Thursday, May 31, 2012

Keys to the city
Tonight the famous chef and food photographer Lido invited us to an apertivo on the walls of Lucca at the famous newly reopened cafe Gran Cafe Antica delle Mura.  I got myself out of my exercise clothes and into my one decent black dress in record time. I had no idea we would have access to the terazzo where the view was spectacular. It was like Mayor Tambellini (think Bloomberg) gave us the keys to the city. Plus we scored an invitation to a great party in two weeks time hosted by Anna the food magazine author with all the VIPs of the evening. It made everything make sense. While I was waiting for F to arrive from T's end of the year skating party where she had pizza fun on wheels, I channeled Angelina Jolie and looked down on our favorite walking path from a vantage point I never thought possible. When F came and finally procured some of the famous parmigiano that was to go with the Lambrusco wine we were served, we shared one of those moments where we understand why we worked so hard to come live here. Looking down on the garden party below, I spotted the Italian Johnny Depp and begged him to take a photo with me. It doesn't get any better than this.

Seriously, so Johnny Depp . . . Italian style.

The Tourist, anyone?

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Earthquake Update
We had two little shakes more. One at 1 pm and one at 5 pm. I was with T and her friend Natasha for the first one, but then I had to go to work. They went out to a cafe with their cell phones in hand. I didn't feel the last shake, but I heard about it on the TV at the gym. I called T to find out if she was okay and to find out if she had felt it. She said that they did feel it. So I asked the normal mom question: Why didn't you call me? Her answer was, "It was just a little one. And we weren't alone -- there was a waitress." Don't worry. I handled it.
We're Fine!
There was an earthquake in Modena at 9:00 this morning that was a magnitude 5.8. F and I felt the house shake and stood in our doorway. The water was sloshing about in the water bottles. F then biked over to the school where all of the kids had been evacuated. He waited until T was formally dismissed and then she and her friends came over for lunch. There were 9 more days of school left for the year, but something tells me we are down to like seven. Lucca is very well protected  earthquake-wise, luckily!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Firenze Gelato Festival
After getting very little sleep, we raced to the train station to meet Melissa and the girls so we could go to the Ice Cream/Gelato fair in Florence/Firenze.  Melissa and I have been talking about the legendary gelato cocktails for weeks. It did not disappoint. Right at Santa Maria Novella there were all of these tents with the pictures of chefs who had designed original gelato flavors. After you bought a little ticket card, we just love a good tessera here in Italy, you could get up to five tastes and a cocktail. I thought the cups would be little tiny tasting cups, but they were regular size cups full of cold, creamy goodness.

We all shared flavors like dark chocolate muffin, cherries and cream, vanilla fig, corn cookies with chocolate chunks, chocolate passionfruit, canadian maple syrup with pecans, bread with dark chocolate, lemon caviar ginger, and my favorite salted caramel, just to name a few.

Melissa and I got buzzed on gelato mojitos early:

Sofia got buzzed on chocolate gelato later:

On the way home, we took turns trying to scare Sofia with ghost stories, but she is fearless. So then we amused ourselves by drawing on her and making her do a bellybutton rap song:

We also built with blocks at some weird kid exhibit, went on the merry-go-round, and bought tons of summer basics at H&M! Jealous much?
Il Saggio 2012
 Gioca Danza girls & their teacher Amanda
Why, we wondered, would Happy Gym have their end of the year performance all the way out in Cascina when there are perfectly nice performance spaces here in Lucca? The answer my friends, I'm going to guess, had to do with the fact that the Politeamo theater has an upstairs space with many dressing rooms where the one hundred little participants could run like wild monkeys without anyone knowing what chaos was going on downstairs. Stairs. There was a little claustraphobic, scary-I'm-an-Italian-- elevator --and-if-you-get-stuck-on-me-you-will-live-on-air-for-several-weeks-before-anyone-can-figure-out-what-to-do-with-you. But I preferred to take the Italian five, which means six for the rest of us, flights of stairs, up and down from the stage to the dressing room. The fact that our GPS navigatore from Esselunga supermarket coupon points got us to Cascina with no problems was a bad sign. It mean the part that goes wrong that you can't prepare for was soon to come.

Hairstyle # 34

T had prepared me for the fact that we would be helping fourteen little girls between the ages of two and three who would have their costumes in little cardboard shoe boxes with their names on them. They would have not one, but two, costume changes. I love Italy more than any American is supposed to, but the level of organized disorganization was breathtaking.  The well thought out plan was that these tiny little baby people were going to have a rehearsal at five thirty in the afternoon, that is an Italian six'o clock, and then their mommies and daddies were going to give them dinner and bring them back an hour or so later, that is an Italian hour and a half, and they would be in a show that started at nine o clock at night.  They would go on fifth. In part one of the show, they would go on fifth. Because, of course, there was also a part two of the show in which they were to go on third. They finished that up at eleven thirty at night when we left them there looking at us in their pissed off cuteness because they still had to go down for a final curtain call.

Let me back up to the preparation stage up in the dressing room. Luana, my boss' adorable mother, makes all of the costumes by hand: one-eyed pirates, Flintstones, sparkling disco dancers, angels -- she makes them all. Before the little bitties came back from dinner T and I got started doing hair styles for the six, seven and eight  year old girls. Dozens of hair buns, some braided with ribbons, and some side pony tails - which are called half ponytails in Italian and nobody told me they had to be high ponytails so I had to re- do them all. Not one little girl complained or moved as we yanked, pulled, untangled and sprayed them with the cheapest, most toxic hair spray you could possibly imagine. Eye make up was this white Halloween oil paint that had to cover the eye lid and below the eye and wing out into a Cleopatra like triangle.

Sometimes these little people would talk to me, blissfully unaware how much I was jealous of their perfect use of different tenses and colloquial expressions. Mostly they felt sorry for me when I responded with my cortisol driven answers to their very sweet little questions. One little high-pitched, squeaky, feminine person asked me why I had such a squeaky little girl voice and I explained that is how we all talk in New York. She looked impressed.

Alessandra, the helper on my left, was the real angel of the night.
This dear, sweet little person named Marianna, is now going to need therapy thanks to me. She didn't have a shoe box with a costume in it. She wasn't Aurora, Matilde, Martina B, Martina, Elisa, Elena, Bea, Arnese, Victoria, Fiamma, Giulia, or Ludovika. This freaked me out a lot more than it freaked her out. Then I asked her about seven times what her name was and why she wasn't dressed. Not good, I know. But in my state of anxiety, every time I did a head count to check who was missing their gold sash (which would not stay at chest height due to gravity and slippery-ness) or a gold hair ribbon, or their angel wings (which were made of thick foam rubber for some reason and had to be pinned inside their leotards with giant unwieldy safety pins),  I saw another girl who looked like Marianna -- they all started to look a like after awhile -- and got confused. Sadly, seven out of the seven time I asked,  it was always just still Marianna. Then some real adult helpers came and convinced her that wearing a blue leotard from the group that finished seconds before she had to go on was a good thing. Her favorite color was blue. It was all going to be okay! From then on I decided that I loved her beyond measure and I think she forgave me.

We did desperate things to keep the children from running up a slanted wall to see if they could fly and peeing themselves or smearing their make up. We ripped up coloring books so every one would have a page and when there weren't enough markers we gave them stickers to put on. I invented games that made T roll her eyes about dragons, and fairies, and rolling balls, and even though these games went no where and had no point they kept the little Gioca Danza girls from melding in with the disco dancers or the rambunctious Flinstone characters with the cardboard bones in their hands just long enough that we still had fourteen of them when it was time to go back down the five flights of stairs. Bea, who was just two, and will grow up to be Margaret Thatcher or someone like that, refused to do anything that wasn't fun for her including walking stairs and so T had to carry her in both directions.

I think this one was Marianna.

And also this one.

That's F in the back looking lost.

There's F again. WAY too much estrogen in the room.

Today I finally got one acne cyst on my nose to go away, but thanks to this show I have a new one right underneath it.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Miss Understandings 2012
I'm not even going to ask if it is just me because I know it is just me. I cannot get a break lately in terms of social misunderstandings. I may give up speaking in public all together. After I write this blog post, it's all going to be pantomime and The Dream of Carlo Collodi (see last post) from now on, people.

Last night I went to the movies with Anna Maria. The only thing worse than Dark Shadows in English is probably Dark Shadows in Italian. Outside the theater was one of my regular students who had not come to my class that day. She was enjoying some kind of pastry. When she saw me she covered this huge pastry with a tiny, postage stamp sized napkin and said "oh-oh." I, as you know, could not care less if she eats a pastry. I am an exercise teacher, not the pastry police. Plus I am more golosa than anyone, if truth be known. That's why I do all this freaking exercise. To make money and so I can eat. So I said "scherzi?" which means "are you kidding?" People say scherzi a lot as a response when some one says, "oh you shouldn't have gone to so much trouble" or "thank you so so much" and you want to say, "don't worry about it, it's nothing." I fear they took it as, "Are you kidding me eating that kind of robaccia in front of me?" They all looked horrified. Then I noticed that my student was standing with an ex-student and several others. I went to kiss the first girl, but her mouth was still crammed full and she waved me off. So I said, "okay, I'll greet you first" to the ex student who clearly did not want me anywhere near her. Then I went to kiss the first girl, but her mouth was still full so I chatted about the actors in the movie while their whole group continued to glare at me and Anna Maria just shook her head. After the movie Anna Maria told me that one day I would learn how to make jokes in Italian. Ouch.

This is coming off a week where I got yelled at because I disagreed with a rule that people had to vote on letting other people into a club. I tried to say if you want to keep this group small, let's just let it be a numbers thing. Why go and make it personal?  As one of the ex-unpopular girls myself, I can't bring myself to reject anyone from any kind of group unless they go postal because the ex social worker in me is too politically correct and the ex loser (think Glee!) in me is too empathic. Anyway, no matter how I tried to explain this (in English) I couldn't get any support and drank two glasses of wine too many and my face broke out in huge lumps and my nightmares came back.

The other random thing I want to share with you is that the forecasters of Lucca, who are almost always wrong, have said that it is going to keep raining throughout the months of May and June. Many a day, the sun is shining because the rain passes quickly or the weather reports were just wrong and when you greet people they still moan. Oh thls weather, one of my former students from the Guess store complained as we both stared up into a cheery Crayola robin's egg blue sky with big puffy white clouds and a smiley face sun. Yeah, I said, it sucks. Sure it's sunny now, but, you know. . . And then I noticed she had huge stress acne lumps on her face, too, and I felt happy for the first time in three days. Sigh.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

T in the teatro
Prof. Dellacroce
Here is a much less blurry version of T in her show. This time they performed it at the Teatro di San Girolamo and we got front row seats. Prof. Dellacroce, T's head teacher, explained that even though they had prepared the whole term to do A Midsummer Night's Dream, when they heard about the death of his neighbor, the writer Antonio Tabbucchi, they decided to perform the show he had authored called The Dream of Carlo Collodi.

In the dream, if I am reading the program correctly, a person goes to a cemetery of writers and puts carnations on the graves of Leopardi, Stevenson, and Collodi.  Collodi dreams of being on a boat in the sea during a storm, the boat survives and becomes one made up of humans with the colors of Italy. After they yell Viva Italia, Collodi enters into the mouth of a monster. He goes around groping in the dark, hits against a table and opens a container full of cadavers. They he does down a few stairs, drinks a bottle of rum, and feels better. The belly of the monster is slippery and full of dead fish. He goes splashing in the low waters and catches a glimpse of light. The light gets closer and he sees a table with a woman with blue hair and a little boy with a hat made of bread crumbs. He runs and hugs them. Then the belly of the monster changes into a pergola and they sit around a table at a house int he hills of Pescia and they drink white wine and eat melon because it is so hot. There is a cat and a wolf that look at each other under the pergola with calm eyes. He takes a drink of wine and offers some to the audience. So f'ing Italian, right?

He went on to say that while the other show would have been cast in a more democratic way, given the time constraints, he picked the three loudest students to have speaking roles. While T is mute, muta come un pesce, her body language was as graceful as if she had taken ballet for years. Weird.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

F's compleanno/birthday

F wanted to have people over to celebrate his birthday. This is unusual because usually he wants little fuss and just us. He said no presents, please. No stuffy stuff at all. He would accept only drawings, poems, songs, recipes or food. Yeah, we thought that was nuts, too. So we mostly ignored that request. He got salty food (his favorite), several beautiful recipe books, a cool t-shirt, an awesome windbreaker jacket, a lovely portrait from T, and . . . (drum roll please) from me a bordeaux colored, man-sized apron with his name embroidered across it along with "Marito Perfetto/Perfect Husband."

We're out of food!
This is one of the few parties where we said little house destroying people were welcome. We got off lightly with a few smudges on the couch, a few flattened french fries scattered around, and, mysteriously, muddy small people footprints in the bathtub. Thanks again to Fergal for bringing his portatile with all of the kid films in it for them to watch while they were waiting for the cake. About thirty people showed up and we had not even a morsel of food left over. The oreo cake was underdone and just slopped around sadly on the plates, but all the big people were too drunk to notice by that point.

F gave a speech that was very moving after they all sang Tanti auguri  to him. This was his speech: "Eh . . . Grazie. E grazie . . . . per voi." It was very sweet.