Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Blogday OC

Opera Chic is celebrating her first annivesary of telling-all in the Opera and music scene here in Italy - and beyond. Her quirky take on and incredible inside knowledge of what's happening is beyond spooky (see now I've linked the All Hallow's theme into this post.) And we always know that if you want to spot her she'll be the most fashionable woman in the audience.

As soon as I learn the technical end of these things I'll do my MM voice over and replace Birthday with Blogday and Mr President with Dear Opera Chic. I promise.

31 ottobre - Santa Lucilla

The Reese Report

Hang Down Your Head Reese Dooley
This was the sight that greeted me this morning as I came into the kitchen hall with my coffee cup in hand. I know what you're thinking and so did I for a second and almost dropped my coffee cup. Than I remembered the "hanging head" routine. From the time he was a puppy up until his back surgery Reese always did that. He could be sitting in your lap or laying in his kennel and his head would be hanging, eyes-rolled back in a William F Buckley manner, dead-to-the-world asleep. The first time it happened - he would have been about 3 months old - I panicked, he didn't respond to being called and I was sure he was dead. Of course, we didn't know at that point that he was deaf - something the breeder forgot to mention.

So having said that Mr. Reese, the Reeserman, Buddy is on as much of a recovery as we can expect at 93 - eating in a very picky manner, walking unsteadily and sleeping a great deal. As John says: It's like an elderly relative - or me on a bad day!

31 ottobre - Santa Lucilla

All Hallow's Eve

The Iron Maiden in the Candy StoreHalloween is not a tradition here in Italy but you wouldn't know it from the window displays in confectioneries, bars and pastry shops. Pumpkins, witches, ghosts and skeletons abound! The next two days will be the important one's - All Saint's tomorrow and All Soul's on Friday. In my acolyte days (not sure if I ever mentioned that I was an acolyte in the Anglican church for one period there) those were two of my favorite Feast Days. The glorious music and ritual of celebrating the Saints and commemorating the Souls of the Faithful Departed, at least in my parish, were theatre of the highest degree.
All Hallows Eve - Italian Style
All Hallows Ever - A Special Cake
All Hallows Eve - A Shop Window
And speaking of theatre - take that for a link William Zinsser! - Gallery Met and The New Yorker have joined forces and mounted an exhibition of work by New Yorker artists based on Humperdink's Hansel und Gretal. The online slide show highlights some of the work on display - William Wegman's contribution is a hoot and Gahan Wilson's take on the H&G saga is, as always, wonderfully macabre. And Roz Chast gives the tale her own particular twist.

And speaking of opera - zap again Zinsser! - I'll have a post up about Oberto in Bussetto (sounds like a title for a Greek tragedy) shortly.

31 ottobre - Santa Lucilla

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Here's the Damned Ham!

Pig ProductsIn that gentile lady-like manner of hers, Doralong (What Would Jackie Wear) has been asking about Parma Ham. Myself I find this obsession with porcine flesh a trifle... well unnatural but who am I to judge. But she's right you can't go to Parma and not think of ham.

The centre of Parma is an area for pedestrians and bicyclists and after a long walk around the historic centre I was building up an appetite. I contemplated one of the ristorante in the Piazza in front of the Town Hall but it just seemed so "touristy" - I can be a real snob that way. I headed down a small alley and in a piazza off the Strada Garibaldi came across a tent offering "VerdiTaste." I'd noticed that, unlike their counterparts in Salzburg with Mozart, merchants in Parma were marketing the Verdi Festival in a tasteful way - posters, costumes from previous productions, books, scores. There wasn't a single "'Joe Green Reigns In Parma" t-shirt in sight.A Taste of Verdi And here was this place offering things like the "Aida" or "Otello" platter however the displays of ham, sausage, cheese wheels and chestnuts (its chestnut season here) were so damned appealing - and the guy slicing the meat (you should excuse the expression) was cute - hey I'm old and married not dead and buried!

So I ordered the "Aida" (culatello, dried garlic sausage, a large piece of well-aged Parmesan and fresh bread) and a glass of a local red, grabbed a stool at a bar style round table and tucked in.

Let me tell you about culatello or rather click on the link where it is better explained than I every could. But what I will tell you is that it is the best ham I have ever eaten in my life. It seemed to literally melt away with a lovely salty-sweet after taste. With the aged cheese, garlicy sausage and rough but pleasant local wine it was a more than satisfying lunch.

Nonna at the BarThe tent (turns out its a family run operation in town - they set up there for the Festival) started to fill up with both tourists and locals - a few taking away orders of culatello at EU 54 a kilo. I ordered a second glass of wine from the striking looking Nonna of the family - one of those woman who has gotten more beautiful as she's aged. I noticed as well as waiting on tables and tending bar Nonna was not beyond having a little nip every once and a while just to make sure the bottle she had just opened was a good one.
The whole atmosphere was festive (Nabucco playing in the background), rustic (the tent, wooden floor, bar seating) and sophisticated (products beautifully displayed, greenery and the Teatro Reggio backdrop.) It was completely in the spirit of Parma celebrating Verdi. And it totally spoiled me for any other type of ham!

30 ottobre - San Alfonso

Monday, October 29, 2007

Change Trains at Bologna

Eurostar 1st ClassTrains in Europe aren’t what they use to be – or at least not on the TrenItalia Eurostars. Gone are the old compartments with their worn bordello maroon plush seats and dusty billiard table green curtains. The coaches are now Pullman-style with groups of four or two airplane seats in violent red with black chevrons, given a false sense of privacy by smudged Plexiglas dividers. Gone is the embarrassment most North Americans feel when confronted by a train compartment occupied by local travellers – oh God I’m going to spend the next three40 winks
hours with someone who doesn’t speak English. Now a smart metal console with dropdown table and laptop and cell outlets allows you to ignore the other travellers after the initial “buon giorno” and get on with your work, video gaming or blogging. But I must admit the gentleman in the pĥoto at the right did go to extremes to avoid fellow passengers.

I suppose something has been gained in the change but something has been lost. I remember on my first trip to Europe as a semi-callow youth of 19, a good deal of the pleasure and adventure of the trip were the people – European and other foreign travellers - I met in slightly musty train compartments. The struggles to make conversation with my Ontario high-school French and opera-libretto German and Italian was half the fun. That discomfort at occupying a enclosed space with strangers only set in as I grew older. Also at the time I was an not unattractive kid and I recall the attentions of several older gentlemen – oh they must have been almost 30 – of course as I grew older and my hairline receded so did those sort of attentions.

27 ottobre – San Fiorenzo

Well glory be – they still have Intercity trains with compartments – now in cooling blues and Plexiglas – and people still make conversation when sent to them by the ineffableTrenItalia booking system. From Parma to Bologna – 50 minutes – there was a lively discussion about the Maryinsky Ballet Swan Lake at La Scala in the compartment next to mine. And in my own much merriment was being made of the cha-cha rhythm of a woman’s telefino ring – I gather the reason it was going unanswered was that it was “only her husband.” And a concerned discussion broke out about the burning smell coming from the brake assembly of the car in front of ours every time we slowed down or stopped in a station. And in true TrenItalia fashion an announcement was made in Emilio Reggio that we would be delayed 10 minutes – and a minute later we departed.

On the connecting train from Bologna to Roma it was back to the Pullman and the solitude of XP and Ipod. Though I must admit there was a bit of eye-candy that would gone unseen in a compartment - some Italian mothers are right, their sons are gorgeous. And though we left Bologna on time with no stops along the way for some reason explained in a totally inaudible announcement, we arrived in Rome an hour late.

And some older man of 65 or so made eyes at me - or maybe he was just squinting to read his newspaper.

28 ottobre – SS Simone e Guida

The Reese Report

Dog Food!
And what do we have here? Another splendid recipe from The Silver Spoon? Another taste temptation to greet Laurent as he comes home from a hard day of saving the world for democracy? Well no actually its Reese's dinner. He hasn't been eating much and has lost over a kilo since he took sick over two weeks ago. He seemed to like my minestrone when we mixed it with ground beef - so let's see how this one goes over.

Eating Cautiously
Appears it "went down a treat" as my friend Deb use to say when we lived together and I cooked something she enjoyed. All except, I noticed, the green beans which where not a great favorite. A few were very delicately spit out on the floor. Seconds were asked for, given but not eaten. But I have a feeling he'll get to it eventually.

I hope to have a post or two on Parma up today and tomorrow. But figured the Reese Report should come first.

29 ottobre - San Petronio

Friday, October 26, 2007

The Reese Report - Today's Update

We've often said that Reese is more like a cat than a dog - his behavoir is quite often more feline than canine - and be damned if like a cat he seems to have a few lives at his disposal. Dr Benevenuti referred to him tonight as his little "Miracle" as we watched him hobble slowly across the waiting room - and frankly on Tuesday he wasn't able to stand so.... We had thought it was only three days treatment but the good doctor - and I must blog about him sometime - continued it tonight and once more tomorrow. Then we will assess on Monday. As long as he is improving and there is no suffering I think for the moment we are not going to have to make a "decision."

So I'm off to Parma tomorrow at 0730 - I finally went to the station to get a reservation. The TrenItalia website is very slick, very "bella figura" but a total disaster for the user. It rejected 3 credit cards and actually froze my Mastercard after the third attempt. A call to a very pleasant lady at their call centre brought the admission that "we have trouble with foreign credit cards on the website." And even she was not able to help as much as she tried.

Hopefully I'll be blogging from Parma including a possible observation - a hesitate to call it a review - on the Oberto, which I'm sure you'll all be waiting for with great expection? Wish the trip could have been as planned but again there is always the next time.

It is now 11:05 and I still have to iron a few shirts, pack my five pairs of underwear (hey I'm going for a day and a bit okay! and I don't want to be hit by a mad motorino driver and taken to the hospital with dirty underwear, okay!) and four pairs of socks (all blue.) And then to bedfordshire.

26 ottobre - San Evanisto

The Reese Report

Well tonight is Dr. Benvenuti's assessment of the situation with Reese: from our point of view he is certainly better than when we took him to the Clinic or brought him home for that matter. He is walking a bit - though if he stands in one spot for more than a minute his back end slowly sinks to the ground. When he sits the one back leg is often in an unnatural position. He is eating - though only chicken, hamburger or slightly cooked vegetables. He is still drinking copious amounts of water which are then recycle - occasionally on the kitchen hallway floor or carpet. He spends a good deal of his time sleeping. He has definitely lost that puppy look and just looks like an old boy now. And he resolutely refuses to give me a kiss!

Went for a caffeine fix yesterday morning with my friend John, another dip-spouse, and I'm not sure if it was the two cappuccini, the chocolate corneti or both but we chattered away for almost 2 hours. When the subject turned to Reese, John compared the situation to looking after an elderly relative - and he's right. He's old, he's in failing health and he's part of our family - so we look after him as long and as well as we can.

Having said that I am going to be a bad person tomorrow - please tater forgive me. If I can get the TrenItalia website to accept my credit card - its rejected three perfectly valid ones already - I'm heading up to Parma early tomorrow morning and returning late Sunday morning. Laurent - being the sort of person he is - insists that I should go and that he can get some quality time in with Reese that way. Though it could be he just wants to get rid of me for a day or so.

Of course this is all subject to change depending on tonight's assessment.

26 ottobre - San Evanisto

Thursday, October 25, 2007

A Dilemma

Well tonight is treatment number 3 and Reese has walked around a bit today and eaten a bit. He seems more aware and more lively, but again we are being cautious and not betting on anything yet. And we've found ourselves in a dilemma.

Teatro Verdi - BussettoBack in July Opera Chic allerted us to the Verdi Festival in Parma - and I was intrigued by the thought of seeing Verdi's first opera Oberto, particularly in the tiny Teatro Verdi in Bussetto (photo left). So being the far thinking person I am, I reserved tickets for a performance on October 27.

For some reason I kept putting off booking a hotel - first we had to find one that would take pets; then we had to check the regulations on Italian Trains for carrying small animals just in case the paper work on the car hadn't been worked out; when the papers came through and train travel seemed a bit too complicated we decided to drive; so we bought a TomTom GPS as everyone said that was a necessity when driving in Italy; then we discovered all we had to do was hit the A1 Autrostrade di Sol and head north - though the TomTom will be required for other trips. And I still hadn't reserved a hotel - just kept putting it off.

Then, as I have been reporting the past week or so, our Budfordshire (don't look it up, its a made-up word) Reese took very sick and has been undergoing treatment. So what's the dilemma? Well we figure we have four options this weekend:
  1. Go as planned (there are hotels that accept dogs still available) and take Reese with us.
  2. Go as planned and leave him with our good friend and Laurent's colleague Linda who is more than happy to look after him at her country place outside Rome.
  3. I go as planned (I'm the opera freak in the family) and Laurent stays at home and attends to Reese.
  4. We just cut our loses - the not inexpensive tickets are non-refundable - and cancel the whole damned thing.
I'm not sure the either option 1 or 2 would be the best thing for Reese and he is, after all, our main concern. At a hotel the incontinence could be a major problem and he would be in a strange place. And not that Linda wouldn't look after him - she loves animals and has already been a great help in finding a vet amongst so many other things, but he would be in a strange place with strangers when he's still sick.

Going alone is not a particularly appealing prospect and to be quite frank its going to cost a fair bit in train fare and hotel - it appears there is no such thing as a single room, Europe is no longer a place that caters to the single traveller the way it did when I first came here in 1968. So though we've pretty much decided on option 3 it may just end up being option 4 - there will be other Verdi Festivals.

I hate dilemmas - even ones as trivial as this one!

25 ottobre - Santa Daria

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Reese Report - A Further Update

Well tonight was trip two to the vets for a continuation of the homeopathic treatment. Dr Benvenuti had a full house tonight: a temperamental Irish Setter - we all had to make sure it couldn't see our various pets, we couldn't quite figure out what that was all about. A very effeminate man or a very masculine woman - couldn't tell which - with a four week old kitten and his/her mother/wife/friend with a large but very gentle dog of unknown pedigree. Two young men with a big old orange cat saddled with an Elizabethan collar and a very laid back reaction to it all. And several other people coming and going with much to do - I undertand now how opera was born in Italy. Through the mayhem our Reese just sat there and only reacted when he saw a Golden Retriever parade by the window - much barking at that point - guess he was far enough away not to accept the challenge.

He was given another series of shots tonight - and for the first time let out a yelp when he was injected. When we got home he ate some of my minestrone mixed with tuna and is now sleeping. I would like to say I've seen an improvement but that may just be wishful thinking. We shall see what happens in the next 48 hours.

Again thanks everyone for your thoughts, prayers and love. It has been incredible.

24 ottobre - San Antonio M. Claret

We Got Culture; We Got Couth

Teatro Dell'Opera di Roma just announced their 2008 season and they really should have hired Opera Chic to handle the launch for them - she's got me all worked about what's coming up on stage at Piazza Beniamino Gigli next year. One rather strange item: Andrea Bocelli in a rare Mascagni opera Amica; understand I have nothing against Bocelli for what he is - an lovely untrained voice - he is fine but an opera singer he ain't. However given the rest of the season I'm getting my lily-white kester over to the Box Office to see about subscriptions.

As I mentioned in an earlier post I was there on Sunday afternoon for a performance of Alban Berg's Wozzeck - not the most cheerful of operas when you not in an up mood but it has always been one of my favorites*. The theatre was a little over half-full - I had a first tier center box that normally holds 6 all to myself. Granted Wozzeck isn't every one's cup of tea - a team of hunky Roman firefighters in full dress uniform** couldn't have dragged Laurent to see it with me - but it is a powerful piece of music drama and when it was played and sung as well as it was here its a shame there wasn't a larger audience.

Gianluigi Gelmetti (the Music Director here) led an intermissionless performance (95 minutes) that was most convincing in the lyric passages - Berg can be a hard nut for any orchestra. Jean-Philippe Lafont, despite direction that had him acting like Boris Karloff's monster without the endearing qualities, is still one of the best interpreters of Wozzeck today. He's response to the Captain's accusation about a child born unblessed by the church was the cry of the world's poor. Janice Baird's Marie was good but less than I expected based on prevous reports - but then I still have memories of Eleanor Steber and Anja Silja bringing tears to my eyes in the bible reading scene.

And that was the problem I had with this new production - there was no bible, no candle light, at least not in Director-Designer Giancarlo Del Monaco vision. It was all very stylized - we even had the Idiot played as a Marcel Marceau wanna-be - symbolic of something or other I guess but I honestly didn't get the point. Del Monaco's set was so steeply raked that singers were constantly worrying about toppling over - particularly Marie in her high heels. A great deal of the action was limited to singers sitting on the edge of holes in the stage floor singing to other singers in other holes in the stage floor. It was sort of N. F. Simpson meets Samuel Beckett. What tension there was - and what the hell is Wozzeck without tension - was in the music. And that chilling final scene lost all its power by having the child (who was more 10 than 3) standing still in the middle of the stage with a drum majors staff - no children around him playing ring-aring-arosy, no hobby horse, no running off to view his mother's body with the other children - no impact.

Musically a good afternoon - theatrically less so but at least it was a chance - still not given that often - to see one of the great operas of the 20th century.

*I first heard Wozzeck on a Met Saturday afternoon broadcast in 1958 or 59 and was intrigued with it - particularly that last scene. I was a church choir boy soprano - don't go there - and I just knew I could sing "Hop, Hop. Hop, Hop" on key with the best of them, if only the Met would bring Wozzeck to town on their annual tour.

**Two members of Il Guarda di Fuori attend every performance at the Opera and stand in the lobby in full dress uniform - including plumed helmets - to reassure us that in the event of fire all will be well.

24 ottobre - San Antonio M. Claret

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Reese Report - An Update

We returned about an hour ago from seeing Dr. Benvenuti. He read the reports and examined Reese and then we talked. He told us that he looks at these things two ways - medically and as a person who loves animals. Medically Reese has many problems but at the moment there is no "dolore" or suffering. He is not in pain and he is well-looked after.

He asked if we would allow him to try a homeopathic treatment for the next three days and if at the end of that time things have not improved then we would make a decision. We agreed and I can only hope we didn't do so for selfish reasons or because we didn't want to face a more difficult decision. The next three days will tell.

23 ottobre - San Giovanni di Compastelo

The Reese Report - Rome

Sleeping tin the Sun
I came into the kitchen hallway just now and found Reese stretched out in the sun on one of the carpets. He has never been big on the warmth of a sunny spot - that was always Bundnie's thing (my girl, she was our first daschie and the bane of poor Reese's existence for 12 years.) He has always preferred burrowing into two or three blankets in the comfort of his kennel but given the chill in the air maybe the warmth of the sun is comforting.

I wish things were getting better but after an initial "looking good" things have taken a downturn. He's lost a good deal of weight and he's not eating regularly - sometimes that chicken and green beans looks good other times he just sniffs it and turns away. One back leg in particular is not supporting his weight and he sleeps most of the time. He is still having accidents and the accompanying embarrassment.

We still really not sure what happened just over a week ago - they assured us at the Clinic that is was not from licking the medication we were apply to his skin which is a relief. The way things are going its almost like his immune system can't handle things anymore. But we'll go to the Vet's tonight with all the test reports, get a professional opinion and talk things over with him. We don't want to do anything rash but we also don't want Reese to suffer. The quality of his life is going to have to be our main consideration in any decision we make this evening.

Thanks to all of you for your concern and thoughts - I know he doesn't hear when I read them to him (and fool that I am I do)but....

23 Ottobre - San Giovanni di Capistrano

Saturday, October 20, 2007

The Reese Report - Rome

That's our Reese - always the intellectual, his head stuck in a book - well actually between two books in this case.

Reese with his head in a book
He seems a bit lively today certainly more than yesterday but we're still monitoring things very closely. Food has still not been a big attraction - unless, of course, it comes from our plates. But he did seem to enjoy a taste of Nonno Willym's ministrone.

Those books are actually large leather stacking cushions that can be footstolls or backrests; they were created by an Ottawa Valley Artisan who's name I total forget - old age ain't pretty.

20 Octobre - Santa Laura

Nonno Willym's Minnestrone

There's been a decided chill in the air over the past few days and in a concrete apartment with marble floors it is more noticeable. So what better way to ward off an Autumn chill than a hot bowl of Minestrone liberally sprinkled with grated provolone, a loaf of crusty bread, a plate of spicy olives and a nice robust Chianti. And maybe some spiced cold meats as an antipasti to get the appetite in shape. Follow that up with some of those late season pears and a chocolate biscotti and Saturday night should be just fine.

Fixin's for Minestrone
What we have here are the fixin's for tonight's dinner: a Neapolitan Minestrone. There are as many types of Minestrone as there are regions in Italy and as may variations on those types as there are Nonne (Grandmas) in the regions. Guess this is going to be Nonno Willym's version.

The recipe I'm using is from that classic of Italian Cooking Il cucchiaio d'argento (The Silver Spoon). Thankfully this 1200 page bible of Italian cooking has been translated into English and published by Phaidon in 2005 (back then the price in Euros was exactly the same as the price in USD - oh how times have changed.) Originally published in Italy in 1950 Cucchiaio was an attempt to preserve old recipes which were fast disappearing from household kitchens. Now in its 8th edition, some of the recipes have been updated to cater to current tastes but many of the old recipes remain - I know I'm just going to run out and get the ingredients for Brain Sauce*. The book is still a traditional wedding gift for an Italian bride (I know, I know but in many ways they're still in a time warp here, hell women didn't have the right to vote in Italy back in 1950.)

I've tried a few of the recipes and like most Italian recipes they are simple and quick but depend on the ingredients being fresh, preferably local and tasting the way they should.

*Brain Sauce
1 bay leaf
1 small lamb's brain, membranes and blood vessels removed (I should hope so) and soaked in water for 1 hour
2 eggs, hard-boiled
olive oil, for drizzling
1 baby onion, chopped
1 fresh parsley spring, chopped
1 tablespoon of capers, drained and rinsed
juice of 1 lemon, strained

Fill a large saucepan two-thirds full with water, add the bay leaf and bring to a boil. Drain the brain, add to the saucepan and cook for about 10 minutes. Drain the brain, place in a bowl and crush carefully with a wooden spoon. Shell and halve the eggs and scoop the yolks into the bowl. Stir the mixture, drizzling in the olive oil to obtain a pouring consistency. Stir in the onion and capers and season with lemon juice and salt to taste.

Service with boiled meats.

Unfortuantely I don't like boiled meat.

20 ottobre - Santa Irena

Friday, October 19, 2007

Mi Sento Giu (Feeling Low)

San Giovanni from outside the Walls
I've posted this photo of the statues on top of San Giovanni in Laterano seen from outside the Walls, just to remind myself that I am living in a beautiful city.

Before coming on posting I attended an orientation day at Foreign Affairs. Much of the information was technical or old stuff but the session on adjusting to living at Post was invaluable. We talked about our fears, our concerns and a bit about the patterns that have emerged over the years. There are steps in that adjustment that I recall from my time in Warsaw.
  1. The anticipation - I'm going to (France! Italy! Burkina Faso?) fill in the blank
  2. The honeymoon - I'm in (France! Italy! Burkina Faso?)
  3. The frustration - Why am I in (France? Italy? Burkina Faso?)
  4. The depression - I'm in (France! Italy! Burkina Faso!)
  5. The decision - I'm in (France. Italy. Burkina Faso.) so might as well get use to it
  6. Numbers 2-5 can be repeated several times during a 4 year period

This week I think we both hit phase 4 with a resounding thud! As well as Reesie being ill - he couldn't tell us what was wrong, we had trouble telling the vets what was wrong - we had our first Roman fender bender as we pulled into our own driveway - we've only been driving here for three weeks - and one of our neighbours was less than welcoming and frankly abusive*. Plus Laurent is at the end of a four week language course which I know from experience is a draining and frustrating experience. Put it all together with the other little things - traffic, noise, crowds, language - and you've hit stage 4. Sadly some people never leave that stage and either spend the next 4 years cocooned from the world around them or go home before their time is up.

We have no intention of doing either. Laurent is off tomorrow on a walking tour of the Foro Romano, I'm off to the opera on Sunday - Wozzeck, which Laurent wouldn't go to if I paid him to - and we're heading to Parma next weekend for the Verdi Festival. We're in Italy (filled in the blank) and we are going to get use to and make use of it.

*Our neighbour from the second floor - Italian, 65-70ish, probably an unrepentent member of the Children of the She Wolf - has not been very friendly at the best of times. We were coming in from the vets the other evening and met him in the parking lot. He almost closed the lobby door in our face then when we went to get into the elevator with him, he push his way out and rudely told us that polite people waited outside until it was their turn to use the elevator. Wither his problem is that we are "straneri" (outsiders) "affittutario" (renters) or "omosessuale" (need I translate... thought not) or perhaps all three, we're not really sure. But for some reason it triggered this whole depression thing in us both.

19 ottobre - Santa Laura

When Reesie Comes Marching Home Again...

Home from the ClinicWell our poor Reese didn't exactly march home like Johnny in the song, much like the real Johnny he hobbled unsteadily home with various areas of his body shaved and bandaged. The results of a battery of tests reveal that he had, when admitted, a very high white blood cell count and extreme levels of toxin in his system. They were able to clean up the infection and did other tests that confirmed most of the health problems we knew he had - nodules on his liver, hyper-active thyroid, an irregular heart-beat and arthritis (all but the last he's had since he was a puppy.)

I'm afraid the change of Vet and style of treatment may have precipitated several of the past week's problems. Our current vet is very big on homeopathic treatment and previous Vets have been more likely to push the chemical solution. I may be wrong on this but perhaps it was too late in his life to make changes. If Reese were younger the natural route would be the way to go but at this stage of his life we should not be experimenting.

The treatment he received at the Clinic was exceptional and the staff incredibly good but he wasn't eating much there. When he got home last night I gave him some chopped up chicken breast and cooked carrots - they were wolfed down in true Daschie style. The same thing this morning after a short walk.

He is sleeping a great deal but then if I had been poked, prodded and punctured in a strange place filled with smells of sickness maybe I would want to sleep it off to. We'll see how the next few days go and take it from there. We want to make sure than any decisions are made for him not for us.

19 ottobre - Santa Laura

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Rainy Day Reading

One of the frustrations of not having Internet for an extended period was that I couldn't keep up with all my favorite blogs. With today being a rain day I'm checking archives to see what I've missed over the past two months. The current postings that I've seen so far have reminded me why I wait so impatiently for new postings:
  • Tater is in the middle of a three part posting: The Storm - Part 1 and Part 2; as always the writing is gripping - I'm waiting for the book Tater and Part 3
  • I Need More Cowbell has a powerful piece on Columbus and the myth of discovery
  • A book brings back memories of a family story of tragic times in America for Lynette at Big Assed Belle
  • Joe My God , has his usual incredible mixture of political, gay, music, Broadway, New York Street scenes and Shelley too
  • Aaron at Meanwhile has added Berlin to the places he has captured so beautifully and reminded me why its one of my favorite cities
  • Eric at Secrets of the Red Seven recalls a childhood memory and a link to today

  • And on the music scene:

  • La Cieca at Parterre Box has a great review of the Alagna Radames contributed by Gaultier Maldè - well-written and knowledgeable (a few critics should take notes)plus a pic of Bobby-Baby looking very fit
  • Opera Chic continues her quirky, wild and wonderful observations of the European music scene that got her in so much trouble with the stuff shirts at La Scala. Plus it looks like New York got a taste of Chic's gimlet eye.
And I haven't even started to look at Sticky Crows (except for the video of Sara), Evilganome, The Voluptuary, Here's The Dish, We Like Sheep, What Would Jackie Wear? and My Favorite Intermissions. As I said thank god it's a rainy day here.

*If I've missed anyone it isn't intentional - I've got so much to get caught up on.
**Unfortunately my friend Bev has not been able to post regularly on her blog - but being in the thick of things in Afghanistan, its understandable. Enjoy the rest with Kev and my guys in Sri Lanka darling and we'll see you here in December. God Willing.
18 Ottobre - San Luca Evangalista

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Nellie's DryerBalls

Nellie's Dryer Balls
As opposed to Nellie's Wetter... never mind.

From an North American point of view there's a problem here with clothes dryers - okay there are several problems here with clothes dryers.

  1. They have a small capacity (but then so do the washers)

  2. They don't seem to get clothes completely dry

  3. You have to empty the flimsy plastic water tray after every load

  4. It can take up to 2 hours to dry (sort of) a small load

  5. Electricity costs a fortune.
So in true Diplomatic Spouse fashion some of us have been voicing our concern - okay, whining about the problem.

Voilà the answer: Nellie's DryerBalls (I'm not making this up you know!)

An environmentally friendly alternative to fabric softeners according to the publicity on the packaging (recycled cardboard) and the website. And the website includes a slideshow of the oh-so-50s June-Cleaver-are-you-watching cartoon from the back of the package.

I can hardly wait to try them. God help me I'm turning into Laurent's housekeeper!

17 Ottobre - San Ignazio d'Antiochia

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Parlo del Pui del Meno

Here are a few postings I was going to put up the minute the Internet was connected - you will notice the optimistic dates.

Cobblestones being replacedI mentioned plans to replace cobblestones with tarmac in an earlier posting ; well it now looks like Commune di Rome has done a volte-face on that one. Much to the dismay of locals, who detest the “sampietrini,” plans have been announced to conduct some basic maintenance on the basalt surfaces starting this month. Pot holes – some big enough to consume a SmartCar – will be filled in and some stretches relaid. Now if only they can Replacing the cobblestonesdo the same on a few of the main asphalt roads the world would be a better place.

And no this is not simply an excuse to show pictures of Italian workmen - its an interesting fact!!!
15 Settembre – Ezaltation San Croice

It isn’t uncommon for a wife to send her husband out to the bar here in Rome – for a litre of milk! Bars here have a completely different function than back home in Canada. Before I go to class in the morning I stop at the bar beside the school for a cappuccino; at the same time a neighbourhood gypsy woman will have a morning brandy to ward off the chills. The entire class goes to a bar at our break for coffee and pastry and again at lunch for either a sandwich or a three or four course lunch. If we need that litre of milk or a bottle of wine for dinner I can always nip over to our local bar and pick them up. It’s a real convenient convenience store. Plus you can catch up on the local gossip.
13 Settembre - San Giovanni Crisostomo

Our intersection at Via Nomentana (above) should be three lanes going into town, including an express lane for buses, taxis and anyone who wants to defy the law. So why is it six random lanes this morning?

Well it’s the first day of school at Instituo Marymount and doting parents are dropping off the issue of their marital (and sometimes extra-marital) bliss. The future movers and shakers of Italy, International/Multi-national Corporations and Embassies world-wide are being let out of their BMWs, SUVs etc. Of course it can’t be a simple matter of open door, grab school bag, “Mom, don’t yell I love you in front of the gang” and run. Kisses must be exchanged, gossip shared and hard-won Feragosto tans compared. Mothers check out what the other mothers are wearing. Fathers jockey for a parking spot that will ensure the other fathers see the new fully-equipped family chariot. It’s not just the beginning of the school year; it’s a major social event.
10 Settembre – Santa Pulcheria

The Reese Report - Rome - A Further Update

Reese in the GardenWell Reese has been at the Clinic for the past three days and seems to be improving - they just can't seem to pinpoint where this infection is coming from. When we went to see him last night he was walking, ate a little bit, gave us each a kiss - if only very prefuntorary - and protested with that "What the fuck! Are you leaving me in this hell hole?" sharp bark as we left - and didn't we feel the guilty ones

I almost dread going to the Clinic because of what we see there -sick animals in various states of recovery or sadly not. In the kennel below Reese there is a poor dog that was semi-conscious the first night we were there and conscious but obviously in pain last night. As well as the dogs and cats in kennels there are several dogs just wandering around or laying on their blankets - I'm not sure if they have been adopted by the staff or what exactly is going on with them.

I mentioned the poor pup without a nose end in a previous posting. Patate or Patty is a sweetheart, she loves having her ears scratched so I obliged for a few minutes last night. Again I'm not sure what the complete story is but from a notice posted in the lobby I gather her family can't afford to look after her and her medical needs anymore. I am sorely tempted to see about adopting her but I'm honestly not sure how Reese would handle it. I'm going to try and get more information from the Clinic staff

We'll head over there tonight again and see the results of today's tests and hopefully by the end of the week our boy will be back home. The apartment seems empty and the days a little strange without the routine of walks, feeding and tummy rubs.

16 Ottobre - Santa Edwige

Sunday, October 14, 2007

The Reesie Report - Rome - An Update

Bubba recumbant
Laurent and I just got back from seeing Reesie; he is much better than this morning but still not out of the woods. It appears he had a massive infection that was poisoning his whole system - it may have started with the teeth problem and because it was not fully under control spread through his body.

The Clinica Veterinaria Etiopa is for emergency services only , expensive and busy. This morning when we brought our little buddy in, they were tending to three animals and two guys (clan members??) came in just after us with a beautiful but very ill white Persian cat with incredible blue eyes. They're open 24 hours a day and so far from what we've seen give exceptional service and care.

Evening visiting hours are from 7 to 8:30 and tonight it was crowded - three or four families, two gay couples and a few singles - all coming to collect their dogs or see and walk pets in for the long term. Dog lovers are a strange breed! There was much exchange of information about breeds, age, aliments and prognosis and our limited command of Italian didn't exclude us from the chatter. Reese was cooed and petted over and we were assured that he was "carino" and that everything would be okay. The few pets without visitors weren't excluded from the concern and general confusion - including one poor pup, of an indefinite breed, who had lost most of his nose. He was fussed over when the Assistant - who himself was worth fussing over - brought him out for his walk.

The picture isn't Reese, of course, but "Bubba." Back in 1986 Laurent was posted to Mexico City and he was constantly bugging me to get him a dog for Christmas. In a very un-NÖEL-like spirit I decided he couldn't handle a live one and he woke up Christmas morning to find a stuffed Dachshund under the tree. Bubba has been with us ever since and over the past few years people have commented how much he looks like Reesie. That same puppy like expression. Sadly tonight - for the first time that either of us can remember - Reese didn't look like a puppy - he looked very tired and like an old dog. Dinner was very quiet.

14 Ottobre - San Callisto I Papa

Big Ben and the Bad Boys at the Vatican

Immortalized in Stain
Well looks like another "homosexual scandal" has hit the gang across the River in the City of God. According to this report the gentleman (?) in question is not gay but only pretending to be. The hypocrisy of some of his justifications are enough to make an alter boy blush - if his actions hadn't already had that effect.
And by the way Ben was never a member of the Hitler Youth okay!

Thanks to my niece Katherine in Jersey (Channel Islands not U.S.) for the picture of the rather interesting church window.

14 Ottobre - San Callisto I Papa

The Reesie Report - Rome

Going DoDoI wish this could be a more upbeat report but we've just returned from taking Reese to the Emergency Veterinary Clinic near the house. We've left him there for some tests and observation and the best we can do is be optimistic.

He had some problems settling in, as did we all, but seemed to be coming along. He had claimed one of the gardens as his own and was vocal in challenging anyone who came into it - though the challenge was always only vocal. He was happy with his bed in our bedroom and his kennel in the kitchen hallway and loved sitting on the balcony. Within the first month he had to have some major dental things done and an ear infection seen to but he was getting more exercise than in Aylmer and seemed the better for it.

A few weeks ago he started having some incontinence problems Lord of All He Surveysand the accidents were quite frequent - much to his embarrassment as that is something he has very rarely done in the past 14 years. Then last week his old skin infection came back and he developed a series of infected cysts on the back of his head . When the Vet removed them on Thursday Laurent and I both were almost sick to our stomachs, both from what we saw and the pain it caused our poor Reese. The Vet gave us a silver solution to spray on the infection and on the lesions from the cysts and things seemed to be better.

When we got home yesterday from an excursion to the Etruscan Necropolis at Cerveteri della Banditaccia I noticed that he had licked one of the areas clean of the solution. I was a little concerned as it was clearly marked "For External Use Only" and even more so when he started behaving strangely. He was refusing to eat, pawing at his nose continually, drinking excessive amounts of water and stumbling when he walked or just refused to get up. I was concerned that I had poisoned him but we decided to wait overnight and see.

He was restless throughout the night - wandered from his bed to his kennel and back several times. This morning he was having trouble balancing on his hind legs and at that point we decided a trip to the clinic was needed. So now we sit and wait!

We've been asking ourselves a few questions in the last hour or so - some that we have asked before:
A rest on the balconyShould we have subjected him to the trauma of the move at his age, after all he is 14. If we hadn't what would we have done with him? Give him away, have him put down (I don't bloody think so!)

The problems he's having he may well have had in Ottawa; he's had one major back operation and difficultly with walking ever since. Though he looks like a puppy he's an old dog - 90-odd in human years - is all this just a result of age and perhaps an immune system compromised by the stress of the move.

If he does lose control of his back legs what are we going to do? Back surgery at his age is not really an option, they do have little wheels for daschie's, or do we judge the degree and quality of life and make a decision from there?

Honestly I think the only choice is the later and to do all we can to make sure he doesn't suffer and make the best choice for our boy.

14 Ottobre - San Callisto I Papa

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Someone's In the Kitchen with Willym

Willym and Reese in the kitchen
The setting may be different but the "loving devotion" of a poor starving dachshund when he catches the scent of food is undiminished by a change of kitchen, house, city, country or time zone.

10 Ottobre - San Daniele

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

News Footage at Eleven

My apologies to all my friends who must think by this point that I have fallen off into a pit in the Coliseum and been devoured, like the Christians, by lions. It didn't really happen to them all that much - Christian propaganda - and it hasn't happened to me.

We are all doing fine. I've just finished a sex week language course and frankly at 60 I'm too bloody old to learn all those irregular verbs. Laurent is in week three of his four week stint. We are slowly getting the apartment together - shipments arrived at staggered times and we brought too much stuff with us. We were able to host Canadian Thanksgiving dinner this weekend for colleagues with a degree of success.

Reese is having some problems. Adjusting has been a hardship for him and the effects of old age are creeping up on him - hell even I have to get up in the middle of the night these days, though that may be the wine and mineral water with dinner more than age - yeah I wish! We have found a good vet for him and he is getting more exercise than before - as indeed are we all, Rome is a walking town.

The Internet saga continues; Fastweb came last week and dropped off the ADSL modem and we were to have service today. Well it is now 9:15 pm and not only do we not have Internet we do not have phone service either. But we must be learning - we both shrugged our shoulders, delved into our risotto and poured another glass of a rather nice white from the Veneto.

By tomorrow I should be up and running; I have so much reading to catch up on - Tater, Belle, Cowbell, Sticky Crows, Evilgnome et al. And got a cache full of photos of the past two months to share with the world.

My thanks to all of you for the comments and the concern, we are here, we are definitely queer and MORE DETAILS AT ll!

PS: I've piggy backed on a colleagues wifi to send this post.

Erratum: You're right Lynette it is a typo - "sex week" - only in my most ferverent dreams!!!!!!

9 Ottobre - San Diogini