Friday, April 9, 2010

Rome! Arty-fartsy stuff! A--(gasp!)--JOB FOR FRANNY!


My real life is the fun, creative one, where I get to run all over the world and see fabulous things and pretend to be rich.  My fake life is the one where I look for employment and fuss about money and do laundry.  Sometimes that fake life swells up and crowds out my real life, as it did the other day when a job interview reduced me to tears and I wrote about it.  I felt stupid about that later and thought about deleting that last entry, but I decided against it, because I am human, and because I am sure that SOMETHING GOOD AND WONDERFUL WILL HAPPEN, EVENTUALLY.

So here's some good stuff. 


Robert, being Napoleon, in front of our hotel

Despite the fact we do not have any money to burn and I haven't had a job for more than a year, when we received Robert's inheritance from his mother, we did some thinking about what she would have wanted us to do with it.  We decided she would want us to take a vacation.  

Robert said he would like to see Turkey, but the time he could get off from work was limited.  I found a great deal on a trip that included three days in Rome and three in Istanbul. 

In Rome we stayed in a fancy old hotel near the train station, in a neighborhood where everything is covered with graffitti and all the stores and coffee shops are run by Asians.  It was a fun place to stay and we had a great time there.  The weather was rainy and chilly, but that didn't keep us from walking our feet to stumps.  We wandered into any interesting church, museum or shop we came upon.  We were very near the church of Santa Maria Maggiore.  It is one of the most decorative and beautiful churches in the world -- as impressive as St. Peter's, but on a smaller scale.  There were fabulous paintings, mosaics and stonework (lots of porphyry!) everywhere. 

In the center, under the floor, is a reliquary of St. Matthew the Apostle with a huge statue of a pope kneeling in front of it.  The church's other famous relics include wood and hay from the nativity manger, the original swaddling clothes, and some holy breast milk.  Who would have thunk to save that?  Mary?  What did she save it in?  Did one of those wise men tell her, "Hey, you better keep some of that!" 

I like relics.  I am SURE they are all genuine, just as I am sure that no scheming pope, gullible crusader or money-grubbing king had any part in their creation or collection.  When I was traveling around Italy when I was sixteen, I saw three different wedding rings of Mary, each in a different town.  I guess she kept losing them.  Somewhere in an undisclosed Italian location is the only part of Jesus that sitteth not at the right hand of the Father. Write to me and I'll tell you what it is. 

Anyway, here are pictures of the interior of Santa Maria Maggiore, and looking down toward the reliquary and the giant pope: 

We saw another fabulous church, Maria of the Angels and Martyrs, that had a special exhibit about Gallileo Galilei.  There were beautiful models of some of his scientific experiments and machines.  He was quoted as saying, "In order to understand creation, you must look at the stones."  We also visited Saint Peter in Chains, where Michaelangelo's Moses is, and all sorts of really gruesome memorials featuring skeletons and spooky representations of death.   

We didn't see the Vatican City or Sistine Chapel, as we'd both seen them before.  We'd also had no plans to visit the Colosseum, but I had promised my pal Mavis I'd have my picture taken in front of it, so here you have it.  As I am the photographer in our family, this is about the only photo of me from the whole adventure, so it is unfortunate that I am making a silly face. 

When I was in Rome in 1971, the Colosseum was open to the public.  You could walk through it anytime, and there were little shops in the niches inside where you could buy postcards and candy.  It was closed to the public for several years for restoration and reinforcement, and was only recently reopened.  Now you have to pay money to go inside, and they have built some sort of walkway over the middle so you can look down into the maze where the gladiators' rooms and animal pens used to be, under the floor.  It was closed for teh day when we got there, so we didn't get to go in, but I didn't know if I really wanted to see a "new and improved" Colosseum, anyway.

Writing this, I realize I've been assuming that everybody knows that I spent what would have been my junior year in high school hitchhiking around Europe.  I lived in Perugia, Italy, for a time and went to Rome or Florence every weekend on my quest to see everything ever sculpted by Michaelangelo.  I managed to do this except for the Madonna of Bruges, in Belgium (which I saw in 1990) and a pair of angels that are in the Hermitage, in St. Petersburg.  I didn't have any money, so I spent lots of time doing free things, like sitting in the ancient Roman Forum watching feral cats snooze on ancient stone walls and clean themselves.  

I had hoped to go there again.  My memory of the Forum was of a big, wild area that was oddly quiet in the middle of the noisy city.  You could wander around and try to imagine what the streets and temples had looked like, that were now just paving stones and remnants of toppled pillars lying amid weeds.  And there were scores and SCORES of cats.  But now the Forum is surrounded by an eight-foot high fence, cement sidewalks have been installed and the grass is perfectly manicured and edged around every fallen stone.  All Robert and I could do was to peer through the bars of the fence.  I didn't see a single cat!  Of course I understand that these treasures must be protected from vandals and souvenir pickers, but I am very glad I had the opportunity to experience that history it in a much different way, before. 

I had told Robert that one thing I really wanted to do was to visit Pompeii or Herculaneum, or both.  So we took a side trip to Naples, but I'll write about that next time.  We saw the Pantheon and I took pictures of Italian sandwiches (amazingly artistic!) and we ate great food.  We went to the Piazza Navona at night to see Bellini's incredible Fountain of the Four Rivers.  Unfortunately for us, they were working on it, so it was drained and surrounded by a huge plywood barrier! Urgh! Oh well!  It was still pretty!      


Well, now I am tired and must pack for a trip to visit Robert's sister.  I'll write more when we get back! 

Happy Passover and Easter!


Just before Christmas I decided to do something about our parlor fireplace.  It was boarded up but if I tapped on it, it sounded hollow.  Several years ago I purchased an antique gas jet insert just because it looked pretty.  I put it in front of the mantle and burned candles in it, which is as close as I could get to having a roaring fire.  I thought it would look better if I could open up the firebox (which is all of about six inches deep) and set the gas jet inside it.  I assumed I'd have to fashion some sort of interior walls and insulate it, but I thought I could get it done before our Christmas guests arrived. 

Well, the joke's on me.  After destroying my home with a chisel and hammers and getting plaster dust and grit all over everything, I learned that I can't put the gas jet in that space.  For some screwy reason there is a chimney within the chimney (which comes from nowhere and leads nowhere) that is only half as wide as the fireplace opening.  So unless I felt like risking having two stories of bricks fall down on my head, I was stymied.  Pooh!    

I covered everything up with a tartan curtain for Christmas but realized I'd eventually have to board up the space again.  I decided I should do something with tile that would look nice in our Victorian house.  We shopped for ceramic tiles in Italy and Turkey but didn't find anything useful or affordable.  I ended up making my own fancy tiles by decoupaging pieces of a very expensive William Morris wallpaper sample ($10.00 for a 18" x 24" piece!) to pieces of cheap bathroom tile I had cut to the correct size.  I used them along with plain black and glass tile to make a fancy "firescreen" sort of thing.  Also, I had salvaged an antique cast-iron fireplace surround from the alley behind my house in Detroit.  I brought it to New York but it was too short to use for either of our fireplaces.  But I found if I built a fake raised hearth, it fit just great!  Here's my masterpiece.  (I accept your applause graciously.) 

I am pretty happy about the result, but still hoping we'll get rich and we can have a real wood-burning fireplace some day.


It is incredibly depressing that I can be so excited about getting a job that is only four hours a day, five days a week, and pays five bucks an hour.  And in fact, I am not yet sure the job is really mine!  But if it turns out that I, with my multiple university degrees, management experience, awesome creative talent and general genius, am not qualified to be a DOG BABYSITTER, I might as well just shoot myself.

But I will not shoot myself, because I have finally experienced an epiphany.  

Nice ladies come to my door with magazines and tell me that if I do what they do, I can have a personal relationship with God.  I used to be vicious to these people whenever possible because I thought they were idiots.  But God has personally told me that as He made everything, even idiots, there is a place for them and I should respect them.  So I do.  I am nice to these ladies, and I take their magazines and I tell them that I am all set, thanks.

God communicates with me on a personal level all the time.  He has sort of a quirky manner of doing this.  Sometimes he says, "Had enough yet, smartypants?" and sometimes, "Ha!  Ha!"  Sometimes God holds my head underwater until I am about to pass out, then says, "Cry Uncle!"  So I have finally accepted that if employers have no work for a person like myself, I'll have to make my own work, or more specifically, to make the work I do make money.  

So I am very excited to have this opportunity (taking care of two miniature doggies whose master has accepted a job in NYC) because it will get me out of the house (where I tend to spend my time doing things like making fake fireplaces) to "go to work."  I hope to use the time to do more writing, and look for editing jobs.  I also have quite a bit to do getting the voice-acting company off the ground.

The dogs' owner is on vacation for a week.  I'll let you know how it goes.

Well, I guess this is enough for now.  Drop me a line!  Thanks to those of you who have written reviews of "Gift Hearse," especially since I tried to show my sister-in-law how to navigate the website to do it, and found out what a massive pain in the butt it is.  If you have trouble, call me at (845) 838-6248.  I am trying to get a website up to make it easier to find, and to jump through the hoops I need in order to get it in bookstores and Amazon.  

And thanks to you who have bought it!    Enjoy spring!

F and R

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