Imperia/Liguria/MonteCarlo

So I start this writing and blogging section, coinciding with my first attempts to write about my regular everyday happenings, while starting on a new adventure to live with my dearest love of my live, my girlfriend Christine. She had moved away on January 2 to start her masters program in Milan, Italy. Not knowing how this long distance relationship thing would pan out. With the advancements in telecommunication and once in a few month visits, we made it happen and in April of this year, we decided that I would join her in Milan, to live out her program together. Her, already accustomed to the Italian lifestyle, and myself, a newb, leaving almost everything I’ve built behind me, to start a life together, with only each other.

Having all of my roots in Chicago, or within a 25 mile radius, and having lived there on my own for the past 7 years, one would think it wouldn’t be easy to do such a task, but the way that I have set my life up prior, not having any children, not having any debt, and having a large lump of savings, it was easier than one would think. So this is where you find me, writing to you from an empty modern apartment in central Milan, on a warm Tuesday night with the window shades wide open, air conditioner pumping, 11pm at night, sipping on a warm espresso.

So I packed up my life, sold some of my life, and headed over to Milano. Having planned out our many travels ahead of time our adventures begins. I just didn’t realize how fast this would be moving. I quickly settled in and met some of her classmates which I have already heard so much about. All very down to earth people. It’s funny how where we come from, America, its always been an option to learn a second language. What the puck is that? Every other country on this planet, it seems like it is mandatory to learn multiple languages. Please step it up America. It’s amazing how I can travel half way around the world and people are speaking my language, more properly than I do. It’s a relief, but still a burden, because I was hoping to be thrown into Italian non-stop so that I can learn it. I met Romy and Illias first. Romy is from Lebanon and Illias is from Greece. They welcomed me right away, and I feel like I’ve already known them for years. Christine must have told them about my shenanigans from the get-go. Then I met Guillermo from Chile, and then Silvio from Imperia, Italy. Right away, I knew that these would be friends of mine because they reminded me the open minded people I hang out with back in Chicago. Similar taste in music, humor, and openness to culture and laughter. A topic of discussion for the evening was a planned trip which I was included in, to Silvio’s parents house in Imperia, about 35min by car outside of Monte Carlo, on the Italian side. I had no idea what was in store, other than Illias and Guillermo’s trip the weekend before. Big talks of this amazing view, amazing house, etc. etc. They set a bar that was pretty high, and I had no idea what I was in store for.

One of my all-time goals/dreams in life was to go to Monte Carlo, and when looking at a map of Italy, where Milan sits, Monte Carlo seems like a short stones throw away. In actuality, Its about a 4 hour train ride away. Piece of cake I told myself. I’d eventually make my way over there. But, the amazing girlfriend I had, had made sure that I was there in time for this trip with all of her classmates, to Silvio’s. Cool.

Monte Carlo. James bond, Formula One. Missed Formula one by about three weeks, but the James Bond fantasy was still fresh in my blood. The thought of walking into a big palace casino, buying a ten thousand Euro chip (min. bet) and placing it all on one gamble, and walking away with nothing or cashing out big has always been my fantasy. Although, in my mind, I’m wearing a suit, with no shirt on underneath and I have multiple neck tattoos, just to be the trash ball who walks in and scores big or walks away penniless. I’m not much of a gambling man, so I take the next best thing, going to an infamous night club.

We start off the weekend by taking a Friday afternoon train 3.5 hours to Imperia, where Silvio meets us at the station in a stylish 4 door fiat. He whips around the narrow streets like he’s been doing all of his life and dips off a drop down driveway to a secured gate which opens as he approaches, and slowly drives into the entrance of his house. This house dates back to 1890, was overtaken by the Germans because the view that it had over the Mediterranean was impeccable and looked out over the whole inlet of the Mediterranean. The home perched hillside with the train running below separating us from the street which the inlet for the beach was. The view was absolutely spectacular. The home, after all the years, kept on building in sections. Silvio’s mom came out to greet us and she reminded us of a women of very good taste, resembling Jackie O in her style. I was greeted by some more of Christine’s classmates, and we were all walked to our rooms. Romy, Christine and I were brought down a level to a wide lawn, perfectly groomed, with wide slabs of rock laying out a path to what could have been a guest house, but was connected to the house. We had our own room which had amazing Italian designed furniture which could have been older than our parents. So beautiful and so classic. Romy had the guest bed made out in the main section of this guest house, with her own bathroom as well… Oh yeah, and there was an elevator which took you to the main part of the house. We quickly freshened up and join Silvio as he ran about the property getting the evenings preparations ready for the party which was about to begin. Mixing punches and concoctions while the maids brought down trays of delicious breads, fruits and cured meats. Everything and everything that would be considered a light appertivo to help the body absorb the alcohol which would be consumed as the night goes on, while giving the guest energy to carry on tip the early morning. Silvio had warned me that he had rented speakers that are dangerously loud. He was not lying. Thanks for the warning.

So the party had begun. Food was delicious, the drinks were dangerous and the music was amazing. we all got a chance to dip into playing DJ for the night, and once we started going, the dancing began. It was absolutely amazing to be worry free, beside the Mediterranean with such great people, dancing on the grass which we were afraid to step on-at first, looking out onto the bay to see billion dollar yachts idling, sharing this moment with my amazing girlfriend. Some of Silvio’s friends from high school came over and they were very excited to be hanging out with us and meeting most of us for the first time, as we were feeling the same. It’s hard to imagine, after coming from Chicago and the surrounding suburbs that this was their life that they had known since their creation. Where we wanted to get out and see new things, find paradise, they had wanted to do the same, but find somewhere else other than the boring old town in which they had grown up in. It was a true feeling of likeness, no matter where you are, sometimes you just want to get away, weather its paradise, or an urban jungle, the human mind yearns for more.

After, I don’t know about 6 glasses, of the dangerously delicious punch, and about 8 glasses of water ( for me at least) the consensus of the folks had started to talk about getting into the pool. No one said no, some even just stripped down to their undies and got in. Christine and I ran into our room, changed real quick and joined the rest of the party in the pool which infinitied off the side of the ridge (about a 30 foot drop down the side onto so foot paths and gardens on the same property). At this point the champagne was opened and we were all swimming around the shallow end just taking in the night which had been. Some people where calling it a night, while myself and others where relaxing in the pool enjoying the company of our loved ones, and soon to be loved ones. This party continued until I found myself on the steps that lead into our guest house looking straight out onto the sea, just thinking about all of this and all of the friends that I have made, only to be joined by Silvio who disappeared about 30 minutes prior, now holding a bottle of tequila and 4 glasses. Minutes later, Maria, a classmate, and my new Russian friend showed up. And a perfectly timed Christine comes out of our room coming out to join us as well. And we almost forgot about Alexandre, one of Silvio’s childhood mates, looking lost and confused that he was the only one left poolside. Together, us five sat and drank shots of tequila, not even caring about the pain our bodies would endure the next day, but just hanging out, living a life that would only be temporary, waiting for the sun to rise. When the tequila ran dry, we talked briefly about the next days agenda, and everyone parted their own ways for the morning.

The next day, we woke up at around 11, and found Silvio walking around with plates and a seafood rice salad. Clusters of friends who had stayed the night were all around, in swimsuits, laying out poolside and some had not awoken yet. I made my way into the kitchen and had asked the maid in the little Italian that I knew for an espresso, and she made it with a smile. She had been with the family for 30 years. We met the day with a pool party, and sun bathing, and a little bit more champagne, then a small group of us walked the narrow, steep roads into town to visit the beach. The beach was pebbly and as clear as tap water, even with small breaking waves. Woman were sunbathing topless and children were playing all around. Everyone was happy. We made our way back up to Silvio’s, were we continued to sunbathe and horse around, until we needed to get ready for the evenings events.

Showered, cleaned, relaxed, and dress for a night out on Monte Carlo, we headed to a small restaurant, Osteria Vineria San Giorgino, in the narrow streets of Cervo. We had a set menu which was everything you can imagine being just the right amount of balanced food, all naturally grown and so completely fresh. Conversing the night away, everyone looking so amazing, everyone laughing and joking, it was like it was all of our last nights on earth. After about 4 hours, we had finished with a light sorbet, and were ready to begin our trip into Monte Carlo… at 100am! That is just how this country rolls. Dinner doesn’t usually start until about 9-10pm and nightlife begins shortly after. So we hit the ground running in our little fiat, Silvio being the experienced driver on the roads and highways, I’m pretty sure we reached a new record getting into Monte Carlo, reaching what I can see a maximum speed of 200km/hour. Our train coming into town didn’t even make it that fast. but we made it and upon coming into Monte Carlo, the city at night, looks absolutely majestic. We zipped up and down the hair pin turns from the mountains until we were driving along streets paved with Lamborghini, Bentley, Ferrari, Bugatti and Maserati. We witnessed the wealthiest of the wealthy pissing in the middle planters of the streets, while we were stopped at a stop light, flaunting his wiener like he owned the city, proving that no matter how wealthy you may be, it can’t buy you manners and decency The lights of the finest most classiest casino illuminating the night sky of the city.

We came to the final destination, JimmyZ nightclub where we were greeted with bottle service… at 200am! yes there was still a line, but Silvio had made arrangements ahead of time so no waiting, as per usual. I won’t go to a club if I have to wait, he must have known that. inside was wild! the decor was dated and not so crazy, but the crowd was just having the time of their lives. People of all ages, coming together to not give a puck! Every now and then a group towards the center of the bar, would order some ridiculous amount of vodka or Dom P, the dj would stop his music, and the Jurassic Park theme would come on, while waiters would come out with bottles of vodka or champagne with sparklers the size of road flares over their heads, about 10 bottles and bring it to their table! It had to be a 10,000 euro order. This happened a number of times, to the same table.

I’m not huge into clubs, but I adapt well anywhere I go. If you know Christine and I, we are usually the first ones to find ourselves dancing to whatever music is playing and instantly we had the rest of the women in our group dancing with us. The rest of the men soon followed suit, and our Monte Carlo party officially got started. Women who could have been escorts littered the surrounding tables, some flawless some not, but I’d have to say that we were the best looking crew out of the bunch. We had about four bottles of vodka at our tables with assorted mixers of red bull and orange juice. trying to wrap my mind that the people surrounding me in this club are billionaires and money isn’t an option, got me in the same state of mind, but not really. Instead, we drank slowly, danced a lot and tried to crack jokes to each other over the blaring music. awkward moment number one: going to the bathroom and a gentleman is mopping. Was he a bathroom attendant?, he was nice enough to hand me paper towels after washing my hands. after the third time going to the bathroom, he struck up a conversation which didn’t make much sense, asking me if I was french or Italian? I said I was from Chicago, and he mentioned he was from an African country, the name escapes me. I reach in my pocket and I hand him a 2 Euro coin. I felt like such a cheap ass but then again, I think that 2 euros is a pretty good deal for a transaction of paper from a wall mounted machine to my hands.

Getting back to the table, I noticed that there was a new bottle of vodka, not opened yet. I picked it up and immediately Silvio’s friends where waving their hands at me, trying to tell me over the music something….”what? I’m going to open this!”… In almost slow motion, Sambo stopped me, pulled the bottle away and explained that our bottles that we paid for were out, and they put out a new bottle, and if we opened it, our tab would be bumped up an extra $450! Holy shit. Ok. I’ll take four I told him. He knew I was joking, and we put the bottle back, I turned to Christine, and asked her if she wanted to get a drink at the out door bar and get some air. We made our way outside where even more people were, and perched up at the bar. We ordered two vodka drinks, and I thought i had it covered, and had a twenty in my hand. Cool and confident. The drinks came, the waiter said, “54 euro”. I immediately hid the twenty in my hand, pulled out three twenties got some change, turned to Christine, and we both muttered, “what the fuck???”… believe you me, we drank those drinks really slow, and they tasted just like every other vodka we have had in America. Nothing at all special. Lesson learned. This place is fuckin expensive. I mean for 54 euros, I expected to be served vodka out of a golden chalice, or at least have some gold specks in the vodka that made your number two’s glisten.. nope. Just straight up vodka… but I’m sure they weren’t stocking Skol vodka as their bottom shelf. I don’t even think bottom shelf exists in Monte Carlo.

Ok, back to our group of friends. The time was flying, and before we realized, it was about 530am. The crew rounded up and we hit the exits. At this time, there was still a line outside, and more people were pulling into the valet, and there were more people walking in. Their party was just starting. How? man, all we wanted to do at this point was sleep. We piled into our cars, there was discussion of going to an “after party bar”, but the crew of people who were visiting, just wanted to crash out. take us home, please. sorry to be a bummer, but holy cow, how do you keep up at this pace! we started the trek home, back onto the narrow streets, and hair pin turns throughout the city. The sun was out at this point and the visibility of the road was not as scary as the ride in, and before we knew it, we were pulling into Silvio’s driveway, Christine, passed out on my lap.

We made our way back down to our room, and I took a minute to sit outside, snap a photo with my camera phone, and ask myself, how the hell did I end up here. I headed back in where Christine was already comfortably washed up and passed out, and I passed out immediately. We woke up at 11, packed our things, and headed out to the general area, where everyone was saying their goodbyes. Some folks getting an early start by car, some folks like ourselves, dragging out the time to wait for the next train. Our Monte Carlo party, had come to an end. I’m extremely thankful Christine didn’t let me go to the casino to drop a ten thousand euro bet. Imagine which direction my life would have gone if I would have won. I’ll never know. Maybe next time I’ll wake up in a new Bugatti.