When I tried to make a video about Italy

and kept thinking about Succession

May 7, 2023

Hello. I promise this is still a newsletter. But as every platform collapses into itself to become every other platform, this one here quietly added video. And since the voice over to the video started as an aborted post for this newsletter, it seemed fitting to upload it here.

The text was meant to be a post I would send from Italy. But two things happened while we were there that prevented this. One, I was having way too good a time. And two, I kept thinking about Succession.

I’ve watched 90% of the first episode of the show, so I feel I am uniquely qualified to speak to its appeal. I will not do that here.

The reason I was thinking about Succession was we were in Florence, and Florence is a Medici town, and the Medici were all about power move displays of wealth and who got to be in charge of things. They were low key obsessed with who was and was not part of their family, and what that did or did not mean.

And when you see all the beautiful things they built, or had built for them, and their lineage, and their legacy, you can’t help but think how no one has any idea who these people are anymore. Like, they don’t matter. The most powerful people of their time, a giant marble mausoleum to their empire, and no one standing in their literal resting place can name more than two of them. Lorenzo? And uh… the other guy.

Which is why I stopped trying to frame Italy in any kind of historical way (oh right that’s what I was trying to do, whoops) and just enjoyed myself. But when I got back and put this video together, I couldn’t work out what to soundtrack it with. And then I remembered this post that didn’t go anywhere and somehow (aka I edited and added to it) it worked with the video.

And here you are.

The post I didn’t send

Begin as you mean to finish. Ok. Let's begin there.

Of Italy, Donald Britton writes,

Here in Italy the buildings are the color
Of dead skin and the sky is “tragic”
And the rivers are brown and turbulent
And everybody is always stopping by
To say “Ciao!” and then “Ciao!”
We think a lot about emotion, chiefly
The emotion of love. There is much to cry about.
And after, sleep.

Yeah, it's a bit like that.

You do some arithmetic about what it would cost to live in Italy. Not the monetary cost, because you have no idea, but the emotional cost. The lifestyle cost. What would you give up and for what gains? Everywhere you go you think, could I live here?

You think about living. You think about dying. You think about how that's a lot of marble. Really, wow how much marble is that even. You try and get back to the deep thoughts you were having about existence but the marble, my word.

And then a table in the middle of a square brings you home. The interventions we place in spaces to make them useable. A plant pot with the bottom cut out. A fence carefully peeled back on one side. A bench worn smooth by skateboards.

One day you'll stop and think, this is what I should have been doing my whole life. And you'll think about what's left. You'll think, I'm not going to waste another second doing things I don't want to do.

You'll buy a notebook to write these things down. And you'll get about 8 items in before stalling out. You need to live some life to know what you want of it, a little bit of life every day to know a little bit more about what you want, and in this beautiful way not a moment of life is ever wasted.

This is the stuff of life. This is what we get.

Once you start noticing it, you can't stop. You'll want to drink it in. You'll want to take it all.

If you're lucky, you might even find that the things you were already doing were what you wanted the whole time.