Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Roma: Day 5, in a Bistro

Sitting in a little cafe, Bar Bistro Centurion at the very end of the Via Corso facIng the Piazza del Popolo with a trio of strings playing Italianate popular tunes behind me. They are quite good and I think I will buy the cd if they are still here when I stand up. One problem with travel is that you are bogged down by your stuff and not very nimble at conjunctures like this.

I managed to undermine myself at Santa Maria del Popolo which has a bunch of Caravaggio's, including his St. Peter and the upside down crucifixion. As I passed, a horde of schoolchildren were entering, and I thought, ok, photograph the Piazza first since then light is perfect, and then hit the chiesa after the horde is gone. I see them exiting 30 minutes late and head over. A kindly older priest apologizes, "Chiusa la chiesa ... alle quarto." Pardon the fractured Italian, but that is how I remember it: the church is closed until 4 o'clock.

This too will have to await the next trip.

I figure that, if I apply myself as I want to, I have about 10 European trips before I am 70. I could scatter my interests, or I could focus on two or three countries. If the latter, Italy gets to be one of them.

My tagliatelli con funghi has arrived ... not bad for an obvious tourist place.

This is the first time I have actually written outside the hotel. I meant to do a lot more of that. That is illustrative of the fact that I have not traveled in Europe since 2006, and things, not to mention I, have changed. I've had to re-learn how it is that I want to travel. The key is: Faster start on the first day or two and, as is my wont, I have reduced that to a simple tactic. Bring a damned tab of Ambien and make sure that I get a proper night's sleep at the end of the first day.

My trio has become a quartet with the addition of an accordion. After long tuning up, they finally get back into it. Very La Dolce Vita, at this point.

I photograph all day and into the night but what I cannot photograph is the exquisite natural masculinity of the men here. From the carabinieri who strut around in their razor sharp uniforms seemingly paying attention exclusively to each other, to pairs of like-aged men striding and gesticulating, to the hordes of young men passionately entertaining each other. Romanticizing here, but it is a great show ... and I think Italians like the great show. The women are no slouch either, but they are, frankly, not as elegant as the Parisian women. They are too brusque for that ... and I like them the more for it.

All that said, this is one of the most abidingly heterosexual places I have ever visited. I may find the men achingly sexy, but they give no indication that they find each other sexy, unlike the Germans or Americans whose latent homosexuality seems always the order of the day.

Enough for now. I now confront the single most difficult part of travel ... finding a souvenir. In Berlin it was a glass from a second-hand market, in Paris it was a hairbrush. I buy books all along the way, mostly museum catalogs, but actually coughing up dough for a memento is impossibly difficult. Wish me luck

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