far too much writing, far too many photos

– Two days ago, somewhere in Rome. A young woman passed me on the sidewalk, trailing the aroma of a perfume hauntingly similar to a scent I knew from high school and haven’t smelled since, an association from one of my first passionate relationships. For a minute I vanished into times long-past, engulfed in vivid memories, moments I haven’t revisited in a long time. Until I came to, on a sunlit sidewalk in a foreign city. Traveling thousands of miles and a couple of decades, just like that.

– Yesterday morning in la estaciĆ²n Termini, Rome — me dragging along my monster wheeled duffel, navigating my way through the crowds of people. Two women approached and passed, apparently a 40-something mother and young-20s daughter. Arm in arm, straight-backed, dressed similarly, both wearing large sunglasses. Their gazes settled on me as they approached, walking in unison, expressions impassive, until they drew near and their faces turned away, fixing on something or someone else, somewhere off ahead of them.

– A short time later, as I found my seat on the train that will take me to Florence, a 60-something Italian woman came flying into the coach, hugely upset and expressing it at the top of her lungs. Talking fast enough that I couldn’t get the gist of the problem, nearly wailing, punctuating her words with cries of “Oh, Christo!” and “Oh, Jesu!” She continued like that for fifteen or twenty seconds, finally wheeling about and sweeping out of the coach into the neighboring one, leaving behind a car full of stunned, silent passengers, staring after her or trading perplexed glances, murmuring soft Mama mias and the like. Her voice faded with distance, activity in our coach slowly resumed, people stowing baggage, removing coats, taking seats.

– On arrival at the station at Florence, I headed immediately to a kiosk to pick up a map of the city, maybe a guide book. A tall, sad-faced man who worked there saw me nosing about, asked if he could help. We began talking in Spanish, him listening attentively, thoughtfully, showing me maps and guide books in response. An absolute gentleman in every moment of our dealings. The exact opposite of the 30ish type in the kiosk who took money and tossed back change, making it clear he had no interest in anything well-mannered.

– Two, three hours later, sitting at a table in a small restaurant not far from my hotel. A group of seven businesspeople sat at a table between me and the window, talking loudly. Four 60ish men in suits, all white-haired and/or bald — one of them spoke exactly like — I mean EXACTLY like — Brando as Don Corleone. A fifth man, 50-something, went for the Tony Soprano look, doing a decent job of it due to his build and outfit: black sport shirt, sunglasses tilted up on his head. The final two members of the dining party: two 40ish women, putting up with the men.

– The waiter at the same restaurant — friendly, seemingly happy, in black pants and necktie w/ white shirt — cleaned up after the restaurant emptied out, smiling, singing softly as he replaced tableclothes then deposited silverware at each place setting.

– Today: I sat in a different restaurant, working on one of the most perfectly done roast chickens I have ever had the privilege of stuffing into my mouth, watching people passing outside in the mid-afternoon light and shadows. A couple approached along the street — a beautiful, narrow thoroughfare with scant automotive traffic so that pedestrians may walk wherever they like with little interruption. Him: a tall, 30ish Italian in a long, dark winter coat, his hair a shoulder-length mass of frizzy curls, brown everywhere except in front where it is a white, extravagant tangle. Her: a mid-20s Japanese woman, dressed nicely in leather coat and flared pants. Both push bicycles, both bikes nearly identical down to the black wire baskets hanging off the front of the handlebars, his empty, hers containing a green scarf. She talked, expression serious, all the way along, him listening, looking at her, down at the street, up into the sunlight, back at her.

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One final thing. Something I’ve noticed these past two days: the numerous stores dealing in more intimate wear for women (sexy, insubstantial, beautifully made night-wear and undergarments) use extremely lifelike, nicely-breasted mannequins, all of whom seem to have impossible-to-ignore stiff nipples. Visually striking and attention-getting, but simply not fair to those of us who find themselves brutally beset by male hormones at the drop of an erect chest protrusion.

Ah, well.

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