Italy by Pete - 1993 April 20 - April 22
----------------------------- Italy ------------------------------------
We waited for about 10 minutes in the airport in Turin before Bryden finally showed up. I had never met him and within 5 minutes I wished I hadn't. Very obnoxious and a total asshole. Classic ugly American. No wonder many Europeans dislike Americans. After a while he started reminding me a little bit of Dave Stoler in the movie Breaking Away. They both pretended to be Italian. Bryden always wore a silly hat and he had an Italian beard & moustache. He was in a big hurry because he was illegally parked. Rushed us out to his car and never offered to help with the bags. He started our visit out by driving us to downtown Turin. It was a very wild ride. The street we drove down was the most unorganized chaotic street I have ever seen. Cars were parked all over on both sides of the street facing in all directions. Often cars were parked side by side with one right in the middle of a traffic lane. I have no idea how the inside car could ever get out. There was one place where there was a tire shop that had painted lines in the street. If you stopped there he would sell you tires and do the work right in the street. There were also many cars parked right in the middle of the road on the line. Driving along this road we began to see what our time in Italy would be like with the ugliest American of them all - Bryden Pennock. He was starting to show off what an ass he was. He pulled right into a crosswalk against the light. People crossing the street yelled at us and pounded their fists on
the car. Bryden pretended not to even notice. He then drove so close to a car that he hit it with his mirror. It was a spring loaded mirror that popped back into place. No problem. He finally gets to the center of town and parks right in front of the police station. He asks the policeman if we can use the bathroom and gets very angry when told NO. He tells us the cop is being a fucking asshole. We left the car there and then walked around a corner and into a little cafe. I went into the bathroom but no toilet. Just a hole in the ground. I later found out the Germans call then Italian toilets, the Italians call them Turkish toilets. They had these in the plant too. Jim took a picture. Bryden told us when he got there he offered to replace the ones in the ladies room with regular ones but they didn't want to. The women said regular toilets are unsanitary. When I came out and we had a beer and some pistachio nuts. Bryden was not like the Germans. We had to pay. It was a sign of things to come. Bryden would almost never pay. The center of town was very dirty, the buildings were not kept up well at all. This was very typical of Italy. The shops that were there seemed nice enough. In the center of town was a castle that we circled and took some pictures. Bryden then found the church that the Shroud of Turin is in. We went in just before closing. Very dark but pretty church inside. Very dirty outside. Took a few pictures while Bryden parked the car. When we got back into the car there was a man watching it for Bryden. The man expected payment. We just got into the car and left. We did not head straight for the plant in Courgne. Leaving Turin Bryden just missed hitting a little red car. Lanes were supposed to merge. As the car got closer I was yelling and Bryden very
calmly just looked out the other window. This scared me to death and was only a preview. Bryden took us for a scenic ride through the country to look at some old castles. None of them was very well maintained. Houses and towns looked terrible, poorly maintained and the areas all looked poor. Castles were in the middle of neighborhoods, one was in the process of being restored. Bryden drove at least 90mph the whole time on 2(?) lane roads. He passed against the lines shoving the car he was passing onto the shoulder several times. The more we yelled at him to drive normal the worse he drove. Bryden would drive and pretend not to know where we were (he hadn't been there in 10 years) then find the castle and brag how smart he was and congratulate himself. Many times during our trip he would brag that he would show us more of Italy than any expensive tour guide and tell us how lucky we were that he was showing us around. He did do an excellent job, it was too bad he was such an ass. Darkness set in and we headed back to Courgne. He made us take a short trip through the plant before dinner. Very impressive plant. Listening to Bryden he did it all by himself and he was the real plant manager. He never missed an opportunity to tell us he was the real boss. Next he took us to a pizza parlor near the hotel for dinner. We sat down next to a man, wife, child, with a gun sitting right on the table. Bryden said it was OK. Scared me a little until I saw the kid playing with it - turned out to be a toy. Bryden ordered us each a pizza. Mine had ham, onions, and artichokes. The Italians put each topping on 1/3 of the pizza not all three toppings all over the pizza. Mine was very good. Bryden had an appetizer. Pizza was good and of course we had to pay. Bryden's wife showed up at the pizza parlor with their baby. He was very rude to her, never offered to hold the baby and told her where he had taken us. Bragged several times about what a great tour guide and navigator he was. While we were paying a man was trying to sell us something (bic pens I think) Jim & I tried to politely tell him no thanks. Bryden looks right at him, holds his finger in the mans face and says NO loudly and turns away. Before going to the hotel Bryden decided to walk us through the streets of Courgne. Everything was closed. Lots of garage doors (we would find out Thursday that they would open up and be very nice shops), very narrow winding streets. The doors of the homes and businesses must open in or a car could knock them off. It was like being in an alley. The streets were like a maze and It would have been very easy to get lost. It was a very uncomfortable place to be at night. Bryden walked us around and showed us a building the King of Italy used to live in. We did not know if we could believe him. This walk left a very bad impression on me. I changed my mind somewhat Thursday when we walked through a nice open air market and looked in the shops. Bryden said some king had granted Courgne a license for a tax free market once a week several hundred years ago and they were still taking advantage of it. I was relieved we finally headed to the hotel until we went in. Hotel not very nice at all but the only one in town. Would be 1/2 star in US. Building is also an apartment building, hotel only uses 4 floors. Room had no shower, towels like dishrags. Throw rugs on the tile floor were not very clean. Soap was all that was in the bathroom. The large bed turned out to be two twin beds pushed together. The first night here was unbelievable. It was very noisy, Jim said he witnessed a good domestic squabble out his window. He had a view of a courtyard with many balconies and the Alps were in the background. We were afraid to leave our rooms. I was wishing I could find an excuse to go to the airport first thing in the morning and get the hell out of the country.
I waited for Jim to come to the door in the morning and we went down for breakfast with Bryden. We all had a roll with butter, thats it! Jim drank red orange juice and I had a coke. We talked about the Waco problem. Bryden was an expert. We had to listen to him lecture and state his views on the death penalty while we tried to eat. We decided to go for a tour of castles before going to work. Italy closes from 2 till 6 so we decided we would spend that time in the plant. Bryden drove us up into the Alps on a nice divided highway. Just like an interstate in the US but much prettier. Turned out this was a toll road and of course Bryden made us pay all tolls. Bryden was driving 100mph looking up in the mountains pointing out castles constantly. He never watched the road. Scared the hell out of us. Bryden gave us numerous lectures on Italian history. He blamed Ronald Reagan and the Libyans for the whores at the side of the road - took him 10 minutes to try and explain that and I never quite got the connection. First stop was the Castle de Fenis. Very well preserved and restored. Bryden claimed that besides his nephew we were the only Americans to ever see this. It was very nice of the people to have the signs in English for us! He drove right by a no entry sign right up to the front of the castle. Clearly no place to park. Tries to park anyway and gets very angry when kicked out. Claimed he always parked there. Jim & I waited at the entrance for him while he parked the car and had a good laugh. School kids all around, all of them very well groomed, dressed and behaved, did not seem poor at all. Could have been the USA. Jim & I talked to one girl who heard us talking and wanted to try and talk English. We took some pictures and videos of the group and they seemed to get a kick out of us. Bryden comes up the hill and starts playing big shot. He managed to get us in with a group of kids. He walked inside the gate and looked around while we all waited outside. If I had worked there he would have been thrown out on his ass. We finally went in and took some good pictures and videos. Bryden translated the good parts of the tour for us. On the way out Bryden told us the kids were talking about the Americans. One had taken some English but still could not understand us. We decided to go to the Matterhorn next instead of more castles. It is about a 2 hour drive from Courgne. Of course Bryden had been skiing there numerous times and had climbed it 3 times but never quite made the top. 900 feet from the top was his best he said. Bryden said if he had known we wanted to go here he would have brought some skis for us. He had Joel Brown's skis and I could have used them. This really disappointed me. The drive to the top was beautiful. The road went back and forth across the mountains with many hairpin curves. We stopped several times on the way to take pictures. Bryden lost his sunglasses at one stop and whined about it for a long time. I think he expected Jim or me to offer to pay for a new pair. We both new better than to offer. Lots of hydro electric plants in the mountains. Pipes go right up into the mountain.
Bryden nearly drove off a cliff one time when he stopped. No guard rail at all. Scared me to death, I cussed him good. He told us the big debate when driving in the mountains is if you should wear your seatbelt or not. Is it better to be thrown clear of the car when you go over the edge or take your chances and ride down with the car? I thought about it several times while he was driving and kept mine on. It was beautiful at the top. We drove down to a little resort town at the base of the Matterhorn. Very pretty. One of the better maintained places I saw in Italy. I decided I would like to bring Elaine skiing here someday but if I did I would stay on the Swiss side of the mountain because it would have to be nicer than Italy. I filmed the drive down from the Matterhorn for a while. Jim nearly puked in the back seat. It was not much fun, he continued to show off driving and I cussed him more than once. I wanted to pop him several times. We visited a Roman road next. Very interesting, carved right out of the rock of the mountain. It even had a bathroom which I used just like the Romans thousands of years ago. We drove towards another castle and stopped to watch some people climbing up the face of a mountain. Made some videos that did not come out very well. Bryden dropped us off at the top of a town road and drove to the end to wait for us to walk down. Very narrow street. Shot some more videos. I felt like I was trespassing in someone's yard. At the bottom there was a small yard with roosters and chickens in it. Also saw another castle up on the hill from
the bottom of the town. Stopped to take some pictures of the vineyards on the side of the mountain. They did not really show how they looked. I tried to rest for the drive back to the plant but Bryden would not shut up for 1 minute. Before going into the plant we had to buy Jim some more film and have lunch. Jim went into the camera shop for film about 6 times wed & thu. The girl in there must have thought he liked her. We ate lunch in a small bar. Jim asked Bryden if we had walked down the street across from the bar last night. Bryden says "sort of, it depends". We did or did not if you ask me. Everywhere we ate in Italy they expect you to remember everything you ate and drank and then tell the cashier when you leave. Then they tell you how much you owe. I had a good but dry salami & cheese sandwich on a very hard roll with 2 tall cokes with ICE that were great, ice cream sandwich for desert. Jim had a white ham sandwich. While we ate we watched the owner of the bar wash the same window 5 times. On the way out Jim showed him a spot he had missed but the guy did not understand. We spent the rest of the day in the plant taking pictures and videos. We decided to go back to the same pizza place for dinner but first Bryden talked the hotel barmaid into chilling our Budwiesers. I wanted to drink both mine and not have to carry them the rest of the way home. I had pizza with ham, onions, anchovies. Bryden knows we are paying so he has two appetizers. One was squid which he graciously offered to share with us. I cut one up. It was like cutting a
tire so I passed. Jim tried it and chewed for a while. I don't know if he swallowed it or spit it out. When it was time to pay we had a problem. I had told Bryden I would buy since I had 50,000 lira in my pocket; turns out it was only 5,000 lira. Hard to keep track of all those zeros. Bryden had to buy and Jim and I had a good laugh at his expense. I'm sure he turned it in to Uncle Federal-Mogul since he insisted on a receipt. We went back to the hotel to get the Budwiesers and I gave Bryden one of mine. Since he had been nice enough to buy dinner I figured I'd share. We stood on the patio outside of the hotel and drank our beers. The hotel had a huge parking lot in front that was for the hotel and business in the center of town. There
was a soccer game going on that we watched for a while. We asked Bryden about the Waco shootings and he told us that CNN came on at 1:00am in English. I set my alarm and woke up; no CNN but a good nude female mud wrestling match was in full swing. I wanted to let Jim know but could not figure out how
to call his room and I was sure as hell not going to go out of my room at 1:00am so I went back to bed.
I woke up a little early and looked out the window. The parking lot in front of the hotel had turned into what we would call a flea market. Bryden the historian told us that Courgne had been granted a license to have a tax free market one time a week by a king several hundred years ago. They still have it every Thursday. Bryden told us how lucky we were to get to see it. He turned out to be right. I skipped breakfast. No sense eating a roll and butter it would just make me thirsty. Jim & I had become braver with each passing hour and we both went downstairs alone. We walked around the flea market in the parking lot for about 20 minutes before meeting Bryden. The market had clothes, tools, livestock, toys, etc - just about everything you could imagine. Bryden took us through the town streets we had walked through a couple of nights ago. We were looking for a doll shop to pick up a gift for a guy at works mother. Jim bought it and we left. After we walked for a while I decided to go back and get one for Megan and one for Laura. I looked at every doll on display and Bryden had the lady bring many out from the back. I wanted to get two exactly alike except for the dress. Less arguing among the kids that way. Jim was IMPATIENTLY waiting outside the store. Owner was very helpful. Her and her mother and little child were all in there. The kid did not know what to think of us. We talked a little funny I guess. Price for both started at 180,000 lira, Bryden said he got her down to 150,000. I gave him 100 dollars which was the same as 150,000 lira (no place to exchange money, Bryden was our bank). I watched Bryden pay 150,000 and get 10,000 back. Ending price for me 45 dollars each. He congratulated himself for getting the price down and was going to keep the 10,000 until I pointed out that it was mine. He reluctantly forked it over. We had a great time walking thru the town. Many very nice shops. Quality of the shops would be like being in any USA mall, streets and outside of buildings still seemed very poorly kept. Some of the businesses on the street were trucks that opened up right into a shop. We could smell the fish section from a mile away. I could hardly believe my eyes. Biggest selection of different fish I have ever seen. Some of them were still flopping around. The owners were holding up the big ones for us to take pictures. Saw a couple of people selling small livestock. Mostly chickens, ducks, roosters. Many fruit stands. It was very crowded. We saw some homes with very nice paintings on the outside walls. The paintings were faded a lot. Visited a very small copper shop where the man makes pots, pans, and other items. He was busy working and we made some good videos. We had lunch at the same bar as yesterday. Not many choices for places to eat in Courgne. I had a sandwich that was a hard roll with a veal cutlet, ham, and cheese on it. Again very good but was very dry. Bryden gets another free lunch. At lunch Bryden answers a question directly for the first time. "Were you married before?" Even Bryden could not say "it depends" or "sort of" to that one. Then back to the plant to take some more videos and pictures before heading to the airport. Jim and I took turns trying to stick each other alone with Bryden. I think we ended up in a draw. It got to be quite a joke. We were
waiting in his department for our driver to the airport and making phone calls to Greenville. We had an excellent view of the Bryden Pennock Picture Shrine (10 X 12 glossies) he had hanging for his lucky employees/loyal subjects to enjoy. There were of pictures of him mountain climbing and pictures he had of
mountains he had climbed and skied. They were pretty good. Bryden was doing some last minute bragging showing me slides while Jim called home. I kept taking the slides one at a time and walking to the Xerox at the other end of the room to get away from him. It was getting past the time we should have left and the driver was still not there. We started threatening Bryden and telling him he would have to take us when the driver finally shows up. He spoke no English. No gifts for us here like in Germany. I half expected him
to present us a bill for his time. The drive to the airport was very fast. He was almost as bad as Bryden. I was in the passenger seat and when he passed cars I was still in the right lane. He would just push the slower car right off the road. Must just be the custom in Italy. Driver was constantly tooting his horn at people - the horn seemed to say "move over" or "look out". I made some video of the ride that came out pretty well. The closer we got to Turin the more there were billboards by the road. Not big ones but one
right after the other right by the side of the road. Seemed like a waste of money to me. No one drives slow enough to read them. We arrived at the airport with plenty of time to spare. Checked the garment bags. We were both nervous about that but we had no choice here. We had a nice relaxing wait in the terminal. Security was not as tight as Frankfurt. I bought Paul a car at the duty free zone to use up all of my Italian Lira. I had to do an emergency re-pack to be able to get the car in with my other stuff. I almost threw out my boarding pass. I was lucky to find it & get on the plane.