Today I had a meeting every hour, and some every half hour. It was a really busy day. After work, I went to a work event and had a glass of wine with a cartoonist for The New Yorker. He said to me, "People who are too busy don't have time to be creative."
"But everyone is busy," I said.
"Not me," he said. "I hang out, I nap. When I hear my wife coming home, I sometimes run over to my desk and pretend to be hard at work."
I'm not saying I want to be this guy (though he did have cool hair.) But it was an interesting conversation and made me want to strike that fine balance between being busy enough to stay conscious, but not so busy that I can't find time to be creative. How to actually strike that balance continues to elude me, but I'm thinking it involves getting a job that pays a lot of money and doesn't require many hours of work.
Rob and I had a party in Chicago this weekend to celebrate our wedding. We had about 120 people in a very cool space in the city and many of our family members and friends met each other for the first time. It was a fantastic party--a perfect follow-up to the small ceremony we'd had in Central Park 5 weeks before.
At lunch the day of the party, a close friend asked me why Rob and I had gotten married so privately, rather than having the more traditional ceremony and reception all at once. Though I've been asked that question before, I was somewhat thrown off by it on that particular day, because to me--having done it already--it now made a kind of innate sense that I no longer thought required explanation.
That's not to suggest that this friend shouldn't have asked the question; after all, the only reason I have come to entirely comfortable terms with our decision is because I was wholly involved in its planning and execution, and I can now happily say that it proved to be the right choice for us. There is something very different about having a big wedding and having a big party. I seem to be better at the second one, if lack of massive meltdown is any indication.
The best answer I have to the question is that after getting relatively far with the planning of an actual, traditional wedding--having chosen the date and the location--I was so immediately (that very night) plagued by nightmares and stress that I simply knew that something was wrong with the direction we were heading. People say that a wedding should be about the couple who is getting married, and I think they genuinely believe what they are saying, but as I watched--even briefly--the manifestation of that idea playing out in my own life, I realized that there was something false about it. The big traditional wedding wouldn't be for us. That's not something either Rob or I have ever placed much emphasis on. I have never dreamed of the perfect white wedding and, faced with its existence, I broke out in hives (ew, figuratively speaking.)
I realize this might read (if you are still reading) more like a defense of a decision than an explanation of one, but if one of my dear friends is still asking, it's possible others are still wondering. I don't want them to arrive at incorrect conclusions. We did not compromise. If anything, we were selfish, and I am grateful to everyone who let us get away with that.
My perfect wedding was 6 witnesses in Central Park on a beautiful day, a white dress with pockets, a champagne toast, and a big Italian dinner. A 2-week honeymoon in Italy. A weekend in Chicago with family and friends. Seeing everyone together on Friday night and again on Saturday, watching them meet and talk and eat and dance...that was part of our wedding. Yes, the vows were made on a different day, but the celebration continues. (Seriously, it's still going on. Smokey and Emma are such lushes.)
Our first destination in Italy was Venice, where I immediately joined the hordes of Rick Steves acolytes roaming the city and dragged Rob on several self-guided museum tours. We went to the Accademia, St Mark's Basilica, Frari Church, and Doge's Palace, among others.
We arrived at the Doge's Palace about 40 minutes before it closed, but I managed to convince them to let us in, using the Italian I had studied vigorously on the plane.
"Um..." I said, but there were hand gestures denoting speed. "Veloce?"
The woman tilted her head wearily. "Go ahead," she said in English.
A Doge or Ducat is a ruler, but one who wears a funny little hat. They were the bosses of Venice for centuries, and even the money (ducat) was named after them. The Doge's Palace provided us with our new favorite vocabulary word, for which we have found infinite uses.
The following is a typical conversation from our days in Venice:
"What's up Doge?*"
"You're the Doge."
"Only a Doge would say that."
"SUCH a doge."
It was like someone let two 3rd graders go on a honeymoon.
*Rob says I need to include a phonetic guide for this. I don't know how to do that, but it starts like doe and the g is soft.
This is not all-encompassing, obviously. I would also like to share that Rob asked me to stop flirting with the waiter at our Positano hotel restaurant. He said it not in a jealous way, but in an eye-rolling, "seriously-stop-touching-the-waiter-and-inviting-him-to-live-with-us" way. I don't have a picture of that guy, but he looked like a child. Which means I wasn't flirting with him, I was just being nice.
And you may have noticed that Waiter #4 actually is a child. He's three years old, in fact. He was the son of the bartender in a Florence trattoria we stumbled into before dinner one night. Though he didn't actually serve me anything, he did show me some of his toys and where his nose was. So he's on the list.
One morning in Italy, I awoke from a particularly vivid dream in which it was discovered that I was Tom Cruise's daughter, a fact that his in-the-dream wife, Demi Moore, was not too happy about. It was dramatic.
I opened my eyes. "Want to go to breakfast?" Rob said.
What are you doing here? I thought blearily, but politely refrained from saying out loud.
Later as I recalled this, it reminded me of those occasional episodes of The Cosby Show where Cliff eats a late-night sandwich, even though Clair always tells him it's not a good idea. That wacky guy. Then he inevitably has crazy dreams and vows never to eat late-night sandwiches again. The one I remember best involved all the Huxtable men getting pregnant, and Theo delivered a sports car. Cliff, I believe, sired a sandwich.
Anyway. I think there is something to the idea of having bizarre dreams after excessive eating, close to bedtime. And our entire trip to Italy can be used as an experiment to prove this theory.
When we arrived in Naples from Florence, Rob wanted to call the hotel to get information on the quickest way to get to Positano from the train station. I wanted to use my "Italian" vocab to take a cab to a marina, a ferry to Sorrento and then a ferry to Positano. Because then we would have figured it out all by ourselves.
Almost immediately, a driver from the hotel showed up. It was kind of freaky, actually, until he explained that he had already been there to pick someone else up, but since he was early, he would take us and someone else would bring back his original clients.
The driver, Gaetano, was born in Positano but spoke perfect English as a result of having lived in the Bronx for several years as a kid, where he attended PS 7. He moved back to Positano when he was 9, and now proudly shares his love of it with visitors. Gaetano is a cross between Javier Bardem and Al Pacino in Scent of a Woman. He speaks in the same speech patterns Pacino used in that movie and I kept expecting him to bust out a "HOO-AH!" He did not.
He did, however, get frustrated with another driver as we were leaving Naples. "AH, he is such a snaps provolone!"
"A what?" I asked.
"Provolone," he replied. "It's a cheese that we make. But also it means 'kind of dumb.' It's a slang."
"It's a basic cheese," he continued. "It doesn't have so much in the head."
We talked about travel guides. Gaetano was particularly irritated that he is not listed in the Rick Steves' Italy guidebook, since he speaks English so well. Rick Steves does list a man named Carmello from a nearby town, who takes Americans on tours of the Coast.
"Why should Carmello be listed in the Ricky Steves guide?" Gaetano grumbled. "He speaks broken English! If people have questions and require further information, Car-MEL-lo will not be able to answer them!"
He cheered up noticeably as we neared Sorrento, cueing up a song on his CD player for us and singing along with it, "Ohhhhh Sorrento," he crooned.
Am I making him sound annoying? He wasn't; he was charming. When we decided to hire a driver to take us to Pompei and Ravello one day, we were very pleased to find out that it would be him. It simply solidified our burgeoning relationship.
We met him across the street from a pharmacy on the hill above the hotel.
"The weather this morning was THREAT-en-ing," he yelled happily. "It was menacing that it was going to rain!"
Then he gestured calmly towards the sky and said, "But no."
And off we went to Pompei, chattering to each other the whole time about family and traveling, among other things. Gaetano played us some music from local bands, and narrated our journey as we passed walnut, olive, lemon, and fig trees. He left us to explore Pompei on our own, explaining that he had a girlfriend there.
"I'm KID-ding!" he insisted, "I'm meeting my friend Rafael for pizza."
When we got to Ravello, he bought a chocolate bar and shared it with me, then left us alone to explore again. We walked through an old palace with a beautiful garden and experimented with our photo poses. Ok, I did. Rob just rolled his eyes for the camera.
When Gaetano dropped us off at the end of the day he gave us hugs and kisses. A few days ago, he emailed me a picture of his kids.
I seem to have officially gotten over my jetlag this weekend, just in time to leave for a book fair in Germany today and start all over again.
As my brain is finally beginning to resemble that of a normal human being, I have been able to pull myself together to post some Italy stories. But because a brain resembling a brain doesn't work the same way as an actual brain, they will not be in chronological order.
4 of our nights in Italy were spent in Positano. It was completely different from any of the rest of the trip, much less walking and sightseeing, much more drinking by the pool (where 2 glasses of wine conveniently allow room for the contents of an entire bottle) and staring at the water from our balcony.
We took a ferry to Capri one afternoon and when we arrived at the marina, realized that Capri was actually way up a hill and that you needed a second form of transportation to get up there. We cabbed up and wandered among the crowds down streets with boutiques and other expensive shops. It was much like walking down 5th Avenue in New York City, and it was all very lovely, but we weren't completely enamored with it until we wandered off the main road and found the quieter backside of the town. Here we made it our business to get to know the beverages of Capri.
When we finally had to leave to catch the ferry back to Positano, we decided to take one of the shuttles down the hill. It seemed easy enough and one was leaving right then. The bright orange bus was pretty full, so Rob and I stood at the back. The engine started, and the driver, who didn't look like a sociopath, began careening down the hill at breakneck speed. He was clearly on a mission and the mission was this: maim at least one American retiree who is innocently meandering up the hill or the whole afternoon can be considered a failure. He did his best, and Rob and I held on tight as we negotiated the hairpin turns. I banged my head on the glass back door at one point, and I think I heard the driver cackling. The theme to The Godfather was playing in the background.
It really was.
We made it safely back down the hill (I'm sure the driver was cursing the lack of casualties) and took the ferry back, where we immediately started drinking again, I think. I don't really remember, but it's a safe bet.
Positano is also the place where any portion control we had been exercising in Venice, Florence, Siena, and Tuscany flew right out the window. We stuffed ourselves everywhere we went, but for at least a week, we did try to share entrees and generally not make pigs of ourselves. Not the case on the Amalfi Coast.
One particular day, I had a huge plate of gnocchi for lunch (with wine), waited maybe a few hours before we went up the hill to another hotel and had champagne, oysters, tuna tartare, and breadsticks, and then waited the length of time it took to walk further down the hill to a restaurant where we had another bottle of wine, pasta with lobster, grilled seafood, a wild strawberry tart, and glasses of the ever-present limoncello. As we left the restaurant, I looked around to see if anyone had left a spare wheelbarrow leaning against the side of the road. I didn't see one, so we just rolled ourselves all the way down the hill and back to our hotel.
Rob and I returned from Italy on Saturday night. The flight was 9 1/2 hours, 4-5 of which I spent watching movies and 8 1/2 of which I spent eating.
Seriously, something happens to me on planes. It's like I suddenly don't trust that there will ever be food again, so anything that is put in front of me--anything--is devoured immediately. And since there is not a lot of food served on planes these days, I usually bring a large bag of my own and methodically consume the contents.
For this flight, I did a bit of both, and in case you are curious, let me tell you that mixing excessive amounts of airport food with excessive amounts of airplane food (especially when the airplane food is of the "fake Italian" variety) is a recipe for Disgusting. I felt like a hot air balloon when we got off the plane: very full, very warm, and as though I was carrying several people.
After one entire day of bemoaning the fact that we had to return to New York, I suddenly wanted very, very much to just go home. But Delta Airlines had other ideas. First they made us wait on the plane for 15 minutes after landing, because we had taxied as far away from the actual airport as possible and now we were waiting for the People Mover. Not to be confused with, you know, an airplane. Which also moves people.
We all slowly loaded onto the People Mover and then inexplicably waited for a while, despite some old ornery man with very milky eyes yelling from the back, "Let's GO!"
"I love that guy," Rob said. "I want to be just like him when I'm old."
The People Mover started up and waddled around the airport, we waited in several lines, cleared customs, stared at the unmoving baggage carousel, and eventually ended up in a cab. At which point we were told the Midtown Tunnel was closed. It then took 100 minutes to get to our door from JFK, a personal record.
Still, we were in pretty good moods. I mean, we'd just gotten back from Italy and all we had to do was go home and think about how fun the trip was (I'll get to that in future posts.*) I hadn't seen a mirror in many hours, but no matter. We walked into our lobby, and promptly ran into 2 neighbors and a doorman who were all super helpful in describing how tired I looked.
"I can see it around your eyes," one said, examining me as we rode up the elevator.
We got into the apartment, feeling like we had done some sort of Ironman, and were pleased to see that said neighbor, along with two others, had left us flowers, balloons, crackers, cheese, almonds and assorted cookies.
In an effort to fully appreciate this lovely gesture, I found the will to eat again.
*I do promise more Italy stories and, of course, photos. For now, here is one of us in Venice riding the Vaporetto, which basically does what a People Mover does, but is just so much cooler.