August 6, 1997
Chi f ail tuo arredamento. Carino!
Young boys over the world have this same dream. The situation starts with the actor (the young boy) virtually floating around a cerebral dreamscape. He is surrounded by leggy blondes. A brunette turns, looks at him, licks her lips and passes off this ‘come hither’ look. Suddenly, a red haired goddess slowly slinks across the room, the top button of her white blouse is open...how convenient. She bends over, tops up his jug of scotch and sexily whispers something in his ear. He looks up. All the girls...the blonde, the brunette, the Asian, the one that looks like Pamela Anderson are all walking in synch from the kitchen towards his bed. The one in the middle is carrying a big bowl of Lucky Charms...the red head bends over again. She seems like she is going to whisper something when her tongue just touches his ear.
Today, I woke to that exact same dream. (Except there were no Asian, no Lucky Charms, no scotch, no Pam and no crusty sock under the side of the bed). I rose from my cot and found a blonde (Solfrid), the brunette (Marita), another brunette (Zard) and a red head (Catherine) sitting in the kitchen waiting for me to join them on their day’s adventure. It was a dream come true. I even got breakfast. Yesterday, I dined on a Milky Way bar. It was outstanding. Today, I was fed a good Scottish breakfast. Three wee little pastries, glistening with sugar glaze and had fruity jam jammed inside. (The fact that I didn’t have to pay for it, satisfied the Scot in me) Yum. Yum.
Democrazia vince ancora
It was relatively early and we set off together to discover the attractions missed the day before. Namely, our target was the Sistine Chapel. For those unaware, the Sistine Chapel is very important to the Catholic faith. It is not only a fancy room that painted by Michelangelo (among others...ie. Botticelli, Raphael and Bernini). It is also the room used by the College of Cardinals to conduct a ‘conclave’. Upon the death of a Pope, the College gathers in the Sistine Chapel to elect a new one. The process is ancient and rather formal and is called a conclave. A large group of men sequester themselves by locking themselves in a room (the Sistine Chapel). Each man gets to wear a costume and a funny hat. The hats are cone shaped. Apparently, they need to be constructed in such a fashion so that when God speaks to them, they hear (and only they) whatever inspirational thoughts God decided to funnel into their ears. The only way the outside world knows that the Cardinals are meeting is from the smoke from the fire burning in the chamber. I guess they don’t want to install the air conditioner as it may block some of the views of the paintings. Once God has made his way around and spoke to everyone, they vote. If less than 50% of the votes are for one of the guys, their fire continues to emit black smoke. However, if God makes up his mind and stops screwing with the cardinals, one of the guys will get more than 50% of the vote and will win Popeship. Pope for Life. Something white is burned. White smoke is seen and hurray...democracy wins again!
After a short line-up, we entered the chapel. I had the pleasant circumstance to find myself escorting two lovelies, Catherine and Solfreid, around the place. Feeling obliged, I alternated between the two and plied them with witty insights and historical analysis (real or imagined). Upon reflection, I should have focused my attention on the truly breathtaking spectacle I was seeing. However, you know what happens when the wrong head makes decisions. From my vague recollection, the room was stunning. Raphael’s School of Athens was one of the most fantastic pieces of art ever created. Mind-blowing! Michelangelo’s “Creation of Adam” was touching. There were muscular pecs, vivacious breasts, everyone had thighs like linebackers, flowing locks, mons venus abound. The paintings resembled a medieval Huster rag with a religious tinge to it. However, I must admit that it was pretty amazing.
I popoli ignoranti
I will be remiss if I do not describe the atmosphere of my visit. Sure, I was panting over my Norwegian gal-pals and hoping that one of them would take pity on me and use me as their personal form of relief. Yet, I was still able to take a few seconds to absorb the atmosphere. I was elbow to elbow with the multitude. There were thousands of tourists, slowly moving through the corridors. The Sistine Chapel does not have one entrance and you get to wander around and check out the various paintings, architecture etc. No, rather they have it set up like Ikea. You enter in one end, follow the mice through the crowded maze, look up once and a while at the pretty paintings until you find yourself at the end. This is the place where God whispers in the cone hats of cardinals and tells them who to elect as the next King of Christianity. And yet, the loud, obnoxious, irritating masses shift their hulking slabs through a maze, ignoring all the rules against picture taking with flash cameras, discarding the remains of their Ding Dongs on the spectacular mosaic floors and adding to the noise with their whiney shrieky voices. Very disappointing.
While I am in a critical mood I must comment on the ‘famed’ Vatican Library. The Vatican Library holds probably the most impressive and important collection of historical texts existing. For example, other than holding important texts like the first complete written bible or ancient Roman and Grecian texts, it also holds thousands of manuscripts saved from the Imperial Library of Constantinople, from the Palatine Library, and from a number of national libraries. They also have an entire section called the Vatican Secret Archives. This is where accounts of the alien vessels which delivered human beings to earth 7000 years ago are stored. The Vatican Library simply holds the most important collection of historical works existing...period.
Following the Ikea line from the Sistine Chapel to the Sistine Hall of the Vatican Library, I expected to see/touch/feel some of these books and manuscripts. However, to my disappointment, I got relatively nothing. Firstly, they had a sparse scattering of books shown under glass cases. Secondly, they did not provide any English translations to the Italian/Latin descriptions. I tried to figure out what the books were about but it was all Greek to me. What a waste of time. I am a historian for Christ sakes. I learned absolutely nothing from my tour through the maze...nothing. What a waste of time.
Eventually, we had enough of the Sistine Chapel. Unfortunately, it was time for me to split up with half of our lovely quartet. Solfried and Margita wanted to follow up the Sistine Chapel with St. Peter’s Basillica. Meanwhile, Zard and Catherine were planning to see the Pantheon. As I had already seen St. Peties Place, I decided to join Zard and Catherine. In retrospect, I should have stayed with Solfried and Margita. Solfried once again was wearing clothes that are for admiring eyes only. She sported an outstanding ensemble that showcased her leggy legs and added a sleeve-less number that accentuated the breast part of her body. Being aware of the rules of entry, I knew that her outfit virtually guaranteed that she was not going to see anything inside St. Peters. If she was permitted entry, the only line one would encounter was the one leading to the confessional booth. Scores of priests and bishops would be seen crossing their legs and asking for forgiveness for their sinful thoughts after laying their eyes upon young Solfried. Now that I think of it, I could have eased her ensuing sense of boredom by 'entertaining' her while Margita fiddled with her rosary on the inside. Oh well. I took off with the Dutch duo instead and went to see a few more of Rome's ancient buildings. Besides, Catherine could substitute for Solfried for a few hours. So we went off to wander, wander, chat, chat but quickly grew tired of each other’s company and split up for the remainder of the day.
Noted Italian scholar, wise guy and finger painter, Leonardo da Vinci is remembered for saying the words “While I thought I was learning how to live, I have been learning how to die.” This is a telling comment. Irony is a funny thing. One of the key objectives of partaking in my wander was to live. To ‘live and learn’... about places, things, me, countless anonymous lassies. I never thought about the death. Yet, each day I spend my time visiting cemeteries, cathedrals, monuments, squares all contain dead guy detritus. Within hours of landing on European soil, I was wandering a cathedral in Brussels. The walls were covered with plaques celebrating the lives and deaths of men. The next day, I completed a pilgrimage to visit my great-grandfathers grave. In Belgium, I walked on the sacred ground of hundreds of thousands of souls lost during the Great War. Every town, every cathedral....I was not only living, I was experiencing death...everywhere.
Today would be no different. The first ‘cemetery’ on my itinerary was a 2000 year old crypt called the Panthenon. The Panthenon was originally built as a temple to hail the historical Gods of Rome. You know...Mars, Jupiter, Uranus, Vucan and Diana (she died in a chariot accident with her boyfriend/lothario Apollo). Many years later, Christianity replaced Paganism as the predominant guiding life force, and the building’s purpose was changed to be a place to store dead bodies. Beneath the floors and within the walls now reside the remains of military leaders, reknown artists and ex-kings (Tony I to Tony XXVIII). From the outside, the Pantheon is rather bland and non-descript. It looks like a blunted, circular concrete tube. On the inside, it looks like the bland interior of a blunted circular concrete tube. They do have a few marble columns and a neatly arranged ceiling, however was a bit of a disappointment when compared to come of the other places I have visited in Rome. I should be reasonable though. One should not go around complaining about the visual aesthetics of the interior of a concrete coffin.
Remaining on the topic of death, I must admit that prior to coming over here to Europe I never really visited many cemeteries. I have probably visited the cemetery three or four times in my life. I recall going to the one where both my grandfathers are buried. (Not my grandmother... I think she is still in my parent’s closet). Yet, each day in Europe there is at least once instance where I find myself tramping over the rattling bones of the dead. To be truthful, I don’t stomp on the ground or use the grave markers for hop-scotch. Rather, I find myself overly conscious in exhibiting respect for the dead. I gingerly walk over cemetery plots and walk around rather than atop the tombs. Why do I act this way? Beats me. If I could guess, I think that subconsciously, if I stomp on the remains of the unliving and by happenchance there is an afterlife there would be less of a chance of bumping into someone I pissed off. I just hope that one day when I have returned to the soil that the millions and millions of my fans reciprocate by paying their respects in a similar fashion. I am not worried that my remains will be disturbed as one cannot really disturb ash. I just don’t want anyone to crack my planned crystal sarcophagus.
Casa dolce casa
I deserve a break from the norm. Travel is tiring. All that talking and walking and reading and gawking. It never ends. However, after growing weary of visiting an endless slew of dead guys I needed to rest. I needed food and rest. Enroute to Ivano’s I encountered Standa’s. Standa’s is like an Italian Walmart or Zellers. Cheap clothes, household goods and food. I wanted to pick up a few provisions for the eve’s dining experience. The fare...a local dish. Very interesting. It was pretty much ready to eat. I don’t know what it is called, however it is unleavened bread that is baked, smothered with a sauce made from crushed tomatoes. Then they added some sliced mushrooms, some slices of a mildly spicy meat and topped with grated cheese. It looked wonderful. However, I knew that it was missing something. If I were to really enjoy this delicacy, I would need some beer.
God gave it his all. He knew that I was immune to lightning bolts, to visits from angels, from symbolic pictures of his son found in the hard water stains on my bathtub drain. He needed to try something different and I both respect and appreciate his tactics. Devious, but effective. Holding my baked tomato sauce with cheese cake, before mine eyes I saw her across the aisle. No, I did not see Alison again and have her bonk me in the head with a stupid stick. Recall, I am fairly clueless with the fairer sex to start, thus thrusting attractive females are not always the best weapon. It was much more personal. Something I had already enjoyed a lengthy and intimate relationship with. I have spent more time with her than any others. Before my eyes was a six-pack of Labatt’s Blue. I told you God pulled out all the stops to win me over. Like a faithful servant, I opened my arms, my heart and my wallet and submitted to his cause. He won...and I got drunk. Praise be to God.
Lovingly cuddling each one of my six new friends, one by one my other new friends Solfried, Margita, Zard and Catherine came back to the hostel. They were all leaving for Greece on the late train. I seriously considered joining them. I was invited. Greece is known to backpackers as a carnal carnival. It would have been fantastic, however I decided to keep the item for another trip another day. Catherine and Zard were to leave first. They got in shit from Ivano for cooking in the hostel when they were already checked out. Thieving bastards!!! They stole Ivano’s electricity and some water for their soup. Thankfully, before they left I was able to collect a slew of addresses and phone numbers. If I ever find myself, cold and lonely somewhere in Norway, Solfried and her leggy legs have offered me a warm place to stay. As for Catherine, she lives in Holland and she offered to take me in for a few days if I was ever in the area. This, I may be able to accommodate into my schedule. What is a better way to end my continental journey than learning the ins and outs of life in Holland with Catherine before burrowing my way over to England and Scotland? Back to being by my lonesome, I scarfed down my pizza’s, sucked back a few Blueskies, watched some soccer chatted up a pair of very nice Australian lasses (names escape me at the present time). Whatever.
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