Monday, December 10th, 2007 http://adamkhan.net/rambles/the-small-adventures
n what turned out to be my last day in Rome, Davide lost his temper a bit, saying it’s pointless and unseemly to rush, that there’s no particular reason to leave that particular day, that I should take my time and leave in a couple of days, whatever. But I knew it was time. I’d been living out of a suitcase for a month, having come here straight from the USA. I’d come to fetch my dog Jam, and Davide had taken care of the necessary bureaucracy some six months previously, and now I had the papers. It was time to be getting home already.
He’d stored some stuff of mine in a locker, stuff I’d left with him, along with The Jam herself, when I left Rome for Brighton back in November of last year, 2006. We were going to get that stuff, but we also had to get to the vet for the somewhat ridiculous tick and tapeworm treatment that must be stamped no more than 48 and no less than 24 hours before departing from the European mainland to enter Britain without quarantine as part of the new EU Pet Passport scheme. Oh yes, and we had to get to Termini station to find out just when the trains went. People may complain about the price of trains in Britain, but in Italy the train information telephone line itself is very expensive. Davide was upset he’d clocked up 8€ on the call and we still hadn’t gotten the information we needed. Crazy as it seems in this day and age, we had to go to the station to get proper information about the trains. Italy.
But once we were there, the very competent ticket fellow helped us out a lot. His first response was that no dogs are allowed on the overnight train to Milan. I had understood that if you take a whole sleeper, you can, and that this costs 250€, and I was resigned to paying that, and kind of pleased about it anyway, as I love sleepers but find it hard to justify the cost, and here it was, a necessity. But there were no sleepers available.
It turned out however that dogs are allowed on the slower train, and since it’s overnight anyway, being slower made little difference. But no sleeper, just a regular coach seat. The ticket was only 85€ or so, with a 5€ surcharge for the dog, and I’d have to pay the additional 10€ dog surcharge for the Milan-Paris leg once on that train, as it’s a French one. Well. Fine! As usual, the official started talking with Davide about the state of the city, the nation, the universe, and it looked like they could have stood chatting all day. I envy them that—there’s something as languid as Africa in a real Roman. Implicit in their body language is that they have all the time in the world and that nothing is more important than a chat with a fellow. And we uptight white boys, Anglos, Ashkenazim, know that to be true, even if we also believe it to be false.
We went down to the left luggage department, and I enjoyed once again the pleasure of being a mild pleasant spectacle wherever I go with the dogs, because people tend to just like them and it brightens things up a little. Once again Davide got to talking to the staff. And then we were off to Trastevere, to return to the station for the 11pm train.
Oh dear: the dreaded H bus. I had taken it when I arrived from Ciampino Airport, and here again I was taking it when about to leave. I’d taken it a lot when I first moved to Rome, and then, once I’d gotten my motorino, never took it again. (Ah, I’m getting a bit of a hankering for Rome as I write this…) It’s horrible. Packed, bumpy, and smelling unpredictably.
We arrived at Trastevere and walked to Davide’s vet, who scoffed at the tick and tapeworm requirement before doing it, and then we split up for a while, Davide to an internet cafe and me to Bravetta, the God-awful suburb where I first lived in Rome, and where Maddie is buried in a field at the end of the road were we lived. It was almost a year ago that I left Rome the first time, and I was again beginning my journey starting from her spot, though this time completely, properly—ie, together with Maddie’s puppy and pal, the Jam.
Upon returning to Trastevere, Davide was ensconced at a bar with a couple of fellows drinking wine, smoking and making merry. I was a little anxious to get dinner without having to rush to make the train, but as so often happens with Davide about town, I waited patiently, trying to enjoy the scene, the fat Roman moon complementing the sumptuous tops of buildings, trying to understand a little of the conversation. Then we were off for my final dinner, pizza, which I hadn’t eaten the whole time I’d been there for some reason. Surprisingly, it wasn’t very good, but I enjoyed the waitress, parts of her rubbing against parts of me. As I think about it, that sort of thing simply never happens to me here in Britain. Flirtations can be so straightforward and overt in Italy.
And of course we were late. I ordered a salad with my pizza and had no time to eat it so she wrapped it for me. And off we went, frantically searching for a taxi that would accept Jam and Davide’s dog Bianca. Shouting, we considered me going alone to the station, as there was more of a chance of getting a taxi with one dog than with two—and also because I think Davide rather fancied avoiding the whole deal outside Termini Station, which really can be a drain on one’s party psyche.
But one guy let us aboard—he had one of the bubble Fiat Multiplas that I like so much and nobody else does—and we were set. Except that when we arrived at the station he wanted a 15€ supplement for the suitcase and two dogs, which I was outraged over, but Davide just paid. As we entered the station three pretty young people, giggling and tattooed, handed us each a 50¢ piece as they left. No reason. Somehow gaining that 50¢ made me feel much more pleased than losing the previous 15€ had been distressing. That’s personal progress, right?
We got the case from left luggage, 39-year-old Davide running and skipping along the passageway like a 9-year-old, and then we were at the platform. I filled the water bottle from a classy gold art deco water fountain there on the platform—that’s Rome, you know? Filthy, but with wondrous grace notes.
The trains was on the platform. Davide was being thrown out of his current apartment and he wasn’t sure where to go next, and we’d just spend the past two weeks living as intimately as only the impoverished or the adventuring do—sharing a room, a sink, our days, a laptop—and he’d really come through in taking care of the Jam and her papers, so there on the platform it was quite a little parting, even as I was impatient to get back home to my comforts, order and setup.
In the carriage next to the door were some fine young lassies, and Davide was saying he wouldn’t mind coming on the train as well for the journey. But alas and alack, the train tickets seem to be distributed according to the sexes, and my seat was in a carriage with four other grown men, one of whom was already sprawled out adamantly and snoring, while I sat closest to the corridor opposite a greying man in an anorak who was trying to sleep curled up. Awful, awful. I sat with the Jam out in the corridor for a while on those ghastly fold-down seats, then I tried the standing area between the carriages, but they were cold and noisy and reeked either of the toilet or cigarette smoke. So I remembered the lesson from long-haul flights to Asia while working for Amdocs and sat straight up in my chair and settled down that way, listening to music in my mp3/ogg player for a while, the Jam half under my feet and half under the seat of the guy in front. A miserable geezer came by with the miserable trolley and I bought a Coke and enjoyed it immensely. And we slept, and it was reasonably comfortable, and soon enough it was 5:30am or so, and the train was approaching Milan.
To be continued, it seems!