At the entrance there is an announcement: "This is Home The Ancient Way where friends visiting our town can rest, exhibit their art works, exchange ideas and receive news about history of the area. Welcome! The door is always open."

It looks like an Art Gallery situated within a spacious old house with high vaulted ceilings. There are two doors: one leads into a beautiful semi abandoned garden full of fruit trees and flowers, the other to the main square of this characteristic southern Italian town famous for its medieval cathedral.

When I arrive, this bizarre place is shrouded in a feeling of abandonment. It is the last month the rent is being paid, I am the last artist exhibiting here. Afterwards the trees will be cut and the house will be renovated in a modern style. The Art gallery will be transformed into a bar.

Even the owner of the gallery fled with an excuse of moving. Rumor has it that he has bought a modern house in a village nearby. Before disappearing he accurately placed snow white linen sheets decorated with intricate lace worked by hand, on the bed where I would sleep, as a greeting.

Every five minutes someone comes in to ask “Where is Angelo?”

I explain patiently to each visitor that no one knows where he is, nor when he will come, and that actually I have never met him. I say that we just spoke once on the telephone about making an exhibition and that I am waiting for him as well. Without paying any attention to the last part of my explanation, people leave messages with me as if I were the answering machine: "Tell him that uncle Peppino passed by! Tell him that spouses Bruno from Turin come to salute him! Mark from Rome says hello, do not forget to tell him! Granny Maria passed by; she'll be back tomorrow. Tell him, don't forget!"

The door never closes: people looking for Angelo are streaming in an uninterrupted flow from neighboring towns as well as from far away cities and even from other countries.

"It will be a successful exhibition, with such a crowd of visitors we'll do good business.” I think.

But then legitimate doubts begin to sprout: “Is uncle Peppino interested in Art? Something tells me that it can not be. "And grandmother Maria, will she buy my art works? That's even less likely."

While waiting for the gallery owner, I examine the walls and discover with amazement that there is no way to attach pictures. Old, withered layers of paint fall down in big chunks at the slightest touch. The few nails, which must have been pounded in when the building was built, are occupied. They are hung with decorative paintings, the kind that make perfect souvenirs to hang above sofas . I guess that these must be paintings of the owner of the gallery and hope that he will never ask me what I think about them.

Art gallery is inhabited by a wide variety of visitors who are always coming and going. At present it is occupied by two poets, a single mother who has a daughter of three months, a priest, a kitten with vampire habits which will be soon given to someone and me who has no idea where to go next.

Poet # 1 plays the same melody on harmonica while reflecting as he composes his endless verses. On an average he writes 40 poems an hour and then he reads them at super speed to any misfortunate visitor. His shreds of poetic thought sometimes contain profound observations, but they are sketched out in such a hurry that they resemble delirium. He also painters, makes sculptures, ceramics, and he has many architectural projects in mind.

His preferred past time is to visit Art galleries, offering them to expose the fruit of his super-production. When they surrender, and propose Poet an exhibition, he does not give them his paintings. This childish game is probably his greatest conceptual art work.

Poet #2 is a millionaire from Milan.

She writes only about herself and her Indian cook; about how he is happy to serve her and how delighted she is to have him as a servant. “Today it is almost impossible to find good servitude. Everyone has become so democratic that it seems that they will throw food plates into your face from one moment to another”, she complains to me in private.

Single mother with a three months old little girl had been recently left by her husband. While the baby is playing happily, the mother is crying in the corner. She stops weeping only to feed her baby with prefabricated food accompanying each mouthful by an exclamation, "Njam! Njam! Njam!". Sometimes her girl friend comes for a visit. They talk about anti-wrinkle creams, exchange news about shampoo and discuss the least painful ways of getting rid of facial hair... They sound like an imitation of radio advertising, same intonations, same texts. In these moments the husband who has left her appears to me with the halo of a martyr: "He managed to stand her for three long months! If I survive her chatter for even one more day, I shall dedicate a votive to him!", I whisper to the Poet.

"No, her husband was not a martyr” he corrects me with severity, “Look at how beautiful her legs are!", and he has a point there...

The priest is an embarrassment to his order: he blasphemes publicly, labeling Madonna and saints with the dirtiest names that exist. But the town inhabitants seem to treasure his bad behavior. Owners of restaurants feed him for free. He is like a popular comic, who chose wrong profession, and that made him crazy. When he feels particularly inspired, the priest puts all the garments of his trade on, as if to celebrate the Mass, without forgetting the smallest detail-instead of the mask he wears the sweet and fake expression typical of catholic priests. Then he heads for the main square of the town where, preaching, he gradually strips exalted by the attention of the faithful. Watching his striptease, some laugh, others are shocked, others applaud. After such “happenings” the priest returns home particularly pleased , falling asleep on the sofa quietly next to the poet who is always writing, agitated.

The kitten has an uncertain fate: she lives with an expectation of being adopted by someone. Her mother had little milk, so to the kitten remained an instinct to suck any exposed part of the human body. Most people are appalled by her vampire habits, but poet baptized her "the kisser" and writes happily while she is digging his arm out of a habit for despair.

As for me, I have nothing to do but to explore the house while waiting for my exhibition. Everything is in a poetic disorder. Materials for painting are scattered everywhere. Cans with different types of jam are here and there. The tree in the garden provides beautiful shade, and I begin to paint unscrupulously devouring jam which is probably intended to be sold to tourists. I totally forget about Angelo and the upcoming exhibition.

Visitors' chants brings me back to reality:
"Angelo, where is Angelo? I'm his cousin Franco from Bergamo. Tell him that I came all the way to see him! I'm Francesca from Milan; I shall return. I am Natalie, the one who stayed here a year ago, send him my best greetings!”

But who is this Angelo? Why is everyone looking for him?
On the table, among catalogues, ecological soap wrapped in gift paper and jars of jam decorated with bows and roses, lies a package with photos. A 40 year old man is holding in his arms a baby girl. She has been abandoned by her father. His gaze is like an appeal to one's conscience: "How is it possible to leave such a small child?" I think, "This photo would have made a perfect poster to solicit money for 'Emergency' ". Angelo's face is pleasant, salt & pepper hair, round glasses, behind which are sincere, serious and tired eyes.
"This is obviously a progressive, leftist, socially committed type. Upon arrival he will ask me to sign a series of appeals for the proper treatment of the Natives of America, to stop deforestation of Amazon, and a plea to protect liberal filmmakers from censorship in Thailand." I anticipate returning Angelo's photographic gaze with my own earnest stare.

Poet sneaks from behind me and whispers with affection, "See how beautiful he is! He is beautiful, good hearted, intelligent, talented, you'll see! All women want him!"
All women want him? Why so? He comes across like a stereotype of an idealistic school teacher from the country or a communist mayor who decided to distribute mafia owned land to poor peasants.
Definitely this gallery owner is a mystery.

On the third day I get it: Angelo is in the sky, where angels ought to be, in vain we are waiting for Godot, or else he is an all Italian angel, the usual liar, but even if this is not so, the exhibition can't be mounted because there is no way to attach art work to the wall...

In this moment of total resignation I notice that under the dome of the curved ceiling, at the height of 4 meters, is a thin tube which is hiding the electric wire. I have an inspiration. This is where I can attach threads on which to hang my collages! Of course, it is a Zen exercise: if I'll punch the wire inside, I'll receive a shock and we will remain without electricity. But there are a couple of millimeters of an empty space, and that should do. Worth while risking.
"Now is the time for you to appear, Angelo", I think.

Nobody enters.
So we go out with Poet # 1 to visit the Cathedral . Both of us are disgusted in advance: me with a priest who asks money for a visit of the church, poet with God himself.

The cathedral inside is nothing but a huge and empty space. There are no visitors, no priests. Decorations have been destroyed during the bombings of the Second World War. Even the crucified body on the cross is missing- the bare altar being decorated merely by two wooden crossing sticks.
We sit in silence and stare at bare walls. The poet rans out after five minutes, as if burned.
I follow him: "What's the matter?"
"I told you: Me and God do not agree. As soon as anything is born, it begins to die- I, you, this wall, everything! What a cruel joke is life! I do not want to enter into His house ever again."
"I just wanted to see if Angelo is fluttering around by chance."
He cuts me short:"Angelo never comes here"

"But if he is not even here, where can we find him in this town? At the butcher's?”
"He does not need to go anywhere. The entire world comes to him!"
Amazing, but as I have noticed it is true. So we return home.

As I am dosing on the sofa under Angelo's pleasant artworks which are becoming increasingly antipathetic to me, a man enters with his back bent. He is breathless. It seems that he is so fatigued that he can barely move. His gaze is spent. The colour of his skin is sick. He is carrying two heavy bags with vegetables in his hands.

I look at him half asleep and think:” Now he'll say,'I brought these for Angelo. Greetings from Giuseppe. Tell him hello.'

"Hello, he says, I am Angelo."

What?!!No way! And yet it must be so, because everyone becomes agitated upon his arrival. While Angelo is pulling out huge artichokes from the plastic bag, he is immediately drawn into the problems and affairs of others. Poet recites latest poems: Angelo listens seriously making a few suggestions at the end. Single mother complains about the color of her baby's stool: Angelo proposes her drops of herbal extract hidden behind the jam. Priest invites him to his birthday party: Angelo says that he will certainly come. And so on... I do not lose time and join the chorus with a request to attach my collages on a tube which is hiding the electrical wire. Angelo says ”Of course!” though he seems astonished to hear that the walls do not hold nails. "I shall find solution for you in the next few days," he assures me.

The door opens, "Angelo!" A robust peasant embraces him and begins an exalted tale, about the results of his grape crop.

"Angelo, the hen no longer hatches the eggs," complains grandmother Maria. Together they examine this issue, coming to the conclusion that it can not be food- it must be stress. The hen needs rest.

"Angelo! Angelo! Angelo! "and so the man with the tired face is submerged by greetings, problems, invitations of a crowd of people that immediately fill the gallery.

Meanwhile, I begin to search for a pen so as to be ready to sign appeal against all Evil, in favor of everything that's Good. But no! There are colored children's chalks, colors of all kinds, but nothing that has a sharp tip.

And anyhow, I got it all wrong: Angelo is beyond Good and Evil; the part of progressive mayor does not interest him. Rather, he makes an unexpected request: "I'm moving. So I will be absent a lot. Could you help me keep the house when I am not here? "
Caught by surprise, I agree: "Of course! But I don't know how to because I've never done it." I confess with embarrassment.

"Oh, it's nothing special: water the garden once a day. Cook not only for yourself, but for everyone. And do not forget to add pills to Poet's food: he is schizophrenic and without medicines there might be problems. Greet visitors, make them feel at home."
He passes me a pack of pills with psychotropic drugs. In an instant he is swept away by a crowd of excited visitors.
After receiving this strange task I discover something amazing: I am the only person in the house who has some sense of practicality. Me, who who has always been considered by others an unpractical dreamer!

Poet, despite his many talents, does not know how to light a match. Millionaire, of course, does not know anything, her Indian cook does, but he is in Milan. Abandoned mother does not want to know anything except her pain. Priest knows only how to blaspheme, and in any case, he eats outside- all restaurants want him as a comic to entertain their clients.

Suddenly I end up as a mistress of a home whose doors are always open. My role is that of a mother taking care of grown up misfits who ended there by chance, and whom I would never have adopted on my own. Angelo passes by every so often to monitor the situation bringing supplies of food donated by local farmers.

My life fills with repetitive actions. The side effect is drowsiness of the soul.

The exhibition is a total failure: it does not interest anyone. Every day a few collages detach from strings, circle in the air as if they were autumn leaves and land on the floor; I hang them back again hoping that someone who is interested in art will eventually pass by.

Instead, all visitors are enchanted by the hand drawn animation cartoon books made by Angelo. "How cute!" they exclaim. Buying two, three small books they leave change in the offer cup placed on the table. If Angelo is present and sees that someone pulls out a bill, he protests, " Just coins, please." When we are alone, he explains: "Art is communication. Communication is a mutual pleasure. It is absurd to ask money for that. If anything: alms so as to be able to survive. "


In the spacious and empty lobby, my collage-metaphors are hanging next to his decorative paintings. In both cases one can see sumptuous lines and pleasing colors. But my art is the result of various electrical shocks taken directly in the air, while his...

"Be careful: avoid points of support which are too safe. See, whoever is too comfortably "hang up", ends up making decorative art", I warn myself.

In the angle on the table is placed Angelo's laptop. His animated cartoons run in a loop. They have been created with schizophrenics of such and such school, with handicapped children of Turin, with patients of the psychiatric hospital in Milan...

"I do not tell my own stories any more, I prefer to animate stories of others," he explains. "Animation interests me not as the product in itself, but as a nice thing to do together.” I look at him and wonder: why should a poet reduce himself to a nurse of the soul? But how to ask such a thing? So we talk about everything that is not important:
"You don't fear that someone might steal your laptop?"
" Mafia reigns here. It has it's positive effects: no drugs, no thefts, no prostitution... "
"It does not disturbs you?"
"I could not care less. They decided that certain things should be done in a certain way and the rules must be respected. "

As I watch his films I begin to want to make cartoons as well. As if synchronized to my thoughts, a collage detaches itself and spinning capriciously in the air, crossing strips of rays and shadows in the room, lands gently on Poet's chest who is sleeping on the sofa.

"Lots of people seek you, ask for your advice, it would seem that you are more than an artist . You are a mayor. Have you ever thought about becoming one? ", I ask Angelo.
"Those in power would never allow it, and anyhow why declare what is so in fact? I have created a sort of parallel network with friends. Sometimes they say "let's make an association". But I do not want that. When associations, money, applications for funding begin, ends Poetry. I believe in randomness."
Between our short exchanges of ideas, I drown in the deterioration in the house run the ancient way:
 … I cook mixing psychotropic drugs into poet's food daily.
… I control my ever growing desire to throw plate with spaghetti into the face of the millionaire, while she in turn tries to keep to neutral topics.
… I play a couple of hours every day with the kitten, teaching her that happy and playful contact could be even more pleasant than scratching human bodies in search of lacking milk.
… I water the garden, discovering the tree with sweet plums, gather them and now we have fresh fruit for free...
… I helplessly observe how single mother is feeding her baby, limiting all contact to rhythmic "Njam, njam, njam!".

Nothing remains to do but to watch and wait. For what?..

Suddenly I wake up:
- It's ridiculous to live like this! Of course things can be changed! Single mother with a child in her arms ought to be exhibited as a living installation in Piazza St. Pietro for Christmas, like Madonna waiting for adoption. She will cry less, and find her husband quicker, instead of saying "Njam-Njam" she will fill her new lover with sound kisses! She'll be still an idiot, but a happy one for a change...
And then, after success of this story, all single mothers will be placed on the altars of churches instead of statues! The same should be done with all the dispossessed, with homeless, with all those who have problems: they should be put under the sunlight, on the pedestals of squares and churches, because problems can be resolved only with participation of other people!"
Oh, I have to share these thoughts with Angelo!

He is sitting in the next room listening attentively to a lady from Turin telling him about the terrible traffic on highway. He listens to her as if it was the most interesting story in the world. It does not feel right to interrupt them. "All right, my idea will have to be proposed directly to the Pope." I decide.

… As I am dissolving pills in the water to add to poet's meal, a memory comes back in a flash: I was speaking with a homeless man in Trastevere and by chance used the word "psychology".
He screamed: "Do you know what is the meaning of 'psychology?'. It means 'The science of the soul'. It has been invented by the Nazis and then it was used in concentration camps for experiments. The Soviets did the same with their dissidents. Now people choose to be drugged and criminal doctors provide the medicine. Pills don't cure, what heals is love, understanding and great compassion!"
It occurs to me that without thinking I have agreed to do something that might be wrong. Who am I to decide for the poet if he should take medication or not? Why do I have to hide from him that we are mixing medicine into his food?

I want to discuss my doubts with Angelo. But his attention is absorbed by a farmer who decided to give himself to art. Instead of tomatoes he collects remnants of boats and rafts of Albanians refugees and creates installations from them. I explode: "You'd better help the Albanians," I say to the farmer. "Angelo, and the two of us have to talk!"
Angelo does not move, "If you want to fight, I do so only by appointment. How about tomorrow at nine o'clock? "

The poet arrives with a bag of seafood and orders me: "Cook this. I just bought them. They are fresh. "
"But I do not know how to cook this!" I protest.
"My mother does." he nods his head with disapproval. And then, without apparent logic continues, "When you go back to Rome, buy a large brush, the biggest possible and make paintings: many-many, fast-fast, as big as you can, so you'll become rich and famous..."
"But I love discovering new things, I paint slowly, I don't care if I become famous or not."
"Ah, you are wrong and obtuse! You'll not get anywhere without listening to my advice! "
"May I advise one thing as well? Get lost! "

Agitated whispers come from the gallery. In the midst of accelerated deluge of words, I hear: "She is not good at keeping the house. She often overcooks spaghetti. She stops all of a sudden and looks out of the window for a long time. She scatters her sketches everywhere. The other day she did not cook calamari which I brought home, saying"Why don't you do it for a change?"

Angelo enters the kitchen with a gloomy face.

I think : "All this is his fault. He has assigned me a ridiculous role in this absurd comedy. He is trying to turn me into a housewife; but I am an artist!"
"I came here for the exhibition. I want to learn how to make cartoons. I am not a housewife and he…and her... and then they…and you..." I protest.
"Of course, says Angelo, thoughtfully, it is difficult to love her. Very difficult, but think how much she has suffered. And if you could only imagine for a moment what it means for a sensitive boy who loves art to grow in a cruel environment of' a southern Italian village... Just think of what it must feel like to live whole life without having had a girlfriend..."

My eyes fill with tears and I feel burning with shame for not having understood the messages of pain and encrypted requests for help of my poor neighbors.

If it was possible to erase the terrible loneliness of the poet, I'd buy a huge brush and do many paintings quickly-quickly, as he suggested. I would even try to become famous, if that would help him to find his love. "Okay”, I murmur, ”I shall make peace with them."

Angelo is already in the gallery listening with great interest to a refined intellectual from Turin who has moved to the countryside and began to produce ecological soap. I wash dishes. Everyone is back at his place in our absurd "normality".

Angelo is right about everything, but all this feels wrong to me. What am I doing here? I need to get out as soon as possible. Tomorrow I will go to the sea to think and woe to whoever will try to stop me. Tomorrow is Strike!

The sea is twenty kilometers from the town. Buses are on strike as well. So I go by foot. There are no country roads. One must walk along highway. A passing intellectual from Turin stops and asks me: "Is everything okay? Why are you here?"

I explain that I am heading towards the sea to see the sunset.
Grandmother Maria passes, stops her car and inquires "What is happening? Are you well? "

"I'm fine, simply going to the sea!", I reassure her.
Passes peasant-artist who collects remains of boats of Albanian refugees: "Need help?"
"I don't, but Albanians do."
Why did none of them ask me if I was O. K. when they saw me in the kitchen? The next one I shall meet, I will ask first: "Do you need help? What's happening? "

Angelo passes and stops.

There is no need to ask , one can see that he is not well. He has to talk, to confess right there, that very minute and I have to listen, who else will?

I think, “Farewell my sunset and meditation about life!”

Angelo tells me that he has just finished a seminar with handicapped children, that he can't bear terrible loneliness which reigns in the world, that he always wants to be in contact with kids and not just give seminars once in awhile, that he can't stand this torrent of people who come to say hello, that he can not do everything by himself, that he is completely lost and depressed. One can see that Angelo is frightened and disoriented like a scared child in the dark.

He offers to accompany me to the sea, but I decline politely. Maybe I am wrong, if there are two people on earth who should talk, it is the two of us, but this is a serious conversation which can not be made in the intervals left by depression, uncle Peppino and grandmother Maria. Angelo chose to distribute himself as petty change to random by passers. During my entire stay he has been avoiding serious confrontation with me. My exhibition does not seem to interest any of the visitors. I might as well leave. By the time I arrive to the sea, I have missed the sunset.

At home an idyllic picture is waiting for me: Angelo and the poet are drawing together under the fig tree, tips of their tongues hanging out for excessive diligence.
"When will you show me how to make cartoons?" I ask.
"Now,” answers Angelo with a smile.
He jumps up. Enters uncle Peppino and they get lost in the debate about the ricotta cheese.
"When?" I insist.
"Immediately!" He rises but then two musicians enter and he has to help them to hang poster announcing an event. At this point I am ready to kill him, but I change my mind when I remember that our only knife can barely cut bread. As well, it lacks the handle.
Angelo approaches, "Here is the program. You do this, then press this and then this...". But he finds it too hot and he has to lie down to rest. We are in his room above the kitchen. Suddenly he begins to tell his story.

For years he traveled by bicycle around the world as a homeless artist until he ended in a psychiatric hospital in Milan where another patient taught him how to make cartoons. He was sick with cancer, about to die, but when released from the Hospital he went to the mountains and cured himself.

He says that what he really wants is to have a big happy family with many children. But he has many emotional problems. As a child he has been tossed here and there by his mother. As soon as he encounters love, he closes like a hedgehog. He can only give love, but even the idea of receiving it is painful for him.

His family is equally disastrous.

Angelo's cousin is an excellent musician. She plays the cello so well that she could find a job immediately. She is that good. But she never steps out from her room. She sits inside and plays to the wall.

His uncle has a huge house in Lipari, one of the most peaceful and beautiful places on earth. But when he goes there, quiet and calm irritate him so that he begins to beat his head against the wall.

"That's why entire layers of paint have fallen from the wall! His uncle has been here!..” Finally the mystery is solved.

"This house is like a river," complains Angelo, "All pass but no one remains."
"It is not organized for one to remain."
"In fact, I thought of buying a home for artists in the country where I'm moving to. It is 'a very special house, the only one which stands among many ancient ruins on the high granite rock. It's like a castle. There is no garden, but in front there is a square with an old oven… you would like it”, he adds, as if the matter is concluded.
I nearly fall down from the chair with surprise.
"Did I understand you correctly: you want to buy a house in a small village run by Mafia with the money of that Milanese leech and crucify me over the frying pen?"
"And why not? The doors will be always open, as you desired..." he answers with a sly smile.
I choose words carefully so as not offend him:

"Though we are very much alike, there are differences between you and me in some ways. I don't know how to explain it right now, though...”

And then I ask him what has been intriguing me from the very beginning:
"Your time, your affection, your attention is the same for everyone. All human beings are equal for you. All of us are only suffering units to be helped, aren't we ?"

Angelo thinks for a long time and then answers,
"I feel that God stumbled and fell into a thousand pieces which are trying to get together in crazy ways. If one is in the filed of communication, it is absurd to fight the desire to communicate even if at times it is annoying. And the easiest thing in the world is to listen, anyhow. "
"To any person?"
"I do not like to say that this one is better and this one is worse!"

All of a sudden I understand: I am in front of a great artist who creates invisible art. His cute cartoons and shallow paintings are a simple cover up. Angelo is the most ambitious collage artist in the world, he is trying to glue together the fallen God, his Home the Ancient Way is an experimental laboratory; his material-human souls.

Though poetic and grandiose, Angelo's vision seems extremely gloomy to me. I protest: "God is entire. It is man's perception that stumbled and fell into thousand pieces... We have never been evicted from Paradise. Our damnation is that we don't recognize where we are! The poet is wrong. Nothing dies, everything is in continuous transformation."

But these are words. I am just another one who is passing through.

Good bye then.

Good bye...

After a couple of weeks Angelo suddenly calls me: "In my village it was too hot, so I went to Milan, but it is full of mosquitoes here, I can't sleep!"

“Try Rome, then.” I propose.
He arrives the next day. Now Angelo is a guest in my home.

“Without home the Ancient Way there is no decent place on earth for you now?” I ask.
"How can you believe my words?", he laughs, “From all the crazies I know you are the nuttiest one. There is not a town, a country, a city where someone isn't waiting for me. The Holy Spirit himself has fewer invitations than I do. If I am here it's for you.”
“Why did you avoid me before?”
“You came with the poet who is my friend. He liked you. With me everything is the ancient way, ideas of honor as well.”
“I see... Do you still want me to take care of some semi-ruined castle full of madmen whom you will gather on your way?”
“ Home the Ancient Way was a dream which has ended. Your departure was the last point at the end of that story. Instead, let's travel by bicycle together; see southern Italy. I did it before alone.”
“Great timing”, I reply, “In a week I am leaving for New York, the ticket already has been bought. There is someone over there who wants me to follow my dreams.
Yet I hope we will meet again some time. Maybe you will have another face, maybe I will have another name. All this does not really matter. What's important is that your soul remain like Home the Ancient Way, with it's door always open. Keep it so, Angelo! Please, keep it so...”