My Amsterdam arm is so bruised and nasty looking that at first I want to hide it. This isn’t a problem in Holland, where the weather is cool enough for long sleeves, but the minute we land in Naples, I know I’m screwed. The sun has already set by the time we disembark, but whooo, it’s still steamy. No long sleeves here, even at night. I immediately begin to sweat and the 75-minute drive to Sorrento in a taxi without air conditioning feels endless. Still, it feels good to be in Italy–my happy place. It especially feels good because I never, ever get stomach ailments from the Mediterranean diet and my flirtation with burgers and fries in Amsterdam has done me NO favors. I actually throw up in the airport (don’t even make it to an infamous Dutch toilet. I have to settle for a Ziploc baggie in my purse. Sexy as Hell).

“Jesus, you look terrible,” my husband says. “Do you want me to re-book our flight? There’s a hotel connected to the airport.”

“I’m gonna barf no matter where I am,” I say. “Just get me to Italy.”

I do not vomit in the un-air conditioned taxi, for which I am eternally grateful. I’m also grateful that my husband doesn’t mention that my condition is a direct result of my crappy dietary choices in the land of wooden shoes and bicycles. But those Dutch fries, y’all. Almost probably worth it.

 

Sorrento is the gateway to the Amalfi coast and when I look out the window in the morning, I’m in awe. How they get buildings, hotels, villas built on such steep cliffs defies logic.

 

We sit under lemon trees at breakfast, and the smell of them permeates the air. We spend the first day loafing at the rooftop pool and wandering around the town square, which is delightedly and blessedly flat. Positano and Amalfi kick our asses with the uphill trekking, but Sorrento is comfortably walkable and paved in charming cobblestones.

We eat homemade pasta and sip local wine in a teeny little trattoria (maybe ten tables). The chef, Carmen, is the only one in the miniscule kitchen, and truthfully, there isn’t room for anyone else. She’s busting her butt in there, working quickly in the steam and juggling different pans on burners. Everything on the small menu is homemade and the portions are large for Italy. We definitely over-order and I can’t finish my pasta in the end, which earns me a good-natured scolding from Carmen. She’s killing it back there but she’s got her eagle eye on every plate in the room, making sure people are happy.

I am happy. So happy that I even forget my ugly arm.

 

We stroll around the shopping district after dinner, full of pasta and drink and La Dolce Vita. My husband spots a whimsical dress with dragons and tigers on it, and I’m smitten. The only one in the store is on the mannequin in front, and it looks impossibly small. My husband insists I try it on anyways.

“It’s not going to fit,” I say. “That thing is tiny.”

“Just try it on,” he insists. He knows that I suck at shopping and try to get out of it whenever I can but I humor him and Viola! It must be a magical dress because it somehow fits in all the right places.

 

I have to wait a few days to wear my magical dress because the next few days are spent on a boat, speeding around Capri and the Amalfi coast in waters that are so turbulent at times that we get absolutely soaked. I gasp for air in steep Positano and look at the crowded beach–stuffed with Eurotrash and tanned skin–and I’m grateful we’re staying in sleepy Sorrento. It’s nice to pretend for a day or two, but the jet set is not my bag, folks.

 

By the end of those days on the water, we stagger back to our hotel, exhausted and salt-crusted. And starving because both my husband and I fear getting seasick so we eat very little all day long; by evening, I’m ready to eat my freaking shoe. Luckily, there are casual little homestyle places peppered around town that we can scarf our weight in pizza, pasta, seafood fresh from the Mediterranean. We eat very, very well in Sorrento.

And.

I went to Italy and didn’t get crapped on by one. single. bird.

Not that I know of, actually. But it could have happened because on our sailing trip around the coast, we stopped at this beautiful, crazy waterfall that seemed to appear out of nowhere, nestled in the high rocks. Our captain encouraged us to get under it, for good luck.

I took one look at that thing and knew that it was BAD luck in DanaLand because a) in order to get under it, you had to hang off the front of the boat, clutching a weathered rope and b) when I looked at the top of the waterfall, guess what was splashing and frolicking around in the water? Birds. Seabirds. Several of them.

The lovely Canadians on the cruise with us both partook in the waterfall, squealing at the cold and the precarious footing.

“You have to do it,” they urged.

Umm. no. I explained my long and unfortunate history with birds, but they were unimpressed. “Just do it,” they said. “What can happen, really?”

Clearly they have no idea who they are dealing with.

I’m a sucker for peer pressure because I did, indeed, go under the waterfall, clutching the rope in a death grip, envisioning all of the residual bird shit that was probably seeping into my hair and swimsuit. I took the longest shower known to man when I got back to the hotel.

 

Our last day in Italy was September 15th, our anniversary. Nineteen years. Can you believe that shmuck has tolerated me for that long? I busted out the magic dress and the high heels for dinner under the stars and Sorrento sky, and it was all so perfect and so romantic that I was almost able to ignore the Parisian couple sitting next to us who obviously hated each other’s guts and ate stiffly, wordlessly. The woman sighed and glowered in equal measure while he laser-focused on his plate of linguine.

“Tell me we’ll never be like that,” I said, clutching onto my husband and stumbling on the cobblestones in my heels.

“We’ll never be like that.”

“Okay. Because that was horrid.” I give up and decide to take off my heels. “I’m just gonna have to walk the rest of the way barefoot.”

People stare at me and one amused shopkeeper gives my husband a wink and a grin, as if to say “That American girl sure can’t handle her champagne, eh signore?” but at least without shoes, I’m not stumbling like an idiot. Or so I think.

The hotel is almost in sight when I stumble on a cobblestone and split my big toe wide open on a shard of rock.

“Fuck!” I yowl. “That really freakin’ hurt!”

Red spills out onto cobblestones.

“Jesus, you’re bleeding like a pig,” my husband mutters. We limp to the hotel, which is entirely paved in beautiful, intricate tiles and I leave a trail of bloody ooze behind me as we head to the elevator.

I stick my mangled foot in the bathtub and run steamy water over it. It stings like a bastard.

As I’m nursing my injury, I hear my husband on the hotel phone. “Uh, yeah.” He sighs deeply. “You might notice that there’s blood all over the tiles in your entryway and down the lobby? That’s from my wife.” I can almost feel him rolling his eyes.

“No, no, she doesn’t need medical attention. I just wanted to let you know about the bloody trail she left in your hotel. Yes, actually, ice would be great. No, please don’t worry about it. That’s just…her.”

 

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Sweet Creature

October 4, 2019

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sweet creature/Sweet creature

Wherever I go

You bring me home.

 

 

**Miss M., happy 14th birthday. I am sorry that a) I’m having surgery on your dang birthday and b) I always picture you in my mind as being this little. Unfair? Maybe. But like it or not, you’ll always be my Hummingbird.

 

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When we land in Amsterdam, it’s only 10am but I already feel drunk. Even if I manage to sleep on an airplane, I always have the weirdest dreams and wake feeling etherized. Our room at the W Amsterdam isn’t ready yet, but that’s okay because they let us into the spa for free and we spend a couple lovely hours loafing and soaking and steaming. Not a bad gig.

Plus, the hotel is decorated with all sorts of weird-ass artwork by local folks.

“Whoa, not sure it was such a brilliant idea to spend half an hour in the jacuzzi,” I say, lurching slightly. “I feel wasted.”

He laughs. “Hydrate, bitch. You’re not supposed to take a nap anyways, so you’re just going to have to stagger through the canals until bedtime.”

“Brilliant.”

Our room still isn’t ready and I’m dangerously hungry, so the concierge points us towards a nearby restaurant and my husband watches, awestruck, as I inhale a giant burger and fries.

“Ummm, I don’t think you’re really supposed to eat that,” he says. “You know, missing gall bladder and all.”

I glower at him and shove another French fry (Jesus, the Dutch make the best dang fries) into my mouth. “Mind your own beeswax, bud.”

***

Of course we get hopelessly lost that afternoon, trying to navigate our way through canals and charming little side streets. We always get lost in cities bisected by waterways (Venice, I’m talking to you) but isn’t that part of the charm? There’s nothing else to do but wander and gawk and laugh because you’re so directionally challenged. We snag a spot on a boat tour and watch the world go by.

The Dutch are the tallest people in Europe, and the men are all built exactly like my husband, with strapping broad shoulders and crazy long legs. Everywhere he goes, people speak to him in Dutch, just assuming he’s a resident of this great and diverse city. This pleases him NO END because my husband’s greatest goal is to mask that he’s a tourist in any city we visit. God forbid someone blow his cover, which I always do, because I am clearly a blond, loud-mouthed, clueless American and I give zero fucks who knows it.

“Can’t you just try to blend in a little?” he always hisses.

Whatever. I’m not an ugly American, just a little…audacious. Yeah, that’s it.

***

One of the things that flummoxes my dear husband is the way my personality changes when we travel. When we travel, I become downright chatty. I’ll talk to people in elevators, in pools, on buses, in streetside cafes.

I have no idea why.

Maybe it’s because I want to prove that I’m not an ugly American?

Anyways, it’s this sudden ability to socialize with the locals that leads us to the following tidbit of information: there’s a secret speakeasy not far from our hotel. There’s no sign on the door and your hotel concierge has to call to get you the secret entrance code (which changes nightly) and it’s all so badass cloak-and-dagger that I decide we HAVE to go.

Another oddity about my travel persona; I can suddenly stay up past midnight, which it is by the time we arrive and give our names and the magic phrase to get us in. The attendant nods and leads us through a restaurant, into the back, through a metal door that looks like a fucking meat locker, for Chrissakes, and up a set of stairs. The room is small and smoky and full of people swilling very posh looking cocktails to the thrum of techno music.

“Oh, this is going to be trouble,” I grin.

“This place is too cool for us,” my husband says.

“Which is the point,” I say. “Nobody here knows how un-cool we really are.” I sit down on a plush velvet stool. “Get me a drink, cowboy.”

***

“Whoa, these things go down wayyyyy too easy,” I say. “Am I on my second or third? Crap, I’m delirious. How many hours have we been up?”

“Many, many hours,” my husband drawls lazily. “Damn. I think these drinks are stronger than we think.” He looks at his watch. “Oh man, it’s 2. We better go.”

I pout a little. “Okay. Lemme pee first.”

It takes me longer than I think to find the dang bathroom, tucked away up some stairs and in a dark hallway. By then, things have gotten dire. I really, really need to pee suddenly.

I run/waddle/scramble to make my way into the stall in time, drop trou and barely make it without incident.

Or so I think.

In my speakeasy stupor, I’ve forgotten my phone was in my back pocket, and it’s so dark in there that I don’t realize what I’ve done until I hit the flush button and see a flash of metal in the bowl.

“Fuck!” I yell and watch in horror as the toilet proceeds to overflow onto my shoes and I’m bent over, sloshing through muck, trying to save my phone. Which is stupid, because of course, it’s toast. And now I’m sloshing around smelling like toilet water.

Awesome.

I squish and slosh back to the bar. My husband takes one look at me and cringes. “Awww, Jesus. What did you do?”

***

I wake in the wee hours of the morning, parched and cotton-mouthed. Water. I need water.

But I don’t just need any water, I decide hazily. I need cold, cold water from the mini-bar, which happens to be downstairs because the W felt so bad about the delay in our room being ready that they’ve upgraded us to this cool, two-level loft. The bed and master bath are upstairs; the mini bar and the lounging area are on the main level.

I deserve cold water from the mini bar. Nothing else will do.

I take a few steps down the tile (read: slippery) staircase, trip on the third stair and tumble, limbs flying, all the way down to the bottom.

Crash and boom and bang and thump and “Fuuuuuuck!”

“What the Hell are you doing?” my husband yells, suddenly wide awake and on his feet.

“I needed water,” I say lamely.

“There’s a freaking faucet upstairs!” he points out.

“I wanted COLD water,” I mutter. I cradle my right arm and wrist. “Owwww.”

He flicks on the overhead light and studies my arm, which is swelling rapidly and immediately beginning to bruise. He gives me a death-stare and mumbles a few choice words under his breath, one of which I’m pretty sure includes “bloomin’ idiot” and “can’t take you anywhere,” but he sighs and picks up the phone to call for ice. “Do not attempt to go back upstairs without me,” he says in a leaden tone. “Just stay put, dammit.”

***

He leads me back upstairs, wraps my arm in ice, gets me ibuprofen and the dang cold mini-bar water and flops back into bed.

“Just go to sleep, okay? Can you just do that for me?”

“Mmm-hmmm,” I say meekly, and then I can’t help it. I start laughing. I’m banged up and it hurts like a mother but hey, no matter. Wounded on the first day of vacation isn’t really that big of a stretch for me, is it?

Welcome to Amsterdam.

{ 4 comments }

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