Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Verona, Italy

Tonight, seven Italian men, all over 50 years old, got me drunk. That's right, I stumbled into the right bar on a Tuesday night innocently looking for a snack and a glass of wine; instead, I ended up having four glasses of wine, plenty of snacks and it was all on the house.

When I walked into the bar, three men were already congregated and speaking loudly to each other. I was ordering a slice of pizza in broken Italian when one of the men came up and translated for me. He said he spoke English fluently, had traveled around the U.S., and . . . where was I from?

While he and I exchanged basics, more men gradually entered the bar, each individually, but obviously all friends by the way they greeted the others. I soon realized I was in for a treat - a real glance at the culture. For the next hour, glasses of wine flowed; yelling and shouting and hands flying everywhere played out like a street theater before me; and "cheers" and the clinking of glasses occured to an exaggeration.

I was formally introduced by my translator, Antonio, as "la Americana" and "Jessi, as in Jesse James;" whereby the men immediately swung out their fists in the shape of a gun. Yes, yes, that's right.

"OOoooohhhh, americana, bella . . . . . . . . . Obama!"

"Obama . . . magic wand . . . tink tink tink," making a gesture to imply Obama's power on the global arena. "Obama, you like?"

Yes, yes!

"HEEEEEYYYYYYYYY, your glass is empty . . . we need a-full."

Two men are running the show, arguing and flailing their hands to make clear their point of view, while the other men sip wine and observe the ruckus with smiles.

"Comunista!" "Democrata!" "Vaffanculo!" "Bruto!"

My translator tells me they "are talking very vulgar now, but they like each other. This is normal. We are all friends."

One man comes up and shows off his English-speaking abilities. "I say chu are verrrry intelligent. She know what I am . . . . . " (lost in a drunken gaze)

"saying" (my translator finishes for him).

"Ehhh, dont-a speak-a for me."

"No, no, you say it wrong. . . . eh, dont-a break the balls . . . to my friend."

Time for another "cin cin" or "cheers" (in English), even though no one has a new glass of wine. The two men who are the stars of the show continue to shout across the room in Italian, and I listen in hopes of understanding a few words.

"They just say a-fuck." "EH! (yelling at the two men in Italian) mind the americana in the room."

That doesn't stop them and I am glad. I finish the glasses of wine as quickly as one of the men orders me a new one. I have no idea what they are yelling about, but I know this is all in fun. We pass over an hour together - me smiling and adding in the few Italian words I know, and them proceeding with their ritual Tuesday night entertainment in the bar on the corner. By the end of the night, we all say goodbye in Italian and I am the last one to leave. They ask me when I will be back. I tell them soon. It's quite possible.