Innocence Lost, Dental Knowledge Gained

June 1st, 2013

In June of my 17th year I went to Germany on a summer exchange program. I lived with a family in a large house on Lake Constance, a picturesque body of water that borders Germany, Switzerland and Austria. My German father was a former movie director turned naturopath, my temporary mother an ex-movie star. The children slept in a separate wing of the house, connected by a kitchen that was the realm of a full-time cook who showered us with cakes and tortes, three-course lunches and late night snacks.

There was a pool and a sauna, as well as a patio and a garden that backed onto a French army barracks. It was a relic from World War II when the Allies divided the conquered country into zones. I loved waking to the sound of soldiers singing as they passed by on their morning run.

My German family usually gathered in the sauna after dinner and I joined them… once, excited and eager in my one-piece bathing suit. They were there waiting, as promised, but had forgotten to dress for the occasion. To say I was shocked by their naked bodies would be an understatement. After all I was a quiet, somewhat conservative girl from Texas who had never sat around naked with anyone before, much less my own family. It’s just not something we did. I remember looking at the ceiling as we discussed who killed JR. They assumed, as a Texan, I had all the answers.


garlic at market

I can’t show you my naked German family, so here’s some fresh garlic at a market in Provence instead.

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The Red Boot Diaries

May 15th, 2013

I heard angry murmurs of “lazy thieves” and “Why do we pay taxes?” as I waded in knee-deep water spilling over from Venice’s canals. My fellow pedestrians, with their legs individually tucked inside large trash bags, were not in the best of moods.

I knew something was up this morning when a friend handed me a pair of bright red rubber boots and said, “Take these.” I hesitated, thinking she was being overly cautious. I mean, red boots really aren’t my thing. I’m not very good with bright colors, preferring to blend in with blacks and browns instead.


venice acqua alta


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On The Road Again

October 4th, 2012

With just one sip of cappuccino I knew I was back in Italy. It’s been three months since I experienced the joy of perfect coffee. Some people say the secret is the water; others insist it’s the milk. I don’t know the answer, but I do know that even the best coffeehouses in America can’t duplicate the silky, satisfying flavor.


A Perfect Cappuccino


Surrounded by men in tailored suits and women in stylish outfits, I finish my coffee with a contended smile and walk back into the beautiful chaos that is Rome. It’s business as usual–pedestrians scurrying through the cobbled streets only to be stopped in their tracks by guide book-reading tourists and darting Vespas.

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Riding in Boats with Boys

July 4th, 2012

“So you pull up on your boat and the girls just jump in?” I questioned Gianni.

I thought I was trying to console a friend’s twenty-year old son after his recent break-up, however his wisdom was greater than mine. I was giving him the “There’s plenty of fish in the sea” speech, with a few entertaining antidotes, but he was one step ahead of me.

“You see, here in Venice it’s easy to get over a girl,” Gianni continued with the utmost authority. “You loose one and there’s another five hundred arriving at the train station. I won’t be alone for long.”


Hard at work, Venetian-style

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Ready to Wear…and Eat

June 8th, 2012

When I refer to bright shades of red, orange, purple, and pink I’m not describing the flowers blooming in window boxes all over Venice, but rather the colors of Italian men’s pants. Add a pair of lime green and sky blue and you have their complete collection of summer wear.



“It’s red, not pink,” a Scottish friend once declared after I commented on the color of his shirt.

“Well, actually it’s almost fuchsia,” I countered, not realizing the severity of my words. “Pink, scarlet, salmon, peach…really, what difference does it make?”

“Pink is for puffers, and I’m not a puffer,” he assured me with a growing temper.



Obviously, Scottish, and most likely American men have something to learn from the Italians. Canary yellow, a bold lavender, nothing is out of their range. Throw in some espadrilles and thick white-rimmed glasses and you still have a real man, his masculinity completely intact. (Most likely this board generalization doesn’t apply to dock workers and underlings in the mafia.)

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Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On

May 22nd, 2012

A few nights ago I awoke from a deep sleep to find my bed furiously shaking from side to side. By the time I opened my eyes it had stopped. What a strange dream I thought before dozing off again. It had seemed so real.

When the swaying jolted me from my slumber yet again, accompanied by a loud crash, I turned over and blamed the bizarre experience on late night spaghetti alla carbonara paired with too much cabernet franc. But I had only had one glass…must be the pasta I surmised.


Violet Artichokes

Violet Artichokes

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Rialto Market and Handmade Ravioli

May 17th, 2012

By now you’re probably wondering about the food. You want details and recipes, not just updates on the rapping rabbi* and Elverace’s wardrobe, even though yesterday’s outfit earned him the surname Cash, as in almost dead ringer for Johnny Cash…if it weren’t for the receding hairline.

My local market is the Rialto.** I’m not bragging, it’s just happens to be the truth. Two minutes from my door is a traghetto–a public taxi in the form of a gondola—that takes me across the Grand Canal. It deposits me in front of the market’s famed food stalls for the equivalent of 65 cents. I’m not able to stand up for the crossing as the Venetians do, but I can now get on and off without making the boat sway from side to side, no longer causing innocent, non-seafaring tourists to panic.


Venetian traghetto crosssing

Venetian traghetto crosssing


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Waltzing Among Ruins

October 7th, 2010

In 1993, in the hottest month of the year, I donned a white paper maché mask, and a long black dress and headed to Pozos, an abandoned silver mining town high in the Sierra Madre Mountains. Among the ruins of long forgotten homes, a dark, handsome stranger took me in his arms and we started to dance.

I know this sounds intriguing, even magical, however we were not alone. The camera was rolling and recording our every move. Illusions of intimacy were further diminished by the four identically dressed couples weaving between us as Leonard Cohen sang, “Take this Waltz”. We moved with care, surrounded by cactus of every size and shape, as well as open, unmarked mine shafts, which plummeted 200 feet into a dark abyss of icy water.



Francisco Towers at Santa Brigita


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Mexico’s Bicentennial

September 21st, 2010

Mexico, a land known for its celebrations, put on the event of the century last week when the country’s bicentennial of the War of Independence coincided with the centennial of the Mexican Revolution. Extensive programs took place all over the country, including many based in San Miguel, acknowledged for its starring role 200 years ago, when resident Ignacio Allende joined forces with Father Miguel Hidalgo to raise an army against Spanish colonialism. Father Hidalgo’s cry on Sept. 16, 1810: “Down with bad government and death to the gachupines!” — a pejorative term for colonial-era Spaniards, ignited the independence movement. His call to arms, known as “El Grito”, is reenacted every year at midnight on the 15th with historic fanfare and cheer, and of course, lots of beer and tequila.

In addition to traditional festivities, Mexico unveiled la “Ruta 2010”, which is a series of routes that commemorates various historic movements and encourages people to drive, or bus, through Mexican history. San Miguel is part of the Freedom Route that tracks the footsteps of Miguel Hidalgo from Guanajuato to Chichuahua. The Democracy and Zapatista routes cover other areas of the country, where a series of museum and cultural exhibitions strive to educate people on the sacrifices made in the name of freedom.


parade rider

Neighbor getting ready for parade

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Holy Week in San Miguel

March 31st, 2010

The last Friday of Lent is when the Virgin of Sorrows (Viernes de Dolores) is honored with decorative altars all over town, some in neighborhood doorways, others, in front of historic churches. They range from small and humble to elaborate creations that fill an entire room, usually surrounded by white candles (for purity) and draped in purple (the color of grief).

The focal point of the altars is a statue of Maria, with her hands clasped and tears in her eyes. Flowers and fruit (usually oranges) surround her, as well as colorful hand-carved religious figures, sometimes mixed with pagan gods.

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