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Monday, July 1, 2013

Nature-And Roman Drivers-Abhor a Vacuum

Fifteen of us in the Second Line Social Aid and Pleasure Society Brass Band (SLSAPS) were in Rome last week to play in Sbandata Romana, a festival of street brass bands from Europe (and us) put together by the band Titubanda.

We brought our music to the people of Rome-not just in the park where the festival was held-but in streets, markets, bars and restaurants...While there is some overlap in the music played by many of the bands-especially funk stuff-the New Orleans tunes and tinge that we bring sounded fresh, resonated strongly and the reception was, well, splendida. 
I encountered a fascinating city: complex, sprawling and gritty, with pieces of different epochs sprouting out of the sidewalks next to and sometimes, on top of one other. 

Although my impressions are essentially uninformed (readers of this blog would expect no less), the city I criss-crossed in trams and buses seemed very similar to the city I saw in Italian movies of the 30's and 40's. Films like Open City, Bicycle Thieves and early Fellini films were called "Neo-realist," but the reality they represent-at least the pictorial reality-seems so much the same today that the word "Neo" might, by this point, be dropped.
It's a city which balances "slack" and the work ethic differently than we do in the U.S. You gotta love that no one seems to actually pay to get on a tram or a bus. On the other hand, new metro construction creeps ahead slowly. There are always archaeological concerns, of course, but financing with almost no ridership revenue has to be a challenge.

People do bustle and hustle. Street life is fast and furious. Nature and Roman drivers abhor a vacuum and any and all available space is immediately filled by two cars or 5 motorbikes. (parking spaces that would here be taken up by 2 SUV's have 6 vehicles in them). 

On the other hand, many places close for 2-3 hours during the afternoon; meeting times are, ah, flexible and pulses, while beating at an urban pace, seem less susceptible to fibrillation. 

Trumping up a conclusion to this meandering piece would only be gilding what was a lily of an experience. Let this stand as a paieon to the great hospitality of our Titubanda hosts, the wonderful spirit of our fellow bands and to the people who understood how lost Patricia and I were (several times), took us under their wings, fed us, comforted us and guided us on our way. Un milion di grazis!

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