As those of you who know us (and those of you who are close readers of the 24 Power Rankings- I'm not going to link to them, they're directly below this) are already aware, DM and I recently took a week off from ranking stuff to visit Italy... where we proceeded to rank stuff. Plan your next vacation with my parents accordingly. (Apologies for the lack of pictures- DM is working on getting those posted. Honestly I'm a little concerned about revealing our closely-guarded identities to rabid, placenta-obsessed Live fans, but I suppose if I'm going to make the ultimate sacrifice for a cause, Kowalczyk lyric hatred ranks right up there in terms of my strongly held convictions.)
1. Gelato I'm sure DM would object on principle to my ranking any food product #1, but since gelato was a daily highlight of this trip for me, I'm going to overrule him.
Gelato Power Rankings:
1. Blood Orange
7. Passion Fruit (a surprisingly poor showing, given that passion fruit water ice is easily in my top two)
8. Black Cherry
2. Italian Kids This trip was intended to be mildly educational, and nothing was more enlightening for me than observing the many field trip groups we encountered. We had the chance to subject a number of groups in various locations to our intense sociological scrutiny, yielding these important facts which should shed some light on contemporary Italian culture:
1. The kids love wrestling, specifically John Cena. We saw one or two shirts each for Eddie Guerrero, Rey Mysterio, Batista and Kurt Angle, but every fourth kid seemed to be sporting a John Cena T. As far as I could tell they weren't making a huge effort to look like him otherwise- we didn't see any bling, Reebok Pumps, or oversized denim shorts. So that's good, at least. Word life, Italian kids.
2. As far as hairstyles go, they're more into the Eddie Guerrero look. Yes, that means mullet, but more specifically it means mullet with a spiky portion- I'm talking MULLHAWK. We tried to take stealth photos of these on a number of occasions, but the best examples always presented themselves when we had left the camera in the room.
3. One final baffling fashion trend: Che Guevara t-shirts. Is Rage just blowing up over there? Was "The Motorcycle Diaries" a huge hit? I don't know what to make of it.
3. Chef Lorenzo Polegri
Ah, Chef Lorenzo. I can't claim that DM and I were always fans of his cuisine (there was a little too much pork loin/guinea hen/wild boar featured on his menus for me to show up for too many meals, and DM... well you either know his eating habits, or you need to sign up for the seminar), but I was definitely a fan of Chef Lorenzo. While DM was bravely trekking around Rome with my dad, my mom and I attended his cooking class, and I can wholeheartedly say that a good time was had by all, even the surly mustachioed guys who didn't enjoy anything. Chef Lorenzo plies everyone with as much wine as they care to help themselves to, which doesn't hurt any, although I was a little concerned when he brought out the deep fryer. Everyone escaped unscathed, however, and now I could theoretically make you gnocchi and foccacia. More importantly, we got to keep our aprons and silly chef hats, and Chef Lorenzo autographed mom's apron "Mary Ann- I love you." (I got a relatively subdued "Meg- Stay cool. " Chef Lorenzo knows a tastemaker when he sees one.) When we got back to the hotel I seized the opportunity to lay both apron and hat on her bed, as if Chef Lorenzo had just made his escape. I don't think my dad fell for it- next time I should really make sure the bed looks dishevelled.
Bonus points for the highly entertaining English language version of the Restaurant Zeppelin website. Check out this advisory about seafood:
Precious information to our greedy friends
In the aquatic realizations, where fish or similar are necessary, fresh or freezed products are used depending on market availability and on the planetary situation.
Honestly, I was a little burned out on them by the end of the trip. (Typical MZ commentary by day 4: "Oh wow, more Jesus art. What a surprise. I wish just once he could manage a facial expression other than benevolent or dead.") I did enjoy hanging out at the Orvieto duomo (pictured) at various times of day, and we did get to see a mummy (Saint Claire), so I am forced to concede that they were pretty cool after all. Just wait till you see me throwing gang signs with Saint Francis. Italy is a blasphemous photographer's wonderland.
5. My New Shoes DM says they make me look like I'm in Special Ed, but I like them for two reasons:
I'm pretty sure that for once no one else has them (this means you BS, BI, KG, DP, ZR... and whoever else, I've lost track).
They actually do remind me of Italy (they're tomato red with a green v and white cap toe).
Also: an excellent Boyracer song.
6. Lufthansa If I ever need to adopt a fake nationality, I've definitely concluded that German will make a fine back-up to my much beloved standby, Hungarian. For the most part the stewardesses were pretty much able to identify the Americans on board and address them in English, but I got an "Und zie?" without fail, even if she had already spoken to DM in English. Maybe it's just my Eurostyle. God, I hope not. Otherwise, Lufthansa's pretzels are well above average, beverage service was frequent, and I always enjoy a good hot towel. Also, Coach Carter in German? Hilarious.
7. Bob I can't often say that I feel like I'm living in a movie, but Bob gave me that feeling. Sadly, that movie was not A Room With a View, but instead (appropriately enough) What About Bob? Bob was a 63-year-old traveling without his wife or kids, but I guess he missed family life, because he became our constant companion. I don't recall ever making an effort to seek out Bob, but there he always was: going on the underground tour, climbing the Moorish Tower, lurking outside when we were headed to dinner. By the end of the trip we were just automatically pushing tables together so he could sit with us. Bobs are just ingratiating, I guess... or persistent.
8. Guys with Mustaches We had a disproportionately high number of men with mustaches in our tour group. The two in their forties were normal, if dorky, but the older guys were just unpleasant. I had one guy pegged as a jerk from the flight over after he told off the mother of a three year old who was sitting behind them. The other guy was just your basic blowhard- lots of pointless interjections during lectures and if no one laughed at his joke, he'd repeat it until you did. Honestly, I was sort of grateful for these two: they guaranteed that I was not the most obnoxious person on the trip (or at the very least they allowed me to tell myself that).
9. Italian Men Eh. I was unimpressed. I did see one foxy monk in Florence and a rather Auster-ian elevator attendant at the Vatican, but they both seemed like they would probably be too pious to be much fun. As for the ladies, I wasn't looking too closely, but I did find their great enthusiasm for elaborately patterned stockings and tall white boots slightly off-putting. I guess in Italy women are more in touch with their inner Nancy Sinatra.
10. The Vatican Maybe I'm wrong, but it seems like touring the Vatican should not feel like the descent into Hell. Our Rome excursion had been delayed a day because the Vatican was closed that Thursday, and I'm forced to assume that we were not the only group that rescheduled. Our whole trek through the museum felt like a death march- it was so packed that it was basically impossible to stop and actually look at anything. Things didn't get really awful until the Sistine Chapel, however. They only allowed a small number of people to exit the Chapel at a time, but there were no such limits on the people entering. The result: really overpowering body odor and a shared conviction that at least some of us were going to end up trampled to death. I guess if you're going to die staring at the ceiling anywhere the Sistine Chapel is your best bet, but at the time it didn't seem like a particularly appealing prospect, view be damned.
11. Mindy Mindy was generally referred to as "fucking Mindy" but I figured I'd be discreet and not put the cursing in bold (I am, as always, a model of discretion). How did Mindy earn the singular distinction of this nickname? Well, after she got out of the enclosed part of the Sistine Chapel, she just wandered off on her own, leaving the entire rest of the group to wait around in the very marginally less oppressive exit area for an additional twenty minutes or so. This was after she failed to check in with the group at the airport and wandered off in Florence. I really could go on at great length about all of her other transgressions, but I'll spare you and share what I find to be a very telling fact: She was reading a hardcover workout book ON THE PLANE. I'm not sure exactly why, but to me that screams soulless freak in a way that even bridal magazines do not.
DM may have some further thoughts on the trip, so be sure to check back for those. We'll have some photos for you at some point as well, so you can avoid Mindy if you happen to see her (don't even bother trying with Bob, trust me).