Monday, September 14, 2009

Something old, nothing's new (a few good men)

(MH) The thing is, I can understand Italian with about a 85% success rate. Add to this my ambiguo-ethnic face (my ma would disagree: 'Monica, tienes el nopal en la frente.') and the fact that I can speak just enough Italian and you get way too many episodes where I have to take English back out to make someone mercifully stop Italianing at me. The adorable older couple at the train station at Vernazza, who generously said I made myself understood and that was more than enough. The sweet woman who sold me my new gorgeous handpainted cameo ring (I've been looking for one I loved for about three years. YEAY!) who generously insisted I had a Tuscan inflection to my bootleg Italian. The taxi driver a few nights back who thought, because of however I said where we were going, that I would know how to get back to the hostel. I don't mind the compliment, obviously, but all this has meant that I've decided it's about time I turn my fake Italian into actual Italian. I'm especially looking forward to being able to have covert conversations with my sister, Maria (a.k.a. Mo).

But back to Italian episodes. We left Firenze and the Luna Rossa to take the train to Roma, but not before a quick pitstop to say goodbye to Marco Margarucci, the one and only owner of the Luna Rossa and several other hostels in downtown Firenze. This is important to say: Marco rocks. And not just because he's a Scorpio and I'll always have a crush on a Scorpio even if all he says to me is hello. Marco also rocks because he is the high-five master. When he checked us in and lugged BOTH of our toddler-sized backpacks down the stairs, several blocks down the street, and then up the stairs to our room -- to punctuate the meeting: a high five. In the cafe (degli Inocenti) where we might have spent several hours talking instead of scouring the streets doing sightseeing-y things, to show his pleasure at having run into us: a high five. And that last afternoon, to say goodbye, after saying he'd find us on Facebook: a high five.

Marco just turned thirty and was shy about saying so. He didn't know he was talking to peers. "It's just that, you know, with this job, I always meet the 18, the 19, the 20. And I used to be, when I started. I was twenty-five. So they stay the same, twenty, twenty-two. Cause you know, college ends and then that's the big trip. But they are still that old and now I'm not that old." Ain't that the troof.

Although we might have gotten off the bus a few stops early, we made it safe and sound to Hotel Lodi, our home while in Roma. The super decent gentleman (Persians really do have beautiful eyes) who checked us in let us know that they weren't sure if we were gonna show up, so they gave us a private room instead of the mixed room we actually reserved, at no extra cost. Thanks again to Venus for taking care of our housing needs :) After a quick change and a quick face, we ventured out to see what exactly Roma had in store for us.

We decided to aim for dinner in Trastevere, one of the main areas to go out in Rome. If I remember correctly, I had gnocchi melanzane e salami and Johanna had something I don't remember. The gnocchi was eggcellent -- and I have really high standards for gnocchi. But these were the perfect size, smaller than the beasts they serve you in the U.S. and more tender, with less obvious shape (cause they're handmade, ya see?) than dem oder ones as well. After dinner, we took a stroll around the neighborhood to take in the sights.

The nighttime sights in Roma are not exactly the same as the ones you might focus on in the daytime. At night, in all honesty and with no prejudice, the most beautiful things to look at are the people. It's possible our focus was on the inordinately sculptured faces of Roman men. How exactly to put this...god I don't even know. I feel like Johanna trying to talk about the sunset from the Ponte Vecchio. They could have all walked out of a magazine, first of all, for their clothes. Second, they have not exactly swagger when they walk, but a shoulder twist of sorts, as though they know, to be kind, they should grace you with every angle, just in case you missed it a second ago. I'm not even one to super gawk when a man looks like someone spent time and time chiseling to make it this good (I'm more of an internal flutter and silent sigh kinda cat). But you just have to here. Cause it's obscene, cause it's too much. Like honoring the food for its achievement. Someone, somewhere, achieved that basically every man who walks by looks damn, but damn good. Whew.

In one of my side glances, when we were almost about to throw in the towel, a red sweater and the face that went with it caught my eye. At the same time, Johanna's fun-gut read the bar as a possible stopping point. Sure, yep, sure. We sat by the bar and Ron (formerly of L.A.; been in Rome for 19 years) and his friend (also formerly of L.A.; been in Rome 7 years, came with her two dogs and cats and a desire to be elsewhere for a few months) made small talk for a few, while the red sweater and his friends moved from outside to play beer pong behind us. "Hey Ron, are they American?" I asked. "Who the fuck else plays fucking beer pong?" Right.

Fast forward to a few minutes later, when Johanna, cause she is the best friend ever, is making small talk with red sweater's friend and I get to talk to the red sweater only to find he's about to be too drunk to keep eye contact. "I'm not that drunk tonight though. You shoulda seen me two nights ago. I got kicked out of Scholars. Twice. I don't even know why. I wasn't being rowdy." "No, you seem like a mild mannered cat." "I'm the nicest, sweetest guy you'll ever meet. But if someone steps out of line, I'm not afraid of standing up for myself. In fact, I know I'm going to. But they kicked me out and I don't know why. I still don't know why." Sigh. But. Still. You're cute and I like your story. And. You're a Scorpio, so sure, we can chat and, sure, we'll come with you to Scholar´s, which doesn't close until 4am. Turns out his name is Jayson and the love of his life is named Monica. Ha. Life, you're funny.

But what's even better than all that is that his friends were awesome. Like really really awesome. Paulie (of Staten Island) and Mike (of Boston) joined in the fun and we all had a spectacular time at Scholar´s. Yeah we partied at an Irish pub when in Rome (when in Rome do as the Irishmen, do. Right?). Judge if you must, but "YMCA", "Shoop, Shoop" came on, so we were happy as clams. And, trust, if you had danced with Paulie, the incarnation of Tigger, you would have been happy as well. -- I may have also taken a shot...please don't tell my acupuncturist, she'll be really disappointed. They are all MBA students here in Rome and have been here for various amounts of time. Mike wants to do a JD next, Paulie does accounting for some cardinals while in school and Jayson apparently just needed to make his family happy by getting a second degree. ("You know how it is. My family is one of those who have been getting a second degree forever and it means a lot to my mom, because even when black people couldn't go to school, my family was getting professional degrees. I don't really care, but I want to make her happy.") So you see, not only cute and fun and hilarious, but also heart and smart. Ain´t that a treat? We hilaritied until the bar closed, then continued on the street and Jayson and Mike walked us to the taxi stand and waited with us until one came.

The bed and I met around 530am, the sun was about to come up, and one of the oldest cities was beginning to remind me why it's a place I should live. And soon.

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