Friday, April 28, 2006

lunch at the coffee bar

Setting: a coffee bar in downtown Arma di Taggia at lunch time

Characters: Lynn; Chiara – Italian friend of Lynn’s; Zio and Zia –the aunt and uncle of Chiara and the bar’s owners; Chiara’s cousin, Lorenzo; the other customers in the bar.

Scene opens with Lynn trying to parallel park in a spot that a stretch-limo-hummer could fit in. Chiara is on the sidewalk giving directions

Chiara: now cut it left, now right, come back a little…do you want me to do it?

Lynn: (sotto voce) fu&%, sh&^#t… (to Chiara) no, no. I can do it.

Scene cuts to the bar. Lynn and Chiara are sitting at a little table chatting. Chiara has ordered lunch from her Zio.

Chiara: Tell me about your plans for your trip to the US! You are so lucky. I want to go. Maybe next year I will go with you.

Lynn: I’m trying right now to find some gifts to take back. I’d like to bring cheeses and salamis but I’m not sure if I can take them on the plane.

Chiara: (shouts across the bar) Zio!! Can you take cheese and salami on an airplane?

All heads turn toward the question, then turn again to Zio awaiting the answer…

Zio: (looks around, chuckles and shouts back) Why not?! It’s a salami, not a gun. Just put it in your luggage and carry it on. When I was coming back from Rome once I had a bottle opener in my bag. They saw it on the x-ray and told me I had to leave it. I said, “I don’t have a bottle opener!” The guy said, “have a look! Yes, you do!.” And I did. So they took it from me. It had a little knife on it – you can’t take that. But a salami is a salami.

Lady at next table: Just wrap it and put it in your bag. When I came back from Naples I brought some pasta, and salami and cheese, everything! I just put it in my bag and carried it on.

Cousin Lorenzo: I know you can’t take nail clippers but, salami? It’s salami.

Zio: (speaking to the bar) It’s not a gun. It’s just a salami.

Lynn: (in a soft voice talking to Chiara) But I think it’s different when you travel internationally.

Chiara: (shouting to Zio) Zio! But isn’t it different if you are going to a different country?

Zio: What’s the diffenence. It’s a salami, not a gun.

Lady on the other side of the bar: Just wrap it and put it in your luggage. If they ask you about it just say you were going to make a sandwich, in case you got hungry. Of course they’d understand that.

Lynn: (now joining the game, shouts) But when you arrive in the US you have to fill out documents and they ask you if you have food with you.

Zio, lady at next table, lady on the other side of the bar, two painters standing at the bar, Lorenzo, Zia: (speaking simultaneously, in loud voices but to no one in particular): But what if you get hungry? It’s not a gun! Just say you’re making a sandwich. Just put it in your carry-on bag. It’s just a salami.

Conversation continues throughout the bar.

Chaira (not satisfied with the consensus of the bar): I have a friend who is a travel agent. I’ll call her.

Lynn: Great. Thanks. Did I tell you that one of our cats is pregnant.

Chiara: Oh no. You have to get her fixed or else you’ll have 100 cats.

Lynn: I know. But how do I do that?

Chiara: (shouts to the lady across the bar) Signora….

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Cigar? It's a checker board!

NOTE to All: I'm obviously having troubles (again) posting pictures, but I don't want to let this slow me down. So, I'm writing anyway and will add the photos just as soon as I can. Sorry.

Please help me celebrate. Today I gave birth to this.

Okokokok, it’s true. I have no children of my own so I would have no way of knowing what the birthing process is like. Let me just say this about the about pictured project:

--I laughed, I cried.

--it was painful

--it took 9 months to create…ok, not really but it seemed like it.

--it was fun to conceive

--on more than one occasion I swore that I would never make another

--as a bi-product, I got some big pom poms

--did I mention it was painful?

--it was terribly wrinkly just after I finished it

--in the end, I have a beautiful creation…that maybe only its mother can appreciate

That sure sounds like everything I’ve ever heard about the birth thing, no?

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Will this fit there?

The other day I had a little incident (ok, ok, ACCident) with an ape. Ape means bee in Italian. It's also the name of this vehicle:

It happened on the road to our house. I’ve mentioned the road before. It’s a mountain road so it’s rather curvy. It’s also a bit narrow. Two cars can’t pass side by side. So when you meet another, one of you has to go in reverse until there is a driveway or a wider spot to pull into. There is an elaborate set of variables that goes into this decision of who backs up– where the nearest pull off is, who’s going up vs. going down, the size and power of the vehicles involved, and, of course the drivers’ genders (don’t read that as a complaint! The fact that I’m a woman means 9 times out of 10 I don’t have to go backwards.)

So, I was going down the hill and the ape was coming up. We met, looked around and decided that I had to do the deed. As I was reversing the ape came forward and pulled off into a tiny spot on the side of the road. Here we were, the ape on my left squeezed up against a wall halfway off the road and a cliff on my right.

Ape driver: “Vai! Vai! Vai!” (“go! Go! Go!”)

Well, now I’m looking at this space that I’m supposed to squeeze my car through and I can clearly see that it’s not big enough. I inch forward, keeping my eye on the cliff on the right side. The ape driver is on the left shouting go so I figured he was watching the space between our vehicles. I inched forward…I inched forward…scccccrrrreeeeeeeccccchhhhhhh and I make it through the space I knew I wouldn’t fit through, with this: running down the side of the car.

You may be wondering why I decided to go!go!go! if I could see I wouldn’t fit.

Well, you see, I don’t have such a great eye for these spatial, what-fits-where kind of things. I don’t know why it is exactly that I am challenged in this area. Is it a depth perception problem? Did I miss the lesson on conservation in kindergarten? Or maybe my being physically petite and flexible in character has led me to fit almost anywhere and so I assume it true of everything else? (In addition to driving, my does-this-fit-there-handicap gets me into trouble when I make soup. Choosing the correct sized Tupperware to put the extra soup in is a terrible problem for me. There have been more than a handful of post dinner clean ups that involved mopping onion soup up off the floor.)

So, I have learned to have little confidence in my own judgment in this area. I know this about myself and I accept it and consequently defer to old ape drivers who are shouting vai!vai!vai!.

Sometimes I get stung.

Friday, April 21, 2006

So, I’ve been feeling guilty all week since I invited you all to come to my blog and I have been, well, in a word, lazy about writing regularly. In an effort to procrastinate more, um, I mean, find inspiration I went to some of my favorite knitting blogs*. It turns out that the Mason Dixon Knitting gals haven’t written since the 17th and they are famous (ya know, famous for us knitters). This made me feel better until it dawned on me that they have been on tour for their book. And I have been, well…I haven’t been on tour. Instead…I have been home alone on the side of a mountain with no real obligations of any kind. In fact, in the past week I can’t think of one excuse for not writing.

So, what have I been doing if not writing? Well, remember how I tried to fix the water heater last time David was out of town? This time, I decided to fix the clothes dryer. And I actually fixed it!

Before you get too impressed, let me show you a picture of said dryer:

Yes, it’s a clothes line. It wasn’t working properly because previously there was not a flat bit of land underneath it. We would risk life and limb to hang out our undies. Take a wrong step and you end up sliding down the mountain (in case of this accident, we would have clean underwear but they would be in our hands – you can’t have everything.). I decided to rectify this situation while David is gone.

I began digging into the earth under the line and found, amidst the many, multiple-legged critters that live in the earth, an endless supply of bottles, layers of fiberglass, 1 bike (in parts) and 4 pairs of shoes. Beautiful. We have put our clothes line up over the Maberga 29 dump.

I know the story about the previous owners of the house. The husband (deceased, therefore the sale of the house) used to come up here everyday from Taggia (the nearest town)…ON FOOT!. I’ve done this walk before. Going down it takes about an hour to get into town. Coming up, about 2 and a half hours or more(depending on the weather). This house was his sanctuary and he did these walks every day.

So, given this, I understand (I don’t condone, but I understand) him digging his own garbage pit, you know, so he didn’t have to carry it all out …all those bottles after emptied, the old fiberglass that he doesn’t need any more, that bike that doesn’t work anymore.

But I’m really puzzled by the shoes.

Did he walk up here, knowing that the shoes were making their last journey, carrying another pair so he could bury the old and still walk back down the hill shoed? Did he have a blow out on a trip up (four times!), cut his losses by burying them up here and then go back down barefoot? Did the neighbors bring him shoes as offerings, which he accepted graciously and then buried because they weren’t his style? Or perhaps he brought old shoes from town up here, thinking that if he planted them they would sprout into shoe trees? I’m puzzled.

So, the real (weak) excuse for not writing is that my mind has been too preoccupied with buried shoes. Hmm, go figure.

*I read these fairly regularly – Yarn Harlot, Panopticon, Mason-Dixon Knitting, Queer Joe, and Eunny Knits.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Just a weekend...

So, really not much, well except LIFE, usually happens here in Maberga. Days and weeks and months go by and we are just, well, living. But this weekend…get out! It’s just been a bit too much for my system.

Saturday, April 15 – Just a normal day, you know, I did some last minute organizing for the artisan market like this:

(those are my price tags)

We painted some easter eggs. Without the aid of a Paas kit, we really missed that metal thing that holds the egg when you dip it (see market picture below for a peek at the eggs).

Then I fished this out of my bath water:

(I don't know what it is or how it got in my bath water, it has legs)

Then Franco stopped by and dropped off some trout. (I didn't photograph it because, well, come on, everyone knows what trout looks like, please!)

You know, just a normal day.

Sunday, April 16 -- 8.00am to 7.00pm at the mercatino in Arma di Taggia.

Let’s just not talk about how much I sold but rather how much fun I had, ok?

Here are terrifically supportive friends, Mercedes and Flavio who brought me coffee and a colomba – grande!

Here is the really nice man who had the stall next to me. He was selling wine from the Monferrato. By the way, he said that if we knew any rich Americans who wanted to buy a vineyard in Italy he’s ready to sell. Great wine, we had a little sample with lunch….and another later with dinner.

Monday, April 17 -- A drive to Nice to drop David at the airport with “his people” (a bunch of Irishman, I mean) who were heading home. Followed by what I think was a photo speeding ticket taken on my way home - damn. (I'll post that photo when I receive it in the mail)

Then I was off to a Pasquetta/birthday party. Pasquetta is the Monday after Easter and is a national holiday. People usually get together with their friends, have bbq’s or picnics and take walks. We did this:

a little eating (lunch for 21 -- many-a-slaughtered animal),

That's the birthday gal, Chiara there in the middle. (there were 2 of those birthday tortas!!!!!)

A little singing… Italian karaoke…bring it on!

Which, of course, lead to a little dancing…

(those are the hosts…get this, she is from CORLEONE! I’m not lying, she has pictures. She asked if I’d ever heard of it before, “um, yes ma’am, I believe the entire world has heard of Corleone, Italy.” She felt proud.)

Then to the train station to retrieve friends Robert and Dina – New Mexicans who live near Turin Sorry, no picture…I was sick of my camera by this point – perhaps you all are also sick of it by now, too.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

The Formative Years

So, I was just lying in bed pondering how I could solve the photo problem on my blog. As you may have noticed, the photos are very small. I used to post bigger pictures but it takes soooo long and is frequently just an exercise in frustration to even try because the line disconnects before they post, so now I just post the little ones. I don’t know where exactly the problem sits - in my total lack of tech knowledge (very very likely), with the blogger system for accessing photos (probably not since a lot of other bloggers don’t seen to have a photo problem), or with our “home technology center”.

That’s it, the technology hub of Maberga. The cell phone on the side of the computer is our connection to the internet…we don’t have a phone line here in Maberga.

As I was lying there in bed pondering this, a song suddenly popped into my head:

Just sit right back and you'll hear a tale,
A tale of a fateful trip
That started from this tropic port,
Aboard this tiny Ship.

The mate was a mighty sailin' man,
The Skipper brave and sure,
Five passengers set sail that day
For a three hour tour.

A three hour tour. [ sound of thunder: crack! ]

Yes, that is the theme song from Gilligan’s Island.

So as I was singing and got to this part,

No phone(s)!
No light(s)!
No motor car(s)!
Not a single luxury,
Like Robinson C-ru-soe,
it's primitive as can be.
So join us here each week my friends,
You're sure to get a smile,
From ( For ) seven stranded castaways,
Here on "Gilligan's Isle."

Suddenly it all made sense to me…my life that is.

Let me explain …Sometimes (frequently) I find myself actively, deeply, enthralled in some random situation and I pause for a minute, look around and think, “where AM I and HOW did I get here?!” This happens in the most amazing range of situations – when I’m dancing the tarantella on New Year’s Eve in a warehouse in Taggia, when I’m chatting with women who are cleaning pig intestines in my kitchen sink, when I’m driving to work and it’s the most gorgeous bit of coastal road on the Mediterranean, when I'm hanging from an olive tree on a sunny afternoon with an aching body from too much picking, and when I am standing in it taping the shit tube back together – just to list a few. In fact, probably THE reason I enjoy living here and the way we do is because I find myself asking that question so much.

Flashback with me a minute to 1976, 201 Pearson Dr., Lake Geneva, WI – 4:00pm on a Tuesday:
Here we see a 7 year old Lynn, sitting in from of the tv, one sticky index finger dipping into a package of uncooked orange jello*. After a small argument with big sis, Laur about whether we will watch Gilligan or Emergency (Gilligan usually won because I would promise not to tell mom that we were eating jello again - as if she wouldn't notice our neon-colored fingers when she came home from work!**), and the song starts...

“Just sit right back and you'll hear a tale, "

I tuned into Gilligan every day (not “week” like the song suggests - they were reruns at this point). I loved that show. Those 7 folks seemed to have so many interesting experiences, so many things to figure out, problems to solve, there was so much for them to do…and nothing at all. What a way to live!***

Back to Maberga, 2006. So many interesting experiences, so many things to figure out, problems to solve, there is so much to do…and nothing at all. What a way to live.

The formative years.

*For those of you who don’t know, you can eat the jello right out of the pack – it’s exactly like that candy that you can buy with the flavoured powers that you dip a licked sweet-tart into.

**I do not want to give the impression here that my sister and I were some kind of “poor latch-key kids”, neglected and alone to fend for ourselves. We did come home alone and were that way for one episode of Gilligan and one episode of I dream of Jeannie until mom would come home from a long day of teaching and be thoroughly engaged with us, dinner, homework, games, etc.

***Please don’t anyone point out to me that the whole point of the show was that they spent all their time trying to get off the island because, PLEASE, if they really wanted to they would have figured it out.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

All bets in...or maybe off...

So, in my haste to get right to some knittin’ with my new needles, I took a few short cuts in the normal knitwear project planning. For those of you non-knitting readers I will give a few ideas of what you should do, but what I did instead:

What you should do: browse through all knitting pattern books and find a beautiful project that you are so in love with that you are willing to invest HOURs and DAYs of your life to making it

What I did: thought to myself “Pattern? I don’t need no stinkin’ pattern. These needles I made are so cool they will just create something amazing. I think they will create a sweater.”

Should do: go to your local yarn shop (or your stash if it is plentiful enough) and choose the yarn that will go with the pattern you’ve chosen.

I did: turned my head to the huge basket of bits and bobs within arm’s reach and grabbed a bob.

Should do: knit a swatch to check the gauge of the yarn you’ve chosen with the needles so whatever you spend HOURs and DAYs of your life knitting will actually be the size you want.

I did: not

As a result of skipping some of these minor steps, I have spent the last two day creating the ugliest hand knit sweater ever cast on.

I’m really hoping that it is one of those ducklings that becomes a swan but I’m doubtful.

I have to admit that I frequently skip those steps mentioned above (I blamed it on the needles but when it’s not the needles I can always find an excuse). In fact I have a whole nest of ducklings stuck in a perpetual state of gestation…waiting to become swans. I try to be hopeful and always optimistic but well, judge for yourself:

Ummmm. Another out-of -my-brain-I-don't -need-any-pattern-or-calculations. What's up with those sleeves? R2D2 are you there, I am a storm trooper?

It's supposed to be a child's flowered jumper (in the American sense of the word jumper) but, well, it just didn't work.

Ummmm. Ok. That there in my hands is the result of my trying to knit a plasctic bag from, well, plastic bags. It's a long story...that, obviously isn't finished.

Ahhhh, It's a good feeling to laugh at yourself. Ok, it doesn't feel that good but it's probably good FOR me, no?

Speaking of optimism (which I was much earlier) …David and I have a little bet going. Want to play along?

This is our pergola that David is growing grape vines on. He says that this year it will be 100% covered by the vines. I say maximum 70%. What’s your bet?

If you’re the bettin’ type (ahemm, MOM) feel free to place a wager as well on any or all of the above ducklings turning into swans. Remember that I have the house advantage.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

a new parabrezza

The car is finally in regola (regulation). How long have we been working on that? Yet another example of the difference in viscosity of this culture compared with our own. (I’ll blog about that viscosity thing another time – for the most part, I like Italy’s viscosity but sometimes it causes a major p-in-the-a)

Remember the hoopla with the car? The whole police thing about no tags or stickers and then the inspectors and the turn signal that clicks too quickly? Well, on Monday we took the car to the mechanic to get all these stupidaggine (little stupid things) fixed. The owner of the shop looked at the list of items to be fixed and then looked at the car. One of the items was that there were three of those little dings that pebbles make when they hit the windshield. He promptly declared he would be putting in a whole new windshield. The discussion went like this:
“Yeah, you’ll need a new windshield.”
“A NEW windshield?! Can’t you just patch this one. I mean, those marks are really small.”
“Ahhhh, welllll, there used to be a German lady who came here and would do that work. She used fire and everything. But she went away. So you need a new windshield.”

The moral of the story….when in doubt, blame the Germans and charge the Americans.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

How could I have known?

David and I have a (rather annoying) tradition around gift giving to each other. We buy each other gifts that are actually gifts for ourselves. For example, one year I gave David a gift certificate to the Home Depot so he could build us a dining room table. One time David gave me an entire new set of really nice pots and pans (he’s the family chef). Then there was the time I bought him a leather jacket that was, ooops, 5 sizes too small for him.

I’m not even sure how it started (actually I’m sure he was the first but if he were blogging, I’m also sure he would say the opposite). I can say, however, that as the years of marital bliss have been passing, dotted by birthdays and Christmases and anniversaries, the gifts have become ever increasingly obviously not for the receiving spouse but rather for the giver.

So last year, for David’s birthday, I was faced with only two options:
1. completely give up any pretense what so ever and buy him yarn or

2. break this evil chain of selfishness

Any knitters reading this must be thinking that that would have been a no-brainer. Buy yarn, of course (I could have said that the yarn was for something I would knit for him…I mean, if I needed to explain). BUT, instead I took the high road (ok, it wasn’t soooo high, my birthday is three weeks after his so I knew my decision would pay off). I bought him this:

It’s a dremel. It is THE tool to assist him in his pipe making adventures. It was so clearly for him that I wasn’t even sure that I bought the right thing. I had never seen one before so when I went to the Self (“everything for do-it-yourself”) I had to ask the nice young man in the red shirt to help me find it. I think that men have an unspoken, universal fraternity because this nice young man talked me into buying the expensive brand-name Dremel instead of the Black-n-Decker cheaper version. (Ok, before I get a bunch of emails from men about that last comment, I will admit here and now that, yes, we women have an unspoken, universal sisterhood. And women knitters…don’t even ask, just get that hand-dyed alpaca).

Boy am I glad I shelled out the big bucks for my dear husband.

It happens to be the time of the year for pruning the olive trees right now.

Ya’ know how seeing a big pile of things makes my imagination fire up? Well, thanks to my husband’s dremel…

olive knitting... needles!

Honey, if you’re reading this…how could I have known? Really I tried…please don’t take back the yarn you so generously gave me for my birthday.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Giuseppe Disordinato

Sorry for the lag in writing, David’s been home. I’m finding that this seriously cuts into my blogging. (Honey, if you’re reading this, that wasn’t a complaint). Having a real person to talk with (not that all you readers AREN’T real, you’re just not real-ly here with me) definitely takes up more time. To blog, I just say what I have to say and hit “post”. With David, he responds, he asks questions, he changes the subject, then I ask questions, respond, interrupt, change the subject, then he…ok, you get the point.

AND, when he is home we do things like this…

Yes, that would be dinner for 9 in our kitchen.

But this was not just all fun and songs

I was actually doing serious research for chapter 8 of the non-book: Menu planning when having the Calabrians for dinner - what not to serve (see blog “just one chapter after another”). First, I have to edit (can you edit a book that hasn’t been written?) – the chapter must be changed to Menu planning when having Italians to dinner.

BOOK NOTE TO SELF: Italians don’t really understand the subtleties of sloppy joes.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Logic - Grandma Sally Style

Logic…Grandma Sally Style

I’ve been thinking about my dear Grandma Sally a lot today. Grandma Sally was my mother’s mother. She was a career dairy farmer, my amateur-pilot grandfather’s flight navigator, an enthusiastic card player and a card carrying republican. She made a mean ham and an irresistible fudge. She drove a Carmen Gia (how cool is that?!) that had a stick shift case that always reminded me of a plucked chicken (chicken which is what she cooked when she didn’t make ham or fudge). She died when I was in the 7th grade…way too soon according to me but a lot later than a lot of doctors had predicted.

Grandma Sally made a big impression on me and I seem to have picked up a lot of her ways. Like Sally, I’m fond of cheap beer, I have a potty mouth, a bit of a temper and a prematurely deaf husband (hmmm…go figure about that last one, or two) She was also a knitter. When I started knitting my mom dug these out of a box in the basement:

Sally made those for me when I was about 5. There was a matching vest and mini skirt that went with them. Again…way too cool, no? Sally was also famous for knitting my sister and me mittens every year for Christmas that got incrementally bigger as we did, all of the mitten got bigger except the thumbs – Sally was a bit that way (in me, this “quirk” has manifested in sleeves). For my 10th birthday she made me pillows using the mattress ticking and feathers from HER parents’ bed. I hate to over use the “c” word but I must…could she be any COOLER than that?! Those pillows have been with me ever since. She made a quilt for my sister, apparently, using all the material she had made dresses for my mom and aunt with when they were children. I say “apparently” because I always thought she gave that to me but that, well, is a classic example of “Lynn Logic” according to my sister…but I digress.

Sally had an interesting sense of logic, that I also seem to have inherited (or learned, depending on where you are in the nature/nurture debate). Sally used to tell my dad after he finished his first Chief Oshkosh Beer and went after a Pabst Blue Ribbon, “Ohh, Tony! Don’t mix your alcohol, you’ll get sick.” When we were driving in the Carmen Gia and went under a bridge she always insisted that we all duck. Also, in the Carmen Gia, when the gas was running low, she would drive faster.

I finished the second of a pair of socks made from the great Helsinki yarn today. As I was getting toward the end I realized I was knitting faster. In fact with each round I was knitting faster and faster. Then it hit me. My yarn balls looked like this:

Total Grandma Sally logic if there ever was - running low on yarn, knit faster, of course!

Grandma Sally, look! I didn’t run out!

This picture, in addition to the socks, shows what I’ve been doing while David has been out of town. Checkers-N-E -1?