I spent my first years as an adult in Manhattan. This meant putting aside my hayseed discomfort with seething masses of humanity and suppressing a powerful native impulse to avoid conflict.
And –– the more important bit of immigrating to the Big City –– transforming my near-constant uneasiness (oh, call it fear!) into bravado and a solid grasp of the island's geography. The zeal of the new convert in action gave me a passionate opinion about Katz's deli, the Old Town vs. the Cedar Taverns, street dogs, knishes, the best route to the softball fields at the East River, and every other New York City thing.
I was a broke young creature with a super-cool job, and I knew that NYC was probably the best metropolis in the universe. I mean -- Korean salad bars open at 3 am? The Met? Central Park? Subways and monasteries and amazing retail?
But then I went a little farther afield. Bella Roma!
At seven in the morning, at least on this day, the Fountain of Trevi gets cleaned. City of Rome workers sporting the ubiquitous Romulus-and-Remus-suckling-from-a-wolf logo drain the water, sweep the coins into buckets. (It goes to charity), and scrub away the algae. The square is empty, the gelatarias shuttered, just the one tourist in attendance.
New York has a sewer museum. New York has Broadway and a eye-popping number of celebrities-per-square yard of sidewalk.
But it lacks enormous classical statuary being scrubbed –– with typical Roman aplomb and nonchalance (Tota va bene!) –– by a team of rubber-booted workers on a regular basis.
Boom! Advantage Rome.
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