This trick worked on me when I was nine years old. It was used on me, by my brothers, to keep me from trying mushroom pizza. That way they could have all the pizza they wanted, and I would have to go to bed as a poor, starving, middle class child. Please let me know if it works.
You will hate Rome in Spring.
If you come to Rome in Spring, you will grow so annoyed at the intrusive smell of sweet lavender as the blossoms fill the trees overlooking the pristine, landscaped corridors between overdone neo-classical architecture.
Especially if you are a photographer, you will hate Rome in Spring. You will look up at the sky and exclaim, “Cursed be you endless blue sky! Can’t you give me a puffy white cloud once in a while so that I have a more interesting backdrop? Can’t you do something other than be blue all the time!”
I’m sure you will find the soft cool breezes against your face unforgivably harsh. You will panic from the shear anxiety of how much your face will chafe during their relentless pounding while the Spring sunshine amplifies the withering with its endless soft glow.
And that sunshine will cause the temperature to creep just a touch over the perfect 73° Fahrenheit that you desire, and usually this will happen in the late afternoon when you are tired, and worn out from viewing, (sigh…) yet another work of art by somebody named Raphael or Michelangelo or some other overdone, conceited artist, who decided to name himself after a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle.
The crescendo of warmth will cause you to form irritating, small beads of sweat on your back and forehead and just then, Rome will decide to have an afternoon rain shower. You will of course not have your umbrella, which will force you into a café, a pizzeria, or worse, a gelateria, and you’ll have to sit out the storm while being forced to consume the overpriced delicacies of Rome. The clouds will break only in time for the sun to set, so that the remaining clouds catch the sun’s last rays, and create unpleasant backdrops in the sky, ranging from pink, to orange, to purple.
So don’t even bother going to Rome in spring. I can guarantee you. You’ll hate it.
And then I can come back, and enjoy it for myself. ;-)
I commented to someone the other day that in Europe, I sure am going to a lot of churches in which I am viewing the remaining bones and bodies of Saints.
My friend asked me me, “Do you think it is important to go to these shrines out of some kind of reverence?”
“No.” I replied.
“Well is it something you have to do because you are Catholic to see these bones?”
“No.” I replied again.
“Then why do you go to all of them.”
“Really, I’m just going to make sure that they are still dead.”
And they are… at least so far. I’ve always heard that the saints were dead, but I want to make sure for myself. I don’t like being lied to.
St. Paul is dead.
At least I went to his tomb today, and though, I didn’t see any bones, it did appear as if he couldn’t have lived inside the tomb for very long. The Basilica of San Paulo is one of the four major Basilicas of Rome. If you have downloaded Google Earth onto your computer, you can view my pictorial of the Basilica of San Paulo by clicking here.
The basilica is huge, and under the altar, you can see the tomb where it is believed that St. Paul was buried. Other important features of the Basilica are the paintings that line the upper walls of the Basilica. They depict the life of St. Paul. Also there are mosaics of every Pope since Peter lining the walls. The one with a spotlight on it is Pope Benedict XVI. I’m sure you are burning to know that there are seven more spaces left on the walls for future popes, which is either a prophecy about how many popes until the end of the world, or it means that we will have to build a bigger church in another century or so.
It was very meaningful to be at the tomb of St. Paul today. It is St. Paul that really made the leap that enabled Christianity to move beyond the culture of Palestine, and empowered Christianity to flourish in the Greco-Roman world. (except there is also the Syrian tradition of St. Thomas which I talked about in India, they were able to enculturize Christianity as well, just in the opposite physical and philosophical direction. I’m going to mention St. Paul a lot in the coming weeks, so I won’t belabor how important being at his grave meant to me (to make sure that he was dead… and maybe also to pray). The only connection I wish to record about St. Paul is that today is also the day that I confirmed my tickets with my Turkey travel agent in order to have a guided tour of the places that St. Paul once preached. I am very excited.
I also went to the last of the four major basilicas in Rome, the Basilica of Maria Maggiore. It is also a beautiful church and has so many important things about its history that I could write, but I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves. To see my pictorial of the Basilica of Maria Maggiore, click here.
Instead, I just want to relate a little thing I observed today that is bothering me. It starts back a couple days ago when I was at the Vatican Museum. While in line, there was a woman begging. Not just begging, sucking every ounce of pity out of ever passer-by that she could by demonstrating the most wretched state of humanity that she could show, and I do mean show. The scene was so repulsive, it defies description. She lay there, with half of her hair pulled out, that is to say, where she could have hair. Where she couldn’t have hair, it was because her scalp was picked away to show the bloody puss of the veins crawling along her skull. Pleasant to say the least.
I didn’t leave any money. Instead I started to be skeptical. We’re in a country with nearly socialized medicine? She can’t possibly be thrown out of a hospital in this condition (presuming it was an actual condition and not make-up and a wig. Even in America, with our private medical system, it is against the law to discharge someone who is bleeding with open wounds, especially with 2/5ths of their head actively bleeding. The situation was miserable, don’t get me wrong. But if you put it all together… she is consciously rejecting the medical treatment of the government system. Why? Well in a line of 20,000 people going to the Vatican museum, if one in a five hundred will drop at least a Euro, it will send her home with 400 Euro for the day. (About $600, giving her an annual salary of close to $156,000, assuming she takes two days a week off, and the crowds are consistent.) Why go to the systems of socialized care with that kind of money to be made by begging?
But I realized she wasn’t in on it alone. To daily wake up and pull out her hair, and pick at the crumbling skin on her skullcap in order to generate the blood, you need help, or at least it helps to have help. And who would just let a beggar woman pull $600 a day out on the streets without seeing the capitalistic opportunity at stake? You have to control the subtle manipulation of the masses. There is money to be had in generating guilt, and the money doesn’t come if you have 100 beggers on the street at the same time, in the same place. Someone has to keep the ones who don’t belong to “the system” off the street. I figured out pretty quickly that there must be some type of organization to this deceit.
And today I found proof. While taking about 10 minutes to photograph the Basilica of Maria Maggiore outside, I was approached by a woman in treacherously dirty clothes. She was holding a baby, begging, oh… and she had a nice puppy with her too. That was a nice touch. I hadn’t seen that approach before. So, I say that I’m sorry, I only give money to charities, and she goes about her business. While I’m taking photographs, I see it right before my eyes. Another woman in dirty clothes comes up, and relieves the woman of her shift. There was no conversation, no fuss, just “Good, you’re here. I get a break.” And she handed the baby off to the other beggar woman and she left. The baby (though alive) was merely a prop, used by whoever was scheduled to beg that hour. The new woman picked right up where the other left off, and even kept the puppy. Still a nice touch, by the way.
What is going on here! There are actual shifts that they are assigned for the beggars to keep just like a full time job. It led me to wonder? Do they have a union behind this begging business? And if so... how do they ever decide to hold a strike for better begging wages? Does the union have good dental insurance? How about health insurance premiums? A professional growth allowance on how to beg better would be a nice perk. Do you get vacation days?
Seriously, what is going on? The business of begging is so organized that the beggars, or whoever organizes them have even set up shifts. Make the tourist feel guilty for their $50 per-person dinners, and glean two Euro from every one. That’s a lot of money by the end of the day. Do you think that those who rule the underground where drugs, sex, and favors are sold are just going to let that kind of money be passed around on the streets without taking their cut? There is a show going on in Rome, and the show is finely choreographed to make you feel guilty.
I really just wanted to relate this story and let it be for now. I know there are many Americans who will read this and say “What do we do? How can we change this? This is not right!” I’m not saying that those with means should not give money to support those without. They should. The answer lies in organized charities. (Don’t worry, in a couple of weeks I’ll be relating what I have been hearing from Fr. Dennis about how those are failing too.) The problems of poverty are amazingly complex. I go back to what Fr. Edmund C. Nantes said back in Navotas, The Philippines in my blog “Can Anything Good Come from Navotas”. He reminded me that greed is organized. It is organized in the billion dollar corporations that systemically ignore the rights of the labor that are in fact the backbone of billion dollar corporations, and greed is organized in the manipulation of the guilt ridden by the pitiful. We have to fight organized greed with organized love, but that is another blog.
Instead, I just go inside the church to pray for an hour.
Yep! The saint in this church is dead too.