ROME (Coldsore day 2)
Actually, I'm staying in The Vatican. Helen found me the bed and breakfast. It's run by a 40-something named Lisa who chants Nam Ryoko whatever every day. She's skinny, with a hippy aura that follows her like a puppy on a leash. The B&B is probably her apartment, redone after the kids left. There are two guest rooms, mine has a recently installed bathroom with a shower and one of those dual-flush toilets-- heavy and light. It's rare that I get to use HEAVY for the first week or so of my travels overseas. It's in a non-descript building off of a main road near St. Pietro.
Customs and immigration was maybe the easiest of any country outside of Canada. Not a word. Just a blank page PROP! goes the stamp. That's it. Then ,following Helen's directions (figuring out the St. Peter was Sante Peitro, was easy. But figuring out that S. St. Peter was Stazione San Peitro took some doing. That first train gave me a glimmer of hope for Rome. It was a graffiti train, just like the ones in NYC back in the 70s when NYC was good.
When I got to the station though. My troubles returned. No map. I asked the ticket seller (in English) if he knew where via S. (another S, and this one wasn't Stazione!) Telesforo was. He shrugged and told me Polizia, pointing in back of him.
I went out to the tracks. There was a small sign-- blue on white-- Polizia. It was over a closed door. I turned the handle. It was locked. Now what? How to find a street I don't know... in a place I don't know... without a map. I tried the handle again. Still locked. I start to walk out on the street. Maybe I'll ask a bus driver. There's a rattle behind me. The locked door opens. A cop looks out. Youngish, not very friendly: Que? he says... or maybe it was che.
“I non parlo Italiano...” I start.
“Do you speak English?” he says.
I feel myself redden. “Do you know where something Telesforo is?” I ask.
“No,” he says, “sorry.” Then he shuts the door. Maybe he didn't like my coldsore.
I head off again when the door rattles and the same cop sticks his head out. He motions for me to come over. I stand in the doorway. He calls to someone invisible inside and says something in Italian ending with Telesforo.
“No,” comes the reply from inside.
Instead of closing the door, though the voice comes over with a book of maps. He's a someone chubbier version of his cohort.
[NOTE: I write this in a restaurant having my first spaghetti dinner in Italy. The waitress just passed and I asked her for pan. That's probably the wrong word, but she understood. She took the three slices of bread from the table she was serving, and moved them to my table.]
Together, the cops look through the book, going from map to index and back to map again. Then, the thinner one starts to explain to me... “go out the station and then turn left, then walk a bit and look for...” The fatter guy frowns at him and says something in Italian.
“You forget that I said,” the skinny guy tells me. “Take the bus. Number 64. Two stop. One two. That's all.”
“I capiche,” I tell him. “Multo gracie.”
The rest is history... or actually present, since I'm still checked in to the B&B.
After dumping my bags, I set out on a small walk, just to check out the neighborhood, and see the Piazza St. Pietro. For those who don't know. The Vatican, is an independent country within the city of Rome. It doesn't have its own money, but it does have its own laws and its own postage stamps. I guess it's a Catholic country.
In a way, it looks like the East Village. Everybody except tourists wears black. The only addition, is the clerical collar for men and whatever they call those nun-hats for women. There are more priests here than... I donno, probably anywhere. Inside the church grounds, priests of every size and color walk around, joke, take pictures, mop sweat, just like real everyday people.
Inside, the grounds are surrounded by columns and imposing buildings with lots of statues. There is a large open space. in the middle In that space is a fenced-off area. In that area is a platform with a speaker's podium. The podium is set between two saints, at least one of whom is St. Peter (or Sante Pietro).
What doesn't figure, is the giant Panasonic TV screens at the base of each statue. At first I think they're to televise miracles as they happen... or maybe to broadcast the Pope's nightly address. In any case, they sure look weird. And out of place.
Then I see that there are chairs, maybe a hundred. Then a notice, posted about some event... I get it. It's the canonization. It will be here that St. Leper of Hawaii will be inaugurated into the Catholic pantheon of miracle makers.
I look for my ancient friend from the plane. She's probably, not here yet. I don't think this thing starts until tomorrow.
After another walk around the area, and a long hike through the city (learning the rule: If a street ends in a staircase, DON'T TAKE IT. If you do, you'll have to retrace your steps because staircase-ending streets never go ANYWHERE.)I head back to Lise's B&B, take a nap until about 8, then go out for dinner.
In the only crowded restaurant on a street of empty restaurants, I eat lasagna, dad's favorite food. And it's damn good. I sit outside, at a table next to the sidewalk. To my right, three Teutonic maidens, enjoy their pasta. Their accents sounds right out of North Germany, nothing Austrian or Bavarian about these girls. I look their way, letting my eyes caress... I clear my throat. They barely glance at me.
Normally, they'd be begging for my body, but it's just this goddamn coldsore! I know it.