I worked with a lot of unforgettable (unfuhgeddable) characters over the years in car dealerships. One of my all-time favourites was a typical Italian guy named Johnny T. Now, when I say typical Italian, I’ll bet you already have a picture in mind, but let me expound upon Johnny’s image nonetheless.
Short to medium in height, built like a linebacker, hairy, covered in masses of gold chains you’d have to mortgage the house to buy, and possessed of a certain swagger you automatically associate with movie clips of James Gandolfini. And loud. Oh my. That big belly laugh accompanied by hand waving and an inability to use his “inside” voice. Now you’ve got the picture.
Johnny didn’t need to use the paging system in the building—he WAS the paging system. We all dove for ear protection when he spoke (hollered) over the pager. Being the office manager of the dealership, I worried Workers’ Compensation might fine the company for excessive noise pollution. As long as you were within, say, a few hundred yards of his immediate vicinity, you knew exactly where Johnny was in the building; paging system or not. I wonder if Italians played hide and seek growing up. Must have been a pointless game. Anyway, Johnny’s heart was as big as his voice and everyone loved him. Like a true Italian he loved everyone back.
And he fed us—also Italian.
Italians take the necessities of life very seriously—air, shelter and food.
Air is used vigorously by Italians, all at once. The shouting, the hand gestures, the posturing—there’s simply no oxygen left after half an hour in a room full of Italians. I once attended a bridal shower with only two other manga cakes. I almost passed out from the noise and the thin air.
Shelter. With Italians—la mia casa e la tua casa. Once they invite you into their home, you’re adopted; no questions asked. You’re allowed to sit on the plastic-covered living room furniture. They offer you slippers. You get invited to the downstairs kitchen. You’re in.
Now, food. Food for Italians is an art form. First course. Antipasto, insalata, penne alfredo, seafood platter. C’mon, manga cake; keep going. Second course. Breaded cutlets (chicken AND veal), roast potatoes, lasagna, scattia pie, meatballs the size of baseballs. Whats’a matta for you? Third course. Cannoli, tiramisu, gelato, espresso. Don’t insult my ma; she’s been cooking all day. Have seconds, pal. You too skinny!
I haven’t seen Johnny for quite a while. Miss you Johnny T—and your ma’s cooking!