Published: December 10th 2009August 3rd 1997
Remember that date. This is the day I succumbed to the overwhelming pressure exhibited by a hoard of felines and grabbed my rattling pig by the snout, bashed its’ head open and scraped out the stuff inside in exchange for fine Italian wares. The day started out as any other. Woke up, fell back asleep, and woke up again a little later. Dribbly shower. Look for friends to gnaw with or look to avoid people I didn’t want to gnaw with. Eat crappy breakfast. Nothing special. And then, following up exactly where last night left off, I ran into Meredith. She looked somewhat interested to see me and I, being a guy, liked the fact that she merely remembered me from the night before. Discussing our plans for the day, Meredith mentioned that she was going to the Uffuzi. How weird and convenient? Upon hearing her plans, I decided that I was also planning on spending the day at the Uffuzi. So, from the lobby to the dusty lane, Meredith and I set out to become cultured together.
Who was this person who gained my singular attention so rapidly? Why was I abandoning my tactic of wandering aimlessly by my lonesome? What made this young lady so special? Firstly, she was hot. She wasn’t stop you in your tracks kind of hot….however she was...how should I put it? Nice hot. ‘Nice hot’ is both a rarity and an extreme challenge. Mostly, it was an extreme challenge to me. My batting average with ‘just nice’ is pretty low. I am burdened with respect. I burden myself with respect. I would do very well as a character in a Jane Austin novel. Meredith was pretty, educated and thoughtful. While travelling alone, I got the impression from our conversations, that she was in a relationship back home but has taken some time to explore a bit of the world by herself.
The Uffuzi Museum is known as one of world’s most important art museums. It specialises in art dating from the Italian Renaissance. Some of their more famous works include; the Birth of Venus by Botticelli; The Annunciation by Da Vinci and Michaelangelo’s Holy Family. These pieces are well known and I was happy to get a chance to see them in the company of someone who was as interested in them as I. Seriously, spending my day with Meredith enabled me to visit the art gallery with an educated companion. Under a veil of sophistication we could pretend to discuss the pieces as cultured folk. I did not want to be mistaken for some geeky artsy freak ooooohh-ing and ahhhh-ing, standing there wobbly-legged, overcome by the majesty of some paint splattered canvas. Conversely, I wanted somebody with whom I could practice stupid jokes on and to deliver entirely inaccurate and generally fabricated historical explanations of the subjects in the paintings. I wanted to be myself and thankfully, Meredith was a willing participant.
After a few hours of meandering and playful exhibitionism, we decided to leave the museum and go shopping. I should clarify the plans we devised in the courtyard this morning. Firstly, we both wanted to get cultured by immersing ourselves in masterpieces. After that, we were going shopping. Meredith wanted a male opinion when she was trying on clothing. Yes, I pinched myself too. Right in front of her, I pinched myself. One of the items on her ‘to-do’ list while in Florence was to spend some lire on some laundry. So, steps from the Uffizi we set out to do some damage to her bank account. Little did I know, she would also do some major damage to mine as well.
Like the art in the Uffizi, the shopping in Florence is world renown. Well-heeled shoppers visit this city in search of designer jewellery and fine Italian threads. Florence is known as the Home of Italian Fashion. First shop. Meredith tried on a coat. I duly performed my promised task. “Whew! Hubba-hubba! Meow! Purrrrrrrr!” As women do, she noticed a non-existent flaw in the attire. Apparently, it was supposed to be made from a baby goat not baby lamb. It just had to be baby goat. “If it wasn’t the sweet, smooth hide torn off the back of the cutest little farm animal…THEN IT JUST WON’T DO!!” Next store. We nonchalantly sauntered in feeling everything in sight. She picked up a wallet prominently displaying a tag denoting the eighty-dollar price tag. Kida pricey? Yes, but it was made from the hide of a baby goat. I touched it. It bleated. I too was sold. The purse was nice, extremely nice but it wasn’t big enough to stretch across her petite frame. Thankfully, the attendant gave us directions to where we could find baby goat jackets. The store was only a few blocks away. We continued on our shopping adventure.
Stopping in a series of boutiques, I very much enjoyed watching this young sprite spin and twirl. She would look into the mirror. To the left, to the right, then to me. She really wanted my opinion. She looked great…in everything. Then after much searching, we found it. A baby goat jacket. It was very beautiful and Meredith looked fabulous in it. Her card was flashed and the shopkeeper was sent with an order to bundle it up. Meanwhile…as she was prancing back and forth on the catwalk out of the corner of my eye I saw it. It was to my left, hanging on a wooden hanger and positioned directly under a ‘Sale’ sign. As my eyes locked on it, I turned to Meredith. Before I said anything at all, she urged me “Mark, you should try that coat on. It will look great on you.” I knew, but how did she know?
I am cheap...really cheap. Scottish cheap. I have slept under the stars to save $10 bucks. I have slept on trains….on the floors of trains to save on cash. I drink warm beer left by bar patrons, to save money. My clothing is often rancid and hanging in tatters. Yet, there I was, being urged by Meredith and three very attractive attendants to buy myself an overpriced jacket in the home of Italian Fashion. It was just out of character. However, it wasn’t just a leather jacket….this one was made of antelope. Forget pansy farm animals. This specific garment was probably once chased across the Kalahari by a lion…torn apart by a rabid a pack of heyenas…a cheetah…or probably just a poacher with a 22. My immediate reaction? It looked cool. Really cool. I pictured myself with the jacket on...the Grand Canyon in the background. It was dusty. My dungarees were dusty. A cigarette hung from my mouth and my trusty steed scratched the ground beside me. (Notation; as this work is ‘family friendly’ please be advised that I agree that cigarettes are bad, evil, stinky, dirty, death inducing products. For this reason, the cigarette being smoked contains marijuana, not tobacco. Thank you.) That jacket was too cool and I would be Marlboro Mark Carmichael wearing it.
Now, I acknowledge that I can be naive at time. The sales lady told me it was made of antelope. Antelope? Maybe, maybe not. It could have been made of donkey for all I know. I didn’t care. It was the most handsome jacket than I have ever seen. With the audience cheering me on, I grabbed the jacket and took it off the hangar. The leather was soft…not as soft as the goat; however a goat never had to outrun a hungry lion. It was light brown. Tan. I overheard one of the ladies say it went with my hair. Sales people are such sleezeballs.
I took off the jacket and returned it to her rack. She looked so lonely, forsaken. She turned her back to me, but I wanted her and she knew it. I wanted her soooooo badly. I could just imagine….she would drape herself all over me as I confidently strolled down shimmering cobbled streets. Everyone would stare, envious of the relaxed confidence and she brought to me. She gave me my strut. I tried to hold myself back but was helpless. I looked up. In sequence, each of the she-devils commented about me how good I would look in it. I think they knew that I was weak. They were having fun. Poor, poor young man…can’t help but be manipulated by three very attractive local Italian twenty-somethings and one ‘nice-hot’ Yank. I was the antelope and they were the lions. I slipped my arms into the sleeves of the light brown jacket. The length was perfect. It fit…..perfectly. The antelope was the perfect size. It was killed for me…only me. I liked it. I really liked it. The one drawback? I looked at the tag. This jacket would cost me a few lire….many, many lire.
I overheard someone once say that one should never make a large purchase until they have first walked away and thought about it for an hour or so. Why I ever listed to such garbage still confounds me. However, before buying the garment, I treated Meredith to a lovely lunch in a sidewalk Tuscan café. We enjoyed a very nice meal, sitting on a cafe patio overlooking the Ponte Vecchio. Yet, with each bite I kept on recalling the look on the four young ladies faces. Instant approval. They were speechless. I love girls who are speechless. One glass of wine. A second glass of fine Italian Merlot. I reached over, grabbed the stem and raised it up. I looked in Meredith’s eyes. My glass touched hers. Yes. I said ‘yes’.
How could I resist? The sales rep told me she would mail it back to Canada for free. It was like I was making money on this purchase. All tolled our shopping adventure cost Meredith and I over 1 million Italian Lire. Not bad. I think we made a good team and I am certain the local shopkeepers agreed. As for the two of us acting as horizontal jogging teammates? Meredith hit her climax after spending all that cash. Our day together ended after we dined again in the evening. After a full day roaming Florence, its’ museums and stores with me she was just exhausted. Meredith bid thanks and retired to her room.
What an adventure! Today was another incredible day and wonderful opportunity to add stories of adventure and discovery with another fabulous stranger. What was my highlight? There were so many to choose from; experiencing Renaissance masterpieces with an interested, interesting companion; turning and looking to 4 pairs of eyes as I tried on the jacket; the smile I beamed as we laughed over lunch; walking down the dusty lane? No, the moment I most enjoyed occurred during our search for gelato. We found a little parlour on the near-end of the Ponte Vecchio. She got the vanilla. I got chocolate. The moment that left the biggest impression on me was the realization that Meredith was so pleased to finally get a chance to finish off her day with delicious Italian ice cream. She got her goat coat. She had a companion to enjoy the Uffuzzi with. I somehow made her feel at ease. Thus, oddly, after a long, busy day, the part I remember most was a feeling that Meredith was truly happy, enjoying her gelato as she walked beside me along the banks of the river Arlo. That made my day.