Friday, 29 February 2008

7 Things You Will Always Find or Will Never Find in My Stories:

I got this from Ally, via her blog, Tangled Up In Words.

7 Things You Will Always Find or Will Never Find in My Stories:

1. Happily-Ever-Afters Okay, I'll be blunt, straightaway. You won't find a typical "Happily Ever After" ending in most of my stories. I tend to leave things rather ambiguous or unresolved. Which isn't to say that my writing can't serve as escapism, for someone seeking that. I only mean that all the loose ends don't get tied up, and all the messes don't necessarily get swept up and tidied away.
Just like in life.

2. Emotions. I write rather emotion-based stories, so I try to dig into what they're thinking, and why they're doing what they're doing. It's important to me, and so far, so good. Let me know if you disagree...

3. Few -if any- blondes. Like Ally,
I rarely - if ever - have a female lead who is a blonde. I'm not one, and I noticed at a very young age that quite a few of the female "leads" in stories (fairytales, Disney stories, whatever) were blondes. This made me feel quite left out, so I tend to write characters a little closer to my little ol' brunette heart. It's just a matter of preference. However, in my collection of short stories I'm currently working on, I do have at least one blonde lead character. Like I said, "Rarely."

4. Normal women. You'll probably find a female character who is less-than-perfect, on almost all levels. By this I mean - she won't have the looks of a supermodel, she'll make stupid choices from time to time, and she might even be a little misguided or (gasp!) selfish. She's flawed, but not tragically so. Generally speaking, it's likely she'll find redemption somewhere along the line, as well. I hope to write "realistic" characters, above all - and we aren't all size 4s, are we? I didn't think so. I believe readers are intelligent enough to accept this. If I'm wrong, by all means, let me know.

5. Atypical male leads. The same goes for my male characters. In the long-term, I'm not turned on by bodybuilders or most male models, and I don't write characters who look like them, either. In one tale I have a male lead who is an all-around "average" guy, except that he's also a transvestite. In another, you find a tall, gawky gent who has no job and lives in a glorified "squat" on the outskirts of an English village. I love these guys, and I hope readers will, too.

6. Sex. There will likely be sex, at some point. It will probably be "imperfect", as well. Sure, we like to read about flawless performances and lots of, erm, "cookies", shall we say? But the reality is, of course, this sort of thing doesn't happen all that often - so when it does it's even more special. Besides, there's a lot of emotional gold to be mined in those errant moments, wouldn't you agree?

7. Heartlessly evil
characters. I can't write "robots", or people who are capable of acting without concern for others. If they do something evil, such as intentionally hurting someone else, chances are they're going to feel like crap about it. I don't want to know them in my life, so I don't write them (at least, not often) in my stories. If I do, I can guarantee you this: it won't be the hero/heroine.

There are, of course, many, many more things I could list here. But, since I'm only allowed seven, I'll force myself to stop.

I know... You were just enjoying it so much, weren't you? ;) And of course, you wouldn't be happy with Profoundly Shallow if I didn't include the eyecandy... So, here ya go:

Ohhhh... Antonio!

Ciao for now!

Thursday, 28 February 2008

13 Great Works of Art (Plus One!)


I've been to museums in the US, of course, but nothing prepares you for the constant presence of ART in Italy. In addition to spending entire days in the Uffizi and the Galeria dell'Accademia in Firenze, a simple walk reveals wonders, in most any town. Almost every piazza or random street has some small artistic jewel hidden away in it, if you just look. (Not to mention the art of some of the architecture in the historic centers.) Here's an example, taken from a random street in my city:

I could do a Thursday Thirteen about art in Reggio Emilia, I think (and I just may, sometime).

This is a list of works of art I've had the great fortune to admire up-close-and-personal, as it were. (The photos of the statues are mostly mine, by the way.)

A particular favorite artist of mine is Caravaggio. These should show you why...

The Sacrifice of Isaac, Uffizi Gallery, Firenze, Italy.

The Head of Medusa (painted on a shield), Uffizi Gallery, Firenze, Italy.

Then, just outside the Uffizi in Firenze, you find these pieces - on display in the Piazza della Signoria.

Giambologna's Hercules beating the Centaur Nessus (1599)

Menelaus supporting the body of Patroclus

The Fountain of Neptune, designed by Bartolomeo Amminnati.

The next two are Perseus with the head of Medusa, by Benvenuto Cellini.

The Rape of Polyxena, by Pio Fedi (1865) - It is worth noting that "Rape" in this context refers
to the original meaning of the word, "Rapine -To Kidnap".

The same goes for the following artwork, The Rape of the Sabine Women.

I must confess that I don't know what this next piece is's found in Parma, Italy, near the city hall.

The Venus of Urbino, by Tiziano Vecellio (aka Titian), found in the Uffizi, Firenze.

Bottecelli's Primavera

Botticelli's The Birth of Venus

And, standing in for the eye candy this week is the Grandaddy of 'em all, who of course needs no introduction...

Oh, who am I kidding? Here's the eye candy...

Luca Argentero - actor

What can I say? He's vaguely reminiscent of the David, isn't he?

Happy Thursday Thirteen!

Wednesday, 27 February 2008

One Reason I Love My Hubby... because he loves "The Little Prince".

When Alessandro and I started talking back in 2oo3, he told me that one of his

favorite books was "The Little Prince" by Antoine De Saint-Exupéry.

We agreed that it was a beautiful story, and that this passage was one of the most

beautiful in the book (indeed, one of the most beautiful passages ever written).

Early on, he read this to me over the phone.


It was then that the fox appeared.
"Good morning" said the fox.
"Good morning," the little prince responded politely although when he turned around he saw nothing.
"I am right here" the voice said, "under the apple tree..."
"Who are you?" asked the little prince. "You are very pretty..."
"I am a fox", said the fox .
"Come and play with me," suggested the little prince, "I am so terribly sad..."
"I cannot play with you," said the fox. "I am not tame."
"Oh, I'm so sorry," said the little prince. But after some thought, he asked: "What does 'tame' mean?"
"You do not live here," said the fox. "What is it you are looking for?"
"I am looking for men," said the little prince. "What does 'tame' mean?"
"Men,"said the fox, "they have guns, and they hunt. It is a real nuisance. They also raise chickens. These are their only interests. Are you looking for chickens?"
"No," said the little prince. "I am looking for friends. What does 'tame' mean?"
"It is an act too often neglected," said the fox. "It means to establish ties..."
"To establish ties?"
"That's right," said the fox. "To me, you are still just a little boy like a hundred thousand other little boys. And I have no need of you. And you have no need of me, either. To you I am just a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But if you tame me, then we shall need each other. To me, you will be unique. And I shall be unique to you."
"I am beginning to understand," said the little prince. "There is a flower. . .I think she has tamed me. . ."
"It is possible," said the fox. "One sees all sorts of things on Earth ."
"Oh! But this is not on the Earth!" said the little prince.
The fox seemed perplexed.
"On another planet?"
"Are there any hunters on that planet?"
"Ah, that's interesting! Are there chickens?"
"Nowhere is perfect," sighed the fox. Presently he returned to his theme. "My life is monotonous. I hunt chickens and men hunt me. All chickens are alike and all men are alike. So I get a little bored. But if you tame me, my life will be full of sunshine. I shall recognize the sound of a step different from all others. The other steps send me hurrying back underneath the ground. Yours will call me out of my burrow like the sound of music. And look yonder! Do you see the wheat fields? I do not eat bread. Wheat is of no use to me. The wheat fields have nothing to say to me. And I find that rather sad. But you have hair that is the color of gold. Think how wonderful it will be when you have tamed me! The grain, which is also golden, will remind me of you. And I shall love the sound of the wind in the wheat..."
The fox became silent and gazed for a long time at the little prince. "I beg of you - tame me!" he said.
"I want to, very much," the little prince replied. "But I have not much time. I have friends to discover, and a great many things to understand."
"One only understands the things that one tames," said the fox. "Men have no more time to understand anything. They buy things all ready made at the shops. But there is no shop anywhere where one can buy friendship, and so men have no friends any more. If you want a friend, tame me!"
"What must I do, to tame you?" asked the little prince.
"You must be very patient," replied the fox. "First you will sit down at a little distance from me -like that-in the grass. I shall look at you out of the corner of my eye, and you will say nothing. Words are the source of misunderstandings. But you will sit a little closer to me, every day..."
The next day the little prince came back.
"It would have been better to come back at the same hour," said the fox. "If for example, you came at four o'clock in the afternoon, then at three o'clock I shall begin to be happy. I shall feel happier and happier as the hour advances. At four o'clock, I shall be worrying and jumping about. I shall discover the price of happiness. I shall show you how happy I am! But if you come at just any time, I shall never know at what hour my heart is ready to greet you... One must observe the proper rites."
"What is a rite?" asked the little prince.
"It is something which is all too often forgotten," said the fox. "It is what makes one day different from other days, one hour different from other hours. There is a rite, for example, among my hunters. Every Thursday they dance with the village girls. So Thursday is a wonderful day for me! I can take a walk as far as the vineyards. But if the hunters danced at just any time, every day would be like every other day, and I would never have a holiday."
So the little prince tamed the fox. And when the hour of his departure drew near---
"Ah," said the fox, "I shall cry."
"It is your own fault," said the little prince. "I never wished you any sort of harm; but you wanted me to tame you."
"Yes, indeed", said the fox.
"But now you are going to cry!" said the little prince.
"That is so," said the fox.
"Then it has done you no good at all!"
"It has done me good," said the fox, "because of the color of the wheat fields." And then he added: "Go and look again at the roses. You will understand now that yours is unique in all the world. Then come back to say goodbye to me, and I will make you a present of a secret."
The little prince went away, to look again at the roses.
"You are not at all like my rose," he said. "As yet you are nothing. No one has tamed you, and you have tamed no one. You are like my fox when I first knew him. He was only a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But I have made a friend, and now he is unique in all the world."
And the roses were very much embarrassed.
"You are beautiful, but you are empty," he went on. "One could not die for you. To be sure, an ordinary passerby would think that my rose looked just like you - the rose that belongs to me. But in herself alone she is far more important than all the hundreds of you other roses: because it is she that I have watered; because it is she that I have put under the glass globe; because it is for her that I have killed the caterpillars (except the two or three we saved to become butterflies); because it is she that I have listened to, when she grumbled, or boasted, or even sometimes when she said nothing. Because she is MY rose."
And he went back to meet the fox.
"Goodbye" he said.
"Goodbye," said the fox. "And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye."
"What is essential is invisible to the eye," the little prince repeated, so that he would be sure to remember.
"It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important."
"It is the time I have wasted for my rose -" said the little prince so he would be sure to remember.
"Men have forgotten this truth," said the fox. "But you must not forget it. You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed. You are responsible for your rose..."
"I am responsible for my rose," the little prince repeated, so that he would be sure to remember.

From the Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery


When Alessandro arrived in the US for the first time, just a few months after we'd started speaking, I gave him this little guy:

After all, it was pretty evident that he'd already tamed me.

Monday, 25 February 2008

Ti Voglio Bene - I Wish You Well

Looking back now, I can see how many things had to come together in some special way to align themselves 'just so' to guide me along my life in the direction I've gone so far. All the loves, the interests, the coincidences and even the long periods of doubt and self-loathing which had to come to pass before I could be where I am today.

Crikey, did it have to be so difficult, though? I suppose, in the end, the answer is inevitably and undeniably 'yes!'

Without the pain, the confusion and the disappointments, I wouldn't be able to appreciate what I have now, and would have lacked the maturity to recognize it for what it was: a true miracle in my life.

I shudder if I allow myself to consider that I could have missed this chance by clinging to habit and the comfort of living in the past.

So long ago, a dear friend told me to appreciate the pain that had gone before – after all, he reasoned, it was what made me who I was in that moment, and didn't I think I was someone special?

I grudgingly acknowledged that I reckoned I was, maybe...

It was hard to remember that as time went on. My teenage years ended, I stepped out into the world and allowed my insecurities to guide my hand along to make so many bad choices, I could never count them all.

But for all the pain and uncertainty, were those choices so bad after all? They got me here, in the end.

Perhaps the time has come to quit regarding these events as mistakes or horrible errors. Mis-steps, perhaps. Stumbles. But not mistakes.

'Cause I am someone special, after all.

The events of the last few years couldn't have happened if I hadn't done the following:
1) Quit my job at Movie Gallery.
2) Refused to return to work at Wal-Mart.
3) Gone home and written down the images of young Burke Wilson which filled my mind one November afternoon.
4) Learned to accept myself for who I am and refused to accept less than I deserved.
5) Finally ended my 9-year-long 'Co-Dependent' relationship.

The web of events goes back much farther than 2002, of course, but if I tried to untangle each thread to show what it meant, the work would never end. But these were the most significant events to occur just before the 'Fairy Tale' began.

You see, that is how I think of the events of the summer of 2003. I eschew the negative connotations of 'Fairy Tale' and embrace what I see as the truer meaning of it: 'A story of highly unlikely or somewhat fantastical events happening to the person you'd least expect.' Because that's what happened to me.

In brief: I was miserable trying to manage the Movie Gallery video store in the Wal-Mart in Newport, Tennessee. I quit without notice one Saturday and never went back. Never mind the reasons why – suffice it to say, it wasn't for me.
I could have gone back to work for Wal-Mart but I hated that, too. For the months I'd worked in those places, I was as depressed and exhausted as I'd ever been in my life. I no longer cared what happened to me, and those initially self-defeating actions actually proved to be a salvation (of sorts). I suddenly had time to write, and a new, haunting image had come to me shortly after abandoning my posts.
I looked for work and wrote when I was home. The story poured out, feeling as necessary as air or food and water to my survival; I was held in a thrall I'd not experienced in a long, long time.
I found a new job one month after leaving the other. I worked, I wrote, and didn't do much else. I eventually found the courage to show my work to my friend Byllie over lunch one afternoon and she received it enthusiastically. Buoyed by this response, I continued writing and showing the work to her – her still-excited responses told me I was on to something.
Time passed swiftly. The writing filled the gaps in my life – I didn't mind that I was alone, even after February, when I broke off my 'relationship' of nine years (give or take) with my long-distance 'boyfriend'. We were still friends, we said, but no longer beholden to one another, so I felt a freedom that was somehow new to me – and I no longer had a 'boyfriend' to hide behind.
As winter faded into the spring thaw, I realized that I would not settle for less anymore. I had high standards, yes, but if someone decided he wanted me he'd better want me for more than just a little fun, so to speak – and only the best qualified need apply. If pressed for details as to what I was looking for, I would say I was hoping for someone smart, funny, passionate, and maybe even a little opinionated. He'd have tact, though, and a generous nature – he'd care about other people, love his family, but if we were together, he'd put our relationship first.
Would he be good-looking? Well... my taste in men's looks has always been a little different, to be fair. But yeah, it'd be nice to find someone with the aforementioned qualities who was also 'cute', though it wasn't absolutely strictly necessary.
In the months that followed, I met a few fellows who seemed to 'fit the bill', but they were always unavailable (read: 'married or gay'). So, they became friends and nothing more, and that was fine, too.
All the while, I wrote. Soon, my novel was nearing its end, and I decided to test its marketability by posting a few chapters online. I let people in the chat areas I frequented know about this 'publication' since most of them were my target audience, and then I waited to see what they'd say.
The response was again overwhelmingly positive. So many people wrote me to encourage me to continue, and my confidence was buoyed still further. Publishing in the real world was my next plan, but when? How?
Then, one morning I received a private message on one of the chat groups. The sweet, heartfelt missive brought tears to my eyes and a warmth to my heart I could never have imagined before. For the first time, I knew what it meant to truly 'touch' a reader, to evoke their own emotions through my words and sentiments. It was a marvelous but somehow melancholy feeling all at once.

message sent on: May 12th, 2003, 05:44am
Dear Granny,
it's Alessandro, here, one of your fans, from your very first witty posts!!! (Well, I'm a bit ashamed to confess it... but it's the truth! )
I'm at the end of the 3rd chapter, and reading your novel was all I did during my private week-end!
And you know what? I feel... richer! Your story moved something inside of me... just made me think a bit more about myself... which is one of the great effects novels can do!
In order to explain better, I write that me and Legendary Girlfriend, (my lovely sister Roberta) lost mum when I was 13 and she was 9...
What can I say.... You expressed something that I felt in my stomach of lad, girl! And you did it from the point of view of the kid.... and you did it perfectly...
The first chapter... contains exactly the emotions I felt.... nothing less... and nothing more!
It was strange... reading my own private emotions and finding they were written by somebody else who wasn't myself......
And again... yes... a motherless child can just feel alone.... hoplessly alone... and crying desperately... as the world looks fucking unfair when you're a kid-without-his-mum" and you feel everyone can see it from how you look and act....
Ok... I wasn't alone, we were 3: Me, a wonderful sister and a great, awsome dad... This helped our family to resist and go on and grow serene, in the end...
But... inside you bring with you the emotions you recalled in your work... they never leave...
It takes years to forget the kind of "black shadow" that blackens your life... I guess It took me 15 years to say the words: "I can be a happy boy, me too!"
I don't mean that each day you cry and dispair... but it's true that something veils your smiles... even when you do feel at the top!
You have a mark on you... you just don't see it anymore... but the people around can.
Oh... and yeah... I've never been beaten up by boys at school... as in Italy none does it... but definitely I was the favourite target of my friends jokes... quite innocent I have to admit... but painful for a sensitive lad...
So... I can say I did grow up differently...Not unhappily... but differently. (As my sister did... if she'll ever find the strenght to tell it)...
At the end of the 3rd chapter... the only wish I expressed... (You made me feel a kid, granny... and kids do express wishes often!) was: "If only someone had made me meet a nice "Deus ex machina" too, like the ones Burke meets!!!!"
That's what I thought, mate.
I'm working a lot on the fact I never had the love of a girl in my life, as anyone knows me like a very sensitive and loyal guy instead... and your novel came in the middle of my long term reflection
What can I say... At this point of my life I'm still trying to learn, as Burke does... that I have the right to be loved for what I am....
I don't know if I'll find an answer going on reading... I don't expect to... But at least i can thank you granny.... as after reading your story, I can say "I didn't woke up alone" too....

I wrote him back to let him know how profoundly glad I was that he'd appreciated my work (as well as my posts on the forum). It wasn't long before a regular correspondence developed, and in a short while – just a few days, in fact – I found myself anticipating his emails every day, missing them if one wasn't sent, deeply excited when one was.
It was May, roughly six months after beginning the novel, I had completed the first (rough) draft. I was elated to have finished the work, and to have a new Italian online 'friend'. About a week after our correspondence had begun, I sent him my photo. I suppose I thought – in my usual, self-deprecating way – that he'd see my photo and the flirtatious, sweet nature of his messages would change. My previous honesty regarding my appearance hadn't done so, but I felt perhaps a photo would.
Instead, he thought I was cute. Really cute. He loved 'tomboys' and found 'chubby girls' appealing.
Then he sent me his photos. I remember all too well sitting in front of my PC, telling myself not to expect too much, and that it was okay to be a little bit let-down when I saw what he looked like. After all, how could he compare to what I'd started to imagine? I clicked on the file and felt my heart hammer nervously in my chest.

The first picture I saw of Alessandro.
My first impression was of his smile. His smile was bright, charming, and beautiful. That alone was enough to overwhelm me, but he was a handsome man, too! I looked away from the screen, my heart still speeding, and thought; 'Naahh…' I looked again to find I was correct – he really was that attractive. The other photos he sent along told the same story, but how could it be true? Men this attractive don't spend their day on the internet – they go out with girlfriends and have romances! They don't find chubby girls cute, they go out with gorgeous girls all the time.
He must be crazy.
I impulsively printed out his photos and showed them to friends. They all agreed he was an attractive man, and we joked that these photos were of someone else, not the fellow who had been writing me.
All the same, he and I continued writing. I told him that I had a hard time believing he was single – such a handsome gent! – and he assured me that he was. In fact, he'd had only one previous relationship of a short duration a few months before.
Soon a new 'wrinkle' was added. He asked me if I'd like to visit him. I jokingly responded that, since I couldn't afford a trip to Italy, he'd have to come to the States instead.
'Okay,' he said, 'I have vacation in August.'
It was still May.
On May 24th he wrote and sent me his telephone numbers. Would I like to call him? My heart raced anew, excitement and disappointment mingling heatedly. 'I wish I could,' I explained, 'but I simply can't afford to.'
'I'll call you, then,' he wrote, 'if that's okay. Are you available next Sunday?'
'No, I'm working. How about the next?'
'Okay, I'll call you then.'
After a long, anticipatory week, on June 1st, he called me for the first time. I loved his voice immediately, as it held the same warmth of his messages. I could tell he was nervous, as I was, but we spoke for three hours straight in between my nervous giggles and his nervous stammers. He called back a couple of hours later and we spoke for two hours more. Soon we were speaking every day for hours at a time.
The phone calls and emails combined to make his presence felt in my life as much as if he'd been there in person. Perhaps even more so, in some ways. His calls were arranged around my schedule, which meant that he was calling me in the middle of the night, his time, or in his afternoon, or as soon as he had gotten home from work, etc.


I was disappointed to find his flight was delayed. I stood looking at the 'Arrivals' screen in Tyson-McGheeAirport in Knoxville and read that his flight, due at 9:45 p.m., wouldn't be in until 10:30. With a sigh, having finished my phone call with Byllie and Cristy, I sat down in the lounge area to wait.
The soft blue lighting was too dim for my contacts – I had to really focus to see the end of the ramp and the security check there. Another flight was deplaning and I watched them waft into focus while I adjusted my clothes and patted my hair for the millionth time, it seemed.
I was terrified. Would I recognize him? Would he recognize me? Would either of us be disappointed? How would we hide it? Would we hide it? Why did the plane have to be late, anyway? Was it obvious that my hands were shaking? Will Byllie and Cristy act on their threat/promise to come spy on our meeting? Was it a bad or good idea to come alone? What time is it, now? Did he make his connection? If he calls does my phone have enough charge? What if -?
I turned to my left where the voice had come from, and there he was. I stood and joined him and we exchanged awkward, shy smiles before a brief kiss and embrace. We hugged again and I could feel his heartbeat, smell his warm, faintly salty smell. He felt so wonderfully, beautifully solid in my arms after countless hours of phone calls in the middle of the night. 'You're real,' I said, and he chuckled softly.
We went down to the baggage carousel and found ourselves embracing yet again while we waited for his suitcase. I wanted to laugh and cry all at once: He's here! He traveled all the way from Italy to see me! to meet me!
He chattered nervously for the first part of the drive home, telling me all about his trip and the eventful stopover in Chicago. Then he drifted off to nap while I drove toward home in the dark Tennessee August night.
God knows just what he thought when he awoke in the car to find me turning up the off-ramp to Newport. We drove past the 24-hour Wal-Mart, and with that oasis of perversely American light behind us, pushed deeper into the darkness of the country highway.
I don't remember what we talked about. I probably told him yet again that his room would be the 'guest room' upstairs but we would enter the house via the downstairs door – the better to permit my mother and stepfather to sleep at that late hour. Maybe I jokingly (mostly) reminded him of my suggestion that we have a 'pajama party' – a relaxed and non-threatening introduction to each other – nothing too intimate, but somehow on a level of the closeness we already seemed to share.
I led him into our basement television room and we put his suitcase aside before I gave him the rather brief tour of the place – my room, the bathroom and the TV area. I offered him a glass of water and he accepted, then waited downstairs while I went up to get it.
Any nervousness I felt at the time is hard to recall. We talked awkwardly for a while, both of us a bit overwhelmed by the reality of his arrival, I think.
I remember folding my arms around one of his, embracing him innocently while we sat on the sofa together. I breathed in his scent, clean but with just a hint of warmth and salt and the faintest tinge of sweat beneath it all. He was warm and velvet under my fingertips and somehow so masculine at the same time. I was trembling a little with nervousness and anxiousness again, too. What did he think of me? Was he pleased or disappointed – or worse, neither? Did I match my descriptions of myself enough for him to appreciate that I'd told him the truth? What could we talk about? Had I been quiet too long? Would this upset him? Was I boring? Was he too tired to stay awake? Was I being selfish, keeping him with me this way? Should I show him upstairs?
I must have blushed a thousand shades of pink when he looked into my eyes a short while later. Maybe my hope that he would kiss me was written all over my face? The very thought brought on an even deeper blush, and I wanted to hide my face.
He wouldn't let me.
When he did kiss me, I found myself all ridiculous teenage-type awkwardness. I didn't seem to know how, any more! Embarrassed, and perhaps mortified, I apologized for my lack of skill. He laughed and kissed me again, and I in turn laughed to keep from crying with joy.
To be quite honest, it was all ridiculously innocent. Two full-grown adults alone in the wee hours of the morning, meeting after months of shared intellectual intimacy, and all we did was kiss. But I'd never felt so connected with someone, so satisfied and contented after such contact. We held each other close, exchanged small, gentle kisses until his travel fatigue proved too much at last.
He took a shower and I changed into my pajamas – a pink nightshirt with black paw-prints all over – and my pale blue robe, which just happened to match the color of the towel he'd brought from home.
When he rejoined me, he smiled at my nightshirt, immediately liking the paw-print design. In fact, he walked his fingers over them, carefully avoiding any 'indiscreet' contact, smiling warmly all the while. When we kissed again while standing in my bedroom doorway, I had an impression of falling. I thought 'This is what they mean by "falling in love"! This is really it!'
Nothing more happened that night. I took him upstairs to his room and bade him goodnight, and that was all for that first night together, though a fairly sleepless night followed for me.


I won't go into too much detail about the next two weeks – the full duration of his stay, that is to say. Suffice it to say that he awoke before I did the next morning, and by chance he met my mother and stepfather before I'd gotten upstairs. I don't know all of what they talked about before I arrived, but he seemed to make a good impression, all the same.
For the first week he stayed at my parents' house, in the guest room. I think I only worked one day that week, so I spent a lot of time alone with him. I took him for drives, to meet my friends (who were dying of curiosity) and then to the hotel near my workplace where he had reserved a room for the rest of his stay.
I continued working (more or less), but I stayed with him in that hotel on the Little Pigeon River and knew that if he asked me to go with him, I would, without a trace of doubt or fear.
Somehow, I already knew that he wanted the same. The 'Big Question' loomed over us, unspoken and yet already answered. He wanted to tell my parents on the final weekend of his stay, but was too nervous to do so. We had discussed the other important questions, too; in the days we'd spent together such things evolved naturally, and we felt ourselves to be a good match.
At last, he asked me to come visit him in Italy. He offered to buy the ticket, told me I'd stay in his house with himself and his father. He said I could come for Christmas, when he would be off for two weeks also, and we could be together the whole time.
I accepted, of course. The whole arrangement wouldn't be finalized for a while, but by the time I drove him back to the airport, it was a 'done deal'.
All the same, I thought my heart would break when I had to say goodbye that first time. After only two weeks, I found myself madly in love with this wonderful, charming, sometimes silly but always tender and caring man. The idea of three months without him was painful to say the least.
He went to great pains to soothe me before he left, making jokes, singing to me, giving me countless 'tiny kisses' while we sat on a bench in the airport. When at last he went to the security gates, he told me to go on home, to be happy, that he'd call from Chicago if he could.
After a last, silly wave goodbye – and a 'V' for victory for good measure once past security – he disappeared toward his gate and I watched until he was well out of sight. I walked to the parking garage and my phone rang just as I reached my car.
'Don't be sad,' he said, 'I'll call you soon, and when I get home, okay?'
'Ti amo.'
He arrived in Chicago as I arrived at home. He called me from a pay phone in the airport and we spoke briefly before he had to hurry off. I sat in my floor at home and cried. I missed him so much already, it hurt.
We'd known each other roughly three months.

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Things to Avoid in Italy

Okay, I swiped this one from someone else, but I thought I'd share it since other folks might get a kick out of it. :) Hope you like it!

Things to Avoid in Italy

By: MaggieMc - 15 Feb 2006 (from the Lonely Planet site)

Crossing the road

Look both ways. Pedestrian crossings are there for decoration or as a perverse form of population control. In order to cross the road before next Christmas, one must make a "leap of faith". Ironically, this is most unnerving near the Vatican

Wearing tracksuit pants

Casual is not cool. Even in the smallest village, the locals will glare with the condescension Italians spend a lifetime perfecting. These people get Armani to design the caribinieri uniforms. They are serious about fashion.

Criticising an Italian man's mother

Don't diss mamma. To him, she is the Virgin Mary and after a lifetime of cooking, cleaning, pampering, petting and mollycoddling them, they are rendered completely useless.

Going to a nightclub solo

Girls, Italian courtship is akin to watching a nature documentary; you are their prey and chances of survival reduce dramatically when unguarded. Female tourists are fresh meat: they smell you long before you come into view and you smell good.

Ordering a "latte"

It might work in Starbucks but in Italy you'll get a smirk and a glass of lukewarm milk. Best not to delve into the chai tea, caramel infused or decaf skinny varieties. Here, coffee can be black/white, short/long but always strong and good.

Forgetting the Romans

Italians believe they are directly descended from Caesar and Augustus. Some men around the Coliseum will even don togas to prove the point. All roads lead to Rome but no emergency exits when confronted with a grown, hairy man wrapped in only a sheet.

Criticising Italian cuisine

Don't joke that spaghetti is just noodles with tickets on itself. Marco Polo, aside from being the world's most popular swimming pool game, brought it back from Asia along with garlic and chilli, the staples of Italian cuisine. A sore point.

Asking for "a plate of penne pasta"

Americans, in a homespun accent "penne" sounds like "peni" to Italians, and you'll be asking for "penises". May put you in a spot of bother with a red-blooded Italian waiter. He'll assume it's a come-on and who knows what you'll get on your plate.

Mentioning the mafia

Use the "m" word in a cafe, guys will drop their espressos, the chick behind the counter will burn the foccacia and Godfather music will begin to play.

Asking for the vegetarian option

Vegetarians, Vegans, fruitarians and gluten intolerants, cancel flight now! This is the country that has one gastronomic mantra: "carb up!" Welcome to the wonderful world of the omelette.

All right then... Back to Kimberly's work.

Yeah, I know... You came here for the eye candy, and even though I can't stand the company these ads come from, I have to say this - If you can't go to a gay man to find the best eye candy, well, then - who can you go to?

Monday, 18 February 2008

Thursday Thirteen - 13 Italian Contributions to the World

I was looking at my old MySpace blogs and found this one - which I thought was nearly perfect as a Thursday Thirteen. :) ...

How many of you realized the following:

1) The founder of Planter's Peanuts was an Italian immigrant.

2) One of the most influential and important men in NASA's history was the son of Italian immigrants.

3) Want to relax in a hot tub? Thank the Jacuzzi brothers!

4) Enjoy the radio? Yup, you guessed it...

"Guglielmo Marconi, an Italian inventor, proved the feasibility of radio communication. He sent and received his first radio signal in Italy in 1895. By 1899 he flashed the first wireless signal across the English Channel and two years later received the letter "S", telegraphed from England to Newfoundland. This was the first successful transatlantic radiotelegraph message in 1902.

In addition to Marconi, two of his contemporaries Nikola Tesla and Nathan Stufflefield took out patents for wireless radio transmitters. Nikola Tesla is now credited with being the first person to patent radio technology; the Supreme Court overturned Marconi's patent in 1943 in favor of Tesla.

5) Even "cursive" handwriting is owed to the Italians.

From "Articles written by hand had resembled printed letters until scholars began to change the form of writing, using capitals and small letters, writing with more of a slant and connecting letters. Gradually writing became more suitable to the speed the new writing instruments permitted. The credit of inventing Italian 'running hand' or cursive handwriting with its Roman capitals and small letters, goes to Aldus Manutius of Venice, who departed from the old set forms in 1495 A.D. By the end of the 16th century, the old Roman capitals and Greek letterforms transformed into the twenty-six alphabet letters we know today, both for upper and lower-case letters."

6) Do you enjoy a good espresso from time to time? Thank Achilles Gaggia! He invented the modern form of the espresso machine back in 1946.

7) Need batteries for your camera? Or that iPod? Say "Grazie" to Alessandro Volta! (and yes, that's why we call power units "Volts"...)

8) Even the thrilling world of Accounting (where my hubby toils each day) owes much to the Italians. They invented the concept of "double entry" accounting - which has only changed a bit, since its inception in the Renaissance.

9) Want some wine? You might use a double-winged corkscrew, invented by Dominick Rosati, to pop it open.

10) Enjoy ice skating or hockey...? The Zamboni is called that for a reason. Want to guess why?

11) Pellegrino Turri invented carbon paper (the older readers might remember that one) in 1806. We dust our hands off in his memory.

12) Running a fever? Not sure? Santorio Santorio (no, that's not a typo) was the first to put numbers on the "Thermoscope" to gauge the rise in temperature. This evolved into the modern thermometer.

13) Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone? Don't be so sure, ya'll!

And a bonus!

14) CSI. The X-Files. Law and Order. Bones. None of these shows would have a forensic leg to stand on without the work of: "Italian doctor, Fortunatus Fidelis is recognized as being the first person to practice modern forensic medicine, beginning in 1598. Forensic medicine is the "application of medical knowledge to legal questions." It became a recognized branch of medicine in the early 19th century."

Of course, there are many, many more. But I've bored you long enough.

Here's your Caramella per gli Occhi, ladies!

Italian Actor Luca Argentero

Later, ya'll!

Thursday, 14 February 2008

13 Things I Learned to Love About Italy

I'll be honest about this - I didn't come to Italy with any "AAaahhh, Italy!" visions in my head. Quite the opposite. I came here because I'd fallen in love with an Italian, and he'd fallen in love with me. That's it.

I didn't speak the language, knew only a little about the culture, and certainly couldn't wear the clothes. I'm no fashion maven, so the styles were beyond me. (At the very least, they weren't my taste. Oh, well.)

I liked the food, though.

So, my tempestuous affections for this place come and go. However, there are a few select things which I always admire/love/adore, and this is my Valentine to my adopted home -

13 Things I Love About Italy

1) The Food. Pasta! Pizza! I dolci! Gelato! If I got down to brass tacks (to mix metaphors a bit), this would be a Thursday Thirteen, of its own...

2) The Art. I've never seen so much nekkididity as I've seen since I arrived in Italy. Hmmm... I sense another future Thirteen topic... Yay!

3) The Language. Okay, to be fair, sometimes, I'm not exactly wild about it. When you're learning and doing a crap job of it, it's hard to love those conjugations and declensions, etc, etc... But I swear, when my hubby is talking to me like I understand him... Yummah! Also, I can sit and listen to Roberto Benigni reciting Dante, and get the strangest, pleased look on my face...

4) The Respect Shown Women. Yeah, we've all heard the horror stories about women being harassed, here. And they're true, by the way. But at the same time, as woman of a certain age (waaaah!) I am more frequently treated with courtesy than as an object. (Waaahaahhh!) I'll get over it. Of course, my age and married status goes a long way toward ensuring a respectful attitude. (That, and the fact that I'm often dealing with upper-management types when I'm working. They know better.)

5) The Tolerance Given Non-Native Speakers of Italian. My grasp of the language is complex. I can read it. I can comprehend most of a given conversation between others. I can almost write a sentence which is comprehensible to a native speaker. My ability to speak, however, is deplorable. So, God Bless 'em for being so forgiving and encouraging. At least, they wait 'til I'm out of earshot before they laugh.

6) The Literature. So far, every Italian author I've read has been an immensely satisfying read. Some are a bit heavy, some are out of my reach, for now. But I've learned a lot, reading their work - I just hope it sticks in my brain and comes out through my pen, too...

7) The Music. I don't mean "O Sole Mio", either. I don't listen to a lot of Italian "pop", but it's incredibly popular in other parts of the world. If you don't mind not understanding the words, it's a great medium. My mother is fanatical about Andrea Bocelli (not my cup of tea, thanks, though he seems a nice enough guy), and I'm madly in love (sorta) with Samuele Bersani (as regular visitors to this blog already know). I also like Subsonica, Elisa, Simone Cristicchi and Gianna Nannini (at least, her more recent stuff). All-time-great artists include: Paolo Conte, Fabrizio de Andre', Mina and Renato Zero.

8) That older gentleman who sings while riding his bicycle. I don't know who this guy is, since he's just an average fellow who lives in my town; but I see him riding his bike every so often, and he's always singing something. Whether it's an old folk song, or a classical piece (yes, from time to time, he's singing something from an opera), he sings, and rides, and just seems generally content with the world as he pedals past me. I have to smile. Wouldn't you?

9) The older ladies on bicycles, too. Alle dubbed them the "Flying Grannies" for my stepfather's edification a couple of years ago, and that's what they do! These little old ladies (of indeterminate age) go zipping by, bags loaded into the baskets on the front and back of their bikes, no helmet, in skirts and "sensible heels" - and boyo, you'd best get out of their way! They're fearless. Or deaf and blind. I'm not sure which.

10) The Predictability of Italian TV News, in general. Everyone goes on holiday in August, on the same day, every year. The evening news reports it as if it's unusual. The weather gets cold in the winter. The evening news reports, "It's Cold!" It gets hot in the summer. The evening news brings such late-breaking reports as "It's Hot!" (I'm not kidding.) Whenever the Pope speaks on a holiday, several channels and news reports broadcast it. Then they ignore him. Wash, rinse, repeat. At least it's entertaining...

11) The Autogrill. Somewhere between a convenience store and a truck stop you find the qualities of an Autogrill. These are service stations similar to those we have on the turnpikes in the US - you can gas up, get a bite to eat in the restaurant, buy a useless souvenir and go to the restroom all in one place. They're usually pretty big, quite clean and well-maintained, but not always. Not a problem. I've never been in one too long - but they'd be a fascinating place to hang out and people-watch...

12) Taking the Train. I know, I know. I bashed the trains in my short story "Almost by Chance - Quasi per Caso", but I really do enjoy them. I like getting on the train (especially in reserved seating) and watching the landscape go by. No worries about driving, traffic or needing to stop at an autogrill to find a restroom. (Though the toilet on a train is potentially terrifying.) Just sit back, hold Alle's hand, and relax. What a great way to travel!

13) The men. What, you thought I'd forget? It wouldn't be Profoundly Shallow without at least a mention! My hubby indulges me in this because he knows it's harmless - I've got crushes on more guys than I can count, right now. One of whom I see a few times a week as I walk to work. The last time I saw him, he was dressed thusly: Black velvet baseball cap, lavender scarf (probably cashmere or something else super-soft), black wool peacoat, blue jeans, black shoes; riding a bicycle. He was Raoul Bova gorgeous, y'all! No exaggeration. Somewhere in town there's a guy who looks like Goran Visnjic from ER (chances are that guy was from Croatia, or something, but still!).

Some days are just a veritable feast for the eyes...

And finally...

Fabio Cannavaro - Juventus Footballer


Sunday, 10 February 2008

Hotties In Heaven


Well, what can I talk about today...?

Alle and I have an ongoing joke... Almost two years ago, somehow or other we got onto the subject of the "72 Virgins in Heaven" concept that is supposedly offered as incentive to those who martyr themselves in the name of certain religions. We were pondering whether 72 virgins would really be such a great thing. Wouldn't 72 sluts be more compelling, somehow? (I reckon this says more about our culture than theirs, actually.) And what do the women who do the martyring thing get out of it? Do they get 72 virgins, as well? Male or female? And wouldn't that be a bit of mixed blessing, at best, either way?

Anyway, I decided that if I had the choice, I reckoned I'd rather have 72 Hotties. I started making my list, and Alle expressed frustration. Did he get virgins or what? I said he could have whomever he wanted. He still couldn't choose.

Meanwhile, my list kept growing. I chose the following gents to accompany me in my Heaven (though not all for salacious purposes):

Alle (of course)
Samuele Bersani
Jarvis Cocker
Young David Gilmour
Raoul Bova (for that all-important beefcake factor)
Ewan MacGregor get the idea...

The beauty of this concept is that the list can grow and change endlessly - we're talking about Heaven, after all! Who knows what wonders will be revealed! So, every so often, I see someone, and either Alle or I will add him to my list. The thing is, I don't only select sexy guys - some of the choices are a bit puzzling, at first glance, it seems - because I want fun guys with me. I want guys who'll make me laugh and feel good, not just by "sexing me up", if you gather my meaning...

Not that it would be so bad, really.

Anyway, here's a photo listing of my chosen Hotties, in no particular order (except for number one!) and a brief blurb as to why, for each.


Ms Menozzi's Hotties in Heaven!

1) My hubby, Alessandro. For obvious reasons. What a hottie, eh? Evidently, the feeling is mutual, between us. Go Figure!

2) Samuele Bersani. Yeah, I might have mentioned him once before... Fantastic voice, a great sense of humor, and oh yeah - he's a hottie!

3) Jarvis Cocker - singer, songwriter, Brit-pop fashion plate and once the sexiest man in Britain (or so it was said by some...). Why this guy? Because Cool never goes out of Style, babe...and that makes a Hottie Hot!

4) Gale Harold - best known for his work on Showtime's Queer As Folk, he's done some work in other TV series, films and on Broadway. I saw him most recently, however, in a Hardee's commercial (the guy who is getting his car sanded and repainted after a jealous girlfriend has been rather unkind to it), of all things. Google him. You'll be glad you did.

5) Corrado Guzzanti - Italian comic, impersonator, writer, and all around Hottie! If you can make me laugh, you're golden!

6) Antonio Banderas - Film actor, Voice-over actor, and just resigned to being a Hottie! (At least, he should be...) He's so perfect at times that an ex of mine once said "That guy's so perfect, he's gotta be fake! Even his name is too fake - Antonio Banderas! Give me a break!" To which I could only say... Gimme more!

7) Yup... George Clooney. I've loved him for lo, these many years (from The Facts of Life, to Roseanne, to ER and to his current superstar status), and I'm pleased to remind anyone who'll listen that George is a Kentucky boy! Woo-hoo! Oh, hey, speaking of Kentucky boys... We also have:

8) Johnny Depp - of Owensboro! Woot! (Please note for the record that this is likely the first time I've ever typed "Woot!") I don't have to say anything to justify this choice of Hottie, I'm sure. But there's another Kentucky boy worth noting (and a student of mine had to really bring him to my attention):

9) Nicholas "Nicky" Hayden, also of Owensboro - A World Champion of MotoGP, and generally speaking, something of a Hottie.

10) James Spader. Admit, you love him whether he's playing a jerk or a good guy. He was the living epitome of preppy jerkiness in his early career, but hey... sleaze never seemed so sexy, until he came along...

11)Gael Garcia Bernal - He caught my eye when he worked with Almodovar. When did he catch yours?

12) Kim Rossi-Stuart - Yeah, I've mentioned him before, too. So shoot me! He's a fascinating actor, and delightful to gaze upon... Yummm... Hottie...

13) Ewan MacGregor - Yummilicious Scot alert! He can do it all from musicals to the lightest comedy to the darkest drama (Young Adam, anyone?). A wonder to behold (and to be held, I'm sure...) Hottie!

14) Eddie Izzard - Stand-up comic, writer, actor. Oh, yeah; transvestite. Who cares, though - he's smokin' hot and funny as hell! And he really knows how to work those boots, eh?

15) Raoul Bova - another previously-mentioned hottie. But who could resist another peek?

And now... For some Classic Hotties:

16) Marcello Mastroianni. Go on, tell me I'm wrong. You know you can't...

17) David Gilmour (Pink Floyd) - singer, songwriter, and just damn hot! Even today, this guy has the sexiness of men half his age. I wasn't GilmourWhore #1 for nothing, y'all...

18) Harrison Ford - We've all loved him for years, right? And he's my birthday buddy! Wa-hoo!

19) Dustin Hoffman - I've loved him since I was but a wee littlun'... Still do. Hottie!

20) David Bowie. Do I need to say more? Hottie!

Though I could go on - and I will, at a later date - you've got a pretty good idea how my mind works on this topic.

But who would go on YOUR list? Who are your Hotties in Heaven, and do we have to share?

Ciao for now!