I’ve often wondered if I am a musician because I love weird adventures or if I end up in weird adventures because I love being a musician. Driving the pitch-black and empty country roads of Puglia, Italy, at 3:30 a.m. last Tuesday morning felt decisively more dissociative, like watching myself as a character in a movie, than any previous experience had prepared me for. Less than six hours earlier, Italy had announced a nationwide lockdown.
Of course, everyone here in the U.S. is quickly catching up to this surreal dissociation. All of it feels so sci-fi now: We’ve all seen the movies, but the shock of finding yourself in one of them quickly turns to exhaustion when you’re in it over and over all day. Trust me, I’ve already been there.
My wife Jen and I left for Italy on January 16th. We used credit card points to get one-way tickets. My cousin, who lives in Chicago, has a beautiful house sitting empty in a small town a half-hour outside of Lecce, the southernmost city of Puglia, Italy’s furthest southeast region, the heel of the boot. When we arrived we described it to friends as the Door County of the Middle East. It does not feel like Europe. Not just the palm trees and the light and the colors, but the tiered architecture — everything soft white stone. I couldn’t say what my cousin’s building looks like from the outside, folded as it is into the surrounding edifices. A neighbor guessed the building was 500…
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