Today’s Comment of the Week: Advice for the Study Abroad Student Headed to Bologna!

Wonderful Reader Corra22s, commenting on Object #12 – Tickets to the Premiere, writes:

As a current twenty-year-old soon-to-be studying abroad in Bologna (a whole year early!), I really enjoyed your reflections and your hilariously illuminating recount of class relations.

I was wondering if you could give me any advice or suggestions for doors I should try to find. As you said, there are so many! (I’m still TWENTY.) It’d be fun to have a place to look forward to finding, a challenge of sorts.

TWENTY! She’s TWENTY! (You’ll understand the importance of this if you read the story.)

Okay, Corra22s, the first thing to say is that you are indeed a very lucky person, because studying abroad in Bologna is one of the very best things a person could ever hope to do. And the second thing to say is that advice from old people like me to young people like you is pretty much always annoying because it always boils down to the same basic thing:

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A History of Jacke in 100 Objects #12 – The Tickets to the Premiere


It was during my study-abroad year in Bologna that my friend Roberto and I decided to write a musical. Not just for fun, not just for some school play or party or anything immature like that—no, we were going to be great and famous writers of musicals. Wilson & Benedetti!

And why not us? Roberto had been playing piano for a million years and had perfect pitch. I had just written a poem. We had both been IN musicals. We liked WATCHING them.

This is all it takes, people. Twenty-year-olds studying abroad have boundless optimism. None of it’s earned, of course, but that’s okay. It’s just there.

One problem: all the good subjects had already been taken. Our predecessors had covered everything we could think of. We needed a theme. Needed a setting. Some kind of story. Luckily, as the word guy, I had a brilliant idea:

ME: I’ve come up with an idea for our musical. No one’s ever done it. Brand new!
ROBERTO: Excellent! What is it?
ME: Okay, so I’ve been reading a lot of Simone de Beauvoir. Just finished The Second Sex.
ROBERTO: Um, okay…
ME: And I’ve been reading a lot of Nietzsche. Some interesting combinations there.
ROBERTO: You want to write a…Nietzschean feminist musical?
ME: With bouncy tunes!

It’s embarrassing now to think how excited we were. Embarrassing to think we even tried. But can you blame us? We were twenty years old. TWENTY.

Think of life as a world of doors. When you’re young, you’re told you can open any door. Right? Just find the one you want…and walk right through! They’re all open to you! We tell college graduates that, even though it’s really not true at all. And five-year-olds? Forget it. With five-year-olds we lie and lie and lie. You want to be a movie star? See you on the big screen! An astronaut slash professional baseball player? Godspeed, little one.

For two twenty-year-olds, roaming through Europe, living like carefree kings on Eurorail passes and a stipend, fueled by red wine (legal here! a whole year early!), well, what were going to dream of being? Accountants? Dental hygienists? Of course not! We would be writers of a musical. Naturally. Of course.

We took a picture to commemorate the day we began:

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