Saturday, September 19, 2009

Arriving in Italy with Argentines

The word for food in Italian is cibo, pronounced cheebo. Say it, "cheeboh," and you get the feel for what it's all about. There's a swallow, followed by an instant smile, then, with the aftertaste, an oh. Oh my.

The products themselves are why it's so delicious here - the cheese and produce and the right amount of seasoning in every wicked pizza slice. Do those products not travel well, when they make their way to Trader Joe's shelves? Or do they send us the lower quality of the batch? Is it something in the air here in the Emilia Romagna? It's way too tasty in this town.

People-watching on the streets is a similar experience. A look, a smile, an "oh my." The gall of it all - the matching, over-accessorized outfits, the patterns and colors and texture that scream for the attention. Attention the outfit owners so obviously gave in executing that look which, 9 times out of 10, is ridiculous enough to elicit an "oh my" the first few days you're in town. After, your eyes adjust a bit and your fashion tolerance augments to deal with the show of elegant grannies and fashion-forward little girls. Last week I went to the coast to hole up in a hostel. In Rimini, Italians jumped on the styles of recent immigrants from Central Africa - there were clusters of elderly Italian ladies strutting the beach boulevard in corn rows.

There's a silliness here that was missing in my world in Buenos Aires. You recognize Lady Gaga's Italian heritage in the fashion compositions of admin assistants walking through Bologna's city center to work. You enjoy the free buffet that comes with cocktail hour from 6:30pm to 9pm. You marvel at the Renaissance architecture in your daily life.

I got to Bologna one week ago and I'm settling in. School started last Monday, yesterday I went to a lecture by visiting MIT prof Richard Sennett. He's known for coming up with the 10,000-hour rule that appeared throughout Malcolm Gladwell's (The Tipping Point) recent bestseller, Outliers. Everything else is in Italian so it was fun to attend a lecture in the native tongue. By the time I leave I'll be the NYC master at ordering in Italian, waddling my way home from the plane.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Argentina tour, Jersey, and NYC

NYC is still the best city in the world and it's even better with a dash of Buenos Aires. My sister and Ash picked me up at JFK in an SUV they'd just bought for a trip across the US to their new home in Oakland, CA. We went straight to Nublu in the LES to play with Mataplantas, Loisaida style. It was amazing (and frightening) to play guitar and sing new songs at one of my favorite venues in NYC! Mataplantas killed it in proper plant fashion and made new fans who danced and sang along, Argentina was definitely in the building.

I had two days to visit with Mindy in New York and then she was out. We hung out in Fort Greene between them packing up house. Wednesday I moved into their place in Brooklyn for a few days before the subletter took over the apt. Then headed uptown to spend some time with Caroline before her engagement party. I hadn't been to the beach since Brazil in February so I caught a train to Asbury Park for a look at the Jersey Shore with art legend Jonathan Levine. Bowling, boardwalks, and post-punk art kept it interesting.

Three Argentines arrived at Shrine in Harlem Wednesday night, guitars in hand from the subway, urban culture waves crashing over their first visit to the US. They finished off the night with DJ Milk Money at Happy Ending back in the LES, pogo-ing to hip hop in a packed club. Milk played sampled drums and scratched to my guitar songs. The sound was rough (I need a plug-in acoustic) but the room was excellent - full of friends and local music-lovers. Anthony Coleman's Enoeca topped off the night with live soul covers and originals.

My last show was Friday at Pianos where Micah Gaugh and Tisra Dewitt played too, Redheadphone style making it my favorite show yet. Pablo from Mataplantas accompanied me on all of the NYC shows, making them so much better with his talent and buena onda. Pianos upstairs is always a good time. Taking drums in a cab to the West Village and then trying to catch up with Apollo Heights back in the East Village and finally hitting up Williamsburg to try to catch Milk Money's set made for a long NYC night. It was fun taking the train with the Plantkillers and getting a feel for their adventures in the Apple. They could move right to Bburg and get cozy in the indie scene no doubt.

Saturday was Mataplantas final show at Hecho en Dumbo (soon to be in the Bowery) where they shared the bill with Chilean Brooklyners Nutria NN. It was my favorite of their NYC shows, with new friends in the audience and Time Out NYC snapping photos. I had to take off mid-set to go to Caroline and David's engagement party uptown. I went the wrong way on the train, got caught in a brief thunderstorm, found a loony cabby and missed the party. Once in a while, the city gets in your way. Mataplantas had a better night than I did and it was great to see music plans work out so well.

The band went home on Monday and I saw friends and family and made it to the Heeb Magazine party at Union Pool. Then I was gone too. A long rough journey got me to Bologna, where I'm writing this in a cafe near my new home at the University of Bologna.