(Uncool) Shoe Stories

As you all know, I have a passion for shoes. ALL kinds of shoes (okay, minus sneakers and boring flats). Got quite a decent collection. However, not a collection in the sense that I place them on crystal shelves, dust and worship them. I wear every single pair as much as possible. I’m a very practical collector – if you can’t use it, lose it.

But bloopers, gaffes and uncool stories I got plenty.

Still remember my first pair with a bit of a heel, like two inches.

Portici, Italy, I was about thirteen years old, relentlessly begging my parents to allow me to wear heels, since ALL of my friends already did (some since they were ten). Not good for your posture, your feet are still forming, etc, etc. Valid reasons, I know now as a parent, but totally insane when you want to look like a sophisticated, sexy woman when you are barely a teen.

Finally they succumbed, purchasing for me a pair of beige sandals with a strap and that much coveted heel, though a block heel that barely raised me to grown-up height.   Good enough for me, anyway, felt like a million dollars. Till I bumped into my cousin, who was a whole year younger than me, and was showing off a higher heel (probably a three) and much prettier sandals, white strappies with colorful flower appliqués, if I remember right.

Get it? She was a year younger than me (so, twelve) and her heels were higher than mine.   Yeah, I was bummed.

But still, I adored my new summer sandals. I kept a sharp eye on the heel, and as soon as they looked slightly worn, I ran to the neighborhood shoemaker and begged him to fix them ASAP and, please, can you make them a little higher? I probably hit his shop six times that summer!

As the years passed, my heels became higher, thick and thin, summer and winter shoes. Short skirts, serious heels, negotiating the cobble-stone streets of my town, the deep, sudden holes, and the omnipresent dog droppings (no curb your dog in those days, and many strays around). Walking down Via Diaz, one of the main roads in town, sharply downhill in some spots, coming back from school, my hefty books tied together with a cinghia (book strap), feeling pretty and sexy, my long hair enjoying the gentle sea breeze. Approaching the usual group of boys lounging on the muretto  (low wall), before the newsstand where I bought my Nancy Drew mysteries once a month. You know, the usual Italian stuff, boys whistling, calling out- bella, che gambe, fermati, dammi un bacio! Ignoring them of course, as I was taught, nose in the air, proud and superior, oblivious to all the racket.

Till I twist my ankle.   Sharp pain, foot at an odd angle, shoe heel broken. Burning red with embarrassment, I lean over to pick up the detached heel, then limp away slowly, nose still up in the air, but tears of humiliation demanding to escape.

Yeah, not cool at all.

Fast forward some years.   My first visit to the US!  Staying in the NYC suburbs, at a far-removed relative’s house.   Super-excited to take the train to the city, all sorts of emotions bubbling in my heart, so much to see and experience!

In heels of course.   Steep black leather mules, quite comfortable (Yes, ladies who doubt, you can be comfortable in heels), running down the stairs to get breakfast. Or rather, sliding down the stairs, mostly on my bottom, as I slip on the thick carpeting I was not used to.  Screams of alarm from the relatives, sure they would have to rush this newly arrived Italian young cousin to the hospital, with something broken somewhere.  Hey, nothing broke!  The resilience of youth perhaps? But that flight down the stairs is not something that I will easily forget. Terrifying!

A bit clumsy. Yes, I admit it, I was then, and sometimes still today. Though I’m much more aware of my steps these days, since that famous resilience is long gone, and I cherish a good sturdy hand rail.

Fast forward once again.   About to get married.  Living in the US, staying with a relative. A patient young woman who suddenly found herself in charge of organizing my wedding.  We toured the malls, running in and out of stores, shopping for winter clothes, since I had left in Italy most of my wardrobe, for travel reasons.   A hip shop (don’t remember where), music blasting, fabulous outfits on the mannequins. A second floor. Up the sleek spiral staircase we go, I bursting with excitement – look at that dress, oh the leather coat, wow that red skirt!  Touching, coveting, pricing with fingers crossed (didn’t have a credit card then).  Back downstairs.  Yep, on my derrière.  Skidding down the spiral with hardly any grace, another heel bouncing off ahead of me, to meet me at the bottom.  My cousin nowhere to be seen.  Actually, hiding behind clothes racks, mortified.   You ok? Let’s get out of here please, ushering me out, searching for the broken heel, You must get some sensible shoes…

Well, I didn’t get sensible, but a pair of well-built wedges, with no possibility of breaking anything.

It has been quite a while since I’ve plummeted down staircases (thank you God, not something I would recover from easily these days), but my days spent with teeth clenched from shoes that are a little too tight, too steep, slightly wobbly (and a slew of Band-Aids) continue.

Oh yes, so worth it, people.

Noi che ballavamo i lenti…

8 maggio 2017

…abbiamo intensamente vissuto l’ebbrezza e le vertigini dell’amore.

Noi che avevamo il muretto, il tennis club (o dietro le quinte del teatro parrocchiale), invece dei social, e potevamo sfiorare amici e innamorati, sorridere alla luce dei loro occhi che c’incendiava l’anima.

Le feste in casa, le luci attenuate, la musica che ci accarezzava, ma sempre attenti alla porta per qualche genitore sospettoso.

I lenti, amici, i lenti. Che non esistono più.

Vogliono sfrenarsi col rap e l’hip hop, ‘sti ragazzi, imitando scimmie e robot, concentrati su passi e saltelli, distanti l’un dall’altra, chiasso stonato, sessualità cruda e sfacciata, ma vuota, insipida.

Certo che avevamo i nostri balli veloci e divertenti, noi, ma si alternavano a quelli per cui si andava alle feste o ai circoletti.

Non vedevamo l’ora, noi ragazze innamorate (anche se solo dell’amore), che il disc-jockey du jour mettesse su una ballata dolce, strascicata, innocentemente passionale, e i ragazzi ci guardavano in un modo diverso, timido ma intenso, e sentivamo il calore tenero delle loro mani un po’ tremanti sulla vita. Le scintille si confondevano con le parole e con le voci intime di artisti che neanche immaginavano quante storie stavano creando.

Uno spazio piccolo e affollato, ma noi due eravamo gli unici. Il nostro universo era solo la musica, la penombra artificiale e la pelle che sussultava tra gioia e abbandono. E non capivamo neanche che stava succedendo, tanto ingenui eravamo.

Sbocciavano così, quasi per caso, le storie, i sogni, le speranze del forever che sembrava tanto possibile, allora, ma che, naturalmente, forever non era.   Perché così è la vita.

I lenti.

Quando le canzoni finivano troppo presto, e noi non volevamo lasciarlo andare. Le frasi sussurrate all’orecchio, annuivi anche se non sentivi, ma contava solo il suo fiato sulla fronte e i corpi sciolti e fluidi sulla pista, passi semplici, quasi inesistenti.

Quel benedetto batticuore.

Come si balla un lento, ti chiedono, dove lo impari?

Si sente, il lento, ti trasportano la musica, il desiderio riservato e la forma più pura della felicità.

Bello questo brano di Concato. Calmo, delicato.

E non capisci perché piangi.

Balliamo un lento?

Cakes

Because they make me happy.

Reverse the tears, dull the anxiety, turn on Rihanna, Biagio Antonacci,  Thomas Buttenshøn, 21 Pilots.

Take out the cake pans.  Like this adorable Beehive Bundt mold.

Flour, sugar, butter, they don’t hurt you.  Malleable and ivory, the butter whips into creaminess and sweetness and dreams of comfort and kindness.

Make the cakes, turn off the clamor of the world.

Tender, golden, velvety, small but great.

The mood is soft and gentle again.

Never underestimate the power of cakes.

Quando non ti lasciano il caffè

30 aprile 2017

Non ti vogliono.

Non sei gradita. Sei un peso.

Insomma, ci ho messo un tantino (tantone, tipo anni) a rendermene conto, ma almeno infine si è accesa la lampadina. Meglio tardi che mai, come dicono.

Cascata dal cielo, of course.

Insomma, forse sono (anzi, siamo, perché in fondo è un sentimento universale il mio) troppo ingenua e fiduciosa, nonostante la mia non tenera età, ma, ecco, ho sempre creduto che se sei ospite a casa di qualcuno, beh, gradiscono la tua presenza.

Io gradisco, e tanto,  il piacere di avere ospiti, mi faccio in quattro e anche i vari multipli, per farli sentire a loro agio.   Sarete felici qui da me, miei cari.

Vi voglio

Ma mi sbagliavo, I guess, quando immaginavo che tutti condividessero il mio entusiasmo.

Trovare la moka fredda e appena macchiata da qualche goccia di caffè, al risveglio, doveva essere un indizio super-chiaro, ma no, io lì, a non farci caso. C’erano poi tanti bar fantastici in zona, dove potevo gustare anche un cornetto bello caldo col mio caffè mattutino…

Ma eccomi qui, a guardare in faccia la mia tarda rivelazione, e a sentirmi stupita (e anche stupida).

Non capivo. Avrei tolto il disturbo molto prima. Non sarei più tornata. Scusatemi.

C’è una canzone country, “Crash My Party” di Luke Bryan che mi scalda l’anima.   Dice pressappoco ‘ste cose, “Vieni quando vuoi, non c’e bisogno di avvisarmi, arriva e basta. Sure, crash my party. Ne sarò felice’, eccetera eccetera.

Mi piacerebbe to crash a party, così, anche all’improvviso, e trovare ad accogliermi un viso sinceramente sorridente.

Ma la realtà non funziona così. Che tristezza.

Easter: Reborn in Hope

Be merry, be bright, be hopeful!

A day of sun, blue skies, gently-flowing rivers and church bells.

Easter once again, bursting with all that is to come, all glorious and tingly and promising.

We rise again to seize the day.

Happy Easter to all!

Buona Pasqua, amici presenti e passati, a voi tutti un augurio di pace e serenità, di un futuro azzurro come il cielo di primavera,  scintillante e privo di nuvole.

Sono ancora qui, sempre innamorata della vita, nonostante tutti gli schiaffi che mi hanno colto di sorpresa.  Da chi non avrei mai immaginato.

Ma sono forte, io, scrivo, insegno, e mi perdo nella gloria della cucina.  Viva i dolci!

 

The River Knows

Sacrifice is overrated.

Like, you did all of this and then you get a sharp slap on the face. Who cares, might be the response. So what, your choice. Nobody asked you.

No, nobody asked you.

Does it come natural to cancel yourself and elevate others, for the sake of love in all its manifestations? Probably not.

But women (at least mothers) instantly annihilate themselves in order to smooth the path for those in their heart, accepting, even welcoming, the present status as the doormat.

You cease to exist.   No desire, wish, passion, dream, lands in your mind and prepares to develop wings. They just dissolve – perhaps excruciatingly slowly – till the haze of their ephemeral passing becomes only a memory you instantly reject.

Beat me, kick me, enslave me, and I shall be silent.

Your existence is to be fulfilled by serving.

Your tears (the few that remain) need to be concealed, silently present only in the darkness of the night, or in an empty house. Or to blur your vision when you drive along familiar roads that only reinforce, with their powerful memories, the validity of your pain.

Suffering is beautiful, no?   It makes you worthy.

The pursuit of happiness doesn’t apply to everyone. Some have a more legitimate right to it than others.

Yes, sacrifice is overrated, but you allow your lifeblood to flow, generous and eternal, a river of love that expects no gratitude.

Go on and endure, you earthly saint, accept, allow, give, damn it, give till you’re sucked dry.

The world is indeed a valley of tears.

At least for some.

Enjoy the honor.

The Tale of a Bag

There was a time when a bag was just a bag. Just a vessel to carry stuff in, and nobody really paid much attention to it. Women would usually have two, a black one (or brown) in the winter, and a lighter one in the summer, white, or perhaps made of straw. And those two bags adapted gracefully to every outfit. No obnoxious designer labels dangling from the straps, no huge initials crawling all over it, no forbidding prices that made you feel guilty for owning it.

A bag was a bag, just had to be made of good leather and be functional. Cell phone pocket? I think not.

Voilà! I have one of those, over forty years old, owned by my mother, passed on to me. Vintage gold. When nobody knew what vintage meant.

Found it in my closet, while doing a bit of spring purging (are 16 bags too many?).

Brown and tan leather (okay, now I would define it ‘cognac’), intricately woven by hand by a master craftsman working in a dark little room, off a medieval alley in the heart of old Naples. Day after day, with his needles and thread and hides and fabric, weaving his life, all of his years, into beautiful, unique pocketbooks and gloves, molding the buttery calfskin into exquisite, high-fashion pieces, even though he, the humble pellaio, didn’t even know what high fashion meant.

All in a day’s work for him, producing lovely item after lovely item, waiting for the ladies to come in and bargain with him over the already reasonable prices he offered.   One of those ladies was my mother.   “Mi servono dei guanti ”, she would announce at some point. “Andiamo a Napoli”. Thus my father would get behind the wheel of the emerald-green Simca, and haul us all to the leather-workers neighborhood, a street in Naples dedicated to this ancient craft.

Sure I was bored, a young child with zero interest in fashion, but my mother walked briskly through the lively alleys, determined to find the little hidden shop where her favorite pellaio operated. While my father waited somewhat patiently in the car, because sure as hell he wasn’t going traipsing through ladies’ shops after my mother.

The heady smell of leather would wrap around my senses the moment we approached the shop.  Comforting, welcoming, luxurious.

My mother blissfully breathed in the scent of beautiful things, tried on several pairs of gloves, all so supple and yielding, a second skin that would soon become the only one.   Then she would examine the bags, all so different, since each one was made as its own entity, and perhaps (if it was needed) choose a new one to take home, soft and kind, ever-present companion of her busy days.

It’s a bit faded, this ancient purse of mine, the slow decades having marked their presence on the materials, but it’s still beautifully elegant in its simplicity, pregnant with history, a traveler, like me, from a land of sun and passions and fragile dreams, weary, but hopeful still of what’s to come.

I hold it close, accept its limitations (my Smartphone will be sitting on top of the wallet, rub against my keys), caress that leather and all its tales, pull up the still sturdy zipper and wear it with love and, yes, awe.

When All Else Fails, Think Shoes

Cole Haan Nude Pumps

Because it doesn’t matter if you think material.  “Material”can save your life.

Focus on what warms your heart, even if for a moment.

Sometimes people leave you stranded in your agony.   Must grasp the thread of hope that only the little things offer.  Feel the softness of the leather, be in awe of the sleek, elegant design.  Pure, understated class.

Wear them, feel the power, the confidence, burst through your body.  Allow the worries to fade away.  Even if for just a minute.

In that minute you can conquer the world.

Quando il fiume si arrabbia

3 marzo 2017

Freddo oggi.  Un vento da paura.  Lo sento quasi spostare la macchina, mentre mi avvio verso la stazione ferroviaria.

Marzo a New York. Un mese strano, imprevedibile. A volte c’è quasi tempo da spiaggia; poi, il giorno dopo, arriva una leggera nevicata.

Ci si abitua.

Oggi il fiume Hudson urla.  È furioso. Le onde schiumose sbattono contro gli scogli del molo, l’acqua è azzurra perché lo è il cielo. Il sole splende, tanto che devi coprirti gli occhi con la mano quando guidi, l’aletta parasole non basta. Ma fa lo stesso un freddo cane.

Riflette forse la tempesta che ti si accanisce dentro.

Gli anni passano, invecchiamo, più o meno bene, diventiamo dei grandi saggi, ma dovrebbe servirci a qualcosa, ‘sta saggezza.

La vita è adesso, come dice il nostro amico del tempo che fu.

Toglietetevi le maschere, tristi pagliacci, guardatevi nello specchio della verità, e aprite il cuore.   A quelli che contano.

La famiglia originale è forse la più importante.

Come l’amicizia antica e vera.

Tutto il resto non vale un cavolo.

Come è arrabbiato il mio fiume, accidenti.

Carnevale Celebration in Armonk!

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Yes, of course we celebrated Italian Carnevale, at the North Castle Public Library in Armonk!

And you thought we just conjugated verbs in our Italian Class.

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Don’t you love the beautiful Venetian mask that one of my students brought?

Grazie to all my lovely students for bringing so many treats, including espresso!

I provided the Frappe,  using my mother’s delicious recipe from Modena. Frappe are fried ribbons of dough, traditional sweet of Carnevale.

Click here for the recipe!