Friday, June 22, 2012

Staged...Or On Stage?

Sometimes you need a change of venue to recharge, so last weekend I took a quick trip to Ascoli Piceno.  A friend offered her guest room, other friends emailed about a festa, and the lure of a couple of days back in the city of travertino was more than enough to pull me away from the computer.

My old "hometown" glistened in the sunlight, all geared up for summer and decked out with the mercato antiquariato.  I perused the stands and even bought a little rustic side table at a decent price.  Not as decent as it probably should have been - I suck at bargaining - but still, it's cute.  I hung out with friends, sipped aperitivi on the piazza and enjoyed surprising people I know with my un-unannounced presence.  It was while I was at the Festa of the Holy Thorn laughing with friends and munching on arrosticini that it hit me - it was exactly one year since I was there last...when we went while filming our episode of House Hunters International.  Time is a funny thing, my friends.  A year already?

Anyway.  It was also pointed out during that same week that a participant in the show had gone public and let loose the secret - that house purchases are already a done deal when the show is filmed.  She lamented that the producers wouldn't accept them until they closed on the house, and that the other two homes were actually friends' houses and not really homes for sale.

First of all, I'm sure you're shocked (shocked!) to learn that "reality TV" isn't totally "real".  But you already knew that, since you'd read all about our house buying adventure and *then* about the filming. I didn't reveal secrets, but those who follow the blog knew the order of things.

However.  I gotta say, I don't get her motivation.  She knew the ins and outs ahead of time; they talk you through the process before you sign the contract, so why did she participate if it bothered her?  Why didn't her realtor want to line up other listings to show?  Most of them clamor to be on it, as it gives them publicity. 

After it went all over the web, the headlines went from "staged" to "fake" as the buzzword for the show.  I'd like to chime in, having participated.  It's not "fake".  We went through a house hunting experience in a foreign country.  They contacted us about it, asking detailed questions to get our story.  And then once they ascertained that we were decent, upstanding and literate people, they asked us to recreate our story for the show.  I don't know about that participant, but our episode was a snapshot of our experience.  We tramped around town with the (then) mayor because there are no realtors in the villages (as seen on TV).  We saw a few other homes besides the one we chose (as seen on TV).  We debated the pros and cons of each (as seen on TV).  We were "on stage," if you will.  See the difference between "staged" or "faked" and "recreated"?

I don't know about your adventures in house hunting, but ours took months and we saw dozens of homes in two different regions.  I'm sorry, but no TV crew is going to follow us around for that length of time; a little *too* reality (and boring) for that.  It only made sense to us that the field had to be narrowed and that it was done; it would be a waste of everyone's time if the deal fell through at the last minute or the buyers didn't choose any of the homes. 

As for lining up the other two homes, yes, we had to do that part as the production company comes in just for the filming.  They don't know which homes you've spent the last several months viewing; you do.  So yep, we lined up the homes.  Both of which we had really seen; one of which we considered fairly seriously (it's still on the market, by the way, just in case you're looking). 

We had a great time during the filming, and while they cut out lots of great scenes of our area and friends, we realized they had to cut 4 days of filming into 23 minutes.  Our one complaint:  somewhere in the editing they mixed up some scenes, so some locations were labled as "Trivigno" when they were shot in Ascoli Piceno; some said "Ascoli Piceno" when they were streets in my ancestral village of Anzi.  Not sure if that happened after the guys had knocked back a few beers, or someone in the editing room got the notes mixed up.  But overall, speaking from our filming, it was a positive experience, we had fun, and everyone who saw our episode said it was entertaining.  And in the end, isn't that TV is supposed to be?

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Our Impact in the Digital Age

I've been thinking lately about the impact a person can make on others.  I've written before how my grandparents' quiet, every-day actions helped the people around them.  A word, a card, a pie, a hand - little things that touched their neighbors and their world.

But in the digital era, it can go even farther.  Something I say online can help (or hurt) a person I've never met.  I've been touched by others' blog posts or comments and have forged friendships with other bloggers, even if we don't know each other in person. You exchange comments, emails and laughs.  You get to know a person through their posts and pictures.

This struck me with force this past week when I heard about the death of an online acquaintance.  I knew Robert Rainey through the Slow Travel forums.  We bantered on the same topics often, and shared views or dissented travel options over the past several years.  We had friends in common, so while I hadn't met Robert, I knew him.  We'd interacted.  I knew his tastes and opinions on several subjects, as well as his sense of humor.

So it came as a shock to hear that Robert had been brutally murdered in his office in Los Angeles.  He was a chiropractor, a nice guy, full of energy and enthusiasm.  And yet he was senselessly beaten to death.  Perhaps for money; maybe a drug-crazed creep.  Who knows.  I hope they find out; I hope they find the person who did this to a 54-year old caring individual. 

I read the news on Facebook in the morning, and it stayed with me all day.  I had that gut-wrenching feeling in my stomach; I shook my head at the thought, the unbelievable thought that this happened to a person I knew.  Even if I didn't know him.  I felt sorrow for his family and for those at Slow Travel who will miss his presence and his input.  I felt despair; I felt sad.

And it struck me again how we touch people's lives without even realizing it.  So I want to tell you, my friends, how much I appreciate you.  Your words, your comments, your jokes, your emails, your phone calls.  Even if we haven't met in person, you've been here with me through the adventures and trials.  And I thank you.