Starting Week Six, the U.S. started bombing. I realized that Bin Laden is really fighting his war with words of terror, not airplanes. I decided that I would not let him win by making me afraid. So, I went dancing.
One of my best friends in Rome is a young Israeli man whose favorite expression is ballare sul tavolo. He loves to make our class laugh with his stories of dancing on the table. He, more than anyone, knows the importance of finding joy, even if your country is at war.
Week Six was the halfway mark of my visit to Rome and the one-month anniversary of the attack on America. It was also the week when the U.S. began bombing Afghanistan and putting out warnings to Americans living abroad.
When I saw Bin Laden’s video screed, I got angry and so afraid that I changed my morning routine of walking to St. Peters Square. I thought if ever there were a target in Rome, it would be the Vatican. But that night, something clicked in me. I realized that this is precisely what Bin Laden wants. For us all to live in terror.
The next day I resumed my life as normal–vigilant, but undeterred by fear. That same night, I attended a class at my Italian school, where I learned how to cook a typical Italian meal, Eggplant Parmigiana, with students from Japan, Canada, Israel, Seattle and Westchester. After a delicious dinner and a couple bottles of wine, my Israeli friend cried out: Ballare Sul Tavolo!! What’s a girl to do?
A long walk and two l’autobus later, I found myself standing in front of a rope at a trendy Rome nightclub at one o’clock in the morning. Undaunted, I walked up to the man behind the rope and simply said (with some license): “We are just two people from New York and we simply want to dance.” Bingo! We were in and we danced for hours.
I had to smile: I haven’t lost my touch. Steve Rubell would be proud!
UN PO P.O.V.
A PHOTO OP
There were two events that were publicized in Rome to honor the memories of those lost in the attacks on America. One of them was a mass in the basilica at S. Giovanni in Laterano. The other was in a small piazza not far from the Pantheon, featuring a replica of the Seward Johnson statue of a man on a bench that survived the attack on the World Trade Towers.
I attended the event in the piazza, only to discover very quickly that it was more photographers than regular folk. There were a few people, about 50 or so, milling around kiosks with pictures of the attacks and notes from Italians.
I began to cry when I saw one of the pictures of Union Square Park in New York, where every Saturday I go to my farmers’ market. My American friend started comforting me, and then I heard her say something in Italian to the effect of “get lost!” I heard clicking and looked up to see myself surrounded by photographers. I realized that I had just become the photo op: “Tears. Get the shot.”
‘Twas an insightful moment for this journalist.
A DAY IN THE MOUNTAINS
I took a six-mile hike along the Via Sacra, an ancient road built by the early Romans. The trip started in a little mountainous village called Rocca di Papa – where the people painted on their walls.
One beautiful Saturday morning, I took off to the mountains with friends from the school. One of them is a wonderful Danish man, a seminarian who lives at the English College. The college owns a beautiful little villa that has had many lives…as a convent, as a monastery, as a health farm for alcoholics, even as a hospital for the Germans who took it over during the war.
The day was unique because it was completely Italian and devoid of tourists. We hiked up a steep hill over the Via Sacra, an ancient road where the early Romans climbed to thank the gods for their good fortune in war. After a walk through the woods, we found ourselves at the Palazzola, the retreat, where we had a fabulous lunch and a tour through the gardens. It was a magical day.