The flight to Amsterdam is delayed on account of the heavy fog at Milan airport, but they are hoping for it to lift soon and be able to depart at the latest by eleven. It would bring me into Amsterdam just in time to make my connection. The fog lifts, the sunrays begin to break through the clouds, they have already announced the departures of Amsterdam and several other flights. Everything is just cool. But wait!!Not so fast!!  Soon as the sky has cleared of the fog, they promptly go on strike. The negotiations begin. The hope is that they would get back to work in an hour or two, three at the most. Chicago passengers rush to change their tickets to fly via New York. But nothing moves for the whole day. We wait until after eight in the evening in hopes of getting out of Milano. Even though there are no transatlantic flights waiting for us anymore in Amsterdam or anywhere else on the continental Europe, it’s still better to spend the night anywhere else but in Milano. For there is no telling what tomorrow may bring.

But we’re stuck where we are. KLM feeds us a decent meal, makes us wait a bit longer and then to our dismay, we watch the empty aircraft take off, leaving us behind, gasping. The one which would return to Milan the next morning with the Amsterdam passengers and hopefully be able to take us back with it. We are given an option to take the night train to Amsterdam or stay over in a hotel and take our chances tomorrow. The train is not an option for me. I do not have visas to  travel through Switzerland and Holland. At least I get a good night’s sleep. The preceding twelve days have been hectic and harried and this unexpected break helps me re-energize. The Linate crew is still striking the next morning. We are bussed and flown out of Malpensa.

I have now lost a whole precious day. Planned are several meetings with different Playboy people including my boss Lee Hall and the production chief John Mastro. And I have to wrap up four years of my life in Chicago. During those years, I have made many close friends and the bunch at Time has become my family. As a gesture of my heartfelt thanks and to bid everyone proper farewell, I am throwing a lavish bash in the penthouse party room of the lake shore highrise in which I live. My Time buddies jump in and help.  Everything goes smooth. The celebration spills into the early morning. Good times had by all.

Two days later, a Bekin’s moving truck swallows the entire contents of my apartment and the car, and I say my arrivederci to Chicago.

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Over the next two and a half years, I must have been fogged in or struck out or both for tens of times at Linate. In the meanwhile, I have acquired visas for every possible country on the continent, I might be required to cross. I try taking night train a couple of times, but when did I have that kind of time? So with the cancellations, delays  and all, I have no choice but to put up with the quirks of the weather and of the group of people called the Italians. Stranded at the Milan airport has its rewards. Often you run into interesting people, including the stunning beauty with whom I would travel in the first class. But the cherry on the cake waits to be crowned for my very last trip from Milan to Munich.

●●●

‘Ciao Haresh, I will call you next week when I get back to office.’ I stroke her face and get into the cab. ‘Linate per favore.’ I look back to wave at Celeste (Huenergard) as the cab paves its way out of the driveway of Hotel Principe e Savoia into Piazza della Republica. She is still standing there, waving and smiling at me. I see her smoky green eyes starting to blur.

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