Sunday, August 7, 2016

How they do

It's Sicily. skip rocks into Africa. watch the second hand tick counterclockwise. be fed by gavage because thats the kind of hospitality we're talking about. and see the boys who trade their pants for a smile and never forget their purse on an evening jog. 



Thumbs are always up.



Alternatively, the leg is up.


Things don't always work, but you don't really mind.




Signage can be misleading. 



"European citizens, over 65 years of age, has been abolished."

Free to do what exactly? 

No idea.


Eat cannoli and sfinci di san giuseppe. prepare yourself for a seven hour period of self-loathing.



Revitalize with the typical breakfast of lemon granita sandwiched into a brioche bun. "molto fresco per l'estate" translation: Fresh AF. 


Eat seafood. Wade in waste deep to the mediterranean and scoop urchin out with your finger, dip it in your pie hole.






Order a pizza with fried eggplant on top.


 Try all the flavors of tiny artisan gelato. 


Drink a beer and stare into blue.


Marvel at oldies but goodies.






Let the beauty of each day heal you. 



If life has had you eating hot turd panini on the daily, go to Sicily and trade it for a lemon granita sandwich. Go to the place where you're reminded of the most basic but most fundamental of life's pleasures- a full belly, the love and affection of friends and family, the warmth of the sun on your face, dried salt on your body. It is here where I felt again for the first time in a long time the serenity that pairs with unadulterated happiness. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Better to go riding a missile

Dennis. The Sinhalese legend that is my housekeeper (but so much more) has been an increasingly relevant part of my life since I moved to Italy, and over the last five years I have come to truly appreciate him. 

Dennis often brought gifts 'just because' (gentlemen, take note). Once I casually mentioned my love for spicy food, and the week after found this


(He always leaves notes with his offerings.)

OLIVIA
        THIS IS FOR YOU
   TRY IT. 
                  BYE.


But aside from his gifts, he was a generous spirt and always motioned to support me emotionally. Our bond evolved when he had my back during my breakup last year

"where is doctor?"

 I could not tell a lie. "He is staying with a colleague. He left me."

-stares blankly- then:

"NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO. I CAN'T BELIEVE IT. NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO. WHAT WHAT WHAT WHAT WHAT WHAT WHAT WHAT. NO NO NO NO NO NO NO"

I stood in silence waiting for him to ride out the wave of disbelief. Then, his advice:

"I think he found someone better than you, someone more rich, more money. You were very foolish, you know why? Because you lived with him for this long and you didn't marry him sooner. Now you have to go out there and find someone better than him, but this time don't be foolish, you take the next man by the neck [extends arm with clenched fist] and you marry him before he leaves you." 

-sighs-

"I just can't believe this."

-long pause-
[shakes head]

"Don't his parents like you?"

"yes they do"

[angry tone] "THEN WHY CAN'T THEY FORCE HIM TO MARRY YOU?"

[i laugh] "No, I don't want to be --" [cuts me off]

[shouting] "WHY not? WHY can't they? THEY CAN FORCE HIM TO MARRY YOU. THEY HAVE TO"

-long pause-
[shakes head]
[looks defeated]
[sighs]

"Did he at least get you a nice Christmas present?"

-------------

It was not uncommon for Dennis to keep in touch, to send me regular text messages. Every woman likes their guy checking in. His messages were often a mystery to unfold, but at least I knew he was always there.





As an employee, he was deliriously punctual, perhaps to a fault. He used to start work at 8:30, but when I asked him to start coming at 9am instead, he continued to arrive at 8:30 but would then wait outside the flat until 9. Over time he started to sneak in a few minutes before 9. Last week he walked in twelve minutes before 9 (he has a key) while I was standing butt naked in the kitchen with a boiling kettle in my hand. What could I do other than scream? He ran out.


In spite of my love for him, he has driven me absolutely nuts on certain occasions. It's happened more than once that he unloaded a dirty dishwasher. And just last week I asked him to swap out the duvet covers and pillow cases, and instead of pulling off the dirty stuff to wash, he simply layered the clean linens over the dirty ones. This was the second time he did this. (The first time I searched my house up and down for 24 hours to find where he had stashed the dirty sheets).

But then he goes and does that gift just because thing and I am made weak to my frustration: 



Always a note, this time on graph paper:

                I have left you
a small gift.
I hope you would
like it. See you
on monday.
                Bye.
                Dennis. 


In anticipation of us going our separate ways, last week Dennis asked me for two letters of recommendation, one in Italian and one in English. He specifically asked they be hand written. On Monday I gave him his letters, scribbled in pen per his request. To his future employer I left out the part about the dishwasher and the duvet. I mentioned instead his honesty, trustworthiness, kindness, and punctuality. Then we hugged for perhaps the last time and said goodbye. He left, I cried. 

In a few weeks I will be moving out of my apartment, the place I made a home. I'll be leaving Italy and not sure when or if I'll be back. But I will always remember this man I loved, my friend Dennis. I have a singular photo of him, in which his t-shirt brilliantly captures his imperial status: "It's better to go riding a missile".  




Sunday, June 26, 2016

not my day job

that one time fashion goddess Tamu McPherson and the machine that is Vanity Fair immortalized me. well, for a week. 











Saturday, June 11, 2016

the weekly newsletter


As the season for obligatory near-nudity fast approaches (groan), I had every intention of staying active during my long weekend trip to London last week. I was also as enthusiastic as tepid can be about my plans to experience the city like a true tourist.

I can't count how many times I've been to London, four since this February alone. My father lived on a wharf of the Thames for much of my childhood so from the age of ten I kind of gave up on actively getting to know it, the way one so regrettably does when he believes he'll always have another chance. So despite my UK citizenship and frequent visits, I really don't know the place at all. I was intent on changing that last Friday. 

The first thing I did upon arrival was take off my shoes and walk straight into a wall. My pinky toe in martyrdom beared the full weight of my inertia and now I needed morphine. 

I instinctively stood on my injured foot with the healthy foot, remembering that lecture in neurophysiology about the Gate Control of Pain: 

"Observe the figure of the dorsal horn, which shows that large, mechanically sensitive A-beta afferent fibers in the skin excite interneurons that inhibit C-fibers- the neurons that carry pain information from the dorsal horns to the thalamus via the anterolateral tract".  

In other words, destroy thyself and then quickly put pressure on the surrounding area for fast and natural pain relief. If you've ever had a bikini wax you know what I'm talking about. For emotional pain instead, just pour some liquor on it.





Consequently spent the other morning in the emergency room waiting for my X-ray to reveal just how bad the break was. As I waited there I read very publicly the only book I had around- a self help about divorce. Other patients kept interrupting me to ask "what I was in for" the way they do in prison movies. The situation was dire and the wait was long.  When the orthopedic surgeon called my name I quickly hobbled over to get my results so I could finally be vindicated for the fact that I could no longer walk to the bar to order my own tequila. I was sure it was a fracture. But apparently medical school taught me nothing of practical use because there was no fracture, not even a shadow of a very minuscule one. Zilch. All I learned is that I have no excuse, and that I'm becoming more of a twat as I get older. I also still don't know anything about London.




I was ordered to "chill", so I worked from home for a few days. This afforded me the opportunity to also take care of things like laundry which I hadn't done in a while. On Wednesday I threw in a very big load. And since Wednesday my clothes have been in the washing machine. For reasons I've yet to understand, that machine spontaneously stopped working with the door locked, effectively holding all the dirty water and all my underwear hostage. I really don't know who to call or what to do so I'm just ignoring the situation until it resolves itself. 

This reminded me of hanging with the girls in Hungary last summer. It was here that my mother fully developed her "never throw anything away, no matter how functional or dysfunctional" attitude. She believes that things with no obvious utility in the present may eventually reveal their utility in the future. She and my grandmother were right about the vintage Russian washing machine that still, after more than half a century, is able to purge our unmentionables of their impurities. Meanwhile my German-made four-year-old device is currently challenging its worth on this planet. For now, I'll hold on to it holding onto my clothes. You never know what could become of it.




The best part is at the end of the clip when the machine stops and you can hear my grandmother come to its defense: 

"it just needs to rest for a moment." 

Words of gold, words to live by. 

---------------------------------------------------UPDATE!!------------------------------------------------

Current mood: feeling like a domestic hero.

Since writing this post, I received some virtuoso advice from several irreplaceable members of my social network and managed to fix the washing machine all by myself! All it took was uncapping the filter, flooding my bathroom with putrid, filthy, three-day-old lint water, and blindly digging my meandering hand up the washing machine's insides to search for anomalies that might be clogging the system. And I found them- two pieces of pocket-essential material! This is the kind of thrill-seeking that happens after age 30, and I've never been so satisfied. 



Monday, May 30, 2016

from ardor to ennui, (and back)

today i got a love letter.

though I generally believe correspondence best kept private, sometimes the words hand-picked by an artisan of the pen are too beautiful, too poetic, too funny, and too inspired not to be shared.
--
i'm so glad to hear from you. I think of you so much as well. almost weekly you pop into my thoughts. A delightful pause in the usual hamster wheel.
I am doing a lot of work. Too much perhaps. I am, as the French say, tres fucking tired. I have so many things I want to do and I keep pretending I can do them all. Still in SF doing graphics and the occasional architecture assist. Moving my way through 7-10 yrs Master Sommelier court, and also making clothes, where a future business may bloom. And then of course there's the supplementary bottle service job I do for a giant night club that makes me loads of money while only claiming 8 hours of my week, constantly making me question all things life. All over the place. Emphatically bestowing my mother with high blood pressure and likely at least a few cerebral conditions. But it’s the least I can do to stay positive in the midst of what is most definitely the saddest turn of events in American history. Come November, you may have an indefinite house guest.
Being in our 30’s is interesting, isn’t it? I cannot recall a time I’ve ever felt so present. I have more moments than ever where I’m too tired to nap and too weary to drink. Probably because no one has designed a silent cocktail shaker that allows me to make my martinis without fear of my fellow cohabitants knowing the severity of my drinking desires. Living at a point in our nation’s history that lacks any oxygen to feed the breath of progress nor exits for escape. Yet I must remind myself that: optimism is better than the alternative, and clearly Prince should have run for president. How rare, and powerful, and absolutely intoxicating it is to see a person so fearlessly dedicated to being themselves. And also there’s water on Mars. And also a pope in the Vatican who preaches love, humility, and universal kindness.
So, aside from modern American life being depressingly shallow and isolating at times, my increasing use of cuss words far too casually, and loving vodka and it not loving me back, I think I finally have adulting down. Though by most people’s standards, I should be making more money and working towards the wedding and the family and the property and the possessions and knowing more important people. But I have never really wanted any of that. I prefer ascetic fulfillment to material success any day. I want to make things. Not manage process (which is apparently where the money is). I want to care deeply rather than vest quickly. I want an adulthood that most people don’t think is feasible. And I want it to be honored and supported properly. I mostly have that here. I love San Francisco. Like intensely love it. Some days I’m all like “It’s kinda cool that there’s a dude in the neighborhood who plays the bagpipe in his front yard.” And some days I’m all like, “Nah man. This aint cool.” More the former though. And I have an amazing boyfriend. Who shares my tragic and comedic awareness that every person will frustrate, anger, madden and disappoint us, and we will undoubtedly do the same to them.
Which brings me to you. No one is exempt from this type of loss. Love doesn’t care about our feelings. It doesn’t care what we believe in or what we sacrifice or what our dreams are made of. Love is not a thing forged and broken in a moment. It’s a thing forged and broken over many strikes of the hammer. Sometimes someone just needs to take love out to pasture and old yeller it. I encourage you to keep wearing your experiences more as a medal than a scar to hide. It makes you cooler than most and more honest than many. Don’t hold on to the past so fiercely and blindly, as that memory which prevails upon you to recreate itself is, most likely, a well constructed lie. Don’t try to make any sense of what happened. Ever. For the rest of your life, if you can. You’ll never find the right construction of ethos to capture it. Just be eternally grateful for it, defined intrinsically by those who have given love to you most, and the way you’re then able to give love, and be changed forever by it. Always. It’s hard to have new awareness and capabilities everyday. You’re so intelligent. Sensitive. Kinetic. Charming. A lover and a fighter. You have a wonderful ability to suck the air out of the room and return it in the form of laughter. You are terrifyingly strong willed, just like your beautiful mother. Heart achingly independent. And a testament to the importance of intelligence, ambition and endurance. We control only one thing in our lives…The decision that life is worth living. Not our health. Not the tragedy. Or the victories. Not the trajectory nor the stability. Only the idea that we believe it is worth the effort and the reward. No one said it was going to be easy. Only important.
When you’re back in the states I will find you. I wish I had known you were in my area for NYE. I would have whisked you off to my favorite Karaoke bar where being left of sober is dangerously easy and fun. Where, if pickles and martinis aren’t making things better, things weren’t ever really going to get better anyway.
I’m off to be the low battery smoke alarm hunter.
--

Rooftop of the Duomo, Milan
photo by Morgan Moller

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Cuba

One month ago I was alone on a coach from Trinidad to Havana. The woman to my right was using a compact mirror to pluck her eyebrows. I have this issue with hair once it becomes detached from the body. The thought of it makes me gag, in fact I am gagging right now just thinking about it, particularly the image of long strands curling up in the back of my throat - having been chaperoned there by a food vehicle - or the sticky root of a stranger's short hair attaching to something close to me. This was a six and a half hour ride so I vowed to keep my cool and instead focus on something else, ANYTHING else, for instance the clock that was perpetually stuck counting the seconds of minute 22:00. 


Six hours into the journey, my neighbor had fully groomed herself with deodorant, makeup, and of course a new set of manicured eyebrows! I had watched the broken clock oscillate from 22:00 to 22:59 roughly three hundred and sixty times, when she very suddenly shrieked, stood up, and started to wipe herself down the way one does before getting out of the shower (you do that too, right?). Her hair and clothes were soaked and her fresh mascara smudged, meanwhile I was perfectly dry. I was slightly dozy so it took a moment to understand that the air conditioning supply had cracked, drenching her with fluid from the vent above. I suppose I do believe in the spiritual principle of cause and effect, but as a tendency don't see karma as something that operates incidentally and with immediate turnaround. Never would I wish ill on anyone, but I couldn't help my slightly sinister smile as I offered up the full supply of my kleenex.

If you've been to Cuba or you're planning a trip, perhaps you have learned that the mainstay of accommodation is the Casa Particular. It's a homestay/b&b most often with a private room and bathroom that will cost you $25-30/night. Hotels, conversely, are extremely expensive, outdated, and frankly, really fucking sad. I stayed in one in Cienfuegos that had a stainless steel steam table pan filled with a heaping pile of potato chips as a main course at both the dinner and breakfast buffet. When Morgan went to ask for a mojito, they told him they didn't have any. Now, I'm not the kind of person to indulge in a poor-customer-service fueled rage scene, but this is an "all-inclusive hotel" in CUBA and there are no mojitos! ZERO mojitos. Like, NONE. So he asked for a bottle of water. NOPE. None of those either. Then a roach landed on Morgan's dad in the shower. Then liquid from an unknown source landed on my stash of Cohibas, rendering them untokeable. The sliding door to my hotel room didn't lock nor close which i wouldn't have really cared about had the hotel not taken on the Wes Anderson meets serial killer vibe. Oh, and don't even think about using the internet- the dial up hotel computer I used to try to email my mum abruptly shut down (like screen went black) after I searched "google.com" and apparently "violated the terms of agreement". 

Havana is pretty cool, boasting a range of architectural milieu unique to each neighborhood. Old Havana is beautifully maintained and charming. Vedado has a vibe I can't quite describe. There are pristine streets and others quite rough, though the only time I ever felt unsafe was walking past a nail salon on Simón Bolivar at the same time the aesthetician was dumping out the tub of dirty foot water into the street (as one does) that splashed all up my bare legs, front, and face. Microbiological disaster. 

Public busses bump reggaeton and are often packed to the maximum with live human body parts dangling out the door and windows. People salsa dance in the street. Food is not the country's highlight, though unlike every other travel experience of my life, I didn't puke once! Infrastructure is behind but Cuba is socially progressive- Mariela Castro herself leads gay rights parades, and sex change surgeries are paid for by the state. Mojitos don't actually get old and neither does live music. If you don't smoke cigars, now is a good time to start. People are friendly, sociable, and educated.  Air is smoggy. Planes to take you home don't necessarily show up. Do you mind? Not too much. 


National Capitol Building from Paseo de Marti, Havana

Paseo de Marti, Havana

Paseo de Marti, Havana
Plaza de la Revolución, Havana

La Bodeguita del Medio, Havana

around the corner from Romeo y Julieta cigar factory, Havana

shoes and socks and music of Trinidad

Trinidad


Tobacco farm, Pinar del Rio

Viñales Valley

"which way's the beach?" Cayo Jutías

Coconuts of Cayo Jutías

Trinidad; photograph by Morgan Moller