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Bootprints: A Review of Italy (Slightly NSFW)

My Friends,
   After enduring the inefficiency of the Italian Postal (dis)Service (zing!) for near a fortnight, I gots my passport, gots my flight to Istanbul booked, and gots some final impressions of my stay in Italy to share.

THE WEATHER:
   In the very second line of “In Another Country,” Ernest Hemingway writes, “It was cold in the fall in Milan and the dark came very early.”  Well, he wasn’t lying and I therefore should not have been surprised by the seemingly perpetual fog that has blanketed the GMA (Greater Milano Area) in which I have been residing for the last few days.  And the cold!  Thankfully I had some sweaters and scarves to borrow from my cousin.  That, coupled with the fact that I have been sleeping indoors, has meant that I have weathered the low temperatures just fine.  However, as we are heading into the wintertime I will make no movements further north of my current latitude of N 45° 35′ 39.537 until this weather decides to unfuck itself and get warmer.  Til that day, its south and east in this bitch, where “this bitch” = the world.

THE BUGS:
   Almost paradoxically, in spite of this cold weather, mosquitos have manifested their presence in summer-esque numbers, and spiders have manifested theirs in sizes and levels of aggression reminiscent of the movies.  I mean look at this shit:

“I SAID ‘LOOK AT IT’!!”

That’s a spider-bite I received whilst asleep at the beginning of my stay here.  In two weeks, the size has not diminished pereceptibly.  Even the scorpion sting I got in Australia disappeared quicker than this.  Sadly, this spider does not seem to have been radioactive as my body has not begun producing any new white sticky substances (I realize that making a semen/webbing joke negates any points I got for leading off with a Hemingway quotation, but I couldn’t resist).
   So as it is, I am stuck for the time being with this blemish on my bloated, distended belly.  Speaking of which…
MY BLOATED, DISTENDED BELLY: 
   Having lived on my own for years now, I had forgotten what it was like to live in the Italian-Canadian household I grew up in, and the heavy, albeit delicious, food that was always available.  As I mentioned in a previous entry  (One Night in the Big City: Part 1, 18 August 2011), this caused me to be something of a fat kid.  And although my condition has been in remission for the last few years, thanks to regular meals, a surfeit of cheese and bread, and a very liberal definition of which parts of the pig constitute food (hint: everything) I am going through a relapse.  Perhaps a practical example is called for:
   Did you know that in Italy they eat something called Lardo?  As the name implies, its pure fat, what a rational human being who was not trying to bulk up for winter hibernation might consider an off-cut.  But this fat is taken and seasoned, thinly sliced and enjoyed as a delicacy.  Even worse/better, my cousin informed me that it is best enjoyed on warm bread with cheese and honey; the warmth of  the bread melts both cheese and fat ever so slightly and the flavours become simply sublime.  Its sticky, slippery, aromatic and warm.
It’s like this, but in your mouth

   And even when you are not eating straight-up pork fat, that are as many ways here to fat (sic) as there are to die.  Olive oil for example, is used so liberally that it drips off my fork as I eat my pasta, and it flows down my mustache and beard coating my whiskers as if it were afro sheen; cookies are considered breakfast food; if it can be baked well it can be deep-fried better; nutella makes everything awesome, etc.  Essentially, in the quest to make food more delicious and decadent, pussy concerns like fibre-intake and cholesterol are not given a thought.  Italians were basically the first to do Epic Meal Time.
THE DANGEROUS CARNIVAL PRIZES:
   Taking some air last night my cousin and I stumbled upon a fair.  Though not much of a gamester I couldn’t resist dropping 5 euros at the shooting gallery.  I gripped the mock-up 9mm Beretta expertly, and my lip curled into a smile knowing that I carried 15 men’s lives BB’s in the magazine.  I adopted a firing position with both eyes open and verified the zero of the laser-sight by checking it against my point-of-aim using the iron sights.  With my zero verified I checked the trigger pull and saw it had a lot of slack.  This didn’t sit well with me as I like a sensitive pull.  However I reasoned that the carnies had to weigh the comfort & convenience of a trained killer like myself against the danger of giving guns with hair-triggers to the POGs and civvies frequenting the carnival.  They erred on the side of caution and I can’t fault them that.  Still, when I was given the word, I unleashed a fury rarely seen by men.  I shot those beer cans like they were Mexi-cans.
   And do you know how they rewarded my proficiency in killin’?  A slingshot.
Dennis the Menace Lives!!
They gave me the means to keep on killing.  There is something poetic about that.  It’s like, “Hey, you seem dangerous with projectile weapons so do let’s (sic) give you more!”  Then, as if to fuck with me, they had set up the fair on a lot filled with pebbles and had polizia municipale roaming around.  I swear its a miracle there was no “1-8-7 on a motherfuckin’ cop” last night.
This pic is one of the front-runners in contention for the cover of my upcoming rap album 

   So yeah, I guess my experience in Italy hasn’t been your typical one of ruins, canals and leaning towers.  But I lived as an Italian with Italians and that has been an experience which I found more valuable and enlightening than any all-inclusive, guided vacation package.  I love the grassroots experience and it has been just as rewarding now as it ever is.  I have learned that Italians are just people like us Canadians except with more corruption and less work-ethic (Sorry, still mad at Italian postal service).
Stay Thirsty,
-Andre Guantanamo
   
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You Can Take the Salami Out the Hood but You Can’t Take the Hood Out the Salami

My Friends,
   Since I have been traveling I have been diligent in partaking in local cuisine.  Some observations I have made: Portuguese bacalhau is dope, Spanish churros taste better than that Taco Bell tripe, French cheese, wine & bread are a trifecta of win schway, and Italian pasta can’t be touched.  “Well sure” you say, “thats what those countries are known for; of course its going to be better there.”  Well that line of reasoning might suffice for the reasonable mind, but dammit I need to delve deeper into the questions that have been answered to everyone else’s satisfaction.
   This is more (not much, but a little) than simply making much of an issue for the sake of something to write about; I got to thinking about how up until this last visit to France I have typically hated French wine.  Seriously, I cant remember buying a bottle or trying a glass in Canada that I thought much of in spite of the fact that they were marketed as mid to mid-high level wines.  However, I come to France and every bottle of wine, no matter how inexpensive, is some wild ass shit.  Ditto for the cheese: I have always loved Brie, but never did I enjoy it as much as I did in France.  I brought a smilar observation up to my cousin here in Legnano, Italy while we were enjoying some Gorgonzola, grapes, and bread.  Now since I have been here in Italy I have had something of a love affair with Gorgonzola which, in case you aren’t familiar, bears more than a superficial resemblance in appearance and flavour to blue cheese.  While crushing our nth wedge of this cheese tonight I inquired as to what the difference was between Gorgonzola and blue cheese.

“It’s the same” my cousin told me.

“Then why has blue cheese never tasted this good at home,” says I.

“Well ya see (you simple fuck) things taste different depending on where you eat them.  Aside from the fact that they make it here, you could drink a bottle of wine made in Padua two hours away and it will taste one way.  But you take that same bottle down to Naples and drink it there and it’ll taste different.  It’s something in the air affects the flavours.”

This explanation partly satisfied me mostly because it was an alternative to the common and widely accepted answer (if everyone believes it; I can’t help but be suspicious).  However, it still sounded like some old bullshit.  Not to discount atmospheric effects entirely; I mean I could see such factors making a difference if you simply walked into Mordor with your fancy cheese and let the heat, sulphur fumes and ash really absorb into it for a few hours before eating.  But what kind of pretentious cheese/wine/bread conoisseur can claim with a straight face that they notice the subtle difference that geography of consumption makes in the bouquet, body and aftertaste of their delicacy of choice?

Since I obviously take issue with the “it’s just better there” reasoning and I find the atmospheric influence reasoning a little suspect, I’m going to go ahead and assume the food tastes better here because my mind is playing tricks on me.  That is to say, I am probably just idealizing things in my head.  It makes sense; all of the amazing meals I have had here I associate in my head with where I ate them, the time of day (usually watching a sunset or sunrise), how good I was feeling at the time and how much progress I had made that day.  In fact , when it comes down to it, my meals have become ritualized to the point where simply eating is no longer sufficient; it has to be a multi-sensory experience.  Obviously, I could eat some pretty crappy food and in these circumstances I would probably remember it fondly.
   The ability of my mind to trick myself both saddens me and reassures me.  It is kind of sad to think that perhaps the food that I am enjoying so much here is no better than what is available back home (this is a fleeting sadness however, as my enjoyment is ultimately what matters most).  The reassurance comes from the knowledge that I have the ability to idealize and enjoy any meal and by association, any life experience more than I normally would by taking the time to do it right and incorporating as much pleasurable aspects into it as I can.

George Costanza: A rare genius unappreciated in his own time

Stay Thirsty,
-Andre Guantanamo

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The Most Useful Blog in the World

My Friends,  
   I am in Rota, Spain right now. I left Cadiz this morning on the ferry and met up with Ricky, who reached out to me over couchsurfing.net yesterday. He must have seen what a standup guy I was (you can see too: ) and been moved by my blog entry, “Hostel California” (4 Oct 2011). In any event, he invited me to take the ferry to Rota and crash at his place, which I did after considering that I was less than thrilled with my accommodations in Cadiz and also that he is a fellow member of NATO.
I arrived in Rota just before one, and after getting him on the phone we met up at Castillo de Luna, which is an old castle that has been turned into a municipal building here in Rota. Some of my loyal readership may remember my 16 August 2011 entry, entitled “I Used to Like Meeting New People,” where I detailed my encounter with Rob, am overly social senior who balanced out incredibly interesting life stories with incredibly mundane ones. Well, I mentioned that he had been in a coma and he fell into that coma here in Rota in the 1960s disarming sea mines left over from World War 2.

“Wow, that is soo interesting; please tell me more.”

Perhaps if I run into him again I will have something to contribute to the conversation now before he goes on at length for an hour.
Back to the situation at hand, my host, Ricky, has been very welcoming. He showed me around the house and basically told me to make myself at home while he headed back to work. Finally being in a position where I have access to a computer that not only has a mic and camera, but also no other travelers waiting to use it, I have made the most of my time, first catching up on “Arby & the Chief,” a youtube series I like, then doing a little bit of vlogging. My clothes are performing well; just showered with them yesterday and I am smelling good. I realized they needed washing yesterday when I woke up and all I could smell was myself (ps, salt waterswimming is no substitute for a shower). Anyway, me and some friends ended up going to Torre Tavira to see the camera obscura

and all I could think the whole time we watched the demonstration was “oh man, I hope these people can’t smell me.” Now, no such problems: smellin good and feelin good. Gonna crush a shower tonight and that should keep me agreeable with people’s olfactory glands for the next few days while I visit Tarifa, Gibraltar and Malaga.
Speaking of which, as it looks now I dont think I will be heading to Munich for Oktoberfest. Its not a definite no but the chances are looking slim, in spite of the drunken post I made the other night (see “The Best Drunken Idea of My Life,” 2 Oct 2011). If I do go, that will be great and will definitely provide me with lots of blog fodder. If not, I will have to make my own adventure, hitchiking, dehydrating, starving, and generally suffering as I hitchike up the arid east coast of Spain. I’m up for the challenge so I hope you’re up for reading about it.
Stay Thirsty
-Andre Guantanamo

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