What I did that only Michelangelo did…

Roberto paused to admire his work. Never before had he plastered a ceiling so beautifully. Minutes later, a young punk named Michelangelo would ruin everything.
Roberto paused to admire his work. Never before had he plastered a ceiling so beautifully. Minutes later, a young punk named Michelangelo would ruin everything.

It was in the mid-eighties. I was on vacation; one of those around the world things that Singapore Air used to offer as a promo. They sound exciting until you hit your 4th 10 hour flight. Ewww..

Anyway, since I was traveling east from Dhahran, Italy was my last stop. I had one full day and the flu like you can’t imagine. My head felt like a snot factory. In fact, I remember the whole experience like it was a B movie.

With my limited Italian I was able to procure some sort of medicine, though I wasn’t sure if it was for the flu or menstrual cramps. In Italy, when you buy something, you always get that Italian smirk, and you’re not sure if you overpaid, or bought birth control pills.

If you’ve never been to Saint Peter’s, it’s HUGE. It’s so big, that if Roger Goodell saw it, he’d want to move the Jacksonville Jaguars there. Walking through, my drug and flu ensconced brain experienced it like it was portrayed in one of those 60’s LSD trips on TV shows. Huge statues that seemed to be alive, bejeweled bibles, Egyptian mummies in glass and the ever-present walls of artworks that cover walls from floor to ceiling.

I remember staggering through hallway after hallway, bouncing off people in the sweltering august heat until, passing one hall, I felt a breeze of cold air. My body, unconsciously and instinctively staggered towards it.

It ended at what I thought was a store room. It was a dark, moldy, cold room filled with crap… paint cans, scaffolding and rags. In the middle was a table. I staggered up to it, sat down, rolled onto my back and closed my eyes, feeling the sweat pour off my body and a quart of snot work its way out of my nose into the back of my head. Then, I fell asleep.

I can’t tell you how long I slept. It could have been five minutes of two hours. The place was empty and nobody bothered me. But when my eyes finally opened all I remember was looking up at the ceiling at a dim gray painting of a naked guy pointing his finger.

If you haven’t already figured it out, I fell asleep in the Sistine Chapel during renovations in the mid-eighties. It’s not a very big church and filled with crap, it didn’t look like a church at all.

The only other person that I ever heard of that intentionally slept there was Michelangelo himself. Just as any union worker in Boston would do, as he got closer to completion, he’d go there and go to sleep to extend the job so he wouldn’t get laid off. (I have a friend in Boston, a union electrician, that spent a month sleeping in the building Tom Brady currently lives in, in case you wondered if union labor has changed at all in the last 540 years.)

Anyway, the priests were continually bitching about Michelangelo’s snoozing and finally cut off his grant. As to myself, I got more than a few dirty looks when I walked out past the “Do not enter, renovations” signs that lined the hall for about 30 feet.

Like I said, I had the flu really bad.

Paul Schwartzmeyer


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