Monday, October 27, 2014


Mantova, as seen from the lake boat
Last month's trip marked our 7th visit to Italy since we were married there in Verona in 1988. The pictures speak for themselves but here are a few casual, decidedly unscientific observations from our travels: 1) Italians love their dogs and take them everywhere, even to grocery stores, restaurants and cafes. 2) Along with dogs and children, they cherish artists as gifted, special beings whose work elevates us from the base grasping of the marketplace. 3) Like Americans, Italians have adopted technology, especially smart phones. Yet they seem to spend less time online that most of us, and more time actually talking, which makes sense, given their generally garrulous nature. 4) As a writer, I was happy to see that Italy still has lots of book stores. For them, Kindles and iPads haven't replaced real paper books - yet. 
outside the Duomo, Modena
5) As with phones and tablets, there are also more fast food restaurants, particularly McDonalds. In what could be a related issue, the natives seem to be getting heavier. Not grossly overweight like too many Americans, just a little paunchier than we remembered. 6) The old church based standards of 'proper' behavior are on the wane if not dead; kids dressing less modestly, the girls showing more skin and the boys affecting a 'gangsta' look, albeit with droopy, tight, skinny jeans! In several towns we saw young couples making out on the cathedral steps. In years past, such brazen public displays would have garnered a stern 'disgraziato!' from the elderly, black clad  'signore'. No more.7) Sadly, grafitti is on the rise in once pristine small towns like Brescia and Camogli where it's not uncommon to find tagged-up walls and buildings. Guess the desire for 'recognition'  at any cost is worldwide. 8) Along with burger joints and tagging, there are now more immigrants, too. While the beach towns held mostly Italians and tourists from the UK, France, Germany and the U.S., immigrants from Eastern Europe, Africa, and the Middle East now call cities like Bergamo, Brescia and Milan home. Having lived in NYC and L.A., two great 'melting pots', it seems normal to us. Not so much for the Italians, who grouse that joining the EU was 'un disastro'. 
playing with my food in Marina Di Pietrasanta
On a personal note, while some people flock to Italy hoping to become more urbane,  sophisticated, and alluring (read Luigi Barzini's 1964 classic The Italians), for me the opposite takes place. Instead of morphing into a suave, stylish casanova in the vein of Marcello Mastroianni, I channel Roberto Benigni. I trip on sidewalks, stumble over thresholds, spill soup and gelato on my shirt and slacks, drive down one-way streets, going the wrong way. I routinely ask directions to churches, hotels and museums - 'Scusi, signore. Puo dire mi dov'e…' while standing directly in front of the location, prompting WTF! stares and chuckles from the natives, who gape at me as if to say, "Poor thing, he looks normal but I guess he's not quite right". It's humbling, but also great fun. 
lunch @ Trattoria Ermes, Modena
I wasn't alone; Eugenie had her 'aha!' moment, too. For years, she told anyone who'd listen that her dream was to live in Italy, where 'family' and 'connection' still matter. During our sojourn, she suddenly realized that she already has those things here at home, where she's surrounded by loving friends and relatives. While living in Italy would be fun for a while, without the anchor of work or family we'd just be 'the American couple'  who stop by every morning for coffee and pastry,  strangers yearning to be 'in it', but never truly being 'of it'. A great observation from a great trip. Ciao!
Eugenie's Italian sportscar

Abbey of San Frutuoso near Camogli

Monday, October 20, 2014


Before Tanner resumes his role as blogger-in-chief, I thought I'd mention a few more reasons we have to be thankful for our dolce vita. First, there's good friends like John and Robby Mazza, and their pups, Lola and Porter, whose friendship we cherish and whose efforts to Preserve Malibu from over-development we deeply appreciate.
John Mazza & Lola @ Our Lady of Malibu's Blessing of the Animals
Living with such a talented artist, I sometimes take Eugenie's sculpture for granted. That's why it's great when other artists, like David Brady from Santa Monica's super cool Studio FIVE08 Gallery, acknowledge her work. Eugenie has two of her 'face-flowers' in the current show. Saturday's opening included a surprise visit from some other talented and beautiful friends. If you're in the area, drop by and enjoy this inspired collection of amazing painters, photographers and, yes, sculptors. Studio FIVE08, 508A Santa Monica Blvd., Santa Monica, CA 90401, 310-994-9400.

Lisa Rinna, Eugenie and Harry Hamlin
Lastly, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the amazing creation that my niece, Krissie Veit and her husband, Billy, gave birth to this week…their son, Cassidy William. Eugenie and I are thrilled and can't wait to meet the handsome little hunk.
Krissie and Cassidy William

Sunday, October 12, 2014


The Duomo, Milan
Poor Tanner! His parents went to Italy for 3 weeks and all he got was some lousy pictures of Italian dogs. Before you feel too sorry for our canine blogger, he spent his vacation at Sandpiper Kennels, hanging out in the office with Patti, Paul and Ignacio, and romping with the pack in the play yard. We came home to find him looking lean and fit, and very, very happy to see us. Since we're with him every day, it's tough to notice just how much Tanner has changed sine he first joined our family. That's why we were thrilled to hear Patti say…"When I first met Tanner, he was meek, nervous and shy…with your persistence and devotion, Tanner has blossomed into a real dog! A fun loving, bouncing around, tail wagging, food gobbling, happy puppy!!!!! He is an absolute joy to behold!"  Thanks to Patti and her crew for taking such good care of him so we could rest easy and enjoy our vacation.
During our trip we visited Bergamo, Brescia, Lake Garda (Sirmione), Mantova, Modena, Pietrasanta, Marina Di Pietrasanta, Camogli, Pavia, and Milan. Along the way we saw lots of dogs. Most were mixed breeds but we did see several Labs, Pugs, Cavalier King Charles, Shepherds, English and Irish Setters and a dozen or more pit bulls, bull terriers, cane corsos, and dogo argentinos. In Bergamo, we struck up a conversation with a young man from the Netherlands who was strolling with his family and his Staffordshire Terrier, 'Bus'. We told him about Tanner and gave him a card for the book. He took one look and said, "I know GIMME SHELTER; I follow you on Facebook." Seems the world, or at least the dog world, is a very small place indeed. It wasn't possible to photograph every dog we came across all but here are a few we did get:
'Maria', Piacenza
'ZEUS' (Cane Corso), Mantova
Jack Russells, Pietrasanta