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Monday 24 October

For some reason I woke up at 5:30 this morning, having turned off the light at about three minutes past midnight and thus having slept only 5½ hours, but feeling aware and pretty rested: the body is totally puzzling.

The six-thirty news and weather: rain expected today. So I moved to rain schedule, i.e., I'm going skating instead of walking; leaving by the 9:01 which puts me in Rome at 10:47; I have 3 or 4 things I want to do, some or all of them will get done: get my haircut, get a Raphael's for 1963 and for this year, get more IGM maps, and visit the Sistine Chapel.

Weighed 79 = 174; breakfast so far has been a facefruit and two cups of coffee. Situps 128 done mostly out of frustration at skips only 10: I wanted something more rewarding, and the situps provide it [. . .]

12:40 and waiting for my order in a restaurant next to the Palazzo Torlonia: I got to Rome on time and no sooner outside Termini was met by large street march heading down the v. Cavour, mostly red, but also green-and‑white-striped flags flying. In fact, despite extending at least six blocks, it didn't look like much of a demonstration: remove the large flags, whistles and artificial noisemakers (horns or little canisters of compressed air looking for all the world like fire extinguishers), there were rather few people and they really weren't very worked up —

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I took a few pictures then branched off at the P.zza dell' Esquilino, heading toward my map source of v. del Tritone: a cordon of police guarding the approach to the v. delle 4 Fontane made an attractive picture and foil to those of the demonstrators; I took it — and of course a (not very) plainclothes cop came up to me to tell me that was verboten under the law, and then consulted his superior — a woman — to come back and say that I could go: of course it is not verboten to snap pictures of cops — I asked 3 people: a woman in the street who looked very unkeen on being involved and scurried away with a "Non so" and a very worried look, an old gentleman who unhesitatingly gave me a flat "no" — and my clerk at 61A v. del Tritone where I bought 40 maps (many in fact 2 copies, actually fewer separate sheets), who explained the pot aux roses, viz. that in Milan there'd been very recently a peaceful demonstration where cops came bashing down and someone caught it on film —

Got all the maps I wanted altho' not always in 2 copies — took the Metro back at the p.zza Barberini, agreeably surprised to find that unlike Termini and P. Pinciana this station is set up to get you right to the platform, even if after a very long escalator, after all, Rome is a river surrounded by hills —

To Lepanto where I remember having seen a poster for an astrology store, 274 v. dei Gracchi; found the place, but Monday was precisely the day they close; so walked down the v. Cola di Rienzo, stopping once to buy the Pope's book and it turns out a few classical tests not available in Loebs: Lucian on the Dance, Apuleius on Socrates' Δαιμων, and the Hermes Trismegistus appearing under Poimandres — the latter a text everyone talks about and quotes, but you can't find anywhere.

And so, 100 m from Vatican City — round the corner from the back of the colonnade sinister of St. Peter's — I've just had most of my meal in a fairly empty restaurant (25 tables, 5 occupied incl. mine: 2 Italian groups, 1 German group, 1 American couple speaking no Italian at all, the woman intently perusing a map of Rome, the man, a pleasant-looking blonde in a white maglia and jeans with a camera tied to his belt) in charge of a Calabrian waiter with a tendency to pet me on the arm — Meal was pretty good: antipasto misto consisting mostly of charcuterie and cooked bell peppers; fettucine all' Alfredo (here that means with peas ham and mushrooms), good; as contorno some green beans served very hot (the joys of the microwave!) with melted butter, excellent but I sort of drained the butter off; a fruit salad; a ½ bottle of Frascati — not Fontana Candida for once but Silvestri the proprietor's bottling; and even that too much, my taste for wine is diminishing due in part frankly to a real shortage of good Italian wine, I've only found one red and two whites I reliably enjoy. Coffee and a sambuca.

Anyway, here I am, writing this at nearly arm's length without my glasses — it's a blur — my glasses are in my bag but I'm too lazy to ferret and scrabble with them. . . Train at 4:10 as usual; and the predicted rain already by 8+ in Todi was hardly materializing neither here, feel somewhat foolish also have missed a day's walk, still, no harm done of course and I can always walk tomorrow; my instinct was in fact, as was that of the stationery store woman from whom I bought the next notebook of this diary early this morning, to look to the West, clear, and decide there would be no rain: she actually took me out into the street to show me, and it looks like we may both have been right. Anyway, no harm in a session of cutting up the ice. (Gosh what a luxury nearly daily skating a few blox from home is going to be when I get back!)


After my skate at Marino, or more accurately after holding court about skating, Chicago, my maestro in Chicago, the principessa Diana, the Tuderti's seriousness about their Etruscan wall, and others . . . .

Very nice ice today, plus not too crowded — if only they'd put on something other than boom-boom as music — lots of fooling around; also a fair amount of edge rolls and back crossovers; I really hope there actually is some improvement like Giampiero says. I find myself doing what I think are brackets again, mostly by sort of throwing myself onto one foot and turning — not too sure — anyway they don't seem to be related to the careful 3‑turns I'm officially learning — some of the daring is going out of my skating — I'm sure that's "better", but it's not me —

After my lunch I spent a brief hour in St. Peter's. It's not that big, in fact; although they have the extremely bad taste to have put the names and lengths of various churches on the floor down the nave, tempered only by the grace to have included St. Paul's, Washington Cathedral and Hagia Sophia which are not Catholic. Still, bad taste is not what's in short supply in St. Peter's: most of the details are ghastly, although there's a nice Transfiguration behind an altar on the left towards the front, I have a feeling it's famous — looks like Raphaël?

I prayed at the Confessio; felt weird kneeling down and praying surrounded by all the tourists; felt doubly weird considering that in theory at that point I, not they, was who the church was for . . . .

Metro back to Termini arriving, I knew, with like an hour before my train; anything rather than wait an hour in Termini, there was a 3:25 to Ciampino, which I immediately took, then waited at Ciampino for my 4:10 which arrives in Ciampino at 4:24.


[. . .] I'm on my train [. . .] Interestingly, both the new books I've started (the De deo Socratis and John Paul II's "Varcare la soglia della speranza") are about honoring the soul. At least I know where mine is, that's really not a bad start at all.


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Page updated: 1 Apr 03