Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Rome again, Rome again, jiggedy jig

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.



Iva said...

I must tell you how much I have enjoyed your travels in Europe. Rick Stevens can't begin to interest me as much as you have done in your blog. After all, when did he eat Dutch brownies or pee in a bottle on his show? I really feel that you have taken all of us vicariously on the most wonderful trip. Bless you for that. And bless you for the fact that my art and literature knowledge has been expanded enormously. I have never failed to learn the most wonderful things from my children. Thank you, all my children.
I have missed you but I have also felt that the time passed much more quickly than I thought it would and that is thanks to your blog.
Enjoy Amsterdam...God keep you safe on your flights. I love you lots,

k.c. said...

well, the verb is "sightsee," and there is a noun, "sightseer." this may vary depending on which dictionary you use. i assume you think of me b-c of my profession, as we both know that i rarely leave my desk when i´m at home. (new york, new york!)

deutschland is great, and i did some sightseeing of my own today, though i´m not big on the concept either. for me, it´s wander around, discover new things, meet back up with old familiar ones, take pictures, find bakeries, eat cake, find bookstores, buy books. today was tübingen, which is my favorite place. but i digress, and i have my own blog for kc travel babble. johnny, can´t wait to see you.


Julie said...

Good God NO we don't want you to eat any more hash brownies! You'd probably never make it to the airport. Sorry I can't be more help about a gift for TJ. Other than a hot Italian girl he couldn't think of anything he wanted. He did concede that the above gift might be a little difficult to get through customs.

Anonymous said...

John I can't even tell you how much entertainment I've gotten out of reading your blog at work. I'm really going to miss it when you leave Europe... can't you swing another month or so? :) I've shared your stories w/friends and family who've never met you and they too were "cracking up" over the more colorful stories and looking forward to the next tale.
Let us - your FPI friends know when you get back so we can get together and get a live rendition.
Safe travels,

the hanged man said...

Iva -
I'm glad that at least my mom gave me a good review. How embarassing would it have been if she had panned it? I am glad that you enjoyed the online journal

Let's see, one of your sons wants me to be his connection, the other one wants me to procure for him...What do you kids think of their uncle, anyway?

Kate -
I laughed when I saw your message. I knew you would know the proper usage of "sightsee." Glad you are enjoying Germania. Now that I'm back in Brooklyn, I'll have time to read about your travels.

Jackie -
Welcome! I was wondering if you were keeping up with the journal. I may start posting the goofy things I do back now that I'm back in the states. I definitely want to get together with my former co-workers so I can tell the stories I never had time to write. Thanks for writing.

Iva said...

As much as I have enjoyed reading about your adventures and misadventures in Europe, nothing gave me greater happiness than to hear your voice last night. Welcome home, world traveler. Erin and I will see you next week...I love you,

the hanged man said...

I would like to point out that I called my mother last night when I got home. She is not "hearing voices."

Just wanted to make that clear.