Trevor and I arrived in Pescara by bus from Rome at around 1 pm on the 7th. The plan was to meet up with Michela at the beach at around 6 pm after she was done work.
With time to kill, first on the agenda was finding a place to store my huge backpack for the afternoon so I wouldn’t have to lug it around all afternoon.
Surprisingly, the train station didn’t have any lockers, so I ventured off to the nearby G Hotel to see if they would hold it for me. I don’t think of myself as being very charming, but I do think I have a an innocent smile that could make people go, “Aw shucks! Alright, fella, you can store your drugs here for the week!” Don’t worry, I don’t abuse this power. I use it responsibly.
With my bag safely stored, I could officially roam around Pescara with the weight of the world off my shoulders (not kidding there). I had a bad case of the “Put-food-in-me-before-I-kick-a-puppy” level of hunger, but I was worried about getting pizza from the wrong place. It was like my tongue was a born-again-pizza-virgin, and it was saving itself for the right pizza. I didn’t want to put just any pizza in me. I wanted it to be so good I shed tears. Anything less would be a tragedy. I was waiting on Michela’s professional advice before deciding on where to get my pizza from. And so, that’s how I found myself ordering from a sammich store. Michela would later try to shame me for eating at a typical tourist spot like that. They were at least good sammiches, though. And huge!
With my hunger satisfactorily slain, it was finally time to hit the beach! I swam and re-read Catcher in the Rye all afternoon. It was bliss.
Just before Michela was scheduled to pick me up, I went for a walk along the boardwalk, which was a pleasant experience in and of itself. There were people on bikes, elderly couples holding hands, kids playing in a pool, people dining outside–there was literally something for people of all ages to do.
I walked until I reached the bridge that connects the main land to the waterfront on the other side of Pescara River, then I turned back around.
As I was scavenging for the spot I found along the boardwalk that offered up free Wi-Fi the first time around, a car started honking something fierce. That’s when I raised my eyes away from my phone and saw Michela laughing and waving me over. She was in traffic, driving right alongside me.
We were the first ones to arrive at her place, but her mother wasn’t too far behind. Bless her soul, she made an admirable effort to speak English. She had completed an English course, and was eager to practice, but I think it was still a bit overwhelming for her. I tried to speak slowly, but whenever I asked her a question, her eyes popped out of her head.
Eugenia was the epitome of motherly. After our first meal, she offered me a glass of a clear liquor called Genzian. It apparently helps with digestive problems–not that I complained of such problems; she was just looking out for me, as any good mother does. After a food nap, I happened to open the bedroom door just as she was walking by and heading to the bathroom. As soon as she saw me, though, she stopped in her tracks with a look of alarm. “Do you need to use the bathroom?” she asked. You can’t get more motherly than that.
Actually, you can. The following morning, I woke up and my laundry was folded. (Also, I love that I had to hang my clothes to dry on a clothes line over the balcony. It just felt so right.)
As for Gino, Michela’s father, you could definitely tell she got her athletic genes from him. The man may have been in his late 50’s, but he looked like he could probably kick my ass. Sports was clearly a way of life for him. Michela later told me sports was always on the TV in their household. This was completely true. Tennis, track, basketball–you name it.
In fact, on my last evening there, I walked into the living room and found him sitting right in front of the TV on a night table like a child sitting inches from the screen during their favourite cartoon. Hilarious. By coincidence, it was the FIBA Under 19 World Cup Final, which Canada just happened to be dominating over Italy. (Sorry, not sorry, Italy.)
Gino came across as an intelligent, passionate, and caring man. The relationship between he and Michela is what all fathers should strive for with their daughters: Playful and loving. Michela said that he’s basically just a big kid. I could totally see that.
Dinner that first night was a spectacular feast of two different types of pasta–one with just pasta sauce, and one with sausages and mushroom. There was also cacio e ovo (balls of cheese and egg with tomato sauce), polpette (metaballs with meat and veggies), and watermelon for desert.
I was so impressed with the food that I dared to ask the one question I was dying to ask: Could you teach me how to make pizza? I had to ask. Not asking an Italian mother to teach you how to make pizza would be like meeting Tom Brady of the New England Patriots and not punching him in the balls. Some things you just have to do when the opportunity arises, or you’ll regret them for the rest of your life. This was one of those times. Eugenia agreed to show me on Sunday. I was so excited I could’ve yelled out, “I love you, mamma!” and kissed her on both cheeks.
Later on, while Michela was getting ready to go out, I sat in the living room with Gino to watch some TV. Of course, he was watching sports. Volleyball, to be precise. I was impressed and proud to find that the Toronto Raptors are a fairly popular team in Italy, thanks to the previous work of our man, Andrea Bargnani. Gino was apparently a big NBA fan. He was even fairly familiar with the world of American football. I was liking this family more and more by the minute!
Fun fact: Apparently the name of the football movie, Any Given Sunday, when translated from its Italian title to English, is written Each Damn Sunday. I don’t know why I find that so fascinating.
Eugenia joined us shortly after. Gino changed the channel during a commercial break and found the Wimbledon match between Andy Murray and Italy’s own Fabio Fognini. Murray was up 2 sets to 1, but Fognini had him on the ropes. He was up 5-2, on the brink of tying it up at 2 sets apiece. Murray somehow managed to climb his way out of one set point after another until he eventually took the set 7-5.
The entire time, I was getting just as much fun out of watching the loving couple watch the match as I was from the match itself. Gino would shake his head, while Eugenia would scream something in Italian every time Fognini faulted or Murray squeaked out another point. It was just nice to watch the pair enjoy each other’s company after so many years together. Michela later told me that the two still hold hands when they walk down the street. Damn it, I love these guys!
Michela came out towards the end of the match and seemed so convinced Murray was going to take the set, I was convinced she had a copy of the Grays Sports Almanac from Back to the Future in her back pocket. We left as soon as Murray proved her right, and as we headed for the door, the TV changed back to volleyball. Sports: All day, everyday.
That first night, I got a taste of just how small Pescara really is. All night, in restaurants, in the street, at a club–Michela kept stopping to say hello to somebody. This would continue for the whole weekend. Pescara: Where everybody knows your name.
After a quick beer, we spent the rest of the night hopping back and forth between Lampara, Penelope, and some other place. They all started to blur together after a while. Michela and I were graced with the company of two of her unabashedly gregarious friends.
Michela wasn’t fond of one of the three places–Penelope, I believe–because it’s clientele is very “bloccato.” They’re stuck up, pretentious jerks dolled up in their fanciest fancy attire. Have I mentioned how much I love the Tatone family?
We stumbled home at 3:30, well beyond my bedtime. Michela laughed at me for commenting on how late it was. I’m such an old fart. Maybe I need more people like her in my life to keep me young.