A chronicle of movement aimed at synchronizing thoughts and keyboards with said movement.


The end of the Colossal tour

A crazy bunch of Italians on the street in front of the Spanish steps, where Keats and Shelley lived, possibly at the same time. Emily, in her wisdom, said that Frankenstein was written by Mary Shelley as the fruition of a horror story write-off between her, Percy, Keats and some other dude on some weekend retreat. But apparently the boys decided some good splashing (of wine and in water) would be much preferred, so they let Mary have her fun.

Long exposure on the Spanish steps, apparently a landmark, covered by golden 20-year olds, looking down on a street filled with people and thinking of how damn pretty everything is.

There's got to be that one, perfect Italian restaurant. It's apparently common within Americans -- that one vision of some sort of dimly lit, back-alley, ivy-covered, surly-Italianed place. Though we may have very well found that the first night, we struck at our food mission with VIGOR in the second night, pushing through bodies that had staged revolt.

We arrived at a place that was medium-lit and certainly not in a back alley. But it did have the WWF (well, now WWE -- but that's like calling Lehigh the Mountain Hawks) on the TV for some reason. So, as Italians watched the screen and tried to compare their boisterous table-neighbors to the Wisconsin-sized combatants on the TV, we ordered.

Our waitress hustled around, as if it were important to clear the restaurant (only three tables were occupied -- Italians don't eat until well into the next day, it seems) for more worthy clientele later at night. Those who would order €17 sauvignon blanc instead of €15 pinot (us). So, through great use of elaborate hand signals, including the one that involves moving your hands slowly downward and outward, palms facing down, to imply the slowing down of things, we slowed her down. From then on, we communicated through handle signals and her rather fluent usage of "It's ok!" based on tone.

For when we asked about the wine: "ehh, isss okaaaaayyyyy"
For when the appetizers came out: "it's oKAY!"
For when, after seeing that only the plate showed through what was once covered in my four-cheese gnocchi: 'OHHH, ISS OKAY!"
For when we didn't get dessert: "iss ok"

Real good food, though, again. Made us very excited to come back to the Great Mayonnaise Sea. But before that, we had some Trevi Fountain to look at -- that thing you throw three coins into, presumably for good luck or to keep the pH level steady.

Then the wine tour began. After two at dinner, the plan sprang on us. We'd have to drink four more €20 bottles of wine over the course of the rest of the night -- no more, no less -- to make sure that economic distribution maintained equilibrium. It brought us to a wine bar where an Australian waiter kept us in our seats for two bottles by bringing us small pepperoni and cheese mini-wiches.

Move on.

So we walked around the corner. And the Pantheon was there. Looming, in front of us, where people came to pray to their various gods during the empire's height. But, with two wine bars across the piazza, Bacchus received the greatest amount of reverence on this night. After a couple more bottles of white, Joe and I decided that we had a really good idea.

If only some sort of carbonated wine beverage existed... (aha!)

If you are ever presented with the opportunity to drink wine under an Italian night, take it. The feeling produced is light, is warm, is lucid and able to paint the scene in thick, newly-formed colors that grow in our minds like flowers sprouting from the ground into their first visit with the sun. And it's just really great.

Joe and Claire, at the first place, looking rather pleased. And in control.

Notice the progression, after a few glasses at the next place.

Almost at the peak. (They weren't actually about to kiss)

Aaaaand there it is. He'd been trying to chase this flying toy. For one step. This scene provided a great deal of humor to a bunch of Italian loiterers.

Emily and I get no sort of accurate portrayal because Claire's hands were shaking at the languid brilliance of the whole scene.

The only bottle of red we had over two days. It matches Joe's hair and temper.

And gelato, purchased with our new Scowser friends (from Liverpool) finished off the night and the trip's consumption.

It's OK!


A British Note

Check this out, homelanders. £ - My worst enemy right now. But from now on, the posts will be far more precise. No more "GBP" or complaining.

And I'm preparing right now for Weekend-Barcelona, where the lights never dim, they don't even flicker, and each tone will paint my girl anew. As a warm-blooded American, I'm not sure how much could make things better. I guess Taco Bell would.

But the British update:
Until very recently, football (soccer) wasn't really a national sport...as in, played by people of all classes. The upper-middle class tended to avoid it because of a great deal of football hooliganism greatly favored by Liverpudlians -- called "Scowsers," according to a guy we met on our Rome Wine Waltz. Hooliganism was a reaction that erupted against big unemployment in the 1980s and caused Britain to be banned from international play for a while.

But now they're back, happy after hosting the Euro Cup in 1996, and look like they might win the World Cup this year, even though their coach, Sven Goran Eriksson, said he's gonna leave after the tourney. Oh boy drama!

Roman' Around, Part Drei!

This wall protects the Vatican from Italian invaders.

Over the years, the importance of religion -- and the height at which people hold it -- has waned in at least seven residents of the Western World. We can trace its decline to a variety of factors, ranging from poor PR in the form of wars, excommunications, bad communications, mass exterminations and unleavened bread.

But, we forget (or at least I forget) that religion (or at least the very strong affinity for it) built these things:

One of the ceilings in the Musei de Vaticani (roughly translated into Pope Hut), on the way to the Sistine Chapel.

The final hallway before you get to the Sistine Chapel and are forced to turn off your camera by men who speak as if they are train conductors, with voices that bounce and bound around the room.

The greatest product of religion. This kebab place right near the Vatican holds the Guinness World Record for largest spinning lamb thing. (They use shovels to hack some off for each kebab)

But this, my friends, is the product of secular humanism. I really had no idea that The School of Athens was in the Vatican. Is this common knowledge? But, it was! And, pressed along an entire wall, it beamed. The colors, thanks to some welcome renovation, shot off the wall. But I ducked, so none of them hit me.
In this other product of secular humanism, a little boy beats the hell out of a swan (goose?). Ha, in the Vatican ... beats the hell out of ... ha.

But the Sistine Chapel. I think what I remember most about it was the humility that rippled through me because of it. Whereas other things in Rome strike you because of their age -- and size, compared to previous mental projections -- the Chapel simply radiates brilliance. It's not a large place by any means, but it almost spins, covered in fresco. Adam sits above you, hand extended and limp, casually accepting God's offer of life as everything else around him seems to move. And it is everything around him. Not an inch of the Chapel goes unpainted. The curtains painted along the side sway in our perception while they remain stationary, as they have since Michelangelo first drew his designs. We turned our heads to the ceiling, imagining creating something lasting more than a few days, a few months, a lifetime. Something that meant something (and means something!) and something only comprehensible at direct glance, without aid of a medium or interpretation.

Lucky for us, a great majority of NBA players take up more space than the Vatican does, so we could make our way to St. Peter's shortly after picking up delicious pizza that may or may not have been blessed by the Pope.

Three very handsome and worthy travelers traipse into the Piazza San Pietro, as one lags behind them to chronicle the mission and a very large Christmas tree races skyward with yet another obelisk. And there was this huge Christmas manger in the middle complete with ethnic wise men and a huge wreath that had to be held up by iron wire. By all means, it was a pretty sweet manger.

I'm telling you. Japanese tourists don't get the art of background.

Wowee wow wow! If you stand in this place, the three-deep columns all file into line, as if only one supports this huge arc that swoops alongside the South side of the Piazza. Emily showed us this because she's really great.

Told you.

You want to see the inside of San Pietro? It's really big and full of paintings.

AAAAND A CRYPT where all the popes are entombed. I wonder if they're mummies.

Alright you crazy kids (and Mom), we're gonna get to the wild and crazy antics of the night and Rome Wine Waltz in the last and final edition of this probably-too-long post of a journey. I promise that it will involve the following things: Joe Downer wiping out, belly full of Pinot, in front of the Pantheon as the Roman gods smote him for being irreverent.

Until next time, dolls and dollops, keep on donuttin'


When in Rome, Part Deux

So we'll deal with the Colosseum in full right now, breaking a little bit with the chronological structure of the overall piece. But, in the future, AND ON THE INTERNET, we have the privilege of writing whatever we want! However we want!

Day One brought us down the road toward the Colosseum, a building "much smaller than Gillette Stadium," according to Joe. The Romans, having opted not for steel but for the far superior system of stacking bricks, only created a bowl that could, at peak 1900 years ago, seat 50,000 people. The gates closed at 3:30, pre-empting our visit by 15 minutes. So, fearing we may not be able to make our way inside at all (unsure of the depth of exploration that Day Two would bring), we attacked the problem the only way we knew how: pictorally!

But, after hanging out at the Pope's digs on Day Two, we took the Metro (a system in which large steel boxes carrying gallons of graffiti on their exterior carry people with gallons of sweat attached -- and later unattached -- to themselves). Riding the train is not unlike living inside a carpet after a dog pees on it.

But it got us there, and we made it inside at 3.15. You hear stories. You read books. You look at pictures in those books and on the internet in the future. But you never really understand the enormity of the place where Russell Crowe made a name for himself before you sit inside. And really sit, really kick back and let tourists from Dallas tell you to watch out for pickpockets. And point to the spot where the emperor would stand and give the thumbs-up or thumbs-down after drinking delicious wine (which was very cheap, as we will deal with later). And look as the sun meanders through the arches, breaking apart as it nears an edge and shattering into diagonal and radiating and true rays that hug every edge and lance along every line. And remember that 1900 years ago, somebody may have been sitting in the same spot, admiring the craftwork of a lion as it eats someone's head.

Poor showing, Gladiator.

Alright, time to zip back to modern history. Back to Day One, which progressed, as days do, into Evening One. And as the day faded, so did our tolerance for not eating

Though a quick drop-in at a pasticeria allowed for ample whimsy and caffeine and, after we took this picture, some Italians who made fun of us in Italian -- even though one of them did not comprehend the irony of the fact that he was wearing a "Boston" sweatshirt. He had not been there, we found out, upon inquisition.

So Emily (who had spent time in Rome with her family over the summer) recommended Trastavere, this neighborhood on the opposite bank of the Tiber and very much out of the Roman crowd. But perfect, oh man. The cobblestone streets seem to barely squeeze between buildings, and even of the larger ones, rarely does one appear worthy of hosting any vehicle that runs on wheels, including baby carriages. But Piaggios (the Italian Vespas...you don't see the brandname "Vespa" ever, even though the scooters line the streets) zip through them, as do buses. Without warning, too. People scatter like gazelle when the lion comes, after it's eaten someone's head at the Colosseum. They should film car chase movies here.

Bad camera work = impressionism.

Emily loves those who drive SmartCars because she fancies some good ol' fashioned pragmatism.

The bridge that spanned the Tiber and brought us to Trastavere. At 7 at night, the Tiber appears a sort of bright green, like a heavily-chemicaled fountain. I'm not sure if this color means it's healthier or less so than the Charles.

The Vespa's name may have been Ruby. That would be best, I think.

A basilica which we had thought was St. Peter's, but turned out according to our map not to be so. This meant we were a bit off of our original course. Joe and I celebrated more wandering with two 66cl (double-sized) Peronis bought from a street vender (everyone wants to sell everything they can in Rome). Upon later conversation, the beers were probably non-alcoholic. But delicious.

After dinner, though, almost everything in life was gravy. Delicious, wine-and-garlic enriched gravy. In most likely the best meal I've ever purchased in Italy and the surrounding world, our foursome revelled in the very advantageous exchange rate. After multiplying all purchases in the UK by two (we round slightly up) to get the US cost for three weeks, we took the liberty of lopping off the .2 in the 1.2 Dollar-Euro exchange. It carried us through appetizers (bruschetta, prosciutto/mozzarella, tomato/mozzarella), main courses (pasta with flavors formerly unprovoked in my palette), dessert (apple cake) and two bottles of white, whose lovely taste and effects were enhanced by money saved by having been made in Italy.

A really fortunate time for extended exposure.

So we strutted out into the night, full of contentment and carbohydrates and rather dripping with a very electric ebullience and the rain that fell lightly. The walk back to the hostel took about 2-3 hours as we wound past things like THE PANTHEON and various fountains and obelisks. It seems that, for a time, as long as you died after the age of 30 in Rome, you could get at least a 20-foot obelisk out of the deal.

Finally, after walking next to the train station where birds sat on top of trees in numbers that exceeded hundreds and hummed in high pitches while they peered down at men (and occasionally fired their poop at passersby), we made it back to the hostel.

The bed was encased in dew and so was the floor and when we woke up for Day Two, our clothes were more moist than they'd been when we got back. But no matter. We had some Vatican-ing to do in the morning.


When in Rome - Installment One

Ahhhh! There's too much to write to do this all in one piece. We'll all have a lot more fun if I don't get too verbose over one long piece.

I'll do it over three or 10. Anyway, this was one of the best weekends in the history of my life and the world. Hoooorayyyy!!

When in Rome, do as the Romans do. Have a Japanese tour group take your pictures trying to signal with your hands that you want to be able to see the whole group with lots of stuff in the background. But anyway, the main characters, from small to tall (right to left): Claire Tynan, Emily Fox, Joe Downer, Kevin Scheitrum.
Supporting cast: Plato (left), Aristotle (right). Not pictured: Raphael, Michelangelo, The Pope, various salesmen, hundreds of deadly Vespas, The Collusion of Science and Imperial Passion, Hundreds of Birds that Sat on Trees and Planned Their Attacks Before Carpet-Bombing, The It's-OK waitress, RyanAir, Hostel workers, and all the rest who flew by.

This panoramic view (from the Italian Tomb of the Unknown Soldier-type building...huge) between Trajan's Market and the Colosseum is where lots of things went on, including, but not limited to: The Building of the heart of Roman Empire.

Piazza San Pietro. The plaza in front of St. Peter's Cathedral, into which we eventually went when we got over the fact that this was all built before Popes didn't fight in wars.

The Roman Forum, where the Romans went for everyday things, like shopping, the post office, or riots.

[With more than 250 digitograph pictures of the weekend on my ca-me-ra, check out Webshots for a bulk of them -- they're not cropped or edited yet, at least most of them, but it'll be a good appetizer...like the pounds and pounds of mozzarella-based dishes we had]

In the 2004 film, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (starring Will Ferrell and Christina Applegate and a cast of other considerably jocose characters), Mr. Burgundy occasions to bedtime with his new lovething, Miss Veronica Corningstone. Without going into such devilish details of the deed, we see the always gelastic yet befuddled Mr. Burgundy admit he has no idea what "When in Rome" means. Oh! the joy! Please alert Mr. Burgundy that any questions hitherto have answers!

Now, at least two stones heavier with pasta and dirt and head-grease, I sit to collect myself and sort out everything we saw, all the feats of human passion and civilization that had previously existed only in textbooks and abstractions within the dream-oriented mind; everything we did, from destroying new pairs of sneakers and body joints that are quickly becoming old with miles and miles of walking to a wine waltz that brought us in front of the Pantheon; and everything that was lit anew inside of us, the re-emergence at the Eternal City of wonder we all know in youth.

I guess I'll go about this chronologically -- at the very minimum, in a sort of looping, swooping way that fits things that are extremely awesome.


We began without sleep and with great hopes at 4.30 a.m. on Friday, when the cab pulled in front of our apartment with misses Emily Fox and Claire Tynan in the back, looking rather cloudy due to a lack of sleep and the compensatory hormones that prepare the body for moments of great excitement or great strain. We humbly hoped for the former as we made our way through the empty and dark London streets, eventually to a train carrying us through the countryside north of London to Luton airport, the Anglican hub for economy flying (and the host of the 264 RAF Fighting Squadron during the Second Teutonic Migration).

We flew Ryanair, paying 60some GBP for the round trip to Rome, which includes (and is completely limited to) a round trip to Rome. Leathery plastic covers the seats which don't feature the recline function. That's one weird thing -- I had no idea that planes actually came with non-reclining seats. Almost like you have to custom-remove the joint.

But we got there, after taking a bus past miles of junkyards, scrapped cars and houses and walked around Termini, the bus station, four times as we tried to orient ourselves to get to our hostel, which was very much a hostel and looked like a place that Janis Joplin would have painted. And built. And then sweat all over. It rained a little bit the first day (only when we got close to the Colosseum), so when we slept, it was as if the walls, the lights, the floor were all pouring out sweat. So that was pleasant.

But we'll get to the good stuff, at long last. Just like

Rome's gross up where the hostel is. Fountains dribble out water as birds, in hundreds, sit on top of trees and cover entire benches and people in poop. But move southward, ambling through streets that grow cleaner and cleaner and then finally,


To the right is Trajan's column, with its war story spiral ascending skyward. To the left sits the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, built in the 20th century to commemorate the Italians defeating somebody else (the French?), including themselves. Then they unified and made 1700 statues of Garibaldi.

A walkway surrounds the building, and offers views everywhere, as sights extend into the mountains and fades into the fog.

Rome. God. 2000-plus years of civilization. Buildings that are seven-to-eight times older than THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, which is older than at least half of the people alive. Really old!

So at any rate, we made our way down the Tomb toward the Colosseum.

And that will be the post for Monday!