Monday, August 29, 2005

Wish you were here

This is from an email sent to my friend by a friend of hers who has recently been in Peru. I have no right whatsoever to reproduce it here, but am doing it anyway.

"We mostly had perfect weather on the trek, except for the couple times it hailed and the one night it snowed, and one of our donkeys died."

But where can I get MORE copies?

This morning when I left my apartment I noticed that there was a book propped against the wall. It was in a little nook on the landing where someone would have had to climb the stairs to put it. I looked a little closer and saw that it was entitled Jennifer and the Master: A Unique Erotica by John Vandeveer. In the corner of the cover someone had written in ballpoint pen "Free Copy." I'm hoping it was John Vandeveer himself and that this is just a small part of his vast "unique erotica" guerrilla marketing campaign.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Rebellion brewing

Believe me, I know I'm losing my audience. I realize that it is essentially my job to continue to provide you with amusing morsels and that I've been slacking. I got a testy email on the subject today. What can I tell you, people? I got nothing. Truly. I've been trying to think of something. I loiter about in restaurants and on street corners in the hopes that someone will say something eccentric, but it's been a dry time.

Today a colleague was interviewing an insurance salesman in my office (I don't know why. She does have an office of her own.) At one point I thought he said something about the policy covering "out of body expenses" for the insured. I think it was just sloppy diction, but I hope not. I'd be curious to know how pricey those out of body expenses are.

In other news, while at my friend's house for a southern dinner (which basically means that everything involved staggering amounts of Crisco) her water heater sort of exploded and shot flames out the top. No damage, but I think we barely escaped with our lives. A Crisco-based meal and an errant open flame? This is not a good combination.

That's all I have for you. Please don't storm the castle. I'll try to do better. I may dust off the last Italian anecdote for you.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Okay. I'll give you that one

Often I am too curmudgeonly to be excessively charmed by the antics of animals. However, when I walked out into yet another grim August day (is it fog? is it rain? hard to say), and saw the neighborhood Great Dane gambolling down Cole Street with an excited Dachshund, I admit it. It was joy inducing.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Some might call that proof

My formerly surefire "are you a crazy person" test must be updated to take into account the new proliferation of hands-free cell phone devices. That is, many people who appear to ranting to themselves as they walk down the street are actually having a phone conversation. Annoying perhaps, rude perhaps, but not necessarily crazy.

In any case, I assumed the young woman with the pink hair and tattered jacket walking up Masonic this morning was a cell phone person. Ah, but no. Wrong category. Plenty of chatting one. As she walked past me she treated me to this little snippet of song:

"Dear father, if Jesus esists, how come I sucked his dick? Yeah, yeah yeah."

Now, for all I know, this is some major hit and not the ramblings of a deranged street person. Nevertheless, crassness aside, the lyric has a significant flaw in my opinion. After all, is it possible to suck the dick of someone who doesn't exist?

Just wondering.

Hello from the construction zone

So, it's true that no one is required to wear a hard hat at work anymore, but there are new challenges.

Today's question: How long does the fire alarm need to go off during a "test" before it's pretty clear that it's working just fine?

The new fire alarm goes off in blasts of three deafening buzzes, followed by a little pause, then three more deafening blasts. Apparently this can continue for any length of time--five minutes feeling roughly equivalent to an hour. In case you are deaf (which at the moment seems a pleasant fate) there is also a very bright flashing light--the kind that I think would induce an epileptic fit in some.

Morale, needless to say, is very high.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005


I know. Promises, promises. Where are these oft discussed anecdotes? I've been back from my travels for nearly a month now. You probably don't even remember I was gone, but I was. And amusing things happened while I was elsewhere. Really. The thing is that I'm terribly lazy. I don't mean to be, but there it is.

Amusing Anecdote #1

One day, Marja and I got up in the morning and headed off to the tourist office. True, we had nothing particularly urgent to do there, but the fact of an actual plan involving a specific destination made us feel rather busy and important. I promised Marja that we would find her some coffee on the way, which seemed a certainty except that the route to the tourist office seemed strangely devoid of cafes. When we finally passed a tabacco shop/bar there was no time to waste. There was a bit of a caffeine emergency in the works.

It was an ideal location, in fact, because although I don't drink coffee, I did need stamps. I left Marja at the bar and I headed to the back where, by speaking Close-Enough Italian, I was able to purchase some francoboli for my carte postale to the Stati Uniti. When I came back, Marja was standing at the bar* drinking her cappuccino.

* NOTE: My Italian teacher particularly stressed the important fact that in Italy you may either drink your coffee standing at the bar, or you may drink it while seated at a table. BUT BE WARNED: you will pay a great deal more for sitting at the table. This was imparted with the gravity of a true insider tip. Clearly no self-respecting local would pay the exorbitant "table sitting" surcharge. However, being tourists with little or nothing to do other than sit at a cafe table, we were generally willing to pay up the extra Euros. But obviously, on a morning where we had such big plans, there was no time for that sort of thing.

"Hey." I said. "Look at you. Standing at the bar. How'd it go?"
"Well," she said, "it went pretty well up until he asked me if I wanted to drink it here or at a table. At least I think that's what he said. I just smiled and shook my head a lot."

While standing there, I decided I would get a pastry. Fortunately, I knew how to say "I would like a pastry," so that was pretty easy. The man got it for me and I was prepared for him to tell me that it was 70 cents, because, well, that's how much it was. Whatever he said though, was something entirely different. I didn't really concentrate on what it was, I just thought "Ah ha! This is the part where he asks me where I want to eat this. Luckily, Marja forewarned me." Immediately, the word for "here" evaporated from my brain, so I just kept saying it in English. "Here," I say. "Here. Um...Here." I began pointing elaborately from above my head to indicate the very place I was standing. "Here. Right here." I got the giggles. I looked at Marja helplessly. This seemed to go on for ten minutes.

Finally, the bewildered man furrowed his brow and says "A Lucca?" In Lucca? Well, yes. I would like to eat it in Lucca, but far more specifically, I would like to eat it right here, standing at your bar, not even taking one step toward your very expensive tables. I was puzzled. He was puzzled. He turned to his son for aid. The son slowly, but very clearly translated his father's original question. "Where are you from?"

Oh. So I've been insisting for ten minutes that I'm not only from Lucca (despite the fact that I don't speak Italian), but that apparently I was born right here on your bar? Here in your tabbacco shop? Yeah. Well, I was just kidding.

Here's your 70 cents.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

A second butcher's hook

Driving home I saw a billboard that said "You bet your Daisy Dukes." Immediately I thought "Oh, it must be rhyming slang." I spent the time waiting at the red light trying to guess what Daisy Dukes rhymes with that would make sense in a beverage ad. I was coming up blank.

As the light turned green, I turned to give it a second look and discovered that it actually said "Bust out your Daisy Dukes." Oh. Short shorts. Summer. Refreshing drinks. Got it. I shook my head and chastized myself for having read something entirely wrong.

It was several blocks before the more relevant thing dawned on me. This is California. We don't HAVE rhyming slang.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

T-shirts of Italy

As promised. Now, I realize that t-shirts may not seem like a fascinating subject, but that's because you just don't know. They are costly or I would have purchased them. And framed them.

There's really no need to editorialize (although you know how hard it is for me to stop). The beauty stands on its own.

Without further ado, I present: T-shirt Text of Lucca.

Shirt #1

Wear the art in the free style's paradise

Shirt #2 (envision purple puff paint)

SRF all waves in board time

Shirt #3 (quotes theirs, not mine)

Marcello "Come Here"

Shirt #4


Shirt #5 (this is a long one--take a deep breath)

Red and yell
blends standy
jovial and na

Look yo the rose

rose carry
a lot of body

yellow roses
usually stand
for joy and gladness



What else is there to say? Wear the art in the free style's paradise, my friends. And tussie mussies to you all.

Monday, August 01, 2005

No more lollygagging

Yesterday I received a postcard of Vienna that had been mailed from Estonia. It said (among other things) "Hope all is swell with you and your blog. Look forward to checking back in..." Dear god. Thre are people in ESTONIA who are thinking about my blog. This is a high-pressure situation. Clearly, the laziness must be beaten into submission. I cannot fail you, the faithful reader. Who knows how many anonymous Estonians may be fans of mine. Food for thought indeed.

You want travel anecdotes? (Say yes. It will make the fact that you're about to get travel anecdotes less painful.) There are definitely some chart-topping tales, but I'm not going to give them all to you today. We're going to ration them. Sort of more like Hannukah than Christmas.

Today's feature: Miscellaneous facts

1. I met a woman on the plane from Paris to Pisa who was French but lived near Lucca. She was impressively multi-lingual and terribly helpful. Upon meeting Marja in Pisa, she became alarmed and drew me aside to tell me that Marja AT ALL COSTS must purchase a particular sunscreen or risk imminent death. She explained that this particular sunscreen had the powder of it that was not chemical and would not change its properties when mixed with persperation. Marja and I henceforth referred to it as the Powder of A Thousand Virgins, but I think it was actually something else. We could never find it in the pharmacy, but we both managed to escape the Tuscan sun sunscathed despite using sub-par American sunscreens.

I have always considered myself quite pale. Skin cancer runs in my family. Nonetheless, Madame Toussaint expressed no concern for my skin whatsoever. She did not even gently suggest that I get the Sunscreen of 1,000 Virgins, let alone insist. Apparently though, compared to Marja, I appear swarthy and perhaps leathery. Now that I am also thirty-five, I do not find this encouraging.

Nevertheless, we are immensely grateful to Mme. Toussaint and I therefore give you this link to her rental property, Le Glicine We did not stay there ourselves, but I'm sure it's nice. Just in case you find yourself in Lucca and Apartment La Mansarda is unavailable. Which it will be because Marja and I are going back as soon as possible.

2. The people of Lucca do not seem to go to bed before 4am.

3. Yet, at 7:30am, the people of Lucca seem to be quite eager to begin driving small trucks which may or may not be towing running lawnmowers and motorcycles and carrying loads of marbles and broken glass. We never actually saw these trucks, mind you, but we heard them.

4. Lucca is allegedly a pedestrian city, but we spent a lot of time leaping out of the way of cars. This is to say nothing of the bicycles.

5. To save you having to look it up as we did, I'll just tell you now that the Italian word for mosquito is zanzara. Sadly, you will probably need to know the plural: zanzare. If you react as violently to zanzara bites as I do, you may find that it is helpful to put ice on them to reduce the swelling. The Italian word for ice is ghiaccio.

6. The most beautiful confections in Lucca are at Cafe di Sima.

7. Despite being a very small city, Lucca hosts what Marja refers to as the Monsters of Rock festival. Crosby, Stills, and Nash; Jamiraquoi; Lauryn Hill; and James Brown among others will all be rocking Lucca this August. Unfortunately, we were only there for the opening performance by some random Italian man who performs nothing but Ray Charles covers. He is neither black, nor blind, nor dead. I know. We didn't get it either. However, we did get to stand next to a cute policeman during the concert. We also ate gelato.

8. There really is no such thing as bad gelato. This is not true of pizza. Another useful tip: limoncello is very bright yellow which makes it strangely appealling like candy. Don't be fooled. It's stronger than you are. It laughs at you as you slide under the table.

9. If you have a very small wrist and you wish to buy a watch in Italy, just forget about it. All watch faces are the approximate size of Flava Flav's clock.

10. If you are secretly in love with me and planning to propose, I would very much appreciate it if you would purchase the ring from Carli on the Via Fillungo. It is the only store that has ever filled me with jewelry lust. I still wake crying because I did not purchase various antique diamond brooches for 6,000 Euros.

Tomorrow's feature: The t-shirts of Lucca.