Hope I haven’t lost ya. But I’ve been going through some seriously deep thought about music this summer, jumping in headfirst with all the throbbing basslines of euro house-trance-dance-what have you. Then, when I realized I’d missed a year of new music, I got to work. As of lately, I’ve been delving into what I call a “nostalgia for a decade I never knew” - the joy of 80s electro pop (Prince, Depeche Mode, Duran Duran, et al.) and its revival in contemporary bands (Holy Ghost!, Cut Copy, etc).
Anyways, renewing your taste in interests such as music get you thinking about what got you started in the first place. I am 100% NOT ashamed to admit - my first concert was Britney Spears, 3rd row center, Baby One More Time tour, at the then FleetBoston Pavillion. I have pictures of my childhood best friend & I next to the stage in matching bucket hats, and even some of Brit herself looking right at my disposable camera to prove it.
To analyze current pop music would mean, at least to me, to take a look at the development of Lady Gaga’s music career. While her videos and her antics may have started off “interesting”, “different”, “unique”, and challenging of the so-called-norm, her ‘weirdness’ as an individual/an artist/a performer is finite. It has a limit. The weirder she gets, and at the same time the more predictable it becomes, so becomes less entertaining her effect on her audience. The ‘oddness’ of her very public persona, while she claims it to be separate from what society tries to define her as, is actually under the constraints of what society generally defines as ‘odd’. And the further she drifts away from the norm, the less interesting it becomes. Tell me - would you be more surprised if at the next red carpet, Lady Gaga beamed down from a UFO wearing a dress made out of garden vegetables and space fruit - OR, if she wore a regular designer gown & a pair of Louboutins and didn’t make a spectacle of her entrance?
What about Lady Gaga’s ‘statements’ about current events, such as her reaction to the passage of gay marriage in New York being something like ‘crying and screaming on the floor’. There were FIVE other states that passed gay marriage, several years before New York (That was another thing that pissed me off - the reaction to NYs passage of same-sex marriage was so explosive, it was suggestive as if NY had invented the concept). Or perhaps her statement about Amy Winehouse’s death, that upon hearing the news she “didn’t speak for 48 hours”.
What I’m trying to say is, I’m tired of Lady Gaga’s disingenuous, contrived persona.
Enter: Britney Spears. While she may ride the wave of pop music trends - always has, always will - she somehow manages to make the genre all her own.
Profile: Official Pop Princess successor to Madonna, original Queen of Pop. Pretended to be virginal, then banged boyfriend JT and somehow everyone found out. Pop Princess throne rightfully earned when the “Kiss Seen ‘Round the World” made it (FB) official. Made several platinum albums, 1 awful/awesome movie, multiple successful global tours. Quickie Vegas wedding chapel romp. Made babies with white-trash deadbeat. Suddenly goes schitzo, shaves off all her hair, loses legal independence and custody of babies. Endures endless public bashing, tabloid frenzy, and a fat ex-husband. Rehabs, hits the gym, gets a weave. Rejumpstarts career, picks up right where she left off, gives not 1 fuck about what anyone has ever said about her.
And with that, I would argue that Britney is the most genuine female pop artist of all time.
Happiness as a concept has been redefined and tailored to my personal experiences more times than I can count. Some of these changes were automated, like a software update. You have that eureka! moment and realize your breadth of wisdom has just upped a few notches. Your system reboots, you open your eyes, and you realize you’ve taken a lesson, churned it around in your mind for a few hours, days, or even years, and woven it into a hard-learned life experience. All these lessons interlace with each other, building themselves into interlocking patterns that share commonalities. Mistakes. Personality. Relationships. Failures. Successes.
Do your mistakes define you, or do you define your mistakes? If, being faced with the worst-case scenario, in spite of the fear and the loss of control, you can still pick yourself up and carry on —- is that foolish, or brave?
Ignoring the consequences of our actions is foolish. Love for oneself in spite of our mistakes is always brave.
Enduring the humbling process of learning from our follies makes us wise and courageous spirits, for without mistakes, we do not grow.
Life is so beautiful.
- Rome to Assisi, early morning in October(Cristi help me out with this one?). We forgot that it was a national holiday & the buses wouldn’t start until 8 am. Cab -> Termini, just barely made it!.
- Train to Florence from Milan. We left Hotel Vinorosso (yes, the hotel was named “hotel red wine”, and even more unbelievable, Steph & Cristi picked it out! You got a bottle of wine with your room. Too perfect) too late in the morning, and since we weren’t as familiar with Milan’s public transportation system, we let a bus go by that we could have taken to the central station. By the kindness of a stranger, we were informed which stop was the station (it wasn’t very clear and the station was set back far from the bus stop). We hop off with our bags and SPRINT. Because its about 6:25 am and our train was 6:30 departure. Milan & Northern Italy are known for punctuality… We sprint for as much as we possbly can. Find our train, step on, absolutely breathless. It starts to pull out of the station the MOMENT we step on… can you imagine if we missed that one??!
I’ve had a rough morning. First of all, I woke up feeling very strange because I was sleeping in a position that is not normal for me. Normally, I’m in the fetal position, or flat out on my stomach, but this morning I awoke laying flat on my back, with my hands folded and resting on my diaphragm. I actually felt like I was laying in a casket. It was eerie.
Then, the snow that we had anticipated arriving around 2 pm when my flight to IAD was scheduled to depart decided to start at around 8 am, picking up steadily through the morning. It was decided, after much turmoil and drama (“don’t throw curveballs like this at me right now!”), that I would take a bus into the airport instead of stopping in Cambridge to transfer some funds then hit up Logan for my flight. By the time I caught my 10:30 bus, the steady, wisping snow had converted to a full-on storm. And after an hour and a half on the comfy, WiFi enabled C&J bus (mind you Newburyport - Logan Airport on a bus shouldn’t be more than 45 even with a little traffic), the storm had caused road gridlocks and had decided to up the ante to full-on blizzard status. well, HELLO?! No one is ready for you yet. You’re like the awkward cousins coming to visit who arrive 3 hours early and you haven’t finished vacuuming or made the beds yet. Driving me effin crazy.
Anyways, thanks to this WiFi & my smartphone capabilities (insert iPhone product placement ad here), I was fortunate enough to see the notice that my 2pm to Dulles International had been flat-out cancelled. BOO. United had cancelled their flights from 2pm on. Across the board. Ok, I guess it’s efficient and all, but I’d much rather see the “Done & Done” mentality applied in a more practical, helpful manner…. I decide to remain calm, there will be plenty of freak-out time later, preferably with an adult beverage in my hand, and a soundproof room so I can let my sailor mouth run without offending too many civillians. Arriving at the airport, I see that my flight has been reinstated, and delayed for 35-45 minutes. A super-nice Asian boy helped me with my massive bags through the line.. at first I was all “hey stop touching my shit” but after I figured out he was harmless I was very appreciative for the help.
Now I’m just waiting at my gate. It’s been delayed from 2:00 to 2:49 for departure into Dulles. My connection to Madrid leaves at 5:30. We shall see how this plays out. Our bags have just arrived in those mini little truck caddies (name?). Hopefully this is a good sign that we will be heading out in a matter of no time… Although the lack of an actual aircraft doesn’t bode well.
Lesson of the story? None. Byeeee!
Leaving tomorrow for Madrid. Feelin like my socks are about to be rocked. And also a little anxious, language-wise. But the beautiful thing that I realized - in the shower, OF COURSE, because that’s where I think of all my best ideas - that I have some incredible new knowledge to bring over with me to Spain in terms of learning a language. Today, I spoke Spanish out loud for the first time since I was in my Spanish Translation course last spring semester. And, to my surprise, the grammatical structures and formats were popping up like BINGO! It’s amazing how my brain compartmentalizes these things. I realized that despite the last 4-5 months being entirely-Italian oriented, I am at a fantastic advantage because I have experienced learning 2 languages in 2 VASTLY different ways…
1. Spanish, which I have studied in a classroom setting for a decade, but never felt sufficiently confident to hold a conversation with a fluent speaker. I had never been pushed to that level in any sort of course. Instead, classroom settings are like microcosms in which the vocabulary, subject matters, and degree of improvision are all quite limited. I believe that full immersion + not knowing what is coming next is a much better environment in which you may fine-tune your skills…
2. Italian, which I had one year of college study, and 1 semester of “self”-immersion (I say “self”-immersion because the program did very little to encourage students to work towards fluency. I don’t blame them, because so many people were just dicking around for a semester anyways, and weren’t worth the effort to impart the language…)
In short, I am currently much more verbally and colloquially proficient in Italian than I am in Spanish. Grammatically, structurally, and professionally, I have a much stronger background in Spanish. Hopefully this means that I can take this past DECADE of study & put it into action when I hit the streets of Madrid. And I mean LITERALLY hit the streets, cuz I have some new sexy heels that I can’t wait to inaugurate in the Plaza de Espana. :-)
Sleep time, gotta be up super early to put the finishing touches on packing! Until next time…
1. Late lunch of a fresh sandwich, made with salmon (lox) & arugula. Then bought some DELICIOUS tomatoes, fresh mozarella and spicy green olives, drizzled ‘em with some olive oil & balsamic. MMMmmmm mmmm mmmm!
2. Going for a leisurely stroll today, I was actually PASSED by an Italian! For those of you who know me back home, I could make it to the metro from the Kenmore in 8 minutes on a normal day (Thank God DC summer mornings were cooler than the afternoons, or else I would have been showing up to work drenched!). Or if we need to make it to the club before cover goes up. Or whatever. You get the point, I’m usually a VERY fast walker!
3. Gorgeous sunshine! Warm, bright, & beautiful!
Looking forward to:
Exam studying all day, then……
"A Night at the Museum" …the Vatican’s ripoff title from the Ben Stiller movie… It’s a special event on Friday nights, only in September & October, where they open the Vatican museum, Sistine Chapel, Raphael stanze, & upper galleries (!) for only those who pre-reserve tickets. This means 1. NO LINES 2. LESS CROWDED 3. a totally different perspective on the Vatican artwork, especially with the different lighting 4. a more personalized experience with optional tour guides (will definitely be hitting that up) 5. upper galleries are usually closed to the public! Cherry on the cake: all this cost us less than what we would pay normally to see the Vatican. We are allowed in at 7:30 (earliest tickets started at 7) and have until 11 pm to explore. That leaves us PLENTY of time to go out afterwards!
EuroChocolate / Perugia Chocolate Festival, all day! Not only are we going to gorge ourselves on quality chocolate samples, but the actual city of Perugia is supposed to be stunning. We’ll be picking up some bottles of wine from this famous region, Umbria, which make excellent gifts (and I’m sure one for us too!). Then Steph’s friend is coming in from London, so we’ll be hitting the town hard once again.
Sundays have easily become my favorite days in Italy. Back home, thinking about waking up Sunday mornings brings back memories of hangovers, exhaustion, and anxiety about getting work done for the week. Here, it is the opposite… The city is buzzing with families on walks together, grabbing a late brunch, and enjoying the gorgeous fall weather. The cutest babies are always out on Sundays too :). Though this Sunday may be less leisurely as midterms start the following Monday, I at least want to have a nice brunch in the main piazza of the Jewish ghetto. It was hoppin’ last Sunday with a hip, young crowd. Love me some fried artichokes!
That’s the weekend forecast folks! Hope you have equally sunny skies ahead, pure. :)
Nuns that jaywalk. It’s as hilarious as it is useful —- if you follow them across the street through the relentless Roman drivers and moto-riders, you’ll know you have God on your side! (And you thought it was the Rome public transit system that had a free-rider problem…hmm) Walking through the streets, whether on my way to school, or on a leisurely afternoon like today, is like a trip through the jungle. Traversing the street is like taking a chance on a rope swing, like the #jungleziplineadventure I’ve been waiting for! (Only different). If you don’t keep up with the flow of pedestrian traffic, all the people trying to cross the street get their rope swings tangled in yours. And if you don’t jaywalk, forget about it.. you’re never getting anywhere on time. Not that it really matters if you are on time. I’ve precariously embraced this Roman habit, and have found, to my great fortune, that cars WILL indeed slow down for you if you hop out into the street. The exception is for le moto because I have not dared to jump out in front of any just yet. They are probably the craziest drivers of all, because they’re constantly weaving in and out of traffic, taking detours on sidewalks, and consistently ignoring red lights.
But in all seriousness, what I’ve truly found to be the most rewarding way to spend a free afternoon is to GET LOST. Of course I mean that in the symbolic sense.. but the other day, I did actually take a wrong turn & ended up somewhere unintentional. Note: this is almost NEVER a bad thing in Roma. If you were in a city such as Naples, where violent crime is much more prevalent, I would hesitate in recommending the same approach. But here, it’s actually a very, very good way to discover new places. And that’s exactly what happened.
The afternoon started off with un gelato di tre gusti at the BEST gelateria we know of, which happens to be adjacent to the Pantheon and very close to our apartment (ATENZIONE, it’s big trouble for us!). On my way to Via del Corso, I suppose the sheer deliciousness of my tri-flavor cup of heavenly Italian ice cream was so distracting that I made a wrong turn. I ended up on Viale Lungotevere, aka the main name for the streets that runs along theTiber River on both the west and east sides. I knew I needed to cross the other side of the river to get where I needed to go - and as I cross, suddenly La Basilica di San Pietro pops up over the winding river.
I then cross the bridge, come across some other beautiful churches & and a cathedral, and find that I have accurately re-oriented myself in the direction of Piazza del Popolo. Excellent. Except I have stumbled upon a beautiful fountain, a modern one the likes of which I haven’t yet encountered. And with the sun bouncing off every angle, it was quite a sight. It was a rather stunningly beautiful, sunny day, and I was able to enjoy it all the more when I made my next discovery.. Pincio.
But first, Popolo: a pizza you might be familiar with if you’ve visited Rome before, or even if you’ve seen Angels and Demons (location where the 1st cardinal was burned, or la Chiesa di Santa Maria del Popolo). My first couple of visits to this particular piazza were simply afterthoughts after walking the entire length of Via del Corso…remember, this is a big shopping street, so my attention was elsewhere. ;) Therefore, I hadn’t given it much of a chance. Also, I was used to the intimate setting of Piazza Santa Maria, in Trast, where we go out to almost 4 times a week - so the sheer size of Popolo initially threw me for a loop. Now, however, I’m enamored with its beauty. The churches, though understated, are magnificent. Fountains, an Egyptian obelisk, and a sprawling of cobblestones to boot.
One tip for traveling about Rome: always, ALWAYS look UP. This is what sold me on Popolo. Wherever you are, though, you look very touristy doing so. As in New York, you can spot real New Yorkers if they’re looking straight ahead where they’re going, and the “impostors” would be the ones ogling the skyscrapers. As much as I enjoy the humbling excitement, the awe-inspiring feeling of walking amongst one of the most powerful cities in the world & admiring the massive structures throughout, “looking up” in Rome serves a greater purpose. While the intrinsic beauty of New York is perhaps its consistent, fast-paced pulse (this being reflected both structurally and in its inhabitants), Rome is of a ‘quieter’ beauty. This is not to say the city itself is quiet; rather, it is a cacophony of honks, buses, tourists, music, motos, trams, and pedestrians. But it is the hidden beauty you find in the city when you simply take the time to look up.
It is the small discoveries, particularly when you are walking through the center, that make me fall more and more in love with this city every day. Like for example, if you keep your head down while walking from my apartment to Della Palma (that particular gelateria I had earlier mentioned), you will miss 3 fountains, 1 abandoned fountain, the entrance to the Jewish ghetto from WWII, a somewhat distant view of St. Peter’s Basilica when you cross Ponte Garibaldi (our bridge across the Tiber), a famous pedestrian bridge called Ponte Sisto across from Piazza Trilussa, several other basilicas winding down the other side of the Tiber River, the entrance to Campo de’Fiori (one of the most famous markets in Rome), countless cafes, restaurants, bars, kebab shops, pubs, banks, and government buildings, a cat sanctuary (and a rumored location for the death of Caesar), and the Pantheon. Amazing, considering this walk is shorter than the distance between Leonard Hall and the Tenleytown/AU station. Yes, I Google-Mapped it. What’s even more amazing, in my opinion, is that you barely have to open your eyes to see these things; it is only when you pay attention to detail that you may find the small things that will capture your heart. For example, the tops of buildings here are never plain. Instead, they’re ornamented with sculptures and columns and ornate designs that you just don’t see in the States. It’s this particular affinity for aesthetics, reflected in the people and the layout of the city, that is the source of pride for Romans. This is why you will never see anyone outside the house in clothes that aren’t neat, stylish, or put together; they are mirroring themselves, a reflection of their own city. I find it fascinating.
But back to the point… Looking up over one of the fountains of Popolo, I noticed a gaggle of tourists on a point overlooking the piazza. I ambled on up, and to my delight, found a panoramic view of Rome in all its sprawling, illuminated glory. This was Pincio hill. Sun dancing off the hundreds of duomos, reflecting off the orange trees, and the Tiber, and landing on each and every building as far as the eye could see. Probably the most beautiful sight I have ever laid eyes upon. And all would have been lost had I never taken the time to look up.
I’m in Love - Alex Gaudino (Wideboys Remix)