Sunday April 23, 2017
Sunny 64°F/18°C in Roma EUR, Italia
Cloudy 65°F/18°C in Cedar Park, Texas
Buongiorno amici miei!
"Roma è la città di echi, la città delle illusioni e la città di desiderio". “Rome is the city of echoes, the city of illusions, and the city of desire.”
Giotto di Bondone, the great Renaissance painter and architect said that about Rome back in 1337. Giotto was from Firenze, or Florence, birthplace of the Renaissance. And, in 1297, was seeingContrary to what you may have heard about Italian drivers, Romans DO occasionally stop when the traffic light turns red. As Laura drove along via Cristoforo Colombo toward Roma Centro, the historic center of Rome one evening, the traffic light changed from verde to giallo and finally all the way to rosso. Thus, was presented a business opportunity for the local street people, which might help to explain why Rome drivers don’t like to stop for traffic lights or stop signs. To the right of our car, Squeegee Man approached us gesturing to our crystal-clear windshield. He was followed by Tissue Guy with his bundles of Kleenex. Meanwhile on our left side l’uomo di fiori (Flower Guy) approached the car. Instead of waving him off, like Michael and I had done with Squeegee Man and Tissue Guy, Laura engaged in a rather animated conversation with Flower Guy in sign language. The moment took me back to my student days in New York’s Greenwich Village when the occasional vendors would come into the tavern and pass out trinkets and pens and notes explaining that they were deaf-mutes trying to earn a living. As the light turned green, Laura signed Ciao! and gave him a coin before driving on. He’s one of our neighbors, Laura explained, I’ve been talking to him since I was a little girl. Suddenly, I began to see my new neighbors in a new light.
Roma for the very first
time. 700 years after Giotto observed thusly, I find myself in complete
agreement. The city celebrates its birthday every April 21st. So,
this marks Rome’s 2,770th anniversary. According to the legend, Rome
was founded by the brothers Romulus and Remus in 753 BC following their rescue
from the wilderness by a she-wolf who nursed the tykes and kept them safe. The date
was set arbitrarily in 1 BC by the Roman scholar Marcus Terentius Varro.
Considering the amount of time passed and the volume of Tiber River water that
has flowed under its bridges, Rome is carrying its years very well.
|The Forum - Rome|
The next day, as I walked toward the intersection of Viale dell’Oceano Atlantico and Via Laurentina, on my way to meet Monica for our twice-weekly language exchange, I spotted the old man with his tin cup approaching the stopped cars in the intersection hoping that the passersby would drop a coin in his cup. The elderly fellow was neatly dressed and he displayed a big smile as he approached the cars. On previous occasions, I had been a passenger in Mike or Laura’s car, so it was easier to send the beggar on his way. But now, I was a pedestrian and an easy mark for the panhandler. Recalling the conversation between Laura and the flower vendor the previous evening, I thought, Okay, this guy is my neighbor. I can’t be rude. He’s got me! With that, I reached into my pocket, fished out a coin, and dropped a Euro into his cup. You would have thought he had just won the lottery. Grazie, mille! Signore! Grazie mille! This was followed up by a steady stream of Italian that I could not understand. But, my take-away was that I had just made the old guy’s day. I wished him a good day and went on my way to meet Monica for lunch.
Two hours later as I returned to my apartment, the old fellow was still there with his little tin cup walking through the stopped cars at the intersection. Instinctively, I reached into my pocket as I approached him. Ciao! Come va! I greeted him. Hi, how’s it going. Seeing me reach into my pocket, he waved me off, indicating that my previous contribution was sufficient. That’s when I realized that he considered me one of HIS neighbors, and was not going to wear out his welcome. And so, it went, until the day I left Rome to return to the States. I would pass through that intersection on my way to the Metro, or to meet Monica for our language exchange, or to meet Michael at the Falafel place for lunch. It was part of my neighborhood routine to drop a coin in the little tin cup on my way out, and receive a greeting and a Grazie on my way home.
On the Saturday before I left to return to Texas, I passed him on my way to the Laurentina Metro station on my way to Piazza Barberini to meet my friend Alba for lunch. Following our usual ritual, I greeted him and dropped some coins in his cup to a flurry of Ciao’s and Grazie mille’s, and walked along to catch the Metro for the subway trip downtown. A few hours later, I took the Metro back to the Laurentina station, which is at one end of the Metro “B” line. As I walked up the long hill along Via Laurentina, I saw a familiar fellow approaching. It was the elderly panhandler. He was on his way home after a successful day on his chosen corner. So many Romans travel the Metro to work. Panhandlers, it seems are no exception.
©Mike Botula 2017
[Mike Botula is the author of LST 920: Charlie Botula’s Long, Slow Target! (Amazon Books) MikeBo’s Blog is a wholly owned subsidiary of his web site www.mikebotula.com , and is linked to Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus!]