you can make friends in it. you can cook in it. you can work in it, you can play in it. you can fall in love in it and fight and fall out of love again in it. but maybe julian barnes is right, that you should always avoid falling ill in it...
living in Italy is not hard for me. i see that it is for some of us here. perhaps because i still don't know if i will get to stay, if i will be allowed to continue to live here. perhaps it is a simple matter of my not taking my presence here for granted. the lines don't bother me. italian drivers, the old men at the post office who stand right next to you while you are filling out forms with personal information, looking over your shoulder to see how close you are to being done. the waiter who will refuse to cook your bistecca the way you want it because that's not how it's done.
i am thrilled just to get my codice fiscale card in the mail. because it's a piece of plastic that is relevant in this country and this country alone. because it means i exist here, now. someone somewhere has put me down in a list as some pakistani-born twenty-six-year-old living in Cortona. and because it actually *came*...
in the barnes book, what he was talking about, at the first level, was of course, that when you're sick in a foreign country -- even a country where you speak the language well -- it's hard: one doesn't always know all the words to do with illness. but more than that, he was saying, that if you're unhappy, then being unhappy in a strange land makes it even harder...
[lunedi 23 febbraio 2004 ore 10:05:42] [¶]
for weeks now i have been craving a copy. the way a pregnant woman wants fried bananas -- inexplicably, desperately, at any cost.
that cost turned out to be twelve euros. twelve euros! three times the price i would have paid back in the US. the cost of a MEAL for TWO at Mangiatoia! *and* it was the National Edition (this said with all the scorn of a metro-section-loving-new-yorker).
but, it was there. one, single copy near the Mercato Nuovo in Firenze. held together with a pair of dirty rubber-bands, instead of that once-ubiquitous blue plastic bag that hung on my apartment doorknob every week: the whole delicious world in a rain-proof-roll.
she said it was the only copy she had. i told her that considering all the newstands between Florence and Cortona that i had bothered, it was probably the only copy all of *Tuscany* had...
i bought it.
i went to Ciro's enoteca.
i sat myself in a corner with a glass of Buoninsegna.
and i gorged on it.
(the paper, not the wine.)
all day, people came into the enoteca and saw me and said why won't you come out onto the patio and chat with us instead of being here all by yourself. and i kept saying yes, of course, as soon as i warm up a bit. and i would go back to my paper and hope they wouldn't take it personally when i didn't go out and join them, and hope they wouldn't come back and decide to stay.
i didn't want to talk. i didn't want to listen. i wanted to drink in every incredibly well-written word in every section. i wanted to finger the sunday magazine -- always bigger than other magazines in its span, always signature-thin and always turn-my-pages-glossy. i wanted to enjoy trying to decide how i should read it: front-to-back like i was doing with the main paper? or in selective swoops like i used to, starting always with my favorite, on the last page? i wanted to see what Safire had to say about the ethics of piggybacking on other people's wireless networks. i wanted to know what Elizabeth Arden was giving away if you bought eighteen dollars worth of anti-aging gook. and i wanted to have the silver rub off onto the tips of my fingers.
[mercoledi 18 febbraio 2004 ore 14:15:19] [¶]
so hope feels like a dangerously cheap rubber band. and i am worried i'm stretching too much and the elastic will snap and leave me smarting and sorry.
the ladies at the Questura d'Arezzo turned out to be wonderful. they even made photocopies for me where i was missing a couple of extras in the seven hundred slices of paper that made up my application for my Nulla Osta. they even decided not to have a problem with the fact that the Questura di Firenze had mis-spelled my name on my existing permesso (they did however, make a point of showing the boo-boo to a superior and taking the opportunity to shake their heads at the Questura di Firenze). they even chose *not* to take my nyu degree and it's accompanying translation (done by yours truly), which is just as well because, according to the lawyer, it would have been ahem, "unacceptable".
me no male...
anyway, so it turns out that i am *not* in fact, supposed to hope that there are less than nine-hundred-and-ninety-nine Pakistanis trying to do the same thing i am doing (i.e. - apply for, and get, an Italian work visa within this year's just-issued quota). i am, instead supposed to hope that there are less than two-thousand-four-hundred-and-ninety-nine people from countries *other* than Albania, Tunisia, Morocco, Egypt, Nigeria, the Maldives, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Pakistan who are trying to do the same thing i am doing.
please, please don't let the rubber band snap...
[lunedi 16 febbraio 2004 ore 15:17:32] [¶]
one. i'd love webmonkey. actually. i think i love webmonkey anyway.
two. i'd have bought all the domain names i make silent lists of in my head; all my imaginary web sites, full of imaginary (but excellent) writing.
three. i'd comment my code *only* because it's good programming practice, and not also (and actually mostly) because i like to see the different colored fonts in Textpad.
four. i'd have a web site that linked to all the technology web sites and systems i've built, instead of a blog in Italy.
five. i'd have brought my books on SQL from new york city, instead of my books on on poetry and Calvino.
six. i'd have bought my first computer *before* the age of twenty five.
seven. i'd manage this blog via my own custom-built content management system. then i'd try and sell it.
eight. these numbers wouldn't be spelled out.
[venerdi 13 febbraio 2004 ore 14:20:30] [¶]
sorry. i need to rant for a minute.
i am *sure* that some of the greatest writers in history made atrocious spelling mistakes. i am sure. but i will admit it. i am a spelling snob. i just am. words are too important. if you're going to write something, even if it's an email -- it becomes permanent. as soon as you put pen to paper; as soon as you hit SEND in that Outlook window; or as soon as you hit PUBLISH in your blog editor. you hand over to forever, a representation of yourself.
they're your words. if you are lucky, if people remember them, they will forever after associate *you* with them.
so you might as well make sure they're good ones.
[venerdi 6 febbraio 2004 ore 17:56:04] [¶]
it is funny, Sting has come on, singing fields of gold. i am home early -- early enough to have seen the sunset in the Val di Pierle, and early enough to do a grocery run through Cortona's main square while the sky is still that specific twilight blue, the one that makes every architectural silhouette look like magic, in any place (in this one, it *is* magic). early enough to put on a cd and open a bottle of wine and think about actually using it (the wine) as a writing companion, instead of just eating with it.
fresh tomatoes. Daniel showed me how great the stem of a vine-ripened tomato smells, right after you've pulled the cherry-redness off it. in Canada it smelled wonderful. in Cortona, fresh from the greengrocer who knows everyone in town by name, it smells like it tastes -- like a hundred tomatoes on your tongue, concentrating so, so hard on being themselves.
Ciro taught me how, when you open a bottle of good wine, you should pour just a smidge into the glass first, and turn the glass this way and that so the wine runs all over the inside of it, and coats it with redness, with its flavor. if there are two of you, you pour the smidge into the other glass to do the same. then you pour the smidge down the drain. and *then* you serve.
and Lynda taught me how to wrap my hunk of parmigiano in it's paper, and tie the plastic bag tight around it, and then put it in tupperware, so it stays fresh for much, much longer.
and, i have learned on my own, that i much prefer parmigiano-by-hand, as opposed to grating it. they are called scaglie -- shavings that you work off the sides of the hunk with a not-so-sharp knife. sometimes i like also the mis-sized, mis-shapen crumbles that i get by smashing pieces between my fingers. when i fall asleep later, i can still smell the smoky insistence on them.
[martedi 3 febbraio 2004 ore 11:51:43] [¶]