|14 September 2011 : Michael Predicts Suffering for Milan|
Big cities mostly offend me, and Milan has now replaced New York as my most disliked city. We went to Milan simply to give Sienna and Damiana the straightest possible shot back home, and that part worked...
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1st per in:|straightest possible shot back home, and that part worked. We chose to stay at the Air Hotel right around the corner from Linate, their close-in airport – Milan's main airport, Malpensa (Bad thoughts) gives Tokyo's Narita a run for "least convenient major airport," – so we were glad the girls could fly out of Linate, right on Milan's back porch.
Damiana was excited to experience the fashion capital of the world, and we all were willing to indulge her, hoping to be delighted. After all, the rest of us, being fashion ignoramuses, were eager to see what we'd been missing. After good experiences with cities in Firenze and Siena, I was open to Milano … but was pretty thoroughly disabused. Superficiality and pretentiousness are pervasive. Doubtless there are work-a-day neighborhoods and large populations of people who aren't obsessed with towering high heels and a la mode threads – in fact, we saw lots of them, many with their mouths hanging open in disbelief and envy when the exemplars of la mode tottered by. We were struck by how few women actually know how to walk in very high heels without looking crippled, and how stilted and artificial la mode looks in real life.
We followed Rick Steves' advice and walked the quadrangle infested with high end shops, and saw, in Damiana's words, that every internationally known name was present, just as in San Francisco, and a few dozen of the world's other fashion meccas. In each shop, expensively dressed shop-sitters struck poses conveying boredom and welcome at the same time. While we did see a fair number of blatantly branded shopping bags on the arms of eager shoppers, we saw very few customers in these expensively staged shops. We walked down the main street, noting that to sit and eat gelato cost eight euros more than buying it at a shop and sitting on a curb or step. In central Milan there are no benches. We circumnavigated the Duomo, one of the world's largest and certainly most overdressed churches, wondering what the the antic statues and filigree could possibly have to do with faith. Despite the heat and pollution, in the piazza throngs of people milled about for no apparent reason. Italian military and police of three different branches guarded the Duomo doors, and upon entry many were wanded and their bags and purses examined – not us – in fear, I suppose, of terrorist shoppers.
After a delicious but lamentably over-priced meal, we were whisked back through the nighttime maze of streets by an articulated ecoBus to Linate, from whence we walked five minutes to our hotel and prepared for the early, early morning departure of the daughters on their 30-hour marathon flight home.
For what it's worth – you did pay to get in here, didn't you? Remember, you asked – here's my prediction about Milan: this preposterous aglomeration of surface and pretense, or as we prefer to say, fashion and banking, will be among the very first cities to fail dramatically and tragically as the hammer continues to fall. Milan, having based its entire reason for being on these chimera, as what we are in 2011 calling a "temporary downturn" turns out to be the end of the petroleum holocene era, will be among the foremost sufferers when Gaia throw the global hucksters – and let it be said that Ralph Lauren, Michael Kors, Banana Republic, and MacDonalds are in their first rank – out of the temple. Those forlorn masses who have somehow based their hopes and ambitions on these merchants of illusive obsolescence – the shopgirls and bank clerks who spend most of their income on the clothes they must wear to be employed, the seamstresses, leatherworkers, textile dyers, and cotton pickers who have given their lives to produce this world of baublery – will rise up in protest when asked, again, for more while being paid less ...because fewer and fewer can sustain the costly pretense on offer. Milan's is a dangerously unsustainable path, egged on, it must be admitted, by the acolytes of unending growth and pervasive commercialism. Having lost touch with the soil, the land, the planet, the soul, and the heart, it will be among the first to show us how much suffering will be necessary to right our human course, and find our way back into balance with all other life.
But of course I am probably wrong. Waiting for the tragetto to cross Lake Como a few days later, we heard a flock of aging British birds were cackling together about their trip. "I shall certainly miss this place … the air, you know? I just loved Milan, it was the best! I bought a loooovely coat, frightfully expensive, but such a pretty blue. I can wear it with Oh! so many things, don'tyouknow?"
It has been pointed out by a good friend that offering such predictions invites disagreement and counter-prediction, but no method for this is offered here. Not explicitly, I told him (and I'm telling you.) If you email me at email@example.com
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