Named not in hubris but in honor and memory of Austin M. Wright, who taught me critical thinking, and his teacher, Wayne Booth, who coined the phrase.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Perche? Perche.

Our apartment in Milan is on the top floor of a seven-story building near Piazza Novelli, a traffic circle – or round-about – about a three-mile walk from the Duomo, the center of Milan’s concentric circles.

When we arrived in August, half of the Piazza was under construction; the street is torn up and Jersey barriers re-route traffic in both directions around the other side of the circle.  A huge crane is in the center of the piazza.  High fences obstructed our view, so we couldn’t really understand what was happening.  Some days the noise of construction started at 7 A.M.; other days the silence led us to believe nothing was happening. 

In front of our building, we noticed a sign that was easy to translate:  “Work in Piazza Novelli will cause traffic problems from 9/9/2006 to 1/28/09.”

Since it was already 9/15/10, we laughed when we saw the sign, and a few days later, I photographed it.

Perhaps I was photographed in turn by the closed-circuit cameras, because in yet a few more days, we noticed another sign that had been officially altered:  “Diversions caused by work from 9/9/2006 until ... the work is finished.”

Two days after that, the Jersey barriers were completely reconfigured.  The first half of the roadway around the plaza is still fenced in and mostly inaccessible, and it appears that work is about to begin on the other half of the roadway. 

We have learned from neighbors that a 250-space parking lot has been constructed under the Piazza, which will be a great boon to the neighborhood, where people cram cars everywhere, including on the broad sidewalks.

When will it be finished?  When it’s finished!

Last Friday night, about 7:30, huge pieces of machinery arrived and men started to repave the street in front of our building. We suspected this was about to happen because we saw that the next block had been paved the night before, plus “no parking” signs had been tied to all the posts. Nevertheless, it was a bit of a surprise because our street didn’t need repaving, which was pointed out by a letter to the editor the next morning in the Corriere della Sera.

An American who has lived here for 30 years told me that his favorite word in Italian is perchePerche means both “why?” and “because.”  One can have an entire conversation using only this word.  Perche?  Perche.

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