Minutes in the Style of Geoffrey West of the 19th Symposium of the Collegium Internationale Allergologicum held in Capri, May 1992
The 19th Meeting in the CIA was convened on yet another island, the fabled island of Capri, beloved of many famous personalities from Gracie Fields to the Emperor Tiberius.
The CIA broke with a starting tradition of only going to an island beginning with M by coming to Capri. Incidentally, Malta would be a good choice and I offer that as free advice to the society.
To paraphrase another saying about Italy, "see Capri, and die". But when does life begin some of you may ask - Just that question was being discussed by a protestant minister, a catholic priest and a Jewish rabbi.
"I believe life begins the moment the sperm enters the egg. At fertilization the Holy Spirit enters it, and a wondrous life begins" said the priest.
"To me, life begins later" said the minister. "When the brain forms and limb buds turn into arms and fingers, then this little being is embodied with a soul, and life begins".
They turned to the rabbi, who had been listening to the conversation and who had continued to sip his wine. "What do you think, rabbi?" they asked. "Well, I believe ... that life begins when the dog dies and the children leave home": he said.
For many life began in Capri at the exquisite hotel Quisisana, which by a combination of serendipity, and shrewd bargaining offered the membership an unbeatable combination of excellent service, food and ambience, with a wonderful location. The Quisisana is one of the best hotels in Italy in the same category as the Villa D’Este in Como and the Danieli in Venice. The fact that the owner’s son was a resident with the organizer, Gianni Marone, obviously was as relevant as Gloria Steinem’s comment about women without a man. It is like a fish without a bicycle.
Qui si sana means literally "who comes, becomes healthy" or something like that in Italian. Not disclosed to the membership was the fact that the Quissisana was originally a sanatorium and hospital. Hence, the term. " peculiarly appropriate name for a hotel at which the CIA with its interests had its meeting.
The CIA is getting into trouble with its namesake. This is evidenced by the fact that the police visited our meeting in full force on two occasions looking for a certain professor. Jean Gilder, the flawless meeting organizer, covered up for the said academic, well known to many of us, and they went away. It is clear that the parent CIA knows that our male CIA (cf. our minutes read at the Capri meeting) is dominating their female version. Furthermore, ours is becoming well known for its convivial, congenial meetings where the quality of science is high and the bonhomie of our membership is of the highest order. This is beginning to embarrass the female CIA and as a consequence they are beginning to harass us. Watch out at the Nantucket meeting for CIA agents dressed up as whales and other marine objects.
The Capri CIA meeting raised all former bad memories of the previous abortive CIA attempt to visit Capri when we had our meeting in Sorrento. That meeting and the storm we encountered, which prevented the hydrofoil from hydrofoiling, nevertheless instituted the practical approach of handing out some form of medication for the motion susceptible or genetically enfeebled membership. You will recall Professor Andre Capron was carried off the previous boat trip on a stretcher to receive rehydration and correction of his alkalosis. It really spoiled the Capron’s evening. Maybe that is the reason they did not join us this time.
Talking of the boat trip, it was impeccably in the CIA tradition. It was the longest CIA boat trip on record (four hours) an many wore the CIA badges of courage, or beige patches behind the ear. The issue of left ear versus right ear was debated and some of our members clearly did not understand the significance of which ear was which in terms of sexual connotation. As a consequence, we and they got into some serious troubles which are best left unrecorded.
The anti-motion sickness chewing gum was a novelty, however, and possible a success, although relatively sexually neutral if not actually physically off putting, especially if stuck behind the ear.
In the longstanding tradition of the CIA, it took a long time for the captain of the boat to find the storm. Upon being interviewed, he said he knew it was out there but just had difficulty locating it. Luckily, we found it and brought it back with us. On the boat trip, Galli found his islands named after his forebears. One of them was now rented out to an ex-and fading Russian dancer. Galli promised he would donate this island for future CIA use. Thank you Steve and Anne.
Having found the storm and thus relieved the anxiety of the organizers, since this one essential ingredient of the CIA meeting had heretofore been missing, the captain revved up his engines to keep up with the wind.
Some strange habits of the membership were revealed on the boat trip. Several preferred to stay out in the rain rather than join their spouses, (we have their names on computer). A bizarre bunch gathered in the wheel house and sang songs over the public address system, and even took over the navigation and wheel of the boat. This accounts for our wavering positions somewhere off Positano.
I regret to relate the Sehon, our ancient mariner, doomed to sail with the CIA for an eternity, lost his luggage again. He also got the only room at the Quisisana in which the heating and air conditioning ducts have become interchanged. This fault was traced to a prior New Year’s Eve party but this was of no help to Sehon. Furthermore, the airline refused to agree it was their mistake to have lost his luggage. Sehon was told by them he could not spend any money on new clothes, as their luggage always showed up. This was in fact true and it did show up but only after the meeting was over. This accounts for the membership giving Sehon a wide berth as he wore the same clothes for four days and finally mugged a fellow CIA member on the night of the banquet and wore her clothes to the dinner. This caused no end of trouble which was sorted out by giving him a present from Dr. Marone of a Valentino piece of luggage at the banquet.
My daughter was at the meeting and was a great embarrassment as she could speak very good Italian. The manager of the La Palma Hotel had, unknown to her mother and myself, met her on the boat in Naples and propositioned her. As we strolled arm in arm in the street, he approached us and said "so you really do have your parents here, Robin." She had apparently made the feeble excuse that she could not have dinner, or sleep with him, as she was doing with her parents.
He took us out, and booze and compliments flowed like limoncello. She informed me how embarrassing a father I was, but I pointed out that he was really after me and that she was to be my saviour. We sorted that one out with difficulty. I subsequently realized that several of my colleagues had missed their real calling, and were spending a lot of money and attention on my daughter, to influence me as well.
The meeting was mooted a success. It was the largest, with the most attendees, the most presentations, the longest boat trip, and the first one to institute a limerick contest. It also had the greatest attendance of any CIA meeting, including the business assembly. God knows why, but this worried the incoming president as a sign of doom of the usual free flowing and undemocratic way of doing business, which has so long been a hallmark of the society. I am pleased to be able to report, that undemocracy is alive and well and flourishing in the CIA. Lichtenstein has good cause to be concerned, however, for other reasons as he revealed that at the Martinique meeting, he paid twice for his registration and accommodation. He got so angry that he told his wife to settle the bill, and Caroline was so upset with him that she did, not noticing that he had paid before. Larry claims he has never got his money back. It is a good story but I am not sure I believe it, and promise to the society, that I will under no circumstance give him any money back. So goes lack of chutzpah, but lots of hubris - great personality traits of a president, it seems.
The minutes cannot be complete without mentioning that Johannes Ring, our beloved honorary secretary, with responsibility it is said for nothing, a descendant of Bavarian navigators and buccaneers from the Middle Ages, was faced with a late arrival in Naples having missed the hydrofoil and ferry. Non-plussed by these events, he got his taxi driver to take him to Sorrento where they persuaded a drunken Caprese fisherman to come over for him. An enormous sum exchanged hands. The rumours are that it began with a 4 and ended with a 0 (in dollars). He got into the boat and after greasing the palm of the fisherman, the guy asked where he wished to go. "Capri" he said, "island of Tiberius and the blue grotto, of Galli’s islands, the villa Jovis, Hotel Quisisana" and so on. "Where is that?" replied the now evidently drunken fisherman. Johannes, imbued with latent genetic navigational skills, and not knowing how to drive a boat, propped the man up and steering by the stars he made off in a westerly direction. They shared another bottle or two on the way over and the fisherman revealed his secret. "Look out for a red light" he was heard to say before collapsing in a stupor. No one saw the red light but they arrived nevertheless, by way of ischia.
After months of negotiation, I am able to report that Salvatore Ferragamo has agreed to become a corporate sponsor in view of the extraordinary amounts of money spent by the CIA at the Capri meeting on the clothing of half of the attendants.
We had a wonderful banquet and the proceedings were only marred by the fact that your executive secretary, whose normally flawless attention to detail is well known, lost the new members list. The perfect solution only came to me afterwards, and after some embarrassing slapstick in which we forgot Albert Oehling (pace) we stumbled through the process. We should have recalled Groucho Marx who said "I don’t care to belong to a club that considers people like me for membership" and carried on.
Dorsch discovered an extraordinary talent at 2:00 a.m. in the piazza when the CIA was entertaining the wonderful neapolitan ensemble who had sung and danced for, and with us, at the banquet dinner. Dorsch discovered he could get a full musical scale out of a bottle of champagne by blowing into it, having drunk the contents first. By playing the bottle in accompaniment to the ensemble, he received an offer to perform with them on their frequent tours of Capri. We believe that the skills which he demonstrated on his virtuoso performance on a bottle of champagne in the piazza, had something to do with the contents of the bottle.
Several items of note learned by your secretary, posing as usual as a piece of statuary. Austen: "I want you to know I have mellowed (note. for mellowed read aged). I have become a much more gentle person. When you admitted you had forgotten the question, you were going to ask, I suppressed my natural desire to comment. I am a much nicer person than I used to be."
Good for you Frank. I hope the news gets out before it is too late.
Ring asked where does the name c-kit come from. Galli replied it is a coincidence that the man who discovered the c-kit deficient mouse was called Kit Amura.
de Weck said that if the governments of Europe conducted their business in the same democratic way that the CIA did, they would have no problems.
Gert Kunkel was the best dressed man at the Capri meeting. He was in the latest Vogue. I told him he would have to put a tie on for the banquet and he told me he was already wearing one and the fact that I could not see it was because it was made of the same material and colours as his shirt.
More from Galli. "Since time is so limited for my presentation, and despite the extensive work and contribution of others in this complex field, I will only be able to discuss my own work". Befus is competing for Sehon’s position as doomsayer of the CIA. Having just left a restaurant after a good night’s meal and music, having paid through the nose and other external orifices, but not having tipped the piano player, a native Caprese got to him. Having run up to the top of the building leaving the piano unattended, the aforesaid gentleman with perfect aim dropped a water bomb on top of Dean’s head and knocked him to the ground. This accounts for the state of his mind and mild concussion which he received. To avoid a recurrence, this generous and wonderful man went in and tipped the aforesaid piano player to avoid repetition and further attacks on other CIA members.
Madame Adkinson got the unanimous prize for best hat and also freakish shoes. Mary Frick lost her hat over the cliff. She gave a shreak. Most thought she had gone. Looking closer, it was her hat that had gone over the cliff. She retained her footing. While her hat ended up in a tree, we are pleased to report that it was recently sighted off the shores of Cape Cod which restores our faith in the fact that the world goes around.
Denburg went for a haircut to his Northern Italian barber before coming to Capri so he could get some advice about the island. The barber told him that all Neapolitans were thieves and got so excited in the telling that the haircut had to be terminated at a brushcut level with the hairdresser paying damages to the foresaid CIA member.
Finally, I have to report an extraordinary serious discussion of importance to all immunologists, non-members and members alike. The term nude mouse literally translated into Italian is topo nudo. Vigorous debate overheard at the dinner after the boat trip suggested amongst many other things that "nudo" has sexual connotations in Italian and no self-respecting Italian immunologist could possibly use the term. In fact, one person suggested that if she were to ask for a topo nudo from the animal quarters, apart from laughter, she would get a topo which had been shaved. She suggested looking me straight in the forehead that topo calvo (bald) would be a better term.
I have to report because of my concern that I put this whole question to a higher authority, namely Mario Ricci who thought that the term topo nudo was okay, but then he started to laugh.
How can a country which cannot accept nudo for mice, accept the topo nudo or topless condition of their beaches and swimming pools I ask?
What will they do with a topo "wasted", or topo tight skin and... other well known animal models... the mind boggles.
The meeting is never over until, as we say in North America, the fat lady sings. More to the point, the post meeting events in Naples were more to the point, not without excitement. Sehon walked off with his hotel key, which was so valuable, the management called Marone who was finally relaxing in Capri. It is rumored that another member was driving in the car to the airport when the car ahead stopped and likewise two guys riding beside the car on scooters. When they smashed the windows in, things started to take on a more serious tone. Luckily, it was only good clean Neapolitan harmless fun.
In any event, this was a wonderful meeting full of lots of interactions and good food amongst old and new friends in full sun and with good wine and it produced the natural good humour and pleasures which come from these.
We look forward to our next meeting in Nantucket with equal pleasure and I remain, thanks to the CIA and its undemocratic acclamation, your Executive Secretary for another term.
These are examples of limericks from the competition.
And then there was Frank Austen.
There once was a man called Marone.
A meeting comincia con Ricci.
His and Hers
There once was a woman, Christine