Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Ghost in Florence

This post is about the time I thought I had seen a ghost.

This is the only time in my life when I have sincerely, completely and without any doubt believed I had seen a ghost even though I do not particularly believe in ghosts.  I do admit to reading a lot of ghost stories from time to time. Whatever I may or may not believe to be true about ghosts, I was completely convinced I had seen one that morning.

The events in this story happened in the early 1990s, probably about 1993. I don't remember the exact year, but it doesn't matter. It was the year that I was invited to speak at Mediatech in Milan by my friend Maria Grazia Mattei. This is back when I was famous and was invited to speak at such events.   It was all too brief a trip which is normal for these conferences.  

In those days, you had to book your departure and return flights well in advance to get the best price, and changes were expensive, and with some classes of tickets, impossible.  Although I could not spend much time in Italy, I could spend a few extra days and see one other city. So I picked Florence (not sure why Florence over Venice or Rome, but it probably had to do with my comfort level for being able to take a train to and from Milan). The deal was, that I had two and a half days to be a tourist in Italy but I absolutely had to be back on the third day at Milan airport by 10 AM to catch a noon flight back to Los Angeles.

I take the train to Florence and check into a nice small hotel. The hotel is either old or the building it is in is old, but most buildings in Europe seem ancient to someone from California. I run around Florence for 48 hours and see as much medieval and renaissance art as I can. I drink too much very strong Italian coffee, I am suffering from sleep deprivation and I am completely exhausted.  I know I have to get to bed as early as I can and get up at a very early hour, check out of the hotel, catch a train back to Milan and then to the airport.

I set the alarm clock to 4 AM, turn out the lights, and fall asleep immediately.

She was standing at the foot of the bed. It was dark outside and dark in my room, but I could see her clearly. She was very old and she was wearing a beautiful dress, a dress like I have never seen, a dress from another time, complicated and faded, it seemed to glitter in the dim light.  Somehow I knew it was her favorite dress. It was the one she had been buried in.

She stood at the foot of the bed and she said "Wake up. It is time for you to wake up. You have to wake up now. Wake up."

I looked at the clock to see what time it was. It was 3:59 AM. It was time for me to get up.

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