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Thursday, January 9, 2014

That's Amore and the Introduction of a Month of MisAdventures

Hey all! January 9th, 2014

I am finally back stateside from my travels to Rome and want to recount the tale of the last month to you all! I will do short little blogs in (mostly) chronological order but maybe (mostly) themed order. LOL.  I don't know. I want to share about my album, the music, the songs; I want to share about my misadventures with travels and family and food and language.... so I am going to start back almost a month ago..... wait..... three weeks ago, which seems like a lifetime!

Let's go!

Picture it. December 18th, 2013. C & O Trattoria, Venice, California.

There I was, waiting with my boyfriend of 1.18 years, ( Age Caveat! That's how long our relationship had lasted at that point.... NOT how old he was! Yikes.) outside a lovely Italian-esque Trattoria a few steps from the ocean. We were about to have a dinner with my mom, pop, sis, and brother in law.

Now, just over a year previous, approximately 1.28 years in fact, most of us had dined at this lovely restaurant for my sister and brother in law's wedding rehearsal dinner. I was not yet dating my handsome partner (and therefore was shamelessly flirting with lotsa OTHER handsome fellahs, not knowing any better, clueless to the sweetness that was soon to arrive in my life) and much to my GREAT JOY, at 8 pm that night in late August, the wait staff came around with laminated copies of the lyrics to the Dean Martin hit, "That's Amore."

It's best if you watch/ listen to the tune while reading this:

]See, this is a nightly occurrence at C&O Trattoria. That's why my sister chose it for the Rehearsal Dinner! Once the lyrics have been passed around THE ENTIRE RESTAURANT, then all the diners and all the staff sing along, clinking glasses and cheersing one another.

I loved it. I love interactive games and singing, of course. Yup, I'm THAT girl.

Anyway, come back to December 18th. Carlo, my boyfriend, is a proper Italian. As in born and raised in Naples, Italy. And so, I was excitedly telling him all about this fun little trick of the restaurant. Just then, my parents, sister and brother in law arrived.

We ordered, we began to eat... and the clock ticked quickly to 8 pm.

And...  clockwork... the staff handed out those little laminated sheets and the music struck!

Carlo looked at me with wide eyes. He laughed. And we sang! And we clinked glasses! And we sang!

And after, he leaned over and whispered conspiratorially, "I thought you were kidding when you told me they would do this."

Aw. Would I kid about a thing like THAT!?!?!

I think not!

Now, once more, all together now:

In Napoli where love is king
When boy meets girl here's what they say

When the moon hits you eye like a big pizza pie
That's amore
When the world seems to shine like you've had too much wine
That's amore
Bells will ring ting-a-ling-a-ling, ting-a-ling-a-ling
And you'll sing "Vita bella"
Hearts will play tippy-tippy-tay, tippy-tippy-tay
Like a gay tarantella

When the stars make you drool just like a pasta fazool
That's amore
When you dance down the street with a cloud at your feet
You're in love
When you walk down in a dream but you know you're not
Dreaming signore
Scuzza me, but you see, back in old Napoli
That's amore

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Rome, Poetry, and Real Love

January 4, 2014                                                                        Rome, Italy

            “Music, when soft voices die,
            Vibrates in the memory;
            Odours when sweet violets sicken,
            Live within the sense they quicken.

                        Rose leaves, when the rose is dead,
                        Are heaped for the beloved’s bed;
                        And so thy thoughts, when thou art gone,
                        Love itself shall slumber on.”


            How many times during my teenaged years did I recite this poem? There were weeks when I recited it once, twice, maybe even three times a day. I wandered lonely as a cloud through a beautiful and quiet woods that no longer exists. Once on the outskirts of town next to a huge forest, my old neighborhood from childhood and that long-gone forest is now just a series of middle class ramblers and developments.

            And still, I spent those years subscribing to “Victoria Magazine,” walking those woodland paths with a copy of Shelley or Keats or Tennyson under my arm, or later, Mary Wolstencraft or Virginia Woolf. And always, “Anne of Green Gables.” I learned the names of all the trees by their leaves, and found four leaf clovers between wild raspberry bushes. And in the winter, there is no peace quite like the thick deep silence of a snowy woods.

            I spent hours dreaming of songs, of lore, of poems, of history, and… well… to be honest… of love.

            I fabricated a knight in shining armor so smart and kind, and yet a little bit of an intellectual sparring partner; a romance so beautiful (and imaaaaaginary) that I would literally stay home some nights to continue the saga in my mind. It took many years of practicing “BE HERE NOW” and “BEING PRESENT” to snatch me from my daydream life, so that I may have THIS one I was actually living.

In fact, this was the theme of the last five years of my life: accepting what is, being grateful for what I have, and bearing no attachment to the outcome of my artistic labors. i.e.: Singing for joy and joy alone, rather than for some idea of success.

            Yes, of course I am ambitious. And of course I am PRACTICING the aforementioned. I am no master (yet) of certain of these habits. I have reaped immense benefit from letting go of the past, letting go of the future, letting go of judgment, and of stopping the LIVING IN MY HEAD. I live life here, and am finding more and more amazement in that life HERE, wherever that HERE may be.

            So HERE I AM in Rome, Italy. It would be extremely unlikely to be sad or disappointed in anyway in ROMA! Of course, those among us who carry the melancholic artist’s torch can find such ecstasy in the agony of the romance of Rome. Especially these days, a foggy drizzle descending upon the narrow streets.

            And what have I found so far? So many things. Many. I would love to be sharing all my experiences with you- adventures in food, in speaking Italian, in family, in history. And in time, I will. But! For now I will share a few items for those among you who share a fondness for romantic experiences.

            I want you all to know. I could never have been in the relationship I enjoy today if I were still living in my head. As beautiful and wonderful as my mate is, I would never have been able to notice it because I was always looking at what was missing- and being in an idealized world in my head meant SOMETHING was always missing. Not with the guy in front of me, necessarily. If the guy wasn’t that into me, great! Unrequited love was SOOOOO romantic! Right? WRONG.

            If the guy WAS in to me, clearly, there was something wrong with him. Not necessarily as a symptom of my own fear of intimacy, mind you. Oh, no, no. Of course not. (Wink.) Probably he was, well, you know, he was 5’11” and I liked guys who were 6’ tall. Or he was a cat lover and I was allergic. Or he drank just a little tooo much or he liked the Packers and I was a Vikings fan (this is a snort and a half. I haven’t watched a football game but once in six years!) or blah blah blah blah blah blah.

Bottom line was: if the guy wasn’t into me, I could safely avoid intimacy and sharing my real self by projecting some romantic ideal onto him and then pining after that. If he WAS into me, then I would find anything wrong with him that I could to RUN AWAY.

Shockingly, none of these habits led to positive and joy-filled relationships.

But, I was willing to change my ways and see my bad habits. I was willing to learn and to grow. And so I did.

            Let me tell you. I worked on this for years, practicing dating guys with no attachment to outcome. (What do you mean, I’m just getting to know a guy for… gasp…. Fun!.....) Truly. I went on many dates with many men, some nice, some not so nice. All ages, all races, all incomes, all heights, all weights, all styles, all religions. I practiced looking for things to like and being honest about what I didn’t like. (Honest with myself, that is.) I had to rewire my system. I forgot about all my poetry and romance, at least for a little while…

            And I met this guy. This wonderful, talented, smart, honorable, kind, handsome guy I am dating. At first, and he knows this so it’s not like I am revealing anything too intimate here, I thought he was very cute but not really interested in me. He probably liked tall skinny blonde models. I mean, who doesn’t, right? And then, slowly, as we got to know each other, I began delighting in surprise after surprise. He wasn’t the kind of guy who swept a girl off her feet when first meeting her. And so in the past I may have moved on quickly, because he was neither totally into me nor totally NOT into me. He was open and available without being needy or pressing.


            And so, in kind, I responded. We courted. We took walks. We got to know one another And what surprises befell me: he loved classical music, especially Chopin. He read Osho. We differed in opinions over which era had better pop music, the 80s or the 90s, but I learned to love cheesy love ballads because I could hear them through his ears. In fact, I let go of being too cool for school and just started enjoying songs I had before only listened to furtively on deserted highways in the middle of nowhere. I let myself go. I stopped trying. And I got to know this guy, and every day there were- and are- more surprises.

            For example, and back to TODAY and this blog. My beloved is a natural born Italian and we are visiting his family for the holidays. We have been having a wonderful time, hanging out with his family, eating all manner of delicious food, checking out piazzas in the lovely lilting rain… This morning, Carlo pulled out a tome from his childhood bookshelf. It was his English Literature book from high school. And with great nostalgia, he opened it to the English Romantics. Together, we read Shelley, Byron (my old poetry flame) and Keats (his favorite.) It struck me: I worked so hard as an adult to never expect such a romantic experience ever in life, although as a young girl I had pined after such an experience rather passionately. Only once I had let go of that attachment, that need, was it EXACTLY WHAT I RECEIVED: my handsome partner holding my hand, reading from my favorite poets, which were some of his favorite poets, too. I died a million unrequited loves in that moment and was born again in a healthy relationship based on respect, encouragement, and shared passions. Wow. 

            So, when we learned that Il Cemetiro Accatolica was open until 5- aka the English Cemetery- aka THE PLACE WHERE JOHN KEATS WAS BURIED… I delighted in another strange discovery that I am not the ONLY weirdo who finds cemeteries romantic.

            And a perfect day it was for a cemetery full of cats (there is a cat rescue within the cemetery grounds) and poets. It rained in the late afternoon, leaving the green of the trees dark and moody, saturated with the fullness of living. Carlo used his father’s tartan umbrella as a walking stick as we went in search of the tombstone on which reads: “Here lies one whose name was writ in water.”

            As we happened upon it, it got me thinking, of course, about the ephemeral nature of life, and how lucky I am to be here, to be me, to have this fleeting moment. And then, there was that hearkening to something just outside of my awareness of love- that is what always draws me in to poetry and music - and then, leaving those thoughts for another time or another thinker, I smiled as Carlo reached for my hand and nodded “yes” to his question: “ready for a cappuccino?”

            Later that evening, back at his mother’s home after dinner, Carlo showed me another English text book in which was written a quote from the composer Chopin:

            “To me, you are the gate of paradise. For you I will renounce fame, creativity, everything.”

            Then he said, “Look! When I was 17 and a foreign exchange student in the UK I replaced the beginning of this quote with, ‘To me, your eyes are the gates of paradise.’ And I told that to a Finnish girl! It was a line I used!”

“Did it work?” I asked.

He responded with a nod half yes, half no. “I got only one kiss, and not even a French kiss.”

            I laughed. Oh, guys. They will say anything when they are 17 (ahem. Or 27, 37, 47...) And us girls? Will we believe it?

            After all, I’m part Finnish myself.

            I don’t need to believe it. I just experience it.

Here’s to the proper use of poetry, and the responsible use of kissing.


Ciao for now,