me in the piazza

I'm a writer, publishing both as SJ Rozan and, with Carlos Dews, as Sam Cabot. (I'm Sam, he's Cabot.) Here you can find links to my almost-daily blog posts, including the Saturday haiku I've been doing for years. BUT the blog itself has moved to my website. If you go on over there you can subscribe and you'll never miss a post. (Miss a post! A scary thought!) Also, I'll be teaching a writing workshop in Italy this summer -- come join us!
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Habit Does Not Make Monk

Spent the afternoon of the day we arrived and most of yesterday with Barb (who is serving this Rome expedition as scribe) and Carlos, my co-writer, doing research from church to church, seeing interiors, finding particular works we know we'll need for the book.

sj and carlos, co-writers
SJ and Carlos doing research at the Tempietto

Barb and I took time out to visit the Domitilla catacombs where an underground church has been restored and where some of the tombs are still unopened. What this means, of course, is that when they finally are opened, the air that comes out will be third century air. (Third century air filled with rotted corpse, but still.) Of course we got lost getting there, so much walking, seeing some lovely Rome suburbs, and fairly funny complications ensued. Luckily, I'm so good at getting lost -- it's my contention I could get lost in the bathtub -- and so is Barb, that none of this fazed us.

This morning we started with what remains, after an excellent day, still today's highlight: the ancient pharmacy of Santa Maria della Scala. The church of Santa Maria della Scala plays a part in the book; the pharmacy might or might not, but I knew it was going to be super cool so I wanted to see it either way. It opened in the 1400's and closed in the 1950's, and when it closed they just locked the door and walked away. Not far away; the friars are still there, though not so many of them, but the public started wanting medications from doctors' prescriptions, not mashed-up herbs (do you sense the fine hand of Big Pharma in this?) and the demand had tapered off to almost nothing. It's been unused since, but you can tour it if you make an appointment with at the church. A Carmelite priest from India (common these days, when the third world supplies many more priests than Europe or the US) showed us around and boy did he know his Carmelite history. His English, while not perfect, was serviceable, and since he offered us the choice of the tour in Italian, my hat's off to him. He showed us a rainbow of glass bottles with liquid still in them; drawers of dried herbs and the oven for drying them; the painted angel peeking over the sales counter to remind the monk on duty that sharp practice was discouraged.

The title of this post is from him, telling us about criminals who used to have miraculous conversions from their criminal ways and become friars in order to avoid arrest and prosecution. But beware, he said: habit does not make monk.

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