Rome

Ciao

…and so it’s a 5am cab ride to Fiumicino, her eyes closed and dreaming to the taxi dispatcher’s lullaby, who is calling over and over for cinque cinque or quaranta sei, with promises of prenotazione and passegieri, until you’re suddenly both awake and there already, hurriedly hauling this thrown-together luggage set, a total of just 3 bags, but in sum nearly a year, and almost a home.

ciao roma.

Rome

Recent heat

The heat, as singer/songwriter Glenn Frey once observed, is on.

It’s been day after day of inhospitably high temps, 30’s C & 90’s F, but the whallop of humidity, stickily slathered across the city, what’s making things unbearable.

Our squat little pinguino still loyally conditions the air in our apartment, but in a — shall we say — tactful and non-confrontational manner.

It steers well clear of the gruff, freon-oozin’ and temperature-stompin’ attitude that is the more vulgar custom of California’s air-con culture.  In fact, Mr. Pinguino does not seem to cool the air at all, but instead seems to hum and gurgle in a way which simply suggests an air conditioner is present, and therefore, ostensibly cooling things.

So it’s like a psycho-somatic air conditioner, I guess. Or maybe… it’s just busted?

Rome

Madrid + Mark Rothko

We’re back from a week in Madrid, and still trying to sort out impressions from the place. Though this much i can recommend right away: rent yourself a rowboat at Buen Retiro park, since euro-for-euro (or dollar-tentytwo-for-dollar-twentytwo), it’s one of the best buys on the continent.

Oh, and i don’t know if it was because I had churros for breakfast, or what, but ‘Guernica’ underwhelmed, while Rothko’s ‘green on maroon’ just socked it to me. How’d that happen?

churros y chocolate horchateria el siglo

Rome

Second breakfast, sizing issues

Remember how Pippin wails, “But what about second breakfast?” at Aragorn in Lord of The Rings? That line’s our new in-joke about italian cappuccino.

Okay, so it’s not particularly novel to note how things are smaller in Europe than the States – our divergent cultures respectively regard Smart Cars and Hummer H2s as normal, non-comedic commuter transport. Swap continents, though, and either vehicle would draw stares — probably been the case since classic Cinquecentos and Caddies first rolled the streets.

So: the car thing is obvious, but it’s the pervasiveness of this sizing switcheroo that’s so striking: everything here, from shower stalls to soda cans, feels of skewed scale or diminished heft.

And what was that about Italian cappuccino?

Coming from a country where the ‘Thirsty-Two Ouncer’ was long ago deprecated to a mere ‘medium’ versus a ‘large’ 64-oz. pail of carbonated beverage, a nation where the words ‘super’ and ‘size’ are not only combined, but even conjugated in an imperative verb form, and where a zillion Starbuckses huck percolated joe in ’Venti’-ounce units… I can’t help but feel my heart sink a bit, every time i’m served my Morning Cup here.

This is better coffee, for sure, and it’s better milk, no doubt, but it’s just so damn… dainty.  I’ve seen Java Jackets double the diameter of the cappuccino china here.  I’m not getting my fix.

Yet I’m told you can’t order two.  It’s bad manners, against the rules, something only silly stranieri would do. Like ordering a capp after 11am.

Hence the Tolkien line. Our solution is the hobbit-inspired ‘Second Breakfast’, quite cunning and conniving: we’re two-timing our local cappuccino bars.

We’ll have a cappuccio at the bar closest to home, happily trading morning ’buongiornos’ all around, quaffing our coffee, and then stealthily slip around the corner, where we repeat the pantomime, down to the last drop. Topping off the tank.

Is this gluttonous? Yeah, probably. But, then again, one doesn’t get to drink Italian coffee every day of their lives…

Rome

Vespas, parakeets, and (web)monkeys

The pet store behind the market has a parakeet who screeches “Ciao!!” when you walk in the door. He’ll say other stuff in Italian, too. And for some reason, this impresses the heck outta me.

Vaguely similar: today, a vespa cruised past at quite a decent clip, carrying an old man (a veritable geezer, to be clear), the crook of his walking cane wrapped around his neck, and staff clutched between his knees. We wagered he must’ve been clockin’ an honest 25-30mph, and that over cobblestones, to boot. Bello!

Elsewhere, an introductory “Sharing Your Site with RSS” bit I wrote for Webmonkey is up.

Rome

Pinguino air conditioner

The big news of late: our little ’Pinguino’ just got delivered.

You see, old italian palazzos like ours lack internal HVAC infrastructure (obviously), but some still avoid the brutish business of jamming air-conditioners above every window and doorway. In these buildings, you’ll notice at least one window in every unit features a small, porthole-like opening.

Turns out that when temperatures start cranking towards summer, a white truck shows up and delivers a rather cute A/C unit (a.k.a. ‘the Penguin’) to your doorstep, complete with a handy vent-hose which attaches to the window-porthole-thingamabob.

Anyhow, having a squat, strictly-seasonal air conditioner suddenly appear in your living room, Tardis-style, is a kinda funny thing. At the moment, i’m terribly tempted to decorate it, like it’s a Christmas Tree, but for SummerTime…

Rome

Odd haircut

How’s this for a gripping opening line: “Yesterday, i had the oddest haircut.

Let me qualify that, then: I’ve had my fair share of curious coifs back home – attributable to whatever fast-and-loose franchising policy drove the relentless expansion of the so-called “Fantastic” Sams’ grooming enterprise.

This, though, was a tad different: I was playing ‘barbershop roulette’, walking into a barbiere at random, but – keeping the metaphorical safety-switch on – I requested he simply shear my head with clippers. Hairdo-wise, that’s a tough one to screw up.

And screw-ups there weren’t: I walked out the door with exactly the super-short buzz cut I had in mind stepping in. The experience, on the other hand, was unexpected.

barbiere signEver seen those East-German or Russian-made flashlights that don’t need batteries, but instead have a hand-crank built into the grip? They’re tiresome, but if you repeatedly squeeze one fast enough, it provides light enough to get you around in a blackout. (You’ll find them today at Restoration Hardware, of all places.)

Turns out the poor barber’s clipper set worked on the same principle, completely mechanical throughout. He had a whole set of ’em, covered in bright chrome and really heavy-looking, each for a different hair length. Obviously, this barber was an older fellow, but his wrinkled hands got those things running speedily, so they’d whirr like a push lawnmower.

(Looking back on it, I now recall seeing men getting their hair cut with similar clippers in pokhara, nepal – but that town was used to being without electricity for days at a time.)

Well, it felt odd. And in fact unpleasant, since the clippers’ blades pulled hard – more like a manually-powered depilatory device than hair-trimmers. The barber, though, was about as nice as they get, and we talked about the weather some.