Saturday, January 9, 2010

The Foreign Woman's Tongue 6/01/2010

Last night was jam packed. We had a singer-songwriter present his new album and all his mates came from the next town. You can tell they are from the next town because they drink more, are more hippy-looking and actually dance and get a bit drunk. The locals in our town are usually too uptight to let their hair down and risk making a brutta figura by dancing or doing anything that might attract attention. They don’t drink as much either, though we sense some of them take cocaine. Loopy Lucia came up to me with her eyes burning bright and asked me for a shot of vodka for herself and her boyfriend. But they were jigging around like they needed to go to the bathroom, so I said go to the toilet first and then I’ll pour you your shots. But they said, ‘We were at Blue in town but the toilets were dirty and we couldn’t use them. So now we are desperate. But we’ll have the shot first.’ There is the strange and suspicious tendency here of going to the toilet with your partner. Couples disappear into the toilet (one room upstairs and one room downstairs) and who knows what they get up to. But this pair came down about ten minutes later with their eyes even more shiny and made a hasty exit without meeting my eye, as I glanced over to say good bye. So this is what we have been reduced to.

The lovely sister came in the early part of the night, the girl with the Irish boyfriend. Aren’t you great, she said, having moved over here, adapting to this, you have all the chat in Italian. Good for you, she said. She understood. How I wish she was around more. Warmed to her so much.

The Mafioso mentality
Here is proof that you can’t say a thing without it coming back at you here, not even a wee joke. Especially not a wee joke. A few weeks ago at the end of the evening Blue brother (Blue is run by two brothers and is in the centre of town near a couple of other locali) was at ours having a snoop around, as he does regularly (he checks out what groups we have coming up, and then quite often he has them play at Blue right after …). It was the night of the young djs, nothing exciting. But I joked ‘hey, Vincenzo, next week they’ll be at Blue, right? He got a bit offended. È rimasto un po’ male, as they say here, which I didn’t expect, not having foreseen the repercussions or the deeprooted rivalry they feel with us. ‘Competition is another thing altogether,’ he said, curtly, ‘nothing to do with the groups you have. You guys should come to ours, at least I come up here sometimes.’ Anyway, a few nights later he was back up and he spotted Lola Montez was playing and joked about me and said, ‘Oh I’ll definitely be up to see you.’ And then he grinned; ‘and next week you’ll play at Blue.’ I had seen that comment coming and finished his sentence for him and we laughed and he put his arm round me. ‘I’d love you to play at ours,’ he says. ‘Me too, if you pay me well!’ I reply. He was on the phone to his girlfriend in Canada and said she was a bit jealous of his barman lifestyle and I joked of course, she knows you’re Sicilian. He joked, ‘well you married one!’ But that’s different I assured him. Anyway, we are on these kind of jokey terms, but I obviously went too far with my little joke earlier in the week, because as I soon found out, Mad Max then asked if we could play there and the other brother, whom I don’t know, said no.

Mad Max my sax player comes roaring up to me when the night is in full swing, the band is playing, the customers are lined up in front of me, desperate for their drinks. In his aggressive usual manner, he comes right up to the till elbowing clients out of the way, clients in a fairly orderly queue but who look alarmed as they see his red face spouting forth at me. I am trying to serve glasses of wine, bottles of beer and keep the queue moving, while he is roaring at me, ‘Ma hai avuto qualche discussione con I fratelli Blue?’ – Have I had a row with the Blue brothers? No, I assure him, at first not connecting. One of them I don’t know and the other is a kind of friend, I say. But he insists, between one bottle of beer and one receipt issued. He doesn’t know how to behave and when to say things. My head is throbbing, the queue is lengthening and here is this redfaced madman bellowing at me like a sick bull. You made some comment, he insists. I said, ‘You can’t be talking about that joke I made? ‘See?’ says Mad Max, getting the confirmation he was after. ‘You need to learn to keep your mouth shut!’ Devi tenere la lingua firma. Keep your tongue still, he says. Yes, here we are in 2010 but in Sicily we’re back in the Middle Ages. So I couldn’t hold in any more, the queue was getting more impatient and annoyed at the bull distracting me from dealing with their drinking needs. ‘You are the one who needs to watch his tongue,’ I say! ‘You are the one who fights with everyone!’ He is quite shocked, ‘me? I am trying to sort out a gig for us.’ But he prob knows what I mean underneath. Offended, he pays for the beers he owes and I give him the receipt and say thank you and look at my next customer. ‘ How upsetting.

Understanding Local Provincial Behaviour Sermon
Mio marito says the friendly Blue brother probably just passed on my comment and not the fact that we then joked about it. Also he has now gone to the Canadian girlfriend and we are left with the more provincial minded brother. That the Blue brothers feel fierce competition with us. That my comment expressed what we all know, but no one actually says. He would never have made a joke like that, it is too close to the bone. But I say that they have latched on to my comment as an excuse. They would never have let me sing there anyway, it would be too touchy a subject. Too strange for the competition to step into the competitor's den and sing and bring clients. Maybe they think it wouldn’t be good for business relations. But it is easy to use the woman’s comment as an excuse. The foreign woman’s tongue.

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