Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Italian Bus Incident #67

Well, I have had rather a mess to deal with: my wallet was pinched out of my purse Monday afternoon around 2pm. For whatever idiotic reason I went to inquire about a job opening for which I was totally unqualified since I DON'T SPEAK ITALIAN! (in my defense, they asked only about madre lingua English which of course, I am/have/can/do/whatever.) So I was on my way home on the #6 bus and it was really jammed and well, you know. But I was in a hurry because I had an appointment with a plumber to fix my caldaia because it shut off on Friday afternoon - when it snowed 2 inches - so I was without heat or hot water all weekend so I slept on Janie's couch rather than brave the 12 degrees in the apartment. I was out of cash and had no money for the plumber so I hurried to the bancomat and that's when I discovered the theft. I screamed and swore and attracted undue attention (screaming old lady, nothing to see here, move along). And the fucker cancelled anyway! So I called Sonia (la proprietaria) who was not pleased because I have had to call her 4 times about this and she thinks I'm an idiot because it is usually just the pressure has gotten low (except none of the people I know have this problem with their heating equipment) so she called the tecnico but said he had "un sacco di chiamate" because of the minus one cold so I lose hope. But when I get home the first plumber calls and says he's arriving so I call Nikkie to translate and front the cash. He comes, pushes one little button (WHICH I PUSHED!! ah, but not long enough) and voila, hot water and heat. Curses. I am an idiot. And then we wait until Nikkie arrives with the cash and translates my million questions while I'm making a list of who to call to cancel all the cards and get info about a new passport. And then the OTHER guy calls twice but my phone is dead and the charger is at Janie's but she's waiting in line at the quaestura in -1 degrees (the twit!) because she just HAS TO HAVE her permisso di soggiorno, and I can't get my charger. And then the tecnico actually arrives and we have this awkward two plumbers dance until Nikkie learns that the second guy is really a caldaia specialist so plumber number 1 (P#1) gets 20E and goes away and the other guy tears the boiler apart for an hour and Nikkie goes home leaving a dinner invitation for later. Eventually plumber number 2 (KB: "Tutto bene?" P#2: "Speriamo!" = let's hope) goes away planning to mail a bill (WHICH SONIA WILL MOST DEFINITELY PAY!) and I spend the next three hours calling everyone I need to to keep from having my credit ruined and a billion bad charges on my cards. So I eat with Luca and Nikkie and regale them with the Karma of Kimberly stories and they lend me 50E so I am not totally green. Yesterday at 8 am I went to the consulate (Ma signora, aperto alle nove) with filled in forms and documents of all kinds (thank dog I had copied all the cards in my wallet before we went to Poland) but am sent home to make an appointment online for today, which I do. And then in the afternoon I went to UniCredit to cancel the bancomat card and get 300E out of my Italian bank so I can feel normal and buy coffee. Almost. I still don't have any ATM or credit cards. Today I hit the consulate at 9, am nearly stripped naked, relieved of anything sharp or shiny to stand in line while hapless Italo-Americans plead for succor over lost/stolen/incomplete/forgotten/whatsits. Eventually I submit my supremely efficient materials and learn that I will get a fully valid passport which will save me at least $850 because I won't have to change flights or shovel out cash for an expedited passport which is fundamental to the whole stupid reason I'm going back. And this adventure only cost me $100. Today I went to see the Carabineri to make a "denuncia" (sounds like some Emile Zola j'accuse! thing requiring black balls and pointing). I managed the whole thing in Italian without sounding too stupid, (well except for getting ripped off on the bus for god's sake) Great.
As for Christmas: I am invited to dinner with Nikkie, Luca at Gabriele's who is squatting at the home of Birgitta (she's in Burkino Faso. Burkina Faso?!!?) We will have traditional Christmas Eve fare: tortelloni in brodo. On Christmas Day I will have The First Annual Orphans' Christmas Feast and Gift Exchange. If they all leave on time, I am invited to Fawn's for family Christmas that evening at her Mother-in-law's and I will have a party on 31st here. I am grateful for my friends and hoping to see the ones in Berkeley when I get back. Can I camp at your place occasionally?

Friday, December 18, 2009

Italian Snow

It's snowing in Florence. The weather service has been threatening us with snow all week but tonight it finally arrived. I went to dinner with Nina, Kathy and Janie in the center and after a lovely long meal we emerged to find a squishy storm in progress. It is wet and sloppy and turns to mush on the streets but the car tops are white and the blobs fall slowly to the pavement. The Ponte Vecchio, set up for, of all things, a golf driving event (they hit ‘em into the river?) provided a lovely view of the bridges in the strange light that snow provides. We skated and slid to our neighborhoods. In mine I was assaulted by snowballs from the local hangers-out who destroyed my umbrella completely with several well places missiles. I wandered through the piazza wondering at the snowy trees and shrubs which no doubt look much more fabulous in the dark than they will in the cruel daylight. The frequenters of the bar downstairs were admiring the collapsed umbrella over the outside seating, finding it the source of ammunition for another round of snowball attacks. I made it inside in time to remain mostly dry.
It doesn’t snow often in the city itself so the inhabitants are mostly incompetent in the snow. But in the suburbs, especially those in the ridges around the city and further out in the real hills, the snow can be really deep and the equipment to cope is often not adequate. So things kinda slow down or even stop when it snows. Not unwelcome by me, but I suppose if you have to work, it’s misery. When dawn breaks we will see what the world looks like with this new application. Last time there was a good snow storm, the hills were really beautiful.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Knee Repalcement, Part 4

I arrived at The Hyatt Residence ( on the Saturday following my surgery. I had a nicely decorated private room with TV, armoire, visitors chair, carpets and drapes and a lovely large bathroom (including an accessible shower). It was much more like a hotel room than any hospital room I’d even been in. The requisite adjustable bed was there with call button, reading light and that panel with connections for tubes and wires as a headboard. The whole place was carpeted and nicely decorated with pictures and real flowers. There was a TV room for meeting with visitors and a patio and garden that were beautifully planted. This facility was the ultimate level of a four level senior residence. Most of the other patients in this building needed fairly high levels of care. But there were also several like me who had just had a knee replaced and needed help for a week or so. One of my fellow victims had had BOTH done! That’s brave!
We got vitals monitored and medications delivered and mobility assistance and physical therapy and pretty good food delivered (until you can make it to the dining room). The first full day, Sunday, the OT got me into the shower which was a blessing even if it was strictly forbidden according to the doctor’s instructions (they are REALLY concerned about infection because it is the worst problem). We wrapped me up good and I shampooed and felt completely renewed. On Monday PT began and I was really surprised and pleased at how well it went and how fast I could progress. I used a walker most of the time because you really don’t feel confident about where that new knee thing is going at first. BTW, you don’t use a walker like a shopping cart with it pushed out in front of you as you see most of the time; it’s supposed to be right next to your hip so you can walk upright normally.
The hardest part of the rehab is trying to lift your new knee leg with the muscles of your thigh. It hurts and even if it doesn’t, it’s nearly impossible. Also, no heroics with the meds. Take the pills!!! People don’t get addicted to these things if they are just trying to keep the pain away. And pain relief is critical if you are going to work hard enough to make PT pay off. After my PT sessions I was strapped into an electric contraption that bent my knee for me for a couple of hours to keep it from stiffening up. And of course they ice the knee frequently to reduce the swelling.  I could go up and down stairs the first day and took a walk around the garden the second. I looked for a place to use my computer right away and found to my delight there was wireless in my room. I was urged and had no trouble taking a walk around the facility several times a day. People came to visit and I watched a lot of TV. (Italian TV is just gross so it was kinda nice to watch news and stuff without wiggling floozies.)
By the end of the week I was fully capable of fending for myself so my brother and his wife came to get me and I went north to stay at his house for the rest of my recovery. I used the walker to get in the door and except for a few trips to the bathroom, never used it again. Terry lent me a cane and I was able to walk three blocks home from the first session of PT in the clinic near their home.