In Miami and in Vapiano

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South Beach Bathers, John French Sloan 1907

Swamplandia! by Karen Russell, is a weird jewel of a novel about a nuclear family running a slowly-dying gator wrestling park on a small island  off the Gulf Coast of Florida.  Russell’s Sunshine State is surreal, dreamy, swampy, thick with mud, mosquitoes, and warbling birds.

Florida, in those days, was a very odd place: a peninsula where the sky itself rode overland like a blue locomotive, clouds chuffing across marshes; where orange trees and orderly rows of vegetables gave to deep woods, and then, further south, broke into an endless acreage of ten-foot grass.

The seeming impossibility of a tropical paradise combined with the exuberance and proximity of South America, the salt and heat, and, of course, a python-killing contest, makes for a unique atmosphere unlike anywhere else in the U.S.  It’s a unique brand of chaos and laziness.   It’s Florida:

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Mr. B and I flew down to Florida for a weekend in March, the week of Spring Break. We went with two friends to visit a third friend who had moved there recently from Philadelphia. It was actually in no way like Spring Break since all of us have full-time jobs, some of us have kids, and none of us want to do wet-t shirt contests because our Gap cotton blends are tumble-dry only.

We weren’t going to shotgun beers, go to clubs where they played Pitbull, or stay out past 12. But damnit, did we need spring.

Just a couple months ago, I wrote,

It’s cold enough to heat up the car for fifteen minutes before you go anywhere. It’s cold enough for soup every week, almost every day, for scarves and for the wind to bite your lungs as you walk outside. It’s cold enough to be sick every week, which I am, and it’s cold enough for my thighs to tingle through three pairs of pants on the walk to the train.  It’s cold as hell. It’s cold and miserable,  and the world seems large, dark, and unforgiving outside of our small house.

Going back through my archives, I realize that I’ve bitched about winter almost every year, which makes me believe I need to either move to Florida or stop blogging from September to March for the sake of humanity.

But, the plane emerged from the clouds and into Florida air space into blobs of green, brilliant and sparkling, oceans and pools of water lapping in marshy, lazy bays, life, pulsing on its very vein! Here it was! Warm Valhalla!

“That’ll be $6 if you want the in-flight snack,” the stewardess said.

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We landed in West Palm Beach, about an hour from Miami and rented a car. It was so warm that we opened the windows.  We turned on the club mixes. You can turn on the song below and feel like you’re in Florida, too.

Driving into Brickell, Miami’s new,  wildly-sprawling financial district, we passed ceviche stands, palm fronds, glimpses of the waving ocean. We saw an old guy jogging in just a Speedo. We looked away awkwardly, because it was gross. But inside we were happy it was shorts (no shorts?) weather.

Coming to Miami from the buttoned-up, rigidEast Coast in the winter is an exhale, a descent into warm, toasty madness. Anything goes.

So we exhaled.  We drank coconut water out of coconuts that a guy hacked at with a huge machete.


We ate paella out of shared plates.

We smoked cigars in Little Cuba. Some of us with the chromosomal capability to do so grew Castro beards. We were ON A BOAT. We passed Key Biscayne and there, in the middle of the ocean near the island, was a flock of twenty or thirty small boats, strung together, bobbing with the rhythm of the EDM coming from them. These were the Spring Breakers. They dove in and out of the water, between the boats, guzzling cheap beer and swaying like palm fronds. 

We laughed at them and looked seaward. Some of us unfortunately continued to look like Fidel Castro in the 1940s.

Screen Shot 2014-04-22 at 10.05.43 PMWe did all the Florida things you’re supposed to do, and while we were doing them, I was thinking about how eclectic, weird, and wonderful Florida is, and what joy it was to be able to experience it. 

If I were a normal person, I would end the post here on a high note. But you know me.  I can’t have normal-people fun. I’m neurotic.  I’m Slavic-pessimistic, and I’m pretty sure if I’m having a good time, the world’s going to end tomorrow. So I’m going to tell you that there was one shadow in our sunshine-y vacation, and that shadow’s name is Vapiano.

Vapiano is chaos that happens when restaurant industry ambition, combined with wishful thinking, goes unchecked and descends into anarchy. And, let me tell you, anarchy tastes like olive oil drizzled over bruschetta. It’s a restaurant “that is defining the future of fresh casual – a new and refreshing niche in the restaurant industry”, according to the website.

Vapiano is like if you take the worst parts of an Italian restaurant, graduate-level math, and guilt and blend it together into a hurricane of extreme social awkwardness, according to me.

For dinner on Friday, our friend recommended that we go to Vapiano because he had a Groupon and had been before, and the food was great. The way Groupon works if you’ve never bought one is, you sign over your email address to the devil, who will send you approximately 11 Groupons per day until they break down your will to live. Most of these, your spam filter will catch. Until you see one that looks like vaguely a good idea, but that’s 10 miles across town and there’s a 5% probability that you’ll go, but you buy it anyway because “it’s 50% off and you want to try something new.”

If you actually go to the restaurant, there is a 95% chance you didn’t read the small print correctly and you end up paying more money because 1) if you don’t, the restaurant sues you and 2) You’re too embarrassed to pay for a $12 meal with a $5 Groupon. You then begin to wonder if you can put the tip on Groupon and all of a sudden you’re a horrible person and the societal norms of Western humanity are collapsing.   All of this would be fine, though, if Vapiano operated like normal.

But Vapiano operates on hipsterism, whimsy, and vague suggestions.  As Jack Donaghy would say, there are no rules, just like check-in at an Italian airport.

When you walk into Vapiano, They give you a card. “Hang on to this card,” the Hostess says in a breezy voice that has a hard edge to it, not unlike Soviet bureaucrats handing out housing applications in the 1960s. God help you if you lose your Vapiano card, because then you can’t pay for your meal. And I’m not so sure there aren’t any legal repercussions.

After you get your card, the hostess leads you to believe you’ll be seated, but you’re really funneled into an open space with three possible choices: the alcohol bar, the pasta bar, the pizza bar, and the salad bar. “You can go to any of the three,” our friend encouraged us while we stood like lost sheep, bleating at the options. He strutted to the appropriate line without any hesitation.  He was an expert. He made it look easy.

“Oh, one quick thing,  but if you’re going to the pasta bar, go there before you go to the pizza bar because you have to pay differently for each one.”

“But don’t we just pay with the swipe card?”

“Yes and no. You do need to swipe it, but you also need to pay after you’re done eating. So hold on to the card.  But if you’re getting a drink, get that last, because you have to pay with cash and leave the tip on the card.”

“Ok, so we should go get a drink?”

“Probably not. You should order the pasta first.”

“Can we order the pizza?”

“Not until you’ve ordered in the pasta line. The salad is in the pizza line.”

“So we can get salad and pizza?”

“Yes, but you have to pay for pasta separately.”

“And we tip separately?”

“Yes. They’ll bring the meals to your table.”

We became desperate. “Do we need a PhD in Mathematics and Logic Theory before we order?”

“Probably.” Our friend laughed. “It’s not that hard you guys.”

We tentatively approached the pasta line. There were other prisoner-diners behind us, and they were fidgety. “I’d like a pasta?” I said. “What kind,” the chef glanced at me. “You can have four toppings, but you have to pay for the fifth.”

“I have a Groupon?” I said tentatively. “Not here,” he said. “You’ll have to pay separately when they tally you up at the pizza line.” The fun quirk with our Groupon was entitled us to two entrees and one appetizer per person, as well as a free drink. Which were appetizers? Which were entrees? Would the world ever make sense again?

We struggled through our pasta order. “That will come out later,” the chef said. “You can go sit down.” He reached expectantly for our cards. My heart was racing. I hadn’t been this stressed out since I watched March of the Penguins (WILL THE EGGS MAKE IT??? WILL THE DADS STAY ALIVE???). We swiped the cards. “This isn’t the only place you swipe. If you order a pizza, you have to swipe there, too.”

We moved into the pizza line. “Do you want a salad?” they asked us. “Yesmno,” we mumbled. And mumbled our way through the toppings and salad choices. We swiped the card again.

Then we tried to order drinks. “Do you bring those out to the table, too,” we asked. “No, the drinks, you pay for here,” they said. “How do those work with our Groupon,” we asked. “Not sure,” the bartender said.

We ate, gulping down huge doses of basil nervously. The food was great, but all the time we were eating, I was panicking. “Do we tip the waitress? Do we put the tip on the chip card? Do we split out the difference of the Groupon?”It was like H&R Block during tax season in there.

The waitress came up, smiling. We needed to swipe our cards once more to pay the bill. “I think I threw mine out,” Mr. B said. The table went silent. The waitress stopped smiling. He finally procured the card from his pocket. “We have to split the bill into three, with three Groupons,” our friend said. Steam visibly started coming out of the waitress’s ears.

Finally, we paid, and got out of that Godforsaken, delicious place.

“Vapiano is a fast casual restaurant with a twist – customers use a “chip card” to personally order their food or drinks from the bar or from the individual fresh pizza, pasta or salad stations. With this new innovative technology, Vapiano is going to change the way restaurants do business!”

Watch out, America. Vapiano is coming for you.

And that was my Florida.


On the Amalfi Coast


An hour away from Naples, down the Amalfi Coast, past Sorrento, you have to take the narrow turn towards S’Agata si Due Golfi or else you’ll end up going over the whole Sorrentine Peninsula. You’ll pass a small clothing store on your lefthand side where the women speak no English and you’ll try to ask in broken Italian, “Ma scusi, dov’e’ Nerano? A destro o a sinistro,” and they’ll scratch their heads and motion with their hands, helpless at your helplessness.



The first in a series of blog posts about how Italy lied to me



 When you’re in Italy, you must eat pasta, drink wine, get fat, relax, enjoy life to its fullest. That’s what they say at Olive Garden, at least.  The colors are brighter, the food more natural and delicious, and the people so warm and approachable that one day you’re an intern, next, you’re  running a prostitution ring from the Prime Minister’s office.

Outside of Italy, we’ve been getting Italian cultural hype for hundreds of years.  Sir Walter Scott wrote anxiously in the early 19th century, “Methinks I will not die quite happy without having seen something of that Rome of which I have read so much.” 

This is because Italy has been luring gawkers continuously. Forster. Gogol. Twain. Lawrence.  at Pray Love chick. Everyone and their mom has been to Italy.  Certainly, Mr. B and his mom had, ten or so years ago, in an unfortunate Russian bus trip Mr. B would rather forget because the tour guide, a Teutonized Russian Jew living in Germany, refused to stop for most meals and old people.

The complete proliferation of la dolce vita in both American culture, caused by the strong dynastic pride of Italian Americans  and among Russians, who all secretly want to be Italian, left me with high hopes and firm expectations for our trip a couple weeks ago.

For Mr. B, it was a redo, a chance to wipe out memories of traumatizing vacations past. For me, it was a chance to fill in my travel knowledge, like Sir Walter Scott. Most importantly, it was a chance to be lazy. I spent all winter and spring working, writing, and studying, and I didn’t have it in me to plan an extravagant itinerary. Since Italy is the fifth-most visited country in the world, I knew there had to be tons already out there that I could easily take from. And even if we didn’t end up seeing anything, no big deal.  We were going to do a couple days in Rome, one in Naples, and the rest of the time relaxing on the Amalfi Coast, low-key,  Italian-style.

In last year’s funny and cute To Rome With Love, Woody Allen is on a Alitalia flight to meet his daughter’s new Italian fiance when turbulence occurs. As is typical of Woody Allen, he starts panicking, and his wife, played by pragmatic Judy Davis, suggests he “unclench.”  “I can’t unclench when there’s turbulence,” Woody replies, “You know I’m an atheist.”

Unfortunately, I couldn’t unclench in Italy, either, and the trip turned out differently than I had anticipated. The first reason was that I’m an 80-year-old Jewish man. The second is that everyone that, because there are so many blog posts, books, movies, and third-rate American restaurant chains about Italy, I came into the country with extremely high expectations, which were immediately busted by a combination of my Russian pessimism and the fact that Italy is not what it seems.

The rest of this blog posts will be spent exploring how anal-retentive I am and all of the ways the Western literary canon lied to me about Italy. Ciao!



Mr. B and I arrived at Fiumicino on a Friday morning on U.S. Airways. Flying this airline is a great way to punish your worst enemies, especially if they hate legroom and wine that comes in cardboard juice containers. By the time we arrived at the gate, our hair was matted to our heads, or maybe falling out slowly from plane-food related stress, we were going on three hours of sleep, and our necks didn’t turn the whole way.

This is how Italian travel is supposed to be:


This is how Italian travel really is:


We were staying at someone’s apartment through AirBnB, so I needed to call him and tell him we were on our way so he could meet us there. We had rented a cell phone through the same company I’d used in Israel.

Unfortunately, the cell phone thought it was still in its ancestral homeland, and refused to work. As Jack Donaghy notes, there are no rules in Italian airports, so we spent half an hour jostling through crowds of Russians in sweatsuits trying to look like crowds of Italians in sweat suits yelling at Americans in yoga pantsp,trying to get some information out of anyone about how we could get a SIM card or a phone. We finally bought an Italy-compatible phone and I connected with the host.

“Ciao, Vick-i. Where are you,” he asked.

“At the airport,” I said. “We’re about to get a taxi…we should be there in 30 minutes.”

“Okay. See you in an hour.”  We got in a shared taxi, filled with vaguely European tourists and  other Americans going to hotels.  The driver blasted Radio Deejay, whose motto is, “One Nation, One Station” (sic.)  Macklemore announced that he was pumped because he just bought some shit from the thrift shop.

I looked around the landscape. Central Italy is almost virtually indistinguishable from the States, except that there are hundreds of umbrella pines dotting the landscape, like so:

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and, also, it doesn’t censor American rap music.  The taxi driver’s phone rang. His ringtone was Get Lucky. It is impossible to escape American culture.

Twenty minutes later, we were standing still in Roman traffic. The driver turned apologetically to us. “There’s a strike,” he said. “On the public transportation.” “Also everyone leaves the city, the Friday,” he explained further. Italy’s public transportation services have strikes so often that Trenitalia has a helpful tab on its home page labeled ‘In Case of Strike.’ “Some services will still be operating maybe,” it says reassuringly.

Our driver swore, navigated, and gestured his way around the Vespas, Fiat Puntos, and endless crowds of Asians wearing fanny packs. Every lane merge was a personal affront to him, every Do Not Enter a suggestion, to the point where I’d begun to wonder if he was playing up being Italian just for us.

We had promised the apartment owner we’d be there in thirty minutes. We were pushing an hour and a half. Another half hour later, we arrived on a narrow, charming street in Trastevere, and I called our host, feeling terrible that we were late.

“We’re here,” I said.

“Okay, I park the car. I’ll be there soon! ” We waited outside for another twenty minutes, watching women in impossibly tall high heels walk impossibly small dogs down the street, smoking (the women, not the dogs,) and older couples holding bags full of groceries, before he came to let us into his beautiful , modern apartment. The apartment was up four flights of stairs

This incident began my understanding of Italian  Italian time. Italian time is different from American time. Every culture I know has the joke that they’re on X Standard Time, but I have yet to meet a culture that treats time with such elasticity as Italians.  Most that deal with anal-retentive Americans are on time. Everyone else is, come se dice, suggerimento.  Cafes open around 8 or 9, maybe, farmers’ markets, also, maybe 10, or whenever they feel like it. Everyone closes down around 1:30 for lunch and doesn’t reopen until dinner, which can be at 7:30 or 10, depending on  how you feel and if Gli Azzuri won their match. If you have a heart attack between 12 and 1, well, try to have it later.


Breakfast at 9. Or 10. Ish. 

If you’re late to something you signed up for, you might get a frown or a shrug or nothing, depending. Asking for directions  could mean you’re driving “around 30 minutes” or “a couple streets.” Sitting down for a tiny cappuccino can mean 45 minutes, or however long you want to sit.

On the outside, this is charming. It means Italians have resisted the pull of modernity that keeps us all glued to the screen and at the grindstone. To someone with an absolute view of time, Italy is extremely stressful. I’m punctual  and view anyone who isn’t as a child-eating monster.  If you ask me to be somewhere at 2:34, I will do everything in my power to be there at 2:33:50, because it’s important to you.

I am a  list-maker, a horological stickler, and unbearable pedant. Mr. B has more flexible views about time, and the first three years or our relationship consisted of me writing tearful emails to him saying that I was breaking up with him because he didn’t respect my time and to please give back the mix CD I made him. But even for him, to be in a country where some people took time very literally, but most didn’t, and it really depended on the situation and the weather, was hugely annoying.

But Italy has nowhere to hurry, and this was obvious from the very beginning in Rome. In a recent essay about Italian soccer racism, Wright Thompson wrote, about Liga Nord, the Northern Italian political racist party that popped up in the 80s and wants to split Northern Italy from the South and send everyone south of Rome back to Africa, that, “Yesterday is familiar. Everything else makes them afraid.”

This is all of Italy. It’s accomplished enormous amounts of creative throughput in the last couple centuries. Dante. Fermi. Garibaldi. Nero. Caesar.  Vivaldi. Machiavelli. Augustus.  Benigni.  It’s in no hurry to prove itself like America is. Italy’s done with the marathon and relaxing with a coffee and a cigarette on the sideline.  America is still young and uppity, trying to constantly prove itself, failing, tripping over its shoes, getting back up and at it.  America’s still only (I hope) on mile 3 of 26.”That’s fine, kid,” Italy says. “I’ve done it all. I’ve done the 12 gods thing and the monotheism thing. I’ve made the most famous penis sculpture in marble. I’ve combined tomatoes and cheese. I’ve given hipsters centurion sandals.   You can take it from here. I’m on strike. ”


For the next three days, we started to understand more about this culture as we walked Rome ragged. Russian vacations are never-say-die vacations, as I’ve written about before, and despite the fact that even up to two days before we left I didn’t have an itinerary, we walked the entire city.

We walked an average of 7 miles a day, and we walked ceaselessly, trying to get into every nook and cranny.


Too many people have written about Rome for me to write anything meaningful. People have been writing about Rome for centuries. Mark Twain wrote, in the second half of the 19th century in Innocents Abroad,

What is there in Rome for me to see that others have not seen before me? What is there for me to touch that others have not touched? What is there for me to feel, to learn, to hear, to know, that shall thrill me before it pass to others? What can I discover? — Nothing. Nothing whatsoever. One charm of travel dies here.

There is nothing we saw in Rome that’s any different than millions of people have over the centuries.  We walked around the Forum, down the Spanish Steps to the gelato shop next door, down Via Cavour, across the Tiber, near the Castel Santangelo, ate at a tourist trap restaurant the first day, then got better at finding local places in Trastevere where the waiter plied us with wine and grappa. Holy shit is grappa terrible. But great for being drunk. And Rome is a great city to be drunk in.

The air in the spring is warm and Mediterranean and salty and full of umbrella pines, and no one goes to bed until 12, even on school nights. We stumbled across a tiny street where a kids’ birthday party was still going on at 9 PM on a Sunday. There were a couple kids running around with balloons.  But it was mostly  more adults, standing, smoking, discussing the meaning of life, and how to get their kids to smoke, probably.

We watched Il Grande Gatsby with Italian subtitles in a theater full of locals.

We watched hordes of Russian tourists go right past the historical sites and to the Prada and Gucci stores with signs strategically in Russian. We ate bruschetta every night. We went to creepy-ass ossuaries and crypts. We went far, far below the city, to a darkened room that was probably a highway in Roman times, and somewhere deep in the room, a spring trickled ceaslessly, like it had for millennia, and it made us shiver.

This probably all sounds super-glamorous. But it was not.

It probably reads like this:

But it was more like this:



Because by the time we were done walking, we got home, limping, having skipped lunch, and ate salami straight from the supermarket packaging, Italian cookies with tea, olives, and fresh bread, and waited for dinner. We skipped lunch most days because we didn’t have time. We were sight-seeing. By the time we limped back to the apartment, I was ready to die at the doorstep.  The other fun part was that the apartment was four flights of stairs up.

There was an elevator, but since it was an old, charming Roman building, the elevator was built into the architecture, meaning it was the side and height of a middle school locker. Just myself in the elevator was fine. Just Mr. B in the elevator was also fine. But having both of us in there was a potential safety hazard. You also had to get in, close the elevator door from the outside, then close the inside one, before it would go anywhere.

So we crawled up the stairs.

We took embarrassing pictures with gladiators. These pictures cost 5 euros and 5 dollars.


 We saw too much large marble genetalia. Some of us were immature enough to take pictures.


In all of that, in all the constant walking and the monument-seeing and the gelato-eating, we were never sure whether we were having genuine experiences, whether we understood the real Rome.  Rome is a city that has been washed over for hundreds of years, and, as such, is designed to put on a show. It has a thin veneer that it coats for tourists, near the bridges, near the castle, near the Typewriter, and near everything that makes tourists want to visit.

We were never sure if Rome was merely putting on a show for us, or if it was working the way it always did, the way it always had, and we were merely viewers. Did the waitress who said ‘Mamma mia!’ in exclamation as she swept of a dirty table cloth really mean it, or was she playing up to a stereotype? Was the waiter that gave us grappa just hoping for an extra tip?  Nothing felt sacred or genuine in Rome .Everything felt worked over by groups of tourists and people who were trying to make money off of them. None of the churches had a soul anymore. Everything was optimized for people who have minimal time to see the city, as we did. Pre-packaged is the right word.

There was one glimpse of the real Rome. We went to the Jewish Quarter, to the synagogue, that was the most beautiful synagogue I’ve ever seen, aside from the Spanish Synagogue in Prague. An older woman named Laura, one of the members of the Jewish community, gave a very thorough tour, talking about living in the city during Fascist rule, about how the Jewish community in Rome went back, back before Sfaradim and Ashkenazi rites, back in time, moving with the vagaries of the city, and I felt something, a piece of the truth. But then we were outside the gates of the Jewish Museum and it vanished as quickly as it appeared.

Trying to see the true Rome is like looking in a thousand mirrors for the true reflection, and I’m sad to say we didn’t find it, no matter how far we walked. And we walked really, really far.  We were exhausted and overloaded with ancient stuff and Roman stereotypes.


Somehow I knew that the Amalfi Coast held the truth, the true vacation, the true relaxation, if only I could live until then.

The reward for the fact that my blisters had blisters was that the next morning, we got on the train to Ostia, Rome’s ancient port city, to pick up our rental car and drive to Naples. This was my first glimpse of the real Rome, the city beneath the dazzling facades, at real Italians.  The train was dirty and looked like it hadn’t been washed for several Berlusconi administrations.

Foreign workers held onto grimy Nokia phones and slept on the way to work. Women with shopping bags full of bread talked loudly. People read the paper. The day became hot.  I sat and watched stations go by, trying to reconcile this mundane scene with the Rome of yesterday.

At Ostia, a very helpful man in a tiny un-air-conditioned office gave us the keys and asked us twice if we wanted insurance. We had seen Roman driving. We said yes, yes, and again, yes, per piacere.

The car was conveniently parked in a roundabout.  Mr. B had to back up into oncoming traffic while an older Italian woman impatiently motioned for him to move from the space, lightly hitting our car with her palm at to guide the way. Vespas and Puntos zoomed by within inches of the bumper.  Baptized by fire, Mr. B entered the ranks of Italian drivers and my feet entered a previously-unknown rest state.


I am calling bullshit on Italian breakfast

I’m in Italy and I figured I’d get this out there before I forget how angry I am right now once I get back to a country where IHOP is a constitutional right.

Italian breakfast food is bullshit.

The pasta and the bruschetta and the carbs are all delicious. I have never eaten such fresh and delicious food in my entire life except for all Israeli food ever.

But that’s dinner. You have to make it to dinner alive.

We’ve been in Italy for four days and I WANT SOME BREAKFAST FOOD.  Waffles, pancakes, eggs, cereal, something. Please, God, even fruit. Even yogurt. Anything. A single corn flake. I’ll eat it off the floor of Naples if I have to. It’s that serious.

Because what’s the other option?

This is Italian breakfast.


You blinked. You missed it.

Here it is again.

It’s the leftover part of your brother’s  muffin and the remaints of the extra-extra-super-small of whatever they give you at Starbucks. This cannot be more than 300 calories. Probably up to 320 if you eat the cappuccino foam. Which I’m doing, because after you eat this, you have to walk 6-7 miles a day.  You need that foam.

Oh! I forgot to mention you can also compliment your coffee with a cigarette, which is great, except that Mr. B and I are non-smokers, so we end up chewing our nails for the extra protein.

And can you buy breakfast at the supermarket? Yes! They are open from 9:30 or whenever they feel like it, which is usually after the time you leave to do stuff for the day. So basically, eat a big dinner, because otherwise, Slimfast.

Please, someone give me a single scrambled egg.

God bless America, land of the brunch.




I’m so excited about our authentic Roman holiday


 Photo source. 

I’m staying sane between school and work by planning our vacation to Italy. One of the cities we’re staying in is Rome. But, Mr. B’s already been to Rome and I’ve seen it so many times on tv I might as well have been there, so I was looking for some place really special to stay and have an “authentic” Roman experience, as the white people say.