Soliloquy in an International Cloister

Watch your step as Brother Lawrence takes you inside the monastery walls of a five hundred year-old international order. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll wish you had ignored your hormones and joined the monastery.

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Location: Rome, Italy

31 August 2006

Back on the chain gang

The brothers are into the fifth day of their big international meeting. There are about 200 delegates at the meeting, and a support staff of about 56, of which I am one. There are seven languages used at the meeting—English, French, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese and Spanish—so quite a few of the support staff are translators and interpretors. Since that is quite a specialized task, one tends to see many of the same people at each of these international meetings. The English speakers are fortunate to have probably the most talented interpretor here: Brother C. He is fluent in all of the official languages except Polish, and he can understand a little of that. He is so good, in fact, that we have nicknamed him, "Cunning linguist of the Order."

I have worked with or otherwise known very many of the delegates and staff here, and I am lucky to call some of them friends. It feels really good to see them again and renew old friendships. In fact, there is a very good spirit among all the delegates, at least at this early point in the meeting. That might change after the elections and after two weeks of slogging through reports, meetings, etc.

I have a blog dedicated to the meeting (called a "chapter" in ecclesiastical terminology). I invite you to visit the blog, but I must ask a favor of you. In order to be free to write the immoral, heretical entries found on this blog, I must retain a certain anonymity. Although I am writing under the pseudonym of Bro. Lawrence on the other blog, many of its readers know my real identity. In order to prevent those readers from tracing me back to this blog, I beg you not to include links to YOUR blog if you leave comments on my other blog. Promise? Okay, here's the link to Chapter Glossary.

26 August 2006

There ought to be clowns

It was one o'clock in the morning, and I was opening the door of the Roman monastery where I am staying, after having spent a wonderfully entertaining evening with my friends H and C. I turn the key in the lock, but the door doesn't open. Ah ha, the deadbolt! I put my key into the deadbolt and turn once, twice, and... end up with a stub of a key. The damn thing broke. I was now effectively locked out of the monastery. What to do? Fortunately, my friends hadn't yet driven off so I could go back and spend the night at C's apartment. I was concerned, however, that I might not make it back in time for an early morning appointment, and C was rightly worried that someone else might get locked out of the house because the rest my key was still stuck in the keyhole. Reluctantly, I rang the doorbell—half out of pity for the poor brother whose sleep I was disturbing and half out of shame for being caught out in the wee hours of the morning. I need not have worried. No one answered the bell. I tried phoning, but I could remember only the fax number. Okay, call directory assistance. They couldn't find the number. Crap, crap and triple crap. C thought the police or fire department could help us, and I remembered that the Carabinieri had an office just down the street so we drove there. Closed. The sign said to call 112 in an emergency so we did. No one answered. Driving back to the monastery, we came to a police station. Could they help me? No, they could not. Call the fire department was their advice. We had the presence of mind, however, to ask if they had a telephone directory. They did so we looked up the phone number. The policeman dialed the phone and handed it to me. No answer. Try it yourself, C said. Maybe he dialed it incorrectly. Still no answer. Okay, let's call the fire department. Apparently, they handle this sort of emergency all the time. Could they help? Yes, they could. They could break down the door for me... for a price. When I (quite unreasonably) balked at having the door broken down, they suggested I telephone the monastery. It was now two o'clock in the morning, and we had come full circle. I had resigned myself to going back to C's apartment, but she convinced me to give the doorbell one more try. After ringing three or four times, the speakerphone crackled with life, and the weary, wary voice of an angel said, "Sì, che è?" Fortunately, he believed that I was who I said I was, and opened the door for me. So, in case you weren't keeping score, I have now ruined my reputation among the brothers by staying out until an ungodly hour, ruined the reputation of my Order by admitting to all the emergency services of Rome that I was out until that hour with two beautiful women, pissed off the brother door-keeper and probably cost the monastery a €100 house call from a locksmith. Add to this, feeling like crap today because I lay awake the rest of the night practicing my apologies to all involved. Not bad for one night's work!

20 August 2006

Grab your hankies

My posts have been a little spotty recently, and there is a reason for that (which is a dumb thing to say, when you think about it). I leave on Tuesday for a four-week meeting in Rome. Actually, the meeting is scheduled to last three weeks, but I'm going a week early. My official reason for going early is to help with the preparations, but I really hope to use the time to see some of my friends and acquaintances.

I hope to blog occasionally during the next four weeks, but I make no guarantees. I've worked at these meetings before and I can tell you that the work load is quite heavy. You are allowed to feel sorry for me, if you are so inclined.

18 August 2006

Legenda Fratrum, Part X

Brother A tells a joke to Brother M:

"There once was an Indian who drank so much tea that he drowned in his tepee."

Brother M thinks this is hilarious, and can't wait to pass it on. He tells the joke to Brother B:

"There once was an Indian who drank so much tea that he drowned in his wigwam."

14 August 2006

I'm not dead yet

I was terribly busy last week trying to catch up after a four-day absence. I attended the wedding of one of our employees, which was a nice change of routine from the funerals that I usually get to attend. The wedding was in Delaware, which, if you are from the western U.S., is just a short drive from New York. That being the case, I decided to fly into New York and take in a Broadway show the day before the wedding. I was joined in NY by a co-worker and a mutual friend, and the three of us saw "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels", which was fabulously hilarious. Highly recommended.

I wasn't in NY for two hours before I was in my first traffic accident. The driver of the van taking us from Grand Central Station to Penn Station drove like a lunatic—weaving in and out of traffic, blowing his horn, screeching his brakes, all while letting out exasperated sighs. He eventually rear-ended a taxi. The two drivers had a five-minute yelling match before inspecting the damage and deciding that it wasn't important enough to get the police involved. He returned to the van and recommenced his maniacal piloting. He did call headquarters on his cell phone to complain that the van's brakes weren't working correctly. That received a hearty laugh from the van's passengers.

Upon leaving NY the following Monday, I had to take a minibus from Penn Station to Grand Central. Different driver; similar style. He was black (this is important to the story), and while trying to make a left turn he nearly hit a black man crossing the street. A black woman, crossing the street from the other direction, looks at the driver and, without breaking stride, said, "So now you're trying to kill our own people." For the most bang-for-your-entertainment-buck, you can't beat the NY transit system.