I’m Not Supposed to Be Here

I speak Italian. There, I said it. With a name like Lorca Damon there was a really good chance that I spoke something, but I cleared that up in case you couldn’t pinpoint exactly which variety of mutt I identify with.

I also have a kick ass job that sends me to New York from time to time, and after a brief period when I didn’t realize I didn’t have to stay in a hotel that was technically located in New Jersey, I came to enjoy my trips. They’re one of the few times when I’m guaranteed both a dose of culture and an armadillo-free few days.

This most recent trip was last week, and a strange phenomenon occurred. I went to New York, did the whole “I’m really supposed to live here and not in a place that still accepts live chickens in exchange for medical care” (totally not kidding on that one, look it up) thing, and even ordered food in a restaurant in Hell’s Kitchen in Italian (see note above about speaking a foreign language). But then I started to identify with “my people,” and not necessarily in a good way.

First, the restaurant went something like this:

HIM: Buona sera, signora. (Good evening, madam)

ME: Buona sera. Di dove sei? (Good evening. Where are you from?) (Incidentally, isn’t this whole thing reading like your high school Spanish book?)

HIM: D’una citta’ vicino di Venezia. (From a city near Venice.)

ME: Da’vero! Anchio! (Really? Me too!)

HIM: Si? Di dov’e’? (Yes? Where are you from?)

ME: Da’un villagio si chiama Caldogno. E’ vicino di Vicenza. (From a village called Caldogno. It’s near Vicenza.)

HIM: Bene. La mia e’ piu di nordest. (Mine’s from farther northeast.)

ME: Ah, vicino Iugoslavia, se era’ ancora la’. (Oh, near Yugoslavia, well, if it was still there.)

HIM: Si’. (Figure it out)

Then the rest of the dinner started. Only it went like this (I shall henceforth drop the Italian because I got all nostalgic about Italy while typing that part and started drinking. No, the Italian still works just fine under the influence of wine, it’s the English translation that’s kind of throwing me off.)

HIM: Would you like to see the wine list?

ME: Oh no, I’ll just have a glass of merlot.

HIM: You don’t want merlot! I bring you something special.

(Later, after a glass of non-merlot…)

HIM: Have you decided on a first course?

ME: Oh, the bread is fine.

HIM: You can’t live on bread! I bring you something special. (“Something special” turned out to be cold tomato soup with a basil reduction. Oddly tasty, but it wasn’t actually bread.)

(Later…)

HIM: And for your second course?

ME: I’d like the grilled lamb with the insalata caprese. (Incidentally, if you’d paid attention during high school Spanish, you could at least be kind enough to insert the Spanish translation here for me. After all, I’ve been drinking. And I’m now weepy.)

HIM: Very nice. How do you want that prepared?

ME: Well done, please.

HIM: No! You don’t want it well done! I bring it medium rare.

Fortunately, the special wine took the edge off the fact that I was eating a plate of raw meat swimming in its own blood, served on a bed of NOT insalata caprese (sliced tomatoes with mozzarella) but on a bed of goose livers instead. The entire affair was very elegant and very home-like, but all I could think was, “I could be eating a fully cooked cheeseburger from a drive-thru, washing it down with a slushie.”

I’m back among my other people and I’m thankful, even though there is no wine list because they’re Baptist. And grape-intolerant. Luckily, they also don’t speak standard English so I still get to use my mad Berlitz skills. English-Redneck subtitles to follow.

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