If you had told me that 12-year-old Leon Gold would win the coveted 2015 GOYA (Guest of the Year Award) for our annual summer trip to Italy, I would have thought you had lost your mind.
I have known that space cadet for something like seven, eight years and - after giving up saying 'hello' and getting no response - I haven't uttered a single word to him in a good five years.
But, defying critics, the odds, logic. and even Galileo Galilei, the 2015 GOYA goes to Leon Gold, son of Laurie Ochoa and Jonathan Gold.
Now, many of you who know me fairly well might be wondering the same thing. "Mike, are you drinking heavily again?"
Nah. And for the record, Nancy - and many others - voted for Leon, as well. Still, the reason for this report took so long to publish after we've been back from Italy - 15 days - is because some of the other contenders for this year's GOYA couldn't believe it and demanded a recount. The original count was verified and so it is official. Leon Gold wins this year's GOYA..
And part of the reason is this. Though it probably seemed a put-down in the headline and second paragraph - referring to Leon as a "space cadet" - it turns out Leon Gold IS a space cadet. I mean someone has to be a cadet. which is, what, basically a trainee, right?. Someone has to train to be an astronaut to go into space or to be a physicist or a cosmologist and that's what Leon is. A space or physicist or cosmologist trainee. A space cadet.
Nancy and I met the Ochoa/Golds in Modena near Osteria Francescan where Nancy and I - along with Bobby Silverstein and Danielle Bernabe - had a lunch for the ages and where Laurie Ochoa, Jonathan and Leon had dinner. As usual I didn't say a word to Leon when I saw him. ( Not that he woulda heard me as he was wearing earphones listening to a podcast about physics or some such thing ) The next day we all had a lunch in the Modena countryside and it was here Leon made his first two impressions. One is that if you are like an Emily Post type - ya know, all proper and full of etiquette - I don't recommend sitting across from him at a meal, This guy grabs his fork by the tines as he delves deep into a plate. And if there's a bowl of anything eatable nearby , you can lay pretty good odds Leon's fingers will be in that bowl. ("Just like you', Nancy would say to me.)
But, at that lunch, a paperback by American astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson at his side, he made a pronouncement that didn't really hit me until later. It was like his first scientific ruling. He pronounced the so-ca;;led "three second rule " a fallacy. "Even if your food lands on the ground for one billionth of a second, it is no good. It will pickup as many microorganisms in that one billionth of a second as it will in three seconds or in 60 seconds. The three second rule is false."
He made this profound statement as seriously as I imagine Nicolas Copernicus announced that it was the Earth that orbited the Sun, not the other way around.
I thought about Leon's theory for, well, for about three seconds. and it made sense.
A day later in Panicale, Umbria, where Nancy has a home, I was walking the Ochoa/Golds to the apartment they had rented from our friends Enid and Richard since they didn't know exactly where said apartment was located inside the walls of the old town. On the way there. a super car came whizzing and roaring by. and Leon yelled out "Watch out, Michael!" Now I would have had to be about 3,000 pounds heavier for this beautiful car to be even close to hitting me, but i was kinda stunned the kid even knew my name.
At dinner that evening, Leon told Nancy that "We spend too much money on the military and not enough on the space program." Did he, Nancy asked, think there was life in outer space? "I don't know, but we are not going to find out bombing people."
Was this the same Leon? This fool was starting to rack up GOYA points.
The next dinner, i was sitting next to Leon. - which is better than sitting across.- and he started talking about how he doesn't think it is good for humans to be in cell phone photos. It's good for cats, but not humans, he said. He mentioned something about nobody in the entire Milky Way Galaxy should be in a photograph. So I went with a variation of line I occasionally go to. "Why? Do you think people in the Snickers Galaxy might find out about us?"
Leon gave out a sort of impish grin and said. "No. But, they might in Butterfingers Galaxy." We both smiled.
At long last, someone has responded to my Snickers Galaxy line. Leon scores more GOYA points.
A day or two later, I am bored with the adult conversation about the merits of pici and umbricelli and other various noodle configurations.and lardo and culatello di Zibello and so I turned to Leon and told him a story.
By now, If you watch the news at all, you know this story. Leon. apparently doesn't watch the news, and doesn't know the story, but was utterly fascinated by it. It is the recent news story of the Grizzly bear from Montana who became an astronaut and on a mission to outer space, his fellow astronaut, a human from Tennessee, died somewhat mysteriously and the grizzly bear astronaut ended up being charged with his murder.
I am telling you, Leon was riveted by this story. It turns out the two astronauts - bear and human - snuck along a 12 pack of beer - which Laurie accurately chimed in was Hamms - and the human astronaut had been hogging them, He had guzzled eight of the first 11 beers and was reaching for the 12th when a struggle ensued. In that tussle for the last beer, the grizzly bear astronaut allegedly shoved the human astronaut out of the space capsule door and into outer space where he was never heard from. When the space ship managed to land back at Cape Canaveral, the grizzly bear was arrested and charged with murder.
This Leon kid was in pure fascination. He asked many questions, but, at that point, that is all I knew of the story.
Two days later, at dinner, I get "a call" on my cell. I whisper into it. Leon is listening in with much interest. "What happened?". A verdict is coming down in the grizzly bear astronaut murder case, I tell him. We should know by the time the dolci arrives.
Forty five minutes later, as the torta della nonna is dropped, I get "the call"..
"Not guilty. The grizzly bear was found not guilty on all counts."
Leon was thrilled by this verdict. He wants to know what happened in the trial.
"I don't have all the details but apparently there was a camera on board and it showed the human astronaut drunk and stumbling. and he trips and falls against the space ship door and he goes tumbling out. The grizzly bear tried desperately to save him, but he couldn't. They also were able to prove the grizzly bear astronaut only had three beers as only three cans were crushed like only a grizzly bear can crush a beer can. Claw marks and all."
"Will the grizzly bear get to go back and be an astronaut again?"
"I don't know," I told Leon. "It's kinda soon for all that. i think he just want to go back to Montana and relax. Take a nap for a couple of months.
t was fun telling that story. And it was fun having someone enjoy it. For that, for debunking the "Three second rule" and for a somewhat feeble attempt to save my life from a speeding Lamborghini Miura, Leon Gold with this year's GOYA
In late July, as Nancy and I were on our morning five kilometer walk. the Ochao/Gold car drives by and stops to say goodbye. Laurie is driving. I guess Jonathan can't drive and plot his dining course at the same time. Leon is in the backseat with his earphones on. Nancy says something to him, thinking maybe he will say good bye or thank us for the good time or something, anything. But, nothing . He just keeps those earphones on. Leon Gold is out there somewhere in space.
But, the next time you drop some food, don't bother picking it up and eating it. Just step on it. Accoridng to Leon Gold's theory of dropitivity, it's already ruined.
"We are all in the gutter ( or on the floor) but some of us are looking at the stars" - Oscar Wilde
As GOYA, Leon Gold also wins a free pizza at Mozza
RECENT PREVIOUS GOYA WINNERS
2014 - (TIE) Hourie Sahakian and Tiffany Fox
2013 - Liz "Go Go" Hong
2012 - Cast of "The Wire"
2011 - .The Berrettos (aka Oliver and his buddies)
2010 - (TIE) Duke and Patsi