Tuesday, December 18, 2012

It is almost Christmas and my window box is filled with flowers that are a-bloomin.

I know that I'm behind on Graffiti Grader. I have a lovely piece submitted by a friend with an excellent eye for wall art, plus I should really do a Graffiti Grader Greece Edition. The graffiti in Greece was really well-done. None of the sloppy tags and unclear meaning we are so often confronted with in Rome. But everything is going to be on hold while we get ready for our journey back to America for Christmas. Additionally, I have some news: my deep thoughts regarding Roman life will soon be part of a website devoted to ex-pat living across the world. I will be certain to included the link when I switch from this blog to the site of my new digs.

And in the meantime:

it looks like a whole new world of parking just opened up! 

who doesn't love a "try before you buy" option?

this is my new favorite look(not that I have figured out how to get socks over jeans): skinny jeans/boots/knee socks. and this is why i feel frumpy  at John's school events. because that's what a mom looks like here.

fancy a quick smoke while waiting at the dentist office?

Have I mentioned the hot chocolate situation here? It involves taking a block of chocolate melted into liquid form and put into a mug. And then you add sugar. So it is pretty much the greatest thing since mozzarella di bufala.

Saturday, December 15, 2012


grateful to pick-up his dirty clothes, to argue over brushing his teeth, to give him my mittens on a cold morning, to try and get the dirt out from beneath his nails, to tell him to change his socks, to negotiate with him on "just ten more minutes!", to remind him to do his homework, to trip over things he has not put away, to endlessly debate the merit of one skylander or pokemon or superhero over another, to smell his sweaty little boy smell and hear the sound of his laughter and tell him that I love him more than anyone has ever loved anything, to still occasionally get to hold his hand, to kiss him and whisper good night and God bless you when he is asleep. i am grateful, so grateful.

Monday, December 10, 2012

It was very cold in here this morning. I know that you are probably all, dang, that girl is never happy! It's too hot! It's too cold! Wah wah wah. And just so you know, the reason it is too cold now is BECAUSE it was too hot and  my inner thermostat no longer works properly. So when it is December and it's 52 degrees, it feels like the frost giants have invaded and we are waiting on Thor.

Now that we've gotten that out of the way!

It was very cold in here this morning. We had to wear the hoods up on our hoodies. The thing about super expensive city living is that you get to re-experience all the things that sucked about moving out of your parents' house and living grown-up style the first time around. Except that now you are old and it isn't all that funny to pay this much money and still have to sleep with the oven turned on for heat. Okay, well, I guess that is kind of funny.

So I looked-up do-it-yourself weatherproofing, knowing that I am about as likely to find a cold weather handyman in December as I was an air conditioning installer in August. I wrote down all the things I would need. I googled "Home Depot equivalent in Rome" but found no matches. I yellow-paged hardware stores--all closed on Sunday. I looked on all my "where to find stuff for ex-pats"websites. (Hey, looks like Depeche Mode is coming to Rome this summer and a certain Italian politician is planning on throwing his hat into the ring once again, even though he is supposed to be in jail at that time.)And finally I googled some random string of numbers that gave me a lead to another lead to another site to a review to a recommendation and suddenly I found myself looking at a possible  store that may have the supplies I needed.

I wrote down the two store addresses. I google direction-ed them. One was over an hour away(three miles), but one was only 30 minutes (just over one mile) from here.

I measured all the windows and doors. I used my metric system app and recorded everything in cm and meters. I looked-up all the Italian words for the things I wanted and wrote them down as well. We got in the car and followed the tom-tom's map. The usual cobblestone road we take  is closed to cars on Sunday, so I tried to trick the tom-tom into recalculating, but it just kept insisting I make a u-turn. I continued driving and our stalemate ended when the tom-tom sullenly admitted defeat and offered me another route. I would have made it there unscathed, but there was a roundabout to cross in order to get into the parking lot. Even with John yelling, "Mom! Not that one!" it still took me three go arounds to get off at the right exit. We played who-can-drive-into-this-space-first with lots of people and then we went into the store. Which was clearly Home Depot. Seriously.

you tell me that Home Depot doesn't own this place.
Luckily it only took me as long to find my supplies as it takes me in a Home Depot at home, meaning it was the last aisle I checked after wandering around for a long time looking puzzled and getting caught up in the storage and rug area. The twist, of course,was that there were different widths to the weather stripping. Did I want 1cm or 7 cm? Or a number in between? So I bought a bunch, figuring that I would make it work because what is a 2 cm if not a 4 cm that needs to be cut in half?

And I bought a space heater. It was very tricky because I wanted one that specified that it wouldn't burn down the house, or poison the dogs, or make the electric bill look like we have a clothes dryer.  Unfortunately,  each space heater could only promise one out of three. However, I did manage to find one which was energy efficient and the key to sustainable living and excellent health. I could tell because the writing on the box was green and everyone knows that means it is environmentally friendly.

Then we drove home. Which took twice as long because the tom-tom screen was frozen and wouldn't change to the map feature, no matter how many times John and I turned it off and on, so I had to resort to the google map app which is on my phone and doesn't attach to my windshield, so I can only listen to the directions and cannot see them.  And that means I got off at the wrong exit despite my son saying "No. No, not there mom!Mom, don't turn there...oh." And when google recalculated, it decided to put me on a paid highway but  luckily I did have the 90 cents. 90 euro cents. What do you call cents when they are in euros?  I know that I can't ask the cashier at the grocery store this question because one day I couldn't hear what he said when he was insisting that I not give him 45.50 when my bill was 50.00 because he didn't want to give me change, and I said what? and he said just give me 45 and I said just 45 dollars but no change? and he pointed out it was 45 euro, not dollars! and i said not in America it's not.

And then we got home and I managed to find a Mike-approved parking space and then I made dinner and we put on the first Christmas music we've heard this year and I got out the ladder and started weatherproofing and then it was time for bed. And that is how you spend an entire day in Italy doing one thing.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

this and that

A girl(and by girl I mean female under 40) has been yelling at her dog to stop lolly gagging and get back on-leash for the past 27 minutes. The dog seems to have no idea who the girl is. It's giant German Shepard wolf hybrid  beast or else I would take Sookie outside as bait. No dog can resist coming over to Sookie to see what the hell she is. Sometimes they also lick her head. I guess to see how she'll taste if they eat her. Everyone seems to have their dogs off-leash in our area. In fact, when I have our terrier duo outside, people ask me why they are on leashes. The "All Dogs Must Be On Leashes" sign is in Italian, but I'm apparently the only one who can read it. To be fair, many dogs are happy creatures who rarely stray from their people, even without a leash, and they return promptly when called. And then there are the others. Like ChaChi or whatever the dog currently being screamed at outside is named. And to be extra fair and not sound like a smug, rule-abiding non-citizen, I often let Sookie march around untethered. Because she will immediately come back to me in fear that I will do something fun without her. I never let Stella off-leash because she is stubborn and will ignore you if she has found something that smells good. Like 1200 year old pee. Yesterday I was playing fetch with Sookie as we walked to meet Jack's school bus. Unfortunately, at one point Sookie didn't make the catch and a Great Dane Mastiff mix grabbed her ball and ran. It took two men to chase down the dog who was merrily squeaking the ball as it ran around. Stella didn't even look up because she was sniffing a delightful vintage of soiled grass circa 1874.

I wrote a very long, picture-laden entry about our Thanksgiving in Athens, but Mike thought it was mean, so I will not be posting it. Because if my dearest of husbands thinks something is too mean, it must be really really really horribly mean. So I will sum it all up by saying that Athens was not my favorite place that I have ever visited. However, Poseidon's Temple was breathtaking and Greece's graffiti was much more artistic than Rome's graffiti. And the yogurt with honey was amazing. And a man yelled at our children for playing tag and told them he would call the police. Because they were playing tag. And...that is pretty much all the wrap-up I can offer.

I went Christmas shopping yesterday. Christmas shopping in that it is December and the roadside stands are selling nativity scenes, not Christmas shopping in that I was purchasing gifts for anyone. I am often mistaken for Italian (which I secretly love because it gives me the mistaken impression that I have captured the je ne sais quoi  of the Italian women) and when I was in Greece people were extremely surprised to discover I wasn't Greek and insisted that I was of Greek descent somewhere in my lineage. Which I am not as I am the proud descent of Irish horse thieves and southern Italian mafioso. Yesterday while shopping I  assumed yet another identity and was mistaken for a sales associate.  A harried and rather irate woman demanded to know the price of a Christmas decoration that had no tag. When I was looked around to see if there was someone else to whom she could be speaking, she asked me again. I shook my head and shrugged my shoulders and held my hands out palms up. She frowned and asked you don't know?!? in Italian. I shook my head again and told her in English that I didn't work there and I suspect she didn't believe me as she huffed away, undoubtedly grumbling about the unhelpful Greek sales associate.

This is a bit of a problem: I can understand enough to discern what people are asking of me, but I don't have the active vocabulary to respond. If they want to know where the shopping carts are (I used a combination of "Dove?" and pointing at the shopping cart and it worked like a charm) I am so the go-to person, but other than that I am fairly useless.

I would also like it to be known that just because I am super rusty in my shopping skills due to a lack of Target, TJ Maxx and Marshalls, I still kicked ass yesterday. While I was waiting in an amazingly long line (in which people were calm and called lovingly to the sweater-clad canines trotting by as the dogs helped their people pick out the prefect place setting), I had the absolute fullest shopping cart and had it so well-packed that unlike many others, I did not need a second cart or additional people to help me juggle. Because shopping is like riding a bicycle. Other shoppers openly looked at my wares and commented on them. They may have been saying Why the hell is she buying a  metal rhinoceros? But I prefer to think they were admiring my choices.

It was the first time I took the car by myself for the day to go shopping and it was very exciting. Except the roundabouts are the bane of my existence. I can never get off at the correct exit. If the tom-tom says get off at the third exit and I do, it turns out they meant the other third exit. But I don't know why that makes it the first exit I saw. Maybe it's because the tom-tom is viewing it from space.

Mike and I went out to dinner sans John. We were careful to choose a place that he would hate so that we could fully enjoy the experience. Our waiter helper was Italy's answer to Don Draper. He had a chin cleft you could park a truck in and had the kind face that needs to be shaved three times a day. Or as Mike put it, the kind of beard that scares a razor. Mike also had a funny joke about how fast our service would be because Don Draper would be able to use his super-speed and/or flying ability to get to and from the kitchen. Because he looked like Superman. But you know what? Mike isn't writing this, so we'll keep all his funniness out of it.

Don Draper was very nice and poured a bit of wine in a glass for Mike to swirl around and inhale and taste. And while there may be some people for whom that is a necessity, most of us will never be grown-up enough to know what we are supposed to be doing with that whole farce.. Hmmm...it smells... like wine. Hmmm...it tastes...like wine. And I can see it comes out of a bottle and not a box or brown paper bag. Excellent!

Our for-real waiter heard our accents and immediately dropped all pretense of being polite. He had no qualms about showcasing his annoyance and dislike for our American asses. I think he was secretly French.

I kept hearing a grating, complaining tone and as I swirled my wine, I tried to see where the noise  originated. The couple behind us was comprised of a woman who had had one Valium too many and listed glassy-eyed in her seat. She obviously fancied herself an aging Sofia Loren and wore a fur coat with lots of wrinkly, sun-spotted cleavage drooping from her neckline. Her companion looked a lot like Valentino(the leathery, overly plastic-surgeoned designer). Mike claimed the Valentino man kept talking on the world's largest cell phone but I didn't see it so I have to believe he was lying. Anyway, the noise wasn't coming from them.

And then I spied an inappropriately dressed boy in a thermal shirt and rock pendant on a black cord. He was drunkenly sharing his opinions on Israel and Palestine. And then I realized I could understand him. And then I realized he was American. I do not really know many Americans who act like tools when traveling, so I don't quite understand the supposedly overall idea in other parts of the world that Americans are loud, etc.   But after seeing the frat-boy-gone-to-seed, it suddenly became much clearer. His face kept getting redder and his voice kept getting louder and more instant as he repeated his thoughts on foreign policies over and over. And then his girlfriend took his hands in hers across the table and he shoved her thumbs in his mouth. And then started licking her arms.

On the positive side, having to deal with that couple made our waiter a bit more appreciative of how polite and charming and downright enjoyable Mike and I are. And it wasn't my imagination. When our after-dinner espresso was served, Mike and I received a complimentary display of small dessert items. The Italian diners around us were receiving giant platters with blocks of chocolate and chocolate chopping hatchet, so we were aware that we were still pretty low on the ladder. But the other American couple? They received nothing but an undoubtedly inflated bill.

Tipping in Italy is indeed a city in China. Some Italians tip, some don't. But no one tips as much as we do in America. It may just be cultural; it may be because the waitstaff is paid accordingly and doesn't depend on tips. I have heard it is because you pay for the food, not the service. Regardless, Mike and I cannot help but tip. Even if we try not to, we feel guilty and tip anyway. So we tipped the cranky waiter/Don Draper team. And as we were retrieving our coats from the coat room, the waiter came rushing after us and shook both our hands in turn and bade us a good evening. "Why did he do that?" I asked. "Because we tipped," Mike replied. (He is used to these questions from me.) It had started to rain outside, and another employee appeared with an umbrella and held it over our heads and walked us to our car so that we didn't get wet. And do you know who else they did that for? No one. Because that night after our 13.2% tip, we were P. Diddy.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

call me maybe

Every time my phone rings, I pick it up. Not because I want to, but because I'm a mom.

(Speaking of which, I love that all the ladies in our building stop me to ask:"How is John?" "Is John in school?" "Where is John?" We don't know their names. They don't know our names. But they all know John.

Today my phone rang and a man said a lot of things in Italian. (Because I live in Italy, natch.)

I told him that I was sorry, I didn't speak Italian, I spoke English.

He said more things in Italian.

I said I didn't understand.

He asked me why I didn't understand.

I said because I speak English, not Italian.

He asked to speak to Mike. I told him Mike was working and to call back later.

What makes this call so remarkable is that it took place IN ITALIAN on both ends, not just his. I'm not saying I spoke well or used correct verb tenses but I said actual Italian words and had a back and forth conversation with someone that I couldn't see and he couldn't see me, so I couldn't rely on any facial expressions or gestures to convey my meaning.

I felt vomity when I hung-up because I hate talking on the phone in general and in another language it isn't any better, but then I felt triumphant as I had done something I couldn't have done even two weeks ago.

I told Mike my very proud news that I had managed to converse in Italian. It was horrible, halting incorrect Italian, but it was Italian nonetheless.

Mike told me that I had been speaking to a telemarketer.

However, it was NOT a telemarketer. It was a furniture store calling to make arrangements to deliver our dining room chairs and television stand. We had ordered them in early September, but because the furniture was being shipped from France, we were told that it would take up to 30 days to arrive and we wouldn't receive it until October 1st. Imagine our surprise and delight that we are already receiving our furniture and it is barely December! As always, well-played, Italy. Well-played.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Vegetable lasagna

I had taken the other metro line (the dreaded line B) to the bus stop. Despite its size, Rome has only two metro lines. Because every time they try to build additional metro lines, they run into another ancient building that just has to be preserved, which ruins it for everyone who uses public transportation. (OMG total unintentional and yet super awesome pun--ruins/ ancient ruins . Nice.) Seriously, Rome is drowning in old.  Can we not just be happy with the all the ancient that's already here and get going on the metro line?

 Waiting to get on the same bus as I were four women on their way to work. The five of us stood there, twiddling our thumbs. One woman was younger than I and very tall. (I have noticed that there are two types of women here. Women who are my height--there are 2 or 3 of us--and women who are very tall.)  She had a bob hairstyle  that stuck out at gravity defying angles. I later sat behind her on the bus and saw that she had bobby pins all over her head. I couldn't help but wonder if she had put them in while her hair was wet to create volume but forgot to take them out.

Another woman had short curly hair and wore leggings and a blouse that didn't cover everything her leggings showcased. She was overweight, which is worth noting because of ***drum roll***the leggings. People, I know I am but an ignorant American who does not possess the innate European sense of style. But at this point I really feel I understand leggings.  If you are wearing them, there are certain parts of the body that need to be covered by another piece of fabric. Unless you look like a swimsuit model who has been photoshopped. Then you can wear whatever you want. But the rest of us need to know our limits and follow the legging rule. If your leggings  are stretched so thin that I now know the color of your underwear, they are pantyhose.

The other two women were speaking to each other in English but each had a different accent, so English must have been their common language. I am practically a linguist at this point. I can totally tell when someone is speaking English. Although I hear it so rarely it does take me a minute to realize that I understand what is being said.

Our bus pulled up. We started to line up to get on, and then the bus pulled away. Empty and without us on it. We looked at one another and stared after the bus. If I wasn't still working on my basic Italian (Buongiorno, come va? I still pronounce bene like bien. My Italian teacher loves me.), I would have inquired as to why that had happened. However, as no one seemed as surprised as I , maybe this was normal?

As we had been getting ready to board the bus, we were now closely grouped together.I realized the smell of marijuana hung thickly in the air. Of course I tried to suss out the culprit. The obvious suspect was the young woman. That would totally explain the bobby-pins and awkward hair. But it wasn't her. I had to rule out the mature professionally dressed women as well. Which left (I want to call her Vegetable Lasagna from the Seinfeld episode when Elaine and Puddy are arguing in the airplane. It doesn't really make sense, but we are going with that.) the woman in the short green blouse, sheer leggings, and underwear, aka Vegetable Lasagna.

She had to have been the pot smoker. Why does this matter? I don't know. What else are you going to do while waiting for a bus?

The bus looped around again, and everyone tensed, ready to make a run for it. This time the driver stopped and opened the doors. Bobby Pins got on. I got on. Then, right as Vegetable Lasagna got on, the bus driver shut the doors on her. I don't mean that he shut her out of getting on the bus. He literally shut them on her and she was now trapped between the doors like she was the prosciutto between two slices of bread. She screamed at the driver in Italian and he started yelling at her in return and he did not open the doors to free her. Bobby Pins didn't even look up, but I was practically standing up to get a better view of this. I suspected the bus driver was an undercover member of the leggings police and he was holding her captive until she agreed to cover up.

The driver finally opened the doors and the woman got on and continued to berate him at top volume (rightly so). And he continued to scream at her. I can't imagine what he was yelling about, seeing as how it was pretty much all his fault.  It shouldn't have been funny, but it really was. If I could have understood what was being said, I'm sure it would have been less surreal and more horrifying. But as it was, seeing the bus driver and Vegetable Lasagna screaming at each other was a show I couldn't stop watching.

Vegetable Lasagna sat down, still tossing out angry barbs, the other two women got on, and the bus pulled away. The driver was now smiling and laughing and talking to a still steaming Vegetable Lasagna (Steaming! Another pun. I am so rocking it!). He had apparently decided to forgive Vegetable Lasagna for getting caught in the doors when he shut them on her.

I have seen this before, a quick explosion of anger and gestures and suddenly there are smiles and friendly waves. I have had it happen to me when I am driving and I forget to honk the horn. If you aren't honking your horn, you are part of the problem. We all have to honk while driving, even if we are sitting at a red light.

I ended up getting off at the same stop as Vegetable Lasagna. As she stood to exit, the driver asked her if she was okay. She launched into another tirade and he continued to smile and laugh as though they had resolved this issue and were now fondly reminiscing about "the time I shut the doors on you and you were stuck halfway on the bus, and halfway out. That was a good one." Did you ever notice how many rap songs contain the word "reminisce"?

 Quite frankly, I can't imagine this bus scene ever happening in America. The ensuing lawsuits would be off the hook. Pun number 3. ENSUING LAWSUITS. I am on fire!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Graffiti Grader Saturday

Judge J:  A+. It says "FETS" and that's awesome.

Judge M: D

Judge A: I think it's trying to stress that it's important to have nice feet. Because  no one wants to see gross feet. C.

Judge M: I believe it's trying to say "Rocky" and for that, B-.

Judge A: I love how it is separated into "RA" and "KE" and it reminds me of the original Electric Company.  B.

Judge J: A+. It says "RAKE" and that's awesome.

Judge A: I see that "Blody" tag everywhere  and I can't help but think they can't properly spell "bloody."  Plus, could it be any sloppier? F.

Judge J: Light green is one of my favorite colors. A+.

Judge M: Obviously, this is one of my favorites. By erasing the "N" it now says "Egg Force." They even drew an egg. The power of grammatical editing--I love it. Really good. A-.

Judge J: I like the word "VITA" but I don't like the color blue. F.

Judge M: "Lazio Youth MILF"--a new take on an old theme. D.

Judge A: Isn't "MAMMA MILF" redundent? Also, "SEI LA MIA VITA" [you are my  life] is rather useless without  a name. Anyone could claim they wrote that for their boyfriend/girlfriend. F.

Judge M: I don't feel it. I have nothing to say.

Judge A: On a long metro ride, I enjoyed it on many levels.  The passenger who sits beneath it  can feel like a knock-out. It could be helpful directions as to what to do in case of fire. Or it could be a homage to LL Cool J.  I give it an A.

Judge J: A.  It's crazy; it says "KNOCKOUT."

Judge A: A message to all the youth that alchol is lame, don't give in to peer pressure. B."

Judge J: It almost says alcohol and I'm only eight. F!

Judge M: The number 8 obviously means this is the 8th in a series of "LAME ALCOL ASP." And by the eighth time, that message has grown stale. C.

Judge A: Without the mouse ears and nose, it would be just another Andy Warhol depiction of Marilyn Monroe. D.

Judge J: Woman with mouse ears? Crazy. B.

Judge M: C. I applaud their symbol of hope. Mickey Mouse Marilyn? As it says, "Bravo!"

Judge A: I don't like the anti-tree message. Trees never hurt anyone. Except in The Wizard of Oz. D.

Judge M: I see the Russian hammer and sickle and see it as the Giving Tree. B+

Judge J: Oh! The Giving Tree! A+.

Monday, October 29, 2012

When I was 17 I wore a bandana tied around my head like Axl Rose

We have been warned that November in Rome was the inspiration for November Rain by Guns& Roses. Because it rains. A lot. And during the month of November, Axl Rose can be found throughout Rome playing the piano, backed by a full orchestra. And Slash may or may not show-up. But if he does, he is so not talking to Axl Rose.

In anticipation of this (the rain, not Slash's guitar solo) , Mike ordered a dryer. I have tried to air-dry our clothes inside, but sometimes we want to wear our clothes, so that doesn't really work. The dryer was ordered. We were told it would arrive in 4-5 days.

A week later, Mike received an e-mail that the dryer would no longer be arriving and that, in fact, we had no longer purchased this dryer, nor could we purchase it even if we wanted to.

Three months prior, this news would have been a 10 on my scale of 1-10 banshee freak-out.

Mike shared the dryer news with me and I laughed.

I think I drank the Kool-Aid.

In which my stepfather asks, "Are you wearing a hoodie?"

Although the tropical flowers still bloom and the geckos still scurry, fall seems to have arrived in Rome. If I were at home in the U.S., I would start looking through my cardigans and jackets to throw on over my t-shirt, and depending on the state of my pedicure, I might even switch from sandals to cowboy boots.

This morning I wore a long-sleeve shirt, a sweater, a heavy coat and boots. My ears were cold beneath my hood.  My hands were cold in my pockets and I could feel the cold on my legs as though I had spent the day skiing.

I passed people wearing parkas and mittens and snow hats, their dogs similarly outfitted, and I was envious of their well-thought out plan for warmth.

It was 57 degrees.

Rainbows and Unicorns

I don't know how familiar you are with the American suburban male, but much of their life revolves around the lawn. At least if their name is Mike and he is married to me. We all used to dread the start of spring because as soon as the grass started peeking through the snow, Mike would sprint to the lawn mower and make sure it was in working order; that there was enough gasoline, back-up gasoline, and  an updated map of all the local gas stations in case the lawn mower ran out of gas. And then once the mowing season began, so did the obsession. It was not unlike living in the Stanley Hotel from The Shining as the protagonist descends into a lawn-induced madness. Every morning would find Mike patrolling the yard, whipping out his tape measure and carefully trimming suspiciously long blades of grass with scissors stolen from John's art supplies. He spent many hours standing at the window waiting for the lawn to grow so that he could dash outside to mow it. At some point there would be a drought and the lawn would thankfully become brown and dormant and all mowing ceased. We would all breathe a sigh of relief and then the complaining would begin. "I hope the grass isn't dead. Do you think it's dead? I think it's dead."

"It's not dead. It's dormant. It will be green again once it rains. We go through this every year."

"I think it's dead."

When Mike moved to Rome two months before John and I followed, his last words at the airport were: "Make sure they [the lawn care company] don't cut the grass too short. And remind them to pick-up the grass clippings."

Now that we live in a city, Mike has tried to focus on the patches of green in our area and lament the lack of cutting, but it's so useless that he has finally had to look elsewhere to satisfy his obsession .

So now we are all subject to the desirability of where the car is parked. The best spot is in the free space ( free here means you are parked on the sidewalk) directly in front of our balconies facing the street because Mike can then see the car at all times. Any other spot in which the car is parked means that we spend family time waiting for this spot to become open so that Mike can move the car from its current position three cars to the left and reclaim "his" parking place. And once the car is in that space, we may as well not have a car because we can't risk losing that spot. Mike likes to scoff at this: "What, am I going to turn into someone who cancels on my friends for dinner because I might lose my parking spot?" and then he calls his friends and cancels dinner plans because he doesn't want to lose his parking spot.

We try to head him off at the pass by scouting for parking when we know he's on his way home. These are transcripts taken from actual texts:

6:17 pm  Mike: I'm leaving here soon. I'm [out of luck]  for parking.

6:32  me: There are currently two primo spots in front--I'll keep you posted

6:33 Mike: Thanks

6:53 me: Good free spots are gone, but there is still a good paid one

Silence. Suspected sobbing.

To be fair, not all our texts are parking focused. Sometimes I like to update Mike about the television show Sons of Anarchy. He stopped watching it three seasons ago, but I'm in for the long haul.

I think you should know that Opie was murdered. He was beat to death in jail. And Tig's daughter was set on fire while he was forced to watch.

Um. Maybe you should switch back to watching Sex and the City.

Wow, Jax just bludgeoned a guy to death with a snow globe.

Well that's good, honey.

It was revenge for Opie. He mushed his head like a melon.

I can't believe you are okay with watching that. (Admittedly, most things with the teeniest hint of violence cause me to leave the room/shut the book/ end the conversation, and stay awake at night worrying for the world in which our son will be raised.)

Well, you can't be in a motorcycle gang running guns & selling drugs & have everything be rainbows and unicorns.

As you can clearly see, everyone is so well-dressed in Rome that even the "ladies of the night", who are out in the middle of the day and aren't technically women, are well-groomed. Do you see the one sitting down? Hookah knows nothing makes a leg look longer than a high heel in nude! Snap!

Sometimes I'm leery when I am photographing people who may not wish to be photographed, but I knew I was safe with this one because no one in the world could run in those shoes.

Monday, October 22, 2012


i miss the beauty of the changing trees and the coolness in the air. i miss the pumpkin coffee and the halloween decorations. i miss the hayrides. i miss buying spicy mums and the perfect gourds with my son. i miss cider, both mulled and apple. i miss piles of leaves and halloween parades and trick-or-treating and halloween candy. i miss plotting costumes, the party and parade at school. i miss the annual  boback party. i miss long walks with the dogs and the crunching of the leaves beneath our feet. i miss the geese flying south. i miss soccer games in the twilight, bundled in blankets, hats and gloves. i miss my warm mug while waiting for the school bus. i miss making silly jack 'o lanterns and switching out my sandals with boots. i miss the lengthening shadows and the sunlight that no longer warms. i miss the reemergence of the deer on back roads and putting the garden to bed for the winter. i miss soups and chili and the last of the grilling. i miss sweaters and and the smell of fire pits and chimneys. i miss the changing of the cows from the fields to the barns. i miss ruddy cheeks after playing outside. i miss it all, the fleeting of fall, the respite from summer, the glory before winter.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

leggings, armpits and graffiti

I now know why Italians always wear scarves, even during the scorching temperatures of summer. It is because there is always someone on the metro whose armpit emits a steady stream of noxious fumes, invisible tentacles creeping through the air to ambush unsuspecting victims. If I manage to snag a seat, inevitably someone will grab the bar above my head, armpit parallel to my nose. So I have started standing, hoping this would limit my odiferous experience. It doesn't work. The smell will find its way to me. This is where the scarves come in. Scarves. Scarves are the answer. If you have a scarf, you can wrap it around your nose and mouth like you are making your way through the eye watering smoke of a fire.

On the subject of Italian fashion staples, I have broken the one rule that should never be broken. We all know that leggings are not pants. They are tights without feet. They are meant to be worn under something, anything. But not on their own as pants. Except here, where leggings are pants. On women of all shapes, sizes, and ages. And like Stockholm Syndrome, I've started to think it looks acceptable. Normal, even. I have already embraced skinny jeans, which someone as short and un-storked leg as I should never wear. And now I have worn leggings. As pants. And I felt like I blended in. Because generally I feel like I stand out in a not good way. No matter how much I study them, I can't figure out how to makes my clothes look as awesome and effortless as the natives. I feel like an archaeologist studying a rare tribe.  And they have all mastered a way to make their clothes fit or drape or not-fit in a way I cannot achieve. I can be walking behind a group of girls, marveling that they are wearing leggings with unlaced high top sneakers and suddenly one will turn and I will realize they are 72 years old and still making it work. Damn!

Thus the leggings. I wore them as pants all day, walking around Rome. I felt normal. I changed clothes before Mike and John came home and saw me.

if you have ever before read this blog, you should be able to find waldo straight away. Un-ironic shoes with white socks? bingo. 
This picture is a double-whammy. I never tire of seeing the religious folk doing every day tasks( it's the Catholic in me): nuns driving ancient Fiats, monks crossing the street; priests with backpacks. It's like seeing your teacher at the grocery store. It's just wrong.  Also, the girl with the pink helmet? She has on fishnets and jean shorts. I wore that when I was 14. And again at 17. Am I going to have to start wearing that again now? I'll keep my eyes peeled for the grandma brigade and see if they are doing this.

they finally cut the grass. which is great because every time Sookie peed, we lost sight of her.
and then they raked and bagged the grass. except they used a broom. and a snow shovel.

We have decided to implement a new segment of the blog called Graffiti Grader. Graffiti is a way of life here; may as well take advantage of it for our amusement. Following in the footsteps of American Idol, America's Got Talent, So You Think You Can Dance and all the other inane shows like them, we will have three judges, only one of which is female.

Judge A: "As far as I can tell, this says "Poison", obviously referring to the  1980s hair band fronted by Mechanicburg native Brett Michaels. I like the font, and I give it a B-. "

Judge M: " B-."

Judge J: " F due to sloppiness and the fact that it says poison."

Judge M: "It's legible, and I like the signal in the middle. C."

Judge J:" D. It says Skin Heads."

Judge A: "I am uncertain as to whether skinheads still exist, and I certainly don't like what they stand for, but I  think this is saying, 'Skin Heads Unite, let us not hate. Let us play the musical game Simon.'  However, it's lame. D." 
Judge J: "It's a cobra and it's well-done. A-."

Judge M:"B. It's original, it's fun. It's like it's saying, 'Hey, come enjoy Rome.'"

Judge A: "I like this one as well. It's a good use of space and I like snakes. A-."

Judge A: "It's hard to discern if this is genius or suckiness. I'll err on the side of caution and liken it to a Picasso or Jackson Pollack; initially misunderstood, but now worth gazillions. C+."

Judge M: "Like they didn't even try. C-."

Judge J: "Sloppy. C-."

Judge J: "C+. It says 'King Koes.'"

Judge A: "I think it's a misspelling of Kinkos and I'm not a fan of product placement, but I encourage the use of paper over electronic devices for reading. C."

Judge M: "A."

Judge A: "I like the bubble letters. And pink and orange are one of my favorite color combinations. A."

Judge M: "Illegible. Big, bubble-gum pink...B."

Judge J: " F, due to using the letter J for rubbish."

Judge M: "It's a cheat. Terrible. No risk, and it doesn't even make sense. F."

Judge A:"I think it's well-thought out in that it would requite time to make the stencil before doing the graffiti. A-."

Judge J:"They took their time. A-."

Judge A: "It's a bit lazy. Maybe it's part of housebreaking a dog to show the dog where to pee?  D."

Judge J: "B. It looks like real chicken scratch."

Judge M: "The first arrow gets a B because it's saying, 'Hey! Look here!' The second arrow gets  a C- because there isn't anything to look at but another arrow."

Saturday, October 13, 2012

sunblock and mosquito repellent

My legs are all beat the hell up. It looks like I ran through a brier patch. I have scars, scabs, lumps, bumps, and welts, all courtesy of our friendly neighborhood mosquitoes. We used to laugh at the infomercial about the hanging screen door that magnetically latched, because why wouldn't you just install a regular screen door? But truly, they should market those magnet-closing screen suckers here because I would buy all of them. ALL of them, just to keep out these ding-dang mosquitoes. We had a crazy thunderstorm( as opposed to the gentle sedate kind) last night  that continued through mid-morning and right now the temperature is cool and I have all the doors and windows open and it's absolutely a legitimate jeans day. But with my legs covered, the mosquitoes are treating mys arms like they are a two-for-one happy hour special.

I went to Spain. I did not get bit by a mosquito or anything else even once in Spain. I did, however, see a ferocious amount of naked people on the beach. Not a nude beach. Just a normal one where kids are building sand castles and people are trying to surf on the flat Mediterranean Sea. I have been to other countries where there are many variations on the brevity of swimwear.But I have never been to a beach where people of all shapes and ages were as naked as the day they were born.Well, I guess that's exaggerating. Some people wore hats. I guess they didn't want to get a sunburn.

 I think the sheer number of penises shocked me. Because there were a lot. And many of them were very, very, very old and accompanied droopy overweight bellies. Admittedly, I was acting like a 12-year-old boy and poking my sister and whispering, "Look at that guy! He's playing paddle ball! No one should have to see that!"

"They're the ones who are probably normal," she replied, "They feel fine with themselves and no one thinks it's a big deal but us." To which I smartly retorted, "Whatever." And then I was distracted by a stand that sold shoes and mojitos.

Barcelona mainly seemed like a Disneyland version of a meat-oriented city. It was extremely clean. There was no graffiti, no trash on the street, traffic flowed smoothly, the taxis were Toyota Prius hybrids and a bottle of water was extremely overpriced. Giant pig legs hung by their hooves on every corner and one could shop amongst the charming outdoor stalls all while eating a cone of meat. Or a gelato. Your choice.

Other than the truly breathtaking hotel in which my sister and brother-in-law were staying, my absolute favorite thing about Spain was that there were pancakes. I wasn't aware that I missed pancakes until I saw them on the menu. And they were perfect. they were thin and crispy around the edges; they were topped with powdered sugar. They were the single greatest thing I have ever eaten.

Oh, but Rome. I landed in Rome and the taxi coordinator (aka guy with a clipboard) thought I was Italian (it was 80 degrees and I had on pants, a scarf, full-make-up, heels and enough jewelry to set off the metal detector ) and therefore let me bypass the taxi line and get into the first available cab. It was late and Rome was dark, but everywhere you looked there was something ancient and magical  side-by-side with its modern counterparts. There was trash on the street and graffiti on the walls and dogs and people and bird-sized mosquitoes. My cab driver ran three red lights and yelled out the window. I was happy to be home.

To Recap:
spain is pretty
spain has meat cones
many people in spain have a healthy self-image

spain has pancakes
i love rome

the mosquitoes in rome can make knees grotesque

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Post number 28

Do you know what makes you feel like an asshole? When you have ONE job involving the cleanliness of your home and you fail. My only task is to provide the supplies our cleaning person asks me to purchase. And today, I didn't have any dust cloths. I searched the entire house and came up empty handed. She was very nice about it, but I really feel like a jerk. Especially when I realized the dust cloths are still in the laundry basket from when she cleaned last week. Because I haven't washed them. Because our washing machine is the size of a thimble and I can only do so many loads of wash a day because I have to wait for the damn sun to dry everything and it keeps setting at 8 p.m. and our streetlights and the moon are hopeless at drying clothes. Believe me, I've given it a try. So I prioritized incorrectly and was all about making sure everyone had clean underwear. But you know what? You can just turn your underwear inside out and get another use out of it. But you can't do the same with dust rags.

Allora. We tried to have tacos for dinner. We had gone to the "international" grocery store (home of the 9 euro bottle of syrup) and purchased taco shells and taco seasoning. El Paso, or Old El Paso. I don't know. It's a yellow box and we buy it for tacos in America. Our first clue that these products had not  been made in America was the claim on the back of taco seasoning packet that the mix would be a "lovely and delightful treat!" An American product would never make have that statement in writing because they would immediately be sued by someone who claimed that they now needed to be paid 3 million dollars due to their pain and suffering of not having been provided with a lovely and delightful treat. Unfortunately, however, it was not a lovely or delightful treat for us either. We like taco flavored tacos. These tacos were sketchy-Indian-food-street-vendor-flavor and the shells clearly had a sell-by date of 1982. It was a huge disappointment and Mike was only able to eat five of them.

John had an after-school activity yesterday and it involved picking him up at a different bus stop. This bus stop happened to be near a traffic light and afforded me the opportunity to better observe people and pass judgement on them.

Like this man, for example. I don't love the salmon color pants, but I do love that people here wear so much color, so I won't knock him just because I don't like the salmon color. Mike would call these pants "pink" by the way, because he maintains that my sister and I are the only two people in real life who describe colors as "salmon" or "charcoal." Or "dark blue."
I do love the color of his shoes and I think they are an appropriate match for the pants. Can we guess where he faltered? His socks. Gray is certainly better than white or black or brown in this case, but I think he missed an excellent opportunity for a fun pair of patterned socks. Oh, and please don't let the leaves on the sidewalk fool you.It is not fall. It is still 87 degrees. I think the leaves are just dead due to the exhaust fumes.

an up-close look in case you thought he didn't really need a pair of fun socks.

This suit is perfection. 

How do you feel about this man's suede slip-on loafers? I don't feel good about them. I also don't feel good now that I see the man on the other side of him noticed me taking pictures. 
Tourists. The dead give away is the appropriate attire for the weather. 

I hope you can see this woman driving her motorcycle in 6 inch platforms. This is why I am a consistent Fashion Don't in Italy. I would so be on the back page of Italian Glamour magazine with captions pointing out my lack of salmon pants and suede loafers. How often in America do you see women so well-turned out while driving a motorcycle?  I mean, I watch Sons Of Anarchy. Obviously Gemma is a hot mess, but even Dr. Tara turned all biker babe when she and Jax got together. Did you see the season premiere? Whoa! I so did not see that coming with Tig's daughter!
Here is Mike pretending he doesn't notice salmon-panted vegetable  lasagna behind him.
So, basically, the moral of the story is, don't eat tacos in Rome and if you're in a motorcycle gang, do not kill a rival gang's daughter for revenge unless you are positive that they are the ones who shot Clay.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

hoagies and grinders, hoagies and grinders

I know my last post wasn't the best, but I've had a lot on my plate. I really shouldn't have written at all, but I was being so heavily pressured(you all know who you are) that I felt like I needed to get something out there. I've been dealing with hair issues, I've been sick, I dropped a big brass doorknob on my foot and broke my toe, and then I've had this whole insane schedule thing: I get up, John gets up, Mike is up and we are all out the door by 7:05. We walk to the bus stop and John eats his breakfast on the way (needless to say, it pretty much sucks when he's eating pancakes with syrup because the syrup attracts flies and it's so sticky and I never remember to bring a washcloth to clean off John's face---JUST KIDDING! They don't have maple syrup in this country.) and the bus arrives at 7:20.

Then Mike and I walk home, I get ready for the day(contacts, teeth brushed, nothing to wear), leave again by 8:50 and walk a bit over a mile to my 4 hours of Italian class. And that sounds a lot like four hours of people speaking Italian and seven minutes of me catching stray words and waiting in line for the restroom and/or espresso machine and trying to dodge the smokers. And then it's time to walk home. If it had been about 80 degrees on the walk there, it is now about 90 and I pass by the same group of Italian teenagers waiting for the auto bus and metro and they all wear the kind of puffy, leather, unlaced high-top sneakers that we wore in sixth grade when Hulk-a-mania was hitting its stride and I marvel at the boys who have flat-ironed random sections of their asymmetrical hair because who knew boys and flat-irons had any type of even passing relationship? I am desperate to take a picture, but kids are so much bigger than me nowadays and who wants to be the mom whose phone is broken by a boy with flat-ironed hair?

 Then it's time to hang out the laundry, start my homework, do the dishes, take the dogs out, and go meet John at the bus. Come home, make John a snack, see if the laundry is yet dry (it's not), feed the dogs, work on homework, check the laundry again, Mike comes home and it's time for dinner, showers, checking the laundry, and bed.

New Topic: There has been some very loosely organized dog-training happening on my walk to and from the bus stop. It involves people sitting down and occasionally yelling at their  unleashed dogs and then going back to talking amongst themselves. I decided to walk Stella and Sookie to the bus stop with me, which was fine, but on the way home, the entire group of dogs decided to head over to check us out.  John and I and our two dogs that weigh a combined total of 20 pounds were surrounded by two German shepherds, one lab, one German shepherd/mastiff mix, and a mutt whose head stood taller than my ribcage. Sookie's approach to life is that there are two groups in the world: those who are already friends and those who are friends she has yet to meet, so she was happy and trying to let each dog know how special they were and dance rainbows and stars around them. Stella's approach to life is: I like 3 things and none of them are you. So she was bristling and growling and I was looking over at the dog owners who were paying no mind to this scene and calling out, "SCUZI!" but they pretended not to notice  and finally I had to untangle Sookie's leash from nine or 100 legs and stop Stella from attacking the GermanShepherd /mastiff mix because I know she believed with all her heart that she could totally take him, but who wants to watch their dog get eaten in front of their kid? Not me. Because I'm a good mom.

So we started walking being followed by this herd of dogs and still not one owner called them back and I was so annoyed that I was wearing flip-flops because of my still swollen toe which meant I couldn't even deliver a good kick if need be, but I could at least swing a Pokemon backpack. And then a little tiny messy dog ran up and started humping the significantly larger lab. Which seized the attention of all the other dogs and my son, although my properly spayed girls only glanced over their respective shoulders and were like, Yeah, you wish Long Duck Dong (Stella) and I hope you make beautiful puppies together! (Sookie).

New topic: I have been unable to volunteer at John's school the way I had assumed I would because of my whole schedule and the fact that the metro has two lines and neither of them goes towards that part of Rome. However, there was an International Family Picnic on Saturday and they needed volunteers to work the tables handing out food and pouring drinks and although I love being a part of John's school, I was already in food services in high school (Long John Silvers and Bob's Big Boy) and I   never want to do that again. However, the call went out for volunteers to set-up tables. Okay, that I can do. Mike was picking up some friends from the airport, so John and I set off for his school.

This was my first time driving through Rome without Mike to instruct me to drive over the median or swerve at the last second so that I didn't hit the motorcycle in my blind spot, or to go ahead and drive into oncoming traffic in order to pass the bus. But I never want to become one of those people who are scared to drive or need someone to accompany them everywhere, so I was going to make this happen. Plus, I don't want John to grow up and marry a girl who is helpless and dependant so it's important that he sees his mom get in car accidents all by herself.

John's school is literally 9 miles from our home. It takes 45-50 minutes to drive there. That is Rome traffic in a nutshell. I was execllent up until the roundabout. (No need to make a Clark Griswald joke, I know you are all already thinking of one.) There were four exits on the roundabout. I successfully got off at three of them ,none of them being the correct one. But I did finally exit the only one I hadn't tried and John said, "Oh! This is where my bus driver stops to smoke!" so I knew we were headed in the right direction.

At the school, I carted around some Fanta (you can't believe how popular Fanta is over here) and used masking tape to tape down the tablecloths. And then I was instructed to head over to the food table and serve the guests. Which I really really really did not want to do and I considered hiding behind the large wine and beer display (hey, the PTO has to make money somehow, and what better way than selling liquor at at school picnic?) but by then John had found a bunch of friends and they were running around and I didn't want to make him leave and I didn't want to be the lazy American mom who brought store-bought cookies. Because I already had brought store-bought cookies. So I donned a pair of blue plastic gloves and awaited my fate. Luckily, the other moms were equally befuddled and reluctant to wear the gloves and many jokes quickly ensued. Unbelievavbly, there was no coffee station at the picnic. In Italy, you may as well not even have a gathering if you aren't going to offer coffee. It's just bad manners.  People of every age and nationality came up to us at the food service table asking where the coffee was. They tried speaking in multiple langueages. They tried offering us bribes. Truly, it was a gross oversight on the part of the organizers. The  school cafeteria has a coffee bar for goodness sake! Although it was closed for the day.While the picnic was taking place, the school's volleyball and basketball teams were playing against the teams from Florence. Some of the coaches from Florence discovered our lack of coffee and felt so sorry for us that they went into town and brought epresso back for those of us working the food table. We knew that if anyone caught a whiff of our coffee, a stampede or riot would ensue, so we took turns ducking behind the table to hurriedly drink our espresso. And at the end of our FIVE hour shift, we all left each other with a flurry of double cheek kisses and hope to work the next event together.

I was not so lucky with the women running the booth where one could purchase a variety of items with the school logo. I wanted a t-shirt and held up an adult small only to realize that it was a unisex small which meant it would have fit Mike. So I carefully refolded it and put it back in its place. One of the women joked, "Hey! Are you messing up my display?" and I said, "No worries, I worked at Benneton, I am a certified professional folder and have even taught classes on proper t-shirt folding." She stared at me blankly and then she said, "I was just kidding." Alrighty then! They had only children's sizes 7-8 so I asked if they had any larger children's sizes. They hunted around in the boxes and came up with an 11-12. I held it up to me and it was a little large (which is very strange because people are not exactly overweight here) but definitely do-able. I tried to pay and not unlike the couches, they didn't want to sell it to me.

"That won't fit you," one of the women said.
"Yes it will," I replied.
"No, it won't."
"Yes, it will."
"No, it won't."
"Trust me, it really will. It's fine."
"There's no way it will fit you. Half the teenagers in this school have tried to buy that size and it doesn't fit any of them." (I don't believe that because the teenagers at the school are of the so beautiful-they-had-to-have-been-hired-to-be-on-the-brochure-variety and if it doesn't fit them, it's only because they are six feet tall.
Finally I pulled the shirt over the shirt I was already wearing and as suspected, it fit.
There was silence in the booth.
"Well, that's because you're too skinny," one of the women said.
"Plus, it's going to shrink," pointed out another one.
"Oh, we don't have a dryer,"I replied,"so, no worries on that front."
I was the grown-up and dind't point out that like all unisex t-shirts, the shirts are oversized. It's a universal fact. They finally accepted my 5 euro and I moved onto the next booth where  a representative from the American embassy was helping Americans obtain their absentee ballots.

I sat down, I filled out paperwork, I talked to the Americans, I was very excited.
Meanwhile, a man that I swear was Kato Kaelin plopped down beside me. He was drinking a beer and had a large single hoop earring and sunglasses with a blue tint. "Awesome," he said. "I didn't want to do this until I was drinking a beer because what's more Italian than registering to vote while drinking a beer?"

There were so many things wrong with that sentence that it took a minute for one of the absintee ballot helpers to finally say, "Well! Okay! You just need to fill out your social security number and your last address in the United States where you were registered to vote."

Kato was nodding slowly."Well, yeah, I don't know what my social security number is."

"Okay, how about your driver's license number?"

"Oh, yeah, well, I haven't had a license...yeah I don't even know when I had a license."

"Do you have the address of your last residence in which you were registered to vote?"

"No...yeah, I don't."

"Do you know in what state you lived?" By this time I could feel the representatives kicking each other under the table. I was done with my paperwork, but there was no way I was leaving until I saw this through.

"Ahhhh. Hmmm. It might have been California." I told you it was Kato Kaelin! "Actually, it wasn't really my house, but my mail was delivered  there." (!!!!!) "But yeah, I don't know the address."

So the next time I saw Kato, he was standing on a brick wall in front of the food table and he was holding a guitar. He started yelling, "Hey! All you kids follow me, we're going to do some singing!"

Apparently this was not a planned part of the picnic as there was a DJ already playing music.

Later Kato announced it was time to put his guitar back in the car and have a beer. And then Kato disappeared into the night. Okay, afternoon.

And I managed to successfully handle the roundabout on the way home; I got us lost only twice; I fended off a man knocking on car windows at a red light and trying to solicit money; and from the dessert table at the picnic, I managed to smuggle home a plate of pumpkin pie, apple pie, brownies, and cannoli for Mike. And there were fireworks over the city because Roma had a home game. And there was a thunderstorm last night so all the yelling due to Roma's loss didn't even wake us. A good day indeed.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Due figli sono alti

Possibly the most important event since I have moved to Rome has taken place. My hair was colored by someone other than my hair's very best friend, Ashley.
this is my hair in america. it is happy and secure.
       The picture above, however, is not my natural hair color. But it does play my natural hair color on TV.

I went as long as I possibly could without admitting that I had a problem. My hair kept hinting that maybe I needed help. I insisted that I could go to a hair salon any time I wanted! I just didn't want to!But after two months, I could no longer ignore or hide the cruel joke that sprouts from my head.

As I live in the land of gorgeous dark hair, I decided to go a little bit darker. Nothing drastic, just something like this:

However, on me, that color  unfortunately did not translate to Jessica Biel. It translated to Morticia Addams:

 My obvious plan was to stay inside until Christmas when my hair would be reunited with Ashley.

But I was signed-up for intensive Italian lessons. So I had to leave the house.

My Italian classes are 4 hours at a time, 5 days a week, for 2 weeks.  Day 1 was a little overwhelming because I was the only native English speaker. Even though we were all "beginners," some of us were multi-lingual in Latin-based languages and were catching on faster than those of us who talk American.

I decided to just study really hard and overcome the my-country-is-so-awesome-I-don't-need-to-be-multi-lingual-issue. Boo-yah!

This morning,however, the instructor asked me how I was and I forgot the Italian words to reply. I also forgot how to say my name, where I was from, where I lived, and why I looked like Morticia Addams.

Yet today, an amazing addition was added to our Italian lesson: the rules of grammar.  Much like filling out forms, I LOVE grammatical rules. And so, now that I know that there are rules, many things have clicked into place. I finally could participate! I answered questions, I understood what was being written, I understood what was being said. Meanwhile, my classmates wanted to know why as far as these rules were concerned.Why this verb tense? Why third person plural? Why that article? Why is ed before a noun that starts with a vowel considered better than just e?

However, it is not for us to ask why. The why is of no importance. We need not understand, we need only to embrace the rules.

Do or do not... there is no why.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Sometimes I swear this place is out to get me

Technically the line is Sometimes I swear that man is out to get me, but I was concerned that if that was the title of the post, people would think that Mike was sabotaging my alphabetically arranged pantry. When I saw the Julia Roberts movie Sleeping With the Enemy, and she was frantically making sure all the hand towels were aligned and all of the labeled cans in the cabinet were facing the same direction and the people around me were tense and uncomfortable that a misstep over one of these details meant that her husband would beat her, I was happily munching popcorn, relieved that at least someone recognized the importance of these matters.Quite frankly, I'm surprised her husband married a person who didn't know that hand towels should be even. One would also hope that in a movie about an abusive husband there would be no need for the giant "I'm Julia Roberts" laugh that is the reason the glaciers are melting. But she managed to sneak one in anyway. We should all just be thankful that she "didn't rescue him right back." Strangle me with a misaligned hand towel. Ick.

Two nights prior, our intercom buzzer went crazy with the cheese whiz when we were not expecting anyone. It kept buzzing and buzzing like the big bad wolf trying to blow down our house with a stubby, nicotine-stained finger with dirt beneath the nail, and hair on the knuckle(just a guess). Yet when Mike picked up the phone, no one responded to his "Pronto." Several minutes later, our landlord called to tell us that someone was complaining because water from our air conditioner had dripped on them. You know how sometimes if you don't live in the middle of nowhere with only the Mennonites as neighbors, you have to watch where you step so that you don't get dripped on by an air conditioner? This person was unaware that this could happen. Life is hard.

And when we awoke, it was pouring rain. And humid as all hell. And I could feel my hair growing bigger by the second and our place smelled musty and closed-up like a beach rental where the floor feels gritty and even though the owner claimed the rental had been cleaned in between tenants, you know it wasn't because there was a bathing suit hanging in the shower.

I don't like heat and I don't like humidity. And this is why I moved to a tropical climate.

Then I tried to empty the dishwasher but the dishes were covered with a film as though the dishwasher hadn't worked. Because it probably doesn't. And the clothes that had been hanging out to dry were not yet dry but i had to bring them in because of the rain and possible air conditioner drippings. And I couldn't tackle the gigantic pile of laundry that had sprouted like mushrooms in horse manure because I didn't have anywhere that I could then dry the clothes.  And I was trying in vain to unpack all of our clothes(mine) and shoes(mine) and I cannot because we simply do not have enough storage space and no one else seems to think this is a problem except I. And the dogs. Because they are always on my side.  Well, really just Stella. Because if I am not skipping and tossing daisies, Stella quietly follows me with a sympathetic look and occasionally whines to let me know that she recognizes that We Are Upset.

i'm sorry the lack of closet space and terrible humidity has us down. and i too wish that Entertainment Weekly hadn't pulled that bogus double-issue deal so that they can skip publication this week.

 Sookie pretty much only emerges if she suspects I'm petting Stella.

And then it was time to meet John at the bus and I was so hot that even though everyone seemed to be wearing leather jackets and snow pants, I wore shorts and a tank top and didn't care that people were looking at me and my giant humidity-filled hair in horror.

And I didn't use my umbrella and by the time I sat on the tiny ledge of the ancient ruin that is where the bus stops, I felt better. The rain was cold and the traffic was full of people trying to drive over one another's tiny cars and everyone was honking and like a white noise machine, it was very soothing.

And when we had dinner, it was actually too cool to open the windows and Stella was finally able to go to sleep now that We Were No Longer Upset.

It's as though Rome takes you to your very breaking point and just when you think you cannot stand to live here for one more single second, it feels you have learned your lesson, and allows you to love her once again. I assume Rome is a girl because of the whole she-wolf thing, but whatever.

And even though it is still pouring rain, today the high is going to be 70 degrees. The workman are out sweeping the rain like Toki Wartooth sweepings the snow. I am wearing.....JEANS!!!!!!!!!And not only am I wearing jeans, I am wearing a pair of skinny jeans that my sister had bought me last Christmas but I never wore because I thought I looked like Khloe Kardashian (not the one who keeps having babies with that unbelievable loser, and not the pretty one who keeps getting married, but the other one:the one who looks like a Yeti), but here, everyone wears them to the degree that it looks normal. I may just break the next fashion barrier and start wearing leggings as pants. Why not? It's Rome! Anything is possible in Rome!
btw, you should never wear leggings as pants. especially if they are really just tights and not even leggings.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

the neighborhood

 a perfectly coiffed woman reminds me of my grandmother's neighbor. she has large glasses and matching sweater sets and a louis vuitton purse hangs over her arm. each store has a single purpose and the owner works behind the counter. they joke with customers like lifelong friends. if what you want is not there, they say "come back tomorrow, i will have it for you then." the middle age stroll arm-in-arm with the elderly. no one passes a child without a display of delight. days proceed and the television grows dusty, unused. dinner is eaten together. we sit on the balcony, drink coffee and wine. we people watch and hear tales of a new Russian friend met during recess. we know all the dogs. i try in vain to spot geckos darting into underbrush at the sound of my footsteps.

True Blood Season 5

I am deviating from my normal topic of Italy to share my thoughts on Season 5 of True Blood. So if you have yet to see that season in its entirety, don't read this. 'Cause I is going there, hooker. And if you don't know why I just used the word hooker, just stop reading altogether because this is not for you. Although that is one of my favorite Pearl Jam songs. A three-way tie between that, Rearview Mirror and Black.

Now you may be wondering, American Suburban Mom in Italy, how in the world have you been able to watch season 5 in a timely fashion? And to that I must go off on a bit of a side note. I fully expect that anyone in the age range of 33 and older is not only familiar with the short lived '90s show My So Called Life, but has it memorized and still hates Claire Danes for leaving the show and ruining it for everyone. That scene at the dance when Ricky decides to defy his tormentors and dances with the chubby girl from maybe a show on Disney to "What is Love" by Haddaway? Oh my God, that  makes me cry even thinking about it.  Okay, so then you are all familiar with the show's catch phrase/running joke where each episode one of the characters asks, "Where's Tino? Has anyone seen Tino?" And I alone know where Tino's been, y'all. Tino has been hooking me up with True Blood Season 5. Tino rocks. Thank you Tino.

My qualifications for dissecting and judging True Blood are extensive. I have read each and every book not once, not twice, not three times, but four times. And yes, before there was a show, there were books. Y'know, those rectangular things with paper inside them that people used before iPads and kindles and whatever the other one is? And the books are better than the show. But no worries,  I've seen each episode of each season at least twice, save for season 5 which I have only seen once. Oh, and my dog is named Sookie. Who is better to pass judgement than I?

I don't know how I feel about season 5 and I think it may be because i am so influenced by the books which are the one true True Blood. But I will do my best. I will give Season 5 that it had quite an ending and i am eager to see where they go with all of this.

Like any normal True Blood (Real name: The Southern Vampire Mysteries) book fan, I have been waiting and waiting and waiting for Sookie and Eric to get together. It was supposed to happen last season. And when Eric recovered his memory it was supposed to really start heading in that direction asap. Because in the books Sookie and Eric are husband and wife under vampire law. That's right. Sookie and Eric. MARRIED. So, I'll see you your Edward and Bella or a Bill and Sookie and raise you an Eric and Sookie that brush them all aside like lint on a coat. Imagine my dismay and surprise, however, when the season opens with Bill alone feeling Sookie's terror and Eric not even flinching or registering her distress and then dismissing her. So even though Alan Ball has made the worst mistake in vampire show history by refusing to make Eric and Sookie a couple (okay, I didn't like the Buffy and Spike break-up either, but I think Joss Wheadon was working on Firefly by then, so I won't hold it against him. But Marti Noxon? In my eyes, you are Claire Danes), I am trying to be the bigger person and separate the show from the book and just seethe quietly to myself. Except not really.

I still don't exactly understand the whole Lafayette and his mom and Jesus and the uncle and the pregnant woman plot because the mouths sewn shut really really really freaked me out  and I had to fast forward through that. So all I know is that Lafayette seems fine now. Terry and his new friend Knoll from Felicity and the smoke monster storyline. Ugh. Do you get the feeling that someone needed a favor from someone who needed a favor and their agent talked to another agent who talked to the P.R. team and got a positive spin put on the whole Tom Cruise/ Katie Holmes thing and ta-da! There's Scott Foley on True Blood where he has no business being. I've seen Entourage. I know how it works.

 Nora. I was Not Happy on two counts: 1) that Eric would get over/cheat on Sookie so quickly and 2) that it would be with his freaking sister? I would say that at least they weren't related by blood, but they're vampires with the same maker. So they are.

The seven-steps-beyond-campy-and-uncomfortable-to-watch-because-it-was-so-bad fairy elder scene: was she an actor on Fame the television show? I feel strongly that I've seen her before. But it may have just been juggling or singing on the metro and then collecting coins in a hat.

In the interest of fairness, the True Blood books have been heading downhill as well, and it is obvious that Charlaine Harris is just going through the motions at this point. But can someone, somewhere, just throw me a damn bone with the Sookie and Eric thing? Oh, and if you could never again defile Pam in all her awesome Pam glory with the abomination that is Tara, I would so very much appreciate it. Thank you.