Thursday, September 22, 2016

When in Rome

I always thought the Spanish Steps were what you did to dance the Flamenco, so that shows what I know.

Somewhere in this picture you will see a guy
with a pencil and sketchpad.
He is drawing a crowd.
The Spanish Steps are a stairway over Via Condotti, a swanky street in the fashion district of Rome. They were built in 1725, back in the days when you get really could get marble work done for a pittance.  Today, it would cost you a few million zucchini to get the same steps put in your back yard.

But you would get the same result.  All over the world, where you and I see stairs as a way to get up or get down, some people see a place to park their carcasses and "set" a spell.

So, with these marble steps being polished by so many glutei over the centuries, and so many people spilling their pizzas and vino all over the place, the marble steps, once shiny and bright, got to looking a tad crummy.

The good people at Bulgari (they say they are a luxury jewelry firm, but that means nothing to me, a guy who shops for jewels at Walmarti) spent $1.7 million to restore the Steps. It has taken a year, but finally the Spanish Steps look just like they did in 1725, when Betty White was there to cut the ribbon on Opening Day.

The problem is that Paolo Bulgari, who, in an amazing coincidence is both the chairman of the jewelry firm AND the nephew of its founder, wants to protect his investment.  

"Restorers have done a great and difficult job. The steps were coated with anything from coffee, wine, chewing gum," he told the Italian newspaper La Repubblica.

"But now I am worried. If we don't set strict rules, the steps will go back to being used as a camping site for barbarians," the billionaire reportedly said, adding that a gate or a Plexiglas barrier "doesn't seem like an impossible task."


There it is.

I don't know how they do things in Italy, having never traveled any further east that the boardwalks at several Atlantic Ocean resorts, but I can't see an American businessperson spending private bucks for public good and then calling the public "galoots," "heathens" or "brutes."  It's bad for public relations.  People don't like being called names or being accused of wrongdoing as part of a whole group lumped together in vain. I hope I'm not being too subtle here.

Bulgari clearly did not live in Baltimore in the heyday of Royal Parker (born Royal Pollokoff) who passed away earlier this year but could host newscasts, kiddie cartoon shows and bowling shows with equal skill and zest.

And commercials!  Millions of them.  The most memorable of them, for clear slipcovers, showed kids bouncing up and down on some cheesy living room sofa and chair, while we heard Royal holler, "Hey, kids, get off that furniture, what are you trying to do, ruin it?"

This very sentence was known for years in our town as the only way to greet Mr Parker when we saw him at the ballpark or the mall.  He was always a good guy about it, and if he were still with us on this mortal coil, he would likely tell Bulgari that encasing the priceless stairs in some hi-grade see-thru vinyl could keep the marble shiny while keeping food, wine and tracked-in shoedirt off!

The whole world would be a better place if everyone had grown up in Baltimore.

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