Tuesday, July 15, 2008

When In Rome

I am as introspective as one can be at this moment – late at night, another bottle of wine - only hours before a flight to the other side of the World where it’s apparently hotter still than it is here.

There are so many quotes about traveling that do well with me. I am blessed every time I leave home – having grown upon my return, both appreciating home more but yearning to wander again to someplace new. 

I came here for work – and as you know, I am well able to mingle a good bit of pleasure in between anything productive. I sought to learn Italian – and although I have not yet mastered the language, I have indeed assimilated many of the great Italian habits that set this culture apart from the many others which encompass our globe.

On the night that I heard Timothy Ash received his international press award in Ischia Ponte, he spoke briefly about his televised speech earlier in which he spoke at length about the United States and Europe as well as our upcoming election. In his short comments after receiving his award, he said that Europe was more unique and different than any place in the world with so many different cultures, languages and ideologies only a short train wide away from one another – and that in all of then, although very different from Oxford his home, he felt as though he was at home. His last sentence was this, following a brief discussion on the detrimental influence of the United States on the EU – “It’s time we paid more attention to ourselves and our place in the World, after all, Europe discovered the world five hundred years ago, it’s high time we discovered it again.”

I have thought a lot about that night and our place in the World. And so while I was here – I took on everything I could – from home and abroad - food, wine, swimming, cantaloupe melon gelato, feeding cats under the table, wearing my UT and/or POW/MIA hat always, smiling always, meeting everyone I could, smiling more, the most important being driving habits. 

Sure enough, people are crazy here when it comes to driving, that’s for sure. Driving in Rome or Palermo is no cakewalk – but give me a driving challenge, and I will take it. 

And so today – I drove the five or six hour trip from the City of Savellatri on the Adriatic Sea to my Hotel near the Spanish Steps in Rome in 3 hours and 45 minutes. Not only did I rap out that little turbo BMW, I figured out how to time the passing of a speed camera with an 18 wheeler on your right, just when to raise my sunglasses when entering a tunnel, how to fill up, pee, buy water and eat a sandwich all at the same time - and how to draft a Mercedes – and sight see while blazing along at 170.

Gloria met us for dinner near the Spanish steps and afterward, we went to visit her new business partner in a joint venture of some sort at his new apartment. Well – what a pad if you were single. He is of course married with three kids – a good Sicilian Catholic boy – and as Gloria said, “well, his wife is in a different place you know”. On the sixth floor – a four story pad with two kitchens, and a rooftop balcony with an outdoor tub, a view of Parliament on one side and historical Rome on the other. He was on his way out the door to have dinner with the Minister of Defense – the Defense Secretary of Italy.

Tomorrow – I buy a few gifts for friends back home – make my pilgrimage to St.Peters and then fly home. By the time this jumps from server to server and makes its way across the sea, I will no doubt be sleeping in sea 1L and heading into the wind – Vento Forte 



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