32 Candles

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Every year, I stare at the flames as they dance like tender leaves in the wind. “Make a wish!” my family and friends instruct. I stare again at the candles. A Tesla seems like the right wish, but what are the odds the birthday fairy gets it equipped like I want?

At the robust age of 32 I wanted something a bit different for this year’s celebration. I am done with the bar parties that produced their unique set of fuzzy memories. Last year’s fête was a backyard BBQ with picture-perfect weather. This year I aimed for less of a celebration of me and the ceaseless wheels of time and more an acknowledgement of the important people in my life. Continue reading 32 Candles

30 Years of Gratitude

Foiled!

She got me good and I had no clue it was coming.

I was looking forward to turning 30 with as much enthusiasm as I reserve for mowing the lawn or shoveling snow. Birthdays in my 20s involved the trappings of youth: drink packages, shots, hazy memories, Tums and Tylenol before bed, and just enough drunken shame for a great story.

Compounded on the exhaustion of doing the Chicago birthday bar scene, Leann and I spent my a 29th birthday in Rome and Florence. Instead of shouting at friends at a bar, I saw Michelangelo’s David. Instead of a burger, my birthday dinner in Florence was a mushroom gnocchi and tiramisu substituted as birthday cake. How do you possibly top that?

You know that moment in a movie where everything clicks? That’s what I’m living right now after my girlfriend and close friends executed the perfect surprise 30th birthday party for me. Retrospectively, I was aware of a few abnormal behaviors from my girlfriend and my buddies Brian and Jon. But, to be clear, I had absolutely no idea.

The Tale

My girlfriend planted the deceitful seed two weeks in advance. We were out with her girlfriends Sue and Kristin for Cinco de Mayo (one of the true high holidays). During dinner, Sue mentioned that they never went out to celebrate her friend’s finishing of med school. They were planning something low key for the following weekend. Leann told Sue to keep us posted and we would see if we could make it.

And with that, the trap was set. Continue reading 30 Years of Gratitude

Ballare in Santa Croce

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After traveling by rail from Roma to Firenze, we wandered around Florence after checking in at hotel Montreal. The best part–which there were many stellar moments, including seeing Michelangelo’s David–of yesterday was swing dancing in Santa Croce. We walked there after dinner. Big piazza. There was a group of people playing music. One guy with glasses had an acoustic. There was a young woman with blonde hair playing a keyboard that had a mouth piece to power the sound–think Stevie wonder. Another woman with short brown hair and a tattoo on her wrist sang. And a guy with a snare drum and brushes.

One of their friends was snapping pictures with his dSLR.

They played songs in Italian, French and English. When I heard the syncopated rhythm of Ray Charles’ “hit the road jack” I took that as my queue to dance on the piazza.

One of their friends pointed as we started to dance. Tuck turns. She goes. Under arm turn. I busted out all my moves for the piazza. Add Italy to the countries I’ve gone swing dancing.

And to think we almost stopped in a bar that offered live jazz. Truly a great moment on my 29th birthday.

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When Do You Leave?

travel, translation, italian, iphone, europe

travel, translation, italian, iphone, europe

Every day for the past two weeks I have been asked the same question. I am unsure if my friends and coworkers can’t wait to be rid of me, or if they are as anxious as I am for the grandest adventure of my life. This includes that time I walked across the US/Mexico border and spent the day traipsing around Tijuana.

I have been fortunate to travel domestically (and to Canada and Mexico last year) since college. Most of these trips involved visiting friends in cities I had never seen. Glamorously, this also included crashing on couches or in dorms. When you rarely sleep well at someone’s place, be it a relative or friend, staring at the ceiling on an air mattress or on a couch is irrelevant.

This vacation may signal what psychologists call “adulthood.” A thing that I often avoid at all costs. The trip involves zero couches or air mattresses. It also features seeing some of the world’s greatest art, origins of the modern city and the finest cuisine.

When do I leave, you ask?

The scheduled departure is this Friday evening. The destinations, if you haven’t been subjected to my repeated questions or discussions, are Rome, Florence, Venice and, at long last, Paris.

For the past four to five weeks, I have been researching every travel guide and blog I can find. Rick Steves has become my close personal friend. For one week he accompanied me on my commute, sharing stories on Rome at Night, the best churches, Trastevere and walking through the countless museums that house priceless treasures.

Another few days were comprised of mimicking an “Italian for Travelers” CD my girlfriend picked up. Should I be concerned that all of the hotel dialogue was about the rooms being small and too expensive? I still need to learn how to ask where the library is and what noises Italian animals make.

Then I hit the podcasts and apps. In a true measure of nerdiness (or being curious about the world), I found lectures on the great artists. This lecture from Washington University Professor William E. Wallace was particularly fascinating about Michelangelo as artist, sculptor, foreman and aristocrat. One might call him a renaissance man.

All this crammed research made me wish I took more art and world history classes in college. I realized I would’ve paid a lot more attention if I were going to Rome and Florence at the end of the semester.

I haven’t done as much research on Paris, mais j’espère que les années de français sera de retour à son arrivée à Paris.

This trip will mark the first time I haven’t been in Chicago for my birthday. Instead, I’ll be in the eternal city and Florence. In lieu of buying me a drink this year for my birthday, feel free to send me some euros my way.

Mille grazie et merci bien to my lady friend for agreeing to join on the adventure and to all my jet setter friends who have shared their experiences on places to see, places to skip and reminding me to plan to time to enjoy la dolce vita/la belle vie.

I’ll try to update BachelorBasics with pictures and vignettes when I can. If you want more, follow me on the social channels (links are up top).

No one has asked when I come back. I think they know that I wasn’t kidding when I replied that I wasn’t.

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My Joys

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I’ve seen my fair share of birthdays over the years. Family parties at Chuck E. Cheese, or the ball pit wonderland that was Leaps & Bounds, slowly progressed to closing down bars with friends in the city. But this year seems to mark a new era. Dare I say it, perhaps one of adulthood. After all, I was reminded that I have “a lot of gray hair.”

Continue reading My Joys