Monday, January 26, 2009

Italian Trinities

In the same vein as a glass being half full or half empty, there are those people who deem that good things come in threes and those who hold that bad things come in threes. Liking to hedge my bets, I opt for both scenarios. In an effort to explain the expression - notably the more positive one - there is a school of thought that suggests that this pithy little aphorism stems from the concept of the Holy Trinity - which as any Catholic will tell you, is chockful of positive things. Or at least 3 of them.

Italy being a Catholic country - there are as many if not more churches here than there are bars in Spain - the concept of bundling things in threes seems to be entrenched in every way of life. Or at least food and drink which is all I really care about.

How so? you ask. Allow me to introduce the concept of the three-pack.

1) Beer. Yes you can buy beer in three-packs. Not 4, not 12, not 24 but 3. Clearly this has been influenced by the presence of the trinity. Pick up a three-pack of Pedavena - a molto decent Italian beer - and there's one beer each for the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. You can be pious and democratic at the same time.

2) Bagels. Amazingly, you can buy not-so-bad bagels in Italy but like their hoppy friends, are sold in three-packs. The only rationale we can find for this is that allows one bagel each for a husband and wife, and one bagel for the widowed mother whose house they are living in.

3) Soft-flour tortillas. Not a typical choice, I know - I could have opted for the number of packages of breadsticks found on the average restaurant table - but that's why I chose it. Last Saturday, Mr. This Cat's (Not) Abroad & I joined friends at Rovigo's one and only Tex-Mex restaurant. Order the fajitas and you get three soft-flour tortillas with which to make your fajitas. Although, strictly speaking that's not accurate. In truth, you don't get any soft-flour tortillas with an order of fajitas (which ipso facto makes your vegetarian fajitas just a plate of vegetables) but if the nice people you are with order soft-flour tortillas as a side-dish (in which there are three) to their meal and they generously donate them to your very sad plate of vegetables, you get three soft-flour tortillas with which to make your fajitas.

I trust that you have picked up on the fact that I selected three examples to introduce the concept of the three-pack. A trinity of trinities. I am so clever!

I also trust that you have picked up on the inherent design flaw of the three-pack. Unless you are a member of the Holy Trinity, there isn't enough to go around. If you are a member of the Holy Trinity and you want seconds, you'll have to get busy with a miracle à la loaves and fishes. If you are my husband, then you are completely shit out of luck.

Legend has it that St. Patrick used the shamrock to explain the concept of the Trinity to wild-haired Irish barbaric polytheists the Picts and other Irish peoples, i.e., how God is one god in three persons (a concept I still can't get my head around as not being polytheistic). I can't help but wonder, after his success in Ireland, if he decided to do the Grand Tour and headed to Italy with shamrock in hand. That would explain a lot.

Monday, January 19, 2009

A Busy Life

* Sigh* Like those creatures synonymous with industry, I have been busy of late. So busy, in fact, that I have been unable to blog. Just because This Cat is bereft of gainful employment doesn't mean that I have adopted a slothlike lifestyle. Au contraire! Let me repeat: I have been busy.

What have you been doing? you ask. Well, today has been spent mostly in cursing the computer I am currently using, whose language bar keeps defaulting to an Italian setting. It is 2009, and I have to ask myself why any country would demand three freaking keystrokes to find the @ key on its keyboard. And with all due respect to punctuation the world over, why is it easier to access square brackets on this keyboard - who uses [ and ] anymore? - than the @? Is it because, after its resurrection in Cyber World, this little twirly-thing has no universally accepted name? - it's not the commercial mark any more. Is it the at-mark? the at-symbol? the snail? the whirlpool? Some even call it the strudel - although I suspect only our Teutonic friends do that.

These are the sort of lofty thoughts which have been consuming my febrile little brain of late. And while that may not seem like much, it is.

On Friday, I bought a stamp. It may not sound like much but it did represent a successful visit to an Italian governmental office.

I had intended to get a tax number at the local governmental office but because it was a Friday and it was the afternoon, the office was closed. In fact, the office which takes care of such things is only open Tuesday and Friday in the afternoons. Or - wait for it - you can pop by any morning between 8:30 until noon. I should have known that. This is Italy. The country where the unions for its de facto defunct national airline went on strike to protest the terms of its buy-out-rescue-plan. Oh! - and they called another strike today! One might have anticipated a strike when Alitalia went bankrupt not after their bail-out. Not so. Welcome to Italy.

Today Mr. This Cat's (Not) Abroad and I had to delay our trip to the grocery store until later in the day because it is Monday and the stores don't open until 2:00.

Did I mention that I want a job in an Italian governmental office?

Did I mention that I want a job in retail here?

... except that I've been very busy.

Did I mention that I bought a stamp?

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Bratislava's Big Bang

I know what you're thinking: it's New Year's Eve (or rather New Year's Day now) and you're in Bratislava and what an amazing opportunity because after all, Slovakia's currency (the koruny or crown) changes to the euro at midnight. And what with all that EU cash being rained upon Slovakia (true, they still don't have a trans-Slovakian national highway), you'd think that Bratislava especially would be hosting the mother of all New Year's Eve bashes.

Lucky, lucky you! you think.

Alas, I am not in Bratislava. Mr. This Cat's (Not) Abroad and I are currently homeless - not an unenviable predicament if you have nice people to offer you a roof over your head in Italy while you catch up on your sleep reflect upon past life choices, rediscover the joys of provolone, reevaluate your priorities, sip espressos in Venice, and seek new employment opportunities.

But feeling somewhat loyal, wistful, nostalgic curious about Bratislava's Big Bang,
Mr. This Cat's (Not) Abroad and I scanned all the news channels available to us a few moments past midnight to see what the EU's money bought. And of course there was nothing. Nothing on Bratislava - the only country this year to enter the Eurozone. Oh well, always the bridesmaid, never the bride. Vilnius' fireworks were quite spectacular. I mean, Lithuania is almost Slovakia, right?

... so glad we didn't hang around for the big night. I didn't have time to come up with an artist's rendition of what Bratislava's pyrotechnics may have looked like, but you'll see above a photo of the city's castle. Just imagine it in the dark with lots of coloured lights (coloured lights that could have been spent on a
trans-Slovakian national highway).

Happy 2009! And on behalf of oxen everywhere, Happy Year of the Ox!