Wednesday, August 10, 2005


It turned out to be Ronaldo, an Italian Radiologist. That's the way the story ended. If I had not seen the full center spread two page pictorial and article, I would have signed it off as simply another inventive story, delightful in its detail, superb in its execution. I was a hungry shark; my cousin was throwing out his verbal chum, slowly bringing me closer onto the hook. I bit. Again. But, this time he unfolded one of the daily newspapers and showed me that truth can be as dangerous as his deceit.
It started in this manner.
All along the main roads and in the marketplaces, you'll spot signs for Zimmer Frei, Room, Carrera, Apartman. Between July 1st and August 15th, prices in some places have doubled or tripled. Immediate cash flow is on high anxiety setting. Makarska is a gorgeous little town half-way between Split and Dubrovnik on the Croatian coast. Like all towns along the coast, it survives on the summer tourist season. Obviously, any attention thrown Makarska's way is appreciated. The easiest method of casting attention its way? Some hoi-polloi, in the form of a movie / tv / fashion/ politics star, of course. Hoi Polloi sightings are the first sections of the daily paper that folks look at as they loll and gag in the little cafes and bistros edging along the curvaceous main road of town which wraps itself around the harbor. Best seats in the house for spotting the wealthy arrivals as their yachts and elegant sailboats come to dock.
An acquaintance of one of my cousins is an American of available monies. Along with a few professional association buddies, he rented a black yacht, a visibly noticeable craft tucked amidst the swan-white other ones in the harbor. Being a raconteur of considerable fame, my cousin was invited along for the 5 day cruise. As a joke, he donned a skipper's hat. Being able to distinguish a captain's hat from a top hat was my cousin's limited knowledge of shipboard doings. For a few days, he was cavorting, carousing, and arousing people's interests on the yacht as it lazily meandered in the myriad of islands off the coast. When it came time to unload him, Makarska's dock was picked as the place to dock. As my cousin strolled down the short gangway, captain's hat still perched at a rakish angle, a reporter from a daily national paper came up to him. The yacht was the largest ship in the harbor that morning, so curiosity and scoop hunger were on alert.
"Who's on that boat?"
"Sorry, who's on that ship?"
My cousin looked around. He saw a gent walking by with a fashion labeled polo shirt.
"Ralphie, of course."
He stared at the reporter, his blue eyes twinkling as he carefully played out a baited line.
"Ralph Lauren, of course." He pointed to a full-head-of-grey gentleman lounging on the ship, drink in hand. "Don't you recognize him?"
The reporter stuttered, pulled out her camera, and clicked furiously.
"How about a picture of you and Mr. Lauren together, skipper?"
"Skipper!?" My cousin thought this was going all too well. He waved to the gentleman on the ship to come ashore. The grey-headed man was more than happy to come down; the invitation must be another story my cousin had to regale him with.
The reporter snapped a shot, asked "Ralph Lauren" a few questions, which were answered in an Italian-scented English.
She rushed off to her offices with a scoop. My cousin and "Ralph Lauren" climbed back up the gangplank, "Ralphie" helping my cousin along as the latter was collapsing with laughter.
He bought the paper the next day. A little note in the right hand corner of the front page about "Ralph in Makarska". The center spread had all of the details, including a short bio of Mr. Lauren. And there were the pictures of my cousin standing next to Ronaldo, the Italian radiologist, aka "Ralph Lauren".

People in the cafes sipped their espressos or spooned their cappucinos and sighed as they paged through the morning paper.
"Here I am in paradise and I have proof that it is! Ralph Lauren came here yesterday."
A pause to stir a spoon.
"How did I miss seeing him?"
"Why didn't he stop by my table?"
They stared out into the harbor with greater interest. The waiter had mentioned a rumour that John Malkovich was sailing up the coast from his hotel in Dubrovnik.
A visit by John was in order, they concluded.

<<< *** Bonus *** >>>
("Ralphie" with my cuz, stirring up the newsprint in Dalmatia)

After intensive and time-consuming research on the web, here's the link to the Vecernji List story on July 12th of Ralph in Makarska. Translation is available upon request and 5,000 kuna in 200 kuna notes dropped off at the Sahara Bar and True Tale Emporium.


Glad to see you're home safe. Can't wait to hear all the stories - in print here or over a bottle of vino. Your tales are worthy of publication in some venue more glamorous (if you can imagine such a thing) than your blog!
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