Copy Queen Papers, part 1.1

17 marzo 1996

DEAR WHOEVER HAPPENS TO MISS ME (or perhaps to broaden what might be a tight squeeze of a category...), that is, DEAR WHOEVER REMEMBERS WHO I AM:

(The colon is a mere formality—until the age of forty or so, at which time it becomes a dangerous and unsympathetic companion in life, but I digress)


I was alarmed to discover that yesterday was National Letter Day in Italy and I was caught without a single letter to mail. I was further alarmed to discover that with mild translation I was just as funny in Italian because they are very sarcastic people (but they call it ironico. Huh! How... ironic).

And now coming to you from the circolo secondo near beautiful downtown Milan, six stories from the pavement above the Viale Beatrice d’Este... the LETTER!!! That’s right, I fully fucking used three exclamation points and all caps. What you wanna do about it?

I’ll fight you all.

You know I was going to edit this heavily but there’s no point. You might as well have it straight from the tap, as it were. He says my coffee’s too strong / so like the rest of his life he waters it / down and down in some sorry world / he never had no reason / too many limp wrists and hair sprayed heads / they’re filled with nothing / but what’s been said / before / and I keep thinking this ain’t excuse for a reason / and I / keep thinking / where’s John Doe when we need him... So for the feint (faint) hearted, don’t read on. There’s dirty words and things in here that are contrary to a benevolent universe (like bad grammar: there’s = “there is...words”; what a jerk). For the brave or self-torturous individual, please, it’s all yours, have at you. Let us go then you and I... we the intelligensia / of this the land of anesthesia-

For the “I hope Ashley is Miserable” Club there is sundry news, some of which is covered by doctor/patient privilege. For the “I hope Ashley is Getting Rich” Club there are some hopeful notes. For the deportation squad—well, the clock’s ticking, keep your fingers crossed. For those who thought Strunk and White might affect my grammar, punctuation or elongated and often redundant or prolix diction practices: fuck you. (was that short and complete? I can never tell. And is it really possible to be a pedant and prolix... if it is I guess I’m there, baby) For those who thought autumn colors might be in again before it is spring, I’ll take that bet. For those who remember how I said Milano was hot, well, I was high at that time, it’s freezing and the humidity doesn’t help, and yes, for those who were racing ahead, I packed poorly. Ha! And lastly for our largest group, the “I hope Ashley is Getting Laid” Club we have a diverse fantasy life that from five thousand miles away may as well be truth, so ladies and gentlemen, start your salivary glands. Actually the true story about my partitive (I use this word purely for vocabulary humor) week is too strange, and the night before I left was interesting... but the truth is that the truth is I wouldn’t know how to tell it all.

Ho fatto un grand giro di tutto Milano. That is to say. Sono stato perso per circa tre e mezzo ore, e ho andanto come un pollo senza testa con troppo pauro domandare per direzioni. That is to say in my somewhat grander than pidgin English... I got lost two nights ago trying meet some friends in a bar (il Bar New York Juleps, io credo). I made a grand tour of the whole second circle of a rather largish town for close to four hours and while walking like a headless chicken I was too scared to ask for directions, until that four hour mark, and midnight, were looming on the horizon. Then I sucked it up and tried to speak Italian for the first time without help. I got home; I guess I’m some sort of prodigy (Dig if you will the picture: “Dov’è la viale Beatrice D’Este?” “Sinistra? A dietro? Dritto? Dietro? Scusa? Qua?”). Then my pals picked me up and we went out anyway. I had the Quattro Stagione, the four seasons pizza. You’ll be happy to know that I was in nice shoes so my feet were not bleeding when I got home. I walked in ’Burque one night until my shoes were full of blood, but that was another time, altogether. THAT WAS ANOTHER TIME. You chumps, I’ll bet you didn’t do it. Ah, but back to the narrative. Hell, you thought I was long winded in person, see what happens when no one can interrupt me. Anyway, before I was so rudely interrupted by that gag... I was wearing new comfy shoes so my feet did not bleed for walking fifteen miles around Milan after dark. My blue jeans however were brand new. The tag inside the leg wore a hole in my thigh. “Ewwwww...Sick!” was that Jocelyn?

Let’s see, I had an interview tonight. Possible employment in a family home. I have the feeling I want this job more than I realize. Because you see, I haven’t seen so much marble since the last time I was at the Uffizi. Lumina is a dump compared to this house, man. Although the decoration was in bad renaissance... neither Corinthian nor Doric, some uneasy blend of the last centuries’ uneasy blend of them. Also, they just turned on the Tyson fight. I think they don’t even check the pay per views, they just pay, in case they happen to view. Three rounds, poor sonofabitch. Did anyone think ten to one odds were fair? I wouldn’t have touched that action until it went fifty to one. And even then I only would have done it on a bet. What?

Have I been swearing in this letter? Yeah, well what are you gonna do? Sì, beh, che farai?

The flight was joyful. No one talked to me. Praise be to God. My neck... well, it’s okay now and there’s no point dredging up that unpleasantness. The Alps, though. They deserve mention. They are pretty mountains and they are covered in snow. Banking around them after flying over Orleans, the vapor trail right outside my window... nice stuff.

The girls. Well, what I can tell you. There’s Stefania, Cristina, two Givovanas, two Biancas, Ana, Angela, Emilia... but I can’t be expected to do more than that during my first five days for Godsakes! It’s the jetlag. It’s not me! I’m not a machine. Why can’t you accept me for what I am?

Hey, tell my sister happy birthday, huh.

I quickly learned the word «sciopero», strike. This word came into play the night I was lost. The subway workers happened to be on strike that particular evening. An asian woman was standing in front of a padlocked entry saying «Sciopero?» But I also learned the next day that the seriousness of strikes in such a corrupt land is light. They go back to work before the demands are met. They only strike for a day or two at most. Apparently this increases everyone’s appreciation of them. Yeah, it’s working for me. The soccer players are on strike as well, this has thrown the bookies into tihsies. They can’t figure out what to do about games they already made book on. But it’s probably only going to affect one week. Even soccer players follow the unwritten code of the sciopero. They only strike one game. Might have worked well for baseball.

I played trivial pursuit last night in Italian. That was interesting. I was like the fat kid when they were picking teams. “You take him.” “No, you.” “You brought him.” Of course on our first turn (which was last in fact) we garnered four pie pieces. No one was bitching then. It never occurred to them that someone who knows who Sirhan Sirhan capped might be more valuable than someone who knows the biggest piazza in Italy. And I fuckin’ nailed the Marco Polo question too. Ha!

I finally understand martinis and olives. And I have discovered a great love of the olive as a consequence, or as an apperatif. If I ever hear anyone order a Gibson I will punch them in the throat. I guess I’ve found religion.

There are a lot of breasts on teevee here. I don’t mention this for any reason except that I wanted to fit breasts in this letter, so to speak. I was in fact held captive at lunch by a doctor demonstrating proper breast examination technique on a somewhat lovelier than ordinary patient in a designer skirt and nothing else. The lighting was excellent.

I started a twenty minute argument the other night which I could not participate in but enjoyed nonetheless. I briefly outlined American politics and Pat Buchanan and my opinion of the status of the Constitution... blah, blah, blah. Hey, they fuckin’ asked me, okay. I was trying to keep my mouth shut. At which point Alberto and Emilia had a knock down drag out, in Italian, over whether or not Italy was a free country. Alberto arguing the con. He of course, like all healthy male Italians, performed two mandatory years of military service. I don’t think he even brought this up in the argument.

These people drive like muslims in a queue for an Ayatolah’s funeral. But, unless the proverbial coffin spills, it works real well.

The food. Suckers! Oh, just for instance, tonight Bianca made us a mostaciolli in a cheese and artichoke sauce, with mashed potatoes (they claim copyright on this side-dish to my cultural alarm), a very nice bread, a lot of even nicer white wine, and spiced rabbit. Whoops! Did I leave out desert? Well, it wasn’t fancy. Just baked pears in cinnamon and some sort of hybrid of tapioca and custard, the name of which escapes me. I shan’t relate the other nine meals I’ve had here lest you be the type inclined toward ritual suicide. I will not be held responsible. But suffice it to say that gnocchi and me have a close personal relationship now.

For the mandatory naïf in the crowd I feel compelled to divulge at this point that is no such thing as National Letter Day in Italy.

For the mandatory insomniac I am forcing myself to bed. It’s after three and the girls are calling and I have to meet with some sort of billionaire from Bari or something in the morning.

I will lavish you with my brave tales from this fabled foreign land. Like how there’s a Fagotteria on every corner. Man, I’m telling you, I’ve been looking around pretty carefully and I think this place is full of Italians.

-Fine primo tempo-

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