Bedtime Stories for Grown-ups

Insomnia is still stalking me. I know, it’s all in my brain. Wide awake at 2 a.m. once again, I understood that I needed help in redirecting my thoughts. Maybe by reading.

Reading for just six minutes, according to some studies, can reduce stress related insomnia by at least 65% thus helping the body fall asleep. So what I need is a bedtime story–a bedtime story for grown-ups. A story that can distract me from myself.

My middle school Speech & Drama teacher, Ms. Bardwell, focused on getting her students to express themselves in a comprehensible way. One exercise she used was that of having the students learn a short story well enough to retell it in front of their classmates. The story I chose was Frank R. Stockton’s “The Lady or the Tiger?”

In a far-away land, a barbarous king used public trials and chance to decide a man’s fate. Once accused of a crime, the accused was taken to a public arena and told to choose between two doors in front of him. Behind one door was a lady and behind the other, a tiger. The accused must choose between the two doors. If the door he chooses has the lady behind it, it means he is innocent. However, he must marry the lady immediately whether or not he wants to. If he chooses the door with the tiger behind it, it means he’s guilty and, as punishment, must be devoured by the tiger.

When the king learns that the princess, his daughter, is in love with a handsome, young and caring man but who has zero social status and no money, the king has his daughter’s lover put on trial.

The princess, alarmed by what awaits her lover, is consumed by fear, jealousy, and doubt. She’s forever lost her lover regardless as to the door he will pick. Because he will either be eaten by the tiger or be forced to marry another woman.

The princess uses her connections in the palace to learn what’s behind each door. Once at the trial, the lover looks to the princess for help. Her eyes indicate the door on the right so he chooses it.

It’s a DIY ending as the reader is never told what’s behind the chosen door leaving the lover’s fate in the hands of the reader’s imagination.

“If you decide which it was—the lady or the tiger—you find out what kind of person you are yourself.”  Frank R. Stockton

Epilogue: Choice is a power.


Related: “The Lady or The Tiger” by Frank R. Stockton pdf + The Lady, or the Tiger? Wikipedia + Short Stories: The Lady or the Tiger? by Frank Stockton online + Five Short Stories pdf + The world’s shortest stories on HERE

Other: Chris Advansun Bedtime Stories to make you fall asleep, Sleep Stories

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Il Bussolotto

Letizia Bonaparte (1749-1836) was Napoleon’s mother. She was born in Corsica when it was still a part of the Republic of Genova.

At the age of 14, Letizia married 17 year old Carlo Bonaparte of Ajaccio. Bonaparte later joined the resistance movement against the Genovese and, later, against the French as well.

When Letizia was pregnant with Napoleon, she and her husband were forced to hide in the mountains with other insurgents fighting for Corsican independence. It would seem that Napoleon’s political imprinting began when he was still in the womb.

In 1785, Napoleon’s father died of stomach cancer. His mother with left a widow with eight children to raise. Napoleon was 16. Later he would crown himself Emperor but would not honor his mother with a title as well save for “Madame Mére”.

Eventually circumstances forced Letizia to leave Paris and move to Rome where her daughter, Paolina aka Princess Borghese, lived.

Letizia, for years a mom alone, had much respect for money. She made wise investments permitting her a comfortable old age. In Rome, she bought the palazzo at the corner of via del Corso and Piazza Venezia and had it decorated as would the mother of an Emperor.

Somewhat of a recluse, Letizia seldom went out save for an occasional stroll on via del Corso or to pick the fresh flowers she insisted on having every day.

The palazzo, now known as Bonaparte, was big and beautiful but unable to offer companionship. To pacify her need to interact with others, Letizia had a “bussolotto” built onto the first floor balcony. Made of dark green shutters (but with the interior decorated with floral motifs inspired by the frescoes at Pompei), the bussolotto permitted Letizia to look out and observe those on the streets without being seen herself. In a way, you could say that Letizia was a voyeur. She especially enjoyed spying on festivities such as the Roman Carnevale. And, when she was practically blind, she had her lady-in-waiting describe what was going on the street below.

Palazzo Bonaparte is not far from where Michelangelo’s house once stood on via dei Fornari. But his house, along with those of many others, was demolished to make room for the Altare della Patria, a monument to the king, Vittorio Emanuele III. There is a memorial plaque on the building of Assicurazione Generali indicating that Michelangelo’s home once stood there.

Why Michelangelo’s home would be torn down to make room for a totally insignificant person like that particular king is still a mystery to me.


Related: Museo Napoleonico Roma + Le donne di Napoleone all’Elba + Mostre Palazzo Bonaparte + THE BONAPARTES IN ROME + Napoleon’s vision for a new Imperial Rome

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Olives Are Not Just for Martinis

Volver the Cat with Book

My mom has always said that, when you become old, you become invisible as you’re no longer taken into consideration. So when I read Elizabeth Strout’s Olive, Again where the book’s protagonist says the same thing, I immediately thought of my mom. And the consequences of living a long life.

Olive, Again, a series of vignettes, evolves around the inhabitants of a small town in Maine. Olive, a crusty and unapologetic elderly woman, is the fil rouge that glues all the stories together. Although we have much in common with others, there is, says Olive, no simple truth about human existence. We all struggle because that’s the way life is and there’s nothing we can do about it.

The book focuses on growing old. Thus getting closer to death. Written in a matter of fact sort of way, it forced me to make certain reflections regarding my own life.

Age transforms you physically and mentally. Life expectancy continues to expand but, unfortunately, quality of life isn’t always compatible with this expansion. For example, the number of those affected b dementia continues to grow.

The thing about dementia really scares me. You spend all those years collecting memories only to forget so much—including important things like the people you most love. We can keep the body alive but not memories. And without our memories, a part of us dies.

Epilogue: Nothing is more democratic than death.


Things to do: make a “Good Memories” book for the self.

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While shuffling stuff around to make space for painting the bedroom, unexpected compositions were made. Objects from one side of the room and objects from another side suddenly found themselves together. New interrelations were formed. In one such interrelation, the objects looked posed and rigid. It made me think of Wes Anderson’s staged compositions that are always slightly melancholic.

An object can be totally transformed by its setting. Just like people.

Epilogue: We are all pieces of a puzzle trying to fit together and find our place.


Related: How Wes Anderson Created the Aesthetic of a Generation

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The Mended Curb

What is beauty if not that which gives our senses pleasure?

In 1904, George Santayana wrote his mentor, William James, about the aesthetic experience and its need to be stimulated. But unfortunately, writes Santayana, “one gets so dry in America with no food for the senses, especially if one is obliged to pump up theory every day.”

Santayana criticized the scientific community for their insistence on reducing aesthetics to just theory as his concern was not with creating a definition of beauty but, instead, of focusing on those conditions necessary to perceive beauty.  


On via Tagliamento, there’s a curb that’s been repaired with sampietrini, the Roman cobblestone that once covered all the streets of Rome. Asphalt has replaced the sampietrini in terms of practicality but it cannot compete with the stone’s aesthetics—both visual and historical. Nevertheless, every time I reach that curb, I stop to look because reparation is a form of beauty.

Plus I like how geometric stones have been forced to adapt to a curve. And how the rebellious grass that, refusing to be obliterated by urban demands, grows in between the cracks. The mended curb gives me pleasure every time I step on it. For me it is beautiful. However, there are those who would not agree with me at all.

Epilogue: Beauty does not reside in an object but, instead, in the individual’s sense of beauty.


Related: The Aesthetics of Mending. + Sampietrini: the story of Rome’s iconic cobblestones + The Sense of Beauty pdf

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