Our paperwork secured, we entered our first "school weekend" in Rome with a dizzying array of work (sketchpad, walking tour research) and recreation from which to choose. I decided to go to Hackers to e-mail a journal entry back home for, uh, safekeeping :-), but when I arrived their net connection seemed to be on the fritz. Hotmail wasn't loading correctly like it had before, and instead I had to use a tediously slow Telnet connection to the University of Washington.

And the music at Hackers -- I haven't listened to Top 40 in the United States for quite a while, but it sounds like if I spend much time here, I'm quickly going to get caught up on the latest hits. One rap song that sounds like a ripoff of "Every Breath You Take," another that samples Bowie's "Let's Dance", and a couple other songs that get played every twenty minutes or so, just like pop radio at home! At least they're not endlessly playing that remake of "Candle In The Wind" that seems to have taken over America and the UK just a few weeks after the death of Princess Diana.

. . . cause it's a bittersweet symphony, that's life. . .

Hackers claims to have no e-mail software on their computers (they seem to be geared toward attracting online game players instead), but they apparently don't know about Hotmail and Telnet. Telnet is no way to connect to e-mail from several thousand miles away. Heck, it can be painfully slow when you're logging on from across town. But at least I was able to console myself with their cheap pizza and drinks while I was connected.

And consolation is what I needed when I checked up on my fabulous Seattle Mariners, who had made it to the playoffs for the second time in their history but were not exactly burning up the competition. Consecutive losses by a score of 9-3 to the Baltimore Orioles left them in a precarious position, down 0-2 in a best-of-five series. Oh, well, just wait till next year....

. . . I get knocked down but I get up again you're never gonna keep me down. . .

Back in Trastevere, we decided to investigate our neighborhood's culture by taking that quintessential college student journey, a trip to the grocery store. We found "Topdí," surely a local landmark what with its Costco-sized pallets of toilet paper, freezers full of multi-tentacled seafood varieties, and the obligatory wall of dollar wines for sale, all stuffed into a crowded, cramped storefront that would give a small-town hardware store a run for its money in the claustrophobia sweepstakes.

Loaded with potluck goodies, it was on to the evening's festivities -- a group dinner for all the students, hosted by our upstairs neighbors Waldo, Brandon, and Paul. Since they had the best apartment of all the students, they of course should share with everyone else in class. I garnered an opportunity to show Waldo how to use his Italian-style stovetop coffeemaker -- put water in the bottom section, grounds into the center cup, screw the top on, and watch it perk right up. Being a newshound and e-mail junkie, I also served as an informal news service from back home, breaking the news that power forward Shawn Kemp had been traded by the Seattle SuperSonics to Cleveland for, I'm sure, a bag of rock salt and three magic beans.

Since it was a party thrown by art students, of course our party entertainment consisted of art. We held a "sketchpad slam", in which one student would have 30 seconds to draw the face of another student, then have that drawing rated by the onlookers and the portrait's subject. We also held a haiku slam, in which one student would compose a poem, arranged by syllables, in honor of another student. I wrote of my roomate Nick, whose bed was next to the window overlooking the busy street below:

How do you do it?
Sleeping next to the window
Vespas in your dreams

My entry in the haiku slam was rated better than my 30-second sketch. In case you're wondering why my sketch isn't scanned and posted here.

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