I’ve had some time to recover from my Italy withdrawal, and when I woke up this morning unjetlagged and not craving an immediate carb fix for the first time in a week, I swung around in bed, planted my feet on the floor and thought, “Good, back to normal.”
(I was going to follow that up with, “Then I cried.” But I didn’t. Like I said, things are back to normal. And the norm for a situation like this – albeit rare – is to suck in all your emotions and bottle them up until it forms a lump in your chest, like a little, deadly kitten nestling into the bed of your heart, until finally you can’t take its incessant pawing anymore and someone reaches in front of you in line at the deli to slap 50 cents on the counter for a newspaper and you “accidentally” spill coffee on his arm because you can’t take it anymore. And then you cry.)
Unlike other addictions like gambling and heroin, you can’t cure an Italy addiction by feeding it. If I am someday going to be thrown in jail, I want it to be for something cool (like armed robbery), not because I violated the immigration laws of a peaceful European nation. Despite the Keanu Reeves film “A Walk in the Clouds,” you can’t just take a job on a vineyard, marry a woman pregnant with another man’s baby and call it a life. It’s not that easy.
But that doesn’t change the fact that Keanu Reeves gives a monster performance in that film as a functionally retarded American serviceman, nor does it change the fact that Italy is just a better country. Either they’re doing something right, or we’re doing something wrong, or those things are mutually inclusive, but (pardon my French) America sucks. Sure, the United States has freedom and reality television and fruit smoothies (which are wildly underrated), but if you look at the big picture, you’ll agree with me. Consider:
1. YOU CAN’T GET DRUNK. I blame most of it on altitude (it seems you are constantly walking up some hill or another), but the fact of the matter is we drank non-stop. I’m not saying like, “We drank a little with lunch and then with dinner, too.” I mean like drinking wine is what you do when you aren’t doing anything else, and it’s also what you do as a compliment to whatever you are currently doing. It got to the point where my friend Scott was so frustrated he gulped down an entire glass of wine, screamed, “Why can’t I get drunk!” then smashed the glass against his head and vomited in a bush. It’s frustrating.
2. RIPOSO. This is the Italian version of the Spanish siesta, or “midday rest,” or as my Dad refers to it, “Why the hell is the grocery store closed again?” Generally, stores are open from 9:30am to noon or 1pm and again from 3 or 3:30pm to 7:30pm. This is merely a suggestion, as most shops in the smaller towns are closed for about four hours in the afternoon. When you think about it, it is a genius plan. Businesses don’t suffer, because there are no customers anyway. And all shops lose the same amount of business because they are al closed at the same time. Really, the only victim here is Italy’s gross domestic product. And no one really cares about that because they’re napping every afternoon and drunk every night. It makes the framers of the Constitution look like idiots.
3. No Genocide. I know that America technically doesn’t have any genocide either, but it’s still an awesome characteristic for a country to boast. It gives Italy a cache that a country like, say, Darfur just can’t compete with.
4. WOMEN. Not that I am in the market for one, but if you are you could do a lot worse than date-raping your way through the Italian countryside. The women are beautiful and seemingly slow-witted (they don’t even speak English). Moreover, flirting in Italy is much different than it is here. Maybe it’s the language barrier, but you will get nowhere with a girl in Italy unless you look her up and down with one-eyebrow cocked and then scream in her face, “Desidero sentire l'odore dei vostri capelli,” which roughly translates to “I wish to feel the odor of your hats,” or “I want to smell your hair.” You should also learn the lines, “How Catholic are you?” and “You are my ticket to citizenship!” Also, they all look the same, so be sure to somehow tag the one you are talking to so you don’t lose her in the crowd.
5. GEOGRAPHY. If there’s one thing America doesn’t do enough of it’s build cities on mountains. It got to the point where you would stand there a thousand feet up staring out over vineyards and rolling hills and be like, “Oh, another scenic overlook.” You don’t realize how much you take it for granted until you come home to your “balcony” that overlooks “the back of other buildings” and at night when you sit out there drinking scotch and looking up at “the star” you think, “I wonder if ‘Wife Swap’ is on tonight.”
6. POLITICS. I have no idea what Italy’s politics are. I don’t even know if they have a leader. I think if there are ever any matters of international importance, Italy rounds up one fat, bald guy from every city and sends him with a case of wine and some gnocchi the consulate in question and that’s that. There are almost no policemen and seemingly no crime. But it makes sense, because who is going to car-jack someone when they just finished a bottle of Chianti and a huge plate of rigatoni? No, you do what everyone else is doing and you sleep the afternoon away. Which is exactly what I am going to do right now – sleep and dream of a better life, just like Keanu Reeves.