I am glad when we enter the conference room that Chihiro made sure I wasn’t late to the meeting. Not only does my appearance cut short several whispered confabs in the corners of the room (confirming her suspicion that people would have used my lateness as a chance to talk about me), but I also get to take my favorite seat: at the far end of the table next to my favorite monkey. I’ve never quite understood how the monkeys got here. The fresco on the ceiling of this room –originally the formal dining room- is modeled on the one in the formal dining room at La Civetta. It depicts a lemon-covered pergola in a garden. An assortment of birds –doves, sparrows, and long-tailed peacocks – roost on the wooden struts. In the original fresco, fat cupids also frolic amidst the greenery, their chubby feet dangling precariously from their perches. In one corner a plaster foot even protrudes from the frescoed surface. In this New York version of the fresco, there are monkeys instead of cupids: monkeys peering out between leafy branches and monkeys dangling by their tails from the wooden slats of the pergola. If you look carefully (and I have had ample opportunity through long and tedious budget reviews to examine every inch of the palatial room), you can even find a few monkeys that have climbed down from the pergola and found their way into the formal dining room to perform rude and unspeakable acts... My favorite monkey, though, is the little one who peers out from behind the leafy fronds of an aspidistra, making an obscene gesture I have seen only on the streets of Italy. I always sit right next to him. He gives me some relief for the sentiments I am unable to express in the course of department meetings.