Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Rest Of The Story

I have not tired from telling you this story. Unfortunately I am being squeezed from all sides, a bit like a cow udder in the hands of a strong dairy farmer. OK, I know cows get milked by machines now; I just wanted to create an illusion of being squeezed. I have no time to continue this story. I’m telling you the truth. My ‘earn a living work’ is taking away much of my fun time. I have also been asked to contribute to a book that will be published in February of 2008. The publisher has requested my portion be complete in 9.5 weeks! And of course, the holidays and family obligations are on top of us all.

So, I’m going to give you an executive summary of the remainder of the trip and adjourn from this site, most likely until February of 2008. For a little while, the chair will be empty. But, I will be back.

The Rest of the Story

I continued to call the airlines from pay phone booths, dialing the 21 consecutive numbers to locations all over the world. The problem I was having was having everyone push me off to another number and location that was guaranteed to solve my problem. One day, and I am not exaggerating, I stood in a noisy phone booth for 3 hours dialing and talking and being put on hold. I'm talking about 3 consecutive hours! I finally called a teammate in Houston and asked for help. The friends, a wonderful couple named Jerri and Mark Hastings, turned Houston Continental Airlines upside down on my behalf. The luggage was found in a Houston storage warehouse belonging to Continental Airlines. It wasn’t funny then and it remains unfunny to me today. BEG’s luggage arrived 10 days after we arrived. My luggage came the next day on Day 11.

Our wonderful friend Stephanie Collins continued to loan BEG clothes. She was and is kind and sweet beyond measure. After day six or so I started buying BEG new clothes, but out of absolute stubbornness, which is a character flaw of mine, I continued to wash and wear my same clothes for 11 days. A lot of the time I was actually at the track wearing competition clothes so that was a break for those that had to continue to look at me.

My ears and lips developed a case of fungus. That’s right; there was a fungus among us. My ears got all scaly, causing me to look as if I might be headed for a ‘circus freak’ audition. Step right up folks and see the “Scaly Man.” When I finally stood in front of the pharmacist and presented, he said something to this effect. “Oh yes, this is common for first time visitors to Italy. It is a bacterium that rides around in the public buses and other places. Italians are immune to it. You should have come in when it first started itching.”

Thanks a lot pal.

He gave me a fungal cream that was literally a miracle cure. OK, thanks for real this time.

In hindsight I am now aware that the enormous toll of the early days, lack of sleep and lack of food presented conditions ripe for a lowered performance on the track and opened the door for the sneaky Italian bus dwelling bacterium. The 200 meter races did not go particularly well. I made it to the final sixteen, but I was just too ‘off-track’ to haul my tired hiney and scaly ears around the track at my normal speeds.

The good news is that after an additional week I was given the opportunity to run on the USA 4x100 relay team and I had recovered some energy and my ears were nearing a normal status. The heralded British team ended up running a new World Record in the race, smashing the old record by a significant margin. We finished 3 or 4 strides behind the British capturing an easy second. I took a silver medal home and it is now engraved and proudly displayed in my home.

The even better news is that the remainder of the trip, spent in sight seeing, was truly wonderful and the gods and sun smiled on both BEG and myself. We visited Venice, Florence, Ferrara and Bolgna. Actually we went to Venice twice. BEG took over one thousand photos on the trip! The days were filled with glorious weather, wide smiles and were coated thick with treasured memories.

And a story I wanted to tell you; we damn near missed the flight from Paris to Houston. Again it was through no fault of our own. The connecting flight from Bologna was delayed and we ended up running through Charles DeGaulle Airport just as we ran through Houston Intercontinental 17 days before. I arrived at the gate breathless once again with BEG running up from behind. As Yogi Berra is famous for saying, “It was deja-vu all over again”…..except we MADE IT! Try this on for believability. They lost our bags again on the way home! True.

And for my faithful readers Kid Bratcher and Silver Lovely I want to acknowledge you and thank you for support in helping me relive the story. It was fun knowing you were reading with interest. For Kid, I am including a photo of Christine. The photo was taken by BEG on the day I finally got my luggage. Christine was so happy for me she kissed me! Maybe she was just really happy she was through dealing with me?

I wanted to develop some characters for you. Not in the way a fictional write might, but more to paint a picture of the real and wonderful people that surrounded me in Riccione. I wanted to paint a portrait of Charlie, a genuine prince of a man from whom I learned many lessons about competing in international competition. He wrote BEG and I a beautiful note the morning he left and we enjoyed rooming with Charlie and Jackie immensely. Charlie won a World Championship and a silver medal before sustaining an injury that put him on the sidelines.

I could have told you so much more about Bill, my coach and world champion sprinter. More important to know is I consider him a world champion friend. He is like a big brother, always with an eye cast my way to safeguard and make my track experience as good as it can become.

I would have told you about Stephanie’s always present smile, laughter and kindness. If you read this Stephanie, understand you are considered a treasure.

I could have gone on at length about our Aussie teammate Bob Cozens. He is a live wire at age 70, a man truly alive, refusing to succumb to what so many men his age might succumb to. He is 30 years old in my mind. That’s a gift to be observed and incorporated as I move along in age. Thanks Bob.

And most importantly I should remind you all of the golden treasure BEG brings to my life every day. In a trip filled with potholes and cold rain early on, she kept smiling and holding my hand. She even told me she loved me several times. Go figure.

I must go now and help write a book, but I’ll return next year.

Good Thoughts to you all,



kathi said...

As happy I am for you, I'm still brokenhearted for us. Three months without my blog buddy...pass me a tissue please.

I loved reading about the entire trip, I even wanted to scratch your ears for you. I felt so badly about the luggage, had you called, I'd visited Houston for you.

I can say one thing with all seriousness and honesty, you are much blessed. Thank you for sharing your many blessings with us.

Seven said...

You are welcome and thank you for such remarkable reading loyalty. And, I always have time for you. You know my email...:-)

Lynilu said...

Oh, my dear friend, I will miss you greatly during this hiatus. The blog world isn't the same without you! But I understand the need to do other things, especially that pesky thing called "make a living"!

Thank you for completing the story. I wish you'd had time to "do it right," but I couldn't have stood it if that meant waiting till next year! What an ordeal! I'm glad you weren't placed in an Italian nut house!!

Now ... go write a book! What is it about, BTW? My kindest supportive thoughts will be with you, and I look forward to your return! :')

A bien tout! (yes, I know it is the wrong language, but I don't know Italian!!)

Seven said...

Bless you. Use the email when the mood strikes you.

kathi said...

Missin' you, hope all is well.

Grey said...

finally found you again.

you can change my blog on your side bar from Silent Tunes of grey to greyimpressions

will enjoy getting caught up on your blog. :)

patti_cake said...

Hey Rick! I found you again also via Lynilu and am getting caught up. I hope you & BEG had a very Merry Christmas and wish you a Happy New Year too!

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Jenn said...

Hey you!!! Thanks. Hope you're well.

Reach said...


Just checking back in, hope all is well.


kathi said...

So how is life for you??

Lynilu said...

Hey, guy, I miss you! And obviously, I'm not the only one. Are you going to come back to us?

Seven said...

Back soon. Book is finished. Life is ultra busy, but I will come see you and be back here soon.
Warm thoughts for you all.