Men to the right of me. Men to the left of me. Men in sports jackets. Men in open collar shirts. Men in jeans and work shoes. Men!
In my decadent youth being the only woman in a bar full of men would have been an incredible challenge. Who would I key in on and get to buy me a Dewar’s on the rocks? Who would be smart enough to captivate me with conversation? Who would….
Ah, youth – wasted on the young. One Sunday, I was the only woman in the Bar Elimar. I’m guessing other women were at the mass I had gotten up too late to head to. The bar was packed with men – inside and out. There was one lone table – in the sun – left so I plopped myself down and ordered the breakfast of champions.
As I sipped my cappucino, my mind flashed back to the 70’s – whoa – hold on lady you are now very close to 70. Take a breath. I whipped out my iPad, did that pretend reading thing while I scoped out the scene. H’mmm what would I have to do to get one of these guys to come over to my table? H’mmm would the killer stare work or would it be the smile & nod routine?
Then it hit me. Even if my foxy friend Mary were here to act as wing man – we tag-teamed in bars in our rakish youth – no one would look at me. I could be a size 2 and naked and no one would look at me. They are all staring at their cards! Card games and other games of chance are an intense fact of life in my little village. Cards are a passion.
Men sit for hours in the bars playing cards – Scopa, Briscola and other games that I didn’t recognize but there was lots of tossing of cards and shouting. Last summer, Alessio, one of my favorite young men and his cute older brother Gabriele, decided to teach me to play Scopa. After all they and their buddies, mimicking the older guys, sit sipping soda and playing Scopa in the piazza. Surely, this old American cousin could learn.
According to the Dante Alighieri Society of Washington –
Scopa is the most popular card game in Italy . It requires the ability to count and add up to the number 40.
Boom, that took me right of the running. I can’t add up to 40 in English and now I have to do it in Italian?
After numerous lessons and lots of laughing – all pointed at me – Alessio and Gabrielle finally taught me enough to actually play with me. But our games paled compared to the men in the bars. There wasn’t any tossing of hands in the air, slapping the cards with the force of death, loud groans and arguments. No one got up and left abruptly at our table. (Unless it was to get a snack.)
During the focused card games in the bars, I never saw money change hands – gambling is illegal I think – but in my heart of hearts I knew that passionate play had to lead to some prize. Maybe it’s simply beer or if you’re lucky…..