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

28 February 2007

A bad day

My day began on a bad note, thanks to yesterday evening.

The evening started out well. A group of brothers and their co-workers from various provinces in North America were in Denver to attend a meeting hosted by my province. There is a long-standing custom of taking the participants in these meetings to a restaurant that showcases the local culture or cuisine. We took them to the Buckhorn Exchange, the oldest restaurant in Denver. The menu consists of things like Rattlesnake, Elk, Buffalo, Quail, Rocky Mountain Oysters (don't ask) and other wild game, along with your more typical steak offerings. The walls of the restaurant are festooned with mounted heads of large beasts, stuffed birds, lots of memorabilia from "Buffalo Bill" Cody (in whose Wild West shows the founder of the restaurant once worked) and pictures of the famous people who had eaten there. Definitely not the place to take your animal rights activist friends.

The evening went well, and I was pleasantly surprised at how adventurous the group was in their food choices. At the end of the meal, as we were walking towards the door, we were gawking at some of the odder wall decorations, such as the two-headed lamb. I was baffled by a seven-foot long tapered tube hanging from the ceiling. Noticing my puzzled expression, a waiter volunteered that it was the penis of a sperm whale! I wonder where they found one of those around here!

I recalled this incident as I looked at myself in the mirror this morning, which has caused me to suffer from an overwhelming sense of inadequacy. Just what I needed today, a bad case of penis envy!

17 February 2007

Just when you thought it was safe to be an atheist

In one of my former stints in Rome, I became friends with T, who was studying at one of Rome's universities. She liked me because I was American (you'd have to ask her why--I certainly don't understand it) and I liked her because she was female. Not for that reason alone, obviously, but I do feel the need to get away from the all-male environment occasionally and expand my horizons with some of that legendary female irrationality. T was young, pretty, fun to be with, but at the same time strong enough to resist my sex appeal so she fit the bill quite nicely.

After moving back to the States, I kept in touch with T, who went back to Kenya to advance the cause of women's rights in eastern Africa. Over the years, we made various plans to meet, but they all fell through. I hoped that sometime during this six-year assignment in Rome I might get to the chance to travel to Kenya, but as I saw my schedule filling up, I began to despair of ever seeing her again.

On Thursday, I received the following e-mail from T: "...Just to let you know that i will be traveling to Toronto tomorrow for a job interview with WACC...."

What are the chances of that?! We're having dinner tonight!

15 February 2007

Life on the rocks

The end of this week and the beginning of the next finds Br Lawrence in Ontario, Canada. There were several empty seats on the plane yesterday despite the fact that ours seemed to be the only flight to Toronto that was not cancelled. I wonder why so few people want to come here since it was a balmy -27° C (-4° F) this morning.