Adventures of the Charmingly Odd

“I’m Nobody! Who are you?”

Last week was a rough one for my family. It’s all very so I won’t put it on here but HOLY HELL it was a punch in the gut from multiple directions. But a gift from the Universe – The Lord of the Rings Blu-ray 4K set I was on the waitlist for and wasn’t expecting to come until the end of February – arrived on Saturday. Poor Steve has already seen The Fellowship of the Ring twice times but never the sequels. (1st time was when we first started dating and 2nd was at the live orchestra accompaniment at Lincoln Center in NYC). A blizzard was coming and we stocked up on snacks and I went full on mopey mode, sitting on couch crying about the people of Middle-earth – as one does.

Saturday we watched The Fellowship of the Ring, as the blizzard started Sunday night we watched The Two Towers, and about 10 inches deep in snow on Monday we watched The Return of the King. All extended editions, of course, I get annoyed when the theatrical versions are on TV. Finally at the end I asked Steve if the films were what he thought they were going to be after all these years.

He replied with a simple, “Yeah. There was a lot of walking and fighting.” Ha! He’s not wrong but I know it captivated him more than he was willing to admit. I joked on Twitter that it only took a pandemic and a blizzard for him to finally watch the movies after 6 1/2 years together.

Currently Watching

‘Dickinson’

Even with all my sleeping pills, I’m still having bad insomnia. One night I stayed up until 4am binging season 2 of ‘Dickinson’ on Apple TV+. Listen – you guys are swooning over ‘Bridgerton’? GET OUT OF HERE! Hailee Steinfeld as Emily Dickinson is the real home historical home runner.

 

‘Sylvie’s Love’

I also watched ‘Sylvie’s Love’ (2021) on Amazon Prime last night! The movie stars Tessa Thompson and Nnamdi Asomugha as two young lovers in the summer of 1957 in New York City. The movie is beautifully shot with an incredible jazz soundtrack. The script is pretty meager – but to be fair, that’s exactly how romance movies such as this were written in the late 50s & early 60s. I’d also recommend this one to watch, especially with Valentine’s Day around the corner already.

 

Currently Reading

‘A Darker Shade of Magic’ by V.E. Schwab

I’m only about 60 pages into this one but I’ve never read Schwab’s work before despite the fact that I love following her on Twitter! I’m already captivated and I want a color changing coat ASAP.

‘Winter of the World’ by Ken Follett

This is the second book in the Century Trilogy by Follett. I loved the first one ‘Fall of Giants’ and I’m already fully immersed into this next one. I’ll be a Follett fan for life – his ability to seamlessly weave characters in and out of different historic settings is astonishing.

 

 

Currently Listening To

‘Piano Chill’ Playlist on Apple Music Classical

I haven’t been listening to much this past week – just good background music while reading, crying, or in bed with a headache. I came across this playlist earlier this week and I’m so thankful I did – it’s going to be a staple in my musical habits for sure.

 

I hope you guys have a great weekend and I look forward to talking to you on Twitter!

20 Things from 2020

Apparently I only use this blog to do my end of year wrap up. I want to change that in the new year – the best way to start is to reflect on what will be one of the most historic years of this century. I have many unfinished drafts of posts from throughout this year that I never completed – just fragmented moments of despair from February, May, June, July. So here are 20 Things From 2020 that either broke me, saved me, distracted me, or gave me a glimpse of happiness in this truly terrible, terrible year.

1.) First and foremost, I would have lost my mind if it wasn’t for my fellow Book Inc. writing group. I joined a group of strangers ( to me) on a whim a year ago and decided to embark on this crazy journey: we would all write a book from start to finish in 2020. Lots of people applied to this program but I was lucky enough to be chosen as one of the 12. Throughout this year we had 3 people drop out – but the remaining nine of us? We fucking DID IT. We wrote entire novels by October 1st, 2020. After that we have a set schedule for reader critiques, time to edit, submit again to our peers and continue this process until we are ready to send out query letters for our polished manuscripts. Out of all the truly horrible things that have happened this year, this incredible group of people cheered me on and wouldn’t let me giving up on my strange but wonderful little novel.

 

 

2.) If that was the happiest things in 2020, the saddest things were the losses we experienced My dearest, darling grandfather whom we called Lolo (Tagalog for grandfather) passed away at the age 80 from COVID-19 on Sunday, July 26th, 2020. His end came way too soon – he was the youngest 80 year old I know. Virgil Fuentes was an immigrant from the Philippines who followed his sweetheart, my Lola, to America when he was 20 years old. They have the most amazing, exciting, bravest love story I have ever known. Over the years I constantly asked them to tell it to me again, because it was the stuff movies are made of. They were married for almost 60 years. He had an immense love of movies, which I obviously inherited. In high school and beyond we would have movie dates, just the two of us. The last movie we saw in theaters togethers was “Rogue One”. He loved it as much as I did. He will never see me get married or hold my published book in his hands. But I know he’s cheering me. The greatest honor I could have received was my grandparents, together, giving Steve my grandmother’s engagement ring, to use to propose to me. They knew how much their love meant to me, and I will wear it for the rest of my life in honor of their adventurous love affair.

3.) Another gut wrenching death was that of our dog Barney on Monday, February 3rd. If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram, you might remember that in June 2019 we found out Barney had a 20lb cancerous tumor in his spleen, which was not there at his previous vet visit less than 6 months earlier. We took the risk and Barney had it surgically removed. He fully recovered and back to his old puppy days.

However, on Super Bowl Sunday February 2nd, 2020 Barney suddenly would not eat, vomiting, and lethargic. We took him to the vet the next day and learned that his tumor has grown back to the full size again. My mom & sister raced down to us at the vet in Asbury Park to join us in saying goodbye to our best friend. I’ve written a lot on social media how much he meant to us, especially Steve, so I won’t repeat it here. But just know he was the moved beloved and spoiled dog and loved every day he was with us. Afterwards I was able to raise over $500 for Rawhide Rescue, where Steve had rescued Barney from 7 years ago.

 

4.) I was laid off with most of the country the second week in March 2020. In April I had to cancel our plans to stay in a castle in upstate New York for my 30th birthday. Instead, Steve proposed at home in the most perfect, genuine way. What a crazy two months. To think now that the Spring was only the beginning still of what this year had in store for us.

5.) I re did our downstairs bathroom and turned the guest room into my dream office. On the days I couldn’t write because my head was overwhelmed with anxiety, I threw myself into home renovation projects. Previously I had only upcycled a vintage dresser but with Steve’s wary help, I turned our downstairs bathroom into a victorian haunted looking little room. When we are allowed to go to thrift and antique stores again, I can’t wait to fill it with weird vintage pieces. The gigantic mirror and chandelier were both super cheap finds from Facebook Marketplace.

           

The office was the next huge project! When we bought this house, it had previously been used as a nursery. Steve and I used the room as a guest room with full sized mattress adult bunk beds for our friends and family to crash in when they wanted to visit us at the beach. But since there was a pandemic with no sleepovers in the near future and my working full time on my novel – I jumped at the chance to turn it into my little writing oasis. If someone had told me I wouldn’t be writing my first novel in cafes or bookstores or hotel lobbies, but at home I would have thought you were mad! But thankfully I was able to make over this room for basically free. I had all the furniture already, just gave a few pieces a fresh coat of coat. It was grueling to strip the paint and sand the doorframes and trim but I’m so fucking proud of how everything turned out.

           

 

6.) I held a socially distant wedding in my backyard!

A friend from Drama Club in high school, Erin, and I hadn’t seen each other in almost ten years.We kept touch online but nothing extensive. However, in May when she asked if anyone had a backyard her and her fiancé could get married in – I jumped to offer mine. Turns out Asbury Park was already a special place for Erin & E and within a few days we had a socially distant game plan for a wedding! I notoriously hate weddings so Steve was surprised when I told him but he loved the idea.

We were able to decorate the yard a bit and Steve took some incredible photos of Erin & E. A pure afternoon & evening in an otherwise dumpster fire year.

 

 

7.) Justin Quizon was my pandemic buddy

Justin and I first met in person at the 2011 San Diego Comic Con on the main floor, but we did become Twitter friends before that. We’ve stayed in touch over the years but it wasn’t until March when Justin started calling me to see how the world was in the East Coast. Since then we’ve talked almost every week, for hours, about the insane twists our lives had taken, what we saw individually, and woefully watching the rest of the world.

I have never been a fan of talking on the phone (who is these days?) but I am so gratefully for these check-in sessions with Justin. From politics to movie news, we discussed the highs and lows of 2020. He was a friend that showed the fuck up this year and I want to be more like him.

 

8.) 36 Questions musical podcast

A friend recommended me this musical podcast to me back in July right after my grandfather passed away and I am forever grateful for this music and story that helped heal my soul. I don’t know how I didn’t know about this musical but it immediately gutted my soul and I will love it for as long as I live. It stars Jonathan Groff (most known from Hamilton and Frozen, but I first met him at the stage door when he starred in ‘Spring Awakening’ in 2007) and Jessie Shelton – who is an original cast member for my favorite musical – Hadestown! I cannot express how much this musical means to me and the comfort it’s given me during this horrible year.

 

9.) Desk hammock. No I’m serious

Hey – see where I mentioned that I wrote a book this year? I have spent countless hours at my desk, writing or whining about not being able to write. The best thing I did for myself back in the spring was buy a $28 desk hammock from Amazon.

 

10.) I Became an Amateur Expert on Nikola Tesla

When I started writing my book back in January, I did not expect to have Nikola Tesla as a secondary character, let alone incorporate his inventions or scientific theories into my writing. It’s a perfect example of your writing guiding you – not the other way around. I am someone who always excelled in English and History but struggled in Math and Science. I am an art student to my core! So learning about Tesla’s in depth electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, and futurist work was equally compelling and fucking frustrating. However, I now own about dozen books on and by Tesla as well as watched every film and documentary available. (Even that terrible one starring Ethan Hawke).

 

11.) I Learned a Lot About Writing: The Best Books About the Craft

  • “Save the Cat: Writes a Novel” by Jessica Brody
  • “The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield
  • “Story Genius” by Lisa Cron
  • “The Science of Storytelling” by Will Storr
  • “The Emotional Thesaurus” by Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi
  • “Consider This” by Chuck Palahniuk

                            

 

12.) Fiction Books I Loved

  • “The Flight Girls” by Noelle Salazar
  • “The Alice Network” by Kate Quinn
  • “City of Girls” Elizabeth Gilbert
  • “The Masterpiece” by Fiona Davis
  • “The Alienist” by Caleb Carr
  • “Fifty Words for Rain” by Asha Lemmie
  • “The Evening and the Morning” by Ken Follett

 

13.) Favorite Non-fiction Books I Loved

  • “The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shinning Women” by Kate Moore
  • “The Royal Art of Poison: Filthy Palaces, Fatal Cosmetics, Deadly Medicine, and Murder Most Foul” by Eleanor Herman
  • “Empires of Light: Edison, Tesla, Westinghouse, and The Race to Electrify the World” by Jill Jones
  • “When the Dancing Stopped: The Real Story of the Morro Castle Disaster and It’s Disaster Wake” by Brian Hicks
  • The Creative Destruction of Manhattan” by Max Pace
  • “Slumming: Sexual and Racial Encounters in American Nightlife, 1885-1940” by Chad Heap
  • “Bobbed Hair & Bathtub Gin: Writers Running Wild in the Twenties” by Marion Meade
  • “Opium: A History” by Martin Booth
  • “My Inventions: The Autobiography of Nikola Tesla”

     

 

14.) My Favorite Albums Released This Year

  • “Local Honey” by Brian Fallon
  • “Every Feeling I’ve Ever Had” by Ellen Winter
  • “Folklore” and “Evermore” by Taylor Swift (a first!! I’ve never liked TS until these albums!)

15.) Movies of the Year

Honestly, I can’t think of new movies I saw that blew me away this year besides Aaron Sorkin’s “The Trial of the Chicago 7”. Maybe my brain is fried but the only new release I remembered I purchased from home was “Bill & Ted Face The Music”. My favorite piece of film I saw this year was actually Dave Chappelle’s “8:46”. 

 

16.) TV Shows of the Year 

The shows with * were rewatches but ones that brought us great joy during quarantine

  • Poldark
  • Parks and Recreation*
  • Schitt’s Creek*
  • The West Wing*
  • The Queen’s Gambit
  • The Mandalorian
  • Kim’s Convenience
  • Dickinson
  • Bridgerton
  • The Alieniest

                   

 

17.) My Favorite Self Care Items:

      

18.) New Tattoos!

Thank goodness for my amazing tattoo artist, Karissa Anne – she is a germaphobe and I knew I could trust her to be super clean. I had my Freddie Mercury tattoos touched up as well as the red flower from ‘Hadestown’. I’m working towards turning right arm into a 3/4 sleeve instead of just random tattoos hahaha.

Karissa then referred me to another artist, Rich Cahill, who specializes in finger and delicate tattoos. He did an incredible job and I’m so in love with how beautiful my hand looks.

 

19.) Friends

I have never been so grateful for Twitter. In isolation, I was able to stay in touch with my friends from around the world while not having to specifically call or text them. Justin, my best friend Leah, and my parents were the only ones I had the mental energy to call on a regular basis but thanks to Twitter I also was able to see the world from my friends points of view during the (hopefully) most dramatic year of our lives. The riots, the pandemic lines at stores, the quarantine lives we settled into. I lost my job, my vibrant city notorious for live music was silenced, and my world didn’t extend far outside my house. But thanks to Twitter I could share all the ups (writing! advocacy! tv shows!) and downs (the lives lost due to COVID or police brutality) and I’m grateful for having such a strong community online.

20.) Steve

Now where would I be if I didn’t have Steve this year? Honestly – probably in a psych ward. My anxiety and panic disorders flourish in the unknown so 2020 was the perfect breeding ground for my brain chemicals to go fucking crazy. Throw in loosing Barney and my grandfather? AND writing my first novel? Holy mother of god, I had many meltdowns. But Steve was always here with a loving and steady place to fall into. We don’t care much for weddings or titles but we have been together for 6 and a half years, lived in this house for 3 and a half years, and got engaged 8 months ago. I knew from our first Tinder date he was the one for me and I wouldn’t have wanted to do this INSANE year without him.

 

Now, excuse me while I quietly slip into the New Year with no frills or fuss. If we are carefully, maybe 2020 won’t have noticed we left at all.

There Are Some Things Only You Can Forgive

After my last post about my abusive ex boyfriend in April Told Me to Write”, the overwhelming reaction was 100% positive and supportive. I was scared to death to make it public. Right before, I had been texting my 20 year old sister asking her if I was doing the wrong thing, if everyone would just say that I was a stupid girl, and that I deserved what I got for the choices I had made.

But not a single person reacted that way.

18,201 people saw my tweet and and 1,305 unique people read my post. That is enough. That was enough for fellow victims of his, ranging from abusive to be scammed out of money, reached out to me to share their story with me. Other professionals in his circle informed me that they have shared my story to their colleagues. And after 7 years I spoke to his ex wife for the first time.

If you remember from my previous post, I met Pietro Filipponi in July 2011 when I was 21 and he was 28. I knew he had an ex wife, but she told me that they were not divorced until 2 years into my “relationship” with him. That he had not done 99% of the things he had led me to believe about his previous life experiences.

She shared how that she was a strong, independent woman and yet even she had suffered from his constant mental abuse. When I emailed her, her first reply was that she had sincerely wished that I was reaching out to tell her that he was dead. From her story, I do not blame her.

Myself, however, I can finally breathe. It has been almost 4 years since I last saw him, and yet I’ve had countless nightmares about stalking me, using the FBI to hunt me down to kidnap and torture me. I would wake up at night, shaking, clinging to my boyfriend Steve out of desperation and relief. A weight and fear I ignored for so long, was let go after I spoke to his ex wife. It was a validation that Filipponi is a monster, but merely a spineless and powerless one. Filiponi was wrong every single time he told me I was worthless, because he was simply using his own lack of self worth and projecting it on me – and everyone around him.

I know he is reading this. He has not spoken out online since my post and I know he has seen this. He deserves to be tormented by the memories of all the people he has treated inhumanely. I don’t think a sociopath can change.

I don’t believe in God, but I do believe in the foundation of support my new friends that I have made. I believe in the #MeToo and #TimesUp movement, not for being a trend but a safe space for the rest of us to speak out.

If you are reading this, stay away from Pietro Filiponi, age 35, currently living in New York City. If what I went through can be saved from being meaningless; let this story be heard and save other young women from him.

I have said my peace, and tonight I will sleep without terror.

Olivia Told Me to Write

(This piece contains graphic descriptions and topics. Readers be advised.)

Olivia told me to write. She is fierce and strong and young. I would not have been as strong as she is if I was her age and this had happened to me. I don’t know what to do. There is a current trend of women taking down men; high profile accusations happening every day. I am not here for the trend but I do have a story to tell. I don’t know how.

Olivia told me to write. So I will try.

For three years I was in a physically and emotionally abusive relationship by a man named Pietro Filipponi. Pietro Filipponi is a sociopath, a thief, a liar, and a rapist. A few months ago a doctor told me that I had a protruding disk in my upper spine, causing full body nerve pain. This could only have happened from a direct injury to my neck. This sociopath is the one that did this.

But let’s start at the beginning.

In July 2011 I was a 21 year old, still in college, and working for a comic shop in Times Square. I had interviewed famous comic book writers. I was going to San Diego Comic Con in a few weeks- my first trip all by myself! I was young, enthusiastic, and ready to take on the world!

Friends I met through the comic shop introduced me via Twitter to a colleague of theirs. This 28 year old man lived outside of Washington, D.C. and was the editor in chief of a website that reviewed popular culture. And this man, Pietro Filipponi, pursued me through Twitter, quickly offering me a job as their New York correspondent.

Me! 21 years old and getting to see movies not just for free, but months in advance! I would get to interview movie stars. I met Filipponi for lunch in Manhattan. He was 45 minutes late to this lunch because apparently he said he had witnessed a man attacking a woman on the subway, and in turn arrested the attacker. Filipponi had to take the man to the police station and file a report. He could do this because he was military police. He had a badge and a gun and everything. He showed me.

Back then, I didn’t think people lied about that sort of thing.

Our lunch was a series of equally outlandish claims. He ran a huge news outlet out of DC and needed someone in New York to attend red carpet events and review new movies. I told him that was my dream and that I couldn’t be more honored. It makes me nauseous to recall how blinded by my dreams I was. 

He then ran off, claiming to go have tea with the cast of the last Harry Potter movie for work. I was enchanted. I was duped. I was naive. 

Filipponi and I stayed in touch in the weeks leading up to Comic Con. At the last minute he said the hotel fucked up his reservation and had no where to stay. Since I had a hotel suite with a bedroom, he asked if could stay on the couch. He said he could get me into press events and the big parties at the convention. It felt like a fairy tale; so I let him stay in my hotel room.

We hooked up, it was consensual. That time.

The same night, a few hours later I woke up to him yelling and throwing stuff in the living room. He said he was in love with me and he knew that I would never love him back. I sat on the bed, confused and petrified. I sat there while he stormed off with his suitcases, this grown man crying and furious over god knows what. He left and I spent my next day at the convention forgetting about him.

The following afternoon I got a phone call from him. He had stolen a room key and was wasted in my hotel room. He claimed that he went to interview Tom Hardy for ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ and that he told Hardy how some girl had broken his heart. Hardy then supposedly took the most expensive bottle of tequila the hotel had(on Warner Bros tab) and got Filipponi shit faced.

Filipponi was now sitting in my hotel bathroom crying hysterically and wasted because he loved me. I told him he needed to get the hell out of my hotel room and to give me back all my room keys. He then took out a needle and stabbed himself in the leg, saying it was some sort of drug the military used to sober someone up.

I was terrified.

I wish I could say our interaction ended here. But he did what all sociopaths are able to do: they make you think that this situation is your fault and that they deserve to be loved by you. I was scared and unsure. I told him he could rest in my room while I went out back to the convention that day.

On the last day he texted me asking if I wanted to meet Nathan Fillion, from Firefly fame. I couldn’t say not to that. Filipponi got us to cut the line and Fillion shook my hand, complimented me on my smile, and signed a few things. I decided that I could tolerate being this maniac’s friend.

When it was time to fly back home (New Jersey for me, D.C. for him) he said he felt like he was never going to see me again. I shrugged it off. I wanted the job too much to pay attention to the warning alarms going off in my head.

After I sat down on the plane, I look up at one point and Filipponi is standing in the aisle. He looks to the young man to my right and says, “I’ll trade you my first class ticket so I can sit next to my girlfriend.” The guy took the ticket without any question. I was dumbfounded.

“Don’t you see how crazy I am about you? I bought a first class ticket that cost me thousands of dollars and gave it to some kid just to spend a few extra hours with you.” It felt like a movie moment. Maybe this is how adults acted. He was someone who had served two tours overseas and “worked at the Pentagon”; maybe this extreme and dramatic kind of romance was what real life was like.

Spoiler: its not.

After that Filipponi came up to New York once a week to meet me for movie events. He took me to famed screening rooms in Times Square and in skyscrapers that held actual Academy Awards. The first famous actor I interviewed was Colin Firth. I was starstruck. Filipponi called me his girlfriend and I let him. If this is what it took to achieve my dreams, I was going to be able to put up with his crazy shit.

By the end of August he suddenly had moved up to New York. He claimed that he “gave” his ex wife his house, his car, and abandoned his kids “all for you”. When he would throw temper tantrums in the middle of Times Square, it was because I didn’t love him. I didn’t. He was constantly throwing it in my face that he gave up his life for me.

I would constantly break up with him (if you could count what we had as a real relationship) and not speak to him for days. But then it was always, something. He would bribe me with tickets to the new Broadway show I was dying to see, that we could go see. As friends.

During this time period I was still in college and living with my parents in New Jersey. He was living with his two old aunts, sleeping on their couch in White Plains, NY. Once a week we would meet in Manhattan and hang out. After about a year I tried yet again to break things off for good. He went to Virginia, to stay with his ex wife and kids.

A month or so later he borrowed money from his parents and got an apartment on the Upper West Side, half a block from Central Park. He knew this was my ultimate dream: to live in a brownstone on the UWS, just like Meg Ryan in ‘You’ve Got Mail’. He said he did it for me, that he would hold onto the lease until I was able to finish my last year of college and then I could take it over.

This is what our interaction was like. I know I used him for my dream job, but he knew that and used it to his advantage. Every day I feel like an idiot and a fool and that I deserve every shitty thing he eventually did to me. I know from therapy and growth that this is not the case. But I doubt that I will ever not feel guilt or shame.

So I started talking to him again and as a result I met and interviewed more and more famous people. He got me an interview with Steven Spielberg at the TinTin press junket. The same day. he also cornered me in that hotel hallway, yelling at me in front of other journalist how I was a child and embarrassing him. But then I was able to interview Peter Jackson, Liam Neeson, and Winona Ryder. I got to hug and tell these filmmakers I adored how much their work meant to me.

 

It was a constant whirlwind of chaos. One moment Filipponi would suddenly start screaming at me in a Starbucks leaving me mortified and crying. I hated him and wanted to run away. But there was always one more interview, one more breakfast at the Waldorf Astoria with Oprah and Lenny Kravitz.

My parents despise him. The one time he met my mom, he showed her a photo album of his tours in Iraq, including dead bodies. My friends were at first charmed by him and the promises of the grand things he could do for them. But slowly all these friends disappeared. He told me the girls had tried sleeping with him. He said the guys were trying to fuck me. He hated my family and routinely trash talked my parents and siblings.

I should have known better. It eats away at my insides. I should have known better.

 

At a Christmas party in December 2011 with Filipponi.

I moved to Manhattan in September 2012 after I graduated from college. I had my very own apartment, separate and away from him. A year passed with the same ups and down, the endless fighting and celebrity filled days.

In 2013,  I fell on an escalator. My arm was in a cast and I couldn’t do things like climb into my loft bed or carry my laundry down to the basement. So I had a choice: give up living in Manhattan and move back to NJ. Or move in with Filipponi.

If I had moved home I would have been a failure. I would just be another one of those girls who “couldn’t make it in New York City”. I thought I would rather kill myself. So I moved in with him for a year.

That third year of knowing him was the worst year of my life. Filipponi was the biggest piece of shit. He always said he was going on job interviews or check ins with the military. But I would come home from work and see him sitting on the couch in the exact same pajamas. When I asked him about it, it caused a fight.

He told me I was lazy, a naive little girl who didn’t know anything, that I was getting fat, that nobody on the Internet would think I was attractive anymore because I had let myself go. I would sneak out to work in the morning to leave without having to talk to him. He only slept on the couch, since he had insomnia from his war PTSD. Thank god.

He had routinely invited girls he “knew” from the Internet –  friends of his – to sleep over. And that I should go stay with my parents for the weekend or else I would make them uncomfortable. I told him how uncomfortable that made me, and how I was being kicked out of my own home. He said I was being rude and a horrible person for not putting “our guest” first.

I could go on for days. You wouldn’t believe the crazy shit I have seen this man do.

Meanwhile, my pain management doctor told me he wouldn’t treat me anymore unless I was seeing a therapist for my obvious depression. My therapist wanted to have Filipponi come with me to therapy. I refused, terrified of how he would deny everything I said.

This horrid person would scream at me that I was pathetic for having to see someone about my “non existent” problems. He would yell and accuse me of trash talking him to my therapist. He said I was a piece of shit because I didn’t know how to love someone. That I was the one making him fat because I created such a negative environment. The list goes on.

And I believed him. For three years he had gotten into my mind and soul, convincing me that the “love” he was giving me was the only thing I deserved. That I was a nothing. 

At one point, I broke up with him yet again and went to stay in NJ. That night he texted me a picture of the inside of an ambulance, no caption. Later, he said he was in the hospital from a heart attack and asked if I could go back to the city to take care of our cats. I did, to find him sitting on the couch. He said the heart attack was real and that they released him. By this point I was tired of his utter bullshit and I was too exhausted to argue back.

Everything he ever said was a lie.

He was mad I didn’t call out of work to go to an event with him. So he told me he sat next to Tom Hanks at the ‘House of Cards’ season 1 premiere. He gave me a notebook with Hanks’s autograph in it. (It was fake.)

He said he once had a threesome with Adrienne Curry and another girl dressed as Slave Leia at a comic book convention.

He would steal from nearly every store we went into, because he truly believed he deserved it.

I remember all the places I cried on the Upper West Side. The front steps of that white painted brownstone on 75th street. The Starbucks next to the Beacon Theater. The diner where I would eat alone after a fight that left me leaving the apartment in angry tears.

He would tell me how much of a push over I was. How spineless and worthless I was. But when I would try to defend myself against him, he said not to stand up to him, he wasn’t the enemy.

He would grab me by the throat, thumbs in my mouth, and push me into a couch out of frustration. Afterwards, he said it was my fault. That I had raised my hand to hit him and he was only protecting himself. 

That is a thing this man has done. 

Time and again he would be evicted from an apartment he was living in. In the last one, where I lived too, we were evicted and I had no idea until it was time to figure out how to sneak all of our shit out in the middle of the night. I had been paying for the utility bills, the groceries, his cell phone – with the deal that he was paying the rent. He obviously was not. Filipponi once scammed a girl we had met out of $10,000. I saw her write the check myself. It was for “stock” in his website. He also would call his parents living in Florida, asking them for money. Telling them that it was to pay for my medical bills. (bullshit) So I thought that’s how he was paying it. He certainly wasn’t making any money being a journalist.

Casually, I began to mail my stuff back to NJ to “keep it there” so that I could “stay with my parents for a few weeks” while he sorted out a new place to live. He threatened to hurt my cat if I didn’t sign a lease for him for a new place. I was 24 and scared for my life. So I did. (He never paid that rent either.)

My parents never knew. Nobody ever did. I was too prideful to admit that I had gotten myself into this situation. It was my mistake and I was going to clean it up by myself. My parents believed me when I told them I had finally had enough of the city and wanted to move back to NJ. I broke up with Filipponi one last time over the phone, safe and far enough away from him. I changed my number and blocked him everywhere online.

In a recent  NYTimes story, “Cat Person”, readers were explained how obligatory sex on the women’s behalf worked. I had no idea other women felt this way until I read that story. The sex I had with that monster was because I was afraid of what would happen if I said no. It wasn’t “rape” because I never said no, but I had wanted to.

I saw a 5th pain management in October 2017. This doctor told me that I had a protruding disk in my spine from a past injury. The only neck injury I had experience was from Filipponi. When I spoke on Twitter for the first time in detail about what this man had done to me, a friend of mine found Olivia. She was tweeting openly about the damage Filipponi had done to her.

Olivia told me that writing about what happened to her helped, so I should try it. Pietro raped Olivia a year ago. No amount of writing can cure the guilt I feel for not speaking out about what he did to me, in hopes it would have warned other young women off. Women like Olivia. I could have protected her.

#TimesUp and #MetToo is a trend right now. Part of me feels that I’m a fake by throwing in my horror story because it’s “all the rage right now”. But no. The only reason I am even capable of imagining putting this out on the internet is because of all the women who have told their stories before me, telling me it was safe to finally talk about it.

Pietro Filipponi is a sociopath, a thief, a liar, and a rapist. I now know that everything he ever said to me was him just projecting his own insecurities, like a fucking child.  If you come across him and Google PIETRO FILIPPONI to find out about him- this better show up. Because he is someone you must stay very far away from. He is currently pretending to be a RAD Systems instructor. (The Rape Aggression Defense System. Isn’t that fucking ironic.) Olivia and I have both contacted them and they are investigating this further.

 

There is a bench outside of the Museum of Natural History that I would sit on in the middle of the night in the dead of winter, sobbing after a fight with him. I was alone, I would be freezing, constantly asking myself how the fuck did my life end up here? Years after leaving New York, I walked by the museum with my current boyfriend, Steven. I paused and ask him to sit down next to me. I started sobbing. I told him how many nights I had spent on this bench, wishing that there was someone out there who would one day love me and make me feel safe. That I needed to sit on that bench with him, just for a moment, while I felt safe and loved. And maybe this feeling would travel back in time to that version of me curled up on the bench to let her know, the bad guys don’t win. Not if we continue to stand up to them.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. Thank you for believing me.

For an update, read the post published 12.30.2019 here.

*Name has been changed

** 2019: during upgrades all previous comments on this have been lost, but they were all from other victims of Filipponi. You are not alone and you can reach out to me at zoe@bookishbelle.com to share yours in a safe space.

Goals for 2018

The first week of 2018 is coming to a close and everyone is still thinking about their new year’s resolutions – if you are guilty for not keeping them or sticking to them stubbornly. I’m of the latter and succeeding in the ones I have attempted.

  1. Continue to eat healthy!

    • On January 2nd I started the Whole 30 program, as I mentioned previously, and I’m on day 5. Up until today I had no cravings and didn’t think it was a big deal. But the “bomb cyclone” blizzard that hit the Northeast this week has turned the Jersey Shore fucking freezing and today all I wanted was a hot chocolate and apple pie. I didn’t give in though, and begrudgingly ate the sugar free bacon (there’s sugar in literally everything) and chicken stir fry. Which leads me to…
  2. Learn to cook

    • It’s been 6 months since Steve and I moved in together! For three years I packed an overnight bag and stayed with him on the weekends, which made meal planning too big of a job to me. That was my excuse but then for 6 months we didn’t cook either in the new house. Lots and lots of enjoying the local eats in Asbury Park. But between that and all the delicious food at the cafe I run, it was taking a toll on me. Hence Goal 1. Anyway, we have cooked at least one meal together everyday this week from scratch. Only whole foods, nothing processed with sugar or dairy or soy etc. I’ve done more cooking in the last 5 days than I have in the last 5 years. I’m learning. I’ve learned that I can plan meals for the week ahead and go buy all the ingredients – and fucking cook them. What a novel idea. I would kill for some bread though.
  3. Keep track of all the movies and television shows I watch

    • So far I’ve only watched 2 movies and no shows – listened to a few more podcasts while shoveling snow though! I kept track of all the books I read in 2017 and I loved seeing all that I accomplished and absorbed. So now I want that for all the media I experience in 2018.
  4. Learn how to properly apply eyeshadow

    • I’m turning 28 in a few months (what the fuck?!) and I still think I apply eye shadow with just a lot of product all over my eye lids. Super Hot Topic circa 2003. Not good. I will learn this year though.
  5. Read 50 books

    • I read 36 books in 2017. I hope to crush that and read 50 this year! In order to help keep me on track with that, I offered to review books for a friend’s website and requested a bunch of ARCs (advance reader copies) on NetGalley.com. I hope you see a bunch of book reviews from me in the near future!
  6. Get my motorcycle license

    • This is the big one! Until shortly before I turned 25, I swore I would never get my driver’s license. I had lived in New York City after college, I never needed to learn how to drive. But then I met a guy off of Tinder and stayed in NJ and *shrug* I figured if I wanted to keep getting laid I would have to drive to him once in a while. So Steve taught me how to drive stick and I bought a liquid yellow Mini Cooper and now my car is my favorite thing in the whole world. I would whole heartedly become a stunt car driver if I could afford the insurance. I went from being terrified of driving to loving the thrill of maneuvering corners and respect for my adorable little car. Steve has several motorcycles and he loves it. I figured what scares me that I would actually love to know how to do? Ride a motorcycle to the beach. Why the fuck not. All it takes in NJ is to get your permit and take a three day course with your test at the end. I’m going to wait until April or May when its a bit warmer out. But I’m determined to get my license by the end of 2018.

These are my goals. Tweet me or comment or smoke signal to let me know what yours are- I genuinely want to know.

 

“And so, life in the Shire goes on, very much as it has this past Age…

There’s currently a snowstorm bustling outside here in Asbury Park, NJ. My cafe is closed and Steve is working from home so we are bundled up by the fireplace with our dog Barney. Four days into 2018 and already things are perking up from last year! I’m cuddled on the couch with some tea and will finally get around to taking down our Christmas decorations today. Here are a few things going on in my part of the world:

Wellness

I’m currently doing the Whole 30 challenge after starting on 1/2/18. Here’s a link to the official website but in short I’m not eating any processed food or bread/dairy/legumes/sugar for 30 days. I did this for 3 weeks back in July before my brother’s wedding and so many people complimented how healthy I looked. But since taking over the cafe in August, I’ve had unlimited access to bread, gourmet cheese, gelato, and lattes everyday and while I enjoyed every second of it – it really caught up with me.

This time around, I prepared like mad. I bought every single Whole 30 book, including the daily journal, and for Christmas we asked our families to give us cooking supplies. Cookbooks, a spice rack subscription, a KitchenAid mixer, and KitchenAid utensils – Steve and I have been cooking WAY more than we ever did before. One of our goals for 2018 was to cook and Whole 30 has motivated us to conquer that one. Steve isn’t doing the program with me because it would be cruel to subject him to a month without bourbon, where as I don’t drink alcohol at all. (Not because I’m against it – I run a cafe with a full liquor license! – but booze mixed with my anxiety meds makes me puke hardcore.) Steve is being VERY supportive. He used to be a CrossFit junkie and I’m grateful for his experience on living a healthier lifestyle.

Whole 30 isn’t hard if you prepare and give yourself the right tools. Am I having fun? No. I would kill to be able to put Splenda and milk in my coffee right now or have pizza delivered. But cravings are fleeting.

Mental Health

I’ve mentioned it briefly on Instagram & Twitter that depression has been keeping me feeling “bummed out” as I have been known to describe it. There are different kinds of clinical depression of various levels but I’m still hesitant to call it that. The first time I was diagnosed with depression was because I was living with an abusive ex boyfriend. All I did was go to work and sleep. My life right now is worlds away from that time in my life but somehow that nagging, heavy weight on my chest won’t go away. I can’t seem to get out of bed until the very last minute before I have to leave for work, and when I get home I just want to stay on the couch and read. At work I’m unmotivated and I’m becoming a pro at fake enthusiasm.

It’s probably a mixture of my anxiety, seasonal depression, and nerve pain flaring up because the temperature is so low. Whatever it is, I’m acknowledging it and doing everything I can to push through it – like Whole 30.

Watching

The best house rule we have in our home is no TV. Theres a television in the guest room that has hardly been used (except for random football games and a Stranger Things binge) and I love it! Steve and I come home after work and want to spend time with each other that doesn’t involve mindless shows. He is on his guitar for hours every night. I’m reading or watching Netflix on my phone, which I don’t count as television because it’s a conscious choice to watch a specific thing.

Currently I’m almost done with “The Last Post” on Amazon Prime. It’s about a British post in 1965 in Aden, Yemen and the families that live there. It has the same aesthetic as ‘The Crown’, which I loved, but ‘The Last Post’ is more gritty and intense. It’s one of the better historical fiction type shows on a streaming service and if that’s your thing, check it out for sure.

Reading

I want to scream it off my roof top: YOU SHOULD READ THIS BOOK ASAP. “The Enchanting Life of Adam Hope” by Rhonda Riley set the bar pretty fucking high for 2018. It’s a historical fiction novel set during WWII about a young woman, Evelyn, who falls in love with someone quite different from us. It might be considered science fiction, but only in the way “The Time Traveler’s Wife” is scifi. “Adam Hope” has beautiful prose that pulled me into the story immediately and left me in a fog thinking about the characters when I wasn’t reading.

The passionate love story between the asexual character A and Evelyn had my heart aching to be near the person I  love most. Everything was well written, from the character development to the scenic landscapes, to the sex scenes. I bought the Kindle edition after reading the description in my daily BookBub newsletter (seriously, if you own a Kindle and on the hunt for a good deal, BookBub changed my life. 90% of the books I read last year were recommended by them). Right now it’s only $10 for the paperback and $7 for the eBook on Amazon.

I finished it last night and I’m still in a haze over it. I’ve tried picking up half a dozen books to read today but none of them fulfill the void “Adam Hope” has left me in so I should wait another day or so.

That’s all for now. I really want to blog again this year. The last two years I haven’t had the motivation to do so because I felt like my life wasn’t as exciting to other people as it once was. But I 

still have words & ideas dying to pour out of me. Plus I now live in the best little city by the sea and I can’t wait to tell you all more about Asbury Park.

Happy New Year and stay warm!