Tag Archives: Perugia Italy

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.

Alas, Poor Sybil!

Sybil is the girl up there on the book cover. Doomed to come into her hormonal peak in an era when most Americans were more comfortable with women being one-dimensional!!

(And I’m guessing that the author, “Joan Ellis,” was really a guy.)

But I guess it made for some good, solid reading. Yes, indeedy.

God knows, I was no stranger to these kinds of trashy paperbacks when I was young; they were just everywhere in the early 70s. Just everywhere. But I was not their target audience, that’s for sure.

Even though this era in erotic publishing in the US was sort of a “golden era” for the genre, it did absolutely nothing for me. And I was the horniest child imaginable, so it wasn’t that. It was the writing. It was not good! I was only 13 when I read Story of O and that was, like, from some other celestial realm. It took my breath away, it was so erotic.

For me, it all came down to the quality of the writing. It really did. I guess if you aren’t into dominant men (as I am and always have been, since about, I don’t know, age 6?), the quality of the writing might not mean anything at all to you. But I’ve known women who weren’t into dominant men, and women who weren’t even into men at all, who were still blown away by the writing in Story of O.

Wow. Well. that was certainly an unexpected tangent at 6:11am!

What I was intending to write about was something a little bit different. But not much.

Last evening,  I finally did get some energy going. My brain connected. I had Chapter 21 of Blessed By Light open in front of me. I was tweaking some stuff already written there and feeling primed to get some new stuff down, and then suddenly Peitor texted me.

I don’t keep my ringer on when I’m writing but I do keep my phone on the desk, so I saw that he was sending text after text after text. Which always means something important is on his mind, so I looked at the texts. And then suddenly, Valerie in Brooklyn started texting me, too. She’s working on some sample cover art for me and I needed to hear from her, so I was trying to read that, too. And then suddenly my dad called.

All of this happened at once, completely at the same time, at around 7 in the evening.  And no one had texted or called me all day. Suddenly, all my mental energy was re-routed toward my phone, which basically derailed any creative stuff getting written yesterday.

But the stuff from Peitor was really cool. He and a handful of creative people in L.A. (except for Peitor, I think the others involved are all women), anyway, they’re starting an artists’ retreat in Perugia, Italy.

Peitor lives a good portion of the year in Italy and England. And he agreed to take over this property for a friend in Italy and run it. And it’s amazing and really lovely.  And it’s upscale, you know. Really nice. It can house & feed 60 artists at one time.

Peitor is a composer and producer, and he scores films and TV and stuff. And the women onboard are, like, award-winning photographers for National Geographic, and artists in other disciplines, and other writers, as well as TV & film executives. All based in L.A.

They are getting their opening programs together for when the retreat actually opens again, and Peitor texted and asked me if I’d like to try to oversee some sort of erotic writing program there. Not for beginning writers, but more for writers who specifically wanted to write in some sort of erotic vein and the end result is  a book of collected stories or pieces that are erotic in some way and written during the retreat.  So, overseeing a retreat in Italy, as well as a publication. (And, of course,  wine is involved – the drinking of it, not the production of it!!)

And, of course, I was, like, YES!!!! with a zillion exclamation points. We then texted for over an hour, hashing out the details. So you can see why I never got back to the novel last night. My mind went off into this whole other realm.

I’ve taught writing before. It’s not an easy thing to do. And I was very picky about who I would take on as students, because it’s hard enough to help good writers become better writers.  Trying to teach someone who thinks they kinda might like to write…that’s just not even in a ballpark that I know how to show up in.

So, I can see how an undertaking like this particular retreat could require an enormous amount of energy from me, directed at a lot of people at once, and people from all over the world. I speak French and a little Mandarin Chinese, but that’s it.  Everyone’s gotta speak English, otherwise I’ll be useless. Yet, just because a writer might speak English, it doesn’t mean they’re thoughts slide together in the same way that a native speaker’s does, right? Still, I find the whole idea just really exciting, however it turns out.

But I think I totally passed out from exhaustion before 11pm last ngiht and then I was up at 4:11am, all excited about life and unable to fall back to sleep. Teaching that guy piano, and now this artists’ retreat in Italy. On top of all the other really cool projects I’m doing right this very minute.  I was also lying there wondering what seat I’m going to get when the tickets go on pre-sale for Nick Cave at Town Hall tomorrow morning. I know I’m going to get “a seat,” but will it be the seat I want? What is the seat I want? Actually, the seat I want is, you know, on the piano bench right next to him, but I’m thinking that’s not actually a seat that’s being offered…

I finally got out of bed at 5am, went downstairs to merrily feed the many scampering cats. We listened to The Big Jangle by Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers all during breakfast. What a great CD. (It’s from the Playback collection.) It has all of my favorites from that period when I was 18-21 years old. Gem after gem, and not one of them longer than 3 minutes.  It’s pretty much: verse/chorus, verse/chorus, bridge, chorus, out. But just wonderful rock & roll songs! All of them infused with that intense attitude he had when he was young.

It all just made for a great start to another sunny spring morning around here.

(Oh, you’ll notice that I reloaded Boy, If You Want into the music player. This is a demo we made in my boyfriend’s bedroom, on his 8-track, in 1984. He was a drummer in a different band. We used his bass player and a lead guitar player that they knew. It’s just a demo, the sound quality on the acoustic guitar is terrible, but I always liked the demo, overall.)

Okay, on that note! I’m gonna get crackin’ around here on the novel because I know for sure I have 2 phone calls coming today that I need to take. I leave you with one of my favorite Tom Petty songs of all time! (Isn’t it everybody’s??!!) Here Comes My Girl, from 1978!!!

All right, gang. Thanks for visiting. I love you, guys. See ya!