Thursday, October 13, 2005

Rule #6

Rule #6 Be cool

Just because they serve coffee only in ceramic god-bless-them cups (and not ever in paper cups or ceramic mugs with donkeys painted on the side) and pee when necessary behind dumpsters, do not forget that these people are cosmopolitan city dwellers and that means that they are very cool.

We were walking into town the other day down the sidewalk along the Arno when I caught the eye of a guy leaning on the raised stone wall above the river with one arm bent, the other holding a cigarette. He looked at me for an instant then shifted his eyes to the Arno while giving his head an almost imperceptible twitch toward the river. This small, and very cool, motion, silently said, basically, “Hey, meathead, if you would lift your leaden gaze off the pavement scanning for dog shit, you might see something interesting in the river.” I followed his glance.

In the middle of the Arno running diagonally across the river between Ponte Vespucci and Ponte Carraia is a kind of ledge over which the water flows. When the river is high it is completely submerged, but when the river is low, only the lower end is under water allowing people to walk halfway across the river without getting wet to fish, read a book, or, in the case on this sunny late August morning with the starlings flitting about merrily overhead, wash up dead.

By the time I had arrived at the scene, the body was covered with a white sheet and six cabinieri and one detective were standing around waiting for the guy in the white jump suit who was walking towards them along the ledge. The cabinieri were easy to identify because of the uniform. But how did I know that the seventh guy was a detective? I swear to god he had on an open trench coat with a dangling belt, and badly fitted hat, and was smoking a cigarette. He also has his own little rain cloud above his head like that guy from Li’l Abner and wherever he walked he left small pools of rainwater. Ipso facto: Detective.

Now, I will admit to be very impressed with the coolness of the guy leaning on the wall, and even more impressed with the cabinieri dressed in long pants and crisp jackets on this hot morning, and, of course, all detectives are cool, but the one who broke the coolness record on this bright day was the girl in the bikini on a towel not 50 feet away from the corpse. A photographer from one of the papers had to practically step over her on his way to the crime scene. She just kept applying sun tan oil on her glistening arms and then rolled over. Ever so cool.

I, ever the meathead, stepped right into a pile of dog shit.


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