Society & Culture

On the Wings of a Snow White Dove

When you have over an hour to kill downtown in a major city, time seems to slow to a stop.  Fortunately, the Roman houses beneath the Palazzo Valentini, which we were waiting to visit, are a stone’s throw from the column of Trajan.  On that warm and sunny day in February, we took over an empty bench facing the imperial fora and soaked in the sun we should not be seeing, when we returned to Illinois, for months.

From our bench we watched two hooded crows—dapper gents in gray and black—fighting turf battles over lunch scraps.  (In some parts of Britain they are called “hoodies.”)  The unruffled pigeons, waddling insouciantly among the tussling crows, often ran away with the best morsels.  The white “dove of peace” Pope Francis released two years earlier did not fare so well.  Fluttering out the window, the albino bird was immediately set upon by a hooded crow, backed up by a seagull.  White birds, apparently, don’t matter either.

We turned to look at the African trinket sellers who were working the passersby.  When they called out to anyone walking down the sidewalk, the walker usually slowed his pace enough to be trapped in a conversation that led in only one direction.  The fatter and younger African approached our bench and, leaning over, asked, “You African?” and babbled on in English, not listening to my Italian “No.” ...

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