Smoking a pre-Castro Cuban while vacationing in Castiglioncello on the Italian coast, our good friend Charles suggested that we all extend our relaxing vacation and remain here, comfortably ensconsed our haunted rented villa on the sunny Tuscany coast. Safely ride out the Great Recession currently ravaging the good old US of A. And what a great idea! Haunted house, perhaps being an overstatement as ghosts only appeared one night in a severe dry mistral wind with no one in the 38 room manse restfully sleeping, all of us wandering at various hours unbeknownst to the others, passing each other as if in a trance, up and down the hallways of the centuries old villa, big green shutters abanging and doors flying open, various musical instruments scattered about the villa being softly plucked and the woodwinds whistled, played by otherworldly spirits. The eyes in the old portraits followed us just like in old black and white horror movies. Ancient marble statues seemed to come to life as we floated down gravel paths through the overgrown gardens on this fully moonlit and owly night.
The local barfly Desiree D’Arbanville, former model and 60 something flower child, recalls the haunted villa well from the summer the Rolling Stones rented it and recorded the now lost tracks from Goat’s Head Soup in the hot basement; alternate tracks numbers 13 and 48, the acoustic versions (Mr. Jagger and Mr. Richards were not at those sessions).
Haunted or not, still a very good idea; hunker down overseas, kind of let the whole thing blow over. Very much an old school thing to do, like packing many large monogramed steamer trunks and embarking on a slow ocean voyage across the Atlantic in the days long gone. But as business and family matter are wont to do, our presence was indeed required back in the States. And return our friend did to his mission, his lifelong driving quest.
Charles would often go on about the siren song that called out for him to explore the rabbit warren like tunnels under an old Greenwich Village music store and find the long lost Azmat shield collection rumored to be lying forgotten in low ceilinged, spiderwebby rooms. Heralding from Irian, Java, these huge painted shields served the purpose of striking paralysis and an irresistable urge to buy something when seen by enemy tribesmen. And they did. After this important economic stimulus function, they were laid down upon on the Banyon tree roots from whence they came and within weeks said shields rotted and disappeared back into the earth. Needless to say, there are not many around these days. It’s rumored that both Larry Gagosian and Mathew Marks each have a scary Azmat shield on hand for their difficult customers.
The intrigue of this adventure does kind of grab you. It echoes the exploits of Happy and Nelson Rockefeller’s son who travelled afar to gather the collection now ensconsed at the Met. Of course Charles would want to skip the inconvenient part that fell upon the Rockefeller lad, that is, actually traveling to a remote weird island, getting lost and croaking in the jungle. So he set out on his particular adventure to the depths of Perry Street, a remote section of the “Village”. After much negotiating and hard trading over short glasses of coffee grounds with the elders of the long defunct music store, the shields did indeed become his.
Elizabeth, his charming and beautiful wife was not entirely amused. For that reason and if it were not for an untimely wager on the Euro’s rise in value against the American greenback, this fine collection would be at a top quality museum. Not where it is now, up for your approval and ultimate purchase. So, scare your art collector clients into buying something. Threaten to lay a curse upon them like sending fire ants from below if they don’t buy immediately. He’s done all the work. And PayPal is somewhat easier to deal with than headhunters.