What’s the latest?
1) The latest is I now have my car here in Italy. My own car. My Toyota RAV4, successor to my late, lamented, beloved Benz S-500. (I swear to God I choke up just a little when I think of it. And I’m guessing you want to choke a little, too.) It arrived at the port of Livorno, a city that does not make the list of Top 10 “Don’t Miss” Italian Cities. Or the Top 100. Although, I understand it rates second in the category of, “Dude, what’s that smell?”
It only took two days to wrestle the car from the grip of the Dogana, the Port Authority, the shipping company guy with the pregnant daughter and the anxious frown, the guys behind the windows who yell at freight forwarders, the gate security guy, the guy who thought he could get us around the line to see the guys who yell at the freight forwarders, the guy who said ‘no you cannot bypass the guys who yell at freight forwarders,’ the other shipping company guy who kept apologizing for his Fiat, the other police of some sort or another who had to stamp our documents and look put-upon, the nice guy who took pity on me and the boy as we stood wilting in the heat, and finally, last-but-not-least, the scary guy who opened the container and creeped us out.
When you drop a car off to be shipped overseas they demand you bring it in with a near-empty gas tank. Anyone see the potential problem with this? Anyone? No, I didn’t think of it, either, until I realized I was driving on fumes through Livorno and faced with the horrifying prospect of running out of gas. Actually the horrifying part was imagining the pantomime I’d have to put on to explain to some gas station attendant that I needed to take some of the gas away with me. In my cupped hands, because I doubted my charades skills were up to the task of explaining “gas can.” Especially since I don’t actually know the word for gas. Although I can say, “Fill it up.” Fill it up, I’m not going to tell you with what, that’s up to you.
2) Meanwhile, what of the Avis saga? It continues. Sweet Lord, it will not end.
When last we left our intrepid, smashed-in but newly-shod Ford Galaxy Minivan (Slogan: Like A Honda, But Crappy,) we had managed to convince German Avis (Franfurteravisgesellschatgewurtztraminerauslesemitsauerbraten Corporation) that we did in fact have the car we were in fact driving. And Avis Italy had managed to confer with Avis Germany and conclude that someone really ought to check the bad wheel bearing before I drove the car back to Germany and had the wheel seize and fall off as we traversed one of the Alps.
We then spent five days. No, seriously. Five days trying to get back in touch via il telefono to find out what the verdict was. Finally, we got the verdict. And the verdict was either, 1) We fix-a la machina, or 2) Maybe we fix-a la machina, or 3) Is possible they fix-a la machina, but they no say because maybe is their fault, or 4) You crazy, there’s a nothing-a wrong with la machina, you stupid American. We are pretty sure we heard all four. Or none of the above.
The one thing Avis Florence was sure of was this: if we didn’t drive the car back to Frankfurt we’d be out $2,500. On top of whatever mystery figure the Avis computers were pulling out of their silicon asses and preparing to charge to our Amex card for the non-use of a dangerous vehicle we (theoretically) didn’t have.
Sad to say, cynicism reared its ugly head, and we decided we’d better take the car on a test drive. You will be stunned — stunned — to learn that the chirping sound was ba-a-a-ack.
So, I called Avis in the States. They tried to blow me off, but I persisted. I told my sad tale. They said they’d get right back to me. That was 48 hours ago.
I still have the Avis van.
I will never be rid of the Avis van. I have to accept that. That and a bill for 2 million Euros.
3) What of the dogs, Goofy and Pugs? Well, Goofy’s big news is that although he has not managed to catch the pheasant cock that struts by in the morning, he has managed to locate the precise place where the pheasants did something unspeakable. He finds the exact spot where the cock mocks him (oh, come on, we’ve all been there. Am I right?) and rolls in something that produces a stink. Not an immediate stink, a stealth stink that grows and matures over the course of days until every time you see the dog you’re thinking, “What is this? Livorno?”
Meanwhile Pugs is still not dead.
4) On the professional front, today was the launch day for GONE. Yes, it’s in bookstores now, and no, one copy is not enough. If you want your children to grow up to be responsible, productive adults, you’re going to need 10, maybe 30 copies of GONE. You buy the books and then you just keep throwing them at your kids until they behave. The book is quite heavy: it’s not like you’re trying to discipline them with a paperback.
5) Concurrent with the above, I have developed my own cyber-stalker. Kind of cool, at one level. You’re nobody until somebody has developed an unhealthy fantasy of destroying you. (It’s you, isn’t it, Karl Rove?)
6) I updated my blogroll. If you aren’t on there and you want to be, (God only knows why you’d want that,) drop me a note in the comments. I’m a writer, not a competent adult: you cannot count on me to figure it out by myself.
7) No. Still no screens. We had a screen, had it right there in our hot little hands in the check-out line at the Ipercoop (Slogan: 90 different Prosciuttos, No Baking Soda.) It was a sort of adjustable thing, shaky, but definitely a screen. But, alas, no price tag. So, no screen. Our sworn affidavits to the effect that we personally saw, and had imprinted permanently on our eager brains, the figure 14 Euros and 90 of whatever the hell those things are that aren’t quite Euros, did not carry the day.
We left the screen behind. Torn from us . . . taken . . . too soon.
8- Fortunately, we have adapted. We have observed and copied the clever local ways of dealing with the wanna-bake-a-pie? level of heat. It’s easy, really. During the worst heat of the day you close the shutters and the windows and sit in the dark. (We like to pass the time by playing little word games. Our favorite game is to combine the words “too” and ”hot” with our favorite curse words, in as many permutations as possible.)
Later, in the evening, when the sun goes down and the air grows slightly cooler, you throw open your windows and invite the bugs inside. This provides a pleasantly cool environment for all your gnats, mosquitos, centipedes, spiders, scorpions and those god-awful things with too many legs that move really, really fast and make us all scream like little girls at a Hannah Montana concert.
If you do it right you can be sweaty half the day and itch the rest.
9) Bitch, bitch, bitch, Michael. But that was alovely meal at Antico Girone, wasn’t it?
10) Plus, you know those machines they have just before you come into any town? The ones that check your speed, photograph your license plate and mail you a ticket? What are they going to do with pix of a red, white and blue North Carolina plate, First In Flight, and an Obama sticker? Hah!