Wednesday, March 30, 2011

We Interrupt Our Regular Blogging For a Special Post...

I've been watching old movies again.  The Hideous Sun Demon confirmed my belief that the sun is our enemy.  But what a great surprise I had while watching Appointment with Danger, in which Alan Ladd played a hard-boiled postal inspector investigating the murder of another postal inspector.  In the opening scene, two very familiar-looking thugs lug the dead inspector to an ally.  They were the very young Jack Webb & Harry Morgan, who would later portray the iconic pair Sergeant Friday & Officer Bill Gannon in Dragnet!  Wow!  And what was really cool was what baddies they were is this film:

UPDATE:  Ranald has pointed out that bronzed baby shoes are not as heavy as this clip implies.  However, I'm willing to allow them poetic license.  The bronzed shoes are a load on the poor hood's heart.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Vacation Recap: March 15

More great Villa Rosa rolls and coffee in the morning, then it's off to the Colosseum!  Wow, it was already crowded.  We got the audio-guide, but we suffered geographical confusion when we tried to find the listening spots.  So many people were taking photos of other people, that I quit trying to avoid getting in the way.  We went to the souvenir shop, and I got a book called Rome Reconstructed which had layered pages showing sites as they were then/now.  It helped me figure out stuff the audio-guide told me that I didn't understand.

Next we went to the Forum, which was roomier and quieter.  I took out my book, but once again suffered geographical confusion.  The arch that I attributed to Tiberius actually belonged to Septimus Severus.  Then we found a shrine to Julius Caesar, and, since it was the Ides of March, it was filled with offerings.

We took a tour of an ancient church, the Oratory of the 40 Martyrs.  Tours were in Italian or English, so our group had Russians and others for whom English was not the mother tongue. In fact, I believe we were the only Americans.  I took a photo of the old-fashioned crosses with the yellow peacock.

We had some lunch and gelati at Valoran's Forum S.R.L. right near the Forum on Largo Corrado Ricci.  Sue had 2 flavors :bacio and kiss (chocolate with hazelnuts); I had banana.  Then Sue saw a couple of women standing near us as though waiting to sit down, so we got up for them.  But the women weren't together.  One ignored us; the other started telling us that she didn't know where her place to sit down in life was.  We fled.  I tried to use the debit card I'd gotten specifically for the trip.  However the mnemonic I'd invented for remembering the password was not good enough.  So Sue had to float me a loan, while I charged everything I could on my MC.
For dinner we went to La Buca di Rippetta Trattoria at Via di Ripetta 36. We got to the Piazza del Popolo and found our street.  We looked to our right and saw numbers in the hundreds.  Damn!  We were going to have to walk a long way for our dinner.  But suddenly there was our restaurant on the left.  The left side addresses were double-digit; the right side were triple-digit.  I've never run across such a diabolical numbering system in my life!  We had a fish-based meaL; small servings of salmon tartare, squid in red sauce, sliced octopus over something else, and linguini with tuna and tomatoes.  As usual, we had the house red wine.  All was very good.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Vacation Recap: March 14

We had decided that Monday would be a wonderful day for a trip to Pompeii.  At breakfast, Sister Christina urged us to hurry or we'd miss the train.  (She would stop by every table at breakfast, find out what the visitors's plans were, and give her own tips.)  So we had only one of Villa Rosa's excellent rolls and some coffee.
We took the train to Naples then took the Circumvesuviana line to Pompeii Scavi.  Once again, Sue's Italian helped us navigate the byzantine mass transit system.
At the entrance to the ruins we considered getting the audio-guide, but a distinguished man approached us and said he was collecting people for a 2-hour tour (shades of Gilligan's Island!), so we decided to go with him.  His name was Gennaro, and he gave us an excellent tour.  Here are some of the high points:  we started at the basilica, which was a public building in the forum.

We saw a tavern with stone counters.  The holes held wine in one, water in the next.  Yes, they watered down their wine, but who knows how strong it was.  The wine may have been like wine syrup.

We saw a brothel.  Prostitution was a legitimate, tax-paying business in the ancient world.

Apparently the prostitutes preferred firm mattresses.

There was a storeroom with a chain-link fence front where you could see all sorts of artifacts they discovered.  They also displayed some plaster casts of victims.

People threw coins into containers near each victim's plaster cast.*  They were treated like saints.

This mosaic in an entryway says "Beware of Dog."

Sadly, there are many stray dogs around Pompeii.  They beg for food from visitors.  Sue said that she read somewhere that the local poor had abandonned their dogs when they left for vacation in August.  (But if they are poor, how can they afford a vacation?)  Be that as it may, there is a group that tries to find the dogs good homes.

 We ended the tour at the town's Big Theater.  Of course it has perfect aucostics.
After Gennaro left us we did some further exploration including the Villa of the Mysteries, which I had particularly wanted to see.  Then we explored the adjacent modern town of Pompei.  It was pretty touristy.  Its economy leaned toward oranges and lemons.

These lemons are as big as a baby's head!

We returned to Rome and had dinner at Novona Notte.  A maniacally cheerful waiter greeted us at the door.  As he seated us he told the man at the table next to ours, "Here's a (female) friend for you. [in Italian]"  So this elderly man began chatting up Sue, who was eager to practice her Italian.  "Dmitry" said he was a lawyer in Rome on business.  He gave us food recommendations and was snapping his fingers at the waiters to get us another fork or a sample of lemoncello, etc.  As the evening progressed, his story changed.  Now he was a canonical lawyer working for the Vatican and he lived in Rome.  He knew the Pope personally.  In the meantime an American couple sat down at the table on our other side, and we chatted with them.  They were from Salt Lake City.  Dmitry wanted to join in our conversation.  He didn't know where Salt Lake City was, so they explained that it was near Las Vegas.  That excited him.  "Slot machine!"  He asked the wife if she worked at a casino; no, she was a gynecolgist and delivered babies.  Was the husband a doctor too?  No.  But before the guy could say anything more, Dmitry pointed at him, "Slot machine!" and made the pulling-the-lever gesture.  Then he made the gesture of pulling-the-baby-out.  He was so tickled with this combination, that he repeated it several times, to the embarrassment of the husband and amusement of the wife.  To make a long story short, at the end of the evening he asked Sue if she were coming (with him), and she said no.  We did have a good salad and spaghetti with olive oil and pepper.

*Gennaro told us that Vesuvius made a lot of noise before its eruption, so most of the Pompeiians fled and were saved.  Some must have stayed or returned to get their stuff.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Vacation Recap: March 12-13

Sue and I fly Alitalia nonstop to Rome. They serve good food. For dinner I had chicken with vegetables, green bean salad with ham, cheese-filled pasta, fruit salad, and red wine. Sue had the vegetarian option.
I believe that the seats are more cramped than they were in 1995...or could it be that I am bigger, older, and grumpier?  In any case, I slept poorly.  It's early morning when we land.

In Rome, Sue took charge of figuring out public transportation, which propelled her quickly into speaking Itallian.  She got us to the metro stop Pyramide, from which we dragged our bags to our convent.   We arrived at our room at the Villa Rosa Convent, run by Domincan nuns, about 11:30 local time.  Sister Christina, who presides over this convent hotel, is originally from Ireland.  First site: the Protestant Cemetery.

Of course we visited Keats's grave and got to see several kitties among the monuments.  It was drizzley and dreary but warmer than Boston.

Then we walked a very long way to try out a pizza place touted in a recent New York Times article.  Unfortunately, the place was not serving any of the unusual flavors (like salt cod) mentioned in the article.  We each had a slice.  It was good, but not otherwise noteworthy.
Rain fell heavily.  We veered into the Museo Nationale Roma, which had a grumpy staff but great stuff.  At one point Sue almost collapsed into a mosaic she was looking at.  She realized that she was tired.

After the Museo, we wandered around looking for a cafe where we could sit down (the Museo had no cafe), but all the seats were taken in the places we passed.  Finally we returned to the Termini (train station), where we found one seat at a coffee bar.  Sue insisted that I sit, which I did.  She had coffee; I fizzy water.  If you order coffee in Italy, you get espresso, so I had to be careful not to get too buzzed.
At 7:30 we had dinner at Bucatino Taverna Testaccio.   At all restaurants, including this one, we ordered the house red wine; it was always good.  We had a salad made of stalks of things (Sue thought it might include fennel) topped with anchovy sauce.  I liked it.  We also had an artichoke cooked in olive oil, spaghetti with clam sauce, chocolate cake with a molten center, and "delizia pistachio," which was like a very dense ice cream.  Sue again practiced her Italian with the waiter.  Bucatino was one of the lower-priced places.  The deocor was shabby; a picture hanging on a wall near me seemed to have water damage.   But I enjoyed all the food.

More photos available at:

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Romeo Could do This!

Apparently the British are already aware of the situation I pointed out in an earlier post.