Friday, April 17, 2009

First Day Here

I woke up early. I know that I'm jet lagged but I was too excited to sleep. Besides, Charlene just happens to be in Florence just for today, and I wanted to see her right away.

After Charlene visited me this morning, I turned on my TV (all 6 channels worth) to observe the sad, dominating news detailing the aftermath of the earthquake in L'Aquila. The Italians are disappointed by the lack of financial support from both the government and the Vatican. The destruction is partly blamed on the lack of adherence to building codes, driven by bribes and inside pay-offs….such corruption is widespread in Italy. Only a week after the disaster, the 3 Mafias are already driving in their construction bosses in an attempt to dominate and control the restoration process. I hope they can be squished out.

Monday night there will be a fund raising concert for L'Aquila, at the Nelson Mandela Forum (Florence's equivalent of Madison Square Garden), and I'll see who wants to come with me. The orchestra will be conducted by Zubin Mehta.

I then hurried off to the bike shop to say hello to Lia, Andrea and Filippo,and to pick up my club jersey and racing license. It was a great reunion! While in the shop, Niccola called, anxious to see me, and we agreed to meet at my apartment an hour later. I hurried home to see him. Another happy reunion with big hugs and welcome sentiments.

Then I went to the market to stock up on light bulbs, paper towels and other supplies. The streets felt so good and so familiar.

On my way to dinner with Charlene I gazed at the shoes in the stores and realized that I had taken about 20 pair of shoes with me, yet not a single one could compare in quality and design. I had dinner with Charlene and Kelly, it was great to catch up with such a good friend.

When I returned to my apartment, I received an e-mail from Roberto…he received my dual passport and is sending it to me today!

Excited about tomorrow's ride, I dusted up my Colnago which has been sitting, unused, in my apartment for the last 3 still looks as classic and elegant as it did 14 years ago and with its triple ring, it will carry me well up the Ghisallo and Vesuvio next month. I pumped up the tires, lubed the chain, checked out the brakes and shifters. Glossed her up a bit with furniture polish and rubbed olive oil into the saddle. And then dreamed of riding tomorrow among the Tuscan hills in Chianti with my new Italian cycling friends.

I went to bed and set the alarm. I draped Bren and daddy's rosaries on my headboard next to the "contra malocchio" that someone had given me in Calabria 2 years ago to ward off the evil eye! I peacefully fell asleep while thinking how good it feels this time. I am feeling a real sense of home here. And I’m happy….I say a prayer for my friends who I miss tremendously. And I fall asleep. Buona notte.