More “Shaken and Stirred in Siena”

(Note: the “blue whale” is my large blue backpack.)I can’t find my destination. Centuries ago, when these narrow and winding streets were set down, no one had heard of using a grid. Things were more organic then, with streets following contours of the land and established footpaths around tall trees and large rocks. Also, there was planned chaos–streets were arranged in confusing patterns to help foil invaders.

With the guidebook as my sword and the blue whale as my shield, I search an area about the size of a Wal-Mart for ten minutes before I unravel the secret code that leads me to the Cannon d’Oro, which my guide book describes as “A stylish 30-room two star hotel tucked down an alleyway� Friendly and immaculately maintained, this is the best choice among the central low-cost hotels”.

They’re full.

blork on a roll

That’s sort of like lobster on a bun, but with less mayonaise (I’m trying to reduce). I’m plugging away at Shaken and Stirred in Siena, which I need to have completed, in one form or another, for my workshop on Monday. I might change the name to Shaken, Not Stirred, In Siena but I’m not sure yet, since the title doesn’t actually make a whole lot of sense anyway.Here’s another excerpt:

The church of San Domenico is most remarkable for being the resting place of Saint Catherine of Siena, one of the first women to achieve sainthood. She was born in Siena in 1347, and it was here, at the church, where she reportedly received her stigmata and performed some of her miracles. After her death, parts of her body were scattered about the churches of Italy as objects of worship. Being in her hometown, the Church of San Domenico managed to hang on to her head, which is displayed in a reliquary on the high altar. The area is roped off, and the reliquary is recessed far into the tabernacle, so the casual visitor is spared the details of this gruesome view. I go as close as I can without actually climbing the altar, and from there the head, propped up so it stares back at me, looks pink and waxy and fake, like some kind of Dominican Barbie. I kick myself for having left my pocket binoculars back at the hotel. For a moment I contemplate going to retrieve them, but decide instead to live with the illusion.

An excerpt from “Shaken and Stirred in Siena”

…a work in progress:

My sleep is solid and heavy, like the stones that hold up the building. Some time later my peace is interrupted when I sense, deep within my sleep, that someone is gently shaking me, trying to rouse me. It continues, this gentle shaking, and I start to wake up. I’m in that weird zone where I don’t know if I’m asleep or awake, yet I’m lucid enough to know I’m in that zone. Here, there is no differentiation between what lies in the deepest recesses of my imagination and the rationality of my waking life.

Right now I’ll believe anything, just as I did as a child, and still do in my dreams. The bed is gently rocking and I feel a small sense of urgency but I can’t force myself into further awakenness. Why would someone be rousing me? It doesn’t make any sense. Is it a burglar? Both the door and the window are locked, and besides, why would a burglar wake me? The rocking continues. I hear a tapping sound, a gentle, hollow, repetitive, knock.

I’m slightly more awake now. Awake enough to have rational confidence in my belief that someone is, indeed, rocking the bed, but I still can’t bring myself into full consciousness. If there is some emergency, surely the rocking would be more urgent and I would be roused. It’s as if I’ve been drugged or am on death’s door with a paramedic trying to coax me back to life with injections of adrenaline. It’s not natural I decide, it’s some kind of ghost or other spiritual apparition. This scares me but not enough to awaken me. If anything this makes me want to retreat back into sleep so I won’t have to confront it.