Thursday, December 30, 2010

Time for Some New Shoes

“Don’t look fate can only find you

You can’t choose for something to surprise you

Set sail without a destination

Just see where the wind will take you”

--Lee DeWyze

No one said that the amount of time you spend in a place is what truly makes it worth your while. No one said that you had to live somewhere for three months, six months, or a year to really understand it, to really grasp it, to really endure it. All you really need is a mind and a heart for adventure. In the last week, after being met with several obstacles, I have made a decision on the next month of my Italian excursion…

….Drum roll….

…I have made a decision on what will be my FINAL month of my Italian excursion…

Yep that’s right—it’s time for a new pair of shoes—or in other words—another change. Instead of returning home in April, like my flight home was booked for, I will be returning home the first week of February, but not before going north, east, and south in Italy, not before getting a taste of every cappuccino on the compass, not before seeing Italy.

A year ago, I had saved up a piggy bank of money to return to Europe over the summer for a backpack trip that clearly never happened. Part of the reason it never happened was because I had never made the leap—taken the chance—and booked the flight. I was scared. Then, when I finally went to book the flight, a volcano erupted, (literally in Iceland), and my plans shifted again. I never jumped.

Then I did. And now here I am struggling to find a job in Italy, but is that what I ever truly wanted to do anyway?

No.

I wanted to explore. I wanted to find new alleyways. I wanted to find cobblestone I had never walked on before. I wanted to go on an adventure.

Did I want to spend time working and worrying about money?

No.

Did I think I’d cut my trip short.

Absolutely not.

Was I worrying about all the wrong things when I was debating cutting the trip short by three months?!

Absolutely.

I was worried about what other people would think of my decision to come home. Like I was giving up or that I was running away. Like I had failed. It took a certain someone reminding me that people at home wouldn’t be disappointed in me—that I wouldn’t be failing—that I would be returning to people who loved and cared about me…that they wouldn’t suddenly hate me for making a choice to come home to them. And now I know where I want to be, and what I want to do and I think it took coming back here to realize it. I do want to continue traveling, and I want to continue writing, and I want to continue producing, and I want to get started on my company…my production company…My dream.

And under the circumstances that finances will eventually run short, that I will soon be an illegal “alien” (or a new-wave Italian) here in Italy, and that I will not have had the opportunity to see outside of the box I have squeezed myself into, I think it only seems right. They say that distance is what you make it. I think that goes for time too. You can live in a place for your whole life and never SEE it. There are people here who have been here their whole lives and who have never seen the Colosseum. There are people in New York City, who have lived there their whole life and have never made it north of 125th street because “It’s scary.” This is not the route I want to take. I don’t want to be scared. This is not the way I ever want to spend my life…I want to see everything. I want to take the route where I buy a train ticket and spend one month of my life seeing everything I never knew.

A friend asked me where I was looking to live in Rome, a few weeks ago, and I told her “Prati.”

“Didn’t you live there already?”

“Yah, but I loved it.”

“But you need to look at new places…you need to SEE new things.”

“Naw…I love Prati…”

And I love Rome—but my friend is right. Prati is not the place for me to return to, and I am starting to think settling down here isn’t for me either. I really am meant to run all the miles in my shoes at marathon runner pace—I really am meant to move around a bit. As much as change scares me—it’s the only thing I truly know.

Like I mentioned, I was worried that if I came home sooner than planned—that I had failed. But that’s not true. If I come home sooner than planned, and before then, I find a new world of exploration—a new world of cobblestone—a new world of cappuccino--a new world—then I will probably have exceeded my expectation of this trip—and I will probably be more content with the outcome. I will be happy to board a plane home with memories of fulfilling one of my main goals in coming back here: Discovery.

And discovery can take on so many meanings. It can be in the way that you travel to new places. Or it can be in the way that you discover new things about yourself. I like to think I got a taste of both—I am going home seeing my cappuccino cup (well over 150 cappuccino cups) as half full, not half empty.

Watch out New York City…I am coming home.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Libs and emotions sitting in a tree -- M-I-S-S-I-N-G

"If you ever said you missed me, then don't say you never lied."--Brand New

There are certain words, that when placed together, take on an incredible strength in meaning--and incredible strength in disappointment if said at false moments. "I love you" can often be thrown around, said too early in a relationship, or not said enough. It can turn a beginning relationship into a real relationship. It can be the last words someone says to a loved one before they pass. And it can be the final words someone says to someone before they let them go from their life due to personal decisions. Everyone analyzes these three words "I Love You." But there is one word that you can replace "love" with to create a phrase that becomes just as or even more strong than the first combination of eight letters.

"Miss."
I miss you.

I am not sure I knew the meaning of missing something or someone until only recently. I realized this week that "I miss you" is painfully thrown around similar to the way "I love you" can often times be thrown around.

A night before I left for Italy, a good friend of mine told me that she wouldn't miss me two weeks into my voyage to Italy. She said she probably wouldn't miss me one month into my trip either. I didn't understand, and I was actually extremely saddened by her remarks. That was until Christmas day, when I realized what she meant. Missing someone is a physical feeling--almost like an illness--something that eats at your stomach and your heart and your mind. It is not solely a mental condition--no missing someone is a real emotion, driven by moments that cause us to remember some time, with some person (or on our own) that we really wish we could have at a certain and specific time.

I painfully missed having my family for Christmas. Some days, as of recently, I painfully miss having my friends from New York City and from Pennsylvania to just call on a bad day or sit with and enjoy the silence. When I miss something, as I have learned, I PAINFULLY miss it. It's really simple to get in touch with someone and say "I miss you," because it feels like the right thing to say, but it not always is. "I miss you," like "I love you" could move mountains. It means things are difficult without you here...It means there is a void that I wish you could fill back up.

Missing people is a feeling that you have when there is something you want to share with
someone, so badly, but who most likely is still asleep due to a time difference. Missing someone is wishing they were online to drop a quickly hello to. Missing someone is in the moments that you are walking around and you just wish you could sit down with that person and share a cup of coffee, a window to people watch through, and a fantastically epic long conversation. Missing someone is in moments that you truly feel an emptiness within you. Missing someone or something can actually be debilitating.

To say "I miss you" could have such a strong meaning that it could very well combust the world. When said without truly meaning it, it could actually become more painful to a person than the actual feeling of missing something. To say "I miss you" is to let someone know there is an empty void without that person--that a part of you is incomplete, a part of you is actually...missing.



Saturday, December 25, 2010

B.I.N.G.hOme. A Very Merry Christmas

Waking up to an empty apartment on Christmas morning is not something I have ever wished to do, nor after doing it this Christmas, do I ever wish to do it again. I believe that it was just last Christmas that my mom said to me that she wished she would never have to wake up alone on Christmas day, and now, I completely understand.

But that doesn’t mean you have to go the whole day on your own—alone—without “home,” without family. You can turn that lonely morning into a day full of happiness and community, a day full of spirit and surprise, a day full of love. And that’s just what I did this Christmas.

Knowing that Christmas was coming up, and that I had no plans set in stone, I made arrangements to work at a soup kitchen, in Rome, with a few friends from the class I just finished taking in Florence. Each of us, without family, thought that giving back to the community and helping those who don’t have a true home here either, would be a good way to spend Christmas. And while our expectations were quite off from what we would actually be doing, the experience was not dull or disappointing in any way , shape, or form.

In fact, I think spending Christmas in this way, at the soup kitchen, was even more rewarding than other soup kitchen experiences that I have had. I think that this Christmas experience was a true eye opener to just how many people are risk takers, leapers, and go-getters.

Walking into the church at 10:15 AM to begin set up, the head of the program asked us to begin cutting the dessert cake for the meal. After piecing thirteen plates of cake together, we had some extra time to chat with some of the others who were working. We met a man from Ethiopia, a woman from Brazil, and a few people from the Phillipines. Struck by the fact that we were from America, and almost in awe, they talked to us and welcomed us. Soon after, we met a family who lives in Texas and who came to Rome for the holidays. Thinking that we would be working with all italians, I was suddenly intrigued by the diversity of this group.

And then as people started filtering into the church for the four course meal, it dawned on me that this was not your every day soup kitchen that serves people who don’t have any food or shelter. This was something much more different, something uniquely diverse, and something I would have never imagined experiencing before this day. The people walking in were not struggling—and if they were—they hid it well—instead they were people who were either alone for Christmas, like I was when I woke up, or they were people who were traveling with no where else to go on Christmas. We leaned a lot of this as a priest began to make the first toast of the Christmas lunch by saying that he was glad to have the visitors and the travelers in attendance.

Suddenly, I felt less like a helper,, and more like an insider. Less like I was doing good, and more like I was getting to have a Christmas. And while I really wanted to spend the Christmas by giving back to the community on a day where I couldn’t give my friends or family at home anything under their tree, I found this to be a pleasant surprise.

Not before long, I got to talking to a student from Rome who told me about how much she loved Europe and all of her favorite places to go. Then it was on to three people from the Ukraine, and a couple from the Philippines, all who expressed great interest in talking and learning about the American culture while I attempted to learn about each of their own.

Wearing my Santa hat, I became the prime target for helping to hand out gifts with the true man that they dressed up as Santa. Seeing smiles on strangers faces over presents with big green bows made me smile. Seeing smiles on so many people from so many different places, all together, in one place, made me smile. Experiencing this first Christmas, away, like this, made me smile.

And as one of the organizers opened up a box of bingo cards to be played in the closing of the day at the church, all I could think about was how I felt like I had already won, like all five numbers across the center of my board had been called, how I had found h”o”me in a day when I felt like home was impossible to have. And as I studied the people’s faces around me, I began to think that they were feeling the same way, as if the organizer had just called all our numbers in perfect order…as if we had each just gotten B.I.N.G.hOme.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Why we keep in touch--Happy Holidays

A week ago, walking around Rome, I said to myself, “Thank goodness I have kept in touch with so many people in my life…For if it wasn’t for that, I wouldn’t have had a place to live in Rome for the month of December, I wouldn’t have made the connections here that I have made, and I wouldn’t have followed through with making a leap to another country.”

And then last night I received the two most wonderful Christmas gifts that were wrapped up in words as a Facebook notification. “Sam Ojih tagged you in a video” “Hannah Brencher posted a video on your wall.” Sam and Hannah are friends that I have made only recently—and when I say recently, I mean not within a year, but within the last six months. They are two people that I have shared passions and hopes and dreams with. They are people who aspired to go to New York City. They are people who I have come to love dearly, and they are the two people who have made my Christmas away from home even extra special this year…they are the two people who this week have made me realize why keeping in touch is so important, even if you haven’t known people for all that long.

They both left me words of encouragement, words of thankfulness, words of love for the holidays, words of memories, words of what I can only call gratefulness and wonderfulness. They left me messages that I will carry with me this holiday season and that I will be able to go back to endlessly. Their words won’t be taped up to the wall above my pillow—but rather taped to the wall of my Facebook for me to return to again and again. Their gifts are timeless.

And I think that’s what the holiday season is about—giving people something timeless, something they can go back to, something they can read or watch or see over and over again that will make them smile—or cry (tears of joy in this case). The holiday season may be built up in every place in the world around the chaos of Christmas festivals and gift exchanges, but I think it is about much more than that—much more than bows and ribbons—much more than candy canes and Old St. Nick—much more than the physical things that we can hold in our hands. It’s about what we can hold in our hearts and what we can put in the hearts of others. It’s about reaching out to someone whose hand we may not physically be able to curl our fingers between but who we can touch in some other way.

Maybe we haven’t spoken to a good friend in a year…two years…or five years. Maybe a sibling has gone astray—or we have lost the ability to get along with our parents, our exes, or our childhood enemies. But I can assure you that keeping in touch—or—getting back in touch—could be one of the best gifts you wrap up with your heart this year…It could get someone through a holiday…It could get someone through it all.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Moo Moo's Guide to Compromise


A good friend of mine, Tony, pointed out a book to me, just a few weeks before I journeyed to Italy. The book was called, “All I ever really needed to know I learned in Kindergarten.”

After living with a four and five year old for nearly a month now, I have discovered how true that statement is. While we learn a lot of lessons: Like sharing, washing your hands, brushing your teeth, brushing your hair, the one that stands out to me most is the idea of compromise.

I have learned from these kids that we learn compromise VERY early, but we learn about a deeper kind of compromise…we learn about bargaining.

Kids are much more intelligent than we give them credit for. They know when you are trying to trick them, they know when their parents have left and who they can try and get away with things with, and they know where the chocolate is hidden in the kitchen. They know how to scream, how to fight, and how to hustle. Their compromise is bargaining—their compromise is hustling.

Walking through the door on the coldest day in December, I tell the kids that their snack will be yogurt and that their mom has chosen it. I go to the kitchen, I take out two yogurts, I put them on the table, and I say snack time!

The kids come running in, and the young boy says—"No not that one, I look in the fridge." He spots the one and only MooMoo vanilla and chocolate pudding—the equivalent to a Trix Yogurt that would have been sitting in my fridge when I was five. The young boy turns to me and says, “Can I have that one?” Untrained, I say, "Of course"…But as soon as the young boy puts it on the table, the young girl’s eyes light up. “I WANT” she yells. And then the gaping wallows of tears begin to stream as I take it away and say we must not eat it, if it is the only one left. Thankfully, within moments the mom has walked through the door and begins to take care of business.

Just a few days later, I am faced with the same challenge. Yogurt for snack time.

I sit the two yogurts on the table. The kids sit down. The young boy eats his diligently saying “It was good…chocolate now?” I say “Maybe.” The young girl sits defiantly at the other end of the table, shaking her head with her arms across her chest. “I WANT MOO MOO.” I tell her no. So she goes and sits in another chair, still arms crossed, and a smug look on her face.

I tell the boy that he can have ONE chocolate. He and I sit down and play Eenie Meeni Miny Moe to decide which chocolate it should be. The little girl says, “Moo Moo,” and “I don’t like this one.” I know it’s not true as I have seen her eat it with her mom. She knows I am easier to get away with things with, because I can’t tell her no—and because I can’t tell her why not in her native language. All I can do is pretend to cry when she cries too, and see if she gets the point. But this time, I try something new. I start opening the yogurt and say it’s either this or nothing. She still carries the smug face. She sees the chocolate again in the boy’s hands and her eyes are bright.

“If you eat this yogurt, you will get ONE chocolate.”

Smiling, she grabs the yogurt and asks me to help her open it. I help her and she starts taking big bites.

Hustler.

Bargainer.

This is not compromise. This is the most important lesson we learn when we grow up…How to bargain our way to get what we truly want. I am starting to think the show “Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader” should be transformed into, “Have you been hustled by a 5 year old?”

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Humiliation


In fifth grade, my mom bought me the perfect pair of new sneakers. They were white, with a little bit of navy blue. I was such a tomboy at the time that I had to buy the little boy shoes. I was so excited to sport them to school and show them off on the playground. When I went to play kickball that day, I was extra-excited because I thought they would make me kick the ball a little bit farther. When it was finally my turn to kick, I sent a shot to the far outfield (which was probably actually not that far to big people), and I ran the bases. When I got to the third base, I continued past by accident and right into a mud pile. Everyone started laughing at me, and I cried because my new shoes were ruined. I was so humiliated.

Humiliation comes in all shapes and sizes. It can be in ruining a new pair of shoes in a mud pile at recess, or it can be in being left on your wedding day (see Carrie Sex and the City 1). It had been some time since I considered myself truly humiliated, since my eyes shedded tears due to feeling entirely embarrassed for trying something I should have never tried, since I regretted trying one thing over another. But today, I felt it…and the tears that bubbled behind my eyes were hard to hold back as the man behind the bookstore counter made me feel like I was about one inch tall in this giant city that I consider more home than a place I spent four years at for college. “Don’t try to speak Italian,” he told me as I asked him if they took credit card or not… “We don’t like it.”

“We don’t like it,” I repeated in my head… ‘You don’t like me speaking your language,’ I thought to myself. And so I responded, “But I try to speak the language.” And he said, “It humiliates us…Don’t do it.” With a stern look on my face he said “Basta” told me the amount that had been put on my card and rushed me out of line.

As I walked away from the counter, lost from my two good friends, the tears started to stream down my face. The lady to the right of the mean man didn’t stand up for me, and neither did the people around me. I was just a silly American who was now banned from trying to speak the native language of Italy…I was now just the silly American who felt humiliated for trying.

It was the first time I had truly missed home since I had been here. In America, we would applaud someone for trying to speak English to us even if their language was Spanish, German, or Italian. I would help them spit the words out and let them give it a try, probably happy that they tried. And if they spoke Spanish or Italian, I would make an honest effort to try to communicate back with them since I speak broken Spanish and Italian. But I would never tell them not to try—not to want to learn. Isn’t that part of what is so grand about a new culture? Learning the language—learning the way.

As I returned home to my house family for the month, I explained what had happened. They were appalled that someone would even act that way, and they almost seemed humiliated that an Italian would be so rude to someone trying to learn the language. They reminded me that learning the language and using it is not looked down upon in this way by all Italians and to keep trying…not to let this get to me and to move on to the next opportunity to speak the language. Like the little engine that could, I continue on…without returning to that bookstore.


Thursday, December 9, 2010

Rubber Ducky--You're the One



You were tiny! Very cute w/long hair. Very opinionated, even then! You liked playing with small toys--legos, Fisher price Little people, Barbies--you built villages. You liked to sing in the tub--to your amazing collection of bath toys--I called your songs your operas. You liked to go outside, no matter the season. You were fearless.” -My mom on me.

Waving around a Christmas ornament that I have just purchased him, a young boy has a big smile on his face. The ornament, which has a bell inside of it has become less of an ornament, and more of a toy. Suddenly the string comes loose from his hand, the ornament crashes to the ground, and the decoration becomes one less accessory to the tree, and one more worry for the broom. Tears from the boy start to shed, and sorry’s start wailing out of his mouth. “It’s okay,” I say, not angry, “It happens…don’t cry, it will be okay.” He runs to the other room and watches television with sadness in his eyes. One day he’ll remember this and think “My gosh, it was just a bell.” But for now—it’s the only thing he can find real sadness for in his life. And I envy that.

Only recently, maybe two years ago, have I started to truly love children—and I don’t mean in that creepy SVU kind of way. I mean I really love children. I love that they have this 6th sense for the world, that they seem to know everything that is happening, and that they seem to know how to get what they want. They have magical powers (maybe it’s their ability to be adorable), but they really do. They have an ability to know when we are having a bad day and when we need a hand to hold. They have the ability to draw a picture that looks nothing like us but makes us feel wonderful just the same. And of course they have the ability to make us remember that life can be as simple as bruises on our knees, cuts on our elbows, and shattered bells on the kitchen floor.

They don’t cry about money, the economic crisis, or the rumors of the end of the world in 2012. They don’t question how green the population of the world is or how terrible the government is. They just live.

During my babysitting escapades, here in Italy, I have gotten to know two adorable children very quickly. As I learn about them, I also have been learning from them. Not only is their English better than mine was when I was 4 and 5, but their knack of knowing things about the world is simply superb. Full of energy, they are completely aware of their surroundings, how to get their way, and how to push the right buttons. They are fearless in speaking to me, asking me questions, and waiting for my response—even if half the time I can’t give them one (as I can’t understand too much of their Italian). The little girl and I even have a routine set in stone… “Question in Italian…” ‘Blank Stare from me.’ “Question again in Italian.” ‘Blank stare again…’ “Libby!” “Non lo so (I don’t know)” “Question again in Italian…” “No capisco. Parlo Inglese! (I don’t understand, I speak English)” “Ugh. No capisco”—Little Girl. Sometimes it works the other way around. “What did you eat today?”-Me “Yes.” But somehow it doesn’t matter, we get eachother---and we laugh and we play and we forget these moments have even happened. And then, not long later, we play the same Italian-English game again with the same questions and answers. Sometimes, I can ask the boy for help—and sometimes it’s just easier to let it go—something kids are lucky to have the ability to do.

Hannah, who I often reference in my blog, wrote a post that asked how the little girl she was in the past would feel about her now. My gosh, if only we could sit down with our little selves and have a conversation, what would that little self say.

While I can’t say how the conversation would go exactly, I think that our little selves would remain the same. They would look at us…hold our hand, tell us they drew us a picture of us together—(that of course looked nothing like either of us—ears coming out of our chins—pants with two different size legs—and a non existent nose)—and say “Smile!” They would know we were upset—but they probably wouldn’t know why we were upset so they would just smile in their adorableness, and make us want to go back.

My little self would probably build me a lego fort to sit in, and then sing to me from the bathtub. She would probably have a million bath toys surrounding her and would go on to ask me to jump right in… And I probably would… and I’d look at her and smile and I’d think to myself, “Gosh, I really always was a goof…” and then I’d probably pick up a rubber yellow ducky and sing right along—putting all my worries behind. For once, in my grown-up life time, I’d be the 4 year old who was fearless…the 4 year old who didn’t stop to wonder why the sky was blue or why the grass was green—the 4 year old who just lived with the magical power of adorableness...

okay well…I guess I still have that power.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

"For me, I like"

I’ve mentioned this before. I tend to move around as often as I change my shoes, and since I bought new boots just three days ago, it seems only fitting that I have moved on to Rome as of this morning.

It’s nearly been one month since I have arrived in Italy. It has nearly been one month since I have had a Dunkin Donuts coffee, since I have driven a car, and since I have had the convenience of things like Walmart, CVS, and Walgreens. It has nearly been one month since I embarked on my new adventure. It has nearly been one month since I made the best decision of my life, in getting on the plane to return to Italy--my home. The other day our teachers sat us down and said. “Let’s talk about what you will take with you as life skills from this course…How have you changed?”

I looked around the room as one of my peers began to speak. He spoke of many of the things that we discussed at our Thanksgiving Feast—how family can be anywhere, how home can be anywhere. I then raised my hand and spoke from a personal level… "Every experience is a new one.”

I may be putting myself out there a bit in this entry, but I think sometimes it’s really important that we do that, that we let people know our past, and how that has effected our present.

I told the class that I had learned that we could experience a place we have lived in, breathed in, and loved in before, in a totally and completely different way a second time around, that no two experiences are the same, and that there is always something new worth exploring in a place that you truly believed you have conquered.

I didn’t dive into too much more with the class time, but I think it’s important that we go into each new experience with an open heart and an open mind. A problem that I have had since I was a kid is that I often try too hard and become a bit overwhelming at times. My mom will tell you that when I get an idea in my head, she’ll have to shhsh me and tell me to take a minute to fixate on something else. It is something I have never been able to shake.

So when I first returned to Florence four weeks ago, I had this idea in my head that I knew Florence and everything that had to be done again and how to do everything and how to really be the queen of Florence. God, was I wrong. But I am glad I was. Because if I had experienced Florence the way I had before—if I had experienced Florence and had overwhelmingly been able to have others experience Florence in the ways that I did before, I wouldn’t have fallen head over heals with all the parts of the city that did this time, I wouldn’t have really experienced Florence, now two years later, in it’s whole. I wouldn’t have truly made the best of every moment.

As I finished up my short speel on my experiences to the class and explained how I had never taken the opportunity to go to the Bobali Gardens or Piazzale Michelangelo before, my teacher looked at me with a confused look, “What the hell did you do here before,” is what she was really asking me. And while I used the excuse that I had only been in Florence three weeks before—for orientation of a semester in Rome—I thought to myself, “My gosh, what the hell did I do here before…” And suddenly it didn’t matter, because I had just experienced one of the two best Novembers of my life without reservation, without hesitation, without regret. I had just lived in the present…I suddenly didn’t need the past to be my reason for my returning. Just being here and having new experiences was now my reason…Just living in the moment was now my reason—and it was now the perfect reason.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

A bottle of wine every day takes the doctor away...

video


“A bottle of wine every day, takes the doctor away,” says a bold voice behind the counter of a tiny wine shop located at the bottom of a giant vineyard in the middle of Chianti. “Shame for you,” on not being a drinker, she adds, when she learns that I am not one for drinking. “Shame for you, again,” she adds, when she learns that I don’t eat meat. Meet Roberta. A loving, passionate, vino-knowing gal, who allowed us to sample not only the vineyard’s best wines and biscotti, but also the kind and loving atmosphere of Chianti.

Hiking up a mountain was not how any of us had planned to spend our day, but it ended up setting the pace for the entire day trip out of Florence and into the vineyards of Tuscany. Striding less than elegantly to the top of the mountain, we huffed and we puffed, wondering if we would ever reach the vineyard that we had made reservations at.


Turning around, at about the halfway mark, we realized that we didn’t care how big this mountain was, how tired our legs were, or how out of shape we truly were, this view was absolutely stunning. Suddenly, making it to the top in time wasn’t as important as taking in the moment. Suddenly, reaching the vineyard was less of a mission than just basking in the idea that we were standing in the middle of Tuscany without a care in the world. “I could stand here all day,” said Matt. Looking out over the landscape, and all I could think to myself was, 'Me too, my gosh...Me too’

As we got closer to the top of the mountain, I called the vineyard to let them know we were running a few minutes late. A woman answered and spoke only Italian. She told me, “We are closed today.” Looking at my friends, I repeated what the woman said, but we still continued to venture. Once reaching the top of the vineyard, we realized, they were indeed closed and our reservation for a two hour tour and tasting must have never gone through (Thank goodness we didn’t pay ahead). A bit urgently, two of us tried to find someone to explain our problem, but all we got was a sorry, no reservations today, we are closed. Looking at eachother, it didn’t take long to realize that it really didn’t matter. What we were looking at, a castle in the sky, fields of grapes, and a beautiful view, were all just worth taking in for a bit. We climbed the steps of the castle, ducked into arches, tasted fruits hanging from vines, and just sat staring out at the world…staring out at our current world…staring out at a world just asking us to explore it.

“Something good is going to happen,” I whispered to one of my friends… but ‘Something great’ is what I was really thinking. While a few of us stared out at the blue sky, one of our five had made his way back to the woman who told us they were closed. As he fetched water from her sink, he explained to her what had happened, and she suddenly felt bad, and went onto immediately call one of the men who worked there…Not before long, we were on our own private tour, learning the history of the Verrezano Vineyard…looking at dusty bottles of wine from 1924, looking at rooms over 1,000 years old, just again, basking in the wonderfulness that the day was suddenly bringing to us.

It had felt like we were in the movie Alice in Wonderland…with big barrels of wine, larger than ourselves, a garden that would have made perfect for the Queen’s croquet match, and our “Mad Winer”, the tour guide who was taking us through the history of the vineyard. Only this wasn’t, a movie, this was real life…this was our day Under the Tuscan Sun.

Moments after the tour ended, we stuffed 6 people into a smart car, so as not to have to walk down the mountain that we had first climbed up. Upon arriving at the bottom, we were greeted by the wonderfully stunning Roberta who took time out of her day to allow us to sample wines and dessert drinks. As we took our last sips, Roberta laughed, “Okay, now you pay,” asking for just 14 Euro each, on a day that we should have originally paid 28 euro each.

I smiled at my friends, and they each smiled back, knowing exactly what I was thinking. “This day was incredible…this town was incredible…this experience…was simply incredible.” Walking out of the hut, I stared at the road ahead, and thought to myself, “I never want to leave this country…I never want to leave this state of mind.”

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Ten Americans and six foreigners sit in a circle...I swear it's not a support group


“It feels like we are in a movie,” said Alessandro across the living room as he stabbed his fork into a giant piece of turkey. “We see this in the movies, but we never experience it. This is my first Thanksgiving.”

Alessandro is an Italian man that one of our classmates, in Italy, took time to make friends with over the last three weeks. He is sitting across the room from me. To my left, a woman from Israel is laughing. Next to her is an Englishman, and another Italian. Just past a light shade, that obstructs my view, is a German. If you take another look around our room, you might not only notice the foreign differences but also the age differences as well. A retired woman, born in America, who grew up in Canada, is sitting three spaces to my left while others in the room have just nearly hit 23. You might think we are sitting in a support group for diversity, but this is far from what is happening. This is our Thanksgiving—ten Americans, and five, eventually six people who have never celebrated the giant turkey in the middle of the table, the green bean casserole, or cranberry sauce (which go for 3.90 Euro each at the International Ingredient store) before.

Here we were, ten Americans, and six foreigners, doing exactly what our ancestors did when they first celebrated Thanksgiving: sharing a meal, sharing our thanks, and sharing our happiness. To continue a game of tag here: The wonderful Hannah wrote a piece about what Thanksgiving is truly about and what home is all about on her blog just a few days ago at just about the same time as a home piece I wrote (hence the game of tag we are playing via cyberworld). And this piece she wrote helped me to solidify the fact that everything she wrote is exactly true.

Thanksgiving is about the giving. As we all went around the room, sharing what we were thankful for, a common theme began to develop. “I am thankful for the fact that I am not homesick right now,” said a new good friend of mine. Another said, “I am thankful for the fact that we can all come together to do this…” and “I am thankful for L and J welcoming us into their home for this.” The women from Israel added “I am thankful for all the beautiful Italian men here,” and we all had a great laugh.

Thanksgiving is not always about being with family, but sometimes rather, about being with people who you never imagined your life with, but who have made it better in some way, shape, or form. As a few of us fell into a conversation, a good friend started to say, “I couldn’t imagine my life without you guys in it…Like it’s weirder to think of not knowing you than to think about not getting married.”

And he is right—it would be weird. It would be weird not to be sitting with all these people, taking in the moment, tearing up at the thought of how happy you are, and getting a clear picture of what thankfulness and happiness are all about. This year Thanksgiving wasn’t about how many servings you ate at dinner. It was about how many diverse people you could bring together in one room and turn into a family…a wonderful new and accepting family who may lose the ability to see one another each and every day next week: but who will always have this one memory—this one “Grazieful” memory.

In the word of the Italians: Salute!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Di Dove Sei? (Where are you from?

“The city of big buildings and bright lights. The city that never sleeps. Good Old New York City,” I say cheerfully to the paper boy who has just asked me the most asked question of all, here in Italy, “Di dove sei,” (where are you from?).

I suddenly want to retract my statements, and put a “But I grew up in Pennsylvania, and lived there for a majority of my life.” But somehow saying New York City seems so much more fun and interesting, and it rolls off my tongue much more quickly and simply. I think deep inside, I truly believe I was meant to be a New Yorker my whole life, to be someone full of adventure and attitude, to be someone who could get through a crowded Times Square without slamming into a single person, to be someone who could walk from Astoria, Queens to lower Manhattan without wincing, to be a true city girl. I think I knew this the first time I came to Italy, when I realized how much I loved Rome and the big, nonstop city atmosphere. As an overwhelming person myself, an overwhelming place to live seems to be a perfect match. “I am from New York City,” I continue to think to myself.

But I am not, and it is crazy to me how nine months in New York City can make me believe I am. In four years of living in Rhode Island, I never once referred to it as my home, and I never once believed it was where I was from. And it never was where I was from.

I deserve a slap on my wrist for forgetting my roots when I told Giuseppe, my new favorite paper boy, who stands in Piazza Della Repubblica every morning, that I was from New York City.

I am a Pennsylvanian. I live near the Amish. I live an hour north of the cheese steak capital of the world. And I couldn’t be more proud of my family or friends that have come from there. But when you start traveling as many times as you buy new shoes, it gets more difficult to remember the last place you occupied, the last place that was your true home

So what makes somewhere HOME? Is it your family? Is it your friends? Is it where you grew up most of your life? Is it where you went to high school? Is it where you went to college? Is it your address? Is it where you have your bank statements set? Or is it where you feel most comfortable, most happy, most lovely, most simple. I want to believe that it’s where you feel most happy, most lovely, most simple. I want to believe that home is what you make it. I want to believe that when I am telling someone I am from New York City, that I am telling them really where I am from.

But I think New York City will soon be just a memory of where I am from. Because if home is really where the heart is, then I am starting to believe that Italy is my home—because I don’t think my heart will ever leave. So when the next Giuseppe asks where I am from, well I think I have a new answer. I am from Italy…and when that next Giuseppe looks at me like I have ten heads, I think I’ll laugh to myself and say, “I just need to say that in Italian next time.”


Sunday, November 14, 2010

"These tears are just a disguise for happiness"

His story lingers in my mind, his tears the dessert to our meal that had just ended. His words echo. His story is strong…his tears are stronger—they are for joy, not sadness. His tears are for the past, the future, and the present. And just a week ago he was a stranger to me, to all of us here in Italy. Just a week ago, I would have never known him, or this story, the one of the love he had for his grandfather, the one of the last record he played by his grandfather’s bedside, the one of strength and what it truly means.

Strength in tears.

As I sat and watched my new friend shed tears about the past, over a final glass of wine with six of us sitting at the table, I thought to myself, how strong of a person to let the tears just roll out, to just let us all the way in, to let us learn a bit more about him and his past—to let us know him.

I often cry, but most times the tears are hidden in embarrassment, because they tend to be tears for nothing, sadness, or emptiness. But I realized recently how much I actually enjoy crying, letting it all just flow out, letting the droplets just drip down my cheek.

My friend Hannah has pointed out the importance of gaping wallows in the past, and it is in this moment, at dinner, that I see the gaping wallow in progress. Though his stream of tears doesn’t fill the restaurant like a bathtub, it does offer a release, an escape. It is in these moments that I realize the importance of our tears and the importance of sharing those tears with or without stories. It is in this moment I realize the importance of letting people in—the importance of letting ourselves out.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Come Se Dice Ti Amo in Inglese?

“I love you” Three simple words in English that mean so many complex things. Eight letters that we Americans piece together.

I. Love. You.

And in America, we take those eight letters more seriously than many people have taken the many letters and words in our declarations and our commandments that represent our beliefs in our country and our religions. These eight letters can move mountains for us Americans, they can break a person’s heart, and they can be engraved on one’s soul forever. Eight letters…three words…that take on so much more meaning than the one thousand something words in the Declaration of Independence. (Man if Benjamin Franklin knew he only needed eight letters to change the world, imagine what he’d come up with…. “Peace Man.” Franklin and the delegates definitely got it wrong in the book of ways to change America).

After my second day in Florence, I got to thinking about those three small words comprised of eight letters. I had made a new friend earlier in the day who only spoke Italian. He was from Kosovo and had been living here in Italy for six years. After speaking earlier in the day at the Duomo, we made plans to meet up later for a short bit, because I wanted to learn Italian and he wanted to learn English. For a few hours, we walked, talking in broken Italian. For the most part I said, “No lo so” and he giggled at my stupidity. It reminded me of my nights in Rome trying to talk to my good friend Nino when he went off on Italian rants. It was quite amusing to hear me try to speak perfect Italian. But with my attempts to speak Italian and my new friend’s, who we will call F, attempts to learn English, (which made me hopeful as he learned quickly from my teaching) we were able to both laugh. But I definitely got the last one when he asked me one last question in Italian. “Come se dice ti amo in inglese?” I laughed and told him that “ti amo in inglese e “I love you.” He then spoke those eight letters, those three complex American words to me…”I love you.”

I always thought that the first time a guy said “I love you to me” he would understand all the complexities that came with it and the strength that those words have to take a girls heart twist it into a million un-fixable knots, but this was not the case.

Those eight letters…those three words…now took on a completely different meaning. They were not his way of expressing his deepest most sincere feelings. They were his way of expressing our new found friendship on the streets of Florence. As I tried to explain in rough Italian what I Love you meant in America, I realized that it was much more easy believing what F thought I love you meant, much less complex—so I let it go and gave him a giant Italian hug goodnight.

It was in that moment, that suddenly “I love you” went from being complicated to being completely platonically simple—From a mess of meaning to a perfect lovely moment—a lovely moment where I realized that there was love in the air in Tuscany—a whole lot of simple, delightful, wonderful love. So much that I think tomorrow I’ll spread some more...and then the next day as well, and the day after that--until Tuscany is smothered in it and covered like grafitti with those three perfectly lovely simple words… I. and Love. and You.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

"OH! The people you will meet!


"Ohhhhh The places you'll go!
You'll be on your way up!
You'll be seeing great sights!
You'll join the high fliers who soar to high heights"

One of my best friends handed me the famous "Oh! The Places You'll Go" as we said goodbye on my final night in Bethlehem, prior to my leaving the states, prior to my new journey. I always wanted to rewrite this book and title it "Oh! The people you will meet!"

I think of this over and over again each time I meet a new person, each time I hear a new story, each time I hear a new name. I think of writing it today as I have made my trek across the Atlantic and have introduced myself to numbers and numbers of people: from the airport security men, to the young man who sat next to me in the terminal patiently awaiting the flight to see his girlfriend to my new roommates. Most of these people are people that I will only have met for a few minutes, a brief instance of mutual exchange, a valuable moment. I'll normally take the moments after to create more of a story for that person. I'll pretend that the airport security man has had to tackle a terrorist or that the boy waiting to see his girlfriend has not told her that he is coming, that he is surprising her, and that their world is going to be perfect. I love people. I love stories. So when I come across someone and I get to hear their story...I can't help but smile over that moment--that perfect moment where one of us felt comfortable enough with the other to share a brief valuable time in our lives.

I got to hear a few of these stories yesterday.

Let's face it, my Italian is molto brutto (very ugly---for now), so when I entered a cab in Florence and tried to speak Italian to my driver, it was a relief to hear him know English. This first ride would not be a quiet one. We spoke back and forth to one another, me desperately trying to speak Italian and him fixing my every error. And then with ten minutes left in our drive, he reminded me why I loved Italy so much, why I love Italians so much. It is not because of the food (though my first slice of pizza yesterday was phenomenal), and it isn't because of their leather (though I did feel like I fit in, in my black fake leather jacket), no, it is because of their love for talking, their love for stories.

And as I exchanged life stories with Stefano, I wondered if I would ever find the same happiness as him, if I would ever be perfectly content never marrying someone the way he has (my mother would never approve), if I would ever be content dedicating my life to one thing like he has (he rowed in the 1996 Olympics and considers himself marries to his boat), and if I would ever just be simply happy. He clearly knew happiness, as he dropped me off at my apartment refusing tip money and wishing me the best of luck in my time in Florence.

But he was just the first of many that I exchanged stories with on my first day--in my first hours. As I sat down for my first cappuccino, a young man sat to my left with his own. I turned with a smile on my face and exclaimed, MI PIACE CAPPUCCINO!. And he turned, and smiled, a big wide grin, and said, "ANCHE IO!" I soon discovered that he was from Africa, but knew no English. Fortunately, he bared with me and my wonderful (ahem) Italian. We ended up going on to speak in fragments for nearly forty minutes exchanging names and numbers and an arrangement for a future coffee date. And as he walked away, to return to work, I just kept thinking about all the people I will meet...and all the stories that I will hear.

As I continued to sit alone at my table, I looked around me and just felt happiness--like Stefano, and I just smiled--a lot. It may become a very lasting habit...In the words of Elf--Smiling may just become "my favorite."

Friday, November 5, 2010

Like a Forever Stamp...


I wish suitcases were expandable. I wish that inside the pockets of each pair of pants that I have packed I could shrink a friend s mall enough to fit within. I wish that when I pulled out my shoes on the other side of the Atlantic that there’d be a little Jack in the shoe popping out, a friend who would say “Surprise, bet you didn’t know I could sulk up like a slinky.”

But I know that in this year, this decade, possibly this century, and most definitely this lifetime, that will not ever be possible. This is something I have to do on my own—this is something I want to do on my own.

In just a few hours, I will arrive at JFK, swipe my Passport through the scanner, drop my luggage onto the conveyor belt, brace myself for body scanners, sit in a terminal alone, and board a plane across the Atlantic. I will say goodbye to large sized coffees, most of my wardrobe, and all the best of friends. Ten hours later, I will walk off a plane into a land where the exit signs read “Uschita” and where Dunkin Donuts are replaced with local hole-in-the-wall shops. I will say hello to cappuccino con chocolate, beautiful romance languages, a months worth of wrinkled clothes, and a world filled with wonderful people that have stories to share. I will be home…I will be in Italy.

I use the word home to describe a place that I once lived for three months, a place that welcomed me with open arms, a place that granted me safety and security, a place that provided me with happiness.

Like a forever stamp placed carefully on the corner of a fresh letter to be mailed, the value of my love for Italy never seems to change. I have not gone a day since leaving Italy without thinking of the kindness of strangers, without dreaming of the cobblestone roads, without imagining the scent of the steam radiating from the wood burning ovens. I have not gone a day without missing Italy. I have not gone a day without missing home.

Returning to Italy means seeing old friends and making new ones. It means rediscovering nooks and crannies placed all over the wonderful cities that I once conquered. Most of all, it means returning to my significant other…that’s right…Italy and I are in a serious relationship, and while I have had my serious love affair with New York City, I think that Italy will forgive me. No—I know that Italy will forgive me. Despite my heart and mind wreaking of city subways and alleyways, Italy will embrace me the instant that I return, it will grasp me so hard that I will find it so very difficult to release myself from it’s pull 6, 7, 8 months down the line.

And while I’ll still carry a long distance relationship with New York City, I know that Italy will completely have my heart. I won’t look back—I’ll never look back.

I’ve talked of going back to Italy since December of 2008—when I first returned to the states—when I first forgot how to say “Thank You” and “Hello” and instead belted out “GRAZIE…” and “CIAO!”

And while this week has offered me some difficult challenges to overcome in the days leading up to my travels…I know that they were not meant to deter me. Rather, I believe they may have occurred in order to keep me busy—to keep my mind from questioning the next eight months of my life, to keep me from even thinking about cold feet.

But I almost broke down twice…I almost lost all hope for today coming and myself being prepared. But I am ready—I am ready….I am SOO ready. I’ll see you on the other side folks. I can’t fit you in my pockets…But won’t you join me?

I’ll take a cappuccino… how about you?

Monday, November 1, 2010

Just not a material girl in a material world...


When I was younger, I was terrified of the dark. Two or three nights a week I would sleep with the lights on, the door open, and a big old blanket wrapped around my body. I’d wait for my parents to go to sleep and I’d slowly get up from my bed and creep out of my room to make sure nothing was in the hallway. Some nights I’d go downstairs and turn on the television for a bit until I felt really safe, and some nights I just fell asleep. If I had a bad dream, and the lights were off, I would cover my face, remain motionless, and silently listen to the things that went bump in the night.

When I did convince myself that it was okay to turn off the light during the night, I’d imagine shadows on the wall were people sneaking into my house to kidnap me or my family or steal all of my belongings. For me a shadow on a white wall was like a cloud in the sky—it had the ability to deceive me into thinking it was something else. The shadows would take the forms of creatures in the night haunting me until my eyes got too tired to recognize their shapes anymore—or until 4:00am.

4:00am is what I call the safe zone. It’s the time when I have convinced myself that bad guys don’t prowl the streets and the time that the world—in my time zone—is in a safety bubble.

So when I woke up at 5am on my final morning in New York City, I was ready to walk out to my car to embark on my new journey. I headed down the third floor walk up of an apartment I had slept at in the Bronx, opened the door laughing as I said goodbye to a friend and slowly realized that things from my car were sitting on the ground. It was past 4am and I suddenly felt as if the safe bubble had popped and covered me in a terribly gewy mess. My car had been broken into via a back smashed passenger window.

I stood there trying to take in that most of my belongings, except my clothes, were stolen, and nearly fell over in disbelief.

I walked back into the apartment, unready and unwilling to face the fact that my car had just been ransacked for everything that had some significant money value to it. As my friend woke my best friend up to come down to me, all I could think was that I was stuck in a bad dream. I attempted to use the power of Inception (Gosh LEO you made it seem like it was so easy to do in the movie) to stop the terrible nightmare and make the shadows of broken glass and unlocked doors disappear. I stood motionless, wishing I had a blanket to cover my face so I could take in all the bumps in the night around me. Only I wasn’t stuck in my 10 foot by 10 foot room imagining that terrible things were happening in the darkness—terrible things DID happen in the darkness.

Now a little less groggy, I was slowly putting together that my external hard drive, my flip camera, my camera memory cards, and my iPod had been stolen, on top of a number of other things.

As I wrote down the list of items I was missing, I stared at them thinking: “This could be a hell of a lot worse.” All I could say to myself and to my friends were “They are just replaceable accessories Libs—just disposable items, just things that I really wanted—but never really NEEDED. After forty-five minutes to an hour of putting myself back together and forcing through strong reluctant feelings of guilt, I motivated myself to get back into my car and drive home—the final trip I was supposed to make from New York City to Pennsylvania for the next eight months.

I kept repeating to myself “They are just accessories Libs…just accessories.” And while it’s hard for me to imagine the fact that I will never get my videos, pictures, or songs back—there’s something even more valuable to me that this person took…something so precious that annoys me more than someone taking the last cookie from the jar…and that’s time.

Time to prepare for Italy, time to relax with my family, time to cuddle with my cat, time to work on various projects that I have in the works, and time to just get the things done that I absolutely need to get done. Time—something that I could not physically hold in my hands…something more valuable than any of the things in my car…something that isn’t buyable—that isn’t replaceable. And then I started remembering other things that were important to me that weren't in that car--like my memories, and my passions, and my hopes, and my love for the city of New York.

My epiphany came sometime around the moment the sunrise was sitting perfectly in my rear view mirror, almost like a cleverly plotted detail in a film. It was in that moment that I realized that the items we can hold are seldom the items that truly matter the most in the end. If it fits in the palms of our hands—then it can probably never truly fit in our hearts.

Often times we give in easily to the material things around us: the iPods, the Nooks, the makeup, the ugz, the smart phones, the cameras, the stiletto heels, the perfect Halloween costume, and the many other individual things that we always think we need.

But maybe it takes someone stealing your “valuables” to truly see what is of value in your life…to really understand how material you may have become, and how immaterial you wish you could be. You may have taken my hard-drive Mr. Bronx Robber, but you didn’t steal my heart—in fact, I think you may have just made it a little bigger.


Friday, October 29, 2010

"Your Art Matters--It's What Got Me Here"



“Amidst all of the skyscrapers, all of the Broadway shows, and all of the chaos of the city, it’s not hard to find a person with a dream…a person with a passion…a person with a heart made of gold. “-Me

There is no denying what the city of New York has done for me over the past nine months. The city not only welcomed me with open arms, but it embraced me and held me tight while I tried to pursue all the dreams I had when I first arrived, which were to become a television producer and writer. But I didn’t find a career in coming here—I found something even better--I found gold.

Each day I have discovered new treasures. And the best part about it is that you don’t need a compass, and you don’t need a map—Every corner you turn, every alley you peek down, every block you stumble upon, there is some sort of gold within reach. It may be the best bagel on the Upper West Side or the best dive bar on the Lower East. It may be in the form of artwork in a Chelsea gallery—or it might be in the nooks and crannies of the subway stations. It could be in the cracks on the Brooklyn Bridge—or the artistic graffiti on the sides of buildings. Wherever you look—wherever you go—there is magic and a sort of rich feeling.

For me, the gold has been in all the people that I have met during my time in the city. From starving artists to acoustic guitarists and from graphic designers to actors and actresses…from drummers to singers…and from producers to writers—I have never met so many unique and talented people as I have met in these five boroughs. I have been lucky enough to surround myself by those who never let their passion falter—by those who push and push and work and work to keep their work alive. I’ve met make up artists working three jobs to help pay rent, and I’ve met comedians who waiter on the side in order to put food on their table. I’ve met writers and volunteers trying to live simply on only necessities.

Life is not easy: especially for all of those trying to really make it. But for each of these wonderful people that I have met, I can honestly say that for each of them it appears to have been nothing short of WORTH IT. These people, my friends, my acquaintances, my inspirations are living out what they want to do—in the city they want to do it in—and who could EVER criticize that? I have met people who have challenged me to be a better person, a more passionate person, and a more intensely determined creative person. This city introduced me to some of the most amazingly talented people in the world, and I know that this is just the beginning for most of them, and in five, ten years; this will just be a shot in their scrapbook filled with many more amazing moments of when they all make it. This city has opened up my eyes to all the talented people out there that I may have even been ignorant to in the past—including people from my hometown. The truth is you can find gold ANYWHERE you look. (Like the wonderful Paul Knakk).

In these nine months, I have met people who provide more love for others than space in this world provides. I have met people who are waiting for that one shot—that one opportunity—to do what they want to do, without caring what financial burdens that one thing brings for the time being—because in the end, it will ALL be worth it. I have met people who truly turn everything they touch to gold.

It has taught me to be spontaneous—jump into a new class, try something completely off the wall, and create my own adventures—so long as I am passionate about it. It is these artists, these guitarists, these graphic designers, these actors and actresses, these drummers, these singers, these producers, these writers, these comedians, these waitresses, and oh god the list could go on—it is these people that have pushed me to make the sudden leap to Italy. It is these people who have pushed me to act on my passions—my beliefs—my dreams. It is these people who are my gold in New York City and in Bethlehem, who have become my gold in life. I may have slept on the floor for months—and I may have eaten cheerios out of a box for two meals a day—but I have been the richest person …I have been a billionaire. And it’s because of you—you all—you see…your art REALLY does matter…It’s what got me here.

A side note: A good friend of mine is working to build a website that I am convinced will change the world, and I am convinced that most of the creative people that I have met—will in fact also do something so overwhelmingly amazing that it will change the world. So here’s your challenge—find another amazing person tonight, check out someone else I’ve tagged in those entry and connect with them—see how your creative powers can act together to combust with greatness. I’ve posted some links to help you out. But don’t be fooled there are many creative minds out there that don’t fit any of these categories (for example: Music Extraordinare: Dannya Azem). This list -- in no way, shape, or form encompasses all the gold that I have found in this city--all the people that I have found.

If they don’t have a link listed, don’t be afraid to ask me for contact information…I would be happy to put you in touch with any one of these wonderful people. And if you are someone who feels left off the list—let me know and I’ll add you immediately. I’m all about the connections…I’m all about the creativity.


ACTORS/ACTRESSES

BRANDON OPEL—ACTOR

CAROLINE RITCHIE—ACTRESS –WEBSITE PORTFOLIO
http://www.carolineritchie.com/

JENNIFER BISHOP—ACTRESS—WEBSITE
http://web.mac.com/jennifermbishop/iWeb/Site/Home.html

KIM DIPERSIA—ACTRESS—WEBSITE
http://www.KimberlyDiPersia.com/

MARK KIRSCHENBAUM—ACTOR

MARK PORTER—ACTOR

BEHIND THE SCENES FILM/THEATRE/TELEVISION


BRANDON OPEL—WRITER/DIRECTOR/PRODUCER

DAVID VENDETTE—DIRECTOR/EDITOR/PRODUCER—MUSIC VIDEO
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FQEEVnSISxA

JOHN OLSON—WRITER
www.WonderfulOK.com

MARK KIRSCHENBAUM—DIRECTOR
http://www.showtimeboca.com
Also—this November, opening the World Premiere of a brand new, never done before version of “A Christmas Carol Musical

MEGAN NORRIS—HAIR AND MAKEUP ARTIST
--Has worked on Greta Gerwig, NBC talent Lauren Scala, ABC/NYC MEDIA Talent Tory Johnson, and Sharkstores

NATE SMITH—EDITOR/FILMMAKER—DEMO REEL
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_3aMsn6Z8vw

COMEDIANS

NICK RUGGIA

DANCERS

EMMA POWERS—DANCER

GRAPHIC AND MULTIMEDIA DESIGN

ANGELA AMATO—MULTIMEDIA DESINGER
http://www.angelaamato.com

GRANT SIKON – GRAPHIC ARTIST

MUSICIANS

ANDREW CHABOT—GUITARIST--MYSPACE
http://www.myspace.com/kachinasound

BRANDON JACOBS—DRUMMER—YOUTUBE VIDEOS
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lc4eipnLHp8
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LkrDZbIyizI

CAMILLE HARRIS—SINGER—WEBSITE
http://www.camilleyoungsilly.com

CHRIS DIFFERENT—SINGER and GUITARIST—WEBSITE
http://www.chrisdifferent.com

KATHRINE BECKER—SINGER/SONGWRITER—MYSPACE
http://www.myspace.com/suzysellout

MARK KIRSCHENBAUM—SINGER

MIKE URSO—SINGER

PAUL KNAKK—SINGER/SONGWRITER/GUITARIST

RYAN BAIR—SINGER

WRITERS

HANNAH BRENCHER—WRITER—BLOG
http://www.hannahkaty.com

LARA WILINSKY—WRITER—BLOG
http://glittermethis.blogspot.com

Monday, October 25, 2010

She's a Maniac

A good friend of mine posted this quote today on her status: "To be creative means to be in love with life. You can be creative only if you love life enough that you want to enhance its beauty, you want to bring a little more music to it, a little more poetry to it, a little more dance to it." -- Osho (As posted by Kim D.!)

The air's cold, and my eyes are drooping. My alarm has just gone off and I remember that I have set it for 4:30am in order to complete a goal, one that is supposed to remind me about taking time for myself. I shake out the eye boogies, throw on some deoderant, pull my hair back, and I'm ready to complete my mission...but why and what mission?

After a long and great conversation with a friend, I was reminded that we many times don't take enough time for ourselves. We don't just sit and enjoy company; we don't just have a piece of chocolate and cringe over how good it tastes, and we don't just take a second to relax. We begin to care too much what others think and we begin to just lose ourselves while trying to be what someone else wants us to be. We give, and then we give even more, and then sometimes we don't get to take--even when we deserve that break--even when we deserver a second, or a minute, or an hour to just breathe.

Just like the world--we never stop moving. We go from one project to another forgetting that if we don't take the time we need to relax, we will never find the time we need to be happy. And in those moments--those brief moments that we have to ourselves, we are reminded that the world's not such a complex place...and that things aren't so difficult. Sometimes it's the small things that make us happiest--like mom's apple turnovers or a good song...or...a good dance. So that's what I did this morning: I woke up to the cold air, with drooping eyes, at the sound of my obnoxious alarm-and I got off the floor-and into my kicks- and out onto the track of Astoria Park--and DANCED. I danced to lose myself. i danced to find myself. I danced to start my day: I danced to dance. So here's a thought: take a second--take a minute--take a week--take an hour--take as long as you need--and just DANCE it out. I promise you'll feel so much better...And hey you may even inspire a stranger to join too.

P.S. If i seem tired the first time I talk to the camera...I WAS! ha. But it was the best WAKE UP EVER


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Idiot's Guide to Being a Superhero

About a week ago, i wrote about how my dream occupation is: Superhero. Here is a fun "superhero" video.



To watch the infamous "My Jeans Video" of which the extra clip at the end mocks... Click Here

Monday, October 18, 2010

"Behind this heart, there's 1,000 hearts that keep me on track"



The most intimate concerts often take place in low-lit, hole-in-the-wall bars where you can literally reach out and touch the artist from the furthest point in the bar. These are the types of concerts where you get nervous to take a photo, because you believe that the flash you set off will blind the artist as well as the entire crowd that has squished together. It’s the kind of show where you can stab a line here and there back and forth with the artist—making it feel as though you have created a friendship—a relationship—an affair, for the brief forty-five minute set.

But I’ve found something even better: The kind of show where you sit down with the artist one-on-one, where he or she plays every song that he or she has ever written, and offers you a story behind each one. This is the type of show where you don’t even take photos because you feel such a personal connection between the artist and yourself. You realize quickly that a picture wouldn’t capture the moment as well as the exchange of words, and it’s the type of show where you truly feel like the only person in the room…because…well you are.

And that’s the experience that I had recently, when I got to sit down with friend, singer, and songwriter Paul Knakk, who breaks the standard “1 in 10 songs is a hit” rule and creates an abundance of music that would have overtaken the once highly rated TRL every day. Paul Knakk is a gem.

Never have I had the opportunity to truly sit down with someone and talk about their work—their creative niche—their passion, while watching them really engage in that talent that they have. It truly is a rare and exhilarating moment to see someone smile while they are doing what they love.

Paul and I attended the same high school, but I didn’t really know him until recently. A year younger than me, we never had the same classes, and we didn’t share groups of friends. I had known who he was because of pictures he had posted from when everyone was in middle school, pictures that many people got a really great laugh about when originally posted. About a year ago, Paul and I became Facebook friends, probably because one of us saw that the other had many mutual friends and we went to the same school. Soon after, I learned that Paul was pursuing music. I checked out his videos, his notes, and took the time to listen—and I really enjoyed it.

Unable to make it to one of Paul’s shows in the last year, I formed a friendship with him always discussing the music and what he had planned next. He went on to try out for American Idol this past year where he met many contacts and formed connections that will truly help his music career. The more he talked about his music—his recent show—and the fact that he was going to get a brand new amazing guitar—the more I knew that I had to hear him play live.

So the other day I finally took the opportunity to sit in on a private concert, where Paul played every song he has ever written. Two guitars, two locations, and three and a half hours later, I now knew Paul better than I had known many people that I have been acquainted with for many years. Paul’s music gives sound to his life experiences while also allowing you to connect and feel like the words have been written just for you, like Paul wanted to tell not only his story, but yours too. At most points, during my private show, I had wished that I had a pencil and paper because his lyrics drove thoughts and inspired ideas of my own. His music—his stories—they gave me chills.

Paul’s story is an amazing one that highlights most people’s experiences in adjusting to a world filled with love, hate, and jealousy. What else is amazing about Paul and his musical endeavors? He has self-taught himself, putting together his delicate words with outstanding notes. I would have guessed Paul had been playing for years…but was surprised to learn that he has only really been writing and playing for a year and a half. As Paul and I agreed, there’s nothing that other artists have—that he doesn’t.

Not everyone has the guts to go for their dreams and not everyone has the will to fight for their passions. But after leaving Paul’s house, I realized how important it is that we recognize our talents and the talents of others. Many nights we sit around and fight to find something to do. Should we go get drinks? What about a movie? How about one night where we just sit around with a close friend and experience what makes them happiest...where we just fully experience them. The lights don’t have to be dim, the location doesn’t have to be a hole-in-the-wall, the cameras don’t have to be in hand, and the conversation doesn’t have to be simple…even if it’s a simple night. This is the best kind of concert—this is the best type of night.

For more information on Paul Knakk, I suggest friending him Paulie or by joining his Facebook Group. Once becoming friends with Paul, you can check out his beautiful lyrics in his notes and watch videos of him playing. His YouTube page is currently undergoing maintenance, but you can bet that once it is back up, the volume on his site is going to soar. And at shows…well the girls will be chasing him down, of that I can guarantee. I’m lucky to know and be friends with such a talented musician.