Italy and England 

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There’s old Winston Churchill watching Big Ben, in Westminster, London, in March 2014.

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An anglophile’s dream: the omnipresent iconic red telephone box.

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Wandering around Portobello Road, in the Notting Hill neighborhood.

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The street art / grafitti is like The Sex Pistols and the Bbc all rolled into one.

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Tea at Sherlock Holmes and Watson’s house was quite amusing.

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Enjoyed searching for british china tea cups and white darjeeling on a half deserted faire.

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After wandering the many lovely garden parks of london wound up at  Buckingham’s Gate.tumblr_n2din7vCpZ1qznevxo4_1280

Making the pilgrimage to John Keats house at Hampstead Heath, London, after years of visiting the flat he died in, and laying flowers at his grave, in Rome.

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A room with a view…over the Thames, I was always excited to wake up to (and to raise my glass to) Big Ben.

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Saw the beautiful La Boheme set in 1940s Paris at the Royal Albert Hall.

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From the window of “221 b Baker Street, London

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From the beautiful garden of John Keats home, where he fell in love with Fanny Brawne and wrote some of his greatest poems.

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From the cloisters of Westminster Abbey. I do love a cloister.

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You have no idea how deep my anglophilia goes because I am always going on about Italy but these signs gave me a profound joy.

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This sign is so British it hurts.

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One of those moments in London an American or most foreigners savor.

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Always, a pilgrimage, a  beauty, a joy. John Keats forever. English Romanticism forever. B3-yzpZIAAIuVOk.jpg-large

Down the cloistered hall… like a dream of English classics, literary characters dancing in my head, London, a city looming in my brain of larger than life characters and eccentric, wonderful stories and frightful tales.

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The heartbreakingly beautiful dream of Italy view from my dreamy Sorrento hotel room terrazzo.

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Walking along the Appian Way on a quiet, car-free Sunday in Rome or along the Renaissance Via Guilia, I am forever excited and in awe over the small beauties and signs of the ancient world in this magical, mysterious city open-armed to the world.

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The architecture and cafes are familiar but I feel and live Rome anew each visit. There’s always something new to discover or a passion to stumble onto. Life is in the moment. It is heavy with the past, it is so alive it smacks of the future, but it is so wildly, lightly felt in the now, in the moment, Rome is like dreaming awake, feeling everything. Everything!

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Finding new off the beaten path cafes was a big favorite of mine in Italy this year. Always in search of the quiet moments and the hidden corners of Rome. This cafe was in Trastevere where you can sit and sip espresso and gaze at a Baroque Madonna painted onto a church exterior wall.

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I love the Eternal City because it has so many layers of history and love and unknown stories and marks of time and beauty in decay and new life bursting forth in a macabre, colored, brilliant celebration in Roman life today.

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Took a boat around my favorite island and swam in the Tyrrhenian sea on Capri, a place which invokes everything beautiful, lush and ancient about Southern Italy. There’s nothing quite like it.

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Returned to a lot of the same pleasures of the past, freshly squeezed oranges and lemons, under the Italian sun, by a Neapolitan woman who sings all day as she flitters around her Kiosk on the gorgeous Via Tragara.

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A return to Pompeii, the fascinating buried city with Vesuvius watchful in the distance.

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Meeting new friends abroad 🙂

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Long walks soaking in the sun and the past.

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Architectural details in half-obscured gardens of small villa art museums (full of amazing Renaissance, ancient and baroque Italian art)!

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Being the foreigner in a city you fall into like a comfortable affair.

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The moments you can’t anticipate but happen upon in the most beautiful of happenstances.

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My favorite spot on earth for the golden hour, on the Pincian Hill in Rome. This is before the view of the Popolo.

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A typical Roman street, wrapped into the mystery of fragments and pieces of history.

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The beauty of being overwhelmed in Rome.

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Cafe life in Italy, a class of wine or a coffee, a little treat, there is nothing like it. Another layered moment captured, to be savored and remembered palpably.

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On every wall there is a reminder of death and a reminder of love, the eternal kind, of love that lasts, and of life in the hand too.

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Rome, a city to return to, one that keeps its shutters open to the world, long enough for an unforgettable peek.

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Since that first moment I arrived there, now, and always, for Roma.

For traveling, for seeing the world, for meeting new people, and for being at home in the world.

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Here’s to 2014… and here is a cheers to 2015 and a new year of adventure and experience and chasing beauty!

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Down and Out In London with South London’s Most Disappointed Man

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Recently I’ve begun listening to podcasts while I drive to work or take a long walk. Snippets of English Romantic poets or classic novels in audio book or the latest episode of This American Life on NPR. Then there are the hilarious British podcasts I’m addicted to now.

 

Despite my great public love affair with Italy I am a serious anglophile. Most of the television I watch is from Great Britain or Ireland and I listen to various BBC Radio stations throughout my day and on my long commutes. My smart phone has come in handy on these accounts and through a random “UK” podcast shuffle I found two disparate shows which really stuck on me. One was Helen and Olly at http://answermethispodcast.com/ It’s a witty, funny, silly podcast where Helen and Olly answer odd questions in clever ways. They are very big and popular.

 

The other podcast is by renegade podcaster Daniel Ruiz Tizon, whose audio journey down and out in London is funny, intense and strangely addictive. I can’t stop listening.

 

The Daniel Ruiz Tizon Is Available podcast is what I want to discuss tonight. I think it’s criminally underrated. There’s a heavy realism to his work, very timely in the face of the economic downturn. He faces temp jobs, public transport, high rents and the high cost of living with his own kind of panache mixed with grit. I wrote this little review after listening to several podcasts of his about one week after the first one of his I stumbled on. 

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I cannot help but think of this Khalil Gibran quote whilst listening to Daniel Ruiz Tizon Is Available; “Knowledge of the self is the mother of all knowledge. So it is incumbent on me to know my self, to know it completely, to know its minutiae, its characteristics, its subtleties, and its very atoms.”

 

He engages the listener in a rolling monologue about a perceived flaw or an awkward exchange at a queue or the umpteenth failure of gripping the bus railing properly when ascending the stairs with the finely tuned detail of an obsessive… who can spin a good yarn. Even when he returns to recurring themes he’s entertaining; the career follies, lamenting hight rents, fetishizing chin fissures – (I don’t know either), rhinoplasty, worrying about dirty looks from the cashiers, cafe workers, and other strangers he has to face in his every day life in London. The guy even makes nectar points sound interesting and just the tiniest bit glamourous. But maybe that last part is because I am an American and everything sounds just a little bit better with a British accent?

 

The English voice and the self deprecating, dry, deadpan humor is what drew me in but the rawness, the edge and the honesty are what kept me returning for archives of the podcast. I shouldn’t even relate to him. I don’t think I’m his target audience. I don’t even understand all the references and I was bred on BBC and have a degree in British Literature but his musings are oddly universal. They reflect a commonality between everyone (at least the misfits and the socially awkward folks) even as they sparkle with his own vision of his terminal uniqueness.

 

And he has a passing resemblance to a young Massimo Troisi which adds to the warm eccentricity.

 

He’s like an International Man of Mystery without the mystery – he’s stripped it all away and wants to lay bare to the world his every fear, real (and especially imagined), his motivations for wearing a particular shirt or his stubble a certain way so as to manipulate his image in relation to the eyes of the world. He wants to disguise himself so he is not judged by outsiders but with his audience nothing is sacred, no stone is left unturned, he will dissect his every tick and quirk. He will eviscerate his very being for the audience. He’s in on the joke even if he’s not laughing. His self-satire is subtle, his send up of every one else is never a deep cut, more like a thousand pin pricks of mild disapproval and astute observations on the ridiculousness of people, places and things.

 

He makes an art form out of agonizing over choices of wearing a t-shirt in the summer because of his hairy arms or what topic of conversation will make him seem the most unaffectedly cool person in the room or at least not stand out uncomfortably.

 

In one archived podcast I particularly liked he described his anti-adventures in night school where he sums up the member of each class and assigns them each a classic role. He laments he always seems to buddy up with the one or two students who leave halfway through the term. And then he’s left hanging for the rest of the semester, ostracized from the others he initially shunned in favor of the friends who once again left him to manage on his own.

 

He uses experiences from his own son of Spanish émigrés identity and his working-class childhood to search for the meaning of himself and where he “fits” into the world in the minutiae. He’s not afraid to look at the mundanity of the common life most of us all have to plod through but he manages to be authentic and funny at the same time. Because, don’t get me wrong, he is funny. Laugh out loud funny some times.

 

It’s refreshing to not have yet another tidy, pasteurized, tony sounding, middle class Englishman trying to discuss the Spanish Civil War or the irony of wanting to live forever but not having enough nectar points to last long enough. I mean I just don’t think I would buy them at it, you know?

 

But with Daniel I believe every damned thing he says because he speaks with authority, the authority of forty one years of uninterrupted navel gazing with a purpose. To bring laughter to a bunch of repressed anglo saxons and three or so yanks and counting.

 

My favorite parts of the podcasts are the non-sequitars of overheard public conversations, his random musings on the secret inner lives of acquaintances, the memories of his parents (and of the 90s), the frequent references to his age like a death knell, his fragments of conversation with a young colleague and the unfiltered brilliance that pours forth from his young, dumb and full of… mentality.

 

Lastly, his interviews with a friend who is maybe a cockney or is a Charles Dickens character sprung to life in a London bedsit who runs the gamut of Vulgarian to Thoughtful Lover to Speaker of Romantic Languages to Answer Man for The Ages. He’s definitely a keeper. And so is Daniel Ruiz Tizon and his funny, amazing, crazy, addictive podcast. And he’s very available.

 

You can listen to the very funny podcast of South London’s Most Disappointed Man here: http://1607westegg.wordpress.com/

his fb fan page https://www.facebook.com/DanielRuizTizon

the podcast twitter https://twitter.com/1607WestEgg

Catch his latest podcasts or peruse his archives. I always give a show a few chances (a few shows) before I make my mind up about them.