Wide Awake in Wonderland

We’re only dancing on this earth for a short while

So, are the Village People even alive anymore? September 26, 2008

Or the bulk of them anyway?

I mean, with a bunch of gay guys enjoying their heyday during the carefree early 80’s, you kind of worry a little about AIDS and untimely deaths. BUT, that aside, and in the hopes that the cop and the Indian and the construction worker and the other leather-heavy guy (?) will soon be performing at your local Indian casino, I can attest that they must be living LARGE off their European royalties. I swear, if Europe has single, unifying anthem, it is “YMCA”. Followed, as a very close runner up, by “Go West.”

You cannot turn around without hearing these songs. At first I thought it was me. Then I thought maybe it was a conspiracy against me. Then I thought I had a malfunctioning alien implant. Now I realize they all just really, really love the Village People. White, hot burning passion LOVE. You hear the Village People (or just “The Peeps”, as I’ve taken to calling them), pouring out of storefronts, while in cafes, during Vodaphone commercials, in the subway, in the bus station bathroom. You name it. Nothing is above or beyond the Peeps.

Did you know that “YMCA” had a video? Neither did I. But – despite the fact the song is from the time before they invented “talkies” – it does…and it’s in regular rotation here on European MTV. Go figure.

Speaking of European MTV, I’m still quite sick and getting tired of it. So tonight I’m taking it easy and watching a little Italian programming. Let me tell you, they’ve got some strange ideas of entertainment. To be frank, and not to offend, but they’ve got more weird variety show than the Mexicans. If you’ve ever seen Sabado Domingo, you ain’t seen nothing. I offer up my own TV Guide as assistance:

  • On “Il Falso magro,” a gorgeous skinny girl laboriously measures the bellies of about twenty fat guys. It’s relatively unfathomable. I watched in silence for about five minutes with a girl from New Zealand who eventually said, “I have no idea what is going on.”

  • On Canale Italia, a pretty teen girl in just a thong bikini and a big sash dances awkwardly while a sleazy dude and middle-aged woman sing a song to the tune of Joe Cocker’s “We’ve Got Tonight.” The camera moves amateurishly between the singers and the feet of the teen girl, shuffling like a nervous horse in her four-inch heels.

  • And, if you’re more of a ‘Lawrence Welk meets Benny Hill’ sort, you’ll be happy to learn that “TAM” features old ladies in peasant garb beating the crap out of an old guy using nothing but the biceps the good lord gave them and some wicker baskets. Enough said.

However, and perhaps most importantly, it appears Italy produces no actual (non-variety) programming of their own. This is because the bulk of their production talent goes toward dubbing the living daylights out of American TV shows and movies. They leave no dubbable stone unturned. Advertisements for new movies – dubbed. Crappy shows (like Stargate) no one even watches in the US – dubbed. Two year-old reality shows starring Puff Daddy – dubbed. Ancient Looney Toons cartoons – dubbed. Voice over actors must be worth their weight in gold in this country.

Otherwise, and in all honesty, I cannot seem to shake this darn cold. I’m still sneezing and coughing and – god help me – blowing my nose into any scrap of fibrous material I can find every 15 seconds. Thus, I’m going to call it a night a little early, and fill you in further in the morning. Sleep tight!

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My Super Dolce 16 September 22, 2008

First off, I would like to suggest that we give me a small pat on the back and perhaps a moderately loud round of applause for not once utilizing the phrase “when in Rome” while in Rome. This is not to say it didn’t occur to me. A lot. But I am ever-conscious of you, the reader, and thus try to maintain some high standards. This, of course, does not allow sinking to or utilizing that which is cliche, trite, predictable nor mundane.

You didn’t know this about me? Well, bion giorno, and welcome to the brave new world. Now finding myself supersaturated in the super powers of the glorious works of the Renaissance masters, I too am now an artiste. Oh yes, gone are the stories about fears of peeing on myself in creepy bus station bathrooms. We will only be talking about reliefs and frescoes and Machiavelli and Medici and meringue and merengue and creme fraiche. That’s right. Bust out the good china, because it’s a whole new fancy ball of wax.

This new leaf turned, you might be surprised to learn I just spent the last half-hour watching “My Super Sweet 16” on Italian TV. This is 100% because there is a TV in my room, and – from there – 99.9% because it was the only thing in English. And for the first five minutes, it was a treat to listen to someone talk without having to concentrate.

But then what they were actually SAYING started to get processed. “Ummm…did you just say someone was coming to give your dog LOWLIGHTS!?” “Can you repeat that? If Kanyae West doesn’t jump out a cake at your 16th birthday party, you’re going to take a semi-automatic weapon to your private spoiled monsters high school and kill everyone?” (Although, upon deeper analysis, this might not be such a bad thing…)

I can only hope this show is kind of a joke. Something like, “I know that you know that I know that you know that I know that you aren’t really a sociopathic self-centered waste of space like you’re portrayed on this show.” I hope… If not, then I guess this starts to solidify some of the reactions I get when I reveal I’m from the States. It also explains the “Shot at Love with Tequila Tequila” graffiti I saw in Poland. I’ll confess, I’m familiar with that travesty. I was – until it ended – a major “Rob and Big” fan. I have a deep appreciation for the absurd, and there ain’t nothing so absurd as keeping a mini horse in your house.

Anyway, a few weeks ago I saw “A Shot At Love with Tequila Tequila ” spray painted on a wall in either Prague or Warsaw. At the time, I wasn’t really sure what it meant, and kind of forgot about it. However, combined with “My Super Sweet Sixteen,” I recognize it as the Eastern European shorthand for, “REPENT. THE END OF THE WORLD IS AT HAND.” You mix this stuff in with Iraq and Jerry Springer, and it’s no wonder the world thinks we’re a bunch of war-mongering psychopaths…

So getting back to my small world, I almost bypassed Florence today in favor of Milan. Somehow I had the very inaccurate sense that it took three or four hours by train from Rome to Florence. I caught the 10:38, and I suppose I thought I’d get there around 14:00. So when the trained pulled into some station around noon and the lights turned out, I didn’t even look up from “Snowball fight”. I fought on, in vain.

You see, snowball fight is this extremely crappy game on my otherwise useless cell phone at which I am utterly hopeless. I slowed the speed down to 2 (out of ten), but I still get clobbered by the little jokers nailing my poor kid with snowballs. I can’t even figure out what I’m supposed to be doing to triumph in this situation. But I digress…

We’d sat there a couple minutes and my cellphone screen inevitably flickered, “YOU LOSE.” Out of curiosity, I glanced out the window. “Firenze.” Hmmmm…. Firenze. What’s that? Wait a minute… FLORENCE? FIRENZE? Florence = Firenze!?!?!?

I started frantically putting my stuff away, realizing that (I was pretty sure) this was my stop. As with my near miss in London, I leaped off the train right as it started to leave the station.

And thank god, because I’m damn tired, and it’s nice to have a room to myself, no matter how much it’s an amalgam of “Things IKEA didn’t actually think anyone would ever buy.” You see, the last three nights in Rome were rougher than I let on: The first I was fairly sick and could barely breathe, the second I was kept awake by the snoring of an inexplicably loud Australian woman (what is up with these log sawing ladies!?!?), and last night I was a plain old paranoid wreck. I got up no less than five times to violently shake out my sheets (top and bottom) and perform a bed bug exorcism.Actually, it may have worked. I’m damaged, but no worse feasted upon than I had been the day before.

Anyway, as is par for the course, Florence is lovely. The Duomo is like some kind of birthday cake I would have pined for as a little girl. My cold is fading. I have a vague cough, but nothing worse than anyone else in ‘smoke ’em if you got ’em’ Europe. And I’m dog tired, so off to saw some logs of my own, and talk to you tomorrow!