Non innamorarti di una donna che legge,
di una donna che sente troppo,
di una donna che scrive.
Non innamorarti di una donna colta, maga, delirante, pazza.
Non innamorarti di una donna che pensa,
che sa di sapere e che, inoltre,
è capace di volare.
Di una donna che ha fede in se stessa.
Non innamorarti di una donna che ride o piange mentre fa l’amore.
Che sa trasformare il suo spirito in carne ,
e ancor di più, di una donna che ama la poesia (sono loro le più pericolose),
o di una donna capace di restare mezz’ora davanti a un quadro o che non sa vivere senza la musica.
Non innamorarti di una donna intensa, ludica, lucida, ribelle, irriverente.
Che non ti capiti mai di innamorarti di una donna così.
Perché quando ti innamori di una donna del genere, che rimanga con te oppure no…
Che ti ami o no,
da una donna così, non si torna indietro.
Mai.


— M. R. Garrido

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Monaco

I’ve just arrived and am sitting at a café with a glass of Chardonnay, approving the final layout for this edition of the magazine.  Only the editorial remains to be finalised, and I’ll have to do that later on. Since I didn’t eat lunch, I’m a little tipsy. Palm trees wave outside the window, calling. I’m off to find a salad, and see the world.

Tonight is the Printemps des Arts festival premiere in Monte Carlo, and I’ll be covering the event and interviewing the director. No fear. Only extra doses of inner passion and zeal. I think I may just wear the little black dress. More to come…

It does come, eventually

I sat at the station about an hour outside Milan waiting for the train.Screen Shot 2015-03-02 at 7.55.47 AM

The night before, over a bubbling glass of demi-sec, the winemaker of the year had explained to me just how much humanity goes into a wine: how much woman, how much man, how much good sense. Connecting with people in this line of work had me riding high on my inner wave. Passion and honesty, toasting to the inescapable reality.

I was on my way to La Scala, feeling the ghost of Mozart and his human genius at my back.

But the train was not coming, and no one knew when it would pull through.

I inquired at the office, and asked other dazed travellers. “Maybe in 30 minutes,” they offered. “Maybe not.” Italy is not a robot, but it does mirror the human soul, which is much less timely and orderly than we’d like to make it. I pulled my suitcase over into the sun and sat down on a stone bench. Something there is in the messiness that empowers and soothes. I smiled at the girl beside me as a passing train tossed my hair and laughed freely in my face. “It’s not that one, is it?” I asked. “No. And not the next one either,” she replied. We leaned back in silence, and waited awhile.

Trains and people are not so very different here.

It’s all glamour

I’m writing in my fluffy sea green sweater and plaid pyjama pants on the eve of my Milan trip. I should be packing. Instead, I’m fretting over the line where I had my roots dyed on Saturday, which is still vaguely visible across my forehead despite the fact that I scrubbed my scalp this morning. Hopefully, tomorrow morning’s 4.30 am shower will rinse the rest away.

People often comment how envious they are of a journalist’s glamorous life. I get it; I feel the same way. At least I used to, before press trips revealed themselves as 16-hour days on your feet, planning, preparing, interviewing, learning, assimilating, interacting, until you drop dead in your 5-star hotel room, too exhausted to enjoy the enormous bathtub you had been thinking about all day.

Those 5-star rooms? In French we say, “un cadeau empoisoné”, or poison in a gift box. For every night I spend in a place like that, I crank out an 800-word review complete with pictures. But the rub is that I’m not there to write about the hotel. I’m there to cover some other art event, in this case opera, so my days are jam-packed full of other things.

On Friday, plans fell through with my accommodation, plans that had been finalised months ago. No one being available in Italy on the weekends, I’ve spent two days writing emails and fretting like a homeless person. I leave tomorrow morning at 6 am. Yes, I can rent a smaller room on my own dime, but then if a 5-star comes along with an offer, I’d have to pay for the small room anyway. Journalists don’t often get travel cash from their magazine, so we rely on this kind of negotiation, especially in Europe, where things are less uptight and rigid than they are in the US, moral-wise.

Last night, I realised with sudden alarm that I may very well go to a performance at the most prestigious opera house in the world, only to spend the night in the train station.

Glamour, indeed.

It did occur to me that true adventure comes in having the courage to step beyond the known and accept what you find. I feel too old to do this, but I also feel too young not to.

So while tomorrow night I know where I’ll be sleeping, the nights after are still up in the air. I will go forth.

Send me warm vibes?

Words

Pema Chödrön:

‘Only to the extent that we expose ourselves over and over to annihilation can that which is indestructible be found in us.’

A conversation with courage

Possibly the hottest piece of my career so far hovers on the horizon.

We’re not talking breaking political news or even a critical review, no scandal, sex, or groundbreaking discovery.

That’s true, but for me it might as well be. It’s high end, controversial, and coveted in journalistic circles. I’m scared.

Why are you scared?

I don’t know really. I feel paralysed with it.

But if you were writing for your professor 25 years ago, you wouldn’t be afraid.

True. But he’d be there to guide me, and all I’d be afraid of was a grade. This time my reputation is on the line – my future.

Do you think you can’t do it?

No. I can do it.

Do you think you’re too stupid?

No. I’m not too stupid.

So, you’re afraid of yourself. You’re afraid that this one event could determine your entire future worth.

Possibly yes.

But no single event determines your entire future worth. There are always opportunities to try again. You should let yourself drop all that pressure; you should try to enjoy the opportunity. Enjoy your own life, with its failures and successes, savour what you’re doing. Because what you’re doing today is more exciting than what you did yesterday; and that’s enough for now. Isn’t it?

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water…

…your kid gets her driving permit.

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This is the thing nobody tells you when you plan for your first child. You spend hours on Pintrest admiring baby room colours, get surprised by your friends for your first shower, and plan for that really ‘J&J’ moment of labor when ‘the most wonderful thing in your life’ comes in the form of a soft, tiny pink baby who looks tenderly up at you with her big blue eyes … and smiles.

Then you give birth.

Which is nothing like the ad for Pampers, but rather a realistic harbinger for things to come.

If, like me, you have four kids, you spend years of your life not sleeping, cleaning up poop, cleaning up other stuff you’d rather not remember, cooking and then cleaning up the table, the dishes, the floor. You calm them down when they’re crying, and encourage them when life gets hard. You hug them. You take their side, but teach them to be sensitive to others; you officiate classes like Manners 101, Medicine 101, Psychology 101, Religion 101, Motivational Speaking 101, Cultural Awareness 101, Hygiene 101, Math-English-Geography-Gym 101. And then you fall asleep exhausted on the sofa, trying to stay awake for your favourite 20-minute sitcom, which, after the merlot you downed an hour ago while trying to remain a calm and wise bulwark in the midst of a teenage meltdown, seems impossibly long. You snore.

Then, suddenly, they appear taller, kinder, more reasonable. You find yourself relaxing as you morph from parent to equal, to friend. Life suddenly shines on you like a great, golden sun as your children begin praising you like adults, telling their equally-adult friends how awesome you are as a mom. You start to relish; you thank your lucky stars that they still like hanging with you on a Friday night. You tell yourself it was all worth it.

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Then they make you get in the passenger seat.

Last week my daughter and I drove around for about two hours to give her some road practise before the big day. My general opinion is that once I feel safe enough to text a friend while she’s driving, she’s probably ready to give the driving test a try. That is not yet the case. Somewhere between a feeling of relative safety and bonafide terror, she hung a left over the railroad tracks – and then stopped.

“There’s a car coming,” she said. “I should let it pass.”

A distant horn started blaring behind us.

“Yeah,” I answered, “But if you use your blinker you should be good to go. I mean… I think you have right of way here.”

The blaring was growing closer, sounding more like a bullhorn by the minute. I turned my head to see (lo, and behold) a train barreling right toward our car, which was parked on (yes, I said ‘on’) the tracks.

“Step on it! Go!” I screeched.

(This is when I think it is appropriate to play the mom-card to a 19-year-old.)

Needless to say, it took a good deal of unholy language to get her to move her theoretical a** off the tracks… but it saved our sorry lives.

“Mom, I can’t believe you cussed so loud. I think we should practise that again – let’s give it another go.”

I popped a ginger pill and wished for an Old Tom. No one tells you that just when you think you’ve got this parenting thing covered — after labouring in their favour for nineteen years — you have to put your own hide on the line. Nobody tells you in the maternity ward that the ultimate parenting sacrifice still hovers on the distant horizon.

She bought me a cup of coffee as a kind of consolation prize (don’t get me started on the way she negotiated that drive-thru) and we drove home reminiscing over our dramatic near-death experience, which, incidentally, she thought was hilarious.

I see you

A travel journalist recently asked me for an interview on international living. I perused the books she’s written on various cities across Europe, eager to discover what kind of insight she offers. I used to dream of being a travel writer. Moving around to different places all the time just to tell people where the best eats are, the cheapest places to stay, and the fastest ways to get there.

coffee time

But while I admire what she does, I felt myself recoil. ‘Fast’ is not the way I like seeing a place. The main tourist attractions couldn’t be farther from my mind.

Shadows

She asked me one stellar question: Do the locals get offended by anything tourists do in particular? Easy answer: Talking about their own country, and how they do things back at home. Ask, look, listen, engage. Don’t compare. Let them immerse you. Be immersed. Be quiet.

A colleague and I spent 15 minutes in a local Venetian bar listening to slang, laughing at their light-hearted jest, grateful to be allowed to be a temporary part of their particular kind of magic. I carried the moment away with me, 15 minutes of real Venice, and left none of myself there with the exception of a smile and my own gratitude.

Found

I walked for hours, days, during this trip, dragging behind me a photographer who was captivated by the countless details and layered textures of the city. Well did I understand his desire to stop, to stay and see.

I was on a mission, though, and there was no time to lose.

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Getting anywhere in Venice goes about like this:

Right – left – right – right – left. Over a bridge – left. Bridge – bridge – right – left – right – five bridges – left. Be sure to roll all the  “r”s when you read that.

After hours of it, the photographer panted out… “You go so fast, and I’m sure that this time we’re getting lost. It all looks the same. Are you sure we’re not lost?”

Of course I wasn’t lost. Because Venice leads me.

When I begin to feel that maybe I could be lost this time – that maybe I’m disoriented – Venice shows me the way; reminding me of a restaurant I once ate at with a friend, recalling the iron railing of a particular bridge, conjuring the face of a familiar shopkeeper in a window, who still recognises me after a long absence.

I don’t need to remember the watery city, the mesmerising lagoon. She remembers me.

Life is not much different, actually.