imagining a careless life

I studied abroad in Rome last fall. It’s impossible to utter that sentence without sounding positively bourgeois; at least I’m not alone.

It’s an experience I still haven’t fully made sense of; I liken it to a particularly cinematic dream where you’re on the brink of successfully robbing a bank or getting in bed with a supermodel or discovering a remote island where dinosaurs still roam the earth or living in a world where a can of baked beans has just been elected as president, only to wake up literally minutes before the gut-wrenching climax. There was still so much I wanted to see and so many languages I wanted to learn and so many old people walking arm-in-arm on the street I wanted to talk to but never will be able to again in that capacity, in that particular dream format. And as much as I like to stare starry-eyed out the window thinking of what could be if I successfully managed my time, I often fail to fully grasp just how much I actually did see.

If you’ll allow me to nostalgia-trip for a moment: I fondly recall returning from Pompeii, the little town where rabid ghost dogs run amok and there’s more ash than a Pokemon marathon. We were riding our bus back along the Amalfi coast on one side and mountains on the other, quite possibly the most beautiful highway scenery one can picture coming from a country of plain gloomy gridded gray asphalt and unnatural dynamite-stricken hills with falling rock.

At the time my mind was static. I sat alone at the window seat, seeing but not feeling. It was at this moment that a friend sneaked up behind me, catching me off guard, and advised me to give the sunset a good hard look. “I hope you’re cherishing this,” she warned.


Beirut frontman Zach Condon, when he ‘feels alive,’ tries to ‘imagine a careless life/a scenic world where the sunsets are all/breathtaking.’ It took me far too long to realize that I didn’t even need to imagine–the moment was right in front of me. When I feel alive, I imagine that Amalfi sunset and my friend’s gentle reminder. And I listen to this song.

Beirut – Scenic World


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April 2008
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