Italy - In the Face of the Face (pt 3)
A night off.
Keith and I took Diona to the airport (Big Po'Girl
show in Vancouver. Booked months in advance) and
thought about driving to Corregio to catch Neville's
show at the prison wine bar but even our inner drunks
were tired and thinking about the next five shows.
Robert Altman died today and they showed Nashville on
Italian television. They would never have aired it if
he was ALIVE. Sorry. Guess I'm still on my Honour the
Hosts gone to bed. Fire dying down.
Maybe tomorrow I won't eat all the cheese.
Chocolate gorganzola pasta (You only need to try that
once) at a restaurant where semi-famous men were
eating huge plates of raw meat. Played at Nidaba which
was the club we went to to see Gurf and Sam play when
we first arrived.
There was a man there that takes photos of everyone
with no film in his camera. Conceptual.
Joy and Paola, who I met last time, came ands and took
actual pictures and Serena brought her one armed
friend. Keith and Python were awesome but I was
missing Diona little bit. Or a "leetle beet" as they
Everything in Italy seems convoluted and mysterious to
us Canadians. It frustrates Keith considerably. When
Angela haughtily announced, "You have arrived at your
destination", we were pointed at a farmer's field in
the middle of nowhere. I've played some weird places
before but clearly this was not the venue. We phoned
the guy from the club to find out where we should go
and he tells us it's the Prima Estella Hotel only
there's no way we'll ever find it because it's not
really called that and it's not on any road with a
name or in any town (!) so he'll come and meet us at
the gas station.
The gas station is crammed and busy and probably the
most stressful place on earth to meet someone.
Especially if you've never met them before and don't
know what to look for and have no way of knowing if
you're even at the right gas station.
This is the weird part. In Canada, there's always an
address. In Canada maybe they don't feed you and
they'll probably rip you off a little at the end of
the night, but there's always an address!
A man appears at the Kia's window waving for us to
He takes us back to the place we thought it might be
and tells us to check in and rest and that another man
will come back for us at around seven to lead us to
The desk lady wants our passports. I look at Keith but
he tells me it's normal.
We chillax in the room watching creepy Italian game
show television drinking birra.
The club is an A.R.C.I.- pronounced 'archie'- like
Locomitiva- Your basic socialist/communist
collective obligatory picture of Che Guevara behind
the bar kind of joint.
Eight mangy dogs lurk around outside. I want to
befriend them but they all seem a little weird. The
club is a big square room with no heat. A couple of
guys are there already. One wants to give me his CD
and be my myspace friend. He feels like the first guy
you meet when you change high schools. the one with
the desperate eyes who wants to 'get to you first' to
show you around and 'warn' you about the others. He
speaks English very well.
Keith and I are nervosa about our recent duo status
(Diona's gone, The Python had to work) so we
half-jokingly ask the bar tender if he knows any
guitar players, or accordion players even- any
soloistas per fevorre? The guy picks up the phone and
calls someone, speaks for a few seconds, nods and then
turns to us saying, "You are lucky. He was supposed to
go on a date tonight."
While waiting for dinner to be ready we go out back
to smoke. I giant rat runs across the alley and the
eager boy says "Oh that is a zoccola! That is a slang
word specific to this region." He then tells us that,
aside from rat, it also means whore, pussy and clog.
In Italy, EVERYTHING is either "typical of the region"
and/or slang for penis or vagina.
I am entranced with the word and write in on my hand
so I can remember to say it into the microphone a lot
during the show.
Dinner is served. Pasta for eight. I am the only girl.
It's always mostly dudes at the communist clubs. Got
me thinking about communism in general. How it's
always the people that don't have anything that are
way more into the concept of sharing than those that
do. And how the communist club owner invariably comes
from a rich family. We clink our glasses together in a
toast that the eager guy explains means "In the face
of the enemy!" I look at my wine glass and ask Keith
"What if the wine IS the enemy?" and he said "Well
then we're drinking in the face of the face!" which
became the cheers of the night.
When they brought out the salad (Thank Christ!) a tall
bald young guy came in carrying a Marshall amp. Hmm.
This could go either way. He came and sat with us and
we introduced ourselves. Nicola (Ni-COAL-a). Total
sweetheart. Studied music in London. Speaks English.
He made a few comments that let me know he was gonna
be an awesome guitarist.
The show goes well. The place filled up. Nicola is
amazing and turns on a dime. He plays a really worn in
Telecaster in that loopy kind of Mark Knopfler way,
like my friend Phil, that works really well with my
songs. Keith played great. It was kind of nerve
wracking because everyone in the place was a musician.
Went out to visit the dogs in the break and met the
most beautiful girl I've ever seen. Elaria. Studied in
Boston. Spoke English. Into music.
After the show I was standing at the bar with the
original eager guy and a second eager guy when this
other guy comes up to the bar, orders a drink and
starts reading my palm. He's pretty cute so I'm kind
of into it. He says, "You are an artist and you'll
never have to worry about the future..." And I'm all
swoony and patting my hair going, "Really? It says
that?", even though back in the day, when I ran out of
money when I was living in London, I used to put on a
head scarf, sit outside Camden Station and pull that
very scam. "There is a lot of discrepancy between your
head and your heart etc"
So the first eager guy fucks off disgusted but the
second eager guy, who has known me a shorter amount of
time and is therefor still eager, grabs my hand and
says to the palm reader, "If you are trying to find
out what she is by looking at her hand, you need only
do this!" and flips my hand over to reveal the word
"Zoccola!" in flaming ballpoint.
Rat, whore, pussy, clog.
I do okay when I'm the only girl in a dimly lit
smoogie bar at the end of the night.
This is my second trip to Italy and up until now
nothing, except Arcola I suppose, has really looked
like the Italy of the mind. Things are surprisingly
modern and we've been staying in the suburbs which are
never pretty. I mean, aesthetically, Italian suburbs
kick the ass of say, Vancouver suburbs with all the
box stores and pre-fab houses, but it's not the image
you'd conjure upon hearing the word "Italy". Salerno
is it. On the water, old old buildings, narrow cobble
stone alleys, those cool marble buttresses that hold
the buildings apart from each other that some people
live in, a pedestrian street of shopping and cafes.
This is Italy baby!
Angela was in a mood today. She kept interrupting The
Family Guy episode we were watching to say, "Watch for
fog up ahead, two hundred metres." Only it wasn't
foggy and she'd never mentioned the weather before.
Maybe I pushed a button...
Everyone in Milan and their dog told us, if we were
going to Salerno not to leave anything in our car. I
wondered if it was a North-South ignorant fear thing
like 'those people down there are all thieves and
maniacs who'll kill you for a cigarette!' or if it was
a real concern like East Van.
The club is another A.R.C.I. but a small fancy one.
It's in an alley that you're not permitted to drive
down. So the guy from the club meets us and we unload
the gear and he takes us down to the water to a pay
parking lot and he says "Don't leave anything in your
So maybe it is a real problem.
He then takes us to where we're staying for the night.
He calls it a 'Hotel' but I see the tell-tale tree
symbol from when I was eighteen in London and it's a
goddamn youth hostel.
My mind conjures images of sharing the shower with
dread-locked Australians, toast crumbs in the
margarine tub at 6am, bed bugs and well, eager
youthful backpackers. Most troubling is if we play
until two and they kick us out at 10, that's no sleep
which doth make a bitch quite cranky. And I'm already
there. Also, I am basically experiencing what can
best be described as a nosebleed of the cunt. Haven't
been able to find any protezione so am basically
shoving toilet paper down there and praying that I
don't leave it behind anywhere when I stand up. Neko
has a theory that as you get older your body gets
angrier and angrier for not having children. I think
it's more like it gets more and more unbelievably
painful each time so that eventually death will be a
At the hostel, they take our passports and
fingerprints and we cross through a giant piazza with
columns and a fountain to the elevator.
The room isn't bad. There is a bathroom. There is a
toilet seat. Two tiny hard beds and some bunk beds.
(For our son Nicola. We had convinced him to play the
Salerno show with us.) The window opens onto
beautiful building tops and the ocean.
I know that both Keith and I are eyeing the bathroom.
I do the honourable thing and leave him to it in hopes
that he will return the favour.
I go down the alley to the water, crossing through the
joggers on the boardwalk. It looks kind of like San
Diego. There's palm trees.
I go down to the water. I want to get in it so bad but
no one else is. There's some old plastic bottles
washed up on shore and I can see some stray cats are
living in a pile of driftwood, but the water itself
doesn't look too bad.
I take off my shoes and socks and wade in the surf and
it's magic. I walk along the shore wondering if
everyone is thinking, "Stupid foreigner" or "How
delightful to witness such a beautiful sense of
childlike freedom in these modern times" when the
smell hits. Like dirty diapers or mouldy coffee
grounds or a toilet maybe. I am trying to identify the
smell when a used condom washes over my toe and then I
realize that where I am standing is where the sewage
comes out. Just like back home in Victoria where I
never walk the dog. Ugh.
So I have to put my socks back on to fit them into my
boots and my feet are all sewery and sandy and I HAVE
to have a shower stat. I go back to the room and
Keith is passed out on the bed. I thought he might
leave when I got back but I guess our deal was all in
my head cause he ain't moving. Fine. I bring all my
stuff into the bathroom because I'm going to stay in
there a long time. I get undressed and I'm covered in
blood and sewage and open the shower door and am just
about to turn on the water when I realize that there
are no towels. Fucking Hostels. Hostiles. I suppress a
KeiteIian scream, get dressed, take the elevator
downstairs trying to remember the Italian word for
towel and approach the front desk. A young man is
working on a computer smoking under the non- smoking
sign with his back to me. I can't remember the
Italian word for towel so I ask him
in English and he disappears for ages before coming
back with one thin white towel. I go to grab it but he
tells me it's 4 Euros. Fine. I toss him a fiver
thinking that If I have to pay I won't feel half as
bad for what I'm gonna do to that towel and start to
He tells me to wait and starts keying in data to the
computer. He wants my room number and passport info
and there, is of course , a receipt to be printed. I
am sighing heavily and throwing my head back like an
outraged American movie star. Can't a bitch just take
a fucking shower in this country?
(You know, I've been reading this book Amy lent me
about this guy who raises three abandoned bear cups in
a cabin in Northern B.C. and compared to him, my
complaints now seem bourgeois at best but I think that
the definition of Hell is when it's ALMOST perfect.)
I take the elevator back up and lock myself in the
bathroom, take off my clothes and get in the shower.
The shower is tiny. It's basically a raised platform
with these sliding hard plastic dealios that sort of
join in the back. It barely fits a body. I am just
about to turn on the water again when I realize that
there is no soap. I let out a long silent
"FUUUUUUUUUCK" and then I realize that I have some
olive soap in my bag that I bought for The Maintenance
Okay so back in the shower, pull the curtains together
and the shower head is one of the hand held variety
but there's nowhere to hang it so you have to hold it.
Okay so soap up first and then rinse I guess? I drop
the soap and reach down to get it but the shower is so
small that to bend over, I have to open the doors to
accommodate my ass. I feel like Lucille Ball only
I stay in the bathroom so long that eventually Keith
knocks and asks if I am all right.
I whip open the door fully dressed and made up with
all my sewage-ey clothes washed in olive soap and hung
to dry. He seems impressed with the laundry.
We hit the town. Heading down tiny alleys until we
find the pedestrian shopping street and eye the shoe
stores and cafes and it feels so good to be walking.
End up at an outdoor cafe for snacks and vino where
homeless people keep trying to sell us weird things.
Flowers, ceramic lions. I want to tell them that I'm
just barely one step away from being one of them and
then I think about the fucking KIA with the GPS and
the back warmers and that I'm at an outdoor cafe in
Italy and holy shit, am I a fucking yuppie? Maybe
everybody thinks they really don't have much. I REALLY
don't have much. After England, I have much less then
nothing which makes me very uncomfortable. There but
for the grace of the mother Visa go I. But whatever,
Salute! You only live once right? In the face of the
face! The show went well despite the weird
microphone. Very directional. Only this one spot the
size of a nail head would produce any sound and so if
you moved it would feel like your voice was giving
out. Very unnerving and not so satisfying but we made
it out alive and paid in full which is saying
The hostel, of course, threw us out at 10am despite
our heroic efforts to treat the matter of the knocking
desk clerk with "ignortion". He was wise to us and I
suspected that this technique had been tried there
Said goodbye to Nicola and drove like madmen to Arcola
to catch Neville's show. He said we could play with
him and we arrived in time for dinner and they fed us
all and the show was awesome and after we all sat
around a table playing guitar and singing songs.
Andrea, the owner was singing all these sad Irish
songs. He lived in Scotland when he was younger and
had the time of his life. Fabio took us home with him
after the show. I'm supposed to send him a pink capo
when I get home. What's really funny is that I thought
he said "I vant a beeg cowboy" and I was like "Yeah.
Me too! Let's catch the morning flight to Alberta!"
but it turned out it was the pink capo he was after
and I already have one of those.
Woke up after a car-crash coma style sleep and walked
to 'town' in my slept-in funeral clothes in the bright
sunshine back to the scene of the crime in time for
lunch. "American Food Week" was officially over. We
had pasta con olio y aille, fromaggio, insalata, vino,
espresso, grappa and indoor afternoon cigarettes with
The Owner and The Python and Neville and Keith and
then drove through The Cinque Terra (The Five Lands)
with all the tiny twisty roads, vertical villages and
terraced mountains where the trees and stuff look like
they came from an H.O. train set.
The shows are done but
I'm still here counting down the hours. Neville just
went into Milano for a beezness meeting and my host
family's gone to Palermo for the architectural exam.
I'm staying here hogging the vacant house. Alone at
last. The Italians don't believe that people ever want
to be alone. It takes some fancy dancing to escape
their clutches. My neck is sore from nodding and
smiling and at my most paranoid, I suspect the
Italians are feeding us so much to fatten us up for
the final cannibalisto festa!
Or maybe I don't have to eat everything...
The guy that booked the tour is coming by later to
collect his fee. Ah well, At least they let me hold
the money for a little bit.
See you real soon,
Thank you so much for looking up the buses. You're an
angel. And I'm so glad it was you that told me of The
Vampire's fate. It would have really sucked to hear it
from any one else. I mean it totally sucks but I'm
glad it was you. I sort of don't believe it though
because everybody knows vampires live forever. I
guess I should probably stop calling him that.
Poor Neville. He came home with fancy wine from Milano
for us and after a mere one bottle, Andrea sent the
e-mail about how much money he was gonna take from us
and then I called you and heard The News and sort of
started bawling like a Broadway actress just as Andrea
pulled up in the alley to take us back to that weird
place in Brescia place which didn't exactly cheer me
When I hung up the phone, Neville saw my face and
asked, "Do you want me to be nice to you?" and I said
"Fuck no!'". So then he said "Well then pull yourself
together woman and I'll give you a hug later!' which
was kind of awesome. God bless the stiff upper lip.
(By the way, the Croatian girl still has her job!)
Couldn't help thinking how much The Vampire would have
fucking HATED that place. At the end of the night I
had basically turned INTO him. Howling like a wounded
animal at all the hypocrisy and horror.
Later on, I got to see Neville snap. The band was sort
of brutal for two song writers to have to sit through.
Like taking chefs to McDonald's or something. But
Andrea and Python were digging it and every so often
they'd look over nodding and smiling at us and we'd
have to cease our elaborate "kill me now" pantomimes.
And after the third hour Neville, who is the most
relentlessly positive chin up go-towards-the-light
person I know just fucking snapped. He was crying into
his napkin over his pizza, which, by the way, looked
like a meat graveyard.
Yup. Stayed at the party too long once again.
Anyway by tomorrow night all this will look like
something I want...
Pulled an all -nighter in London. Spent some time at
Luten airport then caught the 1:45 bus to Gatwick. Was
having the best dream when I was awoken by the bus
driver shaking me saying, "Souf Terminal luv?"
Spent a few hours waiting and hitting the Bailey's
display in various disguises. It was on special at the
duty free and they were giving out free samples.
When I was going through the X-ray machines, this kid
started screaming, "I want my Louie! I want my Louie!
I want my Louie!"
The big dark security man had taken her doll and was
going to run him through the machine and he leans over
and he has these great big caterpillar eyebrows and
garlic breath and says "Louie vants to go through the
tunnel!" to the kid who starts really freaking out. "I
want my Louie! I want my Louie! I want my Louie!"
The kid was sort of voicing every body's feelings. It
made me kind of misty. I mean nobody really wants to
take off their boots and surrender their stuff and be
herded like cattle, it's just something you resign
yourself to as you get older.
This is an actual conversation that went on inside my
head on the plane:
Voice A-"Look at you. This cannot continue. Maybe you
have to get a job."
Voice B- "You can't get a job! It's all computers
Final assessment: Guess I'm into this music thing for
the long haul.
The Home Stretch
Made it to Vancouver and the Honey Sisters came to get
me in the Mad Max Volvo and there was wine and
vegetables and everyone was speaking sweet English and
I was so grateful but then then the next day, still
had to get back to this fucking island. There's a rule
that for some reason, the trip back to Victoria will
take however long the trip to Vancouver was and the
Volvo won't start when it gets wet so we pushed it out
of the way and dug the other car out of the snow but
then ran out of gas and got stuck and had to push the
car and got a snootful of slush when the tires grabbed
and wet feet and missed a ferry and then finally got
on the five and then the bus and to the liquor store
because they seized my wine at the airport in Italy
because it was obviously some sort of terrorist juice
and there, outside Big Bad John's, amidst the smoking
hobos, was Tolan looking kinda wobbly and I was
getting out of the taxi in midnight blue fur just back
from Italy and it felt so weird, so I did the
honourable thing and pulled my hat brim down
hoping we didn't see each other.
Got to the Maintenance Man's house and when he said
something about ladies and drinking, I somehow
accidentally took a bite out of my wine glass.
I think the trip home was a little stressful.
I apologized and he said, "Well I only have them for
you" which I thought was quite sweet.
Practised my new hobby of passing out mid-sentence.
Tried to get my stuff all the way home the next
morning but couldn't scrape the ice off the car or get
it to move so walked home contemplating the epic task
of moving out.
Decided that as usual, finding a box of money would
definitely take the edge off.
Also decided that even though I'm broke and it's
stormy and I might have to move, It feels so good to
be home. I'm going to watch movies and do dishes and
dust and do all the normal stuff normal people do just
to get along!
The Last Resort, Victoria, BC