Tag Archives: Italy

To My Unborn Child…

“…’til that day, lil’ homie.”

Friends,

For the last few years my grandparents have been pestering me about when I’m gonna settle down and have a family and kids. Usually I’m evasive and don’t get drawn into the conversation, laughing it off. Or sometimes if I’m in a sassy mood, I’ll threaten to go out that minute and get some random chick pregnant. This often earns me an unamused look from my grandmother. But more and more I do try and dig deep I tell them about how there are plans I have and things I want to do that don’t involve looking after someone else -at least for the time being.

Now this last approach is typically my attempt to be honest and open up, but it is usually met with disapproval and conjecture, and what I realize now is that I wasn’t being completely honest with them.

So over the last two weekends while visiting both sets of grandparents* I decided to really open up about my train of thought, my reasoning, my loneliness and my profound regret so that they would understand it was more than a simple matter of not having my shit together at 30.

I started in both situations by referencing how they had expressed numerous times their sincerest hopes that I would thrive in the entertainment industry. They want me to get the proverbial “big break” and see me on TV. I confirmed that this was in fact what they wanted for me. They said “yes.” From there I pointed out that shoots often require me to travel for extended periods of time and leave behind loved ones. I expressed how not only would this be hard for a romantic partner but especially hard for a parent, the typically low pay of a non-union actor notwithstanding.

A contemplative “Hmmmmm…” was all I got.

I was making headway. It was time to unleash the big guns.

“You see how happy and energetic and carefree I am now?” I said, “Well that’s because I live a relatively carefree existence. I don’t have to work a lot and I can devote a lot of my time to my passions, my craft and my health. Well, if I had someone else to look out for I would have to devote a third or (more likely) more of my time to a job I don’t love just so I could provide for them. Not only would this take up valuable time I should be spending with that little human being, but it would make me grumpy, tired, miserable and unappreciative during my hours with them. I might snap at them in anger or frustration, yell at them or worse.”

With both sets of grandparents, both sides European immigrants who had to work their asses off when they came to Canada, this sentiment really struck a chord. Especially in the case of my maternal grandfather who came over from Italy. He opened up about how hard it was for him working shifts and only seeing my mother and uncles occasionally during the week. It was upsetting to hear, but worse to see the sadness on his face.

I went on.

“I also don’t want to raise my child in a culture where fear is the norm and people turn their back on you; it’s unnatural. I like the idea of a strong community or village where everyone is extended family whether blood or not. A place where my kid will be loved and protected by the whole community, not isolated from his neighbours and taught to be fearful of other people.”

This notion got mostly contemplative silence, but in both cases I think I saw my grandparents thinking back to their early lives in Italy and Portugal respectively, when they lived in small villages where everyone knew everyone and everyone knew everyone else’s business. Times were hard but they suffered together. And when their was bread to break, they broke it together. Contrast that to our current culture of individuation, celebrity and isolation, where people walk by a guy on the street as if he is a poor decorating choice on the part of city planners. That simply will not do. My child will endure hardship, we all will**, but I don’t want to bring him into a culture where he will endure it alone or have to step on others to win.

And I think this is where my profound regret comes from: I know what a kickass dad I could be right now, as I am now, full of life, love and energy. Part of me really wants to realize that, but I also know that in this world, in this culture, I would have to give up the things that make me good father material in order to provide for my child.

It’s disgusting and I am offended that its gone on this long, but the same exploitative socio-economic system we live in that forces recent mothers back to work when they should be bonding with their child during the crucial early years is the same system that makes it imprudent and irresponsible of me to engage in the divine act of creation. This is an affront to my very existence on this planet and just one reason why I have broken faith with their current establishment, only engaging with it as much as necessary.

So, will my grandparents bother me about having kids again? Who knows? Maybe. Probably. But I’m glad I gave them insight into where I was coming from and helped them see that I was at least looking at their regrets and trying to learn from them.

Best,

-Andre Guantanamo

*I actually have four sets of grandparents, because my parents divorced and remarried when I was young so I got four sides to my family….#swag. But in this case I visited my dad’s parents last weekend and my mom’s parents this weekend.

**The next fifty years and beyond are gonna be a very interesting and unprecedented time in human history. There is a will be lots of shifts happening. I’m cautiously optimistic.

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License to Ill

Friends,

Back in March of 2011 I went on what was to be my first and last jaunt across the pond in the “pre-9/11 world.”  It was a school trip to Italy and France (not in that order) and I was in grade eleven.  Like most (all?) school trips, a high premium was placed on student safety, and beyond an appropriate number of chaperones, what this translated to on the back end were room checks to curb fraternization, prohibitions on students buying alcohol (outside of beer or wine at mealtimes) and naturally, prohibitions on drug use.

Well, being forced to spend the better part of their childhoods indoors, confined to a desk and having to ask to go to the bathroom, it should come as no surprise that students are second only to prisoners when it comes to resourcefulness in flouting the rules.  This defiance was encouraged by the fact that the chaperones were mostly cool, recognizing that the trip was supposed to be fun, and their attempts to transplant Canadian high school rules to a bunch of young people in another continent were gestural.

That said, reinforced habits and the fear of punishment can be powerful deterrents as they were to me and the groups of fellow squares I hung out with throughout the trip.

IMG_4512L to R: Mike, Metro, Horesman, Scott and Me

We weren’t bad kids; we were nerds.  We were a low-priority when it came to students who should be supervised.  This became very clear to me on the second day of the trip when we were approached by my French teacher, Mr. Harper.  He told us that he had come by our room at lights-out the night before to make sure we were in bed and knocked a few times.  Figuring that we were just jet-lagged and in a deep sleep, he gave us the benefit of the doubt and went on with his room checks.  To give you a glimpse of just how goody-goody we were, he wasn’t even mad when he explained this to us but we still apologized and assured him we would be more attentive next time.

So on the trip went with us mostly staying in our lanes, taking pictures of the sights and removing our hats when entering cathedrals. However, a peculiar change began to happen.  As we observed all of the rule-breaking going on around us and the “out-of-sight, out-of-mind” attitude of the chaperones, we started to act out in our own measured way.

IMG_4511Here is us sitting on the base of a column in St. Peter’s Basilica when we were explicitly told not to.

IMG_4515
Here is me jumping into an empty fountain at Versailles and humping one of the statues.

IMG_4513
And here is me grabbing my junk in Rome.
I am a bad motherfucker, am I not?

Intoxicated with the thrill of being a rebel and wanting some token artifact as a memento of my flirtations with a life of crime, my degeneracy reached its apex in Rome on (fittingly) the Ides of March. Visiting the Coliseum I decided to make my move, climbing some decrepit wall while security was out of sight and posing for a picture while testing furiously for loose bricks which I could abscond with.

IMG_4514
The bastard love-child of Lara Croft and Indiana Jones clad in baggy dungarees.

JACKPOT!

I wiggled one such brick free and jumped down like the future traceur I would become years later.  I walked out of the coliseum as fast as I could, looking over my shoulder the whole time and feeling my heart furiously dry-humping my rib-cage.  I remembered one chick even asked me while I was up there if there was any bricks I could hand to her.  Bitch Please. I felt like that gangster in Training Day who, when Denzel demands someone shoot Ethan Hawke, places a .38 on the ground in front of him and is like,

got
You got us twisted, homie; you gotta put your own work in around here.

After we had safely smuggled the brick out in someone’s cargo shorts pocket, me and the fellowship of the brick stood in a circle marveling at its plainness and lack of any special defining features.

“Guys, this is a billionth of the Coliseum we’re holding right here,” I said.

Then my long-time friend, Michael chimed in, “Yeah, but its OUR billionth.”

Yes it was.  Upon returning to Canada I took a hammer and chisel and broke each of my co-conspirators off a chip of the brick and hopefully those chips still serve as a reminder of the day we hit back against a system and took what was ours.

url

Let’s re-cap.

Here are the transgressions I didn’t commit that others on the trip did and the potential punishments they held:

Hooking up with other students: Legal but might have gotten suspended or sent home early or both
Buying Booze: Same
Buying/Using/Possessing Marijuana:

ille
Note: These are current for 2013

Now here’s what I did:

Looting Artefacts from Roman Antiquity: “…those caught were left ‘highly embarrassed’ but were not arrested, instead they were cautioned and allowed to return home and their ancient souvenirs returned to Rome council…” -From Mail Online, 24 June 2012

I willingly put myself in a position where I could have been highly embarrassed and allowed to return home.  How gangster is that?

****

I think the moral I was trying to get across initially was that a reputation for being a goody-two-shoes is a license to be a badass, but when I found out how casually my particular offense is actually treated by the Carabinieri, it kinda changed the way I viewed my own act of flagrant rebellion.  While that original moral still stands true, I think a more apt lesson to be taken from my pilfering of precious pebbles is that sometimes you gotta break the rules for good stories and souvenirs.

It’s probably why some of my best travel stories have to do with running from the police, surfing with sharks and trespassing.

To put it in an acronym, W.W.D.Q.D.?

Best,
-Andre Guantanamo

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Baby Steps

Friends,

As someone who tries to look at the big picture and find the root causal mechanisms which give rise to the problems in the world, I try not to get (too) embroiled in issues-based discussions or put too much stock into piecemeal (attempts at) solutions.  For example, I have discussed in the past that fighting for* black rights, or women’s rights or gay rights is a doomed endeavor on two counts: 1) It promotes division by advocating for one group at the expense of others, inevitably creating resentment, and 2) It hacks at the branches of evil, rather than striking the root, to paraphrase Henry David Thoreau.
However, I have come to realize that round dismissal of furtive steps toward a better world is no way to proceed either.  Rather there is a way in which admirable but mistaken good intentions can be channeled in the right directions.  More importantly, a surfeit of of proposed solutions, even those which only marginally improve on established methodologies, while still retaining many of their drawbacks, are perhaps a mandatory first step in a paradigm shift.
If this is sounding a little abstract to you, well you’re in good company, cause I don’t know what the fuck I’m talking about either.
Let’s make things a little more concrete with a tangible example, shall we?

Money
A while back my friend Kelton and I were talking about the problems with our monetary system and how best to make the transition to a resource-based economy.  Acknowledging the difficulties with challenging people’s unwavering faith in the dollar, Kelton brought up the examples of alternative currencies which were being used in other parts o the world, specifically the WIR.  I remember at the time I was pretty dismissive of the WIR and other forms of alternative currency because by operating through the mechanism of scarcity, sooner or later they would all be plagued by the same problems our current monetary system faces (i.e. usury, money supply expansion/inflation through credit, hoarding, etc).  But as I thought about it more, I saw the merit of this first step in a new direction.  Perhaps by creating new currencies and backing them with something tangible like our future labour,** we could break the stranglehold of established national currencies and by doing so create openness to the possibility of a world without currency.
You see, I likened it to religion…

Religion
More specifically Christianity.  Religious freedom is taken for granted in most parts of the world.  True, in certain countries, communities and families it is taboo to question the accepted faith but as the descendant of two families from two of the most Catholic countries in the world (Italy and Portugal) I never felt afraid of being burned for heresy by becoming agnostic, then an atheist and then evolving from there into whatever I am now.  To what do I owe such freedom and latitude on the part of my family and community?  Well there’s no one answer, but I suspect Martin Luther and Henry VIII had a little something to do with it.  You see by openly addressing problems with the church establishment Luther emboldened others to be more vocal about their grievances.  On the other hand, by forming his own church, Henry VIII, for better or worse, broke the stranglehold monopoly of Catholicism in Europe.    I’m not gonna say these developments came with no costs or violent schisms, not am I foolish enough to believe they addressed the root causal mechanism which makes people indoctrinate others into ideologies in the first place.  But what I am saying is that if these first few furtive footsteps were not taken, I might not be able to write so cavalierly about my own lack of faith without you reporting me to an inquisitor.
Still I can’t help but think that if I were  contemporary of Martin Luther watching him nail his 95 theses to the door of the church I would be that guy discouraging him by yelling, “Hey Martin, you’re not digging deep enough! Have you ever asked why we have religion in the first place?!”  People were ready to bring grievances to the church but they weren’t quite ready to abandon it altogether.  Martin Luther knew this on some level and appealed to his audience.

Baby Steps!

So going forward I will endeavour to be a little more patient with ideas that seek to break established power structures even if they don’t address causal mechanisms.  Certainly I will try and reason with my well-intentioned comrades and try and help them see a broader picture, but its not for me to pooh-pooh good ideas that I deem too narrow in scope.  For even if they are only interim fixes, anything would be an improvement at this point.

Best,
-Andre Guantanamo

*Even rhetoric like “fighting” demonstrates an immaturity about how to deal with problems we face effectively.  We frame everything as an epic battle against good and evil rather than understanding the mechanisms which give rise to such problems and ameliorating them.

**It could be argued that are current dollar, being a fiat currency is already backed by our labour (or at least the public’s faith in it) since we are no longer on a gold standard.  In fact some go further and state that the U.S. went bankrupt in the early 1930s.  However, the problem with such arguments is that people who advocate a gold standard don’t realize that the value of gold is all arbitrary speculation rather than empirical and absolute.  Indeed, outside of its technological applications gold has necessity for our survival.

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Missing Mussolini

My Friends,
   Some of you may have noticed my prolific blogging as of late.  Such prolificity, if I may call it such, would not be possible without free and easy access to a computer, access which I simply would not have whilst hitch-hiking.  Well, somewhat shamefully I have to admit that for the last couple of days I have been derelict in my duty, insofar as my duty consists of sleeping outside, eating sparingly, walking miles every day and trying not to get robbed.

“When you say it like that, my life sounds pretty damn good!”

The problem is that I have been forced to wait here in Legnano, Italy at my cousin’s place while I wait for the Canadian Embassy in Rome to send me a new passport.  The mail service in Italy, much like the trains as I found out on my first day here, leaves much to be desired in regards to expediency and reliability, hence the reference to the late Mussolini.  The good news is that based on the tracking number I have from the embassy my passport arrived in Legnano … on fucking Wednesday!  I suppose that the Italian postal service is probably just on one of those extended coffee breaks which seem to be fashionable here.  If I’m lucky I will get it Monday, and if not, Wednesday this week because Tuesday is a holiday.
   Being stuck here hasn’t been a bad experience by any means though.  Three squares (minimum) and a warm bed every night is something I can messes with.  Yet I worry that I am losing my edge doing nothing but indulging in food, wine and comfort.  I feel like every minute I stay in Legnano I get weaker…
“…and every minute Charlie squats in the bush he gets stronger.”
I rationalize it and justify my excesses by saying “well soon enough I will be in austerity mode again and I will kick myself for not living it up when I could.  Nay! -when it was the only sensible course of action!”  But every day of chillin is gonna make it that much harder to face the music when I gotta tighten my belt and cozy up in a forest or building or something.  Or perhaps I have it reversed and this is much-needed recuperation time which will leave me feeling refreshed for another stint of the hobo-fabulous lifestyle.
H-O-B-O-L-O-U-S
Either way, I’ll find out soon enough.
Stay Thirsty,
-Andre Guantanamo

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