Pleasure And Pain In Italy

Writing from the backseat of a German Audi on the superhighway going from Tuscany to Alba in the Northwestern Italian region of Piemonte/Piedmont and the wonderful town of Alba which is world famous for its white truffles.

Cosimo Lucchese

The car belongs to my longtime friend Cosimo Lucchese who currently lives in Germany working for NATO. We decided to meet up in Italy for a little touring and to participate in another series of cooking classes in a very prestigious school in a small town between Alba and Asti (yes, that Asti). So we met up in Bologna on Friday afternoon, hopped into the car and headed toward my favorite place on Planet Earth, Montalcino in the south of Tuscany. A couple days of fairy-tale village quiet, and an amazing lunch on Sunday at the also world-famous butcher, Dario Cecchini’s All-Beef-All-The-Time restaurant in the tiny speck of a town between Siena and Florence called Panzano deep in the heart of Chianti-landia.

But more on these later. This is another little “thought piece” on friendship.

Cosimo and I have known each other since late April of 1973 when we both worked at the small, freestanding record department of the University Coop, on the Drag, in Austin. The bond was nearly immediate, once again, as with my Brazilian brother Waldimas…see a few posts back for that. Cosimo’s father was the final private owner and last Lucchese-family designer of the legendary Lucchese cowboy boot company founded by Cosimo’s great-grandfather in San Antonio in the last years of the nineteenth century. In case you are not aware, these were the Rolls Royce of boots. Presidents wore them, several blocks worth of stars from Hollywood’s glitterati-ed sidewalk wore them (Gary Cooper, John Wayne, the Andrews Sisters, James Garner, Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Jimmy Dean, Gene Autry Abbot and Costello, and many more wore the status symbol Lucchese boots. And, at least until the ’60s, they all had to travel to San Antonio for their custom fitting. Cosimo grew up in an amazing environment. He often tells the story of the day when a group of scruffy looking Limey’s entered the store. One of the Mexican-American bootmakers whistled the signal of potential shoplifters on the premises. Mick Jagger and his fellow Stones left without buying anything…the boots were too expensive for this band making its first tour of the United States.

Cos and I share a deep love of music, food and stupid, very off-color, humor. These touchstones have help keep two people who might otherwise want to kill each other stay friends for nearly forty years.

Legendary Butcher Dario Cecchini and Cosimo Lucchese

Yes, we have heated arguments with great regularity because, as it turns out, we are polar opposites on certain planes. Either that, or we are so much alike that we despise what we see of ourselves in each other. Not sure. But the sparing occurs, and, always, within minutes, we are once again laughing as some totally tasteless comment springs forth from one or other off our totally filthy mouths. And then the belly laughs return and ripple forward until some other point of contention comes up, and we start over again.

Currently, Cosimo’s behavior has become a bit paranoid, and bit “old lady-like”.  “I just won’t drive after dark, I’ll get lost,” has been a frequent declaration on this trip. And I keep telling him to get serious, to chill out, and to foray fully seven or eight miles out of Montalcino, for example, in order to have a great dinner. We barely made it, and only after a very, very heated exchange.

Also, Cosimo is weighted down with a very heavy wet towel which makes traveling with him difficult. Not sure I can do it again. No, I can’t. No way. Cos, throw the towel in the dryer and call me!

Maybe it is the ability to have these regular disagreements, that can sometimes get quite heated, that has allowed the pressure to escape with such frequency that nothing is allowed to remain an open, oozing wound, nor capable of swelling like a sad, black balloon waiting to burst with a fatal explosion, blowing apart the friendship which we’ve both enjoyed so long.

Having been through bits and pieces of psychotherapy myself, this ability to get stuff out and to let it go for good seems to be one of the keys to a successful relationship of any sort.

Toss the problems, avoid the fatal resentments.

Lesson learned.

Cos,  you’re a son of a bitch, but I love you, Dude…

P.S. A few things have gone down since I posted this this morning. I now want to send the wet towel through the shredder, and lament the influence this soggy bitch has on my friend. He now acts like a scared, paranoid old lady and it’s becoming harder and harder to cope. I will spend as much time alone as I can, far more pleasant. Cos alone is fantastic. And by the way, this dynamic has existed since day one in 1973. I’ve been very patient, but am now at the end of the very wet rope. I moved out of the B+B we were sharing into my own room in a much nicer hotel. Murder was on the horizon. Towel-icide is still a crime in Italy. 

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