Allow me to explain a teensy-tiny tidbit about myself whilst I begin this, my latest Tale of Rome:  

I am from the land of “hold your tongue and your opinions.  Oh, and when somebody punches you in the gut, Smile and Say ‘Thank You’.”  After all, there are starving children in Africa…or something like that.

The Effect this Affect of Courtesy, if you will (and even if you won’t, gol-dangit) has served me as a blessing and a curse, friends…you know, like how it’s a blessing and a curse for Brad Pitt to be judged solely on his looks.  Almost exactly like that.

For many of us Mountain-Westerners (you should know by now how I feel about being called a “Mid-Westerner”, so watch it!), this Unofficial 11th Commandment; this “Take your medicine and can-it, sister!” (because there are starving children living in Africa who have never even SEEN a buffet let alone FREQUENTED Old-Country Buffet)…this is what compels Us* to get out of bed in the morning (re: after 10 but before noon) when all we really want to do is hit the ‘ol Snooze button.  This nagging feeling–the one which once compelled us to pluck the eggs from their nest, to milk the cows, to shuck the corn–this instinct persists.  It beckons us to “rage, rage against the dying of the…”.  Hmmm…the dying of the…Wait.  The DYing of the…Ok.  The DyIng of the…well, shoot, the dying of “Common Courtesy”.  Long live Mr. Nicely-Nicely!

Well, guess what?  “Holy-&%(&)!!!”  (re: “Holy Guacamole!”)  It is just not true!  Mountain-Westerners are just as apt to be “t-o’d” as the next fella (re: “ticked-off”, a variation on the unseemly vulgar phrase “pissed-off”), but our rage has been transformed by years of milk-and-honeyed Steinbeck-ian necessity (in the form of physical labor).  In current years it has taken the form of fork-to-mouth buffet exercise.  (In fairness, there are still farmers among us…you know, the “evil ones” producing the corn which, when transformed through a highly flammable, incredibly unnatural chemical process, produces the corn syrup which threatens to destroy the teeth and figures of America’s youth)**.  These days, our transformed rage has manifested into the form of intensely-focused, sugar-coated, Sugar-Snapped Politeness.

Which leads me to today’s anecdotal story.

I was walking down the street in Rome (did I mention I am in Rome again?  Oh, I did?  Well, guess what, in ROME…) I needed one of my 12 daily cappuccini (cappuccinos for the layperson), but I also had a bit of fame (hunger, not the Lady Gaga thing).  I perused the pastries and set my gaze upon a sweet but not-too-sweet looking fella made of apple.  In the Mood to Delude, I convinced myself it was healthier than the chocolate one or some kind of cream-filled monstrosity, so I smiled at the barman (the cafe dude) and said “Una pezza di questa, per favore” (in English, “gimme that one, please!”.  In American: “That. Now.”)  He returned my smile–he was a cute man with about half my height and twice my years, and it seemed he aimed to please as much as the Mountain-Westerner towering before him.  Soon, like magic, my cappuccino sallied forth (it had legs–amazing!  But that story is for another time…) and I started a-drinking.  But where was the apple thingy?  Non lo so (I did not know).  Turns out is was in the microwave.  “Riscaldare?” the man said, a little after the fact since he was already heating it up.

“Si, grazie!” I responded, of course.*  Because really, who doesn’t like a warmed-up pastry?  Answer: No One.  Everyone does.

“Beep!” the microwave sounded, one of 3 or 4 I’ve seen in this country.  The pastry was hot! So now it was finally time to…hey, wait!  The Old Man and the Sea was now Old Man-handling the apple thingy further, and the next thing I knew, powdered sugar was being applied like mascara to Lady Ga–(oops, I already used her).  Let’s just say he was smothering the thing with powdered sugar like it had burst into flames and it was time to put out the fire.  “Great!” you say.  “A bonus!” you cheer.  Yeah, sure, youbetcha…normalmente, si, except the Suz does not love powdered sugar.  In fact, she doesn’t even like it a little.  It reminds her too much of Denny’s or the IHOP or (a few of you will get this) The Pig and Pancake.

In other words, “Ish!” (re: “Yuck!”).  The treat was toast****.  Nevertheless, I accepted it from Old and waited a bit (it was hot, remember?).  Then, with the steely gaze of a prize-fighting sugar-eater, I took a bite, smiled, and said…

*******              *******              *******              *******              *******

Funny, isn’t it, how an “anecdote” is rarely ever a tale of a day or an hour, but rather of a lifetime–or at least a compilation of human habits, observations, and preferences rolled into one medium-sized moment.

Arrivaderci!  Oh, and grazie a tutti per l’attenzione.  

*see also “Mountain-Westerners”

**see also King Corn, a documentary…keeping in mind that documentaries are fact-based films which take a particular angle or slant in order to tell a specific story.

***See title of blog post…duh!

****See finally, “ruined”.

Impatien(t)(s), a poem

June 17, 2011





Impatiens flowers are bright and cheerful annuals that can light up any dark and shady part of your yard. Growing impatiens is quite easy, but there are a few things to know about impatiens care. Let’s take a look at how to plant and how to grow impatiens.”   


                                            Passing through like fingers

                                                 like pet/dals


                                                  flowers waiting, in earnest,

                                             to not wait

                                             to blossom

P.S.: The Suz is not a poet.

P.P.S.: The Suz is back…a Roma!

You may find this difficult to believe, dear reader, but I have thought of you on a daily, if not minutely (the made-up word referring to the collection of 60-seconds into a unit of measurement called a “minute“, not the word that means “small“) basis since January 6th, that forgone day-in-the-past of my last post.  I have woken up those (68) mornings wondering what you would wear to work/school/the unemployment line that day.  I have eaten lunch imagining you with your own sandwich in hand–wondered if mom remembered to cut off the crusts like she always did…and, oh, if you were still living with her and your defunct-yet-funky uncle Stu in the basement in your childhood room at the age of 32…I wondered that and, (hey, chill out…I don’t have my “own home” either…I live off the kindness of some of the greatest human beings this planet has to offer, so take it easy–I not only understand, but emphasize with your plight).  I have eaten dinner (pasta, pasta, and sometimes pasta) imagining if you’d given in and ordered the “biggie” size, or if you were good and opted for the Junior Frosty.  I have wondered about your smile…And then, at bedtime, when I knew you would have only started your day (it’s 9 hours different here from the west coast; 6 from the east), I was happy to know that you would probably forgive me when I finally related this information to you.  Because, after all, there are actually 4, not 3 things you can be Certain of in life:

1) Death

2) Taxes

3) The Suz has your back.

But this use of mild “obligatory self-deprecation”, a term I famously (to myself and, like, 3 other people) coined at New York University’s Gallatin School of Individual Study (NY…who? What kind of flaky-sounding “institution” is that?  Gimme a break…where did you really go to school, Suz?).  Ok, ok, you caught me.  What I meant to say was ” a term I famously coined at the prestigious INTERNATIONAL BASKET WEAVERS JUNIOR COLLEGE”; I say, this use is only an introduction to today’s title, Lord of the Suz.

I wrote most of the following while walking through the neighborhood in Rome (Italy, not Iowa–recall) on my new and handy LG phone**, which has a real keyboard and closely resembles my beloved Blackberry.  I was walking and writing, and probably chewing gum (although definitely NOT skipping–I had to draw the line somewhere), and out of sheer desperation and/or sheer self-preservation, I decided to justify my existance at that moment in self-history; to make it “worthwhile”–this time I’d just spent.  Allow me to explain:

I have been in Rome now since December 7th.  Please do not ask me that pesky “Why” question, because that would be as productive as submitting an inquiry to your local congressman asking why your water supply has been cut off for the last 5 months.  Dig a well…it would be more productive.  When In Rome, if you can’t quite manage to “do as the Romans do“, it’s gotta be a close second to “teach Roman middle-school kids who are notorious for being out-of-control English…”  Am I right?  I mean, I am no Great Comparison-er, but these two quotes seem to correspond well enough…

When In Rome (while in Rome; whilst in Rome), I found a gig teaching 12 and 13-year-old public school kids–something, by the way, NO ONE, let alone ME, has any business attempting to do.  Nevertheless, I DONEDIDIT.  And here are my thoughts on a recent Thursday, after class around 4:10 PM while walking down Via Vito Volterra outside of Alessandro Severo “middle school”.  They are mostly “unabridged”:

I have not been to war, but I have stared down the optical barrel of a 12-year-old Italian boy’s eyes.  I have not enjoyed the “smell of napalm in the morning…”, but I can tell you this: it doesn’t taste the least bit like freedom to me–this standing in front of wild children who should truly be at home enjoying a nice bowl of pasta or playing Italian Wii, but who instead occupy this hour-and-a-half of life throwing bottle caps and “Crick Crock” containers toward the front of the room.  I acquire a collection, to their squeals of dismay.  I confiscate cellular phones (telefonini), sempre with a smile.  Freedom doesn’t taste like force-feeding a game of Scattergories to a group of Scatterbrains whose public school bathrooms lack toilet paper and whose chalkboards scream for chalk.  It’s not freedom this tastes like, but neither is it prison…and I am left smarting with a sting of new-found respect.  A respect for the warrior-teacher.  I think about the soldier and the teacher–warrior and hero both.  Both braver than me.  And as I walk away, I hear the words of my kindergarten teacher mom echo in my still-buzzing brain: “Susan, if nothing else, this will someday make a good story.”

I reckon I’ve got a few of those now, so it just may be time to buckle down and tell them.  For real.

*Maureen Dowd  has the week off.  She works for a “real” publication.

**Shout out to A. Comincini for its procurement

Firstly, Happy New Year and Buon Anno to my new friends in Italy.  Secondly, it’s exciting for me to celebrate the dawn of a year whose numbers function in Europe and the US…because I’ll be honest, I cannot stand the “switcheroo” of month and day they have going on here (and for the record, they could do with some updated plumbing).  I mean, true, it doesn’t take much to fool The piteous Suz (you mean the Jackalope is a product of Photoshop?  I d/w/on’t believe it), but when I see a date like “17/11/09” written, doubt sets in like extra corn starch in packaged gravy.  I start to think that all these years I’ve miscalculated the number of months in a year by 5.  In other words, hearty thanks! to the numbers “1” and “0” for making life less confusing.  You deserve it!

Back to the story of explosives.  As usual, I am speaking both literally and figuratively here (and unlike “real/skilled” writers who gracefully embed the “literal” and “figurative” into their paragraphs, I like to notify the reader right off the bat.  “Hey, reader!  I am about to speak on not one, but two levels, so fasten your safety belt (that warning beep is getting annoying) and dust the moth balls off that thinking cap.”

Resolved: Illuminating New Year 2011

A friend and wise mentor of mine (this could be you…but it’s not) provided me with a personal insight “the other day”.  She was so dead-on right, so painfully accurate, that on a scale from 1-10 (1=pinch, 5=dislocated shoulder; 10=bleeding from the eye bathed in salt and lemon juice…sorry), it neared an 8.  She said: “The Suz (alright, she called me Susan), you tend to view everything in your life like a fireworks display.”  I didn’t follow at first.  I scratched my brain. 

“Huh?” I blurbed.

She proceeded to explain with some concrete examples, and although I always prefer marble, I listened attentively.  Boy howdy did her examples strike a chord…and I started to realize that her insight is perhaps the single greatest factor relating to my life’s missteps, missed successes, and self-derailments.  At the same time, however, and in fairness to myself, it is also a part of my Pie-in-the-Sky Charm.  But I suppose you all will be the judge of that.

Clarification, please…

You see, many successful people, I am told, think in steps.  They make 5-year plans.  They utilize Microsoft Outlook and even begin reading newspaper articles at the top of the page…(why not cut to the chase and find out what happens first, I say?).  Such mystifyingly linear thinking goes something like this: 

Step 1: Do something like go to school

Step 2: Study, pass exams, and acquire degree

Step 3: Find and obtain entry-level position (cubicle likely, window optional)

And so on, ad nauseam until the logical steps form a visual diorama of life that resemble Steps of Progression from small to BIG; from little responsibility to more and then more and then MORE and then…


Do not pass GO.  Collect it ALL or collect…nothing.  Or, in other words, the shiny sparkler of “steps” in my world bursts immediately into the hugest firewords display man kind has ever known.

By the way, let me interrupt myself yet again to confess that I may be getting a bit too honest for the cyber-pages of a humble blog…perhaps my tales reveal too keenly the faults of The Suz.  If so, you may find yourself removing your A.T.S (All the Suz) Action Figure from the top shelf of your makeshift room in your parents’ basement (Uncle Stu is staying in your old room while he attends mandatory Anger Management classes and is busy finding Jesus at Al-Anon).  Mi dispiace, but as they say, “That’s the Way the Suzie Crumbles”. 

It’s just that this is a huge topic for me, and one with which I have reached a sort of intellectual peace, but have further to go with the emotional piece.  The idea that I should have “accomplished” something more…in terms of status or accolades or a firm, framed picture of a fixed “Identity”.  I know you are out there–all 1.5 of you who “hear what I’m sayin'” in the Rod Tidwell/Jerry Maguire-sense-of-the-phrase, so let’s lay it out there, shall we?  I mean, with all due respect to my Hindu friends, we only live once, right? 

We want the world to be our oyster.  We want to have it all.  We want it NOW!!! (or soon…soon would be acceptable).

And another thing: We’ve never murdered anyone!  We try to be “good” people!  We are smart!  We are talented!  We have things to say! 

Alright, so multiply this by 45-55% of a world population who feels a similar sense of entitlement (the rest, I am told, are content to function as Wal-Mart greeters), and you’ve got a sort of “dream traffic jam” on your hands.   Because as much as we want it to, the Universe doesn’t work that way, my dear friends.  It cares not a whit that you were Valedictorian of your Podunk, Indiana high school, or that you earned 56 merit badges helping grandma cross the street.  Nope, it doesn’t even care that the only traffic ticket you got was from speeding while driving a pregnant blind woman in her mid-40s to the hospital.  Whatever it “cares” about is left to the Great Unknown, and at least for now, I am going to accept this as fact.  (or at least until The DaVinci Code 4 comes out)

Somehow, someway, I believe the Universe it still Just.  (just what? No, just Just).  Again, that’s the intellectual belief talking…my emotional core thinks it’s B.S.)

Editor’s Note: Did I mention I pretend to be many things, but definitely NOT an editor.  Keep this in mind as you peruse The Suz.  Grains of salt required.

Basta! Enough!

It is one of my favorite phrases these days now that I am in Italy…especially since I was raised in the kind of family where “shoot” was a bold insult and “shut up” was taboo until the age of about 15. It sounds a bit naughty and violence-based. “BASTA!” is handy when you have had enough pasta (“More pasta?”  “Basta!”), when a dog jumps up on you and you’d like him or her to get down, but most especially when you’ve “had it!”. And you know the “it” I’m talking about here, people. It’s not a difficult concept to understand. Especially if you are like me and racing the end of the finish line that says “2010: Complete”. 

If you are like me, you don’t want to stick around for another penalty kick or a couple of rounds of overtime just to create additional suspense and make things more “interesting”. If you are remotely like me, you would rather have this final stretch of 2010 end in a “no-hitter”, a “bye”, or some outrageous 125 to 2 upset. (Incidentally, can you believe all of my sports references? I’m like a 46-year-old ex-quarterback with lifelong rotator-cuff injuries over here…sheesh! Basta, even.)

As I was saying, if your weary little gams are sprinting around orange cones, leaping over red and white hurdles and/or you are finally willing to join the track team where your height’s “center-of-gravity” advantage would be a real asset to the high jump (“we need folks for the high jump, Susan”), you are ready to ring in the year 2011.  Slogan-worthy or not (I need some help rhyming “eleven”), I think we are all more than ready exchange the old energies of 2010 for the bright, shiny unknown of the new.  That’s right, I am speaking for YOU.  I know you too well.  

Now, before you start that panic attack and wonder where they took the good ‘ol reliable, optimistic Suz, I advise you to open up that brown paper bag you’ve been ripening your Anjou pears in and breath in and out a few times. I am still here. Present. Si. It’s just that during this past year, I may have gotten a bit too big for my britches in the “water off a ducks back” department (please see Facebook for my visual rendering of Weird Al’s “I Wanna New Duck”).  By that I mean I faced a few challenges (most recently, being Robbed in Rome…a forthcoming article–if I feel like it) and decided I would mostly laugh rather than cry.  I used a dispassionate, detached attitude which included self-talk like “oh, well, it’s just the most expensive piece of equipment I own and…shucks, I lost all of my footage and a bunch of files but, you know…la-di-da…”.  I suppose it wouldn’t have hurt to kick a dog or at least club a baby seal, but there were QUITE a FEW challenges and, honestly, I couldn’t be bothered to summon the energies required to constantly complain.  

On the adventurous side (the plus side of 2010), I have lived or visited in fits and starts the following locales: the Oregon Coast, Los Angeles, Mississippi, New York and the “tri-state area”, and now Rome, Italy, where I plan on staying until they kick me out in 3 months.  I have dabbled in short documentaries, Flip films, and lame article-writing.  I have cleaned motel rooms, booked reservations, pretended to be friendly t0 motel guests, genuinely been friendly to motel guests, played clown for my mom, dressed and re-dressed wounds with Pseudomonas infections, spent days alone with heartbreak, spent days with others and heartbreak, and generally wondered what the heck to do with myself.  I have drunk coffee by the “venti-full”.  I have spoken to strangers when there was no one familiar around.  I have laughed, cried, practiced sirsasana, and eaten way too much cheese.  In short, I guess, I have lived a Year of the Thousand Bastas.  And now that the end of the calender is here, it seems like a bit of an illusion and here is one reason why:

One of the many times I went to Starbucks during my brief stint in L.A., I encountered this guy in his late-sixties who was one of those people I saw and thought…”Oh, crap!  He’s coming this way and he’s going to start talking and I am going to be too polite/passive aggressive to shoo him away.”  Well, I was right, but if I hadn’t been so polite, I would have missed out on his stories of having invented the world’s most functional life-saving raft built for stormy ocean conditions, and the following bit of wisdom.  Starbucks man said:

“You see, I was a kid who had Polio and had to fight against all odds to teach myself to walk.  I don’t belive in God, but if I did, I would still think the same thing: life is a series of experiences and challenges.  That’s it.  If we are lucky, we get to experience them all and show what we are made of by living each one.” 

I am paraphrasing, of course, but very little.  He had rehearsed this philosophy like the all-important “Elevator Speech”.  But he believed it.  I could see that in his steely gaze and his effort-worn arms.  Here was the kind of man who woke up every day and said, “ok, world…what’ll it be today?” 

I am no Columbus, but I have discovered this: there is only “Basta!” for a moment.  “Basta” passes, and life begins again…or continues.  Dates change and the year increases by one number, but we go forward with our same selves and are lucky if we meet others along the way who help us through each “Basta!”

Happy New Year to all of the friends who have become like family, and the family that has sustained me along the way.  X.

The End Times: An Overview

By Dan Fritz (reprinted from the August 29, 2003 edition: Volume 1, Issue 4)

“There will be wars and rumors of wars….”

Have you ever noticed that society continues to get worse? Do you see the Roman Empire re-establishing itself as a pagan superpower? Does the thought of one world currency make you shake in your boots? And—just for fun (my fun)—do you think that there are aliens, and that they are actually Satan’s minions coming to take over the earth?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you might be eligible for a Doomsday Scout Patch. Granted, the first question has been regarded as the old person’s battle cry since the beginning of the 20th century, if not since the beginning of time, and if you had grown up in Poland in 1941 you would definitely have been right. But what of the rest of this seemingly goofy nonsense?

It’s not so goofy if you are a Doomsdayer. Your typical Doomsdayer—someone who centers his life around the fact that the world will end tomorrow—will cling to these ideas like cat hair to a black sweater. He’ll tell you things about the futility of your wanton decisions and say how foolish it was for you to have even tried (and naturally failed). A Doomsdayer says that we are in the “End Times,” and things will only get worse from here on out. Some of the most prominent Doomsdayers even put a date on the end of the world—the year 2000, for instance. So, the world didn’t end three years ago—that’s just because we were using the wrong calendar. Even with a seemingly failed prediction, a Doomsdayer always has a way out, because he’ll eventually be proven right in one form or fashion, even if it takes ten lifetimes.

Though many Doomsdayers are religiously oriented, they come in all shapes, sizes, and affiliations. They can be old or young, right-handed or left-handed. But they all have something in common: joy in suffering, both of themselves and (chiefly) of others.

Just in case the Doomsdayers are right, here some entities to steer clear of:

*Yasir Arafat *China   *ATMs   *Bill Gates *Russia   *The Internet

*Hillary Clinton   *The European Union *Red Meat   *Gerhard Schröder

*Saudi Arabia *Locusts    *Gray Davis *New York City   *Aeroplanes

Happy End Times! 

*Suz’z note: I was searching on my MacBook for something related to “scanner” and, like Yoo-Hoo flying out of a bald man’s nose whilst watching Season 1: Episode 5 of Scrubs, this article came flying to my attention.  A few months ago I said that I’d be reposting some of these gems from yesteryear,so I am making good on my promise.  It Heck, it even fits in with my new “When In Rome…” series.  I am sure you will enjoy this insightful and organized article even more than the drivel of the Suz.  I know I did.

ProtestaSciopero: Strike

That was the first word my American friend insisted I memorize upon arriving in her neighborhood in Rome.  Not “ciao!”, not “grazie”–nope, not even “merde” (apologies to the innocent eyes out there).  “The most important word to know around here”, she said as we passed the Ministry of Education, the imposing building that is the landmark for her bus stop, “is sciopero…because it happens about twice a week in front of this building, and the whole city shuts down.”*  Of course, my untrained ears didn’t instantly catch the sounds or the spelling, but it did not take long.

SCIOPERO. The Suz doth misuse this word a bit in describing what was actually a “protesta” (which means what it sounds like), but I think even the most sophisticated of you readers out there will cut me some slack.  But I divagare…

The point is, instead of snuggling up (it’s “freddo” here, peeps!) with an espresso and a copy of the Lonely Planet Guide to Roma, instead of mulling over Rick Steve’s suggestions for the tastiest panino or the most delicious glass of vino rosso, I took to the streets wearing hot pink jeans (the ones I bought at Buffalo Exchange in Portland, Oregon, but which also pass quite nicely as “eurotrash”…apologies to my gentile European friends) and did my best “protesta” participant impression.  And like that previous sentence, December 14th inspired a long and windy hike around Rome following The Kids (who are, indeed, alright) and The Police (sans Sting).  Across the gridlocked bridges, over the Tiber River, and through the cobblestone roads we went.

Yes, siree, exactly one week after arriving in Rome–il quattordicesimo di Dicembre (thank you Google translate), I experienced this somewhat extreme example of young citizens taking to the streets, rendering it improbable–if not darned near impossible, to go about “business as usual”.  Don’t get me wrong…this pedestrian takeover did not stop ignorance in it’s tracks.  A gaggle of college students from New Orleans (four months into their study abroad program) asked me what was going on.

“Um, do you know why they’re protesting?” one asked.

I mentioned in a friendly and non-sarcastic tone that it might have something to do with the Roman students’ “displeasure and/or frustration” with Italy’s, ahem, leader, Silvio Berlusconi.

Yes, it was and is possible to remain unaware of the protest’s purpose–its mission, but even these N’Orleans co-eds were stopped in their Ugg-booted tracks by police in riot gear.  To remain completely unaffected, a person would have to remain indoors in a bubble of buffalo mozzarella…a delicious idea, but ultimately impractical.

So here are a couple/few real questions:

Why did I chose to care? Wherefore action instead of cheese?

What made me walk all over tarnation, doing my best Michael Moore-as-Mime (language barriers are real and keep me silently gesturing, folks) impression?  After all, Italy is not my country–I am merely a guest.  Berlusconi is not my elected official–he belongs to the 2,743,796 citizens of Rome and the 50-plus million more throughout Italy.  But that’s a lot of people, people.  And whether you cynically think these students were cutting class (a few were, I imagine) or you idealistically believe that they were standing up for their futures (it’s one or the other, right?), at the end of the day, they were doing. They were acting out the verb in real time.  They were involved in…


The Conclusion: When in Rome…protest as the protestas do.

*Tara, since I know you’ll be reading this, the quote is an approximation.