Monday, January 30, 2012

How Not to Attend a Dinner Party
1. When Bianca told me the party was domenica/Sunday and said diciannove/19, I understood immediately/capito a volo that the party was going to be on Sunday the 19th. I knew that the 19th of February was falling on a Sunday because I have one of my boot camp classes on Saturday the 18th. But of course I was wrong. She was inviting us for this Sunday at 19:00. Darn that 24 hour clock! I, of couse, had promised a month ago to have T's friend Chiara over that day so her mom could take her little brother to a kiddie party at a jumpy castle place. After having to call both parties we worked out that Chiara's mom would pick her up at the train station because of course the party is in a different city called Viareggio.

T & Chiara not being weird at all.

2. Then on the way from the train station to Bianca's house in her car, whose seats don't move thus forcing F to do some crazy contortionist moves to get in and out because my back was too achey to even attempt that maneuver, she mentioned that we were having homemade tordelli/meat stuffed dumplings for dinner.  Her mom had been cooking away with her all day to help her prepare it. That would be about when I remembered that I forgot to tell her that we were vegetarians.

Bianca, our lovely hostess.

3. Jumping back a bit, when we were first starting out in the car she asked me if we had ever been to Carnivale in Viareggio which is their famous parade and street fair which takes place in February and I stupidly answered that we didn't go last year because some people in Lucca told us it was really too crowded. Umph, she answered. And then I said a bunch of incomprehensible stuff about how I would love to go this year, which I might actually love even though I really do not like crowds.

Kid gymnastics

Coca cola in a wine glass  -- classy kid drink!
4. I brought T with us in part because of the earthquake and my wanting to be in the same city as her if there were to be after effects and partly so she could babysit some of the babies and kids that were invited. I did not, however, factor in that we would in no way get home before midnight and she had school the next day so that in the end we had to let her sleep and miss the first two periods of the day.

Our legal advocate produced an extremely cute little teether.

T in babysitter heaven.

5. In the door walked Sergio, the man who works at the Immigration help center called INAC who had helped us get our Permesso di Soggiorno last year.  Sergio looked as shocked to see us as we were to see him. He was there with his really sweet wife and son. There was also another couple who spoke French and Italian because she is Italian and had lived in France with him and he is French and lives here in Lucca with her now and their little baby who was just a tiny bit older than the other baby. Both babies were teething boys with rather impressive head spans, fantastically gigantic eyes, and long, long European boy lashes.

Party etiquette is important to me.

Me too. I hope you washed that finger, lady.

6. Not being able to stand hearing a teething baby in distress, at a certain point I stuck my pinky finger in Sergio's baby's mouth and he stopped crying only to make the loudest sucking noises you have ever heard in your life. It was quite the conversation stopper. 
I woke up this morning put on a leotard and found three beautiful ladies in my living room who somehow thought that I was going to teach them a class and then later on some other delusional women in sweat outfits also thought I was going to give them a lesson and then it happened again.  You gotta love Mondays.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Fabio & F, brothers from another Italian mother
Pizza party
On Saturday night we went out for a pizza to celebrate our friend Fabio's birthday with his wife Anna Maria and daughters Aurora and Erica and our friend Paula and her daughter Chiara. Paola's husband Stefano was home sick, poverino. I had the gorgonzola pizza and the girls had theirs with french fries on them which is so wrong that it's right. The photos speak for themselves.

The girls made up this salutation:

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Facebook Experiment
Hey handful of people we know really well, our awesome regular readers, and cool people we don't know from all over the world, we would like to ask you a favor. Just as an experiment can you push the facebook "like" button for the blog so we can see what it does to readership?

So let me at least do a Kathy Griffin and give you something to smile about.  I am loopy with happiness that F passed the theory part of his driver's license test not because I really care that much about the car but just because he had taken the thing to heart so much by this point. I had prepared how to say in Italian that John Kennedy Jr. took more than three times to pass the bar exam just in case things went the other way. Plus it was encouraging or really irritating depending what mood we're in that T passed the practice exam even though she has not studied the rules of the road and has never driven a car. Lasciamo perdere -- or in Brooklynese -- Fugghedaboudit.

The profile of someone who passed the Italian driver's license test.
This had been a hazy week of sleep deprived wackiness. I was in the back of the apartment while F was in the front when the first earthquake hit. My chandelier was shaking and the bed, but the thing I really noticed was that my heart was beating in my lower spine. I called F over and he said that I was just delirious from lack of sleep. Sciocco.
This is T sitting around doing nothing for three hours as a volunteer tutor for a class that did not take place and then listening to her principal give a speech.  Now that is an Afterschool program con i fiocchi!
I was at Happy Gym for the second earthquake and my boss and I ran to different doorways, but mine turned out to not be a real doorway so I ran quickly to where  she was and had a minute of panic that the glass storefront would crack into pieces, but it didn't. Earlier in the day I had gotten a call from a head teacher who told me she had to catch a train blah blah blah and asked me to fill in for her. I agreed despite everything because the staff meeting is coming up in March where apparently it will be up to the other teachers whether I get a better time slot or not. After my first of what would turn out to be three classes on three hours of sleep, I had the bright idea to volunteer to help out with the kid's class because it seemed more pleasant that being crushed in with the parents in the hallway for the hour between classes.

However, it turned out that instead of doing choreography with the big girls they wanted me to help the head teacher with the tiny girls --tiny girls who can still correct my grammatical mistakes. But tiny girls nonetheless. And since tiny girls tend to love me and also building musical fairy houses I quickly was super popular amongst the little critters who took turns running out to cry to their mommas, to go to the bathroom, to misplace their water bottles and to lunge themselves at my legs.  My favorite was this plump, gorgeous doll of ballerina who had a little baby voice which towards the end of class inexplicably turned into a smoker's rasp. She peered up at me from between my feet and she said to me: Che fatica! Guarda come sono sudata!/ What an exhausting experience. Look how sweaty I am! and then wiped her little palms all over my face and declared me to be even sweatier than she. I love adults.

In my newfound zeal for not refusing any invitations to do anything with anyone who could possibly turn out to be fun or a good friend I did not cancel my dinner date with Fede. Halfway through dinner who did I see before my eyes but the head teacher from Happy Gym! Scandal! Wasn't she supposed to be on a train?! Fede told me I should casually say goodbye to her after we paid and were walking out, but it turned out that the teacher and I were exchanging quick glances in a mirror so she was actually seated behind me. Fede says she saw her duck and cover her face as we were exiting. Of course I am way too scrupulous to ever use this information against her should need be. . . Just kidding! Hi friends.

After dinner we went to a popular bar in front of an important church where everybody takes their cigarettes and drinks to defile and be raucous and bad. There we met my friend Serena and Fede's bartender friend also named Serena who is actually a kindergarten teacher who needs extra income.  Her job is also to sweep up in front of the church.  She was happy as a clam this night because she has great prowess for instructing tiny people, but is a total flop at rolling cigarettes and she had found a tobacco box that has a silk lining and rolls them for you.  You put the poison in the crack and when you shut the lid it spits out the cigarette, in this case, into the cobblestoned street below faster than that scene in Pretty Woman where Julia Roberts pulls her finger out of a ring box.

P.S. It is a good thing that we can't use the car because the gas attendants are also on strike. Just sayin' . . .

Arrivederci, Brooklyn! We like you, do you like us?
Che bella giornata
Some days are ordinary, some are bad, but today is a special day, a red letter day, a crazily fantastic day, un giorno magnifico! Let us count the ways.

It's Fabio's birthday! Though he would never have let on if we hadn't used some of our sneaky NY spy action to find out...

Last night I had a glass of wine with an ex-pat German who asked me, "But how do you speak Italian so well?" First I laughed and laughed because of how far there is still to go, but then I just was grateful to Fabio, because his friendship includes, as a very small part, fifteen or so minutes of endlessly patient conversation every day at pickup time. I (F) wanted to get him a copy of Mangia, Prega, Ama, but instead we found him a rice paper photo album and a candle with some dancing Indian gods on the sides.

Count number two--K got another gym job! This time at one of those fancy palestre where the reception staff all smoke and guzzle shots of coffee from the vending machine, while the widescreen TVs cycle through the various cameras tucked in every nook and cranny of the place.

After calling the risponsabile several times, we decided to just show up, which worked in one of those inexplainable ways that things sometimes require in Italy. Other than a little illustrative "stretching" casually outside the office window, all it took was dropping the words "New York," "hip-hop," and "Shakira," and a quick viewing of a Tracy Anderson on her iPhone and K was hired on the spot and her class will have a launch party in a few weeks--ideally with a velvet rope. Or at least using the NYC-style turnstyle that keeps out the riff-raff.

Then of course we had a terremoto / earthquake that shook the region and more pertinently canceled school tomorrow when T was going to have two verifica / tests. So T celebrated by making perhaps the best French onion soup I've ever had complete with slices of baguette and a melted mound of Pecarino on top.

Plus also finally I have passed my teoria exam for the driver's license. After ten months of study and two prior frustrating failures, it came down to the last 22 seconds where at the last moment I correctly went with the gut feeling that a sign was consigliata rather than obbligatoria. Now I get to pick up my foglio rosa / pink paper (learner's permit) next Tuesday and then after a month I can give the practical exam a try, but it's probably a given that I shouldn't count on thirty-one years of driving experience alone to pass!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A bad song choice
Four days with no sleep and the most annoying cough ever, the last two of which necessitated my resorting to sleeping pills, so is it any wonder that I forgot how to speak Italian today? It has been almost impossible to keep teaching through the exhaustion. Tonight in class we did a cardio number to Jai Ho from Slumdog Millionaire that was Bollywood style and a latin dance number to Rodrigo y Gabriela. I made a playlist that had some Italian songs on it because my class loved the upbeat numbers I chose last week. However, I made the mistake of choosing some pretty ballads which caused much moaning and groaning of disapproval along with dark comments about how I was trying to depress them to death. They didn't seem that sad to me. Of course I have never really listened closely to the words to either one of these songs, so what do I know? Only one student who always wears a scarf to exercise and usually comes in unhappy and leaves in a better mood, threw her arms open and grabbed a pretend microphone to sing along. That was a moment.

Just as I was getting ready to leave for work, we got a buzz at the door. I am so tired that I just buzzed whoever it was in, and instead of being the postina, it was the person who takes the census. His name was Massimilliano and he was the most helpful anyone could ever be. He sat down at the kitchen table and talked us through every question and response -- even the weird ones about how many toilets we have, and how long it takes us to walk to work, and if we have a parking spot in the city. In the end, I invited him to dinner and gave him our phone number. He thought I was a super weird stalker even though F was right next to me, but I couldn't help myself. This guy could fill out all of our crazy forms and documents forever more. Is it too much to hope that he loves New Yorkers or that he is dying to try F's cooking?

In my haze of tiredness, I gave in the invitations to my next Metamorfosi class party to Happy gym a month early and that was enough to have my nice and kind boss look at me like I have two heads. Oy.

Number of copies of Eat, Pray, Love/Mangia, Prega, Ama by Elizabeth Gilbert that I have given away since I got here: at least 14.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

scema is basically an idiot. And I was scema when I described the part about meeting with my friend the erborista's guru guy because it turns out that he helped her through a really hard time and they have been friends for twenty years. With my luck he really is super tight with Jesus and Buddha and Krishna and all of the omnipresent sources of love and I have been making fun of him in my blog out of my sheer badness and superficiality. Occasionally my NY sense of paranoia comes into play when I confront the Lucchese defensive poker mask faces and I think the worst of people or think that they think the worst of me without really having any proof one way or the other.

Here is a random picture of our friend Fabio who lives in a convent and has a rainbow on his face.
Anyway, I believe her a hundred percent that he was trying to help me and that probably I didn't really get the full gist of a lot of what he said. So I officially apologize for being scema.  In fact, my erborista told me that I should take care of myself by going to take a walk in nature. And, going for Lucchese directness, I told her that she should know better than anyone that the last thing a depressed person wants to do is taking a f--king/fottuta walk in nature. Then she reminded me that I had encouraged her to do just that and, despite being full of reluctance, she did it. So anyway that was basically me being loved by some really Italian people and me loving them back. Scema.

P.S. Isn't it the most Italian thing ever that here people say Ti Voglio Bene or I want you well instead of I love you most of the time? T goes by just the initials nowadays as all the young people do: T.V.B. I can't help thinking if you don't love someone anymore in Italy does that mean you don't want them well anymore because that's kind of deep.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Photos from Carlo's birthday party
Sorry I forgot to put these in last week.

This is me deciding which desserts to pretend to eat and which to hand off to F to eat on the sly. I like dessert more than most, but we had a heavy lunch and they have a rather serious clean plate rule.

Nonno gave us a movie about marriage by the director of Divorce Italian Style.

Gorgeous photo of Nonna
The Girl Band
Oh all you lovely American dudes & dudettes. I think I pretty much knew about 14 people in Park Slope. So who are the 73 of you that keep reading about our humble adventures here in Italia? Wild times. Unmask yourselves, push the followers button, or send us comments so I know who the heck you are and how you are doing.

Anyway, it was so nice today to come home after pushing my tired behind to a two hour boot camp at Happy Gym with nine students and curl up with my home team of F & T to watch the American Idol auditions. Last night I went for pizza with Giusy (nicknamed the cultural director of Lucca because she is always taking in a concert, a talk or cultural event) and Serena ( the doctor of radiology whose neck always needs massaging during my stretch class). We had such an amazingly great time. You could not have more good will (or better thin crusts) at one table if you tried. In my own little way I'm scooping up girls and coming up with a group. This week I had a delightful coffee with Bianca who is also a Metamorfosi student. I thought she was a party organizer or event planner, but now I gather that she is a community organizer of whom I asked some rather bizarre, random questions about parties.  And I also hung out with Federica who you will recall is rather like the welder girl in Flashdance except that she is a restoration specialist who hangs from ladders and always has a stiff shoulder and an idea about how we could possibly get into trouble, which I  love. Too bad we don't all play instruments or I could finally be in a girl band. Or maybe I'll be in a non-musical girl band. I'll play the silent drums or like the invisible tambourine or I'll be the lead mute singer. A bilingual lead mute singer, you've got to love it.

It all depends on

how much sleep you get . . .

There were some shy ladies in my boot camp today. I had to bribe them to come again next month by offering them another metamorfosi party at my house. Get the oven started, F. I smell gorgonzola bread, baby. That will be the week after our giant Indian cenone in honor of Valentine's Day.

Catching up with the Italian People magazine . . .

Italian paper products are not super soft and my nose is rather unpleased. So if any of the 73 of you are in a generous mood, feel free to send us some Charmin or just a lot of People magazines. There is an Italian version  called Gente, but it's also a bit rougher around the edges.

Friday, January 20, 2012

It's never too late, people.
Three things:
1. I have decided to make friends with a handful of my students, all of whom are a decade younger than me and are not married and do not have children. I love my friends who are in my same boat, but I want to take advantage of Federica's being best friends with a bartender near my house, and listening to them go on and on about what boys they like, all the while knowing I don't have to sweat these issues anymore, and the the fact that they will make me go out dancing for the whole night . . . you know . . . before it's too late.  And yes, I did the bagno turco/sauna after work again and it made me insanely happy what with all the gratuitous nudity and pore cleansing.
F's yummy homemade chinese dumplings.

2. I may be out of the loop by now, but from what I remember gyms in America don't have everyone gathered around the espresso machine in the lobby chugging caffeine before they exercise. Is it just an Italian thing? I swear I don't remember.

This is from the long walk home after work.
3. According to my new friends, these are slang things you can say in Lucca without getting in trouble: che minchione guadi? (che cazzo guardi? is more vulgar, but they both mean what the heck are you lookin' at?) or bischerotto and grullo and they also seem like they mean something more perverse, but hereabouts they mean something like blockhead. I took Fede to see if she wanted to meet a young guy I know just to figure out her type  and she took one look at him and told me based on how he held his hands that he seemed to her to be bischerotto and she wasn't interested. You can also say instead of scialla which is more of a southern thang, stai manzo and it means no problem, take it easy, stay cool.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Meditating & saunas: better than just sweating & watching tv?
This is a photo of two people walking a bunny on a leash. And that is just the beginning of this post . . .

Well, yesterday I met with my friend the erborista's guru guy.  He looks like a grayer and less handsome Andrea Boccelli and he talks with his eyes closed.  She finds me looking not as well as I used to and wants to repay me for when I went with her to the hospital that time. It is lovely to see her feeling better, if not revved up by five hundred percent and speaking at the speed of light and full of ideas, several of which involve me in some deep and time consuming way. Anyway, she was so insistent that I meet with him that I agreed.

She walked us to the big Edison bookstore and then left me there. He asked me one or two questions and put his hands over my wrist.  He led me through a kind of meditation which was extra difficult as the cashier who hates me was watching on from afar and I felt a bit silly with my eyes closed, repeating the words "immeasurable joy," over and over again in Italian. Although I will say that it is hard to be too depressed whilst you repeat the words "immeasurable joy" over and over again in Italian no matter who the heck is watching you. I will also say that it is kind of humbling to give a hoot who is watching you while you experience inner light and learn about the omnipresence of God and feel the divinity within you. But I'm talented like that. Eeek.

So the whole time we were sitting at the table in the bookstore, I kept praying that he would not tell me that my teacher is corrupt and that he should be my teacher because that is the message he gave me in the first fourteen seconds after meeting me six months ago.  I was hoping that after reading my aura he would have something different to offer me. But nope, he basically was stuck on that groove of the record. He also shivered uncontrollably at odd intervals and giggled to himself about things. So that was Monday.

Oh and also on Monday morning I substitute taught for Amanda and between her sixteen people and my two people, I had eighteen people which was the most fun I have ever had at Happy gym since the beginning of time. Metamorfosi class freaked them out a bit, and then people had questions about stuff afterwards and I forgot to advertise my intensivo/ boot camp on Saturday for which there are only six people signed up. Sigh.

Today after my private session with Alessia, who is doing tricks even I can't do with the chair and steps and all kinds of madness I dream up for her, and my regular class, I finally let down my guard and my sweats and went into the sauna/bagno turko with Federica. We were in our towels and this weird guy who has been asking a friend of hers about her came in to hit on her but we eventually got rid of him, and it was the most relaxing thing ever and I can't believe I waited this long to try it.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Party people
Despite popular opinion, I am not so sneaky as to have a party at my house for my LIFE gym clients of Metamorfosi on the same day that I have my two hour intensive class just because I wanted a big turn out.  In fact, I turned it over to the class and asked when they wanted to have the party and this is the day that made the most sense.

However, if I had been so furba/sneaky to choose this day on purpose, the whole thing would have backfired. As it was, only seven folks showed up to the class, which was disappointing compared to the 20 that showed up in November.  Funnily enough only four of the people who took the class also came to the party, but eight others skipped class to get their hair done and bake cakes and came to the party all super pimpante (an Italian word which might mean lively or might just mean pimped out, but I like it and I'm too tired to wikipedia so let's keep it in).

It was the most rockin' all Italian party we've had yet, to be honest.

Everyone was very sweet. F did a fabulous job with the bread and fixings and people just gobbled up the food. Aside from the usual reluctance to serve yourself or be seated everyone seemed cheery, relaxed and happy. I would seriously want any one of them as real honest to goodness good friends beyond being just students and I hope that we get to be even more united as a group as time goes on.