December 17, 2008


Nando came back from France with the medications that both of us are supposed to take. He has one to take, I have three. Since the information is in French medicalese, I haven’t a clue what they actually DO, but they all appear to be for allergies, strangely enough. One of them is supposed to be taken for five days before the intervention. But Nando got back three days before, so I will be missing two days prior to the operation. Is this a bad start or what? All the medication is not to be taken with alcohol. No problem. I have lived in France and Italy for 15 years and still, if I drink a glass of wine a WEEK, that’s a lot. I do like to accompany great food with good wine, but if I had to choose between wine and mineral water at the table, I invariably opt for the latter.

December 16, 2008

Learner and lower

Yesterday afternoon when I was ironing, the song "I've grown accustomed to her face" popped into my head. Not by chance, since we leave for Marseille tomorrow.
I've grown accustomed to my face.
It always makes my day begin.
I've grown accustomed to each line,
Each wrinkle, thick or fine,
The sagging cheek,
The jawline weak.
They’re second nature to me now,
Like breathing out or breathing in.
I'm disadvantaged as a woman
If I don’t rejuvenate,
But the thing that most concerns me
Is if what I buy I’ll hate.
I've grown accustomed to the me that I am used to see,
Accustomed to my face.

December 15, 2008

Any room at the auberge?

My big regret, comme d’habitude, is having to leave Homer in a kennel. He HATES staying in a kennel. For me, that's the worst part about traveling.

I called a couple of auberges in Provence today and there is no problem for space. Americans are staying away from Europe in droves, and other international travelers aren’t any more enthusiastic about flying. So I won't reserve till we get to Marseille. We are in the clinic Monday and Tuesday nights anyway, and Wednesday night the clinic has booked a nearby hotel for us, nothing fancy or charming but convenient for my Thursday am visit. We can walk from one to the other if we feel ambitious. After Thursday morning we are free till the following Wednesday.

My charm quotient for hotels is limited by Nando's lack of interest in enriching the coffers of Relais et Chateaux, Chateaux et Hotels Independents and Relais du Silence. We'll have to play it by ear.

December 14, 2008

Petit tour de Provence

We'll stop off in Monte Carlo to see friends and stretch our legs, then drive on to Marseille. Two days later, bandaged and blue, we will set out for a petit tour de Provence, visiting, not necessarily in this order, Aix-en-Provence, Arles,  Nimes, and Orange. Unless we or the weather is not up to it, we’ll conclude by driving from Aigues Mortes to St. Maries de la Mer, the two cities book-ending the Camargue. The winter is the only time to visit the Camargue because otherwise it is knee-deep in mosquitoes. Then we'll stop again in Marseille for my final check and to remove the stitches (arggh), and then in Monaco or a Carrefours (my favorite French superkmarket chain) somewhere to buy bread, smoked salmon, creme fraiche, Dijon mustard, Armagnac and champagne before heading back to Busto. So much for the weight loss dimension of the trip.

December 13, 2008

French Camelot

Having just come back from Southern France, Nando assures me that the weather is great. Although the trip from Milan to the Italy’s Riviera Ponente (the Italian Riviera north of Genoa to the French border) is only 75 minutes, the weather changes dramatically in winter. It’s day and night. You can be driving through snow, fog and cold en route to Genoa and you pass through a series of tunnels to the Liguria region and suddenly you are in the land of eternal spring -- blue skies, clear air, birds chirping, expanses of green vegetation framing the blue of the Mediterranean. And the weather seems to improve the closer you get to France. Then you cross the border, with Monaco less than 10 miles away, and it’s as if Prince Rainier had ordained gorgeous weather for his little principality and its surroundings. I have made that drive hundreds of times and I always think of the lyrics from Camelot:
A law was made a distant moon ago here:
July and August cannot be too hot.
And there's a legal limit to the snow here
In Camelot.
The winter is forbidden till December
And exits March the second on the dot.
By order, summer lingers through September
In Camelot.

December 12, 2008

Facelift, flashes, fear

The last month of this wretched year of death and fear. Yesterday I had an appointment for my monthly leg waxing at my local beautician's, and I told the young woman proprietor and her assistant that I was getting a facelift, and that they were the only ones to know outside of my husband and the doctor. They reacted positively, encouragingly. As soon as I mentioned the fact, their eyes flashed to my face and I could just HEAR them thinking, "Brava. Good move. You need it, signora." They insisted that I stop back to show them the results as soon as I returned to Busto.

December 11, 2008

Pros, cons and calories

It’s true, there are plenty of lovely places to visit in Provence, but it's hard to make a decision:
1. We haven’t nailed down a budget so I am uncertain where to book price-wise. Hotels in France are generally less expensive than their counterparts in Italy, so one is tempted to trade up to a nicer place: flowers on a sunny balcony, fluttering lace curtains in the room, fresh croissants and steaming cafe au lait served in a breakfast garden. That is the image the tourist board wants to promulgate anyway.
2. But I don't know how I will feel. What's the point of an inn near the Camargue if I don't feel like walking? What's the point of an in-town relais if I look gasp-awful and don't want to be seen?
3. I don't know about the driving. Since my eyes are part of my intervention and ALL of Nando’s, we may not want to drive at all, and that would mean staying in Marseille the whole time.
4. I don't know about the eating. Nando is trying to lose weight (he needs to, for the diabetes) and me, well, the aftermath of an operation, ANY operation, is an ideal time to take off a few pounds. So is the hiatus before the holidays. Therefore, why pick a place known for divine food if we won't want to be tempted?

Considering the falloff in tourism just now, with everyone traumatized in the wake of 9/11, and given that early December is low season anyway, I may just bring a guidebook or two and wait till we get there -- then decide day by day.

December 10, 2008

S Day approaches

Between now and S-day (Scalpel Day), I could dedicate myself to straightening my study. Or ironing. Or trying to make progress on some long-term work projects. Or working up some alternatives for a summer vacation.

OR I could have fun figuring out how Nando and I will spend our time between post-op and follow-up appointment. As Angela pointed out by email, there are many wonderful inns in the south of France where we can stay.

December 9, 2008

The Big D

This morning Homer wandered into the bedroom restlessly at 5:30 or 6 am. Uh-oh! Diarrhea. Diarrhea. This happens almost every year after Thanksgiving. I tried to pretend that this was not his problem but I knew it was, so by 6:30 I was dressed and we were out in the park. A quick tool around, a squat and two squirts, and then back home. I figured this was only round one so I didn’t get back into bed nor did I take a shower. I lay down fully clothed on the living room sofa and sure enough, less than two hours later, Homer was nosing at me again.

Here we go. We almost bumped into the 30-something, shy young lawyer who lives on the 3rd floor as we made our way downstairs in a big hurry. "Oh excuse me," he said pleasantly, seemingly open to engage in a bit of conversation given the early hour on a Sunday morning. "Sorry my dog has a big emergency we gotta go," I mumbled over my shoulder as Homer tore down the steps, out and across the street and let fly on the first patch of green he hit on Via Foscolo, a few steps from our entrance.

December 8, 2008

Post-prandial Duracell

The problem is that the show is over, the curtain is down, Nando has left for a week on the Cote d'Azur, I don’t have any work assignments pending and no new business on the horizon, I’m housebound with el doggo (who has conjunctivitis in one eye and had a bout of diarrhea this morning . . . early) and don’t know what to do with myself.

When in doubt, when self-doubting, stuff yourself. Right? That is unfortunately easy to do in a post-Thanksgiving household with only one person. Sweets, chocolates, turkey, snackies, everything to pull me to the fridge. I feel sick.

Friday I was tired all day. "You are like Duracell, you keep going," Nando had said the day before. "No wonder your battery is low."

December 5, 2008

Inner and outer

Among our guests were two Italian men, both 62 years old. Both still had their hair, neither was fully grey, neither wore glasses, both were physically active men who had little apparent extra weight. But the difference between the two! One was bouncy, active, energetic, almost falling over himself to be noticed. Nando had described him to me as a cross between Mickey Rourke and Al Pacino, and that was an uncannily accurate description. The other man radiated grey -- not his hair, not the pallor of his skin, but the way he moved, sat, conversed. He was withdrawn, hunched over, internalized. In the photos, the one seemed closer to 40, the other to 70.

"It’s all the way you feel," I insisted to Nando. "It’s what’s inside, how you project. That’s more important than the facelift." But I looked at the faux "before and after" of myself and wasn’t entirely convinced.

December 3, 2008

Talking turkey

We developed the Thanksgiving pictures today, shortly after the event. I looked fine in one of them, not gorgeous or sexy, but me -- with an unbroken chin line and nice cheekbones. That was one picture. But the others: in the one of me eying the turkey head, it’s hard to tell whose appearance is more scraggly. And the one of me gesturing proudly to the half-cooked bird, well, put that one next to the "great shot" of me after dinner and it’s almost like a before and after facelift contrast. I am halfway minded to bring both photos with me to show Dr. Delos and challenge him to better the "after" image. "And my before and after didn’t cost me anything and didn’t require surgery," I’d like to point out to him.

December 2, 2008

Through glasses darkly

I picked up my glasses today; the first glasses (other than reading glasses and sunglasses) I have owned in 38 (ouch) years. Among the instructions from Marseille was the admonition that contact-lens wearers should expect to wear glasses for the first week or so after the operation. Because I didn't own a pair of glasses I had to find a local optician who would make me a pair quickly. I figured I’d better get used to them BEFORE the surgery, because I didn't know how long it would be before my eyes could wear them afterward.

Oh the first time I put on the glasses, they felt so STRONG. Blinding, almost. Could the fact that I haven’t owned a pair of prescription glasses since the age of 16 have something to do with vanity? I had stubbornly refused to buy them all these years because it seemed like a betrayal of my faith in contacts, but now I wonder if egotism also had something to do with it.