The Aniene

with Matt Hural

July 3, 2009

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The Aniene starts up around Subiaco. This is the ancient River Arno, that once supplied Roman aqueducts and fertilized the campagna.

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I could see the path of the Aniene on google maps, but it is difficult to actually visit, surrounded as it is by private land and industry.

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I wanted to take my boat down the Aniene, but I just couldn’t get a sense of wether it would be safe. Anything could be happening under those trees,

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and from these images, it looks like there could be rapids.

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In some places, there appear to be fallen trees spanning the width of the river. A ‘sweeper’ is my most feared obstacle in whitewater boating.

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The other thing I noticed while biking to points along the river, is that the water of the Aniene is not white at all, or even green like the google images. It is now brown.

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I asked Matt Hural if he wanted to try a trip down the Aniene. “I’ve seen the water, and it could be gross.” I said. “Good.” he said.

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“Its weird how you get a few miles outside Rome, and the there is just nothing.” said Matt.

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But we weren’t just a few miles outside Rome. Giovanni said later, that we were halfway to Tivoli by the time we found a place to put the boat in the water.

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I was nervous setting off. I could barely take pictures as we rounded the first bend.

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The water was high and running quickly, and although it smelled like a city stream, it was no sewer.

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It was quite beautiful with rocky cliffs,

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mideaval castles,

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interesting bridges,

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and a shepherd dog who’s flock was peering over the embankment behind him.

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The water was high from all the rain the night before.

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As soon as I relaxed, we saw up ahead the thing that I had most feared. There seemed to be an expanse of debris that stretched all the way across the river; a ‘sweeper’.

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The water could be rushing quickly underneath it and the boat could spill over, trapping us underwater with all the other debris.

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But the river ran deep under the sweeper, and the water was passing gently through.

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We were able to pass the boat over the top of the fallen tree,

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down into the murkey current on the other side.

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In fact, it was a chance to examine the different kinds of trash being strained out of the current.

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What I thought was pollen on the surface of the water was actually a fine sand of styrofoam covering everything.

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We had seen it all along the banks, marking the highpoint that the water reached the night before.

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We passed through the stretching arms of trash and trees,

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and out of the range of the sweeper.

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We were now in an area completely covered by trees; one of the other things that had concerned me from the maps.

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But as we passed more and more boats tied up at the banks, I figured there were no waterfalls or serious rapids.

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We seemed to be in an agricultural area, and small pens of livestock lined the banks.

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There were also massive outlets for sewer overflow.

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At one outlet, we observed that the water coming from the sewer was actually clearer than the Aniene.

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As the first signs of the city floated into view, I began thinking of my favorite analogy for navigation; time travel. We had passed mideaval towers and hamlet farms,

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we began to see huge relics of Rome’s industrial past,

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and then 60’s block housing.

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We seemed to float forward in time as we entered the city.

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We had been on the river for 4 hours,┬ covering half the distance of the navigable part.

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Then, around the bend came the first recognizable sign of Rome;

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the Ponte Nomentano, one of the oldest bridges, spanning the Aniene in much the same form for 2000 years.

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It was a sudden loop in my future-flowing revery, and a beautiful monument to Rome’s architectural strategy

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of devouring itself as it serves.

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But below the bridge, the water became turbulent.

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It wasn’t just the fear of capsizing, but the fear of even touching the water,

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that had my heart racing.

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When we passed the rapids we looked for a place to pull over;

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a muddy bank.

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We hid the boat in the trees,

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and locked it to a rail.

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We left it for another day.

The Nemi Ships

June 23, 2009

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Nemi is a crater Lake about 30 kilometers from Rome.

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In 1927, engineers drained the lake by opening an ancient Roman tunnel/aqueduct,

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to excavate two huge ships.

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They were believed to be the legendary pleasure barges of emperor Caligula, made in the 1st century AD.

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The mud had perfectly preserved the two hulls, but exposed to dry air, they immediately began to shrink and crack.

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The ships were enclosed in wood, soaked with wet towels, tar, solvents, even formalin to stop the decay.

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They were rolled up away from the lake,

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and huge silos were built around each one.

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A museum of Roman Navigation was created around the ships.

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But Nemi was bombed during World War II, and the ships were burned to nothing.

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The Museum still stands today on the shore of Lake Nemi.

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It houses two small replicas of the ships;

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beautiful and fragile looking inside the monumental space they once filled.

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Jeff Williams and I went to visit the lake and ships and we marveled at the tiny models,

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and large ones.

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In fact they are making a 1:1 replica of one ship. They started eight years ago, and here is just the keel.

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We drove around the lake to try and find a place to get my boat into the water.

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“At the very least we should drink some wine out there,” said Jeff. “For Caligula.”

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The lake is perfectly circular,

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and Medieval cities peer down from the crater on both sides.

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There was no one else out on the lake; no boats, no one fishing or swimming.

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We were in the middle of a perfect theater, standing as it must have for thousands of years.

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“Maybe something is wrong with the water.” said Jeff.

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What else could be down there, stuck in the mud where the ships were buried?

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Storm clouds were rolling in over the crater,

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so we packed up to drive home.

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From the roof of the American Academy, I could just make out the Nemi Crater, many miles to the South of Rome.

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It always looks like that, shrouded in mist even on a sunny day.

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I read that when they drained the lake, the crater underwent a series of seismic convulsions; tremors, landslides and massive spouts of mud that bubbled up from the substrata.

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It must have been because of the shifting pressure in the crater. It was estimated over 40 million cubic metres of water had been drained from the lake. But there were some who believed the geologic activity was supernatural.

Sailing on Lake Bracciano

June 22, 2009

Cloaca Maxima

with Matt Hural

May 10, 2009

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Some of the most interesting things along the Tiber River are right around the Isola Tiberina in Rome’s historic center.

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This is the Pons Fabricius: the oldest working bridge in Rome. It has been used, basically in the same state, since 62 BC.

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And here remains the marble prow of a sculpted Roman ship. The whole island was once carved into the shape of a boat.

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The ponte Rotto is the very oldest Roman stone bridge: 179 BC.

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And here is something very old too: the outfall of the Cloaca Maxima. It is the oldest sewer in the world. It may have been started as early as 600 BC, and the modern Roman sewer system still runs through part of it.

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Under the arch of the Cloaca’s outfall there is just a little cave, with no entrance into what remains of the sewer. But a little further down there is another hole.

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Matt Hural, an architect at the American Academy, and I, decided to try and walk into the hole and see if we could find a pathway leading back to the ancient part of the sewer. It must still be under there somewhere.

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The passageway we chose appeared to manage overflow from the city’s drainage system.

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Getting in required us to pull back a heavy grate. “We should get someone else from the Academy to come help us pull back the grate.” said Matt.

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“I don’t think anyone else from the Academy would want to come down here.” I said.

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We slipped through the grate,

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and entered the Roman sewer.

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The tunnel led away from the river for a while,

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and then seemed to be curving back to the North.

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We could see light coming up ahead.

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A huge room with a tunnel bisecting it halfway up. I felt tiny in the room, and was washed in panic as I imagined a giant waterfall of sewage surging over the curved stone.

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Small ladders went up the sides of the chamber.

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We put on latex gloves,

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and started to climb.

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“All clear.” said Matt.

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As I climbed, I peered into the upper tunnel. I could hear water rushing inside.

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Somewhere in there, a huge amount of water was passing by.

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When we climbed out, we found ourselves in a room on street level. All around were the workings of a levy system that manages the sewer overflow.

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Huge cranks and gears to lower giant metal walls.

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You wouldn’t want to be down there, on the wrong side of the wall, during a flood.

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Far below we could see water running: a tunnel, perpendicular to the direction that we just came. There appeared to be a small walkway on the side of the passage. We thought it might lead back to the ancient part of the sewer.

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We climbed down and started to walk along.

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The water flowing past was green.

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The air was thick and humid.

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We passed something that looked old. This stone arch might have been part of the ancient Cloaca.

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A little way up, there was a brick hole.

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We slid into it and came to a long brick tunnel. It didn’t seem that old to us, but our friend John Hopkins told us later that the large flat bricks we saw in the tunnel could be ancient.

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At the end of the tunnel there were a few things, blocked off holes and entrances to other spaces. Matt fit himself through a small hole.

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“Dead end.” he said.

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We had gone to the end of every tunnel we could reach.

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“We have to come back with a boat or a plank or something to cross the water.” said Matt. The idea of stepping out over the rushing sewer made my heart sink. “Or we could try and get permission to get into the excavated part of Cloaca.” I thought.

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Walking back Matt found a spider in his shirt that had hitched a ride out of the sewer. It was probably the first time it had ever seen daylight.

Tiber River IV

with Emily Ogden

May 8, 2009

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There is a bike trail that goes for miles along the bank of the Tiber River.

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Emily Ogden agreed to ride with me as far North as we could get, to try and reach the ancient city of Fidenae.

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We came down to the water at the Ponte Milvio. You might recognize the name because of the famous ‘Battle of the Milvian Bridge’ in 312 AD.

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It was a real turning point in the history of Rome, because Maxentius lost the city to Constantine, the first Christian emperor.

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The day before the battle, Constantine had a vision. He looked up at the sun and saw a cross wavering in the sky above it, with the words “Under this sign, conquer”.

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His soldiers painted crosses on their shields and after a decisive victory, Constantine began his conversion to Christianity.

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Maxentius had destroyed the Bridge so that Constantine’s Army could not cross it. But when his soldiers were routed in the battle, many of them died trying to escape back across the river. Maxentius himself was found washed up on the bank of the Tiber the next day.

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We passed by a few more bridges,

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and health clubs.

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In fact, that is what occupies most of the property along the water; health clubs.

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We biked by an encampment of Roma Gypsies. Their mobile settlement has been here for years.

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Emily kept spotting Sirens, and we could hear them along the path. When I tried to take pictures of the birds, their tiny yellow bodies blended in perfectly with the trees.

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The bike trail follows the course of the river, and you can always see it winding along beside the path.

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“I have been in one city or another for so long that I actlualy feel like this is a trip to the country.” said Emily.

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Although the area is dotted with agriculture,

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I wouldn’t describe the scenery as exactly bucolic.

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Still, it has a kind of scrappy charm,

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like wildfloweres growing in an empty parking lot.

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In places like this you get the feeling that there is pavement under everything.

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Suddenly we were greeted by the most awful smell.

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A single row of burnt looking trees provided thin cover for a massive sewage treetment plant.

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Across the water was a large institutional development. “…perhaps for the olfactory impaired.” suggested Emily.

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We saw a broken down building with an old painted sign that said ‘Carraige Factory’. “Do you think in 500 years the American Academy will come out and study this?” I wondered.

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“Who knows what scholarship will even be like in 500 years.” Emily said. She had been explaining earlier how online searchable databases are changing how Universities think about research. And we talked about the fragility of computer data. Maybe digital archeology will replace actual digging.

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“Sometimes I worry about my notes.” said Emily. “I would like those to be around for a long time.”

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Emily is working on a doctoral thesis about Franz Mesmer.

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Across the water is Castel Giubileo and the site of the ancient city of Fidenae. I read that they have reconstructed a small iron age hut there that you can visit.

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We crossed over the dam,

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but found that contemporary Fidenae is impassible without a car.

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There was nowhere to go but back to the dam, so we biked down in to explore.

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Huge amounts of water were rushing through the dam. The elevation drops 50 feet and we could see small figures fishing in the roaring current. Being under the highway close to all that water was like being underneath the infrastructure of some futuristic city.

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Even the graffiti on the highway was backwords to us, having been drawn from the street on the other side.

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All around you could see signs of the flood that happened this winter, and we kept wondering what it was like up here when the water was so high.

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On the way back we passed a heard of goats.

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Their shepherd moved them over to let us pass.

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At Ponte Milvio we decided to bike right down along the river.

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Here there is a big flat sidewalk that runs the length of the Tiber on each side.

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It is a great place to enter the city, passing under the bridges one by one.

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It was late afternoon and there were people exercising in rowboats.

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The banks were lined with signs of wreckage from the flood.

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Many of the restaraunts and clubs were swept away by the currents,

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and pinned up against the bridges.

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Around the Ponte Sisto we saw an art project by Christian Jones: hundreds of silver she-wolves.

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It reminded me to look for a piece she made a few years ago. You can still make out the huge she-wolves that she painted into to bank of the Tiber by cleaning the stone back to white.

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Then we remembered something else we wanted to check out in Trastevere. There is a new bar that serves all kinds of beer, and that is something we both miss from the United States.

fishing weir – theater set

May 4, 2009

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A weir is a system of nets used to trap fish in current. This is a drawing that William Clark made of a fishing weir in Tower Creek, Idaho. In his journal, Captain Clark described the fishing weir, made by the Lemhi-Shoshone People to catch Salmon:

“There were two distinct wears formed of poles and willow sticks, quite across the river, at no great distance from each other. Each of these, were furnished with two baskets; the one wear to take them ascending and the other in decending. In constructing these wears, poles were first tyed together in parcels of three near the smaller extremity; these were set on end, and spread in a triangular form at the base, in such manner, that two or the three poles ranged in the direction of the intended work, and the third down the stream. Two ranges of horizontal poles were next lashed with willow bark and wythes to the ranging poles, and on these willow ticks were placed perpendicularly, reaching from the bottom of the river to about 3 or four feet above it’s surface; and placed so near each other, as not to permit the passage of the fish.”

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Here is a diagram of a small theater.

When I was sitting in the Anaconda Restaurant looking out the window at the Tiber, I couldn’t help but think about the strangeness of using the river as a backdrop for the fish restaurant. We had just floated up to the dock from the back, in effect, entering the ‘Theater’ through the backdrop. It allowed us to see how thinly the effect was constructed.

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I thought, “What if a fishing weir really was a back drop.”

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The act of seeing can be thought of as fish getting trapped in the weir.

Tiber River III

with Margaret Zamos-Monteith

April 24, 2009

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Margaret and I both grew up around Southern California, so we noticed things on the way to the boat at Ostia like loquats and eucalyptus.

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I always think that aside from all the old buildings, Italy looks just like California because of the plants and trees.

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So it was no suprise that on the last Friday of ‘Culture Week’, when all the great museums and sites in Rome were open for free – we struck out to the Tiber River at Ostia; a place as indistinct and yet specific as your own backyard from childhood.

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Gliding out on the water, I noticed that the tide was a few feet higher than when Eric and I left the boat.

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“Its funny how boating culture always has these two extremes of leisure and necessity right next to each other.” said Margaret.

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And its true. On one side of the river huge yachts line the bank.

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On the other side is a muddy and abandoned island. I heard that this spot is popular for archeological poaching. The shifting silt of the Tiber keeps spitting up bits of antiquity.

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It seems that whenever Rome was sacked, families would throw their riches into the river instead of having it seized by the invaders. After hundreds of years, the river still uncovers things occasionally and deposits them here; the last large obstruction before the sea.

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The only relics visible from the water are these neglected boats. A few more winters on the island and they will be wrecks.

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And then we floated past the best relic of all,

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the Equa, slowly sinking into the mud.

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We peered into the windows and portholes and were treated to a peculiar sensation specific to observing shipwrecks;

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all that heavy equipment, off angle and half submerged, causes a kind of vertigo, and with the tidal current sucking around her rotted hull – it’s like the moment of capsize was frozen with us inside it.

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We decided to pull up on the island and walk around.

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The interior was low and dense with plants.

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As we walked I kept an eye out for antiques.

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If we found anything it would be in the mud along the bank,

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but walking out into the mud proved tricky and there was a moment that we were both stuck fast.

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As we left the island and headed toward sea,

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we put on our life preservers.

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On the left side were large yachts,

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and lift nets.

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We were getting close to the mouth of the Tiber.

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I could see that the tide was pushing us out quickly, and that there were waves beyond the jetties.

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“Get ready to take some pictures, Margaret” I said. My plan was to let us drift a bit beyond the jetties, get a picture, and then row back in.

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Here is the picture.

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We tied up on the jetty and climbed over it to have a look at the sea from land.

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I could see a sailboat out there dipping in the waves, and I wondered what it would be like out there in my boat.

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But I saw the waves crahing up on the rocks and thought about how she was broken up about a mile from here last month.

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Maybe it was better to be inside the protected jetty.

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We paddled back,

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and found a place to stash the boat.

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Next came the task of trying to find a train back to Rome.

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“Where are we?” we wondered.

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“Its funny how all these beach towns have the same kind of tacky feel.” said Margaret.

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She pointed out some ship related architechture.

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“Nothing says vacation like carved wood elephants,” I said.

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Being at the beach in early summer, before the crowds, always has a great feeling, like preemptive nostalgia.

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We found a bus to the train,

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and a train back to Rome.

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Along the way we were traveling right along the Tiber River, and I recognized some of the landmarks from my trips this week,

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like the ‘Gasometro’ tower.

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On the way back we stopped to peer into the Protestant Graveyard in Rome, where Keats’ grave is visible.

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“Here lies One Whose Name was writ in Water” read Margaret. “What does it mean?” I asked.

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“I’m not really sure.” said Margaret. “Something about spirituality maybe, or the eternal nature of art. Its just good writing.” She said.

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Eternal Father Strong to Save

sung by Eric Bianchi in the Tiber River

April 22, 2009

´╗┐´╗┐

Tiber River II

with Eric Bianchi

April 21, 2009

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The boat was waiting at the Anaconda – and Cesare handed her over along with a sponge to bail out the water.

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Eric Bianchi had agreed to come along and help paddle the boat to Ostia.

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We pushed off and started to glide downriver.

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It was a bright day and as we floated South we saw the banks getting lower and wide apart.

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We talked about art and music and our friends from the American Academy.

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“We don’t even have to paddle.” said Eric.

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“Where are we?” we both wondered.

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We pulled up to see what things looked like over the bank.

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We could see the airport in the distance and Eric recognized the Alitalia hanger.

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“Hey, I think I have had this for lunch at the Academy.” said Eric.

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Speaking of lunch, we took out our picnic lunches and ate. It was well before noon, but there was not much else to do.

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The current slowed down,

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and we drifted for a few hours.

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“What do you think that is?” I asked, “a mediaeval fortress?”

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“At least from the 1800’s.” said Eric.

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“I must say,” said Eric, “For the river that gave rise one of the greatest cities in the world, its not much of a river.”

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“What would you expect of such a river?” I asked.

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“Oh I don’t know.” said Eric. “Perhaps to be plied by giant pleasure-craft, lined with beautiful buildings…”

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With all the flooding and silting, the Tiber does seem to defy a certain development.

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Soon we were right under the flight path of Fiumicino airport.

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Every few minutes a huge jet liner soared overhead. “You can set your watch by it.” said Eric.

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We could smell the jet feul and see the landing gear. “Now we are really in the middle of nowhere,” said Eric. Its true, the flight path of a major airport always is a kind of nowhere. And yet here was a crossroad between the ancient water rout to Rome and a new thoroughfare; bringing hundreds of tourists to the city every minute. “They are probably looking down on us rowing by in a boat, thinking that they are going back in time.” we thought.

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We came to a split in the river.

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The division of the Tiber and the Fiumicino canal forms the Isola Sacra.

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Eric spotted the back of the museum at Ostia Antica, and we stopped at a rough dock.

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We pulled the boat up the rocks.

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Someone fishing on the bank showed us a spot he thought we could stash the boat.

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Behind an old pump-house. He thought it would be ok for a few days.

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As we walked away, we saw a group of people filming something down by the water. They were getting ready to shoot a scene and it sounded like a fight.

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“What the hell are these people doing?” I asked Eric.

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“It’s funny that two groups of people can be thinking the very same thing about each other.” said Eric, as we walked straight up from the bank with paddles and galoshes.

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We had arrived at Ostia Antica,

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the ancient port of Rome.

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Through the feilds we could make out the old amphatheater and market warehouses.

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On the way back to the train, we decide to stop at the mediaeval town of Ostia.

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‘Ostia mena anticha’ Eric calls it. Ostia not-as-old. (as the anchient one)

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Eric showed me the gravestone of St. Monica, the mother of St.
Augustine. She died at Ostia in 387.

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Some kids dug it up close to here in the 1940’s, and based on a record of its inscription, historians were able to identify it.

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“Why didn’t they take it to a museum,” I asked. “I think at some point they just started leaving things where they found them. Also, it would have been very important to the Catholic Church.” said Eric.

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At the train station I saw a map of Ostia Antica, and could see where the Tiber comes close by the ruins. As the silt from the river pushed the coastline away from Ostia, the port became abandoned. I hoped that the boat would be alright there for the night.

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Tiber River

with Melissa Brown

April 19, 2009

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Melissa Brown and I left early Sunday morning for a trip down the Tiber River. We brought sleeping bags to stay out overnight in case we couldn’t find a place to keep the boat.

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We pushed off with the help of Mathew Montieth and Jeff Williams,

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and the current took us quickly under Ponte Sublicio.

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Italians walking over the bridge shouted ‘Buona Passeggiata’ as we floated away.

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Mathew and Jeff took pictures as we passed (all the pictures from the bank are theirs). They followed us for miles, running ahead and stopping to shoot.

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When we looked up at each bridge going South, Giovanni would appear – shooting video.

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He was driving down in the truck, seeing us along. I had to wonder if he was worried about us, after what happened last time he took me and the boat to the water.

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It was nice to look up at the banks and see our friends keeping track,

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and I was worried about something that I knew was coming up.

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We would have to sneak quietly by a fire rescue boat parked along the shore,

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and clear a bank of rapids after Ponte Testaccio,

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all under the towering ‘Gasometro’ (one of my favorite structures in Rome).

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It is one of the images I carved into the surface of my boat.

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We made it through the rough water without a hitch, and just as we breathed a sigh of relief,

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the fire boat left its station and came speeding toward us.

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Its not the first time I have been stopped by the authorities, but I never had to do it in Italian.

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I explained that we were traveling from Rome to Ostia in this boat I made, taking pictures. At least I think that is what I said, and he seemed to understand.

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He told us where the rapids were and gave us directions for which side of the river to stay. He said he thought we would be there in about two hours. I didn’t want to say that we thought it would be more like two days.

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He told us to call if we needed any help.

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Soon after, we floated by an old man sitting by the water close to a raft. “Morta per secura in questa barca!” he shoulted. (You will surley die in that boat!)

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Then the sky grew dark,

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and it started to rain.

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We pulled the boat up to explore a small tributary to the Tiber.

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I wanted to look at something I had passed on my bike a few months ago:

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an ancient Roman bridge. Here is some of what remains from the Via Salaria, an old salt road connecting Rome and the rest of the world to the salt marshes out by Ostia.

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For some reason I found it harder to believe that the river was still there than the bridge.

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Has this stream really held its course for almost 2000 years?

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The rain started to come down heavily.

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We passed a large overflow drain pouring foamy water into the river. It smelled a little like a sewer.

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And suddenly we notice something moving in the water.

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A large school of fish was swimming with their mouths open just above the water.

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Downriver there was a group of docks with people working – unloading or loading something.

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We pulled our boat up at the nieboring dock. It looked like a bar.

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Actually, it was a nice restaurant.

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The placemat told about the history of fishing on the Tiber.

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We ordered a fish. Could this be one of those we just saw eating out of the sewer?

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Soon we got the answer. We were introduced to the owner of the dock, Cesare – a born and bred Roman fisherman.

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He explained how his fishing weirs work to get fish out of the Tiber; a method of extraction that he has developed, different from anywhere in the world.

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He talked about the behavior of the fish at the bottom of the river. He seemed to know everything about the bottom of the river.

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Melissa had to translate most of it to me, but he told about the old Roman things he has found down there. It seems that the river churns up relics through the ages, and as he spoke we began to think of Rome as a giant landfill, washed through periodically by the Tiber River.

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In fact there were some things he has found right here in the fish tank.

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The owner of the restaurant reached past the lobster and gave a Roman pottery shard to Melissa as a gift.

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We packed up our things and secured the boat.

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A woman we met at the restaurant had offered to drive us back to Rome.

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“You can keep the boat here and come back when the weather is better.” she said.

Thank you Monica, Annalaura, Cesare, and the Anaconda Restaraunt!

Untitled (Pirate Act no.1) Naples

with Siebren Versteeg

April 10, 2009

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The boat is almost ready for its next mission,

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but I decided to head to Naples without it, to see my friend Siebren Versteeg.

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He is participating in an art project at the Palzzo della Arti in Naples called ‘Emergency Room’ by the Danish artist Thierry Geoffroy.

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The idea is that artists come every day and make work in relation to current events – ’emergencies’.

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As an artist,Siebren is a great choice to participate in ‘Emergency Room’. His program based sculptures sometimes incorporate actual live news feeds – like this piece from 2003. It looks like a video of text scrolling by in the ‘coca-cola’ font, but actually it is a computer program that culls the internet for Asociated Press headlines and passes them continually across the screen.

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He told me about the projects they had done over the past week and we tried to come up with something good for the following day. The story that I had been following in the news was about an American sea captain held for ransom off the coast of Somalia.

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“I guess we have to take over the gallery – hold it for ransom.” suggested Siebren.

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“I think this might be in violation of some of the rules of ‘Emergency Room’.” I worried.

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“You can’t make art about piracy without breaking the rules,” said Siebren.

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What should our demands be? What are the pirates asking for? It has to be something huge and impossible.

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No one gets in here until there is free wireless internet access throughout the museum…

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“If we had internet access, we could find out what is happening with Captain Richard Philips.” I said.

“How can a cultural institution expect its employees to research without reliable access to the internet?” wondered Siebren.

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We could hear people on the other side of the barricade. They wanted in.

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Negotiations started out amicably enough,

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but broke down rapidly.

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Soon the other artists removed the barricade and came in.

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I suppose if we really wanted to get the internet up and running, I would have threatened to kill Siebren if anyone came into the gallery.

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In a discussion later, one of the other artists said that he didn’t really see how our act related to piracy. As an artwork, it didn’t seem commensurate with the events in the Indian Ocean. No shit – I was thinking.

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But Siebren spoke articulately about the piece – about how an art project can be scaled in relation to the museum and this specific situation.

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Later that afternoon, we headed down to the coast – a spot recommended by one of the artists.

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There were people grilling fish and playing ball.

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It was hard to believe that 4228 miles away (by boat through the Suez Canal), Captain Richard Phillips was being held for ransom in a small life raft.

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Can this even be the same ocean?

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We walked back into Naples as the sun was setting,

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and admired the boats and buildings piled up against its shores.

EUR

with Jeff Williams

April 2, 2009

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While I repair the boat, I have decided to explore without it.

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Jeff Williams told me that there is a lake in the EUR.

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so we headed out to see what it was like.

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The Esposizione Universale Roma is a suburb of Rome, planned by Fascist architects in the 1930’s.

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It doesn’t┬ look much like the rest of Rome with its wide open streets and modern architecture. The ‘laghetto’ is a kilometer long rectangular pool right in the middle of the EUR.

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From the subway, it is difficult to walk right up to the lake.

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Large parts of the bank seem to be under construction.

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You can’t quite tell if things are coming or going. (J.W.photo)

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Even these posters about the development of the waterfront seem derelict.

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It’s like they kept changing their mind about what to do with the lake.

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By putting a waterfront into the Fascist plan, they unwittingly created a space impossible to control.

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All the social flexibility of the shoreline,

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exists here on a microcosmic scale.

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It looks like at one point the architects intended for people to walk right up to the water’s edge. Later a fence was put up around the water, and then a hedge to hide the fence.

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Parts of the lake have become a kind of swamp. This is Jeff’s picture of gnats that were so thick in areas, we had to hold our breath to avoid inhaling them. (J.W.photo)

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In 1961 Antonioni made the film ‘Eclipse’, set in the EUR.

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The movie seems to hover between day and night,

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between coming and going.

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It’s easy to see the landscape as a metaphor for the failed utopia of Fascism.

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But what is it really?

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We decided to try and get out in the lake in one of the rental boats,

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and see what the shore looked like from the water.

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weird drains

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a waterfall (J.W.photo)

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From here you can see that the rocky bank is an illusion.

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“I don’t know why anyone would want to do this.” I said. (J.W.photo)

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“From here the whole lake looks like a reflecting pool for┬ the Roman Credit Union.” Jeff said.

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But there are people feeding the ducks, and in some ways that works the way it is supposed to.

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Perhaps the shorline is in flux, but people seem to be enjoying it,

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and the water can’t help but have its own ellegance.

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Perhaps something about the flexibility of the shorline is what makes it easier to reflect on the past, even in the shadow of these ghostlike shapes. (J.W.photo)

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We paid for our rowboat, and took the bus back to the city.

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Shipwreck

March 4, 2009

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I took my boat out for the first time at Lido di Ostia.

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I wanted to see how the mast and sail would work.

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It was an extremely windy day. Perfect for sailing, I thought.

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My father and Giovanni came to help with the launch. We were smiling as I prepared to get underway.

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I pushed the boat away from shore,

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but the wind caught the boat and took me out of the protected cove where I had planned on testing the sail.

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Out past the jetty, the waves were big and I was unable to row against the wind.

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I struggled to put down the rudder so that I could control the direction of the boat, but it was ripped out of my hands.

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The wind pushed the mast down into an extreme pitch,

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and I fell out into the water.

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The boat had capsized.

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The water was cold, and I clung to the side of the boat, trying to see if there was some way I could set her right again.

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I tried to unhook the mast,

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but my life preserver became tangled in the mast stays.

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As the sail filled with water, the boat began to turn completely upside down.

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I unhooked my life preserver and swam clear of the boat.

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The wind seemed to push the boat out to sea, and I was heartbroken watching her drift away.

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It was difficult to swim in my clothes. The waves were breaking over my head.

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I could see my dad standing on the jetty. I tried to hold up a thumbs up sign to tell him that I was alright.

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Eventually I reached the shore,

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and climbed up onto the rocks.

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We could still see the boat out in the surf and we watched it float for a while.

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The Italian Coast Guard was watching from the water.

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The officers on shore made us come away from the jetty.

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When my dad saw the boat capsize, he had asked someone on shore call the Coast Guard. Here they were; too late to help, but now they needed to fill out their reports.

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Giovanni gave them a detailed description of the shipwreck.

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The next day I came down to the beach with Matt Hural, Mathew Montieth, and Jeff Williams.

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We found the boat washed up about a mile from where I capsized.

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The waves were huge, breaking over the jetties, and the wind was so strong that it was difficult to breathe.

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We pried the boat out of the sand,

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and rolled it up the beach. It was heavy – wet and filled with sand.

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I couldn’t believe that it had lasted through the night, hitting up against the rocks.

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It was basically in one piece but large sections were smashed in, as though it had been chewed.

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What will I do with such a wreck?

Capsize

March 4, 2009

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