Report from Italy
This Babalu correspondent has been in Rome for the past week, which is why he has not been posting too frequently.
Rome has a way of claiming all of your attention.
So does Mount Vesuvius, some miles to the south, which this correspondent climbed yesterday. And here is the proof:
The good news is this: Vesuvius is still dormant and showing no signs of blowing its stack again, any time soon. And the ruins of Pompeii are in much better shape , or at least much cleaner and better preserved than those of Havana.
More good news: Che seems to be moribund. To be more precise: Che's image is no longer as popular as it used to be.
Once upon a time, not too long ago (as recently as 2009), you could not avoid running into the Butcher's image everywhere in Italy.
This correspondent has scoured the kitsch stalls, the shops and shop windows for evidence of Che's presence, but has been delighted to find that Che has virtually vanished from the marketplace.
Yes, of course, there are still a few places where Che's monstrous image is for sale. But in all cases, the demonic icon is surrounded by merchandise that expose the sheer nonsense of Che merchandise.
Yes, it's painful to see Che for sale, no matter how ridiculous the setting. But it is heartening to see that here in Italy, the Che icon is waning. At least for now.
Here is the sum total of the Che merchandise I have encountered.
This one is an "original" painting up for sale at a tourist-trap stall manned by African migrants. All of the other paintings surrounding this Che icon are images of Rome landmarks. This Che is a very lonely guy, set to the RIGHT of abstractions that are hard to decipher.
I couldn't find any Che t-shirts in Rome, but did find some in Assisi -- of all places. I couldn't find any t-shirts of St. Francis, but Che was there, polluting the sacred space. But he was polluting it alongside t-shirts for "sexiness", Italy, laziness, and all other sorts of corrupt Western capitalist consumer values.
At the same tourist-trap shop (where all sorts of religious kitsch was also featured), Che t-shirts were also on display in another incongruous spot, side-by-side with t-shirts for Porsche, the ultimate anti-Che merchandise. Che was disrespectfully crumpled, much like his corpse when it was photographed on the day of his death. Even more bizarre was the juxtaposition of the skewed lettering on the Porsche t-shirt and the Che image, since it made so obvious the fact that "Porsche" ends in "CHE". Something to make the devils in Hell smile, for sure.
Tonight, after scouring all of Rome -- even the non-tourist neighborhoods-- all I could find were a couple of refrigerator magnets. One kitsch stall near the Trevi fountain surrounded Che with random images, including one of Michelangelo's Pieta, and several of Pope Francis. The total effect was nonsensical, made all the more absurd by the Pieta and the Argentine pope.. A perfect sort of demotion from divinity for the smelly murderous bastard from Argentina....
And, finally, you have to give some sort of prize to the kitsch merchant who set up the absolutely perfect juxtaposition of the Che refrigerator magnet. Whether this pairing was intentional or not, or some sort of Freudian slip doesn't matter much. Such absoute perfection is hard to find, anywhere.