Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Pisa: Where Even the Tower Leans Left

I’m not exactly sure why, but last minute, irresponsible decisions have always appealed to me. To this end, I recently embarked upon a journey. The backstory goes like this: I had been thinking about going to visit my friend Benza in Pisa. Talking to her online late one night, I decided to do it. The next morning. So, about six hours after making my decision, I hopped on a train and my journey began. Of course, I’ve always loved the idea of just disappearing, so I didn’t tell anyone.

Six hours later, I arrived in Pisa. I followed the street to where I knew Benza’s house to be. At that point, it seemed prudent to call her and inform her that I hadn’t been joking the night before. She was a bit surprised and informed me that I was crazy.

We then hit up the famous sites of Pisa. These included that tower that’s falling down, some cathedral thing, the Jewish cemetery where people do drugs and the carefully manicured lawn where the high school students go either to play soccer or have sex, depending on how many of them there are and how they’re feeling on that particular day.

We returned to the comfort of Benza’s house where her mother was in a rage because of the broken water heater. Despite her anger, she was very kind and cooked us dinner, spaghetti with pesto. Of course, she assured me, I’d never had pesto before. I shocked her by informing her that we actually make pesto at my house in Idaho every year. Thinking I’d found some common ground, I was pretty content. She, however, just seemed confused. How is it possible, she asked. I told her all about how we grow our own basil and garlic and all that. When asked where we grow our basil, I responded with a simple ‘in the garden,’ which I thought was pretty clear. At this point, she sighed with relief. ‘Oh,’ she said, ‘that’s not real pesto. You have to grow it in a small town just outside Genova.’ Despite how much this appeased her, I was a little upset that my parents have been lying to me all these years about what we put on our pasta.

To further my education of the real world, that night we went out. Going out in Pisa is what I would call a unique experience. Pisa has the most interesting people ever. Despite never meeting Benza’s next-door neighbor who was a retired prostitute, I was lucky enough to meet the other grand characters of the town.

We headed to the Piazza where all the young people, communists, and hobos hang out. It was here that I encountered the first character, ‘That hobo that hits everything.’ Benza’s friend, Giulia, calmly pointed him out to me and we watched as he weaved through the crowd hitting anything that came within reach, be it table, backpack, or child. He then headed to his home, a cardboard box right near our table which was nicely decorated for the holiday season with some random stuff hanging on the wall.

We returned to the same beautiful piazza the following evening, this time also in the company of Benza’s friend Saverio who had just come from a massage class. Upon first meeting, he was visibly upset. He explained that after a demonstration of a breast-massage, the teacher had decided on Saverio as the object of his ass-massage demonstration. The poor kid was so traumatized that he could barely speak, but once he did, we got along famously. He even told me about his acting career which included a brief foray into the field of film as a naked extra in a beach scene.

All that I’ve told you up to now, pales in comparison with what happened next. We met a celebrity. He’s a far from successful musician/hobo/comrade who played a fairly important role in Italy’s communist movement. His name is Pino Masi and he has an enormous head. Luckily, he didn’t discover that I was an American capitalist pig. In fact, he took quite a liking to me. He decided to talk to me, and almost exclusively me, for a good half-hour. The only problem was that he had not one, but two fairly strong accents (that of Pisa, and one from Sicily) and was fairly drunk. I did my best to understand and when it seemed like he wanted a response, I mirrored whatever he was doing. This made him happy and he proceeded to tell us all about the glory days, sell us a cd, and then ask us for money. We passed the rest of our evening having a great time in good company.

The next day, after grabbing breakfast around noon, Benza walked me to the station and I grabbed the train back to Pavia. Upon my return, I had to explain myself and my disappearance to my friends. They thought it was strange and irresponsible, in a word, Keith.