Katarina, like most of my friends here in Italy, is unemployed. She was employed – personal assistant to a famous actress in Rome – but that actress be crazy and Katarina, who has a master’s in Linguistics, wasn’t about to be scrubbing no toilet bowls. But there’s a crisis on right now; vice-tight here in Italy, where the employment problem was bad enough to begin with. She’s hardcore looking for work – first, was looking for translating gigs or university jobs but now for almost anything – but apart from a few interviews and flirtatious company heads, nothing has come up.
So Katarina’s gone back on unemployment; waiting for that magical check from the government. And it would be great if she could get it, too… except for the mail. Because the mail doesn’t come.
Paolo – who is my neighbor, who runs the hotel across the street – has built a cinema in his home up in the mountains. There are speakers in the walls and a great big projector up in the ceiling, and then the movie screen, that rolls up into the ceiling like a murphy bed. It took Paolo years to save up for the project, and then some more time to actually enact it. A labor of love; for months, his Facebook wall showed pictures of construction and then, finally, triumph. And now, thanks to Paolo’s hard work, we all have a personal movie theater for our movie nights.
Pizza and wine; Swiss chocolate and Paolo: I don’t want to suggest a movie because I know that if I do, right away Katarina is going to shoot it down. And Katarina: That’s not true; I’ll watch anything. But the only movies in Paolo’s DVD library involve men avenging the death of their wives; blood and guts; so we watch those, dubbed in Italian. All foreign movies get dubbed here, and the few times I’ve suggested to my friends that we watch the films in English with Italian subtitled they’ve reacted in horror. Paolo says: Denzel Washington! Denzel is the maximum! Big Denzel! and I can’t help myself from asking: But how do you know?
So years ago, in another life, I worked retail at an antique shop in SoHo. This was many years ago, before living in Japan shook all the tardiness out of me; when I habitually strolled into workplaces and classrooms and restaurants 10-15 minutes late: The train, the bus. Grand Central was crazy. I couldn’t get across town! Never, Sorry – I was cocking around on AOL and Friendster. But I digress.
One time I actually had a really good excuse for being late to work. Sure, I was already running a few minutes late but, back then, my 19 year-old legs were up to running from Chinatown to SoHo and I’d have made it, too (!!!) … if the elevator of my dorm building hadn’t gotten stuck between the 12th and 11th floor. It took the dorm’s handyman at least half an hour to free me from the clutches of the death trap, and I finally made it to work, flushed and wheezing – The elevator got stuck! I was trapped! I couldn’t get out! - only to meet my boss’s cool gaze. Really, she said. Stuck in an elevator. I see. And a couple of weeks later, when she fired me: You just don’t know what you’re doing. You’re clueless. Get out of my store. And don’t get “stuck” in the elevator this time.
But I did get stuck in the elevator. Honest! Try telling that to a middle-aged control freak who’s practically hurling Victorian hat pins and 1950s Head Vases at your head. But I digress… again.
Yesterday, to kick off Carnevale, Flora, Katarina and I made plans to head to Pontecorvo for their annual Carnevale Parade. Instructions were to meet Flora at her house, where we’d all go together in her car. I usually pick up Katarina, who lives high up on a mountain between my apartment and Flora’s house. And I tell you, thanks to Japan – thanks to being forced to write apology letters to my boss if I was even one (ONE!) minute late to punch in, thanks to missing trains if I was ten seconds behind schedule – I’m never late anymore. The same can’t be said for Katarina, who runs on Hungarian time and called Flora from the passenger seat of my car: We’re coming, we’re coming! Look, there’s no reason to get so dicked off; you’re always late, too! We’re on our way!
And then, just as we were rounding the corner to Flora’s house… it happened. The best excuse ever for being late. This time, I got proof:
Because some things sound silly even when they’re coming out of your own mouth.
So one of the things that I do while I’m driving around town and having Daffy Duck moments is listen to the radio. It turns out that there are about ten songs the DJs play over and over… but over and over. Like, turn on the radio and it’s 100% guaranteed you will find one of these songs, only to flip the station and find another.
Now, listen. No one obsesses like I do; ask anyone who’s ever lived with me and they’ll be quick to tell you that when I like a song, I will play only that song for the next three days. Ask Diego, who once hurled my “Karma Chameleon” single out the car window. Ask Momo and Erma, who had to suffer through my “Livin’ La Vida Loca” and “Danny’s Song” phases. Is it the fact that these songs are played over and over on the radio that bothers me? Of course not. It’s that they play them over and over and that they suck. Especially that they suck. Absolutely that they suck.