“This gorgeous city of individual neighborhoods, stitched together by the subway…all of these places we’ve been introduced to by way of movies and songs…they’re there for anyone to discover.” –guest blogger Mark MacMullen
After years of traveling all over the world, sometimes for months at a time—Christina Zolotova has some great advice about our friend, “The Suitcase.”
“I’ve lost a number of people in my life—a number of friends. I lost them to depression, to addiction, to suicide. And I myself nearly lost “me” more than once…”
“…muskmelons seem to have a very placid and unadventurous life. Unless, of course, they live in Europe…”
“When you think of online gaming, what picture forms in your mind? Is it something like…”
“It’s particularly during chilly weather that I drift toward Texas cravings and comforts—like spicy enchiladas in mole sauce…a beautifully prepared steak…”
“It was a snowy Saturday, and wrapped like an urban Eskimo, I headed to the open-air market for whatever I could find….”
“How are our greatest desires created? Come to find out, it is directly related to who we believe we are….”
“In fat times, I wandered about the stores and markets, hunting for the perfect gift. In lean times, I’ve put my hands to something, whittling the hours on the details in quiet….”
“…I wondered if purple was the color of “a finishing”—the last moment before a death when the lack of oxygen turns lips their deepest and final shade… When fruit will soon drop from the limb…”
“Autumn will soon arrive at the door, and there will be nothing we can do about it but invite it in and have something to eat….”
“…most of the time, Lenny’s team battles apathy and fear. They hear a thousand not-nows and pick-someone-elses and I-have-to-think-about-its….”
“Maybe the idea of the shared, welcoming table is a fitting symbol of independence, and not just a naïve hope….”
“It’s hard to be told that from now on, for the rest of your life, you won’t be able to eat wheat….”
“Those red poppy-faces stand tall in the sun, bend in the wind, and run over hills, calling to us saying, ‘Why not dream? Why not die? Why not wake again?”
“…after procuring forks and napkins, she draped herself over the cake and dug in. It was comforting and tasty and made the world right-side up again….”
“Drinking tea slows time. When a cup is brought to the lips, there’s a shift in the universe, a moment lingers—holding the world still while we gather the part of ourselves that’s turning loose….”
“Before he could even ask…’May I help you?’ I blurted out, ‘I have a miracle happening in my Manhattan apartment. I have basil growing in the window…I’m on the fifth floor between buildings.'”
“I was determined to not leave that tub until I had some clarity, and after what seemed like eons, acceptance turned into a knowing…”
“In November, we find ourselves feeling all kinds of crazy emotions, and wandering around breathing heavily like lost, little badgers….”
“The closer to the edge of the world I’ve stood, the more centered I’ve become….”
“We hung there on the periphery of the moon and the music—on the periphery of reality….”
“Only the fruit that gives itself to you willingly will taste the best in your mouth. If you force fruit off their nests, bitterness will be your lot….”
“I had recently come to what I call “The Point”…where all…is annoyance…Tolerance was a mysterious frame of mind that I left somewhere in a pile of leaves last fall….”
“Resting your eyes upon any window at length—when the soul is tired and times, trying—is an ultimate act of hope….”
“I like to imagine Efresina in Rome, thrown in the middle of bustling thousands as they knock back espresso and complain about the doings of Parliament at Montecitorio….”
“Life was typical, normal, ordinary, and not much different from the people I knew—and then it just wasn’t my life anymore….”
“…I’m back in the wintry months of my childhood, before my grandparents’ divorce, before the weather patterns changed in Texas—before I really experienced any great change at all….”
wore sneakers. It was summer, but the fall rains were early. I clipped through the streets at ease. This had become home. After one month of trekking through the western hills of Bretagne, I was now stationed in Paris, relishing each wet step on the street. I had rented a small apartment, a 7th floor walk-up in the 11th arrondissement, and was having my first real experience of being alone on a trip. Alone to transform myself into whatever I desired. Alone to have only Paris as a lover—full of its pink light and strange, silent, high-context eyes, locking in to me.
Halloween. You could make a lengthy Discovery Channel series on the holiday—the origins, its transliteration into various cultures, religious opinions. (Oh, Wait! They did do that!!)
Although it makes good TV, maybe we don’t need to understand everything about Halloween. Maybe we just need to celebrate the birth of fall and the whisper of the winter to come.
What does dirt mean to you? Maybe not much if you are living in an urban city where no matter what, food shows up in the stores, the trains get you where you need to go; and pavement spreads and slides along the ground and up buildings, creating ease of transportation—encasing you in a seemingly steady world.
For those nearer to the agricultural universe—where the fruit of your labor can very well mean literally the fruit of your labor—soil is a more immediate and important thing. Nevertheless for all of us these days, survivalism can cause many things to feel immediate, and the actual victory of survival can brings heartfelt shared celebrations wherever there are humans on earth.
One of the best lines ever in a movie: “Make it. Make the pasta. Make it. Make it. Make the pasta! Come on. Let’s go!” Poor Secondo. If you haven’t seen the movie Big Night (1996, directed by Campbell Scott and Stanley Tucci), you haven’t seen the best food movie ever made. What? No. I’m not kidding. It really IS the best food movie ever made. The last scene of the movie is by far one of the best-acted scenes ever shot on film—AND IN ONE TAKE. Okay. I’ve pitched it enough. Go Netflix it.
How rare for Americans to make their own pasta, yet how common in Italy. When Americans think pasta, most of the time they think of dried, packaged spaghetti. Sadly, it’s true. Unless we’re living near an Italian with the goods to teach us a thing or two, we probably think of pasta as purely pre-fab. “They do that in factories,” we say, “with machines…like bubble gum.”
Water squirted up from the olden spout and into my mouth. I managed two large gulps, but what didn’t make it beyond my lips splattered onto my face and the cobblestone bricks of the Roman piazza. “Now you are Italian,” he said. I smiled. “Really? I thought it took Italian DNA to create Italians.” “No. This makes you officially Italian.”
It was blazing hot, and although the Pantheon was old news for my two Italian guides, I couldn’t help but stare back at it from the piazza. I wiped the fountain’s water from my chin. I was fascinated with its antiquity, not the part that sat with its Catholic “upgrade”—even though the upgrade was pretty antiquated in and of itself—but the part behind that veneer, bold and raw before Rococo and gilt edging.
It was blazing hot, andalthough the Pantheon was old news for my two Italian guides, I couldn’t helpbut stare back at it from the piazza. I wiped the fountain’s water from mychin. I was fascinated with its antiquity, not the part that sat with itsCatholic “upgrade”—even though the upgrade was pretty antiquated in and ofitself—but the part behind that veneer, bold and raw before Rococo and giltedging.
“Did you say, ‘Priest Strangler?” I asked.
“Yes. That’s what this pasta shape is called.”
“That is totally insane,” I said, shaking my head.
I was within the walled Italian city of Urbino in Le Marche, which clearly was the inspiration for many a fairy-tale children’s book. The Palazzo Ducale proudly stood in the sun, its spires on full alert. Narrow cobblestone streets carved themselves through Romanesque buildings. Shop owners hovered in their doorways like guardians to secret passageways. I expected someone in renaissance clothing to pop out from behind a roman brick and say “Hear Ye! Hear Ye!”; or better yet, the cast of Monte Python’s Holy Grail to materialize singing “Brave, Sir Robin… Brave, Sir Robin.”
Sometimes it’s one simple meal that will indoctrinate you into a culture and burn memories into your brain.
I had been to Le Marche before, but in the winter, where the sea was asleep, foggy and distant. I was content to stay perched up on the mountain in Civitanova Alta or around Pesaro avoiding snow storms and learning how to make broth–the Marchigiani way. But now in August, the sun was high over the waters, the umbrellas on the beaches stood up proudly in the sand and just about everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, was out on the beach or in the sea. I thought about my poor, pale, New York blue skin tone and how it was sure to reflect light from the sun like a mirror and take out a small plane. Nonetheless, I, too, wanted to be on that beach and in the water.
If you have picked up a travel magazine anytime over the past 20 years, I am sure you have been given advice regarding travel spots in Italy. Italy has been and has stayed one of the most traveled destinations of all time, most particularly Rome, where the city’s amber light and historic wonders fill you with a romance rivaled only by Paris. Outside of Rome, tourists have continually flocked to Florence, Venice or Pisa for great art and architecture.
Yet, over the past 10 years or so, Tuscany became the greatest destination spot outside of Rome as agritourism flourished. Vacationers flocked to the hills for great food, wine and olive oil. The English bought villas and implanted themselves as they had done in France for generations. Tuscany was then followed by Umbria, and now even a bit of Romagna (holding its beloved city of Bologna) as a sure hit on the list. Yet remarkably, Le Marche was somehow missed… but not for long.
When I was in college one of my mentors, Leslie Marmon Silko (Native-American author and teacher) told me that “Art will always transcend a border, but politics will not.” This was a very sage and unexpected response to my question, “Ms. Silko, should I choose to be a writer or a diplomat?”
When I think back to that brief conversation, I am stunned at its truth. Human beings connect over paintings, sculpture, music, film, theatre and one of my favorite art forms… food. I understand that not everyone agrees on what is proper to eat. Some eat meat; some do not. Some eat dairy; some do not. I also understand that food can bring people together, help resolve differences and teach tolerance.
The Galavant Girl is down. Sick and stuck in an apartment. Maybe it is a blessing in disguise to save me from the heat. Or, maybe it’s just torture, and I’ll just have to suck it up and move on. Whatever. Sick sucks.
While in this forlorn state, I thought I’d share some good tips on “sick recovery” to all those new to New York City or staying here on vacation.
Meet Tom Bernardin–the EXPERT of Ellis Island. He has been labeled as author, speaker, interpretive historian, tour guide, foodie, preservationist and storyteller–oh yes–and expert. Tom began his love affair with the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island back in 1978, before the restoration began, before the island really took in many tourists. He attended a small training program to become a tour guide and after a few seasons, the relationships he established with the workers as well as immigrants and their families would change his life forever.
If you live abroad for sometime and then return back to your home country, the last few weeks and months of your stay become more meaningful and significant. You try to put things into your schedule that you had planned on “getting to later”. You try to see everyone that has been a part of your journey and say your goodbyes. You thoughtfully construct the life to which you are heading, while simultaneously closing the one you have been living. Life feels uncertain and emotional. In these moments, humans need a bit of ceremony.
I’ve known people who have said, “I just eat for fuel.” When I hear this, I am always saddened for them. I want to cook them everything in my repertoire and show them the joy of food. Understandably, not everyone needs to be a “foodie,” but with this philosophy, a major source of feeling alive and well is lost. They have no connection to their food source. There is no pleasure in the process. There is no savoring. Dung is fuel, too, but I wouldn’t eat it!
I had been thinking about how so many busy New Yorkers either eat out or order in, rather than preparing food themselves. Now, there is a place for eating out. But, continuously eating out, New Yorkers save on time, but lose financially. They also lose out on what I call “food healing.” Let me explain.
It was an ordinary day. It was a day full of life’s stresses. I was thinking too much about money. I was thinking too much about my need for a vacation. The daily grind had just “gotten to me.” And, then out of nowhere, walking through the park near City Hall, I heard a piano.
Maybe it was a busker. Maybe an event was happening. I rounded the curve and there was a man, sitting at a psychedelic piano. I stopped. My thoughts stopped. The music invited me to sit on a nearby bench and listen. So I complied.
What is it about Spring? What is it that makes us so stupid on the most beautiful days of the year? Is it the air? Is it the sun? Is it the pollen? The weather in and of itself does not let us do our work. It won’t take no for an answer. Like a precocious child it pulls you towards the green of the parks and the budding trees and doesn’t let you go. I, for one, cannot resist the Greenmarket at Union Square, and now with my mission being “food in NYC,” I had a genuine excuse to get outside.
“I don’t like Chinatown. I wouldn’t trust any of the food. It’s so dirty,” my friend said to me when I told him where I was going. I threw up my hands in apathy. There are thousands of people living in Chinatown with access to cheap food, fresh fish and a good helping of Chinese medicine. If it was good enough for them, it was good enough for me, so I set out.
Jet lag. Even after doing everything I had been trained to do, I had acquired a serious case of jet lag. I couldn’t seem to snap back. I couldn’t seem to ARRIVE. I could say it was the cold I picked up from the plane, but I think it was something deeper. What was it? Had I been gone so long I felt like a foreigner? No… I was too happy to see the Manhattan skyline. Was I afraid?… Very possibly. The “what now?” question lingered in the back of my subconscious, and I didn’t like it.
I hate the words “weather permitting.” It messes with all of my modern sensibilities filled with iPhones and the Internet. It strips me of my New York City conveniences, where I can get anything I want at just about any time of day. I think, “I’d like coffee and bagels delivered this morning,” and in about 15 minutes they are there. I say, “I need to go to a bank,” and there is one open, even on Sunday. Social hours last well till four in the morning if not later, blurry-eyed at the diner.
it looks like I’m off! Well I’ll be off tomorrow… Holy cow. Anyway, I realize tonight, there is nothing I can do to be more prepared. Not one little thing. This Galavant girl just has to…. go.
So, here in NYC I’m on a countdown to Italy. Yes, Italy. Just before Thanksgiving, I started receiving a “calling” straight from God. (You can call it the Universe, the Force or the Great
Spirit in the Sky, whatever you like, but I’m more of a Blues Brothers kinda gal.) This message shooting me in the head was telling me I needed to get out of NYC and spend sometime elsewhere. I
thought, “Yeah, right. Okay God, if that’s what you really want, make it happen.” I can be quite bold in these little conversations. He can read …