Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Vesuvius Redux

I've given up on trying to figure out why my mind so often seems to have a mind of its own, which goes wherever and whenever it feels like going. Today I'm thinking of Europe...of my next-year's river cruise and my earlier-this-year's month-long visit. And, as I am wont to do at such times, I went back over some of the notes I took. For some reason (yeah, I know...) I found myself remembering Mt. Vesuvius, and the vast difference the 56 years since my first visit has made.

So, with your kind permission, here is another look at my journal from April 8, 2011, written from my hotel in Sorrento.

6:40 a.m. A word of advice: never ever assume. I was thinking as I awoke a few minutes ago that my long no-contact-with-the-world drought would be ending tomorrow when I get to Rome. And then a simple thought: does my Rome hotel have internet service? Well of course it does! Every hotel today has internet service. (Uh, excuse me? I assumed this one had it and it didn't.) So I got out of bed and checked my papers for the Scott House Hotel in Rome. Very small; only 34 rooms. Not a word about internet. Therefore...I shall probably be without the internet for another five days!

I've already described the little internet "cafe" I found here in Sorrento, which is in the equivalent of a small convenience store with two computers in a small corner, and other than that I have seen not so much as even the mention of "Internet" anywhere. Nor have I seen anyone other than me, anywhere, using a laptop. Technology plays cruel games, getting us totally addicted to one of its devices then watching us suffer when we're deprived of them.

I intend to head out to Vesuvius today. Again, I'll probably be able to do it all on my own. I'll keep you posted.

8:27 Just returned from the hotel's dining room "breakfast": cafe Americano and juice. Teenagers just finishing and heading of en masse for...somewhere. I'll be going to the station shortly to catch the train for Vesuvius, but wanted to wait just a bit in case the teen hoards are also going to the station.

The elevator was not working this morning, probably deliberately turned off by the management (it can only hold 5 people, max, and there are at least 50 in the teen group). I noted, as I left my monk's cell on the way to breakfast that the door to one of the rooms across the way was open, and I saw it had three or four of the same mini-beds as my room, thus reconfirming my assumption (there I go again with another assumption!) that the hotel caters to large groups. The dining room is set up for around 80, and the hotel is not located in an area where I'd imagine many people seek it out for dining.

Charging my cell phone. Will need Gary's number if there is no internet available to me in Rome. Damn!

10:07 Took the 9:07 train from Sorrento to Pompeii. One set of roving musicians, two young mothers with infants, asking for money. I really find that demeaning on the part of those asking for money, and an awkward imposition upon those from whom the money is sought. Anyway, finally got to Pompeii, walked out of the station and onto a tour bus--built to look like a tram--for Vesuvio (15 euros. I was the only passenger). The tram then left for a swing through modern-day Pompeii, which was interesting if nondescript, and picked up six Americans. We are now back at the train station apparently hoping to catch more passengers getting off the next train.

I'm really glad I decided to do it this way. A lot more...uh...casual than getting on a plush modern tour bus with structured lectures and stops. (Two more passengers just got on.) The tram, however, rides much like a chariot when it comes to the cobblestones, and the wooden seats are not padded. Nor am I.

12:02 I have just lost a decisive battle in my life-long battle with reality, and I am saddened beyond expressing. The only one of my three major goals on returning to Europe remaining was to climb down into the crater of Mt. Vesuvius as I had done that cold, foggy morning 56 years ago. I remember riding up from where the busses stop--about three-quarters of the way up the mountain--on a chair lift to the summit. I remember how one side of my peacoat was covered in frost as we rode through the fog, unable to see anything around, above, or below.

So on April 8, 2011, I rode another bus three quarters of the way up the slopes of Mt. Vesuvius to where the road ends, and stood in a long line to pay 8 euros for what I assumed to be the ride to the top. (Do we sense a theme, here, children, on the subject of assumption? Do we by now recognize its dangers?) There IS no chair lift to the summit, I found. It was taken down years and years ago as being too dangerous. One walks. A long, long, steep walk. I was determined to do it. Reality bet I couldn't. And reality, sadly, won.

I tried to find some rationale in the fact that I have walked more in the past twenty days than I have in the past year, and I do a considerable amount of walking back home. I tried convincing myself that so much unaccustomed walking would, cumulatively, tire even the hardiest of souls. But despite all the excuses I make for myself in an attempt to salvage a bit of my dignity and the illusions to which I have clung so desperately all these years, I hear reality laughing and taunting "You're old, Roger, old! Look at that reflection in the your computer monitor. You're old!" And all the sadness and regret and denial in the world will not change the truth of that fact.

But what hurts most is that underneath the taunts I hear the small boy who is still me crying as though his heart has been broken. It has.

I am, indeed, become J. Alfred Prufrock.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please take a moment to check out his website ( and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs ( ).


C. Zampa said...

I'm drawn to your thoughts, Dorien, because I recognize myself in them.
That little child crying out, protesting that it IS still young, but the body smirking, 'No. You are not.'
And then I know it IS true. You are as young as you feel. And if that little kid in me still wants to be young, they--by golly---I'm going to let my mind feel it, too. And hopefully the body will catch up.

Ever since childhood I've dreamed of seeing Vesuvius. Seeing the pics in National Geographic, I was spellbound by the ruins.

Look---my silly post is as long at your blog post. LOL...

But you bring it out in me. Sigh.

Dorien/Roger said...

Carol, never call your post "silly." It was considered and heart-felt, and no one could ask for more.

And keep fighting to keep your inner little kid alive and well. I do, every day.

Vesuvius will be there whenever you can make it.