Saturday, September 27, 2008

Blow-by-blow, below.

Sketches, process and finish for an article about the Governor's falling popularity. At one point the author asserts that he's a bit of a cowboy, but without much success, hence the wild west imagery in a few.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Eight places. Wait, make that ten.

Treadmill, free weights.

Someone asked me recently to identify eight favorite meditative spots in Rome, places which might facilitate focused introspection and rejuvenation. I have to confess that I'm not really the silently meditative kind and I have a little trouble keeping still. While I regret this aspect of my personality, it comes with the territory, so there you go.

This doesn't mean I'm not a thoughtful person who seeks and finds inspiration in quiet reflection. I like to write when it's time to sort out my thoughts; and rather than finding answers in motionlessness, I tend to use the rhythm of walking, running or the systematic making of things to figure things out. I get a lot from physical experience. I guess I prefer a significant amount of sensory input when questioning things.

I confess that while I had hoped to collect a ton of photos myself for this travelogue, I haven't had time to shoot everything listed. So I'm filching some of these pictures from the internet and hoping they'll do justice to the promise of these places. I shot Piazza Mattei and the bottles in the river. The rest are the products of my thievery.

Eight places isn't a lot in a city as wonderful as Rome so I'm upping the ante to ten, in no particular order.

• The Pantheon.
It's a stone's throw from the apartment, and the Pantheon at any time of day is a great kick in the ass when you're feeling put upon in life. It's a truly phenomenal testament to the genius and resourcefulness of mankind and I challenge anyone to say "I can't" when considering this achievement. I sometimes bring a cup of coffee to the piazza and sit on the steps of the fountain in the morning, facing the temple. It's especially beautiful on a cool, cloudy morning in winter, when the gray color of the stone, the pavement, the sky—everything in sight—elide harmonically. At night, when the piazza is filled with exhausted tourists, the lights are beautiful.

Fontana dell'Acqua Paola.
While everyone else is clamoring for photo opportunities at the Trevi Fountain in the center, the Fontana dell'Acqua Paola on the Gianicolo offers a stunning vista of the city with a grand backdrop of gushing water, lit masterfully at night and cooling the atmosphere while the sun is high in the sky. Go at dusk and plan to spend a little time like the two-faced god Janus (after which Gianicolo was named), gazing out on the domes below and turning 180 degrees to watch the cascade. It's a bit of a walk (about a mile) from my place, but it's well worth the effort.

• Piazza Mattei.
Just outside the Jewish Ghetto (where you can observe some great neighborhood dynamics among young and old), this spot has two great things going for it: the Tartaruga fountain with four youths languidly reaching for Bernini-crafted turtles and a little place called Bartaruga. If you have the money to spend, get a glass of wine and sit outside. It helps if you have company (at least to split the bill). A couple of glasses of wine cost about €14, which is pretty high in my opinion, but you're paying for the atmosphere. The interior of the bar is pretty kitsch, but very comfortable with an opportunity for intimate conversation and the people inside are very nice.

• San Luigi dei Francesi.
Near the Pantheon (with your back to the Pantheon turn left at the far end of the piazza) San Luigi dei Francesi is the parish of the French Catholic community in Rome. The exterior could use a good cleaning, but perfection awaits inside. The last chapel on the left holds three large Caravaggio paintings chronicling the story of St. Matthew. It's always crowded but well worth the visit.

• Santa Maria del Popolo.
In Piazza Del Popolo another pair of Caravaggio's—The Crucifixion of St. Peter and the Conversion of Paul—are free for the looking at Santa Maria del Popolo. It's not always easy to sit in silent meditation of these paintings. A good long look, however, followed by some quiet reflection in the church, is very rewarding.

• The Ecstasy of St. Teresa, Santa Maria della Vittoria.
This is far enough away from the center to be a little less populated by tourists, so I think it's worth the hike. And unlike the Caravaggio paintings you can sit to face the sculpture head on.

• Temple of Aesculapius, Villa Borghese.
This is a 19th century folly, not a true temple, but it's a nice place to sit and read, think, write or draw. The park is also a great place to run and the Galleria Borghese holds a lot of fantastic art.

• A Walk Across the Bridges
Begin in the morning or as the sun begins to fade with Ponte Fabricio, the oldest bridge in Rome. Make your way to the Trastevere side after crossing Isola Tiberina (the island). Turning right on the other side, you'll reach Ponte Garibaldi which you'll cross back to the other side. It's worth a stop on Ponte Garibaldi to behold the mesmerizing dance of the recyclables in the falls below the bridge. Don't miss this strangely beautiful phenomenon. Repeat this zig-zag pattern until you reach Pont Saint Angelo, with Bernini's angels flanking each side, and then head back. Some mornings around 9:00, on Ponte Sisto, you'll find the most emotionally demonstrative accordionist in the city. He's a little Asian man who faces the sun with his eyes closed, his entire body swaying with the music as he plays. And he can really play with sincerity and emotion, unlike a lot of the clowns who make money in the center.

• The Protestant Cemetery
Behind the old city wall and spilling out of the base of the Pyramid is the Protestant Cemetery, the burial place of non-Catholics and foreigners in Rome. Shelley and Keats are buried here and it's a remarkably peaceful place whose walls keep the din of the city at bay. There are plenty of places to sit and you can wander for a couple of hours from row to row in search of interesting lives which have passed through Rome over the centuries.

• The Palatine Hill at Sunset.
From the top of the hill at Piazzale Ugo di Malfa (the crest of the long hill running along the south side of Circo Massimo), take in the ruins of the Palatine on the other side of the field. At sunset, the warm bricks and austere arches and towers are really beautiful, and you can really gain a sense of the privileged vantage point of the aristocracy in Ancient Rome, when chariots raced in the Circo below.

• Bonus Spot.
If all else fails light the torches on our lower terrace at night and sit at the table. Looming above, you'll see the remains of the great round entrance hall of the Baths of Agrippa, constructed in about 19 BC. The past, and Rome has plenty of it, gives pause to present concerns.

Sunday, September 7, 2008


See earlier entries for a history of this picture, which is still in progress.

Not sure if it's such a great idea to show things every step of the way. Perhaps it simply confuses people and I suppose I risk having opinions offered before I'm finished.


10.2 miles in 1:17:43 (7:39 per mile)

I've lived in Rome a little more than a year yet I had not yet seen Villa Ada, on the northern end of the city. I set out along the river to Piazza del Popolo, then to Villa Borghese and north into illa Ada. So this is where are the runners are! Nice park with lots of people. Took a short cut down Via Veneto on the way back.

I spent the day in Assisi yesterday. It's not too far, just about 2.5 hours by train, so I repeatedly put off the journey. After all, I could easily get there any time. But the ghosts of San Francesco and Giotto summoned me to the Basilica and the surrounding hills.

The weather is pretty hot again, which is a bit of a disappointment, but there was a nice breeze from the mountains, so there was some respite from the sun. I lost my cell phone on the train, and this signaled an opportunity to once again leave aside the complicating forces of daily life. I wonder if San Francesco had something to do with it.

The enormity of the Basilica, and more specifically Giotto's frescoes of the life of St. Francesco, overwhelmed me. His sense of design, the cognition in his decisions and his cleverness in establishing relationships among parts of an image are revealed in details. In The Renunciation of Worldly Goods, Giotto establishes a dynamic constellation of hands to call out the narrative essence of conflict in the story: St. Francesco, having shed his clothes in a vow of poverty, gestures to the heavens in explanation; a bishop holds secure what remains of Francesco's clothing; the hand of God mystically beckons Francesco from within a cloud; his father's angry hand is restrained by another; and a witness on the left directs us toward the central action once again. What a master of narrative he was.

I visited the Basilica twice yesterday and spent a couple of hours in between walking the trails toward the Carceri, which I never reached. The climb was quite challenging, as I scrambled over the pink and gray stones on a very steep mountain trail. I got a late start and the temperature was probably close to 90ยบ so after an hour I stopped to rest, dedicated some thoughts to my mother, and tried to conjure up an image of St. Francesco, emerging from the cool shade of the woods and offering me a drink of water.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

A great mark.

Saw this a while back and at the time I think it may have been animated. I think it's one of the most spirited logos I have seen.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Tattoo to-do.

I'm seriously considering a tattoo these days, after years of saying I couldn't commit to a symbol which would maintain significance for a lifetime, as my flesh withers and everything goes south, including my reasons for getting marked up in the first place. I'm cognizant of visual communication, hence my tentative approach to this. But a few symbols have been important to me over the years for personal reasons, and I like their forms, so I'm mulling it over.

When I was a kid I read about the cave paintings at Altamira and how they were discovered accidentally by a girl accompanying her father as he worked in the caves. In college, when I was about 18, I learned about Lascaux and the paintings there: elegant images, some "primitive" but some very sophisticated, with all the principles of "gestalt" and "closure" which had begun to fascinate me.

In any case, I have arrived at a few options:

Horse, Lascaux:
My favorite. This is one of the oldest images known to man, dated between 13,000 and 17,000 BC. I like the connection to the spirit of mark-making which existed in our primitive ancestors and which endures today in us today. I also think it would be cool to liken my skin to the walls of a cave, especially when my flesh begins to resemble the geological undulation of a cave wall.


The Roman numerals translate as 2008 (I'd change it to 2009 if I had it done after the new year). The time I have spent in Rome has been transformative, a rebirth. This is a sort of tribute to the city and a bit of memorabilia about the importance of this year.


My favorite from the mythology I read as a kid, Mercury (Hermes) was the messenger of the gods and he ran like the wind. An odd coincidence—my surname translates as something like "Messenger of the House." I'm pretty deeply invested in visual communication and I consider running a big part of my identity, so I think it would be appropriate.

After drowning in the Nile, Hadrian had hundreds of likenesses made of Antinous. The sculptures take your breath away.

Thursday, September 4, 2008


Displaying some progress on a new painting, which I mapped out about a week ago but let stand until now. It's not huge, but it is bigger than the last group, certainly.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

In retrospect.

1 hour of weights after warmup on treadmill.

Thought I'd share some process documentation. These images record the evolution of an illustration (featured on my regular website) for an article about budget cuts in Rhode Island. I rarely have the time or inclination to record the process step-by-step so this is sort of unusual.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

A new egocentric eruption.

4.5 miles in 34:08 (7:35 per mile)

and a late race report:
The Human Race 10K
31 August 2008
Finish Time: 43:35 (7:00 per mile)

What a mob scene. The race was fun but in retrospect it wasn't really a race, more like a cattle walk! There must have been tens of thousands at the starting line and Carl Lewis fired the gun here (I didn't realize he was so tall—probably 6'2"-6'3"). 

I figured I'd shoot for 7 minute miles because I haven't raced in a while and really had no idea where I stood. I threw in a mile at 6:24 last weekend toward the end of an 8-9 miler, so I figured I could handle 7:00 per mile in a 10K. The first 3K were a complete bust! I must have lost at least two minutes walking and jogging along at the beginning of the race.  I finally resigned myself to just conserve my energy, knowing things were bound to loosen up. Finally, at about 3K, it grew less congested.

It was a spectacular course, and that was admittedly a good reason to sign on: it began at the Baths of Caracalla, ran past the Palatine Hill, the Colosseum, Via Del Corso, Piazza di Spagna, Piazza del Popolo, Piazza Navona, Piazza Venezia, Teatro Marcello and finally into Circo Massimo for the finish. I finished in 43:35, EXACTLY on pace, yet totally by accident! So this means I could have done better and it gives me an idea of where I stand for the next one. In a couple of weeks I'm running with my new team here in Rome, a race called "12 x 1 Hour." Sounds whacky but each of 12 runners takes an hour on the 400m track (I am scheduled for the hour between 9:00-10:00 AM, for example) and the team with the greatest number of revolutions after 12 hours wins.

*   *   *

I think I'm calling the above painting "finished" for now. I made some changes to color—very subtle differences but more resolved. I'm tired and ready for bed.

My running is going well. My painting is going well. Everything seems to be going well for me these days.