Jared and the Pope

Great news! I have been completely forgiven of all of my sins! How cool is that? You see, this year has been declared a Jubilee Year by the Vatican, and if you walk through the Holy Door at the St. Peters Basilica, you get your slate wiped clean free of charge! Once I found that out, I was psyched to know I could sin up a storm in Rome and make one last trip to the Holy Door before hopping on the train as a forgiven man.

I have been doing some exciting stuff. Let me see if I can do a recap for y’all…I am sitting in an Internet cafe and it’s about to close, so this may very well be written in chapters over a day or two.

Yesterday morning, I checked out of my dormitory hostel, because I was thrown out on my ass due to lack of room….hmmm…what to do….well, I had a busy day ahead of me because Rob, illustrious owner of the Luna Lounge (a kick ass club in NYC that I play at a lot) was coming to town for a little romantic getaway with his woman, but he had a day to kill in Rome and we had been planning to meet each other and chill for a few hours. Plus, I also had a friend that I met in Athens, Jeff, coming into Rome the same day and we planned to get a room together and travel ensemble for a while. He wanted me to book a hotel in Rome so that he could have a place to go when he got off the plane, all tired and ragged, needing sleep…and I also needed to coordinate with Rob, so I figured it would just be best to check into Rob’s hotel, give Jeff the address, meet Rob for the day and come back in the evening to meet Jeff. Well, it all went super smooth. I booked a room in Rob’s hotel, showed up, checked in, left a message for Jeff and met up with Rob.

(Rob, it was great to see you man…I had an awesome time hangin in Rome with you…one of the best days of my trip so far…)

Rob and I walked all around, saw the Coliseum, Trevi Fountain, Pantheon…pretty much all the stuff I had seen already…but it was good to do it again, because I began to feel like I really knew the city…and that was my goal here. We pigged on some Gelato and took in the atmosphere. We ended up getting lost in Palukaville Rome while trying to find these underground Catacombs where all kinds of ancient dead people are buried…but we got super lost and walked all over the place. We ended up seeing the original walls of the city, from way back in its earliest days.

I am still floored by this place…it is so beautiful and I hope to come back many times in my life. BY the way my feet hurt like living hell, because I have been walking so much…but I think I have lost a few pounds and I am feeling mighty fine.

After I left Rob around 6:30pm (he had to pick up his woman at the airport and light the fire…), I went back to my room to find that Jeff had checked in and everything worked out according to my evil plan. It turns out the hotel is a bit of a hike from the center of town, so we had to hop the train and ride on into town. We had an immediate dilemma to solve of where we would be staying the following night, because Rob’s hotel was kicking us out cuz of reservations…so we walked around for a bit, looking for hotels, but they were all crazy expensive. Ended up finding a cheaper hostel type of place near the Vatican….

Ahhh, the Vatican. Seat of the Roman Catholic Church. Perhaps the most powerful entity in the world. In fact, it’s an autonomous country. They have their own coins printed, as well as their own stamps and post. They make their own laws and do as they please…wielding much influence over the world at large….and it’s perhaps the most amazing complex of buildings I have ever seen….home to some of the most incredible works of art ever made, at the hands of Michelangelo, Raphael, just to name a few….housing the Sistine Chapel, the Basilica of St. Peter, the Pieta, a Papal McDonalds, incredible architecture in general, and an all around kick ass view. Swarms and swarms of people gather here to see the place, its museums, all the sights I just mentioned, and also hordes of pilgrims come to attend Mass and maybe catch a glimpse of John Paul, the man himself. He appears in a little window every now and then, and I am sure that causes quite a ruckus when he does…he is, after all, to Catholics, God’s chief rep.

So, the next morning, we cabbed over to the new hotel, checked in, threw our crap on the beds and hauled to the Vatican. It closes at 1:00pm on Saturdays, and we didn’t want to miss a thing. By the way, I feel like I have checked in and out of so many hotels and hostels, sometimes I strain to remember where I stayed last night, or what my current place looks like. This trip has been one big series of check ins and check outs.

So, we made our way to the Vatican. As we approached, you could see the walls of the city that stretch a great distance, encircling the entire complex and meeting at the great big plaza of St. Peter’s Basilica. I hope I am spelling Basilica right…. I am sure many of you have flipped through the Christmas Mass broadcasts at the Vatican on Christmas Eve…all that takes place in St. Peters. Recently, when the Pope decided to apologize for all the sins of the Church throughout its mighty long history of sinning, they had a big to-do in St. Peters that was broadcast as well. So, you may have seen it at some point.  But, you cannot even begin to fully grasp the enormity of the place…not just the Basilica, but the entire plaza that stands before it, surrounded by marble columns….so magnificent…no wonder people feel as though they are entering a holy place.

We didn’t go into St. Peters right away because the Vatican Museum closed at 1:00pm and that was where we had to go in order to see another little shack that you may have heard of…ohh, just a little itty bitty place called the Sistine Chapel. Ring a bell? Michelangelo laid on his back for 8 years on top of scaffolding, painting the ceiling full of scenes from the Bible…the most famous of which is the Creation of Man, in which you see God and Adam almost touching the tips of their fingers….I think Steven Spielberg ripped that off when he made E.T. (ouuuuuch….Eeeeelllliot…..boooo boooo.)

So, we walked around the walls to the entrance of the museum, only to find a line that was at least a mile long. It stretched around the corner for another mile, so it seemed. But, it was moving steadily, and we didn’t wait for more than 1/2 an hour. As we approached the entrance, looming in front was a sign for our favorite chain of world dominators, McDonald’s. I guess the Pope needs a fix every now and then too. They have all kinds of special products, like the McPapal Shake, Carbonated Holy Water, Supersized Holy Fries, and if you purchase a value meal, you get one voucher for a free transgression.  Mmmm…..transgressions….

We entered the museum and paid the RIDICULOUS price of $9 to get in…as if the Vatican needed more money…and began to make our way to the Sistine Chapel, as did everyone else, because it’s pretty much the only thing that average sinners like me have heard of….we followed the signs. They lead you through a veritable maze of hallways and corridors that are so incredible, I was aghast.

The ceilings were adorned with gold and it seemed that each corner of every part was hand painted in the finest detail with scenes from the Bible, angelic figures, Christ, Mary, the whole gang. It was so impressive. The hallways went on forever, and they lead through the Frescos of Raphael (yes, Joseph, I had to see them, lest you never speak to me again…). Raphael was commissioned to paint the Pope’s apartments and boy did he do a good job….creating such dramatic scenes in beautiful detail, it was so breathtaking. Each room had a sign that read, “Sistine Chapel”, and pointed in a direction.

So after each room, I was sure the next room had to be the Sistine Chapel, but I had to wait a long time and see a lot of statues, paintings, hallways, and stuff before we reached it. Finally, we began descending down some stairs and we heard recordings saying, “You are entering the Sistine Chapel. Please observe silence and refrain from flash photography. This is a holy place.” As we finally entered the Chapel, we were greeted by a million tourists swarming about yelling at each other and snapping pictures of the ceiling with abandon…sneaky folks…so much for the Holy respect. The actual Sistine Chapel didn’t look much like I expected…but it was still impressive. Jeff and I craned our necks upward for 20 minutes, checking out all the paintings that I recognized from books….the Last Judgment…the Creation of Man. There they were, and I was amazed that yet again, I was standing in a place that I had heard of my whole life. That’s been happening to me a lot lately.

After that, we checked out the rest of the museum and sat in the Vatican courtyard for a bit, enjoying the view of the domes and gardens. One word – Amazing. For all the issues that I may have with this entity called the Church, and I won’t get into them here, I will give them this:  They sure do know how to build a Holy looking place. We left the courtyard and went back to the Plaza of St. Peter’s Basilica.

Intermission:  Pizza & Gelato

I am back.

I wanted to go into St. Peter’s, cuz that is where all the sh*t goes down. So, we headed up through the doors, which were full of masses of people trying to get in. We passed the threshold and little did I know that, at that very moment, God gave me a complete and full pardon for all those Transformers I lifted from Sears when I was a kid……lucky for me…cuz that would have been enough to send me straight to hell, without passing GO. (By the way I passed through the town of Monopoly on a train ride a few days ago.)

What can I say of St. Peter’s? YOU NEED TO COME HERE. Words just cannot describe this building. As if the outside were not impressive enough, the inside was just sensory overload…domes, paintings, statues, carvings, huge altars, gold everywhere, all the trimmings. Unreal. And it is HUGE. As you walk through the Holy Door, immediately to the right you have Michelangelo’s Pieta, his famous statue of Jesus, laying dead in Mary Magdalene’s arms.

Check off another thing on the list of stuff I have heard about my whole life. Boom. Snapped a picture of that. There were millions of people, some pilgrims praying, others just groping around in amazement at clearly some of the most magnificent artwork and architecture ever made. Me too…I just roamed around and gawked. So amazing. OK, I have said that enough…but really, it was incredible.

As Jeff and I were gawking, all the sudden, hordes of people started to funnel through these ropes, up to the front of the Cathedral where the altar was. We wondered what was happening…maybe the Pope was gonna come out or something…so we got into the horde and found a seat in the pew. There I was, a Jew in the Pew…in the Vatican, in Rome, the source of so much misery for my people, yet I could not help but be drawn in by the power of the place. It wasn’t religious…I certainly wasn’t converted…but it was so inspiring to be there. We sat down and waited for the action to begin. What were we about to see? I kept poking Jeff and saying, “I am gonna shit if the Pope comes out…” Imagine that…If I saw the Pope at the Vatican…how many people can make such a claim?

But, no Pope; however, they commenced holding Mass. Now, I had never been to a Mass before, so I didn’t know what to expect. But they began playing this incredible gothic organ music that filled the cathedral with eerie notes of inspiring resonance. The crowd began to sing. In walked a procession of priests and altar boys carrying giant crosses made of gold….and the singing became intense. Singing, Latin liturgy, more singing, more organ, then some handshaking….and then the Communion. That’s when we decided to bolt….I couldn’t take communion even if I wanted to….

What an experience. What a place. They certainly built it to feel like heaven on earth. Me, a Jew, I could appreciate it as one of the most amazing creations of mankind ever, and it felt spiritual…but that’s as far as it goes.

Later that day I met some friends who I originally met in Turkey…Frazer and Katrina Cain…a really cool couple from Vancouver who came to Rome at the same time. Had a blast with them for a few hours and called it a night.

Next day, hopped on a train to Florence. Yep, I’m in Florence now. Just went to see Michelangelo’s David. Let me tell you, I am continually amazed with all these works of art, but as far as statues go, David is by far the most incredible sculpture I have ever laid eyes on. The details are phenomenal. I dig Florence so far…just got here, so I have yet to do much else but get rained on…

So, I will wrap it up now. Thanx for reading and see ya next time…

Pontificus Jaredicus Maximus