Random Observations From Rome

This post doesn’t really have much of a theme, other than it’s the collection of the various random thoughts and observations I’ve had since I’ve been here.

Here goes:

  • Italians seem to be obsessed with home shopping networks, because I stopped counting them at twenty. Look, it’s a common complaint we have in the States: “I’ve got 500 channels and nothing’s on!” But here, there are 500 channels, and I would bet that at least 100 of them are shopping channels.
  • If you’re like me, you like to mingle as unobtrusively as possible with the locals, especially when you’re in one spot for some time. (Which means I’ve almost stopped wearing a ball cap! Although there’s no way I’m walking around wearing a jacket and a scarf in 80 degree Fahrenheit weather) You can learn a lot about people in a grocery store, for example. You will also learn that here in Italy, there are about 4,359 more varieties of pasta than we have in the States. Word.
  • Italians like to talk. A LOT. And we like to think we’re all plugged in, but we have NOTHING on the Italians. I saw a kid no more than 5 years old walking with his parents talking on his cell phone. EVERYONE has some sort of electronic device.
    “Fabrizio, are you coming over to play Transformers today?”
  • Which reminds me of a joke my guide Giulia told me, which I will attempt not to butcher. “What do you call an Italian with one hand? Speech impaired.” *Rimshot* I’ll be here for the rest of the week ladies and gentlemen. Don’t forget to tip your wait staff!
  • They love dogs as much as we do, which is probably one reason I’m so comfortable here. But, at least for the males, they don’t believe in neutering. (I believe Italian men have the ultimate say in this.) More than anything, I’ve been surprised at the number of larger breeds I’ve seen; I’ve even seen quite a few of my beloved Yellow Labs. And when I do, I act like a complete dork and ask to take a picture.
  • They eat late…..then GO STRAIGHT TO BED. Whereas in Paris, for example, they eat late….then go to the cafe, have their coffee, smoke their Gauloise and say, “Life is shit.” Well, the Italians seem to skip this last part, but I think that’s because they do their bitching in the afternoon. And they’re saying, “Life is beautiful….for everyone else. Mine? Not so much.”
  • When I came, I had a couple dozen bottles of 5 Hour Energy in my suitcase (don’t judge), because as I learned, that product hasn’t made it over here yet. But it finally hit me why…..they call it “Espresso”. And when you think about it, they are almost identical, at least in the size of the shot and the amount of the caffeine. Duh.
  • This is a country that is extremely conflicted in some ways, and I’m looking straight at you, ladies of Italy. Seriously, this whole Catholic Madonna/Whore thing is REALLY confusing to Godless Americans like me. “Si si si…no no no.” It’s like being in high school all over again. This is most evident in their music videos, where they have no problem showing Nicki Minaj being all….Nicki Minaj (Anaconda anyone?), but then they bleep the ENGLISH curse words. Seriously?
  • Among the 500 channels is one that is trained on St. Peters Square, 24/7. You know, in case the Pope makes a surprise appearance I guess.
  • Unlike everywhere else I’ve been, including CROATIA for God’s sake, it’s impossible to find an Italian channel that speaks English, (other than the music channels, where I’ve now realized I’m all about the bass, ’bout the bass, no treble) but thanks to Giulia I know why. As she explained, they dub EVERYTHING, and it wasn’t until recently that they started teaching English in the early grades of school. So when “Friends” is in Italian, without any subtitles but in your own language, why learn English? That explained a LOT when she told me this, because for a huge tourist destination, less people here speak English than in Paris. Or London, for example (Ha! I kill me!).
  • Now comes some tough love for my Italian friends. There’s a lot of moaning and complaining about your economy and I know that a lot of Italians look at me, and without knowing anything about me other than that I’m an American, they think, “He’s got it made! And his life is so EASY.” Well, first, yes I do, I do have it made. Many, if not most people would KILL to be in my position, doing what I love and being paid very well for it. But they weren’t around for the 80 hour weeks, the one week of vacation, and all the big events that I missed that make up a life. They weren’t there for the months at a time I was gone from my family, perfecting skills that made me good at what I did, but not a great person. So, for my Italian friends, here’s a hint: When you close for two, or three hours in the middle of the day so you can go have lunch, that’s fine. But then you run the risk on missing out on the American who has a lot of money in his wallet and really can’t figure out the exchange rate and who’s willing to pay a LOT more for that knick-knack than it’s worth. And you know WHY he has that much money? Because, unlike you, my Italian friend, he doesn’t get a month of vacation; he gets, at best, 2 weeks, after he’s worked at his company for 5 years. He’s got that money because he worked weekends and missed his kids’ soccer game; he says “Yes” when the boss “asks” him if he can stay late. He works through lunch instead of going to the trattoria and having the full three-course meal, (with wine, of course) and he’s always late for dinner. THIS is what you’re “missing” out on and is one reason why your economy and your overall economic health is so anemic. While you’re sitting at the bar in the afternoon, complaining about how hard it is to make your rent, and how “easy” we Americans have it, I would simply ask you to consider what I’ve just said. But let me say this: I’m not sure what the right answer is, because the one thing you HAVE tapped into, my amici, is that our lives are NOT, or should be, centered on work, and climbing the ladder. Life is those moments sitting out on the strada, watching people like me stride by, walking quickly even when I’m on VACATION, always in a hurry to get somewhere. It’s in the little girl in the apartment next to me who lives with Nonna and Nonno, and in being surrounded by more history than any American can truly comprehend.
  • With all that said, I truly love being here, amid Italians. I guess being married to a Sicilian-American (God how I hate that hyphenation crap) rubbed off more than I thought. I suspect it has to do with the fact that I have a half-Italian child, and I actually see a lot of her in the people around me. Mainly with that talking with the hands thing. And the passion for whatever they’re discussing at the moment. It could be what they’re having for dinner, or whether or not to quit their job; if you’re observing an Italian discussing either of these, I would challenge you to decide which is which.
  • Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s after 8:00 and if I don’t hurry the restaurants will be closed.

Ciao y’all!

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