17 April 2012

15 (or so) Things

1- Cheez-itz
2- cheap running clothes
3- boot leg jeans (esp. 100% cotton ones)
4- cheap, plentiful advil
5- 100% cotton t-shirts cut for people w/hips & upper arms
6- effective bras
7- running bras
8- herb variety, fresh and dried (e.g., fresh cilantro, dill, cumin)
9- cheap facial cleanser (cetaphil is like €12 euro-if you can find it! That’s around $17)
10- bacitracin
11- flannel pajamas
12- 100% cotton sheets
13- Ziplocks
14- Bonne Bell dr. pepper lip balm in drug stores
15- drug stores in general
16- flour tortillas
17- washing machines that take less than 3 hours to do a load of laundry
18- electric clothes dryers
19- Italian made shoes and clothing that are actually affordable
20- sales throughout the year
21- a pay check
22- english magazines & books. Inexpensive mags and books. Why is it that these are cheaper in France than in Italy???
23- men’s speed stick deodorant (not the white kind; the green, blue or clear kind)
24- maple syrup
25- brown sugar for baking
25- Burt’s Bees honey lip balm
26- LA Colors nail art polishes
27- Atomic Fireballs
28- bbq (like, real deal, pulled pork, wet and dry, with collards & baked beans and corn on the cob)
29- butterscotch hard candies
30- Reese’s peanut butter cup minis
31- Nexcare waterproof bandaids
32- Sun Chips
33- ace bandages
34- tootsie rolls
35- twizzlers
36- charms lollipops & blow pops

I know, it’s way more than 15 Things.  It’s currently at 36 Things and every day I think of one or two more, but when my sister asked me to send her a list of 15 things I miss here in the land of “if it’s not pasta, made in Italy (or China) and/or costs a thousand euros, you can’t have it” while she’s in the land of 24 hour mega stores containing everything anyone in the entire world has ever produced, my mind first turned to food-type things that I can’t get here: cheez-its, soft brown sugar, cilantro. It then went out into the atmosphere, to the esoteric, to the impossible, to the candy store and right back to food.

The more I thought about it, the more I thought that a) though I miss these things, if I were to get any of them, I’ll likely hoard them for fear of getting too used to them and then have to face not having them again so if I got them, they’d likely  just take up space* and b) I don’t miss the “things” themselves so much as I miss their availability, their ubiquitous-ness in the US.

I thought of the recipes I find on the internet or see things my friends at home are making with their easily found ingredients and get jealous.  Rice wine vinegar? Fresh ginger? Various fresh chili peppers? Cardamom?! Y’all are just rubbing it in.

spoils of a trip to Civitanova
I can get soy sauce from the supermarket here in my little town, but I’m still not sure who here’s buying it and why. I can find all sorts of asian ingredients. If I drive an hour and a half in each direction. “Mexican” is limited to overpriced Uncle Ben’s “mexican beans” and corn tortillas and only at the hypermarkets in the larger “cities”. I might find an avocado in one store, a lime in another and possibly a sad looking jalapeno in a third, but if I do, it’s because I’ve driven to three different stores along the 40km route to the beach that takes an hour each way plus shopping time and stopping a few times to “catch a coffee”. Or, I didn’t buy the avocados because I wasn’t sure I’d find the red onion and the lime and when I saw the lime, I didn’t want to go back to the first store for the avocadoes and, anyway, I was too disgusted at not finding everything for guacamole in one store to want to make anything. I just wanted to eat a box of Cheez-itz. Which don’t exist here. It’s frustrating.

Then I thought about clothing. If I want stretchy, skinny leg, bedazzled jeans or, let’s face it, hooker heels, I’m in business. If I want a padded bra with no real support and straps that dig into my shoulders or a sweater that’s narrower and longer than I am, not a problem.  Except, I don’t want them.

The Italians I see all seem to have the same style and while part of it may be a cultural reluctance to be different, really I think they just have no other choice. They can’t look different because they can’t find anything different. From the mall stores to the weekly markets, it’s all the same stuff. And I don’t want it. I want other stuff.

I want 100% cotton, bootleg jeans. I want t-shirts that stop at my hips. I want shoes and boots that are free of sparkles and studs. I want choices. I want cheap choices. I want sales all year long. I want Barneys and Bergdorf’s. I want Saks off 5th and Neiman Marcus Last Call. I even want that bastion of Italian bargains, Daffy’s, where all the sad little Patrizia Pepe and Mötivi pieces are sent and sold for a quarter of their Italian prices. 

Why don’t they keep it here? Why are there no off-price stores in Le Marche? Why can’t I find more than one type of sports bra in the four different stores that actually carry athletic-ware? Why are all the unsold items sent to the UK and the US? (TJ Maxx, I’m talking to you. There’s an untapped market here in Italy, filled with expats like me.) Why are Italian made shoes, in the shoe-making capital of Italy, more expensive here than in New York or Paris?

Here, it’s all castrato, cicoria, and amatriciana all the time. It’s stretchy and spangly and just like your neighbor’s. And your neighbors’ neighbors. Sometimes, you just want something else.

I guess I just want some choices. I miss the choices. The nearby choices.  The CVSs, Duane Reades, mega malls, department stores. The Trader Joes and 24 hour Stop and Shops.The nail polish, the perfume, the moisturizer.

OK. I admit it. Sometimes, I miss the stripmall. And the 7-11.  Even, on occasion, the Starbucks, if only so I can walk around with a large cup of coffee that takes more than thirty seconds to drink.  Yes, the very things that make America kind of icky, totally not charming and completely bland while driving through? I miss them. Because in those generic, cookie cutter strip malls of Duane Reades and Marshall’s are all the things I can find to make my day-to-day a little bit less so.

*this is not to say that I wouldn’t be delighted to have any of these things show up on my doorstep. I would not hoard them. I swear. Who needs my address?

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