Sunday, February 25, 2018


now This site is cooling off. I am using the Wireless site for misc. and the warming trend for poetry

master


THIS IS IT 2-13 americans lick spoon two ladies at termni JAMES desert fox large ears11111 secretary spoke through her nose I quietly asked M,"Why does she talk like that?" she whispered, "She was raised underwater." add food details salad last show not tell apartment rental magic chicken 8ofus 48 trees anguilara castle promption...cover, etc. Rome 2000 Rome -the Millennium This is life in Italy at the turn of the millennium, a major mark, and we were there to see it all - the Polish pope, Berlusconi, the lira to the Euro. Included in the acdcount are the dailies: pizza, pasta, and red wine. Oh, Italy. *** In numerology he's a 3: a poet, actor, musician, artist; that's how it fell. Jack's life work has been as a writer and talent for radio TV, film, live shows and stage. This is an account of a portion of that life; twenty-five years in Rome. *** l the unfortunate part of not making note is forgetting completely what i never wrote *** Roma is breaking my heart In the opening lines of I left my heart in San Francisco “The glory that is Rome is of another day.” While enchanting, the glory was an earlier time. After a quarter of a century I know what the Romans do: Rome has many attributes...and yes, Roma e Bella. The times here described occurred around the millennium. We were in Rome to see it all - the Polish pope, Berlusconi, the lira dropped for the Euro, the coming of cell phones, technological advances and the staples that remained - pizza, pasta and red wine. The calendar of days float away. The moss of years gather founded on adventure in the eternal city. I sold James my old classic sailboat last year, he sailed it to Mexico, had engine trouble and left it there, abandoned it, a fine old wooden boat from 1926. That's James. *** book begins below - Rome The Millennium by Jack C. Sender 1 Mindless...thinking nothing...easy to do. Working on the deck rail of my old Italian fishing boat in an innocuous marina in Sausalito, California the gold coast country, a golden-gate away from San Francisco; seagulls floating in quiet water, a warming sun overhead. While smoothing a heavy cotton rag over a section of newly oiled deck rail a long shadow came over me. “Now you have to come to Rome.” His voice soft and clear. I squinted toward the sun. James stood on the dock, above me grinning, head bobbing like a seagull with a morsel, trying to keep it in his mouth. James excited? Nothing peculiar; he usually showed excitement for something. About a month ago we were talking and I said I'd like to see Rome someday. Perhaps. I said that. ”Rome? really ................ why now, what's happening? "Sue and I are getting married." I put the rag down. Took in what he said with a deep breath. “Congratulations...that's great, but Italy? That’s a long way to go get married.” Quite a revelation. Of course James always had a surprise. “You're going all the way to Italy to get married?” “Rome. Certainly. My family is there. I’m Italian, remember. That’s where I’m from. I have to get married there. That’s where everybody is. Mom and dad, Alex. Everybody’s there. You wanted to see Italy and now you have a reason to go. You have to go.” ck Nothing James comes up with is easy, and of course he’s Italian. I forgot he's from there, his family is there. His dad came here a few times, the rest of them I’d never met, only heard of them. Right away I thought of the problems involved. I knew this was going to be a big step. “What do I have to do?” “Nothing, just come,” he pleaded. With James, it couldn’t be a simple trip. He saw my reluctance. “I’ll help. It’ll be easy.” This is James talking to me. James who jumps first, thinks sparsely. “What about..." I’d began to work on an excuse why I couldn’t go, but nothing solid came up in a flash. "Maybe the weather...when is the rainy season?" I sat there and I was dumb. It sounded like I was going. “Just come. You don’t have to worry about anything.” James was right to concentrate on my apprehensons. I like events to run well, and James is a different sort. A few months ago I casually mentioned in conversation that I’d like to go to Italy sometime. Now this. I never thought it would pop up so soon, going to Italy. I didn’t consider making plans, not seriously. Italy. I knew he was from Rome. His dad is Roman. His mom American from the East coast somewhere, Boston maybe. Though born in Rome he speaks English like an American. When James was young he lived in Boston when his dad worked there as an executive for Alitalia Airlines. In prelude to his later years, James told me that a few times he left home without telling anyone. He’d take a complimentary airline ticket from his dad's coat pocket, hop a plane to Rome and walk the streets for the weekend, to get the feel of it again. He'd sleep at friends, avoid anyone his family knew, be back on Monday and never told anyone he had been away. That's James. I told him I'd let him know if we could make it to his wedding. He nodded, knowing he had won, and said, "Good." *** Rome has been here a while. I say here because that's where I am as I write this. And, it's James's fault. Based on a mythological account Rome was found on 21 April 753 BC. Mine has been a glimpse of the eternal city; albeit a quarter century glimpse. Longer than in any other place I've lived in Rome. I never dreamed about living in Rome, it just happened. Today I saw a video shot here in Rome twenty years ago. How it has changed in the time I've been here. The clothes, the styles. The internet began since I've been here. Technology has soared. Although the Romans haven't changed. They're direct descendants of the crowd at the Colosseum that yelled for the gladiator to kill the son of a bitch. There was a time I often traveled to Mexico, thought of retiring there, with margarita in hand, the murmur of breaking surf. When my ears quit ringing and I woke up I was in Italy; at least here you can drink the water. I write about Rome to let you know what it was like at the turn of the millennium. Reading this account may give you ideas where to go or what to avoid. So, sit down with your café latte, the tale is about to unfold - and like an origami alligator, once opened you may never be able to re-fold it. *** 2 Unable to resist the call, we flew to James wedding. M could only get off work for three weeks so I left for Rome first, she got there for the ceremony and we had three weeks after. We did our preparation, time passed quickly and soon she drove me to the airport. "You didn't take anything out of the bag did you? I think I packed everything you're going to need." "I went through it fifty times...twenty...it'll be all right." We hugged goodbye. "I'll see you soon, Sweetie." We hugged again, the trip began. In the international lounge for the first time, sitting there looking out the window at the sky, I wondered where this trip would take me. Rome was a new deal. First, the long flight ordeal, San Francisco to Fumicino’s Leonardo Di Vinci Airport in Roma. A 24 hour door to door journey. I count from the time I close the door in America until I walk into where I am going in Italy. That's all travel time. Getting to the airport, kissing M good bye - she's coming in a few weeks - checking in, going through security, waiting for the flight, flying California to New York, walking, eating, waiting again, a long flight over the ocean to Rome, getting baggage, then getting where I'm going, then finally walking in the door at my destination, that's how you burn twenty-four hours. Then wait a week to get over the jet lag. It was excitement, anticipation, preparation, ridiculous long; more than anyone should endure. When I got to Rome's Fumicino airport and went through customs they were standing there chipper as can be, waiting for me. I felt physically wrecked. They were happy to see me. I saw James and his dad...put out my hand to shake and they grabbed me, hugged me, kissed me on both cheeks. I wasn't expecting such a warm welcome. They got me and my bags in their car and whisked me off to uncertainty. I was at their mercy. It had begun. First they took me to see friends and family, and we kept moving all day. We ate and drank. By evening James and Sue and I were in a car headed a couple of hours north for Tuscany. They still had wedding preparations and I was going along while they did what they had to. All day long, listening to Italian, not understanding a word. All of a sudden, both of them, James and Sue, were Italian. We were at an apartment in a village somewhere up north and everyone was partying, drinking wine, smoking pot. I felt wasted, dead tired. By midnight I'd been awake forty hours, we were somewhere in Tuscany, eight of us sitting on the floor. They were drunk and stoned, all of them thirty or younger...me twenty years older and exhausted out of my mind. Late that night They took me to a house with a rental room and told me I'd sleep there. They left. I crashed, slept like a rock or a log or a dog. In the morning, I woke groggy, in a bed somewhere, didn't know where. In somebody's house, hardly knew how I ended up there. What a whirlwind. Got dressed, wandered downstairs into the kitchen, found an Italian family who spoke no English. Here I was a stranger walking in and they didn't look surprised to see me. There were three of them, and a happy, long-haired dog. The kitchen small and foreign-looking. They were neat, clean and acted like they knew me. I'd never seen them before. They treated me politely, as a honored guest and didn't speak English. In the course of the next hour I learned they’d occasionally rent a room for a tourist. I was the first American they'd ever seen. It was a new experience for all of us. I'd never seen an Italian at home. We checked each other out pretty well. I got that James talked to them when he dropped me off and I was supposed to wait for him to come back, but it'd be a while...a few days. The mother was short, heavy, seemed happy, kind of shy, very easy going. The father was friendly. That first morning I quickly met him, he stayed around only a few minutes, finished eating and left for work before I even sat down. The son, about fifteen, the most savvy of the lot, knew a few English words, was observant and alive. A youth on the move into the future. Mama pointed and I sat at fine, old kitchen table for my first Italian breakfast. I was ready. She set a large coffee mug in front of me with a shot of coffee in it, and poured in hot water to fill the cup. She smiled as she pointed to it and I heard her call it "American caffe". She gave me two pieces of cold toast on a plate, and nodded to a mason jar of homemade jelly on the table. I smiled and nodded back at her. I got the idea. Things were settling down already. I put some jelly on my cold toast. This was the start of it. The hard start. My introduction to Italy. The toast and coffee were good. I had another piece of toast with jelly and a second cup. After breakfast the son showed me where to find the shower. I washed and dressed. Somehow I had remembered to bring my suitcase and not leave it in the car with James. I stood there looking out the window. Country fields out there, with nothing to do and nowhere to go. Didn’t know where I was. Out in the country somewhere, that's all I could figure. Downstairs, had another coffee. The mother and I made a few attempts to talk to each other. Got mostly smiles and chatter neither of us could comprehend. Emile, a teenager, nice kid, popped in with a few words of English. When our talk bogged down I tried some Spanish. We did better with that, and made progress. He repeated that whoever brought me would be back in a few days and I should relax and enjoy myself. Emile also communicated that there would be supper for me with the family that evening. I asked if there was a town nearby, he shook his head yes, pointed out the window...down the road, that direction. "Non troppo lontano." Good news...I was ready for something to do, got my jacket, said good byes with a lot of smiles going on and walked the way he pointed...to see what I'd find. Right away it was nice out, sunny. A perfect, early fall day. This was Italy. On the road I saw distant houses now and then. Farm country, everywhere; although I had no idea what they were growing. The family's nice, large, white, woolly, old dog didn't jump around a lot, walked with me a while. Not far before he turned to home. I saw sheep on the other side of a fence. They could have belonged to the neighbors. There could have been some cows in the next field too. They looked like cows. Everything was guess work. I could see a long way. Fields and hills ran to the horizon. I felt good. In Italy for the first time and starting off, walking the road. Far away, on the yellow hills, were small stone farm buildings, here and there. Houses too, on the hills. The land was like California, somewhat. More yellow to it. M is going to love this. The weather was warm, a good day. Smelled fresh. The air moved lightly, with no breeze to speak of. What I discovered, not far, after less than a mile, over a small knoll, was the little village...ancient and pretty. I kept moving ahead. The town was still, waiting. I got there, taking an easy walk for my first look at what I thought of as an Italian village. Quaint, gray stone buildings, two to three stories, raw stone, nothing painted. Some laundry on lines, window to window. In the town I walked by different shops, couldn't tell what most of them were. Unfortunately there were no restaurants I that saw. It was near lunchtime, I was ready and saw nowhere to eat. They had little stores, odds and ends, all quiet. A few people going in and out of one place turned out to be the sole coffee place in town that I saw. I walked in. It was decorated a hundred years ago. Behind a glass case small half sandwiches were wrapped in plastic wrap, ready to eat. Two of these and two apples were what I had. I'd changed some money so I put some coins on the counter. The man behind the counter picked out a few. They gave me water and I had a coffee too. Whatever the town people were doing and saying was new to me. They looked like farmers and small town business types. They talked among themselves, and when they found I couldn't speak Italian they gave friendly nods and that ended it. We looked each other over pretty good. One guy tried to talk to me, I was polite, but the information we exchanged was minimal. Yes, I was from America and yes, they drank wine, but it's too early, except for that one guy at the table over there who drinks all the time. They laughed about that. They were nice people, men mostly, but we couldn't really say much of anything. They all were average, regular people. foreigners to me. We smiled at each other, and quickly drifted apart. Whatever the town people were doing and saying was unknown to me. I was an obvious stranger, and after a while everyone left me to look and walk around on my own. Sometime in the afternoon I drifted back up the road to my rooming house outside of town. having walked it once made it seem closer. I quietly entered the side door and climbed the stairs to my room and slept a while. Woke up in time to wash up and have dinner with the family. Some boiled meat and fresh greens, beans and potatoes, plus a cake mamma baked that afternoon...and coffee. The water tasted clear and good too. The father seemed happy to see me. We tried some fractured fragments of communication over dinner with the aid of Emile. It went fine. They were good people. We had some local, fresh red table wine and that was fine also. Got tired early, back in my room I slept again, right through until morning when awakened by first light and some chickens doing their morning call. The next day went down pretty much the same. When I walked back to town I saw the same guys in the bar, and a couple of new ones. I was known now. People said hi. I had two small, half-sandwiches they sold. I survived. Got a couple of apples and walked around town. Saw the rest of the village. A couple of churches, a lot of stone. Everything was built out of stone. The walks too. They had a fountain in the middle of town. That second afternoon, on my way back to the house, outside of town, a small, disheveled woman approached. I don't know if she walked toward me or was standing there and I happened by. In her mid-thirties, worn looking, long hair piled on her head, with a hopeful, sad face. She held up a small sack, obviously wanting to sell me a handful of vegetables, three or four beets and some flowering leaves. I shook my head no, gave her a few coins, then continued down the road. It seemed she picked a tough spot for selling vegetables. Maybe she heard about an American wandering around. The trip from California had wiped me out. I felt slow in the new, faraway time zone. Okay, I felt excited about coming to Italy, but not rested. And no one spoke more than a few words of English. James and Sue had preparations for the wedding and I was extra baggage. All day listening to Italians, not understanding a word. Even Sue, an American, hobbled through with her cobbled attempts at Italian and said near nothing in English when I saw her. I don't blame her, she tried to fit in. Days passed, still nothing from James and Sue. Then I got word from Emile that James had called - my wife had landed in Rome, Giacomo met her and was bringing her to Tuscany. That afternoon Giacomo drove in with M. Good to see her. We were both pleased. She looked tired, but it was great to have her here. She wanted to see the village. We both talked fast trying to catch up in a minute. “Tell me...you look great, how have you been?” she asked. You do too, Sweetie,so good to see you. I don’t know how I've been.” That shook her up. “What do you mean you don’t know?” “I'm okay, but you'll see...they look like us, talk like us but you can’t understand anything they say. I hardly know what’s going on...What day is it?” We walked outside, the air still,the sky cobalt. I pointed out what I knew about where we were, the buildings, cows and hills far off. The dog was curious. M patted him on the head and he walked with us. "It's beautiful here. Like a post card." She turning around looking at the land, the hills...then turned to me, “Where’s James and Sue?” I squinched my shoulders and put my palms to the open sky. “I don’t know. I haven’t seen them. They're off somewhere doing things for the wedding. I have no idea. I haven’t seen them.” She stopped walking. “What do you mean you haven’t seen them?” “Oh, I’ve seen them, when I got here...not recently." I wanted to explain, but was at a loss. "They said they had stuff to do and they left me here.” “Why didn’t they take you with them?” That was a good question. I shook my head. “I don’t know. I don’t know anything. I woke up the first day and they were gone.” The day before the wedding everyone arrived. James and Sue, his family, some Americans, more Italians, town people, a lot of folks were around. The wedding day came and everything was spectacular: the weather, the old church, the family who came to share the event. M and I got moved to a new house, closer to the wedding. There were suddenly a lot of cars and people around. There were Americans now, also some British. That was a relief to understand some words, to have people to talk to. After the wedding in an old church in the village we were driven out in the country for the reception at the ancient building that was a convent, complete with pastures and farm buildings. The convent was no longer in use, not by nuns or anybody, completely abandoned, but cleaned and decorated for the festivity. A group of old local musicians provided the music. They must have been players from a nearby village. They were well practiced in these sort of occasions. The entire event could have been a movie. Locals did the cooking. We ate several pre meal specials foods, enough for a kings banquet, then three different pastas, a variety of steaming meats and fresh vegetables. When the meal was over they brought out the salads, salads last, that's the way it is. Finally carted out were rolled and frosted deserts. Then coffee or tea. and grapa. Then the music began. If Speilberg had filmed this his production would have captured the most enchanting wedding ever; magical, unparalleled. Everyone smiled amid chatter and satisfaction. We ate, drank wine and danced to the light music of the orchestra. The evening concluded with laughter under stars in the moonlight. Following the celebration everyone took a day of recuperation. Sitting around, eating and sipping wine with the family. The next day we would return to Rome, but not normality. We had three weeks left in Italy, and we used the time to explore, eat, and enjoy every second of our time. Enchanting Rome...ours to discover. *** As i am writing this I see a pack of cigarettes on the table. Back then you had to buy your cigarettes, bread or chewing gum on Saturday, on Sunday everything is closed. Now I've quit dmoking. These are only souviniers. 3 I spoke Spanish, that didn’t help, and soon got in the way. It was wrong to think I could slide from one romance language to another. Italians can easily learn another romance language. For Americans it's harder to go into a second romance language. Some words are the same in Italian and Spanish, but the accent is completely different. Overall it was confusing. I can still read Spanish, but had to forget using it. Words are similar on paper, but spoken...the accent, the rhythms, the music of the Italian language is unique. I had to forget Spanish to learn Italian, and I did. *** Roma is difficult. The bureaucracy is not easy, even for Italians. *** sailing to the coast on a silver ghost buckle up in motion they pour that magic potion it's a primo flight going to fly all night when she brought my tray i heard her walk away and say, life is but a dream, a matter of time, you may as well unwind, go ahead and dine on crackers, avocados, cheese and california wine On the return flight to San Francisco we talked the entire way: our trip, Rome, the wedding; then we returned to the daily grind. Six months later we came back for another three week dose of Italy. It had made an impression we didn't shake. The next trip to Rome we stayed with Giacomo's brother Sandro in Testaccio. Years ago their mother bought a shop in the side of Mount Testaccio, it began as a stable with two floors above it. Sandro turned the shamble into a beautiful home. Two thousand years ago Mount Testaccio began as a pile of broken pottery shards from goods delivered to Rome by boat. The pieces were thrown in a heap near the river. The mound of discards eventually became what is now Mount Testaccio. The old meat cutting area up the street, functioning until a hundred years ago, is nearby. The English cemetery where notable foreigners including Keats and Shelly are buried is opposite Sandro's house. Nightclubs have been opening in that area. A cave that goes directly into the side of Mount Testaccio is Sandro’s ground floor. He kept working and turned a rough house into a fine piece of real estate, country living in the city. In later years I’d seen the interior used in a few films. The home is a gem. An old lady and her husband lived next door above another cave. In their ground floor they kept horses that pulled the wagons that took tourists for rides through the Center of Rome. A few yards away I took a photo of two old men sitting on benches, chatting in front of another horse stall. It was old Rome...and it was fading. *** A few months passed then we were back in Italy. This time we stayed in an apartment belonging to Giacomo's sister, Katrina. When I called Giacomo I said "We'll pay for a room anywhere. You know Rome better than we do, that's why I called you to help us." "No, this is good, don't worry about it, it's good timing, come on...this place is available, it is nothing." When we flew in he picked us up at the airport and drove us to the apartment. It was another perfect weather, blue sky day. "Why is the apartment empty?" "My sister. They are getting married Sunday and now she's living at another sister's house. She has lots to do. It is perfect timing. The apartment is empty." "It is furnished?" "OH sure, beds and tables, chairs, enough to stay there. She is going to sell the apartment, but now there is nobody there. Her personal things she moved, but the apartment is furnished. It is vacant, there is enough for you to stay there. She will be on her honeymoon." "Where are they going?" M asked. "Cuba first, and then Mexico." "They like pineapple, right?" I said. "Warm water, and sun, that's for sure," he said. He drove through Rome to a hill opposite the Vatican and parked. There were trees and birds. It was a woodland setting. "It looks like we're out in the country...but the Vatican is right there," Giacomo pointed. "The apartment overlooks the cupola of the Vatican. The apartment is small but very nice, perfect. I think you and M will like it very much." He parked by the door, got out the key and took us in. It was great, partially furnished, very Italian and beautiful. We carried our bags in and settled down. "You want a coffee?" Giacomo picked up the coffee maker and a container with coffee in it, she waved him off. "I'll make it." She took the coffee maker from him and started toward the stove. "Okay, come on, Jack, I'll show you around the apartment." "Now look there." Where he pointed out the window I could see the top of the Vatican. "The Cupola, they call that the Cupola, the tower," he said. Hey, M, did you see this?" "Isn't that something?" Giacomo said. She turned to see it. "Wow, it's right across from us. Look at the people walking around." Then the coffee was boiling. M had her first experience at brewing Italian coffee and put the coffee in the bottom of the container instead in the top. She tried to pour some. It was a disaster. "You have to put the coffee on the top. The water goes down below." A learning experience, and that she's good at. M learns well. Giacomo showed her..."The water on the bottom and then coffee in the top." She redid it and we all had our coffee. "We don't use those coffee brewers in the states," I said. We settled in and all was in order. It said fall on the calender; and fall came on like flipping a switch; hot one day, cool the next. The first week we saw what we could of Rome, starting with the nearby Vatican and the Castello San Angelo. We saw the Boca di verita, the site called the mouth of truth featured in a fifties movie with Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck and has been a tourist spot ever since. There was no one there the day we stopped by. Since then we've seen tour buses parked nearby and lines going way around the block to see the famous circular stone disk mounted on a wall with a carved mouth on it. Legend has it that the mouth will snap your hand off if you answer a question with a lie while your hand is in the mouth. It's an old piece of stone with a carved face and an open mouth. In the film the stone gleamed white as a freshly iced cake. Now after being touched my the dirty hands of ten million tourists it's dirty and worn. But go ahead, stick your hand in there and get your picture taken doing it. That last week in Rome James came by and took us for a ride. Out near Santa Maria Magiori, one of the gates to enter old Rome. He said one of his friends made an apartment in one of the holes high up in the twenty feet thick, hundred foot tall wall. He pointed to a spot. The guy lived there in his improvised apace a few years before authorities found out that he lived there and threw him out. *** It was during those early trips I met more of Giacomo's family. All the sisters, brother Sandro, and we visited his mother and her sisters at their home on the Aventine, a prestigious area opposite the Forum, above Circus Maximus. I met his mother and elderly aunt that lived with her, Pim-Pim. Aunt Pim-Pim spoke English, we got along well and talked over tea a few times. When asked, I told her I did talent work, an actor for films, commercials and live shows. She perked up and told me she was an actreere and had done work in films. Among her many acting roles she had a part in one of Federico Fellini's movies - Fred and Ginger. I've since seen the movie and saw her brief performance. She explained that for the filming Fellini wanted her to sit in a chair on the middle of the set. "What do I do?" she asked Fellini. He repeated, "Sit in that chair." He pointed. "Yes, but what do I do?" she asked. He told her, "Oh, Pim-Pim, just sit there...and be yourself." During one of our talks Pim-Pim said she wanted to make a trip to the sea again, just to see it one more time. I told her that when I find out how to get there I would be delighted to take her. Unfortunately she passed away before that ever came about. It was difficult to put the story together, but I learned that Giacomo is from a royal family. He had an uncle who was mayor of Rome, another a senator. I have seen busts of both of them on the Gianicolo. Giacomo himself was born and spent his early years in Villa Alda, the house Musolli took over to live in, now a museum. There is more to tell: His mother held the world speed record on a motorcycle when she was eighteen. Her husband played in the Wimbledon tennis tournament and drove in the Grand Prix. *** When I several years into visiting Italy I got a call in San Francisco to do an audition as an Italian selling pizza sauce or pizza, with a white chef hat, red and white checked table cloth, that sort of thing. They knew I spent time in Rome, but I never played an Italian, certainly not that tpe of Italian. It was a specific type of character. San Francisco thought doing an Italian accent was sufficient, but I know I don't look the part; from twenty feet away an Italian would see I wasn't. I look European, but not Italian. I've got many friends who are Italian and not right for that part. I didn't win that audition. We spent five years going back and forth, visiting Rome, staying with Giacomo's family and friends. Each time we returned to California we realized the hook was deeply set. Soon as we'd get back to California planning would begin for the next trip to Italy. Then I got my permit to stay. We moved there. We needed to find our own apartment. II Rome home On another flight to Rome, in the days when it was permitted to stand on the airplane back by the coffee machine, I talked with a congenial woman who worked in real estate in Rome. Sandy Scatinni had information about a reasonable priced rental apartment in the center of the city, near Campo Dei Fiori. When we got to Rome I followed up on that apartment tip. We liked the apartment and rented it. The owners, Mirella and Roberto who lived upstairs, were to become long time friends. Marble floors, twelve foot high ceilings and a relatively new construction, better than apartments typically found in the historical center...better than in a lot of places. Roberto was a college professor of sicialogy whose specialty was graffiti. and Mirella an office worker at an insurance company. Federico was the college student son whose first floor apartment we rented. There are different conditions for apartment rentals: the kind where you’re the primary renter with a legal contract, and the kind where you rent from someone other than the owner. That is usually illegal but, less enforceable. I started with a rental without contract because I wasn’t a legal resident yet. Residency comes into play when you learn the system. No one is going to run up and tell you anything about legalities, I learned from asking around. Life settled down for us. The apartment worked well as we learned Roman ways by experience. The apartment was spacious and furnished with a bedroom, living room, large bath and a small kitchen. I guess a roomy bath had more appeal for the designer than a large kitchen. When the son, Federico, the regular occupant came around he stayed in a spare room upstairs in his parents apartment. Most of the time he lived elseware. For us, first thing we had to find food. The local outdoor market took care of fruit and vegetables. Fish, chicken and meat were there and also in nearby mom and dad shops. Shampoo, dish soap, tooth paste, other needs were also in small stores. Our days were spent searching and asking questions, getting familiar with the neighborhood. All the walkways in this old area of Rome were cobblestone, in poor repair, especially around the corners and in high traffic areas. We learned to be careful where we stepped. Everything was old, yet new to us. It took time to get acquainted with the surroundings, feel comfortable and become a part of it. Normally in apartments heavy curtains aren’t used except on ground floor windows. The wonderful old apartments with ten foot high windows had heavy drapes and exterior wooden shutters. Like all first floor apartments there were bars on our windows, Outside a secure courtyard with a large metal gate. Roberto said window bars were necessary. He said I could open the windows, but suggested I didn’t touch the bars. They could be opened in emergency, but we should leave them locked at all times. This was the inner city. I got used to the bars and learned to think of them as security to keep bad guys out, not to keep us in. Soon they didn’t look like prison bars, just security; I had to tell myself that for a few days until I ignored them. Robeerto told us that Federico had his motorino stolen from the courtyard once when someone didn’t close the outside front gate. Birds were in the courtyard trees. We'd hear them in the morning and sometime during quiet days. Birds are a good sign for the city, there is nature, it’s not all stone. Mirella and Roberto had us up for dinner one evening. We had red wine and some cut vegetables before dinner, the pasta with fish in it for the meal. Delicious. M watched closely and asked questions about Italian cooking. After dinner Mirella brought out a salad. It was new to us to have salad last, but that was ther Italian way. We had some delicious dry cookies called biscoti for desert. Then adjourned to the living room had another glass of wine and talked a while. A pleasure getting to know them and to learn about Roman ways. One morning during the first month there the door buzzer sounded. I looked out the window and saw two fully uniformed state police women waiting to get in. Luckily Federico had stopped by five minutes before to pick up something he had left in the apartment. M scrambled to the bathroom and remained hidden. It was total coincidence that Federico was there to talk to the police and explain it was his apartment M and I were guests. Renting apartments gets into tax matters, and because he was there to talk the way out of a potential immigration or tax situation, the officers left without a problem for us. I knew that we had to fit into the system, not stick out, or get booted out. We were lucky that day. Electrical current is the Italian standard, 220 direct, not alternating 110 as in the US. You don't have to be an electrician to see the plugs are different. I had to think for a minute. A computer was the only item we had to plug in, and they adjust to the current change. We only had a computer and our clothes, so we were set. I'm sure I worried about it half a day before we bought an adapter plug then held my breath when we plugged it in. This was the old days. The bathroom had a bidet as do all houses and apartments. Americans don’t use them. When I saw it there I had to think about that also. They appear similar to toilets, take up space, but all you do is sit on them and wash your genitals. Seems to me that if you take a shower everyday that would be sufficient, unless you sweat a lot. We never used our bidet. The kitchen had a gas hookup and that was a step above places that used a five gallon tank of gas hooked to your stove. Every few weeks there was a news item about an apartment building getting the roof blown off by a gas explosion. It was important to remember check for leaks and turn off the gas when you’re through with it. Curtains in normal apartments often aren’t used except on the ground level windows. The wonderful old apartments with ten foot high windows have heavy drapes. Nights were quiet until two A.M. when the bars closed and the workers and customers returned home. It seemed a good number of them had loud motorcycles. The roar of traffic down Vittorio Emanuale was tremendous every night at early hours. It sounded like a race going on out there. For us it was a new living experience. Nearly every winter in Rome we had one day when snow fell briefly. For half an hour there would be a dusting down of large flakes, motorists slowed and put on their wipers. Everyone is delighted. People go out of doors to be close to the be auty of it. Storekeepers go out an exchange greetings. Hearts leap with joy. Quickly it is over, the snow turns to rain sprinkles, the ground is wet in melting slush. That's winter in Rome. Last year Weather people predicted a major snowstorm an unprecedented three days in advance. The mayor did a rare, live appearance on television on a Friday to make the special weather announcement: citizens prepare - there will be a major snow storm in Rome on Monday. On the following Monday schools would be closed and all city buses canceled. Rome was set. I am sure there was a rush to supermarkets ... for alcohol? Monday came nothing happened weather wise. Citizens did, however, enjoy the three day weekend. *** Thimbler the poet Early in the morning Thimbler opened his eyes, head full of poetry fragments he'd dreamed. He claims not to sleep per say, but writes poetry in his head. He put himself together, remembered who he was, in which bed he was sleeping and where, then got up. Usually he gets up in the middle of the night to jot ideas for poetry, to look around the room, wondering if it was the silence that woke him. Maybe he was still sleeping. No. The floor was cool. This is how morning feels. I turned on the TV. Two seconds later the weather popped on. Everyone has been trained to believe TV weather is more reliable than looking out the window. There was a map of Italy, full screen with suns all over it. M counted 'em up. "It's going to be a 26 suns day." She looked at me. I nodded my approval. "Not bad." Every region in Italy has to have it's own sun on the weather map. Everyone wants confirmation for their region, or the guy who makes the weather map thinks so. Having your own sun is proof that not only your region is significant, and by extension, you are too. *** Gianni Up the street on the end of via Pelligrino across from the Cancelleria, an acquaintance, Gianni, rented a storage space and turned it into a coffee bar. It was a good spot. I met him the day he was checking the place out, looking around. Gianni and I got along well from the start. A week later he opened for business. I had coffee there to show allegiance from day one. He spoke some English and put up with my fragments of Italian, so we talked. The kind of casual teacher I could deal with. He’d write a few words, give me the scrap of paper to look at. Or he'd correct me when feasible. I learned from speaking with him and others. Gianni had wild, crazy hair that stuck out, a ready smile, and lasted a year. Well, he lasted longer, but his coffee bar didn’t. It seems he didn’t enjoy getting up in the morning, not good if you run a coffee bar. Italians, like people in many countries, enjoy their coffee in the morning. I was pulling for him. I wanted him to do well. Come on, Gianni. You can start by showing up in the morning. He’d show up at first. Having never run a coffee bar, it occurred as an experimental inception. He had all the equipment and a tiny space that seemed manageable. Three stools for customers. He tried different radio stations on his small portable radio until he found one that suited his mornings. He played the radio loudly. Italians seem to like their volume control on full. My experience is they keep their auto gas tanks nearly empty, and radio volume nearly full. Gianni tried decorating, rearranging every object within his bar to his liking. I never understood his efforts. He seemed to have no skill at this. The effect was minimal and incomplete, An idea would surface like the bobbing head of a drowning man. like a small calender taped to the mirror behind him. Visible but too far out to do anything about it. His bar was at the end on my street. I had to pass by to go food shopping. In the mornings he’d be reading the paper and listening to the radio when I walked in. I’d have my morning coffee there, it was apparent that few others did. It seemed strange to me that He seemed more calm about it that I was. If it were my investment I’d be thinking of what I would do to attract customers. I could offer no suggestions. Whatever thoughts I had about his bar didn’t matter to him, Gianni had his own program going, and that was how it would be. I'd go in there for a coffee because I knew he was in there, but from the outside his bar looked closed and deserted. I'd try a suggestion by asking a question, “Why don’t you open the door on nice warm days so people can see you’re in here?” He shot a glance at the door, then quickly back into his newspaper. “It has a cool draft with the door open. I want it closed. They’ll find me in here if they want to.” His position was something to the effect that: if the bar does well, then that is the way it will work out. I didn’t attempt to counter his laise faire approach. It was his bar and he could run it the way he wished. I wished him well. I liked having a bar at the end of the street with an owner who was my friend. One morning I was coming down via Pelligrino toward Gianni’s, straight ahead on the end of our street. He should be there. The door was open, but that didn't mean he was there. I was a few feet from his door when he came speeding up. He shook a box in his hand, showing it to me. “Ciao, Jack.” “Ciao, Gianni. Boungiorno. What’d you get?” “Boungiorno. Sugar. I was all out. They had some at Pierre’s and I borrowed a box.” I nodded. “When are you going to paint a picture of my place?” “Soon as I finish the fountain.” I set my art box and easel down and sat on a stool at the bar and patiently waited. “Okay, Okay.” He quickly got behind the bar and began preparing a coffee for me. I took a morning roll from his container that kept them warm. A cornetto and coffee ... the Italian breakfast. Outside I saw the front of the Cancelleria, a large white stone structure built five hundred years ago and looked as if built a few years ago. They must clean it now and then. Other building turn black with exhaust soot. Nothing about the Cancelleria had changed. It was three long stories tall, stone and stately – probably built from travertine carted out of the ransacked Forum. “Did you see the Vampire? He’s crazy today.” Gianni said while setting down my coffee. I shook my head. “Not yet...just got here. That vampire is way out, isn't he?” Gianni nodded and reached over to the box with the rolls in it and took one out. Just then the girl from the pizza place across the street came in. She was early today. “Ciao. I’m beat.” She swept her longhair back our of her eyes. “The day is just beginning, darling.” Gianni said. “I’ve got a lot to do. The boss gave me a list to do before we open.” She pulled out a large paper with a list on it. Examined it. “You need any sugar?” Gianni asked. She looked at him, he was kidding, “Right.” she said, “I’ve got to do some shopping for ingredients for pizza – sugar isn’t one of them, Sugar.” He rolled his eyes trying to look charming. “I still love you, baby,” he said. She abruptly turned to leave. “ciao boys.” She said as she left, closing the door softly behind her. She swung her head and her long hair lashed over her shoulder. All was silent then. No radio on that day. Through the window we watched her sway away. I heard Gianni exhaled slowly. He shivered as he watched he go. I put coins on the counter. “Time to go, I’ll see you later too, Gianni. Oh, I’ll look for the Vampire. See you later.” “Ciao, Jack, ci vediamo...a dopo.” Gianni's business never picked up. He struggled with the bar for nearly a year, but his nature got the best of him. I asked him why he looked tired in the mornings, He told me he hung out at the discos regularly, and late in the evenings. Then some mornings Gianni didn't open the bar at all. Toward the end of the year he cut his long hair, then a week later shaved his head completely. This was the beginning of the end. Soon the bar wasn't opening at all. The doors stayed closed. It was months later that I heard Gianni was a disco dancer, a cubist: a person who dances on cubes under spot lights in the discos until three in the morning. He did this for fun, not money; and that is precisely what ended this fiercely independent, free thinker’s year as coffee bar operator: fun, not money. *** Gianni's coffee bar remained closed, but there were others. Down that same street there was one, but it had a rough crowd hanging there. In the piazza Campo Dei Fiori were several bars...I may have tried a few . Angelos was a street over, straight down from the Campo, and the market that I knew people used that one. Angelo was always congenial and his became our new bar of choice. It was close and he was a very nice guy, always looking neat with a white shirt vest and tie. It was a pleasure to go there. He had outside tables for good weather. *** I hadn't seen Sandro, Giacomo's brother, for a while, so I took a bus to Testascio to see him. Sandro had a home built into the side of Mount Testaccio. "Jack." He had his arms up to welcome me. "Sandro, good to see you." We got along well. "I have a few things to pick up, come on, It is not far." We walked two blocks to the grocery store. He needed a few items. My Italian wasn't good and he asked if I wanted to get anything. "Tea...that would be something. Is there any fish tea?" The word I wanted to say was peach, but I said fish - pesce instead of pesca. He took a step back, shook his head and made a face,"Ugh. Fish tea? That sounds terrible." He figured out I wanted peach tea, not fish tea." Walking back to his place with street traffic heavy, even crossing a street wasn't easy, hardly space to walk between parked cars. He told me how he wanted the American way of handling traffic to come to Rome. I looked at him and raised my eyebrows; what has he heard?. He said, “Because in America it works...traffic flows.” What he knew about traffic in America came from a remote glimpse provided by the media. Rome traffic, on the other hand, was a fiasco he lived with. We walked down a street where cars were parked angling into the curb all the way around the corner. With hardly room to walk through and get to the sidewalk. Cars were double parked behind the first row. It was a mess. If someone needed to get a trapped car out, he had to get to his car and repeatedly honk the horn. Sooner or later, the offending vehicle owner would come out and move his car. No words need be said, that is what is expected, how it is done. From my perspective, it seemed there were about three times as many vehicles on the street as parking places. I pointed and explained to Sandro that in the U.S. those cars without legal parking places would be ticketed, or towed away everyday and right away. While here it was hard to find a policeman for any purpose. You have to phone them. Sandro explained that if some kind of mass enforcement is called for on parking, it is announced ahead of time, written about in the paper, broadcast on the news. Everyone forewarned with the exact day, date and times and location of the enforcement. I seemed simple; you’d think everyone would heed the warning, but they don’t. Perhaps the date is changed at the last moment, or the location of the enforcement is changed. You never know, so no one worries about it. On one hand you have a police state. On the other you have an old world way of letting everything slide, because there is freedom for many to do what they want. This often includes stepping on the rights of others. Maybe some feel it isn’t bad being stepped on, as long as you can do some stepping on yourself, now and then. So, the question: Would you prefer the world to be ruled orderly, or would you permit areas where people have freedom to break the rules. It would seem rules are the way to go, but personally I enjoy the creative space that occurs in chaos. Of course chaos can be a pain in the butt. Like asking do you want to jaywalk or walk all the way up to the nearest corner and cross at the light. It depends, doesn’t it? There is freedom in making your own decisions and taking your chances. Rome traffic is chaos, but sometimes it works. Many Romans don’t stay in lines and run in single file. If there are four lanes but room for five small cars, well what is a body to do? Today cars are larger than a few years ago. The small motorinos, the scooters of Marcelo and Sophia have been replaced by larger bikes, SUVs and Mercedes. What a pity. Globalization has swallowed Rome. When we got back to his place it was time for me to head home. He put his shopping away. "Good to see you again, Sandro." "Here." He reached into his bag, handed me a box. "Don't forget your fish tea." *** Now it is five minutes before ten at night. We're at home waiting for a TV movie scheduled to begin forty-five minutes ago at nine-ten. In college I worked for the CBS affiliate television station in Columbus, Ohio. We’d come out of an afternoon movie, do our commercials, then at exactly seven join the network for the national news. That's how it worked for stations across the country every time...the local station identification, on the top of the hour there would be a tone broadcast from New York, then the national news theme would begin. Every affiliate the did same. In Italy the national TV news on Rai Tre is scheduled to begin at seven P.M. However, on any day it may begin a few minutes early, or a few minutes late. It was scheduled to conclude so the local news from the regional affiliate stations began local news at seven-thirty. The half hour national news could end early, but more often I’ve seen the national news run seven or eight minutes beyond the half hour. That is how it is done. *** 6 The dollar floated high against the Italian Lira, so in the beginning years I had enough money for us to easily get by. As weeks passed I spent more time painting at the market at Campo Dei Fiori, and established rapport with some of the the vendors. Little friendships were building. I knew a few names, others became familiar faces, and that, in the city, is a relationship. I'd know who smiled and nodded and who never saw me. That's the way it goes. I've always been an early riser so I got out there when the market began. It was a five minute walk to our apartment. Holidays meant no market. Holidays were for home and the family. For M and I holidays were for the two of us. We started going to Chinese restaurants on holidays as many of the Italian places were closed. Chinese restaurants were always open. As years passed tea and rice became a holiday tradition for us. We learned how to say hello and good bye and chop sticks in Manderin. *** One day we stopped into an herbal store up our street, near what was formerly Gianni’s bar. We wanted a gift for a friend, a block of salt. M spotted it. Not any old block of salt. This one carried the mark "made in India", half the size of a shoe box, an irregular shape, a melted ostrich egg, rather pastel in color, with a light in it. You don’t cook with it, you look at it. And it cleans the air. The owner/operator lady looked familiar. She does most all of the work there and we saw her in passing. She’s been around a while as we had. Quietly we opened her door and entered. She had a customer paying for a gift and getting ready to leave. She gave us a half second glance and finished with business at hand. We looked around the store. When she was free I said, “What a nice looking shop, how’s is it going here?” I’d heard her speaking English to another customer so I knew she spoke it. “Very well, thank you. How’s it going with you?” "Fine, thank you. This is a very nice store you have." "Certainly. What can I help you with today?" "We’d like a gift for a friend and we thought one lamps." She pointed to it. "What is it made out of?" “it’s salt." “Salt, It looks like glass.” “No, that’s salt from India.” And she began telling us about it. We listened. During the explanation she asked, “You live near here, right? I see you around.” “Right, we live down the street.” Her accent was peculiar. As we talked I asked if she was from Great Britain because of the way she spoke.  "I was born down South."  “Oh really...what part?” “Zambia.”  It wasn’t enough information, so she added , "North of Bowaswana". My silence told her I wasn't familiar with it. "Africa". Okay, I finally got it. When she said down south I thought she meant in Italy. We bought the block of salt. The lady also sold me some herbal licorice sticks to help with quitting smoking. It was a good experience there. I walked by the store a few weeks later and caught the lady outside her shop on a smoke break. *** On Via Del Pelligrino I met artist Alberto Parres, carrying canvas and a bucket full of brushes. Car traffic stopped both of us, we looked at each other, saw a friendly face and began talking. "Traffic." He shook his head. "It's always like this." "Yeah, little street for all these cars." "It's everywhere." "Are you Italian?" I asked. "I'm from Tunsia, but I've been here twenty years." "An artist, right?" he nodded and told me he had a studio underground, up the street through the Arc of Accetari, a beautiful, walled-in, tiny piazza featured on hundreds of postcards showing quaint, old Rome: colorful and particular. As months passed Alberto and I saw each other more in passing, always talked, and became friends. Alberto is medium in stature, tall in energy. I never met someone with such good energy. Our talks centered on art, politics, trends in culture, and the highs and lows of living in Rome. He was raised in north Africa, Tunisia, and spoke French, Spanish, Italian and English. Porta Blu is Alberto’s studio; although I wasn’t interested in modern art classes we became great friends. I attended his Friday evening nude drawing sessions on Via Acetari, one floor below street level, a two minute walk from our apartment. Whatever Alberto and I talked about, we had similar opinions. I met several other artists at those drawing sessions: there was Wendy, a fine water color painter from the American East Cost, a Roman, Giancarlino Benedetti Corcos - his work space was one street over. Giancarlino's art was inventive, often childlike and novel. A non-art lover could call it wacky; for sure a long way from art I was used to, but ultimately entertaining. Giancarlino told me, "My studio is on Via Cappellari...you have to see it." "The next street over, right?" "Yes...you have to see it...I am always working there, so stop by...down on that end. It is a good location." He pointed. Like with Alberto, Giancarlino and I had rapport from the start. One night we had seats next to each other during the nude model drawing class. The model, a lithe, long-hair, blonde girl from Sweden, was doing three minute poses. Everyone used the time when the model changed position to change to fresh paper. I noticed Giancarlino kept drawing and drawing on the same piece of paper. After twenty minutes or so of posing, the model took a beak. Giancarlino kept drawing, bearing down hard with apparent concentration. I leaned over to see what he was working on and he feverishly drew a two inch diameter snail. Yeah, that's Giancarlino. *** At the wedding of James’ and Sue that first got us to Italy, we renewed acquaintance with James' dad, Giacomo, who we'd seen a few times when he came to San Francisco in years past. He's a heck of a good fellow, my age, everyone loves him. During subsequent trips to Rome I stayed in touch with Giacomo, more than James who is often out of Rome and in the wind. Giacomo is tall like his sons, on the go, running around town to see the family and help them. Giacomo is stable as a rock, the father figure of the family. He lives in Trastevere, another old part of the city, a short walk across the river from our neighborhood. He and Virginia, a retired television producer, have a fine apartment on the fifth floor, with a long view across the rooftops of Rome. Ironically, several times when we've come to Rome and stayed with his brother Sandro, or had lunch with his sister Paola, or looked up James or Alex a phone would ring and it would be Giacomo saying he was out of gas somewhere. He had the money but only bought enough gas to get where he was going and home again. *** I recently took an enjoyable afternoon ride with Giacomo. Wait. I don’t know why I said enjoyable. As I wrote the word enjoyable it seemed ridiculous...overboard. He’s my friend, a great guy to be with, I like him a lot, but he's a terrible driver. No, that’s wrong too. I have to keep to the facts. It’s easy to color my opinions with feelings. Does that sound right? My feelings have something to do with it, but...let me pause and get my bearings. Okay. I re-read the above and it doesn’t make sense...but it’s going in the right direction. You see, Giacomo perhaps is an excellent driver, but doesn’t seem to be if I go by American standards, but this is Rome and he gets the job done. When riding with Giacomo understand that the car is probably nearly out of gas. If you check the gauge it will be so far down that you’d think: either the gauge doesn’t work, or you’d think we’d had better stop for gas right away, or that finding gas must be the current objective. You’d think that it would be on everyone’s mind. You would hope that there is a container of gas in the backseat. You’d hope there is at least an empty container that we could use to carry gas back when we stop and have to walk to find some. No gas. No container to carry more gas. There were four of us in the car and no one seemed to be aware how low on gas we were; and we were driving fast. We are burning as much gas as a vehicle can burn. Other people when they know that have hardly any fuel adjust their driving in some way to conserve the fuel. I will say that day, for the first time in my experience of riding with Giacomo, he did turn off the engine when we were waiting in traffic for the light to change. At the time I thought that perhaps re-starting the car would use more gas than the bit we would have burned while waiting for the light to change. Then I thought perhaps he would start his car in such a way that it would burn less fuel. I don’t know quite how that would be, but he didn’t do it anyway. The light changed and we zipped off. "Where is James now? I haven't seen him around." "He's living in Potensa...down south." "What is he doing there?" "Just living. He said he's doing some wood work, repair..like that." About Giacomo's driving let me say he goes really fast. That doesn’t seem enough, and it isn’t. Okay, imagine hundreds of Italian drivers in a few lanes of traffic, each of them trying to outdo the other in getting where they are going. Then imagine you’re in the car with Giacomo and he’s winning. He is swerving and jumping and passing and stopping quicker than everyone. Everything is inches from catastrophe. And he’s talking, turning his head, casually looking around and three other people in our back seat are talking and no one says anything about the driving and we’re gliding through the files of cars, seemingly flying over the tops of cars, passing and stopping, against all odds, places we’d never fit. Cars coming at us. Going quicker, turning, changing lanes. Always jamming in the middle of two lanes, between cars in small spaces. We’ll never fit. We can’t possibly make it. Occasionally another car honks but we are already well beyond that point. I glanced in the back and the other three were talking and laughing and not worried about the gas. Then we got where we where we were going. Giacomo stops the car, we pile out. Time to move on. That car ride and lack of gas wasn't worth mentioning. The heat coming off the hood of the car is hot enough to make toast. *** Feet, meters, pollici, yards...it is all learning new ways and I liked it. *** On Pelligrino a woodworker had a small shop a few doors from our apartment building. This guy had a large mustache like a cartoon character, and worked by himself all day long. His name was Ceasare. I saw him when I passed his shop. Hard at work, but didn't miss anything. He told me that when he was a boy he worked in that same shop with his father, so he had put in some time there...a life time. Ceasare's place of business is about twelve by fifteen feet, enough to walk in and walk out again. His shop is packed with old furniture, solvents, oils and tools. The front door lifted open like a garage door. It faced south and he often worked out front in the sun. “Boungorno.” “Ciao, boungiorno, Ceasare.” Stopping to talk to the happy guy several times is how we became friends. On good weather days he had a table or bench half out the door, partially on the street. He not only repairs the furniture people bring him, he waxes what he repairs. He always had quality goods to work on. “Is that Italian?” I ask, pointing at an intricately done well-carved bureau he worked on. “French. From the French embassy,” he shrugged with his shoulder to point the way...a block away. Always with a stocking cap, usually a different one, Ceasare dressed the way you’d imagine Gepetto the puppet maker would. He looks that way to – smiling, unshaven with his bushy mustache. He’s so far Italian that his generations go farther back than records were kept. “What is it...1700s?” I gestured toward the piece, as he worked. “Si, 1750 or so.” He smiled. I always tried to guess what country a piece is from, and what century. For such a dismal stall of a workshop He always had some great antiques to work on. “Painting today?” he asks. I nodded. “I’ll have some coffee, then I’ll get my materials. You want to get some coffee?” “I had coffee." He indicated the piece in front of him. "I have to work.” I knew the answer before I asked, I was being polite. He rubs the wax on in circles. All day he applies it to a piece of furniture. The next day he rubs it again in tight circles, for the entire day, until the polish is smooth as glass. Always circles. He started working with his father in that same shop when he was eleven. Now nearly sixty, Ceasare is still working in the same shop. A good location – both out of the way and in the center of the action. Many of the local workers he didn’t speak a word of English, so it took a year of study before we talked more. His shop on Pelligrino sat in the shadow of the giant Cancelleria. He had direct sun until nine fifteen in the morning. Ceseare asked me one day when we were talking if I wanted to see what’s under the Cancelleria, the huge church owned building on the corner, built two years after Columbus first arrived in America. The building is travertine, a yellow-white marble that looks as if it was built a decade ago. He said he did a lot of work for them and that if I tell them that I’m his friend and he sent me they’ll let me look down below the church. He made it sound interesting, said there was a small lake down there, so that convinced me to take a look. I walked over and told them I was a friend of Sergio and the guard didn’t hesitate, rose immediately, called another guard who would show me under the Cancelleria. It was musty old. We often spoke a while. Sergio asked me one day when we were talking, if I wanted to see under the Cancelleria, the huge church owned building built two years after Columbus first arrived in America. The building is made of travertine, a yellow-white marble, is in such good condition that looks constructed a decade ago. "Why? What's under there?" "Many things, old. And bones. And there is water, a great pool." "A pool? Under there?" I pointed and he shook his head. He was excited to talk about it. It made me curious. He did a lot of work for them and if I told them he sent me they'll let me look down below. He made it sound interesting, said there was a small lake under it, so he convinced me to take a look. I walked over and told them I was a friend of Sergio and the guard didn’t hesitate, he knew who I was talking about and got a key and another guard then took me under the Cancelleria. It was musty old. There are a lot of bones under there, fragments of skeletons spread over the ground behind the bars below the front, ground level windows. Sergio said they're the bones of heretics killed by the church. He couldn't go into any detail about who the bones belonged to. There was an execution ground one hundred yards away in Campo dei Fiori, probably that’s where the human remains came from. Sergio said there’s a torture Machine down there also. I didn’t see it. He said it's in a room somewhere. There were many rooms off the corridor that led to the back of the building and the pond. On the back side of the basement there was a clear pond about twenty by thirty feet. The water was clear. I couldn’t tell, but it must be ten feet deep or more. At the end of the long basement corridor was an opening containing a low ceiling and a long still pond. I was told the water flows in passageways under the streets and all the way below the river to the Vatican, more than a mile a way. What you don’t see under Rome is explored and talked about. *** Beneath these old buildings are something to behold. Most famous for tourists may be the Basicalica di San Clemente a few blocks from the Coluseum. It is a church with a basement that goes down two levels into the era of pre-Christianity, the ancient past when parishioners worshiped the god Mitar. Many rooms and various levels are visible to explore. For those wanting to see old Rome, a visit there it is a must. *** I bought a motor scooter. Frank from the restaurant by Piazza Navona knew this guy who repaired bikes and had a good used one to sell. Franks said the man was honest, I liked the bike man when I met him, and he swore the scooter was good. I paid about three hundred in American money, the exchange rate was good then. Antonio had a much larger bike and he paid twenty-five hundred for his. He took his on the A-1 highway a lot. My bike worked fine for me in the city. Mirella worked at an insurance company that had coverage for houses and large companies. She knew of an agent nearby that sold bike insurance. I talked with them and used Italian insurance for my motor scooter for a year, and paid three hundred dollars. The second year the premium jumped to four hundred and I checked with my insurance agency in the States and they covered me, the same type of policy for fifty dollars. I ran around Rome with my bike for two years. Dealing with wild traffic, but I learned how to get around. After the second year and falling down in potholes two or three times I had enough and gave the scooter to Ceseare. His son needed a bike. I got my use of it, and didn't miss it. *** I did a lot of painting on the street and preferred it to working at home on nice days. One morning I saw Rick Steves, the travel guy from TV. I had my paints set up on Via dei Cappellari. When he stopped I noticed him standing there, recognized him and said, “Hey, you’re the guy with the travel show.” “And you’re the guy who paints pictures,” he replied. We said a few more words, smiled and nodded. I went back to painting and he started along his way. The cameraman with him shot me talking to him so I’ve been waiting for them to pull it out of the can and use it. Then my friends will tell me if they see it. Many streets in the historical center hold a memory for me - a store, a bar for a coffee or capuccino. M and I have walked most of it and have ridden a bus through the rest. "let's take the 62 out to that place with the poster of the guy who looks like Jonathan." "Fine. They have a food market near there I want to see," she said. We took a bus and found a good outdoor market with some different vegetables we didn't regularly see. *** *** Giancarlino had an art show on a Saturday evening. I'd seen him on the street a few days before and he gave me the address, so that night we took a bus in search of his show. It turned out to be in a quiet residential neighborhood a few blocks from Piazza risurgamento and the Vatican. It was deep in a residential area. The streets were dark and quiet. We finally found an apartment building at the address. We saw nothing about Giancarlino posted outside the building, but many people were going in and out, so we knew we had it. We went in, climbed up to the fourth floor, no elevator. There were people in the hall and the apartment door was open. Lights were on, a lot of people casually dressed, no furniture anywhere. The place looked half destroyed and there were strange art pieces on the floor and in the corners of the rooms. Paintings done on wrinkled, brown, wrapping paper taped to the walls. Little or no labeling. For an art show it was a mess. There must have been eight rooms in the apartment, seventy people, noise from talking and different sources of distorted, nondescript music and oral theater, here and there...a disaster. It was the art of Giancarlino and I believe some other participants. A few of the people I spoke with or overheard had no idea it was an art show or why they were there. Friends brought them along. There was no heat, the lighting terrible. Some lousy wine was offered in plastic cups. We quickly had enough and didn't stay long. That was the show. It was a long, cold walk home. *** 8 For the first few years rent was low as the dollar exchange was high. We were in a good position in the center of Rome. A lot of street people were around. Aside from bums there was the mala vita, the so-called bad life - meaning the neighborhood branch of the mafia. They were apparent by their attempt to avoid noticing anyone, yet you know they did. I regularly noticed one peculiar, old man two doors down from our place. Something about the way he sat in his chair in the open garage door of his shop day after day on our small side street. There were a few cars and a lot of walkers. The old man's shop was thirty feet from the gate into our apartment. Every time I passed on the way to Campo Dei Fiori, the old man saw me, never smiled, hardly moved. He had a used furniture store operating out of his ground floor space, as so many others. But the setup looked strange. I never saw any customers going in or out. Something was going on, I had no idea what. He was somebody's eyes, ears, or messenger boy. One Sunday I saw a suspicious group about nine in the morning standing in the center of Campo Dei Fiori. There was nothing overt about their actions. I was alert to who was in the piazza and what they were doing, because the piazza had few people Sunday mornings. I was out there painting. I’d pay attention to what was out there. Then someone rode in quickly on a motorino, stop by the guys talking, say a few words, a message urgent? Then a minute later he'd speed off. When that happened twice I noticed. Something was going down. Later in the morning the same group set up a folding table to play cards in the middle of the piazza. No one else did that. Maybe a friend or two would come by, but they were obviously a closed group. Something in their mannerism told me they were a unit and everyone else could keep their distance. They didn’t talk outside their group. A few days later I asked my landlord Roberto about them. He told me that was the Mala Vita – the local mafia. He looked down, frowned and shook his head when he told me. I didn’t need further explanation, and none was given. Now and then in the alleys I’d come upon motorinos with the tires missing or parts of the engine gone. These were stripped and dumped. It was the city. Once when I took the alley under the arch on my way home and came upon a local guy I saw the other day riding a motor bike. He had a needle in his arm injecting himself. I remember those fixed eyes as he looked up to nod hello. I nodded and kept going at the same pace. This is the middle of old Rome, the tourist area. *** 9 I had business that took me to Piazzas Venezia, the center of town where the huge monument to Vittorio Manuale is. Some people call it the birthday cake, others call it the typewriter. I've heard a lot of Roman’s complain that it’s ugly. I like it. I wanted to cross the street. All the time looking right and left, waiting before leaping. Cars zipped by, a hundred in a minute. There was no slowing. No pause. Crossing looked dangerous, but others did it. All the time I looked right and left. It felt like playing dodge-ball for my life. The Colosseum straight ahead, shoppers paradise Via del Corso on my left, this was the center of the center in morning rush, middle of the week. Alone, with hundreds of citizens and tourists walking around me, and me planning how to cross a city street, the main, downtown city street, with no crosswalk and monster traffic. I’d seen others do it so I knew it could be done. The noise and chaos incredible. I'm a small-town boy, lived in the woods for a while, used an outhouse. The biggest traffic was frogs. I don’t care how Big-Town you think you are, I lived in Los Angeles then San Francisco. But the first time you cross the street on foot, downtown Rome, you suddenly become a psycho-village-immigrant-runaway. The center is giant, the traffic unstoppable and the pedestrians in the way, expendable, fair-game targets. The idea is for vehicles is to threaten pedestrians who dare exist on their street. Starting, stopping, hesitating, still with one foot on the curb. Alternating feet, back a forth as it poured sunshine and I perspired. After several minutes the great monument to the last king of Italy still on my right, Via del Corso still to my left. Cars became circling sharks on a feeding frenzy as I prepared to...suddenly a strong hand gripped my arm. Looking up into the face of an elderly gentleman in a beautiful light gray three piece suit and silk tie as he said, “Calma” and he began propelling me across, toward the center of the street, into the face of oncoming traffic. He walked upright and confident with unparalleled self assurance. We strode. He strode and I followed his lead - a soldier alongside the hero on parade, or a wounded dog dragged by the collar to the veterinarian. Unflinchingly he sauntered, swaggered to the other side with his poor lamb in tow. Cars screeched, they skidded, they swerved. My life flashed in my mind’s eye. I saw my gone dog Spot wag his tail. Horns honked. We made it. I turned to thank the masked man but he had already walked-off into the sun, or the bat cave...one places. Lesson learned - Don’t panic crossing the street. They don’t want to hit you, it would cause too much paperwork. *** on Via Del Corso a large delivery truck parked, two left wheels on the sidewalk, two right wheels on the street; no one looked. *** Catherine denurv sipped her coffee at an outside table in front of a small café, off the center of piazza Navona. That’s the story. A friend and I walked by. My friend grabbed my arm and pulled me to a stop, “Do you know who that is?” and I looked back, saw the woman and said, “no”. *** Two minutes from our apartment we did our food shopping at the local open air market, surrounded by centuries old buildings, all gradually repaired, refitted and added to. Colorful, with daytime cats and nighttime rats. In the center is the piazza Campo Dei Fiori where the market begins in the pre-dawn hours, everyday but Sunday; and so did I. In the dawn I often set up for a morning of painting. I am a performer for money, I write, do music and paint because that's who I am. I counted those off to myself, thumb fist, because it is the Italian way, thumb is always number one. Marco came my way; skinny, messy hair, unkempt, partially toothless, lovable. Slept in a box-size room by Alberto's studio in Via Acetari. He worked for the flower vendors at the market, delivered flowers, carried boxes for them. His glasses had a broken nose-bridge taped together. We ran into each other a few times and we talked, no prejudice, got a long. I liked the guy. "Ciao, Marco." He headed my way, brushing back his hair. “Hey, Jack, boun giorno. What are you doing? You're painting." "Right, getting ready...I'm going to paint today." "That's good." He shook his head. "Listen, tell me something." "What is it? Go ahead, tell me.” He stopped cold and was shaking his hand up and down, bouncing on this toes as he prepared something on his mind. “Boun giorno...What? Tell me, Marco.” I tipped my head up with my neck stuck out in a waiting position. Marco pushed his glasses up on his nose. “Tell me, does a rabbit run zigi-zagi because he no see the straight ahead? I think he run left and looka right. Then he run right and looka left. What's you think?” I took a long breath. Quite a question he had for me. I had to think about that before I spoke. I am an American and to Marco I should know about the woods, Indians and fast running horses. “There aren’t any rabbits in Campo Dei Fiori.” “Yeah, I know, but if there were – what you think – do they run left and look right, then run straight and looka left again and...” “I know. I know.” I interrupted him. Marco stood there with his hands on his hips, he wasn’t going anywhere until this was solved. I didn’t want to disappoint, so I put my easel down and made a face. I Was thinking. All was quiet around me. “You mean they run left while looking right cause their eyes are on the side of their heads and can’t see straight ahead, only on the side?” He was nodding. “Then they run right a little, then other way and look with the other eye?” “Yeah. What do you think? Is that it?” he said. I puffed my cheeks and blew out a long breath of air. “It seems about right...but I don’t know. Let me think about it. You may be right." I held up my hand. "Let me think about it...I'll get back to you on that,” I shook my head as he accepted my words and walked away toward the flower vendors. The fountain was only a few feet away. I already had my spot picked out so I set up my easel and started getting out the colors. The air was good, no breeze, the sky early morning gray. "No rain today, How pleasant." I turned, it was Mark Kostobi, a known New York artist that lived in my building. "Hey, ciao, Mark." he was walking off somewhere in a hurry. He turned and waved. I remember he said something interesting to me the once while I was painting out here. After the usual hi and how’s it going he asked what I wanted to do in my life. That was a heavy question. I told him that standing out here painting was a pretty good time. It is always a lot of fun and I enjoyed doing this. He nodded, then said, ”You must be pretty happy then.” I looked at him and thought a second, then agreed, “Yeah, you have it right..I'd have to say you got it, Mark...it is a good life." He was surprised and pleased. That scene has replayed itself in my head many times since. “You must be pretty happy then.” He was right, and any time I’m less than happy, I try to remember that moment...the truth I told him, and the truth he told me. I did well standing there painting, it was about as good as life gets. Sure I can come up with more exciting exploits in this world, but the crowd and the chatter and the days with good weather, standing out there painting, were days about as good as they get. Campo Dei Fiori, I love you. Thanks, Mark. The Forno is on the corner of the Piazza and Via Dei Capppellari, down a short way is a ceramic shop run by Marina. I walked down that way and stopped, we talked. M and I enjoyed seeing her inventive, fine painting on cups, plates and platters of porcelain, a very creative affair. An artisan in the heart of Rome. I showed her some of my paintings and she said I could display some of it in her shop. What would be a long friendship had begun. I did some portraits of her friends and students to add to her collection, and M has since purchased several pieces of Marina's work. Picta is her site online. *** so calm, quiet, yet see this now another day full this market adorned by a taciturn many deciding food for today under sun awnings beneath the cloak of old buildings this piazza, mark of comfort serving all well *** Some winter mornings wooden packing crates were burned in small fires vendors started in the center of the piazza to provide warmth from the bitter chill. It could be frosty at six o’clock during predawn when sleepy workers turned out from bed to begin setting up for the day. The market is an experience - to work, to shop, to see. It is a centuries old tradition that should not be taken lightly. It is the food grown out there somewhere, brought to distribution centers, picked up by the local merchants to be sold again to the women and men who arrive with their baskets to select these products for their daily meals. On those chill mornings pieces of found wood, crates, and discarded furniture thrown into warming morning fires provided comfort for the workers. One day I was in time to extract a very solid oak chair, complete with both arms and a strong back. I took the chair home and had used it in our apartment for a dozen years. Once during a cleaning M. had suggested we throw it away. I balked at the idea. It serves well as a chair...and as a reminder cold winter morning mornings I painted in the market. *** “EEEEAAAAAAAOOOOO” the shrill cry of the Vampire turns heads, frightens tourists and brings laughter or is ignored by the vendors and market regulars. The wild looking, shabby bum is standing with his back at the statue of Bruno, his arms outstretched, crying out for all to see. The guy is blotto drunk. The tourists, first alarmed, soon cautiously realize it is the ranting of a mad man feeling his strength and marking his territory, the way a dog pees on a tree. All of the crazies come and flourish for a few years then move on, or excessive drink catches up with them; either way, they are no more. *** 10 There's Bill our neighborhood well-red chef. "Hey Bill, good morning to you." "Hi, Jack, good morning. What's knew?" "Bill, how long has there been a market here?" "I think in 1869 it moved here..." "From Piazza Navona...it came from there" "Right, it used to be there." "Where are you headed?" "I have a class to pick up at John Cabot." He smiled proudly. "I'm showing them the market today." "Go ahead then, I don't want to hold you up...I'll catch up with you later." He waved and walked off. Morning when he's free he'll walk on the sidewalk under the Ponte Sisto bridge, go to Testaccio and back. Then when I see him he'll give me a report on how many types of birds he saw. Yesterday it was seventeen. *** The majority of the surrounding building have been here three to five hundred years. The huge church building called the Cancelleria is twenty-five yards away from our apartment. The inscription date on it is 1495, two years after Columbus sailed to the new world. The building looks as if was finished ten years ago. Marble is a good material for construction. Much of the center of Rome was rebuilt or supplemented with marble taken from the Forum, the original city. That old Rome now is ruins. It never fell from age, it was ransacked and looted. The new/old city was put together from pieces of the old. This was recycling. *** “Hi, Livia,” I said. She gave no sign of awareness...I said it again, "Ciao, Livia.” She shook, vibrated head to toe, and seemed to wake from her thoughts as she looked my way. I saw her eyes focus. “Oh.” She looked at me, thought a moment, then smiled in recognition. “I was thinking about... the...I was working and I had to...How are you.” She bushed back a straggle of gray hair from her eyes. “Fine, it’s good to see you too, Livia.” She swung at her hair as if swatting a gnat. “I have to hurry...” “Ciao Livia.” She’s a poet and artist. I once heard her interviewed on the National radio network of Italy, and attended one of her art shows at Piazza Venezia – a prestigious location for an art show. She had an entire large room to herself for an exhibit that featured thirty or more miniature villages made of rough white blocks covered with gesso. It was...interesting. *** People milled around everywhere. The market going full bore and the day is wonderful. We did our market shopping, took it home, then came back to Angelo's for a coffee. “I want ice cream,” screamed a six year old boy. “You be still,” The mother jerked him off the ground by his arm, then knelt and looked him in the eye. “You’re going to get your pizza as soon as your father..." He swirled his head, “Ice cream,” he screamed. He knew what he wanted. I watched him stand rock still until she stood firmly, grabbed him by the wrist and pulled him away into the crowd. I headed on to Angelo's for coffee. I saw M. was already there at an outside table with Ermano. *** By mid-afternoon when the market is ended and packed away until tomorrow, there remains, a great mess. Smashed vegetables, cuttings from various vegetables that were trimmed fresh for display, discarded wrappings, boxes smashed and whole. As vendors dismantle their stalls and put their items into nearby storage sheds until the following day, there was a man who came by to gather the intact wooden crates. An old man, thin, wore glasses and a cap. Not the sort of figure you expect for such an arduous task. Yet, he would be there with a large hand pulled cart with two old wagon wheels that he stacked high with the solid crates. I'd seen a young boy assisting occasionally; but usually he worked alone. One upon another, he would stack good boxes ten feet high until the cart could hold no more. Then the hard part. The old man, and indeed he was old and frail and raggedy, the old man would hand pull the cart out of Campo Dei Fiori and half across Rome in traffic, keeping to the right, to the large central market area a few miles away in Testaccio where he would sell back the boxes. As vegetables were trucked in, boxes would be repacked for use by vendors the following day. The old man was unobtrusive in his manner, unnoticed in the confusion of market aftermath, although there were times I was on a bus and had seen him pushing his cart a mile away from this market. The man cleaned up boxes at our market for years. Then a while later, as quiet and unassuming as he was, I saw him no more. Today with the advent of supermarkets, the outdoor market is smaller. That man, too old to continue. *** We are bus riders. You want to get around? take the bus ) We bus the city, train out, rent a car if we have to. We know the Bus routes in our area rather well. Took a bus to Monte *** Down by the statue of the Seventeenth Century poet Giuseppe Gioacchino Belli at the end of Vialle Trastevere we ran in Hibi, the Japanes occordian player we always see on Ponte Sisto. "What are you doing here? You aren't playing today?" "No, I came on the tram from the airport. I took my mother, she's flying back today." He pointed vaguely toward Japan or the airport. "She just left? How was the visit?/" "It was wonderful I took her to Pompeii, She wanted to go there." "Great, that's a good trip." "And I ordered a new accordion." "Really? I know you had been talking about it." "Yes, the best accordions in the world are made right near Rome. I'll have it in about two months. They are making it." Where are you two going? "We are going to a museum at Eur." "Fine...have fun...I'll see you Sunday." *** We are Bus Riders. You want to get around? take a bus. Well, let them take you. they have drivers already. We ride the buses in roma, trains out of roma, and rent a car if we have to. Buses we know rather well. It was a good afternoon and we were on our way. toward Eur, on a bus we hadn’t taken before. At one point a man got on the bus who seemed in genuine high spirits. When I first noticed him he was holding on the overhead bars and talking to fellow passengers. This is not unusual, the ride continued in a normal fashion. He moved around and seemed to recognize everyone on the bus. I noticed the people he spoke with were quite entertained by him. He worked his way toward the middle of the bus and continued talking to the other passengers. We became fewer in number as the bus rolled on, yet he remained among us and continued to talk to more and more people. Eventually I noticed that people were laughing and he was having a great time. I began listening and heard him talking about several topics. Vegetables seemed to be a major topic. I realized after a bit that the man was of a different sort, not regular, tuned to a different channel. By then when someone got on the bus several of us watched him approach the new passenger and listened to hear him ask, “Do you know, does this stop in Milano?” He didn’t say “bus”, just “does this stop in Milano?” and it didn’t seem as if it mattered if, we were on a train or a bus or that Milano was up north, several hundred miles away. Whomever he asked didn’t know how to respond to such an absurd comment, while other riders covered their faces and doubled over to hide their laughter while the jovial man began talking again about zuccini and other vegetables. Then the bus stooped again, and when someone came aboard the man immediately began talking about vegetables to the new arrival. More people listened and smiled, and the new passenger would listen politely, not knowing what to think when the man would suddenly ask in serious tone, “Does this stop in Milano?” The new passenger would look perplexed because the question seemed sincere, while the other passengers on the bus were laughing aloud. When the man finally got off at a stop, he turned and waved, and everyone laughed and waved and said good bye. We all had a good time. It was a bus ride to remember. *** Il Forno is a well publicized bakery in Rome, on the corner a few minute walk from our place. We used to get our bread and slices of pizza there. Prices were higher, but it was convenient. When the market was open everyone going to the Forno had to walk sideways around Domenico’s stand to get in the front door. They’d walk sideways with their head turned back toward his produce. He set up four feet outside the entrance to the bakery. Of all the vendors in Campo dei Fiori, Domenico was one of the last to sell produce from his own farm. Most all the others bought produce from a central vendor's outlet. My friend Domenico, happy, beat-up from physical labor and burned by the sun. It was affirmation for the quality of the goods he sold when I saw our landlady, Mirella, always buying his vegetables. I knew her to be a particular consumer. Always cheery, when talking to me Domenico occasionally dropped in a few words of English. Always with a dramatic, I thought comic, East Coast gangster accent. I questioned him about that he explained he had worked in New York City for a brief time. His son was still there. I didn't tell him, but his East Coast accent on a word he'd speak in English really cracked me up, but of course I couldn't or wouldn't laugh at him. Every regular shopper had their favorite market stands. You buy eggs here, apples there. Domenico was on my A list for all his vegetables. When he had something special it was because it was in season and he’d picked it the afternoon before. Several times Domenico had invited us out to his farm in the country. About that time we were discovering the bus, and saw more of Rome, from the center out. Years passed and we found the Coltral buses that went out of Rome. With buses and the train, we rode up and down both coasts. Italy became easily accessible. Air travel gave us access to the farthest reaches of Italy including Sicily and Sardegna. For convenience rental cars took us everywhere within a few hundred miles from Rome. At times during conversations around the Campo someone would mention a place of interest, and if it sounded right for us we'd go there. I know we have seen more places and have been to more charming villages than most Italians. As a matter of course the Romans have two home territories, Rome where they live, and the village where their family originated. M and I thought we'd find a place to buy, to settle in Italy; what we didn't have in some remote location was family, the core of Italian life. That's where Romans go for the holidays, home to see Mama and the family. Happily though, we did a lot of looking. monster park Maria Salleo called. She was a student at Alberto's art school. When she met M they became good friends. One time when we were all having Chinese lunch together in Trastevere they were talking about a place north of Rome. Maria doesn't care to leave the city, but loves to talk. After they finished talking one day M. told me that we should go see the monster park. "Really?" "It's about am hour north and there are buses that go there." I made a few phone calls and found buses leaving several times a day to Bassano Romano. We started in the morning, caught +a Cotral bus north and got there in slightly over an hour. "The ride here was interesting, but the place looks a mess." She nodded. For sure it was a worn village that had seen better days. It was old and unkempt. We heard the park of the monsters, interesting name, was worth seeing. At Bomarzo an old noble family, the Orsini’s built a fantastic park for their children in their back yard. Their land was several rolling, rocky acres of large stones and woods. The Orsini prince hired a team of artists to sculpt monsters out of stone. Now several hundred years later it is still worth the trip to see the worn and rebuilt remnants. Our journey began with a ride on the four-ninety-two bus to Tiburtina the end of the city line, where the Cotral buses began. There was one going north to Bomarzo. We took one and arrived in the village. We checked out everything, up and down, then headed for what we came for, the monster park in the old part of town. In a valley behind the Orsini castle is where the monster park is located, in a wooded area behind the last street in town. We walked down, paid our entrance fee and walked into the rocky, wooded section, where in different areas large boulders of pumice were shaped and arranged into imaginative giant monsters, not intended to please but astonish. The park is today bizarre and novel, no matter when it was made or for what purpose. Prince Orsini had the work done in the mid fifteen hundreds. The monsters are imaginative and large; whether they were constructed for himself or his children is subject to discussion. The principle architect for this project also completed Saint Peter’s dome in Rome after the death of Michelangelo, so it is said; however, that is not certain. We walked the grounds enjoying the monsters for a few pleasant hours, climbing on and taking photos of them. There are twenty-four of these stone giants spaced throughout the grounds. Not labeled, not orderly, but we saw them all. It was left unattended since the late fifteen hundreds until 1956, when the land owner of the time decided to uncover the overgrown monsters and restore the park. After our walk around we hiked back to the old town to find something to eat. There weren't many choices. We found pizza and wine nearby and inquired about the bus back to Rome. The pizza boy knew there were buses, but didn't know anything about them. We found a pizza place in the middle of the day, not the best pizza time. It was adequate. Not a city pizza on a Friday night. Not Sicily during the summer season. The dough was ok, not Napoli. The cheese and toppings were acceptable. The cook was second rate, about twenty years old. It wasn't the number one place in town, but it was opend. "Could we have two more glasses of wine?" We're not rushing off any where and we aren't driving. There's no one else in the place. "Dad, I'm going to Raffie's to kill aliens...back for supper." The back door slammed. The father looked at us and shrugged. "Kids." He poured us each a glass. I could see outside there were few people out and nothing going on. In this small town there was a local wine that was low-cost, respectable, a table wine. The pizza guy knew nothing about the buses. At this hour, after lunch, most of the town was closed and we found only a few town people to ask about buses, There was one man in an art gallery. It was one of the few business open. We wandered in. "Where are you from?" He was forty or so and was happy to have someone atop by. "California, Ohio and most recently Rome. You from here?" "Now I am. My wife is from here. I've been here seven years or so." I asked him: "how do you like it?" "It's not Rome...but it is all right," he grinned, " we're happy." "Good for you, do well...good pizza, we'd better find our bus." Some men were on the street again. In villages all over Italy there is the same schedule. The women come to market to do their shopping in the morning, they are out in groups comparing notes, getting social time with their friends. Later, the shopping is done and the men gather for a few hours to visit with frienes before returning home for lunch; again after lunch the men are out while the women clean up after lunch. They all speak the local dialect and Italian. We spoke enough Italian to get their interest as to who we where and what we were doing in their town. They could have been farmers, not business men, locals in casual dress. These guys were all retired. Workers didn't ahve time to stand around and visit. The men had different opinions about how and when we could catch the Cotral bus. It was obvious they didn't take the bus themselves, but saw it come and go each day. It seemed a bus would stop right there at the stop in the piazza where we were. We waited a few hours in the sun, no benches, no shade, until finally a bus passed and didn’t stop. After lunch we asked around again. The bus schedule and the bus stops would change every few years, no one knew for sure what was current. There were different men now and this time someone said we should wait at the stop farther up the hill. This uncertainty about buses was normal for locals who saw the buses but never rode them. At the new advice we hiked up the street a few hundred yards, and waited another hour or two. As before there there were no benches to sit, only a Cotral sign on a pole. "This is the stop." She said, "I sure hope it is." We waited in the sun about two hours until a bus did come. It was only thirty miles back to Rome, but without a car we were stuck. By the time a bus came along we were ready to take any bus anywhere, just to get out of the sun and sit down. We were fortunate. This Cotral was headed to Rome. So long quaint little town. Thank goodness the bus took us home to Rome. We were home for supper. 1 Over the next weeks whenever we saw Domenico at the market he continued to mention his farm and that we should come out to visit him. "We'd love to you have and you'd want to see it." Domenico was one of the few venders at the market that actually had land with a garden - a throwback to the old days. The others buy their goods at a central supply and truck it to the market. Domenico's farm was an hour north of Roma. What first attracted me with his friendly way: a ready smile, he listened when we spoke to him and always had a kind word. His hearing wasn’t good so He always made a point to give special attention when someone spoke to him. He knew a few words of English and I suppose in the beginning that was another attraction for me to become friends with him. A lot of Italians don’t have the patience to speak to foreigners. When I spoke to him he listened. Between my rudimentary Italian and his rough English we communicated. From our first meeting we clicked. He treated me fairly, and didn’t try to pass poor vegetables to me as other vendors would. He was a farmer with a regular local school education, no special skills other than farming, but did it well, and made no pretext to elevate himself to others. He was a good person and we got along well. I did a painting of him working at his vegetable stand. His stand was located in a good position, right at the end of Via Cappellari in front of the bakery. That bakery, Il Forno - that means: the oven - was one of the most celebrated bread stores in the center of Rome. He had the smarts to park in front of the door, one of the better spots in the market. Everyone that went to the Forno to buy their daily bread, pizza bread, and pastries, had to pass within inches of Domenico’s stand. What may have prevented him from selling everything everyday was his rough, dirty appearance. Maybe some people were put off by this. The other vendors looked neater. They'd drive to the central market and load boxes in a truck, So they looked much cleaner because they did none of the actual growing, tending, and picking. Domenico did it all, hands and knees: planted, picked, loaded it and delivered it, then sold it. He was a real farmer. In those days, the late 1990’s, Campo Dei Fiori’s market was at a peak. Over the years there were many ups and downs. Two hundred years ago they moved the market there from nearby Piazza Navona. At that time fruits and vegetables filled the campo. End to end there was no wasted space. Everything was going strong. A strong time for the market. Somehow a woman appeared one day. This is the quick and complete story as best I could get it. She dropped out of nun school and met Domenico. I don’t know how it happened. They had the same birthday, became and item and were married. Boom, boom, boom. It happened about that fast. They must have been ready. Her name was Linda, from some Scandinavian part of the Mid West America, Minnesota, I think. I can say first-hand that her Italian was not good. I don’t think she could speak anything in the way of Italian. I never heard it. She wasn’t much of a talker anyway; if she did say anything it wasn’t in Italian. But she and Domenico were happy together. I know about the same birthdays because she told me. She must have told me in English - even that was hard to understand. Then time passed, and everyday when I walked by she was sitting studying her bible while he did the work. She was there everyday but Domenico did all the work. He unloaded everything, laid it out, kept it in neat rows, sold everything, cleaned up afterword. He put his produce in the truck and did the driving to and from home. Several more times over the passing months he invited us to come out to his farm for supper and a visit. One day when Domenico invited us we said okay. We thought perhaps he wanted friends for Linda, because she surely wasn’t speaking to anybody or studying Italian, and his English was still very limited. So we set the day, got the train directions and took the train to see Domenico and his wife Linda. "We're only going to stay a little while," M said. "I think he wants us to stay for supper...then we'll go." That afternoon we caught the train at the small station by the Vatican where trains come in, turn around and go north. The train was speedy and in a half hour got us to the stop he indicated. Domenico with his smiling face waved and was ready when we arrived at the little block station in the middle of nowhere. "You made it quickly eh?" "It moved right along. Good to see you, Domenico." "This is the same train that you will take you back tonight. Come on, I want to show you my farm...Linda is waiting." We hopped in his then emptied, old, farm truck and started the four mile dirt road trek into winding, hilly country that took us to his land. "How far is it, Domenico?" "Quick from here. you see...not far, a few minutes," he was excited to have guests. We headed quickly headed a way from the village into farm country. After less than fifteen bumpy minutes we were there under late afternoon sun. Domenico’s farm was ten, nearly treeless, acres on a hill at the end of a dirt road with no neighbors visible near by. His small house squatted on a knoll over the north end of the sloping land. A good pick for a farm location, the entire farm dipped gently to the South. It had excellent exposure to the sun, and was the most beautiful ten acres of garden that one could imagine. It had every crop that would grow in that region of Italy, and probably a few more. It was the nicest small farm. It was several hundred feet wide, then down the hill and up on the other side. It seemed he must have forty or so workers for this beautiful farm, but no, Domenico did everything, did it well, and completely. He must have worked day and night. Every row was perfect, every plant watered and healthy. Incredible. Whenever I have seen commercial gardens I think of how much better Domenico’s looked; and he did it by himself. At the top of his ten acres, near the road was his small two-room, rundown, unpainted, un-decorated, stone house. How very sad indeed. The area outside of the small, one story, block construction building was strewn with rubbish. Cans, bottles and paper were all around in no particular order. I wanted to find a system for distribution so I could comprehend why my friend with the neatest garden in the world would have all of this debris around his house. It was difficult to walk around the trash. There was no reason for the mess. I was expecting to see some evidence of Linda’s hidden talent. At last her true persona would be revealed. Domenico led us to his door. He called Linda and took us inside, we stopped cold. Ciao, Linda. We kept moving inside and talking but we were both shocked. I didn't have to glace at M, or she at me. It was evident. The house was a disaster, completely unkempt. There was nothing decorative. As was the immediate outside, everything was piled about in random disarray. Furnishings were partial and lacking. What was evident was the complete lack of personal or homey touches. The inside was a mess. Linda greeted us in her worn, dirty farmer jeans and a baggy long sleeve shirt that could have been Domenico's, and invited us to sit at one of the metal folding chairs around a small table. She was preparing supper. We were to have spaghetti with red sauce on plastic plates with plastic forks. She was reserved and calm, Domenico was talking. We were all acting normally as possible. Friends over for supper. Nothing out of the ordinary. Before she put the pasta in the boiling water Linda broke the spaghetti in two. M saw Domenico cringe as she did the snapping of the pasta. Maybe they do this in Minnesota but in Italy spaghetti is left long so you can twirl it around your fork. I kept in the conversation, talking and listening, being casual as possible, trying not to notice much. My God I'm an actor and, oh, I am good. The pasta was ready, some cheese for antipasto, no salad. The sauce she made was tomato paste out of a can with no garlic, nothing added. To drink we had warm water out of plastic cups. It was simple. We were cordial. It was fine as could be, considering the circumstances. The circumstances being how they were, and all seemed normal to them. It was a bit different. Maybe that's how the nuns cook. After dinner we talked an hour or so until Domenico realized that we had better hurry because the last train to Rome was soon passing, We had to hurry. We said our goodbyes to Linda and left in Domenico’s truck into the night. He made much better time in the black and empty night. In fifteen minutes he dropped us off in front of the deserted station building and told us the train would be by and would stop for passengers, and that we’d better not miss it because the nine-thirty train was the last that would stop here until morning. We said our goodbyes, complimented Domenico on his garden, and watched his truck pull off into the night. We then walked around back to the track side of the building, and waited for our train in the stillness of the night. Immediately we were aware of was the coldness. The temperature had dropped quite a bit and we were now waiting in the chill of the eve. There was no one else there. The one-room station was shut tight and dark. We were in the black by the tracks. There was a bench, but without sweaters or jackets it was much too chill to sit. Instead we walked back and forth to keep warm waiting for the train that was long in coming. It was quite a while later, we didn’t have a watch, there were no clocks, and all we knew for sure was that a lot of time had passed, and it was getting colder. We thought about the hopelessness of being stuck there all night without shelter or a place to get out of the cold, bathrooms were locked closed, not warm enough clothing. Waiting until dawn. Finally we saw the light, a train coming. I continued rapid, we did not hear it slow when it approached. As it rushed by without slowing...our hearts turned cold. Now what do we do? Would there be another, or was that it? He didn't say there was one than one tain. There was no schedule posted. We looked at each other and said nothing. It was too dark to read the concern on the other's face. We stood there mostly silent. Minutes passed. We worried, wondered how i the world we had gotten ourselves into another fix. There was something...a sound. Could it be? Yes, it was. Finally another train was coming. We both heard it for sure, and shifted where we stood, keeping warm, keeping our hopes up. Already this train was audibly slowing. It was going to be all right. Soon we saw the light and it shown on us as the train rounded the curve and came into view. We were going to be all right. We were cold and anxious to get on the warm train. When it was nearly to the station we saw that it was on the second track over. We had better cross in front of the train now to get to the other side where we could board the train. We’re not about to miss this train. The horn blasted again as we ran across the tracks in front of the approaching train, making it safely to the other side. We'd just arrived when the train stopped, the doors slammed open. We scrambled on the nearly empty train and it immediately started off for Rome. We'd made it, and began coming down fr om the tension, soon were much warmed and relieved. The train cut swiftly through the darkness into the night. We began talking, reliving our experiences of the day. Later when we saw the lights we recognized as the dome of the Vatican we were half asleep and nearly home. 12 I thought how people say they want to come to rome and never do. I thought of that when I saw the address on the email. In early spring an unexpected email came in from an older friend of ours in Ohio. We had exchanged email addresses, but never sent more than the few initial messages, checking we had the addresses right. I think he sent a cartoon of an elephant or a duck one time. So when I saw his name on the incoming email, and it wasn't time for Christmas wishes, I figured it could be something special. "What do you know, I said I might, and now I am coming to Italy. First I'm going to take a hop to Florida..." There is that damn hop again. "...to see some friends, then We're all going to embark on a cruise ship headed straight to Italy." He's from our home town. We spoke to Clark last year and he said he was thinking about coming over, called it a possibility. It's easy to say, but this old fellow is on his way, practically. He had a month yet, slightly more. I wrote back immediately to assure him, "That's wonderful, Clark, you'll love it, it would be no problem. M and I will be looking forward to guiding you around." We got an other email. "staying in Rome ten days, see the sights, then I'm going to take a train up north to see family in Switzerland." Clark is from Switzerland. He has a favorite uncle there who raised him after his parents died. He has cousins and a sister there also. We had nearly forgotten about him, when a month later the ship landed and Dick called from the port at Civitavecchia, an hour up the coast. He made it. The bad news was that a few days out of Florida he had a mild stroke aboard the boat, but they had a good doctor aboard. He did spend the entire crossing in bed, but he said he's feeling better now. He said a bus is leaving in an hour and will drop him off at the Rome termini. He needed help getting around, directions and such, and wanted help locating the hotel where he had reservations. He's a city experienced guy, but I warned him, Keep a lookout for thieves at the Termini. There are a lot of pick pockets there." Clark had traveled abroad many times and I thought he'd be careful. We waited. He didn't call until two hours after he said he would. I jumped to the phone when i rang. The news was not good. He carried his wallet in his hip pocket, that's what he said to the police. They asked where he was carrying it when it was stolen, along with a few thousand dollars in cash, his credit cards, many family pictures and various other pieces of identification. "Your passport?" "Bo, I've got it. I carried it in another pocket." "Where are you calling from?" "That police station." His passport was safe in another pocket. He called from the police station. I told him not to worry, I'd loan him cash, he wouldn't have to worry about that. We bused to the station, picked him up and walked him a block to his hotel. The next morning he called. "You had breakfast?" I asked. "Yes, here at the hotel." "Are you rested?" "Yeah, I was in bed the whole time on the ship, after the stroke. Thank God there was a doctor on board." "I'll say...Well, do you feel like going out with us for lunch? After we can take you around Rome for a while? "I can't, I'm leaving this afternoon for Switzerland." "But you said you'd be here ten days. You haven't seen Rome yet." "My uncle died. I called the family last night to let them I made it to Rome and to tell them when I'd be coming to Switzerland and they told me he died yesterday." "Oh my goodness...I'm sorry. What happened." "Nothing, he just died. He was old, but in good health. He suddenly died. I was going to stay with him. Now I'm going to his funeral. It's tomorrow." We bused to his hotel to see him and lead him to the termini to catch his train. We had time for coffee and helped him select food to take on the train journey. We would see him again in Ohio. It was a short while before he boarded and we watched his train pull away from the termini. Clark's time in Rome certainly was brief and eventful. now in sun and springtime the two dancing girls were out today Sunday in the piazza, going in style a small girl picked up the mic they had to get it from her the tunes from the forties were jumping a drunk danced along for a bit didn’t last long, no problem canes and top hats - tap-taping roll on sunshine, coins drop, the crowds clap another good day for all "Why don't we take a trip?" In woman-speak that meant "Pack your bags, we're hitting the road to see what we can see." When it was time to get out of the city again and we decided on a train trip north. At the termini we bought tickets. The train station is always in motion with tourists, tramps, gypsies and thieves. I don't know how tourists can navigate without a hassle. After rechecking train schedules on line M and I made it easily through the confusion at the Termini and safely boarded, headed toward Osta in Northern Italy near Switzerland. We enjoyed train rides, reading and looking out at the passing landscape. Neither one of us has to drive. On the ride along the way my reverie was disturbed as a vender opened the door at the other end of our car shouting coffee, and other words I couldn't make out in the train commotion. I did soon hear the clatter of the gear he was toting. No smell of fragrant, warm coffee blend proceeded him. I heard the cart and the man making a variety of noises, cart rattles. He was singing to himself, not singing loud enough for anyone else to enjoy, just to himself. He appeared neat and happy. With the stiff manner he carried himself and his abrupt motions to catch this and re-position that, it was a comedy act. He had the flair and confidence of the concierge at a five star hotel, although, after seeing him closer you wanted to deduct four of the stars right away. His equipment was tacky and worn, with many wobbling pieces. As he sang his wordless tune I wondered what was on his mind? I noticed him glance clandestinely at his pocket watch, probably six hours from home cooking and his wife making the coffee. Outside was a familiar, popular scene: snow and hills and pine trees, beautiful to behold and swift to travel through on the rolling train. When the man got close enough I carefully peered at the goods in the cart. I see the cheese and beef on a stick, someone back in Rome had told me I should eat that. It took a second to decide. Maybe some other time. Save it for the Germans. I chose a tepid, small shot of coffee in a paper cup and returned to reading, glancing up occasionally to look out at the snow on the hills and the pines, as the train rumbled on. I saw M in the reflection of the window also. She was in the sun with her eyes closed, her fingers holding the Inspector Rutledge mystery open on her lap. A great pleasure about the train is leaving others to watch ahead. They know the route. They will make sure the engine keeps going. When we pulled into Oasta we disembarked, found a hotel, had a meal and spend the night. Boom-boom-boom. That was it. That was Oasta. By the next afternoon we had returned to Rome. From where we live, many of the major sites were within walking distance: the Colosseum, Piazza Navona, The Vatican, the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, on and on, we saw them all. Without a schedule or a hurry, we took our time and saw them repeatedly, in all weather. Going to Piazza Navona This is a place of beauty. It is open and large, three end to end football fields in length with tall, wall to wall buildings around them. That explains the large. The beauty is in the art. In the center are three Bernini fountains, one on each end and the famous Four Rivers fountain in the center. That one has four large men around an obelisk. They'd be fifteen feet tall if they were standing. They are sitting and variously contorted. The one pointed out to tourists is shielding his eyes from the agony of viewing the dreadful church, St. Agnes designed by a competitor architect, and former student of Borromini. That‘s what some tour guides says, but it is not true. The fountain was completed before the façade of the church was begun. It is a well formed legend that limps on. For years I walked through one end of the piazza on a shortcut to and from my friend Alberto's art school. I painted from that side two or three times when it was empty and when the piazza was full. The view and fact that it was my privilege to know this beautiful spot well. As known or better is Bernini’s work at Trevi fountain, another spot I visited often as it was only a minute away from my bank. When I had to stop at the bank I walked by the fountain. Today and noted the inscribed year of completion, seventeen eighty. Although work on the fountain began in 1730, work finished over thirty years later in 1762 by Guiseppe Pannini. Some of Bernini’s work on the Trevi fountain remains. Nicolo salvi also is credited - for doing the figures. Some days it is so crowded you can't appreciate the full scope of the fountain. Today in light rain the tourist traffic was nearly absent. Earlier I was at the Spanish steps, also usually packed, this morning the stairs were empty. At Trevi fountain legend says you throw a coin over your should with your right hand to reassure a return to Rome, Through two coins for a marriage, three for a divorce. And whoever thought this up in the city cleanup department got a raise. I've been there days they drain the pond to clean it and shovel out the coins. The city does take a chunk of money from the money pitchers. I may have thrown a coin in there myself years ago. the Spanish steps It's an important tourist stop. The Keats and Shelly house is on one side. There is a beautiful fountain in front of it. The Pope comes there once a year for a blessing, and tourists come every day to rest on the steps. On the corner by the Spanish steps is a coffee bar on Via Condotti where Buffalo Bill stopped. There are photos of him on the wall taken during his visit. For that I made a special trip. The photos are nothing special, but of course, I had to take a look. During that visit by Bill in 1890, he and his wild west show players met Pope Leo XIII at the Vatican, and set up for a photo in front of the Colisseum. Bill wanted to do his show inside the Colisseum, but at the time the grounds inside were covered with too much scattered rubble and stones. Friends visit and we walk them around. M feels the need to window shop and we get to different parts of the city. There is a certain something I have to locate to fix something in the apartment. Whatever the reason, we have been around. Because the city is old and constructed around the winding river, the Tevere, the streets are not constructed on a parallel grid. Streets wind like the river. We still have to check a map to find a new street and the best way to get from here to there. On a street out of Piazza Navona an acquaintance had a popular restaurant. He'd stand outside and talk tourists in for a plate of pasta, or a coffee, or beer. He'd tailor his pitch as he appraised potential clients. It was a small place in a good location. He had a smiling face and outgoing personality and made the effort to attract customers. That’s how I met Franco. I sat at one of his outside tables many times for pasta and wine and watched the flood of tourists that walked on by or were talked on in. It was a convenient location, a few steps off the center of the piazza. Then one evening I stopped by and Franco was gone, his restaurant closed. A few months later his brother-in-law reopened the restaurant and explained. Franco hosted a large party for the Carabinieri, which is the state police. One of them had a birthday. Franco closed the restaurant for the evening and set up a party for them. During the festivities one of the law officers noticed Franco seemed to look familiar. The next day he checked the wanted posters on the wall at the station, saw a nice shot of Franco, came back and arrested him. He was wanted for some involvement in illegal immigration. Franco got three years in prison. His brother-in-law got promoted from casual helper to manager of the restaurant. I heard no more updates about Franco as a couple of years passed. I'd walk by now and then, but there was no news until one day Franco was back. The brother in law would stay at this restaurant that Franco still owned. Franco himself would be working at one of the two other restaurants he had acquired while in prison, both in wealthier districts. The wheels keeps spinning. Sitting at home reading...the phone rang. When I answered the voice said, “How’s life?” “Fine, Giacomo. How are you doing?" We got along well and saw each other often, a heck of a nice guy. “Listen, we are going to Montenero tomorrow afternoon. Do you and Meri want to come along?” Their mountain cabin east of Rome is a warm, private, rustic getaway. “How long are you staying?” “We’ll be back Sunday afternoon.” That meant Sunday evening. To a Roman afternoons stretched from three p.m. til midnight. Our Sunday schedule was open. “That’ll be great, We'd like to go along.” We made arrangements to meet at the apple of the witch bar, or witch apple bar, on Lungotevere. Stregga Della Melle is the proper name. He thought we’d leave in the early afternoon, but we’d talk again tomorrow to get a better idea of the time t meet there. Giacomo really helped us get acclimated to the Italian ways of life, and he spoke English, so he could clarify anything we didn’t understand. Speaking to foreigners requires finesse for the speaker and the speakee. The next day we met with Giacomo and Virginia and sped off to the mountains near Rieti, less then two hours away. Giacomo is always dressed in an old sports coat and open collar shirt and worn corduroy pants. Once in a while he wears a tie, but all his clothes he’s had for years. Virginia was casually dressed also. Both of them looked rather bohemian, or now that we know better, they dressed like Romans. She gets all their clothes at the Porta Portuese second-hand market. We stopped at a grocery store on Via Salaria on the way and picked up supplies for the weekend. Out of Rome the stores are a lot friendlier to the customers and cheaper. The rural folks deal with everyone as people. In Rome they aren't happy with their job and they especially don’t like you, the client. Giacomo was raised in Rome and knows his way around. He is street wise and efficient. As a true Roman, his favorite sports are soccer and auto racing. I'd say driving is his passion, even though he never has any gas in the tank. Virginia bought an old stone mountain cottage twenty-five years ago and carefully restored it to a wonderful getaway for as many guests as can find the place. We had food and wine, kept the fireplace going, other friends stop by, we toured their hill top village and enjoyed our weekend getaway. We had many pleasant conversations, ate well, and kept the fireplace crackling. Sunday night we were back in Rome. answers I love Rome, a center of action most anytime. In Campo Dei Fiori everyone congregates. You can find tourists and plenty of Italians. Italians I recognize, they communicate vociferously and stay in the know. Rarely are the Italians standing quietly. You see them in tight groups, always facing each other. The focus is on the speaker, and in a group of five there's never a dearth. I noticed when they stand with their arms bent at the elbow. That position means they are ready to talk. The hands and arms are critical for Italian discourse. They are poised to spring their arms into action and begin talking with their hands. Now with cell phones you'll see them alone talking. One hand holding the phone to their ear, the other hand in action with large sweeping motions providing accents and clarification for every word they utter. I've walked behind a guy going down the street and have seen his left arm swinging and pointing and gesticulating and I know the guy is holding a cell phone to his ear with the other hand and talking to someone. In groups it’s the same. Arms are in motion as they speak. Italians have the gift to talk several at a time. If five are in the group, two or three will be talking. When two stand together both will be talking. No need for one to wait until the other finishes, they keep it up. Pauses are brief. Ends of sentences often cover words of the second speaker. It appears to be disconcerting, but that’s the way it is. Here is another trait of Italians. I was on Via renaciamento near the Senate building looking at the sign listing the buses that stop here. I know the streets around where we live, but not the name of every street in Rome. An old man was waiting for a bus and I asked this old fart if the bus seventy goes to San Silvestro. He looked up at me and said nothing. I thought maybe he didn’t hear me so I repeated, “Does the seventy go to San Silvestro?” “six four,” he said. Not sixty-four. He had to say “six four”. He looked at me and saw I didn’t look Roman. That was enough for him. I must be an idiot. Now, I’d asked him the question in good Italian, but he saw my face and heard an accent and what he gave me was the number of the bus tourists take from the termini to get to the Vatican. The Vatican is two miles in the other direction from San Silvestro. I know the sixty-four forwards and backwards and it doesn’t go any where near San Silvestro. This is an example of how some Italians deal with foreigners; they give an answer that may be close to right, or close enough for tourists. Because my face doesn't look Italian his answer was close enough for me. He figured I’d get lost anyway and he'll never see me again because I'd be gone from Rome in two or three days anyway. Such is some older Roman’s desire to help the tourists that I've had them give answers to questions I knew they didn’t know, and they gave them with such conviction their own mothers would swear it was the truth. The real truth is that some Roman’s are obligated to give an answer if you ask a question. What response you never hear from a Roman is, “I don’t know.” They all know, every last one of them. As soon as a kid is old enough to talk they can answer any question you come up with. &&& There are so many museums. The Rome museum across Corso Vittorio is on the way to Piazza Navona from where we live. I first heard of the building as a place used for torture during the era of Mussolini. We pass there several times a week. The museum closed in the early 1990s before we had a chance to go in. At the time a large sign posted said, the museum is undergoing remodeling and will reopen soon. I'd seen the sign so many years I quit noticing it. It took ten years before they reopened. That's how it goes in Rome. Alex, Giacomo's son, and I walked by the museum shortly after it reopened. As we passed by, the museum director stood in the open doorway. I read a tag on his suit coat that said museum director. Alex put out an arm to stop me, and started talking to the man. Then knew each other. The director's son and Alex were friends when they were in grade school. The director a large sweeping motion and invited us. As we walked in we noticed the wagon and some stones, items on display in the large entrance. He led us to his office in the back of the building. It had a large ground floor window facing Piazza Navona. He sat at his chair and we sat on the other side of the large desk. He offered us both coffee and talked with Alex as we sat there. I kept quiet and paid attention, as my Italian was limited. There are different ways to speak Italian, a more formal manner and a casual, less grammatical parlance. This fellow as a museum director was fluent, of course, with a stylish flair to his rapid, well educated form of dissertation. The man droned on for a half hour. Other than responding initially with a few answers about the whereabouts and activities his own family and questions about Alex's family Alex didn't say much. When the director finally finished with us and ushered us out, I whispered to Alex that I barely understood a word of what the man said. “Me too. I was being polite.” I looked in disbelief. Alex was educated. “But you’re Roman. You couldn’t understand him?” “No, a lot I couldn’t. He was talking too fast. That’s why I kept nodding, agreeing with him. I didn’t understand a lot of what he was saying. He always talks like that.” “Geeze, I wonder if his wife feels the same way?” Alex shrugged his shoulders. That made me feel better about my comprehension level. As we left the museum there was a money taker for parking a car in the area in front of the museum. It was a public lot, but I'd seen the burly ticket man there always. If you parked there you paid the man. Doesn't matter if it's an illegal operation, and no need to ask why you should pay him. If you were going to leave your car there with him there, if you prefer to return to find air in the tires, don’t want a scratch on the paint job, you pay the man and don’t ask questions. This is the local mafia action that you run into. *** sun goes up sun goes down little by little we all go around *** Rented a car again, this time we were on our way to Sutri. I asked M why we were going there and she gave the answer, "Because somebody said...probably a tourist who'd been there." That was enough to get us moving. We packed for a short stay and took a bus to the rental place by the side of the Vatican. There was an outdoor food market next to it, that's how we found the car rental place. At the rental counter we did the car rental chatter, then when he asked I reached into my pocket, checked them all, had extra socks, extra underwear but forgot my driver's license. M stepped up, bumped me over, and put her license down. We had a minor problem, not because M was driving, not at all, but I was the navigator and I had no map, no knowledge of the roads to take to get where we were going, and had never been there. Undaunted I guided us, using courage and what common sense I could muster. We left with the car and I pointed, "The highway. Get to the highway." She pointed the car and we were on our way. Good weather, not a lot of cars on the road. We rolled north on the A-1 North, and after many miles were at a road marker directing us toward Sutri. There was a coffee shop so we stopped, got out, stretched.. A quick coffee later, we were back on the road. When we hit the outskirts of town I could see Sutri high up ahead on a hill. I asked her to stop the car so we could evaluate the situation. We got out and looked at that far mountain with a village on top. ”We're still going to Sutri, aren't we?" she asked. she was checking to see if plans changed. "There it is. That's it on that hill over there." I kicked some stones where i stood and looked at the far off hill and took in the valleys and fields around. Then I said, "Look, I'm just the navigator. I don't know how you're feeling. Tell me where you want to go...I'll get us there." I stood with my hands on my hips looking off into Italian countryside and the distant hill where the village could be seen on top. "I heard it was nice," she said quietly. "That's it...up there," I pointed to the village on the hill. Then tuned to her and asked,"What's in Sutri anyway?" She took a deep breath and said, "Get in the car." I guess we had talked it out. There was nothing more to decide, we got in the car, and got ready to move ahead with nothing for ammunition in our arsenal of road information. We fastened our seat belts and she started the car. I looked at her as my Knightress of the road slammed the car in gear. My head jerked back as we sped off. Five miles ahead when we pulled near the base of the large, steep hill below Sutri there were two roads leading to town. Instead of going straight I had her turn on the one that seemed to indicate the way to the historical center. There was an arrow indicating something and pointing somewhere. She veered left and started on that road. I wonder at the Italian street arrow indicators. They can point up or down and mean the same thing - straight ahead. They can be placed either before a turn or after you turn. As best I can tell it seems to have been decided on the discretion of whoever placed the sign. Some sign placers think as you do, others think it’s time to wrap this up and hurry home to mama who has lunch ready. Soon it was apparent we were driving the wrong way on a one way street. M accused me navigating without precision. I glared at her and motioned her to keep going. There was no real concern, I had seen a lot of Italians drive the wrong way on a one-way street. It seemed practically normal. Of course, they were driving their own car. The street narrowed and we ascended a slope, going left around the outside of the hill that led straight up toward the historical center of Sutri. Immediately we were going through a parking area behind a string of apartment buildings that were stacked up the side of the hill. The farther we drove the more the slope increased. At the same time the street got narrower. We were about halfway up and I thought it can’t keep going straight up. If we were lucky there would be something to save us. A magic tunnel or an elevator. If we were headed in the other direction, driving down would be a lot easier. The parking area was behind us. Now we were on a path between buildings as the road continued to get more narrow. Only wider than the car. Yet, continued up. I didn't want to say anything, but it wasn't a road anymore...it was a space behind some buildings. I could tell by her face she was worried. Our upward inclination was really severe. We had a moment when we glanced at each other, quick in a flash, and saw panic in the others eyes. We said nothing. It was quick, maybe it didn’t happen, a lightening-quick bolt of knowing. We saw the panic in each others eyes. The road was tight now and M said something about going back. Was she nuts? There was no possibility of backing down this upward inclined alley. I told her to keep going. It was tense. We argued in crude words in passing seconds and it was obvious that We should have turned back ten minutes ago. We had gone too far up this alley, we couldn’t stop without stalling, and it was impossible to back out. We had to keep going. It was a rental car and we didn’t want to get it stuck halfway up a hill between buildings, call a tow truck to pull it out and pay for any damages...there was no room for a tow truck to get anywhere near us. We kept heading up at a steeper angle, buildings on both sides of us. Any second we'd rip the side mirrors off, start scraping paint off and scratch bare car metal against one or both of the two enclosing walls in the narrowing slot of an alley. Sparks would cause an explosion. We kept moving ever faster, rapidly upward to keep from losing traction, stalling the stick shift and sliding back. She had to keep her aim steady. If we slowed we'd slide in the gravel road. The road was even steeper and I told her to step on it because I was afraid of her losing confidence and stopping, or stalling the car in this narrow upward bound alley where it was impossible to back out. There wasn't even room for us to open the car doors if we had to get out. She hit the accelerator and rocketed upward, the car roared throwing gravel and we popped out, a cork out of a wine bottle...air born. The car sprung out of the narrow alley, stretched off the tires, floated, then, slam, landed in an open piazza. The car shook hard as we landed and immediately came to a stop. Heads turned. Ten or fifteen persons scattered around the piazza turned to view us. It was obvious we were the only car in the center of town. There were no other vehicles moving or parked, no lanes or indication of any other traffic at all. It was an open space with our car sitting in the middle or a piazza. As we moved a few feet ahead then came to a halt we were trying to figure which way to go as there was no street, only this open piazza. We knew right away we had to get out of there. At the same time a lone policeman spotted us and we saw him. I think we heard his voice, or someone shouting a startled exclamation. The policeman kept calm as he evaluated the situation and then meandered slowly over to our car. I don’t know if he had has hand on his gun looking for trouble or not. By then M had restarted the car and was rolling down the window looking as casual as a lamb waking from a nap. She had a “who me?” look on her face, saying,“You want to say something to me?” While I leaned forward in the passenger seat, a wild, scared rabbit, not quite out of the bare-knuckled hunter’s grasp. I may have searched for nonexistent maps on the floor. I was not going to notice the cop. The policeman came up to us and said,"You we can’t drive here...This piazza is closed to traffic." We tried to look looked surprised, but allowed that he probably knew best. He indicated kindly how we can proceed out. We both nodded and told him we’d do that right away. He stood back scratching his head reevaluating us as we started out. On the way out we had to go through a large arch in the center of the piazza. Heads still turned as we drove slowly along. It was a victory parade to pass under that arch. It had probably been a while since they had seen a car drive under that arch. Likely our tactical driving error did not happen every day. *** some drive up some drive down some surprised by what they've found *** 14 Giacomo called. "Come on, I'm going up and back. I need some company for the drive." I was happy to ride along. Giacomo had to take a new refrigerator to their mountain cabin. A metal cooler, actually. We had it in the back seat. In the winter it would keep food cold. No electricity involved. Nothing to plug in. In summer he'd bring ice from the store at the bottom of the hill. Giacomo and I were heading East out of Rome, talking about the roads we'd take. He knows them backwards but I wanted to see it. He mentioned all the roads and I'd ask about villages on the way, the particulars Rome to there, I needed to see it. "It's right here, I've got a map." He reached into the side pocket by his door and pulled out a map to show me everything I could imagine or ask about, but the map was for another area. I shook it at him, "It's not a map of this..." "On your side," he pointed, "Over there, the pocket on your door, your side. The map is there." He pointed again. I leaned over to see the speedometer and the road ahead was wide open. I torn through the door pocket on my side and yes, there were some maps. Pulling them out, I checked. Two hands full, maps tightly packed in a slide-in pocket on the door. I quickly counted eight maps...then four more. ”Twelve. You've got twelve maps in here." They were all wadded and twisted and stuffed together in my door pocket. I held them up for him to see. "It's a mess...there's a mess of maps in here." I started looking through them. "Did you find it?" he asked. "A map for here? I'm looking." I kept fumbling through them. ”A map for here...right? There isn't one." I kept at it. "I'll read off some names and you tell me if it's a map around here." "It's not important. I know where we are going." We drove for a while. "We are on Via Salaria, heading toward Reiti." He and Virginia's mountain cabin is there. After a w hile we turned off on a smaller road in farm country and after a few minutes I noticed Giacomo quietly wave at a flock of sheep that as passed them. He made no comment and we continued on the road. I said nothing. A while later we passed sheep and again I saw him quickly wave at the sheep. His hand was low, near the bottom of the window, but I saw it. "Giacomo, what was that?" "What is that? What do you mean?" "When we passed the sheep back there you did something. It looked like you waved." "For money," that's all he said and kept driving. "What are you talking about...what do you mean, 'for money'?" "It brings you money when you pass sheep and wave." "Wait a minute..we passed sheep again, right there," I pointed, "and you didn't do anything," "On the right. You have to pass them on the right and then you wave." "Oh." I said, I understood, but I didn't...not completely. The last sheep we passed were on our left and he didn't do anything. We had another twenty minutes to get to the hill before we start up the mountain. I was learning. *** I asked M about Giacomo’s driving and she made a good comment. "If there is a car in front of Giacomo he must get ahead of it." And she was right. He will get ahead of any car in front of him. There is no stopping him. There is no other way. End of subject. Go on to something else because a car in front of Giacomo is something that does not exist…for long. Speed is in his blood. Giacomo’s mother held the world's motorcycle speed record when she was eighteen. His father, also sporty, played in the Wimbledon Tennis Tournament and raced a car in the Grand Prix. Many times when I have arrived back to Rome from the U.S. the first contact I have with a friend or member of Giacomo's family on the way out the door to pick up Giacomo. Either his car has died. Dead from Exhaustion, no doubt, or is stuck somewhere because he has run out of gas. Words I don’t associate with Giacomo: Preventive Maintenance, Change the oil, Clean out the car, Wash the car. Fill it up. *** SCHOOL Learning Italian became necessary. It is possible to be out there on the streets and not speak Italian. Why go everywhere and not be able to explain yourself or ask for what you want? And, to make friends, we needed to talk the talk. I’d see the locals day after day, and after exchanging nods I could say boun giorno, then I was stuck. Learning the language is necessary to be absorbed into the system, and in Rome the system functions in Italian. Tourists can travel with English, but to live here we had to know the language. M and I started an Italian language school for foreigners, three hours a day, five days a week. It was okay for me and good for her. She is a good student. For both of us it was an introduction, an exposure to the language. For her it was school. For both of us it was necessary. I learned on the street, in the action of the day. I spoke to everyone and made every stupid mistake for years before I eventually was able to make less stupid mistakes, to communicate and understand. Television was also a great teacher for us. A lot of programs had subtitles in Italian or English. I never understood why some words changed when written in another language? Some words I can understand changing because it is a different language, but the name of the city? Growing up, I learned in school that the river that cuts through the middle of Rome is the Tiber. It's not the Tiber, it's the Tevere. It is not too hard to say in English. tev-er-ray Three syllables, but it’s said a long two, with a hesitation in the middle – tev-ray. Accent on the first syllable. There was a popular language School at the end of our street in a large building opposite the Cancelleria. On the third floor of this old converted palace was the Italia Idea School. We talked to people about it, and then enrolled. It was expensive, didn’t want to pay the price, but we did. We were willing students who needed fluid ability with the Italian language to get along. M studied as a student should, did her homework for hours every night. I could hardly sit through classes. It was not to my liking. This wasn’t the way I could learn. I was exposed to the language in school, but learned in the city, talking to Italians at the market, in stores. That was more comfortable for me than sitting in the classroom with ten or fifteen foreigners who couldn’t speak for merde, that means shit; and I was supposed to listed to them try to say boungiorno? They knew less than I did, and their accents were terrible. You can’t imagine sitting in class and listening to a newly arrived Oriental student half your age trying to read a sentence. “That is ahlora,” corrects the teacher. The Oriental girl puts her whole hand in front of her face and goes, “Hee, hee, hee.” Oh, it’s cute, until the twenty-fifth time she does it. I spoke Spanish for twenty-five years, having studied in high school and college. I used it a lot on many trips south of the border. Italian appears similar to Spanish when you glance at it written, but boy is it different to speak. I had to go through a tortuous time forgetting Spanish so I could have a clean slate for Italian. Native speakers can easily transfer from one romance language to another, but Americans often have a difficulty with their second romance language. Learning the words is not enough. It’s necessary to learn what to say and when to say them. About three in the afternoon boungiorno becomes bouna sera, good day becomes good afternoon/evening. Most everything you say or talk about in English can be different in Italian, so your learn not only the language but the culture. After months of school M began to get along in Italian. I dropped the school and learned in the trenches. I favor exchanges with people. I'll talked to everyone, every time, and we had to talk at the bank, doctor, dentist. Some body had to do it. Send in the talker. *** since 1847 on orders of pius IX everyone knows what time it is once a day. cannon at noon thumps once on windows a mile away *** In order to spend more time here I needed to work. Painting pictures was something to do, but I didn't work at selling them. I kept meeting people, and heard about Americans working in Rome. The first solid lead for me happened when I talked to native English speakers doing dubbing for movies. I heard Frank Vonklugen was the man to talk to. Somebody gave me his number. I called him and set up an appointment to meet. He told me where he was and mentioned some buses. I said I'd figure how to get there. With the phone book in the apartment was a separate booklet called Tutti Citta with maps of the entire city. It didn’t take much to look up street names, and from there I figured which buses to take. There was a strange gap at the end of my route. How to get there was unclear. I ended up taking a cab to Monte Mario and a bus back. That would get me there on time and I could take it easy coming back. I didn't want to go all the way out there on a bus to be lost a few blocks away from his office. The taxi took me quickly in light traffic. I didn't have to worry about getting lost. The driver got me right to the address. I rapped on the door and a woman opened it promptly. took a step back and beckoned me to enter. "Jack? I'm Anna, Frank's office slave." I heard a male voice laugh and call me in. Anna had her purse in her hand and waved good bye to Frank then left. We said our quick hellos, Frank had told her I was on my way. I entered a large sparsely furnished, drab office with a battered desk on one side. Not a luxury set up. Windows had a fine view of trees on Monte Mario. “How are you? Come on in.” he said. "Thanks, Anna. See you soon." I turned my head back into the room. “We need some more English speakers, all the old guys are dying off. You’re on time...I mean on time to get some work. It is up and down and right now it is up...I mean busy, that's good.” He stood and we shook hands and as we introduced ourselves. He motioned to an office chair in front of his desk as he circled it and sat in his chair as we continued talking. There were papers all over the desk. "Coffee?" "Yes, thanks." For a half hour we exchanged histories, got familiar with each other. Frank served in Germany during his tour in the military and came to Italy met a woman and got married here. Frank smoked incessantly. He was about fifty, thin, neatly dressed in the roman way - meaning a sport coat out of style, shirt clean but wrinkled, an unfashionable tie around his neck, not properly tied. It's enough that he has a tie. That’s the way many Romans dressed at that time. Frank has been absorbed into the system, had been here forty years, and was known as the go-to-man who got the job done. “Oh, it's all chaos right now, but that's the normal way - everything is always a mess. Bob the old secretary from our group passed away, and even when he was working I had to do most of the work or it wouldn’t get done.” I nodded a lot and listened to Frank as he continued about how the work was going. Asked if I had a work permit and told me I needed to get one. Dubbing movies was not my specialty by a long shot. I’d done it in Hollywood once for the movie Grizzly, but was an actor, did film, TV, stage performances, voice-overs and wrote some, but I knew I could learn dubbing, if that was the work available. “It isn’t easy,” he said indicating the papers on his desk. “I’m the president of this group, but Bob, the fellow who usually did this work, passed away a month ago and the secretary was supposed to take over but it isn’t getting done so I’m doing it. We’ve got deadlines.” “What isn’t easy?” Was he talking about dubbing? He looked at me eyes cold as ice and said “Nothing about Rome is easy.” He stopped to light another cigarette and look out the window. He puffed and the smoke curled around his head. “But it’s like a drug...you’ll learn to love it and hate it.” "Where are you, Ohio?" I nodded. "I think there is a consulate in Pittsburgh and one in Detroit. You'll have to talk to one places." I raised my chin in question. "For a work permit. You'll need a permit to work in Italy." I left and told him I'd stay in touch. As I was returning on the bus back home his words came to me, and eventually would become true to me. I’d learn what he was talking about when he said, "you'll learn to love it and hate it." That phrase would stay with me. Although frustrated at times, I never learned to hate it. Frank's pointers did start me on the way to getting a permisso de lavoro, a work permit. Permisso Please I had to return to the states to get a work permit; but I figured it was multipurpose, I wasn't going to get one to work just for a company, my permit called autonomo was harder to get but would allow me to work for anybody in Italy. Perfect for free lance work. I knew I had the work experience to do it, and I had saved complimentary letters and documentation from different groups I'd worked for to back me up. We had moved from California to my home state of Ohio by then. As soon as we were back in Ohio I called the nearest Italian Consulate to where I was in Northern Ohio, the one in Detroit. The guy on the phone was Italian, but spoke English well enough. He was most congenial and told me I would have to come in to his office and I do it in a few minutes. We talked a while and had a good time. He sounded happy to hear from someone recently back from his country. As we talked he’d have surprises for me, small roadblocks. I never challenged him, I kept agreeing with whatever he said. The guy was a pro at his work. He said I could come in and fill out the necessary work for the permit, do it all right over the counter in fifteen minutes. We spent several minutes in congenial conversation and I was ready to drive to Detroit in a few days to get my work permit. As we were about to hang up he said, “It’ll take about six months, you know.” I was in motion to hang up, but quickly put the phone back to my ear to ask, “What will?” “To get a work permit,” he said. I already had my appointment and the information about what items I needed to bring to Detroit so I said, “Ok, see you soon,” and ended our call. I was pissed. That son of a bitch was setting me up, acting Mr. Nice Guy then trying to get me. Why? I had no idea. I was to learn that this was the Roman way of business. If you have power over someone - use it. Six months to get a work permit? With some experience in Italy already I knew it wouldn’t do any good to argue or remind him that he said I could do it all over the counter in about fifteen minutes. No, it’s better to agree and move on. I drove to Detroit. At the meeting with the man from the consulate I filled out what I could and returned home with a list of materials he wanted. There were a few copies of documents I had to send to him, business references and monetary statements, I don’t recall all the particulars, nothing extraordinary, but items I needed to gather. I got them together and mailed it all to him. I called a few days later and someone confirmed my package had arrived. Then I waited. After about three weeks I hadn’t heard anything from the Consulate so I called again. I got the same guy on the phone. He remembered who I was. “You didn’t send a stamped return addressed envelope.” “Ah, of course, yes,” You horses ass. “I’ll send it right away.” I didn’t bother to say he didn’t ask for a stamped addressed return envelope. I’m sure he knew that. I did what he said. It wouldn’t do any good to point out his errors. The Italians always have an excuse, a way to stay on top, and then I’d have to send it anyway. Among the requests he said they needed was a copy of my return ticket to Italy. I had to book it six months ahead of the day I first went to the Consulate. As the weeks, then months passed, repeated calls and even trips to Detroit with additional material they requested brought no work permit, only the promise that it is coming. They said they would call when the permit was ready. More time, months, passed, still nothing from the consulate. I stayed patient, waited. Time got tight, I was ready to go nuts and still I hung on. The consulate finally called me three days before my flight was scheduled to leave and told me my permit was ready for me. Of course they wouldn't mail it. I had to drive five hours there and back to pick it up. I’m not kidding, three days before my flight they called me. Nothing is easy dealing with the Italians. Those with a power over you will play their game to your limit of endurance. The permit was good for six months. I’d have to go to the office in Rome, “And have it renewed. It’s easy.” When the time came I did renew it, and as Frank warned me, “Nothing is easy in Rome.” With work permit papers in my pocket I took off from Cleveland to New York then overnight to Rome. We’d been in the air for what seemed nearly two weeks when I staggered to the back of the plane and approached the lone stewardess, I think that’s what you call them, I don’t know. You have to call them that to be socially correct, or Flight attendant, perhaps that’s the current title for who they are. So I walked over to the lady wearing the uniform. She looked up, paused in her work because I was standing there looking at a snake. She had been writing. She had a bunch of papers and was working on a form or a cross word puzzle, I'm not sure...doing cabin attendant protocol. That’s a name they are called, cabin attendant. For sure not co-co pilot. If there was a sudden sickness incapacitating the pilot and co-pilot she’d be the one to get on the intercom and ask, “Does anyone think they might know how to fly this plane?” As I began walking toward her I made a signal to my wrist. I had my left arm held up in a horizontal position, with the elbow arched out, my fist was formed, my right hand index finger tapped the location on my left wrist where a watch might be if I had one. I had her attention, then I was standing there leaning toward her and tapping my wrist. She stopped what she was doing to look at me - right at me, with an annoyed, confused look on her face as if to say “What the hell do you want?” and, “This had better be good.” I took the opportunity to speak, “The time. What time is it?” I said while continuing to point at my wrist. I added the use of language to my pantomime to further prompt her and explain my odd behavior. “Ten to ten.” She spoke, but her words did not fill me with elucidation. Ten to ten in Rome or here? Where is it ten to ten? I didn’t want to be rude, perhaps I had a slightly confused look on my face. She explained, “My watch is set at the global time.” I smiled and bowed slightly in complete make-believe understanding. She added, “My watch is set at East Coast Eastern Time.” That’s what this glacier woman said, ”East Coast Eastern Time.” Better than East Coast Western time. I nodded in acceptance of the fact that she had managed to make it sound both official and hopelessly stupid. I was apparently tuned to Man in the Moon from Hell Time. I quickly calculated, felt lucky and then asked, “It’s ten to four in Rome, right?” “There’s six hours difference,” she said. Figure it out yourself nitwit. So in her own peculiar way she seemed to be agreeing with my calculation. I nodded then chanced another question, “So, we have about three and a half hours left?” She stared at me, not confirming or denying my estimate. So much for that. I added my final rejoinder, “You’re certainly not going out of you way to be helpful are you?” She opened her mouth slightly, but said nothing. I returned to my seat where I obviously belonged. The plane flew on to eventually land in Rome without assistance from either of us. l l first audition in Rome Back in Rome with a new work permit, I had to inquire how to validate it. There was some running around to complete the extensive bureaucracy required to make it my permit official. That done, I was still at ground zero. I had to find out about getting work. Frank gave me a few names to call and explained how the Italian system worked. They used agents, and thank God, I knew that system. I began asking around to find the best agent for English speakers. Productions are done in Italian most all the time, of course, but fellow English speaking actors I contacted helped me. An agent is the actor’s door to available work. There are always plenty of agents in every market, but only a couple that are really the best of the lot. In Rome only a few agencies dealt with English speakers. It’s important to get one of the best agents because when a good job comes in, especially from another city, Milano for example, or from out of country, Paris or Berlin, those production houses are going to the top agents first, and might stop the search there. In Italy films and TV productions from around the world are dubbed into Italian. All the European dub into their country's language. I did a few sessions dubbing for Frank and his friends, but wanted to do commercial, film and TV work as well. I was better suited for that, and there's more money in it. Asking around got me the name Top Floor. Several people said they were very good. They were an important agency with top talent, and used some English speakers. I called and made an appointment to meet with Alessa and Ulla, the two women running the agency. When we got together, my credentials were impressive, audio and video tape and photos, and I determined that I could work with them. Quickly It had begun, they’d try me, I’d try them. My agent would call me and I’d look up the address on the map and figure out how to get there. The first on-camera commercial audition came up about a week after our first meeting, when I wasn’t fluent in Italian. Hell, I wasn’t even close. People even looked funny at me when I ordered coffee. I could say hello and goodbye and a few other words. The call came for me to audition at Video Plus. Never heard of it, but this was one of the important audition studios and it would all become familiar. I figured out the address of the place. First I had to make sure I wrote it down correctly. I wasn’t dealing in Italian with my agent, but English was new for them, so what they gave me was always half-English. I got out the map called Tutti Citta, that came with every new phone book. I found the location, figured out my route and the morning of the audition left an hour or more early for a twenty minute bus ride. I wasn’t gong to mess up. Years before I learned that this is a serious business. The difference between those that do and those that drop away is measured in the amount of effort used to do everything right. No exceptions. My agent told me there was no dialogue to learn, just some action to do, and I forgot what the commercial was for, that wasn’t important to me. I was to dress upscale sporty casual. That’s all I needed. I’d worked best in Los Angeles and San Francisco and knew I could do it here, but as agents pick up new faces everyday, I knew there wasn’t any special hope for me. But, my mojo was working. I had the address. Prati was one side of the river, Parioli was my side, but up the way. The map and the bus route got me there. I took the 62 bus to Parioli. It took ten minutes to get to the nearest cross street. No problem. Then after several times up and down the street I still couldn't find the building. This was a problem. Outside of the city center the people didn't speak much English, and my Italian was limited. It was tough to ask for help, besides there weren't people walking around in that neighborhood. After walking around a while I had to call my agent, I needed help. I walked back up to the corner on the principal street where I got off the bus, and outside the first coffee bar was a payphone on the wall. I bought a coffee to get change. When I called my agent I told her I couldn't find the place, the directions were wrong, "You said it was practically right on the corner. That's the 12000 block." "Did you look on the other side of the street?" "What? What do you mean? It was 12000 something. I'm looking for 419. It's a heck of a long way away. These are long blocks." "Look on the other side of the street." "Aren't they odd on one side and . . . " "Look on the other side of the street," she repeated. "In Rome the streets are numbers on one side are independent from the numbers on opposite side of the street." "What are you saying?" "The numbers on one side don't have anything to do with the other side." "You mean..." It was incredible. I asked her to repeat that and she did. I left the pay phone shaking, back to where I started, and she was right. It was the 12000 block on one side of the street and the 400 block on the other. The numbers on one side of the street have nothing to do with the numbers on the other side. What I had to learn. Frank was right again, nothing's easy. Because I started early I arrived before the studio had its doors open so I and walked to a coffee bar across the street to kill some time with a typical Italian worker’s breakfast, a coffee and cornetto. When the doors to the studio opened at five minutes after nine about five of us were there, men and women. While the others all ran in to find a good seat and sat down, I stood on the far end, near the door that led back into the interior of the building, and waited there. A few minutes later a man walked in with a sheet of paper and a pen. The guy spoke to all of us in Italian and although, try as I might, I didn’t understand a word, I knew what he had was the sign-in sheet. He walked it over to the table near me and I had it in my hands before he set it down. The others sat there chatting weith each other, I knew enough to sign in now, cause you’re called in the order you sign the sheet. While he kept talking I signed my name in the first blank cause I couldn't understand him anyway, and then I sat down on one of the chairs along the wall as he quit talking about the commercial and was explaining to the others that this piece of paper was the sign-in sheet and they were supposed to put their name on it. When he returned to the studio the others slowly began to get up and sign their names on the sheet. I had another sheet to fill out. There was a place on the sheet for agent’s name and our measurements. When the signing was complete there were more people waiting and I looked around then asked someone about my size how tall he was, another how much he weighed. That way I could fill in approximately how tall and how much I weighed in centimeters and kilos. My agent’s name I already had written down. There was also a script for the audition. Well, not a script, a description of the audition. There was no dialogue, as I’d already heard. There was some action to do, that was it. I couldn’t read a word of it. The name of the product was written there, but Italian product names didn’t mean anything to me. I had no idea what the commercial was for. When my agent told me what the commercial was for and said the name, as if it was a common product, I had no idea what it was. I didn’t ask her to repeat the name. I was green, but even though my agent was my best buddy in this, I didn’t want to remind her what a novice I was to Italy. She thought I was right for the commercial and that’s why she sent me. That’s all I needed to know. I unfolded the detailed city map from the phone book again and thought about how I was gong to backtrack and get home from here. I had no trouble finding the location of this studio, and finding a bus. I sat with the other actors, talking my feeble Italian to whomever I could. changed seats a few times to find someone I could converse with. That’s how I learned Italian, talking to people. There were about a dozen of us waiting by then. That morning I was first the first to sign in. I should have been called in first to audition. When another guy, the director, finally came in about fifteen minutes later, he first apologized for the delay, said a few hello’s, talked about the commercial and checked the list of talent and called number one name on the sign-in list. That was me. An Italian actor that came in after me and was pacing the floor, ran over to him and moaned extensively, appealing to him because there was heavy traffic, he had a job to get to and was second on the list. He was in a hurry. So the director called my name. When I raised my hand and stood to go in, the Director asked me if I minded if this other fellow went first. I quickly indicated with expressions and gestures, all perfectly normal and well done for an actor of my ability, that of course the panicked guy should go first. So the director signaled for both of us to come in at the same time. This was special. It rarely happens that two actors are called into the studio for the same audition at the same time. I knew in a nanosecond that it was a break for me. We talked all the way down the hall. Well, he and the other actor spoke and I acted as if I were participating. The studio was fairly large and there were quite a few people. Maybe two from the casting agency handling the set and props, keeping the coffee hot and running as gophers. There were techs for the camera, lights and cables, the agency people were present and the directors lackies were nearby. Maybe the client had someone there, there were enough around for the director to be the center of attention. I didn’t have to say anything, I had to do the action they wanted. I’d been doing that sort of work all of my adult life, so I was curious as to what it was. Now it looked as if that question would be answered. The other guy in a hurry was going first. I stood off to the side and watched as the director explained everything to the other actor. Then the camera rolled and the guy did the action. It was simple, kind of walked back and forth looked worried and walked over to get the box of whatever the product was and bring it over and set it somewhere, then look satisfied. They did two takes so I got to see him do it again. I watched carefully, a circling hawk over a baby chicken. This was what I had to depend on. It was what I needed. It seemed a piece of cake. All he did was look worried and walk over to get the box of whatever and bring it over and set it there, then look satisfied. That actor finished and tore out of there. The director looked my way and called me to the stage. The director explained the action to me, pointing here and pointing there. I acted as if I was paying attention. Well, I was paying attention, I just couldn't understand him. Then he asked if I had any questions. I thought about asking if there was someone there who spoke English and could tell me what he said. But I knew it was better to get on with it, so I shook my head, smiled and said “no.” He walked back to his place behind the camera. I saw the X taped on the floor and knew what that was for. I stood there and the director called “azione”. I’d never heard that before when it was directed to me. It had a nice ring to it, and I got the show on the road. What I did was what I remembered the first actor had done. Carefully here, carefully there, then satisfied. The director rushed up after he cut at the end of the first take and said, “no, no,” waving his arms, speaking in Italian, of course. He wasn't upset with me, he was disappointed. He explained in detail the reasons for all of the action, pointing here, then over there. All the while I was following him around, looking intently and nodding my head, agreeing doubtlesssly, making grunting vocalizations, as if what he said was the only way it could be done correctly. Of course, how could I have been so stupid, I pantomimed, slapped my head as if awakened, as if he explained it all so well even a kid would know how to do it. I knew what his speech was about. The lack of language skills doesn’t mean a lack of a brain. I’d seen it all before. The guy had the client there, was doing various director posturings, for me and everyone present in the studio, the camera man, the assistant, the pert shapely secretary, the lighting people, the client, agency people, everyone watching the director do his work. Then he finished almost in a sweat and asked me if I understood everything and if I was ready, and I reluctantly agreed and said “Si, certo.” Yes, certainly. Which were two words I could say really well. I took my place standing on the X and after a pause the director called “actione.” I began the second take not knowing if he was going to stop and correct me or throw me out of there and tell me never to come back, or, god forbid, ask me a direct question and find out I didn’t understand a word of what he was saying, and then my agent would get in trouble for sending me and be reluctant to send me any place again. So instead of wetting my pants and running out crying, what I did was exactly as I had done the first time. Maybe more relaxed because I had already done it once. That’s usually what an actor does even when you can understand the language. Besides, I only knew what I saw the other actor do. I am actor – hear me roar, even if there are no words in the script. Walk here, walk there, look satisfied. At the end when the Director called cut my heart paused in mid beat as he immediately came running up to me to shake my hand saying it was perfect, what he wanted. I took his words as calmly as possible. I was happy, of course. Evidently I was a tribute to his fine powers of directing. I left the studio with everyone content, waving and wishing me well. A day or two later, my agent called to check my availability for such and such a date, and told me the director was very impressed. I had won my first audition in Roma. 15 Some time I was here and M was over there. Before cell phones, I made telephone calls home from a pay phone outside the Forno in the Piazza. You got in line, you had your coins and waited counting coins. Summer heat, rain and winter cold, figuring time here versus time there; it wasn’t easy, but it happened that way. “You hear me?” I said. “There’s an echo,” She said. “How are you?” I said. "You hear me?" “I miss you,” We both said at once. “What can I bring you?” “Yourself.” *** James came by to take me for a ride. He wanted to show me where he was working. It was beyond Circus Maximus on a hill a a block beyond the forum. He said there was a few acres of woods that the city turned over to non profit groups. I’d been up and down this street a hundred times and never knew there was more than some trees on a hill. We drove by Circus Maximus, turned and drove up a woodland road to a gated area. There were no guards. James unlocked the gate and we drove in. He explained these few wooded acres the city had turned into use by the community. No one was around. After a short distance there were fewer trees and an open field area on a hill. I saw four older two-story stone buildings in reasonably good condition – one alone near the gate, the others farther back beyond a hilly field covered in wild flowers and bordered by stones. Trees were spread here and there in the open field that looked dormant and wild, didn’t seem to be used for anything. The marvel was that we were in the heart of Rome, yet in a wooded area where the city is completely shut out. That this place exists in the center of Rome was amazing. James stopped in front of the fourth building and we carefully walked in. The building was being renovated. A workman was there doing some wood replacement over a door. The wood worker and James talked. James told me later that he and the other fellow were working together on the restoration project. James left some tools there, picked up some others and we left. This hidden, peaceful, open area is a short distance from the Circus Maximus and the Forum. You can come and go from Rome for a lifetime and never discover the existence of such a hidden treasure, a remote wooded area shut out from the city that surrounds it. That this exists in the center of Rome was a marvel. A Rome you never know. *** I got a postcard in the mail with a photo of Rome rooftops as seen from the Gianicolo. It was mailed from the U.S. My friend wrote. “How lovely. No wonder they call Rome the Cleveland of Europe.” *** I had another successful audition for a pasta commercial being filmed in a northern region. They flew me up to Torino, then drove me to a farm house with out buildings that caters to tourists, it's called an augraturismo. The cast and crew had accommodations there. There were several of us. The director and technical people all had their own transportation and moved around independently. Per usual, my duty was to pay attention to my role in this, and follow instructions; the others did their jobs, that's why I didn't know who they were or what they were doing. Each area of production operated independently: lighting, camera, makeup and costumes, plus assistants. I hung around the farm an waited for instruction. All of he crew enjoyed the peace of the country from a hill where at an old stone lodge where we were based. There was plenty of food and coffee. Great temperatures in the mountains that Spring. We woke in the morning with windows open to birds and cow bells. It was a pleasant stay for everyone. This was a great slice of rural country life. Coming from Rome it was a good change. I didn't know if there were others or where the others were based. There were ten or so of us at the farm. The first [art of the commercial was done about five miles away in an Old stone village near a rushing mountain river. For not being raised in Italy it was a most wonderful, singular experience, to visit this mountain town, clean, picturesque and dressed up for viewing through a lens. I did a lot of work in the states, but the old world charm seen in the rural area of Italy was enchanting. For one scene they gave me a bicycle and told me to ride up and down the old street while they searched for the best shots. They had me stop at a vender's stand on the street. A guy had baskets of truffles and I was supposed to sniff one. I'd never even seen a truffle before, but actors go through the motions. I sniffed one as they had demonstrated, so it seemed I knew what I was doing. Everyone, cast and crew, were Italian. The actor playing the vendor was Giovanni Ansoloti, we became friends and visited him and his wife several times. He played a cab driver in a film with Sylvestor Stalone and enjoyed telling me about it. The crew was all Italian and they'd seen ancient villages before. When we filmed I did my scene as if it was another day buying truffles. This kind of day was good work for me. We spent a day shooting on the streets of the village, then after another night at the country house, moved our base for another day shooting at a house in Milano. While there I had time to visit Leonardo Divinci's mural of the last supper, the Galleria - a glass shopping arcade, and the Cathedral. That's what's fun about work, always something different. I am fortunate to have done it. *** When we said out goodbyes, we parted to our separate ways. I trained back to Rome where the everyday was jumping up and down, puppy happy to see me. There was food shopping, seeing our friends, and the general work up keeping up that took us through the everyday of Rome. We would meet our friends: Giacomo, Ermano, Bill and Pietro in the morning for a cappuccino and cornetto; did the errands as someone called our name in greeting or in passing. A warm morning we were sitting at Angelo's having coffee with Ermano. I mentioned to him, "I was outside this morning when the postman came and I realized I had no idea who our postman is...I don't recognize our postman." He shook his head. "Why not?" "They rotate them," he said. "How often?" "Every day," "Every day? Your kidding?" "Everyday," he said as Angeloe brought a cappucino scurro and a cornetto with nuts in it and soooooome k in of stick suce. He place down two bags of brown sugar also...I'd think about thjat. sp,e days I used one, other days I left the sugar alone. I took a bite of teh cornetto and waited for Ermano to explain more. "If the same people worked the same routes then it was possible that some kind of criminal activity could be developed. So city workers on routes are rotated throughout the city to curb corruption. As a result, problems of this sort are reduced so eliminated." "That is why mail delivery gets screwed up regularly. Whoever delivers my mail next doesn't know me or where my mail box is. Unfamiliarity creates difficulties for all." "Yes" Ermano dodded. I told him, "In ohio we got to know our mailman...we'd even leave Christmas presents for him, cookies or something." "You don't have to do that here, unless to want to buy gifts for peopple you don' know...think of it as one less gift to wrap." Simone rushed out the door then carrying a small tray with three small coffees in plastic cups with the lids on., taking them to the market workers...their two minute pause for a morning shot of coffee. Que Gioia! "those people who sweep the street with the large straw brooms "witches brooms "yes, trash collectors and the meter readers, them too. *** Here’s a tourist tip: From the rooftops you see the city landmarks most identifiable as Roma. Take a bus ride from Piazza Paolo to the Gianicolo, or walk above Piaza del Popolo, or walk to the Quirinale off Via Nationale, or take the elevator above Piaza Venezia, or to the café shop above the museum at the Campodolio. From all of these places area and years views to remember. Enni oMorricone has a place down there and so does Sophia Loren. *** Another thousand years is marked as the months and years roll by. 2000 was also a year of the Jubilee, a Catholic special occasion occurring every twenty five years. To accommodate the increase in tourism and pilgrim traffic during the jubilee year the J-bus lines were initiated. Eight different J-bus lines, but only three were useful for the average tourist. There is no letter J in the Italian alphabet. There are 26 letters in the English alphabet, only 21 in Italian. J k w x and are lost, but not forgotten. jkwxy are used in foreign words. A BMW automobile is called a BM double V. Or BM voo, as in boo. The w doesn’t exist, sorta. J is used in Junior, pronounced Youn-yor. And means junior. The letter k is pronounced kappa. There is a store now called Kappa Marte, which sure spells KMart to me, but is related in name only. Y as in yogurt, x and k, or kappa – I don’t know why they exist, or don’t exist. They are Italian mysteries, the J - bus line is anothe one. What Catholic Church does have is a reoccurring holy year celebration, every twenty-fifth year, that is called a Jubileo – that’s with a J. So, J does not exist - and there it is. This explanation is sounding very Italian. For the Millennium, a holy year, a twenty-fifth year, a Jubileo, Rome celebrated with a special bus line. These were the J-buses, using the Italian’s nonexistent letter J, as in Jubileo, also spelled Gubileo. Why take chances. It was by chance I had read a small article that appeared somewhere, I think it was in the La Republicca which is a nationally produced and distributed news paper, one of the papers sold everywhere. There is the also Corriere della sport and the Messengero and the Communist paper. The article I read briefly hailed the attributes of the new bus line that would fill the needs of the thousands of tourists that will flock to Rome in celebration of the holy year Jubileo. I heartily assume those who formed and voted approval for the new bus line J had good intentions. I imagine there was much money made and lost on this venture. All didn’t go according to plan. The newspaper article I saw was small and ran one day. This was a time before saturation by the Internet. Shortly after the announcement, autobus J appeared. They were large and they were blue and sparkling brand new. The fact that I happened to see the small article in La Republicca was a Jubileo miracle. I didn’t read the newspaper everyday and thappened to run upon the small article. M and I were regular and frequent bus users. A bus ride was our form of recreation. The day the J buses appeared on the street we saw it happen. A magician pulled a large rabbit out of a top hat, the J bus popped out like magic; and no one knew where they come from or where they are going. There were a total of five J-bus lines. Now a few years have passed, yet already we cannot recall the routes of every line. Distinctions have become blurry. Capolineas, end of line turn-arounds, fade. So lets see it sharp on that day it began. We were standing at the bus stop near Chiesa Nuova waiting, probably for one of the new forties that took a load off the old six-four, and featured a double cars held together with a rubber spongy piece, similar to baffles on an accordion, so the two cars could turn corners and remain attached and sealed from the weather, hot or cold, wet and windy. Then here it came. It comes. It is. A large absolutely new shiny bus with the bold emblem J3 on it. It was so new it even smelled new from the outside while we were standing next to it on the street. When the first one passed we probably stood there aghast with the others waiting for their ride. It was absolutely, factory new, just washed and unscathed. Even the tires were hardly off the showroom floor. Will you look at it go. It makes you smile seeing it pass. That was the first one. We stood back and watched it go. Shame on us, we let it be – well not for long. The J-buses weren’t many, a bit infrequent, but after a short time another passed somewhere near where we stood. It was a day or so later, and that time we didn’t think twice. We hopped on. This J-bus line was a celebration. From that day and most every day forward when we rode the J-bus it was ninety-eight percent our space. The other two per cent was an occasional other rider and the bus driver. We had our favorite seats every time, near the back on the right. The last two rows had double seats, two facing forward and two facing back. There was good leg room, and the large windows provided a long unobstructed view. With the bus empty, no one ever seated on the other side, we had an unobstructed view on both sides. For us it was our grand, private touring coach. The five J-bus lines covered the extremes, from St. Paul's outside the walls all the way the Stadio Olympico. Why tourists would want to go from St. Paul's to the Olympic stadium was not a scenario you can easily put together. Maybe the tourist had to prey first, then get to a soccer game? This line covered one side of Rome to the other. Between were few stops. Very few. Other buses had stops every block or two. For the J it was every kilometer or two. Stops were infrequent stops for the J-bus, so when we got on we kept rolling. Soon we had discovered all five J-bus routes and rode them all end to end. Taking a bus ride was a great pass time. We saw Roma that way, nearly all of it, end to end, never having to drive, didn’t get lost, and we stopped when the driver needed a break, so there would be a coffee place and a restroom nearby. What happened? The Italians couldn’t use the line because there weren’t enough stops between here and there. It had to be a real long shot that someone would want to travel from one bus stop to the other on the J lines. There weren’t enough stops on any of the lines. Well, that was fine because the j-line was for pilgrims making their Jubileo trek to Roma. It seemed a good idea, but how were they supposed to know about the J-line? There wasn’t any publicity. There were some signs posted here and there along the routes, but that is hardly publicity. They blew away in the wind. I am quite sure from the curious expressions we saw on people as we whisked by other bus stops that even the Romans did not know what the J-bus line was. The ticket takers for the J-bus were school-age girls hired for their youth, charm and ability to carry a cigar box with tickets in it. They also had a metal punch used to punch tickets. As it was, these checkers only glanced to see if you had ticket. If your ticket was already punched, that was fine. These ticket seller/checkers lasted about a month. The J-bus line was not part of the regular bus system, so they had their own tickets and checkers. As with the city bus line, the driver has nothing to do with anything other than driving the bus, basically blind to all except the route and break times. It took a few days for the j bus to catch on – for us. We took it everyday and everywhere. We soon realized there was absolutely no publicity for the J. Italians would stare and watch as two people rode by absolutely alone in their new, private vehicle. The tourists, of course, had no idea the line existed. Tour books didn't mention it. If there was a publicity folder it existed for a few weeks, then disappeared. With the demise of the ticket checkers we were riding for free, day in and day out. Tickets were never thought of again. We rode like the wind. All through the first year we traveled usually alone. During the Jubilee year there may have been spats of publicity when we briefly had company on our bus, but never enough to loose our favorite seats. The J-bus ran the year before and the year during the Jubileo. By the end the Jubileo year the route was all but finished. It ended finally by being absorbed into the regular line. As quickly and silently as it had begun it was over. The great blue buses were suddenly no more. The routes were given new numbers and incorporated into the regular bus line system where they became marred by graffiti, battered and abused. The great bus plan was an idea never fully developed. It was put into action, and it ended. Somewhere, some one had an idea, and got a few new buses. The idea was sold and put into practice. As often occurs with innovations, the idea, once set in motion, was not thought about after that. It was, and then it wasn’t. Someone made some money and we had our favorite private coaches. It was a heck of a ride. We had a wonderful run with them. What a time for us. The blue J-line is dead – long live the J-line. *** My agent called me to say I had an appointment to see Shaila Rubin, an American casting lady who had here in Rome for forty years and was widely respected. “What's the audition for?" “No audition, she wants to meet you,” my agent said. “Maybe it could lead to something. It doesn’t hurt.” "I've heard her name, but never ran into her." "This is your opportunity...three p.m. Wednesday." Wednesday I walked over to her place on Corso Vittorio near Piazza Navona. Shelia was an American, in Roma over forty years. I had the address and quickly found her place. Place? Let’s call it what it is: a palace. Showing up there is to enter an architectural museum. It begins when you enter from the street with a long winding worn marble staircase on one side that leads to the upper level. The staircase is wide enough for seven or eight marching shoulders to walk arm in arm, the kind of large stone staircase you’d see in a movies, but this was here. It’s old marble worn by the ages. The light was the available sun light that reflected in through ancient, bubled and wrinkled side windows. Magnificant. You are aware of the magnificence when you go up an elaborate marble stairway that has been tred by thousands of people over the ages. At the top of the first landing the the corner turned was an sculptured marble bench from probably the fifteen hundreds under three large stained glass windows. The light, the setting, the colors, magnificent. Up the second part of the stairway was The large door to the apartment; of coursed it was grand and wood and intricately carved and designed. A person who worked there opened the door. You have to have an attendant when you live in such a well to do apartment. Upon entering the first apparent was the size of the rooms. My entire apartment would fit into the entrance way. The height to the ceiling was double any I have previously seen. I made it into the office, another room over. The rest of the apartment I can ony imagine. The day of the visit to Shelia I had to walk across the street on Vittorio Manuale and go to the black building about a block away near Piazza Navona. It hadn’t been sand blasted for a number of years and the exhaust of the passing vehicles turned the stone exterior black. Her building was one of the palaces from the seventeen hundreds that I had passed many times. The entrance was built for coaches and carriages to enter and has two large, ornate woods doors. In the door on the left they cut a small walk-in door. Inside led back to the center courtyard, and to the is the staircase up. She lived on the second so I started up the stone stairs. Here a princess had in her castle. Marble stairs up to a landing, the turn and up again. It was entering a well-appointed museum. The staircase is wide enough for seven or eight marching shoulders to walk arm in arm, the kind of large stone staircase you’d see in movies about royalty. Old marble worn by the ages. And the light was the available sun light reflected through bubbled and wrinkled side windows. You are aware of the magnificence when you go up the elaborate marble stairway, trod by thousands over the ages. At the top of the first landing was a sculptured marble bench from the fifteen hundred, positioned under three large stained glass windows. The light, the setting, the colors, magnificent. Up the second part of the stairway is The large door to enter the apartment, grand, dark wood intricately carved and designed. A person who worked there opened the door. You have to have an attendant or two, or three,when you live that gracious manner. I knocked at the door to the apartment and a woman dressed in service attire opened the door. This service woman was not Italian, I forget where she was from. I think oriental. The wealthy find immigrants to live in, do everything and are paid nothing, or sometimes well. This woman I'd say, wasn't lacking. She led me into the large foyer that was the greeting area. She said that sheila would be with me soon and told me to be seated. She left for a while and I surveyed this large inner room where I waited. There were fresh flowers in the room. I noticed the ceilings twenty feet high, and the room twice that in length and width. This building was old royalty at its finest. The site was appointed for the wealthy in the style of a few hundred hears ago. My entire apartment would fit into this one room. The height to the ceiling was double any I have previously seen. For five minutes I got to admire the setting, then the same woman came back and told me that Shelia would see me know, and I followed her into another room beyond that was larger than the room I was in before. Wearing an elegant day dress, fine jewelry, good looking shoes. Shelia came around from her desk and greeted me. I took the comfortable seat she pointed me to in front of her desk. Our talk was nothing much, but it gave me a chance to see how the other side lives. There are advantages to have made a fortune back when the American dollar was strong against the lira and prices were low enough to afford the palace she lived in. If you appreciate elegance then this you'd envy. Everything was over-sized, elegantly appointed, definitely evoking grand history. Decorative stone floors and the finest painted ceilings and walls. The meeting was a chance for me to see how the well-to-do live. It served no purpose for her or me. As I learned later, she was mostly retired, but kept a hand in the business. That was fine for me, I was happy to be in her house, to see the life. Rome is full of old mansions. Many homes of the nobility a hundred years ago were sold and broken into apartments The opportunity to get inside one intact is rare. I made it as far as her office. The rest of the apartment luxury I can only imagine. Nothing that I was aware of occurred as a result of the visit. Maybe I lost the audition/review or maybe she was only looking. Either way I was pleased to have met her and to have been there. Part III Borgo Pio 16 Our apartment on Via Dei Pelligrino served us well, but as years passed the rent kept creeping up and we had our eyes out for another place. One day Antonio, a wood worker friend, told me about an apartment for rent in Borgo Pio. “Where’s that?” “Where I live, by the Vatican, in my building, a good location.” He was smiling and I believed him. He gave me the phone number of his friend with the apartment, I called and made arrangements to see the place. Borgo Pio was between the Vatican and the river near Castello Sant’Angolo. Trastevere where Giacomo lived was on one side and Prati, a good shopping area, on the other. The down side - the apartment was on the seventh floor with no elevator, a long walk up, but included the roof terrace. Antonio warned us the place was small, and it was, but we took it. For us it was the change we wanted. The prize was the terrace. The entire roof was for our private use; and that was too good to pass up. We made arrangements to move in. The rent was low because we had only one room, a bathroom and the long walk up, seven long flights of stairs. Built in the sixteen hundreds when they made the ceilings of the well-to-do twice as tall, nearly double the modern distance from one floor to the next. The first time we walked up it was crazy far, difficult to climb; but as weeks passed we became billy-goats. We had to walk it to get home, still the climb never got easy. Shopping for food was difficult enough, then we had to endure lugging groceries up. M used to do the wash at a laundermat about a half-mile away. We had to schlep our clothes down the long stairs, then pull a cart with the laundry a long, long way to the laundry, then port everything back. Already tired out from the walk to and from the laundry, the climb up seven long flights with a cart full of laundry was a killer. I usually didn’t make the walk to and from the laundry, but always had to be there for the long haul up the stairs. We planned laundry days around my work so I'd be there for the long climb. The guy we rented from was a cop. He said he was a carpenter and he would make what we needed. Well, if he was a carpenter I am a walrus. He didn't build anything for us. He had the tools, I did the carpentry work to make the small space livable. During the ten years we lived on a boat on San Francisco Bay I learned how to use wood, and M and I were familiar with the inconvenience of living in a small space. I had a knack for building with wood, not pretty but functional. I did a space saver high bed with a ladder up and storage under it with a place to hang clothes, then a chest by the window to sit on and store more extra items we buy, or need to stick somewhere, and long desk on one wall to have a place to work. A small kitchen and tiny bath were already there, I added shelves. It was the private entire rooftop that convinced us to take the apartment. It was wonderful. The rooftop terrace was about fifty feet wide by and eighty feet long. On one side there was a cabin-size, one-room cabana that we made into a sleeping room for guests. On the other side there were two small sheds that we made into work spaces for each of us. I used mine for my painting supplies, M kept garden materials in hers. We had several lines strung for drying our clothes. we got acquainted with our place and the area, it served us well. Then New years Eve 1999 rolled over to a new millennium. We prefer staying home so that night, that's what we did. M made a wonderful dinner. We had wine to celebrate. "I don't mind staying home instead of partying. It's going to be wild out there," M said. “Tonight is the beginning of a new milenium...What’s that?" I said as the room jolted. "Earthquake!” She ought to know. She's from California. “I think it is,” The room shook another time. Her eyes lit up. I flashed s fearful glance to her and she to me. “The building is shaking.” she shouted as she crouched in the start position, one arm on the couch, ready to run.” “I feel it," I said a the same instant,keeping my balance by holding on to the wall. "You're right, I think it's an earthquake." Then nothing after a seconds. "It stopped." I stood straight, beginning to relax. "Maybe that was it...it's over." “I thought I felt a tremor before,” she was speaking quickly. “I don’t know. Look, I’ll check online, you turn on the TV and see if they're saying anything about it.” I searched for local news on-line, she checked all the TV channels and we found no mention of a quake or trace of an earth quake anywhere in Italy. “There it is again." The room vibrated again. "I felt it." My God, and we're on the seventh floor of a building several hundred years old. "How many is that?” she asked. “A few...five or six. I don’t know.” Unlatching the window I stuck my head out, checked below for any fallen rubble or debris fragments, but there was nothing to be seen. "It looks clear. Nothing fell. It looks okay. Nothing out of place." "Should we go down on the street?” she asked. “What for, and Have the building fall on us?" I looked at her and she agreed. "We may as well stay put, see what happens...ride the whole thing down if it goes...we go down there and an whole damn thing could fall on us.” It was quite after that, we remained calm as we could until we felt safe. Later we took a bottle of wine upstairs to celebrate the evening on our rooftop. "I guess nothing happened," she said. We were glad it was over. "Remember '89? We were on bus on the Golden Gate when the earthquake hit." "The bus swerved and hit the curb." "Yeah, we were all listening to the World Series. The driver had it on the bus's radio, we were in the middle of the bridge when he swerved and struck the curb...and when we got the the bus stop on the hill across the bridge the fireman was standing out there with his pants down listening to a radio and you thought he was listening to the game, and you asked him 'What happened?' Was there a home run? and he said 'No, there was an earthquake.'" "Yeah, the Loma Prieta earthquake. 1989. San Francisco was dark for three days and the Oakland Bay Bridge had a section collapse." "That was an earthquake." When we returned to the apartment we looked again and found no sign of an earthquake online. In the news the next day there was no mention of a quake in Rome. Days later, after checking newspaper and TV reports I put it together. A million people were across the river in Piazza del Popolo that night, hopping up and down in New years frenzy. They shook our eight story building, across the river a half mile away. Seen from our roof top we had the Vatican a few hundred yards to the north, Castle San Angelo as close to the south, both lit every night. Splendid to see. Midnight, the eve of the Millennium, when 1999 became 2000, twenty fire works in various locations throughout Rome were visible from our rooftop patio. ANTONIO’S PARTY Antonio invited us to a party at his place. He's below us on the second floor. He had two bedrooms, a normal size apartment, but in a two hundred year old building that meant ceilings about twelve feet high, with tall windows that overlooked a garden fountain and had views of our quiet street. We met some old friends and about a dozen new people. Everyone was dressed in the same sporty casual style of day. A center table was spread with appetizers and several bottles of local red wine already decanted. Of the people we knew there was Bru, his girlfriend and our land loard. Others were friends of Antonio we'd see a few times and friends passing through Rome. There was a young man from England dressed in good casual clothes who had recently returned from Africa. He was a talker. I was reaching for a piece of cheese from the buffet table and he began speaking to me. “I have been in Africa for six months and am going back to London for a short while.” “Africa, for six months." His hair was neat, he seemed normal, civil. How he got to the party I had no idea. I was friendly to him. "What were you doing in Africa for that long?" “I am a missionary and am going back for funds, to Britian.” I nodded. He was about thirty and enthusiastic. “It’s a fund raising expedition for my work.” “What’s your work?” “I’m a missionary.” “What type of work does a missionary do, exactly? Are you working in hospitals or helping children?” “We are attracting hunters, hippopotamus hunters. It is hippopotamus hunters for Christ, that’s what the organization is called.” "What was that?" "Hippopotamus hunters for Christ," he repeated. I closed my mouth. I had heard him correctly. He was serious. I was stunned. Seconds past, I swallowed and finally responded, “No shit...interesting. Excuse me. I want to try some of that other cheese.” After the antipasti we had a great sit down dinner with pasta. About eleven the party broke up and we climbed a few stairs and were home. I never heard any more about the missionary. *** One day in the mail I got a picture postcard, with a photo of Rome as seen from the hill above the city called the Gianicolo. I fliipped it over, the card was mailed from the U.S. My friend, Eddie Katzman, wrote. “How lovely. No wonder they call Rome the Cleveland of Europe.” *** Meri wrote a poem. Jack Online When Jack starts to work on that gall danged computer I disappear and his hearing is neutered. Everything ceases to exist in the house Except for the clicking of that infernal mouse. His glasses reflect the monitor's glare As he focuses his eyes in an unblinking stare “K-Mart is up! Cisco is down! Benton, no change!” He says with a frown. He scrolls up and down the stock market reports He mumbles, he sighs, he sputters and snorts. The red plastic chair upon which he sits gallanty bears the worst of his fits. His fingers are clenched, his hairs sticking out. I jump in my seat with each curse and shout. The rain outside is falling intensely There's lightening and thunder darkening immensely. The weather reflects what's happining online. Chaos! Destruction! The worst of its kind! Finally, when you think he can't take anymore, he's beginning to sweat, his neck's getting sore. He closes the computer with a grunt he relents. Then, triumphantly utters, “Hey, we made fifty cents!” *** Borgo Pio was a good area for us. A few doors down we had our current favorite coffee bar. There is a lot of criteria but location is always a major factor for selecting a favorite, both at home or at work. Once in a while when you have a many choices you might walk a block or two farther, but the right one is usually close by. Our favorite was on our street, up from the side gate of the Vatican, next door to the bar where the Swiss Guards drank at night. It was a drinking bar. Ours was a coffee bar. An old one. A story book kind of place reflecting the pride of the past. If someone wanted to film a movie about the Italy in the 1800s, a perfect gathering place for the elegant and refined. The floors were softly colorful marble, cut in choice design, aged by countless footsteps over the years. Tiles slightly rounded from wear. A masterpiece of another age. An exquisitely carved richly-dark wooden bar. Glass covers on dynamic cabinets, with ceramic drawer pulls and particularly crafted hinges. Even tall, ornate, glass vases with fresh flowers were set throughout the interior. Mounted items were on display, excellent period pieces. Here and there were set delicate containers for special items - sugar and sundries. Items made with precision and care. The like of workers skill and care would not be found again. The ceiling delicately painted with designs of horsemen, carriages and flowers. The dark polished woodwork distinct and elaborate. Necessary extras such as the daily used sugar and cream containers were clear, glass, antique and special. Even The well attired barmen seemed from another time. The older gentlemen knew what they had in the politely decorative, warm bar and appreciated it. This was a cherished and highly regarded living museum. I was sitting there with M having coffee, coffee with raw sugar in it - I switched when I heard it was better for you that plain white. That hour the sun was coming in the window, not quite touching our table, but showing on the floor. The windows were clean. Everything sparkled, evidently workers had been busy that morning. I was noticing the light foot traffic outside, thinking about having a sweet breakfast roll when M spoke, “Did you notice the old man isn’t here today?” “Which one is that?” I asked, “There’s a few around.” I stirred my coffee and waited a response. “The one that’s always here with the little black dog." She pointed up the street. "He works at the flower shop on the corner.” I nodded to let her know I knew which man she was referring to. She told about the way "he would finish an arrangement of flowers, then ask his dog, talking directly to the dog, asking if it was okay the way he'd done the arrangement. Sometimes the dog said 'si' and sometimes the dog wasn’t impressed. The man always asked the dog several times until he had communicated with his dog. He had fun doing this. His old dog enjoyed it too." I remembered. “The happy, friendly fellow, yeah, I know who you mean, with the dog. I haven’t seen him for a couple of days.” I looked over to admire the bar-top, a soft white marble, a cream, intricately carved, something you’d discover at the Vatican museum. It must have easily been two hundred years old. You'd have a hard time finding workmen to make one today. This was from another time, the way I want to remember Italy, with well-crafted work to be adored. Then I told her, “I think I’m going over to Fabio’s this morning. You have anything planned? You Want to come along?” Fabio's computer shop was around the corner, we were friends, had the same birthday. I enjoyed talking computers with his him and his technician. She said, “I have to go the Vatican Post office. There’s some things I need to mail. Then I’m going shopping at Cola Rienzo.” She sipped her coffee and looked toward the bar and commented, “Oh, that biscuit holder back there," I turned to see it. "the one with the glass cover. My grandmother had one . Hers was the same.” She pointed to the old container on the end of the counter. It was large and decorative. I didn’t know about those, but nodded and smiled. Even from where I sat I could see it was a fine piece. *** When we first came to Rome in the 90s the fountains were flowing. Every marble lion you passed had water coming out of his mouth. Walk around the block and there'd be several fountains, tall ones, small ones, decorative and plain, all flowing twenty-four hours a day. And, the water was drinkable everywhere. All of it flowing from the mountains twenty miles away by aqueducts the Romans built two thousand years ago. In every coffee bar the tap water over the sink was always on full. I'd was into a coffee bar and the water tap was on. They weren't using it, it was left open. This always got my attention. It was amazing to me, and no one every seemed to notice. I'd look around and no one was looking. Didn't anyone ever tell them to shut the water off when they're not using it? I had never seen a water tap over a sink left permanently open and unattended. Water was cheap and plentiful. If I asked why the water tap was always left open. It was an imponderable question that produced a dumbfounded expression. I quit asking why. Because that’s how it always has been done. Don’t question it. The water flowed out of the mountains from twenty miles away and was free. The ancient Romans built the irrigation system. I remember going into some coffee bar. Bars in Rome are coffee bars. In the U.S. We think of bars as a place to buy a beer or whiskey. In Rome they’re for coffee. There are early morning drinkers. It's common to see a workman having a glass of whiskey with a coffee chaser for breakfast. I'd go into a bar and there were twenty people crowded in this place large enough for ten. There was a lot of jackets and hats and talking. I didn’t understand a word. I had no idea of any customs or tradition. We were packed. I'd be with my friend, Antonio. “Coffee?” I nodded because that was sufficient, I knew what the answer was suppose to be. I am sure I ordered a regular espresso. Antonio did, and I didn’t know anything else. I added sugar, my friend did, and I shot it down. This happened a few hundred times before I learned some of the hundred different ways they take coffee. Then, the guy serving coffee was always over fifty, wore a white shirt and sometimes a bow tie and maybe a cute tiny hat and an apron or vest. I'd seen someone dressed this way who worked at a hotel. Now, this is not just a coffee. It is a tradition and a ritual. The same way time after time. Other coffee bars would be the same way. They'd open the bar in the morning, turn on the lights, put on his funny hat and an apron, turn on the water. Water ran down the drain always, at every bar in Rome. I came from San Francisco where citizens, as in many other parts of the world, were water conscious. There was talk of places in the world that had shortages of drinking water. Not Rome. Here the water ran freely at every bar, everywhere, all the time. There was no thought for conservation. Water was a gift given from God. It flowed always. The Romans knew it had flowed since before the time of the great emperors and would always flow from the mountains to the fountains and bars for the citizens of Rome. One day a change occurred. The cost of water soared. Beforehand there were stories about it on the news. Warnings saying it would happen. Citizens of Rome were warned that water bills would rise dramatically. They talked about it, then suddenly, in what seemed a matter of days, the water stopped flowing so freely. Drinking fountains on the street were off and bar sinks were turned off when not in use. It was most noticeable. Before it was normal to walk into a coffee bar and looking over the counter you’d see the sink with the water tap running full, workers in other parts of the area not giving any notice. The water always ran full. It seemed when workers opened the bar and turned on the lights they opened the water tap at the sink. I remember how amazed I was when I first saw how they left the water at the sink flowing, always. How quickly that changed. One day public fountains and coffee bars all had the water running, one day they were not. so strange it seemed to have the water shut off everywhere you looked. So obvious to all, yet it was never mentioned. The end of an incredibly long...thousands of years long era. A way of life had changed forever. Stores transferred ownership. The tall, thin, old man who was the local tailor forever was suddenly gone. A business selling religious souvenirs took the space. Months later I would inquire and yes, he retired and his son sold the business. There are changes when you live in an area for a while. They can take time to notice, but the effects of passing years, sooner or later, become evident. I remember the morning we showed up and the sign in the window of our favorite old bar said closed. We looked in the window and saw that the place was half gutted. It wasn’t going to open that day. We each put an arm on the other and staggered back. Slowly we absorbed the shock and walked slowly away to find our morning coffee somewhere else. What we saw was a shock. Our bar was no more. We didn't go back that way for a few days. The next time we tried to look in newspaper was put up across the window so we couldn't see in. A few weeks, maybe a month later there was word out that our old bar would be open again. We couldn’t see what they were doing, but word was they were remodeling. Then finally one day it reopened with an all new interior. The polished aged dark wood antique tables, the old marble floor, the beautiful white carved marble bar with worn edges where people had rubbed over the years, the decorative plate hutch gone, all of it gone. It was now a new improved bar. pseudo Pop-art medern and absolutely tasteless. This was the way of new Rome. For some reason much of what the tourists and Roman’s cherish fell to new and modern. The less expensive, modern stylish, factory fabricated was everywhere. What shallow minds did this. Was this the future? They couldn’t vision that in a few years their new would be out of style, and evolved to tacky. If they had left it alone and cleaned what they had it would have remained a treasure forever. They had made money with the old bar, and instead of banking their money or taking a vacation they choose to modernize. They should have studied Roman history instead. Where are the eyes that recognize treasure? If Michelanglo and Raphaelo were around today would they be forced to drive taxies to make ends meet. The loss of that bar...what desecration. How sad. *** We’ve seen but a minuscule portion of change. There has been more on every street and every corner in the center of Rome. The buildings are hundreds of years old. Imagine the changes that have taken place. Rome recently had it’s birthday. The founding of the city was sometime between 753 BC and 728 BC . The city remains in change day. Daily the old is replaced by the new. People come here to see the ancient city, otherwise they’d have stayed home and wandered through their local Walmart. *** February 15, 2003 was a coordinated day of anti-war protests across the world against the imminent invasion of Iraq. Millions of people protested in approximately 800 cities around the world. According to BBC News, between six and ten million people took part in protests in up to sixty countries over the weekend of the 15th and 16th; other estimates range from eight million to thirty million. The largest protests took place in Europe. The protest in Rome involved around 3 million people, and is listed in the 2004 Guinness Book of World Records as the largest anti-war rally in history. Opposition to the war was highest in the Middle East, although protests there were relatively small - Mainland China was the only major region not to see any protests. We walked the protest route that day with Robert and Mirella, a long course around Rome. *** 17 Always pleased to see more We took a train to Naples, then continued with a boat to Capri. There was a song about the isle of Capri, and as the song implies, it is beautiful. Our friend Roberto Moserela had a brother on Capri and gave him a call so he knew we were On our way. Roberto's brother picked us up and took us home with him. On the way he drove around pointing out all he could, stopped at a market and bought some horse meat for dinner. M and I heard what he ordered and glanced at each other. Knowing we head what he ordered he asked, "Ever had it?" We shook our heads no. "You like venison? It's like that, or very lean beef. It's good." We had nothing to say, while wondering if we'd eat it. "You'll like it, don't worry." He put his finger to his lips and said, "Don't mention to my wife that I bought horse, because she doesn't like when I buy it, but she can't tell the difference when she eats it. Remember, don't tell her anything, just taste it." We didn't and we did. The island was small. There were few people there, evidently a low tourist time. We stayed two days, had another tour that took us all the way around. Our host was raised on the island. We sw the grotto where everyone swims. All wen well, then he and his wife drove us down to the dock where we caught a boat back to Naples. When we got to Naples it was time to eat. We took time over pizza at the seaside. Many of our Roman friends had said the pizza was best in Napoli. It is thicker crust, and we liked it. Colorful and exciting at the waterfront and in the city, streets were thick with tourists walking around. We walked a few blocks to see more of the city. we checked the time and saw we had to get moving to catch our train. We had tickets. We'd have to wait until evening if we took a later train. The station was far enough away we couldn't walk it. We waved down a cab and asked the driver, "How long is it to get to ther train station?" "This time of day there are many cars." "Our train is leaving in a half hour, can we make it?" He glanced at his watch and smiled. Traffic was heavy. He motioned back over his shoulder, pointed and said, "The train station is that way." We thought it was hopeless, it was a long way just to go down to the corner, and the station is the other way. M whispered, "Did you see the way he smiled?" We were used to Roman shortcuts, but Neopolitan ways were something else. He made a u-turn on the one-way street we were on, and headed into oncoming traffic. I started to open my mouth to say something. We couldn't believe he'd so such a thing. We slid lower in out seats. "Jesus, Mary and Joseph,"I said without crying out. M was clenching her teeth, holding back the tears. There was screeching and honking but no one really angry, This is Naples and they'd seen it all before. They know how it can go in Italy, and we drove head-on into the thick of it, face to face against the rest of them. He kept to the right, that was good, wasn't it? and cars pulled off, out of our way. Moses parting the sea. M and I were petrified but kept quiet and hung on. At the first intersection traffic was blocked both ways, so he drove over the curb, onto the sidewalk and kept going. She grabbed my arm. "He's on the s s s..." "I know...the sidewalk." We crossed at the corner on the sidewalk, stayed on the sidewalk on the other side. "He's on the sidewalk." I grabbed her arm, "I know, I know." Walkers were getting out of the way. When there was room he pulled back onto the street, still going the wrong way on a one-way street. You know how some times you ride in the back seat and sit way back and relax; here was none of that. We scooted up on the front edge of the back seat and hung on to the seat in front of us. We'd heard they had feral drivers in Naples and we got a sample. Cars saw us coming at them and were pulling over. Some of it was head-on stop and veer. Our driver boy worked his way around and kept going. We made our way up the block, through another intersection and were at a large street and he turned right, then diagonally across four lanes of traffic toward the station. We could see it ahead. The ride took ten minutes and we were there. He didn't stop at the curb, got up on the sidewalk again and drove up as close as he could to the building entrance; we were in one piece and we made it. We paid, tipped him well, thanked him and ran for our train. "Can you believe it?", M said. "We'll talk about it on the train. Keep going." "Did you see the way he smiled when he pointed which way the train station was?" "Keep moving." We found the tracks, read the signs and made it to our train and scampered on board, checked the row numbers, settled into our seats as the train started to pull out. We flopped down with our mouths open, and got home to Rome with no further excitement. *** I got a call, it was Nick with a dubbing job for me. He gave me the time and the place. FonoRoma, near Piazza del Rey. I checked the map. It Wouldn't be hard to find. The appointed day I headed out early leaving with ample time to spare. It wasn’t difficult. After a few times going around Rome you have an idea how to get anywhere; provided you check with a map, then the bus routes. It took forty minutes for me on the 87 bus, beyond San Giovanni, then and a transfer. A half block walk and the building was there, FonaRoma. in large letters on the outside. I’d been in a good many studios and this was a famous one. It became the European leader for film audio. The equipment was the latest, however the studio remained as built in 1931...ancient. There was nothing special from the outside. The name in large block letters across the top. When I got there the door opened as some people came out and I squeezed in. This studio is the most famous in Rome. Cinicita is the lot for filming, and FonoRoma is the studio for all the dubing, audio and voice work. Felini, Marcello Mastroni, Sophia Loren and all the rest had worked here. The place looked and felt sliced out of the past...a museum. At the front desk I told the man I was here to do some work for Nick Alexander. The desk man smiled and nodded, calmly checked a list, then gave me a studio number and pointed down the hall. I noticed The walls had vintage posters, old paint, carpet, I saw worn floors and old ceiling. The desk man had called ahead so Nick was standing in the hall waiting for me when I got there. "Ciao, Nick. I made it." "Yeah, good to see you too, we’re about ready for you. Come in and watch.” We shook hands. "You been here before?" I shook my head no. "I've heard of it." "It is something else. This is Rome the way it used to be." He pointed around at the shaggy spots. "It was like this the first time I came here in the 1950s." All was dimly lit. We walked into the control room, he introduced me to the engineer who had his hands full with reels of tape, we said hi, nodded, he had work to do. The equipment looked new, but the tables and chairs were dull, worn antiques. Everything functioned, that's the important part. All around I saw paint and decorations that evoked the early years. Something would be painted a dull green and I knew I hadn't seen that lifeless, flat color for ages. Like a movie set. Nick motioned and I followed him from the control room to the studio. No red light on so it was safe to go in. I met another American actor who was reading something for Nick. Bruce Mcguire, well built, bushy hair and the grin of an able man. He looked like he'd been around the block. We shook hands, said we'd talk later. He had work to do. I sat in the back of the studio. There were two rows of chairs back there. Bruce took his place at the podium, behind the microphone. Nick had a few words for Bruce, talking about what Bruce was going to do, what direction he wants Bruce to take, whatever he could give Bruce ahead of time. They'd take a look at the scene a few times before they lay anything down. Nick would be in the studio. In a minute they were ready to go. Over to the right stood a mike stand and some headphones for Bruce so he could hear what was going on with the film, and the voice of Nick when he had something to say. Ahead, on the far wall, was a movie screen, full size. Bruce was dubbing some lines for a film. They got going a few minutes later and I watched and enjoyed. This was unreal. I couldn't get over it. The studio came out of a time machine. With few exception, everything I saw except Bruce and my reflection in the studio glass was well-used, and preserved like a museum. They got going, ran through it a few times. Bruce finished his work, said goodbyes took off. Then I got up and did mine. Nick was aware I was new to dubbing and he walked me through it. There would be three tone and I did my lines when the green light came on. Dubbing was not something I routinely did but, could handle it. There are light cues to start, and then read the lines. A line at a time. "That's a wrap, you're out of here." "Thanks Nick. Hope it works for you. I enjoyed it." The only other time I had dubbed was thirty years before in Hollywood. Being at Fonaroma in that historic studio made me feel as if I saw and worked in the old Rome, the one that used to be. M and i became close friends with Nick and his wife Irena. We used to go to their large Christmas eve dinners at their house. For a treat he light real candles on their tree. For several years we had the routine of dinner with them every Friday night. Then Nick got sick an two months later he died. We went to his funeral at the large church far down Via del Corso. I have never cried at a funeral as I did then. *** Borgo Pio was a good location. The Vatican was a few hundred yards off on the north side and the large and picturesque castle San Angelo close on the south. From the rooftop on the eve of the Millennium, at midnight when 1999 became 2000, I counted twenty separate fire works visible from our rooftop. During our time at Borgo Pio to get to a favorite market required us to walk across the Vatican Piazza, then walk that way to return. On Wednesdays We’d see the Pope in his window talking to the crowd. We came in to the piazza from the side the Pope spoke to the crowd, and walked across the way he was facing. We crossed the piazza at St. Peter's so many Wednesdays there were times we didn’t turn around and look up at the Pope in his window talking to the people. Vatican Christmas tree Always a monster tree, each year a tree is donated and delivered by a different country. We walked by it fully decorated many times. We must have been going to the store on the other side of the plaza the first time we happened by the day they began taking the tree down. It took two days: one day for the decorations, one day for the tree. It always came down about a month after Christmas. The tree always stayed up for a long time. we were in the piazza, crossing when M spotted the truck, and workers taking off the ornaments. We'd never seen it done before. Nothing new; tree goes up, tree comes down. It had to happen. There were twenty people around the tree and more coming. Tourists and some workers. We made our way closer to the tree to see what was going on. This was in the middle of St. Peter's Piazza where it's normally quiet. We were closer when a man not wearing workers coveralls came running toward us. This was a tourist and he had a Christmas tree ball in each hand. That's what they were doing, taking off the balls from the huge tree. The guy ran right at us. We were a hundred feet from the tree when he got to us, raised his arms and said, "I've got two balls and I can only take one on the plane, which do you want, the silver or the gold." We picked a gold ball from the Vatican Christmas tree. The guy ran away happy. We were happy. We did variations of this for four or five years, keeping the balls sometimes, giving them to friends, and flew a few home to Ohio...before we kicked the habit.. *** I got an on-camera commercial playing a lighthouse keeper. This would be shot in Malta. Fine. Heard of it, never been there. Malta is an island in the middle of the Med, fifty miles south of Sicily and 200 miles north of Libya. Malta is one of the world's smallest and most densely populated countries. I'd be there three days. A date was set, arrangements made, they flew me there on a Maltese airline. It turned out Malta was a strange mix, half Arabic and half the American old west, or their version of it. They speak English. It is a creative combinaetion of cultures. For the shoot they dressed me in fowl weather gear, stood me on the top of the set, a white lighthouse tower. It sat in a large pool of water overlooking the Mediterranean sea. It's a specially constructed water set used for movies to safely film ships apparently at sea. When the camera is placed low they can float a ship on the pool and it's suddenly at sea. The pool was constructed with turbines so they could make any kind of smooth or rough water condition needed. Standing on the top of the lighthouse with me was the other actor in the scene, a shawl-draped former Miss Yugoslavia - playing Mrs. lighthouse keeper. Either she didn't speak Italian or English or she was shy because she sure wasn't talking. We never said two words to each other. It was the quietest shoot I'd ever been on. We took our positions, hanging onto the rail on the top of a lighthouse, then a wind machine and the water hoses began. They didn't tell us about that. The idea of the scene was that the beautiful woman would throw a stomach settling pill into the stormy sea from the top of the lighthouse and the powerful upset stomach relieving pill would calm the turbulent ocean waters. The water began churning, a wind machine began blowing spray and the camera had her on a close up. The director called for the cameras to roll, then action, and he told her to throw the pill into the sea. Lovely as she was, the girl couldn’t throw for beans. You may have known the type. She was a model, lovely, although not athletically inclined. She looked wonderful before they started blasting us with water from fire hoses and turned on the wind machine. “Throw another one,” the Director called. She threw the pill like doggy poop stuck on her fingers. “Throw it gently,” he called. She made it look as if she were trying to snap peanut butter off her fingers. She must have thrown thirty pills into the sea. Always the same, she wasn't creative. After continually wind-blowing and soaking the two of us, I was still dry in my foul weather gear, she was a water-logged kitty. After thirty minutes of frustration they realized the poor woman couldn’t cast the pill with grace. The wind and rain continued as she tried and tried. Meanwhile I was off to the side working it out in my head, and after forty minutes of soaking her, many bad takes later they somehow got the idea for me to try. I am an actor not a beauty queen, and as a former tai chi practioneer and instructor, I understood smooth. When they gave me a shot I stepped up to the plate and uncoiled a slow-motion roll of the pill off my finger tips, while reaching out over the rail of the lighthouse toward the turmoil below. With the grace of Nureyev in slow motion they had what they needed in two, maybe three takes. It took two or three minutes. Although practice doesn’t always make perfect, knowing what the hell you’re doing and how to help the camera, does the job. On the return flight to Rome I asked the flight attendant for more popcorn and the large guy reached bare handed into a giant bowl and pulled out a mitt full...a grisly bear scooping honey out of a tree stump, and slapped it on a paper plate for me. When he left I made sure he was gone and stuffed the popcorn into the seat pocket in front of me. *** At home in Borgo Pio I painted from our roof, looking across rooftops and down to the street below. Still lifes I set up in my painting area, a small building for my art supplies. M had her own shed for her gardening implements and tended the many plants that were in containers set in different locations around the large terrace that was our roof. Because snow was so light and infrequent in Rome the roof was flat with seepage holes around the low wall served well as drainage for rain. M and I had our own areas for our toys. Throughout the moderate Roman winter and blooming spring we read, entertained, worked and enjoyed our private rooftop getaway. A truly unique, private escape place. Before leaving for the summer we paid the rent ahead for the few months we'd be gone, then returned to the states. M gardened and summer meant vegetables and flowers. I benefited from her interest. We ate a lot of fresh vegetables. The only flower we ate was the zuccini flower. She'd stuff them with cheese and fry them...an Italian favorite: fiori da zucca. The warm weather days rolled on well for both of us. *** In the fall on the long flight back across the Atlantic I noticed this guy standing in the aisle a few rows ahead. "Bruce?" He turned in surprise atr his name being called. "Why, Jack, fancy seeing you here. We keep running into each other in places we don't expect." I walked over to him. "Yeah, that's something. It's good to see you, how have you been? What are you doing?" "I've been visiting my parents and family in California." We shook hands as he told me about it. "I get back to see them every few years, saw some family and friends...had some good visits." Now he was on his way back to Rome. I met his wife Lois, and introduced her to M. We gabbed a bit, getting reacquainted and passed time on our flight back. Now we know an American couple living in Italy. They've been in Italy several years and have made it their home. *** do whales and dolphin look up and see us go by? the man working as attendant on the plane wears a light blue short sleeve shirt, has arms better than superman and an incongruous, soft soothing voice that is surprising; i know he could shred a motorcycle with his fingers. *** When got to Rome and our apartment at Borgo Pio, we found another surprise. Fresh food In our refrigerator, clothes in the closet and a tooth in the bathroom; none of it ours. That was enough for us. We were paying rent for the apartment year round. I guess I made the mistake of telling our landlord we'd be gone for the summer, and he made the mistake of not telling me I didn't have to pay rent for the summer because he was going to use the apartment while we were gone. We said goodbye to our cop landlord and ended our time at the Borgo Pio apartment. I called Roberto, the downstairs apartment was free and we made arrangement to return to Via dei Pelligrino and the apartment we had before. Part IV Return to Pelligrino *** The years slipped by and we had a routine; winter in Rome, Ohio for the summer months. flight time After Ohio summer heat we were on our way back. First to Cleveland, then to Philly. We arrived on a "hop" from Cleveland, walked an airport mile through the maze that ended at the international terminal. Listen, “a hop from Cleveland” might be hip in airline speak, but in real life the whole trip is a drag. Drive to the airport, arrive early, wait, get in line, buckle-in, listen to the safety talk that you don’t really listen to cause you’ve heard it a thousand times. They should hire a staff to re-write their speeches constantly. If they'd lighten up, make it fun, people might hear the messages. In Philly airport we had hours to wait, ate some overpriced lousy airport fast food and finally boarded at six in the afternon. You could tell the first timers by the excitement and gabbing. M watched movies all night on the flight to Rome, I slept. Nine in the morning Rome time we'd get there. Leonardo Da Vinci Airport always had excited crowds. All appeared the same. Tourists were dragging, taxis were stacking. Guys tried to hustle you into their home made taxis. We passed it all and took the escalator across the street for the commuter train to Trestevere. From there we caught the Otto tram to Largo Argentina and pulled our baggage on wheels up Via Giubonari to our apartment. Passed some donut places but didn’t have any. Upstairs I figured out which key opened the door, turned on the water and electricity, and we threw down our suitcases. We were here, made it. Now we could adjust our heads and relax. Several years we had been in Rome. Time wore on and we did too. *** The first day back we needed food from the market. Little had changed, and we saw many acquaintances. Antonio, Roberto, that tall, skinny, angry lady; everyone was around, same faces, half didn’t know we were gone. Maximilliano sold at his regular stall at the same position in the market, his sister and mother were there working with him. His dad had passed away and I gave him a painting I did of his father a few years before. We saw Andrea, Marcella, Prospero and many others we only had nick- names for, the mushroom lady for instance. little had changed. The tables in front of the restaurants in the piazza are either edging farther out or if there is enforcement they're back where they ought to be. The more people as the world population swells and travel increasezs makes it seem the piazza is shrinking. We saw friends and faces we knew up and down the street, some you only see through the window in their shop and hardly ever talk to. Some are faces we never talk to but recognize. this is our home zone. I saw Alan, a tall lanky, gentle fellow from Britain who had a shop down the street. He walked up behind me and gave me an enthusiastic boungiorno. What a gentleman. That’s how to greet people, slow down, a friendly hello for someone you know but never talk to, and keep walking. The goodness in him shows in his sincerity. That’s great in a city village, when you come back. You go around and run into people you haven’t seen for a while and everyone is happy for the sincere exchange of greetings. For the next few days I made phone calls renewing friendships, elling friends we're back. To take a summer off is not an unusual concept for Romans. Many take part of the summer off. Stores close and all is quiet. August is generally a beach month or a time to return to the hometown of families. This has changed with the passing years; now Rome is full all the time. We walked to the river to see how it was doing, if it was high or low. Traffic on Lungotevere thick, parked cars everywhere, people walking, the brown river rolling - all the same. Familiar and doing well. We returned home to find a phone message from Lois. She and Bruce invited us to come out to their country place for dinner. They were going to pick us up, and then a second message, plans changed, we would have to ride with a friend of theirs. Lois mentioned the friend was bringing along two large dogs who'd ride in the car with us. M and I exchange grimaces. I called back and we opted out, smoothly, with the old jet lag excuse. We weren’t in the mood for long hairs stuck on our clothes, wagging tails, slobber and the smell of drooling dog for a two hour ride. Bow wowa. For the next week or two we arrived. Jet lag clobbers me. I read that it takes fifteen fays to reset an individual's biological clock. I believe it, I need every bit of that. I think of this when I see tourists zip in and whip out...looking normal. They have to crash when they get home. At least they'll have plenty of photos to show them where they had been. *** I called Alberto, his art school is around the corner...past the church Sant'andrea della Valle, across the street and behind the senate. "Let's have coffee. You ready?" "How about where I go?" "Okay. Ten minutes I'll be there." Alberto's coffee bar of choice is on a side street near Piazza Pollarola. He had been waiting a few minutes when I got there. We each got a coffee and sat at one of the outside tables. "You're looking well, how was summer, Alberto?" "Fine, fine, good to see you. I took everyone camping in Sardengna. It was great. We had a quiet place with plenty of firewood, Elimire and I were fishing everyday." "Sounds fun. What did your wife do, does she fish?" "She played in the water all day and sat around. There were some stores in the village nearby and she'd walk around there." He sipped his coffee and rolled another cigarette. A sparkling, young woman rode by on a bicycle and I noticed he noticed. "Your hair is longer. Reminds me of a teddy bear gone wild." "I'm letting it grow. I think it is more artistic. What do you think?" He ran his hands through his mop. "Artistic...You've seen Giancarlino?" "He had a show this summer, but it was down south, I didn't go. I'm doing a show next month and I haven't even started on it. There is so much to do, Elimir has soccer practice tomorrow and that means I'll have to sit in the stands all afternoon. I wish Mare would get a drivers license." "When are you starting classes?" "Tomorrow...that reminds me I have to pick up a few things." He stood up and gathered his art supplies. "Thanks for reminding me. I've got to run." He started off and turned back to say, "Come to drawing class Friday, I've got a great model this week." He cupped his hand, holding a peach, kissed his fingers and trotted off. "Ciao, Alberto." As he trotted away I thought: this is the pace of Rome...meet a little, shoot down a coffee, catch up on the latest, then keep rolling with the day. *** Eating a piece of pizza from the Forno, standing by the fountain with Marco who just came outside that Sunday. No market, quiet, a warm sunny day. He wasn't eating pizza. I couldn't talk him into it; it wasn't time for him to eat pizza. "You don’t need religious intentions to enter a church in Rome, you need a shirt if you’re a guy, and arms covered if you are a woman." "What's right, and no short skirt for women," he said. 1. "Yeah, and I heard Scotch Rugby players were held back when they tried to get into the Vatican wearing kilts" I said. "Well, they should be." "There's great art in churches..."Caravaggio's" He nodded and held up his arm to stop me. "Throughout Rome the old churches were painted by artisans and decorated with elaborate, often intricate painting. These are the treasures of Rome...interesting to see. " "We always stop to look around in the churches. They're all different. You'd think they would be the same." He nodded,"Me too." "At San Silvestro we stopped in and they had the head of John the Baptist sitting in a glass case on an out of the way shelf in a side room. That was a surprise because we saw the head of John the Baptist in a church by San Giovanni. One places had to be wrong." Marco scratched his head and replied, “No, neither place has it wrong." He pointed a finger at me and shook his head. "The church at San Silvestro has the large head of john the Baptist as an adult. That other church by San Giovanni you saw...that one has the smaller head of john the Baptist as a child.” I put my hand on his shoulder,"...I think you need pizza." *** Season change, summer's on the wane still the tourists came. Now the Japanese, thousands of them. Every month is vacation time for a different part of the globe. Each country has it's designated month for travel to the eternal city. And I know they don't all talk to each other, not all of them...they just do it. In America, according to U.S. Government statistics compiled by the Bureau of Transportation, Italy is the most frequented travel destination. *** To market Step aside, I'm on a roll...this morning I gave M a break and volunteered to do the hunting and gathering. I brought home a pizza for dinner last night, now it's time for serious food. With no more thought than that I took the shopping cart and headed for the Campo Dei Fiori market. We needed only a few vegetable for soup so I didn’t take much money. I had a ten note in my pocket and some change. The day started cool, yet by afternoon I figured it’d be warm again. Out there German was the first language I heard. They were upon us in full. They seemed to be everywhere. A crowd stood near the flower sellers on Via Giubnari. Maybe they were on a walking tour, or the German pope could have had something going on. He always was a draw for his countrymen. I walked deeper into the market and half-circled it before stopping at Angelo's for a cappuccino to start the day. Ermano was there. "Ciao, Ermano, how is the play practice going." "I think we are going to be ready, We open next week...you and Meri are coming, aren't you?" "We'll be there...You have fun." Ermano finished his coffee and had to run, we waved goodbye. While looking over at the market I spotted the old mushroom lady. She sold many items, but mushrooms are what I always got from her. She was a feisty, tiny woman with several of her front teeth missing, always dressed as a grandmother gypsy. Must be a moon sign because her temperament changes rapidly. I remember years ago her old husband used to work with her. Back then I only saw her in her sour moods yelling at him. She abused him daily. Now she works alone, but still had mood shifts so I can’t blame it on her relationship. I finished my cappuccino and walked out near the old lady, and when she saw me started moving and calling out about the mushrooms. She remembers what I usually want. A few days ago I asked for the mixed mushrooms and she was out, told me to come back the next day. Several days have passed, but finally I'm making my return. Before I even go there she spoted me and called out, “Here. I have mushrooms,” she turned to pick them out. “Mixed?” That’s the only kind I buy from her. The other choice is the all white kind that everyone else has. “Yes. I have them here,” and she handed me the plastic pre-wrapped package. “Two euros.” She didn’t have to tell me. They are always two euros. I handed her a ten euro bill. She frowned and turned away without ever touching it. “Don’t you have change?” Her hands on hips now. “I’ll check,” I searched my pockets. I had coins and managed to put together a euro and...thirty...fifty, a euro and a half in change. She frowned. “I don’t have it,” I told her. “What do you have?” She didn’t step closer and was still on the other side of her stand but looked in my hand and counted along with me. She deals with change all day, has for years. I bet the experienced vendors can count change at ten paces. “A euro and a half,” we both said at the same time. She reached for it and took it before I could close my hand. “It’s not enough,” I told her. “Fifty cents,” she said with a tooth lacking smile as she waved around to indicate that I could get change for my ten somewhere else. “You come back with fifty cents.” “Okay,” and took my mushrooms and wandered off to buy something else to get change. Shoppers were every where on a good day for the vendors. Maximo’s mother was cutting spinache at her bancarella and I had to walk about ten feet wading through fifteen shoppers. We were old friends in our client customer relationship. Her husband used to work with them. A year after he passed away I came by with a couple of photos I’d taken of them all at their stand. The family appreciated the photos. I was happy to have remembered to bring them by. “How are you today?” I called. “Oh, hello, jack. How are you?” Maximo’s mom has no other name. That’s how I’ve known her a dozen years. She’s a sweet elderly lady with always a welcoming greeting for me. She makes me feel that I make her happy when I come by, and oftentimes it’s not to buy, but just to say hello. “I’m fine, thanks. It’s a good day isn’t it?” She shook her head and said something in agreement as she continued to work up to her elbows in a plastic tub. The market people work out here in every weather of the year. “Say, did you make minestrone today?” I asked. It was a silly question. “Sure, always. It’s right over there.” She pointed with her cutting knife to a pile of cut vegetables in a box in front of their stand. “Everything is in it. Everything. I put it all in.” “I know, you always do, and you do it well, that’s why I always get it from you.” As I spoke she was moving up and around to get into position to get the minestrone. “How much you want, Jack?” She was already scooping some minestrone into a plastic bag she pulled from somewhere. “Just a little, so …” “Half a kilo?” She had a handful in the bag. “That’ll be fine...half is good,” I said as she carried the appropriate amount to the scales and then read the weight,added a little more. I waved the ten euro bill. She frowned. “No change?” I shook my head no and she shrugged her shoulders to indicate it wasn’t important and said, “You pay later.” Then to her daughter, “Jack has to pay a euro and twenty cents.” The daughter looked up, smiled and continued working, only half listening. It was not an important sale and I was known. I assured Maxi’s mother that I’d remember to come back with the euro-twenty and we said our goodbyes and good wishes as I left to find change for this ten-euro bill. What’s going on? Was I destined to buy a newspaper today? Next I stopped off to the left side of the statue of Giordorno Bruno, at Marcella's. I’ve done a lot of shopping there. They had fruit and I picked out three bananas, an orange and an apple. It came to two something, and this time Marcella had the change for my ten. They do a brisk business and always have change. I’m happy when Marcella waits on me, she gives me a better price than either Andrea or her mother. I took the change, saw some coins and returned to Maximo’s stand. Before I could say anything Maximo’s mother called out “A euro and twenty.” Before she closed her mouth I had the euro twenty in her hand. I walked a few steps to the next bancarella to settle with the mushroom lady. I handed her a euro coin and she looked at it and said, “Euro fifty.” “I thought I owed you…” "Euro fifty,” she repeated. Mouth firm, that was it. I checked my change and managed to put together a euro thirty. That was all the change I had. “Euro fifty,” she repeated. “That’s all the change I have. I’ll come back,” I walked off trying to remember what happened. She took the euro and I still owed her twenty cents. The Forno was open and I could buy some white pizza bread there and they always have change. I saw Roberto and Mirella on my way over there, said hi to them, and Marco carrying flowers for the flower vendors. In the forno there was no line. In no time I bought my usual pizza bread with small tomatoes on it,they’re sweet and good. Then I worried about the cost cause I knew I had only a five euro note. It came to less than five and the change included a twenty cent piece. I promptly walked back to the mushroom lady who was busy with customers but accepted twenty cents in a flash. She was talking so with a tight smile and exchange of nods I departed. Now my market debts were paid, I headed home, I had somehow done my shopping. With three bags full I had pizza bread, vegetable soup, fruit and mushrooms. I still can’t figure out how much I paid for the mushrooms. *** Nine in the morning the door buzzer sounded. “Boungiorno” I said into the plastic box that’s hooked on the wall. When the outside buzzer sounds you can’t see anything, you push the button and talk to the box on the wall. “It’s James,” came the quiet reply in a voice that sounded as if he were telling a secret. I pressed the button that opened the gate and at the same time opened the outside door of the apartment building. I went into the hallway to greet my Italian/American friend that was responsible for our coming to Rome in the first place. He's six four, thin with hair long, in a messy confusion. If I had to guess I'd say he cuts his own hair little by little when he thinks about it. His clothes are a baggy, wrinkled mess, the kind you'd expect on last year's scarecrow forgotten in a field. “It’s nice,’ he said looking around when he came in. His wedding was three years ago, he’s been divorced for two. James is the quietest six-four guy I know. He looked around and smiled and bobbed his head. “Yeah, the apartment is pretty nice, we're comfortable here." I only see James a few times a year, it is always a pleasure to run into him. "How have you been?” I asked. “Pretty good, I was in Istanbul. listen, do you want to get a coffee?” “I can make one here.” I could show him my proficiency for making Italian coffee; and turned to walk to the kitchen area. "What where you doing in Istanbul?" "Looking around." He waved his arms to stop me from making coffee. “No, let’s go out.” Without a pause I changed directions, grabbed my jacket off a hook and followed him out, doing our catching up small talk along the way. "How's your brother?" "Alex? he's okay." "Are you working? How is it going?" "Oh, yeah. Busy, you wouldn't believe. I moved, I'm in Trestevere again, found a good shop with a shower, I can sleep there. Come on by, you'll see." We made it out the door, were walking down the narrow via Pelligrino watching for the one way traffic of taxis and delivery trucks and the hazard of uneven and missing cobblestones. After ten seconds James pointed to a shop we'd passed and said, “I have to stop in and see some one.” He walked through a large open door, a garage door. I waited outside as James entered the storage space being used as a used furniture store. They’re all over around here, a popular business in this section of town - a space where you could store-it or sell-it. I think the guy who runs the place has some underworld connections. I heard all the stuff in there was stolen, or hocked, somehow connected to the bad guys. In about two minute James was coming back out. I could see him talking to an old guy in the rear of the storage space, I waited near the door being casual, looking around. Inside I saw old furniture, tables, lamps. Outside was a quiet street, people walking by, an old man carrying a chair, an old woman talking to herself, a young kid smoking - standing there checking out a motorbike. I couldn't tell if he was admiring it, or planning to return tonight and take all or part of it. There was Bruno passing by, he has the bookstore up the street. His wife Wendy is a skilled artist. I run into her her at Alberto's drawing classes. James was out side then. “Hey, I got to go somewhere. You want to go with me?” When James says somewhere it could be another country. I never see any transition in him. He keeps moving at the same pace and comes up with ideas for immediate action. In about a half second I said, “I’ll go.” It means an adventure because it's James I'm following, and it's something to do that is totally unexpected. James leads an unconventional life; being a native Roman he knows people and items of interest about this city that a foreigner and even other Romans don't know about or ever run into. He stepped off and I followed him around the corner until he stopped at an old car and he got in. It wasn't locked and I got in. He started it up, made an illegal u-turn on Vittorio Manuele and we headed out toward LungoTevere. Traffic wasn’t bad, but James drove in a hurry. He kept looking back so he could cut from lane to lane easily. I buckled my seat belt and rolled down the window in case I had to crawl out fast. “Who’s car is this?” I'd never seen it before, another well used wreck, typical on the streets of Rome. “Mine,” he said. I looked at the fuel gauge, it was running on fumes. We stopped for gas. No more than a set of pumps on the side of the road. Not what you'd call a service station. Got a few squirts in the tank, gave the kid some money and we were rolling. Moderate traffic now. He took it easier driving than his dad, Giacomo. And I thought they all drove fast. We drove up Via Veneto then into the park, continued the well gardened way to Villa Borghese. He left his car in a spot off to the side that wasn't made for parking, and went to the front door, then dashed off to the side, took some steps down into a basement gift shop. James spoke to someone and in a minute another guy came out that knew James. After a bit the guy asked me if I wanted to go into the museum. I nodded and followed James who was taking the steps two at a time. The guy from the gift shop came with us and said a few words to the guard at the door who backed away, checked quickly around and let us pass. The actor Ben Gazara was coming down as we were passing and I said,"M. Gazara." He stopped and smiled. "Two days ago I dubbed your voice for a film." "Really, how'd you make me sound?" "Perfect accent...an American speaking Italian." He laughed, then he took anothe5r step then stopped,“Oh, which film was it?” “I don’t know.. you had a brief scene in an office. It was a War movie.” Gazarra said a few more words, made a guess at the name of the film, I didn’t remember what it was called, then he was off. Nice guy. James was back already, looked to me “Let’s go.” He finished what he came for. I followed him back to the car. “I have to go over by Sandro’s. Do you want to go?” “I’m free,” I said. We got in is car and started across town on Lungotevere. Easy drive from here, light traffic. Sandro lives in a house over a cave, near the English cemetery, at the foot of Mount Testaccio. The mountain is near the river Tevere, close to the pyramid, near the Aventine and Circo Maximo...it's all close. It was ten minutes away. Sandro was outside working on a water drain in the stone block drive in front of his house. It was back fifteen feet from the street, in front of the entrance to the lower floor storage area. The city wasn’t going to fix it, but he would. We talked and Sandro was finishing up, said he was going to make lunch in a few minutes and asked if we would come up. Upstairs Sandro had made a beautiful home over what was a two thousand year old hole in the mountain. The house was built over a cave. About three thousand years ago ships unloaded amphora jugs for delivery to Roma. The broken pottery was thrown in a heap, and kept piling up until it began Mount Testaccio. The cool air from the cave in the basement is natural air conditioning in the summertime. In the winter he closes the door to the cave. Sandro is a kitchen magician, with whatever is on hand he manages to put together a feast. Roberto and another guy showed up in time for lunch, and thirty minutes later we were setting down to a fine pasta and broccoli lunch. Roberto had a five gallon jug of country red wine that we enjoyed, low in alcohol content and high in taste, the perfect Roman table wine. After lunch James took me back to my place. M was coming in when we got there. They hadn' seen each other for a whioe so the chatted for a while, then James took off; he had projects to work on. It was good to see him. *** Walking back home a crowd was waiting for the mid-street light to change. It wasn't going to happen. I went to the pole they surrounded and punched the button. t The light immediately changed. Sometimes old people have a hand, or a thumb, on cutting edge technology. I counted seventeen people that were waiting to cross. Counting people is another thing old people do. *** STREET OF THE HAT MAKERS We had all of the proper Italian identification in order, so. It was time to get our own apartment with a contract instead of month to month. With a contract landlords can increase rents only three quarters of one percent of the inflation rate for the duration of the contract, a form of rent control. The Pelligrino apartment served us well, but we had our eyes out to pay less. Right now the rent was going up every few months. The next morning I was on the street painting, at the corner of Via Cappellari and Via Montoro, down from Campo Dei Fiori. Painting outside is called en plein air painting, I call it lugging my art materials around and standing out there painting. I was using acrylics, I already did a lot of work in oil, but switched to the water based paint for the winter season. In the warmer weather I could leave the windows open and get rid of the oil smell. Water based paint doesn’t smell. I did it for my wife, maybe that means I did it for me because she was happier. Besides, Stanley Goldstein, my teacher in San Francisco was doing all his work in acrylics now, so it was another lesson for me to learn. This day I was painting the arch over Via Cappellari, a good spot. A hundred years ago painter Franz had done the same arch from the other side. He was standing in front of what is now my friend Marina’s ceramic shop. His painting showed a couple of women standing by the door at number 11, what was my friend Andrea's poster shop. No surprise those women from a century earlier have the same manners and features as the women of today. Roberta and her sister where in that shop about ten years ago, they gave me the chance to rent it before they left, but I didn’t move quickly enough. That Franz painting, done a hundred years earlier, captured the time and the place. I was thinking this, working away creating my own infamous scene when an acquaintance came out of a door ahead, I could immediately tell he was looking extremely disheartened. “Hey, Bru, what’s up?” I called to him. “Oh, Hi, jack.” He was a miserable sight. I walked over to him. “Why are you so down? What happened?” “I lost my job and have to give up my second apartment.” “You have two apartments, here?” I nodded toward the building. “Yeah, but I have to give one up.” It took a half a second to think about it, then I said, “Can I see it?” Part V Street of the Hatmakers After seeing the apartment at Via Cappellari 39, negotiating a cash settlement with Bru, which is a common way to sell a apartment contract to a prospective renter; following a meeting with the landlord in which I presented my Italian documentation; I signed a contract on the apartment. Small, partially furnished, and conveniently located. There is no direct hook up for gas in the building so I had it delivered. The store with the gas is a short walk down the street. I walked down, showed my and paid, and the gas man delivered the bombola twenty minutes later, carried it up, hooked it up under the stove, and I was in business. Bombola - a good Italian word to describe about ten gallons of cooking gas in a metal can. The building was built in 1506. Until the 1950s it was a used for prostitution and gambling. It was a rough part of town. We had a new location, met new friends, and renewed acquaintances we had previously known when we were a street over on Pelligrino. Times and circumstances change, they grow and expand while much remains the same. The shopping locations were familiar, some were new; but now the washer shakes the building so much that M says she doesn't want to use it. The adventure continued. *** The Coliseum is the indicator, an elephant in the living room and I didn’t see it, the significance. yes, it is the emblem of Rome. It is everywhere. It gets dreary to think about it. The Coliseum meant games to the death for animals and gladiators. Today the descendants cheering, jeering throngs are working at the phone company, driving buses, delivering the mail. Well, only half, I want to be fair. The other half of the population are less enthusiastic about violence, remain outside wondering what the mad crowd is thinking, how can they operate that way? *** *** Jack came home from art class holding his left wrist saying he’d fallen on the Corso Vittorio Emmanale. He’d stumbled on the “porti-traffico,” a raised yellow plastic strip they’ve laid on the street to make a lane for buses and taxis. I said he should go to the pronto socorso for an xray. He wanted to eat dinner first. I’d been preparing a good dinner of artichokes and a homemade pasta sauce. We ate, all the while jack grimaced in pain and continued to hold his wrist. I gave him an ice pack. I told jack that I’d rather go to pronto soccorso now than later in the night. Plus it was a Friday night. I figured the emergency room would be gearing up for a busy night, so the earlier the better. He finally said okay. We bused to the pronto soccorso at the Santo Spirito Oespedale and got there about 9:00 p.m. We finalized the preliminary stages at the administration desk. A guy there stabilized Jacks arm with a splint and some gauze. He looked up Jack’s “m.o.” in the computer. Then I bought Jack some M & M’s at the vending machine for 60 cents and we waited with the other emergencies: a young guy who’d fallen off his motorino, an old woman with a bloody gash on the back of her head, and an older man who was laying on a gurney. They examined jack briefly and sent him to another room to wait for an xray. After the xrays we returned to the waiting room and waited for jack’s name to be called. "How are you doing?" she asked. "I want to get this over with." "How do you feel?" He rolled his eyes. Finally they called him to go into a room to see a doctor. I stood to go in also and a rude nurse put out her arm to stop me, saw I didn't have an injury and told me I couldn’t enter. As she was walking away with Jack I asked her if his arm was broken. She said yes. They removed jack’s vest and gave it to me. I sat down again in the waiting room. Jack eventually came out with a cast that extended from his hand up to almost his shoulder, his arm bent at a 45 degree angle. They gave him a diagnosis paper with a prescription for three medicines. I took the paper work before he could lose it. Outside the hospital we caught a bus for home and got there in five minutes. While walking the short distance from the bus stop to our door, we stopped at Juliano’s vineria for a glass of wine. At home, Jack took a naprosen and we turne in. Needless to say, he didn’t sleep very well. I, on the other hand, slept soundly. It was, after all, only my second night in Rome and I was jet-lagged. Saturday we went to the farmacia to fill the prescriptions, 50 euros worth of stuff. Once home we discovered that one of the drugs was to ward off blood clots and had to be given subcutaneously. We went back to the farmacia to question them about that. He’s supposed to be given one shot every day for 30 days, but there were only 6 pre-filled syringes. ”You have to buy another six in six days." Later in the afternoon I returned to the farmacia because I needed to buy some alcohol to swab the injection site. They sold me some kind of antibacterial, they said it was better than alcohol. Whatever. Jack said he was going to give himself the injection. "Where do I stick it?" "Thigh or stomach," I told him. He thought it over, spun the needle in his fingers, repeated "thigh or stomach." Then I gave jack the injection...in his NECK! Just kidding, in his thigh. This morning he’d taken the once a day pain medication. It didn’t relieve the pain. He wanted something more. I looked up the drug online and saw that it is very strong and not to be messed with, it has many serious side effects. I gave him a shot and a beer, just kidding. The cast is massive and heavy, overall very uncomfortable. Jack is already unsteady on his feet and now this! We had soup for lunch, met with a sister of a hometown neighbor who had given a gift for her sister to Jack before he left Ohio. Melina and her daughter, Rosemary, met us in campo de fiori. We visited with them at a local coffee bar on the Piazza Farnese. That took about three minutes. We returned home and relaxed. It’s difficult for Jack to find a comfortable position. At 5:30 he wanted to return to pronto soccorso because the cast was too tight around his hand and was causing pain. ”This is crazy, It can't be right. I know this thing is too tight." I was dizzy with exhaustion (jet-lag) and decided to let him go on his own. About a half hour after he left I noticed he’d left his cell phone. I started thinking that I shouldn’t have let him go alone, that he’d think someone had stolen his phone on the bus or something. How could I let him go alone? He’d broken his wrist in two places for crying out loud! I gathered my stuff and his phone and the sheet of paper the hospital had given us the night before and left. Naturally, there were no buses running. After walking about half way there, I was told there was a sciopero (bus strike) going on. Great. I got to the pronto soccorso, but couldn’t find Jack. I looked all over, but couldn’t find him. I also couldn’t find any staff people to ask. I rang the buzzer at the check in desk to ask them if Jack had been there, but no one answered (a good circumstance, as it turned out.) There was no one around except an old nun sitting there and she didn’t give me the time of day. I was getting very concerned. Where could he be? Did they admit him? Was he in surgery? Here I am at the emergency room front desk and there's nobody. What? It finally occurred to me to try calling home to see if he was there. "Hello?" Sure enough, he answered the phone. “where are you?” he asked. “Oh, I’m standing here in pronto soccorso.” "What are you doing there?" "I'm looking for somebody." He laughed. "Come on home." So, I went back outside and started walking. After two blocks I caught a bus and returned home. At the hospital Jack had seen a doctor, Luca, a doctor who was a friend of our friends. We first met him in California when he’d come to visit the states with a friend of his. We spent a day or two showing him around. This was about 14 or 15 years ago. Twelve years ago we again met up with Luca here in Rome, having dinner at his house. Anyway, Luca agreed to buy a painting from Jack. Jack delivered the painting and Luca never paid him. So, when jack ran into him at the hospital, jack said, “hey, you never paid me for that painting!” Dr. Luca sort of blew it off. He did treat Jack, though. He loosened the cast somewhat. He also told Jack to come back next Tuesday and see him instead of another doctor for a follow-up visit. It appears that now Jack has a doctor for the duration of his treatment. A strange set of circumstances that seems to be typical of life in Rome. *** A week after I broke my arm M and I were going to Rocco's, a favorite breakfast place by the Termini. Crossing the street she slipped in a hole by the curb and broke her ankle. Hi Tom and Kay,  I never answered your last email. kay wanted to know which bones jack broke.  well, as near as i can figure, not having seen any xrays, the arm has two bones going down to the wrist,  one large and one small. jack has two fractures in the large bone, at the end of it, at the wrist, where it connects to the hand, that's where it's broken. but wait, it get's worse! so then last Tuesday we were walking along, heading to a small, corner place, jack's current favorite for breakfast. They don't do the eggs and bacon. Italians typically grab a coffee and cornetto at a coffee bar on their way to work or school or where ever.  but we found this place over by the main railway station that serves an "English" breakfast which includes eggs, bacon, a roll, a small glass of orange juice and a cappucino. It's really a great deal, if you're into eggs away from home...jack is. So there we were walking along when, suddenly, I was going down, yelling out, too. Jack had been holding my arm because I was helping him cross the street. luckily, I didn't pull him down with me and he was even able to break my fall somewhat.  Some man stopped and helped pick me up, along with some stuff that had spilled out of my pockets.  I told him "thank you," and "no, no, really, I'm fine," but it hurt like hell. After a few minutes, Jack helped me hobble into the breakfast place, which was about 30 feet away. The breakfast place people know us well.  it's a small, family-run, buffet-diner across the street from the train station. They know us well because we've been going there for years. They gave me some ice for my ankle and they gave Jack his breakfast. I was in too much pain to eat. I was still in too much pain afterward to make it to the nearest bus stop, so with the help of two police officers - who were actually writing tickets on illegally parked motorinos, which you hardly ever see (writing tickets, not illegally parked motorinos)  helped us cross the busy intersection and got us to a taxi.  they're always really nice to you here if you've been injured OR if you cry...I wasn't crying, but my face was scrunched up in pain, which is almost as good. We went home and I hopped up the few flights of stairs to our apartment. There is no elevator here. They didn't have elevators in the 1500s when this building was built. And the people who ran this place when it was a bordello and gambling place in the 1950's had other projects to think about, I guess.  I put my foot up and put some more ice on it. I was able to get to the bathroom with the help of jack's cane. On Wednesday and Thursday I could walk better, but still couldn't put much weight on my ankle. Friday morning i decided i'd better go to the emergency room and get an xray, to make sure it was only a bad sprain. I was worried that i'd torn a tendon or something. I hopped down the stairs, jack called a taxi and off we went to Santo Spirito Hospital. It's over by the Vatican.  jack's been there many times (hospital not Vatican). It's the oldest working hospital in the world, or so we've read. In the middle ages people used to dump off their unwanted babies at this place. They had this lazy-susan type contraption built into one wall where you could put the baby down, ring some bell, and then on the other side a nun would spin the lazy susan, take the baby out and you were done.  nowadays the nuns are gone and it's a busy, somewhat modernized, socialized medicine facility.  It's scruffy around the edges, but seems to function pretty well. There's always a bunch of doctors and nurse-like attendants who walk around seemingly oblivious to the moaning and groaning people waiting in the corridors. The attendants wear green surgical scrubbs and green rubber clogs.  The doctors wear shirts and ties, slacks, regular shoes, and long, white lab coats. They often wear a stethoscope around their necks, too, for added emphasis.)  On arrival I had to limp into an "admissions" room. This is where they ask you what's wrong with you and then they get your name and address. They don't ask about insurance or anything because they figure most people aren't going to pay anything anyway. Afterward I limped into the waiting area. This is where you sit with all the other sick and injured people of Rome.  Sometimes it's obvious what is wrong with people, such as: Coughing and sneezing without covering their faces: Influenza. A bloody gash on the head:  A fall. If they're holding a helmet, they fell off their motorino. laying on a gurney, unconscious with a drip in the arm: Something bad, not to be stared at. Laying on a gurney, yakking away on a cell phone:  A fall in the street   When i arrived one woman laid on a gurney, a sheet pulled up to her neck with her purse sitting upright on top.  A 'faller.'  She'd probably been out doing her daily shopping and suddenly she's in the hospital waiting for a full-leg cast.  Then there was the guy sitting in a wheelchair wearing a fireman's uniform. He was sniffing and coughing. "influenza," I thought, as I moved a safe distance away. But then i saw him trying to move his leg into a more comfortable position. He grimaced in pain. "Hmmmm. There must be more to that one," I thought. Off to the side one other young couple there, sitting in chairs talking. They didn't look or act sick. But, they were waiting for a doctor, same as the rest of us. After about half an hour, they called my name. "Senora Sender!"  I stood and hobbled inside the examination room. At the door I was met by the doctor's assistant (his name, I found out later was Johann, "like Bach," he told me). The doctor sat at a computer screen. He didn't even look up at me. I told Johann that I wanted my husband to come inside with me. He shook his head, "No."  I said, "But he speaks Italian better than me."  Another shake of the head and then he said, "You speak English?"  "I speak English."  And, with that, I entered. Johann had me sit on a gurney and put my legs up. The doctor, sitting some feet away at a desk, mumbled something in Italian that I understood to mean, "What happened to your ankle?"  I glanced at Johann to see if he was going to translate.  Nothing.  "I fell on the street," I said.  Without looking up from the computer, the doctor then asked something that I translated into "why did you wait so long to come to the emergency room?"  I told him that I didn't think it was hurt that bad, that it was only a sprain, I've had them many times. But, after three days, this one seemed more severe and "I thought it would be prudent to get an xray." Good job, I thought to myself. The doctor got up from the desk and walked over to my ankle.  While talking to Johann and not even looking at what he was doing, he picked up my ankle and started pushing his thumbs into the most sensitive and painful part. Unconsciously, I reached out and tried to push his hand away. I was moaning in pain.  He said to "Stay calm, senora."  "But it hurts!" I said, stating the obvious.  He stopped his examination, said he was sorry and walked toward the computer again. Then Johann put me in a wheelchair and took me outside to another nearby waiting room to wait for my xray. I didn't have to wait long. The woman on the gurney, the one with the sheet pulled up to her neck with the purse on top, was there waiting, too. We didn't speak, but we made eye contact and smiled wanly at each other. The x-ray technician was quick and efficient. It took about 1 silent minute for him to do the job.  No fuss, no muss. They didn't cover me with a lead vest that they use in American hospitals. So, I sat there and got fully zapped. They wheeled me back to the waiting area. All this time Jack is patiently waiting with me. He had brought a book and was reading. I was glad he was there. It was comforting to have a loved one nearby. The woman on the gurney was all alone. I wondered if her husband or children were coming to be with her. After about another half hour of waiting, during which time the emergency room started filling up. More of the walking wounded.  One girl hopped in on crutches holding up her leg which was encased in a cylindrical device which held the screws that were inserted into her gauze-covered leg. Yikes, that was bad to look at. I noticed a new gurney occupant, a man dressed in a shirt and tie, covered with a sheet with his jacket and briefcase laying on top. He looked like your average office worker. He was grimacing in pain and, during a cell phone conversation, Jack heard him say something about the "marciapiedi" which means sidewalk in Italian. He was another 'faller.'  During my waiting time I contemplated how dangerous the streets of Roma are. they're full of pot holes, dips and cracks and cobblestones. And, now that it's autumn, the leaves are falling, covering up and camouflaging potential hazards to trip over or fall into. It's a wonder anyone survives. I've seen people stumble, trip, wobble and crash, but today was the first time I realized how many people are affected on a daily basis, and how they sit there filling the waiting rooms at hospitals all over the city. "Senora Sender!"  Once again I was called into the examination room by Johann.  This time he allowed Jack to come in because "He speaks better Italian than you."  Jack entered behind me and the doctor and Johann both immediately noticed Jack's arm cast.  They both smiled when we told them Jack had fallen two weeks ago and broken his arm.  They thought it was amusing because, as the doctor explained, my ankle was "rota," broken.  As this shocking news settled in, they began assembling all the materials for my cast.  Jack told the doctor that he and I both share almost identical biorythems.  the doctor found that amusing, too.  In fact, the doctor was much more pleasant and friendly with Jack in the room.  Jack has a way with people. Johann mentioned that I would need crutches. I asked, “where do we get them?” He explained that there was a local ‘sanataria’ around the corner, on the way to St. Peter’s, and he gave Jack the directions. Jack left to go get the crutches and was back as they were finishing with my cast. It goes from my toes to below my knee. They parked me back outside to wait for my cast to dry and they sent Jack over to another part of the hospital to make an appointment for my next examination on December 13th. And, with that, I was done. They didn’t give me any prescriptions and they didn’t give me any instructions, except to keep my leg up and not walk on it. They turned me loose, a fifty-two year old woman on crutches for the first time in her life. We took a taxi home. That part was easy. Climbing the stairs to our apartment was not. I couldn’t figure out how I was supposed manuever the crutches and keep my leg up at the same time. Finally, I handed Jack my crutches, grabbed the railing and hopped up each step on my good leg. Now two days have passed and my whole body is aching. Muscles that I didn’t even know I had are introducing themselves to me. My right thigh muscle is the one that has to support me every time I get up or down. My back and upper chest muscles are sore from using the crutches. I can’t go outside because I can’t negotiate the stairs, and even if I got outside there’s no way I want to tempt fate on the cobblestone streets around here. So I’m completely home bound. In two weeks I go back to theegese hospital and they’ll put some kind of shoe-like attachment on my cast. Then, at least, I’ll be able to walk around. Jack has to do everything. He has to go shopping, he has to prepare the food and he has to clean the dishes, make the coffee, he has to get me this and get me that. And, he’s doing it all on his weak legs with a full cast on his arm. It’s not a pretty picture. He does okay, but if he has to open a jar he hands it to me. *** Jack's Dream I was given a used notebook, the paper kind I had had in school years ago. the kind we used to take notes in or wrote papers with. The booklet was well used, worn, filled with writing of different sorts. I held the booklet open. In the center, left of the fold were letters written, an O, A, C, U, they continued down the page. I had to announce the letters as they appeared on a screen. This was live, there was no rehearsal, no second takes. I couldn’t make out the letters easily. I didn’t look all the way down, there must have been ten or fifteen letters. They were unevenly spaced and slightly different as if they were made with different pencils and pens by different people attempting changes and corrections. Maybe I could see them on the screen and read them there, or check that I saw them correctly. I noticed music was playing, a great theme was ending. I knew when the music finished I would start reading the vertical column of letters. There was tension. I had to do it. I’d been doing new announce jobs for years so the unexpected was normal for me, however this was a...and when the music finally stopped I realized then that this was all a bad dream. I hadn’t had an announcing job for years and this was a new bad dream. The nightmare I used to have I was reading the news at a radio station on a long piece of teletype paper and someone lit the other end. "Fine. How’d you sleep?" *** People throw trash on the streets as if it were the place to put it. I've walked behind well-dressed businessmen as they blatantly wad and throw their piece of paper trash over their shoulder without regard to where it lands. Their Roman-reasoning is that there are men and women with the job of sweeping the streets. Let them work. I didn't make that up, I was told that by a Roman. *** Outside it’s quiet on Via Cappellari. It’s not always quiet out there. The street is narrow and cobblestone and the walls of the opposing buildings are close and everything is stone. If a lady walks down the street the heels hit, hammers clicking on stone. It rings loud and echoes. Now I am rearranging the furniture. Something I do often. M is not crazy about that; she thinks ought to be the same when she comes in as it was when she saw it last - but she puts up with me. I figure even though the apartment is small there has to be a better way. It is never serious rearranging, usually it's only the table I move, the same table, the only one we have. She came back into the room from taking a shower. She had the sheets in her hand. We’re doing the laundry today. She’s doing it. I am going along because we’ll have lunch during half time - that’s drying time. Fifteen minutes. You can eat lunch in fifteen minutes. You don't have to chew pasta twenty-six times. The phone rang. First I had to figure which phone, the cell phone, house phone or one of two computer phones - then find it, then answer. I scrambled and fumbled, and got it, “Ciao.” “Jack, are you going to be in Campo Dei Fiori? I mean can you come down here, over here? Where are you?” “Home. Who is this?” She went on, “Oh, it’s your home phone...I thought I was calling you.” "You are." I recognized the voice, “Oh, Francesca, what’s up?” “It’s me. Boungiorno...I'm in such a rush." "Boungiorno." "I got a letter from my American cousin in New York and i you would read it to me. I think I figured it out, but I want to be sure.” “Sure...five minutes, I’ll be there.” We hung up. "That was Francesca the artist." M was measuring grams of cereal and it doesn’t look as if the laundry trip is going to happen any time soon. Oh, it will be soon relatively. It will happen within an hour more or less, but for me now it doesn’t feel soon. “M, I have to run down and read a letter for Francesca. I’ll be right back.” “Take your time.” I ran out the door and down to the street. Weather was fine, the day was slow, not jammed. I was reading Nelson Demille’s book Lion Game. It’s great, but I was also killing time before we go to the laundromat. My reading time is usually evenings, more or less; well I read anytime, more or less. I waved in at Marina, Umberto D’aceto was there in his place this morning. He has takes the train in from Santa Marinella. That’s about an hour north of here. He calls it a half hour, but he’s from Sardegna; they all think they're closer to Rome. At the corner by the Forno I found Francesca. “Aren’t the flowers nice. It’s such a nice day,” she said. “Yeah, give me the letter and I’ll read it to you. How are you doing?.” We did the cheek kiss routine. “Oh, his, Jack. It’s from my cousin,” she handed the letter over. I read it and told her “He’s coming to Rome. This month he graduated from college in New York and wants to travel a while.” I looked at her. "He's going to be here Friday morning." *** I was returning home when a familiar face passed me on the narrow street. Actor Bill Murray. It surprised me, pleasantly. “Hi, Bill.” He turned his head and looked. Not everybody would recognize this casually dressed bearded guy on a back alleys of Rome. “Are you a tourist today?” “Working. Always,” he said with a wave of his hand. “You do great work. I could see he was on a mission, I didn’t delay him. “Thank you,” he said, waved again and kept walking. I smiled to myself as I watched him walk off. I took my lead from the guy, if he had a minute, or had time to talk, he would have. He had somebody with him, an assistant type, and was head down and walking with a purpose. I was happy to have seen him; it’s always a surprise to see who comes down our street. Years later he'd awake from his sleep and wonder who was that guy on the back alley in Rome that yelled hello to me. *** About one Sunday every month there were two mounted carabinieri in dress uniform with helmets ridig their white steeds slowly down via cappellarri, ringing the loud, echoing clip clops. It’s a treat to hear them come. We knew what it was after the first time, and would run to the window, open it and look down to see them slowly passing by. Pomp and a display of security. For the inner city, average citizens it is a mini-parade with white horses. *** *** A week after I read the letter for her I ran into Francesca and her newly arrived cousin in Campo Dei Fiori. He's at a hotel up the street, already looking for a place that doesn't cost so much, seems he wants to stay a while. Francesca found a local newspaper that had low rents in the area. She introduced us, I shook his hand. He was young, alert and looking able. "How's Rome treating you, Steve?" "Oh, great, man, I"m loving it. There is a lot to see." Steve is college grad in language - French and Italian. Didn't want to teach. No idea what he'll do, says he'll work it out, but already Rome is setting it's hook, he may stay a while. "If I can figure it out...how to stay...I will. I like it here." I smiled, knowing the feeling."Well, good luck, Steve. I'll be seeing you around. Let me know if I can help you with anything." After another week I heard Steve found an apartment. *** In the summer, then again in the late fall the warm desert winds from Africa sweep fine red dust over the city. This is the sirocco, the desert winds, when at dusk for a few hours every evening swarms of starlings make complex, enchanting spirals in the sky – geometrical patterns changing constantly, liquid funnels and twisting spirals. Near the bus stops at the termini is a great observation point for seeing and photographing the complex aerial aerobatic ballets. *** We were Roman now, technically. Both of us had our documents in order and were officially were residents of Rome. We could speak and understand, we drank espresso to start every day. The two egg and bacon breakfast had gone away. "We have that morning coffee habit, the Italian habit." "The world does," she said. *** We ran into a guy who lives around the corner. After seeing him for ten years I finally spoke to Alan Scene, an American college professor who has been here forty years. His parents bought a place, raised hi here. Alan rides a bicycle toe Villa Borgesse every morning. He wears a Scottish type hat...maybe the cap is british, even Italian, but with his face and beard, when I see him I think Scottish. “I’m a teacher of architecture for Penn State University.” Alan has an apartment building that his father bought years ago. He keeps a studio on the ground floor and in the basement below he installed a sauna and exercise area for his wife. So we were talking about underground Rome. Alan told me about another place down the way, the other side of Campo Dei Fiori, that goes down four levels from the street and was made back in old roman times. So M and I walked past the Palace Farnese to see the sign. That's all we saw, we have to make an appointment to go in. We can easily make the appointment, but there’ always so many routine chores to do, it's on our list. *** Before the evening news on Rai 3 there is an informative television program on the National Television Network of Italy, Geo e Geo, where I heard there are two hundred fifty kilometers of underground passages and aqueducts beneath the streets of Rome – much of it connected and more that remains unexplored. Giacomo's brother Sandro worked on a crew filming underground Rome, and spent weeks walking the hidden, dark passages. I did the English narration for the film. The true length of subterranean passageways is unknown, you can read many different guesses as to how many and how long are the passages underground Rome. Most people have seen none of it. Down the street a few doors in Antonio’s workshop basement are two rooms about twenty feet below street level, high ceilings. On one side is a doorway leading to a second level below, and another door leads to a third level below street level. Antonio said he heard the lower passageways go all that way under the river to the Vatican...so they say. *** "Sveea Satramola." "What's that?" "She's the host on Geo e Geo." "The TV show.” She nodded. “How'd you know that?" I said. "After twenty-five years I remember." "She's been the host that long?" "Probably for fifty years. Twenty-five is all I remember." "Long term memory loss?" "Get out of town." "You serious? Where do you want to go this time?" “Cola Rizinzo. I've got some looking around I want to do. We took a 492. We rediscovered that popular, good shopping area we knew when we lived on Borgo Pio - Via Cola Rienzo. We bused there and M did window shopping. I followed her around. We wrapped it up with a stop for an ice cream cone atr a popular place on he corner. We came out of the shop with our cones to find Bruce McGuire sitting there eating his ice cream. He waved us over and we sat down to join him. He said he had a film job this summer with Sophia Loren. She played her own mother and Bruce her American attorney. He said it went well. It was a thrill for me, "What a professional. She was great to work with." I was happy for him. He had a memorable part to play. Strange how it is in Rome, you can be in another part of the city where you don't usually venture and run into someone you know. It has happened before, and I hope it happens again. And, we all enjoyed our ice cream. &&& F I was co-founder of Life and Death Magazine. You never heard of it because the guy that was giving me the start-up money jumped off the top of the L.A. County Morgue. It’s a seven-story building. I don’t know why they have to make morgues so tall. *** "Hi Marga." Meri's friend. We said hi all around. I let them talk and plan a morning coffee together. Ed and Marga, have lived on this street forty years. They said in the post war 1950s it was such a rough neighborhood that even the police didn’t venture around. The street was dirty, filthy, and it smelled. When the two of them scraped together every cent they could get to afford to buy an apartment here friends said it was “too bad they had to buy there.” Now, years later it has cleaned up its image. Become upscale. Even the Minister of The Interior and a senator lives here. In the 1950s our shabby building was the center of corruption. Then it used to be a area for gambling spot and prostitution. It’s not a bad street now; it's improving...going upscale. Inside I ask M what's for supper. "I got some rugala at the market, it looks good." She was straightening her work counter, putting all in order around her kitchen. "I'm going to try Piera's recipe for palenta with sausage and pork ribs." "Sounds good." "You liked it." She looked at me. "The gas is low." "I'll go down and get some." Gas for cooking in our apartment is in a canister, a metal tank that holds about seven gallons of gas, a bombola is what they call it. Every now and then one of them explodes and takes out a large part of an apartment house. Bombola, the Italian word for it, seems about right. I walked down the way and at the end of the next street. On Via del Pelligrino, is the hardware store where I buy gas. In American it would be a few gallons can of gas. Here I don’t know how many liters it is, only the cost. It was twenty-five euros or so when we moved in and it’s about thirty-five now a decade later. Renalto's mother was there and took my order. She remembered where we live. I paid and left. The lady told me that her son is out delivering, but will be at our place in a short time. It was a sunny, bllu sky afternoon. After I got home I waited less than a half hour when I heard his motorcycle come down our street. We’ve had the same guy deliver since we moved in. Renalto is his name, a gentleman. I only see him a few minutes twice a year, but he calls me Jack. I pressed the button to unlock the front door of our building. He would have buzzed me if I hadn’t heard him. "buongiorno, Renalto." "Ciao, Jack." He went right to work putting in a new canister. I asked him once and he said he started delivering gas when he was eleven years old. Someone in his family must have been in the business. Renalto must be about forty now. When you have a job in Rome, you hold on to it. That is how it is done. One day his mom will be gone and he’ll be behind the counter. His son will deliver. *** carried a covered box in her hands and a large open cardboard box piled high with clothing balanced atop her head steady duck walking oblivious to us she ambles by showing her skill and no concern in a manner that tireless practice has endowed *** I'm going out front, M." It was integral to my Roman life to soak up the neighborhood action. It was a warm afternoon, the sun was swinging south and shown on the roof tops. I saw little Franco coming my way, a woodworker. Been on his corner forty years. I'd say his connections with the local dark side of commerce are not overt but are suspected. Alleged members of the local mala vita stop by to chat with him several times each week, then nothing for a while. Throughout every day I’ve seen Franco working without fail. He’s short, bald on top, with high flapping hair on the side, resembles Larry fine of the three Stooges. Always carrying a small piece of wood or metal, rolling it with his fingers on his way to one of the four small work spaces under his control. “Ciao, Franco, how are you doing today?” “Ciao, Gianni. It’s okay. Okay. I have a million things to do.” Sometimes I'm Gianni, sometimes I'm Jack. He was looking down the street while he was talking to me, bounced once in place then started walking. He knows my name is Jack, but can manage to say it occasionally. Gianni, Jack, are the same to an Italian. I watch him go down the street. On the corner, in a pot of sunshine, in front of one of his closed workshops sits his wife on a small wooden chair. She is middle age, neatly dressed in thirty-year old clothes that the family probably brought from Calabria when they moved to Rome. Whenever I look out the window throughout the day to see what is going on down there, I'll see her sitting in that chair, doing nothing. Years pass and nothing changes, not even her dress. Doesn’t read, doesn’t sew, doesn’t move. She sits in that chair, hands in her lap, day after day and does nothing more. She doesn’t move. Hardly speaks or is spoken to. She sits. The look on her face is always one of mild perplexity. Sometimes she moves her head in such a tight manner I think she needs grease, that forced half smile when I greet her. She’ll look at me with a pitiful, fixed gaze that is saying, help me I am stuck in here and I can’t get out. With apparent difficulty I’ve seen her lift an arm, turn her head, or raise her chin as if stretching. When she changes position she'll look down as if to see she's still sitting on a chair. I think if you squeeze her she'd make a child's stuffed, toy animal noise. Franco walks over, gets near, leans toward her and says a few words, she doesn’t seem to reply and he goes on his way. This is life in the heavy inter city. With effort she may turn her head a bit, or raise her chin. Usually she is immobile, and then he is gone. Her Mother and father are around everyday. They live about twenty mils away down at the sea, beyond the airport. They take a bus and a train and another bus to get here. They're here all day and go home in the late afternoon. The father is old and wears a large brim, formal hat, and suit out of the forties. He hardly speaks, but it is apparent the family either knows what he is going to say or doesn’t pay attention and always treat him as if what he says is of no consequence. The mother is short, in a perpetual good mood and talks to everyone. Sometimes I don't run into her on the street for months at a time, and when I do she sparkles with the brightest smile when she says hello. She always asks how I am and how my wife is doing; it's similar to running into a favorite aunt. She has a ready smile. Our conversation always begin and end with warm smiles. The family all speak Calabraisse and Romanesco localizations of Italian. Many of the older Romans speak a regional dialect as their first language, and Italian the new national Italian that has become the national standard in the last fifty years, since the advent of Television. Franco and the guys on the street speak the modern and more debasing parlance Romanaccio, a pejorative street slang the uneducated toughs use; neither usually written or consistent. One of the initial observations when I began to observe Italians was how many times the older locals had to repeat themselves to be understood among themselves. What they speak is a street-made language they learned by hearing it. The dialect It is often inconsistent, and invariably slurred. *** The crazy girl came swinging, purse in hand, down the street. This one is a gem. I've seen her many times for a few years and I've never seen her make eye contact with me. There is her own world rotating inside her. She stopped in front of Franco and he speaks to her face to face for a moment. I can tell he’s asking how she is. I was thirty or forty feet from them, leaning against the wall of a building. I watched as she pulled out a cigarette and Franco lights it. I asked about her one time and Franco told me she’s from a wealthy family and has a place to stay. She wears three or four in congruent garments: blouse, skirt, sweater, wild stockings, hat, boots, each so bizarre they would be impossible to find in a store. Her makeup is truly something science fiction movie makeup artists would be envious of: large horizontal bands of solid color, maybe three or four bands of red, blue, white and black cover her face. By this description you would recognize her if you came upon her on the streets of Rome. She nods thanks to Franco, then moves on, swinging as she goes, not quite wobbling as she shuffles to keep from losing a shoe, keeping a slow, self confident bounce, always a head up motion. Franco watches her, then turns slowly his head to me with an exasperated, melancholy look on his face. His fingers rotate a small piece of metal he carries with both hands, he shakes his head, an expression of exasperation and pity, then continues on his way. On sunny days our street, with tall buildings on either side, in early morning and late afternoon is usually half-shaded. For an hour, about nine in the morning, we have the sun's bright yellow beam running squarely up the narrow street. It's nice to see but of little use. During afternoons chairs are pulled out by locals to bask in the warming glow during winter and to the shade side in the summer. It's not living in the country...it's making the best of what's available. I painted our street, looking up at our windows from below on the street. From the sun hitting our window ledge I can tell I painted it about nine A.M. Big Manuele is always there. From inside our apartment three floors up with windows closed I hear him blabbing all day long. His shop is below our window. He’s an older, worthless, hangs around on the street all day yelling hello to every senora and child that passes. He always makes a big deal of it, fawning over the children. The mothers always stop a while and take his acknowledgment, apparently happy for it. I never see customers go into his store. From my apartment above I have to listen to his yelling to those passing. The streets and walls of the stone buildings amplify well and ricochet the sound of his voice. Mario, son of the old couple, is the slick nephew of Big Manuele. Mid-thirties, always quick moving, with head inclined he appears to be thinking of something...private thoughts not quite complete in his mind. Mario runs a used furniture, paintings and antique shop a few door over, opposite Big Manuele. There is energy in Mario. A good fellow. We get along. He does some business. I wonder where he gets the old pieces of furniture and art that he sells. I think it's all legit. He has good quality items for sale. I've never seen him or anyone else bring something in or take something out, but the inventory keeps changing. Divorced and always something about a problem girl friend. I've seen him talk to women in front of his store, an unsettled manner about him, though he smiles a lot at the women when he speaks to them. He's a good looking guy, and although he talks a lot, his voice isn't annoying, and sharp like Big Manuale. He smiles and says hi every time I pass. Mario and I get along. Third brother, Gino, is a classic. We also get along well. "Ciao Gino." "Ciao, Jack." You want a sharp looking Italian? Here's the best looking of the lot, with thick wavy black hair, and the style of a young John Travolta playing a street tough. He even has that curl on his forehead, right out of a movie from the 1970s. But in the last few years, or maybe he was always this way, carrying a mental foible that runs in his family, something happened to him, something has changed. His mind is not agile. Drinking and drugs I am told. I thought it was a head injury from a motorino accident. I remember seeing his head wrapped up for a while some time back. My neighbor Paulo said he saw him driving his motorino the wrong way on crowded Lungotevere in front of Santo Spirito Hospital. I also heard drinking rendered him into his feeble condition. Because he's not the friendliest guy on the block, and our language barrier, he speaking Romano with little patience for a foreigner's Italian, we say few words to each other. I say ciao and he has his mouth open reminiscent of a punch drunk fighter and sometimes nods his head, keeping his mouth hanging, sometimes he doesn't even nod, snorts and you'd think it was a a bear. He has the vacant eyed, stoned expression of his mother. Girls are disappointed because from twenty feet away he looks so good, but as they get closer his condition becomes apparent. Half of the time he can hardly pay attention when I speak to him, or it doesn't react, then suddenly answers. He's not a fun guy to talk to. Most of the day he'll sits motionless in a chair, staring ahead. Now this past month, every time I walk out the door, from thirty feet away where he usually stands in front of Mario's shop, he calls out, "Jack, Ciao." His brother, Mario, gave him the job looking alert while standing or sitting out front and watching the store. Occasionally Gino will stand to get a pack of cigarettes out of his pocket, take a few steps, drift away, walk down to the corner for that spot of sunshine, or to say a few words or get a few from his mother or a friend, instead of staying there doing his job. When he moves away he gets yelled at by Mario for not watching the store. The family winds up with Piccolo (Little) Manuale, Franco’s son, nephew or cousin to Mario, Gino and Big Manuale. Piccolo Manuale is the midget-idiot of the family, also a pain in the ass. He’s not really a midget, a long armed, short curmudgeon. I’d get a lot of agreement for that appraisal. He struts with a seaman’s swagger. Perhaps in his head he’s a giant. He does have a large head and large head. I bet I've said ciao to him thirty times and never got an eye blink acknowledgment. I try to make friends with my neighbors. I’ll be at home and with the window closed I'd hear the baying of a sheep. It’s Piccolo Manuale yelling, “Mama. Mama.” He calls for his mother five or six times everyday with his penetrating whine of a voice. I don’t know why he always calls his mama, because the most she can do is turn her head. I want to open he window and yell, "She's in the chair where she always is." Little manuale collected old coins, among other small items he had found, he’d collect your wallet if he could. He has a spot on the river where he digs. It's some kind of forbidden area, but he knows how and when to do it. I’ve seen him standing outside of one of his father's workshops inspecting ancient Roman coins and assorted objects he’d found. He gave me an ancient fish hook one time. Good news for a while: Piccolo Manuale was under house arrest, meaning he got caught for something, convicted, and the prison was crowded or someone was paid off, and he got sent home and was supposed to stay there for six months. Shortly after this happened they caught him out running around. Another six months was added to his sentence. At least for a while I didn’t have to see the criminal savant. When the taxi swings in and parks I know Gianni is there. There is no parking, and no regular street, it's a wide alley in the historical district, walkers and bicycles often are out there, taxis and deliveries drive through once in a while. There are two or three private parking spaces on one side, in front of storage sheds. Franco saves a space out front of his workshop for step son Gianni. Gianni is the good seed, half-brother to Little Manuele. Gianni and his wife and two small sons live in another part of the city. He drives a cab. The only one in the family with a real job. He’s a good guy, speaks well, looks around, recognizes people - Normal; and for that family, a giant leap in the gene pool. “How is it going, Jack. Have you seen my youngest son?” I shook my head, “Not for a while, maybe a year.” “I’m going to pick him up soon, you’ve got to see him. He’s growing." He turned and started off. "I’ve got to get something.” He waved as he left. *** Here is a clear example of how time in Rome can affect you. Today M. paid her money to join the Italian Automobile Club. She doesn’t have a car, we sold it; and more importantly, she doesn’t have an Italian driver’s license. But she is now an official member of the Italian Auto Club. As a gift, in the mail they sent her a large coffee mug she can write messages on in chalk. Boy, we'll get a lot of use out of that one. *** l May Day So we came back from a party at alberto’s, a traditional May Day event. A lot of wine, good pasta and a hundred people. When we were ready to go Maria was still hanging on her wine so we left her and took Barbara back instead. Barbara’s a Roman Romana with roots from the beginning of time and lives in the center near us. Some holidays there are concerts here and there for the public. That Sunday, May Day, a major holiday in Europe, one street over from where we live, they had an open concert set in a small pizza in the middle of nowhere in particular. On the short walk from where we parked the car to our apartment we passed a small piazza on Via Monserrato. A free concert was about to begin. There were maybe a hundred seats in the small piazza a hundred feet long by fifty feet wide. The technicians were setting up. Folding chairs were brought in as the crowd grew. There was a grand piano left of center stage, twenty orchestra seats behind that, and then four opera singers testing their microphones. That got our attention. Those performers were top professionals and I knew those tunes, they sang fractions of the hits; so we stayed. Various areas of the city have these May Day events for the citizens, and that’s us. The performers looked ready to start, but It took another half hour for the other musicians to arrive. The hundred of us waited patiently. Finally a senator I didn’t recognize, a priest and musician each welcomed the crowd. A Stradivarius violin made in 1616 was a featured instrument in the first work on the program – a concerto by Sergei Prokofiev. Then a pianist from Moscow, internationally heralded, awarded and renowned Pavel Egorov and the orchestra did a concerto by Schumann. The piano was turned so the audience was looking over the right shoulder of Pavel. Seeing the comfort, ease, dash and flurry of an accomplished pianist was worth the winter long wait for this performance with a ring side seat. The final section of the program featured the four singers who sang together and separately. Two men, two women. I remember O solo mia, Figero, Mimi’s theme from La Boehme, Puccini’s Nesun Dorma. They finished with a the four of them doing Arrivederci Roma. Arrivederci Roma, and thank you. *** Everyone looked ready to begin, but It took another half hour for the other musicians to arrive. The hundred of us waited patiently. Finally a senator I didn’t recognize, a priest and musician each welcomed the crowd. A Stradivarius violin made in 1616 was a featured instrument in the first work on the program – a concerto by Sergei Prokofiev. *** 1 l parking, no problem We bought a fine used car. Got all the necessary permissions and approvals, insurance, authorization etc. Everything in good order to park on the street in the historical center where we live. This week we drove north to Tuscany, stayed overnight, then returned. Quickly and easily we cruised into a choice open parking spot, central to everything. Near our apartment. A few hours after our return one of us had to go out to check that our car was still in a good position and hadn’t been devastated or disintegrated by vandals. I think I checked that time. We slept well that night. The next morning she checked on the well being of the car. It was conveniently located and easy to check on. Again, all was well. Sometime later in the afternoon both she and I at different times had walked by to verify that all was well. It was. Then this morning at the crack of seven she opened her eyes with the thought that we hadn’t placed the large, colorful parking permission card on the dash. Visions of getting the contraption on our wheels, the so-called boot, or getting towed away to beyond hell fires where only a small fortune in paid fines can redeem a vehicle. “Impossible”, I decried. “We each checked the car several times.” How could it be that we would forget to put the parking permission card in the front window? We got dressed and ran down to check. No permission card on the dash. No ticket and no boot. She got the parking permission card out of the glove compartment, hurriedly put it in the window and we left. We walked around for a while checking the neighborhood availability of precious parking spaces, had two coffees at two different locations, then went home. Our car is ok and, for now, so are we. *** l This Morning we went to Rocco’s for breakfast. M began hesitant , but when she saw me leaving she got ready. I Didn’t shower because M. wants to paint a three foot section of the shower wall because her sister is coming next week. I bought the paint last week but the shower is always wet cause we shower in the morning. I wanted to treat her so we took a cab from Chiesa Nuova across the street.. First I asked the driver how much because I didn’t want to get ripped off for the ride. He said about seven or ten, he pointed to the meter. The whole way there she and I talked and he kept quiet. I kept an eye on the meter. He did a good job of getting there and was a nice guy. The meter said six- seventy. I gave him ten. You have drivers who you love, and drivers that will nick you. At Rocco’s by the train station I had my usual full breakfast. M. had two coffee’s. Roberto was coming in later. Claudia was out for the week with the flu. Everybody has had it there. It was her turn. Viola was there. She’s Rocco’s daughter from his first marriage. I went around and talked to everyone. They were all happy to see me. I’m always happy to see them. Then we walked to a market in the Chinese section beyond Piazza Vittorio so M. could buy edemame beans. At Esquilino market I bought a half kilo of pistachios. For an euro she got a handful each of five different types of good looking fresh lettuce. Also, I had her pick up tomatoes On the bus ride back the traffic started to slow. Something was going on. An entourage heading for a ceremony in the center. When we got to Piazza Venezia our bus was the last vehicle before they closed traffic. M. suggested we get out and take a look. I rolled my eyes but she didn’t see it. We walked a half minute from the bus stop and watched the King and Queen of Sweden ride in aith about thirty motorcycles around their shiny black car. They got out and walked up the steps to place a wreath on the huge Vittorio Emanuele Monument. A military band play the Swedish and Italian Anthems. About five or six kinds of uniformed color guards stood at attention. Some had swords, banners and lances. The mayor had a ceremony for the visitors at the Campodoglio, another prominent site only a few steps away, but we had enough pomp and boarded another bus for home. We talked a while and waited, watching traffic jammed tight continue to pile up. The heart of Roma had a cardiac arrest, then ten minutes later got better. Another half day in the eternal city. Now she’ll paint a few stripes in the bath . *** Hospital Santo Spiritu The first time there during Easter break from the touring play I was on in ’97. I got home with a tremendous stomach ache, I thought from eating too much white chocolate. Examinations showed it to be first stages of multiple sclerosis. In the beginning I spent a night at Santo Spirito. I read it was the oldest operating hospital in the world. Since then I have read accounts that dispute this... but it is old. The part of the hospital I stayed in, a gymnasium that seemed the oldest hospital in the world. There were thin, free standing, movable seven foot tall wall partitions that kept the eight patients in our area visually sequestered. There was an 80 foot ceiling, leaded glass church windows on the walls. The hospital has been remodeled since the first time I was there. Then there was a second and a third time I visited Santo Spiritu. The dinner they served the first night was memorable. M recalls seeing the large octopus tentacle that was floating in my pasta either grasping pasta or trying to climb off the plate. *** We drove north to Tuscany this weekend. To Bagni Di Lucca where Giacomo Puccini spent summers. It’s small, clean, cool and not crowded. Off the usual tourist trail. Our hotel man also had an apartment available for the same price, so we took it. The Internet connection was there. After I found a computer store for a cable I needed, I returned to find the Internet connection still in the apartment, but it wasn’t hooked to anything. M tried the TV to find a menu for hundreds of channels, but none of them worked. The man from the hotel came over to find neither Internet or TV worked. In the kitchen everything lacked. Evidently everything was new, recently updated and completely untested. But it looked good. You'd want a picture of it. All of this we discovered after our shopping trip to the supermarket for a weekend’s supplies. We lasted one night and came back to Rome a day early. Bagni Di Lucca was fine. The river rushes through it. However, we are too much of the city and expect all to work in city fashion. The weekend was not a loss, as we took as side trip up a nearby mountain to a charming village where we talked with several residents. Even out there in the wilderness their Italian is better, that is, more clearly pronounced that that of the Romans. Tuscany is where Italian originated with the efforts of Dante and others who broke the tradition of writing only in Latin. The village area was in thick forest with water gushing down a river and from several crevices along the winding road. If I wasn’t such a city guy, now I could live there. A sign said, Internet coming. *** Staying on top of things, as before or as the occur. Either. Perusing expiration dates of my various documents, or a notice arrived in the mail, I discovered It was time to renew my identity card. Swinging into action I launched myself to the official government office, stopping only once on the way for a quick coffee at Angelo's where I talked a while to Ermano, said hi to Alberto, saw Mirella pulling her dog, then took a bus to the the office which was across from the Boca di verita, the mouth of truth - perfect location for government work. At the office I learned I needed an appointment. I made one. On the appointed date I returned to the office, found my window and stood in line. Checking again as I waited: Yes, I had all the papers required and my passport. I was last in line and soon the only one. It was my turn. Boun giorno, Boun Giorno, yes it is, and good day to you, etc. WE got down to it and soon I was having a problem with the woman behind the glass window. The official Italian offices that deal with foreigners have bullet proof glass windows with no hole in it to hear the foreigner on the other side talking to them. Often the woman inside either has a microphone and can lean her mouth on it to growl distortions at the foreigner, or there is no microphone and the foreigner has to lip read, they can't understand the woman behind the glass wall at all. When the foreigner speaks at the two-inch thick glass wall, the person behind the glass wall can’t hear them at all. I saw her check her watch...almost lunch time. No one waiting in line behind me. I was dealing with the woman behind the glass wall as best I could, trying to communicate. Within minutes it was not going well; when in frustration and a loud voice I said the only emphatic, non-vulgar expression I could think of, “Mama mia.” At this, a guard standing nearby, nearly asleep, who had been counting sheep while half paying attention to the encounter, suddenly woke up, and went nuts. He jumped into our discussion by yelling at me. The whole place came alive as a result of his shouting. All eyes turned our way. The audacity of this foreigner saying “mama mia”. It was as if I were personally cursing his mother by name. Saying anything negative about mother is a grand no-no. In Italy mothers are Sacred Mommies, The Holy of Holies. After several minutes of half the people in the building coming by to see what ensued. I stood defiant like I definitely did not know his mother. In a few moments the upheaval and disturbance settled. Then either I got business completed, or I left. It doesn’t matter. There is always another way, another window on another floor, another day, another request or expiration, or something new to be circumvented, dealt with in another manner. That is bureaucracy. still fresh. There was another window on the floor above so I went there and finished everything in two minutes. *** *** We did shopping for dinner at Desparo, one of two markets near by. Desparo as in despair. We walked over carrying our own grocery bag. They charge fifteen cents for a plastic bag. At check out they get very neat and put everything in a separate bag. You end up with seven bags and pay for them. That's why we bring our own shopping bag and dump everything into it. On the way back we were on Montorosso, about to Montorro when we turned and came upon four young girls were jumping up and down, excited. Mel Gibson was signing autographs for them. He had his head down writing and M only saw the top of his head. “Hey, that’s Mel Gibson,” M said. We’d heard he was in town. She spotted him in an instant. When we got up to them I said, “Hi, Mel.” He looked up and smiled. In about two seconds the girls all had their autographs and took off skipping happy. He looked tired, but relaxed. He was smoking a cigarette. “You been working, huh?” 0 “Way too much.” He said. “You’re shooting something in town aren’t you?” I asked. “We’re out at Cinecitta,yeah ... finishing up.” He nodded toward the store behind him. “I bought a lamp.” We looked and shook our heads, said words of approval. That was our day in the sun with Mel. “Well, good lamp ... Nice seeing you. Good luck.” He smiled and we went on our way. It was a pleasure running into a movie star. We didn’t slow him down. He has to get the same blast from fans everywhere he goes. We took what he wanted to give and didn't push for more. Opposite the way we were heading and a street over is a new novelty store that smells of wrapping paper, gift cards, candles, gifts for holidays, children, and birthdays. The store is called Kapa Marte .. that's K Mart when you translate it ... no relation. We walked around the corner and dropped off our groceries at home, then went up the street to the piazza. A moderate crowd out today in fairly warm weather. At San Pietrino Simona worked in the ice cream half of the business. “Hey, we saw Mel Gibson.” She nodded and indicated she would talk when she finished the cone and customer she was working on. “He was in here,” she said while cleaning off her hands. “Listen," she began, " I saw all these people and when I saw him. I thought it was some other guy, you know. He ordered a cone and when he paid I took his money, he looked up and I looked into his eyes and every film he ever did went rushing through me.” She made a motion with her hands to indicated a cascade over her. “Blue eyes.” Said M. “Oh, so blue,” Simone said. “It wasn’t until he looked at me that I recognized him. It went right through me. It was him.” “Very powerful,” I said. She staggered back a bit, exhaled a long breath and nodded. A guy squeezes by carrying a load of dishes. I recognized him. "Steve." Simone turned, "Oh, you know him? He's working out. A nice boy." "Ciao, Jack, M ... Yeah, How are you doing. I'm doing a few days work here...in the black." That means he's paid in cash, off the books. "Wow...so you are getting along well." "I'm good, no kidding, working out the Italian I know and I'm learning a some Roman, the dialectal swing, that sort of thing." "Good for you." We let him work and went on our way. *** Notte Bianca In Roma this Wednesday 25 September I made a note as we sat at an outside table: San Pietrino's, home turf. Short sleeves and shade this side of the piazza. It was after lunch and the market was wrapping up. Prospero is already gone. Marco is packin boxes for the flower girl. Everyone putting their market tents and tables and chairs away, taking down their constructions, cleaning up their mess for the day. M said, “I want to go somewhere. You up for taking a trip? I quit making notes, put down my pen and looked at her. For me hanging in the neighborhood you can find enough Italian adventure for a lifetime, but because I was a stick in the mud doesn’t mean I have to be unreasonable. “This weekend is Notte Bianca. It might be a good time to get out of here,” I twirled my glass as I spoke. “What’s Notte Bianca?” “It's something the French did last year and now the Italians want to do it, in Rome anyway...some kind of deal where the stores stay open all night and they have concerts and free events going on until dawn and...“ She put up her hand to stop me. “That’s enough. Let’s go somewhere.” A waiter came over then with two glasses of red wine, left the check on the table. “Were you thinking of anywhere in particular?” “How about down south? I haven’t been there,” she said. “Lecce then. The heel of the boot.” “Perfect. When you do you want to go?” “Saturday is Notte Bianca.” “We can take a train.” “Great. I don’t know how long it is to get there, but we can check on the Internet easily enough.” Mirella was walking her dog, Gypsy, she saw us, waved and walked over. After ciao-hellos Mirella told us, “Federico is working in Paris now. He got back from New York. Said he might be here this weekend.” “We were talking about leaving this weekend,” I said. “Oh, it’s Notte Bianca. I’d go too if we could, but Roberto has to take his mother on Sunday, and now Federico might be here. I’d leave if we could.” ”Aren’t you going to party all night with Notte Bianca?” She waved it off with her hand, and let out an exasperated breath of air. She wasn't impressed. "An all night party is not what I need,” she “said, “Where are you going?” “Somewhere down in Puglia,” M said. “Oh, Lecce is nice. I love it down there.” “Is that on the coast?” I asked, thinking of swimming. “No, it is in the middle, but the coast isn't far, and Lecce is a beautiful Baroque city.” She said as she gave a yank on gyspey’s chain. She talked a while then said she wanted to hurry back home. We said our goodbyes. “Sounds nice down there, Puglia,” I said when she had gone. “It’s a plan.” M lifted her glass in salute. As we walked home we stopped at Marina's shop. "what are you doing for Notte Bianca?" I asked. She let out a groan, "Nothing...staying at home." Vallerio was there and he jumped in to say, "We're going to the art show at three a.m. then a concert at five." He was excited, and a young Italian." To get to Lecce we scheduled a sleeper compartment on a Saturday night train. We would have gone on Thursday, but by the time we got around to making reservations the trains were full up. You must plan ahead you know. Friday night was already booked by families going home for the weekend, so we chose Saturday. Or maybe Saturday chose us. "There are seats Saturday night; what do you think?" "That's the earliest we can go? Sounds fine", I nodded my approval, "If your ready, I am." Plans were made. M booked the tickets on line. What better undertaking for a Saturday night, sleep and travel at the same time! We packed for three days, more or less. Okay, M packed and I added some stuff. My swimsuit, that I never used. This would be a fun getaway to a new area of old Italia. From friends we heard about the Baroque beauty of Lecce and finally we we're going to see it. Notte Bianca means a party night. The museums are free, the buses are free. Free concerts are scheduled all through the night and into the morning. Everything going on all night long. That is how they sold it. So Vallerio told us how he and his girl friend were going to go to the new show at the art museum at three a.m. then go to a concert that started at five a.m. M and I were quiet and skeptical. Italians come alive about ten p.m., so this Notte Bianca was right up their alley, theoretically. M and I are not italian in that respect. Home is our place on a Saturday night; read, watch tv, go to bed, and get up early. But this Saturday night we are going to stretch. About ten we left our apartment with two packed bags to catch the midnight train. It should only take a half hour to get to the train station, but we walked out early because it is Notte Bianca, and everything in old Rome it takes practice. Generally, proven ways are best. A few minutes later when we arrived at the bus stop we found many people waiting. Being experienced bus riders we immediately knew there are no free buses. There are no buses at all. The streets were empty with hardly any traffic at all. I used my cell phone and called two taxi numbers I knew. Neither are responding. This is a heavy indicator. Something is very wrong. After fifteen minutes and some panic thoughts about missing our train, we stop a lone taxi. This is a miracle. The only taxi on the street and we stop it! Vittorio Emmanuelle, usually teaming with vehicles, has one taxi drifting slowly, makes a u-turn, comes back our way and we stop it. It’s empty, and we can get in! The crowd remains at the bus stop hopeful for non existent free busses. As we pull away we do not look back. We head toward the train station with as sense of relief. Three blocks later we turn the corner and are stopped in blocked traffic. That’s it. Stopped. More pedestrians than we have ever seen with the exception of the peace rally that brought out three million people. Buses are pulled over and parked, going nowhere. We had no choice but to abandon the cab and start off on foot through the main square in Roma, Piazza Venezia. Filled with cars and motorinos (scooters) and people, all at a near stand-still. It was impassible. We weaved slowly, shouldering our bags, and puffed on to the train station for a sweaty hour. When we got there it was eleven thirty. Our train was waiting. We boarded and it left at precisely midnight. Somehow we had defeated Notte Bianca. We had our own sleeping compartment with an upper and a lower single bunk and enough room to stand up and turn around. If we went to sleep we'd awaken eight hours later in Lecce. No one told us to sleep, but we felt that was the general idea of a sleeper compartment. The train rolled out and we rolled in, and twisted and rattled in our separate bunks. The notion of sleeping on a moving train is much more romantic in literature than in actual practice. That is what it may take to do it well: practice. The train stopped several times. At one stop we finally fell asleep. At seven or so the next morning we awoke to the sound of voices in the hall. Checking, we found we were stopped in a town called San Benedetto. This wasn't Lecce yet. Something didn’t look right. We looked and sound people standing all around outside, we weren't at a station. We went out and asked around. We learned there was a power outage overnight affecting all of Italy, eighty percent of France and some of Switzerland, and one hundred per cent of our electric-powered train. We were two hours from Rome. We had had a nice overnight nap on an unmoving train. There was no announcement from the conductor, no one knew anything...everyone was on their cell phone getting the news. The train man on our car told us when- he got the news on his cell phone from his girl friend in Roma. We all waited as word spread and solutions were contemplated. We could do nothing but wait. Five hours later, we were put on buses to complete our journey south. By five that afternoon we arrived in Lecce. It had been eighteen hours since we left our apartment in Roma. I always do the time count from door to door, not only the plane or train time. Walking, waiting, riding, arriving. I count it all. Eighteen hours for a sleepy overnight ride. We were dropped off at the train station in lecce and found a hotel a block away. We got some food and went to bed in a nice room with a large terazza facing east and overlooked the train tracks. The next day we went down to the lobby, a dark wood, old fashion, clean lobby that looked elegant, something from a century past. A beautiful, multicolored ceramic floor with fine design, old lamps and green globes. After the typical hotel breakfast of coffee, a cornetto and fruit we went to the desk, turned in our key and talked to a most congenial man. Old and thin, a white mustache and a vest. "We're Americans, but we live in Rome. We walked over from the train station...got stuck in that power outage, so it took a while to get here." "Glad you made it, glad to have you." He start ed to turn, then came back and snapped his fingers, "Say, before I forget, was your room all right ... I mean, was it comfortable for you?" "Oh, yes, very comfortable, quiet ... beautiful view we had with the full moon," I said. "It was a beautiful evening, it truly was." M said. We talked a while and when he asked what we were going to do today we told him we wanted to get downtown, see Lecce and look around the city. That's when we asked about the buses. He held both palms up in the air and said if we were interested we could rent a car. We hadn't planned on it. We had licenses but were undecided...and he told us had a friend who'd rent us a car. We listened and hemmed and hawed, then said okay, call him. He made a call then his friend came by a half hour later driving a clean but older car. We talked with the friends, Roberto, and got along well. We rented from him, unofficially, his ten year old Fiat 500. We gave the friend forty dollars cash for the car, no identification or insurance required, all was included. The man who owned the car wrote a note saying we had permission to use the car. We had insurance from our agent in the States that would cover us, so we took off in peace. It was an odd arrangement, but this was Italy. The Fiat had local plates, not the kind the authorities generally stop to check. We told Roberto we'd be back that night, and told the hotel man we'd stay for another night at the hotel. shook hands all around then drove off happy, with a map. We drove downtown to discover a beautiful old town where we had lunch under the arches in the center of town. Then we started on a drive that took us around the entire peninsula, saw some spectacular coastline views. It was a great drive. That afternoon there was a heavy downpour, we later learned, had not been experienced in that part in Italy fotr seven centuries. Nonetheless, After stopping for the initial torrential rain we continued driving the coast, through intermittent rain and sunshine. We circled the perimeter of the southern peninsula of Puglia. It was stunning. The drive along the rocky Southeastern coastline that skirted the shore was truly enchanting. After returning to the capitol city Lecce, seeing some sights and wrapping up with a romantic dinner that evening we returned to our hotel by the rail road tracks near the station, and had the car back by bedtime. Our journey was a success. The following day we thanked the man for the good arrangement. He wished us well, and we returned to the station where we caught the un-romantic, but practical seven hour day train back to Rome. We made it smoothly home. That night at home M made pasta and we talked about our good luck and the kind people we met in Lecce. A months or so later the newspaper informed us that thirty thousand people that were stranded on a train during the great blackout of Notte Bianca. *** hot one day, cool the next; autumn came on like flipping a switch. At Campo dei Fiori I ran into my friend Marco near the fountain. He’d recently finished lunch and wandered over patting his stomach. We commented on the brisk wind this afternoon. He rubbed his stomach again and suppressed a burp. I said, ”So you ate lunch already. What did you have? “some bread and a piece of meat and some rice.” “Any vegetables?” He must have had some veggies. “allowan.” He looked content. I understood all of his Italian but was stumped on the vegetable. “Allowan? I think I've heard of it, but can’t think of what we call it in English...it sounds familiar." “Allowan,” he insisted, shaking his head for emphasis...surely everyone knows. “Can you describe it?” I asked. “It large and hard, yellow ... orange.” "A big ball?" He nodded. “Pumpkin?” “Yes,” he said, “Allowan.” He was calling it Halloween. I advised, “Call it a pumpkin.” *** Yesterday in front of the Castle San Angelo, at the Bridge of Angels I leaned over to look down and see the water’s edge. I wanted to know how it had changed, if at all. A few hours earlier on Via Cappellari I stopped by Marina's shop where old Nico showed us a sharp, ten by seventeen inch, black and white photo taken from the bridge showing this side with a view of the short beach. Part of the bridge castle San Angelo are in the background. The river Tevere is shown as well as the narrow strip of sand. The date 1930 is hand written in old style script on the photo. The pictur showed a line of ten or so pals, posing happily during a break in their reverie. Third from the left in the front row is the young sport Nico, age seventeen. He had a career as a dancer. I have his old Paris publicity photo of him holding his dance partner/wife over his head with one hand, arm fully stretched. Now, nearly a hundred, he remains bright. His wit apparent from the thoughts he speaks and his recitations of poetry, always physical poise. I attribute his energy to his wit. He knows better than to be a drain. He is alive, nearly blind, always amazing. On any particular day he’ll be facing the other way talking to Marina when I walk into her shop. I’ll come up behind him and say suddenly in a disguised voice, something unexpected: “Ce vino qui?” (is there wine here?). Nico will stop cold, hop around and say laughing, “Jack!” He has the energy of a high school freshman. What joy. While I’ve had many old friends, Nico stands alone. A man who exudes life, joy and kindness. I’ve never known another like him. His grandparents bought the apartment on Via Cappellari in the 1830s. Imagine Campo Dei Fiori back then. His mother was born on Cappellari, he was born there, it's been home all his life. He is slight, bright, in motion, exuding energy and always joyous. Though his vision has dulled...sees shadow outlines he says...doesn’t show sign of being sightless. Walks everywhere with a stick, and quickly. More over, he talks to many friends, confides in them. Some tire of Nico coming because he'll catch you and talk without pause. The shop keepers he chooses to visit are trapped with him for often a half hour or two. The shop keepers go on with their work and I’ll walk by seeing Nico sitting on a chair, arms in the air, talking freely. He’s not dull, not stupid, and quite animated; he lectures quite a while, whatever his topic of the day. I especially enjoyed when he recited the satirical poetry, sonnets of Giuseppe Belli in the Roman dialect from a century past. All his life he was a performer. Nico is five and a half feet tall. In his old photos he is lean and muscular. We met when he was 80 and still bobbed around. Talkative, sincere, poetic and loving. Always a laugh and a happy retort from Nico. Born here, at home on this street for 100 years. His family roots on this cold stone street go back a century and a half, before the unification of Italy, before the great wars of the twentieth century. The street remains as it was. Nico, with his dark, felt sailors cap and brim, and full head of silvery hair and a bushy, unkempt beard. It’s good he doesn’t smoke, because when he grabs your shoulder and talks into your face you can’t get away. His breath is your breath. And his breath is as sweet as he is. *** Hopped on the 116, the small electric bus, for a trip to my bank. Always swift and quiet. six or eight people aboard, five or six empty seats and standing room on the large size van. The fellow seated next to me held a violin case to his chest. I looked a moment before I started talking to him. Antonio Salvatore, first violinist for Ennio Moricone, yesterday got back from Japan, now their headed to New York. We were both happy chatters. Meeting and talking to him was another surprise pleasure of living in Rome. When I got to the bank i found no line this morning. I put my identity card down and withdrew enough for a short trip out of Rome a few days. Trevi fountain is two minutes away, I backtracked again to walk over to enjoy the site again. Not overly crowded today. A few minutes there is a joy of Rome. Back near home I stopped at Pietro's bar and had a coffee with Claude who was seated at an outside table. I told him about meeting the violinist. Claude repairs violins. His shop is around the corner. "What was his name, do you remember?" He brushed his hair back and leaned closer. "Yes I do, Antonio Salvatore." "Yes, Antonio. I know him well. Morricone has three first violinists." Claude calmly named them, Antonio is the only one I remember. Claude looks after their instruments. After a few minutes we both had to get going. I went home, he had to go to work. At the post office, the first hundred times the postal workers were mean. I thought it was me, the obvious foreigner. Maybe I aggravated them. For sure I was not welcomed. They could see I wasn’t Italian. That was my first mistake. The second hundred times I put it together. It wasn’t only me, it was everybody. All the clients were a bother and should be somewhere else. That post office was for people who worked there and not people who happened by and expected something relating to service. Growing up in America I heard the customer is always right; it was a good tradition, I don’t know if that still applies. In Rome the customers off-set the natural rhythm and should not bother making an appearance. My tough economic experience began years ago when I had my first apartment contract and was responsible for my electric bill. I took a bus to ACEA, the electric company. There were eighty customers there, all of them angry. I thought a fight was going to break out. I waited the trouble out, paid my bill and got out. Talking with friends, telling them my experience, I learned I could pay directly through my bank. My bank fixed me up. I have never returned to pay at the electric company. I thought mistreatment was reserved for foreigners, those renewing their permit to remain in the country. This is not true. Mistreatment is for everyone. Now I take whatever mail I receive at home, no matter who it is addressed to, and I tell my friends in the States not to write me, send an email. Some months later we found another post office a few blocks away, near the Pantheon. The workers there are always congenial and the customers are happier. This is our new post office. on th way home we stopped for coffee at Angelo's *** Spanning centuries are the narrow, weather-worn, dirt darkened, stone walls of Via Dei Cappellari, where half way down an unadorned stone arch gracefully extends from one side to the other. There is a window on each side of the arch. I knew my friend Mirell, now a retired market worker, was born on Via dei Cappellarri. I asked where she lived. She pointed to the arch and said, "There. That was my window." "You lived in the arch?" "I was born there." She smiled, "that was my window." A short lady with two small, white dogs has lived there since I've been here. Below the arch, easily seen from street level is a posted sign on one side, written in Latin, inscribed in stone, sometime around 1700, it reads in part: Under penalty of the law do not throw trash here. By that sign, under the arch on teh alley to Via Dei Pelligrino is where everyone always has thrown their trash, and always will. It must be a sense innate to all of us where that place is, and what it is good for. Also under the arch on the other side the poet Metephisto was born in the seventeen hundreds. There's a plaque on the door, While his statue is prominent in the piazza in front of Chiesa Nuova. *** Often over the winter holidays there are free concerts given at various locations throughout the city. One evening a short walk away at Piazza Minerva, behind the Pantheon, Andrea Morricone performed his music in a Christmas concert at the church there with the Rome Sinfonietta Orchestra, featured were a fine soprano and tenor. A good crowd turned out for the performance. Working his way to good position in the front we saw one person we knew, our friend Mark Kostobi. *** My agent sent me on an audition for a TV show about angels. They auditioned different angels for each weekly episode. It's always fun to get called to do something different. This one reminded me that years before I did a video in San Francisco where two of us were people from the future. This characterization meant the same to me; future people and angels seemed the same faraway type persona. The idea at an audition is to figure out how that person from the future would act. Then do it so convincingly those evaluating the audition will say, “Wait a minute, how’d that person from the future get in here?” Here, auditioning for the part of an angel, I thought this time the white guy from the states had an advantage over the Italian guy who could be your cousin. It was either that, or my sensitive acting was so angle-like that it got me the role. Actually, I think they wanted a white-guy angel. I didn’t have any lines to learn. I smiled angel-like, kept my mouth shut and did the required action. In one scene I lifted the front of a car. I forget why this angel had to do that, but I had some special effects to help me, an off camera car-jack. It was a cold, dry night. During the shoot they sprayed a lot of water to simulate rain. The temperatures dropped below freezing there in the mountains. I heard later there were a few car wrecks because passing drivers didn't expect ice on the road on a dry night. *** One Sunday we went to an exhibit at the Venezia to see a collection dedicated to Sophia Loren; filled with memorabilia from her life, featuring movies and co-stars and directors she had worked with. I was standing looking at a large photo of Sophia near the entrance and to an older woman near me and I said, “She certainly has had a fine career.” The woman stepped back and grabbed her throat and said, “I’m sorry. I don’t speak anything but Italian.” “You understand me. I am speaking Italian,” I told her. What she saw was my face, and she heard my accent and concluded, this stranero couldn't possibly be speaking Italian. Honest – my Italian is not that bad. I have traveled up and down Italy and don’t even have to repeat myself. Everybody understands me, but older Roman’s are different. They have an attitude. The Roman attitude. Then again, maybe we all get what we expect. *** Light wind, drifting thin clouds and sunshine, light jacket weather. Sundays became our regular day for lunch out. Chinese food at the restaurant in Borgo Pio was our habit for a few years. We went at noon before the regular crowds began. The staff there became our friends. We learned to say chopsticks in Manderin. We ate at the Butteri for pizza and Italian food for a while. Then a few years later, instead of a bus ride, we walked across Ponte Sisto for lunch with Maria Saleo to a Chinese restaurant off the Piazza at Santa Maria in Trastevere. The owner, as at Borgo Pio, was also a Maria; Our new proprietor's real name is Chinese and she said it was not translatable into Italian, she chose to be Maria. So at lunch on Sundays for several years it was a weekly gathering of the three Marias. *** my fortune cookie said well, it didn’t say it read, that is to say, i read. should i start over? that’s not what i in the cookie read, but it seems a good idea, starting over. if we have a choice, if we’re not rich enough, healthy enough, or have loved enough, food to eat, place to sleep. let’s work on it. make our own cookie fortune. print it by hand, send it to ourselves with insufficient postage, then act surprised when the postman returns it to our door, i mean, to my door. it’s not our door cause we don’t live together. well, we may, but not you and i together. you may live with someone, that is possible, but, if you’re not M. you and i don’t live together. but then, i am me, you are busy being you. now give me my fortune cookie. you have to make life as best you can. make it up. make it out. and i know you will because we all are doing the best we can. i don't have to read that bit of truth in a fortune cookie.  *** 21 I searched online for the Hertz near the Vatican, that's the one I wanted, it's a quick bus rde away, and I called them. I caught them at a good time, the guy I talked to seemed to be having a slow day and and was ready to chat, easy to work with. I rented a car for a few days out of Rome, we'd pick it up the following morning. Five minutes later I called back and said we'd pick up the car on Wednesday instead of Tuesday. When we got there Wednesday they had a gasoline powered panda. I had asked for a more powerful diesel Micra, but they said I had rented the Micra for Tuesday and then called back and changed the rental day to Wednesday. I did that. He said when I called back I neglected to tell him I still wanted the Micra. I think I did tell him, but what's the difference? Was I going to change my mind in five minutes? But it was the small Panda they had for us. We had a couple of other choices, a Punto or an Ipsolon. We took the Panda which is better on the road than the Punto. I'm not a car guy so they're all new to me. The Ipsolon was an unknown and we didn’t want to take a surprise for a week – preferring to go with a known quantity. We took what he had available. With that settled I pushed my license forward on the office counter...the fellow studied it carefully, noticed it expired two months before, tapped a finger on the date and looked me in the eye. "Expired," he said. "My license?" I pulled it back and yes, it has expired a week ago. So what's good about birthdays anyway? M the Prepared had watched the proceedings, stepped up, put her license on the counter and we were on our way. From Rome M took us North on the A-1 and drove three or four hours North through Gubbio, a city on the outside and a small historical center on the inside. We had coffee at a local bar still talking about the car mix-up. "Eighty cents," the barman said. It’s seventy cents s cup in Rome, but I didn't groan. Everywhere people were trying to make a dime. Usually prices are lower outside Rome. Before they changed from the Lira to the euro it was sixty cents for a coffee. We've had the Euro a month. The Euro was worth twice the price and many changed their signs from Lira to euro and kept numbers the same. That meant many prices doubled overnight. It took a few months to straighten out. You should have seen the calculators working. Other costs, like rents, were multiplied out to the penny when they went from the Lira to the Euro, so that rounded off numbers disappeared. Monthly rents, for instance, became twelve hundred twenty three Euro and twenty-six cents. They'd get used to the Euro and it'd all settle down again. One of the things about Italy with the Lira was the fact that items were sold for a dollar or two dollars. Taxes were included in the rounded off prices. Pennies weren’t often used. The Euro brought the use of coins to the extreme and the doubling of prices. After a few months on the euro prices began to drop. calculations began to round off again. From Gubbio we went to Calglie, then East to Pergola and then down the coast to an eleventh century city where we'd been a few times with Sandro and Pietra, our friends from Piza. We were in Calglie an eleventh century town in the wooded hills of the Marche, where the streets and walks were cobblestone, laid better than Rome’s, without holes and drastic changes in elevation. *** Every time I’d been to Santo Spritu hospital the waiting area for the emergency room was filled with new arrivals and returnees: patients with arms and legs in wraps and casts. People fall all the time. Rome has alleys and walkways with missing and irregular cobblestones. Last year I tripped and fell three times. The third time I broke my wrist. A week later Meri fell and broke her ankle. If this were the U.S. I think there’d be articles in the news about the many injuries from persons falling on the irregular walking surfaces. In Rome the injuries are absorbed, unreported. It is the Italian way – to continue without comment, without affecting change. Acceptance seems to be the most common national trait I have been able to identify in Italy. They don’t bitch or complain. Bureaucracy can be stagnant and ridiculous, cops of no help, bums and beggars rampant. There are pay offs, shop workers incompetent, everything is a pain in the ass and difficult, organization is practically non-existent, and still they go on with a shrug of the shoulders, but the pasta is good. I heard a story that in heaven the Italians handle the food, the Germans do the organization and the British are the police. In Hell, the German’s are the police, the Brits prepare the food, and the organization is done by the Italians. *** We bounced around for several hours. M is a road warrior on the hills and dips. I kept my eyes on the map. Street signs are a laugh, or a cry in agony...either way. I had to find them and figure what they meant. It is not uncommon to come upon a sign saying the town you are seeking is to the right, fifty feet later a sign says to the left, followed by another sign indicating either direction. Perhaps they’re all true. That's why all roads lead to Rome, coming or going. If the sign is on the right and there are three choices it means continue straight. Vertical markers are not made. What the sign is telling you is that the road to the left of the sign is the one you should take straight ahead. If this makes sense maybe you’re Italian. *** when cell phones were new Took a bus and used my time to get to a computer and electronics store farther away from our part of town. The store was large and there were only a few other customers. After a brief wait a young salesman in a sports coat and tie ran up to me and had begun to answer my first question. His cell phone rang, he stopped cold, held up his hand to indicate I should wait while he answered the call. I expected he would say into the phone that he was with a customer and would be able to talk later. I took a breath and looked around at what I could see of the store. I glanced back to the sales person and saw he kept his discussion going with the person on the phone. I could tell by his responses that it wasn’t his boss he was speaking with. He was answering questions similar to what I would ask. As his phone talk went on I was wondering what happened to the work ethic that a customer should be serviced. Here I was standing in front of him waiting to talk to him. Do I have to go back home and call on the phone to speak with a salesman? Five minutes later he was still on the phone and I left. *** World known artist Cy Thombly, a regular looking old guy, lived around the corner on Montorro and Monsoratto. We'd pass and nod as neighbors do. Somebody told me who he was. I checked him on the internet. His modern art was beyond my understanding and appreciation, but sure was worth millions. It was done to perfection. For a good time I prefer Giancarlino’s joyous work, wacky and fun. Arts like a ballgame. hit, miss, base on balls. knock one out of the park. You can do any or non of these. It's all a part of the ball game. *** We’re crossing the major street Victorrio Manuale heade to the laundromat by Santa Maria Vallicella an eleventh Century church commonly called Chiesa Nouva, which means New Church. Crossing that artery it is either blank empty or it is a crazy mess ... a zoo on fire - with occasional sirens. M found the laundry a couple of weeks ago. I found the restaurant next door. She usually did the laundry at home, but in the cold weather it doesn’t dry hanging out the window, and indoors there's no room. We met Bill an American who has lived here forty years. He lives near us and usually does his wash at this new place in good w3eather. He's a chef, well read and a talker. We all got along and were happy to meet him. We have a washer at home. In the good weather we can hang the clothes outside our apartment windows on a line that goes from window to window. I put that up. I had to make our apartment because in Rome unfurnished means you rent a box with walls, or find one where it is already done. When we got the apartment from Bru left us with a bachelor pad. M and I added what we needed. That wash day we were at home getting prepared to go. “Are you ready” M called. "Didn't I just ask you?" I looked up from my book,“I’ve been ready.” She surprised me but I was quick to respond, then quickly put a marker in my book and set it down. “You were reading,” she snapped. “I was waiting for you to give he word...look.” I stood up, picked up my coat from the couch and began to drag the bag down the three flights of stairs...the laundry bag I am referring to. It’s on a cart with wheels on it. She was right behind me. We went down our street, crossed Corso Vittorio by the statue of Metifisto, the seventeenth century poet that lived a few doors over from our apartment on Cappallari, by the arch. Crossing the street was okay. Not bad coming or going. Lucca was at the laundry, he saw us coming. Stood straight to great cusstomers. When we walked by him he was singing a portion of an aria; he only knows a few of the popular phrases. His voice is good, but totally untrained. A portion of something inside him swells when others hear him sing. Many Italians will sing out loud in public when walking down the street. Not many, but you hear one a day. M loaded the wash in the machine and right away Lucca jumped uo to say he’d put it in the dryer, we headed next door lunch. At the next door restaurant soup of the day was the special chalked on a sign. The well-dressed man with white shirt and jacket man pushed vegetable soup and we ordered it. I think he is the owner, or at least the manager. “Wine with your lunch?” We shook our heads no. Some places have well-priced good table wine, this guy’s wine was not that good, and overly priced; besides, when I drink at lunch I get sleepy. M had a salad with tuna in it, I had pasta. It was a good change of pace combining housework and lunch. Back at the laundry a young American was there. Through the glass I could see Lucca outside taking to someone. “I can’t find the...“ He frantically searched for the coin slot on the machine. I pointed it out. “How long have you been here?” I asked. The messy-haired lad of about twenty. Thin and excitable,disheveled. Seemed desperate to do his wash. He was wrinkled head to foot. Trashed I guess you'd say. “A week. My stuff is trashed that’s why I’m doing laundry.” "Works with me," I shook my head...no it was more like a shutter.Unattended youth travels Europe. I helped M fold our clothes. *** To say a certain restaurant has the best pizza in Rome is rumor and publicity not reality. there is a lot of pizza in Rome. take a chance. *** I went to the Vineria, a prime spot for coffee in the center of Campo Dei Fiori, with my writer friend, Robert Barnes, a modern day swash-buckling Englishman with an Italian mother living in Naples. Robert and I usually make appointment for coffee a couple of days in advance, he's busy. Robert's been forty years in Rome. He, his wife and children live around the corner on Via Monsoratto. I was going to call him burley, but swash-buckling is better. Put him in costume and he'd be Captain over the knaves, and rescuer of the princesses. He already has the curly, silver beard. Robert is a writer and translator. He saw me coming, stood and motioned to the empty chair. We shook hands, greeted each other. As soon as I sat the smiling girl came by. I ordered same as Robert, a cappuccino and cornetto. He asked for a second cappuccino. We were seated under the bright beige awning on the sunny side of the street. A picture place to relax. Robert got right to it, “How long was your electricity out last night?” He surprised me with that. “Ours flickered once or twice but stayed on. I saw the other side of the street was dark all night...the other side ... what, twelve feet away? Ours stayed on, at least until I went to bed.” “Ours was out all night,” Robert grimaced and shook his head. “There seem to be frequent short outages, but we only lose it all night a couple times a year.” “Yeah, us to. Last night was our night. It was out all night for us,” Robert said, and then shrugged as he added brown sugar to his cappuccino. “It is a small inconvenience. That’s about the worst that happens around here.” “Yeah, well you missed M's international film debut. It was on TV last night.” “No kidding. What was it?” he said. “It was nothing. There are a couple of American twin girls, Mary Kay and Ashley, have a TV show, were here doing a movie a few months ago, they were shooting on our street. At one point the girls were walking by our place on Via Cappellari, and the camera was set for a long shot from the opposite corner. Meri happened to look out the window at that time. Well, she didn't happen, she looked out and saw the camera, knew what she was doing, when the director called action she casually stuck her head out kind of looked around. She made the final cut. "We rented the movie and fast forded to the part where they were walking down our street and for a couple of seconds there is a long shot and you see our window open and M sticks her head out and takes a slow look to examine below. It was great.” “Marvelous. She’s going to have to make a portfolio reel now,” he laughed at his joke as his cell phone rang. He looked at it, made a face, then held up his hand for me to wait. I sipped my coffee. All a round us the market was going full swing. Every few minutes someone would come by that Robert knew, or I knew. We’d wave and say ciao. Robert was still talking on his cell phone and not sounding pleased about whatever he was talking about. We have to consider everything that happens as a learning experience or there would be no reason for our suffering and our stupidity. There is the right way to operate, and there is the accepted Roman way. Kids riding bikes through. Robert finished his call, we finished our capucinni, said our goodbyes and went our separate ways. We'll coffee again another day. I went over and said hi to my market friends Andrea and Marcella. *** Sunday morning nine forty-five and the church bells ring on. It means something. I never knew what. Some festival or holiday that begun long ago and is continued by the church. Only a fraction of the Romans even hear the bells or know their significance. There are always bells in Rome. When we lived opposite the Cancelleria the bells would sound at seven-forty five for five minutes or more. It was every night, or so it seemed. I asked Roberto, my professor landlord, what it meant. I asked several times over the years. He told me several times what the ringing of the bells at that odd time meant. Now I don’t remember. When he told me it lasted in my mind about as long as the ringing did. It is the same as the other Romans. Some one explains that ringing of the bells, they remember a while and then forget. Overall there are so many bells ringing at so many times most don’t notice and fewer think about it. This is the modern era of wristwatches and cell phones. There is no need to listen to the bells for the time of day. *** Belle Arte Because I paint all the time, and the canvases pile up, I wanted to send some paintings back to the states. I called air freight. “Do I wrap them and you pick them up, or what?” I was figuring how much paper I needed to wrap them. "Are they works of art?" I told him sure they are and he said I had to go to Bella Arte and have them guarantee that my paintings were what I said they were, that they were mine and then I could send them out of the country. Italy is a country full of art so I understood, but did he understand? “But these are my paintings I want to send, I painted them.” ”Doesn’t matter, customs has to see a stamp from Belle Arte or the art can’t be taken out of the country.” He was polite but firm. There was no doubt. This is Italy, art is important and I was powerless. Maybe he didn't understand me. “These are my paintings, I painted them ... they’re new,the paint is dry, but thy're nothing special.” ”Doesn’t matter, customs has to see a stamp from Belle Arte or the art can’t be taken out of the country.” He was polite but firm. There was no way around it. This was Italy and art is important. “If Belle Arte says it’s okay to ship them, do you know if there's a fee involved?” I asked. “A small fee,” the airline person answered. Naturally there is a small fee. I figured it would get down to money. I thanked him then called two other shippers and got the same answer. Finally, with no other way to go, I called Bella Arte. They'd look at my paintings and approve them for export if I showed up at their office with my paintings on any "Thursday morning at eight a.m. Don't be late". I found directions to Belle Arte and Thursday morning early I carried my paintings to the bus along with the paper to wrap them. Went up Via Nacionale to Piaza Republica where one of the most beautiful fountains in Rome sits in the middle of the square. About a block beyond that I found the old building where Bella Arte had it’s office. Next to the building was a public parking lot. A group of gypsy women were running the parking concession, Nothing official, but they had the concession. You pay to park your car in this public lot or you take your chances on any damage that might occur. If you didn’t have a car they'd beg from you when you pass by. Belle Arte was in one couple of hundred year old structures typical to Rome. It was probably a palace, now black from soot and car exhaust. About ten artists were gathered outside the building waiting for the massive wooden doors to be opened I inquired and everyone heard: be there at eight, come late they wouldn’t let you in. That’s what we were all told. Around quarter to nine someone opened the doors and we went in and were led to a large room on the side of the building. It had a fifty foot high ceiling. A man in charge told us to lay our art on the floor so the inspectors could see the art. They would be right with us. We all put our oil paintings and acrylics and what have you, on the floor. We each took a space with our own work on it. The art was set in place to view at a glance, then we stood around. It was a yard sale with no buyers. The same man who opened the door came back after nine and told us we had to wait until the inspectors were ready. We waited some more. The purpose of this examination was to make sure no one was trying to smuggle any Caravaggio’s or other valuable works out of the country. A few minutes before ten a group of six men in suits came into the room. We all had to have our shipping boxes with us, so when art was inspected it was immediately put in the package, wrapped, taped, sealed and stamped with a Belle Arte sticker that said the inspection was done at such a time and place. At ten o’clock the inspectors, all dressed like furniture store business men in older coats and ties, started looking at the art. Eight or nine of us had the usual pieces of art, some modern, some scenes of Rome, nothing in particular. I’ve seen enough art and artists to recognize the canvases were the same store-bought type sold everywhere. The inspectors glanced at the art as they walked by. However, there was one Italian guy who had about twenty canvases with crude, modern, amateurish art splashed on them. The canvases were about five hundred years old, I’d never seen artists using canvas that old. These paintings had been removed from frames and were stacked in piles. It was obvious that the modern splash work was covering something done hundreds of years ago. When it was time for the examination of his paintings one of the inspectors pealed rapidly through the guys stack like he was looking at carpet samples. No one said a word, but it was obvious that the canvas had something else painted under that lousy modern splashing. The inspector approved the art, had the guy roll it up, wrap it, and they stamped it with the approval seal from Belle Arte. I don’t know what kind of game they were playing, but someone got a mess of old paintings approved for shipment out of the country. Mine were also approved, no problem. *** 21 RAI, the state owned network, began filming a three part series of movies based on Manuel Vasquez Montalban‘s unconventional P.I. Pepe Cavallo with stablished Spanish actor Juanjo Puigcorbé who had appeared in over a hundred-fifty films. His beautiful assistant, the current popular Italian star Valeria Marini. For the film we auditioned for I was cast as the antagonist. My friend Bruce got the part of a congressman ... naked in bed with the current, young and bra-less brunet sarlett. He said for the audition he went into a room and they told him to take off his clothes and hop into bed with the beauty. The film was shot north near Pisa in the resort towns Viareggio and Forte dei Marmi, upscale coastal area Naturally, I had a script in Italian. It took a few weeks of hard work to get it memorized. By the time shooting started I felt ready. They took good care of us, first class accommodations and fine food. About the fifth day of filming I had my big scene with the star. The seasoned director came up to me moments before the cameras started to roll, put his hand on my shoulder and confided "You can do your part in English because it will all be dubbed anyway." We'd been shooting for a week. Why didn't he tell me this before? The dubbing group was very strong and they work on everything. I didn’t know this beforehand. The script I was given and memorized was in Italian. It is one ability to speak Italian, another to memorize in a new language. I worked long and hard to learn the lines in Italian. I never saw a script in English. The first few scenes I worked on I got out of a car, did a long walk, met a few people, said a few words and shook hands. Then there were some more scenes where I ranted a bit and moved around, then this scene at a bar, sitting and talking to the protagonist, explaining that I was completely surprised that the man I supposedly killed was floating in the harbor. During our scene the lead actor did his lines in Spanish. I never saw his script in Spanish, so I had to wait for him to quit talking, then I’d say my reply in Italian. We did the scene surprisingly well considering neither one of us knew what the other was going to say. It was real in that respect. Thank goodness our dialogue was a cat and mouse game where the detective and the bad guy were feeling each other out. The good guy didn't believe the bad guy. For this reason and the fact we were both professionals, our scenes worked. I talked to Bruce during the shooting and he told me, "The audition caught me by surprise." "You knew it was an audition." "Yeah, but I walked into the room and the first thing the director said was, 'Take off your clothes and get in bed." "What?" "Yeah, me and the girl, he said,'both of you,'" I was waiting to hear more. So we took off our clothes and hopped into bed ... her too. I'm glad I had clean underwear on." We wrpped it up. The shoot went well, the bad guy lost and the good guy won. The way it ought to be. *** laundry 1 The following week, back in Rome life returned to normal. We shopped for groceries in the morning. M looked around window shopping in the afternoon. I saw Giacomo in the Piazza or in Trastevere. I wrote and M and I both read in the evenings. Monday is our regular laundry day. We went across Vitorrio Manuale to the Laundromat by Ciesa Nuova. M packed the laundry machine, then we ate at the restaurant next door during half time - the drying cycle. The lunch thee was an occasional event for us. The waiter there led us in and we took the same seats by the window that we had the last time. “You folks care to see a menu?” M knows I order the same every time, she uses her brain and thinks about what to order, reads the menu. I look around. The restaurant is in a hundred year old building with dark wood and good furnishings. We had window seats with a view. First we ordered a bottle of water with gas, M's choice, I never have much opinion. When he came back I ordered bucatinni amatriciana, that’s fat spaghetti with a spicy, red, meat sauce. M ordered a salad and grilled vegetables. My pasta was excellent and they brought her a salad with oil already on it, which she doesn’t want to see, ever. If there is oil she wants to administer it. M was going to have mixed cooked vegetables, but they never came and after we had eaten and drank the liter of water. She canceled the vegetables. We had coffees before we left, to give the old gentleman something to add on the bill. It was good coffee. He served it in ceremony. The place, near empty, and we had a nice conversation with the waiter. I planned to write all he said because it was entertaining. He hung around chatting, but I don’t remember all he said. The food was good. Again, we got there too early, we went in at noon and should have waited until one or two if we wanted a crowd, and the cold vegetable buffet would have been out by then. We would have preferred that. He talked up his pizza when I asked about it I told him we'd be back for a pizza sometime. He said they have pizza starting at six o’clock. He spoke in an old-fashioned Roman dialect. Translating verbatim he said, “pizza at six ... then.” The pause meant they had pizza from then on. Fifty percent of his talk was pauses or hand motions, both integral to his manner of speech. It was easy to understand and sweet. I remember he was talking about the fish for lunch. I started the conversation, “How is the amatriciana, pretty good?” “Well yes it is good. They’re all excellent.” “How about fish? What do you have?” “They’re fast frozen for the lunch menu. They don’t come in fresh until latter this afternoon. We’ll have them on the dinner menu.” He named three different fish he had for lunch, Swordfish and two others I didn’t know. I never spent a lot of time studying Fish names in Italian. So we ate. She her salad had too much oil. I had the fine, spicy bucatini pasta. Meri did say something about the bread being the best bread she had ever had in Italy, and it was warm. Her comment about the bread should be worthy of long study. M and bread are old friends. She has spoken of it before. I dare say she has even proclaimed other bread the best she has tasted in Italy. We had a good meal. When we went back to the laundry M folded after we took our clothes from the dryer. I kept out of the way – cause clothes have to be folded a certain way stupid. We finished and stood on the steps outside. It was sun and seventy-two degrees, windless, bright under azure sky. The tall, carved, stone church on the other side was being refaced and had a metal scaffolding with an old tarp over it for the past year. Nothing to behold or even notice. A nice spot where we could see Via Vittorio Manuale a short way up the street. Traffic wasn’t too bad. It’s comforting to find a spot in Rome in the sunshine ... and relatively quiet. Sometimes in the middle of the afternoon we'll walk over to Chiesa Nuova to sit on the church steps, watch the people go by, read and take some sun. At times there is a reminder that we've been unplugged from media influence. AS we were enjoying the sun I overheard a tourist walking by talking to his friend and mention the super bowl is happening this weekend. The church Chiesa Nuova was being cleaned. Exhaust and air polution turns the white stone nearly black. This entire building was covered with scaffolding and canvas for a year. Lucciano at the laundry said the cost to do the stone cleaning was three hundred fifty thousand euros. He heard that on the news or saw it in the newspaper. Later that afternoon Alberto and I had coffee at Agelo's I told him about the cleaning of the church. I told him, "We should do that work and take a quarter of a million for the job." He said, "Whoever got the contract had to pay off someone else a hundred thousand or so under the table to get the job. That’s the way they do business." *** Back again at the restaurant by the laundry 2 The waiter/owner took his job easy and did it well. He'd go from our table to the register, pick an order from the food counter, go to another table, then he back standing near us. He glided around smoothly. Obviously content, oblivious to change; he enjoyed life. He'd been at the work for a long while and had seen it all. At this hour business was slow. Another fellow helped serve customers now, ahead of the rush. We had another glass of wine. The older fellow remained by our table talking easily, no hury, no pressure. Among other foods, we talked about pizza, he said to us he was proud of the way they did it. I told him that we’d have to be back for a pizza sometime. It seemed a good idea. The restaurant was a short walk from our place. I wanted to see what he does with pizza. He said quietly they have pizza starting at six o’clock. He spoke in an old-fashioned Roman dialect, so the way he said it, they "had “pizza at si x ... then ... ” then swirled his hand in the air. The gaps in his speech meant, pizza from that hour on. A translation of the words doesn't accurately tell the story. He used an old fashion manner of speech, refreshing to hear. The current generation doesn't talk that way. The world has become quicker, to the point, sharper, rushed. His talk involved pauses and hand motion, a little of both. It was sweet. Easy to understand, but different. His manner made me recall a train ride we took years ago. A young man from Napoli, still in his teens, sat opposite us, As we chatted the boy began showing off his stuff, talking fifty per cent or more of the time with hand motions. Saying this, and that, most every word described with a gesture to clarify or emphasize. He had fun doing his act for us, and we enjoyed the show. We probably talked an hour with him. Occasionally we'll run into and older adult who speaks in that manner, using hand motions. Not with a repertoire the kid demonstrated, but sufficiently. That kid from Naples used his hands to the extreme to show off, to entertain. Using motions for many of the words as he said them. Facial expressions, a touch of the cheek, of the nose, a tilt of the eye brow, a shoulder shirk, a turn of the head. A roll of the hand, touching the arm. It looked as if he had a repertoire that was endless, and seemingly these emphasis makers and gestures added meaning to the words, though unfamiliar, were not undecipherable, many were self evident. It is the color of another world, a glimpse of the time when the very air that surrounds earth was cleaner, fresher. Bearing less noise, less pollution. Can you see the kid? A slick, city boy filled with the spirit of happy times and easy ways, before the economic collapse when his life was still cutout of familiar fabric, made from his father's and his father's father's times. Generations of tradition led the way on a path formed from tradition. Evident, and without worry. The elderly restaurateur talked about fish for lunch ... we had already paid and I was filling time by starting this conversation. He had nothing calling him away. It was still pre-lunch rush, if there would be a rush today. I asked, "What to you think of the amatriciana ... is it good?” He perked up, “Well, yes it is good. They are all excellent.” “You mentioned fish, what do you have?” “They’re fast frozen for the lunch menu." He pointed at his watch. "They don’t come in fresh until latter this afternoon. We’ll have them on the dinner menu.” Then he named three different fish he had for lunch, Swordfish and two others I didn’t know from porkchops. I never heard of them. Fish names in Italian I had neglected in my studies. Some new customers came in and he went off to guide them to a table. M just dusted off her hand s of crumbs after finishing a piece of bread. "How was it ... the bread," I asked. "It was good. he best I'vw had in Italy." This comment she interjected about the bread should be worthy of study. M and bread are old friends. She has spoken of it before. I dare say she has even proclaimed other bread the best she has tasted in Italy. We paid and left waving goodbye; out one door and into the laundry to pick up our dried clothes. M folded when we took them from the dryer. I kept out of the way. Clothes are to be folded a certain way, stupid. Stupid stood on the step outside and it was sunny. Our half of the street was warm, windless sun. The church next door was on the shade side of the alley, and had scaffolding erected and a cover of canvs over it. Nothing to behold or notice, easy to ignore. She brought to clothes cart our and joined me in a nice spot of sun. It was a position where we could see Via Vittorio Manuale fifty yards up the street. Traffic wasn’t too bad. The sky was blue with rolling high thin clouds. It’s nice to find a spot in Rome where the sun shines between buildings and it’s relatively quiet. Tourists were moving from one magnificence to another. Citizens rush from lunch to work; everyone takes time to enjoy the day. Across the alley from the laundry is the side of the church – Chiesa Nuova. Seems it was cleaned last year. This large stone building has been covered with scaffolding for many months. The man who runs the laundry, Lucca, said the cost to do the stone cleaning was three hundred fifty thousand euros. I told my friend Alberto that we should do that work and profit a quarter of a million. He said whoever got the contract had to pay off someone one hundred thousand or so under the table to get the work. *** Arrotino At home with the window open we heard man yelling “Arrotino”, not moving fast down the street. I couldn't make out the word. You’d hear the same yell every now and then. This time, every five or ten minutes we’d hear a few calls. A plaintive, wailing call. His voice was reaching the tops of the buildings. Was it a kitty lost? I think I could read the tired note of desperation in the plea. A child was lost. Perhaps a sick child who could never keep attention to know where he was or where he was going as he wandered off to catch a rolling ball from going over the roof tops. Then I saw the old man with the bicycle and the grinding stone mounted on the back. He was the sharpener who went down the winding streets calling out to everyone that “Arrotino”, The sharpener was down there. Bring your tools and kitchen knives to be sharpened because now is the time. This is the place. Axes. Sissors, kitchen knives were all fair game for the man who could do the job. I didn’t have to ask him what work his father did, or his grandfather before him. More to the future is the thought that his son will not follow in his footsteps. The days of the Arrotino have all but ended. Over the years I have heard the call now and then. But I expect it less frequently. The time of the sharpener is closing. *** Seasons pass and the air changes the taste of everything about Via Cappellari. The buildings have been here hundreds of years, the street, probably a thousand or two before that. When was the last time a tree grew here? It was a field of flowers when the Roman army used the ground for training and running horses. *** the Physicist Allessandro. a friend, was an important physicist in Italy. He agreed to talk about his work with me. I began, “How many dimension are there?” He said, “We know of four. Anything beyond that is speculation. Those four known dimensions are height, width and depth, then time as the fourth. What we see everyday.” “Do many physicists believe there are eleven dimensions?” Without hesitation Alessandro locked into science and answered, “Some”. For a couple of years now I had read that physicists say there are eleven dimensions. He wiped that concept out for me in two seconds. "Scientists don’t want to be incorrect, that much I knew. Knowing my friend works at a major state owned scientific laboratory, and often travels to international conferences. “What are you currently working on?”, I asked. “Gravitation,” he replied. I could see a group of them in their lab coats studying gravity, but, “How do go about that? What do you do everyday?” “We watch a large tube of aluminum. It is about eighteen meters long, about 60 centimeters wide and weighs nearly two and a half tons,” he said. “The tube is suspended and we measure the effect of gravitation on the tube.” “Does it go up and down? Or, do you drop it? What do you do with it?” “It just hangs there. We electronically measure for any movement. Gravitational changes that come from exploding stars out there in the universe will make it move,” he said as he waved toward the heavens. “Well, where does gravity comes from?” I thought that was a reasonable question. “Earth’s gravity comes from the mass of earth itself, while the moon, on the other hand, has smaller mass, therefore less gravity.” I shook my head as if I was keeping up with the scientist. knew Jupiter was a giant and wanted to ask how much a man would weigh on that that planet but my friend was busy writing a number on a piece of paper. It began with a decimal point and three or four zeros, then several numbers. When he finished he handed it to me and read it off. I saw it was annotated with something to indicate this number was to the minus nineteenth power. I didn’t even know numbers went to the minus power. It never does that at the supermarket. My friend tapped on the paper and said that large number to the minus nineteenth power represents the effect of gravity. It was what he called a light pull. “It won’t be a source of power for spaceships in the future.” “Are we going to be able to use gravity to power something small...automobiles for instance?” He shook his head no. “The force is too light.” Evidently we are not going to power any vehicles with it. “how many physicists are at the lab where you work?” “Oh, There’s about twenty five of us,” he said. “I mean in the group that works on gravitation and watches the tube, are there four or five of you?” “No, twenty-five. We all watch the tube.” I nodded. “What about earthquakes? They move the tube don’t they?” He smiled. “Earthquakes do. We can measure them.” “How long have you been doing this, watching the tube, I mean?” “Eleven years,” he said. So there you have it. I was at a stand still, like the tube. It’s quiet work they do; and what I learned from my physicist friend was that there are no other creatures in other dimensions walking around the earth that anyone knows about, and that gravity has a very, very slight pull. But don’t jump out a window to test it, cause it still works. *** 22. There is something dead inside when I am riding on a bus. It took a long time to realize it. It took riding alone, I never noticed it with M. But one day I was going along coming home from a job and realized that something had to shut down inside me in order to survive in the city. The bus chugs on, sidewalk crowds come and go. In my seat and in my silence I realize time does not exist. Nothing happens on a bus. Time passes, slowly, sometimes quickly, but it does not exist. When I finally get off a bus someone can come by and tap me on the shoulder to whisper, “That cost you forty-two minutes of your time on earth.” That’s what someone did, and that’s all that happened on the bus ride. I didn't make a note, I wasn't reading. Nothing particular happened. When riding I see an alley and a recognition flashes in my head...I had walked there once a long time ago. For some reason I had been there. In that alley hangs a bit of memory. Suspended in the ether. Neither here nor there. But I see it. I recognize the place. The memory is there buried deep between the walking stones or smeared against the wall. There is something familiar about that alley, that street. Now I am at home in my environment, a fish swimming in water. The fish doesn’t have to see the bottom or a reef, he knows this is familiar water. that thought alone lets the fish swim without anxiousness or concern. He is home in the water. I am home on a bus...or the couch, either one...making notes. *** one weekend Out of Rome at a village street fair a man came forward offering a folded something he held in his hand and said in a clear American accent, “Do you want a little happy face to get to heaven?” He kept trying to get me to take the happy face sticker. Literal as I am I replied in surprise, and sincerity “Are you shittin' me?” *** I telephoned Giacomo. "Boun giorno, How are you doing? It's Jack." "How's life?" was his response. It's always his happy response. He does well with whatever conditions he has to deal with, and with his position as head of his family there are usually problems he has to deal with. A sickness here, a minor fiasco there. Giacomo is the sounding board and the resolver for every problem that occurs in the family. He was up and ready to get out. We made an appointment to meet for coffee in an hour or so on his side of the river. Always the decision, my side or his. When he is bicycle ready, he rides this way. We'd walk over the bridge to Trastevere today. M was ready for coffee with Giacomo but was still working in the other room when I yelled to her, "I'm taking off." "Okay,go on," I heard her muffled reply. She was quicker and would catch up with me. I went out to fine weather. Enjoying the morning in relative quiet, quiet as it gets on a Saturday morning in Rome. Few people were around at nine A.M., or if people were, I wasn’t seeing many. There is nothing better than a tranquil morning on ancient streets when there is time see an appreciate the sights, and hear more birds than motorinos. The vines over the arch behind Piazza Farnese were growing back already. They grow in separate fingers reaching twenty or thirty feet or more. The arch is high above the street. When the vines grow low enough to touch the roofs of vehicles on Via Julia they're whacked-back again. If it were a neat trim they would do it every year, and they don't. Instead they wait until the weight, several years worth, requires something be done now, immediately, before the centuries old, decorative arch crumbles from the weight and the wait, or the pedestrians or vehicles start getting tangled in them. I had to cross to get to Ponte Sisto. At the point I needed to cross Lungotevere I looked ovef and saw enough cars jamming the street. the traffic jolted my ambling self-assured cadence. A lot of cars were there. They kept coming at high speed. But this is our neighborhood. We knew the stoplight by the bridge would give a break. The one I waited for. Traffic runs fast as soon as the light changes. After the rush there is a blank space with nothing. It always goes like that. Before the pause in the flow of traffic a parked car tried to back out in the middle of on coming speeders. It didn’t wait. It didn’t look, it started backing out from a parking place into oncoming traffic. Three lanes of traffic came to a halt. They were dead stopped. Taking advantage of the interruption in the flow I started across. Half way to the other side a fast moving motorcycle, impeded by the traffic blockage suddenly blasted through the stopped wall of cars, weaving, He slammed on his brakes and yelled when he came to the man backing out the car into the middle of the street. The cycle wobbled between cars and was looking back to yell insults at the driver responsible for the jam up. He should have been looking ahead, but was looking back to yell at the car in his way when I crossed right in front of him, then then saw me crossing. He looked, saw me, swerved again, never slowed, zigzagged, leaned heavily to keep from falling...whizzed by me. I crossed, we both made it, another collision avoided. And that is Rome’s way – a lot of luck and full speed ahead. Across the street I carefully strolled along above the river on the broken sidewalk toward Ponte Sisto. For years we've seen tree roots destroying the walk along Lungo Tevere. They prune the trees every few years, but never repair the sidewalk. Ahead M waited mid span on the bridge. I also saw the long beard gypsy beggar that I never give money too, and. farther along the bridge, the Japanese accordion player, Hibi, that I do. Those two hadn't seen me yet, but M did. Another few minutes and I stepped on Ponte Sisto. “I saw you coming, but didn’t wait,” she called before I got there. She wore a nice looking sweater and, Fluffy and Muffy, her favorite shoes. If she wants to name her shoes, I'm all for it. “That’s fine.” I shuffled toward her. “How'd you get here so fast?" She was leaning comfortably against the wall on the bridge as I trudged up to her. “I walked. I saw you coming and couldn’t believe how slow you were.” Sincerity is the mother of getting tossed off a bridge. She shook her head in reprimand. I didn’t reply. No need to defend myself for enjoying the day. I kept going until I caught up with her. She took my hand, gave me a hug and we continued our way across. From the high point of this bridge you see the hill of the Gianicola where they shoot the noon cannon, and beyond above the trees the dome of St. Peters shone, reflecting golden sun. When they shoot that noon cannon you have to look fast to see a puff of smoke. It's a half mile away, not easy to spot. I checked the time, only ten-thirty now. It was going to be a beautiful, warm April day. When we reached the high point on the arch of the bridge, she stopped, leaned over and pointed down at the river, “See that boat down there?” I came closer until I saw it and nodded. “They’re cleaning the river,” she said. “Is that what they're doing?" I looked some more and thought of it, then pointed. "Why aren't they working on the sides where the junk sticks? There’s nothing floating in the middle.” “See the guy with the long pole with a net on the end?” she said. I looked to see who she meant and nodded. “Yeah, he has a nice sun hat ... But how come they’re not on the sides where the trash gets caught? The current snags the garbage in the rocks and trees on the side not in the moving water in the center of the river." “He’s smoking and holding his net,” she said. "It's three civil employees at work, one driving, two watching." “It's a sunny day...Look at the side." I pointed. "That’s where all the stuff gets caught.” “Right. They enjoy a pleasant boat ride on a blue sky day, and they’re supposed to be picking up trash.” This was another in the series of Roman imponderables. "The bottom line is that the guys in the boat have a secure job and get paid for a social time with friends on a river cruise in the sunshine." Half way down the other side of the bridge we talked with Hibi, the small Japanese accordionist who always works the bridge on Sundays. I dropped an euro in his case as I have been doing for years. There are many out that want money from passers and he a least gives something in return. He stopped playing and got ready to talk to us. "How is it going, Hibi?" "Fine, it is a good day. How are you?" "Oh, good...We're fine. Always good to see you." I said, "Say, this is your new accordian...right?" "Yes, it is. I am still breaking it in." The wood was blonde, the buttons black and red. "It looks great. Is it what you expected?" "Oh, it is very good...it will take a month or so to break it in. I got it last week." "You have to break it in?" M asked. "Yes, it will take a month or so, but it is working well." "It looks very nice," M told him. I nodded. We've been passing him on Ponte Sisto on Sundays for several years. Around Christmas time he has taken pictures of the three of us and has given us nice framed copies. He had his new accordian that he ordered from an instrument maker in Rome. He said the maker was was one the best in the world. He was happy, so we were too. We said a few words about the weather and how the day was going. He was always happy to see us, his regular supporters. He went to Japan last year to see his mother, we missed his presence on he bridge. After a few minutes talk that was a break for him, we said goodbye and headed on our way. He started playing Dancing Queen by Abba,a song that we asked for him to play one time, and he always gives us as a send off with that tune. Farther along we turned and waved a final good bye to Hibi as we slowly walked on our way. We crossed to Piazza Trilussa on the Trastevere side. Even there it was quiet this morning. "LooK," she pointed. "They painted over that stencil on the corner that looked as if done by Banksy...that artist that travels the world doing designs." "Other places will cut out the bricks where he paints...to save them. They're worth millions." "They painted over this one," she said. "Maybe it wasn't done by Banksy." "Or maybe they didn't know about him." We shook our shoulders. That's how they do it here. It looked good when we saw it. We both noticed the trash on the steps of the monument at Trilusa where Romans and tourists linger during the evening and dumped their papers. Coffee cups, newspapers, whatever. I understand how they accumulate paper, everything sold is wrapped in paper when you buy it, and the paper is discarded, often on the street. Some cities have citizens more conscientious about discards, not Rome. I've seen it so many times, a guy well-dressed in a business suit walking, eating something, tearing off the wrapping and toss it over his shoulder on the ground. Use it up, toss it on the ground without regard, that is the Roman way. They figure they are keeping the street cleaners in business. The piazza Trilusa served as a stopping point for many people. A good position to take a break, directly across from Ponte Sisto, on the way to and from Trastevere. In warm weather there are all people sitting on the steps to the fountain. From Trilusa we took the diagonal side street that cuts directly to the heart of Trastevere, past bread shops, pastry places, book stores, unmarked entrance ways. We got to the large Piazza of Santa Maria, then walked around the corner to the Coffee bar Machaela, a local's bar. Tourists are less prone to go there, they see it's more run down, less fashionable, older. The customers are Italian. A few years ago, the first time Giacomo said we'd meet there I asked if he was talking about the butcher shop by the market where he lived. Macalaio means butcher. It must have happened a couple of times after that also, and no, he said it’s the coffee bar down the street. Now I know which bar he means. That day I was looking at the name on the front of the bar. Yes, it said Calistro. Nothing about Machalia. Giacomo was already seated there with a coffee and his newspaper. He waved when he looked up and saw us approaching. “What do you call this place Machilia?” I said. “It’s the name of the man who owns the place. Machaela, a short guy with a mustache. You've seen him.” Giacomo said. “I don’t know. I’ll have to see him again, and have someone point him out to see if I recognize him. But every time I think your telling me to meet you at the butcher shop." I said. “You know him,” Giacomo said. "Geeze, Giacomo." Giacomo and Meri and I sat and had coffee. When we got talking the discussion was the usual, about finding a house, buying a car. James was there standing nearby, being quiet as usual. A few minutes later he was standing off to the side talking to someone, and the two of them got in an argument. No one at our table paid any attention. Giacomo's other son Alex was home asleep. I was hoping he'd be here. Giacomo said Alex and his band would be in England in June. Alex is always out there playing somewhere. We stayed at the bar about an hour. A friend, Costansa joined us. Then another, a guy whose name I missed in the mix. He worked with Giacomo when Giacomo sold houses for the Commune of Roma. One by one the group drifted away to get on with the day. It's always great to get together with Giacomo. When we left we stopped at the cheese store on San Francisco Ripa and picked up some Gorganzola, then had a leisurely walk back. Michaela wasn't at the bar that day so Giacomo couldn't point him out. *** The bad mime of Campo Dei Fiori has no talent. His lack of ability at his chosen endeavor is overwhelming. You can tell as I begin this tale that it won’t go well for him, but let me get on with it. Along with a lack of talent is a lack of staging and presentation, other than that, the rest boils down to poor timing. On the good side he does have an expensive portable sound system. That was the good. His costume is black clothing with boots, cape and tights, complete with a lot of poorly applied white face makeup. His music is space age nondescript, new age nothing, that's his act, goes nowhere. Too bad we can’t read his mind, because that's where his entire act is. He sets up his music speakers in the middle of the Campo so as to be seen from anywhere. His music begins and prancing to the middle of the area he has claimed, he folds into a crouch with his head down...and should stay there. Instead, after several, and I do mean several minutes of the nondescript music, he begins to slowly unfold and move upward. Reaching and stretching. Eventually he is on his feet just when you think he'd never get there, and the act is about over. Whatever happens during his brief program takes place primarily in private thoughts...his, yours, and the occasional bird flying by. Most birds are asleep now, where he ought to be. There is more slow stretching and looking, then it's over...he bows...slowly and deeply, as if service to his majesty and the royal family has ended. There is disabled clap; I'm not sure if there is more than one. Yesterday I passed through Campo Dei Fiori at the start of the dark mime's act. This time he had a ring of nearly a hundred tourists around him. I had not seen him for a year and thought at last he had learned; perhaps from watching the finger-dancing man of Piazza Navona, how to do an act. Once I’d seen this mime over there watching him. The finger-dancing man has been doing his act for two decades that I know of. Finger man begins when he walks to a central spot in the large, open piazza. He is smartly dressed as a large-city, night club performer. On a tiny,portable music system he puts on familiar, romantic music such as a lush, instrumental version of New York, New York. The music has snap and zing at the right parts. For Five or ten minutes he sets up a small table, adds a few tiny props for his act, carefully and deliberately placing each as on his small table. The crowd gathers. He pays no attention to them. The music continues. I have regularly seen hundreds of tourist form a large circle around him, fifty feet our from the table, during this preparation part of his act. Finally he dons white gloves with care and a flourish. Then in several large swoops a small puppet has appeared on each gloved hand. He is at last ready to begin, and nudges up the volume of the music. He has been listening to the music, timing his setup accordingly, and exactly at that point the music snaps up to a louder dance song, perhaps a familiar tango, the two puppets, one on two fingers of each hand, begin dancing face to face across his two-foot square, waist- high table. The puppets zing along in perfect harmony, nothing else happens. The songs change and the finger dancing puppets synchronize in performance mode back and forth dancing united on the table top. At appropriate intervals the man controlling them does swoops and facial takes to display for his audience his emotional involvement. Pictures are taken from fifty feet away. Applause resounds at the end of each song. Before the audience knows it the act has ended and the now puppet-less man, grandly passes around in front of the group holding a grand top-hat, collecting coins from the audience. They stay to the finale because perhaps there is more to occur. By the end they are duped into genuine satisfaction. Hands reach for their pockets and purses. Perhaps they give money because they are politely going to go along with the crowd. And they do stay until the bitter, sweet end when the two puppets kiss, or whatever it is finger puppets do. He hold one hand on the bottom of the hat so the coins won't punch out the bottom. Back at Campo Dei Fiori I finished my shopping errand and return ten minutes later to the mime. The crowd had dispersed completely, the music was still playing, and the mime was still performing - pointing, stretching,looking surprised. However, few seemed aware he was there. During the act most who glancee that way felt they were intruding on the mime's thoughts and politely turned away. At other times I had been there at the conclusion of his act and Had seen the mime then walk from table to table at the different outside establishments holding out his collection hat. Oddly, tourists searched their pockets for change to give. Some didn’t seem to know who this man in the make up was, but it was someone asking for money, he did have white makeup on his face, so they give. Others were oblivious to the performance and were not interested in the intrusion. I saw both the finger man and the bad mime this week. The bad mime looked about finished and fried. The finger man has white hair now and is still making magic. I watched him, to see how he does it, and I still can’t see anything more than patience and doing it as if the audience ought to get it. I think overall, finger-man also has days when the audiences don’t get it. I've seen him since we've been in Rome, he's ready to retire, I do get that. *** Our street. This is a busy day or a compilation of all of them. The people from our street going to and from shopping. A line of school children passing by. Delivery men, the people who owned shops coming out to sweep or gather sun. Many were about, cultures, regions of Europe and the world. I came upon the two brothers, laborers hired by locals who were often around. These two good spirited guys look similar as some brothers do. I’ve painted both of them on different occasions, and had one of them do some work for me. I see some difference in their appearance, but was aware how much they look alike. They both have long hair and keep changing how they wear it. I see one and he looks enough like his bother. They're in their thirties. I couldn't say if one was a minute or a year older than the other. Long dark hair. Different hats. They switch them. They are often down near Giancarlino's shop, I've seen them help move painting around, several times. After buon giorno to one of them. I asked him if he was a twin, a gemeli in Italian. His answer surprised me. He leaned back, looked surprised and said, "Gemelli, no...sono un Sagatario.” I went home and wrote it down. The difference between a movie and the book is the difference between an apple and a fruit you’ve heard about but never tasted - Wrote that in a note and found it in my pocket. *** On the street of the hat makers we live in solitude. There is a guy, Bru, below us occasionally, and a very quiet Paolo above us. They both keep different hours than we do, so there movements aren’t a factor in our existence. This five story building is empty most of the time. We're down on the second floor, what the Americas call the first, no the third. I get confused. The guy below is on the Italian first. That puts us on the second. When you look up from the outside and I point out the window, you think we're on the third floor; but here in Rome the first floor is the piano terra, the ground floor. The second floor is called the first. We're on the one above that. It looks to be the third, but they call it the second. Call it what you wish. When you see the door buzzer, push the one by my name, Jack. To recap: The ground floor is called zero, the first floor is called one, we live on two. In America we’d call it three. If it is confusing or silly, you’re getting it. This street where we live is brick and stone up and down, all the way but the sky. The street is paved with cobblestones, called san pietrini. It's also the old name for the workers who set them in place. Now they're multi-task workers for the street department. Once in a while the city workers have to repair the water lines that run under the streets. I have seen them take up the cobblestones and dig under them. It's dirt the ston0es set on, the heavily sanded soil that is the base of Rome. When there is road work going on always it's the guys walking by who stop to look in the hole nearly every time. Women seldom look. Out our window its about ten feet to the building on the opposite side of the street. So what I see out the window is a wall of stone. If I stick my head out and look up I can see the sky. I’ve got to be careful not to fall out the window. Infrequently I'll see a blur...a pigeon going by. This building on the street of the hat makers was built in 1506 a few years after Columbus made his fame. It is said some of the workers who built the large travertine stone building one street over, the Cancelleria, were housed here before the current structure was complete. Originally. the only floors in 1501 were this one and the one below me. Two centuries later, upper floors were added. With limited space and a desire to remain close the to action, Rome built up instead of out. Two thousand years ago the fields comprising this area were used for soldiers barracks and field training. later this became the execution grounds, now known now as Campo Dei Fiori – the field of flowers. By the beginning of the twentieth century this zone became overcrowded, low class, of little distinction. One street over is the old street of the pilgrims, Via Dei Pelligrini, the start of the old salt road that went across Italy to the Adriatic Sea, the way to Greece. The street of the hat makers was a barbarous place for the low life and thieves. This building where I live now served as a house of gambling and whores until mid twentieth century. *** M went out for coffee with Marja this morning. I had work to do; my idea of house work. I began searching for a pair of socks and opened my drawer where they are kept, where they appear, where M puts them. In the back of the drawer where I never venture I found five or six pair of folded socks. I never look there. Is she up to a new way of placing them? The socks all washed and folded and stacked in lines; one pair this way, the next across it and so on. Neat files of pairs in the back of my drawer. I thought of the poor women who, centuries ago, harbored here ... the fights, murders and tears. someone had folded neatly my socks and placed them in the back of the drawer. Was this the work of a ghostly spirit, a homemaker who never was. Would my own wife have done the same, placing neatly folded socks, making new order in the forgotten darkness of the drawer. I selected a pair for the day, and when I stood and turned ... instead of a smoky, ghostly apparition with gray, mottled hair and a web of tears, my eye caught the shelf over the end of the bed. In the far corner were my freshly washed and folded socks that I had placed there. I forgot that I did that and had planned to put them away later. So a glace changed my thinking, and I began living again in the present, and canceled the story of ghosts in tears and the tearful dark years here on the street of the hat maker. *** This week we put our car to use and drove East and over, to the other coast, the Ozarks of the Mediterranean. We packed pajamas and everything. Out on the back asphalts we saw something we don’t see near Rome – road kill. One was a dog or a wolf and one definitely a raccoon. He wore a mask. The first was a dog. M. thought it could have been a wolf, but I think she was storying herself – making it something beyond the usual. It was a dead dog. Maybe hit by a car, maybe old age got him, perhaps bad cooking. I couldn’t tell from the expression on his face. Near Rome there are no animals on the side of the road – dead or alive. Not alive, cause they know better; and not dead, because they aren’t going to go to waste and lie there when they can be eaten right away or hidden and eater later. I heard there were groundhogs in Italy some long ago time, until some soul tested one and decided that all it needed was more salt. Found a hotel, Two days there and we came back. 23 *** Angelo started in ’56. Two blocks away in another bar two brothers began working at their bar behind Chiesa Nuova about the same year. I asked them if they knew Angelo on via buolari. They’d heard of him but hadn’t seen him. Angelo's is called Bar Farnese. It was his aunts bar before his. He began working there when he was a boy. Sixty years later Angelo still shows up around six in the morning and works until four, everyday but Sunday. A few years ago he was doing six to six. His two nieces work the night shift, working until ten, closing time. About fifteen years ago Angelo took on a helper, Simone, who spends part of the mornings running around with a platter carrying thimbles of coffee for market and store workers in the vicinity. The small paper to-go cups with lids are the size of a shot glass. This is their morning coffee. Breakfast for the Italians. Some also take a cornetto which is a semi-sweet roll, soft, warm, sometimes sweetened with fruit or cream, stored in a slightly warmed box after being delivered to Angelo’s. To see Simone scurrying back and forth in the morning is a regular occurrence as clouds in the sky and pigeons flying by. I would have said “pigeons sweeping by” but didn’t want to chance giving the illusion that pigeons did anything productive. Once, years ago when I first arrived in Rome, I used the bathroom above Angelo’s coffee shop; mainly to see more of the building. There is no sign that there is a restroom above the bar, only a few market workers go up there, but being a local I'd seen them go up there. The building is from the sixteen hundreds. Up there, on the second floor, there plumbing and the bathroom was added, everything else remained as it was two hundred fifty years ago. I knew Angelo, I was local, so I asked to go up and use the bathroom. He gave me the nod and pointed to the stair way. It was ancient, a marvel to walk up a flight and go back in time. Everything untouched and original. Even the wash on the walls. I used the bathroom a second time a few years later, after Angelo had a nephew, who needed the work, tidy up the rooms up there. The work done was poor quality and completely covered any evidence of times past. It broke my heart to see it slopped over to modern. *** Having recently returned from summer in the U.S. I stopped at Angelo's, stood at the bar, had my usual coffee and cornetto and sipped slowly. Crowds rushed in, drank up, rushed out, business normal. He wore his usual, neat, white shirt, dark sweater vest, some kind of simple coffee man cap on the back of his head, like a hotel worker's skull cap. During a slow down in the activity, we were alone in the bar. Simone out delivering coffee. Angelo finished washing some cups, dried his hands with a towel, came over near me to lean on the counter opposite where I stood. He stared out through the open door, taking a rest from the constant flow of customer's demands. A moment of peace. I glanced out where he was looking, saw an empty bench by the women's boutique on the other side of the street, few tourists passing, nothing in particular, no one stopping. Turning back to him I studied his face, his eyes were a bit glassy, his visage worn, an expression that showed no particular emotion, only the years. For the first time I saw the change in Angelo, he was wearing thin. His sixty years of service showing, taking a toll. I looked at him, in a an instant he caught my eye. For a few seconds we connected in that rare moment of stillness. We'd seen each other hundreds of times. Never really spoken more that a few words. But I knew him, and he knew me ... and we smiled. *** poem *** Our current, latest, final apartment in Rome was built several hundred years ago. Once when he went to the landlords house to pay the rent our former upstairs neighbor, Paolo, saw the original papers on the building, dated 1501. Centuries passing have changed construction techniques. Most everything is built the same. You can’t tell the age of many of these places. Building on our street are from the same era. Last week two Bulgarian workers repaired a leak the plumbing in the wall. The problem ran between my floor and the one below. To locate the leak they tore out a chunk of wall on the stairway and they opened an area two feet wide and five feet tall. The upper part of the demolition made a hole into my bathroom floor. The same day they repaired the interior pipe and patched the wall. The wall now has bricks and plaster roughed-in to cover the hole on the stairway wall. On Monday they’ll finish that work and repair the hole in my bathroom floor. On Sunday no workers were around when I dropped a copy of this book about Rome into the hole in our bathroom floor. I did it on purpose. Someone will probably knock a hole in that wall agsin in a few hundred years or so ... that’s my guess. Then they’ll find this book I wrote. What you read now will be a future's look on the past. *** The elderly woman's mother or grandmother had a cow barn, around the corner on Via Del Gallo, that means rooster street. The barn is now a coffee bar. It could have been a cow barn. People who have been around here a while have talked about it. When I walked by with some one from here they’d tell me there used to be cows in the inner courtyard. Everyone knows it, they all say it was a while ago. I get along with old people, always have. The old woman who runs the bar I never liked. She shows no warmth, looks beyond me, never at me. I've had bad coffee and her sweet rolls were old the few times I tried them, Evidently she keeps the rolls until they sell. Most places buy new ones every day. I never felt any kind of connection with her and I don't go back. Bill says he has coffee there every Sunday. Okay. Right around the corner from Campo Dei Fiori, her bar is a wreck. It looks as if she never made an effort to fix the place up. The first time I went there her coffee was powdered coffee in warm water. I heard she used to have a fine old bar. Now she has let it go down. Someone Told me about the cows. There used to be a grazing area out back, they say. There were a few milk cows and finally only one. They say, but no one I know ever saw one. I asked Mirella who lived around the corner when she was a child ... Mirella heard about the cow but never saw one. Nico, another neighborhood kid,is 99, he would know. He was born twenty feet from the corner. I found him at Marina's and got him talking about it. He brightened up and said, "Oh, yes", and knew exactly what I was talking about. "Did you ever see the cow there?" I was going to get to the bottom of it. He said, Yes, "there were three cows and then only one ... only one cow" he shook his head yes, and "Now it is gone." I knew it was gone. Nico drifted and started talking about something else. I didn’t get the answer I wanted. I wanted to know if he ever saw the cow face to face, or was it story when he was a boy. He didn't remember actually seeing the cow, but, yes, he heard about it. And, today we still hear about it. *** Around the corner and down our street, next door to our apartment is “a place for beauty”, in English we call it a beauty shop. The way Italians say it sounds nearly scientific. I was in the building before it became a beauty shop, when it went up for sale. It was constructed around 1500, the age of the rest of our street. The owner was there and said I could look around. That first time I looked it was all original, nothing updated, a place for the animals. This was a great time to see these buildings. Never again will the old be there to see. One at a time they are being made modern. There were dirt floors and straw on the ground. It had four or five large rooms with animal stalls. It went back a ways, and opened to an interior courtyard. Years ago the building held farm animals. There were small stalls and feed bins, troughs for water, a veritable barn, made of stone and cement. Whoever bought it made it modern. I looked in the window the other day and realized that the old rock wall on the back wall of the first room has been made new, not by an artist job, but by an underpaid Romanians who did what they were told, made it into the kind of new rock wall you’d find in an average public building from the 1950s in Kansas city. Romans don't seem to realize that when people come from the world over they expect to see a preservation of the history of civilization. Someone bought the original London Bridge, transported it to America and rebuilt as it once was, saved it. Here in Rome there is so much antiquity they continually destroy the old and replace it with a low-cost, Look-a-like imitation. *** Overreaching centuries, halfway down the narrow, weather worn Via Dei Cappellari high up a plain stone arch extends from one side of the street to the other. There is a window in the arch. My friend Mirella, a retired market worker, pointed to that arc one time and said, "I was born there. That was my window." She was born there in the early twentieth Century. Below the arch, easily read at street level, is a posted announcement, in Latin, neatly carved in stone sometime before 1600, reads, paraphrasing: "under penalty of the law do not throw trash here". By that sign, under the arch, marks where everyone always has thrown their trash and always will. It must be an innate sense that tells everyone what that place is good for. Near the arch, a few doors from Antonio's lab, another Franco had his shop, this guy's from north Africa, speaks English, very soft spoken. I thought he was from New Zealand, He's been here forty years, had his laboratorio in another ancient building. Our whole street is five hundred years old, but you usually have to look behind the curtains into the back rooms and the basements to see any evidence of the age. After twentieth century electricity and plumbing the property owners update the interior appearance of the buildings. This is another raising of old Rome. You can see it happening. They used to leave these buildings alone, but time, new owners and new ideas caught up with them. Franco kept the interior of his shop original: the ceiling, walls, dips and cracks, down to the tiles on the floor, as he acquired it. Now an artigiano friend of his named Ronaldo has worked there for a few months doing restoration on two statues from a church somewhere. He had the statues standing in the the middle of the lab. It is a different experience to see these statues, not high up and faraway, but face to face. I could see the fine work in detail. They were soft gentle features. I've ben in a lot of churches in Rome, th is is different. It doesn't happen everyday that you walk into a place and see two obvious statues from churches standing there on the floor so you can walk up to them and look them in the eye. A little smaller and thinner, but that was us five hundred years ago. *** mail arrived, I got something that looked official. I've got to sit down with a dictionary and study the letter, or often I'll take it to Marina's and ask her what it's about. This time it was information concerning my permission to stay in Rome. Here are the entire instructions I received to renew my permisso di sourgiorno, permission to stay in Roma. They were so kind as to write it in English for me. – "to be submitted to the findings photo fingerprint. in that case, must 'show: this letter of convocation, 4 passport photos in color with a white background, original passaport a valid ', residence permit if they have, received delegated items, the Original copies of documents relating to the inserts in the kit. (These documents will also be brought in fotoopia) - 4 passport photos with a white background color of the children of age under 14 years, if present in Italy, to be included on the permit." *** hey, michele. One morning I heard voices out side our apartment window and looked down to see a crowd by our door. In the thick of it, a face I knew, Michelle Placido, one of the best known actors in Italy. “Michele,” I called to him. I knew he’d recognize my voice, we worked together on the road for two months around Italy. The play was Arther Miller’s View from the Bridge, or Squardo del Ponte in Italian, and in Italian it was. I knew Michele would recognize my voice because we did some shouting during an emotional scene in the play. I was a cop who turned up at his door and hauled away two of his family members who were hiding there. The play is set in New York. Michelle wanted a cop with a real American accent. My fellow actors in the company called me the highest paid actor in Italy. While paid the same as the others my time on stage in the two and a half hour long play was about five minutes. So, by time worked they called me the highest paid actor in Italy. The scene in the play was pivotal, crucial, nearly violent and emotional as the other cop with me and I took the two clandestine immigrants off to jail. I had a brief, rousing confrontation shouting match with Michele. After working that heavy scene with him, he'd remember me. I watched every other moment of the performance from the wings, a few feet off the side of the stage. When I saw Michele and called his name, he looked up. First came a questioning look on his face. He knew the voice and hadn’t heard it for a while. He looked around until he saw me, smiled and waved, then a moment later he had an idea and signaled me to come on down. He was on our street directing a scene of his current film Romanzo Criminale. I walked down and after we exchanged greetings he asked if I wanted to do an improvisational scene with him in the film. I said sure, excellent, then he had to get back to work. H said his assistant would catch up with me. I watched about five minutes and the assistant came up and introduced himself and said, "Michele wants to do a scene with you..an improvisational scene, all right? "With Michele?...Sure...when? This took me by surprise. I knew Michele, I could work with him. What a deal! "Right after lunch." I checked my watch. It was ten in the morning. I had an appointment to leave for Sardengna with our friends Roberto and Mirella. We're driving to Civitaveccia to catch an overnight ferry to Sardenga for a few days getaway. I knew I didn’t have time to wait. Here’s where I made a bad career choice. I gave up a shoe-in appearance in a major film with Michele to keep the appointment to go to Sardengna. I told the assistant director that I couldn’t do it. He understood and would tell Michele. I lived with that turn-down. For an actor, rejection usually comes from the other direction. I said no when I think I should have said yes and changed my plans. I thought about this for years. The film turned out to be a big one for Michele. At the time I made the decision Michele was working, I couldn't wait around to give him the chance to talk me into it ... I just slipped away. tour tour My association with Michele Placido began years before with a phone call from my agent with a job offer. "Jack would you like to do a play? They want an American for the part. I thought of you. You will be traveling all around Italy, a two month, twenty-eight city tour in an Italian production of Arthur miller’s View of the Bridge. Michele Placido is doing it, he's an important Italian star. Are you interested?" "sure, I'll do a play. What are they looking for?" "A police man. But they want an actor with a real American accent." "No kidding, I can do that ... I mean be a cop. I can do that ... and the accent." "I know you can, " She laughed. "That's why I though of you. I've got your materials pulled out ... ready to send them, but wanted to check with you first ... Would you be willing to travel?" "No, go ahead, Ula,send the material you want. I'll travel. Two months traveling with a play? Is it all it Italy?" "Yes," she laughed. "Michele Placido is doing it. He is a very important actor." A cop they wanted, A cop I could do. Better a cop than a bad guy. They were in a rush. The next day I had an interview at the agency with casting, someone I don’t recall; that interview along with some words from my agent got me the job. It sounded good. Sometimes jobs occur like that. I trusted my agent. I had no idea what I was getting into. Michele Placido, a major star, the man in control of the production, took the same show on the road a few years before. It was so successful he decided to do it again. The principals were essentially the same. The girl lead, and me as the cop, were new. Two days of rehearsal and we were on the road. All the cast were professional actors. However, it did take three shows for Michele to get his lines down. Finding out I got this work was exciting as it sounds. The money was good, I’d be set for a while. I had a good part for an American in an all Italian road company with several strong actors. I had my scene with Michele Placido, one of the best known actors in Italy, on stage, screen and TV. The tour with the play took us all over Italy, with a day or two in each of the twenty-eight cities we played. My knowledge of Italian geography amounted to nothing, I learned. we covered the country by car, a lot of it. Everybody dived into four or five cars to get us around. Most of the time I rode shotgun with Aldo, the guy who played the other cop. He drove and I read the map and played navigator. The tour took us north, within a few miles of Switzerland, south to Mesina Scilly, the southern heel on the boot of Italy in Puglia, and up and down both coasts. All travel by car, time to rest, then get ready and the curtain rose. We had a setup crew and technicians, always ahead of us, they had everything ready when we got there, struck the set the night the show closed, drove on ahead and set up in the next town. For me this was a total immersion into Italian – language and lifestyle. No one spoke English, and I had limited ability with Italian. Hanging with them 24 hours a day was a test for all of us. Always a full house, always three or four curtain calls, Michele drew an appreciative audience. I rode with him and his driver one day. The driver also an actor in the play. Michele was in the passenger seat, I was in back. We were burning down a straight stretch on country road in the middle of nowhere ... doing seventy-five ... no traffic, when a woman walking on the road toward us, saw us coming. She checked out the new shiny black car and passengers. As we blew past her, she looked hard, reacted surprised, pointed at us, stood upright, and we lip-read as she shouted MICHELE. That confirmed it for me, he is a major star. When I saw the walking woman say Michele's name I commented on it to the two of them. It surprised me. Michele and his driver had no comment. This was just another day for them. I realize now that they had seen similar reactions many times before. I was new to seeing the power of stardom. We played in some of the oldest theaters I could imagine. Take the oldest theater you’ve ever seen in a movie, make it older, then make it real. That’s where we were many nights, town after town. A few theaters impressed me because backstage there were spaces that hadn’t been updated for a hundred years, and I'm partial to antiquity. It was like working in ancient times. There were small theaters stacked tall with three or four rows of balconies, as decorative and ornate as can be, shined with elaborate silver and gold, polished, fresco-ed, wooden, tiny palaces. At times we had dressing rooms centuries old, made for physically smaller people. Each location a surprise, an overall delightful experience. So many of the theaters remained as I imagine they had in the fifteen or sixteen hundreds. The old world kept alive, beyond reach of renovation. Italians have appointed times to eat; which is strange for a people who usually don't have order for anything. So, it’s meal time, not when you’re hungry, but when the clock says so. We were in Como, north of Milano, we got there after driving all day. I was hungry and asked the hotel guy in a uniform with a round, small red box on his head...the apparent go to guy, "Where can I get something to eat? Is there a restaurant open?" The guy looked at his watch, then at me. He shook his head. "It isn't time to eat." That's what he said, and he stood there. I am a customer asking for food. I'm sure I stood there looking amazed in disbelief. "The restaurant opens in..." He checked his watch again, "three hours." Then he looked at me. "You'll have to wait." I told him, "We're leaving for work in two hours, can't I get something now? ... a sandwich?" He repeated, "It isn't time to eat." He wasn't kidding. I shouldn't be hungry now because it wasn't time to eat. This a first class hotel, and I was out of luck because It wasn't time to eat, even a sandwich. We mader such a racket coming in, I'm sure he knew we were all actors with Placido. The play opened a few moments after nine and ran until midnight. When the show ended we'd get out of make up and costume, clean up, get into our street clothes, and go to a nearby restaurant that would be expecting us. We always were garrulous and talked all the way. We'd arrive at the restaurant at twelve-thirty or so. Because Placido was such a huge star, always the town mayor and village dignitaries had been to the play and would show up at dinner to meet the man. A celebration happened every night in every location, no exceptions. Every restaurant set up a feast: fine wine, appetizers, several courses, deserts and coffee, licours, grapa. We’d eat an ample amount of what delicious food, desert and drinks we could and be back in our hotel and crash in bed by three. The next day we’d do it again - drive in the cars half a day to another town, another show, curtain calls, feast, dignitaries, in bed by three. After midnight every night we ate course after course of the best meals the city's finest chefs could provide, then deserts and the after dinner drinks. Never have I experienced such fantastic arrays of choice foods. Only once, in a small hamlet, down south on the coast, we had only spaghetti with plain tomato sauce and red table wine. The other ninety-nine times we ate like royalty at a festival. Two months on the road was grueling for me, the work, the serious drama of the play, then feast. All my life I have been a go to bed early rise with the sun loving the morning guy, and this tour took me counter to my natural rhythms. We’d eat, sleep, get up, drive to the next town and do it again the next night. Another town, another show, the late night large meal, crash after three. There was a pause for us, we took a week long break over Easter before resuming with the second month of touring. When we got back to Rome to begin the break a stomach ache knocked me down ... I spent most of that vacation week in Santa Spiritu Hospital in Rome. They expected me to bow out of the play, but I didn’t want to miss it. After the second month of touring I was sick again. Examined by two private neurologists, I got my diagnosis: multiple sclerosis. It slowed me down, but the discomfort was up and down so I was able to work around it ... or with it. *** Michele’s daughter, also an actor and producer, did a film in which I played a doctor. The memory of that is part of our family story now. I worked two days work on her film. On the final day of shooting my son and his family flew into Rome from the States. M met them at the airport without me. When asked where I was, she explained, "He is busy doing a cesarean section." *** I painted the walls of the front room of our apartment. I used the paint I had; as a result the room is darker at the back and moves lighter toward the windows at the front. You can't tell the color changes. It's a good transition. If I didn't mention it now, no one would ever notice, even though it is a strong transition from darker to lighter. On a regular Thursday morning that seemed normal, my computer stopped working. It was less than six months old and I had the technical skill to repair minor malfunctions, but not this. The computer was dead, wouldn’t boot up. That left me stopped. M was in the states for two weeks. I called and told her the problem, and asked her to call Nick and tell him I needed to ship the computer back. I bought it from him, it was under warranty and he is a great technician. If it's fixable he could do it. I scurried to my friend’s workshop. Antonio the woodworker could help me. He said make a box to ship the computer. He said to meet him back at his shop before noon. While he took off somewhere for work I searched the area to find cardboard to make a box. Rather quickly I found a good amount of clean, heavy cardboard and carried it back to Antonio’s. At eleven thirty he was there and we put a box together to ship the computer. Antonio did well. Can you imagine how much masking tape a carpenter uses to make a box out of cardboard? “What company are you going to use to ship it?” he asked. “I don't know...how's Federal Express? I think there’s one around here. Do you have a phone book? We can check.” Antonio got the white pages and I suggested we get out the yellow pages. That way we could see all the names of shippers and choose that way. In the paginia gialli you have to know what your doing. Anntonio looked under Speditione. We found Fed Ex and an adddress on Via Bernini. “Take the sixty-two bus. It goes right by there.” I had a packaged computer. I had a plan. I thanked Antonio and took off for the place. On the bus I sat next to a thirtyish Italian business man,"Does Via Bernini go left at the piazza toward via Venito, or straight at the Piazza." “This is Via del Corso,” he answered. I knew where we where. I wanted to know where I was going. This often happens when you ask a question and an Italian hears your accent. He didn’t answer my question, he answered what he thought I should know. The guy left the bus and I asked another person and they told me it goes straight after the piazza. Thank you. I was about to get off the crowded bus with my now heavy box and my cell phone rang. It was Meri. I told her to call me back in Five minutes. I spoke to a woman on the bus who lives in the provincia of rome, south near frosinone. She commutes, train and bus, two and a half hours each way, five days a week. This is a bargain she says, most peoople work six days. No sooner than I got off the bus Meri called again. She said she talked to Nick and he told me to use U.P.S. and use his shipping code. He has an account with them, it'd be cheaper. I wrote down his account number. Walking quickly, a few feet from Federal Express I stopped, and began to seek out a U.P.S. store. There was a doorman out front of a hotel I passed. I asked him where U.P.S. was, he pointed and sent me to number 106, a few doors down. His friend standing nearby overheard him and said, "No. That is Mailboxes etc." The first guy insisted it was U.P.S. I said I’d check it out and left the friends arguing. A few door down was the 106 address. Mailboxes Etc. I entered their door to ask if they also did U.P.S. They said no they didn't do UPS. The clock ticked away. I started to sweat. When I talked with Meri before she had already checked on-line and said there was a U.P.S. near Largo Argentina, so I started that way. A taxi came by empty, I waved it down and took it. The box was heavy and I had a way to go, back closer to where I started. At Largo Argentina I got out of the cab and started walking with my box. I meandered several streets when I had the idea to stop at Alberto’s nearby Porta Blu art studio and check in the Yellow Pages for an address. I found an 800 number, but no address. I called the 800 number. A guy answered in Milano. I got passed around a few times and the people finally told me there were offices in Rome at Eur, Champino and Fumincno. Those locations are miles away. Nothing close to me in the center. I asked if they had pickup for packages. Yes they do. I made arrangement for someone to come by in the morning to get my computer. All I had to do was go to an internet center and download a form 3299 to complete the shipment. Got it. At an Internet store back near home I searched and found U.P.S. on the web. Then with much difficulty I found the form and tried to download it. No luck. A technical guy at the computer store tried and couldn’t download the form either. Okay, I moved on. I passed another internet place. Stopped in and found the form and successfully downloaded it. Victory at last. I returned home and relaxed. It was three P.M. About six o’clock I thought to fill out the form and be ready for tomorrow. The form read number 3229 not 3299. I had the wrong form. Oh, shit. My computer is in a box and blown up. I’d have to go back to the internet center. When I got there the place was closed. I'm not kidding. What now? I asked a guy at the store next door if there is another computer place around and he said there was another internet store several blocks up the street. He pointed. I headed there. I found the internet place, the third one now, it was open. I got to a computer and I found the form online – the correct one this time – and tried to download it. Two competent workers tried also and they couldn’t do it. Finally their technical person happened in...he jsut hjappened in... and he managed with some effort to download the form and print it for me. Victorious at last I was home by eight-thirty. The times they gave me for pick up was nine until noon, or three until six. At ten o'clock Friday morning The UPS courier showed up and took my computer. It was working according to plan. When he took the computer I asked him if I had filled out the form 3299 correctly and he told me he didn’t know anything about forms. Okay. They had my cell phone number and could call if they had any questions. My phone rang a half hour later at ten-thirty. “I need your codice fiscale.” The courier said. “I need a few minutes to find it,” I said. “I don’t have a few minutes. What do you want me to do ship it or bring it back?” “Bring it back,” I told him. As soon as he hung up I called U.P.S. in Milano, asked why they needed my codice fiscale to send a computer? "I am an American." "Why do you have a codice fiscale?" "I used to work here, but now I only live here." For some reason the group of them in Milano had a hard time digesting that information. They talk among themselves, I could hear them in the ba kground. But, they finally got that I wasn’t an Italian. "That's correct. I am an American." and they said I should have a copy of my passport to send something to America. Not a problem I had a copy. When the courier arrived bringing back my computer I told him to ship it again. "Here is a copy of my passport." “I have to have a copy of your codice fiscale.” He told me. I told him I was and American and he only needed a copy of my passport. He took it and my computer and left. I couldn't believe it. Problem solved again. I stopped at Antonio’s workshop to tell him computer is finally gone. He was waiting for me. Antonio said he tried to call many times since yesterday. "I forgot to put the power cord into the box." "Okay. Okay. I'll talk to Meri...I’ll have her check with Nick to see if he can use another cord." My unit was a powerful laptop, I knew the amperage was higher than his. But I noted the difference and sent it by email to Meri and a copy to nick. If he needed the power cord I could send it. I got word back that it was okay. Nick could handle it. Saturday and Sunday were smooth. The computer was set to arrive on Monday morning. At two o’clock Monday I was napping when the phone rang. UPS calling. “Is this computer for military use?” “What? Of course not. I wrote on all the forms and on the note you wanted included that it was a personal computer being sent for warranty repair." “Is there someone there who speaks Italian?” she asked. “Only me. The forms I filled out were all in English. Do you have anyone there who can read them?” The answer was unintelligible. “Where’s my computer now?” I asked. “Here in Rome.” Here I lost it and began cursing in my best Italian, or perhaps my worst. I told them I was paying for a quick shipment "and that was four days ago!" They said I would have to be fined for filling our my form incorrectly, however, they would send the computer to America. I swore some more and thus ended the phone call. At least the computer was on its way. Wednesday I got an email from Nick. The computer had arrived. *** We found no restaurants, only more tourists. In our apartment the cupboards were bare. We napped and wondered how we messed up again. No food, no groceries. It would be a week in search of food and something to do. We’d seen the Alhambra and there was still time on the clock. We wandered and were amazed at our inability to find something to eat. Once or twice we found something, usually it was not to our expectation. The area down from us, along the river, had special charm. It seemed the old European part of the city. It retained its old world charm. The buildings were all of different styles from a period a hundred years ago or more and surrounded by trees and shrubs. Windows were sometimes irregular, even arched. Many had potted flowers. It wasn’t the same building repeated a thousand times. A small kitten lived next door and visited frequently. She wasn’t a young kitty, just small. M was worried about the cat until she figured that the people next door left a window open so the cat could come and go as it pleased. It made friends with us. For three four days it would be our friend, then exchange us for another couple who came to visit. For a cat living on a root top it seemed a good life. It had a few spaces to visit and about the time it was tired of us there would be new friends. From our terrace we could see the rooftops and the river below. The hill we saw was covered with trees and ran up to the Alhambra. To our left was Monte Sacro, another point to visit. It looked down on us as did the Alhambra. All was quiet from our view. The city was behind us and out of view. We had some piella at one place, but it was not as memorable as that of our friend in Roma, Alberto. The Spanish people we saw on the streets and in small stores seemed unfriendly for the most part. In general, when passing a working man on the street in the morning a smile or a nod or a buenas tardes would go completely into a void of non response, as if It never happened. I felt invisible several times. I won't be confusing Spain with Mexico again when I think Spanish. The Mexicans were always some of the friendliest and happiest people I've known. it seems the operative slogan should be if you can buy it, rent it. Now that I don’t speak Spanish, this visit I another problem. The woman that worked at our apartment office had the full Andulcian accent. It seemed half of her words had the th sound in it. Now that I’ve been out of practice it was harder to decipher her words. At night on my radio I heard some of the regular Spanish, more the Spanish of the Americas, easier for me to understand. a loud and lousy acoustic guitar player who played like he had a ukulele in a 1930s dance band. *** on tv we heard the weather music, didn't have to turn to see it, we know the tune. they have been playing the same weather music for the 25 years... they change politicians as often. ]*** ` *** We bused a short way beyond the Vatican to Trionfale Market and bought food. Not cans and bottles, but cheeses and bread, fresh stuff, even fruit a little. We always had a short list, or at least a good idea of what we were going for. But shopping develops at that market, an internal combustion powered on the energy of the people there...lot of them. It is always a look around, walk around, get what looks good sorta shopping at Trionfale. The old Trionfale Market sat out of doors, a helter-skelter traveling carnival. The new market is inside, set up resembling a checkerboard, four stalls to a square. Everyone crowded into and over their space. It is straight down and straight across; the overall affect can lose you in the middle. You recognize the stalls on the outer edges, the same ones you pass to get in the market. Then inside is a maze. The first time there I thought it was too conventional, not like the traditional, free-wheeling old place. Now the market is a favorite. Everything is good about it: the vendors, the customers, the quality and variety of goods for sale. It's warm and you don't get wet when it rains. So this day M and I split up, shopped around in different sections of the market, and when I bought something I got back four or five euros more than I should have. Walking away, weaving through the crowd, not paying attention to where I was going, thought about the last transaction, looked in my hand; I got too much back in the last exchange. But after so many years and times of getting screwed, or doing good, and seeing others come out ahead or behind, I didn't worry about it. When you're in the mix long enough you realize: it doesn't always come out to the penny, and when you lose some you take some another time. The market keeps running and you keep moving, doing as best you can. We finished up and were happy, and caught a bus home. *** karma, luck, how it plays out. I've taken the 492 many times to get to Trionfale market. Maybe the driver had recognized me, maybe not. Anyway, I don't know why he lied when when i asked if his bus stopped at Trionfale. I know I wasn't taking up his time, the question took a second. Did he think I was bothering him and deserved the answer he gave? I don't know. I backed down from the bus and waited on the street nearly a half hour before a 70 came by that took me to the market. I'm old, a foreigner and walk with a cane. I must be somewhat memorable to him, I'd taken his bus, well, the 492, so many times. I was just confused that day, had already taken one wrong bus and had to walk several blocks to get to the right stop. I was asking because I didn't want to make another mistake. There are no places to sit when waiting for a bus in the middle of Rome. I was trying not to make another mistake and got rewarded with his lie. It wasted my time and tired me out standing there waiting for another bus. I didn't like that it happened to me. I guess that's why I'm writing about it now instead of telling you about the nice oranges and other fruit I got at the market. Those red oranges, the ones they make sprumata with, that's orange juice. They're from Spain and Scicily, those red ones, usually. They're good, have a sweetness that is soft and wonderful. A very popular drink when in season. Okay, that's the orange juice and the bus, and another day in paradiso. *** Campo Dei Fiori Now in sun and springtime the two dancing girls were out tap, tap, tapping up a storm. Sunday in the piazza, going in style. A small child from the crowd of onlookers came forward, picked up the mic and one of the dancers took it from her without making the tiny girl cry. She did it smoothly as the music played on. The tunes the two danced to were from the forties and were jumping. A drunk join the two tappers out front and danced along for a bit...but didn’t last long, no problem. Canes and top hats, tap-taping. Roll on, in the sunshine, coins drop, the crowd clapping. the girls continued tap-tapping. *** Monday is wash day. M puts it together, I'll haul the clothes to the laundry and do the wash. The laundry used to be across the street, but after Luciano closed the doors and moved to Thailand we had to find another laundry. Bill tipped us off on one, the same distance on the other side of Campo Dei Fiori. Three-fifty to wash, three-fifty to dry, boom bang: an hour and I’m out of there. I give the cost so no one has to wonder. When reading Herman Melville's Piazza Tales, pubished in 1856, he had no mention of costs. The money was different but prices give an idea in relation to other costs. So I am doing this for you, mon cheri. At the laundry, Abdul was the operator. We met him and learned his ways after a few times there. He's a nice guy. He opens the door at nine A.M. or shortly after. He works until nine at night. The sign on the door says nine til nine, but he has learned Roman ways...so it's an approximation. He’s from Senegal, been in Rome six years and has adopted Roman ways. Open at nine means nine ten, nine-fifteen, maybe nine thirty or...thereabouts. Tall, sleek, a good hearted fellow who speaks some a dash of English, blurry Italian, two languages from Senegal and his French is fine. After he opens the door he hangs the sign that confirms it, sits at his desk in front of a computer screen and surfs the net; a benefit of the job. There is a row of five computers for those who want to use one for one Euro per half hour. Now and then someone comes in to use a computer. I’m the only one in to wash this morning. I got straight to it. Another part of Abduhl’s routine is to leave after he opens and all is set to go; he goes for a coffee and croissant from the bar down on the corner. This morning before he left Abduhl asked if I wanted a coffee, I said sure. He’s seen me every Monday for a few years. We get along well. He started to leave and looked back. “A croissant?” “Good idea.” I nodded. “What kind do you want?” “simplice.” That’s the regular nothing special sweet roll. I began reaching in my pocket and he put up his hand to shake me off. “No, no. I’ll buy. No problem.” I insisted as he smiled, shook his head and started out. Congenial guy. I didn’t want him to spend his cash on me, but I relinquished. That’s the Italian way, buy someone a coffee. He's street wise. While doing the wash I remembered two years before Abdul talked about moving to Paris. Last year he was ready for New York, he wanted Gotham City to gnaw on. He could do it. He’s about thirty and ready to roll into the turmoil of the world. This year he has a girlfriend and is content with Rome. We do live our dreams, so it seems. I had my clothes...water and soap rolling in the machine. Had my book out and sat to read and wait. When he returned we both had our coffees and croissants, me washing and he back on his computer searching, looking. Wash done, was reading, waiting for the dryer to finish when I interrupted Abdhul to ask if there were elephants and lions in Senegal. He looked up slow-eyed to say, “In parks there are.” I nodded and sat down...he was back into the computer. There was no more to becsaid on the matter. That was it. The wild animals are in the parks. Oh, the deviated realm in which we find ourselves, a coffee here, a croissant there, as our world gets more connected with Internet, the world gets congested and smaller. M came over to meet me at the laundry went fhopping, cleaned teh kitchen, changed tth toilet roll in the batheroom, We've done version of this many times coming out the door, hoolking wup aith M geting the who carries wha, who pulls the cart heading home I laughed out loud. "what are you thinking?", "Bill in the play a few weeks ago." M laughed. bill had a bad habit of mouthing the other actors lines as they spoke them, not always, but now and then. In this scene an act or walked off the stage and shouted his line and bill, alone center stage mouthed the entire line with him, as the off stage actor shouted, "Jesus, somebody close the God damn door." Bill in a play, is at center stage. The other actor on the stage exits stage right. and you hear him offstage yell, "Jesus Christ, close the god damn door." Bill, alone, center stage, at the same time mouths the other actor's entire line, "Jesus Christ, close the god damn door," finished with that, Bill jumps in place as if shocked back into acting and says out loud, "I'll warm up the oven and put things away in the kitchen." then leaves the stage. *** got a cab on our way to the recording studio the driver seemed worn out. He drove fine. I asked about his sleep. "It's bed at two, up at 6". he does it every day...drove well. that's youth for you. *** pasqualli and Samuel Morris On a side street near the senate was one of our favorite lunch restaurants, Pasqualli's. Opposite is a plaque on the wall, on the second floor, saying Samuel Morris lived there for eleven months in the late eighteen hundreds. A forever tribute to the man who invented the telegraph. *** By morning rain stopped. We endured a major storm, with thunder that echoed along the long stone streets, shaking everything with the boom, and hard rain fell immediately. The rumble prolonged in duration, shook the earth. I counted one boom that lasted sixty seconds. Memorable to me. I work by the clock. This early morning turned quiet. partly cloudy. I wouldn't say sunshine...almost sunshine. I looked out the window to see how evryone is dressed. Spots of sunshin . maybe sun around the corner, at the Campo. Jackets and hats. Some carrying umbrellas but thjey're late. Weather cooler. It felt November again. Seven-thirty at Bar Farnese Angelo wiped great drops of water off a plastic chair and table for me. I was the first arrival after the storm. Bar Farnese is the name on the outside sign, but everyone know that's Angelo's. I had a cornetto with apple inside and a cappuccino. Few people out walking this quickly after the rain. Jonathan, formerly of Jonathan's Angels, a popular evening bar near Piazza Navone, walked down via Giubanare and turned toward the cancelleria, head down walking he never looked up, didn't see me. He would have smiled and yelled ciao. hey I saw him, and recall years ago when he had his bar where I stopped for a beer now and then. Twenty years ago. Jonathqn's a fine painter and sells with the other artists at Piaza Navona. A city acquaintance. Here they come there now see them pass laughing young women heads together walking recounting social victories *** Buses filled with gypsies that never pay to ride. This a same bus company that forged several million tickets, sold the and kept the money. *** in 1951 Univac meant computer not vacuum cleaner. *** My agent called...had a job for me, doing a commercial at Champino, an airport thirty miles south of Rome. "I've heard of that airport but I've never been there. Is there a bus that goes out there? "Don't worry about it, it's all set up, a driver will pick you up at eight on Wednesday morning." "Okay, Wednesday at eight. They have mymeasurements. "White shirt and tie. They'll take care of you. Oh, one more thing, take along your passport, it's an international airport and for where you're going they'll need to see some identification. You're working with Paola Barali, a TV star." "I've seen her. She's on Sundays, right?" "That's her. Blonde." Two days later a driver from the production company picked me up and drove me to Champino. A smooth, quick, half-hour ride. At the gate the guard checked the driver's identity card then asked to see my passport. I forgot to being it. The driver tried to talk to him to let me in. After a few minutes discussion the guard called the site where we were shooting the commercial and someone told the gate man to let me in. They new where I'd be, so they could find me if they needed me. My agent told me to take my passport, I had it set out to carry with me. The gate man at tbe gate let the driver take me in. I knew this wasn't the end of it, I'd messed up, but got in. Out behind the tarmacs I could see the large airport. The driver drove on the field to one of the hangers somewhere. Inside everyone stood around, they looked set to begin shooting, they had a regular airliner in there, lit up in the inside For the interior shots. They'd use stock footage for anything exterior: flying or landing. My part in the commercial involved all action, no dialogue to memorize. I got out of the car met the crew, had coffee, took a place near the airplane, talked to the directer. The problem came fifteen minutes later when security guards arrived on the set. Soon as I saw them I knew why they were looking for me, they were going to ask about my passport. We weren’t in the active part of the airport, we were shooting on an airplane in a hanger, but because it is an international airport they wanted to see my passport to allow me on the grounds. I'm working it out in my head. There was a lot of discussion going on. Everyone else in the cast and crew Italian, they only needed to show their identity cards that they always carry. The guard at the gate had his hesitations when he let me in. minutes of discussion later, security came looking for me. As they walked toward me I knew there was trouble. "Senor Sender, we need to see your passport?" I could see my passport on the table in my work area at home, I was prepared to bring it. The guards asked if someone at home could find it, they’d send a car to pick it up. But M was a week away still in Ohio cleaning out the garden, wouldn't be here for another five days. No one could get in the apartment to get my passport. The security men walked off to talk again to the director. It seemed we were at a stand still, the entire production company. Everyone stood around while the guards and the director conferred. This was costing the production company time and money. They had a shooting schedule and would have to be out of here on time. They couldn't do it the next day, everyone involved would have to be free tomorrow. Finally their meeting broke up and a passport official decided we cook go ahead with the filming. One of them came over to tell, "Today is okay." He had a look of resolve, a problem solved, though not to his pleasure. Okay for today, but that I had to come back tomorrow with my passport. Never heard any more anout it. I said sure and that was that. And no, I didn’t go back the next day with my passport. They scheduled a one day shoot for me. The guards already did their part, they raised hell...so did the producer and director defending me, then we got to work. Everyone satisfied. Sweat dripped off the back of my neck. Now to work: TV hostess Paola Barali had this bra commercial to do. She was the star. I played the airplane pilot. A younger guy was co-pilot, doing his first commercial. Enjoyed talking. We sat in the pilot seats, the camera directly in front of us shooting into the cockpit. The glass in the front window had been removed so it was a clear shot. Our action, to look back down the isle at the woman in the isle in the bra, then we look at each other, then look forward toward the camera and laugh. Simple enough. Having the experience, I figured it out for the co-pilot and myself so we could do it easily and well. We don't get overtime so let's do it and get out..I talked it over with him and we'd start counting when the director called action. Action - we were looking ahead flying the plane, one, two three. At three we looked back and saw the girl in the bra. four, five six we look ahead. At seven we looked at each other and laughed. Seven, eight. At nine we faced forward toward the camera, laughed and continued flying with happy faces. A friend saw the commercial the first night it aired and the the girl in the bra was secondary and the co-pilot and I were the commercial. I saw it about the third night after it had been edited. The star in the bra got the attention. Our part still had all our action but trimmed with quicker in and out cuts. She was a TV star, blonde and cute, standing there, hand n hip in her bra, they paid her seventy-five thousand euros. We pilots were unknowns and got over three thousand a piece; Fine for a day's work. We had fun. And didn't have to spend all day. We shot and wrapped fast. Good job. The cab came for me. I quickly relaxed. We were out the gate. Starting back home, the taxi slowed as we passed... I pointed, "Hey,are those . . .? "Camels, yes." he said, happily. A guy walked along the side of the road with two young camels. Good looking camels, fit like large deer in their prime. I hardly recognized them for what they were. Never had I'd seen, even pictures, of such young, good-looking camels. I didn't know they had camels. Like deer with very long necks. *** Breakfast at Rocco's I know she said she would take a month off. She said something about her husband, I don’t know what. She said something about him having her off and home. So, tomorrow would be her last day, that I knew. Rocco mentioned it. He’s the boss. He also wanted me to try some Ginsing coffee he started selling. I did. He stood there and waited for my opinion as I sipped...then sipped again. "How is it, Tell me. What do you think?" "I don't know about tea...it's sweet." "Not tea. Coffee." He wanted approval now. What could I tell him? "It's okay." I never checked to see if he kept selling that tea. But the breakfast satisfied me. After two years of so-so breakfasts by Corrine she finally turned out a good one out for me, albeit the last one. she quit work. By chance three years later I ran into Corine on the street. I didn't recognize her. I knew her face but was at a loss for a name. She called me by name. I knew her but had no idea from where. Something different about her. The face I knew. "I'm sorry...I know you, but I don't know from where. I forgot your name." "Corrine." "Oh, of course, Corrine....you're blonde, good to see you." She told me she worked with her husband. They were doing well. What a pleasant surprise to see her. We wished each other well. ***    We have this table that Franco built for us shortly after we moved to Via Cappellari. I told him what I needed, a roughed-up pine table. He made it in the classic, primitive Italian style. It had been built to last. it’s the style he does all the time. When he asked for dimensions, I had him make it quite long. It came out too long to carry up the stairway, so we tied a rope around it and pulled it up from the street to our window. It looked great but took up too much room, so last year I got tired of spinning it around, trying to make it fit, and took my saw and cut it almost a yard shorter. It's still roughly five and a half feet long. I could measure it and tell you exactly how long and wide it is in centimeters, but I don't have a centimeter tape or a yard stick.  For us, the shorter table fits better in our room. I keep twisting and turning the furniture around to make our space as usable as possible. We learned from living on a boat for ten years if you rearrange it'll finally fit. Or, you don’t want to throw stuff away you can find another place to live. "look at this feather" She woke me from my revere. I looked at what she held out for me. "Is that the one i found on the ground last week?" I asked. "you found it?" she said. "Yeah,I found it." "Oh,...you're something," she said. "Oh, yeah? Check our biorhythms." I told her, "You'll see who's something." *** time passes. In Rome we live in kilometer years. To convert, think of kilometers to miles: divide by two and add ten per cent. *** He got on the bus somehow. Well, it was obvious how he ended up on the bus. No,that’s not right. He walked to the bus and climbed on. That’s how he did it. Preparing to go to the swimming pool, a major event even though he does it five out of seven days a week. Week after week. The drivers were standing around over by their shed, smoking, waiting, looking at their watches now and then. No hurry. The doors were open. He got on the empty bus at the start of the line, which is also the end of the line, depending. He had his choice of seats. The sunny side is fine in the morning. He sat in the middle, opened book and began reading. It took only a few minutes before for a few other morning travelers straggled on. He had his book so wasn’t paying attention to them enter and sit. When they came on they each earned about two seconds worth of attention to categorize them and put them in place in his entire scheme. The book kept more of his attention. Everyone moved easy, morning quiet, holding onto the peace of the new day. He glanced out at Rome and noticed how calm the day had begun. Traffic seemed light and taking it easy. It looked like a good start on the day for all. The driver got, set his papers in place, adjusted his mirror and the bus pulled out, made a left and headed in the direction of the pool. *** Looking around a few streets over, by the Pantheon,we walked by a dark alley when she happened to see a note flapping in the breeze, taped to the door of a church. I missed it. She sees everything. The paper had a message typed on it. I waited for her to check it out. "What is it?" Maybe I spoke too soon. She had to digest it. She put a hand in the air tell me, "Just a second. " "That ice cream place is just over a block." I pointed but she wasn't looking. The note taped on the church door read: "Free concert Sunday evening, piano and organ." M. has to investigate small typed notes...on the outside chance they may be written for her. When she read it she walked over to me excited. "It's the Portuegese church. Starts at six-thirty." "What does, the church?" "Weren't you listening? A concert, here, this Sunday." "What kind of..." "Piano and organ, we're going, don't forget." "I won't" When we got home five minutes later she wrote a reminder in chalk on her cup from the Auto Club. That Sunday we had noticed her cup for the fifteenth time and decided to go to the concert. Tucked between dark buildings on an obscure street, the Portuegese church is small and nearly black on the outside, Ornate inside. There were benches with seating for about one hundred. Half the seats were filled. We found good places in the middle. A lot of people took seats on the sides for quick escape if hey got tired of the music. Then it got quiet and the music began. Performer Gianpaolo Di Rosa, who had toured the world in concert, alternated between piano and organ, playing the music of J.S, Bach, List, and Debussy. The selections performed were works not commonly heard on the radio or in performance. Usually you hear the same selections featured over and over until you think that is all there is. Di Rosa dug into the stacks and found music that was cutting edge, over the top and obscure. The kind of works the Bach family listened to when he wrote it and said, "forget it, dad, try something else." While Di Rosa played I drifted, wondered how we changed from living on a boat in California to a Sunday night sitting in a dark, small Portuegese church in Rome. He went on for over an hour. The instruments were tuned, in good repair, and he played well. At the end he performed improvisational pieces on piano then organ. For those of us in attendance it was an exceptional, walk-in, Sunday evening. The music soared, the organ roared. Then it ended. We walked home. On the way we stopped for ice cream. *** sugarplum and i were down on the corner by the bread store and who'd we see come stumbling out though the swinging door of the bar next door, singing, sheets to the wind, but the nutcracker a half-season early figuring which way he was going as a couple passed by and thought he was nodding, but that's how he moves in the late afternoon. he was humming his tune, padding his pockets and working on remembering what he may have left on the bar. Julio stuck his head out the door, saw who we were, looked from the nutcracker to us and nodded a smiling hello. this was our street and his place of business. We've been saying hello for more than a dozen years. We know we're in this together. It's our part of town. The afternoon shower has made it damp, it's the season for damp. Now through December. We'll all start using the heater any day now. Winter is on the way. Giancarlino's shop is a few doors away. His mess is there, the usual. He's not around working this week. We attended a show of his a few weeks ago, and hasn't been around lately. Everybody has time away. That's necessary. It keeps the street from being full all the time with everybody. *** Our time spent in Rome included: going somewhere for bureaucratic documentation and renewal, to do banking, the dentist and doctor, dragging clothes to the laundromat, hours spent shopping, walking, busing, time spent cleaning, touring, working, reading and writing. M preparing food and me eating it, and a third of our time we were sleeping. Sometime we had to get out of Rome. There was a whole country out there to see. We traveled north to Aosta and Piza, Siena, florence, South to Puglia, Sicily and so many other locations. This time we were going to revisit a treasured destination, and had a choice on how to get there: train or rent a car - drive five hours down the coast. We talked back and forth for a while discussing pros and cons of our options, and decided on the easier way. A vacation is what we had planned, so we’d let them drive the giant rolling steel while we read and looked out the windows. We'd get there comfortably, then cab to our favorite Hotel. The Pearl Hotel was a choice destination. We’d been there twice and enjoyed sleeping with the omnipresent rolling crash and crush of the waves. M perhaps somewhat less, she’s a fire sign. I’m the fish. For me water is the ultimate. For her pleasurable, but not as soothing as the crackle of a camp fire out where sheep sleep. Now is winter, off season, quiet time in Sapri. Carolina the Polish woman was the worker at the hotel. We got along well with her, a woman forty or so, yet spirited, a good heart. Her Italian is understandable after six years in Italy, but floats by mixed in a heavy Polish accent. Without a doubt Carolina is courteous, alert and fun to be around. Delphina the hotel owner does the office work. She is present as overseer, the money holder, the bookkeeper. Carolina is the hired help. Does the physical work, checks people in, changes the sheets, does the wash, makes the beds. She cleans the rooms and mops the floors. She’s there early in the morning to make coffee and heat up the breakfast rolls. We rarely see Delphina. She usually sleeps past ten, and we are off starting our day by then. Because it’s the off season there is nothing to hang around for. Meals aren’t served, it's too cold for swimming, and there aren’t stores nearby, so we leave to find something to do and something to eat. The area surrounding Sapri is simple, uncluttered, on the coast of the bay. It lies at the end of a string of high ridges, low mountains that slope to the sea. This morning above the town we saw the last of the snow, covering hilltops. Snow in early April is an indication the hills are higher than they appear. This place reaks casual Mexico. The latitude is about the same. The green hills, the water in the bay look about the same. Sapri is remote as parts of Mexico down the coast. You can drink the water, that’s an important difference. When our train arrived at the Sapri station a minute past noon on a Saturday all was quiet; instead of a cab, first we thought of food. We'd been riding a while, having departed Rome at eight in the morning, it took four hours to get here. We knew the Pearl Hotel, there is nothing to eat there or nearby. They didn’t even have a machine with peanuts in it. USAir quit giving out nuts a few years ago – I heard they quit because people choke on nuts. Maybe that’s why the La Perla didn’t have a nut machine, maybe - but I doubt it. They didn’t have any creature-comfort-giving-machines - Nothing. So a lack of nuts was in keeping with their mode de vie. It took three turns walking around town the town, to find a place to eat. Sapri is a village; it was time to eat, but where do we get lunch? On the main boulevard we walked until we found a place and walked on by. Then at the end of the street we turned and came back. That restaurant we returned to was one of a few we'd seen, and it was suddenly inviting. Inviting is too strong a word. The sign on the door said Open, that met our criteria for choosing it. We ate, paid and were content. The variations on Italian meals are enormous. Eating complete we walked a sunny mile in view of the shore to our hotel. Carolina opened the door, happy to see us. She remembered us as well as we remembered her. Either the average tourist doesn’t give her the time of day, or we had a memorable stay last time. I think the average Italian doesn’t look twice at Carolina. She’s middle-age, overweight, speaks with a heavy Polish accent, average looking with bad teeth - about as low as you can go in the overall Italian appraisal; anyway Italians aren’t known for showing warmth toward hired help, they can be rude and overbearing. When standing around in a hotel lobby I think they want to give the impression they're important, and attempt, by not focusing on anything in the immediate vicinity, to give the appearance they are thinking of something crucial. We were the only guests. This first day the hotel opened this year. For the first time Delphina had decided to close for the winter to spend time in Salerno with her family. Carolina would have to get by for the winter and hopefully return to work in the spring to do all the work at the hotel while Delphina slept late and did as little as possible. I asked Carolina and found she was paid about six hundred fifty euro a month, about two hundred less than the average Roman earns in a week. Carolina doesn’t work six days a week, the average worker does. She works seven, twelve hour days. It seems when you have an immigrant in your employ you work ‘em. Carolina confided that she was looking and would find another job, but she knew it would only be a lateral move. There were no jobs available, and all of them are lousy. She lives with a man who does manual labor for whoever will hire him, when he can find work, and when he looks for it. We checked in and found our room,the second floor corner with a terrace as large as the room facing the sea. The room had a bed but not another stick of furniture, only a short line to hang clothes. If it wasn’t cool and rainy we‘d find use for that clothes drying line. When I convinced M to bring her spring jacket instead of her winter one I then had to convince her it wasn’t necessary to bring her bathing suit. The bluish-gray sea began below our terrace and ran out to the horizon. It rippled under an incredibly beautiful, cobalt, spring sky. The rolling murmur of waves lapping on the beach was constant. A gentle, constant, westerly prevailing breeze brought the sound to us. What a way to sleep, with the rumble of crashing waves and the smell of the sea. That's why I keep coming back. I love it. We stayed a few days then left for home. *** "My ankle is as good as broken”, that’s what M said. I thought that was a funny way to put it. I laughed out loud when she said it. “As good as broken.” She'd fallen on a curb a few hours before, we made our way home to give it a rest, and it still bothered her; only one solution. We bused to the hospital, they checked her out and they put a cast on her ankle. Now we were a team again. For a week already I had a cast on my left wrist. For the next month we worked in tandem. I stood and cooked, handed her a jar, she opened it. Saturday we walked at Villa Pamphili, a large palace and grounds appropriated and turned into massive public park, the largest in Rome. M walked there often for exercise and is familiar with the land. I’ve been there enough times to say it is quite large. That’s a type of understatement when you consider the layout of the villa. It remained private property with a large house and many gardens and much land that goes on forever in long, partially forested trails over hills, and by streams and ponds. Here in Rome you’re usually not aware of the hills. We heard Rome was built on hills, they say seven, could be more. You know that, but we still don’t see hills. There are many places where you’re aware of the up and down of the streets, however, on the grounds at Villa Pomfili you have raw nature with hills that you can see. There are great hills and foliage. What a change from the city. "Are you getting along okay?" "Keep going...I'll out do you," she said. There were many people there that Saturday. It had the large open rush of nature with people, here and there, walking the paths, sitting in open fields or snuggled in shady spots. "We're practically out of Rome." "A jaunt in the country," she said. We walked on, exploring, and after a few kilometers I got tired. Not tired of walking because I am in good condition and walk does not tire me. However after a long walk my legs were ready give out. They quit working properly and I stumbled along. Just putting one foot in front of the other got to be difficult. I slowed, and when she stopped I leaned on her. "Let's slow down, okay?" Heading back she took short cuts that halved our route and we made it back to the gate where we entered. It’s always a surprise that a little walk is over seemingly as quickly as it begun. She lead us on a way that took us under a waterfall at one point. It’s something you don’t get to do everyday. There is one point where one pond is situated well above a second pond and they have dug out at a place where you walk under the waterfalls that leads from the above pond to the second pond. After leaving villa Ponfili we stopped at the first bar outside the gate, on the corner. Bars in Rome serve alcohol, but people usually go to for coffee. This one, well located at the cross-roads of streets made more than two thousand years ago, didn't intersect left and right as a modern streets. These paths wandered the contours of the hills and casually intersect each other with a stagger step, much the way a barn animals might done if they were left to make the road system, and maybe they did. The animals pause, back-track, stand around, then proceed the best way they can up the hill, and the easiest way down. They all had a hand at road making...a foot at road-making, that is. We sat at a table outside in partial shade. Not much traffic, there wasn't a lot of noise. For being in the city it was nearly and escape to the country. I had a beer, M had tea, at what was at least a thousand year old location for a refreshment stop. The roads really didn’t come in and go out in straight lines. They followed the role of the earth. A peaceable corner to pause. A good respite. Give us 72 degrees, comfortable chairs, sun dotted in shade and we're in no hurry. I made a few notes, M read a bit. Trees shaded us for relaxing dream. We sipped and enjoyed. When we were ready to get going I said, "Let's take a bus...you've had enough for your ankle." The bus down to to Trastevere would be the on to take. At the neaby stop we took the first bus, a quick one. Then transferred to the wrong bus. It took us through Piazza Venezia and started up the via Corso. We got out and started walking in the opposite direction back toward Piazza Venezia. Not a total loss. We know our way and have walked most every inch of the way across the center of Rome. The sidewalk was crowded. We made it to the outside of the sidewalk, turned and were moving at a good clip when I hit a hole in the broken curb. I yelled as my foot twisted, then I fell into the street. M a few yards ahead of me, turned when I yelled. About twenty people stopped when I yelled. The sidewalks were packed and they all stopped to watch me fall in slow motion. From the curb they seemed quite tall as I pancaked to the street. Fortunately there wasn’t a bus or taxi passing that minute because I laid in the street. I don’t know if I hit three feet out from the curb. I went flat and didn’t roll, didn't move. It seemed many seconds to pull myself up to sit on the curb. I saw a pack of people pause, many had their mouths open but weren’t talking. I dropped with a thud. They were assessing the damage as I was. My ankle hurt. I couldn’t move. The pain kept me from moving quickly. After a moment I took an old lady’s hand with my left, and M’s hand got the other. They got me upright, I wanted to get up. Sitting on the curb is never comfortable. I wanted to stand. Pronto Socorso, that means emergency room. I heard the lady explaining that the hospital is a short way up the street and I should go there. I said I felt all right. I wanted to get over and lean against the building until I could sort myself out. I thanked the lady, she mentioned the hospital again before she continued on her way. M and I looked at each other. I told her it was okay. We calmed down. After a few minutes, with M. helping me, we began down the street toward the buses that headed home. Tuesday, three days later I waited, still concerned about the condition of my ankle, trying to decide if I should go to the hospital, wanting it to feel better. I did nothing and hoped for the best. *** There was an informative television program on the National network of Italy where I recently heard there are one hundred fifty kilometers of underground passages below the streets of Rome. That’s seventy-five miles of passageways – many of which are connected. A lot it is half under water. Most of the underground remains unexplored and inaccessible yet today. *** We rented a car and drove an hour north near Orte. Our friend, Ambra has a house in a village not far from there. She’d recently moved in and we wanted to get get her something. She’s a Buddhist and lives simply and has all the cooking things, so when we saw the salt lamp, it seemed a good gift. She loved the lamp. Ambra has a sprawling home on a piece of land with olive trees and a nice porch that faces south and west. We spent the afternoon and enjoyed the day out of Roma in the peace of the country. We had Steve along with us. “How are you getting along?” Ambra asked him. “Oh, It’s good. I enjoy Italy and I think I’m going to stay.” “My, my.” Ambra said with slight amusement or amazement. She knows it isn’t easy for a foreigner to remain. The afternoon turning to a beautiful evening. Ambra made us all an excellent pasta dinner. Steve had brought a bottle of fine red wine. Ah, yes. We savored the moments. By nine or so we packed up and said our goodbyes. *** The burial crypts under the Vatican. Pay a fee and walk down. There is a somber wall of tombs down there. To walk into the basement of Saint Peter’s and see the crypts of past Popes along the wall is a dramatic, sobering experience. There are buses that will take you out of Rome to Apia way where you can walk into two thousand year old burial crypts, the catacombs. Why this came about in our schedule, I have no idea. I don't think I thought of it. We took a bus, paid whatever fee and entered the crypt. There are miles long burial tunnels, I found it unappealing, that musty, stagnant air of the long dead, with racks of burial shelves in narrow tunnels. The path you shuffle with tombs on each side of you is narrow, three or four feet wide, and semi-illuminated. I walked an ancient, damp crypt, but have never recommended it. We took the shortest route and out. That was it for me and crypts. On Apia Way we saw the church Domoni Quo Vadis. Thr story is that Jesus appeared here to Peter, and asked him where he was going. We saw the stone in the ground where it supposedly happened. An old, rough, unadorned slab of stone one foot square, in front of the church, with no other signs or markers. Miles outside Rome in open country. A long way from anywhere. We looked around and happened to see it, the rough, gray stone inscribed - Quo Vadis. *** Over the years we’ve seen the inside of many churches, some very old. To me the Basicila di San Clemente hear the Colosseum is most interesting. Inside on a lower level are remnants of the building foundation that was destroyed in fire in 64...two thousand years ago. Santa Maria in Trastevere is the oldest church in Rome. *** *** City life means moving around. We pick up groceries at several different stores, depending what we need or what other shopping we have to do that takes us in that direction. Locally we have a small grocery store close to home for quick shopping, for picking up the average food items. The place is Despar as in desperation. Every time we go there the checkout clerks ask us for change. The bill is 4.23, “Do you have twenty-three cents?” The bill is 24.10, “Do you have ten cents?” For years it has been this way. After over twenty years in Rome no other store has ever, ever asked for change. Despar nearly always does. I tried to think of reasons for this and the best I could come up with is that maybe the bosses wife is a coin collector and wants to go through all the coins she possibly can in hopes of getting lucky. (I wrote this last with the thought that there was a justifiable reason for examining coins, however, Italy changed to the new Euro a few years ago – there are no old coins!) *** I woke at four-thirty five. I know this place. I opened my eyes, I felt awake. Those conscience fragments told me I was awake. I collected my day time thoughts, not all of them, but it was morning. I’d already seen the clock glowing red, saw the numbers. Pitch black and silent. I knew where I was, seemed I got up to pee. So be it. It wasn’t the world's most important event in the middle of the night, and I could handle it. A minute of gathering myself and morning thoughts together, No light. I threw back the covers and sat up on the bed, feet slung down. Reaching to the right, I knew the level to reach, the basket corner was there on the shelf, and to the right the small flashlight. I touched the end of it and then drew it into my hand. Looking down as my feet felt around I found my slippers, not with my fingers, with my feet. I half covered the light, turned it on and quickly off. The second or so of light confirmed the position of the slippers as my feet found their way into them. I stood and gathered additional wits about me. My body was comfortable and standing. I took a breath or two, then turned left, reached right as I stepped and felt with my right hand the corner of the closet where it is supposed to be. Still moving I stepped forward into the holy mother of darkness, guided around the corner of the end of the bed, keeping my head lower than the shelf with the clock on it. I stepped around the end of the bed, felt the end of it and touched the cool wall lightly. Forward I used both hands to check the position of the bathroom door. I found it where it was supposed to be, opened it enough to pass, turned right and entered. Reaching down with my right found the corner of the sink. I moved in and around and turned on the light with only my left eye open to preserve night vision. If one eye remains closed the night vision is not destroyed. The toilet seat was down. I put it up, turned and sat. peeing, then knowing where the toilet paper was, I used it and stood up and began my way out of the bathroom, again touched the wall, this time with my right hand. Turned the corner. Took the exact number of short steps to be along side the bed. Reached with one hand as I sat. Reached back right and the precise level and returned the flashlight to the place on the right of the basket, sung while ducking my head slightly so as not to hit the shelf and I was back in bed in the pitch dark. This is a small space. I can get from here to there. *** Via Del Corso near Piaza Veneziasssss the is happening shopping. M assures me it has been the shopping hot spot the length of the Corso all the way to Piazza del Poppolo. That’s why there were so many people there when I fell down at four o’clock on a Saturday afternoon. We walked up to the bus stop on Vittorio Manuele and caught a bus down to Ciesa Nouva and home. Some where along the line the adrenaline wore down, by the time we got home I climbed slowly up the stairs. That was Thursday. The following Tuesday evening, I sat quietly, still wondering if I have to go to the doctor. Wednesday evening my foot felt half bad. That after five days of regular bad, it wasn’t so bad at all. I think I’ll make it with out an x-ray from the hospital. Thursday and I called Frabrizio and the young banker who I have always enjoyed talking to, suggested in a most forceful way, that I should go to the hospital and get an x-ray of my foot. I laughed then hung up and called a cab. M and I took the cab from our front door to pronto socorso, the emergency room at the hospital Santo Spirito. I know about this place, straight up Coroso Vitorio Emanuale and then across the bridge toward the Vatican. I have a history there...not the Vatican, the hospital Santo Spirito. The first time there happened during the Easter break from the play tour in ‘98. After being home a few days I got a tremendous stomach ache. I thought I had eaten too much white chocolate; following examination it turned out to be first symptoms of m.s. Anyhow, that evening I spent the night at Santo Spirito. At that time I read Santo Spiritu was the oldest operating hospital in the world. Since then I have read accounts that dispute this. But disputed facts are nothing new in Rome. A dispute is part of the proof of existence. The part of the hospital where I stayed looked to be an open gymnasium and very much what you would expect from the oldest hospital in the world. There were seven foot tall wall partitions that kept the eight patients in our room somewhat sequestered. High above was the 80 foot tall ceiling, with the leaded glass church windows. The hospital had been remodeled after my first stay there. I returned a second and a third time for a stay at Santo Spirito. . The dinner they served that night I stayed was memorable. Meridith was visiting and remembers the large piece of octopus tenacle in my pasta. I don’t don’t if the tenacle was laying dormant, obviously deceased, or tired from grasping pasta. This time at Santo Spiritu elapsed easily. In three hours I had an x-ray and my ankle wrapped and we were out of there. Always strange, never boring. The experience is unique, I suppose because it is filled with Italians, and it isn’t Kansas. Many people were in the waiting area we had entered. Always someone coughing and not covering his face. Others looked very old and sick. People seemed to be in groups of four or five. One would be the patient and the others were friends or family in attendance. They all, guests and patients alike, looked concerned or sick and old. No exceptions. Singles night must be another day. Our group of two was the smallest. After a short time an attendant came, to x-ray me, I sw a doctor, got wrapped and comforted; I could go, nothing broken. Out front again M stopped a taxi on the street after the portiere failed to raise anyone on the phone. By three on Thursday afternoon we walked in the door. We were hungry and thirsty and I had my ankle wrapped and the doctor gave strict instructions to keep off of it for fifteen days or six days. Experience told me not to wonder about it. Take the instructions and proceed accordingly. This is Rome. *** By Friday morning I rather decided that if I was to keep off my foot for fifteen days, or six days, I would choose the six days and maybe cut that to three. I had quit smoking two weeks before and wasn't ready to put a lot of energy into this sore foot affair. I’d rather not think about it. *** We are Bus Riders. You want to get around? take a bus. Well, let them take you. they have drivers already. We bus the city, train out, rent a car if we have to. We know the Bus routes in our area rather well. Took a bus to Monte Verde, my former dentist worked up that way, now we were cruising. Not a regular bus for us, it was a general excursion to new places. I had by left foot wrapped after a fall on the street. Nothing broken, tender. A bus ride was better to get around than walking. As we rode along the irritated bus driver became vocal, letting his passengers know his displeasure with how his day was going. More than unhappy, pissed senseless is a more accurate way to describe the condition he displayed by his driving. It rapidly became more apparent. He jerked us around. Stopped and started abruptly. All of us passengers were hanging on, swinging around with the jerky motions. It was obvious to all, his was not normal behavior. Passengers looked at each other alarmed. Several times the driver loudly bitched disapproval at other drivers. He opened his window to more effectively yell and be heard by other drivers and pedestrians; and had more or less forgotten there were people on his bus. He was blown up angry and letting everyone know. Passengers were groaning and becoming vocal in their disapproval, many were leaving at stops before they wanted to, simply to get off the bus. I called out a reprimand for the driver to hear. Finally M and had enough misery. The young came to the next bus stop, opened the doors, yelled at a motorino driver. M got off fast and as I started stepping off he started moving the bus. The doors were still open, I had my cane and a cast on my foot, he didn’t care. He was on a mission of revenge. I hopped off and made a few running steps, managed not to fall while he tore off, wheeled around the corner, spinning gravel, as he cut the corner the tires hit the curb then bounced off the road. That was okay with us, we’d made our getaway, and he didn’t run over my foot. We watched angry-man go as fast as he could on that near empty bus. On the bus along Gregorrio Septimo for the hundredth or the thousandth time, the swimming pool we used o go to is this way, here's a good open air market, a lunch spot we found, the car rental place, a meat market we went to when we lived on Borgo Pio ... while up there, practically the other side of the street is the cupcola of the Vatican – the massive white dome of the church. So I many times we have passed this way, So many time and we always look up. There it is against a blue sky. People are up there on the cupola walking around, looking out across Rome. Taking pictures. They are tiny specks and here I am right across the street and can’t see them unless I look hard for them, knowing they are there. They are too distant to distinguish men from the women. They are dots above and we are only across the street from the dome. Five hundred years ago workers put it together. Michelangelo had a large hand in it although it was completed after his death. When animals, ropes and a lot of sweating men provided the power. They built a beautiful structure, and they built to last. I am in awe every time I see the colonnade that rings the Vatican. Here we are in a modern city and there it stands. You can't appreciate the immensity from far away. You have to stand next to one pillars and look at the size. There are four rows of columns, three hundred of them. Pillars cut from a quarry in Tuscany, northern Italy, moved here and erected. In the short time we've been here the streets in front of the Vatican have changed. Cars used to drive right in front of the piazza and swing left or right toward piazza resurgimento. Still all the beggars, all the tourists, day and night pass here. What giant magnificence. Another reminder: Roma e bella. *** I've got a work Giancarlino scratched out on a piece of cardboard twenty-five years ago. Practically a discard. Maybe it is a discard because I can't find it. Bru left it when he moved out. I found it under a rug. We have two large finished works of Giancarlino we bought from him and took back to Ohio. A change of pace for us. We ventured out at night. We had no news on our one channel TV that night, so that made it easier to get away. The temperature dropped. No rain but cooler this November second. We put on our jackets and took a cab to the location for the opening of Giancarlino's art show. He's in a good part of the city this time, near Piazza Mancini. We were stepping out and he is stepping up. This time a legitimate gallery instead of a blown-out apartment, filled with a crowd of adults who appeared well-dressed, functioning, civilized citizens. I saw a collector there that I knew from Alberto's May Day parties. Giancarlino dressed in a wrinkled striped shirt sticking out, an old, ratty looking, knit vest, an overly wide tie, messy hair and beard. He has a reputation to uphold. He was talking to a small group of people when we saw him. We didn't interupt. After twenty-five years, we bid congratulations Giancarlino. Welcome to the art world. He made it to the main arena. We invested our support in this clown-fellow and he has done well. Alberto said he cranks out too much work to become valuable. Giancarlino will do two or three paintings a day and sell them on the street to tourists passing by. The cab ride home was a a breeze. We wondered if there would be a movie on TV when we got there. *** First thing in the morning I ventured to the market. Said hi to friends. Picked up some vegetables to make minestrone. Had a coffee at Angelo's. Along the way home Franco the woodworker on our cobblestone lane working on the street in front of his shop, working a cabinet into being. In greeting for me and spontaneously sang a made-up song in Italian. I’ll translate - “the situation with my sister doesn’t go well.” I laughed out loud *** city life has many faces walking, standing, waiting, on and off the buses in and out of stores you won’t see them all near home, heading down a narrow way a face in the crowd startled me the recognition of a friend had caught me off guard a friend now deceased uncanny the resemblance at first glance stopping ahead of me, this man had his keys out for a door same graying hair, same smooth movements, equally well-dressed, and as his head turned he first casually looked my way, then when his glance caught me he peered directly into my eyes i slowed my steps and he smiled, first in apparent recognition then his look changed to something else that i couldn’t read, we exchanged nods then greetings i thought you were someone i knew, i explained so did i, he said, you remind me a lot of a dear friend we used to meet for a drink at that bar near the corner he live in this neighborhood for quite a while, then passed away a few years ago *** On the street of the hatmakers I hideout. looking for my socks. Not exactly hiding out, I'm in here and if you're not, you don't see me. That's why I have to tell you what I'm doing. *** Doing the best I could, I kept bureaucratically in order. Now I needed a new identity card. At the first desk I talked to a person who checked my card. The last one had a duration of five years. This time I had a choice: if I elected to pay nothing it would have been good for five years. For a small fee it would be good for ten years. The total cost came to five euro, thirty-two cents. I decided on ten. Another girl took me up stairs to a window where I had to pay and then she filled out a new form. It was quick and easy. I took a number and proceeded to wait. When my number came on the screen I walked to the appropriate window and another guy was there. I know he didn’t have the number on the screen. I did, but he wrapped up and quickly left. I stepped up and showed my number. The woman checked my documents and began filing out a new card. She asked my profession, I said actor, She typed it out then she slapped it into the printer in three seconds. I groaned and stopped her. "What is it?" she asked. "Look, I wanted to add "writer" on that, I didn't say it fast enough." I made a pleading, questioning face. It was a slow day, she was cordial and said she could add writer, but she'd have to do the card over. "You're lucky. I haven't glued your photo on it yet." There was no one in line behind me, so why not. She walked back to the cabinet by the wall, took out another blank identity card, brought it back. We chatted, I waited. Still no one behind me, I was the only one there, when out of nowhere this guy came up and started talking to her, asking questions. It is a pushy thing that some do. He keeps talking and She tried to run him off by telling him to get a number and wait a minute. But he was smooth. kept taking like he never heard her and got the information out of her that he needed. The whole time he talked she was typing on my card. A minute or two after he left she finished my identity card quickly and neatly, despite the minor interruption. We kept talking, both of us happy it all went well. I did this business before when the office was crowded. Today, smooth sailing. She gave me the new card, I thanked her, complimented her on her efficiency and left her in good humor. Yes indeed. At home I looked at my new card. Under profession it read actor. *** Hopped on the electric 116 to my bank. What a ride. That electric bus is always pleasant, quiet and smooth. My favorite. At the bank, no line this Monday morning. I put my identity card down and withdrew 2000 euro from our account. A few months earlier I took out three thousand. The teller I recognized, I knew she remembered me. I asked the her about the law to aid in controlling tax cheats and other illegal activities, The law that says a person can only take two thousand in cash on any day. She shrugged, half smiled, leaned forward to say I could take more than two thousand out if I only do it once in a while. In the U.S. they would say no way, and that would be the end of it. Ah, the casualness of Rome...it can work with you. *** If you think a story about Rome is an easy go along, beginning to end, with order, you don't know Rome. I have lived here enough to know: Rome and order are strange bedfellows. *** hey, michelle A lot of voices were talking at once down below, I looked out our window at the crowd near our door. In the thick of it I saw a face I knew, Michelle Placido, one of the best known actors in Italy. “Michelle,” I called to him. I couldn't resist. We worked together on the road for two months traveling around Italy doing Arther Miller’s View from the Bridge or Squardo del Ponte in Italian, and that's how they did it. The play is set in New York and Michelle wanted a cop with a real American accent. That’s how I got cast. I had a real American accent, a bit part. I turned up at the immigrants home and arrested the two young men that were hiding out there. My fellow actors in the company called me the highest paid actor in Italy. I was paid the same as everyone else in the cast, but my time on stage in the two and a half hour long play was three minutes. So by the clock they called me the highest paid actor in Italy. The scene in the play was pivotal and crucial, nearly violent and emotional as the cop with me and I took the two clandestine off to jail. I had a brief, rousing confrontation and shouting match with Michaelle. After working a heavy scene with him and watching every performance from the wings, few feet off the side of the stage for two runs. After two months on the road with his touring company I knew he would remember me. When I saw him down there and called out his name he looked up. I saw the questioning look on his face. He knew the voice and hadn’t heard it for a while. When he saw me he smiled and waved, A moment later had an idea and signaled me to come on down. He was directing a scene in his current film Romanzo Criminale. I walked down to see him. After we exchanged greetings he asked if I wanted to do an improve scene with him in the film. I said sure, and then he had to get back to work, his assistant would catch up with me. I watched about five minutes and the assistant came up and introduced himself and said, "Michalle wants to do a scene with you right after lunch." I checked my watch. It was ten in the morning. I had an appointment to leave for Sardengna with our friends Roberto and Mirella to drive to Civitaveccia where we’d catch an overnight ferry to Sardenga for a few days getaway. I realized I didn’t have time to wait. Here’s where I made another one of the errors in my acting life. I gave up the shoe-in appearance with Michalle to keep the appointment to go to Sardengna. I told the assistant director that I couldn’t do it. He understood and would tell Michaele. I lived with that decision and often thought of it. For an actor, rejection usually comes from the other direction. I said no when I think I should have said yes and changed my plans. The film turned out to be a major one for Michaelle. In our tour of View From the Bridge we played every night for two months up and down Italy from south in Sicily, up along both coasts, to north in sight of Switzerland. What a time it was. We were in some of the oldest theaters I have ever been in in my life. I swear some were as old as Shakespeare’s original Globe, and some were the largest. The new one in Udine had a back stag area large enough for a college marching band and two foot ball teams. The show ran from nine P.M. to near midnight. Then we’d go out to dinner. Because Michalle was such a star the mayor of the town we were and many of the important people of the city would stop by to see Michaelle. We ate course after course of the best meals the cities could provide,then deserts and the after dinner drinks. I am a small town Ohio boy, accustomed to the early to bed, early to rise routine. Always starting my day after three A.M. never ending it. The two month tour was grueling. We’d eat, sleep, get up, drive to the next town and do it again the next night. Another town, another show. Always the late night feast, then crash after three. *** Michaelle’s daughter is also an actor and producer. She did a film for TV in which I played a doctor. The memory of that is part of our family story now, as we were shooting the day my son and his family flew into Roma. M had to meet them at the airport without me; I was busy doing a cesarean section. *** Other than camels walking the back roads near Champino Airport and the occasional parading Carbinieri on horseback down our street, there aren't an abundance of animals visible in Rome. Bill makes note of the different species of birds he sees on his walk by teh river, but I can't count those. It's hearsay. In Campo Dei Fiori what are real are seagulls and rats. Dino lives in a top floor apartment the other side of Campo dei fiori. Three or four of us were outside Pietro's Bar. A pigeon came in for a landing, grabbing for a crumb. We talked about pigeons and Dino got in an uproar about the noise from the gulls that begin in the pre-dawn. The gulls land on t he roof close to his open window and make a racket. Heading towaard home, at the end of our street I walked by a cloud of pigeons swirled in a mass. A small, old man with heavy wiry beard, an old fashioned seaman's cap and heavy black jacket sat on a door step as he scattered bread crumbs to the birds. A cloud of the flying varmints swarmed about him, lusting for a fragment. The cap. It was Nico. I didn't want to say anything and disturb his feeding mess. If Nico, the market stalls at afternoons clean up time bring in a swarm of scavengers. Seagulls from the nearby Tevere screech overhead then swoop into the piazza to scratch out the pickings. Every day has it's dog...or cat, or rat. Bill goes by the piazza in the evening and sees rats scurry under the newspaper booth. The lady who runs the stand has a small dog who goes nuts trying to get under the stand at the rats. I should ask Bill her name. She's had three big weddings since I've been here. I used to buy the newspaper from here, but the Internet changed that. Bill doesn't have the Internet, so he still sees her for a newspaper. A decade or two ago the cats ate the rats and the birds ate what was left. Now there are more rats and fewer cats. Twenty years ago when we first came here cats were lying everywhere, in any spot of sunshine, and roamed the streets at night. Now, two kinds of people have dogs, the well-to-do and the homeless tramps. The more, and the larger, the merrier. In the middle of the day, on our way over to see Bill, we took the short cut under the arch, Cappellari to Pelligrino. We encountered vagrants sleeping, with three or four dogs, large ones. The area smelled of garbage. We hurried. Some mornings the city trash collectors don’t come, and the heap I see when walking by The trash piles up under the arch. seems enough to fill a small landfill. All of the residents nearby, a hundred families, dump trash and garbage there. Other sections of the city are provided with large bins: for paper, glass and garbage. Dogs bark and leave their mess to walk around. The owners never saw the dumps until officials began enforcing fines for dog dumplings. Now owners walk around with plastic bags to clean up after their dogs. I am sure it probably came as an unexpected surprise to dog ownership. I mentioned that dogs bark at the start of this paragraph because I don't like to hear them. Kitties are quiet. Between 1990 an 2000 we lost the cats and the dogs came in. Now in Rome the wealthy and the homeless have dogs...at least two of them. I'm glad we were there then there were cats about. Rome converted from the lire to the euro, at the same time converted from cats to dogs. It is common to see dogs on leashes everywhere. It is uncommon to see cats lounging around. They used to sleep everywhere they could find a splash of sunshine. At Largo Argentina, across from the popular Felton's Book Store, the opera and a good Chinese restaurant, the former end stop for Tram Otto (8), is a, sunken, large, open space of antiquities, the area where Julius Ceasar was killed. At the Curia of the Theater of Pompey today you'll find a cat sanctuary. A good area to see kitties walking around content. They are street wise, and only the willing will get close enough to be petted. In a large area sunken below street level, on the side opposite the book store, is the clinic for stray cats, and home for many seeking a free meal with space to walk around in safety. Always people stop to see how they are doing, and watch the cats frolic in the sun. Locals and tourists sit on a bench to catch sun and watch. *** rode in a new 916 electric bus just off the assembly line rolled out fresh, clean, pristine. told the driver it was like a new Mercedes usually drivers don't speak to passengers he turned and with a calm look of complete satisfaction, exhaled slowly nodded and said, "I know." *** On street level, below our apartment, Maxi has a shop. a guy named Mustafa, a sullen Egyptan, worked there before. A big guy who kept his eyes out to what happened on the street. I'd see him looking up and down the street and not saying anything. Not a cheery fellow. I did a painting on our street, something i had painted in many variations. This painting showed the arch, doors on bot sides of the street and the open door to his studio was prominent. Mustafa wanted the painting. I gave him a good discount and came to a fair price. Fair for him. I think I asked fifty euro. "I don't have the cash ... can I pay you later?" He whined a bit and I gave him the painting. He'd pay me later. That was the agreement. I am still waiting for "pay you later" to get here. A week or two after he got the painting I asked for the money. "My brother took the painting." He shook his head and pointed to some abstract location neither one of us could see. I didn't agree with him, "No, you took it and you're going to pay me for it." I give a strong argument to a child. It had no affect on him. He looked sad and shook his shoulders in resignation. I never got the money or the painting back. He quit paying rent and left the work space. I never saw Mustafa go. That's when Maximiliano took the space. I never gave Maxi any paintings and we got along well. He made objects out of delicate metal, earings and necklaces. Some of his work was okay. He spent a lot of time working on his jewelry. From our apartment two floors up I cold hear him banging on his anvil. “Lesson number one: The cat is on the table,” Maxi wanted to demonstrate what English he knew. It was a phrase. I asked him to repeat it several times. I thought he said, “The cake is on the table.” He kept saying it until I understood, the cat is on the table. He told me that was the phrase he learned in school on the first day of English class. Evidently that English book has been around a while, another friend who is twenty years older than Maxi wanted to impress me with her command of English when she said, “The cat is on the table.” At Maxi's shop a girl came by and was looking at his display of earrings on a board and knocked one off. She jumped back and said, “Non e culpa mia.” It’s not my fault - a standard Italian reply. Maxi came over to pick it up as she scurried off, already on her cell phone, head down, making a fast get away. *** Nothing is easy. Those are words for everyone in Rome. Live here, born here, come here, die here. On any road nothing is easy. Here is an example of what Rome can do to you. Today M paid her money to join the Italian Automobile Club. She doesn’t have a car; and more importantly, she doesn’t have an Italian driver’s license, but she is now a member of the Italian Auto Club. *** Corine’s last day. She told me she would take a month off. She said something about her husband, I don’t know what. I didn't hear everything she told me. Something about him liking when she is not working. Tomorrow is her last day at Rocco's. That I know. Rocco mentioned it too. He’s the boss. He also wanted me to try some Ginsing coffee that they started selling that day. I did. It was sweet and okay. The breakfast was good today. After two years or so of breakfast by Corrine,she finally got a good one out for me, albeit the last one. By chance three years later I ran into her on the street. She was older, wore her hair longer and blonde now, still working with her husband. When she saw me she even called me by name. She was still working with her husband and life was going well. *** spanning the five hundred year old narrow weather worn stone Via Dei Cappellari, about half way down, a beautiful large stone arch extends from one side to the other. there is a window in the arch. My friend Mirella, a now retired market worker was born there in the early 1900s. Below, where it can easily be seen from the street level is a posted sign on one side , neatly written in latin, carved in stone sometime before 1500, it reads, under penalty of the law do not throw trash here. By that sign under the arch is where everyone always has thrown their trash and always will. It must be a sense we all have within us that tells us where that place is and what it is good for. *** now in sun and springtime the two dancing girls were out today Sunday in the piazza, going in style a girl about seven picked up the mic and they had to get it from her the tunes from the forties were jumping a drunk danced along for a bit didn’t last long, no problem canes and top hats tap-taping roll on in the sunshine, coins drop, the crowd is clapping the girls are tapping. *** Monday is wash day. Meri puts it together, I haul the clothes to the laundry and do the wash. It used to be across the street, but after Luciano closed his place and moved to Tailand we had to find another laundry. It was about as close on the other side of campo dei Fiori. Three-fifty to wash, three-fifty to dry, boom bang, about an hour and I’m out of there. Abdul has the job as operator there. He opens the door at nine a.m. or shortly after, the then it’s business. He works until nine at night. He has been here from Senegal for six years and has learned the Roman ways. Nine ten, nine-fifteen or thereabouts and then he’s ready for another long day. Tall, sleek, a good hearted fellow who speaks bits of English, blurry Italian, his French is fine. After he opens the door he hangs the sign that confirms it and sits at his desk in front of a computer screen. It’s a benefit of the job. They also have computers for those who want to rent time. A few years ago the laundry added a row of five other computers that are rented out for a euro per half hour. Now and then I’ve seen someone come in to use a computer. I’m the only one in to wash this morning, it usually goes this way at this hour, and I got straight to it. Another part of Abduhl’s routine is to leave after all is set to go; he goes for a coffee and croissant from the bar down on the corner. This morning before he left Abduhl asked if I wanted a coffee, I said sure. He’s seen me every Monday for a few years. We got along well. He started to go and looked back. “A croissant?” “Good idea.” I nodded. “What kind do you want?” “simplice.” That’s the regular nothing special sweet roll. I began reaching in my pocket and he put up his hand to shake me off. “No, no. I’ll buy. No problem.” I insisted as he smiled, shook his head and started out. Nice guy. I didn’t want him to spend his cash on me, but I stayed. That’s the Italian way. To buy someone a coffee is a regular occurrence. While I was doing my wash I remembered about two years ago when Abdul said Paris was there he was ready to live. Last year he was ready to move to New York. He wanted Gotham City to gnaw on. He could do it. He’s forty-something and ripe to roll right into the turmoil of the world. This year he has a girlfriend and is content to stay in Rome. We do live our dreams, so it seems. I had my clothes and soap in the machine and it was rolling. I got Inspector Grimace and sat down to return to Three Pines...and wait. When Abdul returned we had our coffees and croissants, me washing and he back on his computer searching...looking. The wash finished, I read during the drying had the wash done and was reading while waiting for the drying when I walked to his desk. I interrupted Abdul to ask if there were elephants and are there lions in Senegal. Without hesitation at my banal question he said,, “In parks there are.” I nodded and waited a few seconds but he was back into the computer. There was no more to say on the matter. That was it. They are in the parks. Oh, the deviated realm in which we find ourselves...a coffee here, a croissant there, and as our world gets larger, at the same time it gets smaller. *** I was given a used notebook, the paper kind used in school years ago. the kind we used to take notes in or write papers. The booklet was well used, worn, filled with writing or different sorts. I held the booklet open. In the center, left of the fold were letters written, an O, a C. U, they continue down the page. I had to announce the letters as they appeared on a screen. This was live, there was no rehearsal, no second takes. I couldn’t make out they letters easily. I didn’t look all the way down, there must have been ten or fifteen letters. They were unevenly spaced and slightly different as if they were made with different pencils and pens by different people attempting changes and corrections. Maybe I could see them on the screen and read them there, or check that I saw them correctly. I noticed music was playing, a great theme was ending. I knew when the music finished that I would start reading the vertical column of letters. There was tension. I had to do it. I’d been doing new announce jobs for years so the unexpected was normal for me, however this was a and when the music finally stopped I realized then that this was all a bad dream. I hadn’t had an announcing for years and this was a new one. The one I used to have I was reading the news on a long piece of teletype paper and someone lit the there end. fine, how’d you sleep? *** More mail came in. here’s an exact copy of the instructions I was mailed to renew my permisso di sourgiorno, permission to stay in Rome. It read: to be submitted to the findings photo fingerprint. in that case, must 'show: this letter of convocation, 4 passport photos in color with a 00white background, original passaport a valid ', residence permit if they have, received delegated items, the Original copies of documents relating to the inserts in the kit. (These documents will also be brought in fotoopia) - 4 passport photos with a white background color of the children of age ' under 14 years, if present in Italy, to be included on the permit. *** One or two Sundays a month two mounted carabinieri in dress uniform, swords and helmets, on white horses will prance slowly down Via Dei Cappellari on their elegant steeds. It’s a treat to hear them come, there would be the clip clop. We knew what was coming after the first time we saw it, and ran to the window open it up and look down to see them slowly pass by. Pomp and a display of security for the citizens of the inner city it is a display for the average citizens. Call it a parade. *** Artist Cy Thombly lived around the corner. I used to pass him going down our street. Somebody told me who he was once time. when I saw him we’d nod as neighbors do. his art was beyond me and Giancarlino’s strange work is more fun. *** What Americans see – Rome, Florence, Venice, Sienna, the Amalphi Coast. When Italians come to the U.S. - they see the Grand Canyon, drive the coast from L.A. to San Franciso, then Los Vegas, then fly home. *** I was standing in the middle of the piazza comfortably doing nothing more than looking around and taking it all in. I was quite at home in the noise and confusion. The Forno and the fountain were behind me. The tall foreboding statue of a darkly robbed and hooded Giordorno Bruno looked down on all. After seven years imprisonment in the Castello he was executed on this spot in 1601 by the catholic church. Among other fallacies, the heretic said the earth was not the center of the universe. Today crowds were milling about. For the last two hundred years Campo Dei Fiori has been the site of one of Rome’s largest markets. Fruit, vegetables, utensels. As always, the throngs of buyers and the curious were about. A tourist standing nearby me looked up from the map he was holding and suddenly asked, “What piazza to get is this?” Without the slightest hesitation and the merest glance in his direction I answered, “Campo dei fiori.” I spoke quickly and easily with pride in my heart. He nodded thanks and returned to his map. What was he, German – Italian tourist? This was my home turf. Seventeen years and I finally answered that question. To be asked was an honor. That Meant I must have appeared to know where I was, or he didn’t look before he spoke. This was my turf. *** Catherine Denurv was having coffee at the café up the treet from the center of piazza Navona. That’s the story. I walked by and my friend said, “Do you know who that is?” and I said, “no”. *** kilometer years divide by two and add ten per cent *** Here it is five minutes before ten at night. I am at home waiting for a TV movie that was set to begin, make that scheduled to begin at nine-ten. *** prelude to Italy book This book started a long time ago. Italy has changed and so have I. Rome is a shell. it is isolated, independent. It is the heart, the bloodline of Italy. *** Many years ago I wrote a few pages of description to resolve the question: what it means to live in the present moment. I retyped it so it was neat, then on a trip home, I took it along, popped it out and showed it to my mother. Writing the paper was a fine move on my part to solidify my personal philosophic thoughts. Giving the paper to my mother to read was not a good idea. I had figured out life and thought it'd be great to share it with mom, then she'd have the life's answer and feel good too. Boy was I wrong. I remember when she looked at what i gave her, her not caring or understanding my explanation of what i had written, when after she tried to read it, the rolling of her eyes and the questioning look on her face. I think she might have asked me if i was alright, meaning, was I crazy. It is one practicality to have a momentous transcendental thought complete in your mind and quite another to try to put it into words on paper for your mother, a woman who didn't give a hoot. Mom was not a thinker of heavy thoughts. She thought about what she was going to make Chester for dinner. At the time I was inspired by Ram Dass - aka Richard Alpert. The stuff i gave her was about living in the present. Be Here Now was his book, in addition I had a recording of a lecture he gave. It was deep. He taught at Harvard and dropped a lot of acid and smoked a lot of dope with Timothy Leary. Mom was a Canadian Club and water woman and I know she had some fear of water - as in the lake. It all relates to the way her mind processed material. "Mow the yard." That's how she thought. And that was a bit of a digression to this discussion but, as mom would have done, I think I'll leave it at that. You will be relieved to know that this book is not an answer to the ultimate question. It is only a few hundred pages that cover events in a couple of lives. It’s how my wife and I dealt with what we created, a journey. An adventure for us, one of my better ideas. *** On the train north to Osta, in Northern Italy near Switzerland, my reading is disturbed as a guy comes by at shouting coffee. I hear his clatter. No smell of fragrant warm coffee blend proceeds him. I hear the cart man making a variety noises, cart rattles, singing to himself not loud enough for anyone else to enjoy. He had the flair and confidence of the concerge at a five star hotel, although take away four of the stars right away. His equipment was tacky. What’s on his mind? I saw him glance at his watch. He’s six hours from home cooking and his wife making the coffee. Outside is a familiar winter scene, snow and hills and pine trees, beautiful to behold and swift to travel through via train. When he gets close enough I peer at the goods in the cart. I see the cheese and beef on a stick that someone back in Rome said to eat. I didn’t. Save it for the Germans. I had a tepid small shot of coffee in a paper cup and returned to reading, enjoyed glancing up occasionally to look out the window at the snow and the hills and the pines as the train rumbled on. It's calming factor about a train is leaving others to watch ahead, know the route and make sure the engine keeps going. *** tell some story, then pages of tween stuff, thinking, no actions details of the situation in the present before the story goes on use time to explain what is going on and what everyone is thinking about. *** Legend or truth: when it’s threatening rain over the Vatican, it will rain at Campo Dei Fiori. My Italian market working friends used to repeat that to me, as if it were a superstition or a miracle. It is not so metaphysical after I checked a map to find the Vatican is north west of Campo Dei Fiori; therefore the winds do prevail. The clouds over there are headed over here. *** Tuesday evening Roberto called, always good to hear from the professor, our former landlord; and we have remained friends. "Jack, Friday night we are gong to a club to hear some music, would you and M would want to go along?" "Sure, Roberto...what is going on? "One of the musicians, the singer, works with Mirella, he has a band. It could be interesting for you. He is very good. We have seen him, but not for a few years. We are going to leave about eight P.M. I am driving us." "What do we wear?" "It is a club with drinking and the music, so, casual, it is casual." "Fine, Roberto, we'll be there at you gate at eight." When I hung up I explained everything to M, told her I said we would go out Friday night with Roberto and Mirella to hear a band. It's somebody she works with. Roberto said it would be fun. M was pleased with the idea. Roberto and Mirella were both sensible adults and were our friends. Friday evening a minute before eight we walked out our door, twenty feet to the corner, forty feet down the alley to Via De Pelligrino, five paces to the left and we were at Roberto and Mirella’s gate. No need to ring the bell, Mirella was opening the gate when we got there. Roberto was backing out the car. I got in the front with Roberto, M and Mirella sat in back. Twenty minutes we were a few blocks on the other side of the Vatican, parking near the club. From the outside there was little indication it was open, inside it was jammed. Tables filled, people standing all around and along the bar. They had a table reserved for us frnt and center. They band was ready to begin. As we took our seats Mirella was talking to a guy who was in the band, the lead singer. We were introduced and in a few minutes he had to quit talking and get to work. We ordered beers and they got there as the band started up. It was an Italian club and that's who were there, no tourists, no out of town folk, middle aged mid-lifers who quickly were rocking with the tunes. The band did American fifties rock. The guy we were introduced to was the lead singer. He didn't speak English but all the songs were from America and he didn't have an accent when he sang; he did the songs well. The young man could sing and perform and the audience loved him. From watching singers on TV I'd say that singing was a gift of the Italian culture, and this guy was on the top. He had a good heart. I wished him well. If this is what he wants to do, he’s doing it. How to step up from here, I don't know how it happens, how bands break through. An original hit tune, I guess. There are clubs all over Rome, and so many singers want to make it to the world stage. A club in Rome is exposure, but is it a place to advance a career? He's happy doing it, maybe that's enough for him. We sat and drank, talked and listened. Hound Dog, Don’t be Cruel, Rock around the Clock. They did a great job. After the show Roberto drove us home. “What did you think, weren’t they great?” Mirella asked. “Most entertaining. Everybody loved ‘em,” I said. “He loves performing.” “It shows. I hope he does well.” Friday night, weather clear, traffic was light. We were home after midnight and took our one minute walk home. *** He finished college, wanted a vacation so he moved to Italy. When you're free and twenty-three you don’t have a lot to pack. The world is your gift. Greg bought a plane ticket, packed a suitcase and was moving. Thanks to the Internet he found an apartment no problem. It was trashy, but a starting opportunity for a man in his position, unemployed. The smell was irritating. The previous occupants must have been livestock. Greg was sweeping the kitchen his second morning there when a large explosion blew off the top of the building and knocked him to the floor unconscious. He remembers looking up at the building as the ambulance took him away. The top of the building where he lived had a hole in it and most of it was missing. Rubble covered the street. He remembered the wale of the siren. Then he blacked out. Waking in a hospital bed in Italy and did remember that he didn't speak a word of Italian, *** *** Our current, latest, final apartment in Rome was built in 1501. Everything on the street is about the same age. Last week two workers repaired the plumbing in the wall between our floor and the one below. To find the leak they torn out a chunk of the wall on the stairway that was two feet wide and five feet tall. The top of the demolition work tore a hole into our bathroom floor. The same day they repaired the pipe and patched the wall. The wall now has bricks and new plaster roughed in to cover the hole on the stairway wall. It’s only open in our bathroom. On Monday they’ll repair the hole in our bathroom floor. On Sunday I dropped a copy of this book about Rome into the hole in the floor. I did it on purpose. They’ll probably knock a hole in that wall in a hundred years or so. That’s my guess. Then they’ll find the book I wrote. What you read now is a future look at the past. *** Rome changes. What we have seen is a bump on a cog in the spinning wheel of time. At most, this is a glimpse during my quarter century in the eternal city. Today I was looking at a video shot twenty years ago. I saw how in a relatively short time, Rome has changed. The clothes, the styles, but not much change externally with the buildings. Longer than in any other place I have lived in Rome. It didn't develop in a plan, never had I dreamed about this, it just happened. Be seated with your favorite beverage, this may take a while. The epic is about to unfold - and like an origami alligator, once opened you may never be able to re-fold it. *** We took the 116 bus beyond Via Veneto for a Sunday morning stroll walk in the public park adjacent to Villa Borgesse, a large park above Piazza Del Popolo. 150 acres, the third largest public park in Rome after the Villa Doria Pamphili and Villa Ada. From the Spanish steps to Piazza del Popolo, the walk rings around to the gallery at Villa del Borghese, home to great art by Caravaggio, Titian, Raphael and other masters. There, wandering in the middle of the park we noticed a small, loosely formed group coming by. A few unobtrusive men out front and a few off to the side and behind, walking with the tall, thin, elderly President Neopolitano and his wife - the President of Italy out for a stroll in the park. All that recognized him kept politely off to the side during this low profile visit to the park. Without commotion they passed. M. put her hand on my arm, looked at me and I nodded. The few People waking around that morning that were observant enough to see him, smiled at the gentle, well-liked President. and he smiled back; a chiefly unnoticed event. A good one for a Sunday walk in the park. *** *** We made a trip to Capri. We heard about it. It’s an island, and there are ferries to get there. I took the fast boat alone ne time. touched down o the island and ten minutes later rode the rapid ride back to the mainland. Another trip we a friend's brother who lives on the island. After he picked us up he stopped at the market and bought horse meat for dinner. It tasted sweet. He told us not to tell his wife what we were eating. *** ninfa gardens poggio Catino the big house and the basement in town Seasons pass and the outside air changes the taste of everything about Via Cappellari. *** I look out our window now on Via Cappellarri, and its about twelve feet to the building on the opposite side of the street. So what I see is a wall of stone. If I stick my head out and look up I can see the sky. I’ve got to be careful not to fall out the window. I think it took M about two years to look up at the sky from our window. I’m guessing. She's afraid of heights, so maybe she's never done it. *** l can i find the way? the hum is the city mouths closed silent opening the day in force moving in city numbers calm, fresh, in a rush good morning, meet those eyes here i stop to make note glance the ticking clock now is our time the crowd has a timbre, mood, a tone could be the earth itself,  myself full up this minding, hear that? up close, it is not a hum can i find the way? undulating through combers of people's notions; some minikin thoughts are mine though sustain on unattached observation. as moment by moment days rolling upon another changing dream clusters in motion. emotion. commotion. my ship in harbor, no anchor holds me waves of people walking, not talking, not talking, although know well, in their hearts everyone wants to detail aloud their current concern, ailment, injury, or when nothing else is available, news of a friend or relative                                                                                      yes, pain sells like rain to the weatherman if night dreams lingered there'd be more to write about but days would be confusing, jumbled. again i take pause to note the ticking clock; now is my time.  now is our time. long ago my ship left the dock can i find the way moving maze forward through waves of people thought fumes haze the brain coat a glaze,  damper the blaze                                                  now call bill to meet for coffee. after hello he said today is paper day, a reminder knows well the trash collection schedule. he'll tell more when we meet at Angelo's there, he talks, i drink the coffee. though i try to subsist on keeping track make note again, eye toward the ticking clock now is our time *** So many mornings I am thinking in my head, which is one of the easier places I have found to do it. So I think in the mornings of what I have to do and write what I want. Well, not always, but often what I do has something to do with writing. I am sure I am getting ready to make a point. Be prepared, however, not overly - it may take a while. Now it is later in the day and I am rearranging the furniture, something I do often. M is not crazy about that, but she puts up with it. It is never serious rearranging, usually only the table that I move. There’s not that much furniture to move. She just came back into the room from taking a shower. She’s got the sheets in her hand. We’re doing laundry today. Well, she’s doing it. I am going along cause we’ll have lunch during drying time; fifteen minutes. What do you want? That’s how long it takes for the dryers to dry the clothes. You ought to be able to eat in fifteen minutes. You don’t really have to chew pasta twenty-six times. *** Sandro’s house in Testaccio is near the moratoio, the old slaughterhouse - a large area that is used occasionally for shows of art, public information or rock venues, whatever they can think to do. Sandro's house began as a hole dug into the side of a hill. Walls and a roof and a second story came later. The cave began two thousand years ago when Mount Testaccio started as a trash heap near the river port, a repository for broken urns and items from ancient cargo ships bringing goods to Rome. His mother bought the place in 1947. He made it into this home years ago in the early 1990s. *** l James Bond 007 must be tired out. He's making a movie and has been running around Rome for a month, mostly at night. I don't know what he does in the daytime, don't see him around, he never stops by. We've seen the filming lights set up along the river. People who've been up at night have had to wait to cross the bridge, or had to walk to the next bridge because Bond had blocked this one up. I heard his helicopter for the last two nights. The engine sounds different from what we usually hear, it's a higher pitch. Some clips on-line showed the helicopter flying along the river. There are seventy foot tall stone walls on each side. The Chopper followed the Bond car racing along the sidewalk on one side. The copter, low over the river, between the walls, filming, flew backwards. Looked dangerous to me. You won't see that in the movie. Well, the secret agent is about out of here. Must have got the bad guys by now. A month, that's all it takes when you're Bond...James Bond. James Bond left Rome. There are exotic places he has to visit. While here, he parachuted onto Ponte Sisto, the bridge we walk every Sunday when going for lunch with Maria. Neither did Hibi the accordion player on the middle of the bridge didn't see him jump in the dark of night. Bond raced one street over, down Corso Vittorio, by our grocery store, again in the cloak of darkness. Evidently he wasn't shopping. We'll have to see the movie to discover what 007 accomplished while we were sleeping. *** We had a good pizza at Buffetti Due, a two minute walk away. Zacharia, an Egyptian makes the pizzas there. We keep going back for another. A footnote on that restaurant. I thought that pizza the best I had ever eaten in Italy, surely tasty. Today, however, we had lunch at a favorite restaurant, The Butteri. I had a pizza Margareta, plain with red tomato sauce. It was great and it rivaled all I had before. It was a different pizza from the one mentioned above; different dough, different everything. However it was wonderful. Spectacular. A week or so after I wrote the above I realized that pizza was great at many places around roma. The best pizza may be at Remo Pizza in Testacio. Now I look at that and say there is good pizza all over Italy. Sapri Pizza at Filipo’s is another great treat. *** I coughed three times with my face dlat in the pillow; like three blasts from a shotgun located just over the dry brush on a close by hill this dry November morn. It woke me up. I was dreaming residually when I woke, pleasant dreams, what i recall. she turned on the water while got ready for the plunge.  Dark nut is the color of this aurora wax that I bought.  My friend Franco who builds furniture here on Via Cappellari said that this was a good brand of wax.  It's dark nut color. It looks kind of red when you look at the wax, but it colors walnut.        We have this table that Franco built for us shortly after we moved in here. It's a roughed-up pine table. He made it in the classic old Italian style. I had it built quite long, then last year I got tired of it and had it cut almost a yard shorter. It's still roughly five and a half feet long. I could measure it and  tell you exactly how long and wide it is in centimeters, but I don't know if you have a centimeter tape.  For us the shorter table fits better in our short room. I keep twisting and turning the furniture around to make the space as usable as I can. We learned in the boat we lived on for ten years in Sausalito. If you arrange the stuff well, it'll finally fit.          Speaking of the wax, in Ohio There are two old wood tables I wax regularly.  They  both have that particular old- fashion, hand-made feel that lends itself well to wax, and specifically waxing by hand.        So here the nut color in the wax works well.  I started to say that last spring I had another of the local workmen cut about a yard off of the table that Franco made for us.  The guy did a lousy job.  How tough can it be to cut a bit of table length and move the legs to  compensate for the new table length.  Evidently for this new guy it was too much trouble to do a decent job.  The guy has had a shop on Via Capppellari for almost twenty years, but evidently hasn't learned much.  I don't want to speculate on his problems, but I won't have to be using him again.  It's too  bad.  He's a nice guy with a nice shop.  However, he can't do simple things to my liking.        I am writing about the table because while waxing noticed how well the wood looks.  I remember my friend Ceseare who worked over on Via Pelligrino when I lived there.  I asked him one time why he didn't use an electric drill that rotates to buff the wax and he said you had to do it by hand.   His grandfather did that kind of work, and Cesare started working there when he was eleven with his father.  I saw Cesare doing a lot of buffing by hand whenever I walked by.        So  I was noticing the old pine table Franco made from some old pine boards, and he had roughed them up a bit.  I've been waxing the table for a couple of years now.  The wood had some stain on it.  Now it has some color in the wax.  The finish is starting to look interesting.  It feels good, or it makes me feel good to rub it.  It is not the kind of table that anyone is going to covet for it's great beauty, but it is mental and physical exercise rubbing wax.   Rome smoked when I came here; in government offices, all stores, cabs, bars. You could smoke anywhere but in church while a service was ngon. However, you had better have your cigarettes for Sunday because you weren't going to buy them. Sunday was shut down, closed, completely. No exceptions. That changed around the year 2000. Stores started opening. Everything became available again on Sundays...everything. People come from around the world to see the well preserved remains of one of the oldest and strongest cultures in civilization. At the same time the Italian government allows the several hundred year old buildings around Campo dei Fiori to be turned into a zone of modern designs and trash. What a pity. The Drunken Ship and Sloppy Sams: examples of this debauchery of an historical area. *** I had a lot of friends working in the market, that’s why it is revered by me, I know their lifetime is there. Many mornings I stood there with them. I painted them, chatted with them by their fires keeping warm, heard their callings, one to another. I remember Beppo one morning was the object of the vendors laughter and calling. I want to describe him as a short guy, but many were small in stature. I remember him as shorter and happier. Beppo was the subject of fun that day. Somewhere, someone called “Beppo” in a loud voice that hung in the air with the smoke from the wooden boxes that were burned. Then others laughed and picked up the call “Bepo”. Then more people knew that it was fun and joined in calling “Bepo” until the market rumbled with laughter and everyone calling his name. The heckling started in a small wave from one section, quickly picked up and grew, carried higher before it washed over the bancarellas, the vendor's stands, crashing into laughter. It was a good time. A calling of market comrades, together and to no purpose. It was Bepo’s day to be the goat for a laugh for everyone. And it ended quickly as it had begun. They were all happy, even Beppo, especially Beppo - content with recognition. Once in a while the days have to be good, even great. *** Some cold winter mornings the wooden boxes that brought in the vegetables were emptied and burned in small fires vendors started in the center of the piazza, providing some warmth from the bitter chill of winter’s morning. It could be frosty at six o’clock in the predawn when sleepy workers turned out from bed to begin setting up for that day’s market. I want to be careful when speaking about the market because it is precious. It is a hallowed experience to work it, to shop it, to paint it. It is a centuries old tradition not to be taken lightly. It is the sustenance grown out there somewhere, trucked into the main distribution center, picked up by the local merchants, to be ported here and sold again to the women and men who come with their baskets to pick their products for that days meals. Old broken furniture gets thrown into those morning fires to heat the workers. One day I pulled out a very solid oak chair with arms and strong back, took the chair home and used it our apartment for another twelve years. It served us well, and me as a reminder winter mornings I painted in the market. *** Steve 5 Sunday we were going to show Steve Porta Portuese, the market that sells used anything and everything. Sunny, warm and light wind that morning, a good start on the day. We had coffee at the bar opposite the narrow church half way down Via Giubinari where we said we’d meet, and he was there already. A good sign. Well, it was sign of responsibility. With some people we'd be having breakfast while we waited. I remember that coffee bar before they remodeled it. It used to be a nineteenth century place with marble counter, dark wooden ceiling beams and dark wood paneling. In the early nineties it was sold and made-over new and modern. This happened in many parts of the city. If they had only waited a few years the old would have been in fashion again. There is nothing as beautiful as that old bar we knew in Borgo Pio before they tore out the old and made it new. Other older bars have been revitalized: an euphemism for saying they were gutted and made modern, but without spending a lot of money. That’s how it goes. "How are you doing, Steve, you want a coffee before we go?" "I had one at Angelo's, I'm ready." He looked youthful, ftresh and ready to go. We walked to Largo Argentina and got the tram for the Trestevere side of Porta portese market. On the tram an accordion player entertained as we rode. I told Steve to watch his pockets. The player has five or seven accomplices with him, they pick pockets and pass the lout around while he plays to distract. The Porta Portese market is a one day a week event where the headcount and everyone else goes on Sunday. Most comers are in and out, some make a day of it. There is a lot to eat and drink, restrooms are available. Here can be found the thieves, the bargain Hunters, the lookers, the tourists, the bankers and the beggars. You can find garage sale items, junk of even lesser quality, even treasures. The market is large, covering many streets, and mobs of people. The shell game is hot. It’s illegal, of course, but where there are crowds there are ways. Usually five or six people are the games men. You have a thick crowd in the street with stands on each side and in the middle. Thousands of people elbow and shove their way through the narrow gaps. For the shell games a couple of lookouts are posted on each side. In the center is someone with a completely collapsible folding table that can be setup or hidden in an instant. The lead man works the three shells, rolls a pea- size ball around and puts it under one shell. Three accomplices gamble with loud vocal enthusiasm – there is winning and losing. It looks easy. A tourist comes along and starts by watching the game. The action intensifies. The guy shuffling the shells is good, but not invincible. Money flies back and forth. After watching the tourist plays and maybe wins some, but always leaves a looser. I watched a young Japanese woman play and lose ninety euro in less than a minute. When a cop is sighted, a signal is given - the table is snapped up and shoved under a coat, the accomplices vanish quicker than smoke. We got off the tram at the market, looked around and continued on, into the depths of the market. As always it was jammed. We lasted nearly an hour, that's all we could take. Steve bought an antique etching somewhere. He was excited about it; it looked good. I was happy for him that it was small enough to easily carry in his pocket. We caught the tram back to Largo Argentina and walked home from there. *** On a Saturday afternoon we walked to Villa Pamphili. M walked there often for exercise and is familiar with the park. I’d been there a few times and can say it is acres of open land. There is a large house and many tended gardens, acres of room to wander, resulting in the largest public, landscaped park in Rome. Winding trails over hills, by streams and ponds. In Rome you’re usually not aware of the hills. We know that Rome was built on seven hills, maybe more, but with building all around you're not generally aware of hills. Many places you can notice the up and down, then building are in the way; however, at the Villa Pamfili you have open space with hills and trees. What a change from the usual city. I had the rush of nature being in nature. With few people walking the paths, you'd swear you're out of Rome. So we walked, and after a few kilometers my legs give out, they quit going properly, I was stumbling around. To put one foot in front of the the other got difficult, I slowed and leaned on M. She took short cuts, halved our route and got us back to the gate we entered. "You doing Okay? she asked. "Yeah, but that was enough for me." "It’s always a surprise that a little walk is over seemingly as quickly as it began," M said. "How novel...the part that took us under the small waterfall. Something we don’t do everyday." She grabbed my arm and stopped, "You all right?" "Yeah, but that was enough for today." We left villa Pomfili, walked out the front gate and stopped at the bar on the first corner, the cross-roads of several streets. These streets were made two thousand years ago so they don’t intersect at ninety degree angles as modern street do. They wander the contours of the hills and casually intersect with a stagger step, much the way a couple of barn animals might done if they are left to make the roads. The animals pause, back-track, stand around, then finally proceed the best way they can climb up the hill, or proceed the easiest way to walk down. They all get a hoof at road making. We knew where we were heading. I had a beer and M had a cup of tea. It was probably a thousand year old location for a refreshment stop. After a rest and refreshments we took a bus to trestevere. It was a quick ride. Then we transferred to the wrong bus. It took us through Piazza Venezia and started up the via Corso. We got out and started walking back toward Piazza Venezia. Not a large error. We know our way around and have certainly walked every inch of the the way across the center of Rome. There were thousands of people on the sidewalk. We made it to the outside of the sidewalk and were moving at a good clip when I hit a hole in the curb. I yelled as my foot twisted. I fell into the street. M was a few yards ahead of me, she stopped when I yelled. About twenty people turned as I cried out. The sidewalks were packed and they all watched me fall in slow motion. From the curb they seemed quite tall as I fell down to the street. Good luck for me there wasn’t a bus or taxi passing at that minute because I was down. I don’t know if I hit three feet out from the curb and didn’t roll. It seems many seconds to pull myself up enough to sit on the curb. I was aware people around me all paused to look. They were all assessing the damage as I was. My ankle hurt. I couldn’t move. Pain kept me from moving quickly. After a moment I took an old lady’s hand with my left, and M’s hand with my right. They helped my to my feet as I struggled to get up. Sitting on the curb was not comfortable for very long. I wanted up. Pronto Socorso, that means emergency room. I hear the lady explaining that the hospital was a short way up the street and I should go there. I said I was all right and wanted to lean against the building until I could sort myself out. I thanked the lady and she mentioned the hospital again before she left. After a few minutes I stumbled my way down the street toward the buses to home. The long hike was over. Tuesday, three days later and I till worked out the ankle matter, still deciding if I should go to the hospital. Waiting to see if it was going to feel better. *** Years ago when we took our first lessons in Italian somewhere north of San Francisco, our book talked about Via Del Corso, the most popular shopping street in Rome. The books were old then, the times have changed but the Corso remains a main area for shopping. Al the way up Via Del Corrso is the happening shopping area. The book we had so long ago talked about the lower part near Piazza Venezia being the hot shopping part. What I know about shopping is limited, I had better ask M. Well M said, "We took the course at the College of Marin Junior College in Corte Madera, and our teacher was from Sardegna." "I remember that part." Anyhow, she said it was a hot shopping area then, and it still is for the length of the Corso all the way to Piazza del Poppolo. That’s why there were so many people there when I fell down at four on a Saturday afternoon. We walked up to the bus stop on Vittoria Emanuele and caught a bus down to Ciesa Nouva near home. Some where along the line the adrenaline wore and so did I. By the time we got home I walked slowly up the stairs. The following Tuesday evening I still wondered if I have to go to the doctor. Wednesday evening I walked okay, it wasn’t much, but I got around with my cane as though going somewhere. It felt half bad. That after five days of bad, it wasn’t so bad at all. I thought I'd make it without an x-rayl. Thursday and I called Frabrizio jsut to talk a while, and when I told him about falling down and huring my ankle the young banker suggested in a most forceful way that I should go to the hospital and get an x-ray. I laughed, hung up and called a cab. M and I took a cab from our front door to pronto socorso, the emergency room at the hospital Santo Spirito. I knew about that place, straight up Coroso Vitorio Emanuale and across the bridge toward the Vatican. I have a history there, not the Vatican, the hospital Santo Spirito. The first time I was there was during the Easter break from the play tour I was on. I was home for a few days and got a tremendous stomach ache. I thought it was from eating white chocolate, it turned out to be first symptoms of M.S. Anyhow, that evening I went with M I spent the night in the hospital. I read Santo Spiritu was the oldest operating hospital in the world. Since then I have read other accounts that dispute this. But disputed facts are nothing new in Rome. A dispute is part of proof of existence. The part of the hospital I stayed in was an open church as large as a gymnasium and maybe approximating the oldest hospital in the world. There were seven foot tall partitions that kept the eight patients in our area somewhat sequestered. High above was the 80 foot high ceiling, with the leaded glass church windows visible on the walls. The hospital had been remodeled after my first time there. Then i had a second and third time at Santo Spirito. The dinner they served that night stays in my mind. M recalls the large piece of octopus tentacle in my pasta. I had to call her over for a look. I don’t if the tentacle was laying dormant because it was deceased, or tired from grasping pasta. There were other times at this hospital, and this time was easier. In three hours I had an x-ray and my ankle wrapped and we were out of there. Always strange,never boring. The experience is unique, I suppose because it is filled with Italians, and it isn’t Kansas. Many people were in the waiting area. Always someone coughing and not covering her face. Others looked old and sick. People seemed to be in groups of four or five. One would be the patient and the others were friends or family in attendance. They all, guests and patients, looked wxtreemly concerned or sick and old. No exceptions. Singles night must be be another day. Our group of two was the smallest. After a short time I was seen, x-rayed, wrapped and comforted, I was good to go, nothing broken. Out front again M stopped a taxi on the street in front of the hospital after the portiere failed to raise a cab on the phone. By three on Thursday afternoon we walked in our door. We were hungry and thirsty and I had my ankle wrapped with strict instructions to keep off of it for fifteen days or six days. I didn't worry about it. I learned to Roman way is to take the instructions and proceed accordingly. By Friday morning I decided if I had to keep off my foot for fifteen days or six, I'd choose the six days and maybe cut that to three. I had quit smoking two weeks before and didn’t care to dwell on this sore foot affair. I’d rather not think about it. For one, my engraving class is today. I wanted to go to class But didn’t work out an idea for a new engraving as I was occupied with keeping off my foot. Condition report: I’m okay, kind’a. I’m sure I am deceiving myself. My clock is ticking and pizza’s are going un- eaten by me. Not out walking around, for the most part I am a sitting duck. *** Another week and we were having coffee at Angelo’s. The sun swings over around three in the afternoon, Mornings are in shade. I saw Marco go by carrying flowers and gave him a nod. Bill came over to our table, pulled out a chair. We did greetings all around. Bill sat down and immediately said, "Gabby has another play coming up, I'm going to play General Eisenhower ... I've got sixteen lines ... I know them already. It's not going to open for another month yet, but I'm ready." "That's fine, General. What are your lines? Let me hear them." M cut me off to ask,"Where's Rosemary this morning?" "She has to see Felicity this morning. she fell down again. Rosemary has to take her some minestrone." "Again? She fell again?" M and I chimed together and moaned over that news. Then Steve came by with a smartly dressed, very pretty Italian girl in tow. Again there were hellos and greetings all around. I motioned for them to sit down. "Good to see you, How'd you do with the etching you found?" "You know, I showed it to his guy who knows art. Hey, it's signed and looked right, you know? But this guy is a collector and knows his art..." he shook his head and puffed out a breath, " He says it's a fake...the dog's ears aren't large enough." "Short ears?" I was dumbfounded. "Yeah, you know on mine the little dog has short ears...on his dog they're always a little big...so mine's a forgery," Steve said, "little big...oxyoran." "Oxymoran." "Right." "Ah, no...that's too bad." "No, it's all right, it looks good on my wall...you know what I mean?." "Well, that's the spirit." "Wait, but the good new is met Rosa." He introduced us to the girl he was with. "Boun giorno," she smiled as she said it. "This is good news, Steve." "She's Italian, but speaks English well enough." I asked her, "Is Steve learning Italian Roman style?" "We are working on his Italian," she smiled. We had coffee and talked a while. The weather was great. Mirella came by dragging her smartly dressed dog on a chain. "I've got to walk along the river this morning, I didn't do it yesterday." said Bill. *** stuff in our heads mouths closed, silent; opening the day calm, in order. the many, the workers, cool, fresh and clean. if we could assemble our confusing and jumbled Rorschach pieces of dream there'd be more we'd know. ### Throughout the years that we've traveled extensively throughout Italy, probably have seen more of it than most Italians. People in the different areas have told us about their local points of interest. When they invariably ask where we live in Italy and we'd say Roma, they would say, “Oh, yes, Roma.” Their eyes would glass over as they add, “Roma e bella.” Many Italians have the same complaints about the eternal city, it’s congestion, the difficulty to get around, ruts in the street and the latest political decision that disfavor the average people who struggle to make ends meet, the difficulty to deal with public services and offices; but often the complaints conclude with a deep breathy sigh and the dreamy-eyed conclusion that although Rome has many fitful, an unsavory effects, above all Roma is “bella”. *** When we first came to Rome, we saw it as old and fascinating, filled with stragglers from an older generation. and foreign ways, unaware of the active period of transformation to modernism going on at the time. The final decade of the twentieth Century we were in Rome. An epic of change. Television took hold and technology advanced to the cusp of the Internet. The ancient city evolved visibly before us. buildings coated with dust and the dull faded paint untouched for many decades received a splash of color. Family restaurants and assorted businesses changed hands. We were right there to see it old and being renewed. In our primary shopping area around Campo Dei Fiori best of all I remember the button shop; that's what we called it. Located on the south side of the piazza opposite the towering statue of Bruno. After passing by many times, M said she wanted to go in and look around. The day we entered the curious button shop, we discovered a large, one room store, filled with the reminisce of yesterday; fixtures including wooden cabinetry from the late eighteen hundreds, high shelves reaching near the ceiling - filled with rows of shelves of sewing material. Small drawers contained older buttons, colorful buttons, and antique buttons sorted to style and fashion. The store was old when we first walked in. Old wood, old paint. Slow moving air, the scent of nothing changed. Stillness prevailing. A tall, thin, poised, fragile- looking woman ran the store. M browsed, I waited and watched. The proprietor worked alone. She talked to a friend. There was no rush. What a treasure to find this place. The friend left, then we talked. Her story similar to Angelo's and many others. She began working there as a child, then took over for her mother in the 1950s. My friend Mirella in the market, who grew up nearby, confirmed her mother went to the button shop when Mirella was a young girl. The air still, old and clean as the woman herself, nary a hair out of place. The store brought to mind small town shops I had entered as a child in Ohio; family owned, slow to change. The shop was spacious and inviting, filled with well carved cabinetry from the latter part of the Nineteenth Century. Clean old, waxed, square floor tiles of wonderful shades of green and ivory, few cracks. Shelves reached ten feet to the nearly twelve foot high ceiling, filled with row upon row of felt lined drawers. The wooden boxes contained buttons, older buttons and antique buttons, all sorted to style and fashion. On the tables through the center of the store, M looked around and bought some cotton knee-high stockings and then a hand knit sweater. Shelves ran the right and left sides of the store. The center isles held several, ornate walk-around tables for quick sale purchases. The shelves contained hundreds of small drawers filled with sundries, lace and with buttons. When M looked into a few drawers. She glanced toward me and coyly smiled. Later she said it seemed some drawers had been infrequently opened over the years. The goods for sale were made for another time. "Yesterday caught in a drawer," M called it well. The store held an antique button collection: For sale, but why disturb anything? All rested perfectly in the drawers where it sat. M asked Marga if she knew about the button shop. "Oh, yes, She has operated the shop for something like fifty years. It was her mother's shop before. I remember he mother working there." "What she has for sale in there is as old as she is." M said. "She does have a few items for sale that are newer but, yes, there is little in her shop that you would call in fashion." "I like that she has everything y9u'd need for sewing and decorating." "Oh, I know you can't find those anywhere else. She is an old woman with old woman tastes," Marga said. "The few times I've been there I remember her off to one side talking to a friend when I came in." "Her old friends are her long time customers. They come in just to visit." After we discovered the boutique we returned now and then to see her wares and to talk with her. At some point M purchased a pair of cotton knee-high stockings, and a hand knit sweater she had seen that first time there. "You can't find things like this." The store remained open for ten or fifteen years that we were around, then one day the door was closed and then boarded up. It changed hands. Something else is there now. Either the shop next door expanded or a coffee bar opened there. The kind, older woman gracefully departed...succumbing to the murmur of passing years. *** During the final decade of the twenty Century Rome had a face lift. Goodbye to the painted worn lady of the past. This became the way for all to follow. When we got there it was still old. Buildings had the same variations of soft, dull, red-orange or gray paint, tired, worn and chipped, bearing the ages well in traditional color that made you see an older generation. Then someone painted is building a new, fresher color. Others followed and the city took on a new look with brighter colors, newer shades of the tradition colors. Suddenly, again, as in the 1900s, the twenties, post war and after war, it became fashionable to be new. Old Rome was covered in bold colors. Like a new hair-style, it became the trend, the new way for Rome. desecration drunken ship, sloppy sam's *** "Instead of renting when we need a car..." "We could buy a car." She said it or I did, we could argue about it later to decide who thought of it first. "Four avocados please." He jumped to fill the order. She gave me a glance of approval. I paid and put them in our bag. It was the Esquilino market. What a place, it's what markets should be. We came for nuts, flour, fruit, different goods. It's an international market with items and vendors from the world over. We talked about getting a car after shopping when we stopped at an Indian restaurant we tried before, a crazy little place where we liked the food and the people. While eating she said, "There is a Fiat dealer just up the street. It's a block away and they have used cars too." "How do you know?" "I looked in the window. We walked by it a dozen times." "oh." After eating we stopped at the car dealer to look around. As soon as we walked in a salesman ran to us quick as a fly on a cow pie. There were many cars, the prices seemed high. We left in a hurry and agreed to check the newspaper paper for cars. "There are a ton of used cars out there, I know there are. You've got people like Alberto. He's had the same car for twenty years...he keeps fixing it. Giacomo buys another used one every few months...he doesn't repair them." A day later we were walking in Trastevere and I happened to look into an open, large gate to see an older man carrying a for sale sign. I kept my eye on him and he walked to a bright, spotless clean car. I put out my arm to stop her. "M, come here and look at this." I pointed as an elderly man was placing the for sale sign on the car. "There's a car for sale." It was an older model but looked in good condition. "What is it...do you know?" I asked her. "A Ford Pinto," she said. "Yeah...come on, let's take a look. What do you think, you want to talk to him?" The appearance pleased her, so we walked in to speak with the man. "Boun giorno, signore. Is this your car?" I asked. He nodded. "I can't see well enough to drive anymore...cataracts." "That's too bad", M and I said together. "My son takes it out and drives it every now and then, but mostly it sits here." He was looking at the car as he talked to us. "I thought it was time to sell my car. It has hardly been used for years."" "It looks very nice," I said. "I t Looks brand new...and it's ten years old. I bought it new, and can't drive anymore." The price, three thousand Euros. Very low. We glanced at each other and affirmed our decision, told him we'd take it, we needed a car. The whole time we parlayed back and forth and walked around the car, looked under the hood, inside the car I noticed the elderly woman on the second floor looking down over railing watching the proceedings. We agreed on his price and shook hands on it. I gave him money down with cash from my pocket. The next day we stopped at our bank and came back with the balance of the cash, got the title, said our good byes, and as we backed the car up to drive it away. The old man softly touched his finger on the fender in final, parting tribute to his beloved automobile. We talked about his sad parting gesture many times since. He loved that car and was sorry to see it go. For a month or two, every time we walked by there was an empty spot where his car was parked, until one day another car was there. That day we drove the car away and waved back to the man standing there, watching as we left I drove slowly and carefully. "Did you notice the back seat?" M said, I nodded. "It looks as if it has never been sat on." We tuned left when we left, then right down a small street toward the way home and saw several people on the street including James ahead, carrying cardboard boxes. I stopped and rolled down the window. "James, how are you doing?" He saw us and looked surprised. Oh, Hi. I'm just moving into my new workshop." "Good location...your dad's place is right around the way a few blocks." "Yeah, Alex too." He noticed the car and took a step back for a better look. "Where'd you get this car? I thought it was new, I can see it's used, but it looks new." "Just bought it...right around the corner. It's ten years old, can you believe it?" "Wow, it looks great, it really does." He laughed. "The guy never drove it much..."It rides great...it's comfortable too." I lifted my chin, "Where have you been, I haven't seen you for a while." "I just got back from Turkey, I was doing Sufi dancing. It is really something...you ought to go and try it." "Sufi dancing?" "Oh, yeah, the Whirling Dervishes are Mevlevi, a Muslim sect. I t is really..." He waved both his hands above his head and had no words for it. James had to finish moving so we took or new car home. we bought a car maybe blue, maybe green we’re not sure, in the photos it's shiny metallic looks like new it's nine years old got title and insurance and then on the second try, a parking permit because the first time i didn’t bring a registered copy of my apartment contract showing registration tax having been paid. how silly of me, or how silly of the bureaucrats of Italy who have difficulty collecting tax, but that's another poem we’ll take possession today drive it and get the feel yes, bought it without driving it see how it goes, learn new things then park it on the street until we figure something better meanwhile, it will change our life we’ll see what that means we have no idea what that means We took more papers to official offices and acquired the appropriate sticker to park in our neighborhood. We were car owners with streets to park. Our entry into Italian car ownership arrived quickly. The car is either blue or green, we don't know; for sure it is shiny metallic. *** dervish 2 We made plans for a trip in our new car. We drove south along the Baltic coast, a dream trip. The car was better than we could have hoped. Out there cruising the back asphalts of Italy we saw something we don’t see – road kill. Around Rome we never see dead animals on the side of the roads. "I bet it's picked up in three minutes and made into a stew." "We've seen a variety of animals, same as in Ohio." After a second she said, "You notice we never see a groundhog? You think they have them here?" I looked at her and nodded. "I heard there used to be groundhogs all over Italy." "Really?" "Until somebody discovered all they needed was more salt." She elbowed me. On that four day trip we stopped to see the shrine built into the cave in Foggia at Mount Gargano, Puglia where the Archangel Michael appeared several times in 490. The cave is large and it's a tricky walk down and in. We enjoyed our stop at this unusual, revered shrine. *** Antonio took us to. His son lives there with his mother. We said we'd take our car and follow him there. We had been near there, but not Teremo. To have a guide when we got here was a pleasure. It took a half day to get there. New territory for us to explore, the other side of Italy near the Adriatic Sea. Sandro and Piera took us to Ripratransone, an ancient village near there. That's where Meri walked saw the night time pre-Easter march. Everyone turned out in dark midevel costume to march the streets in solom procession. She called it creepy. In Teremo we had lunch with Antonio's x-wife and his well mannered, sixteen year old son. Later Antonio showed us the town and a church built in the tenth century. The cathedral seemed left in original state as constructed centuries ago. So many old churches we had seen in Rome, yet this one is most impressive large, dark and somber. The second day Antonio took us in his car to a mountain village where he spent summers as a child. It was small, broken and nearly abandoned. An old broken stone home was one his uncle lived in. Such a long way from Rome. Everyone we met that weekend were Italian, yet small town people, consequently, so different, more hospitable, genuine, calmer than the city people of Rome. We spent another night in Teremo and met a fine young man, another son of Atonio's wife. Gulio, a swimming instructor at the nearby university. When we were talking about returning to Rome by way of the moutain Mount Sasso. He told us how he went climbing on the mountain once with three of his friends and had an accident and fell pff the mountain. "How far did you fall?" I asked him "Two thousand feet." "Were you skidding down? What happened?" "No skidding, I fell ... I fell out right, right out into space ... straight down. And soon as I slipped and he knew I began to fall, my friend,the next climber, had to cut me loose before I pulled everyone else down." This was an incredible tale. I've never heard anything like it. "There were four of us tied together. That's how you do it, for everyone's safety. He had to cut me loose." He was shaking his head, and had our attention. "That's how you have to do it so all the others aren't taken down." "My God ... How did it feel falling like that,do you remember?" "Oh, yes." He shook his head and said he'd never forget it. He remembers the wind rushing through his jacket, "Flapping as I fell." He said they figured it took about six seconds for him to hit the ground. ou hit teh ground?" "Oh, yes. I landed flat on my back." The other climbers had to go down and get him. They started down to him and it took them six hours to get to him. He was taken to the hospital and remained for two months. He had no broken bones. He was okay. It was a miracle drop. He said he spent a few months recovering at home, and by the fall he was back teaching. He's the swimming instructor at the university. The next morning M and I headed back to Rome. Antonio got out a map and pointed the quickest way, the highway leading up the Grand Sasso and through the mountain. We'd heard about Grand Sasso for years. It means grand stone. I's the largest mountain we had ever driven over and through. It's the largest mountain south of the alps. Gran Sasso is the tallest peak in Italy. The road over has many tunnels, the longest is 6.2 miles. What a strange feeling to drive through the center of a mountain. After hours we made it to the otehr side of the mountain and the village of Amatrice. We spent the night in town at the Hotel Rome, had a wonderful dinner of pasta Amatriciana, a dish named for the village that became my favorite pasta dish. The following day we walked around, saw the town then finished the drive to Rome. A few years later in 2016 an earthquake blew the town to rubble. 300 people died. *** move this to the correct location....... We had a great second hand car, hardly used. Took many trips with it. After four or five years we realized most of the time we were driving around our neighborhood trying to find another parking space. We sold our precious car and took a bus after that, or went back to renting a car when we needed one. *** Free classical concerts are given every Sunday, at noon at the presidents home at the Quiranale. We started going. We liked daytime instead of going out at night. *** For several years we looked for a home to buy. To stay in Italy we needed a place to live. Giacomo wanted to help. He knew the surrounding areas and could make it easier for us. It wasn't two weeks later that he came up with something. He showed us a place in in Salisano, to the east, in Sabina. an hour out of Rome. About eight homes were being sold together. Our selection was a duplex with farm out-buildings and sheep wearing bells a fence away. The setting pastoral and delightful. We'd found home. Giacomo had a meeting at his apartment in Trastevere. There were six or eight of us who had selected homes being sold as one and all of us were ready to be sold. The houses were being sold by the same owner. Our choice priced about fifty thousand, a remarkable deal. Giacomo had sold houses for the city of Rome and was our guide through the acquisition. At the meeting held for the prospective buyers Giacomo decided our bid should be lowered to twenty-five thousand. Crazy, but he knew best. After a month of waiting we heard the mayor of Salisano had purchased all of the houses. We were out of it. The Internet was new to Italy. As the development of TV lagged a few years behind America so did the impact of computers. Having been familiar with the innovation of computers from summers in Ohio I was already proficient, had my lap top and therefore ahead of the majority of Italians. With real estate already on line I found two spacious apartments in the center of the village Poggio Catino. Eighty-five thousand was the price for both of them being sold by one owner. We looked at the units and I turned it down. The main part of town with stores and restaurants was a car ride away on the other side of the mountain. And what would we do there? We knew no one and there was no land, just the two apartments, large and reasonably priced. But no town within walking distance. At the same time, in that village I found a ground floor apartment that needed work, priced at six thousand. Remarkable. Again, no land; our interest lagged. We let that go. Then we found a building out near Giacomo and Virginia, priced under a hundred thousand Euro. he dollar was up and we looked at it. Incredible, but remote. It was too far to walk to town to shop or even have a coffee at the local bar. What would we do stuck out there by ourselves? Next, Selci. We saw a place in town, walled in and very low cost. When we called on it an acquaintance of ours had purchased it and put it back on the market for three times the price. No thanks. Then a mile out of Selci we happened by another house for sale, thought it was fine and made a counter offer five thousand under the reasonable price of fifty thousand. A real estate agent took us through the house and showed us the boundaries of the property...we put in a bid for forty-five. When we drove back a few days later to see the property again, solidifying our liking for the property, planing what to paint, what to do with it, the three long rows of grape vines we'd seen had been cut to the ground. He fixed us. It seemed revenge. We walked. Then at Alberto's school, Porta Blu, I took classes in plate engraving from Roberto Pace, a Rome University professor. I met a man from Orte. He talked about the beauty of his town,said I should see it. M AND i trained there to see a house, an hour north of Rome.We took a train to the bottom os the hill and a lSift climbed straight up to the city. From there a ten minute walk to a building on the end of town. An old stone structure overlooking the edge of the cliff. Two floors, and three basements below that dated back several thousand years to Etruscan times. The two floors of living area were noble yet excessive. The basements were immense and spooky. Again we felt that without family, it was remote with more there than we needed. We'd quickly be alone. With that perusal we had finished hunting a home for a while. *** l queen comes to town mark it down queen comes to town on thursday; we'll see her go by. circling helicopters and legions of motorcycling police will be a reminder; and, no need for we, the head count, to put on our dancing shoes or dress for the occasion. *** 1 2 l old man on the tram thought they were making fun of him when four italian boys on tram 8 were laughing and taking photos of the back of a mans head i looked carefully and saw The elderly, balding man had a five cent coin stuck on the back of his head. *** We had no wake-up alarm, so Clock Boy kept one eye open on the clock all night and we got up at three-thirty to catch a cab to Ciampino for a flight to Milano, then another to Granada Spain. When we arrived in Spain we and our day were well done. We were tosted when we arrived at our apartment in the Albacin area of Granada. The taxi was twenty eight euro. We later learned we could have taken a bus for three euro, but we didn’t know where we were going or how to get there. Meri had the directions to the apartment office. Someone let us in and gave us keys. In our room we collapsed. No food, constant travel, but an apartment with two beds, only one of them broken. M took the broken bed. We slept. In the morning we saw the Alhambra, the reason we came, the only place we had to see in Granada. We arrived before eight in the morning, stood in a line until nine when we got in with two thousand other people. The Alhambra is a wonderful Moorish Castle over looking the city. Constructed on Roman ruins in 889, rebuilt in the mid 13th century, Columbus received endorsement from Ferdinand and Isabella there in 1492. A beautiful Moorish castle; now void of furniture, and full of tourists. We had enough space to walk around, if we were careful. Room after room of maze with incredible geometric Moorish design inlaid walls. It was before noon when we had enough and took a bus back down to the area of our hotel. It seemed there were no restaurants, only more tourists. According to Spanish custom it wasn’t time to eat. According to our tradition it was time. At our apartment the cupboards were bare. We napped and wondered how we messed up again. No food, no stores open, it would be a week in search of food and something to do. We’d seen the Alhambra and there was still time on the clock. We wandered and were amazed at our inability to find something to eat. Once or twice we found something, usually not to our expectation. A bus ride to the coast was a one day event. An hour south to a town that seemed built to rip off tourists. Germans and English tourists were there; we noted very few, if any, Spaniards. The shops were geared for the tourist’s money. By accident we stopped into a local spot on our walk back to our bus. It turned out to be the the first place in Spain where we would eat well. M ordered a salad and whatever, What I had good, fried something blobs - frozen food reheated. That week I made notes and drew in my sketch book, M wrote in her dairy. Our accommodations clean and functional, M made a good choice. We'd open the window and local cats would come in, one at a time. Good kitties, friendly to tourists. It was the first time we tried an apartment instead of a hotel. We had a refrigerator, but nothing to put into it. There was a small store nearby, but there wasn’t much in it to buy. Fresh food seemed to be hard to come by. On the corner near our apartment we found a small bar with wine by the glass. Ten euro and four glasses later we called it a day and returned to the apartment. The Albacin was the Moorish part of town across from the Alhambra, across and down the hill. There was a creek along the hill. The town on the other side. The wealthy bought all of the apartments in this area and rented them by the day to tourists. Ours was one . That area down from us along the river had a charm. It seemed more European, older than the rest of the city and retained its dignity. The buildings were all of different styles from a period a hundred years ago or more, and surrounded by trees and shrubs. Windows were sometimes irregular, even arched. Many had potted flowers. It wasn’t the same building repeated a thousand times. We had two bedrooms, a bath and kitchen. Everything overlooked the street below, though we couldn’t see the street. It was three floors down and hidden by the overhang of the roof. A small kitten lived next door and visited frequently. It wasn’t a young kitty though it was small. M worried about the cat until she figured that the people next door left a window open so the cat could come and go as it pleased. It made friends with us. For three four days it would be our friend, then exchange us for another couple who came to visit. For a cat living on a root top it seemed a good life. It had a few spaces to visit and when it was tired of us, there would be new friends. From our terrace we could see the rooftops that ran down to the river. The hill, covered with trees ran up to the Alhambra. To our left was Monte Sacro, another point to visit. It looked down on us and the Alhambra. All was quiet. The city was to the West behind us and out of view. The temperatures were quite comfortable, neither hot nor cold. We were between seasons. It was Spring for the most part, with summer still weeks away. A light jacket was all we needed. That’s good, cause that’s what we brought. Ryan Air had a restriction on baggage weight so we kept our suitcases below the fifteen kilo limit. I thought it was a good idea for us to check ourselves on what we brought. So many times I had carried along clothes that never saw the light of day on a trip. There was nothing particular about Spain that caught our attention. The land was similar to southern California – dry and somewhat rocky. California has sandier soil, but overall it seemed similar. We had waited a lifetime to come here and when we did there was nothing to remember. M pointed out that never when you visit the cities of the world do you hear talk about a great Spanish restaurant. No wonder. We had some piella at one place, but it was not as memorable as that of our friend in Roma, Alberto. The city architecture was also quite forgettable. Nothing to note. Only the leftover portions of the Alabacin retained the memory of years gone by. Overall the city was cleaner than Italian cities. Paper was picked up, or not thrown about in the first place. Only in our area were members of that current counter culture with spiked colored hair, rivets in their faces and large dogs following them about. What a bleak future for these seemingly unemployable youth. Time passes quickly, what will they do when they grow up? The Spanish people we saw on the streets and in small stores seemed unfriendly for the most part. In general, when passing a working man on the street in the morning a smile or a nod or a buenas tardes would go completely into a void of non response as if it never happened. I felt invisible several times. After one full day we were ready to expand our horizons, The following morning we asked the girl working the desk at our apartment where to go. She thought we wanted to go to see the tourists. With the name of a destination we located the bus terminal and bought tickets for the coast. The bus was better than those in Italy. They were in good repair, and clean. The Rome buses are driven into the ground. In Granada the bus driver takes the tickets when you enter from the the front door. Bums don’t get aboard. Our bus to the coast was fine. We were comfortable and in a clean environment. The town however, was completely manufactured to make money from the tourists, The day we went there were primarily German and English on the bus. The town we saw on the coast had prices high and there was nothing there. It was a major disappointment in our travels. A sign to us that there are too many people on the planet and taste has given way to making money. There were no signs that Spanish people lived in this town. This town was for and of tourists. It was a disappointment to travel to the coast to find a place full of only tourists. The stores sold ridiculous items that no one has need for. Souvenirs of some place that doesn’t really exist. There were a lot of real estate offices. I think we passed six or eight in our brief walk. Most adds in windows photos and information without prices. In the few advertisements that displayed prices I saw costs were extremely high. A local couldn’t afford to buy anything. These were prices for the current real estate boom, prices for the population explosion. After an hour we were on a return bus to Granada. Back in Granada we walked the city. When I was in the Navy there was a saying that if it didn’t move, paint it. Now it seems the operative axiom is: if you can buy it, rent it. On television I noticed the Spanish voice dubbers were better than the ones in Italy. Appropriate for the programs, also a tribute to engineering. It seemed the market was open to talent and not locked into family. Dubbers in Italy don’t change any more than the politicians. Everything is business as usual. You are in or you’re not. I noticed the recorded and live announcements in Spain were are clear and at a normal volume. In Italy the volume is off or on. There is no controlling volume. If something is on it is on full maximum volume into and beyond the levels of distortion, nearly into destruction. No one seems to notice. Spanish of Spain is not Spanish of the Americas. When I spoke Spanish I could identify the accents of most every Central and South American country and communicated effortlessly, But often I couldn’t speak to the Spanish. Their language gave me difficulty. The woman that worked at our apartment office had the full Andulcian accent. It seemed half of her words had the th sound in it. At night when listened to my radio I heard some of the regular Spanish, that that is more the Spanish of the Americas, easier for me to understand. I had fun talking with some of the locals, the guys who worked at the bar on our corner. We exchanged information about how's it going, we came from Rome, they're from near here. The bar was a hole in the wall, one room. We were in the doorway. There was more bar in the back, maybe another room, but I never went in any farther than the bar stool by the door. Across the street were several rows of community tables and chairs shared with two bars farther down the street. Depending where a tourist sat someone would come out to wait on the table. The tables were in a large paved open area, the street on one side and a wall above the river and hill on the other. On the top of the hill was the rambling Lahambra, a vast complex of Moorish designed stone buildings from the eleventh century. With weather steady in the comfortable seventies We always had a good seat at a table. There were a hundred tables or more and always only a fraction occupied. The closest occupied table was always three away. A large awning provided shade. The vagrants with their dogs stayed by the fountain. A poor musician was usually there, musically challenged. Some of these kids picked up their instruments somewhere and played with hope or courage instead of ability. At one restaurant we heard a loud and lousy acustic guitar player who played like he had a ukelcelei in a 1930s dance band. Every song had the same accompaniment. When the guitarist went around to collect for his efforts a table of six old Germans searched hard in their pockets, as if out of obligation, to provide some coin for the musician's work. They really seemed obligated to pay him. Later that afternoon I saw him again, this time accompanied by a friend on a tamboreen. His music seemed better with help. Sitting down there I was thinking this area was pretty nice, quiet for the most part. All we needed was some food. That would have been good. *** When we flew back to Rome and everyone was speaking Italian, va bene; for us it was coming home. Another trip was a week in Cinqua Terra, five small villages on the coast in northern Italy that were empty, before TV travel star Rick Steves told the world about them. Why didn't we buy one or two apartments there? They were cheap the first time we were there. Not inexpensive - cheap. Another trip was to Praga where in the museum M recalled the mounted beetle as large as a couch, and I remember the mounted dodo bird,and the whole museum smelled of feathers. What a wonderful dark city. We did some good traveling: Paris, Spain, Poland, Switzerland, and all over Italy. Great times. For work I also had trips to Malta and Morocco. *** l saw Nico, told me he is sad yet always laughing sees only shadows lives alone, has friends to visit nearly one hundred, walks like fifty, talks like thirty-five. he thinks of the big mysteries that are not in our hands. says he's sure all life is poetry. *** *** More than any other place I have lived in Rome. It was not a plan, not something I dreamed about, It happened. That was a good way for it to come about. *** We ran into a man who lives around the corner. After seeing him for years I finally spoke to Alan Scene, an American college professor who has been here forty years. Alan rides a bicycle and wears a Scottish type hat. Maybe the cap is British, or even Italian, but with his face and beard, I think of him and his cap as Scottish. “I’m a teacher of architecture for Penn State University.” and he was talking about this place down the way, the other side of Campo Dei Fiori, that goes down four levels from the street and was made back in old roman times. So we walked past the Palace Farnese to see the sign. We couldn’t go right in. We have to make an appointment to do that, but we wanted to see where it is. We can easily make the appointment, but there’ always so many things to do. We’ll put it on our list. There is an informative television program on the National network of Italy where I recently saw that there are said to be thirty kilometers of underground passages below the streets of Rome – much of it connected. A lot remains unexplored in modern times. Before I get to far in another direction I should mention that Alan, who has been here for forty years, owns a building with a penthouse apartment, a studio on the ground floor and a basement below where he is currently installing a sauna for his wife. Alan and I started talking about underground Rome. I’ve been in a few basements, below Antonio’s workshop, for instance. Two rooms with a floor about twenty feet below street level. One one side is a doorway leading to another level below. It is said there are about eighty miles of passageways under Rome. Everyone gives a different figure about the length of passages underground Rome. Most people see none of it. Also, it should be mentioned that all of the facts and stories you hear or read about Rome have contradictory stories being told circulated. *** obama, party of 700 plus four vehicles they admit to went to a bridge thought Obama might cross after seeing the pope on the way to see the president light rain began, came home we saw no one but angelo for a coffee, still can hear the helicopters . saw al gore in new york, the queen and another time reagan both in san francisco. and irwin corey - professor backwards who'll be 100 in july worked with him in a tent  in columbus now i'll watch TV news and see what i'm permitted to see of obama how can they hide 700 people including 400 troops on the streets of rome? helicopters are still up there. *** Know your pianos. In Italian - piano refers to a particular floor of a building. The ground floor is called zero, the first floor is called one, the first piano. we live on two. In America we’d call it three. If it's confusing, you’re getting it. It is confusing. *** Simple actions are often expressed in incomplete sentences that drift into an abyss. The abyss is Rome, bricks and stone up and down, narrow, tall and cobble stoned. San Pietrini are what those stones are called. Under the stones are dirt, but they stay in place for centuries. Once in a while men have repaired the pipes that run underneath the streets. I have seen them take up the cobblestones. It is dirt under them. I look out our window now on Via Cappellari and its about twelve feet across the street to the building on the opposite side. What I see out the window is a wall of stone. If I stick my head out and look up I can see the sky. To do this I’ve got to be carefull not to fall out the window. I think it took M two years to look at the sky from our window, I’m guessing... maybe she has never done it. *** Our living space is small We read a lot M sews, I do art and write We’re not too far apart. *** A footnote on restaurants. The Oasis was down the street, around the corner. Roberto would see us coming and know he had to oc his favorite customers, pizza lovers, both. Regulars would be there, we'd seen them all many times. They had a wood oven and knew how to use it. We'd go early, our supper time at home. The crowd wasn't there yet. Antonio would be ready and knew what we'd order. Ah, it was fine pizza. A liter of red and two fine pizzas that always met our approval. So fine. We thought the pizza was the best we had ever eaten in Italy. And surely it was good. Very good...and their red wine tasty. So many fine dinners we enjoyed among friends an acquaintances. Father Noel would often be there the same nights we showed up. He became a friend after seeing him there so many times we used to alk a bit. When he worked at the Vatican he used to play piano duets with he Pope...the things you hear in Rome. *** ponte The Italians have a great system called a ponte, a bridge. When a holiday occurs on a weekend the following Monday is a day off for everyone. This is the ponte, the bridge between the holiday and the next back to work day. A day to relax before it all starts again. Here's where the Catholic church comes in handy. No matter when Christmas occurs the following day is Saint Stephen's Day, always a holiday, a movable holiday...how convenient to honor the saint who was believed to have beeen the first christian martyr in the year 33. Not bein regular workers we forgot about the ponte and decided after lunch to take a bus ride, see more of the city. he ride over and pick up a bottle of amaro, a sweet liquor. On our way to the bus stop we passed Bill, carrying some papers and looking heads up chipper. "Good afternoon, Bill." "Good afternoon M," he gathered himself together to bow his head, "and Jack, good afternoon...where are you both off to on this fine afternoon?" "We're going to get some amaro in Colli Albani," I answered. "Do you want to go along?" "It's made by monks," M said. He straightened and made a face of disgust. "I hate amaro...besides, I can't go, I have play practice in a two hours." "You do know your lines?" I asked, to barb him and keep him talking; that generally takes a smattering of encouragement. "Of course I do. I only have seven. We have another new director so I don't think it will matter. He won't last long. We have three weeks before the show opens and one of he lead actors is still on book. Gabbi is going crazy." After a few more minutes of updates on everyones actions we wished him a good practice and continued walking to the street. On Vittorio Emanualle We caught an 87 to Colli Albani, an area twenty or fifty minutes away, depending on the time of day, the traffic time. Colli Albani is on the south side. The ride is pleasant because we pass through sections of the city that we only see every once in a while, San Giovanni, an old gate of Rome, a Japanese restaurant we tried years ago. Coming back the bus is on another route. There is an old train station on that side where I did a shoot for a French film company promoting train travel. I was a happy businessman traveling on a train. The studio Rey Di Roma is out this way, we get a few blocks from there. That's where I did the dubbing for Nick and met my friend Bruce. He did a clever thing. He followed up on his Irish heritage and got an Irish passport. He doesn't have to compile duplicate all the soujourno, permission to stay forms that I do. There is a store out there in Colli Albani that sells an amaro brewed by monks. I asked M why we are going way out there for amaro? She reminded me that I thought it was a better quality. Neither of us drink amaro often, but it is sweeter. When you hear monks make it you have to believe. We had to try it. The first time there I expected monks behind the counter, they weren't. A couple of ladies worked there, monk sisters I suppose. We learned to pay attention to the time of day and the date we go there, because there are more bus riders when people are coming and going from work or school. Also, we had a bad experience one Christmas. After we ate the usual Chinese lunch for the holiday, we thought to take a bus ride for something to do. We got on a different bus that took us out of our usual area. We rode along enjoying the ride looking around, not thinking about it, didn't know where we were when the bus stopped. "End of the line, every body out," the driver stood and announced, he was gathering his jacket and some papers to take along. By then there were only two other people on the bus and they left. We figured we'd stay on the bus and it would take us back to somewhere we knew. The driver saw us sitting there, not moving. "That's it. I'm not going any farther," he said to us. "If the bus is finished, we thought we'd ride the bus back to the termini with you," I said. "I'm off duty now. The bus isn't going anywhere." He pointed. "That's my car over there." "Well, isn't there another bus coming to this stop? We can wait for that," M said. "Buses stop running at two." He held up his wrist and looked a his watch. "You can wait until six o'clock when they'll start up again...then you can go anywhere you want But you can't wait on the bus, I'm locking it up"" We got out and we watched him go to his car. I got out my phone and tried to call a cab and they didn't answer. They were not running now either. I called a second cab, they didn't answer. Everyone was on holiday until six o'clock. We were stuck. We shrugged our shoulders and started off on foot. "Do you have any idea where we are?" I asked her. "We came from that way," she pointed. "Okay...here we go again." The bus had stopped in front of a very small park. She pointed to a bench, and we climbed a small hill to sit down to talk it over. The area was neat...and quiet. Nothing going on. "It's all residential around here, there's nowhere to go," M said. She looked concerned, but we'd been in similar situations. We sat on the bench. It was clean. One hill and we sat in the middle of nowhere. "Are you having fun yet?" she asked and gave me an elbow in the ribs. She hit me gently, but I got her message. After a moment of bird watching in total silence I asked,"Do you have any idea where we are?" She shook her head no. "We could call someone?" She suggested. "My phone is out of money and about dead. Get out your pone." "It's on the kitchen counter...I didn't bring it." I stood up. "Where are you going?" she asked. "Home" Then I smiled, "Come on. The bus came from that way." With perseverance to guide us, we started off. After half a block we saw a police car stopped at a strange angle in the street and headed that way. As we came closer we saw the policeman as he stood by his car looking dazed, drifting around, off balance, walking in circles, his shirt pulled out of his pants and wrinkled. Too much holiday cheer? "Good day...happy holiday, officer," I said with a smile. The guy looked a mess. I didn't know how drunk he was. He focused his eyes with difficulty and said, "They should be here soon. already called it in." I had hoped he was calling for a bus. but didn't think he had. "We came out on a bus and it left us here." I pointed back from where we had walked, but he didn't look. "The cabs didn't answer when I called. We want to get back to Campo Dei Fiori. We're stuck. We forgot about the holiday." "They are on the way. The car's not going anywhere...I had a wreck." That's when he pointed at his car and I noticed the smashed front end of it and the blood on his face. That explained it. He swayed as he stood there. "We wanted to find a bus to take back to the center. I tried to call a cab. Are all the buses stopped?" "I already called it in. An ambulance is on the way." he said. That's when I noticed his car was smashed, he had blood on is face and difficulty standing. His car was at an odd angle on the side of the street. Another smashed car stuck on his. That was all we could get out of him. He sat on the curb to wait for help. Another groups of people gathered around the other car. He sat quietly now. M signaled for us to go. As we left I kept looking back as the group around the cars grew larger. A block away we found coffee bar open. got coffees and directions, then walked home. Ever since that time we were careful about taking cabs or buses on holidays. (filler here) It was mid-afternoon, not a holiday, a safe time, I was making a note as we passed within a hundred feet of the Colosseum and didn't see it. We've been by there so many times, but it seems incredible that I forget to look at the Colosseum. A few stops before the end of the line we passed a street at the very end of the city. There were buildings on the left side, looking out to the south, the other side, there is no more city, only fields and hills. We got to the end of the line, found the monks store closed. open. Came back the next day and got our amaro. It took less than a week to finish the bottle. *** pre-dawn dark i turned on the light how'd you sleep? fine, she said...you were talking in your sleep and laughing. yeah, i slept all right. *** I called Bill this morning around nine as I headed up Via Cappellari. He said he and Rosemary were minutes away from approaching Campo Dei Fiori. The weather was cool, but the rain of the last few days was over. The Campo was humming when I got there, the market was in full swing, and not overly crowded with tourists. A good day. By the fountain I saw Stefano and Roberta with one of their children and had a few words with Stefano, Roberta took the boy into the forno. "How old is he?" I nodded as hey walked to the door. "Eight. He is the younger, the older boy is eight," came the reply. He was large for his age, not fat, tall. "They do grow, don't they." Stefano grinned and shook his head in agreement. *** "Time passes." After more updates I told Stefano about the tools he left at our place. "Leave them at Marina's, Roberta was not working today." told him I would. I hadn't bought a lamp for our eating area yet, but would call him when I did. I'd check at Piazza Paradiso for one. I pointed, he knew where I meant. We finished talking and he walked off to catch up with Roberta as Bill and Rosemary came into the Campo. They were both talking. After our greetings and they commented on their plans for the morning, I mentioned that I was on my way to Trionfale. They both issued a series of negative comments and guffaws about that market. Evidently I was wrong to want to go there. To them it was laughable. "I think it's outstanding," I said, to which they both scoffed. I was obviously missing something negative about that market, and was wrong about it being a good market. "I hate it," Bill said loudly. "Oh, I do too," Rosemary added. "The people there are congenial," I said in defense of it. They laughed at the notion that those market workers at Trionfale could be anything more than sub-human. Rosemary made a face and began telling about the buses, how unfortunate it was to have to ride one, at which point Bill mentioned someone who was run over by a bus, hit by one at least. Rosemary continued to laugh at the idea of taking a bus anywhere. I was wrong in their opinion and by their collaboration was proven so. We parted. Bill left to get some food to take to Felicita who had fallen and broken her shoulder. On I went to Rinaciamento to catch a 492 for Trionfale. I stopped at Angelo's on the way and for a coffee and cornetto. Simone was coming out as I walked in, he was delivering a shot of coffee somewhere. I went in and sat in the back, had my coffee and ate the cornetto. When I came out I turned right and headed for the SMA Market. It was closer than a bus ride to Trionfale, even though I always enjoyed the bus rides and could have gotten pistachios there. When I mentioned pistachios to Rosemary she laughed and said Mario had pistachios right here in the Campo. Bill supported me by pointing out to her pistachios are a much higher cost here. I saw a group of Americans at Angelo's earlier and made a note ... Americans always lick their spoons. At the SMA market I got pasta, two types: short tubes and spaghetti, prosciutto crudo, pasta sauce and soup beans. Everything came to ten euro, a good price, I was satisfied. On the way back along Via Giubbonari I saw Claude at Pietro's. He was chatting with two Italian friends and waved me over to sit at their outside table. That was kind and I was tired of walking. One of his friends was home visiting from work in New York. After we talked a while they finished their coffee and left to start their day. In to the bar, Janetta was working. I spoke briefly to Pietro, decided against another coffee, they didn't have an apple filled cornetto I wanted, and walked home with my groceries. a centimeter tape.  For us the shorter table fits better in our short room.  I keep twisting and turning the furniture around to make the space as usable as I can.  We learned from the boat we lived on in Sausalito.  If you arrange the stuff well, it'll finally fit.                      I was waxing our table,pleased with how nice the wood looks.  I remembered my friend Ceseare, the wood worker on Via Pelligrino when I lived there.  I asked him one time why he didn't use an electric buffer on the wax, he said you do it by hand. His grandfather did that kind of work, and Cesare started working there when he was eleven with his father. I saw Cesare buffing wax by hand whenever I walked by.        So I was noticing the old pine wood of our table. Franco made the table from some good, old pine boards, and he had roughed them up, hit the table with a chain. I've been waxing the table for a couple of years now.  The wood was well stained, the same color as the wax.  The finish is starting to have depth. It feels good, it makes me feel good to rub it.  It is not the kind of table that anyone is going to covet for it's great beauty, but I find beauty in it.  And I putting the wax on is relaxing and a pleasure. ***   Nico. I could not write about Via Cappellarri without writing about Nico. He is a prominent part of my experience of this street. His grandparents bought his apartment here in the 1830s. His mother was born there. He was born there. It has been his home all his life. He is 93 years old, or so. That is Nico in a quick breath. Nico is slight, full of motion and always in a good mood. He can’t see much. Only shadow outlines he says. He doesn’t show any sign of sightlessness. He walks everywhere and quickly. More over he talks to everyone and confides in them. Maybe some people don’t care to see Nico coming because he traps you and talks for a bit. But I am a foreigner and more direct than the others. I can get away from Nico. The shop keepers he chooses to visit are trapped with him for often times a half hour or more. The shop keepers go on with their work and I’ll walk by seeing Nico sitting on a pulled up chair and talking freely about something or other. He’s not dull, he’s not stupid, he is quite antimated; He can talk quite a bit about whatever his topic of the day happens to be. This is still not the Nico I want to tell about. In olden times, another life-time ago he was a performer. A strongman and a dancer. I have seen his photos from the mid twenth century when he held his dancing partner high above his head with one arm outstretched. Nico is five and a half feet tall. In his old photos he was extremely muscular. At 99 he bobs around better than a rabbit. He's talkative, sincere, poetic and loving. Always a laugh and a happy retort from Nico. Born here on this street a century ago. His family roots on this old stone street go back more than a century and a half. There have been some changes. Before both great wars of the twenth century, before the unification of Italy his grandparents lived on another globe, an earlier planet that held Roma. And the street remains as it was then. Nico with his dark felt sailors cap and brim and full head of white hair and a bushy unkept beard. It’s good he doesn’t smoke, because when he grabs your shoulder and talks into your face you can’t get away. His breath is your breath. Thank God he doesn’t smoke. His breath is as sweet as he is. *** Turkey in the Straw Gallery We heard this man yelling “Arrotino” up and down the street. Every five or ten minutes we’d hear a few calls. It was a plaintive, wailing call. His voice was reaching the tops of the buildings. Was it a kitty lost? I think I could read the tired note of desparation in the wail. A child was lost. Perhaps a sick child who could never keep the attention to know where he was or where he was going as he wandered off to catch a rolling ball from going over the roof tops Then I saw the man with the bicycle and the grinding stone mounted on the back. He was the sharpener who combed the winding streets calling out to everyone that “Arrotino”, The sharpener was down there. Bring your tools and knives to be sharpened because now is the time. This is the place. Axes. Sissors, kitchen knives were all fair game for the man who could do the job. I didn’t have to ask him what work his father did, or his grandfather. More to the future is the thought that his son will not follow in his footsteps. The days of the Arrotino have all but ended. I hear the call now and then. But I expect it to end. *** In the market at Campo dei Fiori they use a lot of wooden boxes everyday. There are hundreds of boxes to carry the lettuce, the pears, all the fuits and vegetables and flowers. Plain and simple, open top, wood-slat boxes. Produce went from the large market in the center near to the smaller markets around Roma. Goods were trucked into Campo Dei Fiori by the vendors who bought at the central market, then sold at the local level. I suppose easily throughout the city there were thousands of these wooden boxes used everyday for the days fruits and vegetables. When I think of the market at Campo Dei Fiori I don’t think of the boxes, but they sure exist. And there’s a lot of them. When I think of the market at Campo Dei Fiori I think first of the venders and their tents and stands and tables. The venders all make up their booths, bancarellas, they’re called. They make them out of every sort of item that they can fashion them from. Then of course, what begins as trial and error quickly becomes the permanent set up. It becomes the way it is done, day after day, month after month. Winter and summer. Each vender has a stand and a way it is put together, the way it faces, the length and width. It becomes the property of the vender. Their space. Their identity. I had a lot of friends there that’s why it is sacred to me. Why I don’t speak lightly of the market. Because I was there many mornings with them. I painted them. I stood my their fires to keep warm. I heard their callings from one to another I remember the morning Beppo one morning was the object of the venders derision. It’s not enough to describe him as a short guy; they were all short guys. I remember him has shorter. The ridicule started a wave of sound from one section was was quickly picked up, swelled and carried before it washed over the entire market, crashing in laughter. Somewhere, someone called “Beppo” in a loud voice that hung in the air, smoke from the wooden boxes that were burned. Then others laughed and picked up the call “Beppo”. Then more people knew that it was fun and joined in calling “Beppo”, until the market seemed to rumble with laughter and everyone calling his name. It was a good time. It was the calling of comrades, together and to no other purpose than fun. It was Beppo’s day to be the goat for laughs. It ended as quickly as it began. They were all happy, even Beppo was content with the recognition. Once in a while the days have to be good. Some cold winter mornings the wooden boxes were burned in the small fires that venders started to provide some warmth from the bitter chill of a winter’s morning. It could be frosty at six o’clock in the pre-dawn when sleepy workers turned out from bed to begin setting up for that day’s market. I want to be carefull speaking about the market because it is precious. It is a sacred experience to work it, to shop it. It is a centuries old tradition. It should not be taken lightly. It is the food that is grown out there somewhere and is brought into the main distribution center, picked up by the local merchants to be sold again to the women and men who arrive with their baskets to pick their products for that days meals. At the mid afternoon when the days market was ended and packed away until tomorrow, there remained always a great mess. Smashed vegetables, cuttings from various mixes that were made fresh each morning. Discarded wrappings, and boxes both smashed and whole. As the vendors were cleaning up their stalls and putting their gear away into storage sheds until the following day, there was a man who gathered the whole wooden crates. He had a wagon that he stacked high with the good crates. There would be many rows and he would stack boxes until the cart could hold no more. Then the old man, and indeed he was old and frail and raggety. The old man would pull the wagon out of campo Dei Fiori and half way across Roma in traffic to the large market area where he would sell back the boxes to the market for use the following day. I saw the man for many years. Then no more. The market was smaller, the man was too old. It wouldn’t happen again. *** repeated Our favorite bar in Borgo Pio was close to where we lived. I think that’s everyone’s rule for a favorite bar. It is always the one that is close to where you live. Sometime when you have a lot of choices you may walk a little farther, but not much. It’s usually the one right around the corner that’s the favorite. While on the subject of coffee bars I should mention Borgo Pio. That is a part of the city near the Vatican. It is right up from the side gate to the Vatican. The bar the Swiss Guard frequented was on our street, a few doors down. There we also had a coffee bar, an old one. Elegant. A story book kind of place out of the past. If anyone wanted to do a movie about old Italy and how life in the middle part of the 18th century, this was the coffee bar. The floors were marble cut wonderfully and colorfully. Such as choice of design and color. Aged by countless footsteps over the years. Steps slightly rounded from use. A masterpiece of another age. Carved wood bar, glass covers on the cabinets. Ceramic drawer pulls. Particular hinges. Even large vases with flowers were all excellent period pieces. Containers for special items, sugar and sundries. All made with precision and care. The like of workers would not be found again. The ceiling delicately painted with designs of horsemen, carriages and flowers. the woodwork distinct and elaborate. The extras, sugar containers, napkin holders and such. The barmen were also from another time. They knew what they had in the decorative warm bar and appreciated it. I was sitting there with Meri having a coffee one day. We were having café with some raw sugar in it. I heard it was better for you that white sugar. It was sweet, no doubt about that. The sun was coming in the window and not quite hitting the table. The windows were clean. Someone must have been busy this morning. I ‘s was looking at the lack of foot traffic outside and thinking about getting a cornetto to eat when Meri spoke. “Did you notice the old man isn’t here today?” “Which one is that?” I asked, “There’s enough around here.” “The one that’s always here with the little black dog. He works at the flower shop on the corner.” She recalled the way he used to finish an arrangement of flowers than ask his dog if it was okay that way. Sometimes the dog said “si” and sometimes the dog wasn’t impressed. The man always asked the dog several times until he had communicated with his dog. He took pleasure in doing this. The dog had fun also. “The happy,friendly guy, yeah I haven't seen him for a couple of days.” Then I was looking at the bar, It was white marble, intricately carved, something you’d see at the Vatican museum. It must have been made two centuries ago. You couldn’t find workmen to make one that well today. I realized that this was Italy from another time. It was the way I want to remember it. Then I told her “I think I’m going over to Fabio’s this morning. You have anything planned? You Want to come along?” Fabio had the computer shop around the corner and how pleasurable seeing him and talking computers with his techie. “ I have to go the Vatican Post office, there’s some things need to get in the mail. Then I’m going shopping over at Cola Rienzo.” She sipped her coffee and looked over toward the bar and commented “I saw a cute biscuit holder back there, the one with the glass cover. My grandmother had one .” M pointed to the large container on the end of the counter. It was large and decorative. I didn’t know much about those but I nodded and smiled. During those days the water ran into the sink always ran at that bar and at every bar in Roma. We had come from San Francisco and were aware of the rest of the world and that others were using bottled water, there was even talk about places in the world that had shortages of drinking water. Not in Rome. Here the water ran in the sinks of every bar, everywhere. There was no thought or need for conservation. Water was a given from God. It flowed always. The Romans thought that it had flowed since the time of the Cesear’s and would always flow from the mountains to the fountains and bars of Roma. Then one day a change occurred. The cost of water soared in Rome. There were stories about it on the news. Citizens were warned that water bills would go up and become costly. In what seemed only a matter of days, the water stoped flowing. Fountains and bar sinks stopped. It was most noticeable, as before it was always so apparent to walk into a coffee bar and looking over the counter you’d see the sink with the water tap running full and the workers in other parts of the area not paying any attention to it. The water always ran on full. Quickly it changed. One day they all had the water running. One day it was not. It seemed so strange and obvious of an adjustment. The end of an incredibally long era had come. A way of life had changed in Italy forever. We’d seen a few signs of growth in Borgo Pio. The stores gradually transferred ownership from one to another. A tall thin old man who was the local tailor now was suddenly gone and a store selling religious souvenirs took his place. There are always visable changes when you live a place for a while. They took a while to notice sometimes, but the passing years add up. And we had only seen a portion of change. There has been a lot more on every street and every corner in Rome. Rome recently had it’s 2500th birthday. Imagine the changes that have taken place. The city remains in change day in and day out. *** Gone are the small Fiat 500s - suvs and F, large care took their place. What a pity. Globalization has swallowed rome. I see student demonstrations for anti global and I think they should start by quit spending money at mcdonald’s. Money speaks loudly. *** repeat We had an appointment to meet Giacomo for coffee this morning so we walked over to Trastevere. M was working in the other room when I said I was taking off. She was quicker and would catch up with me. As soon as I got out there I began enjoying the morning in relative quiet, few people were around at nine a.m. Or if people were around then I wasn’t seeing many. There is nothing a quiet morning on these ancient streets when there is time to see and appreciate the sights. Only at the point of crossing Lungotevere did the traffic interfere with my ambling self-assured cadence. The cars kept coming. I knew the stoplight up by the bridge would give me a break. They go bats on fire when the light changes, then there is a long blank space with nothing. In the middle of everything a parked car tried to back onto Lungotevere. By the time he made it to the street he was in the middle of oncoming traffic. Didn’t wait, didn’t look. Started backing out from a parking place into speeding traffic. Three lanes of traffic came to a halt. Taking advantage of the interruption in the flow I started across. When I was half way across a motorcycle impeded by stopped traffic weaved through and slowed and yelled at the car that was backing out. The cycle wobbled between cars and was looking back to yell insults at the driver causing the jam up traffic. He should have been looking ahead, but was looking back to yell at the car in his way then the saw me crossing and as he looked he sees me where he was headed. He swerved again to avoid me. The cycle never slowed, just zigzagged to find his way and keep from falling. Somehow another collision was avoided, and that is Rome’s way – a lot of luck and full speed ahead. I walked above the river along the broken sidewalk toward Ponte Sisto. Tree roots for years have been destroying the walk. They prune the trees every few years, but never repair the sidewalks. Ahead I saw M waiting mid span on the bridge. “I saw you coming, but didn’t wait,” she called. “That’s fine.” I shuffled toward her. “How did you get here so fast? She was leaning comfortably against the wall along the bridge. “I walked. I saw you coming and couldn’t believe how slow you were going.” She shook her head in reprimand. I didn’t reply. No need to defend myself for enjoying the day. I kept walking across the bridge and caught up with her. She took my hand and started walking. Beyond the hills of the Gianicolo The dome of St. Peters shone in the distance. It was going to be a beautiful warm April day in Rome. Suddenly she leaned over the bridge and pointed down at the river, “See that boat down there?” I came closer until I saw it and then nodded. “They’re cleaning the river.” “Why are they going down the middle? There’s nothing in the middle.” “The guy has a long pole with a net on the end,” she said. “How come they’re not on the side where the trash gets caught?” The current takes the garbage to the rocks and trees on the side not in the smooth moving water in the middle. “He’s smoking and holding his net,” she said. "It was four civil employees at work." “Look at the side. That’s where the stuff gets caught.” I pointed. “That’s how they do everything. The enjoy a boat ride down the middle and they’re supposed to be picking up trash.” This was yet another in the long series of Roman imponderables. The bottom line was that the guys in the boat had a good job – plus, a river-cruise on a sunny day. We crossed Ponte Sisto to Piazza Trilussa on the other side. Trastevere. Even there it was quiet this morning. We both noticed the trash on the steps of the monument where Romans and tourists lingered during the evening and dumped their papers. Coffee cups, newspapers, whatever. I know how they accumulate paper, everything is wrapped for sale then discarded. We in the civilized world have learned to make paper to wrap this up then throw away and clutter the earth. Many cities are more considerate about discards – not in Roma. Use it up and toss it on the ground without regard. That is the Roman way. We took the side street that cuts to the heart of Trastevere, past bread shop, pastry places, bok stores, unmarked entrance ways, - first to the Piazza of Santa Maria, then around the corner to Machalia. Every time Giacomo said to meet there I asked if he was talking about the butcher shop down from where he lived. Macalaio means butcher. It must have happened about six times, and no, it’s the coffee bar down the street called Calistro. That day I was looking at the name on the front of the bar. It said Calistro. Nothing about Machalia. Giacomo was already seated there with a coffee and his newspaper. He waved when he looked up and saw us wandering over. “What do you call this place Machilia?” I said. “It’s the name of the man who owns the place – Machala, s short man with a mustache. Haven’t you ever seen him?” Giacomo asked. “I don’t know. I’d have to see him again and have someone point him out to see if I recognize him.” I said. “Come on. you know him,” Giacomo said. Giacomo and Meri and I sat and had coffee. The discussion was the usual about finding a house, buying a car. James was there standing nearby. He got in an argument with someone. Alex was home asleep and the news that he would play with his band in England in June. We stayed for about an hour. A friend, Costansa joined us. Then another, a guy whose name was missed in the mix. He worked with Giacomo when Giacomo sold houses for the Commune of Roma. All was quiet and orderly, most of the tables were filled as we sat in the shade outside the bar Calisto. This was an Italian bar. Travelers are rarely seen here. The group assembled was composed of locals and it looked it. Most everyone was dressed in dark colors or in mismatched well-worn clothing. From somewhere along the way a homeless person wandered up to out table and asked for money for a cappuccino. Giacomo said he’d buy the cappuccino, waved to a waitor. sent her inside to get it. It was his kind way to do the deed and not give her a euro for an unknown purpose. Giacomo is both generous and street wise. When it was time to move on we walked with Giacomo back toward his apartment and then said our goodbyes. Meri and I’d planed on going to Standas Market to buy some groceries, but without our cart to carry our purchases we opted instead for a large chunk of Parmigiano from the cheese store and a quiet walk home, satisfied we’d made a good start on another good day. *** Working in Rome or working in Los Angeles was an adventure every day, every minute. Getting the work permit was a challenge, and harbinger of the future. Rome is difficult. It is not easy even for the Italians. Bureaucracy must be the same the world over. Roadblocks. They do play their power games. We live in Rome during the winter months and summer return to Ohio where we have home and M's garden. Our Italian friends call it the best of both worlds. We do too until its time to go to the other place, then it’s a lot of trouble. Being uprooted twice a year, here to there, is not easy, but that’s what it takes. *** *** Too early. We still had twenty minutes before we could turn our car in. The gate man takes an afternoon break on Sunday and wouldn’t reopen until six-thirty. That meant we had time to kill before we could get the car in the garage. There’s a nice pastry shop nearby and I asked Meri to park over there and we’d kill some time with a cup of coffee and a pastry. Parking is non- existent as always, so she drove up to the side of the pastry shop and topped the car on the center line of the street. It was a perfect parking place as there were about twenty cars in front of her. No meter – no problemo. After a quick pastry shop stop we came back out and got in our car. There was already a car parked behind us. We pulled away and I noticed the man in the car behind us was reading something and didn’t even look up when we left. Was he going to pull his car up closer to the one in front of him? I don’t think so. It wasn’t necessary. He was parked there alone in the middle of the street and no one was gong to run into him. It was obvious he was parked there. An American would have pulled up to the at least in line with the others parked in the middle of the street. To an Italian it wasn’t necessary. *** Acceptance seems to be the most common national trait I have been able to identify in Italy. They don’t bitch or complain. Bureaucracy can be ridiculous, cops of no help, bums and beggars everywhere. There are pay offs, shopkeepers incompetent, everything is a pain in the ass and difficult, organization practically non-existent, and still they go on with a shrug of the shoulders. It won’t change. It’s all lousy and we live with it. Why? Because Italy is wonderful. It’s beautiful, dirty, corrupt and inefficient, but everyone learns to move ahead in acceptance. I spend a bit of time down on the corner of Via Cappallari and Via Montoro, where the action is. It’s a good location to paint and draw and chat with the neighbors, and the Carabneiri are always keeping watch. Well, the Interior Minister lives nearby, at least the Carabenieri are present, they may not be actually controlling anything, but their uniformed presence makes you think so. Outside is quiet. This is the historical center of Rome, Italy. Roma. Why are city names changed when written in another language? Words I can understand, but the name of the city? I learned in school that the river that cuts through the middle of Rome is the Tiber. It is not the Tiber, it is the Tevere. Is that too hard to say in English? repeat It’s not always quiet out there on Via Cappallari. The street is narrow and cobblestone and the walls of the opposing buildings are close, maybe twelve feet away, and everything is stone. Everything. If a lady walks down the street at four in the morning the heels hit, sharp hammers clicking on stone. It rings loud and echos. We’re on the second floor. Third floor they say. Not quite what it seems, or it is a long story to explain. The air changes daily this time of year, from winter cold to springtime wonderful. Seasons pass and the outside air changes the taste of everything about Via Cappellari. The buildings have been here five hundred years, but the street, probably for a thousand years or two before that. When was the last time a tree grew here? It was a while. Outside is quiet. This is Via Cappellarri I am talking about. It’s not always quiet out there. The street is narrow and cobblestone and the walls of the opposing buildings are close and everything is stone. If a lady walks down the street the heels come down hard, hammers clicking on the stone. It rings loud and echos. *** I was painting in my Impressionist style that I do. I thought Monet was the best. Sisily was was up there with him. I had a great teacher, Stan Goldsten in San Francisco, who taught me well. He showed me how to get the job done. Enough about my painting. I don’t want to get into technique, I want to talk about taking my eisel and colors round to the different areas of Rome and setting up to paint. One particular incident I want to impart when I was painting in San Francisco. I was standing below a bridge in a park area of Mill Valley working the last of my painting when a woman and a child began walking across the bridge. I was inspired to add them to the painting so I quickly put them in as they walked. The young boy, a lad of eight or nine years immediately ran down to see what I was doing and he looked at my painting. He pointed to the woman and child on the bridge and said, “That’s us.” It wasn’t a question. He had recognized the bridge and his mother and his own image. I thought that was great for a young boy, he was a tourist from Italy by the way, to have the presence of mind to recognize not only the painting, but his own image. The usual way someone comments when I am working is this way. I have my easel, and canvas and paint on a palate, working away, and an adult will come up to me, look for a while, then say, “What are you doing?"..."Painting?” After this happens ten or twenty times I am tempted to say something as ridiculous back,“No, I’m waiting for a bus.” But I never do. I have learned that it happens and I have to say, “Yes, I am painting.” The other common occurrence is when I am about finished with a painting of say, a bridge in my impressionistic style of realism. That is to say that it clearly evident what I am doing. The drawing and the colors are all what can be seen in front of me. It isn’t a painting by one of the masters, it won’t be stolen by someone supplying collectors with stolen goods, but it is clearly at least in a light and friendly sort of was an okay representation. Then someone wanders nearby and observes for a while and maybe even takes a picture of my painting and the bridge, then asks, “What are you painting?” What the person who comes up when I am painting doesn’t realize is that I am in my painting zone. If I see them that is about as much recognition as my brain can spare while I’m zoned out in painting land. I think I look enough to decide if it is safe for me to keep working, then I continue. *** Sometimes below Lungotevere, along the river there are junkies camping on the Rome side. On the river walkway near Ponte Sisto, on the Trastevere side there is room to walk, bicycle and roller skate. That side is safe. You can be in the middle of Rome and feel a hundred miles away. Eighty foot tall walls were constructed in the late eighteen hundreds along both sides of the river to prevent flooding. Flood waters at the Pantheon rose several feet deep at one time. Flood waters along the Tevere have reached seventy percent of the way up the walls. Before the walls the construction on both side would be flooded and often washed away. On the walks down, along the river, the traffic above is muffled. There’s water foul and the river. The Tevere source is mountain springs two hundred fifty miles away, somewhere up in the hills and winds down to the Mediterean by way of Rome. We have seen the river by car, a long way from Rome, and have enjoyed how it meanders so steadily this way. The turns are often long and far apart. Here in Rome there are several small falls and rapids. The river that is generally thought of as a slow wanderer. *** Rome has excellent spots to paint. There was a time when I had to worry about carrying my permission to live and work in Italy in my pocket, or I worried about having a license to paint. Through experience I learned that no one bothers me. I don’t know why. I've heard from artists I know who were told to move along, sent on their way, not permitted to paint on the street, but it never happened to me. I think it has to do with fitting in. I know how an Italian acts. I belong here, dress local and look like it. An Italian can spot a real Italian the way I can tell a cat from a horse. Often I am dressed Italian, think I’m Italian, but I’m not. An American couldn’t tell, but an Italian can tell at a glance. *** Legend says you throw one coin over your should with your right hand to reassure a return to Rome, two coins for a marriage and three for a divorce. *** We rented a car at the termini, there are several companies with rental booths, we picked one and got a car. First we had to figure how to get out of Rome. We followed the instructions we were given and were soon headed toward Tibutina. Traffic wasn’t that bad by Rome standards. It’s always bad in Rome – and, of course, Roman drivers always make it an adventure to be behind the wheel on the streets. we took a drive in Sabina. . . . to etc. Thrifty had some bad stuff going on so that they’d get us in Palermo every time. We finally learned from an Italian friend that when we turned in the car at night without having the fuel checked at that time, someone would come buy and siphon off some gas, use it in their tank, and we’d have to pay a very high price when they checked the tank. After a couple of years we learned to go somewhere else and not get ripped off. *** It’s nice to find a spot in Roma where the winter sun is warm. Running into a building where celini worked. I had read his biography years ago. *** I felt bad when I heard that during the Mussolini years several blocks of five hundred year old buildings were destroyed to open the street before the Vatican. One building lost contained a workshop of Raphael. Several blocks of historic buildings were torn out to make Via Conciliazione. I felt bad about it until I saw a photo of the buildings lost. Nothing to behold. In the twenty plus years that we have been here the streets have been rerouted. They used to drive in front of the Vatican. To stand by the pillars that compose the colonade is to behold greatness in architecture. These huge pillars were cut, moved here and put into place five hundred years ago, before mechanical means of today. Horses and mules dragged them. It would be long work even today. Inside the Vatican the size and the artwork is overpowering. Countless, nameless artisans worked their lifetime inside these walls. Details hundreds of feet in the air hardly seen and rarely appreciated cover every inch of the church. *** Today, a sunny warm morning. M went out for coffee with Marga around the corner at Bar Peru. Down on the street I talked with big Gino. He was looking dull and uninterested, per usual. Calm, that's a good way to describe his demeanor. Yeah, calm and dull...and uninterested. Hat down over his eyes. We were talking on the corner in our usual places, he leaning on the wall by Mario's shop and me sitting on the large cement flower pot nearby. The usual crew walked by, Franco, Marina, Lucca, the other Franco, and tourists...two or six at a time until they numbered in the hundreds. Gi and I talked food again. I said, "Lunch at Juliano's? and turned my neck to indicate up the street. He took a puff on whatever rolled up weed he smoked and nodded...oh so slowly. "Pasta?" He dreamlike half-nodded and looked at me as if it were a dumb question which it was. He nodded toward me and asked what I was having. I told him I'd make something... "I'll figure it out when I go to the market." "Punterella." I ended up making making a salad today...that's what it was. I thought it would be a cooked meal. It began when Gino suggested puntarella. I had to get to the computer and look it up to tell you: it is a late fall or early spring chicory. That search didn't tell me anything. It's a green salad vegetable, there you are.   I headed up the street. Gino said to make some puntarella with gorganzola and aliche, he made the knuckle on the cheek sign to indicate it is tasty. I passed Marina's shop. M makes puntarella, but all I know is that I ate it. I didn't remember what it is. Today I was game for it. At the corner the market lay before me roaring in activity. I know that Sandro from Pisa always takes back punterella when he comes to Rome. This is the knowledge had when i arrived at the market.   At the regular vegetable stand we shop the guy said it was sold out. No puntarella today. I was too late. It will be around for a few weeks so I could get some Monday.   Okay, I tried another vendor and again, they were sold out. I started too late in the morning. I walked to my old favorites: old Roberto, his daughter and her husband Andrea were out. The guy in the booth next to them heard me ask, he had punterella. I bought enough for a meal. "It's two of us, Is this enough for a meal and maybe supper?" He assured me he sold me enough.   I remember Gino said I needed aliche. I talked with Joel from Spain who works at a restaurant nearby, told him my project, described how it was going and he said I could buy aliche at Roggiari. He looked up the streert. "The place on the corner," he said. I knew where it was. "Do I buy a little tin?" I was thinking sardines in america. "No. They're fresh." I know I'm getting into Italian when I had to go home to look up aliche. No problem - aliche. They were familiar, I've eaten them often, they're less salty in Italy but what is the English? I can see what they look like. Two minutes away to hom. In the dictionary to find...it's anchovy. At the corner store I bought a handful...well, a spoonful. They're too messy to handle. Actually it was about four spoonfuls. I told him I needed enough for one meal, he sold me all I needed. An anchovy-lovers dream.   On the way home I talked to the guy who worked with Joel to find out how I put it all together and cooked it. "You eat it cold....a salad...that way." he said. "I thought you cook it. I was thinking hot food. I was going to cook it." "Like a salad." He rolled up his sleeves and began to count it off on his fingers, thumb first, "Add oil and mix in the aliche but chopped into small pieces" He stopped, I nodded. The index finger is two, "and leave it sit for an hour and a half." "Hour and a half, Hour and a half." I repeated that all the way home. "Hour and a half, hour and a half."   I checked with Gino, he said I could add gorgonzola. I had asked Joel about the cheese when I talked to him and he never heard of that. Joel's contribution was, "Eat it with a piece of bread." I bought some gorganzola with blue stripes in it. It's spicy; that's the one I buy.   At home I was ready to begin. Put the puntarella and chopped anchovies in a bowl, then added olive oil, stirred it around. I leaned out the window. Mario was down there. I knew the salad had to sit an hour and a half. He knew what I was working on. I shouted down, "Do I cover it?" It wasn't really a shout. It was quiet outside and I spoke distinctly and he heard me. He said, "no". I saw his answer more with the expression on his face than his voice. It wasn't necessary to cover it.   Gino told me to add chili peppers and chunks of gorganzola cheese when I eat it, and made that knuckle twisting gesture on his cheek that indicated delicious. But it wasn't necessary to remind me about adding hot peppers, I'll put hot peppers on everything but oatmeal and ice cream.   I stirred the salad every fifteen minutes, mixing the flavors, and ate it after an hour of soaking up the oil and blending of flavors. Bread? Hell, I poured a glass of the white romanella wine Mario gave me, then used a piece of brown grain bread I got the other day at the market, and ate and drank everything together. The salad? Yes, it washed down well. It was light and flavorful. I ate half and saved enough for supper. The very last was mopped up with bread at breakfast.       I went down to tell Gino how the salad turned out. Augusto was there, smiling and curiously divisive. With all of us talking, well, Gino ate a pizza, the guy is a first class Italian eater. I asked where he got the pizza, perhaps he knows a place that's better than where we go. Augusto answered, "The farmacia in Piazza Farnese." That surprised me. I hadn't been by there lately, but for all the years I had known the place as the farmacia where I'd been many times for drugs and band aids, that sort of thing. "Now it's a pizza shop?" He swore. Gino had his mouth full and remanded expressionless. A few days later I walked through Piazza Farnese, by the farmacia... I had to see the piza place. It's still the farmacia ...no pizza place. Italian humor. *** Yesterday I saw a woman one street over, and as we passed we recognized each other, and both of us stopped, looking at each other. Ciao." "Ciao..."Where do I know you from?" I asked. "The coffee bar in Campo dei Fiori." She waved her hand over her shoulder to indicate it was a while ago. There are many bars...I shook my head and waited. "The one on that side," she pointed. "In the middle." I remembered. It closed fifteen years ago. We quickly finished talking and said our goodbyes. It happens in rome, you run into people you know, everywhere. Back on our street I talked with Augusto and Gino. Another man came along on a bicycle and stopped to join us. Gino and Augusto and the new guy talked for a while, he looked familiar. He acted like he knew me too. I finally asked him where he worked, because I knew his face. He took his hat off, "Do you know me now." I said nothing. "I'm the market vendor. You buy my vegetables most every day." "Oh, yes." Take him to another location, remove his cap and apron and he's another man. *** Standing in the middle of Campo Dei Fiori comfortably doing nothing more than looking, taking it in, people waking by. I felt quite at home in the noise and confusion. The Forno and the fountain behind me. The tall foreboding statue of a darkly robed and hooded Giordorno Bruno looked down on all. After seven years imprisonment he was marched over from Castello San Angelo, Up Via Dei Pelligrino and burned alive in this piazza in 1601 by the catholic church. Among other sins, the heretic said the earth was not the center of the universe. Today crowds were thick. For the last two hundred years Campo Dei Fiori has been the site of one of Rome’s largest markets. Fruit, vegetables, utensils for sale and, as always, the throngs of buyers and the curious were about. A tourist standing nearby me looked up from the map he was holding and suddenly asked, “What piazza is this?” Without the slightest hesitation and the merest glance in his direction I answered, “Campo dei fiori.” I spoke quickly and easily with pride in my heart. I turned to see him nod thanks and returned to his map. What was he, Austrian...Italian maybe? This was my home turf. Seventeen years and I finally answered that question. To be asked was an honor. That Meant I gave the impression I knew where I was. Or maybe he didn’t look before he spoke. That's okay. This is my home turf. *** 8. Steve works Coming down our street, heading home, I ran into Giancarlino out painting. He always sets his canvas nailed to the cement wall on the street next to his shop. That's how he did it. Made a production of it. The alley was narrow but he had room to work. He couldn't work inside his shop because there was hardly room to walk, it's a mess. We said hi to each other with a nod or a few words. Giancarlino is usually intense, more so when he painted. Often there'd be customers talking with him. Today he worked alone. He seemed in a good mood. I took advantage of it and stopped to chat. The fine weather. A show of his. Then music. He talked about music from years past. "They sang folk music. Two singers, very popular, many hit songs." He scratched his head and waved his arms. I suggested, "Chad and Jeremy?"  Nothing. "Ian and Silvia?" Still not it. Finally he remembered, “Peterpaul and Mary”.  That’s Giancarlino, so Italian.   He thought it was one guy and a girl. *** *** So compulsive is the desire of some older Roman’s to help the tourists that I have heard them give answers to questions when I knew they didn’t know the answers, and they gave answers with such conviction their own mothers would swear it was the gospel truth. The real truth is that some Roman’s are obligated to give an answer if you ask a question. As soon as a kid is old enough to talk she can answer any question you come up with. What you never hear from a Roman is the response, “I don’t know.” They all know everything, every last one of them. *** He'd been down in spirits this winter. Now his one hundredth birthday was less than a week away. M and I chatted with Nico outside his door, he was very probably the last time he entered his apartment. Two days later I was looking out the window and saw a van with a red light on top stop down the street, about where Nico lived. Not a good omen, an ambulance silent in the morning. We couldn't see the sign on it, we had a feeling what it was. They took him away. A few days later we attended his funeral at the small church alongside the Cancelleria. Many of the neighborhood: Angelo, Marina, the flower lady, Marco, Mario and Gino, the newspaper lady, both Franco's were there. I remembered the last words I told him were that I’d see him later. Hope I do. Ci vediammo, Nico. *** Singing, whistling while walking along the stone alley, a common occurrence in the stone alleys that compose Rome in the center *** Nico's nephew inherited the family apartment, brought in two large trucks. It took two days to throw everything out and put the apartment on the market for sale. *** No wonder this Rome story isn’t contiguous. that's how life goes in Italy. You have to patch it together and do with it as best you can. *** Down a block from Lungo Tevere on Vittorio Emanuale is a building that someone pointed out to me, and there is a plaque on the wall that confirms it: Benevenuto cellini had a worshop there. He was a silversmith, goldsmith, sculpture, painter, writer, musician friend of popes and a few moore things. His biography is the one of the earliest written, that's what I heard when I read it. He was born in Florence in 1500, about the same time our apartment went up. He worked in gold, and silver, was a rowdy drinker and fighter. a poet and musician. His is certainly the most important biography written during the renaissance. He was either a pretty wild guy, or a hell of a liar. For this reason I noted the building and said his name every time I passed there. I wonder if that has some effect of either his karma or mine. *** I walked across Campo Dei Fiori and tourists were everywhere, begging at one of the group of tables at an outdoor bar. He’s about the quarters of the crowd was Italian. A guy about five feet tall, probably sixty or so, and he limps uses his cane as he goes from table to table. One of regulars I’ve seen for years. He limps a lot when he’s begging, then I’ve seen him walk pretty well when he’s crossing the Campo. In fact, I’ve seen him run when he’s in a hurry. I had a friend tell me that he is brought down by a driver each morning and picked up every afternoon. All the other regular beggars, have a territory and knows where to be. This one must be fairly successful. I don't respect him. The tourists he hits are so busy talking, I watch them reaching in their pockets and handing over money to him without ever looking at him or stopping talking to their friends. I remember standing in the middle of the main downtown street. It was trying to cross a major los angeles freeway on foot on a heavy traffic day. The style of living in Roma is caught somewhere truly Roman. Many buildings from the fifteen hundreds are still habitable, our place for one. Ruins sometimes can be seen from the the year one or two. I remember being near Piazza Venezia and saw an old partial building between two new constructions from the eighteenth century. Right there in the middle of Rome sits a partial standing structure from two thousand years ago. It was wondrous to see the first time, years later it is still a marvel to behold something ancient that has been built upon and left partially exposed for the modern era to appreciate. Near the Pantheon is a small alley where is found a building built using the ancient pillars as part of the then fashionable eighteentnth century motif. Inside ancient support pillars stand free and visable. In stead of tearing it down, the pillars were incorporated into the modern building. Several businesses have ancient structures visible inside. A hole in the floor may be covered with a piece of plexigal, thus lending a view into the past. *** repeat It was was a long walk up to the seventh floor, but we were excited. Antonio said the place was small, and it was, but we took it. The entire rooftop was ours alone to use, and that was too good to pass up. The rent was low because we had only one room and a bathroom, and the tiny apartment was on the sixth floor. No elevator. This was six long floors, not short modern American floors. The building was built in the sixteen hundreds when they made ceilings twice as high, so it was nearly double the modern distance from one flight to another. The first time we walked up it was crazy far up, difficult to climb, but we became billy goats climbing up, up to get home, although we both agreed it was never easy. Shopping for food was difficult enough, but Meri used to do the wash at a laundermat about a half-mile away. We had to schlep our clothes down, then pull a cart with the laundry in it and walk a long, long way to the laundermat. Then wheel everything back. Already tired out from the long walk to and from the laundry, the climb up six long flights of stairs with a cart frull of laundry was a killer. I usually didn’t make the walk to the laundry, but always had to be there for the long, tough haul up the stairs. We planned laundry days around times I had work to do so I’d be there for the long climb. The guy we rented from was a cop. He said he was a carpenter and he would make what we needed. It turned out that he was a carpenter like I am a walrus. I had to make a few bits of furniture to make the place livable. We’d lived ten years on a boat and I learned how to work with wood and both of us could both make do. I guess I always had a nack for making things, not pretty but functional. I made a high bed with a ladder up and storage under it, also a spot to hang clothes. This saved space. Then I made a chest by the window to sit on and store more in. I made a long desk on one wall to have a place to work. The small kitchen and tiny bath were already there. I added a few shelves. The roof was why we loved the place. You would have loved it too. That’s why we took the apartment. The rooftop terrace was about fifty feet wide and eighty feet long. On the street side there was a one room cabana that we made into a sleeping room for guests. There was a small shed that I used for my painting supplies and we had several lines strung for drying clothes. Where we were located was between the Vatican on one side and the castle San Angelo on the other. From the rooftop we had quite a view. On the eve of the Milinium, at midnight when 1999 became 2000 I counted as many as twenty fire works visible from our rooftop. We payed rent for the next several months, and we returned to the states for the summer. When we came back in the fall we found food In the refrigerator, clothes in the closet and a tooth in the bathroom. None of it ours. We said goodbye to our cop landlord and that was the end of our borgo Pio apartment. We returned to the Via dei Pelligrino apartment we had before. The Euro was introduced and the Lire ended. *** The bank and the laundry: If you are going to live somewhere you'd better have them nearby. Get your money safely stashed, available and under control, and keep your clothes clean. That's life. We had a clothes washer in our apartment, but it shook the room so hard M was afraid it would fall through the floor. So we cartried our clothes over to do the wash. Often we'd time the hour for doing the wash with lunch out. There was a decent lunch spot next door to the laundry. My bank had the advantage of being down the street from scenic Trevi Fountain. Usually after the bank I take the two minute walk to look at Trevi Fountain. I Never took a picture of it, I don't own a camera. M has taken my photo there. But more importantly I will remember it. I've seen it wet, dry, in sun, wind and from under an umbrella in the rain, crowded full of tourists so you could hardly walk and on those drizzly or chill days when it was void of people. I've seen the fountain empty when they clean it. I've seen white-suited workers shovel out the coins that rational people, with hope in their hearts, willingly and cavalierly toss away, over their shoulders. I need a fountain like that in my front yard. I'd let the neighbor kids shovel it out and keep ten per cent...nine or ten per cent. *** This is Rome, Italy. Roma. Why are names changed when they’re written in another language? I learned in school that the river that cuts through the middle of Rome is the Tiber. It is not the Tiber, it is the Tevere. That is not too hard to pronounce in English. It’s not always quiet out there on Via Cappallari. The street is narrow, cobblestone, the walls of the opposing buildings are close, maybe twelve feet away. and everything is built of thick stone. If a woman walks down the street at four in the morning in heels, they will hit like hammers on the stone. It rings loud and echos. We’re on the second floor, third floor they say. Like most everything in Rome, not quite what it seems, or is a long story to explain. The air changes daily this time of year, from winter cold to springtime wonderful. The basements on these old bildings are something to behold. One of the b ette known was the Basicalica di San Clemente, located a few blocks from the Coluseum. It's a church with a basement that goes down two levels in to ancient Rome when the parishioners worshiped the god Mitar. Many rooms and various levels are visible. For those wanting to see old Rome it'+s a must see. I was told the passageways run under the streets and all the way across the river to the Vatican. Rooftops are singularly where you see the city most identifiable as roma. Go to the gianolo. Go to the café above the museum at the campodiolio. Or go to the Quirinale *** On the bus along Gregorio Septimo for the hundredith time, or the thousandanth time and right up there along the other side of the street is the cupola of the vaticano – the dome of the church. It is massive. So I many times I have passed along this way. So many time and I always look up. There it is against a blue sky. People up on the cupola walking around, looking down across rome. Taking pictures. They are tiny specks and here I am right across the street and can’t see them unless I look hard for them. They are too distant to distinguish the men from the women. They are dots up there and I am only across the street from the dome. 350 years ago it was put together. Michelangelo had a large hand in it. It was finally completed after his death. It was a long time ago. A time before power help. Animals and ropes and a lot of men – that was the power. That was before trains. They had to boat and drag those columns from northern Italy. They built it large and to last a lot longer than buildings built today. I am in awe every time I see it. Here we are in a modern city and there it stands from long ago. Even in the short time since I first saw it the streets around it have changed, readjusted. Routes have changed. They used to drive right in front of the piazza and swing this say, or continue up toward piazza resurgemento the other way. All the beggars, all the tourists. Day and night they pass. What sight. What giant magnificence. *** She sits. Her look is always one of mild confusion, perplexity. Sometimes she moves her head like a robot that needs grease and forces a half smile when I greet her. She’ll look at me with a pitiful half smile that is saying help me I am stuck in here and I can’t get out. I want to reach for an oil can. With difficulty she turns her head a bit, or raises her chin. Throughout the day she is usually immobile. Her Mother and father are there most everyday. They live twenty miles away, down at the water beyond the airport, take a bus and a train and another bus to show up. They spend the day and go home in the late afternoon. The father is old and wears a large brim formal hat and a suit out of the forties. He hardly speaks and appears to have slipped nearly out of his mind. The mother is short, energetic and she talks. She always asks how I am and how my wife is doing. She has a ready smile. Our conversation always start and end with warm greetings. They all speak Calabraisse and Romanesco, two dialects I am unfamiliar with. Many of Rome's old people speak a regional dialect as their first language, and Italian is the new national tongue that is only becoming standard in the last fifty years. Franco and the guys on the street speak in the modern and more vulgar parlance Romanaccico, a street slang the uneducated use. When I began to learn Italian I noticed how many times the locals have to repeat themselves to be understo od among themselves. What they speak it is not a written language, taking and listening is how they learned it. It is often mumbled and slurred. The street is usually half shade. During the hour it hits squarely up the street, chairs are pulled to the corner for the warming glow. Big Manualle is always there. *** On the way over to Porta Blu, Alberto's art studio, I cut through the end of Piaza Navona. I noticed the large obolisk is in the center, surrounding Bernins statue call the four rivers. That obolisk came from Circus Maximus. It was found on the ground broken. Somebody was going to take it to England, but Bernini bought it from the man, put it together and placed it i the center of Piaza Navona surrounded by his four rivers sculpture. *** l Wednesday, March 04, 2015 l the guys on the street tired gino didn't sleep well wears jeans with holes and red patches, and new blonde leather desert boots, looking forward to lunch, he is tells some shape of pasta i didn't understand and tomato sauce. he'll eat a lot and be sleepy mailman on a motorbike stops distributes packages into metal slots says a few words to the locals then continued up the street i watched and leaned against the wall contributed little to the conversations did say it would rain this afternoon the new local guy was interested gino was not impressed, per usual acted like he doesn't hear has no expression, never does yet, we're friends, everyone knows that new guy talks with cinzia romanesque friends saying nothings, small talk together signifying friendship piccolo manuele struts in wants to talk to new guy who tells him, "ten minutes" and es him away. gino's elderly mother here today day earlier than usual he walks her toward franco's whose wife is sister to Gino's mom i am accepted now by manuale he wasn't an ass today we ignored each other that's getting along on the street mario whipped in, didn't speak we will later, or some time. he and i know we'll talk when it happens, when necessary, just now and then we do. tough friends on the street. for us, for the way it is on via dei cappellari i can't explain. where there is no explanation for anything it's not in the cards to matter who's dealing or what deck is used. manuele tries to get new guy away again new guy holds up his hand says, "ten minutes", turns his head; piccolo rides away on his bicycle. while writing this note computer starts a scan decides to reboot i wait fifteen minutes to see if the file i was working on was lost. it wasn't, this is it. i suppose this is another happy ending; though it depends on how tough you're grading, or how much pasta gino ate sorry for the red herring, just making conversation, poetically. Acceptance seems to be the most common national trait in Italy. They don’t bitch or complain. Bureaucracy and be ridiculous, cops of no help, bums and beggars everywhere, pay offs, shopkeepers incompetent, everything is a pain in the ass and difficult, organization is practically non-existent, and they go on with a shrug of the shoulders. It won’t change. It’s all lousy and we live with it. Why? Because Italy is wonderful. It’s beautiful, dirty, corrupt and inefficient, but we move ahead in acceptance. They must all be taught by example not to criticize. *** So many time they have asked me, "Where is it?" Or as they say now, "Where is it at?" Getting to the Pantheon is easy, it's on all the maps of the center, the old part of Rome where everyone goes. When you get close you can ask anyone, say Pantheon, they'll point the way, you'll find it. The piazza is fairly large with a nice fountain in the center. A good spot to take some pictures. There used to be a McDonalds on the other side opposite the Pantheon, thank God it's gone. On the lower side of the piazza is the old building called the Pantheon. It's large, unpainted, stone, greyed and mostly round with marble columns out front. Built nearly two thousand years ago. Go to the front doors, they're open when you can go in. Know that everyone you can think of who has been to Rome has walked through those doors. They're bronze, about fifteen feet tall and a foot thick. The size of them is impressive. They must be the largest doors I've ever seen. Of course there are so many places to see that you might not notice the size of the doors. It's easy to forget when you're concentrating on everything else around you, or thinking about getting an ice cream, or where you're going to have dinner. When I go in I think that everyone who has gone to Rome has walked through those doors, all the politicians, world leaders, all the stars, everyone who has been to Rome in the past two thousand years. Walk in and first you'll notice the large round hole in the center of the roof - 8.8 meters, 29 feet across. it 142 feet high and l42 feet in diameter. Yes, when it rains it comes in and drains in the holes in the floor. Walls are 20 feet thick. There are statues around the walls. The body of Raphael the artist is in there. The body of the first President of Italy is there. All of the decorations you'll notice, the building is memorable. It is the oldest civic building in Rome. Because nothing is really going on there, you'll see a lot of tourists. Everyone takes pictures because it's something you want to remember, but you hardly will, there is too much to remember. Others will say, yes, I saw the Pantheon. Personally I've seen it hundreds of times and I hardly remember it, except to say it is round on the inside and is something that would be pictured on money in an engraving. It is large, and worth seeing. I'd put it up there with the top places you ought to see in Rome. *** pre-dawn dark i turned on the light how'd you sleep? fine, she said...you were talking in your sleep and laughing. yeah, i slept all right. *** Got ready for the Trionfale market, took a bus, bought a lot of food. Not cans and bottles, but cheeses and bread and fresh food, fruit a little. We always have a list, or at least talk it over for a good idea of what we're going for. But shopping develops at the market, an internal combustion powered on the energy of the people there...a lot of them. It is always a look around, walk around, get what looks good. That's shopping at Trionfale. The old market was out of doors, disorderly as a traveling carnival. The new market is inside set up neat, a checkerboard, four stalls to a square. Everyone neatly in their space. It is straight down and straight across. This day I bought something and got back four or five euros more than I should have. I was walking away and weaving through the area. The overall affect is you can get easily lost in the middle. You recognize the stalls on the outer edges, the same ones you pass to get in or out of the market. Inside is a maze...a real crowd. When I looked in my hand and saw I got too much back in the exchange, after so many years and times of getting screwed here, or doing better than I should have there, seeing others win and lose a little, I didn't worry about it. When you're in the mix long enough you realize it doesn't always work out to the penny, and when a guy loses a little here, he takes a little there. It keeps running and changing and you have to keep moving along...keep up as best you can. This is Rome. *** Some changes for us - No news on our one channel TV tonight and we went out tonight. The temperature dropped. No rain but cooler, we put on our jackets and went to opening of an art show for Giancarlino our neighbor, our friend. A bus ride away to the good part of the city. Stepping out and he's stepping up. This time a legitimate gallery instead of a blown out apartment, and a crowd of adults who appeared well-dressed, functioning, civilized citizens. He was dressed in a wrinkled striped shirt that was sticking out, an old knit vest, an overly wide tie, messy hair and beard. After twenty-five years, we say congratulations Giancarlino, welcome to the art world. He's made it to the majors. We invested our support in this clown-fellow and he has done well. The bus ride back was a breeze. *** I spend time on the corner of Via Cappallari and Via Montoro. Our corner, where the action is. A good location to paint and draw and chat with the neighbors, with the Carabineiri, state police, thirty feet away watching the minister's house. Their uniformed presence is enough to control the neighborhood. *** Walking through the market at Campo Dei Fiori I thought of the changes since we've been here. The stores had turned from all Roman locals to only a few Romans. Four and five stores side by side were bought out by a consortium, the mafia some say. The vendors had changed. We'd seen the old ones disappear and the new ones fewer in number. Instead of fruit, vegetables and fresh produce there were Bangeledeshi selling wares for the tourists. Instead of filling the piaza wall to wall, there market was in the middle and smaller each year, Now an easy walk away were several small supermarkets. *** pogies is a bus ride away Sometimes under the Lungotevere road there are junkies coming down near the river to shoot up. I make sure they are going to keep away from where I am. I suppose they get maximum attention from me. The average tourists that come and go are noted no more than the birds flying by. On the lower walkway near Ponte Sisto. I can be in the middle of Rome and it feels a hundred miles away. Walls were constructed in e late eighteen hundreds along both sides of the Tevere to stop danger by flooding. The historical center is in aow part of Rome. Flood waters at the Pantheon was several feet deep at one time. The walls around the river are about fifty feet high. Flood waters have reached seventy percent of the way up. Before the walls all of the river construction would be flooded and often washed away. The traffic is still up there – but it’s muffled – not in my face. There’s water foul and the river. It starts somewhere up in the hills a long way away and winds down to the Mediterean twisting and turning through Rome. I have seen the Tevere by car a long ways from Rome and have enjoyed how it meanders so steadily this way. The turns are often long and far apart. Here in Rome there are several small falls and rapids for the river that is generally thought of as a slow wanderer. *** Legend says you throw one coin over your should with your right hand to reassure a return to Rome, two coins for a marriage and three for a divorce. I used to feel bad that during the Mousilini years the several blocks long set of buildings in front of the Vatican were demolished to open the street that leads to the piazza of the Vatican. An old building that contained a workshop of Rainfall was destroyed in the demolition. I know a lot of historic area was torn out to make the Via Conciliation. I felt bad about it until I saw an old area photo of the buildeings lost. It wasn’t much to behold. Perhaps they did right. I know in the decade plus that we have been here we’re seen the streets rerouted. They used to drive right in front of the Vatican. Now a lot of it has been re routed. To stand by the pillars that compose the collonade of the Vatican pizza is to stand by Amazing architecture. These huge pillars were cut and put into place five hundred years ago, before mechanical means of today. Horses and mules dragged stone into place. It would be long work even today. Inside the Vatican the size and the artwork is overpowering. Countless and nameless artisans worked their lifetime inside these walls. Details hundreds of feet in the air hardly seen and rarely appreciated cover every inch of the church. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx commercials morocco “james” calling thre major domo, my first words in Italian (commercial) *** sugarplum and i were down on the corner by the bread store there and who'd we see come stumbling out though the swinging door of the bar next door singing sheets to the wind but the nutcracker a half-season early figuring which way he's going a couple passed by and thought he was nodding, but that's how he moves in the late afternoon. he was humming his tune, padding his pockets and working on remembering what he may have left on the bar. Julio stuck his head out the door, saw who we were, looked from the nutcracker to us and nodded for real. This was our street and his place of business. We've been saying hello for more than a dozen years. We know we're in this together. It's our part of town. The afternoon shower has made it damp, it's the season for damp. Now through December. We'll all start using the heater any day now. Winter is on the way. Giancarlino's shop is a few doors away. His mess is there;that is the usual. He's not around working this week. We saw his art show a few weeks ago, and he hasn't been around lately. Everybody has their time away. That's good. It keeps the street from being full all the time with everybody. l spoke with five spoke with five people in a church, actually more a museum these days. we and the they were in repose, a respite from touring Roma. bright, able and intelligent, a refreshing splash revitalizing the reality of this start of the second decade of the twenty-first Century. calm, quiet, sharp, all spoke observantly, we would have taken them home right now; course they’ve gone now, we lost ‘em. what remains is spirit of rekindled hope for the future. It was Wednesday and the market was wrapping up. Last minute shoppers were everywhere. The market guys were picking up their wares and getting boxes ready. Local guys helped cart the stuff back to the storage places. Those are one or two room first ground floor spaces, some large enough to park a car. The market people have low rent contracts they’ve held for years. One by one I’ve seen these storage rooms sold and turned into new boutiques. The face of Rome is in constant change. *** called bill Called Bill this morning around nine as I headed up Via Cappellari. He said he and Rosemary were minutes away approaching Campo Dei Fiori. The weather was cool, but the rain of the last few days was over. The market was humming in full swing when I got there, and not overly crowded with tourists. A good day. At the fountain I saw Stefano and Roberta with one of their children and had a few words with Stefano, Roberta headed for the forno. The boy stayed with her. "How old is he?" I nodded as they walked in the door. "Eight. He is the younger, the older boy is eight, dropped him off at school." "He's large for hi age...not fat, tall." "They do grow, don't they." Stefano grinned and I shook my head in agreement. "Time passes," he said. After more updates I told Stefano about the tools he left at our place. "Leave them at Marina's, Roberta's not working today." I told him I would. I hadn't bought a lamp for our eating area yet, but would call him when I did. I'd check the shop at Piazza Paradiso for one. I pointed, he knew where I meant. We finished talking and he walked over to catch up with Roberta. Bill and Rosemary came into the piazza. They were both talking When they walked up the stopped to face me. "Good morning,Jack." He nodded and bowed. "How are you today?" "I'm fine, Rosemary, and you? "Fine, thank you..it's a bit chilly." I saw she had no coat on and her dress unbuttoned to her stomach. She's seventy-five. British and lives in an apartment without heat. "Good, morning, Jack." "Bill, good morning." It's the same on the phone with Bill, we have to give formal salutations before the call can begin. The city wears on people different ways. After our greetings and they commented on their plans for the morning, When Rosemary asked for my plans I mentioned that I was on my way to market Trionfale. They both made faces and issued a series of negative comments and guffaws about that idea and the market in particular. market. Evidently I was wrong to want to go there. To them it was laughable. "It'd my kind of place," I said in defense, to which they both scoffed. Obviously I was missing something negative about that market and was wrong about it being a good market, even though it was four times as large and half the cost o our local market. "I hate it," Bill said loudly. "Oh, I do too," Rosemary added. "There are good people there," I said in defense of it. They laughed at the notion that those market workers at Trionfale could be anything more than sub-human. Rosemary made a face and began telling about the buses, how unfortunate it was to have to ride one, at which point Bill mentioned someone who was run over by a bus, hit by one at least. Rosemary continued to laugh at the idea of taking a bus anywhere. I was wrong in their opinion and by their collaboration was proven so. We parted. Bill left to get food to take to Felicita who had fallen and broken her shoulder. On I walked off toward Rinaciamento to catch a 492 for Trionfale. I stopped at Angelo's on the way and had a coffee and cornetto. Simone was coming out as I walked in. I sat in the back and had my coffee and ate the cornetto. When I came out I turned right and headed for the SMA Market. It was closer than a bus ride to Trionfale, even though I always enjoyed the bus rides and could have gotten pistachios there. When I mentioned pistachios to Rosemary she laughed and said Mario had pistachios right here in the Campo. Bill supported me by pointing out to her they are a much higher cost here. At the SMA market I got pasta, two types. short tubes and spaghetti, prosciutto crudo, pasta sauce and some soup beans. Everything came to ten euro, a good price. I was satisfied. On the way back along Via Giubbonari I saw Claude at Pietro's. He was chatting with two Italian friends and smiled and waved me over to sit at their outside table. That was kind and I was tired of walking. One of his friends was home visiting from work in New York. After we talked a while they finished their coffee and left to start their day. Inside the bar, Janetta was working. I spoke briefly to Pietro, decided against another coffee, they didn't have an apple filled cornetto, so I walked home with my groceries. M and I rented a car at the termini and we had to figure how to get out of Rome. Because all roads lead to Rome, we headed the other way and were soon on our way toward Tibutina. Traffic wasn’t bad by rome standards. It’s always bad in rome – and rome drivers make it an adventure. After a couple o years we learned that we didn’t get ripped off when we rented from another location. Thrifty had some bad stuff going on so that they’d get us in Palermo every time. We finally learned from an Italian friend that when we turned in the car at night without having the fuel checked at that time, someone would come buy and siphon off some gas and we’d haved to pay a high price for it when they d check the tank. We rent4d a car at the termini and had to figure how to get out of Roma. Re followed the instructions we were given and were soon headed on our way toward Tibutina. Traffic wasn’t that bad by Rome standards. It’s always bad in Rome where Rome drivers make it an adventure. After a couple of years we learned that we learned that when you drop the car off and someone doesn’t sign a receipt that the tank is full, the night time guy might siphon off some gas and we get billed for it, and he has some gallons we paid for twice. Once when we bought it and again when we're billed for not returning with a full tank. *** It was a good looking morning. We walked to the coffee bar half way down via Giubinari where we said we’d meet Steve and he was there already. I remember that coffee bar from before they remodeled it. It used to be a nineteenth century place with marble counter with ceiling beams and dark wood paneling. Then sometime In the early nineties when it was the fashion the tore ev3eryting out and made it new and modern. This was a pity and it happened all over. Gone was the old, in came the new. If they had only waited another ten years the old would have been in fashion again. "Steve, ciao, you have coffee yet." "Yes, but I'll have another with you guys." And we did and then took off. We walked to Largo Argentina and got the tram for the Trestevere end of Porta portese market. An accordion player entertained as we rode. I told Steve to watch his pockets. This market at Porta Portuese is where everyone goes on Sunday. Everyone in an out. It's also where you find the thieves, the bargain Hunters, the tourists and the bargain seekers. You can find garage sale items, sometimes junk of even lesser quality. In the crowds you’ll find cripples, bankers,beggars and thieves. The shell game is hot. It’s illegal, of course, but where there are crowds there are ways. Usually five or six people are the gamesmen. You have a thick crowd in the street with stands on each side and in the middle. Thousands of people elbow and shove their way through the narrow gaps. A couple of lookouts are posted on either side. In the center is someone with a completely collapsible folding table that can be setup or hidden in an instant. Another man works the three shells, rolls a pea size ball around and puts it under one shell. Three accomplices gamble with a lot of enthusiasm – there is winning and losing. It looks easy. A tourist comes along and starts by watching the game. The action intensifies. The guy shuffling the shells is good, but doesn’t look invincible. The tourist plays and maybe wins some, but always goes away a looser. I watched a young Japanese tourist play and lose ninety euro in less than a minute. When a cop is sighted, a signal is given - the table is snapped up and shoved under a coat and the players vanish like smoke. We made it to the market and it was crowded as usual. Steve bought an antique etching at the market. He was happy. I was happy it was small enough to easily carry in his pocket. The next day I saw him and he said a guy that works at the bar knows someone who might be interested in his etching. Tuesday we had an appointment. We took a bus to Testaccio and rang the bell at number 28. A beatifuo you girl answered the door. She was rosa, and her father would be there shortly if we’d like to wait. he and rosa became a thing *** I wandered into Juliano’s bar, the Threep, and sat down and ordered a glass of red. I never found out what Threep meant. I think it is an English word that is misspelled. Juliano was talking to his wife as he opened a bottle and poured a glass for each of us. “I haven’t seen you around,” said Juliano as he put a wine glass down on the counter in front of me. “I’ve been doing some traveling, and M and I stay home a lot." I looked around, although early, he had quite a few people, maybe fifteen, in his place. "How is it been going?” He made a face, “When there’s tourists we do ok. Up and down with the seasons.” The place was dark and dingy. The air smelled stale. I turned as a girl in high heels, stretch pants and a tight sweater over a tube top came in the front door. She was dynamite, but still a girl down deep. I watched as she pushed her way around a couple of tables and came straight to the bar. Juliano nodded at her and she smirked at him. He was getting her a draft beer. “It’s lousy out there,” she said. “Streets are getting full early.” “It’s the season.” Juliano said over his shoulder as he drew a draft from a tap, then turned and sat the beer down in front of her. “What’s the matter, Fawna? Too quiet for you?” Juliano asked. “Dog shit right in front of your door,” she said as she took a slurp of her beer. I turned my head away and nodded knowingly. The streets can get dangerous. “If you have a scooper I’d get out there and use it. It isn’t pretty,” she sang out in a loud voice. Juliano had a small shovel and broom, already on his way out there, grumbling to himself as he cleaned it up. I glanced at the clock on the wall. It was ten, late for dog crappers. Must be from the homeless druggies that sleep under the arch. The bar filled with a mixture of locals and tourists. Friday night began to hum. Two TVs were on and for a change they were on the same channel. No TV sound, but rock music played on the overhead speakers. Outside blurs of people walking by. Some came in, some went out, the place jumped like Friday night now. Steve and Rosa entered laughing, having a good time. As Steve checked the place out he saw me at the bar and they both came over arm in arm. “How you doing, kids?” I said. “Come on, let’s find a table and we’ll tell you about it,” said Steve. He gave Rosa a squeeze and they kept walking to the side where they’d spotted a table. I picked up my glass and followed to a table on the side. “We’re going to Sardenga Sunday,” Steve said proudly. “We’re taking the overnight ferry from Civitavechia.” “That’s a good way to go. It'll be fun. We took the ferry there once with Roberto and Mirella,” I said. Then Giancarlino and his girlfriend came screaming in the front door. They were having one of their regular fights, a real blowout per usual. Heads turned as many stopped to watch. Tourists were terrorized and the locals were annoyed but laughed it off and shook their heads. Giancarlino was pleading and yelling at the same time. He reached for her arm and she pulled away, stamping and cursing. It looked and sounded terrible, their regular performance. We hardly ever see her unless she comes by to have a battle. They stayed for half a minute yelling. The bartender, Juliano, shook his head, but didn’t intervene. I tried not to watch, but it was difficult. In half a minute they were both outside; even with the door closed we could hear them both yelling. In less then a minute they worked their way up the street. This was theater of the deranged. I shook my head and turned back to Steve and Rosa. It really was a horrible display. “You know those two?” I asked as I nodded in their general direction? Concerned and terrified, Steve and Rosa shook their heads no. “The whole street knows them. That’s Giancarlino the artist and his girlfriend. They were married at one time,” I said into my wine glass. “The one who does that crazy art?” Steve asked. I nodded. “That's him. People buy his stuff and have it framed. I think they hope he’ll be famous. He sure produces enough. The door opened and Robert Booth came in and stopped to survey the room. It only took a second and he spotted his friend. I excused myself. “Hang on, there’s a friend I want to see.” Robert spotted me and came over. There was a table by the wall and he headed toward it and sat down. I took my wine over. “How are you doing, mate?” Robert said. He stood, we shook hands. “Hey, good to see you, Robert. How is it going?” “Great, I only got back from a month in New York working on a rewrite of that documentary...it might be finished...God, I hope so.” Robert put his hand in the air and caught Juliano’s attention and signaled for a glass of wine. He pointed to what I was drinking. Juliano nodded and stayed in motion. “So tell me, mate, what have you been up to?” Robert asked. Before I could answer another commotion started. It was Little Manuale. He was having an outburst with one of the local bad guys, an old man that ran a storefront for the thieves in the neighborhood. Little Manuale, a kid with long arms. Whatever the problem it quickly ended and Little Manuale left. Fawna pushed off her stool and followed him out the door. Roberto and I shook our heads and lifted our glasses for a toast. “Happy Friday,” I said. “Cheers,” said Robert. *** I walked across Campo Dei Fiori, tourists were everywhere. About half the crowd was Italians also. Over begging at one of the group of tables at a bar was the little guy, five feet tall, probably sixty or so, and he limps and uses his cane as he goes from table to table. One of the regulars I ’ve seen for years. He limps when he’s begging, then walks normally when he’s crossing the Campo. In fact, I’ve seen him run when he’s in a hurry. I had a friend tell me that he is brought down by a driver each morning and picked up every afternoon. Like the other regular beggars, he has a territory and knows his job. He must be fairly successful. I watched. The tourists he hits are so busy talking I saw them reaching in their pockets and handing over money without ever looking at him or stopping talking to their friends. *** Saturday we bused to Tivoli saw the gardens; took less than two hours. The place is another stunning, ancient, former home of a noble. Put the gardens on your list to see. Pools and waterfalls in a wonderful setting. The rich sure knew how to live. *** Sunday we went to the Quiranale, the palace where the president’s office is, on a hill overlooking the rest of the city. On the radio we heard that a concert is held there every Sunday in the music room. It's an easy bus ride and short walk to the Palace. We’d seen the outside on the news many times, and it is impressive to have a walk around inside. *** Piazza Navona opens on a huge expanse, a former Roman stadium, into a wonderful expanse of five centuries past when Rome was in its glory. the renesance and rebirth for European civilization. The artistical crowning point for the Italian nation. Bernini’s fountain. A center stage of three fountains spread a soccer field length surrounded by majestic buildings Filled with tourists and sidewalk cafes, this is the Rome of dreams and movies and travelers from the world over. *** Then the church bells called the hour or some fraction there of. This Sunday morning nine forty-five and the bells rang on. It means something. I never know what. Some festival or holiday that begun long ago and is continued by the church. Only a fraction of the Romans hear the bells or know their significance. There are always bells in Roma. When I lived opposite the Cancelleria the bells would sound at six-forty five for five minutes or more. Everynight, or so it seemed. I asked my professor friend what it meant. I asked several times over the years. He told me several times what the ringing of the bells at that odd time meant. I don’t remember. When he told me it passed through my head immediately. That is the same as the other Romans, they heard why, but don’t remember, and there are so many bells that they don’t notice or think about it. This is the modern era of wristwatches and cell phones there is no need to listen for the time of day. *** Vatican. I felt bad when I heard that during the Mousilini years the long set of buildings in front of the Vatican were destroyed to make the street that leads to the piazza of the Vatican. An old building that contained a workshop of Rafalle was destroyed in the demolition. A lot of historic area was torn out to make the Via Concilliatione. I felt bad about it until I saw an old area photo of the buildings lost. Nothing to behold. Perhaps they did right. In the years we have been here we’re seen the streets rerouted. They used to drive right in front of the Vatican. Now much has changed. To stand by the pillars that compose the colonade of the Vatican is to stand by Amazing architecture. These huge pillars were cut near Milan, moved here and put into place hundreds of years before the mechanical means of today. Horses, mules and men dragged stone into place. It would be long work even today. Inside the Vatican the size and the artwork is overpowering. Countless and nameless ar\tisans worked their lifetime inside these walls. Details hundreds of feet in the air hardly seen and rarely appreciated cover every inch of the church. *** Having coffee in the sun at a table outside Angelo's with Ermano. I'd seen the advertisments for the new play he is in and we were talking about it when Steve came by with his aunt, Francesca. "Jack." I looked ups to see them, he had a suitcase an travel bag. "Steve, how are you doing? Francesca, boun giorno." She nodded, looking a bit dismayed. I kept staring at the suitcase, it wasn't a happy scene. "What's this?" I pointed at his bag. "Oh, Jack, it's good to see you," Steve said. He was hesitating to say more. "The bag...what's up, who's going somewhere?" Francesca swung her head toward Steve...not looking happy about it. "France. I'm going...me. I'm on my way to the airport," he said. "France? Well, good for you" I checked the look on Francesca's face and she seemed disheartened. "What's going on?" "I'm glad we saw you...I want to use my French before I loose it. Rosa flew off to England, she's going to study there." "Wow...to England,no kidding. Is this...When are you coming back?" He grinned, "Oh, I'll be back, but I'm going to stay in Paris a while first." "Paris?" "Listen. I'm glad I saw you here. Thanks for everything and you'll hear from me. I've got to get to the airport." "Ok, Steve...the best to you...and keep in touch." "Oh, I will..ciao for now, buddy." "Au revoir, Steve...good luck and the best to you. Do well now, okay?" He nodded. Francesca was somber and silent. Steve and I shook hands, hugged, patted backs and they started off. It was a lightening rush goodbye, and they were gone. He looked back once and waved. Ermano and I were quiet a moment until I said, "He's out of here." Ermano nodded. “Steve was good to have around. I'll miss him. It was a good time...but times change.” Ermano raised his cup in salute and added, "That they do." We didn't say more as we sat with our coffees. *** Bill took a couple on a walking tour around Rome last week. Today in the news it is reported that same couple sold their company for thirteen billion dollars. "You said Billion, with a B, right?" He nodded. "And this morning I received a note that there is a package for me at the UPS office on Via Veneto." He waved the note for me to see. "I'm going there now." The UPS office is a a few miles away , but he walked there...saves money by not taking a bus. This could have been a small gift, ten or twenty thousand dollars, that's small for a billionaire, a tip, an expression of gratitude, a gift from the elated billionaire. Maybe a gift of a hundred thousand euros. Peanuts. It was four degrees Celcius, the coldest morning of the year, yet he walked there. Got in line, then with shaking hands he picked up the package, walked to a quiet corner and opened it. In it he found a note from an internet provider saying he could have more internet after the 28th of the year. Bill has no internet connection. There was no news from the new billionaires. *** M and I headed toward Vittorio Manuale and walked under the arch on Via Cappellari. The city picked up the trash this morning. It seems to be collected as fast as it’s left there, except when they let it go two or three days then it really the back of the building we were in Piazza Navona, one of the most beautiful piazzs in Rome, a pleasure to behold. On the walk there is always a man roasting and selling chestnuts. Last year we heard one man has the concession to sell roasted chestnuts in all of Rome. *** "I'm going to Angelo's for a coffee." Nothing. "Did you hear me?" "Yes...I'll be down later," she said as I walked down the stairs. When I opened the outside door I immediately heard the voice bitching, yelling help, this happens now and then, people yelling. It’s a city, I've heard it all before. Then I’m on the street at our front door, eight a.m. no one around up or down the street and suddenly this guy on fire comes staggering out from under the arch twenty yards up the way, a guy yelling for help, limping, on fire to the knees, flames leaping waist high. He staggered as e ran. A Buddhist on fire. In three seconds I go from where ever the hell I was in my head to fireman. I had to connect the yelling, see the guy, the fire, the agony and take action. It was me or he burns, no question. He was burning and limping, he ran right for me. I put him on the ground and beat out the flames. I could have used my hat, but I used my hands, thought I’d save my hat. That was fine to use my hands, no time lost. His pants were burnt off to the knee, his legs looked like a roasted chicken with the skin pulled back. I got the fire out in ten or twenty seconds. There were no more clothes to burn. Some neighbor lady threw down towels and light blankets. I calmed him, he said he was Leonardo. I knew him as a street person with a small fire keeping warm under the arch. The rescue crew arrived and took over. They got him in the ambulance on a stretcher. I’d seen him around, maybe next time he may remember me. The ambulance took him, gave me some lotion for my hands. I stepped out for a smoke and heard the yelling, then all hell broke loose. *** I wasn't upset but knew they were missing something. A bus ride. I take a lot of them, and noticed as we road along they were tourists, nearly all of them. They paid the money for tickets to get here, somebody did. The bus was about full. I was looking out the windows seeing everything we passed, identifying familiar places I'd seen and those I hadn't been to for a while and I'd see again, should see again. As we rode the streets of Rome they were all, and I do mean all, heads-down looking at their hand-held computer devices. they must b e sending emails home...asking for money. A few more years passed and we sold our car. It seemed we were using it mostly to find new parking places, and we got tired of repairing the outside mirrors. Three times we'd replaced the side mirrors, cars would come down the street and hit it. It ws good vehicle but we didn't use it enough to keep it. I put a sign on i and sold it to a man as I was putting the for sale sign on it. So long good car we hardly used you. *** persistent stillness on Via Baullari. some vehicles pass, and the electric bus fewer than most days; tourists also, and workers. after nine in the morning day has begun. chairs out front Angelo's ciao to Simone there is an internal warmth, a kindness, that radiates unseen and unacknowledged to us, from Angelo and Simone this is the understanding of our days. a dark cappuccino and a cornetto with apple weather is what you interpret as warmish Thomas is off to draw near villa Borghese fine pen and ink lines of buldings, and we watch Murella up the street who won't see us today,  our usefulness has diminished. here is the German woman at the next table, close enough to reach out and touch, who never sees us, yet is internally aware. she's the neighbor who brought the blanket and threw it over Leonardo the day he was on fire outside my door, and i put out the flames with my hands, and we've never spoken a word about it. that was a year ago this is the street i am on today this 28th of November in 2014 dry between the rains, no wind not cold, not warm. on the cusp of whatever is coming next *** Rome is hard for Everybody Throughout the years we traveled extensively in Italy. When friends told us their favorite places of interest, if it appealed to us we'd go there. When they invariably asked where we live in Italy and we said Rome, they would say, “Oh, yes, Roma.” Their eyes will glass over and their head will spin as they would add, “Roma e bella.” hen all Italians have the same complaints about the eternal city, it’s congestion, the difficulty in getting around, there is always something new to complain about, from ruts in the street to the latest political decision that disfavors the plebes, the average people that work and struggle to make ends meet; but often the complaints will conclude end with a deep breathy sigh and the dreamy conclusion that Rome has many fitful, unsavory, attributes, but above all, Roma is “bella” After a trip around for a few days we got the car back to the rental office by the train station in the heart, liver and groin of this chaotic city. It was not easy to find the way back. Streets are not marked the way they would be in America and other civilized areas of the planet, with signs on the corner that are easily visible. Here there is an obligatory large delivery truck parked in front of street signs on every corner. Traffic signs, one way streets that alternate direction frequently, everything is marked in the peculiar Italian fashion. I’ve had Italians tell me, many times, it is not easy for anyone, Romans included, to drive in Rome. So for a couple of Americans going out of the city with a rental car was hard and it was as difficult getting back in. When we returned from our adventure outside of Rome and found our way back to the rental car garage at the Termini, we parked in the required space after winding up, up to the fourth floor of the parking garage, then took the elevator down to the office on the ground floor. She reached to push the button and I saw her hesitate. "Zero...We want zero." "Right...I was thinking." We got down there and M started for the restroom. She looked at me and said,"You've got the keys." "Of course I've got them." I jingled them and smiled. "Did you think I'd leave them in the car?" "You were supposed to drop them in a box up there." "The box...where?" "Right by where we parked there is a box to put them in," she said. "Go to the bathroom, I'll do the keys." I had to go back up to the fourth floor. I thought it very clever of a me after searching, to find the box and the slot to drop the keys into. There were not a lot of indicators. When I came back down to the first floor there was now an attendant in a glassed in box looking alert and occupied. M was turning in our papers, checking out with him. I saw a restroom for men and noticed there was no handle on the door. Glancing over I saw the door to the woman's restroom had a handle. I nodded at the guy and pointed toward the bathroom. The guy behind the glass used a slot on the counter and slipped me a metal door handle with a square block on it that fit where the bathroom door handle goes. I have taken a few old fashioned door handles apart so I knew how to use the handle he gave me. I wondered how others do it? Later, on the way out, I stopped again at the attendant’s box to drop off the door handle. When I gave the handle back to him I asked, "Tell me, do tourists generally have trouble working the handle?" He said, " Oh, yes...and finding the key deposit box," he began counting off his fingers, thumb is always number one," and with finding a gas station to refill the gas, and finding the termini, then the rental garage." "I believe it," I told him. "The Italians have the same difficulty." "I believe it." He added, "Even people that work here have difficulty getting to work...Nothing is easy for anybody, ever, anywhere." Looking him in the eye I said, “Oh, yes, I know...but Roma is bella.” He laughed, then I did too. *** l i've had it with you, Roma i’ve had it with you, Roma and refuse to be your fool any longer two decades of chaos is enough pushing, shoving, and oblivious, pretentious aggravation i’d rather pull my puppy’s ears drag him out of the tiny box from under the leaky sink where i’d make him sleep if i were you, but to leave you, Roma would be most difficult to compensate for the loss of aggravation should i run stumbling against bulls in Spain take lunging rapids in a leaky wooden boat or walk in traffic blind folded do please allow me to suffer longer i know you lie and cheat to get your way but loaded with art everywhere you are noble, though distant and aloof; leave me unattended to wander in awe scorch and boil me in summer’s cauldron winters cast me out chilled into cold treat me hard all seasons if you must but to turn away and leave you as if you didn’t know me would be more than i could bear your tears would heap more agony on my anguished soul allow perpetual suffering to continue perhaps near the end you’ll cradle me giving peace at last in knowing that once you cared for certain, at the moment of torment’s end my beloved, i’d rather die in your arms.