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Not only is Caravaggio the greatest painter, EVER. Not only is his work the subject of my first fiction novel (hopefully you’ll read it someday). But he was also born in the same city as Stefania…

MILANO!

So in honor of Stef, Caravaggio and a hackneyed attempt to pimp my work, here is a chapter form my book. In this chapter, the characters happen to be celebrating the work of their hero, Caravaggio… So there ya go.  Enjoy!

Chapter 03 – The Gospel of Don Vittorio Storaro


Under the cover of darkness, beneath the tall oaks of Griffith Park, a group of Cinematography Fellows at the American Film Institute dropped the sacrilegious bomb and anointed famed cinematographer Vittorio Storaro as their lord and savior. They saw him as a jealous prophet, one who didn’t tolerate any second-guessing of his belief system. So Don Vittorio gave them tangible proof that he was not to be fucked with, five masterpieces of cinematography…

“The Conformist” (1970),

“Last Tango In Paris” (1972),

“Apocalypse Now” (1979),

“Reds” (1981)

“The Last Emperor” (1987)

Simply put, if you’re ever blessed enough to finally see Vittorio’s light, you’ll get the spirit and jump around the Los Feliz campus like Aunt Esther in an Alabama Baptist church. It’s that moment where you evolve from being a mere photographer and you become a painter of light.

Born technician.

Born again artist.

For us, colors are not just various wavelengths of the visible light spectrum. Colors are mystical ingredients that when mixed right become a potion of seduction and enslavement. Storaro is the key. He’s Merlin, Moses and the Rosetta Stone all wrapped up into one.

The Bourgeois Pig coffee bar is the Church of the Cult of Light. It’s a cathedral full of Goodwill couches, pool tables and pretentiousness. We Fellows make camp in the Moroccan room, which looks like something out of 1001 Arabian Nights, with its long curtains, hung to make you feel like you’re chillin’ in a tent, pitched deep in the North African Desert. It’s our chapel and it’s decorated with the portraits of the artists we worship, the saints of our craft.

I know,  I know… There’s some fucked up idolatry goin’ on up in here.  Right? The Hollywood branch of the Church of Scientology is across the street. They won’t bring their children over here anymore. How messed up is that?

I share a table with Pan and this Directing Fellow from New York named Skylar, who came out of the documentary scene. The two entertain me as I listen to them babble on about bullshit.

“…Really? Your favorite sport is Little League Baseball?” asks an astonished Skylar.

“No. Just the Little League World Series,” says Pan.

“Why?”

“I like seeing ‘em cry.”

“What?” asks Skylar in disbelief.

“A couple of years ago, with the entire world watching, a ten year old Japanese pitcher got lit up by a walk-off home run in extra innings and lost the game. As the American player rounds the bases with complete unadulterated glee, the pitcher just crumples to the mound, man. He just collapses to the ground in a wet quivering mass of inconsolable grief,” says Pan blissfully.

“And you find this entertaining?” Sky asks.

“I laughed my fool head off. I watch it on YouTube at least once a week, the entire stadium on its feet cheering this kid’s humiliation…”

Pan fades off in reverie, no doubt re-living the incident within his bald head, as he stares down into his blue cream soda.

“You’re a sick fuck, you know that, Pan?” says Skylar. “They weren’t cheering the loss. They were cheering the walk-off home run.”

“Not if you squint while you’re lookin’ at it.”

We’re interrupted by a few of the Fellows as they suddenly drag a dinner table into the center of the room, dressed with a plate, flatware and a fat bottle of Chianti. They exit and then a shady looking character appears at the entrance of the room. Wearing knee length black boots and a cape, he swaggers into the room, tugging at his fake beard with his left hand, fondling the handle of the sword with the other. The guy looks like he’s perpetually piss

ed. As a matter of fact, he looks very much like one of the portraits hanging on the wall.

“CARAVAGGIO!” the room cheers.

“Shut up!” he bellows back at us. ”And you!” he screams at a Fellow playing a waiter. “Bring me a plate of Artichoke Hearts!”

“Si, Signore. Fried or sautéed?”

Today is September 29th, the day Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio was born. It’s one of the most important days in the Fellow’s calendar year. It’s sacred.

If Vittorio is our savior then Caravaggio would be our father in heaven. The alpha and the omega. He is the goddamn man. We adore this Baroque asshole of a painter who created a style of painting known as Chiaroscuro, a dramatic technique where the artist seems to carve his subjects out of blackness with a single light source. A technique we Fellows are desperate to master, student loan debt be damned; and we observe the day of his birthday by recreating one of the several incidents on his long arrest sheet, known as…

The Artichoke Incident.

The waiter re-appears with a plate full of food.

“Your artichokes, Signore.”

“Wait.” Caravaggio says before the waiter can leave. “Which are fried and which are sautéed?”

“I don’t know. Why don’t you smell them with your big nose and find out?” says the waiter.

“WHAT?” says Caravaggio as he leaps out of his chair and smashes the plate of hot Artichokes into the waiter’s mug.

The waiter collapses to the ground, claws at his face and shrieks in pain as if he was punched in the face with a bag of indignant bees.

Horrible acting job. …Just fucking horrible.

As Caravaggio regally settles back into his seat, the Fellows begin to sing his praise.

“For he’s a jolly good fellow! For he’s a jolly good fellow! For he’s jolly good felloooow! Which nobody can deny!”

A couple fools in cheap Roman soldier costumes march into the room and promptly arrest Caravaggio causing the Fellows to whistle and boo in protest.

Victor stands on a chair and begs for quiet.

As he begins to speak, plastic cups filled to the brim with the cheap Chianti are passed around the room.

“It was Vittorio Storaro who introduced us to this artistic god, this crazed Italian painter who was cinematic centuries before cinema existed. If you like films like The Godfather or Blade Runner you have to like Caravaggio because it all began with him. He is Noir. To say he was ahead of his time is an understatement. He bitch slapped time and left it bleeding in a dark alley of Rome.”

The Fellows cheer in revelry!

“Tonight, we celebrate our god, Caravaggio! Salute!”

“SALUTE!” responds the entire room, raising their plastic cups into the air.

We drink.

We sit.

We chat like none of this silly bullshit every happened.

My line of sight clears as everybody settles back into the comfy couches. I spot Dani Gruber. I wonder when her sexy little ass arrived on the scene?

Sky noticed her, too. “Stop your grinning and drop your linen, the dreamiest dame on campus has arrived,” Skylar says as he nods towards Dani, her long black hair cascading towards her perfect tits.

“Eh, if you like that type,” Pan says as he takes a sip of his Blue Cream soda.

“You’re such a beach bum, man,” says Skylar. He turns towards me to explain. “Pan can’t dig on girls east of the Pacific Coast Highway.”

“Goddamn right. Blonde hair and beach volleyball abs.”

“A nice Aryan girl to take home to mother,” mocks Skylar. “You have the same taste in women as Joseph Goebbels. How’s that make you feel? In fact, with a name like Gruber she’s probably perfect for you.”

“Screw you, Sky. Besides, that girl is all Italian.”

This grabs my attention. “How do you know?” I ask.

“We made small talk at the bar,” says Pan.

“And how did that work out for you?” I ask.

“Shot me down like a Kennedy.”

“Jason. Don’t you parli the eye-talian?” asks Skylar.

“A little…”

END – CHAPTER 03

Happy Birthday, Merisi… You insane son of a bitch.


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There are very few pieces of modern technology I love as much as I love my laptop, especially when powered by SKYPE! Let’s just say that my passion for Skype is equal to, if not greater than, my unadulterated loathing of a certain vile cell phone carrier.

AT&T is a minion of Satan. It’s crappy service makes for all kinds of malicious mischief, especially for a guy who is desperately trying to navigate a long distance relationship, and already fighting against an nine-hour time difference. There are times when I think I’m paying AT&T for the privilege of making my life hell (see link below regarding AT&T’s attempt to break up my engagement).

On the other hand, Skype is my communications savior. Skype is the reason I can maintain said long distant relationship and not have to sell my organs to pay m’ mobile bill. It not only keeps me in voice communication with Stefania, but I also enjoy the perk of seeing her smile, too. And it cost nothing. It’s gratis. On the house. It’s Free.

FREE! [insert maniacal laugh here]

But of course we all know that nothing in life is really free. Right? Every once in a while, Stef and I have to pay back the Skype god (lower case “g”) for granting us hours upon hours of divine gratis video & voice communication. During this atonement period, Skype transforms into a tool of suffering, as Stefania and I are forced to talk about the trials and tribulations of the K1 Visa Paperwork.

In the current round of the Fiancé Visa process, Stef was bombarded with mounds of paperwork…

I had one page to her dozen.  Not only had she been busting her butt all week combing through it, but last weekend she sacrificed a precious Sunday night to go over it with me.

In turn, I missed watching my Browns play the first game of the NFL season. Okay, so NOT watching the Browns blow a 14-3 lead against the Tampa Bay isn’t much of a sacrifice. In fact, I think I might owe the good people at the USCI a steak dinner for helping me miss that fiasco. But I digress…

This past Saturday was one of those days of communications compensation. I woke up that morning conflicted. On one hand, I was going to speak to my fiancé. The night before my Stef Skype time, I jonze the way seven year old Greg jonzed the night before Christmas.  Skype time with Stef is the best part of my week, easy. However I knew this upcoming call was going to be different. It was going to be less laughs and “I miss you’s” but more “turn to form DS-230 space 7…” This video call was gonna be all about business and government paperwork. Fortunately, her first question was an easy one, a softball pitch, an easy warm up fight before the championship match. Right?

Stefania: “So on the previous paperwork we sent into the Government, I wrote ‘Milan’ on the forms, but I read on the internet that I was supposed to write, ‘Milano’!”

Greg: “No biggie,” I’m say. “Just write ‘Milano’ on these forms and move on. The immigration folks will figure it out. Next!”


Before I explain on to how that “Next” grenade blew up in my face, it’s important that I explain one thing where Stefania and I are worlds apart.

When it comes to paperwork, Stef is meticulous and exacting. She doesn’t waste time and she attacks any and all forms with a vengeance. She is surgical and a perfectionist. To Stef, the question of whether to type “Milan” or “Milano” was of vital importance. She understood that this question could be one of those seemingly insignificant details that could create an anomaly, a glitch, within the computer system of a bureaucracy that holds our future in its hands. It must be correct. She’s right.

Me? I’m a procrastinating slob. If it were up to me, I’d just scribble one of the two choices in the space and be done with it so we can flirt over the webcam like goofy teenagers.

“What color underwear are you wearing?”

She ignores this boorish question and continues to the matter at hand. The next thing I know, we’ve spent a good hour on “Milan” vs. “Milano”.

By the way… What’s up with white men messing around with other countries’ names?  Why can’t they ever “discover” a foreign country or city and accept the name the locals give them?

Western Man: “My word, old chap. Your landscape is simply bully? What do you call your home?”

Citizen of Nippon: “We call our country ‘Nippon’!”

Western Man:“Nippon? Harrumph!  I don’t care for that name. How about we call you… ‘Japan’!”

Citizen of Nippon:“ Excuse me?”

Western Man: “Bully! ‘Japan’ it is!  And would you mind bangin’ this bronze oriental gong every time I say word JAPAN? Bully! Good day to you, sir.”

Citizen of Nippon: “But-“

Western Man: I SAID GOOD DAY!”


So anyway, after about an hour I just about had it and I finally explode and I begin yelling like an idiot.

“Do you think we’re the first people to apply for a marriage visa from Milan?! The immigration officer has seen it all! Rome! Roma! Florence! Firenze!  Naples! Napoli! We’re not really throwin’ anything new at these people, Stefi!” I scream.

So… Stef has this habit of smiling when I start yelling. At first it makes me feel kinda good (Cool! This ain’t so serious anymore), but then I begin to feel incredibly weak. It’s the kind of smile Muhammad Ali in his prime would’ve given me if I had punched him in his stomach. It’s a smile that says…

“Cute pudgy man, are you yelling at me? Oh, yes you are! Oh, yes you are! Aren’t you cute trying to be such a big man? Who’s my big man? Who is my big man?! Are you my big man?! Mio Dio! You’re so cute!”

Like bullets off a Kryptonian’s chest. Right? My rant was nothing more than comedy relief.

“Well let me give you something to REALLY stress about!” I continue. “I have to submit Pay Stubs and my most recent Tax Return. Yeah! They want to see if I make enough money to support us if you can’t find a job, and you’re gonna stress over the letter ‘O’! They could deny our application because I don’t make enough money! “

Stef’s reply? “Boh. You have worries, I have mine.”

I’m rolling on the floor

Her stress on the letter “O”, Milan or Milano, that’s a healthy hour of serious discussion. However my stress concerning salary and the IRS? … “Boh.”

By this point I’m laughing to keep from crying. Stef is laughing at me laughing. All is right with the word again. So lessons learned on that day? Hell if I know. I still don’t know what the hell went down. And if I ask guys who have been married for decades to explain it to me? They all give me the same answer.

“Welcome to my world.”

And what a wonderful world it is. You say Milan, I say Milano. You say tomato…

And that’s, as I like to say, the gist of it. Bully.

****

AT&T… You’re killing me.

****

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Ya know you’ve got a hit on your hands when your blog’s email subscription service goes through the roof!  It’s amazing to wake up, log on and find hundreds of subscribers, eager to receive an email alerting them to the fact that another brilliant post is awaiting them.

If you know of such a blog, hit me so I can check it out. MY  blog subscript only has FIVE!

However it’s like Stef said to me when I told her about the sparse amount of girlfriends I had before finally finding her…

“Boh… Don’t worry, Vespino. It’s not the quantity, it’s the quality. Besides, you finished strong.”  😉

Damn right, Crazy Lady For Marrying Me!  My five subscribers are the best damn subscribers  in the entire damn universe. And since the blogger to reader ratio is so small, I can afford to give you all a personalized tokens of my appreciation.

(Names are disguised to protect the innocent).

~ GREAT GIFTS, NOW! ~

Subscriber 1: “C Meth” – Lunch! And whenever you ask, no matter the local, an encore performance of “Heavy Gravity Man”!

Subscriber 2: “Photo24 Guy” – Brent’s Black & White cookie! And getting our silly ass TV show off the ground.

Subscriber 3 “Yoga Girl” – Garlic Sticks! And in the spirit of the new START nuclear reduction treaty, I’ll reduce my use of the term “High Maintenance ” by one-third.

Subscriber 4 “Bell’insetto – Un biscotto e un caffè! Anche una conversazione solo in Italiano (May God help you).

Subscriber 5 “Scott Jackson” – Pork Chop Sandwich? Yes! A Pork Chop Sandwich! AND an hour of Borscht Belt joke collaboration.

I’m sure the five of you will hold a special place at the LA wedding, probably in chairs as far away from the ceremony as possible. (Borscht Belt Joke number one. I’ve already started!)

Thanks guys! Pictures of you receiving your gifts will be posted as the weeks to come, so eat right and iron your skivvies.

To all you all you non-subscribers…  Is this an audience or an oil painting?  Is this thing on?  I’ll be here all week. Tip your waitresses!

And that’s, as I like to say, the gist of it.

*

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Well, Stef has finished HER K1 visa paperwork and has sent it to me via FedEx! Me? Woefully behind. In school, she was the gal who finished her assignments ahead of time, so she had time review and relax. I was the jerk waiting for my report to print with two minutes to get to class, having stayed up all night writing the damn thing from scratch.

Italian lesson of the day…

Lei è brava! (she is good!)

Per contro io sono un cretino. (On the other hand, I am a dick.)

I gotta step my game up. Nice job, Stef!

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