Thinking of Mules and Looking Like Uma

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Juvarra’s ceiling and Maurizio Cattelan Novecento (1997) The horse’s name is Tiramisu.

Hiking on an ancient mule path to the Sacra di San Michele, I spent a disproportionate amount of time thinking of this horse named Tiramisu that looked like a mule that I had seen the day before at Castello di Rivoli. He was suspended from what had to be the most beautiful ceiling I had ever seen. Stepping on stones that were like smooth little peaks jabbing into my non-hiking shoes, I kept imagining Tiramisu (aka pick me up) carrying fat monks (the idea of skinny monks is about as ripe as thinking of skinny bankers) to the monastery all day, every day till he died. But then even after death, he would be stuffed and strung up as contemporary art. The sadness I felt for Tiramisu and for my feet were diametrically opposed to the smiling and friendly Italians I passed on the mule path all wishing me “Buongiorno,” “Buonasera” or “Ciao.” I’ve never been greeted by so many Italian smiles. I felt as if walking on the Floating Piers was like being baptized by the Lombard sun, and walking this mule path made me an honorary Piedmontese.

At the end of the mule path, I literally emerged from the bushes (like Uma Thurman in Kill Bill emerging from the grave covered in mud into a diner best seen at 1:58) onto a large paved road filled with people who had not suffered to get there like a mule. Just like Uma, I went straight to the bar cafe and bought a bottle of water and a white popsicle.

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Views from the ancient mule path