Till Death Us Do Part

Gracie arrives on stage, breathless, her arms full with a lovely bouquet.

GEORGE: “I like your flowers.”

GRACIE: “Thanks, they were your idea.”

GEORGE: “What do you mean?”

GRACIE: “Well, I went to the hospital today to visit Aunt Alice and you told me to take her flowers. So, when she wasn’t looking, I did.”

* * *

If you don’t already know, the “George and Gracie” featured in this dialogue were actual people:  comedy duo and real-life couple, George Burns and Gracie Allen who were American entertainment stars of Vaudeville, Radio and early Television.  Their partnership on-stage and off ran successfully for more than 40 years until Gracie’s untimely death from a heart attack in 1964.

George Burns and Gracie Allen
George Burns and Gracie Allen

George’s witty and droll set-ups and Gracie’s illogical and loveable punch-lines made the couple’s routines legendary.  If you’ve never seen them before, they live on – on YouTube.

Their brand of humor was so funny and endearing  it served as the starting point when my husband Scotty Walsh began preparing his final performance required to wrap up his Master of Fine Arts program here in Tuscany. (It’s this program that brought us to Italy, in case you didn’t know.)

So! Scotty conceptualized, wrote, directed and starred in a one-hour comedy magic show he titled, “MEET THE SILVERSTONES” – and, in a moment of inspiration or impulsiveness, he cast me as his on-stage partner!

The Show poster
The Show poster

Although we’ve been married for many years, this became the first time we ever actually worked together toward a performance.

It wasn’t always easy.

My husband is an artist. A perfectionist.  He looks at a draft of a script and sees a million different directions it can take.  He examines a prop or a bit of business and considers a myriad of subtleties.

Maybe because I worked for so many years in the fast-paced, deadline-driven world of TV News,  but I am a quintessential “thin-slicer.”  I go with my gut. I make quick decisions and never look back.

Needless to say, these two working styles sometimes resulted in the teensiest bits of tension during the two months that we worked together.

But last night’s first performance here in Arezzo before a standing-room only crowd, culminated in a wonderful evening.  The audience laughed in all the right places and the applause was heart-felt.

Tonight we have our second show and I think I can safely say, that while we may never become the next  Burns and Allen (although we did adapt their adorable “flowers” bit), we managed to work through our differences and create something to be proud of.

Scotty Walsh and Gina London - new comedy duo?
Scotty Walsh and Gina London – new comedy duo?

Thank you, Scotty, for this opportunity.  Another lesson that most things in life –take work.  And a little love and patience, too.

Have you ever worked with your spouse or partner? How did it go? Would you do it again? Do you still work with your spouse or partner?   How is it going? What do you do to make it work?  And it isn’t just working with loved ones that may prove challenging, is it?

Every work environment presents different styles, personalities and approaches.  What must you do to help make your next project a success?

Till then,

Gina

And P.S. When we get the video of the show back from our photographer, I’ll definitely post it for you!

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La Volpe Come Fa? (What Does The Fox Say?)

Apparently “What Does The Fox Say?” is quite the hit.  In the United States and perhaps other parts of the world, the song is going off the charts.

Here in Italy, I had never even heard of it.  Not until my hip-to-all-things-pop-culture sister Andrea wrote me an email and asked me if the song was as popular in Tuscany as it is in the US.   My unscientific survey consisted of asking my cool personal trainer Elena whether she had heard it (she had not), and an hour and a half review of power house Radio/Web/TV station “RTL 102.5” which also did not turn up the Fox.

I went on YouTube and watched the video and also watched the two Norwegian brothers singing their hit on Ellen.

They’re cute.  The dance is quirkily catchy like “Gangnam Style” – which did sweep Italy along with the rest of the world.  But the lyrical query the song poses was no question for Lulu.

“Everybody knows the fox barks like a dog,” she said after watching the official video.  “It doesn’t go ‘Pow-pow-pow!’”

The most famous animal here in Tuscany is the Cinghiale.  (Read this earlier post about how one visited Lulu and me at a birthday party!)

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The wild boar roams the countryside, makes for delicious stew, sauce and sausage and is a mascot for the region.

Yes, here's the Cinghiale Store!
Yes, here’s the Cinghiale Store!

There doesn’t appear to be a song for the wild boar, but Lulu does have its shirt.

Lulu yesterday in a cinghiale shirt next to its domesticated cousin. What does the cinghiale say?
Lulu yesterday in a cinghiale shirt next to its domesticated cousin. What does the cinghiale say?

But Italians do have their own famous version of an animal sound song:  “Il Coccodrillo Come Fa” “How does the Croccodile go?” is a song that every kid, including Lulu, knows well.

The song’s Italian composer, Pino Massura, passed away this summer at 82. While he wrote beloved children’s songs, Massura also had a string of famous grown-up hits throughout his lifetime, including some recorded by Nat King Cole, Dean Martin and Elvis, (that American guy, not to be confused with the “Ylvis” guys from Norway who wrote the Fox).

Maybe the Norwegian brothers will go on to the same kind of enduring fame as Massura.  Or maybe not.

What does the Fox have to say about all of it?  I don’t know.  I live in Italy.

Until next time, Gering-ding-ding-ding-dingeringeding!

Gina

P.S.  Do you love the Fox?  What’s your favorite animal song?  Share please!

And for more stories of adventures between a mother and her child, you’re invited to buy my book, Because I’m Small Now and You Love Me” 

Leverage your message. And my first polo match.

What happens to your presentation after it’s over? Does it fade away like the memory it has become? Or can you find ways to repurpose it to help add value to your organization, your audience, and your own unique brand?

It all depends on you!

Villa Sesta Polo club with the Tuscan hills where Chianti comes from in the background!
Villa Sesta Polo club with the Tuscan hills where Chianti comes from in the background!

Yesterday, Lulu and I went to our first polo match. In the Chianti hills between Siena and Arezzo, we nibbled on Tuscan-style snacks like Bufala mozzarella and prosciutto served to us by the Villa Sesta Club staff.

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As we looked out on the field, we learned that each of the four players on a team has four separate horses to use for each of the four “chukkers” or periods that take place in the fast-paced game.

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Four horses each? No wonder it takes a lot of money to play this sport. But, in spite of the apparent wealth, it wasn’t a snooty crowd like I’d imagined from that scene in Pretty Woman –which is about my only previous exposure to polo.

By example, our hosts, equestrian and country-inn Il Pozzo owner Carla Veneri and her dentist boyfriend Federico (plus their dog Amelie) couldn’t be more down-to-earth and laid back.

Carla, Federico, Amelie, Me and yes, squint, Lulu is there too. She said the sun was making her "go blind."
Carla, Federico, Amelie, Me and yes, squint, Lulu is there too. She said the sun was making her “go blind.”

The exciting game, plus the great food and sun-filled Tuscan sky, made for a, as our very-British-sounding announcer said so well, “Splendid Sunday afternoon.”

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So! I could carry the day in my mind, or I could take photos and share my experience – along with my lesson not to prejudge a group before meeting its members – with others. It’s the same with your work.

YouTube. If your presentation isn’t proprietary in nature, have someone record it and put the video on your company’s YouTube channel. Or put it on your own. You or your organization do have a channel, right? If not, it’s super easy to set-up!

Newsletter or Blog. Adapt the transcript of your presentation into a piece for a company newsletter or blog. If you have your own blog, post it there. This way, you can reach employees or potential clients or whoever wasn’t able to attend in person.

SlideShare. Post your wonderfully simple and graphic PowerPoint presentation (see my previous article about this!) on SlideShare.

Publications. Yes, you heard me! Depending on your content, you can tweak your presentation and submit a query letter to a variety of trade magazines and/or business journals. The Wall Street Journal and WIRED magazine, for example, both offer member-blogs. Why not?

When you consider the variety of ways that you and your hard work can continue to be amplified – by repurposing and promoting your message – you are making yourself more valuable and relevant to your company. That’s another valuable lesson.

Lulu enchanted by Villa Sesta Polo Club's topiary ponies.
Lulu enchanted by Villa Sesta Polo Club’s topiary ponies.

As our polo announcer would say, “Simply splendid, indeed!”

Baci, tutti! Gina

A Real April Fool

Here in Italy, it’s the day after Easter, known as Pasquetta, or “little Easter.”

Resurrection and spring celebrations continue.. and Lulu and I visited Castiglion Fiorentino to check out their “Vilaggio di Primavera” or “Spring Village” – where there were indeed ??????????some nice crafts and regional food –

 But, since this year, it happens to fall on April First, today is also Pesce d’Aprile , the Italian version of what I know better as April Fool’s Day!

I like practical jokes and clever pranks, so I like the concept of this day – but for some reason, the only joke I remember was one that I didn’t pull-off myself, but, rather was played mercilessly on me – by my mother!

It was an April Fool’s Day morning, when I was just five years old, that I woke up to my mom greeting me with a solemn face.  I can still remember her leading to me into the kitchen and sitting me up on one of the stools at the bar.

“Gina,” she began in a somber tone, “I am very sorry, but your father was cleaning out your closet last night and he accidentally threw out all of your shoes.”

shoes

Now, I have no idea why the notion that my dad decided to clean out the closet in my bedroom while I was sleeping in the same room didn’t strike me as odd.  Or why I chose to buy the even crazier idea that he just accidentally  happened to throw out all of my shoes.

Maybe it was because I was only five years old.   But, anyway, I remember staring wide-eyed at my mother as she continued.

“So, honey, I am so sorry, but we don’t have any shoes to send you to school in this morning,” my mother purred.  “Instead, just for today, we’re going to wrap your feet in newspapers and put rubber bands around to hold them in place.  You only have to go to school like this for today.  After school, we’ll go buy you some new shoes.”

newspapers

That was it!

But back when I was five. It was more than enough.

Before she could say anything else, I began to cry.

“APRIL FOOL!” my mom gleefully cried out.

I don’t think I laughed at all then.. but all of my family – and even I – get a real laugh out of it now. It only took a couple dozen sessions with my therapist.  No, not really, but sheesh, Mom, what were you thinking?  If you met her, you would never think she had such a mean streak.  Ha. Maybe you would.  Just kidding. We’re really close.  I promise.  Anyway,  I don’t think I have ever asked her how she came up with the idea or whether Dad knew anything about it.  I’ll have to do that.

But meantime, now my own daughter is five and last night I told her about the tradition of April Fool’s Day – and about the alarming prank my mom played on me when I was the same age as she was.

“Thank goodness you didn’t have to wear newspapers on your feet for real!” Lulu exclaimed after I had finished the tale.

“I know!” I agreed.

Later, while we waited on the platform for the train to take us to Castiglion Fiorentino ,  Lulu suddenly shouted, “Hey, Mom, the train’s coming!”

Of course, it wasn’t yet, but I whipped my head dutifully around to look in the direction it would be heading and as soon as I did, Lulu squealed, “APRIL FOOL DAY!! I got you!”

“Yes, you did, Honey,”  I winked at her.  We both knew.

This afternoon, while we were exploring the old town, I turned to her very seriously and said, “Lulu, I almost forgot to tell you, Daddy accidentally threw out all of your other dresses last night and the outfit you’re in is the only one left.   Tomorrow, when you go to school, you’ll have to wear a newspaper wrapped up with string.”

“Maaaahhhm!” Lulu rolled her eyes, “you’re just teasing me. That’s just like Gramma Sheila.”

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Then she added, “I think it’s better if we don’t tease, because if not, no one will believe you.”

She’s right.  I still don’t let my mom come anywhere near my shoes.

And that’s no April Fool. 😉

Hope you’re having a fun-filled April first.  Any memories you’d like to share, please do!   And for more conversations and adventures between my daughter, Lulu, and me, please buy my new book, “Because I’m Small Now and You Love Me” !  Till next time, Ciao, tutti!

Gina