Monday, March 31, 2008

Gone -- but not forgotten

It appears that one of my favorite pop culture web blogs has folded its tent and crept quietly away into the night.

You can have your Perez - you can have your TMZ. Nothing - mind you, nothing can compare with the ultimate snark that was....


For sheer belly laughs and bitchery - Snarkywood was in a class by itself. Some examples follow:

Snark for yourself..

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Brian stands corrected

While leaving a message on a friend's answering machine, Saturday afternoon - 2 pm:

Incorrect response: "We just returned from Rhinebeck. Give a call."

Correct response (yelled down hall from kitchen): "That's ' we just got home from shopping and cocktails,' for God's sake!"

It's a shallow but fabulous life - and someone has to live it.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Who says older isn't better?

I just downloaded the Shirley Bassey album "Get this party started." It's a collection of classics remixed and covers performed by Shirley in 2008!!!!

Dude - let the little kids have their pop idols - give me some vintage (and aged like a fine glass of wine) Shirley!!!

Don't believe me? Check it out for yourself.

I DARE you to be this fabulous at 71.

And don't forget. It's DAME Shirley, bitches.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Idol fascination

Kudos to my married and cute as bejeesus peeps Becky and Conrad for picking up on the recent American Idol theme of singing a song from your birth year.

Here are two top contenders from my birth year of 1963 - a year of surf songs and girl groups!

And yes...I am simply that gay.

Carry on.

Get in touch with your peeps

Check out the competition in this year's "Peep Diorama" contest.

I am truly inspired for next year!

Peep me up, Scotty!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Nobody says it better

I always loved Anne Hathaway - who knew she was a member of my family?

The following is her acceptance speech for the Human Rights Campaign "Ally of the Year" award - simply for loving her gay brother - and her extended gay family - just for being for who they are.

Italy photos: DONE!!!

Finally - all of the photos from our Italy trip are uploaded and tagged. From Rome to Pompeii - from Gaeta to........well, the next town over.

But here you go - enjoy!

Our next vacation: Absolutes

  1. On our next vacation, we will only stay at a facility that has affordable, accessible wi-fi available 24 hours. I don't mind being disconnected from my job when on vacation - but being disconnected from the world (my blog, e-mail, blogs I read) drives me f***ing nuts! And after lurking outside a Chinese restaurant in an off-season beach resort town to get free wi-fi - without having to order lunch or dinner - is something I do not wish to do ever again. And even in our hotel in Rome (where one would expect such civilized appurtenances), it cost us $25 US every 24 hours for wi-fi access that ranges between 25-56% available. Shriek!

  2. Country/region/destination must employ at least 20th century sanitation techniques. On our train from Formia to Pompeii, I discovered why there were so many signs forbidding passengers from using the on-board toilets (WCs) while standing at the station. IT'S BECAUSE THE TOILET EMPTIES DIRECTLY ON TO THE TRACKS !!!! YES!! YOU HEARD ME!!!! You can actually look down the toilet on some trains and SEE THE TRACKS flashing by.

    When I discovered this, I distinguished myself by shrieking out loud and demanding to know "...where in the freaking world am I, 19th century Calcutta????..."

    As a child who frequently followed the train tracks in my home town, I am personally disgusted by this act and abhor the idea of encountering random feces in the process.

  3. Coffee "to go" is essential. Having to get up, fix hair and dress to go OUT to get coffee is unacceptable. On our next vacation, I want a coffee maker and some sort of coffee whitener available so that I may be caffeinated regardless of my personal appearance and, if necessary, in my underthings. I also want the ability to purchase an espresso-based beverage to take with me - not having to stand elbow to elbow with the locals as they suck down an espresso while glaring at you for spooning your foam.

  4. The Anglo -Saxon version of "cleanliness" must at least be in their regional dictionary. Our experience in Italy South-Central showed that not everyone values the American ideal of "clean." Granted, we emerged with no obvious diseases or fungal infections (that we are currently aware of), but the version of clean we observed basically adhered to the following definition:

    Clean: n. not dirty or disorderly. no obvious rats or vermin nibbling on your children or your valuable, matching luggage. wiped with a rag, whether intended or half-heartedly - regardless of cleanliness or viability of rag to actually clean. cleaning product not actually required. human hair left on surfaces is a bonus. marinara stains on walls and counters do not count. glasses that are so greasy AFTER washing that they fly from your grip qualify.

  5. The "me first" rule does not apply. Courteous cultures deserve the best tourism, regardless of country of origin. Destinations which allow you to turn right from a left turn lane, or allow locals to walk in front of you as you approach the ticket agent to argue about something in local language for 15 minutes while you miss your train will not be allowed.

  6. Anyone over 6 feet tall (and with naturally broad and alluring shoulders) is automatically upgraded to Business Class. I have absolutely, positively spent my last 10 hours in Economy - pinned into an unforgiving seat and forced to endure the unwashed humanity who believes it is appropriate to put your seat into the fully reclined position upon boarding, regardless of whether you sleep or not. Also - Americans who talk loudly and must describe any activity or personal ailment or hygienic action within earshot of another passenger must be immediately put to death. Especially anyone from the East Coast, New England region, Texas, the South, or who lives in a McMansion somewhere.

Be forewarned, Germany. You are probably next.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Re-entry blues

Weren't we just in Rome this morning - drinking capuccino and watching the rain?

Then riding the efficient and empty train through deserted and decaying stations - as tall buildings became fewer and fewer

Rudely crammed into hard, confined spaces with rude, uncaring strangers for interminable hours

Struggling through Manhattan traffic - highways becoming angry, blaring parking lots

Hours later, reaching home. Familiar sites, smells and possessions welcoming us

A sense of relief mixes with a sense of something lost

Life continues

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Our last night in Rome

It's Saturday night in Rome. The desk staff at the hotel gave us a wonderful welcome back - and our room is light-years better than the previous one.

K and Moy met us at our hotel for a last spree in the Eternal City. So - we romped in the rain and bought gaudy oversized Dolce & Gabana knockoff sunglasses.

Then we found our favorite cafe in old Rome and had a fabulous dinner of cannelone, stuffed eggplant, manicotti and bruschetta -complete with lots of glasses of vino rosso and prosecco.

We then retired to a nearby gelateria for gelato before walking them to the train station.

And since we're waaaaaaay under our limit, Brian and I squeezed a little more shopping in.

Now, we're snug and warm in our wonderful hotel room (this is our hotel now, when in Rome) - and bells are ringing across the city,calling the faithful to worship on this night before Easter Sunday.

The bells are both beautiful and haunting in their cacophony.They all seem to be ringing out the same call, but competing with one another. But it is beautiful.

We're off to sleep now - even though our room strangely and suddenly smells like bacon cooking.

Is there something about Easter and Catholicism I have missed?


Day ???: Hell, we're in Rome again...who cares what day it is?

Yvonne, Maurizio (their son, not the waiter we've discussed) and Rino
at The Dutch pub in Gaeta

It's Saturday -and we're on the train back to Rome.

The rain stayed away until yesterday – just in time for the Good Friday processional through Gaeta.

We dined at Rino and Yvonne's in anticipation, after a morning of shopping in Formia and a little reposo nap back at our apartment.

The rain delayed the processional, but it came nonetheless. Jesus and Mary were just covered in plastic – but the local band played and the cross bearers marched.

It was very sweet and a nice little flavor of where we were.

This morning, after cappucinos at the local cafe, we met our landlord to handover the keys and he – quite nicely and to our immense relief – gave us a ride to the train station at Formia (otherwise, we would have had to stand in the rain and take the bus).

We're rested and relaxed – and we're ready to head home.

We've enjoyed our stay - but much of it remains foreign and strange to us.

The self-centeredness of the residents is highly incongruous with the friendliness. The same person who will step in front of you in line or cut you off in traffic will smile and chat with you when he is behind the counter.

We've enjoyed ourselves – we have met some wonderful people and seen some amazing sites.

But we're ready to come home. We miss our lives – our dogs, our friends, our bed – our cleaning products!!!!

We're excited to have one more night in Rome -it's our buffer before boarding that airplane tomorrow afternoon.

Buon Giuorno – we'll see you when we get home.


Friday, March 21, 2008

Don't cry for me, Ulster County

We bought cashmere sweaters in Formia today for 29 Euro - and Brian bought two pairs of Italian leather shoes (yes, Peter - I approved prior to purchase) for 25.

And I am bringing a small pottery shop home in my bags - most expensive piece to date? 38 Euro.

Peter - Brian says please don't cry. And he's laughing evilly and singing something about pretty shoes.

Days six and seven: Pompeii and little Jimmy's last day

It's Thursday morning in Gaeta.

Brian and I have just woken up- and it's 11 am. Personally, I'd still be in bed if the family in the apartment next door had not held the all-yelling re-enactment of the invasion of Normandy.

Humorous note: Brian has just emerged from the diminutive shower and proclaimed it as a device designed to discourage personal cleanliness. Ha ha. It's true - it is basic functionality at its very best...or worst.

Today is our first day since landing in Rome where it has just the two of us – Jim's ship sails to Croatia tomorrow. And Matilda and T-Bone are up in Tuscany until Saturday.

Wednesday, Brian, Jim and I went to Pompeii.

It was an amazing trip. Taking the bus to Formia, we boarded the commuter train for Salerno. Unlike the high-speed TrenItalia Inter-city we took from Rome, this was the Italian version of New York's Metro-North – only with bubblegum colored interiors, lousier seats and graffiti we couldn't read.

After nearly two hours passing through some of the prettiest countryside and crummiest towns we'd seen here, and struggling through the commuter crush of Naples, we emerged on the other side and detrained at the Pompei station.

New Pompei is actually a very quaint town, with bolder colors on their Mediterranean-style buildings, huge palm trees and much cleaner streets than we had seen between here and Formia.

Since we had somewhat limited time and it was actually hot when we exited the train, we allowed ourselves to be taken advantage of to the tune of 10 euro for what was probably a 2-3 euro taxi ride to the main gate at the Pompeii dig.

Note to future travelers to Pompeii: The ladies outside the gate selling the guidebooks and maps are NOT affiliated with the actual Pompeii attraction. Once you buy your tickets (11 euro each – quite reasonable), they give you a free book and map.

Call me 8 euro poorer. Doh!

(But it is prettier than the free book – so it's your call)

The sheer size of Pompeii is breathtaking. You enter through the same road to the port that the Pompeiians used to flee to the water when Vesuvius was erupting – brrr- chilling. The stone roads, sidewalks and gutters reflect the wear of centuries by humans, animals and carts – you simply can't imagine how alive this city once was.

The engineering and architecture of what remains gives a glimpse into the brilliance and ingenuity of the Roman culture, while the remaining paintings,mosaics and frescoes illustrate what a feeling the Pompeiians had for grace and beauty.

You can't adequately put into words what we saw – the gardens, the temples, the rooms where every day life took place. But the most moving moment was, of course, standing in the Garden of the Refugees and seeing the remains of a handful of adults and children, forever frozen in time in their stone enclosures.

Just knowing how desperate these unknowns were – trying to flee the city and then dying such a horrible death – you couldn't help but be silent and respectful. In fact, we were among a group of tourists at the garden and no one spoke. And when one woman did begin a conversation with a friend, it felt as inappropriate as laughing in church.

It's hard to see all of Pompeii in a day – but we saw what we could and snapped a zillion photos (which I hope to up-load one day without having to buy a Chinese dinner).

We ended the day in Gaeta at “The Dutch”- a restaurant owned and run by Jim's friends, Rino and Yvonne – he's a local boy and she's from Amsterdam. They're great people and a lot of fun.


Thursday was a slow day for us. We slept till 10 – had a couple leisurely cappuccinos and some insanely good breakfast nibbles.

We then walked the 1.5 miles into old Gaeta and explored the city some more. It was another blue sunny day – the winds were mild coming off the bay.

Around lunchtime, we headed to our favorite wi fi hotspot – the Chinese restaurant. We dined on gnocchi and fettucine – and managed to update my blog and upload a few pictures.

I'm loving this vacation and all – but I'd be happier with a little more connectivity.

When we spoke with Rino and Yvonne (a former secretary at IBM, our Ms, Yvonne! circa 1973!), the local authorities will charge you 2,500 euro a month to maintain an unsecured wi fi spot. You have to secure it or essentially be fined.

Apparently the Chinese place is a well-known secret operation – lol.

After lunch – which included glasses of wine and prosecco, we headed for the Blue Bar near the beach. We sat and had cocktails in honor of Reposo and watched the clouds skim over the mountains and the waves break against the seawall.

We met Jim at Vic's for drinks and hor's douvres and – as if I needed to – proved my conjecture about our gay waiter by successfully getting his phone number and e-mail address.

How does he do it? You might well ask. : )

We dined that night at Cafe Lolo, which is run by a local Fabio look-alike. Apparently, women flock there to have their photos taken with him.

That's about the only attraction,because the food was dreadful. I had “steak” that was mostly gristle and Brian's chicken dish was largely inedible.

Anyway – we're off to Formia tomorrow for some shopping. Then back to Rome on Saturday.

Bueno Serra, all!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Day Five: Going native

From sea to mountain top to sea. Wow- what a day.

We returned today (Tuesday) to Sperlonga where we enjoyed an unhurried visit before Reposo.

After breaking the bank at the local pottery shop- where I met the most charming lady potter who spoke nearly no English – and whose day was apparently made after making a sale in excess of 100 Euro off-season- we enjoyed a leisurely caffe then headed back to Gaeta to meet up with our landlord.

You could have knocked me over with a feather when we met Cosmo Di Russo. Every image I had invented of an oily, shiny-suited, overweight slum lord was shattered when we pulled into our parking lot and a shy, professorial, bearded and bespectacled - on site, a rather scholarly type – tall and lanky gentleman stepped from his car (An Audi A4 wagon,which - I am told – is a sign that he does quite well financially).

Cosmo was shy and sweet -he asked three different times whether the apartment was okay.

He turned on the hot water heater and radiator system which, it appears, we had accidentally shut off.


He then invited us to follow him to his family store, which we did. Upon arrival, we sampled fresh cheeses, prosciutto, mortadella, olives, tapenades and wine – all made by him and his family.

And let me tell you – pretty much everywhere we have gone, somewhere in the background, usually in a corner, is the omnipresent mother/grandmother type, overseeing what is going on – and correcting, as necessary.

I should also mention that when we arrived on Sunday, there was small bottle of homemade olive oil, ajar of olive tapenade, and a container of Gaeta olives – all made by Cosmo – awaiting us on our kitchen table.

He was adamant in understanding words and phrases he did not understand – and politely helped us correct our Italian pronunciations. He was exceedingly nice and polite – and in perhaps the most poignant moment for us in Italy yet, he said, “This is a proud moment for me” - meaning he took great pride in having people appreciate the products he and his family make.

I mean, come on – what's a mildly filthy apartment against that? I was nearly verklempt.

After that, we said farewell to the Di Russos and made our way to Itri – the olive growing capital of the Gaeta region – where we paused for a capuccino at one of the sidewalk cafes still open during Reposo.

From there, we ventured to Campodemile (campo-day-mee-lay),a mountain-top town that sits high above the olive valleys and from which you can see down three sides of the mountain into the valleys below.

Campodemile is also one of those park-your-car-and-walk kind of towns – and is renowned for the longevity of its residents, who generally survive to the ages of 100-110.

Standing atop the mountain, looking over the valleys surrounding Campodemile, all we could hear was the wind and the collective, random clanging of cow bells from the many freely-roaming cows we saw wandering through the olive groves.

We then headed back to Gaeta for the most eagerly anticipated activity of all – laundry!!

Again, Brother Jim came to our rescue. We stopped at the apartment (now warm and with hot water again freely available) to gather our dirty clothes, and then

We loaded the clothes in the washers and headed over to Vic's ristorante and bar – a waterfront favorite for Americans and Italians alike.

Vic has apparently been a wise businessman- catering to generations of American military while still making his place a destination for locals.

After so many days of trying just to communicate, transact and order food that won't make me throw up- it's exceedingly odd to be dining with a huge wide-screen TV playing the Simpsons and Family Guy- while the speakers carry Phil Collins. It was TOO American.

To rebel, we ordered Italian food.

I also solved a mystery that has been plaguing the boat boys for much too long – specifically, why Vic's key waiter – Mauricio – is so nosey, gossipy and into everybody's business.

Yes. The Gaydar chime rang.

Gaeta, as Jim has explained to us, is friendly, diverse and welcoming. And it's okay to be a visiting homosexual- just not a resident one. There exists a subculture of married gays – men with wives and children – who sometimes simply make “other arrangements.”

Mauricio was practically running people down to get to any handsome American that walked in. What Jim and his ship-mates had a little trouble recognizing was simply an oppressed little local who wanted to get his groove on.

After a few trips back and forth between Vic's and the base, we finally gathered our still wet clothes (the Navy purchased European dryers which,while offering many very specific functions, do not actually appear to dry clothes.), and headed back to our apartment.

Then we went native and hung the clothes out on our uncovered balcony to dry in the still night air. Another beautiful day had passed and exhaustion and relaxation claimed us quickly.

And, as we slept - for the first time since we arrived - it began to rain.


Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Day Four - Chinese ristorante Interlude

Ahoy,ahoy!!! I am finally at one of the two known wi-fi spots in Gaeta- one is a dive bar frequented by characters of low moral standards -the other, a Chinese restaurant. It's 2pm in Gaeta - and it's Reposo- the time of the afternoon when everyone closes shop, goes home, has their big meal of the day, and then naps.

Gaeta is a ghost town - yesterday, the Chinese place was the only one open. Today,even they are closed.

I am actually standing at another seaside outdoor bar called 'BlueBar' (also closed) at an outdoor pub table so I can hop on the wireless.

This place is a HOOT!

What follows is a post I started yesterday, but couldn't upload until today: (P.S. More photos to follow shortly)


Today we arrived in Gaeta.

We breakfasted at the hotel with Matilda and T-Bone then headed to the Station Termini with Brian's brother Jim to board the Naples train for Formia.

The train ride was amazing – how we Americans have let this go as a major transportation option is beyond comprehension.

We sped through the rolling green countryside,observing family farms where multiple generations were out tending their crops, sheep grazed uncomfortably close to the train tracks, and mile after mile olive groves stretched out - outlined by tall, slender cypress trees.

We arrived in Formia, the nearest train station to Gaeta -and were immediately overwhelmed by the scenery.

Gaeta and Formia are coastal resorts on the Bay of Gaeta – with Gaeta itself jutting out as a peninsula between the bay and the Tyrrhenean Sea. An ancient castle perches atop the highest point in Gaeta, with the old city and newer surrounding city spilling out below.

We checked into our apartment -and let me pause here to touch on an interesting cultural point about this region.

The local perception of cleanliness vis-a-vis the American mindset is wildly different. Apparently, the further south you go along the western coast, the less tidy people supposedly become.

Our apartment had obviously been cleaned – to a degree – as evidenced by the full bucket and mop still standing in the middle of the largely unfurnished living room – but the kitchen and bath appeared to have been given a quick wipe-down with a greasy rag.

And the sole piece of furniture for sitting in the living room – an IKEA-ized version of a futon/sofa with a blue denim cover on it – could probably be used in a major research project based on the sheer amount of probable DNA stains on it.

Needless to say, we won't touch it, let alone sit on it.

The rest, however, was rectified with a quick trip with brother Jim to the Navy Base commissary where we purchased scrub sponges, paper towels, anti-bacterial dish soap, and Chlorox bleach-based cleanser.

Another tangent here – if you have a service person in your family who lives close-by, beg,plead and whine to be taken to the base commissary. We bought 9 bags of various items, including cleaning supplies, food, milk, meat, pasta, water and vodka – and it cost $41 US. No joke.

For the remainder of the day -and it was another sunny, blue and balmy day – we lunched on gnocchi and fettucine at the only open restaurant in Gaeta during Reposa – the Chinese one (also only one of two public places offering free wi-fi).

Reposa, as we discovered, is observed across a large section of Italy, but especially in the Latina region (Rome, Gaeta, Formia). Businesses shut down around 12:30 in the afternoon – and I mean shut DOWN- families return home from their various pursuits, large afternoon meals- the main meal of the day – are prepared and eaten, and the family talks and reconnects – then naps are taken.

Somewhere around 4 - 5:00, shops and restaurants slowly begin to re-open – locals are seen strolling along the waterfront, and scooters and cars begin to re-emerge on the streets. By 7:00 p.m., things are back in full swing for about another hour or so – then the shops and produce stands begin to shut down for the night.

The restaurants and cafes are still buzzing, though, and will continue to until about 11-12:00.

We observed local tradition and returned to our apartment to nap on – we checked it out – obviously freshly-laundered and line-dried sheets.

Another tangent here. No matter where you are in Italy, you will see clothes being hung out to dry. Apparently, the electric infrastructure is so costly and so unstable, the use of clothes dryers and air conditioners are both economically out of reach for most and impractical in most homes.

So, villa or shack, apartment or townhouse – there is always laundry hanging out.

Anyway, after our nap, we jumped in the car that brother Jim so thoughtfully rented, and headed north to the village of Sperlonga.

Sperlonga is what you think of when you see those old european villages where cars can't go. At the edge of the main city, you park your car and are then free to navigate a (to us) nonsensical warren of steps, nooks, doorways, shops, cafes, restaurants, professional offices, and public spaces.

The village is perched on a promontory overlooking the ocean and seems like someplace completely out of time. The organic nature of the village is evident, as you see where a wall has been reconstructed around a section of old roman brick and a Doric column here, a stair added there, and arch built up here, and an apartment perched over an ancient arch. To us,it was mind-boggling.

We went to a local cafe for a refresher cappucino, then wandered the mazes of shops.

Afterwards, we headed back into Gaeta, where the town – almost deserted a few hours before – was thrumming with activity,people and lights.

We explored Piccola Alley – a narrow alley of shops and cafes in Old Gaeta also known “officially” as via Indipendenza – where you could buy everything from live squid and fresh mozzarella to designer clothing and farm fresh eggs.

We eventually wandered into a pizzeria in the old town, where we had quite possibly the most amazing meal here yet.

We feasted on Insalata Caprese and an Insalata Misto that was full of the local specialty, Gaeta olives – medium-small olives with a maroonish colored exterior and a distinctive flavor.

Our pizzas – a quattro formaggi and a “Gaeta” olive and mozzarella pizza were absolutely amazing. The olive oil alone, made from Gaeta olives – made the pizza unbelievably good.

We arrived back at the apartment, sated, exhausted and unable to turn on either the hot water or the heat.

Regardless, we collapsed into bed, and drifted off into a well-earned sleep.

Ciao from Gaeta!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Rome - Day Three: Morning edition

Buon Giorno to you all!

It's another lovely early Spring morning here in Rome.

Our friends Matilda and T-Bone arrived from California last evening. We had a wonderful reunion that included a nighttime visit to the Coliseum and a fantastic dinner at a pizzeria tucked away in an alley off of via Nazionale.

Before they arrived, Brian and I spentthe day wandering the eternal city - we found the Spanish Steps by accident and then proceeded to the Trevi Fountain.

The thing we have found about Rome is that the scale of these structures and monuments is unparalleled. The Trevi Fountain is enormous - and glorious in its over-abundance of art and form - not to mention the sheer volumes of water at play.

The Piazza Venezia is absolutely mind-blowing. In the modern mindset, you simply can't conceive of anything of this magnitude being even remotely achievable.

The people, by and large, have been lovely. Especially at the cafes, trattorias and shops. You are on your own on the street,however - civility is snatched away rather rudely as you jostle for position in cramped walkways and alleys.

We did have a rather unfortunate encounter with a pharmacist at the nearest Farmacia where Brian went to purchase anti-perspirant. I don't think it was us that she was angry at, per se - perhaps it was the spectacle of the British couple attending to the grandfather's blisters in the middle of the shop - but we considered ourselves lucky to surrender our 6 euro and receive a grumbled "grazie" instead of her hitting Brian up side the head with it.

Observations - two things you DON'T see around Rome.

  1. No one wears iPods
  2. There are almost no Romans walking dogs
And two personal notes:

To Lesleigh: Darling, you would swoon over the sheer number of SmartCars - we even found one in your color - see photos.

To Peter: You need to be here. Arthur Avenue boys got nothing on the real deal. We think of you frequently - well, every time a gorgeous Italian male walks by.

My favorite fashion/style quote from Brian so far: "I wouldn't want to see him naked, but here - it works."

We're off to breakfast in the Hotel's Breakfast Maximus room - where every croissant is a battle of wits and you are lucky to get fruit. At least the capuccino is fresh and good.

And your Italian phrase du jour is:

"Non posso mangiare i crostacei"

I can not eat shellfish

Ciao bellas!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Rome - Day Two

Phew - it's 1:30 am Sunday morning- and I just finished uploading my photos to Flickr.

Between the wonky wi-fi (at no less than 17 euro a day, if you please)and the fact that Flickr doesn't offer a Linux-based batch uploader - it's been a struggle.

Anyway - the photos are up!

We've had a marvelous day - the weather today and yesterday was a breezy, sunny, low 60s day - not a cloud in the sky for most of it.

We saw some amazing sites today - but honestly, I am too tired to write it here now.

Just enjoy the photos and I'll fill you in later.

I will tell you that I had a canteloup gelato tonight that was so fabulous, it would make the baby Jesus cry.


Good night, all!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Greetings from Rome!

Oh my God - Rome is unbelievable.

We're safely checked in to our hotel, the Hotel Massimo D'Azeglio - and have had the most incredible first day and night.

It's Saturday morning in Rome- we're just preparing to go down to the restaurant for breakfast after a fantastic first day, 14 hours of sleep and refreshing shower and skin-peel thanks to the hotel towels.

Yesterday, after we arrived, we settled in,dropped our stuff, and immediately hit the streets of Rome.

We walked for hours, pausing only occasionally for a caffe or glass of wine to refresh ourselves.

Already took 54 photos - but having a little struggle getting them to upload to Flickr.

More after breakfast, ya'll!


Thursday, March 13, 2008

Oh, dear God...

Still at JFK- and 35 giggling, squealing junior high girls on a class trip just arrived at our gate.


Roman Holiday

Well, we're sitting at our gate at JFK Terminal 1- our Alitalia plane is outside receiving provisions- and Brian refuses to quit smiling.

Aside from feeling a little guilty when we left the dogs at the Woodstock Animal Hospital, it was a much better day than the previous two.

We found out this trip that yours truly comes fairly unglued mentally if a major trip is imminent and all involved parties do not become psychic and know what is expected of them at any given moment. In short, I become a martyr and a bitch.

Not much more explanation needed there - I knew it was trouble when Brian commented yesterday that he had never seen me scowl so much.

But hey - I'm officially on vacation as of now. And since it was announced at work today, I can tell everyone that when I return, it will be in a new role with IBM Research. I'm very excited - and it's a great opportunity.

As long as Brian doesn't push me under the plane in retaliation.

We're on our way - we have a couple Hebrew National dogs happily swimming around our tummies - and in a few short hours, we will be people watching over wine in Rome.

More as it happens, kiddies - stay tuned!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Voices of reason - vs. voices of hate

From Pam's House Blend

A letter to Sally Kern from a senior in high school in Oklahoma.

(in case you missed it - here are Ms. Kern's comments)


Today my nephew attempted to deliver a letter to Sally Kern but was stopped by a highway patrol man. With his permission I am distributing the letter to all news stations and thought I would include it here.

Maybe we can all stand to learn a listen from this smart, loving, young man. He more than most has reason to hate. He lost his mother, my sister, in the Murrah Building bombing.


Letter From Tucker

Rep Kern:

On April 19, 1995, in Oklahoma City a terrorist detonated a bomb that killed my mother and 167 others. 19 children died that day. Had I not had the chicken pox that day, the body count would've likely have included one more. Over 800 other Oklahomans were injured that day and many of those still suffer through their permanent wounds.

That terrorist was neither a homosexual or was he involved in Islam. He was an extremist Christian forcing his views through a body count. He held his beliefs and made those who didn't live up to them pay with their lives.

As you were not a resident of Oklahoma on that day, it could be explained why you so carelessly chose words saying that the homosexual agenda is worst than terrorism. I can most certainly tell you through my own experience that is not true. I am sure there are many people in your voting district that laid a loved one to death after the terrorist attack on Oklahoma City. I kind of doubt you'll find one of them that will agree with you.

I was five years old when my mother died. I remember what a beautiful, wise, and remarkable woman she was. I miss her. Your harsh words and misguided beliefs brought me to tears, because you told me that my mother's killer was a better person than a group of people that are seeking safety and tolerance for themselves.

As someone left motherless and victimized by terrorists, I say to you very clearly you are absolutely wrong.

You represent a district in Oklahoma City and you very coldly express a lack of love, sympathy or understanding for what they've been through. Can I ask if you might have chosen wiser words were you a real Oklahoman that was here to share the suffering with Oklahoma City? Might your heart be a bit less cold had you been around to see the small bodies of children being pulled out of rubble and carried away by weeping firemen?

I've spent 12 years in Oklahoma public schools and never once have I had anyone try to force a gay agenda on me. I have seen, however, many gay students beat up and there's never a day in school that has went by when I haven't heard the word **** slung at someone. I've been called gay slurs many times and they hurt and I am not even gay so I can just imagine how a real gay person feels. You were a school teacher and you have seen those things too. How could you care so little about the suffering of some of your students?

Let me tell you the result of your words in my school. Every openly gay and suspected gay in the school were having to walk together Monday for protection. They looked scared. They've already experienced enough hate and now your words gave other students even more motivation to sneer at them and call them names. Afterall, you are a teacher and a lawmaker, many young people have taken your words to heart. That happens when you assume a role of responsibility in your community. I seriously think before this week ends that some kids here will be going home bruised and bloody because of what you said.

I wish you could've met my mom. Maybe she could've guided you in how a real Christian should be acting and speaking.

I have not had a mother for nearly 13 years now and wonder if there were fewer people like you around, people with more love and tolerance in their hearts instead of strife, if my mom would be here to watch me graduate from high school this spring. Now she won't be there. So I'll be packing my things and leaving Oklahoma to go to college elsewhere and one day be a writer and I have no intentions to ever return here. I have no doubt that people like you will incite crazy people to build more bombs and kill more people again. I don't want to be here for that. I just can't go through that again.

You may just see me as a kid, but let me try to teach you something. The old saying is sticks and stones will break your bones, but words will never hurt you. Well, your words hurt me. Your words disrespected the memory of my mom. Your words can cause others to pick up sticks and stones and hurt others.



Hello Youth Sex Game Play: Disease Ding-Ding Sexy For Self And Others

Thanks to the guys at Sadly, No - we have the latest installment from the ever-popular malapropist and language mangler Pastor Swank.

In this episode, Pastor Grant Swank dazzles and occasionally fades into pidgeon-faux-Chinese as he describes the horrible consequences of Happy Golden Pretty Teen Now Homo Sex.

And as always, be sure to check out the reader comments for maximum hilarity.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Signs of Spring!

From our gardens today:

The first crocus


And more Hyacinth!!

Here's to no more snow!!!

Don't be a hot tranny mess

Monday, March 10, 2008

Aw, dude...

My man Elliot blew it. Damn. The face says it all.

But while the opposition jumps on this, like lions on a wounded wildebeest, I would remind them - "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone."

Damn, dude. Just damn.

Oh - what a party!

On Saturday, we held a Bon Voyage party for the lovely Linda - and what a party it was. The food was incredible, the love was flowing, and the "Linda stories" we shared brought both laughter and tears.

Don't worry, Linda - Peter and I are going to visit you in Seattle to make sure
you get some new, high-quality gays - so you won't end up like poor Britney

And we finally got to meet Laurie's new love, John! Yay!

"Sisters. sisters...there were never such devoted sisters..."
(and niece)

The Angry Baker says, " I know the cake was fabulous, but no photos, please!!"
and then offers to show Peter a fabulous party trick that involves the insertion of his camera.

Danny enjoyed getting a little party pu....kitty....

Sambuca Liqueur takes a break from angrily shouting "drink coffee!!" at Peter to enjoy a moment of reckless abandon.

And what party is complete without some baby?? Little Natalia nearly stole the show.

Thanks to everyone for making it a wonderful night to remember for Linda.

Look out, Seattle - she's a coming!

Dining room of the damned

It only took us 2.5 years to complete. But it's finally done. The horrible 1970s wall board, the knotty pine built-ins, the brown shag carpet over linoleum on our hardwood floor (well, we still need to refinish that..) - is now only a bad, distant memory.

But it's over - and we had our first party in our new dining room on Saturday.

Don't let anyone tell you that stenciling is easy - it's a total bitch.

Behold - and enjoy!

Bomb a cyclist for the good old USA

Thanks to for their ongoing and extensive coverage of the Times Square recruiting station bombing.

As Faux News reports in the Gawker video clip, we know the terrorist rides a bicycle - "in a suspicious manner," no less - and wears dark clothing.

As anyone who has ever walked through Manhattan will tell you, any cyclist on the street is suspect. Most of the delivery cyclists don't even have brakes on their bicycles.

Define " suspicious cycling."

And as for dark clothing...EVERYONE in New York wears dark clothing. And its winter.

Oy vey.

Anyway - the article and video clip are good for a chuckle - but the best (as usual) are the reader comments. Some that had us laughing include:

"I ran over six bicyclists on the way home from work. No need to thank me, I'm just doing my part for America."

"I'm personally more worried about the Giant Arrow Of Doom that seems to be his accomplice." (from the video)

"Suddenly a bomb in Times Square is a big deal? No one reported Paul Simon for The Capeman."

"Well heck. Back in the 60's putting a pipe bomb in the doorway of an Army Recruiting Station was just considered teen-aged hijinx. Can't a kid have any fun anymore?"

Friday, March 07, 2008

Wow. Just wow.

This blows me away on so many levels.

  1. the name alone - did no one think about this?
  2. this type of game would NEVER be approved these days - it's got litigation written all over those flying little pieces
  3. can you see asking your dinner guests if they'd like to bust your balls over coffee?
  4. even more disturbing - having your 5-year-old offer to bust your balls
  5. damn. just damn.

And from the You Tube comments for this video - made me laugh department:

WHAT??? You mean this is a GAME? I thought this was one of those fetish videos! *sigh*

The past will always get you in the end

The lovely and talented Sarah Brightman, to my surprise, is much older than I expected - and made some very unfortunate career choices in early life. Well before, say, making some even more bizarre choices in later life (like marrying Andrew Lloyd Weber - I mean, who is she, Liza?)

Sadly - this one survives on video. It's so hard to choose what the worst thing is about this video - the song, the choroeography (and I use the word loosely) or the insane costuming.

If you haven't already clawed your eyes out - this should help your sanity. It's the Sarah we know and love and respect, once again.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

It finally happened!

From my fave "read over coffee in the morning" blog, Shakesville:

Question of the Day
| posted by Melissa McEwan | Wednesday, March 05, 2008

You've been given unlimited resources and creative control to create your own contest reality show (a la Project Runway) or game show: What's your concept?

My response:

My best friend and I want to host a reality show called "Yo house nasty"

No fix-ups, no neighbor swapping, no free furniture, no nothing - just a catty, bitchy, shame-filled camera walk through the homes of filthy, nasty people who don't have the good sense God gave a poo-flinging monkey

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Spell-check isn't everything

Forwarded by our lovely and talented friend in the real estate bidness:

" Review your shout-out before hitting send. Those spaces can kill you. At least those three "things" are in the same category..ha!"

Date: Tue, 26 Feb 2008 14:41:36 -0500
From: Xxxxxxxxxxxxx
To: Xxxxxxxxxxxxx
Subject: New Paltz office space for rent

New Paltz-- high visibility location on Main Street; 2 rooms--monthly rent is $850 total including utilities; available now; ideal for the rapist, lawyer, accountant etc. Call Xxxxx to show.

Can you picture hanging out THAT shingle?

Monday, March 03, 2008


No more sickness, no more suffering - life is for the living!

Just as soon as I nap.

No - seriously - it's great now. I've survived that which might have killed me. Brian, nearly so.

Our carpenter is finally finished in the dining room (leaving the rest of the painting, staining and stuff on us).

And our reassessment resulted in our tax rate dropping $21.

The weather is glorious today - sunny and warm.

I have a few, very manageable tasks standing between me and our departure for Italy next Thursday.

Life - as they say - is good,

And if the other shoe drops between now and then, God help the dropper.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

My precious...

"Before," ugly, cursed and sleep-deprived...
"After," fresh, radiant and movie-star handsome!

For your consideration: Hycodan Syrup

Provides temporary relief of cough. It may also be used for other conditions as determined by your doctor.

Hycodan Syrup is an anticholinergic and narcotic cough suppressant combination. The anticholinergic works by drying up secretions and the narcotic depresses the cough reflex in the brain.

YES!! PLEASE suppress my brain activity! It has been running non-stop for well over 48 hours at this point and we are NOT getting along!!!!

I took a nap today - with no coughing. And I feel SO MUCH BETTER.

Smeegle like...a lot.

All praise deities of choice for modern narcotics!!!!

hey - why is my eye numb?....

The day so far

After not sleeping for more than 20 consecutive minutes at any one time for the second night running, I awoke this morning, dressed and - it being Saturday - headed to the local walk-in clinic for something to kill my cough.

Or euthanasia.

Either would have been welcomed at this point.

Fortunately, we got a prescription for something that would - unlike the three zillion other over-the-counter products I have recently purchased - actually stop me from coughing up my spleen.

So - a quick trip to Walgreen's - a zip back home.

Before leaving, I had left a note for Brian - still healthy and not early enough for him to have been at the champagne - to please clear the driveway and patio for the carpenter (we had about 8 inches of snow last night).

I had dreams of pulling into our freshly shoveled driveway, handing Brian the few groceries I had picked up en route, leaving him in charge of the carpenter to complete our dining room wall panels - and of dragging my weakened, pained and sleep-deprived body upstairs to sleep.

Glorious sleep. An uninterrupted bout of dreamless, cough-less sleep.

But it was not to be.

Now he's sick. And my damn cough syrup (it's labeled a "controlled substance" - how cool is that?) makes me the functional one.

And since Brian did take care of me the last few days - and shovel all the snow out today - it's only fair that he get to nap.

I'll putter around and supervise Chris - our carpenter. Maybe I'll cook up a stew or something.

And maybe - just maybe - when Chris has gone home... I'll fall flat on my face.

And I simply will not care.

Oh joy.