Sunday, November 30, 2008

We found a house. And it's beautiful.

Things just keep getting better and better for us. When we knew we were coming back to Italy, there was of course only one place we would consider living: Caldogno. Caldogno is where I lived my entire six years here before. We have several friends here, including our old neighbors, Giampietro and Agnese who pretty much adopted us when we lived here before and are surrogate grandparents to our two kids. As I mentioned before, Giampi is adamant about walking the X Man to school every day once he starts. For all these reasons, we were determined to find a place in Caldogno. We had a long list of things we were looking for however and I anticipated that it would take at least a month or two to find something that fit the bill. I was also prepared to accept the fact that we probably wouldn't find a place that matched our list 100% so we'd have to sacrifice a few of them. Turns out I was wrong on both accounts.

We'd gotten word that a high ranking officer living one street over from where we used to live was leaving soon and his place would be coming open. When I mentioned it to Giampi the other night, he not only knew exactly which place I was talking about but he also happens to know the couple who owns the place really well. He called them immediately and it turns out the people had moved out the day before so he set up a meeting for us to look at it. I didn't get my hopes up because the two places we looked at prior were disappointing. But both the wife and I - and even the X Man - were blown away when we saw it. It has everything on our list and more. Three bedrooms, as well as a couple other rooms that we could use as bedrooms. Big front yard that I can use for my kettlebell workouts as well as play soccer or catch with the X Man (something we didn't have in Germany). Huge two car garage. Big garden for the wife as well as rose bushes and other flowers around the yard. Huge, furnished kitchen as well as a big porch/terrace right off the kitchen. No less than three balconies; one in the living room, one in the master bedroom and one in the guest bedroom. Downstairs, there is a finished basement with a huge rec room and a separate room we'll use as a gym/hobby room. There is also a big brick fireplace/stove in the basement that is perfect for barbeques. When Giampi saw it, he went ga-ga; he said they are coming over the first chance they get and we're going to cook some big steaks on it. And one of my favorite features: built-in air conditioning in almost every room! I had anticipated looking at a few other places before we made a decision but the place was so perfect that we took it immediately. Fortunately the owners liked us - I'm sure that Giampi being there and me conversing with them in Italian didn't hurt. Perhaps the best part is the location, about a two minute walk to Giampi and Agnese's house. Giampi says that as soon as we move in, the X Man will sleep over their place a lot so they can get his Italian up to speed quickly and he can start school. We're very excited. For those of you who saw our house in Germany, I honestly think this place is nicer - the only difference is that it's not in the middle of the Heidelberg Altstadt (sorry Eric), an admitted disadvantage. I may not live in the shadow of a castle anymore but we've got more room, a yard for the kids, a garden for the wife, and neighbors one street over who are practically family.

I'll post pictures after we move in and get settled, which should hopefully be in about a week or two. And rest assured, if you're one of our friends or family, we'll have plenty of room whenever you want to come visit!

Friday, November 28, 2008

A chance meeting with a legend, 15 years in the making.

I first became familiar with Roberto Baggio way back in 1994. The World Cup was coming to the US for the first time ever and, as I am a soccer junkie, I devoured every little piece of information on all the teams and players that I could get my hands on. Now, you have to remember that this was the early 90's and there was no internet or satellite TV. Information on international soccer was hard to come by back then. I read about this guy named Baggio who was recently name FIFA world player of the year. He seemed interesting; he was a Buddhist who wore his hair in a little braided ponytail, earning him the nickname "Il Divin Codino" ("The Divine Ponytail"). I watched every single match that I could in that tournament and I even was able to get tickets to three matches played in Boston (actually Foxboro). The highlight was when my friend Dave and I scored tickets to the quarterfinal between Italy and Spain. I wore my AC Milan shirt and Dave wore his Inter Milan shirt which caused a lot of stares and rebukes from Italian fans (probably a good thing I didn't speak any Italian back then). Italy went ahead through the "other" Baggio on the team - Dino Baggio - and soon after Spain equalized. Just when it seemed we were headed for extra time, Beppe Signori took a ball at midfield and fed a streaking Baggio (Roberto this time). Baggio calmly collected the ball, dribbled right past the keeper and scored the winning goal from an almost impossible angle with about three minutes left in the match. We were going crazy, it was pandemonium. I then watched as Baggio almost single-handedly brought home the World Cup for Italy. He scored an incredible 5 goals in the knockout stages, including two against Nigeria in the first round - one to send the game into extra time and another one to win it in extra time. Then the heroics against Spain. Then another two in the semifinal against Bulgaria to send Italy through to the final. Alas, Baggio was hurt in the final and could not continue the magic. Sadly, the defining moment of his career was when he missed the penalty that handed the World Cup to Brazil (although, even if he had made it, Brazil still would have won if they'd converted theirs). For me, it didn't matter; I was a Baggio fan for life.

Baggio had actually made his name at World Cup 1990, four years earlier, but I was in Basic Training with the Army that summer and missed everything. He had scored a goal against Czechoslovakia that was not only voted the best of the tournament but was also later voted the second best World Cup goal of all time.

I followed his career as much as I could back then but without internet or satellite TV, it was difficult at best. I mostly had to settle for write-ups in World Soccer magazine. In 1998 I enlisted in the Army full time and came to Germany and watched Baggio almost lead Italy past eventual champion France, losing in the quarterfinal to them. Two years later I asked for, and received a transfer to Italy, to the city of Vicenza. I ended up taking a little two bedroom apartment in a small bedroom suburb of Vicenza called Caldogno. Looking back, I can only guess it was fate that had brought me to Caldogno. The 2000 European Championships were only a few days away and so I walked down to the sports bar (conveniently called "Bar dello Sport") to inquire if they would be showing the matches. Indeed they would. When the first match came on, I made my way down and took a seat and as I looked at the walls, a familiar face stared back at me; the entire bar was adorned with posters, pictures, photos, newspaper clippings, memorabilia...everything of Roberto Baggio. I figured he must be a bigger star in Italy than I thought but imagine my tremendous shock when they told me that Baggio was actually from Caldogno! I was floored - my favorite soccer player of all time was from the little town that I had just landed in. It was unfathomable. I excitedly told them - or least tried to tell them as I spoke more French than Italian back then - of my love for Baggio the player and how I was actually at the match back in 1994 and they were instantly impressed. They could not believe that an American not only knew so much about soccer but that I had long been a fan of their beloved native son and had even seen him live in a World Cup match. Caldogno is a very small town and everybody knows each other so it came as no surprise that everybody in town had known Baggio since...well, pretty much since birth. He wasn't still living in Caldogno but the rest of his family was and he still spent quite a bit of time there so naturally my thoughts went straight to when I would be able to meet him in person.

And it very nearly happened very quickly.

By the end of Euro 2000, I had become a regular at the sports bar and the owner, Daniele had started to sort of adopt me as a local due to my love of calcio (soccer is called "calcio" in Italy) and the fact that I was spending money regularly in his bar. Towards the end of the summer, Daniele's eldest daughter Elisa told me that the bar was hosting a special dinner for Baggio. It was only for family and close friends and was invite only, but she asked if I would like to come meet Roberto. Well, you could have knocked me over with a feather. I was in heaven. I graciously accepted and the next three days dragged by. Then disaster struck. I received an sms from Elisa telling me to come to the bar. I arrived and she apologized as she pointed to the TV - it seemed Baggio had signed with Serie A club Brescia that day and they had to cancel the dinner as he had to go do the press conference and media crap. I was devastated. I had missed my chance. The only thing that consoled me was the fact that I would be in Caldogno for at least the next year and a half so there should be plenty of chances to meet him.

But as I've said so many times was not to be.

I ended up staying in Caldogno for six years altogether and never once was lucky enough to meet him. There were plenty of near misses in those six year. I saw him driving his BMW X6 through town two or three times. A few times I arrived at one of the bars or cafes in Caldogno only to be told that Baggio had been there earlier to say hi or have a drink and that I had missed him. Through friends in Caldogno I had been able to receive his autograph on a few items - my favorite of which is my 1994 Italy World Cup jersey with Baggio's number (#10 of course) on the back. But I never got to meet the man in person. In 2004, we were driving back from the European Championships in Portugal. We stopped for dinner at a little bar in a town about three hours south of Vicenza called Voghera. As I chatted with the locals during the match I gave them my usual routine - I lived in a small town outside of Vicenza called Caldogno and asked if they'd heard of it. They said of course, it's the hometown of Roberto Baggio, but they seemed unimpressed. One guy then proceeded to tell me that Baggio spends a lot of time in Vorghera bird hunting (He's an avid hunter, something I always found funny, him being a Buddhist and all). In fact, they said, he was just there a day or two ago. Can you believe that? We stop at a random little town in Italy and just happen to just miss Baggio...again. It seemed that the fates that had brought me to live in Baggio's hometown were also conspiring to keep me from actually meeting him.

And there's more.

One Sunday afternoon when the X Man was about a year and a half old, the wife said she's taking him for a walk and asked if I want to go. I was half asleep on the couch so I said no. I awoke a couple hours later to her excitedly telling me that she had seen Baggio. Baggio's parent lived pretty close to us and as she walked past their house, sure enough, Baggio was in the driveway talking with his father. He saw the X Man and gave a little smile and wave. Had I gone with them, I would have met Baggio. I kicked myself. When we found out that we were having a boy, my first thought was that I wanted to name him Baggio. Of course the wife hated it so it never came to pass. I brought it up again with our second boy but it was shot down again just as quickly.

When we left Italy in 2006, I was rather dismayed at the fact that I had spent six years Baggio's hometown and had never once met him. The fates had indeed been cruel to me...and there was still more cruelty to come. Upon visiting our neighbors, Giampietro and Agnese for the first time since leaving, they informed me that the person who had moved into our apartment after we left was named Anna Baggio. That's right...Roberto Baggio's sister. My first thought was that if I could meet her and tell her what a huge fan of her brother I was, perhaps she could arrange a meeting. Eventually I did run into her and told her that I was a huge fan and such but no dice. Giampi and Agnese informed me that apparently Roberto and Anna were not on good terms and never spoke to each other. Once again, the fates had gotten my hopes up, only to bring me crashing back down.

Only this time, the story has a happy ending.

After two and a half long years in Germany, I recently got my old job here in Italy back. We arrived here last Sunday and the only place we considered living is of course Caldogno. Our friends and neighbors are there and Giampi is adamant about walking the X Man to school every day. Yesterday was Thanksgiving and a few days ago I remarked to the wife that, since we are still in the hotel, this was the first year in my life that I would not be enjoying a big Thanksgiving dinner as none of my American friends here had invited us. She said "why don't we do it at Giampi and Agnese's, I can cook Thanksgiving dinner there?" It was a great idea and thankfully Giampi and Agnese had no plans and agreed. So went over around noon as Agnese was preparing lunch. The usual routine is that Giampietro goes out to get the pane (bread) and always takes the X Man with him so he can show him off around town. Never once had I ever gone with them but for some reason I told Giampi that I wanted to go as well. We got the bread, then took a slight detour to Giampi's brother Lino's house to say hi. We rang the bell but there was no answer so after a few minutes we started to walk home. As we did, Giampi leaned in and whispered "That's Baggio's papa" in my ear as he nodded towards the two men across the street in grubby workmen's clothes unloading stuff out of a truck and into the empty garage. I stared intently, trying to size up the man who had blessed the world with the brilliance of Roberto Baggio. As I did so, Giampi exclaimed "Oh, that's Roby!". Sure enough, the other guy working with him in grubby clothes, doing manual labor with his father was none other than Roberto Baggio himself. Il Divin Codino.

I froze. Giampi started crossing the street towards them and I followed. He greeted them warmly (remember, everybody in Caldogno knows each other) and Roberto said he'd be out in a second, he just had to finish putting the load in the garage. He came out and exchanged pleasantries with Giampi. And then...finally...15 years after first hearing the name Baggio...8 years after moving to his hometown...2 and a half years after leaving his hometown without ever meeting him...I was face to face with Roberto Baggio. He extended his hand to me, and I shook it. Never have I ever been so glad that I can communicate in Italian as I told him how big a fan I am, how I was at the World Cup match in 1994, how I lived in Caldogno so many years but never got to meet him. It was a short meeting as Baggio and his father obviously had a lot of work to do but after so many years and so many near misses, it was a thrill I will never forget.

And if we ever have another kid...

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy to be back in Italy.

This is the seafood meal I alluded to in my last post: Spaghetti alla scoglio (spaghetti with clams, mussels, prawns and shrimp)...

Monday, November 24, 2008

Italia: A Sort of Homecoming

Well, we are finally back in Italy albeit it not without incident. As you all know, our usual routine when coming to Italy is to leave on Saturday, stay overnight at a small town in the Austrian Alps called Heiterwang, then conclude the journey the next morning, traveling through the Fern Pass en route to the Brenner Pass It splits up the driving for the kids, as making the drive all in one day would be too much for them.

So, we left Saturday right at noon and headed south. As we got further south on autobahn 7 towards the Alps, it started snowing harder and harder. By the time we hit Fussen, right on the border, it was reaching blizzard proportions. The Fernpass can be treacherous even in decent weather so there was no way I would even attempt it in a blizzard, especially with a baby in the car. I was starting to think that I should have opted for the Munich route; it takes longer but it's autobahn the whole way. To my chagrin, the normal road between Fussen and Heiterwang was closed so we had to take a detour. Not a problem normally but a huge problem in a blizzard because the detour was on a smaller road. We finally reached Heiterwang and I started to breathe easy as we could now check into our hotel and relax...but it was not to be. The Heiterwang Hof was inexplicably closed, as was our fallback, the Forellen Hof. I was right on the edge of the Fern Pass and suddenly feeling very nervous. Just then, as if on cue, Luca started crying. I drove on, planning on checking into the first hotel we came to but there were none. Panic was starting to set in - it was dark now, the roads were practically undriveable, there was no hotel in sight and I had a 5 year old, a crying 6 month old and my prized wine collection in the car. One little slip and I might lose everything. The choice was clear; there was no way I was going to make it any further so I did a nerve-racking three point turn in the mountain road and headed back. We drove all the way back into Germany and searched several little towns for a hotel but everything was either closed or had no room. We finally did find a hotel about an hour north of the Fern Pass with room and checked in, my nerves still shaking from our near disaster.

I was now faced with the daunting prospect of having to backtrack all the way to autobahn 8 and take the Munich route the next day, which would take about an extra 3 hours. I woke early in the morning and went out to clean the snow off the car. This simple task took about 30 minutes and was made more difficult by the fact that I had no snow brush or ice scraper, no gloves, and nothing but a pair of dress shoes. If I ever hated the cold and snow - and I always have, with a passion - then I really was not liking it now. I asked the guy at the desk if there was any chance that the Fern Pass would be passable that morning, he checked on it and said it should be but that we should have breakfast first, relax, and give them time to clear the roads. I did NOT want to do the Munich thing so I did as he suggested. And sure enough, the Austrians had the road through the Fern Pass cleared and passable. When I reached the point at which I finally turned around the night before, I got a slight chill - there was no guard rail and the drop was at least a couple hundred feet. Thank the Lord Jesus that I turned around when I did as who knows what might have happened.

We arrived in Vicenza somewhere around 2 in the afternoon and as we did so I looked the temperature gauge in the car; 50 degrees F. I told the wife "Thank God we're in Italy and I won't have to deal with the damned snow anymore". We checked into the hotel and had one of the very best (and cheapest) seafood dinners I have enjoyed in quite some time. Then the X Man and I went to the hotel bar to watch the Milan match. Things were finally as they should be. I honestly could not remember the last time I had felt so content and I made mention of this fact several times during the course of the evening. Finally I went to bed, ready to wake the next day and start in-processing.

I awoke this morning, took a shower, got dressed, looked outside the window and was greeted by...wait for it...a blizzard.

That's right - a freaking blizzard, reminiscent of the one we had survived in the Alps. I weaved my way onto to post only to find that they had closed it due to the weather so I got a couple DVDs and am now holed up in our hotel room for the day, held hostage once again by the snow.

I wonder if there are any job openings in Hawaii?

Monday, November 17, 2008

We'll be right back...

Movers come today and internet will be turned off shortly so there will probably be no blog posts for the next week or two during the transition. In the meantime, I invite you to sit back, relax, and let your worries and cares melt away as you enjoy the most relaxing piece of music ever written...

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Italy Move Update

Well, we're getting close now. This is our last weekend in our house and it's really starting to hit me that we're leaving very soon. In fact, I'm starting to get that twinge of sadness as I walk around Heidelberg now at the thought of leaving this beautiful fairytale of a city. We have certainly lived a charmed life here over the past two and a half years and we've savored every minute. If it were anywhere else but my beloved Italia, there is no way we would ever leave this place. But alas, Bella Italia beckons and I must heed her call.

So the movers come on Monday to start packing our stuff. They say it will take three days but I'm hoping they can do it in two due to our compacted schedule. Our house inspection is Thursday morning, then assuming that goes well I should finish clearing housing and everything else on Friday and we are planning on departing Saturday morning the 22nd. As usual we will stay overnight at our favorite little inn in the Austrian Alps and then arrive in Italy on Sunday the 23rd in time to start my new (old) job on Monday the 24th. We will be checking into the hotel at the Dubliner (where else?!) this Tuesday so I probably won't be online next week.

My last day at work was yesterday so the end of an era has passed. We had my goodbye luncheon on Thursday and I received a nice plaque, which is customary when someone leaves. And, to my great astonishment, I was awarded a $1,000.00 bonus for what the chain of command deemed my "above and beyond" performance. I was quite shocked to say the least but the bonus will certainly come in handy with moving costs and whatnot.

The X Man is getting excited but he seems a bit curious and cautious about the move. He knows he will be starting school when we get to Italy but he is worried because he can't speak Italian. But we keep reassuring him that he will learn it quick and I'm already practicing with him. He still remembers a lot and occasionally he will utter a word or phrase in Italian so I know he's trying. I'm not too worried about it though because Giampi and Agnese say they will have him fluent in about two weeks and I believe them as he was more fluent in Italian than English when we left two and a half years ago. His main concern is his toys of course. He needs constant reassurance that all of his toys will go with us to Italy.

As I mentioned, we'll be checking into the hotel at the Dubliner this Tuesday but there are a few places around town that have free wireless so I might be online here and there next week. If not, then the next update will be from Italy...with a bicchieri di vino!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Moc Quote Board, Part 2

“Do you think we can get G2 to provide updates on Anna Nicole Smith during the brief?”

“He's bent over MSG Winslow’s desk…”

“It’s not so much the knob that’s missing, it’s the shaft.”

“Can I have a long one this time?”

“Don’t worry Sir, I’m already spanking myself”

“You can take your stick and jam it in there hard…”

“I’m doing the band right now”

“And trust me, he’s a master-baiter”

“Hey what’s in those sensitive items containers, sensitive items, right?”

“She'd better be nice to ME… or I’ll break her off something proper…”

“It’s really good…it’s got big nuts.”

“You pack fudge…you pound sand.”

“Why do I have the sudden urge to sing ‘Ebony and Ivory’?”

“Jimmy’s a furniture mover…moving his chest into his drawers”

“One of these days, your ass is mine buddy…”

“I’m telling you, if I ever go gay, I’m gonna open a bar and call it the ‘Fisty Goat’”

“I know, that’s why we’re going to embarrass him in a public forum!”

“Casio makes a good CD player…for 13 year old girls…”

“Jack, Jack, he’s our man, if he can’t do it, f**k it.”

Person A: “See, we took the brain trust from 21st TSC and brought it here…”
Person B: “Yeah and the IQ in both places went down!”

“Is your CAC in there?”

“Don’t touch my Monster…”

Person A: “They got this underground bar that goes on for miles, it’s awesome…”
Person B: “No Jack, that’s the subway.”

“I’m going to make Yarbro cry if he ever puts his hands on my Monster again.”

“He's probably the only person who has to take leave to get a haircut…”

“Hey Otto, show CPT Schonauer your peanuts!”

“Otto, did you stick it in yet?!”

“She got the biggest one”

Person A: “It’s the toughest stage of the Tour de France…”
Person B: “What, the drug-free stage?”

Person A: “Remember, you can’t spell “Reggae” without ‘Gay’”
Person B: “Or ‘Ray’…”

“It’s national ‘Love Your Pole’ day!”

“He’s the little Undercover Brother!”

“Hey Mr. Perez…I got your pants…and I got the peanut butter”

“It’s a special relationship until they decide to pull out”

“I got the head at home”

“No, I told her I was gonna do her”

“Well, you know you gotta stay on top of him.”

“What, you guys don’t wash your meat?”

“The thing I hate the most about Texas is Ft. Lauderdale.”

“I let the dude do me”

“Everyday for the last month, Otto’s had a foot long…”

“They’ve been massaging that unit for almost two weeks now”

Person A: “I want to see you put that whole thing in your mouth”
Person B: “I wish”

Person A: “Can you drink a gallon of protein in an hour?”
Person B: “Can you provide a gallon of protein in an hour?”

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The MOC Quote Board, Part I

I have but 3 working days left at my current job. In honor of this occasion I have decided to share the MOC Quote Board with the rest of the world. The MQB started back in May of 2006 during my first week in the MOC (Movement Ops Center); I noticed that a lot of funny things were being said around me so I decided to capture them for posterity. What makes the MQB so funny is that these are actual quotes that have been uttered in my office and they are recorded sans context. It's pretty extensive so I'll have to break it up over a couple parts and I'll leave off the names to protect the (not-so) innocent. Without further ado, I present...The MOC Quote Board:

“It only comes when I hold it”

“I had Mandy’s for dinner last night”

“Every time they take them to the hole they’re naked”

“He needs a little more meat”

“Is Jack off today?”

“I’m gonna need Josh’s stick”

“Don’t let ‘em fool you with that ‘it’s the motion of the ocean’ crap…”

“It felt like you poked me”

“You put pork in your mouth!”

“Damn, I wish you were my mother…”

“Can I get a happy ending?”

“Follow me and I’ll give it to you now.”

“Size does matter”

“It’ll take a lot of rubbing and a long time”

“I can do it good if I can do it loud”

“Maybe we can do some pottery shopping, that’ll be nice!”

“What a gay conversation between two men”

“Here, take this, it’s still hard”

“Definitely goggles and socks if I walk out with nothing else”

“Don’t you EVER touch my balls again!”

“He coulda been light-bright, damn-near-white”

“You can either get the long one or the fat one”

“Send me the Dick in the box!”

“I had to stop cause he was going down on me”

“I need one with small holes, I don’t like the big holes”

“It’s in either Holland or the Netherlands”

“I’ve got a six-pack…I just keep it in a cooler”

“I keep my six-pack in a refrigerator”

“Curry, you still got that canned air? I need a blowjob…”

“Strangely enough, my plums are the perfect temperature”

“Why don’t you go outside and mount it?”

“I never had an experience like that before”

“Man I could go for a stiff one”

“Let it go while I’m pulling!”

“I look hot…is that what you’re trying to say?”

“1 AD, I think you’re hot…”

“Hey LTC Finley, Rik volunteered to do that S&M stuff with you…”

“And now we’re S&M masters…”

“I got my ass jumped by a Marine First Sergeant”

“It always scares me when I get that stuff in my mouth”

“So a tornado hit Alabama and did what…twelve dollars worth of damage?”

“It used to be the red screen of death but now it’s just the red screen of mild discomfort”

“Can I get a little squirt, man?”

Sunday, November 09, 2008

The X Man wets his bed.

Any advice or suggestions are welcome.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Update on the Italy move

Things are progressing...not real smooth, but at least they're progressing. Here's where we are right now;

Our household goods are scheduled to be picked up starting Monday, November 17th. They say the pickup could take up to 3 days. My housing inspection is scheduled for Thursday the 20th and hopefully it will go well because my start date in Italy is Monday, November 24th. That means we'll be leaving Germany on Saturday, November 22nd, stay overnight in the Alps, and arrive in Vicenza on Sunday the 23rd where we'll check into a hotel until we find a place to live.

We've still got a ton of stuff to do before we leave and it's getting stressful but it will all be worth it in the end. My last day at work here will be Friday, November 14th as the next week will be spent doing household goods pickup and clearing.

Updates as they occur...

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Monday, November 03, 2008

Italian work visa: Day Two.

I was a bit frustrated on the way home for a couple reasons. First, I was going to have to buy another ticket to come back up the next day. Second, I had already taken Tuesday off and was also taking Friday off as well; now I would have to use another half day of comp time during a week at work that was pretty busy. I called work and let them know the situation and told them that I was planning on taking the early train the next morning so that I would be at the consulate as soon as they opened, pick up the visas, then be back at work by lunchtime.

Once again, it was not to be.

I took an early train and got to the Italian consulate about 5 minutes before they opened at 0830. The old bald guy remembered me of course and buzzed me right in. I took a seat in the waiting area and waited. Sometime around quarter past nine, Sr. Morganti arrived to work, saw me, gave me a slight nod and disappeared. About 5 minutes later he came back into the waiting area and said "Did you not receive my email yesterday afternoon?" I replied no, that I had taken the previous day off so I wasn't at work to be able to check my work email account. He then said "Oh no, I emailed you to tell you that I was not able to get to your visas and asked you to come in this afternoon..." (Wednesday is the one day of the week that the consulate is open in the afternoon). Things were clearly not going well for me. I got a look of disdain on my face and considered my options. Obviously going back home and coming back was not among them. Sr. Morganti must have been starting to feel bad by this point because he told me he had appointments all morning but would do everything he could to try and get them processed that morning since I was there. I told him I would go get some coffee and come back later as I was starving and he said fine, just come back by about 11:45 since they close for lunch at noon. I went down and found a newsstand that had international papers and bought my Italian sports paper, then went and got a caffe and panini at a bistro next to the consulate while I read it. I managed to kill almost an hour and a half by then so I figured I'd go back and hope for the best although I expected the worst...and of course, the worst is what I got. It was only about quarter to 11 as I took my seat in the waiting area. For some reason I cannot fathom, the consulate has nothing to read in their waiting area. Fortunately for me, my phone has a couple games on it - a golf game and a car racing game - so I played those while I waited to pass the time. Sr. Morganti came through a few times and assured me that he was working on our visas, giving me (false) hope. I can't explain how incredibly bored I was getting as noon approached and the employees started shuffling out the door while I continued to sit there and wait, my chin in my hands. At one point I asked the old bald guy if I should just go to lunch and come back when they reopened at 1430. He told me I should wait and assured me that the visas would be ready soon. Eventually even he must have felt bad for me as he came out and started showing me newspaper clipping of his friend back in Italy who had won a bunch of sailing competitions about 40 years ago. I was now at the pinnacle of boredom. It was past 1300 now, the consulate was closed as everyone was at lunch but I continued to sit in the waiting room as, supposedly, Sr. Morganti was still downstairs working on our visas. Somewhere around 1330 the old bald guy put his jacket on and was about to go to lunch but stopped, looked at me, and said "Follow me, I take you downstairs to check". We went down to Sr. Morganti's office and he told us that the visas would be ready in about 5 minutes. So I took a seat in the downstairs waiting area and waited. 5 minutes later he came out and spent about 10 minutes making photocopies of God knows what. Finally he walked over and handed the finished visas to me with the requisite apologies for the delays and such. I was in no mood to listen so I shook his hand, thanked him and made a beeline for the train station where I jumped the first train to Heidelberg.

So the nightmare is over and now things will be moving fast as we prepare to leave. I have a transportation brief this morning as our household goods are scheduled to be picked up November 17th. The plan right now is to depart for Italy on Saturday morning, November 22nd, stay overnight in the Alps, arrive to Vicenza on Sunday and start my new (old) job on Monday the 24th. I'll update things on here as they come more into focus...