Alternative Ways for Making a Living in Rome
The neon lights were thrown on the piazza walls, merging the silhouettes of my fellow band members as I waited nearby for my cue in a long sparkling gown. Standing there, in an Italian town I had never heard of before, I was caught for a moment in the unlikeliness of my situation and realized how my life in Rome had grown.
I started off in what began as an on a whim audition as a regular femme fatale vocalist in a stylish cabaret and burlesque club in Rome. Amidst the flurry of feathers and bare flesh backstage, I learned the tricks of showmanship, although the artificial aspects of show business didn’t elude me. I developed a style of singing sultry pining classics from Peggy Lee to Julie London.
I felt lucky as I splayed open the shutters to let the light into the grand salon filled with antique books in mahogany bookcases to start another day and begin my talks.
Along with performing, I did another job to make a living in Rome. What kept paying my rent was a regular spot as a English Romantic Literature museum employee at the Keats and Shelley House in a historic palazzo perched right on the Spanish Steps in Rome.
I studied for months and with my natural passion for the Romantics I landed a job. In fact, I felt lucky as I splayed open the shutters to let the light into the grand salon filled with antique books in mahogany bookcases to start another day and begin my talks.
I was thrown in at the deep end from the start with the magazine, interviewing people in Italian on my first day on the job, while covering feature articles.
Three years later, I am making my way to the coast near the city to meet up with my Ska-Jazz band Etruskajazz for a gig at a popular Tiki-style seaside venue. My family, in Rome for a blissful three weeks, busily pulled up wooden seats front of stage.
I went bounding into the high windswept waves with my little brother as the band set up their kit on a stage made of sand and beach logs. The band is a merry bunch of Roman cohorts. They mix a melodious up-tempo Ska and Reggae of screaming sax, ragamuffin rap and sliding double bass with Jazz classics. I watched my family dancing while I sang facing out to sea. The lively reggae beats creating a perfect summer beach vibe.
The next day I was winding up the ancient hill of Monte Mario, the highest vantage point in Rome. I was there on an assignment as part of my freelance job with a local English magazine. There I interviewed the manager of an elegant restaurant and bar with wrap around windows to take in the breath-taking view below. I was thrown in at the deep end from the start with the magazine. Interviewing people in Italian on my first day on the job, while covering feature articles.
Before that I had spent many sleepless nights learning HTML coding, setting up a website about alternative Rome. I wanted to write about all the places I would have loved to know about when I first arrived here as a clueless student. The website effectively worked as my business card and got me freelance assignments for other online and print publications.
I wanted to write about all the places I would have loved to know about when I first arrived here as a clueless student.
That Sunday I was en route to a gig with my Italian man at a riverside shabby chic bar as our duet “Two Man Big Band.” Many hip bars in the city, forced to close shop in the stifling summer heat, have moved down to join the lively waterfront market below, the stalls creating a seemingly floating string of lights on the water.
We had formed our bass and voice duet as a natural result of experimenting at home, recording ad hoc soul and blues songs on our home recording system.
We began our set as the last burnt orange rays streaked the sky and the large contented crowd settled in to the jumble mix of armchairs with clinking cocktails in hand.
Alternative Ways for Making a Living in Rome photo credits by Sharon Moran and Unsplash.
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