Saturday, July 29, 2006


more pictures to come. But first I have to go to work now. Will put the rest up later tonight or tomorrow morning.

On the Ponte, vendors, and artists

On the Ponte Vecchio:

Amy looking out a window in a shop on the bridge:

I bought a watercolor from the guy in the middle. I love it!

These are the "unofficial" merchants on the street leading up to the Ponte Vecchio. Anytime the police come around, these guys swoop up their goods and hide in an alley or something.

Ponte Vecchio and the Arno

The Ponte Vecchio is a bridge in Florence, which crosses the Arno River and was built during the middle ages. It's known for being home to a lot of jewelers, which made my mother the happiest lady in the world and which is why we spent plenty of time there. I wasn't all that interested in shopping, especially for jewelry, but the bridge iteself and the river (and the other bridges that span the river) were extremely interesting. The best part of this area is the people...the vendors, other visitors, natives, and artists.

This is the Ponte Vecchio:

Some shots of the river and the bridges:

departure, arrival, first impressions

FINALLY, some pictures from Italy.

This first post just has a few silly pics from the trip over and the first afternoon there.

Sunset somewhere over the Atlantic, just off the US coast

Train from the Rome airport to the Rome train station

Our train from Rome to Florence.

At this point, we were tired, dirty, sweaty, a little cranky, and very ready to stop lugging around our bags (and we did pack lightly, but still...). Although we were all delighted to be in Rome, we just wanted to get to our hotel in Florence, so at this point we didn't go anywhere in Rome other than the train station. The ride from Rome to Florence, which was just under two hours, was gorgeous, however I may have been the only one to see it. Amy slept and my mom slept and read. And all the natives on the train apparently see that countryside enough that they aren't alll googly over it, like I was. And I was googly. It was beautiful...the hills, farms, winding roads, all of it.

Once we arrived in Florence, we checked into our hotel, which is just a couple blocks from the Santa Maria Novella train station (the central station in the city), and Amy and I soon after went back out in search of some legendary Italian espresso. We found some at this cafe one block from the hotel (and we could have also gotten it at any of the other 7 million espresso bars in Florence).

Here it is. Cappuccino and croissant. It was so good that I couldn't help but make noises while I drank. I think Amy pretended not to know me.

There is a little street between the hotel and this cafe, which--for reasons I cannot understand--my mom hated. It was a perfectly normal street and looked like most of the others around, but for some reason she said it gave her the creeps. We started calling it Mom's Alley:

Motorcycles and bikes everywhere:

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Back to "normal"

I swear, I really am going to get pictures and trip details up here soon. It is no fun to switch back and forth between time zones like this, and I just haven't had the time or energy for much blogging. All I could do when I first came home was sleep. I honestly slept all day Sunday. Occasionally, I stumbled out of bed long enough to go to the bathroom or eat, but otherwise, I was out of it all day. I finally woke up for real yesterday morning at 6:30 and then at 8:30 received a call from work saying I was supposed to be there. I had no idea, as I thought I wasn't supposed to be back on the schedule until Tuesday (today). But that's ok, as it forced me to pull myself together and make an attempt to move back into the reality of living in West Palm Beach, not Florence. When I got home from work, I then had to plow through the first half of the book we're reading for the first book club meeting at Starbucks. The one I created and then neglected to read the book selection. Our first meeting is Wednesday...tomorrow...and I had planned to read the book while I was in Italy, but that didn't happen. We're reading The History of Love by Nicole Krauss. I sort of chose it on blind faith, based on the fact that it was nominated for several awards last year, though that was about all I knew of it. So I've been nervous that it would be a terrible book and everyone in the newly formed group would hate it and never come back to our discussions. Fortunately, I really like it so far. I'll give a more thorough critique of it after I've finished it tomorrow.

Anyway, time for me to get in the shower and get ready for work. Look for pics and such within the nexst couple days...

Sunday, July 23, 2006


Here I am, home from Europe. Though I must say that if it wasn't for Murphy waiting for me back home, I'm not sure I'd have returned at all. We arrived home late last night, after a long day of train stations, airports, heavy luggage, and cranky flight attendents. But none of that mattered, as I was on a sort of high, thinking about everything I saw in Italy.

Florence was so incredible, which is where we spent 99% of our time. When we got to JFK airport for our layover, I went to a newstand for a magazine and saw that this month's issue of National Geographic's Traveler magazine has a cover story this month all about Florence. It was so exciting to read their story and see their pictures portraying the town I'd just spent a week in!!

Anyway, I will be posting my own stories and pictures here over the course of the next week. I honestly took over 300 pictures and while I'm not going to post them all, I want to post a bunch of them. So lots of details and pictures from my trip are forthcoming.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

In twelve and a half hours...

my plane will be taking off from the Miami airport.

We have a layover in Atlanta and then we're set to cross the ocean. I am dying of excitement, however, it's go time and there is still so much to do. I'm sort of in a crazed state trying to get ready to leave, and I had to work until 11 tonight, so I haven't been home long. I'm doing a couple loads of laundry and then I have to cram the clothes I'm bringing into a bag small enough to take on-board with me. We are all determined to not have to check any luggage. I'm a pro at packing for trips quickly, as I'm not a high-maintenance person to begin with, even at home. Little makeup, no hair-styling accoutrements, and casual clothes. Usually, all I need is about 15 minutes to put a few things into a bag, and I'm ready to hit the road. But for some reason that doesn't feel adequate for an international trip. I keep feeling like I'm going to forget something vital that I wouldn't normally need on a trip.

Murphy definitely suspects that something is up. He won't leave my side. If I go to the laundry room, he follows me. If I go to the bathroom, he follows me and tries to hang out in there with me. Right now, he is lying down next to my desk chair with his head propped up on the leg of the chair. I hate leaving him for any length of time. He's staying here with my dad and my parents' dog Maggie, so I know he'll be in good hands and with his dog buddy. But I still hate to be away from him. Makes me sad, even if he has no sense of time and won't remember me being gone once I return. Perhaps I'll bring him back an Italian puppy treat.

Well, time to put some clothes into the dryer. No blogging while I'm away, though as always I'm going to scribble in my journal regularly. When I return, I'll have lots and lots of pictures and I'll type some of those journal entries here.

I'm so excited!!!!!!!!

Monday, July 10, 2006

Non Capisco

Not much to report right now, as all I can think and talk about is the fact that I'm leaving for Italy Friday morning. There is still so much to be done first. Like pack. And learn at least a few Italian phrases. I have the world's best Italian language phrasebook. It's published by Lonely Planet, who I love, and it has some funny shit in it...things I'm fairly certain I'll never use over there. It explains how to say the usual tourist stuff, like "Where's the train station?", etc. But it includes some other key phrases you won't find in many high-school language textbooks:

Dove sono dei locali gay?
-Where are the gay venues?

Sono stonata.
-I'm high.

E un bastardo.
-He's a bastard.

E una cagna.
-She's a bitch.

Posso accompagnarti a casa?
-Can I take you home?

-Fuck Off!

Hai un preservativo?
-Do you have a condom?

Non mi si raddrizza. Mi dispiace.
-I can't get it up. Sorry.

Non Credo in Dio.
-I don't believe in God.

Ti amo molto molto.
-I really, really love you. (The best part about this phrase is that it's listed in the section called, "One too many" in the beverage/alcohol section of the phrasebook.)

Mi sento un po' ubriaca.
-I'm drunk.

Tirami il dito.
-Pull my finger. (Also in the "One too many" section.)

Speaking of being drunk, I went out with some people Saturday night and, although it was a big group of gay people (with a couple exceptions) we went to an almost exclusively straight bar. This was the first time in a long time that I've been to a bar that wasn't at least a little gay, and talk about culture shock! Straight people are funny, especially straight, single men who are out after midnight trying desperately to find some woman to hook up with before last call. It was more like an anthropological observation for me than it was a night out drinking, as all I could really do was watch people in amazement. It's interesting to me how quickly something can become so foreign. It's only been a few years since I came out, so it's not like I've never been to a straight bar. First of all, straight men are the world's worst dancers. The worst. They just look goofy and gangly. And uncomfortable. Also, everyone there, men and women, looked so desperate for a hook-up, not to mention an actual relationship. There's nothing quite like the unmistakable look of desperation in the eyes of a late-twenty and thirty-something straight, single person who has only one objective: marriage. I guess that in the straight world, marriage is still posed as the end-all, be-all of existence and if you don't achieve that, you are considered flawed. Whereas, because gays and lesbians have always been marginalized and until recently have never even come close to thinking of socially sanctioned marriage as an option, it isn't how most gay people define themselves. I guess the one good thing about the history of discrimination towards gays is that there isn't so much pressure for gays to achieve certain life milestones, such as marriage and kids (the sad reason for that, of course, is that often we're already considered inherently flawed with no hope for a "normal" life). While most of us want that same kind of loving, stable, life-long relationship at some point, finding it isn't the badge of achievement, the climax of our adult lives. I know that's a gross overgeneralization, but it's sort of one way I wrap my mind around some of the differences between gay and stright people in social behavior.

Anyway, back to Saturday night...

As I was saying, I had a blast but that is in large part attributable to the pleasure in watching people act strangely, being an invisible observer. For example, we saw one couple engaging in what I can only imagine was some of the least sexy foreplay EVER, since they were two of the least attractive people I've ever seen. I guess they were in their early 40s, late 30s. The guy was wearing a black Rolling Stones t-shirt, jeans, and birkenstocks and had shaggy blondish hair. The woman, as someone I was with said, looked like a drag-queen dressed as Olive Oyl (as in Popeye's chick). At one point, the guy got down on his knees in front of the woman, who was sitting in a chair near the stage, and she started slapping the shit out of him. For real slapping. Across the face. Several times. And he appeared to beg for more. Then she poured her drink on him, while he held on to her legs. A few minutes later, she tried to take him into the women's bathroom with her, unaware that there was actually a bathroom attendant in there, and he was promptly kicked out. They spent the rest of their time at the bar that night pawing at each other, like they were seconds from ripping the clothes off their bodies. Thankfully, they remained fully clothed, but I shudder to think of what went on once they got home. Gross.

On that note, it's time to take Murphy on his last walk of the night and then learn more handy Italian phrases before I go to bed.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Two Months

Exactly two months ago today, I arrived in West Palm Beach. Two months ago tonight, Murphy and I pulled up to my parents' place in my packed, tired car, both of us sleepy, road weary, and more than a little nervous about where we suddenly were and what lay ahead. It's been good and bad. Cathartic and chaotic. Healing and confusing. Mostly, it's been hotter than hell.

Here's what I've done in these two months:
1. started a great job, which I truly love, am good at, and have made my safety zone
2. made several new friends here
3. spent fabulous time with my family
4. re-connected with a couple cherished old friends, via email
5. decided to move to England and have begun the process of making this happen
6. gotten over a recent breakup
7. read a bunch of books
8. created a book club at starbucks
9. totally let go of any residual anxiety over my former job
10. stopped feeling trapped by my own future
11. prepared for my trip to Italy, which begins next Friday. One week from right now, I will be on an airplane en route to Rome!

Also, Murphy has relaxed a lot, learned how to play like a relatively normal dog, and absolutely loves his new buddy, Maggie. Though, of course, he's still Murphy, so he is still uber-mellow and always looks sadder than he really is. But really, I think he's pretty happy.

So here are my goals for the next two months:
1. get a promotion to shift supervisor at work
2. purchase a one-way plane ticket to England for early January
3. read another bunch of books
4. complete a draft of the essay/story I've been working on
5. clean out and wash my car (yes, it could take another two months for me to get around to that)
6. do something with my hair (I love how long it's getting, but it's also driving me a bit crazy)
7. avoid heat stroke and sunburn: a major task down here
8. get my insomnia under control
9. ...and anything else that pops into my head

Wednesday, July 05, 2006


Today I had a breakthrough. One of the issues I've been wrestling with the past few months has finally lost its battle with my determination to be a happier person. All it took was a few simple words from someone to me, from me to that someone. Well, that and a few months of questions, pontification, tears, and anger.

Suddenly something, some barrier, has fallen away from my soul and allowed the anger and pain to finally escape. Finally. For the first time in many months, I'm not angry anymore. I still have a number of battles to win before I will finally feel whole again, but having won this battle, I now know with certainty that I can win all the others.

I feel more at peace today than I have in a long time. And I'm one step closer now to being completely at peace with myself and my life.

Journal Miscellany

I was looking back through a couple journals I've kept over the past three or so years, and I noticed that scattered throughout, in between my real journal writing, are pages with weird, random, sometimes inexplicable things written on them. It's funny, because there are pages and pages of my normal journal material, in which I'm either transferring all the crap from my head onto paper (though of course not always in any coherent form), or working on the early stages of an essay or story, or writing a letter to someone---letters I never had any intention of mailing. But then every so often, I'll come across something completely random and out of context. Some of them make me laugh. Others remind me of a particular day I'd forgotten about, for better or worse. Some I can't explain at all. So here they are. These are hardly in chronological order, as I have a tendency to write on whatever page I happen to open my journal to, even if it leaves my entries out of order, and I also tend to have two or three active journals at any given time and I use whichever is closest when I feel like writing. Each one of these was found all by itself on its very own page.

*The address of someone I knew briefly a couple years ago who moved to Chicago. We've lost touch completely.

*Two facing pages where I practiced new ways to sign my name. Sometimes I used my whole name including my middle name. Other times I used my first name, middle initial, and last name. Sometimes it was just my first and last names.

*A page with a list of all 50 state abbreviations, with slashes through the states I've been to. I was timing myself to see how fast I could name all 50 states. I've been to 24 states.

*A page with some random letters. I think I was trying to work out an anagram for the letters E, N, W, J, P, V. Of course I wasn't successful as there aren't enough vowels there. I can't remember where I got those letters.

*Several pages where I jotted down some of my favorite quotes from Jeanette Winterson, Sarah Waters, and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Odd combination. Well, sort of. Jeanette and Sarah go together in a way, though Scott not so much. However, as he is my all-time favorite, the one who still makes my head swirl no matter how many times I read his books, it makes sense that he'd be listed on any page containing favorite quotes from literature. Maybe in a later post, I'll write out some of these quotes, but for now I'll just list the books that are represented here:
Art and Lies, Jeanette Winterson
Gut Symmetries, Jeanette Winterson
The Passion, Jeanette Winterson
The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald, of course
"Winter Dreams," a short story by Fitzgerald
Fingersmith, Sarah Waters
Some random letters between Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald

*"Anyone who'd read that wouldn't be appalled by that conversation." I think I wrote that to a friend once while we were having coffee at Mokabe's (a St. Louis coffeehouse, where I spent a lot of time) and eavesdropping on the neighboring table's dialogue. I'm pretty sure this sentence was some commentary on something one of them had said.

*In the top, right corner of an otherwise blank page, I was apparently counting something, using lines with a slash through every group of five (I don't know if there's an actual name for that.) I counted 23 of whatever I was counting.

*The address of a political organization in St. Louis I interviewed with for a full-time activist position. I didn't take the job because it turns out I didn't agree with all their policies and beliefs.

*An awesome quote from the fifth Harry Potter Book, Order of the Phoenix: "It felt very odd to be issuing instructions, but not nearly as odd as seeing them followed." This is from the part when Harry is teaching defense against the dark arts to other members of the D.A. I thought it was an excellent description of what it's like to be a new teacher.

*"It's Friday night. I'm babysitting but there are no kids here. Long story." It was a long story.

*My own phone number

*"Stupid kids. Why are they so apaethetic?"

*A phone number for someone named Rita. I don't think I know anyone named Rita.

*Several games of hangman, using dirty words. This is from when Elizabeth and I rode a bus to D.C. a few years back to protest the start of the war. It was a looooong (though worthwhile) drive and at one point, we were so bored we actually played x-rated hangman.

*"SCHOOL LUNCHES" in all caps. Under that is "PENNSYLVANIA" also in all caps. Sloppy handwriting and lots of exclamation points.

*A list of schools across the country where I applied for jobs. I checked off each one as I received rejection letters or pulled my name from candidacy. They are all checked off.

*Notes from a meeting of the host committee for which I volunteered when the
National Gay and Lesbian Taskforce held its annual national conference in St. Louis in the fall of 2004.

*Notes from a telephone interview I had with Bennington College in Vermont.

*"People are so loud. They talk and shriek and say nothing."

*A list of possible destinations for a three-day weekend roadtrip from St. Louis last fall: Memphis, Chicago, Bloomington, Hermann... I don't think I ended up going anywhere that weekend. No, I'm wrong. I went to Evansville, Indiana, to meet someone.

*Kathy's address

Fascinating stuff, eh? I'm clearly on my way to winning a Pulitzer. Actually, part of me--as a result of spending too much time in grad school reading theory and criticism--thinks material like this is just as useful in recording one's life as the "real" journal entries are. Though it doesn't make sense or mean much to anyone but me, it reminds me of details I might not otherwise recall, even though that wasn't my intention when I jotted down most of this stuff. Well, except for the entries above that make no sense even to me. I don't know what the hell that "school lunches" thing is about.

Sunday, July 02, 2006


I can't get to sleep!!! I've been flopping around in bed for an hour now and just cannot turn off the buzz in my brain so I can go to sleep. Before I got into bed, I was so drowsy, but now I'm wide awake and have a million thoughts running through my head all at once---but all I want to do is sleep.

I love and hate insomnia. I've been cursed/blessed with it most of my life, but it comes and goes and is usually symptomatic of depression. Quite often, I can use it to my advantage by using this time to read, write, think, and enjoy the quiet of feeling like the only person awake on a sleeping planet. But tonight it's just frustrating, as I have to get up at 4:15 for work.

Also, it confuses Murphy. Right now, he's staring up at me from his place on the floor besides my desk, looking groggy but expectant.

Does counting sheep work? What about warm milk? Gross. Wine? Yes, that might work, but it also might just give me a buzz so that I'm a little hung-over at work, and that sort of defeats the whole idea.

Maybe I shouldn't have slept until 2 this afternoon. But that was because last night I didn't fall asleep until after 5. It's a terrible cycle, isn't it?


"With freedom, books, flowers, and the moon, who could not be happy?"
-Oscar Wilde

This makes me feel good. If only it was always that simple.

Two weeks from right now, I'll be snoozing in the middle of my second night in Florence, Italy. I can't wait! Though at this point, I can't imagine being able to sleep at all while I'm there.

But tomorrow, I have to be at work at 5:15 a.m. Yes, that says A.M.! So it's time for bed now.