The ROMA COMA

 
 
DID YOU KNOW that it takes one day to recover from each time zone you cross when flying? I didn’t know this either, but it might help explain the butt-dragging that Ron and I have experienced since we returned from our adventure in Italy. Yes, I know I was the one who was homesick.

But here’s what I need to rave about today: In addition to the “once your mind has been expanded, it can never return to its original dimensions” side of traveling, I realize that in the space of 10 days I became addicted (gasp!) to the Free and Easy life (the cocaine of empty-nesters)…and the withdrawal BLOWS!

Could it be the travel philosophy that Ron and I have cultivated is to blame?

After all, for ten days we slept to the rhythm of our body clocks. We didn’t wear watches because time was irrelevant. We ate two meals a day and lingered in outdoor cafes for hours.

Note: We have a rule NOT to eat at any restaurant chain that is also located in our city (broke that this trip…Big Mac at the train station…see Pizza and Pasta rebellion…barf..)

We didn’t have much scheduled; we are not mega-tourists who have a checklist. We like to blend in, absorbing the ambience and doing things our way. We have individual priorities, but reserve our rights to change anything and everything to stay in step with our moods.

By being open to chance and opportunity, we listen to our explorer voices.. This is our own version of IN SYNC and it is one of my favorite things about us as a couple. So, we found the Groove… it was relaxing, life-affirming and exhilarating!

PERHAPS THAT IS WHY I now feel like a veal…trapped in my teensy cage/cubicle at work; burdened by mundane tasks, monthly sales goals, and never-ending expectations (highlighted by lunch at my desk….oh, rapture.)
I resent my stupid country music alarm at 6:00 a.m. My get-ready routine feels tedious and self-indulgent. You mean I have to iron? Wear make-up and pick out a power outfit for today’s politically charged, software executive’s business breakfast? Y…A….W…..N……..borrrrrrrrrring!!!!!
Plus, it doesn’t help that I left really green, rolling hills and blue water and the energizing sunshine of spring to come back to cloudy, moody rain and threats of snow in the west’s version of April… What? Winter hasn’t been quite long enough? ARGH!

I know…I’m raving, but I need to get this out. Going metaphysical now: Am I really supposed to use my people skills to sell widgets, and gidgets; to cajole and manipulate (with integrity, of course) customers across the country into buying the latest, must-have medical e-product?

I want to make a difference in the world by helping others, but honestly, I vacillate between visions of doing good and just wanting to play! I want to wander more with my Ron and sip cappuccinos at a sunny cafe while others tromp off to slave in the salt mines for The Man.

Today, my fantasy is about becoming a tour guide; showing people the beauty of the world (with a little side humor and performance art thrown in).

Complaining makes me feel like a spoiled little brat who came home from summer camp to discover that Mommy has married the kind dolt with the mansion in the Hamptons and I don’t like the nanny, the butler has a board up his butt, and my private tutoring and shopping schedule is simply a nightmare!   

Frankly, my lack of gratitude for the routine that is my life has me off my game. There are so many times I revel in my good fortune and LOVE my life and everything about it. These affirmations just seem to be eluding me at present…

If you are doing the TZM (time zone math) then today is DAY 16


   8 time zones going
+ 8 time zones coming back
= 16 total time zones crossed)

Ron and I have set this as THE DAY when we both hope to find our “give a damns” and channel our stirred-up restlessness into something productive again.  Me? I am using this rave as my own little therapy session.

Besides, saying this stuff out loud to anyone else is embarrassing…

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Return from Over the Rainbow

A week ago today, we were sitting at the stunning Trevi Fountain in Rome.  Ron and I made our wishes and threw our coins into the magical waters guarded by gods.  We tossed the Scottish coins from the tiny tartan drawstring bag that my daughter and her husband had filled with their own private wishes hoping to come true

We found a spot in the shade and sat watching the parade of people tossing coins and snapping photos.  Ron (ever the shutterbug) utilized his international hand signals for “Would you like one together?”, and we even watched a team of pickpockets use metal detectors to steal coins from the fountain when two patrolling policewomen weren’t looking.

We savored waffle cones filled with gelato (I don’t know exactly why this is so much better than ice cream, but it is!) and wandered looking for last little souvenirs.


I could rave about the marathon flight home….9 ½ hours over the ocean (and the 2 Valium that barely scratched my anxiety) another 5 ½ hours from Boston to Phoenix (the Cambodian monk sitting by me with his sweet calming energy as I tried to avoid going postal from claustrophobia), and the 1 ½ hour flight from Phoenix to Salt Lake City and the month-old baby girl directly behind me screaming (I hear you honey, and I feel the same way!).

But this is what I would rather remember about Rome and the green hills of Italy:

Waking every morning to clear blue skies, the breath-taking old-world vista from our balcony (no high-rise buildings) and the frenetic hum and hustle of pedestrians, teeny cars and snazzy motorbikes 


Strolling the cobblestone streets to explore the endless alleys lined with beautiful old buildings, food vendor-carts, shops, art galleries, ristorantes and palpable possibilities…

Roman Sunday in the middle of the busy promenade; stopping in my tracks to appreciate my handsome husband against the backdrop of the glorious Coliseum, and falling in love with him all over again.


Escaping tourist etiquette to Hard Rock Rome for real booze and an OMG cheeseburger …and Glenda, the bubbly Italian waitress with just the right touch of California in her smile.

Discovering my adventurous heart and romance again in the drama and peace of Positano; magnificent and quaint all at the same time.  Sticking my feet in the midnight blue water of the Mediterranean and feeling like I always do around water; that I have in some ways come home.


Sharing the days and nights, talking and laughing with the man I love so much. We are two weird little peas in a pod! We basked in the craziness and kindness of all the Italians we met; strangers who instantly felt like friends.  They enriched our journey and left their mark on our hearts.


Becoming a citizen of the world by expanding my knowledge of another place, a different culture, another time in history, and of a very sweet way to live.  I am so much richer for all I saw, smelled, felt, watched and witnessed.

And finally, how much I love HOME!


It was one of the first times I had been so far away for so long…long enough to experience the pang of homesickness.  I grieved that Mom would not be waiting for my stories.  I tried to love Italian food, but honestly, I missed the option of a different cuisine on every corner.


I missed the cleanliness, the prosperity and relative modern conveniences of American life.  I understand why people swim oceans, risk everything, and dream of coming here.  I get it….more than ever.

Near the end, I longed to return to the reality that I have built for myself; my family, my children, my career, and my cozy little home on Turpin Street.

I will bask in rich memories and someday soon, plan another adventure; out beyond the fence to follow the yellow brick road.  I will run through the poppies and perhaps even meet the Wizard.  But Dorothy knew, and so do I…there is no place like home.

Il Nostro Destino…Part II

Pepino and his family run a ristorante high in the cliffs of Positano.  On our first night, the hotel manager Maria (an Italian woman who looks just like you think she does) arranged for us to be his guests for dinner, complete with a driver to pick us up promptly at 7:00 p.m.  
The wind was blowing pretty good and it was starting to rain. I was glad someone else would be negotiating the hairpin turns and narrow streets that led to this invitation-only event.  
I didn’t gasp like Mom used to, but when our driver saw me drumming my fingers on my leg, he laughingly reached over to hold my hand.  He spoke NO English whatsoever, but he knew the international sign for “holy shit”…
Pepino met us at the door like we were long lost friends. After choosing a view table that felt suspended from the cliffs over the ocean, he proceeded to bring out one sampler plate after another filled with five courses of an Italian feast!
No menu; just “whatever Mama feels like cooking tonight”.  Not surprisingly, they make their own red wine (divine) and it was flowing as well.  The variety of tasties is just too numerous to list, but the Mama’s Pasta No Name was a highlight.  
Right before Ron and I slipped into a food coma, Pepino brought us a tiny glass of heaven, a liqueur called Lemoncello (to give us courage for the drive down, I suspect).  
Positano is where people practice the Art of Simply Being.  After the hectic pace of Rome, no one here is in a hurry. People linger over sweets and cappuccino for breakfast before wandering the shops and basking in the sun on the black sand beaches. 
Everything is a picture postcard waiting to be snapped.  The shops highlight Italy’s beautifully feminine fashion (scarves, sumptuous fabrics, lace, and leather). Most pieces are actually made here and the pride shows. 
There is a man who makes custom-fit sandals, a bakery where you don’t know the names of anything, but want to taste everything, and a bright yellow boutique dedicated to…the lemon!  Fresh lemons the size of footballs fill huge urns in the doorways and every product contains or is about lemons…Oh rapture!
Our room at the Hotel California is enormous by European standards; simple and elegant, with a huge comfy bed and our own balcony overlooking the town and the sea.  Antonio is our host (think Hector Elizondo) and is our beck-and call guy.  Maria told me he chose our room…and it is the one used in filming Under the Tuscan Sun.

Our one-night plan turns to two.  In the embrace of these friendly, gracious Italians, we remember and relish how sweet life can be.  It is hard to leave, but home is starting to call to us.  

Arrivederci Positano…Grazie!


Il Nostro Destino…Part I

Do you know the name Damon Bradley? If so, you will know what started my dream of someday seeing Positano. Way off the beaten track, we were two weeks ahead of the beginning of High Season, and wanted to go.
This dramatic city built into cliffs along the Amalfi coast will take your breath away. Nestled on the midnight blue sparkle of the Mediterranean ocean, it is nirvana for romantics.

Ron and I decided to go off-grid for our little adventure…no Netbook, no internet, no data plans on our phones. Could we do it, technology junkies we have become?
From Rome, it is a 3-hour train ride (we opted for the scenic one) to Napoli.  Then what is supposed to be another hour on a local subway-like train …graffiti-covered, old and rusted …with at least 30 stops in villages along the way to Sorrento. 
Those riding with the two Obvious Americans were serenaded by accordion musicians, accosted by beggars and women handing out religious solicitations while crossing themselves at every bridge. 
Add two women yelling in passionate Italian while frantically smoking in the back. I couldn’t help laughing out loud.
When the conductor told everyone to get off our “no good” train, we were left standing on the platform in the ominous shadow of Mount Vesuvius, wondering if we were being featured in some twisted foreign reality series.. 
Finally, a new train came to take us to the end of the line. Are we there yet?  Hardly. 
Once you arrive in Sorrento, you still must find a daredevil willing to drive you 30 more minutes along the narrow, winding, OMG, very-high-straight-down cliff roads to reach the beauty that is Positano.   So happy we found him…
I had read on the internet about a place called Hotel California along with several rave reviews. Since the name was easy to remember and I knew to ask for Maria, I figured she could offer us a room, or would know someone who could.
By the way, if you still don’t know who Damon Bradley is, RUN…(do not walk) to rent Only You with Robert Downey Jr. and Marisa Tomei...
I haven’t even told you about Antonio, the homage to lemon-groves, Pepino or Diane Lane yet…

Six Miles and 2000 Years

Ron and I chose Sunday to go back in time.  After sleeping in (no alarm, no watch) we found a delightful open cafe for omelettes and fresh-squeezed blood orange juice (looks weird, tastes divine).  Then we began our day-long trek through Roman history. 
It is no small thing to walk in the footsteps of Julius Caesar, Cleopatra, and Mark Antony.  There is a reverence among what remains of the Forum, where self-aggrandized senators met to debate ideas years before Christ was born..  
The elaborate baths (capacity: 3000) are just a few steps away and living quarters with fireplaces, tile walls and marble floors are still visible.  A few meters down the road stands the iconic Coliseum, where countless gladiators fought to the death for the glory of Rome. 

Italians take Sundays (Domenica) very seriously, and several streets are blocked off to accommodate the masses that flood Rome in search of sun, food (its own religion here) and the joy of living.  
Music  (accordions, peruvian flutes, guitars) fills the clear skies and there are people EVERYWHERE!  It is thrilling to be a part of the energy in such a vibrant, alive place.
As promised, we walked to the sea nymph fountain in Plaza Republica to throw coins with wishes of love and a new beginning for my aunt Judy’s surgery tomorrow.  
A stop at  the train station to check schedules for our trip to Positano Tuesday was the equivalent of joining an ant farm.  Absolute Craziness…!!
On our trek back to the hotel (25,000 steps) we came upon an American life raft in the sea of caprese, bruschetta, pasta, pizza, more pizza and red wine…..Hard Rock Rome.  I ordered the biggest margarita they make,  and we both devoured our Red, White and Blue cheeseburgers WITH onion rings and fries…relishing a little taste of home while rocking Italy!


 

Dolce Vita


Rachel is from Ireland.  She has a PhD. in archeology. After years in academia, she came to Rome in search of the “sweet life”.  As Dark Rome’s guide for our earlybird tour of the Vatican this morning, she was a 5- foot pixie, both braniac and smart ass. 

As visitors to the independent country of the Catholic church, we spent 3 hours immersed in the history that shaped Christianity. I know, I know….we went for the art.

Rachel enthralled us with the inside stories of Michelangelo, Raphael and Bernini; all men whose vision and ego transformed Rome.  The largest church house in the world, St. Peter’s Basilica is jaw-droppingly opulent and the touching Pieta made me think of Mom.  She so loved the drama of this famous sculpture.


Ron summed up the Vatican (Sistine Chapel, art museums and St. Peter’s Basilica) as man’s attempt to glorify himself in the name of God.  It is most certainly excess run amok, but the beauty stands apart from the bombast that surrounds it

Note:  Yesterday was Cliche Tourist Day.  We sought out Ciao Roma, one of several hop-on hop-off buses for two reasons; 1) to see all the major sites of interest and  decide which ones to revisit later or skip; and 2) we were too jet-lagged to do anything but sit on our butts like zombies.

Adjusting to the eight hour time change is a transformation of body and spirit. You can feel yourself shedding the skin of your worries and the life you have left temporarily behind.  It is so liberating and heady on the other side, but the physical process makes a hangover pale in comparison.

Rachel gave us recommendations for restaurants in Trastevere.  Originally a Jewish settlement across the Tiber river,  it is where we found the Rome we had hoped lay somewhere beyond the tourist traps.  Alleys lined with cafes and patios feature the real Italian dining we had heard so much about. Street musicians, fountains, and vendor carts and shops add to the charm.  And the wine….

A young man in the square played guitar music that gave me chills.  I bought his CD immediately and a scarf that will keep me warm with memories next winter.

Today, Ron and I became adventurers once again; exploring this beautiful place, speaking the language of romance and delighting in the people we meet along the way.  We are rekindling all that seemed lost during the last year.  We opened our hearts and a young, vivacious redhead gave us her gift of dolce vita….our journey is sweeter because of her.

Thank you Rachel…