An art to nothingness…

Angel at Protestant Cemetery, photography by Diedré M. Blake (2011).

Haunting the grounds of the non-Catholic Cemetery in Testaccio is one of my favourite pastimes.  No, it isn’t a morbid preoccupation with death.  Rather the grounds remind me more of a garden filled with statues than a place within which the dead find their rest.

There is a strange comfort there, a silence amidst the chaos and cacophony created by the permanent flow of traffic on Via Marmorata.  Amongst the blooming flowers and ripened fruit, the lush grass and aged stones, the stalking black cats and the cawing of countless birds; one can find peace. One can find joy in being and not being.

A home to artists of all modalities and various nationalities, the Cemetery captures in death the beauty of what a life can be, or rather how in death a life can be celebrated and remembered.

You may wonder why I have chosen to write about this today.  Perhaps it is because I hold this place dear and find it offers me solace during this winter that, in many ways, has been so very isolating. Perhaps it is because I wish that more people knew about the Cemetery and would visit it in order to experience its beauty.  Truly, I have no definitive reason.

"True Mirror Image," photography by Dolores Juhas (2010). Copyright (c) Dolores Juhas. All Rights Reserved.

Today a conversation with a young friend on the subject of needing and seeking attention gave me pause for thought.  It made me wonder why we sometimes desire so strongly to be acknowledged as separate from, unique, and at the same time yearn for admiration from others… so much so that we sometimes end up creating walls between ourselves and others in an effort to validate and justify our existence.  At the end of it all, is it really so meaningful to perceive of differences between ourselves and others?  To perceive of ourselves as better or worse than?  To harbour desires  for continuous acknowledgement?…

There is an art to nothingness, to letting go of self-definition, to letting go of existential crises, to opening oneself up to a connection with others that may mean a perceived loss of self, even if temporarily.  It is the moment when our combined silence is more profound than the air that usually escapes our lips in order to give shape to words that ought to give meaning but rarely do.  It is the moment when we find ourselves without need for labelling others, including ourselves, and see that the barriers we thought stood between us only existed within our minds.

The struggle to defend the “I” of who we are as individuals ends as we come to realize that we are all equally “You.”  We are created alone and uncreated alone.  What lies in the midst of this process need not be solitude bred from defense of self against others, bred from  the desire to achieve somethingness.  For what are we all to become in the end?

Until next time…



self-portrait, photography by Dolores Juhas

Photographs are by Croatian photographer, Dolores Juhas, whose work has been featured in such magazines as Italian Vogue.  You can visit her website at or email her:  She has her own blog at

Let’s paint the town… ;) Nightlife – Roman style!

Crossing Ponte Sisto to Trastevere, 2.20.11

So, I have not posted anything in the last couple of days… and there is a very good reason for this – I have been learning a great deal about Roman nightlife!  And given that I have been complaining about my feeling very old… understandably, I have been sleeping in-between and after the nightlife experiences (and you know by now how much this is necessary)!  Thus, this posting for Friday, truly covers Saturday and Sunday as well. 

Thanks to Isobel, both Friday and Saturday nights found me out and about amongst the young and not-so-young, plus the most ethnically diverse crowds of Rome (particularly on Saturday night).

Trastevere, 2.15.11

Trastevere.  Everyday I take a walk through the area known as Trastevere.  It is a grungy, grimy place, filled with streets covered in dog feces accompanied by the random not-so-homeless dogs, garbage, homeless, plus the ever-present tourists.  I love taking pictures of the dying and living plants and flowers there. 

In a way, Trastevere captures well what Rome is like to me, i.e. once you remove the rose-coloured glasses… Then, the impressiveness of the ancient buildings, the lure of the many tourist traps, and the awe you once felt simply fall away, and Rome becomes real.  Initially, it may be difficult to find the beauty in the reality of what Rome is, especially once the glamour is gone.  I promise you, however, that it is in its authenticity that Rome is at its most poignant and magnificent.


I am fortunate to have a guide and friend such as Isobel, who has lived in Rome for the last 8 years.  She has been able to show me the places, where Romans go to enjoy themselves amidst but apart from the many tourist-geared and tourist-filled establishments.  Friday night was no exception.  We found ourselves at Bir and Fud for dinner, a trendy and popular (with both locals and visitors) establishment due to its Neopolitan-style pizzas and… you guessed it, beer!  I think Isobel described the beers there as quite rare and very good, and she is not alone in her opinion.  Now, I will say this… If you are not interested in drinking beer (ahem, like I was), you are quite out of luck at Bir and Fud!  It’s either beer or water, buddy!  And I’ll tell you this too, whole families were there, and I am not quite sure how their children were managing, but… I, for one, stuck with the natural water (and it was quite tasty too)!

We followed dinner with a pleasant stroll through the well-cobbled streets of Trastevere.  (Ladies, here is where I will advise you to please… rest your feet for several hours before you go out in heels late at night in Rome – The gaps in-between the cobblestones are vicious, and will take out an ankle or two!)  Along our walk we happened upon a bookstore… Now, I will tell you that this is the most unique bookstore in which I have ever been.  Why?  Well, because this bookstore was selling chocolate shots.  That’s right!  Little shotglass-shaped chocolates, in which could and would be poured whatever alcohol your partying heart desired!  Of course, it wouldn’t surprise you that by the end of the night (my night, that is) the line for this bookstore was out the door! (And no, I will not tell you the name of the bookstore!  You can look it up yourself. ;))

Excellent car, Trastevere, 2.15.11 (Nice enough to lean on too!)

I wish that there was more that I could say about the nightlife experience of Trastevere.  There really isn’t, however.  There are many bars, including the famous Bar San Callisto, where young (and of course, not-so-young) people hang outside, drink very cheap beer and other beverages, and lean against other people’s rather small vintage cars.  Outside of this, well… No, that’s it.  There isn’t any “outside of this.”  People walk the streets and hang outside of bars, drinking and smoking.  The crowd is somewhat alternative (whatever that means these days) with a mix of folks reliving the 80’s and 90’s, plus the typical middle-aged Italian men thinking that they are still in their 20s.  All in all, it makes for fun people-watching, if you enjoy this sport as much as I do.  After all, there is nothing quite as a fun as seeing a teenage 80s version of Axl Rose look-alike (hair, hip movement and all) hanging outside of a bar wearing multicoloured spandex tights and a bandana on a cold night.  So, “Welcome to the Jungle” and while you are here on a Friday night… you might as well make it Trastevere.


Testaccio.  After recovering from a night in Trastevere, Isobel recommended that we spend some time in her neighbourhood, the #1 Club District also known as Testaccio.  I have to say that I love this neighbourhood… and I have only been here a couple of times.  Each time, however, the vibe here has been one of tranquility and diversity.  The people of Testaccio are all basically moving along with their day, but seem to care enough to stop to ask about each other’s lives.  Even on a weekend night, Testaccio did not lose its tranquil vibe!  Rather, the police actually come into the neighbourhood and shut down the main street, only allowing residents and taxis to travel in – This, I believe, has helped the neighbourhood maintain its relative calm, and as a woman, I felt safe walking there at night.

We began Saturday night at the Caffe Emporio, a restaurant/bar with an ultra modern, chic and urban design.  This was obviously the place to see and to be seen… And boy, did I see!  There was a wide age range, as is typical with many of the Roman establishments in which I have had the opportunity to spend time, and the music played catered well to this.  There was everything, from the early 80s to contemporary electronica.  And of course… not to be outdone by the Trastevere bookstore I suppose, they offered free samples of rum and chocolate (Isobel explained to me that it was some kind of a promotion… so, you had better hurry if you like rum and chocolate – Not that I am endorsing this behaviour.  I dislike both rum and dark chocolate – Yes, I know I am from the Caribbean… Sheesh!)

The only thing missing at Caffe Emporio was a dance floor (Isobel did tell me that they did have a smoking room… and I can see how that might be necessary in Rome).  We found ourselves a dance floor later on in the night (and I mean much later…  Yes, I am old, or feel old… or something – Checking the clock, it was only 11:30pm). 

Now the thing about Testaccio is this: there are many clubs!  And they are all lined up next to each other (I will add: next to the ancient garbage dump – See above article about the neighbourhood.)  There are free clubs and pay clubs.  From what I could tell, nothing was happening and no one happen to be in the free clubs.  So, Isobel and I made our way to a pay club.  Please, don’t ask me the name, because I cannot remember.  All I know is that I could hear Latin music from outside, and that was good enough for me as it suggested that there might be a hint of diversity/integration in Rome!  And surprise, surprise….

If you had asked me earlier in the day if interracial couples exist in Rome, I would have answered, “Not that I’ve seen.”  At this club on this Saturday night, however, it seemed that whatever racial/ethnic barriers that typically exit during the day in Roman society were momentarily lifted and people were free to mingle amongst each other and to express interest in each other.  The shades of brown were many.  Immediately recognizable for me were the Bangladeshi and Africans, but I am sure that there were a host of other people, who like myself, were from other countries.  And of course, our Italian hosts were out in full force. 

Isobel and I spent the night dancing (I, mostly by myself – I am simply a dancing queen… Seriously, you can’t touch this!) to bachata, merengue, and salsa.  It was brilliant, fun, exciting, and a good 10 Euro spent, in order to dispel some of my notions about the issue of racial segregation here in Rome.  So, go to Testaccio, especially, if you are young and have lots of energy… I am still recovering, and so I am going back to bed!  After all, painting the town… is quite a lot of work. 😉