martedì, settembre 16, 2014

Grana Padano

We're in Padova, the city I lured the F-word away from almost eight years ago with my post-thesis wiles. And coming to a better understanding of what he sacrificed to be with me. Living in Padova when he was living here was pretty much the perfect time for him to be living here and he only got ten months (four of them with blue balls). No kids, really too young to worry about the absence of social services, and this is a great city, especially for pinkos like us. This sort of intersection between what most people understand of Italy, and of Germany, and some sort of champagne socialist paradise full of bike paths, universities, music and theatre. . . and then all full of Giottos and Roman ruins and 20 minutes from Venice.

Funny . . . I have a pretty well-kept and indexed archive of all the sacrifices I've made for people, and let's be frank, particularly for the F-word. But I'm so good at tossing sacrifices people have made for me into the memory hole.  

mercoledì, settembre 10, 2014

Your slacks match your loafers

So anyways . . . this cousin of mine. The son of the woman I nearly clocked the other day because she was trying to check my attempts to let my son walk up a forest trail he really wanted to walk up. I love my cousin very, very much. He is a nice person and has a good brain. He's also been doing the same undergrad degree for the last 24 years.

We've all heard stories (haven't we?) about Italian men still living with their mammas, getting cooked for and cleaned for and otherwise taken care of well into their middle age or until their incompetencies can be handed off for a wife to enjoy. Well, this guy is the extreme end of that; he has never had a moment of anything like even the possibility of independent living. His job has been giving his mother something to do by endlessly. Fucking. Fretting. About his health, about his driving, about his clothes, about his diet, about everything, in fact, except apparently his ability to function in the world independently of his parents.

The way she has raised him, to treat every tiny contretemps like a huge and intimidating mountain that is not necessarily there to be climbed, has left him . . . not soft . . . but slack. And I write that as someone who's loosely strung herself, but I've been more or less taking care of myself for awhile now, or at least splitting burdens with the F-word, so I don't think we're talking the same category of thing.

And if I sound like I'm blaming her too much, that's not fair of me. His father helped by handing off responsibility for raising the children to their mother - let her exercise the one power Italian women of her generation got to exercise. He gets pissy his son is so slack, and has arrived at middle age still so dependent, but he never did a damn thing to prevent it.

ANYWAYS. In my head it's been a pity for awhile that my cousin is as he is. He could have been a much happier person if he had been allowed to dip his toe in the deep end once in awhile (literally - he lives next to some of the most beautiful tideless beaches in the world and was never allowed to go in the water. Can't swim). But it hadn't been a thing that riled me until my aunt tried to do it to Godzilla. And then it REALLY riled me. It still riles me . . . I'm glad we're leaving so soon because she's going to keep doing it, even if I get positively ruder. She can't help it. That should make me more compassionate, but as the F-word said the other day on a different topic, "it's only not his fault in the same way that nothing is anybody's fault."

I have a lot of fears for Godzilla's future, most of which I just sit on and don't think about, because why would you? But one of them that I've been forced to think through here this last week is a fear of him ever suffering this slackness. This helplessness . . . this inability to see anything but problems. Because un-Pollyannaish and bitchy as I am, I honestly believe most things that aren't actively nice aren't problems either - they're just a bunch of things that happen that you deal with - and real problems are few and far between. And I don't see how life would be bearable if you couldn't believe that. 

Momma Bear

Well, I knew she was in there somewhere, and I had wondered what was going to make her come out. There's a bratty three year old next door in Melbourne we spend a lot of time with who has kicked and hit Godzilla, but that didn't do it - well, not really. Godzilla didn't complain and the brat's mother took him to task, so I didn't really do anything about it but tell the F-word about the "nasty little bastard" later, which to him somehow counted as Momma Bear coming out but I thought was just me talking.

No, Momma Bear came out yesterday while we and the extended family were walking up to a Jesus statue on the tallest peak of Aspromonte. Godzilla, being awesome, was insisting on doing most of the walking himself, though the trail was terrible. He was doing an awesome job and having such a good time. And of course he kept falling. I was there and made sure the falls were never around anything pointy or eye-pokey-outy, which was hard work but worth it. Calabria isn't a kid-friendly place. There are very, very few spots Godzilla can go full throttle and run/climb/play here. And as far as I'm concerned running, climbing, and playing are absolutely fucking key to his pleasure and his brain development so both Godzilla and I had a lot of commitment to the fun he was having on this mountain path, frequent supervised tumbles included.

But we were with this aged female relative of ours, who, every time he tumbled, would yell out a "Madonna!" or a "Minaccia!" or variations thereon, and constantly order her son (of whom more later) to pick up and carry mine - of course I forbid that. It got to be too much for her on the fifth or sixth tumble, and she darted for him herself, though I was right next to him making sure about the eyes not being put out, etc. And Momma Bear came right out. Well, not right out. I felt a strong urge to clock her, or at the very least grab her by the arm and push her away, but instead I dialed it down to interposing myself between her and Godzilla, and actually yelling "lascia!" at her. Which by my standards of comportment is desperately rude. It didn't make a difference to her behaviour toward Godzilla for the rest of the outing, but she has been frostier to me ever since.

I feel badly about it. I've always considered this woman silly, but also a kind-hearted and much-loved aunt, who can't help being silly - not the way women of her generation were brought up in these fucking mountain towns. When you're not working, there's nothing to do but gossip or fret, so of course you become fucking experts at both. I feel a lot of compassion for her, because of that background and because of her age. So I feel badly. But mostly I'm still pissed off. Momma Bear is not back in the cave yet. And in one sense I'm surprised that what was basically an act and feeling of tenderness from a near relative is what made Momma Bear come out. Anybody, I think, who has spent more than five minutes in a room with Godzilla and I knows that I'm all about the cuddles, and even this woman was impressed and a little confused that the boy is still breastfed. Certainly when Godzilla cries, which at this point is probably once every three days, I'm all over him with cuddles and comforting.

In another sense, I'm not surprised at all, because for years, even before Godzilla was born but especially since Godzilla was born, I've had a massive bone to pick with this woman over what she has done to her son with her overprotectiveness, so when she extended that to my own son it filled me with fucking fury.

More later . . . bacon to bring home now. 

mercoledì, settembre 03, 2014

Rainbows and shit

In Calabria, which has been suffering from the same resource curse for the last 3,000 years, and is therefore still saturated in some sort of primordial Hellenic, Mediterranean stew from which not only my patrilineal family emerged, but from which big old swathes of European culture emerged. Being from this part of the world gives one a special perspective on our foundation "classical" culture. One of them is how boring things were most of the time, which is probably the same all over the world in cultures without uncloistered women, widespread literacy and universal horse ownership. Another is how easy it is, because of it being so boring, to initiate and maintain vendettas, from the catty to the deadly, just to fucking well give yourself something to think about.

And the third is how all those great big religions came out of here. Partly because of the boredom - not so much because religion is something to do, as because when life is crushingly fucking monotonous, already fascinating things like sickness, war, orgasms, childbirth, death and fertility must feel like the fucking Guardians of the Galaxy. It's also because of the beauty.

Example: I was having a rainy run on the Lungomare this morning, looking across the Straits of Messina at Sicily, and dapples of sun were hitting the sides of the mountains there as Mount Etna disappeared up into the storm clouds. And those sun-dappled vales were full of rainbows. It was fucking ridiculous, how beautiful it was. Now, thanks to grade-school science projects, I can give you a reasonably cogent explanation for how the sun, volcanoes, clouds, mountains and rainbows work, in technical terms. But as I was looking at this fucking retardedly beautiful sight and all those technical explanations were spilling into my consciousness, my logical mind was the part of me that was saying "Don't be stupid, Jessica, that's obviously because of fairies or some sort of God or something like that."

If I hadn't been raised in a religious environment, I would have had to make up some sort of religion right there. And probably an agonistic one, since on one side of me there was this fucking ocean-green-sloped-mountain-volcano-sun-stormcloud-buncha-rainbows extravaganza of unbelievable beauty, and on the other side of me was Reggio, the murder capital of Europe that has never really recovered from its utter devastation over a hundred fucking years ago. I've made my feelings about Reggio clear before. I've seen more dumps since then but this place is still pretty much vying for top spot on the list. Pretty much the aesthetic opposite of rainbows and sun-dapples. Especially when the weather is as shitty as it is right now.  

martedì, agosto 26, 2014

Yes, I quite liked it

I have a lot of serious things I could be blogging about right now, from literal shit that comes out of bums to existential panic and anger over realizing that if I'm lucky I'm going to have maybe 20 more visits with my parents in my life and they're not taking every step they possibly can to remain healthy for as long as possible, but instead I think I'll just write about Guardians of the Galaxy

The first time I saw Flash Gordon was about two years ago, which was down to the F-word being shocked I'd never seen it and forcing me to watch it. He's a few years older than me and had considerably less protective parents in matters PG, which means he saw it when it was first released, by which point I don't think I even knew how to drool yet. I liked it an awful lot, having a taste for bombastic, awesome stupidity (see how much I like Game of Thrones and the works of the Bronte sisters), and being thrilled to find the correct context for the music of Queen. 

(I also liked the fact that it was so easy to find photos of the male lead's schlong on the Internet. Not that it's an awesome schlong or anything, but commercialized female nudity is not going away, so the only scenario a realistic feminist can hope for is the death of modern male modesty. That's right, men. Swing that pipe for the sisterhood. Don't act like penile display wasn't the fucking norm for our species for countless millenia until you decided to hide it like a bunch of blushing little Queen Victorias and invent war and exploitative economic systems to commodify women, in a desperate bid to avoid the possibility maybe somebody someday might laugh at your wiener.)  

At the same time, I was angry watching Flash Gordon because I was already in my mid-thirties, and had seen, probably, thousands of film and television productions with more suspendy-disbelievable special effects. So I knew even as I was enjoying it that my enjoyment was but a tiny, tiny fraction of what it might have been had that movie come out when I was somewhere between six and sixteen, when instead I got - what - Labyrinth? Okay, that was pretty awesome, but not really bombastic or stupid. Princess Bride? Yeah sure . . . if they had cast Bruce Campbell instead of Cary Elwes. Oh my god. That movie would have been so fucking good if they had cast Bruce Campbell instead of Cary Elwes. Can you fucking imagine how good that move would have been with Bruce Campbell instead of Cary Elwes? I could, while I was sitting there watching Flash Gordon and getting angry over how it and anything like it had failed to come out during my most suspendy-disbelievy years, and it made me even more fucking angry because I'd had to have a Princess Bride with Cary Elwes instead of Bruce Campbell instead. Such fucking bullshit

The point of all this was that seeing Guardians of the Galaxy in 3D in a large theater was as close as I have ever come to enjoying Flash Gordon on the airy, bombastic, stupid and awesome level that I would have liked to enjoy it. But for two things: the inclusion of the Piña Colada song, which made me feel like the director just picked his soundtrack at random from an oldies station instead of choosing actually awesome songs; and not being really fucking high.

This counts as a recommendation. 

giovedì, agosto 21, 2014

When I can't say anything nice . . .

. . . I come here.

Have you ever met a total douchebag, and then for coincidental reasons become quite well-acquainted with their family, and their family is lovely so you wonder how the douchebag got to be so douche-y, but then after a couple of years I guess the family gets comfortable with you and you realize where all the douche in the bag came from?

Also, unrelated but pertaining to the same category:

Have you ever met a total douchebag who was actually the sort of really useful person whose social conscience and energy makes the world go around, but is a douchebag nonetheless - not because they give their A-game at work and not at home, but because they get pissed off when they decide their partner isn't giving their A-game at home so they're just a big old nasty hypocrite so far as the people who actually have to spent time with them are concerned?

Anyways, neither of these are really my problems, and the second one, hopefully, won't be anybody's problem soon, at least not in my family.

I'm "home", in Canada, at the mo. Godzilla is having an awesome time with cousins and uncles and grandparents and I'm having a pretty good time. Particularly with my brothers. Maybe having a child has launched me past part of the almost generational gap that had hitherto existed between us. They're a lot older than I am but that "lot" means less with every passing year. Before long we're all just going to be middle aged. Arguably we already are. I don't feel middle aged and they mostly don't look middle aged, and if we can stay off the sauce, judging by the patterns of our older generations, we're not statistically middle aged . . . but there you are.