NOTE TO READERS: The Rome 2014 trip begins with post #30. Posts #10—29 were Rome 2013. Posts 1–9 were Florence 2011. If you'd like to be notified of new postings by email, let me know at

Saturday, November 1, 2014

30—How I Came to Freeze the Romaine

I froze my lovely head of Romaine out of fear. The crisis surrounding this is not that my hopes were dashed for some big Caesar salad thing tonight. Did Caesar ever eat such a salad? And do we call Romaine a head since it looks more like a vegetable that couldn’t get its head together. I can’t check on any of this because the wifi is down for the entire historical center. How did they manage to found the Republic and Empire without wifi?

But getting back to the death of the Romaine. It began with, well, shall we call it a false expectation. I’d read on the rental website that my apartment is in an early 15th century palazzo with a “private” courtyard. Which raises another question? Are the pictures of rentals deceptive? Or is what we see wishful thinking? 

Whether light is a particle or a wave depends on how you look at it.

Anyway, I’d been swept away with the romantic notion of staying in a palazzo dating back to circa 1400. Who wouldn’t be, right? Each morning, I would step outside into my courtyard and feel the light filtering down from the blue Italian sky while enjoying my morning chi gong exercises. 

I was so jet lagged yesterday that I didn’t get the roman numeral o above the door exactly right. But it definitely says 1400 with a few added years so that construction was way before Cristofo Columbo’s quest for a route to enhance globalization of the spice trade but instead led to the genocide of 8 million people and a variety of environmental devastations in what we now call America.

Flash lights up the hallway
looking down into the courtyard.
So yesterday afternoon about 1:30 p.m. local time, I walked through the big wooden front door, down the hall, into the courtyard and experienced what must be the model for every depressing dungeon in Italian opera. The walls look seven hundred years old. It’s cold. And dark, like entering the womb of the history of everything that has happened in this building over the last 700 years. And that was probably plenty, given that it’s on a street called Via dei banchi nuovi—Street of the New Banks. Kind of a 15th century Wall Street?

I admit to feeling a perverse consolation after a woman on the plane, here for two weeks to visit her priest (what’s that about?), spoke condescendingly of my failure to write nine months in advance which is required for a tour of the catacombs. So bite, it lady. This isn’t a tour. I’m living it. 

Right after arriving, I got a call that my beloved soulmate-cat Reno might be having a health issue, as the day before I left, Dr. Dan had wondered if the unusual behaviors Reno was exhibiting might be something more than an adjustment to his thyroid meds. 

Fortunately, my very attentive landlord Orlando had left me a device that enables me to get online. But only if I sit in the courtyard. Unfortunately, trying to figure out with the cat sitters what’s going on required a phone. It was unclear due to several circumstances whether my Global Package from Verizon is functioning which mean I could owe Italian Roaming services something that would impress even those banchi nuovi dudes.

Throughout the afternoon and into the afternoon, I was trying to manage these calls and texts regarding Reno and get info regarding my Global Package while shopping for food and then, being too exhausted to cook, walking across three piazzas for a pizza to go. 
By this time it was dark, and back at the apartment, I ended up spending a lot of time sitting on a chair in the courtyard bundled up in my jacket trying to catch the wifi wave and restore order to my life through email. 

I’d come to this beautiful and ancient city to experience inspiration for my writing which has gone flat. And where was I? Confined in this narrow and shadowy space, perhaps 30’ x 30’ rising, walls nearly three feet thick feet thick rising four tall stories above me, lit from several stories up by two small floods. To my right, a dark passageway. To my back, dimly lit stairs rising upward through history toward Escher. 

I was 5,000 miles away from what I call my life, sitting in my own unconscious. Except this wasn’t a dream. There was no waking up. 

Down the dark passage, a woman spoke in a kind and flowing language only partly accessible to me. From an upper story, I hear the hacking up of phlegm. Then shuffling. From a tiny patch of universe overhead, night filtered down. The long hallway was lit by a single naked bulb and darker than the night. The big wooden door opened. in came a man dressed in black from toes to his helmet with black plastic visor. He was pushing a huge motorcycle.

“Buona sera,” I ventured. (Good evening.)
“Bunoa sera,” he replied kindly. After parking his bike, he disappeared down the dark passage where he spoke briefly with the disembodied woman. He then returned to the courtyard and as he headed up the stairs said, “Buona notte.” (Good night, spoken mostly when you’re going to sleep.)
“Buona notte,” I replied and almost burst into tears.

Finally things got resolved with Reno and the Global Package. As life undoubtedly resolved itself for all of the people who passed through this courtyard for 700 years. 

I hadn’t yet opened the bottle of my favorite wine from last year. Called Illuminata. Really. And after pouring myself a glass, taking a sip, and thinking this was the creepiest Halloween ever, I checked the refrigerator. I’d turned it up earlier, thinking it not cold enough. Still fearful of spoiled milk, I turned it up again, which was how I discovered this morning that my Romaine had come to an early end. 

It was cold this morning when I got up. I closed the windows opening into the courtyard. But the apartment got musty. As if the spirits of the place wanted to breathe and not feel cooped up.

As I type this, the bells are ringing for All Saints Day.

The Romaine did not die in vein: All the pans here are teflon. Perhaps finally coming to terms with the unproductive nature of fear, I’ve decided my goal for the day is to remember that in my apartment last year, boiling water left a weird white something on the teflon pans; and I didn’t die from using them. I also plan, despite my claustrophobia, to close the door of the small shower stall all the way tonight because last night and had to mop up some serious water—even though the spray is so weak I could hardly get the soap off my feet.

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