May 12, 2010

One Year, One Month, Twelve Days Later...

I’m heading back to Rome.

Despite my hiatus from blogging (which directly correlates to my return to the U.S.) I still kept tabs on my favorite blogs. One of them, the Olive Notes, posted a story entitled ‘Back to It’ in which she reflects on writing and her blog. It got me thinking about mine, how my inspiration for writing and my love of life doesn’t seem as focused as it was in Italy. It could be a combination of my American lifestyle, my career, a new direction in my love of life. I use the excuse that I don’t have time anymore (partially true) but more than anything else I feel as if I fallen back into a comfort level in which I don’t get the most out of life. My ever-loving girlfriend (A) is really the only one that keeps me on track with that. I constantly let myself slide.

With that said, I’m getting back into life…starting with my blog. It was initiated as a way to keep friends and family in touch with my life in Rome but morphed into a reflection pool somewhere along the way, one that I direly miss swimming in. I thought it appropriate to start anew with my trip back to the Eternal City. Our impending flight tonight to Rome has the emotional and intellectual juices flowing. There’s so much to see (again) and even much more to relive. Old friends and family are waiting, familiar dishes to be rediscovered, millennia-old streets to trail blaze repeatedly…Rome has seized me once again. Beyond our trip, we now live in the Upper East Side of Manhattan and there’s a whole other city (neighborhood included) to explore and immerse ourselves in. It’s only a two week vacation for A & I but it’s a catalyst. There’s no time like the present.

I’ve spent the last few nights reading old posts of mine and reflecting on where I’ve been, where I’m going, and who/what has shaped me along the way. At 25 I can say that I know who I am, what I want, and whom I want it with (appropriate use of whom?). In reading these old posts I thought about the questions I posed to myself upon returning stateside. I’ve since found a job I’m very happy with and started living a life that has me waking up a gracious man every day. There were questions about friendship and what friends meant to me. I constantly referred to my rooftop, of which I now have one here in NYC (not the same character though). I think about on my posts on positives and negatives of Rome, the beaches, weekend trips around Europe (I never posted on my friend’s wedding in Romania…epic), my family, school, summer, lifestyle…..I love it. I thought back to my guest post for The Lost Girls and how I loved the concept of getting ‘lost’ (congrats to them on the release of their new book and Warner Bros. contracting movie rights to their story). Also, I noticed a theme in many of my posts, with some reference to drinking, either while writing, during sometime in the near past/future, or heading to an alcohol establishment. It’s something I’ll look into.

My blog needs a facelift, I know, and it’s something I’ll work on when I return stateside. Reading Joe’s Italyville and Lisa’s LLWorldTour on a consistent basis gives me a sense of what AOL must have felt like when Google & Yahoo came along. I can’t promise it will be high tech but I can promise my writing will be as insightful (and long winded) as ever.

Love it or hate it…. I’m back

February 8, 2009

A Week of Firsts

I reach back through the last seven days (technically nine since I’m including Friday Jan. 30th) and realize that it truly has been a week of many firsts for me. It makes me think of the old adage “you learn something new every day”. Well, this past week plus I’ve seen, tried, met and/or encountered something new. Much of it revolves around my roommate’s newfound schoolboy crush on a Saudi Arabian woman. I start with the most embarrassing and go as follows:

  • Hurt my ankle playing frisbee
  • Learned a few Arabic words
  • Befriended a group of Saudi girls
  • Saw my first movie of the year (yeah, a stretch)
  • Cappuccino milkshake
  • Ate at ‘Da Francesco’, a trattoria I’ve been wanting to ever since I moved to Rome
  • Drank a ‘Montenegro
  • Met the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the Holy See (and received an invite to dinner at their house)
  • Used ‘Tiger Balm’ (some Chinese version of Bengay but much more powerful)
  • Tried ‘cacio e pepe’…a traditional Roman dish that I have since fallen in love with
What firsts have you experienced of lately??

February 2, 2009

"One Dozen Please" - Nearing the End

I haven’t done a post like this since before my move to Rome and figured it appropriate with my time here coming to an end sooner than later. I have chosen my return flight back to the states for good so don’t be surprised if the rest of my posts here are nostalgia themed or have some kind of reference such as “I remember when…” or “Back in…”. In reading Joe’s last post from Italyville it discussed his three biggest Italian pet peeves. If you get a chance read it because I couldn’t agree more with him, although I would’ve thrown in the way Americans pronounce ‘manicotti’ as well. I have decided to take my ‘one dozen’ and split them; half of what I will miss most about Rome and half of what I can’t wait to get away from. If my memory doesn’t fail I’ll try and do an update days before I leave and compare. So without further rambling…

The Good
1. ‘Those Nights’
– You ever have such a great time with your friends, families, complete strangers…whomever…that you refer to as ‘one of those nights’. A smile creeps across your face whenever you begin to rehash the irreplaceable memories that were made throughout the course of the evening. This past Saturday was one of ‘those nights’ for me and I think I had just as much fun rehashing it the next morning with my roommate than I did actually enjoying it the night before.
2. Food – Getting tired of Italian cooking is a myth and during some of my harsher moods I may consider it blasphemy should you utter such a statement. Yes, it’s always nice to grab a hamburger every now and then but it’s for a chance of pace, to keep your taste buds guessing. I will never get tired of delicious food.
3. Lifestyle – This can completely ruin your day at times, considering Italians’ general lack of urgency, care, interest, and thought among topics that some Americans consider dire to survival. The moment you let yourself go you’ll realize that falling into Italian lifestyle is not only a necessity to getting the most of your time in Italy, you find more happiness in the little things (at least I do). Of course there are parts of Italian lifestyle that drive me crazy (see “The Bad” below) but I’ve come to accept them as daily routine and I get the better out of it for my acceptance.
4. Friends – This year I’ve spent living in Rome has created another life for me. When I look back on the past twelve months I will forever refer to them as “The time I lived in Rome…” They wouldn’t be what they are without my roommate and all the friends I’ve made in the process. Some friends will remain with me for life and some will fade away when I move back to NY, but they are the catalysts that shaped my experience.
5. Rooftop – From the surprise party I threw my roommate to the countless summer days (and nights) it will be difficult to part with my rooftop terrace and all it has to offer.
6. Intangibles – As I depart Rome so ends a year of all the necessary smiles and frowns, thoughts and expressions, and trials and tribulations that shaped my experience. Not so much the memories but something that I feel, the changes present in me…the intangibles. I couldn’t have asked for more.

The Bad
1. Public Transportation – to even begin to get into this explanation will no doubt leave my laptop’s monitor with a hole the size of my fist through it. Third world public transportation puts ATAC to shame, seriously. I asked the driver the other day if the bus stopped near a certain part of town and he told me just to get on and we’ll see. He was too busy listening to the Roma soccer game to answer my question. That was after I waited 45 minutes for a bus that is supposed to arrive every 15 minutes.
2. Italians walking – I believe I may have commented on this before and many people find it adorable to watch old men strolling with their hands behind their backs or little kids walking to school, and it is. But Italians, Romans especially, have this disease that forces them to, despite having most of the sidewalk to themselves, walk directly at you or change course to make sure they cut you off. Maybe they’re so used to driving that way that they find it necessary to walk as such also. My Roman friend put it best, “We’re always in the way…always”.
3. Sexism – I find this more comical then anything else, so I guess I could have categorized it in the ‘Good’ section. It doesn’t matter when you sit down at a restaurant, if you walk into a café first, what order you’re in on line at the mercato…if attractive women are present just get used to the fact that you’re getting served after them. Yesterday I saw a barista stop the order he was fulfilling for a group of old men to service two extremely attractive young women who had walked in.
4. Poor Service – Italians are noted for their food, yes, but certainly not for their service. I don’t mind waiting to receive my food. I actually really like the fact that when you sit down to dinner it’s a whole ordeal that takes all night. What I don’t like is when they bring you the wrong order, forget what your order was, get agitated when you ask for cheese, or spill beer on you and then yell at you when you complain to them about it.
5. Money – Rome is an expensive city, and that’s coming from a New Yorker. Combine the fact that you’re spending in euro & your wallet is empty.
6. Cleanliness – Romans take their city for granted. The way in which they treat Rome is ridiculous sometimes. That can be said for many major cities around the world but the more I travel the more I realize that this city is dirty, and the Romans don’t have a care in the world about trying to clean it up. Foreigners take better care of the city then its inhabitants do. I’m sure to catch some flack for this one.

*Receiving an honorable mention for the ‘Bad’ of Rome is the noise my roommate makes when eating. It sounds like feeding time at the watering hole. He’s going to give me hell for this one.

January 20, 2009

Recapping Life

If you’ve never watched the television series “How I Met Your Mother” I suggest you give it a try. One of the main characters, Neil Patrick Harris, always seems to comment about his blog. It got my thinking about mine, or should I say my cobweb ridden one. My last post was in September and there are many things that people have been asking me about. It may not be the most personal but the best way to solve this is to recap life so enjoy the bulleted version of the last five months.

My last post was in September so why not start there….
-I spent a long weekend visiting Krakow, Poland. To date it has been my favorite city that I visited in Europe so far. This will be the new Prague of Eastern Europe. It’s a clean city with fabulous architecture. Krakow is rich in history, universities, culture and the landscape has escaped tourist overload. Enjoy the food and friendly (yet not very engaging) Poles. We also spent a day at Auschwitz-Birkenau and whatever I write will not do the history that both places hold justice.

-This month was not nearly as eventful as September. Between my trip to Poland and the surprise birthday party I threw my roommate on the roof of our apartment building there was a lot to top. Also, I was in full swing with one of the most stressful terms I’ve had in studying. Not only was the workload enormous but I would be missing the last week of school because I was heading back to NY for a week to see family and friends. I felt slighted when I went home in July for my friend’s wedding, only getting four days to take off (and those included travel time). This made it necessary for me to not only stay diligent with my school work (extremely hard in Rome) but I needed to stay a week ahead of schedule in order to pull this off. Constant presentations, case studies, a night time job, and perfect Frisbee weather drained me mentally and physically.

-My week in NY was spent doing…yup…absolutely nothing. I visited friends, spent time with my family, and even made it into the city for a party my friends planned for me at a karaoke bar in midtown. During this trip I got to see my parent’s new puppy for the first time. If you can recall my dog Riley died in July. My parents had decided that they wanted to get another dog and they pulled the trigger when they got back to the U.S. after visiting me in August. Her name is Bella and she’s an English cream Golden Retriever. This is the first female dog we’ve ever had so my parents anticipate a much calmer, smaller Golden (or at least they hope). I’d be lying if I said it was an extremely sad moment to step out of the car for the first time and not have Riley run out the front door to greet me.

-Thanksgiving…enough said. My roommate made his first trip out of Italy since moving here two and a half years ago (the U.S. excluded) when joining my friends and I for Thanksgiving in Prague. I must have an affinity for Eastern Europe and Prague was no different in the place it will hold in my memories. To justify its rank to all the other places I’ve visited is impossible, as both Croatia and Poland have their own charms equally. Throughout my trip I tried some of the best beer my taste buds have been privileged to enjoy, inhaled a traditional Thanksgiving dinner (turkey, potatoes, pie, etc.), soaked up Prague’s infamous nightlife, explored its history, and befriended numerous Czechs (one of which is visiting next month). Did I mention the night I was locked out of my apartment by the immovable object that was my roommate or the Christmas market debacle?? If you ever get this scenic city remember to take note of the best architecture in Europe (the rumors are true) and try a chicken sandwich from the street. It comes on a roll the size of a hamburger bun but the chicken cutlet is the size of a Frisbee.

-I spent the first half of this month looking forward to the second half. Midway through December I boarded a plan bound for JFK and was lucky enough to spend the next month on Long Island, enjoying the holidays with my family. While home, in typical American fashion, I couldn’t just sit on my ass so I waited and bartended for O’Reilly’s Pub and Restaurant. They deserve the name drop for allowing me to make some money and all the free beer, so there you go. The weeks spent with my family will stay with me forever because, well, they’re memories with the most important people in my life. Why would they not stay with me? I also got to spend an absorbent amount of time getting scratched and bitten by Bella while wrestling with her on the floor of the den (or outside in the snow). I don’t need memories with her. The scars across my arms fill that hole and are a constant reminder that she’s still a puppy. There are countless more stories that scripted themselves during my stay at home and some of them have yet to have a conclusion penned. I guess these unfinished memories were the catalysts for the calming yet anticipatory feeling that occupied me on my return flight to Rome. There’s so much more waiting for me when I get back…

-Currently I’m back in Rome at my friend’s apartment waiting to actually eat something today. Two cappuccinos, no matter how Italian you are, do not constitute a meal at any point in time and it’s six at night so you can imagine the flagrant words coming from my stomach. I’ve preoccupied my thoughts of lately with my impending finish here in Rome (not food despite what you may think). What am I going to do when I finish in March?? Where am I going to go?? Straight back to the U.S. or do I travel?? For how long?? As of now I do not have a return ticket to NY so it seems like an open playing field. There is one thing I do know for sure…I made a promise and I plan on keeping to it. Who are we without our word and integrity -- That’s where I leave you…

September 16, 2008

Disgruntled about Everything (mainly football)

I thought I may be able to get through my entire stay in Rome without venting in any of my posts. Mission failed. The title might be a little misleading but I’m in a sort of rut. It feels like things have been working against me of lately and it’s built up to the point where they need to be addressed without yelling at the top of my lungs. This upcoming weekend’s trip to Poland couldn’t have come at a better town but even in my current state of malaise I’m not as excited as I probably should be. So…in neatly bulleted format with a few laughs thrown in…here’s what’s been grinding my gears:

  • Café Settimiano: The local coffee shop prides itself on serving the students of John Cabot University. Plenty of my friends frequent the spot and many of them are friendly with the owner, who they claim to be such a generously nice man. If he’s so nice how come every time I go there (and I never go there alone anymore) with my friends I always, ALWAYS catch an attitude from him?!? It’s become such a dismal scene for me that I’ll meet my friends there but I refuse to buy anything from the café. Just the other day I ordered a cappuccino and macchiato for my friend and I, drank mine at the bar and left his there while he went to get his attention outside. He stated he didn’t want it so I went back in to get it for myself and PUFF…it was gone. When I asked where my macchiato was I had the barista telling me that I shouldn’t wait so long to drink it (a grand total of 20 seconds) and that he took it away. Naturally, I told him that was ridiculous and to make another one immediately. I paused for a second, debating whether or not to peg him in the face with the glass but I really needed the caffeine and didn’t feel like wasting a euro on this tool.

  • NFL Officials favoritism towards the Patriots: This has been going on for years now and I thought it might end now that Tom Brady is injured but nope, it keeps on rolling. Granted, many teams play as if they’re expected to lose to the Patriots, as my Jets did yesterday, only facilitating the issue but there always seems to be the one point in the game where the Pats need a game turning event and it’s normally provided in the form of a blatantly favored officiating call (i.e. – their ‘roughing the passer’ call yesterday in the fourth quarter on 3rd down). This is football, not chess, and I pretty sure they were going to throw the flag if the lineman breathed on Cassell. It made me want to hurl my bottle of beer at the television and knockout the Pats fan next to me (the anger only applies to sports, I promise). It’s like watching the Bulls when Jordan played. The zebras should be ashamed of themselves.

  • Italians walking: The only time I swerve when walking is on the way home from the bar, although some may challenge me on that. I’ve accepted and adapted to the fact that all Italians, even in a major city such as Rome, are outpaced by tortoise when walking through the streets. Cultural difference noted and compromised. But I am CONVINCED, without a shred of doubt in my mind that they purposely walk in front of you, towards you or in any possible manner that they could get in your way. They do it on purpose, this is not an exaggeration, and for the life of me I can’t figure out why. Not a day goes by that I’ll be walking along the sidewalk, see two ahead of me coming in my direction and kindly move to whichever direction will allow us to pass each other amicably. But oh no!!! At a distance of no greater then five feet they’ll begin to make a b-line straight for whatever path your walking in, stopping face to face with you and putting their hands up as I should have been able to read their mind and know that they were going to cut me off. I could’ve moved to the sidewalk on the other side of the street and they would have doubled back to cut me off. Unreal! I know you’re reading this laughing to yourself but I swear on my most valuable possessions there is a 100% truth rating to this. Anger in check and all, one day I will toss an Italian into the middle of the road for doing it if they complain to me.

  • St. John’s University: Yes, you’re reading this correctly. We’ve moved into a palatial new campus and that’s not an exaggeration. It’s an actual old palazzo, and I love the campus…great neighborhood (Prati), plenty of amenities and nearby shops, and easily accessible. The issue is that ever since we’ve moved here the internet has been spotty at best. You’ll have signal for a minute and then be without it for three. It’s frustrating beyond all explanation, especially when you’re paying enough money to own a small island just to study here. When internet is an integral part of your coursework and communication with your professors just imagine the hindrance generated when you can’t access it. That’s the thorn in my side on this end of the Atlantic. I won’t even begin to get into what a nightmare it is to deal with my Financial Aid office at the New York campus, since all of my finances are handled there. They didn’t even know we had a Rome campus! They’re constantly calling my parents telling them that I have to come in and sign paperwork and fill out forms because of past due payments made. Upon graduation I may send each person in that office a helmet and some swimmies.

  • I’m sick: This is the icing on the cake that’s perpetuating this terrible mood I’m in. My last post was all about the difference in summer season for me here in Rome, and how I still feel like I’m in the summer. Wow did that come back to bite me in the ass. It rained all weekend here in Rome and the temperature dropped significantly. [side note – Doesn’t that always seem to happen?? It doesn’t rain forever and then when the clouds open up it feels like it’s always late Friday afternoon and they don’t close until late Sunday night, just in time for a sunny work week??] The last time I saw rain in Rome was the end of May and just like that fall reaches out and grabs your shoulder. I wore a hooded sweatshirt yesterday!! I guess I could tack the weather onto what’s pissing me off of lately as well. In the interest of time and sanity I’ve listed a few, less aggressive thorns in my side…

- Weather patterns: really, it changed in the blink of an eye
- Noise: it’s normally quiet on my block and surrounding it but lately everyone and their grandmother has a jackhammer or their car alarm is going off at 1 a.m.
- Political questions: I don’t like talking politics at home with Americans. What makes every foreigner think I want to talk about our presidential race with them? It’s impossible to have an amicable debate about politics with anyone.

P.S. -- In reading over my post now that I’m finished, as I do with every one I write, I realize this is a full on ‘bitch session’. Thank you for taking the time to read it and I apologize because I can’t give you back the seven to ten minutes you lost in your life. First round is on me next time we meet. I’m currently listening to the song “I’ll Keep Your Memory Vague” by Finger Eleven and it has a soothing quality to me that’s making me feel much better so maybe that eases the reading somewhat. Download it…