You are browsing the archive for 2010 August.

The Handyman of Via Bad Homburg

August 31, 2010 in dialect, spazarific

(The sound of whistling up the steps; the loud zap of a doorbell)

Leone: Good murning, E.

Myself: Salve, Leone. Thank you for coming – this gas leak has really made me nervous.

Leone: Nuthing to worry about! Jusht let me see what the prublem ish.

Myself: Okay. Please do. I was so nervous about going to sleep last night and I shut all the windows really tightly and took a cold shower and just ate cold prosciutto and mozzarella for dinner so I wouldn’t have to open the gas….

Leone: Mamma mia, how you worry. Ukay, well, let’s shee.

(hunches over; sniffs the gas tank like a dog. Inhales deeply)

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Photo Friday: Cats and Roman Ruins

August 27, 2010 in Italia, Looking

Cat, always to be/

found prowling Rome’s ancient stones/

You and all your ilk.

This post has been brought to you by Delicious Baby Photo Friday.

Shut Up and Drive

August 26, 2010 in Ex-Patriate Games, Italia, Looking, spazarific

I’m sitting on the beach with my mother’s cousin, Flora, and we’re watching the waves rush towards the shore; rush away from the shore; rush towards the shore; rush away from the shore. My toes are in the sand and I smell salt rising from the sea; sunscreen rising from my skin. It’s almost sunset, but the sky is still light and in the distance, a group of young men is fishing at the water’s edge. They cast their reels into the waves. They shake them in anticipation. They draw back empty hooks.

“You know,” says Flora. “Summer season will be over soon.”

“Yes,” I say.

“I’m going back to Rome this week. All the other tourists will be leaving, too.”

“I suppose they will.”

“This part of town will be empty and sad. You’re on the outskirts, you know. It’ll just get worse in the winter – gray and cold and isolated. Only the locals will be left, and they’ll all be in city centre. The centre is far from where you live.”

I fall silent and look out at the waves. We’ve had this discussion before. I don’t like this discussion. It’s a dose of reality that I’ve been avoiding, preferring to bury my feet in the sand and stare down at a public transportation schedule that shows three pick up times; make multiple trips on my bike to the supermarket; dig through websites to find the best way to get from this beach town to any of the larger ones in the region.

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Hungry. Will Stand on Ridiculously Long Line for Seafood.

August 25, 2010 in Italia, Looking, Oishii, spazarific

Walking around City Centre I suddenly realize that, after the 25-minute bike ride into town, I’m feeling too lazy to cook dinner. Well, am I living on the beach or what? Heck yes, I’m living on the beach. That means fresh seafood at bargain price all over the dang place. So I head to a fish restaurant – a Pescheria -  and park my bike against a tree. It’s a large shack, with “take away” written in English underneath the large neon name. A dry/erase sign reads: Fried Calamari 5 euro. Roasted potatoes 3 euro. Mixed antipasto 6 euro. I’m sold.

I look up. A long line is snaking outside of the shack, arching past me. I hear Neapolitan tourists shouting: Do we take a number or what? How do we do this? Children are crying: How much longer do we have to wait, Pappa? Can’t we get a pizza instead?

I check my watch: it’s 9:15pm. It’s the same old death match – laziness versus greed. Greed ftw, every time.

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The Mime & I

August 24, 2010 in Ex-Patriate Games, Italia, Looking, spazarific, writing

I heard him before I saw him: Signorina! You, the one who’s getting wet. It was a mime – painted gold, dressed as Casanova.

This was December 2005. Rome. La Fontana di Trevi. It was pouring, thus, my getting wet. Thus, my chilly reply: Mimes don’t talk.

His name was Marius. He was Polish. I’ll buy you a coffee. C’mon – what else is there to do in the rain? He had a point. He pulled out a duffel bag from behind a tree. We went to a cafe – espresso for him; hot chocolate for me. Passerby gaped through the wet windows.

Q: So what does one talk about with a mime, anyway?

A: SEX. Who knew? The mime took his role as Casanova seriously: Let’s go to my place. But why not? I’m Casanova; no woman can resist! I only need ten minutes. I looked longingly at the door – still raining. Then, an exclamation point zoomed off the top of Casanova’s wig: I’ll change out of costume. You’ll see I’m a regular guy. He grabbed his bag and disappeared into the bathroom.

Some minutes later, Marius emerged – rugged, good-looking, with a shaved head, wearing a black sweater. But he wasn’t so confident without his pantaloons. Now he only sat silently, shredding a napkin. Gone were the come-ons. Gone was the grin.

The cafe clock ticked.

Finally, he said: I guess I’ll go home.

And he disappeared into the rain.

This post has been entered in the GranTourismo and Home Away Holiday Rentals August Travel Blogging Competition.

Knock Knock

August 23, 2010 in Italia, Oishii, spazarific

“Ciao, E.”

“Hi, Zia Malvina. How are you?”

“I saw that you put a lot of plants on your balcony. Why did you do that?”

“What do you mean?”

“They’re all out there. And then the tree you have on the other balcony, you should really put a stick in the pot to make sure the branches don’t break.”

“That’s a good idea.”

“I’m not sure why you put the plants out there. I guess it looks nice.”

“I think so.”

“Flora said you weren’t feeling well.”

“Not really. I have a sore throat and a sinus headache.”

“Aren’t you taking medicine?”

“I already did salt water gargles and I still have some medicine from Ireland.”

“Good, good. Try gargling with vinegar – that also works.”


“Well, look – I wanted to give you this. It’s three frozen pieces of veal.”


“Yes. We’re heading back to Colleferro tomorrow and they were left over. But don’t cook it. You can put it in your freezer. I don’t know how you cook it. But it should feed you for a few days.”

“Thank you, that’s very kind of you.”

“It’s veal.”

“Yes, I see.”

“It’s good.”

“I remember.”

“You go back inside and rest.”

“Thanks, Zia.”

Photo Friday: Side streets of an Antique Roman City

August 20, 2010 in spazarific

There’s the beach, there’s the boardwalk; there’s the centro, there’s the plaza. And then there’s the antique city. It’s the high city, up in the mountains, above the discotheques and pizzerias. Houses and towers and churches and temples thousands of years old. That’s Italy for you – casual antiquity.

And the churches are lovely. And the piazza is giant, the lights glowing yellow against the marble. And Roman pillars stick up out of ruins, corded off by city officials. But me? Don’t play coy – you should know what I want by now. I want the side streets.

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August 19, 2010 in Ex-Patriate Games, Italia

In Italian, you address a man as signor. You address a woman – mature, married – as signora. A younger woman – ostensibly unmarried, unattached to children – as signorina. 1 signorina, 2 or more signorine. Where do I fit in at 30? I’m unmarried. There are no children around my ankles. And yet – 30.  I try not to stress about it; I’ll let others be the judge.

Standing in line at the pane-salumi-formaggi counter at the market:

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August 18, 2010 in Ex-Patriate Games, Italia, Oishii, spazarific

Since I’ve been in Italy, I’ve had to do a little bit of reconciling – that is, reconciling my childhood memories of the country with my adult impressions. Because I’m me, most of the old memories have to do with food. Me, five years old, sitting on a chair, swinging my legs back and forth and biting into a crunchy-on-the-outside, tender-on-the-inside mozzarella-and-rice filled supplì. Walking into a supermarket at age 10 and seeing piles of oily, rosemary-encrusted pizza bianca on display. Being handed a hot bomba, wrapped in a paper sheath and studded with crunchy sugar; the pastry so delicate, fragranced with the merest whiff of lemon peel.

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The Oil

August 16, 2010 in Ex-Patriate Games, Nonna Teresa

Living here in Terracina – where my parents came every summer in their adolescence – I run into a lot of people who knew them way back when. I have to take their word for it, but they insist it’s true: We knew your parents back in the 70s before they went to America. Well, I guess we knew them just by sight; they were a few years older than us. But we remember them! And you – you’re a miniature Isa! Except you have the coloring of your father. But the expressions, the face, it’s all your mother. Except you’re really little and she was more robust. But, yes, you’re all your mother.


I go home and fire up the Skype: Hi, mom. I ran into Mimmo today on the boardwalk. He says hello.

My mother says: Who the hell is that?

Well, all right. It’s been forty years since my parents last saw these people; heck, I’ve already forgotten a good number of folks in my graduating class. But still, these brown-baked middle-aged Italians come to me: You; you’re Isa’s daughter. I remember your grandparents. And my ears perk up: You knew my grandparents? Yes, yes, Suter and Nella Moscatelli. And then we also knew the grandmother of your father. Lucia, the Roman. Then they pause. They smile. Oh, that woman.

This reaction to the memory of my tremendous, bawdy, and opinionated Roman great-grandmother thrills me. Every story I’ve heard about her from my father or other family members ends the same way – with a shake of the head and a sigh. Mamma mia. What a woman. To find strangers who also stifle laughter only supports the myth – the legend – that was Lucia.

I met Lucia once, or maybe twice, when I was a child. The time I remember, we were visiting my mother’s family in Rome. Lucia smelled of bleach and had whiskers. She hurled a bucket of water onto a group of boys playing soccer in the cortile outside her apartment, then laugh merrily to herself as they screamed in outrage. She died when I was eleven, ending any chance I had of experiencing her true magic. But the stories live on, my friends. The stories live on.

My hands-down favorite Nonna Lucia story:

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