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June 1st, 2010

A brief excursion to headquarters

The Cardinal who is president of the government of the State that runs my observatory (try to make sense of that, Google-bots!) celebrated his 50th anniversary of ordination recently, and so my community commissioned me to buy a little appropriate gift for him when I was in the US. I ordered a 90 mm aperture spotting telescope from Orion, and got a nice small desktop tripod. It'll look great as an ornament on his bookshelf and it functions even better as a telescope. Then I got my friend Dan to autograph our how-to-use-a-telescope book (both English and Italian editions). Today we drove into town to deliver the gifts.

We had an appointment, but hadn't said for what reason. It was with a slightly worried look that he welcomed us into his office. (Were we there to ask for more money?)

"In thanks for all your help for our observatory, we'd like to give you these two books, on how to use a small telescope." Polite smile, with a look of relief, from the Cardinal. "And, since they're useless without a small telescope, we have this as well..." Much bigger smile and I place the Orion carrying case on his desk and assemble the scope. "Wonderful! I'll take it with me on my vacation in the Dolomites this summer!" he replies.

While in town, we also went over to the Department Store (being outside of Italy, purchases here are tax-free) where I bought a new black suit. My ten year old suit was purchased when I was 25 pounds heavier than I am now; lately I've been wearing my 20 year old suit but even that was getting a bit baggy. (Yes, I am bragging.)

Walk up to the clerical clothing department. The guy looks at me, pulls a suit off the rack, and says, "This will fit." It does. (The pant legs need hemming is all.) "And, your excellency, here is a wonderful set of bishop's robes..."

Puzzled, I point out, "I'm not a bishop. I'm not even ordained, I'm a brother."

"But your ring?" he asks.

He's looking at my Brass Rat, which I only wear when I wear my clerical shirt. "This just means that I went to MIT. I am an astronomer at the Specola..." I explain.

His eyes light up. "Complimenti!" he says, actually impressed for once.



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