Sunday, April 19, 2015

Eccoci/Here's where we're at --
I promised that I would tell you about our adventures moving to Tuscany. I never promised you it would be glamorous. So here's where we are.

Yesterday I got the long awaited text message/sms from Valentina, our new downstairs neighbor, saying that there apparently no more bugs downstairs in her apartment. I couldn't celebrate for long because last night the new bar opened downstairs in our courtyard and it was pandemonium.

 The music was so loud that at eleven o'clock F went down to complain because there is no way that that number of decibels is legal in the city. My floors were vibrating. They had been vibrating to some extent all day because we are still getting little shakes from the earthquake in Puglia yesterday. They lowered the volume slightly, but the hammering bass continued until midnight. I know I risk sounding OLD, but you have to understand that this is just the beginning and that this is going to go on every week from Thursday to Saturday. And they have terrible Pitbull-ish like taste in Zumba-esque crappy music. We won't know, of course, whether the new windows will solve the problem until the special glass that Signor Paoletti ordered arrives. The only way to combat the ever encroaching migraine was for me to blast Joni Mitchell, Liz Phair, and Lauryn Hill. Meanwhile, F and I worked on an art project for one of the walls and awaited the phone call from T that she was ready to get picked up from a party outside the city.
T and Natasha getting picked up.

Here are the noisy bastards:

Here is the art project:

Here's what I was doing:

Here's how they are making Italian singers Emma and Elisa compete to see whose team goes first on Amici. It is a 91/2 Weeks style, blindfolded, food tasting competition with Luca Argentero. It was sexy until he made Emma eat cooked brains. He is one of those special cases of male Italian beauty in which his horrible personality, as I've said before, actually completely cancels out his sex appeal.

Oh for lord's sake!

In other words, Italy will have a female Prime Minister or President of the Republic in about a century from now, and even then, only if a plague wipes out the entire male population first.

If you have watched more than one season of Amici, you know that Sabrina Ferillo has some weird energy with Luca Argentero. It is very jealous and stalker-like. Here she is smiling now that Emma has to eat brains. Before this moment she looked fairly irritated that she didn't get to wear the blindfold.
The things I will do for 22 euro . . .

In other news, some official someone at my English school took me aside to prepare me for the fact that my new four-hour class on Wednesday mornings with young trade apprentices is obligatory and that the nineteen year olds in it are bound to be less than enthusiastic and compliant. In fact, he disclosed that many of them dropped out in middle school. He was worried that I (an ex socialworker for the homeless) couldn't handle myself. I told him that his time would be better served making sure they could handle me. I have a certain amount of swag out in public. I generally make it home before I get into the full ugly cry. And that, my friends, is how I found out that I am going to have at least a dozen youth or yoots, as Danny Devito would say, who this guy with black Donald Trump hair said can't even be trusted to have more than one bathroom break because they will, at the very least, never come back. It's shaping up to be a wonderful week.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Robin Hood, Italian Style
Well, the good news is that my student Roberto did not think that it was weird at all that I told his son I was keeping an eye out for him and he was sort of touched by it, I think. If you have no idea what I'm talking about you have to read the earlier posts because I am way too tired to explain the whole thing again. But here is the great part: Roberto came in 4th out of 72 crossbow competitors and his photo was even featured in the local paper, La Gazzetta di Lucca.

That's Roberto on the far right.

Not to be confused with this guy. (Although, secretly, this is how I always picture him.)
Or this guy.
Or even him.

In other news, our saintly and good landlord, Signor Paoletti, came by and said that he would put in extra thick windows for us so that noise won't be a problem for us in the future. Unfortunately, he said it would take a few months to order the right kind of glass because we are in Italy, that's why. He also was kind enough to go down and visit our new neighbors who were super charming and who won him over with their mega-adorable twins. The moment he left, some new beetles came out of their corners to die. Valentina, who hasn't slept for more than two hours straight in five years, then called the exterminators back and they gave her two possible scenarios.

 The first scenario is that the problem is basically over and that since there are no more bugs in the traps in their apartment, the last beasties are just coming out to die. The other scenario is that it is a mega infestation, and that, really, her whole apartment should be gutted, although her landlords would never pay for it. That is when a regrettable thing happened. That is when the stoic and calm Valentina, the actual victim of the whole sad living situation, sat at my table while I dissolved into an ugly cry that would make even a Real Housewife of New York CIty turn away in shame. So that happened. She was of Signor Paoletti and F's shared opinion that I should sit tight and wait because my apartment doesn't have any bugs and hasn't for months and that I shouldn't do anything rash because I have good heating and the best landlord ever, which is hard to find in these parts.

I googled Signor Paoletti and this picture came up. I'm just going to go with it.

Monday, April 13, 2015

IT turns out that Valentina from last night is a part-time DJ and she just saluted us on the radio! She played Born in the USA and shouted out to us from last night's dinner. Then she said it is sometimes rough making a big move and she played . . . wait for it . . .People Are Strange by The Doors. I'm dying.
And just now she invited me to come join them in studio for a future broadcast. And they are playing Bad Medicine by Bon Jovi.
Um . . I can't think of a title
Here are the photos of me taking my student Patrizia and her friend Elizabetta to meet my other student Roberto at the medieval celebration of something medieval. Insomma. Roberto's son was there so when it was Roberto's turn to shoot his arrow, I attempted to tell his son that I was keeping an eye out for his dad since I know this is a hard time for him. This is totally true because only my affection for Roberto could have forced me out of the house into the most allergen laden area of the city to watch people shoot arrows. However, my delivery or my Italian and his son and his son's girlfriend's body language have forced me to the conclusion that I gave them the idea that I wanted to become their new mommy. It did not um go well. I should not empathise or say things out loud any more. Patrizia felt sorry for me, but also thinks I will never learn that Lucchese people are reserved. It is true that when I hear the term reserved I always think that they are talking about restaurant tables or hotel rooms and not people. Everyone in this town needs to learn English and also to drink more.

Sorry, Roberto.

It freaks me out when onlookers edge up the the very limit of the city walls.

Cute. Drummers. I hate them. They are a medieval migraine in motion. Patrizia adores them.
Patrizia & Elizabetta

If I had a white flag, I would wave it too.

I came home with puffy eyes and a swollen throat and forty minutes to shower and get ready to go downstairs to our neighbors' apartment which is full of bug poison to have dinner. It is so sad. One of the twins can't breathe because of it and stays up all night coughing. Sounds appetizing, right? But what was I going to say to our new friends -- It is good enough for you, but not for us? So we went. We ate. And ate and ate. And then I came home and threw up all night long. Today I woke up to the sound of drilling.  My landlord isn't answering his phone this morning. I have seven students this afternoon.

This is outside the paper company where F teaches English. I know I posted it before but now it is our new mascot.

I think this is as close to an ad for bugs so poor they have taken up pole dancing and stripping as you will ever get. I have no idea why this company uses them to advertise towel paper and toilet tissue. It is so gross.

Our new neighbors who are soon to be our new ex-neighbors. Not my fault. (This time.)

How cute is this little girl?
The twins loved T on sight. I believe there is some babysitting in her future.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

WTF What the . . . Firenze?
Italy is the only country in the world where a reality singing show begins with the two famous team leaders Emma and Elisa representing strong women with strong voices get handed aprons to decide whose team goes first. They are then literally forced back into the kitchen to have a male judge from Master Chef Italia, the one with the reputation for being a hardass, judge their ability to fry eggs.

On another note, F thinks that judge Renato Zero looks very much like the pride of America: Kelly Cutrone.

Renato Zero ora/now

Lo Zero allora/then

Kelly Cutrone: What you didn't watch The Hills, The City, America's Next Top Model or Kell on Earth? Don't even talk to me.
And btw . . . Snape Piton vs. Renato Zero?
And then this gorgeous thing happened:

Amici 14 Cristian e la danza con il ballerino... di superstarz_com

No, really . . . WTF!

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Telenovella level disasters
Forget your favorite telenovella - my life just became a new level of messed up. I live for your entertainment.

I am not a person who takes the news well that there are insects living inside the walls of the apartment below mine. I am also not a person who takes the news well that a third restaurant is opening in my little courtyard -- a birreria/beer joint where people will get drunk while live music plays until 1 a.m.

In light of these new and unpleasant developments, I called my landlord who said he would be in touch with the downstairs landlords and come pay me a visit this week. In the meantime, I have become a nervous wreck. It doesn't help that it is the olive blooming season when my eyes swell up and my left ear stops working and I feel like I am underwater. I know, I know it is funny that I picked Tuscany of all places to find out that I had an olive allergy.

This morning I had a really dramatic panic attack thinking about the apartment exchange agreements we have already made with two families for the summer in other parts of Europe.

First I have to back up and explain that during the week I started calling around to different rental agents to get an idea of what's out there -- nothing -- and what the prices look like -- high. I had forgotten that I had saved one advertisement in my computer history, so today I called it. It turns out that the owner of the downstairs apartment's girlfriend, aside from being a horrible, filthy, bad karma person, is also a real estate agent. Luckily I had only explained that I lived in a noisy area when I asked for her name and realized to whom I was speaking. She told me that she already had my number in her phone. I told her that we knew each other and hung up. As I was hanging up, I heard her say Why, what's wrong, you think I did something to you? 

A little while later I got a text message from her and it said that since she considered herself a very upright and upstanding person she was going to give me the opportunity to explain my rude behavior. I wrote a long and impressive text telling her that she was not an upstanding citizen and that she had behaved deplorably by tricking my nice new neighbors to move into an infested apartment, giving us fleas five years ago, and recently trickling black paint onto the new, white umbrella of the restaurant downstairs when she lazily decided to throw black paint at the apartment's terazzo fence.

Before I pushed SEND on my message, I went downstairs to the neighbors to ask them to look at the message for Italian language mistakes and general tone issues. They told me that another other real estate agency said that this is a crazy woman who took off before repaying them money that she owes them and they advised me not to write to her at all. I cancelled my message. F had told me to put her number in my phone just to be sure that we don't call it or pick up a call from her by mistake. I put it in my phone under the letter T for That Bitch.

A few minutes later I heard the unmistakeable but ominous tones of my phone telling me that That Bitch was writing to me. She wrote a long angry message saying that she had figured out who I was. And the best part is, she was completely wrong! That is because I have good karma, I think.  She wrote a bunch of crazy things about some lady and her fiance who had threatened her on a different street some time ago. Whew.

F came up with a plan to save our beautiful apartment which is worth at least 300 euros more than what we pay for it. It all comes down to the good will of our landlord. He could protect us from the noise by putting double glass on the front windows and from the bugs by sending a different rival disinfestation company to make sure there are no bugs in the walls downstairs. In fact, we are beginning to suspect that Norman, the bug man of Lucca, scares people into thinking problems are worse than they are and then only resolving them a little at a time to earn the most money possible. Can you say stress in Italian? In Italian the word for stress is um stress. Now you know.

Saturday, April 04, 2015

SPRING it forward
This week a lot of things sprang forwards. Maybe it is the aftermath of the eclipse, who knows? But for whatever reason, many of my English students took huge leaps forward this week.

For example, my cross bow expert, Roberto, was able to substitute his players of reserve/i giocatori di reserva -- which is what I call the subject pronouns because of the football culture here -- and he was able to make his own sentences that made sense for the first time.

I had a full hour lesson with this adorable guy named Giulio at the paint company (since none of his colleagues showed up) and we worked on his TRINITY exam topic. He chose Molfetta which is his home town. It came out that his wife and children, including his little seven month old, are still there. Well, no wonder he knows every crevice and every detailed trivia fact about the place. I can't even imagine how much he misses them now that he can only go back and see them every fifteen days. Anyway, he got the difference between the past simple and the past perfect which is essential for his passing the test and his face just lit up. All of the students are working really hard on their topics and I couldn't be prouder of them.

 And then my friend Anna will never acknowledge it, but her English has improved so much since we started taking our lessons on top of the walls to stroll and chat. Now she can speak in English the whole three kilometers about whatever she wants to and make herself understood. It is really a revelation when my Italian friends can speak to me in English for the first time. It adds a whole other level to our friendship.

Anway it put a Spring in my step:

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Good news & Cattivo news
The good news is that the Lucca Summer Festival line up doesn't completely suck this year:

The bad news is not really so much for us as for our poor, new neighbors. So not only did this family from Rome with their adorable twin three year old girls have the misfortune to experience an attempted break-in during broad daylight when they moved to the most busy shopping street in our little city, but then they moved in downstairs from us not knowing what disgusting people they were renting from. The same horrible couple whose neglected dog gave us fleas for four months which resulted in our having to give away our adored cats the first year we moved here, failed to tell them about the beetle infestation of their apartment. A situation of which they were well aware.

In the meantime, the mother of the twins fractured her leg or foot. She is the super hero of our times. I respect her so much. She hates insects as much as I do, and yet she has had to deal with her daughters discovering droves of them in her new apartment. She has faced everything with admirable grace and even joked that since she removed her leg cast herself, out of desperation from being locked inside with the bugs, at least she could use her crutch to kill the little beasts. The monsters that knowingly rented the family the apartment are now giving them a hard time about paying for a temporary place for them to go while their kitchen gets dismantled and for the extermination and cleaning fees. Meanwhile, believe you me, we have been filling every crack of our apartment with plaster and paint and putting edges on all of our doors so that they are level with the ground and putting down salt and baking soda. So far, thank the heavens, we haven't a one. I do live in fear. Everytime I speak with my lovely neighbor, I get nightmares. Luckily, the palazzo is stone and pretty well insulated. Anyway, my heart goes out to them. I was pretty relieved when Valentina called last night to tell me that we would be postponing the dinner at their place. You are vegetarians, you see, she laughed.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Arrows flying and Cards against Humanity
Well, it's been wild times at casa nostra.

First of all, who knew that my new English student, let's call him R. would invite me to his balestre practice? It turns out that he is an expert on the history of Lucca and he practices a kind of terrifying medieval archery. Not only that, but he invited me to their secret meeting headquarters. And this secret headquarters is not just under the walls, not inside the walls --as in within the center of the city, but actually inside the interior structure of the walls. Pretty cool, huh?

As we approached, we saw a huge wall of people under the archway.

It turned out to be a crowd of young people outside of a bar. You have to understand that all the other streets of the city were completely deserted. It would suck to live under that bar!  We walked a little further and then . . .

Behold the secret headquarters!

R. is so cute when he is not studying English, isn't he?

Oh merda. I just figured out that a balestra is a crossbow. So he wasn't talking about the palestra, which means the gym. Whoops. Well, now, that makes more sense.

He may be a wizard.

In other news, I can pretty much guaran-damn-tee you that F and I are the only English teachers that are out there using Cards Against Humanity. Unless you have been living under a rock, you know that Cards Against Humanity is a kind of risque' party game where you have to fill in the blanks. It is like Mad Libs mixed with WhoNu but it is not for children. It is meant to be played by adult, horrible people. I had to take out some of the most offensive cards and put labels over them with my own suggestions. Here is some of how it went down: