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Wed. 14 September

Woke up at just past 1:30 A.M. It's now around dawn (altho' of course I can't tell since I have no window) and I'll probably go back to sleep a bit; have spent the last few hours peacefully getting acquainted with the PowerBook now that there's no pressure on. All in all, it's a neat little doodad.

During the evening, a maid and maybe a hotel guest with her came into the room to retrieve items from the safe box in the wall — which, by Italian standards is kosher: the box was closed until 6 P.M. yesterday so the previous tenant of the room couldn't access it. . . .

I just had a glass of tap water, which would hardly be noteworthy until I realized this is the first eat or drink I've had since I arrived in Italy almost 24 hours ago — chissà, it might wipe out the excesses at O'Hare.

Seems odd to be in Rome two days for only the second time in my life and not do any sights, but I'm planning on getting to banks, possibly buying clothes, and going skating in Marino. If I have time and feel inclined, I'll go see the Pons Fabricius. On the way in on the train I saw a few stretches of Roman masonry —

Slept again to wake up around 11:40! Day thus pretty much shot for shopping; left hotel quickly to have lunch, which I found in a little street behind the P.zza Venezia end of v. del Corso: Ristorante la Cabana, v. Marcini 7/9. Long hole in the wall, wallpapered in acrylic-covered real autumn leaves, very middle of the road. 60,000₤ + 10,000₤ my tip meal: bresaola, 'strudel di vitello', insalata di pomodori, spinaci, caraffa media di vino bianco di casa, bottiglia grande d'un acqua frizzante (Ferrarella), 2 pies (all' amarena, al fico), grappa, rather fancy grappa in fact — Not to say "figa" for fig, that is cunt, wouldn't you know I'd step into that. . .​a

French couple walked in just after me, in their late fifties [. . .] Family of "8" (5 in fact), Italians, at another table; restaurant people wandered in and out a lot, usually carrying things out: a plate of German-fried potatoes, a bouquet of dwarf carnations atop a mysterious plastic garbage bag, a small plain pizza. My waiter pudgy, mustachioed, genuinely eager to please by temperament. Food fine if no stars: the 'strudel' (a hash, presumably of leftovers, forced into loaf shape then sliced) much too salty, but w the spinach and the bread (the round rolls were hollow; also a long flat, flat loaf — quite good) it worked fine. A bit of a haze from the wine (a piccola caraffa would have been better) and the grappa, esp. since as I was paying the bill I was brought a 2d glass on the house —

Walked to a bank on the v. del Corso, they told me there's a limit of 450,000₤ cash from a USA card.​b I changed $190 cash at a cambio at 1520/$, which doesn't improve my cash situation but does add to my liquidity.

(Forgot to mention I had a lunch table at a window onto the street, dismal little alley actually; across it, a garage door, 17th century stucco on brick to imitate stone, totally surrounded by a very ugly morass of at least 18 cables, many quite thick, water pipes, etc. The meal was good, tho'.)

Around 1 A.M., back at hotel. A by and large disappointing and wasted day from the standpoint of practicalities: Merrill Lynch here told me they could do nothing for me, couldn't even give me lire off my CMA, and they volunteered that they wouldn't let me use their fax (I wasn't seeking to); finally they told me I could get unlimited cash from American Express since I had a CMA, on the strength of which I took a long roundtrip walk to AmEx at P.zza di Spagna — the phone book gave a very nearby address, but this was not true — to be told there that not only not unlimited, but nothing at all — (sniff) that's a VISA card. I said the hell with it, by then banks were closed, and I went and stood in line at Termini to make sure I could get back if I went skating. I could, so I bought a ticket from a machine and 1745 found me on a train bound for S. Maria delle Mole; which took us sort of along the Appian Way, actually under or possibly thru the Roman aqueduct at one point,º and before Ciampino a stretch of maybe a mile of aqueduct in pretty good shape along the left of the train, in full view thru the fields.

Santa Maria delle Mole is worse than unprepossessing to arrive at by train: it's a God-forsaken dump, the stationhouse being the kind of place even a vagrant in need of shelter to sleep avoids — the rink is about 400 m away though, on the other side of a nearby highway, a large white and pink concrete structure, round but its shape obscured by other nearby facilities, including a Bocciodromo.

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Since this place will recur very frequently in my diary for 1994, 1997 and 1998:
The rail hut at S. Maria delle Mole.

I got in, actually saw the rink, and made sure I had the schedule right; I did: 1500 to 1630, 1700 to 1830, and 2100 to 2230 (and 2300 to 0030) but no 1900 to 2030 — I got there at 1820 — So I left again, carrying my bag in my left hand as is now getting normal with me, and walked about 1 km to a restaurant called Le Palme, which graciously fed me at 7 despite dining hours being 8:30 and after — I had a good meal: prosciutto and very orange very good melon, a pasta with funghi porcini in good olive oil (excellent), a steak of sorts, good spinach, a peach, some fizzy water, 38,000₤ service included although I left another 5000₤ as a tip, they really were sort of closed and on their own time. Big pleasant room other than for the acoustic tile and neon light ceiling and the terrazzo floor: simple tables with pink tablecloths, long, with shorter white ones over them, simple glasses and silverware.

I walked back, under increasing rain, I was very wet by the time I got back to the rink, PalaGhiaccio, although not actually sopping. Entrance fee 9000₤ including lockers. The locker is assigned to you — you get a key at the skate rental desk but leave your ID or in my case your passport, I never like that, but what can one do.

I did my warmups, put on the dancebelt and tights — they were dry — and regretted not having brought my cow sweatshirt from the hotel, since my little blue shirt was pretty wet; but after a short while on the ice it did dry out; and stepped out onto the ice causing raised eyebrows by removing my guards — apparently skate guards are unknown here, even good skaters had none, and yes the floors are rubber, but this way I could and did at one point thirsty get off the ice, climb up to the bar and buy a Gatorade (4000₤), which the others couldn't do.

About 90 people max on a regulation-size rink; at the end of the session fewer: the usual mix, 20 creeping along the boards, 5 hockey types, 25 recreational types, 15 at various freestyle levels, the best was a man practicing axels, most were FS-3 or so: and then people like me.

The ice itself very white, rather soft, the rink not too cold, so the ice sublimating to a mass of rock-concert smoke, you could not see the whole length of the rink. . . The facility, beauti­ful and very clean: multicolored plastic seats in the stands, pleasant high arena ceiling, huge wooden beams, bright yellow ducts a man could crawl through.

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I tried to do dogbones, but the rink too crowded for that and of course center ice is always a problem at any rink; did a few — Practised cleaner stroking and tried with I believe some success to get rid of the right shoulder lunge. Practiced T‑stops now that I have my edges back: the right ones were almost uniformly excellent — not perfect since I want to develop a good backwards lean — and the left ones were all right but not so much control (shoulders twisting by 15°, blade chatter, etc.) with a few failing altogether, catching the toe pick for example. A few spirals, my LFO getting definitely better.

At 1030 I hustled myself off and retrieved my passport as quickly as I could and walked back to the stationhouse, a single-room shelter with an open front, yellow stucco walls covered with mostly political posters and mostly political graffiti, although there was one item where someone would suck someone off down to the marrow — a bit too medical for my taste.

Train duly showed up, stopped, scooped me up along with young woman whose boyfriend stayed behind — back to Termini eventlessly.

[. . .] being in a sour mood from the Merrill Lynch uncoöperativeness [. . .]

Back to hotel, longish conversation with James, he was in another of his foul moods, I immediately plugged into it — he was able to give me my Merrill Lynch card code; but apparently Rolodex back in Chicago is just hanging so he can't tell people where to go get an interpreter — also I did leave an unclear morass of unpaid bills which he's stuck with paying and resents much: on the other hand [. . .]

Am considering a vélo-Solex (I think I noticed that unlike scooters and motorcycles they have no license plates, can I assume I need no driver's license?); if I use it say 5 times Todi to PalaGhiaccio and thus avoid 5 nights in a hotel in Rome I break even easily; when I leave I can give it to a church or something.

On the way back on the train from S. Maria I was thinking about how disconnected I'm shown up to be here; the closest connection I have with the world is my work, followed by my house [. . .] followed by the skating [. . .]

Anyway, it's quite late, I have a 6:00 wakeup call for getting me to Todi, I need to sleep. [. . .]

Later Notes:

a "Figue" is feminine in French, and in 1994 I'm not really speaking Italian yet. What the diary doesn't say is that the good Lord must have been watching over me, since just two days later, when it mattered, I had the right word to use in thanking my new landlady.

b I was even told this was Italian law. That appears to have been a flat lie: I was later able to withdraw cash in much larger amounts from my American VISA card, both with an introduction from someone the bank knew, and cold, as a total stranger.

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