Thursday, July 31, 2008

Oh snap!

"Why are Italian tourists so pushy and rude?"

The Dark (sweaty) Knight

When the summer heat is unbearable and you want to cool off, where do you usually go? To the movies... or so we thought. Last night we went to Warner Moderno (the place I'd previously raved about for their online ticketing system) to see The Dark Knight in English along with more than half of Rome's English-speaking community, apparently.

As soon as we walked into sala #4, we all noticed it wasn't nearly as cool as we wanted it to be or as it should be. It was still early so I strolled downstairs to inform one of the workers who said he'd "take care of it". The theater is packed and the movie starts... but the air conditioning does not. It was a sauna in there, the air was hot, sticky & stale. The AC occasionally let out a spurt of cold air but not strong or long enough to even remotely freshen up the theater.

Half way through, I literally started to feel sick and had to leave the room. A dozen people or so did the same before me. Covered in sweat, I marched downstairs and asked to speak to the manager. She was super nice and tried to bullshit me by saying "Oh, we had a problem with the AC just before opening and couldn't get it fixed". Nice try lady, but that won't cut it with me because as we were suffering in the theater, my friend mentioned to me that her friend had the same exact problem in sala 4 last week... AND I vaguely recalled having the same problem in sala 4 about three years ago! So manager girl was wise enough not to fuck with an annoyed, sweaty American and fessed up: the AC in sala 4 had been broken for about 5 years and despite her constant requests, Warner never bothered to fix it. Why? Because it wasn't worth the money for them to close down that sala for a day or two. Instead they stuff unwitting movie-goers into that sauna because they know only a handful of people (like me) will complain and ask for their money back. So in the end, Warner still makes a killing without having to spend a cent for repairs.
The manager obviously offered to reimburse me & my crew for the tickets, she apologized profusely and said unfortunately there's not much she can personally do to fix the situation. I was seriously tempted to make an announcement in sala 4 after the movie telling everyone to go ask for a reimbursement, that way Warner would realize that it's NOT okay to cram a theater with people when the AC is busted. Unfortunately, I was too worn out by the heat to muster up the energy. Instead we high-tailed it out of there and went out for drinks...
But I just wrote an email to Warner about the incident because I do believe it's actually illegal for them to place all those people in a non-ventilated, crowded room without AC. I'll keep you all posted, in the meantime avoid sala 4 at Warner Moderno!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Greasy hands

It's official: Bertolli olive oil brand has been sold to a Spanish company (as was Carapelli in 2004). Seems like Italy's hands are so greasy, they can't keep hold of anything these days, not even prized possessions like olive oil. Wow, what's Italy going to sell off next, the Colosseo?

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Silver lining

My washing machine died the other day... after almost 10 years of trusty service, its motor went kaput. I was hoping it could be repaired easily and cheaply, but this morning the repairman told me otherwise. Even if it would've been more business for him to repair the machine, he highly suggested I just buy a new one. Uffa!

I don't have much spare time or energy to scour the city looking for the best bargain right now, so I went to a nearby appliance shop I've used in the past- Cucciollo (if they had a website I'd link it). It's located in the Jewish ghetto and is probably one of the best appliance/electronic shops in the center. I used to do lots business with these guys when I worked for an American university ages ago, so they know me and treat me well, but in general they are very pleasant and helpful to all their clients. I got me a new washer and I'll be able to do laundry again by Thursday- yay!

As I was walking back home through the ghetto I was overwhelmed by how much that neighborhood has changed in the past 10 years. When I was looking for a home 10 years ago, I considered the ghetto but most of the places I saw there were run-down railroad apartments and the buildings were in total disrepair (which meant eventually I, and the other residents, would have to pay for repairs). At the time, prices there were pretty low compared to other central neighborhoods. As much as I adored the area, it wasn't worth the extra hassle of having to gut and redo an entire apartment.

But now, the neighborhood has undergone a major renovation, they've cleaned it up, made most of the streets pedestrian-only, so there are lots of benches and café tables outside. AND to top it all off, they finally repaired the charming Tempietto del Carmelo in Piazza Costaguti. The area's got a great vibe to it and it's a lovely place to sit and chill out... A few steps away you'll also find a hidden gem called Rialto Sant'Ambrogio. It's a "cultural center" that hosts some cool events and shows. One more ghetto tip: if you haven't eaten at Sora Margherita yet, I highly suggest you check it out. It's an old-school, no frills trattoria with good food and decent prices. Forget about da Giggetto and their pricey artichokes, you can get the same treats at Sora Margherita for less and without the annoying touristy scene.

Anyway- I mentioned a silver lining, didn't I? Well, good thing my washing machine broke now because if it had happened next week or so, I would've been royally screwed since everyone and their mom is closing shop soon. So in some ways, I'm actually glad this happened now.

Cucciollo Elettrodomestici
Via del Tempio 6
00186 Roma
Tel: (06)6865102

Sora Margherita
Piazza delle Cinque Scole 30
00186 Roma
Tel: (06)687 4216

Monday, July 28, 2008

Calgon, take me away!

This morning I had another lovely run-in with the public healthcare system... It's so frustrating it exhausts me, for real. 

I've been trying to see my general practitioner for a week. Come summertime, he always mysteriously changes his office hours and unless you actually go to the office, manage to get buzzed into the building by someone else (because he's hardly ever there), and read the signs posted on the office door- you have no way of knowing what the new hours are. I finally managed to get there at the right time and on the right day, only to discover my doctor was... ON vacation. 
Fortunately there was a substitute doctor, but unfortunately this guy is a quack. I've had the misfortune of dealing with him before and he's incompetent. Apparently I'm not the only one who thinks so because when the 15 people sitting in the waiting room with me (I was third in line, hooray!) found out he was on duty, there was plenty of grumbling.
I show the quack doctor this skin condition that I've had on my fingertips for over a month now. He's flippant and dismissive as always, and says it's nothing. I insist that I'd like to see a dermatologist because my fingertips are bothering me. He says that if I go to Regina Margherita's Guardia Medica, they'll see me without a referral right then and there. Now, I've been around long enough to know that you should always be prepared for the worst when dealing with the public healthcare system, so I politely insist he write out a referral for a dermatological visit, just in case. He does. I leave.
I go to the Guardia Medica at Regina Margherita (like he told me to) and the woman at the desk asks for my referral (See??). She tells me I must first go around the block to the CUP office to pay for the visit, and then come back and go to the dermatology ward on the first floor. I go to the CUP and get a number and wait in line. I wait 15 minutes for my turn, show the lady my referral (without a referral I would've been screwed again) and try to pay for it. She snaps at me and says I need to go back around the block, go up to dermatology and ask if they can see me today. I explain to her that the woman at Guardia Medica said I could just come here and pay. She keeps yelling at me. I refuse to stoop to her level and calmly try to reason with her. Hold on, can't I just pay in the meantime? I'll either been seen today or tomorrow, what's the difference? No such thing and she continues to mutter shit under her breath.

Breathe in breathe out, go back around the block and up to the first floor of the dermatology ward. A lovely nurse assists me and tells me to go back to the CUP and pay for the visit ("If she gives you trouble, tell her Sergio said it's okay"), then come back up and wait my turn. 
Okay, I go back around the block to the CUP, get a fucking number and wait 20 minutes. Pay for the visit (20 euros. Public health care is NOT free) and go back to the dermatology ward. I wait for about 40 minutes for the visit- which was fine by me since they took me at the last minute anyway. And surprisingly enough there was AC in the waiting room.

My turn, the dermatologist barely looks at my hands or listens to me, she's too busy yapping it up with her friend about what she'll be cooking for dinner. She writes out a prescription before I even finish explaining the situation with my fingertips. I politely yet firmly grab her attention and explain my case. She nods her head and slips me the prescription she had already written out and signed and says "It's just some dry skin. You must've touched something that irritated it." No, no, no- I just explained to you that nothing in my routine has changed and my fingertips have been all wrinkled, dry, and painful for almost two months. It's useless, she sends me away with the damn prescription.
I try to stay positive and go to the pharmacy to get said medication. What do I discover? The "medicine" she prescribed is not medicine at all. It costs 23 euro and is nothing but fancy hand cream (which contains the same exact ingredients as the hand cream I regularly use). Fuck it. I decide not to buy it and at this point, I'm going to make an appointment with a private dermatologist and see if I can sort this out. 
Now, I just wasted 3 hours and 20 euros for nothing. And to top it all off, I'm going to have to fork out my own money for a private doctor because the public system sucks.


Whenever I see these "Wudy" hotdogs in grocery stores or on TV, I can't help but chuckle. Maybe it's the Beavis & Butt-head in me...

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Summer cinema

Although it's sad to see most of the movie theaters in Rome close for the summer, the outdoor movie venues usually make up for it by offering quite a range of films to see. I meant to post about this sooner but got distracted:
In Villa Borghese at the Casa del Cinema they are showing musicals in ENGLISH with Italian subtitles for FREE till the end of the month (hurry!). I'm not a big fan of musicals but there are some classics in the lineup that are worth seeing. Me & my crew went to see the Rocky Horror Picture Show and were rather surprised that 75% of the audience was made up of elderly folks. I guess they just read "free" and wanted to sit outside because they certainly did not enjoy the flick (looking around with horrified faces, getting up and leaving half way through)!
Piazza Vittorio's outdoor cinema venue is very impressive! They've set up 2 screens (with double features) and have a good selections of films and it's on until September 5th. One Italian flick I'd recommend in the July schedule is Tutta la Vita Davanti.
Then there's my all time favorite Isola del Cinema. I just love this venue so much, how can you beat the location- an island in the Tiber River! Great place to see a flick, stroll around, have a drink, or just people watch.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Above and beyond the call of duty

I wonder if any companies in Italy will start doing what Comcast has done? Probably not... this post from "Blog from Italy" does a great job of explaining why Italy & the Internet are not really making strides.
I for one am very impressed that Comcast made such an effort to satisfy their customers- bravi! Fastweb could learn a thing or two (or two hundred) from them.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Just say no

As the bus went bumpety-bump over the cobblestone streets, I saw something that is all too familiar here in Rome but rather disturbing to me nonetheless: a sleazy 70 year old man intensely staring at a scantily clad girl whose body parts were also going bumpety-bump. He then went on to ogle every single female that walked by him, shamelessly staring at tops and bottoms as if it were his God given right to do so.

The male gaze in Italy is something I've never made peace with. And you know what I mean by the male gaze in this context- I'm not talking about glancing at someone briefly or doing a double-take, I'm talking about vulgar, invasive staring, usually accompanied by unsolicited comments and or sounds.

Now, I know this happens all over the world- I've traveled the globe, thank you, and I have seen it in many places. But I must say it's pretty rampant here in Italy and disturbingly enough, most females don't seem bothered by it... or worse, some actually seem to enjoy it! I find it neither charming nor flattering when a male stares or makes comments/sounds. Au contraire, it completely offends me and annoys me. What makes you (man) think that you have the right to visually penetrate a complete stranger who happens to be female? What makes you (man) think that a female is actually interested in your comments about her appearance? What makes you (man) think that you are free to treat a female as if she were an object for sale? Not cool with me. I've seen too many foreign females and even local females being "coaxed" by such tactics and I always find it so immensely difficult to comprehend. What's the kick? What about dignity- why allow a man to reduce you to a mere figure, a facade, a one-dimensional being? You're being judged for nothing but your external shell and instead of contesting you find it flattering?!? The objectification of women in this country is overwhelming: from TV, to ads, to cinema, to the streets- there's no escaping it. I'm not saying pick a fight every time some dude stares or makes a comment (although me and my scrappy self have such tendencies), I'm just saying have some dignity and don't allow yourself to be disrespected.

I had a visitor for the past few days and while strolling around with her, I realized she was one of those females who plays into the whole male gaze game. Picture this: she's blonde, blue eyed, and has ginormous boobs. Needless to say she, or rather "the girls" were being stared at by men of all ages and she actually seemed to enjoy it as if it were a self-esteem booster. Obviously it's not her fault she's well-endowed but she was exchanging glances with the starers and smiling at them. While haggling at the market stands, she would purposely get very close to the vendor (male), smile, and bat her eyelashes. I was aghast! I found it so demeaning and humiliating that a person could reduce herself to tactics like that for a 2 euro discount. If I want a discount I can just ask for it in a nice, simpatico way like any human being would- why flaunt and flash to get favors or to make people take you more seriously, IF anything it has the opposite effect. Why do women feel compelled to do shit like this? Why do women need men's approval in order to feel worthy? Come on ladies, we've come this far, let's not regress!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Fastweb must die

How can a company of this size be SO unbelievable inefficient when it comes to customer service? It's immensely frustrating, annoying, time-consuming, upsetting, mind boggling, etc.
And the worst part is, there's not a damn thing I can do about it, I'm at their mercy. Calling the customer service number is a joke, emailing them is useless, and they have no real office I can go to and speak with an actually person. I am so tempted to cancel both my phone line & Internet and never deal with a phone company again. This time it looks like not even the consumer protection office can help me. I am about to go postal. HELP!!!!

***UPDATE- I wrote a letter to Fastweb and it seems it did the trick! They emailed me about my problem and assured me it's being taken care of. Yay!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Golden oldies

image courtesy of fullundie

Most people know that Italy was the cradle of cinema in the 1960's, but few people know it was also the cradle of music... on an international level.
During the 60s, Italy was considered an interesting market for sales, in fact it was rather lucrative... and to top it all off, it was a beautiful place to visit and do sales promotion! Many American artists came to Italy to record their hits for the Italian market and actually sang in Italian!

Stevie Wonder himself spent some time in Rome (he was romantically involved with the legendary Roman singer, Gabriella Ferri) and he sang some tunes IN Italian!

Stevie doing his thing in Italian:

Stevie & Gabriella at San Remo music festival:

Not to mention my personal favorite, The Supremes singing an Italian version of "You Can't Hurry Love":

If you click on this link you'll see the number 1 hits from 1960-1969. The original title/version of the song is listed in parentheses, you can see how many of them were remakes in Italian and in English!

Needless to say I'm a HUGE fan of 60s music, so I was thrilled to discover this cross-continental collaboration with some of my favorite golden oldies.

Petula Clark sang her tune "Downtown" in Italian. There's a funny story about this song- those of you who watch LOST might recall that the original song "Downtown" was featured in a few scenes with Juliet. The Italian dubbed version of LOST used the Italian version of the song (called "Ciao Ciao") as opposed to the English version of it. I found it rather amusing:

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Adventure in Rome

Today I went out in search of a salon that offers threading. I'd heard about a place through the grapevine and decided to check it out.
It's called Remo’s Hair Style Unisex. It may be a no-frills salon, but it's quite a find, and they do what they do well! They specialize in Afro-Caribbean hair and in threading (it's the only place in Rome to my knowledge that offers threading). The place is run by Remo, an Italian, and his African wife. The woman who does threading is Indian and speaks English very well.
It's located on Via Filippo Turati #19 (near Termini). They gave me a different cell number than what appears on the business card so I assume it's been changed to: 331-357-4218

Friday, July 11, 2008

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The great AC debate

The following is based on real life scenarios that took place at the office the other day:

English co-worker arrives at work drenched in sweat because, thanks to the sciopero, he had to walk to work and was wearing a black synthetic shirt. Female Italian co-worker walks into our office (which is the coldest room in the entire place because we're foreigners and we like AC) and says to him: You'd better shut off the AC immediately or go outside and wait until you dry off or you'll catch your death!
He and I exchange glances and chuckle saying "No, don't worry, we're foreign... we're immune to AC induced illnesses".

Later that day I walk into the secretary's windowless office and it literally feels like a sauna. I look at the AC unit and it's off so I ask why. Her reply: "Yesterday after leaving work my stomach didn't feel well from all the AC, so I decided I'd rather not use it anymore". 
Uh, ok...

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Chicken parm??

As far as I'm concerned, it's official: Domenico of "That's Amore" is a fake Italian. 
How do I know? Well, on tonight's episode (Yes I admit it, I watched another episode. I'm a glutton for punishment!) he told his female suitors he was feeling homesick for his Italian mother's cooking, so their challenge was to cook her best dish: chicken parmigiana. 
Sorry buddy, Italians from Italy don't even know what chicken parmigiana is... that's Italian-American cuisine. 
Either he's a fake or the writers need to do more research on "Italian" cuisine!

Cheeks & chokes?

What's this ad for again? Canned artichokes? 
Uh, yeah... not sure I get the connection between butt cheeks and artichokes. Come on people, can't you be a little more creative?!

Monday, July 7, 2008

Has it come to this?

When and why did vandalism become so rampant in Rome that they have to cage in vending machines?
(pics taken at the infamous Stazione Trastevere)

Friday, July 4, 2008

Happy 4th

Today I was helping one of my Italian colleagues decipher and translate a documentary about New Orleans and there was one part of the film that shocked him even more than the post-Katrina footage: scenes of man from the lower ninth ward proudly talking about how his mother, a single parent who worked as a maid, managed to send both him & his sister to the best private (parochial) school in the city and put them through college AND bought two homes all by herself.
My Italian colleague found it incredibly difficult to believe that something of this sort could be possible, his reaction was a mixture of disbelief and amazement and he said "It blows my mind how much people can accomplish in the US with hard work".

Happy 4th of July.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008