Saturday, October 19, 2013

Eleanor in Lucca
I did have the meeting with the boss of the fancy gym to discuss what could be done to help my coworker who lost a family member during the earthquake in the Phillipines. That part of the meeting was a real downer, and out of respect for all parties I can't say more. But really -- oy. So we ended the meeting by talking about Dirty Dancing and about how Eleanor, the producer and author of the film, was coming to visit us in Lucca. The boss freaked out and called his financial, legal guy in to tell him to call a press conference and get photographers and to make sure to treat our guest like a queen. I felt light as a feather when I left his office and I had a Sally Fields moment of "they like me, they really like me," but it faded away into nothing just like that. When I got home I felt terribly guilty, because maybe Eleanor didn't want a fuss or to have to work on vacation, come to think of it. F told me that he thought it would all work out. Somehow. Then again he also thought it was fine that I had invited between 40 and 100 people to our aperitivo to honor Eleanor, and he also thought it was a good idea to make individually hand made ravioli in muffin cups for 200. So maybe F is not so much better than I am in the being realistic department. Then again, that is why I married him.

Eleanor arrived and the first thing that happened is that we played restaurant roulette downstairs because we always worry that if we go to one of the restaurants downstairs from our house, the other one will feel bad. That got settled fairly quickly with one for lunch, one for dinner. While I went to work, F took Eleanor who said she didn't even know what jet lag was, to go take a walk around the walls. That being said she nodded off at the table at around five o'clock each day. After dinner at the Enoteca, Eleanor was surprised that F and T were only having the thick soup they ordered for dinner and no other courses. F had to leave her to come pick me up at work so they worked out that she would go to a second restaurant near her hotel for her main course. Oops.

Eleanor brought us not one, not two, but 12 English language beauty and gossip magazines and a badly needed package of chocolate Twizzlers, to replace the ones that we had to abandon at the airport gate in Dublin.  This is all you have to do to become the best guest ever in my book, but she didn't stop there. She surprised T at lunch with a romantic little aqua colored box from Tiffany's with a heart necklace inside that would make any girl in her right mind weak in the knees. Aside from all that stuff, Eleanor also gave me something that is without a price. She let me know that she came to Lucca just to visit us. With no agenda in mind, she just wanted to see how we really live and make sure that we were okay. And then, to top it off, she, who knows what my life was like in Brooklyn and knows me from before T was even born, looked deep into my eyes and told me that I had done the right thing by moving us to Lucca. It was a like a huge weight that I didn't even know was there got taken from me. God loves an objective third party.

In New York I was never fazed by fame or famous people. I saw and met them fairly regularly and it is super geeky to react like it matters, as you all know. But it was fun to be star struck with Eleanor. For one thing, I will never get tired of hearing conversation bits like this: "I was at this party last week and I was talking to my friend George. Do you know of him? George Clooney?" Um yes. Yes, I do. And I know he has a house in Como and that he was going to resell it, but then fell in love with Italy and kept it. But tell me again. Tell me again and again, because to me that is THRILLing. Every. Single. Time.

Also it was fun to tell people who she is. It's not like she goes around wearing a Dirty Dancing tee shirt or anything, you know. And everyone in Lucca, which is perpetually in love with the 80s, feel like the film was made with them in mind, freaks out when they hear it. No better illustration of that then when we went to the pizzeria near San Frediano for lunch. Can I tell her, can I tell her, I asked Eleanor, pointing to the sad eyed and reserved woman who runs the shop. Yes, Eleanor nodded patiently. So I told the lady from whom she had just taken a pizza order and a little light went on behind her dark eyes. I saw the gears turning in her head, tryiing to come up with something to say. Instead Eleanor asked her about if it was a family run  business and the lady talked about how she had lost her husband last year and how lonely she was. Eleanor held her face in her hands and I and the pizza guy looked at each other quizzically as if to say what in the world is happening here? Before we knew it Eleanor was telling her how this year she had to start dating again and to come back to life and the woman was nodding and beaming. It was magical.

Since no one from the fancy gym ever called me to tell me what time to bring Eleanor there, I decided to spend as little time as possible because I knew that they had prepared nothing. In truth it was almost insulting how little trouble they went to. If he asks me, I don't intend to sugar coat my report to the boss when he comes back from Madrid. What a lost opportunity for their business, for the clients, for everyone. There was a nice moment when Eleanor, wearing her sun glasses and sitting in a cafe chair at the back of my classroom was discovered by my clients and they all gasped and clapped. Some people took photos with her afterwards. Eleanor left after the first half hour to try to do the machines in the main sala while I taught. It was around 5 pm and she looked like she was getting sleepy so my fabulous friend Tiziana gave us a lift in her convertible directly to Eleanor's hotel. When I walked in the door I realized that we were deep in the weeds and that  it was unlikely the food would be ready on time. I had forgotten how hard it is to manage walking on the cobblestones when you first get here so it took a long time for F to bring Eleanor here from her hotel. Meanwhile I was frantically putting the food together as about four couples arrived on time, which never happens in Italy. Ever. I had gelled my hair back in a bun because there was no time to blow dry and T was telling me she should redo it so I didn't look crazy, but I didn't want naked crackers and a cheese smeared table to be the first thing people saw when they walked in. I was barefoot and without any idea where the wine bottle opener lives when people arrived.

Eleanor entertaining (in Italian!)

We did it!

Check out Tiziana there on the left. She was FABULOUS.

And God Bless Elena who brought us extra plates.
Tiziana showed up in a golden goddess outfit looking like a Hollywood film star and started taking trays of food around and hostessing in a way that I will never forget. It was something to behold. The house wasn't perfect and Tiziana's partner opened our laundry room door as a joke only to find that it was stuffed with dirty clothes and everything we had tried to hide, but, hey, you can't do everything. The homemade bruschetta with pea pesto, lemon crepe cake, fritata sandwiches, sweet potato and tamarind ravioli, and the homemade peporoncini marmelade were all winners. I did my best to move Eleanor around so that almost every guest got to have a moment with her. At some point I lost track. Despite all my best intentions I only got to eat when everybody left and I did the post party wrap up while stuffing my face with dumplings and leftover cake. E' andata.

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