This is garbage!

I love the 80's The 80’s are totally back! For sure! 

I don’t know if it’s the same right now in America, but in Italy the 80’s are back with a vengeance! Fashion-wise, things like bright neon colors, retro printed tees, and bangle bracelets are all the rage! Music seems to be referencing the 1980’s more and more too with synthpop tunes that are best listened to on oversized 80’s-style headphones. Even some 80’s toys are back, like GPK (that’s Garbage Pail Kids to those of you not in the know).

Adam BombGarbage Pail Kids are these crude sticker-cards that feature gross-out situations and aptly named kids. I loved them when I was young. In fact, I still have a box full of them in storage somewhere in my parents’ house. I was thrilled to find them here in Italy too, especially because they’re even cooler since they’re in Italian! Toilet talk is just classier when it’s in another language!

Cerno-BillGarbage Pail Kids were originally launched in Italy under the name Sgorbions (playing off of the Italian word sgorbio, meaning ugly and freakish). The version I came across is the re-released edition that are called Kakkones (playing off of the Italian word cacca, meaning poop). For some interesting history on GPK in Italy click here.


I took a few pictures of Italian Kakkones and a re-release pack of American GPK that I picked up back in the USA. I wanted to delve into the different ways that these two cultures treat barf, snot, zits, and flesh wounds. This is some truly groundbreaking stuff and I expect to be asked to speak at some honorable universities around the globe on this very topic.  ;-P

One last point. Having a more unusual name like Garrett is neat-o, but it always meant having a harder time finding keychains and decorative license plates with my name on it. It also meant that I never found a Garrett Garbage Pail Kid. That’s something I’ve always yearned for. I would get mad at my friends when we found a card with their name on it because I was jealous. I mean, it wasn’t my fault that my parents were more creative than theirs! Butt-bit Brandon? Screw you! Messy Melissa? Unfair!

Some online research unveiled this one here below, but it’s spelled with only 1 “t” so that doesn’t count.Gassy Garret

Luckily, some creativity and an iPhone app have finally made it possible for me to chase down one of my dreams. I leave you today, ladies and gentleman, with the world premier of the Garrett GPK!

Grody Garrett

Grody Garrett

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Italian Superstitions: Touch Yourself

This is the second installment of my Italian Superstitions series (for the first one, click here).

I had planned on eventually getting around to blogging about the superstition that I’m going to talk to you guys about today, but the other day I was talking to my Mom on the phone and I had mentioned this superstition to her. She thought it was so funny that she immediately yelled to my Aunt (who was visiting) “Get over here and listen to this!”. Being that it got such a good response from my Mom and Aunt, I was prompted to up this one to priority status on my list of things to write about and that’s why you guys are getting this lil’ gem right now.

The two ladies that got such a kick out of an Italian superstition: my Mom and Auntie Bev

So, in America we knock on wood to ward off evil, right? Well, in Italy they touch iron. Now, while that is a fun little fact to know about Italian culture, it isn’t really interesting enough to merit its own blog post and it’s certainly not what my Mom found to be so funny.

Grabbin’ myself, Michael Jackson style!

The thing that made my Mom laugh so hard is the other thing that Italians do which is equivalent to knocking on wood (or touching iron): touching themselves. Yes, you read that right. Italians touch themselves to ward off evil, and I’m not talking about touching their heads or noses or hearts. They touch their … *ahem* … intimate bits.

If someone says something like “I sure hope your house didn’t catch fire while you were out” to an Italian guy, he will grab his balls to avoid tempting fate. If someone says something like “Maybe your scratch will get infected and the doctors will have to amputate your entire arm” to an Italian girl, she will grab her left breast in order to assure that it doesn’t happen.

So guys, if you’re in Italy, it is perfectly acceptable to touch your testes if you want to keep evil things at bay. And ladies, make sure that it’s your left breast that you grab. I’m not sure what happens if you touch your right one, but I think when it comes to things like superstitions, it’s better not to take any risks.

Italian Hand Gestures – Part 6

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted a hand gesture video, but I’ve finally got a new one for you!

In the video, I talk about how the light quality isn’t the greatest, but then in post-production I discovered that YouTube has some new options that you can play around with to try and sort out the lighting/contrast/brightness. It’s still not perfect, but it’s a heck of a lot better than it was at the start! Though, if anybody wants to gift me a professional HD video camera, tripod, and some lights, I wouldn’t say no. ;-)

So, here’s the vid for you guys. Learn the Italian hand gesture for “there is/are none“.


It’s the Anus of the Dragon!

Italian is a beautiful language. It’s the poetic craft of Dante, the musical prowess of Verdi, and the finicky language where it’s all too easy to say “anus” when you really meant to say “year“.

The Italian word for “anus” is ano while the word for “year” is anno. The only thing that sets these words apart is an extra “n”. I think these two words are recklessly similar, and the problem is not just with the spelling!

The Italian language has a double consonant pronunciation where you basically hold the consonant for a fraction of a second longer than usual. So, when speaking, if you don’t hold that “n” long enough, you’re in for an embarrassing treat!

It seems like a cruel joke aimed at foreigners that one of these double consonant words just happens to be the one for “year”, doesn’t it? It’s such a commonly used word. Oh, and let’s not forget that it’s easy to say “Can you please pick up a pack of penis at the stationery store while you’re out?” Only one little “n” differentiates the word “pens” (penne) from “penis” (pene).

C’mon guys! Anus and penis are among the words that I can easily biff up in Italian? Are you kidding me?!? I mean, couldn’t we have chosen less potentially dangerous words to be the counterpart of the much more innocent ones? I feel like I’m walking around on a linguistic minefield here!

You are cordially invited to buzz the hell off

So, the Italian language has two different types of “you” – the informal one (tu) and the formal one (Lei).

  • Tu is what you say when you are talking to your friends, younger people, and other people who you know well and have a close relationship with
  • Lei is what you use when you are speaking to strangers, your elders, or people whom you want to show a certain level of respect to

Wanna know something cool? Italians have this great way of using the formal “you”, even when in the heat of a verbal dispute.

Using Lei when arguing with somebody you don’t know or who you want to show respect for even as your chewin’ them out is something that I just find so hilarious! It’s a linguistically artful way of telling somebody off while still remaining polite despite the fact that what you’re yelling may well be laced with swear words and insults.

To give you an idea of how funny this concept is (at least to a native English speaker living in Italy), here are some masterful examples of the vocalizations you might hear when people “politely argue” in Italian. Please note: to get the most out of these, you really should  envision them being said in a posh British accent.

  • Good sir, I heartily insist that you keep your !@%#ing dog’s mouth shut!
  • I should find it swell if you would stop double parking your sh!& box of a moped in front of my mother!@%#ing car!
  • Would you be so kind as to go take a good sh!& for yourself, you !@%#ing idiot!
  • Hello there, outspoken b!+ch! Please refrain from busting my !@%#ing balls!
  • It is with the utmost respect that I entreat you to go !@%# thyself … with vim and vigor, mind you!

So, the translations of what was being said in Italian are not exactly spot on, but since English doesn’t have the formal “you” there was no other way to really convey the idea. Plus, it gives me a valid excuse to use lots of bad words!

Now I won’t be the one to write down any Italian swear words here in this article, but if you guys want to leave a comment with any Italian parolacce that you may know, I certainly won’t be able to !@%#ing stop you! :-)

Italian Hand Gestures – Part 5

Ciao ragazzi! Here is a new Italian hand gesture for you to learn.

Italy is known the world over as a country with great food to eat and this video teaches you the hand gesture to say that you appreciate the local cuisine!

I filmed this video in my bed because the sun sets early here these days (being winter and all) and my apartment is really not the best in terms of lighting. I did a few test runs and my bed seemed to give the best results.

I guess we’re getting more and more intimate here on the blog! ;-)

The Vending Machine of Sin

Today’s post revolves around a picture that I took with my iPhone while walking around the streets of Italy.

This curious little thing is called Enjoy Box. It’s a fun and colorful vending machine quietly peddling its wares. What wares doth it peddle, you ask me (in a weird olde-timey accent).

Well, our trusty Enjoy Box sells three things:

  1. Condoms
  2. Lighters
  3. Rolling Papers
Number 1 is obviously geared towards the sexually active segment of the market and I don’t think numbers 2 and 3 are really aimed at cigarette smokers (given the hippy 1960’s peace sign flowers adorning its body), but rather smokers of a different substance. That being said, I think “Enjoy Box” is an apt enough name for this sex and drugs vending machine of sin.

I really get a kick out of these things. When I lived in Bologna I would see them more often (with Bologna being a university city and all), but they were harder to spot here in Milan, so I was overjoyed to come across one the other day and felt that I just had to share it with you guys!

What, you don’t believe me about these contraptions? Well then, click on the smiley emoticon here to see the website that sells these joyous fun-time devices. :-P

If you ever find yourself in a bind in Italy and desperately need condoms or drug paraphernalia please remember two things:
  1. Have fun and be safe
  2. Enjoy Box doesn’t give change

Italian Hand Gestures – Part 4

Here’s another vlog* for you guys: the Italian hand gesture for “That is perfect! That is precise!”

* Vlog means “video-blog” in internet-dork jargon. (I recently learned that myself!) :-D

Confounded by kilos and kitchen cleaners

I’ve been living in Italy for a good chunk of years now and affronting the Italian supermarket is no longer a daunting task. It wasn’t always like that though. It used to be a cultural nightmare for me!

Contrary to popular belief (and I know that I’m definitely shattering one of my Dad’s most beloved images of life in Italy), supermarkets do actually exist here. The smaller, often family-run speciality stores such as the local butcher, fruit and vegetable lady, and milk and egg man definitely still exist, but these speciality stores are where you go if you have some extra money to spend and are looking for really hard-to-find cheese or wine or where you pop in if you just need one green apple or red pepper and you happen to be passing by there on the way home from work anyways. I think that a lot of elderly Italians who have more time on their hands may make the journey all around town going to 5 or 6 different small shops to get all the freshest and most local ingredients for preparing a meal, but for the rest of us, there is simply no time, especially not for the overworked and underpaid Milanese. We need to get all our food shopping done in one fell swoop, hence the introduction of supermarkets such as Esselunga and Pam into Italy.

My first time in an Italian supermarket was an adventure that I will never forget!

prosciutto crudo

Getting the jar of green olives and the loaf of bread had gone fine because I could actually see and recognize what those foods were. Plus they were already neatly packaged for me. All I had to do was pluck them off of the shelf.  However, at the deli counter I couldn’t, for the life of me, figure out how much prosciutto I wanted.  The guy asked me how much I wanted and I thought to myself “Not only is my Italian not that good (remember that I’d only been living in Italy like 5 days), but I have no idea how the metric measuring system works!” Here’s how that conversation went (except imagine it was in Italian):

Deli guy: How much prosciutto do you want?

Me: (unsure) Ummmm .. 8?

Deli guy: 8 what?

Me: (even more unsure) Grams?

Deli guy shows me a band-aid-size slice of meat while shaking his head “no”.

Me: (the king of unsure) Kilos?

Deli guy holds up the entire leg of prosciutto, bone and all, and looks at me strange

Me: (embarrassed) I just remembered that I’m vegetarian. Thank you anyways!

Needless to say, my lunch that day was a ham and cheese sandwich …. without the ham.

I also had cleaning products on my list and that didn’t turn out to be an easy task either. By the smell of chemical lemons and pine, I had the feeling that I was in the right area of the supermarket, but I had no idea what the names of the products in Italy were or what the heck they were used for. Is this spray for cleaning windows or sun-streaking your hair? Is this bottle supposed to be for washing the inside of the toilet or your clothes? Am I supposed to make the tile floor sparkle with this stuff or swish with it after brushing my teeth? In the end, I just went with the brands that had pictures on them to help me. I saw a glimmering-clean kitchen sink on the bottle and it smelled like fake oranges, so I just put 2 and 2 together.

Italian cleaning products

Since that harrowing shopping experience, I have “grown up” quite a bit. I understand kilos much better (though not perfectly), I recognize different brands of cleaning products, and my Italian sucks a lot less than it did when I’d first arrived in this country. I guess you could say that I’ve gotten used to Italian supermarkets, though every time I’m back in America the customer service, diversity of foods, and wide array of brand choices still awes me! Where else but in America will the deli clerk not only walk you step-by-step through their various cold-cut offerings, but will even come out from behind the counter to accompany you to the cleaning product aisle and assist you in finding that special brand of wood polish that you were looking for! Plus, there is no fiddering around with kilos! Double win!

Are you gay, or Italian? … Or both?

Well, I’d say that the guy over there with the glittery belt, tight package-showing jeans, bright pink t-shirt, perfectly blow-dried and flat-ironed hair, small diamond nose piercing, and Gucci man-bag is gay. Or, he’s Italian. Same thing.

It’s really hard to tell gay guys from “fashion victims” in Italy, and it’s been seriously screwing with my gaydar. The gay fashion and Italian fashion circuits are not mutually exclusive circles. (Oh my God! Did I just make a Venn diagram reference??! I suck at math! I’m proud of myself!)

slightly vagina-like Venn diagram

Now, of course I’m using stereotypes here when I talk about this particular type of gay man or Italian fashion victim. I’m the first one to get upset over stereotypes, so I just wanted to clear that up (though stereotypes are based on a bit of factuality that may hold true for some people). That being said, the fashion culture is so different between America and Italy. Italian guys (both gay and straight) tend to do things brighter and tighter than their American counterparts, and this can lead to some confusion for a gay American guy living in Italy.

I think that a straight, male, Italian, fashion victim wold have a hard time convincing any American girl that he wanted to go to bed with her, and not her brother. They really dress to impress, and put a lot of time and effort into how they appear. Think MTV’s Jersey Shore, only less “guido” and more gay. Now, sometimes a guy may be gay and Italian, but in the other cases it’ll certainly be a challenge trying to understand if the guy who’s dancing with Ray Ban sunglasses on, sipping a martini, and sporting a fake tan is homosexual or comes from bella Italia.

So, what does all this matter? Nothing! Who cares if someone is gay or straight or Italian or American? Not me! I just get a kick out of the fact that I could spend half my time going around Milan asking “Hey, are you into dudes, or are you just Italian?”