Sunday, October 23, 2005

Roma! (Europe saga, Part II)

scaffolding inside the Pantheon

The morning following the Roberto incident I check out of my hotel because I must meet up with Tiny and D at our new accomodations. I want to get there a bit before the girls to make sure everything will work out with the reservations since I made them. I need to be there around 1pm, so knowing Italy as I do, I budget 2 hours to get across town.

Begin Test Now.

I check out and ask the hotel to call a cab, and they attempt to for half an hour, but no one will come to this dump of a hotel in out of the way Rome-- which is why I suppose Roberto could not find it.30 minutes have elapsed.The man at the front desk pantomimes to me that I am going to have to walk to the street to catch a cab. Not being an idiot and all, I had already figured this out. So I schlep my stuff down the hotel stairs, and down the steep hill and walk several blocks until I come to a major street.30 minutes have elapsed. Total time elapsed: 1 hour."

I check out and ask the hotel to call a cab, and they attempt to for half an hour, but no one will come to this dump of a hotel in out of the way Rome-- which is why I suppose Roberto could not find it.

30 minutes have elapsed.

The man at the front desk pantomimes to me that I am going to have to walk to the street to catch a cab. Not being an idiot and all, I had already figured this out. So I schlep my stuff down the hotel stairs, and down the steep hill and walk several blocks until I come to a major street.

30 minutes have elapsed. Total time elapsed: 1 hour.

Now I am standing in the blazing sun on the street corner trying to hail a cab, but they all seem to be full. I toy with the idea of calling Roberto, but realize this is just the heat talking. I imagine that I look like a very well equipped homeless person on the corner, since there is nary a hotel near by, and perhaps mistaking me for some sort of street prophet, people begin asking me questions. In Italian. Which I don't really speak. So I shrug a lot and say "mi despiaci" (I'm sorry), and they walk away clearly thinking I am soft in the head. One woman comes up to me and clips the leash to her little poodle to a ring in the wall behind me. She starts asking me questions to which I give her my song and dance, but undaunted she keeps trying. Does she want me to watch it while she goes in the store? Is she asking if I'm afraid of her dust mop of a dog? Am I standing in the dog only zone? Who knows?! she ultimately gives up and goes inside. At last, I am rescued by a cab."

1 hour has elapsed. Total time elapsed; 2 hours.

Forunately, It only takes 20 minutes to get to the hotel, putting me at 2 hours and 20 minutes total travel time - over my estimate but within acceptable limits.Total travel time: 2 hours, 20 minutes.Right as I'm talking to the clerk Tiny rolls up and I am never so happy to see another person in my whole life. I suspect she is taken aback at my excitement, but she hides it in typical Tiny fashion. The nice Indian desk clerk then tells us we are on the 4th floor (which is really the 5th floor) and then tells us there is no elevator. I shrug and grab my stuff because at this point no elevator is no big whoop, but he is clearly disappointed and says "I'm just kidding, of COURSE we have an elevator.""

I guess he was expecting an American temper tantrum and is sorely disappointed that we have missed out on his "joke".The elevator is nothing for clerkie to get excited over: Tiny and I have to stack our luggage in Jenga block style and then smush our selves in after it (clerkie shows us how its done) and then we get to our room and its nice and I start to breathe a sign of relief that things might go ok from now on. I ask Tiny if she is tired or hungry, but she's on like donkey kong and wants to see sights. She has apparently slept well on the plane. I think she can probably sleep comfortably in the overhead bin, whereas I have to do some major yoga moves just to sit in a coach seat, but no one ever said life was fair. So we discuss briefly what to do and then we head out for the Coloseum.

First let me tell you about a little something I like to call "the Coloseum principle". When I went to Italy quite a few years ago, the Coloseum was free. There was no line to get in, and though it was heavily visited it never felt crowded. Then some Italian genius decided to charge 3 Lira for it, which is now something like 5 Euro, to get in.

The net effect? A huge line wrapping around the building to get inside any hour of the day. What to learn from this? If you want people to come to value something, charge money for it. This is the greatest scam going in Italy.So Shirleykins and I roll up to the Coloseum and see the huge line and are saddened. Not to worry though, because the first best scam in Italy gives rise to the second best scam in Italy -- the "tour" package that gets you in past the enormous line, for a mere 18 Euro a person (prob about $25). Tiny and I have limited time, plus it is hella hot, so we opt for scam 2. I would have gladly bribed some Colosseum yahoo with that kind of cash anyway.

So our tour is awesome, for all the wrong reasons. Our tour guide is funny precisley because I totally don't get his jokes. If you've seen Roberto Benigni when he's not in a movie you know what I'm talking about. Italian humor is not very linear and it involves lots of taunting. In our tour guy's case, he's Roman so for some reason that means he gets to dump on Milan."

For example, his "material" included such jems as "if you work for two days in a row in Milan, they arrest you!" Hahhaha, funny no? No? really?! I guess you had to be there. But really, what English speaking tour is complete without some American fucktards to remind you how annoying we are as a people? My favorite couple on the tour were clearly from Florida. Please enjoy their awesomeness with me--

ugly visor hat
frosted blonde hair
shimmery pink lipstick
orchid hawaiian sleeveless shirt
khaki shorts
ugly bronze birkenstocks that are attempting to be "fancy"
and a skin condition that can only be described as tan-orexia, as she looked like she could easily be turned into a leather attache case at any moment.

white cop ray bans
white cop 'stache (that's mustache for those not in the know --see Super Troopers for cultural reference)
t-shirt tucked into khaki shorts so that you can see man nipples
super-super-white,brand-new, old man Nikes.

Matching fanny packs.

They should be killed for their fashion travesties alone. But the best part about these people it that they're never silent. This couple did not disappointed. So our tour guide attempts to be interactive. He is funny, no? He "conscripts" certain men of the group to be gladiators and sign the imaginary gladiator code. Florida man looks pissed and refuses to sign his imaginary signature, leaving poor Italian tour guide hanging. Dipshit. Then tourguide starts asking us if we can think of activities that were happening while waiting for the games. Anybody? Well for whatever reason, perhaps because nature abhors a vaccuum, Florida lady shouts "FOOD!"

I look at Tiny and almost explode. Food is not fucking activity, FYI. Food is a noun, an object, and something that is acted upon. Then she laughs, and I am tempted to kill her. Then italian tour guide gently corrects her "yes, cooking was one of the activities...." My friends, it is a sad day when the foreigner knows the language better than you do.

Sometimes I think you should have to take a test before you leave the country:
1) Who is our president?
2) What is our capitol?
3) Please write one noun, one verb, and one adjective, and indicate which one is which.

Oh shit, what am I thinking? Assuming the first two are answered correctly, question 3 would stymie 75% of america, and 97% of Louisiana. Never mind. Anyway, the rest of the tour was quite enjoyable. I have good pics of the Colosseum and then we visited the Forum next door as well as the Palatine hill. You will see pics upon my return.The next day we go to the Vatican. We line up, and I follow Tiny and D as they rock it New York style pushing us through the lines at mach speed to get into St. Peter's. Some British people behind me start complaining "these people simply don't know how to cue properly!" which sends us into a fit of laughter. They're Italians, not Brits, and cueing is an art not a right. So we push just like the Italians, leaving the brits in the dust. Those tools probably never made it inside. Hard to believe they were ever able to take over a country, unless there was an orderly line with a sign stating "line begins here" leading across the border. "

After going to St. Peter's, which is awesome as I'm sure you know, we head for the sistine chapel. Except we fuck up. Large. We follow the signs and end up walking. And walking. and walking. We walked all the way around vatican city. and I mean, ALL the way around it. We are idiots. Or more specifically I was as I was sign reader. Never put me in charge of navigation. Also, I slipped and fell on some marble and scraped my knee and wounded my pride. By the time we walked around the city and found the proper entrance, the fucking chapel was closed! Apparently they close at 1pm on saturday. Which makes no sense to me. So Tiny may never get to see the Sistine chapel, and it's all my fault.

That evening we went to see the Pantheon, which I was raving about and is my very favorite thing in Rome. And we get inside and I am so excited and then...there is scaffolding all over the inside. The great thing about the Pantheon is not the outside, it's the amazing dome inside that's so impressive!

Unless, of course, it is scaffolded over. And I feel bad b-c Tiny does not get to see the beauty. She says it is ok, because this is exactly how it was when she went to Paris. She took a bus tour and they said this is where blank usually is, but right now it's under repair. Poor Tiny.

When we got to Sienna, it was pretty early in the afternoon so I suggested we go to the Duomo which is really amazing. I am again telling Tiny all about it when we walk up and...dammit it's covered in scaffolding. This is a bad trend that seems to have continued...

Welcome to Italy (Europe Saga, Part I)

Kiss my grits because I'm in Italy bitches!

I am studying law of the EU, international Art Law and international Environmental law at the university of Sienna. N.B. if my typing is jacked up, it's the italian keyboard. So let me tell you my experiences thus far, it is some funny shit (i will later add the the blog, but for now...):

So, i fly first class alitalia to Roma. Anyway, I sit next to a very nicely dressed Italian man in his 40s who ignores me completely except pokes me from time to time when I'm asleep. I imagine that this is what it's like to be married to an Italian man. I sleep on the plane a good bit since they have what Dad likes to call the basonettes -- you recline almost completely and it's pretty sweet. Also I watch "The Incredibles", which is quite cute, if you haven't seen it.

So we land, and I feel like I am going to puke and my ears are all poppy poppy and I hate everyone. My bag is the very fucking last one on the belt and i am pissed. so pissed i decide to go pee. i walk pass at least 10 guys who say "cab ma,am" and I say "no" as this is how i once got screwed in new york and ended up in a limo instead of a cab. so i walk outside to the cab stand where there is some older cab dude, the cab lord if you will, who is dividing up people and he hands me to my cabbie, roberto.

roberto speaks prob. the least english of everyone i have met thus far. we get in the cab and i give him the address of the hotel (written down) and he's not quite sure where it is but its near the university so we go. and we drive around forever. i am sure he was taking me for a ride in all senses of the word. then he starts telling me am beautiful and other bs in broken italian. i smile and say gratzie and try to ignore him largely but politely as he attempts to make conversation. At some point he pulls over to look at the map and takes this opportunity to grab my hand and kiss it. am getting creeped out. he is rubbing my arm at this point and i want to get out, but i have no clue where i am in Rome and i would be sans luggage so i just sit rigidly. He tells me I am tense, and i am like no shit asshole! so we FINALLY get to the hotel where he stops and wants to give me his number. i say ok thinking this will be the end of it. I get out, he gets out and helps me with my luggage. then unfortunately he starts helping me with my luggage to the hotel, which has a buzzer at the front door. while waiting for door to be buzzed in, he grabs me and procceds to stick his tongue down my throat. He is 40, NOT hot (but surprisingly tall) and a smoker. I also notice a wedding ring. I am less than enthused and he shouts to call him at ten or some b.s. Am angry, mostly at self for not punching him. I go inside and all I want to do is shower, but first I must find a hostel for Tiny and D and self for the next day. Hopefully Tiny will take cab from old, impotent man.

Anyway, hotel has internet so i am able to quickly find a hostel and then grab a shower. Then I go collapse for about 7 hours. When i wake up it is 8pm local time so i dress and decide to get some dinner. Turns out I am in newer 70s, icky part of rome. oh well. I find a cafe to eat at, and am enormously proud of self for ordering entirely in italian, but poorly of course. Best part: I think I am ordering 5 euro glass of wine, turns out am ordering 5 euro *bottle* of wine. Also, apparently it is dump on Americans evening at the restaurant and I wait for my food while everyone else is served. I do mean everyone. While am waiting eternity for food, I find in my phrasebook about 15 times "what is taking so long?" --clearly this happens -- and the waiter clearly starts to feel bad but I smile nicely and proceed to drink my enormous bottle of wine. After 5 glasses and no food, I decided that I am now a cultural ambassador, probably at UN level or equivalent and will right all wrongs and make Italians and Americans all friends, no longer how long it takes to get the food. Am pretty sure am smilling like a madwoman at this point. Hahaha. My pizza finally comes (it has been 15 hrs or so since I last ate), but now I am too hungry-krunk to eat like normal person, so I sloppily devour my pizza like I'm a formerly feral wolf-child. I pay bill, leave obscene tip (am cultural ambassador remember) and stumble back towards hotel. I find a gelatto place on the way back, get some fine gelatto, again, ordering pretty darn well in Italian, and then stumble back to hotel for more sleep. Ah, sweet cleansing sleep.