where or when did it all go wrong

“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.
We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream.
It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same,
or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s
children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.”

Ronald Reagan

(Time Magazine cover from 2007 / Julie Cook / 2021)

So many boxes.
So many books.

The heavy dead-weight boxes of books are categorized by genre…
history, political, spiritual…Bibles, Pope John Paul II, St. Francis, Mother Teresa,
presidential biographies, WWII, Eastern Orthodox, Catholic, Anglican, The Holocaust,
saints, cookbooks…on and on it goes…

Unpacking this unending mountain of boxes, I stumbled upon my collection of books
regarding Ronald Reagan.

I gingerly pulled out the books and magazines from this latest deep abyss,
taking stock of what I wanted to keep readily available and what could be stored away.

In the treasure trove, I found the above Time Magazine.
It was dated 2007.

I was still teaching at that time and I remembered that I had the magazine sitting on my
desk in the classroom.
A student saw the magazine and had a knee jerk reaction…
they scrawled a written response to the title of the story line…

I had a fit as I can’t stand to deface something I want to save…

The cover image was powerful…the scribbled black ink “GWB” was nothing more
then graffiti.


“How The Right Went Wrong”

This student penned GWB—as in George W. Bush

At the time, in 2007, some of my young charges were less than pleased with then President
George W.Bush.

We were embroiled in a seemingly endless war in the Middle East.

And so I now wonder…where and when exactly did the Right go wrong?

I suppose once life slows down, I will re-read that article–
looking back to what 14 years ago we wondered what might be the problem with Conservatism.

In 2007 we wondered what went wrong.
In 2021 we now consider such a word as pariah.
A taboo sort of mindset.

It seems much more has gone wrong than merely the loss of the right verses the wrong.

Woe to those who call evil good
and good evil,
who put darkness for light
and light for darkness,
who put bitter for sweet
and sweet for bitter!

Isaiah 5:20

Signs of the times…

*****First a small disclaimer… if you find foul language offensive, of which I do…
then don’t study the picture too closely.

However, I’m thinking that my disclaimer will probably make you a bit curious and
you will study it…so just know I told you so…

(a lovely tagged utility box near 10th St in downtown Atlanta / Julie Cook / 2019)

The other evening, I was driving in downtown Atlanta, with my daughter-n-law
along with the Mayor and New Sheriff, on our way to try a very talked-about
trendy seafood restaurant.

And you should know that good seafood in Atlanta is not easily come by despite
what many restaurants may claim, so we were excited.

The restaurant is actually located in an area of the city that is attempting a revitalization.
Atlanta is noted as one of many cities across the nation that is attempting to re-claim
its heavily neglected urban areas…sprucing them up while encouraging folks to move back,
shop and visit.

It is in an area that, as a kid growing up, we would never have graced but rather
have driven down to look at the flower children calling the area home.
They lived on the streets, communally, and would occasionally, mass together
while protesting the war.
And driving down to see such was something we’d do during sleepovers—
Parents looking for easy entertainment for a bunch of young kids figured that
driving downtown to see the hippies during that summer of love would be it…
but I digress…

This particular area is now being touted as an up and coming area…
yet it is still rife with dereliction, crime, drugs and many,
many homeless folks despite the opening of high-end apartments, boutiques,
bars, and restaurants.

We passed by many an abandoned building with broken windows,
lots of trash and some empty lots, while a side street was full of vagrants
and homeless folks sheltering in boxes and tents.

And so when we stopped at a red light and I glanced over at a utility box
wearing derogatory graffiti regarding the President,
should I then be surprised given the area?

Probably not.

But such an observation will naturally draw the wrath and the ire of others for my
having associated the area, an area filled with its fair share of rift raft,
with what I find to be foul graffiti regarding the President.
Would it matter if I said I’ve not seen the same foul graffiti when driving in other
family-oriented areas north of the city?

Fair enough.

So on a different day, in a different area of the city, in an area that was once home
to many of my mother’s and aunt’s friends when they were growing up—
an early 20th-century family neighborhood that was popular in the 1930s and 1940s…
just as it is popular today but with the houses having been brought up to
chic speed. Really cute older neighborhoods made uber-trendy and most desirable.

We were driving up one of the streets as I was admiring the charm of these once modest
homes that now fetch upwards to $1,000,000. when a homemade sign perched in
one yard caught my eye.

It was a handpainted sign with large black letters scrawled on a neon yellow piece
of poster board. The sign read:
‘Only Nazis and Fascists separate children from their mothers!’

I did a double-take.

“Really?!” I heard myself groaning or was it more like moaning?

Back in the day when my mother and aunt roamed these same streets,
WWII was in full swing.
Flags were flown from every home’s front stoop while the victory gardens were
sprouting out back. Patriotism was part and parcel of the nation’s pain and suffering
in the midst of war and rationing.

During the summer of love, when I was huddled in the back of a family station wagon
with 6 or my closest little friends, as we peered out the window at what was then the
flower children of the late ’60s…peace signs were flashed and posters held high
which read make love, not war.
A nice enough sentiment when our young minds only thought love meant just that…
simply to love one’s neighbor.

Now, as I drive down these very same streets—streets very much the same
and yet very different…
I actually fret over what our young children are reading sprayed on electrical boxes.
Do we want to have to suddenly explain what a Nazi or a Fascist has to do with
the fate of mothers and children to our own impressionable kids who have no idea
what a Nazi or Fascist is?

I think I’d prefer to do so when I thought my wee ones were old enough to comprehend
the complexity of our culture.

And at this rate, I doubt I’ll ever be old enough to understand.

Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities,
for there is no authority except that which God has established.
The authorities that exist have been established by God.

Romans 13:1

sacrifices and selfishness

There is nothing that I shudder at more than the idea of a separation of the Union.
Should such an event ever happen, which I fervently pray God to avert,
from that date I view our liberty gone.”

Andrew Jackson

(The Victory statue in Nashville’s War Memeorial / Julie Cook / 2018)

When one hears the word Nashville, I’m certain that trashy TV shows, country music,
as well as rowdiness is what most likely first comes to mind.

Add to that honky tonks, day drinking, The Grand Ol Opry, party destinations, country stars,
football, hot chicken, Bluebird cafes…yadda yadda…

I’ve visited this city once before, for a business convention, and we stayed close to the
country music hub. It was a short and sweet visit, yet such a visit that I told myself
I’d like to one day come back.
This city seemed to have so much more to offer other than that of her more rowdy reputation.

Plus being a big fan of our 7th president, I wanted to come back to visit his
homeplace just outside of the city.

Fast forward a couple of years…
we made the 4.5-hour trek northward earlier in the week.

On this particular trip, we opted to stay more northerly…
blocks above the crazy honky tonks and debauchery.
In a quieter area just opposite the State Capital.

Because who knew that Nashville was touted as holding the honor of having the Nations’
largest 4th of July Fireworks display?

Who knew that the city would swell with an additional 250,000 folks over the 4th?

Add in those coming for bridal parties…both gals and guys…
along with all those summer vacationers… so what we had anticipated as a fun yet
laid back trip was anything but laid back.

Oh did I mention the heatwave?

108 on July 4th in downtown?

Hotter in Nashville than the 4.5 hours south at our house.
Hotter than Nashville hot chicken.

Who knew?!

Hot, sticky, rowdy, scantily clad bodies adding in their own heat and it’s a wonder
everyone didn’t fall out with heat stroke.

Nashville has done a very nice job of providing a walking friendly and inviting feel to
the particular area of its burgeoning and growing city that we called “home” for 4 days.

We were told, on this last trip, that 95 to 100 new folks move into the city on a daily basis.
That’s why there are 7 massive building projects taking place downtown—
expansive condos, apartments, hotels and massive skyscrapers all with that live,
eat and shop sort of vibe.

But what drew me in on to this trip was not the glitz and rowdiness down on Broadway
but actually, the area leading up to the state’s capital building.

A marble lined promenade leading toward the capital building—a stately building perched
on a dominant promontory allowing for a sense of guardianship over the city she has been
tasked with governing since 1796.

This expansive marble lined avenue that leads up to the capital is known as the city’s
War Memorial…

It is an area that offers a very stately tribute to those Tennesseans who served
and willing gave the ultimate sacrifice for not only their fellow Tennesseans but to their
fellow Americans.

There are memorials to all who those who have served and yet never came home…

I was unable to capture each memorial before the rains began.
But I did get a shot at the Korean memorial

A memorial to those lives lost in submarines that were sunk while defending the North Atlantic and Mediterranian as well as the Pacific waters during WWII

There was a memorial to those having been awarded purple hearts as well as those
law enforcement members and first responders who have also sacrificed the ultimate
offering to their fellow statesmen.

But the most prominent memorial was the statue of Victory offered in memory of those who lost their
lives during the Great War…the Great War that was to end all wars…
World War I.

The statue was the product of a husband and wife duo—
Tennesse native Belle Kinney along with her Austrian born husband,
Leopold F. Scholz.

The massive statue sits within the open-air atrium of the War Memorial building and
was constructed in the late 1920’s shortly following the war.

Yet sadly the memorial has been defaced.

The marble base with words reading
“In memory of the sons of Tennessee who gave their lives in the Great War
had been defaced with a black sharpie.
Anarchy symbols and derogatory words were scribbled all over the marble.

Graffiti say some, as they simply shrug their shoulders.
Vandalism say others.

Selfishness is what I say.

I thought this while on the same day I visited this War memorial, the Nation watched a woman being
arrested in New Youk for her stunt of attempting to scale the Statue of Liberty.

A protest they say.
Protesting ICE and the issue of immigration.

And is not protest a “right” of Americans argue the masses.?

Yet it was a dangerous protest.
And it was a selfish protest.
And so if there is an endangerment to others, is that then, in turn, more than a protest but
merely selfish attention seeking?

This woman put not only herself at risk but those first responders tasked with
getting her off the fragile copper veneered statue.

Let’s not forget the hundreds of tourists and vacationers who had planned a visit the statue
on the 4th during their trip to New York. A visit they would not be able to make due to the actions
of one selfish woman.

The area had to be shut down and secured for hours as authorities worked to get this woman down.

As I stand staring at a tribute erected to those lives lost 100 years ago in a world war fought in
hopes of ending all such wars, my thoughts turn to our selfish overpaid athletes who think their
kneeling protests to the National Anthem is some sort of brave act.
And I think of the countless supporters who think such protests are perfectly great.

Selfishness is not brave.

It’s easy to act a fool.
It’s easy to be disrespectful.

Bravery comes when one willingly lays down his or her life in hopes of protecting
his / her fellow man.

Those who have served and continue to serve this Nation and her citizens with not only
their time, their expertise, their skills but most importantly their lives,
are the true heroes who deserve our respect.

Be it 200 years ago, 100 years ago or simply last month in which a serviceman or woman
gave their all in order for us to be selfish…is…well…gravely lopsided in terms of worth.

And it is something we each should remember.

And so I am thankful that on this past July 4th,
I had the opportunity to be reminded of just that…that of sacrifices and selfishness.

I’m just saddened seeing that so many of our younger generations just don’t get it.

“I weep for the liberty of my country when I see at this early day of its successful experiment
that corruption has been imputed to many members of the House of Representatives,
and the rights of the people have been bartered for promises of office.”

Andrew Jackson

who doesn’t love a good mystery, but does it really matter….

“History is much more the product of chaos than of conspiracy”
―Zbigniew Brzeziński

Whenever you’re faced with an explanation of what’s going on in Washington,
the choice between incompetence and conspiracy,
always choose incompetence.

Charles Krauthammer

(vintage wartime child’s lead figure of General Montgomery with a leash around the
Führer’s neck/Julie Cook 2017)

Ever so many years, those various agencies and governmental offices in charge of all
things covert and of all things hidden begin to release aged documents…
declassifying that which was once considered “top secret.”
As somehow time works her magic and renders that which was held sacred
as to now being considered ‘non est dignum’, or no longer of worth.

The most recent and tantalizing declassification has been the Kennedy files.

Ever since that fateful November Dallas day when a young president was gunned down,
mystery and intrigue swirled in the wake of a Nation’s grief.

Did Oswald or didn’t Oswald act alone?
Was it the Soviets?
The KGB?
The Mob?
The CIA?
Jimmy Hoffa?
The Republicans
The Protestants….

On and on goes the swirling madness of whodunit, what ifs and conspiracy…
all of which plays out in the vivid human imagination.

And just this very day, I caught an interesting little questionable news worthy
tidbit…of another story of declassification and some old CIA dossiers…

It seems that as late as 1955, ten years following the fall of the German Reich,
the CIA was chasing credible leads that Hitler was actually alive and maybe
not so well, living first in Colombia, then moving on the Argentina.

Our history tells us that as the Russians stormed into Berlin, Hitler,
along with his long time companion and most recent bride of one day Eva Braun,
hunkered down in an underground Berlin bunker digesting cyanid capsules with Hitler
then making certain things would end by shooting himself in the head.

According to Wikipedia…
In accordance with Hitler’s prior instructions, that afternoon their remains were carried up the stairs through the bunker’s emergency exit, doused in petrol, and set alight in the Reich Chancellery garden outside the bunker. Records in the Soviet archives show that their burnt remains were recovered and interred in successive locations until 1970, when they were again exhumed, cremated, and the ashes scattered.

Accounts differ as to the cause of death; one version stated that he died by poison only and another view claimed he died by a self-inflicted gunshot while biting down on a cyanide capsule. Contemporary historians have rejected these accounts as being either Soviet propaganda or an attempted compromise in order to reconcile the different conclusions.
One eyewitness stated that Hitler’s corpse showed signs of having been shot through the mouth, but this has been proven unlikely. There is also controversy regarding the authenticity of skull and jaw fragments that were recovered.
In 2009, American researchers performed DNA tests on a skull that Soviet officials had long believed to be that of Hitler. The tests and examination revealed that the skull was actually that of a woman less than 40 years old. The recovered jaw fragments were not tested

When the Soviet soldiers advanced on Berlin, they were like a pack of wild
hungry and exhausted dogs—their enthusiasm for having crushed their mortal enemy would border on delirium.

Sections of their soot scrawled graffiti, along with holes made by grenades,
still remain on display in the rebuilt German Reichstag.

I find it hard to imagine that as triumphant as those Soviet soldiers were feeling
as they marched upon that city and finding the remains of Hitler, they would
somehow temper their enthusiasm for a hasty and impromptu burial as if some sort
of common sense suddenly prevailed and they found it important to hide the remains of madness lest any sort of shrine would eventually emerge.

I would think rather that there would be pictures taken, as soldiers would in macabre fashion, parade the now deceased and desecrated remains as some sort of trophy
and confirmation of victory….rather than the tale that the Soviets ferried off the remains, sealing them away.
This as we recall how the Italians who, finally rid of Mussolini, strung his body up
in the Piazzale Loreto for public display and desecration…
why would we expect the Soviet soldiers to show any more restraint?

So without a body, our imaginations have been left to wander and wonder all
these many years…

But what of it?

What does it matter all these many years later knowing that Hitler, who would now
be long dead, had run away?
Should we be surprised that a maniacal lunatic who was already cowering in a fortified bunker, wouldn’t consider escape? Would he be so daring enough of a coward to
have actually committed suicide or would he have run and hid if given the opportunity?

What of a president who was shot to death as our democracy played on…

Does some sort of new hidden truth change our lives or change our fate or the fate
of those gone before us?

The German Reich was over, the war soon ending with two bombs being dropped on Japan…
A president was dead as a vice president was sworn in as an assassin was soon
gunned down himself.

Our lives went forward as history turned another page.

And so man, with his most vivid imagination, races forward….
or races backward depending on who you ask.

Was the landing on the moon real?
What happens when you play a Beatles album in reverse?
Did the Holocaust really happen?
Was Jack the Ripper the Queen’s own physician?
Was it a Hillary body double?

On and on goes the often ludicrous speculations of what was, what could be
and what might have been…

But one thing remains certain…
That there is only one Truth that matters.
One Truth that stands the test of time.
One Truth that speaks to each of us consistently.

As C.S. Lewis again reminds us about the greatest
‘what if’ posed by man when he ponders the actuality that Jesus was who He claimed
to be…that of the Son of God as well as our risen Savior…..

“…He would either be a lunatic —
on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg —
or else he would be the Devil of Hell.

You must make your choice.
Either this man was, and is, the Son of God,
or else a madman or something worse.
You can shut him up for a fool,
you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or
you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God…”

I myself choose to fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God…
as His word is truly the only Word I believe as fact…
man may speculate on everything else in his world, but the one Truth remains…
Jesus Christ is both Lord and Savior….

“You are from below; I am from above.
You are of this world; I am not of this world.
I told you that you would die in your sins;
if you do not believe that I am he, you will indeed die in your sins.”

John 8:23-24


Rome, Wine and a wee bit of Incontinence

One of my most favorite cities in the world is Rome. I know, I can hear the reverberations of the “are you kidding me”, “are you crazy”, and “anywhere but there”!!
But it is true. I love Rome. Roma. Maybe it harkens back to the whole Sophia Loren love child incident (see the post an Ironic memorial—and yes I know she is Neapolitan, but Italian she is) or the whole adoption issue (see the post Sylvia Kay and yes, adoption gets its mileage worth of blame ☺)

It is a huge city. A noisy city. A dirty city. A crowded city. A very chaotic city. And no, I don’t think one can apply organized chaos to Rome, but I love it just the same. From the animated residents; the name calling, the shouting, the finger gestures, the kissing, the gesticulations of hands and arms as intense conversations abound….—to the wafting aroma of garlic and basil wending throughout the labyrinths of nooks and alleyways in the summer, to the darting vespers that are indeed like annoying wasps….I love it all.

I have been to Rome 4 times throughout my life with the longest visit lasting almost 3 weeks. Never enough time. But I have been known to tire and cut the visit short. I blame it on sensory overload. Rome will do that to a person. Sights, smells, sounds, touching, feeling…it has it all—in tremendous excess. A glorious amount of excess.

For all of its tremendous history, the birthplace of republic governments, it is today, a bit rough around the edges. It is no Paris—the epitome of refinement and decorum. No, Rome is explosive with emotion—good and bad. And I love it all.

There is one trip in particular that stands out in my memory—it was the summer following the death of Pope John Paul II. I had mourned his death so very much that Spring. I, along with an entire world, had watched the once energetic and vibrant Pope slip into frail old age and gracefully leave us. If you read my post on the Passport fiasco you remember that my passport at the time was not up to date and I could not personally go to say “good-bye”.

It was the intense attention on Rome that Spring which got my dad to thinking. My son, at the time, was 15 and Dad thought that while he was still able, he’d like to take my son, his only grandchild, on a special trip. He and my step-mom got my aunt and me in the bargain as well. And somehow, for some reason, Rome seemed to be the point of destination. Wonder where he got that idea 🙂

The trip was a comedy of errors to be sure. My dad at the time was still “walking” if that is what you call a snail’s pace shuffle. My son, a ball of adolescent hormones, my step- mom probably wishing she’d stayed home (especially after she tripped over the corner of the Pantheon sending my son to find medical help but more on that later), my aunt, wondering what she was doing hanging out with this odd bunch and then there was me, wondering what’d I’d gotten us all into.

I had gone on line, well before our trip date, and made reservations for us to go on a small, semi-private tour of, what I call, the bowels of the Vatican. You have to request an “opportunity” for the Catacombs underneath the Vatican. You have to list all those in your party, your country of origin, ages, birthdays, language, your place of “residence” while in Rome, phone numbers, etc. Submit the form and hope you’re accepted. This trip, we were lucky. We had to show up at the left side gate to St. Peter’s at a specified time—if you’re late at all, you can forget the trip. We were to print off the “ticket acceptance” and show it to the Swiss Guard at the gate.

It was our first full day in Rome. We were staying but a few streets over from the Vatican. I knew that my son needed to wear long pants when we went to St. Peters just as my aunt, my step-mom and myself needed to have shoulders covered. I knew this. But it was mid July. Rome in mid-July is a sauna. The temperature was in the upper 90s our entire time in Italy. It was hot and it was humid.

That morning, worrying about getting all of us up, fed and out the hotel door, making certain that my snail father would/could keep a quick step as we huffed our way to the Vatican, it totally slipped past my stressed mind that my son had put on shorts—long shorts mind you, but shorts just the same.

We arrive at the left gate right on time. I feel so proud to be able to walk past the myriad of people, right up to a soldier of another time, and present my “golden ticket”. It was as if I had an appointment to see the Pope. In reality, it was a ticket to basically tour the basement, but to me, it was a moment in time that stood still.


The guard looked at the ticket, checked our passports and stepped aside allowing us to pass into a different dimension in time. Next we had to go to the office for the Catacombs. I’m just about to explode, I’m so excited and in total awe of this most surreal moment. Suddenly, without warning, jolted back to reality, the lady at the desk looks at my son, looks at me, and in Italian, proceeds to tell me NO!

“What?!” “What do you mean NO?!” “Your son is wearing shorts. Panic sets in and I suddenly think I’m going to be sick. There is no time to run back to the hotel. There is no time to find a store. NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
But by what I like to think was Divine intervention– the lady decides my son must be only 10 years old– she allows the long shorts. Thank God for his latent growth hormones! Our tour director greets us and immediately admonishes me for the shorts. I hang my head and acknowledge the faux paux and promise to say a multitude of Hail Mary’s (I’m not Catholic but at this point I’ll do anything for anyone!)

We enter into the area of the Pope’s tombs by a side door. We slip past the tourists viewing the beautiful array of tombs and sarcophagi. We descend down and down—leaving behind the crowds of tourists, down past the tombs of century’s worth of popes. Down to where the air is cool and the light is dim. The sounds of the massive numbers of tourist above us, up in St. Peters, is but a muffled breath. We find ourselves suddenly in a maze of stone and dirt alleyways. Niches line the walls, some are open, bodiless, while others are still sealed and marked with various designs—our guide points out that some of the symbols are pagan and some Christian. Some of the niches are marked by ash and charcoal—thousands of years old ash and charcoal that looks as if someone just took a burnt piece of charcoal out of a grill and smeared it on the wall—amazing!

The alleyway opens and several elaborate “rooms” come into view. These were burial sites for families who had money. Mosaic tiles, still beautifully brilliant and colorful cover the floors as elaborate paintings grace the walls. Names are etched into the walls informing all who pass by, of whom, what family, is buried here and there. I am simply amazed.

We wend our way to the end of the excavation of the catacombs. The culmination of research and digging—the culmination of those of us who are the “pilgrims of the basement” has appeared before us. It is the tomb of Saint Peter. A heavy hush falls over all of us. The sheer magnitude of what we are seeing, what we are standing before is almost impossible to process.

There are extensive stories about the tomb of St. Peter. Why the basilica is built where it is built. It’s proximity to the Circus of Nero. The existence of St. Peter’s tomb and how the many little shrines came into being, eventually growing into what we see today as St. Peter’s Basilica– two thousand years in the making is a story worth investigating. I will leave that to the history books but you should take some time to read about the history of the Basilica, as it is most fascinating.

Our tour guide tells us of the “hallowed” ground on which we stand and that we should all take a moment of silence for prayer and/ or reflection. We are all in awe; there are 4 other people with us besides my family. There are tears and such tremendous reverence that the air is almost heavy and difficult to breath– this important moment is suddenly broken by my father who begins having one of his oh so famous coughing attacks. He fumbles for a cough drop…the sound of his tearing into the cellophane wrapper of the cough drop, reverberating off this cave like area, absolutely crushes the moment for us all. Embarrassing. First the shorts, and now my dad, who is obviously not impressed by a stack of bones in a cave….. UGH…

Part II of the Vatican:
I did manage to pack two small American flags. My son and I carried these with us to the tomb of John Paul II. It was before they had his tomb complete so he was interned in a temporary grave in St. Peters. The line was long but we waited our turn. As we approached his tomb, there were many kneeling. The guards were doing their best moving along the crowd. I asked, or actually gestured, if we might be able to place our flags on the tomb. He nods. Ours were the only two American flags amongst as sea of flowers and flags. I felt happy.

I won’t go into the Coliseum in 100-degree heat. I won’t go into the day trip down to Naples and Pompeii—gawking a poor people frozen in time, in the moment of a horrific death, certainly not my cup of tea but oddly Dad thinks this is great. The 3-day trip to Florence is for another post as I met and made a life long friend there in Florence. A sister soul mate I was so fortunate to find…..

As I told you we were staying near the Vatican. We spent a good bit of time walking up and down the Borgo Pio. A really touristy strip until you make your way down towards the end of the street, away from the Vatican. Two special things happened to us on this street.

We wandered into a small store. Grazie a Cielo. It was an artist co-op of sorts. There was a kind priest/padre working the store. It was so hot that he had his collar unbuttoned and the sweat poured down his face. The artwork was done from various missions throughout the world. Christmas ornaments, wooden carvings, rosaries of every size and description, etc .,with all proceeds going back to the various missions.

We attempted talking with the priest but he spoke no English and we spoke no Italian. It is amazing, however, how we did manage to communicate. There is a great deal to be said for tone and gestures. His name was Padre Andrea. He was greatly moved when he realized that my son was buying all of his friends back home small rosaries. My son asked Padre Andrea to please bless the rosaries. Without understanding one another’s language, however, we could join together in prayer—so universal. He blessed the rosaries and he blessed my son. I was greatly moved.

Further down the street we found a wonderful restaurant. Normally the Borgo Pio is not a place one wants to eat. The top end of the street, closest to the Vatican, is crowded with cheap tourist traps. However, down on the opposite end of this ancient of streets, is one of my most favorite restaurants in the entire world. Il Papalino. It is home to the best waiter I have ever known—Antonio. Antonio is my age, mid 50s and he’s worked at Il Papalino for almost 28 years, his entire working career at this one restaurant. He took such good care of us. He is shy and unassuming yet flits about taking care of the throngs of diners with steely precision.


Every time I’ve been back to Rome, I make a beeline for Il Papalino and my dear Antonio. He always remembers me and asks “how is the boy who loves Coca Cola” (my son). In the evenings, once the throngs of tourists have departed the area, the street, becomes a family atmosphere as the local residents come out to walk their dogs and push strollers full of children. Everyone seems to know one another as the locals come to eat, drink and laugh together. Antonio knows them all …but he also knows me. That makes me happy.

There are the morning walks down by the Tiber. As one descends the stairs, which leads down to the river walkway, there is no mistaking the stench of human urine that rises to hit those wishing to walk or run by the river, smack in the face. Rome has a large homeless population. I have seen more than my share of human and animal waste on the sidewalks, as well as people popping up out of dumpsters. Dumpsters, whose stench marks their presence long before they are seen. These dumpster divers are carrying discarded watermelon rinds.

I don’t think there is anything that is not covered in graffiti in Rome. When you first arrive in Rome you are overwhelmed with the graffiti, appalled that this most ancient of cities is so shamelessly defaced. However, after a few short hours in town, it all seems to meld into the massive mix of chaos known as Rome.

The history, the art, the monuments are all an amalgamation of Roman, Christian, Pagan, Renaissance wonders—a plethora for the senses…to realize that one is walking on the ground that Julius Creaser, Marc Anthony, saints Paul, Peter all traversed…it is difficult to comprehend.

There is, however, one most special “monument” that many tourists may miss. It is found up the steps at the far end of the Forum and the Capitoline hill. If you weren’t looking for it, you’d never know it was there. The Mamertime Prison. It is located on what is the side of a church.

It is in this ancient, old, cave-like cistern prison, which once housed the criminals of Rome, as well as the political prisoners. Political prisoners such as saints Peter and Paul. It is believed that Paul was actually held here just prior to his execution and that perhaps Peter had been here on several occasions. In 90 degree plus heat, it is a nice respite allowing time to sit for a quiet moment. But then the enormity of the fact that I was sitting on a carved out outcropping in the wall, the very area that Paul and Peter most likely sat/ slept overwhelmed my heart. It is from the cistern and spring, that it is still very much full of water, that Peter used to baptize the guards and fellow prisoners. It is dark, damp and very cave like. It is hard imagining a worse place to be held before one’s execution.

The most memorable of events, however, during this “family” trip was not a grand monument or museum. Nor was it the fact that I had had too much wine to drink this particular evening—it was rather that I should have visited the “ladies room” at the restaurant before we decide to walk back to the hotel.

We had had dinner at Il Papilino. It was a marvelous meal of Sea Bass, prepared tableside, complete with several bottles of good Roman Wine. We decided that Dad could walk the short distance through the alleyway, which connected the Borgo Pio to the street where our hotel was located rather than the hassle of a cab. Now mind you that while we were in Rome I felt perfectly safe. I felt safer in Rome then I have ever felt in my hometown of Atlanta. I have always felt safe in Rome, even when I was traveling with just one other female friend…no worries. My dad however, is old school and is not as Que sera sera as I tend to be.

My aunt and I are strolling along, full of good food and wine, listening to my step-mom retelling some marvelous story. My snail like father lags far behind and my son is hanging back with “Pops”. It is a perfect night… Rome, family, history, and magic. A group of young people is behind us, laughing holding hands, all equally satiated with the magical evening… We are all just using the alleyway to cut through to the other street.
No worries.

Suddenly, we see my father darting past us as if he has been shot out of a starting block for the race of his life–my son in hot pursuit. My dad, it seems, has decided that these kids behind us are a group of hooligans—which they aren’t but you couldn’t tell this Octogenarian any different. He’s mad that we wont hurry along and decides to leave us eating his dust.

The insanity of what we were witnessing, an 80-year-old racing as if his life depended on it, followed by his 15-year-old grandson, fussing that the women would not “wise up” to the lurking danger from behind, was more than we could contain.
The 3 of us burst out laughing. And we continued laughing—belly laughing. Doubled over laughing. It was just a priceless spectacle to behold. You have to know my dad—Mr. Mole as we call him.

Do you know what happens to ladies of a particular age when they have consumed a great deal of liquid and have not been to the ladies room for a while? I was wearing a black sheaf dress and black sandals…suddenly there is a trickle. I’m laughing so hard and now telling my cohorts that things are about to get serious. They can’t believe it and are laughing as well at my plight when my aunt suddenly finds herself in the same predicament. Now there are two ladies laughing with trickles. I could take you to that very street corner in Rome to this day, the street corner I baptized with back-up help from my aunt. Needless to say, we threw those shoes away as they were a bit soggy once we got back to the hotel ☺

I have so many stories of Rome—too many to attempt to recall here. But may it be known that I love Rome. And obviously I fit right in.