Mauro of Manhattan

“Why do you keep replying, ‘Thank you, but we already have plans for that evening,’ Marsha, when you know we’re free?”

“It’s just an excuse, Mauro. I just want to avoid an invitation by boring people.”

“Yes, but it sounds too … How can I say? Grandiose to me. In Italy we don’t make plans. I mean, not normal people. The government, maybe, sometimes. At least they boast it, to impress voters and pretend they are in charge. But ordinary people …”

“We are not ordinary. We’re supposed to have plans in our life. They can’t invite us like that, on the snatch, impromptu, with only a few days’ notice.”

Marsha, my Upper East Side girlfriend, can’t understand how Italians can survive always improvising—without inviting, nor making theater reservations or booking restaurants one month in advance.

“Come on, Marsha, don’t play it big. Don’t act precious. If one of my Italian friends calls us to go out on that same evening, we don’t have to invent ‘plans’ for fear of showing that our life is empty. You know we love to spend most of our evenings here, sitting in front of the TV. Actually, upgrading our cable TV menu has flooded us with wonderful movies, and improved my English, although it has almost killed our social life…”

“That was your idea.”

“No, no, no, darling, my idea was just to replace a crummy old little TV set with something civilized.”

“Yes, but then you invaded our sitting room with a monster, this humongous 42 inches plasma. Where the hell am I supposed to place food and beverage for our next parties?”

“Actually, I haven’t finished yet.”

“I know. Don’t come up with that again. No way. Don’t get me started on your freaking sound system with wires all over the place. Don’t even raise the subject.”

“But Marsha, that’s the normal consequence of buying a large-screen TV. What do we make of it, if the sound is not comparable to the vision, at the same excellence level?”

“It’s already stereo.”

“We’re talking ‘home cinema’ here, milady. … ‘Dolby Surround system.’ Remember the private screening we were invited to by the Italian distributor of Woody Allen’s Scoop in his luxurious Palazzo Borghese apartment in Rome?”

“Gee, but that was another planet. They are professionals, that’s their field. We are not movie geeks. Come on.”

“I just saw a five channels 400 dollars sound system in the store near my Rizzoli Bookstore office, on 57th Street.”

“I told you: I don’t want any of your ‘surround’ sound around here. Not that I don’t appreciate your will for improvement, but the only thing I’ll be surrounded by will be wires. See this? They’re already mushrooming all over: the TV cable, the connection to the DVD, the wire for the pay-TV box, the high-speed Internet, the telephone … There’s such an intricated bush under the plasma screen. It was supposed to save room, but now it’s invading us.”

“It’s wireless.”

“What?”

“Yes, wireless.”

“You mean the five speakers come without wires?”

“Yeah … kind of.”

“Kind of what? The last time we had something wireless around, it was that pirate neighbor of us who stole from our wi-max, getting connected for free and making us pay for his all-night porno browsing and wanderings around the Net.”

“We discovered that almost immediately.”

“Yes, after some wonderful astronomical bills … You don’t like flat rates, do you?”

“The sound system is almost totally wireless, Marsha, I swear.”

“What do you mean ‘almost’? ‘Almost totally’ sounds sooo Italian. Like ‘Almost pregnant’.”

“The rear speakers are wireless.”

“You mean two out of five.”

Mauro of Manhattan