I Had My Entire Suitcase Stolen—But At Least I Have A New Butt Plug?
Or something like that.
After a long holiday, I figured we could all use this newsletter as a distraction before rummaging through days of OOO inbox abyss.
Credit for this title goes to one of my favorite editors and it’s comically fitting at this point on my journey. It’s been a roller coaster of a summer and I can’t even get words down fast enough from my mind to paper. I’ve got to focus on writing for work so I can attempt to pay off my student loans before I’m 150. A gal can dream, can’t she?….
Anyway, I’m writing in my light-filled apartment in Montepulciano, a hilltop Medieval village in Tuscany, wearing only my new rust-colored linen pants, deep into the land of doppio espressos. Did someone say fantasy life? La Dolce Vita….
I worked hard to strategically pack my bright and shiny new carry-on for this trip—perfectly organized with my favorite Mara Hoffman frocks I’d saved up to purchase all spring, plus my Gucci sneaks that have clocked about 600+ miles around the world in steps. They were my favorite shoes, albeit not the most comfortable sneakers, but they were just like me—a little disheveled and unhinged, with many stories engraved in their soles.
My Rome friends graciously picked my panicked, frazzled self up from the train station and whisked me away to the land of homemade pasta al pomodoro, Ettore and Agata snuggles, and non-invasive love. I remained in a trance for a few days, thinking of the woman who stripped me of my possessions. The woman who observed me on the train, watched me doze off beside her, and made the decision, most likely thinking there’d be valuables inside, to steal my belongings in broad daylight. This malicious act went unnoticed by train peers because why would anyone be taking anything from the racks above aside from their possessions?
I wondered if she’d long gotten rid of my things or found the same joy in slipping on my favorite Mara Hoffman cutout dress or scrunchy puff-sleeved purple top as I did. I’ll never know but the cutout dress at least got lots of date night play in its short time with me. It brought back feelings of being robbed when my ex-husband and I lived in Salt Lake City. You can replace most possessions in life but there are some trinkets, like my grandmother’s dinner rings and my Marc Jacobs collection, spanning back to his first iteration before becoming well-known, are not.
I rummaged through my weekender bag to see what remains: toiletries; Birkenstocks; my favorite black turtleneck from Zara with several minor holes in the seams of the sleeves because it’s my comfort blanket abroad; Frescura, a sunshine-in-a-bottle citrus liquor from Distillerie Aragonesi on Ischia, in which Alessandro hand picked for me himself; my computer; my passport; and a jar of homemade Pomodoro sauce and apricot marmalade, crafted by hand by an Italian lover.
On my body, my favorite Mara Hoffman black linen skirt-dress-jumper ensemble and a black tube top. I am lucky. I also would never let my life possessions (passport, computer, handbag) out of my physical possession. The train was crowded, my suitcase had to go up top, and that was that. I find it interesting how we value things once they’re gone. This resonates with so many things in life. Pomodoro sauce from someone’s garden and a handwritten note remain priceless, while my Gucci sneakers can and absolutely will be replaced.
A temporary suitcase plus a few vintage and fast fashion finds later, Caroline and I faced the chaotic streets of Rome for the most rewarding, most Southern delight: iced tea with lemon granita in place of ice and BLTs. It was the kind of tea that will stop you in your tracks as it was brewed so perfectly. I sucked down two while Ettore created his version of hell: adding ketchup to his lemon granita, which seemed to bring him so much joy.
Chaotic energy in tow, we packed the car to the rim and set out in search of the Tuscan sun, salivating over talks of devouring a giant ass bistecca alla Fiorentina on the drive, which IMO is the icon of Tuscany in terms of gastronomy, plus a side of savory white beans. It’s the definition of rustic simplicity at its finest. I always feel super primal, like an animal in the wild, devouring its prey, when this steak is within arm’s reach.
Pasquale may have doubted our choice of a barbecue spout in an auto mechanic joint, but we grew up in the South. Some of my favorite childhood nostalgia consists of eating fried chicken and gizzards from a gas station with my dad in the Blue Goose (his Bluebird-blue pickup truck that I can still smell the scent of if I close my eyes). The inside of La Braceria was not that inviting but a few steps around the building was the most beautiful al fresco setup.
We were ravenous. We wanted the bistecca before we even sat down. "Please, smell the meat,” the waiter said to each of us, with a sizable chunk of raw, 160-day-aged meat sitting sultry like a French girl ready to be drawn, on a platter. I felt like a vampire, thirsty for blood or like Mia Farrow in Rosemary’s Baby, possessed by the devil—or just really hungry like a wolf for a piece of meat. Interpret this as you wish. The three of us almost finished the trophy steak, and what we couldn’t, Agata thoroughly enjoyed.
Wine with a close friend on a hot summer day, whether on a patio in Roma or at night by a pool at a villa in Tuscany, is priceless. When was the last time you listened to the Romeo & Juliet soundtrack? You’re welcome. My family left, a lover appeared, and the gardener got to see me in three stages of life: as Tia Jenn; as a wild animal in her prime; and as a depleted soul who’d fallen to her knees in despair as the reality of a fairytale ended.
La vita è beatitudine, assaporala (life is bliss, savor it). I compare myself to a lemon: bright and beautiful, thick-skinned, full of life, with a vibrant and sunshine-y approach to life, which sometimes slaps me in the face really hard. Trying a lemon for the first time is filled with emotions. It’s tart, it’s bitter, and it’s often overbearing at first, but it can be easily tamed with a little sugar, morphing it into a hypnotic, thirst-quenching elixir, just like myself when properly f@cked. Sex is my sugar packet of life.
To occupy my time while I anxiously awaited for my lover to arrive, I decided to make Sex Gatorade (or…. simply limonata da giardino). If this time were to be anything comparable to the first encounter—where a mop was needed to soak up the sweat on the kitchen floor, and a chemical cleaner was warranted to remove red fingernail polish marks from the floor—I was going to need some form of life elixir to sustain.
Imagine driving into a scene where the Tuscan sun beams brightly, crickets sing vibrationally from the treetops all day, flowers sway in the slight wind, and where a woman appears in a sweet-as-can-be floral dress with freshly-squeezed lemonade in hand. I am certain the few drops of tiger sweat that accidentally rolled down my face and into the pitcher enhanced this recipe. I do love a nice balance of sweet and salty. Leading up to his arrival, I felt like a pent-up housewife trapped in the countryside, but the sweet, innocent act didn’t stand a chance once he walked through the front door—and neither did the dress.
When stopped in your tracks it’s hard to come back from such an intense feeling—the feeling of being trapped underwater, in the gray, and completely surrendering yourself to someone you barely know. A feeling so intense you don’t realize you’re not breathing until you wake up and gasp for air once it’s over. I’m uncertain if I’ll feel anything ever again but that’s much better than diving into a world of pending doom.
On the last night, tangled in silky red sheets fit for a Queen, I extended my arm across the king-size bed to feel a sign of warmth from his arm, to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. Long gone from the villa of my fantasies, I’m back to being a sour lemon without sugar—but replay the word “wonderful” over and over and over again in my mind.
A dusty drive to the train station, a train, and a bus around the windy Toscana hills later and I spit out into Montepulciano— a medieval hilled village where I so desperately craved stillness. I could barely function but popped out above water to go on a date at Sax Wine Bar. The two hours were filled with philosophical conversations and debates, a giant board piled high with Toscana meats and cheeses, and delicious Vermentino that paired perfectly with the al fresco scenario. After lunch, we walked downhill as I was priming to say goodbye. “Do you want an espresso?” he asked. I should have said no but I did want an espresso so we cruised into Palazzo Avignonesi. “I know yesterday was your birthday so I got you something I thought you’d enjoy.”
Out comes a gift from his backpack, in a burgundy bag with a red bow stuck on the side. I truly hate surprises and I mostly hate gifts unless it’s in the form of something I can consume—or wildflowers. “How cute for a first date,” I thought internally. “You can open it now,” he says. I unwrapped it and, fresh before my eyes, a box with an image of a butt plug as a visual. On a first date. I panicked internally. I’d also just consumed my weight in meats and cheeses so the whole scenario was ill-fitting and perhaps the last gift I thought I’d ever receive on a first date. There were nonnas all around, I froze, and I believe my reply was, “Grazie mille, thanks for thinking of me.” What else do you say?
Welcome to Butt Plug Gate, where comments, thoughts, and opinions continue to flow freely. And in case you missed the entire scene, I didn’t ask for a butt plug nor hint around that I wanted a butt plug in the prior conversations we had ... .for one day. My editor is correct. I’ve been robbed of my entire suitcase but at least I have a (medium-sized) butt plug, now that’s a headline. Maybe I’ll give this to my next first date over dessert and see what he says to compare reactions. I forgot to mention that somewhere after lunch and before Butt Plug Gate he asked if I wanted to go to the torture museum. This should have been my red-flag exit call. Half an hour after literally running for the hills, I get a text that says, “I thought you would wear the plug for the rest of the day, winky face emoji.” God save the Queen.
I’m currently in Perugia, the land of chocolate Bacio (kisses), and medieval fortresses galore, and fell in love with Strangozzi pasta with summer truffles, lake beans that were sister to the South’s field peas, and Umbrian bubbles last night. I have exactly 8 more days in Italy and need to make a final Italian train trip plan with Omio where *I think* I’ll go from Florence to San Marino to Bologna to Verona to Venice, in a week, stopping for specific gastronomy bits and pieces.
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