S.P.Q.R. V. series giornalE: rubBEing Rome & proCESSing Pynchon

[original ARTwork [collagic rubBEings by Derek White] in this «S.P.Q.R. V. SERIES» are for sale [unless there's a red X ] for $150/EA [includes INTL shipping from Rome] | all images are on 8.5 x 11" scratch paper—composed of graphite, old letters/stamps/maps from the Porta Portese flea market, [Ital.] red wine, [Ital.] coffee & MISC ephemera, grit, fingerprints & physical imPRESSions of Rome | accompanying text & photos elaborate on the [stochastic/associative] process & inspiration of reading V. & BEING in S.P.Q.R. [click on images to see TEXTual detail in higher resolution ]

REMus MEMEnto by Derek White

V.0. REMus MEMEnto

GIORno 0: [29.11.09] EWR to FCO [redeYe] | in flight i read the first 200+ pages of V. by Thomas Pynchon wherein we meet the charACTers in «The Whole Sick Crew» of «schlemihls» 1 x 1 in disparate short stories that w/time become connected as the CHARacters band TOgetHER | 1st we follow Profane in his surreal & at times hilarious antics—yo-yoing up & down the East Coast & most specifically Manhattan in the '50s | amazing the book was published in '61 | proof [or a culmination of the fact] that essentially our «post-modern» culture & language as we know it was fully evolved by then—or by V.'s publication [Pynchon's first novel] | eVen in the intricacies of the sLang—what we thINK of as «contemporary» had already been laid down by Pynchon before the '60s rolled around | there's plenty of drinking & brawling & vice & seat-of-the-pants escapades to keep you engaged—all delivered in the rhythm of the jazz of the time | when he is not yo-yoing [riding the subway back & forth just for the sake of it] Profane is crashing in a flat on Riverside [where my longer [yo-yoing] runs back home take me] & hunting alligators in the NYC subways | we also get the likes of the gory details of Esther's nosejob | the travels of «The Whole Sick Crew» take them all over the globe—even Antarctica | i got about as far as the chilling spider-monkeys at the Pole seen through 4 feet of clear ice as recounted by Godolphin to the Gaucho & various Italians—in Rome of all places—amidst the chaos of gunfire says the Gaucho [page 226]:

«"But don't they look like apes, now, fighting over a female? Even if the female is named Liberty?" He drew a long pistol, checked the action. "There are nights," he mused, "nights, alone, when I think we are apes in a circus, mocking the ways of men. Perhaps it is all a mockery, and the only condition we can ever bring to men  a mockery of liberty, of dignity. But that cannot be. Or else I have lived ..."»

Dove? PENnetrate by Derek White

V.1. Dove? PENnetrate [all over the map]

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Vatican Map

ARKing chART [from Vatican museum]



Aurelian Map Meme

Aurelian meme map [from alley wall]


GIORno 1: arrived in Rome early a.m. | met Leadbelly at FCO airport [coming in from Kenya] & took a taxi to Trastevere | our rooms weren't ready so we walked around across the river to the Jewish Ghetto, Vittorio Emanuele, the Pantheon, Piazza Navonna, etc... the typical «touristic sights» | i didn't take any photos at least of typical touristic things as i «took» enough our last time | i wasn't even going to bring a camera at all to see what that experience was like but chickened out & instead i talked J into not bringing hers & i just brought my [pocket] one for the both of us & tried to refrain—tried to move beyond just capturing to [re]crEATING | had pasta carbonara in Campo d'Fiori at La Carbonara [*** [out of 5]]—somewhat satisfied my craving but not nearly the best carbonara i've had [the best being at the place Leonardo took us to last time] | Raf [another colleague of J's [flying in from Ghana] met us at the hotel [Trilussa]] | we were going to go to da Augusto [where J & i went last year] for dinner but evidently it had caught on & there was a long queue waiting to go in before it was even open [restaurants don't open here till 8 PM] | instead we went to some random pizzeria [of which there are many] in Trastevere & i had gnocchi gorgonzola [***] |

Jewish Ghetto Lion

Jewish ghetto lion teaches the jackal how to kill



V.3. Gearshift Pedestal by Derek White

V.2. Gearshift Pedestal Post

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GIORno 2: J, Leadbelly & Raf went to WFP for some meetings so i flâneured solo up Janiculum hill following the aqueduct | instead of a camera my tool of choice was a piece of graphite & scrap paper | in the spirit of David-Baptiste Chirot i made some «rubBEings» [a.k.a. frottage] along the way [wherein paper is placed over TEXTures & rubbed with graphite] | the exciting thing about rubBEing is you ACTually have physical contACT with the objects/SURfaces encountered—public monuments, statues, plaques, inscriptions in churches, sewer grates, metro maps [in braille], tombstone engravings, etc. | you are still just «scratching the surface» of the real thing—not truly capturing, touching—but in the proCESS—in the act—you REALize the gHOSTs of the objects—you bring them to light | there's a CERTain sense of exhilaration making rubBEings—like graffiti or other public art [at least what your posture to an outsider might indicate] but with rubBEings you aren't vandalizing or harming anything or leaving any trace of yourself behind [though the people observing might not be able to tell otherwise] & it's even more exciting in a foreign country where you don't speak the language so if people asked what the hell you were doing you couldn't explain yourself except to say it's in the name of «ARTE» | in the process i became obSESSed with statues of dead people | [there may be more collages in this STATUEsque VEIN to come]:

Porzi Antonietti Colomba [on Janiculum]


Bartolucci tribit by Derek White

V.3. Bartolucci tribit

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i flânerubBEd my way past the Garibaldi monument [fantastic views of Rome] down towards the Vatican just as it started to rain so i ducked in & went up into the cupola [a first for me] to kill time | it started to rain again so i went to the Vatican museum—spent some time looking at all the art— gathering inspiration/momentum | i'd been before to the Vatican museum like most people breezing through to see the Sistine Chapel [literally heard some dumb Americans asking the guard in hick English: «where's the roof with those fingers that are almost touching?» like they just wanted to get it over with] but this time i took my time exploring the side galleries | really mind-blowing all the stuff they have—Dalis, Picassos, Klees, etc. as well as a bunch of ARTifacts looted from the Egyptians & elsewhere |

St Peters Cupola

up in St Peter's Cupola


it stopped raining & i meANDered home along the Tiber | for dinner we went to Osteria Gensola [****] in Trastevere | the mozzarella cheese alone was heavenly | then J & i met some of her other colleagues from WFP at Hotel 47 & i tried Fernet Branca [this bitter cough-syrup tasting concoction] for the first time—zzz |




GIORno 3: it was raining again in morning but i didn't let it stop me from going running then i went & met Francisco Verso at this bookstore [Libreria Nero Su Bianco] where he sort of works | Francisco is an Italian science fiction writer i met last time we were here at a talk i gave at Oblique studios | he has a new book «E-DOLL» that is popular in Italy but hasn't been translated yet in English [here's the trailer to give you the idea] | we had pizza then espresso & talked about books | then i walked around the Jewish ghetto & central Rome looking for things to rub | stopped by the river at sundown where the STARling's put on their mesmerizing display which is really something [here's more coll/frottage inspired by the STARlings] | when i went to sleep at night i'd still see their alluring patterns zig-zagging through my synapses—pinging my PINEal |

Eco Starlings by Derek White

V.4. Eco STARlings

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starlings over Rome rooftops

STARlings over Rome roofs


for dinner we went Boccondivino [****], a place Gian [the NY Tyrant] recommended in Roma Centro towards Ponte district | i had spaghetti vongole & cherry tomatoes & lemon washed down with wine & amore de copa | good grub |

graffiti ghosts

graffiti ghosts on phone booth

GIORno 4: dayzzz were starting to run on end—another solo flâneuRUBbeing day for memes | this time my path took me across ponte sublico to the non-catholic cemetery | call me a «grave rUbber» | lots of things to rub & lots of ghostly cats playing host to the deceased | there was a guard but he was busy making out with some girl so i was able to make some rubBEings—including the immortal words of Keats «writ in water» [not shown here but i may post more from this «GRAVE RUBBER» series at a later date [all in all i made 68 raw rubBEings in Rome only 12 [completed ones] of which are shown here ] |

dolor Mort by Derek White

V.5. dolor Mort IXCT

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street memes jewish ghetto

street memes in Jewish Ghetto


then i hopped the subway to Circo Maximo | got off & rubBEd my way past the gargantuan Santi Giovanni e Paolo to San Giovanni in Laterano then to San Clemente but it was closed til 3 PM so i flâneured around the coliseum & tried to see what the domus aurea was all about but it was closed for renovations | explored the park around it that was full of all sorts of homeless characters then back to San Clemente [my first time there] which was really cool—encapsulates all the hiSTORY of Rome under one roof—three places of worSHIP from different times—the ground floor is a medieval basilica—below that one level underground is an earlier church from 392 A.D. & below & before that even [from 64 A.D.] is a dank Mithraic temple & several rooms of an ancient underground Roman house—so far down underground that there are places you can see/feel the underground springs | [managed to snag a pagan rubBEing but that will likely be a keeper] |  then wandered past more sights to the river sat & watched the STARlings again for an hour at dusk | for dinner i opted out of joining the others for some work dinner party & went by myself to a place across from da Agosto [Casetta de Trastevere] & had pasta ceci [my new favorite italian dish of zesty garbanzos] & a pizza |

Bird Com 66 by Derek White

V.6. Bird COM 66

i read another 100 or so pages of V. during our stay in Rome—mostly in the middle of the night when i couldn't sleep on account of jet jag & STARling residuals stimulating my PINEal eYe—sitting in the bathroom [with the fancy jacuzzi shower] so as not to wake J | i read Mondaugen's story [like a bridge if V. is a song] taking me to the depths of southwest Africa on the edge of the Kalahari—28° S to be precise—during the war wherein Mondaugen was applying his «sferics» [atmospheric radio disturbances] | makes you wonder what kind of real-world experience Pynchon had to spin such a tale & have the wits about him to weave it all together into such a sustained [500+ page] epic that still managed to do even more with it's language | sets your head spinning with his knowledge of the world especially in the context of the time it was written | while Mondaugen's story is not pivotal in the overarching thread of V. it is the dark sojourn into the bowels of a war-torn hell—the writing at times reminiscent of Blood Meridian [but written 20 years before] for example [pg. 284]:

«It was a glorious day, December and hot, a bird somewhere gone mad with the season. Firelily, under him, seemed sexually aroused, she curveted and frolicked so about the line of march, covering five miles to the prisoner's one. From the side it always looked medieval, the way the chain hung down in bights between their neck-rings, the way the weight pulled them constantly toward earth, the force only just overcome as long as they managed to keep their legs moving. [...] Their own African progress was hardly so elegant: they could only boast a homogenous string of suffering Negroes and a drunken sergeant in a wideawake hat who carried a Mauser. Yet that association, which most of them shared, was enough to give the unpopular chore an atmosphere of ceremony. [...] His overseer brought Firelily close in and looked: so they were. Hardly would the blood soaked into the sand than the prisoner behind would kick it invisible. Not long after that the same prisoner complained that the sand was making its working its way into the cuts on his feet and the pain was making it difficult for him to walk. No doubt this was also true.»

doll heads

52 Dollheads [Ponte District]



project castle by Derek White

V.7. Project Castle

GIORno 5: more flâneurubBEing this time straight through Roma Centro to Ara Pacis [went there last year & saw a great Bruno Munari exhibit] | this time there was a great exhibit on Italian design patents straight from the patent office [posted with official stamps & everything to validate]—again gathering further momentum & drawing inspiration for my own collages...]

DIREZ GNA by Derek White



Ara Pacis

Ara Pacis Architecture



Ara Pacis Lineage



then onward to Piazza de Popolo & up into Villa Borghese then back down the Spanish steps & this time i actually went into the Keats-Shelly house | not sure it was worth it—i was hoping there'd be more Mary Shelley memorabilia as she is my hero | still—interesting to be in THE room right over the Spanish steps where Keats died | i wandered back [lot & lots of walking] to the hotel to meet J, Leadbelly & Raf & we went to trattoria La Campana [oldest restaurant in Rome] which J & i went to back in 2001 but i think either our tastes have become more scrutinizing or it's just gone downhill [**] | i had artichokes a la Romana & eggplant washed down with wine & Mirto de Sardingha [great stuff—like fernet branca but not as medicinal] | stumbled back in the night to the 8 tram back to Trastevere |

Tiber riverwall

graffiti along Tiber


GIORno 6: J, Raf & Leadbelly got out of work obligations & we all went out exploring together after they met in the morning & i went running | we flâneured through Trastevere across Isola Tiberina | it started to rain so we ducked into some restaurant in the Jewish quarter [Giggetto al Portico d’Ottavia [****]] & had a premature lunch & drank red wine | i had «artichokes the Jewish way» & a friend zucchini blossom [stuffed with mozz & sardines] | quite tasty | then we got caught up in a some sort of agriculture rally/protest with all these farmer-types drinking wine & waving banners & giving impassioned speeches | we stuck our hands in the Boca de Veritas then went past circo maximo to palantino, colosseo, etc. & went to San Clemente which i already went into but wanted to show them | we wandered more but then it started to rain & they had flights back to Africa to catch so we took the tram back to the hotel & parted ways | J & i had dinner with another colleague of hers who took us to this great place [Scarponi [*****]] up on the top of Janiculum hill | the best meal we had this trip | we gorged on antipasti, vongole & fiorentino steaks [salt marsh-fed beef so good evidently Robert Deniro has it flown back weekly to NYC] |

Grazie Madre

plaques in memery



RamMar AmoLips by Derek White

V.9. RamMar AmoLips

GIORno 7: J & i went to breakfast at another on of her colleagues who is from Lebanon & has this awesome apartment overlooking the Tiber & all this amazing original art from North Africa & Italy—drawing more inspiration [cool textual art by the likes of Alighiero Boetti & Rachid Koraïchi that was right up my alley] | then we crossed the river & saw the Roman baths [Terme di Caracalla] [first time for both]—amazing that the structures are still in intact—great mosaics though most of the good stuff has been pillaged |

Roman Baths Mosaic

bath mosaics

then back toward FAO—hopped a crowded subway to Termini & got swept up in some sort of Communist/Anti-Berlusconi rally in Plaza republica | retreated in the other direction & had a not-so memorable lunch then went to the Capuchin Crypt [next to Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini] where they dug up the corpses of sum 4,000 friars & made all this crazy artwork of their brotherly bones—all organized into piles of skulls, rows of Femurs, columns of vertebrae, child skeleton in grim reaper poses, hip-bone chandeliers, floral-bone arrangements & other intricate designs an ever-present & absurd reminder of «memento mori» | it was all quite extraordinary [they wouldn't let you take photos so i stole this postcard scan off the internet to give you the idea...]

Capuchin Crypt

Capuchin Crypt

then we gravitated to the Spanish steps [saturday evening & hopping] down towards the ponte district looking at all the cool shops—saw the starlings on the river pooping all over everything | across the river to the big castle sant'Angelo & youths ice-skating & back home through Trastevere | had a campari waiting for restaurants to open & wandered around trying to find a good one but they were all packed & crazy on saturday night so we ended up at some random place on some random side street i don't remember where & i had monkfish risotto that was good but greasy & more mozz & ARTichokes |

OM Semafor Spirito

V.10. OM Semafor Spirito
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GIORno 8: hung around in the a.m. then went to the Porta Portese flea market across the street from our hotel—the coolest flea market ever—all sorts of antiques & interesting junk [another's treasure] & stamps & old books & misc. ephemera [a lot of which found it's way into the art herein] | we walked across the bridge past the pyramide & hopped the subway down to EUR which is this surreal Kafkaesque neighborhood built during Mussolini's reign—wide barren boulevards & huge utilitarian Bauhausque buildings | the reason we were there—as luck would have it—was there was a small press book fair [Più libri più liberi] | it was huge—lots of small presses & beautifully designed books—even if i couldn't understand anything | we found the Nutrimenti booth with Miranda's book & asked around until we found Leonardo Luccone [who translated Miranda's book]—a great book designer/translator working for Nutrimenti & 66thand2nd who also had a booth there | ISBN Edizioni also had some good looking stuff—found a translation of Ohle's Age of Sinatra but didn't see Evenson's Open Curtain [though i heard they translated it] | ISBN also publishes The Believer in Italian | all in all impressed with the interest in books in Italy & the love given to small presses & to think that supposedly the bookfair in Turin is three times the size of this one... |

EUR grope

EUR[gr]ope [note arm coming from ground]

then we took the subway all the way back to Termini switched & took the other line all the way to it's end, trying to find the Cavelieri Hilton [where Gian recommended we get a Pimms & act like royalty lording over the city] but i think to get there you had to switch to the train & even then i'm not sure you can get there on public transport or walking | ended up back down in Vatican city—saw St. Peter's again then walked along Jaculum hill home at sunset with great views of Rome & all the starlings swooping like a plague cloud |

EUR sky [billboard]




Spartan Painter

spartan painter [self-portrait]

GIORno 9: went for a long run along the Tiber «starting at the far south end of Trastevere winding all the way through Rome under 15 bridges until it started getting rural/industrial with houses/squatters right on the bank & their dogs chasing me so i turned back probably 10-12 miles on cobblestone» then went to Campo d'Fiori to check out the produce & ate at some mom & pop place that i don't remember the name of except it's a pizzeria a half-block off the north-west corner—had a great artichoke pizza & jess had eggplant parm | came back to the room & vegged out & now i'm putting finishing touches on the rubBEings |

graffiti on Tiber

graffiti along Tiber




Circus Scrotch by Derek White

V.11. Circus Scrotch

later we went into town near the pantheon searching for a restaurant—ended up in some cavernous joint whose name i can't remember either—had penne arrabiata & J had fettuccini with porcini's & we split these meatballs [more like patties] cooked in some sort of lemony sauce that sounds gross but it was in fact really tasty |

j on metro

J on metro

GIORno 10: we had an early flight home—went back to reading V. by Thomas Pynchon—finished the last 200 or so pages | the heaviness of Mondaugen's story i left off at counter-balanced by other characters like Slab whose only ambition was to paint cheese danishes in every conceivable style, lighting & setting & the scene where Pig climbs the radio antennae to become temporarily sterile is priceless | every so often Pynchon digresses into [intentionally] campy poetry [through his character he says poetry is «communication with the guts, genitals and five portals of sense. Nothing more.»] [pg. 315]: [...] «And that horseshoe there in the middle / Could be lucky; we've nothing to lose, / If in these parentheses / We just mind our little P's / And Q's / / If P [Mafia sang in reply] thinks of me / As a girl hard to make, / then Q wishes you / would go jump in the lake. /  for R is a meaningless concept, / Having nothing to do with pleasure: / I prefer the hard and tangible things I can measure [...]»

[the only thing missing to achieve lucky serendipity is S] | by page 330 the rules of «yo-yoing» are laid down:

«Though probably not inspired by Profane's peregrinations along the East Coast, the Crew did undertake something similar on a city-scale. Rule: you had to be genuinely drunk [...] Rule: you had to wake up at least once on each transit. Otherwise there'd only be a time gap, and that you could have spent on a bench in the subway station. Rule: it had to be a subway line running up- and downtown, because this is the way a yo-yo goes. In the early days of yo-yoing certain false "champions" had admitted shamefaced to racking up scores on the Forty-second street shuttle, which was looked on now as something of a scandal in yo-yo circles. / Slab was king [...] he'd spent a weekend on the West Side express, making sixty-nine complete cycles. At the end of it, starved, he stumbled out near Fulton Street on the way uptown again and ate a dozen cheese Danishes, got sick and was taken in for vagrancy and puking in the street. / Stencil thought it all nonsense. / "Get in there at rush hour," said Slab. "There are nine million yo-yos in this town." / Stencil took this advice one evening after five, came out with one rib to his umbrella broken and a vow never to do it again. Vertical corpses, eyes with no life, crowded loins, buttocks and hip-points together. Little sound except for the racketing of the subway, echoes in the tunnels. Violence (seeking exit): some of them carried out two stops before their time and unable to go upstream, get back in. All wordless. Was it the Dance of Death brought up to date?»

some things never change | Pynchon [through Stencil] captures it perfectly, timelessly | did i mention Stencil yet? he's the protagonist—if there is one—in his quest for «V.» | with the help of Profane & others of The Whole Sick Crew | it's a rather arbitrary quest—but the more meaningful because of it | [page 384]: «Stencil would have liked to go on believing that death and V. had been separate for his father. [...] he didn't know which he was most afraid of, V. or sleep. Or whether they were two versions of the same thing.» | V. is the initial assigned to a woman Stencil's father knew in the war or some such thing | Stencil gets it into his head to find this V. | by page 452: «If we've not already guessed, "the woman" is, again, the lady V. of Stencil's mad time-search. No one knew her name in Paris.» | this quest takes them inevitably to Malta & it's capital Valletta—on the eve of it's independence | so while Malta would be the best place to read V.—between NYC & Rome is not bad either | i read the last lines of V. flying over the Atlantic—only hours after flying over the Mediterranean & Alps:

«Long enough to lift the xebec fifty feet, whirling and creaking, Astarte's throat naked to the cloudless weather, and slam it down again into a piece of the Mediterranean whose subsequent surface phenomena—whitecaps, kelp islands, any of a million flatnesses which should catch thereafter part of the brute sun's spectrum—showed nothing all of what came to lie beneath, that quiet June day.

V. »

Score by Derek White

V.12. V Score

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over alps

flying home over the Alps [i think that's the Matterhorn in the distance—the inverted V.]




[more coll/frottage in the P.S. Sequel inspired by S.P.Q.R]



(c) 2009 Derek White