La primavera arriva! Nel Nord Italia, la primavera porta chiarezza, il sole, e una nuova energia per la vita. In Northern Italy, spring brings clarity, sunshine, and a new energy for life.
After an indulgent weekend in Bordeaux, which I will shortly be summarizing in another post, and then a week of a sort of hellâ€”marked by food-poisoning-cum-influenza (low energy, no appetite, and fatigue) and a month of verrrrry slim funds (also the subject of an upcoming post)â€”a healthful, solo Saturday brings me back to center.
I have established some routines in Milan over the past half year, so I know my plan on a day like this, magnificent weather summoning me outside, flooding every pore with cool breeze and skin-clearing UV. Though basic in a way unadventurous expats tend to be, I make a direct line toward Arnold Coffee (“the American Coffee experience”) near the Duomo, for a take-away large cappuccino and salmon bagel sandwich.
Hot caffeine in-hand, it’s impossible to feel slighted by the chaotic frenzy and aloofness of Italy’s pedestrians, errant dog shit piles, and inexplicable transit timetables /regularly scheduled strikes.
Today I traversed some twelve kilometers on foot, by bus, and on the tram, questing for a summer cap to cover my bushy hair on days I can’t or don’t shower. In Tampa I relied on a few Nike dri-fit sports caps that double as workout gear, which means they grunge out rather quickly.
In Milan, there is a hard line set between what one wears to exercise and what is fashion, for total-lookÂ ensembles.Â I figure it makes sense to invest in a ‘nice’ cap.
Naturally, I detest the popular flat-brim styles preferred by hip-hoppers and bros, so my choices are limited, but I managed to visit a list of places I thought might lead me to a purchase: Excelsior, Diesel, Stone Island, Y-3, Adidas, 10 Corso Como, and Antonia.
None offered a viable option, however. I did try a couple new pairs of Adidas sneakers, so in vogue lately. One high-top style looked too blocky from the side, anotherÂ made my feet look fat and wide from above. Why are all sneakers so rubbery and cheap-feeling? I may consider high street brand PULL&BEAR for something similar without the swoosh or triple-line logos.
I made my way back toward Navigli, and to Bivio, an unexpected favorite and a stop I make regularly.
Never would I have imagined that the enjoyment derived from shopping is perhaps highest, among all retail in Milan, at the resale/vintage/consignment store. It’s packed tightly but neatly to the eyeballs with used tees, sweaters, jackets, and trousers, plus the occasional treasure like Louis Vuitton sneakers or a Prada bowler bag. I have found so many interesting things there, with an average ticket price ofÂ â‚¬40.
This is also key to my strategy of better managing my money, which is the subject of another forthcoming post.
Shopping aside, the real story here is the fabulous weather. The past few months have been my first handling a real winter, on top of a culture shock, demanding schedule, and grieving for a loss. It has been…a lot. But I feel the doldrums lifting, and myself ascending with them.
Italy has been a challenge, without a doubt. Culturally, we are different, and I was honestly not expecting this much of a mismatch.
It is an even less ‘gay’ place than Tampa, in terms of openness and integration with all mainstream culture. Italy is still all about the male + female nuclear family, albeit with less vitriolic debate as in some parts of the U.S. And that makes being gay even more homogenized and alienating, sort of like living in a don’t ask don’t tell culture. Dating is the same hamster wheel of sexual lowest common denominators.
I miss my spacious, tidy gym. The availability of healthy, on-the-go food. And I hate the idea of having to take three hours for dinner anytime I go out. Maybe this is me, a victim of processed, sterile, instant gratification America.
In the last months, I fell into a hole of overspending, overeating the wrong types of things, and giving up on feeling sexy and seeking companionship. These were allÂ emotional band-aids. In neglecting the things that gave me a backbone to stand on, I felt less invested in school and things began to snowball…
And yet, I know (and remind myself to recognize these points too) that there is so much that is great about Italy. The seriousness with which they take style (whether I agree with the prevailing ‘look’ or not) is admirable. It is treated as more than a frivolity undertaken by women and gays.
Moreover, I have been very lucky to be closer to the ‘world’ of clothing and accessories that I participated in from afar in Florida. I have met so many neat people that I see as lifetime friends, both within and outside school. It’s hard to connect with people, because organically that takes time, but the seeds of strong relationships are there.
Objectively, however, there are some serious concerns with living here. The tax rate is very high, and wages are generally low. Gays cannot marry lawfully, thanks mostly to the influence of the Vatican. IÂ should be trying harder to learn Italian, but the classes offered by the university were not the best quality and frankly felt like too much on top of a full MBA agenda. I’ve been mulling the dream of boning up on my Italian, French, and eventually Spanish as part of my summer self-improvement.
In one train of thought, I feel a bit hopeless about marketing myself for jobs, the ever-dreaded forced ‘networking’, not to mention the abysmal pay prospects, and on the other, I know in my heart this is the kind of work I should be doing. I am highly observant, knowledgeable, emotionally intelligent, and can cut through the bullshit. I am a procrastinator and lazy sometimes, but at least I know and understand that about myself!
I have also had so much fun traveling within Europe, which is like going from Tampa to Atlanta, except it’s Paris or London from Milan. And I haven’t even done that much!
There has already and will continue to be a great stream of visitors from Florida, which for me is thrilling because I get to play tourist and tour guide. Sharing places and experiences with the people I love is one of my main thrills in life. It is equal parts storyteller, historian, and logistics manager, which is another reason I think I will excel in marketing, branding, luxury, retailing, etc. I have passion about the product, if it is worthwhile.
SO IN SUMMARY, I am feeling very good on this best kind of days. Despite many stumbles and grumbles and still having plenty of mountains to climb, emerging from the cocoon of winter and looking forward to a summer of fun is giving me a lot of motivation.