Saturday, July 16, 2011


Guido, my very spoiled mouse, was under the impression that he owned me. And my house. And my food.

None of it could be shared.  Ever.

Unfortunately, the Natural Order of Things was completely dissolved when I took pity on "Kitty", a poor little pussy that was wandering the streets. 

Guido and his kingdom had been betrayed!

I told him if he couldn't get along with Kitty there would be NO MORE GELATO. EVER.

The issue seemed to naturally resolve itself.

He still owns me. And my house. And my food.

But sometimes these things can be shared.

Just not the Gelato.

Guido's Wisdom: "I gatti hanno denti grandi"   ("Cats have big teeth")

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Guido's Survival Guide: Part 2

Scenario 7:  The Peanut Butter Withdrawal.
You can’t possible go another day without peanut butter… you can’t. In fact, you’re certain if you don’t eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich RIGHT NOW you’ll turn into a rabid dog and start attacking people.

The Solution:
NUTELLA! Almost as nutty, but chocolatey at the same time. Heck, Italians have the best Nutella in the world. Eat the whole container until your symptoms of rabidness have vanished.

Scenario 8: Yes, Baby eels are on the menu.
If your host mom isn’t serving spaghetti, she’s no doubt serving something gooey, possibly-still-alive, and very disturbing. These meals can come in a variety of different forms—baby eels are popular, as well as “casu marzu” (maggot cheese). How to escape?
The Solution:
1.  Fake a bite of whatever disgusting item has been put in front of you]
2.  Say: “Mamma Mia!”
3.  Jump up from the table as if astonished at how good this ‘item’ tastes, meanwhile slipping the item to whatever animals may be roaming under the table.
Not only is this escape method effective, but you also flatter your host mom and gain a mutual relationship between you and your host family’s dog.

Scenario 9: The Wrong Jersey
In the team spirit, you decide to wear that fantastic new jersey you bought because the soccer team had hot players on it (with long hair). It’s bright green and has the “Milan” soccer team’s emblem on it.
Unfortunately, not everyone thinks “Milan” soccer players are as hot as you do. You find yourself surrounded by a mob of angry young men with face-paint and “Livorno” jerseys. How to escape? How to survive in a country where soccer is more important than politics, pasta, and even (gasp!) gelato?!
The Solution:
The confusion tactic. Wear the face-paint for “Fiorentina”, the jersey for “Empoli”, headband for “Roma”, and the shoes for “Ascoli”. They can’t get mad at you because you’re wearing their team’s colors...somewhere.

Scenario 10: The Chin Rubbing Thing.
Some guy is glaring at you and you don’t know why. He keeps rubbing his chin. What’s more, another guy on the other side of the room is also glaring at you. He looks like he has a stomach ache. What the heck?
The Explanation:
Chin rubbing in Italy = “I detest you”
Stomach rubbing in Italy = “I dislike you.”

The Solution:
Luckily, YOU can pat your head and rub your tummy at the same time!

Scenario 11: Being an I.I.M. (Insignificant Ignored Midget)
Everybody talks at the same time and it seems like no one ever hears what you are trying to say. By now you feel like an insignificant midget who doesn’t matter.

The Solution:
In Italy it’s POLITE to talk at the same time. However, if you DO have something important to say, blurt out as many random words as you can until you finally get someone’s attention.
You: Blap! Cow! Gelato! Slamdunk! Whirg!

Scenario 12: Communication Confusion
The Hard Truth: You have come to realize that no one in Italy actually speaks to communicate… it’s a scam! Instead, the only thing they do is wave their arms and pretend like they know what they’re saying.
The Solution:
Ha ha, it’s now even easier to learn the language! Just move your mouth and speak in gibberish while waving your arms to express your meaning. You’ll be considered an expert.

Scenario 13: I… am…. Mooooooovvvviiiiiinnnnngggggg
At times I amaze even myself with my impatience to get somewhere. Sometimes I just run around in circles before I’ve determined my destination.
Unfortunately… Italians move at a pace somewhere on the scale between “snail” and “turtle”. It’s enough to drive anyone crazy! How do you keep from going insane?
The Solution:

Bring a lawnchair… everywhere. Even if you originally just planned to hurry down to the post office and mail a letter. Inevitably you will be slowed down and the mission will take 30 to 60 minutes longer than you anticipated. Remember, in Italy slow progress is considered a delightful, wonderful state of being.

Scenario 14: You have a phobia of rocket ships…
So every house in Italy looks like it’s about to take off. They’ve got red roofs, domed foundations, and you are absolutely terrified of all methods of galactic transportation. What to do?
Three… Two… One… Lift off!
The Solution:

Join the alien invasion! No, just kidding, you’ll have to take all the houses down with a sledge hammer.

Scenario 15: I protest!
Work/School/Life-in-General is cancelled again because a bunch of people decided to wave sticks [also called “going on strike]. You’re tired of yelling and throwing stuff. How to tolerate?
The Solution: Pick up the stuff they throw. Jewelry, coins, souveniers… you name it. Call me when you’re rich.

Scenario 16: But I’m hungry…
Eating on the streets is practically against the law, with the exception of gelato. You’re really hungry and you want to eat that Snickers in your pocket. How do you do it stealthily without getting glared at?

Solution: Switch to a 100% Gelato Diet. You can eat on the street whenever you want, plus you’ll get a boost of Calcium (and a few extra insulating pounds for wintertime).

Scenario 17: You seem to have picked up a “Guido”
An abnormally intelligent mouse has been following you everywhere, and it’s starting to freak you out. It could be rabid, or from outer space! How do you keep it under control?

The Solution: Feed the mouse Gelato… lots.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Guido’s Italian Behavior Survival Guide: Part 1

You are sitting in a coffee shop quietly minding your own business when someone says your name. At first you think you misheard. You look around, hoping there’s some other poor fellow who may possess the same name. Unfortunately, no. You see that creepy old guy you chatted with for 10 seconds in the Laundromat last week. What’s more, he’s coming towards you. You desperately stare deeper into the depths of your coffee cup, hoping he’ll get the message, but to your horror he is approaching with his arms open wide for a hug. He’s closing in…!
The Explanation: Italians love touching people. It is their personal mission to invade your space bubble as quickly as possible after meeting you. Hence the hugs, kisses, and hand-holding with absolute strangers.

The Solution: No, DO NOT kick box the old guy or spill your coffee on him (Trust me—it doesn’t work. He’ll just hug you anyways and you’ll both get soaked). Instead, give him a bear hug first. He’ll be temporarily disabled with surprise—make your escape!

Scenario 2: Chronically Under-dressed
The invitations to the party says “casual” and you come in your trademark jeans and a tee-shirt. Pretty casual, right?
Unfortunately, everyone else is wearing their “casual” suits, ties, and black dresses.
The Solution:
You:[With Western Accent] “You dare insult my apparel? I am showing off my cultural heritage!”

Scenario 3: The Spaghetti Hate Spiral.
It is the sixteenth night in a row, and your host mom is serving you (surprise!) …. Spaghetti.
By now the very thought of spaghetti has got you imagining horrific and epic suicidal jumps out of windows. Spaghetti, it’s disgusting. It’s vile. It’s slimy and tomato-y and disturbing. What to do????

The Solution:
Get yourself Gnocchi. With Alfredo Sauce. It’s a winged miracle to those of us who can’t stand the thought of eating a plate of what looks like worms coated in red monkey brains. We worship it.

Scenario 4: The Drivers in Italy are all trying to kill you.
Yes, you are convinced someone has put you on the hit list for all Italian drivers. In fact, they seem to purposefully be aiming for you—swerving, honking, speeding, not putting seatbelts in the vehicles you ride in…

The Solution: Stick to the dark alleyways and wear dark sunglasses. If you can’t see them, they can’t see you…

Scenario 5: Everyone but you is afraid of… SEVENTEEN (da, da, da, daaaa….)

In Italy “Seventeen” is a dark, scary number… ten million times worst than “Friday the 13th.” You can’t get your friends out of the house on the 17th day of any month, or step on the 17th stair of a hotel.
The solution: Use it to your advantage. Dentist appointment and root canal? Nope, can’t come, it’s on the 17th.  10 hour church sermon? Nuts! Is Sunday on the 17th again?! School? Gosh darn it, that must be on the 17th too.

Scenario 6: The scary eyes
Everyone expects you to stare them in the eyes—if you don’t, it means you’re hiding something. Unfortunately, you’re an anti-social pipsqueak (like me) who is scared of looking at anyone when you talk to them. Not to mention, you don’t have enough eyes to stare at everyone with.

The Solution: Hmm…. Grow some more eyeballs.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Don't Let Me Drink...

... Your Coffee. Actually, don’t let me so much as SMELL your coffee. It’s a dangerous thing.

Just ask my mom. She made me promise before going to Italy not to drink any coffee because she knew that if I was allowed even the smallest amount of caffeine, I would become a hurricane force of hyperactive madness that would swallow the whole Italian peninsula.  Then, after I’d enveloped Italy with my cyclone of vigor, I would be so hopelessly addicted to caffeine that I wouldn’t be able to stop.  Before long I would have swallowed the whole world until it was nothing more than a black vortex of nothingness!

                   I should have listened, too…

But really, it’s impossible NOT to drink coffee in Italy. Everyone drinks it, and they drink it in so many ways! That strange drink we call just “coffee” in America Starbucks can become an exquisite Café Americano, Café Macchiato, Café Latte, Cappucino, Espresso, Espresso Ristro, or a Café Au Lait in Italy… it was mind-boggling to me that there could be so many beautiful possibilities!  

My brain ached and sweated from my resistance against the drink.
I even initiated pitiful tactics to keep me from thinking about the tempting drink. I drank hot chocolate, I consolidated myself with chewing gum, and I wrote enthusiastic emails home to my parents.

But unfortunately, my personal war of unbelievable mind power was brought to a climatic end when I dragged myself from the train station one evening, cold and drooping, the soft glow of a nearby café glowing like an evil demon that was trying to break my resolve. I realized I needed something warm. Something similar to coffee… actually, something exactly like coffee. I could just order warm milk… with coffee… decaffeinated! Who would ever know?

No, I couldn’t possibly.

….No, I shouldn’t….


…. (brain straining…!!!)

But I was also really tired. Really, really tired, when I thought about it. And my brain was like a fragile sphere of goo after two weeks of unyielding will-power. Just a little caffeine couldn’t possibly do me any harm, could it? I wouldn’t get THAT hyperactive.

“Café  Americano por favore.”

One cup didn’t do the trick. I was still tired. In desperation, I realized that the minimal caffeine level I had consumed was not doing me any good. It just made me jittery!

Another cup? Still no good!


Finally, I decided I would drink all the coffee in Italy until I was awake. For all I cared, Italy could be swallowed up in my hyperactive psychotic hurricane, so long as I wasn’t tired anymore.

10 Espresso Ristros later (and also a cup of café macchiato, café au lait, café latte, café cappuccino, and café Americano), my teenage body had morphed into a writhing mass of pure energy encased in a layer of desperation.  Even though my brain still felt like I was about to fall asleep, the rest of me was filled with an explosive energy that made me feel like running a marathon. My heart was hammering! Not even a pack of rabid Chihuahuas could come close to me in hyperactiveness!

In the spasms and twitches that ensued after nearly 15 cups of coffee, my memory must have blocked out. I spent the rest of the evening in a hyper-caffeine induced fit, alternately running around like a maniac and crashing into a narcoleptic sleep. I think some way on my run home mia madre must have found me lying horizontal by the street sign. I don’t know. I don’t remember. My brain was twitching too much.

All I remember thinking was that it was too late to go back now. I had tasted coffee and there was no going back from a life of caffeine addiction. Sorry Mom, sorry Guido, I remember thinking, the hurricane’s coming.

…And now I that the caffeine addiction had begun, I was unstoppable. It was Italy’s fault. Italy and their exquisite coffee.

Guido’s Wisdom: “Non bere” [Don’t Drink]

Saturday, July 9, 2011


Here's something you may have noticed about Italians. They think they're the coolest, most badass people on the planet, even when they're doing something ridiculous.

Take opera, for instance. Can you think of anyone in the USA who thinks opera is semi-cool? I can’t. But ask an Italian (this is done easily even if you don’t speak the language-- just gesticulate as if you have an incredible need to go to the bathroom) and they'll nod  and maybe even belt out a few lines of Andrea Bocelli themselves. In their imaginations they're cool. Actually they're nuts.

Point is, Italians are dead-certain that opera's cool. Therefore no matter what radio station you try, you'll always get trapped into hearing some Italian that sounds as though a giant octopus has just gotten a hold of his vocal chords and is trying to surgically remove them with nasty little dental tools.

Anyways, I was sitting at my desk sipping my cafe latte when one of the most horrendous opera songs EVER came on. Guido seemed to think it was horrendous too-- he started squeeking and running around in circles for the next five minutes with his paws over his ears (in a most human-like fashion) as if he thought he was some sort of angry Cinderella mouse.

He looked so tortured that I decided to postpone (yay!) my email to my parents and instead make up develop a story about his past-- one that involves some terrible traumatic event that has to do with opera.

Here goes: GUIDO'S STORY

Once upon a time there was a baby mouse named Guido. He had a Madre Mouse and a Padre Mouse and two little sorella mice (named Ita and Rafaella).

All of his family were the best opera mice in Italy. Unfortunately, Guido's voice was SO terrible that his family told him to GO AWAY and figure out how to get his own voice.

Which he did eventually, because he was a growing boy and his voice was developing.

But it was opera, so it still sucked, and he didn't want to be an opera mouse anyways, because...

…He was super smart! Actually, he was such a friggin' genius mouse that he decided to ditch Southern Italy and instead sit around in a panini shop and get free food!


But then he met me...

And he liked me better because I gave him free Panini AND gelato.

                                         Mmmmmm... yummy picture.

But, even now, every time he hears opera on the radio it still brings him back to his days as a poor, outcast Opera Mouse with unforgiving parents, and this puts him into a traumatized state.


Therefore, Guido and I will forever more live by this Forrest Gump take-off motto:

Guido’s quote for the day is the same thing: “d'opera, accade."