Tuesday, July 05, 2022

Mi consigli un ristorante? Ultimate Florence dining guide

I consider the author of the Italian blog IO AMO FIRENZE the gold standard for restaurant reviews of places in Florence. She has visited nearly every restaurant in Florence, I suspect! She's also extremely knowledgeable about the city. And now she has written the ultimate guide to dining in Florence.

Your Italian rusty? All you really need to know is the meaning of the subheds, and I'll help you out. Here are the first two categories:

'Trattorie tipiche' = literally typical restaurants, or what I would call traditional, local eateries. Something authentically Florentine. These are the places I've visited time and time again.

Ristoranti toscani di fascia più alta -- Higher-caliber (and high dollar) restaurants that serve Tuscan cuisine

Once you've decided what kind of dining experience you want, google the name of the restaurant (in bold) and see if it's in a part of the city you want to visit. You won't go wrong with her recommendations if you're looking to have a typical Italian meal (she's also very knowledgeable about other kinds of cuisine, especially Asian, but here limits herself to Italian food).

For my money, I'd like to visit the following places she mentions (under trattorie):

*Sostanza (detto i’Troia) 

*Trattoria Marione

*Il Brindellone

If you see a place you want to go and would like a translation of what she wrote, leave a comment here!

The guide is again here:


Buon appetito!


Tuesday, June 07, 2022

Avon Journal, No. 408 -- From The Lost Diary Entry Archive

Today during a brief visit to the beach, as I mounted the steps to the boardwalk and turned around for one last look, I said silently to myself, “Goodbye, Atlantic Ocean. I love you!” 

It wasn’t the first time; that’s what I usually say or sign (by blowing a kiss, say) but it struck me. 

How odd. How sad. How true. This stretch of the Atlantic that I've been visiting practically since the day I was born ... it fills me with an almost painful nostalgia. Navigating life through acute saudade. Is that my problem? 

Before I leave Avon, I pull the car over to sum things up. And I write: "What’s lost: conversations. Artful and funny ones. My parents could tell stories well, or at the very least, they could to me; I found them endless entertaining (and annoying, to be sure)." 

While at the beach I think of how we are recruited from our childhood into the fan clubs of our parents. I will be haunted forever by their stories, their gripes, their crusades.

I write this in part because I'd recorded them during the visit, and I thought I would queue up the interviews in the car to listen. But after a minute or so of listening to my father, I couldn’t bear it any longer. I imagine him knowing, I imagine him sensing that there is only one reason I have finally begun to conduct my most important interview.

During the visit, I walk through Avon like Thoreau, taking possession of every old home, of the brown shingled Anglican church, of the B&B with the Gaelic name, just with my gaze. I need to walk the streets other than Sylvania, somehow their unfamiliarity mesmerizes me, and I find a hunger to memorize the facades of the homes I like. I linger in front of them, almost spellbound by their existence. Some of them are set back from the street – which is rare in Avon, so notable; some have Irish sayings hanging over the front steps. Some have cozy porches that make me ache with envy, even as the porch at my parents waits for me. 

I like the streets where the homes have a double identity – they front the pond or are near the pond, for example, so beyond sitting two blocks from the beach, they are homes by a pond. Or the homes that line the Shark River Inlet. It feels almost audacious in its consumption – two identities not one. Beach home and home along a river inlet.

I need to carve out more time to walk in Avon but it isn’t easy. Yet the older homes are disappearing. That’s a slight exaggeration but it is true new 'gaudy monstrosities' (to steal a line from "Ocean's 11") pop up each time I visit. New empty lots appear, cleared of someone’s life.

Eventually the tiny, pink cottage a block from the beach will disappear. How acute will my nostalgia be then?


Lost diary entry

Saturday, June 04, 2022

Current obsessions

-Flash CNF (I just love the essay "Things I Lost" by Brian Arundel, which was published by Brevity)


-Translating women authors

(but also translating a male author who writes in an original way about suicide)

-What happened in Brooklyn in 1957

-The NPR music show "Afropop Worldwide"


Sunday, May 29, 2022

From Leo's Book of Questions (entry #5,004)

Oct. 4, 2020

Leo asks me, “Mommy, what do you like better, addition or subtraction?”

(Addition, son, no question).

Lost diary entry

Saturday, May 21, 2022

Non è l’incapacità di narrare ... (Furio Colombo)

Non è l’incapacità di narrare, ma l’incapacità della cosa di essere narrata.”

-- Furio Colombo, in his introduction to Daniela Padoan’s Come una rana d’inverno: Conversazioni con tre sopravissute ad Auschwitz (Milan: Bompiani, 2004). 


From the starry journal:

“Does Daddy know he’s dying?”

Lost diary archive


Wednesday, May 04, 2022

My First Mother's Day

The morning of my first Mother’s Day, something strange happened. Something that has nothing to do with motherhood -- or not exactly. 

I was sleep-deprived like any other first-time mom that morning. 

But it wasn't because of Leo, who was ten months old. Instead, the day before, I had worked obsessively on a short story in between Saturday chores. Fiction, in other words. What on earth, I thought. I was a journalist, pure and simple.

The piece – my first attempt at writing fiction since the seminal (!) story "Mrs. GoodCookies," which I wrote in childhood -- wouldn’t leave me alone; what double life was the main character hiding? (An American ex-pat, as it turns out).

While I endeavored to figure this out, a double life of my own emerged, as I contrived to find time to write as if scrambling to conceal an affair. I invented an excuse about having to drive to the office to work on a project – on Saturday, something I never did. I also wrote – in my head – while pushing my son in his stroller through the Grant Park farmer’s market, then raced to my computer once back home so I could transcribe the lines.

That night, I went to bed late (10:30 p.m.!!! no joke), still on a high from having written the story. I awoke the next morning at 4:30 a.m., unable to get back to sleep because sentences for the story were chasing me around in the dark. What was happening to me?

Spoiler alert: the story hasn't been published, beyond my Bennington thesis, and may never be ready for print.

But the experience galvanized me to make writing my primary hobby, my main vice, my eternal crutch, my singular passion, my vocation. If you want to torture me -- do you?! -- take away my writing implements (and my Italian coffee, which happen to go hand in hand -- #5amwritersclub #sometimes).

Ten days before Leo was born, I'd scribbled something on the back of an envelope while sleepless in the middle of the night. (I wrote about it briefly here for Longreads). The next night I did the same thing. Then in the hospital that warm July I brought along a journal (as the photo above attests) -- something I hadn't done since my ex-pat years in Italy.

Slowly I began making time and space for writing, especially after Mr. Leonardo Patrick began sleeping through the night.

Yet the Mother's Day of my first full year as a mother was the turning point. Writing took over my brain. And thankfully it continues to pull the levers.

For years, I was convinced becoming a mother would force me to abandon all thought of books, politics, current events – everything. I would cease to be me, I assumed, even as my Aunt Maureen said motherhood made her more flexible (turns out: she was right!).

Instead, the birth of Leo sparked the rebirth of my writing life. Far from sending the life of the mind in exile, it reunited me with creative writing. 

(I think it helps that I only have one child; there was no time for my mother to reunite with anything other than the vacuum or the dishes).

I don't live an unusual life. I certainly don't live an unusually successful life. But this one unusual happenstance changed everything.

Long had I searched for the door into the World of Writing -- the door to wanting to write all the time. I was told at age 9 that I would become a writer, for better or for worse. But how to do that? I didn't know.

With great envy did I read profiles of writers and artists, whose passion for their craft seeped out of the pages and into my jaded mind.

What I know now: they had given up everything for their work. 

And I believe that when I gave up everything to have Leo -- infertility will convince you that most of your worldly vices need to go -- the result was not only a baby (THANK GOD THANK GOD THANK GOD) but a writing life, too.

Not the writing life I dreamed of -- the one I didn't even allow myself to imagine.

To be clear, it's a writing life that so far hasn't yielded a book (I was thrilled about the short story I wrote on my first Mother's Day but I don't remember my classmates being all that thrilled with it later during at a workshop at Bennington -- my blessed destination after writing that story). No one knows my name. I don't even teach writing full-time. But I write all the time -- and it's, again, a vocation, a vacation, a trip to the spa (and to the moon), an evening out, a session with the therapist.

So on Mother's Day, I plan to do a little writing. 

Oh and HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY, ladies!


Saturday, April 23, 2022

Kitchen music

For my birthday, Mike bought me an old-school clock radio that I've placed in the kitchen. It's because when we were in NYC, I instinctively tuned a similar radio in our hotel room to WKCR.

We're talking terrestrial radio -- the kind you might have cranked up when Casey Kaseem was still broadcasting -- and so we can't get WKCR, Columbia University's venerable station. Not from the kitchen in Connecticut.

But what comes in good is a local college radio station that plays classical music most of the time (and occasionally Portuguese folk music).

So we're good. Because tuning into WKCR amounts to a bid to dial up my father and the result is the same with any kind of classical music, since that was what he listened to almost all the time if he wasn't listening to jazz. 

That was the kind of music at the concerts he and my mother attended assiduously on Long Island and in Manhattan (a few times even Vienna and Milan!).

That was the music on my father's old radio, the one perched on the sill of the open window of the garage, just to the left of the basketball hoop, which would accompany him as he wandered his garden in Hicksville in search of petal perfection.
Shoot -- maybe he could have even been a classical music show host.

Plus, it's nice to hear music. Especially after a long stint of silence.

And maybe, as they say, classical music will help shape the young mind in our care.

One day, while Chopin was playing on this new clock radio, Leo wandered into the kitchen and turning toward the sound remarked appreciatively, "Ahhh ... piano music." 


Monday, April 11, 2022

Lost garden (Avon Journal)

April 11, 2021

Avon journal

My mother laments the state of the garden, but my father’s stewardship saw to it that the yard today is positively crowded with daffodils. And the magnolia tree is blooming, and a mourning dove is nesting on the ladder by the side of the garage. There are even flowers in the pots that line the alley. The garden is still vibrant, and the arbor  (though overgrown and neglected) is still a triumph, a genteel structure that makes the backyard into an 8-year-old boy’s maze. Yesterday afternoon, Leo entertained himself by climbing my father's trees, riding his scooter in the alley and playing soccer with me; he was happy; resourceful; he loves the way the garden is lush with all kinds of flowers and trees. He rummaged a bit in the garage/shed (a little boy’s paradise); and he helped me pick daffodils after we arrived Friday night.

For Leo, nothing has changed and so maybe for me it is that way, too. 

Lost diary entry

Sunday, April 03, 2022

4 months in, requiem (again) for the man who taught me 'requiem'

I keep a digital journal in a Word file on my computer, and when I have written 30 pages or so of journal entries, I start a new file. It's always labeled by the date of the first entry, and sometimes I add a word or two to convey mood or season. Like 'Covid.' (Or 'Second Covid Fall,' ahem).

The journal I am filling now is labeled "5 December 2021 -- JOURNAL -- Babbo." 

Babbo. Daddy.

It felt right to begin a new journal that day, the day he died. The day a new era, like or not, began.

Since then, we've recorded our first Christmas without him. We charged into a new year -- without him. And my mother has moved into a nursing home.

Time doesn't heal all wounds -- it distracts you, with new events, new worries, new frivolities. I suppose that's if you're lucky.

But there are still moments of wretched clarity. A few days after Christmas, I was listening to holiday music on the stereo after dinner -- something he would do -- and perhaps the buzz of the wine at dinner combined with the glow of an afternoon meander made me vulnerable and made it plain what I had somehow forgotten while walking, eating, tidying: He’s dead, gone, never coming back. Not anywhere I can reach. Not even estranged from me but still alive. 

“The dead stay dead,” to quote, once again, the erstwhile Bennington poet, Donald Hall. 

Put a different way: Requiem for the man who taught me the word 'requiem.'

(He loved to listen to requiems, my father).

Certain ideas become clear and they probably sound absurd to repeat but here goes one: Life was better before he died.

Well, of course, right?

But now I know that we've crossed a border from which there is no turning back. And I mean, wow, what days those were when he was still vigorous and bouncing my son on his knees.

Friends, you're wiser than me so you probably knew to savor the moment when your child bounced on your father's knee.

Driving home one day from my mother's nursing home, I thought about his voice (as I mentioned in his second obit, it was an instrument that could entertain, thunder, threaten and tease), thought about what it would sound like to hear it, wondered if he could see me crying in my car.

I thought about how interesting I found him. How his curiosity -- and the drive with which he pursued the objects of his curiosity -- was formidable, how it completely informed me. Informed my life, my personality. You could probably call me "vigorous" and it's borrowed vigor. Learned vigor.

It’s like I wish someone had told me this: the part of your life where your parents are still alive and well is what matters. Afterwards? Yeah, well, ahem...

To be sure, they will also annoy you during those golden days! Kvetching, exerting pressure, advancing opinions you don't want to hear, or, in the case of my father, mentioning repeatedly "what you ought to do." (You = me).

But what's notable: you're still making memories with them.

We've reached four months without my father, and there are no new memories. 

I've cried a proverbial river of tears. But often the sentiment closest to my state of mind -- if I am lucky -- is sarcastic disbelief. “You gotta be fucking kidding me”: that’s my actual thought when I stop and think that Daddy has died. When I spot his face in the photo on my computer background, with that smug-but-friendly smile.

Him? They got him?

Scarcely seems possible. 

And yet here we are.

Like I said, as I stumble through what we may later call 'the first year after Daddy died,' I come to all kinds of absurd conclusions -- like there ought to be a class for preparing for your parents' decline and subsequent demise. Because when I care for my mother now, I do everything wrong (or at least awkward, delayed, confused) and I believe it's because I am in some ways shell-shocked. We spent decades teasing her but now I realize we did so with the tacit conviction that she was still an awesome authority figure. Still a full-fledged adult who didn't need us to do anything but act responsible or set the table.

Now she's so vulnerable in every way and I am unprepared for it all. This situation could go on for years and I still think I would be expecting her to "be in charge." To remember that today is Tuesday (or Saturday, as the case may be), to know that Leo is in the fourth grade, to have activities she wants to pursue.

To end this blog post in a somewhat cheery way -- or grimly cheerful -- I suppose I could say, "Consider the alternative."

That I wouldn't be mourning him so keenly. And I guess that is the cost of love. Life's greatest gift, which if handled correctly will have you bursting into tears as you head for the Tappan Zee, your mother's nursing home receding in the distance.