The American: In Italia, Big Nancy

Below you will find a link to my column Lost in Translation and my most recent article “Big Nancy” – a story about music, records, the past, love, and death…

http://www.theamericanmag.com/article.php?article=5289

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Escape, A Photograph and Manic Episode

“Writing a novel is a terrible experience, during which the hair often falls out and the teeth decay. I’m always irritated by people who imply that writing fiction is an escape from reality. It is a plunge into reality and it’s very shocking to the system.”
― Flannery O’Connor

So far, the process of writing a book is much like my own life – a roller coaster; manic, emotional, yet oddly fulfilling. There are days when I feel on top of the world and words flow seamlessly, one to the other, page after page. Although unfortunately, there even more days when the I feel my own black hole of insecurities and doubts take over and not a single word can escape.

Burdened by the reality of being a poor writer and artist, I often wonder why I’ve chosen such a “career” (if I can call it that.) After all, a nice high-paying job selling pharmaceuticals would surely allow me plenty of room to breath. Wouldn’t it?

Truly though, I suppose I’m experienced enough with in-authenticity to know that the air I’d inhale would be stifling, fake, and knowing me, I’d run for the hills. Boxes don’t suite me at all.

So instead I’ll remain here, on the fire escape, breathing in the manic and emotional air I’ve grown so accustomed to as I type away… and sigh

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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.

Will You Be Mine? My Global Search For Butterscotch Candy

“This is my country, that is your country; these are the conceptions of narrow souls – to the liberal minded the whole world is a family.”
― Virchand Gandhi

I grew up without grandparents.  Well, not exactly – I had one grandmother.  Unfortunately she didn’t like the idea of being a mother, let alone a grandmother.  Therefore she was unavailable.

I never much thought about it before; the whole no grandparent thing, until about eight years ago.  I met a woman named Doreen.  She was in her late seventies, British, strikingly beautiful and full of fire.  We sat on a non-profit board together and I got to know her well.  Sometimes she would be gone for a month or two – taking her grandchild to far off places like Africa and Thailand.

I once got a butterscotch life-savor from Katherine, my “grandmother” when she was staying with us a few weeks (until she got enough money for another apartment.)  My mother always helped her.  Us kids gave her her space.  She needed a lot of space.

Don’t get me wrong, I grew up happy with the butterscotch life-savor.  I had a very loving family life.  I didn’t need Africa or Asia.  Although after meeting and spending time with Doreen I concluded that I should like to have Doreen as MY grandmother.  She was so cool, so interesting, so devoted to her grandson who happened to live thousands of miles away.  I felt gipped all of a sudden.  It wasn’t fair.

And so began my search.

From that moment on, every place I visit I’m secretly looking for my grandparent.  When I meet them, I daydream about what it would be like to have grown up with them.  To have eaten their butterscotch candies.  To have been told all of the family stories and secrets while we ate homemade soup.

I’ve compiled a short list of perspective candidates from my last trip to Spain:

The sweet Lebanese man from Vancouver, BC sitting beside me on the flight to Seattle yesterday:  He wore a light grey suit.  Not enough men wear suits anymore.  His white hair was thick and combed neatly with a side part.  His face was calm; serene.  He didn’t watch movies or do anything but rest his eyes softly beside me.  He had a special diabetic meal so they served his meal first.  I hadn’t eaten much in days and when I looked to see what food he had been given he tried to hand me his utensils and asked if I would like to share.  I almost started crying.  The nice old Lebanese man who’d never met me was offering to share his food.  I declined and he asked “sure?” and then waited until my meal was served before he would begin to eat.  I worried about his diabetes.

He and I would meet on Saturday’s at the local Lebanese restaurant for lunch.  I would take his arm afterward and we would go for a nice walk – my Jidi and me.

The old woman with dyed brown hair and burgundy lipstick who helped me when I was lost in Eivissa:  She was a small woman, with a stern face.  She spoke no English.  I showed her my map and pointed to the hotel that I was staying at.  She pointed her crocked finger in the direction and then gently touched my arm and began her march with me.  She had been going the opposite way before I asked her.  Once in a while she would say something and then point.  I felt protected by her.  She stopped suddenly at an apartment building and another woman came out.  She was heavy, with a sweet face, a hunch in her back and a bad limp.  The old woman looked at me, said something sternly to her friend which made her look softly to me and smile and we were on our way – all three of us.  She left me only when I was safely in front of my hotel.  Her face soften again before she turned to march away.

She and I would cook together.  Me following her directions and her sternly telling me not to cook the potatoes so long.  Although a hard woman, I would see that my Abuela loved and protected me.

Mary Lou – The old woman who lived down the road from the finca I stayed at:  After being introduced to Mary Lou I was immediately in awe.  She was in her eighties, loved her garden, originally from France but had been living in Spain for thirty years.  She also spoke no English but invited us in her house to see the photo of her husband that hung over her bed.  He had died almost thirty years ago and she was still very much in love with him.  She never remarried.  Her eyes were as blue and bright as the sky.  I was captivated by her beauty and her sweet energy.  She would touch our arms to follow her to her windows, to her photos.  She was so obviously proud of all of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren.  I longed to be in her photos too.

Mémé and I would sit for hours while having tea.  She would tell me stories of growing up in France, of meeting my grandfather, the man of her dreams.  I would take her to the nursery to buy more flowers and she would insist I stay longer.

Today I’ve been invited by a dear friend to visit her in Sicily.  I wonder how my Sicilian grandparents will be….

Why Can’t We Be Friends, Part I

“No, no, no, I never said that… Yes, that’s right, they can’t be friends. Unless both of them are involved with other people, then they can… This is an amendment to the earlier rule. If the two people are in relationships, the pressure of possible involvement is lifted… That doesn’t work either, because what happens then is, the person you’re involved with can’t understand why you need to be friends with the person you’re just friends with. Like it means something is missing from the relationship and why do you have to go outside to get it? And when you say “No, no, no it’s not true, nothing is missing from the relationship,” the person you’re involved with then accuses you of being secretly attracted to the person you’re just friends with, which you probably are. I mean, come on, who the hell are we kidding, let’s face it. Which brings us back to the earlier rule before the amendment, which is men and women can’t be friends.”
-Harry Burns, When Harry Met Sally

Yesterday I had coffee with a girlfriend.  I haven’t seen her in a while as she’s been busy in a new relationship as have I.  During our catchings up, she voiced her frustration about her boyfriends ex-girlfriend’s continued contact with him.  Apparently, they dated a year, it didn’t work out, so they remain “friends.” I listened on as she explained their relationship and could tell this “friendship” really bothered her and I know why.  The truth is – Men and women can’t be friends – and I told her so.  I understand that some of you may read this and say, “What?  That’s totally wrong, yes we can.  One of my best friends is a man/woman!”  Though are they truly our friends?  Would we call them if we were upset….keeping in mind that it wouldn’t be a call for an ego boost or attention….but a call for comfort outside of our own ego.  I happen to be of the mindset that it simply isn’t possible.  I’m with Harry on this one.

I didn’t always think this way.  For years I would say that I got along better with men then women so had more of them as friends.  But who was I kidding?  There was not a single one of them that I could have truly called my friend.  Either I had a secret crush on them or they on me.  When my emotional world came a tumbling down, it wasn’t a man I called.  It was my girlfriends that rallied around me like some great elephant tribe and dusted me off.  I wouldn’t call a man to do that.  It’s not to say that these illusive relationships don’t exist, in fact I know of a few – but the men are gay and the women straight.  I myself happen to have a close friend who is a man – and he is as gay as the day is long.   How many heterosexual man/woman friendships do you really know of – where there has never been some underlying sexual desire or heart string attachment crush?

Then there is the ol’, “We used to date, but now we are just friends” scenario, which likely consists of one half of the couple not being happy while the other is smitten, a break up occurs and out of guilt, one offers a friendship and out of desperation, one accepts…..hoping for another opportunity to rekindle the romance at a future date.  I understand the argument that if it were mutual and both parties wanted an end to the relationship but not the “friendship” that sprouted during the romance, there can very well be a true friendship.  However, where is it written that if I sleep with you and feel love for you that I have to continue to be your friend after the break-up?  I researched this very question and found it nowhere in the books…. My ex-boyfriend is literally “friends” with all the women he has had relationships with (except yours truly) – and there are many.  They are sort of put in this category after the break-up of “Will call in case of emergency ego boost or loneliness.”  When I politely declined his invitation for a “friendship” after our break-up he was genuinely surprised.  I mean, who says no to a friendship?

One of my personal favorites is the inner-office “friendships” of the opposite sexes.  Interestingly enough, my other “ex,” that would be husband, is now in a relationship with an inner-office, much younger, “friend” who happened to end up in his bed at a conference in Vegas.  Within my own company I am privy to some interesting “friendships” of my co-workers.  Years ago, my father gave me some simple advise, “Don’t shit where you eat.”  I have most certainly always taken this to heart.  As it turns out, it was some of the only advise I actually followed…much to his dismay….

By the end of our coffee, my girlfriend admitted that she herself has never truly been friends with a man and that is why this “friendship” her boyfriend has with his ex really bothers her.  I don’t blame her either.  I feel fortunate that in my own new romantic relationship I haven’t had to deal with this as I have in the past.  Before we were finished she had decided to talk to him and to express her apprehension to continue dating a man who needed to maintain a friendship with a woman who didn’t want to break up with him in the first place…..such a fuzzy line it all is…. “Which brings us back to the earlier rule before the amendment, which is men and women can’t be friends.”