I arrived in Italy carrying very little luggage, but a whole lot of stress.
My first destination in Milan was the hotel bar at Espresso Hotel, a short walk from Linate Airport. I would launch my vacation with a fancy cocktail to shake off the lingering stress of some really shitty events that had no business traveling abroad with me. After I dumped my baggage in a room that had a square toilet I beelined to the bar and ordered a Negroni. As I watched the bartender pouring four bottles of booze at once into a tall glass, I had no idea what would happen after my first sip of this lethal concoction. It’s an Italian specialty that sort of reminds me of a Long Island Iced Tea, only with twice as much alcohol. Who invented this lobotomizing mashup of Campari, Gin, Vermouth and Champagne? But as the Italians say, “Salute! You must drink a Negroni for all Occasions! ” Really? Well Negroni number one was for the shocking moment when I left LAX airport and Eddie, my travel buddy couldn’t get on the plane due to passport issues. Negroni number two was for last week in small claims court when my ex landlord who kept my security deposit when I moved out tried to sue me for another $6,000 in damages– which I proved were fictitious. Negroni number 3 was for the last-minute scramble at work dealing with contractors who were supposed to turn my closet into a restroom but couldn’t figure out where the toilet would go. And Negroni number 4, 5, and 6 was for feeling bad about my friend Eddie who was totally excited about going on vacation, but suddenly couldn’t because his passport hit some sort of homeland security type snag in the renewal process that would take six weeks to resolve. At least my other buddy, Michael’ made it to Italy ahead of me, so there was two of us and not three like we originally planned .
We would forget about all the stuff of life and make the best of it. I was ready to forget, but after 6 Negroni’s …my liver would NOT forget that I can’t drink more than one or two without getting trashed. My articulate conversations with Michael about the importance of staying healthy by balancing stress turned into a boozy babble in bad Italian about the bartender’s pants and how his ass looked really great in them.
The next day, I remembered the square toilet. I remembered getting a really good look at it up close and personal after that mind numbing, de stressifying parade of Negroni’s. Trolling around Milan hitting bars, (for strong coffee & pizza this time) we came to realize that Italy is a place where no toilet flushes the same way. Some have buttons on the wall, some are on the floor, and some you just have to figure it out or never leave the restroom. I came to realize that this is what Italy is…a place where there’s eight million ways to flush a toilet.