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so for those of you who are wondering what on earth is going on in this month's Token Picture, i thought i should take a little time to talk about the town in which i happen to work.

Lisciano Niccone is a north-facing village on the edge of Umbria, sort of nudged up against a Cortonese hill that marks the very end of this pocket of Tuscany (lovely Cortona itself is twenty minutes away via the aforesaid hillside, on what we at the office like to call the Vomit Road).  you are all probably wondering what Lisciano Niccone being a north-facing village has to do with anything.  well let me tell you, a lot.  you see, Lisciano Niccone is a different weather system to the rest of this entire region.  Lisciano Niccone is almost *always* grey and overcast.  we are not even talking overcast like England, or an Edward Munch painting.  when you make that last curve on the Vomit Road i mentioned earlier, you suddenly see the valley in which this town sits down below you.  or rather, you don't, because it is one big bowl of grey cloud.  this is after you have gotten in the car in Cortona, less than 10 miles earlier, to sky that looks like it has never even met a cloud.

downtown Lisciano Niccone (snicker) is where our office is located, as is also located:
- exactly one pizzeria
- one bar/tabacchaio
- one butcher
- the local post office
- and of course (as in any place where more than five Italian families happen to live), the main piazza with the requisite monument to Garibaldi.

most days we come in around eight-thirty am, and head straight to the bar/tabacchaio for thankfully-good coffee and that introductory few minutes our eyes need to get used to how much darker it is down here.  since this is the only bar/tabacchaio in Lisciano Niccone, there are already quite a few people here by this time, getting their morning capuccinos: the lady who works at the post office, the waitress who works at the pizzeria, and the butcher who works at the um, butcher's.  there are also several pensioner-contadini and muratori (or labourers), having their morning glass of red wine, sambuca, martini-bianco and/or a fluorescent pee-colored concoction referred to as una strega (literally: witch, sorceress, or old hag).  many of these men, though they have not actually been working in the fields or on building-sites for many years now, are still in their work clothes and work boots.  many, unfortunately, also smell like they have never actually taken off these work clothes and work boots.  and more than a few of them have extremely disturbing face and hand injuries -- we're talking very large bandages wrapped around heads and noses, missing fingers, etc.

you get to sit and watch all this while Mafalda and her husband dodder about behind the bar getting your morning pastry warmed up (but always perfectly-ice-cold in the middle, of course!) -- and then later you get to sit at a table outside and see if one of the local dogs will come by to pee on your handbag.

later, you'll come back down from the office to go to the pizzeria next door, where the waitress will probably mess up your order, but at least the house wine is cheap and dulls the waiting.

and lastly, if you come into work at Lisciano Niccone a little earlier than usual, you will have to wait in your car on the main road into town while sheep mill around your four-wheel-drive and look confused.  like in this month's Token Picture.

[nightingaleshiraz] [?]
[Via Canutola, Lisciano Niccone]
[martedi 15 giugno 2004 ore 10:54:07] []


until exactly three minutes ago, this had been a week almost entirely taken up with mild, but vaguely vertigal panic.  you know that special kind of gentle hum that comes with knowing those blasted ends just don't seem to want to meet.  when you worry slightly embarassedly whether you should actually be getting a kitten at this point in your financial unsituation.  and all sorts of other thoughts, that have that uncanny ability to come fast and loose when you're alone and doing laundry.

well three minutes ago, i suddenly remembered (and this has been a while, so it felt like someone had opened something and there was a breeze) that, hey, i am here.  that i had this thing i had wanted to do for five years.  more than anything.  well except maybe not more than apprenticing as a car mechanic.  but more than everything else.  and well, now -- i'm doing it.  i don't know quite how many Euros that counts for, but i'd say it's worth something...  and, contrary to what you might think, making a few dreams come true actually *does* help keep you warm at night.  more than you'd expect.

[nightingaleshiraz] [?]
[Via San Benedetto, Cortona]
[giovedi 03 giugno 2004 ore 23:01:30] []


the interesting consequence of my new-found fascination with the whole "Oggi in Edicola" phenomenon, is that i end up having far more Italian journalism in my living room than i would in any normal country (where they didn't give-away dvds, handbags, bikinis and perfume-bottles with the various weekly magazines).  of course, i am also starting to have a few more handbags, bikinis and perfume-bottles than i know what to do with...

so anyway.  what with Donna Moderna, La Repubblica's Espresso, and my flagrant disregard for that cardinal rule of Italian Table Manners (non si parla di religione, o di politica a tavola), i am learning quite a lot about this country's political and electoral system.  (i am also, as it happens, helping to spread general awareness among Italians of the fact that all muslims are not in fact fundamentalist jihad-happy nuts, but that's another story.)

the word urna, which is Italian for a cinerary or burial urn, is also how Italians refer to the ballot box.  so, when Italians talk about going to the urns, they're not telling you they're all about to collectively die and be cremated, but that they are going to go off and vote.  

and waiting for election results -- attendere il responso delle urne -- is, of course, all about waiting for "the response from the urns".  i don't know how many more make-up totes and beach pareos i'll need to collect before i get to the bottom of where *that* comes from...

[nightingaleshiraz] [?]
[Via Canutola, Lisciano Niccone]
[giovedi 03 giugno 2004 ore 12:39:57] []


today i got my first real blog-specific compliment.  thank you Jim (!) for saying,  not just that i-write-alright, but for saying that you actually check back to see what's new here.  ouch.  to think that this url might, maybe, actually, be in somebody's Favorites folder...  makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.  imagine what would happen if i were actually published, and if i saw someone on the bus reading my book.  i cannot help thinking of a friend of a friend, who has full blown orgasms from walking on beach sand.  such a lucky woman...

[nightingaleshiraz] [?]
[Via San Benedetto, Cortona]
[martedi 01 giugno 2004 ore 18:26:29] []