Reaction in Italy soothing as I wonder when sun will rise again

When you’re retired in Rome, you don’t have many bad days. Mine usually consist of not getting enough foam in my cappuccino or getting in a fight with my landlady. Stress and anger left my life when I left America nearly three years ago. But for one horrific 12-hour stretch over Tuesday and Wednesday, I was in the middle of a country I no longer knew. I was trying to ward off a right-wing mob scene’s maniacal fervor of uneducated, fascist, sexist and racist Americans from towns I’ve never heard of and now never want to visit. Donald Trump’s election was the worst day of my life since 9-11.
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Singing “Our Father” in Latin on camera is too much for this extra in “The Young Pope”

Have you ever read Latin? It reads like something off an Egyptian wall. It’s a language nearly as dead as Gaelic. Even the Catholic Church campaigned to bring it back into services around the world.
Now try memorizing it.
Now try singing it.
Now try singing it for TV cameras which are currently showing to millions of people around Europe and, in February, all over the U.S. It is my second scene of my “acting” debut. I am one of 120 men dressed like Vatican cardinals inside a hangar-sized studio in Cinecitta, Rome’s legendary old movie complex.
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Playing an extra in “The Young Pope” teaches me the cardinal rules of film business

I play an American cardinal, one of the many nameless bodies that form a fluid red or black background as Jude Law maneuvers through scenes. We’re shooting a breakfast scene and I’m sitting two chairs down from a cardinal who’s about to die. My job is to eat slowly, look over calmly and appear expressionless as the cardinal falls to the floor. But did I eat too many grapes? Could Sorrentino tell I was choking? I KNEW I should’ve eaten the breakfast roll!
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My five favorite restaurants in Rome

Cutting down to five required some ground rules. I ruled out pizzerias. I wrote about those in May. I also included nothing that’s listed in Lonely Planet. I trust Lonely Planet’s restaurant recommendations but I’ve walked on every path in Rome. The best restaurants are on the paths less beaten, even by LP. Making it easier is including a disclaimer that these may not be the five best in Rome. They may not even be my five favorite if I went back to all of them with a more critical eye. I have a whole new list by Jan. 1. The depth of restaurants in Rome is that good.
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Cleaning day: Clearing my past in Denver clears my future in Rome

The purpose of the trip was to downsize. Since moving to Rome in January 2014, Public Storage twice jacked up my rent from $100 a month to the larcenous price of $158. Emptying it will save me nearly $2,000 a year. Hell, that’s almost as much as I spend on wine. Besides, I will not pay $158 a month for furniture I’ll never sit on again and clothes I’ll never wear again. What good are college sweatshirts in Rome? I look so American I could have hopped off a Chevrolet commercial. If I walk around in a USC sweatshirt, ’ll look like I hopped off an American Express bus.
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Playa del Carmen’s erotic Reina Roja Hotel “awakens your senses” among other body parts

I had a travel experience that will never make “Lonely Planet” or the Los Angeles Times. Penthouse? Almost. That’s why I’m writing this here. The famous literary magazine (Hey, it does have fine writing, too!) loved the tale I told of a trip I took to a hotel that specialized in erotica. You’ve heard of hotels that cater to families and pets and football fans. Welcome to Playa del Carmen where the Reina Roja Hotel caters to sexual deviants. Sadomasochism. Pool-side sex. Lighting out of a brothel. The Reina Roja, while also functioning as a regular hotel, invites anyone to explore their sexual fantasies — or find fantasies you never knew existed or never thought were legal outside Nevada.
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Saving Bolt: A near-dead kitten atop a gutter becomes highlight of a Greek holiday

“Andiamo.” (Let’s go.)
I said that when Marina started walking over to pick it up. I wasn’t worried about her catching a disease from a dead animal. I just didn’t want to break down after watching a dead kitten lay limp in the palm of her hand.
But women have maternal instincts. She broke from my hand and bent over. When she picked it up, a remarkable thing happened. It moved. It moved its tiny, little arms and legs, one of which looked deformed, horribly bent under its scrawny body. It was as skinny as a baby bird in an oil slick. Its elongated neck was as out of proportion as E.T’s. The way his ears dwarfed his tiny head made him look like a bat. I could put my thumb and middle finger around his torso.
And he was near death.
He didn’t meow. His eyes were fused shut from mucous. He didn’t fight to break from our hands. He just moved his three tiny workable legs and his head up and from side to side, straining to see who was helping him. He didn’t need to mew. We knew what he wanted to say.
“Please save me.”
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Skiathos: Greek gods’ gift to Hades-like August travel

Traveling in Greece gave me my definition of freedom: Freedom is deciding what Greek island you want to go to on your way to a boat dock. You can do that in Greece. I didn’t do that on this trip. I took one look at my hotel in Skiathos and had a hard time imagining sleeping anywhere else. Besides, traveling to Greece in August is problematic. It’s bulging with backpackers, partiers, lovers, historians, sun worshippers and shoppers. Zeus would not approve.
But, unlike Greece’s beauty, Zeus is just a myth.
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