Thursday, June 05, 2003

Got the legal writing grade.

Got an A.

Very happy. Also got an explanation from the Contracts prof on my grade. She gave quite a bit of detail, which, while not making things better, at least made them understandable.

I am now off to Sorrento. Have a nice weekend, y'all. And Miguel, get back to your desk!
Under blue moon I saw you
So soon you'll take me
Up in your arms, too late to beg you
Or cancel it, though I know it must be
The killing time
Unwillingly mine

Up against your will
Through the thick and thin
He will wait until
You give yourself to him

In starlit nights I saw you
So cruelly you kissed me
Your lips a magic world
Your sky all hung with jewels
The killing moon
Will come too soon

How not to do things, Part I

Tuesday night was, according to Dean Jean, "The most formal night we'll have here." Accordingly, we were expected to wear suit and tie as we were to visit the Attorney General's office. But because Ryan Air had such strict weight requirements, John and I had both scotched the idea of bringing a suit (and more than five shirts each). Therefore, we didn't have the 'formal attire' expected. Fortunately, DJ allowed us dispensation, and told us a shirt and tie would be sufficient. Good thing, too. Imagine our surprise when we found that we would all be taking public transportation to (and from) the AG's office. Imagine as well the surprise of the ten or so Italians on the bus when 75 American law students piled in, filling the bus to capacity in only its third or fourth stop. It was a sweltering day, and jamming all of us on the bus only made it worse. By the time the bus pulled into Piazza Cavour, not a one of us was dry. My shirt was soaked through with sweat, and most of the women's hair had flopped.

We then walked across the Tiber and through a winding maze of streets until we reached the AG's building. Once inside, we were ushered into a large, white room, with a resplendant fresco on one end, and the undeniably pungent odor of fresh paint throughout. There were at least twenty, if not more, tables arranged in rows of two facing the fresco, and seating three people each in plush red-velvet-and-wood chairs. Beneath the fresco was an extended bench, with nine high-backed chairs, and a microphone in front of each chair. The ceiling of the room was a good twenty feet above, and pitched. The walls were white, save for the wall of the fresco, and the side walls had speakers placed about six feet high at regular intervals. The floor was white tile, the only interruption being some kind of design in the very center of the floor, the purpose or meaning of which was never explained. The tables, chairs, and floor, we soon found out, were all covered in paint dust.

Presently, the members of the AG's office who were going to speak to us came out and seated themselves to our right, while the instructors for our classes, and DJ, were seated to our left. DJ started the presentation off with a little speech welcoming us, and pointing out that there was a bit of an echo. And that's the last thing anyone in the room understood for the next hour. Supposedly, the members of the AG's office spoke on Criminal Law in Italy, Civil Law, Administrative Law, and the makeup of the legal professions, but the acoustics were so bad, the echo so horrendous and the accents so thick, no one could understand a word of what was being said.

We had been told originally that this would be followed by a reception, and then we'd be able to watch the sun set over Rome from the roof of the building. But, like something out of a bad comedy, things kept turning out differently. The reception was cancelled; the horrible 'world economy' was to blame for the tight budgets. (Somehow, we all figured that the AG would actually like to blame the crappy economy in Italy on us, but decided against doing that.) The rooftop excursion was worse. The first elevator only fit eight people at a time, so, concluding that it would be a while before 75 of us all got up there, they decided some of us should take a different elevator - which fit four people. To make matters worse, all of the people who knew the way to the roof went up on the first elevator, and none of them waited for us once there. So, of course, we wandered through offices before someone figured out that we might have gotten lost, and found us. It didn't matter. It was raining.

For their efforts in attempting to educate and inform us, DJ gave each of the AG's staff a gift. A nice CD holder, courtesy of Loyola Law School. Holds 12 CDs. Even has our name embossed on it. DJ made a big deal about how nice a gift it was, while at least two members of the staff stared blankly at it, wondering (we guessed) what the hell it was. They flipped through it, looked at each other, shrugged, smiled and waved a thanks to DJ. And secretly thought we were incredibly cheap. Not one of the students wasn't embarrassed by the cheap gift. One commented, "for all the money we're paying this school, couldn't they have given them a Mont Blanc pen?"

Afterward, a group of us made our way to Piazza Novrona, where we had easily the worst meal of the trip. Not only was the food bad, but the service was terrible, and poor Lisa didn't get her food until we were all nearly done with our meals. Fortunately Liz, who speaks excellent Italian and has been nominated our official guide, was there, and was able to at least get Lisa a meal. Of course we first had to go through lots of gyration and argument, but we did get it - eventually.

.....and the home.....of the.....pope.....

Yesterday morning was the 'papal audience.' I skipped it, having went two years ago, when I was here with the MBA school. So for me, yesterday was a day to sleep in ('til 10), go for a run, do some reading, and generally relax. I was one of a handful of students in all the schools that are here (Loyola-Chicago, Xavier, and Loyola-Marymount) who didn't go.

Another reason I didn't go was because it's not what you think it is. You don't go into a room, meet the pope, shake his hand, and tell him what a great job he's doing unless you're named Clinton, Blair or Bush. This papal audience occurs in St. Peter's square, where you're one of thousands. The pope arrives in the Popemobile, leaning heavily on the roll bar which encircles it, waving weakly to the crowd. He's driven up the stairs leading to the basilica, where a canopied seat awaits him. Two assistants help him to his seat, where he flops down and is handed a long list. First he does a general blessing on the crowd, and any items (crosses, rosaries, etc) that they've brought with them. Then he welcomes groups in their native language (at least the ones he knows) - French, German, Polish, English, and so on - with each group cheering loudly as they're mentioned. After reading the list of groups for that language, he says a blessing for those groups and their families. Then he moves on to the next language. All in all, pretty anticlimatic, except for the thrill of seeing the pope, even if it is at a great distance.

Since the audience was in the morning, classes were held in the afternoon, with a 'picnic/barbeque' afterward. Of course, as has been typical so far, things went wrong - they ran out of food before they ran out of people.

This morning, we were told that there would be another 'picnic' after our Supreme Court (Court of Cassation) visit next week. And they promised to have more food. I hope so.

I need to go pack. I leave for Sorrento in two hours. And I do have a picture of me with the goatee. I just need to get Tim to post it.

Wednesday, June 04, 2003

A long, long, time ago, as a high school freshman, I was selected to be a teacher's aide by an English teacher named Frank Della. Mr. Della was an interesting person, whom I never really felt comfortable around. But he had some influence at old ABS, and his student aides were able to pretty much do whatever we wanted. I don't know whatever became of Mr. Della, but I do remember one cliche he taught me: Familiarity breeds contempt. I didn't know what he meant back then, but I do now. All too well in some cases.

When you're in law school, you spend an inordinate amount of time with the same people, day in, day out. Some are arrogant mothers, who you just want to bitch-slap until they cry like babies. Others are wonderful people whom you can't wait to see. Most fall somewhere in between. Another thing they'll tell you is that "Law School X" (fill in the name of your school) is not competitive. This is complete and utter bullshit. Ok, so there are people who are willing to help each other out. But then there are those who live for grades.

Take Heather and John, for example. Heather is a former flight attendant, who is now going to law school full-time. There were four write on opportunities for law journals this past month, and Heather did them all. She also tried out for Moot Court, and spends her time mostly studying. She seems nice at first, but get to know her, and you won't like what you see. She's all about the grades. Case in point: last night, I was in Scott & Patrick's room when Heather came in. First comment out of her mouth? "I checked the website, and no new grades have been posted yet." Hello!!! We're in FUCKING ROME!!! Why do you care what the grades are? Moreover, why do you think I care?

John's no better. When I told him Contracts grades were in, he immediately got up from his chair and went to the computer lab to check. And he's become friends with Willis, arguably the most arrogant asshole I've met here (or in Chicago, for that matter). John would like the three of us to go to Interlachen between classes, and maybe have Willis' roommate join us. Now, God forgive me for saying this, but I don't think I could find three more boring people to spend time with on this planet. I'd much rather pay for Moxie and Joanie to fly to Zurich than spend a weekend with these three. Hell, I'd rather spend a weekend being tortured by Hitler. How arrogant is Willis? Well, it's hard to say, but I've yet to meet anyone here with kind words for him. And he uttered my favorite line last week: "I've already begun formulating my answer to the final exam question." THAT was on Day 3 of class. We still have 3 weeks to go, for chrissake, how the hell can you even.....oh, never mind.

And John-boy pissed me off by asking if I was still chasing Elise. Now, I do like Elise, and if given the opportunity, I'd date her in a New York minute. But 1.) she started seeing someone right before she left for Rome whom she seriously likes, 2.) She told me she'd like to fix me up with a friend of hers, which is a pretty good indication she's not interested in keeping me for herself, 3.) New Boyfriend is attempting to make arrangements to meet her here in Europe. So my guess is, I'm not on her radar screen. But I've learned how fast rumors spread, and my guess is the Loyola rumor mill now has Elise and I as an item. Especially since we are both going to Sorrento together, and since John specifically commented that "I [John] don't know what the room arrangements are." I quickly mentioned she was staying in a room with two other women. Thank God he wasn't at dinner with us last night, when Elise and I both ordered the same dinner, and split a salad. Egads! Even worse - we both had the same gelato!!! Never mind that, outside of asking if I'd like to share a salad with her, Elise didn't consult me on any meal choices, and it was pure coincidence that we got the same food. Nope, that means there's more there. If Elise is attracted to me, she hasn't done anything outward to show it. Either that, or I'm seriously blind. Which isn't out of the question. Either way, I'd much rather have anything that may develop between us do so without interference from miserable, meddling people.

Oh, and I should mention that a hot rumor around school has Heather and John as a couple, something they've continuously denied, even in face of evidence that they're more than friends. Interesting, huh?

The wheel just keeps spinning, no matter where it is.

Tuesday, June 03, 2003

And so she woke up
Woke up from where she was lyin' still.
Said I gotta do something
About where we're goin'.

Step on a fast train
Step out of the driving rain, maybe
Run from the darkness in the night.
Singing ah, ah la la la de day
Ah la la la de day.

One thing I've learned about national holidays: when they're you're own, they're an event, because you've learned to plan accordingly, or someone has, and you find a nice way to spend the day. When they're someone else's, it can be a long day.

Yesterday was the Italian Unification holiday. Unlike the United States, which was already united colonies which broke away from Britain, Italy was a series of independant nation-states, which were joined together by Victor Emmanuelle II in the late 1800's. Oh, sure, at one time Rome ruled most of the known world, and Italy was one country, but this wasn't always the case. Italy went through several different versions before what we now know as Italy came to be. In his honor, the government of Italy spent 30 years building a monument to Victor Emmanuele II. Immense, white, and illuminated at night, the monument got the nickname "the wedding cake" from the Romans. Most don't like it, finding it gaudy and pretentious. Others just deal with it. It's size and characteristics make it easily the most recognizable of all of Rome's sights, which helps when you're on the hills trying to point out the Vatican, the Colliseum, and other landmarks. You just start with the wedding cake, and move left or right as needed. Another notable point about the monument is that it is where the tomb of the unknown soldier resides in Italy. Closed for a number of years (25 or more) to the general public, it was recently re-opened. We visited it last week, and several of my classmates were admonished by the military guard for running up the stairs (I declined to join them, and so escaped admonishment).

Anyway, I digress. Yesterday was a national holiday. And, like national holidays in the US, everything was pretty much closed. Only restaurants, cafes and the occasional store was open. So, like Sunday, it was a good chance to catch up on homework, and I took full advantage to get up to speed on class reading.

In the evening, Brian, Elise, Lisa, Bridget, Scott, Laura and I headed up to the Zodiac Cafe, one of two restaurants (the Il Bagat that John, Jeanne and I visited last week being the other) on the hills of Monte Mario. It's an up-and-down kind of deal. A nice, sloping downhill walk to the the driveway's entrance, followed by one killer uphill climb. When I was in Rome two years ago, several of us went for a jog. Even the best runners had a hard time making the hill climb.

Anyway, it's a nice, elegant restaurant with a killer view, and indoor and outdoor dining. Unfortunately, with our group of seven (G7?), the restaurant seated us inside. For the first time in two weeks, we felt the coolness of true air conditioning. We sat down, and quickly ordered two bottles of wine - una vino rosso (red) e una vino bianco (white). Now, for the uninitiated, there are three types of restaurant in Italy: the Pizzeria, which is the bottom rung, is often cheap and carries a limited menu - mostly pizzas, salads, and appetizers, though some may have sandwiches; the Trattoria, which serves multiple courses, and is a bit pricer; and the Ristorante, the nicest, and priciest of them all, which traditionally serves a 5-course meal - antipasto, first course, second course, insalate (in-sa-latte, or salad) and dolci (dol-chay, or sweets). The Zodiac is of the latter type. Rule 1 is that when you dine at a Ristorante, you don't just order one course and leave - that's an insult to the cook and the restaurant. Unfortunately, I'd had done that in previous days with others, and was not inclined to do so again last night. So as I declared my intent to do the full meal (or what I could of it), Brian was asking, "are we doing the whole meal, or are we insulting these people?"

Fortunately, my dinner companions were all of the same mind. We got the wine, then we ordered the antipasto. The antipasto came, and we ordered more wine, and the first and second courses. The first course came, and we got some wine. The second course came, and we got some wine. Then we talked for a bit. Then we got more wine. And the dolci. The food was wonderful. we ordered calimari, ham and cheese, and salmon for appetizer (antipasto). Scott, Lisa and I all got the same first course, a seabass/mussel mix which was quite delicious. Brian got the gnocchi, which he thoroughly enjoyed (he also got a nosebleed, which left me to order for him). Brian and I both got the veal scallapini for dinner. (Just thinking about all this is making me hungry again, and I just had lunch.) For dessert, we split Tiramisu, Panna Cotta, and Gelato. Our waiter loved us, and he should have. When the bill came, I grabbed it looked at it, and made everyone guess as to how much they thought it was. Estimates ranged from 550 to 700 euro, so I knew no one would be floored by the total bill - 398 euro. Over half was attributable to the seven or eight bottles of wine that we consumed. We divvied up the total (62 euro each), ignored the unfavorable exchange rate (about $1.20 to each euro, according to someone), polished off the rest of the wine, bid our waiter adieu, and stepped out into the Roman evening.

Halfway up/down (depends which way you're going which one you'll use) the hill, there's a spot where you can stop and take some captivating pictures of Rome. We'd stopped on the way up to do just that, but now, as we were going down, Scott lamented that the gate was locked, and we couldn't take anymore pictures. But then I noticed a whole in the gate that another couple was using, and we made our way through it. Bridget and Brian walked on, but Laura, Lisa, Elise, Scott and I took more pictures of Rome at night.

On the way back to the Rome Center, we passed one of those little photo booths, out in the middle of nothingness. We all piled in, and spent our last loose coin trying to get a picture of the five of us together. It didn't come out as planned. We continued walking back, and the girls peppered Scott with questions about his relationships, who he dated, etc. etc. (Scott's a New Yorker living in San Diego, on the trip with Loyola). I walked about twenty feet behind, clearly out of the conversation, just watching the two single women and one married one battle for the attention of the lone single guy in their age range.

And we all agreed it was the best night we've had in Rome so far.

Sweet the sin, bitter the taste in my mouth.
I see seven towers, but I only see one way out.
You gotta cry without weeping, talk without speaking
Scream without raising your voice.
You know I took the poison, from the poison stream
Then I floated out of here, singing
Ah la la la de day
Ah la la la de day.

She walks through the streets
With her eyes painted red
Under black belly of cloud in the rain.
In through a doorway
She brings me white golden pearls
Stolen from the sea.

She is ragin'
She is ragin'
And the storm blows up in her eyes.
She will suffer the needle chill
She's running to stand still.

Monday, June 02, 2003

Question of the day:

Do I keep the goatee I grew just for fun last week, or ditch it? It's not totally filled in; I don't have a lot of hair around the lower side of my mouth, and it itches like crazy. But a few of the women have commented they like it.......problem is, they're all 'taken'. Maybe I should post a picture, and take a vote...
You only see what your eyes want to see
How can life be what you want it to be
You're frozen
When your heart's not open

You're so consumed with how much you get
You waste your time with hate and regret
You're broken
When your heart's not open

Mmmmmm, if I could melt your heart
Mmmmmm, we'd never be apart
Mmmmmm, give yourself to me
Mmmmmm, you hold the key

Not every day is an adventure; some days are just mundane. Some days you travel, and sit three hours on a train ride home; others you sit two hours in a courtyard, reading about comparative civil procedure, while Madonna floats faintly on the wind.

It's amazing how some parts of life can easily be left behind, yet they seem so essential to us when they're available. Television's a good example. It's not like we're in the boondocks here - there is a TV in the lounge. But save for the first night here, when I couldn't really get to sleep and was wide awake at five in the morning, I haven't watched it. I know - how could I, when it's all in Italian. But there is CNN, and there is a VCR, and English-language movies can be rented from the Blockbuster Video (you read that right) a short walk from the Rome Center.

Music's another matter. I miss having it around, because I almost always have the radio on at home. To me, music defines my life. I remember what song was on the radio the last time I walked out of a job I really hated, even though it was just over nine years ago this past month (Heartbreak Beat by the Psychedelic Furs, if you must know). Certain songs bring back memories every time I hear them. I don't think I'm alone in this regard.

So it was with yesterday. It was a slow day, with the morning spent doing laundry, and a good chunk of the afternoon spent blogging and blog-surfing. I finally decided to enjoy the weather and do some reading outside around 2 or so. Someone with the graduate school, newly arrived from Chicago, brought not only a CD player, but speakers (or maybe it was a boom box). Thoughts of "why did you bring that" aside, it was nice to hear some music for a change, for if there's not a cacophony of voices in the courtyard, there is silence.

Hello darkness my old friend
I've come to talk to you again
Because a vision softly creeping
Left its seeds while I was sleeping
And the vision
That was planted in my brain
Still remains
Within the sound of silence

Presently, the pseudo-DJ was visited by friends, and declarations of welcome and happiness overrode the soft music. Eventually, it was shut off, and silence once again returned to the courtyard. I finished my reading, and went off to lift weights. A while later, I went for a run.

One interesting thing about the meaning of words is that they have different meanings for different people. Your idea of 'dry' is obviously not the same as an Italian's. Or maybe it's your idea of the function of a dryer. Either way, after washing and 'drying' my clothes, I still had most of them scattered about the dorm room, in an attempt to finish what the dryer started, for a good portion of the afternoon. Fortunately, I went for my run around 5:30, and by the time I came back, at least one shirt was dry enough for me to wear.

Around 9:00, I met up with Nicole and Anna, and they introduced me to Paul, one of the undergrad instructors for Xavier University, which is also offering a class here. The four of us trekked to Elliot's, a pseudo-English pub, where we enjoyed the pleasures of Bass Ale, and good American-like steaks. After the usual three-hour dinner, we came back around midnight, and I went to bed.

Not every day is an adventure, but even the mundane ones have their hidden moments.

Sunday, June 01, 2003


I waited 'til I saw the sun
I don't know why I didn't come
Left you by the house of fun
I don't know why I didn't come
I don't know why I didn't come

When I saw the break of day
I wished that I could fly away
Instead of kneeling in the sand
Catching teardrops in my hand

My heart is drenched in wine
But you'll be on my mind

Out across the endless sea
I would die in ecstacy
But I'll be a bag of bones
Driving down the road alone

Saturday morning came with a bang. And a thump. And the incessant buzzing of a drill. The workmen were back, working on the bathroom. Didn't they know it was 8:00a.m.? Didn't they know we didn't have class today? DIDN'T THEY KNOW WE WERE ALL HUNG OVER?

Well, not all of us. Just those of us who were left behind, with no weekend plans. I was one; my roommate another. I was going to go with Lisa and Mary and Erin and company to Firenze early in the morning, so I could maximize shopping time. But the alarm found me in a dreamy mood, and I decided to sleep in my comfortable bed. I got up, showered, lazed around for a bit, and finally, after grabbing a quick mushroom omlette panini (note to self: next time, tell Rinaldo to leave the ketchup out of it), I began my journey. Marilyn, who I didn't particularly care for on my last trip here, seemed to be more pleasant this time around. She even gave me a tip on how to get to the Metro quickly. It was surreal, standing in the Italian Metro station. listening to Norah Jones.

I got to Termini station just before noon. I went up to an automated ticket booth to find and buy a ticket on the next train to Firenze (Florence). To my delight, a Eurostar train left in just over half an hour. I punched in my order for a second-class ticket. Alas, I wasn't able to get one. At first, I thought it was a problem with the method(s) of payment I'd chosen, but it soon dawned on me that it might be that second class was sold out. That turned out to be an accurate guess. First class was open though, so I got on.

Eurostar trains are generally nice, clean and very quiet, especially first class. Seating is 4-and-2, with an aisle between the 4 and the 2, so I picked one of the "2" seats. Since I was traveling alone, I figured it would be the better choice. As it were, in the section of four seats across the aisle from we were two young (about 15-16) Italian girls, very pretty, and quite fashionably (if casually dressed). They were joined by a older (mid-40's) woman who arrived breathless from running for the train. Quite generously, one of the girls offered the woman a cup of water, which made me wonder if that was because a.) she was a woman, b.) she was older (that's important here in Italy) or c.) they were always that nice. The last seat in the group remained empty. Across from me sat an early-thirties Italian gentleman, who alternatively read the paper or talked on the phone. The only thing noticeable about him, aside from the fact that the hands-free headset never left his ear, was that he had quite the lisp. I noticed, because at one point I'd had one, and after a couple years of therapy, no longer do. Anyway, the ironic thing about the trip was the topic of conversation between the two girls. One had a binder with her, with a drawing of the US on it, and words that appeared to proclaim it as a study manual about the United States. She spent a considerable amount of time reading from her manual to the other one, complete with commentary, not one word of which I could understand. I SO wanted to ask what they were discussing, particularly when they appeared shocked at something the book told them about Americans. I wound up falling asleep midway through the trip instead, dreaming that I could speak better Italian.

Firenze is a compact city. It's easily walked in a day. Filled with shops, outdoor markets, and outdoor cafes, you hear more American accents there than in Rome. It's sort of a tourist Mecca. There's plenty to see - the Uffizi museum, the Academe (home of Michelangelo's sixteen-foot-high David), Ponte Vecchio, the Boboli Gardens, and of course, the markets. People come from all over the world to shop Firenze's markets, where shoes, leather goods and jewelry rule the day. As Jeanne said later in the day, "every five booths this stuff repeats." And it does. Want a leather jacket? There's hundreds to choose from. But be careful - the prices are cheap (a hundred euro for a jacket, or about $117) but the quality may be as well. And the salespeople can be shifty. In one booth, a vendor with beer-soaked breath pointed out to me the different kind of jackets he had, all for a hundred euro and up. "These are lambskin, these are COW. If you want sommating different, I have dose (as he pointed to ugly suede jackets), or if you want sommating warm, for da cold, I have buffalo, over dere." Now, I'd never seen a buffalo coat before, so of course, I looked. And it seemed to be quite the heavy coat. But since I was looking for a nice, date-appropriate leather jacket, I passed on the buffalo.

Just before I'd met beer-soaked guy, I'd met Carmen. Tall, with big, captivating, brown eyes and long dark hair, her accent was like warm butter on toast, but her English was outstanding. She'd come over when one of the street guys had coaxed me into the off-street store to show me more men's jackets, and was trying to pick my size. She took one look, and guessed right. It was a deep burgundy colored jacket, which looked very nice with the grey Haggar pants I was wearing. She showed me all of the highlights of the jacket - the reinforcing button on the inside of the coat, the two interior pockets, and the lining. She talked about how the leather would give over time, and that's why the one I was wearing was good enough (that, and the fact that the already-long sleeves would be a bit longer in the bigger size). She talked about how the leather was made, and how to properly care for it. And she told me that if I didn't like the color, it also came in black. We spent a bit of time looking at different types (the burgundy was made of lambskin), but she wasn't pushy in the least. In fact, when I told her I wanted to think about it, she graciously wrote down the style, size and price, and her name and told me they'd be open until seven.

Then I went and looked some more. I used my cell phone to call my parents back home, and asked about prices there, to make sure I wasn't overpaying for what I could possibly get back home. They were happy to hear from me, especially Mom (Dad and I had discussed business-stuff the night before, but when Mom came on, I had to cut her short, as I was at a Pizzeria, and dinner was arriving). Eventually, I wandered to the end of the market, where another store was. I went inside, and nearly didn't get out. The salespeople combined efforts. If I didn't jump for joy at a jacket (or even said I didn't like it) I quickly got another.

"Is nice, no?"
"Umm. Well, no."
"You no like? Wait. Mario, (unitelligible Italian, spoken at rapid-fire speed)." Mario ran off. "I send him to other stores. We have lots of styles. You find one you like."

I found one there that was marginally decent. "Quonta costa (how much)?" I asked.

"One hundred forty euro." Carmen wanted one hundred seventy for hers.

This continued on for a good thirty minutes. She'd give me a jacket, I'd put it on, look less than enthused, get another. All the while, the one I'd initially shown interest in kept dropping in price - first one forty, then one twenty-five, then one ten, finally, one hundred even. But the closer I looked, the more flaws I saw. The mariginal interest one gathered when I buttoned the buttons ("that's from the cell phone you're wearing," she said), and it was kind of, well, wrinkled, at the bottom. Another had loose threads. Finally, at five after six, I thought of a way out of this Hotel California-ish situation.

"Oh, my," I said, looking at my watch. "I'm late. Can I come back? I'm supposed to be meeting my wife." No, I'm not married, and don't even have a girlfriend, but desperate times.....

"You wife? Where you meeting her?"
"By the Duomo." This, I knew, was a considerable walk from where we were.
The saleslady spoke with another woman, whom I'll call tailor lady, even though saleslady told me tailor-lady was the owner. "She'll go with you."
"Uh, I don't think that would be a good idea." Clearly, they had no intent of letting me get away without buying a jacket.
"No, no. It's okay, she help you find your wife."
"Well, that's very nice, but my wife might not see it that way."
Quick Italian conversation. "You mean, she'd fight with you, eh?"
"Right. She's a bitch that way. Very possessive."
"Ok. You bring her back." Quick Italian conversation. "One hundred euro. You get nice jacket."
"Right. I'll be back soon."

Carmen was very happy to see me. She brought out a black jacket in my size, and I tried it on. When I pointed out that the little thingy sewn into the collar and the label (ostensibly for hanging the jacket from a hook) was fraying, she looked for another. Failing to find one, she immediately repaired the damage, double stitching to make it fast. "There," she said when finished, "I fixed it. My sewing is not so pretty, but it will hold. And it is inside, so only you will see, anyway."

We made some small talk, and I found out she was from Mexico originally and had come to Europe three years before to travel. "And then I came to Firenze, and I thought it was beautiful, so I stayed for a little while. And then I knew a man.......and I stay longer." I looked at her finger. It must have been some man - she was wearing the Rock of Gibraltar. I wondered if the Brits knew it was missing. Eventually, I left with my purchase, and went to meet John, Heather and Jeanne for dinner.