Choosing The Perfect Purse For An Existential Crisis

My purse is a tiny thing, by design, so that I don’t carry around heavy, unnecessary things.  Cash, cards, an EpiPen, and my cell phone is really all the weight I need dangling from either of my shoulders.  Give it a long enough strap so that I can wear cross body in crowded spaces, and I’m golden.  It’s not a fashionable choice here in Rome, but I’ve had years of practice shrugging off the eye rolls of the Trenderati.

20170629_123444.jpgBefore I embarked on this journey, I cleaned out the solid black Vera Bradley mini-hipster that has served me well for the last three years, and moved into my brand new Baggallini.  I found it on sale at AAA when I went to exchange currency.[1]  It is also compact, but has just enough room to fit my Nikon B700, in addition to the necessities.  It sounds Italian, and the blue and green stripes remind me of my favorite patio cushions from a few summers ago, and best of all – the shoulder strap is adjustable.  I’ve already sewn the strap back on to my Vera Bradley three times and I had my doubts it would make it through a busy summer of travel without another repair that I was unwilling to accommodate with space for needles and thread in my suitcase.

I began my purse-moving by sorting the contents of my black bag into piles on the kitchen table.  There was the obvious trash pile that contained old receipts and loose pieces of gum.  One of the many pros of having babies that turn into teenagers is that the gum I find is now, more often than not, un-chewed.  Then there was the pile of stuff that I needed to keep, but not in my purse, at least not for Italy.  There would be very little need for my Kohl’s card, I astutely observed.  The pile of things that made the cut included my emergency credit card, my super-duper emergency credit card, three ChapSticks, and a Benadryl itch relief stick.  There was a fourth pile – the pile of things to pray about.  Like, maybe I would need 47 bobby pins, a cough drop, and the rest of the gum that hadn’t fallen out of its pouch yet.  That pile, like so many things I spend prayers on, ended up in the kitchen garbage can.

I’d just reached the last of the three pockets in my black purse when my phone chimed with a new e-mail.  It was one of my oldest friends.  From somewhere on the underside of the planet, where she lives now, she’d just stumbled upon a data card with a slew of MelSerena.jpgpictures from our trip to Savannah and St. Augustine two years ago.  She thought I’d want to see all the pictures of us with drinks in our hand.

I remembered those photos, perhaps better than she did.  I smiled for a few of them, and gritted my teeth through a lot more.  Today I wouldn’t mind being selfied with a drink in my hand, but in 2015, I was still raw from a hank-williams.jpgbitter custody battle where every tiny thing I did was nitpicked and torn apart, used as evidence that I am an unfit parent.[2]  I didn’t want the pictures then, and they are bad memories now.  For me, anyway.  She seems to enjoy them.

I replied to her e-mail with a quick snapshot of the home made business card I’d just cleaned out of my purse.  It was from the night we happened into The Monk’s Vineyard and met Hank Williams. 

When we were kids, she got the silly notion in her head that I am a witch.  I never practiced the craft, but I am a very good manipulator of coincidence, so for almost three decades, I’ve let her believe it.  It was no surprise that she replied with her age old witch accusation.
I confided that I wish my witchy ways were useful for speaking Italian, because I would be spending the next few months speaking in Charades.

That’s when she told me the truest thing I have probably ever hated about myself.
MeleemailAnd there, maybe, is the thing I could not put my finger on.  Why I am here.  Or more specifically, why I am not at home with everything and everyone I know.  Rome could have just as easily been Istanbul, or Warsaw, or Beijing.  Maybe I’m here to prove in practice, not in feminist theory, that I actually am a capable human being.

But you know what?  At this particular time in history, when I look at my neighbors and try to guess which third of them supports fascism, racism, homophobia, class warfare, and corporate greed – or at the very least think that those things are a small price to pay to teach Democrats a lesson – I realize this is an experiment that cannot fail.  Maybe learning that we can depend on the kindness of strangers – even and especially globally – is what we all need more of.


So cheers to whatever I learn from this.  I mean, aside from how to use a Metro and discern real gelato from the touristy paste, of course.Bood Moon Toast


[1] I’ve not been a AAA member very long.  Mike added me to his account a few years ago, and it has paid for itself just by letting me back into my car when I’ve locked myself on the wrong side of the door from my keys.  However, I just found out it’s much more than dummy insurance.  Did you know that they will exchange currency with no fee, and that they take your passport photos free of charge?  Also, it’s one of only two places you can go to get an international driver’s license, which is frighteningly free of any ability-based restriction or regulation.  Also, they sell car insurance and luggage.  Who knew?

[2] Spoiler alert:  Custody fights aren’t in anybody’s best interest unless a child is being abused.  Don’t do it.  Take it on the chin, learn to work with your ex and ignore anybody who was not instrumental in creating the children when they purport to represent what is in their best interest.


Despite its continued filthy shittyness, I’m afraid Napoli has lost some of her charm.  Maybe I was jaded by the bad arrival to our AirBnB, forcing us to change plans at 12:01am and find a hotel.  Maybe it is that so many of the decrepit, boarded up buildings are now bustling with American-tourist style shopping (handbags, high heels, profumo).  Or maybe it was only ever charming because I was here with my beloved and now I am not.  I mean, I love my Grown Ass Baby Cousin and I go to bed with my tummy hurting from both gluten bombing and laughing until our laugh is what keeps us laughing.  But there’s just something about holding hands with your partner with the anticipation of being jumped and knifed, or a world-ending caldera event lurking in the back of your mind.

Please don’t misunderstand me; this visit has been far from awful.  I got to meet new

Le cimetière des Fontanelle.   I wonder if they liked each other, or even knew each other in life.  Now they sit, whispering and listening together on this pillow for all eternity.
friends that already feel like old ones.  We have the good fortune to be visiting during Napoli’s annual pizza festival (see above gluten bombing).  AirBnB not only refunded my reservation fully, they are issuing a $100 credit to help offset the cost of the hotel I had to replace it with!  Today I got to see actual dead people.  And I do look forward to bringing the kids here in August.  But I can’t wait to get back to my apartment.

I am Rome sick.

Giorno 1

12 giugno 2017
One hour before landing in Frankfurt
I cleared customs in Germany, which was both very helpful and a little disappointing when upon collecting my bags in Rome I realized I had no long wait ahead of me, but would get no passport stamp from Italy.
Instead of waiting an hour for a customs official too preoccupied with his cell phone and cigarette to even look up and see if my face matched my passport like last year, I rolled my bag off the carousel and straight out into the throngs of waiting drivers.
If that horde wasn’t a metaphora per la vita, I’ve never seen one. An almost imaginary barrier held back the men calling over each other for a fare and just past the desperation, stood the wall of confident men who already have a name. I found the one holding mine on a sign and followed him to my air-conditioned car.
There’s a man at home holding my name, too, and I realize this is not a solo journey. I wouldn’t be here without him.  I’m not here without him.  He’s in mio coure and on mio mente.
20170612_165049I was working on hour 30 without sleep, so that I was able to locate a supermarket and will my legs to take me to it is all I need to call my arrival a success.   I shopped simple and had a rather crude caprese salad for dinner.  I’m happy to report that tomatoes still taste as magical as I remember.  I’d forgotten that even the black pepper in Europe is better than what is available at home.  My olive oil tastes like earth – the way it should.  Mozzarella di bufala is sold here the way I buy yarn at home – in 100 gram balls.
20170612_223440.jpgI did my dishes and fell into bed for a four hour nap.  I woke up around 10pm, made myself a snack of blackberries and Prosecco and played some music. I think I’m going to get used to this.
I think I already am.
Tomorrow, I conquer public transportation.

I Ain’t Scared 

I’m waiting at my gate and can neither believe I am doing this, nor that I haven’t before.  I clearly see what stood in my way,  but why didn’t I side step it? 

I’ll be having lunch in Rome tomorrow, and every day after for the next eight weeks (give or take a few for my forays into other lands).

I’m coming home with two published articles and – so help me God – a book ready for the editor.  I don’t know what this means for my blogging frequency.   We’ll both find out together. 

Mike and I spent the last week remembering the things he needed to be briefed on before he becomes king of the castle for the summer.   On Wednesday,  he broached the delicate subject of my mortality. 

“If something happens, do you want your body sent home, or your ashes?”

I am amazed he had to ask.  “Have me cremated there and don’t you dare send me back to the States.”

So I think we’ve covered everything. 


Already Gone

I leave in seven days.

I’ve tried to remain present.  Ram Dass reminds us to Be Here Now, but how do I know he wasn’t in Italy when he wrote that and meant it literally.  “Like for real,  come over.”

Ok, so I know that isn’t the case. I won’t see my family for a month and a half and I’d be a douche canoe for mentally bailing on them a minute sooner than I part ways at security.  It’s a struggle,  but it’s right. 

I was reminded this afternoon that Mike has the same experience, even as the one I’m leaving behind.   He won’t join me for six weeks,  but his dance card is full!   There are plans of building a new deck, and putting new flooring in the basement.  If he is to be believed, I won’t recognize this place when I get home in August.  

I guess he got impatient waiting for me to leave, as this is our current situation.

Arrivederci, you decrepit, old, tiny deck and buongiorno, leg-breaking hazard right before I leave.

Wish us well.