Category Archives: Entertainment

Backpacking in Rome

I was able to capture this view by pushing myself against some nearby fence.

Rome’s Most Historic District

Imagine a week of sumptuous food and lodging… lavish coffee houses… and one-of-a-kind cultural exposure in one of the world’s most fascinating cities. Imaging again, where you’re booked in one of your favorite hotels, one built like a regal palace, where only loving and caring human beings who are so passionate about many of the same things you care about, are available there to serve you. And just for you, your special service is one that includes breakfast of freshly-baked croissant, a sesame bun still respiring pleasant aroma, and pancakes served with a garlicky sauce for dipping. Okay, enough. The next time, this is how I would want to spend any vacation in Rome, instead of being a buck, and just sitting there at home all day, watching… ho…how they call it, TV? Oh well, I would call it the ultimate idiot-box.

It was 8:21 a.m. in Rome, Italy, and my stay thus far, near the Rome Fiumicino Airport, about 27 kilometers from the site of the Colosseum and the famous San Benedetto Oligominerale Naturale, one of the oldest historical spots in the city, was ready to begin. Though Rome is relatively still a small city, I was about to find out how difficult it can be for anyone who wants to cover all the important points in one single day. I didn’t know that it would take several hours to complete Centro Storico, which includes some of the most puzzling architectural marvel still on the continent. But I felt very lucky though, for being there, because I could easily access important historical sites and the Altare della Patria- also known as the Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II- the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier,” built under the statue of goddess Roma, with the eternal flame on one side. The huge marble building itself stands majestically against Rome’s skyline, and it outshines all the nearby mansions in the area, and the Piazza Venezia. In short, the Altare della Patria is strikingly very attractive and easy to locate amidst the city’s many Church domes and rooftops.

I managed to get passed a female who stood guard at the entrance, cautioning impatient tourists about what and what not to do once they were on the premises. The first thing I did when I entered was by making sure that I was near at the top of the stairs to get a better view of the building’s magnificent designs and the many carefully carved statues which, I suspect are latter additions. Once I was up there, I leaned my backpack against one leg to grab my notebook– a Bible-size, brown writing pad I paid for back in Kolkata. I began to hastily write down notes, ignoring the stares of a uniformed guard who stood very nearby. It took me about fifteen laboring minutes to scrabble down the notes for this blog. A lot of my attention also went towards the fine outlines I saw in between the smaller statues. Statues of manor goddesses– those that are attached to the front of the great hall. When I was all done, I returned dear diary back to its favorite spot, the exercise was over. I was now ready to close that chapter. I have just been transfixed by one of Europe’s late 19th century Neoclassical architectural marvel!
After successfully taking and completing a visual art class, my appreciation for the Fine Art has transcended that of any culture or place. And this new sensibility only gets better with constant exposures to Hindu and pre-Buddhist temple architectures and Pagodas. The habit which began first briefly in Sri Lanka, as a mere admiration of temple designs–and then to a considerable degree in northern India, and Nepal, may very well explain this broad appreciation I now have for structures.

But it’s Rome’s rich history and the lay back lifestyle with its coffee houses and walk-in cafes which still fascinate me even more. The large, fancy street gatherings, solo street artists and coffee -houses have created a kind of stimuli that will keep Rome always as an intellectual and artistic society. No wonder why the country is so well known today for being home to some of Europe’s best artists. The “coffee house culture” has flourished here so much that residents may see them as “extended living rooms” to spend portion of their day. This makes city- life in Rome to remind me of ancient Greek philosophers spending much of their day socializing at the public gatherings. Athenians enjoyed the same lifestyle- organizing political meetings, performances, and lively discussions. Socrates was known to stroll through the Agora and question his fellow market-goers about life and philosophy.
On my way going food hunting I passed several street painters and street musicians on Via Dei Fori Imperiali– a principal street in the center of the city of Rome—. This street runs in a straight line from the Piazza Venezia to the Colosseum. I followed the course towards parts of the Forum of Trajan, Forum of Augustus and Forum of Nerva, parts of which can be seen on both sides of the road. I stopped halfway in the street to buy myself a bottle of San Benedetto mineral water for 1.50 Pounds. An hour earlier, I remember turning down the same battle of water right under the shadow of the colosseum for fifty Pound less.

Next, I crossed over a one way street to reach a mobile Food -Vendor. The guy behind the counter charged four pounds for a vegetarian sandwich. But I noticed there wasn’t much of anything– apart from a piece of slice tomato hanging out– to call it a sandwich. I grabbed my food and walked nearby to a bench and sat down to watch the traffic moving several feet away, along the grand Piazza di Campitelli. This place has a special significance in Rome’s history. One local resident who I stopped to ask a few questions, was kind enough to give me a short lesson into Rome’s medieval past. He explained to me that the location was important to many Italians because it has witnessed the birth of Rome.
While trying to find my way back to the metro, I stopped over at the Basilica of San Clemente al Laterano. I later learned that the site is a burial ground for Saint Cyril, Saint Methodius of Byzantine Thessalonica. I approached the building carefully at first but soon found out that there were people inside taking selfies. I stood around in there for a while and at some point, I even sat down on one of its long, wooden benches. I got up and joined the team and took me some holy-selfies.

The best part of my journey came almost at the end. I was heading for the airport and didn’t know which subway train to catch. I have just passed the Colosseum and had secured for me a subway- metro pass and was already on a train before realizing that I was on the wrong train. I quickly got off at the next stop. A lot of people were either too busy or were simply reluctant to help because of the language barrier. I was trying to find someone for help at this point when I ran into Gabriella, a professionally dressed, selfless young lady who helped me to find my way back into the metro and on the right train. I found her standing just at the top of the stairs, perhaps waiting for the light to turn green to cross the street. Gabriella, who is in the middle of her study to become a medical doctor, had no trouble abandoning her own duty to help me out. She followed me underground, and when my metro pass failed to work, she gladly passed on her own card, and even did so as if she runs into people like myself every day. Because of her art of kindness, I was able to arrive on time at the airport and was able to change my flight to an earlier one which was on its way to the Netherlands. Gabriella’s effort is a classic example of how to be a Visible Helper.
I arrived back here in Eugene several days before I was finally able to re-organize my cloudy brain to send a “Thank You” email to Gabriella. Her art of kindness really was a teaching moment for me.… Of course, I Love Rome and I am looking forward to going back there….
Video credit: Youtube Video:

Music is the Multi-Cultural Language of Love

 

 

One of the best decisions I made last year was taking a music class. Actually, it was much more about music history than it was about the science. The two and a half month class surprisingly covers Jazz, Rock ‘n’ Roll, Rockabilly lyrics, Hillbilly, Chicago Blues, Black Vocal Pop Groups 1921 – 1953, Doo Wop, Motown Records,  Girl Groups 1958 to 1965,  Rhythm and Gospel, Country, Gospel, Spirituals the Electric Guitar and much more. Session of the class compelled us to listen to songs, drumming and beats on Spotify, then determine the musician, the album, the title and year of release. This then would come as a quiz.

 

Before taking this class, I must add that in 2010, for slightly more than a year, I was most fortunate to work for a well-know CPA on the East Coast, in the Hamilton New Jersey township area. While this wasn’t particularly a part of my work, on certain days, I would help with packing record labels, sometimes for hours. There were hundreds of thousands of record labels and cassettes stacked up on shelves in the office. But this great man wasn’t just a Certified Public Accountant, he had some of the top musicians in the country as his clients. And he is a true humanitarian. I have to say that the best part of my job during the time I worked for him was sitting down in the back office and carefully typing the names of record labels, Albums of different sizes, one at a time, together with dates and other details on a desktop that sits before me for storage. That’s how I was able to find most of the class material a bit easier. I passed the class with a B plus because the reading material is voluminous.

 

Paul A Ressler, my former boss, though still very much in my life, had thought me most everyday things, such as to slow down while speaking and how to shake hand properly. This man afforded me certain exposure which, without him I may  never have known….

 

Music, apart from one very natural phenomenon, can offer one  high level pleasure which can lead to vibration and joy.  It’s a gift that you’re going to find in every generation going back to the ancients. The better portion of ancient Greek society would answer with name like Orpheus.  In Egypt, professional musicians existed on a number of social levels during ancient times, and there, the highest status belonged to temple musicians; the office of “musician,” the “shemayet.”  But human beings have  found  ways of manipulating the art to their own advantage, such as for healing purposes and for the general well-being of the race.  The list is long and there are many great names to choose from on it, but for now we will start with the Beetles  and then work our way down to show that there have been many musical groups, both modern and  contemporary, which have worked to exemplify the living power of music .

The Beatles  contributed to a bunch of things; music, film, literature, art, and fashion. They made a continuous impact on popular culture and the lifestyle of several generations. Many of their songs carry “powerful ideas of love and peace.” But also, the Beetle learned from many world cultures and absorbed from various styles. Songs such as “Strawberry Field Forever”  and “Hey Jude” in 67 and 68 are gifts to us by the Beetles. Then came The Beach Boys; formed by the three Wilson brothers. The group went on to release many great albums, like the ” Good vibration” in 1966…

 

Indeed, the nineteenth and twentieth centuries produced many great musicians including men like T-bone Walker, Sidney Bechet and Elvis. Bechet was an inspirational Jazz musician with his otherworldly improvisational style who left an important mark on jazz. And then came Chuck Berry, a man bigger than life- “son of St. Louis, who is credited with combining R&B with country.” His first hit, the “Maybellene” in 1955– the very same year my father was born– indeed became a real storm.

 

Then there was Bill Haley, a man whose love for music and unique musical ability led him to create a fusion of country and R&B, represents some of the earliest Rock and Roll created by a white artist. This history of Rockabilly, I recently picked up from school during last year’s summer. And if you are interested, it is a blend of hillbilly, blues and boogie with Southern origins. Its first practitioners, as we were told, are mostly White males in their late teens and early twenties. It was the loud and rebellious approach of rockabilly that drew the line between the era of the Big Ballad and the era of the Big Beat. And of course, it all began with the release of one particular title of a Visible Helper; Elvis Presley’s first record; That’s All Right, on Sun Record. The history of Rockabilly is truly fascinating. This is not jazz or Rock ‘n’Roll but Rockabilly that should be given the most credit for bringing the guitar to the forefront of Rock n Roll. And you might be surprised to hear why this genre became so incredibly popular among young people. Especially for Rock ‘n’ Roll, which became an excuse for “teenage rebellion” and for the using of nonsense syllables….