(Also for Three-Word Wednesday and ABC Wednesday: "Z" is for "Zesty")
Fortunately things came to a halt from time to time when the farm hands could get a little R&R, rest and relaxation, before heading back to their chores.
Suddenly I remembered some tough work I was involved in a few seasons ago, a little job known as World War II.
That’s when I got to know about the marvelous system known in the military as R&R.
Though I had spent most of my three and a half years’ service in the South Pacific, I found myself in Italy as the European war wound down to an end.
In Rome I was given three days of R&R.
Why do I use the word “marvelous” to describe such a thing? Well, look at it this way.
If you visit Rome today, imagine a stay in the Hotel Excelsior, one of the great hotels of the world. I have to warn you it’s expensive; the price per room runs from “small fortune” to “forget about it.”
But what can one expect?
Since 1906 princes and maharajahs, presidents, dictators and celebrities have enjoyed this world-famous seven-layer-cake of a hotel, with its oriental rugs and crystal chandeliers and whatall, located right smack on the prestigious Via Veneto. You can easily walk to the Spanish Steps and the Villa Borghese gardens.
In other words, Motel Six it ain’t. :-)
So I got three days of R&R at the Excelsior Hotel. I knew it must be an important hangout because I was told Goering had stayed there a year or two before. I have always lived with a basic principle: if it was good enough for Goering it should be good enough for me.
As for the price, get this. They charged me one dollar for my room – and that included three zesty Italian meals a day. Zesty meals in a zesty city. You wonder why I have such fond memories of the deal known as R&R?
Of course, in 1945 the place wasn’t as dazzling as it is today. I wanted to take a bath – it had been a long time since I had had a real bath – but there was no soap in the room. I phoned the switchboard operator.
“Signora,” I said, bravely trying out my rudimentary Italian, “niente sapone qui.” I hoped this meant there wasn’t any soap here in the room.
She did not differ. “No,” she replied wearily. “Niente sapone.”
I seemed to detect a tone of voice implying, there’s been a war for six years, you dope; naturally there’s no soap. Bring your own soap.
Anyway, that evening I went for a stroll on the Via Veneto. I don’t smoke but I was entitled to cigarettes from the ship’s stores and I had been told they would come in handy, so I brought a carton of Lucky Strikes with me.
Suddenly out of nowhere a pretty girl was at my side, strolling along with me. She had either been drawn by my rugged masculine good looks – or by the carton of cigs. (Probably the latter.)
With her poor English and my poorer Italian, we had an enjoyable conversation. She even broke out into song, delivering a charming version of an American hit song of that era.
She sang: “You’ll nevair know joos’ a how mooch I mees you.
You’ll nevair know joos’ a how mooch I care.”
She told me her name, Santa Montefiori. I thought it was beautiful; it seemed to mean “Holy Mountain of Flowers.”
I realized I was falling in love with Rome.
If you’d like to know about my subsequent adventures with Miss Mountain of Flowers, I’ll try to cover that in a future post.
(Also submitted to Sunday Scribblings)
1 year ago