Decline of the Roman Empire

Trip Start Mar 13, 2010
Trip End Dec 31, 2010

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Flag of Italy  , Lazio,
Sunday, May 23, 2010

Frances is impressed by Caracala's Bath:  "Now a fat man cannot fit into our shower."

The "English-speaking" guide at the catacombs was exhausting.  Take the Italian tour and soak the place up rather than being tormented:  "The gravy-diggers made teams [tombs] and put the hurt in the boss kits."  You can figure it out, but it's not worth the effort.  At one point I thought she was pointing out an early pope who got pissed at parties, but it turned out he was at peace in paradise.  (But upon further review, the original call on the field is also upheld).

Overheard on a bench in a piazza, or one more reason to avoid tours:  Following lengthy competitive discourses on the short-comings of their respective daughters-in-law:  "Are all Italian eggs brown?" ... " Don't worry, he'll come back and look for us.  Because he counts."

At St Peter's, the security check is quick, and we enter via the tombs of the popes.  John Paul II is being abundantly venerated, but many of the other popes, although impressively preserved in stone, are getting less attention than Elmer Lach's old gloves in the Hockey Hall of Fame.  Ascending into the basilica, John finds himself adopting the century-and-a-half-old persona of a beleaguered tour guide from The Innocents Abroad ...

"There is Pieta."
"What is Pieta?"
"Pieta!  Is wonderful sculpture!  Look, mother is grieving.  Many peoples are crying when see this beautiful thing."
"She looks too young."
Forehead is hit with heel of hand.  But Frances is already moving away, admiring the floor.
"What is floor?  Is for walking.  Forget floor.  Look up.  Is biggest dome in world maybe."
"I don't think so."
"Where is bigger dome?"
"In a mosque somewhere."
"Impossible!  Dubai is upstart.  Cannot compete ... What about Sistine Chapel?  We go there now?"

But Frances thinks the queues are probably too long, and it's probably too expensive.  Holding her hands in front of her, she loosely extends the index fingers and brings them close together, leaving a small gap.  "ET call home ... zzzt, zzzt."

Thus does cynicism, like a creature from a black lagoon that has somehow gained access to our digestive tract, gnaw at our civilization from within.

The church is full of big signs showing a camera with a line through it, but tourists are flashing away like soldiers attacking a village and finding only women and children present.  Away from the swarms, a south Asian family of four sits against a wall in a quiet corner, following the distant mass.  A blue-blazered official walks over and indicates that their posture is inappropriate.  It takes them a moment to understand what he wants.  Then, the mother kneeling now and the others standing, they continue their observance.
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