Apr 10, 2006

ROME, Italy – We're sipping wine as shadows soften the Pantheon's facade. The night is my last in Rome. I'm braced for separation anxiety that doesn't arrive.

The Eternal City earns its name: its distractions, its enticements are untouchable, outside time's stream. I muse over the last weeks: the long, lazy meals, cocktails in Trastevere, walks and talks and writing on the balcony that overlooks Monte Testaccio, a hill anchored by the shards of ancient amphorae. New friends and old mixed – reshuffling into a new tarot, as Rome creates yet another fortune for me.

"You're so comfortable here. You need to stay connected," my friend stresses. The Once and Future Toyboy is a Kiwi entrepreneur, a colleague of sorts. Since he prefers women two decades my senior, we don't suffer the usual grisly tension of two singletons. Tonight we're scheming about business.

"Notice where you're sitting," OFT suddenly declares.

"Um, in a chair?" I'm talented that way. An expert, almost.

He shakes his head: stubborn beast.

I try again: "In the Piazza della Rotonda?"

"The spot with the best view," he explains. "Your eyes are always darting over my shoulder, watching everything. So I try to give you the good seat."

Busted. Drat.

Gawking is, of course, an occupational hazard. Guess I'll have to work on the subtle, sidelong glance...

OFT persists: "Don't feel bad. Really, my point is use all that information you gather – and not for some exploitative publisher."

This argument is the culmination of a week-long campaign ... and, worst of all, he's right. My roving eye and snarky writing skills could be enlisted for the powers of good, rather than mere filthy lucre.

And I do mean "mere". As Hack Guru Tom Brosnahan stresses: "In the 1950s, professional magazine writers could earn US$1 a word for their work – and a house could be bought for $5000. In the 1990s, writers were still looking at $1 a word as the standard, but the same house cost $250,000."

Yet, golly, this here interweb expands the paradigms daily. And maybe this Brave New World will bring Rome back into easy reach. Si, certo!

Zealous as any new convert, I'm sketching an html page design in my notebook, when OFT brings it all back down to earth.

"If you're going to hog the prime seat, Miss Amanda, couldn't you at least watch the crowd and tell me when a 50-something tart walks past?"

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