Have you ever been fond of a song that you Thought you knew the lyrics to, only to find out – sometimes years later – that the words were not quite how you sang them?
I was on a snack run with some friends when the Stevie Nicks song Stand Back played over the store’s sound system. “I love this song,” said Ellie, and she proceeded to sing along as we made our way down the aisles. Towards the fade out, Ellie sang “I feel like a little centipede, like a little centipede.”
The rest of us stopped in our tracks. A couple of other customers glanced at Ellie and smiled. When someone in our group said that Stevie actually sang “I feel like I need a little sympathy,” Ellie slapped her forehead. “Of course! I always thought that was a little weird, but I figured she was being artistic.”
Ellie wasn’t embarrassed at all to have her mistake pointed out. Me, I’m not always that unfazed, especially when I’m on the receiving end of a misunderstanding.
I was in Leonardo da Vinci airport in Rome early one morning, fresh off an overnight flight and rushing to make a connection. Except, I didn’t know where I was supposed to go. Yes, there are electronic display screens that list flights and gates, but for some reason, I have a hard time making heads or tails of them. Plus, I don’t think straight when I’m sleep-deprived and anxious.
I stopped a woman who wore an airport uniform and I asked if she could help me. She huffed, shook her head disapprovingly, and walked away. In a loud voice she called back “drunkard.”
That really ticked me off. But it wasn’t the first time I’d been accused of being inebriated just because I tend to tremble and my speech is a little slurred. I don’t drink much alcohol anymore, and I haven’t been drunk since my youth.
In my younger days I considered the music of the great Lucio Battisti to be the soundtrack of my life. They called him “the Italian Bob Dylan,” unfairly, in my opinion, because Lucio and his lyricist, Mogol, were much more versatile.
Even now, I’ll blast Lucio’s music over the speakers at home. One day, my wife asked me why there was English in the middle of the song Anna. I couldn’t figure out what she was talking about. She insisted that she heard the words “for another guy.”
We listened to the song together until we came to the part “Apri gli occhi bene, sai perché tu ora lo vedrai” (Open your eyes wide, because you know you’ll see him now).
I have a soft spot for that song. The first girl I had a crush on was named Anna. She had wavy, dark hair, caramel-colored eyes, and a petite figure. I was 16 and she was a year or two younger. Those days, a group of us, boys and girls, would pal around in a small town, strolling up and down a street filled with shops and bars (in Italy, people go there for their espressos). Anna often joined us.
It was a great way meet new people and to get to know girls, particularly for someone like me, who was shy around them. Anna and I developed a warm rapport. It took a while, but finally I worked up the nerve to ask her if she’d like to go out with me. She hesitated and instead asked her father if that would be all right.
It wasn’t. He didn’t want his little girl to waste her time with a “broken-down loser” like me; he wanted her to do “better.” Anna pulled away from me. I was heartbroken.
I haven’t seen her for at least thirty years. She married a guy with good prospects, I hear.
Still, in the end, I’m the one who did better.
My wife loves Neil Diamond’s Cherry, Cherry. Plays it a lot on YouTube. It’s catchy, and the words are not too hard to understand, even for a guy whose first language is not English.
But there’s one line that baffled me: “Won’t eat fried rice, no, no we won’t.” What does Chinese food have to do with anything, I asked?
When she finally stopped laughing, my wife sang, “Won’t need bright lights, no, no we won’t.”
It’s great to have someone to laugh with.