Running

Today is launch day for my talented and thoughtful husband’s book and music! (Auguri tesoro!) And no, he hasn’t paid me to type these words… You can check out more about him and the projects at theconsideredlife.com or stefanboublil.com, and make a purchase at  Amazon.com (book) or iTunes (music) or iTunes (audiobook)!

ORDER

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With that exciting piece of news out there, my son and I had an interesting conversation the other day that has had a most unexpected result… running. I’ve never been a big fan of running for sport. Sure, if zombies are chasing you or you need to get out of the way of a collapsing building, I could understand why you might want to pick up the pace, but otherwise, aren’t you just running to nowhere for no good reason? Of course, running friends and family have always extolled its virtues, telling me its good for heart, body and mind. One of my first roommates out of college even got me running around the reservoir in Central Park for a few months, but only an invitation from my 11-year old could have gotten my butt to even contemplate doing it again.

He’d be the first to tell you that he’s not a sports guy, despite trying out baseball, soccer, tennis and a little basketball. None of these have ever been all that much fun for him, despite encouragement and support from the 11-year old living over on the right there, who does enjoy many of these. Since moving to Italy, going to numerous soccer practices with a close friend, and experiencing some World Cup fever, I think he’s definitely understood and maybe even appreciates how much hard work goes into playing that game or any sport well. But it isn’t sports, friends or his parents that have motivated this guy to run, it’s dreams of boot camp! Yep, boot camp. Who knows who’s boot camp (I’ve heard something about the U.S. National Guard) but he’d like to get in good physical condition so that it doesn’t kick his butt. Maybe living across the river from West Point for 4 years did this? Books about Roman soldiers?

Whatever the case, we’ve started by downloading the Nike + Running app (Thank you Lena!), and it’s the perfect motivator for the pre-teen with a mild screen addiction problem. It has smart tracking tools (how much you run, your time, calories burned and Nike Fuel points earned), a built-in coach (with which we easily started an 8-week training program), social media sharing (Instagram and Facebook friends here we come!) and the ability to hook up with friends or your mom so that we can challenge each other for the top spot each week.

Out on our hilly gravel roads, the running is not as easy as it might be in a city, but so far some fun is being had, our bodies are definitely being challenged, and it’s easy to see all the life lessons that this running to nowhere has the potential to teach, lessons momma probably needs as much as her son. We’ll see where all this takes us. If all goes well, maybe we’ll even try running a 5k in August!

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Paddling

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First of all, CONGRATULATIONS to Stefan on this, the LAUNCH DAY for his book and music projects and the official introduction of the considered life to the world! I’ve had the pleasure and privilege of witnessing a few moments of its development over the years and I promise you, neither the book nor the album should be missed.

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In other news, summer is here! I think I’ve mentioned this a few times already, but I’m just so doggone happy to be puttering around the house in bare feet with the windows open, the sloshing of boats on the river the soundtrack echoing through our house as the people and animal who live here settle into the rhythm of the season.

A change like this often comes with moments of bewilderment and it was during one of those murky mornings late last week, when Noah and I were bumping into one another in the kitchen and Ray was trying to get out the door to catch a train and Luca was whining because he wanted to go for a walk that I decided we needed to do something different–you know, in an attempt to flow with the slower pace and the looser structure of the day and not, ahem, paddle against it. Noah and I talked about finding a movie to see or going to the mall or, even, hopping on the train with Ray and heading into the city for a museum visit and lunch, but the sky was crystal blue and the breeze was gentle and warm and it wasn’t a day to be inside. So, I made the rare choice to go kayaking. You know, without our resident water expert around to guide us.

It’s not that I don’t ever go out on the river without Ray, but often it’s just easier and, to be honest, more palatable to have him with us. For safety and security reasons and because it’s obviously more fun, but also because he’s good at dragging the kayaks around and warning us about the changing tide and keeping Noah and I, two starry-eyed neophytes, focused on looking out for motor boats and tankers and other detritus that must be avoided whilst splashing about on this giant body of water in a plastic vessel the size of a bathtub.

Noah, ever the adventure seeker, was thrilled and did not miss a beat. Of course we could do it alone! No worries! He wanted to pack lunch. He wanted to find a swimming hole. He wanted to try to take the dog in the boat with us, too.

Luckily, I was able to keep my wits about me and made the executive decision to leave Luca home, but after making Noah promise to help me with the dragging-of-the-boat-down-to-the-beach and the paddling-up-the-river and the paying-attention-to-the-tide, we packed some snacks and a few jugs of water and headed out onto the Hudson.

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Happy.

We were treated to calm waters and beautiful scenery and we had a truly magnificent afternoon. It’s so interesting to visit places you’ve seen a thousand times before, but from an alternate point of view. We are lucky enough to live at the river’s edge and we watch it, awestruck, every single day. Our viewpoint, though, is always from above. We look down at the river and across at the mountains, perspectives that give us a sense of dominion or, at least, of safety over all that water and land. But to see everything looming above us, except the water of course–which itself seemed far more copious and deep once we were floating on top of it–made both Noah and I silent with appreciation. For the day and for one another.

 

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Our gazebo, seen from below.

Our house is perched up on a rock wall and even during the most violent storms (Sandy, Hurricane Irene) we never feel like there is a threat of danger or flooding. Once you’re down on the river, though, that certainty starts to shift. Sure the water in June is warm(ish) and the gentle lapping of the small waves against the boat seems comforting, but you also realize the river’s power and potential peril. When you’re depending on that water to keep you steady and moving, when the mountains form a bowl around you, when you are surrounded by rock walls that seem impossible to climb, you can get to thinking that maybe a storm could come through and send waves in through the back door.

You paddle on. Not afraid, but reverent and still. And curious.

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Our fellow travelers on the river–like these big tankers (we passed four or five) carrying everything from other boats (the one above is loaded down with yachts) to cement and gravel and oil–demand respect as well. While we enjoyed playing in the waves of their wake, we mostly stayed away and admired them from a distance.

Combing the riverfront we were treated to features of the shoreline we don’t usually get to see: driftwood structures built by campers or teenage revelers who find solace (and sometimes trouble) at dusk along the narrow beaches;

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and marooned logs and uprooted tree stumps, battered and smoothed down by water and sand.

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Even our beloved village’s waterfront, a place where we regularly walk the dog and eat ice cream and sit on one of the benches to read or write, seemed unfamiliar and exotic and strange.

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I’ll end today with a quote from The Considered Life:

“Escaping our familiar contexts seems to me one of the better and more tangible reset buttons that life, in its wise wisdom, has seen fit to make us believe was our idea…Such migrations do not necessarily have to mean visa-stamping and language-learning…The foreign-soiled experience can be had anywhere that feels alien to whoever you think you are or home to whoever you want to be…For I know that the crossing of borders and the changes in points of view, literal and metaphorical, supply me with a seemingly inexhaustible reservoir of what has come to mean so much to me: the quest for quality of life.”

Yes.

It’s going to be a good summer.

Italian Top 40 Makes Me Feel a Casa!

The sun was shining yesterday morning as I was cruising down Via Porretana, passing by the Basilica San Luca, with the windows down, and singing along to “Radio KissKiss”, feeling the groove as I belted out Arisa’s lyrics: “Ma ci sarò – Perché così mi sento – Accanto a te –  Viaggiando controvento.” In that moment, I felt right at home in this city, which just eight months ago was a total mystery to me. That’s not to say I’ve figured it all out. I’m nowhere near that. But with the arrival of Spring, I am starting to feel a sense of belonging that wasn’t there when the skies went winter gray back in November. It could just be the power of Top 40 radio stations… acceptance, integration, kinship, attachment, are all yours for the low, low price of learning some lyrics! This would be great news for someone who came to this country with a predilection for their melodramatic pop rock in the first place. I blame my parents, older cousins and the U.S. Spanish-language TV channel, Univision, for introducing me to melodramatic pop rock en Espanol at a very early age. In any case, I do think there may be something to the idea that when you understand a culture’s music, you understand its people better, even when the music involves just 3 chords and a catchy hook! With that in mine, here are a few of the songs that are in constant rotation on Bologna’s radio stations (along side “Happy”, “Demons”, “Team” and that awful song, “Timber”!)

Arisa’s “Controvento” (my jam from the car yesterday!)

 

Luciano Ligabue’s “Tu Sei Lei”

 

The hit of last summer, which will forever be the song that reminds me of that time we lived in Italy…

Lorenzo Jovanotti Cherubini’s “Estate”

 

Another beautiful thing about living here is how the proximity of other countries allows their music to get on the radio too despite being in another language. Two that are getting a lot of airplay right now are:

Chilean-French hip-hop musician, Anita Tijoux’s “1977”

 

and Beligian singer/songwriter Stromae’s “Tous Les Mêmes”

 

Finally, the gateway music that led to my full blown addiction…

A classic from Claudio Baglioni, “Mille giorni di te e di me”

 

And from the pop queen of Emilia Romagna, Laura Pausini, and Tiziano Ferro, “Non me lo so spiegare”

 

Now that I’ve listed these for you, it’s not to hard see where that sense of belonging was coming from. It was in the music, but not in knowing lyrics. It was riding along to a play list that’s as multicultural as I am. When the different cultures that live within you are seen, accepted and/or spoken to it’s truly a beautiful, yet all too rare occurrence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Music and Me

“Music can lift us out of depression or move us to tears – it is a remedy, a tonic, orange juice for the ear. But for many of my neurological patients, music is even more – it can provide access, even when no medication can, to movement, to speech, to life. For them, music is not a luxury, but a necessity.” 

These are the words of acclaimed neurologist Oliver Sacks whose book Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain was the tome I checked out of the library today. Not because I think I’m prone to musicophilia, but because I’m….well, not.

Musicophilia is a term coined by Dr. Sacks and used by him to refer to the uplifting effect that music has on most people. It can also be described as an obsession with or spiritual connection to music. Whether it is interpreted for its extreme or simplistic meaning, many folks believe that musicophilia applies to everyone in some way, but this is not necessarily true. Some people find music to be superfluous; irritating even. For whatever reason, they simply cannot enjoy it. Luckily Dr Sacks references individuals who had previously maintained an apathetic disposition towards music and then experienced a shift in behavior, ultimately acquiring musicophilia over time.

I’m hoping to be one of these anomalies. You see, right now I don’t listen to much music at all–a sin I recently confessed to the high priest of the Church of Music, Stefan.

I think the lack of music in my life is less a symptom of derangement and more a quirk that can be attributed to the glut of literature that presides over most of my days. I’m a bibliophile. At any given time there is a stack of books on my desk and another one on my nightstand (each at least four volumes deep) waiting to be read. Most of the time I’m a chapter or two into each one–the words and ideas and thoughts and philosophies of a thousand conflicting minds–taking up space and residence in my already-addled brain. Not to mention all the blog posts I read each morning. And the news websites. And the pile of New Yorkers staring at me from a basket in the bathroom. And Twitter.

I’m not saying that literature isn’t soulful and good (and utterly necessary), but there are only so many words and poems that one can gorge one’s self with at a time. My particular fondness is the pasta/carbohydrate load of the literary world: the poetry of brilliant, depressed and very pissed-off women (Anne, Virginia, Sylvia, Adrienne)–a diet that, if not diluted with something a little less concentrated, can leave a person feeling bloated and miserable. And not at all ready to write or for create one’s self.

After I offered my confession to Stefan he reacted in kind, like all good clergymen are wont to do. He did not punish me, not this time anyway, but absolved me of my sins and assigned appropriate penance in the form of eight iTunes links, which I have been faithfully listening to each morning–instead of the monotonous blogs. There’s some good stuff in there–the scent of hope and inspiration–riding in on this new (to me) and heady music. It’s something I’m not ready to talk about yet, but it’s the soundtrack that I have running right now, in the background, as I’m writing this post.

That said, there are a few songs that my family Here loves. I’ve included a song (or two) from each of us in the links below. Songs that we reach for when we’re feeling any kind of strong emotion–high or low. (Musicophilia status, here I come.)

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For me, and my limited appreciation of music, Bruce Springsteen is God and his concerts are Church and this song is the prayer that I recite on the high holidays. It is also a tune that has accompanied me through more breakups and friendship wrecks than I can count.

Bruce Springsteen, Thunder Road

 

But if Bruce is God, then Dar is the power behind the throne. She lives up the street from us and one of her albums is called: My Better Self. We’re fucking soul mates. It’s impossible for me to choose one song of hers as a favorite (The Hudson was my first love and can, in certain moments, take the breath out of me), but here’s the one that makes me weep:

Dar Williams, Mercy for the Fallen

 

For Ray, it’s Sly & the Family Stone, a groovy band that he listened to with his family when he was a wild child in Baltimore, MD. This particular song, and its particular message, is one that I know he reaches for (and plays in his office) when vendors are slow to answer or interns are difficult to get in touch with or there are bills to be paid.

Sly & the Family Stone, Thank You

Noah is 11 so his taste in music is pretty much focused on Top 40 hits. (He likes Bruce, too, because I’ve forced him to.) I’m not sure how that happens–we listen to very little Top 40 radio in this house–but it does. This song is ubiquitous right now. And great. (And, seriously? 123 million hits on this video?)

Pharrell Williams, Happy

Also, this one. (Especially when he misses Zo):

Michael Jackson, Smooth Criminal

Music.

Yep.