Thursday, April 30, 2015

Film: "La Mafia Uccide Solo D'estate" - (starts 5/1)

So, of course, with less than two weeks to go before I leave for Florence, I'm still actively preparing for my return to Italy.

And that includes cinema.

Luckily, my trip prep happened smack in the middle of Atlanta's Italian Film Fest.

Not that the film I saw, "La Mafia Uccide Solo D'estate" ("The Mafia Only Kills During The Summer") was granche' (in other words, nothing to write home about, at least not subito).

Except for one thing.

Through actual footage from news programs and a deft combination of history and fiction, the movie provides a chilling overview of the Mafia's reign of terror in Sicily, where the film takes place.

It zeroes in on the late 1980s and early 1990s, when some giants who bravely fought the Mafia fell victim to them, chiefly Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino. But not only. Generale Dalla Chiesa, the people of Palermo and others also get their this-day-in-history moments.

There's so much we in America don't know about Italian history (while the Italians seem to know everything about us).

It was nice to sit in the theater and see up on the screen some of what has shaped modern Italy, for everyone to absorb and consider (even when the topic is so brutal).

It's a truly complex country that's often depicted as simply the birthplace of gondolas and pasta.

And it's not too late to see the movie! The film will be playing for a week, starting tomorrow (May 1) at the Midtown Art Theater.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Ode to Geen

He -- you know who -- says:

“That’s our favorite color, Mommy. Look, Mommy, that’s our favorite color. Geen.”

Or he says:

“We like geen.”

Or, pointing out items in a shop or at home:

“Look Mommy. That’s geen. That’s geen, and this is geen.”

Oh my little green angel.

He also likes lello.

A day is coming so soon on the horizon when geen 'normalizes' to become green, and lello passes away forever.

I'm recording him, of course. Public radio reporter that I was.

But once geen and lello are gone, so, too, is an entire era of language, expression -- and joy.

Of course, on the upside, I've recruited one more person to my Green Brigade.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

"Vino e Pane" (Reading as trip prep)

Half of my brain is trained on preparing for my trip to Florence, which as I said in previous posts, will be my first return to the city I once called home in a decade.

Much of the preparation is mental (though there is a suitcase permanently open on the floor of my bedroom).

I'm listening to music (see below), reading books in Italian (or simply more than usual) and re-reading a few books.

One book is a travelogue by the great Italian novelist, Antonio Tabucchi.Mike brought it back on his last visit to Florence.

For a long while, I left it in the dining room, along with the other ricordini and gifts he'd hauled back, per our ritual.

Before I began reading it, I would look at it from across the room, and there’s no other way to say it. I got my jollies. Just from looking at it.

I'd think, 'Yup, it’s still there on the dining room table, still in Italian, still waiting for me to pick up.'

Looking at it, I felt almost a form of lust – literary lust, I guess.

Essentially Italian books get my motor running, send my heart racing, not all that differently than how a man would.

It sounds weird -- but I suspect only because I externalized a thought most bookworms have, even if only on an unconscious level.

Anyhoo, I'm also re-reading a lot of books. Like "Vino e Pane" by Ignazio Silone.

And I'm packing books for the airplane and to read while in Florence (because the books I buy there, I will first have to set on the dining room table and lust over for a few weeks. Ma e' chiaro, no?)

So as I pack, I'm asking myself: is this the trip I finally read “L’Ultimo Brigatista” about Italian terrorism? We’ll see. The book’s tone has always struck me as a bit too self-important, as if it doesn’t have to sell me on the topic.

Of course, I may just wind up staring at it from across the room. And I'll enjoy that, too.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

"Tu, Catania, non mi basti!" (First, a little music)

As I said in my previous post, I'm going back to Florence, Italy, for the first time in 10 years.

The first city I lived in as an adult, and the city that arguably has held greater sway over my thoughts, my path, my desperate wishes, than any other (except, probably, New York).

Needless to say, my prep for the trip is anything but casual.

I'm warming up my Italian brain by immersing myself in Italian music, including this infectious song, which I can't get out of my head (see below).

Ever listen to Italian music? Italian pop music. Not Pavorotti.

It takes a while to cultivate a liking to it (unless you’re listening to Ilaria Graziano. Then you like the music subito).

And one big step toward liking it is to indulge your inner sentimentality (not hard for someone like me, whose favorite film is "It's A Wonderful Life.")

But once you fall in love with Italian music, well, be prepared for tears. Or at least, that's the effect it's had on me, probably because almost any Italian pop music transports me instantly back to the days I lived in Italy. Even music that wasn't on the radio in those days or sung in piazzas by friends strumming guitars.

Take a listen to "Non Ho Più La Mia Città," by Gerardina Trovato, who appeared at the Festival di San Remo back in 1993. She sings, "Ancora sto sognando..." I'm still dreaming. Me, too, Gerardina. Me, too.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

A riveder le stelle -- Florence, here I come!

I’m about to write the most incredible sentence I can imagine.

(OK, it’s the second most incredible sentence. The first was, “I’m having a baby.”)

Here goes.

I leave for Florence in less than a month! FLORENCE, ITALY.

(No, not Florence, S.C.).

OK, so I will only be there for less than a week.

But I hardly think about that.


The city I lived in. The city I loved. The city where I fell in love.

It must be the old woman inside of me – the person who emerged after maternity leave when everything is stripped from you and you learn to live again in a much more basic way – but I swear, two days there may be enough.

I will be so overwhelmed by every little change I see, that it will be any wonder if I’m able to get to sleep at all while there.

Wait, didn’t there used to be a fruttivendolo on that corner?

Wait, they finally removed the scaffolding from that church after a decade?

It will be a journey as much through time as space.

Just to see the faces of the people I once knew. Or walk the streets. Or look up at the white stone blocks on every vicolo, viuzzo and piazza, to re-read street names I haven’t seen in a decade. Very small pleasures that loom large inside of my head.

There’s also a few new things to discover. Like the tram! I plan to ride it into Florentine neighborhoods I’d previously ignored.

I'm going to Florence, Italy. It won't be the same.

But I'm not the same person I was 10 years ago, much less 20. So I think we're good. Real good.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Faccio io! (Leo's selfie)

He loves taking pictures. And he pressed the button on this one. So do I have to give him the photo credit?

Thursday, April 16, 2015

My other Atlanta photo obsessions

An old shed in the back of my neighbor's house...

What I like to call 'country in the city.'

We've got a lot of that down here in Hotlanta.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

"Cartoonists: Foot Soldiers of Democracy"

I went out last night to a screening of a French documentary film about political cartoonists that was organized by the Atlanta Press Club, and as I walked to my car, I felt a little surge of life!

It’s easy to see why. I went to see a film. And not just a film but a documentary. Moreover, a documentary film in French! About cartoonists who are boldly lampooning politicians specifically and inequities in general.

Do I really need to say it was cool?

The film, “Cartoonists: Foot Soldiers of Democracy,” followed around a dozen cartoonists from across the globe as they observed their culture, including the explosive events they’ve chronicled through their drawings, and explained how they worked. It thoroughly captured what it was like to live in their worlds.

The cartoonists were interviewed in their native tongues – Arabic, French, Russian, Chinese, Spanish – as they worked, or in the case of the Russian cartoonist, as he danced in the countryside with friends. Imagine an aging Russian cartoonist dancing on the grass with friends!

The press club had several Georgia cartoonists on hand, including Rick McKee of the Augusta Chronicle. When I asked Rick about being in such an elite group, he said, “There are about 50 of us around the country left.”

There’s just something about the cartoonists’ ability to conjure up so much with just a small square of a drawing. And the stories they tell in the movie! Of being summoned by the KGB or banned from publishing or threatened. One scene included an interesting conversation between two cartoonists in Africa about the limits of what they could and couldn't publish. Spoiler: the scene includes a part of the male anatomy!

And as a board member of the Atlanta Press Club, I was super proud we could sponsor such a cool event!

I should also mention the French Consulate here in Atlanta was an important partner in pulling off the event. Now if only I could say that in French!

Monday, April 06, 2015

Found and lost (Cat streetscape)

I took this photo (I think of it as 'cat streetscape') in an enclave of artist live-work spaces, off the Beltline, back in 2009.

And it's somewhat curious that this little bit of street art is now gone.

Sunday, April 05, 2015

My neighbor, Art

I take walks sometimes with my 83-year-old neighbor, Art.

A retired chemist born in Chicago to a Swedish mother and a German father, he's in remarkable health. Thin of bearing and spry, taking off on long, cross-country drives, and heading out often to (mainly classical) concerts.

Yup, he's decidedly young at heart. And a lovely man, who's retained a wide-eyed curiosity about life.

And he says to me this morning, as we're walking in Grant Park near my home in Atlanta:

"I'm really looking forward to aging."

As you might. At 83.

Friday, April 03, 2015

Steps to nowhere

I've been intrigued for a few years by the sheer number of old steps in Atlanta that lead nowhere.

They once led somewhere, to be sure.

But now the original building is long gone.

Yet the steps remain.

So I've started to take photos of them.

I suppose other cities have steps to nowhere, as well.

But perhaps because Atlanta is a city with many single-family homes and standalone office buildings, the steps seem to stand out...or maybe pile up quicker.

As a reporter, I traveled to Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina. And Atlanta's steps to nowhere have the odd echo of the properties I saw in Biloxi where all that remained of a house might be the foundation. Or the steps.