Friday, October 16, 2009

Marketing Being

The markets in Italy are wonderful - fresh gnocchi, eggs, fruits, vegetables, fish, meat, fresh cheese, are readily available. But choose your vendor wisely and, then, stick to them like glue. The vendors develop a rapport with their clients. If you are one of theirs, they give you tips on which fruits/vegetables are particularly ripe or best for your purposes (if you let them know what you're cooking). If you are one of theirs, you get fresh, free herbs - and sometimes vegetables - because you're theirs and they have a sort of obligation to do right by you because you've bound yourself to them with the decision to patronize their market stall. This works both ways - if you have picked your vendor, and become disloyal to him, other vendors *know* you're disloyal and are more likely to give you produce of a sub-par quality. You see, in most fruit and vegetable markets, you Don't Touch the Wares. That's Just Gross. The vendor will come out from behind the register and pick out the produce you indicate - they handle the produce while you watch and they CAN give you the worse wares. Why give what's good to the disloyal if you have loyal customers?

On another note, Brian V. recently wrote a small blogpost on ambiguity. I'd been thinking about this topic before he wrote wot he wrote, because I am now in a foreign country in which, to be American, is to open yourself up to a host of bad things. American women are easy. Americans are easy pickpocket targets. Americans are pushovers. Americans are stupid.

Really, I've never thought of myself as an American or of identifying myself with any particular group - but that might be because I am a mix of Filipino, Chinese, Spanish, Scottish, Irish, Norwegian, and possibly French and Italian. My ancestors were all about diversity. Add to this that I grew up in the Bay Area which has more ethnicities than you could shake a stick at, and you might understand that strict ethnic delineations only make sense to me on a superficial level.

I move among cultures. I don't see different cultures as those things that exclude others, but culture qua culture as something inclusive of all that is good in all cultures - or, in other words, Catholic. Really, I'm comfortable not with ambiguity persay, but I am comfortable with truly loving aspects of a different culture and falling into those aspects. For example, I love, love, love both sushi and Mexican food. I make very good sushi rolls and very good salsa verde. These are radically different cultures, and only a small bit of those cultures, but I don't see this as an intrusion into another culture. Rather, it is an absorption of the good. 'cause sushi is good. And so is salsa verde. And, if you truly love something, you're not going to be treating it in an unseemly or disrespectful or superficial manner - this encompasses not just food, but also clothing, art, literature, etc.

To define oneself is a difficult thing - we are always becoming more or less of who we are. Our intellection of being is a sort of creepy thing. In our soul, we become all things, we have these phantasms, these whatchamacallits. We've grasped the thing - we've touched on being. I suppose what I'm saying is that I've never regarded this ambiguity as an experiment, but as part of being human. Wouldn't it be just a bit wrong if there were something good in front of you and you declined to participate in that good because it just wasn't your cultch'a? The definition of self is continuous and culminates in death. There will always be some ambiguity.

Granted, if you're intoxicated with the idea that you might be mistaken for a Jew, Italian, etc., and you pursue aspects of another culture because of that, the experiment should end. I take delight in being mistaken for an Italian not only because it protects me from unpleasantness and opens doors, but also because it means I am succeeding in grocking parts of their culture. I do not pretend to be Italian - but I do imitate Italians because it is where I am and there are certain conventions that residents of Italy follow and which I also ought to follow because it would be discourteous otherwise. Even if that were not so, I would still delight in being mistaken for an Italian because they have deep (and, in some cases, deeply flawed) loves. Such a mistaken identification may reflect well on one's own being. I'm not talking here of the way one dresses, but of something more profound - an attitude in the face of the universe that takes delight in what ought to be delighted in (though, of course, in the mode proper to the object/subject).

So, if you learn to see that X is wonderful, then, dude, you're on the right track... And, unless it goes against a culture to do or wear x, go for it - whatever it is.


Hee hee! So American.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

I am not on speaking terms with the weather in Rome.

Piazza Venezia in the Sunset

You see, a few days ago, I put on two skirts - the one underneath to poof up the top skirt which is made of silk (a very light fabric). The silk skirt is a circle skirt which means, essentially, lots of fabric - qua poodle skirts. I got up early and sat on the porch. It was sunny, clear, still, and beautiful. Perfect! It was my first day of class, so I did my hair up pretty, donned everything I thought necessary, and headed blithely out the door.

Shortly thereafter, clouds darkened the skies and the wind started gusting rather strongly.

Right by Piazza Venezia (a major artery for traffic in Rome), I encountered a...wardrobe malfunction. Circle skirts made out of light fabric do not mix well with wind. Let's just say that, in the middle of the morning traffic, right by Piazza Venezia, I pulled quite the Marilyn Monroe when the wind came. The Italian men were rather fans of this. Remember, I had another skirt on underneath that was quite, quite proper, so it wasn't as if anything indecent really happened, but the knowledge that one's modesty is preserved does little to comfort when under the intense scrutiny of dozens of male drivers with a horn at their disposal.

It was quite embarrassing. I made my way in a daze to the Angelicum in short, little runs between gusts of wind - my poor heart beating with anxiety all the time.

Phew. Safe at the Angelicum! Oh, what's this? Two classes in English that I thought were next semester (because they weren't listed in the student book which listed all the classes) were actually - surprise! - *this* semester and would require the power of bilocation to attend because they were smack in the middle of two other classes I needed to take. So I, regretfully, exchanged them for the equivalent classes in Italian and started my first class a shattered wreck and shadow of my former self.

Next up: Italian Markets - choose your vendors wisely.