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.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

No one likes Princess Peach

The heatwave has broken.

Stores are open and the vacationing Italians have returned.

Prior to the end of summer, I hadn't found the driving here to be as bad as its reputation. I have even driven. It was confusing with all the roundabouts and cutting over the median and all, but it was more Pole Position than Mario Kart, for which we are all grateful because I am really bad at Mario Kart.

However, now there is a truly significant increase of residents in Rome. And not only are they all driving at the same time, apparently they are all driving to the same destination. Mike is becoming pretty awesome at Italian-style driving and he can almost kill us as well as any of the natives. Which is good, because if you aren't willing to kill someone, you should really take the metro. Although it is going to be a huge mess the first time we have one of the motorini splayed across our windshield. I don't think the windshield cleaner-off-er guys at the stoplights are going to be able to adequately clean that up before the light changes. We'll probably have to sit through at least two green lights and everyone behind us will be angry and honk and drive around us but then they will see that there is a former scooter driver on our car and they will nod to us sympathetically for our delay.

The difference, however, between a traffic jam in Italy verses one in America is that the Italians never stop moving their cars. In America we sit and wait and wait and wait and then we get out of our cars to see what is going on and then we get back in and wait some more. Except for those jerkies who drive on the berm and you hope a police officer sees them and that they get pulled over because they are cheating and should be stuck and miserable like the rest of us.  And I have to admit that the lack of rules in Italy, or at least the lack of obeying them, seems to truly work. The absence of courtesy and polite obedience means that everyone continues to juke for position and in this, somehow the entire herd progresses. I hate to say it, but the Italian system just works better. Think how much faster a traffic jam on the Schuylkill Expressway would be if you could just refuse to acknowledge lanes or accidents already in progression and anyone merging just pushed their way in and no one waited their turn and no one politely waved another driver to go ahead. At the very least you would feel better and victorious every time you successfully snaked another driver.

And you know all those times that you are stuck at the longest red light in history and you are running super late because you really wanted to see the ending of the Real Housewives of New Jersey because you had to know if Joe had finally been caught cheating on Teresa and you look around and you just know that you could run that red light because there isn't another soul in sight, but you don't because you know it's wrong and/or you can't afford to lose any more points on your license? See, the Italians  don't let that Catholic guilt stop them. They see a red light and if there is no one coming, of course they are going to drive across the intersection. And when you see that happen, you realize it makes perfect sense and if you would have understood that before moving to another country, you would have gotten to see the ending of the Real Housewives of New Jersey and now you will never know what happened because Italy doesn't have that television channel.

Saturday, September 01, 2012

blue moon

i couldn't see it, no matter how hard i pressed my eye against the keyhole, but last night the door swung open and on the other side was rome.

the temperature plummeted to 75 degrees,  charismatic natives shivered in perfectly wrapped scarves. brides in sugar-spun dreams were photographed and every ruin, every monument was their backdrop. a birthday celebration, an outdoor cafe,  aperitivi. children ran riot (my son amongst them), playing tag, dodging patrons, behaving in a way that, in my homeland, would be cause to ask you to leave. but strangers  smiled indulgently, the children were sweaty and happy and heavily praised. the meal for which i longed was served. the americans swapped stories of italy's quirks, we all agreed that clothes dryers were a necessity. tiny dogs barked at goliath counterparts, bread was shaped like mermaids. i had stopped seeing the coliseum, the baths of caracalla, but lit up against the night, they suddenly reappeared. it was all there. all of rome.