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Willing to give Torino second chance

2/14/2006

It's Valentine's Day, and I'm currently involved in a five-day relationship. We first dated Friday, now it's Tuesday, and I already know what I think of Torino.

Torino sucks.

And Torino's view of me? I suck, too.

It's not your fault, Torino; you're really nice, we just don't get along. So far. Maybe when I meet your family in the beautiful mountains, things will change.

We don't communicate, that's our problem.

I've tried talking to you. Believe me, I'm not shy. On Sunday, I was photographed with two adult movie stars before an admiring crowd of fans (their fans, not mine). But on the streets, four in five locals struggle to speak four or five words of English, and the rest rarely get past basic questions. I'm seriously thinking of going over the French border to speak some English.

People are always friendly when asked for directions, but won't stop if they see I need help. That's why I am terrible for not learning Italian before I came here.

The lack of helpful signs has to be seen -- or not -- to be believed. It's as if most of the budget was spent on preventing visitors from knowing where they are. Take Torino's main railway station. Outside, it's so big, it could be a hospital specializing in gunshot victims of the vice president. Nothing tells me it's a railway station until I go inside. Why not have a picture of a big train outside? Hell, I'll paint you one if it helps.

Fair enough, Torino, I take your point. You haven't strung huge ugly signs everywhere because they offend the incomparable Italian style and because you care deeply about your overall appearance (I rang the hairdresser Tuesday and got an appointment in November).

But can't we compromise? Street names are small inscriptions informing the cold and lost that they're on a road named after a guy who was "Murdered for Liberty." I'm not knocking sacrifice for your country, just wish "McDonald's, Third on Your Right" could be added at the bottom.

Now, I'm living high in the hills near Avigliana, and well in the Olympic area. The air's great; there are no wild dogs to worry about (the wild boar have got them); and there's an awesome view from my kitchen.

Maybe things aren't so bad.

Torino, I want to stay together, explore chocolate, castles, cathedrals together, and see the real you. Let's go to the curling event tonight and take it from there. I'm not saying it's over, but for now, don't expect a ring. Not even a bronze one.

Brian Church is a columnist with the Athens News in Greece. He will be contributing to ESPN.com throughout the Olympics.