Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Friday Fun

9:00PM May 1

Friday I took my parents to a place near the Duomo to grab a cappuccino and a pastry before heading up to campus for a rehearsal with my group for our gig the following day in Pordenone. In the meantime, my parents got to go up the Duomo and get one of the great views of the city.

On Saturday we had our second performance as "The Afterthought Quartet," without Andy there as our leader. After our first mediocre performance at La Citè the previous weekend, we really wanted to do this one right. To add to the pressure, this gig was specifically set up as a recording session in front of a live audience. Earlier in the week I'd given a recording of the Sunday show to Dave and John to see which tunes they thought we should keep in the condensed program—unlike La Citè, we only needed one short set for this performance. We came up with a nice six tune lineup which included two tunes of mine, including one of the funk tunes I figured we were going to discard after the last gig. We really worked hard on one of Dave's new tunes though, and started really coming together as a group. I felt a new life in the ensemble at that rehearsal. After we came to Florence, it felt like we discarded everything that John, Dave, and I had worked on before in New York, but that chemistry started to come back that day.

After rehearsal, I met up with my parents at the little bar just up the street from campus where they have the most fantastic sandwiches. My mom and I both got panini with pesto, mozzarella, and fabulous grilled peppers and eggplant. My dad got a similar one with salami. If the sandwiches weren't reason enough to walk up the hill, we ate them in the La Pietra gardens on that gorgeous day, and I got to show my parents a few of the places they'd missed on the extensive property two days prior.

Walking up to La Pietra with sandwiches

Eating sandwiches in the gardens

What wisteria!

Coming to campus also gave my dad to check his email, and then we all headed back downtown. We tried heading over to the great synagogue of Florence (top), which I'd been meaning to check out. Unfortunately, it was closed at the time in advance of shabbat. We just got to see it from the outside.

We had a 4:30 appointment with Antonio at the Uffizi, but it was still a bit early for that, so we stopped by Santa Croce, sipping some wine at the great outdoor market in front of the grand cathedral while we killed the time. While trying to contact Antonio, I told him that I was walking with my parents by the Poseidon statue in front of Uffizi, to which he replied, "what?" After going through the same failed interaction again, it occurred to me that even today, that Roman influence had Antonio calling it "Neptune." When I said this, he immediately got it. I was so surprised that those ties to the old Roman empire were still so ingrained, and he told me to wait opposite the main door to the galleries.

Relaxing with a glass of wine out front of Santa Croce

As we were waiting there, my dad asked me, "so is Antonio just going to pop up out of nowhere?" That is his way of doing things, and even though I was looking out for it, he still caught me pretty off guard, coming up on us from behind. He only took us through about three rooms of the gallery, but in those rooms, he went into copious detail about what makes the paintings at Uffizi special, and even more important, how that relates to the history of the city. As much as I'd been trying to relate various stories to my parents about the history of Florence, Antonio really put it all together in a way that refreshed and enhanced my own memory of the cities' history. We spent a while with one of the rare paintings by Michelangelo—the only finished piece of his—all the while, Antonio compared the paintings and artists to various jazz luminaries and specific contributions they made to that culture. I don't know if those comparisons resonated with my parents quite as much as they did with me, but I think I've given them enough of an education about that history that they knew what Antonio meant when he compared Michelangelo to John Coltrane.

That night, we went out to dinner with my roommates Adam, John, and Sean at Acqua 'all Due, the very place John and I had missed out on winning the gift certificate to a few days prior. It was quite a meal though. John, my parents and I all joined together to get the mixed pasta first course. Instead of bringing out just one dish, they bring out a sampler of five different types of pasta one at a time. That was really excellent. Then for second courses I got a steak in my now favorite lemon-caper cream sauce. My mom got the same over veal, which is how I'd eaten it before. My dad got one of the tastiest chicken dishes I may have ever had, which I could only compare with the curry chicken I'd gotten there a few weeks earlier. Sean and Adam both got the restaurant's signature dish: blueberry steak. I know it sounds like an odd combination, but the flavors actually work together incredibly, and we were all blown away by it. We got several tiramisu and a few coffees for dessert, and then we all walked back with my parents towards our apartment and their hotel.

Afterwards, John went to meet up with the girls, and Sean joined him. Adam and I were going to meet up with them later on, when John let us know what they were up to, but we never got that call, so we decided to just go for a walk and find a quiet bar where we might talk and share a beer. The walk turned out to be much longer than we'd anticipated, as we couldn't find that perfect quiet place, but after almost an hour, Adam recommended we try out this place he'd been to once before on Piazza della Signora. Save for the one guy who was singing karaoke when we got there, it was perfect. The beer was even half-decent—I believe the lobby for the huge wine industry in Italy is so strong that they prevent any good beers from being produced or imported to Italy. Fortunately, the wine is so good that it is easy to get over this, but every once in a while it would be nice to have a decent beer. Italians I talk to think that Budweiser is a quality beer option. I'm actually glad that Adam and I went off on our own, as the girls tend to go to bars that are overly loud and expensive. This was a much more relaxing end to the evening.

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