Thursday, April 30, 2009

Mrs. Berlusconi is not happy.

A friend in L.A. sent me this New York Times article.

This is really something. Could you imagine if Hillary Clinton, Laura Bush or Michelle Obama wrote an article to "The Washington Post or "The New York Times" about how annoyed they were with their husbands...the President of the United States?

If I wrote a script about this soap opera no would believe it.

I'm happy the emergency services for the earthquake were well organized. I'm not sure if Silvo B. can take all the credit for that. God knows if they were a mess he would have found a way to blame the PD (the opposition party).

I'm curious to know who votes for him. Only one friend of mine actually voted for him (she has a personal dislike for Veltroni) and as a result when we are with mutual friends we try to avoid discussing politics less a screaming match breaks out. During the election last year I was having lunch with her and another friend of ours. It got so heated I was worried the owner of the restaurant would ask us to leave.

I do realize it's hard to run against someone who control 95% of the TV market. However, the PD needs to get it together. It's not enough to say vote against this man/party because they don't have a plan for our country. You have to give people a reason to vote FOR you, not just against the other guy.

During the Ann Richards re-election campaign everyone just knew we were going to beat Bush. I mean come on! However, we got SPANKED. Karl Rove and co. ran a very disciplined campaign, while we were all over the place. We had no message other than GWB (aka Shrub for little Bush) shouldn't be Governor. We neglected to say why voters should re-elect Ann. Thanks to that loss, GWB was able to run for President.

Silvio B. does put his foot in his mouth a lot. But like the article says, he's like Teflon. I'm not a fan but he has charisma. Like in the States, most of the electorate gets their news from TV not newspapers. Unfortunately sound bites are very important. No one has time, other than political junkies, to hear/pay attention to long policy speeches. Given the ADD in our Twitter culture this is only going to get worse.

The PD needs to find a message that resonates, have concrete plans to fix the issues in the country, have a vision for the future as the global economy continues to impact Italy in good and bad ways and most importantly find a spokesperson who can connect with voters.

Voters need an viable alternative. Like we say in American politics, "I'd rather vote for the devil I know than the one I don't."

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Italian Driving School Diaries - I PASSED THE WRITTEN EXAM!!!!

Seriously, I have never studied so hard for a freaking test in my life. The three months of classes, taking practice exams and studying every night paid off.

I was nervous until I saw the first question. Then I relaxed. At that point what could I do?

Andrea, our instructor, from the school drove (he has a SICK ride) us out to the place located somewhere way north of the Center. A fellow American and I had to go to the Italian DMV since we were taking the test in English. The other students were able to take the test at a school but starting next month, all tests will be computerized.

Andrea waited with us as the results came in. He gave me a thumbs up but I couldn't get too excited because the other student failed. I felt celebrating would have been in poor taste.

While I still think the prices are quite high for the Autoscuola, you are getting your money's worth. The school does all the paperwork. After seeing the lines at the DMV, I'm happy about that. I almost got into fisticuffs with an employee at the DMV in Washington D.C. I can't even imagine the drama that goes down Italian style.

Next week I start lessons for driving stick/manual. Should be fun.

Monday, April 27, 2009

"Thank you for being a friend."

Bea Arthur had some of the best comedic timing in the business. I barely remember the show "Maude". Most of it went over my young head but I LOVED "Golden Girls". That show was hilarious and a little scandalous for back in the day. Of course GG would never get a green light to air on network TV now. Neither would "Murphy Brown".

Ms. Arthur also won an Tony for her role in a Broadway production of MAME.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Flashback Friday – The Way We Were -Trailer

"Hubble, your girl is lovely."


I saw a still from this movie in the late Sydney Pollack's office and man what a striking couple.

This movie came out before my time but I've seen it several times and have the DVD. Released in 1973, it's kind of sad this movie would not be made today at a major Hollywood studio.

When did movies that had romance automatically become "chick flicks" and therefore not taking seriously?

Every pop star who says they want to "act" needs to watch this movie. Babs was on stage for years before she became a star. She has talent. Which shouldn't be confused with having fame.

Hope everyone has a great weekend.

the trailer

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Lo Shopping: Saponissimo. Hand made soaps from Italy's Amalfi Coast

I met "Charlie" a few years ago during one of my vacation trips to Rome. I went down to the Amalfi Coast for a few days. Pictures do the Coast no justice. I need to get back there.

At the time she was working at some chi-chi store. She decided to quit her job and do her own thing.

What a glorious thing it is. She comes from an art/cosmetics background and put those skills to good use.

These soaps are.the.bomb! Really. My favorites so far are the "Crema di Limone" and the "Rosmarino e Menta." (The latter is pictured above). She uses natural ingredients found on the coast. The smell is light and amazing.

Price wise of course they are more expensive than mass produced bar soap you buy in the supermarket. However, I think her prices are lower than L'Occitane.

Anyway, both Carol's Daughter and Jo Malone started out the same way. Check out her site. They would make great, unique gifts as well.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Maybe I'm a Zitella (Spinster)

Mini rant alert .

I was sitting in the park with two Italian girlfriends when I heard the word Zitella for the first time. One friend said her mother was on her case again about being single. She said she loved her life and wish people would stop assuming otherwise.

This is something I can relate to. I understand why my mom asks but I have to say I'm getting annoyed with random people back in the States asking me if I'm dating someone and the sound of disappointment when I say no.

People this is not Under The Tuscan Sun. It's true many of my expat friends have met their boyfriends/husbands here. However, I resent being made to feel like something is wrong with me because no smart, gorgeous, rich, man named Francesco, Matteo, Carlo etc. etc. has swept me off my feet.

I could have stayed in L.A. where I wouldn't have to deal with a language barrier and Italian red tape and feel shitty. I don't need to bring that nonsense overseas.

Also whoever is the black woman running around America saying "Italian men love black women", please stop. Robert DeNiro is only one person and he's Italian-American.

This myth is adding more pressure. "What? You're a sister in Italy and you're still single? What is the problem?!!"

Men here like women period. My theory on this stereotype is since we are so not considered desirable in our own culture and country unless we look a very specifcic way, when black women come here they are stunned by the attention. I mean even men who look like trolls in the U.S. expect to date a Beyonce or Halle look-a-like. So when fine ass Marco throws a "Ciao Bella" your way I can see why it's earth shattering. Especially if you are over the age of 25.

Anyway I have been on a few dates but I don't get this whole group date thing. The Caribbean side thinks this is a nice way to get to know someone. The American side thinks this is taking forever.

The people asking in the States need to know the divorce rate here is much lower compared to America (in California it's close to 70%). So the pool of available men is smaller.

Maybe one day I will get married. Maybe I won't and will be single for the rest of my life. If it's the latter I wish people back off and stop looking at me with pity.

Spinster has such a negative connotation. No one is shedding a tear for George Clooney, a confirmed bachelor. However, the narrative for Jennifer Aniston is the complete opposite. I'm not a fan but it's ridiculous how the tabloids are constantly saying "Poor Jen!". Excuse me? Both she and Clooney have been married before, are healthy, very successful, etc. I'm not sure why Clooney's lifestyle is admired and Jen's is sad.

Monday, April 20, 2009

"Pandamonium" in Piazza del Popolo

Went to meet E. on Saturday and saw all these people walking around with panda dolls.

The World Wildlife Fund was holding a fundraiser to raise money for this endagered species.

It was quite a sight to see 1000 pandas in Piazza del Popolo.

(That black and white dog in the first picture was too cute.)

Friday, April 17, 2009

Flashback Friday – Whatever happened to Maxwell?

I was listening to him the other day. I can't believe it's been over ten years since his first album dropped.

He went from playing a small industry mixer at the Supper Club to selling out three nights at Radio City Music Hall in within one year.

Stuart Matthewman who was in Sade's band produced several of the tracks. Maxwell was great in concert. Had charisma for days. Then six years ago or so, nothing. He disappeared.

My first week working at Sony Music in NYC I was on the elevator with a very handsome man. It was Maxwell and he was on his way to meet with Donnie Ienner (former head of Columbia Records). My coworkers and I were at that Supper Club show and it was amazing. Usually industry people are so cynical and rude, never listening to the artist. But that night everyone stop talking. We knew we were seeing someone special.

His rendition of Kate Bush's "Woman's Work" is just beautiful.

According to this clip he has a new album coming out soon. I miss the 'fro but look forward to hearing it. I'm curious to see how he will do in this current music climate.

Have a great weekend.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Cy Twombly at the Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna

Last week I met my friend E. at the museum. She knows a great deal about art and it was fun to see this exhibit with her.

This show was at the Tate and Bilboa. Now it's here in Rome to celebrate Cy's 80th birthday. Cy first came to Italy in the 1950s. He married an Italian woman and used to live not far from Campo de Fiori. He still lives in Italy.

Cy Twombly is one of the most influential American artists of the 20th century. This show is fantastic. The space is incredible and really does his work justice. Some of these pieces are being displayed together for the first time and you can see the evolution of his work.

The museum is located just north of Villa Borghese. I don't think many tourists know or visit this museum. It's a great space and the cafe next door is nice. With the exception of a large group of elementary school children (who all had to stop and coo at my friend's beautiful baby) E. and I had to museum to ourselves. I assume it gets more crowded during the weekend.

Some modern art leave me cold. I just don't get it. But Twombly's work really moves me. I can see the Italian influence and Greek mythology influence. It's interesting how some of his paintings look more like drawings.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

What’s Cooking Wednesday – Tomato & Goat Cheese Tarts

For more WCW recipes head over to Shan's place.

This is hands down one of my favorite Ina Garten recipes. I found it in an issue of HOUSE BEAUTIFUL. I assumed I could find goat cheese in the supermarket but had to go to a cheese store.

There is a fantastic shop by Campo de Fiori where farmers bring their cheese. The goat cheese in this place is outstanding. I couldn't find any with the herbs Ina talks about, but plain, fresh goat cheese is fine.

1 package (17.3 ounces/2 sheets) puff pastry, defrosted
Good olive oil
4 cups thinly sliced yellow onions (2 large onions)
3 large garlic cloves, cut into thin slivers
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons dry white wine
2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme leaves
4 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan, plus 2 ounces shaved with a vegetable peeler
4 ounces garlic-and-herb goat cheese (recommended: Montrachet)
1 large tomato, cut into 4 (1/4-inch-thick) slices
3 tablespoons julienned basil leaves

Unfold a sheet of puff pastry on a lightly floured surface and roll it lightly to an 11 by 11-inch square. Using a 6-inch wide saucer or other round object as a guide, cut 2 circles from the sheet of puff pastry, discarding the scraps. Repeat with the second pastry sheet to make 4 circles in all. Place the pastry circles on 2 sheet pans lined with parchment paper and refrigerate until ready to use.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium to low heat and add the onions and garlic. Saute for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onions are limp and there is almost no moisture remaining in the skillet. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, the wine, and thyme and continue to cook for another 10 minutes, until the onions are lightly browned. Remove from the heat.

Using a sharp paring knife, score a 1/4-inch-wide border around each pastry circle. Prick the pastry inside the score lines with the tines of a fork and sprinkle a tablespoon of grated Parmesan on each round, staying inside the scored border.

Place 1/4 of the onion mixture on each circle, again staying within the scored edge. Crumble 1 ounce of goat cheese on top of the onions. Place a slice of tomato in the center of each tart. Brush the tomato lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with basil, salt, and pepper. Finally, scatter 4 or 5 shards of Parmesan on each tart.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown. The bottom sheet pan may need an extra few minutes in the oven. Serve hot or warm.

This tart with simple green salad and a nice crispy wine is a perfect light lunch. My tart looks busted but is was sooooooo good.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Spring in Rome.

It’s Spring!!

After living in Los Angeles for over ten years I forgot what Spring is like. In L.A. it’s no big deal. Really. Except for a few rainy weeks in February one wears open toe shoes year round in L.A. so there isn’t the same euphoria.

When I lived in New York City the first warm day after a long freezing winter I would walk up to Central Park along with half of Manhattan. You could feel the energy in the air shift. Going out at night, more daylight, new Spring clothes, it was fun (until my darn allergies kicked in).

True, despite the plethora of fur one sees here, it doesn’t get that cold in Rome. However, this was one of the coldest winters in Europe hence my excitement that it is OVAH.

Trees are budding, the winter coasts are gone, some crazy tourists are wearing T-shirts, flip flops and short shorts (hello, it’s not that warm yet) and the outdoor cafes are packed.

It seems like overnight the amount of tourists just quadrupled. High season starts this week. Fun.

Already friends of mine are asking me what I’m doing this summer. Let’s see, I don’t know how I’m paying my regular rent this summer. Therefore I don’t think I can plan to rent a place by the sea or in the mountains at this point.

I switched over my closet and some of my spring clothes are a little snug. Ha. I need to lay off the darn prosciutto. I can’t hide in winter layers anymore.

I met a friend at the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna to see the Twombly exhibit (more on that later). I cut through Borghese Park. It was a beautiful day.

I happened to see this little park, Villa Aldobrandini, off Via Nazionale. There were all these orange trees and camilla bushes. I was surprised to find this place next to such a busy street. I was looking for the church St. Peter’s in Chains but got lost and found this instead

Monday, April 13, 2009

Today is a holiday? Where is everyone?

Today is "Pasquetta" aka Little Easter.

It is a huge deal here. I just got back from a run in the park. There was no traffic on Lungotevere, the main street along the Tiber. Confused tourists walk around Trastevere and Campo de Fiori. In the latter the farmers and their stands are gone but several of the restaurants are opened.

I haven't seen the center of Rome this quiet since right before Midnight Mass on Christmas eve.

I'm have to do some research on this day but I know it involves getting outside/nature and a lot of food.

Now this is a holiday I can fully support.

Buona Pasquetta tutti.

*Note. I wrote the above this morning. Now it's 6:30 p.m. and I just returned from LUNCH. haha I went to a friend of a friends house somewhere close to Rome but in the country. It was supposed to rain but turned out to be a gorgeous day out. Another friend gave me some flowers from their garden. I love living here.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Back On Monday

I'm almost done with the first draft of a TV spec pilot (have no idea what the heck I'm doing) and need to focus. I've turned in the other spec and will hear feedback about that after the weekend. Fingers crossed for some good news. If so, we start talking about what to do with said script.

Easter is a big deal here in Italy. Many of my friends are off on Monday.

My parents will be relieved to know that that I do plan on going to church this Sunday. I'm not sure which one but hello I have many choices. My dad called me a Chreaster once, saying I only go to church on Christmas and Easter but that is not true. I also went the Sunday before Christmas the last time I was home for the holidays.

Buona Pasqua.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Italian Driving School Diaries

Dear Diary,

I was feeling pretty good. I've been studying my textbook, going to classes at the Autoscuola and I have been driving for over 20 years.

However all my hopes and dreams were destroyed when I went to the school to take some practice tests on their computer. Ma che cazzo?! (but WTF?!). I failed the majority of the tests.

I am at a loss to see how someone who has been driving for so long could seem to know so little about driving. The last written test I took was in Los Angeles a couple years ago. I went to renew my license and didn't even know I would have to take the darn test. I took it on the spot without studying and passed no problem.

Yet here I am studying this for this f&^%$ test like it's the New York Bar and I'm still getting answers wrong. I said to the teacher in my busted Italian I don't understand why this is happening. He said the test is very difficult...just keep taking the practice exams.

I'm scheduled to take the test in a few weeks. I am going to keep up with the flash cards and hope for the best.

There is a silver lining. I'm so stressed out about this test I don't have time to worry about my dwindling bank account or that I can't get my groove back because I don't know where it is.

Thank you outrageously difficult written test for the Italian Patente B (driver's license class B).

note. While the classes are in Italian, I am taking the test in English. English is my first language. I have been speaking it for quite some time. Doesn't matter, the test is still kicking my butt.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

My friend's post on Abruzzo

I'm going to link to my friend's blog post today. She does provide a link with information for those who want to help the earthquake victims.

She has been to Abruzzo. She talks about feeling the quake in Rome and her trip here.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Last night I had a Los Angeles flashback.

Around three in the morning, I woke up when I felt my bed moving. Seeing how I was the only one in it I was alarmed.

I heard car/scooter alarms go off and the whole building was shaking.

I am watching the news now to find out more info. There was a major 6.3 earthquake in Abruzzo last night.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Flashback Friday – Adele - "Chasing Pavements"

This is the song that was playing non-stop when I first moved here. I loved it the first 1000 times I heard it then I thought if I hear this song one more time I will chase the DJ and break the CD.

However, after not hearing it for months, this song has found itself in heavy rotation on my iPod. I remembered why I loved it the very first time I heard it.

There is a nice profile on Adele in this month's American Vogue. She wrote the song after she caught her boyfriend cheating on her.

Beautiful song by a woman with a beautiful voice. It will always remind me of Spring in Rome.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

One Year Ago Today I Moved to Rome, Italy.

My friends Stateside keep asking me, "How do you feel?" or "Has your life changed?" Yes to the latter and I will write about that some other time. Regarding how do I feel? It's hard to put into words but I remembered something someone said to me earlier.

I had been in Rome for a few months when I was talking to E. an American expat who has lived here for 6 or 7 years. As a journalist he travels a lot for work but this is his base. He asked me how things were going and said he couldn't believe I was a recent transplant. To him it seemed like I had lived here forever (despite my shaky language skills back then), and was comfortable here.

I thought about what he said. I lived in Los Angeles for over 10 years. It never felt like home.

I was in cab from the airport during my third trip to Rome as a tourist. I had rented an apartment in a quiet section of Trastevere. As I started recognize certain landmarks the we got closer to Trastevere, I thought, "It's good to be home."

I found the following quote from Andrea Lee and what she says definitely has something to do with how I feel here. Our lives couldn't be more different. I'm a broke screenwriter trying to sell my first spec in Hollywood, living in a tiny apartment. She's a critically acclaimed novelist/short story writer, married to an Italian count living in a villa in Torino. I'm first generation American and she comes from a very prominent American family that has been in the United States since slavery. But we're both black Americans living in Italy.

What does it mean to be an African-American writer in Italy?
“It all comes together. In America, especially if you are a person of color, you feel apart from an ideal “American.” You feel a bit foreign. So it felt quite familiar when I came to Italy. Being African-American made me feel more comfortable as an expatriate. I knew what feeling apart meant. Being a writer also means feeling apart, because you have to take a step back to look. So it all ties together: being African-American, being an expatriate, and being an artist.” Andrea Lee

My former co-worker scanned this photo for me. I took it on the last day of my first trip to Rome, April 2005. I didn't know at the time that three years later (to the month) I would uproot my entire life. Best decision I ever made.