The Exchange, Part 1

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I'm half Italian and half Irish.

But I really think of myself as Italian. Except on St. Patrick's day when I embrace my Irish heritage. Oh, and any time I meet a hot Irish girl - suddenly i'm Furey O'Paddy.

Come to think of it, techincally my stats are off. My father's mother was 50% Irish and 50% Italian. My father's father was 100% Italian. This made my father 75% Italian and 25% Irish (...And he could never be a "made man" if you watch enough mobster movies). My mother is 100% Irish ("black Irish" - she has dark, tanned skin and dark hair). So I guess that makes me 62.5% Irish and 37.5% Italian (Stats provided by Brad "The Brain" - hey I was a friggin English major, bite me...).

Ok, so we have that straight now.

Anyhow, my parents were extremely generous and giving. Not only did they provide me an excellent education in high school, but they also paid for my college education. Plus, on top of that they were happy to let me study in any foreign country I wished for a semester.

Tough life.

I chose Italy for a few reasons. One, I had family there. They were distant family, but I don't know any family from my Irish side that are in Ireland. Two, in the city that I was going to study, Florence, there were two foreign exchange students who lived there that lived with my family in 1988.

Leonardo Cappugi and Dino Ardino were strangers in a strange land with my family in 1988, they studied in America during the summer with a program for a few weeks.

When I first met them I was 16 years old, and didn't really know what to expect. My parents picked them up at Philadelphia International Airport, on a sunny June day in 1988.

It was a quick lesson in Italian culture.

Leonardo stood about 6' tall, with light brown hair and glasses. He was a bookish looking fellow, with slim features and spoke with a bit of a nasal twang. Leonardo shook everyone's hands and was very liberal with the double kiss on each cheek. After greeting me, he slipped his left arm under my right arm and said "You, ah, help me, ah, find my luggage?" We sauntered off towards the baggage carousel, arm in arm, in the Philadelphia airport. I remember checking out that he was wearing loafers and wore his sweater OVER his shoulders.

Leonardo and I, walking through the Philadelphia airport, circa 1988, he was about 20 years old - I was 16. I was embarassed as hell. It must have looked like an adverstisement for MANBLA. Me and the 'light in the loafer' italian man walking around looking for his luggage, was very traumatic to a 16 year old sheltered suburban kid. I kept thinking "Oh god, we look like a a bunch of homos!" It felt like the entire airport was staring at us. I could have sworn that I heard on the loud speaker: "Loading and unloading in the White Zone is limited to 5 minutes. Look at the Gay Italian Couple in Terminal C." I became the most helpful luggage finder in the history of the Philadelphia Airport to get this guy away from me.

I quickly found out that Leonardo was very much heterosexual, when my worldly sisters chimed in that my sexuality was safe for the moment and that it was quite normal for male Italian family members to act affectonate towards other male family members, and walking arm in arm was normal - IN ITALY. My brother was nice enough to pull me aside later and say, "Look at the bright side, you have a new boyfriend!"

Dino, on the other hand, was Mr. Guido. He looked like the typical guido: Button down shirt open & showing off his tanned chest, one single gold chain, slicked hair, pressed pants - this guy was a walking "ladies man" - and he acted the part. He loved himself, and he was very forthcoming with his charms and attitude. My sisters, who were about the same age, had zero interest (or that is what they told me) - but Dino was like a dog, he would keep sniffing around America to find himself some "Sexxxy American Women!" as he says. It was a fun 2 months and Leonardo and Dino were excellent guests who we very much formed a bond with over their stay. Leonardo affectionately became known to the family as "'Nardo".

Now it was my turn, to go to Italy and study there, only 4 years after their visit...

More to come later...

1 Comment

I loved this. It brought back memories of you in the backyard playing soccer with the 2 Pizans! xoxoxoxmom

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This page contains a single entry by Furey published on November 5, 2004 12:48 PM.

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