With spooky, half-shaped visions of Roman Polanski‘s Pompeii flashing in my head, Hollywood Elsewhere visited the actual Pompeii ruins yesterday.

I’m very glad I went — this is the best-preserved ancient Roman city anywhere, covered as it was and frozen in time by tons of ash that spewed out of Mount Vesuvius on August 24, 79 AD. The problem is that I was too cheap to buy a map or go with a tour group, and by the end of our visit I’d come across only one lousy plaster-covered body.

The frescoes and the pottery and the precisely preserved apartments and villas are fascinating, but let’s be honest — if you come to Pompeii, you want to see how the citizens met their doom. You want freeze-frame death statues of people going “aaaah, this hurts!” And in this respect, Pompeii struck me as a faint ripoff. There should be bodies everywhere, in every house. Bodies of men, women, children, dogs, horses. Plus there were no chariots or carts. Or none that I came across.

On top of which the area just outside Pompeii’s ancient walls looks like a cross between Orlando Disney World and the border approach in Tijuana. Scores of ticky-tacky motels, gross souvenir shops, low-grade pizzerias and fruit stands. Jett found it disgraceful, saying that the commerce dishonors the dead.

I’d run a couple of photos but the laughing Mediterranean ISP that’s linked to the Positano internet cafe I’m sitting in is, for some reason, giving me “access denied” messages when I try to upload images to my server. I spent two hours with tech support trying to fix the problem, and it’s costing me 8 euros an hour.