Packing

I’m leaving for a road bike trip, this year through the Cascade range in Washington. I was a novice the first time I packed my bike for one of these trips. Fitting the bike in the hard-shell packing case looked impossible. Now I do it without guidance or tsuris–although it still looks impossible to fit the bike in the box.

When An Image Becomes An Icon

The University of Texas clock tower dominates the northern end of Austin’s skyline. Driving into Austin after dark it’s a dramatic sight.(Linked photograph by Brandon Seidel)

Walking the UT campus by day it immediately conjured images of  Charles Whitman’s infamous 1966 tower shootings, which I remember as the dawn of the era of the mass-murdering lone gunman.

Bike Trip 2011

It was a short trip this year, on the bikes about 150 miles over four days up the Hudson River valley from Nyack to Saratoga.  The distance between the two is more than 150 miles, but we drove from Coxsackie to Saratoga because (1) we didn’t want to bike through or around Albany and (2) we needed to make dinner reservations.  It was really three half-days of riding because we drove from home to Nyack Thursday morning, returned home from Saratoga Sunday afternoon, and stayed off the bikes and out of the rain Saturday morning.  We experienced some spectacular scenery around West Point, bucolic scenery at various points along the way, and the best that Routes 9W and 9G can offer in between–which was nothing special.  This trip was much more about the camaraderie than the biking, and contributed richly to group lore.  We had 98 degree temperatures, a fender bender between our two vans, a stop my childhood home, 

thunderstorms, molasses-slow waitstaff, lost drivers in Poughkeepsie, constant disagreements about the route, visits to FDR’s home in Hyde Park and the battlefield at Saratoga, rain, some of the best coffee ever at Uncommon Grounds in Saratoga, endless amusement courtesy of Anthony Weiner’s expense, gelato, few photographs, no flats, no serious injuries, and no major disputes.  And so we turn our attention to next year’s trip.

When in Rome . . .

Monday we had an enjoyable dinner in a trattoria located on Via degli Avignonesi, a narrow street off Via Boccaccio, another narrow street down the hill from Palazzo Barberini.  The food was great–salad of carciofi and puntarelle, pasta putanesca–and we engaged with a chatty Australian couple at the next table who were dining there for the third night in a row.  I spent the evening looking at a lighted sign hung high in the corner. It was an image of two cherubs holding bunches of grapes and floating (perhaps that is redundant–are cherubs always floating?) merrily over a wine glass while one–hold on, is he doing what I think he is doing?–pees into the glass.  That explains the name:  Pisciapiano Gioia Mia.  Piss Slowly, My Dear.  (Below is a picture of the image on the front window, not the sign, which did not photograph well with the iPhone.)

 

Pisciapiano

a Roma, Day Three

After ignoring the elevator and climbing five flights of stairs to our hotel room, which was after visiting five churches and walking from central Rome to San Giovanni in Laterano to Trastevere and back, Judy noted “We don’t go on vacation to relax.”

No.  We don’t.

Random observations:

  • Being a Boston pedestrian is good training for walking in Rome.  Pedestrians here step into oncoming traffic confident they won’t be hit–which is a gamble, given Roman traffic.  No close calls so far.
  • In the week she was here before I arrived Judy asked for directions often.  The answer was always “sempre diretto,” straight ahead, which is a Roman in-joke.  You can never walk straight ahead to get from where you are to where you want to be.  Think of Boston’s most non-linear street layouts–the North End, downtown between Washington Street and the harbor.  Narrow the streets. Multiply by a thousand. Lard with tourists, season with Vespas, and sprinkle with North Africans selling umbrellas, scarves, and toys near every tourist site.
  • You could retire and set up your heirs forever with the wealth contained in any random church.  Mosaics, frescoes, statues, paintings, reliquaries, precious stones, carvings, marble, gilt . . . staggering sumptuousness everywhere.
  • In one of the last rooms on the tour of the Palazzo Doria-Pamphilij you find some Caravaggios hanging alongside a dozens of other paintings lining the walls in multiple rows.  If hung in a museum they would be set apart in a focused display.  The casualness with which you encounter them, after seeing hundreds of other items in the family holdings, is very Roman to me.  The tour’s audio guide by a member of the Doria-Pamphilij family reminds you that real people still live in this Palazzo–although not as part of the tour.
  • I’m haunted by the smell of roast chestnuts from vendors around central Rome.

Bring On the Backscatter

Heard the growing protest over deployment of backscatter scanners at airport security?  Heard of National Opt-Out Day on Wednesday November 24, otherwise known as the day before Thanksgiving, otherwise known as the busiest air travel day of the year, on which protesters urge air travelers to opt-out of passing through scanners and submit to lengthier physical pat-downs?  I am not traveling that day–other than two trips to the airport to pick up sons arriving from Miami and Chicago–but if I were, I would volunteer to be first in line to pass through the scanner.  Ever since an orthopedic surgeon installed two hunks of metal in my right hip airport metal detectors ring like the Daily Double when I walk through.  A TSA employee shouts “male assist,” I’m shunted aside to the Box of Shame and I stand arms outstretched, palms up, while another TSA employee runs his hands over my arms, sides, stomach, bag, legs, and (using the back of his hand on the latter) crotch and runs his fingers inside my turned-down waistband.  I’ve been through more than a dozen pat-downs.  They are time-consuming, physically intrusive, and annoying.  At Logan Airport last spring I used a scanner, which in seconds revealed I’m packing not a weapon but thisHip resurfacting .  I was waved through, no pat-down, like everyone else.

As one who has experienced both a faceless TSA employee in another room looking at my unidentified naked image on a screen and a TSA employee staring me in the face and running his hands all over my body, I’ll take the scanner every time.