31 January 2011

No Way Perrier!

This comes from a collection of cynical writings I did while at University in Wisconsin.
These are "Tales From the Tundra, circa 2000:

Ever since I first stepped foot in Central Wisconsin, I have seen these green bumper stickers on the back of beat up, rusted out American cars that read: “NO WAY PERRIER!” And ever since I saw the first one, I have wondered what it meant. Was it something against that damn bourgeois sparkling water, a statement against those damn Frenchman that come to our country to have sex with our wives, or was it something totally unrelated? I have wondered this for so long, yet everyone I asked didn’t have the faintest clue as to what I was talking about. By the end of this last semester here, I had completely given up on my quest for truth.

Low and behold, my first night out with my friend last weekend, an older man next to me at a bar struck up a conversation with me. After a while of discussing random topics with this old man (whom was quite talkative after throwing a few back), he brought up how Point Beer (the local Stevens Point brewery) used to taste really good until the city made them switch from natural spring water to city water. He explained that there is a naturally occurring spring not far from Stevens Point that produces some of the purest, cleanest and most mineral rich water. Then he told me that it became so popular that Perrier wanted to build a plant nearby to bottle the water. Well, the townspeople did not like that idea! They didn’t want those damn French people to take all their water! Thus the bumper stickers creatively displaying their dismay with a strong statement like: “NO WAY PERRIER!”

I told the man how delighted I was to finally know what that bumper sticker meant, and he was happy to have helped me. Then I pointed out that it was good to know that Perrier really bottles natural spring water, but he didn’t seem to appreciate that idea. Plus, telling him how much I loved France and French people didn’t really help either. He wasn’t very talkative after that. 

You think he had one of those bumper stickers?

27 January 2011

High Flying Clothes

If you live in Italy, you hang your clothes from your balcony or window. It's just the way it is. But it gets interesting when you live on high floors. The higher up your apartment, the more dizzying it is to hang your clothes and the longer your stuff has to fall. It is not uncommon, if fact, to encounter a lone sock or shirt on the street. Common courtesy here is to pick up the item and stick it in the building's mailbox. Or, just step over it and ignore it like most people do. Fortunately, this has never been a problem for me--until today. I was hanging up a sock, and the clothes pin suddenly snapped out of my fingers and to my dismay, I watched it plummet three stories to the ground below.  Ah, my first clothesline victim...at least it wasn't a piece of clothing. But it serves as a good wake-up call! 

20 January 2011


This afternoon I heard the distant sound of a trumpet playing a haunting tune. Curious, I looked out the windows, trying to see if I could find where it was coming from. I checked from the balcony—nothing; kitchen window—nothing; bathroom window—much louder but I couldn’t see anything. Then I heard some drumming…could it be a procession? Maybe it was some saint day that I was not aware of (I’m actually not aware of most saint days—SO un-Italian of me). I finally gave up and continued cleaning paint drops from the furniture.

After a few minutes, the music got so loud it was like it was right below the windows. I ran to the kitchen and peered down to the parking lot. There was no procession, it was a small gypsy band serenading the neighborhood. So that's where the music was coming from! They were really good! 

Gypsies have a lot of connotations attached to them--mostly negative--like the widely known issue of pick-pocketing and their chaotic, messy camp sites that caused their recent expulsions from France. But the most common element of this group of nomadic people is their ability to play music. From the subways of Paris, to alley ways in small towns, to squares throughout Europe, gypsies play great music. When I was living in France, I always loved that my caffé crème or my salade de chèvre chaud would be accompanied by lively music played on a fiddle or an accordion. And I would always give them change because hearing live music brightens my day and that is certainly worth the change in my pocket, right?

But today, I didn't even need to leave the house! My apartment was filled with great music for at least 10 minutes and after I dropped a little baggy of change, I was serenaded from below my window. Click play to here my serenade...

19 January 2011

Springing Up Gaddafi

The Fiuggi Terme (hot springs) are some of the oldest springs in Italy. The Romans cherished the waters, and ever since the Romans, Fiuggi water has been bathed in, “taken”, bottled and even prescribed by doctors for it’s high mineral content, ability to flush uric acid from your body and it's purifying affect on the kidneys. Even the Servizio Sanitario Nazionale (national health system) recognizes the water as a treatment for kidney stones and urinary tract infections. Today, most grocery stores and markets in Italy carry the green glass bottles on their shelves. Sangimini is the company that runs the bottling of the water with strict quality controls and the resort/spa.

14 January 2011


Spaghetti and meatballs-- it’s a classic. It’s the first thought most Americans have when they hear Italian food. That, and the red and white checkered tablecloths, the candle in the Chianti bottle and “That’s Amore” by Dean Martin playing in the background. But even though this all-too-familiar scene for Americans has very little to do with actual Italian culture, I thought I would take you through the steps of making some authentic polpette (meatballs).

13 January 2011

When the fridge is bare...

Recent remodeling in our apartment had caused us to stay elsewhere for the past week. However, we are now back in our apartment and loving our fresh new bedroom and bathroom. But our fridge is bare and grocery shopping doesn't happen until this evening. So what do I eat for lunch? As my mother has recently discovered (due to living in Norway without a car), the most creative dishes are made when your fridge is empty! So I bypassed my empty fridge and went straight for the cupboard. Garlic, chilli pepper flakes, olive oil, and black pepper. That should work! In goes the last 125 grams of orecchiete (ear-shaped pasta) to the boiling water and I start browning my garlic and chili pepper. Toss it all together, top it with a drizzle of Balsamico and freshly grated Grana Padano. How was it? Amazing!!

12 January 2011

Demolition Derby

On my way home this afternoon, I passed a school that has been on the corner of via Venezia and via Alberto Ferreri for decades. Ok, there was no derby, but they were in the process of tearing down the building. Of course, the first thing I noticed was the crowd of spectators with their arms extended, holding their cell-phones to take video of the destruction. Most likely, these transfixed spectators were once students inside that depressing, post-war structure and may have dreamed many times of this particular moment. Maybe they were lingering to give a deep sense of satisfaction to their inner-child. Or, maybe some were melancholy, remembering their teachers and their little desks. But whatever their motives, there we stood, watching the claw break through the walls and the floors like they were crackers. [You can click to enlarge the picture for more detail]

08 January 2011

What Time Is It?

Today I was out early to run errands and get groceries for lunch. But after walking all over town from the calzalaio (shoe repair shop) to the market, I wasn’t sure what time it was. I had to have lunch ready by one o’clock and it struck me—what if I’m running late? I pull up my sleeve to look at my watch--not there. I didn’t put my watch on this morning! Crap, what time is it? Just then, as if God had heard my plea…the church which I happened to be walking in front of gleefully answered my question. 

Push play to hear how I knew it was 12 noon...

Vernazza Updates:

Vernazza is well on its way to normalcy and while I no longer write updates on their status, you can learn about the devastating floods of 2011 by clicking the label "Vernazza Updates". For the latest information from the organizations in Vernazza and Monterosso, visit SaveVernazza and Rebuild Monterosso.

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