Last night, I was invited to attend the annual Embassy shindig held in the gardens of the Ambassador’s Residence. Lest you think simple villa, let me say that the gardens with their labyrinthine patterns, statues and flowers easily held the 3000 guests, servers and huge BBQ pits for the scores of hamburgers and hot dogs served on those delicious buns which, if one stops and compares them to the Italian pane, well, could taste a lot like eating vanilla taffy.
But, what really stood out (aside from Gina Lollabrigida, still beautifully going strong), were, of course, the thousands of Italians, not least for their totally elegant summer dress. Although I must admit, Americans have greatly improved over the years, almost reaching the easy sophistication of Italian style (just don't mention ‘business casual’). I didn’t notice any Brits donning those godawful pin-striped suits which make them all appear that they just walked off the set of Guys&Dolls, but, then again, are they invited to celebrate our independence? Do they come if they are? I wonder what the protocol is on the British presence on the fourth of July.
But, right from the start, there were other clues that set us apart, even though the evening was, of course, about our strong ties. The line to get through security wound up the block. Most Americans, including decorated NATO Officers, stood in it. An Italian woman muttering, “this isn’t for me” knocked me over with her bag as she plowed her way to the front. She was not alone. For all I know, the Americans are still Indian-filing in, while the Italians partied all night and finally went home, grabbing the first taxis just ahead of the rest of us.
As we filed by in the heat, we found tables mercifully laden with small plastic bottles of water. The Americans grabbed them and chugged them down before reaching the Ambassador and his wife. The Italians, hot & thirsty just the same, took one look at the table, saw there were no plastic cups, and simply passed them by; pleasantly choosing to ignore that barbaric fast-food mentality brought over by their hosts.
At the food tables, of course, you could find the Americans making a mad rush for the brownies, chocolate chip cookies and Haagen-Dazs – Heck-–I even ate them between courses in the way that smoke addicts cop a smoke while eating. Italians chose forks and plates of mozzarella although some Italians joined the Americans in happily chugging beer from the bottle, in a ‘when in Rome’ sort of nod. It was our holiday, after all.
After people applauded the Ambassador’s excellent speech -- in perfectly fluent Italian -- on the power of cooperation, the need to help boost the economy, and the Italians’ standing along with it, and, of course, maintaining the standards of their most excellent industries, I got the impression that the message didn’t quite sink in.
Baskets filled with red, white & blue confetti bouquets were placed at the exits as a nice parting favor. I barely managed to grab one (and I mean grab), as people were plunging their entire bodies into the heap in order to pull out as many as they could possibly carry. Some women departing looked as if they had magically changed into Eliza Doolittle, bunches of these 'flowers' in their arms.
Needless to say, there weren’t enough to go around, but, hopefully the bouquets will be given out to others in the spirit of giving – versus that of taking away for one’s own benefit.
A nice rule to live by, unless of course, you’re an American patriot and it’s 1776.