Monday, January 29, 2007

And a Few More Things About Italy

Sunday vs. Monday in Florence was like two different cities. ZERO happening on Sunday. Most everything was closed except for church and no one was out on the streets. I woke up on Monday and it was a lively and happening place. Thriving, full of people, all of whom walk about half as fast as I do on extremely narrow sidewalks...My pensione is absolutely charming. Recommended by my friend Claudia, and a little off the beaten track on Via Della Pergola near Galleria Dell'Accademia, and called Residenzia Il Villino and is run by a husband and wife team who are all kinds of helpful, speak perfect English, and provide free internet service...Had nothing but good food today, including a 2.50 panino bollito (boiled beef sandwich) from Nerbone amongst the hoi polloi of Florence at the Mercato Centrale; Bisteca alla Forentina at Sostanza; and gelato twice, including a ricotta with something salty and crunchy in it from Gelateria di Neri on Via del Neri near Santa Croche (they didn't have the gorgonzola gelato)...It's damn near impossible to eat outside on the steps of anywhere here, for the pigeons are the most aggressive I have seen anywhere. Start chowing down, and they come at you like a herd of rats, crowding around and brushing up against your legs. Totally skeeeeeeves me out beyond belief. As I once said to the forest ranger I was dating from Olympia, WA and made him instantly get over me, I hate birds....I now have a wardrobe full of scarves from shopping at the San Lorenzo market, all a mere $12 each...Culture Club is apparently still huge here. I have not heard so much Boy George on the radio since 1985, and it makes me wonder how he can be so unfortunate as to get busted and have to do community service/picking up garbage in NYC for his latest drug escapade when he must still be getting royalties from across Europe.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

My Days in Firenze

We almost finished up printing the latest issue of Visionaire (12 giant size puzzles) on Friday at a plant in Marostica, a gorgeous little walled medieval town at the base of the Alps about 50 km north of Vicenza. After spending three nights in Verona proofing, I was based for two nights in Vicenza. The issue looks amazing--Italians simply know how to print, never showing you anything that isn't almost dead on before bringing you out to the press to sign off. There's an understood craftsmanship about printing in Italy, a certain pride that the pressmen take in their work that doesn't seem to exist in North America printers. My boys in Montreal who do V and V Man have also gotten there, but it took nearly nine months of kicking and screaming about quality and changing every component of the printed page (paper, inks, varnish, tension on the rollers and more) to make it happen.

As I sat in an office at the plant on Friday waiting on sheets, I had this amazing view of the snow covered Alps and contrasted that view with what I usually see at work: the rusty old back of a building on Greene Street. Really not such a bad deal.

Florence is simply gorgeous, and I like it best out of the five cities I've been in on this trip. It's a real, thriving city and when the sun is coming down, the golden tones shining up and down the streets are not to be believed. Obviously, I'm not the first person to realize this. There's good food on every block, not to mention yet another picture of the Virgin Mary or Jesus. Damn. Religous overload. I'm getting a little case of Stendahl's Syndrome (a term coined by a Florentine psychiatrist to describe the overwhelming dizziness that besets tourists when visiting this city from taking in so much art) and am not sure how much more aI can see and absorb. Tomorrow is the day of churches (Duomo, Santa Croche) plus fun at the giant food market and dinner at Sostanza, sort of the Luger's of Florence, and then back to NYC on Tuesday. One thing to note about Michaelangelo's truly stunning in person David: he put some big balls on that fella. Guess that's what helped him defeat Golaith.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

The One Kind of Meat I Won't Eat

I am carefully watching out for the word "cavallo" on menus, as horsemeat is very common in this part of Italy. There is no way I'm eating Secretariat.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Venice Pix

Some images of Venice. The first one was taken behind the god Mars' at the top of the "Stairway of Giants" in Palazzo Ducale. This magnificent palace is the former home of the Doges (sort of the appointed nobleman President of Venice) and was mostly built during its reign as a world power in the 14th and 15th century. The rest are ubiquitous beauty shots. I love the interplay of colors on these buildings.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Italy, the Country of Romance?

My two days in Venice were lovely, even given that the first day in any foreign city is always a bit of a clusterfuck. You don't know which end is up, the money and languages are new, reading the map takes a lot of effort while plotting what you want to see, just ordering food is hard and the jetlag/no sleep is usually working against you. But it's also exciting as all get out to come in from any airport, and see your first glimpse of a place you've only read about.

I seriously have not seen as many people making out in public anywhere else as I did in Venice. Hoardes of maker-outers, every where! Trading silly texts with a new special friend was nice, but certainly no substitute. The locals claimed to me that Venice is relatively empty this time of year, and if that's the case, I can't even imagine the horror it must be in July. It tries to strike a balance between the culture it oozes and the tourists -- not such an easy thing to please on both sides. But Venice does a good job, and I imagine the money that flows in from charging 5 Euro (about US$8) to take the vaporetto (sort of the Venice subway, only a boat) up and down the Grand Canal does not hurt. I sort of figured out in true scamming New York style after my first ride that it's pretty much a free ride (and this was confirmed by the locals), as no one checks a ticket, um, ever...

Getting lost in Venice is apparently very, very common, as I found out for myself nearly every hour. Goddamn 500 year old+ former capitals of empires - could someone back home have thought of a street grid while y'all were out pillaging other civilizations?? You walk down a street that seems logical, but BAM! Run smack into a canal. Hm, that's not a short cut -- There really are no shortcuts, only well-worn routes you should stay on. The streets were mostly empty after 10 pm, and it occured to me that there aren't many really old people in Venice, at least not ones that can't walk, as that's the only way to get most places. I saw an ambulance (ambu-boat?) taking someone out of their home and load them off to wherever for healing. And for the amount of time it took, you'd realize you'd be dead before you got halfway there.

I had a surreal and magical night on Sunday. After having fab dinner at Osteria al Bomba, a bacaro (a wine bar where you stand up while filling up on Venetian snacks called cicchetti) in Cannaregio, there was the great cultural clash of watching the NFL game at an Irish bar with some Brits and about 10 obnoxious Saints and Bears fans (including one, of course, from Columbus, Ohio). I walked 30 minutes back to the hotel after the Saints sadly lost since the vaporetto had stopped running at midnight. After walking along the foggy canals in almost complete silence and being asked for directions 4 times, I found myself smack in the middle of Piazza San Marco, with only two other people, watching the fog swirl around the colonades and rooftops. And I felt truly blessed that this was my life.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

I'm in Tatters (Shadoobie)... Scattered

Two weeks have flown by, fueled by some draining Franklin Street drama, a little too much work stress including a crash course in the fascinating world of injection molding, a touch of new romance, some fun meals with friends and a mad dash towards the plane tomorrow to Northern Italy for 12 days on a work-combined-with -vacation jaunt. Bookend that with a last minute ticket to the sold out Hold Steady show tonight at North 6th (thanks, Heater!) and arrival in Venice on Saturday and I can't really complain. I do hope the recent conflicts with good friends will pass quickly, but otherwise...

I came home this evening to find a letter from a location scout for my favorite show, Rescue Me, on the front door. Whoo hoo -- I am so getting Denis Leary in my house and never letting him leave! It's just too bad they killed off Dean Winters' character last season coz that'd be a dynamic duo to have on Calyer Street. I'm sure they'd go to Cheaters with me.

Quick restaurant rundown:
Peasant (194 Elizabeth btw Prince/Spring)
Came together at the last minute for Julia's 33rd birthday with some excellent girls in the forms of Camille and Shana. Peasant is sort of fancy rustic italian, almost verging on that dreaded "small plate italian" that causes a contradiction in my brain. We had a great and decadent time in the beautiful firelit room thanks a friend hooking us up with champagne to start, tons of appetizers, quail, octopus, too many deserts and a round of digestives to finish it all off. Not sure the food wowed me, but the spirit of the evening definitely did.

La Nacional (239 W. 14th St., between 7th & 8th Aves)
Met Lisa B (I mean, H!) and her gorgeous 6 month old daughter Eva here for some traditional style Spanish tapas on a Thursday night. The restaurant is located on the somewhat mysterious ground floor of the Spanish Benevolent Society, and the interior reminded me of a crappy old sports bar in the midwest. In other words, awesome. Nothing fancy here, but lots of standards like boquerones, a chorizo/cheese plate, gambas a la plancha, and octopus with paprika. The paella gets raves but we were too distracted by the five plates of tapas to go that route.

Dokebi (199 Grand btw Bedford & Driggs)
Miss Heater did not steer Scotty Hard and myself wrong but who was to know there was delicious Korean in Williamsburg? Order from a small traditional Korean menu and grill yer own meat at the table, just like 32nd street, only its even spicier (yay). Nice little bar in the back of the restaurant that looks ideal for (ahem) secret daters.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

The Day I Hung Out with Milo

I found this today via Myspace on my old friend Michelle Bricher's blog. It's a funny story, so I'm swiping her text verbatum, and posting it here. Sorry for leaving you outside during the show Michelle, that's pretty rude...Milo was AWESOME, by the way. Way smart, interesting and really nice. I think I had a crush on him for about 3 years after this night. I still remember it well, as it was a big deal in my 18 year old life to hang out with the singer from the Descendents. And don't make fun of going to see Suzanne Vega -- Milo was the punk rockest, and he wanted see her more than any of us! (His name was Luka?)

Milo the Man, the legend
I was perusing my own blog, wondering what other people would find there if they looked. I had promised a story about Milo from the Descendents. It's sort of silly, really, but I begin.

My friend Susan and I drove down to Cincinnati, I guess to see Suzanne Vega at Bogarts. We didn't have tickets, so I expect we didn't think it would be soldout. Which it was. We were standing in line, when these guys we knew drove up. The only one I remember being in the car was this guy John Coy. John Coy and the boys from California are another story entirely. I don't know what I'd say about them entirely, but all my stories have backstories. That story could conceivably loop around to meeting Dinosaur Jr. It could happen.

Okay, so John Coy drives up with these guys, they're all going to see the Reds play. They drop off this other guy Milo, from the Descendents. He's got tickets to the Suzanne Vega show. He gives Susan one and this girl I sort of knew the other ticket. Her brother was the roadie for a local band at home called the Highwaymen that we would see all the time. I totally loved the Highwaymen. Still have their record around. Anyway, so, they go in. I have to sit outside waiting for them. Waiting. Waiting. Waiting. I was kind of irritated. Finally they come out.

Then Milo needs a ride back to Dayton because the rest of the band is at the game, so Susan offers. He tells me that he didn't realize that I didn't have a ticket, otherwise he would have offered it to me. Milo, I still want to see Suzanne Vega!! Fat Man and the Dancing Girl, you know. You can make it up to me somehow. Maybe some of those Vans you're advertising. Nah. Something else.

Okay, was that worth waiting for? I hope so. It took me a few to type it out. I aim to please.

How John knew the Descendents, I don't know if I'll ever know. Maybe he'll find me someday and tell me.