June 27, 2010
I clawed at the unforgiving cushions of the back seat of our rental Camry, sweat pouring from my brow and running down the sides of my neck to pool unpleasantly around my shirt collar, my back arched as my muscles clenched and spasmed. I don’t know how long the drive was, only that the minutes screamed endlessly, like a man getting sucked into a wind tunnel in a better class of action movie. Traffic lights shone bright – so bright! – scorching my retinas, flaring like an ammunition dump explosion in a lower class of romantic comedy.
Finally, as my top and bottom teeth met in the middle of my lower lip, the car stopped. I heard a door open and slam, and footsteps, and then Andrew Nonadetti scooped me up in his strong, tender arms, and ran through the open doors of the emergency room entrance.
A surgeon saw me and bit through his stethoscope. He raised a trembling finger to point, and found his voice.
‘G… gun fever!’ he cried. A cardiovascular specialist choked on his coffee. A nearby patient clutched at his heart and collapsed. A janitor kept sweeping.
‘Glock…’ I whispered, feebly. ‘Where did I leave… that… Glock…’
I come from a country with very strict firearm laws, a culture that doesn’t favour gun ownership in the slightest, and where I grew up never having seen a gun except on the belts of cops and on the screen. However, when we got out to that firing range, some Y chromosomal switch flipped and I just wanted to make holes in the target.
But I digress.
After a post-midnight arrival to the Nonadetti household, we woke to coffee, breakfast, and the company of the Nonadetti clan. Our second stop on the road was an actual house, and I cannot stress enough just how far a home environment goes towards shaking off the fatigue that accrues with long days of driving and identical hotel rooms.
The Nonadettis took us in, fed us, sheltered us from the treacherously balmy Coloradan weather, and Andrew gave us our first real taste of picturesque small-town Americana by taking us to eat in the sleepy, sunny, hamlet of Colterra, where cotton buds filled the air and gently breezed around us as we ate.
As we sat at the restaurant and waited for our drinks to arrive, a sudden chill washed over me, as if a black cloud had passed over the sun. Foreboding rose in my gut and without looking, I knew that doom was riding into town. Somewhere in the distance, a black cat yowled at the sky.
A car pulled up, and with footsteps like the ticking of the doomsday clock, Megan diLullo came to lunch.
Megan diLullo is just about as rock and roll as a human being can get without actually being made of Stratocasters. Of all the bad-ass metal women I’ve ever ridden in the back of a truck with, she’s the first. The four of us found common ground in poring over escort cards from Vegas and, unable to work out whether a girl’s pictured tattoo was a butterfly or a phoenix, the table decided on ‘Butterlix’ and had dessert.
And then came the shooting.
Know this: you do not want to cross Zara Potts. Z bullseyed the target first time out with a rifle, whereas I… I went through revolvers, semi-automatic pistols, shotguns, and rifles of both the semi-automatic and bolt-action variety.
And loved every second of it.
When storm clouds started rolling in and my shoulder started to throb from the recoil of the rifle stocks, we made our way back to Casa Nonadetti for pulled pork, the first cornbread we’d ever eaten, and home-made ice-cream pie. We excused ourselves after dinner for a quick trip up to the local store and on our way back found a couple of guys and a girl standing by the trees at the back of the supermarket, staring up into the night shadows among the branches.
I nodded hello.
‘There’s a kitten up in one of those trees,’ one of the guys said.
Dear Kitten: you are an idiot. I climbed up into that tree in an attempt to get you down. The way out was not, as you surmised, further up. I sincerely hope you made it down later of your own power and you are currently in a safe, warm place.
Dear Andrew Nonadetti: thank you for your patience in answering the late-night phone call from me where I said ‘There’s a kitten up a tree! What do I do?’
The Rockies awaited us the following day, so, my kitten rescue mission failed, we headed back and swapped stories of growing up, traveling, and living in the US of A, before finally hitting the sack in preparation for the coming morning.
And maybe this isn’t the forum for it, but I’ll say this: Andrew Nonadetti has published some emotionally heavy-hitting pieces on TNB recently, and has made reference to trying to be a better person. I don’t know him well, and I’m sure he’s a more-informed judge of himself and his past than I.
But I like him, and for my part, I think he’s a good man, a good father, and a friend. He, his kind and charming wife, and his children, who all made our stay with them such a pleasant and welcoming one, will always be welcome in any house of mine.
Next: to rock out in the Rockies!