Lancio proclaimed the re-launch to be Nuova Edizione Italiana. The new Playboy in Italy had a semblance of small editorial team under the mild mannered aging journalist, Alvaro Zerboni, but it was the company’s president Michele Mercurio who wielded the total control over the pages of the magazine. From the very first meeting it became clear to me that Lancio was not the right kind of publishers for our beloved bambino. The years that I was subjected to work with them, we constantly collided over what direction the edition should take. As diplomatic as I would try to be, we never came around to see eye to eye, thus creating a constant tension between Rome and Chicago. Being able to develop any sort of personal rapport never even came into the play.

Even so, I was accorded a certain protocol like status. Always being picked up from the airport and brought back in the company Mercedes Benz sedan by Mario. Picked up from the hotel and whenever needed brought back also in the Benz. Mario barely spoke any English, but I was trying hard to learn the Italian. So other than the editor in chief Alvaro Zerboni, my real human face of Rome was Mario, a very pleasant, ever smiling of the angular round face, very white of the skin and of a stocky built, he played the role that of the executive chauffer, a messenger and a sort of unofficial PR person for his employers. Mario for one, had high curiosity level and the fact that he spoke no English and I spoke only rudimentary Italian never inhibited him from asking me questions and manage somehow to wrangle out answers from me in my odd mélange of Italian, Spanish and English. He was interested in me. He was interested in the mystic of India. He was charming and sweet in the way Italians can be and somehow felt close to me. I liked him and he liked me. But that was the extent of it. The rule was that his schedule was determined by Michele’s executive secretary Christina Schlogel and had to have her command for him to ferry me around, he often took it upon himself to pick me up or bring me to the airport even over the weekends. For which he did get into the trouble with Christina for a couple of times. But he sloughed it off with a hearty laugh.

‘Of course I know Mario,’ I answered Arthur.

‘You know, he really liked you?’

‘Yah, probably he was the only one, other than of course poor Alvaro.’

To that Arthur begins to tell the following story. Which he would repeat a year and a half later in an email before answering my queries for the blog entry Perfectly Unbound.

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