THE DEAD BRIDGE

I have just spent the entire afternoon dumping the contents of my drawers into cardboard boxes. I found them crushed on aisle seven at the Coop supermarket this morning and spent the better part of an hour trying to tape them into squares again. Now that the boxes are almost full, I am terrified that the bottoms will burst before I cross the threshold of my new flat. The later it gets the more this strikes me as a legitimate worry, because, alas, I am only an optimist in the morning.
Fortunately, George Gershwin has kept me  company  as I’ve packed, acting as a musical buffer to my mounting sense of paranoia. Still-if I do succeed in lugging these items across Florence unharmed, where will I put them once I get there? My new apartment was advertised as a bilocale but, in all honesty, the second room amounts to what English speakers would call a ‘linen closet.’ A real closet is, of course, no where to be found. Thus
I’ve also dedicated a substantial dose of worry to how we’ll fit the wardrobe into an unwilling Fiat Punto.
Packing day was not all bad, of course. The sound of rain outside did offer me some comfort. There’s nothing like a Sunday storm for sifting through one’s life to see what needs to be kept and what ouglit to be thrown away. Admittedly, most of the things I should throw away, I’m definitely keeping. According to experts, the packrat tendency to hoard useless paraphernalia with the vague
intention of possibly using it one day is a bad sign. It connotes an obsession with death, they say.
I’m not too worried though. Death is on everyone’s mind this weekend, because imorti-Italy’s favorite excuse for a three-day get-away-is right around the corner. In Italy, the November 1 bank holiday is officially accredited to the saints, but it’s the ‘dead’ who get all the glory for the long weekend. The saints, though, don’t seem to mind the slight and continue to smile sweetly upon us. This year, they’ve squeezed their shared celebration into a lucky square labeled ‘Wednesday.’ ‘Dove vaiper imorti? Where are you going for the dead?’, is currently the question of choice, as half the country prepares to abandon their posts for a bit of temporary rest in peace. Fortunately, ‘the dead’ they are discussing have little to do with deceased ancestors and much to do with living it up at a mountain retreat. Chestnuts and bread-based stews abound,
as friends gather in country homes to make the best of the long weekend.
My neo-landlord, worried my move would kill his ‘dead plans’ suggested I make appropriate provisions, ‘It would be best if you transfer yourself before November’, he said. ‘Because I’m going to Garfagnana for il ponte dei morti.’
He is not the only one. During this ponte, or ‘bridge’, schools dose, businesses pull down the padlock, families pack up-the whole country turns construction worker in efforts to mount improvised scaffolding across the chasm that divides work and play.
The Italian calendar is, in fact, full of ‘bridges.’ The next one will stretch over the weekend of December 8. According to my date-book calculations, this year festivities for the Immaculate Conception fall on a Friday-another happy coincidence for ponte people everywhere.
Although Italians are not very apt to consult their watches, they arequiteprone tochecking their calendars.This chronological trend is quite easily explained because, unlike English speakers, Italians perceive time in months rather than minutes. This tendency could be due to the eons it takes to actually do anything in this country. Italy’s ballooning bureaucracy and cinched economy are often cited as common culprits for slowing down the way the country calculates time. But it could just be that Italians prefer calendars to ticking clocks out of gratitude to Caesar. After all, it was he who created the Western calendar, back in the days when Italy ruled the world. For the Italian, that’s still the time-line that counts, no matter what modem man insists on tying to bis wrist.
I know I’ve said this before, but it’s always reassuring to remember Rome. For anyone pursuing ‘real life’ in Italy, frequent thoughts of Roman grandeur are an essential coping mechanism­ especiallyduring amove. It’swell-known that house painters, expert electricians, Internet technicians and anyone hired by the phone company are particularly dependent on month-based chronology. ‘Be patient’, my well-meaning landlord told me yesterday, ‘after the ponte, you will be able to get settled with higher speed.’
It’s a pre-Christmas exodus that many Florentines plan for in advance.
‘Right’, I frowned.
Undaunted by my grimace, he Iaughed, ‘It’s not too Iong of a
wait, Linda, considering how many of the living have to come back from ‘the dead.’
I smile. The man is good with puns-a quality I hold in highest regard. Perhaps I can, in fact, be patient.

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