Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Pimp Daddy Man and the Vampire

This isn't new writing. Actually, I wrote it a year ago (it's doctored-up now, though; things change over twelve months). It is, however, a pretty good prelude to what's coming, as the un-named academic institution alluded to in the "column" is the one for which I no longer work (no animosity; I'm really fine with it--well, except for the part where I don't have a job right now).

It’s been a dozen years since my two years in Italy, and over those years my brain has managed to take all the instances of the once-linear memories, blend them up, and mash them down into just one place in one city, just one time of the week at one time of the year, and right there on this little piazza, right around the heart of the city center is everyone/everything I know and love. All of it all at once. A great and mighty concentration of two years’ images and impressions: It is always sometime in early winter with lots of descending fog; it’s always the weekend—a Friday night; and it’s never just one moment, rather it’s the progression of the evening, from just before sunset, through to the end of the dark, chilly, yet somehow and miraculously cozy night when all the crowd and their adornments—the fragmata of my nostalgia—slowly drain from the one square in the one city in the West of Italy, and the fogs eddy and pool in the wake of the departing.

The book ends of this stock evening and its saturnalia are, and as the title above may indicate, Pimp Daddy Man and the vampire. In Italy—or my chaotic memory of Italy (and really, if I'm honest, my the Italy from my memory and the true geographic location are not at all the same place) —it is the development, people, and ambience of the night that bridge the gap between these two ends, the Pimp at the beginning and the vampire after; In my home today in Utah County, Utah, there’s another bridge: my former boss, a once-rich, Bic’d-bald to hide he’s balding, super-sized American of the quintessentially best and worst kind.

I’ll talk about the The Pimp first.

As I sit on the bench in my mind at the edge of a small stand of decorative trees on Piazza Mazzini (which my memory portrays very differently from the representation I just checked on Google Earth), I watch the slow 4:30 traffic skirting the edge of the evening: an elderly couple on bicycles with plastic shopping bags hanging from their handlebars; a woman, a nanny most likely, walking three children surely not her own; a miniature dachshund, apparent victim of some sort of swelling, corneal dysfunction, darting about the street and approaching a young Ghanaian in brilliant purple at his blanket of knickknacks, and the dog sniffs a rawhide model hippo and defecates on the spot, then twitches violently, and runs off, leash clattering; there are two priests—one laughing, one serious—gesticulating wildly, and the serious one stops just short of the fresh offal to emphasize a point, the laugher now hidden behind a pillar, leaving the other to gesticulate alone; and then from under the portico emptying onto my piazza, I see him: I see, emerging as though surprised by the great open and sunlight in which he finds himself, casually pleased by his good fortune, and yet somehow simultaneously bored, Pimp Daddy Man.

I have seen him many times stalking for hours the streets of the city center, always dressed and pressed and mannered the same. This time and just as always, he’s smoking, and clearly bending to affect that super-dope John Travolta smoke or maybe James Dean. There’s a greasy, black ponytail to match his olive-oily skin, slick black clothes, worn and polished pimpin’ shoes, and a strut so supremely exaggerated that he must be suspended from strings. Yet this all the man does not make. The lynchpin of the Pimp’s equable livery and ensemble is the jauntily knotted black tie emblazoned with flaming pink star proclaiming its wearer in big yellow letters (and more rightly without the here-accompanying indefinite article, which, by the way and for the audacity of simply wearing such an obsequious adornment—or, perhaps more aptly-labeled, garnish—should be changed spontaneously and forever to the definite:) a PIMP DADDY.

Before this current year of my life I have not given The Pimp thought beyond the very occasional and good-humored oh-yeah-I-remember-that-guy. Now, however, I am employed by the man I will here dub Bud. (I will get to the vampire shortly.)

Earlier, I said that Bud, that über-Ameri-man boss of mine, was my current life’s connection between the now-metaphoric Pimp Daddy Man at the beginning of the pullulant evening and the vampire at its end. That’s not really the case. Bud is more, I guess, a quintessentially American analog of The Pimp himself. It was my employment under this Pimp analog (though in Italy I never worked for this or, certainly, any other pimp) that correlates to the development, people, and ambience of an Italian weekend evening in early winter. The vampire is yet something else; Bud is not—not even cliché-ly metaphorically—the vampire.

Bud is a failed developer, victim of the economy, and former though so he believes yet-football player or jock, with neatly-cropped goatee and a penchant for such brilliantly logoed t-shirts as “I’m Bringin’ Sexy Back.” This is certainly Bud’s most obvious connection to Pimp Daddy Man. There is another: while Pimp Daddy Man maintained a constant and salacious hunt for willing (willing being the operative word, certainly not another word like, say, for example, attractive) young women, Bud is a businessman, whose current ambition is—ideally attractive, but really something much more like The Pimp’s quarries—just as evasive, and for which he employed me.

It takes a few hours for any Italian weekend super-evening to really get rolling. The Peruvian street band with their smiles and amplification, the gypsies with their contrapuntal accordions, sidewalk artists and the solicitous patrons and admirers, flocks of the groomed and plumed, food vendors, chiming shop doors, rings and waves of smoke, the chattering grummets and the click-clacking shoes…. All of them emerge—materialize—as one along and from the streets, under the portici, and into the square, and the noise is a wash like the fog which plays about just like you might imagine happy ghosts, and I sit there in reverie.

I said before that my bench is at the back of the square, tucked under the eaves of the little cobbled park with its trees and two-seater café tables. Along my left, its right-hand border parallel with the back slats of my bench, is a narrow street, down which I’ve never walked (and which, according to Google Earth, doesn’t even exist anyway), and I don’t know if I ever will, though not for lack of interest, especially considering the general attraction and invitation of such isolation after so-ebullient a bevy. I imagine what it may be like, and I can even see—see like you can see in dreams—the total silence, that entering this alley will entirely isolate the absconder from all the ecstatic noise and smell and imagery meters away. And down along this right hand wall, where I can’t see it from my bench, though I know—again, with dreamlike certainty—it’s there, there’s a door, unlit and plain. Through this door is the vampire.

Again, Bud’s not the vampire. Patience, Grasshopper.

Bud recently attempted to purchase a massive building as premises to his newest business venture over which I would be the presiding manager. The building had its genesis as a giant indoor carnival replete with cafes, video arcades, band stands and bowling alleys, rides and roller coasters and roller rinks, photo booths, popsicles and popcorn and corn dogs, elephant ears and funnel cakes. Over the years it’s been remodeled and retrofitted to house a rather ridiculous variety of endeavors. Bud got his eye on it when the present owner gave up and listed it. Bud had grand visions. He pictured again the cafes and now a computer store and now a gym and day spa, sporting and athletic fields, services to the community, auditoriums and classrooms, and all as accompaniment to and in symphony with his grand scheme. It would be magnificent. We even moved in on the promise and trust that earnest money for the purchase of this place would soon arrive and all else would neatly slide in place. Three or four weeks later, I sat in my office, leaned back in my chair, and breaked a momen--from such tenable duties as creating forms and informational pamphlets and letters, hiring staff, and all the other official tittles wrought by a presiding manager--just to steal a look out my big windows. Maybe I would even step out and into the tremendous atrium, five stories high with full skylights above and trees and gardens below and along the cobbled paths leading from front doors and offices to cafes, bandstands, and two sweeping, Cinderella staircases.

In Italy—my stilted, jumbled memory of Italy—it is at the deceleration of the festa that my attention is drawn to the dark, absorbing street; here, now, in Utah and my deluded fantasy—unavoidable spawn of Bud’s over-ambition (and I think I’ve always known it would never work) —it’s when I step out of my office and into the great wide open and see that there isn’t anything or even anyone here—just Bud, his remnant crew from previous ventures, and me—that my attention is drawn away, and in a building this tremendous and overwrought—so many new walls built and old walls removed, newly lowered floors and raised ceilings, new furnace, tech, and storage closets—there are near-numberless dark, absorbing streets, each, certainly, with its attendant vampire or other beasty. Bud walks these just as the Pimp did in Italy. I’ve seen him do it hours at a time, and each time he steps from an alley or byway of the great construct and back into the sunlit atrium he’s blinded, casually smug, and maybe even a little surprised by the light.

This all ended, of course. The building is no longer an option, and the court is forbidding our reentry. It’s no longer Pimp Daddy Man, the party, or even Bud drawing the attention of my thoughts. It’s the vampire.

When I was in Italy—such a romantic, mysterious place—it had to be a vampire that lived behind that otherwise-inelegant door down that sucking side street. Things are different now. I don’t know what’s behind the door anymore, and I don’t think it really matters. Maybe it’s a vampire, maybe some other monster, fell and caterwauling, maybe the apartment’s just empty . Maybe there is no apartment—never was an apartment—with or without a door or anything behind it.

But, really, I don’t think it’s any of this.

No matter how wonderful the potential of the great and spacious building, Italy—my metonymy of all things bright and beautiful—my Italy (and again and maybe/probably my Italy now isn’t anything like the Italy that’s really over there) is the point. Bud’s there. The Pimp’s there. So is the party, every Friday night. The alley’s there, and so, of course, is the door. All a mystery, and someday, and I like to think no matter what, I’ll get back there. Then there’s the next point: about two years ago I started walking down this dark, quiet, unknown and inelegant alley when I accepted the offer from Bud. The road’s there. I just exited.

Surely there are other doors. Maybe Italy’s behind one of them.

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