I had been awake for close to twenty-four hours when my flight from JFK in NYC landed at Leonardo da Vinci–Fiumicino Airport in Rome. Even though eight hours is a long time to be on a flight, and though I remember having dozed briefly a few times, both the anxiety and excitement (what a combination) of my first international journey to Italy had me playing a whole lot of video poker, the airline software’s version of “Trivial Pursuit”, and Mah Jongg Solitaire. Nevertheless, the sequence of landing at the airport, going through customs, exchanging U.S. dollars for Euros, and finally standing outside the airport waiting for a taxi left me feeling giddy with both joy and exhaustion.
After dropping everything off at the hotel (there was no way I was going to be able to sleep, as it was early morning in Rome and the golden sunlight dazzled against every gorgeous building and structure we passed in our taxi), my companion and I took a stroll down to the nearby Viale Giulio Cesare (Avenue of Julius Ceasar), which has a mixture of shops, restaurants, bars and pop-up vendor kiosks on the sidewalks. Much (though not all) of it seemed geared toward tourists, but we didn’t care. We were tourists, after all! We were also just happy to be off that plane and standing on Italian soil, with a week’s worth of adventures still ahead of us.
Literally within hours of being in Rome, this Blazer happened… a straight-up American, Chevy SUV that looked, save for the side marker lights on the front fenders, like it could have been double-parked just the week before on the side streets of my northside Chicago neighborhood. The height. Those rims. The flares over the wheel arches. Part of me wanted there to be a custom plate out back that said something like “MURICA” to complete the package.
Okay… maybe I didn’t actually want that, but it would have seemed in character with a vehicle that didn’t exactly blend in with its chic, European surroundings. For the record, I do like these Blazers, the four-door versions of which first appeared when I was in high school. I’d consider these a stylistic “Greatest Hit” for GM from the Irv Rybicki era.
I love being an American, and I love many things about being an American. At the same time and while packing clothes for this trip, I was trying to bring items that would help me blend in a little bit more with some of the better-dressed Italians. I wasn’t aiming for GQ or anything, but I wanted to look a little less obviously like an American tourist and also pay homage to the styles of the iconic city we would be exploring.
With that said, I found it a bit ironic that one of the most American-looking examples of a very American type of vehicle announced itself almost immediately after we set foot on the sidewalks of Rome. It’s like this Blazer was reminding me never to forget where I really come from: Chevy-town, also known as Flint, Michigan. So blue Blazer, I say to you, thank you for keeping it real while on soil that was foreign to you. You served as a timely reminder to me to do the same while also respectfully experiencing one of the best vacations of my life. And maybe I was wrong – your gold bow-tie has more than enough class for the streets of Rome.
Saturday, November 11, 2017.