Sunday, December 27, 2009

one week home, and I miss you

We would talk of the real world (home) versus the fantasy world (life in Italy). We found it fascinating that as the weeks dwindled and dwindled they started to clash against one another more and more, competing for space and priority. Everything became about this strange tug-of-war between the faded connection with back home versus the known time-limit connection with Italy.

Life abroad isn't perfect all of the time. But it's just life. And life happens no matter where you are. There are good days and there are bad days, regardless of surroundings. And whatever its transgressions, we could not help but fall in love with life in Italy.

There's this beautifully tragic quote by John Irving that says, "What is hardest to accept about the passage of time is that the people who once mattered the most to us are wrapped up in parentheses."

December. We danced through the streets, strung with lights, not daring to sleep the last days, just in case we miss anything. Left before the sun came up. You sang the beginning lines of "leaving on a jet plane" into my ear as we hugged goodbye, my cab waiting impatiently. And we all left. And in fits of sleep and tears and air turbulence we were back in our own respective time zones in the real world too soon.

We're finding out if the real and the fantastic can be harmonized. No parentheses needed just yet, Irving.

Monday, November 30, 2009



Pilgrims 2.0: International Adoption

The 1st Thanksgiving (slightly paraphrased)
The prudes, fearing what would become Europe's freedom in intellectual and sexual expression, fled to America on a boat. Turns out New England is cold and difficult to farm. The Native Americans save their asses by showing them what they are doing wrong. A successful harvest is accomplished in 1621 and food is consumed by all. This act of kindness is later rewarded by the American government taking their land. Ignoring that, we decide to celebrate the Pilgrims not freezing and dying out by copious amounts of deliciousness each November.

The Classic Thanksgiving
The Norman Rockwell painting materializes as the turkey is carved at the head of the table while mashed potatoes, stuffing, and cranberry sauce are put into circulation. Pumpkin pie is, of course, requisite. Everyone of elementary school age and many past make headdresses or stiff black hats out of construction paper. Grace is a formality as most have cheated. Heads are bowed and everyone tries to pretend not to be already chewing. If it's been planned appropriately, there are leftovers for two to three weeks.

The International College Student's Thanksgiving
Around sixty kids pile into the art studios building in Central Florence. Each table is covered in fall leaves and liters of red wine. Loud music blasts on the speakers and everyone enters the glass doors with theme music, creating our own personal red carpet for the evening. In addition to the standard thanksgiving foods there are things like tacos and eggrolls. After dinner, we head up to the rooftops of Florence for a spectacular view of the Duomo. Sitting on the ledge, Chianti in hand, we delve into wine-induced existentialism, whether or not some of us have art history presentations at nine the next morning.

Happy Thanksgiving.

the 100 Promises project

I promise to say yes. I promise to press against back doors and wood floors. I promise to never improve my spelling. I promise to look at patches of ice differently. I promise to keep nostalgia in its place. I promise to picnic more. I promise to never change my answer to the "what do you want to be when you grow up?" question. I promise to pay attention to reflections and textures. I promise to have an obsession. I promise to say the things I'm thinking. I promise to get there. I promise to be there. I promise to know while I'm there that there's not a more perfect place to be. I promise to always be fascinated with [ ]. I promise to wish on flying stars, rather than wait for shooting ones. I promise to be careful with absolutes. I promise to make pro-con lists for difficult situations. I promise to preoccupy myself with my phone during awkward situations. I promise to never speak ill of something I have no first-hand experience of. I promise to get closer. I promise to forever remember the installation likening the formation of galaxies to the formation of spiders' webs. I promise to take sides. I promise to read tea leaves. I promise to give pencils their fair chance. I promise to get up to see the sunrise when I say I will. I promise to look for the adventure. I promise to pretend. I promise to build forts. I promise to deconstruct walls. I promise to keep all love letters. I promise to know the correct time to hold on. I promise to know the correct time to let go. I promise to not always have something to say. I promise to let smells form memories. I promise to let myself fall with less nerves. I promise to trust absinth over frosted flakes. I promise to be curious. I promise to collect. I promise to discard. I promise to stay awake for good reason. I promise to nap unnecessarily. I promise to decide. I promise to find a way to tell you. I promise to listen to the same songs over and over again, then never listen to them again. I promise to be abstract. I promise to get overworked less often by correspondence. I promise to put less faith in the things that will never fulfill basic expectations. I promise to like things for no reason. I promise to catch up. I promise to have the most eclectic collection in my basket when I go grocery shopping. I promise to act by instinct. I promise to never become the person who "smooths hair with automatic hand". I promise to hate Hemingway. I promise to love Duane Michals. I promise to paint with water balloons and darts. I promise to keep going. I promise to play. I promise to pray. I promise to create. I promise to sin. I promise to hope. I promise to think there's something beautiful about a door frame. I promise to let it pour. I promise to see things out of the corner of my eye. I promise to pull myself together. I promise to pull myself apart. I promise to confuse plans and fantasies. I promise to be secretly seven. I promise to watch popcorn pop in the microwave. I promise to find exceptions to every rule. I promise to leave post-it notes. I promise to climb onto rooftops. I promise to spin. I promise to wear impractical shoes. I promise to like impractical people. I promise to hate raisins. I promise to let stones teach me to fly. I promise to practice. I promise to improvise. I promise to remember the good. I promise to forget the bad. I promise to always have someone in mind. I promise to believe in virtues. I promise to indulge in vices. I promise to doubt less. I promise to hesitate less. I promise to love the game. I promise to make connections. I promise to hold close moments where hearts skip beats or breath is lost. I promise to tie ribbons. I promise to remember my promises, to you and myself. I promise to rhyme. I promise to like things that shimmer. I promise to pick the city. I promise to look for life's speakeasies. I promise to get chills. I promise to not settle. I promise to be honest. I promise to laugh. I promise to figure it out.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

daily life is full time make-believe

[ __________ ]

Today you opened my closet and I asked if you were looking for skeletons. You said yes, quite seriously, closing the doors. First the right. Then the left. I usually close the left first. You say you can tell I like abstract art by the way I arrange my hair brushes on the dresser. I tell you you're an impressionist, too easily charmed by lilacs' shadows. In perfect fashion, this is what I know: your worst habits, your most redeeming qualities, where your fear of commitment stems from, and how you like your eggs. Your worst habits have never mattered because your redeeming qualities matter more, and tomorrow the eggs will matter, and tomorrow we will have breakfast for dinner, cracking each satisfactorily on the edge of the counter. The yolks of yours will break, but so will mine, and they are to be scrambled anyway.

Chianti and take-out Chinese followed us onto the roof as we waited for the predicted streaks of light. I say I miss the part of life when everyone gave out valentines. I try to say how there are certain experiences that, once lived, can never be recreated, but solely reinvented. I say I've had wonderful reinventions of those valentines, but part of me will always miss the construction paper and chaos and the fairness that came from making sure everyone was loved. You tell me life isn't fair and love certainly isn't either. I tell you it's worse than you think, for life is random. It's quiet until you finally say that you miss the Tooth Fairy. She taught you it was okay to sell your body for money.

You ask what star gazing reminds me of. I surprise myself and actually tell you the story of how my friends and I had stood under a star carpet at midnight in the woods. We had each written on slips of paper the thing that troubled us the most at the time. Our biggest worry. Our biggest fear. In complete silence, we dropped the papers into a pre-dug hole, filling it completely with dirt. You ask me what I'm afraid of. I tell you spiders, june bugs, clowns, the feeling of being followed, the threat of liquids exploding every time I put them in a suitcase, being unhappy, being unsatisfied, potentially wrong choices, global warming in theory, ventriloquist dummies, computer viruses, jolly ranchers, and it being too late. Same question. You tell me you are afraid of being afraid to sin.

You say/ I say
[ there is one thing thing you need to know about me: I have no intention of telling the truth ]

Mutual agreement. We leave it at that.

Monday, November 9, 2009

when in Rome

To visualize any of Michelangelo's designs, we must seek to capture not a determinate solution, but the spirit and goals of a process.

History of Art class takes a weekend jaunt to Rome:

Catching sun in the Vatican gardens. Admire Mike's dome.

View of the colonnade from the top of St. Peter's dome. The climb to the top is five hundred and some stairs, though there is an elevator that takes you about half way. The easier half. The harder half is a series of extremely narrow, winding staircases, slanting and tilting at odd angles. The ceilings and walls are cut strangely, at diagonals. It's enough to turn any person claustrophobic. The trick is to think about it as the world's best club house - especially for the winding metal staircase where you hold onto a knotted rope for support.

Worth the view once up there. Vatican City at sunset.

Our private two hour after-hours tour of the Sistine Chapel. We practically skipped through the halls upon halls of the Vatican museum, what forms the usual line for the chapel. We were lightheaded as we got closer, so excited with anticipation. 20 people + complete silence + professor who happens to be a premier art historian on the history of Michelangelo with serious connections = the most incredible encounter with a masterpiece imaginable.

Old couch. Old drapes. Old wallpaper. New light. New folds. Newly forming dust. Daily challenge: find the relevant specific to one's own life.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Monday, November 2, 2009

you remind me of home

And the time those feelings took away - whether it be months, years, or millenniums - melts into honey, entrapping you in bliss.

It's wet outside and I remember those days I sketched flowers in June.

Life always becomes more silly and less simple.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

cure for Starbucks deprivation

the best café in the world

rigidity, for discussion's sake

The world may be sectioned off into things that are within the boundaries of human control and the things that are definitively not. So much of the war between nature and humanity stems from the presence of desire – desire to control and desire to hide from the uncontrollable. Much of humanity’s daily interaction with the world deals with a certain passing ascertaining of authority, the small choices that constitute every step, who is encountered, what is ingested, what is said, and what is thought. Humanity has the ability to construct societies and skyscrapers, place laws and enforce regulations, build a grid of communication and an exchange of currency. It has learned to either use nature to its advantage or manipulate it, regulating that which grows from the ground and developing procedures to battle diseases. There is even an exertion of control in the definition for nature humanity provides, for if it cannot be directly controlled, a natural disaster, for instance, at least it can be studied and understood. There is seldom anything about nature that mankind has not found a way of dealing with, or at least responding to, resulting in an attitude that communicates the confidence that if the answer is not had now, it will be had eventually.

Death is an exception. It is an abstractness that may be delayed, but only up to a particular point. It may be questioned, but those who know the answer are no longer in a position to relay it. The causes may be explained away, but the ultimate effect remains opaquely mysterious. Because of its resolutely enigmatic quality, it is ultimately ignored, avoided, and even feared. Loss of control reveals a particular uncertainty within humanity, one that breaks down group delineations and becomes particular to the individual – how that individual perceives and prepares for the ultimate condition of death.

Monday, October 19, 2009

an examination of basic texture

unusually friendly butterfly

crumbled paper installation

broken mirrors [sans bad luck]

photo from project on the counter-domestic

well with an important message

Sunday, October 18, 2009

fall [perceptions of the perceived]

I spoke too soon the other day about a never-ending-summer. A few nights ago the air started to be, I don't know, not necessarily crisp but definitely that sort of fresh air that carries the smell of pre-cold and pre-snow (though pre-snow would be overkill in Tuscany). And one morning I woke up and it was crisp. For the first time I noticed how cold the glass had grown overnight and I brought my blanket with me out of bed.
It feels like fall, like it inevitably feels like fall every year. It feels like fall when jackets turn muted colors with the occasional pop of red. It feels like fall when the idea of holiday seems plausible. It feels like fall when I notice the shadows of leaves, oils staining the cement momentarily on the spots where they have fallen, like they are falling in love with the ground.
It feels like fall when I feel the way I feel every fall - when I fall into that equilibrium of everything speeding up and everything slowing down. It's a wonderful purgatory of being so excited for the moment but also knowing there are countless moments past the current. And all of a sudden you're Psyche and you're invincible, just at the start of the season. [Winged] Victory over the future.
I felt this way every fall as a kid, this feeling of possibility, and wondered when the fall would come where I would feel old enough to take advantage of this sense. I remember thinking at seven and eight and definitely nine that when I was ten I would feel so much older - ten was when my age would be two numbers, not just one. But then I was ten and I felt just the same. If anything, it was mundane, for almost everyone has a two digit age, and I knew even at the beginning of my two digit stage that not many people get to three. I decided when I was thirteen I would feel so much older. And then I thought it would happen when I was fifteen and then sixteen and soon I stopped thinking about it all together. And though I thought about it no more, I am sure any sense of the feeling eluded me at seventeen as well.
Suddenly, I was eighteen. I was eighteen with still an air of seventeen, and conscious of it. I think now I was unsure of what parts of myself I wanted to keep and what parts of myself I wanted to change, and I couldn't fully move up until I decided. Even more suddenly, I was nineteen. I was nineteen with still an air of....lifetimes past. By now I felt I could accurately describe and catalogue what were before abstract things like emotions and relationships. I had loved and pushed myself emotionally. I had my heart broken and had been pushed by others emotionally. In all senses. And I kept living. And then I was twenty. I am twenty and no longer have any idea what age I am. I am alone in Europe, trying vainly with countless others to live the life of an artist. Or, more simply, to live life organically. Living by feeling.
I am living finally by the feeling I feel every fall. I can't say this was the feeling I was chasing at seven and eight and definitely nine, but I feel that it's close. And I am Winged. And I am Flying.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

lover as model, model as muse

I had a breakfast of strawberries and cream at taverna degli artisti. Via degli artisti turns into borgo pinti and borgo pinti is my favorite street in the city. It's all tunnel and no air, the buildings reach up so high above me. And there is this green door that blends into a green wall with a small gold plaque that reads "Club Fotografia di Firenze" and I am determined to get inside. The door was left open, once, to the gallery.

Dramatically cropped bodies of photo and marble are currently the main attraction at the Galleria dell'Accademia. The hall that leads to the David is lined with Michelangelo's other works. It appears he reached a point where he became disinterested with (though certainly still satiated by) the final piece, caring more about the revelation of figure from stone. They are both feeling and form, culminating at the end of the hall with the David, moments before or moments after battle, depending who you ask. In the exhibit currently are a series of Mapplethorpe photographs, carefully paired with each of the marble figures. The contours, the movement, the feel of the muscle: the nude models mimic the marble. The series of the four Ajitto portraits are at the four points of the David's base. Their veins match. The scandal and the glorified, displayed together. But weren't they both so ordinary before? Before they were cast into the light?

And this one song has been playing here without end:

"I want to live like common people,
I want to do whatever common people do,
I want to sleep with common people,
I want to sleep with common people,
like you."
Well what else could I do -
I said "I'll see what I can do."


"You'll never live like common people,
you'll never do what common people do,
you'll never fail like common people,
you'll never watch your life slide out of view,
and dance and drink and screw,
because there's nothing else to do."

Monday, October 12, 2009


I have never seen "Under the Tuscan Sun", but I hope it to be a lot like my Saturday.
We met early in the afternoon at the stadium by my apartment, next to the currently deserted hot dog and cotton candy stands usually mobbed during the soccer games. All the walls here have been covered with graffiti - cartoons and abstractions and artists' renderings that are nothing short of impressive. When I walk to the grocery store I always end up lingering by this large black and white piece. The lines seem so bold and intentional and I would like so very much to be bold and intentional. Even when my hand shakes.
Waiting for me outside the stadium are my Italian friends: an eclectic group filled with individuals who seem to have just accumulated one another. This group includes, among others, a light designer for runways, a sushi master from San Diego, the requisite guy in the band (which just opened for the Rakes). They have vespas.
My first vespa ride. It was something between terrifying and exhilarating, but I cannot think of the word so I'll just settle on the phrase "best thing ever." Everyone is wearing Italian leather jackets and oversized sunglasses. Some are also wearing oversized egos, but they're young and they're Italian and today, they are the world. The boys drive. The girls ride on the backs, holding onto the mentioned leather and ego.
We take a day trip to Fiesole, a small Etruscan town just outside of the city. There are ruins and Roman baths and stone theaters. There are lookouts and churches and small chateaus with large gates. And everything is green, with a spectacular view of all of Florence. Everyone laughed at me for how much I turned my head on the ride, but I was just memorizing each turn of the cobbled road, already planning my return.
We had a picnic with the city before us and the sun warming the surrounding air. Summer has yet to end here and it seems it may never do so. There was fresh bread and fresh vegetables and fresh seafood in the risotto. There were cheeses I could not name and bottles of wine from Chianti, one apiece. We had strawberries and cream for dessert while playing a strange mind game where we had to make up identities. I was either very good or very bad.
And we were young and we felt invincible. We sat side by side, feet dangling over a stone wall and a fifty foot drop (I am not yet on the metric system). We watched the sun go down, arms around the person to our left and to our right. And organically, we went home to the city.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

two thoughts

Today we were invited over to Michelangelo's house. The ceilings were very high and the walls were very yellow. No pictures.
Inside Michelangelo's house we learn about two relief carvings done while he was still a teenager. They are very good. They are Michelangelo.
And we are....?
We sipped and discussed. We laughed and left to find the answer.

Word from a mouth I trust told me all about sibyls and prophets during yesterday's wine course.
(excluding obvious gender designations):
I rather be a sibyl.
He rather be a prophet.
But who's ever been accused of being a false sibyl?

Friday, October 2, 2009

Love All, Serve All

Oktoberfest in 10 steps

Step 1: ensure you have a place to pass out

Our hostel was just outside of cosmopolitan Munich, overlooking trees and churches and cottage-front constructions. It gave off the feeling of a place you could only find by accident: very city-that-appears-once-every-hundred-years legend. It was an odd arrangement, situated at the top of a hill and built with many hallways, unlit and giving way to the adventurous feeling of perhaps bumping into someone in the night. There were great fields for Frisbee and a spacious tiled room where they served breakfast, including the granola based cereal with dark chocolate shavings that now holds a dear place in my heart. At the festival we saw the alternative to hostel living: passing out on grass carpets. I’ll stick to my bunk bed and my cereal and the things that go bump in the night.

Step 2: let Munich take your breath away

Play in towers, Play in fountains, Play in parks, Play in rivers

Step 3: be properly attired, whatever the occasion calls for

Sure, seas of checkered shirts and lederhosen are pretty standard – but how well can you rock it? Inspirations for fashion this weekend were only the fiercest: those who could kick it with Hello Kitty and still look cool:

The girls and I tried on a few outfits ourselves….but in the end we shunned the traditional, buying instead suspenders and hats with feathers.

Step 4: brave Hofbräuhaus

Famous in Munich. We had sausages and sauerkraut and mugs of froth as big as our faces. They only let people in a bit at a time and everyone would storm the entrances in surges. The HB logo reminded me of a comment I made this summer while strolling the pier in Huntington Beach, wondering who had designed their own HB brand. The two are identical and I am now less impressed with Huntington Beach, believing them beer-loving thieves.
The arena within the Hofbräuhaus walls is unparalleled. People yell conversations, climb through the large sliding windows, and then yell louder to hear themselves over the yellers first mentioned. It is catered-to chaos, as waiters miraculously remember where everyone is in a sea of people while dodging flying clothes and glass. Catered-to chaos, all in perfect cheerfulness.

Step 5: tour the tents and settle down

Tent 1: Our first experience with the tents. I expected them to host wild debauchery. I expected them to serve unpronounceable beers. I did not expect them to be so…beautiful. Each tent takes on a large personality, choosing bold stripes of colors as badges of honor. And those loyal to particular beer houses will dress themselves in those colors. It’s entirely overwhelming and wonderful. I liked this tent – so much of it was clear and opened to the sky.

Tent 2: The Christmas tent. I had a sudden craving for snow and hot chocolate. But then the pretzel woman went by and I remembered where I was. The more aggressively drunk Germans were in this tent – we were grabbed off the aisles by groups insisting we cheers with them.

Tent 3: We decided to get a late lunch here and try what was reported to be one of the best things in Germany – the potato soup and the roasted chicken. The reports were not wrong and we had beer mixed with lemonade. This was also the tent where our group accidentally (?) bought beer for underage German girls.

Tent 4: Where the party is. We know it upon entering – this – this tent right here – is the tent of our dreams. The vibe is right, the people look friendly, and the music is good. The thing is, no matter what tent you are in, it is impossible to get a steady spot at a table without reservations. This leads us to Step 6.

Step 6: find proper prost mates

This is done by wandering the aisles and making friends. These friends will then invite you to

climb over benches. Once situated on the benches, you will learn each other’s life stories, and conversations will be dominated by exclamations of PROST – the cheering chant of choice at Oktoberfest. I find it an excellent system. We became soul mates for the day and it felt strangely invigorating

to skip all the hesitance and nervousness of encountering a new person and advancing to the better stage of knowing them for hundreds of lives or more. Call it utopian. Right below are the founding members: normal citizen, normal citizen, normal citizen, German Dolce&Gabbana model

Step 7: dance on tables

Lesson learned: this is a justifiable act for everyone. I think I have the igniting scenario summarized: tents and emotions and limits are at their capacities, you’re with your best friends in the whole world (at Oktoberfest, these are whichever people are nearest), and the band begins to play your favorite. song. EVER. That’s it – up on the table! The difference is there are hundreds and hundreds of people thinking the exact same thing – because everyone knows the words and everyone knows the

choreography. And everyone loses themselves for droplets at a time staring in their own music videos. It’s lip-synching to scenery during a road trip or screaming lyrics in the shower with a shampoo-bottle-microphone perfected.

Step 8: recognize the love story
Like all good things, Oktoberfest started with a love story. And they don’t let you forget it – heart shaped everything as well as love’s constant profession. Well, I’m a romantic. So I’m all for the endorsements. Peace. Love. Oktoberfest.

Step 9: lose the ground, just get high
No, really. Let go, in all the best connotations Or, if it’s your desire, all the worst connotations as well. And, sometimes, even in the physical. Example:
Get a ticket, Going Up, FLY (55 meters up, to be exact), Dare to Look Down, Live to Tell the Tale

Step 10: have meaningful encounters with strangers
Song of the trip:
"If I find him, if I just follow, would he hold me and never let me go? Would he let me borrow his wool, winter coat? I don't know."
"If I see her, standing there alone, at the train station three stops from her home... I have half a mind to say what I'm thinking anyway, but I don't know..."
Don't say hello with a quick goodbye.