Open the book
And you shall see
All the good times
The Stone Church with a Clock
Our marriage was terrible. But with some compensating situations: We were married in 1966, then went to live in Rome, where my new husband, Bernie, began his study of medicine at the University of Rome.
A few days after starting school, Bernie came rushing home, flying through the door,
"Don't buy cheese anymore. No more cheese. I have the gout."
"I have the gout. I can't eat cheese."
"You can't eat cheese when you have the gout. Tomorrow morning I'm going to the University clinic."
Turned out Bernie did not have the gout.
Later on, there was Paris. We were vacationing in Paris, another school time adventure. We had made plans to stay in a hotel in Paris next to a stone church with a big clock on the front of it. So there we were, traveling second class in the train with our book, "Europe on $5 a Day."
We got to Paris in the afternoon and went looking for a stone church with a clock. And I, of course, was the one carrying most of the luggage because Bernie had to ask people directions. After all the trudging along, we finally saw the stone church with the clock. The clock said 2 and next to the church was the small building in which was our room. Of course, the room was up two flights of stairs--more trudging. And wow! We finally made it! It was a plain, small, clean room with a bathroom off the room.
Then the unpacking. Not bad. We didn't have much stuff. I unpacked while Bernie rested. Then, after unpacking, I rested. But while we were resting we started getting hungry. Then my stomach starting growling. Then Bernie's stomach started growling. Then Bernie started growling.
"Let's go eat," he growled. "I'm hungry.”
So we went downstairs and into the sunshine. The clock on the stone church said 4. We started walking and looking through the windows of all the restaurants. And we looked at the people eating inside. We found a restaurant where the clientele were laughing and having a good time. That's the restaurant we chose. We went inside and ordered from a special list where the prices were cheaper, ordering plain roast chicken, French fries and fruit for dessert. The food was super-delicious and not too expensive. And we were happy.
We spent the rest of the day walking up and down streets, sightseeing and visiting churches. We managed to get in another scrumptious meal, choosing the restaurant the same way, where the people were laughing and having a good time. After a long day, we were tired. It was late at night and we were ready to come back to our room. We found our way back after asking directions. The clock on the stone church said 2. We finally got to our room. Bernie went into the bathroom. After a few minutes I heard:
"Annie, come here!" So, I came in. Bernie was looking in the mirror with his mouth wide open--panicking.
"Look at my gum over this tooth. It looks like it's receding!"
"What!?" I said.
"Look! Look! It's receding!"
"What are you talking about?" I said peering into his mouth. "Your gum is fine:”
"No! No! It's receding over this tooth! You know a few days ago, I was in the supermarket. And I was looking at the fish at the fish counter. Well, you know all the problems there are with fish, fish being in contaminated waters. Well, there was a guy near the fish counter and he was holding some kind of a machine that went beep-beep-beep-beep. It must have been a Geiger counter. The fish must have been in contaminated waters. They must have been radioactive. That's why the Geiger counter went beep-beep-beep-beep. And I was near the fish. So now I have radiation poisoning. That's why my gum is receding!"
"What!?" I said, looking in his mouth. "Your gum looks fine!"
"No! No! I have radiation poisoning. Look! My gum is receding over this tooth!"
"I have to go to the doctor! I'm calling the front desk for a medical clinic here in Paris!"
"What!? It's the middle of the night!"
"There's gotta be a clinic open here in Paris! Even if it's the middle of the night!'
Well, what do you know. Bernie called the front desk. And after several tries, they found a clinic nearby open in the middle of the night. So off we went with the radiation poisoning to look for the clinic. And there was that stone church with the clock that said 3. After a long straight walk and a turn to the left, we found the clinic with no problem. "Thank goodness for small favors."
We walked in and waited in a room for the doctor. Then the doctor came in and I tried to explain to him this whole story in my broken French. Well, it turned out that the doctor's English was better than my broken French so we spoke in English. I explained to him how my husband had radiation poisoning from the fish counter in the supermarket and the proof of it all, was that his gum was receding. Well, the doctor listened to the whole episode and all he would say was: "That's a very interesting idea... That's a very interesting idea"
And Bernie kept showing the doctor his gum. "Look! Look! My gum is receding! My gum is receding over this tooth! What kind of doctor are you? I need a specialist!"
"Well," said the doctor. "We do have specialists, but I've been a doctor here for a long time and I know about radiation and I know about gums. Your gum is fine. And you don't have radiation poisoning."
Well, finally, after a long talk, the doctor convinced Bernie that he did not have radiation poisoning. So we thanked the doctor but I don't remember if there was a charge for his services. Then we started walking back. And we walked and we walked and we walked. I didn't realize it was such a long walk. We finally came to the stone church. And I didn't even look at the clock.
Later on, after vacationing in Paris, it was back home to Rome. We lived in Rome for two years before our daughter was born, before we had a child. That was the late 1960's. Then Bernie transferred to the University of Bologna, for the following three years, the late 1960's and the early 1970's. In total he studied medicine for five years in Italy.
As for our life in Rome, we lived in an apartment next to a piazza--a traffic circle. And almost every day there was Boom! Another accident. One day Bernie was telling me he heard--Boom! He ran to the window. One of the cars was still rolling over. The two men got out of each of their cars, screaming. They stood nose to nose screaming and waving their arms. They never touched each other. They just stood nose to nose, waved their arms and screamed. Don't know whatever happened after that, probably laryngitis. Then there were the buses. There was a bus station right near our apartment. You could take any bus; it would take you around town on their route; then you would end up back at the bus station. You got a tour of Rome for the price of a bus ticket. One place near us was the Coliseum. It was a 10-minute bus ride from the bus station near our apartment. What an interesting place to visit.
The Coliseum looks just like the photos. But being there you can feel the ambiance. You can see the gladiators fight to their death. You can smell the blood and the sweat. You can hear the audience cheer. And we were there many times.
Another interesting sight in Rome was the statue of Moses with horns. There was a reason for the horns. The Hebrew Bible says there were "rays of light" coming from the face of Moses. This can also be translated as "halo.” However, the Hebrew for "rays of light" sounds almost like the Hebrew for "horns." So it was by mistake that the words were translated to horns, therefore the statue of Moses with horns.
Then there was the student dining hall at the university of Rome. The food was cheap and very good. You could even buy wine with your meal. Try that at a college campus in New York. At one point riots broke out at the University of Rome. We lived near the University so Bernie decided to go there and check out the riots. Well, he was telling me, when he got there the place was deserted. There was stuff littered all over the ground. You could tell there were riots but no people--no students--no cops. But there was one lone guy roaming around, so Bernie went up to him and said: "I thought there were riots here."
The guy said, "Yes, there were riots here."
"Well," said Bernie, "Where is everybody?"
"Oh," said the guy. "They all went home for lunch.”
I guess you would call that civilization. You had your lunch at 1 pm, the main meal of the day, and then you had your nap. Afterward, you went back to work or school. So instead of having two rush hours a day, you had four rush hours a day. But the Italians must feel it's worth it. Then, on a lighter note, there was gelato, Italian ice cream--or something like ice cream. All I know, it was good. Nothing like gelato on a hot summer day.
For coffee, the greatest place was Vincenzo's, a coffee bar. There was no sidewalk around Vincenzo's, so the outdoor tables were out in the street. So I sat there at an outdoor table calmly drinking my coffee, with the cars just zipping around me. And speaking about outside, from my apartment window in Rome, you could see a cooked calf on a table, right outside one of the food shops. The weather was warm, but the calf was out there. And customers would come by and the people from the shop would slice up pieces of calf and make them sandwiches. And the calf was out there every day until it was eaten up.
I also remember the fish store. I was standing in the fish store and I felt something poking me in the back. So I turned around and there was an eel coming out of a barrel and that's what was poking me in the back. Later on someone wanted to buy an eel. So the person working there took the eel out of the barrel, put it on the counter, and chop, chop, chop, chop in small pieces. And the customer got the eel.
More adventures: We took the train when we couldn't take the bus. (The train, second class, of course.) So, we took the train to Venice, the city on the water. People lived in houses on the water. They traveled by boat the same way you would travel by car. Everything was by boat. I remember the ambulance--a boat. And I remember Bernie eyeing the ambulance. I remember he made a remark. I remember I made a remark--
"What! No you don't! We're not going on that ambulance!" We did not board the ambulance boat.
On land, the buildings on each side of the street were so close together you could walk down the street with your right hand touching the buildings on one side of the street and your left hand touching the buildings on the other side of the street. Then, of course, there was Florence and the church with the gilded bronze doors, "The Gates of Paradise," depicting different Biblical scenes. And, also, there was Michelangelo's magnificent statue of David.
On another vacation, we took the train to Rieka, in the old Yugoslavia, a favorite vacation spot for Italians. It was a communist country, the only time I visited a communist country, but it was like anywhere else. What a nice vacation spot, a beautiful, quiet country, with open space and trees and grass. I have a piece of art from Rieka that I have hanging on my wall, a wood carving. And it is a beautiful wood carving. The man who created it and sold it to us, was going to sell it for less than he did but his wife objected. So we paid more for it and it is worth it. I also remember being very tired in Yugoslavia. I was pregnant. That's why. But I didn't realize I was pregnant at the time. Later on, we returned home, this time to Bologna. We had moved to Bologna and Bernie had transferred to the University of Bologna. Soon we went back to New York to give birth to our baby girl. Then, after six weeks, the three of us went home to Bologna, where two years later Bernie graduated from the University of Bologna.
In spite of everything, I must commend Bernie. He graduated a foreign University, got good grades, and became a doctor. Psychiatrist!