Thursday, January 19, 2012

De Gustibus is a relative concept - De Gustibus e' un concetto relativo

"Dress Casual!", says every store in the mall

I better stop making fun of the Bostonian fashion. In the last six months or so I've noticed a strange phenomena in my wardrobe. It slowly seemed to have changed from a well of colorful treasures to a closet that I can barely recognize. I pick one thing, then another, then another, yet I don't seem to be able to find anything I fancy wearing.

Something similar happened to me when I moved to London. After only a year I was living there, I couldn't help finding stuff that I wasn't keen to wear, mostly large, straight cut, Italian garments in black color. Although classy, they were ideally suited to old Italian widows crying behind a Saint in religious processions! "Io quella pelliccia li' che mi hai dato per Natale non la metto piu'! Guarda che vivo in Inghilterra, non in Italia! De Gustibus Mamma!" (There is no way I will wear that furry coat you have given me for Christmas! I live in England, not in Italy! De Gustibus Mom!).

Amazing how perspectives and matters of taste change relatively to the country where one lives. Winter was not winter in London without me wearing my double-breasted extra small long coat alongside my sleek black leather boots. Similarly, summer was not summer in Ireland without me wearing my Capri pants in khaki color with cargo pockets. Funny how I used to dislike those pants before moving to Ireland! Same with my pairs of bright blue pants (with rope tightened around the waist) that I was wearing constantly when I was living in India. Back in the UK, I was keeping them in my wardrobe hoping to find an occasion to wear them. Few months later, I was hiding the pants in a suitcase on top of my wardrobe.

I now look at the first shelf of my wardrobe and all I am able to find is a pile of long sleeved striped tops. If they don't have big ass stripes either in the colors or in the pattern  - not that the prep thin blue stripes on a cream color from Anthopologie look any better! - they have a washed out look from the colors fading away or some other hippie details which make my clothes look old and worn out. Then on the top shelf, I see a couple of intimidating looking polos starring at me as if they were saying: "I know I am casual but at least I am plain! Go on, wear me! ". Tired of looking at them, my eyes go to the bottom shelf of my wardrobe and I see a large collection of tee-shirts with either sport themes or comics printed on them, the sort of thing which only children would wear these days in Italy. It is cold, maybe I should just put on my North Face jacket. No, that one no! I am lost.

Buy them, wear them and chuck them away. Understood?

Yet another top with stripes, which costs three times more than the others
Here in the US I simply cannot help sticking everything in the washing machine and in the dryer constantly. As a result, the nice sweaters I used to wear (and not wash) in London have now all turned into rags for cleaning floors. How about my pretty tops and dresses from French Connection and Monsoon? Where are they? The answer is in the attic and this is the simple reason why I put them there. What is the point of wearing expensive and uncomfortable clothes to cook spaghetti al ragu', to walk in neighborhoods where there are only houses and few people jogging in sweats and to wash dirty clothes? There simply is no point.

And, to tell you the truth, now that I have a broken sesamoid in my left foot I cannot help but praising the advantages of the Bostonian fashion. Quick and easy and, above all, pain free. Now, if you would like to excuse me, I am going to the nearest mall to see if I can buy more tops with stripes to put in my wardrobe.


At some point I discovered LOFT and Ann Taylor, stores where it is possible to find fairly nice merino wool sweaters.  I started ordering items from them online.

This is the ad they have just sent me today...

Spring Fashion from LOFT

Friday, January 6, 2012

More exciting than Santa - Piu' emozionante di Babbo Natale

While last year Christmas in Tronk's eyes was equal to tearing at colored ribbons and wrapping paper, this year Christmas has revealed a few more interesting things to him. Even if he probably understood very little of the birth of baby Jesus, the shepherds and the bright star with the tail, no doubt Tronk has learned all about Santa and the good things he brings on Christmas Eve. He enjoyed meeting him in person on December 16th and he became obsessed with wearing his hat (he wanted to wear it to eat, to sleep, to shower, basically all the time. To keep our sanity, at some point I had to tell Tronk that Santa needed his hat back!). No wonder he turned sad when I told him that Santa had gone. Luckily, I had something better to tell him to cheer him up.
"La Befana", the most loved witch in Italy
Mamma: "Tronk, verra' presto la Befana, volando sulla sua scopa, con un sacco carico di doni. Se fai il bravo, ti portera' dolci e giocattoli. Se sei cattivo, ti portera' carbone" (Tronk, La Befana will soon be ‘flying’ by on her broomstick, with a sac full of gifts. If you have been a good boy, she'll bring you sweets and toys. If you've been bad, she'll bring you coal)
A puzzled look on Tronk's face followed. The movies on you tube did not help.
Tronk: "Ma e' brutta e vecchia!" (But she is ugly and old!).
Mamma: "Si, e' brutta e vecchia ma se sei buono, ti porta dolci e giocattoli. Non sei contento?" (Yes! She is ugly and old but if you are good, she will bring you sweets and gifts. Are you not happy?)
Tronk: "Si!" (Yes! meaning: I don't know what the hell you are going on about but I'll say yes so you'll stop talking about this)

Surprise, surprise... he was more excited than on Christmas day. At first, when he discovered the long stocking  with a message from La Befana hanging on his whiteboard, he was very hesitant to touch it and was disappointed to find out the pieces of coal that I put on top to make him think that he had been a bad boy, just like my mother used to do to me. He soon realized, however, that there was more to it... Cookies and even cars, his favorite things on earth. The last time I saw him so excited was probably the day he discovered how to open doors!

Thinking about it, there has not been a single La Befana day in my childhood without me being excited. This is because after receiving presents on Christmas day, I knew that the Christmas season was not over until the 6th of January, the Epifania day (from ancient Greek: the manifestation of God). On that day, my last day off before school, I was expecting extra gifts, including the carbone dolce sweet and, for some reason, I have such special memories. So it was only after the Epifania day that I would consider Christmas over and would come to terms with having to postpone my wish to receive gifts until Easter.

What is this black thing? Coal for me?
Mmm, cookies!

Oh, a present for me

Ah, ah, ah, ah ah! (noises of excitement)

"Apri mamma? Apri mamma?" (Open mamma? Open mamma?)

Hey, I like the ugly witch!

Monday, January 2, 2012

May I introduce you to my son Mina? - Ti posso presentare mio figlio Mina?

Mina Kruse
The Italian nonni (and myself) no longer have to worry about us calling our child "Tronk".  William has now chosen the name he wants to be called with and it is not "Will", nor  "Liam", nor "Bill" (these would have been far better alternatives!). No. He has decided that his name is Mina! 

I don't know if this name even exists in English (I hope not) but in Italy Mina, also called "The Tiger from Cremona", is a famous woman singing love songs (like Barbra Streisand). She is so famous you won't find anyone in the streets of Italy who doesn't know her and some of her songs. If you are Italian, you think of Mina as the sensual woman who used to sing "Parole Parole", "Grande Grande", "Il Cielo in una stanza", Tintarella di Luna" and other songs about impossible (or lost) love affairs, who has now turned into an old maid.

A quick search on "Mina" on Google Italy

It all started because Tronk could not pronounce his name William.

"William, can you say William?" "Mina!"
"Wil-lia'm?" "Mina!"
"W-I-L-L-I-A-M?" "Mina!" 
"WILL? WILL?" "Mina!"
"Ok, Mina!"

I was hoping it would be a matter of time he will say it right, the same way he moved from saying ape (bee) to saying scarpe (shoes). No luck. We all continued to call him William and he continued to give us the same reply, "Sono Mina!" (I am Mina!) Now even his girlfriend Naima calls him Mina and I feel there is little I can do. I will soon have to introduce my son Mina to his school teacher.

I have tried to show Tronk a recent version of Mina singing "Grande Grande" (see above photo, first picture, second row) to make him understand that Mina is a 72 year old woman with hair dyed in orange, not a little boy. And this is what happened. He denied that the old woman is Mina and made it very clear to me that Mina is him and that I have to call him with that name, whether I like it or not.

UPDATE 1) - Below are a number of comments from my friends on Facebook

So, you don't have umlauts on your keyboard? "Minä" is "I" in Finnish.
No need for Umlauts... "Mina" is "I" in Estonian ;-)
Mina is "mine" (like in minesweeper) in Russian. Hope, no explosions :)

UPDATE 2) - He finally said it!
On Monday 16th January at exactly 2 and a half years of age, Tronk finally agreed with me on his own name. I was using the bathroom. All of a sudden, I heard Tronk say these words, crystal clear: "William! William! Wil-lia'm! Sono Will-ia'm! Mamma" (I am William! Mom) with the tone as if he had suddenly had an ephifanie. I was so excited but skeptical that it wouldn't last, I have continued to question his name. Luckily, he has continued to answer "Sono Wil-lia'm! Mamma" (I am William! Mom). I just hope that he settles with this discovery and that he doesn't start asking me to call him Willianapa' or some other name that he likes.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Silence on New Year's Eve in Boston - Capodanno in Silenzio a Boston

Perhaps I am not traveled enough but I had never experienced a more silent New Year's Eve than this in my life! - here in Arlington (where we live) and in Cambridge I have not heard a single BOOM! - I really was not expecting the kingdom of capitalism not to spend a single dollar on fireworks on New Year's eve. Especially after seeing the spectacular fireworks show the Americans come up with every year on the 4th of July. How can the transition to a new year mean so little to the people here compared to most other countries in the world? (see proof here)

While I was writing this, John showed me this photo.

This Year's Fireworks Show in London
I suddenly remembered what New Year's Eve used to be in London. In a couple of occasions I was  there, under that ceiling of lights, pressed against thousand of drunken people screaming "Happy New Year!". The first time I was 24 and I was drunk, together with a bunch of girlfriends who were more drunk than I, so all I can remember is the long walk home like a Zombie, all the way from Trafalgar Square.  The second time, I was in my late thirties and I remember I was so surprised of having found such madness appealing the first time. The worst part of it was at midnight, when a bunch of disgusting drunks (with bad breath and spots all over the face) would jump on me while screaming "Happy New Year", to give me long kisses and big hugs. Escaping was not an option, although it was better than the man shooting a gun into the sky a meter from me in Munich or the people throwing empty bottles and old furniture from their balconies on me and my friend in Naples.

Fireworks Banned in Turin (who says that the rules have to be followed?)
The fireworks always scared my father as they reminded him of the bombing raids during the Second World War on Turin. Despite the ban (with fines up to 500 euros) on using fireworks this year, the Turinese people have welcomed the arrival of the new year with more colors and noisy shots than ever and, once again, they set trucks and even apartments on fire!
After all, having a silent 
start of the new year is not bad at all. Happy peaceful 2012 everyone!