383 Taking Discomfort in dam-licking ibex + creepy denuded dolls, IRL to URL

... still in northern Italy, still raining, still taking a break from SSES + the Maphattan project ... reading Discomfort by Evelyn Hampton + verifying that dam-licking goats xist IRL ...


10.9.2014. Our better ½ still in retreat/meetings so we ventured out solo, walked in the rain to Angera ... nearest town south ... along a narrow shoulderless road which is not so fun since Italians are stronzi pazzi when they get behind the wheel of a car. Same complaint we had in Rome—cars rule, no place in their world for plebeian pedestrians or bicyclists. Walked to some castle perched on a cliff overlooking Angera, called Rocca Borromeo ... yet another bourgeois castle/palace for the Borromean familia (already saw 2: Isola Bella + their castle above Arona that Napoleon blew up).

Rocca Borromeo


town of Angera as seen from the tower


Housed inside Rocca Borromeo is this massive collective of creepy dolls, presumably collected over the centuries by the Borromeans. Especially freaky since we were like the only 1s in the museum ...

decapitated doll butt


more decapitation


porcelain figurines


abused geisha doll


torso dismemberments


Then walked back to Ranco to some bizarre transport museum, but it was closed. Happened upon it running the day before + walked right in + looked around, but now that we had our camera the crotchety old caretakers emerged + told us it was closed for good. So they have this yard full of all this cool junk (railroad cars, planes, etc.) that they've collected, but nobody can look at ... seems silly. Got a few pics from the road anyway ... Italians (at least used to) have a great design sense seeped in semiotics + gesture, largely due to the influence of Bruno Munari.

Ranco Transport Museum









If u look at TripAdvisor, the only 2 attractions listed in Ranco are the above now defunct transportation museum + Il Sole di Ranco, a Michelin-acclaimed restaurant. As luck would have it, our better-½'s colleagues were all going there + we were invited along. Worth the acclaim ... they brought a tasting menu of various local dishes paired w/ wines from the region ... all very tasty. J's retreat has a variety of scientists (nutrition, agriculture, climate change, etc.), philosophers, anthropologists—Nobel laureates even—so some interesting conversation.

they're nuts about chestnuts (castange) in these parts ...
u see them all over + they make pasta flour from it, for ravioli, etc.

Been reading Discomfort by Evelyn Hampton ... a collection we considered publishing a few years back, but we were just about to move to Rome. It since got picked up by Ellipsis Press, which is just as well. A fine specimen of a book.

The sense u get reading Evelyn Hampton's stories (she's also appeared in Sleepingfish) is that u are always treading that lingual interface between mind + reality—riding the knife-edge tween instinctual urge + subconscious thought—ever thawing, ever conscious of language ... its limitations yes, but also the power to penetrate further than the surface into slippery regions in between (or below) ... not always easy gliding (the ideas, that is—the language itself is economic + efficient), in fact resistance is a common theme (tho never explicitly stated) that seems to thread thru the stories, as if w/o resistance language would slide right thru u, but she sets meaty hooks, gritty barbs that snag like toothed tapeworms onto her slipstream of childlike wonder to make u bleed internally + productively. From "The Fox and the Wolf":

«The landscape, the one we could afford to inhabit, was mainly flat, with a few hills built by tractors for sledding, and ravines dug by diggers for taking away things that had no power of their own, and many, many lakes that concealed the small lives shifting beneath their surfaces. There were many such surfaces. I wanted to touch beneath them. There was something that I wanted that was there, but I didn't know how to just grab the thing I wanted. This not knowing how to just grab the thing I wanted, which seemed to be everywhere and nowhere, created a tension that appeared in me as bad moods, tantrums, irrational grievances, petty theft, addiction to candy, uncertainty, poor math skills, and occasional child-on-child violence in unteachered corridors and playgrounds.»

In "Nowhere Hill" there is a particular place in a particular park where at a certain time/day a person could stand + cast no shadow. Waiting nearby, she (the narrator) hides her watch in her pocket cuz she doesn't want other kids to know she has it ... ends up it's a Mickey Mouse watch. She becomes self-conscious + paranoid about an odor the watch emits, thinking the smell is coming from Mickey's gloves ... his big white (or yellow?) glow in the dark gloves. Even tho the p.o.v. is that of kid, u sense the kid senses the connections ... of the watch + shadows (as in sundial) + the smell + glow-in-the-darkness caused by radiation. But she doesn't say this, nor does she tell the story like this ... she senses but doesn't realize, as does the language ... the realizing is left for the reader.

In the last post, we quoted Schopenhauer as saying «boredom is nothing other than the sensation of the emptiness of existence.» Similarly, Hampton uses the sensation of discomfort as a nagging reminder of existence. W/o it we might blissfully pass thru life unaware. In "My Feet" she says (about her feet):

«They appear to be a healthy part of me, yet I cannot feel them. This affects the way I walk particularly, but also the way I see and speak, since when I see my feet I can't believe them, and when I try to tell someone about the discomfort that has replaced them—pains that resemble different edges; serrated, hooked, razored—I resort to describing the qualities of other objects, not my feet.»

Reminds us of that line from Jack London's "To Build a Fire":

«It struck him as curious that one should have to use his eyes in order to find out where his hands were.»

on the way to Cingino

10.10. Our better-½'s retreat ended so now when we say 'we' we mean we (j + i). We rented a car + even tho there's nothing but 100% forecast of «hard rain» for all the days we're here we ventured out anyway. We had our sights set on Cingino dam + weren't about to let a little rain stop us ... remember the Internet sensation of those mythological goats who climb to lick dam? Last time we were in this area we wanted to see them, but it would've taken us too much off our planned course. Now we were on a mission, to validate their existence, to verify that Internet corresponds w/ reality, URL w/ IRL...

There's a lot of info + pics out there about these goats (Alpine Ibex actually) that u can find googling "Cingino" ... but it's hard to find info about how to actually get there. Googlemaps doesn't even show the roads that get u closest to it. So if u want to know how to hike there, here's the beta:

1. Drive to Antrona Schieranco ... which even finding that is a chore (at least w/o googlemaps, detached as we were from Internet). There's a string of towns leading up to Antrona Schieranco that are really interesting, more Swiss looking than Italian ... old houses made of stones, even the roofs.

Antrona Schieranco


church in Antrona Schieranco

2. The road continues past Antrona Schieranco (despite some reports on Internet that say it is closed or prohibited access). At least we saw no signs of the sort (near mid-October).

3. Continue up the narrow road 1 lane road, watching out for cars coming down (we only encountered 1 that worked for the energy company).

the road up to Campliccioli

4. Eventually u'll get to Campliccioli dam + if u are like us u will get all xcited + look for goats on the side cuz it looks just like Cingino dam ... but for whatever reason the ibex don't like this dam ... maybe it doesn't have the same mineral deposits as Cingino.

5. U can park below the dam or keep going up the road + drive across the dam + keep going thru some tunnel til it dead ends at the hydroelectric company office. Park the car + keep following the sidewalk around the complex until it turns into a trail + follow along the lake.

refugio w/ traditional stone roof on lake Campliccioli

6. eventually it turns into a well-marked trail ... just follow signs for Cingino. A km or 2 from the Swiss border.

snow along the trail leftover from the spring (even tho it's October)

The signs say 3.5 hours, which normally we find the Italians way overestimate the times, but in this case it was about right. Took us about 3 hours ... but it was a bit unnerving cuz we weren't sure how long it would take + we only had about 6-7 hours of daylight (didn't stark hiking til around 11 a.m.) + we weren't that prepared + there was only 1 or 2 stray cars parked along the road but otherwise no 1 around. We saw 1 mountainman looking guy coming down that smelled like a goat, but otherwise we had the place all to ourselves.

wet donkeys we befriended on the trail

Again, this was almost mid-October—maybe it's different in the summer as there are all these refugios + shuttered-up cabins so seems there is more activity during high season. The weather was also lousy ... it wasn't really raining, but sort of drizzly + really cloudy + foggy. Occasionally the clouds would clear for a few seconds, but otherwise we could only imagine what it looked like ... seemed beautiful from what we could see.

the trail


river between Cingino + Campliccioli


According to 1 site it's a 17 km hike starting at 4435 feet up to 7380 feet. Things started getting sort of dicey when we got above tree line + it was so foggy it made u sort of dizzy cuz u couldn't tell up from down. The trail was littered w/ goat shit, some seemingly fresh + we could smell them, but couldn't see them ...

ibex skull




break in the fog

Just when we said we'd go for 10 more minutes + then turn back to give us enough time to make it back before dark, we saw the dam. Didn't see any goats on the side (maybe cuz it was slick w/ rain?) but did see 2-3 of them on the top taking shelter under the road going across.

1st glimpse of Cingino dam (thru drops of water on lens)


goatless Cingino dam w/1 ibex (lower left) taking the easy way up

Stocky little fuckers ... don't think they're missing any meals. Surprising they are able to cling to the dams like they (supposedly) can (maybe the stockiness gives them a low center of gravity).

Alpine Ibex in full glory

... so while we didn't verify this phenomena exists, we verified Cingino dam exists + the ibex hang out there + we did seem them licking the cement pylons on top ... it's just the climbing part we can't validate.

3 ibex licking salt on top


Cingino lake (what the damn dam is damming)

So now we've seen (w/ our own eyes) the goats that climb dam to lick salts + also the goats in Morocco that climb trees to get Argan nuts. We've also seen another alpine goat before, the rupicabra, in the Dolomiti, which we were told was fairly rare.

coming down off the mountain

Got back to the car just as it was starting to get dark. Drove back along the lake, via Verbania + stopped in Stresa for dinner (can't remember the name of the place but it was pretty good). Saw + ate + read some other things, but we'll get to those in the next post ...

 > 384 >L'unica cosa «real» is a spooky W.I.P. entangled D.O.A. to heights-driven hypocrisy (or how the hippies ruined fysiks)


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