30 June 2005

Free Tours?

Now here's the thing about free tours. I love to give them. The reasons are really two: One is of course to give vacationers a glimpse into the fascinating history, stories, symbolism and significance of the monuments of St. Peter's Basilica, as well as the Basilica itself. Over the 129 years of its construction (!) a few noteworthy stories came up...
The other reason is the money. After an awesome free tour, people sometimes feel inclined to tip. I encourage it. Because that, and comissions from other tours is how I make my money. That I use to live. It can be a good racket. I made 80 euros in tips on tuesday morning. That's excellent. That's a good haul. The people were obviously happy.

This afternoon I made zero. That's right, zero. My highs have been high, but this is the lowest. I was mad and disappointed, obviously. People don't need to tip, that's the point of a tip, right? It is a free tour. But it sucks nonetheless. But fuggit anyway. As long as they were happy right? I just wish it didn't feel like rejection. At least they listened.


28 June 2005

The Heat

It's only June. Almost July, yes. But still only June. But it is fucking hot already, enough already. Basta. I mean it is suffocatingly stiflingly gross-and-sweaty-before-i-get-to-the-bus-stop-at-nine-in-the-morning hot. Oh, suuure, it's a heat wave, but I'm convinced it's atmospheric foreshadowing:it's not going to get better for a while. First it'll get worse. Fuck. Now, I'm not wimping out here, crying uncle cuz this big old city creeps the mercury higher than I'm used to. No, not at all, I'm merely letting off a little steam. Venting a little. Because this guy needs to find some new ways to keep cool, because the sweating is up to a maximum.

For those of you who haven't been to St. Peter's Basilica, know this: there's a dress code. Men need long pants, everyone needs their shoulders cover and women need their knees covered.
As a guy, I've gotta rock long pants all the time. And stand in the sun. In fact stand in the sweaty line-ups to get into St. Peter's. Every day, twice a day. And it's getting hotter.

The plus side is that this big, gross, dirty, sweaty, sticky, city has an abundance of water fountains perpetually spilling delicious fresh cool water from the acqueducts. All it takes is one bottle and you can fill and drain all day long. This cool water keeps the supply of sweat fully stocked, if nothing else.


26 June 2005


Hey Friends,

Just sending a line out to send out a little love and news; what better place, I ask rhetorically, to get a little love from than the city that gave us the word Romance. So know that though we may be far, none are far from my thoughts.

Be that as it may, here's the news.

Last weekend I went to the Hard Rock Cafe. It was as you may expect, a little underwhelming, culturally vacant. I was happy to do it for a workmates birthday (he's American, what better gift to receive than a hamburger?), and nonetheless it was a good time. For those of us who feel ourselves smugly superior from general tourists, such as myself, it was an admission of my own fallibility. I may in principle reject cultural imperialism, and may be in Rome to assimilate and learn of the culture history and language, but in practice, I was pretty excited to hit the Hard Rock. Yes the food was mediocre and the atmosphere cheesy, but it did have that little something that has made it a successful institution. Maybe rock n' roll, maybe waiters speaking English, maybe just a change-up from constant Italian-ness. Whatever it is it was a good time and I was glad that it was Bill's idea, so I could still retain a shred of smug superiority the whole time.

All of the Three Millennia crew was there. All my fellow illegal tour guides from my "cultural association." I like them. I like the job too. I've started doing another tour-Rome at Sunset. I get paid a regular fee for this one. It's a walking tour through central Rome (at sunset), the area known as Campus Martius that includes Piazza Navona, The Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, Piazza Venezia, and The Capitoline Hill. It's great to be learning all this history, which I don't think i'd have the attention span for if it weren't all around me. However I am still new to the city, if I take one wrong turn during my Sunset tour, i'd be totally lost. I'm a great tour guide...only if we stay between the lines.

I've been enjoying time with some political activists as well. A group called U.S. Citizens for Peace & Justice organized a film series. I was really into it, because they were all films I had wanted to see, or did as soon as I read about them. Most of them focussed on the American medias' treatment of/culpability in the war in Iraq. The people are interesting too. From all over the world, though mostly UK, US, and Italy. They're on hiatus for the summer so my Thursday nights are now free. So rather than give a Sunset tour on Giovedi I'm going to meet some Scandanavians and play a little floorball. Floorballs kinda like hockey, maybe more like floor hockey. I'm not really sure. But rest assured I'll go bash it out as best I can. I'm woefully underprepared (eg. no floorball stick, never seen it played, no idea of the rules) but I have a secret weapon: after weeks of giving walking tours I am in some great shape. I should be able to walk circles around these guys.

In other news the heat is terrible, I'm reading lots, both fiction and info on the Vatican museum and the Forum (my next tours to learn). In addition my Italian is limping along slowly, but i've only been here 7 weeks so it's too early to call it a lost cause. I'd like to have at least 1 foreign language which I can properly converse in. No more half-steppin'.

I hope this finds you well. Be safe, reach out and touch each other.

Love Ryan.


24 June 2005

Fever Pitch

While I've been in Italy post graduation I have rediscovered the joys of reading. Now that I'm not obligated to read so much, and I don't speak the lingua franca around here, I've immersed myself in various different, imaginary English-language worlds. In fact I have already started an ever-growing collection of paperbacks acquisited through various English language bookstores. One of them Nick Hornby's "Fever Pitch" I read recently. But it inspired me to write about the books, maybe relate them to my life as it's going on here, try and draw some significance out of the gluttonous way i've been tearing through the books here.

Fever Pitch involves NIck Hornby's 20 plus year love affair (OBSESSION) with football, with Arsenal to be more specific. The book is a documentation of Arsenal games and a few others that he has seen that tie in with periods in his life. It as an autobiographical attempt to come to grips with his fervent, deeply held emotional attachment to 'the game' that makes it much more than a game.
Fandom isn't about living vicariously through the team. It is about having your own intense joy and agony, based on the outcome of a sporting event. As a Canucks fan, I can relate and empathize, though he's really fucking nuts about it. But in fact, he's like 50% of the followers of any sports club. A higher percentage when you get to soccer in Europe.

For me though, I don't have the deep-seeded connection to a soccer club. I enjoy the sport, am fucking pumped for World Cup 2006, but I don't really have a club I'm slavishly devoted to, and I feel like I'm missing out. I would devote myself to a club, but not only would I be a phony Johnny-Come-Lately, i'd be in danger of getting my ass kicked by other fans for reasons I don't quite understand.


22 June 2005

How do you say...

So yesterday I had my biggest Italian setback so far.
I had just finished giving a free morning tour of St. Peter's basilica and was taking the 9 people who had decided to do the Vatican Museum/Sistine Chapel tour to a pizza joint for lunch. Pizza taglio means pizza cut; they also 'taglio' your hair here in Italy. Anyway, I took these people in and feeling quite good about myself (9 people is a nice commission) ordered myself some pizza. Outside I thought i'd let them go first, but i realized they were still kinda following me (I am the guide) so i went in and ordered a little "questo...anche un po' di questo" This means (This, also a little of this). I didn't try to sound Italian, but spoke my usual (i like to think) good-natured goofy Italian. It saves me the embarrassment of being found out as a non-native Italian- i offer that fact up front.

However, there was no embarrassment saved because the girl serving me burst into such a laughing fit that she had to retreat to the kitchen to compose herself. The other employments stood around smiling, and apologizing for her outburst, i stood there with my face quite red, growing stubborn and defensive. I'd like to say I either lashed out at her in perfect Italian, reprimanding her, or rose above it but i just stammered out "those two" and ate in a huff. To make matters worse, the gentleman behind me, who was coming on the Vatican museum tour because he so enjoyed my St. Peter's tour, chimed in with a casual sounding "So, how's your Italian?"
I can see it as funny and good-natured now, but then I was a big huffy wimp about it.
Regardless, I'm getting back on that horse. Next stop:grammar workbooks, and pizza places where they can appreciate my subtly clunky and awkward Italian.



20 June 2005

Rome at Sunset

Tomorrow night will see the unleashing of my very first actually paid tour: Rome at Sunset. From Piazza Navona to the Pantheon, the Trevi Fountain, Piazza Venezia and Michalangelo's Campidoglio overlooking the Forum. Sounds busy, but in fact is a pleasant late afternoon stroll through the heart of Renaissance Rome. I'm really looking forward to it. I love the hustle and bustle of St. Pete's but I'm ready to cut my teeth on a new chunk of history. Tomorrow I take it for a trial run.


12 June 2005

Dead Bodies

I've seen, in my estimation, two real-life dead bodies.
The first was last summer. Returning from Vancouver Island via BC Ferries after a gruelling and rewarding 2 weeks of back-to-back summer camps. Whislt enjoying some hard earned cold-brews in the bow, we heard an announcement that there was a "Man Overboard." Like everybody else we ran to the deck to search for the body. Part out of summer camp do-gooderness (assistance was requested) and part out of general human perverseness). The body was ultimately found, and the inept resuce effort failed. OUr boat was delayed two hours do to the searching, then waiting for the Coast Guard hydroplane. There was a finality to the ending: we saw the man ( asuicide, apparently) get hoisted out of the water, and first aid performed. Later we saw him being carried onto the Coast Guard vessel.

Yesterday Chiara's aunt passed away. I went with her, her mom and her cousin to the hospital, then the adjacent mortuary. It seems to me to be practical but stunningly pessimistic to have the mosturay next to the hospital, though i suspect it's common practice. Anyway, somebody had to check the body, neither Chiara nor her cousin could do so, and her mom asked me to come with her. SO I did. I'd never met Zia Lori before, and when i saw her she had gauze over her eyes and purple yellow shading to her body. It only took a couple seconds. The body was lifeless, I didn't know Lori, but she wasn't there. That spirit had left. The recent tragic death of another friend has kept death in my mind lately: thoughts of loss and mortality and spirituality. I like to think that that spirit when it leaves the body diffuses into that persons loved ones, and re-energizes them. Connecting people who were unconnected, still a conduit.


09 June 2005

So Far, So good.

So I've been giving tours for a little while now. Strictly St. Pete's. I'm ready for more. It's the rush of performance with a little bit of salesmanship and story-telling. It's a struggle to convince people to come on the tour, but they're always glad they did. And people who say no at first often join up inside. And they tip pretty well. For a job well done. A one hour tour can net 10-30 euro in tips. Soon enough I will be paying down my credit card debts and student loans, hopefully. For now, i'll spend the change on pizza and gelato. And stick what's left in the sock drawer and scheme on how to get it to Canada.

The drama of the basilica's history makes for great story-telling. And the feats of artistic brilliance in there are some of the best in the world. It's a nice place to have an office, as it were, so to speak.



Last Night Chiara and I went to a wine party put on by a co-worker. After a half hour drive downtown (we left a little late and had to hurry)
We drove around for almost 2 hours looking for parking. I just about got out of the car and walked away. It was unbelievable. Romans are not particularly considerate drivers, the streets aren't particularly big or straight,a nd the names are too long to fit on maps. Besides that we were in the historical centre, with its pedestrian areas, cafes in the street, and utter lack of parking.

I was a grumpy sulky mess. Partly because of the parking issue, which was exacerbated by Chiaras unwillingness to contravene even the smallest traffic regulation, despite the fact that it is well-accepted practice in Rome to do so. It was maddening.

When we got there, my boss, whom i've met just once before, was hammered.
A splendid time was had by all. In the end.


01 June 2005

1st Update

Ciao a Tutti

So I've followed that path well worn by pilgrims, along any and allroads… to Rome. The shock and pressure have been manageable, and the irony of being a recent graduate of Communications and struggling mightily with simple communication has been both healthy and humbling.

It was a little over three weeks ago in Vancouver BC Canada that I was stripped to my undershorts, trussed up, blindfolded and taken to anot-so-deserted island to be covered in clay and in turn criticized and lauded by my friends. Afterwards I was set loose, shivering, more than half naked, more than half blind, and decidedly vulnerable, to confront the vicious Canada geese nesting on the island. Having accomplished this task relying largely on my sense of hearing (followthe furious hissing!) I was rewarded with esteem from my friends, aswell as beers and joints. Not least I got my glasses and clothes back.

So, needless to say, 2 days later when I was to depart, I was ready. I threw a quick goodbye over my shoulder as I raced to make my flight. I made it, though there was a brief scare with some security lady who told me that the name on my passport and ticket didn't match. She was wrong. They did. They pay her to do one thing…Anyway, once the nearby passengers got over their irrational fear ofthis suspected terrorist they were happy to tease me about my near detainment.The flight on Thomas Cook Airlines was alright, despite my concerns about flying with a currency exchange company. The kid next to meshowed me all of his 52 Incredible Hulk playing cards and then catalogued his various incidents and scars for me. I didn't sleep. At all. Long flight.

When I arrived in London England I managed to connect with DavidFrederick Symonds, who gave me a walking tour along the Thames and fed me a few pints of bitter in various publike settings. Much needed relief for this weary traveller. The relief was so complete that I slept all through the flight to Rome. Stayed awake the 9 hourintercontinental flight, but slept for the 2 hour jaunt to Rome.Definitely backwards.I was greeted at the airport by Chiara and her mom. Then enjoyed the first of many, many pizzas.

After a few days rest I hit the ground running, pounding pavement on the job hunt. My Italian, as you may guess, is heartfelt and earnest, but unquestionably crappy. This is a hindrance when job hunting in Italy. However, I responded to every ad written in English. This effort was met with silence and a few disappointing interviews. I may be one of the few university educated native English speakers unable to teach English as a Second Language. At least that's what ESL schools in Rome and Vancouver seem to think. However, at the last job interview, 1 week ago, I finally hit paydirt. I found a job as a …Tour Guide.

Free Tours of St. Peter's Basilica, get 'em here. You might know St.Peter's. It's been quite famous over the 2000 or so years of Christianity as the seat of Catholicism, one of Earth's most popular religions. Also recently newsworthy when JP 2 died. Then they elected Joe Ratz as New Pope. Anyway this gigantic church is full of stunning art and monuments and history. After a flurry of studying I now know enough info about this place to choke a horse. I hope to choke busloads of tourists with my knowledge while dazzling them with big-time entertainment value: I'll be working solely for tips and commission.On one hand it can be a shitty job earning small change, on the other: it'sa possible cash cow for the milking. I'm hoping for the latter, but will settle for something in between the two. I've taken heart in the words of my Irish friend Ronan: 'It's a dead easy gig, people will love any shite joke you crack. Don't be afraid to ask for tips, those retards will line your pockets.' I'm not so cynical; I plan to tell witty jokes and be richly deserving of the tips those retards will line my pockets with. Just by associating myself with this awe-inspiring monument should be good enough for a few eurobucks. The string attached to the free tour is this: the free tours are promos for paid tours to other storied Roman locales by Three MillenniaTours. As soon as I prove myself I will be learning some of these other tours. The best way to learn it is to teach it, and I will knowRome past and present, backwards and forewards.The downside is it's super hot and crowded in St. Pete's Square andi'll have to hustle up my own customers. And it will just got hotterand crowdeder. But at this point i'm cautiously optimistic. And no matter how it works out, if anyone is coming to Rome and wants a free tour of St. Pete's, look no further.

In domestic news, Chiara and I are enjoying our flat in a workingclass neighborhood in Rome. The neigborhood has a gelateria,panificio, and caffeteria all around the corner. As well, we're on theground floor and i'm in charge of her Mom's garden. I've planted grass and flowers and have been nursing a recently transplanted lemon tree back to health with my salubrious bedside manner. She and I play tonnes of Scrabble in the garden and are generally pretty good (inspirits and at Scrabble). Learning Italian, as mentioned, is coming along. I currently sound like an especially dumb child, but i'm growing up quickly, so to speak.

Enough!OK: listen up: please send correspondence: emails, essays, stories,postcards (thanks Dylan), poems and songs and pictures. I miss my friends.Snail mail and materials go to:

Signore Ryan Millar
Via Della Magnetite #46
Roma Italy 00158.
If you want postcards or something, let me know your address.

Phone Calls go to my cellulare mobilio 0039 328 323 2586. a casa is0039 06 417 346 23. It's cheaper to call me at home, and we're 8 hoursahead of you suckers in Vancouver.I hope this finds you well and happy. Peace be with. I'm gonna have a gelato. And finish learning Italian. Don't forget to write. Or visit.Or write to tell me when you're visiting.

Your man,Ryan Fonzarelli