It’s my birthday, so it’s time to scratch that yearly itch!
On the plane to Rome we watched the Avengers: Age of Ultron movie. It was stupid as hell. We now both agree we’re over the new Marvel movies; ever since Iron Man 2 they’ve gone totally camp with the whole thing. On a whim I put on some Japanese movie about an immortal alien octopus from space who becomes homeroom teacher to a bunch of middle-school failures, who then get trained in the arts of assassination by the government to kill their alien teacher. It was also camp but at least it was funny.
For the rest of the flight we were sitting next to some guy who, shortly after takeoff, fires up Frida on his seatback screen. The hours roll by and I see he has it on repeat. Whatever– maybe he dozed off at some point and missed a bunch of it. Later, after I had dozed off myself, my wife notices he is stopping, rewinding and replaying every scene in which her feet are visible. Frida is barefoot most of the movie.
Getting out of the airport was one of the simplest processes we experienced to date. There was no line to get through passport control. There was no agent waiting to disassemble our luggage in a token effort to find contraband. They took my passport, stamped it and waved me through with no questions asked. Hers, they didn’t even stamp! We went back and harassed the agent until we got a stamp for her too. Shit like this is why Amanda Knox happened. Shit like this is how movies like Midnight Express get made. Shit like this is why there are at least two goddamn sequels to Taken.
Then, we simply walked straight out of the airport. Apparently Italy doesn’t give a shit who enters the country, how long they stay or what they have on them. It certainly explains the gypsy population.
Southern European countries (Italy, Spain, France, etc.) receive a disproportionate number of asylum seekers from Africa and the Middle East due to their geographic proximity. The UN rules for dealing with asylum seekers as it stands is that the first EU-affiliated country a refugee enters is the one that must process their asylum application, even if their ultimate destination will be somewhere else. These border countries complain loudly to the UN about having to keep tabs on refugees, but they also don’t seem to give a shit about keeping tabs on any other kinds of travelers. It makes no sense.
Why is there no air conditioning on this train? It’s like 90’F plus humidity. Everywhere we’ve been since stepping off the plane has been hot and moist like a sauna.
From the train, we saw a bit of the countryside. The presence of Acacia trees everywhere was surprising, but makes sense given the number of Roman campaigns in Africa. It’s only natural they would have brought back some of the native foliage.
Most countries have an interest in keeping invasive or non-native species out of their local ecosystems.
Italy: Not giving a shit for 2500 years and counting.
Rome is covered in more graffiti than we’ve ever seen. Almost every square inch of public space is tagged with garbage. The outskirts of Rome look worse than the south side of Atlanta, with its bombed-out warehouses and tenement buildings everywhere. See also: hipsters do this deliberately at the Goat Farm.
You know you’re in a great place when the girl at the currency exchange counter cheerfully points at some passersby and tells you to “watch out for ‘those people'” and not to give any money to them. My grandmother always said the same. “Those people” are the gypsies.
Our first instinct, as parents: “Oh shit, a lost kid who needs help.”
Our second instinct, as people who don’t like getting mugged: “Oh shit, that’s how they get you.”
I felt worse about the African woman by the station who was actually sitting in a puddle (yes) of her own shit. We saw her later that evening sleeping on the concrete and using a loaf of bread as a pillow.
It’s too fucking hot.
Holy hell is it hot. Air conditioning is a luxury in Rome. Smaller stores don’t have any. You’re lucky if they put in a fan. Larger ones (like supermarket chains) might.
Everything is hot and sticky. Clearly there is something to be said about the fact that royalty through the ages would always spend their summers anywhere other than Rome. The climate here is worse than Florida.
It was so hot that when we went looking for food we couldn’t stand to eat it in the restaurant. So we brought it back to our hotel room, blasted the A/C and tossed our clothes. Showers followed for the second time that day, then a nap. Siestas never made more sense.
We are playing the “Rick Steves’ Exotic Erotic Roman Extravaganza” game. Basically a scavenger hunt for Baroque smut, I was already a few points behind when she found a lineup of nude male statues on a billboard-sized ad for some art gallery. So she won the Chode Challenge, for which I almost had a quick comeback in some orange-skinned and fish-lipped woman whose implants were forcing her nipples out the sides of her tank top but I didn’t get any points because terrible boob jobs are not tasteful or Baroque.
But just the same my wife didn’t get any points for her foot fetish guy so its been a pretty fair competition.