A couple days before I left for Italy I went to Manny’s for a pastrami on rye. I’ve been going there for decades at this point and always get the same thing. Gino, the guy who makes those amazing pastrami sandwiches, has been there over thirty years. I took my parents there years ago and he still always asks after their well-being. When I told him I was headed to Italy to spend time with them, he asked that I send along his regards. I asked if he wanted me to bring anything back and he said San Marzano tomato seeds without missing a beat.

It took some doing but a worker of my folks’ hosts in Fiesole finally located a couple packages a day before I was to return home. Gino couldn’t believe it when I handed them over. He’s an avid gardener and these tomatoes allegedly make for the best sauce. It was good to’ve had an assignment while I was away and to’ve been able to accomplish it. It made the trip relate back to life at home, however tangentially. 

A couple months back I found two homemade driftwood-looking frames at a Goodwill in Wisconsin. I used one for a painting I’d done at the Skylark awhile back and offered it to the owners. On Thursday it was hung in the alcove by the entrance, right above the table where it was painted. Having a piece of mine as part of the permanent decor of that bar is an honor and makes me feel like I’ve contributed a bit to its history. Now when I go into work I’ll see it out of the corner of my eye and be reminded that I’ve been there long enough to become part of the scenery. This is the polar opposite of the dislocated feeling of travel. Unlike Italy, where driving my parents around and looking for tomato seeds made me feel useful, just walking through the door of the Skylark on a given evening is enough for me not to feel out of place.

—I reviewed a compelling Japanese film about sisters reckoning with their family history after their father’s death and a ridiculous HBO show about a kid who borrows his father’s cab, then gets accused of murder. Also: Here’s a sketch of director Todd Solondz during the Q & A for his great new film Weiner Dog at the Music Box on Saturday night.