Thursday, July 7, 2011

I’m a HOT READ at The Daily Beast! oh yeah!

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2011/07/06/this-week-s-hot-reads-july-6th.html

P.S. I’m going to try and post here as well as over at Tumblr. But today, I’m over there with a fun piece on Indian extravagance. Check it out. http://brendaandthefword.tumblr.com/

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Wednesday, July 6, 2011

two of my favorite hats at the McQueen show…

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Monday, March 14, 2011

If you’re here…

Please GO THERE: http://brendaandthefword.tumblr.com/

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Monday, March 7, 2011

MOVING DAY

Fuck the bots! Can’t stand the spam! So try me over here: http://brendaandthefword.tumblr.com/

Site still under construction. Bear with me.

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Thursday, March 3, 2011

Just a reminder, guys

I post on Mondays now. Unless it’s a very special occasion, which it isn’t. Oh. Except for the fact I found my THIRD Blackberry in a week. Could this be a message that I should, finally, succumb and buy a cell phone? So far, I’ve gotten a free lunch out of it. A delicious $14 shrimp salad from Pain Quotidienne and an iced cappuccino. Let’s see now what Martha brings me when she picks up her Blackberry….

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Monday, February 28, 2011

I love when this happens…



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My only, lonely bag is finally unpacked. And life already feels as if I never ran away from home. “So tell us about your adventures,” people keep saying. My adventures? I didn’t really have any adventures, I think to myself. We’re talking Italy, for God’s sake. Not the Empty Quarter or the Congo or the Hindu Kush. It was the abrupt demise, the death, of daily routine and the joy of expectations that made it an adventure for me. “The act or state of anticipating” is the how the dictionary defines expectations. Like what you saw on the faces of  the Oscar nominees last night. Well,  except for the face of the dead host, James Franco. I mean, forgive the detour here. But what the fuck happened to HIS spirit of adventure? Last time I saw him, the guy was so pumped up on adrenaline, so fucking hyper, he was skidding up mountains and rocketing over abysses like a goat on crack cocaine. Last night, not even a hand massage from Anne H. revived him. It was more excruciating than watching him cut off his own right arm. But enough…

Because I had a much better time at Barney’s Warehouse Sale where a woman lost her pants. That’s right. I was in the dressing room with my daughter, ducking arms and elbows as desperate women ransacked piles of discounted merch, slipping in and out of jeans and shirts and dresses. Talk about an adventure. Anyway, this French girl next to us, very chic, lots of attitude, suddenly screams: My pents, where are my pents?” I laugh. She shoots me one of those lethal French looks that kill.

You tink dis is phony? (funny) Eet ees NOT!, she says, standing there in her underwear. Ends up, she calls in the manager and really gets in her face. “I can not wait ere. I am late for brruuunch! she yells. The manager is as cool as a cuke. I didn’t steal your pants, she says. I’m here to help you find them. Which makes me laugh even harder. I’m thinking of the thousands of pairs of “pents” in bins nearby and how hopeless, finding one pair of used jeans will be.  Especially when the girl is late for brruunch! The pantless girl sticks her legs into a new pair of black satin leggings , rips back the curtain and heads for the door as the manager  rolls her eyes.  “I worked in Immigration for years with Africans, Bangladeshi, Arabs, and the worst, the worst, were always the French.

Oh. And the red shirt you see in the photo? I bought it for a newborn. It’s a John Gallianos t for toddlers. The original price was $100.00. I paid $16. But just imagine, for a moment,  the future of a toddler whose mother paid full price for this.  We’re talking Children of the Corn, folks. A monster among us.

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Monday, February 21, 2011

finis

You must be set on fire by

the inner sun

You have to live your love

or else

You’ll end up in only words.

Come, whoever you are

Wanderer, worshipper, lover of leaving

It doesn’t matter

Ours is not a caravan of despair

Come, even if you have broken your vow.

Wayfarer, indulge me in a sober moment

Please set down your glass

I can help you write

a letter of resignation

To all your fears and sadness.

Rumi-6th century Persian poet

Months ago, I said I wanted to see the swirl of snow in the oculus of the Pantheon

I wanted to touch the silver slippers of the Virgin statue in the Church of St. Agostino

I wanted to walk cold, cobbled streets and lose myself in the darkness of Santa Maria del Popolo.

I wanted to stand alone, dumbfounded, in front of Caravaggio.

And I did. (Well, all except for the snow in the oculus of the Pantheon.)

More later…

Oh. There are these small details re The Italians as observed by my other god/guide,  Luigi Barzini.

“Even instruments of precision like speedometers and clocks are made to lie in Italy for your happiness. The instrument in your car  always marks a figure which is between ten and twenty percent above the actual speed at which you are travelling. It is meant to make you feel proud of your automobile and your driving skill, but also to make you slow down sooner than you would otherwise and possibly save your life. The clocks on railroad stations are all five minutes fast ; everybody knows it, of course, and yet travellers who would arrive on time even if they walked are all stupidly encouraged to quicken their step. Only foreigners are sometimes discouraged sooner than necessary and miss their trains. The electric clocks on the trains themselves, on the other hand, are often a few minutes slow, to give passengers the illusion they arrive on time when they are late, or a little ahead.”

And this on how corruption works in the South:

“Tracks in northern Italy unimaginatively followed the shortest and cheapest routes between cities. In the South, they meandered all over the landscape sometimes in order pass in front of obscure hamlets where a powerful person was born or owned a country residence, sometimes to lengthen the mileage and enrich the contractor responsible for the construction….”

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Thursday, February 17, 2011

arriverderchi, roma

Single diners always seem to  eat a half hour earlier than everyone else. Maybe it’s our fear of being noticed by the crowd, I don’t know. But Osterio Pucci (no relation to the Florentine Puccis) is close to my B&B and the food is v. good. On this particular night, two singles arrive at the same time. (Me and a man.) We’re seated at adjacent tables. There is awkwardness, at first. Mostly his, I think.

He is Italian, mid thirties with tiny feet (all Italian men have tiny feet).  He is wearing jeans and a football jacket. Everything about him== his slouching posture, his quiet voice, even the too tidy part in his short hair suggests timidity and a longing to be invisible.  I imagine that he has either abandoned his mother for the evening or killed her. Or perhaps, she’s just out playing bridge. In any case, he skips the antipasto and the pasta and orders veal with a side of french potatoes.  I have no desire to talk and I’m not really uncomfortable, either. But I sense that he’s ill at ease. So I smile. I order taglieni with olio and pepe followed by chicken with artichokes. It’s a listless,  uninspired order but I’m not a local. The owner doesn’t come to my table as he does to others to create a menu that is entirely off menu. (And probably much, much fresher.)

I refuse to read when I’m alone in restaurants. Ditto for playing with cellphones.  (Did she say, cellphone? Yes, she did.) It smacks of surrender. So I look around and focus on the music.  For some reason,  in every restaurant from Milan to Rimini and Rome, they’re playing a cover version of Barry White. His greatest hits. What the fuck? I mean, listening to a man I’m sure is thin, white, and Italian sing about sex like an extremely, large, dead American black man seems absurd. But hey, why not. I love Barry White.

As I wait for my pasta (and the man next to me wipes his fork, over and over again, with his napkin and I wonder if he did the same thing with the weapon he used to murder his mother) I also remember the last time I heard Barry White.  It was at my husband’s 50th birthday. For years, he’d begged me to indulge him in his craving for karaoke.  And finally as a surprise, I succumbed. I sang, or spoke throatily, the words to Can’t get enough of you, Babe. Can’t get enough of you, babe in front of his friends.   Now here I am, miles away from that moment, tapping my foot and mouthing the words to myself.

The man next to me fidgets and I touch the ring on my finger. I’m reminded how thin it is. The thinnest gold ring Tiffany makes.  Alas! Even the thinnest ring can feel heavy, at times. 32  years together is a triumph.  And being rarely, if ever, apart, is almost inconceivable. But it can also exhaust the imagination.  And love without imagination becomes hard work.  I don’t want my husband to have to work any harder than he already does. I also believe that part of what keeps all relationships truly alive is a mutual interest, no, a passion, in one another’s stories.  When that interest, that passion, in those stories fades,  so does love.  I needed a new story.

Cut to a last supper in Milan (not as in the painting)

Dinner with a friend of a very old friend. We’d met (long distance) earlier in the year when I translated a piece that he’d written about his house from Italian into English. (The house is a riot of vibrant color, of stripes, squares, and polka dots.) What I loved about the piece were his souvenirs, his memories of travel and moving, constantly moving from one city and country to another. I had no idea then that he had been crippled by polio as a child; that he was unable to walk without steel crutches or a wheelchair.

I know that I feel totally comfortable from the moment he invites me to take a seat across from him at the edge of his desk and we (or I) begin to talk. He listens, greedily, to every detail of my journey. He is emphatically curious, asking questions, pouring wine. I am seduced by his energy, by his interest.  Time flies, as they say.  The strawberries and pineapple are cleared and he pushes himself back from the table.

Come, I want to show you something, he says, wheeling off in a rush towards the back of the apartment. I wonder, as I struggle to keep up, who invented that phrase, confined to a wheelchair. Because nothing seems to have ever confined this man, least of all his wheelchair. And there on the charcoal grey walls of his bedroom is a mural, a modern fresco.

It’s the story of my life, he laughs. Go ahead, look.

And I do. It’s marvelous, almost hallucinatory in its exaggerated, loose limbed lines, lines that speed along across the space as if done in a single breath without stopping.

You see, it starts in the hospital when I was a boy, he says, pointing to a figure in bed, wearing a pair of huge, black framed glasses. Then I am at school, he says, moving closer to the wall. It is university and Germany. I was crazy about Germany.

I hear him mention Hong Kong, China, Rome. But it doesn’t seem to matter if I miss what he’s saying, the words, I mean. Because the sketches, the pictures, express all of the joy, the humor, the exuberance of this man; a man who may appear to be crippled, paralyzed, but who has never stopped moving.  Of all the frescos I’ve seen all over Italy in churches and cathedrals and museums, this is the one that touches me most. Because this is the story of  a man who has loved his life.

More to come.

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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

baci cont

So… a dinner party in Rome. Spectacular setting near Campo dei Fiori. 10 superly dressed Romans and me. Like Milan, the men are alone at one end of the table and the women at the other. A placement that reminds me of a night out in the suburbs with the men in front of the car and the women in back. Can’t remember much about the conversation. More about face creams and vacations and kids among the women, television, sports, and probably other women among the men.  Just as I’m leaving, a young guy comes up to me and offers me his business card.  It has his picture on the front. Very handsome, dark wavy hair, vigilantly wary green eyes, and tan. ( Man, am I sick of seeing tans) I turn the card over and there is his name.  And nothing else. Just two words: Google Me. No profession, no phone number, no address, no nothing. Just Google Me.  I laugh out loud at the conceit and put it in my pocket.

————————————————————————————————————–

My B&B in Trastevere,  located on the west side of the Tiber,  is one of the oldest areas of  Rome (which seems like an oxymoron to me. I mean, it’s all pretty fucking old.) According to my own personal god and guide, the writer H.V-. Morton, it takes its inhabitants seven generations to be considered a true ‘Romani di Roma.’  These days, its working class neighborhoods have been infiltrated by the homeless, foreign students, tourists seeking cheap accomodations, and Romans from the other side of the river who like living in what’s left of the ‘authentic’ Rome. (Another oxymoron)

Anyway, Trastevere is also where all Romans come to go to the movies.  The Alcazar, the Reale, the Roma.  All dilapitated, once magnificent palaces that now run two films a day.  Most of which, if not in original Italian, are still cruelly dubbed. A habit left over from Mussolini and his nationalistic preference for all things Italian. Then, there is Cinema America. A boisterously colorful, albeit faded,  1950′s behemoth straight out of Vegas. It is the only one shuttered, its neon dark,  its doors nailed shut with graffiti covered pieces of plywood.   A sign of the times, I think.  A sign, like the diminished value of the dollar, indicating that Italy’s wild infatuation with America may finally be over.

Fortunately, it seems that Italian men are as infatuated as ever with our women. Well, our girls. I sat sipping a Prosecco at a lovely bar across the street from my B&B, watching a scene that hasn’t changed all that much since America’s  young, blond beauties began arriving here over a hundred years ago.  There he was, too old and there she was, too young.  They definitely knew each other. In fact, they had probably already played this same scene too many times to count. Wooing her with a box of exquistely wrapped pastries, she dismissed him with a laugh and casual wave her hand (holding a cigarette. Oh for shame).

You didn’t even ask my what I wanted, she said. (in Italian)

But this cake is famous. It’s the best thing they make.

He smiled. She shrugged. Well, I don’t want it, she said, turning her back on him and resuming her conversation with an American friend. I winced. For him.  Ah! The arrogance of beauty and youth, I thought to myself.  I felt a twinge of regret, too. Like the slight pinch of that needle at the dentist as it numbs the gums. The regret was not so much at the loss my youth but for this limbo I’m living in at the moment.  This limbo when I am neither old enough nor young enough to inspire people to help me lift a piece of luggage, for instance.

By the time I had finished my prosecco, the man had returned. With yet another box of exquisitely wrapped pastries in hand.  And this time, she allowed him to take a seat.

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