binge |noun| a short period devoted to indulging in an activity to excess
I woke up this morning to find myself in a strange bed. (Oh my – just realized that sounds rather Kafkian. I haven’t turned into a giant insect, have I? Luckily, not yet!) As reality slowly comes into focus, I realize I’m lying in the middle of a spacious Milanese loft, with Botox stretching at my feet and the temptation of designer sunglasses tapping at my window – despite the typical morning fog. How did I get here? – I wonder. Memory makes an appearance. That’s right – I DROVE 4,000 KMS ACROSS EUROPE! OK, readers. We have some catching up to do.
Upon arriving in Lisbon just in the nick of time for Christmas, my cute little nephew asked me if we’d arrived on the orange plane. Perceptive little guy, isn’t he? In an era of low cost airlines, road trips are as few and far between as ATMs are in Milan – and yet a road trip was what got Luis, Botox and I home for the holidays.
In our case, it began with a morning game of “How Many People Fit in a Mini Cooper?” (replacing “people” with “crap”, of course). After that, came the binge – the kilometer binge. But kilometers weren’t the only things being gobbled up ravenously.
Given that Mr. Botox was taking up the entire trunk of the car, any little change to the volume we humans occupied and there could be no guarantees the delicate equilibrium keeping the backseat doors shut would be sustained. So we knew we were putting our lives at risk with each gastronomic stop. But we took our chances. We took our chances in Paris, we took our chances in Honfleur, in Bordeaux, in Saint Jean de Luz, in Santander. We took our chances with Bordeaux reds, with Calvados, with oysters, with Norman cheese, with foie gras, with baguettes and with tapas. So, little nephew, the orange plane may be cheap and fast, but there is no joie de vivre in its stale overpriced sandwiches.
And thus Christmas came and went. Given that we are living a year based on experiences and not things, we decided to skim down the Christmas presents this year. Our brave announcement was something along the lines of “The only ones getting gifts from Tia Mariana and Tio Luís this year… are the littl’ones (and only if they are shorter than Tia Mariana). This is a limited circle indeed and terrible news for the nephews going through growth spurts – eek! The time we didn’t spend buying last minute Christmas presents and aging in last minute Christmas queues, we spent actually doing things with our friends and family. We gave people ourselves for Christmas, I guess. In retrospect, I get that they may have been disappointed – ha ha!
And so another road trip with a stop to visit some friends and slide down some ski slopes, brought us to Milan roughly 48 hours ago. That’s how I ended up in this bed, in a beautiful loft, set in a trendy Milanese neighborhood where fashion showrooms and design galleries abound, where coffee is delicious and inexpensive, where whenever I call Botox in the street, half of the heads turn around thinking I’m calling them. (And I swear – I saw a resurrected Michael Jackson yesterday coming out of a Smart.)
And so what is my inkling for the next three months? I think Erica Jong may have gotten it right when she said:
“What is the fatal charm of Italy? What do we find there that can be found nowhere else? I believe it is a certain permission to be human, which other places, other countries, lost long ago.”
As I read this, I imagine myself wading in the Fontana di Trevi in a long black gown, my head thrown back à la Fellini – oops, wrong city, wrong season and wrong decade. Plus, I’ve lived in Italy before and I know it’s not all roses, even if it always smells like it. Regardless, I’ll be doing my own avid research over Milanese coffee, aperitivi and people watching. I’m pretty sure I’ll love this city all over again (little secret: I’ve lived here before). And I may just have to get those designer sunglasses after all. How else am I expected to people watch discreetly? In the end, it’s a question of artistic necessity.