Sunday, March 22, 2015

Divining the Armani Man

Sometime it is the simplest of routine activities - a trip to the drug store for some drugs, a trip to the liquor store for some liquor, a trip to the grocery store for some spontaneous nudity in the frozen foods aisle, surrounded by people of like mind on hunting/gathering missions, all of them dreaming of a chance meeting with true love – when you’re randomly selected by the Gods of chaos to have an out-of-body experience with a complete stranger. Today, I was the lucky wiener, the chump of chumps selected from a plethora of hunter/gatherers in Mill Valley on a Friday afternoon, to be pinned by none other than the Armani man.

If you’ve been accosted by the Armani man – read no further: you know how this goes. Or perhaps not. Perhaps Pasquale A., as his business card so identifies him, tells a new story every time. What is amazing, in retrospect, is that he felt compelled to make up a story at all. But I am getting ahead of myself. Here’s what happened.

I drove over the hill from Stinson to pick up a couple of prescriptions, listening to Armando Duran’s subtly accented read of Marquez’ Love in the Time of Cholera, lost in the author’s renderings of late 19th century Caribbean Colombia (when I think of the Caribbean I rarely consider Colombia, even though it has more coastline on the Caribbean than any of the Central American countries) and the uniquely Spanish variety of heartache lovers suffer there. Mr. Boo howled along with the narrative, feeling the distinct, vibrating lamentations of unrequited love in the back seat. Eventually we parked at Whole Foods on Blithedale and, leaving Boo in the car, I had started to walk the short distance to CVS when a white SUV pulled up alongside me:
“Excooze excooze sir, I ama lost!” the driver shouted through the rolled down passenger window. I walked over to the car. “I ama lost. Can you tella me where is the airport?”
He was young, suave, light-skinned with neatly trimmed short dark hair that was receding even as he spoke and wore a color red striped top like a soccer jersey. I looked at the large screen “phablet” on the passenger seat, wondering the obvious. He read my mind and said something ridiculous like “eet’sa program in Eetaly.” I should have known right then that I was in for some kind of con job. So I told him how to get to the airport. He said his flight left at seven, and, since it was only one, I told him he had plenty of time, opening the door for a more involved, intimate conversation.
“Have you been to Eetaly?”
“Nope, never been.”
“Oh eet eesa very bootiful there, very bootiful. This eesa very bootiful here too, but expensive, yes?”
“Oh yeah,” I said, “Almost everybody walks around with at least $500 cash in their wallet. Or with a crisp stack in the money clip.”
Uh…no. I didn’t say that, but that’s what Pasquale…oh, yes, he had introduced himself and even
gave me his Armani business card, explaining that he had been working  a designer show in SF. Anyway I’m sure that’s what Pasquale was thinking, especially when I told him that living in Stinson Beach was no cheaper.
We were still standing in the middle of the parking lot, and since he now knew my name, knew that I was a writer (oh, for movies? he asked. No, books. What books? Uh…uh…I didn’t bother explaining) and that I lived on the Pacific Ocean, he decided to pull into a parking spot under the inexplicable mural of pebbles and stones under water that covers the east wall of CVS facing Blithedale.  

"I want to give you a present," Pasquale said, hopping out of the car and opening the driver's side back seat door. "These jackets, eet costs too much to take them back to Eetaly." On the seat lay a pile of leather jackets. "The taxes, the duty, ees too high. Cost $2500 to take them back," he explained. "I want to give you, as present."

As if I might have suspected something fishy with his desire to lay what appeared to be about $6,000 worth of leather jackets on a complete stranger, he took off his sunglasses for a moment. "But why do you want to give them to me?" I asked.

"Because the duty taxes too high," he explained again.

"But if you brought these jackets with you from Italy to sell at this show, why do you have to pay duty to take them back?"

He played the "what the fuck are you talking about you crazy American" card. "It is a present."
Giorgio gets the "manboob" thing
Meanwhile he had been showing me the jackets in their plastic, the Armani liner, the flameproof leather which he demonstrated with his lighter. I didn't quite get the flameproof feature, but at this point I wasn't really wanting to extend the conversation. The jackets would be excellent protection in a forest fire or on a yacht firebombed by Muslim extremists on the Mediterranean. He showed me the brown suede and two black leathers, but didn't remove them from the plastic, nor did he ask me to try one on. Then he handed me a shopping bag and dumped all three of them in. "$1500 each. You take them."

"Why?" I asked again.

"Are you married?"


"What is your wife's size? Does she have..." he made the universal hand signal for large breasts.


"Okay good, she is normal."

"Well, hardly," I was tempted to say. But I was now very eager to take my bag full of Armani jackets and hightail it outta there.

"My wife, eet is her birthday tomorrow. I want to bring nice gift from America..." he said, lowering his voice. "Perhaps expensive sex toy..." Okay, maybe he didn't say that.

"Can you give me $500? I can get her very nice present."

I should have said, "Wait a minute. How about this beautiful black leather women's jacket that your were just about to give me?" But instead I said "No. I am broke." The truth.

"Okay, you go to ATM, get me $300."

"No. I can't do it. I don't have a debit card." Again, the truth, and if I did I certainly didn't know the PIN.

"You can make purchase, get $300 cash back from credit card!" he insisted. I knew I couldn't just walk into CVS, get my scrips and ask for $300 cash, but instead I said. "I'm a writer! I'm completely broke!" Again, the truth. "I can't do it."

So he took the bag of Armani jackets out of my hand, threw it on the back seat, slammed the door and said: "Okay, have a nice day."

I rushed into CVS, completely flustered and confused, but also grateful that Mr. Armani had chosen me to fuck with. I am fucked with so little out here in paradise that it takes me an increasingly long time to figure out when it is happening, and one of these days when I am flush with dough and have a money clip fat with crisp Franklins I might peel off three or four for a bag full of fake Armani jackets. I never did take one out of the plastic. Perhaps they had no arms, or no backs. Of course I would be the last person to know a fake Armani, but when I showed Holly the business card Pasquale had given me, she knew right away that he was selling knock offs. "Giorgio would never have such a tacky card," she said. But what was worse was had I ran into Pasquale in the city, or in NYC, I would have smelled a scam immediately. But in the CVS parking lot on Blithedale, on a Friday afternoon?

I got my prescription and briefly considered trading some of the drugs for a few jackets. Such drugs had a street value that could easily exceeded the actual price of real Armani jackets, never mind fakes with no arms. I told the pharmacy gal what happened, mostly because I wanted her to be aware that Mr. Armani was working the CVS parking lot. Then I realized in mid-transaction that I had forgotten an item that I had been instructed to purchase, and that forgetting to purchase the item would be further evidence of my deteriorating mental condition and further grounds for abandonment, a fate worse than divorce for 60 year-olds that are trying to conceal their deteriorating mental conditions.

When I exited CVS to walk back to my car I was surprised to see that my new best friend Pasquale was still there, having relocated his vehicle so I would have to walk past. Instead, I turned tail and headed the other direction. Was I afraid? Not so much as I really didn’t feel like getting hustled anymore. But maybe he had changed his mind and just wanted to give me the jackets because I looked so much like a former downtrodden middle-aged family man that had been through the ringer,  trodden into a state of permanent confusion and bewilderment. Maybe he thought that if I could only wear a fake Armani black leather jacket for a few minutes, I would suddenly feel flush with dough. Maybe he hoped I would be back so he could spring Act II on me, where his accomplice, a buxom young Sophia Loren, would see me in the black leather jacket from across the parking lot and come sidling up to me all moist and musky, reeking of garlic and cigarettes. “Take your pants off, Mister Americano,” she might have command me. “But you can leave your coat on.” Even so, I wouldn’t have been able to come up with the $300 bucks.

Why did Pasquale feel it necessary to pretend to want to give me the jackets when he could have simply driven up and said “Hey mister, you wanna buy some fake Armani jackets? $100 bucks each.” It would have saved us both a lot of time. Instead young Pasquale tries to appeal what? The fact that we both have wives? “Oh jeez Pasquale, whatever you do don’t go home empty handed on your wife’s birthday.”

What I should have said was “I was married, but my wife left me for a young Italian fella named...what was his name? Damn. It rhymed with Wally. She said he was an Armani salesman and could barely speak English. Young guy, but goin’ bald. Anyway let me tell ya, if I ever find that fucker I’m gonna dip his naked body in honey and hang him upside down above an ant hill. Or maybe I’ll sew his anus shut, then load him up with ex-lax. Unless, of course, he wants to give me a bag full of fake Armani jackets. Then I just might spare him.”

Good old Pasquale, my best Italian buddy. God bless the slimy little bastard: he made a mundane trip to the pharmacy into a real red letter day.

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