The Parallels Between Texas and Italy

Time stands still at Bologna’s Centrale Stazione at 2:17 am. I arrived at 1:42 am on a train from Milan. In the interim 30 minutes, I have been observing the motley crew of cab drivers, street vendors and weary travelers filling the spaces in and around the station. I would love nothing more to be in Houston right now. But, my flight to home via Amsterdam will not leave for at least five hours, which is fine with me since going back to Houston means going back to the grind. Back to the cube. Back in the 610 traffic. Back to the Tex-Mex, “so I got that going for me, which is nice.”

My two weeks in Italy were spent power lounging, savoring the cuisine, gawking at ancient relics and bouncing around the party scene. It was marvelous. So marvelous that I don’t mind spending my last waking hours at a train station at stupid o’clock.

Mass transit stations in any city, particularly in a strange land, are no place to be in the wee hours of the morning. I need a strategy for not getting mugged and not sleeping past my flight. Time to develop a combo strategy. Let’s call it “How Not to Get Mugged While Staying Awake After Virtually No Sleep.”

OK, my HNGMWSAAVNS strategy is finished. Step 1: find a McDonald’s. Step 2: order a Cafe Americano. Step 3: Nurse the coffee ‘til you can nurse it no longer, and the security guard asks you to leave. Step 4: repeat Step 2. So I head over to the adjacent McDonald’s for a break from the rainy grubbiness. I order my first four-ounce Cafe Americano and start putting together my next plan, “How to Move to Italy, Live for Free & Drink Wine All Day.”

There are two options for living in Italy - legal immigration and illegal immigration. The illegal route is really easy. Step 1: Vacation in Italy for two weeks. Step 2: don’t go home. I have no desire to show up on CNN or BBC 1, BBC 2 or BBC 3 as an international fugitive. Thus, I will try to develop a legal plan.

After careful consideration for at least two minutes, I have determined that everything seems to hinge on obtaining a permanent resident permit. I am not independently wealthy, so the celebrity visa is out of the question. I can’t find a corporate entity to sponsor me. So, it doesn’t seem as if the a red, white and green card is coming my way any time soon. The only option is to draw as many parallels between life in Texas and life in Italy as possible. That way, I can trick myself into believing that I am living in a society that doesn’t start before 9am, encourages wine imbibing and copious napping at lunch and provides 30+ days of vacation to everyone. So, here goes.

In the interest of simplicity, I have decided to focus on three keys areas: food, language and driving. You may agree that each of these areas can have a substantial effect on your comfort level while in both Texas and Italy.


Everyone in Italy speaks a different language than my ignorant, uni-lingual self. No sweat, lots of folks in Houston speak Spanish all of the time. In fact, many of my Spanish speaking compadres that went to Italy with me say that Spanish and Italian are very similar. Great news! That means I can say, “I want to wear your ass like a hat!” in Italian as well. Verdict: tie ball game.


I have been visiting Italy every Easter for five years now. These Easter breaks have ruined all of the Italian restaurants in Houston and most other American cities. The gnocci is devine, and the lasagna is deliciously saucey. Texas has its own little brand of specialty cuisine called Tex-Mex. Once you’ve had Tex-Mex in Texas, you will be ruined forever. Lucky for you that the best non-Texas-based fajitas are available at Le Texan in Monte Carlo; it’s close to Italy. Good luck finding Migas in the EU. Like the US, there is a McDonald’s on practically every corner in Italy. Fortunately for us unilingual ‘Mericans, Big Mac is a universal term. But, like Vince said in Pulp Fiction, it’s the little things that make Europe different. Like curry sauce for your nuggets. Or the raging hip-hop music that has snapped me back to reality. “Oops, there goes gravity.” Apparently, the Italian golden arches turn into a rave venue at 2:30 in the morning. Who knew? To sum up, fajitas and lasagna cancel each other out. The yummy McDonald’s curry sauce is off set by the techno-disco muzak. Verdict: Tie.


One would think that our mass transit crazy brothers and sisters would not have very much traffic since most folks are on buses or trains all of the time. Wrong. Rush hour traffic in Milano is at least as bad as Houston. Their version of the interstate, Autostrade, was bumper-to-bumper by 4:00 pm.

How many times have you been sitting in a traffic jam when all of a sudden a motorcycle nearly takes off your side mirror as it streaks between you and the car next door? Have you ever seen scooter cross? No? Don’t worry. Scooter cross is the next big extreme sport and you can bet your ass that Italians will win. For the uninitiated, scooter cross is what occurs on all roads, even the Autostrade, and at every red light in Italy. Allow me to paint the scene.

You are standing on the corner of a perpendicular intersection in Rome, near the Colosseum. The light turns red. Fiats, Citroens and Ferraris glide to a halt permitting pedestrian masses to cross the street. In the distance you hear the whine of a motor with a hair dryer like quality. The whine gets closer and closer. Suddenly, a Vespa streaks to the red light, slices through the cars and skids to a halt. The rider seems perturbed by the interruption. She is exasperated at the nerve of the cars and shifts her cigarette from side-to-side with her tongue. Princess Vespa (go watch Space Balls) is joined at the light by an Aprilla scooter, a Ducati cruiser, a Honda crotch rocket and a few other Vespas. These riders are talking on cell phones, sending text messages and smoking.

All of the two-wheeled machines’ engines howl as the light turns green. The riders blast themselves off into oblivion trying to win a race being run in their minds. Couple these endless races with bumper to bumper traffic comprised of drivers that treat lanes on the highway like a two year-old treats lines in a coloring book and you have the recipe for disaster.



I can not believe I am saying that. In short, I will be living in Houston, instead of Italy, until I am independently wealthy because the Houston traffic is more endurable than Italian driving. Clearly the wee hours, mounting exhaustion and four Cafe Americanos have taken a toll on my better judgment. Oh well. I still can’t wait to get back to Houston.

This was originally posted on TheBackWord.com, a Texas-centric eZine that has gone the way of the jackalope.


The BackWord.com

I will be contributing thoughts and ramblings to a new online zine called The BackWord. "Our goal is to focus on a variety of issues, occurrence in and around Texas. These could cover social, political, and cultural perspective. The BackWord recognizes that Texas does not solely revolve around the metropolitan areas of Austin, Dallas, and Houston. There are a lot more interesting places and people in the Lone Star state than in these vicinities. The BackWord seeks to review places, people, and events in and around the state."

For more on the aim of the site, check out what the editors have to say.