Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Rubbing on the lotion...

Let me throw you a few facts at you about Johnny Opinelli and see if you can catch the whole man.

1) Johnny lived for sport. Especially the twin footballs of soccer and rugby, but pretty much everything else ever played in competition using human bodies was this guys domain. Everywhere we went together, you could have always found Johnny on his way to, or coming from, a bar with a big screen TV. He was trying to study personal training when it all went a little haywire and as such he was significantly better built than any of the rest of us unfit arty types.
2) Despite the fact he had the muscles, for some reason Johnny almost never had the girls around him like Mikey and myself. Maybe if we were in southern Europe, and that kinda middle-years David Beckham look where he went all shaven with intricate pattern is all the rage, he could’ve been thought attractive. Fact was though, this guy was living proof that the bodies don’t get you the girls like everyone thinks. The irony that he got stuck with the unwanted pregnancy just killed us.
3) Johnny came from a fairly strict Catholic family, and just enough of it had rubbed off on him to make him the only one out of our cadre to actually tick one of the boxes on the religion section of the census form. Just how devout he really was became an even more contradictory issue when we found out on the same afternoon that he was both staunchly anti-condom but often used rosary beads to stimulate his girlfriends. The pope must be so proud.
4) Johnny played the drums all through high school with the kind of angry fire and passion that marks all the men who are using an instrument for their own purposes, and for whom any music is but an accidental by-product. He got very good, and we used to play these amazing super-extended versions of Bruce Springsteen songs, where he’d get so into the rising running drumming just before the music broke loose it was like the whole town lifted up in anticipation.
5) Johnny drank and smoked comparatively little to the rest of us. When he did drink heavily it was always wine, but mostly he was a dedicated follower and espouser of the pills. Something about his hands shunned having anything in them except his bunched up fingers, and his whole sense of style was a lot more clubby and European than our lazily westernized pub living. It was probably this more than anything that drew Soho to him so strongly; he would have reminded her of her home and namesake.

So you got him? It was as easier pitch as I could throw. I mean, can you see this guy, this little well tanned rock behind the wheel of Jackson Barker’s jeep, gripping it like he was throttling a kitten and laughing with that unique Italian “ai-ai-ai-ai” every time a song with good drumming came on? It was the kinda sight that made you grip the handrail just that little bit tighter, like when eighties action heroes went on to make comedies in the nineties.

Oh! Arnie! How could I have possibly forgotten!? So we were in this club, it must have been the only place open for blocks, wedged in between boutique fashion outlets and those stores that sell such outdated, specialized products that no one actually buys them for their original use anymore but as ornate gifts. It was one of those great clubs that had given up on the misconception that wealthy patrons would mean well behaved ones and set up the sort of environment where you could comfortably wear a tuxedo, or by the same token, brawl with knives. Often at the same time. Anyway, that’s all unimportant and I’m sure you could just go to the one that surely exists in your town if you wanted to.

So this one night, it was just me and Johnny out, I’ve forgotten why it was only the two of us, but I went to chat up this plastic blonde stunner who turned out to be just as unattainable as she looked, and I left Johnny on his own for a bit. Well smack outta nowhere, I was getting some drinks from the bar or something, Johnny almost slams into me, jumping with excitement, shouting “Arnold Schwarzenegger! He’s here! Arnie’s here!” He’d clearly scored something while I was away, and from the kind of buzz he was on it must have been quite a lot of something, but he was so insistent. “This is no high, man!” he yelled, although you gotta take with a grain of salt any sentence someone tacks “man” onto the end of. But he manages to drag me off the bar and through the heat of the crowd anyway. I thought this would be a fairly easy one to disprove since anyone who could be mistaken for Arnie wouldn’t be hard to miss, and nor would real Arnie. Unfortunately Johnny had forgotten exactly where he’d last spotted the action hero and this place was packed.

Instead of just letting me escape though, Opinelli was dance-searching harder than ever, with my wrist locked in his handcuff of drugs and personal training. All over the main floor, which had all these deceptive levels and pits, and up to the several scattered bars. Finally, he realized that if we went up to the second story mezzanine area we could see the whole place, and the terminator within. Well we went up, and we’d just got to the upper floor when, completely hidden from me, Johnny caught a glimpse of whoever he had seen that triggered all this. He turned suddenly, swiveled like a gleefully distracted child, lunged out yelling “Arnie!” and fell right over the railing, bouncing neck and hips and jaw down the stylish black stairs into a guy in a huge grey suit who really, in retrospect and club lighting, did look a lot like the big Austrian actor. He spilt his drink, and kicked the amped up and injured Johnny hard in the stomach in retribution. Johnny wailed in what he later claimed was honoured ecstasy, but looked to me like extreme pain. I had to pick the fucker up, pull him outside, and listen to another six solid hours of excited, bleeding, rambling before Soho took him off my hands.

To this day, Johnny still cites “meeting Arnold Schwarzenegger” as one of the high points in his life, which says a lot about Johnny, and says a lot about why not to take that kinda shit kids. Still, when in Rome…


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