Monday, October 22, 2007

A Texan in Italy - 17 Curious Days - Day 3 Part 1

Over the next several days I will be telling you about my recent challenging, weird and wonderful 17 days in Italy. However, in the peculiar world of blogging that means the first story is on the bottom! So, if you want to begin at the first, go to the bottom. This is Day 3 - Part 1.

Day 3 - September 5, 2007; Part 1

Loud music reverberated around the walls of the apartment. I sat straight up in the tiny one person bed. I stared the short length of the small bedroom toward the bed where brown eyed girl had fallen in a heap. Her eyes opened for a second but they blinked shut again as if she had willed the music would not defeat her need to sleep more. The loud bass thump of the music owned the walls. I looked at my watch on the nightstand. It was 9:30 am. We had been asleep for about 2 hours. I had a pillow in my hands; a pillow that resembled a poor woman’s pancakes, as if they were made as flat as possible to feed a family of 10 on a hard times budget. When I first put my head down it seemed as if I would feel the texture of the sheets on my ears through the pillow’s thinness, still its lack of comfort was no match for my fatigue. The music however was an obstacle. I folded the pillow around my head hoping to cover my ears. The ends of the old cotton case covered pillow reached around the back of my head just far enough to get my ears barely covered. I soon realized having my arms flexed to hold the pillow in that position did not create an ideal sleeping position. The music I identified as ‘Yeah’ by Usher. A few seconds passed as I thought about the rudeness of the situation, then I heard a female voice singing, a voice belonging not to the television, but a live voice singing for all it was worth in harmony with Usher. That is how I came to know that our roommate Jackie Allie loves to sing. I had never met Jackie and at that moment I could only assume it was Jackie, but then I heard my teammate Charlie Allie talking to her. His voice is a voice I know. I couldn’t believe it. Why would they behave in this way with BEG and I trying to sleep? I moved to our door and cracked it open. I peeked outside, my mission being to connect a visual image with the rude behavior. Jackie Allie was not only singing, she was dancing as well! Charlie was sitting in a chair at the dining table reading. I gently shut the door and went back to my bed. I covered up in the thin blankets and tried to ignore the music.

Around 10 am the music stopped abruptly and I heard Bill’s voice inside the apartment. He knocked on our door. I looked at BEG to make sure she was covered and answered “come in.” Bill was laughing when he opened the door and simultaneously telling me that the Allie’s had no idea we were even in the apartment. Charlie, a few inches shorter than Bill stood on his tiptoes and looked over Bill’s shoulder into the room. I could see the top of his head and his eyes, nothing more. He said ‘hello’ and ‘sorry’ in virtually the same breath. After BEG and I were dressed and standing in the main part of the apartment, Jackie let us know she was sorry but just as relieved that she was not dancing in her underwear. They had not heard a sound when we entered earlier and had no clue anyone was in the apartment with them. The music was coming from the Italian version of MTV. American music was more the rule than the exception we discovered after several days of MTV dancing and singing, presented by Jackie Allie, who as a matter of fact had a terrific singing voice. Bill had come to our room on a mission. He had been to the stadium to declare for the 100 meters race. Bill had attempted to declare for me, but the officials were not going for it. In most meets this would be acceptable, but these were the World Championships and the official in charge of declarations had seen I was seeded fourth overall and had a fast and competitive set of marks. He was not taking a chance on a protest from other athletes. It was a limb too thin for his liking. He told Bill he would accept the proxy declaration temporarily, but I would have to appear in person to sign in before 2pm or be disqualified. The extension to 2pm was a rules infraction on his part and he told Bill it made him very nervous. He made Bill swear he would return with me.

Bill suggested we change clothes and head to the stadium. Very funny. I reminded him we had no other clothes. My blue button up shirt and olive green Docker slacks will adorn me for many consecutive days to come although I have no understanding of this as I stand in the apartment accompanied by my whole 2 hours of sleep. As an alternative I changed into my track clothes, the set of warmup and competition clothes that had been riding around on my back.

We walked up the street to catch the bus to the stadium. The small streets we would walk to catch athlete buses day after day were lined with vendors, selling everything from clothes to produce to jewelry. There were also pizza restaurants and bars. There was a singular Gelato stand that we would visit regularly. Gelato is nothing more than ice cream, but it is extremely popular in Italy. There are more flavors than the old Baskin Robbins chain even dared dream about. The bus dropped us at the main stadium after a five minute ride. Three stadiums in the area would be used to accommodate the over 9,000 athletes from around the world. The declarations tent and main administration offices were inside the area where the main stadium was located. We went quickly to the declaration tent and found the official that had granted the extension. He met Bill with a look of relief and asked if he had brought the ‘other guy’ to declare. He was quite serious. Bill pointed at me. The young man was overjoyed to know his criminal generosity was going to get covered. I signed the sheet he thrust in front of me and showed him my identification. He spoke decent English. It was the broken yet understandable sort that we would become accustomed to. Two weeks later my own English had picked up the odd pauses and Italian inflections in a sort of reverse type of language immersion. I mentioned this to BEG who quickly pointed out that I always talk oddly and not to make too much of it since no one was likely to notice in my case. I love you too sweetie.

After taking care of all my official ‘declaring’ for the 100 meters the official made a dramatic collapse onto his desk to illustrate his mock relief that Bill had actually brought me back in person. (photo attached) I realized that all the decisions I had made to arrive in Riccione as soon as possible had allowed me to compete in the 100 meters. Another handful of hours and I would have been shut out by the very strict declaration process. I wandered around the tent with Bill and we looked at the race seeding for our M55-59 100 meters as well as other races in other age groups. As I look around at the athletes from other nations I am struck by the amazing diversity in ages and cultures. Masters track arranges the athletes in 5 year age groups beginning at age 35 and going all the way into the 90 year olds. There are athletes that competed in the last Olympics or open World Championships and athletes that appear they may need a walker to reach the start line. Many are sleek and athletic and give off the aura of the world class athletes they are while others appear to be attending to merely compete and have a good time. We walked over to the stadium and I went inside for the first time to see the track where I will be competing. It had been freshly resurfaced for this World Championships; no competition of any kind had taken place on the new surface. The track is blue, not rare, but still a little uncommon. The track is separated from the spectator stands by an unbreakable plexi-glass barrier. The barrier is a solution to the rowdiness and violence of European soccer fans, but it will be a visual interference for the track spectator.

I’m still sleepy and tired and I know brown eyed girl is also, but the group wants to go eat lunch at one of the pizza restaurants nearby the apartment. We say “Yes, we will go too.” Everyone heads for the bus. It’s crowded aboard the bus since it’s a busy day for declaring. In fact its standing room only with many patrons holding the overhead bracing bars, arms extended and armpits exposed. It is apparent bathing is optional in many parts of the world. Racing begins tomorrow morning. I’m not sure if I am more hungry or more sleepy. I need both things. I also need my luggage.

Bill says we can have the luggage sent to the Hotel Fedora just a few blocks from our apartment. That instruction had come from the leasing agent for the apartment. Having it sent to the hotel is necessary because there is a very good chance no one will be at the apartment to accept the luggage when it arrives. The walking route from the apartment to the Hotel Fedora will become a common routine for me. Today will be my first visit there. I will be unshaven and my eyes and brain will be sleepless. I will make more choices about my luggage, eating and sleeping as the days go by. All the choices will seem so rational at the time.

(Photo 1 - Bill and I make an appearance to 'declare' for the next day's racing)

(Photo 2 - The official expresses his relief that Bill actually brought me with him)

(Photo 3 - The main stadium track)


Lynilu said...

I love the way you end these with that harbinger of doom lurking! My stomach automatically lurches!!

I wish you'd taken a video of your "personal entertainer" in action! Now that would have been fun!

OK, let's go! Next chapter, please!

Enemy of the Republic said...

I echo Lynilu! Video please. I was worried about my favorite Texan.

kathi said...

So, you can't buy a few things to wear and a razor?

I never knew what BEG stood for till now. Oh, and I hate those sort of pillows!

Seven said...

Silver Lovely,
Good idea; but too late. I suspect Jackie may have shut down with a video camera on her anyway. Jackie is a lovely lady and strange as it might sound at this point a little demure and shy. Really.

Good to see you. No worries, even when my environment controls me it needs to stay on its toes. I'm crafty.

You lil stinker...there has been NO TIME to shave or buy clothes! The story has gone on for days on this blog, I know, but it is actually only 50 plus hours at this point in real time, all of it traveling or 'declaring' and what not. Except for two whole hours of sleep...
But in the end you're right about brown eyed girls patience.

kathi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
kathi said...

I know how long it's been, I'm keeping up. I'm not completely clueless. I'm just sayin' that as that walk to the hotel becomes familiar to you, surely there's gotta be a wal-mart'ish sort of store somewhere... ;) Me, a stinker? Sticks and stones, babe, sticks and stones, lol.