The carnival float leading the parade sets off from the carpark by the football field, blasting music from its speakers. It is decked out as a pirate ship: there is a black flag with a skull, a one metre high papier-mache parrot perched on the roof, two pairs of painted polystyrene canons stuck to the sides of the trailer and three youngsters dancing, dressed in knee-length shorts, bandanas, white shirts with puffy sleeves and waistcoats. They are chucking confetti, passing a microphone around and squirting shaving foam over anyone who gets too close. It’s a nippy February day, with the kind of chill wind that can give you the runs. In the parade there are about two hundred people, most of them youngsters, dressed up as punks,convicts, pirates, cowboys, princesses, Rihanna, Balotelli, street walkers, police, tennis players, cats and Zorro.
They move along the road by the industrial estate, reaching the first houses, where they set the dogs barking, then cross the roundabout, go past the waste management facility and head through the centre of town to the church youth club. Along the way, which takes advantage of a kilometre or so of the newly built main road, they are joined by other masked revellers, while in the supermarket car park a photographer awaits, stationed at a slightly raised vantage point to capture the parade in all its glory. The procession is preceded by a police car with its blue light on, while bringing up the rear there are two motorcycles.
In the plains the plan is to have as much fun as humanly possible, and to do so you first need to acquire a good level of familiarity with the ideology of doom. Without initiation rites like the carnival of discomfort, it would be impossible to train the future voters of the Macro-region to heedlessly accept the senselessness of their surroundings. Getting dozens of children and teenagers to dress up and congregate near the petrol station by the underpass is the Macro-region’s version of firewalking. Albeit apparently less barbarous.
A coach has just unloaded the first of three organized groups heading for the water park. Other visitors have already arrived: there are cars parked in rows between the white lines, but it’s still early enough to bag the best pool-side spots before the park fills up. On the horizon, higher than the Turbo Twister, stands the skeleton of a crane in a nearby building site. A row of warehouses, only slightly concealed behind trees, stands guard over the area and upholds its industrial identity. The music pumped out from the three restaurant areas mingles with the voices of the lucky visitors who are on holiday and the noise of the traffic on the ring road; the action on the beach volleyball court is non-stop and wasps buzz busily around the rubbish bins. It’s like being at the seaside, but better because chlorine isn’t salty, even if it does fade your tan.
Consistency of place is essential for the occupants of the Plains: they need to be able to identify the Macro, over-accumulated style in their surroundings so as not to lose focus and be able to enjoy a relaxing break without the distractions of a new environment. This brand of commercial fun also has the advantage of being reassuringly linked to a set price, with a time limit, separating it clearly from the normal working activities it is a product of.
Before venturing into the “Pampered Touch” massage parlour it’s a good idea to see if there are any reviews of it online or if there are any other recommended ones in the area. Next door there’s a take out pizza place that opens at 11, perfect for a quick lunch before you head off again.
“The music pumped out from the three restaurant areas mingles with the voices of the lucky visitors who are on holiday and the noise of the traffic on the ring road.”
Minitalia is an amusement park for families located along the A4 Motorway, in the Central Macroregion. It displays miniature reproductions of Italy’s historical beauties. Its slogan is “Much more than you can imagine!”.
“If you’re lucky you get a tried and tested one.”
A quick look on a forum reveals a positive review posted a couple of months before, but it all depends on the girls, usually two or three per massage centre, who work shifts, meaning you don’t always get the same ones other clients have described. If you’re lucky you get a tried and tested one, though there’s always the risk of romanticising the encounter, so it might just be better to pick a new girl and see how it goes. Everyone has their own philosophy. It’s like gambling: invest 100 euro and if it’s your lucky day you come out with a smile on your face, otherwise, in any case you’ve had a shower and you’ll feel lighter for an hour or so afterwards. The girl says her name’s Gaia or Giada, and she isn’t bad looking in her denim mini-skirt, hands all greased up. She tells you to get undressed, then comes back into the room wearing a half-undone robe; at a rough estimate it looks like she’s got a C cup. For the first half hour you lie on your stomach, and she spreads the oil, first with her hands and then using her body. She knows her stuff, she lets you touch her and even pants a little to warm up the atmosphere, but then the phone rings and she has to answer it. Three eternal minutes and then she’s back and she starts kneading you again like nothing happened. Then
it’s time to turn over, the best bit. She uses that C cup to make amends for the phone call and rounds off with a blow job. She asks for an extra 30 euros and you pay up because then she’ll sit on your face. For another 20 she’ll shower with you, but the hour’s almost up and you still need to get your pizza before heading back onto the motorway. Next time. On the whole it’s clean, as always you can hear the noises from the next room through the partition wall, and with the fidelity card you get 50% off your fifth massage. It’s only 10 minutes from the motorway exit and with two entrances you can be discreet. Recommended, ask for Gaia or Giada (she says she’s in China in February and March).
The neon OPEN sign is the main linguistic and graphic innovation that has hit the plains since 2005. The same goes for intimate views of relaxing moments against a pink or green background, where women are massaging and being massaged amid bowls of warm oil and cascades of exotic blooms, their eyes closed in expressions of bliss. These small ejaculation emporiums have such a strong, repetitive aesthetic that they have entered the collective imagination faster than the smoke from an electronic cigarette.
A large size coke cup holds all the change you need for your first round. It’s one of those arcades that are open 24/7, though the mayor apparently wants to limit the opening times due to the usual propaganda about gambling addiction. Nearby is a multiplex, an electronics chain, a fast food outlet and a closed-down car dealership which is about to be turned into a China/Africa market. Those in their forties remember when the retail park was just basically one big nightclub with a car park that filled up with cars on Friday and Saturday nights, and
“You put in a coin, press the button and wait to see if you can feel anything.”
scooters on a Sunday afternoon, without all the laws that prevent you from drinking and driving and doing your own thing nowadays. When the dance scene stopped being profitable, the big clubs shut up shop. Now there are about a hundred slot machines to choose from. It’s impossible to try them all on your first tour of the place, so you need to trust good old instinct. You put in a coin, press the button and wait to see if you can feel anything. The floor is carpeted, you can’t hear the footsteps of the other two morning players and the arcade assistant, just a little background music and the sound of bouncing coins. It’s nice because outside it’s day time but in here you’d never know: it’s always exactly the same and you don’t even know what’s out there any more.
Arcades, slot machines in bars, big videolottery centres: the perfect setting for taming and channeling the doom, feeding the obsession one coin at a time. Malaise on an industrial scale, built into the money-go-round… They call it an emergency but really they mean a blessing, the quarter turn that brings everything full circle.