“…give us your tired and weak…”
Alessandro Debbi, 42, from Casalgrande, Italy, a city of about 16,000 people in the northern part of Italy near Bologna about 5 hours from Rome. In Italy Alessandro like to play soccer and fish but, “travels whenever I have the opportunity.”
Alessandro seems to take the opportunity to travel to America a lot saying that, “I have fished over a 100 different lakes in many many states here.”
“Alessandro, dude, tell me this, tell me, about America.”
“Ah db, America she the best country where to live.”
I write that down, but say nothing, there is no way I want to ask a question that may lead them in a different direction then they may be thinking, I want them to answer the question honestly, not to answer it to somehow try and please me.
Alessandro is just looking at me waiting for the next question, after a couple of beats he realizes it is the only question he is going to get.
“Here you have the possibility to realize your dream if you trust in yourself…”
I’m thinking as I write that down, I hope so my friend, I really do hope that is so.
“…here, you can achieve so quickly.”
Achieve so quickly.
Never saw that coming.
But for a man who comes from a country that is at least a couple of thousand years old…to him…1776 is just a blink of the eye.
Alessandro clearly loves his homeland, he invited me to come over and see his town, visit the beautiful city of Florence, and “I’ll take you fishing my favorite lake, it’s inside a volcano, you know inside, you have the volcano walls all around you.”
As the interview ended I thanked him, got up and put my pen and notebook away, and started to leave until he grabbed my arm and said, “But America, you have wonderful, wonderful lakes and rivers, the more and more you have the better you can be as an angler.”
I know my friend because I remember standing on a small beach south of Buffalo as a very young child, and holding onto my grandfather’s hand as he looked out over one of the greatest lakes, Lake Erie and to this day I hear him saying in Italian, “Bella, Bella.”
And every time I’m in Buffalo and drive over the Skyway to the “Southtowns” I look out over to the water of Erie and smile because in my mind all I see is,
“…and we will make them strong…”
His family boasts five generations of doctors, can trace healing all the way back to the 1800’s.
To me, he is my good friend, Haaby.
To Spain, he is Xavier Gonzales-Mestre M.D. H.S.D.
To B.A.S.S., he is the President of the Spain Nation.
I am pretty much an adopted member of the Spain team as evidenced by this jersey that Haaby presented me with here at the Nation Championship.
Haaby though has given me much more than cloth. He has given me the stories of his family, the story and worry of his daughter Victoria, who had a bad accident for which Haaby stayed home from the recent Nation Eastern Regional Tournament to care for her.
When he sent an email explaining what happened and how he wouldn’t be with us, the Nation responded back with prayers and love, to a injured daughter we had never met.
From Victoria, who is doing fine now came this email:
“I knew it. My dad always told us that Bass people was a great family. People that don' killed their catch was good people, and if you meet a bass fisherman there was a friend.
My dad ( as always) was right, and I heard from my "aunts" and "uncles" those warms and encouraging words and prayers that lifted my mood.
Thanks,and thanks,...and thanks!! Now I know: in BASS "I will never walk alone"
“So Haaby my friend tell me this, Tell me, about America.”
We are sitting together as Haaby eats a quick breakfast, he takes a bite of the blueberry muffin, sips his coffee and, “America is a big country but it is the people of it that I value.”
People who will pray for a young lady they have never met, in a land they have never been to.
“I have told my wife that if I ever get, how you say, lost, that if I ever get lost, look to find me in America.”
Haaby lives with his wife, also named Victoria, in Barcelona, “We are all you know, stuck together there, we have 1.6 million people in 90 square kilometers.”
Here’s the stab I can do at comparing their measuring stick to ours. For as best as I can figure that translates into about 34 square miles with almost 41,000 folks per square.
NYC has about 28,000 folks per square.
“db, people here are friendly, ready to help, they are not only proud to be American, but they are proud of America as well. Not so much the people of Europe.”
The biggest gift Haaby has ever given me is not the jersey, but the gift of finding joy, in life, and with Haaby, in how he looked at the death of his brother, Pablo.
“My sweet brother he died of a heart attack…”