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Tuesday, September 02, 2003

Devo Dire Arrivederci

What a daunting task this is to write the final blog entry. It is my last day in Italy. The adventure has ended. At least, I should say my Italian adventure has ended. Tomorrow, I begin a new adventure. American style.

For those of you who have been tuning in to my little journal online, I want to thank you. I may write more when I return about what it is like to be back. Not sure which way the wind will blow me yet. Vediamo.

What a strange feeling it is right now to be writing this. To say goodbye to Italy. Il mio amore, Italia.

But I must go and pack my "beauty case and a suitcase full of dreams", as advised by my friend Fabrizio.

Fino alla prossima volta...













Friday, August 29, 2003

I have added a new addition to my blog with a quick view to pictures from people's visits to Italy. I have posted Casey's photos so you can have a visual to the blog that she wrote. Which by the way, I plead the fifth on everything.

Wednesday, August 27, 2003

One week from today, I will be arriving back in my hometown of Hillsborough, CA. When I was at the going away party that my office threw for me five months ago, my coworkers all had this shared vision of what my return to America would be like. They said that they thought that I would be flying home on the private jet of my new fiance, Paolo. They pictured me stepping off of the small plane in Gucci strappy heels, a black strapless sundress, (i worked in fashion so obviously they had to visualize my outfit at the time), a yorkshire terrier under one arm and Paolo on my other. Behind me they saw Luigi, my personal assistant, carrying all of my Louis Vuitton baggage as Paolo and I hopped into our convertible Mercedes to go meet my parents and start planning my wedding at the Vatican.

Hmm...well, let's see...it is true that I am flying home next week. But the manner in which I travel home as well as my company is a bit different. I am flying home on a commercial airliner, in coach class, alone, and the closest thing that I have to Louis Vuitton baggage is the fake wallet that I bought on the streets of Turkey for ten bucks. Things never turn out the way we think they will, do they? Va Bene.

With or without Paolo, it is safe to say that these past five months spent in Italy have been some of the best months of my life. I sometimes sit and imagine if I hadn't chose to go on this adventure. What would my life be like? Would I still be hopping from club to club in NY in the eternal quest for the perfect party? How many more mice would I have found in my fifth floor walk up studio apartment? How much more money would I have thrown away on incredibly superficial things? Would I have stayed in the job that made me cringe every time I walked in the door? Would I have upgraded my Tivo to record that much more reality tv? Would I have been daydreaming about SF the way you do about a boy you like? Would I still have been writing in my journal searching for the answer to why things just didn't feel right? The answer to all of the above is most likely...yes.

But instead, I chose to come here to Bellissima Roma. And I finally figured out what was important to me. I finally felt as though I wasn't a hampster sprinting on the endless wheel. And now it is almost time to return to the other coast. In my opinion, the better coast. I once thought that I could be an East Coast girl. Then I thought I could be a European girl. But I have realized that I am just a California girl. And I can't wait to get home.

Sunday, August 24, 2003

Sardegna

It is an island off of the southwest coast of Italy in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. Every beach that you visit leads you to believe that you have landed on a completely different island. Some of the beaches have the color of a swimming pool and a tide just as calm. Some have water as green as freshly cut grass and as clear as a sheet of glass. Others are a deep royal blue and when you swim, you feel as though you are swimming through miles of silk. Some of the beaches are so rocky that you have to balance yourself when you walk just to get into the water. Others have grains of sand that are finer and softer than sugar.

The homes that are built into the hills overlooking the sea look like they just sprouted up from the earth. There are no sharp lines in the architecture here. The curves of the homes flow together with the natural curves of the landscape. The majority of the homes are framed with every color of bougainvillea imaginable. Almost every home has an outside dining area usually covered by a cabana and lined with tiki torches for night time light. It is here where families gather together twice a day for authentic Sardinian meals. Just the other day we were lucky enough to experience one of these summer meals at the home of the next door neighbors to where we were staying.

The couple is in their 60s and have become surrogate parents to our friend's Mike and Ron. The boys have been stationed in Sardegna for two years and have not seen their familes during this time. As guests of Mike and Ron, we were invited to their home for a wonderful meal. As we sat down outside at their handmade tiled table large enough to sit twenty people, two dogs, one blind, one tiny, both frisky as hell, started nipping at our heels begging for food and attention. With food this good, we weren't passing anything under the table. My senses were awakened as I smelled the fresh pomodoro bruschetta, grilled peppers and garlic soaked in olive oil and eggplant mousse. The vino was a sweet, red sparkling wine that was just perfect for this hot summer meal. Next a huge blue bowl was brought out overflowing with pomodoro basilico penne and passed around the table. It is incredible how different a dish so seemingly easy to make can taste when made by someone who knows what they are doing. After stuffing ourselves wtih pasta, we cleaned out our system with a big, fresh insalata mista tossed with homemade vinegar that was tart with the sweetness of brown sugar. And finally to top everything off, a huge plate of the sweetest fruits imaginable were passed around the table. Of course, in Italy, dessert wouldn't be dessert without an after dinner drink. The host brought out a carafe of homemade Mirto which tastes like a mix of black licorice and black currant. It is a specialty to Sardegna. As we all pushed our chairs back away from the table as you do after a good meal to cross your legs and sit back, I looked at the dogs below me and thought to myself, "Good luck. I'm not giving up anything."


Tuesday, August 19, 2003

"A beauty case and a suitcase full of dreams...2 drops of Chanel No. 5 and the world will fall at your feet"...Fabrizio--Rome, August 9 '03

Casey's blog entry...

You know it's a great vacation when you're on the phone with your Mom 5 hours before your flight frantically yelling, "Mom, it's an emergency. I can't leave Sardegna. You have to find me a cheap ticket leaving next week. I repeat, it's an emergency...I cannot, I repeat, CANNOT leave Italy!"

Well...The plan to stay in Italy for an extra week failed, but I left knowing we'd exhausted all the options ---everything short of throwing a temper tantrum in the terminal, (although I came close)...The only reason I didn't actually kick and scream is because of the six gorgeous men in black suits with white oxfords on my flight (like myself, they'd clearly come straight from the discoteca to catch the 7:00a flight to Roma!) They just barely stopped me from chaining myself to the Meridiana check in counter in protest! And "stealing glances" with them ---although bittersweet---was the only redeeming factor about leaving Sardegna...

Ahhhhh my trip to Italy!! I can honestly say it was one of the best vacations I've ever taken. I don't think I ever stopped smiling and laughing. Spending time with Suzannah, Joanna and Reema was so refreshing! Being in Italy was a much needed break from the hustle and bustle of New York City. I came to so many realizations about what I want in life and I have those three girls to thank. Each of them are so different and yet each are so grounded, fun, intelligent, insightful, honest and funny! I'm so lucky to have spent this time with them!

From waking up to watch the sunrise, to going to the cafe for cappuccinos, to laying on the beach all day, to swimming in the water, to commenting on the unbelievable yachts..."$10 bucks says I'm having lunch on that yacht in 15 minutes" to checking out the cute dads in green shorts...and grandpas in pink shorts(oops!) to wondering why the 65 year old women have better bodies and tans than us, to having lunch by the water and getting waaay too drunk off Mirta (a gift from "Francesco" who we'd met two nights before but ignored in favor of Joanna's hot chili pepper pasta!) to dancing in the discoteca, to playing Spy Game in capturing the PDA on the camera, to the small man strutting his stuff in the red speedo at the Palau bus station, to lemon wafers, to molto Brachetto, to Beauty Cases and Suitcases full of dreams, to debating about the "Best Sex Scenes" ever made over guacamole and margaritas, to being dropped off my Mike in Palau for our first night out of the villa (thanks Dad, yes we'll be safe) to watching countless episodes of CSI, to playing with J.J.--the cat with no tail, "I Can't, gotta get my cat's tail cut off", to the weird blind/deaf dog in Joanna's room--'Vieni Qua, Vieni Qua', to Bacardi Breezers/the Rolling Stones/and playing Hearts after the beach, to sooooooo much cheese and wine, to Mike and his funny noises, to Ron flailing off the boat at full speeds, to introducing Mike to Gigi Agostino's "I'll Fly With You" to going crazy dancing to it at Ferragosta, to Jay-Z and Beyonce's 'Crazy Like That', to walking up to "Maryland Boy" because you have nothing to lose, to meeting guys who don't play games and tell you exactly what they think, to realizing you don't need to speak the same language to have a connection, to having your friend facilitate a 4th grade kiss because you have no clue what he's talking about, to being invited to pool parties, to drunken Simone trying to call Lufthansa at 1am to change my flight, to swimming up to Roberto Cavalli's private beach, to renting a boat 1/80 the size of Cavalli's yacht to explore the little islands around Sardegna...and being so incredibly happy along the way!!!!

The boat ride with Mike and Ron deserves it's own paragraph. We rented this boat on the Friday before I left. This goes down as one of the BEST BEST BEST days ever. It might even rival the infamous "Best day in New York, Sept 02"---It was THAT good. We rented this small motor boat...After growing accustomed to nearly being flung from the vessle every 30 seconds, it became quite an adventure. We saw incredible beaches with the most vivid colors of turquiose and cobalt blue. We realized where Roberto Cavalli gets all of his design/fabric ideas...the colors are amazing! If we'd seen them before Tuesday night we could have asked Roberto directly since he was sitting next to us at the flute concert. Flute Concert you ask? Well yes, in the Puerto Rafael piazza...we sipped wine next to Roberto Cavalli and listened to a Flute Concerto...doesn't matter that we kept being "hushed" by the italians for giggling...or that our 21 year old host was embarassed by us. We fit RIGHT in...in fact we have a movie to prove it (just need to figure out how to post it on the blog). Bottom line, Roberto Cavalli seemed like a very nice man who REALLY wanted to make friends with us but didn't want to disturb the flutists...and it's clear gets his clothing ideas from Sardegna's beaches.

Annnnnyways, enough about Cavalli --and back to the boat ride...So we explored the little islands and the secluded beaches. We did handstands and back flips in the water, we certainly swallowed a lot of salt water. At one point as we were zipping across the ocean, Suzannah and Reema were laughing so hard about something, I couldn't hear them because the wind was so loud and I had no idea what they were saying----but I was cracking up too, really for no reason. I thought maybe they were laughing about how everytime we opened our mouths, spit flew everywhere. But I couldn't be sure...I still don't know what they were hysterically joking about but I couldn't stop laughing because it was just so contagious and the day was just SO SO SO happy.

After about 5 hours on the boat we headed back to the house to shower up for guacamole and margaritas...Then had a great dinner and ended up at Piazza di Puerto Rafael where the Annual Summer Party---Farragosta was happening. It was SO MUCH FUN!!! The whole piazza and beach was converted into a dance floor. We danced ALL night until I had to leave for my flight the next morning. At one point Suzannah and I were dancing on the ledge to the beach (clearly because if there's an elevated area, stage or other VIP-esque locale, we will find it and get on top of it....do you think we need attention? Anyways...) We were dancing to all kinds of cheesy American music, Grease Lightening...YMCA...Summer Lovin. Except this little Italian man with a ponytail popped up in between us and knew all kinds of "moves" we'd never seen. WE were following HIS lead. At one point I knew I'd had way too many mohitos because I was shaping the "C" in YMCA completely backwards. Funny how that happens, here I was thinking I looked sooo cool doing the YMCA dance (which is a contradiction in and of itself) only to some strange contorted backwards "C" motion. So embarassing and yet so typical.

At one point in the night this song "Push it, Push it" came on...it's some cheesy italian song all the italians LOVE. Anyways, it sounds like it belongs in Jazzercize class so Suzannah and I started doing all of these aerobics class moves in the middle of the dance floor. "Come on girls!! And push it and push it and push it---Now Grapevine! And lift those legs, get those thighs burning!" Either the italians thought we were nuts or we fit right in. I can't be sure, but it was a great workout and who else can say they did the Grapevine across a Sardegnan beach yelling push it, push it, push it, push it?

OK now I have to revert BACK to the beginning of the trip...I started this blog entry on Sunday while I was still in Rome, this was before I knew how amazing Sardegna was...So use your imaginations people, and sorry it's out of order!!

So I don't want to leave Rome. This place is incredible! The cobblestone streets and cute buildings with gorgeous doors and windows, and laundry hanging out to dry. You turn a corner and it looks like a scene out of a movie the architecture and colors are so beautiful. OK so enough about the beauty...I need to discuss the men. Italian men are a different breed...I have two words (so far) Fabio and Ricardo...I've fallen in love twice...and I've only been here for two days.

Here is the story of Fabio...I arrived in Rome around 4pm on Friday. Suzannah, Reema and I went for a walk...we stumbled upon the Colliseum (the only tourist sight I've seen in Rome...whatever). We walked around the Colliseum, which is really incredible ... and honestly the Roman ruins are magical...Rome is magical...it's incredible that one city can have so many layers of culture and history. But anyways, back to Fabio. So we decide to sit for a while to chat about life and our futures...solving the world's problems etc. We end up having a great talk...the kind where you pour your heart out and really think about your life, where you want to be, and what makes you happy. All of this as we were looking out on the Roman ruins --it was fantastic.

After our talk we met up with Joanna, Abbey and Fabio (not MY Fabio, Abbey's Fabio...there are a lot of Fabio's in Rome, you see) So we went to Fabio's wine bar for a drink. It was the best chardonnay I'd ever had...until later that night at dinner. Really, you can't get a bad bottle of wine in Italy...I'm learning that a diet of cheese and wine is just fine with me. So we sit at Fabio's wine bar and talk and drink and finally amble to the Vatican (amazing at night) and over to a restaurant nearby St. Peters. St. Peters at night is breathtaking. So beautiful with the lights and the architecture. I'd only seen it in the daylight. All I'd remembered from it was tourists and pigeons.

After a LOT of wine at dinner, and a couple of Lemoncellos...Oh and after I made the huge mistake of asking two young male Italian passersby for a lighter, they took my inquiry as an invitation to sit down and make themselves comfortable. Joanna, Suz and Reema were yelling at me (in front of the Italian boys mind you--HOW could I not know that you NEVER speak to an Italian man unless you want a marriage proposal). Joanna proceeds to tell them I'm engaged...to Lionel. The best line..."Why you fall in love with Lionel?" So Suzannah says Joanna is also engaged...and as Suzannah stared out onto the greenery around us, the only last name she could think of for her sister's strapping young fiance was GreenBulb...as in the green bulbs in the planter next to us. Yes that's right, Joanna Greenbulb, get used to it!

So that was dinner...Joanna then leads us to Baja (prono Bahia in italiano) which is a small boat converted into a boat on the river. We get inside and Suzannah and I spot two young men sitting in the VIP section...Keep in mind this a very small boat, why we needed to get into the "VIP section" is beyond me, but some things just never change. We spot Fabio and Allessandro...very cute. So we bet that we will be sitting on their laps in 10 minutes. We never ended up on their laps, but that was besides the point. The mission was a success. The best part of it all was that Fabio didn't speak a WORD of English...and I don't speak Italian so all conversation went through Suzannah, including Fabio alerting his newfound feelings for me. He tells Suzannah, "I want to kiss her." So she turns to me and translates, I laugh and say "Ok I want to kiss him too." Again, Suz translates. It was beyond 4th grade! So we kissed for two seconds and he told me he loved me...or rather he told Suzannah he loved me as I looked on in confusion. Then he had to leave the bar so he went in for one more kiss...but this time it was unannounced! He knocked over the table of Brachetto glasses in one gracefull fell swoop. Didn't phase him really...didn't stop him from calling 7 or 8 times the next day. Suzannah was right when she said Italian men are persistent.

It's SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO refreshing to meet guys who don't play games. As much as Fabio and I wouldn't amount to anything more than a kiss (that knocked over the Brachetto table), it was nice to be reminded that not all men are like guys in New York. Italian men don't understand the phrase, "Hard to get"...They only know how to proclaim their love and call and call and call.

Saturday night we went to dinner and then to Ostia, the beach outside of Rome. Very fun night. Dinner was amazing. Abbey's Fabio got upset with me for wanting to put parmesan cheese on my sauteed spinach. He looked at me like I was crazy...I did it anyways and it was fantastic. But you'd think I wanted to put Nutella on it by the look on his face!

When we got to Ostia, I met Ricardo. I really liked Ricardo actually...Ricardo was tall, blonde, and didn't speak a word of English. We managed to figure out (without Suzannah's help this time!) that we liked each other. I think it was because he just grabbed my hand and dragged me to the dance floor...ME RICARDO, YOU JANE. I got the picture. At the end of the evening Ricardo and I said goodbye (again through a translator). I gave him my email address not realizing that was a taboo move. No Italian men actually email...his friend humored me. As if Ricardo and I would actually be pen pals! The next day Ricardo's english-speaking friend called saying Ricardo hadn't stopped talking about me for hours and he was so sick of it he had to call us. LOVE the honesty! Or the slick italian "moves" -- either way, it was a nice change from the aloof New Yorkers.

To sum it all up...Here are a few of my favorite memories of the trip:

Dancing on the ledge at Ferragosta in Piazza di Puerto Rafael

The songs:
Chihuahua
What's the Problem Babay?
Push it, Push it
Crazy Like That

"Push it, Push it" Jazzercize dancing on the beach as Italians watched in utter confusion

Fabrizio: I will go to San Francisco with my beauty case and a suitcase full of dreams

Fabrizio: Two drops of Chanel No. 5 and the world will fall at your feet

"Here Joanna hold the camera...I wanna do handstands"

Playing in the ocean, reverting back to childhood

Drunk at Lunch: Drinking wine and Mirto at Francesco's Piano Bar

Cheesy Italian men on extremely unmanly scooters rolling up to us, smiling from ear to ear..."Ciiaaoo"

Doing yoga on the roof with at sunset with the full moon, the italian dinner party next door and the neighbors thinking we were nuts

"The $10 bucks game"
$10 bucks says I'll be on that yacht in 15 minutes, $10 bucks says we'll be on their laps in 10 minutes

Applying drunk make-up in the bathroom the first night in Rome

Mike getting embarassed about us at the Flute Concert

Yes, little Italian boy...you're very cute but is your grandfather single?

Reema: Let's do a gyro around the bar
Suzannah: Everyone stop walking...is he cute?
Joanna: Suzannah he's 14
Casey: Look at the older man next to him, he's good-looking
Suzannah: Well that works out well because he's my guy's grandfather

Having the best conversations about what's important in life and what keeps you grounded!


Thank you Suzannah, Joanna, Reema, Mike and Ron for the most wonderful trip in the world!

Ciao Bellissimas!!! (and Bellissimos!)

Much Love,
Casey
x






Friday, August 08, 2003

Happy Friday!!!

It is my understanding that the blog has been difficult to read because you can't scroll down. The way to fix this problem is to minimize the screen. (Press the middle button on the top right hand of your screen).

I don't have much to write except to say we have had a great week here with our friend Reema in town. It has been a week of much laughter. So much laughter that every restaurant we seem to go to, we are stared at by all for the volume of our laughter. Oops. Also, that my dear, dear friend Casey arrives this morning and I am beyond excited!! Those of you that know the two of us together are well aware that to release us in Europe is pure trouble. We are off to Sardegna on Monday to visit our awesome friends Mike and Ron. It is guaranteed to be a week of...hmm...who knows what? All that I know is that we will be back to the beaches of Sardegna and like last time, we will swim, we will laugh and we will be 100% American. All in preparation for when I return home in less than a month.

I will try to write when I am in Sardegna as I guarantee there will be stories to tell.

Ciao!

Monday, August 04, 2003

Ragazzi Italiani

The most frequently asked question that I hear about my experience in Italy is, "So...how are the men?"

I thought I would settle the bill here once and for all.

When I think of Italian men (Roman men to be specific), two words instantly come to mind...passionate and persistent.

I will start with the latter. Because I have been single for quite some time now, I think that it is safe to say that I am fairly well versed in the world of dating. When I was dating in the states, it was all about the game. My best friend Jamie used to always say to me, "Don't hate the player, hate the game", when I would be upset that this guy or the other hadn't called when I had wanted him to. American guys love to play the game, Italian men have never even heard of the game.

When you meet a man in Italy that wants to date you, there is no stopping him. You will go to a bar, meet someone, give them your phone number, and as soon as you leave the bar, you get a phone call, "Ciao! Come stai? Quando posso ti vedo ancora?" (Hi! How are you? When can I see you again?) Just a little different then the advice given in Swingers to wait six days to call a girl. Now, if you don't answer the phone (which is totally unacceptable in Italy as no one has voicemail and everyone has their cell phone attached to their ear at all times), you will get text messages for the next few days saying that they miss you and have to see you again as if their lives depended on it. There have been times when I have just met a guy and I have been talking to him for maybe five minutes before he says to me, "What will I do when you leave Italy?! I can't live without you." I can't hold myself back from literally laughing out loud. Where do they learn these lines?! I retort, "You just met me! I think you will survive!" while still laughing incredulously that they can say these things with a straight face. Never mind that almost every man that I have met in Italy, friend or other, has AT LEAST three girlfriends at one time. They see no issue in it. "But it is summer in Rome.", they say. As if that explains it all! "Oh, sure! Summer in Rome! How could I have been so stupid? Why of course, you need five girlfriends, heck, take seven while you are at it, then you have a new one for each day of the week!"

I do have to say though that it is actually quite refreshing to be here and have men be persistent. Women are courted in Rome. The women don't have to do any of the work. There are no guessing games, you never wonder if someone likes you or doesn't. You don't have to make up excuses to call a guy. Most men here don't even have an email account so they don't hide behind lame emails. They call. And they call. And then they call some more. Che Bellissima!

Now onto the second quality, passionate. I would guess that passion and persistance go hand in hand for Italians since their persistance is part of their passion. It is part of their quest for passion. Let me say that when I say that Italian men are passionate, I am not just talking about their relations with women. I am talking about being passionate about everything they do, everything they say, everything they feel. If they can't be passionate about something, they don't see any sense in even thinking about it.

Passion around food. Italian men don't eat just to refuel themselves. Every meal they have is an experience. When they talk about Italian dishes, they kiss their fingertips and moan, "mmmmm!!!". If you eat salad and pasta at the same time, they look at you as if you bit the head off of a rat. "Che cazzo fai?" (What the hell are you doing?!) If you eat pasta late at night cold from the fridge, it is a federal offense. Because that means that you are not truly enjoying the meal, you have no passion for food. You are being an American and just stuffing food down. You are not experiencing it.

Passion around Italy. They have very strong opinions on where and where isn't beautiful. Like I said, there is no middle ground. Everywhere is either beautiful or horrific. When they describe somewhere beautiful, their hands fall over their heart, they lean backwards and exclaim with their eyes closed, "Che bella!!!"

Passion when they talk. If you have ever seen two Italian men in a conversation, you know what I am talking about. It is impossible for two men to have a conversation with each other while keeping at the same voice level or keeping their hands by their side. Hands are flying everywhere, they are seemingly yelling at each other when in reality are having a civil conversation. I will walk up to friends of mine when they are screaming at each other and say, "What happened?!? Is everything okay?" They look at me like I am crazy and say, "Of course! We were just talking about a movie I saw last night."

Passion for their mothers. Italian men and their mothers. This is serious stuff. Really. Every Italian man's mother is his goddess and he is her god. They usually live together until the man is to be married. They talk fifty times a day. Let me say that this is not just young men. Men in their 50s and 60s talk to their mother fifty times a day. When men go on vacation, their mother calls them at least once a day. They all go home and have lunch with their mothers everyday. It is a wonderful thing. I hope that my son one day wants to come home and eat an hour long lunch with me. Of course, Italian mothers cook the best meals you have ever tasted in your life so my avocado and cheese sandwich probably won't pull my boys home.

Passion around women. I don't think that I need to explain this one. They love them. They worship them. They track them down.

Friday, August 01, 2003

Summer Field Trip

One of my favorite parts of living in Rome is getting out of Rome. From living in such a bustling city (by Italian standards), I often find myself tired from razzle-dazzle of it all. (That one was for you, Mike) So, when a friend offers to take us outside of the city to explore the small towns of the Lazio region, Joanna and I jump at the opportunity. Yesterday, our friend Jacapo took us to a tiny town about an hour outside of Rome called Calcata. The city boasts itself as an medieval town that is now a haven for artists to escape to and display their work. The city is also home to six vegetarian restaurants which is absolutely unheard of in Italy. Being vegetarians, Joanna and I knew we had to get there. Calcata is surrounded by lush forests and waterfalls that flow into the creek that run below. As you creep throughout the tiny cobblestone streets, you can hear the rushing sounds of the waterfall crashing into the water. You almost have to hold on to the wall as you walk around for fear of slipping and falling down the steep, curvy streets. At every corner there is something new to ooh and aah at.

But...one of the best parts of the day yesterday was...I can hardly believe it actually happened...for the first time in three months...IT RAINED!!!!!! As we were exploring, I felt a chill from the cold on the back of my arms. There was no sweat falling from my brow. I didn't need to wear my sunglasses. I was not saying or hearing, "Che caldo!!!" every five minutes. It was beautiful! I felt re-energized. The kick in my step came back.

When we first pulled up to the town, about 100 eight year old Italian children obviously on a field trip came traipsing in front of us like a herd of cattle. You have never seen such a colorful group of children in your life, in more ways than one. There was one boy running around in only his t-shirt and speedos with his backpack and sneakers on. Two overweight boys with their shirts off holding hands and running into the piazza. A little girl in what looked like a hot pink workout outfit that the aerobic teachers in the 80's wore. All of them screaming and running about as if it was the first day of summer vacation. They were absolutely precious.

Luckily, we had Joanna with us who is a very talented photographer and she caught the essence of the city and the day beautifully in the below pictures.

Cut and paste the below link to view pictures:

http://www.shutterfly.com/osi.jsp?i=67b0de21b324807f25d4









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Tuesday, July 29, 2003

Random Thoughts




*People have said to me what great experience I have in working for The Gap for the past four years and that having worked in design is invaluable for my future career. Well, as I sit every night at my restaurant on Viccolo Della Scala and fold napkins into the shape of a fan, I think the same thing. If I had never worked in design, would I be able to fold those napkins as creatively and efficiently as I do? Is this something that I can put on my resume when I return? "Working knowledge of creative napkin folding"? I sure hope so, otherwise, what the heck am I doing here in Italy?

*Anyhow, every night when I sit in that little cobblestone alleyway folding the napkins and sweating profusely, I watch Italian women saunter by in their four inch heels with not even a bead of sweat dropping off of their forehead. I would like to throw this question out to anyone who is reading this right now. Does anyone have any knowledge of there being a different genetic makeup of american vs. italian women when it comes to heat management? Joanna and I have yet to figure this out as I think that since we have been here, we have been hotter than we have been in our entire lives...combined. Good thing I have those napkins right there...in the shape of fans...

*One of the funniest things that I have seen since I have been here in Italy was last saturday morning at 6:50am. Joanna and I were just walking home from a bar when we passed our local barbershop. Inside was one man getting his haircut and another man waiting for his. Seeing that Joanna and I greet our day usually around 11am everyday, we found it strange to see any sort of normal behavior occuring at this ungodly hour. Well, Joanna obviously felt even stronger than I as she leaned into the barbershop and exclaims in Italian, "Who needs a hair cut at 6:50 in the morning?!?!?! It is too early!!!" The three men turn and look at us as if we came from another planet and we are looking right back at them thinking the same thing. The guy in the chair getting his haircut just turns to her and gives a shrug. I guess he answered her question...

*I have become pretty accustomed to Italian driving. I still always have to sit in the backseat out of respect for the driver because if i don't, I will put my hands over my mouth at every lane change, I will hold the dashboard with every stop, I will point and exclaim "Watch Out!!!" any opportunity I can, all in all, I am just a real pain in the ass. So, i seat myself in the back and pretend I am somewhere else. Well, this past sunday, we went out with someone new who was taking us out on a boat for the day. He was a friend of a friend that we had never met before and I think it is safe to say that I have never seen anyone drive the way that he does. I will say that I think that Italians are the best drivers in the world because if they weren't, how would they not die every time they got in the car with all of that absolute chaos? You have to be very skilled. So, there I am sitting in the back of the car, as usual, and Andrea (that's his name) is screaming into his little Nokia cell phone more obscenities in italian than i have ever heard. He is speaking in Romano (italian dialect) so we can't understand anything that he is saying. All that we know is that we have now turned around on the same freeway going both ways about five times now. He has reversed on a freeway onramp while I said 10 prayers. We stopped to get gas into a plastic bag but have no idea why. All of a sudden we see a pigeon in the middle of the road and then feel a thump as we run over it. (I didn't even know it was possible to run over one of those things). Andrea takes a pause in his screaming into the phone turns around and says in Italian "Voule morire" - translation "The pigeon wanted to die". Next thing I know we are pulling over on the side of the freeway and we stop a centimeter from the car pulled over on the side. Hands start flying all over the air in crazy italian gestures, Andrea is yelling, his friends are yelling back, cars are whizzing by and the three italian men are seemingly going to kill each other. But then, Andrea gets in the car as calm as can be and simply says, "My friend ran out of gas." and we are on our way. Aaaah...Italians.


Tuesday, July 22, 2003

Sarong and Bikini Party

This past Saturday Joanna and I were sitting around our apartment trying to decide how to pass the free time of our weekend and get out of the heat. Our roomate Abbey and her boyfriend Fabio saw the two of us sitting on the couch and decided to invite us with them to Fabio's beach house in Lavinio which is about 45 minutes south of Rome. We couldn't have been more excited to get out of the city and experience something new.

Before we arrived at the beach house, we stopped off at a mall to buy a birthday present for a party we were attending that night. Fabio had described it as a pool party and told us that we didn't need to dress up, it would be very casual. As we're walking around the mall, Abbey pulls Joanna and I over to a window and asks us if we think that this pink sequinced bikini would go with her pink sarong. I told her that it seemed a little dressy for just a "pool party" and she responded that this party was actually quite a big one with 100 people attending. I start to get a bit nervous and prod further.

Me: So, what exactly is this party?
Abbey: It's a bikini and sarong party.
Me: What does that mean?
Abbey: That is what everyone is supposed to wear.
Me: No other clothes?
Abbey: Nope.
Me: And what time does the party start?
Abbey: 11pm.
Me: So, we are showing up at 11pm in only a bikini and a sarong to a pool party with 100 strangers who only speak italian?
Abbey: Yep.
Me: (Silence)
Me: Joanna and I don't have any sarongs.
Abbey: That's okay, I brought five!
Me: (Silence)

All of us fell into a fit of laughter after this as we all had mental pictures of parading around some party with nothing but a bikini and a sarong on at 1 in the morning and wondering if we also wore heels with this getup. I felt like I was about to get ready for a Snoop Doggy Dog video. After finally getting to Fabio's beach house and eating delicious penne with pesto, the time had come for Joanna and I to attempt to get dressed for this party. This was a site in and of itself. Joanna comes out of the room parading around in her bikini with the sarong tied over her head like a muslim head dress and asks Fabio and Abbey jokingly if that look would work. I tie the sarong over me to look like a strapless dress with a knot in front and do a twirl and Joanna tells me that I look like I am in a moo moo with a growth coming out of my breast. We both fall into a fit of laughter for the millionth time that day and realize that the ridiculousness of it all is enough to warrant a great night, regardless of the party. Finally, Abbey comes in to save the two of us who are apparently incapable of being sexy beach girls and she ties our sarongs twice around our waist, readjusts our suits and tells us we are ready to go. I beg to differ but I leave the house anyway as it was already midnight.

When we were halfway to the party, Fabio stops the car to try to call his friends to find out how to get there and there is no answer from anyone. "They must all be in the pool.", he says. I am about to recommend that we stop to get a drink somewhere while we wait as I am stone cold sober at this point and think that if I had one drink in me, I might be more equipped to speak Italian all night with strangers in my bathing suit. But I then realize that walking into a bar at this hour in our outfits might turn a few heads which I was not ready for. Luckily, we had tank tops in our car so we threw them on and made our way out to grab a drink. Nevermind that our sarongs are see-through on the bottom. When in Rome, right? After about 45 minutes, the friends call and we are on our way. By the time that we finally arrive at the party it is 1am and the carabinieri (police) are all outside of the house. As I am just about to jump up with joy, I find out that they are only there to turn down to have the party turn down the music.

Brave souls that we are, we pump up our confidence, tighten the sarong around our waist and walk half-naked into the party. As we are walking around the side of this gorgeous villa to the pool in back, I hear the muffled sounds of Italian and start practicing my Italian in my head. The first thing I saw when coming around that bend was a guy bent over throwing up all over the grass. Mmmm. I then saw another guy walking around the pool like a drunken sailor before keeling over into the pool. Greeaaaatttt. Let's just say that the night consisted of Joanna and I sitting on a bench beside the pool watching the absolute debauchery of people who had been drinking since 5pm that afternoon. Not exactly the rap video I had envisioned in my head but nothing ever is, is it? :) After all of that worrying, all of that preparing, we could have showed up in snow suits for all that anyone would have noticed. Oh well, it was a night to remember regardless.



Friday, July 18, 2003

The Griswalds in the Middle of Nowhere, in the Middle of Nowhere, in the Middle of Nowhere

Two weeks ago I was at La Terazza, a Roman disco under the stars. I was dancing with Simone who is undoubtedly the most incredible dancer that I have ever seen. It was five in the morning and I had a plane to catch to Turkey in four hours. But as I was being swung around and lifted into the air, I could have been on Neptune at three in the afternoon for all that I knew. I had a two week Turkish adventure ahead of me of which I knew nothing about. I have now returned from my extended grand tour and here is my story...

As Joanna and I sleepily descended the staircase from the plane into the hot and humid air of Istanbul, Turkey, I turned to her and hastily admitted that I had no idea what was ahead of us. My Mom, you see, is what one would call a super planner. I knew that she had researched and planned the trip probably better than any native Turk could have. My job was to show up and learn and enjoy as I went. What I was most anxious about was just to see my family as it had been five months since I had laid eyes on them. It was absolutely fabulous to be reunited again.

Our first stop in Turkey was Istanbul where we were to stay for five days. It was here where our days were jam-packed with visiting every mosque, palace and museum in the greater Istanbul area. But I must admit that every site that we saw, one was more spectacular than the next. Here is a snapshot of what we witnessed:

Blue Mosque: This is one of the most important religious buildings in the world that was built in the 17th century and remains a place of Muslim worship today. It was quite a site to see with over 250 windows and it¡¦s interior covered with magnificient Iznik tiles. We were able to witness the traditonal Muslims in their time of prayer which was especially interesting in the beautiful mosque.

Aya Sofya: An even more spectacular site, this mosque was originally built as a church 1,400 years ago. It the 15th century, it was converted into a mosque and remained that way until the early 1900s when it was converted into a museum. The six of us walked around with our jaws dropped in awe of the splendor of this church/mosque. To even fathom how they built it 1,400 years ago is truly incredible.

Topkapi: This palace built in the 15th century as a residence, was the home o fthe Ottoman Sultans for over 500 years. Now as a large museum, we were able to see how the Sultans lived (not too shabby), the jewels that they wore (one was an 86-carat diamond), the jeweled beds that they slept on and the oversized weapons that they fought with. We were also able to visit within the palace one of the places of pilgrimage for Muslims where Mohammed¡¦s swords and chin hairs are kept. What was truly powerful for us was to hear a Muslim man chant at the top of his lungs passages from the Koran in the room of Mohammed¡¦s belongings.

Dolmabahce Palace: This palace built for the Sultans after Topkapi in the late 1800s. What was one of the highlights for me in all of Turkey was the Ceremonial Hall which has a 4.5 ton chandelier lighting up the room that can hold 2,500 people. I could not begin to do this room justice by describing it so I challenge you to go visit for yourself.

Grand Bazaar:¡§Where are you from?¡¨
¡§Yes, Miss, I am here.¡¨
¡§Lady, I make special price for you!¡¨
¡§Very nice! Very good!¡¨

Over and over, these are the phrases that we heard shouted at us from over Turkish salesmen at over 1,000 booth-like shops. While I did buy a few things here, in my opinion, the bazaar was too overwhelming, too repetitive, and tiresome. It was definitely a site to see but after about a half an hour ¡V Basta!

The Bosphorus: This is the strait that separates European Turkey from Asian Turkey and houses some of the most wealthy homes in Turkey. We spent one day riding up The Bosphorus on a boat and marveling at the seaside plaaces and mosques. I must say that while I thought it was beautiful, like the rest of Istanbul, I couldn¡¦t get a sense of Turkish architecture.

Turkish Food: I have one phrase for you, "Meze Mutiny". Alex coined this phrase early on in the trip as I complained like a little girl that I could not take for the life of me one more Meze. For those of you who have not had Turkish food before, Meze are like appetizers or cold and hot starters as they call them. The first few meals that we had were delicious and I was thrilled to be eating eggplant salads, garlic yogurt and green beans with slices of french bread. But after about the millionth meal of exactly the same thing, I was ready to be back on the first plane to Italy for some spaghetti al pomodoro. I am not sure why but in Turkey every restaurant and I mean EVERY restaurant has almost the EXACT same menu. There is no escaping. They are crazy for meze. Ancora, basta.

Overall thoughts on Istanbul: The whole city seemed to have a bit of everything and nothing but the mosques and palaces stood out to me to be particularly memorable in terms of landscape and architecture. To be fair, I have been told that the true treasures of the city are to be found only once you live there which I trust to be true. What left the greatest impression on me was by far the people who could not have been more friendly.

After Istanbul, we flew down to Cappadocia which might as well have been on the moon for how much it differed from Istanbul. Cappadocia is the home to multiple underground citiies, to the strangest natural rock formations you have ever seen in your entire life and to entire villages that are literally built into the cliffs. These villages were built, if I remember correctly, in the 1st century A.D. it is unfathomable to think how they even began to build these villages and cities with the resources that were available to them at the time. The underground city that we visited went eight stories underground and housed 10,000 people during times of attack. They had schools, chruches, stables, you name it, all underground. Truly mind boggling.

The hotel that we stayed at in Cappadocia was by far the best hotel of the trip as it was also built into the cliff and all of the rooms are cave-like. You are taking a shower and you look up and realize that there is no wood and no plaster surrounding you but only rock. Very cool. Brava Alex on finding that one.

After Cappadocia, we headed to our next destination, Epheseus where ruins from the 1st century can be explored. This again was a completely different experience where once again, you couldn¡¦t believe what was in front of your eyes. The first settlement here was in 600 B.C. and while only one-tenth of the city has been excavated due to lace of funds, it is still regarded as one of the best-preserved classical cities.

Under Roman rule 250,000 people lived here and from what I saw, it must have been a fabulous place to live. At the time it was right on the Mediterranean (it is now about 20 km away), and one can imagine the marble walkways and fountains, the mosaic tiled floors and the spectacular theater that they experienced everyday. Again, I will nowhere near do this site justice so I will move on to our next destination.

Over a week of non-stop sightseeing in 90 degree heat can prove to be exhausting as an understatement. My mom and Alex had obviously factored this in as they planned the remainder of our trip to be on the water...ruins-free. ļ The next stop was Dalyan which is famous for the Dalyan River (where African Queen was filmed), the endangered turtles Caretta Caretta, and the natural mudbaths.

As soon as we arrived at our hotel in this beach-like town, we stripped down into our bathing suits for the first time on the trip and practically trampled each other to get into the pool. Once inside, our entire family retreated back to our early days and played silly water games. It was beautiful. That evening, being Alex¡¦s birthday, we all applied a little lipstick for the first time (not Pete and Dad, obviously) and headed out for a wonderful, long dinner along the river with a view of tombs built into the cliffs all lit up. Bellissima!

The following day we rented a boat for the day to take us along the reed-lined river to the beaches and mudbaths. In typical Saidy fashion, we managed to rent the slowest boat possible with a driver that did not speak a word of English and was more concerned with fishing than taking us around but it all added to the charm and authenticity of the experience. We were lucky enough to catch a glimpse of one of the endangered turtles as it swam along the river and poked it¡¦s little head out to say hello. Che carino!

The natural mudbaths proved to be quite an experience in and of itself. While my Dad chose to sit this adventure out, the five of us stomped into a natural pool of mud with about 100-200 strangers from all over the world. While up to our knees in mud, we bent over, submerged our arms into the dirty water and scooped up fisfuls of mud only to smear it all over our bodies. As I looked around me, I saw twelve year old German boys free-falling backwards into the mud, I saw French topless women gracefully applying mud to their perfumed skin not recognizing the irony of it all, I saw Asian men and women giggling at the ridiculousness of it all and I saw my mom splattering mud all over her face wtih a huge smile exclaiming, ¡§This is great for your skin!¡¨

As soon as we were all sufficiently painted with globs of mud, we moved to the next stage of mud-bathing which is basking yourself in the scorching hot sun. It is then that the sun completely dries to your skin and you feel as though you were wearing a suit of armor. After you feel that every inch of your body is dry with mud, you slowly walk to the showers like a mummy because you are afraid of cracking the mud on your body. Once in the outside public showers, all discretion is thrown out the window. In a country that is 99% Muslim and where it is offensive for tourists to wear tank tops as it is showing too much skin, all of a sudden you are showering with 100 strangers trying to rub the mud off of every inch of your body in a skimpy bikini. I must say though, when i walked out from that shower, my skin was as soft as a baby¡¦s bottom.

Our last destination in Turkey was to Fethiye, a wonderful seaside harbor along the Mediterannean. It was here that we drove to Oludeniz which is a lagoon with incredible turqoise water surrounded by forested mountains. Wow is all that I have to say.

The next day we took a boat around to the twelve islands off the coast of Turkey. At each stop, the boat docked off of the shore and the only way to get in the water was to jump off of the side of the boat into the water. The sea was a deep royal blue that you could see down clearly for more than twenty feet. Fantastico! While I was swimming out in the water and looking up at the mountains surrounding me, I felt such an incredible sense of peace and calm that I never wanted to let go.

If you have read this far, thank you. I am sorry for being so verbose but I had to attempt to do the trip justice, although I think it is impossible. Beside all of the sites that we saw, all of the water that we swam in and all of the warm people that we met, what was the best part of the trip by far was spending all of that time together as a family. It was especially a treat to have my brother-in-law, Pete, there for the first time on a family vacation. The strangest part of it all though was that it felt like he had been a part of our family forever. I couldn¡¦t really remember what it was like before he was there nor did I really want to. I think that he must have been the biggest trooper of them all to deal with five Saidys or as we called ourselves, The Griswalds, traveling in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of nowhere. Here is to you, Pete.

Wednesday, July 02, 2003

Here is a visual to help with all of the stories that I have told you about my italian adventure. Our wonderful guest, Angela, has now returned to the land of technology and she has posted her pictures from her 3 week trip here. Please pay special attention to utter beauty of Sardegna, it would be hard to miss!!!

Cut and paste the below links...

http://www.shutterfly.com/osi.jsp?i=67b0de21b320bd286504

http://www.shutterfly.com/osi.jsp?i=67b0de21b320b915e40b

(Yes, Angela has a bit of an "obsession" with sculptures!) ;)

Sunday, June 29, 2003

I Saw Rome Again For the First Time...

Someone once told me, "Never let the weather determine what kind of day that you are going to have." I love that advice. But it is very difficult for me to follow it. It has been hot here in Rome. Tanto caldo. Troppo caldo. For the past few weeks, everyday has been between 90-100 degrees with over 50% humidity. During the day, Rome is like a ghost town. There is not a person in sight. I have yet to figure out where the tourists are. I imagine in museums or siestas in their hotel rooms. Anywhere but outside in the heat of the pomeriggio (afternoon).

I have let this heat affect me. I wish that it didn't, but it does. I have become cranky, impatient and short-tempered. Until you get me to water, this is how I am. It has affected how I view Rome, the city that makes my heart skip a beat. The city that I could walk around and stare at forever.

But this morning at 5:00am, I got to see Rome again for the first time. Joanna and I worked late last night and didn't go out to meet our friends until 2:30am. By the time that the night was over, morning had creeped up on us and low and behold, it was cooler. As we walked out of the bar and said good night to everyone, we realized that it was about 70 degrees and there was a light breeze. Amen. We walked through Piazza Navona and except for a few people who had had too much to drink that night and set up camp underneath the benches, the piazza was empty. We had the fountains of Bernini all to ourselves. It was still dark enough where they were lit up. The Fountain of Four Rivers, Fountain of the Moors and the Fountain of Neptune. Usually when I walk through this piazza during the day, I am cursing the heat and the tourists and I have no interest in soaking in these magnificent works of art. But this morning, Joanna and I stood there and marveled at greatness of what we were seeing and where we lived. We then walked south through Camp Di Fiori where in the morning is the site for the famous famer's market and at night is taken over by drunk Americans who walk around like they own the place. But now, at this time in the morning, it is empty. All of a sudden, Joanna and I are seeing the beauty of the buildings that encompass this piazza. We see a church that we have never before seen. We continue our walk in silence past the grand French Embassy, past incredible fountains and make our way to Ponte Sisto. We stand on the bridge and we see in the distance St. Peter's still lit up with dusk enveloping it and the whole city. A woman of about 40 in her full running gear trots past us and Joanna and I for an instant contemplate the idea of getting up early and seeing the city like this more often. But the idea passes as fast as pack of wild horses. Forget it.

On we go, through the winding streets that are lined with the most vibrantly colored apartment buildings and bright shutters. The city is asleep. Joanna asks me what New York is like at this time in the morning. I laugh. It is the same at this time as it is at any other time of the day or night. New York never stops. New York never sleeps. Not like this. Finally, our walk home is coming to an end as we make our ascent up Via Garibaldi where we live. I have fallen in love with Rome all over again. Can that happen? Can you fall in love with the same thing, the same place over and over again? The same place that in the heat of the day, you curse and try not to even notice? Is love like that conditional? Too late to think about all of that. We slowly climb up our stairs onto our balcony to our front door. It is time to sleep and prepare for the heat of tomorrow.



Thursday, June 26, 2003

Mexican Bus Boys

When I was a waitress in a restaurant in Los Angeles, we had about four bus boys who were all mexican and none of whom spoke a word of english. They were the hardest workers you have ever seen. They could clear and reset a table in about 10 seconds. They brought out the food so quickly that I would nearly be knocked over when they sped past me to the table. I now understand why they worked so hard because Joanna and I are now...mexican bus boys. When you don't speak a language well, you feel as though you need to overcompensate for that shortcoming but becoming a super worker. Joanna and I understand and speak enough Italian to get by but not enough to take orders at a table or to chit chat with Italian customers. Our job basically is come to the restaurant early and set up the tables, cut the bread, put out the candles and antipastos, etc. Once customers come, we are the food runners and wine openers. When the Americans come, we sit and chat with them. In the kitchen, we only speak Italian which is great for our learning but has the potential for some very embarassing situations.

As I have said before, our restaurant is called Le Fete, which is translated to "The Fairies". There is a story behind that but I won't get into that now. Anyhow, we have a lot of dishes that have cute names such as the "Magic Salad", "Fairy Pasta", etc. Last night in the hustle-bustle of it all, Fabrizio handed me two desserts and as usual, I asked in Italian what are the names of the two dishes so I could announce them when I brought them to the table. Fabrizio quickly points to one dessert and says in Italian, "La Donna" (the woman) and points to the other and says in english, "The Fat Man". As I am rushing to the table I am thinking to myself, "Hmm...that's kind of a weird name for a dessert, 'The Fat Man'. I imagine you would get quite fat if you ate this all of the time." (Keep in mind that I can be a bit of an airhead at times) As I am bringing the desserts to the table, I call out "La Donna" and a woman raises her hand for me to place it with her. Then just as I am about to say, "The Fat Man", I look up and see an overweight man looking up at me eyes of anticipation and it dawns on me that Fabrizio was telling me who got which dessert, not what the names of the desserts were. Oops.

Joanna on the other hand has had other ways of avoiding embarrassing situations. She gets so nervous around the tables that they are going to ask her for things that when she brings wine, beer or bottled water to a table instead of pouring it for everyone she practically throws it on the table so that it splashes out and sprints off. The other night she actually sprained her thumb trying to open a wine bottle. When you try to do it that quickly it is bound to happen!

But other than the few funny stories, all in all, we are hard workers and we manage to have a great time with everyone. The great thing about being a waitress in Italy is that all of the Italians like to dine for hours and have no interest in being bothered for anything by wait staff. And the Americans who come want to be like the italians and just follow suit. This makes for a much more relaxing working environment.

So, stay tuned as even I am anxious to see what we are like in two months at this restaurant.

Wednesday, June 25, 2003

Now that I am living practically next door to an internet cafe, I will be updating my blog a lot more often so for those of you that are frequent readers, please check in more often as I promise to be writing more often! And I want to give a special thanks to Joe Fineman who inspires and pushes me to constantly write. Every writer needs an audience. Thanks, Joe.

Hippies of the Zodiac

Three of the most interesting men that I have met since I have been in Italy have all been...over fifty years old...and all have been Aquarius'. I am also an Aquarius. They call us the 'Hippies of the Zodiac'. Here is what one astrology website says about the Aquarus:

Traditional
Aquarian Traits

Friendly and humanitarian
Honest and loyal
Original and inventive
Independent and intellectual

On the dark side....

Intractable and contrary
Perverse and unpredictable
Unemotional and detached

These three men have all exemplified what is written above and they have inspired me to think differently about how to live my life. Up until I came to Italy, I had always thought that the only way to live one's life was to choose a career, stick with it and climb the corporate ladder until you are at the top. Don't look down, don't look sideways, just up. What someone did for a career to me, defined so much. The first question out of my mouth when I met someone was always, "What do you do?" And for me, it wasn't about the money but more just that what you do in your life for work is who you are. But the jobs that people had never really said anything very interesting. Including mine.

When I met these three men who are all very different and who do not know each other, I found that the common thread between was that throughout their lives they chose what interested them at the time and found a way to support themselves financially doing it. As soon as they tired of it, they moved on to something completely different usually in a foreign country. All three of them speak at least four languages. They are 'original', they are 'inventive'. Those seem to be the words that they live by. Change. Think differently.

Now that I have seen how these men live, I have thought to myself how can I shed all that society has taught me about the "right" way to live my life? How do I take the other path? Do the masses know something that these three men don't? Or is it the other way around? I have thought about this topic a lot and I have had the voice of reason in my head that says, it is wonderful to float your way through life doing whatever you want, when you want but when you have a family to support, there has to be some semblance of financial reliability. So, I think that if I want to live my life as the true Hippie of the Zodiac, I have four options:

1. Don't have children
2. Do it now while I can
3. Marry someone rich
4. Figure it out

Well, one is not even an option for me because there is no question in my mind that I want children. Two is what I am doing now. From what I have seen in my life, number three never seems to work. And number four...is what I am trying to do.

Tuesday, June 24, 2003

"Tavolo cinque! L'acqua Frizzante! E anche espresso per tavolo due e il conto per tavolo otto!" - Yelled Fabrizio while whizzing by me with his arms filled with steaming plates of ravioli and spaghetti.
"Cosa? Il conto per quali tavolo?" - I yell back to Fabrizio with my arms filled with baskets of bread and my feet feeling as though they have just run 10 miles.

I work in an Italian restaurant. Pinch me. Last night was our first night working in the restaurant where we will be working in almost every night for the remainder of the summer. It is called La Fete. It is a 1 minute walk from our apartment. It is owned by a wonderful man named Massimo with pale blue eyes, grey hair and the demeanor of a italian hippie. He has three children, Fabrizio, Andrea and Sole who all work at the restaurant. They have owned the restaurant for a year and a half now. The food at the restaurant is exclusively from the region of Lazio. If any ingredients cannot be found in this region (where Rome is found), then we don't have it at our restaurant. Did I just say "our restaurant?" Well, we work there now. Pinch me again.

For the past few days, I was beginning to get worried about our summer that was to be spent in Rome. Money was running very thin without any sort of income. The temperature has been above 90 degrees everyday and there is no respite from this heat when you live in the heart of a city. Especially an Italian city that does not believe in air conditioning. We had been to see all of the sites, we had walked the streets and we still had another 2 months with nothing to do. We hadn't worked in months. Our brains were starting to turn to mush. We needed this job. We got it.

One of the things that I love most about my adventure in Italy is the perspective that I am slowly beginning to gain back after my two years in New York. At the end of last night, when Joanna and I got paid and counted our money on our way home, we were ecstatic! We couldn't believe that in one night we had made all of this money and what it would mean for the rest of the summer for us! Then when I was falling asleep, I thought more about it and realized that in my full night of working, I had just earned what I earned in one hour in NY. But this money means so much more to me for some reason. It feels like so much more. There was a moment last night during the hustle-bustle of it all when Joanna and I just looked at each other and smiled with this look of "do we really work in an italian restaurant?" Si, e vero.



Thursday, June 19, 2003

June 19, 2003

Today I was supposed to arrive back in San Francisco to start my life on the west coast. I would have wearily walked off of the plane still in a daze from my past 2 and a half months in Italy. It would have been a shock to my system to eat anything other than italian food. It would have brought sadness to my heart to not hear and speak italian. I would have been dreaming about the summer that I could have had in bella roma. I would have drove my family to the airport and wished them well on our family adventure in Turkey while secretely crying inside for missing out. But thanks to having the best parents in the world, who selflessly found a way to keep me here for the summer, I am now living in the center of Rome.

I live in Rome. Abito a Roma. My sister and I live in Trastevere, Rome. Rome, Italy. How did I somehow manage to stand in the right line when blessings were being handed out like candy? It is something that I will never know but also that I will never forget or ever take for granted. I think that I am the luckiest girl in the world. It is funny because the past two weeks I had taken a vacation from my vacation and I wanted to write all about it. I wanted to tell you about how I swam in emerald green water that was as clear as the water that comes out of your bath faucets. About the caves that we swam through on deserted beaches. About the twenty one year old surfer boy from southern california who is stationed in Sardegna for the Navy. How he adopted us for a few days and completely changed our experience. How much he and his friends made us laugh. How much fun it was to be a true, shameless American for a few days. I wanted to tell you about an old Italian woman who owned a restaurant that we ate at and how she literally knocked me in the head for not eating cooked spinach. About a 11 hour boat ride that we took from Sardegna to Genoa that was five stories high with discos and five restaurants and filled 99% Germans. How we had to sleep on a padded bench in the kid's lobby while having plastic balls thrown at our face. About the crazy Chinese woman on the boat that was determined to become our best friend but instead freaked us out to a point where we still have nightmares about her. I wanted to tell about our third trip to Torino and how we always manage to have the best time there no matter what. I wanted to tell you about our new guest, Angela, and how she has become a part of Joanna and I and how she has the two of us crying at least once a day out of laughter. But now, I live in Rome and all of a sudden all of those other amazing memories and experiences take a back seat to the most important truth of all, I live in Rome.

Our apartment is on Via Gharibaldi and we are renting it from an incredibly fascinating italian author who has lived there for twenty years but spends half of his time traveling around the world. It is a two bedroom apartment that overlooks a garden and a cafe and sleeps seven (pullout futons). The place is decorated in all neutrals, mostly white with only huge reprints of Lichenstein and Kandinsky artwork bringing a world of color into the apartment. When you walk out the front door, your senses are overwhelmed from the herbs and flowers that are pouring out from flowerpots on our balcony. At night, you can hear Billie Holiday playing to an old couple in an apartment across the courtyard. We have a new roomate, a British girl named Abbey who is working for the Discovery channel here in Rome. We have only met her once but she is wonderful and her enthusiasm about living in Rome is both intoxicating and contagious. Joanna and I may also already have jobs for the summer at a little cafe around the corner from our apartment working as waitresses. We have a "tryout" on Monday night so cross your fingers for us.

I know that had I gone back to San Francisco today, I would have been so happy to have seen my family and hugged my mom and dad and pete and alex. I would have loved to have seen all of my sf friends and talked to them for hours. I would have played a little Pop A Shot at Mauna Loa. I would have called all of my New York girls and been amazed that I could just picked up the phone at any hour to hear all of their voices. I would have roamed the aisles of Walgreens (yes, I have a minor obsession with Walgreens). I would have taken my tivo back from my sister and programmed who knows what into it. I would have gone to Sam's in Tiburon as quickly as possible. I would sat for hours on my back deck at my house talking with my family. I would go for walks. I would...gasp...drive. I would clean my old room. I would..........look for a job.

But, I live in Rome for now.




Monday, June 02, 2003

Be Bop A Lula

I have been to a few club openings in my life and I must say that the starkest contrast that I have seen has been between opening nights in NY and Ladispoli, Italy. This past weekend was officially the beginning of the summer season in Italy. It was their three day weekend akin to our Memorial Day Weekend. All of the Romans escaped the heat of the city for the first of many weekends and poured onto the beaches of southern Italy. In our beach town of ladispoli, there is a club on the beach called Be Bop A Lula that opened this past saturday night.

Joanna, Eden, Nancy and I were sitting in our apartment after spending an evening drinking wine on the beach, watching the sunset and finishing the evening off with pizza and gelato. (so much for curbing my gelato intake!) There I was sitting on my bed shaking with excitement at the idea of crawling into bed to read the latest US Weekly that Nancy had brought us. I couldn't wait to find out just why Jen and Ben have decided to postpone their wedding! As I am about to put on my pajamas, Joanna comes prancing into the room exclaiming, "I'm booorrreeeddd!!!!" I see the look in her eye that I know so well and instantly know that my hopes of an evening with US Weekly have just been shot to hell. I hold out as long as possible displaying my exhaustion but to no avail. Next thing I know, I am in the bathroom curling my eyelashes and spritzing on perfume. It is time for a night out.

A half an hour later, the four of us are strutting down the street when we run into our friends Marco and Alessio.
"Dove Vai?" (where are you going?), Alessio asks Joanna.
"A be bop a lula!" Joanna says.
"Non, é chiuso." (no, it's closed) Alessio explains to us.
"Chiuso?! Sono solo alle 1am!" (closed?! it's only 1am!) I ask in bewilderment to Alessio, shocked that the opening night of a club ends before 1am and silently cursing Joanna for dragging me out of bed for some stupid club that is closed already.

We then hear the soft sounds of "boom boom boom" from a distance and instantly know that Alessio is "out of the know" and those sounds are from Be Bop A Lula asking us to come join. We strip off our flip flops and make our way to the club along the beach (a little different from NY). The closer that we get I begin to see the crowd that I have grown accustomed to. The women are dressed to the nines in tiny tops that could double as a bikini top and mini skirts that show off their bella figura and their beautifully bronzed skin from the day spent at the beach. The men have wriggled themselves into the tightest jeans that they could find in the closet, buttoned up their camicia, wrapped their jean jacket around their waist and drowned themselves in D&G cologne. We have just entered an italian disco.

As the music begins to seep into my skin, I find a smile forming on my face and I am secretly happy that Joanna convinced me to go out. Jen and Ben can wait until tomorrow. The four of us head for the bar and ask for a strong drink as it is already late and we need to catch up to be able to stay out and dance the night away with the italians. As we stand on the side of the dance floor, we can feel the breeze of the sea on our faces which is a welcome relief from the heat that is being emitted from all of the eager dancers in the club. We scan the scene and check out the talent. (translate - look for cute boys) As usual, we are faced with the unfortunate reality that many of the men in the bar are shorter than us. Luckily, just as we were beginning to get discouraged, a beautiful tall man who had been eyeing Joanna all night approached her to come dance. His name was Paolo and did not seem to fit in with the typical disco italian mold. Of course we had to tag along as we saw the company that he kept and the eight of us tore up the dance floor for the remainder of the night. When last song came on, the eight of us decided that we weren't ready to have the night end just yet and we moved the party to the beach where we laid in the sand watching the stars and attempting communication with each other. After a lot of laughs, the sun came up and reminded us that nights like these can't last forever. Tomorrow always comes.

Saturday, May 31, 2003

Homeless In Europe

As of Sunday June 1st, Joanna and I are officially homeless in Europe. I would imagine that there are worse places in the world to be homeless but nonetheless the fact evokes some definite feelings of anxiety. Our roomate has found another apartment and so Joanna and I must move out of our current apartment in ladispoli, Italy. We have been through ever possible solution to this dilemma, one day we were going to move to another beach town outside of Rome called Ostia, one day we were going to move to Torino in northern italy, one day were were going to find an apartment in the center of Rome but due to time and financial constraints, we have decided to just wing it. Go. Explore. Live everywhere and nowhere.

I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. Most of the time you don't know why something is happening until much later. It is with this that I pack my bags and throw in my Europe travel guide and set off. Our first destination is going to be Sardegna where I hear the water is as clear and warm as a luxurious swimming pool. After that, who knows? I was told in Milan by a palm reader that in June or July I was going to meet my husband along the Mediterranean. He said that he would be a tall, latin man with broad shoulders and that he would be a painter and an architect. I can't fight fate, right? So, I guess I better make my way to the Mediterranean in the next month!

p.s. If anyone reading this has any friends in Europe that would like to house two american girls for a few days, please email me as we are open to any and all suggestions! Grazie!!!

Ciao! Ciao!

Wednesday, May 28, 2003


Dream Interpretation

Make of this what you will. The other night I had a dream that I was sitting at my old desk at my old job listening to my voicemail. The first message was the voice of a british woman who exclaimed with great enthusiasm:

"Congratulations! We have been tracking your chocolate gelato purchases and you have eaten more chocolate gelato than anyone in the world!!! For this you have won a life supply of chocolate gelato! Thank you for your support of our industry!"

Hmmm....do you think that I might want to curb my gelato intake?




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