Sunday, April 29, 2012

La Marcia delle Ville
Today we walked 17 kilometers which is about 10 and a half miles up and down the somewhat muddy peaks and valleys of the Tuscan countryside past some of the most beautiful villas in the world. Our friend Melissa and her mother and T's friend Natasha met us in front of LIFE gym and we all followed my supervisor Fabio and my coworker Lisa and several clients until we got to the parking area for the walk and the stand that was representing our gym. I managed to drum up some business for the gym and might have a few new faces for tomorrow's lesson.

We limped back home, blisters and all, to get a Chinese vegetarian lunch on the table for 007 and his wife Alma. When I told him about the happenings at Olympia gym, he asked me if I wanted him to buy the gym for me. I said nah that's okay I'm good. But it did put some ideas in my head. So he ended up hiring Fraser to make a website for him. After lunch we walked around the Danzaland exhibitions of the day and poked around an open air flower market and some food kiosks. I found some fabulous dried strawberries that I have been craving and we bought some enormous bread from Puglia. We went to this gallery near the anfiteatro where Alma has had her paintings displayed. 007 had bought a Picasso from them and when he was robbed last June the crooks took the safe with the certificate inside it, but left the painting behind. The woman managing the place said that she had been in New York in the 90s with her father when he was showing his own paintings at a gallery in Manhattan and she showed us the only signed T-shirt by Andy Warhol.  Across the street, 007 who is also named Marco, showed us an original staircase where one of the stone slabs on the ceiling was from Roman times.

This is seriously old rock, people.

He is running for office and gave out cups of free wine.

007 knows his flowers.

At the belly dancing lesson, this Jessica Rabbit looking creature could move each of her ribs separately and each section of her fingers, but 007 only said, "Wow that is a lot of milk out front." You know how secret agents are. Alma, of course, he was quick to point out, is much more professional when she belly dances.

This was some serious ballroom dancing. I was swept away by the timelessness of it until F whispered to me, "Now this is some crazy s*it."

The Italian hip hop tends to be of the masculine variety, even when women are teaching it.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Danzaland is another themed weekend here in Lucca, Italy like biker safety, comics, gardening, and granny underpants day. Okay omit the last one. Anyway, for Danzaland all these different dance schools put up stages under tents and put on exhibitions or you can pay an exorbitant sum to join in. The general tone of the event is: "Don't you wish you could be like us real dancers? Well, you can't! Even if you sign up to go to our school we doubt that you could ever master these steps and be as cool as we are." I mean why could it not have been a free event? Why make access to the actual dancing so difficult? No one was going to do something illegal -- like feed one of them or anything.

We were late to the first event because the map said Santa Maria but they did not mean the Porta of Santa Maria, which is one of the arched entrances through the walls of Lucca into town, but the Baluardo of Santa Maria, which, confusingly enough, is one of the terraces on the wall itself and which is 180 degrees in the wrong direction from its name twin and a fifteen minute's walk. It was 85 degrees today so we were glowy by the time we got there. F pointed out that they probably would start late, being Italian and all, and that if they wacked it for too long, it would probably fall off.

Our ever observant F also noted that every genre of dance had two male dancers. It must be some Italian law we don't know about. I am so glad I did NOT shell out 32 euros for the vogue wacking class. The teacher's only equipment were her freakishly long arms and her makeup blotting fazzoletti. It was more wack than vogue:

Passing by all the cool hip hop style people around town today and making the unavoidable comparisons, F commented: At least my pants are drooping.

The flamenco dancers were very nice. When I have a spare hundred hours I want to learn how to roll my wrists and fingers like that.

The American Musical dance teacher was adorable what with his enviable command of Italian grammar, theatrical flare, and horrible, horrible Italian accent:

 And here - wait for it - is some good old Italian country line dancing. Cowboy hats included y'all.

The real action today was at the Tenzenis store on the main shopping street where bras/reggiseni were on sale for only 5 euro and latin Zumba music pounded through the speaker system. Every Lucchese woman in the know was there and the line was a mile long. I got mine and lined up the hangers and had exact change. Jealous?

There was also a display of the tiniest car I have ever seen in my life. Even I could probably drive that thing and park it.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Holy Olympians, Batman!
The Olympia Club was eerily vacant this afternoon. I had only three students, but the big classroom next door to me hardly had anyone either. Rocco told me to come see him after my lesson. I figured he wanted to tell me when the big day for my new course that Elena promised me was going to be. I was wrong. He wanted to tell me that I was fired. That he was fired. And that even Elena was fired. Yahoo! I almost jumped out of my seat and did a victory dance. Then I remembered that my colleague at Happy gym had to wait two months and have a lawyer friend threaten to take action in order to get paid after giving leave at Olympia Club. I marched back upstairs with my wage sheet and met the new owners who assured me that I would get paid. Eventually.

Let's recap: No crazy breakneck drive to get to the Friday lesson on time. No triple decker sign-in sheets. No more pressure due to constant attendance statistics. No more surveillance cameras. No more turnstiles. No more classrooms named after Greek Gods. No more zumba CHOREOGRAPHY!!!  Oh the JOY!.

Songs del giorno
We have a couple of songs on heavy rotation at the moment. From Laurence, these adorable medieval kids covering Rammstein:

Japanese punk band "Bump of Chicken."

Then lots of K-pop:

Can't leave out One Direction...

Plus also K watches Beyoncé for work:

Thursday, April 26, 2012

We live here?
About once a week F turns to me and squeezes my hand and says, "We live here." My stock answer is, "Yeah, I don't think so. I'm pretty sure we don't." And then he says, "No really. We live here." These little rituals are my compass for knowing where the center is so I don't like to mess with them. That is why when he asks me if he has told me that he loves me yet today I always say nope not yet, even if he did maybe mention that first thing in the morning, because those are the kinds of words a girl doesn't get tired of. April 25 is Liberation Day in Italy and we didn't have to go to work or school. There were food stands representing different regions of Italy, and a marching band that took to the streets. The main thing was that it didn't rain. A lot of my female clients have been complaining of a Spring depression, which, having survived many a dismal New York February, is kind of a foreign concept for me. Nevertheless, with all of the sunshine and flowers blooming yesterday seemed to be goodbye to depression day and also a sort of hello pollen allergies. F and I have been sneezing our heads off. Today T grudgingly returned to school and this afternoon she is getting braces. Again. This will be her second round, but since we are in Italy we are choosing the more fashion forward ceramic version and hopefully she won't have to put up with them for too long.

Aurora finally was allowed to go on Facebook.

This guy decided to be the musical accompaniment to the Women's Rights march. Ganzo.

F and I liberated ourselves from the apartment to have a cup of coffee with Fabio.

These are the shoes T's orthodontist wears. To work.
This afternoon I gave a massage to my coworker who is a lovely woman. She paid me 25 euros even though I usually ask for 15. We had to go into the spin room where they keep all of the stationary bikes and hide in the back in the dark. I do a combination of accu-pressure massage and Yamuna Body Rolling using a ball that is about 16 cm in diameter. I copied the massage technique from Yoshiko who works at Dr. Benja-Athon's office in New York without whom I would still be lying on the floor drinking coffee from a straw in a prone position. If you ever saw the film When Harry Met Sally than you know the volume and the kinds of sounds my coworker makes when she gets a massage. It is not the first time I asked a client if it was good for you after a massage, but it is the first time I actually was really invested in the answer. Just kidding.

Monday, April 23, 2012

COSA?! means What?!
Today I taught for an hour. I walked for a half an hour. I taught for an hour. I taught for another hour. I walked for half an hour. I walked into Olympia Club and searched until I found Chiara, the lovely assistant to the boss at Olympia Club who has my back. I know she has my back because I called her on her cell phone and she was nice to me, but then she got all stiff and professional and curt. Two seconds later I got a text message that our boss had just walked in on her and she ended the text with a smiley face. She got me an appointment with Elena to discuss the fact that the sixteen euro they talked about was more theoretical than actual. It seems that they took out four euro for the fifteen minutes they took away from my hour class and then another 2,40 euro in fees, leaving with me 9,60 euro a lesson. COSA??? So I politely explained that there was a misunderstanding because when she asked me what the other gyms were paying me and I told her fifteen euros and she told me that she would pay sixteen euros I was happy about it. That was the misunderstanding.

My piccolo fidanzato. Much more important that any euros.

Elena she told me she would pay me sixteen an hour but that they would of course take out 20 percent. COSA?? So I asked how much would that leave me with. And she said that would leave me with twelve euro. And then I said that it was still a problem as twelve has this quality, in almost every country I know, of stubbornly insisting on being less than sixteen. She said she would pay me 17,50 which after they took out the 20 percent would leave me with 14 euros. I said thanks and left the office. For two minutes. Then I walked back in and sat down. This is the lie I told: My husband refuses to accept fourteen. Yeah there is no cell phone service in that tin can so I never really talked to F. It has to be fifteen or nothing. She said well why don't you take fourteen now and next September we will talk about an increase. And I said great we can talk next September because I am leaving this place forever now. She said: COSA?? Then she said a lot of stuff about meeting her half way and how my client numbers had dropped from the first week. I pointed out that I have the sucky time slot of 5:30 when everyone is just getting out of work and that the whole gym has less traffic lately. She said she would give me fourteen euros a lesson and raise me one class a week at a later hour. I left her office for the classroom where 007 gave me the special lemon pepper sauce that I left at his house the other night. COSA??

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Pilates in Italian 
That's me on the left with my head bowed in concentration and anguish.
All I want to say is that Pilates in Italian is even more excruciatingly difficult than Pilates in English because I had to learn the verbs divaricare, distendere, arrotolare, appoggiare, and terms like forza del baricentro, stabilizzazione, and il bacino -- which is not a little kiss, but rather your little pelvis among many others and put them in full sentences all the while doing exercises that require precise breathing technique and continue to hurt my lower back lombare like a mother f-er. All this will surely make me a better person and a better teacher in every way. I truly loved my teachers and my fellow students, which made the eight hours of training with no sleep and barely any sustenance just fly by, relatively speaking.
Dinner with 007
Using the navigator that we purchased with points from the Esselunga supermarket, we started off by getting completely and utterly lost. I got so carsick because I was studying for my pilates training that was to kick off the next morning while we were climbing up the twisty hillside paths. Once we finally reached 007's house we were greeted by two huge guard dogs. One looked like a polar bear. Our host hurried us across his property, all 15 hectares of it, to the part where his 16 deer roam inside an enclosure. Then we got up close and personal with his goats, including three tiny new babies that T and her friend Natasha were allowed to pick up as long as the mamma goat said it was okay.

We got to see 007's wife's oil paintings that reflected her Surinamese background and world travels. They met in Holland and go back many times a year. The meal was spectacular from the Sicilian cheese with homemade marmalade, a frittata made with greens from their vegetable garden, a rice salad with quail eggs and special mustard, artichokes and corn with a homemade lemon pepper sauce that danced on our tongues without burning our stomachs, and a fake meat patty made of bread, cheese, and eggs in a tomato sauce that was spectacular.  For dessert we had their homemade wine, special goat cheese custard that was light as air and chocolate sacher cake with a homemade orange liquor spilled on the top.

They are interested in hiring F to make a website for their agriturismo and hiring me to give them a private couple's massage. I tried to show 007 how I can grow my finger by relaxing the muscles with my mind, but he said that I was cheating and took out a ruler that he pressed into my finger making it instantly contract and thus making me see like a big fat liar with her pants on fire. I complimented all of his accomplishments, but he is a very proud man who expects to be flattered and praised, but does not acknowledge his pleasure in any way. I managed to totally offend him by misunderstanding his offer to sell us 8 kilos of Sicilian cheese as an offer to sell us the cheese for eight euros and the only excuse I can offer is exhaustion, finger shrinkage, and my rather inebriated state after trying two kinds or wine, orange liquor and a creamy mint liquor that was crazily potent. Now what do i do about the fact that somewhere between the goats and the goat cheese custard I lost my cell phone?

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Should I stay or should I go?
On Friday I barely got up in time to help this woman who suffers from dizzy spells who came for a massage at Happy gym. Since she couldn't lie down to get the massage I mostly gave her a Bioenergy treatment and she was better almost instantly. I came home and went back to sleep until it was time for me teach again.

After my second class of the day at Happy Gym it was time to go back to Olympia Club, where everyone was hungover and woozy from the night of chaotic snobby merriment at the Disney Zumba castle. Up in the classroom, Francesco, another unhappy coworker who had just jumped ship for the even snobbier Ego Club, came by to say hi to me. I was trying to tell him that I would call him to catch up on his latest adventures because it was time for class to start when the giant body builder Luca came in. He told me that my boss Elena, whose smile has started to remind me more and more of that blandished by Cruella DeVille from 101 Dalmatians, needed to see me. Now. I knocked over my water bottle just barely missing the odious sign in sheet where you have to keep track of how many students came to you that day and the stereo system.

After a brief mop up I ran to Elena who had me sign yet another legal form in Italian that might as well have been in Cantonese for the amount of sense it made to me and who handed me my pay envelope. "By the way," I asked, "my class time was reduced after the first introductory lesson from one hour to forty five minutes, but I am getting paid the sixteen euros that you promised me, right?"  "Nope", she answered. "We paid you for forty five minutes like everybody else. And the form that you just signed has to do with what we then took out for taxes." "That is a problem," I said "How shall we resolve it?" she asked with a giant fitness teacher eating grin on her face. "I don't know . . . I guess you have to pay me more," I replied. "Hmmn. We'll talk about it on Monday," she said, knowing full well that she would make me wait for hours while she gives her endless tours of her fitness factory until it was time for me to teach like all the other times.

The lesson went better than expected. In addition to my client 007 and the kite surfing guy I had another young man and six women, including one of the young ladies who works at reception. I did all of the leg exercises as if we were surfers which made the whole thing seem less effeminate somehow. We got through the Michael Jackson number on the fumes of my enthusiasm alone.  On the rainy run from the car to the house, I remembered that I hadn't seen Elena's personal assistant at work today so I called her cell phone to tell her that I wanted a real appointment with Elena on Monday or else I would be resigning. She said she would make it so.

Just as I was about to head out with F to our friends' Cristina and Simon's house for an apertivo I realized that I had signed a contract with Olympia Club whose terms were a mystery to me. T did my hair and picked out my clothes so that I could fly through the night back to Happy gym where when of my coworkers who recently quit Olympia Club said she would tell me what I had signed. Needless to say it was raining again. She said that with the deductions I had been working all this time for about 9 euros an hour and that my contract was up in June in any case. I will probably never get Sala Zeus, the big class room at a good rush hour time because it is taken already, she noted, and the Sala Apollo is just sad. Poor Apollo.

It was weird to go under the walls of the city through the cobbled walkways with the sounds of my clicking boot heels the only sound like Cinderella underground. F was waiting for me at the top. I always think I'm about to get jumped or mugged in these instances but then I remember I'm not in New York anymore. We had a great dinner and stayed out till 1 AM with our new friends.

Right as I was about to fall asleep I jumped up to open the envelope from the Olympia Club to count how much money was in it. Inside the sopping wet envelope was a dry wad of cash. I had filled out my request form with the amount I thought I deserved and that is exactly what they had given me. Not even one deduction taken away. Did Elena say one thing and do another? Did the person who counted the money out not check the zillions of sign in sheets I had to sign to make sure that I worked all the time slots I said I did? Will she let me go on Monday or pay me more to have me stay? I don't know, but I have four hours of pilates training awaiting me at LIFE fitness and I haven't eaten yet. Stay tuned.

Friday, April 20, 2012

The Disney Zumba Castle
Once upon a time there was a gala dinner for Olympia Club and Cinder-(K)-ella had only twenty minutes to change so her magical fairy-stylist (T) picked out her clothes and did her hair and her coachman/prince of a husband (F) whisked her off to the middle of nowhere.

I'm still hungover from pizza-opoli!

All of the sudden F and I see these looming four towers and we knew that, despite our crappy navigator from the Esselunga supermarket, we had arrived. F who was not about to pay thirty euro for a fish dinner on a school night went back home and left me in the competent care of Roberto the parking attendant who took me around the massive mud puddles two city blocks from the parking lot to the castle called the Villa Quattro Torri. It looked just like when I was six years old and we went to Disney land in Florida and I saw Cinderella's Castle for the first time, complete with the pink and purple lights. I had to fill out a membership card to even get into the place and my boss Elena was sitting at a long table out front with a bunch of frazzled staff people to facilitate that process. Her greeting was "Come here." Next she had someone else hand me a card. Then I was on my own.

I got inside and found my name card on a long table. I was going to sit next the gentleman from my class and his wife. This was great because it is like pulling teeth to get anyone else at this gym to talk to me. It turns out that they speak Dutch and English and Italian and she is Indian, but he speaks French, German, Spanish, Portuguese and I am just going to call him 007. They are buying their daughter an agriturismo and they need a website and a private masseuse! The wife takes Bollywood and belly dancing with T's friend's mother from Ireland. Anyway, the dinner and the service were just crap and 007 was none too pleased about it. It took three hours for them to serve three courses. Mine which was the first time they had ever been asked for a vegetarian plate were all basically zucchini. The people who were to have the usual fish dinner got served last. A few people who ordered meat at this fish restaurant got served a cruise ship sized endless buffet bowl of meats and everyone else waited forever for their handful of shrimp and slimy cold french fries. When we ran out of wine and they tried to charge 007 fourteen euros for a two euro bottle  he got steamed up and many frantic and defensive employees were called over. Eventually one free bottle showed up, but it was too late. A man at the table behind us got so angry that he took his work boots and stood up and literally walked across the white table cloth of his table and our table to go attack the manager, leaving nothing but muddy footprints behind him.

Double O 7's wife and I went upstairs to check out the disco and the bathrooms. While we were in there the lights went out. The disco was like a middle school dance situation but smaller and it smelled like cat pee. I knew I had little time to make an impression on this gym where I am destined to get fired because all of the good time slots are already filled and I never make the kind of numbers they like to see anymore. There was the usual House music cranking and no one on the red carpet covered dance floor with the flashing fairy lights. Well, I can't even count how many times in my life I have been the first to dance so 007's wife  and I cut to to center stage. What we didn't know is that the Zumba teacher and her class were waiting to come out to put on an exhibition. So we were moved out of the way by one of the many bodyguard guys that work out this glorified fish and chips stand. Not for nothing that they had a ton of bouncer guys, I saw at least four ugly confrontations and in the end even 007 was escorted out of the joint by these goons. My boss Elena briefly stepped on the stage to conduct the raffle lottery and after the Zumba teacher got to pick a winning ticket for a jubilant client, she pulled me up on stage and I got to pull a winning ticket out of her fish bowl. Sadly, my pick was a no show and so it was less of a joyful moment.

So after the Zumba performance there was a dance circle of Zumba people and I jumped in and learned four routines in less than four seconds and then free syled in the center having mini dance offs with the various teenage girls and one of their fake breakdancing boyfriends and the Zumba teacher who never did once look me in the eyes. Then I realized I had lost 007's wife and she was signaling that it was time for us to go because the clock had struck 1AM (the fashionably late Italian midnight )and things were about to go pumpkin raggy barefoot on my toned little ass. We held on to each other as we stamped through the mud puddles to reach parking zone five where a fuming 007 was muttering in seven languages. I apologized to them for encouraging them to come to this lousy dinner, but before I had exited the car I was invited to a dinner at their estate on Saturday night with my family.  He is coming to class today to give me the details. And the moral of this story is that you should not wear glass slippers to a muddy castle on a Thursday night in April in Coselli and that even the trashiest hip hop girl from New York can cut a rug with the Italian aristocracy if she dares.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Song del giorno

sul serio . . . 

I know what you are asking yourselves. You are asking yourselves why when I suggested to F that it would be so much easier to eat pizza at our house instead of having to find a table for twenty people at a pizzeria, he said, 'sure honey, no problem.' One theory is that he just is in the habit of saying 'sure, honey, no problem' and so he didn't really hear the question.  Another theory is that he underestimated the magnitude of hunger of twenty women who workout regularly, as well as the size of our oven. In pizzeria terminology our oven is the size of a tiny Betty Crocker Easy-Bake model and our pizza tins are the kind you find in a miniature doll house. But I was too afraid of waiting around, and finding parking and dividing the check  and getting home late so my adorable husband made 34 f'ing pizzas last night . . . with diverse toppings.

This is how it worked. He took the little balls of dough and made them into pies. Then he pre-baked a crust and I decorated it. He put it in the oven. I tapped on his ribs and looked at him pleadingly. He poured me more wine. He took the tiny pizza out and cut it into even tinier pieces. I served them on to people's plates with a spatula while keeping track of the seating order. There was one group in the dining room and another group of increasingly hungry and tipsy women in the living room. We made the rounds like that for three hours until everyone was full. This was the one time when there was enough food, but it just took a real long time to get the edge off everyone's hunger. There was more estrogen than you could ever believe and that is not counting the fact that one of my coworkers is about six months pregnant. We toasted to the baby and she always had someone at her side rubbing her belly until she drank enough alcohol that the baby "went to sleep." Good times. Two excursions were made for those people who had to go outside to smoke. They brought not one but two chocolate custard cakes and a tray of pastries and some creamy alcohol that is made from apples but is about as strong as a shot of straight vodka.

 There was a lot of chatting and laughing, and F got a round of robust applause at the end of the night. If you see pictures on Facebook of me looking like a drunk pizza waitress in a see-through orange silk blouse -- now you know why.