THE MEAN THAT JUSTIFIES THE END. Collecting Professor M’s van

Campiglia Marittima, Milano – 8/10 Maggio 2015

“This should turn on the aircon”, said professor M., accidentally throwing the volkswagen van into hyperspace

Some people needs days and days of holidays, and lots of kilometers, to be able to really take away their mind from their office´s desk (IKEA Melltorp, from €39.90?)   For you, the first bar of the toll-house going up it´s enough to make you switch into “vacanze” mode. Of course, a wrong call is also enough to break the mental idyll and make you fall flat on your arse. SPLAT. But well, this is a different story and you had a mission, other than holidays.

You run away from Milan around 16, destination Piacenza, where you will meet Professor M, the owner of the van that will host you and your children this coming summer, which is now parked in Toscana. You enter the highway under the pewter sky. In the aircraft of your Multipla-with-generous-hips the soundtrack is this. It´s pouring rain when you reach Professor M at the basement of an absurd library in the center of the city, an underground labyrinth made of tiny corridors of metal shelves extra-loaded with books which are ordered by some sort of mysterious code I can´t understand (only the phantom of the old lady is missing here).

Sheltered by a microscopic umbrella with the word “CARS” and the drawing of a car with big eyes as a windshield (don´t complain, you rather thank your little daughter) you go back to your car. Obviously the result, other than the indecent show you´ve given for free, is that you have to continue our trip completely SOAKED.

Professor M is an important friend. One of those people who´s been there all your life, but with whom you have recently started a new kind of friendship and dialogues, somehow far away from the ones you use to have. Professor M is married and has two sons, and this summer he is taking his family far, far away. Therefore he thought he could lend you his van: no need to be told twice, here we are!

Now though, it´s time for Professor M to know something you´re not proud of, and it has to do with his wedding. Yes, that was the wedding you never showed up. Probably, they thought… he is just divorced, he is not in the mood to meet the old common friends all happy and together. Oh yeah, running away from your old friend´s love and intimacy, the humiliation of failure and blah blah blah. The true truth though, is that YOU HAD FORGOTTEN. Exactly. You were in the office that day of March, doing god-knows-what when suddenly it had come to your mind, you fucking idiot, that you had a wedding to assist that day. Ops. Your colleagues probably still recall the following “monologo del Cioni”. Just so you to know what kind of airhead character you are. Just so the Professor takes it into account with Freudian´s peace and his missing acts.

FullSizeRenderThe next day it´s sunny: the van is quietly resting on the grass but once awaken “he” is shaking “allegro” and turns down the voice of the engine. The Professor is visibly relieved, and he goes on showing with proud all the features of the juggernaut, which looks more and more like a transformer to you, with all the revolving seats and the sliding beds. You try to take notes but.. bah! You are too busy sending the pictures to your older son in Milan (the sibylline verdict is “AWESOME”) and thinking about swimming in the sea. SEA. SWIMMING. NOW. You’re some kind of summer Pavlov’s dog, as soon as sun shines up in the sky you start drooling.

And swimming we say. You´ve already been once to Cala Violina, do you remember? Maybe not, it was one life ago. Two, actually. While Professor M is falling asleep in the sand you sneak into the water, which is not too cold (but there haven´t been 3 hours since you have stuffed yourselves with “sopprassata” and “fo´accia”!), beautiful. You feel happy while you cross the pine forest in your way to the van. Here and now is already beautiful, but it´s even more beautiful when you look at the view in front of you, which shows simple, clear. IMG_1753But here it comes, as mentioned above, the wrong telephone call that knocks you on your ass, together with Jupiter´s force of gravity.   Everything goes back to be complex, delicate, unsure, dangerous: limited free movement. The view is stretching and suddenly it becomes a badly illuminated corridor. It´s not the person calling´s fault, but the “thing” that she has to unwillingly communicate. You don´t know if it was the “thing” itself (a problem you feel powerless against) or your own reaction to it (more than understandable, you tell yourself) what is making you so nervous.

After dinner the dark comes down and while you chat with Professor M in the garden, you try to chill out with a bit of red wine and one of those things you can´t talk about. A big toad crosses the meadow and climbs up to the wall. You lighten him up with your cell´s torch, and he paralyzes: he might be as big as a baby´s head, the belly inflates and deflates. He is probably scared to death, you switch off your phone and you settle for watching him climbing the stones in the dark. You struggle to fall asleep, waiting for a dream to bring you a message. Maybe in the form of a toad.

Instead, the next morning you don´t remember a shit about your dream. You only know that in the middle of everything, there was the Pope. The Pope!!! “Ma come il Papa???”. As if you didn´t have enough with watching him everywhere now, in the newspapers, glued to the bakery´s cashier, hanged in the garages, although a bit far away from the naked women altar. Damn it. The Pope. What the hell should this mean then, the visit of Bergoglio in a dream? A reminder about patience and tolerance? Or that other thing that if someone insults your mother you can kick his teeth without having God slapping you?

On your way back you drive the van. It´s big, gentle and a bit clumsy, like a big dog. The children will be enthusiastic. When you arrive to Milan you show them the pictures and tell them how beautiful it will be to hang around with this walking house. Only the blonde one, the middle daughter, is silent.

What happens, little E.?

I´m too tired Dad. S slept over and we stayed up until late”. And what were you girls up to? “You know my friend A? Her parents are hosting a Japanese girl who´s looking for a house. She is called Fujita”. Mmh. And… so? I can´t see any connection. “Basically she has “fugit”, she is “fugita”, do you get it Dad? “fugita” from home! We have been laughing all night long”.

In conclusion, you have now a van, one more problem and, in addition, you have a daughter with a sense of humor like Ezio Greggio.

A huge Gracias! to Vanessa, who translated this from the original post in Italian with such a special sensivity


My name is Giuliano.

Years ago, I had three beautiful kids with a woman I’ve been living with for thirteen years; then we got separated, and both of us followed different paths. I am an architect, I work in Italy during this age of crysis: this means struggling with expenses and taxes as monkeys on my back… sometimes I may feel a bit weary, but then Etty Hillseum comes to my mind: “life is hard, but not serious”.

Whatever are the conditions in your life I think that, when you have kids, pursuing little dreams is not just a pleasure, but also some kind of duty: the duty of showing them that the world is a beatiful place full of surprises ready to be disclosed, if you accept to take on responsabilities and even some risk.

This year I’m turning 40. I usually avoid to look back, as I rather need to watch my step: in spite of all I still tend to have my head in the clouds, but when you have three kids you can’t afford chasing clouds.

Or maybe yes.

So I’m taking my kids, and this time we’ll go chasing clouds together; or indeed, we will chase the sun. From Milan to Lapland and back again, throughout all Europe: me, my three kids and a van, stopping wherever we find a place we like. After all Rovaniemi is just the name of a place: the real meaning of this travel stays in the space between it, and the place that we call home.

I know it won’t be easy, I need to find almost everything starting from the money to pay the van, the fuel, the supplies… but I’m confident that I will find the way to put everything together. Why not? Maybe even with your help!

I promise I will repay you, my way: a watercolor portrait of some strange beast we bump into, a song strummed with a guitar out of tune during a rainy day, or maybe even some odd object picked up by the youngest daughter… and above all with this chronicle, because I feel the urge to record it.
we may succeed or not in gettin’up there; anyway this is our story