“Romeo, Romeo, Wherefore Art Thou, Romeo?”

Romeo is so beautiful, even the angels weep. - tangledpasta.net
Romeo is so beautiful, even the angels weep. – tangledpasta.net

By Mary Anna Violi | @Mary Anna Violi

   The other evening I was reading a review of the much-hyped Broadway production of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.  This latest version stars Orlando Bloom.  While I do not personally know Mr. Bloom, I do know that his was the most gorgeous face in Pirates of the Caribbean.  He was even prettier than Kiera Knightley, and he possesses the more intriguing name, not that it is totally relevant, but I thought I would highlight my fascination with his name.  Mr. Bloom garnered rave reviews from Ben Brantley in The New York Times, which are the reviews one wants for Broadway.  Nora Ephron pointed out the power of a NY Times review in regard to a play of hers that did not receive a power positive review some years ago.  In her last book, I Remember Nothing, she chronicles the gnawing wound of a failure, and the potent trajectory of what a fine review in the venerable newspaper can do for a play or film.

Which brings me to Leonard Whiting. Not that this is the smoothest of segues from Orlando Bloom to Nora Ephron to Leonard Whiting, but it kind of works, so I am going to let it slide.  In Franco Zeffarelli’s 1968 film version of Romeo and Juliet, my eyes were riveted to that Romeo as Shakespeare’s glorious words tumbled easily from his doomed hero’s mouth.  “She doth teach the torches to burn brightly,” Romeo marvels upon first laying eyes upon Olivia Hussey’s Juliet.  Small wonder, for this Juliet was drop dead stunning, as was this particular Romeo.  When I saw the photos of Orlando Bloom as Romeo, I had that same kind of amazement.  Maybe it is the wide-set, soulful eyes, the finely chiseled features, and the ripper bods, I mean the sculpted chests of both of these Romeos, coupled with their sonorous voices, although I admit I have not seen Mr. Bloom’s Broadway Romeo, but knowing he first appears onstage clad in black leather, riding a motorcycle, makes me think his voice is just icing on the visual cake.  Admittedly, I eschew the modern trappings of period pieces, I looked beyond the contemporary setting and saw only Mr. Bloom, much like I did when I viewed Leonardo DiCaprio in Romeo + Juliet [a most silly spectacle of a film].

What does it all mean?  For one thing I count it a blessing that my heart can still quicken its pace over a hunky rendition of man.   For another, it means I am able to at least momentarily gaze beyond the outward beauty of the man and appreciate the rhythms of Shakespeare.  I must put Zefferelli’s Romeo and Juliet into the DVD player tonight and let the sonorous sounds of The Bard wash over me as I am transported to “…Verona where we lay our scene, where ancient grudge lay to new mutiny…”

Ciao for now.


Forever Friends

My lifelong friend - tangledpasta.net
My lifelong friend – tangledpasta.net

By Mary Anna Violi | @Mary Anna Violi

Admittedly, I was careless about friendships in my halcyon days of youth.  I traveled a great deal, worked a lot, and socialized much with whoever my cadre of friends were at that moment.  Instead of corresponding via letter, this was, after all, pre-e-mail/

Skype/FaceTime, I exchanged letters with friends for a while, but then was off and running wherever.  This pattern persisted for a number of years.  Some individuals I should have shaken off immediately, others I should have kept close to my heart.  While I cannot rewrite my past follies, I can revel in the enduring friendship with my dear friend Juliet.

After completing my undergraduate degree in English, but not in Music, I traveled for several months in Europe.  When the funds dwindled, I returned Stateside, and took a job with a travel agency. A year of sending others on trips was enough for me.  I resolved to finish my Music degree, and thus returned to IU.  The day I entered the classroom, I encountered a lively group of music students.  The leader of the pack seemed to be a blond with a quick smile, spontaneous laugh, and Southern accent I’d heard in only in Westerns.  I took a seat across from this spirited individual.  She smiled at me, and I back.

“Hey!” she said, “I don’t know y’all.  I’m Juliet.  My eyebrows rose.  “I’m from Houston.”  That explained the distinctive twang.

She played the bassoon; I sang.  For the next several years we shared a lot, drank a bit, performed often [in the School of Music, you naughty readers], and shared our secrets and dreams.  She introduced me to her orchestra friends; I introduced her to my then on-again, off-again inamorato, a pianist. The last time I saw her at IU was shortly before she left for a two-year gig with the Guadalajara Orchestra in Mexico.

I never did complete my Music degree; I had become enamored with Linguistics.  Off to graduate school I went.  Several years later I wound up in Houston, visiting a former linguistics classmate.  Although I knew Juliet was in Mexico, I phoned her parents anyway.  Her father handed the phone to her.   The gig hadn’t achieved nirvana.

The short version of this tale is that I wound up teaching at the University of Houston; Juliet completed her Master’s degree in Music at Rice.  Thanks to Juliet and her parents, I had a second family in them during my ten years in Houston.  After I married and returned to The Heartland, crying every step of the way, Juliet sent me university job notifications in Houston, would call to talk with me about them.

While my marriage didn’t last, hers did.  I chose to raise my daughter in The Heartland around my family, but Juliet and I remained fast friends.  We visit each other once a year in different cities, talk on the phone, and communicate through social media.

We haven’t really stopped talking since 1977.

Ciao for now.


Savannah, Mon Amour

Forsyth Parc - Savannah, Georgia
Forsyth Parc – Savannah, Georgia (Photo credit: Elvis Pépin)

Last summer we vacationed in Savannah, Georgia with our Houstonian friends, Juliet and Mark.  Every six months we get together in a new locale; this time it was Savannah.  Southern Living magazine had run an article replete with photos, of Savannah, which sold me on the idea of converging in Savannah.  Juliet, a long-time, intrepid Girl Scout Leader, had her heart set on two things:  Visiting the founder of the Girl Scouts’ Juliette Gordon Low home, and dining at Paula Deene’s The Lady & Sons.  My wishes included taking in the Savannah College of Art and Design [SCAD], the squares, architecture, Mercer-Williams House, and Bonaventure Cemetery, immortalized in John Berendt’s book Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.  But mostly, I wanted to soak up the richness of the language variety of Savannah.  Through my years of living in Houston and my travels in the South, I fell in love with the people and the wealth of linguistic variety and principles of Southern Hospitality.

Savannah answered our desires in spades.  We hopped on an Old Town Trolley Tour to get the lay of Savannah’s Historic District.  We toured historic homes, a number of which were restored by the late Jim Williams [read the aforementioned book to learn how vital he was in the restoration of historic homes in Savannah].  We stayed at the Avia Hotel in the Historic District.  We dined at fabulous locales like The Olde Pink House [Low Country], Circa 1875 [French], and at The Lady & Sons [heavy on the fried chicken] on Mother’s Day. Goose Feathers served up breakfast with tantalizing quiches and more Low Country cooking [no complaints on my end].

After meandering in those irresistible squares with their gnarled trees dripping Spanish moss, we wandered over to The Paris Market.  We shopped at the Savannah Bee Company Honey House [honey, honey in everything, even the soap], Nourish [all natural body products], and art shops [teeming with art by talented SCAD graduates].  After lingering over scoops of ice cream at Leopold’s Ice Cream [rose petal and lavender were our favorites], we took a horse drawn carriage ride at night. Our driver peppered the tour with anecdotes, both racy and humorous.  Savannah does have a most colorful past [read Berendt’s book].  Hunger pangs struck again.  That night we washed down mussels and pasta entrees with wine at Garibaldi’s Café.  The mirrored walls reminded me of Le Grand Vefour in Paris where we also relished steamed mussels.  Garibaldi’s fresh Italian fare was tasty, to say the least, and even reminded us of a Venetian palazzo.

All too soon our voyage ended.  We will return one day, Savannah, for you captured our hearts, mon amour.

Image of Savannah, Georgia
Image of Savannah, Georgia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ciao for now.

The cover of the 1994 novel
The cover of the 1994 novel (Photo credit: Wikipedia)