Dreaming In Italian

The story of Zanardi – his indomitable spirit

Monday, June 22nd, 2020

Have you ever heard of Alex Zanardi? I thought not. He is big news right now in Italy now not only because he’s a famous Italian, Bolognese in fact, but because on June 19th he was in a terrible accident. First I have to recount his history.  Born in 1966, his father was a plumber and his mother was a seamstress. His sister died in an automobile accident when he was 13. Despite that he started racing go-carts when he was 13 in one that he built himself. After some early success he attracted sponsors and ultimately won the world championship in that form of racing in 1987.  He continued racing and moved up from go-carts to Formula 3 and finally racing at the highest category, Formula 1 in 1991 at the age of 25. Then in 2001 in a race in Germany on a wet track he lost control of his car and was hit broadside by another driver. He was airlifted to a Berlin hospital with very serious injuries with the the result of the loss of both of his legs. But clearly that is not the end of the story, it’s a new beginning.

I found a video of the crash in 2001. The car that hits his shears off the front of his car. It’s a miracle that he survived at all.

It’s a miracle that he survived at all.

His will and spirit were unshaken and his sense of humor was intact. He joked that if he lost his legs again he’d only need a hex key to replace them and also that he didn’t need to worry about the risk of getting a cold by walking barefoot. Incredibly he return to racing in 2003 at a lower level than Formula 1 but still the open wheeled cars. He did one symbolic race with the specially equipped car at the track where he lost his legs as a symbolic sign of recovery. He did 13 laps, the number of laps that remained to complete the race when he had the accident. He then moved on in 2005 to WTTC (World Touring Car Championship) racing – think of a tricked out BMW 320i for example. In four years of racing those cars he had 4 first place wins. This was no Paralympics he was racing against all drivers.

He didn’t stop there. He became a champion hand- cyclist. His first race was in the 2007 New York City Marathon where he came came in 4th place. He won a gold medal in the 2012 Paralympics in London. He even competed in the 2014 Ironman World Championship using his handbike for the cycling section and a wheelchair for the running section. He’s a guy that always wants to rise to a challenge. He is quoted as saying “It is possible that if the lightning came between my head and neck once it hits me again, but staying at home to avoid this possibility would mean stopping living, so no, I take life…”

Zanardi was on the David Letterman show. You can see the kind of attitude that he has.

Here are a couple of videos that I found that show not only his spirit but his humanity.

Here he is obviously leading the races and pushes his fellow racer and friend across the finish line. What a gesture of humility and humanity!

Here he tackles the swimming part of the Iron Man (MI) – After the first half of the video he’s just talking with friends so you can stop there.

The man never gives up.

And now to the tragedy of Jun 19th. He was cycling in a race in Italy on a public road when he lost control while descending a steep hill and veered into an oncoming truck. He is still in a medically induced coma and was operated on for significant head and face injuries. The outcome is still uncertain but the latest reports speculated that he may at minimum lose his sight.

An update and musical interlude

Saturday, June 20th, 2020

I don’t know how much longer I will be in Torino. I had thought that the moving company would have to take almost everything up the stairs in Bologna but no, they can use that motorized external elevator which I would is called called a montacarichi – learning a bunch of Italian words associated with moving. The moving company made an inquiry about when they can use the montacarichi in Bologna. The answer that they got was that it was 30 days! Then they went on to say that the scheduling is all done by computer and they had no person to call to negotiate a better date. I went berserk. One thing that I’ve learned is that nobody cares as much as me about the things that are important to me. So I called my fiend and “my secret agent” who works for the comune di Bologna (the city government). She is looking for the person who is actually responsible for this stuff and expects to call me back with some information on Monday, hopefully including contact information for a decision maker. The 30 days makes some sense since the street (Santo Stefano) is narrow with a lot of traffic so they wouldn’t want to close one lane of it often, say once every 30 days. But my logic says that if that is the case, then the last time they issued a permit and all of the work that goes with it may have happened maybe 2 weeks ago so it would make sense that the 30 days should be measured from that date. Who knows if this will be true or not but it’s worth giving it a try. In any case we are stuck here in Torino for quite a while to come. Almost everything to be moved is packed and we can finish it within 2 or 3 days even at a relaxed pace.

In the meantime I thought that I’d like to share some Italian music that I really like. Often I don’t understand all of the words but that’s true for most non-english language songs that are often quite popular in the U.S. and one can find the lyrics online that are translated into English for those interested. Sometimes the translations are a little off or leave something out but they are mostly pretty good. So here it goes:

First up is Max Gazze’ with “La Vita Com’e’. (Life as it is)

I love the music and the characters in the video. The translated lyrics can be found at: https://lyricstranslate.com/en/la-vita-come-life-it.html

Next up:  Marco Mengoni ” Siamo Tutti Muhammad Ali” (We’re all Muhammad Ali)

Again the depiction of a tradition in a small town probably in the south of Italy is great and I love the music. Lyrics at: https://lyricstranslate.com/en/muhammad-ali-muhammad-ali.html-1

And lastly Zucchero with “Baila (Sexy Thing)” – Reminds me of Doctor John, top hat, weird video.

As I said, weird video but full of energy. Lyrics at: https://lyricstranslate.com/en/baila-sexy-thing-dance-sexy-thing.html

Let me know what you think about the music. I’ve downloaded an app to my table called Deezer and am exploring a bunch of Italian music that I’ve never heard before, like the Zucchero song so maybe I’ll add one from time to time.

And now for the Baci quote for the day:

La suprema felicita’ della via e’ essere amati per quello che si e’ o meglio essere amati a dispetto di quello che si e’.

The greatest happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved: loved for ourselves, loved in spite of ourselves.

Victor Hugo

Update from Torino

Thursday, June 11th, 2020

According to plan I took the train to Torino in the 3rd of June. Since I still had the problem with the pulled muscle I tried to minimize the amount of walking that I had to do. I took a taxi to the train station rather than the bus. At the entrance to the station there was a policeman that took everyone’s temperature with one of those non-contact thermometers. The train was arranged to maintain social distancing and of course everyone was required to wear a mask. When I arrived in Torino I saw that there they were taking everyone’s temperature before they were allowed to go to the train platform. Since Laura was using the opportunity to get her first visit at a parrucchiera (hairdresser) I took a taxi to her house since I had a set of keys. Fortunately the woman the comes once a week to clean the house was there so she came down and carried my suitcase up the 3 flights of stairs.

Laura had a cane in the house that belonged to her father in law which I have been able to use to reduce the strain on my already strained muscle so that I can limp around the house. I am not a great deal of help in the preparations other than making suggestions and providing encouragement. A guy from a moving company came on Monday and gave us an estimate for the move to Bologna which we found acceptable. The process of moving is going to be interesting. Since her house is on the 3rd floor without an elevator they will use a type of truck that has a resemblance to a hook and ladder firetruck but with a platform. That will work here in Torino where all of the stuff can be carried out to the balcony. But in the narrow street in Bologna it will be a different story. While there is a very small elevator, almost all of the stuff will need to be unloaded from the truck and then carried up two flights of stairs to the apartment. They will apply for a permit with the city of Bologna to temporarily block half of the street and unload the truck and then move it to the apartment.

One of the “elevator” trucks in action. This one goes up to the 6th floor.

Another thing is that here they rarely have closets, they have armoires. Basically you move your closets to the new house by disassembling them and then reassembling them at the destination. I feel sorry for the moving guys. That’s got to be a tough job.

So now we have a bunch of boxes and have started packing things up. Since Laura has lived in Torino her entire life and has had things passed down to her from many different relatives there is a LOT of stuff; enough dishes and silverware to start a restaurant and enough books to start a library so there are a lot of difficult choices to make. Also like a lot of women she has an astounding quantity of shoes and boots (I counted about 100 pair), scarves, sweaters and almost everything imaginable. She was able to part with some of the shoes and garments but still we have 3 big boxes and counting full of shoes and boots and one fairly big box filled with only scarves. So far we’ve packed 17 boxes and I would guess we’ll have perhaps 10 more before we’re done.

Then when we arrive at Bologna it will probably take a couple of weeks to have everything reasonable organized. We will still have to buy some things there. I already have a list in Amazon and we will probably make a trip to Ikea to buy some things before long. After the movers leave with all of the stuff we’ll put the two cats in their cages and drive to Bologna. That will be 3 hours of so of complaining cats in the car. I feel sorry for the poor cats and us.

In the last post I forgot to add a Baci quote – so here are two:

Pecchiamo insieme, che all’anima fa bene.
Let’s sin together, it is good for the soul.

Vladimirovich Mayakovsky

L’amore non dura se togli ogni lotta.
Love doesn’t last if you take all the fight away.


Free at last, free at last….

Monday, June 1st, 2020

…. thank God almighty, free at last. That is the ending of the famous “I Have a Dream Speech” by Martin Luther King at the Washington Memorial in Washington D.C. in 1963. Well, free – sort of free.  Like black people in the U.S. the dream was not completely realized. That phrase came to mind with the new decree arrived two weeks ago on May 18th. Restaurants could serve seated customers with restrictions of social distancing, mask requirements and periodic sanitation of the premises. Stores are open everywhere with similar rules. You can travel freely in your region without a form declaring where you are going and why. Many more people will be going back to work, to see friends or relatives in other cities. The next big date is June 3 when the borders both within Italy and for travel between Italy and the EU countries (but only the Schengen ones which is most of the EU) become open.  I’m writing this two days before I can (and will) go to Torino. There was some debate as recently as a week ago that some regions might still have closed borders. In particular, regions with few virus cases have been fearful of a flood of people coming from the north, especially Lombardia which is the worse hit region. I’m sure that was the compromise deal for phase 2, i.e. more freedom of movement but only within the region. Still I am an optimist and several days ago bought my ticket on the first high speed train from Bologna to Torino on the morning of 3 June. So now it is clear that I can go see my sweetie and help her with the remaining preparations for her move to Bologna.

In a certain sense it is probably a good thing that I couldn’t go to Torino earlier. I made the move from my former apartment to the new one on May 21 and had planned to go to Torino on the 23. That really could have been a near disaster. In my zeal to see Laura I didn’t really consider that it would take awhile to organize things here enough to make her move go more slowly when she moves herself and her stuff to Bologna in June. I fixed some minor problems and discovered some new ones that need to be addressed. I organized the kitchen so that I could cook and bought 2 or 3 things from Amazon to help with the endeavor.

I also had to engage with the Italian bureaucracy a bit. I was able to change my address online rather than go to the anagrafa office – kind of a records office. I was able (I think) to change the address for the garbage service to my new address online as well but that office has not yet responded in any way. When I return to Bologna I can go to the department of city government for a revised identity card since I don’t think that I can do that online.

But, ah yes, there was another problem that still lingers. During the day of the move I did something that caused a pulled muscle in my groin area. It’s the kind of thing that’s slow to heal and makes it difficult to walk. If I walk very much I know that it will just make it worse. So I’m physically idle most of the time and taking anti-inflammatory pills in hopes that I will be well enough to be much help when I arrive at Laura’s house.

Now some other observations. My living room has 3 big windows overlooking via Santo Stefano. It’s officially the first floor but in effect it’s really the second since there is a level of my house below the principle one. Keep in mind that in Italy what would be called the first floor in the US is the ground floor. So if it weren’t for the small old elevator it would be a 3rd floor walkup in US lingo. From that vantage point I have a pretty decent view and that leads to the subject of swallows. First I was absolutely delighted to see that there were lots, LOTS, of swallows in the new neighborhood (quartiere) where I am now living.  Even more than I saw at Laura’s place in Torino. Late one afternoon I was watching the performance of squadrons of swallows and noticed a older guy on his terrace across the street from me enjoying the same show. We waved to each other and tried to express our enjoyment of the spectacle with gestures since we’d never be able to talk to each other from that distance, especially with the street noise. Double pane windows tame the street noise when the windows are closed.

A view of via Santo Stefano looking toward the very center of town.

After eating pre-prepared junk from the supermarket for a couple of days I was able to cook again. So that has been satisfying. I can’t yet resume exercising due to the groin injury but hope that I can do so before too long. I feel so much healthier when I stress my  body a bit through exercise. A couple of things that I’ve been eating:

Spaghetti aglio e olio (garlic & oil) jacked up with anchovies and peperoncino (red pepper flakes) and topped with pecorino romano – with a sicilian red wine and cherries for desert
Chick thigh with potatoes, cherry tomatoes and zucchini – kind of using whatever I found in the fridge before it goes to waste. The wine is a Veneto region chardonnay

Since I haven’t had a haircut since February 5 I’m starting to look like an old hippy (certainly the old part is unmistakable). I also decided to let my beard grow since I wasn’t really going anywhere for awhile. I kind of like the beard and Laura’s OK with it so I’m going to keep it and regarding the hair, I’ll maybe have a ponytail for awhile to complete the hippy image. Maybe I’ll even start wearing my hawaiian shirts around town occasionally. 

Not a great picture but you get the idea.

The next update will come from Torino.