ON THE ROAD

A few months after I moved to San Francisco, I had to trade in, by law, my New York driver’s license and go Californian.

“We must grieve this,” said a sympathetic, Californian friend who left his heart in New York.

When the Department of Motor Vehicles’ employee hole-punched the flimsy card that had solidly reminded me of my New York identity over the past three decades, I felt as if he had hole-punched me.

BE SMARTER THAN A SMARTPHONE

Dear Luca,

Today you are no longer the only eleven-year-old in San Francisco without a Smartphone.

Today it’s your 12th birthday, and Papi and I have decided to give you my old Iphone 6 because we trust you and see that you are responsible. This phone comes to you with a list of 13 instructions to follow (one for each of your 12 years and one to grow on).

But, before I hand the phone and the list over to you, I want you to understand the one reason why I have feared giving you a Smartphone: I do not want to lose you as an active participant in life.

With this phone, you are not allowed to turn into a passive clicker or blasé swiper of life. You must continue to do all the things you have done and enjoyed until now without it. Be smarter than your smartphone: turning it off enables you to tune in better to real life.

A HEARTLAND HOUND

A farmer pulled up in his pick-up truck with a smirk on his face and a blonde in the back seat. He opened his dusty door, and rested his work boots caked in mud on the crackly gravel. I shook his sooty, callused hand and inhaled the burnt charcoal of his flannel shirt. I had spent the weekend at my friend’s farmhouse in Ohio, and this farmer, Gerry, would drive me to the airport.

He pulled back the front seat, and my eyes locked with his passenger while she nervously scratched her ear. The blonde had buckeye-brown eyes, golden mascara, and a button nose. She was petite and I towered over her like a weeping willow to a dandelion.

A SAN FRANCISCO PIAZZA

In the last year and half in which I’ve lived in San Francisco, I’ve watched una piazza take shape, and, by no coincidence, it’s thanks to some Italians. This piazza is not where you might think it might be in the North-Beach-Little-Italy area of the city (an admirable landmark of shops, pizzerie, and restaurants run by extraordinary Italian-Americans still operating their ancestors’ businesses). And it’s not oval, square or rectangular, like most piazzas. Instead, it’s linear, and takes up two blocks on Union Street, between Laguna and Webster Streets, in the Cow Hollow area of Northern San Francisco. Here, my kids feel at home, as if back in Italy. In the following places, my kids can speak Italian, enjoy homemade Italian cooking and gelato, feel the bond of neighborhood friends, reminisce about the Italian culture they miss, and see how the tradition of family-run businesses transcends from Italy to America.

CHICKEN SOUP

I’m standing in front of an entire aisle of bouillon cubes. Dark green boxes covered with the drawing of a lady in a Fifties’ bob and puffy sleeves rolled up over her apron. The ingredients listed on the small, rectangular boxes are all in Hebrew.

ST. PATRICK'S DAY & THE EMERALD

It was the late nineties and the sales’ season beckoned me to Filene’s Basement on my lunch hour. I spotted an emerald, satin jacket on the Super Sales’ Rack. It was collarless, fitted, short-waisted, with shoulder pads, and opened up into a chic upside-down V when all buttoned up. With matching cigarette pants, it screamed Lady Diana. It was designed in Italy, a country I’d dreamed of living in one day. If I couldn’t be in Italy, why not wear it?