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

Sunday, November 9, 2014

36—La Triviata Flees Pronto Soccorso and Gets Ahead

And on the third day, they arose—Gesù, Cutuli the Unruli, and Giovanni il Batistta (though only his
head, if indeed it was his head). However, before we enter Paradiso, there is that tricky trek upward.
And just for the record, I'm wearing my Dante T-shirt.
It's late Sunday afternoon. The story begins about 26 hours ago. The shortest verse in the Bible tells us "Jesus wept." In my case: Cutuli coughed.
It was one of those coughs that feels and sounds as if you've just torn a lung.
My worst fear realized: I had bronchitis. This after thinking I was getting better.

Now, after four days alone and feeling like crap with no view of the outer world, I had descended into the worst version of my worst self. We could call this the Inferno—that place where you get what you deserve, which for all of my sins—that had for four days been dancing all around me—was, well, Verdi called the lady with the cough La Traviata aka The Woman Who Strayed. Our straying was different, but straying is straying, just as bronchitis is bronchitis. I was a useless wreck of a soul, worthy of nothing but becoming infected with the bacteria of my misdeeds alone in Rome.

Except I had neglected to notice that one cough does not bronchitis make and over the next two hours of stewing, I had not coughed once.
As I mentioned before, Italians say ho paura. I have fear.
In English was say, I am afraid. Well, I was fear. And when I am fear, I become an idiot, which was
what led me to head out in the night for Pronto Soccorso, what we in America call the Emergency Room or Urgent Care. This is when stupid went to bizarre:

I am in a taxi: frantically trying to think of the word for behind. Actually, I'd been right. Dietro is Behind. But apparently revising your destination to a taxi driver in transit in Rome is like trying to put the toothpaste back in the tube. So it was that we sped by the big bright and welcoming Pronto Soccorso just across the bridge, on our way to Fatebenefratelli. It sounded like a nice place, the name consisting of three words roughly translated as do, well, brothers.

In the driver's defense, we were speeding down a one-way street, weaving in and out of Saturday night traffic when I cried, "Pronto Soccorso qui...fermate....aspetta...dietro...è più vicino al mio appartamento." Freely translated: Emergency room's closer to my apartment."
There was nothing in Rosetta Stone or the Practice Makes Perfect workbooks that had prepared me for this.

"Dietro, no," he said, pointing straight ahead while slamming on his brakes to avoid a real need for heading to il pronto soccorso. "Fatebenefratelli 500 meter." He was not speaking Italian either. Likely Arab.

The good news, and I hope I'm not speaking too soon, is that I believe I'm feeling better.
If it's possible to be scared well, I believe I might have been. For I will tell you and any travel book that describes the Pronto Soccorso as an option for sick travelers, beware: I wasn't one step into the place when I thought I'd stepped into Dante's Purgatorio. If you weren't sick when you arrived there, you would have caught something from the mass of maladies crammed into a grim grey-walled waiting area smaller than my first efficiency apartment. Had I been dying, I would have just turned around and walked out into traffic to get it over with more mercifully.

Fleeing purgatory, I asked a night guard outside how to call a taxi. But a woman began rattling on in Italian I couldn't understand. The guard said it was an automated voice telling my iPhone wouldn't work. He tried his phone. "La batteria è scarica," he said—dead, I thought from spending too much time at Fatebenefratelli.

To make a long story longer here, reception in the main hospital got me a cab. The driver was mortified that I'd even thought of going to pronto soccorso. His faith in the Fluimucil I'd been taking for il raffreddore (see yesterday's blog) rose to papal levels.

"Tre giorni," he kept repeating (three days) between long spiels about other treatments, all uguale (equal). The key seemed to be the three days.
I had only been taking the medicine two days, I told him.
"Tre giorni," he said with more conviction than most people have ever had about anything.

I said I was afraid I was going to begin to coughing, pleased that I'd been grammatically correct, using the preposition between the verb and infinitive.
"Tre giorni," he repeated.

We went on for the 8.5-euro drive. Me stumbling with Italian through all my fears.
"Tre giorni," he assured me after each one. "Tre giorni."

He took me to the wrong piazza. Luckily not tre giorni away. And it was a kind of a lucky thing. Because as I walked home, there they were—the three gypsies playing Pachelbel's Canon. I'd heard them earlier in the day when I went out just to feel the sun, his favorite piece of mine played so gloriously played that at that moment I would not have wanted to be anywhere else in the world. There were two violinists, one with orange shoes and a gold violin, one with a funny black felt hat and a silver violin. And the base player, who looked like he was doing plane geometry in his head. Then they played Brahms Hungarian Dance #3. I was suddenly alive again, freed from my dungeon. When the guy with the silver violin passed his black hat through the sidewalk cafe, a few people tossed in a coin here, a coin there. I walked over from the side and tossed in six euros.
When the guy with the hat went back to his people, they all looked over at me and bowed. I applauded.

And then as I was hastening home from Pronto Soccorso, there they were in front of another cafe.
Pachelbel again. They saw me, remembered, and bowed as they played. I waved. And when the hat got passed, I reached to give, but the guy with the silver violin shook his head no and winked.

I felt suddenly better, my chest loosening around my heart as I walked back to the apartment, had some dinner, and went to bed.

Where was Pronto Soccorso when he needed it?
And on the third day I arose and decided I felt well enough to walk uptown to look for the head of John the Baptist as promised.

I entered the church as they were starting mass. And there it was: all freaky and white and gruesome...oh wait, no, I was looking at the face of a woman across the church illuminated by a very white weird light from above.

The mass was peaceful, actually, and beautiful, friendly at the point we shook hands with people around us, wishing each other Pace. Shouldn't there be more of this in our world?

And during communion, an organ played the 3rd movement of Beethoven's 9th, for me the quintessential expression of peace. During communion, I watched all those cleansed of their sins. And I thought of La Traviata's and mine—renaming myself and my trifling fears La Triviata.

And while I didn't even think of consuming it, I wondered if the body of Christ had gluten in it.
And while we're on the transubstantiation: I was wondering just how much of the blood the priest is supposed to drink because he seem to take tee generous swigs.

The crucifix was this fabulous bronze statue of Jesus leaping from the cross with the feeling I get on those rare moments when I've written a line I can't believe I thought of and am pretty sure I didn't but was gifted with it.

And afterward, all the tourists rushed to see the Caravaggios. Another mass was starting so I took a quick look then descended from the sublime to the grotesque in search of The Head.

Now, my Italian is not good. But I know how to say Where is the head of John the Baptist. In fact I had practiced it. But the priest shooing out people for the next mass pretended not to hear. And the woman laying out flyers for some holy thing couldn't be bothered. And then...whoa! that it!

I have no idea. But mass was starting and so I quickly snapped a no-flash pic. It does appear that the ribcage is fake but the skull is real. Perhaps my source on the artifact will let me know.

I walked back to Piazza Navonna, sat in the sun with my gelato combo—bacio (the word for kiss,
made of chocolate and hazelnut, I think)/amarena (black cherry)—and watched a small dog bark at a guy dressed as Spider Man. Then I watched the pigeons on the statues who seemed to be watching people taking pictures of those big marble gods. And then I saw a gull that made me think of home in Netarts—my own tiny paradiso.

1 comment:

  1. You may receive a similar post a 3rd time! Trying to figure out how to use my Google account on a blog. It's been a while! Just want to let you know how much I am enjoying your blog! You have a fantastic way of taking your experiences and converting them into fun and interesting word pictures. Know that I am praying for you as you enjoy Italy once again. Be well and peaceful!