Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Walks part II

It is weird to think that I arrived in Milan only a month ago and it snowed, was dark in the morning and seemed to always be grey. Yesterday morning I passed these plastic trees on the way to the grocery. What colors!

One or two nights a week I eat dinner at school. Walking to the cafeteria to study before my meal, I pass the main building at Cattolica and the Basilica. Lately, the moon has been there too, all thin in the evening.

Last week I got off the metro somewhere new and passed this tower of multicolored tiles. I have no idea what it is. I will call it the Alien Tower of Mosaics. Tomorrow morning there is a general strike of transportation so I will be addressing and stamping your postcards. I don't think the post office goes on strike here but I don't think it is ever very fast.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Is This What They Mean When They Say Life Goes in Circles?

In my Italian Conversation class today, we were supposed to be prepared to talk about our favorite place in Milan. I was so excited because Thursday morning I had discovered it--the Cimitero Monumentale, which, as you may have figured out, is a cemetery. A huge beautiful cemetery in the middle of the city that is surprisingly quiet. It is packed with tombs and sculptures, monuments and chapels, trees and paths. I was there for an hour but could've stayed.

My teacher called on students who talked about the Duomo, their favorite apertivo place, or cafe. As my turn approached I still had not realized how weird it is to choose a cemetery as your favorite place.

I spoke. My teacher raised an eyebrow. Class continues. And then I remembered all the other cemeteries I've enjoyed. I used to walk to a cemetery near my house when I was in high school. Around that time one of my teachers told his daughters I was Wednesday Adams which sounded less rude than it does right here. So I like cemeteries. They are quiet. Is it weird to think about how you'd like to be remembered? To think about your own mortality and what you will do with your one wild life (I'm paraphrasing Mary Oliver)? No way. It may be just like high school but now I don't care if you think it is weird to like a cemetery. It is a pretty amazing cemetery.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Scenes From Home

It is warmer in Milan, and sunny, even if the haze hangs on. I've been outside a lot lately and I have things to show you but today I was a little lazy. First, because it is sunny and wonderful and this is the view outside my window.

Also, last night I stayed up late printing postcards! I have a new purple pen for writing so they should be on their way in a week or so. I had a few minor difficulties and used most of a tube of ink on the first color. This will only make the last postcard here that much more exciting as I run out of things or realize they really are broken. Turns out gocco prints don't dry as fast as I thought so they are a little sloppy and I took over the whole kitchen.

I cleaned off my nightstand today, which doubles as a tiny desk. I also bought some water-soluble pencils at the art store and started making postcards with the left over passport photos I have. First, it seems like everything here requires an id card which requires a form and at least 2 photos. That means there are photo booths in most of the subway stops. I have many tiny pictures of myself trying not to blink at the flash.

Monday, February 20, 2012

School Days

You don't have to be wicked smart to know that studying something in the place where it originated is pretty awesome. Primary sources. Last week, my renaissance art class went to the Santa Maria della Grazie church, mostly famous for housing the last supper but also interesting architecturally. Our class got a private tour from a Dominican Friar who was patient with our questions and picture-taking.

I have an hour between lunch and class. When it is cold or raining, I study in the library. But some days, I walk around the block. The sunny days have been wonderful.

Almost every day I walk up this twisting staircase to the 4th floor for class, or to snag a free postcard. Lots of looking up lately. It is cold and rainy today in Milan but I've started thinking about other places I want to visit. For tomorrow though, there is this staircase.

Sunday, February 19, 2012


It didn't rain today after all. I had a great rainy day plan to read, cook tofu, and make an image for next month's postcard. Somehow, my homework takes me four times as long as it should. But I still made it out of the house to walk around the park, through the neighborhood and to the only grocery open on a Sunday afternoon. I've been looking up a lot lately--some of these are from today and some from this week. Now to get to work on a postcard.

Monday, February 13, 2012

"We Enjoy It While We Have It"

My grandma passed away a few days ago. I've been snapping photos to share with you but I haven't felt much like writing or talking about too much. But then I remembered something my grandma said a few years ago. She was 95 when she died. Two of her four sons died before her, as well as her husband, and all of her close friends. Even her husband's brothers. But two months ago when I visited, my grandma still knew what was going on around her and answered the phone "Come stai?" to her cousin though I had never heard her speak Italian.

It's been cold, too, so the walks have been shorter and with more purpose. But one of the best things about walking around a new place is how you look at things. Everything is different. So it makes sense to notice the Madonna relief carved two stories high. Or how tiny and "The Shining"-like the elevator seems. What I want to remember, always, is to look at everything this way, to always notice, walk slowly, try a different road.

My second favorite thing about travelling is an excuse to try sweets often. I bought these the other night on my way home. They looked innocent enough, rolled in almonds, but I didn't realize they were soft, almost macaroon-like and inside, a little candied cherry. The good brandy kind, not the red red maraschino creation.

One more thing: Cheapstamatic launched their new website today. For those of us without smartphones, it is a way of making snazzy Polaroid looking prints. About half the photos I post were edited on this site. Try it out. The designer of the site is sweet as those cookies. Though I don't think he is rolled in chopped almonds.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

La zuppa della mia nonna

My grandma was not a good cook. Sicilian but she overcooked everything--chicken, rice, you name it. But she made good soup. Probably because it is hard to dry out soup without calling it something else. It is the first thing I learned to cook that was edible and my favorite simple thing to eat in winter.

Last week, my grandma had a massive stroke and a heart attack, the day I arrived in Milan. She is 95 and has signed a "do not resuscitate" form and this is her second stroke. I saw her in November and she was still very clear of mind. Stubborn, but that has nothing to do with her age. At Christmas, I wrote to her in Italian and my Dad she she understood it. Tonight I am making her soup, lots of onions and carrots, no chicken anymore, cheese on top.

After I talked to my sister, I walked around the park again, getting a new view on what is becoming my favorite place in Milan. I listened to an old favorite album, walked over the snow and thought about a hundred things that make time feel long and spread out and good and sad, all at once. Buonanotte, i miei amici.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Still Cold Here

Apparently, I am not the only one not used to snow. The news here is full of talk about people having trouble with the cold, dying, getting snowed it. It is sort of crazy to see photos of Rome with snowplows because it was so hot when I was there in 2010.

Along with the USPS, this month I have to thank Andy G. and the man at the American Airlines info desk at JFK for helping to get this month's postcard out on time. Andy took the first 50 postcards and presumably mailed them after I left town. I took the other 50, addressed them on my flight to New York and finished them before going through security at JFK. The American Airlines employee said I could leave mail with him and the mail carrier would pick them up. I don't think he expected 50 postcards.

Yesterday, after getting my metro pass (too old for a student pass! but I am a student!), I ventured out to Lambrate Station to see this large peice by Blu. Bike crushes cars! It was a little worn away but still awesome. Yeah! for art in Italy.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Che bella luce!

My third day in Milan I slept in a little. It stopped snowing and the sun was out. I stopped in the park near my apartment to check on its post-snow progress. It was covered and quiet and lovely.

I had planned on running errands for school, getting permits and passes and such but I forgot my passport at home. After navigating the Italian university cafeteria (wine as a fountain drink!) and a necessary post-meal coffee, I accepted the sun and relatively warm weather as a gift, busted out the map and walked to the duomo.

Maybe I don’t mind the snow because it is not as cold as it could be. There is no ice and the sun was out. By the time I got the duomo, it was mid-afternoon and the light was lovely. The snow stuck to the many outcroppings on the building, on outstretched arms of saints, and to tree branches.

I walked around the Galleria, window shopping, bought a book in English and Italian, felt so smart for navigating it all in Italian. The sun was going down, the moon was coming out. I passed the public gardens, the moon was coming out. I walked until it was almost dark, stopping at a sleek bar for a drink and snacks. By then, the long walk and lovely light had its toll. I am not sure what I was saying to the waiter, but immediately an English-speaking waitress helped, gave me the “house special” and I sat myself, embarrassed. But the best thing about embarrassing yourself in front of strangers is, well, they are strangers. And I may never see them again. So I sat at a table near the window, watched the last of the day’s light disappear between the buildings, and took the subway home.

Thursday, February 2, 2012


Andy took this photo of our kitchen on Lover's Lane where neither of us now live. My last weeks there I realized just how cozy it was and how I would miss it.

I arrived in Milan to sun and a little snow on the ground. I did not know that the first real snow of the season was coming and I would spend two days walking to and from the Metro in slow falling snow. I've been taking wrong turns, some accidental, some intentional, but I have been discovering good things. Like the veggie friendly take out place where I can get pizza pie, or veggie burger Italian style and fruit or juice, all with my meal ticket from school. I also found a park near my house where I walked for a bit on my way home the other day.

I sleep under a big window with a good skyline of buildings and a tree. I took this photo at night as more snow fell. The accumulation isn't much, its more atmospheric, but after ten winters in Louisiana, it reminds me of living in a snowy city.

When I got to my apartment, I immediately taped maps and posters to my new wall. Which I immediately had to remove because I was in the wrong room. But here is my new room, complete with calendar from Pegacorn Press (thanks for the trade Caroline!) , traveling advice from Bremelo Press and handmade paper from Amy Jacobs that I have had with me for a few years.

The snow is on the ground, it is bright, and I finally slept a bunch. Time to explore!