Red Cap in the streets of Verona
From Peschiera to Verona we travel through small villages and industrial suburbs, and I notice that virtually every available square meter is covered with vines. It is obvious that old Bacchus is a dear friend of these people, and has always been. It makes sense. People need to drink a lot of wine in order to be able to go to war and kill other people. Then they have to drink more wine so that they can forget about the killings. And then they forget and go to war again and then they have to drink some more. Round and round it goes, ad nauseum.
And there she is in front of us in all her splendour: Verona, seductively beckoning us to enter her. We enter through the old city gates into a beautiful plaza (Piazza Bra) with street café’s on the left, a luscious green park on the right, and there, looming right in front of us, a massive architectural artwork, the Arena. Built with gigantic blocks of stone in 30 AD by the Romans, to host brutal Gladiator shows, and of course religious festivals for the amusement of the city rulers and their subjects.
A beautiful engineering feat it is from the outside. From the inside a theatre of shame. But non the less an impressive construction with room for 25,000 bloodthirsty or pious spectators, depending on the occasion. It was mostly the same spectators, just the mood that changed to suit the show. And that is why the gods so love their followers, that they can change from obedient, humble subjects, to bloodthirsty barbarians in two seconds flat, much like the gods themselves.
Standing inside the Arena you feel the tension. You hear the spectators chant, encouraging the Gladiator to kill. You feel the fear of the victim as the Gladiator moves in for the kill. With every blow struck, and every spurt of blood from the victim, the roar from the crowd reverberates trough your very bones: Kill him, Ucciderlo, Occidamu seum!! And when the mutilated, bloody body of the last victim is dragged from the arena, leaving a trail of blood, the High Priest and his entourage enters the Arena from the other side, singing the praise of the gods (be it Apollo, Venus, Neptune, Sol or whatever gods were currently in favour), praying for their blessing and protection, and proclaiming their greatness and love. So it was then, so it is even today.
And then a very strange thing happened to me. I was up in the royal box with a red haired lady, looking down into the Gladiator ring. It must have been the royal wave of her hand, or maybe the sun reflected on a mirror or piece of glass from down below. The next thing I know I was transported into this strange dimension known to initiates as the mundus imaginalis. Suddenly I was standing next to someone that looked very much like the evil emperor Domitian. He was lying back on a sofa under the canopy, watching the Gladiator below beating his poor victim to a pulp. From the bulge under his tunic it was obvious that the bloody spectacle down in the arena acted as a sexual stimulant to him. In his one hand he had a goblet of wine while his other hand was under the skirt of a girl, a mere child, caressing her thigh.
I was so shocked to be so close to this evil man, that I asked him what the hell he thought he was doing. Did not Apollonius warn him against the sin of the hideous practice of Gladiator fights and of a licentious life? I asked. He vulgarly scoffed at me. What? Said he. Are you talking about that lying cheat Apollonius, the so called philosopher, sage, miracle worker, healer, resurrector of the dead from Tyana? Well yes, as a matter of fact he did. A fat lot of good it did him, the retard. I killed him for being a prig. To tell me, the Emperor, what I should and should not do! Could supposedly heal people and bring them back to life again after they died, but could do nothing to save his own life. Served him right, the cocky bastard.
You are a scandal to an already scandalous human race, I told him. With what you are doing to this child and with your vulgar gladiator fights you shame the entire world. And by the way, Apollonius did not die. Your murderers could not lay a hand on him. He disappeared right in front of their very eyes. He is alive, and you are going to die you bloated, egotistical pig, I shouted in his face. Someone is going to stick a knife into your fat arse and kill you!
He was angry, ferociously so. Who the hell are you? And she is not a child, she is a slut of a woman. In a couple of months she will be thirteen and then to be married to a friend of mine. And I don’t care who the fuck you are, I will kill you! he shouted back. Guards, guards!! He started to shout at the top of his voice. Take this … thing and throw him into the gladiator pit. Kill him, kill it. Kill, just kill the shit head, he shouted besides himself with fury.
The guards came rushing towards us and I knew I was in serious trouble, so I started to shout at the red headed woman to run away as fast as she could. The guards were confused. Whom do we have to kill sire? They asked. The red hat, red cap, red thing that was talking to me just now, you fool. Find it and kill it you idiots, he shouted.
A man with a red hat sire? asked the guards. At this the Emperor went berserk. A red hat you moron. I keep telling you it was a red cap talking to me.
You mean a red cap was talking to you sire? the guard asked incredulously.
Don’t you give me that funny look as if I am crazy you fool. Go find it and kill it or I will kill the lot of you! The Emperor shouted.
When I came too again I was back on the head of my moron who was casually walking towards the exit of the arena. I was so glad to see him, I almost forgot myself and kissed him, yeck! There was no gladiator killing someone in the Arena, nor any spectators roaring their support. I took a couple of deep breaths to regain my composure, and then I saw her, this beautiful little Italian, sitting behind her stall selling little souvenirs to tourists. I fell in love with the girl the moment I saw her. She is so beautiful. I whisper in my moron’s ear and he is immediately overwhelmed by the urge to take a photograph of the lady with me adorning her pretty little head. I am ecstatic beyond reason. I tenderly stroke her lovely brown hair and told her that I love her with all my heart. She gave a shy little smile and posed for the shot. I begged her to please, please, please keep me and promised my little Michela, my Miky that I will be good to her and be her slave for the rest of my life. She shyly answered some moronic questions from my moronic companion (What is your name? Are you a Roman girl? Do you live in Verona? Have you seen Gladiators fighting in the arena? Gods, the man can be so stupid!). And despite my pleading protestations, she gave me back to the moron who thanked her profusely with that sheepish grin on his face. I could strangle him!
And so we leave the Arena to explore the rest of Verona, the warm and sensual city. Like a seductress she invites you deeper and deeper into her dark, warm and most intimate alleys to see and feel her pulsating around you, vibrant and alive and bloody beautiful.