Eighty seven year old Colombian man Jose Meneguas – he of the tight fedora and shade-bearing eyebrows – stared North into my eyes. On international flights, attendants prefer the clientele to sit in their assigned seats and apparently the English translation of 1A and 39C can confuse an old South American male. Four minutes after the old chap scooted down the aisle, I entered my seat, took off my shoes and placed my falcate digits onto a floor that someone had either urinated or spilled something large upon. Wet feet do not a happy passenger make, and the stewardess was kind enough to rush me back to the only open seat, 39B, where Jose Meneguas and I quickly become acquainted. The old man informed me that he likes his orange juice cold and his women hot. Thus begins my journey to Rome.
I am on a ten-day excursion to compete in a thirty-nation tennis tournament –albeit the Asian version where the balls are inflatable and the rules can change drastically if you know how to properly squint at the referees – where the average competitor is in his mid-twenties and maintains about the same body-fat percentage as a hungry hyena. With me, are five other post-forty males and two collegiate women whose combined experience in this sport is the three minutes of unwelcome (by security) playtime we found during our pre-board wait at Gate 60. Imagine Oscar Pistorius at the Olympics without his prosthetics and you’ll know how we feel.
After an hour-long stopover in New Jersey – probably more Italians here than in Rome – where my team mates IV-dripped a few liters of Starbucks’ caffeine and went to town on the doughy substance Newark’s airport inappropriately refers to as pretzels, we boarded United’s flying submarine in hopes of making for the European boot.
I am now seated proximal to a Romanian beauty, twenty-six, rabidly shy, and studying for her masters in philosophy. We are stagnant on runway seven for what feels like two long little hand turns, and subjected to several announcements claiming the plane is struggling with mechanical difficulties. Inside the cabin, one woman has been moved from her seat because it fails to recline, and just moments before takeoff, one of the cabin roof’s panels falls onto the heads of three passengers – he is already consulting with a nearby personal injury lawyer in preparation for a lawsuit. Moments like this do NOT inspire confidence.
When timed properly – we left LA at 7:00am and took off from New Jersey around 5:00 – one can expect a long night of daylight. Sunset takes place around 8:30 and we are arriving in Rome at 7:00am. Since it’s an eight hour flight, we’ll see about three hours of darkness, a thought which is already wreaking havoc upon my eyelids and making my circadian rhythms dance to the beat of a different pilot.
I’m expecting to toss out a daily blog, but with Botticelli-breasted women and breast-plated gladiators demanding my attention – not to mention what I hope will be some serious Gelato consumption – I may fail to meet my goals. If so, know that I’m probably trapped in a train on my way to the Palatine Hill to investigate old wolf-packs where Rome’s founding fathers were raised. Until tomorrow….