Thursday, September 11, 2014

Pizza in the dark
Don't ever leave the house when your tired. Yeah that is my new rule, I told T. After tonight's mishaps that is definitely my new mantra. T gave me that withering look of hers and shut it down with, "Um, aren't you always tired? You would never leave the house."

True. But I was enthusiastic about meeting my friend Patrizia and her friend Elisabetta for a night of pizza or, as she calls it, a pizzata. Patrizia met Elisabetta and the English course sponsored by the comune last year.  She has been talking up my conversation classes to Elisabetta because, like many group classes in Italy, there is little time devoted to conversation; and so while lots of people in Lucca can do English grammar exercises, not so many want to have a real conversation with you.

Unfortunately, there was a huge thunderstorm the night before that woke me up from a nightmare-filled night and I didn't get much sleep. I had a orthodontist appointment early in the morning in Prato because I lock my jaw so much at night that, after years of braces and retainers, several of my bottom teeth have started to turn, and I need a night guard for my teeth to correct it. After the appointment, F and I went to the Mercatino to buy a mirror for the living room. After that I crashed for an hour and woke up groggy. Patrizia doesn't get out much and she won't go out in a strong rain, so I wasn't sure that pizza night would happen, but she called me to confirm.  I hung up with her and hopped in the shower. Afterwards, I frantically dried my hair with a towel so she wouldn't yell at me about catching my death of cold and got ready to go. I felt a little loopy from the start, but happy that we would be seeing Renata at her pizzeria.

What you have to know is that at the Bella 'Mbriana they have a pizza called the Italia that is one-third margherita, one-third pesto, and one-third bread with sliced tomatoes on it. I am always disappointed by the last third because the pesto and the margherita part is so good. I have tried to explain that I just wanted all pesto in the past but they left off the cheese that way, which is a shame. This time I thought, why not ask for a half and half pizza? Stefano, Renata's fidanzato overheard me from behind the counter, telling Patrizia my great idea and I caught him chuckling about it out of the corner of my eye. Patrizia thought it was genius and wanted the same thing. Stefano said that of course we could have a half and half pizza. But when I suggested it to Renata her face fell. She grimaced and said okay. I said we would have two half and half pizzas and I offered to pay for the group. I felt terrible that Renata felt stressed about my order, but it was too late. Patrizia got all up in arms and said that my offer was crazy talk. She wouldn't have it. Renata ended are argument by saying that payment was accepted after the meal. I always get that part wrong, by the way.

As we headed towards our table, Stefano ran after us and gave me ticket number 75. He explained to the pathetic American that I needed to know my number because they would call it out when the order was ready. This is not my first time at the rodeo, but I always forget the procedure. We heard them call number 73 and Patrizia nudged me so loudly that the people at the next table, a couple with a son who was about eight years old, started talking about how they were number 74. About two minutes later, I guess they were still talking about it, and I thought that their number was called.  I smiled at the mom and I tried to tell her that her pizza was ready. I don't know how to say, "You're up; your number was just called" off the top of my head in Italian so I said something like, I think they just made an announcement of your number. She looked at me like I had two heads. I tried again and she looked at me like I had three heads. In the end,  I just excused myself. I was not excused, a quanto pare. Elisabetta mumbled under her breath at me, I thought I heard it too, but let them deal with it themselves. That's right about when I decided that Elisabetta was a keeper.

Patrizia has this thing for Mickey Mouse/Topolino that is hard to explain.
Two minutes later our number was called before anyone called number 74. The mother glared at me. Hey lady, It wasn't my fault. We actually had come in before them, but the ticket numbers weren't in the right order.  Anyway, Patrizia shoved us all up to the window --I love her but she is type A all the way --  and I realized that there was only one half and half pizza. Apparently my Italian had failed me once again. Renata looked at me all exasperated and offered me an extra plate. I didn't take it because we hadn't planned on sharing, but then Patrizia marched back and got it, insisting that I eat some of hers. We had been waiting over twenty minutes for the first two pizzas, but the third one appeared in a flash. Patrizia wouldn't let me give her any of my pizza so I was eating at a mad pace to try and catch up to Elisabetta and Patrizia.

Patrizia got herself all upset about some story she was recounting about her heater being replaced, and I took that as a sign that I should try to pay for the meal while she was distracted. I excused myself to go to the bathroom. Patrizia actually said the words, If you're really going to the bathroom, that is okay. STRESSFUL. I bumped into Renata on the way to the bathroom and gave her my credit card. She said, you can't pay for this. I got all mad and told her that she had promised me that I could pay after the free pizzas she gave me last time. I had been looking forward to making good on my pledge to bring some friends to her restaurant. She said, No, K, you don't understand. We don't accept credit cards. I gave her the twenty euro that was in my wallet, but realized that I shouldn't have insisted in buying the half bottle of red wine that no one wanted but me because now the bill would be more than twenty euros.

While I stalled for time to figure out a plan, I decided to go into the bathroom so that Patrizia wouldn't get suspicious. I opened the frescoed door and walked into the entryway of  the bathroom. It was pitch black. I couldn't find the lightswitch. I had closed the door behind me and had a moment of true panic. Then I did a weird mime act until I found a door that when opened swtiched on an automatic light. I remembered that my phone had buzzed and that I had a message so I opened up my phone. A man walked into the bathroom and jumped back about a meter, excusing himself all over the place. I didn't know anyone was in here, he was saying. Probably he was also wondering why I had the door open. Oh I was just leaving, I said.

This is probably at some Disney restaurant. Not in Italy, at all. I am just doing my best to entertain you.
 I went back to the table. I sat down. I stood up. I excused myself again and walked out of the restaurant to call F to see if he could bring the rest of the money. Why hadn't I thought of that before? F picked up the phone and said, I don't have any money. Right, we had paid for the mirror and the dentist appointment in cash earlier in the day. Luckily, T had ten euro. I sat back down at the table. Ten minutes later the wine had kicked in and Patrizia was telling these hillarious stories that made us cry with laughter about the time that she drove up on the lawn of the very fancy Villa Grabau when the guard wouldn't let her in the gate even though her daughter had been invited to a birthday party there. Anyway, next time I look up, F is standing in the middle of the pizzeria, waving at me. Patrizia looked at me strangely. Oh he was just passing by, I said. Elisabetta looked at me worriedly, as if to say, is he one of those jealous types who have to check up on their wives? I just smiled manically. That's my new thing. Smiling disarms the Italians, I tell you.

Then I got up to make sure that Renata let him pay. At the end of the evening, when Patrizia had finished her quarter of a dixie cup of wine and was thoroughly relaxed, I laid it on them that F had insisted on paying for their meals because he knows that Patrizia hasn't let me buy a cup of coffee for the last four years. She tried to get mad, but since it was a man thing, I know -- I'm a stinker, she let it go. She is, however, going to invite us to a Napolitan dessert bonanza at her house this winter in front of her fireplace. She said that if I brought the American style white marshmallows all would be forgiven. I came home more exhausted than if I had run the New York City Marathon. It isn't easy being as spastic as I am.

FOOTNOTES: 1) My student passed her oral exam with a 23! She is thrilled and so am I! She was the only student who went to the exam with a little framed copy of my favorite Nelson Mandela quote in Italian and instructions to force the examining professor to read it aloud if she dare tried to prevent her from taking the test this year. The American professor apparently said to her, "It is clear that you don't really speak English, but, man, did you study for this exam!"

2) The hip hop teacher did not accept my friendship on FB or respond to my message(s). I fear that my photo turned him off. I don't know. Then the mother of my hip hop boy student texted me that her son had a message for me from the hip hop teacher which he would call to tell me about. He never did. So incredibly embarrassing. I have no words.

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