I know that summer doesn’t really end until September 22…but the end of August always feels like the end of honest-to-goodness, hot-shouldered, freckle-nosed, ice-cream-at-every-opportunity summer. This particular summer has been filled to the brim with singing and travel, friends, food, art, and plenty of time spent just enjoying New York City. Now, just as with a good book, a good meal, or a good concert, I am feeling both happily satiated and sad to see it end.
Perhaps I’m feeling extra sentimental and philosophical because of an anniversary that just passed: exactly twenty Augusts ago—my god, I can barely type the word “twenty”—I arrived in Italy to begin my foreign exchange. During the months I spent living la dolce vita, I learned to speak Italian, tumbled headlong into a lifelong love affair with Italian food, and became a part of three wonderful Italian families, with whom I still keep in touch and see as often as possible (which is to say, not nearly often enough): the famiglie Balestrini, Amigoni, and Mascheroni.
In the summer of 1995, I had just escaped the confines of both high school and my small Alaska town. Everything was a revelation, from traveling alone to discovering gelato, to the calls of “Ciao, bella,” as I walked down the street. Because social media and Skype didn’t exist (I mean, email wasn’t even really a thing yet), I spoke to my parents just once a week on the phone and wrote actual hand-written letters to my friends in the States. I was fully immersed in Italian life in a way that I doubt is even possible, now. And, in the process, Italy gave me a world both infinitely bigger and smaller than I could have ever imagined.
I suppose, then, that today’s post is really a love letter to la bella Italia and to the people who changed my life forever, for better, twenty years ago: Domenico, Anna, Chiara, Giovanni, Vittorio, Angela, Cristina, Leo, Eugenio, Gabriella, tutti i figli Mascheroni, Lory (e la tua mamma), Ruta e Dario, and the many other kind souls who welcomed me into your hearts and homes, I hope you all know how very much I love you.
Looking ahead, DUCHESS is heading west this month: California, to be precise. We’ve got gigs lined up in Los Angeles, Oakland, and San Francisco, and we’ll close out our tour with a performance at the Monterey Jazz Festival (!). On September 29, I’m returning to Mezzrow with the wonderful pianist Ehud Asherie for an intimate evening of vocal/piano duets.
In the meantime, Labor Day weekend is just a couple of days away and the forecast is for sunny skies. I’m planning to bid summertime a fond farewell with a day trip to Coney Island for a spin on the Wonder Wheel, a stroll on the boardwalk, and perhaps some Russian food in Brighton Beach.
Watched: Cymbeline, at Shakespeare in the Park. I feel so lucky to have experienced the magic of Shakespeare in the Park twice in one summer, without ever having had to queue up for tickets at the crack of dawn! “Key Largo,” with Bogie and Bacall. The New York Restoration Project showed this iconic film in a Bed-Stuy garden and it was magical.
Read: Well, “perused” is a better term, but Invitation to Openness: The Jazz & Soul Photography of Les McCann is a book I’m eager to explore more in-depth. Over the years, McCann photographed many of his colleagues and friends, everyone from Ray Charles to Duke Ellington to Redd Foxx. This book is the first time his reflections and photographs have been compiled into one volume. Definitely worth checking out.
Listened to: A lot of Les McCann + Eddie Harris. This grooves so hard. “Sock it to me!” Damn.