3 November 1942 - The Double Bath/Il Doppio Bagno
Recently I was in Chicago for the first time. April was still cold and rainy, and we braved an architecture tour despite the sprinkles. I'd wanted to see the big silver "bean" - Chicago's "Cloud Gate" sculpture by Anish Kapoor, in Millennium Park - but we never made it to the park. A quick flash was all I saw as we drove past in a taxi.
There is another monument I also missed, one significant to this story, and a short walk from the Field Museum (which I highly recommend) would have taken me there quite easily.
This particular diary entry at first seemed short and simple. A straightforward story. Sweet and funny, but not very important. When I started this post, I initially missed the symbols, the relationships, like I'd missed Chicago's shiny silver bean. Now I see how a story can travel through time, repeat itself, cause ripples. Make us walk in footsteps we couldn't see.
When I was a child, if there was water nearby, I'd usually end up in it, sopping wet. Sometimes by choice: jumping in puddles on the street, Barbies in the bathtub. Sometimes not by my choice.
Molti anni fa, we went to a lake or stream with cousins, somewhere in New York state, I believe. I was ten, twelve years old. Too long ago to remember the exact details. Fishing was involved, someone had caught a fish or two, and still alive, were submerged in a net.
I recall the glistening fish in the net, held high so I could see. A sudden twitch and flash of scales scared me, and my bare foot slipped on the slimy rocks below. The splash, and there I suddenly was, sitting waist-deep in the lake, surrounded by my laughing cousins.
This diary entry was like a sense of deja vu: although written nearly forty years ago, it made me happy to learn that I shared a sense of curiosity with my father. Or, perhaps just bad luck near large bodies of water. Like daughter, like father . . .
Rovigno 3 novembre 1942
Il primo novembre sono stato nel Cimitero per portare dei fiori ai miei cari morti. Quando arrivai nel Cimitero mi meravigliai vedendo le tombe assai aumentate.
Subito mi misi alla ricerca della tomba del mio santolo. Trovatala, vi misi sopra i fiori e recitai una preghiera per l’anima sua.
Ieri ho preso un doppio bagno: uno di acqua salata e un altro di acqua piovana. Ecco come è accaduto il fatto.
Camminando lungo le rive Italo Balbo vidi dei pescatori che traevano a terra delle cassette piene di pesci. Io mi avvicinai incuriosito, ma, senza accorgermi, misi un piede sopra un pesce e. . . . . . . . . . . mi trovai nell’acqua. Per fortuna questa era poco profonda e con delle vigorose bracciate toccai terra.
Lo spavento era passato ma ero inzuppato fradicio! Mi cavai la giacca, che era assai bagnata, e mi arrivai correndo verso casa, tremando come un vecchio freddoloso.
Ma sul più bello cominciò a piovere a catinelle e io arrivai a casa bagnato fino alle midolla. Così mi presi quattro scapaccioni e un buon raffreddore.
Rovigno November 3, 1942
On the first of November I was in the cemetery to bring flowers to my dearly departed. When I arrived at the cemetery, I was surprised seeing the number of graves rather increased.
Immediately I began searching for the grave of my godfather. Finding it, I placed the flowers and recited a prayer for his soul.
Yesterday I took a double bath: one salt water and the other rainwater. Here’s how it in fact happened.
Walking along the Italo Balbo waterfront, I saw the fishermen dragging boxes full of fish on the ground. Intrigued, I approached, but without realizing, I put a foot on a fish and . . . . . found myself in the water! Fortunately it was shallow and with a few vigorous strokes I touched ground.
The fright passed but I was sopping wet! I pulled out my jacket, which was very wet, and I went running homeward, shaking like a chilly old man.
But right in the middle of it, it started to rain cats and dogs, and I arrived home soaked to the bone. So I got four smacks and a good cold.
Italo Balbo was a leader in the fascist movement in Italy, an aviator, thought to be second to Mussolini. Trying unsuccessfully to locate the Italo Balbo waterfront or wharf in Rovigno, I found many places named for him both in Italy and abroad, including Balbo Drive in Chicago. He's credited with commanding and flying a squadron of airplanes in a transatlantic flight from Rome to Chicago in 1933.
Mussolini, in honor of Balbo's flight, donated a monument to Chicago — the one I'd missed just a few steps from the Field Museum. The centuries-old column, taken from the ancient Roman city of Ostia, sits on a pedestal and can be viewed on Google Streetview.
There's controversy about this monument even today, as you might imagine. However, here is an interesting fact you should know. In this article and accompanying photograph, the base of the Balbo monument is clearly depicted. At each corner is a fascis, an ancient symbol of Roman rule: a bundles of sticks, loosely tied, sometimes shown with an axe in the middle. The symbol has been used frequently to depict the strength of many together, as opposed to the individual. This is where the word fascist originates.
Fasces appear in many places, not the least of which is the US government. For example, carved into the chair in the Lincoln monument, within the House of Representatives, and above the doors leading from the Oval Office.
The ripples continue, spread out, recede and bounce back. A boy in Italy to a girl in New York, a wharf in Istria to a monument in Chicago. From fish to fasces.