Europe Diary: Lucca … calmness after the Killer Whale chase

The song hits me the moment the green-and-white signage on the highway came to sight.
Driving along, Suzanne Vega’s voice keeps blocking all my senses untill WT’s voice woke me up from my trance state of Suzanne Vega-ness …
“you need to keep right!!!”
And he is absolutely right.
No fault of his that he’s nervous and edgy.
After all Italian highways are … well, let’s just say if you’ve watch The Italian Job, you’d know what to expect in terms of road conditions.
Even the highways in Italy are relateively narrow. Relatively cause we are used to 6-lanes highways that are broader with lots of road shoulder space and an emergency lane thrown in. In Italy, errr… well, it fluctuates between 4-lanes to 6-lanes but they were built for the Mini, and everything else compressed.
Being “mad”, they don’t drive down the lanes. They race admist super trucks that are way too broad for the lanes.
All along you are daunted with the sensation of having your tail chased and that the moment you lift your feet off the accelerator pedal, you’re in to cash out your life insurance … and God Bless that you have a huge one too! Fast, gory and a mangled mess is just about all I can guarantee in terms of the eventual outcome.
But that’s not the scary bit!
Oh yes … just went you thought nothing could be worse than an expedieted expiration … the biggest fear and challenge for international drivers like me is the exit lane is only about 400 metres and guaranteed to be accompanied by a steep curve that defies torque and central of gravity! To survive, you’ll need to decelerate from 140 km/hr to an approximate of 60 km/hr in seconds and decreased it to a steady 40 km/hr as you negotiate the bend, then decide in split seconds on the lane in which you need to head for to pay your toll charges. Being stuck in the wrong lane – notably those for giant trucks – means your vehicle will look like Nemo being chased by a Killer Whale and you’d feel like helpless Nemo trying your best to stretch an indefinite length to pay for the toll as the booth has been designed higher for the giant truckers’ ease.
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Driving into Luca is akin to being transported to a different time zone.
It is almost like (operative work ‘almost‘) an Alfred Hitchcock movie set … idlyic, unsuspecting, calm, orderly … quiet.
TOO quiet for comfort.
As you scan the scene for any presence of humankind, you’re eventually relieve to be greeted by some sight of human habitation; one which only a trained eye will tell you that the scene does look very much like an alien set-up in Men In Black. Not one thug. Not one ‘normal’ looking professional. Just innocent looking children going about their ways … cycling or running gaitly but without any noise, laughter or chatter… only to pause simultaneously and stare back at you as you go past them. 
Then as you look harder, there’s those who would happily sit on park benches; knitting away or playing with a deck of cards. Senior citizens who would soon head for a nearby restaurant, fish out a crumpled 50% discount coupon for dinner at 4:30 pm, make their polite request, insert their hands into their mouths … and “plop!” a pink-and-white dentures lands on the formica table stained with years of grease and coffee marks.
© Penelope Haque
The only sign of normality (stretching the Penelope definition of ‘normality’ here) seems to emit from the Kebab House situated on the ground floor next to our guesthouse; boisterous at least with animated facial expressions as meat is being shaved off the giant skewers and stuffed into an already impossibly packed flat flat with shreded carrots, cabbage and onions.
The only things that seems amidst which I can live with is probably the fact that everyone manning the store are Lebanese males doning scoccer jerseys, white chef hats with the ESPN blarring out of the overhead 14″ television set and a row of Fido Dido 7-Up glass bottles lining the shelves.
“Thanks, but no thanks” I had said when asked if I wanted any drinks … god knows how long the Orangina has been sitting on the shelves too! Besides I was too reoccupied with thoughts of ‘surviving’ our guesthouse for that night before we head off to Pisa … and home! 
… the long dark corridor with the single light bulb that flickers on and off leading to the floor to ceiling – fitout included -cemented kitchen and extremely 1960s retro meets IKEA bathrooms and the 1970s room decor that triggers Suzanne Vega’s catchy 1987 hit song on child abuse and domestic violence … unrelated as it may be!
© Penelope Haque
My name is Luka
I live on the second floor
I live upstairs from you
Yes I think you’ve seen me before
If you hear something late at night
Some kind of trouble, Some kind of fight
Just don’t ask we what it was
Just don’t ask we what it was
Just don’t ask we what it was
I thinks it’s because I’m clumsy
I try not to talk too loud
Maybe its because I’m crazy
I try not to act too proud
They only hit until you cry
And after that you don’t ask why
You just don’t argue anymore
You just don’t argue anymore
You just don’t argue anymore
Yes I think I’m okay
I walked into the door again
Well, if you ask that’s what I’ll say
And it’s not your business anyway
I guess I’d like to be alone
With nothing broken, nothing thrown

Just don’t ask me how I am
Just don’t ask me how I am
Just don’t ask me how I am

This is just how my brain is wired in a weird incoherent way. There is no suggestion that I had witness, read, head, know of any domestic violence and/or child abuse in Lucca, Italy. It’s a sedated small town with a fortress wall to boast off … that’s about it I think… or wait, it was a Rennaisance-era city wall. Other than that, the Piazza Anfiteatro is its other attraction with buildings built in a circular layout encircilng the piazza / market place and a church. Being extremely close to Pisa, Lucca does not get the attention of travellers and tourists.  
 Copyright gbastitini – published on flickr
P/S 2:
This blog entry “sat” in the draft folder for exactly a year … I’m on the road … just not in Lucca, or anywhere in Italy at the moment.
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2 thoughts on “Europe Diary: Lucca … calmness after the Killer Whale chase

  1. I know! I was using a friends Sony lappie with some microsoft office picture manager or whatever photo program sitting on the very same kitchen counter I am sitting on now in London last year when I so called 'processed' the photos.No worries.The place is damn weird lah but maybe you could move in once you traded your real teeth with dentures!Thanks for concern.Still alive. This time around I didn't drive as I had a bad and rough night on the Russian train the night before and didn't sleep much. So didn't want to endanger the other 4 passengers lives as well and my friend Roz and his Czech (girl?)friend drove… or well, the girl tried to drive a bit lah in Bucharest town and it was really terrifying! Thanks god he took over after that and drove the remaining journey. Also just so you know it was a Toureg (no Landy or Bimmer available for hire) … so we are rather save.Catch up when I am back.

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