Tuesday, January 23, 2007

My prospective inlaws

New York Observer column, December 20, 2007

by Mauro Suttora

“They’re in the Sixties”.
My Upper East Side girlfriend Marsha is introducing me - a clueless Italian journalist, U.S bureau chief of my country’s largest weekly - to the oh so many Manhattan mysteries.
So, Marsha’s parents are in the Sixties.
“Threefold meaning, Mauro: first, they are 60-to-69-years-old; second, they live between 60th and 69th Street; third, they were young in the Sixties and they still somehow belong there, when they were splendid”. Marsha majored on Jacques Derrida, she loves to deconstruct.
“All three options apply to your parents. But can there be a fourth interpretation, Marsha? Their assets amount to $60-70 million».
“Too specific: either you are in the tens, or in the hundreds. No way between”.
“And that’s exactly their problem, I understand: very rich, but not enough to be able to afford a private plane. That is, how to be rich while feeling so poor...»
«Don’t be always so abrasive, Mauro. Let’s go on with the lesson. It’s not enough to say ‘I live on East 65’ in order to appear prestigious. You have to specify the Avenue”.
“So, this is their third problem, besides being in the tens but not in the hundreds and feeling plane-deprived: their penthouse is on one of the twenty right Streets, but not at the corner of the two only Avenues which really count: Fifth and Park, right?”
“You learn fast. Lexington and Madison are just one inch below”.
“What about all the other Upper East Avenues? First, Second, Third...”
“The pits”, she smiles, ironic but ‘non troppo’, “you might as well live in Carnegie Hill then, or move to the wrong side of the Park. You know, my father told me he used to venture here in the West Side only when he embarked on a ship for Europe with his parents in the Fifties”.
“Yes, I know that for some of you Uppereastsiders the Park is still larger than the Atlantic. I also know your parents are not pleased their daughter’s boyfriend is Italian, that he is separated but not divorced - because they ignore our law - , he is past 40-years-old and doesn’t play with money in Wall Street... But the move you made to my flat in the Upper West has killed all their worries: if you accepted you live on this side, it must be great love.”
“Mauro, don’t you forget that you smell Italy. They adore Italy, like Tom Cruise. For them you mean Rome, Florence, Venice... Not to talk about the Villa d’Este and Cala di Volpe hotels, their favorites. By the way, are we gonna marry there, or on an Italian lake? Como or Bracciano?”
“I never understood your sophisticated Newyorkers’ fixation for these two Italian hotels, there are so many others as beautiful. But, going back to your parents, I know that you told them about you moving to my place only recently. You should thank the disappearance of home telephones for being able doing so. You didn’t have one in your pad, so you went on for months communicating with mom via cell, and with dad by e-mail, pretending we were not living together full time.”
“Mauro, they have invited us for Thanksgiving.”
“Cazzo [F... in Italian]. They’re not going to Florida?”
“Yes. We’re gonna travel there as well.”
“No way.”
“You are so rude, are you holding a grudge against them?”
“No, not at all.”
“So, why don’t you want to meet them?”
“I already know your mother much too well, you’re always on the phone with her. It’s like you never cut your umbilical cord, although your phone is cordless...”
“Oh, stop your sarcasm! I’m just in good terms with her right now, and I’m happy for that. So, now they know I’m living at your place, it would be nice if they saw your face.”
“Are you rhyming on purpose, or is it by chance? Anyway, they can meet me here in the city, no reason to go to Florida.”
“I’m going there with them in any case. All America families reunite for Thanksgiving, you know that.”
“Travel safe.”
“I hate you when you’re like this!”
“And I hate the turkey.”
“But there’ll be so much else to eat... You know Thanksgiving is more important than Christmas and Easter, in America.”
“Sorry Marsha, I am not going to waste vacation days to go to that gerontohome which is Florida.”
“It’s not like you think, there are so many young in Florida!”
“Yes, nurses and caddies.”
“Mister sarcastic, there’s at least one thing that makes it worth flying to Florida.”
“The planes?”
“What’s so special?”
“The individual screens, you can choose among tens of movies and tons of cd’s!”
“Yes, but not for a turkey. Besides, you know I don’t like to go to places when everybody goes: I prefer traveling against the stream, to avoid crowds, delays and waits... Don’t you love to see queues on the opposite lane?”
“Nobody will be in New York on Thanksgiving, you’ll be alone and miserable.”
“I’ll have time to read, at last and at least. Excuse me with your parents, tell them I have to work, because for us Italians the last Thusday in November is a day like any other. No holiday, Rizzoli remains open.”

Mauro Suttora

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