Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Rome Journal: Rome, NY

Sophie Loren Displays Her Hairy Armpits
When you’re young you fall in love with other cultures and ways of life. You're swept away by the glamour, sexuality and cultivation of the French with their cuisine and their encyclopaedists following the tradition of Diderot. You love the Italians for their romance and passion. All the women seem to be like Anna Magnani and you might even rebel against the tsunami of Brazilian waxing to let the hair in your armpits grow as Italian actresses did in the neorealist films of the 50’s. If you're a Russophile, you might sport a beard like Solzhenitsyn or start pounding your shoe on a podium like Khrushchev. If you fall in love with North Korea, you might find a bomb to smile at like Kim Jong-un. But is life in Rome, for example, different than any large city in the United States, New York, Chicago or L.A. ? Well, it’s warmer in general than Chicago or New York and if you happened to arrive in Rome from JFK after the big January freeze, you might find the city almost tropical by comparison, even though the temperatures were only in the 50’s and 60’s and went down to the 30’s and 40’s at night. At the end of the day harried looking commuters crowd the bus stops and subway platforms just as they do in New York. If you give in and take a cab you might find an old-fashioned driver full of old-fashioned bonhomie, who talks to you about how he eats pizza for breakfast and quizzes you in broken English about how well you speak Italian even though your mastery of the language is limited to “grazie” and “arrivederci.” “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation,” goes the old Thoreau saw. But is it really true? Is there no difference to living in Rome than New York? Underneath the parodies of classic Roman behavior, like the wild gesticulating of hands, is there not something elementally different, some almost ineffable quality that permeates, food and love and work? You make the rounds in Rome, just like you do in any metropolis, but the choreography is different and so is the music and sure there's a difference in the quality of life between Rome, Italy and Rome, NY?

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