Archive for April, 2010

So one of the visa forms Stef and I had to fill out was entitled “I-129F – Petition For Alien Fiancé”, and I’m very tempted to write a post regarding the mass amounts of red tape generated when requesting permission to marry an extraterrestrial from a “Men In Black” styled shadow government.

However I fear a post about Stefi being an “alien” would be way too on the nose and infantile, the sign of a lazy writer. It’s the tell of a novice and a simpleton. Having said that, of course I’m gonna write it. It’s 3AM I’ve got nothin’; and I am infantile and lazy. Not only that, but also I found the bitchin’ drawing above of Jedi Knight Aayla Secura, drawn by Chris Battle. So, yeah, I’m gonna go with with the “What if Stefania was really an alien?” thing.

So if you’ll excuse me…

First of all, I wouldn’t be like those jerks in those old sitcoms who couldn’t seem to embrace their wives’ supernatural feats of awesomeness. Not only would I encourage the use of these powers I’d down right demand it! Remember that jerk Astronaut on I Dream Of Jennie who would actually chastise Jennie after she’d have the audacity of blinking into existence a stack of crisp untraceable bank notes? Even as an eight-year old I couldn’t wrap my head around that bullshit.

Picture the child version of me screaming and pointing at the TV…

Hey! Why the fuck are you still working?! You’ve got a GENIE! Quit your damn job! Drive to NASA, punch Dr. Bellows in his stupid face and quit – your – job! And why have you not asked for a dick the size of a Wiffle Ball bat yet? Are you kidding me?! You have a GENIE! A hot one!  And the fact you refuse to tap dat phat genie azz leaves me suspect.  DAMN YOUR UNGRATEFUL SOUL! ”

And remember Gladys Kravitz, the nosey next-door neighbor on Bewitched?  That woman wouldn’t have survived our first day on the block. I would’ve caught that shrew peeking through my window and I would’ve had Samantha turn that bitch inside out. Literally. I’d have that woman literally pulled out of her own skin, slowly, so the entire neighborhood would hear the screams of unadulterated horror emanating from my well manicured front lawn.

My neighbors would all come rushing out onto the street and find her preposterous corpse lying upon my grass. Then I’d levitate out my front door and rebuke them, pointing down upon them from the sky…

“You people are beginning to work my last nerve!”

Then I’d turn around, float back through the door and slam it shut.

I guess Stefania would be more in the calm My Favorite Martian vein, which would still be dope. Yet in the end, the cute terrestrial alien from ye olde world is probably my best bet. Let’s not get greedy. And she may not be able to levitate my couch and fling it at the Jehovah Witness standing at my door, but the woman can cook a MAD Fegato alla Veneziana. That’s a push.

Above is an actual picture of a plate of liver and onions she made for me last September. Tasty Mmm-lasty. I loved it and I don’t even like liver.


Zounds! I be da victim of witchcraft!  I’s be witched!

And that’s, as I like to say, the gist of it.


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Today I’m going to give Stefania a rest and post an excerpt from my novel, “Empire Of Light” .  It combines two of my favorite things, Caravaggio and the city of Cleveland. Hope ya like it. Hope ya can read whole shebang someday.  Ciao. Buona notte, Vespina.


Chapter 14 – Cleveland is a Chiaroscuro City

Painting 1 :: The Crucifixion of Saint Andrew (1607) – Cleveland Museum Of Art

Chiaroscuro is a painting technique where the contrast between light and dark is jacked-up to spectacular levels. It comes from two Italian words, chiaro, which means light, and oscuro, which means dark.

Many artists had dabbled in the technique before Caravaggio, but he was the first to manhandle it by working in a completely blacked-out studio. His scenes are carved out of the darkness with a single light source, a 3D effect that shoots the models out towards the viewers while throwing the background into hostile blacks, an innovation used centuries later by cinematographers to create Film Noir. With Caravaggio, the subject matter might have been 1st Century Judas Iscariot, but the lighting is a straight up 1940’s Warner Brothers.

You can’t live in an unlucky little town like Cleveland and not figure out how to embrace darkness. Even when it comes to our sports, instead of celebrating our few victories we instead wallow in their most crushing defeats, cryptically listing them on the backs of t-shirts like concert dates…

Red Right 88 – January 4th 1981

The Drive – January 11th 1987

The Fumble – January 17th 1988

The Shot – May 7th 1989

The Move – 1995/1996

The Mesa Meltdown – October 26 1997

Even when Cleveland imports a ringer, a bona-fide winner from another city, it some how manages to fuck up beyond all recognition.

Submitted for your approval, golden boy, Elliot Ness.

After Ness put Al Capone behind bars in Chicago he was hired to clean up the City of Cleveland, which at the time was known as the criminal safe house of the country. He arrived in town like a white knight just in time to match wits against the serial killer, the Mad Butcher of Kingsbury Run.

Ness promptly got his ass handed to him on a plate.

The poor guy was so stymied by the killer that in the end he decided to just set part of the city on fire, hoping lady luck would do him a solid and burn the son-of-a-bitch to death. However the Butcher survived and taunted Ness for years with post cards.

The great Elliot Ness caught Capone, but he never caught ME.

And Cleveland lived happily ever after.

With a history so dark, it’s no wonder that most people are shocked when they discover that a town like Cleveland has a world-class museum. The Cleveland Museum of Art, in contrast to the bleakness that haunts the city, glows like the face of the Christ child in a Caravaggio painting. Cleveland is a living breathing chiaroscuro.


I could’ve performed a Google search to make sure there was, indeed, a Caravaggio in Cleveland, but I wanted the surprise. I want to experience the discovery of it all, as if I discover it hiding behind an old wardrobe in my parent’s attic.

I walk the grounds of the museum and pass by an original casting of Rodin’s The Thinker, perched on the stairs leading up to the Museum’s entrance. His legs are blown off and the base is horribly disfigured, plumed out by a bomb set by a member of the Weather Underground revolutionary group in the 70’s. The town decided not to restore it, instead opting for a statement on the destruction of meaningful objects. The statue now sits disfigured; a symbol of how public art is vulnerable to “jerks with agendas”.

I burst through the CMA doors, drop a few bucks into the donation bin, grab a map and head towards the gallery called, Baroque. I stand a good 12 yards from the entrance, but even from here I can recognize the word “Caravaggio” in bold letters on the gallery sign.


Could this really be a gallery full of nothing but Caravaggio paintings? I go giddy as I jog towards the room, but as more of the sign comes into focus my hopes are dashed on the rocks.

The Followers Of Caravaggio

“Shoot,” I whisper to myself.

This is like showing up to a concert and instead of getting U2 you get the tribute garage band from around the block. They were smart to put the word Followers in the title and not students. The man was too goddamn cantankerous to have students. The only way you could’ve leaned from Caravaggio was to bite his style and risk him giving you a beat down.

But you gotta feel for his imitators. How could you possibly go back to your old ways after seeing his new style? I imagine a Caravaggio victim lying in the street, nose beaten to a pulp, screaming at the top of his lungs as Caravaggio swaggers away.

“It was fucking worth it, asshole!”

I cautiously enter the gallery, still hoping there’s a Caravaggio hanging in the room somewhere. Out of the corner of my eye I spot the gallery jewel piece. It’s a crucifixion scene, massive and dark. If there’s a Caravaggio here, that’s it.

However, I try to ignore it. I want to save it as my ace in the hole. I instead scan the other paintings, and I sincerely try to give the paintings their due, but they’re too much of a dick tease. screw it. I make my bombing run on the jewel piece, reigning over the room like a king sitting at the head of his Christmas table.

The Crucifixion of St. Andrew – Michelangelo Merisi Da Caravaggio.

The painting is of St. Andrew who was to be crucified for trying to convert the Greeks to Christianity. He survived for two days, preaching the gospel to upwards of 20,000 people the entire time. The crowd was so moved that they demanded his release, but Andrew wanted to die on the cross like his savior. When his executioners tried to release him they were instantly paralyzed by God, allowing Andrew to die on the cross as he asked.

A miracle…

© 2010 Gregory Earls

The Cleveland Museum Of Art Blog

And that’s, as I like to say, the gist of it.

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Ya know you’ve got a hit on your hands when your blog’s email subscription service goes through the roof!  It’s amazing to wake up, log on and find hundreds of subscribers, eager to receive an email alerting them to the fact that another brilliant post is awaiting them.

If you know of such a blog, hit me so I can check it out. MY  blog subscript only has FIVE!

However it’s like Stef said to me when I told her about the sparse amount of girlfriends I had before finally finding her…

“Boh… Don’t worry, Vespino. It’s not the quantity, it’s the quality. Besides, you finished strong.”  😉

Damn right, Crazy Lady For Marrying Me!  My five subscribers are the best damn subscribers  in the entire damn universe. And since the blogger to reader ratio is so small, I can afford to give you all a personalized tokens of my appreciation.

(Names are disguised to protect the innocent).


Subscriber 1: “C Meth” – Lunch! And whenever you ask, no matter the local, an encore performance of “Heavy Gravity Man”!

Subscriber 2: “Photo24 Guy” – Brent’s Black & White cookie! And getting our silly ass TV show off the ground.

Subscriber 3 “Yoga Girl” – Garlic Sticks! And in the spirit of the new START nuclear reduction treaty, I’ll reduce my use of the term “High Maintenance ” by one-third.

Subscriber 4 “Bell’insetto – Un biscotto e un caffè! Anche una conversazione solo in Italiano (May God help you).

Subscriber 5 “Scott Jackson” – Pork Chop Sandwich? Yes! A Pork Chop Sandwich! AND an hour of Borscht Belt joke collaboration.

I’m sure the five of you will hold a special place at the LA wedding, probably in chairs as far away from the ceremony as possible. (Borscht Belt Joke number one. I’ve already started!)

Thanks guys! Pictures of you receiving your gifts will be posted as the weeks to come, so eat right and iron your skivvies.

To all you all you non-subscribers…  Is this an audience or an oil painting?  Is this thing on?  I’ll be here all week. Tip your waitresses!

And that’s, as I like to say, the gist of it.


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Well, Stef has finished HER K1 visa paperwork and has sent it to me via FedEx! Me? Woefully behind. In school, she was the gal who finished her assignments ahead of time, so she had time review and relax. I was the jerk waiting for my report to print with two minutes to get to class, having stayed up all night writing the damn thing from scratch.

Italian lesson of the day…

Lei è brava! (she is good!)

Per contro io sono un cretino. (On the other hand, I am a dick.)

I gotta step my game up. Nice job, Stef!

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The distance between Milan and Los Angeles is 6032 miles (that’s 9708 in Kilometers). Stef and I only get to see each other every 4 months or so, if we’re lucky. Given the fact that couples living under the same roof worry about drifting apart, it’s safe to say that we work hard to keep it together.

Communication is key, so devices like my smart phone and laptop (utilizing skype) are like gold, as is my provider. And what provider do I relying on to help keep me in touch with my fiancé? In which company’s hands do I place the health of my long distance relationship?


AT&T stands for American Telephone & Telegraph, and you can bet your bottom dollar that they’ll never add a “C” to their acronym because their cell phone service sucks balls. I can’t even get reception in my office building, which is in the middle of Los Angeles! I could understand not having reception if i worked for, say, UNICEF.

Yeah. If I’m in the middle somebody’s desert, handing out Antiretroviral drugs to an indigenous starving tribe, yes, I can understand needing a damn satellite phone. But I don’t! I work next to a Mall that contains a Fuddruckers.



Last Saturday morning, I apparently missed a bunch of Stef’s calls. I say “apparently” because I my phone registered no missed calls or voice mails.  The only reason I knew of the missed calls was because Stef sent me a text…

“I tried to call you, but you must be busy. I’m going to bed.”

Of course I called her straight away because it seemed as though the text had just been sent. It’s almost midnight in Italy, but no way she’s asleep because she just texted me. Right?  So, I call. I get her voice mail. I leave a message. I shoot her a text [“call me!”] and I wait.


So now I’m a bit concerned. I wasn’t sure how to read into her text. It could’ve been a “guilt trip” text. Right?  My imagination goes stupid and I now have it in my head that she’s pissed at me. So I shoot off another text where I apologize… Again.

Nothing. No response.

So after 30 minutes I’m wondering, WTF?  At that moment my iPhone buzzes to life. I read the following seemingly cold  text…

“Sorry I missed your call.”

That’s it?  …What the hell was that?  She’s still awake?! Why didn’t she just me call back? What does she mean by “call”, singular? I sent texts, too!  Is she messing with my head?

So now I’M pissed!

It’s obviously to me that she’s trying to teach me a lesson. She wants me to see how it feels to have calls ignored. Well, I wasn’t gonna play her game! So I threw caution to the wind and I lit into her with a text.

“HEY!  I missed your calls by accident!  But you’re doing this crap on purpose and I’m not in the mood for this shit! Call me whenever you want. I don’t care anymore. I’m done.”

Of course after getting that text she calls me right back. And whoooo baby! The gal calls me back loaded for bear!

“Hey, man!  What’s with this bullshit text you sent  me?”

All hell breaks lose and we argue like idiots. But the cool thing about us is that we both realize that life is waaaay too short for this kind of nonsense, so we end the fight relatively quickly. Without either of us really understanding what the hell just happened, the issue is squashed.


Nine hours later…

I’m in bed, half asleep, when and all of a sudden my iPhone buzzes to life, my text alarm BLARING six times in a row in rapid succession, way too fast for a human to type and send.

Sure enough, I pick up my phone and I discover that AT&T has just vomited up six text messages from Stefania that she had sent NINE HOURS EARLIER!

It turns out that “Sorry I missed your call” was only a partial message, AT&T was only just now sending me the complete message, which went something like this…

“Sorry I missed your call.  I’m very tired from working and I need to sleep. I tried to contact you, but you must have been very busy today. That’s okay. Thank you so much for understanding. Ti amo. Stef…

Now here’s me…

Damn. I mean… Damn.

So of course I had to call and apologize. So of course she proceeds to bust my balls.

“Yes. This is how my future husband speaks to me? Eh?  Bravo! Congratulations! You woke me up with that text! Ma…  “


Okay. I admit that I  allowed my imagination to run wild, but it still pisses me off to know that if I had Sprint  this wouldn’t have happened.

Hey AT&T, Seriously, I’m stupid enough on my own; and I already have the language and cultural hurdles to jump, I don’t need you jerks adding fuel to my fire. And as for you, Steve Jobs, screw your iPad and the horse you rode in on. If you don’t get rid of AT&T I’m jumpin’ on the Droid bandwagon just as quick as you can say Jack Robinson.


At the end of the day, I met Stef via the internet, so I can’t hate.

Technology… Can’t live with it. Can’t live without it.

And that’s, as I like to say, the gist of it.


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To hear the gals tell it, how a guy pops the question says a lot about his character.

Not sure I’m feelin’ that metric, however. As Neanderthal-like as men can be, very few of us are stupid enough to half-ass this event. Save for the occasional idiot who proposes at half-court of a televised Houston Rockets game (and is refused), I think nightmare proposal stories are pretty rare. And even if you do hear of the occasional “boring proposal”, it’s a good bet that one of these two extremes were in play…

  • Scenario One :: The guy is the local version of George Clooney. He cooly slides the ring across the breakfast table, glistening within its Tiffany presentation box. With a wink and a smile he demands, “Marry me. …You know you wanna.”
  • Scenario Two :: During a non-contact visitation at the State Women’s Correctional Facility, the guy slowly slides the engagement ring across the table towards his gal. If he actually tried to place the ring on her finger, thus touching an inmate, he’d get his fool head caved in by a nightstick.

The Clooney Proposal is bland. “Bland” in the same way the Black American Express card lacks color.  If your game is as tight as Clooney’s then you can propose over messy dishes. And if your prison-tat slathered girlfriend is currently serving time in the State Pen, you also get a pass. Congrats. I’m sure she’s quite a gal.

For the rest of you bums, turn-off the TNT Law & Order marathon and put on ya thinkin’ hats. Mine looks like this.

Even the best laid plans can be thrown into chaos, and although I think most  guys are too smart to show their true colors within their proposal plans, I do believe you can tell a lot about a couple when their proposal goes a tad FUBAR, which brings us to my proposal to Stefania.

Submitted for your approval, below please find a picture taken mere minutes after my proposal.

Notice how tired we look. Note our crazed yet ecstatic smiles. Note my limp sweat drenched polo shirt. Note how I clutch my fiancé as if I’m holding the woman for the police.

If you ever see a picture of couple who survived a tornado, my guess is that they would look something like this. Yet I had planned this proposal for months.

The Plan…

I had created a faux application for my iPhone, a guided audio tour of Milan’s, Pinacoteca Di Brera museum. We’d visit there under the guise of sketching Caravaggio’s Supper At Emmaus. After the sketching, we’d visit this incredibly romantic painting called, The Kiss, by Francesco Hayez.

It was under this painting that I would hand Stefi my iPhone, her expecting to hear a short lecture about the painting. Instead she would see and hear a Proposal Video, one that I created especially for her.

I’d pop the question. Hopefully she’d say yes. I slide the ring on her hand. Done. Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy.

The best laid plans of mice and men…

I had been in Milan for a single day, the engagement ring burning a hole in my pocket the entire time. However relief was at hand, today was the day I would pop the question! Then I could finally relax. The next day we’d head to Venice for a romantic get away and I could chill.

Stef was driving us to the museum, completely oblivious to fact that the knuckle head to her right was going to pop the question by noon. With my plan all good to go, all was right with the world.

Thus Spoke Stefania…

“Senti! I know you want to go to the museum to sketch your Caravaggio painting, but you can do that at the end of the week on Saturday. I booked a tour of Milan today. Surprise!”

And with that sweet utterance, I was fucked.

Saturday!  I was leaving Sunday morning! There was no way I was going to spend my vacation with this diamond bolder hanging over my head! I cautiously tried to get my plan back on track, but the more I pushed the issue, the more I looked like an ungrateful dick. Teetering at the  brink of a full-blown argument, I had to give in.  I slapped on a smile as my brain smoked.

Before I knew it, Stef and I were on a hop-off/hop-on bus tour, seeing the points of interest and history of Milan. It was an amazing tour and Milan is an amazing city. However, about mid-way, as I sat on the bus and gazed across the aisle, I came face-to-face with this old German tourist as he slept, snored and drooled on his seat. How the fuck did I get here? Damn it! I should be engaged by now!

When in Rome…

I took solace within the walls of the Santa Maria delle Grazie Church as we gazed upon Da Vinci’s The Last Supper. After seeing only copies of this work for most of my life, it was incredible to stand in the shadow of the original. It was at this moment that the image of Christ came alive and spoke to me.

“Dude, this is Italy. Lie, cheat or steal, just do what ya gotta do. Nobody follows the rules in this place. She’ll love ya for it!”

(Okay, this didn’t literally happen, but I did have the epiphany in front of the mural. How I interpret this is my business. Don’t piss on my belief system, man.)

Jesus Christ was right. Time to lie my ass off!

Lies &  Consequences…

“Hey, I wanted this to be a surprise, but I called in a huge favor with an exec at News Corp. He arranged for a private tour of the Pinacoteca for us. The guide had been waiting for us all day. I spoke to him and he was incredibly cool, but I think we should at least stop by and say hello.”

Yep. I had just lied, guilted and blamed my girlfriend for ruining some good Samaritans’ day and she bought it. Funny thing about karma… It can come back to bite you in the ass immediately.

Submitted for your approval, a girlfriend with a runners build and the sun.

It was about 100 degrees in Milan that day and I now had to chase a sprinting Stefania, running through the city to make up for the horrible wrong she had done.

By the time I caught up to her, me dripping in sweat, she was already buckled in the car and revving! I barely had time to close the door before she punched the gas and sped through the streets of Milan as if we had just mugged a nun.  She dodged through traffic with little concern for neither life nor limb. I was in fear for our lives. I had created a monster.

We arrived at the museum and Stefi runs up the stairs towards the ticket window as I slogged behind, certain my heart was about to explode. I purchased our tickets and asked out of breath, “Dov’è Il Bacio?” (Where’s “The Kiss?)

Please Jesus let this damn painting be in the next room. End this!

“The kiss? Oh. That’s aaaaaalllll the way at the end of the museum. It’s literally the last gallery.” The bastard actually took out a MAP and  sketched a path towards out goal as if this was an Indiana effin’ Jones movie.

Stefi snatched the map and ran. I felt like I’m on Amazing Race.

I scream after her… “We’re not in a rush!” But my lie continued to bite me in the ass.

“No. Your friend is waiting!  Come on! Hurry!”

I picture Jesus back at the mural, sitting around the table with his boys, all of them laughing their asses off at me.

We finally arrived at the very last gallery and there is “The Kiss.”

I bust out my iPhone and pretend to text our contact. I inform Stefi that he should be here in a few minutes, but we should start the audio tour without him.

I placed the earbuds in her ear and I hit play. She watches. I catch my breath.

Stefania didn’t get 10 seconds into the video before she began BAWLING. She snatched the buds out of her ear and tossed them away!


“I love you so much! I can do this here!” She replied.

“WHAT! Put the earbuds back in your head!”

I placed the buds back into her ears and she finished the video. She looked up to find me down on one knee with the ring in my hand. I asked her to marry me.

She bawls, louder. I couldn’t understand a word she was saying, but I’m pretty sure I detected a nod, so I went for it and put the ring on her finger before the room exploded.

Mission accomplished.

Stefi and I kissed, I stood and stretched my back as if I had just finished the 400 meter, and here we are.

So… What does are Proposal Story say about us? Hell if I know. You tell me. I’m still trying to catch my damn breath.

Thanks for reading. Goodnight and good luck.

[another out of breath black man]


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