Saturday, July 31, 2004

Lazy Lazy Saturday:
I woke up late and I finished reading the Hobbit this morning. Great book though it seems as though parts of it were in the Lord Of the Rings movies. I kind of thought to myself what to do? I am going to have to figure out my new set of patterns and I need to establish them ASAP.

But the best thing about the guy I am subletting from, he has a VCR and huge collection of movies. The best ones... He has the MUPPETS!! HELL YEAH BABY!! I am watching the Muppets but in the French. And that is entertaining. The Swedish chef ROCKS. Pigs in Space KICK ASS. Rudolf Nereyev is HOTTER than all HELL, Elton John wore some seriously CRAZY outfits and all is good. Except Miss Piggy is Peggy la cochonne (i.e. Peggy the Pig). That just doesn’t really work as well for me. But still it makes my day.

I am going to relax a bit and then try to work on some of the books that I checked out and get my outline structure a bit more under control. Wheeee welcome back to a glamorous Parisian life.

But let me say again: my flat rocks! I have the Pink Panther DVD’s!! But the best culture "revolution" was with only the local channels I sat and vegged in front of the TV working on my "Soul" knitting (a tube top- which I don’t think is going right as I am not seeing the side angled ribbing show up- but my cables are pretty. And it really doesn’t count as vegetation time when you are throwing fits over trying to read the stupid pattern and pay attention to what you are doing. Not intuitive AT ALL).

TV has the dual effect of reacclimatizing myself to French, but even better I get to watch Knightrider! Motherfucking, Knightrider with David Hasselhoff and the talking Camaro. Oh yes the things I grew up on in my youth. Kicker was this episode was called Dance Mania. It was brilliant showed those cheesy dance outfits we wore (think Olivia Newton John- Let's Get Physical) the big and I mean big hair, the whiplash dancing and then showed the Ahnuld idiots of Venice Beach in their Speedo and cropped net tops (who the fuck EVER thought that was hot?). I was in hysterics the whole time.

After which I watched two shows before falling asleep that I am guessing never made it past the first half of the season in the states and had no one that I recognized from anything which is not saying much as I am not a complete pop culture queen. One is called Jake 2.0 (think Bionic-Man only newer and well with higher technology) and then the other was Mutant X (think X-Men but not as cool or cult like).

Come on good loving TV, it helps the langugae acclimatisation and skills; dont you know. And since tomorrow is the first Sunday of the month and most everything is free I think I am going to head out to Versailles! So work today and fun tomorrow.

Friday, July 30, 2004

How Many Ways Exist To Kill And Prepare A Frenchman?
Anyone have any idea how quick quirky/cute goes to chauvinist/annoying? From 0-60 mph in less than 0.06 seconds! I am currently counting the ways (and accepting any suggestions) of how to kill and prepare a Frenchman to serve on a fine silver platter. In less than three days I have gone from hopeful (delusionally so if I say so myself) to homicidal.

First the prat goes sending me in that ever so adorable condescending French way emails with comments about how I don’t speak French. Making assumptions that make an ass out of him for sure. I cop it aint perfect, but it’s enough. The man really does have the attention span/memory about the size of a gnat's snatch! I only took all my classes in French wrote my papers in French and sat through a class that he co-taught in French. I introduced myself in French, I responded to questions, and fuck that I got them RIGHT. And guess what if you havent followed teh thread, I did all of that IN FRENCH. But I don’t speak the language, GAH. So take that you little prick, I can do the job, I even have a better ability given my knowledge of the system, and I speak French! It may not be pretty all the time and I can’t always understand you and your lisp but I speak the bloody language.

Then the idea of roasting him alive came to mind, see he put off commenting or sending me ANYTHING on my proposal for 2 whole months. Even better two days before we meet he sends an email asking why are we meeting again? GREAT way to make me feel like I have any of your attention, besides when you stare at my chest. Besides the fact that we have only met ONCE… We are meeting you brilliant ASS because you are my ADVISOR, and you haven’t advised me of a damn thing. I am at sea and you need to step up and do your fucking J-O-B or Travaux if you prefer. Say ANYTHING in the form of a comment on my research/writing PLEASE!!

Today’s homicidal thought was provoked by the fact that he wanted to meet today without having read my latest work (what will the meeting be worth??) and then after changing the time on me yesterday he was 45 minutes late. 30 minutes into it I heard him talking and saw those legs walking up the stairs- I was in such utter amazement that I was speechless. Every time we have a meeting I specifically put myself at his feet saying what ever time is convenient for you. We made this meeting a MONTH ago- now you have a doctors appointment and wait till the day before to tell me (by the way he is not ill) and then you don’t show when I come to the later time that yes he CHOSE. Is it any wonder that I dream of hacking the man to bits with my WMD (that is according to the UK, according to me they are dull school children scissors).

Then cause of my infinite patience (or joy in dreaming of murdering him) he shows three seconds before I am about to leave. He looks at me like oh was I supposed to meet with you, please hold on I need to do something down the hall. Then he returns and says "you propose we should meet on Monday?" Why yes, I suggested that so you could actually read my submission and make decent comments. We go to his office to reschedule- he opens his EMPTY day planner- seriously the calendar has not a damn thing written in on it, and then asks me if I can come back in two hours. I being the ever so compliant one, oh yes that will not be a problem I can go to the library it is not a big deal. I mean I don’t plan my life or anything. Good thing today was a "relax" day.

Next the twat tells me the work I agreed to help him with, one of my two reasons for moving back to Paris, yeah he doesn’t need it. FUCKER you could have told me that AGES ago, its not like I haven’t asked about it and continually volunteered or anything. I wanted that to help frame my time you know, GRRRRR.

Oh the JOYS of the Quirky French- not to mention he is taking the 3rd through the 10th as holiday (without email access), not like he didn’t just get back from 3 weeks of vacation on Monday or anything. And he wonders why I haven’t kissed his feet yet. I’ll show his pompous ass, constantly responding to his English in my French. Take that! Yes I am proud of teh fact that I take immense pleasure in the confused looks it inspires.

So I show up again on time (miracles of all miracles) and he says oh can you wait 30 more minutes. Sure why not?? What the fuck is time any more anyways?? And once again no saying sorry for being late. Don’t French Mamans teach their little boys manners? Not in Normandy it seems.

He comes out to get me from the hall of isolation and being that chivalrous gentleman he is, opens the door for me. Oh Merci. Then as we walk into the office he makes the comment that Americans hate the tardiness of French professors. I make a snide comment in French- I am not a typical or complete American, I am a Spanish-American (in that order) and I just came from Italy; my idea of late is a bit different than the average. WHY OH WHY do I put up with this shit??

Then he again says to me should we speak in French or English? Comme vous voulez, you shit I can do this in either language. I am stubborn pissed about it now. I almost said French to push him but I am playing the plaçant female role and let him choose (very bad feminist I know). Though since I am writing in English and you are reading in English it might be easier on you... idiot!

At the end of it he charmed me again (what is it with quirky Frenchmen, brilliant ones with blue eyes? I mean I let him get away with murder!) He made some good comments, said nice things about what I was choosing and told me I was in the heart of current research (i.e. this should get me a PhD invitation if I actually did the work to get around what I am arguing).

Great and then I go look like dizzy galore as I have had 3 hours of sleep and been waiting oh FIVE hours to do this bloody meeting. But he fucks up his English and well that makes me smile. Even better he says ok we can set a meeting to meet again when I get back in two weeks and you, you go write. Goodie, I get to meet him again and I will be better prepared to milk that man for all he is worth. I give new meaning to shake your money maker. And therefore I don’t kill him TODAY. I stay out of the French prison system for a short while longer.

One hell of an adventure :)

Thursday, July 29, 2004

Leaving On a Jet Plane:
Wow three weeks ago I had no clue how I was going to survive all this bouncing. I was dreading and looking forward to it at the same time. And here I am survivor of it all on my last day before returning to Paris, the place I can best label right now as "home." Once again I surprise myself and things have fallen just so into place for me, I dont know how or why but there it is.

Oh good and great food gods, the UK may not be the land of great food (though I guess you can find good curries here if that is what you like and can afford) but I found me Bagels today. Good honest real bagels. Never you mind that they call round bits of bread rolls bagels, I found the real thing. The delectable things you find in the Jewish quarters slathered with Salmon and cream cheese spread! Never you mind that the British want to call them Canadian bagels (WTF??) I found them and they are cheap! Today for lunch, dinner and most likely tomorrow’s breakfast, we will be eating bagels, cream cheese and drinking the nectar of the gods- cranberry juice. AHHHHHHH.

I ran my last tourist trip into the City. I headed to Westminster and wandered through the Abbey. I could have spent longer there but I was on a bit of a time schedule. I also found myself Lush. I love that place!! So many wonderful products, the massage oil bars I think are my favorite as they can be used to moisturize and sent the body and I love them. If I have one girly weakness (I think I have a few but this is one I will completely cop to) it is that I am a product whore/queen. Lush is one of my Mecca’s, and I deserve a treat after Hunger Strike 2004.

I haven’t seen all the touristy things I want to in the City. Some I limited myself from simply out of taste (Madame Tussaud’s No thank you!) some out of cost (cost for value- i.e. Buckingham Palace, and plain old cost for things like the London Eye), and some well out of time (Tower and Tower bridge). And to be honest after two straight weeks of it and being plagued by the Italians (they have invaded!) I am tired and touristed out.

I also have avoided doing near as much of the real work that I need to do (working on my draft) and it is time to go "home." I honestly feel like I can say that I have actually been to London, and I have friends to come back and visit and I have more than enough things to do so I headed back to the house to pick up my things and trek to the airport.

Again I am terrified of a repeat event of my flight to this island. But I got there about two hours early and checked in. was surrounded in the lounge by twenty or so 15 year old Chinese kids as I was trying to switch my mind into French. And I waited, tired to the bone and dreaming of getting to the phenomenal flat I will be subletting for a while. I simply want to get there and be able to drop my things somewhere where they will stay for at least the next 30 days. To get back to a life as normal as I can hope for soaking up every bit of atmosphere, opportunity, cheese, wine and anything else I can soak up, not to mention that huge To Do list that is looming over my head and been compiling, compounding and, expanding while I have been on island exile.

And then my flight is delayed. Why is it that timing is never on my side a delay on the way in wouldn’t have bothered me in the least on the way out it bit the big one. I didn’t get to the airport with my luggage etc until well after midnight. And then it was only by jumping the turnstiles that I caught the last RER into town. At least I got the ride for free saving myself the cost of a taxi :) and well it does go straight to the new flat.

I really hope that I have good comments and assistance coming from "Him Who Stare and Scares" in our meeting tomorrow as I am about to sequester myself for about two weeks of some serious work and having a slight bit of help well it would mean the world to me right now. Unfortunately I am going to have to try and make this meeting work on only 4 hours of sleep I am guessing, we’ll see if I can manage to string words together and grasp what he says.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Luck be a Lady:
I am so lucky. I went to go meet a friend and thought I had enough time but I got lost and pointed in the wrong direction and well ended up being an hour late. I am so lucky Mel waited! So we finally met up at the V&A which has the looks of a great museum but much was not open. Yeah during summer (i.e. tourist season) I know. It is an extremely interesting museum. Where else can you see a replica of Trajan’s Column in two pieces? It is also seriously a cluttered collection of eccentric mish and mash. Unfortunately most of the things I wanted to see (like the jewelry) were under renovation (jewelry for the next 4 years!). We then wandered down to Westminster but since I didn’t feel like obliging Mel to pay 7 quid to see the insides with me, we went to get something to eat and then wandered to "shop."

OH-MI-GOD did I find the most AWESOME department store. I fell in LOVE with Liberty, one of the more expensive ones of course (cause I mean TopShop is supposed to be reasonably priced- really it is an overpriced with a few more labels H&M!). Interesting building and phenomenal lines of products. I have had a love for Korres products for a while (vanilla cinnamon- to die for) and now I can add New Flower to the mix with Italian Blood Orange. This is trouble people big trouble. If I were rich I would be in so deep there! Never let it be said that I don’t have taste.

We then went to the best Sparklies (jewelry and diamond for those not in the know) arcade in London. Looked at them and then went into Tiffany’s. I want the little blue box! We pretended to be posh enough for Mayfair etc but in reality we are posh enough but not rich enough.

It was great and I had a lot of fun. I have to say though I am at the end of my ends on this "trip." Staying at Iria’s house has been great as I finally feel like I am at "home" again. The problem being is that it has sapped my desire to see a whole list of things in London. I want to "be home" and try to recover from all of this. And I have a bit more time until I can do that and even then it may not be for as long as I would like.

So between saying good bye to Mel and heading back to the house I checked my email. I know that there is a portion of this which is most likely the language but seriously I got me one pomp and pretentious email from my French advisor. He really is bit by bit agitating me more and more. He made some comment about my French. Now it isn’t pretty and it isn’t perfect I will give you that, but I can speak the language. Just because you chose to speak English with me does NOT mean I cannot speak French you TWAT!

Anyway I came back to the house, cooked dinner (one of my few decent evening dinners since being in the UK minus when I was staying with Wyn and Maggie) and worked a bit on the draft before I read the Economist to beddy-bye.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

The Day I Became An Eastender:
Turns out since I know NOTHING of direction or location that Iria is in the Eastend. And so I went to the local market that kind of was like the Eastenders show. Hawkers everywhere selling all the things that I don’t need, or really want.

But today was a relaxed day as I really am trying to recover some. As much as I want to see London, I also don’t want to hit everything like a crazed tourist and remember none of it. So today I simply wandered without pressure. I window shopped and I wandered some more.

It was exactly what the doctore ordered. And while I wish I might have done my London time in teh beginning when I probably would have been more gung-HO, I like how the broad "trip" has gone and well like I said I am enjoying myself. I really like it here and I love walking.

Monday, July 26, 2004

La Vie Moderne:
I woke up, got ready and checked out of THE GENERATOR. I am a bit paranoid about leaving my stuff here, but I found this great hiding spot that should hopefully keep thieves away from my things. With that Swahti and I went wandering the town. We walked the whole of the Southbank. From the London Eye to the Tate Modern, which by the way let me count the ways I love that museum.

There are a fair amount of people who like to claim that modern art is just a bunch of shit and after today’s visit I feel pity for them. What stupid assumptions those who label a whole with out seeing the contents are. The ignorance, small minded intolerance and narrow-minded nature of those who are prejudiced with out knowledge or who cant get past their own preconceived jails of notions has always amazed me.

I saw some absolutely phenomenal art, some making a statement (there is a great Anti-Thatcher one on her policies that further chew up the "working poor" as "trash"), and some as commentary on life. There is cubist art, Dali of course, and even Manet! I guess if you want to be that narrow-minded and if you consciously make that decisions I can only pity you for the shallow existence of a life you have.

To never liberate your mind and imagination from conventional values and traditional ways of thinking is one of the worst futures I could imagine. To never have significance and value the mysterious and provocative effect of unexpected conjunctions. Life is in large part a pushing of the boundaries and having a lack of tolerance and inability to appreciate those who do what you yourself are often not willing to do is quite sad to me. I am so glad to have a broad enough mind to enjoy the Tate and its Art.

After which we ran to get our things and make our respective moves. Myself I wish I had had time to go to a photography exhibit that was half price at the Hayward. Will have to hope for next time :) Instead I hopped a bus to Iria’s was told to get off at the wrong stop and carried all my shit down what felt like forever of Old Ford Rd. I am going to guess it was at least 2 miles.

Thank the gods that there was a nice park lining the road and a very sweet man who heard me and my squeaking luggage a mile away being so kind as to take oil from his motorcycle and oil my wheels. SQUEAK be gone! Now I too can walk up like a hobbit. Good thing I like walking and had a previous life as a pack mule. My rule: don’t pack it if you can’t carry it.

Iria is an AWESOME Italian that I met at the working group meeting who after meeting and talking in Italian with I had a friend for life. I also had a place to crash a garden to sit in and wiener dog to play with. It is great, a real bed and sleep glorious sleep.

Sunday, July 25, 2004

Paranoia At 5 AM:
After my incident in Paris it is simple to say that I am paranoid about flight travel. But I have "passive tendencies." So I woke up super duper early (much thanks to the hostel night man who thought 6:30 am was at 5:30 am- that and the fact that the light comes early in Edinburgh anyways. I still managed to panic thanks to the airport putting something stupid like Departed on my flight information.

And of course since I am panicking, asking to cut in line and everything else, then the security people have to go through and pick my bag to search. Again my weapons of mass destruction have been foiled- those extremely dangerous kiddie school scissors that I use for my knitting they are now property of the Edinburgh airport. They asked me if I wanted to go back and check them. Yeah since I jumping on you about my flight leaving with out me, sure I want to go back to get in the check in line try to find something to check the scissors in and then come back through the security line again. That sounds right. NO.

I made my flight (it was late) and I got my luggage- last piece off as always. I headed to THE GENERATOR. This place is like quite no other. It’s the total backpackers hostel, mostly for the under 20’s with a bar in the building and 836 beds (that were all "full" the night before). It feels like some kind of prison with the way that they have numbers on the concrete ceiling beams and the locks on the doors and all. I crashed when I got in and took a small nap and then forced myself up and out.

I met up with Swahti and we went to the British Museum- the museum of all the things the British have stolen. I saw the Elgin Parthenon Marbles. AMAZING and appalling at the same moment (appalling that they aren’t in Greece- and the whole we take care of them better argument holds jack shit as the “restoration” removed the original Greek finish).

We went and got dinner. I had Chinese fried egg rice. Might not sound like much but it was good and just what hit the spot of a certain craving. I must give odes to the glorious cranberry juice I can obtain and afford in the UK. Makes me smile when I hand over my pound. And after talking with Swahti about India we both crashed out

Saturday, July 24, 2004

Me In A Kilt Doing A Giggle:
Really this has got to be one of the best hostels! My kind of people and again today I met up with a sweet girl. It is great as I am not a loving the lone life traveler, so it has been perfect. Swahti is from New Delhi and turns out we will be in London at the same hostel for one night. So we went to the Royal Portrait Gallery together, checked email and agreed to meet up the next day.

Then I headed to Holyrood Palace. If I could suggest one thing to choose, Holyrood gets points over the castle hands down. Nicer, more content, less packed and the Queen lives there. After having read the Mary Queen of Scots book earlier this year it was a great hit. Just the right amount of historical with all the other bits melded in which made for a nice visit. And teh Abbey Ruins are gorgeous.

Afterwards you are at the base of the volvanic remains in Edinburgh- Old Smokey. And winds and clouds be damned I decided I needed a good Scottish outdoors naturist adventure. I climbed Arthur’s Seat. Best thing I did for my sanity I think. It is great to be outdoors with a nice decent hike. I felt like I was in the Scottish Countryside (maybe the highlands- I don’t know what they are like) and it was great fun.

I had no clue where I was going, what path of the many available to take; I just knew to go UP. And steep up, the huffing and puffing kind of steep angles for a good part of it too. But UP is not as intuitive as it seems. At a few different points I wondered if I was going the "right" way, as if there were only one of them. There may be only one MY way, but there are tons of "right" ways. I for whatever reason though took the approach that if I went the "wrong" way well oh well I would figure it out from there- when ever I got there, some way to get back to the "right" way.

But really the fact is that "wrong" or not whatever way I was going was the RIGHT way for ME. And each time I thought I was going the "wrong" way, or thought do I really need to go to the top? I would turn the corner and be rewarded with a beautiful vista into town (with grey moisture filled clouds pouring over), of countryside or some other great fun.

The wind was whooping up a serious batch of force and every time I was sure it was telling me you have gone as far as you are meant to, the Seat is not yours to conquer for today. I was sure that the wind was going to take and give new meaning to the phrase three quarters to the wind (with me praying that no lightning or stupid Ben Franklin kid came along) and I was sure I was fighting the loosing battle against this wind pushing me away; Voilà it would flip and push me up over the top encouraging me on to move faster than my legs wanted to carry me.

In the end I got to the top and have a photo of me in the blustery wind supporting my angled body and another blasting into my coat and making me look preggers or bloated in the "inflatable" shirt. And when I went to climb down, I had been so into my fun with the wind that I didn’t know the way down to follow. I couldnt remeber the way I had come.I of ourse have the general direction of DOWN but that is it. I tried one way but seemed to be alone and though maybe this isnt it. Next I saw someone else going the other way so I decided to follow him. Stength in numbers and all, unless he has long legs and goes too fast for you.

I think one of life’s biggest lessons to me is to learn to trust myself and my instincts. Once I do that I think I will have passed one hell of a hurdle, but instead I leaped over a different hurdle today. I went what could be labeled as the "wrong" way. No if ands or buts about it- there was no trail marked with pavers or rocks and for parts of it it was the "hill3 I was trying to terrain myself down. And there was no one besides this tall man off in the distance going this way.

I was crab walking certain portions of this steep descent down. It was starting to pelt at me those misty droplets of water combined with the gales of wind. And every time the fear of the dangers in the "wrong" way got to me something bubbled up in me and I would laugh. I would run in the bits of the hills going down on the grass bouncing along, I would giggle as the rocks slid out from underneath my feet and plopped me unceremoniously on my derriere. Giggling like I haven’t in a while, almost crazily but not quite. And each time I assplowed I promptly giggled, got up dusted myself off, assessed what I was going to do next and giggled some more.

And next thing I knew there I was full circle at the path that was the "right" way, all the better for the journey.

Friday, July 23, 2004

Rio Madness:
So what would I wake up to this morning but three Brazilian men in my room. It’s amazing who you never know what will happen when the lights come on in a dorm room. Friendly as they are, and groggy as I am they chatted a bit with me and invited me to go touristing with them.

Against my wallet's better judgment I joined. We went to the castle which really is a "I can miss it if you want to rip me a new one," type of place. But I figured it was a nice idea for fun. And you know what I had a great day and I even managed to eat decently. Amazing how two three quarters of meals do the trick when you are starved. Cheap chicken (lime and coriander) sandwich will make you a lot happier than you think.

I showed them a bit around what I had traveled through yesterday. We hit the Royal museum and then came back to the hostel. Chatted away there and as an indication of the level of exhaustion crashed right there.

Things have caught up a bit. Not as bad as I had feared however, there nonetheless.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Hullo Scotland:
Luck seems to be on my side (I am sure that since I just said that without a red oak near me I will jinx myself but I am going to enjoy the moment while I can) and it must be a serious sign in support of my appearance on this renegade isle… the SUN is out. That is almost a never happening event in Scotland, and I got it! Actually while I am tempting the fates and fairies, I have actually had a good run of weather fairy luck. The days of "cold" and drizzle have come on days when I wanted them and for the better part of my time I have had quite comfortable weather intermittently shined upon by the big yellow orb in the sky.

I am also quite lucky in the itinerary I have set for me, Edinburgh is a lovely town that is centrally packed and easily accessible. This is perfect for me as I am traveling on my own and I actually like to walk. It is perfect for wandering and wandering I did. A bit less expensive than its nasty invaders down south, I had a quite pleasant day. I took a photo of Greyfriar’s Bobby- like any self-respecting terrier owner would and frequented the lovely museum of Scottish history (from the beginning of time- quite an interesting set of exhibits!)

I also thought that the Brits were friendly and eccentric, but in all honesty they have NOTHING on the Scots. I encountered more than one person today just walking up to have a chat with me. Some were odd- like the guy handing out music fliers in St. Giles (telling him I wasn’t Christian seemed to send him on his way), to the homeless hawker saying catching pull lines such as- "Anyone give a shit," and then barking at the tourists by the Greyfriar’s Bobby statue. But I love it in general. I could easily live here (given that I could afford it actually). I even managed to get wrangled into going out.

I am staying at the best middle ground hostel I think I have ever found. Nice smallish, clean, range of ages, and travel styles. So what do I run into in Scotland? More throngs of Italians. What is it an invasion or something?? Anyways there were four guys two 19 year olds and two late 30 year olds. And after dinner where they figured out I speak Italian, I was coerced into going out to see what was on in the town.

We found an Irish pub as one of them had an obsession about going to a pub and it was actually quite nice. One of the 30+ bought me a drink, though I think he thought that a pint of strong bow bought rights to me for the night. He pouted when I was dancing with anyone else, tried to put his arm around me when the bassist of the live music band looked like he was flirting with me and in general annoyed me. So I ignored him, flirted back with the bassist, shrugged away when he tried to be too touchy feely and well let him drink his pint. I am not THAT cheap, even when on an empty stomach. After the pub shut down I begged off as really I think I am an old soul and my body said enough was enough, not to mention I was sure to get pawed if I didn’t escape then. And night of rest sounded quite appealing...

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Working Group Meeting Day:
Today is the whole reason I am in this country spending a godforsaken amount of money that I don’t have. I know I am financially obsessed. This is the first time in my life I have been more in debt than I am able to pay off in any one instance and yes it freaks me but seriously the UK is COMPLETELY OUT OF CONTROL!

Anyways, today you know what... it was worth it. I got to see old friends, make new ones- like the ones who offer a floor to kip on in London!!!! And speak up to the nodding heads of two well respected authors in the field. I may not be able to incorporate the working group research into my "first generation" research, but it will come in at some future point- that I can guarantee. It is a broad area of my interest and the first generation expands quite nicely with the inclusion of the second generation research information.

After the meeting we headed to the station, sharing a taxi with one of the aforementioned intellectuals, and what do you know she picked up the taxi tab. None of us graduate students money was good for someone who has the benefit of an expense report that she can bill it to (fond memories of expense reports from bygone times...), so we got a nice little treat. I then ran in my lovely kitten heels all the way to the hostel (which was about a quarter of a mile. If I can't move in the shoe it doesn’t go on my foot, though I am sure I was quite the sight).

I picked up my goods, only to notice that my NorthFace fleece had been stolen. And then with my squeaky luggage trotted back to the station. Nothing I can do about the fleece, it was old-ish anyways so it’s now on the Christmas list- one NorthFace Denali Fleece Jacket Santa PLEASE. I said my goodbyes and sent Hester on her way back to London.

Ran into a new friend chatted till I sent her on her way to London also and then hopped on my train to Edinburgh with prayers and offerings of one pence for decent weather, because if I was going to need the fleece on this trip- Edinburgh was going to be the place.

The train ride gave me time for contemplation and a bit of work and reading; it was almost 5 hours you know. The last hour was absolutely magnificent. For the first bit I was watching the English countryside go by. Interesting in its own right, though the rolling hills in colors of varying shades in green, brown and straw long ago started to meld into one.

But as we crossed the border into Scotland I perked up. The sparkle of blue caught a glint in my eye and I stood up to see the most beautiful coastline. I was quite simply absorbed. I love the water and the dramatic cliffs and colors of the Scottish coast peppered with rolling fields sprinkled with pockets of magenta colored heather that sucked me right in. At that exact moment I fell in love, I stood and watched it pass by peeking at me on occasion, disappearing to my disappointment and reappearing to my utter joy. I remained standing for the next hour to see as much of it as I could take in with the dusk slowly approaching, purple haze off in the distant sky and a faint line of yellow going with it.

And then at almost 11pm I arrived in Edinburgh all lit up in it's night time amber glory. For every expense I have and will most likely continue to bitch about, this makes each one of them much more worth it. I am completely exhausted after a night of less sleep, a day of work, and a long trip to get here... but it’s worth the contentment.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Tra-La-La-La La-La-La-LA:
More wandering and more searching for the free things to do in town and combining that with the best piece of organic carrot cake I have ever had for only 80 pence. That I will totally splurge for!

There was little bit less sun so I spent a better part of the day at the Fitzwilliam museum which is well worth the visit and gloriously free. I also wiggled my way with a nice Hiya (how English people seem to say hello to everyone) into a closed college for free, and was called luv by the adorable gardener.

And while I didn’t sleep much last night, I thought and early night call might be in order. I used the slowest and most expensive internet known to man. Seriously this thing made 24Kbbs look like it was moving at the speed of the Daytona 500. After which I went to find me a proper internet point. I can’t seem to find any here in the UK with a USB hub. Easyeverything tricks you- having one but not allowing you to access it and the smaller towns well some have computers that look like they are the age of my Commodore 64.

Instead I sat at this great café, with a barista who reminded me of my dear friend Clare at home who is one of those I want to have that sense of calm, peace, whatever it is- sign me up auras. The place had a great vibe, with really tuned music. It was perfect so I stuck around, did some reading and fleshed out a bit more my thesis draft. And next thing I knew it was time for the "Cambridge Forum." A grass roots meeting group with a hippie tinge, that COMPLETELY made me feel like I was back in Seattle.

Even nicer I left with a tinge of hope. I have been for years at utter ends about the Israeli situation. The speaker/singer/hippie guy who was the focus of this month’s forum was a former Israeli military officer who works to help young people (mostly boys as girls have a lot of outs- even if they are supposed to be more egalitarian there and all) "avoid" the "compulsory" service. He also provides support to conscientious observers who are sticking to their moral guns. He said all the things I never thought I would ever hear coming from the mouth of an orthodox Jewish Israeli, and gave me one glimmer of hope. I will ever be grateful for that single ray to him.

Adding to that, I even got hit on! Not my type but nice enough guy who being the posh British gentlemen and all walked me back to the hostel and gave me a peck on the cheek. Work done, play had, and relaxation indulged. Life doesn’t seem too bad today. Maybe I can do this whole human thing after all...

Monday, July 19, 2004

Whoa Nellie!:
HOLY HELL is this place EXPENSIVE. $38, ₤20 or €30, for an 8 bed dorm in a hostel!!! That is right almost $40 to sleep with 7 other people and no orgy included. To make up for that though there are 25 Dutch teenagers marauding through the building making all sorts of noises and commotion at all hours of the day.

I am also on the new pocketbook diet otherwise known as Hunger Strike 2004. I refuse to pay 8 quid for a plate of pasta with pesto or 3 quid for a sarnie with cabbage that looks like a firecracker was blown up in it and they are holding all the bits together with the largest amount of Mayonnaise known to man, (the glue of all things edible in the UK it seems). Utterly revolting! I will starve before paying $6 for that.

It is amazing though how economical I can be. It’s almost like a game. I know you arent supposed to do the exchange calculations, but seriously if I didnt I would be in one seriously deep hole. And I must say that it is doing wonders for my finicky food habits. Amazing how when you are really are hungry, you will eat more, or at least try more than you think. And the bits you used to sniff at though you would eat weren’t normally interested in... well those get eaten too.

At least if I am going to go hungry I can do so in reading pleasure as I found the Hobbit today at a flea market for ₤1. That is something I would spend the money for. It is also my first Tolkien book. I hope it lives up to its legend.

Otherwise... I am enjoying Cambridge. It is small, accessible, and I am trying to relax. I know I should be working but relaxing sounds much better, and you wonder how I am doing on my way to a graduate degree in procrastination?? The best part of today is that the weather has perked up and I am in a skirt and t-shirt!

The old colleges (a very odd university system indeed) are quite gorgeous, though a bit pretentious for my likes sometimes. There is history everywhere, and though punting was too expensive for me to put it on my "To Do" list, the banks are a relaxing place to go lay in the grass absorbing any amount of the rays of sun I can. Pale skin be damned and cancer be welcomed.

However there is little else to do in Cambridge. I am sure there are pubs somewhere with pissed tourists (cause they are crawling all over the town) but I quite fancy the idea of a "night in" where I watch some TV and try to pretend that I am not moving my shit every night, that I am not paying an insane amount for something of lesser quality than it's value at that price. A place that I have some sense of permanence and security.

Sunday, July 11, 2004

My Name is John Jingleheimerschmidt:
I love when I get all sorts of spam mail. Well I dont like the spam mail about making my penis bigger that just gives me a complex (I spend the rest of the day repeatedly looking in my skirt muttering about how I dont have a penis- so how can I make it bigger. Affirming to those who pay any attention to the odd woman muttering to her skirt, that I dont want my penis any bigger!). In general however, most Spam makes me laugh. It is so odd an inane, it breaks the montony of those great three sentence, three word emails I get from "Him the Non-Communicative."

Also, I dont understand the spam concept- most of it is completely intelligible. What do they think they are going to get out of it? I mean am I going to click on some random gibberish message about getting free mortgage rates, and expect anything other than a computer virus or porn shot to come up on my screen? Nah. Who pays for software to propel this shit? I dont know, if you do you might be on the next step of Buddhahood enlightenment. Feel free to share with me.

Today has taken the cake. I have gotten all sorts of spam with the garden variety "See Britney Spears with a Horse" emails for years now. (That ought to get me some great google hits!) But that shit is always in the subject line. The names are such rich and culturally diverse names as "hiusyopas," "ssthialeos" and Amber. It usually goes into the junk folder but everyonce in a blue moon, it comes into the inbox. Today's spam was from the following sender's "name":

1 GND Conventional clothing means nothing. In the new tarot, the standard figure is nude, to show that all is revealed. The cloak of the Renewer implies something hidden. Only the Speaker's feet are covered

If anyone can make two cents of that I will hand my last two over.

Should it help the subject was "Bedrooom miracle forr men nnnd" and the senders actual email address (should you want a "Bedroom miracle forr men nnnd") is usfyuen-tak@znvflerangile.com

Friday, July 09, 2004

Write Sam Damnit:
Revue performance requested, revue performance delivered. I got up late, which I had hoped I wouldnt do, then I was a twat and looked at the wrong schedule, but I managed to get myself out the door and on the way to Florence.

What I have recently learned is that part of this whole road to Academia is trailed with trips for meeting people, creating a network and connections. And they are worth their weight in gold. If you cant tell I am working hard at this whole network thing and it is paying off a bit. If people extend, I go. You do NOT turn them down.

And as if the fairies knew this was a time in life where I needed entertainment and humor, I rode the long bus (normally I am a short bus passenger!). When I say long I mean that instead of 1:15 trip, I took a 1:45 trip. It seemed like a better option, 30 minutes in AC bus, or 30 minutes in sun... Long bus it is. And let me tell you it had entertainment value and kindness.

So I got to go through my favorite named town Poggibonsi. Reminds me of a combo between Pogo Stick and Bonsai- yeah I am weird, are you only now picking up on that? Sheesh you are slower than I am! And then to add to the Poggibonsi humor this mid 50s man gets on, very nice seeming and me out of my half napping stupor smiles and he starts talking in Italian to me like no one before. Asking all sorts of questions. Had most of this been done in English I would have shut him down much earlier but why not use my Italian- loosen the standards for the inner bitch a bit.

Next thing I knew it was time to get off the bus, and the 80 year old man who I had smiled at was giving my hand on the railing a squeeze and a big smile. (Smiles people they are worth everything) And the mid 50's guy was asking me if I had any luggage to get. I was like no, but thank you (all nice and chivalrous shit and all). I start my walk with a purpose way over to the local bus station, and he decideds to follow me continuing to chat. Ok whatever its only a block or two. As I got ready to cross, he started asking me when I would be in town. I explained I was moving (I am not lying people I can show you the lead ladden bags!) and then he asks for my number. BANG I am a winner with the 50 and over crowd, Hit #1. Go girl!

That was entertaining enough, but I continued on to have my special love affair with the library that has rolling Tuscan hill views, my own desk, smells of jasmine, path with blackberries, and BOOKS ON THE SHELVES!! And of course just as I become enough of a fixture there and start seeing the same people, they decide to start talking with me, and what am I doing- leaving. I wish I were staying and making friends! Just as you make the community you leave it behind- I really dont like this pattern. One of the girls finally actually talked with me today. She is really nice, and she thought I was Irish. well I look it and Dad is, so Ill take it. Then another girl talked with me and she was astonished when I told her I lived in the states- as she said I have a distinctly British sounding accent. I dont buy it but Ill take it. I mean who would have thunk it? And then cute library boy finnaly decides to talk with me too. Timing people I am SHITE at it.

But I must say the best entertainment was on the way to my meeting. So European campuses are a bit spread out, so I was walking up the hill from Badia, and low and behold this car comes blazing up and around the corner. We were at the main crossroads (which doesnt say much as this town doesnt even have an actual stop sign) and he rolls down his window, yelling "Centro." Something about me says "ask her." I get asked directions etc in a multitude of languages at all times most anywhere I am. So I say back which center- Fiesole or Firenze? Firenze- ok that way. Thanks, you're welcome. And the sinker my friends- "Do you want a ride into town?" Aww I must look all hot and sweaty here in my grubby t-shirt dress today cause for those of you counting that was hit numero due. I said no and giggled on my way to the bar.

Can I tell you how great it is in Europe- you have meetings like this and you go out for drinks, liquor- sign me up! It gets even better as often though I offer, who ever I am meeting with picks up the tab! So I meet with Dawn for a beer/wine and chat. Dawn the lovely person that she is helped me to go past some of my insecurities and academic peril. But really she helped with my need for more wine to mellow me out some, and drain away from the frustrations I am having with the Financial Aid people (I issue a Fatwah on you, and you know who you are!).

I may not feel like I exactly belong yet, but joining the Academic commmunity I am finding myself surronded with some of the best people around at all levels. She managed to help me to take off some of the "You must create an original ground breaking theory" pressure (save that for the PhD). And I am feeling a bit happier about it all.

She also quite kindly called me on my shit and said it is time for me to stop using my lack of a question as a reason not to write and only research. I am muddling the picture and if I start writing instead of reading so damn mush which takes me on 8 different directions from Sunday- maybe just maybe the question will come. The gold mines that can come from writing should not be over looked. It is time to learn through writing. Writing feels like it is my weakest link, and it is time to get myself there and through it.

What does all that mean.... well I think I need to de-blog for a little while. I am feeling tapped out and all my resources need to be going to this dissertation. I am not sure with the next couple of hectic on the run every three days with tons of work to do schedule that I will have the wherewithall, access or energy to make consistent updates. So for anyone who notices, I wont be posting that often. I may choose to write while I am on the road and retro-post them, but as a warning there will probably be bigger post gaps and windfalls for a while.

But to leave the post with a smile, I spent the whole bus ride home smiling. I am content with being here in my life for this instant. And that feels divine. I am smiling as the Tuscan hills go by and even though I wont see them again for a while I am soaking it in. I even got to make it three for three as on the bus ride home one of the extra bus drivers offered me some gum, and then as he got of the bus he winked at me and said good night.

Goodnight Gracie indeed.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

Scrambled Eggs Please:
My day, my life, my way. Normally I want sunny side up eggs (NOTHING better than dipping your bread in yolk!), but recently the menu has only had scrambled eggs. I am not liking them anymore than before but I am getting a bit better at eating teh meal and moving on. I can adjust, really I can. I hope...

More things are at least getting done and I can see "progress." I am feeling a bit better about it all, though there is still alot to be done and well that ostrich manoeuvre is only one head plant away. I really dont want to move. I am tired of moving. Wouldnt you know it that just as I am about to move Siena starts to grow on me and even a few of the people start to do more than grunt or look at me weird. Would it be any other way?

I have minor errands to do all coming out the wazoo, but I am feeling a bit better and small amounts of accomplishment and graciouness for having so many great people put into my life exactly when I have needed them, most of the time saying the same thing (when they can be consistent why shouldnt I believe them).

It may not clear everything, but it certainly has mitigated my current shit shower feelings. And I am determined no to let this whole ordeal get to me. This feeling of not being able to ride any up swing without getting my skull smashed in will not triumph. I will in Paris in 4 days under the Dog Damn Arc de Triumph!

That said I am about 85% ready. I have the errands, some last bits of sightseeing and packing and my last (for now) research day at EUI. Thats right folks, I had a meeting set up for me by Big Wig, so you get another edition of Fiesolani Research Wednesdays (on a Friday- minor point). It is my last (for a while) trip to EUI and I am getting a bit misty. I will miss that library with books on the FREAKING shelves!!! I will miss it more than, well more than I care to admit.

I am getting all misty eyed. I need to go find a tissue, probably one that is packed at the bottom of all my shit.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

For the bloodly love of DOG (I am a dog lover you know- I am not however dyslexic). ENOUGH!! This whole up down thing is really making me question my whole relationship with teh life roller coaster. I know that once it is past this too will seem like something that isnt near as humongous as it seems right now, but sheesh, cant a girl get a break?

For the short part of the post, my flat for the month of August that was supposedly secured- has of course just fallen through. GREAT. SO I get to be in Paris for Bastille day and flat hunting not to mention my dissertation exam- what more of a "holiday from hell" could a girl ask for. Anyone know of a one way ticket to Bali?? I guess I should be grateful I found out now instead of the 29th, I will figure out a way to make it work I know this about myself (I just hate making things work all the time) and it is the month of August (ie the Mass Parisian Exodus) so there is a bit more than a snow balls chance in hell that I wont be ripped a new one.

I am tired though of all the whinging. I am moving, of course everything is going to clusterfuck and go wrong. I simply need to deal and work through it. No whinging is going to make it better. And constantly reviewing my return to contestant status on "Whack you with a Bat" is enough to depress even me.

So one to the good news. Meeting with BIG WIG. It actually went pretty well, actually from my perspective it went GREAT, from his well he must not have thought I was a complete ass and waste of time. He was personable, articulate (though a bit scattered, which I understand), brilliant, and accessable. He made my day.

See I have been seriously jonesing for some interpersonal contact if you get my drift (wink wink nudge nudge). I have been needing to bounce my ideas off of someone who knows enough to point out the obvious to me, cause lets face it folks, I am detailed to the max and as oblivious as they come. That is me the hyper opposites at any time at the same time.

He was able to talk with me, set me straight on something that my US advisor (He the Non-Communicative and important one) should appreciate. He made clear that I need to take some of the pressure off. This is not an exercise to create some grand new theory: It is an exercise to get me to teh next step. To get me a good letter of recommendation. Moreover, it is to show I know the literature can consolidate it concisely and use it to support a smaller argument which can then have broader extrappolations. He was able to tell me a question and if I can capitalize on all of what he said and remember it, well it just might work!

The best part of the process was eating lunch, talking and popping out my points and having him say things which got me about 75% of the way to on track. That last 25% will be a bitch but lo and behold there is a possibility of dawn. The light I just might see it again.

He was also supportive, and even better since he is marrying an Yank academic, next year he moves to a US university. There is one man I would want on my dissertation panel. You can bet I will be applying to whatever uni he ends up at! Even better in the he probably doesnt think you are a complete ass category (well that is where I am going to put it), he gave me some contacts which he told me to use his name with (remember he is BIG WIG name, and I am NOT exaggerating on this one), he set up a meeting with another local here for me (return trip on Friday anyone?) he gave me a book of his, he told me he would be willing to look at what I put together, and he lent me his ears, his time and in the process extended a small amount of confidence. Invaluable like nothing the man could ever imagine.

I was in SERIOUS need of that human contact. I know I will come out better for the process in this program, it really does make me a better candidate, for all the bitch of frustrations it places in your way. But today was just what I needed, and about damn time too if you ask me!

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Its about time that something went right. This morning when all despair was lost, as I was having serious issues with the damn rental agency again, panicking about having no where to stay and paying through the nose... life finally gave me a break to breathe. The agency for all their hassle, incompetence and invasions can suck my... well you get the point.

Finally the Karma Kitty has come back to roost. Ok bad line but whatever. I agreed to do something that wasnt a big deal, I agreed to english proof an academic article for a PhD student here. Who knew that that small gesture would get me a place to stay. She is so kind she doesnt know what it means in the least to me.

SO I will not be sleeping in the Campo like a homeless vagabond. I will be carrying all my shit in multiple trips across the Campo however- just to prove how bad of a nomad I am.

I still have 1000 other pressures to deal with (including being composed enough for tomorrows BIG WIG meeting) but now at least one of them is relieved. And me a little bit with it. Long time over due if you ask me.

Monday, July 05, 2004

I Want Off The Damn Dues Train. NOW!!:
I know you have to pay your dues in life. I am the first to say that you have to wade through the shit to get to the good stuff. But it’s really got to balance at some point. And right now its not. Enough is enough.

Some days exist simply it seems to make me wonder if I ever had any sanity at all. I wonder about the decisions I have made (as a result of where they have lead me). There are days when I really want to meet Ms. Life and tell her off for teasing me so persistently and cyclically. I hate being the bitch to life’s processes.

Honestly some days I think that if the costs weren’t so high right now I would jump without hesitation off the train. It might be the right train but I am getting motion sick from all this shit. Sometimes I think the prices I am paying to do what I am doing are worth it. Other times I seriously think that there needs to be another option to making all the swirling chaos stop besides suicide- because that is a shitty option (actually non-option, no people I am not suicidal, just crabby+) and I am all about increasing my options.

I am serious, today is NOT a good day. It is one of those, there is no light at the end of the tunnel and life constantly wants to put me through the wringer days. Anything that can go wrong has and well it is making my life hell. And really all I want is to make it STOP.

Really I just want to have the swirling chaos that is called my life STOP. If only getting off didn’t have such high costs. One friend told me to visualize my way through the mud and shit that seems to be my life right now. I did that all the time in gymnastics when I was growing up. I had to at that point, if I didn’t I wouldn’t- mostly because I would "black out" the middle bits. Serious I would salute the judges and have no clue until I hit my last bit (pass on floor, dismount on bars or beam). Took me a long time to convince my coaches that I seriously had NO recognition as to what had happened.

So now I am supposed to visualize the next two months. I know that they are most people’s dream. And superficially it’s mine too. Seriously it sounds great my life. But if you go one layer under the skin it isn’t as rosy as it sounds from a glance. Sure I will be in Italy and then Paris for Bastille Day, followed by a run trip through the UK. It SHOULD be great, but in the same time I have a thesis proposal that I am drifting at sea with that is due, I have financial issues that exchange rates are only exacerbating, I have housing issues to secure, and I have two more months to get through.

There is a point where you are so tired and just want it all to be over with. I am completely there, full stop- bus dont go no further. The agency has been giving us more issues and I am now forced to look for a place to stay for the rest of my time in Siena. I did NOT need this. I don’t need it financially, because even if I could afford it the exchange rate is going up and screwing me over. Next up on "the hold her over the barrel" trend, is the moving of all my shit. I am seriously not a good nomad and all I want to do right now is take my shit and put it in ONE fucking place and make it STAY there. It is heavy, it is mine and I want or need it, but I don’t want to move it again. And then we have the Conference dance, where I get to go somewhere but it’s completely at the wrong time (i.e. would be easier if it was in say... September).

I feel like I am lined up in front of a bloody firing squad right now and I simply cannot get a break. Bang, Find A Place to Stay For The Next 5 Nights. Bang, Pack Up Everything. Bang, Move. Bang, Write Paper. Bang, Meet with Big Wig. Bang, Scramble Like All Hell. Bang, Write Final Dissertation Proposal (with no comments from advisors). Bang, Travel to Milan. Bang, Travel to Paris. Bang, Travel to UK. BANG, BANG, BANG. Literally all within the next a week.

This seems to be a cyclical thing, and I am not fond of that. It cycles between ok and sometimes even fun, and intensely packed high stress power-ball games. It takes almost everything out of me. It makes me unbearable to be around. It is not fun. Life doesn’t always have to be fun and games but it wouldn’t hurt if one or two things could go my way and stay that way. Cause every time I think I have come close a recovery, Ms. Life WHACKS me again. Just when I thought I wasn’t a contestant on "Whack Me With A Bat" any more. I am sure I will come out alive, or at least that is what my friend Jeff tells me, but really there is only so much more of this I can take!

Sunday, July 04, 2004

Happy Fourth of July:

It is the second one I have spent out of the states in a row, and the second one I forgot basically (remembered as I was going to bed- does that count?). See it’s not a holiday here in Italy, and it is well established that I am a BAD American.

What did I do for my Fourth of July? Well like any good American I watched the European Cup Football Final of course! That and a whole bunch of nothing. Well ok I was geeky and I did a bit of reading, and took a nap first. It’s Sunday what else is Sunday for?

So I have watched three of the European games (Italy-Denmark, Portugal-England and Portugal-Greece), and I have observed confirmation of my beliefs- there are many hot football players. It was fun, as I am not invested in a team or anything, plus it is my Mediterranean friends. I kind of wanted Portugal to win home team and all; however it is the year of Greece. It wasn’t as dynamic and explosive of an offensive game. Portugal had their chances and simply didn’t step up to the goal as it was.

But really that is what I did. There were no fireworks in Italy. I was tired from the Palio and packing and we went home to bed after a few drinks and the game. My life is dull and I am a BAD american. There it is all summed up.

Saturday, July 03, 2004

Saying Goodbyes:
Yes again I come back to the part of bouncing around that I hate. I hate not feeling settled, I hate starting over from scratch each time, and I hate saying goodbye after I have started over from scratch. It is not a fun process. I know that there are good and bad points to all of this. I could be the first one to rattle the lists off to you.

The issue is that no matter what goes on, I am always in the same situation. Just as soon as I get to the point that I feel ok where I am, I have a community and things are starting in the right direction, BOING time to bounce around again. Life feels like it is one wicked game of musical chairs right now. Between the bouncing and the pressures I place on myself well it is all insane I tell you, life is insane. And don’t even get me started on the packing.

Unfortunately one of my dear friends and one of the girls in the program are leaving today. I know that its not good bye forever, I learned from my great aunt when I was little that you don’t say good bye you say I’ll see you later (well I learned it in Spanish, but same thing). I still wish I wasn’t the last one to move right about now. I don’t like saying good bye to everyone and basically having no one say good bye to me, at least not if I am moving too. Virginia leaves tomorrow and then it is just me. Me all alone, hiding from the agency people, scooting in and out as secretly as I can, just me. Well there will be one or two others here but you get the point.

So I went out with Khryzek last night and the rest of the group (some of who will be staying most of whom will be leaving soon also) and had fun, and said good bye.

Friday, July 02, 2004

Il Palio:
Well its here folks. This what all of Siena is about. It is supposedly what makes this place so closed (the whole neighborhood solidarity thing) and what everyone and their mom comes to see. It is IL PALIO. So even though I am not the grand dame of this town’s features I decided that I wasn’t going to be one to pass up on any experience. And if nothing else Il Palio is an experience.

So what is Il Palio? Well here is a bit of a historical run down in crude terms. Most cities in Italy have some event which often has been going on for centuries and is often a pilgrimage of sorts usually to make blessings or thanks to the Virgin Mary. Il Palio is Siena’s version of that. It happens twice a year (July and August) and it is one hell of a brou-ha-ha. It starts two to three months in advance at least. Commencing with the Drummers, you have all listened to me bitch about them.

The drummers are part of what are called Contrade (basically neighborhoods) and there are 17 of them. They each have a flag, colors, an animal they represent, a church, a Palio Museum and more medieval garb than you can shake a stick at. Each year each contrada spends their weekends prancing around (and often it’s the young people doing this, which is surprising to me) and as soon as the sun comes out daily drumming practice in the arcades for the acoustical effect commences. This wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t the same damn bloody beat over and over and over again. They also all sing songs- to the same damn tune, just different words.

While the day long event and the race are referred to as Il Palio, Il Palio is actually only a banner. Looked to me like something that was created for a high school drama club, but what do I know. Often people think it’s the historical presentation of the contrade and the horse race, but Il Palio itself is only the banner. And let me tell you locals are EMOTIONAL about it.

About two weeks ahead of time preparations begin. They pack the outskirts of the Campo with sand and board off the center of the Campo, making the race track. In the week running up to the main event they run trials at 5 am and 8 am on certain days, with the contradini drumming daily. Only 10 contrade per year run the race. The seven who didn’t run last year are guaranteed a spot this year and the ten from last year draw straws for the last three spots.

The way the day of the actual grand deal goes is as such. At 6am the contradini go together to church and pray, following which they go and bless their horse. At 8am the last trial is ran. After which they pray some more, then eat lunch together, and of course bless the horse again. Now after this last blessing the contradini get into their garb (which really makes you feel like you are watching the filming of Men in Tights).

A cannon is set off (scaring the pigeons to death- watch out for hailing pigeon shit!) and then they hose down the path with a firetruck like pressure hose. Great for those who want to go get hosed down by it too- just dont go too close! This is great, because if you didn’t guess sitting out in the heat of the sun on a terracotta tiled piazza for hours on end- well its fucking HOT. You should get to the Campo early should you want to get a decent view of anything happening in the race. And I mean early (like 2-3 pm) the cannon goes again as the "gates" to the Campo are all shut down (except for one) at 4:45ish and that one is PACKED with the Contradini coming through it shortly there after.

Before the contradini come in, the Caracaccineri (I am sure I spelt it wrong, but I can say it right :) come in. This is the actual "Start" of the "event." These are the Carabineri (kind of "Police") who are garbed in Napoleonic looking gear. They prance around the Campo once and then on their second path round they canter leading into the full fledged gallop, wielding their swords and hooping like they are rushing into war. Fun to watch.

Afterwards the Contrade (all 17) begin the procession through town and around to the Campo. The locals then pour into the Campo through the one gate and the Campo goes from about 2,000 people to about 6,000 in the space of an hour, and it stays like that for the next two and a half hours.

The historical presentation of the Contrade starts with the Senese town flags and people- including the old tune trumpeters etc. And then comes each Contrade- who have drummers and flag twirlers who throw the flags around and also show off the horse. This moves a lot slower than you would think to be honest, and you are packed in kind of like sardines. Then there are some torture looking guys, and then comes Il Palio on its parade boat. Everyone is in garb and the horses are too. I feel bad for most of them I was dying in the Campo- and they had wigs, velvet and metal on. I don’t think I could do it. No need to wonder why they all looked pissed in every picture I have. At the end the flag throwers line up and throw their flags around.

As the flags are being tossed, the horses and the jockeys come out. Let me stress here that the contrade put SERIOUS money into this event. It is televised ALL DAY on RAI Uno- the main state channel. They do not interrupt it AT ALL- all emergency news breaks go to RAI Due! When the race is over it is replayed on a constant loop for the rest of the night. Mind you this is done nationwide, Il Palio is serious shit.

When I say serious money here is what it will cost you: chairs in stands on the periphery are 500 euros each and you have to be in your seats by 5:10 or you are SOL. If you wanted to see it from any balcony that is on the Campo- well each person costs 2000-3000 euros. And then there are the two VIP buildings, rented out by the HUGE local bank and then you have people world wide invited and "treated." Last year Tony Blair watched the Palio from there. Women in Haute Couture evening wear stand sipping champagne on the veranda, while Japanese men are stereotypically filming everything on their latest gadget. In addition to this the jockeys are paid 200,000 euros each. Yes I counted that is the correct amount of zeros! That is nothing to say what is being bet Italy wide (Senese do not bet on Il Palio).

But back to the event: the entrance of the horses. All holy hell goes wild. They enter one by one and go around the ring once; if you are on the rail like I was you can even hear the jockeys talking shit. When they pass the contradini (the costumed ones who are sitting in "special stands") you see the men go freaking crazy; pounding shit, being Neanderthal and everything. SERIOUS rivalries exist here in Siena and if you want to see ‘em, well here you go! Let the fights begin, and seriously they fight. The only bar is on grabbing other horses reins.

The riders and horses then start walking in a circle jockeying for the order, horses spurring around. These horses aren’t exactly tame, nor do they like being corralled into a small space with 9 other non-tame horses. The starting order of horses to line up is randomly selected from this circling and announced on a loud speaker. You see lots of talking going on; it’s a political scientist’s theory in action.

Once it is down to the last two, it gets interesting. This isn’t your average race; there is no start of the gun. It starts when the last rider gets "in line," but no way in hell he’s getting in till it’s advantageous for him. Often the order is broken and the circling starts again. Now everything up to this point (which is close to 8pm) is prompt. Mostly because the horses are not allowed to race after dark, and if they were late well- you do NOT want to go there.

So after the ordering broke this year, the whole circling began again. They got in line and you have to pay attention or you miss it. The deal with the race is that you go around the track three times. The horses are ridden bareback and it happens with such speed and violence that should you blink or be short you just might miss it! It is about 90 seconds of adrenaline filled racing.

Also another quirk of the race that adds to its "je ne sais quoi" is that it is the horse that wins not the rider. So inevitably each year a rider gets thrown (3 this year) and they keep on chanting for the horse. So I yelled GO, GO, GO and I jumped to see what was going on and I squinted my eyes to catch the winner. Quite the exhilaration for all 90 seconds of it. This year the race was neck and neck until the last bit of the corner when one of the other jockeys took out another rival jockey and ironically enough due to an earlier horse that was rider-less, the first three horses across the line were rider-less. Il Contrade della Giraffa was the winner.

After the race is won, everyone rushes the path. They pick the jockey up, start drumming, wave their flags and they cry. Dear Buddha are they all crying clinging on to one another. I for one will never understand that kind of attachment and emotion to something like football games or Il Palio, but the tears they flowed like the River Jordan. The Contrade then parades Il Palio through, around, and all over town. And they did this at least 4-6 times that I saw. In the neighborhood there is much partying, eating and much bell ringing. There is a bell in the Piazetta and it will be rang non-stop for the next two days, Il Palio actually will be paraded for the next two days also.

Parties are in all of the neighborhoods, but the "losers" are usually having a neighborhood only (unless someone from the neighborhood invites you) dinner (that is often €30+, gotta raise that money to pay the jockey you know!). After the dinner there is a huge party with wine for everyone, well at least until it runs out which was after about 4 hours. It was entertaining to see a Wine Keg. Think a Beer Keg with tap, but looks like a HUGE ass bottle of Chianti and you get the picture.

They parade Il Palio around and bring it to the local church; people take threads off of the tassels and tie them around their wrists. And in the weirdest touch of all you have the Cuccio. Every neighborhood "citizen" will wear a scarf that resembles the flag (bandiera) of the contrada around their shoulders/neck. It seems that the adults after they win like to attach on a pacifier and in some cases a baby’s bottle full of wine to the knot of the scarf. Now the bottle I could pass over, the 16 year olds with pacifiers I thought hmmmm…. It was when I saw the 65 year old with a flashing binky in his mouth that I thought WTF!!??!! I asked the Italians I talked with at the Festa what it was about but no one seemed to know. Me I think its weird!

The Festa was great, I sat for a while (being on your feet in the sun for 7 hours makes you do that) and was approached by two Italians; one middle aged guy and one younger one. The younger one was pretty cute, I forgave the fact that he was one of the "damn bloody drummers," I even wasn’t grossed out by the smoking (I have given up trying to find an Italian who doesn’t smoke). He took off his shirt and well... that was all until I noticed the Fanny Pack. That is the death of any attraction you can have for a male. I will never know why in all my life long days that men think wearing a fanny pack is ok, but I left Mr. Cuccio there.

I sat next to Middle aged man and talked with some other people I knew. He decided to hand over his HUGE flag to me to hold. So I have a picture of me with the winning Contrade flag. I waved it around a bit. Mr. Cuccio seemed impressed, but I just couldn’t get past the fanny pack. Middle aged man tried to convince me to go to some dinner but I went with two of the girls to the Campo.

It was about 2 am at this point, and while all the Senese were still going strong; I was seriously starting to fade. After another hour in the Campo, I started to get cold, the girls were speaking Spanish which was messing with my head a bit and I was T-I-R-E-D. I am old you know, having just had that birthday and all. I can’t party like I used to it seems, at least not with out a nap. So I headed home ending the "Il Palio experience- 2004."

I must say that as much skepticism as I had initially, living here you get pretty damn fed up with all the drumming and the closed contrade bullshit pretty quick. However, many of the Senese became a lot nicer (maybe because I was around the "winners"), the tourists fade in a bit more and the drumming it didn’t bother me so much.

It is one hell of a surreal experience, such that you are seeing men in tights and wigs, some of them looking like they are straight out of the middle ages. The horses racing it great! I love me a good race. And since there is no investment (I am not a contradini, and even if I was my contrade was not running this year) I really enjoyed it, also probably a factor of spending time with good friends. Makes the time in the heat go faster, that and the ice bottles of water! Ice it is your FRIEND. If you are in the area it is most definitely an experience everyone should take advantage of.

It is however an endurance event not for the weak of heart. It is hot, and if you are dumb and don’t bring something to sit on, shade yourself with, or drink well can anyone spell out the prescription for HEAT STROKE. There were at least 5 people carried off and 3 others I saw puke in my time. So come, be respectful and be prepared.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

I can not believe the agency I am renting from. I should have listened to my gut saying initially I should have moved elsewhere, at the beginning. So in most normal parts of the world should you happen to rent an apartment for the month you have to be out by the first of the month. Tuesday the twats at the agency told me no I couldn’t stay the night of the 30th, I had to pay extra if I wanted to do that.

Well since the next day was Research Wednesday and they weren’t willing to let me clear out the room and leave the keys in there at night when I got back, I was left with no choice. I told them I would pay for the last night. I got home last night and what has happened?? The FUCKERS had thrown some of my shit away and moved the rest around. This is SOOOOO UNACCEPTABLE!

So I go to Florence for my day of research, effectively about three hours of it as the power flickered and left the computers and copiers down for 2 hours; but that is besides the point. I get home it’s about 9:45pm and I walk through the entry way, I see 6 big garbage bags. I think what is that about? I wonder if those shits put my stuff down here... so I open one up bag and BANG right on the money- there are my towels. In with all the SHIT, and when I say shit I mean food, rubbish and what not. I RUN upstairs freaking out. I find all doors to rooms locked, all food tossed (I went grocery shopping yesterday and they took my Truffle Oil BITCHES), I see all my things in the main room shoddily packed (as I left the room in a hit of disarray from packing that morning).

I was LIVID. I was seeing RED. I could barely breathe I was so INFURIATED. I have put up with more shit from these people in the last three months than anyone should have to. I was roomed with others not in the program with out advance notice, I lived in the filthy apartment for 3 months, and I paid for 3 weeks that I didn’t live here again with out advance notice.

They are soooo on my shit list. I dont even want to think how much money I am out. In general I am a fairly moderate/temperate person. I don’t get truly mad that easily; honest ask anyone who knows me. It takes a lot to piss me off and it is usually a cumulative effect. I am bad in that sense, I have a hair trigger.

I can’t tell you where my full point is, but once you have passed that point of no return; you can damn well believe you will know it. I BLOW, and I make Vesuvius look like a trickle. The foul thoughts, language and vitriol flow like hot molten lava, and take a lot longer to cool. When I BLOW I am SERIOUS about it. I am one of those, don’t fuck around and do it right if you are going to do it/ don’t shake easy but once shaken I rattle quite a bit, kinds of people.

Not only was it an invasion of privacy, but it was destructive. I mean the dip shits threw away my fucking Harrods towels that my mother got me! They broke my glasses and my oil diffuser (my one make this place a home thing besides a picture of family). I lost my ticket to Milan. And then I had to try and go through everything to make sure I knew where things were. Took me an hour to find my underwear for Christsake!

All they had to do was take everything in the room stick it into bags and leave it in the main room. Would have been an invasion, but some random cleaning lady deciding what is and what isn’t rubbish, throwing out my freaking cashmere sweater- This, this is not right! I did not need this kind of emotional drain. I came up to the girls flat and it seems that something similar had happened to one of the other girls. We were all quite crabby.

This shit is out of line. I don’t know why these people think its ok to treat any of us like this. We may be students, but I am not some 18 year old. I deserve to be treated with respect. This is so far out of line that it’s not even funny.

Someone is going to get it and they are going to get it BIG time tomorrow. I was downstairs going through garbage and upstairs trying to semi-arrange my things until three in the morning. I am going to be one hell of a crabby bitch for a while.

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