The other vehicle
The thing I loved fourth most about Elvio was that he was not unduly preoccupied with being a man-man. Gender roles were all a big joke to him. He was prone to burst into song, usually mock opera, changing the words from Joe Green's Rigoletto, "La donna é mobile," which meant basically women change their minds at the drop of a hat, to "La donna é un mobile," which meant woman is a piece of furniture. Everything was lampoon material, including trends, social mores, male competitiveness -- and the like.
That's why I found it so peculiar to discover how crucially important it was to him to own a motorcycle the size of a horse. Equally perplexing was how he could've afforded such a thing in his sketchy state of employment. Somehow he acquired the thing and began showing up with it when we went out by ourselves. It took every ounce of his strength just to push it off the kickstand, but once he got it rolling, he was in hog heaven. There was no mention of helmets. What was the use of being on a motorcycle if your friends wouldn't recognize you roaring by with your hair flying in the wind and a girl on the back?
In reviewing my mental strategy for consenting to passenger-hood during my Italy years, I now recognize that it's exactly the same attitude one adopts when climbing into the buggy of an amusement park ride. Does one say, Where's my helmet? Does one say Do you have a license for this? Does one say Have you had safety training for this? No. One hops in willy-nilly with the unquestioned assumption that if this thing weren't safe, it wouldn't be allowed to operate.
So that's what I did. I hopped on, willy-nilly. I trusted the Italian driver to know how to drive like an Italian. Today I wouldn't. Today my mature mind would go further, and notice that Italians have ambulances and hospitals and graveyards just like everybody else, and that would be an indication of something.
We did take one small precaution, however.....