Someone Like Us, A Photograph of Love

“We fall in love because we long to escape from ourselves with someone as beautiful, intelligent, and witty as we are ugly, stupid, and dull. But what if such a perfect being should one day turn around and decide they will love us back? We can only be somewhat shocked-how can they be as wonderful as we had hoped when they have the bad taste to approve of someone like us?”
– Alain de Botton

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The American | In Italia: Living: Lost in Translation – A Barbarian for Dinner

Below you will find a link to my column Lost in Translation and my latest article, A Barbarian for Dinner: showcasing my frustration at the differences between the “American” style of table etiquette and the ever difficult, “Continental” style.

http://www.theamericanmag.com/article.php?article=4415

Lisboa, adoro-te – My thoughts on Lisbon, Portugal

José Saramago, Portugal’s renowned Nobel Prize winner, once wrote, “We always arrive in the place where someone is waiting for us.”

What if, however, that “someone” is a city? After all, do cities not have hearts? I believe they do. Some are warm and some are cold, but each has it’s own essential personality/characteristics. Do we arrive at a city which “is waiting for us”? It’s how I felt about Lisbon – it had been waiting for my visit. For years I’d been wanting to go, but somehow other trips would take precedence and I’d let the notion of Portugal go for the time being.

Until recently.

Before my departure, a friend of mine (someone quite wealthy) gave me her account of Lisbon.

“Well, it’s kind of…dirty. Run down. But I liked it…sort of,” she recounted.

Though my Lisbon, (Can I call it that? Mine? Will he be upset that I have claimed him, the city, as my own, such the foreigner that I am? And why have I deemed him male when other cities such as Rome are so female to me?) was far from “dirty” (Although I’ve always been partial to dirt) and there was no “sort of” in my opinion. My love for the city is definitive. After all, I just laid claim to it here, didn’t I?

It was lovelier than other cities I’ve been to and it wasn’t because it’s cleanliness or cohesive architecture (which I love architecture so very much.) In fact, Lisbon is quite a mess architecturally, so to speak. Expensive buildings mixed with cheap prison-looking facades of recent took my eyes by surprise. However…. inside of that mess lies the kind of beauty that Neruda speaks of in one of his famous Love Sonnets.

“There are purer than you, purer.
There are lovelier than you, lovelier.”
….
“When you go through the streets
No one recognizes you.
No one sees your crystal crown, no one looks
At the red carpet of gold
That you tread as you pass.
The nonexistent carpet.”

I saw the crystal crown of the city and it’s people though…each time I took a walk…

I came to appreciate the beautiful buildings much more so than in any other place I’ve had the pleasure to visit. The perpetual underdog of Europe has something that the other more aesthetically pleasing cities don’t – it has the mess. Because you see, in between the architectural wonders of centuries past are ugly monstrosities of buildings irupted like small pox during the sixties and seventies to replace the fallen down ancient structures. By seeing the lovely original buildings next to the nasty replacements, I appreciated the beauty even more-so than in those cities where nothing is out-of-place and every facade blends with the next..

And the people? They have the same flavor as the buildings. They’ve been built up, torn down, burned down, smacked down and built again….only to remain strong.

I was right at home.

In conclusion, Lisboa, adoro-te

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Friendship, A Photograph of Life in Lisbon

“Friendship is a precious thing, Sayuri. One mustn’t throw it away.”
– Arthur Golden, Memoirs of a Geisha

They sat outside on a small make-shift bench laughing and enjoying the warm evening. When asked if I could take their photo they straightened up a bit, making sure to pull their dresses down properly and graced me with beautiful smiles while they giggled to each other. I was reminded how important the women in my life are. So this photo is for all the women I am fortunate enough to call my girlfriends and family….

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Here, A Photograph of Life in Lisbon

“Poverty is the parent of revolution and crime.”
– Aristotle

Here I found no pretense.
Here I found neighbors filling the small bar housed next to the neighborhood soccer field to watch the game together – children laughing.
Here I found a better representation of life in the city of Lisbon than anywhere else.
Here I found authenticity and I suppose, a sample of Portugal’s own 99%.

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Door, A Photograph of Lisbon, Portugal

“There are such moments in life, when, in order for heaven to open, it is necessary for a door to close.”
– José Saramago

The first post from Lisbon, Portugal, or anywhere for that matter, should be a door. After all, upon entering a new place, you have to open the door first.

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A Mongolian Symphony

“My soul is a hidden orchestra; I know not what instruments, what fiddlestrings and harps, drums and tamboura I sound and clash inside myself. All I hear is the symphony.”
― Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet

First came my birth….and my orchestra.

— When my parents brought me home from the hospital the day I was born, my siblings asked why they had brought home a “Chinese baby.” I only knew of my Italian, Irish and Eastern European roots while growing up. It’s what we all knew.

— Upon seeing photos of my two sons, most people ask if their father is Asian. He’s not – his heritage is German and Italian.

— I had a boyfriend once who would tease me, always joking that I must have Chinese in me because the way I held my face.

— A few years ago I had some body work done with a well-known physical therapist. To assess the alignment of my body he measured each of my bones that he could feel. When he came to my pelvis he said, “Hmm, that’s strange. You have an extra floating bone. It’s rare and I’ve only seen it in Asian women. Are you of Asian descent?” I told him no.

— I frequently dream of horses – riding horses, seeing horses in a barn, helping injured horses and watching wild horses.

— When my brother got married many years ago, his wife’s co-worker asked, in her thick southern accent, “Is that boy white? Or Asian?”

Throughout the years, we’d all shake our heads, shrug our shoulders and laugh at the comments; never thinking beyond the extra bones, slightly slanted eyes and wild horse dreams.

Then came a blood test.

A few months ago my parents decided to have a blood test done to chart their individual DNA, and as you can guess by my post, we found out an interesting piece of information about my ancestors. It seems a small percentage of my mother’s DNA is of Mongolian descent.

Then an old theory I read once.

Some scientist believe that within our DNA there also lives memories. Memories not formed by us, but our ancestors. Passed down from generation to generation the imprint is so strong, that it can even influence our decision-making. I suppose this cellular memory is also linked to quantum physics, as cells are energy matter.

Along with an idea.

While driving and considering my next article for The American Mag on…you guessed it… DNA and cellular memories, I decided that the next new continent I’ll visit will be Asia – Mongolia to be precise. Yes, Mongolia.

Europe is always near and dear to my heart and I’ll continue to split my time between Here and There, although my travel to Mongolia next year will take precedence within my wandering mind. And from what I can tell, much planning must be done (something I am generally loath to preemptively do so this should be interesting.)

I don’t know how long I’ll stay. I assume it will be a few weeks to a month maybe. I don’t what I’ll do either, though horses will surely be involved at some point or another, and maybe, just maybe, I’ll acquire another instrument for the symphony inside of my soul.

Pretty, A Photograph Lacking

“Let us leave pretty women to men with no imagination.”
– Marcel Proust

Although not my typical photo style, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to snap it. The fake skin, the fake nails, the fake drink – the clock ticking in the background. Also considering I am a Proust fan, his words added just the right touch…and honesty.

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Ruins, A Photograph of Advancement

It seems, in fact, that the more advanced a society is, the greater will be its interest in ruined things, for it will see in them a redemptively sobering reminder of the fragility of its own achievements. Ruins pose a direct challenge to our concern with power and rank, with bustle and fame. They puncture the inflated folly of our exhaustive and frenetic pursuit of wealth.”
– Alain de Botton
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Bread, A Photograph of Kindness

“Are you upset little friend? Have you been lying awake worrying? Well, don’t worry…I’m here. The flood waters will recede, the famine will end, the sun will shine tomorrow, and I will always be here to take care of you.”
– Charles M Schulz
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Auspicious Blackbirds

Yesterday while walking my dog, a flight of birds flew over our heads and I stopped to watch them. There seemed to be hundreds of them but I couldn’t tell the variety. Five minutes before the bird dance I had been listening to Eddie Vedder’s version of Blackbird while doing my dishes. “Auspicious” I thought to myself. Or perhaps hoped.

They moved in complete synchronicity with one another; darting one direction and then another. The movements seemed playful to me and I envisioned smiles on their little beaks as they followed the leader before filling a tree close by.

I dream every night and have since I was a child and many of those nights I’ve been flying like a bird. I’ve never dreamt I actually was a bird, just that I can fly like a bird. Not surprising, if I should come back in another life, I’d like it to be as a bird. You may be thinking, “Oh she wishes to have freedom,” as the bird is so representative of freedom. Although that’s only part of it really. My desire is much simpler than that – I only wish to see things from a bird’s perspective and I like the playfulness of the little creatures.

In my bird-like dreams, after my air exploration, I always have a hard time landing back on earth…and if that isn’t a complete representation of my essence, I don’t know what is.  And so in honor of the flock of birds, my bird-like dreams and auspicious events, I give you Eddie Vedder —

 

Contemplation, A Photograph of Hawaii

“Life is an experimental journey undertaken involuntarily. It is a journey of the spirit through the material world and, since it is the spirit that travels, it is the spirit that is experienced. That is why there exist contemplative souls who have lived more intensely, more widely, more tumultuously than others who have lived their lives purely externally.”
– Fernando Pessoa

I’ve spent the better part of the week in Hawaii with my sons. What I find interesting about the islands is that for as beautiful and pristine as they are, I struggle to be photographically inspired here. Don’t misunderstand please – the sunsets alone are photographed from visitors all over the world and I’m a sucker for a good sunset. The beaches, the aquatic world full of great sea turtles and fish the color of rainbows are what postcards are made from; though for me, while meditative, therefore giving me ample time to contemplate, they lack artistic inspiration; drama.

Take me to a city with interesting architecture and people and I can’t seem to put my camera down. Take me to the beaches where cameras abound, and I’m loathe to pick mine up. The photo below is one of the twenty I felt inspired to take. The man in the photo must’ve known he was being photographed because he quickly moved down the beach.

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Still, A Watercolor with Pablo Neruda

“Now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still.

For once on the face of the earth
let’s not speak in any language,
let’s stop for one second,
and not move our arms so much.

It would be an exotic moment
without rush, without engines,
we would all be together
in a sudden strangeness.

Fishermen in the cold sea
would not harm whales
and the man gathering salt
would look at his hurt hands.

Those who prepare green wars,
wars with gas, wars with fire,
victory with no survivors,
would put on clean clothes
and walk about with their brothers
in the shade, doing nothing.

What I want should not be confused
with total inactivity.
Life is what it is about;
I want no truck with death.

If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves with death.
Perhaps the earth can teach us
as when everything seems dead
and later proves to be alive.

Now I’ll count up to twelve
and you keep quiet and I will go.”
– Pablo Neruda
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The American | In Italia: Living: Lost in Translation: The Deep End, A Prose Poem

Below you will find a link to my column Lost in Translation and my most recent piece, “The Deep End” which is not a typical article, but more-so a prose poem. Anyone who knows me, knows that poetry is near and dear to my heart. Although the magazine does not typically publish poems, this particular prose was allowed – this one time.

http://www.theamericanmag.com/article.php?article=4326

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Girls Who Read, A Poem by Mark Grist

This video poem was sent to me recently. I don’t usually share videos on this forum, although not only did I find it entirely refreshing, but thought it worthwhile enough to share with all those girls out there like me, who may one day be found buried underneath a pile of books while others are found underneath a pile of make-up and clothes.