Monthly Archives: September 2015

Sicily – September 29, 2015

Alice and I have developed a morning routine. We set a time and meet for breakfast. I’m usually early, sucking down caffeine and filling my own canoli. After breakfast this morning, we drop our bags at the front desk, call for the Fiat, and go for a walk. From the hotel, it’s a straight shot to the sea, through the triumphal arch built to celebrate Giuseppe Garibaldi’s entry into Marsala, the beginning of his march across Sicily that brought about the unification of Italy.

Part of the reason for Marsala’s impenetrability is because they’ve blocked off a significant portion of the city for pedestrians only. We stroll amiably. Alice remarks on the flocks of old men, either walking and talking, always with the hands clasped behind their backs, or sitting on benches or at cafés discussing animatedly. We reach the sea. A man is opening his merry-go-round with little cars and trucks and fire engines under a canvas canopy. It is called FantasiaLand.

Expulsion from Marsala is accomplished with ease. We motor along a rustic corniche on the edge of the beautiful shallow lagoon of Lo Stagnone where salt extraction has been practiced for millennia. In isolated splendor, Monte San Giuliano rises to the north. Erice is at its summit. Great rows of piles of salt, too white to be clouds, reflect in the blue of the lagoon. Conical windmills with red tiles roofs and wooden sail frames stand at the intersections of enormous rectangular saltpans. They used to pump the seawater into the pans, where it evaporates, leaving the original condiment.

A boat will transport us to an island in the middle where once a great Phoenician/Carthaginian city arose beginning in the 8th Century BCE. The island was purchased in the late 19th Century by the Whitaker family of marsala wine fame and excavations begun. The island is flat with fenced-off archeological sites amid vineyards and olive groves. The sun is hot. We will pay for hatlessness. The stony remains are enough to bring the ancient city to life.

A small café offers panini and agua and shade. We indulge. The anchovy and sliced tomato sandwich may be the best meal so far. The boat back to the mainland departs on the half hour, so we decide to see what the museum holds before leaving this fabled isle. Many amphora and tombstones, and an astonishing Greek statue of a youth discovered only in 1979. The young man, carved in white marble, wears a thin pleated garment that gives this ‘giovane’ the sex appeal that nakedness really can’t.

Selinunte, our next stop, was a powerful ancient city from the era when Sicily was more Greek than Greece. Its complete abandonment after Roman times and its distance from other urban areas has meant that, though tumbled down, the ruins weren’t significantly ‘mined’ for its stone. Selinunte is a National Archeological Park and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. One great temple has been reassembled and another will begin reconstruction in a few years. The city’s acropolis stands a kilometer away on the other side of a valley from the temples, closer to the bluff that overlooks the Mediterranean. Our imaginations get a workout.

Agrigento, another ancient Greek city, is on tomorrow’s docket. Once more into the Fiat. The Sicilian landscape passes in infinite variety almost as if in a dream. The sky above presents another landscape, one of ever-changing clouds and weather, sweeping across a spectrum of perfect blues. Sometimes the road arcs into the sky on a graceful viaduct. The feeling is like flying. Alice guides us to the evening’s resting place, the Not-So-Hot Hotel.

Sicily – September 28, 2015

This automobile is about as responsive as my last boyfriend. The fact that it’s fresh off the showroom floor compounds my exasperation. The dashboard is bright and incomprehensible. It doesn’t have a ‘park’ gear. Its accelerator is a meaningless appendage. Al and I will head out from Palermo this morning, ultimate destination Marsala, a couple hours drive with stops in Monreale and Segesta. This will test the fucking Fiat’s umph. In Texas, Alice drives a Honda Fit. The addition of a vowel in Italy is obviously useless filigree.

I wish we had another day in Palermo, but we’ll be coming back later in the week, due to circuitous planning on my part. Alice is a mighty navigatore, unflappable, but these days a navigatore must be a GPS virtuoso. She brilliantly and independently bought an overseas data plan for a hundred bucks. Her phone now has a direct line to an omniscient deity, so it seems. The convolutions of Palermo’s streets and the populace’s universal resistance to traffic laws or common sense make for one wacky patience-taxing ride, a real test of our potential as a team. Once we have spun out of the gravitational pull of the city, the journey becomes less hectic. “We follow this for the 28 kilometers.” Urbanity gives way to steep green hillsides and precarious cottages. We climb. It rains intermittently. I find the wipers. They are right where wipers customarily are.

Alice says the cattedrale approaches, but I ignore the occasional ‘Park Here’ sign and climb some more. As Monreale’s byways narrow, the inevitability of having to back up increases. Finally, we pull in to a place for the leaving of the auto. It has an elevator, which presupposes proximity. Yeah, it works. A glimpse of Norman stonework is caught. Confidence returns to our gait. Entrance to the cattedrale is free. This is how the Lord rolls. It is reported to be one of the most spectacular churches in Christendom. It is.

Stories from the Book of Genesis and the life of Christ and every saint and angel in heaven surround the nave and apse in glittering gold mosaic. Splendor and majesty are appropriate. It’s how the pageant was told in the 12th century. The cattedrale is an illuminated manuscript that everyone could read. Nine hundred years later, standing below, Alice and I can watch Adam and Eve confront the Snake at the Tree of Life and then suffer expulsion in their miserable fur shifts. The mosaic patterns of the floor are as dazzling as the ones that arc above. The church was built by the Norman king of Sicily, William II. Known as William the Good, his father had been William the Bad. In order to stick it to the bishop of Palermo, a difficult guy named Walter of the Mill, William created a new bishopric in Monreale and built this glory. From Monreale, the sprawl of Palermo stretches away to the sea.

Next to the church is an exquisite cloister. Long rows of arches are supported by twin columns of perilous thinness with repeating variations of mosaic tracery, each then supporting a capital of intricate detail: people, animals, fantastical creatures. The beauty and hush of this place is in way it separates shadow from light. We wak through a metaphor of the spirit.

By this time, the two of us are getting a little peaked. No place seems available to eat at. And it’s still sprinkling, frizzante in Italian. We duck into a bakery and buy what are basically pigs-in-blankets, delicious hotdogs in perfect crusty rolls. Emboldened, we hit a café for a kilo of cookies and then hit the road.

We are on our way at Segesta. Alice should see this temple. The rain is intermittent. We scoff at umbrelli. The bus to transport the visitor from the ticket booth to the theater atop the hill seems to have shut down. I’m not hiking this. So up the smaller incline to the temple we go. It doesn’t fail to impress, even twice in a week’s time. I recount the stories I remember from guidebooks and from Elena, the guide. I am unable to convince Ali that the inhabitants of Segesta were called the Segestions.

On to Marsala. By now, we’re old hands at Sicilian highways and byways. Alice suffers/entertains the same directional dyslexia that I do, casually pointing right and saying left. “Go that way,” with an impatient hand gesture doesn’t always bring the desired result. We are finding our way with a few missed turns. ‘Recalibrating’ will be the word of the week. At the city’s outskirts, suddenly all is chaos. I head down one-way streets. I back out of impossible alleys. I perspire. We loop back on ourselves. Frustration builds. “But back there I saw signs for the hotel,” only raises the silent shriek of “Fuck you!”

Then, in the road in front of us, a man on a mobility scooter. We slow. Somehow, he guides us through the warren to our destination.


Sicily – September 27, 2015

I have a thing for 19th Century grand hotels. They are time machines like few places in the world. Richard Wagner finished Parsifal here at the Grand Hotel et Des Palmes in 1881/82. The original building had been built as a palace for the Whitaker/Ingham family, growers and exporters of Marsala wine, and greatly expanded in the late 1800s. They also built the Anglican church that sits cater-corner, looking lovely and ridiculous.

The vast, pale yellow lobby features two groupings of marble statuary, one of moony nymphs and the other, a family of fleeing Trojans. In addition to the eponymous palms, the room contains red carpeting, great gilt mirrors, swell staircases, and northern Europeans in shorts and sandals with socks. Beyond the lobby, elegant public rooms and restaurants stretch in seeming endless extravagance. Breakfast happens in a mirrored salon with pink silk walls and crystal sconces. Abundance begs for indulgence, as typified by the choice of fill-you-own canolis. An aggressive sound system attempts to entertain with the Eric Carmen version of ‘All By Myself’, forcing us tourists to deal with existential dread far from home. Sicily is melancholy, lush, and stoic, and the song’s stupefying superficiality underscores my fabulous good fortune at being here.

Alice is dragging ass. I hereby relinquish my authority on sleeplessness. The day’s plan is to walk for a couple hours, return for afternoon slumber, rally for dinner, and then slumber some more. We catch our bearings by heading to the Teatro Massimo, one of the grandest of grand opera houses in Europe, built before Palermo undertook construction of a municipal hospital. Its great front stairs was where Michael Corleone met his end. I discard the impulse to recreate the drama for selfie purposes. Ali would not have participated.

Further walking leads us to the city’s High Baroque epicenter, the Quattro Canti intersection. The four corners are concave and covered with four stories of pilasters, green shuttered windows, and niches with Spanish grandees. It is oppressive and exuberant. Tourists are the only ones who linger. A few steps away is the Fontana Pretoria or the Fountain of Shame in a courtyard flanked by Palermo’s civic buildings. The shame of the fountain is just centuries of publicity: the statues were supposedly too risqué because of all the nakedness. Who knows, but let me say the women have some very peculiar attributes. And the some of the male statues were given genitals that looked exactly those fur units that Scots wear in front of their kilts.

We continue down toward the sea on Corso Vittorio Emanuele. Our ultimate destination is the fountain at the center of Piazza Marina. Gary, from Bread Loaf, is spending a couple days in Palermo and suggested lunch. Along the way, Alice and I run into Frances, also from our workshop and give her the lunch plans. Jennifer, from Albequerque, will also be part of this group – four of us nonfictioneers and tolerant (sleepy) Alice.

Piazza Marina hosts a huge Sunday flea market. The wares are dazzling in their variety and seeming randomness. The morning feels warm in the sun and cool out of it. The park’s great ficus trees cast epic shade. Alice and I circumnavigate, then, exhausted, step into Santa Maria della Catena, a lovely 16th Century church. Its stained glass casts dapples of color on the floor and the columns. Afterwards, we search for the Marionette Museum, unsure of the appeal of its contents. It’s closed. Relief is sighed.

I continue to be tailed by that sewage-y smell. I can conjure up two possible reasons, (1) there hasn’t been a real cleansing downpour in Palermo in months or (2) the sewers date from the Romans, and, as such, are a fiesta of deferred maintenance.

Back at the flea market, serendipity bumps us into Gary and Jennifer. We search for a bench by the fountain and wait for Frances. Fifteen minutes of wiggle-room is allowed and then lunch must be obtained. We get turned away at a couple places; Sunday noon meal is a big deal, of course. But down a secondary street we are in luck. Sitting outside at a table for four, we haven’t even ordered when Frances turns to us. She had been sitting but six feet away. We commandeer a large table and have a grand old time. Alice seems happy to meet some of my workshop people, for so long veiled in mystery.

We part in great sweetness and Alice and I head back to snooze. On Via Roma, we pass the Main Post Office, a reminder of the Italian fascist past and its not negligible design achievements. It’s a blazing white marble rectangle that holds its space with authority. Still, its elements are balanced and refined, so its bulk evokes awe more than fear. Yet, it is a fascist post office, home to ruthless bureaucrats and bloodless proles. Weird.

Tonight is both the Super Blood Moon Eclipse and the Bennington Writers / Cornelia Street reading that Oona Patrick is guest-hosting for me. The center had better fucking hold. I covered all the details before I left, except I forgot ice. But I remembered I forgot and all is well. The reading should be about to commence as I drop off to sleep. With ease.



Sicily – September 26, 2015

Departure Day.

Writing about not sleeping is such a pathetic exercise. Boo fuckin’ Hoo. Taxis start picking up airport-bound writers at three in the morning. I have the noisiest fucking room in the hotel; the first room on the second floor, right off the stairs, and right over the hotel entrance. Sound caroms off the stone floors and down hallways and up staircases. The rolly suitcase percussion ensemble, the random scraping of furniture and dropping of toiletries, and the fucking quarter hour bells of Erice recapitulate a masterful version of ‘The Lord Chancellor’s Nightmare Song.’ So I rouse my sorry ass to write: a bloggish post, an essay revision, and the Bread Loaf workshop evaluation. Apparently, I will sleep when I am dead. Or next Thursday.

I’m on the 8:45am van from Erice to Palermo Aeroporto. Alice will arrive on a 1:40pm flight from Rome. We get to the airport and disperse like iron filings before a magnet. I find myself standing there with a speck-and-brie sandwich in one hand and a Coke Zero in the other. Then I sit at the counter next to one of the Bread Loaf staff and we have a fine conversation about the practicality of MFA programs for distractible people. Me being an expert. Alice’s plane is still on time. I go find the pick-up location for the rent-a-car shuttle. Then I have a surprise encounter with a bright young woman I had been meaning to engage with all week. We find a bench outside and gab away. She lives in Barcelona and works for a local politician. She’s sad.

Alice is delayed a half hour. And then, there she is! Joy! Double Joy!!

A ferocious, very pale, Hebrew-speaking extended family crams onto the car rental shuttle. They wear white t-shirts proclaiming – Beeri Family / Sicily 2015. Once in the rent-a-car terminus, they move away en masse, in search, I suppose, of the ‘Clown Car’ counter. Still, it’s a pain in the ass dealing with the crush at Hertz, but eventually we are guided to our Fiat. It’s snappy-looking and soon revealed to be dead in the water. Negative pick-up. I’m not dealing with the manual/automatic gear system effectively. Alice tells me so. She uses Google Maps and we sail along. We almost take out a block-long row of fruit stalls trying to find our way into Palermo. Our hotel is a slightly shabby Grand Hotel. WiFi exists. So does a shower.

The two of us try to find dinner at six o’clock. No way, we’re in Europe. It finally happens. I love that Alice is here.


Sicily – September 25, 2015

I’m fading. Literature has taken its toll. The compound reasons for fatigue are too dreary to enumerate. Again. Okay. For example: I am convinced the rank, yet elusive, sewage-y smell would disappear every time I might try to bring it to the attention of the management. It’s like playing peek-a-boo with an evil fart.

Anyway, I am in danger of slipping into unconsciousness at any moment. I don’t want to be the droopy old dude at the poetry reading. This morning Natasha Trethewey gave a fine lecture on the legacy of racial injustice, riffing on the evolution of Robert Penn Warren’s understanding of the conflict over his lifetime. She quotes him often and one line from his poem, Brother to Dragons, rings out with horrible resonance.

“And doom is always domestic, it purrs like a cat/And the absolute traitor lurks in some sweet corner of the blood.”

This is our final workshop. We rise to the occasion. We have become a cohesive unit, happily following Patricia’s lead. She guides us to lunch where the eight of us share a congenial end of one of the hotel’s long tables. Five of us (not I) agree to meet tomorrow in Palermo and go hear La Boheme at Teatro Massimo.

After Lynn Freed’s funny story about three women on a Greek isle, I wander into town with the eager, young fiction guy named Jon to have spot of tea at his favorite coffee stop. I read his story, a dense piece of post-modernism leavened by an off-hand sense of merriment. He’s read my Spring Comes to the Desert and dug it. Cool.

Our final meal takes place at a restaurant / hotel where we seem to be the only guests. We look out over the Mediterranean, illuminated by the backwash of an overwhelming sunset. There is much merriment and toasting. The feast is festive and perhaps the richest, most elegant, meal we’ve had. Two enormous poached fish are paraded in front of us, then served, Christ-like, to the multitude. The ‘loaf’ quotient is provided by Bread Loaf’s mere existence. The week has been blessedly sermonless.

Many sweet good-byes and promises to remain in touch. I pack, sort of.

Sicily – September 24, 2015

Well, today’s the day. The Big Fucking Deal Day when my essay becomes the center of attention for a brief, unshining moment. It’s a polished thing with a lumpen structure, which I hope I will be given insight into changing. It documents my circuitous coming out process, the pitfalls, cul-de-sacs, and tedium of self-awareness.

“I quite smoking and six months later I was a homosexual.”

My helpful peers suggest I start the essay with this sentence and I’m inclined to agree with them. The timeline of the essay has been called into question. It wasn’t so much a working/not working quandary and it wasn’t that I was ‘in love’ with its pieces, as much as stalled. Now I know that, in addition to the tunnel, there is a light within.

So I feel free, free to join the afternoon tour of five Erice churches. They are beautiful and in varying states of repair and use. The grand Duomo had a lush plaster ceiling, painted a pale golden yellow, like an over-reaching butter sculpture dedicated to the Virgin Mary. The Church of San Martino was attached to a convent of cloistered nuns and featured all the technological wizardry required to keep the sisters from being seen while allowing them to worship in the church and sell their sweets after the service, elaborate latticework balconies and in-wall Lazy Susans. An arch spans the narrow street between the church and the convent so the nuns could get to and fro, and nowadays a statue of The Virgin illuminated at night by blue neon gazes down at passersby from the crown of the arch. And San Guiliano, a church that serves as the repository of the town’s sculpted-wax Baby Jesuses. Clammy-looking little babes, some dustier, some more melted, and some with strangely unarticulated winkies. One weird collection, that.

Oh yeah, it was student reading night. I read first and I read three of my poems; two recent ones and good ol’ My Barber’s Arm.

Sicily – September 23, 2015

Hurray for Wednesday. I feel okay, and I’ll take that. In the morning lecture, David Rivard deconstructs two poems – “The Day Lady Died” by Frank O’Hara and “They Flee From Me” by Sir Thomas Wyatt. I could have listened to the discussion for another hour. Words are so sneaky and blatant.

Field Trip! They herd us onto a bus for a day trip to Segesta, a jumble of ruins with elements of a thousand years of successive civilizations. Its glory is an ancient temple and theater. The amphitheater cannot compare with the temple, which sits above a ravine, embraced by wooded hills in unbowed majesty. Constructed twenty-five hundred years ago from golden limestone now much eroded, the structure glows. It is complete, yet incomplete. Though fully intact, with all its columns upright and both pediments in situ, the building was never finished, never roofed. The story is quite convoluted and subject to much conjecture. Our guide is a well put-together woman whose labored and heavily accented tone and tendency to throw all the gods, Greek and Roman and Phoenician, into a loose theological bag makes her difficult to follow. She displays a curious affinity for the accomplishments of Mussolini, remarking several times on his local railway buildings.

I feel whipped when the bus deposits us back in Erice. A shower can provide only the illusion of spiritual renewal. We’re on our own for dinner and I join a group of ten. I’ve struck up a rapport with a personable young guy from Athens, Georgia. The table is alive with banter.

The search for dessert results in disappointment. The legendary (to Erice) Maria Grammatico patisserie is a bust. “This isn’t good,” I say staring sadly at my weird custard tart. Go fuck yourself, Maria Grammatico.




Sicily – September 22, 2015

Complaining can feel good, but cannot be sustained before absurdity takes over. An aria of self-pity, however entertaining, doesn’t play well to an audience of myself. Therefore, not sleeping efficiently or at all is really a big ‘so what.’

Harken. I lay in bed, lying awake, waiting for Erice’s goddamn bells. Every quarter hour, a peel counts the hours and then, a sweet little afterthought ding, one, two, or three, to indicate which quarter it was. So easy to anticipate: so easy to get wrong: so easy to hate.

Tuesday is a wash. We have workshop; I am inattentive, lost in non-thought. Caffeine and resentment just prolong the misery. Finally, I bolt when a pair of gray lunch sausages settles in front of me.

I let my friend Katie know of my need to duck out of our afternoon plans and slither up to my room and into my bed. Two hours later, I am awoken by a solicitous knock and rouse myself, restored. A shower enables me to resume the human pantomime. People come up to me, cocking their heads and clucking. I respond brightly, idiotically. Fuck jetlag. No – Fuck TriQuarterly and their otherworldly request.

The afternoon, I spend taking care of life details. Then there’s the wine-and-cheese reception and poetry reading in the secluded garden overlook where a semicircle of white plastic armchairs mirrors the sweep of in a grand, but treacherously worn staircase. Natasha Trethewey reads her lovely poems, as does Hope Maxwell Snyder. I do not drowse. Dinner follows, always at eight o’clock, European-style. I sit next to Patricia Hampl and across from Lynn Freed and have a great old chinwag.

I conk out. Big fucking deal.

Sicily – September 21, 2015

Good Morning, Erice. I slept well, which is the point and, knowing jetlag, probably a one-time event. Breakfast features croissants with nametags – ‘con cioccolato,’ ‘con crema,’ and ‘empty.’ Also, plenty of rich, dark caffeine.

After a shower, I push off on a walk on the ramparts. Erice’s ancient origins and strategic impregnability are everywhere in evidence, from Norman battlements to recycled Roman columns in churches. As in many Sicilian municipalities, there is a church on every corner, though typical of most medieval towns, there are no corners, not in the ninety degree sense. From absolutely every vantage point an extravagant vista appears. Because Erice is 2,500 feet above sea level and a ‘crow-flies’ four kilometers from the sea, the landscape she overlooks is infinite – Mount Cofano and the sweep of the Zingaro Peninsula to the north and the Egadi Islands and the salt marshes of Trapani to the southwest. Breathtaking is the worthless adjective that comes to mind. It’s cloudy this morning, but I imagine on a cloudless day you could also see Mount Etna to the east and Africa to the west.

Today, we meet as a workshop for the first time. Thank you, Jesus. For me, it is always hard to sit with the anticipation. I have read the work of my compatriots and despair/gloat. Neither of these feelings do me credit nor has any basis in reality. Patricia Hampl leads the workshop. After two hours, the workshop feels like a ‘we.’ We trust her.

Our whole Bread Loaf group, poets, prose writers, and staff, meet for wine and cheese in a hidden garden overlook not far from the hotel. It feels like real conviviality, not socially anxious, jetlagged hubbub. Lights come on the land below, a twinkling panorama from an angel’s perspective. A violin / keyboard duo plays sweet and hokey music. I am both delighted and awkward.

Before dinner, two instructors read their work in a classroom: Chris Castellani from his forthcoming novel about Tennessee Williams and Frank Merlo and David Rivard his poetry, most appealing to me, a poem about Owsley Stanley, the 60s ‘King of LSD.’

The workshop then splits into four smaller group and adjourns to four restaurants for delicious food, notably impossibly thin and perfectly grilled swordfish filets and a silken lemon sorbetto. More chatter, even at a table where no one is drinking wine. I’m repeating myself, I’m sure.

I yearn for modest repose. Just a little fucking shut-eye, for chrissake. At 1am I awake, thrash a while, and finally open the laptop in an attempt to coax weariness from writing. I check my email for bullshit, only to find astonishment. TriQuarterly has seen as essay of mine in the recent Post Road magazine and asks me to submit to their January 2016 issue. I never.

It’s going on five o’clock.


Sicily – September 20, 2015

Flying over Europe at dawn. Cities spread out like banked fires, skeins of embers faintly aglow. A seam of sodium orange appears in the inky horizon ahead of us, and suddenly the seam bursts open in a great blaze. Slowly and quickly, the light pushes the hemisphere of night away. The beads of fire that stray across the terrain fade. The sun turns the frost on the window to topaz dust. Then, the earth below becomes obscured by a landscape of clouds. A tiny jet crosses our path miles below on its perpendicular way.

No one can sleep on this airplane, meaning – not I. I doze, as the guy next to me punctuates my reverie with heinous flatulence. He watches Asterix on his personal device. Announcements in German inform us of something.

Munich Airport is dazzling. Glamorous merchandise piled everywhere, but unobtrusive signage requires concentration. I pass through passport control and find my way to the gate for my Palermo connection. It’s a smallish plane. Many babies wail. They are pissed. The respirator of the sick man in the row behind puffs relentlessly. Good for him.

My bag is lost! My bag is lost! It did not descend to the carousel with its putative companions. Lufthansa lost a bag? The mind reels. Inquiries reveal it to be sequestered in a special customs room. Ah. That makes sense. Though my passport was stamped in Munich, my luggage didn’t get the treatment until Palermo. I’m squared away and pad off to find the Bread Loaf people. Yes, I attend a writers conference. And they are happy to see me.

Together with another couple I am driven to Erice. The countryside is breathtaking. Great limestone bluffs and towers and promontories on the left, the utter blue Mediterranean on the right, while we drive through red-tiled suburbs into sere countryside on a four-lane motorway. The driver points in Italian and says, “Segesta.” Distant, up against green hills, is the temple at Segesta, built in 500 BCE by Greeks. It is considered the most intact and perfect in the world. It passes from view. I am happy.

I succumb to the total spacedness of lagging jets. Nodding and smiling, I head to my room for napping purposes. It’ll work, this room, though it has an unsettling sewage-y aroma and doesn’t offer a vista. Fuck it. Naptime.

Later, there’s a reconnoitering walk through Erice and the welcome dinner. I’m not feeling terribly conversational. Oh, well. This’ll be fun.

The sewage-y aroma has gone. I close my eyes.