How to get a copy of Modern Romance autographed by Aziz Ansari through Instagram.
Introduction: (you have to read this as one of those fast forwarded speaker from a drug commercial) We’re not two crazy stalkers, but you might say that based on the videos and photos we shot.
You can read it in italian here.
It’s a night like many others. Just got back from work. Notification. Telegram. It’s a message from my roommate. Some days ago I told him that Aziz Ansari was on vacation in Italy with his friend Eric. I’m not their friend and we never spend any time together either, I just know all those things because Aziz is a compulsive instagrammer.
— Holy Shit, They’re in Rome! They were in Cipro 30 mins ago!
— From what I can tell it’s the last night in Rome for Eric. Probably Aziz is gonna stay though.
— Yeah. They’re probably staying at The Locarno Hotel, somewhere near Via dell’Oca. I guess.
— I don’t think they would meet many fans here in Rome..
Back on my phone. I want to check Aziz’s Instagram account. They were actually in Cipro eating some pizza.
"Here we go! First stop.... PIZZA. 📸: @katieparla #bigbudlilbud via @ericwareheim"www.instagram.com
Time says “2 hours ago”. They could be anywhere right now. Being the last day for Eric it would be very unlikely to find ’em hanging around on the road.
"Final night in Italia for Big Bud??#BigBudLilBud #BudsinRoma"www.instagram.com
Okay. A this stage, two normal people, with a standard social life, would go like:
— That would have been fun. What a shame. Let’s grab a slice of pizza and watch a movie.
This is what I actually said.
— Why don’t we set up an Instagram account @Stalkingazizinrome and go out on an incredible (creepy) quest to get my book autographed? (it’s Modern Romance, by Aziz Ansari and Eric Klinegberg, I’m reading it right now: basically they’re trying to investigate how the Internet and technology have affected modern love and relationships, it’s very good).
— What? Are you crazy? You wanna go on this quest having no clue at all but a photo in a pizza place from 2 hours ago? And then what? We’re going to ask around? And we have to rent a car too because neither of us have one? I’m in.
First things first, we set up the account. We aren’t sure about the name though.
— Too creepy?
— A little bit..
To make it look less creepy I decide to put as our profile photo an image of what Aziz think his Indian dude stalker looks like.
OK. Now the account is officially the creepiest account ever. The hashtag we choose for the night is not helping either: #stalkingazizinrome
To get comfortable in our quest we try to “get in character”
Our first stop is #Pizzarium, the pizza place Eric and Aziz put on Instagram 3 hours ago. In the meantime, my roommate found out that there’s another account we should follow: she’s a food blogger, probably the one guiding our guys around.
"Almost there! #stalkingazizinrome #bigbudlilbud #budsinroma"www.instagram.com
We park our rented car and we head to the pizza place. We decided it’s better to keep the car rented, just in case. As John Hammond used to say, “We spare no expense”.
The two girls working at pizzarium confirmed Aziz and Eric were there. “This afternoon, they were here with a guide or something…”. They have no idea who they were. We briefly enlighten them, trying to explain how good Master of None is, and what an incredible quest we decide to get into to have my book autographed by Aziz himself.
Once again we are obliged to continue our geolocalized-photo-mimicking-opera.
"So apparently the guys left already. But there's still time to try some pizza here. We wait for the next instagram…www.instagram.com
After having our pizza with Mortadella, Funghi and Cicoria, and Schiena di Maiale, cicoria and tomato, we’re ready to get back to our research (not stalking).
"Mortadella funghi and cicoria, and schiena di maiale cicoria e pomodoro #stalkingazizinrome"www.instagram.com
There’s only one little problem: we have no idea where Aziz and Eric might be. They haven’t posted anything in the last 3 hours so we have to try something else: the only thing we can do is try to think like them: if I was an American stand-up comedian who loves pasta alla carbonara, what would I do? Think Giacomo, Think.
We’re back in our rented car heading to Trastevere. Why? Here’s my theory: Trastevere is a place with a lot of Americans, and in Via della Luce there’s Carlone, one of the best places in Rome to eat a Gricia (a slight variation on Carbonara). Not the best theory ever, I know. But it’s all we got right now. I feel like Benedict Cumberbatch in Sherlock, only less handsome and with a slightly high pitched voice.
We get rid of the car (We do spare some expense…ehm). My roommate is randomly walking around, eyes on his phone trying to understand where we are (he’s not from Rome).
"Moving to #trastevere #stalkingazizinrome #budsinroma #bigbudlilbud"www.instagram.com
We check each and every alley. We’re looking for a very specific identikit: man, beard, 6’5 height, walking aside another man, 5’5 height, both very funny.
Finally we arrived at Carlone but it’s not our lucky day.
Monday, it’s closing time. It wasn’t one of the best leads ever, but it was our only hope so far. We’re kind of lost. We wander around different places trying to find someone who’s gonna fit our identikit. Nothing. In the meantime neither our Instagram account nor the reddit post we started is getting any attention. The only person who finds our quest interesting is a friend of ours. She just saw that we’re in Trastevere and she gives us a call.
— Hey guys! You’re in Trastevere!
— Yeah, we’re on a mission to find Az….
— Whatever… Could you please go to San Calisto (a bar nearby) and get something for me from a guy? It’s a clapper, I just need it for tomorrow morning!
— Thanks guys, love you!
Tired but far away from giving up, we decided to accept this “secondary quest” to get some extra XP points! (if you play videogames you’ll know what I mean). Heading to San Calisto we started daydreaming of all the incredible things that could happen once we get there!
— They’re probably hanging around in San Calisto, and we would never have ended up there if it wasn’t for this!
Finally we’re in San Calisto. To make things harder the guy we have to find to get our clapper has no phone. Our friend sent us some photos. We would have to recognize him and then get back to our main quest. Let’s sum it up: we’re stuck in front of a bar, tired, clearly out of place (everyone here could be my son or daughter) suspiciously looking at everyone who could possibly be our man. Thatìs after we decided to get out to stalk our beloved Aziz and his friend Eric through their Instagram account. Just another day at the office. NOT.
After some awkward moments we finally get our clapper back. Still we have no clue where Aziz is, and it seems like no other photos will be posted on his Instagram feed tonight. We decided to go for a Peroni (Italian beer), a small one, tomorrow I have to work.
"No clues. #stalkingazizinrome #budsinroma"www.instagram.com
In the meantime my roommates slowly starts to lose confidence that weìre ever gonna find Aziz and Eric.
Was it all futile? Maybe Aziz and Eric are already in bed right now. Maybe they didn’t even think about going out tonight, they just got drunk in some suite in some hotel we don’t know about here in Rome. Did I leave my oven on?
— It’s not over yet. Maybe we’re in the wrong place. Trastevere was too easy, too stereotyped, “Hey I’m an American, I’m going to Trastevere”, it’s like trying to find an Italian guy in New York at McDonald’s. Dammit. Aziz is too witty and curious for Trastevere. It’s their last night, they’re probably looking for something classy, Pantheon, Piazza Navona. Let’s go! It’s not far away, if we don’t find anything we just jump on a car and get back home!
We’re in Vicolo del Moro. Somehow energized we cross Ponte Sisto and in 5 minutes we’re in Via dei Pettinari. Then we saw a guy. A tall one. Could be… nothing. Just Eric’s ghost. I feel lost again. I sit down in front of a church (their like ATM’s machine in Rome, they’re everywhere). My feet hurt. Then my roommate comes to me with his phone.
Look! They just posted! They’re back!
"FINAL BIG BUD LIL BUD MEAL IN ROME. 😮 @katieparla via @ericwareheim"www.instagram.com
— Let me see! Roscioli! Dammit! It’s right here, just around the corner!
"After miles of walking and a few beers, we got a lead. (yes social media do scare us as well). #stalkingazizinrome…www.instagram.com
We start running like there’s no tomorrow (idiomatic phrase pretty untranslatable into English). I feel crazy. I’m laughing out loud and I’m thinking how crazy this situation looks and how clearly serendipity is guiding us into this weird adventure. A couple of days ago I was at the Roscioli Bakery (they have different shops). I was waiting to pay, and an old lady was chit-chatting with the cashier.
— Don’t you have a restaurant too?
— Yes ma’am, it’s right around the corner on the left.
It’s exactly where we’re going right now.
We’re in front of the restaurant. We have no idea what to do. There’s a group of people right in front the place. Inside it looks empty. We can’t be completely sure though, and we can’t get in because it’s too late to be some random customer. Other than that, Roscioli is a pretty expensive place and we’re clearly out of context (again) here.
"We got here...but it's too late again! :P #stalkingazizinrome"www.instagram.com
We got three possibilities, three different roads depart from the restaurant: on the left you end up in Piazza Campo de Fiori. On the right there’s Piazza Torre Argentina and right in front of us you can go to Piazza Navona and Pantheon. There’s a couple. They’re walking toward us.. Right in front. They are talking. Probably it’s their first date. I can’t really hear what they’re saying. I just got something like “Master of None”.
— He just said Master of None
— That couple! They were talking about Master of None, I’m pretty sure (I wasn’t)
My roommate starts running in that direction (where the couple was coming from). I’m stuck in front of the restaurant (we still didn’t know for sure they’ve left). The couples turns left to Via dei Giubbonari. I have to ask.
— Sorry, were you speaking about Master of None?
Shit. I knew it. Auditive hallucinations. Dammit. I just heard what I wanted to hear! I’m trying to figure out where my roommate is, but I lost visual contact with him. He disappeared in Via dei Chiavari. Like a baseball player in first base I slowly move back and forth from the restaurant trying not be far away, just in case something happens. Nothing. I called my roommate. No answer. Dammit. Maybe they’re gone. Maybe the photo it’s from hours ago and they just posted it now from their hotel room. I called again. It’s ringing.
— Hey. Giacomo, I found them.
— What? Where? Where are you?
— Straight out of the restaurant can you see me?
— Yes! I’m coming!
— Here they are! Can you see them?
We’re not far away. I can see the unique silhouette of Eric and Aziz.
— I tried to speak to them. They were very kind. I asked if you could have a photo together but they said “You know we’re on vacation man… Sorry, we rather not”. I didn’t insist. Don’t want to be rude. I can’t really go back to them right now. They would think I’m crazy. (I know, you’re all thinking the same thing…”That’s because you ARE CRAZY dude!”). Wait, the book, you got it?
I rapidly look into my bag.
— Of course!
— Go get them!
I’m almost there. 100 meters from me there are Aziz and Eric slowly walking after eating a lot of pasta. I dunno what to say. Let’s go with a classic.
— Mr. Aziz?
I know. I could have done a lot better than that. Aziz turns around. I’m a little thrilled and tired.
— Hi, sorry to bother! Do you mind signing my book please?
They all seem puzzled. They’re looking at me, but they’re mainly looking at the book. Then Aziz says:
— Sure. No problem… But, how do you happen to have my book with you?
— Ehm. I always keep a copy in my bag. Just in case.
They start laughing. I feel better. And less creepy.
— Ok. So, What’s your name?
Aziz seems comfortable with the language. He spelled my name perfectly (my name is usually always misspelt by English speakers).
I feel astonished. What looked impossible less than 5 hours ago (from the start I would add) was happening in front of my own eyes.
"I know how crazy it looks...but it did just happen. We met @azizansari and @ericwareheim they were very nice hiding…www.instagram.com
I didn’t ask for a photo. Knowing they wouldn’t like it. Aziz shakes my hand and start saying some random goodbye Italian words
— Buonasera, buonanotte, buon pranzo! Grazie per aver comprato il mio libro!
I get back to my roommate.
We’re tired but happy. We walk under the moonlight lighting up Piazza Navona. We’re both lost in our thoughts: what a night. It all started as some weird stalking story, paparazzi style, then it slowly turned into some metropolitan modern fable where coincidence seems to get much of the credit. Yeah we did start with Instagram, but there was no way we could really end up meeting Aziz just with a photo on a social network.
— Think about it. There so many things that comes in the way. Ok. We did follow a crazy post on Instagram, but from there on everything just came into place on its own. Trastevere was a good guess, but still totally wrong. Our secondary quest was very important: that’s why we ended up in Via dei Giubbonari, right place, right time. If it wasn’t for that we would arrive there way to early and we would have never met Aziz. And when we got there, in front of the restaurant, we did follow a false track, I totally invented completely misunderstanding some words a couple was whispering on their first date!
We’re almost back home. My fitness tracker says we walked 12 km tonight. I feel sleepy. Back in my room I decided to get one last picture of my precious treasure (this time getting the focus right)
PS. I know what you’re thinking. Where’s the selfie with Aziz? Why would I ever believe this story? Is that really your right hand man? Don’t you have anything better to do? Are you aware of the fact that you and your friend are two Goddam creeps?
There’s no photo. No other documentation other than the photos you can find on Instagram and our words. And I think that it’s better this way. I like the idea that all of that could have happened, or could have not. Just same weird story created by my lively imagination. Quoting Aziz, it was “un piacere” and “buona notte”.
PPS. Thanks to my friend Mike who edited the text to make it seems like I know what I’m doing even in english.