Saturday, November 21, 2015

A Public Service Announcement About the Dangers of Drinking and Shopping

Thank you for stopping by today.  I am sure that you can tell from the title of this post alone, that I'm here to do a public service.  Civic minded, that's me, as I am sure that you've recognized from my previous posts about truck nutz, office pranks and chin hairs.

Today, I'd like to talk about a plague that is infecting the nation; it's called drunk shopping.  Nothing fires off a case of "morning after" buyer's-remorse than an empty bottle of Orvieto Classico and an open laptop.

This phenomena has resulted in some truly unusual Christmas and Birthday gifts for my loved ones over the years.  Who can forget the Screaming Pickle, Squirrel Underpants and Bacon Flavored Gum that my nephew received after a joint working session with Ketel One and Archie McPhee?  Or the hundred dollar Tinkerbell halloween costume that I got for my eighteen month old daughter after a few gloriously slushy margheritas at Downtown Disney?

And there have been many, many more.  However, nothing seems to equal last night's purchase.  After a lovely dinner of Angel Hair pasta with a bacon and onion inflected sauce (yummy),  the heaps of salty pecorino romano cheese running through it gave rise to a mighty thirst.  The delightful glass of white wine that I was savoring with my meal gave way to another and another and before I knew it, we were in the den, digesting carbohydrates and watching a documentary on punk music.

At some point in the movie (probably around the mid-late 80's), I lost interest in the subject matter and wandered off to the comforts of my laptop to peruse for a new picture for our recently remodeled den.  When I came across the picture below, I broke a land-speed record for closing a sale via Paypal.  I don't think it was more than 30 seconds from identification of the item to "thank you for your purchase".

Looking at it now with clearer eyes, I find it a bit intense, maybe even a little frightening.  I'm sticking with it though.  I will display it in my den or maybe my desk at work is a better place.  I feel like the expression on his face correlates to my feelings/state of mind for about 90% of the work day. It could also put an end to all the questions I get about why I don't have any pictures or personal effects at my desk.  I'll tell you that the reason for the lack of tchotchkes is, a girl needs to know that she can cut an run at a moment's notice, why be slowed down by possessions? But what better thing to leave behind for the corporate lemmings and the bourgeoisie in a defection situation?  Buyer's remorse resolved.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Radio Capital

We have established a Saturday tradition in our house where we tune in to Radio Capitale, Rome's main radio station and I clean the house while my husband putters.  While I am dusting and windexing away, I struggle to make out the words that the DJs are saying all to quickly for my limited understanding of Italian.  It's a little frustrating, but the joy I get when I realize that I just understood something that they said is really unmatched by anything else.  The only thing I can compare it to is how I felt when my son finally learned to poop on the bowl, 1 week before the start of kindergarten (yes, it's that good).

The station itself follows none of the same rules as American radio programming, and does not stick to a predictable format.  Here in the US, we are very label and genre sensitive and we don't want our death metal and smooth jazz to coexist anywhere near each other on the dial.  When you tune in to whatever the current, all-hits radio station is, you just know that if someone had a brain fart and played Led Zeppelin, the phone lines would light up in an Armageddon of vitriol.  It's true.  Someone could lose a testicle in that kind of melee.

The relaxed and open minded Italians seem to have no concept of format driven radio.  They will play Earth Wind and Fire next to the Weekend next to a live Eric Clapton song (they love the live stuff).  And deep cuts are not off the table at all.  They'll go way into a Genesis album and pluck out a song so moody and obscure, it will have you wondering whether someone slipped you a psychedelic in your Starbucks Flat White.

What I rarely hear on Radio Capitale are songs sung in Italian.  If I listen throughout the day, I may hear two, maybe three songs sung in Italian.  What I have never heard until today is an American song translated into Italian.

As I dusted the bar in the den, a familiar intro came on and as I prepared for these lyrics,

"I know what you're doing
I see it all too clear
I only taste the saline
When I kiss away your tears"

I got these instead, 

"So che cosa pensi 
è chiaro ormai per me 
il gusto troppo amaro 
delle tue lacrime"

Mind blown.

Duncan Sheik's uptempo but ultimately forlorn song was translated beautifully into Italian by Niccolo Fabi.  Here is an audio of the song.  It's worth a listen as the song's sad confusion over love is evident, even without a word of Italian.

Like Catherine Scorcese famously said in Goodfellas, "in Italian, it sounds much nicer".

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Back to School - Old and Disillusioned Style

The kids are back to school so I figured that I owed the obligatory back to school post.  Yay.

I suppose that I feel lackluster about it this year because it is lackluster.  My son started his second year of college, so he started a full week and a half earlier than my daughter.  My daughter started yesterday, which totally took me by surprise as I was expecting her to start the Wed after Labor Day, like all other years...except this one. Luckily for me, I am an early shopper and had already sunk a butt-load of cash into school clothes and supplies, so at least she was prepared. Yay me and my uncontrolled shopping habit. Is there a pill for that?

For all prior years we were on top of things and organized enough to get a thumbs up with our new back packs and first day of school outfits picture with the two kids together.   This year my son was sound asleep as we took the picture of my daughter at 6:15 am, before she left for her bus, which arrives at the butt crack of dawn.  That was the time that it actually said on the official schedule from the school district - "Time: Butt crack of Dawn".  I appreciate their honesty, and their pithy wit.

I think the thing that is most meh about this school year is that it is the realization that this is the beginning of the big move for my kids.  My son will finish his second year of college locally and is likely to finish out his last two years in the city, which means moving to the city.  And my daughter, single minded and possessed of a burning desire to be as far away from her family as humanly possible, will be applying to colleges in such far off places as Chicago, Virginia and California.  My feeling is that if she is accepted to all, she will take the one that is the longest plane ride away from us.  18 years with this collection of dorks was plenty (if I may paraphrase based on the look on her face, alone).

This is a bittersweet time, as we get prepared to become empty nesters.  And while it will be almost a full 2 years until the next is totally empty, there will be a lot of run-up over those 2 years in preparation for the empty nest.  College visits, applications, disappointments, happiness, and every other teenage (and parental) emotion that comes in between.  I hope I can handle it.  I have total faith that they can, but I am kind of a wild card.  There is equal possibility that I will handle it with stoic strength and fortitude or that I will be a blubbering pile of jelly that has to be carted to college visits in a wheelbarrow with a bottle of vodka and a crazy straw. Only time will tell. But keep the vodka on ice...just in case.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Thousand Yard Stare of the Blue Dog

I am not an art collector nor am I knowledgable in any way about art of any kind. But, long ago, in my teenage disenfranchised years, I discovered Andy Warhol and by extension,  I discovered Pop Art.

When I was in my late teens, I started reading about Andy and his factory superstars, most notably, Edie Sedgewick.  How I wished I could be a silver haired gamine with gigantic earrings and eyes like saucers.  But this was not to be, which might be okay as I also sidestepped the addiction to speed and the other less appealing elements of her "poor little rich girl" persona. My fascination with Edie eventually waned, but my love Andy's art remained.

The design elements of my home have never been very pop art friendly.  I have tended toward color schemes and furnishings that just don't mesh with the bold, primary color palate of most pop art. The exception to this rule being my den.

For years, my den has housed all of the boldly colored, poppy prints and fabrics that fit the Warhol aesthetic.  It has also housed a drum kit, PA columns, mixing board and mic stands, as the de facto home and practice space of my son's band.

Within the last year, with hectic work and college schedules, the band's practice and touring schedule have waned.  We felt that this was our cue to reclaim our den, redecorate and de-clutter.  A full gutting was in order as the floors, walls and furnishings had been punished beyond any reasonable expectation of service. Everything would go.  Everything except...the Blue Dog.

Back in the late 1990's, my husband and I discovered New Orleans.  One night, during a particularly satisfying dinner at K-Paul's, I teetered to the bathroom in the kind of semi-conscious stupor that can only be produced by copious amounts of good New Orleans food and cocktails, and I was struck in the heart by a painting of a blue dog on a yellow background.  The eyes of the dog were painted a glowing yellow, and its expression was one of bemused concern.  Poor little doggie, I thought, he needs a friend. This was my first encounter with the Blue Dog.

Subsequent visits to New Orleans and a little research revealed to me that the Blue Dog was about as ubiquitous in New Orleans as yellow cabs are in New York City.  I learned that the Blue Dog was based on the legend of the loup garou, a demon wolf dog who supposedly prowled the swamps of Louisiana, waiting to pounce on naughty children.  But George Rodrigue had changed the face of the loup garou and morphed it into a friendly dog with a look in his eyes that to me, conveyed a confusion with life.  He seemed to be puzzled by it all and a little worried.  This was an emotion that I could relate

When hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in September of 2005, we had been in the planning process to make another trip to New Orleans in early December.  We were heartbroken for the people of New Orleans and wanted to help in some way.   We took to the internet and searched to see if Rodrigue's studio was in tact (it was, but lacked the infrastructure to operate for a while), and to see what relief efforts were out there that we could contribute to.  In his own quest to help the relief effort, he offered signed prints of a special painting called "We will rise again" in conjunction with a donation to the Red Cross.  The purchase of this painting was a no-brainer for me.  In lieu of a trip to New Orleans, we bought a print.

When my Blue Dog arrived, I went to a framing store and had it set in a colorful red and orange, wood frame.  When I told my husband about the color choice, he looked at me like I had lost my mind, but I knew I was right, and I was. Evidence below. So there.

The remodel of our den took a very mod almost Mad Men-like cocktail culture kind of look.  With a grey flannel couch and soft grey walls, adding colorful accents was key.  And while I was able to keep the Blue Dog in his place of honor above the couch, the sparse, modern furnishings made him look lonely and even sadder than he had always been.  He needed friends.

I scoured the stores and internet for pop-art doggie prints that would help bolster my sad little Blue Dog, but none of the pictures I found were soulful enough to match the Blue Dog's intensity.  He needed pals that had longing in their eyes, that understood that people and the world are effed up and need to get in touch with their kinder side.  I realized that such soulful pups were right under my feet. Literally, under my feet.

My sad little Blue Dog will always have a mournful gaze as Hurricaine Katrina is not easily forgotten. But now he has two pals named Brownie and Buzz, who share his bemusement with the world and want it to be a better, kinder place.  The trio and their matching thousand yard stares, say it all.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Dusting off a Moldy Oldie

I was poking around my draft folder and I found this unpublished post from 2010.  Given the paucity of my postings these days, I am going to post it.

This was written on the the plane during my first trip to Italy, six years ago.  The most amazing thing to me about this post is that I had no idea what I was in for.  I had no idea that Italy would strike my heart with Cupid's biggest arrow and that I would do everything in my power over the ensuing six years to return to my great love. Hah. Newbie.

AUGUST 16, 2010 - I took a long lunch the other day and went to the AAA office to get an extra pack of Euros for my journey abroad. While I stood on line, so many things went through my head. I thought about how travel is the greatest privilege that we can possibly enjoy. How traveling anywhere at all is so fascinating and exciting to me that I feel I might explode with happiness. As I waited for my Euros, that happy feeling was off the charts.

This was a first for me. Despite a searing case of wanderlust, I had never been out of the country before. Well, that’s not exactly true. I’d been to the Caribbean and to Canada, but that was all before a passport was required. So when I shuffled into the Post Office with my passport application at the ripe old age of 45, I definitely felt a little . . .behind the curve.

I can’t remember a time in my adult life that I did not have a strong desire to travel to Europe. During my 1980’s, post punk, purple hair phase, I desperately wanted to go to London. The fashion, the music and the nightlife were a very strong pull for me. At the time I was a 19 year old hairdresser without a penny to my name. I could barely afford to cover the insurance on my car. The car itself was a perfect reflection of my financial situation – rotten and in a downward spiral of deterioration. It was a maroon, 1976 Plymouth Duster with so much body rust that I could see the road spinning by under my feet like the wheels of a slot machine. The only good thing about that was that when it stalled, and it stalled a lot, I always had the option to put my feet down and power it Fred Flintstone style.

Ever since I was a teenager, I have loved to cook. When I got into my 20’s I started getting more serious about it. I voraciously read every cookbook that I could get my hands on and watched all the cooking shows on Public Television. Once in my late 20’s and early 30’s, the Internet had been born as had the Food Network, further fueling my decade of culinary awakening. All of that research made me yearn to go to France. I wanted to drink wine at a café near the Eiffel Tower, to eat a crunchy, flaky, perfectly prepared croissant, to learn about French cheeses. Even though I had a much better job and had gotten married, the demands of my job, my schooling and our money pit of a house popped a hole in my French daydreams.

All throughout this time in my life, my father was visiting Europe every couple of years. Most of his trips were focused on Italy or included Italy in some way. With each trip, it was clear that the place that he felt the most connected to was Italy. He would come back with stories of its beauty, its history, its wine and food and even of finding long lost cousins. Eventually, through his stories, I no longer wanted to see Europe, I craved, desired and burned to go to Italy.

This evening, the wheels went up on an A330 Airbus bound for Fiumicino airport in Rome, and amazingly to me, I'm on it. As I write this, my son is in the seat next to me, my husband and daughter are one row back. I don't know what the next two weeks will bring, but I do know that other than a rent a car and our accommodations, there are no concrete plans and interestingly enough, no fear of any kind. We have made an agreement to take this trip on Louis and Clark style, minus Sacajawea. We will be our own guides.

Yes, I was a 45 year old passport virgin. Yes, it’s going to be as hot as the devil’s testes in Rome in August. No, I don’t speak a word of Italian. But I have waited for this trip for so long that no amount of humiliation, sweat or linguistic frustration is going to hold me back. I’m coming for you fair Italia and you’d better be ready ‘cause imma make it count.

Postscript (8/10/15): And I did.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Watch Me Make Metaphors About Kale

I am over at the Pedestrian Palate today sharing my thoughts about and one and only recipe for kale. If you sleep with a bunch of this plant based fiberglass insulation under your pillow, you may not want to hop over.  If you are on the fence or deeply attitudinal about kale, then this is your jam - The Bandwagon Can Bite Me