Tuesday, November 18, 2008

"The Americans are your Italians": DAK officer to Desert Rat captor

Some odds and ends from the last few weeks:
A professional conference just before Halloween where I received my annual scare. The geeks are in charge of the original "long tail" organization, and their big machines and tiny brains have created a new clothes that will not stand up.Libraries ain't what they used to be: "It's all online now, Scott". O yeah, mis-spelled and incorrect.

Halloween, an absurd derivative day (ain't they all).

The first of November, to Italy, on a belated wedding anniversary trip. Flew the 747 chicken-bus, DC to Frankfurt, got to wait 4 hours before the flight to Venice. I exchanged courtesies with the Authorities, then I explored, as is my wont. Never did find the museum in the basement I had read about.

Then the whirlwind. Venice, Pisa, Florence (Machiavelli's home town, my fav-o-rite, even after 35 years), Sorrento, a sidetrip to Pompeii, then to Rome just in time for Veteran's day. I saw an Ariete tank and a Pegasus 8-wheeled vehicle with a 105mm gun, parked for display near Circus Maximus. "Just enough firepower to get into trouble" as recon officers quip.Leaving Rome, a quick Airbus with legroom (o frabjous day!); another 4 hours in Frankfurt but I had paperwork to complete before leaving Euro space. VAT. Try to get that done at 0730, even in Germany. I did, eventually.

Random images: The fourth version of Monte Cassino, I can see why it was such a thumb in the eye to the allies. Sorrento lemons, the size of a basketball.The Pope, a bowshot away, delivering his Sunday greeting to the Missus and I and 10-15k of our closest friends. The Italian Navy band, forming up and marching from mid-terrace on the Spanish Steps, dressed in uniforms reminiscent of Adm. Dewey's navy. A huge Buddha on a railroad overpass, advertising an exhibit. The older gentleman stopping me on the street to congratulate "Ameriga" on the election of Obama. A quick transit strike on Monday, hey it's a hobby.Many more moments, tedious to you but memories for me. And the food, o the food....


Barrett Bonden said...

Legroom, the curse of those of us who would love to fly long distance but, for the same reason we don't bother looking for clothes in the Pierre Cardin chain of shops, are excluded by virtue of height. Always check the nominal knee-room: 32 in. at Continental but never, never risk JAL, a measly 29 in.

Halloween. How about an absurd hedge-fund derivative day? To tell the truth it was all part of life's involving tapestry when I had young kids in the US. Here, it's now a prelude to bad behaviour.

Glad the Pegasus was parked only for display near Circus Maximus and not for action. A 105 mm gun may not have scratched a Panzer's paint but it would make a neat hole in a crowd demonstrating against Silvio Berlusconi's descent into criminal anarchy.

Yes the food but also the wine if one could only decode the info on the labels, the result of an ill-advised attempt to clean up the previous - mendacious to a point - system of telling you what you were unlikely to find within the bottle.

Monte Cassino. Good book by Fred Majdalany. Out of print now. Try ABE.

Welcome home.

Relucent Reader said...

Thank you for your comments.
"Dense pack" is the concept amongst the airlines now. It had been a while since I had flown, and probably should not have been as dimayed at how far it has fallen.
Interesting notion, a 105mm APFSDS(Armor piercing fin stabilized discarding sabot, NATO's primary anti-armor round) round versus a Panther or Tiger....I would back the modern tech:a depleted uranium sabot would probably make short work of Krupp armor. As to the resulting splash of an 88mm high velocity armor piercing round on modern composite armor, I would like to see the tapes of that experiment.
Now, M-1s have a 120mm main gun,adopted during the cold war. The M-60's I crewed in the late 80's and early 90's had the 105mm, and with the A3's thermal sights, laser range finder and turret stab system, was one sweet shooting tank. The 105 was based on the British gun, a very satisfactory weapon. There is the tale of a Challenger knocking out an Iraqi T-72 at a range of 3 miles or so, far beyond tracer burnout. The Iraqi TC swore he was struck by a missile, not a flat trajectory round....we were told at Ft. Knox that British crews began their engagements at well beyond the dictated 1400-1700 meters we began engaging threats at.
The Missus and I had an interesting conversation on politics with a couple shopkeepers in Florence. Berlusconi came up,but I negelected to ask: well, if he was removed once, how did he get re-elected?Is he the richer, Italian Richard Nixon? I took an Andrea Camilleri mystery novel with me on the trip, and he had a fair amount to say about Berlusconi. At the time, I just put it up to Sicilian grousing at someone getting the upper hand.
THank you for the welcome home.

Barrett Bonden said...

I should never have strayed into tank/ordnance territory. Fascinating but I know nothing about either. However, I can recommend a thriller where a tank plays a prominent role: Uncle Target by Gavin Lyall. Lyall was a pilot during RAF national service and all his books are strong on techno-stuff. In Midnight Plus One the hero is arguably a Citroen DS. The earlier ones are best; looking for a niche later on he started writing about the fledgling British secret service, circa WW1, and these are less gripping.