The Thrill of it All

Yesterday was too beautiful, gang. Not just the weather, but everything about the day.

My weekly conference call with Peitor continued to astound and amaze, for two reasons. One being that how he wants to storyboard the shoot for the current project will make  the storyboard an art gallery exhibit, in and of itself.  An exhibition of abstract absurdity.  Just too delightful – how his mind works.

And second, we talked in depth about the Artists’ Retreat in Perugia (pictured above at sunset) and what I need to do, or to offer, etc., for my segment of the retreat. It was just incredibly exciting for me.  Even though I can see it will become a ton of work for me twice a year (hopefully every year); I’d still much rather teach in a villa in Italy than teach at my dining room table, which is where I’ve always taught for years.

I’m going to try to figure out how to format the photo gallery on this blog and upload some photos of the villa where the retreats are held. It’s just beautiful. 30 bedrooms, 30 bathrooms. A dining room, a tea room, a chapel, the main salon. Plus they have a separate apartment on the grounds that you can just rent for a vacation, without being part of any retreat in the villa.  The villa is on 800 acres, and it’s self-contained. Meaning they grow all their own organic food on the property. The villa is fully staffed with cooks and housekeeping and groundskeepers.  (And sheep and horses.)

Anyway, it’s too beautiful.  The only thing that distressed me a little bit was that Peitor won’t be there with me.  Not that I’m co-dependent by any stretch of the imagination; but he is, like, one of my closest friends, plus he speaks fluent Italian and is the overseer of the whole retreat. The primary caretaker of the grounds, who resides there year round, speaks English, but everyone else, meaning the entire country of course, speaks Italian.

Long ago, I studied Italian but found that I didn’t have a real affinity for the language. (I had the same experience with studying German and Portuguese. The languages just didn’t want to “take” for some reason. Yet French, Mandarin Chinese, and Biblical Hebrew were relatively easy for me.) The only things I really know how to say in Italian are “excuse me,” “thank you”, “goodbye”, “hello,” “postage stamp”, and “let’s eat now!”

So the thought that, in addition to all these writing projects I have going on (and by “projects,” I include pre-production and then production of two plays, which necessitate rehearsals and constant re-writes along the way), I’m gonna have to start studying Italian again… Well, I sensed stress inching in at the outer most recesses of my psyche.

I’m not a super good traveler, even in English. I’ve traveled a lot, but it’s always been for career-related things: readings, book signings, meetings with editors & publishers, or acquiring work from other artists for one project or another. I think of traveling as being very stressful, even though I do always enjoy meeting people. It seems I don’t ever travel to just enjoy myself.

My idea of enjoying myself involves really nice sheets on a reasonably comfortable hotel room bed, room service,  a writing desk, and a lover with a really fertile and limitless imagination – and that’s all I need (or want, really).  I can forego the latter and still have a delightful time alone with a comfortable bed, room service and a writing desk, but even then, it seems like well-meaning people are always wanting to drag me off to interesting art galleries, wonderful restaurants, and to have memorable conversations and stuff.  (You can readily see why people all over the world are annoying, right??)

Anyway. So I have to start studying Italian again because apparently Peitor is not intending to hold my hand (or to even be present) during all my various upcoming adventures in Italy.

You know, it can get sort of depressing to be regarded as someone who is so independent.  People tend to treat me as someone who is choosing to be independent. That it defines me – my independence. People just have to look at me and it seems like they jump right to this conclusion that I’m independent. Probably because I’m so tall.

THEM (thinking): Oh, she’s tall. Clearly she’s got everything under control.

ME (at any given moment, on any given day, thinking): I’m out of my fucking mind! How the hell did I even get here? And where do I think I’m going?

Every once in a blue moon, angels appear and they actually help me. One time, even though I was managing quite well with my luggage, a woman spontaneously helped me carry my suitcases down the stairs of the Paris Metro.  She simply took one of my suitcases and walked down the stairs with me, then set it down and went on her way. It was so nice! And I have remembered her for all time, even though she never even spoke a word to me.

Because I look so independent, people almost never ask if they can carry something for me, or hold the door for me, or get the elevator for me, or hold my chair out for me, or buy me a drink, or come up and see me sometime.

(The answers, btw, are: Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, and yes.)

(I guess people assume that I’m some sort of tall, intelligent, feminist with a bad temper or something and so they don’t want to risk offending me. But what I actually am is tall and intelligent, with a bad temper only if you push me too far – but that’s called “getting my Irish up” and has nothing to do with me being a feminist.)

So for me, traveling just equals stress.  And traveling in foreign languages is, of course, even more stressful because I am always just by myself. And even traveling in English can be very stressful for me because of all the insane security at airports nowadays.

It used to be you just worried about going through Customs with any traces of illegal substances. Now, you don’t want to go through Customs with your own identity accompanying you. Or I should say “me.” Flying from Paris into the small town of Exeter, England, was one of the scariest moments of my life. I was coming from a book signing in Paris, and blithely going to visit a colleague in Exeter. And Customs stopped me.  Stopped me. In a big way. And questioned me for a really long time.

THEM: Who are you? (They’ve already got you on their screen, so they know.)

ME: A writer.

THEM: What do you write? (They already know. They can see that your FBI file labels you a pornographer with ties to international pedophiles, regardless of whether you wanted that or not. And that the US Justice Department considers you a pornographer who poses a threat to innocent children everywhere.)

ME:  I write romance stories.

THEM: Really? You’re sure about that? (At this moment, you’re exceedingly sure about this, even though you’ve just come from a book signing in Paris that celebrated a book you wrote decades ago about a fictional gang-rape in Chicago.) And what are you doing here?

ME: Just visiting.

THEM: Really? You flew from New York, to Paris, to tiny Exeter, and you’re just visiting? You’re sure about that?

At this point, do you say: “I’m here to visit a colleague who used to be a pop star in Yugoslavia with hit records, until he had to flee the Croatian War because he was gay and feared for his life, and now he’s living here in exile, awaiting permanent status, and meanwhile, he takes these wonderful photographs of naked young men that I want to license for a project we’re doing back in the States.” Do you say that?

HINT: The answer is NO.  You do not say this! (Because you’re not stupid.)

Instead, you reply: “I’m just visiting, really.” Repeat this until they finally let you go because they know they’re going to follow you all over England on that CCTV thing anyway.

Crimony. Is it any wonder that my idea of a  vacation is a nice hotel bed somewhere and room service (with or without the mindbogglingly imaginative lover)?

That said, though, I do indeed intend to brush up on my Italian…

So. Have a happy Sunday, gang, wherever you are in the world! I’m gonna get things crackin’ around here.  Meanwhile, in honor of Mother’s Day here in the States, I leave you with this. It’s a photo of my birth mom, Cherie. She’s 13 here, in a little town called Greenfield, Ohio. She’s holding my Uncle Mark while pregnant with yours truly!!!! Thanks for visiting. I love you guys! See ya.

My birth mother.

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