Breakfast Broodings

it’s a difficult balance in this travel diary to keep it about travel when the burden of being American gets heavier with every news cycle.

I had a painful  conversation yesterday over breakfast in Riga, sitting at the table next to an Australian. Very clearly a political conservative, he nevertheless expressed his disbelief that the person in the White House now is the American President. He said he had soured on the US to the extent that he didn’t want to go there and be among people who had let this happen to the world. He wondered if Australia could even count on the US to honor its commitments to it. Australia! The country most like us in many respects. There is so much fear, from Australia to Europe and beyond, because the impossible seems highly possible, now that the official American position, as defined by the president, is that enemies are terrific folks and allies are ripoff artists and must be put in their place.

People tell me how lucky I am not to be home in the middle of this toxic stew. Indeed I can shelter myself a little by not turning on the television and limiting myself to the email headlines and snippets I get from several reliable news sources.  But I feel a little guilty, as if I should be home in the middle of the battle for the soul of my country, for indeed that is what it has become.

How could the floor threaten to fall out so quickly from under more than two centuries of American democracy?  Certainly it hasn’t been equally democratic for all, but the ability to make positive change has done a lot to improve things when the will of the people has been strong enough. Now it seems the will of the people is being manipulated towards a negativity so at odds with how I want to think of my country, with American “ideals” and “values” now being interpreted and vomited daily by individuals of such crassness and cynicism as to be both mind boggling and nauseating.

The  founders  of the United States took seriously every worry they had at the time.  They feared losing the ability to arm themselves against threats, being forced to quarter foreign soldiers in their homes, and many other things they had experienced under British rule.  There’s a bit of the bad boy/girlfriend syndrome at work here.  We are keenly aware of qualities we will avoid in future relationships, but not experienced enough to be aware of what flaws to watch out for the next time.

We are in the middle of the worst bad date in our history. What the founders didn’t think to question was that all the checks and balances they put into the structure of government would work because people would act in good faith. People can disagree, and since people are often elected or laws enacted by the slimmest of margins, at any given time a lot of people will be unhappy.  If we are one of the elected, we accept what we can and cannot do with our power. If we are in the minority, we work toward compromise, try to be constructive, and wait our turn.

That doesn’t apply anymore.  We are in the middle of a coup moving at freight train speed to destroy democratic institutions, creating an autocracy so quickly there won’t be time to follow the rules and vote the hustlers and swindlers out.

All with hand-over-heart verbal salad about patriotism. A day later at breakfast in Riga, I started thinking about the great conundrum of liberty that underpins all American history. The first colonists wanted freedom of religion, but only for themselves. The rebellious history of American individualism took root there, but the toxic downside was soon apparent, with persecutions of anyone whose individuality did not suit community norms.

We have a history that  celebrates liberty and enshrines it in our constitution, but doesn’t really have a history of meaning it, except for certain people some of the time.  How else could one possibly assert freedom of speech  to spew ideologies of racial, ethnic and religious cleansing  antithetical to the rights of others? How could one assert the right to own an automatic weapon intended to kill people who have a right to life? How could one assert there shouldn’t be regulations protecting  small investors from predatory lending, or insider trading? How could one say that absolute equality of treatment is fairer than a concept of equity that takes into account past and present disadvantage and discrimination?

So now the fuse is lit. The rich see openings to get even richer.  The  “base” is aroar with outrage about how our  country is supposed to be Christian. Didn’t the Pilgrims come over to make that happen?  Well yes, but they didn’t write the constitution.  People fearful of religious myopia did. And don’t forget how we’re supposed to be (and some think even obligated to be) personally armed.  And afraid.  Always afraid.  Afraid someone else’s liberty will make us uncomfortable.

in Plato’s Republic  one of Socrates’ critics claims that we aren’t really moral  deep down at all.  We are willing to follow a law against stealing, for example, not because stealing is wrong, but because we don’t want to be stolen from. We accept laws limiting our own ability to be selfish and unfair only because we don’t want others  to behave selfishly and unfairly toward us. It’s an interesting concept, and one with which Socrates violently disagreed.  Morality, he argued, was innate.  We simply knew right from wrong and were obligated as human beings to choose right.

Well, Socrates, it seems all bets are off in the America I see coming.  Immorality and contempt for the law are working so well at the top.  Things will be great when the rest of us just fall in line with what works so well for the elite. It’s so simple.  And so, so gut wrenchingly wrong.



It’s 1939. Do You Know Where Your Grandparents Are?

I am in Riga, Latvia right now doing some research for my upcoming Baltic cruise, and I am having the same problem I have in much of Europe.  Everywhere I go I see “I *heart* Latvia” souvenirs and other specifically Latvian things, from weaving to jam. The thing is, I don’t know if I *heart*  Latvia.  Sure, I can say with certainty that I am enjoying the beautiful parks and squares, the fantastic roofs of buildings dating back to the Hanseatic League and the rest.  Riga is a beautiful city with a lot of charm.

But I have a problem with any place that was complicit in the Holocaust.  Yes, I know that the Germans rolled in and changed the rules, but people in the Baltic countries were far too willing to lend a hand.  Too many of them disliked Hitler for other reasons, but not because of his views of the Jews. In fact, far too many of them agreed with him that here was a chance to solve a “problem,” turning in neighbors, and gladly participating in psychological and physical harm to their fellow human beings.

Riga has a Holocaust Museum in what remains of the Jewish ghetto, and as far as I am from embracing any city that needs one of those, it is still an improvement over Vilnius, Lithuania, which has scarcely acknowledged this chapter in its history at all.

Today I decided to walk rather than take public transportation  to the site of the ghetto and museum.  It wasn’t that far—maybe a mile each way—but it gave it more the aura of a pilgrimage, something  sacred, which of course in many ways it is.

Riga’s museum has a wall listing the names of all who died here—first Riga’s Jews, who were mostly shot in the nearby forest when room was needed for Jews deported from elsewhere in Europe. Eventually almost all of these Jews were marched into the forest as well, if they didn’t die some other way before that point.  One exhibit consisted of dozens of hanging paper lanterns, each  lit from within to reveal photos, documents and memorabilia of the  victim it commemorates. “Never again,”  I found myself whispering to them.  Never again.


Another startling exhibit is housed inside a cattle car of the type used to transport Jews to Riga and elsewhere.  Trunks of birch trees to represent the killing fields are arrayed in the empty space of the car. On one end is a montage of photos about the camp, and the other end is lined with mirrors, so you turn to see yourself, lost among the trees, reflected here and there, alone.  There you are.  It could happen to you.


As always, when I am in a plane going to the Baltic, I look around at all the healthy , robust blue-eyed blondes and wonder, “ what did your relatives do when the Nazis came?” This started when I was writing my book Until Our Last Breath: A Holocaust Story of Love and Partisan Resistance (St. Martin’s 2008) and was on edge every minute of my time in Lithuania while doing the research. I just wasn’t feeling all that forgiving because I wasn’t sure how much had changed.  Would these fresh-faced new generation (s) on the plane do the same thing?  Maybe not today, but could they be persuaded to?

I wish I could feel more confident they couldn’t, but now  I am even less so than I used to be. Fascism and nationalism are on the rise, and it is probably naive to think we’ve learned any lessons at all from history.  So no, I don’t *heart* Latvia because I don’t trust it, much as I don’t trust many other places, including, more and more, my own country. This time will we liberate the camps, or build them?




Arrivederci Mediterranean!

I awoke this morning at Barcelona’s cruise terminal, now a familiar sight. It’s debarkation day, and I won’t be marking time before another assignment in the Mediterranean.  My season here is done, after three cruises and ground stays in St. Remy, London, Cornwall, Nice, and Corfu, along with short touchdowns in Barcelona, Marseille, Rome, and Athens.

I arrived in early April after a 24-day crossing beginning in Manaus, Brazil, down the Amazon and across the Atlantic to the coast of Northwest Africa before ending in Monte Carlo. I’ve been gone from San Diego three months now, and in the Western Mediterranean for a little over two.

Today I fly to Riga, Latvia for a few days before going on to Copenhagen for back-to-back Baltic cruises, and in about three weeks I will head home for the first time in My Year of Living Travelly.

A few observations are in order.

  1.  I have never thought “I’ve had enough.  I want to go home.” That was something I wondered about when I set out on this adventure.  I have, however, looked forward to every change of venue, as in “Oh great! I’ll be on land for a while,” followed by “Oh great! I’ll be getting on a ship soon!”
  2. This  morning at breakfast overlooking the port, I saw a ferry heading out and immediately thought,”the next time I’m here, I’m going to take a ferry trip somewhere.” On the Travel Bug scale of 1 to 10, I am way up there!  If I am not already somewhere exciting, I am planning how soon I am going to get there.
  3. Despite having been to some ports a number of times, there isn’t one I wouldn’t return gladly to, if only to take a different shore excursion. Still haven’t seen nearly enough of Corsica, for example, or Catalunya, or Mallorca, and so many others.
  4. With every voyage, I feel more part of the family on Silversea and Seabourn, and I get a little better at my job. We really are a team, and I like to fit in, to play my role in making sure the guests have the best and most rewarding experience. Doing that feels really, really good.
  5. i need to stop buying things.  I had to mail parcels home several times to stay under the weight limit for my flights. Another moment of truth comes today on my flight to Riga. On international flights, the check-in people are often kind, but these dirt-cheap hopper flights around Europe make their money off of the extra charges, so they can be merciless.  On the other hand, I can’t wait to check out the shops in Riga, so observation number four doesn’t have a prayer.
  6. There is no way around it: cruising is hard on the gut. Gastric unhappiness is inevitable after this length of time.  Even if I eat lightly, it’s too much, compared to the limited regimen I prefer at home. I say “I never want to eat again as long as I live,” then two minutes later it’s “Oh look! Food!” I  miss my blender for my morning smoothie—and I could use a little detox from my new favorite drink, the Aperol Spritzer.  Despite all the overkill, my clothes still fit, including my “reality check” pants ( the ones without the stretch waistband), but I can see a bit of a challenge brewing, and the battle with those pants is underway.
  7.  I love the sociability of cruising, and I love the fun I have with Dan and the friends I share my cabin with.  Still, solitude is important, and I am looking forward to a stretch of it in Latvia and as a solo traveler on my first Baltic cruise. Deep breaths….

Deja Huh?

I had a very strange experience yesterday in Civitavecchia, the port for Rome. I am making the transition to destination speaker from enrichment speaker, which I have been for five years ( the difference is  often minor, but with destination one ties in the ports more extensively), so I thought I should go in to Civitavecchia to take some photos of what is of interest there.

I was operating on the assumption that I had never been there, but when the shuttle bus pulled into the drop off point, I thought to myself, “wait a minute—this looks familiar.”  Then I realized it was indeed somewhere I had been on a past cruise. I plumbed my brain as  to when and with whom I had been there, and when I finally figured it out, I realized it was with Dan, barely three weeks ago.

Now,  that is weird! One would think that it wouldn’t be possible to forget something so utterly so soon. So here are the options:

1) my brain is rapidly disintegrating

2) all this cruising is turning into one big blur

3) Civitavecchia is really that forgettable

i see no evidence of the first.  As for the second, it is true that it is easy to forget the specifics of each port when they march by in such quick succession, but basically, I do remember almost all of them with at least a few concrete mental images or memories.

So that leaves number three.  No, I am not losing my mind.  Civitavecchia is indeed that easy to form no impression of whatsoever.  However, I did remember with Dan that we found a remarkable open market clearly not for tourists but where the locals got their tomatoes, peaches, and fish.  Here is a photo.

And next time I am in Civitavecchia I will remember the second time, with its big “huh?” moment much more than the first, which apparently I don’t  remember at all.





Am I Planning a Book?

Occasionally someone will write to me and say they are enjoying ny blog and wonder if I am planning to write a book about My Year of Living Travelly. The answer is simple for me: No.

The answer may be simple, but the reasons are less so.  They have to do first with not wanting to go through the—let’s face it— crap that is involved in publication.

And then, putting together lectures is very time consuming. It doesn’t take me over in the way writing a novel does, but it is still a lot of work.  Since I write out my lectures fully ( basically treating the computer as my audience), just for these Med cruises, I ended up with a stack of printed pages that was actually fatter than a novel.  So yes, I am busy writing. It’s  just of a different kind.

But the main reason I am not writing a book about this experience is that I know it would change it—and me—in ways I don’t welcome. With apologies to poet Archibald MacLeish (“Ars poetica” for all you non-English majors), a Year of Living Travelly should not mean, but be.

In other words, if I were to be thinking about a book, I would feel as if I had to find the point, the lesson, the insight in everything, when I really just want to experience it.  It’s that simple.  Even thinking about writing a book makes me feel weighed down, so I shake it off, in favor of heading out gloriously and happily  not in direct pursuit of deeper meaning.

When the phone runs out of juice, or we leave it behind accidentally, our  whole day changes.  With a camera, we are always trying to frame experience. It is great to see with the photographer’s eye, and in some respects we see more intently, but we also give our attention over to the photos more than the  experience of being there, as if somehow the real experience will come later when we get to the hotel room, or the restaurant, or wherever, and look at images of where we sort of halfway were.

That is  what not writing a book is all about.  It hard for me to be all the way in the moment as it is, and intending to write a book could just make it worse.

The second reason?   It bothers me when people claim to be sad I don’t have plans to write another  book, when they haven’t read the five I have published.  There’s  a “new” book—or books— out there waiting for all those folks without my lifting a finger. In my mind, only those who have read them all have standing to hope I write another.  Yes, I know this book would be different—my personal eat, pray, love—but still, my Year of  Living Travelly is also about figuring out what I owe to others and what I owe to myself.  In this case, the answer is simple. Not a book.







Every Little Thing

“Don’t worry, ‘bout a thing, cuz every little thing gonna be alright…”

The club band on the ship was in the middle of that number when I walked around the pool deck yesterday at the sail-away happy hour. It was a beautiful late afternoon in Greece—a little cooler and breezier than the brutally hot weather of previous days—and the perfect recipe for Bob Marley’s sentiment. Everything, down to the last detail, was not just going to be all right, it already was.

Except I had just come from a fresh dose of headlines.  Canada’s leader is insulted as weak and dishonest, while  North Korea’s is treated as a friend.  Children are torn from their parents at the border and kept in atrocious conditions. The support network for Americans ( social security.affordable health care, etc.) is being undermined.  Equity, fairness, and diversity are scorned, and ugliness towards fellow human beings is upheld, and sometimes even encouraged. Regulations protecting the environment and consumers are gutted to make sure nothing gets in the way of the rich getting richer.

I plan to stay away from politics in this blog, but I want it to be an honest record of my Year of Living Travelly, and that requires at least occasional acknowledgment of the emotions I feel at a remove of many time zones,  as I watch what seems to be the deliberate unraveling of the values and institutions that have been the strength of my country and its relationships with the world.

Bedrock becomes shifting sand when our world is assailed daily by the malice, pettiness, and childish tantrums of the most powerful person in the world.  And though he may, despite his insistence to the contrary, not be the best and the brightest, he has unleashed some of the worst and the brightest (and a few utter dunces) to do their mischief on the domestic and world stage.

And the most frightening part is  that it’s not just him.  Republican politicians gloat at a changed landscape that permits them  to act with astonishing meanness of spirit and dishonesty of intent towards the people they are supposed to represent. World leaders antagonistic to democracy see openings they could hardly have dreamed possible to destabilize alliances among western nations and undercut democratic institutions.  Unparalled opportunities exist now to shape the world to benefit the one percent, and in their wake, leave an unlivable world for the poor and an unstable and more seemingly hopeless world for the rest of us in the middle class.

No need to pile on here. I just wanted to say that at most being so far from home makes the present reality more of a drone in the background than the buzz saw it must feel like back in the states.  But the drone is still always there. Tell me, Bob Marley, is every big thing going to be all right too?


Mistakes, Probably Part 1

So many things go just right, and I  hardly notice that. There’s the lecture that goes perfectly. The notes are there in front of me, neatly printed, and matched perfectly to the slides, the slides pop up on the big screen without a glitch, it ends up just the right length, and people say nice things afterward. When all that happens, I just move on to the next thing without giving it much further thought.

It’s the unexpected that can really dump rain on a perfectly good day, like the time my screen went black because my computer ran out of battery mid-lecture.  Mind you, I always have it plugged in, because it is a victim of Apple’s planned obsolescence and doesn’t hold a charge well. This time I plugged it into a power bar that, unknown to me, was not connected to a power source backstage. Adding to the snafu was the fact that the technician had slipped out of the booth and couldn’t be located for fifteen minutes (probably down wherever the crew are allowed to smoke, from what was whispered afterward). Meanwhile, I went to Plan B and lectured until he got back to fix it, with no slides or audio. No one walked out, so I guess it ended up  okay, but since luxury cruise ships demand a lot from their crew, I don’t think the tech will last long.

I can easily shrug off other people’s mistakes and shortcomings, but I am so much harder on myself.  I hate making mistakes because I hate the impact this brings down on me— time wasted solving self-inflicted problems, occasional embarrassment, lost opportunities for something better to do with my time, energy, and—occasionally—money.

I have been very mad at myself a couple of times this part of my Year of Living Travelly,  and (except for carelessly letting myself get pickpocketed in Barcelona and leaving my favorite European adapter in the wall socket in Corfu), mostly this has been caused by  my lecture preparation.  No doubt about it, being able to deliver cruise lectures is what is making all the rest of this possible, so they must go well.

The last of my Mediterranean cruises for this year starts tomorrow, and my anxiety level is a little higher than usual (after more than five years doing this, it is usually close to zero). Most  of the lectures are substantially new, focusing on the specific ports. The anxiety isn’t palpable, but is a soft drone in the background that will only be resolved by giving the lecture, and of course by a little extra forethought.

So far, since I left home in March, I have had three problems I brought on myself, which means it has gone without a hitch almost all the time. As for the rest,  first , I brought the slides for a very old lecture on Pompeii, and the notes for the revised one. No go.  Second, I didn’t have the slides at all for the lecture on Carthage.  I guess I just didn’t migrate them over from my desktop to my laptop, and I don’t have the hang of the Cloud yet.  Both of these glitches were easily solvable, since I can always find  an alternative lecture that fits the itinerary.

The third was another thing that, with all the balls I was juggling when I left home in March, just got overlooked.  When  I went to review my lectures for this upcoming cruise while I was in Rome, I discovered that the segment for one whole port was just nowhere to be found.  Fortunately, I had printed out my notes so I had the text I had prepared, but it took all afternoon with a really pokey hotel internet to recreate the slide show for about 20 minutes of lecture.

Having a lot of experience is very helpful to maintaining peace of mind, as is a willingness to go to Plan B without fuss or fury. If I always get Plan A right, there won’t be a part two to this post, but calling it “part one” is my way of telling myself to keep a sense of humor about my own imperfection and the inevitable bumps in the road. As my favorite fridge magnet says, “Always Make New Mistakes.” If I want the life less ordinary, I have to accept that this inherently means things will not always go according to plan.



Retroactive Bucket List: Butrint

There are places I really want to go to, places I have no desire to go to, and places I had no idea should have been on my bucket list all along. I found one of those  last ones in Albania, which may sound exotic but is actually an easy day trip by ferry from Corfu.

The site is called Butrint, and it has a history to compete with any in The Mediterranean, and that is saying a lot!  Ruins  have been found at Butrint dating back to prehistoric times, but what is visible begins with what is usually called pre-Greek, referring to the civilizations before the Classical period.  It is characterized most notably by Cyclopian masonry—walls and structures made from rocks so huge it seemed as if only a gigantic creature could have made them (See wall below).  Testimony to the skill of these builders is that these structures were made without mortar, the rocks shaped to fit so tightly that necessity never needed to become the mother of invention.

Butrint is on a low-lying island favored by the Greeks as a major pilgrimage site to honor Aesclepius, the god of healing.  Parts of the shrine are still visible, as are remains of the ancient version of a ticket office, where pilgrims paid for the privilege of sleeping near the shrine to promote their healing and be permitted to approach to leave their votive offerings.  Nothing has changed, I guess. Tourists need to be housed and fed—and occupancy taxes obviously have a long pedigree.

The Romans built a theatre and expanded everything with their unparalleled passion for engineering bigger, better, stronger, higher.When the empire lost its base in Rome and moved to Constantinople, becoming Christian in the process, they built basilicas and baptistries  in their colonies, and Butrint received the best of both.  Its baptistery was the largest of its time and contains a mosaic floor in nearly perfect shape . Unfortunately for us,  the floor, and another one in the baths elsewhere in the site, have been covered with sand except for one week a year, our guide said, because exposure to the elements was destroying them.  Hopefully a solution will be found soon. Here’s a photo I found online of what it looks like.

The lower part of Butrint was abandoned in the later years of the Roman Empire because sea level rose, turning the markets, streets and shrines of the low-lying areas into marshes that are now home to turtles who couldn’t care less about any of it.

The Venetians  favored  higher ground and built fortifications, as they did everywhere in their Empire, in their efforts to keep the Ottoman Empire at bay. Their walls, guardhouses, and citadel atop Butrint are great photo ops, but have never moved me in the way the ancient ruins do.

Albania hasn’t been free that long of the stagnation and hostility to history and religion that characterized the Soviet era.  They are playing catch up now, starting businesses, rebuilding crumbling towns, and turning their attention to their own amazing history.  I felt good about what I saw on my one-day visit (always suspect), but—warning! political  commentary ahead!—I had to smile when the guide said their biggest problem right now was corruption and nepotism in government.  I will leave you to guess who on the bus struggled not to laugh. Hint: she was one of the few traveling on an American passport and she’s Living Travelly.



Holding Patterns

In many ways this Year of Living Travelly has been about gaining perspective on myself and my life in ways it is hard to do when rooted in the safety of a home base.

Today I had a new experience in Rome, or perhaps I should say not in Rome. I have been on my own since Dan left for home yesterday. The main reason for choosing Rome post-cruise was because Dan, despite being very well traveled, had never been here. I, on the other hand, have been here many times, especially in the context of  both a sabbatical and teaching in Study Abroad a decade or more back in Florence, which is only ninety minutes away by high-speed train.

I love what Rome has to offer in terms of sites, but I have decided on this trip that don’t really like Rome. It’s too noisy and grimy, and gritty, and congested for me. So today, I woke up for the first time since leaving home in March, thinking “I don’t want to be here.” That is, of course, far different from “I want to go home,” which in all honesty, I haven’t thought once.

So I am doing what I do sometimes on cruises. Sea days are days in transit from one port to the next, and sometimes I do what I call “declaring a sea day,” even when we are in port, if I am just not up to going ashore. So today I decided to declare the equivalent, a “I’m Not in Rome” day. No guilt, no pressure. I have stayed in the hotel, going out only for lunch, and reviewing my talks for the next cruise, starting in less that a week.

Today I am between adventures, in a holding pattern before flying to Corfu and the start of something different. But somehow this granting of permission not to be in Rome today has made me think maybe I will do something later after all.  Spanish Steps, perhaps? A walk in the Borghese Gardens?

Or not.  A nap sounds pretty perfect too.  I’ll just have to see what happens. Or doesn’t.



The Faces in the Windows


“The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”
William Faulkner

Something that makes European travel complicated for me is are the places haunted by spirits who peek out from windows and follow us down streets looking for anyone passing by who will look up, or turn around, and see them.

A few places hum and crackle with this energy, perhaps because so many of the dead still cry out to be heard. Last night I was in one of those places, the former Jewish Ghetto of Rome.

The experience left me troubled and conflicted. My first sensation was a subtle lifting of some barely felt pressure, a glimmer of the feeling when one comes home from a long trip and steps inside one’s own front door. It was nice to be there, Dan and I agreed. Look—there’s a sign in Hebrew! Look—there’s a Jewish elementary school! Look, there’s a kosher restaurant—wow, there’s another, and another.

We had come down for an evening stroll along the Tiber, an exterior circuit of the majestic synagogue, and dinner at a restaurant serving traditional Roman Jewish food.

The main street of the Jewish quarter makes a favorable impression. It’s a wide, cobbled promenade, with interesting traces of Ancient Rome in some lower walls with carved inscriptions, repurposed as part of more modern buildings. Attractive young people hawk flyers for restaurants, including one with a menu that said, “the only one with a true Roman Jew inside,” and quoted Anthony Bourdain’s brief, vaguely favorable comment about THEIR Jewish-style artichoke.

As we relaxed at an outside table, however, my eyes gravitated toward the upper floors of the buildings and the conflict began. In the sixteenth century a pope declared that the Jews had to live separately (of course in an area prone to flooding and waterborne diseases that kept others from settling there) and made the Jews pay for the cost of the walls that would keep them prisoner at night. Their homes are gone, and there isn’t much sign of a wall, but is any place, once haunted, ever free of it?

And this place was the scene of a genocide in World War II, when Jews were ghettoized again and then systematically deported to the camps from which few returned. Elsewhere in Rome are the stories of survivors from all over Europe (including Leizer and Zenia Bart, whom I wrote about in my St. Martin’s book, Until Our Last Breath), who came to the displaced person’s camp set up at the film studio Cinecitta and then found new homes in Rome, Israel, and elsewhere.

As we sat eating heartily and enjoying a lovely wine on a warm evening, something in my spirit said, “this is not right.” Tourists in tank tops eating gelato ambled by, oblivious to the spirits looking on from the upper floors. How crowded were theJews behind those windows? Did they have any more than the bread I spurned at the restaurant for their daily nourishment? Surely, when they thought of what lay ahead next in their life, it wasn’t a quick flight to Corfu to continue a life adventure of their own choosing, as I will do in a day or two.

I don’t know what to think of this. It’s good to have an acknowledgment of Jewish history in Rome. It’s good to see Jewish bakers and restauranteurs thriving ( at least they are Jewish in the kosher establishments). It’s good to feel a sense of affirmation with the spirits in the windows. Still, a little less of the feel of Disneyland and a lot more concrete acknowledgment of those who lived and died here would feel a lot better.