The ongoing countdown of my 25 most influential moments in Italy.
#18 – The Porcupine Kick (Il Riccio Calcio) – It was a gorgeous fall evening in Assisi and our class were all dispersed atop the hill and enjoying the cool evening around the walls of the ancient La Rocca Maggiore. Of course after a big meal there was much consumption of cheap wine in unmarked bottles and as always someone (me) would bring a bottle of liquor because they did not enjoy wine at the time (heresy). Our class of fall Romers in 1992 was the largest of all time and the hotel normally used by the school could not accommodate the whole class.
As fate would have it myself and my two buddies were assigned to a private residence with a super sweet Nonna (Italian grandmother or elderly matriarchal figure) that had a bit of a mustache. We were assigned a room that adjoined the small family villa with a private entrance that required a rickety stair-climb to ascend to the landing and reach our door. At sometime after midnight, like 3am, I stumbled back to the room (sad that no co-ed was willing to hook it up that evening).
I landed on the first rise of the stairs with a noticeable creak and then tip-toed my way to the landing and unbolted the door with a thud, climbed in bed and continued to ponder my carnal misfortune hoping the noise had not disturbed anyone. At about that time my buddy (the guy who pissed on the Victor Emmanuel monument) made his way in and was noticeably slurred of speech and kind of slinky in his motions. I knew I was hammered, but this guy was once again all slitty and LOUD. He asked where my other buddy was, and I said I didn’t know. Drunky stared over at me and said, he’s probably getting laid. That was all I wanted to hear at the time and I decided I would feign sleep and switch my thinking to breakfast and hoping the bread in Assisi was softer than in Rome.
At that instant I heard clamorous footsteps scaling the rickety stairs and I was certain that a board would break and a sudden scream would pierce the half-moon lit night and my other wasted roomie would be the first casualty of the 1992 Rome class. Moments later the stumbling somehow reached the landing and the door flung open. There stood my 2nd drunken friend huffing, puffing, out of breath and babbling (loudly).
What’s up dude, asked Drunky #1
Huffy-Puffy responded (with a thicker than normal Mexico city accent), guys, I just kicked a porcupine!
What! I exclaimed.
Yeah, I was coming back down the hill and I could not find you guys and this fucking porcupine comes running across the road in front of me and scared the shit out of me, so I kicked it as hard as I could, and I think it may be dead, claimed Huffy as he remained standing in the door.
Of course, at that moment Drunky and I fell out of our beds laughing and asking why Huffy could have possibly been scared enough of a porcupine to kick it.
Huffy simply said: Man, I did not know there were porcupines in Italy and I was afraid it was going to “quill” me.
Ahahahahahhahahahahahahhaha! (everyone like we were watching Eddie Murphy Delirious for the 1st time)
Then, like the sudden arrival of the Elementary Principal at an unsanctioned marble game the Nonna of the villa burst through the door forcing Huffy to stumble onto his bed and with the door slamming behind her she went into a hysterical tirade in Italian (I spoke almost NO Italian at the time).
She must have went on for a good 45 seconds before Drunky got up the courage to say “Scusi SignorE”(very slurred in a Matthew McConaughey drawl)
At that instant, even in my hazy state I knew he had just impolitely asked to be excused to a MAN, and it was not going to go over well.
The Nonna began screaming much louder than any of the noise we could have been making ”Signore no…SIGNORE NO!!…blah…blah..blah SCUSI NO! SCUSI NO!
The fire in her eyes shone through the bleak darkness the room had become without the half-moon shining through the open door. We knew we fucked up and we were just laying there in silence while she appeared to be waiting for an apology. At this point none of us had the courage to attempt any further Italian so we started saying contrite and embarrassing shit in English like “we’re sorry ma’am” and “it won’t happen again” After this she muttered some very likely nasty things under her breath to us and stormed out of the room slamming the door behind her.
Wow, no warning, no politely asking us to keep it down, just 0 to vitriolic in 4 seconds flat. I knew we had been not been model guests and at the same time I wanted to shove her old ass down the rickety stairs, ask her how it felt and tell her that if she would shave the ‘stache we wouldn’t mistake her fucking gender!
As it happened we went silent as if Christmas depended on it and barely mustered a few whispers and muted snickers the rest of the night.
In the morning we were approached by a school administrator and asked to explain ourselves. We could not figure out what had been more egregious, waking the family or calling the woman a man and because of our mistake(s) we were forced to split our merry band of misfits and choose new roommates for our next stop in Padua.
To this day, I am a bit leery of staying in private homes in Italy. There is always a mysterious sense of decorum lost on crass Americans like me and no matter how hard I have tried over the years to be a good guest, I am certain I always make some acrimonious choice during the course of my stay that ruffles the feathers of some sensitive Italian with or without a mustache.