From My Tuscan Window

Chapter 9
You’re Crazy!
I couldn’t wait to get back to Tirrenia to call my parents and beg for a $5,000 loan with which we could purchase an entire complex of houses, terraces, orchards, and barn. Certainly they would see the wisdom in acquiring Vittorio’s properties which were filled with antiques--with spectacular views thrown in for full measure-- in a village of extremely friendly people.

“Hello Kingpin,” I said. (We call my father, the patriarch, “Kingpin” among other things.) “We would like to borrow $5,000.”

“What for?” he responded rather suspiciously.

“We’ve found the most wonderful property in the most beautiful part of Italy with three houses on it for only $5,000, and we need your financial assistance if we are going to be able to take advantage of this once in a lifetime opportunity.”

“You’re crazy! You have absolutely no use for a house in Italy, much less three houses. That’s the last thing in the world that you need. I’m not going to lend you any money for even one house in Italy, much less three.”

“Well, how about just one house? Vittorio told us that his mother-in-law would sell us just one for only $1,700. Would you be willing to loan us that much?”

“Boy, you obviously didn’t hear me. I said no!” he roared emphatically. My mother was on the extension.

“Mother, you can’t believe how wonderful this little town is. You’ve traveled all over Italy producing filmstrips, and I guarantee that you will find Gioviano is as pretty a place as you’ve ever been to. Not only that, the food in this valley is beyond belief and cheap enough that Kingpin won’t spin out of control like he would in Venice, Florence or Rome when he checks the prices.” I countered.

“Now, George, you know how your father is.” my mother said. “I have never been able to talk him into doing anything that he didn’t want to do anyway, and I guess I have to go along with him. It’s one thing to visit Italy while working on our filmstrips, but having to deal with owning property doesn’t make any sense to me either. After all, you’ll be living in Texas soon, and the most important thing to worry about right now is how you are going to make a living after leaving the Army. Going into debt would be foolhardy when you don’t even have a job except for perhaps trying to build something out of our little filmstrip business.”

I was pretty crestfallen when both parents expressed not only serious reservations about purchasing property in Italy but declined to help financially. But I wasn’t going to let that deter me. In fact, as any good child is supposed to do, I rebelled, and using my most Machiavellian talents figured an angle that might just work.

First of all I examined all of our assets. Well, we had Anna, Dog, a house full of antiques of not the highest quality, and some accrued leave time worth maybe $500 that we would need to live on while trying to figure out how to make a living as a civilian. Added to that, we had a Bronco that we would need for basic transportation once back in Texas and, Eureka! a Volkswagen bus that was titled in my name due to the requirements imposed by the U.S. Military for registering the vehicle at Camp Darby.

Now, if we could convert the VW into cash, we might just be able to raise enough funds to purchase at least the first house with the spectacular view. It just so happened that my best Army buddy, Captain Wayne Gray had coveted the bus for some time, so I went to Wayne and offered the vehicle to him for $1,700, the cost of the little house, provided he would allow us the use of the bus until our departure in February of 1974.

Captain Gray agreed to the deal, and thus we became the wealthy recipients of $1,700 in hard cash that could be converted into a million lire. We drove back to Gioviano, found Vittorio and made a verbal contract to purchase the house with the window and beautiful view as soon as the paper work could be drawn up and the purchase consummated. Oh happy day! Oh how foolish a young heart can be!

Revised March 3, 2008
Copyright 2005-2006 George H. Russell
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