I'm back in Rome for a little over two days, before I catch my flight to Amsterdam on Wednesday, then fly from Amsterdam to Newark airport on Thursday. Being in Rome is a nice buffer, a transition from my last two months of travel and my re-entry into the US. I'm getting a dose of multiculturalism. My B&B (and this time it is a genuine B&B, meaning I get breakfast as part of the deal and a bathroom to myself so I don't have to piss in any bottles) is in the Little India section of Rome. I had no idea there was a little India in Rome, but one of the reasons to travel is to learn things. When I walk out of my B&B, it takes me a moment to realize that I am in Italy. More cultural exchange: I'm writing this in an "Irish" pub, where everyone speaks Italian and they're playing Jay Z. on the stereo. I'm sorry to hear that Jay has 99 problems, though I am relieved that a bitch ain't one of them.
I'm using this time to wrap things up. Rather than do any new sight seeing (or is it site seeing? Kate, you would know better than anyone else.), I've been trying to find gifts for people. Not to go offtrack, but I just realized that "sight seeing" is a little redundant. It's like saying "I went to the concert and did some 'sound hearing.' " Can you tell I'm writing this while in a pub? I have to - they won't let me drink at the computer center. When I was in Morocco and objected to my guide to only seeing stores and shops, he brusquely asked me "What's the matter? Don't you like shopping?" Well, frankly, no. I like wandering around and if I happen to see something either for myself or someone I know, I like to buy it. But going "shopping" with a goal in mind frustrates and annoys me. It's why my Christmas presents ususally come with an apology. It's why I've worn the same suit to every wedding for the last two years, even though each time I get a wedding invitation I say "I really need a new suit. This old one is shot." I've enjoyed re-visiting spots in Rome, but yesterday ended in frustration at my inability to find suitable gifts for some people. Oh, I bought a book for myself, sure, but finding stuff for others? Forget it.
During this transition period, old habits are coming back. Spending time in Irish pubs is one of them. Seeing something I want, not buying it, then regretting that fact and obsessing over the item, only to discover that I can't find it anywhere is another habit. I saw that British writer Alan Bennett has published a new book. His previous book "Writing Home" was one of the touchstones when I lived in London ten years ago. Seeing a sequal of sorts is now available while I am again overseas just seemed to fit. But I resolved not to buy anything for myself until I had finished buying for others. This resolve lasted half a day. I decided that I had another full day (today) to look for gifts, and I really wanted the book. I have two hour and an eight hour flights this week. Such a book would be the perfect way to spend the time.
As soon as I decided this, I couldn't find a copy of the book anywhere. This search eclipsed my search for gifts for others. I can only obsess over one thing at a time. Obviously the streets of Italy are not littered with English-language books, although their larger bookstores make a better effort to stock foreign language books than America's do. Finally, late in the day, I found a copy, and spent last night as an American reading a British author in the Little India section of Italy in a B&B rented to me by a Japanese lady. It is a small world, after all.
I spent today in earnest search of gifts. I went to the Trastevere section of Rome. It is west of the Tibor River, south of Vatican City. Small streets, generally ignored by tourists, more homeless than I've seen anywhere else. It does have a tourist info kiosk, so I stopped and asked if there where sections of Rome with little shops. Not fancy designer clothes boutiques (they're on Via Del Corso, and I made the mistake of going there yesterday) nor cheap souvenir shops (which are everywhere), but interesting little stores. The man at TI circled a few sections on a map, and he came through. I was able to find some things for others, see some cool stuff, and discover the Irish pub in which I am typing this.
Today, while shooting some video at the Roman Ruins and Cat Sanctuary, a little kid came up behind me and screamed. I don't know whether he was trying to ruin my video or set the cats scrambling. I looked over at he and his father, who laughed one of those smug parental "isn't my kid adorable?" laughs. I held the non-expression on my face and went back to looking through my videocamera. The only thing I could think to say to the kid was "don't be an asshole your whole life" but for once in my life, I kept my mouth shut. The cats also ignored them. Deprived of any reaction from two different species, the father and son quickly left. Since the cats hadn't changed position at all, I re-wound the tape to before the little bastard screamed, and began taping again.
As mentioned before, tomorrow I fly into Amsterdam, and then Thursday I fly home. I don't know if I will get a chance to get online in the next two days, so hard as it may be to believe, this is probably my last entry from Europe. Over the coming months I will update the journal with stories about my trip and maybe even some photos. But I just wanted to thank everyone for reading and especially for commenting. I wasn't too excited about this journal when the idea was first suggested to me, yet I have grown to really love posting here, and especially enjoy this format as a way of staying in touch with those who mean so much to me. So thanks again to everyone for joining in.
Oh yeah. Sorry, but I don't think I'll have time to get high tomorrow in Amsterdam. Everyone seems to love that story, and perhaps in the name of closure I should, but my flight arrives too late, and I don't feel like having the post-pot brownie hangover during an eight hour flight home.
Will post again soon.