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Dinner at Home

November 29, 2010 in spazarific

Fiori di Zucca

And so it begins.

A quiet night at home. First, a day of writing. Then a drive along the boardwalk, towards the Maga Circe, clouded by November rain. Some housework. Some errands. Dinner now. Something simple.

Zucchini flowers from the vegetable vendor, each stuffed with a cube of mozzarella; beer batter; Prosciutto Toscano from the deli.

fiori di zucca

Nobody here but us piggies.

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Tight Spot

November 21, 2010 in spazarific

It’s Saturday night and I’ve just left Rico’s sister’s 30th birthday party. Art studio. Bite-sized frittate, panini, focaccie. Frequent champagne top ups; a big pink-and-black polka dotted American-style birthday cake from an American bakery in Rome. I’m wearing a skirt and stilettos, which is dumb, because – something I didn’t know until this evening – stilettos make driving darn near impossible. But I have a plan; I’ll drive home in my stocking feet. I’ve seen hot Russian spies do it in movies, so it’ll obviously work for me. Said heels go clak clak clak down the wet pavement. There’s a Lucio Battisti cover band playing at a nearby club, and the dreamy strains of La Luce Dell’ Est follow me down the street.

My car is parked in front of a tea shop, and there are crowds of young people clogging the parking lot. Damp night, full white moon. I get into the car and shuffle off my stilettos. Check the mirrors, put my key in the ignition. Look behind me. I look again.

I see that some fool has blocked me.

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La Donna di Mistero

November 18, 2010 in spazarific

There are the folks from the Pensione Ulisse across the street, and then there are the folks who work at the restaurants, at the shops on the main drag of the centro. The osteria they run is at the foot of the hill that leads up to the antique city. It’s a small place; dark, candlelit and cozy. Closed on Mondays, and rather dreary this time of year now that the tourists have gone home. The owners cook up home style treats all the same, opening the kitchen to any friends who want to try their hand at whipping up a dish. They take photos of the things they create. Pasta dishes, usually. Pistachio nuts. Ricotta. Anchovies. Olives from a place with a name I’ve long forgotten. Gaeta? Maybe. It’s lovely in Gaeta, anyway, and well worth a mention.

Nero is the cook. Nero can’t keep his clothes on. His pants hang low and reveal 80s-neon boxers with hearts on them and for some reason, he finds it necessary to take off his shirt while closing up each night. A silver corno gleams around his neck. Ladies’ man, perhaps. Popular in town, anyway. He says: Look. Another SMS from la donna di mistero. This crazy mystery woman has been texting me for weeks and I still don’t know who the cauliflower she is. Look. What should I text back?

He passes the phone around the table. Still flashing on the screen: I know you know what I’m trying to tell you. Don’t pretend anymore. Isn’t love just all a crazy game?

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Caffé: Rage Against the Machine

November 11, 2010 in spazarific

It’s mid-October and Gia is in town. Gia, like the rest of the world, drinks coffee. I, like the one person alive that time forgot, don’t. My parents were visiting the week before Gia came. They are also coffee drinkers. They bought an Italian coffee maker and coffee in a can for their breakfasts. It is this machine that Gia now wants to use to get her morning joe. She’s never used this kind of machine before. I’ve never made a cup of coffee in my life.

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Walls and Mortar

November 10, 2010 in spazarific

I have a friend here whose family was influential, once upon a time. There’s a street at the edge of town that used to be called after them because so many of his ancestors and relatives lived there. There’s a corner in the centro where three of the boutiques bear his family’s name – big wooden plaques on mortar walls, visible from down the block. Every time I hang out with him, he waves to half the people we pass. The other night, I was having a beer in a pub when I noticed the walls – exposed stone peeking from yellow concrete. They’re the same walls he has in his apartment. He built those walls, and he built the walls in the pub, too.  Boy, if you wanted to get away from him, this town would be the wrong place to do it.

They’re fascinating to me, my new friend’s roots. My parents were immigrants; there were no ties for us in Crystal River, and I resisted cultivating any of my own because Crystal River and I were never a good fit. When I moved to New York, I finally felt home but, again, there was no history, nothing beyond the knowledge that my parents had lived in Brooklyn when they first emigrated, that I was conceived in an apartment on Henry and Atlantic. And then I left New York. No ties, of course, in Japan; none anymore in Ireland. Each time I visit home, I see ghosts of my girlish self at each subway stop – late for this, late for that, crying over this or that worthless boy amid commuters, train performers, and panhandlers. But roots? Maybe if I’d stayed. Maybe if I planned to go back. Anyhow, there has never been a sign on 6th street and 1st avenue with my name on it.

And then, coming home after running errands in the centro, I put my keys in the lock and remember that I’m living in an apartment building that was built by my grandfather; that I’m living in the apartment where my tremendous Roman great-grandmother harassed my father; that I’m sleeping in what used to be his room. I run into people who knew my people, who remember my mother when she was young. I look up at the Temple of Jove, where my father proposed to my mother. I see their teenage ghosts, too, up and down the lungomare, parked on street corners. My great-great grandmother was born here. In a sense, this town is where my life began. And then I think that maybe, just maybe, I have a chance at feeling roots to myself, too.

TBEX Europe ’10 Top Ten Lists

November 10, 2010 in spazarific

Christiania, Copenhagen, Denmark

Christiania, Copenhagen


I was here over the weekend.

Also here:

Nyhavn, Copenhagen, Denmark

Nyhavn, Copenhagen

But most of all, I was here:

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November 2, 2010 in spazarific

We have new neighbors up in this hizz. Romanians – a small family; mommy, daddy, and little boy. The little one waves each time he sees me: Ciao! They live above me. I can see them when I step out onto my balcony to turn on my gas tank; see them smoking on their own balcony and the little boy looks down at me through the slats: waves gleefully. Ciao, I say back. I go inside and make my breakfast.

The DiVecchios – my other neighbors, parents of the screaming Emilia – are not into this Romanian invasion. Neither are my across-the-street neighbors, the folks who run the Pensione Ulisse. Don’t trust Romanians! they say. They’re gypsies. They’re under the radar. They come into our country and then they take our toys. Never trust a Romanian! They actually sound scared. As for me, I couldn’t give two craps whether or not the new neighbors are Romanian or from Mars; more annoying to me is that they’ve brought a special kind of circus to our building.

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This Is Not Halloween

November 1, 2010 in spazarific

There’s the navy fringe dress from H&M that I wore to Erma’s wedding last year. There’s the pair of seal brown oxford pumps I bought a million years ago in Japan. There’s a strand of fake pearls, a fluffy white flower pin, and makeup to make me look like Clara Bow. For the first time ever, my hair is right; bobbed to just underneath my chin. I will be a flapper for Halloween in Italy. Halloween in Italy – why not? I’ve seen some pumpkins loose in the centro. There are Halloween decorations at Orizzonte – housing goods store extraordinaire. My friends say: Yeah, there are parties in the pubs. Us? Naaaah, we’ve never celebrated Halloween. It’s really new here for us, remember. Mostly the kids do it. But, sure, there’ll be something in the centro. Check it out. Have fun! I’d been prepared to spend a dismal November 1 with my hands pressed against my computer screen, gazing in lust at all of my friends’ Facebook Halloween photos, but this – the pumpkins, the spatter of decorations, the supposed parties in pubs – all conspire to give me hope. In front of my bathroom mirror on October 31st, I smudge black hollows around my eyes; extend the line of my eyebrows into sad commas; paint a tight, pointed cupid’s bow on my mouth. I see myself in black and white, hear the Charleston buzzing through the decades. My lungs fill with air; my soul is buoyed.

Because I love Halloween.

I love Halloween.

I freaking love Halloween.

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