Rome I

On the Atlantic flight, my seatmate is actually Italian, Pisan.  He works for a chain of fitness centers that are just expanding in Italy, and I rudely suggest that I thought European women didn’t exercise.  The chain is like 24 Hour Fitness, or Curves, he explains.  Yes, I’ve heard of them.  Do I belong?  I laugh: no, no, I am not fit!

In a freak occurrence, the sandals I wore all over Disney World without trouble give me blisters just walking around the airports, en route.  So my first Roman purchase is acid green flip-flops, at Termini train station.  

Sleep deprivation and jet lag always hit me hard.  When a taxi driver at the train station explains my ride will cost 20 euros, I demand my bags back, muttering that I will take the Metro.  After fifteen minutes of dizzily studying the bus situation, I humbly return to the street and accept a 20 euro ride gratefully.  I can handle a subway on no sleep, but buses are too much for me.

For dinner, just around the corner from my hotel, I eat spaghetti with pepper, on a bed of fried cheese. Weird, but not bad.  I sit in a perfect gooseneck cobblestone alleyway, around the corner from my movie-set hotel.  When you live in a place that almost never appears in the media, it’s surprising how Europe looks like movies of Europe, or New York City looks just like “Law & Order.”  It’s easy to forget they build sets to look like Rome or New York, and not the other way around.  

An old man at another table reads in Italian.  A quartet of retired Americans and Brits chat.  Another couple gets on a motorcycle and rides away.  Tomorrow morning, this cafe will have disappeared like a speakeasy, the outdoor tables and plants and signs sucked back inside until the evening.  I surreptitiously look up how to say, “The check” in Italian.

Vacation in 10 Sentences.

1. Stared across Missouri and radiated disbelief.

2. I hand my brother a book, and he reads the whole thing in two hours straight.

3. I chatter pathetically as I approach the scary roller coaster, and later attempt to photograph some ducks who had been making love in the bushes.

4. With both of us wearing plastic ponchos, I look at my sister as the young European man unbuckles his seatbelt gleefully, and think, not only does he want to get wet, he wants to die on the Popeye ride.

5. Eating another veggie-ful veggie burger, I silently concur with my middle school French teacher: corn is animal feed, not people feed.

6. I wait for my latte to cool, sitting on a fake New York City stoop, my thighs twitch from pushing my stepmom’s wheelchair uphill, and I know that my dad is enjoying the hell out of those fake Blues Brothers.

7. To satisfy my desire for a Mickey bar, three siblings ask six EPCOT employees, walk across six countries twice, causing me to bend double, reach out my arms, and cry, “GO ON WITHOUT ME!”  (Note: Freddie the American funnel cake man owes us a funnel cake… bastard.)

8.  Yes (gulp) I lost a Space Mountain Fast Pass.

9. As the delirious family begins to question the wisdom of dining at the Kentucky catfish restaurant, I insist, “We should just eat here!  We’re all starving!” ; consequently, I enjoy those hushpuppies tremendously.

10. After apologies for the obligatory family dispute, I eat Taco Bell’s edible rice and styrofoam tortilla chips, and gush at the unexpected forsythia and tulips in Kansas City.