Four years feels like a long time to wait
I’m still thinking of the most polite way to answer the question, “Is it good to be back?”I have to thank my immune system for waiting until the long flight home from Torino to crash entirely.There’s nothing quite like 30 hours of traveling accompanied by a variety of unpleasant illnesses.Although I’ve gone through a few packs of Kleenex, the fever is down and I’m on some strong antibiotics for a sinus infection. My ears are still popping to remind me of where I’ve been, and there’s the convenient evidence of newspaper clips to assure me that my three weeks in Italy at the Torino Games weren’t all just an ultra-vivid dream. The one thing I feel very sure about is that I want to return to the Torino area some time and just be a tourist. The city itself warrants at least a few days of exploration. The three hours I had last Monday afternoon between getting situated for my short night (I had to leave at 3 a.m. on a bus to the airport for my 6 a.m. flight) hotel stay and the multiple-bus journey from San Sicario and nightfall were not enough. Rather than just peer through a bus window at all of those ancient castles on the hillside between Torino and the mountains, I’d like to see a couple of them close up, and I would certainly enjoy taking a trip to the top of the Mole Antonelliana (the space needle-like building you see in just about every advertisement for Torino) and look out across the panorama of hills and metropolitan lights.
Had I been in the city, it would have been an entirely different experience. Instead of having reporters from Chicago and Miami frantically asking me to explain Indy grabs and split times, I’d be furiously poring over glossaries on figure-skating manuevers. A group of Dutch journalists I befriended gave me some insight on the Olympics from their nation’s perspective. In the Netherlands, Shani Davis is a super star, and skating is second only to soccer in sporting significance. They thought it outright blasphemous that the largest skating stadium in Torino, built specifically for the Games, was, by Monday, in an advanced stage of disembowelment. It was being prepared for use as a venue for a furniture convention.In Frankfurt, where my six hours of layover time allowed me to explore every tile in the whole airport, there was a clear distinction between travelers: those who were homeward bound, and those who were homeward bound from the Olympics.The latter group could be recognized immediately by their official Asics backpacks, mud-splattered jeans, the excessive habit of taking off their coats, emptying metal objects from their pockets and saying “grazie” to German flight attendants and airport staff.Of all the trips I’ve taken, I had never realized before this week how difficult questions are to answer after arriving home.Q: “How was it?”A: “Fantastic. Surreal. Phenomenal. Amazing.”
Q: “Was the food good?”A: “Yes. Except for the stuff they tried to feed the press and the athletes.”Q: “Did you drink a beer with Bode?”A: “No.”Q: “Are you sure?”A: “I think so.”Q: “Is it good to be back?”
A: “Well …”The weird thing now is, as with anything that comes and goes, life continues as usual, without pause, without ceremony.Now that Olympians are back to their normal routines on the World Cup, the world is no longer watching (at least not most of America), although gold medalist Ted Ligety has won a giant slalom in Korea and Lindsey Kildow bounced back from her Olympic training crash to win a super-G in Norway.The jet lag hasn’t rendered me wide awake at 3 a.m. the last couple of nights, but “grazie” is still lingering on the tip of my tongue and my mind is still slightly preoccupied with a vague rainbow of five cloudy rings. It’s back to earth for a while. I guess the needles from this tree have been swept up for the next three years and 11 months. But I still can’t wait for Vancouver. Vail, Colorado