Equal Partners
by Roland Ezri

Equal Partners by Roland Ezri

Equal Partners

By Roland Ezri

"Women are the backbone of all societies. They do a substantial part of the work, and play a major role in raising the future generation yet they are largely powerless. The decisions that count are made by men and foisted upon women."

Writings by Roland Ezri

The Second Exodus – Italy – CXCIX. Our Daily Life (8 of 19)

At night we watched television and we loved it. It had not yet been introduced in Egypt and was, therefore, a novelty for us.

We watched game shows, variety shows, serialized stories, and movies. Of course, we missed a lot of the dialogue since it was in Italian, yet it proved an excellent motivator to learn the language in a hurry.

Paolo and Celio were very gracious; whenever possible, they translated while trying not to disturb the flow of the program. There were almost no commercials in those days, therefore, not many breaks for translating and providing background information.

Television was “intelligent” in those days; it was not like the present mind-numbing programs which are interrupted by zillions of vapid commercials. (To be fair, however, I would point to stations which presently show programs with depth, uninterrupted by commercials. I am referring to stations like PBS and TVO).

Our favorite programs were the game shows. They often worked on the principle of lascia o raddoppia (double or nothing). Experts in a given area would answer questions which became increasingly difficult; at each stage, they had the choice of taking their winnings and exiting the game; or staying and doubling the amount already won. It was nerve-wracking for the competitors and the viewers.

Our favorite game show was on opera. We knew, or cared little, for this form of art. And yet, we loved the show. The enthusiasm of Paolo and Celio was infectious.

The first questions were really easy. The contestants would hear a well-known aria, and would need to identify the applicable opera and the composer. But it got more and more difficult and people dropped out; as it went on the questions became downright fiendish. Examples: “What is the name of the benefactor who helped Verdi obtain a musical education, and become the composer he eventually became?” “Name at least five Shakespearean plays who were made into operas? Who were the composers?”

I’ll never forget the night where a particularly self- confident competitor pushed his luck too far. His knowledge of opera was encyclopedic. He answered all the questions with ease. Eventually, he was the only one left, and he had accumulated a fortune. But he kept going. Ultimately, there was only one question left; he was warned by the host that it was a very difficult question even for an expert like him. He accepted the challenge; the host tried one more time to dissuade him; the audience was screaming at him: “Lasciare, lasciare.” (Leave, leave). But he was stubborn like a mule. When the question was finally posed, it was obvious that he didn’t know the answer; he was sweating in the booth; when his time was over, he actually cried. He had lost a fortune. Many people in the audience were also crying. Our little group at La Veloce had tears in their eyes. Finally, let me assure you that there weren’t many pairs of dry eyes in all of Italy!

In addition to television, we also went to see movies. But there was a problem; whatever the language of the movie, it was dubbed in Italian. It made things difficult for us, but here again, it helped us improve our knowledge of the language.

I’ll never forget the day we went to see, “Giant.” The movie was a superproduction, and it run for close to three and half hours! Picture yourself watching such a long movie in a tongue you’re still trying to master! Surprisingly, it proved to be an enjoyable experience. As the movie proceeded, I found myself understanding more and more. I used my limited Italian, and used the context to figure out the rest. The movie itself was superb; and you can understand my surprise to hear, Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson, and James Dean communicate in perfect Italian!

Not far from La Veloce was a hall that presented variety shows. There was singing, dancing, magic tricks, stand-up comedians, and funny skits. The evening and night shows were expensive, but the matinees were within our budget, and on rare occasions we attended.

A casual acquaintance from Il Torinesi, an adolescent, informed me that one of the shows would be “naughty.” It was featured on a matinee, and therefore affordable. His problem was whether they would let him in. Would I be interested to go, and if so, could I tell the usher that he was “my brother,” and that he was 18? Ultimately, I never needed to lie, for nobody paid much attention to us. But was the show really racy? Was it ever! The mostly male audience went wild; and they used an Italian that I would never again hear during my stay in Italy!

Soccer, or calcio as it’s called in Italian, was (and still is) a religion in Italy.

Soccer is without a doubt the most elegant game on the planet. Even if you don’t care about the teams, and the match ends 0-0, as a spectator you’re sure to enjoy yourself.

As a youth, or as an adult casual player, you only need running shoes, a short, and a sport shirt. None of the cumbersome and expensive equipment required for games such as hockey or football is needed.

No doubt I am not alone in thinking that team sports comprise soccer, and all the others!

Soccer games in those days were played on Sunday only. Since the restaurant was closed, everybody at La Veloce watched the televised game.

The Saturday before was the day when we were allowed to dream of great riches. We played the “Totocalcio.” This was a sport lottery where you tried to determine the outcome (win, lose, or draw) of 13 games that would be played on the following day. A fortune could be won if one guessed correctly. At the beginning we were hesitant to play since we didn’t know anything about the teams. We were, however, urged to play anyway since ignorance could prove to be an advantage. We were told the story of a janitor who didn’t know anything about the teams and who was illiterate. He happily plunked his “X’s” at random and won the biggest amount ever won in the Totocalcio. As it turned out, we had received the correct advice, for when we knew the teams, we did worse than before. Whatever the case, we never correctly guessed more than the outcome of 6 games and, therefore, the Totocalcio never put us on easy street.

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