conquest |noun| the subjugation and assumption of control of a place or people by use of military force
“Hello. I’d like a quote for a sky writing message, please.”
“How many letters?”
“Let me see. I-W-E-N-T-T-O-L-A-S-C-A-L-A. That’s 14 letters.”
Would that be overkill? Sorry, no matter how understandable my enthusiasm. More planning went into this little expedition than bringing my dog Botox into the UK or pulling together an offering memorandum – those horrible volumes I used to write before I learned words had souls. I feel like some sort of celebration is warranted. But first, let’s retrace our steps through a little technique we writers like to call a flashback.
(Note to self: One day, I’d like to open a creative writing themed bar. I’ll call it Love Letters. I’ll serve cocktails with names like Plot, Conflict, Teenage Skaz, Magic Realism and Metafiction. “I’d like an Interior Monologue please.” The waiters can dress-up like their favorite writers, but only one person can be Hemingway at any given time. What should go into a Flashback cocktail, I wonder? Besides gin, obviously.)
As if foreshadowing difficulties to come, I began a La Scala expedition journal even before arriving in Milan. It is a brave account of the countless initiatives taken in procuring suitably angled seats for a ballet at the emblematic Milanese opera house – from tapping Italian secret agents, to hacking attempts; from dawn raids, to anonymous blackmail. Having been ultimately successful in my endeavors, I feel I owe it to art lovers everywhere to impart my hard-earned sagacity to them. This is my legacy.
What you wear to La Scala is your own call. My advice concerns your outfit when venturing to the box offices – a crucial issue that is often overlooked and is, to my mind, the origin of so many ill-fated encounters with the Scalonians. (You know, the terse bellicose peoples that inhabit the La Scala box offices.) So here goes.
Wear urban safari clothes. In the savannah, you’d wear a khaki colored get-up to blend into the shrubs, right? In this case, the goal is to make yourself a blank slate, so the Scalonians on the other side of the glass can glean from your appearance as little information as possible. We’re going all black, baby. The type of fabric is a question of personal taste, but remember discretion is key (aka, keep vinyl and fur to a minimum, you kinky little vixens).
Wear a red clown nose. The Scalonians are a fierce people. They speak a language of grunts and evil looks. You will not be able to avoid this no matter what language you speak, no matter how incandescent your smile, no matter how generous you décolletage. Best to shift around the power balance by wearing the nose – it is very difficult to manhandle someone who looks that stupid.
Take a compass and a sextant (which is not a sex toy, for all you ignoramuses out there). The Scalonians live in two colonies they call “box offices”. One is buried deep within the Duomo tube station and is protected by a Labyrinth wherein roams – you guessed it – a Minotaur. Basically, this guy is a retired opera singer wearing a leftover prop, but the bastard can run like hell and he will run after you so – and this is my next point – wear comfortable running shoes. Use your compass to keep yourself orientated. Keep hydrated. If you have a spare Taser gun, it wouldn’t hurt to bring that either. As for the second colony, it’s accessible only during the brief moments of dusk… on the days that the moon is in the third quadrant… and Jupiter and Mars are aligned… thus the sextant.
Some theorize the Scalonians have a Bat Cave complex. In my humble opinion, this thesis is not without merit. Why else would they make their colonies so cavernous? Why else would they envelope their day ticket practices in such senseless mystery? Why else would they so ardently try to keep us from prying deeper behind the glamour of the opera house, as if Wayne Manor it were? And just like Bruce Wayne, the Scalonian leaders make rare appearances at global performing arts networking events – or so I’ve been told. So there are two ways in which you can go about this. You can either wear a bat mask, as a sign that you recognize and pay homage to their leader. Or you can make a bat signal by taping a cut-out bat symbol to the head of your flashlight. Once you’ve slaughtered the Minotaur, put on the red nose and breached the threshold of the colony, take the bat signal and flash S.O.S. in Morse code on the ceiling. Either way, you should be home free.
As you may have gathered, you will me covering a lot of mileage here, so bring plenty of snacks, toilet paper and an extra pair of underwear. If you tend to get disoriented from extended periods in the darkness, a glow in the dark watch is highly recommended. If you tend to get scared, bring your teddy bear (just make sure he/she is also wearing a red nose and bat mask).
If you’ve done all that and your organs and limbs are intact and teddy is OK too, you tell me who deserves the clapping, the roses, the skywriting – the pampered divas on stage… or you?! The Scalonians will be slow to recognize defeat, but –worst case scenario – I can always offer you a Flashback cocktail at my new bar. We can decide together what other ingredients should go into it. Besides gin, obviously.
We made it in the end. Our prize was Notre Dame de Paris with Roberto Bolle (whose Youtube videos I had scoured while in Leicester to research a story I was working on). We paid through our red clown noses for them, but our seats were fabulous, as was the performance – Bolle’s flawless body dancing the role of the hunchback, Yves Saint Laurent costumes (with lots of hyperbolic hats), incredible cathedral façade (complete with enormous sloshing bell).
Before the caped-crusader-wanna-bees led us to our seats (unlocking the door to our box – yet another Milanese barrier), we took a photograph of an old dressed-up German couple in the foyer with their clunky camera. They were almost as cute as the little girl that twirled her way around the predictably elegant fashionista crowd. She nearly knocked down a lady wearing her vintage Dior clearly not because vintage is in, but because she’d bought it decades earlier and still liked it – kudos!
I do wish we had taken Botox though. He would have felt right as home with the amount of injectables abounding. I felt like warning the little girl prancing around in her black dress: Look around you, child! There is a lesson to be learned here about the dangers of plastic surgery. Aesop or the Brothers Grimm have nothing on this!