Monday, September 29, 2008

Lunedi Lunacy

I honestly hope that I don't become one of those hoarders, the way my friend Speck's elderly neighbour was, but I have my doubts and fears. As we unpacked boxes - some of which had not been opened when we first arrived last year - I am finding things... such things... strange forgotten things.

PeePee BoysOn Saturday I asked if anyone could identify what the heck these two things are and what you would do with them. Laurent bought them in Beijing - they sell them everywhere and the tourists - over 60s especially, hmmmm - buy them up like crazy. So what the heck are they anyway???

Why they're PEEPEE BOYS, of course! Yes that's right, PEEPEE BOYS and here's what they do:

Though the whole thing leaves me puzzled Laurent always says 1.3 billion Chinese can't be wrong.

29 settembre - San Michele e angeli

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Angels and Archangels

Tomorrow is the Feast of St Michael and All Angels and back in the days when I was active at St Thomas Huron Street it was one of my favorite feast days. There was something about the readings, the music and the ceremonies of Michaelmas which I loved. I always made sure I was scheduled to serve at the Procession and High Mass of the day - perhaps as Master of Ceremonies, sometimes Crucifer or Attendant but never as Thurifer. The Thurifer is the one with the burning purse as Tallulah Bankhead use to say. After having almost set the sanctuary aflame at one memorable evensong I decided creating holy smoke was not for me.

Icon of the Archangels
Angelic Council (Ангелскй Собор). Orthodox icon of the seven archangels. From left to right: Jegudiel, Gabriel, Selaphiel, Michael, Uriel, Raphael, Barachiel. Beneath the mandorla of Christ Emmanuel are representations of Cherubim (blue) and Seraphim (red).

Angels are part of many world religions - amongst them Judaism, Bahai, Zoroastrianism, Islam and Christianity. By the Middle Ages Christianity had broke angels down into 9 categories: Angels, Cherubim, Seraphim, Virtues, Powers, Principalities, Dominions, Thrones and Archangels. The latter being the greatest in the hosts of the heavenly and also the ones held in common with both Judaism and Islam.

Although Gabriel the Messenger is the best know from the Christmas story, St Michael is the most important in both the Orthodox and Roman church. He is the Defender of the faith, the chief warrior against Satan and heresies. He is often depicted defeating Lucifer during the great battle that led to his fall.
San Michele - Castel San Angelo
Here in Roma the best known - and certainly most visible - statue of St Michael stands atop Castel San Angelo. Legend says that a vision of the Archangel sheathing his sword appeared over the Castel signaling an end to the plague that had devestated the city in 590 AD. The current bronze - created by the Flemish sculptor Peter Anton von Verschaffelt in 1753 - commemorates that event.

28 settembre - San Prospero

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Addio del passato

Like Violetta in the last act of La Traviata I've been wandering around the cold empty apartment - okay it's not really empty but it's cold - hacking delicately into a lace handkerchief. Alright, another half truth - I've been coughing up my lungs into anything I can find.

As my friend Subtle Knife mentioned earlier this week the coughing season is upon us in full force. The sudden change of weather from 31o to 12o overnight, concrete apartments with marble floors and no central heating until late October makes for a very unhealthy climate.

Fortunately I work with a group of woman who are mothers - in the good sense of the word; and even better yet they are Italian mothers - if only by adoption. Christine ran out and bought me a box of those honey-citrony sachets and eucalyptus lozenges which got me through the Cecilia Bartolli concert on Thursday.

But yesterday I was still sounding like the poor-man's Lady of the Camillas. Gail recommended a cough syrup that she swore worked every time with her two girls. Now we all know about cough syrup don't we - that icky horrid stuff: over sweet, chemical tasting, vile aftertaste. As I prepared to take the first 15ml (in a little measuring cup thoughtfully provided by the maker) my taste buds were already shriveling at the memory.

But wonder of wonders this was like a slightly sweeten apple juice and with no aftertaste. And miracle of miracles its works. Last night I slept, this morning I am doing delicate coughs if still into anything I can find. So unlike Violetta there is a good chance I will live to see another day.

Grazie tanti ladies!

And that would be one of my opera goddesses, the incredible Mariella Devia singing Violetta earlier this year in Ancona. I will see her in this before I leave Italy!

27 settmbre - San Vincenzo de' Paoli

And These Would Be??????

The things you uncover when you move. I forgot that Laurent had bought these little guys in Beijing - one for him and one for me. Sort of His and His.

Any thoughts or ideas as to what they could be? Or what their purpose in life is? And Jack you're not to answer this one, and as we know a good sailor obeys his Captain.

Answer on Lunedi Lunacy.

27 settembre - San Vincenzo de' Paoli

Friday, September 26, 2008

Roman Logic

I decided to head over to the Vatican Post Office on Monday last - I had to send off Speck's long overdue fridge magnet. I may have mentioned that the Pope's Post is a dream to deal with: very little lining up, polite multi-lingual staff and service. How does it compare with PosteItalia? Didn't you just read what I wrote??

With the new location we are handy to all sorts of transportation - 2 trams over to the Parioli and Flaminia areas, 4 buses to Centro and beyond and a Metro station one stop removed from Termini. Now as convenient as that all sounds, except the Metro it all depends on traffic and - stop me if I've said this before - traffic in Roma is a nightmare.

Monday it took me one hour and 35 minutes to do what should be a 20-25 minute bus trip from my neighbourhood to Vatican City. There had been a pro-Alitalia demonstration in Piazza Barbarini that snarled traffic turning right at Piazza Santa Sussana and they are replacing the cobblestones on Via Nazionale which perpetually snarls traffic turning left. So we had what the French call un vrai bordel, the Italian un casino , the English a cock-up and us less charitable ex-pats a f...g mess.

I should have expected there would be problems when this caught my eye as I stood waiting for the bus at Via Nomentana and Regina Margherita.

Just click for a closer look!

Yep that's right - this bright spark parked his car with the hood jutting into the express lane. Buses - some of them articulated doubles - had to go up over the median to avoid wiping out his front end. And by the way there were 7 - count them 7 traffic officers at the intersection not 20 metres away.

If challenged on it I'm sure the driver would be totally unflappable. What was the problem? He had found a perfectly good parking spot. The buses where able to go up over the median. It was a win-win call.

And that my dears is Roman logic! How can you argue with it?

26 settembre - Santi Cosimo e Damiano

Thursday, September 25, 2008

La Devia - La Diva

A week ago Monday night we head out into a wild thunderstorm to the first of our concerts for this season. This was part of a series under the title Bel canto Festival and featured one of Italy's best loved sopranos: Mariella Devia. La Devia has spent most of her career in Europe. Though she did appear at the Met it has been some 14 years since she graced that stage - mores the pity for New York opera lovers. Here in Italy she is in constant demand for works by Bellini, Rossini and Donizetti as well as Verdi's La Traviata, one of her signature roles. And her programme featured the first three and her encore was the from the last named.

Mariella Devia Curtain CallFrom the minute the lights went up on the stage of the Sala Petrassi and Devia swanned on the whole thing took on the air of a love-in and it wasn't just her psychedelic gown. The place erupted in wild applause and cries of "brava" and she hadn't sung a note. "My god! Every opera queen in Rome must be here tonight," I muttered to Laurent. "Guess so," he replied with a sidelong glance at me! Though what he meant to imply with that glance I really don't know!

I'll get any carping I may have out the way right now; though pianist Rosetta Cucchi made big sounds this type of concert demands larger forces. If you are going to do Grandi scene della prima donna then do "Grandi scene"; you need an orchestra for those lyric introductions and a chorus to comiserate with the soprano and spur her on to greater heights of dizzying colouratura. A single pianist plonking away - however well - just doesn't cut it.

The other thing may sound like a strange carp is that Devia was consistent. The problem with a programme like this is that she dazzled us from the start and continued dazzling us until the end. She was exhausted by the encore and frankly we were a little bit beat ourselves. How much better it would have been to hear her in a complete performance - preferably Pirata or Anna Bolena - where things would have been paced.

Mariella Devia take a curtain call.She has a voice that is secure throughout and problem-free at the top - and keep in mind she is in her 60th year. The sound is light but she is capable of subtle shadings and when it comes to firework colouratura she is fearless. There was a lack of drama in her Rossini numbers - only the aria from Adelaide di Borgogna had the required fire and again the colouratura was brillant. It may be that Rossini is no longer her cup of tea but certainly Bellini is. She sang the complete last scene of Il Pirata - senza chorus - with drama and a fine sense of tension that left us cheering at the end of the first half. And Giulietta's aria from I Capuleti e i Montecchi had me rushing to the Teatro Carlo Felice website to book tickets for her performance there in October (damn tickets don't go on sale until October 1!!!)

The second half was devoted to Donizetti and we got a fair serving of heroines bemoaning their fate in fine bel canto style. But things reached a meltdown stage when Devia launched into the final scene from Anna Bolena. Her dramatic grasp of Henry the VII's second wife as she awaits execution was nothing short of breath taking. There wasn't a sound out of her that didn't convey the foolish woman's plight. Sadly we only got the first part of the scene as the rest required a quartet of singers, chorus and an orchestra. Damn the Parco di Musica for scrimping on that one. I positively ached to hear the wedding bells for Henry (Enrico) and Jane Seymour (Giovanna) peel forth and Devia launch into Anna's curse on the guilty couple. The video clip from Palermo last year shows us what we missed.

For an encore we got the Traviata Addio del passato and Chi il bel sogno di Doretta from Puccini's La Rondine. Franky the later sounded slightly tired but given that Devia had been giving her all for over two hours it was understandable.

She declined to sing any further encores but it did not stop us from spending another ten minutes on our feet cheering and clapping. And okay I may have behaved a little bit like an Opera Queen!

25 settembre - San Nicolao della Flüe

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Mercoledi Musicale

I know I'm given to mini-themes here so it should come as no surprise that today's music ties in with Lunedi's lunacy. Rossini stopped writing operas when he was 37 and for the remaining 39 years of his life wrote mostly occasional pieces - secular, sacred, instrumental and vocal.

His Péchés de vieillesse (Sins of My Old Age) includes this lovely vocal piece I Gondolieri sung here by the 2005 TMEA All-State Mixed Choir conducted by Simon Carrington accompanied by Thomas Jaber. I've been assured by a few singers I know that the older Rossini had lost none of his ability to give singers - particularly the tenors - a work out.

A Dedication: This little piece is for Ryan - he loved Rossini.

It has been almost two years since Ryan decided to leave us. As I recounted in one of my first postings he and I met over a whistled snatch of Rossini's Di Tanti Palpiti and became the best of friends. At the time he left I was filled with both anger and loss at, what seemed to me, an unexplainable act. The anger has long ago disappeared but the sense of loss is as acute today as it was two years ago.

So much has happened in that time that I wish I were able to share with him. The move to Rome, our wedding, the loss of our Reese, travel, food and all the silly day-to-day things you share with friends. And of course, the music, especially the music.

Sure there are other people I can talk to about the dreadful Aida at Caracalla or the incredible Fidelio at Reggio Emilio but not in the same way. With them there would not be that deep, appreciative chuckle and raised knowing eyebrow. So often I have found myself leaving the opera or concert hall thinking: if only I could tell Ryan about ... I can only imagine the conversations!!!

Dearest R. your Darling Boy and the Lad still miss you very much and we hold you in our hearts. We can only hope that you found a peace that was otherwise denied you. Baci di Roma.

24 settembre - Beata Vergine Maria della Mercede

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Rambling Boy

Rambling Boy CD CoverI think I may have mentioned once or twice that Saturday's when I was growing up was Opera day on the radio. New York Met in the afternoon and Nashville's Grand Old in the evening. I tended to lean towards the classical and my father enjoyed the country and western more but somehow the two coexisted in our household.

C & W was different in those days - it wasn't glitter and glamour, you wouldn't have seen Faron Young in a pouting pose wearing a wife beater nor would the antics of the Carters be found in gossip magazines. Funny was Minnie Pearl, sexy was ... well pretty much non-existent, harmonies were close and, though I don't even pretend to be an expert on C & W, the music was closer to its bluegrass, shape note and gospel roots. That was the 50s C & W sound and what entered my subconscious and probably accounts for my love of gospel music and bluegrass today.

I've also always enjoyed jazz - mostly vocal - but as long as its not too progressive instrumental as well. One of my favorites instrumentalist is bassist Charlie Haden. I came to him through his recordings with Pat Metheny particularly Beyond the Missouri Sky and the Hank Jones collaboration on Steal Away. And I've heard him with the Liberation Music Orchestra and as back up on so many jazz recordings. But though I knew his music I didn't know much about the man until I read about his latest release in Sunday's New York Times.

So what's this got to do with Country and Western you ask? Haden's roots are old style C & W, he was the youngest member of the Haden Family Singers debuting at the ripe-old aged of two. When he contracted polio at 15 his singing career was cut short. His new album Rambling Boy was released this morning - I had it preordered, downloaded and on my I-pod by 0800 Rome time - and is a return to his family tradition of bluegrass, gospel and early country and western.

Again it follows the tradition of a family effort - his son Josh, daughters Petra, Tanya and Rachel join him, Vince Gill, Roseanne Cash, Ricky Skaggs, Jack Black (yes that Jack Black - Haden's son-in-law,) Elvis Costello, Bruce Hornsby, Metheny and a host of first class musicians.

I've listened to it twice today and its already programmed into my favorites. My own particular pleasures are the incredible close harmony numbers by Haden's daughters, Roseanne Cash's Wildwood Flower and a Metheny-Haden collaboration called Is This America? (Katerina 2005). And perhaps the most touching is Haden himself giving voice to Shanendoah 56 years after his vocal career was cut short.

I still haven't learned how to load up audio files but there are some samples of what's on the album over at Charlie Haden Family and Friends.

23 settembre - San Pio da Pietrelcina

Monday, September 22, 2008

Lunedi Lunacy

The Gondoliers Poster 1983Back in the 1980s as well as Shakespeare the Stratford Festival offered a yearly helping of Gilbert and Sullivan directed and choreographed by Brian Macdonald. Macdonald is recognized as one of his generations' important ballet choreographers but was also known for directing musicals, operettas and operas with a dance-like flair. His G & S productions were well-cast, beautifully designed, often campy, more often innovative and most often offensive to died-in-the-wool Savoyards. But the audiences flocked to see them and the SRO signs were up most nights that they played.

I saw The Gondoliers twice and each time this number brought the house down.

It may not have been traditional Gilbert and Sullivan but it was great fun!

22 settembre - San Maurizio

Sunday, September 21, 2008


And this is what joy looks like - particularly for our friends Rachel and Tim. They work with an NGO giving much needed assistance to the ever increasing refugee community in Rome. In early July they returned from the States with 4 week old Joy as a happy addition to their family.

And as we know happy can be a synonymous with joy and Joy is one happy baby. I couldn't choose which of the two pictures to post ... so I've posted both of them.

Having a baby now means that Rachel, and Tim too, are being exposed to the "Nonna factor" of baby care in Italy. Everyone one - and they don't actually have to be a nonna (grandma) or female - knows more about caring for a baby than you do and, though a total stranger, is more than willing to tell you so. Particularly as the only one less qualified to raise a child than that "worthless woman my son married" is a "stranera." She has been accosted for taking Joy out in 90 degree weather in a sleeveless top. She has been warned about holding the baby upright. And she has taken to assuring everyone who asks that she is indeed putting a spoonful of olive oil in Joy's formula. The last an out and out lie but a necessary one in face of the howls of neglect that would be heaped upon her head if she answered otherwise. And speaking of heads what is that baby doing out with a hat? Povera bimba! with a mother who is trying to kill her!

With some many Nonni looking out for her, Joy won't have a worry in the world.

21 settembre - San Matteo apostolo ed evangelista

Saturday, September 20, 2008

You Know You're in Italy When ...

Last week I was looking for a recipe for White Peaches Soaked in Wine as a desert for Sunday's pranzo (lunch) and came across Bleeding Espresso. No its not an Italian punk rock group - though that would be a great name for one - its the work of Michelle Fabio , an American who retraced her Calabrase roots and now lives in her ancestral town.

I found her recipe - how easy can it be: peel and slice peaches, soak in wine for as long as you like, eat peaches, drink wine - punto! Because of a misunderstanding between myself and the greengrocer I ended up with yellow not white peaches. But I found out yellow peaches soaked in prosseco, though not authentic, work just fine.

Michelle and a group of other bloggers started working on a list: You Know You're in Italy When ... The list keeps growing as people add their comments -and as Laurent and I read them we've found ourselves nodding in recognition.

I threw in a couple and want to add one more.

You Know You're in Italy When:
Out the bedroom windowThis is what you see first thing in the morning when you look out your bedroom window.

20 settembre - San Andrea Kim Taegon e i Santi martiri coreani

Thursday, September 18, 2008


I've had a major addiction weakness for peanut butter since I was a kid. Breakfast in my household has always meant orange juice, tea, brown toast and peanut butter - except on Sunday mornings when its orange juice, coffee and fried egg sandwich. And my allegiance has always been to Kraft Smooth - until recently it had less sugar than most of the other brands. None of this organic stuff, no Peter Pan or Jif - I find comfort in those two little bears on the green label. That's what should be on toast in the morning.

NutellaHowever finding peanut butter in Italy is a major problem. The breakfast - lunch and dinner - spread of choice is Nutella (a click on the jar will tell you all about it.) Created in 1940s by Pietro Ferrero, it purportedly has a hazelnut base and if their website is to be believed outsells peanut butter throughout the world. Its popularity is such that it's possible to get a Nutella pizza here - I would guess as a dolce course. I decided this week, in the absence of what god intended us to have as a breakfast spread I would give Nutella a try. I had real difficulty making out much of a hazelnut taste and the predominate flavour seemed to be sugar and chocolate. Not quite what I want for breakfast.

So imagine my joy when I found a jar of peanut butter in one of our local supermarkets yesterday.
350 grams of Peanut Butter
350 Grams of Barney's Best Crema di Arachidi, made in Albany, Georgia - that's the state not the country.
350 grams of creamy peanuty goodness.
350 grams of breakfast nirvana for this morning's toast.
350 grams for only E 4.96 - that's only E 0.014 or CAD 0.021 (USD 0.02) per gram. I'll let you figure out what the jar cost in Canadian (or U.S.) dollars.

My peanut butter addiction weakness has become an expensive habit!

18 settembre - San Giuseppe da Copertino

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Mercoledi Musicale

Playbill - Mack and MabelIn October 1974 Jerry Herman's Mack and Mabel premiered on Broadway. He has been quoted as saying it is a favorite score but sadly it was a box office flop. It has been always recognized that the problem has been Michael Stewart's book. The story of two not particularly sympathetic people - one an ego-centric movie director the other a cocaine-addicted actress - just doesn't work. As faithful as it may have been to the real story of Mack Sennett and Mabel Normand it just isn't the stuff of musical comedy.

I tend to agree with Herman's opinion of his score and in particular the lovely ballad I Won't Send Roses. I searched high and low for a clip of the incredible Robert Preston's definitive version from the original production, and I know there was a clip out there at one time. The only thing I could fine was his version used as music for an ice dance routine. But what an ice dance routine!

17 settembre - San Roberto Bellarmino

Monday, September 15, 2008

Thought for the... Rest of My Life

This morning these words of wisdom showed up in my e-mail box courtesy of my friend CC Martel (Carole Colette.)
Pup on the Plaka
Handle every stressful situation like a dog.
If you can't eat it or hump it.
Piss on it and walk away.
Given the last week or so I think I might just adopt a canine attitude.

The photo was from our trip to Athens in March - this fella was just watching the world go by his owner's shop on the Plaka. Not a care in the world.

15 settembre - Madonna dei sette dolori

Lunedi Lunacy

Buster Keaton by Al HirschfeldUnlike Charlie Chaplin, who only used the camera to record his performances, Buster Keaton, the Great Stone Face, knew film making inside out. He's recognized as a genius of the cinema but my father always use to claim he was simply the funniest man alive. I'd ask: Well what about Chaplin? He'd make a sound which I have since found, thanks Lorraine and Hat, is written as pfft.

Though Buster often directed his own films The Scarecrow was directed by Edward F. Cline. As in 15 of his other silent films he's teamed up with Big Joe Roberts, this time as roommates and rivals for the hand of the lady fair.

Even the slight glitch towards the end of this clip can't diminish the brilliance of this Rube Goldberg house and the incredible timing of these two brilliant comedians. And I'd never seen anyone swallow a tomato whole!

"Luke" the dog, was Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle's pet and appeared in several two reel comedies.

Keaton did all his own stunts - some incredibility dangerous such as the train chase sequence in The General. This 2 second gag from Steamboat Willy Jr. took hours to set up and if it had been miscalculated by so much as an inch some serious damange would have been done - to Keaton!

My father may well have been right!

15 settembre - Madonna dei sette dolori

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Abbracci a Tutti*

Just a quick post - I'm still working on the second part of this week's hospital adventure but its hard to describe a few days in an Italian hospital without slipping into Lewis Carroll mode.

Just want to say thank you and tons of baci to all my friends from "away" who sent comments and e-mails. And big hugs to my friends here in Roma who called, visited, fetched and carried. I'd start mentioning names but I'd forget someone and then noses would be out of joint which would mean another trip to the hospital. By the way how exactly does a nose go out of joint?

First the reassurance that everything is okay - it was a stress attack coupled with a hiatus hernia I've had for years. The combination of the two has the same symptoms as a heart attack. It has happened before, its just that this time it happened in Roma and they treat things differently here. I've never had care like it! And that's meant in a good way.

As I mentioned poor Laurent was in Albania for work when it all happened but he was kept in the loop by friends and colleagues here in Roma. I know he was extremely worried but there was no point in dragging him back here. And crisis at a distance is not an new experience for us. Of course, he's total convinced that it was missing him that brought it all on and we'll just let him continue thinking that.

Alice and the CaterpillerNow back to describing wonderland:

Il dottore and Will looked at each other for some time in silence: at last il Dottore took the stethoscope out of his pocket, examined his ferragosto tan in the reflection and addressed him in a sleepy, languid voice.

'Chi sono lei?' said il Dottore.

'Scusi, ma non parlo...'

*Hugs to Everyone

14 settembre - Esaltazione della Santa Croce

Saturday, September 13, 2008

I Gondolieri

Knowing my love of music and Venice my friend Lorraine sent this along.

Like most of the Gondolieri around today he can't sing worth a damn but the sentiments are altroché.

Thanks to marieohanesiannardin for posting this on YouTube.

13 settembre - San Giovanni Crisotomo

Friday, September 12, 2008

Passing Through Policlinico - I

Since we moved to our new apartment I’ve been hearing the sirens of ambulances – sometimes as many as 30 in one night - heading to nearby Policlinico Umberto Primo, the largest teaching hospital in Rome and possibly Europe. Well Monday past I got to hear those sirens from the inside as an ambulance carried me off to ER.

Monday morning I began to feel some chest discomfort – a pressure – which became more acute as the day wore on. Finally I decided enough was enough and with the help of colleagues from the Embassy*, an ambulance was dispatched and an Italian speaking colleagues was sent over to help.

The ambulance doctor spoke some English so communication, though not faultless, was at least established until my colleague Santina could arrive. After a quick ECG it was decided that a trip to the hospital was in order and then the fun began.

I may have mentioned in the past that only large official buildings and hotel chains here have elevators that will accommodate more than 4 people, let alone two people and a stretcher. Solution? A kitchen chair! Okay. So I assumed the idea would be that I would sit in it and be carried down – seems logical right? Wrong – the chair was placed in the elevator, I sat in it for the ride down; then walked to the stretcher in the lobby?????? The next problem was getting the gate open – it is at the end of a long driveway and the button is back by the building, if you can find it amongst the greenery. I thought for a moment that I was going to have to get out of the ambulance and open it but someone found the right button. Finally me stretchered, gate opened we roared off rattling across the cobblestones, sirens blaring.

ER at Policlinico is infamous in Rome if not all of Italy – chaos does not even begin to describe it. Think of one of those crowd scenes from a Hollywood Roman epic – throw in stretchers, wheelchairs and IV stands and you are getting close to the visual. Now add in the noise of a Cairo market, a children’s birthday party and Friday night at the local pub plus some wailing from ambulances and people and you have the aural.

A few clicks should indicated the size of Policlinico Umberto Primo - it comprises 47 buildings and is part of La Sapienza University.

After being bumped and banged around ER for a few hours – triage, examination room, observation hall – young Doctor Rossi (how could he be a doctor he’s only 14?) appeared and suggested that a stay in Spa Policlinco was in the stars for the next three days. So I was plopped in a wheelchair with one slightly flat tire and manoeuvred, rhythmically making a thump-k-thump sound, through a maze of long colonnaded corridors. Propelled through a set of double doors I came face to face with an illuminated statue of the Virgin Mary. Well this is it I thought – they’re taking me to the chapel – this is the end.

Instead of flickering votives illuminating polychrome statues I was wheeled into a high old-fashioned hospital room where a flickering neon illuminated my new roommate, Nazzareno. There were only two beds – not the 8 I had seen when visiting my friend Linda a few months ago at her regional hospital and given the noise level I recall from that visit I must remember to put some flowers in front of that statue of the Virgin.

Nazzareno was a round faced, large bellied gentleman in his late 40s who had fallen into a diabetic coma at the beach last Saturday. As can be expected he speaks only Italian but that has not stopped us from having long conversations. Throw him a subject and he can converse on it for an hour and I don’t have to say a word – just nod, smile, say “si” or “non” as the topic requires and give the occasional laugh. Thank you to my high school drama teacher Doug Livingston, who taught me a good part of acting is reacting. It’s a lesson that has served me well.

Tuesday morning after more blood work – I’m going to have a few bruises for the next week or two – and ECGs it was time for morning rounds. I have never seen so many white coats in my life. Ten medical-types poked, prodded and examined; comments were made that elicited laughter – hey my chest isn’t that scrawny! – and my condition and what to do about it was discussed loudly and passionately if though a meal were being ordered at a local trattoria. I should mention that in Italian hospital there are no bedside screens or curtains so everyone, including your roommate, can and does take part in the conversation.

The Senior Doctor – full white hair, ferragosto tan, designer glasses, polished fingernails – got into a heated discussion with a tall redheaded ward doctor that was halted in mid-spat by the entrance of another doctor. Not that her appearance stopped it, there was just a momentary truce as greetings, compliments and kisses were exchanged – then they were back to me. I was a bit startled when the new arrival began fondling my feet – I thought that sort of thing was against the Hippocratic Oath – but it turned out she was checking out my circulation. Based on general consensus – and I’m not at all sure that Nazereno’s opinion wasn’t taken into consideration – I hadn’t suffered a heart attack but Pavilion 7, 2nd Floor, Bed 11 was to be my home for the next few days.

... to be continued

*Just as a sidebar I've been on my own this week as Laurent went to Tirana for business last Sunday - no not the International Film Fesival, that would be Toronto - this is Tirana as in Albania.

12 settembre - San Tesauro dei Beccheria

More Details At Eleven...

In response to my two readers who’ve been asking about updates - well actually no one asked but what the hell I'll answer anyway– sorry but I’ve been out of commission for a few days. Monday past I experienced some chest pains which led to my being hospitalized here in Rome. Nothing serious – after a few tests and some TLC from the staff at Policlinico I’ve been judged by a panel of doctors to be fit as a fiddle and ready for, if not love, at least to go back to my daily routine. More to come shortly.

12 settembre - Tesauro dei Beccheria

Monday, September 08, 2008


Well I'll be damned - well yes according to a few people I am but let's not go into that - the world is finally recognizing me. Two weeks ago it was a kindly wag in Pesaro and now this:

A Place of my Own
My friend Jack sent this along from one of his Beijing photo jaunts. I was hoping it was a trendy gay bar or clothing store but he tells me he thinks its just another chain restaurant it's a gym. Sounds right to me.

Sic Transit Recognition!

08 settembre - La Natività della Beata Vergine Maria

Saturday, September 06, 2008

The March of the Ants

One of the ladies from the cleaning crew came running into the kitchen on Thursday and proclaimed: Dottore! ci sono formiche nello studio! First I love it when they call me "Dottore" and second the word "formiche" had a familiar ring to it. In response to my raised eyebrows she made a spray motion and sound and said: DDT!

Formiche - of course - ants. We have ants in the den. Well its not such a big problem and could wait until I could get to a hardware store. However that night as I sat writing yesterday's post I glanced down at the floor and saw half a peanut... and it was moving across the floor.

It must have fallen under the computer table while I has having crodino and nibbles in the afternoon - and by the time I caught it on this rather blurry video an army of ants had moved it a good five feet towards their nest. How exactly they were going to get it through the crack under the baseboard I'm not sure but given the team work they'd shown so far all things seem possible.

06 settembre - Sant'Umberto

Friday, September 05, 2008

Long Term Parking

Our new neighbourhood is made up of a mixture of residential villas, old villas that have been turned into office space and the odd religious compound. Because the offices - mostly.. shudder... lawyers - predominate daytime parking is an nightmare. But in the evening the streets are almost empty - for Rome! And what nightfall reveals is the number of cars that are parked "long term!"

Apparently there is some sort of strange law here that stops the police from towing cars that have been parked in the same spot Long Term Parking for lengthy (six to 12 months) periods of time. Near our old apartment there were five or six cars parked on the street covered in dirt and debris, tires flat and in one case windows open that were there when we arrived and were still there when we left one year later. The same thing occurs here in our new neighbourhood and probably in all neighbourhoods around town.

This SUV - the license plates are not EU so it might belong to someone at the Embassy of Côte d'Ivoire across the street - has obviously been parked here for some time. There is at least one previous harvest of figs (sweet, green, juicy, sticky figs) dotting its surface and no doubt doing a real number on the paint job.
A sticky mess
I love figs but I can't imagine the elbow grease needed to clean up that mess.

05 settembre - Beata Madre Teresa di Calcutta

Thursday, September 04, 2008


One of the great things about being in a blog community - even a very loose one, hmm doesn't sound quite right but you know what I mean - is the talent that you encounter almost daily. It may be the ability to use words or a pencil or a camera. But it is that ability to communicate thoughts, memories, humour and ideas through whatever medium that constantly amazes and delights me.
The Market in Centro - Pesaro
Even in busy Pesaro the Saturday Market in Centro is quiet during Ferragosto. I wonder where the residents of a seaside resort go in the summer when the rest of the world is flocking to their beach?
Choosing eggplants for Sunday lunch
I overheard the conversation between this lady and the fruttivendolo (greengrocer)- she needed enough eggplant to feed eight - her son, his wife and the bambini where coming for Sunday lunch. He, of course, assured her he had just the ones she wanted!
A Saturday morning chat.
As in most small towns here bicycle seems to the be major mode of transportation in Centro. And of course its easy to stop and have a Saturday morning gossip when you cycling through town.

  • Lorraine has two brilliant posts in a row this week - not to say they aren't all brilliant just that... there I go sounding not right again! And speaking of the right she uses her remarkable facility with words to address the Religious Right and a possible (?) double standard. And this must see video has become an instant YouTube classic. I sent the link to quite a few friends and they've been spreading it around - the link I mean! Damn think I'll just give up on words today.

Mormon boys in Pesaro
I am still slightly surprised when I see a pair of Mormon boys walking through the centre of an Italian town. As with most small towns the Centro Storico of Pesaro is closed to traffic. I'm not sure what the red carpet was for but it gave a festive air to an already festive city.
Rossini's birthplace
Rossini was born on the the ground floor of this palazzo. He very seldom returned after he left in 1796 at the age of 4. That, of course, has not stopped the sale of Rossini memorabilia in Pesaro but at least its more tasteful than the Mozartiana sold in Salzburg.

  • And Speck uses words and her talents as a cartoonist to tell us all about her Labour Day Weekend (sorry Speck I just can't type labor) and an encounter with some people on the run from Gustav. And that first cartoon should be gracing the editorial pages of a major newspaper.

The beach at Pesaro
While hundreds of holiday makers crowd the beach seeking that perfect tan that will be the envy of their neighbours come September ...
Sitting in the park
... others just sit in the park looking out over the Adriatic and pondering the passing world.

04 settembre - San Tesauro dei Beccheria

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Mercoledi Musicale

Most people would be surprised to find out that the marvelous Madeline sang opera in nightclubs and on stage. She was a perfect match to song at this 100th birthday celebration for Irving Berlin.

03 settembre - San Gregorio Magna, Papa

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Another Flicker of Light

It is difficult to avoid churches in Italy - there are reputedly 997 in Rome alone - and often they are the main attraction in a town. Even the smallest town will have a church with some unusual feature that rates as a must see. As I've often mentioned I have gotten into the habit of lighting a candle when I go into a church as a reminder of the needs of those I love and often my own needs and concerns.

A few months ago I lit a virtual candle here when a close blog friend and her family were going through a rough time. I'll quote what I wrote at that time:

Many years ago Father Darby, the Superior of the Cowley Fathers, in response to a brashly worded question concerning the lighting of candles - the questioner was a rather rude young man who shall remain nameless - simply said it was a way of bringing attention to our hopes and concerns. And that if nothing else it was a flicker of light that briefly illuminated a dark corner of our world.
At this moment I feel the need to relight that candle with the hope that a few dark corners in the lives of people I love will be illuminated. There seem to be so many people who I care about that are in need of that flicker of light.

I am lighting it for the hopes and concerns of our family as we deal with my mother-in-law's Alzheimer's, for Steve, Betty Jean, Sarah and Brian, for Kevin and Bev and for Deborah and James. And I am also lighting it for the hopes and concerns of many friends as they deal with illness, begin new jobs, start new relationships, fight old addictions and are confronted by family problems.
"If you have a candle, the light won't grow any dimmer if I light yours off mine." - Steve Tyler
02 settembre - Sant'Elpidio

Monday, September 01, 2008

The Magnatic Anita Ekberg

There can be few more iconic scenes in world cinema than Anita Ekberg's plunge into the Trevi Fountain - and few more beautiful images than Ekberg eyes closed, head thrown back as Marcello Mastroianni traces her features in the air. Apparently the sequence was shot on a cold March night and Ekberg stood for hours without a complaint. But Mastroianni had to wear a wetsuit and consume a bottle of vodka before he could do the scene.

And talk about serendipity, as today's update our friends at Italian Notebook have posted a lovely photo essay on the Trevi Fountain.

And - how's this for a tie in - the La Dolce Vita fridge magnet will be on its way shortly to our blog buddy and brilliant cartoonist Speck. All of the comments gave "good" explanations and a few were actually logical but I think hers was the one I'd use to explain it to that hot leather number Jeff was talking about.
If you turn it slightly clockwise, you will clearly see it is a reminder that there should be no farting by exclamation points in this room at any time.

There is a danger that said farts could be ignited by smoking materials and cause an explosion.

So, if you don't have any punctuation marks with digestive difficulties around, fire up a nice cigar.
And Sling would a lovely "My Mom went to the Vatican and all she got me was a Papal Blessing!" ashtray do instead?

01 settembre - Sant' Egidio abate

Lunedi Lunacy

"But how can you do a parody of Fellini, " asked friend Robert when I mentioned I was posting these clips. "He's a parody to begin with."

And I must admit he has a point - some of the scenes in this Saunders and French sketch could have been lifted directly from a few - quite a few - of Fellini's films without a single change being made. But Dawn French as Anita Ekberg has to be seen to be believed. And they may have been right: those sudden endings which we discussed so studiously in Cinema 203 - Finality in Italian Film - maybe they just ran out of money... or film!

01 settembre - Sant' Egidio abate

Il Ciclo di Mesi - Settembre

As the heat of the summer begins to abate in the north - Trento is located in the Dolomites - the nobles entertain themselves with falconry and the hunt. Meanwhile the peasants harvest the root vegetables that will become a winter staple and prepare the fields for next years crops.

01 settembre - Sant' Egidio abate