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Archive for the ‘engagement’ Category

These days people will throw that “Nazi” card just as soon as lookin’ at ya.

Any and all acts committed by these goose-stepping idiots, both innocuous and criminal, have become the metaphor flavors of the month. If there’s an idea you disagree with all you need is five good minutes on the Internet and you’ll soon discover that some Nazi has already tried it. HUZZAH! You’ve just found your counter argument.

Sucker: “How ‘bout Beef Bourguignon for dinner tonight?”

Adversary: “You mean the same Beef Bourguignon storm troopers consumed as they plundered Paris?”

Sucker:“Ah. Okay. I’ll assume Pierogies are also off the table, too.”

I’m as guilty as the next guy of this sin. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve compared Rumsfeld, Cheney & Libby to guys like Goebells, Göring & Himmler I’d be out of debt and own better shoes.

However recently I’ve made an effort not to use tragic world events to vilify my rivals. Instead, I use them to put my life in its proper perspective. As I sit at work, at 8pm on a Friday night feeling sorry for myself, I think about how it beats patrolling IED inundated roads in Afghanistan for a living. I remind myself that I’m working on “Diary Of A Wimpy Kid 2” (coming to a theater near you soon) on the historic 20th Century Fox back-lot and I quickly get over myself.

***

When speaking to our friends and family of our Visa journey thus far, Stef and I are often presented with the following Mrs. Kravitz-like statements and/or questions…

You two have been apart for THAT long?!  Jeeeezus!

With such little time spent with together, how do you know you two can live with each other?

Wow, I don’t know how you guys stay together during all of this. I’m surprised you haven’t broken up yet.

…And you’re sure he (or she) have stayed faithful?

You’ve spent HOW much money on lawyers/government fees/travel?!

If you had to do it all over, I bet you wouldn’t do this again.

Really?  The last statement is the kicker. As if Stefania would respond…

“No, I wouldn’t do it again. It’s not worth it, but I’m stuck now because the Negro bought me a ring.” *

*Note: this sentence was NOT written in Stefania’s voice. She’s never referred to me as a “Negro” although the idea does tickle me. I will slyly attempt to implement this word into her new English vocabulary. We’ll now return to the blog entry currently in progress.

They mean well, and I don’t deny that the time away from each other does suck. The lack of physical contact is enough to make a man go loopy. I talk to myself a LOT these days. It’s been a bit hellish, yet couples have endured worse.

I was raised in a predominantly Jewish community outside of Cleveland, and one gets to hear many a tragic Holocaust story over those years. But every now and then I’d hear a bitter-sweet tale about how a victim endured and survived the atrocities of those wicked days, fueled only by the hope of seeing their loved ones again, alive. He or she reaches the other side of the insanity and, shockingly, finds a loved-one who also miraculously lived to tell the tale.

So this is me now pulling the serious Nazi card…

Yes, going through the Fiancée Visa process has been incredibly stressful, but it beats us attempting to cheat death at Dachau and Buchenwald, each praying that the other is still alive. Brave couples have endured much worse, so I think we can handle the distance just fine. I think we can handle buying tickets to Italy just fine. I think we can handle the US Consulate in Naples, just fine.  We’re good.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go shave and put on a clean shirt, I have a Skype date this morning.

Eh… Maybe I’ll just disable my camera.

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

[Calvin & Hobbes “Best Friends” illustration by Space Coyote]

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Before I write another word, first let me say this…

Okay, so I haven’t been updating this blog lately mostly because of how the process has murdered my soul. Honestly, if Stefania and had dime for each time either of us were asked, “When are you getting married” we could’ve  just bought a damn country, moved there and gotten married.

We’d call it, “Freedonia”.

Stef and I waited almost a year to see each other (I last saw her Christmas of 2009) because we were waiting for the Visa Petition to be approved. That way I could join her on her trek to Naples for her interview with the US Consulate.

Of course the stress became too much and we caved. I couldn’t bear the idea of not seeing Stefania for a solid year, so I bought a ticket on December 3rd I hoped on a Swiss Air jet to Milan, a mere three  weeks shy of Christmas 2010. I just got back in town yesterday.

Needless to say, the trip was fantastic! This blog was to be supposed to be about that adventure, however instead let me skip waaaay ahead to one of the last things I said to Stefania as she dropped me off at the airport to return home…

“What are you crying for?  That damn letter from the Government is probably in my mail box right now. I’ll be buying another ticket in a week.”

Of course I didn’t believe that garbage. It was a little white lie, said to make yet another airport drop-off a bit more bearable.

I get to my desk today and catch up with my boss/friend, Aaron. Upon talking about the frustration of waiting for the government to tell us when we can get married, Aaron says… “Hey! I got mail.  And there’s a letter from the Government for you!”

I didn’t get too excited. With my luck, some politician I sent a effed up letter to figured out a way to get my old ass drafted.

But glory to God, Christmas has come early!!!

It was an I-797 Notice of Action: APPROVED!

YES!

Um, Santa, could ya hook a brotha up with a ticket? I have to get to Napoli, yo!


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There are very few pieces of modern technology I love as much as I love my laptop, especially when powered by SKYPE! Let’s just say that my passion for Skype is equal to, if not greater than, my unadulterated loathing of a certain vile cell phone carrier.

AT&T is a minion of Satan. It’s crappy service makes for all kinds of malicious mischief, especially for a guy who is desperately trying to navigate a long distance relationship, and already fighting against an nine-hour time difference. There are times when I think I’m paying AT&T for the privilege of making my life hell (see link below regarding AT&T’s attempt to break up my engagement).

On the other hand, Skype is my communications savior. Skype is the reason I can maintain said long distant relationship and not have to sell my organs to pay m’ mobile bill. It not only keeps me in voice communication with Stefania, but I also enjoy the perk of seeing her smile, too. And it cost nothing. It’s gratis. On the house. It’s Free.

FREE! [insert maniacal laugh here]

But of course we all know that nothing in life is really free. Right? Every once in a while, Stef and I have to pay back the Skype god (lower case “g”) for granting us hours upon hours of divine gratis video & voice communication. During this atonement period, Skype transforms into a tool of suffering, as Stefania and I are forced to talk about the trials and tribulations of the K1 Visa Paperwork.

In the current round of the Fiancé Visa process, Stef was bombarded with mounds of paperwork…

I had one page to her dozen.  Not only had she been busting her butt all week combing through it, but last weekend she sacrificed a precious Sunday night to go over it with me.

In turn, I missed watching my Browns play the first game of the NFL season. Okay, so NOT watching the Browns blow a 14-3 lead against the Tampa Bay isn’t much of a sacrifice. In fact, I think I might owe the good people at the USCI a steak dinner for helping me miss that fiasco. But I digress…

This past Saturday was one of those days of communications compensation. I woke up that morning conflicted. On one hand, I was going to speak to my fiancé. The night before my Stef Skype time, I jonze the way seven year old Greg jonzed the night before Christmas.  Skype time with Stef is the best part of my week, easy. However I knew this upcoming call was going to be different. It was going to be less laughs and “I miss you’s” but more “turn to form DS-230 space 7…” This video call was gonna be all about business and government paperwork. Fortunately, her first question was an easy one, a softball pitch, an easy warm up fight before the championship match. Right?

Stefania: “So on the previous paperwork we sent into the Government, I wrote ‘Milan’ on the forms, but I read on the internet that I was supposed to write, ‘Milano’!”

Greg: “No biggie,” I’m say. “Just write ‘Milano’ on these forms and move on. The immigration folks will figure it out. Next!”


Before I explain on to how that “Next” grenade blew up in my face, it’s important that I explain one thing where Stefania and I are worlds apart.

When it comes to paperwork, Stef is meticulous and exacting. She doesn’t waste time and she attacks any and all forms with a vengeance. She is surgical and a perfectionist. To Stef, the question of whether to type “Milan” or “Milano” was of vital importance. She understood that this question could be one of those seemingly insignificant details that could create an anomaly, a glitch, within the computer system of a bureaucracy that holds our future in its hands. It must be correct. She’s right.

Me? I’m a procrastinating slob. If it were up to me, I’d just scribble one of the two choices in the space and be done with it so we can flirt over the webcam like goofy teenagers.

“What color underwear are you wearing?”

She ignores this boorish question and continues to the matter at hand. The next thing I know, we’ve spent a good hour on “Milan” vs. “Milano”.

By the way… What’s up with white men messing around with other countries’ names?  Why can’t they ever “discover” a foreign country or city and accept the name the locals give them?

Western Man: “My word, old chap. Your landscape is simply bully? What do you call your home?”

Citizen of Nippon: “We call our country ‘Nippon’!”

Western Man:“Nippon? Harrumph!  I don’t care for that name. How about we call you… ‘Japan’!”

Citizen of Nippon:“ Excuse me?”

Western Man: “Bully! ‘Japan’ it is!  And would you mind bangin’ this bronze oriental gong every time I say word JAPAN? Bully! Good day to you, sir.”

Citizen of Nippon: “But-“

Western Man: I SAID GOOD DAY!”


So anyway, after about an hour I just about had it and I finally explode and I begin yelling like an idiot.

“Do you think we’re the first people to apply for a marriage visa from Milan?! The immigration officer has seen it all! Rome! Roma! Florence! Firenze!  Naples! Napoli! We’re not really throwin’ anything new at these people, Stefi!” I scream.

So… Stef has this habit of smiling when I start yelling. At first it makes me feel kinda good (Cool! This ain’t so serious anymore), but then I begin to feel incredibly weak. It’s the kind of smile Muhammad Ali in his prime would’ve given me if I had punched him in his stomach. It’s a smile that says…

“Cute pudgy man, are you yelling at me? Oh, yes you are! Oh, yes you are! Aren’t you cute trying to be such a big man? Who’s my big man? Who is my big man?! Are you my big man?! Mio Dio! You’re so cute!”

Like bullets off a Kryptonian’s chest. Right? My rant was nothing more than comedy relief.

“Well let me give you something to REALLY stress about!” I continue. “I have to submit Pay Stubs and my most recent Tax Return. Yeah! They want to see if I make enough money to support us if you can’t find a job, and you’re gonna stress over the letter ‘O’! They could deny our application because I don’t make enough money! “

Stef’s reply? “Boh. You have worries, I have mine.”

I’m rolling on the floor

Her stress on the letter “O”, Milan or Milano, that’s a healthy hour of serious discussion. However my stress concerning salary and the IRS? … “Boh.”

By this point I’m laughing to keep from crying. Stef is laughing at me laughing. All is right with the word again. So lessons learned on that day? Hell if I know. I still don’t know what the hell went down. And if I ask guys who have been married for decades to explain it to me? They all give me the same answer.

“Welcome to my world.”

And what a wonderful world it is. You say Milan, I say Milano. You say tomato…

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

****

AT&T… You’re killing me.

****

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A few weeks ago I watched this amazing documentary produced by the BBC called, “Life”. It aired on the Discovery Channel and it was narrated by Oprah Winfrey. There was this one especially cool episode dedicated to a bird called the Vogelkop Bowerbird.

What makes this bird so interesting is that the male of this species is extremely pussy-whipped. To attract a female it builds a structure called a “Bower”, a cone-shaped hut-like structure with a “front lawn”. The bird complete clears all of the debris at the entrance of the hut and then carpets it neatly with moss. This is his blank canvas

 

The bird then proceeds to decorates his lawn and entrance with all kinds of colorful objects, like flowers, dead shinny beetles, whatever, and actually arranges them in a pretty artistically way in order to attract a female.

The female Bowerbird will spot this desperate need for attention and swoops down upon the lawn to critique his work. If she admires the decor, then she’ll stroll inside the bower and the two will knock boots like it’s going out of style. However if she finds the decor to be be borish or uninteresting, she’ll raise up and fly the hell away, laughing at him.

Watching this display at the same time amazed and disgusted me, aghast as such a display wussiness. All I could think about is how if I witnessed this event I would seriously consider shooting the male with buckshot and put him out of his fool misery.

So then last week a friend and co-worker of mine, named Dana, passed by my desk and asked me what I was up to for the weekend. I told her how I had prepped for Stefania’s move to California by moving into a new place.

“Really?” She said.

Yep!” I replied proudly. “It’s a two bedroom house near Venice Beach, right off Rose, so she’ll have all these cool places to walk to. This weekend I’m gonna be clearing out my storage so that I could give her the second bedroom, for her clothes and stuff. And I had the previous tenant leave this cool little desk that will make a bitchin’ make-up table for Stef and…”

I trailed off as I slowly began thinking of the Vogelkop Bowerbird. Almost on cue, Dana says with a big fat “gotcha moment” grin.

“You’re NESTING!”

Daaaamn it.

I believe in life on other planets; and I suspect there also exist at least one Alien zoologist who has dedicated his live to the study of human beings in the Venice, Ca area. He’s probably set up cameras in and around my new crib, invisible to me due to his advanced technology.

He will edited and broadcast the video on his home planet of me, with Oprah narrating, of course, ’cause that bitch is everywhere these days.

Somewhere out in the Universe, an alien couch potato will sit and watch a documentary of me “nesting”. He will be amazed and aghast at my display of pussitude. I know what you’re thinking…

“Dude… Somewhere in the Universe? Try your boys right down here in Earth. You punk…”

Go pound sand.

If you like the Bowerbird illustration, you can find it here...

If you like the Bogelkop illustration, go here.  
http://www.sallyelford.co.uk/prints/vogelkop-bowerbird

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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.

GASP!

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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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!

“WHAT ARE YOU DOING?” I asked

“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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