The Present

“I hear you are an F1 fan?”

I was not expecting this question at this time. We were, after all, at my daughter’s first signing, and she was seated before a stack of her books. She had read the prologue and first chapter of Singer, and there was lots of various talk going on. People had heard I was a writer also (pretty cool to be the “also” at your daughter’s book signing, actually … yes it is), and I had gotten questions about my own writing on and off all evening. But I had not expected “I hear you are an F1 fan?”

It came from a man named Luis, who was sitting cattywampus across the table from Brigid.

“Indeed I am,” I said boldly. My son-in-law, Nick, was standing next to me. He is an Aeronautical engineer. You may remember that Nick and Brigid were married earlier this summer. I put my arm around him and continued playing up my interest in F1. “I told this gentleman that my only requirement for marrying my daughter was that his first job be working for an F1 team. I’m still looking for my free tickets to Monte Carlo and Monza.”

With that, the smile on Luis’s face grew three times it’s already big size.

“You like Ferrari?” he said.

I am a traditionalist in many ways, and really enjoy the old-school teams. Give me the Grand Prix years–Ferrari, Lotus, BRM, Cooper, and, of course, All-American Racing with Dan Gurney behind the wheel.

“Of course!” I relied.

“I’ve got a present for you.”

He pulled out this little gift bag:

Then he pulled a remarkable piece of metal from the bag, and he handed it to me:

“Is this an old … ” I stammered, originally thinking it was a lug nut, but that was clearly wrong.

Then he explained.

This rusted piece of hardware, my friends, is a bolt from the Armco (the guardrail) that once ringed the high-banked, oval section of the Autodromo Nazionale Monza, home of the Ferrari brand and the Italian Grand Prix. It is, as I described it to him, akin to being a piece of stone from the Coliseum as far as I’m concerned. The banking at Monza, last used in the early 1960s, and seen in the film Grand Prix is just that kind of thing to me–hallowed ground.

“Really?” was all I could say. “You’re kidding me, right?”

But Luis just smiled and stuck to his story. Then he pulled out a coffee cup from the track, and said that this was mine, too.

I just stood there like a fool, holding the thing in my hand, twisting the bold off and turning it back on. It’s like the absolute coolest thing on the face of the earth–especially as it came so completely out of the blue.

Luis, it turns out is a fascinating guy, though his taste appears to run more toward the Lamborghini than the Ferrari. But he was there in Modena for some time, and came home with these pieces of heaven. He heard of my enjoyment of F1 from Brigid, and just decided to do something nice for someone who appreciated it.

“I think he’s drooling,” I heard Sharon Bass say (Sharon is an IMP, a member of one of my long-running writer’s groups, who came out to support Brigid). Everyone laughed. And then I thought yeah, well, I am drooling … so the heck what? It’s not my fault they don’t get it. I then proceeded to blather on like an idiot about the banking, and the track itself. And Luis talked about his time there, and the fact that you can rent Ferrari’s to drive around the city, and a bunch of other stuff. I eventually got to the point I could speak with whatever my normal amount of intelligence is.

It’s now been long enough that I’m not drooling every time I think about it. But I admit I do occasionally think about Luis, and I often think about my buddy John Bodin. When I think of Luis, I just smile. And when I think of John I think of how jealous he’s going to be when he reads this post. [grin]

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