Tuesday, May 10, 2011


118. "My neighbours seem to always know what I do," Bowser begins his fifth topic for our one-hour lunch. "The other day, one lady asked me if I was Spanish. 'Are you from Spain', she said, 'because I heard you speak Spanish.' And she lives," he puts up his hands to illustrate the distance, "two blocks away!" 
"Maybe you should speak a little less loudly," Princess Peach suggests.
"I don't speak a word," Bowser responds, dead serious. 
Taking a break from eating his borrowed fries, Hugo starts to laugh, without looking at Bowser, first quietly, shoulders shaking, then loudly, because Luigi, Princess Peach and Mario are also laughing. 
"How old is the lady?" Luigi tries to make sense of the situation. " Is she 80 or something?"
"No, no, she's probably in her 30s or 40s..." 
"Then I don't know," Luigi gives up. 
"I am quiet. Yes I work naked, but I don't make any noises...."

119. Having discussed what our roles for this week's Tuesday dinner are (appropriately, Gaston cooks, the Irish guy provides alcohol, the chubby girl gets Viennetta), Tintin moves on to the general housekeeping. Apparently, our landlord has written to him. "We can dump our stuff from the second toilet downstairs in the hallway and he will get rid of it...," Tintin informs us. "Was thinking of putting one of you down there too, you know, for the space!!"
"Zoe thinks you should get rid of Gaston, because he's the taller one and hence takes up more space," I reply, paraphrasing Zoe. 
"I do believe I am taller," Tintin quickly points out. 
I pass the information on to Zoe. 
"I know that. Is he scared I might be optimizing your apartment's space??"

120. "Imagine: you are driving in Rome." Bowser holds my hands on an imaginary steering wheel, "you have to stay in the 2-10 position all the time. Except," he makes a quick movement with his left hand in front of me, "when someone is cutting you from the left." Squinting at me, Bowser asks, "then, what do you do?"

What would I do? I would say something, I suppose, but exactly what I don't know because my Italian vocabulary consists of Come butta, amico and gelato, neither of which is remotely applicable to the situation where a reckless Italian driver almost wrecks your car. "What would you do, Cassandra?" I ask the only Rome born-and-raised at the table. She smiles, and waits for Bowser to continue with the impromptu Italia 101. "You do this," Bowser raises both hands, his open palms facing forward, slightly bending fingers as if he was grabbing someone by the shoulders. But, he apparently has no interest in grabbing someone by the shoulders. Swiftly, he flips both hands inwards, the space between his thumbs and forefingers creating some sort of a rectangle or a generic geometric shape.

"What does it mean?" I am confused. Cracking up, Cassandra and Mario make the same gesture. I glance at Princess Peach, who is also laughing, presumably thank to all her daily training with the Italian army. "It means," Mario explains in his thick Italian accent, "I am going to make your ass look like this."

Hugo is impressed. "So it's really like in the Italian movies?" he wants to know. I am not certain what kind of movies Hugo has been watching. I am even less certain about how making your ass look like some sort of a rectangle or a generic geometric shape is supposed to be a convincing threat, but the Italians, still laughing at their own national body language, seem to agree with each other.

The after-work drinks almost did not eventuate. Looking forward to some rest after the busy weekend, yesterday I had proposed the idea, not taking into account two things: the Tuesday dinner, and an unexpected email from Down Under today with a third deadline within less than 48 hours. After asking Princess Peach for a rain-check, I was lost in work, until precisely 6 pm, the intended drinking time. "Time for drinks?" came a message from Luigi. I had forgotten to tell him about the cancellation. If there is one thing that I do even worse than I parallel park, it is to say no. So I said yes, just one drink, and we would be going to the bar nearby to save even more time. Having not been to this particular place before, Hugo was skeptical, Bowser was not convinced. But almost two hours later, here we still are, sipping beer outdoor while getting to know more about the eccentric nation that seems to be passionate about pretty much everything. 

My deadline is fast approaching, and in the current version of my application, there is still a part that reads, "Say something about the tractability and applicability, which are why they are powerful. BUT THEY CAN BE MORE POWERFUL. Yes. Evil stuff." There definitely will be many long hours tomorrow, but at least, whenever I ever get around to visiting Italy and tasting the real gelato, I will know how to communicate, "I am going to make your ass look like this."

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