Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Stranger in a Strange Land: The Blog!

Rome Diary IV:
Il Mio Ritorno a Roma!
27 Febbraio 2018
La Neve (Yes! SNOW!) 35°F/2°C a Roma
Tuoni (Thundershowers) 70°F/21°C in Cedar Park, Texas
Buona giornata amici miei!
      My apologies to Ray Bradbury, who wrote about a Martian transported to Earth. I’m writing about an American, me, transplanted to another country, Italia!

Mike Botula
Since, I am thinking about not merely delaying my returns to my homeland, but actively  considering moving here permanently, I tend to view my Roman Holidays a bit differently than the average turista. I’m thinking about how the legendary 19th century explorer Karel Botula I first felt when he planted the flag of the Hapsburg Empire on the barren shores of Philadelphia, and first felt the cold stares of alien creatures who wore neckties and spoke only English and called out strange names like honky and dirty bohunk and exhorting the hardy explorers to go back where ya came from, ya filthy furriner! Since he did not yet speak English, Karel and his companions from steerage could not know that the natives were murmuring thoughts like, buncha dang furriners! They’re taking the food outta the mouths of REAL  ‘MERICANS ‘n feedin’ their own anarchist brats.  
My grandfather, who had spent part his meager savings to pay one of the unscrupulous labor contractors who scoured eastern Europe for the unskilled labor to run the mines and foundries of  Titans like Andrew Carnegie and Henry Clay Frick, was completely unaware that his wanton desire to
Johana and Karel Botula
feed his family and give his children an education and grant them the opportunities that America promised, was driving real Americans into wrack and ruin. The motley gaggle of immigrants were quickly hustled aboard waiting trains and swiftly taken to the coal fields of western Pennsylvania, where they were each given a pick and shovel and a miner’s helmet and taken deep underground to dig for buried treasure, as a coal miner. My grandfather passed the next ten years of his life, thusly. Six days a week. 12 hours of every day. He rarely saw daylight in that whole time.
       So, fast-forward about one hundred years, and try to follow my own convoluted thought process as I write my blogs and chronicle my own travels. There’s a big difference between Karel Botula facing an unknown future and his grandson facing retirement with a family already in place, waiting for him to make up his mind. I can’t help myself. I see every new trip to Italy through the eyes of a refugee, or a brand-new expatriate!  And, with the dawning of each new day here in Rome, I find myself channeling Karel Botula, on his new life in America.
      For one thing, his employer, the Ellsworth Coal Company, did offer its immigrant workers and their families a rudimentary social support system. The company provided everything, housing, schools, the notorious company store, which accepted only the currency printed by the company to pay its workers – called scrip. There was a company doctor, who treated mineworkers injured in the numerous mine accidents. (Karel lost two fingers in a mining accident). If he had time, he would care for the wives and children of the miners. My grandmother, Johana, once travelled to far-away Chicago to receive training as a mid-wife, and eventually helped hundreds of immigrant mothers bring their children into the world as brand new American citizens. One of Karel Botula’s conditions of employment was that he was required to become a citizen of the United States.
     This was not altogether an altruistic gesture on the part of the Ellsworth Coal Mining Company. The new American Industrial Revolution was powered by the millions of immigrants coming to this country either completely on their own volition or recruited by brokers who scoured the European countrysides to recruit people for the American labor force. If these immigrants did not become American citizens, they would become a political liability for the Barons of Industry. So, Karel and Johana Botula and three of their children, Maximilian, Karola and Frantiska became U.S. citizens. And so, many decades later, I’m struggling to fit into a new life where the language is different, politics are strange, and the legal system is alien to me.  In an overwhelmingly Catholic country, my Protestant upbringing verges on irrelevance, but, I love Italy. I have family here. Not just my son and his wife, but also their extended family. Michael and Laura have introduced me to their circle of friends in the ex-pat community, so I am making new friends. I love my visits to Italy. I wish my own country was still the warm, welcoming place it once was. But, a sort of madness has taken hold back home, and I don’t know if the clouds of distrust and fear will ever lift. It’s easy to see what’s happening back home from the distance and perspective that Europe affords. I never thought I’d be quoting Thomas Wolfe about my homeland! I always thought that Wolfe was referring to a location other than one’s native country when he said, you can’t go home again!
      There I go…thinking out loud again! What else is going on? Oh yes! It snowed in Rome Sunday
Il Neve a Roma
night. When the sun rose on Monday, the Eternal City had taken on a shimmering blanket of pure white. I couldn’t wait to go out onto my balcony to snap some pictures. Pure enchantment!
       Oh! More good news! Marsha Cincinnati has added a Sunday night of stand-up comedy to The Rome Comedy Club’s monthly performance schedule. So, every month, on Friday and Sunday, laughter fills the big room at the Tiki Lounge in Ostiense, a short stroll from the Piramide Metro Station. (In case you happen to be in Rome and would like to laugh).
     Late Monday morning as I was watching the snowy scene outside and contemplating a walk to the store, Laura called to invite me down to join her and Sofia for a caffѐ at il bar across the street. By the time I got downstairs Laura and Sofia were waiting for me along with her neighbor Tiziana  and her husband Pino. Seeing me, Sofia perked up her ears and barked in recognition. The shopping center is closed because of the snow, Laura said. So, we will have to walk a short distance to the other place. Everyone in Rome had taken a Snow Day off from work to play in the white stuff.  After our coffee and pastry, and a quick stop at the grocery store next door, we headed back up the hill for home.  Another perfect day.

[Mike Botula is the author of LST 920: Charlie Botula’s Long, Slow Target! He is a retired broadcast journalist, government spokesperson and media consultant.   Mike’s book is available from Amazon or Barnes and Noble Books. You can follow his blog at: mikebotula.blogspot.com, or visit Mike Botula at www.mikebotula.com]

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Una Città di Sorrisi! (A City of Smiles!)

Rome Diary IV:
Il Mio Ritorno a Roma!
Wednesday February 21, 2018
Mostly Cloudy 52°F/11°C in Roma, EUR, Italia
Thunderstorms 71°F/22°C in Cedar Park, Texas
Buona giornata amici miei!
Rome is the City of Echoes, the City of Illusions and the City of Desires, observed Giotto di Bondone almost 700 years ago! I would add one more. I think of Rome as the City of Smiles! Everywhere that I wander in Rome or elsewhere, I seem to see smiling faces, especially when I 
Sofia and MikeBo, All Smiles!
attempt to speak the native tongue. When the conversation moves past the rudimentary Ciao! Buongiorno! Come stai? Or, Dov’ѐ il bagno? I have a set phrase that I’ve come up with, courtesy of Google Translator: Sono di Texas. Sto appena iniziando a parlare italiano! (I’m from Texas. I’m just beginning to speak Italian!) That seems to work a lot better than the frequent non parlo italiano.
The tour company that my son Michael works for, City Wonders, specializes in tours all around Europe for native speakers of English. That makes it a lot easier for first time travelers. When, Michael introduced me to the City Wonders crew before our tour of the Vatican, they were smiling, too. I’m not exactly a stranger to this great city. I’ve been coming to Rome since 2005 to visit Michael and Laura. But, except for 2013, when I wound up renting a studio apartment and staying nearly three months, I usually don’t stay longer than a month. But, this time I decided, at the last minute, to stay for another month. Since my smiling landlady, Amina, had already rented the apartment I had occupied for my first month, Laura booked me into a nearby apartment through Airbnb, in the same neighborhood.
My new landlord is a smiling, retired Tunisian diplomat named Mohamed, who travels between Rome, Tunisia and Canada. His Rome apartment in a high-rise building along a street named for an Italian poet, Cesare Pavese. There’s a bus stop a few yards up the street, and a little further in the direction of my old apartment, diagonally across Viale Cesare Pavese is the Centro commerciale il GranPavese, a neighborhood mall with un barbiere, un Bancomat, un tabaccheria, un bar, e un Supermercato. This stretch of the avenue also offers the services of other merchants’ shops and restaurants, including an excellent ristorante Cinese. But, if you’re doing Chinese or other Asian cuisine, you’ll have to ask for chopsticks. So, let me save you some awkward moments. Just ask your server, Vorrei le bachette…I would like chopsticks!
Amina, my smiling landlady!

Closer to Laura and Michael’s home is a large open-air market with a wide array of stalls and merchandise of all kinds, usually at bargain prices. Most people here do their food shopping daily, not only because the emphasis is on fresh food but because it is easier to walk to a neighborhood market than drive several chilometri to a shopping mall. Although EurRoma 2, a major Roman shopping center with all the bells and whistles is less than two miles from me. That’s where we saw CirCuba, the National Circus of Cuba, a few weeks. By the way, the circus is still in Rome for a few more days. If you’re in town, I heartily recommend it.
Sunday, Michael, Beppe, Darius and Seppe, the stalwarts of No Funny Stuff! were playing at a street Festa in Poggio Mirteto, not far from Laura’s folks’ home in Selci. Il Carnevalone Liberato 2018 celebrates the unification of Italy and the last days of the Papal States and the end of the Pope’s influence over secular life in Italy. The revelers here are partying during Lent and show their disdain for the Papacy at the close of the Festa by burning the Pope in effigy. I was shocked! Set FIRE to the POPE?  
The people LOVE Papa Francesco, dad, said Michael. But, during Unification, the Pope wasn’t exactly the warm and fuzzy figure he is now. In fact, the matter wasn’t settled until 1929 when the Lateran Treaty between Mussolini’s Fascist government and the Holy See was signed, establishing
Me and My New Pals!
the boundaries of Vatican City.
After No Funny Stuff! had played their last set and we were long gone, an effigy of the Pope was set ablaze. Italian politics can be raucous, and, they’re not limited to Italy, as I discovered when I met two new friends, who reminded me to brush up on my Italian when I’m asked about American politics. Italians frequently ask me how I voted in the last election. I have a ready response: Sono un americano! Ma non ho votato per Donald Trump! For the inevitable follow-up, my reply is: Inoltre, non sono un sostentore di Donald Trump! I don’t think I need to translate either sentence. What’s more, that’s all I’m going to say on the subject – I’m on vacation!
This week, I’m settling into the new apartment and getting better acquainted with the neighborhood. Michael has an especially busy teaching and training schedule, and Laura is working in Milan this week. We won’t be venturing out among our ex-pat friends until Friday when Marsha Cincinnati hosts a new show with Rome’s Comedy Club! Those are laugh fests in multiple languages. Hmmm! I wonder if Devo is going to pick on me again like last time.
Marsha Cincinnati
    I try to include a smattering of good travel advice, when I write about my traipsing, but if you have a question or you’re thinking about your own Roman Holiday, send me a note and I’ll do my best to get you a quick reply.  In the meantime,
I’ll keep you posted along the way.

[Mike Botula is the author of LST 920: Charlie Botula’s Long, Slow Target! He is a retired broadcast journalist, government spokesperson and media consultant.   Mike’s book is available from Amazon or Barnes and Noble Books. You can follow his blog at: mikebotula.blogspot.com, or visit Mike Botula at www.mikebotula.com]

Thursday, February 15, 2018

A Slight Change In The Game Plan!

Rome Diary IV:
Il Mio Ritorno a Roma!
Thursday February 15, 2018
Sunny 52°F/11°C in Roma, EUR, Italia
Cloudy 67°F/19°C in Cedar Park, Texas
Caro Diario:
       Ti ricordi ho detto che avrei lasciato Roma il 15 Febbraio? Well, I’ve decided to stay another month. So, THERE!
       In all actuality, as decisions go, it was a no-brainer! All it took was for my son Michael to give me a slight nudge. Seriously, Pop! Do you have any really pressing appointments back in TEXAS? When I

Marsha Cincinnati and Friends
couldn’t think of any reasons, he came back at me with, That settles it! Instead of driving you to the airport, we’ll drive up to Selci for a few days, AND you can hear No Funny Stuff play on Sunday. I’ll even throw in a kazoo, so you can play along.
       When I broke the news to my landlady, Amina, her usual smile disappeared. I had booked the apartment from her based on my original departure date, and I had already planned on spending a few days with Mike and Laura prior to liftoff. So, suddenly I was confronted with the realities of the internet vacation rental business – Amina had rented MY apartment to a TOTAL STRANGER!  For a moment I panicked - I couldn’t impose on Mike and Laura for a whole MONTH! You will no doubt recall what old Ben Franklin said about company. Fish and guests begin to smell after three days! Being quick on his feet, my son tapped out a text to a friend of his in Tunis, and in scant seconds, I would once again have a place of my own. It’s right near
Amina, My  Landlady
where you’re staying now. The apartment’s bigger and it’s the same price as Amina’s place.
Wow! Three cheers for the pride of my loins!
       Actually, being a truly international city, Rome has a rather large, English-speaking expatriate community. The ex-pats blend in quite comfortably in their own social structure within Rome’s larger universe. And no one exemplifies that smaller society within the larger universe than the funny and indestructible Marsha De Salvatore, known to her many fans up and down the boot of Italy as Marsha Cincinnati, of Rome’s Comedy Club! Marsha is the guiding light and mentor to an international group of young, up and coming, stand-up comedians from a variety of nations. Michael took me along last Spring when Marsha’s troupe was performing in Monti. She invited him to emcee on that particular night, and this proud pop got to see his boy doing stand-up comedy. This time around, Michael did his first full stand-up routine.
       A few nights later, over dinner at Laura and Michael’s home, I chatted with Marsha about Rome’s Comedy Club, and her own career as a stand-up comic, producer and her parallel role as the
Marsha Cincinnati, aka Marsha De Salvatore
star of her own one-woman show. The young comedians who perform with Marsha on stage at the circuit of Rome nightclubs that give Marsha’s troupe all of the attributes of a traveling circus are only part of her story. She has also managed to transform a potentially life-threatening chronic illness into a one-woman performance that is playing to rave reviews all up and down the boot of Italy.
      Faced with the periodic ordeal of blood transfusions, Marsha has gleaned the humor from her malady and has taken it on the road to set the example to others who share her predicament, as well as to entertain members of their families. Having seen her perform several times, and chatting with Marsha any number of times, I was completely unaware that the specter of a potentially grave illness loomed over her. As a retired journalist, I’m trained to try and detect any chinks in the armor of even the most casual of personal contacts. But, Marsha Cincinnati totally got past me on that one. When I asked why she had left the U.S. for Rome to ply her brand of comedy in a country that didn’t even speak the same language, she floored me with, I’m from Cincinnati! Y’ever been to Cincinnati? Nothing there for me! Nothing!  Fortunately for Marsha, her family has deep roots here in Italy and, because of that, she was able to obtain a long-term visa and access to the national health care system that enables her to work and support herself in a meaningful way. Back home, she said, I would be unable to work because of my health. I’d be on welfare, getting my treatments, all the time with people glaring at me because they’d be convinced that I’m gaming the system! I had apparently struck a nerve with my attempt to learn what it is about Rome that attracts so many expatriates. Look! She said, Here in Rome, I am among my family and friends, getting the care that I need to keep working my butt off, doing something with my career that I truly love, and making a living at it. I can’t do that in CINCINNATI!
      Rome has always had a sizable expatriate community, but, like many other Americans, my ties are mostly to the English-speaking elements. At that point my son chimed in, Marsha makes a good point! Back in California, I’d probably be playing in a garage band somewhere, or playing weekend
MikeBo Jr - No Garage Bands!
gigs like weddings and parties, hoping for an occasional club date. Here,
he continued, we are playing mostly club dates and festivals. We’re making TV appearances and guest shots on radio shows. I just shot a pilot for a TV game show as a host, and now Marsha is giving me an opportunity to do stand-up comedy.
      The easiest way to check out what Marsha Cincinnati and Rome’s Comedy Club is up to is to feed the names into GOOGLE or one of the other search engines or give her a LIKE on Facebook or Trip Advisor. Or before you add a visit to Rome’s Comedy Club to the itinerary for your next trip to Rome, you can check out a few laughs via You Tube. Who knows, maybe my extended stay will enable me to catch another evening of Marsha’s comedy.
      Even my Italian teacher approves of my staying longer here in Rome. Patrizia had been holding my place in her class until I returned. But she didn’t bat an eye when I told her I was staying longer. In Italian she told me that I would probably learn the language more quickly in Rome than in her classroom. I think she’s right. With actually living here, learning Italian can be a survival skill.
Ci vediamo!

[Mike Botula is the author of LST 920: Charlie Botula’s Long, Slow Target! He is a retired broadcast journalist, government spokesperson and media consultant.   Mike’s book is available from Amazon or Barnes and Noble Books. You can follow his blog at: mikebotula.blogspot.com, or visit Mike Botula at www.mikebotula.com]

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Roma: La città di Echi - Rome: The City of Echoes!

Rome Diary IV:
Il Mio Ritorno a Roma!
Wednesday February 7, 2018
Partly Cloudy 53°F/12°C in Roma
Cloudy 43°F/6°C in Cedar Park, Texas
Buona giornata amici miei!
     I’m frustrated as I glance at my calendar and see that I am nearing the end of my Roman holiday. Be that as it may, I am already plotting my return. I’m meeting new friends and re-connecting with
Michael Bo and Crew
friends I’ve made on previous trips since my first adventure in Rome back in 2005.  While most first-time visitors to Italy come here as a traveler with a pre-packaged tour group and must deal with a dazzling array of activities and destinations, my pace has been more leisurely. Michael showed me around Rome for the entire two weeks of my first visit. Since he is a professional, licensed tour guide with City Wonders Tours, I’ve enjoyed an advantage most tourists don’t have – I just tag along with my son as he does his job. Along with my son and daughter-in-law, Laura, I’ve now travelled to Florence, Naples, Venice, and most recently to Milan where we spent the first week of my vacation. I’ve also travelled to Amsterdam to reminisce about the good old days with a dear lady friend. And, in the future, I hope to hop over to the Czech Republic to visit with some of the relatives my grandparents left behind when they emigrated to America back in 1903.

     I’ve come back to the same apartment I rented last year, which is close to Mike and Laura. And while it’s closer to Fiumicino Airport than Roma Centro and the Coliseum, it’s a short walk to the Laurentina Metro Station and closer still to major bus lines. So, it’s easy for me to get downtown. 
Amina, My Landlady
My landlady, Amina, is originally from Morocco, and speaks at least three languages that I recognize. (I’m quite sensitive to the language thing, because of my own efforts to learn Italian). Like many Romans, Amina usually rents her place through Airbnb, usually for short stays. I seem to be one of her few customers who stays for a month or longer.  I’ve already told her that I’d like to come back on my next trip. Since I’m now one of her regular renters, she is agreeable to adding some of the amenities that would make my stays more enjoyable. Like another table for my laptop, so I don’t have to use my tiny kitchen as an office.

      One noticeable difference about housekeeping in Rome is that while Italian homes have washing machines, they don’t have clothes driers! Mamma hangs the wet clothes either on clotheslines in the yard or on portable folding drying racks on the porch, balcony or patio. Last year, I bought one of those racks and left it with Amina when I returned to Texas. This time she has done several loads of laundry for me, which I greatly appreciated. When I told her that I had a washer and a drier in my apartment, she was flabbergasted!
     On Monday, I had caffѐ with my partner from mio cambio linguistico-my language exchange.  Monica is an attorney-in-waiting, who has taken her written exam and is waiting for the results, so she can take the oral exam. Michael arranged through the school he teaches at to bring Monica and
Il Cambio Linguistico con Gelato!
I together last spring to practice our language skills. She is learning English and I am trying to learn Italian. In our 30 minutes together, our entire conversation was a zany mixture of broken English and broken Italian. Nobody but the two of us could have known what the conversation was all about.  Regretfully, that was the only opportunity we would have to meet. She would be traveling around Italy on her company’s business for the next week. Then, off to Lisbon. By the time she returns, I will be back in Texas. She goes to English class every week and practices on line with DuoLingo, like I do, every day. I will resume my class at Austin Community College with Patrizia when I return to Texas, and of course, keep polishing my language skills with DuoLingo.

     I have a line of dialogue that I use whenever I get into trouble with communicating. A few days ago, as I was checking out at my neighborhood Elite Supermercato, I found myself fumbling with my Euro coins. The cashier who is a very friendly, helpful person, tried to direct me to the proper change in a stream of Italian that left me even more confused. That’s when I uttered my rescue speech. Taking a deep breath, I spoke out! Sono Americano! Sto appena iniziando a parlare italiano.... I’m American! I am just beginning to speak Italian! My cashier responded in a voice loud
Michael and Laura e Venditore
enough to be heard in the growing line behind me, Aha! Sono Americano! She smiled and began to applaud. The others in the line also cheered my linguistic effort. Now, when I go grocery shopping Laura will frequently ask me to pick up a few items for dinner. She will give me the Italian words: panѐ, pommodori, finocchi, or caffѐ o tѐ. Bread. Tomatoes, fennel or coffee or tea. Even shopping can be a vocabulary lesson for me, thanks to my daughter-in-law. The translator app on my IPhone even has a camera feature that I use to translate product labels.

      One of the highlights of this trip for me was going to listen to Michael’s band, No Funny Stuff in the company of two delightful ladies from my home town. What were the odds that I would meet Adriana and Claudia Nataloni thousands of miles away from our home town of Riverhead, New York? And, it all came about when my son checked into a Rome hospital for
Adriana, MikeBo and Claudia Nataloni
shoulder surgery and Adriana recognized our family’s name from her growing-up days back in Riverhead. When I posted the picture on Facebook, I got a big response from old friends and school classmates. The world is, indeed, smaller than we think.

    Next time, I have dinner with a lady ex-pat with a great story. And, after that, a visit to an ancient Greek city with a fascinating history.
I’ll keep you posted along the way.

[Mike Botula is the author of LST 920: Charlie Botula’s Long, Slow Target! He is a retired broadcast journalist, government spokesperson and media consultant.   Mike’s book is available from Amazon or Barnes and Noble Books. You can follow his blog at: mikebotula.blogspot.com, or visit Mike Botula at www.mikebotula.com]

Friday, February 2, 2018

Cara Professoressa Patrizia: Mia Vacanza ѐ Meravigliosa!

Rome Diary IV:
Il Mio Ritorno a Roma!
Friday February 2, 2018
Mostly Cloudy 53°F/12°C in Roma, EUR, Italia
Fair 57°F/14°C in Cedar Park, Texas
Buona giornata amici miei!
     Di Mercoledi, (On Wednesday), my son took me for a personal, private tour of the Vatican Museum, the Sistine Chapel and Basilica San Pietro right under the noses of the Swiss Guards.

My son, the Tour Guide
Michael is a licensed tour guide in Rome, but he is not sanctioned to guide tour groups through the Vatican Museum, the Sistine Chapel or St. Peter’s Basilica. After all, Vatican City is a separate, sovereign nation whose Prime Minister, Papa Francesco, is not elected by any earthly voters, but reports only to The Almighty!  And so, as we walked along through the Medieval wonder of it all, my son cautioned me, I’ve gotta keep my voice down, Pop! If one of the Vatican guards thinks I’m giving a guided tour, they can ask us to leave. My excitement level rose. I wasn’t just on another guided tour, I was on a clandestine operation deep inside the Vatican. Nervously scanning the crowds of other tourists, looking for secret agents of Opus Dei, we plunged onward.

January is the slack season of year for the tour industry in Rome, so we had ample time to contemplate the treasures on display at the Musei di Vaticani. When we arrived at La Capella Sistina, we easily found a seat on the benches that skirt the periphery of the large room and gazed up at the ceiling and Michelangelo’s magnificent fresco. Ever the art scholar, my son, described in great detail how Michelangelo had created this masterpiece along with the personal anecdotes and insights into this medieval artistic genius that made Michelangelo come to life for me.
     On the second day of February most Americans are thinking, Hooray! It’s Ground Hog Day! The day set aside to honor that furry, little critter Punxatawney Phil, and contemplating the prospect of
Perseus & His Groundhog!
six more weeks of Winter. But, not this Americano. I’m in Rome, Italy, thousands of miles away from the clack and clatter of domestic political turbulence back home in Texas and vicinity. I’m in the middle of a five week stay in Italy, but I’m already thinking about when I’ll be coming back.  Let me see… My high school class reunion is in October in New York… Maybe I could just leave from NYC and fly back to Italy.  Oh well! Let’s think about it. Now then, I’ll get around to some travel advice in a moment, but, I would like to digress for a moment to insert a short note to my Italian language teacher, Patrizia, back in Austin, Texas:

Cara Patrizia, vorrei riprendermi un momento dal scrivere il mio blog per raccontarvi la mia vacanza.
Sto soggiornando in un appartamento che ho affittato in EUR, in Viale dell'Oceano Atlantico vicino a Laurentina. Mio figlio Michael e sua moglie Laura vivono nelle vicinanze a Colle Parnaso. Io sarò qui per un mese. Ho mio traduttore di Google e praticare il mio vocabolario con DuoLingo ogni giorno.
      A presto.
      Arrivederci, MikeBo

(Dear Patrizia,
I would like to take a moment from writing my blog to tell you about my vacation.
      I am staying at an apartment I have rented in EUR, on Viale dell’Oceano Atlantico near Laurentina. My son Michael and his wife Laura live nearby in Colle Parnaso. I will be here for a month. I have my Google Translator and practice my vocabulary with DuoLingo every day.
See you soon.

      So there. I like to keep la mia insegnante-my teacher - up to date on my progress. Learning a new language is a challenge for me, but, I am beginning to feel comfortable in my new surroundings, in no small way, my thanks to Patrizia Papi at Austin Community College. Grazie mille, mia Professoressa!
      I’ve mentioned that the more frequently I travel to Rome that I have been feeling less and less like a typical American tourist but, as every visit concludes, I feel more and more like an expatriate. Not quite Mike Botula, International Man of Mystery, but no longer a Californian or even a Texan where I happen to live now. (Full Disclosure: Since I was born in New York City, I must state that people like me who are born in NYC, are New Yorkers, regardless of where they choose to live, until they die. And even then, their epitaph will usually read, Here lies a New Yorker!)
      One aspect of my transition from tourist to ex-pat is my effort to learn the language. Prior to my first trip to Rome in 2005, I signed up for a class at the Italian Cultural Center in Sacramento entitled: Buon Viaggio! Conversational Italian for Travelers, taught by Patrizia Cerruti. The trip itself became what I have since come to recognize as the typically overly ambitious, over-planned, over-tiring first time overseas journey by a typical American. I deluded myself into thinking that I could visit Rome and Pompeii; go on to Naples, visit Florence, Milan and take a gondola ride through Venice and do it with days to spare.

Cue the cold splash of reality!  We never left the city limits of Rome. In fact, I never past the confines of the Aurelian Wall except for a few trips up to Selci, in Sabina to Laura’s parents’ home in
I Due Mike Botulas
the mountains. So now with numerous vacations and extended stays in Italy under my belt, I would advise my friends: Sure! If you’re a first-time traveler, book yourself on a pre-planned tour and have someone make sure you get where you want to go. Then on your NEXT trip, start exploring! Work with your travel service and surf the internet. I’m a fan of Rick Steves’ travel shows on PBS. If you’re a PBS subscriber, you can stream Steves’ entire repertoire of travelogues, then select a destination that catches your eye.

I haven’t said much about Michael and No Funny Stuff! But, I will after I see the band play Saturday night at Mahalia here in Rome.  With the pace he’s going these days, a geezer like me has to make a real effort to keep up with him.

I’ll keep you posted along the way.

[Mike Botula is the author of LST 920: Charlie Botula’s Long, Slow Target! He is a retired broadcast journalist, government spokesperson and media consultant.   Mike’s book is available from Amazon or Barnes and Noble Books. You can follow his blog at: mikebotula.blogspot.com, or visit Mike Botula at www.mikebotula.com]