Letters From JaneDear Lenny and Bekka,
We're in Rome! This city is HUGE, ancient ruins next to apartment buildings from the 1700s next to modern glass office buildings. Lenny, you would either love or hate driving here -- everyone seems to go as fast as possible, no matter the situation. Our cab ride from the airport to the hotel was scary for me, I was sure the driver was going to kill someone on a Vespa at some point. The hotel we're in dates back to the 1500s but has been totally modernized, really really nice.
Tomorrow we visit the Coliseum and absorb some history. The day after we're going to visit Vatican City.... Maybe. A couple problems. First, they will deny you access if they don't like how you look. Even if I don't spike my hair that day, they may still object to the blue. Also, Uncle Vito is very much the lapsed Catholic, and says that even if he isn't struck by lightning as soon as he sets foot inside, he'll eventually get into an argument with one of the faithful over Pope John Paul's various public statements, particularly those revolving around birth control.
Off to dinner now. Uncle Vito is promising to school me in wine over the summer, but particularly while we're in Italy. He wants me to have more knowledge and selectivity than choosing between Boone's Farm and Thunderbird (hic!).
I love you both,
Dear Lenny and Bekka,
We are now up the coast, in Livorno. It was an interesting trip: Uncle Vito rented a Mercedes, and had me drive. Fighting our way out of Rome was fun enough, since all drivers in Rome are homicidal and I'm at the wheel of an expensive car that I don't own. It's about 320 km. to Livorno, or just under 200 miles. Once we were free of urban Rome, the highway is modern, but there's a problem. The Italians drive these tiny wind-up toys, and the width of the lanes on the highways was determined with them in mind, not a Mercedes. I'm glad I've spent time behind the wheel of the Fleetwood, so this Benz isn't too intimidating for me, but I feel like I have no margin for error on the road. Also, those Italian wind-up toys aren't very fast, and they get in the way. It was a drive I could have covered in three hours in my Cutlass in California, but it took over four hours here.
We got to the hotel and Uncle Vito immediately got on the phone in the suite, calling relations to see who was up for a visit. He was depressed when he finished. No one was accepting his invitations. He told me, "They do not wish to spend time with the black sheep. I left home for America and became both wealthy and a criminal, in their eyes. Perhaps they are right. But they are family. Does that mean nothing?" I held him close. He wished there was a loaded bong close to hand. Since I have no idea how to score weed in a city I've never been in and in a language I don't know, we settled for going to the hotel bar, which had the good grace to stock Hennessey. I drank an okay beer called Opperbacco. After his fourth drink, Vito declared we would not stay in the Livorno area. We would visit Pisa, with its leaning tower, the next day and call it done. (Vito calls the tower "a monument to the folly of engineering.") We will cut across to the east side of the peninsula and visit Venice, then go to a place called Lake Como, which he says I will thoroughly enjoy.
Past nine, TV becomes far more entertaining in Italy. I'm not used to seeing tits on broadcast television, but I am right now.
Dear Lenny and Bekka,
Wow! We're in Lake Como now! The only clothing I've had on since nine this morning is my Doc Martens!
Lake Como, or at least the part of it we're at, is a giant nudist resort, this place is huge. It's a family resort, too. You'll see Mom, Dad, and the kids all shuffling along wearing nothing but rubber sandals, headed for the beach or lunch. Uncle Vito explained the place to me as we drove here, impressing on me that any overtly lusty actions on my part towards cute Italian boys would be regarded as horribly rude and tactless, the guy would probably shut me down. I've learned to keep my sunglasses on, so I'm not caught "browsing."
Uncle Vito does not take part. He is, as always, dapper and dignified in his suit. Me, I've never felt more free in my life. While I'm glad I got my legs and snatch waxed before I left, I'm still good and smooth, it would seem waxing or shaving is not nearly as common around here. I've seen women with legs hairier than Lenny's. I've also caught people doing startled double-takes at my snatch. I am obviously a post-pubescent female, yet I have no pubic hair. This throws some people for a loop. I would like to explain to them that being hairless increases the fun of both oral sex and masturbation, but not only is there a language barrier, this line of conversation would be viewed as being in bad taste. It's weird: if there are people getting laid around here, they're being awful damn subtle about it. A lot of the time, it feels like everyone's attitude is that sex and nudity have nothing to do with each other, this is a nice family resort, and the lack of clothing is immaterial. It's like they want to prove that it's possible to be naked in public and still be a prude.
Right now I'm lying on the grass of a big park-like area, which has a playground and lots of picnic benches and a diner-style restaurant. Vito is about fifty feet away, sitting at a bench with three (naked) old guys. They're playing cards and talking and laughing. Twenty feet to my right, leaning against a tree, is an Italian guy, about nineteen, with golden hair and great legs and an awesome chest and what appears to be a fantastic dick. I keep stealing glances. I may go over and offer him a cigarette and see if he speaks any English whatsoever. I'm keeping what Vito said to me about being aggressive in mind, but it's hard to not want to find an English/Italian dictionary and figure out the phrase, "Baby, I wanna ride you like a hobby horse." More later, wish me luck.
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That sucked. I went over, all smiles, and offered him a Marlboro, which he politely refused. I asked him if he spoke any English. He says, "You English?" I say no, Americano, and can I buy you a beer? He looks confused, then stands up and gestures at me to follow him. We go into the diner and he walks up to the counterman. They talk briefly. The counterman says to me, "What did you want to ask him?" I tell him I want to buy the dude a drink. The counterman relays this information in Italian, the dude responds, and the two go back and forth several times. The counterman finally says to me, "He says no thank you, and he must go to meet with his family." I smile and nod at the dude and say Scusami (excuse me). He gives me this weird, nervous look and practically runs out of the diner. The counterman says to me, "You are American?" I say yeah, and he replies, "He thought you wished to get him drunk so you could attack him. Why did you approach him?" I explained I thought he was cute and wanted to make a new friend, and was hoping he spoke at least a little English. Why did he think I would attack him? "Your appearance, and you are American. American visitors to the resort believe they will easily have liaisons with other guests. There are other resorts where this is true, but this is not one. He believes you would try to force him into a liaison." I said, Okay, what country should I tell people I'm from so they don't believe I'm some sort of rapist? He says he doesn't know, the British also expect to get laid when they come to the resort.
Okay, yeah, I was interested in the guy because I thought he was hot. But come on, I was trying to be polite, it's not like I tried to chloroform him and drag him into the bushes. Since when are Italian dudes so damn protective of their chastity? The ones I know are usually total horn-dogs. And apparently when people here find out I'm American, they'll assume I'm a sex maniac. I know I sort of am, but I have tact. I don't want to go sport fucking, I want to have a friend and lover for the several days we're here. No big deal and no strings attached, but not something totally void of feeling, either. I'm surrounded by hot guys, and I may as well have "clap queen" written on my forehead. There's some sort of Planned Social Event for "the youth" of the resort happening tonight. I'm gonna go, but I'm not holding my hopes up. Right now, I'm going to have Uncle Vito teach me a few more phrases:
Do you speak any English?
May I buy you a drink?
Yes, I am American, but I am harmless.
Dear Lenny and Bekka,
This is our last full day at Lake Como. Did Dante consider those of us who are perpetually horny to be hell bound? If he did, then this place is one of the circles of hell. Okay, it's not that bad. I've been enjoying the ability to get out of the shower in the morning and do nothing more than put on my boots. Constant nudity feels incredibly liberating, like I'm daring the rest of the world to accuse me of hiding something. I am going to do what I can to avoid clothes when I get home, okay? Nudism rules.
The problem is the exhibitionist pat of me wants to be assessed by the men around here as a sexual being. I want to be eye candy, dammit. Please, someone leeringly stare at my tits, preferably one of the tanned, fit young men who seem to be everywhere around here. I am sexy, and I am naked. Ogle me.
Nope. Suggesting that nudity should be a turn-on for anyone around here is anathema. I have attempted basic contact with a few other guys, but it hasn't worked out. I would introduce myself by saying "Parli inglese?" (Do you speak any English?) The best response I could hope for was a shrugging smile and the word, "Little." I would say Hello, my name is Jane, I am from California. Apparently the word "California" is Italian for "I travel the astral planes," as people seemed astounded by this revelation. I would try my second phrase, "Posso comprare da bere?" (May I buy you a drink?) They would shyly accept, and we would go get a couple bottles of some local stuff named Forst. So we wouldn't just stand there smiling at each other and drinking our beer, I would guide the dude over to where Uncle Vito was sitting, still playing cards and gabbing with the three same naked old dudes, so that I might have a translator. I would have Vito explain that I thought the dude looked like a nice boy, I was feeling lonely, and would he like to have dinner with us that night? Maybe the three of us could go to the resort bar?
The dudes would get an embarrassed look and invariably make excuses along the lines that they had to meet with family. (Why are all these hot young Italian dudes going to a nudist resort with their mothers?) I would use my third phrase: "Sì, io sono americano, ma sono innocui." (Yes, I am American, but I am harmless.) Uncle Vito would throw in his two cents, which the dude would respond to. The two would then have a somewhat heated exchange, ending with the dude walking away. I asked Vito what he was saying to them. He explained, "I tell them that you are not a rapist, not a killer, you do not even leave hickeys. But between your hair, your boots, and your American accent, these young men have you pegged as highly predatory."
The youth social was just plain bizarre. The age range of attendees was between twelve and twenty-two. What passed for entertainment were games that would have been appropriate at a nine year old's birthday party --- they had a pinata, for shit's sake. Me, I was expecting something like a real party. I brought six bottles of Forst with me, so I could be social. I was standing outside at one point, having a cigarette, and it struck me that people, especially my fellow youth, were looking at me with bare-faced amazement. I wondered what the problem was, and then it struck me: the cigarette. I realized I hadn't seen a single person under the age of sixty-five smoking at Lake Como. (Vito and his naked buddies smoke their cigars all day.) A while later I was standing inside, drinking a beer and trying to look like a decent human being (not one of those evil Americans). I looked at what others were drinking, and everyone had cups of red Kool-Aid, even the people who were obviously old enough to drink. The one saving grace of the evening was using the phrase "Parli inglese?" on a girl a bit older than me, and getting "Yes, I do" in response. She explained things to me. First of all, the dudes I'd been scoping on (and striking out with) would, if back on their own turf, be whistling at me and trying to pinch my ass. According to her, Italian boys are very insecure, and will only be outgoing if they are with a sufficient number of friends. With no mates to back them up, they become painfully shy. Even if I wasn't American and had "normal" hair, just the fact that I had approached them at all panicked them.
Also, the Lake Como resort tries to make out nudism as being as asexual as possible, on purpose. It's not just that they don't want to be confused with the swinger's resorts, they are trying to promote nudism as a highly moral exercise. I pointed out to my new friend that there was even less interaction here than would be found in the day-to-day outside world. She said, "Yes, even innocent flirting is seen as bordering on lewd behavior. People here are highly conscious of the shaky reputation nudists have, and go to great lengths to avoid any appearance of sexual impropriety. They wish there to be no connection between nudism and sexual interaction of any kind, the end result being that many of the younger guests are terribly naive about social interaction between the genders. I'm afraid nudism will have warped them, in the last direction anyone would ever guess."
I asked the girl, straight out: doesn't anyone around this place get laid? Isn't anybody partying? She said, "There are some, but they are very, very circumspect. Lake Como has a very, uh, conservative view of relations between men and women. An unmarried couple here would be viewed with suspicion. At Lake Como, the worst epithet you can call someone is 'swinger.' You are saying they have no moral base, are obsessed with pleasures of the flesh, and are reckless in their interactions with others. And possibly suffering from chronic venereal ailments. Como goes to great lengths to portray nudism as a wholly innocent pursuit. Look at this event tonight. Someone felt that the way to keep nudist youth from behaving in a remotely lewd manner was to treat them like pre-adolescents. The problem is, the world is not Lake Como. Youth from nudist families who adhere to the Coho mindset are going to be mystified by how the genders interact in the real world. The most basic flirting will shock and confuse them. In their quest to portray nudism as an innocent pursuit, Lake Como has vilified sex."
I was honest with her. I told her that, to be frank, I had tried to pursue boys who I thought were just plain hot: get to know them better, then maybe have some fun together. I didn't know I had so many strikes against me, like my American accent, my hair, my boots, and my lack of shyness. "Um.... Something else, too," said the girl. She pointed at my crotch and said quizzically, "You.... Shave?"
I politely explained that I'd had both my legs and my snatch waxed before leaving on my trip. To me, a bald pussy was partially a porn-inspired fashion statement, partially for personal pleasure. While attitudes towards body shaving on women seemed to be lax in Italy (I'd gotten used to women with hairy armpits), surely I couldn't be the only person around with a Search and Destroy attitude towards most body hair.
"I'm afraid you removing your pubic hair has been viewed as a highly sexual act, coloring you as very sexually aggressive. It is an aberration, and the obvious reasons for it are ones of sensuality. The young men you approached certainly noticed your, uh, baldness, and took it as a sign that you would surely be propositioning them in a very short time. They have viewed you as a nymph."
I told her that, dammit, me getting rid of my pubes was a sexual act, and what of it? As a species, we are very highly sexed. Me, I revel in physical pleasure. To deny the existence of one of the strongest drives of our species was ignorance and obstinacy. For this position to be held around a nudist resort was pure folly, personally. Okay, maybe having a bald snatch is advertising that sex occupies a good percentage of my consciousness.... But it does with most people, on one level or another. That I was being condemned, at a nudist resort, for demonstrating my interest and enjoyment of sex struck me as funny, if it weren't so pathetic.
When I get home, I am going to research nudist resorts. There has to be a compromise between the swingers clubs and this place. I have loved that I am unburdened, unfettered, that I have no shame, I appear to be exactly who I am, and I am unafraid of being exposed. The awesome tan I've developed over the last few days is cool, too. The weird "we are asexual" vibe around this place is really sad. I know you guys would agree, they're missing out on one of the most beautiful aspects of being human. I wonder if Uncle Vito would be bugged if I stopped wearing clothes while in our hotel rooms.
Dear Lenny and Bekka,
We are on Malta. Yesterday we drove to Milan, turned in the rented Mercedes, and took a cab to the charter service at the airport, the people who would get us to the tiny island country. I don't want to know what Uncle Vito is spending on this trip. I was expecting we'd be jammed in a Cessna for the duration between Milan and Malta. Nope, Vito got us a Gulfstream jet, which will get us there quickly and in comfort. Now we're in our hotel relaxing. This place is tiny and crowded, only 122 square miles covering both islands, and a population of 450,000. From what I saw from the air, not a lot of plants, either. No forest land here. What Malta does have is two official languages, Maltese and (hooray!) English. I can communicate with other people again.
I asked Vito about the three naked old guys he was hanging around with at Lake Como. They're retired mafioso. They actually live at the resort, having bought cabins on the edges of the housing area. Vito knew these guys even before he was in Las Vegas. Now they have simple lives, they will venture out of the resort to go shopping once a week, but otherwise hang around, playing cribbage and Hearts. I was heartened to learn these three guys, who are viewed as arbiters by long-term resort attendees, are bitterly amused by the efforts to portray nudism as virgin pure. They feel as I do: the stance of asexuality is belied by thousands of years of evidence to the contrary, provided by our own species. Basically, if two people meet and each think the other is hot, why shouldn't they have some fun? Lake Como would still be family friendly and would not turn into a swinger's resort, despite the fears of the management.
I just realized I never told you about our two big tourist stops, Vatican City and Venice. Vatican City was a trip. It was like a Catholic-themed Disney presentation, really gaudy. They let me in, despite my appearance. I think Vito was a bit disappointed that happened, it would have given us an excuse to skip it and just goof around in Rome all day instead. Vito, lapsed Catholic he is, kept making snide comments about how if Vatican City represents Christian humility, then Bob Guccione should become a lobbyist for the National Organization for Women. You have to wonder how many starving people the Catholics could feed all over the world if they sold off all their paintings and statues and gold knick-knacks and other shit. After seeing Vatican City, I could steal the collection plate from a Catholic church and not feel a lick of guilt.
Venice was a bit depressing. It's all about tourism. We tried to get off the beaten path and find the soul of Venice, figure out where the locals hang out, but every path in Venice is well beaten. We took a gondola ride, and came this close to murdering the gondolier. We'd spoken to the gondolier in English, and had obviously been talking to each other in English, so he assumed we were just more American tourists. He also assumed that I was fucking Uncle Vito for his money. As he poled, the gondolier kept up a cheery-sounding monologue in Italian, which apparently revolved around perverted old men, strange-looking Yankee whores, and how this blue-haired teenage prostitute was certainly destroying the family fabric of this old man she'd seduced and was now robbing blind. Vito waited for a pause, then told the gondolier (in Italian) to feel relieved we were not in California, Vito would make sure he was dead before sundown. He also insisted the gondolier apologize to me, in English. The gondolier told Vito he didn't speak to whores. Vito bullshitted a little, he said to the gondolier, "This girl is my grand-niece. You accuse her of being a whore, and me of being an incestuous monster. On your birthday each year, your mother cries with regret." Vito then quickly reviewed for me what had just taken place. I was pissed. I reached in my purse and flipped open my butterfly knife, then made my way towards the gondolier saying, Motherfucker, you're getting cut. Seeing me coming at him, the gondolier spazzed out and ran the gondola into the wall of the canal, he nearly fell in the water. Uncle Vito stood up and said (translated from Italian) "You will get this scow to someplace where we can disembark. I will not be piloted in Venice by a coward, a failed abortion. And if you cannot tell, it really is in your best interest to apologize to the young lady. She would not leave any pieces large enough to identify you." The gondolier looked at me and said in English, "What I said of you was cruel and thoughtless. I ask your forgiveness."
We were poled up to a low dock that had a ladder going down to water level. Me and Vito climbed up onto the dock, and Vito said, "If you wish to abuse your customers, do so among friends, not in front of the people who are giving you money. May the very tides work against you." We walked to the public walkway, completely lost. After a couple minutes random strolling, we came across a run-down bar whose signage was entirely in Italian, no concession for tourists. We went in, where Vito introduced me to Ouzo. We drank and smoked Vito's cigars. He explained to the locals near us that we had an abbreviated gondola ride. His grand-niece, this girl here, had been insulted by the gondolier, so she promised to cut him into pieces before he ever set foot on dry land again. The locals found this highly amusing, especially when I showed them my butterfly knife. We stayed there for a couple hours, getting a good buzz and being around people who weren't wearing fanny packs and carrying Instamatics, a real change from the Venice scenery we were used to. One local, fairly hammered, asked me (through Vito) to marry him. I smiled and had Vito explain to him that my love would destroy both his body and mind within two weeks, that I would leave him a shell of a man. The drunk looked at me and said, "Americano?" I responded, Si, e la California. The drunk smiled and said, "Californiano! Pazzo e bello." I nodded.
We got instructions up to a main drag, where we flagged a taxi and got a ride back to Giorgione Hotel. We ate in the hotel restaurant, then hung out on the terrace. Vito asked me if I still wanted to become mafioso, or was that dream dead now that Bekka had beaten me to the punch, becoming the first woman mafioso. I told him I absolutely wanted to be in the family. He said my entrance would be contingent on my grades in college. He knew I had balls, he wanted to make sure I had the knowledge and intellect to successfully run a Cosa Nostra business. I told him I would not disappoint him, or Angel, or Vinny, or anyone else in the family. He gave me a hug and said he would love to have twenty Janes in the mafia, we would rule the world. Then we went up and went to bed.