I brought no Italian to Rome.
At the Brazilian Embassy, I tell the guard that I am to see the great artist Vik Muniz. The guard speaks no English. My best mime only warrants a raised eyebrow.
In desperation, I plead, “Parlez francais?” though I do not. A call is placed and I gather that I have been mistaken for a french journalist of great repute. “French” because everyone now speaks to me in french, though my only reply is my customary Gallic shrug. “Journalist of repute” because I was granted the sole private interview with the artist so they assume I must be somebody.
The red carpet is rolled out as a diplomat whisks me upstairs to Vik. Introductions are made, in french, to Vik as he looks at me, baffled, and exclaims. “It’s you!” We embrace as I explain how I chased him to Rome, wanting an interview for my Working Artist project, and how I carefully connived to arrange this meeting.
They give us an ornate room to talk in private. Vik helps me set up my film equipment and, as I struggle, he patiently teaches me how to use my tripod. Oh God, I repeat to myself nervously. The Brazillian Ambassador drops in to say hello. Oh God. A white-gloved man in uniform silently serves us espresso. I am shaking with caffeinated nerves.
But he was the same Vik Muniz he has always been, generous, brilliant, hilarious, insightful, and gorgeous. And in the end, I got an amazing interview.