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Thu. 13 October

Sitting on the 12:05 Linea C (full of schoolkids), getting ready to go skate; James with the keys in Perugia possibly. Beautiful warm weather again.

To catch up with yesterday, after our late return from Perugia Tuesday evening and in view of James's hurt knee (he sprained it somehow on a slippery little staircase in Perugia, he thinks) we took it very easy and played tourist in Todi, basically a visit of the Duomo, which was almost completely closed last year, followed by a long lunch at the Umbria.

I took a fairly complete set of pictures of the capitals in the Duomo, also a few pictures of the random collection of old stones mounted on metal brackets in a long and curious corridor leading off the crypt, with a number of niches in turn off of it, most of them containing bells, almost all of 'em containing a shower of coins. The corridor is dignified by the name of ' small lapidary museum' in the guides, but there are no explanations or chronological setup or anything museumlike about it. One funerary inscription is in two pieces, separately mounted on the wall some distance apart with other stones in between, but I spotted that they were halves — rather pleased with myself for noticing it, took pictures, may even call the attention of the church to it, altho' in real doubt how useful that is: the guard who takes one's 500₤ I think it was for the crypt, and who sits in a little glass booth in the north aisle of the church, was a rather dour blue-overalled worker type of about 55 or 60 busy eating a sammich;a no other sign of life other than us few tourists.

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Transitional Romanesque-Gothic capital in the Duomo of Todi.

Lunch at the Umbria a bit after our slow tour of the Duomo (where it was still not permitted to view the stalls, whence my calling the guard dour, in part; in fact there was a fire to some wooden stalls not very long ago in a church in Perugia and they've been restoring those ever since, and I wouldn't be surprised if it was a tourist-related accident like a hot flashbulb or a semi-extinguished pipe); we went around to Sant' Ilario, sitting on a warm sunny bench just after the Fonte Scarnabecco for a few minutes, and returning via the P.zza del Mercato Vecchio and what they're now just calling Nicchioni rather than a Foro Romano, which makes better sense.

At the Umbria, James had the antipasto misto, the polenta with truffles, and pheasant in salmí which was an excuse for a gruel-like green sauce heavily flavored with thyme and rosemary (with which our wine, a Rubesco Monticchi of Lungarotti, good in itself, went particularly well). I had the lentil soup, the tagliatelle ai tartufi, and unavoidably the palomba alla ghiotta, now seasonal: the menus were changed last week. Palomba alla ghiotta is associated with S. Fortunato's feast (tomorrow) but of course is the result of all the hunting in September-October. I have a recipe in the Cucine Tuderte book I got: it's a pigeon boiled endlessly in its own blood, feathers, tripe, beak, feet, etc. It tasted of liver and wine but was surprisingly unsalty. No dessert, altho' coffee and grappa di rubesco (Lungarotti seems to have the valley locked up, being offered us as the nec plus ultra in almost any kind of wine: but in fact they're good wines — grappa less so.)

We then stopped a few minutes at the top of the Palazzo steps, in the sun; these days I feel more than part lizard, acutely conscious of sun and shade; James tends to be outright cold even when wearing a blazer or a sweater.

At 3 the room at the top of the steps opened up. Not worth going in, but then they weren't charging. The room is nice, about 12 meters high, stone, a remnant of fresco high up in one corner. Some stones along the walls; in the center a temporary exhibit of some bad local painter of the 20's and 30's with a taste for the dismal: at least 3 of the works were pictures of crazy people. At 3:10 we were back in the apartment. At 3:15 I was undressed, in bed, and asleep as the sun travelled over the bedroom window.

Woke up around 6, did a bit of house organizing, caught up on my diary a bit, and slept again.

Today James left after breakfast to catch the 9:08 bus from the gardens and the train to Perugia. I stayed, entered Umbrian towns, or updated them, in my Atlas database; looked at my daily dose of news; did various sets of skips, never getting past 44 but on the other hand always getting past 13, plus they were better in form at least. 50 situps but the lower back felt like I should stop. In fact I got a stiff neck from them — my shoulder has returned to normal with only a disappointing little bruise to show for it.

I left the apartment door blocked open with my skate bag at 11:40 to see if I could get milk and bread. I could have but it would have involved a wait and I was nervous about catching my sequence of buses and trains, so left the store, contenting myself with dropping of film to be developed and mailing a card to Debi Joyce; and now pulling out of Sangémini station Terniwards, shame to spend such a beautiful day on trains but what can I do? Maybe I'll come back to Chicago skating a bit better —


Sitting on the rink train — hot in here — waiting for it to leave. Arrived a bit late at Termini, bought a booklet of metro tickets (11 for the price of 10 at 12000₤) and thru innumerable dingy corridors found my platform (linea A to Ottaviano) and my crowded subway train — not clean — to the terminus. At Ottaviano, signs point you immediately to St. Peter's: I walked about 6 blocks on nondescript avenues until I saw an official posted schedule of openings of the Vatican Museums & Sistine Chapel, which is what I'd gone for. Sunday, predictably, closed (except the last Sunday of the month, treated like a Saturday); Saturday, only ½ day: from 8:45 to 1:00 P.M. I'm probably going to encourage James to spend Saturday in Rome but return to sleep in Todi — to save the hotel: the RT train fare is much cheaper than any hotel. He will probably not want to do it: but to be in Rome, esp. with his interests, and not see the Vatican, is unthinkable.

Anyway, worried about catching my train I immediately turned around. I noted there is a 2:45 P.M. train to the rink I can just barely catch — the train from Terni, scheduled arriving at 2:30, is usually 5 to 7 minutes late — but this may be useful, even if I have to sit in Ciampino waiting for my usual train: or in S. Maria delle Mole, maybe the W side of the tracks has a pleasant café or something, altho' it doesn't look like it; or near the rink, etc. [. . .]


And as usual, skating has put me in a terrific mood; even an hour's lesson with perfectionist Giampiero, although he was in a mood to tell me how much better everything was — at least until we got to back crossovers L/R — his emphasis has been on where I feel my weight — and of course, I just don't: I have the utmost travesty of body sense, it will take me a couple of years? maybe — I shouldn't say such things — still, realism requires that I state that for now I don't have any sense of where my body is.

Still, the skating is exhilarating, even conducted in a language I'm not used to thinking I speak, although I guess I do, now.


On the putt-putt back to Rome, a few minutes later, just having stopped at Casabianca (and having traversed the sulphurous stench about 100 m from the stop at S. Maria, whatever it is — maybe for the convenience of visiting skaters they've odorized my stop with mercaptans — it really is sort of useful). A cool night, I'm glad I'm wearing tights under my wool trousers, plus my cow sweatshirt and a windbreaker too —

I got absorbed, in the midst of my last bout of reflection, by the beauty of all the preAlpha thru FS1 skaters in their brightly colored outfits on the ice — quite lovely — Giampiero at the far end of the rink with about ten tots ages 3 to 6, a few parents snapping pictures over the barrier; I'll probably do it myself one of these days so I'll have a picture of Giampiero for my scrapbook. What a peculiar animal is man: the incredible expense and the imagination involved in maintaining a football field of frozen water thru the seasons then putting people on blades on it then encouraging us to jump and spin on them!!

[. . .] Todi has, so far, been an unfair experiment because it has been a month-long vacation: of course I'm happier and calmer! I'm doing whatever I feel like, spending money, not dealing with my house, my bills, pets, my work. . . . and noone (James or anyone else) to disagree with me. Even my little love affair with Italy is that way, I basically don't have to deal with the bureaucracy, and I can enjoy the language in much the same way that the Pirates of Oz whiled away some few hours looking at the luminescence of the Menankypoodles as they chattered away at the bottom of the sea: cute but inconsequential. Exaggerating a bit, but some truth to it.

When I get back to Chicago, I really have only 2 projects: clean up my taxes and clean up my translation work. These two items are essential: the rest will either do itself or will take very little time or will not be under my control or will be things I can and should put off.

At the same time, I'm at a crossroads [. . .]


Later Note for the Web:

a We will meet him again three years later. . . .


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Page updated: 19 Nov 02