Sideways in Argentina, Sponge Bob in Moscow, and Mr. Borgnine in Rome

Even though we truly do live in a Global Village these days, I’m always surprised when I see evidence of our cultural imperialism around the globe.

Like when we complained about touring a winery in Mendoza, Argentina, without getting to taste any wine:

winery tour in Mendoza, Argentina

“Oh, you mean you like to drink lots, like in Sideways?” our guide teased, laughing about the character Miles chugging Pinot directly from the spit bucket.

“Um, yeah … something like that.”

Or when I ran smack into Sponge Bob in Moscow’s Red Square:

Sponge Bob in Moscow

 “No matter where you go, there you are is Lady Gaga.”

Sometimes I get  so tired of the whole world imitating our pop culture.  Or even worse, being treated like a tourist simply because people think we Americans like it that way.

This happened to us one night in Rome when we were looking for a great Italian restaurant to dine at.  Not too hard, one would think.  Yet I had to drag Husband out of four restaurants where they tried to seat us in the brightly lit front room with English-only menus and loud English-only speakers … not what I had come to Rome for.

Husband pouted as I dragged him further and further away from any chance of getting dinner.

But then I saw it: a long line of what appeared to be mostly Italians queued up outside a restaurant called Girarrosto Toscano.  

I was determined to get in.

“Do you have reservations?” the maitre de asked.

“Yes,” I lied, cutting my husband off.

The Italian checked his list but obviously couldn’t find our name.

“But we called…,”  I whined.  Husband just stared at me.

Doesn’t the end justify the means?  (I used to be a lawyer, remember …)

Apparently yes.  At least in this case.  A waiter quickly brought us both Proseco and apologized we would have to wait just a little for our table.

Just as we clinked our glasses, an older man with incredible joie de vivre waltzed in with a striking blonde on his arm.  He raised his arms to the applauding crowd exactly like this:

Ernest Borgnine SAG life achievement award

“Who is that?”  I asked, intrigued by this guy’s utter moxy.

Yep, you guessed it: none other than Ernest Borgnine.  Husband actually had to tell me who he was, as even I’m not quite old enough to remember TV in the 60s (McHale’s Navy was Borgnine’s big hit show, but he also won an Oscar for his starring role in Marty in 1955).

Mr. Borgnine died yesterday, at 95 years young.  You just gotta love a guy who says this:

“I like my women a little big.  Natural.  Now, they shave this and wax that.  It’s not right. I love natural women.  Big women.  This trend in women has to go.  Bulimia, anorexia – that’s just wrong. You know what will cure that?  My special sticky buns. One lick of my sticky buns and your appetite will come right back.”

Bravo, Mr. Borgnine!  I bet those sticky buns were good.  Your company in Rome (even from a few tables away) made our evening one to remember.

Your life was clearly NO WASTED JOURNEY.

Oh, and funnily enough, Mr. Borgnine also recently played the voice of “Mermaid Man” in Sponge Bob’s TV show.  (I wonder if he made any appearances in Moscow?)

And by the way, our Argentina story had a happy ending too.  It turns out the winery owners were big fans of Sideways, and had no trouble refilling our wine glasses many times over:

Argentina wine tasting

Sometime I love our Global Village.

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Question: What cultural icons or celebrities have you been surprised to see in unexpected places?

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