Wednesday, April 29, 2015

P.S. I would have put photos of the apartments from the rental sites, but the apartments looked nothing like the photos so it would have been just more false advertising.

Today I don't think that one single thing that I tried to do with the kids in the apprentice class went over well. I couldn't get the film to work. The volume was too low. The English was too complicated. They didn't enjoy the games. Finally the one guy who speaks fluent English and used to be a teacher gave me some pointers on how to engage them in English by getting them to talk about their lives. It turned out that almost everyone spoke more English than they had let on in the beginning so we passed the rest of the time that way. I tried my best. I really did. I got up at 5 AM and by the time the class ended at 1 PM, I was ready to pass out.

Two hours later I went to meet Claudia the real estate agent. We got along well at the beginning of the house hunt. By the end, I am pretty sure she hated me. I was mad at the fact that the apartment I had my heart set on is right in front of a giant construction site that she didn't say anything about. And that she seemed to think it was not a big deal. If it's not a big deal you go live there and I'll take your giant apartment in the quiet courtyard. The one apartment that we saw that is at all possible is a fixer upper with landlords who are far away and want nothing to do with being landlords. It is the kind of set up that might work in America, but that I think is too scary to try here. F was game for it, but he is uber optimistic. Then again, he also sleeps through the music and everything else while I lie there staring at the ceiling.

It turns out that our rental contract says that we have to give three months notice and the longer we wait to give notice the more we will have to pay out. Also, the sooner we give notice, the sooner I will spend every minute of my life opening the doors for rental agents so that they can see this apartment.

So far I have seen an apartment that must have first been a brothel, one that is an amusement park for rodents and insects, one through whose cracks in the wall you could see the sky, and lastly, the fixer upper which is missing a water tank and which is covered in about five inches of grime from the workmen who put in the outdoor glass elevator. I made a comment, in my exasperation, about my willingness to enter an Italian elevator. The elevator is in a tiny court that no one knows about. The agent assured me that the family above would eventually come save me from the glass coffin ala Sleeping Beauty, but I prefer not to test out her theory. I realized too late that I shouldn't have specified that it was Italian elevators that I hate since it is all elevators. If I'm being honest I would rather get stuck in an American one, alright? There I said it. Call me whatever.

I have to go now to teach the new student who is disappointed to meet me for the first time because she wanted to have an English teacher with a British accent. I know, I know. I am tempted, if that is what you are thinking, but I am probaby too tired to pull off seven weeks of speaking with a British accent. Damn you, beer man.

Monday, April 27, 2015

A plea to Ron Howard

Dear Mr. Howard,
I was sorry not to be able to enter the Canon movie contest because we have a funny blog that I think would make a great movie about our family's move from Brooklyn to Tuscany. Since we aren't U.S. residents anymore, we also can't win good stuff anymore. Champagne problems, right?
Anyway, here is the name of the blog:  Our story starts in 2010 when we got denied a visa and then goes on to the massive flea invasion that led to shaved cats and the total destruction of Christmas and the weird things that happen when you work for a fancy gym that turns out to be a cult. After that, it gets worse.

We wish you the best!
K,F & T
One mistake after another
1. Why didn't I pick Venezuela??
2. With what do I have to hit Renzi? A box of spaghetti? A tub of nutella?
3. Why do all of my best ideas allow for the slight possibility that I will end up in prison?
4. Apparently F is not going to let me send a huge envelope of glitter through the mail to the birreria (see above.)

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Some people never get the hint
I suppose that it is good that the two artistic directors of the teams on the talent reality show Amici -- Emma and Elisa -- are both talented singers, women, and friends. They continue to refuse to be catty to one another, which is probably ruining the plot line that the editors had in mind, seeing as they are such incredibly entrenched and unrepenting misogynists.

In the name of never improving or changing, the powers that be at Amici told Emma and Elisa that instead of a coin toss to see which team would go first, they would have a paint challenge. I was relieved for a moment thinking that at least with this challenge they wouldn't set back the feminist movement in Italy, which so far as I can tell consists of one female astronaut and Gianna Nannini, any further than they already have. But, of course, I was wrong.

Here is the set up which includes an old, male journalist who is going to test the singers' knowledge of anatomy and two containers of paint -- one for the white team and one for the blue team:
Okay, so Leonardo da Vinci. That's fine.
Wait! What's this??
Emma knows they're about to do something humiliating. You can almost see her mentally calculating her paycheck against her sense of sisterhood and personal values.

Right. Send out the naked men in skirts.

Then the old journalist who didn't even know which singer was which quizzed the singers about random anatomy and made them paint the muscles on the above mentioned naked males. It turns out that muscoli lombricali aren't on the guy's stomach but in his hands. Sorry, Emma.

Later Giorgio did a hip hop number about plastic surgery.

No one knows why judge Loredana didn't like it.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Bad Beer Karma 
So far this week, F and I got terribly sick and I got such a bad earache that I went deaf temporarily in one ear. It was pretty crazy that I still had to teach the four hour long course for the apprentices/"yoots" on Wednesday. I taught them the handshake of New York as they learned how to say "My name is . . ." What you don't know that we have a handshake in New York? Yeah, okay, we don't, but don't blow my Lucca street cred.

It turned out to be a challenge not just because I had to keep saying what? what? and turning to them with my good ear, but because some of them knew a lot more English than they let on and some of them had never heard English before ever. Basically -- an English teacher's worst nightmare. One lovely guy from India who works at the fanciest restaurant in town actually spoke fluent English, but he was taking the class to learn Italian. That is hilarious. He said that he thought it was the least boring language class ever because I was so crazy. This one guy wouldn't get off his cell phone so I made everyone get off their chairs and sit on the floor. When he tried to bring his cell phone, I challenged him not to do that and he explained very sweetly that he had been listening to every word I said, but that he had to work things out with his girlfriend. What could I do? I thanked him for his honesty. Next class I am doing a new method of English combined with sign language and also hip hop music rhythms that help with memory enhancement. We are also doing speed dating with adjectives.

Every night the beer place in our courtyard blasts this strong Zumba music with a pounding bass line. When F asked the owner to turn it down, the owner said that he had a permit to play music until midnight and that he didn't care what the residents thought about it. Nice.

The next day I saw a woman setting up tables. I was hoping it was his possibly more rational wife, but it was a waitress. She told me that she worked at night and if people in our court work during the day that's not her problem. She also said you can't sell beer without music. I challenged that, but she said her paycheck comes before everything else and that we should move. I told her that she shouldn't be surprised to find that the doors of her restaurant are closed thus denying her said paycheck because I was going to call in every favor of every important person I know to do surprise inspections on that joint until the end of time. Then the boss came over and she told me to talk to him. I told her that I don't speak to irrational people and walked away. Out of spite, they doubled the volume and played music until way past one in the morning.

We decided to give our apartment to the family downstairs who can't afford to get a storage place for their furniture and can't probably afford to move again, although they have to. Our landlord will eventually get them better windows and he will gain continuity of occupancy. I need a new start because I seem to be crying all the time. Of course today is a holiday so we can't get a hold of any Italian real estate agents, but my neighbor is going to bring me on her real estate appointments on Monday and come check out our place instead. Everything happens for a reason. There is bad beer karma that's going to happen for sure. We are completely screwed about the home exchanges for the summer and we will never get mail again, but I promise you that I am going to find a new place to live.

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. At the moment 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 went awry again. Roberto's son and his son's girlfriend's body language forced me to conclude that I gave them the mistaken 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!