Life brings us new problems everyday

By Greg Rivara

It was not a usual interview.

I stumbled out of bed as is the case with most mornings and awoke half-way to the newspaper office while driving blindly on the interstate. I outlined the day’s events in my head while shaking out of my semi-comatose state between gulps of piping-hot coffee and drags on my cigarettes that I swore off the night before.

Upon my arrival, I said my usual good-mornings to my editor, trying to remember the excuse I gave him the previous morning for being late. Luckily, I didn’t have to.

“Greg, what are you doing this afternoon,” my editor asked with a sarcastic grin. “I’ve got a hot one for you.”

Now whenever an immediate superior in the news business tells you he has a “hot one,” you can bet that you’re not going to like it. My boss continued to tell me about a human interest piece of some guy turning 105 years old and how much everyone would like to read about it since we published for a rural community where the only time people left was to be buried in another state.

I set up an interview with the elderly man that afternoon. It wasn’t too hard to pick a time where the ole‘ gent would be free—the only thing he had on his schedule was his 1 p.m. soap opera followed by his daily nap.

“Oh boy,” I thought as I drove up to the old Italian’s house, grimacing about the stories I was sure to hear. Stories about relatives that I was confident I would not recognize and the patented trips down memory lane that all immigrants tell about the first time they saw the Statue of Liberty.

Not that these things are not interesting, but it was simply one of those days that you didn’t feel like humoring anyone—even if it was part of your job.

The little old man answered the door, leaning on what appeared to be a home-made cane, his bottom set of false teeth missing. He quickly ushered me in and his bride of 82 years out, explaining to her that it was time for “man talk.”

As I sat down and admired the spotless homestead, my hunched-over little friend disappeared into an adjoining room and began explaining to me how he continually must “watch” his wife because he suspected her of entertaining other male friends in a way not suitable for a married woman.

He re-entered the room, hobbling on his cane while lugging a large container and two glasses. After silently sitting down, he poured the ruby-red liquid into the glasses and winked at me while pushing the refreshment across the table.

“You drink it all and you live long, like me,” he explained in his broken English heavily accented with his native tongue.

I sipped the home-made wine and went about my business. One glass, I told myself, just to get him talking and to get me out of there.

As we talked, he sat back in his chair and described the events in his life as though they happened yesterday. He explained the different phases with increasing detail, expounding on his budding career as an artist before he fled his native land. With each new phase came more medical benefits of refilling my glass.

Three hours later, I stumbled down his front porch trying to read my handwriting in order to formulate my story. Rewriting leads in my head, I heard the cause of my inebriation yelling in jumbled English and Italian at the top of his lungs.

“… put your eyes back into your head and pick up your mess—capisce…”