March 28th, Friday departure:
* Next week, I’ll let everyone know where we are. Toronto will be livable again; winter will have been forgotten; and they’ll have an election on public morals and Toronto’s promise to get excited about. Then I can tell them about what’s bothering me in Rome.
* Leaving downtown Toronto at 3 p.m. on Friday is the Canadian equivalent of fleeing a warzone. Blockades are everywhere and the plane is on time! The world’s "city of communities" can be hell when you’re trying to get away. (Still, Rob Ford’s excuses about his “boom city” would work brilliantly for an incumbent south of the border.)
* Travel points got us priority sleeping pods, but their seats are too high. Do I belong up here?
Saturday morning, Frankfurt terminal:
* A vast fitness center designed to provide generous breathing space for planes; city blocks of grey-green marble corridors, pinpoint lighting, and giant travelers with small silver suitcases swoop across your path like sparrows.
* A businessman carefully organizes his belongings in exact parallel lines in three baskets on the security conveyor belt — the way I organize my new desk when I can’t think of what to write. We’ll stick with him if we get in trouble.
* Something smells. Spring is early: The trees are greening; the Tiber already splashes sidewalks along its banks; the sun actually burns. Tourists and Roman Catholic pilgrims are about in significant numbers. Young people still appear delighted to be alive. Yet, many of their fathers are still dressed for bitter weather.
* I’m beginning to find it interesting that old men aren’t all alike. Many, for instance, still struggle if not to get even, at least to not become invisible.
* They take great care to appear ready for adventure; they dress for exacting appointments: an interview with another banker for additional financing or lunch with a total stranger with a big name. In Rome, men in their 60s — with means without ends — dramatize the past and don’t try to lie about the future.
* They wear lumpy jackets of dark browns, blue-blacks, and purples, corduroy and black slacks, loose wool vests, thick shirts and scarfs. The big items accentuate grey hair, weekend beards, and worry lines. In one hand, they carry a serious newspaper. (No purses this year.)
* Their purchasing power is only hinted at in the quality of their shoes and belts, without salt stains or the stress of aging on a careless old man.
* Aristocrats disguised as peasants slipping through a revolution! Young men look meaner; these men display experience.
*Can Rome’s boomers make surviving interesting? They're gregarious, not content with gated communities and golf courses; they still want to gather where fewer and fewer younger Romans can afford to go. But is surviving a Roman winter through the birth and death of another government any more testing than surviving another year in Toronto where nothing but the chill factor catches you off guard?