domenica 30 gennaio 2011

once upon a time

"Once upon a time in the land of Parma, famous over the world for its delicious Parma ham, lived a stupid little prince in a gray and lonely castle. The prince wanted even better ham. He had been told that the best ham in the world was the ham from a magic pig that lived in the woods of his kingdom. The problem was that nobody was able to capture it. The prince looked for a killer of magic pigs on Facebook. This famous killer lived in Africa, and the prince was willing to pay a lot of gold if he could bring him the magic pig. So the killer accepted the prince's offer.
After a long journey, the killer arrived at the castle and the same day started the hunt. During the night, the killer finally found the magic pig and tried to capture him, but the little pig became a lion and started to fight with the killer. The little pig didn't know that the killer was African and he was an expert hunter of lions. The poor little pig ended up in the killer's sack. It was taken to the castle.
When the prince saw the little pig, he was so happy that he started to dance, singing, "I'll have the best ham in the world!" When the little pig heard these words, he transformed the prince into a little donkey so that he could eat only grass and no longer ham.
Soon after the princess came into the room, found the magic little pig so cute, and thought that such a beautiful animal should not be hunted. From that day hunting pigs, whether magic or not, was forbidden.
Everybody lived happily ever after, especially the little pigs."

-a story by V, a studentessa in my 5th year class at Zappa. They had to use the words (chosen by them) "killer, Facebook, Parma ham, stupid, magic pig, castle, prince, to dance, Africa" and to be "super duper creative" (me).

lunedì 24 gennaio 2011

sei a milano

A milanese cover of "New York State of Mind." The first two sentences are in dialect.

The webverse is complaining about the sub-par rhymes and the pallid comparison to the original. But hey, it's a love song to their city and, well, nice scenery.

giovedì 20 gennaio 2011

la nebbia

Everything seems quieter when it rolls in, muffled as when it snows. I'm on my bike returning from a dinner. A boy there, one of my students actually, was worried at first about me biking in the fog, but when I told him I lived near the school he said, "Ok va bene, al meno non è dall'altra parte della città." As long as you're not on the other side of the city.

But I didn't really realize just how dense it had become. The city emerges bit by bit, people, cars, buildings becoming distinct and then dissolving behind me as I pass. There's a strange smell too, humidifier damp muddled with a strange musk. F says that we in centro don't even understand fog like those who live in peripheria. There, he says, is the real fog. But tonight maybe I do. It's so thick I can't see down my own street, when I look up at a lamp I see the tendrils of mist moving through the weak light.

And the people seem uglier, weirder. I see prostitutes for the first time on the corner of Viale Gioia, dancing from foot to foot to keep warm. A little man by Alcatraz is hiding behind one of the big show trucks because he is selling beer illegally, and when he sees me looking he says, "Vai a casa, vai a casa," and he keeps yelling it after me even as I pedal away. Go home go home.

La nebbia a Milano, wintertime is here.

mercoledì 12 gennaio 2011

O's story of the cappotto bianco

(as told to author last night over impromptù cena, paraphrased/translated/butchered here)

Ahh, che bella Roma, I remember going to Rome with my aunts and my mother when I was young, and we were near Piazza di Spagna, in the street with all the beautiful shops like Via della Spiga in Milan. Everything costs less there, you know, less than in Milan. Anyways I was already cicciotella, a little chubby with glasses and brufoli, it couldn't get any worse. And my aunts bought me this white coat. But you don't understand, in Rome the white coat looks beautiful, everyone goes around in white or camel or some other light color, but the minute you take it back to Milan it turns gray and brown and disgusting with the smog. And the smog back then wasn't the like the smog now, there weren't all these controls. You went outside and the air was yellow, and after a moment your white coat was no longer white. So ridiculous, a white coat. And I looked ridiculous, wearing this thing, already chubby and this white coat with a belt not helping. After two weeks it was a disaster. And I tried to get it dirty. I would rub up against buses, just to ruin the thing once and for all. Che roba, un cappotto bianco. Ahh, but Rome is beautiful.

lunedì 10 gennaio 2011

o roma roma città tanto cara...

I'm back in Milan after a Christmas vacation spent running around the southeast of the U.S. and then around central Italy...

F and I decided to go to Rome for the befana, Italy's way of celebrating the Epiphany, during which an old shriveled witch brings presents for the boys and girls. I wanted to get in a couple of adventures before returning to work, and I really wanted to catch some warm weather and sunshine.

We wandered the city for four days and three nights, and I have to say, Rome made us milanesi both envious. Okay, so the public transport is totally incasinato and maybe, yes, it's full of tourists, and of course, other Italians do say that SPQR stands for "Sono pazzi questi romani! These Romans are crazy!" But nonostante tutto questo, Rome is truly a beautiful city. Some examples of why we were jealous:

First, there were trees lining the streets, orange trees. With oranges.
Then there was a library with many comfortable nooks to read and study and a courtyard filled with...more orange trees! Plus an exhibit on street culture and graffiti.
The libreriacafè: Rome seems to enjoy stopping for a coffee and a book, unlike Milan, where when I asked my friend if there was a book bar like La Citè in Florence he said "Hmm, yes, I think there was, but it closed because no one wanted to sit around."
The clouds. In Milan, a cloudy day is a drizzly, miserable commitment, you're in for the gray, long haul. In Rome, clouds were a morning affair, a pause in an afternoon of sunshine, and evening shower. And the shades of gray even varied.
Trastevere, a wonderful neighborhood on the other side of the Tiber with winding streets and a beautiful central piazza.
The food. We ate out at two different osterie where we slurped up delicious cacio e pepe and munched fried carciofi and gnocchi with wine and amari.
Street musicians! A Dixieland jazz band in the middle of Villa Borghese! A trio of middle-aged Italians playing la tarantella in Piazza Spagna with tamburri and accordion just for the hell of it!

Speaking of musicians and food, our last night we ate out at a restaurant in Trastevere called l'Antico Moro. The food, as I mentioned, was delicious and inexpensive, the waiters were friendly in their hurry and made delightful expressions of exasperation and playfulness. The menu said "gnocchi freschi fatti in casa ogni giovedì" so it being giovedì I ordered gnocchi. The waitress's eyes widened theatrically and she asked me to wait a moment. She trotted to the kitchen where we could hear her yell into the door, "Ehi! It's Thursday, eh! Did you make them?" She returned, exhaling, "Yes, we have the gnocchi."

Later a huge group of people ranging from teenaged to retired marched in and sat at four tables in our part of the restaurant. I thought they might be a big Roman family eating out for the befana, but we eventually found out that they were veneti and that they had arrived at the trattoria in a big tour bus. Turns out, their tour agency had also hired a typical Roman folk singer (in realtà from Abruzzo) to serenade them alla romana, and we got to benefit.

This guy entered teasing and playing with the veneti, choosing various members of the group to pick on. He quickly allied himself with a long-faced vecchietto Marco, who enthusiastically sung along to every other line (and later saluted me with an "Adios!"). He would start loud and determined and then trail off as he forgot the words and then riprendere il filo when he remembered again. The folk singer sang "Quanto sei bella Roma" and "Roma, nun fa' la stupida stasera" and even some stornelli. For each chorus of the the vulgar, playful stornelli he serenaded specific people, choosing F and I as the two innamorati and then telling F to explain the dialect and double entendres to me later. We concluded with a big singalong of "Arrivederci Roma":