Jul 062015

Let’s just keep the scooters where they belong, yes?


I wanted a moped the very minute I left Italy. I can remember sitting in the Montparnasse train station in Paris checking Craigslist Grand Rapids for scooters until I got home. But not just any moped–it had to be a Vespa. The quintessential Italian people mover. If you haven’t been to Italy, go. Like, now. It will be absolutely mobbed this time of year, but we’re in Martha’s Vineyard and it’s the weekend of the Fourth, so out of the frying pan and into the other frying pan, right?

Anyhow, I was obsessively fixated on this material good–par for my course–and continued to search for a Vespa when I landed back in the states. I wanted a black one: a GTS, which is the one that you could take on the freeway if you really wanted to (a suicide wish if there ever was one… someone in an F-150 would run you over out of principle). They were sleek, sexy even, an adjective I don’t find myself using often. But here these bronzed Italians were etched into my memory. Black Vespa, black helmet, and black aviators. All clad in some ridiculous looking sweater and brightly colored pants–but they’re Italian, they invented fashion, so it looked good.

Italians always look good. If by now you’re currently on your way to Rome, trust me, you’ll be hard-pressed to find one who isn’t striking. The most impressive person I saw was in Rome and she was at least a quarter of my age. My mother and I were walking around Caesar’s forum and slowly up the Capitoline hill rolled a black SUV with a genetically well-endowed Italian couple. In the back seat closest to my vantage point sat a little girl dressed in a khaki safari jacket and a pair of Ray-Bans, aviators with the green lenses. Her head was aimed out the window at us, and she was tilting her head as if she were tired. Tired of being watched. I mean, this little girl knew she looked cool. And she knew that we knew it, too.

It’s moments like that, I think, when style or fashion ideas are imported from one country to another. However, I’ve diverted from my initial moped fix, so here it is. Sunglasses are one thing to adopt, and easily enough, but mopeds are a different thing entirely. I don’t know if they were invented in Italy, but they were perfected there. They belong on the old boot, and should stay there indefinitely.

I no longer wanted one the moment I saw somebody riding one here on the Vineyard. Mopeds aren’t exactly as ubiquitous here as they are in Italy, but there are an awful lot of them zipping around. Islanders unanimously despise them. And with good reason.

I had a professor who said that the very fact that we can think to not be something or not do something was a particularly human thing to do. That we can define ourselves as not in Rome, not tall, dark, and handsome, not slender, lithesome Italians, says a lot about homo sapiens as a species. My old notebooks could expound further than I presently can, because here I am, using not as a weapon to keep ugly Americans–no, the world–off of Italy’s bike.


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