Endgame #2

•December 30, 2009 • 1 Comment

Ok.  I think I’m done with this blog.  My Italian, overwrought journey of self-discovery is complete.  And it’s time for me to write the book. (It’s called “EAT”…look for it next year)

And, I feel great.

I’ve got more confidence, as evidenced by the 3 phone numbers I’ve gotten, the two random hookups I’ve acquired, and the ability to actually wear items from Urban Outfitters without a sense of irony, and with the mythical “M” tag on them…

I can even cook.  When I feel like it.

Unfortunately, I feel that any continuing discourse from my relatively uninteresting and boring life here in Atlanta sullies the fabulousness and uniqueness that was my time in Italy.  Quite frankly, thinking about my time there makes me sad and happy at the same time, which is confusing to my already addled brain…

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So, I’m moving my blog (and the random rated R posts) to here: manhunting.wordpress.com

Therein (when I have time to write thanks to my slave-driving job, no like literally I’m a slave…), you’ll find my usually humourous misadventures in the American dating/hookup world.  For example, the guy who expressed surprised that I was neither straight-edge, nor did I have any tattoos– as though this was simply to be expected.  Or, the guy whose nickname was “Wolfcub,” and who was neither a wolf, nor cub.  But, I suppose it sounds sexier than “Oldfatbear.”

It’ll be funny….and dirty…

Will I find another Michele?  Only time will tell…

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I’ll also be reviewing various self-help books (such as “Finding the Boyfriend Within”) just because I think they are hilarious and just wrong.

I’ll post more recipes and random non-man-related stuff here, so subscribe via email (to the right) if you want updates.

Also,  HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

Genova – Part 1

•January 5, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Oops.  I almost forgot to post about my last weekend in Italy. ..

There have been only two other times when I had what I would consider “fantastic” day-long dates.  All of them occurred while on vacation and away from Atlanta for a variety of reasons….

There was the Seattle guy, whose name escapes me and I can’t remember how I met him, but who gave me a lovely tour of Seattle.   We started with an espresso at B&O Espresso,  then we read books together on Alki Beach, ate at the Public Market, walked around the city and ended up watching the sunset from the top of the Space Needle.  Then we went back to his condo and “watched a movie.”  It was very sweet and very fun, but also strange because we both knew we’d never see eachother again.

The second ‘date’ was on a solo visit to Portland.  I met a guy at a bar by my hotel the first night I was there.  Though this time we began with the “watching a movie” part, the rest was quintessentially Portland.  Yet more espresso in the morning, discussing books at the giant book store, touring the Japanese garden, and riding bikes down the waterfront, eating something vegan I think, talking about art, and then yet more “watching movies.”  I actually would have stayed in contact with him…but he was just a bit too attached to his cats…it was odd.

My point of course being that Genova was just ridiculous.  I’m talking looking at the world through rose-colored-glasses ridiculous.  It was the perfect end to my time.

I stayed at Michele’s the night before, since the train was at 8 am.  I’m not gonna lie.  Michele’s got skills.  As in, Daniel was exhausted the next day and could barely walk skills.  Part of the problem was that I had gotten in the habit of staying up until 4 am writing or watching American movies online, since I decadently slept in everyday thanks to all my lessons being in the afternoon.  So, when laying in bed wide awake and bored…I needed activities to keep me occupied.

Anyway.  The early morning train ride was somber and relaxing.  It was like being on the Hogwart’s Express since the fog was super thick and it looked like the train was floating through the air with the occasional tree or farmhouse visible.  We listened to Michele’s remarkably eclectic iPod, and I ate my little Nutella tart MD gifted me with…

At this point, I was quite done with Turin’s fogginess and cloudiness.  The train wound it’s way around mountains and through tunnels.  And then….BAM!  I had to shield my eyes as we came out of the last tunnel and headed towards the city station.  There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, just a gorgeous sun streaming down upon the glittering sea.

Undies.

•December 21, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Yeah, I know, Christmas is great and all…. I feel like I should be more excited, but I’m just not.  I’m more excited by my new “Sexy Daniel” underwear.  Now, in addition to the pairs I bought in Italy, I have enough sexy undies to last two whole weeks…or 14 hookups, whichever comes first.   Goodbye ugly GAP underwear, hello wide variety of hotness!

Speaking of hookups….

Sex, Money, & Work.

•December 19, 2009 • 1 Comment

Ok, I’m just going to admit it.  Manhunt.net is like crack for one’s self-esteem.  I’m never going to a bar ever again.  It is of course sorely lacking in Europeans, but one can’t have all they want for Christmas I suppose.

On another note, I am rather pleased by the warm reception to my decision to not buy a bunch of crap for the holiday, and for people to definitely not buy anything for me.  I hate it.  It’s akin to exchanging 20 dollar bills. I can buy my own presents thanks.  (Curse you Urban Outfitters, and your silky smooth t-shirts…!)

On yet another note, a Sbux manager asked me to come work for them.  If any of you see me, please stab me in the eye directly into my frontal cortex, swirl your dagger around again to ensure the success of my lobotomy, remove the implement, and then send me on my way.  Such a lobotomy is needed because I actually thought about it for more than my self-allotted 1.5 seconds of my life I said I would ever spend on the company again.

Cookies

•December 19, 2009 • 1 Comment

Well, it has certainly been the whirlwind of parties, drinking, baking, seeing my friends (or at least pretending to on Facebook), as well as an insane amount of WORK.  God I hate working, but clearly it’s a necessary evil.

One of the parties was a cookie exchange with an overall winner for best tasting cookie.  I think, if memory serves, this is the 7th or so year of it.

I was quite proud of my baking prowess.  I mean, first of all, I had to do some serious pre-planning (in the midst of the flight cancelling brouhaha) to ensure I bought some duty-free Gianduiotti to put on top to give them their final bit of hazelnutty goodness.  Just LOOK at these babies (click the link for the recipe)!!

First, I lost a “FDNY Jock Strap” during the rousing game of white elephant.  Then, what did all my Italian mojo, Nutella, and gourmet chocolates get me?

Fuckin’ second place.

The Return. Day 1.

•December 10, 2009 • 1 Comment

Below is a post about my parents, who I’m staying with for a couple of days upon my return to Atlanta.  I have a rather obnoxious and tricky relationship with them.  It’s one of those “you can choose your friends but not your family” type things.

Because:

1. They quickly fell into the unfortunate category of people who, when told of my plans, kept asking “why the fuck are you going to Italy, get a job” and then wouldn’t shut up about what was going to happen to my fucking condo.   I mean seriously every five minutes on every phone call.  They come from a different generation obviously, and had no concept of choosing something else other than a well-paying job, even if you hated it.  (They eventually came around when it was clear I had no intention of backing out of the trip, and actually ‘raised my voice’ at them about it.  They even “helped” me pack up the condo.   By “helped,” I mean my mom kept taking things I was trying to get rid of out of the trash and packing them when I wasn’t looking because “I might need them later.”  Um, no, I will not be needing my (broken) coffee maker ever again.)

2.  They also have no concept of pesto sauce.  Like, my mom asked what it was today.  My mom also only opened the olive oil I gave them before I left because she saw it on Dr. Oz’s show, even though I had told them all about its health benefits before.

3.  They (amongst others) expected me to be fat upon my return.  I’m not (Thanks Bryan!). As in, they actually expressed surprise, three times.  I tried to explain portion sizes, self-control, walking everywhere, etc….but then just gave up and told them I couldn’t afford to eat and starved myself.  (I of course left out the parts about having  a lot of sex, and the massive amounts of Italian peer pressure to be thin.)  I was then promptly served a delicious and healthy dinner of Stouffer’s mashed potato and cheese casserole (what do you mean you don’t want thirds?), half a loaf of buttered bread, and cake for dessert.  And then was offered cheese and crackers later as a snack.  And then chocolate an hour after that.  Granted, these are people who think a pop-tarts are breakfast, and were shocked that the Nutrisystem food they bought tasted disgusting (even after I told them it was, and to not waste money on it).

4.  They demanded to see all my pictures.  They asked all kinds of questions…but quickly skipped over every picture that had a boy in it.  Including those from Genova, when I was clearly there with Michele.  Even the picture of the Abercrombie & Fitch model.  This of course is an outward symptom of their “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” philosophy regarding my gayness, in which not a word has been breathed about it ever since I told them nearly ten years ago.  I mean, I know I’ve stated on multiple occasions that I’m a confirmed bachelor, but you could at least ask about the guy I was photographing in front of several buildings…

5.  Um, the last thing I want to talk about on the car ride home from a 24 hour ordeal of international plane travel is how much my sister is enjoying surfing in New Zealand and how soon my brother’s child will be walking.  This is before even asking how my flight was.

6.  My father watches the news.  Incessantly and obsessively.  He would email constantly,  expressing concern about the weather reports he was reading from Italy.  The only reason he learned internet navigation is because he wanted to read even more news when there wasn’t enough on TV.  Anyone who knows me, knows I never watch the news.  News is always bad.  Why do I want to hear about murders, and sinkholes, and an 82 year old lady hitting a child getting off the schoolbus?  How is this enhancing my life in any possible way?  It’s not a life lesson.  I know not to pass buses.  Can we please not talk about it for an hour?  Can we please not relate everything to the stupidity of Sarah Palin?

7.  If I have to watch “A Christmas Story” (with running commentary, see below) one more time, I accept no responsibility for what may happen to certain executives at TBS.

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There are signs of improvement however.  I was only subject to one creepy comment by my father about the thickness of the thighs of one of the girls on So You Think You Can Dance.  Um, no Dad, I can’t commiserate on that one, sorry.  Also, he only commented on whatever was on the TV every ten seconds, instead of every five seconds.  I’ll take even that modicum of silence.   My mom only expressed concern about my future and how I was going to survive once.  And, usually I can only stand to be around them for a couple of hours before I begin calculating escape plans (see traveling by plane from the prior post).  However, going to my happy calm place seems to be working, as I haven’t had that feeling… yet…but that may just be thanks to Nyquil…

Tomorrow, I start back at my slave-to-the-masses restaraunt job, because momma needs some serious cash.  This should be interesting.  We’ll see how long my happy place holds up to that bitch complaining that her “Spicy Thai Soup” is too spicy….

Next Tuesday, I already have a ‘date’ with a boy here in Atlanta.  What?  Did you think I was going to revert back to my old ways?  I don’t think so!  I’m just going to blatantly discriminate and focus on European-Americans for awhile.

After all, I have a blog to write….

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P.S.  I would like to thank the baby jesus for: queen sized beds, feather bed toppers, fabric softener, my Hyundai, the 8 people I talked to today, and peppermint mochas, all of which have made my transition back to America infinitely easier.

Endgame.

•December 9, 2009 • 1 Comment

Amongst the ‘I miss you’ facebook messages and other random emails, several people have expressed surprise when they found out I was even coming back to America. I find it hard to explain why I am. I just feel “done.” Not ‘done’ in the sense of ‘I’m finished, I wash my hands of this place,’ but more ‘done’ in the sense of a ragù that’s done cooking.

Oh yes, it’s time….WARNING, the aforementioned long and involved metaphor post is approaching!!!

A ragù (recipe at end of post) has been described to me as basically a stereotype of Italian housewifery. A dish that takes hours to cook, heating up your entire kitchen, requiring constant surveillance, and everyone has a different way of making it and of course complaining about it.   I feel that I gave myself a gift by coming here.  I felt selfish about it at the time, but in the end just realized that Americans are programmed to believe that such flights of fancy are irresponsible and just downright unamerican.  What do you mean you’re going to stop contributing to the country’s GDP??  Yes, the realities (and my certain financial ruin) of home will soon come crashing down around me once again, but I gave myself time. It’s like I sat my brain in a big stewpot on a stove, and kept adding things to it, until I realized what I was meant to understand.

By fate, the very book I had given MD on my last visit to Turin, was brought into the light again during one of my visits to her apartment. I had more or less forgotten about reading it. However, according to the Megamillions™ lottery ticket still being used as a bookmark, I read it on or about Friday, April 25th, 2008. Exactly two months before “the big decision,” and the subsequent mini-breakdown.

The section of “Eat, Pray, Love” on Italy is quite a bit heavy-handed and overly saccharin, but much like over a year ago, I can understand where Elizabeth Gilbert was coming from. Thankfully, I was not curled up in a ball of depression and guilt on my bathroom floor asking God to help me out with the decision to leave my husband like she was, but I wasn’t a bundle of joy either. She uses eating the food of Italy as a metaphor for part of her “journey”:

I came to Italy pinched and thin. I did not know yet what I deserved. I still don’t fully know what I deserve. But I do know that I have collected myself of late—through the enjoyment of harmless pleasures—into someone much more intact. The easiest, most fundamentally human way to say it is that I have put on weight. I exist more now than I did four months ago. […] I leave with the hope that the expansion of one person […] is indeed an act of worth in this world. (p.115-116)

Yes, I know, gag me with a spoon, but somehow it makes sense to me. Much like me, she only touches upon the more difficult aspects of living here, but they would have detracted  from the points she tried to make. And frankly, people don’t want to read about them…Italy is Shangri-La to far too many, and there’s no reason to destroy their dreams.  They are the things that everyone complains about, and that are slowly getting on my nerves, such as limited store hours, unreliable public transportation, strange perceptions of  time and commitment, and the lack of CHOICE. What do you mean I have to buy all my groceries on Saturday to last all the way until Monday night??  I’ll just go to the 24 hour Kroger….oh wait…Also, unlike her, I’m not a spiritual quest. I just don’t feel the need to be on one. I control my destiny and my thoughts and feelings. I refuse to ask a non-tactile being for help. You’ve gotta suck it up and do it yourself people.

But, I needed time away from the crap in America, and time that required effort only in deciding what new gelato flavor to eat, what museum to go to next, and what on earth does this word mean in English. There isn’t any bad news here, because I have no TV. There isn’t any anger or sadness, because I can’t even understand what the homeless people ask of me, or what the two pizzeria cooks were yelling at each other about.  There isn’t any complaining about completely pointless things.  Here, a hand gesture is all it takes to express your dismay and frustration.  I don’t need to listen to you complain about it ad nauseum.

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Let’s take my flight home, for example.  I despise flying.  I’m 6 feet tall and but must travel economy which is akin to locking me in a spiky medieval torture cage, I KNOW how to travel on planes and to navigate airport security with aplomb, and my control issues don’t lend themselves to other people flying a tin can at hundreds of miles per hour through space with my tiny little life in their hands.    And, I didn’t even have a valium to help me through it.

So, when people where complaining around me for HOURS about our flight delay, I should have been freaking out and figuring out ways to spill my soda on them.  I mean, you’re alive people.  I’d much rather have  the captain cancel the flight because he smelled something funny in the cockpit, than plummet to the earth later.  I have no problem waiting 4 hours for them to bring a new plane and load it up with plane stuff.  I’d like my luggage to make it to Atlanta, thank you.   It could have been worse (like in America)– we could have sat on the plane for 8 hours with no food and no A/C.  Thank you British Airways for being very pleasant and kind about the whole situation.  Thank you for the 10 bucks for dinner and drinks in the terminal, another dinner on the plane, AND as much free beverages as we wanted on the plane (unlike Delta, the flight attendants don’t vanish completely after we take off, they actually come around every 30 minutes with more snacks and drinks!!)  I mean, one flight attendant noticed I hate eaten all my chicken marsala, and asked me if I wanted another one, and with another bottle of wine of course!?

So when the British people next to me started in on their disgust with British Airways, and how they were going to write a scathing complaints, I wanted to tell them to shut the fuck up.  And when hour 6 of flying rolled around (and I realized I had now been awake for 23 hours straight) and I was bored and annoyed with the movie selection (really? ‘Aliens in the Attic’?Instead, I went to my happy place, and became calm and serene.  I thought about Turin.  I thought about the view of the Alps from my window.  I thought about waking up in Genova snuggled next to someone else and staring out the window at the sea.  And I was calmed.  Mrs. Gilbert would call this meditation or something having to with god or the universe or something.  I just called it happiness– and a  gratefulness that I was no longer like the 3 people next me. Normally I tend to sob (just a little) when I get back to Atlanta from an extended vacation.  But I was ok this time.  I didn’t even want to slap that stupid smile off the obnoxious  girl in the big “Welcome to Atlanta” sign at the top of the escalator like I usually do.  I was fine.

[A brief aside:  Good god, Americans are big. I mean SERIOUSLY.  I was at a loss to explain how some of them even fit through the door to the airport train. Please sir, step away from the donuts….]

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But anyways, back to Turin:

I required beauty, and I found it in spades. From the shape of a demitasse spoon, to the grand staircase of Palazzo Madama, to the Luci d’Artista, it’s absolutely everywhere. It’s a kind of regalness, age, and light that just doesn’t exist in America. But, there is only so much of it. Something I’ve known about myself and travel, is that the excitement of it is like a drug to me. I mean it literally causes the release of adrenaline, which as any adrenaline junkie knows, is a high that doesn’t last. There are only so many museums and historic sites to visit. There’s only so much 16th century portraiture I can stomach. Eventually I had to just ‘live’ here. This meant being bored sometimes. I started to become annoyed by the 5 straight days of rain, or that I’ve seen the sun twice in the past 3 weeks. I don’t like doing laundry and waiting for it to dry all crusty and scratchy without my trusty wrinkle-free setting on my dryer.  Also unlike Mrs. Gilbert, I didn’t have an editor footing the bill for my travels, so eating out every night wasn’t a possibility. I still don’t like cooking, but I have a better understanding of it, and the pleasure the results can bring.

I required a self-esteem reboot. I thought that the best way of doing so was having lots and lots of sex, without any ramifications. No one in Atlanta would know the next day who I had slept with. I could sleep with a pair of boyfriends (separately) without any drama ensuing. I could sleep with someone’s ex-boyfriend the day they broke up, without an angry phone call within the hour. I wanted it without having to talk about feelings and the future. Often times I had it without even being able to communicate with words at all with the other person. I wanted to see if it was different here. I found a few (ok, many) who were willing to give it a go, and I am thankful for them. What I found out is that of course sex is great, and that feeling sexy is even better…  But, it’s still not so incredibly important to me to where if I don’t have it for six months, the world ends.

I came for the possibility of love, but I didn’t find it. Would I find it if I stayed? Who knows.  I’m just not the person anymore who sees it as a conventional next step in my game of life. Plus, being gay in Italy is just plain hard. The community is smaller, they have NO rights whatsoever, and they may never. I could never be legal via marriage. That being said, I am still truly envious of the people around me who want to stay with their partners for the rest of their lives.

I required art. I saw more of it than I imagined. I learned I enjoy writing, far more than I thought I would. I read books, I watched movies, I studied architecture and Caravaggio, I wrote half of a novella, and I am a richer more interesting person for it. I also learned that what I disliked in myself, I now dislike in others. I find I’m more attracted now to artists and creative and adventurous people, not to people who own condos and nice cars.

So, in conclusion, yes, Mrs. Gilbert, I fed my soul until it was almost literally vomiting (and without gaining a pound! Bless you Italy!).  But, it’s time to figure out what to do next, which is an adventure in it’s own right…

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Oh, and this isn’t the last post!  I still have to write about my final days with Michele and Maurizio…coming soon!

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Oh yeah, and here is a recipe for an authentic ragù, which I actually never got a chance to try.   For a few reasons, including that I was still annoyed about being snapped at about toilet paper, I moved out of  crazy roommate’s apt. without telling here.  I just left a note.  So, I never got to try the ragù she had made for me the day before.  Oh well.  Here is a yummy recipe via Mario Batalli of the Food Network.  :)

Ragù Bolognese

Ingredients

  • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 carrot, finely, diced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 rib celery, finely diced (except I hate celery…so I’ll have to figure out a replacement)
  • 1 clove garlic, sliced
  • 1 pound veal, ground
  • 1 pound pork, ground
  • 1/4 pound pancetta or slab bacon, ground
  • 1/2 tube tomato paste
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano, for grating

Directions

In a 6 to 8-quart, heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat the olive oil and butter over medium heat. Add the onions, celery, and garlic and sweat over medium heat until the vegetables are translucent and soft but not browned, about 10 to 15 minutes. Add the veal, pork, and pancetta and stir into the vegetables. Add the meat over high heat, stirring to keep the meat from sticking together until browned. Add the tomato paste, milk, and wine and simmer over medium-low heat for 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Season with salt and pepper, to taste, and remove from the heat.

When ready to use, the cooked pasta should be added to a saucepan with the appropriate amount of hot ragu Bolognese, and tosses so that the pasta is evenly coated by the ragù.  Feed your souls, people.

 
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