—old Pet Shop Boys song, video here
Liars (sorry, Pet Shop Boys). When there’s no New York City in New York City, it might as well be Tysons Corner or suburban Columbus. Peoria, even.
And we’re pathetic. How pathetic? We drove to New Jersey yesterday to pick up groceries. To Wegman’s in Woodbridge, to be exact. You would have had to bribe me in the Time Before to drive to Woodbridge; I always got lost in New Jersey. But sat-nav now makes it easy, even when it insists I’ve arrived and I’m too dense to look to the left for the destination.
And getting decent groceries qualify as a Destination.
This is what we do these days—at least on days when we’re not glued to the TV by civil insurrections or new presidents being inaugurated (Hey, Joe!). We order online and either pick the stuff up curbside, like yesterday, or have it delivered. At one point before Christmas, we were getting so many deliveries that we felt like Roald Dahl’s Matilda in the movie of the same name, forced to stay home to sign for deliveries.
Driving through suburban hell sure beats watching the news during Trump’s final weeks. A friend a couple of years ago met up with me at the local Greenmarket one Saturday, after Trump had done something awful. It’s hard to keep track. “It’s like you tell yourself it can’t get any worse,” she said. “Then it does.”
Speaking of our former lives, we watched Martin Scorsese’s tribute series to Fran Leibowitz, Pretend It’s a City, over the weekend. Seeing New York, or at least Manhattan, full of busy people walking purposefully seemed like a weirdly modern, digital form of archeology. We were looking at a civilization that doesn’t exist any more, and won’t for awhile. [Critic’s take: I used to think of her as out there, really cutting and ascerbic. She just seems to be the soul of common sense and humanity to me now. Is it me? Or her?]
I started this blog a few years ago to document our gradual move to the Italian region of Umbria. And it began like that, with posts about hiking, festivals, houseguests, and people we know there. But now it feels as though we’re stalled somewhere over the Atlantic, not quite here but definitely not there, either. Wanna hear something really pathetic? We tell our smart speakers “play Radio Subasio,” with an American accent, and our local Italian radio station starts to play. That way, we get to hear the news, traffic reports, and the weather, while trapped on Staten Island.
Remember last spring? Try. It was sort of like now, only with the stupid hope that by now we might be living a somewhat normal life again. I even managed to live a semi-normal life while taking care of business in Italy in September and October. Back then, the press was congratulating Italy for beating the virus, and while you had to wear a mask in public indoor places like shops and restaurants (except while eating), it seemed like that vibrant social life that marks that country was coming back. Now we’re all in a second or third wave, and the resolve that Italians showed last year is crumbling, like its government, thanks to Italy’s most despised politician, Matteo Renzi. UPDATE: The government hangs on by a thread.
So now we amuse ourselves with groceries and cooking. Only we can’t be so indulgent because the first wave, with the indulgent baking and wine drinking left its mark. But I’m pretty lucky being married to The Spartan Woman; she even makes dieting a challenge to do something fun. She’s always trying to game the system; even a somewhat restrictive food regimen. (I can do it, too, but she’s better at it and has a clearer idea of how to make lean food taste and feel good.) Here are just a few examples.
Seitan “cutlets,” Italian-style