Friday, June 30, 2017

Bob Dylan Tells You How to Live Your Life: The circle

As you know I am hard at work on (co)writing the new book Bob Dylan Tells You How to Live Your Life. Guess who I'm co-writing it with? Yep. Bob Dylan! Of course, this is under the agreement that he doesn't have to do anything, having, as he said "Done all the work already."

Fair enough.

Today I have another excerpt for you! To refresh your memory on format, Dylan's quote is in bold, with the source in parenthesis, then, after a line break, in unbolded type, is a clear translation of the quote into an easy to understand life lesson.

This excerpt is from the chapter called "The Circle of Life".

The fewer words you have to waste on this the sooner you can go. (lyric)

Read books, repeat quotations. Draw conclusions on the wall.


Read books, repeat quotations. Draw conclusions on the wall. (lyric)

You never ask questions when god's on your side.

You never ask questions when god's on your side. (lyric)

When something's not right it's wrong.

When something's not right it's wrong. (lyric)

Don't speak too soon for the wheel's still in spin.

Don't speak too soon for the wheel's still in spin. (lyric)

Aim well my little one. We may not make it through the night.

Aim well my little one. We may not make it through the night. (lyric)

He who isn't busy being born is busy dying.

He who isn't busy being born is busy dying. (lyric)

It's all been written in the book. But when there's too much of nothing, nobody should look.

It's all been written in the book. But when there's too much of nothing, nobody should look. (lyric)

The fewer words you have to waste on this the sooner you can go. 



Thursday, June 29, 2017

200 Views of Rome: Caffe Doria


5 Stars

This is the Cafe for the Doria Pamphilj Museum (5 stars too) though one might not even know it entering from its quiet, side street entrance where it functions like any other Roman cafe, open to the public.There's a subtle access from the museum side as well. All of the seating inside is good- no small thing in Rome. The cafe is old world elegant while still casual, having what amounts to my very favorite small fountain of Rome, The Fish Fountain (by no means its real name). The menu covers every possibility from having a mere espresso or tea or juice, through snacks and pastry, to a full meal should one desire. While by no means consistently good, nothing in our many visits was bad, and some things were surprisingly wonderful (a plate of eggplant anyone?).

The service is the usual Roman ridiculous, and if one can make peace, or laugh at some of the friendly negligent absurdities of Roman service one will have a better time everywhere. Try not to be in too much of a hurry. We made an effort to go to Caffe Doria more towards mid afternoon because the waiter who found it easiest to tell us they were out of everything was usually gone by then. And yet, weird, I really couldn't recommend any place higher.

200 Views of Rome: Sant'Andrea Delle Fratte


5 Stars

So here we are, 25 or so reviews in to my 200 reviews of Rome, and only now we come to the architecture of Borromini. In all my sprawling preparations for our month in Rome two things drew me slightly above any others: Gelato and Borromini. Neither went very well, and yet I have no complaints. For the gelato the problem had mostly to do with the minute distance between the very good and the excellent, and my discipline and interest was not entirely up to the task of parsing 20 different gelaterias that, given a score out of a hundred, all ranged somewhere between 89 and 93.

As to Borromini, well, mostly it was down to some bad luck. Inconveniently the great Roman clock seemed to have hit the "time to fix up the Borrominis".

Oh, has it been 80 years already? Well, hoist the scaffolding, it's where your great grandfather left it.

And though this repair work only affected two sights; Sant'Ivo alla Sapienza, the most beautiful tower in the world, and a little chapel I've never seen in the Colegio Propaganda Fide, there aren't really all that many Borrominis to go around.

"Why" You shrewdly ask "Are there so few Borrominis when he was pretty much the greatest architect ever?"

Keeping in mind that I only pretend to be a scholar, the sketchy answer that I have been able to work out comes down to these following points:

1. He was cranky and no one much liked him.

2. He had to compete with an ambitious, flamboyantly likeable Bernini who didn't like Borromini (see point one), and, confused by being the best sculptor in the world, thought he was the best architect as well, which he wasn't even though he was pretty good.

3. He kind of sweated the details, which tended to give the few patrons who liked him time to die, and allowed the new people to fire him (see point one).

So what does all this have to do with Sant'Andrea Delle Fratte?


Like so many Borromini works he just got to do a little weird piece here on this church. They let him graft on some white bell tower to this patchwork building. It is not a harmonious inclusion. The viewing angles can be a little tight. It's all white instead of red brick and yellow stone, or whatever the rest of the church is made of. So though it's not easy to overlook if you're walking by, it is kind of easy to think it's not that great.

But it is that great! You just have to look closely at it. Get out your binoculars, climb up the side of the church, use a spell to turn yourself into a pigeon. This is a lovely tower. Heads on hawk bodies. Spikey crowns. Undulating moldings. Lions. Deer. Grace. Sanctuary. Sanctuuuuaaaryyyyy!

"Okay, okay, fine." You say appeasingly. "I will turn into a pigeon when I walk by. But do I need to go in the church?"

You don't want to go in the church?

I know, it's a lot of churches. You're tired of all the churches?

I do understand. And you could miss this one even though it's terribly pretty, and harmonious, but, remember Bernini who thought he was the best architect (wrongly) because he was the best sculptor? You know, like Michael Jordan playing baseball? It is my sworn duty to inform you that Bernini has two sculptures in here. They were made for a bridge but considered too pretty to be left out in the rain. So here they are. So I'm sorry, but yes, you'll have to go look at them. 

They're angels!

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

200 Views of Rome: Tazza D'oro


5 Stars

Among the twin pillars of Rome's coffee, this is the same as it ever was lovely cappuccino. One could say the rise of conscious, fastidious coffee obsessions across the First World has well eclipsed Tazza D'oro and Sant'Eustachio, but I'd prefer to be loyal to them myself. In previous trips to Rome Tazza D'oro was the place for us, but our allegiance flipped, and now I would say there is something unique to Sant'Eustachio- notably their crema. Nevertheless, Tazza D'oro remains a classic, and I could always enjoy one of their creamy, impeccably made cappuccinos (be a lout and have one after noon, seriously, no one will care!). For the coffee interested, or should I even say, the coffee faithful people in Rome, it would be morally wrong not to at least try one drink here. A debt is owed.


200 Views of Rome: Er Pesciarolo


5 Stars

I am so excited to tell you about Er Pesciarolo.

Not so much because it's so great, though there is that. And not because this place will lend itself to colorful descriptions, though there is that too. No, I am excited because, as far as I can tell, despite this being a gigantic and endlessly reviewing things Internet, my review here will be the first, anywhere, ever. The Pantheon has been reviewed online tens of thousands of times, the Borghese Gallery counts reviews in at least the many thousands. But Er Pesciarolo? It barely exists on the Internet. The best picture I can find of it is a shuttered doorway. I am on new territory here!

Is it because it's new?

No, for all I know it has been in business doing the same sort of thing for 120 years. It certainly looks like it.

Is it not exactly a real place, like when I reviewed the espresso vending machine at Palazzo Barberini and called it "The Palazzo Barberini Cafe (5 Stars)"?

No. It's real.

I guess I better tell you what it is.

Er Pesciarolo is a fish market.

Oh but it is a wonderful one, and strange, horrifying, and fabulous. I'm sure we would hardly have been likely to find it, in all our tramping about Rome, other than perhaps a charming glimpse or two, but for one piece of outlandish fortune. Er Pesciarolo were more or less our next door neighbors. Well, they were just on the other side of the tailors, who were definitely our next door neighbors. Just a little fish place, two doors down. As far as I could ever see they had no name, no signs, nothing. Just now I sought out their tiny presence on Google. I'm only pretty sure this is the right name, Er Pesciarolo.

It sounds right though.

There on our narrow little street, so picturesque that painters set up in a corner of it to capture its enchanting olde world view of colored tenaments and hanging ivy, charming little bistros, and tiny tradespeople shops of no use to tourists. Step into the fish store. Er Pesciarolo. They open early. Mainly the store consists of a single, open, great display of crushed ice, spread with fish. Oh, not the tidy fish of even the best fish stores you have known. It's much more like rustic fisherpeople took their boat out into some wild, secret part of the Mediterranean, flung their great net, lowered it stealthily to a great depth, and scooped up an outsized sample of the life of the ocean. Then, just before dawn, they raced it to Er Pesciarolo and just dumped it all out on their fresh morning bed of ice. Monsters, strangers, abominations, wonders! These were as much aliens as they were living creatures of my world. Cthulus, tentacled, shelled, writhing, glittering, many legged and toothed and eyed. These are the dazzling psychedelic experiments of God. Anglefish with savage gaping mouths, vampiric squid, spiked anemones, sharks, and bulbous leafy dead things, sprawled, fresh, sleeping.

I'm supposed to eat this stuff?

I assumed so. I don't really speak much Italian. But they were all dead. What else could you do with them?

It took me some days to work up the courage to buy something. Here again is the luxury of a 30 day visit. Day 1: spot interesting fish store walking past. Day 4: poke head in door and first spot fecund menagerie too fabulist to truly process. Day 7: take three fascinating steps inside and flee before anyone says anything to me. Day 9: go look at fish and run away when someone says something confusing to me in Italian. Day 11: walk with timid confidence to fish and take a good look. When someone says something to me, I manage not to run away. Day 12: Walk to counter and ask for a kind of starter fish for beginners. These would be some version of giant shrimp, or mini lobster, gamberini I believe they're called. I get two. I take them home. I clean them, whatever that means. It feels more like I'm eviscerating a tiny monster, messily. I cook it, not too much, in olive oil, garlic, and lemon. It's different than shrimp. More flavorful, tender, the kind of thing where one involuntarily starts to chew more slowly, as if to say "If every shred of my attention is on this every shred of my attention will be rewarded." It was.

And so you're off to Rome, or there already. Should you go to Er Pesciarolo, if you can even find it? On the one hand I've almost certainly exaggerated its virtues and wonders in every way possible here. Also, Rome is a city of wonders and treasures, do you really want to go look at some fish? And yet, on the other hand, Er Pasciarolo currently has an average rating on the Internet of 5.00 Stars! Not even the Pantheon can match that.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

200 Reviews of Rome: Gelateria Artigianale La Strega Nocciola


Wait. Let me just collect myself here. I feel all emotional.

No, I can go on. I'm okay.

You never know what will take you away. I had no real problem writing my 5 star review of the beloved Borghese Galleria (5 Stars), but when I gather up my metaphorical quill pen to tell you about La Strega Nocciola I find I'm a little weepy. To my left, as I write, on my bookshelves, sits a small stack of what amounts to bookmarks from La Strega that I, um, over helped myself to. I couldn't find a way to do otherwise. They would have made such nice gifts if I could have brought myself to give any of them away. They have that lovely cursive script, with the gelateria's name, and their signature witch's hat on a field of green. Man, I love those bookmarks. Maybe one day I will be able to bring myself to use one to keep my place in a book. I only have about 20. I don't want to use them all up too quickly. 

So by now you might be guessing that I liked the gelato at La Strega Nocciola. Good eye, you! I did!

They were my second favorite gelateria in all of Rome.

Don't you hate when someone says something like "They were my second favorite gelateria in all of Rome." But doesn't bother to tell you their favorite?

I was just looking through some reviews of La Strega to prepare for writing my own review, and some sad sack was all like: "Why bother with this place when there are at least two better places nearby." Oh really bigshot? Where? 

But who am I to judge. I will give this person the benefit of the doubt and assume that by "nearby" they mean on somewhere on all of planet Earth. I myself am rating one place higher. Certainly there can be another, on Earth, somewhere, you know, "nearby", relative to the size of the Universe and everything.

So I would totally tell you my favorite gelato place in Rome, but I want you to have to read through all 200 of my reviews of Rome. I hope you don't mind too much. Indulge me. I think you'll find it worthwhile. Maybe, I mean, if you're highly evolved. And the thing is there's so little difference between first place here and second place. It's ridiculously tiny, and I even suspect that the fact that La Strega Nocciola is a bit of a chain, possibly with the original in Florence, has influenced my ranking, out of a loyalty to Rome, and against chains. 

But one thing was shimmeringly clear to me: the single best flavor of gelato I had in all of Rome, or really anywhere ever, counting all ice cream and everything related to frozen desserts anywhere in all of time, belonged to La Strega Nocciola.


Go figure.

I'm a very fine writer, up for any challenge, and I could certainly tackle a description of their lovely lavender gelato, but, oh, it would be a fool's game, a fool's game.

And that's all I have to say.


200 Views of Rome: Borghese Gallery


5 Stars

This one is deep in my heart. And before I go any further I'd like to cite the one Rome review I wrote (polished up a bit), 8 or 9 years ago, sometime after our second trip to Rome:

Borghese Gallery

Single Greatest Museum on Face of Earth

Yes, I am not kidding. I admit it might be more fair to amend this to 'The single greatest small museum on face of earth', but i would rather not. Indeed, I refuse to amend in any way at all. Rome is a miraculous and glorious city, but go to all your Vatican and Forums only after you make sure this is in your plans first. Bernini is every bit the sculptor Michelangelo is and half of his masterpieces are here! There are quite a few Caravaggios here as well. Caravaggio was a very good painter, slightly more gifted than (insert name of any painter in the history of humankind here). The interior decorating is quite as good as any of the glorious roman churches, but a touch more fun and homey. Really, I'm beside myself, I turn to myself and say "Self, are you okay?" "Yes." I reply." I just really really like this museum." Sometimes on all these review sites we forget that taste and evaluation is subjective. I may love one thing and someone may find it horrible and ugly. I can live with this. But not when it applies to the Galleria Borghese because those who differ with me will be wrong. If you go here and do not like it you will need to look into your heart, listen to your soul, because an awakening is due. You will enjoy this awakening. 


So, did my warmth for this place moderate all these years later? A small bit. We went here once this trip in the course of thirty days. Charmingly we were in Rome for so long we just popped over and made a reservation in person, though usually, and by all accounts I have seen, it is done online. It was raining out when our time to go came, which unpleasantly compressed people into the steaming building. And though this is a "Ticket with appointment time" museum, limiting the number of visitors during one's two hour window, it felt suspiciously busy, like they raised their allowable number of people per time period. Also, being in Rome for a month gave me a taste for something worn. I loved that juxtaposition of mastery against age, and, really, mostly to its credit, the Borghese is pristine, exquisite, and fresh, but not as relaxed as I felt, and there were times when I edged away from the crowds and gazed out the Borghese windows at some little gardens in the falling rain and indulged a pleasant feeling of wistfulness. Their cafe isn't very good, though it's not terrible. The gift shop is (relatively) big, but not that interesting or satisfying. The Berninis weren't what my art heart was dying to see this trip, and they really are the soul of the Borghese.

And yet that's all just ephemera and mood. Even with it my pleasure in the place was ferocious. It is the great synthesis of all that Rome was capable of in that age of Baroque triumph. I manage to hold back on travel advice mostly these days, and when I don't it hardly matters, because none of us listen. When we go some place we've never been we are wrapped in a spell of our own ignorance and longing. We don't know what anything takes or what anything means. And we have been bludgeoned by hundreds of years of marketing: Colosseum!, Sistene Ceiling!, Piazza Navona!, The Forum!, Trevi Fountain!

And it doesn't matter. The only things one can do wrong in Rome are, well, actually there are a lot of them. But my god all the things that one can do right!

But if it's just me. And you feel like listening. In Rome for a day or a year. Go to The Borghese Gallery.  You will enjoy this awakening.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Dear Guardian Newspaper Online

Dear Editor, Guardian Newspaper Online:

I was reading one of your infuriating articles, this one about some marketer pretending to be an artist who you called "The right wing Bansky" and of course I was once again furious. Mostly I was angry because you were wasting time on this ethically challenged pretender when you could instead have been writing all about me! You know how often you write about me? Wait, let me count up the number of times. It won't take long because you have never written about me. So I was about to give you one saucy piece of my mind, but comments were not open on that article.

So I had to just stew.

But then as my sauciness percolated in the stew and it all started to settle and meld into a low boil, I had an idea: You should publish me! You should publish my voluminous writing about me.

This would save you the trouble of writing about me, which seems to be beyond your capabilities anyway, what with all that "news" you cover, because I would be writing about me for you. Plus I'm pretty sure I could make a better job of it than you ever could in the unlikely event you ever tried. I'm a wellspring of insights on myself.

And who am I?

Only the finest writer in the world!

In English.

Who's mainly a satirist.

And largely unknown.

And how have you never heard of me?

I know! A News organization. It's unbelievable!

Looking forward to a long and fruitful working relationship,

F. Calypso

Sunday, June 25, 2017

200 Views of Rome: La Rosetta


3 Stars

We weren't much restaurant people in Rome, but we did splurge on a few futile attempts at a really good restaurant meal. I loved our table here on a street where we so frequently walked, looking off, at least on one side, at the Pantheon. The service was super nice and unobtrusively attentive. The seafood dishes were skimpy and rather nose-bleedingly expensive, but nice quality and well-made. There may be just a touch of sour grapes in my three stars here that would have been mitigated by being ready and willing to spend 100 more euros than we did. It's more of an all in and forget about the price kind of place. We finished with a cheese plate that was the last in a long line of Roman Cheese plates and, at this swanky restaurant, ultimately confirmed our accidental investigation: The Romans, for all their many virtues, don't know the first thing about cheese and don't much care unless one is cooking something with it.

I can't recommend La Rosetta unless you're oozing money, like the look of the place, and really want some reliably very good seafood. But if all of those are in play, I can.

200 Views of Rome: Palazzo Altemps


5 Stars

There is a place in Rome, connected I think to the Capitoline Museum, where they took a bunch of that classical sculpture and put it in something of a giant old factory full of lumbering, Metropolis style industrial machinery. This sounded very intriguing. I made many plans for heading there to view this compelling mashup.

But I was only in Rome for 30 days. And this place, the Centrale Montemartini, was nearly two whole miles from our apartment near the Pantheon. It was absolutely impossible. Who could venture so far? What good could ever come to us more than a mile from our dear Pantheon?

So I struck it off the list. And the twinge of regret I felt might have come to something unpleasant, might have led us into rash journeys, if it weren't for the fact that someone had tried a bit of this genre mashup already. And it was blessedly only a two minute walk from the front door of our apartment. Palazzo Altemps. They took a Renaissance Palazzo and stuffed it full of Roman statues.

Palazzo Altemps was on my list too, but not very high up or with much enthusiasm. It cost money. It was Renaissance and Classical rather than say, Baroque or Modern. It didn't photograph that well either and so gave no impression of its wonders, which can be subtle and strange and alchemical and peaceful. Oh I like the peaceful wonders in Rome.

But I might never have known until one day we went to the Palazzo Massimo. The ticket to get in there gave us tickets for Palazzo Altemps. So, the next day, since it was practically in our neighborhood, I took us there.

Ancient glass, frescoes under frescoes and painted wooden ceilings. Palaces built on palaces built on, who knows what, but they are digging down to find out. Roman sculpture looming in bright, lovely rooms with the vestiges of elaborate decoration. No crowds, pleasant views out the window, and small surprises around every corner.

Oh yes, that's Palazzo Altemps.

Go slow. Don't take Rome for granted. Forget pictures. Don't travel more than a mile from your door. Have a negroni every night. Eat Roman fruit. Always, always check out the ceilings. Remember, If there's a crowd it might be something really good, but if there's hardly anyone around it might even be better.

And if "Palazzo" is in the title of the attraction, go.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

200 Views of Rome: Santa Maria Maddelena


4 Stars

A lovely little Rococo Church on a square I'm fond of just up from the Pantheon. It has a charming, distinctive exterior with just a touch more fuss that usual, a nice legend if you dig for it, and a pretty interior most definitely worth a peep. There is no special trip necessary to it, but if you like the Rococo, Maddelena is unique to Rome and worth a small diversion. I have a slight fear that I'm underrating it out of familiarity, since, in its way, it was really our neighborhood church for the month we were in Rome. Well, one of three. If only it had a Caravaggio. All our other local churches managed to.

Yes, the standards can get a bit high in Rome.

After you judge this wonder for yourself grab some excellent gelato at the San Crispino del Pantheon which is right there. It won't be busy. Go figure.

200 View of Rome: Fluid


4 Stars

In the heart of the Piazza Navona neighborhood lies Fluid, a sort of bar, er, or cocktail bar? with food? The lines of definition are all murky on places like this in Rome. Just go on in and see what happens. It will reveal itself soon enough. They might not want you. They might be delighted to see you. Food? Drinks? Free? Expensive? There may be no room. Is there live music? A disco? Who knows.

To me Fluid was a Cheshire cat sort of place. There are no great shortage of these in Rome because especially smaller cafes and shops have a way of disappearing like they were never there, especially when closed and shuttered, and then being so obvious at other times one cannot even conceive of overlooking them. This is not to say that Fluid is hard to find. We never looked for it. But wandering its street dozens of times we came upon it once by chance, had a lovely early drink and buffet, and somehow never happened upon it again.

Anyway, here we are. Let's go inside. Sure, you're on the Internet and can actually find 360 degree walkthroughs of the interior of Fluid, but pictures are bullies. The will take over your mind. They will burn an idea of a place into your consciousness, and the idea, smaller than the point of a pin, will seem like a whole world. But words, these words, will seem to tell you almost nothing, and only later will you understand that nothing is exactly what you needed to know.

So, Fluid. First you must wonder why I keep saying the name of the place: Fluid. Is it because it is not a good name? No, though a good argument can be made for that. It is because the second I stop saying the name "Fluid" I start to think the name of this place is "Liquid". But it is called Fluid, not Liquid. Though I hope you can see how I might make the mistake.

Remember how I said I will seem to tell you almost nothing...

I love how this place is decorated. We sat in a room at the way back with illuminated floors that changed colors endlessly. The walls were rocks in cages. The ceiling was some kind of crinkled material. Long and narrow Liquid, I mean Fluid, is a kind of a grotto. It has no windows and it feels as if it has been carved into some low stone bluff of the Piazza Navona neighborhood. Is there a lot of stone in the area west of Piazza Navona? I don't know. Maybe. It's theoretically possible.

We went at an odd, early evening hour because we especially like off hours, having issues with... people. This allowed us to have that room of colored lights and imprisoned stones all to ourselves for most of the time we were there. They had a cocktail menu with about 400 choices in it, fully described in English, one of my favorite languages. This fecundity of choice is never a good sign for good cocktails, something I'm only more aware of now, but I got in the spirit anyway. I might even have had two cocktails! They weren't very strong. They were mainly fruity. With drinks we got buffet. It was a fair share of what I might call "Italian Junk", which, frankly, is not all that bad. The potluck celebrations we have occasionally at the library I work at in Minnesota should only do half so well and I'd be pleased. I remember we were positively excited about all the papaya. They had good papaya at that buffet. Rome likes fruit!

And that's about it. The people were nice enough in there, and it was starting to fill up more as we were leaving. I know it's a pretty long review for a little 4 Star place we went to just once, but, you need to know! And that's why I'm here.

Friday, June 23, 2017

A joke like no other

I was talking with a sort of writer friend and saying that I was a good writer.

He said I wasn't all that great at writing, which I found a bit insulting. "I'm a great writer!" I exclaimed.

"You're okay." He said. "But you have some problems."

"What? What problems could I possibly have? I don't have any problems as a writer." I challenged him to name just one problem I had as a writer.

"Well," He said. "You're not very good at similes."

And I was like... like....... like...........

Library update

As we cut a swath through my 200 views of Rome project I don't want you to entirely lose touch with what is going on at my library, the source for so many of my blog posts. So for a brief moment we interrupt our detailed journey through our judgements of Rome to catch you up on what's happening at my library.

1. Faxing!

One would think it is 1986 or so to be talking of faxing, and though traditionally libraries do tend to lag behind when it comes to technology, this is really pushing that envelope in the extreme because we only now, after literally decades of requests for it, finally, FINALLY offer faxing at our library.

Good news: This public faxing is easy to use and runs through our copying machine. It's pretty quick too.

Bad news: "Easy to use" and "Public" can be a volatile mix!

2. A little bird told me.

One of my inside contacts let me know that when the library's Management Team approved the new policy mandating that circulation staff set up chairs and tables for all events in the program room, the Library Director (of that time) exclaimed "I'm surprised that went so easily and without complaint!" At which point it was pointed out that there were no circulation staff at that meeting.

Then they all laughed and had more champagne.

3. Killer shopping carts!

Our killer shopping carts took their first casualty this Summer. Some years ago we got these stupid shopping carts (not judging, it's the brand name "Stupid Shopping Carts", I think they're expressly made for libraries). These small shopping carts are mainly used by people who should really use walkers, but don't want to. They hang their canes on our shopping carts and walk around with the cart supporting them until they lose their delicate balance just a little bit. At that point they seek the support of the shopping cart only to find that these carts are on wheels! At which point the carts roll away from them as they fall awkwardly into them and to the ground where they all bleed way more than anyone thought possible because they are all on blood thinner medication.

Bad news: These things are death traps!

Good news: They are still way more safe than our killer stairs ("Killer Stairs" is a judgement, not a brand name).

That's it from here for now. I'll try to continue to keep you up to date!


Thursday, June 22, 2017

200 Views of Rome: Buddy


4 Stars

We went to Buddy for food or drinks 5 times. Unlike many of the churches, even ones I adored, I can still picture Buddy with perfect clarity; the open, comfortable tables, the woman cleaning the juicer, the window thrown open onto the busy street full of fascinating passers by, the bucket and mop blocking the use of the bathroom for such a long time, the shelves full of glittering bottles and glassware, the chalkboards and piles of lovely produce, the jar glasses that the juices came in, the buffet full of domes lining the counters. And though I needed no refreshing of my memory, in a moment of curiosity I read some reviews of Buddy anyway. I was innocently shocked at how different reviews can be of a place one knows pretty well. I poured over reviews of hundreds of places in Rome before I went. They were all misleading. Reading one now, afterwards, I was amazed at how much more sense they all made.

Buddy reviews are wild, contradictory, falsely comprehensive, and all over the place. I suppose reviews are like this for almost any place with a fair bit going on. Breakfast at Buddy's is damned as non existent and praised as comprehensive. The staff "all speak English" or "don't speak much English". Wine is the only thing worth getting. And it was the best meal someone ever had. They are so friendly. A jazz quartet plays. No one comes to your table. It is great for vegans and there is almost nothing for a vegan to eat. It is mainly for tourists and is a great place for true Romans.

It made my head spin. I couldn't begin to understand these reviews if I were going in cold and yet, knowing the restaurant Buddy a little, I am compelled to say, these ridiculous reviews are all pretty much correct.


Well, beware reviews, and reviewers. Your eyes shall become fly eyes.

I am no god here. I cannot set it all straight. But I can speak to some of it. 

One time we went to Buddy and outside of a small bit of help in getting situated at a table no one ever came to wait on us. Ever. No one. After a while we just left. We liked the look of the place though and came another time. They were very nice and helpful! I had an insanely delicious juice there once, with passion fruit. If that were my review I couldn't give it enough stars. It was one of the most delicious juices I've ever had. Three other juices I had varied widely. Fruit, man, it's like each piece is unique! I had some food. It was pretty good. Some of the food around the place looked really good, but that might have been because I didn't eat it. I didn't know there was a jazz quartet at night! That would have been nice to see. We tended to land there in the day. Once flies were annoying. Once it was too sunny. Once our table neighbors were noisy. Once there was a breeze. Once it was just right. Will the bathroom ever open up? No. Yes, absolutely. It was very expensive and quite a bargain. 

Was it for tourists? Uh, in central Rome? Ha ha ha ha ha ha! There are two kinds of places to eat or drink in central Rome. The kind where they accost you as you walk by and try to get you to go there, and the kind where they don't. Buddy's is the kind where they don't.

And so Buddy's was too warm and too cold, too hard and too soft, and Buddy's was just right. I say give it a shot there Goldilocks. Baseball rules apply in tourism. One out of three will do you fine.

200 Views of Rome: The Doria Pamphilj


5 Stars

I love all the breathtaking churches of Rome, free, often unassuming, and jaw dropping, and the ancient buildings and ruins give me the feels, and I love every paving stone and color of stucco and variety of grape, but if I must choose one attraction above all, which, fortunately, I don't have to, I will take the Palazzi of Rome: Barberini, Borghese, Altemps, Doria Pamphilj, and on.

And so how ranks the Palazzo Doria Pamphilj in this most august of all company?

It need not bow its head. And though it stands second to a couple of them, in such company that is only the most passionate of recommendations. Also it has plenty of its own unique virtues; a central, enjoyable, and well situated location, the best gift shop of the Roman Palazzi (get the bookmarks!), and the only really great cafe that I'm allowed to discuss (sorry). The expensive admission (12 E) must be accepted unflinchingly. There are four great halls, around a square. Each hall has its own sort of decorative theme working off its marvelous ceiling. Choose your favorite. Or not. But do look up. Painting are stacked up high on all the walls, and they are unusually entertaining paintings (Putti fights! Porcupines!). One may even find something of a small treasure by some famous artist, stacked up third from the top where one can hardly see it. Roll with it. Enjoy the fecundity. There are too many good paintings to look at them all anyway.

The big time treasures are mostly saved for the end, a couple of more normal rooms for viewing art. Bruegehl, Caravaggio, Lippi, Velazquez..., I count there at least four paintings good enough to dazzle in any company in any museum on the face of the earth.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Bob Dylan Tells You How to Live Your Life

I am so excited to report that I will be the new (co)author of the compilation book:

Bob Dylan Tells You How to Live Your Life

This book takes excerpts from Nobel Prize Laureate Bob Dylan's lyrics, comments, speeches, and writings and assembles them into words of wisdom to guide the young of all ages (the "forever young") on their journey through life.

And, excitingly, in a sneak preview, exclusive to clerkmanifesto, I am here today to present the first ever excerpts from: Bob Dylan Tells You How to Live Your Life!

But first, a note on annotation and structure:

Bob Dylan Tells You How to Live Your Life is made up of the direct quotes, in bold type, of Nobel Prize Laureate Bob Dylan, like so:

The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind.

This is followed in parenthesis by the source, like so:

The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind. (lyric)

The possible sources of attribution include the following:

(lyric), (written work), (speech), (interview), (in conversation), (plagiarized), (high level inner-circle source)

This is all followed by a brief, exactingly clear passage explaining just what, specifically, Mr. Dylan is telling us about how to live our lives. Like so:

The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind. (lyric)

Make sure you're out of the wind when you open your folder of notes on Bob Dylan quotes.


I hope then our format is all clear to you, because now it is time to proceed to our first ever preview of,

Bob Dylan Tells You How to Live Your Life

If I wasn't Bob Dylan I'd probably think Bob Dylan has a lot of answers myself. (interview)

Live life like you would think you had all the answers if you weren't you.

You say I've said things I've never said and then interpret them to mean things they don't even mean. (in conversation)

The more we speak the more we contradict ourselves.

Trust yourself, and look not for answers Where no answers can be found. (lyric)

You might want to consider purchasing a book other than Bob Dylan Tells You How to Live Your Life.

And it's a hard, and it's a hard, it's a hard, and it's a hard. And it's a hard rain's a-gonna fall. (lyrics)

Wear a hat.

I don't want my daughter dating a teacher. (high level inner-circle source)

A wise man should respond to a wise man wisely, but to a foolish man foolishly.

Some men who receive injuries are led to God, others are led to bitterness. (plagiarism)

Even a charmed life has a full share of pain, so it's up to you whether you want to read the 822 page Moby Dick one time, let alone twice! 

Time is an ocean but it ends at the shore. You may not see me tomorrow. (lyric)

Be careful how much you make fun of Bob Dylan because he's getting pretty old and you are gonna be weeping some pretty salty tears when he goes down.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

200 Views of Rome: La Locanda del Prosciutto


4 Stars

A charming little meat platter place tucked just a bit out of the thick of things, near an art store we often frequented, just down from the Pantheon. We went here several times, and at first blush, under the spell of Rome, the meat and cheese platters were quite tasty. But it did not take much reflection to understand there was nothing so really unique or keenly delicious about any of it, though it was good. The seating, like so many Roman places, was not terribly comfortable, and yet we liked it there. The young proprietors were kind and attentive, and they always played really good jazz. Our later visits mainly consisted of happily sharing a bottle of wine, with decreasing amounts of food. After perhaps 5 visits, sometimes as nearly their only table, we went one night.

"We're full." They blithely said.

And though we were still in Rome a couple more weeks we never even thought of them again.

200 View of Rome: Grand Hotel de la Minerva Rooftop Bar


5 Stars

While I will argue a near objectivity for my 5 stars for something like The Palazzo Barberini, I am fully aware my 5 stars here are extraordinarily personal, subjective, and idiosyncratic. So take that as you will...

On a night in early October, starting to grow just too cold to sit outside, just as all the dinner service seemed about wrapped up, my wife and I asked if we could come in and just sit and have a bottle of wine.

Of course. Prego.

We picked out one of the cheapest, happily a Shiraz, maybe 35 Euros. Heat lamps every once in awhile wafted some precious warmth at us where we sat on the edge of the roof. They gave us marcona almonds, the nicest bowl of nuts we received in Rome. I don't remember if there were olives. We drank wine, pondering the fascinating rooftops of the baroque city, the intriguingly bland facades of gothic Sopra Minerva, and the ancient, massive wonder of the flanks of The Pantheon.  

After not long we were alone, as patrons, in the large rooftop restaurant bar. We changed seats. A grand piano player regaled us with the cheesiest romantic pop hits of the seventies, making them deliciously charming through the alchemy of situation, time, and a heavy Italian accent.

Among thirty days of fabulous romance, this, this was romantic.

Monday, June 19, 2017

200 Views of Rome: Alice Pizza


4 Stars

Oy, these stars will be the death of me! And I'm a person who likes quantifying things! I'm in the top 11 percent for quantifying and am a 4.48 star quantifier!

So here's the deal. There were several Alice Pizzas out there in Rome, possibly dozens. I went to one or two. Lovely sheets of pizza under glass on the counter. There are a range of varieties like one would never see in America, maybe prosciutto on one, shrimp and a vinegary sauce on another, ribbons of zucchini, blots of ricotta, eggplant, one with a thick scattering of thinly sliced mushrooms. You tell them where to cut. They weigh it up and throw it in their pizza oven. It's delicious stuff.

Now here's the rub. I only went to pizza places I read good things about in the reviews on the Internet. But looking at the pizza under the glass would have been scrutiny enough to tell. These venues were all really good and extremely similar in every way. Not a single one of them pierced my heart with ecstasy, and yet every one of them was terrific. If just one of these places, a branch, for instance, of the ubiquitous Alice Pizza, opened up in the twin cities where I live, I would fall to my knees weeping tears of gratitude. In Rome, it was just pizza, really good pizza.

There was one thing about this kind of pizza though that was hard for me to face, and I at times resisted it to my detriment. This pizza has the half life of french fries. You must eat it now! Hot. Go! Their takeaway box is useless except for eating out of it as you are walking away. Quick, find some place to eat that pizza and sit down and eat it. The clock is ticking.

Alice Pizza, four stars, five stars, I don't know. Let's just say I would fly for eight hours to have a piece right now. Of course, we'd pop over to the Palazzo Altemps since we're there, and then get a quick drink at Sant Eustachio, and Giolitti, I mean, since we're there. I mean, there's no point being silly about it.