Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Tales of a Hitch-Hiker Searching for Perfection
Part I – Getting There

There is a time to write and a time to travel. Yet there are also times when I find myself doing both. Sitting in one place for an extended period gets me itchy to move on and explore again. Thus is my challenge as I write this on the road, ill prepared to resist scratching my itch.

Someone recently said,In a world of legalisms, resistance is futile”. For many of you, at least a portion of this expression will be familiar. The latter half is for me. It springs from the enormously successful and once very popular Star Trek television series, still around today in syndicated reruns. I grew up nursing my imagination watching Star Trek. It was a weekly staple, part of that amalgam of technology and imagination that culminated with the landing of Americans on the moon and a surge in all things scientific and space related. Automation, miniaturization and new-fangled things called computers, all byproducts of the "Space Race", were in vogue. Closely associated not with Captain Kirk but later with his replacement, Captain Jean-Luc Picard and his odd assortment of space adventurers, was the admonition “resistance is futile”, which had to do with the ‘Borg’. The Borg was a fictional race of cyborgs (computer enhanced humans – are we far from this today?) who operated with a single-minded hive mentality … to add the biological diversity and technological distinctiveness of other species they encountered to their own, all in pursuit of perfection. They inhabited vast regions of space, controlling expansive planetary systems and fleets of odd cube-shaped starships. They were a veritable "black hole", consuming everything new in their wake. The Borg exhibited no desire for negotiation, only to assimilate, with encounters characterized by matter of fact “resistance is futile” imperatives. As a result, the Borg have become synonymous with any juggernaut against which “resistance is futile”… thus the expression. But I stray too far from my initial point, which is simply to say it was futile of me to resist my desire to return to Italy. Maybe the Borghese, not the Borg, were really in control.

Even after all these trips, I was once again weak and ill equipped to resist searching for and assimilating the undeniable beauty of Italy – experiencing the generosity and friendliness of its people, their resigned and stoic approach to life and the beauty, natural and man-made, of the countryside evident throughout their revered peninsula. Italy called! I had become Borg-like though with the sole, non-surgical cyber enhancement of a notebook computer at my disposal!

Getting to Italy once again would be the challenge. We lacked a starship of any shape, let alone intergalactic speed, to whisk us there. What we did have was a limited budget and willingness to hitch-hike. So once again we were off to Dover, Delaware hoping to catch a ride on a military transport headed that way. When we arrived, surprisingly there were three aircraft advertised on the TV monitors heading for Europe within the next nine hours. What luck! What seemed too good to be true soon evaporated as flights were scratched. One just vanished from the board as if swallowed-up in the Bermuda Triangle while another slipped a few days. Even though there may be flights posted, there is also the question of seat availability. Seating is dependent, among other variables, on the amount and type of cargo onboard so although an aircraft is scheduled to depart, seats at first usually appear as “0T”, shorthand for “zero tentative”. The terminal personnel eventually get a call from operations on the actual seat count and that night the call dashed all hope for a quick departure when the available seating for tag-alongs like ourselves went to “0F”. You hate to see this for it indicates that there are now “zero firm” seats available. Ouch, especially after all those hours of waiting. As we departed the terminal to get some rest, our only remaining hope was for an evening flight the following day to Ramstein, Germany. Close enough.

With hopes renewed, we joined our fellow would-be travelers the next afternoon in the passenger terminal. Spirits were high for the board had changed from “0T” to “73F”! It couldn’t get better than this. Seventy-three seats were more than enough for there weren’t that many of us hoping for seats. It looked like we’d all make it. But we all know how appearances can deceive. Within an hour of the scheduled roll-call, the schedule once again shifted like a linebacker in motion just before the snap. Roll-call slipped by six hours to well past two in the morning. No reason was given; doubtful the airmen managing the facility even knew. Dreaded maintenance was suspected. Not a way to run an airlines, but then again, the USAF isn’t an airlines. As with all fairy-tale stories, eventually good gets the upper hand and vanquishes evil, or in our case, a smooth takeoff overcame the recurring flight delays and we arrived in Germany after an uneventful eight hour flight, a penny to the good. From there, by hook or crook but mostly rental car, we'd make our way south to Italy, then gradually further south to our place in Calitri. It was early October, 2011 and the Borg in me was now free to assimilate!

More in a while, after we unpack back home,
From that Rogue Tourist, Paolo