Mike Bo's Blog!

08.12.2019
Mike Botula
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DIARIO DI ROMA VI – Il Bambino! Sunday December 8, 2019 Partly Cloudy 60°F/16°C in Roma, Lazio, Italia Buonagiornata, Alexander Botula In my travels to Rome, I’ve always gone onto explore most of Italy. Hence, I’ve been enchanted by Firenze, Venezia, Pisa, Milano and, yes …. even Napoli. I’ve walked along La Via Appia and visited ancient Paestum, a hardy survivor of Magna Graecia, and visited the notorious World War Two battlefields of Salerno, Anzio and Montecassino. But, from the moment Michael and Laura told Annamaria and Sergio and me about the blessed event they were anticipating in November, I knew that major changes were coming to my gad-a-bout scheduling. MAJOR changes were in store for Michael and Laura, too! The memory of what my cousin, Mary Duffy said all those years ago to Donna and I came flooding back to me now. Donna and I had just made one of our career moves to San Francisco. It was 1966. The Summer of Love. I had just taken the Program Director’s job at KFOG radio, when it was still located at Ghirardelli Square. Donna would soon get a job at the BBDO Advertising Agency at 650 California Street. It was before our Dana or Michael made their appearance, and we thoroughly lived the San Francisco life for a full year. I realized that my cousin Mary Duffy lived in San Francisco orbit nearby with her husband, Tom Walker. (In the Botula family, the cousins were always referred to by their family name, so the other cousins could keep track of them). I called Mary and invited she and Tom to join us for dinner at Fisherman’s Wharf. It was on our post-prandial stroll around the area, when Mary uttered those immortal words. Enjoy it now, Mike and Donna! She said. Because when your kids start coming along, these carefree days are going away for a L-O-N-G time. You’ll be old and gray before you have the world to yourselves again! Mary was right. Dana was born in 1969 and Michael was born in 1973. Life, as we knew it in our carefree days together, ended with our first diaper change. But, as I hasten to add since, I know that Alexander will read this someday. I wouldn’t have it any other way. Life with children is to be savored, because they grow up much too fast! So, I am reliving those times through Michael and Laura. True, it impacts on Nonno, as well, because if their focus is totally consumed by their new son, this will impact as well on the people who have been free up to now, to simply drop in for a visit. It’s a whole new ball game for them as well. How I wish Donna could be here to share in the moment. (We divorced in 2003. A few years later, she was diagnosed with cancer and died in 2010). But, at moments like this, my cousin Mary Duffy’s words ring down through the years. But, back to the present! RUB A DUB, DUB! I missed Alexander’s birth by a week, but I have been here for many of his small, but important milestones since, most notably his first bath. Laura and Michael have spared no expense in seeing that their son has all the right equipment. That includes his bathinette. It’s literally a tiny bathtub on wheels. From their son’s equipment room, my son rolled it into the kitchen, where the infant Botula would get his first wash down. Even before Alexander was brought in, Michael carefully measured the warm water for the first bath, and repeatedly took its temperature with a special, stainless steel thermometer. Finally, after all the preparations of Dr. Michael DeBakey’s surgical team preparing for a heart transplant…Laura brought the baby into the operating theater. All that was missing were the surgical gowns, masks and rubber gloves! Layers of baby clothes quickly disappeared as did the diaper, which Alexander was not quite done with. Uh, ONE and Uh, TWO! Alexander used his diaper for the final time and was quickly committed to the warm water. The experience of his first dunking immediately elicited squawks of disapproval from the infant. I was present with my cellphone camera at the ready, ever mindful of the potential for future embarrassment once the baby Alexander had reached maturity and the inevitable baby-picture displays by his parents. So, I have chosen one, carefully cropped photo to accompany this blog. Alexander was born on November 14, 2019 at Oespedale San Camillo, in Roma. It’s the majorhospital in Italy’s government health care system, where babies are born – at least in Rome. Laura was born there, and now her son. Laura’s sister, Chiara, had her little girl, Noemi there as well. So, for the patriarch of the Tomei family, Sergio, it has meant a lot of visits to San Camillo over the years. The front of the hospital is marked by greetings of well-wishers spray-painted, graffiti-style across the façade. Sergio and I posed for a photo in 2017 when Chiara and Maurizio’s Noemi was born in the same hospital as her little cugino was born. Oespedale San Camillo is not a birthing center as Americans would understand the term. It is a specialty hospital, operated by the government, where Italian babies are born. It is a full-service hospital with surgical suites and neonatal intensive care units. Such care for newborns has resulted in Italy’s low infant mortality rate worldwide. (5.5 per thousand versus the USA’s 6.5 per thousand). Sergio and MikeBo So, I return to my original point: I’m not gallivanting around Italy much on this trip. I’m trying to stay close to my new grandson without becoming a pest to his parents. I recall when Dana was born in 1969, my mother-in-law traveled all the way from Illinois to southern California to help out, then announced that she would stay until our baby girl was Baptized in the Catholic Church! (Oh, the joys of a religiously mixed marriage). That’s why I have one daughter who’s Catholic, and a son who’s a nominal Methodist. (When Michael was born, my mother-in-law was too ill to make the trip). So, I am pretty much on my own this trip. I am getting reacquainted with my friends from my previous trips, and yesterday, bought a slew of biglietti so I can travel by myself on Rome’s Metro e Autobus system. I’ve reconnected with Marsha de Salvatore, the Grande Comedienne of Rome’s Comedy Club, where she performs as Marsha Cincinnati. In fact, I brought her a big jar of Melatonin Gummies to help her sleep. I ran into Marsha at a Louis C.K. performance during my first week in Rome. The comic has come to Rome, trying to make a comeback after a disastrous encounter with the Me Too movement!  Amina The week before, Louis C.K. had played Tel Aviv in a comeback tour of epic proportion. Then, I met Amina for coffee. She is my landlady from my first stay at an Airbnb apartment. I’ve stayed there a few other times. Hence, we’ve become friends. In fact, for this trip, her place was booked. So, she arranged with a friend to let me rent her apartment, but the deal fell apart when the contractors remodeling her apartment missed their deadline. That’s how I wound up in The Penthouse. Anyway, we met for coffee last week. Before we said our Buona Sera’s, she had introduced me to every shopkeeper on the block, as their new neighbor. Amina is like Welcome Wagon on steroids. Next time. Two turkeys, as we ex-pats celebrate Thanksgiving. Ciao, MikeBo [Mike Botula, the author of LST 920: Charlie Botula’s Long, Slow Target! is a retired broadcast journalist, government agency spokesperson and media consultant.   Mike’s book is available from Amazon Books. You can read more about Mike Botula at www.mikebotula.com] © By Mike Botula 2020
02.12.2019
Mike Botula
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DIARIO DI ROMA VI – Il Bambino! Monday December 2, 2019 Partly Cloudy 62°F/17°C in Roma, Lazio, Italia Buonagiornata, After Maria’s call pulled the rug out of my plans for a place to stay in Rome, I called my son Michael Michael and Alexander in a bit of a panic. I had a hunch that would happen! Said my son.  I got the feeling that she doesn’t have a clue about how Italian contractors work, especially if they’re not supervised. And Maria told me that she was going to Japan on business during the time you’d be arriving. Michael was up against a deadline of his own. His wife, Laura was due to give birth to the couple’s first child around November 14th, He did NOT have time to go house-hunting for his dad. But, two days later he called to tell me he had found an apartment in my preferred section of E.U.R. It’s Via Elio Vittorini, dad, off Viale Cesare Pavese, where you stayed at Mohamed’s place. He went on to say that because the birth of his son was imminent, he wouldn’t be able to check the place out. But the photos looked good, plus it was a solid neighborhood, very high end, etc., etc.  I concurred, and we signed the contract. I would have to spend my first night in a hotel while the other guests moved out. But I had found my home for the next two months…or, so I thought. Penthouse View It DID have a great view! I was hustled right outside to see it and avoid the shortcomings of the inside. Later, after the landlady and her associate had left, did I came to get an opportunity to survey the apartment properly. The bathroom was super small and cramped? Imagine a small closet with an oversized sink, a toilet and a bidet AND a shower all crammed into a four by six room. I would have to climb over the bidet to gain access to the shower. Now I should digress to explain that all Rome apartment buildings have on their roof a structure to house the machinery for the building’s elevator. Over the years the elevator box has been expanded to include a small apartment or two. Thus, in the age of Airbnb, that is how we got the Penthouse designation. Access is gained by a full flight of stairs without handrails. Since I have rheumatoid arthritis, the ascent UP the stairs was manageable with my cane but GOING DOWN was a nightmare! (For Italy, any form of ADA legislation is still in the distant future! And, so I passed the next three nights – scared out my wits to exit the apartment, except when Michael was around to call the paramedicos in case I took a header down the stairs. I’ve already recounted the visit I had from Giancarlo, the building superintendent. He wondered about all the racket on my roof during the night. It was the compressor for the combo heater/ air conditioner that made enough racket that HE could hear it in his flat on the floor below. That night, I listened to the drip…drip…drip of the rain on my pillow – until I wised up and moved the bed away from the leaking window. I awoke the next morning with the intention of taking a shower. I turned on the water and adjusted the temperature to my satisfaction. Then, I climbed over the bidet and into the shower and soaped myself to a fare-thee-well. At the moment of super-sudsiness, my hot water turned icy cold! I haven’t had a cold shower like that since Boy Scout Camp, or maybe the time my wife told me for the twentieth time that she had a headache! I rinsed off as best as I could – in great haste, I might add, and got the hell out of the shower. The culprit was the antique by-demand water heater on the wall. It’s capacity of hot water was – shall we say – sorely lacking. Alexander Botula But the Coupe de Ville, as my old KMPC buddy, Dave Niehaus used to say before he went on to fame and fortune, broadcasting games for the Seattle Mariners baseball team. The Coupe de Ville for me came when the ancient wax ring at the base of the toilet sprung a leak and flooded the bathroom, with water lapping out under the door into the living room. Just then, my son Michael buzzed me from the front gate. When he got up to my penthouse, he greeted me with, ‘Morning, Pop! Did you get your shower? Then he spotted the deluge, whipped out his cell phone and started video-ing the entire apartment. That’s for the complaint department at Airbnb, he explained. Then, he got our landlady on his phone. When he got done with the call, he said to me, get packed! This place is uninhabitable. They’ll be over soon to pick up the keys. By the time they arrived, Michael’s video was already being viewed by the Airbnb folks, who had already promised a full refund. By the time that the Penthouse landladies had arrived, my son had found me a NEW apartment. But it wouldn’t be ready for another day. So, it was back to Hotel Quadrifoglio Roma, where I had spent my first night in Rome. My New Apartment The new place is on Via Laurentina, right around the corner from my apartment on Viale Oscar Sinigaglia. Christian and Delia Grilli are my hosts. Compared to the Penthouse, my new place is a dream! It’s taken a few days now, but I’m all settled into my new digs. I’ve even taken a couple of showers, and, lo and behold-no cold water and NO floods! When we signed the rental agreement, Christian cautioned me that I might get a visit from officers of La Guardia Finanza, Italy’s financial police who look out for Italians who might get the urge to cheat on their taxes. Sure enough, the next morning my doorbell rang, and I opened my door to two ladies flashing badges. We’re from the police! Said one of them, and I ushered them. They looked over my rental agreement and checked my passport. I, in turn gave them Christian and Delia’s phone numbers and they left shortly thereafter. I realize my apartment travails have prevented me from post the full number of baby pictures of my new grandson – Alexander. But I’ve been preoccupied with straightening out my living situation. I’ll just put you on notice that will change with this blog. I see Il bambino just about every day, so stand by for lots of baby pictures! Next time: Amina takes me on a tour of the neighborhood! Plus, Louis C.K. and other delights. Ciao, MikeBo [Mike Botula, the author of LST 920: Charlie Botula’s Long, Slow Target! is a retired broadcast journalist, government agency spokesperson and media consultant.   Mike’s book is available from Amazon Books. You can read more about Mike Botula at www.mikebotula.com] © By Mike Botula 2020
26.11.2019
Mike Botula
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DIARIO DI ROMA VI – Il Bambino! Wednesday November 27, 2019 Rainy 65°F/18°C in Roma, Lazio, Italia Buonagiornata, The photo of the father and his newborn son is a classic! Exhausted from the ordeal, the father sits Father and Son glassy eyed, staring into space while the infant sleeps blissfully on his father’s lap until his next feeding. The mother is asleep in another room until duty calls her again. The photo is from the Botula Family Album. The young father is my son Michael, and the infant is my grandson Alexander, whose mother is Laura. I missed Alexander’s birth by a week. You know how it goes with those non-refundable tickets the airlines are peddling. Last May, when I arrived in Rome for my annual visit, Laura’s parents, Sergio and Annamaria, were on a tour of the Holy Land. Laura told me that they wouldn’t be back in Rome until he following Friday, but they would be joining us for pizza on Saturday evening. Sergio and Annamaria have become two of my favorite people over the years we have been under the same family umbrella.  Since Michael met Laura, back nearly twenty years ago, he has pretty much relocated from his native California to Europe, primarily Italy to be with his Amore, Laura! The couple has moved around Italy as career opportunities have arisen, but they have always returned to Laura’s birthplace – Rome! On the appointed Saturday, over pizza, Michael and Laura gently broke the news to their parents that Laura was expecting their first child – a boy, at the end of November. Even though I had not planned on coming back to Rome at least the following Spring, I knew immediately that if I didn’t return in November, I would miss the birth of a new heir to the Botula line, and I could NOT be NOT present for that. So, when I got back to Texas, I put in motion my planning for mio grande ritorno! Now when I travel to Rome, I go for at least two months!  It’s like my move from California to Texas Nonna Annamaria  four years ago. It takes all the logistical consideration of Caesar’s invasion of Gaul; Hannibal’s crossing of the Alps in winter, or the Allied invasion of Normandy on D-Day. First, I must make arrangements for Lola’s care and feeding. My daughter Dana has traditionally taken on that assignment. She also checks my apartment for me and picks up my mail while I’m gone. The first thing I have to do is find a place to stay. Generally, I’ve had great luck with the apartments I’ve rented through Airbnb. Amina, Mohamed and Stefania have been my hosts for some memorable stays in the Eternal City. But when I checked with them for this trip, their Airbnb’s were booked solid. Then, Amina came to the rescue. A friend of hers, Maria had purchased an apartment just a few blocks from her place. When Maria contacted me, she explained that her apartment was being renovated completely, and that I would stay quite comfortably. This transaction would not go Airbnb, but Amina assured me that her friend was as good as her word and she had already vouched for me to Maria. I sent Michael by to check out the apartment anyway, just in case. After he checked Maria’s apartment, Michael called me to report that the apartment was undergoing a MAJOR renovation, complete with electrical, plumbing and all new appliances and fixtures. Maria is from Austria, he told me. She’s used to having contractors perform in an entirely different way than the Italians do their work. She’s not even going to be there to supervise and answer their questions. I don’t think the apartment is going to be ready for you. So be prepared! Sure enough, Maria called me about two weeks before I was supposed to leave. The contractors were NOT going to meet their deadline and the apartment would not be ready for me. And THAT, gentle reader is how I came to rent The Penthouse! Usually when I arrive in Rome after a twenty-hour excursion across the Atlantic. I take a nice hot Alexander Botula shower, relax and deal with my jet lag. But since I was spending my first night in a hotel, I passed on the tiny glass coffin which masqueraded as a shower in my hotel room. The first night in Rome passed uneventfully. Michael took me home to meet my new grandson; I was re-united with Annamaria and Sergio, the other proud nonni (grandparents). Finally, Sergio drove me to my hotel where I relaxed until it was time for Michael to pick me up for dinner. The next morning, I enjoyed the continental breakfast provided by Hotel Quadrifoglio; Michael arrived; I checked out, and we were out to check in at the Penthouse. The landlady, an affable Italian woman, quickly directed me to look at the view from the large terrace outside.  I like the E.U.R. district. I am very familiar with it. It is close to Michael and Laura’s. Its shops and restaurants are close and convenient. And, I have friends in the area. But, in her rush to show me the view, I missed the shortcomings of what Airbnb describes as La Vittorini Penthouse! I did not discover most of them until much later; one of them took two days to find – and then it had to rain. It happened after I went to bed. As I began to doze off, I heard what sounded like DRIP! And then another…DRIP! By the third or fourth … DRIP! I realized what it was. The rain was beating against the window, and the window was leaking on to my pillows. I moved the bed away from the wall. That solved the immediate problem. The next day, I had another visitor - Giancarlo, the building’s supervisor. (In Italy, most apartments in high density buildings are owned, like condominiums, by the people who live in them, but others are held as rentals. Giancarlo’s job is limited, but vital. He deals with issues that everyone shares. I had the heater in the living room on. The compressor on the roof was making a loud noise. It was loud enough that Giancarlo, who lived on the floor below me, could hear it, and he knocked on my door to see what all the racket was about. As I answered the door to let Giancarlo in, my son called. As I was trying to explain to Giancarlo what the noise was all about, Michael – whose Italian is much better than mine, asked me to hand Nonno MikeBo & Alexander the phone to Giancarlo. They chatted animatedly for a few minutes, and when Giancarlo found out that the source of the blame for the noise was the apartment owner, and not me, he handed the phone back and made his exit. Michael explained that Giancarlo would take the matter up with the owner. Thus, passed my first few days in Rome. Let me just say that my feelings about my apartment will never see the light of day in any Airbnb review, so I would take the opportunity to vent my spleen here, Just let me close by saying of my present adventure: the family part is wonderful…my apartment, not so much. PS: I’ve moved. Details in the next exciting chapter of…MikeBo’s Blog! Ciao, MikeBo [Mike Botula, the author of LST 920: Charlie Botula’s Long, Slow Target! is a retired broadcast journalist, government agency spokesperson and media consultant.   Mike’s book is available from Amazon Books. You can read more about Mike Botula at www.mikebotula.com] © By Mike Botula 2020

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