Thursday, September 26, 2013

a few completely unrelated tales

Over the summer, I ran into ( you don't yet know it, but that is going to prove itself to be a pun) a few unexpected problems while navigating (wow. so punny) the differences between America and Italy where parking was concerned.

The American car I had rented was a "small" SUV, so if you were to add together 3.72 cars in Italy, you would be right on target size-wise. Spacious parking lots are the norm in suburban America and   yet I had a very difficult time parking in them. I discovered that I found parking to be much easier when I was forced to defy the laws of physics and wedge a car into a space that was smaller than said car by a good 6 or 7 inches.
parking in America. See the wide open spaces? See the white lines I am not in between?

parking it Italy. I am second from the top.  That's right. You couldn't slide a piece of paper between those bumpers. 

parking in Italy...
and parking in America. Okay, these two look pretty similar. But only the one in America required a tow-truck.

So, I tried to buy a light bulb the other day. The cashier scanned the light bulb once, twice, three times a lady (if you don't quite get that reference , please refer to "Hello, is it me you're looking for?". Still nothing? How about "Dancing on the Ceiling"? Oh for goodness sake, "Brick House"? ) and the computer did not beep and light-up in recognition. The cashier shook his head at me sadly and told me that I would be unable to purchase the light bulb.
"But it's for sale. In your store," I pointed out helpfully.
"No, it does not show-up in the computer. It is not possible to buy. What? You wish for me to type in the little code on the package? No. It is not possible. No light bulb for you. NEXT!"

 Luckily I am no longer so American-ized as to be stumped by this sheer lack of logic and I was able to successfully purchase the light bulb by going to a  different cashier.

Now lest I make it sound like a certain Italian cashier has the corner market on the absurd, allow me to share with you this tale: A day or two prior, I had stopped in Camper, a fairly mainstream shoe store.

I have had the same pair of Birkenstocks ( *cough* residual of  too many Grateful Dead concerts *end cough*) for a long time. But the strain of all the kilometers --see how I did that? I can totally use the metric system in a sentence--my Birkenstocks have tread ( pun-o-rama) over the last year was too much for them and the sole cracked in half. So I was making the rounds of sandal shopping. An American couple was in the Camper store as well and while I was muttering under my breath about the stupid retail schedule that removes sandals from the shelves during the summer and replaces them with winter boots, I couldn't help but overhear the American woman as she addressed the salesperson. "Can we haggle on these prices?" she asked, holding up a boot. To his credit, the salesperson smiled and regretfully informed her that the prices were universally fixed in all Camper locations.  Because It Is What is Commonly Referred to as A Store.

 The woman was quite annoyed and left in a huff, presumably to go buy a light bulb.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Do you know what is beautiful in September? (Hint: it's Italy)

sunset at aurelian wall

san felice circeo

san felice circeo

beaches are empty, water is warm


ponte sisto


Friday, September 06, 2013

Spell check doesn't recognize "'kryptonite"

This spring, my son was drowning in mosquito bites. His body swelled into termite mounds before deflating into bruises before lingering as yellow-green splotches. We took him to the pediatrician where ointments and jungle-worthy repellent were prescribed.

Other than slathering him with mosquito kryptonite, I couldn't do anything about the insects  that targeted him at recess or during classes held outside (in my head, the insects look like cartoon villains and have white napkins tied around their necks, rubbing their hands together like Dr. Evil), but gosh darn it, I could protect him in the sanctity of our house.  I could step-up and knock off this European open-air nonsense and put in some damn screens.

I distinctly recall that in the Little House on the Prairie series (books, not television), the Ingalls  family opened the door during a blizzard  and there stood Mr. Edwards. He had walked from New York to Idaho or Wisconsin or wherever in order to bring them Christmas gifts. And those gifts were a bag of real sugar and panes of glass for the windows. Proof that even in the days of yore, Americans liked a little somethin' somethin' as a barrier between the indoors and the outdoors.  Because not only would those panes of glass protect them from the weather and the wolves and the claim jumpers, but those windows would also protect them from The Mosquitoes. Because seriously, can you imagine anything worse than laying on your straw-stuffed "mattress" that you have to share with your sister while eating your fake sugar and crossing your fingers that someday you won't die during childbirth, and in addition having to suffer the indignity of being drained by mosquitoes?

So to protect our family, I first searched the Internet for those infomercial screens, the ones where the mom walks through the patio door carrying lemonade and not one of her lazy kids jumps up and says: "Hey Mom! Let me take that! You always do everything for everyone, so we've all chipped in and are sending you on vacation to the Bahamas!" and after none of that happens, the screen doors magnetically close behind her. Unfortunately, the reviews of those screens were pretty damning, which is really a shame because I think they were throwing in a free pitcher of lemonade with every purchase.

And then I remembered that right here in Italy was the Italian answer to Home Depot!
( )

Unfortunately, I couldn't recall how in the heck I had previously found my way there, so I went to a different yet similar store that I believed to be Italy's answer to Lowe's.

While I was at Italian Lowe's, I  decided to pick-up some WD40. I don't know that I have ever had an occasion to use WD-40, but it seems like the kind of thing one should have on hand.

Carrying WD-40 also kept the pesky salespeople at bay, because when you see someone with a can of WD-40 it clearly signifies that they know what they're doing. After wandering around aimlessly because I didn't know what I was doing, I saw a display that consisted of a curtain rod with overlapping screen door sized screens. It was exactly the type of thing I had been hoping to find. I drove home (only  got off at two wrong exits on the roundabout!), found my Ikea allen wrench,  and prepared to put those babies together.

However, it turned out that the display in the store did not at all hint at the fact that one had to use a jackhammer to install the curtain rod bracketing into the wall. I had incorrectly assumed that the curtain rod would be a tension rod. Which then gave me the idea of going to the store and buying tension rods. Mustering all I had learned in 6th grade home economics, I started carefully sewing the screens together.

"You should just use a stapler, " said Mike as he and John played Mario Party 9 and ate potato chips.

And you know what? He was right. So I did use a stapler. It totally worked and was way easier. And it's not like I duct taped them. Now that would be tacky. Staples are much more sophisticated.

infomercial worthy

Our dog enjoying the the beautiful weather.  With the screens hung, she can't figure out how to get into the house so now she lives on the balcony.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

cliched but true: what a difference a year makes

Last year we walked to the bus stop, uncertain of how a bus could navigate through the traffic on the narrow streets, uncertain of where it would wait for its passengers. We were uncomfortable in the unrelenting heat, the heat that the locals claimed was unusual, the heat that we thought would never end.  The faces we passed were stony and foreign, the sidewalks crowded with cigarette smoke and hand gestures.

Last year our son stepped onto a bus in the midst of cars jockeying for position, the noise of their horns competing with the noise of sirens, the noise we didn't know, the noise of a city. We watched our son leave on the journey past the Coliseum, past Circo Massimo, past Castel Sant'Angelo. We watched him on his way to a new school in a new city in a new country on a new continent. It was terrifying.

But this year, this year we wore jackets and pants in the cool morning air, walking on a path we had traveled hundreds of times. 

And this year we said buongiorno, ciao to smiling familiar faces and pet dogs that wagged and wriggled under our hands, we thanked the neighbors who welcomed us back. Our son raced up the steps of the bus, a flash of purple hair and backpack, eager to see his friends. The bus driver greeted him by name.

On the way home we stopped at an often frequented cafe and our order was known before we placed it. The proprietor scolded me for being away from my husband this summer and asked if we had cornetti as good as hers in America.

She smiled knowingly, pleased when we told her that nothing we had even came close.