I met Ivan in suburban Italy, where he ate sheets of ham and packaged chocolate cake for every meal. He's a Croatian who’s restricted to only live in Italy due to beating up a cop in Spain and getting one of his passports revoked (the story was foggy). He only listens to hardcore, and because he didn’t have air-conditioning, he made us go to an underground garage and watch Eastern European historical romantic comedies during the hottest parts of the day. When he asked if I wanted to stay for a while I said sure, and found out that little Italian suburbs are basically just like America’s. To squelch the pain of being trapped in Italy instead of the hovel of the country he grew up in, Ivan solemnly rides his trial bike all day, shin-guarded up like a storm trooper to hop on potted plants and fall off ledges. It was beyond me to clue him in on the fact that Croatia, particularly Split, is nicely called a “developing country” the same way ugly girls are described as having a good personality and that Italy is a vast, and only slightly dull, improvement.
I asked if I could take a picture of him and he said, “With my helmet on.” He was very proud of the helmet and showed me what every drawing was on there. Then he took his helmet off and suggested I snap a few of his tribal “man” tattoo.
His next tattoo is going to be a silhouette of a naked pregnant lady sans head, perhaps opposite his tattooed man. When I asked why, he said, “Without the head, it could be a girl or a guy.” I pointed out that actually it couldn’t, especially if he wanted the picture to have “big tits” like he said, but he just shook his head and furrowed his brow.
On his porch one evening, after a diner of meat that he prepared, we listened to Scratch Acid while he told me how once he fucked a girl outdoors so hard that it tore off a piece of his foreskin and he bled a bag of blood into the condom. As you can tell from the photos, Ivan is going bald but insists that it’s just that he keeps cutting his hair shorter and shorter. He is a spry 25. Maybe it’s all the fleeing Communism and going to prison for constant fights to protect the reputation of the very developing nation that makes him look old. Aside from the lack of hair on his head, Ivan was also concerned about his chest hair. “You want I should chop it?” he asked. I told him nah, leave it.
On my way out of town, I asked him if there were any parting words. He said, “Is that reality?”
“Write that down.
“And write down ‘I am the lens.'”
Then he hugged me and said, “Write that I love soccer too much. See you in the next life.”
I probably would have had the exact same experience if I got off the train in Sioux City, but instead of all that ham and cake, he’d have eaten Pop Tarts and mac ‘n' cheese.