If you are an American abroad, and want to vote, you need to get organized early. Go to www.votefromabroad.org and fill out your paperwork, then send in that paperwork to your election commission in your home state, and they’ll send you an absentee ballot. If you’re in Italy, this will take forever. Be prepared. Democrats Abroad is an allegedly bi-partisan organization who organizes a few afternoons leading up to the election where you can take your freshly-arrived ballot in person to a downtown location, and they take care of delivering same to the Embassy.

Those are the logistics.  After that, keep your eyes peeled and ears perked for invitations to Election Night parties.  If I weren’t affiliated with an American university here or on Twitter, I probably wouldn’t have known about any of them. But thanks to these connections, I found out about two competing parties. I chose to go to the one that didn’t cost 35 euros just to get in (which I later heard was cancelled anyway for unknown reasons).  Instead, I reserved for the party going on at the Roadhouse Grill in the Testaccio neighborhood. I planned to meet a couple of friends there, an American girl and an Italian guy who had lived in the States for awhile.  It was free to get in, but there would be a buffet American breakfast served from 2 AM to 7 AM for 20 euros. I was sure I would buy it.

Recall that Rome is six hours ahead of the east coast. So at 11:00 pm I hopped on the scooter and buzzed down along the Tiber River towards Testaccio.  I had never been to a Roadhouse Grill before. Or an all-night expat party. As soon as I had parked, realized I was way overdressed. I had imagined it would be a bit of a swanky cocktail party, full of men in cufflinks and women in diamonds. I don’t have any diamonds but I wore my little black dress, heels, and my best vintage costume jewelry. Instead, the place was a brightly (like operating room level) lit room with buckets of peanuts and everyone was in sweatshirts and blue jeans. Which was fine, of course, I just felt totally overdressed.

What I saw as soon as I parked.

I saw my friends and met some new friends there, which was very nice and we had a great time chatting. The atmosphere was extremely partisan, all pro-Obama, which is to be expected. Actually, maybe it isn’t to be expected – don’t any Republicans live abroad?, I wondered.  Millions and millions of people voted for Mitt Romney this year, but from everything I see in expat groups online, and in person at this party, none of these voters is in Italy. It seems like a statistical improbability. Make whatever joke you want about all the Republicans never leaving getting out of the “flyover states” or whatever, but millions of Californians and New Yorkers voted for Romney, too. Maybe they’re all in hiding (in their mansions – ha!).

The room is about to erupt in cheers.

Anyway, this is my personal opinion that I don’t expect or care that anyone else share: I found a lot of the cheering and hooting and hollering (and booing when states went red) a little unnerving. Maybe it was the party atmosphere and beer that encouraged it, so maybe that’s ok.  But, several of the candidates I voted for won that night and a few lost, and I didn’t fist pump or despair over either one. This is the worst economic period of my lifetime, some of my friends have husbands fighting in very long wars, others of my friends can’t get married at all, no one can agree or compromise on health care or taxes or immigration, and I still get nervous when I fly. Do I think some candidates have better ideas than others? Absolutely. But all I can do is pray that the best man or woman wins and that time and cooperation. will heal all our wounds. Something about the Superbowl atmosphere and cheering as the results rolled unnerved me.  (For the record, I have no doubt that pro-Romney parties, elsewhere, (in America as I do not believe there are any out-of-the-closet Republican expats in Europe), were booing as the results rolled in, which I would find equally unnerving.)  OR…maybe the party would’ve been boring without all the jubilation. OR…maybe I was just tired.

This was great: Early in the evening, a Marine stationed in Rome sang the American national anthem. We all stood and put our hands on our hearts. I saw one lady tear up, which I thought was silly until I teared up and almost completely lost it.

Partying til 5AM with girlfriends used to be…different.


After a few hours of fun and peanuts, something strange happened. Several hours into the event, I bumped into a fellow whom I dated back in 2002 for about 7 months. He’s the only ex of mine on the planet that I truly cannot stomach. Everyone else is more or less a friend and welcome in my home. I must be seriously psychic, because earlier I had a feeling this particular guy would be there that night, even though I have not seen him since 2004. He’s Italian, but was always obsessed with America and American politics even though, trust me, he doesn’t know the first thing about it. So it made sense that he would be there, I guess, but why he popped into my head pre-event for the first time in years is a mystery.  Anyway, there he was. He has not held up well, to be frank, and meanwhile I was suddenly glad I had worn the little black dress and heels. That’s an immature thing to say, but it’s an honest one. He was shocked to see me. The last he had heard, I was in law school in a far away land called Georgia. He was even more surprised to find out I am not visiting, but living in Rome again. Our conversation lasted all of about three minutes. My friend there with me confirmed that I played it really cool, but said that he seemed beyond uncomfortable. And he has good reason to feel uncomfortable. His “family business” still owes me (and about a dozen other people) thousands of euros (that we will never, ever get).

Moving right along, I was totally pumped for the buffet breakfast!!! Almost everyone who knows me knows how I feel about breakfast. When I am in front of a judge or somewhere where I feel like crying but must not cry, the “happy place” I go to in my head is the buffet breakfast at the Four Seasons in Shanghai, visited back in 2006. My eyes are rolling back in my head just thinking about that smorgasbord of delicious breakfast delights. Anyway, I love breakfast even if it’s just a good cappuccino and croissant.

As soon as I arrived I saw cooks in the kitchen preparing bacon and pancakes. YES! It has been months since this breakfast lover had anything other than cereal or rolls.

The verdict: It was… okay, but alas, it did not live up to my high expectations. For 20 euros, about 30 dollars, I got pancakes, bacon, sausage, and eggs. Doesn’t sound bad, but it was all beyond salty (the pancakes were ok but the syrup was like water) so we were all dying for some fruit to go with it, or yogurt, or something to cut the salt. I don’t mind the price per se, because this restaurant has a right to make money in exchange for staying open all night for us, but next time, please…some fruit!!!

Salt with a side of pancakes. Fabio couldn’t believe it when I told him we throw the peanut shells on the floor.

At about 5 AM my friends and I were just really tired and wanted to bounce outta there. Obama’s victory had not been announced but it was clearly imminent – no more suspense! In fact, as soon as I got home, I turned on my laptop just in time to see the announcement! No matter what “team” you’re on, it’s an exciting moment. My mom was online and we Skyped about it for a bit, and we both remembered when we were on the phone all night with each other on Election Night 2000. We wanted to be “together” (we were in different states) when the brand new president was announced, and we kept thinking that as soon as we hang up, they’ll announce it!  Of course, it wasn’t really announced for weeks.  Anyway, we thought it was cute that 12 years later, we were Skypeing late on election night.

And then to bed! Followed by waking up at 1 PM the next day and 2 more days of election night jet lag.  Faith in the American Republic intact! Love for pancakes undeterred!

Where were y’all on election night?