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Saturday 29 July

Yesterday another simple day, and most of it I was about 12 years old, which is fine: I went to the beach; in fact, my eagerly awaited (then curiously dreaded, for no reason whatsoever — damn this thing, I want my old self back — anyway) meeting with Domenico Carro.

So up at 4:30 to catch the 0611 to Rome arriving at 0843 or so; next train out to Lavinio, on the Nettuno line, at 1025; but no hour and a half in Rome has to be wasted: I went to S. Bibbiana, a tiny basilical church lost in the hash of railroad and near-slum a ways down the v. Giolitti; although in fact the latter has obviously been cleaned up for the Giubileo: oh it isn't great, but the garbage is taken care of and the streets that debouch into it don't seem to be full of working whores, nor of homeless on cardboard mats in doorways — of course, they've just moved elsewhere I imagine, but they're not here.

I also wandered thru a rather nice market: meat, cheese, vegetables, at least 2 stands of North African spices, and many of fresh fish with lots of variety. The block behind it full of cats, of course; but then really that's because of the Trophies of Marius: the Roman cat syndrome. (Actually I think there's something to it: prolly a combination of bricks and stones that heat up nicely, nooks out of the wind and rain, and at the same time few people to disturb them.)

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Cat's choice

In turn behind that the Trophies of Marius, large brick core of what must have been an imposing and prolly attractive monument, now in a seedy park; then quickly back to the station via S. Vito and the Arch of Gallienus (scaffolding, but not too bad). Pit stop in the last block or so of the via Gioberti, on the left, for a piece of pizza or a quick panino, turned out to be a discovery: a tavola calda with a few tiny tables in the back, that had some of the most appetizing things set out already for lunch, and what I had (a sort of stuffed pizza with ham and other things) was very good and certainly cheap.

Fifty-minute trip to Lido di Lavinio eventless: chatted with a woman nearly 80 and a couple of other passengers. At my stop, even before I got off, I spotted Domenico right away: the only man of the right age who looked fit; and in a few minutes we were at their beach house, me with the ever-present camera bag but also a bunch of nested plastic bags cradling a bottle of Trevi olive oil, which I presented to Mrs. Carro — elegant, blue and green beach wrap, very tan almost dangerously so — as "del mio paese", that is, Umbria. . . They have a cat very much like Boo except the white apex on the nose asymmetrical in the other direction; and a big wonderful white Lab, 6 years old, named Raul, a big darling — also hot in this weather perfect to go to the beach in.

Not much to describe about going to the beach, 150 m away, where they rent an umbrella for the summer, nor about bathing in fairly warm water with the occasional school of tiny fish: fair waves for the Mediterranean (in good company to ask!) but mild compared to the Atlantic, not quite enough to get good rides, although I tried. I hadn't been to the beach (except for Lake Michigan) since Cartagena in 1993, or even 1992 was it.

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A discreet portrait.

Back to the Carro's, where we had a very simple lunch, just perfect for the weather; plus with that slice of stuff at 10, I was not hungry at all: rice salad, a coupla plums; lot and lots to drink, as usual. Chatted about various things, nothing earth-shattering, nicely low-key, exactly what I needed; and train back to Rome — an hour wait, I browsed the large bookstore there (Termini is now really rather pleasant, a very great improvement, Giubileo useful for once) and bought the only classic that they had that's not easily available back home, the History of the Lombards by Paul the Deacon. On the train back home, alternately read that and Vol. VIII of Domenico's Naval History, autographed for me, providentially opening with a long section on something that's been travailing me for a while now: how on earth did a 20‑year‑old kid wind up master of Rome, not having done anything previously of course? Domenico's general approach a very congenial sourcebook-type approach: believe the sources when they tell you something, as much as you can, and let them say it; after all they were there. Less "clever" than the Radke crossword-puzzle approach, but then you're less likely to invent a past that never existed (Radke's Flaminia seems curious to me, and apparently I'm not the only one).

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Termini train station, remodeled for the 2000 Jubilee Year.

Home, bed.


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