n i g h t i n g a l e s h i r a z / blog
in a dollshop by piazza del popolo.

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zen and the art of living in Italy.

you would think a trip to Florence would be a simple thing.  looked-forward-to, missed for almost three months now, but straightforward nonetheless.

you would think.

i leave work on Friday -- demurring even on the ritual end-of-the-week barmeet with co-workers, so i can be sure the seven-thirty EuroStar is not sold out by the time i get to one of those Biglietto Self-Service machines.

i get to the station and am feeling good.  i haven't been back to Firenze in ages, Annamaria from Pisa said she might meet me for lunch on Saturday, and on Sunday we're going to Lucignano to see the annual festa della Maggiolata.  i have already worked it out -- the 7:30 train gets into Santa Maria Novella at 9ish -- so Ciro will have just finished closing up, and can come get me, and we can have dinner together.  then i will have all of Saturday in Florence to meet friends, work on the enoteca's web site, do some writing of my own and maybe even shop a bit.  lovely.

the seats are not sold out, and i have plenty of time before the train leaves to grab a snack if i want to.  so i spend the next twenty minutes wondering if i should, or if i should save my appetite.  i think about where we can go for dinner.  maybe Trattoria Za' Za' for that lovely spaghetti con gamberi e peperoncino?  or should i splurge since i got my second FAO payment and treat us to Garga?  or Pane e Vino?  do i feel like some of that fantastic filetto con rosmarino e aceto balsamico from Borgo Antico?  or should we go home and have some very excellent paccheri from Gragnano with some very excellent ragu' from Ciro's mom?  i stroll about the train station, most content-in-anticipation, of A Nice Weekend.

then i look up.

the entire departures board here at Termini is yellow with "treno in ritardo" delay-notices...  everything coming in and going out is showing one- and two-hour pushbacks.  it doesn't help that numbers in twenty-four format make me quasi-spastic trying to calculate what time i will eventually get to bloody Florence: if i stick with my train (for now) posted as leaving at 21:15 (add an hour and a half), or switch to an earlier InterCity (also delayed but delayed from earlier than mine) at 20:07 (add two and a quarter hours) or an snail-like Regionale at 19:47 (add three and three-quarter hours), and so on.

slowly, like a bad odour, i realize i'm not getting to Firenze before eleven o' clock tonight -- and that too if nothing gets much worse.  and -- as two years of living and taking-trains in Italy has taught me -- when things go bad with public transport, they usually get worse before they get better.  hm.

i find a yellow-jacketed Trenitalia employee already surrounded by a herd of would-be travelers exhibiting a spectrum of aggravated emotions.  i think of pigeons around the hobo in the park.  i listen in.

it turns out there has been a bomb (threat?  averted?  exploded? -- i never get to confirm) on the Napoli-Roma line at Formia, and everything coming north to Rome has had to detour down what you might call a literal side-track that has bottlenecked the entire train schedule right up to Milano.  i hear the word "bomba" and ask two questions.  one, can i change my EuroStar seat for another one tomorrow?  yes.  and two (as i look at the queue of people at the biglietteria who are trying to do just that), can i change my seat tomorrow?  yes.

then i turn around and go home.

i make paccheri (from Gragnano) with ragu' (from the local supermarket -- you can't have everything, you know), and fresh-grated scaglie di parmigiano on top.  i spend an unexpected and appreciated couple of hours playing with my cat, and i get to finish the last of the good wine.

i am surprised to notice that i am still happy.

[nightingaleshiraz] [?]
[EuroStar Trenitalia, Roma-Firenze]
[sabato 28 maggio 2005 ore 14:04:26] []

fun with horse, ass and hinny meat; metadata and more.

yes i know this counts as talking about work.  and that my work is currently to do with redeveloping the statistics technology system at FAO.  and that just *mentioning* words like 'statistics' can make the boring-blog-factor skyrocket.  but would *you* be able to help but wonder what on earth 'hinny meat' tastes like?  and wouldn't *you* find it disturbingly interesting to see that, according to our yearbook, the single most important agricultural import (in value terms) for:
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Italy (!)
Serbia and Montenegro
the United Arab Emirates (!!)
and Vietnam
...is, um, *cigarettes*?

in the Seychelles, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom -- on the other hand -- the number one import is wine.


[nightingaleshiraz] [?]
[Viale delle Terme di Caracalla, Roma]
[mercoledý 18 maggio 2005 ore 11:30:38] []

and spiderman is having me for dinner tonight.

thank you adsl, for letting me have my Cure back.

[nightingaleshiraz] [?]
[Via Giordano Bruno, Roma]
[martedý 17 maggio 2005 ore 22:12:12] []

home town makes good.

and haven't i been *saying* for years now that the place makes Las Vegas look like low-budget kitsch???

[nightingaleshiraz] [?]
[Via Giordano Bruno, Roma]
[venerdý 12 maggio 2005 ore 18:49:21] []

working in Rome.

this morning i caught myself as i walked into the very large (and rather ugly) building that is the sprawling home of the (ahem!) Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.  i caught myself because it suddenly occurred to me that this is the first saturday that i have had to work in two and a half years.

there is a part of me  that is smug and grateful (for having gotten away with not doing this for so long).  but there is the other part, that is marginally disgusted with myself, for slipping down this slope i know so well (especially when these folks don't even cover your meals for weekend work -- "fiat panis" whatever)...

outside it is gorgeous.  a bunch of co-workers have gone off to watch the ATP tennis tournament being held here in Rome.  as i sit and recompile my Visual Studio project for the seventeenth time this afternoon, i think of walking down West Broadway on a Sunday afternoon as beautiful as this one, with all the street artists in full regalia on either sidewalk.  and of how often i had to do that.

yesterday, for the ritual friday post-work drink-session, someone suggested we take advantage of where we are and how long the daylight lasts.  so we bought a bottle of wine from the so-called "FAO-bar", five plastic cups and some beers, and went to sit in the sun and grass in Circo Massimo.  we watched horny Italian couples making out on the grass around us, and inside i thought about antiquity, and about who else might have drunk wine under the sun in this place that has been called Circo Massimo for over two thousand years.

i liked that part.

[nightingaleshiraz] [?]
[Via Giordano Bruno, Roma]
[sabato 07 maggio 2005 ore 21:09:16] []

living in Italy: random opinionettes.

1.  finally, someone seems to have written an Op-Ed (in English, i mean) about the Calipari case.  the only part of this debacle that i have to smile at is one of points the Italians officially listed in relation to their insistence that the car was not speeding:  the driver knew better than to speed on a curve of that angle with only one hand on the wheel -- his other hand was engaged in talking on his cellphone.

2.  also courtesy of Corriere della Sera, a new and interesting illustration of how the Italian authorities are:
a.  no doubt placating the persnickety (and deep-pocketed) Ferragamos, Vuittons and Guccis of Florence and beyond.
b.  trying to assuage (or at least react to) this pan-Italian-panic over the imminent arrival of Chinese competition in the national marketplace.
c.  so completely ensconced in ther own little esoteric and disconnected-from-real-people world of Italian state bureaucracy and legalese -- to expect tourists to *know how to* (let alone *be able to*) "ascertain the provenance" of the handbag they are about to buy.  excuse me, but do most tourists even know what "provenance" *means*?
d.  going to make quite a bit of money this tourist season.

3.  it is a tribute to the particular sense of Italianismo (and to the fact that, despite how long I have lived here and how well i may speak the language), that no one around me seems particularly perturbed or surprised by the fact that a Prime Minister can resign, but not actually leave government.  i've made countless patient Italians explain this to me -- and they seem to all be saying things that make sense to *them* (well, albeit with many shoulder-shrugs), but i am still confusedly unconvinced...  *how* does that work?!

[nightingaleshiraz] [?]
[Via Giordano Bruno, Roma]
[giovedý 05 maggio 2005 ore 07:45:19] []

lessons from Cortona.

i walk home from Lynda's; my arms laden with the spoils of last night's dinner party (hommus-and-pita, baked-salmon-in-chutney-sauce, tiramisu, and three kinds of pecorino).  as i cross Via della Giuliana it occurs to me that the sound in the sky above, is of swallows -- they're back and they're wheeling.  and as if on cue, the faintest trace of jasmine stops me shyly in the street -- i look around and can't see anything blooming yet.

but still, it must be spring...

[nightingaleshiraz] [?]
[Via Giordano Bruno, Roma]
[martedý 03 maggio 2005 ore 22:22:37] []

the "whatever-happened-to" list.

in my Inbox this month, my alumni newsletter tells me how NYU has been "named #1 dream college" for a second year, by the Princeton Review's "College Hopes & Worries Survey".  that we "topped Harvard" is -- of course -- gleefully underscored, and suddenly i wonder where my old tee-shirt is; the one that says "Harvard: the NYU of New England".

-- which gets me to wondering about about other, more-potentially-interesting whereabouts:
- Rubin V from the Quick Fix at Loeb.  the man who introduced me to the best buffalo wings in the world.
- Richard-from-physics, also from my freshman days at the Quick Fix.  SUNY-Binghamton, was it?
- Shundil S from the CAS International Students' Club.  i have vague recollections of at least one nice evening at Le Figaro on Bleecker...
- David T.  to whom Lindsay and i will be forever indebted (and not just for the wonder of Poi Dog  -- if only you knew...).
- Jason H from NYU-at-La-Pietra.  the only boy who could make professor-scaglione-at-nine-in-the-florence-morning funny.  well.  a little.


[nightingaleshiraz] [?]
[Via Giordano Bruno, Roma]
[lunedý 02 maggio 2005 ore 12:10:32] []