Once upon a time in Texas, there was a girl with an appetite and a dream...


Black Friday

As most of you are aware, yesterday was Thanksgiving. But only in America. Which is exactly why I had to talk to my family on the phone while they celebrated, and I rode a ferry from Naples to Ischia.

As I spoke with various family members, I reminded them that if I were there, we would be drinking prosecco with our stolen, pre-meal bites of fried turkey. I would have been in the kitchen for a week with mom planning, grocery shopping, and messing up the place. If I were there, I would have joined my dad and uncle briefly in the backyard while they hovered over gallons of boiling peanut oil, excited as 10 year-old boys. If I were there, I would have been hugging my niece and nephew and touching my sister's pregnant belly. I would have eaten like a pig, then retired to an available horizontal space to watch a movie with everybody.

My aunt reminded me that if I were there, I would be going shopping the next day with them. She reminded me that I had written an email exactly one year ago about this female ritual, and since I haven't written in a week, I'll share it with you.

November 25, 2005

I was suckered into this by the women in my family.

I have successfully avoided the the pleas with keeping the "day-after-Thanksgiving" tradition for roughly 10 years. Every year my aunt says to me, "But we always go shopping the day after Thanksgiving." It's just that we, usually does not include me. I cannot be subject to the hoards of wild-eyed women who have been to the 5-o-clock "door buster" sales at Wal-Mart and Target--they have usually stopped only to refuel with some caffeinated beverage because CHRISTMAS MUST BE BOUGHT! I always picture it like a marathon, as the shoppers whiz by laden with bags, someone is there holding out a diet coke which is quickly grabbed, slammed, empty cup falling to the ground in slow motion as the theme song from "Chariots of Fire" plays in the background.

I remember the good ol' days when this day was fun. We (Mom, aunts, sister, female cousins) would pile into the minivan at dawn and head to Houston for a fun-filled shopping day. There were people, but it was more like a Saturday at the mall than a crowded hurricane shelter. I would start complaining of mortal hunger around 10:30 and we would go to some restaurant around noon (not surprisingly, my favorite part). My mom would grow weary of my constant badgering. I wanted everything, like a good nine-year-old should, and she refused. Bless her heart. Yes, these were the days before this Friday after Thanksgiving had the name "Black Friday." After 9 solid hours of shopping, I would get bored, tired, hungry again, and would be ready to go home.

Now it's different. It has turned into a frenzy of epic proportions. One must arrive at 5 in the morning to get the sales. People are camped out in line at the mall entrance waiting to be first. Mothers, daughters, and aunts all starting new traditions.

Not me, no sir-ee.

Maybe just this one time. I have succumbed to the voices speaking to my ego and need to be loved, "Please come Tracie. We want you to be there! Our day is brighter whenever you are near!" Well, I made up that last one, but it'll get me through the day. Besides, I love my womenfolk. I miss them when I'm across the world. Anyway, what's wrong with a little sacrifice, right? I don't even go to the mall on any old Saturday because it's too crowded, but I will today. Hopefully, we will all survive, heavy with bags, diet coke on our faces, and happy to be together

Happy Friday,
Saint Tracie


That was last year, and I was in Texas all of November and December. I won't be so fortunate this year, but if I were, I would be right there with them, enjoying every moment.

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Shameless in the City #1

Shameless Public Nose-Pickin'

I thought maybe he was crazy, but he's wearing a jacket. Normal people don't wear jackets just to stand on a corner and pick their noses on a Sunday morning, do they?

HEY. I'm not saying that it doesn't happen in America, I've just never seen it so blatant and prolonged that I am able to get my purse out of the back seat, dig my camera out of its disorganized interior, fish the camera out of its case, fumble with the power, adjust the flash (wouldn't want an inopportune bright light to expose my covert operation), and snap a photo of said public offense.

And after all that time as our evidence shows, he was still going after that magic booger.

Will this be the search to end all searches? I doubt it, but I hope he found what he was looking for.


Italians Quoted #5

"Is someone wearing perfume?"

- a woman in a small room with at least 3 people smoking at a time, attempting to understand the cause of her brief sneezing fit.

That's right, it must be the perfume.


La Sagra del Cinghiale

I love a good sagra. It's a celebration of all I hold dear in Italy: food and wine. It is exactly the type of thing that made me leave my life with a backpack to get closer.
Something specific and seasonal like la castagna (chestnut), carciofo (artichoke), fagioli (beans), etc., will be granted the spotlight for a weekend, prepared in
a typical local style, and washed down with a little vino paesano. These are community events usually held outdoors and often conducted for charity. (Well, if I ever needed an excuse to fatten up a bit on some Italian country cooking, I think charity would be a great one, don't you?) September, October, and November are full of these events and if you're ever here during a sagra it's a fantastic way to see (and taste) the country.

A couple of weeks ago, I got to attend la Sagra del Cinghiale (wild boar). It took place in a tiny town called Dugenta, in the province of another small town called Benevento, about 40 minutes from Naples.

The menu is simple. There are 3 different pastas all made with ground boar, slowly cooked in tomato sauce. You can then order the misto al cinghiale with sausage, "steak," cheese, and a veggie. There's a panino option if there is someone crazy enough to skip the fresh pasta. The local wine is sold in a carafe or a 1.5 liter bottle. Did you notice how much more expensive Coca-cola is per mL than wine? This is a country with its priorities in the right place.

Could somebody check this dog's pulse?

Let's all say it together, "MISTO AL CINGHIALE!"

Look, paw, they even got 'dem some dayncin'!

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I would like to say that I had fun "sampling," but I'll go ahead and admit that I went whole-hog at the feedin' trough. And the post-dinner dance review was just what I needed to get myself on road for home...laughing all the way.