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The Italian update and my plans for a trip to San Francisco

February 15, 2014

So, you were wondering, how are the Italian studies going? Fine, actually. Italian is just challenging enough to be fun, but not so hard as to drive you insane. I have finished the second level of Pimsleur Italian. I highly recommend the Pimsleur course, by the way. It is very effective.

Italian is a joy to study. It has a musical rhythm to it, too. It almost has a beat. The language has a very regular grammar, so you don’t have to just memorize charts of how to conjugate everything. (I’m looking at you, Russian.) The word order is almost exactly the same as English, so you don’t have to struggle constantly with re-ordering sentences in your head. (Sound familiar, Arabic?) And lastly, many of the words are similar to words you already know, so you don’t have to use a lot of bandwidth trying to memorize words that are utterly foreign. (Chinese, anyone?)

In two weeks I am giving myself a type of test. I am going to go to San Francisco, where they have a school of Italian culture (Istituto Italiano Scuola). They will be holding a workshop on March 1 on Italian cinema. In Italian. Ahem.

I will be attending. Mind you, I know close to nothing about Italian cinema. I have seen “Life Is Beautiful” and “Gomorrah”, but I hardly qualify as an Italian cineast. So the first level of challenge is, “Will I understand the class?” I have only been studying Italian for two months, so success is by no means assured. The next level of challenge is, even if I understand it, will I enjoy it?

I attended a few classes (in English of course) on film genres when I attended the University of California at Santa Cruz. I found them frankly incredibly pompous and way beyond boring. I believe I actually dropped out of all of them, to show you what I really felt about them. Don’t judge me too harshly: the professors were the most self-aggrandizing, strutting, wanna bees I met the whole time I was there who could drone on for an hour about the various widths of film used in cinema. One, quite memorably, went around the room in a class of about eight, trying to pressure everyone to quit. Yes, at a summer course at UC Santa Cruz, some overpaid government assistant professor treated a bunch of 19 year old students like the Drill Instructor in “Full Metal Jacket”. “You are going to hate this class! It will be the worst decision you have ever made! The vast majority of you are going to fail or quit by the end! It will be pure hell! DO YOU UNDERSTAND ME!!???” You convinced me, asshole. I quit already.

So I am stretching myself way out of my comfort zone on this one in two respects. I will memorize the Italian phrase for, “I’m sorry,this is fascinating, but I have horrible diarrhea, I have to go now!” in case I have to bolt for the door after fifteen minutes and I need an excuse to leave. I will be hanging out with my lovely daughter Erica up there as well, so I do have a Plan B.

I will be trying something new for this trip. I will be riding Greyhound up there and staying at a barracks-style room at a hostel. Why, you ask?

Greyhound and I have had no relationship since 1989. That was the year, on a trip back from UC Santa Cruz to see my parents, they stopped the bus at some Godforsaken little town. Why? Because another bus coming over the Grapevine had been stuck by snow. To this day, it was never explained to me why that made any sense. There was no snow where we were. We just stopped and waited. It had something to do with the overall timing of the various buses. Every fifteen minutes, the driver promised we would get going in “an hour”. This went on FOR TWELVE HOURS. I was broke and starving. I had not taken any cash with me for what was supposed to be a mere six hour ride. I finally begged a woman to buy me a hamburger, and she did out of sheer kindness. (This was the old days, before ATMs, gentle reader. If you were not at your bank, you could not get any money. It really used to be that simple.) So, after a grueling eighteen hour trip, we finally limped into the Greyhound bus station in Bakersfield. Thank you, Jesus.

So, a quarter of a century later, I am willing to let bygones be bygones. It is a brutal six hour plus trip, one way, to SF. I will let them do the driving.

So, why a hostel? San Francisco hotel rooms are super expensive. To actually stay “in the city”, as we say, is like $300 for someplace decent. The price at the Adelaide Hostel? Drum roll, please: $29.90 a night! Wow! So, here’s the plan: If it is a decent place to just sleep, I have saved a ton of money. If it a mess than you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy, ah well, I lose $60.00 and go find a hotel room for what I would have paid anyway. No big. It has good reviews, so I am hopeful.

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