An American In Italy

A semester spent in Europe... Rome, specifically.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004


An email I recieved from Zadok...

Dixit Matt:

"YOU WENT TO THE HARD ROCK CAFE??? In Rome?? Hahahahahaha!!!!"

Respondeo dicendum quod:

What are you laughing at? In Rome it is known as the 'Tu es Petrus' Hard Rock Cafe...
I had the 'Fisher of Men' Salmon Burger whilst Lauren had a 'One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic' Veggie Burger. They both came with 'Eldest Daughter of the Church' Fries. The desert was the famous 'Non prevalebunt' Brownie Ice-cream 'Sunday' - so called because our combined efforts could not prevail against it..... :)

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

A qualification to my poem

By the way I would like to qualify my "ouzo" poem, as I have been getting an endless amount of rib...

1. I wrote the poem before I'd ever tried the stuff. (Experience isn't everything, as C.S. Lewis insists, otherwise reading is a waste of time)
2. No I've never drunk gasoline
3. I've never "worshipped the porcelain god"
4. I've never been drunk.

Ouzo is gross.

Now go away!

(j/k... don't really, please...)

Voting, Ice Cream, and other Random Stuff that probably doesn't belong on this blog...

Wonderful short little trip into Rome and an overall good day yesterday...

Class this morning was quite good, though I sounded like an idiot in English class because I emoted too much without thinking (I hold Hamlet as sacred, and sometimes the brain shuts down in sheer awe of the thing, which makes little sense, but shutup, this is my narrative! ;-)). After a lively discussion of Antony and Cleopatra in the following history class, I put my things down in my room and took off for Rome.

From our campus, the very centre of Rome is about a 45 minute or an hour trip, with 20 minutes of a bus ride from the Castelli Romani where we are, to the last stop on the metro line. Sometimes it can be a bit of a harrowing experience for a young lady going alone – Italian men are, for the most part, Really Nasty (and in general, it's not a good idea for a girl to go alone; don't try this at home, kids). Thence, I was very glad to discover a few of my UD friends at the stop, who accompanied me to the metro stop, but didn’t make it off the bus in time to make the waiting train.

I did, and I rode the line to the Barberini stop, where the American Embassy is. There I met Zadok the Roman, who was so very kind to wait very patiently for me as I went through the beuracracy that is the American Embassy.

Time out to kvetch.

This morning I called the embassy to make sure it would be alright that I come down in person to drop off my fully complete absentee ballot. The first time I called, I said "Hello, my name is Lauren B, I am an American student studying in Rome and I have an absentee ballot. I was wondering if it would be--" at this point I was rudely interrupted by hold music. Er, okay... when the hold music ceased, I heard a recorded voice carefully giving me the instructions for the website where I would be able to get information on registering to vote, and reminding me that every state has different procedures and requirements.

Well, duh.

I called back. “Hello,” I said, “I just called. I have an absentee ballot. I’m already registered to vote. I just want to know if—“
“Hold please.”
Well, at least they warned me this time. :P Not as if I had a choice.

Fortunately, however, they did transfer me to a real actual person.
“Hi, all I want to know is if I can drop my absentee ballot of at the embassy today.”
“Yes yes yes,” he replied impatiently.
“Is 2:15 okay?”
“Yes yes yes.”
“Fine. Thank you, goodbye.”

Grr. How terribly rude.

When I reached the embassy, I was able to follow the lead of two ladies in front of me, one of whom spoke fairly fluent Italian. I stood in line to present my passport. I stood in line to have my bag searched. I stood in line to go into the embassy. I stood in line to go through security and have my bag searched again. After clumsily checking my camera and shoving the change back in my pocket, I proceeded through the embassy (*description withheld lest it violate some national security whatsit*) where I ... proceeded to take a number and wait in line again. Geeze.

The happy thing was that all I heard were regional American accents – that guy was from Pittsburgh, that lady from the Midwest, that one from around Maryland. That one has to be from Arizona, or California, or somewhere way out west. How cool! I felt vaguely like Henry Higgins, but with less contempt and more pride. Furthermore, a real American news network was on the internal television link. Most unfortunately, it was Communist News Network (CNN). Alas. Well, no one’s perfect.

Happily, I was not in line very long, and I was able to drop off my ballot and, with a feeling of great triumph, having voted for the first time ever in my life and, what’s more, that time was overseas and during one of the most important elections American history will see. Huzzah, I am an American citizen!

Meeting with my most patient Irish seminarian friend, he kindly acquiesced to my request for food as I skipped lunch to catch the bus in time. As providence would have it, we were directly across the street from the Hard Rock Café, and we were staring at a green crosswalk sign.

It was fated, the gods decreed it should be so.

And so, talking of Michaelangelo, we went into the café where we were greeted with Italians trying to be American. It was really funny, but I was more enthralled with the American rock and roll memorabilia all over the walls. “But,” Z reminded me, “the Beatles and Mick Jagger aren’t American.”

This is true.

I argued that the Beatles first accidental experience of LSD was in America, and therefore 50% of the Beatles music can be attributed to us.

Commenting further on the “peace, love and rock ‘n roll” mentality that dominated the slogans around the restaurant, I noted one of the “save the planet” sayings.

“I agree with the ‘save the planet’ idea,” said my illustrious friend, “seeing as we’d all be floating around in space without it.”

I reminded him that before the earth would be blown up, Zaphod Beeblebrox and the Heart of Gold would come and rescue us, so long as we had our towels with us. Z insisted that he was the sort of person who knows where is towel is.

Ah, such a hoopy frood.

“What about the baby humans? People tend to think of ‘save the baby seals’ but never ‘save the baby humans’.”

“But baby seals are cuuuuute!”

“So are baby humans!”

“Baby humans smell! Baby seals are cute.”

Ah, yes, Zadok, you go on thinking that ...

Then out waiter came and brought us our respective ethnic delights – a salmon burger for the Irishman and a veggie burger for the American vegetarian.

When I left my native soil, I was fairly certain that the other side of the pond had never heard of the culinary high treason that is the veggie burger. The veggie burger is generally for the very strange – the sort of frizzy-haired, save-the-baby-seals-type – or for the very desperate. Being a vegetarian strictly because I’m unable to eat meat, and doing so makes me ill, I belong to this latter category. Digging into said burger, I can close my eyes and pretend its meat. And darnit, when I haven’t touched the stuff in three years, and haven’t touched a veggie burger in four months, it’s pretty dang good to me!

That, and a huge plate of fries. I looked to my left after I had finished and realized I had just eaten an entire meal without touching my silverware. Score. (I would like to point out that Z has the most hysterical habit of eating french fries with a fork and spreading ketchup over them with a knife. *points and laughs* Yes, I realize that I am certainly more the heathen here. Silence! Stop interrupting my narrative.)

But but but. That was not enough. For weeks (or at least, hours) I had been craving some form of a brownie desert, preferably with vanilla ice cream and hot fudge. Ooooh, the Hard Rock had this in spades – not only ice cream and hot fudge, but also whipped cream, chocolate sprinkles and a cherry on top.

It was so beautiful. I wept. I laughed. I couldn’t finish half of it, with Z helping me.

It was so awesome. It was almost a religious experience.

Maybe it was a religious experience. I did lunch with a seminarian, after all. That’s got to count for something.

Either way, I left the Hard Rock Café a better person, and a better American.


To quote the great Rogers and Hamerstein song from Flower Drum Song, “I Enjoy Being a Girl” :

I flit when a fella sends me flowers,
I drool over dresses made of lace,
I talk on the telephone for hours
With a pound and a half of cream upon my face.

And in this I did endulge (though I didn’t have the cucumber slices to go over the eyes to make it appropriately hideously picturesque) while listening to Enya and reading Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Contra Gentiles.

Ahhh! Does life get better? I submit that it cannot!

Thursday, October 21, 2004

An Ode to Ouzo

Hello my blogging friends,

I am blogging from Olympia, Greece today, day 7 of our 10-day tour. Tomorrow we leave for ... Patras and then back to Rome, I think... we'll probably stop some other places on the way, but tonight the whole class goes out. And I'm resolved to try ... ouzo.

For this occasion, and because I was bored on the bus-ride here, I have written a small ode. It is as yet under construction, but this is what I have thus far.

An Ode to Ouzo

O lovely lucent licorice nectar,
Only you can flatten Hector.
O diamond drink of adamant bite,
With you can I the Hydra fight
And, excepting only gasoline,
Nothing quite the palate wrings.
Down, dank, Draconian, drear --
This my world with only beer;
A weeping, woeful, wretched watch,
A painful world with only scotch.
But ouzo, ah, now there's the thing,
It lights my world like kerosene --
Which I've never tried, though I think it'd
Taste the same were I to drink it.
Open throat and down it goes,
Soon madness on my senses snows.
Around my head the heavens spin
Before I find my feet again
Where, whipped with all Aeolian winds,
I worship a god of porcelain.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Away away, my heart's on fire...

One and all,

Sorry I'm a wretch and haven't emailed people individually, but what with our Art & Arch exam this morning (for which I stayed up till 4am and probably flunked anyway) and a million and two things this afternoon, I have not had much time at all.

I'm leaving for Greece early tomorrow morning for 10 days -- here a mixture of ::yay:: and ::ugh::.

Also, I think we technically have to be back in our rooms in 5 minutes.

God bless, all -- pray for us on our travels.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Transportation in Scotland and something silly

Trying to plan a weekend in Scotland, I've been hitting upon a few problems:

1) Train and bus times seem to run fairly late for catching our plane back, considering that once we get back to Glasgow there's another 45-minute train ride to Prestwick airport

2) Time in general (we want to see and do too many things, and a weekend is so short, especially since we're getting in late on Friday)

3) Glencoe: once we get there, how are we going to get around?

Also the fact that our desired hotel is booked Saturday night. Sigh.

This to advise the traveler doing weekend trips to far away.

Furthermore, when I call around to hotels in Scotland, all I hear on the other is Mac from Chicken Run.

Yes, I know. I'm so terrible.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

An amusing excerpt from Livy...

From Livy's Early history of Rome...

Tarquin - or Lucius Tarquinius, son or grandson (probably the former) of Tarquinius Preiscus - had a brother called Arruns, a mild-mannered young man. The two brothers, as I mentioned before, had married Servius' daughters, both of them named Tullia but in character diametrically opposed to each other. By what I cannot but feel was the luck of Rome, it so happened that the two fiercely ambitious ones, Tarquin and the younger Tullia, did not, in the first instance, become man and wife; for Rome was thereby granted a period of reprieve; Servius' reign lasted a few years longer, and Roman civilization was able to advance.

The younger Tullia was bitterly humilitaed by the weakness of her husband Arrans, and fiercely resented his lack of ambition and fire. It was to Tarquin that the whole passion of her nature turned; Tarquin was her hero, Tarquin her ideal of a true man and a true prince. Her sister she despised for failing to support with a woman's courage the husband she did not deserve. There was a magnetic power in evil; like draws towards like, and so it was with Tarquin and the younger Tullia.

It was the woman who took the first step along the road of crime. Whispers passedbetween her and her sister's husband; their secret meetings grew more frequent, their talk less guarded. Soon she was pouring into his ears the frankest abuse of her sister and Arruns, while Tarquin, though one was his brother and the other his brother's wife, let here talk on. 'You and I,' she said, 'would have been better single than bound in a marriage so incongruous and absurd, where each of us is forced by a cowardly partner to fritter our lives away in hopeless inactivity. Ah! if God had but given me the husband I deserve, I should soon see in my own house that royalty which I now see in my father's!'

The bold words struck and answering fire. Two deaths soon followed, one close upon the other, and Tarquin found himself a widower, Tullia a widow. The guity pair were then married - the king not preventing, but hardly approving, the match.

I love Livy's phrasing there -- almost like a sinister kind of Wodehouse.

Note to my fellow writers the use of the passive. The passive voice takes all responsibility for the action away from the sentence -- exactly what Livy's using for a sort of dry ironic humor. But most people use the passive voice far too much. Beware the passive voice, my son.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Brother Guy

I am sitting in a lecture by Brother Guy Consolmagno, SJ ("S.J. Stands for 'Super Jenius'")

He looks like a Jewish rabbi with his thick, curly, salt-and-pepper hair, and he's got a lisp.

And he's hysterical.

Lecture notes:

* the Vatican observatories are not made of tin as Dan Brown asserts but of mahogany
* Br. Guy's office above the Pope's floor. Only man in the church higher than the Pope. ;)
* Galileo ticked off all the Jesuits who should have been on his side by making enormous fun of Christopher Schier, SJ

Galileo and the Church:
* G a devoutly religious man
* Books went through censors; "our civ will be the civ rem. b/c of Galileo"; books passed twice: once in Rome, once in Florence
* Galileo not convicted of heresy
* What was going on? Who knows?
* Galileo guilty of being suspected of heresy; recanted... nothing. Church scientists screwed up. Oops. Got its roes confused.

* (G trial in 1635)
* In 1655 Cassini used Cathedrals as astronomical tools to fix calendars, draw maps, measure sun.
* 1672: Riccioli (SJ) named craters in moon; 35 Jesuits have craters named after them.
* In 1620 Copernicus' book censored; the amount of attention paid to it was about the same amt paid to traffic laws in Rome.
Church of St. Ignatius -- no dome, flat roof painted in perfect perspective; ran out of money; haha. Still haven't put an observatory there.
* the Vatican observatories are not made of tin as Dan Brown asserts but of mahogany
* Fr. Angelo Secchi, SJ observed via color spectrum the composition of stars... previously astronomers measured only positions. Real Things made out of Stuff -- moved the study from Astronomy to Astrophysics. (1865 started publishing)
* Leo XIII wanted to show independance of Vatican; @ same time, idea of science & religion are supposed to be opposed (EVERYBODY knew world was round prior Christopher Columbus; idea that CC thought world was flat invented by Andrew White in 19th century -- specifically American idea, anti-immigrant/anti-Catholic myth). In short, L founded Vatican observatory to show the neutrality of science.
* 1910 Catholic priest working at Vatican proved Galileo right

* Big Bang theory invented by Catholic priest in 19something
* the Vatican observatories are not made of tin as Dan Brown asserts but of mahogany

* 1200 refugees (mostly Jewish) taken care of by (German) Jesuits in neutral territory of Vatican gardens

Br. Guy likes Beatles!!! Story:

1968 one had no Europe-US live t.v. First satellites not synchronous and so live tv was about 20mins. Every maj country in Europe given 3 mins and England wanted a new song in 3mins to be performed, so they wrote "All You Need Is Love".

Sign that church is not opposed to science as sign to scientists, but as a sign to church people.

Totally random and disconnected notes... but there you have them.

Monday, October 04, 2004

Bonny bonny banks of Loch Lomond

It's official -- I'm going to Scotland this weekend, hooah.

Myself and three girl friends of mine are going to fly into Glasgow on Friday and out on Sunday, in the meantime we'll somehow make a big counter-clockwise loop, taking the train to Edinburgh (say: ED-in-burra) and then circling around stopping somewhere around 9 or 10 o'clock on the circle.

We plan on visiting Birnam Wood and Dunsinane (which were in the guidebooks!) where we will have dramatic readings of Macbeth (which we read for English class), and we're going to break off some branches and storm Dunsinane!

Furthermore, I think I read somewhere that the third Harry Potter movie was filmed in Glencoe, so we're going to try to find that.

Other than that, plans are loose and flexible, but huzzah! A country where they speak English. ;)

Does anybody have any other Scotland suggestions?

Also, a caveat for Ryanair: there are a bunch of hidden fees. Karen's payment thing looked like this:

*******169.98 EUR Adults
*********0.00 EUR Fees
*********5.89 EUR Service Charges
*********6.56 EUR Ins/whcr Levy
*********7.36 EUR UK Air Duty
*********9.01 EUR Government Tax
*********3.93 EUR Airport Taxes
*********0.00 EUR Car rental
*********0.00 EUR Insurance
*******202.73 EUR Total Paid

It looks a little more dramatic on my card, as I put two other people on mine, and that's just for Karen. The respective fees increase per person, and so the "Ins/whcr Levy" (what the heck is that???) is about 20 Euro on mine. The government tax is close to 30.

No clue what to do about this -- it's got to be avoidable somehow.