Sharing Umbrellas, “Chiaroscuro”, and a Mr. Skidmarks

Posted on May 15, 2011


Dear Soldi,

Money. Kids just love money and when they are younger and learning the concept of counting understanding what money is worth starts early. This isn’t the first time that one of the boys has asked me for money. They always want to go down to the “giornalaio” (newspaper stand) and buy something. Anything! Tommaso has a red clear “Piggy” bank that we dip into at least once a day but for some reason it was nowhere to be found! Matteo and nana went across the street to get some food at her house for lunch and left me and Tommaso together. We searched up and down the entire house and did not find the Bacon Bank! He asked if I had any money and I told him that I didn’t. If he saw my money he would take it and insist that we buy something. I have seen him with coins and Monopoly money and I couldn’t stand a chance arguing with him over money that wasn’t his. Behind his back I scrounged about 2 euro from my coin purse and gave it to him. We then changed our shoes and headed out hand in hand. I asked how much the “playing cards” that he wanted cost and he told me that they were only 1,50 euro. I believed him but when we arrived at the newspaper stand there wasn’t much for less than 2,50! He touched everything within reach and when they didn’t have the cards he wanted he landed on some Pokemon cards. They were 4,50! I didn’t bring anything but my house keys so there was nothing I could do. As soon as we were the only people left in the tiny place I asked the owner if there was anything for 2 euro, in Italian: “qualcosa per due euro?” He came around the counter to help us look through the boxes of toys and silly things. I find them silly because I am too old. The man offered him a few things that were in his budget but he made a face and told the man, “quelle sono per le femmine!” (those are for females!” We laughed and I agreed with the kid about the pink farm animals and ugly chick toys he was offering. Underneath a box of Gormiti figures there was some squishy spiders in packaging that came with a “playing card” with information about the type of spider was inside. EW! I hate spiders, even fake ones, but this was in his budget and he wanted it. He hands me the coins and I hand them to the man and thank him for his help. We walk out and he tears into the packaging to expose a huge black widow spider! “Ewwww!” he tells me, making fun of me, since Italians don’t say, “ewww.” He throws it at me and it bounced on the ground getting dirty. He is happy and I tell him to repeat, “black widow” and he cocks his head and stops in his tracks and says, “black window!?” I tell him more slowly and make sure that he drops the “n” sound. He understands and says it with his heavy accent. Then chants it all the way up the stairs back to the house. After a few minutes I hear that nana and Matteo are back. Matteo and Tommaso show off their new toys to one another and strange enough nana bought the same toy for Matteo! His was green but we still found it ironic that out of all the toys they chose the same thing this morning!

I set the table for 5 since nana told me that Uncle Gianni was coming to join us. We barely understand each other but some how we made it through the two days watching the kids. It was nice to have her here keeping a close eye on them and I still got to sleep in this morning until 10! I heard Matteo rise and shine at exactly 7:00 am! The kid never sleeps in and every time I hear one of his parents telling him to “shhhhhhhhh!” and to not wake Tommaso. Tommaso will actually sleep in which is pretty amazing for a 7-year-old.

After lunch their uncle played with them for an hour and they watched some racing on TV. T and S came home earlier than expected it was barely 2:30 and they assumed 4. This was a record people! Italians EARLY??? I dressed quickly and said goodbye. They knew that I wanted to check out an exhibit featuring Caravaggio today so I left with ease. It was raining and dead quiet on this Sunday. I walked with my umbrella and waited for the bus. I wasn’t going that far but it was raining pretty hard and the wind plus the drops isn’t my favorite type of weather for long walks. 6 songs later on my iPod the bus arrives. I need to change buses after a few stops and know that I have a couple of choices in order to get to my destination. It was still raining so I held my umbrella up and waited some more letting my iPod entertain me. I had both ear buds in and was quietly ignoring this old man at the stop with me. He walked up with another younger man but that guy disappeared under the tunnel since he didn’t have an umbrella. Either did this man. I turn and lift my umbrella enough to see what this guy was doing. First he had a cigarette and then when I checked on him again his back was turned and I knew that he was peeing on the wall! I can’t believe dudes just pee wherever the hell they want to. From 3 years old to 70…this man was easily over 60. While he “shook” off in the rain I shook my head when his pants dropped a little too much for me to take. I didn’t see his bare ass but I might have prefered this to the image that blazed my eyes. I could see a brown skid mark on his “tighty whities!” It gets worse! After he fumbled with his belt he slowly walked over towards me. I felt uncomfortable so I stepped in a circle pretending to check out the bus stop signs for a moment. I put my umbrella down so I could only see his pants and shoes. As he neared me I realized that he was saying something and I noticed his massive height. He must have been 6 foot 6! I yanked out my ear buds and asked, “scusa?” and all he did was step a little close to me and duck in order to share my umbrella. I gave him a strange look and prayed the bus would hurry up! I held my umbrella high enough for him, which little me was full outstretched arm, and let the rain fall on my in order to protect Mr. Skidmarks balding grey head. I hate that I saw two pairs of male underwear with poo on them two days in a row now. As soon as the bus came his younger friend came running out from the tunnel to catch the bus with his dad? The old dude didn’t thank me for sharing and the other guy shouldered me on his way to the bus while running. I could have taken the same bus but I had enough of the strangers and saw another bus in route. I just never know here in Rome. I just never know.

I arrived to the street where the Caravaggio work was on display. I walked right past the street by mistake and cursed myself for not bringing my map. I put it in my purse twice then removed it to save space. I knew that I was close but felt a little lost. I knew the name of the street started with an “r” but that was it. I couldn’t even ask someone since I didn’t know the name I was searching for.  I had the flyer and hoped the address was on it but no such luck. I walk back and forth and then cut left and hoped I was right when I recognized an internet cafe. The street name was “Corsa Rinascimento” yeah still don’t remember how to pronounce it correctly either! I made it just in time with about 10 minutes to spare. It cost 8 euro and there was a guided tour for free. It was in Italian but they gave me a booklet that described the work in English if I wanted to interpret. I thanked the woman after buying my ticket but was a little let down that I read that there were only 2 actual paintings that were Caravaggio and the show was dedicated to “his life in Rome” so there was other artists during that time. I didn’t understand 90% of what the tour guide told us but I smiled and looked intently at each old book under the glass, old records and other featured artists works. The guide was sort of good-looking so when I got confused trying to understand him I enjoyed watching him talk with such enthusiasm and knowledge of the work it was still an adventure. All day long, I thought to myself, he tells people the same story over and over again. What a dedicated history buff! I wondered if he got paid well or if he just did it because he loved art history so much. As we moved to the next paintings I tried to not space out and listen to him speak. This was my first guided tour and now I know why I don’t prefer them; I have a very short attention span! A famous painting called “David with the Head of Goliath” was one that I recognized. David is portrayed after defeating Goliath and has a sword in his right hand and grips the head of Goliath by the hair! It is strange that an image so disturbing can also be termed beautiful. But it was. The last large painting was of Pope Paul V (1605-1606) which was AMAZING and well worth the 8 euro. His detail was absolutely miraculous! The use of light and shadow is termed “chiaroscuro” which is actually Italian for light and dark (chiaro= light and scuro=dark!) funny I remember the word from Art History and now put it together! This technique brings life to the work. I stare at the eyes in his paintings and it feels as though the work it literally “breathing” history and they eyes might blink if you turn away! A perfect still life portrait I witnessed today, there was no blinking! He truly can capture such emotion in his work it is remarkable. Knowing some history about Caravaggio from college I remembered that he was a young rebel that caused a lot of problems in the 1600’s, even killed a man after a dispute over a tennis match! The exhibit shared his story of before he fled from Rome with a price on his head! So much drama for such a young man and sadly his art career only lasted a decade before he died or was killed. It is still unknown but the amount of lead was lethal that was in his body and it is suggested that he could have been exposed to too much lead from his paints! Lead poisoning!? Shocking realism he displayed in his work and shocking realism that lead to his death. He quite literally died for his art.

I saw paintings over 400 years old today…pretty sweet sunday after all.


Posted in: When in Rome