Sunday, November 7, 2010

How I met Salvatore

On Easter Sunday I wanted to see part of the crazy exploding cart thingy that is traditional in Florence.  This tall pagoda-like structure is covered with fireworks of all kinds and pulled to the front of the Duomo by four giant white oxen where a flying mechanical dove ignites the fireworks.  A spectacular display is said to insure a great harvest or good luck or something.  I only wanted to see the oxen up close.  So I walked over to the cart’s garage and met friends and scoped out the beasts.  Magnificent and huge and festooned with flowers.   After 30 minutes of my gawking, the parade of flag throwers and drummers and gun toters and flowery maidens moved off in the direction of the Duomo.  I began my walk back to the apartment to prepare Easter luncheon.  At the Ponte alla Carraia, I saw that I could sit on the river wall and watch the parade, so I did.  It was all very festive and Buon Pasqua was said by all.  A group of people came across the bridge from behind me and I thought I saw someone I knew.  He looked at me.  I looked at him.  He passed by and immediately circled back to talk to me.
“Are you Florentine” he asked.
“No, Americana” I said. 
“Americana, Americana?” he asked, since many Americans are of Italian heritage. 
“Americana, Americana” I said. 
“Di dove sei?”  Where are you from? 
“California, but I live here.”
“In Piazza Santo Spirito.”
“IN the Piazza?” 
“IN the Piazza.” 
He said he went there all the time to drink the water from the fountain since it was so good. I said well, I sit in the piazza most days and drink coffee from 10 to 12.  Then he asked me if I liked to dance.  Sure, I said since I do.  Would you go dancing with me?  Sure, I said since I thought it would be completely safe to be in a public place with a man I did not know.  Do you smoke?  No.  I am a little deaf on the right side, he said.  Me too, I said.  He couldn’t pronounce my name let alone spell it so I put it into his phone and took his number.  And then I went home to make pranzo for 10 people. 
He called me later to be sure I really meant it and I said yes I did.  And then he sent a text about 9pm wishing me Buona Notte.  Very sweet.    The next morning was Pasquetta which I thought would be normal but in fact it was even more of a holiday than Easter.  He came at 10 and we went for lunch.  Not finding a cheap restaurant open that day, we bought  food and went to my place to cook.  After lunch we went on a three bus ride to a neighborhood west of the city.  We walked  into a small courtyard between two long narrow buildings:  half of one side was a small bar with everything from coffee to gin.  On the other was a card room with all of Martin Scorsese’s uncles and grandpas, dark coats and slouch hats and all.  I felt like I had walked into one of his movies.   When we entered the other narrow building, we found at least 50 men and women dancing around in a circle to a live musician.  They were all of about the same age as me and Salvatore, in ties and coats and spangles and heels.  The music was a mix of traditional Italian songs, modern pop music and rock and roll covers played by a single guy on a wild assortment of acordians, trumpets, trombones, piano and drums to the accompaniment of an electronic backup group. 
Salvatore turned out to be a great dancer.  He circled me around the floor and grinned and smiled and laughed as we learned to dance together.  He chucked my cheek and kissed his fingers.  He talked in a low graveley voice about my occhi azzurri (blue eyes), he  introduced me to his friends, all women, Carla with orange hair, the two blond sisters with the huge breasts, the siciliana.  All women!  They all said “C’e’ un buon uomo”, this is a good man.  He is.  I was completely smitten.  I still am.  Salvatore describes his first sight of me as a “colpo di fulmine” a lightning strike, love at first sight.  It is very romantic and I am very happy.