8 Sep 2011

How it all began….

Sometimes you just wake-up feeling like something is missing in your life…maybe you are currently rounding the tough leg of your journey or maybe you have just been traveling on too straight and too monotonous of the road for way too long….we are all looking for some sort of escape route.

Some people wait for a sign, while others make their own sign and go for it. We pray, we cry, we laugh, we worry, we analyze, but we can choose to listen to that voice that directs us to make a decision or not. Every decision is life-altering whether we realize it at the time or not…whether we even know how that one little decision may have affected someone else’s life. You really never know how one action can affect the future. What if you held the door open for a complete stranger and gave them a warm smile….what if they were having a horrible day and decided to be in a bad mood…what if you changed their mood by being nice preventing them from going home and unleashing their bad day on a loved one…what if this in turn prevented a huge argument that could have led to something else…what if?
Not only can we make a difference in someone else’s life without even knowing it, but we can choose to make a difference in our own lives. We can make our life what we want it to be…no excuses, no I’ll do it tomorrows, no what ifs, no dwelling on the could have beens and should have beens…you can go after what you want and make it happen if you really want to. It doesn’t necessarily mean you need to pack up and move to another country, but it does mean that you should choose to truly live every single day. You don’t need tons of money to atleast get things rolling, but you do need patience, determination, positive thinking, and courage. A good friend of mine has a great motto that she lives by, Be here now. More people should try it, she says…and I agree. One decision or experience will always make you the person you are TODAY and will always lead you to where you are TODAY.

About 2 years ago, I was suffering from my usual bouts of insomnia and suddenly something told me to go to my computer and start typing key words for information on how to visit or live in another country on my own. My first thought was Ireland, but I had already visited it and quickly changed my mind to Italy. I needed to get outside of my comfort zone and go to a country I had always longed to explore. That one decision set everything in motion and here I am on my second trip to Italy trying to make a life and make it work. I would have never made it here had I not had about 15 years of obstacles to overcome. I wouldn’t be where I am today had I not taken the following course: I headed east to college, did a U-turn and headed west to another college, stayed on that road for about 4 years, went south for a little while for love, realized I was on the wrong road and needed to change directions completely, got on the right road and hit some major construction, waited patiently in miles of traffic for a few years, decided to head back east again, hit a major traffic jam, was in a head-on collision, ventured back home, then found an escape route across the Atlantic Ocean. Now I am currently on a new road, it’s pretty bumpy and has a few potholes, but it’s got great scenery, wonderful rest stops, and I’m pretty sure somewhere around the next few bends it’s recently been repaved.
So, that all being said, In the Event of an Escape is a collection of new and old experiences from this newly discovered Escape Route. I don’t think I’m being tailed just yet…feel free to hitch a ride and see where we end up….

8 Sep 2011

Alan Rickman & Bottleshock Premiere in Firenze

I wasn’t able to get into the cocktails with Alan Rickman event, it was invitation only…but I did get there in time to get on the third row for the opening of the movie in Italy. There was a question and answer session with a reporter from the local newspaper and a translator for the Italians. This is an independent film about a historical event from 1976:
A Brit in Paris conducts a blind taste test against the up and coming wines from Napa Valley…the bottles are even in the smithsonian now…it’s a great film! He was very candid and down to earth. He talked about how we have to fight to get the movies we want and how “popcorn and frankfurters” cost more than the movie…also how critics are not important anymore….people see a movie based on something they know, an example he gave was a comic book, and not what they have heard about and don’t venture out to see different films as the independent ones don’t get as much promotion…he had great facial expressions and was extremely interesting to listen to…it was only about 20 minutes or so, but I was about 5 feet from him…I have a few good pics, but I left some interesting ones in there even with the movement…I felt bad flashing right there in his face…once the Newspaper’s camera started flashing I decided to do a few! It’s really amazing the film persona that come to the Odeon theater here…these events couldn’t occur back home without mass chaos….the actors really love coming to Tuscany. There were a few Harry Potter fans though…Alan Rickman is so much more than that…check-out his IMDB page if you need a refresher: Die Hard (got his name out there), Sense & Sensibility, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Love Actually, Sweeney Todd,

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000614/…Oh before the Q&A they had a cool montage of wine in film….showing different movies and a lot were filmed in Italy.
Interestingly enough the movie theater is closing down until September…everything closes here because its too hot and its when everyone takes their vacation, it’s called Ferragosto…imagine if that happened in the US….the people make their money and know August is a month for a break…imagine how relaxed and stress free everyone would be! They said there are surprises coming up this Fall…great movies coming out…should be interesting…the Odeon is closing out the season by showing Full Metal Jacket in the Piazza by the theater with special guest and star in the movie, Matthew Modine….

8 Sep 2011

Coloring your hair in a cold castle…funny story

So if you are a man you probably won’t find this humorous or care either way and will probably first think why is it that women go through so much trouble to maintain their looks or pay what we do to do it when they pay $5 for a haircut….So that being said it was rainy and cold (suppose to rain all week and stay in the 40s/50s…still too cold already for Florence)and I don’t really have heat all over my place…remember I am in an old fortress and there is not even a heater in my bedroom and I had to request a heated mattress pad and a portable heater to roll around…heating uses gas here and its expensive…so most people don’t stay in castles in the winter….
So I’m cold and its early afternoon and I have been up early too see my friends off to France and I notice on my phone that I have a reminder to do my hair….Tiffany, my esteemed Hair Stylist and Therapist of almost 8 years was so kind as to give me my hair color to do myself over here…I didn’t want to take a chance at going to an Italian Hairdresser and telling them red and end up looking like a fire engine…it’s a good thing too with the red dye jobs I have seen…anyway she said it would be easy to do the dump method…I just had to buy a bottle and when it was time mix the color with the developer and put it all over…she even gave me 2 pair of gloves and a showercap….So I’m already cold and gas is used to heat up the hot water and I have to wait for 30 minutes…So I think I will take a hot bath for 30 minutes and let my hair sit so I run the water…it usually is so hot I have to add cold at the end…so I let it sit…I get all ready to do my hair and I mix everything up and start to put it on slinging a huge splatter of it to the rug underneath me and on my pants…given these were older pants…they were not my pants I brought to paint in which would have made more sense (the color is called cayenne by the way…hope that helps the mental image)…the pants are black with one white stripe down the side and the rug is an old rug but is pastel braided….and it falls on the stripe and in the middle of both…now why on earth I didnt move it or do it in the shower naked I will never know…oh wait thats right I was gonna do a steam bath…so then I’m immediately removing the first pair of gloves and getting some stain remover and putting it on my pants and the rug and throwing it into the washer and increasing the temperature to hopefully get it out at 60 degrees C…which takes up what, oh that’s right the hot water….so then its cold I’m running around here with my hair just fresh with color and no pants…cold is an understatement…I find my old ones with paint on them (clearly too late) and run back into the bathroom and finish the job with the 2nd pair of gloves…didn’t drop anymore on the floor and made sure I did it directly over the sink anyway…so I got sidetracked and didn’t make it into the bath until it was time to rinse…I’m thinking well its been a while I will just take a quick bath and rinse out my hair…I didnt have a washcloth either because I washed clothes today and there is no dryer and had used my one haircolor remover pad after I put the color on because it was everywhere…so I’m trying to wash my face without having washed out my haircolor…I go to check the water and its cold…shocker right?…not warming up either between the washer (hello?) and the bath….and I’m freezing so the rinsing out with cold water notion is out (trust me I tried)…so I have to duck my head into the water and rinse in the tub with shampoo and conditioner…usually when I was my hair I will turn on the shower head and get under it after I take a bath….ok so it looks like I have been shot or ran over and I’m soaking in the bath then I need to get out and there’s no rug…nothing but a cold tiled floor…so I have thrown down a pair of pants I could have put on after the bath…oh yeah and I don’t have a hair dryer and its COLD…did I mention that yet???

If you haven’t thanked your hair dresser/stylist/colorist, or what have you lately do so…they truly do KNOW what they are doing and it’s not as easy as we think…the boxes in the store don’t work and we know Heather Locklear doesn’t use Preference…it’s worth every penny to have your color done…if men are still reading be glad we don’t always do it ourselves….let’s just be glad Tiffany didn’t show me how to cut my hair…when my hair dries (TOMORROW) I will finally know if I got all of the roots (doesnt look like it really of course) and what Cayenne really looks like, though my bathtub and towel are quite fond of it! I’m fixing soup and hoping my skin isn’t cayenne tomorrow too as it’s already itching!

8 Sep 2011

The Autostrada experience: Not for the faint at heart

So I forgot to mention on Oct. 15th that I had my first experience on the Autostrada, which is toll roads…not to mention I had no clue which lane to take so I ended up backing out and discovering you take a ticket and then based on how far you go you pay either in an automated system or to a person if you have big bills…they don’t tax their citizens here for road maintenance, instead if you want to take the Autostrada to get some place fast (more on that ion a sec) you pay for it and that’s how they keep up their roads…and I don’t mean the few dollars we do back home…to drive about 40-60 miles back and forth it has ended up costing me between 7-9 euro total both ways, which converts to $10-$14 per trip ( I did this twice)…and If I could get going earlier I would take the back roads, but I end up needing to get to a place fast (I’m working on that, plus they are atleast double the time and if you are stuck on them in the dark…good luck!)….the windy back roads are crazier than the Autostrada, though both could give a “first time visitor” of Italy a million heart-attacks….so on the Autostrada I had no clue what speed to go and there are only 2 lanes so I stayed in the slow one thinking I’m fine doing 90-100 kmh, boy was I sadly mistaken…that was what you went in the construction areas (= to 60-70 mph) and actually in most construction areas it was 110kmh=68mph…so I’m freaking out anyway because people are flashing their lights and zooming past me, not to mention there is a guard rail or wall on either side of you or a big truck that can’t stay in its lane…then suddenly you are to the construction zone where the lanes get smaller and you either hit reflectors or that truck that got closer and you suddenly change from white lines to yellow-orange ones and there is a big curve ahead and you try to find your book without looking to look up autostrada and see if they tell you the real speed limit while you are already going 70mph…and you glance just for numbers while propping it on your steering wheel (sorry mom and dad for this story) and your eyes pop out when you see the minimum is 130kmh-150kmh in most places….and when I finally got to that speed and remembered to look down and keep that speed, people are still passing me and flashing their lights and wanting me to move despite the fact that there is a truck on one side…like where am I suppose to go…not to mention I have already cussed out half of the Italians in Tuscany already for almost killing me a billion times on these hilly, curvy, one lane roads with stone walls or trees and you have to beep your horn on some so if you meet someone, one or the other has to back up or find a place to pull over….so more Italians got cussed out on the Autostrada…and to think I was gonna try and give that up…fat chance driving over here….so anyway 130kmh-150kmh is 81-93 mph…half of the time, because lights were fashing I was really going 160mph or over…which is 100mph, oh did I mention the big@@@ curves with flashing lights you can’t slow down for because the whole world gets mad at you and you can cause a backup so I’M TAKING THESE CURVES LIKE A RACE CAR DRIVER GOING 90MPH…

Not to mention I’m praying the whole time to please let the construction lane end and this gets me to my location fast and I’ve just paid $10 for a 100 more heart-attacks and on Friday I can’t figure out why my right hand hurts and I discover that the red mark I still have on Monday is from gripping the wheel so freaking tight…thank God when returning at night the traffic is sparse and I go around 130mph…oh did I mention there are no police officers they have cameras…and they aren’t hidden they warn you (if you are speeding a camera takes your picture) and a sign even shows you where they are (I think) so what does everyone do…slow down when they get to those then speed back up HAH!!…The Canadians and I have called Italy the “Bangkok” of driving…there is no regard for rules, lanes etc…even in France they said they atleast stay in their lane…oh and don’t forgot the motorcyclists and moped drivers that always pass you on blind curves and pullup beside you and weave in and out of traffic and then on the curvy one lane crazy roads on the weekends you run into a million cyclist…they must be working on their skills for the next big race…they are everywhere…oh yeah and the people that randomly pull over in a small town and flash their lights and it makes it one lane there…and they are still there hours later and oh the people walking in the middle of the street and they are wearing black and the 800 roundabouts where people just pass you and the stop signs and red lights you stop for and they go around you…get the picture?? I just about have it mastered in a month, but I’m sure the entire population of car drivers in Italy will have a few choice words said to them by the time I’m done driving….Welcome to the Autostrada folks…and dad you think you are gonna drive over here? Get the anxiety and motion sickness pills ready folks! :)

8 Sep 2011

Pondering thoughts on a less exciting day…..

I do have some pondering thoughts since nothing exciting happened today….So over here as I have been observing and experiencing actually living, I have noticed how simple it is to be a part of everyday life. Gas is too expensive so you might have a car…a small one nothing fancy, but you probably take the bus or train or have your own bicycle or moped….you don’t have a dryer…no big deal just hang them out to dry, costs too much anyway….you know everyone around your town or village and probably the next few over and you actually take time to speak to them and grab a long lunch or dinner or a cappucino with them.

You get up and work and then you might close for a few hours to enjoy time with friends and family and not rush through everything…then you might open a few hours later in the evening, because everyone else is having a mid-day nap so you might as well too, then you have dinner at 8 or 9pm and that’s considered early….you grow or make something and sell it at the local markets (they don’t import anything that they can grow or make here unless its from another part of the area or the country) and you probably have enough to give friends and family…if you grow something it is atleast 3 or more items (here there are grapes, olives, figs, 2 types of pears, lemons, kumquats, dates, and persimmons)….you don’t need the biggest and best of everything…you are content and your family has lived this way for years, in fact your local town is 1000s of years old and to live you don’t need much money nor help from the government (this does not even exist or is thought of in the rural areas)….you always have enough money no matter how modest your wager to take your family some place cooler in the hot summer….church is important and so its part of your life daily and there is atleast 1 church or place the locals meet to pray every night…there is no drinking age it is part of the culture, you must instill the importance of not drinking and driving to your children and they get it…they havent been deprived of it so its no big deal….School is important enough to go to 6 days a week, but only from 830-1230 with 2 hour study sessions for homework if you need it and then for 3 entire months you have a summer (June July August).

There are actual trees and tons of unspoilt land around in every village…every hillside does not have towering buildings…the only neon signs are those lighting up a ristorante sign maybe, but definitely the local farmacia (pharmacy)….you might see la polizia once or twice a week if you are lucky and they are not hiding behind trees on a side road to give you a ticket (they have cameras for that, but everyone pretty much drives how and how fast they want anyway…its safe enough you don’t need the polizia around, in fact you leave your money, wallet, etc in your unlocked car and you don’t even own a key for your house….oh and what’s a fast food ristorante???…that’s unheard of…the closest thing is a pizzeria and you still take your time no matter how fast the food comes to your table….there are also local pizzerias that are ran by local volunteers just because they enjoy doing it for their townsfolk…they don’t ask anything in return, but to come visit next week and tell them about your latest news…food isn’t overpriced in fact you double check the bill or grocery total to make sure you heard the person correctly, despite the difference in euros and dollars it is still cheap….makes you wonder how we got where we are today and got caught up in the whole “bigger is better” philosophy, sue the world, I am not responsible for myself and nor my families actions, work come home work come home etc… and away from spending time with friends and family, but constantly working all of the time…I think there are a few things we can learn from over here! The modern day conveniences I thought I would have a hard time living without I have had no problem with at ALL…oh and BTW its unheard of to ask for a “to-go box”…in fact they are almost shocked when I have asked, because guess what…no microwaves to nuke it and move on…food must be savored just like life here! Can we ship some of this over??

8 Sep 2011

It’s Italian Photography Class

Take a trip down memory lane with me will you??? You are back in college taking a night class on a topic you know some about and you have to drive 20 minutes to class on windy curvy roads up and down a mountain that only one car can fit on most of the time….your chairs are all plastic patio chairs and you are crammed in a small room with 100+ people of all ages and your professor decides to start you at the beginning of history on this topic and only shows you black and white pictures. This professor also speaks an entirely different language and you don’t know much of that language in the terms for the class and everyone else there thinks “you” are the one speaking a different language and you can’t find anyone that understands “you”…This professor not only is speaking a different language, but is talking about 10 times the normal speed of a professor, but is still boring and draws pictures…the few pictures, numbers written on the chalkboard, names of places of people such as Kodak and Eastman and the word fotographia (figured that one out), and questa (guessed it meant this or one), are all you understand. You act interested, yet are looking on other peoples notes and writing this down instead so you can type this into your translation website on your computer and understand what in the world has been said to you…

Oh, and you have a field trip on Sunday to some beautiful location to take pictures…you only know this because your friend told you this was part of the class and that is why you signed up….the professor mentions the location and how to get there with hand motions….you have no clue whether to meet at that room and ride with someone on Sunday or figure out where that location is in relation to where you live and go there on your own. You also don’t know if you have homework or how many pictures you are suppose to take…there were some good-looking guys in there as a consolation prize…of course I can’t figure out ages over here and they are probably all 10 years younger than me and they probably have no clue how to talk to me, not to mention I am considered tall over here and towering over most of them!!
That was my world for 2 hours tonight from 9pm-11pm!
Welcome to 10 weeks of Italian Photography Class guys!!