Monday, February 15, 2010

Italian Escapades: My 18th Night of Mayhem in Italy, Gone Native in Carnevale, And Other Assorted Excitements

For my 18th night in Italy, I went to see The Wailers in concert, smoked Italian doobies, got caught up in a front-row mosh pit, touched 3 of The Wailers and got an autograph, ran across a 7 lane highway on the way home and was almost hit by a speeding moped, jumped some Jersey (Sicily? Do you think they would be called Sicily barriers over here? Is Sicily the Italian equivalent of New Jersey?) barriers, and coined the term "Unholy Cannoli." Just another day.

Robin and I got to Flog Auditorium (quite roughly the Italian version of Higher Ground-- same size, same atmosphere, but much more relaxed, in fact, non-acting, security,) an hour early, and stood in possibly the most miserable weather conditions I have ever waited for doors to open. And I waited outside for Busta to start in just a t-shirt last April in Vermont.) It was damp and drizzling. The trees dripped down on us. I went to go find a beer to find to improve my general disposition, and was greatly relieved when I got back to find that whelp, this being a Wailers concert, it was incredibly easy to score some weed. So score away. Also, once inside, our early arrival resulted in center-stage spots 1 person back from the stage. And this put us right inside the center of the cloud of smoke as the audience proceeded to hot-box the auditorium.

Second-hand smoke at concerts has got to be one of my favorite things. I love getting high on other people's time and money. So sue me.

If I had questioned it previously, I now know where I can find every Italian man I find attractive: At a Wailers concert. From dreadlocked, to hipster, to the young Italian Johnny Depp look-alike who was tripping on E and loved everyone and everything with a sort of infectious child-like humor that reminded me of the bastardized lovechild of Devendra Banhart and Russel Brand, who I spent the 3 hours of the concert pressed up against (3 hours well spent), it was a collectively attractive and fun crew. Until some of the drunk soccer boys and tripped-out electro-scene girls thought it would be a cute idea to start a mosh pit.

Now, there is a place and a time for a mosh pit. At an alternative or punk or metal show, yes. If you're seeing ICP or Sick Puppies or MOP. If you're under the age of 18. If you're a 185 pound man over six feet. But if you are a 125 pound woman under five-foot-four, mosh pits are not fun scenes. Losing my Gianni Depp in the melee, I locked myself to the jersey-clad back of the soccer boy in front of me, and shoved elbows back into the bodies that crushed up against me, fighting to keep standing. (First rule of mosh pits: DON'T FALL DOWN. Unless getting trampled seems like a good time to you.)

However, this mosh pit succeeded in pushing me even closer to the stage (literally back-humping this poor boy,) so that I was able to A.) touch the lead guitar, B.) Shake hands with the keyboardist, and C.) Get an autograph. So. I can't say that it wasn't a huge pain in the ass, overall.
Cabs were nonexistent from the concert, so Robin and I hiked the 2 miles back to our apartments. Thanks to the weed and the drinks, I couldn't feel my knees (long story short: years of horseback riding and jumping is not conducive to good cartilage in your knees, which is not conducive to all the walking I've been doing here, which results in massive amounts of pain and me hobbling like some of the black-clothed bubbies here), which came in handy for the sprint across the 7 lane highway in which a speeding moped nearly mowed me down, and again when we had to jump two lanes of concrete barriers to get across said highway to our street. Robin nearly drank from a dog's water fountain in the park. I had massive munchies and was trying to convince him that it was a good idea to go to the Secret Bakery to get "Unholy Cannoli" and "Debonair Eclairs." I thought it was HEE-LAR-IOUS at the time. The next morning when I woke up, very slowly and fuzzily and in lots of pain, I was really glad he put his foot down and said no.
Saturday morning found me waking up at the ass-crack of dawn at 5:15 (after going to sleep at 3:30 AM) to pack, have a quick wake n' bake session, and get on a bus at 6 AM for a weekend in Venice. I was able to buy gummybears, my favorite munchie food ever, at the rest stop, took pictures of the sunrise, and slept some more before walking up and stumbling onto a boat to Venice. It was also a good thing I slept through most of it because I have realized something: If I die while over here, it will not be from a kidnapping/rape/murder. It will be because of Italian drivers. Take a Boston driver. Make him snort copious amounts of speed. Perform a partial lobotomy. And then put him behind the wheel of a BUS. That, my friends, is terrifying. And I am living in a country full of them. Crossing streets and getting in cabs and buses and the such. I am literally playing Bussian Roulette.

This is what you need to know about Venice: It is easily one of the most beautiful, unique, and creepily romantic places in the world. It is so old and seeped in popular lore that at night, when lights reflect on the moving water in the canals, you will believe without a doubt that you are in a Poe story. Especially if it happens to be Carnevale, and all of humanity is running around in masks and costumes in Italy's mashed-up version of Halloween, April Fool's Day, and prom. I bought a mask, and my roommate Raquel, Robin and I took to the streets at night to find a restaurant featured in Bon Appetit and get in on the fun. We ran into a desk of cards, a set of bowling pins, an army of walking garbage bags, sperm that I ran away from, and some attractive young Ghostbusters that had it all over Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd. As soon as I heard the theme music coming from the boombox one of them was carrying, I was off and running toward them, camera flying behind me. They were young, charming, funny, friendly, sweet, and tolerated our photo shoot with them. In short, they are my new best friends. Almost everyone we met, excluding only the really drunk twenty-something men who only approached Raquel and I to ask if we were with Robin, as in, if he was our boyfriend, and walked away when we quickly repeated "Si" a few times (Robin was big pimpin' that night, fo' sho'-- male friends make the best joint bodyguards/decoys), was incredibly nice and friendly. More English is spoken there; less cigarettes smoked. Carnevale is basically one big, deliciously decadent and light-hearted romp. I was so glad I got to be there, and am definitely going back again at some point in my life. Actually, I would live in Venice for about a year, easily. I fell in love with it, even more than Florence.
My un-Valentine's Day was perfect. I tried to remember what I did last year-- I think a Girl's Dinner and then I went home, smoked straight to my face, and passed out early-- but it is one of those many Lost Memories. (This hints very strongly that smoking copious amounts of greenery was involved, even if dinner out was not.) This year, we were on tour boats to Murano and Burano and Venice for most of the day, and once we got to Venice, Robin, Raquel, Brian and I ran off to find calamari and a gondola ride. The gondola ride around sunset was easily one of the most un-romantic romantic things I have ever done in my life, (squeezing my gondolier's biceps included,) and as we took the tour boat back to the bus station (after almost missing it and being stranded in Venezia-- not the worst thing that could happen, in my opinion,) the sun set in rainbow hues with a blood-red, huge sun setting on the horizon. Blissful couples were unapparent. We took the bus back to Florence, and I crawled into bed with Pineapple Express, Baci chocolates, and more gummybears before passing out. In other words, unadulterated, Single Girl bliss.

Looking back, I find that I've been surprising myself numerous times. Probably one of my favorite things-- surprising myself. Usually, I am exceedingly hard to surprise. (See: Jaded. Cynical. Guarded.) Usually, I would die to be actually (positively) surprised. It just doesn't really happen for me. But there I was, finding myself surprised as I watched a hand-- my own hand-- reaching for the door of a cab last Thursday night. And like an out-of-body experience, leaning in, and asking the cabby in pidgeon English/Italian if he could take us to Flog Auditorium, and for how much. There I was, forefinger and thumb pinching a tight little jay as I inhaled while listening to "Everything's Gonna Be Alright." There I was, dancing with a room full of totally chill strangers and listening to the late, great Bob's songs in a cloud of haze. There I was, drunk on wine and life by 2:15 PM. There I was, in a gondola, looking up at the golden light on marble palazzos. There I was, flirting with a Ghostbuster holding a leafblower. There I was, eating some of the most delicious ravioli in a butternut squash sauce with sugared black truffle in a restaurant that Bon Appetit called "the best in Venice." There I was, flying by the seat of my pants, running from cars and mopeds and for trains and boats and buses, asking absolute Italian strangers for directions and tickets and ganja and photographs and phone numbers and recommendations. I'm living a charmed life, I know it, and I'm grateful for every moment of it.

I am finding that I am doing nearly everything I said I wouldn't do in Italy. And it's thrilling. The moment I stopped sweating it was the moment the world opened itself right up to me.

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