Sunday, September 27, 2015


I now teach English to two little girls who are friends and whose mothers are friends, but I teach them separately for scheduling reasons. Theirs. The world is one of dance and swimming lessons; I just live in it. Anyway, I had them play the same games since they are both about nine years old. The first was parachute hangman where I drew a figure on a pad along with some lines to indicate blank spaces where individual letters to spell out a word in English would go. They had to guess the letters or the little guy on the parachute's strings would get erased one by one. Below him was a shark. The first girl shrieked with joy as I took away the strings and delighted when she didn't guess the word in time.

The second girl scratched the sofa with her nails and pummeled me with questions about the man's fate. By the end, I had to make the shark be a sweet and smiley mammal and the man have a Zen expression. It turned out she guessed the word in time  so she got a prize. She didn't want the prize because she didn't think it was fair that her friend hadn't gotten one earlier in the week. Her prize was that she got to see my bedspread with the buffalo on it because her word was "buffalo." I convinced her that I would also give her friend a prize. I don't know what the prize will be because that girl's word was "German." In the end, girl number two told me that Barnaby, my new duvet cover pet, is not a buffalo, but a bison. It was quite the fifteen minutes of an hour long lesson, I tell you

 In other news, I have an evil genius plan that involves my becoming sincerely interested in tissue making for my own good. Both companies I work for make tissue and so I have immersed myself in the world of rewinders, unwinders, ply, density, combiners and jumbo reels so that I can pull the best English out of my students. It just proves that any topic can be interesting if you really get into the human dynamics underneath. Even if that human dynamic is the need for soft paper under our bums. I also have convinced F that he should design an trilingual app for the paper making industries that I am going to pimp out for him wherever I go and make us rich. I'll let you know if this makes it off the blackboard and into reality.

I am reaching new heights of Zen, as my skin gets worse and worse and my hormones go more and more haywire. My aquiesence is endless. I wish I could go back in time and tell my younger self to enjoy the hell out of that little period when I had clear skin even though that's when I was my fattest and hairiest. My journey through life is one in which the universe realized that I would be unbearably joyful if I had all my beauty problems resolved at one time. That said,  I have to shout out to Samantha Power with her work on behalf of all women and humans this week with her bold statement at the U.N. During an interview, a comment she made introduced me to the work of Hugh MacLeod, especially her mantra:

In other family news, T has become an amazing biker while she recovers from an ankle bruise caused from jogging in sneakers that pinched in the back. She routinely does multiple loops around the city walls and comes home complaining about people who refuse to get out of her way.

 Her new professors had various reactions to her having to acknowledge her American-ness to them that ranged from apathy to mild repulsion. The weird thing about Italian high school is that they really don't care if she learns the lesson content (dates, facts, ideas) about art history, philosophy or even Italian history; what they care about is whether she can express what she learns orally and in perfect Italian. This is not ideal for her skill set, but we think she will surprise even herself by the year's end.

Our upstairs neighbors have really outdone themselves. Yesterday they babysat or took their baby out of the closet. I don't know which. They seem to have a baby every other Saturday and then it vanishes. They also had people over to watch soccer. Watching soccer means that we get to hear them and their guests either yelp with rage or delight at irregular intervals. There was also some bocci ball with small coins that they throw in whenever I even consider taking a nap.

Our cutie next door neighbors left us this little note before they went on vacation:

How cute is that??

Friday, September 25, 2015

You know why I really like living in Lucca when it doesn't drive me completely crazy? Because sometimes it is Thursday. I have finished teaching several satisfying English lessons and work is over for the day because we don't do more than six lessons a day. I am free if I pretend I don't have hours of preparation to do for the rest of the week. Teachers are good at this kind of pretending. I now recognize the signs of my comrades in denial. And then it is time to drive to Pisa  to pick up the back to back to back to school clothes (because I didn't get it right the first three times) from Zara for T because in Italy you can order online, but then the order goes to the store half an hour away instead of to your house. Some scemo will try to make a three pointed turn on the off ramp to the highway, but we breathe in the air which is filled with fine pasta flour and keep going. . .
and this is what we see out the car window . . .

Then I run home to go meet my gorgeous daughter on the walls where she is reading on a bench. She says to hurry so I don't miss the sunset.

That's a sight for sore eyes, right there.

I made it.
The end.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Thanks, T
  by Above Average
 I don't know about you people, but I needed that.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

I can't/non ce la faccio
I was dreading the visit from the airconditioner repair man for many reasons. First of all it necessitated my having to bother my landlord again by text message. Secondly, it meant I had to cold call an Italian receptionist which is one of my least favorite things to do in life. I managed to make the appointment and to convey to the landlord that it pains me to know my upstairs neighbors' sex schedule due to the thin walls. The airconditioner repairman told me that all new construction in this city has that same problem. This is epic news because Italians do it like bunnies. Anyway, I knew this particular repair guy was going to be trouble because he seemed like the sort who has to find problems to justify his existence to his boss. He misinterpreted the yellow paint that is peeking through the white under the airconditioner as proof of a leak in the wall for starters. Then he broke a shelf in our little terrace shed and decided that the real problem was that the air compressor out there is filthy. To be fair, that was part of the problem, but it was worsened by the fact that he slammed down all of the dirty bird feathers and crap in there and then waited for me, the little woman, to clean up after him. And that was only after he dropped his paint brush/bird crap cleaner, down into the patio space of my neighbors below. After all this, we did a song and dance about how he doesn't accept payment up front and how I refuse to pay for this operation that has to do with a situation that pre-dates my tenancy. I called the landlord, but his momma didn't raise no fool, so he didn't pick up. I then texted him to say that while I will have to listen to porno soundtracks until I get a new apartment, I will not pay for the airconditioner repair. Of course I used different words. I'm sure my Italian was also flawless.

This week also had me observing an English lesson taught by a future colleague of mine at the new English school. It was boring as dirt, If I'm going to be honest. The teacher was a very moisturized and nice smelling fellow from California who seems kind and is philosophically opposed to correcting his student's pronunciation mistakes because he doesn't want to inhibit his flow of speech. This made things awkward for me as he was to evaluate my teaching of the same student in the following hour. It was my big test to see if I get the job that I think I already got by being F's wife who already got the job and is driving me to the company where we will work as a kind of tag team. The student was a gray fox of a certain age named Giulio. I liked him and he was an easy student, albeit with a host of pronunciation problems that will go forever uncorrected. My biggest stumbling block is that the lessons are split between the student's book and a laptop that I can't read. I have to use the magnifying glass feature to read the text and the little white glove icon to scroll down the page. The little white glove seems not to like the magnifying glass so I had to choose between arriving at the right question or not being able to read it because the print was too small. This led to some improvisation on my part. I think I talked too much for Mr. California, but I am praying that he is also philisophically opposed to throwing potential future colleagues under the bus.

If I wanted to be accomodating, I would have been born a couch.
T got invited to a birthday party for her friend Giorgia's brother. The lucky duck had his party at a rented a villa with a pool with six dozen or so of his closest friends.  I think we have officially become parents of a teenager with a social life that surpasses anything we ever got to do.

If there is a pool and you are 18, it doesn't matter if it's September.
the man of the hour
T also joined the school newspaper. This is not only a good extracuricular activity for her college applications, but, in practice, it is where the intellectuals of her school gather in an abbandoned building with vodka and cigarettes. To paint a clear picture for you, this is a situation in which people wear berets without irony. It is a given that they will hail her as their queen because she can write the English column that will give their little project credibility and panache. I spent three hours not finding her suitable t-shirts or a party dress at H&M, which just goes to show you that 37 hours of back to school shopping during the summer will not save you from hearing the dreaded words, "Mooooom, I have nothing to wear."

Also, there is this weird guy that T complains about who whenever he sees her walking on the walls or in town, greets her like he knows her well. He doesn't. And his not a kid. He is like 30 years old. He is always with some older guys who may or may not be Italian. Maybe they are some older guys he works with. He always points at her as if he is telling his friends that he bets he can get her to wave back at him. It is some sick perverted game he probably plays on girls all day long. Anyway, I have been after T to identify him to me. We were in town on a super humid day before school began and she spotted him. And he did his creepy thing. She didn't want me to confront him at first but I wanted to see his face. I asked him for the time at first just to get a visual. I was shaky and weird, I admit it. I really hadn't spoken any Italian to speak of for three days going into this moment. I went back to T, but she seemed surprised that I hadn't confronted him and I didn't want her to feel unsafe so I doubled back to confront him. I told him that he has been upsetting my daughter and that she is only 15. He immediately went crazy and told me that I was wrong about him because he was from Bangladesh and not from Romania. So many folks are super pregiudiced against Romanians here who they believe are thieves and job stealers. In other words even if they get honest jobs, they are thieves. Anyway, I told him I wasn't racist and didn't care where he was from only that I wanted him not to look at my daughter. At that point, one of the older men told me that I was a crazy mother and grabbed my arm and started to shake me. I started screaming hysterically and went to get the police. The police were doing some kind of a bust and said I had to wait. They never came back and the guys got away. It was a fantastic performance, in which I made things worse for everyone. But I tried.

Monday, September 14, 2015

We were told to call for test results the day after the Italian language test. It sounded too good to be true because it was. They told us to call back today. Ironically, we need to pass the test in order to get our long term residence permits which ironically would allow the three of us to live some place else in Europe.

And . . .

Abbiamo superato il test and that means we nailed it.

Friday, September 11, 2015

the merda show (a two parter)

Sidenote: if you look up this terminology in Italian on Google you get images of Merkel eating a hot dog wurstel.
Anyway, part one
I bumped into our next door neighbors, the ones we can't hear through the walls, and my brain tripped on itself and brought me back to that time when I meant to invite them over for drinks. Before I knew it, and despite the fact that this is the crappiest week of all time, I invited them. Whenever you want, I said. Tomorrow/Domani? they asked. Um, not free tomorrow, I had to admit. So we settled on a Saturday evening at 6:00 PM for coffee. F and I have had a cold of one type or another for the past six weeks and we aren't able to drink wine lately without becoming so dehydrated that I wake up with foot cramps and he snores monstrously. The coffee date was way intense because after two hours of them chatting away with us, they clearly, and not without reason, thought they were getting dinner. It might have confused them when I gave F the signal to put the pasta on. I only did that because I was out of Italian words to use or topics to bring up and because T's friend was over and the girls were hungry. We had served Martha Stewart's lemon souffles  served in the lemons and they brought a million pastries.

The whole interaction was validating in that they confirmed that we had made a horrible life choice by choosing this building which does have the thinnest walls in all of Italy. They have survived here in the tiniest unit in the building with the worst position in that it overlooks the noisy parking lot. In fact they are soon to be throwing in the towel. That's when I proposed that they take our apartment that I had just complained about for a good long time. They seem to be lovely people. Thank god they can't hear what goes on in our apartment. I have given up hope on ever having future interactions with the people above or below us that are not extremely awkward. Just to recap: we went through hell moving out of an apartment with noise problems into a different, smaller, but less buggy apartment with different noise problems.

The bottom line is that sooner or later, but probably sooner, we will have to move again.

I did my first lesson with a mother-daughter duo. The mother, who is a friend of my friend, speaks English well and the daughter is seven years old. None of my material worked. Even the bread dough that F made for the little girl to make alphabet letters out of was too sticky. She also stuck some in her mouth and that didn't work out well either. I have to go back to the drawing board on that one. As hard as I try to turn children away -- and by hard, I mean yelling I don't want your money at their parents -- they seem to be determined to have me as a teacher anyway.

Speaking of daughters, mine hurt her tendon by from what I can only assume was a weird jump for joy at the end of a long run. She was devestated at the thought of not being able to keep to her exercise schedule and if there was ever a need for a hashtag, which by now we can all agree that  there isn't, it would say something incredulous about that. Anyway, she developed a weird coping mechanism while she healed that involves biking in high heels. The bottom line is that her ankle no longer hurts, but her bottom does.

After accumulating more and more bumps, I now have some of the worst acne and scarring I've ever had in my more adult life and in desperation I returned to the German Barbie dermatologist who had burned a hole in my face and then blamed my being allergic to the vitamin A in the magic healing cream she had been planning to give me as the reason why it took two years for me to heal instead of just the promised four weeks. But in Italy, and we are still in Italy until we fail the Italian test on Friday, sometimes the evil you know is better than the people who you don't know with the less than modern machinery and the crowded waiting rooms in Florence or Pisa.

One day you will be jailed for your blog posting, if now worse/vorse.
In case you were wondering, German Barbie's legs are still really shapely and her face is still without nary a wrinkle, but I don't know what to think about the fact that she wouldn't see me before 5 pm because she has to absolutely bake herself at her beach club during the summertime before she starts work and before what I can only presume is German cocktail hour. I asked her for the ipl/intensive pulsed light treatments, but when she saw my face she was appalled at the damage I have accrued in her absence. She aimed the burning hot lights at every square inch of facial skin.

I had a memory, confirmed by this very blog, of being able to return to work immediately the last time around, so I was surprised to see that I would not be able to leave the house this week. At all. I have melanin patches that make me look like I was in a terrible and disfiguring accident. It is not easy to remind myself that it won't be this way forever.  I have also had the lurking fear, after reading the internet by mistake, that I might also go blind momentarily because German Barbie didn't do a great job with the protective eye goggles. You know how that is when your fingers just slip and you find that you have looked up something on Google? And then the magic google eightball give you horrible news?

In fact my computerized calendar that exists because F cannot remember after five minutes where he was going or why has become nothing but a digital reminder of the ways my social and professional life is going down the toilet. Ironically it also says CLEAN TOILET on the digital calendar. That was a little embarrassing when the reminder flashed just as my news student was trying to decide on a weekly schedule. Dinner with friends. Didn't go. Walk around the walls with someone who used to be my friend. Didn't go. Response to coffee invitation from someone who might have become a friend. Didn't go. Visit with old friend in town for one day. You get the picture:
Self Portrait
Thoughts about how I look after ipl:
1. I look so terrible that I have thoughts like: if the house were on fire, I would have to burn.
2. If some weird man says something inappropriate to T while she's jogging and I had to go out there, he would really get what he deserved.
3. In the event of a zombie apocolypse, I would save the world and those losers would hightail it back to the graveyard from whence they came. Lurching and sobbing. Lurching and sobbing. It's a zombie thing.

Imagine not just brown crusts that are uniform but smeared and dotted across the still pizza-like acne covered face with tiny pink holes where some of the skin wiped away. And then add the fact that I haven't colored my gray roots this week. Oh and and and also I'm using a drawing salve to encourage the white gunk to emerge from the acne and it is a product called Prid which you smear on your face and it looks and smells like newborn baby poop. My inner beauty is afraid to look in the mirror, that's how bad it is.

Please look out for my new makeup line with my partner Jessica Alba. We're calling it the Brutally Honest Company. The makeup won't conceal your flaws, but it will emphasize them. In the name of honesty. You understand.

Of course I then got a terrible stomach virus that has made me had to cancel all dinner plans, social engagements, important contracted work lessons, and the like. You do the math. And then with that excuse at the ready, the universe had a laugh, as I did actually get extremely nauseous to the point where it wasn't an excuse anymore.

I had hoped that by some miracle I would heal from force of will and when I put a moistened cotton pad to my face a little chunk of flesh came off so I had to put on what I hope is antibiotic cream that F procured from someone who doesn't know me at not our usual pharmacy and now I am just waiting for everything else to heal.

Then F rolled over my foot with the vacuum cleaner.

About an hour later I asked him if I could check that our documents were in order for the next day. They were, but only if F scanning them into our home computer counts as the documents being in order because he neglected to print any of them out.

I can't think of a better way to await our residency permit appointments and Italian language test on September 11th, a horrible day in the best of times then waiting to see if I will have to do Kardashian level make up that day or if the gross dark spots will drop off of their own volition.

On a positive note, I know someone who knows someone again and in a good way. My friend who works at the comune knows someone who works at the prefettura who is stationed at the school where the Italian test is being given and that person has my phone number and who told me that basically because I am not African and because I used the subjunctive correctly in a sentence she is pretty darn sure that I will pass, if you know what she means. I do. And it makes me sad for the world. But at least I have friends. Did I really start out this paragraph on a positive note. Sorry. It's been a shitty week.

the merda show, PART TWO

Today I got up at 3 AM to look in the mirror. The joke was on me because the crust things were still not coming off my face post-treatment. The things I read on-line said that while this procedure is painful and uncomfortable it is a gift that women give themselves after a summer of sunning to remove the telltale signs. It literally said "a gift you give yourself." I laughed and laughed when I read that little guy.

Clearly they did not intend for hormonal women of a certain age who wake up at 3 AM and scrub their faces in desperation until they are pink and oozing. I put on a very white mask of sunscreen and antibiotic cream and some liquid foundation that I think I had brought from NY five years ago. I looked like Frankenstein's mother from Park Slope -- K-Stein. Hysterical, I woke up T and she got me to look like a reasonable proximale of someone who won't scare the Bangladeshi children at the Italian permesso test.

Outside the school where the Italian test was supposed to take place we met this nice guy named Ugo from Nigeria. He has some relatives in New York. A brother or cousin of his just graduated medical school so a shout out to you if you're reading this and you have a brother cousin in Lucca. Ugo was a little worried about the written portion of the test but his spoken English and his Italian were both not too shabby. I really hope that he passed.

The lady that I thought was my friend of a friend wasn't there. This blond lady who supervised the test giving was the kind of blond, tan, smoker who would have really have been horrified if she had seen me before my morning makeover. She was nice in that she really loved how much better she spoke Italian than all of us. She spoke slowly and delighted in giving us important hints that really did make all of the difference. Like I would have said that the little boy in the story whose teacher said that he was intelligent but needed to try harder had been putting in molto work but not moltissimo when in fact she pretty much told us straight out that the answer was poco because in Italy if you don't turn in your homework and memorize a bunch of things that frown upon creative reasoning you are considered a super slacker regardless. Grazie to you, blondie. I say she was nice because she was, but I had my doubts at the beginning when she handed out the test and then then someone made a casual observation. It wasn't F. It wasn't me. But thank goodness that one of the Eastern European ladies was on the ball and caught that our names weren't printed on the front page of the tests but other people's. At that point Blondie wanted all of the tests back and we got ones that didn't have names full of Ws and Ys in them that I have never seen before but ones with our regular old, boring names on them. She then went on to scold us, the immigrants, for not reading the first page attentively. I gasped. I had been up for six hours by then and had to pee for the last two of those and was already stressed to the max. How dare she!

We lucked out and so did Ugo because while last year's writing section was a formal letter to the Prefettura asking which documents we needed to have for our citizenship, this year's was just an old form to fill in with your personal data including name, address, nationality etc.  Phew! That didn't stop F and I from making mistakes in our checking the boxes and necessitating our writing the word no above the answer we did not intend to submit. I'm not going to name any names but a certain tall person may have also peeked at a short person's paper and vice versa at different points. But that really just proves how Italian we have become!

Then we went to meet T at the police station where we saw a little hyperactive girl swing from all of the marble window counters as though they were chandeliers and narrowly escape hitting her chin and biting her tongue off at least twice. She had a sixth finger that was facing the wrong way. Her mother was alternatively charmed and angered by her giggling and shennanigans and once pulled her hair by the roots of her bangs to get her out from under a table. Her husband isn't in Italy at this time and I think she had had enough. Finally it was our turn and we were all so caffeined up that all of us shook like crack addicts while our fingerprints were taken. The police officer agent that we had was at the end of a fourteen hour shift and she was more than a little annoyed that she had to repeat the prints on all of us, one after the other. We charmed her the best we could, but we were still missing some tax documents and a graduation certificate from T's middleschool that no one told us we had to ask for apart from just looking at the passing grades on the bulletin board in the school lobby. I actually got sleepy agent to crack a smile about that one. So we look to be in good shape if we get that stuff into them within a month. An officer who had boogers oozing out of his nose that he wiped with his fingers than laid his paws all over T to retake her fingerprints on a special machine in the back in a CSI Italia looking place that they made her go five years ago. I covered that child with ammucchina/liquid germ killer the second we got to the car.

oh pipedown copywright people. Eloise can afford this.
This day really sucked and we didn't get accomplished what we set out to in one shot, which in Italy, means hooray you may get a long term residence permit that allows you to move to Finland eventually when you can't take it here anymore. So there's that.

p.s. This was a lot of complaining for september 11th, which is a much harder day for a whole lot of our New York brothers and sisters of the heart and I push "publish" with the hope that it entertains and takes your minds off real and bigger problems for a moment.

Friday, September 04, 2015

This is how I get into trouble . .

Today we did some interactive lessons at the new English school. The main thing that I discovered is that I am really a perv. Let me explain.

Why is it that the second I put on giant headphones with a mike, my voice gets all silky and all I can think about is phone sex and truckers? To be fair, it was a lesson on transportation vocabulary. I did turn to F mid-lesson, however, to mouth, "Time Warner Cable; This is Cassie speaking." We think we're hilarious.

Hi there, trucker.

The other hilarious thing is that we are dirt poor and yet I have turned down two jobs so far this Fall.  I refused to get paid 30 euros an hour for four hours of work on Tuesday mornings, teaching yet another pack of the all over the place yoots/youth apprentices because last time it made me ask existential questions. Specifically, I remember asking myself questions like why don't I just work at a toll booth if my suicide rate probability is going to go up that incrementally after only four hours? Then, ironically, today I decided to turn down four hours of work during the same exact window on Tuesday mornings. where they want to pay less than half of that figure. Sue me, but I happen to believe that teaching English should pay more than I earned as a babysitter for the Glassers when I was in middle school. I am the Naomi F-ing Campbell of English teachers: I won't get out of bed for less than 19 euros an hour. This sounds like something I say right before I start saying, "Would you like fries with that, signora?" Yet, there we are.

In more important news: T came home from what I am going to call the Camp situation or Camp Situation. She had a great time. She loved her roommates. The food was not vegetarian friendly. The hotel was luxurious and had real trees. She climbed mountains. She zip-lined down one. She fed goats. She swam. She's worried she'll never get all of her homework done. But, all in all, she's glad she did it.

The train station

Goodbye roomie!

The gang

There's T in the skull shirt.

Their insulin pumps have a mascot lion. He's pretty darn cute.

Trees inside the glass inside the room. Trippy!

Camp selfie: Nailed it.

Florentine roommates. Yay team!