Playing Musical Chairs at Virgin America?

Virgin America $49 deal

Virgin America $49 deal

On June 1st at approximately 9:30pm PST I booked two flights using my account for my friend Micheal to come visit that weekend. I purchased for 6/4 SAN to SFO flight 953, and returning 6/6 SFO to SAN flight 956. Both of these flights were $49 fare (before taxes and fees). I chose his seats (rows 7 and 15) and completed the booking, adding his email address for the itinerary to be forwarded to.

The next night, on June 2nd, Micheal contacted me asking me to forward the itinerary, as he had not received it yet from Virgin. Having heard Kevin and Coley’s horror story, I was immediately alert to a larger problem. While calling Virgin’s customer care line, I checked the site (my elevate account): no flights reserved, I checked my email: no email confirmation received, I checked my credit card: no charge pending. Meanwhile, customer care verified that this was indeed the case. They also checked the time I said that I had purchased, and told me that the last fare at the $49 price had been sold MUCH earlier that day at 5:32pm (thereby making my fare not possible, my booking erroneous… I don’t know?!).

My first priority was to reserve the ticket at the cost at the time of my purchase–$49 each way. The customer care agent, Aubrey, put the same flights on a 24-hour hold thereby securing seats, but at a much higher price… the flight out had gone from $49 to $139. Almost the cost of the entire original trip! She said that it was company policy, without any verification of my having booked the flight (a credit card charge, the passenger’s name on the manifest list, a confirmation number) there was nothing she could do.

I continued to assert that this was a bug on their website, but to no avail. She did note that there is weirdness with certain settings using the browser Safari (which I, and likely Coley were using), but she would not admit this as being the web site’s fault, but rather a fault of my browser (read: not their problem). To reach the next level supervisor I’d have to wait until the next shift started at 3:30am. I requested that she have that person call me the next day. She also told me that I could email the corporate office via the Contact link on the website, assuring me that those emails are read daily and taken very seriously. (Exactly as Coley was directed to do.)

I emailed via the website, and I sent a tweet to both @virginamerica and @PorterVA, the VP of Marketing at Virgin. (I started following @PorterVA to allow DM communication.) With that, I went to bed exhausted.

The next morning at just after 10am, @PorterVA contacted me via DM, “ang. can you call my assistant to help you regarding @virginamerica? 650 [redacted]”.

I called her assistant, who was pleasant but didn’t really want to hear my story… she wanted me to write it down and email it to her. Honestly, as a visual thinker myself, I can’t keep track of anything audible… it must be in written form. When I asked Coley the night before for her details, I had asked the same of her… could she email her story to me? So, I emailed.

At 12:54pm on June 3rd, Margaret of customer care called me. She had received my email from the marketing group, and was empowered to help me out. She said that the fare had changed in the midst of my booking, and that had caused the snafu. And while that normally doesn’t allow them, according to policy, to help out (your bad luck for not booking fast enough) they could at this time because “I had gone through extra work booking for another person”. (Note that above, Aubrey told me that there were no fares available at $49 when I purchased, but Margaret’s information disagrees with that of Aubrey’s…?)

In any case, Margaret fixed my fare. Now I’m directing my energy into helping Kevin and Coley find resolution, and is to see this website bug, and the ensuing customer experience, fixed.

I believe that there are various factors that contribute to the mysteriously lost reservations…

  1. Both Coley and I use Safari on Mac, which is the oversimplified answer by Virgin America. I’ve flown 17 times, and booked more flights on Virgin America using this same exact setup. It’s not just the browser and javascript.
  2. Both Coley and I used the feature to forward the itinerary to another person/email address.
  3. I was told that the fare changed while I was in the process of booking, causing the error. However, I have had this happen before, and have seen the errors presented in the UI and you simply choose another price point, or a different flight. Incidentally, this was when I was attempting to book two tickets for one flight at the same time.

Perhaps some combination of these variables combine to cause this bug. Perhaps there are additional quirks before it’s reproducible. Either way, I hope to work with the Virgin America web team to figure it out.

Some suggestions for the web team?

  • Treat a flight purchase like that of a Ticketmaster ticket purchase. The seats should be yours for a timed limited duration of time during the purchase process. Buying airline tickets on a web site should not feel like a game of musical chairs where someone might swipe the seat from beneath you (or in this case the seat at specific fare price).
  • Aubrey, the customer care rep, told me that when you book a flight for someone other than yourself, it does not appear in your Elevate account, that only your personal flights show up. I find this strange, because presumably if I’m booking a ticket for someone else, I’ll probably want to continue to assist this person through out the rest of the experience–for instance, checking them in for their flight, and being able to modify the ticket. It’s my credit card, on my account. I should be able to do what I want, and see the booking on my account!
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Archaic Torso of Apollo

Archaic Torso on Red

by Rainer Maria Rilke
Translated by Stephen Mitchell

[blockquote align=”left”]We cannot know his legendary head
with eyes like ripening fruit. And yet his torso
is still suffused with brilliance from inside,
like a lamp, in which his gaze, now turned to low,

gleams in all its power. Otherwise
the curved breast could not dazzle you so, nor could
a smile run through the placid hips and thighs
to that dark center where procreation flared.

Otherwise this stone would seem defaced
beneath the translucent cascade of the shoulders
and would not glisten like a wild beast’s fur:

would not, from all the borders of itself,
burst like a star: for here there is no place
that does not see you. You must change your life.[/blockquote]

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Galleria Borghese: Bernini, Caravaggio, and Raphael

Pitch: Metamorphoses

Sketch: a response to “Aeneas, Anchises, and Ascanius

Slackened form the burden to bear
that no man may slander

Each in turn holding onto
that life’s moment makes precious

At life’s end, he grasps his deities
ever conscious of the hereafter

Son, man, head-of-household, it is family that he ponders
It is on the strength of his back that his family is saved

Cuddled, cowered
Young carries the eternal flame, his life just began

Family escapes, life unscathed

Aeneas, Anchises, and Ascanius

We toured the Galleria Borghese today, and it was an inspiring experience. Bernini’s work is prominently showcased here, with Apollo and Daphne, David, Pluto and Proserpina (or The Rape of Proserpina), and Truth Unveiled by Time. Bernini is a master of a moment in motion captured in marble. I was also intrigued by the amazing detail in Canova’s Pauline Bonaparte, a sculpture of Napoleon’s sister who was reluctantly married to the reigning Prince Borghese. She was a scandalous woman who when asked how it was that she could pose nearly naked, blithely replied “Oh, there was a stove in the studio.” She left a legacy of tales regarding her jewels, clothes, lovers, the “negro” who carried her from her bath, and the servants she used as footstools. Titian’s Sacred and Profane Love, elements of the painting symbolizing “fleeting happiness on earth” and “eternal happiness in heaven”.

There was also a Raphael room which displayed paintings of the Florentine School, and allowed you to view the master with his teachers in a progression of technique.

The Galleria Borghese is simply one of the best in the world… it is as magical as The Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C. which stunned me with their Rothko room, and their amazing collection of recognizable pieces, including Luncheon of the Boating Party.

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Caravaggio: Out of the darkness comes light

Pitch: Chiaroscuro

This morning we had a Caravaggio walk to start off our first morning back. It was really nice because we met up at 9.30—which is pretty late for us. We walked first to S. Agnostino’s Basilica where we viewed the Madonna of the Pilgrims (1604-06). Interesting to note, the model was a prostitute and her babe in arms. There was also Raffaello’s Prophet Isaiah as well.

Madonna of the Pilgrims

I wrote my poem on the painting of Madonna of the Pilgrims.

Sketch:

From darkness comes light.

Fingers splayed holding ample flesh of shifting child.
Legs dangling, foot so close to the hand of one who entreats him.
Lines formed from child to follower, eye to eye, to sole of trodden foot.
Mothers gaze awry.

Perspective drawn so that we are too—only ever to gaze up upon him.

From darkness comes light.

Next we went just around the corner to Chiesa di San Luigi dei Francesi where Caravaggio has three pieces: The Calling of Saint Matthew, The Inspiration of Saint Matthew, and The Martyrdom of Saint Matthew.

CaravaggioCaravaggioThe Martyrdom of Saint MatthewThe Martyrdom of Saint Matthew

These were amazing pieces showing his deftness of composition of motion, movement and light. One day when I get time, I want to overlay these paintings with circles and lines showing the perspective and motion in composition.

Finally we trekked out to the S. Maria del Popolo again to revisit the Crucifixion of Peter and the Conversion of Saul. Matt let us in on Caravaggio’s life a bit, explaining of how he ran from Rome (he killed a man—a friend of the Pope’s, and was found to be sodomizing young boys), then was fast-track knighted elsewhere only to be hunted again when he was found to have done something so vile it could not be written (and thus forever undocumented). The Borghese’ entreated the Pope to pardon Caravaggio because they were desperate to have him return to Rome and their patronage, and finally he received word that we was welcomed back. However somewhere north of Rome he disappeared and his body was never found. Remember that he would paint his pieces with consideration of where they would be shown in mind. This is what makes the pieces in S. Maria’s so intriguing, because the butt in your face, or the horses hindquarters towards alter are no mistake. He also liked to paint feet dirty, gritty and real, which was an often an issue for the Church’s taste. He had to repaint The Inspiration of Matthew because they wouldn’t accept the grit and grim of the first. Hence Matthew’s odd stature where he looks like he’s off balance and going to fall off the chair. Caravaggio didn’t hide bitterness well. (The horse’s hindquarters are facing the altar piece because he wanted to do the altar piece but they commissioned another artist instead.)

Crucifixion of PeterConversion of Saul

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Miseria in Capri

So we met up this morning at 8.30 to head into Sorrento to catch a ferry to Capri. Off to a good start. We arrive and first thing locate the stand to buy tickets for the Blue Grotto. Unfortunately the Grotto was closed for hide tide/dangerous water. Consoling ourselves, Rachel said the only way to see the Blue Grotto is to come back on a friend’s private yacht. I agreed. Instead we took the boat around the island which was actually quite lovely.

Blue Grotto Boat RideAngela & RachelWhat yacht?

Back at the Marina Grande we picked up a sandwich and fruit in the deli then followed the Germans to the bus up to Anacapri. From there we took the lift to the top of the hill. It was an interesting experience. The photos of the view are from the top. The view is well worth the €7, and it’s a great spot to eat your lunch. On the way up there was an curious spot where someone who loves to collect trinkets obviously lives. I captured a few photos of it on the way down.

Smeraldo in Capri

At the bottom again we determined there just wasn’t enough time (given Italian bus dependency) to go to Lido del Faro. Instead we picked up the bus headed to the bottom again. We got off in Marina Piccolo and wandered around in the streets overstuffed with shops. There was one, 100% Capri it was called, that had the most amazing linen clothes. Of course they thought so as well. The shirt I lovingly fingered to revel in the texture was only €240!

Sea into Sky

We worked our way back to the main piazza where I was delighted to find a limone granite stand. I bought two while Rachel grabbed tickets for the funicular. Finally back at the bottom in Capri’s Marina Grande we decided we wanted off the island and would rather relax in Sorrento. We spent the last hour together wandering Sorrento’s market streets where I picked up Baba Limoncello while Rachel found an Italian copy of Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury.

We arrived at the station with my bag and a ticket in hand just in time for me to board. (I’m thrilled—I get to see Rachel again in Rome this weekend!) Somehow the train just wasn’t the direct one that was noted at the station. Instead it stopped at every stop along the way, and even rested for about 10 minutes somewhere in the middle. I arrived in Napoli a little late for the train I wanted, and instead ended up on an express for just €10.50. Not bad.

I shared a cubby with a 25 year old Frenchman who spoke about as much Italian as I do, and no English. We communicated well enough though, and it was nice to have male company to ward off the unwanted kind.

I got to Rome’s Termini at about 22.45 immediately picked up the autobus #40 and was home before midnight. Happy to have escaped Capri, sad to have left Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast.
View from Anacapri

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Positano & Amalfi

Last night I walked Rachel down to the end of the street, and then headed back up to climb into bed exhausted. We were to meet after her class for our trip into the Amalfi Coast. I had a cappuccino and cornetti at the little snack bar outside her language school—Rachel is taking Italian lessons for the week—and lost myself in my book, Suite Françiase. At about 11 we caught the bus to Postiano and were proud of ourselves for having secured seats on the right side of the bus. Most of the view for the first portion was actually on the opposite side of the bus. I was bonked squarely on the head by an annoying little man who we would continue running into on the trip. He had slipped trying to take an ill advised photo leaning out the window of the bus. I had perverse pleasure in that none of his photos would turn out very well. He must have had short man syndrome, he had definitely earned the right!

The views were breathtaking and when we arrived we walked the highway most of the way down to the beach. Along the way we found a tiny local deli and had fresh sandwiches made. When we reached the shopping portion we ate on a little stoop. I reveled in the limone granite that we found, and we took a brief moment to appreciate the view of the city from the water looking back up.

151_3Positano

It was nearly three so we hiked up the hill quickly to try to catch the bus out to Amalfi. Unfortunately we arrived just moments too late and the next one wasn’t to come for an hour and a half! Tired, sweaty and suppressing crankiness, we almost literally bathed in the fountain and settled in to plan our trip to Capri and the Blue Grotto the next day.

Sunbather

We were happy to see the little man’s interminable family leave on the bus heading back to Sorrento, but we were joined but another clueless family whose father loudly proclaimed that they had been waiting the longest yet weren’t able to sit. I just looked at Rachel with a slight smile. Yeah, right.

Amalfi was cool. Honestly at the moment though I can’t remember much of it. Isn’t that horrible? I’m writing a day behind and the atrocities of Capri are looming and overshadowing my mind’s memory.

Back at home we picked up a bottle of wine and baba limoncello from the supermarket and then headed home. Showered and then started a lovely little evening. We ate the other sandwich from earlier, drank the wine and had baba’s for dessert. We tried to share photos, but the internet connection wasn’t working again. Venturing downstairs we had an unsuccessful run-in with the night guard who just wasn’t having it when I tried to explain how we needed to reset the router. Oh well. We stayed up late chatting—the front desk calling near midnight to ensure my guest would not be staying the night—Rachel roused and headed back home. We decided we Capri could wait for 30 minutes in the morning for extra sleep.

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L’Antica Trattoria

I took Rachel up to see the view from the pool area, and she fell in love with the hotel and the city too I’d say. It is an amazing panoramic view of the city pushed into the mountains all the way to the sea, and stretching out as far as the eye can see. My patio view isn’t half bad either, just not from the same vantage point. We finished my bottle of wine from the night before while sitting on the veranda.

So then we walked into Sorrento arriving just in time for our reservation at 20.00. Stepping into the restaurant it was easy to see we had made a great choice. The ambiance was unbelievable; I kick myself now as I realize I didn’t take a photo. Tables were properly set and waiting for water, champagne and wine. Aperitifs were brought out as soon as we were settled into our seats, champagne to follow. We were served an arrangement of delicious looking breads, and then we were served another with two very special rolls to try. We both went for the traditional tasting menu and we weren’t the least bit disappointed. Everything was unbelievable.

L' Antica Trattoria Ristorante dal. 1930Welcome to L' Antica TrattoriaInterior of L' Antica Trattoria

Today we’re either heading down the Amalfi Coast, or out to Capri. I’m meeting up with her after her Italian lesson and we’re going from there.

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…and then I met Rachel

So I woke up this morning thrilled to be on holiday. The air conditioning was perfectly tempered all night long; the sun was streaming in through the patio doors at just the right amount to let me know that it was indeed morning. I rolled over and dosed a bit more. I made my way upstairs for breakfast and a cappuccino that was made from a machine (can you believe it?!).

Back in my room I read for another chapter before deciding that, indeed, I was going to the Lido Meta Mare that Rick spoke of—alone. I took the train into Sorrento (the opposite direction of my ultimate direction) and wandered the square. I had originally considered having lunch in Sorrento, then picking up the bus from Piazza Tasso (Linea A) but then realized it was too early as it was just noon. I wound through the narrow alley of shops and knickknacks and back to the square to make my way to the sea. At the bus stop a girl came up and asked the woman beside me if she knew where Line A was. (I had confirmed I was in the right place with the shopkeeper standing watch as there was no listing for “Linea A” on any of the schedules posted at either side of the street). I turned and confirmed that she was in the right place. We started to chat with my attitude being just a bit reserved… why, I’m not sure, but this I recall. We learned we were both alone and hanging out, first I suggested dinner, and we sought our mobile numbers, which incidentally neither of us knew. Then I told her I was on the way to the beach, and she mentioned that she happened to have her swimsuit—we were on our way. And that’s how I met Rachel.

Angela & Rachel

The sea was lovely, there was only one other international couple there that we ran into on our way in. Otherwise it was just us and the Italians. It was a rather large beach split up into at least three sections, and beyond large rocks and the public beach there was another section of beach just for the cluster of hotels. Entry was cheap, and the services were also inexpensive.

We’re back at my hotel for a brief shower, to finish my bottle of wine from last night and then to meander into Sorrento for dinner.

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Serenity in Sorrento

I write sitting on the veranda overlooking the sea, Mount Vesuvius shrouded in fog at its base and church bells warning all of Mass (it’s 19.00). Two cannons shots dot the air with plumes of smoke at the nook between two mountains at the edge of town. It really is amazingly beautiful here. I started reading my book, Suite Française, on the train on the way here. It is moving, and I have a new appreciation for the writing given all that I’ve learned in the past two weeks.
Continue reading

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Instantous Italianous

I need to complete the sketches assigned on the break because I didn’t keep up.

This morning we had something of a poetry scavenger hunt. We started in the Campo, our first pitch was to write a riddle about something we found there. Mine was:

IMG_1314

Instantous Italianous
Fragrance your cocina
Preparation for a date
What am I?

I had been amused by the premixed spices you can pick up to create your own sauces. Must buy tons to take back home with me!

We checked out this building where there was a very cool perspective trick. (Find name of artist, starts with a “B”.) It was very cool, but unfortunately I knew the trick. Interestingly enough apparently the distance is 11 meters while the perspective cheats your eye into believing that it would be 33 instead.

I hurried home for a catch up cohort meeting picking up pizza from the place that Matt had suggested. I didn’t really care for it compared to others, but that might have been just the one I had chosen.

We met up again at the end of the day for “High Mass” at the park just to the right of the top of the Campodiligio. Every person read a poem or piece written from the past two weeks, and then Rick serenaded us with a collection of lines from what we had read. I believe he had at least one from everyone. It was brilliant. Then he bid us adieu with a few of his own. He’s clever and brilliant; it’s sad he’s going home.

I walked with Davida and Lisa on the way home and we stopped in the Ghetto for dinner at a place I’d noted several times called Giggelleto. It was really a charming place and dinner was quite good. Would love to take Brian and his family there.

I ended the evening with a drink at Joe’s working furiously to figure out a place to stay for the holiday. I finally gave in to reason (wasting too much time on searching for the “perfect place” is wasting as much as money) and settled on Hotel Cristina in Sant’Agnello (a neighborhood or neighboring town of Sorrento).

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Truth is the relic sought…

Okay, so the week does seem long. I enjoy our days exploring sights of the city, but it is a bit exhausting especially when it spills into the weekends as well. I can’t wait for our upcoming four day holiday! That having been said, Friday seemed to be another day to drag myself out of bed with complaints of being tired. We headed off to San Clemente, Laurie and I walking together the whole way (it’s past the Colosseum). The morning was actually fairly cool, so it was a nice walk. It turns out that the Church doesn’t open the museum until noon, so we had all arrived two hours too early. No worries, Carol and Alex gave presentations on the Mythraic cult, and Sarah and Poppy told us about the ancient Christians who apparently secretly worshipped in the adjoining structure separated by a tiny hallway, both buried beneath the current structure of the Church.

A fraternity of dogs came to play in the fountain at which we were gathered and we gave way and headed into the Museum. Again, an amazing experience. I must do research to determine what went on here. They say that the Apostle Paul (or was it Peter?) met here in secret with the earliest Christians in Rome.

Our pitch was of “relics”. My sketch was of controversy–too abstract, not a tangible object–but I defended my position.

220_2

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“Paradise lost, though not regained
As Milton would have us told
Truth is the relic sought…”

Laurie and I met up with Lelo (Francesco) to go grab something to eat. He took us to a pizza place just around the corner on the way to Piazza Navona called Monte Carlo’s. It was yummy yummy. Loved their zuccina fiori. Laurie picked up the tab (must pay her back), and then we headed to Joe’s for a drink before sacking out. I was a bit tipsy, and was exhausted by the time I passed out.

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The Maze that was the Vatican Museum

Kelsey and I walked through the museum together. We went at about 12.30pm and virtually walked right in. There were about five people ahead of us to buy tickets in the student line. There was a ticket counter with no wait at all.

The TransfigurationThe TransfigurationThe Transfiguration

We raced through the museum.

Deposition from the Cross

I wanted to see Raffaello’s paintings, and she didn’t really want to be there at all. The School of Athens is her favorite painting though, so we trekked as fast as we possibly could through the maze of rooms, halls and people to Raffaello’s stanzas.

School of AthensSchool of Athens

In a room displaying more modern art, I fell in love with this beautiful painting, and found a Dali.

298_2Vatican Dali

Funny note, as we were walking along the grand hallway with the gold ornamental and frescoed ceiling about to step into the next room a young boy in front of us exclaimed in awe “Oh god, oh god, oh my god!” for a moment I thought he was like all the others who were all too eager in anticipation for the Sistine Chapel thinking each successive room was “the” one… the words to accompany his exclamation of awe cleared up any confusion… “Oh my god… air conditioning!”

235_3

Though we would have loved to avoid it, and its irreverent people, we ended up pushed along into the Sistine Chapel. We were both in shock at how virtual every person had camera raised above their head flashing away taking photos, and silence wasn’t even a consideration. Almost made you wonder if they’d designated the day as a free-for-all for amateur photographers? Where was imposing baritone voice intoning “No fotos” and “Silencio”?

Creation of Adam by Michelangelo

Creation of Adam by Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel

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Walking in the City of the Dead

Today we got up early and headed to a bus which took us about an hour out of the city to Cerveteri to the ancient Etruscan’s city of Necropoli. This was an interesting experience, tombs which you climb down into… a whole city of them. It was a very peaceful area and contradictory to its name the city was brimming full of life.

Beauty, distorted.

We headed to Tarquinia for lunch and checked out the museum there. The view of the sea was beautiful from this hilltop town. After making the rounds in the museum and capturing a snapshot of yet another built in seat nestled next to the window (perhaps you’ve noticed the trend in my photos?)

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I wandered the streets. I found a music school with a stage all set waiting for an audience to perform for.

Lust in the Afterlife

Next we checked out another set of tombs, these with frescos inside. The burial place was set atop the hill and again the view was amazing. One tomb held a racy scene… interesting to see what some choose as their backdrop in preparation for the ‘afterlife’.

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What is for real, and what’s for sale?

This was the first time that we have bothered to take the bus and metro. Laurie and I rose early to meet the group at Bruno in the Campo, but alas no one was to be found. We bought tickets at the Tabacchi and headed to Largo Argentina to pick up the first bus headed to the Termini (40 or 64). We arrived safely and picked up the train to Cinecittà, the next to the last stop on line A, if I recall correctly. On arrival we exited the station and arose from the underground into our group clustered around the corner cafè. Continue reading

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Dusty, dirty and hot

Monday we walked through the Forums and it was very hot. Somehow that just seemed right. Walking through I looked up to notice high above all else, at the top of a steeple, and at the base of the holy symbol of Christianity, a blossom of green. I was stunned – how does a plant end up there? From what is it growing? There is no ground, is life springing forth from a seed carried by wind or bird and in the soil of years worn cement into dust just reminiscent of dirt that a blossom takes hold?

Roman Forum

After I went to the Coliseum, again I make note that it was hot. But I hadn’t seen this site last time and figured I would get the task out of the way so next time people hear I’ve traveled to Rome I might answer affirmatively to the next question… “Did you see the Colosseum?” Thanks to our group ticket from the Forum I was able to skirt the winding, sweaty and grumpy crowd snaking its way to the Ingresso. In line I met a charming group; I smiled at their accents, and smiled again when they affirmed my Carolinian suspicions—a family plus others, visiting from Raleigh.

Erosthe SapphoErosErosErosArchaic Torso on RedErosEros

I am happy that I went to the Colosseum because the museum had an exhibit of Eros, one of the five Greek forms of love, and Greek god. I enjoyed the exhibit (I love Hellenistic sculpture, especially of female form) and took a few requisite photos of the Colosseum itself.
Returning home was like a trek through hell. Did I mention that it was hot? I tore through the Forums as fast as possible, stopping once to refill my water bottle whereupon a woman informed me that others are also waiting (in line). My humor failing I nodded and reminded her that I had been waiting first. American’s are rude, I felt no shame in my rightful claim, only in that I responded to the erroneous sarcastic commentary from a New Jersey housewife surely accustomed to preferential treatment.

I returned home for a quick cold shower, redress for siesta and lunch.

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Whoso would be a man must be a nonconformist.

Up early to head to the Campidoglio. It was Laurie’s day to present, and she was the first presentation of the class. I feel in love with Hercules, the Statua di Venus Esquiline and a relief with Eros. I pretty much wandered alone, and had a long conversation with Rick which helped me to better understand Kevin’s input that I lack imagery.

061Underside074_2095_2A day in the life of

In light of the previous evening’s events, I chose to dine alone with Hibbert’s Rome, and my research on Raffaello. I ate at the little pizzeria that Kevin had recommended, Baffetto 2. It was yummy. For some reason the quarter of wine washed through me with more intensity than usual.

After dropping my things of at the apartment I ventured over to Piazza Pigna to the “girls” apartment for dessert. It was a nice round table of program participants and they were cycling around the room with introductions and a quip about their names. It was a clever way to remember folks.

I was meeting up with Kelsey for drinks at 23.00 back at the Campo. I found her smoking with Nicholas, and we then ran into Lauren who had been venturing the city the entire evening. We all went to Nicholas’ place and picked up a bottle of wine to drink at the fountain. The piazza was tiny and we were the only tourists, let alone Americans. I felt like I was in good company.

On the way home, Mariano wanted us to stay when we passed the cafe, but, well, getting up in the morning was to be of certain difficulty.

Pitch: Diptych (Contour drawings on one side, poems on the other)

Herakles

Sketch:

Down the hall
and to the right
Round the corner
and stand in awe

His ass
Is there any other word?—Forgive me mother!
His ass
Round, erect, firm
Mass of muscle implying strength
Beyond mortal imagination
Heavy legs, but not with wasted flesh
Thick in muscle
Legs with which to perch that ass.

The Headless Pornographer? Compare to David's Bum, Get your Head out of the Gutter

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And all wrote of the bird.

On Wednesday our pitch “Aperture” and the task was to Crucify the City, this is to say that we would before days end cross the city from south to north, and west to east.

Pantheon

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m really bad with names, dates and places. I can tell you whether or not I’ve seen something before… I can lead you from here to somewhere else with a great sense of direction. But well, I was excited to go to the Pantheon because I thought it was one place I’ve never been before. As we arrived this morning I laughed at myself to realize that not only had I been before, I’d passed by several times in the past few days while out and about.

Pantheon Aperture

There was a bird circling the ceiling closing in a little slower and slower on the aperture—God’s eye in on earth from heaven—until finally it tired and perched. I could vividly picture rain pouring through the oculus, but I think this was just my mind’s eye as I can’t recall being in Rome with it ever raining…? (Raffaello was buried here: “Here lies Raffaello who, when alive, Nature was afraid to be won by him, when he died, she wanted to die herself.” Distichon written by Pietro Bembo.)

St. Ignatius of LoyolaSt. Ignatius of LoyolaPiazza outside the Church of St. Ignatius of Loyola

Next stop was Church of St. Ignatius of Loyola a beautiful baroque design set off against a piazza designed seemingly as a “Commedia dell’Arte” stage set with a bit of “trompe l’oeil” thrown in for perspective.

Phallic

Moving through the harried streets to the Marco Aurelio column offering just a quick gaze. Onwards to St. Maria Popolo. There I was in awe of the Caravaggio’s and captured some very cool photos in black and white while the lights were out. They really show the amazing illumination that comes through in his paintings.

Crucifixion of PeterConversion of SaulLoungingExtensionCross my heart...

Then we step out of the Porta Flaminia Gate and back through as visitors and Romans alike would. I still appreciate the ancient roman gates and wall far more than the Renaissance’d ones. Next we climb to the Pincio with the first panoramic view of the city that day. Break for siesta.

Meeting again at 17.00 at the UW Rome Center, we broke then for the west to east portion of the crucifixion. We trooped out of the Campo skirting the Ghetto headed for Trestevre. Ultimate destination to climb the Passeggiata del Gianicolo. Winding narrow harrowing streets and steps which tested the limits of my skirt’s ability (hiking up my skirt a little more… Roma, show your world to me?). Atop we came to the monumental source of Rome’s water at the Fonte Acqua Paola. It is an amazing concept to think of how we worry about water resources in other areas in the world and Rome has aqueducts that flow so very freely supplying the entire population with refreshing, clean, cool water.

Continuing on we approached the Piazza of the Spanish Accademia. Inside is the Tempietto San Pietro in Montorio by Bramante which is illustration of the very image of a perfect Renaissance building.

Perspective on Love

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We officially ended our walk on Gianicolo’s Hill with a class photo. Courtney, Lauren, Laurie and I wandered off then in the Villa Borghese. I still need to find that magical spot with the monument in the middle of the pond.

Villa Borghese

Fountain in Villa Borghese

Pitch: Aperture

Sketch:

Shackles fall away
The wide-eyed weary traveler
Enters the Eternal City
One cycle of the moon
Non basta una vita!

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Woe to Rome, the Poets have arrived!

So it turns out that we do indeed have wi-fi access from our apartment. I discovered it during siesta. Apparently someone turns it on during siesta and off again after. Oddest thing, but I’m not complaining! It is also strange because it sometimes allows me to access chat, but only some websites and not others.

This evening we met for conversation and a stroll into the heart of the city. It was the first moment that we met together forming an identity and a bond as writers and cohorts. Paraphrasing Kevin eloquence, we tossed a few poems off the Tarpeian Rock, to let our forebears know that some poets and writers had arrived.

We broke for dinner; I asked Lauren to join Courtney, Laurie and I, and we had a wonderful meal with lavish dessert at a restaurant just slightly off the well traveled tourist path. It was as I always seek, we were the only tourist desecrating the place.

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“Unflagging Good Humor”, or Getting Lost in Rome

Last night I led the new found troupe to Mamma Angela’s where I had eaten last time. It was really far walk, and we were like the little Annie orphans trekking down fifth avenue (remember that scene?) but we finally made it. Somewhat disappointing because there were more American voices than ever, and the food wasn’t nearly as good but whatever. Left about 23.00 and started walking home, but veered off course and that’s when Laurie stepped up to help navigate.

Can I say, I love my roommate. We’ll be friends when we return to Seattle.

Other notes, our apartment is tiny but right at the Campo. Can’t say on the Campo because another group has one actually on the Campo (that’s gotta be noisy at night!) the Campo de’ Fiori is THE spot to be. Oh and the main point—tiny apartment BUT AIR CONDITIONING!!! I am happy. Gladly trade the free wi-fi (the ones above Joe’s can pick up the signal from their apartment) for the air. Joe’s is so close anyway.

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Speaking of Joe’s I’m special. Of course you knew that already, but it’s nice that they noticed. I think I’m the only student that they’ve decided to give a special 20% off card too. Every purchase—Love it!

OK, I feel bad being in the computer lab with others waiting when I have a laptop. Going to go find a SIM card today. No assignment today (first official actual day, yesterday was ‘get lost alone, and find yourself’) just to meet again at 17.00.

Ciao!

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Arrival in the Eternal City

I got in safe and easy yesterday. Luggage took forever to come off the plane, but I had a lovely American woman monitoring it’s progress (read: complaining) the entire time so really it was just fine. I always love it when there is a guy waiting to pick YOU up. Located the guy with the sign with my name with no problem, then was off. Once again forgot how close Rome is to the beach. It’s just a 25 minute Metro ride.

Got to the hotel, Albergo della Lunetta on the Piazza del Paradiso, a lovely little place filled with American students and a few other tourists. I showered (hadn’t since the previous day, before staying up all night then riding planes for another day!), then knocked out on my bed. It’s six am now, so I did okay on getting onto time zone. Went to bed last night at about midnight.

After having lunch in the café Magnolia in the Campo, I end up back in the room. And just waited for Courtney to arrive. I didn’t have to wait long (I had already napped away most of the afternoon) and after getting her things situated in the room we went out. It was back to the Campo to check out Joe’s for gelato. We lingered for the rest of the evening, until about nine. Had waters, then I had a gin & tonic. They brought us a lovely antipasto plate.

Joe's on the Campo de' Fiori

We strolled off to see the sites as it was Courtney’s first time here in Rome. My sense of direction is just amazing. I walked us directly to the Trevi fountain, and from there to the Spanish Steps. We arrived just in time for the Carabinieri to chase us away (11pm is curfew for the stairs). Grabbed another gelato on the walk home, and crashed in the room. I grabbed prosciutto, mozzarella and bread from a café on the corner to tied me over in lieu of the dinner we never had. The mozzarella was, of course, to die for.

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Travel,

University of Washington Creative Writing Program, Summer 2007

“JOIN a band of ink-stained writer-adventurers for a month of concentrated exercise and conversation in and about the Eternal City. This is Rome from a generalist’s perspective: history and geography, art and architecture, language and literature, the color and vagary and flavor of daily life all constellate in the writer’s notebook. Following in the footsteps of those poets, painters, saints and soldiers who for some two and a half millennia have traveled where all roads lead, we’ll sack the city word by cobble, in conversation, practice, and stride.”

Of note, Rick, or Professore Kenny is a recipient of the MacArthur Fellowship “Genius Award”.

Here’s a link to my photo album for this trip. Will be updated daily or so. Check back often for updates! Ciao!

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Music, Travel

By the Arno. Oscar Wilde, 1881.

The oleander on the wall
Grows crimson in the dawning light,
Though the grey shadows of the night
Lie yet on Florence like a pall.

The dew is bright upon the hill,
And bright the blossoms overhead,
But ah! the grasshoppers have fled,
The little Attic song is still.

Only the leaves are gently stirred
By the soft breathing of the gale,
And in the almond-scented vale
The lonely nightingale is heard.

The day will make thee silent soon,
O nightingale sing on for love!
While yet upon the shadowy grove
Splinter the arrows of the moon.

Before across the silent lawn
In sea-green vest the morning steals,
And to love’s frightened eyes reveals
The long white fingers of the dawn

Fast climbing up the eastern sky
To grasp and slay the shuddering night,
All careless of my heart’s delight,
Or if the nightingale should die.

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Welcome to Seattle.

I’ve been neglecting to write in here lately. Moving from Texas to Washington just got passed by, with good intentions of telling the story in the vivid detail I remember it with. So here I am, going to give up a few of the morsels of thoughts that remain in my mind to be shared with all.
First off, I thought living in Texas was bad? Driving out of Texas is worse. I drove the first four or five hours, and the wind was TERRIBLE. The road was boring. Flat. Plain. Ugly. At one point in the past I marveled at how the sky in Texas is actually bigger… And I figured it out. Its because there’s nothing on the earth to look at. Few sparse, bare trees, and fewer hills or other earthly distractions.

New Mexico was interesting. Started to see a bit of what I’ve seen only in movies. Mountains started to appear. Stopped in Albuquerque for the night. (“Don’t forget to turn left in Albuquerque!”)

The next morning proved to be a nice drive. It started to snow a bit, and mountains popped out of the landscape as if they were after thoughts. We stopped at this really scary gas station. I had needed to go to the bathroom, and we hadn’t passed a city in a long time. I think this was the first gas station for about an hour. There had been a sign a while back that said “No services, 140 miles”. Well this gas station was scary. It looked abandoned. The restrooms were next door. Next door was an abandoned diner. It was completely empty, very eerie. Classic barstools and booths emptied as if a chainsaw massacre had chased all the locals out of town. What I would have given for a camera with film at that moment! Needless to say I tinkled as fast as I could and got outta there!


Utah was amazing. I loved seeing the red rock jutting out with the Rockies in place behind them. Just amazing to me to see such different types of landscaping put together.

As night fell we were closing in on Salt Lake City. After two days of driving in wilderness and nay a city in site I’ll tell you seeing Salt Lake was a site for sore eyes. Stopped for Arby’s for dinner as we trucked the last hour and a half into our destination, Malad City, Idaho.

Malad City is a tiny place. Exit 13 off the hwy. One of those places you reluctantly stop for gas… unsure of whether or not there is indeed a gas station. It was adorable. We went and checked out the local coffee/soda/ice cream/bait/lotto shop/bar called Jones’. We had a cup of coffee. A cup is .30 cents. Oh, that’s with tax. The woman waved us off when we went to pay. No charge. Reading the signage I could determine that this was a place that still kept tabs for folks. I could imagine Pop’s coming in early in the morning and sitting down at the ancient counter to his morning coffee. Put it the tab Sue, he’d grunt as he walked out the door. I took note that you could also buy an odd assortment of grocery store items as well. Just a random assortment. Like someone was selling what was left over from their cabinets at home. Betty’s Lounge was the bar in the back, but we wouldn’t be checking that out until later. That evening before sundown we got to check out the jacuzzi on the back porch. It was beautiful sitting outside, the Rockies circling around with snow topped peaks, and steam rising into the air.

I went snowmobiling for the first time ever! What a blast. First let me explain. Mat’s family has a “town” house. You know, a house in town. So that’s where we were staying. But they own a farm in Arbon, where Mat actually grew up. It’s a dry wheat farm of 10,000 acres. I nodded knowingly at the dry wheat farm part. Uh, say huh? A dry wheat farm is one without an irrigation system. It depends on natural resources… like rain, duh.

Well we headed out to the farm for snowmobiling. He pulled open the barn’s side door, and I was looking at a man’s dream playhouse. Let’s see… First there was a purple 18-wheeler truck… Bob Sorensen’s d.b.a. Sorensen Farm’s it proclaimed proudly on its side. Next was a huge tractor. HUGE. Um, HUGE. Lined up in front were five or six snowmobiles, and four wheelers each. Tucked in the back was a huge camper. Again, I emphasis HUGE. We pulled out a couple of snowmobiles, gassed up at their gas tank (convenient) and headed out. We desecrated acres upon acres of flawless snow. I wanted to go into the mountains, and so we did. I made a snow angel at an untouched spot. Mat got sagebrush for me to smell. I carved initials into one of the mini barns along the way. I saw a fox. I saw tracks of a fox chasing a rabbit. It was beautiful.

Back to town, dinner with the family. Everyone was absolutely wonderful. They all liked me. There was fresh home baked bread. Yum. Well duh, they are wheat farmers. Mat’s grandparents have a horse ranch. That’s where dinner was the next night. For breakfast it was kind of a fend for yourself thing, Mat made French toast with some of the leftover bread from the night before and it was the best I’d ever had. He put pepper in it, to which we all raised our eyebrows–but the guy knows what he’s doing!

It was hard to leave. Soleil had just gotten used to the other cats, and had actually made friends, sort of, with Calvin. (Three cats, two dogs, including Emma, Mat’s dog.) Note to self, I want a kitchen just like there’s. Amazing cabinetry ## from floor to ceiling on one wall. All stainless steel matching sleek appliances. Counters with marble tops, and a center island. That of course would have to have a hibachi grill for my kitchen!

The next morning it was time to take off. The Ryder truck was wedged into the snow, it didn’t want to leave any more than we did. We finally got off and on our way. Oregon is a state that takes about three hours to cut through. But not for us… It was like nine or so hours. Yeah, moving pretty slowly with snow blowing and coating everything. The roads were terrible in Oregon. As soon as we crossed the border you could see how they hadn’t prepared them for the snow like in Idaho. (Idaho’s were black roads, and Oregon’s were white.) Roads called for snow chains, which we didn’t have. But we moved along slow with the rest of the traffic. (It’s important to note here, Mat hadn’t let me drive again since those first few hours on the first day of our trip. Thanks, Mat!) We finally gave up in Ellensburg, Washington having met our re-negotiated goal of just getting out of Oregon before stopping, versus our intended pulling into Seattle at just about that same time of night. Seattle was a pass away but the worst pass there was to pass.

Snoqualmie pass brings travelers in and out of Seattle. It’s the last hour of driving, and it took about three. Coming out of the pass and into Seattle it was absolutely astonishing how fast the snow melted away into the greenery.

Crossing the lake there were incredible waves crashing into the highway and over the barriers into the road. It was the worst windstorm Seattle had had in countless years, according to the news report. I was happy to be in a larger vehicle, so the water didn’t obstruct our driving view.

Welcome to Seattle.

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Lynda.com, Day Five

I hate to admit it, but I’m so ready to go home. It would be a different thing if I was sitting on the other side of this desk, and with that in mind I made an inquiry about teaching for Lynda.com. Hmmm… we’ll see.

Personal Objective – I need to get my page in shape. I’ve got script to check OS/browser, and version – I need to implement that and that way my page will display well depite what you’re viewing my page through.

This afternoon Eric & I are heading into LA. (He’s loved the class, and learned alot.) That will consume the last of my time. Tomorrow we’ll check out and fly out of LA at 2pm. Landing back in Charlotte at almost 10. Talk about losing time!

All in all, it’s been a good week. Point of revelation: l’m glad that Eric and I just work together. I think otherwise we’d go nuts.

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Lynda.com, Day Three

Day Three. Had dinner at the Calypso Bar & Grill here in downtown Ojai last night. The paper said informed us that “that’s where it’s at”. Oops – print error. Rented “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” – interesting movie.

I’m supposed to do an ad for someone to turn in on Monday – I wonder where I can find a copy of Quark around here? Hmmm…

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Lynda.com, Day Two

Day Two at Lynda.com – picking up things here and there from the class. Refining skills. Decided I don’t like Fireworks near as much as ImageReady. Although Fireworks has a cool full jusification setting for text.

I need to find out where Web Designers would go to discuss indepth web design stuff. Like the best way to implement crazy designs – A more creative type class than functional or learning software.

The Moon’s Nest Inn is an adorable place, but we are disconnected from the world! No internet, telephones or T.V.’s in our rooms! Ack! And people can’t call in, you have to call out! Curtis joked about “Hotel California”.

One perk about being in Southern Cali in December. They have outdoor heated pools! I baked in the jacuzzi then went swimming. It was nice swimming underneath the moon and the stars in the warm night.

Every trip I take only emphasis’ the fact that it’s not where you go, it’s who you’re with.

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Lynda.com, Day One

Well, it’s been an awesome trip so far, and it’s just the first day of class! Driving on the Pacific Coast Highway with the sun warming my thighs through the sunroof listening to Zepplin and The Eagles. Not bad. Venice Beach, Santa Monica, Malibu.

Next day breakfast in Santa Barbara at Esau’s – a cook from Lincoln, NE. Then off to LA to see the sights. Sunset Blvd. Santa Monica Blvd. The stars on Hollywood Blvd. Beverly Hills. Rodeo Drive.

Back to Venice Beach for walking along the strip. Dinner on the Third Street Promanade at a sidewalk cafe. Street music filling the air.

Now here I am at the infamous Lynda.com. Taking classes from people who’s qualifications are dizzying. Yep. This is the life.

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Nebraska

Well I had a great time on my trip to the midwest. Forgot how relaxing that lifestyle is, and how up tight we are around here.

I feel a disconnect from the world as I knew it. I don’t know what my direction in life is. It seems that sometimes love just isn’t enough.

Last night I had some pretty serious thoughts. Sobering thoughts. I was thinking of disappearing, in one way or another. Leaving this life behind.

So anyway, here I am, another day of living. And that’s okay.

Song for the day:

Fallen Angels
There’s a candle burning in the world tonight
For another child who vanished out of sight
And a heart is broken, another prayer in vain
There’s a million tears that fill a sea of pain
Sometimes I stare out my window
My thoughts all drift into space
Sometimes I wonder if there’s a better place

Where do fallen angels go
I just don’t know

Where do fallen angels go
They just keep falling

Now the times in frightening
Can’t ignore the facts
There’s so many people
Just slippin’ through the cracks
So many ashes are scattered
So many rivers run dry
Sometimes your Heaven is Hell
and you don’t know why

Can you hear me
Somewhere out there there’s a shining light
And I got to be with you tonight
And with all we’re nowhere
We still pay the price
Yeah the Devil seems to get his way
In downtown paradise

Aerosmith

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