I remember meeting a group of handsome men...
When my shift was done at the souvenir kiosk outside the gates of Expo 86, I would walk downtown and hop on the newly completed Skytrain for my ride home. Tonight was a late one, and as I walked down the stairs to the station beneath Granville Street, a young man kept calling out to me. Easily ignorable, I tuned him out, bought my ticket, and descended even farther beneath the earth to the platform. He rode the escalator behind me, making rude comments, asking me if I wanted a date, a boyfriend...that sort of thing.
Unrelated side note: Anyone else see the irony of going down into the depths of the earth to catch the "Sky"train? LOL!! The train only went underground for two stations...but this always made me laugh. Anyway, back to our story...
I strode with purpose towards the group of people waiting for the train heading East. The young man stood off to one side, continuing with his tirade of what he was prepared to do for me. Everyone on the platform was wondering what I'd do. When the train slid into the station, he followed me into the car and sat down behind me. I'm no dummy. Just before the door slid shut, I jumped up, ran out of the car and scooted into the next one. He tried to follow, but the doors shut and the train accelerated out of the station, leaving him standing alone on the platform. Hah!!
I was feeling very clever! Then I looked around to see who was in the car I had just dashed into. The only empty seat was in the midst of a group of incredibly handsome men, all dressed in expensive clothing that fit them perfectly. They clapped for me and my clever evasion, indicating that I was welcome to sit with them. I took a little bow, and joined their party. As I began a conversation, I quickly realized that these men were Italian and could speak almost no English. The only Italian words I knew were the musical terms I'd learned from 10 years of piano lessons. I spouted off a few to their great merriment. "Allegro! Pianissimo! Dolce!" Much laughter, white teeth. "Expo 86?" I asked, figuring them to be tourists.
"Si! Si!!" They nodded happily. "La Scala!"
"Are you here to see La Scala perform?" I knew the famed opera company was going to be performing for Expo 86, and assumed any Italian worth his salt would be lining up to buy tickets. "You watch La Scala?"
"No!" insisted the gentleman with the perfect white teeth and immaculately groomed graying hair. "No watch. La Scala!!" He reached for his wallet and handed me a business card. I don't read Italian, but I realized that I was sitting with members from the company! They were with La Scala! "You come see?"
I pulled out my pockets, pantomiming my poverty. "I can't afford the opera!"
"No!" Darn that language barrier!!! "You come see! You come! We show!" How did he get his teeth so white? What? Was he inviting me to come as his guest? For free??? We eventually figured it out, after much hand gesturing, that I was invited to the final dress rehearsal, and that one of my new friends would meet me at the door to make sure I got in. We waved good-byes and ciaos as they got off at their stop.
I showed up at the Pacific Coliseum at the proper time on the proper day, August 23, 1986. Nobody was waiting for me at the gate, but I convinced the person at the door that I belonged there by showing him the Italian business card I had been given. I walked in, totally excited. I had never been to the opera before! I wasn't sure where I would be allowed to sit, so I was wandering down the aisles looking for an empty spot when I heard a welcoming cry. "Hallo!!!" It was one of my friends! He rushed up to me, grabbed me around the shoulder and steered me straight toward the backstage. Backstage! He introduced me to someone who could translate for us, and then I was given a whirlwind tour of the whole backstage area. I saw the costume room, the singers putting on their makeup, the props and backdrops...I felt like I was walking in a dream.
I was led to my seat, right near the front, and watched Verdi's "I Lombardi". Is it any wonder that I felt like my life was charmed? Why would something so magical and fantastic happen to me, merely because I was smart enough to dodge a dummy on the Skytrain? I didn't know why, and I didn't care. If heaven wanted to drop gifts in my lap, I certainly wasn't going to refuse!