Well, kids, I'm back from Italy. In one piece. Though the same cannot be said for the van we rented for our trip.
Here's the deal: I land at Marco Polo airport in Venice the morning of Friday the 20th and meet up with my five fellow travelers (and no, we did not take the opportunity to wander around the airport with our eyes closed yelling "Marco!" "Polo!", though the thought did briefly occur to me), and go to the Thrifty counter to pick up the keys to the van I had reserved. Since we had a group of six, I had requested a Fiat Ulysse minivan, which is about the size of a Chrysler Voyager or a little bit smaller, but the Thrifty person told me they'd run out of those, so they were going to have to give me something different instead. I was a huge fan of "Seinfeld" in its heyday, so you can't imagine how surreal it felt to be living a "Seinfeld" moment so completely: "See, you know how to
take the reservation, you just don't know how to hold the reservation. And that's really the most important part of the reservation, the holding. Anybody can just take them."
So instead of my nice compact little Ulysse, they gave me a nine-passenger Fiat Ducato van, which is the Italian equivalent of the Partridge family bus -- seriously, with the hi-top roof like ours had, this is the vehicle that UPS drivers in Italy use to make their deliveries, I'm so not even kidding. So we got into that seven-foot-tall son of a bitch and I drove it through the crowded (and non-speed-limited) autostrada traffic from Venice to Vicenza, and then to my friend's parents' house in Caldogno where we were staying, without hitting anyone or even missing a single shift. No gear-grinding or anything. And then after we'd rested up at the house for an hour or two, we all went to a shopping mall in Vicenza to pick up a few things, and I'd made it all the way home from there before WHAM! -- as I was pulling into the driveway, whacked the side of the van on a little telephone-service box, thus ratcheting up the cost of the trip considerably while at the same time finally enlightening me as to the reason why truckers have those signs on their trailers that say "Caution! This Vehicle Makes Wide Right Turns."
But fo' really, that was the worst thing that happened all week, and the rest of the trip was almost universally awesome. I'll tell you all about it, with pictures and everything, in good time -- but two of my suitcases didn't quite make it all the way home (we're waiting on those in Columbus as we speak), so I don't have the pictures yet, and besides, I'm getting over both the jet lag and a head cold contracted somewhere around Florence, so I'm too tired to entertain you slags with anything more than a busted-ass rental-car story at the moment. (Though if you think about it, it kind of continues the "Seinfeld" parallel: "Yeah, you better give me the insurance. Because I am gonna beat the hell out of this car.") For the time being you'll have to make do with the rental story and some new links -- a few people who've been kind enough to link to me almost since I started this blog, as well as a brand-new blog, Martians Attacking Indianapolis, started by longtime friend Josh Massey. He's a conservative, but at least he's not a dick about it. (Well, yeah, he kind of is. So let's just say he's a lovable dick and leave it at that.)
Anyway, I'll leave you with this: When you've had to spend the night in the Venice airport, and you've been wearing the same clothes for 36 hours straight, with nothing but an extra T-shirt, a toothbrush, and some near-depleted Speed Stick to keep you socially acceptable across 36 hours and more than 5,000 miles, and you're getting over a nasty head cold and your sinuses are all messed up so your ears didn't pop when the 10-hour flight from Munich landed in Atlanta and your head feels like it's stuffed with cotton and you wouldn't be able to hear it if someone set off a bag of M-80s right next to you, and you've been coughing like crazy and your throat is raw and you haven't been able to sleep for more than an hour at a time since you got to the Venice airport to begin with and you've got jet lag on top of that, and to top it all off you're still missing those two suitcases you just knew weren't going to make it when you dropped them off at the baggage re-check in the Customs area in Atlanta, and there's that part of you that doesn't even want to tell stories about your trip or show people the photos you took but instead would like only to curl up on a nice soft bed somewhere and pray for the sweet release of death -- when you're experiencing all that, there are only a few things in the world that can put the smile on your face, and one of them is getting home and turning around to be pounced upon by a little Boston terrier whose wide eyes, wagging tail, and willingness to leap into your arms in spite of the way you look and smell is the very definition of unconditional love.
OK, for real, it's naptime. I'll holler at y'all again when I'm back in the B-hizzy for good.