Who is Chuck and why does he like to travel?

I was born to be a writer and when I wrote my novel Wild Point Island, Chuck, my orange and white recently rescued feral tabby, got it in his head that he wanted to travel to the island and see the place for himself. Well, of course, Wild Point Island, can only be seen by revenants (you'll have to read the book to find out who they are) and Chuck is no revenant so instead, I concocted a plan to take Chuck with me when I travel around the world, which I do frequently. Not an easy task. First, I have to deflate the poor kid of all air, stuff him in my carry-on bag, remember to bring my portable pump, and when I arrive, I pump him back up. Ouch. But he's used to it by now and given the choice to either stay home in his comfy cat bed or get deflated, he pulls out his passport, ready to travel, every time.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Chuck Eyes the Bikini Girls at the Villa

How does a cat gain the reputation of being a rascal?

It can easily happen when it has something to do with bikini girls.

I am often amazed at what Chuck knows and yet pretends not to know--when directly quizzed. For example.

In the middle of Sicily, in the middle of a green valley, sits a Roman villa by the name of Casale near a town called Piazza Armerina. This villa has 63 rooms and some believe it was originally designed as an imperial hunting palace, outfitted with an intricate heating and cooling system, indoor plumbing, swimming pool and 42 colorful floors of mosaic tiles estimated to have taken 21,000 days of work (if it’s true that a worker needs six days to complete a square meter of mosaic tile.)

Now you might be thinking--so? I am sure that Sicily is chock filled with villas, but this villa is special. Why?

Well, for one thing the floor tiles in this villa depict scenes from a lifestyle that no longer exists--a very comfortable middle class Roman family life of over 1500 years ago--and the only reason the villa still survives today is that it was destroyed by an earthquake and then covered (and thus preserved) by a landslide.

The earthquake occurred somewhere around 346 AD. The landslide in 1161 AD.

Chuckie decided--when we were in Sicily--that he wanted to see this villa. Was it because it was recognized as a UNESCO world heritage site? Was it because it was considered a “famous archaeological site of cultural tourism”?

When I mentioned these facts, of course, the Chuckster nodded in agreement, a kind of yah, yah, yah. But I know Chuckie. I know how he thinks.

It seems that the truth was a lot more interesting. Chuckie had seen somewhere, I suspect on the History Channel, that this villa had a floor mosaic of BIKINI GIRLS, and he wanted to see those girls for himself.

Now, we’re not talking Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue, but we are talking about a mosaic that depicted women in bikini bathingsuits that went back over fifteen hundred years ago. Could it be true?

The security at The Roman Villa of Casale is very strict. Several years ago tourists were allowed to wander from room to room and actually throw water on the tile floors so they could more clearly see the mosaic tiles which sprung to seeming life when the outer layer of what appeared to be dust was washed away. One day a tourist threw acid, not water, on one of the floors--irreparably destroying that particular floor--so tourists are no longer allowed to throw anything down on the floor. As one wanders from room to room, it is difficult to imagine what the floors must have looked like so many years ago.

Chuck and I kept a very low profile. Luckily, we arrived toward the end of the day. It was in November and as we began to lose the sun, I figured it would be easier for Chuck to peer out of my backpack, where he was hiding, and catch a glimpse of tile floor he wanted the most to see without being seen himself. I was nervous that if one of the Italian guards spotted us, we would be booted off the villa’s property.

Finally, we made it into the Bikini Girl Room, one of the rooms which surrounded the built in swimming pool area that was in the center of the villa. For a moment we were alone. Chuck popped his head out and snuck a peek at the mosaic floor. He remained absolutely still, and I could tell he was impressed.

“There they are, Chuck,” I said. “The bikini girls. Over 1,500 years old.”

He pointed to the girl in the red suit. She was obviously his favorite.

Just as I was snapping the photo as a keepsake, I heard noise from the hallway. A guard appeared. “Signora. Signora.”

It was easy to tell by the frown on his face and the multitude of hand motions that he was ushering me--I mean “us” out of the room.

Luckily, Chuck had ducked back under cover.

As we sauntered outside, I listened for the usual purring that I expected to hear--but this time there was no purr, only a kind of snore.

The kid was already in “dream land,” no doubt, sunbathing on some Italian beach somewhere, flanked on either side by the BIKINI GIRLS.

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