paper or plastic (or cloth)?


City Room at the NY Times today brings up a recent proposal to require supermarkets in the city to recycle plastic bags.  After living in Milan for six months, I don’t really understand the resistance to reusing plastic bags that we’ve got here in the US.  Over there, you had to buy your shopping bags (at 10 eurocents a bag) if you wanted new plastic bags.  Most people either brought used bags back to the store and reused them or had canvas or other types of more durable bags.  Since I reused my bags as garbage bags (they were the perfect size for my kitchen garbage can, and it made more sense than buying additional plastic garbage bags), I would often spring for new ones, but I was one of the few. 

But, since I’ve been home, I’ve converted myself – I have switched to nylon shopping bags.  I like them, because the little carrying pouches they come in mean that they fold up tiny and I can keep them in my purse/messenger bag at all times, reducing the need to get plastic bags when I decide at the last minute to stop at the grocery store on my way home from work.   Since I still use plastic shopping bags as garbage bags in my bathroom and under my desk, I still have to get some once in a while, but I find that need is overwhelmingly taken care of during the few trips where I either forget my nylon bags even though they’re easy to carry (usually after I’ve gone shopping, I forget to put them back in my purse right away) or I buy too much stuff and I need a third shopping bag.  I also got one of those little plastic bag holders for under my sink, so that I know when I’m running out of the plastic – this had less to do with recycling, than the discovery that I was accumulating plastic bags faster than I was using them, and they were taking over all of my under-counter space. 

Other things I learned how to do in Italy?  bag my own groceries.  Of course, here the checkout lanes aren’t really designed to allow me to do this, so I have to sit and watch while my food gets bagged, and then take my stuff, move to the nearest flat surface, and rearrange everything (somehow the idea of equal weight distribution for balance (since i have to walk about six blocks home from the store) utterly escapes the checkout person’s mind –  please don’t put the milk, tomato sauce and canned goods in one bag while leaving the other one for nothing but a box of pasta).

Back to plastic bags – I think a proposal to charge people for bags would be ideal.  Something small, like 10 cents, is low enough to not be a burden, but serves as a gentle reminder to maybe get something more permanent. 

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Milan photos


So I’ve finally gotten around to posting some of the photos I took in Milan during my last few days there (and on the return trip over Easter), and Here they are. They’re mostly from the top of the Duomo, which I climbed with a friend on my last day of work (talk about a long lunch break), but there are a few thrown in of the Castello (which looks cool but was completely rebuilt, so it’s kind of fake), and some other random stuff.

[Update 2015] In an effort to reduce the number of holdover pages on the blog, I am slowly (very slowly) integrating these albums into the appropriate historical posts on the blog itself. As such, photos are now directly below.

1465 1466 1467 1468 1469 1470 1471 1472 1473 1474 1475 1476 1477 1478 1479 1480 1481 1482 1483 1484 1485 1486 1487 1488 1489 1494 1495 1497 1498 1499 1500 1501 1501 1502 1503 1504 1505 1506 1507

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Doing coffee right…


While I didn’t do much blogging myself when I was in Milan, one of the blogs that I read religiously was Ms. Adventures in Italy. An American expat living in the Milan area,there were a lot of good tips and pictures. But the best post so far is How to Order an Italian Coffee in Italy. I’ll admit that I picked up most of these tips through trial and error, but it’s a handy guide nonetheless. I, personally, am a big fan of the Marocchino, in no small part because it’s always served in a glass. There’s just something so civilized about a society that has a special glass for each and every coffee drink (and forget about paper cups – you drink at the bar, always). Plus, since it’s completely gauche and an immediate indicator of your touristy-ness to order a cappuccino after 10am (something I learned the hard way on my first day in Rome two years ago), it’s a good, Italian way to get your frothy milk after lunch.

I finally found a good coffee place here in NY – there’s a tiny little shop on 6th avenue between 56th and 57th, called Zibetto, that is modelled after an Italian coffee bar, and that serves authentic Italian coffee. It’s the only place I’ve found that serves a marocchino, and it’s only a few blocks from my office, so I sometimes stop off in the morning on my way to work, or wander up after lunch. In a pinch, I’ll get an espresso at Starbucks (we have one in our office), but it’s just not the same.

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Checking in…


Man o man. Things have been a little bit crazy around here. Got home all of two and a half weeks ago, suffered jetlag to the extreme (kept waking up at 4 in the morning), and then got dragged into a crazy urgent work situation that involved staying until 2 or 3 in the morning almost every night last week (from Sunday to Sunday, I billed 101 hours!).

Needless to say, blogging (yet again) has been pretty near the bottom of my list of things to do. I haven’t even gotten around to downloading the last photos I took in Milan (one of my colleagues and I took a long lunch my last day there and climbed (Ok, took the elevator) to the top of the Duomo).

Other annoying things since I got home? I ordered some cabinets from Ikea to fit in a space that was exactly 26 inches wide. The website and my receipt both say that they’re 26 inches wide. Then the boxes came, and the labels said they were 26 and a half inches wide. Argh. Now I’m trying to figure out how to return them, because the only room that they even matched was the bathroom, and the only open space was the one I had ordered them for. So that was annoying. Not just because of the hassle, but because I really wanted some cabinets in that space.

Hmm. what else. Oh, my dad and my stepmom both got some flu/virus bug going around, so I’ve seen them all of once since I’ve been home, and that was the day I got home.

In better news though, I’m going to see Lucinda Williams at Radio City tomorrow night, so that’ll be fun (and convenient, as I work all of a block from RCMH). And I actually have plans on Saturday with friends. And I just got a save the date for a friend who is getting married in the Canary Islands. So that’s a good excuse for a trip (and here I thought the wedding I was going to in Florida next month was going to be the most exotic one this year!).

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Ah, jetlag.


I tried not to sleep on the plane, because I knew it would screw me up, but then? I fell asleep. for most of the flight from London. Oh well, I suppose I’ll have to take some sort of power nap later today, as I woke up at 5:30 this morning once I did go to bed in my apartment.

As always, traveling home from Europe is a singular experience. This time, I didn’t have to sit next to a senile old lady, but people may have thought that I was crazy, with the muttering under my breath at various points in the process.

To start off. When I booked the trip, I opted for the latest flight out of Milan possible. I didn’t know what my schedule was going to be the last week there, given that the deal I was working on was supposed to close that week (and when I was booking, the schedule was still a bit up in the air). Given that, I thought having as much time to pack over the weekend would be the ideal option. But we ended up closing on Wednesday, so after that, I really had nothing to do except pack. Taking the latest flight though, meant that I would have to change planes in London. Given what happened last time I had to change planes in London from Italy, I was, shall we say, a little nervous.

OK. So I get to Malpensa plenty early (no traffic). the BA flight from Milan to London is scheduled for 5:35pm. at 5:20, they haven’t started boarding the plane yet, and I start freaking out a bit (just to myself). Amazingly, at 5:25, they start boarding, and actually get everyone on the plane and seated in about 10 minutes. I’m duly impressed by this, and given our estimated flight time, we should land on time, at 6:35 UK time. Now, this gives me just under an hour and a half to get from terminal 1 to terminal 3 at Heathrow. The little pamphlet I get with my ticket says that it should take 75 minutes to get from plane to plane. OK. I’m cutting it close, but still within the allowable time frame.

Miracle of miracles, we actually land on time. The flight attendants, knowing that I have to hurry, actually move me up right near the exit door (along with another gentleman transferring to dublin) so that we can be the first ones out of the plane. And then we sit there. because there’s no one at Heathrow to operate the jetway so that we can actually get off the plane. For 25 minutes. 7pm rolls around, and they finally start moving the jetway. To the other door. So now I’ve got to push my way through an aisle full of people (A flight attendant actually pushed, I just followed in her wake). And of course, I’ve now got less time than the little booklet says, so I’m just a little stressed. I literally run off the jetway, through the terminal following the signs, and then I get to the security checkpoint. Where they tell me I can’t go through unless I somehow figure out how to make my carryon and my backpack (purse sized) into one bag. Because apparently at Heathrow, you’re only allowed one bag, even if your transferring between two different airports that allow two bags. And your flying business class, which usually means that you can bring a damn steamer trunk on board and they’ll just smile at you. And your in danger of missing your connecting flight if you don’t hurry. Needless to say that while I was cramming my backpack into my carry on, there was a bit of vulgar muttering. As soon as that’s done, I don’t even look at the guy and just push past him to be able to get in the actual security line. I knew there was a reason that I didn’t want to overpack my carryon before I left.

Security goes pretty quickly, as there are only three people in line.

Book it down the escalator, to the bus. Where the bus is sitting there, but the doors won’t open (the terminal doors leading out to the bus, not the bus doors). When I ask the woman why the doors won’t open, she basically tells me she’ll open them when she feels like it. There are now three other people with me, at least one of whom is trying to get on the same flight as me. Apparently, the door lady has been saying this to everyone. three seconds later, she opens the doors. Nothing like a power trip to stress me out even more. The bus ride takes about 10-15 minutes, and then we’re at the new terminal, in the main shopping area. If you’ve ever been to Heathrow, you know that it’s about 100 miles from the shopping area to the actual gates. So my new friend from the bus and I just start running. get on those moving passenger walkways, and push people out of our way (seriously, how hard is it to read the sign that says stand on the right, walk on the left?). Get to gate 16, check in, and realize that it’s only 7:30.

That’s right. I did a 75 minute connection, including a terminal change, in 30 minutes.

We boarded shortly thereafter.

And then we sat at the gate for another hour and a half.

Frankly, I was so happy about making it onto the plane and not having to stay in London overnight that I didn’t care. Plus, I had been able to do a mileage upgrade to business, so the free champagne was a pretty nice relaxant. No wonder I fell asleep.

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On certain differences between the US and Italy.


Remember how I said earlier that people in Italy don’t talk about politics? That it’s considered rude? Well it’s certainly true. The Italian government basically collapsed yesterday, and the only reason I even found out about it was that I read about it in the NY Times.

Could you even imagine something of this level happening in the US and no one in your office discussing it? Granted, this sort of thing is a bit more common here in a fairly fragile coalition-based parliamentary system than in our country, but I’m pretty sure that if this happened at home, I wouldn’t be getting much work done because everyone in my office would be discussing this nonstop. Heck, we’d probably either take over a conference room to watch the proceedings on TV or head out to a bar somewhere to keep up. Regardless of what “side” we were on.

The closest that I’ve gotten to having a political conversation in the office in the past two months was when Berlusconi’s wife published a letter detailing his neglect and infidelities on the front page of one of the major newspapers. And it was about a five-minute conversation. Our country spent several years and something on the order of sixty million dollars going after Clinton for trying to hide an affair. Here? well, here Berlusconi is probably going to get his job back.

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Look what I’m missing!


I’m inordinately happy to be going home in two and a half weeks, what with the missing my family and apartment (and spending my birthday all alone yesterday) and finding out that one of my best friends is pregnant and having to travel to two separate weddings (on in montauk and one in florida) within a few weeks of arriving home, but there are certain days when I’m really happy not to be in New York.

Winter Storm Moves to East Coast.

Yeah. Did I mention that it’s been in the 50s all week here?

Oh, and to be fair about the birthday thing, we are having a fairly big office party tomorrow night. Not for my birthday in particular but…just because. So there will be drinking. and other festive things. Mostly drinking. My former office-mate is also moving to New York for six months on Sunday, so that may have been part of the impetus for this one.

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26 days.


26 days until I go home. I’m very excited.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had a good time here. I’ve been out to interesting places, made new friends, and generally have had a nice time. But I’m overwhelmingly homesick. It’s got nothing to do with *here* but rather that I’m not *there*. I’ve realized through this experience that I’m just meant to live in New York. It’s where I’m from, it’s where my family and friends are, and it’s my home (for better or worse). At least now I know for sure. You know it’s bad when I start waxing nostalgic for my office in NY. Granted, the fact that I don’t have to share an office in new york may have something to do with that (again, the actual people that I’ve shared offices with here have been lovely. It’s just that I haven’t shared an office since back in 2000, and it’s really difficult to have someone, anyone, in my space when I’m trying to work).

I should also say that I did luck out here. It’s apparently been the mildest winter in Milan in years. It’s been consistently in the 40s and 50s during the day, and the legendary fog and rain have only been intermittent. And while I did miss the 70 degree days they had in NY in january, I’m also missing the bitterly cold weather they’re experiencing now.

The one thing that I’m disappointed in is that for a pretty long stretch (until Christmas), I had enough work to do that I pretty much had to work at least a little bit every weekend. Certainly nothing crazy (especially for a lawyer), but that pretty much put a damper on my ability to take weekend jaunts to other places. Of course, I’ve actually been to many places in Italy on other trips, so there’s nowhere, at least in northern Italy, that I feel like I need to see before I leave, but now that I’ve got only a few weekends left, a ton of packing to do, and a deal that’s going to close only days before I fly out of here, I’m probably not going to fit in a whole bunch of travelling going forward either. At least I did get to go to Paris – that was really the one thing that I desperately wanted to do while I was over here, and it got done.

So. Specific things I miss about NY…

My family.

My friends.

My apartment.

Sushi from Yama.

The ability to tumble dry my clothes.

Dry cleaning that takes less than two weeks.

Diet Coke (although I’m going to try to limit my intake when I get back).

My oven (seriously. I’ve never wanted to bake as much as I have since I’ve lived in a place with nothing but a two-burner stovetop and a microwave)

My shoe collection.

The Container Store.

American TV (iTunes helps somewhat, but I’m craving a good stretch of crime-TV reruns on A&E. Also, I’d like to watch a few things on my 40-inch LCD rather than my powerbook).

Stores that are open on Sunday.

My super-comfortable couch.

My office (including the 24-hour office support, my aeron chair, a door that closes, my own real-live secretary, and car service home at night).

The Gap and Old Navy.


Easily accessible manicures and pedicures.

Sherree (my hairdresser).

and, of course, the greatest skyline in the world.

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’bout time.


So I did actually make it to the Pinacoteca di Brera after I finished up at work yesterday. Helpfully, it turned out that I had a lot less work to do than I originally thought, so even though I had a slow start in the morning (and didn’t actually make it to the office until mid-afternoon), I was done in about an hour and really had no excuse not to walk around the corner.The art itself was really quite beautiful. Mainly religious iconography, which I always find fascinating, even though I don’t have any belief in the underlying subject matter (particularly new testament subject matter). Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures, as there was a museum employee sitting in every single room to make sure that you didn’t take pictures. But, you can go here for a virtual tour.

I think my favorite part though, was that in walking around, you actually get to walk past both the storerooms (which have glass walls so that you can still see in), and the special room where they clean/restore art. Since it was Saturday, there wasn’t anyone actually working, but it was still quite amazing to see the equipment involved (the painting being restored was also about ten feet tall, so it was a pretty big room). I might have to take a side trip over there during the week before I leave, so that I can see them in action.

Of course, today, I didn’t do much of anything except clean my dust-magnet of an apartment (seriously – hardwood floors and zero rugs is just a recipe for disaster). It’s like the dust-bunnies breed on a daily basis.

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Dereliction of duties.


I’ve been a terribly derelict blogger, and I apologize. It’s just that, every time I think about writing a post, it’s either to bitch about something (like getting manhandled by a crazy homeless guy on the bus the other day), or I realize that I’m living the most boring life possible for an American expat. I go to work in the morning, get home around 9 at night, and if I’m lucky, I only need to go to work on one day over the weekend (leaving the other day for exciting things like sleeping in, grocery shopping, and attacking the dust bunnies from hell that inhabit my apartment). Don’t get me wrong. I’ve enjoyed my time here, made some friends, and certainly do go out (even sometimes with other people!). But it’s not markedly different from, say, going to a friend’s apartment for brunch in NY. or going to a bar in NY. except that I can only understand the people I came with, because they’re the only ones who remember to speak English to me. But none of that’s particularly interesting to blog about.As far as current events are concerned, I still voraciously consume all sorts of news and opinion online, but I can’t help feeling particularly removed from american politics. Heck, the state of the union was the other day, and not only did they not air it here (obviously) even if they had, it would have been at 2 or 3 in the morning. Not very practical. It’s probably for the best as I would probably have thrown something at the TV anyway. I’m more upset that I’m going to miss the Oscars, since they’re airing a week before I head home.

So. That’s my long-winded way of saying that yes, I’m just about ready to head home to NY. I actually booked my flight the other day (I’m waitlisted for a mileage upgrade, gotta make use of the massive number of miles I accumulated last year). I’m heading home on March 4th, only a few days after the transaction I’m working on is going to be over. It’ll also be precisely 90 days since I last entered Italy, so I legally need to leave the country that day (not that I really get in trouble for overstaying, what are they going to do? kick me out of the country when they notice as I’m leaving the country? It’s more a concern that they won’t let me back in). And while I certainly don’t want to move to Milan again, I would like to visit, and to go other places in Italy (maybe even on *gasp* a vacation!).

Actually, the most fun I’ve been having is related to my former office-mate here. He’s actually going on secondment to New York in a few weeks, so I’ve been trying to put together some handy, “how to live in NY” info for him. He found out where he’s going to be living today, so I’ve already figured out what bus he’ll need to take to get to work. I know, I’m a dork. It’s a shame he’s getting there a few weeks before I get back, if only because I won’t be there to introduce him around the office. But I’ve already put my group on notice so that he gets taken out for beers and stuff when he gets there (my office in NY has over 200 lawyers, so it can be a bit alienating if you don’t have people looking out for you).

So. I’m going to try to be proactive tomorrow. Yes, I have to go to work for a little while, but it shouldn’t take me very long to get done what I need to get done (basically I got some updates that I need to incorporate into what I’m working on after I left work tonight). Since our office is in the absolute dead-center of Milan, I’m going to really try to make it to the fairly famous museum that’s literally around the corner that I haven’t been to yet (actually, our street abuts the museum property, but you have to go all the way around the corner to via Brera to get to the entrance). I can always clean my apartment on Sunday.

Hopefully it won’t rain.

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