Friday, October 31

code monkey

Alright.. I'm getting gutsy with the html... I want to see if this works... can I set up a hotlink to my gram vs. grim post?

WOO HOO! Look I did it.

Now I can tell you all where to go. What's that? Yea, you. Don't let the door hit you on the way out!

I think I've finally found a socially acceptable way to talk to myself.

Edited to add:
Ok... I'm back again. I thought I should at least give you something nice to go see with this wonderful new talent of mine. Enjoy.

happy halloween

In the absence of all the hometown USA madness that is generated around this holiday, the punks and I will be generating our own  after school today.  We'll be cramming 18 bimbos and their parents willing to stay for the fun into our flat in an old crumbling palazzo... I hope the floor doesn't cave in and we kill the Marchesa (more about her later).

Thursday, October 30

gram vs. grim

(pil'gram), n. 1. a not so grim pilgrim. 2. a person who journeys, esp. a long distance, without a second thought about spelling or other trivial details that can easily squeeze the spice out of life.


Ok... I'll admit it. I accidentally misspelled pilgrim. But after fretting about it for about, oh, 10 minutes or so, I've decided to, yet again, embrace the hand I've dealt myself. You'll find this is exactly my spirit once you get to know me a bit better.

But why, when, after all, strange strange pilgrim at blogspot dot com was still available?

Because I've grown attached. And gram is SO much better than grim.

1. stern, unyielding, harsh.
2. of a sinister or ghastly character.

it only gets worse from there... where on the other hand...

gram: (if we look beyond the metric unit, which I'm all for)
1. any of several beans, as the chickpea or mung bean (nice).
2. a combining form meaning "something written, drawn, or plotted."

Could you get a better description for a blog? What luck!

So it's here to stay... "Strange Pilgram", and all the more strange for it.

(now my spell checker tells me)

Tuesday, October 28

more connections

There was a beautiful park near the hotel. The overcast weather and extreme green of the place reminded me of sleepy hollow...

Connections... doesn't this remind you of a walk in the woods along Lake Michigan? Well, except for the castle, but that's the unsettling part. Things are just slightly tweaked here.

So the following morning I met up again with the group from Bari that I had eaten lunch with the day before. It was actually just three from the group and it gave me a chance to chat with them a bit more (plus I was more confident after my night out on the town with the Romans). So, the usual "nice to meet you" conversation transpires... I'm American, living in northern Italy now... when it came to "oh, so you work for American Start-Up in Italy (ASUI)?"

What? Uh, no. That's weird. Why is that weird...

1. This is a photovoltaic conference. ASUI is a biotech start-up. Nothing to do with solar.

2. NO ONE has heard of ASUI.

Me: "No, my husband works there... how do you know ASUI?"

Bari: "I interviewed with them a few months ago... When I saw your name, I thought you must be Matteo's sister... you even look alike."

OH... I find this very funny. We've finally become one of those couples that has been together for so long they look alike.

On the way home, night was approaching. I watched the distance grow between the train and the Adriatic Sea. Once the sky was black and all I could see were passing lights and highways and the train was quiet everything seemed familiar again. The night, lights, and people on the train, absorbed in their books and music, are all the same really. The same you find anywhere.

Monday, October 27


There's a certain anticipation I feel when I'm going somewhere for the first time. I'm not sure what I'm expecting, but I'm usually most surprised at how familiar some things are. And how strange it feels to find these things in unfamiliar surroundings.

The first time I set foot in Italy... actually before I set foot, it was from the plane window... I found myself amazed by the farm equipment scattered in the fields. Farm equipment. It wasn't the realization that suave romantic Italians also farm the land, or that they use machines instead of ox and carts... it was how the equipment and the fields, barns, silos... looked familiar and different at the same time. It's very unsettling.

The past few days I've been in a new city, Trieste. It was beautiful. Rainy, green, some fall foliage scattering on the hills, choppy seas and hoards of sail boats.

But I had that irksome feeling that I get in a new place. The constant buzz in the back of my head as my brain tries to make sense of all that is familiar suddenly just a nudge out of place.

But I was there for a scientific conference. Which is a lot of fun and I went alone. When you go to a conference alone, you really have to pull out all the stops on your outgoing side if you plan to have any fun at all.

Mingling my way through the second coffee break of the day... after a first awkward one trying to make eye contact with anyone who seemed approachable, and a pleasant lunch with a friendly woman from Bari, but enduring lots of looks from the rest of her group, all of them not sure exactly what to say to me, wondering how good my Italian was (or as I find out the next day, why it was so good and if I am my husband's sister)...

Mingling my way through the second coffee break of the day, starting to get desperate and scorning the clicks of scientists that traveled here together... I spot a guy with my name on his chest. My family name. And I get a sudden wave of familiarity surge over me and immediately pull this guy under with me.

Me: Hi! You have my name... my family name... I mean the one I had before I was married.

This required so much explanation because in Italy women do not take their husband's last name when they get married. This has caused a great deal of grief for me... more on that another time.

Friendly guy, brightens up, humors me, god bless him... I now call him cugino (cousin).

Cugino: Really? Where's your family from?
Me: Raiano
Cugino: In Abruzzo? Mine's from Sulmona! (also in Abruzzo)
Me: Wow! Some of mine also lives in Sulmona!

How cool... so we really could very likely be cousins of some sort.

And in my joy of the following two days, of finding a friend, and making friends of friends and contacts with new people... I still wonder at how cool it is to find something familiar in a strange place.

to be continued on the matter of me being my husband's sister...

Sunday, October 26

empty room

I have the gift of a few days away, alone.  Catching up on sleep.  Silence.

I thought I'd take the chance to watch an un-animated film.  One without talking animals or aliens or trolls.

I chose "Children of Men"

It was beautiful.  Moving.  Joyful and sad in the perfect balance.

And perfect.  To be left in the silence of an empty hotel room.  Without bedtime stories and glasses of water and fixing the covers.  And to feel so thankful for the beautiful family I have to go home to.


Friday, October 24

fried green brain cells

Ever spend all day, staring into the computer screen and find yourself wishing for one of those "dirty jobs"?  Like cattle rancher or sewer repair man.  I did today.  Just for a little bit.

Thursday, October 23


When you live in a city, in the very north of northern Italy, the term "weird-o" takes on new meaning. Basically if you're grandparents weren't born here (followed of course by your parents and yourself and your kids) you're wacked. And it's amazing, to me, the percentage of people who come from families who come from here for 2 or more generations.

But all hope is not lost. If you can follow some basic rules, you could find the approval of the masses and might just in fact pass yourself off as a native.

1. Your children must have at minimum three layers of clothing on when they venture outside. Undershirts are a must. Tucked in. Preferably wool.
2. There are three approved colors for the season. Wear them and don't get any crazy ideas.
3. Wear your purse across your chest and clutch it closely. Trust no one, suspect everyone.
4. Don't smile. Unless you're a man, then you can smile at women walking alone. If you have time when you're done ogling them.

You should see the looks I get from punkette's nuns when I drop her off in the morning. This is a child that complains she's hot in the dead of winter if she has to wear socks. I'm happy if I can get her to pull a spring jacket on. Oh, how they love to give the looks. Sweet little judgmental nuns.

To be honest, I enjoy getting the looks. It makes me feel like I'm one of those cool brave hip mammas with brilliant dreadlocked children that turn out mini feats of science and literature at the homeschooling composting for change festival. One of THOSE weird-Os.

Which is, of course what I strive to be, it's just that being here makes it so much easier. And quite a bit more fun.

Wednesday, October 22

It's too late

It's too late to write more... I'm just checking to see if I can actually post something via email. If so, god help us.

country in a city

As I'm sure will become quickly evident...
I grew up in the Midwest, I studied science, chemistry to be precise, although I hate saying that because then people actually expect me to know something. I love cold weather, rain, thunderstorms, but I don't complain if I have to spend a summer in Amalfi. I am jealous of life in the country, life in the city, and life at sea (in any given order) and I'll try them all.

I'm currently doing the city thing, but it feels like the country. The reason for that is because I'm living in a foreign country and I don't understand a flipping thing anyone around me is saying... so it's kind of like being in the country, maybe with a lot of farm animals around. They're cute, charming even, smelly (fortunately Italians don't usually smell anything like farm animals), they take up space... but at the end of the day, there's no really talking to them and you have no idea what they're thinking.

Another reason that it makes me feel like I'm living in the country is the food. Italians don't eat that packaged crap Americans do. And since less of them eat that packaged crap, the crap that's available is even crappier. So there's a big incentive to cook real food. There are even farmers that drive into the city, every day (except sunday, of course) and bring you the good stuff, dirt cheap.

But since I have never lived in the country, maybe these things are not country at all. Maybe they're just things about the city I didn't expect. Maybe in the country, you actually DO know what the animals are thinking and it's a hell of a lot more work to get a truck load of fresh fruits and veggies to shop from.