Monday, February 27, 2012

Andy Warhol: Bar Fight nods to an iconic Pittsburgh artist, an excerpt from the novel...


It was like this Andy Warhol soup can kind of thing.  Michael was laughing, instead of soup, it was the Emperor Augustus.  The great Authoritative dictator from the Roman Empire.  The Roman Empire that brought light, to the world which was blackness.  Everyone loved it, it was; and the colors appeared from the blackness…
-Bar Fight, a fiction novel, by Alan Michael (Copyright 2012)

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Hunka Hunka Burnin' Love!

The King, playing his guitar in front of the Arch of Titus in a work of art 
just outside the Hard Rock Cafe, Rome, Italy.


Dramatic Irony?

Monday, February 20, 2012

A Steelers Bar in Rome






Poorly taken, camera phone photo of La Botticella, 
Rome's Pittsburgh Steelers themed bar
Did I mention where I've been hangin' out semi-frequently over here?  Leave it to a Pittsburgh Steelers fan to have a Pittsburgh Steelers Bar, in all places near Piazza Navona in Rome, Italy.

La Botticella, "The Little Barrel," is a semi-famous place that's been mentioned in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and (from what I understand) is operated solely by its bartender/owner who keeps La Botticella open seven days a week and is friends with just about..  everyone. 

There is a sign behind the bar that says, "everyone brings happiness, some when they come, others when they go," and by some act of fate this bar was one of the first places I stumbled across (seeking yeeros) during my search for an apartment.

I always wondered what I brought to the Botticella.

Probably absolutely nothing.

There is another sign behind the bar that says, "When in Rome, Do a Roman." 

There are peanuts thrown all over the floor.

La Botticella is a popular hangout spot for Americans, American college students and American Airline Employees.

You would be surprised at how many young Americans are in Rome for similar reasons to me.

Which is basically for no reason whatsoever.

Except that most of them are spoiled rich kids from the East Coast.

And I am just an unsophisticated crazy-man who blew his life's savings to come to Rome and write Bar Fight.

What a life. 

The thing I admire most about airline attendants is the way they have different boyfriends and girlfriends in so many different cities across the world.

The Fontana del Moro at Piazza Navona at night

What a lonely life.

Writing Bar Fight is a sort of lonely life.  Spending all this time alone and writing.  My concern for absolutely nothing in the world other than writing this novel has in many ways, isolated me.

From everyone.

What a life.

La Botticella had become, a nice, occasional refuge where I can occasionally talk to some young, irresponsible Americans and fellow Steelers fans.  The thing I will always remember about Giovanni, the owner, is the time he asked me to stand at the door as he went downstairs to change a keg since I was the only other person in the bar.  When the police arrived and asked me why his motorcycle was illegally parked out front he almost got a fine when I, a non-Italian speaker, had no explanation to offer for this.  I highly recommend La Botticella.  Most importantly everything written in this blog is true.  It is based on an email sent on 2/9/2010.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Master and Margarita: The Devil finds it's way into Bar Fight! How a classic work of Soviet Literature influenced the novel Bar Fight just a little…



I have actually made a friend here in Rome!  Taking an interest in my writing they gave me a copy of Mikhail Bulgakov's Stalin-era satire The Master and Margarita as a sort of birthday gift and I read it right away.

I hated it.

Turning from one page to the next of The Master and Margarita was like sorting through garbage.  The friend had arrived alone at a party my roommates threw and after we hung out a few times insisted it was their favorite book.

The Master and Margarita is a novel Bulgakov began writing in 1928, destroyed completely in 1930, completed a third draft of in 1937 and died before finishing his fourth copy in 1940.

It wasn't published until the 1960's and much of it then still was censored.

In The Master and Margarita the devil and his entourage appear in atheist Moscow in the 1930's for the sake of proving to a bunch of writers that God really does exist!

It also tells the story of the devil hangin' out in Jerusalem with Pontius Pilate sometime around the year 28 or 30 C.E. (a.k.a, A.D.) or so.

Devil knows where the Rolling Stones found their inspiration for the song, Sympathy for the Devil.

I'm sure if I actually did some research I would find that The Master and Margarita must have faced criticism for it's inaccurate recounting of the stories behind the gospel (treating many of them as myth).

It's a fiction novel.

All of this has absolutely nothing to do with Bar Fight.

What does have something to with Bar Fight ;

The relationship between the devil and his accomplices in the book, to me, began to parallel the relationship between the two main characters in the novel Bar Fight, Michael and Matthew, who go around trashing bars in rebellion of a way of thought (and many ways authority) they see as estranged from the truth.

In The Master and Margarita the devil and his accomplices reveal the superficiality of a modern society (and flaws of Soviet authority) as they go around wrecking havoc and destruction on Moscow. 


Michael and Matthew in Bar Fight are anti-heros.

One of the devil's accomplices in The Master and Margarita is a cat who can "walk on its hind legs" and "ride the tram car all by itself."

None of the characters in Bar Fight are a cat.

Vandalism in front of the
Palazzo della Civilta
Italiana, EUR, Rome

The Master and Margarita put a spell over me, oddly, I never ceased to find it fascinating and the little influence it had on Bar Fight probably made me appreciate it more. 

The friend gave it to me after I was dragged to an all night disco, where I faithfully awaited for John Travolta to bust out a move at any moment, it really was a disco.

They have discos in Europe!

They really do!

The last thing my friend asked me that night was if I would find my way back to my apartment?

Of course I would!

I took the wrong bus, rode around vague parts of the city for an hour with a bunch of drunks, got off at the last stop, walked across some strange residential place, climbed a hill, tried to see if I could even see the city of Rome anymore, which I could not, got back on the bus, waited a half an hour, spent an hour riding around vague parts of the city with a bunch of sleeping homeless persons to the spot I first got onto the bus, then walked an hour back to my apartment.

Oddly that was the last time in my journey I ever saw that particular friend.

Pah, the Devil!

The next morning it snowed in Rome for the first time since the 1980's.  There was a half an inch that caused a lot of chaos and melted by the time I woke up in the afternoon.

In the future I will read The Master and Margarita again and determine it to be one of my favorite books.  Michael and Matthew will forever be stirring up a brawl in some other world and I will remain very open to outside influence as I write.  Most importantly everything written in this blog is true.  It is based on an email sent on 2/16/2010. 

The Master and Margarita, Penguin Books

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Don't Steal a Frenchwoman's Towel

One you've learned to run, be it a choice or a necessity, you can never settle—actually, well, you can but it isn't easy (I intend to start all of my blogs with a rebuke).  There are these moments when it's quiet, you're alone, things are tough or you don't have anything better and this little thing in the back of your mind always telling you;

You can run.

Run Alan, run.

This is where I find myself standing on a park bench at Piazza Del Popolo looking at twin churches and an obelisk explaining to my mother over the phone how I have finally found a safe apartment and am already considering moving to another.

Nearby is the Cerasi Chapel, housing Caravaggio's The Conversion of Saint Paul on the Road to Damascus and The Crucifixion of Saint Peter.  The church is closed, it's close to midnight. 

For the past few days I've been staying at a rented room in a large French Woman's apartment at a relatively poor location just south of Circo Massimo (the remains of Circus Maximus), a painful subway ride away from the center of the city.

(When I say "large" I refer to both the apartment and the French Woman)

This woman is a native of France, she speaks Italian, French and English, slowly, and most of the things in her apartment are green.

I've only agreed to pay rent by the week and there are so many rules at this place!

There is no grocery store within miles!

I am not allowed to cook any food in the kitchen after 8:00 p.m.

Everything smells weird?  Perfumey like.

I can't stay here!

I have an offer to live in a four bedroom apartment with three other girls in their early twenties. ; )

Fours Company!


Lion Statue at Piazza Del Popolo at Night.


The Apostle Paul seemingly about to be stomped on by his own horse during his Conversion on the Way to Damascus (Caravaggio, image taken from the public domain)


When I took the apartment with the French woman I was desperate.  It almost seemed as though I would have to abandon my plan to write a novel (about America) in Italy the way Captain Francesco Schettino abandons his own cruise shi—

I shouldn't even say it.

This apartment gave me new hope!  

I was going to make it!  I was going to be a known writer some day.  I am still sure of this!

The French woman didn't seem to find this very interesting nor did the busy student who also lived in the apartment.

The large French woman did seem to find life in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, exciting and glamourous.

She really did!

As I read an old email sent to a friend, one interesting thing I wrote about the apartment that I can't remember for the life of me is that there was a cat that weighed "about 100 pounds."

If I once wrote it, it must be true.

Now I stand in my new apartment and one of the three female roommates (a native of Sante Fe) is describing me as a typical American as I stand in the kitchen and drink milk out of the carton.  I should note this scene from my room there;




Don't leave home without it.

This apartment is located in Prati, blocks north of Vatican City, there are issues as to whether I can stay past April but inevitably I will stay here.

Here is a story about attending Sunday Mass at the Vatican.  You go through a metal detector to get in and there are two anxious body guards standing on each side of the Priest incase anyone tries to pull any funny business over communion.

And there were these statues everywhere!

This will inspire Chapter 17 of Bar Fight.

I have this nice apartment now.  I have nice roommates as friends.  Still this thing in the back of my mind tells me, run Alan, run!  

I live life in the fast lane!

Why do you have to run you might ask?  

You have to live fast to escape a guilty conscious.

Why might you have a guilty conscious one might ask?





The reason I really came to this apartment was because it was in a much better location.  After crossing a few bridges it's a straight shot road to historic center at Piazza Navona, a nice walk too, with plenty places to stop for gelati along the way.

The thing I remember from the walk is lamps strung out at night.

Cobblestone streets.  Ancient buildings.

I was making frequent runs to the apartment complex where the Frenchwoman lived awaiting a replacement Citizen's Bank debit card traveling there at a high of speed through the mail after the original was sucked up by an ATM at a bank in Vicovaro Italy, that according to an email "was being run for sure by the mafia." 

It never sucked back out.

I had not money his whole time!

I was getting hungry!

This was the moment, my chance to be wild and free!

I wanted to run.

The Frenchwoman's apartment was in a modern part of town, where I once snuck into a construction site (in college) to use a porta-john (after running at the track that was once the Circus Maximus after eating a little too much pasta and red wine beforehand).  I remember orange trees in the courtyard and a little black gate to get in.

The thing I remember when I think of that part of town is the sun sinking through a hazy sky.    

Everywhere I ran led to Rome.  

I should have been in Vicovaro with my debit card!

I might not really have a guilty conscious.  Yet by the time I moved through three hostels, three apartments, toured four, hounded a hundred scammers on the phone, in the first week and a half, drank too much wine and received my debit card from the porter behind the little black gate, I was ready to earn one.  Here's a story, one time Glen Frey (of the Eagles) was rushing down the "freeway with a drug dealer known as 'The Count.'  Frey asked 'The Count' to slow down and the response was, 'What do you mean? It's life in the fast lane!' "  That's where they got the idea for a song.

That's a quote straight out of wikipedia that came from a source called [citation needed]

Life in the fast lane!

I was surviving on Kebabs and now I didn't have to because I had money, but they were so good!

A kebab is like a Turkish version of a gyro.

Some people insist on calling gyros, yeeros.

There is a great place to get the Turkish version of yeeros behind the streets near Piazza Navona.  It's hard to find because it's only open at night.

Extra spicy.

I'm constantly moving through the city looking for the trouble I can run from next.  I strongly believe in the following theory;

It's better to get lost, you see more that way.

That's just about all that I have to say.  Does this make you anxious?  It should because I didn't even mention the part of the story when I steal the French woman's towel.  Here it is;

I stole the French woman's towel.

Actually I only borrowed it but she made me pay a 20 Euro fine!

Now I am staying at another apartment and they give me bath towels for free because the one I forgot is still not here!  This is how I ended up in Rome and now I am settled.  I lived life in the fast lane!  Most importantly everything written in this blog is true.   It is based on an email sent on 1/17/2010.



Alan Michael