor painted in Titian’s portraits of Duke Francesco Maria, the overflowing pantry still lives of l’Empoli, the lush and cavernous chiaroscuro shadows, countless divine ecstasies and bored gazes of countless hagiographs in those sun-washed hallways over the Arno River.

the cradle of the Rennaissance spills over with heart-wrenching masterpieces, but i’m still swallowed by the strong bare forearms of that barista at Caffe Brunelleschi who stared at Adrienne for a moment too long when he passed our cappuccinos over the bar…and if not, then i’m dizzy from those askance, chin-cocked glares from the boy at the Christmas market, thrilling in their investigation, their unsubtlety. in fact i’m still half-lidded and smiling to myself, woefully unembarrassed, to imagine how the woman from the Niobe gallery lets her jet Revlon-ad hair pour to one shoulder when she stretches her neck to either side at the end of a long day of sending her dark eyes on laps of Caravaggio’s unsettling Medusa, or the agony of Bandinelli’s Laocoön and his Sons, or the tense jaw-tightening suspicion of Raphael’s Portrait of Pope Leo X with Two Cardinals, or Michelangelo’s irreplaceable Something Something and the Somethings (not to mention his indescribable Coronation of the Something!). i imagine her beautiful black boots kicked off by the door, her beautiful black longcoat shrugged over the back of a honey walnut chair, her head spinning with the angles of brushstrokes; i imagine the volumetric light in the gallery casting shadow over the architectural high bridge of her aquiline nose.

when the light begins to fade from the endless halls of sculpture and art, we drift through the end of a daydream across the Ponte Vecchio. find a shop run by a man who has sandwiches on the menu for each sign of the astrological wheel, or for seven euros, “paradiso: sei nelle mie mani” — you are in my hands. we hike contentedly up to watch the sunset warm up the December sky over the grand cathedral dome up at Piazzale Michelangelo like dutiful tourists.

late evening in our Borgo di Greci apartment, the conversation is a spiral of remembrances of our Florentine adventure this afternoon, and logistics for a Roman one tomorrow.


it’s already 2 by the time we’re off the train at Venezia Santa Lucia. the brash onslaught parade of boats through the grand canal tosses waves brusquely into scintillant crystal mists that soften our view of the pale green dome of the San Simeone Piccolo. December sunlight has decided upon exploring the labyrinth of Venice with us — furtive and curious we find it leaning against the corner at the end of each fantastically narrow street, or stepping out onto the top-floor balcony of every quintessential Venetian palazzo.

dreamy film-grain piano arpeggios tumble carelessly from the pockets of Elise’s long winter coat as it unfurls melodramatically behind her. our party seeks a mythologized bookstore at the heart of this haunted city, one where they store books in boats for when the floods come, and the books in boats pile so high in the shop that they fade first to black and then to a heliotrope canopy of starlight. when we finally find it, the sun has long faded from the damp calli pavestones, but the yellow-gold light emanating from its open doors summons us like ghosts, and it’s everything the fables promised: Escher staircases and precarious (load-bearing?) walls built out of ancient leather-bound tomes. everything’s in Italian but it doesn’t stop us from fluttering the pages like we’ll have any idea.

the atmosphere when we wander back out to the streets has that late 1960s movie soundtrack weight to it, the breathy fluttering of a flute in its lowest register. we’re laden with untranslated copies of books matched to each of our demeanors — Adrienne clutches her rare esoteric philosophy essays with such incommunicable grace and poise while I furrow my brow at individual panels of Peanuts® in italiano like it’s the Rosetta stone. the deep impasto blue of the evening is broken by the plunging hearts of amber and goldenrod street lanterns. on the walk back to the station, we peer into manor windows shamelessly, looking for salacious rumors of strangers’ lives to sprawl ourselves upon, smug stray cats of Venice.

bags stuffed with pages we can’t read and heads lousy with wonder at this inexplicable and spellbound city; choosing a gelateria to end our day with is somehow the hardest decision we’ve made all week. our return train to Florence leaves at 7:26pm.

(In Transit)


(to a traveling companion)

newest oldest friend, with your french language veins and open-throttle wrists; your watchful earnest moon that fills the sky and casts long tree shadows in bright December nights; that pleasant nocturnal stillness of northern-slope air that turns to steam in your mouth, that sideways-jawed, crunching bite of the slow first step into new snowfall in the half-dressed fir forest at midnight (how immense such a quiet sound can be when all the world waits and listens for you to make it)

lightest sturdiest friend, if i am lucky enough to write the things that you feel without naming them, to pause on that forest walk to quietly compare hearts and be providential enough to find their shapes alike… if can somehow choose words that fit like bespoke, that are simply as good to read as they are to write, that move you with the same neck-turning delight and peculiarity that they move me,

then i’ll know they’re certainly the right ones.