What’s with the frikkin tie, man?

There’s a dude at work who looks like Clark Kent… if Kent were a European office stiff of insurance proportions, sans baby curl. Euro Kent is six feet, square-jawed, with hair that emulates a dark, wavy sea. He’s as noteworthy as a blank sheet of paper. The spy in movies who becomes the ultimate jackal, because he looks like everyone and no-one at all. Two seconds after you’ve passed him, you’ve already forgotten him.

“I was never here”.

But Euro Kent aint no jackal, because I’m Jason Bourne. I’ve got him in my sights and this spy is going down. Yeah, you can ask. Why am I taking Euro down to Chinatown? Because he burns my toast, that’s why. To blackened, crusty charcoal. Actually, it’s his tie. Every day… as Britney Spears is my witness, it’s over his left shoulder. Sitting there like friggin Jiminy Cricket.

All. the. fucking. time.

Week one, it’s kind of amusing. Cue chuckle, isn’t that hilare? Euro Kent looks like he’s been running faster than a speeding bullet! Mi buen amigo, Speedy Gonzales – slanted into the wind, tie over his shoulder, his legs a blur of circles, “Arriba! Arriba!”

Week two, it’s getting a little old. What’s with the tie, man? Sitting at your desk, tie over shoulder. Going to the printer, tie over shoulder. Reciting the Gettysburg Address, tie over goddamn shoulder. For the love! You look like a chump. Let the bloody thing abandon ship already, let’s get this over with.

Week three. Okay, I’m pissed. What’s with the fucking tie, man? I feel like I’m taking crazy pills. This calls for an intervention. Not one of those gentle “this is a safe place” kind of interventions, where your loved ones gather round with melted Prozac expressions. Oh no, more like an “I’m an alien who’s gonna burst outta your chest and annihilate the Nostromo” kind of intervention … where I take that goddamn, motherlovin’ tie and I ….

Okay, keep it PG, people. It’s gonna be okay, alright? It’s just a tie.

Everybody calm down…. it’s just a tie.

Cleansing sigh. It’s just a tie.

Cut to me in a padded cell, rocking back and forth in the foetal, muttering softly,

“the tie … the tie … oh God why, the tie…”.

‘I must break you.’ Ivan Drago

I met this guy called Vinnie, who was everything you’d expect a Vinnie to be. His hair stood on end, as if he was hung upside down, even when he was right-side up. He had puppy-dog exuberance, a ‘mad hatter’ grin and a face which said, welcome to my party. He was a breath of crazy, slapstick fresh air. A minuet in the center of Golden Century.

Now, Vinnie’s no ordinary man. Turns out, he’s the Aussie-Korean equivalent to Dr Doolittle. Though I don’t suppose a raven ever beat the shit out of Dr D on the golf course, or that he played x-box with a prepubescent possum. I can’t be sure. I do suppose that if Dr Doolittle and Dr Kevorkian combined their PhDs to produce a love child, Vinnie might be the result. Whichever way you stink that skunk, my man Vinnie had so many tales to tell, I can’t help but recount them.

What set Vinnie on the path of usurping the animal kingdom was this – his parents bought a farm. A shitload of land, with no clue what to do with it (no disrespect to Mama and Papa Vinnie). And whilst Vin was an instant favourite with me, I’m not sure the animals see it that way. If your pares ever tell you that your dog, Smackers ‘went to live on a farm’ (aka bit the big bone in the sky), you’d just better hope that it aint Vinnie’s.

The Great Goats-by

So Mama and Papa bought a farm. Now what?

“Why don’t we get some goats?” suggested Mama Vin. After all, what harm can come from owning a couple o’billies? Ever the good kid, pause for wucs, Vinnie sets out to buy some goats. Two bleats later, he’s at an auction. Now I reckon, at $150 bucks a pop, goats run pretty cheap these days. Certainly less than a Saturday night out on the shizzle. But no, Vinnie aint too happy at dropping 900 greenbacks. And when you put it like that, who can argue?

But drop it he does, and takes his half-dozen back to the farm. He drives the goats out to their new home – the back paddock, which affords a lovely view of a nature reserve beyond. In reality, it’s more like a billy motel which rents by the hour. Fenced off but for a small opening of a metre across, it’s as watertight as Watergate. Mainly because, Vin leaves the door open. Yep. Quicker than the promise of Milli Vanilli’s career, it’s all over my friend.

Cue race commentator in nasal yawp, “… and they’re out of the gate, racing neck to neck, it’s going to be a close one, Billy the Kid takes the lead, followed closely by Billy Zane, Hill Billy and The Legend of Billie Jean, hold on to your tickets folks, it’s anybody’s goat… here comes the photo finish, and…. there’s the flash!”

Who took the gold is anybody’s guess but, one thing for sure, those goats were never to be seen again.

Window. Opportunity. Took it.

Elementary, my dear ferret

Family Vinnie were disappointed at the loss of the goats but, given they really never had time to grow attached, they got over it. However, the farm soon becomes home to a horde of unwanted rabbits. With more rabbit warrens than Michael Jackson had noses (too soon?), an intervention is called for. One of Vinnie’s mates tells him that ferrets could be the answer. I believe the conversation went something like this:

Vin Man: “We have too many rabbits.”

Matey With an Idea: “I hear ferrets eat rabbits.”

Vin Man: “Oh, yeah?”

So Vinnie goes out and buys a ferret. Why not, right? Ferrets eat rabbits. What’s your problem, man?

Let’s not complicate matters with the facts. Get a ferret, stick it down a warren (not to be confused with a Warren), job done. Vinnie and Matey buy the ferret and take it back to the farm. They pick a bunny berth, park themselves at the entrance, take the ferret and… drumroll, release it into the hole.

They watch. They wait.

The farm lay quiet, no sound but the wind rustling in the trees and the clouds meandering by… and two chumps sitting in a paddock, staring at a hare lair, waiting for their special guest to ‘go ferret’. Five minutes pass. Their eyes are trained on the hole, intent not to miss any action. Ten minutes. Some fidgeting occurs. Twenty minutes. It’s not looking like a spectator sport, folks. Thirty minutes pass… Vinnie and Matey look at each other.

Matey: “I don’t think he’s coming back”.

Uh, no. He aint coming back and, if you’re still hoping for a Disney ending, neither are the goats. Whaddayaknow – ferrets need to be trained to catch rabbits.

Get BOCKED!

But Mama and Papa Vin give new meaning to the word, stoic – they press on and soon enough, decide they want some chickens. And, if the usual chicken doesn’t butter your bread, you can get yourself a Chinese silky chicken (to be said in a sleazy voice). I don’t know what makes these puff pieces so revered in Asian culture, but consider them the Pope of the fowls. Mama Vin has her heart set and goes to great lengths to set up a chicken pen.

Vinnie sets out to auction, this time stalking (what I prefer to call) muppet chickens. Like old theatre performers with their silk well-pressed, they come out in Acts, milking the crowd for all it’s worth. Enter Statler and Waldorf stage left, Vinnie sets his bid and a few minutes later, he’s the proud owner of a pair of muppets. Mah na mah na. He’s yet to set his quota however, so he takes them backstage (aka his car) for safe keeping. Back to the auction he trots and after further bidding, Vinnie sets his cap at a wonderful pair, Bert and Ernie. He returns to the car.

“Statler and Waldorf, who were best known for their caustic critiques of stand-up comic, Fozzie Bear, died earlier today in a tragic car accident. They were only 11 months old. The pair are survived by fellow fowls, Bert and Ernie who said upon learning the news, “bock bock bock”!

Yep. As dead as Lindsay Lohan’s career, my friend. The day was hot and the auction long. The chicks pitifully perished in the oven that was Vin Man’s car. When he returned home to his mother with four chickens in tow, I can only imagine her asking, “why’d you buy the dead ones?”

FBI versus CIA

Time passes and in Vinnie’s words, “my mother populated the chicken pen”. No more muppets, not after The Fowl Tragedy of ’99. This time it’s plain Ole regular chickens. I think we all agree – it’s for the best.

What could possibly happen next? The answer is of course, snakes. Like FBI agents donned in dark pencil-ties and sunglasses, they begin to infiltrate the pen. “Liberty is on the move, I have the chicken in sight. I repeat, I have the chicken in sight. Heading to the kill zone, no need for back up”. You guessed it. Chicken Cacciatore makes the menu every night that week. But, Vinnie hears that geese… they scare away snakes.

Geese scare snakes. Let’s get some geese. What’s your problem, man?

Vinnie goes out and buys some geese. It’s a Christmas miracle! The snakes have gone, the geese are still in the pen, along with a partridge in a pear tree. Wow, let’s all sit back and take a breath.

Cue Panto music, “But, wait!”

Where the FBI may fail, the CIA sure as hell won’t. Their jurisdiction extends much further, after all. Enter a posse of foxes attired in hombergs and trenches(“Go, go, go, go!”) and it’s goodbye geese. Don’t mess with the CIA, they mean business. The geese suffer the Tarantino conclusion of having their heads ripped ‘clean off’ – to be said like Dirty Harry.

If Siberia was a Huskie

Mother’s Day. Despite his kill rate, he’s a good kid and Vinnie wants to do something nice for his mum. He decides to get her a dog to keep her company. Sounds so normal, doesn’t it? A five-year-old can look after a dog, right? But Vin doesn’t get Mama just any hound… he buys her a beautiful, pedigree Siberian Huskie. As a guard dog. For the farm.

Listen, I’m not going to kill the dog, okay? But Mama Vin might be heading for some tears, I won’t lie. Our Vinnie brings the huskie home and Mama puts it in the yard (it’s a guard dog, after all) but… who’s guarding the dog? Within hours, the dog is stolen. Sucked into the bestial Bermuda Triangle.

Turns out that puppy was more immediately valuable than the farm.

Ode to Vinnie’s Farm

‘There was an old woman who swallowed a cow, I don’t know how she swallowed a cow! She swallowed the cow to catch the goat, to catch the dog, to catch the cat, to catch the bird, to catch the spider, that wriggled and jiggled and tickled inside her. She swallowed the spider to catch the fly. I don’t know why she swallowed the fly’. I’m betting she was a manic-depressive.

Im-possum-able!

I know we’re all a little sorry to wave goodbye to the farm, we’ve been through so much together (insert violins here). But not to worry, our Dr Doolittle will always talk to the animals… whether they like it or not.

‘Can you speak in rhinoceros?’

‘Of courserous! Can’t you?’

Next up on Vin’s itinerary is to rent a caravan in the bush. To me, this is a little like an alcoholic hanging out in a bar for the pretzels. But wisdom or no, Vin and Matey are now in the bush, in a caravan, playing x-box. Because that’s why you pack a bag, get in the car, drive an hour of the city and park your ass in a band-aid home. To commune with nature? To play x-box, dude. And,

… in walks this possum.

We know Vinnie too well to doubt the truth of this. Possum Emo saunters in, perches himself on his hind legs, takes some proffered bread, and proceeds to watch Vin and Matey play x-box whilst eating it’s sandwich. What the? That possum was a teenage dude.

Kangaroo come in?

Vinnie considered the caravan trip such a success, that he determines to rent a cabin in the bush. Upsize the abode, upsize the amount of animals which cram themselves into it, right? After all, no animal was injured, maimed or killed in the making of that chapter. Not that I saw the possum walk out of that caravan alive, but I like to think of it wearing eyeliner and rebelling against it’s parents somewhere, out there.

So Vin and Matey are in the cabin with the back door is open… and,

… in walks this kangaroo.

That is to say, Buckin’ Broncho tries to enter the Doolittle abode but I guess Vin has been training since the goat incident. He’s quicker off his feet this time and gets to the door just in time; closing it… on the kangaroo’s head.

So the kangaroo’s body (aka Broncho) is outside the house, but it’s head (aka Buckin’) is inside the house – stuck in the sliding glass door. I can re-late… having had just such a moment with an older brother in my young years. And yes, I was the kangaroo.

Vinnie : “I took a picture of it, and it looks like something out of a Hitchcock movie”.

Field of Attack

I’d like to assume Skippy made it out alive. Let’s work off that premise, shall we? And so, following the near decapitation of one of Australia’s most beloved icons, Vinnie decides to go golfing.

Now I’ve been to the golf course, man. I know animals live on the periphery; but I’ve never actually seen them whilst there. Sure, a bird in a tree. Whatever. It’s not like we interact. I don’t have a squirrel on my shoulder, or a horse for my caddy. But I aint Dr D, and I’m sure you can guess where this is going.

Cue Vinnie on the golf course – his checkered soft-cap set at a jaunty angle, golfing knickers cascading over his profusely plaid socks. And let’s not forget Matey, his right-hand sham. Now in Vinnie’s words,

… “if you play golf well, you play in a straight line. I don’t play golf well. So my ball always ends up on the side, in the bush… where the animals are”.

Of course it does, Vinnie.

The green lay quiet, no sound but the wind rustling in the trees and the clouds meandering by… and two chumps with golf sticks, staring at hole in the ground with a flag in salute. Sound proverbial? Is it a plane, is it superman? No, it’s a bird. The Ivan Drago (aka Dolph Lundgren) of the magpie range – ‘I must break you’. For reasons known only to Drago, it swoops down from the trees and goes after Vinnie like it’s avenging it’s father’s death (and with Vinnie’s record, who knows)? Drago is the Terminator. Vinnie is Sarah Connor. And it’s game on.

Now if Hitchcock had been on a smaller budget and had say, one bird… perhaps Tippi wouldn’t have been topped. With Vinnie on set however, it would’ve been a different story. Drago is a flapping, screeching, vengeful tour de force – helicoptering above Vinnie as he cowers behind his golf bag preying for a miracle. Not only that, he’s drawing a crowd. The whole golf course has come to watch. I picture them taking bets, passing money in the background.

“Give me $20 bucks on the bird”.

Drago lands on the ground (I like to think with the sound King Kong would make after stepping off the Empire State). Boom! And the thunder ripple follows suit. Vinnie decides to make a run for it but he doesn’t stand a chance. The bird keeps coming, this time running after Vin and whooping wildly.

Vinnie: “The disrespect – to come after me on foot!”

He gets a golf club out and, as if he’s fencing Drago in a duel to the death, he begins to prod the bird. This time I picture him dressed as a Musketeer, with a pencil moustache and a cry of “One for all!”; but in reality he’s just a chump on a golf course, jousting with a magpie.

“I wanted to hit it, but everyone was watching. It would’ve been like hitting a three-year-old”.

I reckon that’s the least of your problems, Vin. The crowd is getting restless, the golf club is ineffectual, this bird is throwing down. And Vinnie … well, the pattern of his cap becomes one with his socks as he assumes the foetal position. Two old men come up and yell at Vinnie, “stop harassing the bird!”

“The bird?!!!”

‘Bing bong binki binki bakalava?’ Cousin Larry

Cousin Larry, plainly put, is that relative who is a total chump. A complete boob, sap or sucker. The dolt. The guy with whom you wouldn’t associate under any circumstance, if not for the fact that the same blood runs through both your veins (or if it wasn’t in the family bylaws). He’s the chump who gets too drunk at your sister’s wedding, slurring his speech and catapulting truth bombs into the crowd (cue Steve Buscemi in The Wedding Singer). The guy whose gut overhangs his belt just a little more than is copasetic; who lingers too long on a punch line, cresting a joke past funny into awkward. The guy who should work to go unnoticed, but instead ends up the center of a (now) deteriorating good time.

And in the academy of life, Cousin Larry has graduated to ‘no relation’ at all – he or she is simply the ‘chump of the moment’, the ‘regular chump’ of your acquaintance… or you. Oh yeah, we all scramble not to be Cousin Larry, but don’t kid yourself Bucko. Nobody is chump exempt.

By day, for the mo, I work in an office. My floor is pretty large, a sea of 60-70 desks, all populated with office stiffs. In the center, to the side, lies a kitchen alcove – visible to all. Enter Humphrey Bogart, stage left.

“It all began with a mug, see. A dirty mug. A real dirty mug, the kind that parents talk about in horror stories to their unborn child. Turns out, I was the mug. The biggest mug of them all”.

Look, I was just dropping off a cup at the sink, okay? A fairly innocuous action. But in an attempt to be efficient, one could say that I was travelling like a Thunderbird on hyperdrive – jerky, supersonic and not entirely right. With g-force and in the foulest of swoops, I swept my mug across the counter, wiping out with stunning accuracy something made of glass. I’ll never know what because, much like Humpty Dumpty, it could never be put back together again. Where Samuel L. Jackson may reign down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger, my wrath was dealt in shards of glass – it went e v e r y w h e r e.

The sound of the murder leapt clear across the room, past the windows, echoing into the beyond. Every single face turned in poetic unison, to stare. At me.

à la, The Blob… “Run! Don’t walk from… Cousin Larry!”

Cue scream.

Good times. Should I also mention that I’m new to this company, and have only been in the job a week? So much for dipping my toes and entering gradually! I had just cannon-bombed, Larry style, soaking everyone within a five-mile radius. New Girl is a chump.

Good Ole Lazza, he’s the fat kid nobody wants to play with. If you’re forced to, he’s good for being the butt of your jokes, the easy scapegoat who takes it; the one you tell yourself you’re nothing like. He visually verbalises that which you don’t want to look at – vulnerability. And he’s an example of what happens under pack mentality – vulnerability equals weakness which, under lion rule, means you get eaten.

So it follows that we will do our level best not to be a Larry, or even have a Lazza moment. (Back away slowly, don’t anybody move.) But isn’t this a case of denial, en mass? What is it we hide most jealously, that which we guard shamefully? It’s our Larry, people! The habits we dare not look at. Those addictions we continually cave to, no matter how hard we try to eradicate them. Our humanity.

We believe that if no-one witnesses the ugly Larry we make love to in the dark, then it’s not truly a part of who we are. Certainly not of who we present ourselves to be. But the truth of the Larry is, there’s no such thing as private humanity. We don our habits every day, along with the hairstyle, clothes and persona we use to camouflage them. Much like the gut which hangs over Larry’s tightly belted stumps, some things just can’t be hidden.

You may think you have everyone fooled, that the food you eat alone is private… that the guilt you carry is unseen. But give it up baby, it’s over. Cousin Larry has loose lips. You wear these truths around your middle, in the slump of your shoulders, in your wrinkles, in the poor condition of your hair. As Lazza is your witness, if you have unhealthy habits, they’re there for all to see. Regardless of clothes, gold or riches, it’s the Larry we hide which makes us seem unattractive to the outside world and, what we’re judged upon. We might chase the external dream but, unless you’re a leprechaun, there’s no getting to the end of that rainbow.

Does it help to know that if you have good habits, you’re often judged for those too? You will appear attractive and as though you have your shit together, which can be a red flag to the person who doesn’t.

But don’t lock the door and assume the foetal position just yet. I reckon this simplifies matters some, everybody just stay calm. It could be that the very clandestine nature of these addictions, hidden most of all from ourselves, is the fuel which they run on. So Oprah talks about her Larry, and everyone on the show gives Dr Phil a peek. But it aint the verbalising of Larry to others which make the shadows go away. In this stand-off, there should be no-one else in the room. It aint Thunder Road and no, you don’t get a Second.

Look to Cousin Larry in his eyeball and invite him to join the party.

The most liberating moment comes when we give up and instead, own it. Whatever it is, however many you have. Pick the biggest one and work your way down. Unflinchingly, as Cousin Larry has a tendency to buck. If he throws you, start again.

In truth, for me, the most attractive people are the openly Larry. The people who are honest about who they are, ugly ‘n’all. The evolved Cousin Larry isn’t trying to eradicate the shadows, but includes them to give a well-balanced sketch of who they are. No, you can’t fake it, so don’t even try. Who am I talking about? Would you believe, Mickey Rourke? Oh yeah baby. He’s a train wreck, to be sure. But an honest one. I respect that a damn sight more than a train that has never jumped a track.

So go forth and make friends with your Larry, if you’ll pardon the expression.

Work it.

Own it.

Prosper.

It’s nudity on a new level.

I’ll be gentle with you and start out easy. Idyllic Bali. Resort style. Two massages a day. No phone, no internet. The calm before the storm, you could say.

The Balinese are a very sweet and friendly people, but also freaks in terms of individual choice and freedoms. They think it very strange for a 34-year-old woman to be unmarried, and even stranger that she should travel alone.

“Did your husband leave you?”

And they watch you, all the time. Like stalkers, en mass. I shit you not. They knew where I was at all times. I guess you could say that the staff of the resort were my collective yenta. After I got used to it (insert freaking out and becoming paranoid for three days), I actually grew to like it. I felt very looked after. When I left, they said, “We are sad that you go. You here so long, you like family”.

How-ev-er. The massages are another experience. Say goodbye to zen, say hello to my little friend. My little Balinese friend, who told me her life story but also beat the shit of me under the umbrella of zen. It’s nudity on a new level. They dress you in, well, a Gandhi nappy. It covers… your bits? Nope. Your dignity? Nope. The preliminaries? It covers nothing.

Do you think you at least go into a back room and change, to actually put it on yourself? Ha! Please. Don’t make me laugh. You walk into a large room, the windows free of pesky curtains (and the gardener hovering with a watering can on the other side), with three massage tables ready to go. And they turn and stare at you. As if to say, “strip”.

You think you can negotiate. You can’t. No, you can’t keep your underwear on, sorry, no dice. And as for your boobs, they’re swinging free like Tarzan and Jane. And they stand in front of you and watch you undress. Two women – because this humiliating 1.5 hour spectacle is a two woman job. They fold up your clothes and take them away like an errant child, never to be seen again. You’re left standing there, in the only attire God gave you, and then they put the Gandhi nappy on you. Which is basically a strip of muslin tied around your waist, and an additional strip fed through your legs and fastened at the back. This puppy is flimsy, and comes undone with your first step.

Let’s just say, if Gandhi had a load, that nappy wouldn’t hold shit.

Now you’re ready for the next stage. And you thought the nappy was bad. You sit on the massage table, and they stand in front and behind. You’re officially a nude Gandhi sandwich. They take … five moments to say the Balinese traditional prayer. Which is, kind of a lovely sound actually (in sandwich stereo) but … did we have to wait until I was naked to do it?

You think, at least Tarzan and Jane will be covered because when you get massages you lie down on your stomach … right? Forgeddaboudit. They lie you down on your back, with your boobs cooling in the breeze and your … okay, what word can I use here? Your … ‘Gorbachev’ peeking from behind the muslin curtain.

By this stage, you’re feeling a lot like Alice tumbling down the rabbit hole. How the hell did this happen? All you did was follow a white rabbit, for cryin’. Well my friend, you thought the rabbit hole was rough but you don’t even know what’s coming next!

“Off with her head!”

They get out the oils, and they baste you like a turkey ready for roastin’. I mean, literally baste you. They don’t have those baster squirter things, but they have ladles of oil which is marinated over your turkey for a good thirty minutes (at which point, you turn over like a good little roast so they can baste your butt). If you were smart enough to choose a different treatment, you become The Human Salad. Avocado, herbs, the lot. I grew quite hungry.

So, you’re a naked Gandhi, basted turkey … but it aint over yet. They then proceed to bend you every which way. As in, lift your leg as high as it will go (over your head) and then out, to the side. “You very flexible”. Uh huh. So the nappy, which was holding on for dear life as it was, is now about as dignified as dental floss, man.

Let’s just put it this way – there’s a group of women in Indonesia that have intimate knowledge of my body.

Ten women, who know my body better than I do. And it’s a sad thing to note that ten women have seen my ‘Gorbachev’ in recent months, but not one man has.

And you thought you were just buying a set of steak knives.

But wait, there’s more! Oh yes, I did go back for more. Why, I couldn’t say. Probably because all of these rituals of humiliation were in my resort package. Gratis, but not grateful. Do you want to be ritually humiliated, ma’am? Well, only if it’s free.

The coup d’état was the … pause for traumatic memory, biting my forefinger and tearing up … open chakra treatment where they (believe it or not) ‘open your chakras’. Apparently you have a number of chakras around your body, and there resides a chakra around your butt / Gorbachev region. Well that one must have been particularly blocked because she beat the crap out of me for ten minutes. Specifically, five minutes spent on each butt cheek.

She started on the left cheek and just went for it. Like she’d just got her electric bill and it was double what she thought it was gonna be. I’m face down at this stage naturally (nothing natural about it!) and she just goes for the cheek. I bite my lip, I figure she’ll spend a few slaps in the area and move on. Ha! Don’t make me laugh. She applied for a permanent visa and set up residence.

Five minutes later, she mercifully takes the slapping off the left butt cheek, down the leg and to the foot. That cheek burned like the town in Gone With The Wind. Even after the slapping had ceased, I could feel the hand print on my ass. And the worst thing was, I knew where she was going next.

The Right Butt Cheek.

I’m lying there, waiting for it. She’s making her way up the right leg … it’s coming, and here. it. is. And I thought that electric bill was bad, but the right cheek got it worse … like the black sheep of the family. It wasn’t fair was she did to that cheek. I mean, at least keep it equal, you know? The right cheek hurt worst than the left. Oh, the pain.

When I told my tale of woe, my friend said, “Didn’t you say something? Ask her to stop?”

“No, I took it like a good little Westerner”.

On the upside though, my chakras are now officially open.

The fable of Fabio

Day One.

Night time. Rome. Lugging my cumbersome home upon my back, I set out to find my hostel. However, the closer I get, the further away I seem to travel from the respectable part of town. Cue Fiesta Terrace Hostel (more Festy than Fiesta). My host emerges from the dark, like something out of the movie, Delicatessen.

Fat, sweaty, his gut protruding from beneath his once… white (?) t-shirt. “Ah, bella! Yes, come in!” He comes further into the light, to show dark circles under his sluggish eyes and makes to link arms with me (abort! abort!) before leading me to the office of further darkness.

“Just one night, not three.” I say.

One night? You book for three, yes?”

“Yes, sorry. Change of plans.” (In the space of the last five seconds).

Lose the deposit (but better that). My bunk bed lists dangerously to the right (not unlike the Titanic right before all hell broke loose) and I know – no way I’ll see the dawn sleeping on that puppy. Oh Sweaty One pulls the mattress to the floor, and crams it between the rest of the beds, saying, “This is good, no?”

That night, I slumbered next to a Brazilian with braces, who grinned a lot but couldn’t understand a word I said.

Day Two.

Hotel Postiano. Greeted by a jolly, well dressed man sitting behind a (well-lit) desk, I can’t believe my luck. I fall upon him, as if coming to a mirage in the middle of the desert.

“You are very friendly,” he says, “you smile all the time.” Insert usual chatting here. “How many siblings do you have?”

“Four brothers, two sisters” I say. (Might as well throw in the lot, go for the gold).

“Oh my goodness!” He raises his hand, which stays suspended in the air until I obligingly give him a high-five, and starts laughing. “In my country, we say, ‘Your father is a good player, and your mother is a good goal keeper.” The hostel is clean, fresh and as close to 5th Ave as I’m likely to get. The Gods have smiled upon me.

Day Three.

I wander through the ruins, trying to find the kick ass jewellery shop of my prior visit.

“Excuse, do you have the time?”

“No, sorry.”

“Hello, I am Fabio, and I come from Florence. But I come to Rome to study architectural ruins for my university.” (I aint making this up!) “I take you to grass, we sit, and I show you history of Rome, yes? You come with me, on my motor bike, yes?”

Ah yes, here before me stands an Italian man with sweet, big brown eyes called Fabio and I think, what the hell. I always say no. Let’s give this ‘yes’ malarkey a shot.

“Okay.” I say.

“You come on my scooter, yes? We drive around corner to park, and we sit. Yes? I have my sister’s helmet. You ride with me, yes?”

“Okaaay.” (HOLY SHIT!!!!!)

I hop on the back of his (sister’s) motorbike, grabbing on for dear life as he nonchalantly enters mad traffic, all the while looking over his shoulder at me, chatting away, not looking at the road. The traffic stops in front of him, but he doesn’t. I let out a whimper here, a whimper there. Secretly, I was lovin’ it, but I seriously thought, ‘it could all end here’.

“It’s okay, I see. I know.” He says, weaving in and out. He parks near a landmark, where the Roman’s used to race chariots. We sit, and he starts to explain the history of Rome.

“I have idea. I go and get something to drink, and we sit and toast to this scenery, yes? It will be romantic. Very nice, yes?” Sure, I say. He turns to go, but then as an afterthought says, “My friends at university, when we drink, we give each other money to pay. Yes?” Is that the jingling of alarm bells in the distance? He leaves, comes back with champagne. He weaves a tale of shop attendants and closing shops, and then he hits me for the cash. “25 each, yes?” I nearly fall off my patch of grass. “50 in total?” I say, incredulous. (Abort! Abort!)

Yes folks, we have a scammer. I repeat, we have a scammer. Baby brown eyes named Fabio tried to liberate me of my cash. How could this happen? Anyone with the name of Fabio is immediately trustworthy, surely! But this is where romance ends and real life begins people. Take notes, I’ll wait while you sharpen your pencil.

Happily I say, “I only have 8 Euro on me.” He starts to get angry, and suggests going to a bank. Definitely bells, but I think it’s the death toll. “It is not millions, no? You didn’t tell me this when I went to get drink, no? This is not honest of you.”

Aaah, the irony.

So much for the history of Rome.

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