Thursday, July 27, 2006

I call "not it" for packing jobs 'till eternity

and here are the reasons Jack should agree.

1. Jack is not just good at packing. He's a Master Packer. I've seen him masterfully fit the following into my Element: suitcases for all three of us (suitcases large enough to contain necessary items for a week of beach and mountain weather in Mexico), all of the presents that a (some say spoiled, some say appreciated) six-year-old girl received from two sets of grandparents and two sets of Santas, snorkeling gear, a separate bag of my shoes, a toiletry bag, at least one sack of food, necessary electronic/entertainment items for a trip (Ipod, cds, DVD player, etc.), a cooler, and TWO surfboards. AND THEN, he removed all of those items from my car, flexed his packing muscles, and got it into his little Subaru!! He's not crazy about video games, but I'm willing to bet that he would embarass Tetris addicts with his abilities. I've never seen anyone look at a packing puzzle and determine that tilting the toiletry bag like so will free up the space for these two freakin' surfboards.

2. He's also focused and quick about it. When he's on a packing mission, he will not be distracted until the job is done. Before his own flight, I fell asleep one night to a great big mess and woke up in the morning to two neatly packed bags and two neatly packed carry on items. Like the Packing Fairy. A very masculine Packing Fairy, Jack.

3. I am neither focused nor quick about packing. In my own desperate attempt to pack our things I've been distracted by the contents of old purses, my old writings from 325M, Nora's old writings from the 1st grade, old photos, and tax documents. But more often than not I just get bored with the whole thing and leave it--a bigger mess than when I started.

4. I just plain suck at packing. There are spaces around big items in boxes and suitcases that I know Jack could fit a surfboard into, but I can't see how tilting anything just so would accomodate anything more than a small stuffed animal or perhaps a thin journal or photo album. IN FACT, I've removed journals and photo albums from the "Pack up to store at Mom's" pile and put them into the suitcases just because there seemed to be a spot for them. No lie. I've attempted to channel Jack during this debacle to guide me. I've seen him pile everything onto the bed first (rather than just start putting things in suitcases). SO I took everything out of the suitcases, put them on the bed, and then put everything right back into the suitcases. That was no help at all. I've taken things that were neatly stacked away in the closet and stacked them less neatly against the wall. Somehow physically moving things makes me feel like I'm doing something. The state of the room now is just as bad as it was two weeks ago, but everything is in a different place.
And so, dear Jack, I am "not it" for packing. I will, however, keep the jobs challenging (and thus interesting) for you by accumulating more things.

our new apartment!!

we have an apartment! whew, since Rome shuts down for the month of august. small, yes, but it has 2 bedrooms and is in a great part of town: Trastevere.

here it is: the entrance is the brown door to the right of the restaurant.

here's the view of the street looking north...

and south...

wine-soaked recollections, 2 weeks in.

it's weird, on the flight from Austin to New York, when I was getting very sad, nostalgic, and questioning the whole move, I looked at the TV the guy had on seated next to me. And there was my coworker Dar on the TV. Wha? He and another coworker, Scott, were on the History Channel's program "Rome: Engineering an Empire." They played a very prominent role in that show (which got an emmy nomination, btw) And here it was on the TV at that very moment.

I took it as a good omen.

I am having a great time and holding on to my foundation by listening to all the music i love. i'm getting melancholy tonight to Rufus Wainwright followed by a healthy dose of Leaonard Cohen. Tomorrow i'll be a bit more adventurous. Maybe a little raveonettes followed by sound team.

There are fire jugglers outside of my window. And an accordionist across the piazza who is (thankfully) *not playing "My Way," as they tend to do in these uber-touristy areas.

life is good. we got an apartment today in a great area called Trastevere, which is Rome's version of the East Village. Nora and her Mom come over in a few weeks. That explains my melancholy. I miss them. Other than that, I finished my thesis, found an apartment, and found out we got a $70,000 donation. all of that TODAY. it's been a good day.

anyway, i wish a good day to everyone that reads this. get in on my fortunate day, if you buy that kind of stuff.

ciao - jack

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Roman Food, Episode IV: A New Hope

Just in case you have defective taste buds and don't like the food here, or if crave food from home soo badly, you're willing to pay out the culo, i found a store today called Castroni.

i'm about to make mexican food for the kiddos at the archaeological dig. dar says they're crazy about the thought of mexican food. yikes! good news is i found Castroni. It has everything non-roman from those shite beans the british so love, to vegemite, to hot dog buns, bottled mole sauce, soymilk, fish sauce, even (thanks be to god) black beans and the biggest jar of salsa ever made. this store--which is tiny, mind you--had indian, chinese, japanese, dirty-knees, what-are-these?, american, british, french, german, dutch, african (sorry to lump all of that together--i know there are more countries in africa than in any other continent), central american, mexican, south american, vietnamese, thai, greek, turkish, west-indies, yadda-yadda-yadda. they had everything you need to feel home for a little bit. i just can't imagine who would crave French's yellow mustard, but if you did, you'd be happy at Castroni.

I found tortillas. I found black beans. I am happy.


the Piazza Farnese area

This is the area around and including Piazza Farnese. The Farnese family became very powerful when Cardinal Alessandro Farnese became Pope Paul III in 1534. He was the 1st Pope in the counter-reformation and acted more like a King than a Pope. He had 4 kids from unidentified mother, made 3 of them legitimate, then made them rich beyond words. He and his family for hundreds of years were great patrons of the arts. He continued funding for the Sistine Chapel (have you heard of it?), St.Peter's Basilica (hmm, that sounds familiar too), and the Palazzo Farnese.

In 1515 the architect Sangalo the Younger (ok, i really have not heard of him) started the palace. when he died, someone named Michelangelo took over (ok, there we go). It's considered a maserpiece of balance and proportion. (crickets chirping) Seriously people, it's amazing. Just because it doesn't have columns or spires...jeez, tough crowd. Anyway, since 1635 the French Embassy has been here. The inside is closed to the public, but I think I can convince them that I deserve a glimpse. I'll let you know how that goes.

This is the other side of the Piazza Farnese. My office is the one on the right, the white one.

Around the corner one way is the bridge from the Palazzo to the Convent of Santa Maria della Morte on the Tiber. The Farneses kept a lot of their art there and wanted a convenient way to get there without rubbing shoulders with--well, with the likes of plebes like me.

Just down from the bridge is the Fontana del Mascherone (Gargoyle fountain). It was built in 1626 but the marble tub and mask are from much earlier, probably from an old Roman bath.

Around another corner from the piazza is this spot where I like to sit and have a glass of whatever if I linger around after work. It has--and this just might shock you--a little history behind it. The Hostaria della Vacca belonged to Vanozza Caetani who lived from 1442-1518. "Who is she?" you might be asking yourself. Well...she had this boyfriend and had several kids with this guy. Who, who?! Well, his name was Rodrigo Borgia.


Um, hello? R o d r i g o B o r g i a . Better known later as Pope Alexander VI. Alright, now you're with me. (ok, so I didn't know who he was either. In fact, I never knew there was a Pope Alexander.) I'm telling you, these Popes were naughty boys.

Now, keeping track on the Perv-Pope-meter, that's upwards of 7 kids for 2 Popes. A grand start. Oh, yes, mom and Dad--we're keeping track.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Brandy and Water

The Tiber River is one of Rome's most underappreciated and ignored places. It serves more as a geographic marker separating the Vatican, the Gianiculum Hill, and Trastevere ("across the Tiber") from the rest of the Center. But it really is pretty--just don't swim in it--and offers some amazing views.

Here's the view from the Ponte Principe Amedeo (where Brandy and I saw an awful fireworks display in 1999), over the Tiber, looking at the Castel Sant'Angelo (the circular behemoth on the right).

"The sailors say...


Friday, July 21, 2006

Contacting us

Everyone should check out
This is an absolutely free way to contact other skype users, regardless of their location.
It's a bit weird, because we'll be talking through our computers (so you do have to have a microphone on your computer to make it work), but it's FREE.
We'll let you know our skype name when Jack signs us up on his computer. (Are you listening, Jack? Add that to your list of Things To Do. Thank you.)

For now of course I can be contacted through the same old methods--phone, email, or tracking me down at my well worn bench at the Ginger Man.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

the beach - la spiaggia

emilia, with a nutella crepe all over her hands

the beach clubs on the sea in ostia

the sea. la mare. lots to do.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

the campo de fiori at night

there's always drama going on at night. drunk tourists and travellers stumbling. families strolling. lovers found and lovers lost.
sometimes drunk tourists and travellers stumbling on families--soon losing their lovers.

and still more. the cafes are wonderful. in case you couldn' tell.

ok, i'll stop rubbing it in.

Monday, July 17, 2006

saturday morning

i took a walk to the vatican on saturday morning. not that i'm what anyone would call a good catholic (i'm not going to say that's an oxymoron because my parents would get mad), but the view from the dome is unbeatable.

the vatican and the piazza of st. peter.

god coughed up his corn flakes when he saw the beast of a church the catholics built for him. it's true, read about it somewhere else.
it seats 60,000. now i don't want to piss off any baptists out there, but that makes it the largest church in the world. the top of the dome is 450 feet above the altar. many other impressive dimensions exist of course. in all a very humble offering to god.

um, nice view.
the view of rome from the top of what is still the biggest domed building in the world.

the piazza of st. peter and the big obelisk the romans stole from alexandria about 2000 years ago. it used to be in the circus maximus. imagine moving that thing? "hey, can i borrow your pickup...?"

roman icons

this is a building. and a bike. and some plants growing out of a wall. very cool.

rome has something like 40,000 stray cats. not the band, mind you. are they still around?

my walk home from work

the campidoglio, where romulus founded rome more than 27 centuries ago, now site of michelangelo's piazza from about 1650.

the monument to vittorio emanuele, the first king of italy. it is huge and most italians say obnoxious. others call it the typewriter or wedding cake, both of which is definitely looks like. it is a bit hideous, yet more than a few americans think it's the coolest building in rome. tsk-tsk. it's from 1911 and that makes it brand-spanking new here.

emperor trajan's forum and column and a very old library. the column has a bas relief spiralling up to the top (very high) describing some war or something. it's hard to see if you aren't 150 feet tall.

my office and the market outside

this is the office, up on the 3rd floor. our terrace is above the building in the foreground.

this is the view from the terrace.

this is the 300 yr old fresco on the ceiling. it's a little blurred. sorry.

this is the view from my chair out to the campo dei fiori. that's a statue of giordano bruno, who was burned at this spot in 1600 for heresy. back then, the popes weren't exactly pillars of society--just powerful. some had mistresses and several children.
this is also the piazza where parts of the Puccini opera 'Tosca' took place.
i still haven't figured out why Bruno looks like darth vader.

and this is the campo dei fiori market in action. it is there every day (well, not sunday). they build it up and tear it down every day. there isn't a trace of it by 5:00 when everyone fills the square to wander around or get a bite to eat/drink. it's quite the place to hang out at night, and it's not always cleared of people by the time the market stalls come to set up in the wee hours.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

A little late for thinking this through

Jack left today. His flight was at 7 A.M. We woke at 7:30. Four hours later he was sitting on a different plane, willing it to fly faster. Instead the plane was delayed at take off and landing due to a faulty door (!). So rather than wasting away a six hour layover, Jack sprinted through JFK with 200 pounds of luggage--arriving at the gate 30 minutes after it closed. I'd like to personally thank the woman working the Aer Lingus counter today. Thank you for rearranging Jack's flight reservations to accomodate his 5 hour delay. Thank you for allowing his oversized luggage. And thank you for waiving the 500 dollars in bad-traveller-fees. Those 500 dollars represent a small percentage of one month's rent in Rome or a month's supply of gelato. Either way, it's better off in our hands.

This is the first day that I think I've seen the idea of moving as more than a vacation. More than a fun idea to romanticize over wine. Today when I got back from the airport, I looked at Austin in a new way. I kept thinking "Here I am at Jo's. I was here with Jack the other day. Jack won't see this place again for a while. Oh shit! I won't see this place for a while! I love this place! What the hell am I doing?!" This same thought process repeated while looking at landmarks, stores/restaurants, freakin' traffic on Mopac, and my couch. And there were tears. More tears today than I've felt in a while.

I love Austin. I love my friends. I love my life here. I am not dissatisfied. Am I ready to make such a revolution when things are running smoothly? A moot question I guess since I've got two very expensive tickets for 8/8. Thank god the plane leaves in the afternoon.