Social Diary• BY: David Patrick Columbia
Tuesday, January 18, 2022. Snowless despite the storms that frequent our neighbors and even distant states along the coast. The white that first landed on Sunday evening was removed by rain within hours. There were some gusts of wind yesterday afternoon and otherwise it was in the high thirties and nothing held up.
Broadway Babies: Tonight at 9:00 PM PBS, Great Performances – Reopening: The Broadway Revival, hosted by three-time New York Emmy Award-winning journalist and host of “On the stage” Frank DiLella, draws the curtain on some of Broadway’s most popular shows and showcases the monumental task the theater industry has taken on getting these shows back on stage with the curtain up.
DiLella takes us behind the scenes access to shows including: Bad, Aladdin, Tina; the Tina Turner musical, Jagged Little Pill, The Phantom of the Opera, and others. The DiLella doc takes you right into the thick of the action, including the performers recounting their lives at the On Broadway theatre. We are so used to visuals that we easily forget that the ultimate experience in entertainment is always personal. Being in the same room is the ultimate story telling, the part that we creatures cannot avoid. That’s the thrill of it all.
Meanwhile I couldn’t resist; the story now. The subject: “Italian Covid calamity.”
This is a travelogue during the Covid era, as told by Peggy Siegal. She mentioned her story “Italian Covid Calamity… Stayin’ Alive, or Stranded.” Peggy is a publicist by trade so there will always be drama because how else can we get you to pay attention.
On December 23, Peg was a guest in Todi, Umbria, Italy, well cared for and cared for in a villa of an Italian Count and Countess, Maya and Edmondo at Robilant. The Count, which sells Old World Masters, has galleries in London and New York (Robilant & Voena).
Peggy arrived with a huge stash of new movies – over 100 – for her hosts to watch. She had spent the whole week at the mansion in Umbria. They ventured to a restaurant just once, on Christmas Eve, followed by Midnight Mass, masked in a gigantic modern stone cathedral with a choir of 30 angelic voices singing all the favourites.
She had left the US that Wednesday before – December 22 – with a pinch that a negative PCR test did not stop going on Delta 152 to Rome.
However, what started as a week in the country watching the best new movies, sharing Maya’s gourmet dinners and taking a dip in Edmondo’s wine cellar, turned into an ommicron immigration disaster.
On December 29, my hosts took me to a local pharmacy for an antigen smear so I could return to New York before New Year’s Eve to attend the opera with Mercedes Bas and her friends with a gala dinner on the Bass low. I had had two Moderna injections, a booster, a sniffle and felt perfect. I was shocked that I tested positive. After a second antigen and two PCRs that day, the labs sent FOUR positive tests along with my passport number to the Italian government. This is where the drama started.
The “authorities” immediately called my hosts at the villa and ordered me to quarantine there for 10 days and the incarceration of the Di Robilants would last 7 days. A day later, in the local news, their sentences were withdrawn.
They obediently sent me back to my bedroom with a great view of the countryside as I became the infected nightmare house guest. My life was reduced to ‘A Room With A View’.
Maya’s gourmet meals were shuttered at my door, and Edmondo kindly left glasses of his finest wines…to make the isolation palatable. We communicated via WhatsApp.
My hosts – Maya and Edmondo – went out of their way to care for me for 10 days with five star medical, culinary and psychological support, while pretending not to be shocked by a sick American in the house. The situation was bearable as I obediently stayed in the bedroom with the amazing view. Many of their other friends shared similar covid nightmares reported from London, Gstaad, Aspen, Palm Beach and New York.
After five days we tinkered and cuddled with the home test kit and I was still slightly infected. I was fine in a day or two, but the 10-day edict is written in Italian marble. (I had tested negative on the home test two days in a row since then.)
On January 8, I had an official appointment for a drive-thru PCR. The problem in Italy is that the government can’t handle the high demand for PCR tests they need for deportation… so it’s impossible even to abide by their laws.
I went crazy from being locked in a room for over a week…and was finally allowed to go downstairs, but not off the premises.
On January 9, the day of escape arrived. I felt a huge sigh of relief as I successfully made my way past Italian Passport Control in a wheelchair and VIP Greeter (which cost me 270 Euros).
As I was pushed through Checkpoint Charlie, the passport control lady announced that I was “in their system as positive”.
My Greeter… now worth every penny… showed my negative antigen test on paper from the Todi pharmacy. The woman in police blue was a little confused, but had enough empathy for an overdressed lady (me) covered in fur trim, in a wheelchair. She finally waved me through. Although the Italian government demanded PCR, Delta was okay with Antigen.
Delta 153 landed in New York at 5:05 PM, and when my feet touched our hallowed ground, the land of the free and the home of the brave, I was finally home and grateful for everyone.
I am forever grateful to Maya and Edmondo for an unusually wonderful vacation that we will all remember with humor.