Disappointing News… I guess?

I received a work email yesterday with news that I was not going to be transitioning into a new position which would have meant a very major move to Asia.  The job would have been a promotion (which is a good thing), would have had great compensation tied to it (another good thing) and would have definitely been a grand adventure (much needed in my life right now).

So why is it disappointing news, I guess?  Although all of those things were exciting, the prospect of the move, being very isolated from family and friends, being so far from home relatively alone- all of those things made the opportunity quite scary.  I had determined that if offered the job I would take it…  and my ego was excited about updating my facebook status to say “I’m moving to Japan!” and being a former actor, there is a part of me that always wants to book every gig I’m up for but in my heart, I don’t think I really wanted it.

And the universe knows, I’ve decided.  Over the years, I have had different opportunities with my job.   One a few years ago would have meant a move to LA (that part of the opportunity was exciting), a promotion (again, exciting) but would have meant working for a controversial leader within the company (not thrilling).  For that reason, mainly, I turned down the job.  Well, about three months later I was offered a job within the company that I really, really wanted that was local to where I live.  And at about the same time, the leader I would have worked for in LA was fired and many of the team around her let go as well.  Those that weren’t are still, in some ways, reeling from the damage she wrought during her time with the organization.

And just this past year- another opportunity in California.  But the pay just wasn’t right, and it wasn’t a promotion, so I turned it down.  Because of that, I ended up spending much of my summer working on another project in Hawaii (not bad), and at the same time the leader I would have worked for in Cali (which, by the way, was the one reason to take the job) left that area and I would not have liked AT ALL working for the leader that took his place.

So- disappointing news.  I guess, because we all want to ‘book the gig’.  But does it mean something truly better is around the corner.  Absolutely.

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Italian Resolutions

More Pancetta.  More wine (although it will probably be from California- to be honest, I think I like California wines better). Cook my vegetables longer.  More red wine vinegar.  Try and find a way to plant a garden at home.  Less processed and prepared food (I’m pretty good at this, but could get better.)  Travel more for pleasure, not just work (although I do love my work travel.)  Lose weight.

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Lunch in Tuscany

What better way to spend an afternoon in Tuscany than enjoying lunch outside, under a tree with a charming Italian host and his family enjoying delicious homemade Italian food.

I was invited by Guido, the caretaker of the villas and who’s family has owned this property for over 400 years (as I learned today).  I was to join them at 1:15 and to be honest wasn’t sure exactly what to expect…  I didn’t want to arrive empty handed, so I went to the store to buy some wine as a gift.  (I did stop by a local flower stand on my way, but the whole process of trying to explain a ‘mixed bouquet’ in my more than broken Italian combined with a good chance of the owners speaking no Italian made my decision to buy wine an easy one.)

Having enough time in Europe, I knew I wouldn’t want to wear shorts to lunch, and turns out that was the right decision.  Everyone was dressed- I was the only one in jeans, but that’s all I have with me- with Guido’s father being especially dapper- blazer, sweater, pressed white shirt and ascot/scarf around his neck.

The table was set under a tree- nothing fancy, rubbermaid chairs, a simple table-cloth, but in true Italian fashion real plates, real glasses, wine, bread, etc.  We had a delicious spaghetti with tomatoes, salmon, olives and zucchini followed by prosciutto, cheese, salad (fresh from the garden, no less) and cauliflower as a vegetable.  It was really quite perfect, and luckily the white I brought went with everything.

Following lunch, my host showed me around the large palazzo the family lives in.  He said that it is over 400 years old, and has been in the family since the early 1800’s (at least, I think that’s what he said…  we do our best to communicate.)  His father was born and grew up in the house (his father, it should be noted, is quite old- at least 80 or so) and had stories from WW2 of playing in the yard as a child and hearing a bomb falling and exploding in the field next door, which knocked down a portion of the old stone wall around the garden.  He also told stories of the germans occupying the first floor of the palazzo and when they fled the Americans coming in and driving jeeps up the drive.  He said that the remembers liking the Americans because they brought chocolate to the kids.

Touring the inside of the house was interesting.  I can’t imagine living in a place that old, with different rooms, wings and levels that you have blocked off and don’t go in to.  There were wonderful rooms with old furniture, paintings, rugs and other effects accumulated over the years.  As we moved upstairs, he took a key from a secret hiding place, went behind another panel and turned off an alarm system and we then went to a large, dark room that turned out to be the former ball room…  Old furniture, a piano, more paintings, a carved and frescoed ceiling, all covered by plastic and sheets to protect them from dust and light.

What a fascinating and special opportunity it was to explore the house and gardens with a member of the family who owns them.  I can’t imagine what his reality must be like knowing that all of this is his and his brothers.  That is a lot of responsibility for a young guy.  What do you do if you want to move on with your life?  Just really made me think…

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A rainy morning in Tuscany

Woke up today to the sound of rain outside the window of the villa.  I also woke up to the incredibly annoying sound of a blackbird attacking the roof of the car.  This has been happening daily since we arrived- a large bird seems to have something against the car, or where we park or something!  He attacks it daily, pecking repeatedly at the roof, batting his wings against the rear window and just creating a generally annoying disturbance.  It was kind of funny for the first 7 days, but now…  enough is enough!

But back to the charming beginning of the story- rain outside the window, villa, Tuscany, etc.  That is a much better image of Tuscany, rather than Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds”.

Spent yesterday afternoon exploring the area…  I had ambitions of driving along what appeared to be some type of wine and olive oil trail.  But with little information of what the trail actually “was”, along with the crazy small, steep, curvy roads winding through olive groves, I decided to turn back and went to the grocery store instead.  Here’s the thing- we had so many great adventures while my friends were here that I didn’t feel bad about the choice.  It is really stressful driving those roads, and I was almost having a type of ‘panic attack’ while driving.  It’s funny, while I was with my friends in the car it was OK.  I think I had them to distract me or something.  But on your own, it’s almost as if you focus on it too intensely or something, which causes one to stress.  So off to Essalunga.

I bought way too many groceries, but there were still so many things I wanted to try before heading home, so I just went for it.  For some reason, I wanted to cook a real meal last night so I bought a chicken and roasted it- something I’ve never done at home, so go figure.  Italy inspired me, I guess.  I coated it in garlic, lemon and rosemary and then roasted it with onions, potatoes and carrots.  I plan on using some of the leftover in a salad for dinner.

Last night I watched the movie “The Iron Lady” on my iPad.  It was wonderful.  Of course, I know of Margaret Thatcher, her role as Prime Minister, her close connection with Ronald Reagan and his various policies…  but the movie gave a much deeper and incredibly interesting insight into this fascinating woman.

Today I am heading into Lucca…  probably for the last time this visit.  I am going to wander, so some shopping at my own speed and try to find a particular restaurant noted in the New York Times for lunch.  And then, probably a nap.

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Morning Walk

I just got back from a morning walk through a windy, sunny but cool Tuscan countryside.  The area that the villa is in is somewhat residential, with a combination of both old and new structures and houses.  I can imagine the day when there were fewer palazzo or houses in the area, with each owner actually owning more land. As you walk, you can see the ‘bones’ of old walls and fences that defined the plots of land years ago.  I imagine that the owners of the property that this villa is on owned much of the property in this area at one time, as most of the structures in the immediate area are newer.  Of course, newer over here can mean anything from the 1800’s to the 1970’s.

All around, the hillsides and valleys are covered in grapevines and olive trees.  If you’ve never been here before, it’s hard to really understand what someone means when they say they are covered in olives and grapes.  The most unlikely steep, sloped hillside has trees and vines clinging to it, and each family makes their own wine and olive oil and it is a treat to try different house wines and different olive oils across the area.

As I walked back, I picked some wildflowers from alongside the road to make a small centerpiece for the table.  (I could take a picture and post it, but I’m not sure how far into this I want to get yet.)

While I was ‘in the moment’ of todays walk, I was thinking about different morning walks I have taken over the years in my travel…

I remember spending a very glamorous sounding, but in reality not fancy at all, two months living just outside of Venice.  While Venice- the amazing, beautiful city of Venice- was just about 10 minutes away by train or car, we lived in a very industrial, working class city called Mestre.  For awhile, I was lucky to live in a simple but clean hotel room located in a residential area of apartments, shops, etc.  That first trip to Italy was my first trip to Europe (more on that itself later…), and I was just fascinated with shopping in a foreign grocery store, visiting local shops where people filled plastic jugs with wine from large barrels, what I perceived as very crazy operating hours (closed Sunday, Monday AM, every afternoon from 2-5, etc.)  Who can forget their first visit to Europe.

Back to the morning walks- it was so wonderful to get up in the morning and just head out to walk and explore.  Hearing conversations from behind shuttered windows, seeing ladies sweeping balconies, hanging laundry…   school kids playing soccer.  All things that seem somewhat mundane now, but when seeing these on your first time to Italy it is all so different, exotic and exciting.

I remember waking up at the beautiful W Hotel in Westwood in LA and heading out for a walk around that charming area.  As I walked the streets, I remember thinking “Wow- if this is how people live in LA, I want to live here!”  Of course, I’ve learned how MOST people really live in LA in the years since.  But I do still love that whole area, just from remembering my morning walks.

Some of my favorite morning walks have been in Hawaii… I remember one in particular, while staying in Honolulu.  Not because of the striking scenery, the ocean, the sunrise (as amazing as all of those things were!), but because I had woken up very early due to jet lag and headed out to watch the sunrise.  I ended up being out and about for several hours, having coffee and breakfast, etc. and when I returned to my room I found the Hotel Security there.  I had forgotten that I had scheduled a wake up call that I missed, as I was up and out much earlier than the scheduled call.  Although I was embarrassed to have put them through the trouble of coming up to my room, it was nice to see that someone cared!


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Here we go…

My first blog post.  Where do you begin?  Why not start with- why a blog?  Do I have anything to say?  What are my ‘tags’ going to be?  I am starting this blog on a 2 week trip to Italy, sitting in a villa just northeast of the charming walled city of Lucca in the north of Tuscany. I have been thinking about starting a blog for awhile…  as a creative outlet, as a place to capture in journal fashion my travel and life experiences…  I’m still not sure of exactly what this blog will be about- food, entertainment, travel, life, lifestyle?- but I am going to stay committed to it.

As I was getting ready to head to Italy on this trip, a co-worker said to me “you should write a blog”.  As silly as it may sound, just having that come unsolicited from someone felt like a sign to launch this puppy.

Some upcoming things I want to write about- why the title for the blog?  this trip to Italy.  Some funny stories of life. 

For now, I’m hitting publish post so I can figure out how this all works!

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