Rome, part one of many

January 21st, 2007

If you're one of the two or three people who have been keeping up with this weblog, you may have noticed that I've posted an entry on nearly every place I've visited, with the notable exception of Rome, the place that was my destination, the place where I've spent the most time. Why?

Well, mostly because I don't know where to start. I came here to live. Where do you begin writing about the place you live? Does anybody care that I get up every morning, eat a bowl of Corn Flakes, drink a cup of espresso, and (usually) take a shower? That's not exotic. That's not adventurous. That's just life. And that's what I'm doing now: I'm just living. Even if the milk comes in liter jugs and the espresso is really damn good, I'm just living: looking for a job, though not looking very hard, watching my dwindling bank account, making friends, normal things.

Ok, so Roman life is not exactly Bostonian life.

Things move much faster, yet take forever to get done. Everything is older, ancient even. Ambulances sound like air-raid sirens. Wine is cheap and delicious. Coffee is cheap and delicious. Pasta and pizza are cheap and delicious. Everything else is priced at a Euro-influenced premium. People wave their hands when they speak. They speak really fast. They speak Italian.

I speak Italian. I've finally reached a point where it's no big deal to have an Italian conversation, to make a transaction in Italian, to read the newspaper, to complain about women, to discuss the economy. I finally have some Italian friends. I'm on my third Italian novel, though the first written for adults.

Nothing works here, except the espresso machines. If there are three automated ticket machines in a train station, it's guaranteed at least one of them will be broken. Italians know this and plan for it: that's why there are three machines. That's why nobody's expected to be on time for anything. Bus tickets are sold at tobacco shops. The tobacco shops close at 8 PM. The buses run until midnight. It's a broken system but it doesn't matter because nobody buys tickets anyway. Nobody checks them. The Guardia di Finanza is supposed to check the tickets but they're too busy pretending to chase the Senegalese vendors of fake Gucci handbags. If you keep your eyes open, once in a while you'll see an entire row of these vero-falso sellers spontaneously gather up all their wares and go trotting off, as if on some secret signal. Inevitably, two minutes later a squadron of the Guardia di Finanza will come by, looking deadly serious but never catching anybody, I think intentionally. Something is broken there. Still, I've never seen an espresso machine that wasn't in perfect gleaming order.

So that's Rome. No it's not, not really, but it's a start and I guess you gotta start somewhere. Watch this space for more updates.