lunedì 29 dicembre 2008

The Easy Jet

When I was in the process of leaving Italy at the end of November, I had this great idea to fly with my bicycle. I only had to pay en extra 25€ to fly with the bike and thought it would be much easier than strapping it to the back of a car.

Since I had to get up at the crack of dawn to get to the Milan airport, I left my bike at the train station in Trento the day before and went to buy yards and yards of bubble wrap. After negotiating three train stations and catching a bus to the airport with the bike, a suitcase and hand luggage, I thought I was all set when I went to check in at the desk. There I encountered one of the rudest women that I had met the entire time I was in Italy. After assuring her that my tires were indeed deflated, she moved on to the next criticism to prevent me from checking in my bike. I was supposed to have removed the pedals and turned the handlebars so it was in a straight line with the frame. At this point I started to panic and asked what I could do, as I didn't have any tools with me. She basically told me to take a hike and that my problems were of no concern to her. I couldn't even get her to tell me who could possibly help me in the airport. She told me I had an hour and 40 minutes to figure it out. Lovely. When I was on the verge of tears, she had finally finished speaking with me, and said "next."

I have to say I was shaking and had no idea what I could possibly do. I couldn't leave the bike there, but I had no idea how I could find the tools I needed to get the bike in order. As I looked out the plate glass windows, the first thought I had was that men always had tools in their cars, and I asked the first taxi driver I could find if he had tools. At this point my Italian was breaking down a bit. I was having to ask for tools I didn't know the name of, and I was shaking with fear. Of course they didn't have anything, but they did seem willing to help me solve my problems. Two of them started asking around. At first it was just other drivers, then it was the carabinieri, and guys that vaguely looked like mechanics. Finally someone had a hex key and the handlebars were turned the proper direction. I started to feel slightly less anxious. I only had to get the pedals off. I was ready to consider breaking them off, but after another 10 to 15 minutes of searching, someone showed up with the right sized wrench. One of them came off, and I was almost euphoric. The other one was proving to be more stubborn. My assistants almost gave up hope but in the end they managed to loosen the other pedal too, and I was ecstatic. I was ready to go, and I still had plenty of time to check in before the flight was closed. I went to the other end of the counter and some nice young man helped me with no arguments.

The rest of the day was uneventful. The flight went well and the pilot was ludicrously cheerful. He kept going on about what a lovely day it was to fly, and giving us weather updates, in his cute Irish accent. I was so relieved that I had made it on to the plane that I bought some overpriced food from the attendants, and didn't even cringe.

When I picked up my poor bike at the baggage carousel, her handlebars had become completely unmoored and she looked a bit like a wilted flower. However, I still felt buoyant, and managed the somewhat daunting experience of driving on the wrong side of the road without too many problems. Of course this was just the first stage on my cross-Europe odyssey, and other delights awaited me in the following days.

martedì 4 novembre 2008

New Horizons?

Wow, I haven’t posted since August. I’m so unreliable.

Life is up in the air, again. Scott and I are moving, again. Actually, he’s already moved and I’m staying behind to pack and clean, again. Although, he’ll probably come back to help, but it’s easier to make yourself sound like a martyr this way.

We’re going to England. Oxfordshire to be exact. I’m not sure what I’ll be doing, but I’m sure it will involve a horrible commute. It always does.

Listen to me moan. You would think that I don’t like moving, but we all know that this is not the case. I probably couldn’t stand it if I had to stay in one place for more than a few years. Even if I stayed in the same town, I’d probably have to find a new place every few years. I hate leaving Italy though. I’ve really come to love it here, and after almost three years I can talk to a store clerk without sweat forming on my brow. Well not really, but I’m not as nervous as I once was. I’m sure if I stayed another six months my Italian would be perfect, ha.

I am excited. I just wish I could twitch my nose and magically all my belongings would be in the new apartment.

Ta Ta

lunedì 25 agosto 2008

Perzenando

Sunday I went on what is locally called a gastronomy tour. I understand in recent years they have become popular in the region. The tours focus on particular communities and the little villages that make up the whole commune.
The commune seems to be the basic municipal form in Italy. I'm sure I'll not really describe it acurately, but this is my layman's take on the organizational structure. Pergine encompasses the actual town of Pergine and includes fractions, smaller towns with populations from 38 to 790 people, and localities, that can be uninhabited or have as many as 227 inhabitants. I am not sure what qualifies each community for what status. I am leaning toward thinking that the presence of a church changes your status, but this is a mere supposition.
The Perzenando is a relatively recent entrant into the gastronomy cycle. Each year they change the course of the walk to, I assume, let people get to know more about the little communities that make up the commune. For a flat fee of 20 euros, you get a gift, this year it was a rain poncho which we thankfully didn't need, and all the food you could possibly want to eat. The course was about 15 km, about 10 miles, and it took all day long. Every few kilometers you stop and eat something, and you always get your choice of water or wine. Whether you want it or not. It does no good to ask for just a little bit of wine, as your little plastic cup is always topped off.
This year I had to do without Scott's company. His leg is now technically healed, but he has been told not to put any weight on it for another month. He actually considered coming along on crutches, but he realized, correctly, that there would be passages that were just too steep. Instead of his company, I recruited a friend of mine from Mexico that is here in Trento doing enviornmental research. I'm sure we could have walked much faster, but as the point of the day was to enjoy the communities as much as the countryside, we went at a leisurely pace.
The tour passed through the fractions of Susà, Costasavina, and Roncogno, the locality of Fornaci, and a religious retreat, Villa Moretta, and included a challenging climb through the woods above the little towns. All the little towns are quite dense and have a very medieval feel, although I have no idea how old the buildings are. They are all attached and remind me in some wierd way of those native American cliff dwellings in the Southwest. Most of the building are well cared for and have been rennovated. Sometimes only a portion of the building is lived in, and only the inhabited parts are in good repair, leaving an odd image of a building half occupied. Since the area is experiencing some growth, I noticed that the buildings in Susà that have been sitting empty and in disrepair, now seem to be undergoing rennovation. In each little village, there were people demonstrating local crafts. In Costasavina, there was a man doing some woodworking with an ancient lathe, and another shaping copper into pans and relief panels. In Roncongo, someone was making sauerkraut, a staple in this part of Italy, and another was making corn meal for polenta the old fashioned way. Several people in Roncogno had opened their cellars up to the public, and you could see the innards of these lovely old buildings. I saw one that was covered with every immaginable type of tool. In another cellar I discovered an interesting cultural tidbit.
There is a local group that supports several causes including a yearly bike "race" for leukemia. They are rather lively and part of their routine is these bicycle contraptions that pump beer or use a saw to cut bread and lucanica, the local salami. A few group members were in a smoke-filled cellar singing ribald songs. One of them was "Heidi" which is the theme song to an animated television series that was made in Japan and dubbed into many European languages. They were never broadcast in the United States so I am totally unfamiliar with the series. Apparently in Italy, as my Mexican friend related, the song is available in Karoake Bars and patrons enjoy themselves by changing the words in predictably vulgar ways. Apparently, an Italian aquaintance told her it is also a popular sing along on car trips. The changed lyrics include the phrases "Heidi, Troia (which is slang for a woman of easy virture, and also, oddly enough, is the name for the city of Troy)" and "hai un culo fantastico." I searched on youtube and found several versions, but only with a crowd singing the "Heidi, Troia" line. I filmed a snippet with my camera and am kicking myself for only getting 16 seconds.
video
The really funny part is that RAI television hosts many shows that showcase popular songs and performers from bygone eras, the 50's, 60's etc. There were also numerous versions of these in Germany. Here they almost always seem to be hosted by Carlo Conti, who also hosts a game show, L'eredità, that includes as side entertainment a group of provocatively clad women who "dance" in between show segments. On one of these shows they had the woman who sang the Italian Heidi theme song on. Now that I know that they lyric changes are so commonplace, I have to giggle at their selection.

venerdì 22 agosto 2008

La Gola

We don't exactly live in Trento. Trento is part of a much bigger river valley that leads straight up into Germany through the Alps, the famous Brenner Pass. We live in one of the many side valleys -- the Upper Valsugana. Trento is relatively close as the crow flies, but not as easily reached by other forms of transportation. To arrive you have to pass over a mountain or go around. Since the road on the mountian direcly behind our house is little more than one lane that twists and climbs, the only real choice is through the narrow gap that separates the valleys.
Even still the people on this side of the mountain don't venture into Trento often, but this is changing as many people are buying houses and apartments on this side of the mountain. The fastest way to arrive is through a series of tunnels and bridges that pass through what is essentially a gorge, or una gola. When you are on the road that leads from Trento to the Valsugana, you don't notice that you are actually on a bridge, and the ground is quite a way down. If you take the train you notice the drop as the train tracks are on the other side of the gap. My neighbor said it used to take at least 40 minutes to get to Trento before they built the tunnels, now you can arrive in 20.
There is a road that passes on one side that is not as primative. The cyclists use this to train. I've bicycled to Trento several times on this road, but it's difficult. Getting to Trento isn't as tough, but the return trip is hell. Trento is 300 meters lower than we are, so you have to climb 500 or 600 meters. Not an easy task. The relief you feel when you reach the top of the ride is tremendous. I've never managed to get to that point without stopping several times. It's great exercise though.
Just before the pass opens up into the valley is a little community called Cire. I've always thought it would be a terrible place to live. It is very close to the highway that goes through the tunnels and bridges that leads to Trento. There are also a series of industrial sites intermixed with the housing. The overall impression is oppressive. A bit like living in a highway rest area.
During the First World War the area was heavily fortified and many battles were fought in the hills and valleys, as Trentino was part of Austria and the front lines were located here. Almost every mountain has the remnants of trench lines and it is also easy to find a fort in ruins, or the anchors for the artillery. I always wonder how on earth they were able to get the materials and those huge guns up the mountains -- beasts of burden I imagine. Today they use helicopters to transport building materials.
Since Cire is at the bottom of the mountain and it is the first flat area of any size that isn't too near the small river, the Fersina, that flows through the narrow pass, it must have been an attractive military site. An acquaintance here told me that during the Second World War, Cire was a munitions dump. She was a young girl during the war, and said that the valley was bombed often. I imagine since this is the major access point between Italy and Germany, it must have been hellish. However she doesn't remember being afraid.
Soon after the war had ended, there was a huge explosion at the munitions dump one evening. The explosion was so destructive that they never found any traces of the guards on duty that evening. Even though the war was over, the site of the fire filled her with terror. When I pass through Cire now I always think of her story, and can imagine the smoke and heat.

mercoledì 20 agosto 2008

La Caviglia

Yesterday Scott had his cast removed. Although we knew that he would get an x-ray and an exam, we were expecting that the doctor would at least place a boot on the foot. I was a bit surprised when we left that Scott exited with his very pink and still swollen foot bare for the world to see. I took some photos of the foot, but I am hesitant to post them as they are VERY ugly, and actually might be considered obscene.
Our landlord, and neighbor, Marco drove us to Trento for our appointment. He has been incredibly helpful throughout the whole process. The other day we saw him in the hallway and he was a bit outraged thinking we'd been to town without asking him for a ride. After he dropped us off he went somewhere in Trento to wait the two hours that our appointment took. We had agreed, as we had for the last appointment, that I would call him when we were done. I wasn't able to reach him so we didn't wait were we had last time, but found a shady spot, and a bench, to wait.

The bench is in front of the hospital at the taxi stand and there is always a crowd of people coming and going. Scott was unbelievably excited about being able to see his nasty scars on both his ankles, and the fact that he had print outs of the two x-rays that they had made. When we got home he made me count the holes on each of his scars to figure out the number of stitches that he had had -- 18 in total, six on one side and twelve on the other. Even though his ability to communicate in Italian is limited he eagerly shared the pictures of his now healed bone with the placca and the screws the doctor used to attach it clearly visible. He even showed the older gentleman his freshly uncovered scars. Not to be outdone, our neighbor on the bench pulled at the collar of his shirt and showed Scott the scar he had from having a pacemaker installed. He had just had the old one he had had installed 19 years previously replaced. He waved goodbye to us vigorously as his son arrived with the car.
Since I was still unable to reach Marco I headed back to the other entrance and he was waiting there. I was a bit horrified. He later said that he had forgotten his phone at home, but fortunately neither of us waited too long.
Scott is still over the moon about his x-rays and manages to bring it into the conversation whenever he can. I have to admit that I am fairly disgusted by his foot and calf that look worse for the wear after being hidden in the cast for a month. The daily injections still go on for another month because even though the cast is off he can't walk on the foot for another month. Yesterday was the first time we were charged anything -- 40 euros for the x-ray and the visit, but I can go get the x-rays in another week. Scott will have the real set to admire.

lunedì 28 luglio 2008

La Francia

I haven't given up posting again. I've just been busy . . .
Well actually I have been busy. We took what has now become our yearly journey to France. Whenever our good friend Tiph goes to visit her mother, she kindly invites us to visit. We spend our days eating our meals on the patio, or under a big oak tree, and driving around the quiet little villages that surround the little town where her mother lives. The weather can be a bit tricky. One year we combined our visit with a trip to London. It was late September and London was warm and sunny, while France was cold and rainy. Last year it was quite hot, but it was pretty perfect this year with only a day and a half of rain. Take a gander at the photos if you like:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/7582179@N08/sets/72157606350016343/
Although, this doesn't really explain why I've been busy, it does explain what I was doing for a week and a half. The real reason is that three days before we took our 20 hour train ride back to Italy, Scott slipped on a wet paving stone and broke his ankle. Not that we knew it was broken. We were hoping that it was only a bad sprain, but as it kept getting more and more swollen, we were beginning to have our doubts. As we arrived fairly late in the day when we returned, we called the doctor the day after we returned, and thus began our first serious experience with the Italian medical system.
Our doctor suggested that it would be much quicker for us to go to the emergency room, as making an appointment would just delay the whole process. Scott bravely hobbled to and from our destinations on the crutches that we had bought in France, for a bargain price of 24 euros. At the hospital, there was some discussion as to whether he should be classified green or white, white being for those miscreants that come to the emergency room when there is no emergency, since he had waited four days after the initial incident. Luckily it was decided that he was no miscreant and he was given green status, which is third priority, but you have to be pretty bad off for red or yellow. He was seen almost immediately -- I only had time to buy a bottle of water -- and then rushed off for an x-ray, which indicated that his leg was broken, and he'd detached a ligament. Not bad. I think we both were equally dismayed to learn that he would need surgery.
Now this is where a bit of confusion came in. The person treating him said Scott could stay at the hospital and get the pre-op tests, or we could go home and come back. The medic had no idea when the surgery would actually occur, and indicated that it could be a few days. Thinking that Scott could be in the hospital for days, we opted to go home. We arrived at 10:30am and left at 1pm. Not bad for a trip to the emergency room.
I was surprised when, that same afternoon, we received a call telling us to come in the next day for the pre-op tests, and even more surprised when, after he had taken the tests, they said the surgery would be the following day. So we went in on a Wednesday and by Friday morning he was in the hospital having his surgery, and he was able to go home on Saturday. Thankfully our landlord kindly took us to and from the hospital, as it would have been an expensive cab ride.
The upshot is now that he is unable to walk on his foot for 45 days, and he has to use the crutches for 15 days after that. The worst part, for both of us, is that I have to give him an anti-thrombosis shot every day until they take the cast off. I'm not sure who hates it the most. The most interesting thing is that outside of the crutches and a few other first-aid items we bought it France, we haven't had to pay any extra co-payments or fees. It is all included in the yearly fee we pay for the national health-care service. Even the anti-thrombosis medicine is covered.
Well at any rate, outside of sitting on the patio, the summer is pretty well shot. He's been laying down with his foot up since he returned from the hospital. And although he hasn't been too demanding, he can't really even get himself a cup of coffee. Consequently, I've been busy cooking, cleaning, and fetching. The up side is that since he is confined to one area, the house remains fairly tidy. I'm more likely to pick up after myself if I'm sure that I'm the one making the mess. The only thing that I am doing more of is cooking, since he often cooks at least dinner. What I am doing less of is leaving the house, so my volunteer work and such has been curtailed. Although none of this is a reason not to write, so here I am starting over once again.

venerdì 4 luglio 2008

A Walk in the Woods

Last Sunday we had some friends over for dinner. Scott and I always lament about how this usually goes disastrously. Twice we have made burritos, and Scott, not repressing a desire to make his burrito really spicy, has crumpled some extra hot pepper on his burrito. On these two separate occasions, our guest has nearly choked to death because they thought that if Scott was doing it, it would be ok. I have suggested that in the interest of the health of future guests he should avoid the over spicing his food in front of anyone. I don't think he paid attention to me.
Our guests on Sunday had come once before. We made some pasta that was rolled too thin and consequently ended up being a big sticky lump. Another time we invited up the neighbors for some enchiladas, and I made the sauce too spicy. At our friend's house, where we previously had a stellar reputation, we over-kneaded the seitan, and rendered it difficult to chew. This time the food worked out all right, even if the refried beans were a little too gray.
As we had some time before our guests arrived at the Italian dinner hour, 7pm, we decided to go on a hike. Scott had been agitating for some time to walk up Marzola, the mountain behind our house. We've made this walk many times, and I really hate it. The path is very steep and unrelentingly uphill. After almost two months of rain, we suddenly also have fairly hot weather. We went from 18-C to over 30-C in the space of a week. We thought if we left early we would beat the heat.
After having hiked up the mountain from 500m to 1000m, vertically, miserable and sweating profusely, I declared, as I usually do when we take this walk, that this was the last time I was going on this hike, and he would have to find some other favorite trail. Scott agreed that it was a little hot and that maybe we could go to the top on another day. Instead of turning around, we took another path that loops back down towards our house.

When we stopped to take some pictures of this fallen-down shed, we heard some people nearby enjoying the day. Usually we don't see anyone on this trail. I think for obvious reasons. Although once I did see some insane person JOGGING UP the trail. I think he was just showing off however. As we rounded the bend, we noticed there was a family enjoying a Sunday in their Baita (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baita). One of them called out and said, "are you here to steal mushrooms?" I assured him we were just taking a walk and he invited us over for something to drink, which is code for wine, beer or grappa. After hesitating a moment, we decided it would be fun. He had just been kidding about the mushroom stealing jab. We spent the next half hour drinking wine and chatting. They were preparing a big Sunday feast of chicken, lucanica (http://www.deliciousitaly.com/prodotto.php?id=85®ione_id=2), polenta, and most likely crauti, and even invited us to join them. We politely demurred, but had a great time chatting. They were surprised to meet some pasty Americans wandering in the woods. Trentini often ask in a guarded manner what you think of Trentino and the people there, as Trentini have a reputation for being cold and reserved. Scott and I have always found the people here to be very friendly, open and generous, as was proved to us again last Sunday.

giovedì 3 luglio 2008

Hey Jude

Today I was randomly looking at blogs on this site and someone had a playlist of songs that included "Hey Jude." I immediately started thinking about my childhood summers on Cape Cod. Before my grandparents, in typical New England fashion, retired to Florida, they retired to Cape Cod. Of the two, I preferred the Cape. Indiatlantic, Florida smelled of sulfur, and my grandparents lived in a retirement complex. The neighborhood on the Cape was full of kids our age. Besides, Florida never appealed to me they way it did to my grandfather, who adored the idea of the endless summer. To me summer means sunburns and hot weather -- two things I would gladly do without.
Our first summer on the Cape, my grandparents drove to Missouri to pick us up. We were living in St. Louis at the time, and I affectionately called it Misery, mostly because it was. The locals, unused to military families, and divorce, ridiculed me incessantly -- because I talked with my New England accent, because I had a different last name than my parents. The summer there was the first time I had experienced any kind of suffocating heat, and I was more than happy to go to Massachusetts even though my grandparents had moved far from their old Lancaster home.
On the way back we got stuck in a large traffic jam, due to road resurfacing. Oddly enough, considering how many decades have passed, I can still remember the sensation of sitting in the sweltering back seat that day in the boat of a car my grandparents owned, that for some engineering reason only known in Detroit, only had two doors. When we reached Massachusetts, my grandfather discovered that the road resurfacing had left tar on the side panels. He was furious. As a gesture of good will for the kind generousity he demonstrated in fetching us, Kris and I were consigned to tar removal duty for a good part of the summer. This was an endless, and frankly ineffective, task.
At this point we hadn't met any of the kids in the neighborhood, and my grandparents seemed dubious about the small crowd, of mostly boys, that roamed the neighborhood on their bikes. There were only a few other girls in the whole subdivision. Two of them were a year or two older than us, and definitely had attitude. One was a bit younger, and the last one, who was roughly my sister's age is still one of my best friends.
It was obvious that the other kids were curious about who we were, but also didn't seem to know how to approach us. One day, while Kris and I were on tar duty, they were kicking a ball around near us. Finally, they kicked it one too many times close to us that I yelled that if they kicked the ball over our direction one more time that I would stick it where the sun didn't shine. Poor Timmy was left stammering his apologies. While in realty, I was probably more annoyed with having to be on tar duty than anything else.
Oddly enough, that episode eventually broke the ice and Kris and I started hanging out with "the boys," who were obsessed with the Beatles. Being 10, I wasn't yet able to understand that their obession with trivia and song statistics was part of a male bragging pattern, and I listen patiently to all their facts and figures. Only in college would I realize that citing obscure song facts somehow conferred intelligence, in the same way staring at the guitar player -- instead of dancing -- demonstrated that you were a true music afficianado.
One day we were all sitting in Sean's house and Rob was telling me how "Hey Jude" was 5 minutes and 7 seconds long (or was that 7 minutes and 5 seconds). Not realizing that the information was stamped on the disk, I was wondering if they'd sat there with a stopwatch, and was frankly impressed that they would have gone to all that effort. I guess he was trying to impress me, but I was a little less impressed a few minutes later when they showed me the information was on the label. The song however, always makes me think of that great summer we had far away from the heat and misery of Missouri.

mercoledì 2 luglio 2008

Do you speak American?

People here in Italy often ask me if I speak American, as if there were grand differences in the British and American versions of English. Apart from the annoying variations in spelling and slight differences in grammar usage, we use the same language. Of course George W. Bush thinks that Mexicans speak Mexican, and he did receive a resounding applause for this statement. I may have posted this before, but Italians, depending on the region, often don't speak Italian. A great majority of people here in Northern Italy prefer to speak the local dialect, which here in Trentino subdivide further into each little valley. Often communities that are no more that 50 miles apart have difficulty understanding each other's dialect. Maybe this is the reason that I get asked this question. I have to admit that the question often irritates me. It feels like a criticism -- as if we poor, backward Americans haven't yet mastered the language of our superiors. Although there are plenty of British people that express this same sentiment. Perhaps they teach English here in Italy. There is nothing more annoying than being told by someone, who doesn't speak your language perfectly, that you don't speak your own language correctly.
This can be especially irritating when they use English phrases in their own language in a completely incorrect manner. I know I've written before about pseudo-anglicisms but I've recently discovered a few more. I have found out that Italians use the noun "slip" for "underpants" ("pants" for you British folks). An Italian friend here was surprised to discover that a "slip" was that dress you wear under your dress. Interestingly, the term "noprofit" is used instead of "nonprofit." This one is a bit baffling as "non" is the term for negation in Italian. I have searched on the internet to discover if this usage exists in Britain, but found only a website in Italian. I realize that the English language has absorbed and altered foreign words also, so don't break my chops on that issue. This is my soapbox.
Well enough of my lamenting. Thankfully all minor irritations usually pass. Or as my husband says, "time heals all non-fatal (or should that be no-fatal) wounds."

giovedì 3 aprile 2008

Writer's Block

I guess that's what I've had, or I could call it laziness. In reality it is neither. I took a trip to the U.S. During that time I was in Tulsa for a week, and I thought I would be writing my blog every day, but I didn't, obviously. I've been encouraging my father to start writing every day. He has the desire to start, but can't seem to find the right method, which leads to frustration. The end result is that nothing gets done.
It isn't that I haven't had ideas or even mundane, yet somehow interesting, events to recount. Sometimes there are things you want to say, to put out there, that you know you really shouldn't. I am constrained sometimes by my unwillingness to upset others with my caustic observations and criticisms. These things I should write, but they should be private little scribbles to myself. Just because I think something doesn't mean I should say it regardless of the feelings of others. I'm not out to make a splash by saying the most outragous, and often hurtful, things possible. I'll leave that to Germaine Greer (Follow this link http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/germaine-greer-pop-bitch-479025.html if you would like to see what I mean. It's nice she can make a point supporting one person at the expense of someone else, namely Linda McCartney. I wonder if she has an old ax to grind).
Not that I have all these negative thoughts about others either. Sometimes the way to describe a situation could sound like criticisms. I am reluctant to include others, out of a fear that I would inadvertantly hurt them. No one wants their foibles and ideosyncracies written so they have to acknowledge them. I certainly don't!
Another problem with this medium is that you do this in isolation. You are never sure that what you are writing is read. When I first started working in television, I had what a co-worker of mine referred to as a "volunteer" position. Certainly I got paid, but I worked six days a week from 4:30am to 9am, very part-time, yet very time-consuming. As a result I had to work other temp-jobs to pay the rent. Some of the other office workers that I met during this period opined that they could be a morning-show host -- it was easy, all you had to do was read. The first time I ran camera in the studio, I realized just how hard being a morning-show host is. You work in an empty studio and have to remain peppy even when you have no idea if your "conversation" with the viewing public is successful. To me blogging presents the same difficulty. You want to be entertaining, but it is hard to go on entertaining when you're not sure that anyone is being entertained. So you can call it writer's block, or even laziness, but really it's losing faith.

venerdì 4 gennaio 2008

Snow, Snow, Snow

At last we have snow! It has been snowing now for three days. We haven't really had much accumulate in that time. The first day was sort of a tease. There were these fluffy little snowflakes that landed and melted. The second day was a bit more serious, but it was only sticking to places away from the road, but after the sun went down, or rather it started getting darker, it began to accumulate in earnest. Now we have a nice blanket, albeit a rather shallow one, of lovely white snow.
The kids are trying desperately to sled down our hill. Believe me it is steep enough, as it is a chore to climb home, but they can't seem to get going for very far. It is probably a good thing. Although our first winter here we did see someone towing their youngster on his sled up this really steep grade with their CAR. I wonder what the trip down was like?
I remember my heady sledding days back in Massachusetts. We got a fair amount of snow in our part of the state, and it seemed we would gladly spend a better part of our daylight hours outside playing. The only thing that was more fun than being outside was coming inside, stripping off all of your snow paraphernalia, removing your inevitably soaking wet socks, and drinking that nice hot cup of cocoa. For those of you who grew up in a warmer clime, snow paraphernalia includes not just hats, mittens, scarfs and coats, but snow boots and either snow pants or a snow suit. The snow pants/suit were a hellish, but necessary part of the winter outdoor pleasure. I am fairly certain that when you were old enough you graduated to the snow pants, as the suit was a bit more restrictive. Also, the pants made it a lot easier if you were forced out of necessity to take a bathroom break.
We had several sled options. Here they have the typical plastic model that was also available in my day, but they also have what can best be described as a sliding bench. It has an updated antiquated feel that really appeals to my aesthetic sense. I like the look of them a bit more than our wood and metal models, what I think of as the traditional American sled. You know the one with the useless bar that was supposed to help you steer. I have not seen these European models in action, so I'm not sure if they glide over the snow any better. There was, of course, the toboggan, but ours was one made for at least four people, and never left the shed that often. As a kid my favorite sleds were the round saucer kind. They seemed to give you the wildest ride, and they had those handles on each side to give you a false sense of control.
My grandparents had a fairly steep incline in the backyard the we used for entertainment both in winter and summer. It was great for gentle sledding, and during the summer also served us well for the slip 'n slide. We never had a real slip 'n slide. Grandpa never liked to buy anything full price when he could find some cheap equivalent at the warehouse stores he loved to comb through, or better yet, discarded at the dump. Somehow he found a huge roll of really thick plastic sheeting on which we just placed the running hose at the top. It actually functioned really well. One of the few instances where his frugality paid off.
When we moved onto Ft. Devens sledding became a bit more difficult. The housing complex was on top of a hill, but the only paths for sledding were either in the woods, or on the road heading out of the complex. Using the road wasn't really an option, as it was one of the only two roads that led out of the area, so we would sled by default in the woods behind the houses. One time, I was on my saucer, and I believe by myself, and I found this great twisty path where you really picked up speed. At the end there was a bit of a lip and I popped up rather forcefully right onto the downhill slope of the street heading out of the neighborhood. This was really frightening as I realized, even at the tender age of six, that I could have easily been flattened by a passing car. Perhaps I decided that I should use one of the other paths that ran away from the street, or maybe I just went inside and pulled off my soaking socks. I know for certain that I never sledded down that path again.

giovedì 3 gennaio 2008

Buon Anno

It's a new year, again. Funny how it always seems to happen without my consent. I have high hopes for this year, but I'll try not to be too optimistic. I don't want to jinx myself. Ah, I see there is still room for the pessimist within me.
For the first time in many years, as far as I can remember, January first was not gloomy and overcast. However, I did do many of the same things I usually do on January 1st which is next to nothing. I did not do the following: 1) wake up with a wicked hangover, 2) get two or three hours of sleep because of no. 1, 3) go out and find the only diner open for miles, mainly because diners don't exist in Italy, and 4) have fried eggs and hash browns for breakfast.
I did miss not doing 3 & 4. It's my favorite New Year's Day activity. One particularly memorable New Year's Day I went with a friend and her then boyfriend, both of whom shall remain nameless, to King's Diner in Raleigh. I remember somehow I found out through a friend of my sister's which Raleigh diner was likely to be open on New Year's Day and it's location, but I'm a little shaky on how it transpired.
We had spent a quiet, but enjoyable New Year's with said friend's boyfriend's sister. Usually we celebrated in much more raucous style. That being said, New Year's in Chapel Hill was always a difficult proposition. There was never anyone in town, and the only bar open was usually one that just wasn't our style. For awhile it was Four Corners, which was located next to the post office, and attracted a more collegiate crowd. Most of the time there were rumors of parties that we spent hours trying to find. I remember wandering around the empty streets of Carrboro only to find a few stragglers, along with the last strains of Taz Halloween's performance, in a building on Weaver Street. Out of beer, and out of luck, we all wandered back disheartened to my apartment. Sadly, this was a typical experience.
The next morning always seemed to be the same. Gray skies and the search for the open diner. The year in question, in Raleigh, was no different in this respect. Since we were a trio, and I was not part of the couple, we sat in a booth in the formation of a triangle. Another trio of people came in and sat in the mirror image of our configuration. I was left facing this guy who continued to stare at me the entire time we were there. I was never really sure that he was actually staring at me, or if due to the way we were seated that it just seemed that way. However, as we were pulling out of the parking lot in the boyfriend's van, this guy happened to be exiting, and continued to stare at the car as we pulled away. We had a good laugh about it, and drove to a neighboring town to see if my current love interest was home. You can tell by the fact that I didn't actually spend New Year's with him, as to how stable that relationship was. He wasn't home of course, and we drove from Sanford back to Chapel Hill, as the gray day became an even grayer evening.
I'm not sure what a sunny New Year's Day portends, but I can only surmise that it is a good thing. Hopefully all of you had sunny New Year's Days too.