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All posts for the month December, 2007

CHRISMAKKAH IN MALLVILLE

Published December 28, 2007 by jean cohen

Buon Natale (belatedly) and Felice Anno Nuovo to all of you out there who are not lucky enough to be citizena Italiano. 

 

I’m still waiting for my passporti, but I am not going to make any cracks containing the words ‘slow’ and ‘italians’ in the same sentence.  Yesterday was an Italian holiday, the feast of St. Stephano (Boxing Day to the Brits).  I merely said a prayer to St. Stephen to please light a firecracker under the tushes of the paisons.  Before, whenever anyone rang or emailed, the first question was “Have you heard anything about your citizenship?”  Now everyone is ringing, constantly, asking “Did you get IT yet?”  Gloib mir, you’ll all know.

 

Anyway, Christmas was quiet.  Scary, Montana Karen and I drove up to Armpit, New York, where their Mom lives.  Armpit is, coincidentally and very oddly,  the very next burg from where Mike and Pat lived in the States.  Scary’s Mom speaks Italian, and she has been coaching me.  I now know loads of new, really rude words to say to the wankers on JDate. 

 

I had mentioned to Booboo Blondie that Mom continues the tradition of the Seven Fishes on Christmas Eve.  Booboo asked what the significance was.  Booboo has a very inquiring sort of mind.  I had to admit that I didn’t have a clue.  We just did it, every year.

 

I got to pondering about the matter, and decided to do some research on line.  The answer: Nobody knows for sure.  There are three theories.  First is the Seven Sacraments.  Second is the Seven Sins of the world.  And third is the seven days it took Mary and Joseph to travel to Bethlehem.  I was intrigued to discover that the Seven Fishes is a Southern tradition and is only observed from Naples down the boot to Sicily.  I am already sneering at Northern Italians; they are just not Italian enough, like those of us from the South.

 

I repeated the homey saying my aunts always quoted to Mom.  (I had to look up how to actually spell it for the blog.)  ‘Natale con I tuoi; Pasqua conchi vuoi.” It seems it means ‘Christmas with your family; Easter with whomever you wish’.”  I always thought it meant ‘Let the screaming and arguing commence, and remember, at least two people have to storm out in an insulted snit and not talk to anybody else in the family until next Christmas.”

 

I always prayed on those warm and fuzzy family occasions, when I got old enough to graduate to the grownups’ table and no longer had to eat off a card table shoved in the tool shed with the little cousins that I wouldn’t sit on the side of the table facing ‘The Mural’.  My zia’s idea of decorating was a giant garish mural that took up one whole wall of the Dining Room.  It was a scene of ‘The Last Days of Pompeii’.  I never got the point of staring at tiny Italians being vaporized by some seriously molten lava whilst eating.  It quite put me off my raviolis.   

 

Sorry, I went on a little trip down Memory Lane. 

 

I figured that I’d better be prepared for when I actually pick up my passport.  Passporti Clerk:  “Reginamaria, did you eat Seven Fishes like a true Neapolitan or you can’t have your passporti.”  Me:  ‘Si! Si!’  Passporti Clerk: ‘Which ones?”  Silenzio while I think up a good lie.  Me:  “I had smelt, calamari, baccala, eel, shrimp, flounder and twenty-six Clams Casino.”  (I like Clams Casino.)  (I wouldn’t eat the baccala if you held a gun to my head.)

 

In the strange universe that is ‘Jeano’s World’, we had to book it early Christmas morning back to Mallville.  I had a date – a Jewish date with DooWop Guy.  While the Italians spend the holiday yelling at one another and eating cannolis, Jews traditionally go to the movies and then eat Chinese food.  This is an actual fact.  Anyhow, DooWop Guy asked me to go to a Singles party at the JCC; a movie, a lecture and Chinese.  I did it for Jerry.  Really.  I thought he would think it was hysterically funny.

 

DooWop Guy is a tiny bit anal.  “What time?” I asked.  “It starts at noon” he answered, “I’ll pick you up at 11:15.”  “Steve” I said kindly “It’s a Jewish affair.  If it’s called for noon, that’s when you start getting dressed.”  I’m an expert on these things.  We argued about it, and finally compromised on 11:30.  I honestly wonder sometimes if he is really Jewish. 

 

There was a huge crowd, probably 100 people.  I have been lucky the last few times I’ve been to the JCC; I have not run into Israeli Guy.  My luck ran out on Christmas Day.  I literally bumped smack into Moshe at the Pork Lo Mein without the Pork Station.  I had forgotten how truly yucky Kosher Chinese is.

 

Needless to say, I looked stunning.  And of course that’s what Israeli Guy said, only he doesn’t ever use the word ‘stunning’.  He says it’s too JAP-py.  “You look beautiful, like always” is what he actually said.   “Yeah, I know” I said modestly.  “Steve said the same thing.  And, naturally, it’s my ‘raison d’etre’. Do you think I’m shallow?”  “Was that sarcasm?” Moshe asked.  Honestly, déjà vu all over again.  “No” I told him, “Well… just the part about Steve.”  Then I got annoyed as he followed me to the General Cho’s Chicken without the general and the pork fried rice without….you get it.  “What?” I asked, getting annoyed.  Oh my God.  He actually said, “I think about you every day.”  I immediately thought of seven sarcastic rejoinders (one for each fish on Christmas Eve).  And honestly, just between us, I thought it was very fortuitous  that he had shaved; it would have been totally not the done thing to jump his bones on top of the Shrimp Egg rolls without the shrimp.  He may be a total idiot, but the man is the bloody Energizer Bunny when it comes to…never mind.

 

He did follow me outside later when I went out for a fag.  DooWop Guy absolutely detests smoking and mentions it to me frequently for some peculiar reason so I usually just say I’m going to the loo.  I think I won’t share the details of that conversation with Israeli Guy but I left with the guy I came with.

 

Dearest Sister Pinkie put it best in her Christmas message:  ‘Enjoy your last Christmas in the Garden State.  Come home and live off Exit 11 of the M25.”  You’re damned right I cried.

 

 

  

 

 

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CHRISTMAKKAH IN MALLVILLE

Published December 28, 2007 by jean cohen

Buon Natale (belatedly) and Felice Anno Nuovo to all of you out there who are not lucky enough to be citizena Italiano. 

 

I’m still waiting for my passporti, but I am not going to make any cracks containing the words ‘slow’ and ‘italians’ in the same sentence.  Yesterday was an Italian holiday, the feast of St. Stephano (Boxing Day to the Brits).  I merely said a prayer to St. Stephen to please light a firecracker under the tushes of the paisons.  Before, whenever anyone rang or emailed, the first question was “Have you heard anything about your citizenship?”  Now everyone is ringing, constantly, asking “Did you get IT yet?”  Gloib mir, you’ll all know.

 

Anyway, Christmas was quiet.  Scary, Montana Karen and I drove up to Armpit, New York, where their Mom lives.  Armpit is, coincidentally and very oddly,  the very next burg from where Mike and Pat lived in the States.  Scary’s Mom speaks Italian, and she has been coaching me.  I now know loads of new, really rude words to say to the wankers on JDate. 

 

I had mentioned to Booboo Blondie that Mom continues the tradition of the Seven Fishes on Christmas Eve.  Booboo asked what the significance was.  Booboo has a very inquiring sort of mind.  I had to admit that I didn’t have a clue.  We just did it, every year.

 

I got to pondering about the matter, and decided to do some research on line.  The answer: Nobody knows for sure.  There are three theories.  First is the Seven Sacraments.  Second is the Seven Sins of the world.  And third is the seven days it took Mary and Joseph to travel to Bethlehem.  I was intrigued to discover that the Seven Fishes is a Southern tradition and is only observed from Naples down the boot to Sicily.  I am already sneering at Northern Italians; they are just not Italian enough, like those of us from the South.

 

I repeated the homey saying my aunts always quoted to Mom.  (I had to look up how to actually spell it for the blog.)  ‘Natale con I tuoi; Pasqua conchi vuoi.” It seems it means ‘Christmas with your family; Easter with whomever you wish’.”  I always thought it meant ‘Let the screaming and arguing commence, and remember, at least two people have to storm out in an insulted snit and not talk to anybody else in the family until next Christmas.”

 

I always prayed on those warm and fuzzy family occasions, when I got old enough to graduate to the grownups’ table and no longer had to eat off a card table shoved in the tool shed with the little cousins that I wouldn’t sit on the side of the table facing ‘The Mural’.  My zia’s idea of decorating was a giant garish mural that took up one whole wall of the Dining Room.  It was a scene of ‘The Last Days of Pompeii’.  I never got the point of staring at tiny Italians being vaporized by some seriously molten lava whilst eating.  It quite put me off my raviolis.   

 

Sorry, I went on a little trip down Memory Lane. 

 

I figured that I’d better be prepared for when I actually pick up my passport.  Passporti Clerk:  “Reginamaria, did you eat Seven Fishes like a true Neapolitan or you can’t have your passporti.”  Me:  ‘Si! Si!’  Passporti Clerk: ‘Which ones?”  Silenzio while I think up a good lie.  Me:  “I had smelt, calamari, baccala, eel, shrimp, flounder and twenty-six Clams Casino.”  (I like Clams Casino.)  (I wouldn’t eat the baccala if you held a gun to my head.)

 

In the strange universe that is ‘Jeano’s World’, we had to book it early Christmas morning back to Mallville.  I had a date – a Jewish date with DooWop Guy.  While the Italians spend the holiday yelling at one another and eating cannolis, Jews traditionally go to the movies and then eat Chinese food.  This is an actual fact.  Anyhow, DooWop Guy asked me to go to a Singles party at the JCC; a movie, a lecture and Chinese.  I did it for Jerry.  Really.  I thought he would think it was hysterically funny.

 

DooWop Guy is a tiny bit anal.  “What time?” I asked.  “It starts at noon” he answered, “I’ll pick you up at 11:15.”  “Steve” I said kindly “It’s a Jewish affair.  If it’s called for noon, that’s when you start getting dressed.”  I’m an expert on these things.  We argued about it, and finally compromised on 11:30.  I honestly wonder sometimes if he is really Jewish. 

 

There was a huge crowd, probably 100 people.  I have been lucky the last few times I’ve been to the JCC; I have not run into Israeli Guy.  My luck ran out on Christmas Day.  I literally bumped smack into Moshe at the Pork Lo Mein without the Pork Station.  I had forgotten how truly yucky Kosher Chinese is.

 

Needless to say, I looked stunning.  And of course that’s what Israeli Guy said, only he doesn’t ever use the word ‘stunning’.  He says it’s too JAP-py.  “You look beautiful, like always” is what he actually said.   “Yeah, I know” I said modestly.  “Steve said the same thing.  And, naturally, it’s my ‘raison d’etre’. Do you think I’m shallow?”  “Was that sarcasm?” Moshe asked.  Honestly, déjà vu all over again.  “No” I told him, “Well… just the part about Steve.”  Then I got annoyed as he followed me to the General Cho’s Chicken without the general and the pork fried rice without….you get it.  “What?” I asked, getting annoyed.  Oh my God.  He actually said, “I think about you every day.”  I immediately thought of seven sarcastic rejoinders (one for each fish on Christmas Eve).  And honestly, just between us, I thought it was very fortuitous  that he had shaved; it would have been totally not the done thing to jump his bones on top of the Shrimp Egg rolls without the shrimp.  He may be a total idiot, but the man is the bloody Energizer Bunny when it comes to…never mind.

 

He did follow me outside later when I went out for a fag.  DooWop Guy absolutely detests smoking and mentions it to me frequently for some peculiar reason so I usually just say I’m going to the loo.  I think I won’t share the details of that conversation with Israeli Guy but I left with the guy I came with.

 

Dearest Sister Pinkie put it best in her Christmas message:  ‘Enjoy your last Christmas in the Garden State.  Come home and live off Exit 11 of the M25.”  You’re damned right I cried.

 

 

  

 

 

BREAKING UP IS HARD TO DO

Published December 19, 2007 by jean cohen

Booboo Blondie rang today to point out, very snippety, that I haven’t blogged in a little while; okay, in a long time.  When I checked, she was right; I haven’t.  Drum roll, please.  A BLOG:

 

The Chanukah party at the JCC Palisades was lovely.  I over-indulged in latkes smothered in sour cream (Jerry always made them; I was not allowed to help).  I am pretty sure you start with potatoes which come either out of the ground or from the Acme.  So I got a heartburn.  Oy vey!  We lit the candles and sang the prayer.  The tables were decorated with dreidles and chocolate gelt.  It was nice.

 

I was reminded of one of the first times I was invited to Jerry’s parents house for Shabbat dinner.  My mother-in-law (Rosie the Terrible) looked at me and asked sweetly, “Regina, would you like to say Hamozi?”  That was, of course, a trick question.  “No” I answered just as sweetly.  “But thank you.”  Hey, I went to Catholic school; I have excellent manners.  My honey gave me the Cohen glare across the table (we had practiced for just such an opportunity).   “Um, yeah.  Sure.  I’d love to” I back-pedaled.  I reeled the prayer off double fast in Hebrew, and when I finished, everyone was silent.  I was sure they were suitably impressed.  After a moment, my father-in-law said “That was lovely.  But that was the prayer over the Chanukah Minorah, not Hamozi.”  Oh fuck.  I did an instant replay in my head to figure out where I went left instead of right…somewhere around Master of the Universe…and the harvest…the grain…whatever.   I was very upset that I had hurt the challah’s feelings.  That’s what the bread is called.  And it is an actual fact that the challah is covered with a cloth while the wine is blessed.  Because the challah gets insulted because the wine gets blessed first.  I guess if you cover the challah’s little ears, it doesn’t hear the wine getting preferential treatment.  I was fine with that.  At my inlaws’ house, I needed wine a helluva lot more than I needed bread. 

 

I did not make that story up; it is absolutely true.  So I am not only a dangerous terrorist, I insult bread.  Aah, memories.

 

I have been busy organizing and sorting.  I sorted my Guys and dumped South Jersey Guy and Italian Guy.  Scary said I was really, really mean to dump South Jersey Guy by email.  “It was better than a post-it like Carrie got on ‘Sex in the City’” I defended myself.  “You could have called him” she said disapprovingly.  “Why” I asked, honestly puzzled.  “I didn’t have anything I wanted to say. The email said it all.”   Email:  South Jersey Guy, you are hereby dumped.  Have a nice holiday. 

 

South Jersey Guy emailed back, asking to come up and see me to ‘discuss’ it.  Email to Dumped Guy:  No.  What part of ‘you are dumped’ didn’t you understand?

 

I just told Italian Guy that I wasn’t interested.  “Italian Guy, you are the most boring man I ever met and I don’t want to go out with you again.  What?  Yes, that means I don’t want to have sex with you anyway.”

 

Oddly, it seems that I might just possibly have been dumped by Cuban Guy.  We had two nice dates and a lot of mushy emails, and then he rang to say he broke his foot.  I haven’t heard from him since then.  Scary Fairy gloated “Cuban Guy dumped you!”  “Do ya think” I asked gobsmacked.   I gave the matter some serious thought; no, of course I couldn’t have been dumped.  Me?  Let’s  be realistic here.   He probably just popped over to Cuba and Castro threw him in prison.  And took his mobile.  (Gee, I hope Fidel hasn’t listened to some of the messages I left; he’s not a well man.)  Or maybe Fernando died from complications from a bloody broken foot.

 

“Wow” I said to Scary.  “Dumped!  What does one do when one gets dumped? Am I meant to be sad now?”  I wondered if I should assuage my miffed feelings by eating a lot of chocolate and getting a huge pimple, which I would call  the ‘Cuban Guy Dumped Me’ pimple.  Perhaps I would start having bad hair days.  Maybe I would get so depressed I would start wearing outfits that didn’t match perfectly.  No, I don’t think that last one could ever happen.  I haven’t figured out yet how best to cope with this apocalyptic crisis, but shopping has helped…a lot.

 

I thought for like a New York minute that I might have replaced Cuban Guy.  I heard from a guy on JDate, who was from Rome.  We exchanged some pleasant emails, I told him all about becoming an Italian citizen.  Then he dropped the bombshell; he had a long-term partner, she was bored, and they both wanted to have sex with me.  “Send a picture of her thighs”  I emailed Angelo.  I MADE THAT UP.  “Not interested” is what I said.  Unbelievably, he emailed back and said she understood and that it was okay with her if only he had sex with me.  Honestly, what planet do some of these people come from?  “No” I emailed.  He got pissed!  He emailed and said that if I wanted to be a true Italian, I should learn to be polite and that I should ‘lose the JAP attitude’.   I should have left well enough alone, but I didn’t.  I sent an email asking ‘Was I supposed to be flattered???’  I’m not even going to recount what he said…and then what I said…and so on.  I think I actually miss Israeli Guy.  He was as thick as a plank but basically harmless.

 

I was whinging about all this to Booboo today and she had an intriguing thought: stop dating and concentrate on getting organized to come back to Weybridge.  There’s an idea.

 

 

 

 

 

 

IO SONO ARRIVO

Published December 7, 2007 by jean cohen

Saluto!  Come Stai?  Si.  Eccolo me, Reginamaria, signora Italiano.  Sorry.  I’m really chuffed.

 

So I have passed my first week as an Italian.  I feel very different.  It might be all the espresso I’m chugging (coffee doesn’t seem ‘paison’ enough).  Providentially, the café at Barnes and Noble sells it.  I’ve had two espresso dates this week, with 1) Truly Awful and 2) I Didn’t Think Anybody Alive Could Be Quite So Repulsive.   I had a pleasant vino date, with Italian Guy (I figured the ‘home team’ deserved a shot).  I agreed to have another date with him tomorrow night.  I only pray that he is slightly more alive than he was on the first date.  And I have a date with DooWop Guy Steve on Monday.  It’s the festival of Chanukah, and there’s a holiday party and play reading at JCC on the Palisades.  The play is called ‘Formerly Married to Non-Jews’ so I should definitely be able to relate.

 

You know, I think I actually look and sound more Italian now.  I wear my Ray-bans everywhere, even inside, and add an ‘a’ to-a every-a word-a.  People are always-a  mistaking me for Sophia Loren.  Okay.  Sometimes they think I’m Benito Mussolini…but only if I’m having a bad hair day.

 

I’m reading Corriere della Sera, the Italian equivalent of the New York Times, and Il Mattino, the Naples scandal sheet, assiduously on-line every day.  This would be a perfect opportunity to make a succinct and erudite statement about what is transpiring in my homeland.  Unfortunately, both newspapers are in Italian; I don’t have a clue what’s going on there.  I am fairly certain, however, that we have not declared war on Albania yet.  It’s surprising, when you’re watching for it, that the Network news channels never mention Italy.

 

Faithful readers of my blog will have noticed the British propensity for odd nicknames.  I have several, most of which I cannot repeat.  Cheese Boy, of course, calls me ‘Philly Girl’ or ‘Cream Cheese’ when he’s feeling amorous (pissed).  In a convo with Irish Lad the other day, he has coined a new one – Yiddisha Mama Mia.  Is that not brilliant?  People who get ‘Ulysses’ are certainly very clever blokes.

 

I finally spoke to Nicola from Italiamerica.  He rang from Rome early the other morning to congratulate me.  I had sent him an email with the news.  I don’t know if I’ve written much about Nic.  He runs the European office of Italiamerica in Brussels.  I’ve never met him, but I’ve seen pictures.  Believe me, his picture is enough to make a girl dash right out and buy an airline ticket to Roma.  The funniest part is that he has a very pronounced North Jersey accent.  I, of course, do not have an accent.  I asked him the other day exactly where he was from.  “Exit 124 of the Garden State” he replied very seriously.  I might actually miss Mallville when I leave.  Nah.

 

Anyway, as you probably know, Italiamerica has the largest website in the world dedicated to Americans of Italian descent.  They get over 2000 hits a day.  And I am on there as one of their featured Italian American writers.  Nic asked me to write an article about my experiences getting my citizenship for publication on the site.  I started working on it, and it really is an incredible story.  Even I was impressed by my fortitude and determination.  The site even has Italian music.  I was lustily singing ‘Funiculi, Funicula’ along with Enrico Caruso the other night when Scary Fairy got home from work.  “Basta!” she snapped, rather rudely I thought.  At least I think she said “Basta!”.   It could possibly have been “Oh, fuck!”.  The address, if you want to check out the site, is www.italiamerica.org.

 

Otherwise my Napoleonic exile is not so awful right now.  I am busy sorting and discarding.  How could I have accumulated so much shit in a year? I have nine pairs of boots!  They must have reproduced in the closet.   I am hereby blaming it all on Booboo Blondie; she sent a load home with Pat and then she brought a suitcase full when she came over in the summer.  I am definitely going to travel light this time to Blighty; no three suitcases crammed with almost everything I own.  That might have been a tip-off that my intentions were less than honourble.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ARRIVEDERCI, CLIFTON

Published December 1, 2007 by jean cohen

I should be blogging about the rest of my visit to Cleveland.  In fact, I have a second blog about my trip half-finished.  We interrupt this blog with an important announcement:

 

          SONO CITTADINO ITALIA

 

Si.  That’s what I said.  I am officially a citizen of Repubblica Italiana.

 

I was drinking my coffee and doing the New York Times Sunday Crossword on Monday morning at Georgia’s house when my phone rang.  It was Stuart.  “You got mail from the Italians” he said.  “Maddone! Che cozzo?” I said.  Well, actually I didn’t; I said “Shit!  What is the paisons’ fucking problem now?”   But I meant “Maddone! Che cozzo?”   Perhaps it was coincidence, or fate, but I was eating a pizzelle at that very momento. 

 

Stuart opened the letter and said, “It’s your citizenship papers!”  I choked on the pizzelle, spewing coffee and half-chewed pizzelle everywhere.  I am not sure I will ever be invited back to Ohio.  “Read the letter” I demanded after Ron finished doing the Heimlich Maneuver on me.  “I can’t” unable to speak any other languages Stuart said.  “It’s in Italian.”  

 

Stuart faxed a copy to me immediately, and I ascertained that it was, in fact, in Italian.  I had no bloody idea what it said either.  But it looked really official.  I tried to ring Nicola at Italiamerica in Brussels, but, rudely, he had chosen that very week to go on holiday.  From what I could glean, I am now registered in Colli a Volturno (population 1377),  Isernia, Italy.

 

I rang BooBoo Blondie with the news.  They could hear her screaming in Akron.  Fortunately, I was leaving on Monday anyway.  I had to get back to Mallville subito and start packing.

 

After returning to Exit 154 on the Garden State, I racked my brain and remembered my old boss at Rosenbluth.  Annamaria is a fellow Italian, and actually talks the talk, what with being born in Milano.  I rang her, explained the situation, and very kindly she told me to read her the letter.  “I can’t understand what you’re saying” she said finally.  “Well, scusami” I replied petulantly.  We pondered, and I finally went to the UPS Store and faxed it to her.

 

Basically the letter said “We Italians take this citizenship business seriously.  You are an Italian now and have responsibilities besides drinking loads of Chianti and making the best meatballs in the world.”  It went on to say that I am required by law to apply for an Italian passport and identity card, I must vote in elections, I must keep them informed of my ‘stato civile’ and whereabouts, and serve in the Italian Army if called upon.  I have seen Italian soldiers; I am quite looking forward to that obligation.  Perhaps we will declare war on Albania soon.

 

I had to laugh at the irony; Italia telling me ‘you must obtain an Italian passport’.  Wasn’t that the point of this whole adventure in geo-politics?  On Friday morning I presented myself at the Passporti window at the Italian Consulate in Philadelphia, with passport photos, application and fees.  The wonderful passport lady told me it will take about two weeks.  They have to fax Colli a Volturno for a ‘questuro’, which is a police record.  “Um” I asked sweetly” You don’t …like … ask other countries …like Belgium, or maybe Great Britain or Peru, for input, do you?”  She looked at me strangely, but assured me that they didn’t care about any other countries.

 

I reminded Scary Fairy that she had promised, in a guest blog after the Brits kicked me out, to have a Citizenship Party to include ‘being dunked three times in a big vat of Chianti while reciting the recipe for homemade lasagna and meatballs.’  Hopefully, she is working on it.