Spring training journal – day four – March 27, 2004…

I actually slept in today. I managed to stay in my bunk until a little after 8 this morning. Army Dude was in rare form last night. He must’ve packed and repacked his bags a half dozen times as well as announcing a couple of times that he was leaving to catch a bus to Las Vegas at 4:30 AM, and that he would try to make as little noise as possible. The amazing thing is that for someone as noisy and clueless as Army Dude, he managed to leave without waking anyone up at all.

Actually Army Dude was nowhere near as annoying as the long-haired Italian guy who check in last night. Before “Luigi” (I have no idea what his name actually is, so I’ve just dubbed him Luigi), even said a word he was massively annoying. I don’t know if I can do this man justice, but I will try to give you a sense of what he was like.

First and foremost, let’s talk about the smell. Now it’s not unusual for budget travelers to smell a bit musky. In fact, anyone arriving at a youth hostel smelling of soap and shampoo is simply not to be trusted. The word NARC springs to mind. Such people probably work for the FBI or some shadowy extra-governmental agency charged with spying on anyone who dares avoid hotel chains. But my friends, one should not be able to smell another person from 10 feet away. One should never be able to smell one’s neighbors for several minutes after they’ve left the room. No way. Nuh uh. Absolutely not. This man reeked. The manager’s assistant’s first words to out Italian friend were, “welcome to Phoenix, you’ll need to shower if you want to stay here.” And the guy had a valid point. People who smell that funky tend to leave a residue of their funk, a funk echo, if you will, that endures where they’ve slept for days after they’re gone. I have to say that all of us staying in the men’s bunkhouse owe this hostel-worker a debt of gratitude for forcing Luigi to defunkify himself. He still smelled like sweaty bison testicles after he bathed but you had to be in close range to detect it.

Next, let’s talk about the hair. Why is it that men in most western nations realize that they look like ass clowns with long hair by they time we’re in our early 20s, and yet it’s common to see Italian men of any age with long flowing locks? If you’re over 25 and aren’t a current member of Megadeth, Bon Jovi, Van Halen, Motely Crue, Winger or some other band who once played at a Monsters of Rock or Reading festival and you’ve got hair that flows past your shirt collar you’re either deluded, (as in – you think that it’s only a matter of time before you get the call to be Diamond Dave’s latest ill-conceived replacement in Van Halen), or just simply retarded. Ok, there’s a third possibility. You don’t own a mirror AND no one ever takes your picture. Well, whatever it is that switches on inside the minds of most western men to get us to cut our hair, the gene controlling this switch is apparently absent from the Italian gene pool.

Luigi, the stinkman, is the owner of some long flowing tresses. And how do I know that he’s not simply a young’n whose “you look like a tool, cut your damned hair already!” gene just hasn’t kicked in yet? Simple. His bodacious locks were uniformly gray, and the man was spotting just enough wrinkles to put him easily in his late 40s, if not older.

To compliment his stench and tasteful hairdo, Luigi was dressed very, shall we say, artistically. Shoeless, yes that’s right, he marched from the Greyhound station to the hostel, across much of Phoenix, sans shoes. His trousers were more like a pair of long, ankle-length skirts, held at the waist by an extravagant silver belt. Not just the belt buckle, mind you, but the entire belt was an elaborate linked chain of some sort of silvery metal. He wore two shirts that looked like they’d been stolen from Jennifer Beals’ wardrobe trailer from the set of Flashdance.

Aaaaaiiiiiieeeeeeeee!!!! I hear you shriek. No more, we cannot stand it. Tough. I lived it. You can stop reading right now. I will however be burdened with this memory for a lifetime, or at least until Alzheimers takes its toll. Anyway, the wardrobe description ends with Luigi’s neckwear. Around his neck was knotted a fluorescent green silk scarf. I sort of think the scarf says it all about his ensemble. It says “tolerate me, for I am an artist.”

Unfortunately, Luigi’s clothes were the least of our troubles. After he bathed he treated his bunkmates to the spectacle of “Luigi, tortured artist… unclothed!” Now I’m hardly squeamish about naked men. I’ve toured in bands. I’ve got a gym membership. The sight of my fellow men in the altogether is, at the age of 37, beyond mundane. But this man was making sure his individuality didn’t stop with his garish outfit or unpleasant aroma. No, my friends. Luigi was a practitioner of the fine art of manscaping, or more accurately, the art of defoliating the manscape entirely.

I’m not averse to a bit of trimming and tidying. It makes a great deal of sense, actually. But I’m, sorry, unless you make your living in porn utterly hairless testicles are just disturbing, especially when they’re being wagged around to and fro by a smelly, graying Fabio wannabe. I can’t go into any more detail though because, basically, I had to avert my eyes. Some things just should remain unseen.

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