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.