Saturday, April 30, 2011

Day 1, Part 2.

There's got to bea way to get in quicker, we reason. Whose palm do we have to grease?
The answer arrives in the form of a guy fom somewhere on the Indian subcontinent. "Join tour? Over there, man from Ohio."

The man from Ohio turned out to be Mike, an Iraq war vet who has been leading tours of Rome for over six years. "I came here for a girl," he explained. "It took me a year to figure out that she really wanted nothing to do with me. But by then I was hooked on Rome, so here I am."

I have to say Mike led one of the best toursI've ever been on. How many tours of the Vatican start out with a visit to the Swiss Guards laundry room? And include meeting their tailor? Mike also pointed out the Guards' barracks. "Listen up, people! The Swiss Guard may look like a bunch of little dolls in those uniforms, but make no mistake, they are the Vatocan's answer to the Navy Seals. They do not, I repeat not, mess around. Although in this soldier's opinion the pink stuccoed barracks undercuts the image a bit."

Mike's tour was unusual in every possible respect. "People, we are about the pass through the Hall of Tapestries. Most people just rush right through this gallery other way to the Sistina. But we will not rush through. We will admire these magnificent tapestries,and I will show you why they deserve our admiration.". Five minutes later everyone oN the tour was thoroughly spooked by the way the eyes in some of the tapestries followed us down the hall. This bit of nerve rattling, however, was nothing compared to the creeps we felt whenMike pointed out a two thousand year old statue that, I swear, looked exactly like the young Bill Clinton. "Even has Monica's dress over his arm," Mike noted. I'm telling you, it was weird.

Another thing I liked about Mike: he was nothing if not direct. "This is called the Pine Cone Court. see that enormous ball of sculpted brass in the center? It was a gift to John Paul II and is unquestionably the most hated work of 'art' in the Vatican. Look at it, it's a piece of junk! The only cool thing about it is you can spin it around. Big deal."

But like every other decent person in Rome, Mike was in love with the Sistine chapel. He gave us a half hour tutorial on the ceiling before we even set foot in the chapel. "I realize this might seem like I'm slowing you down, but trust me, you will appreciate the ceiling much more this way." And he was right, of course.

When In Rome

The first thing you should have done is check if your hotel has wi-fi.

Which, sadly some of us neglected to do.

So it took me a day or two to find Internet access. So hello again, everyone!

Right now I am in the Friends cafe scarfing down the buffet and breaking out the iPad.

Rome has been a great adventure so far Starting with our arrival, when I, Desperate Irish Housewife, drove through Roman rush hour traffic. In the rain. With a stick shift.

Impressive,huh? All I can say is thank God for all those years driving around Long Island malls. I learned well the all important skill of avoiding eye contact when cutting someone off in traffic. Besides Italians like to yell. I like to spread a little joy.

Anyway we all survived the drive, and here we are.

DAY 1. Hang around the Campo de Fiori. Eat something then scour the open air market stalls for the all important Pope John Paul II bobble head doll. No luck. Considered buying a Pope Benedict bobble head but decided against it. Likeness not close enough.

Head over to St Peter's square. At the moment the Square looks like a construction site. Scaffolding and work crews setting upf for the big bash on Sunday, guys from Fox news taping their little bits of wisdom, mile long line to get into the basilica.

Monday, April 25, 2011

On Packing

There are basically two schools of thought on the subject of packing. The first is the minimalist school. This is the "nothing but the essentials" approach. Toothbrush, one change of clothes, maybe something to read. Most of the adherents to this school are men who never had to pack for anyone but themselves and relied on their wives to carry everything else, like the Metamucil or the athlete's foot spray.

The second school of thought is the "everything but the kitchen sink" approach. Summery clothes just in case it gets warm. Wintery clothes just in case it gets cold. Evening dress just in case the Prime Minister invites you to dinner. A toe ring just in case you find yourself at a NASCAR race. The entire contents of your bahrroom cabinet.

While I aspire to becoming a member of the first school, experience has taught me this is pipe dream. Taking the minimalist approach, I have learned, virtually guarantees an invitation to the PM's table. On the other hand, when you pack twelve outfits cover g any and a
L occasions, you will almost certainly end you vacation in a pair of capris and a tee shirt. That's just the way it is.

No, there are no winners in the packing game. I always feel like a jerk packing as much as I do, but I have come to believe it is better to feel like a jerk than have to spend half your clothing allowance for next year on a last minute evening outfit.

So I overpack. Heck, there are worse thing, right?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Last Thing You Want To Hear

...whne you call Travelocity to double-check on your hotel reservation.

Automated voice: "You are confirmed for five nights at the Hotel X in Roma, Australia."

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Geoffrey Chaucer, Call Your Office

Hello, Geoff? Hey. It's me, Desperate. We've been out of touch for a while. Like, since about ninth grade.

But I remember you, Geoff. I can even remember that tongue-twister of yours our English teacher made us memorize. OK, so I can only manage the first two lines... but still, I'd think after all these years you'd be flattered:

"Whan that aprill with his shoures soote
The droghte of march hath perced to the roote..."

Impressed? Now for the contemporary version:

"When April with his showers sweet with fruit
The drought of March has pierced unto the root.."

Now here's the bad news. Geoff. Those showers ain't exactly as sweet as you made them out to be. Today, for example. It's one thing to wake up in the morning and see a gentle dusting of snow on the landscape, or your car, in December. But seeing it today is just too much. Today is the 20th of April, Geoff. And we got snow.

It might not be so depressing if I'd never heard of The Canterbury Tales. I mean, come on, the expectations you set up! Hooray, can't wait for April, it'll be sweet! The Zephyrs! The tender shoot and buds! The "many little birds that make melody!"

Unless they FROZE to death, right, Geoff?!! Unless the tender little buds all DIED in the KILLER FROST! You never thought of that, did you GC?

Well, take a look outside my window and think about it now. I expect a whole new Prologue on my desk by this afternoon. Otherwise I'm going to start spilling what I really know about your little set of pilgrims, and as you know, it won't be pretty.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Big News Spreads

As you can imagine I am pretty thrilled to be going to the big Vatican Blognic on May 2. And it warms my heart to hear so many people are happy for me.

Although every so often I get a reaction I wasn't quite expecting.

{Yesterday evening. DIH approaches clergyman.}

DIH: So... guess who's going to the big Vatican blogger's meeting?

CLGY: My friend Father X, of course.

DIH: Uh- I, I don't know. I didn't see his name on the list. But I'm going!

CLGY: But Father X's blog is huge. It's the biggest one out there.

DIH: Yes... well, maybe he didn't fill out an application.

CLGY: I don't see how they can call it a meeting of Catholic bloggers if they didn't invite Father X. Oh, by the way-- congratulations, have a great time.

Now it point of fact, Father X's blog is huge. It gets more traffic in a day than a dozen other blogs put together get in a month. My friend the clergyman was quite right: it really was a bit odd that his name wasn't on the list.

When I got home I read the "Invitees" list again, just to make sure. But unless he's writing under a pseudonym, Father X (not his real name) isn't going to the Blognic.

I reread the invitation carefully. This is the important part:
"Selection to attend does not imply Vatican approval of the contents of any of the blogs. Neither does non-selection imply disapproval."

It also says something about picking some famous bloggers and some, um, not-famous bloggers. To get a good mix.

All I can say now is THANK YOU, VATICAN GUYS!!! for picking a non=famous type like yours truly. I will do my best to add whatever I can to the meeting. We of the non-famous community are deeply grateful for this opportunity.

I can't wait to meet the famous bloggers. I'd better wear a nametag, though. Did I say "nametag?" Make that "a sandwich board."

Great News, Travelers!

"Another air traffic controller sleeping on the job; FAA says changes to work schedules coming" (Star Tribune, Sunday April 17)

Coming? Uh- coming when, exactly?

Hey, It's Done a Great Job So Far


The link is to an article in Friday's Detroit Free Press:

"Could Detroit be the new Amsterdam -- a city where prostitution and marijuana are both legalized to help attract young people and turn the troubled city’s prospects around?

"Why not, barrister and occasional mayoral candidate Geoffrey Fieger said during a taping of “Michigan Matters” on what he would do if he walked in Detroit Mayor Dave Bing’s shoes."

Ew. I have a 12-hour layover in Amsterdam on the return trip from Rome. Does this mean I might as well be in Detroit?

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Rome Is Calling!

Yours truly has been invited to the Bloggers' Meeting of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, at the Vatican, on Monday May 2.

Don't that beat all?