Being a Man in Milan


As most of my friends know, I’ve been touring with artists and bands throughout the world the last 12 years, and in doing so I’ve met many characters along the way. A musician approached me once and said, “dude, I totally did what you told me to do.”  I’m afraid at this juncture in the conversation, because who knows what I told him “to do.” He said I suggested he buy another keyboard, it’ll make him look cooler on stage. I ran into the leader of that band a few months later in Paris and asked about his keyboard player in which he replied, “I fired him.”

It was my first time to Milan and the artist, let’s call him Burt, asked me to join him and his friend for dinner. Burt knew him from high school. As we approach the sushi spot he turns to me and says, “my friend is kind of a clown.” We met him out front and walked into the restaurant. It’s a standard sushi place. A couple of asian guys with knives wearing white robes and ropes around their fore heads, behind raw fish enclosed in a refrigerated glass container. A hostess in the front greets us. Pat starts yelling at her in Italian gibberish that we need a table for three.

A little back story on Pat. He had just arrived from America, about a month earlier because he was accepted into a college for business. He was in Italy for 3 weeks and became an instant expert on their culture, language, and overall well-being. He wanted to bless us with his newfound wisdom. Back to the sushi joint.

The hostess is utterly confused off is jumbled Italian, so in English she says, “table for three?” We walk towards our table and she hands us our menus. Pat assures us not to worry, he can order for us. Little did he know, the back of the menu was written in English and had photos with a number next to the desired item. For example, if you wanted salmon nigiri, all you had to do was point, or say, the number next to it. We let Pat stumble through his derelict Italian before the server grabbed his menu out of his hand and turned it over, “just point to what you want.”

Throughout the meal we swapped stories of our tour and he told us about Italian culture and language of what he’s gathered in his hours of living in Milan. “To speak Italian, all you have to do is think of the english version of the word, and add the college ending to it, and that’s basically the word.” Burt and I looked at each other in confusion.

Burt, “What?”

Pat, “All you have to do is add io or ography, and you have an Italian word.” I’m not sure this is true, but it’s pure genius.

The check comes and for about a half hour Pat had some rice stuck to the side of his cheek. Burt and I ignored it but I finally said, “you got some shit on your face.” After an hour of dropping knowledge on Italian language and culture, I found it fitting to reveal his situation with a New York tongue.

We pay our bill and leave. Pat says he knows a great bar along the water about a mile away. It was a beautiful evening, lots of locals outside milling around, some trying to sell cheap goods, like mini megaphones. “Meek-crow-phone” the vendor says, through the device. The hot item at the time was a LED parachute that when launched into the sky using a sling shot, floated slowly back to earth blinking colorful lights.

We pass a stand on the street that has an umbrella disguised as a lemon. It was an iced lemon vodka drink that had a multi colored straw, and a mini lemon umbrella sticking out of it. Something you would buy in Las Vegas. Pat asked us if we’d like to get a drink. We both shook our heads.

Pat says, “The best thing about being a man in Milan, is you can buy a fruity drink, and not look gay.”

We finally arrive at the bar and Pat starts yelling at the bartender in harrowing Italian that we want three tequilas. Again, the barkeep is confused and Burt points to the bottle and lifts up three fingers. He pours them immediately. About a half hour passes and we are having a good time chatting and catching a mild buzz. Burt and I decided we’re ready to go back to the hotel, but can’t find Pat. He’s busy talking to a girl in the corner of the bar. Could Pat have game?!? Both of our jaws dropped because she looked interested in him. I walked over to say goodbye but he waved me away without even looking at me. Burt tried to say goodbye too, but he was ignoring us at this point.

So we left. He texted Pat to see if everything was ok. He never returned the text, nor did we see him ever again. After hours of enlightenment, zero response from Pat. Until a few years ago in Portland, Oregon on tour. It had been 6 years since the Milan incident. We both were excited to talk to him about that evening.

Me, “Whatever happened that night, you never returned Burt’s text, and last we saw you were talking to a girl.”

Pat, “Oh yeah? I don’t remember.”

Me, “That night was so much fun, so many great memories.”

Pat, “I just remember getting a drink at that lemon stand.”

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