This is the fourth in my “With Music” series, where I capture moments in my life through a song. The others so far included a song by Ben Folds Five (you can read it here), Sheryl Crow (here), and the third was about one of the best songs ever by Beth Orton (here). Check them out! (After reading this one, of course.)
I never really liked Dean Martin’s music.
When I think of classic crooners, I always lean towards Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, and Nat “King” Cole. Bing had a nice jazz rhythm and friendliness in his voice, Frank was art (a unique and always beautiful combination of arrangement and voice), and Nat… Nat was the man. Smooth voice and a great jazz piano player. His album After Midnight might be my favorite album of all time. I can’t think of a week I had not listened to it all the way through at least once.
But Dean Martin?
Dean was silly, with his drink in his hand and a wink to the audience. You never got the feeling that the music really mattered to him, it was just another part of his performance, no more important than his suit and his cocktail.
And yet, Dean would begin to represent for my wife and me one of the happiest moments not only of our marriage, but our lives. Dean started each day of our best adventure, made us want to sing along. Dean equaled freedom and bliss. And if he was around today it would be hard not to give him a hug if I was to meet him (I’m assuming at a questionable and loud bar in Las Vegas).
See, Dean Martin and his ridiculous song about a moon and a pizza pie was the musical symbol for our two-week trip through Italy.
It’s all so freaking weird to consider, but it is true.
Let’s begin here- My wife and I needed this trip.
The last year had been hell for both of us. No, this is not a relationship hell; these were private hells that we could only experience alone. It is unique and I would not wish it on any young couple.
- For her: The last semester for my wife in graduate school was difficult, with always the feeling of not enough time. She had a lot on her plate, and sleeping was only something she did between all of the responsibilities piled on her shoulders.
- For me: I had a lousy job. No… wait… lousy is not long enough a word for what I am talking about. I was doing data entry at a trucking company in the third shift. Yes, while everyone else was watching television and relaxing with their significant others, I was at a trucking company, behind a computer pretending to care how much of a shipment filled a semi, and how much we should charge per hour. It was stupid, mundane and it took on what little author ego I had. For I was certain I was supposed to be someplace different in my writing career. This is not how Hemingway started, right?
It was like we shared an apartment, not a life, since we were always passing by each other. The longest time each day we would spend together was asleep. It was no way to live.
My days would begin with long trips to the gym (because, why not? I had nothing else to do), not bothering to talk to the senior citizens there (and, man, did they flirt a lot with each other), and then playing video games until I had to go to work. If my wife and I were lucky we might be able to sneak in two conversations with each other during the day. Those conversations could feel like therapy sessions, with both us taking turns exclaiming how this is not what we expected from our lives.
It was unfair and it all sucked.
I would make dinner before leaving for work, leaving it in the fridge for her to heat up when she got home. Looking back it all feels so depressing, but we always had the weekends, and for two blissful days we would go on dates, spend time together, and remember what was good about life, but it was never long enough.
At some point, I decided we need a goal to work for, something to strive for and I latched on to the idea of a grand tour through Italy. My wife and I worked out a morning meeting at travel agent (we would not have the time and energy to work this out ourselves), and began to plan how we were going to make this happen. The main ideas were escape, see as much as possible, and come back feeling like human beings again.
Both of us began to count down to that flight. The days were different, they were not about surviving anymore, and they were important steps bringing us to our special trip. I began to title the subject lines to my e-mails to my wife with how many days left.
This countdown was something only we shared, and it meant everything to us.
The trip was scheduled for after my wife graduated. She would not need to return to the school, I would probably have to return to that lousy job until I could find something wherever we ended up. Fine, I could deal with that, I would have been recharged like an Energizer bunny, right?
There is a wonderful thrill and hint of fear in traveling to foreign lands, even when you are going as part of a tour. Yes, a tour is safe, with a guide and a schedule to walk you through each day, but it is all new and different. When we first arrived I felt the fear definitely, from the taxi driver who seemed to speed a little too much, to our first day exploring Rome by ourselves. But it was… something beautiful too. We were away from everything that held us down, and we were just ourselves.
I know for a fact that I slept better on that trip than at any other point in my life.
When we thought about the trip and planned our excursions, we wanted to experience the country, feel away from our “real world” as much as possible. So when our tour guide said we would begin each day on the bus with the “That’s Amore” by Dean Martin it was frankly a little disappointing.
Really? That song? That’s the best you can come up with?
When you consider how much great music historically comes from Italy, it is an odd choice for our Australian tour guide (Yes, Australian with an accent right out of an overacted television show) to choose Mr. Martin. Heck, waking up to a nice moment from an opera would have been inspiring to us. Or maybe something like from one of those fun little jazz bands you hear in Venice? Nope, we were stuck with Deano.
The first few days it was annoying, but strangely over those two weeks it became something more. A beacon to another day of freedom, another day of exploring.
There were days I never wanted that song to end.
My favorite moments in that trip through Italy was not with the other people there or the scheduled explorations, no it was when my wife and I were able to escape from the others; walking (and getting lost) in Venice, Florence and Rome; eating a lot gelato; swimming in Sorrento; and having the best sandwich ever in Lake Como.
People like to use the term second honeymoon for moments like this in a marriage; but that is to say the honeymoon was amazing. Frankly, our honeymoon was exhausting. The wedding was a lot of work, and the honeymoon was only a little break before the Christmas holidays kicked in. We spent most of that time in a cute little cottage watching movies and eating out. It was great to take a breath, but not exactly magical. My wife also loves to remind me that I watched one of those bad Kirk Cameron Left Behind movies during our honeymoon.
What can I say?
It was by the VCR (yes, there was an old VCR in the room) and I couldn’t help myself. God knows I wouldn’t have ever considered renting it myself. It was like driving past a car crash, you have to look even though you don’t want to. The film equivalent of an accident. I just walked away wondering who the hell believes this kind of stuff? Seriously, God stole people’s babies but left the parents!?! What the hell?
(Okay, it was a lousy and not exactly romantic choice to watch on a honeymoon, I get that.)
So maybe Italy was our first real honeymoon? That re-connection after the exhaustion of those two years of graduate school and bad jobs. The little breath before we then had to think of homes, mortgages, and maybe even the scampering of little feet.
Looking back, I’m sure there is nothing that makes our trip standout from any other’s trips to Italy. You can probably still book guided tours like that through that company that will probably hit the same hotels, visit the same locations. A well-orchestrated plan, why change it? It was obvious that for the driver and our Australian tour guide it was just another day on the job, only for us sitting in the back it was something wonderful and new.
For each of us on that bus it was something special. And for us, it was like the start of the second stage of our relationship. After the trip we returned, stronger (individually and as a couple) and with a strange addiction to olive oil.
Yet, when I need to return to those two weeks, looking out the window at a beautiful Italian winery, or exploring the ruins of Pompeii, I just need one song. It is not an opera or a symphony. It is the cheesiest piece of shit, but man does it work.
Sing along with me!
My latest novel Permanent Spring Showers was just published by 5 Prince Books. You can find out more about my novel as well as my other books (including A Jane Austen Daydream and My Problem With Doors) and grab a copy via my author page on Amazon.com here.
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