Saturday, January 29, 2005

But it's's a Saturday

OK, 10 bonus points to the first person to tell me who sang the above lyric.

Yes, it is Saturday morning. I came to the base early to do my laundry so I thought I'd stop by and make a quick post. People always ask me why I don't use the washer/dryer at home and the answer is simple - have you ever used a European washer/dryer?! It takes about 3-4 hours to do one load, then another couple hours to dry it.

So anyway, Virginia and the X Man arrive back tomorrow. I'll be picking them up in Venice around 2pm. That means one thing - CLEANING TIME! Holy crap, the house is a disaster. I think every single room needs a thorough cleaning. I'll do the best I can, but if you know me, you know that I'm not good at cleaning stuff. I'm good at messing stuff up, just not at cleaning it up afterwards. So today will be quite an adventure. Virginia met a Filipina who lives in town before she left, I guess she cleans for a living. So I told her that maybe we'd hire her to come in and clean a couple times a week - Virginia is great at keeping a clean house, but it'd be nice to give her a break, especially with the X Man to take care of. He's a handful that kid (just like his dad!). I wish I had her number, I'd give her a call and have her come over today. Then I'd claim credit for it...hee hee...

What I'll probably do is just put a few CDs in the player and go to town as best I can. Music always makes the crappy chores easier to bear. Plus, I relish any opportunityto listen to the new U2 CD, which I'm actually starting to get sick of already since I play it so much. Here are my favorite lyrics from the new CD:

1. "I like the sound of my own voice/I didn't give anyone else a choice"

2. "I'm not broke but you can see the cracks/you can make me perfect again"

3. "I'll give you everything that you want/except the thing that you want"

4. "Lay down your arms/all you daughters of Zion, all you Abraham's sons"

5. "Let me take some of the punches/for you tonight"

6. "I wanna trip inside your head/spend the day there/to hear the things you haven't said"

7. "Don't look before you laugh/look ugly in a photograph"

8. "But you deny for others/what you demand for yourself"

9. "And I would never take the chance/of losing love to find romance"

OK, well, I guess I've procrastinated enough. It's time to go clean...



Friday, January 28, 2005

The Litchfield Drive In

Reprinted with permission from my website

Ah yes, the infamous Litchfield Drive-in. Known all over the country, the Litchfield Drive-in was an outdoor X-rated theater. It was literally a one-minute walk, diagonally across the street from our house. Now, you have to remember that VCRs were not heard of until the mid-eighties. Prior to that, if you wanted to see a movie, you had 2 options: the cinema or (in the summer) the outdoor drive-in. Growing up in the 'burbs, X-rated movies were unheard of, unless you wanted to go down to the Combat Zone in Boston or drive up to St Catherine Street in Montreal. The Litchfield Drive-in showed 2 feature films a night, 6 days a week, and let me tell you - they were hardcore. How do I know this? Well, let's just say that my brother Eric, my friends and I had several spots mapped out where we could see through, over, or even under the fence. This was sometimes difficult because there was always a cop on duty who was constantly on the lookout for deviant youths, such as we were. More than once we were chased so it behooved us to map out getaway routes through the swamp across the street or the sandpit behind the fence. I'm proud to report that none of us ever got caught.
Before we were old to enough to know exactly what was going on inside, it was a magical time. The line of cars was literally a mile long to get in. We would ride our bikes up and down the street yelling at all the cars waiting to get in "Aha, perverts, we know what you're gonna do!". Some of them ignored us, some of them got angry, and some of them laughed at us. It was alot of fun for us. The owner was a crazy old French-Canadian woman named Theresa Dufault. She provided us with hours of entertainment over the years. She had two sons named Armand and Roger who we were good friends with - they were also a good source of laughs. Sometimes we would help them with their chores - which was mostly cleaning the drive-in the next morning. We did this because it got us a free visit to the snack bar before the movies started, which was good for a Chunky Bar or maybe an ice cream. And of course, we would always find girlie magazines along the side of the road which we added to our collection. We had an admirable collection which we kept in various places, such as our tree forts, or hidden in the sandpit across the street. In fact, one time I was mad at my mother during a Sunday afternoon game of Monopoly and I called her a dildo - I didn't know what it was, but I saw the word in one the aforementioned magazines we had found. That was a priceless moment.
Sometime is the mid 80's (84? 85?), the Litchfield Drive-In burned down in a fire, which also claimed the life of Theresa Dufault. It was a terrible tragedy, and we were all shocked. Theresa's daughter Lisa rebuilt it and tried to turn it into a "legitimate" theater showing mainstream films. But alas, the age of the VCR had begun, and the Litchfield Drive-In soon closed it's doors for good. But those of us who grew up in the neighborhood will never forget.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Coffee, tea or me?

My taste for coffee has evolved quite a bit over the years. I never drank it growing up. Couldn't understand what the big deal was. Then in the summer of 1990, I left for basic training (Army) at Fort Dix, New Jersey. Having to get up at 3 o'clock in the morning was an immense shock. After a few days, I didn't know how I was going to keep doing it until one morning at breakfast I noticed some guys slugging down huge cups of joe. I figured, "why not?". I've been hooked ever since. My new found coffee habit came in handy during my college years when I needed to pull those late night cramming sessions before a test. Every year during finals, I think the coffee stocks jumped by my usage alone. And during the summers, I would drink 1 or 2 Dunkin Donuts coffees each day - always a giant regular, extra light.

Upon entering the work force after college, I did the usual stop-at-Dunkin-Donuts-on-the-way-to-work every day. Eventually, I started stopping at the coffee trailer guy instead. He was a guy that parked his trailer right in the middle of the commuting route and sold coffee - it didn't taste as good as DD, but it was alot cheaper.

One day in the late 90's, bored with the regular coffee, I discovered cappucino. My thought was that it was stronger, which wasn't necessarily true. Of course, this was a time before Starbucks had become the monstrosity they are now. In New England, Dunkin Donuts is king, and they didn't have anything besides a good old fashioned cup of coffee.

When I got to Germany, I ordered a cappucino and was surprised to find out that in Germany, they don't use the frothed milk - they use whipped cream! Not everwhere, but most places. During my first trip to Italy we went into a cafe to get some water and I noticed that everyone was drinking out of these little cups that looked like big thimbles. Seemed strange to me at the time.

Here in Italy, the coffee situation looks like this: a regular coffee is an espresso, but they don't call it an espresso, they call it a cafe (pronounced "ca-fay"). If you go into a bar, you ask for a cafe and you get an espresso. Cappucino is seen as more of a breakfast drink and is seldom drank after lunchtime, although there are exceptions. Then you have your cafe macchiato. This is an espresso with just a bit of frothed milk, such as they put in a cappucino. You also have a cafe latte, which is an espresso mixed with a whole lot of milk and served in a tall glass. Those are the main drinks; coffee as we know it in America is pretty much non-existent here.

My daily coffee routine breaks down like this: in the morning, I usually have a couple macchiatos. I can't drink cappucinos - there's too much milk, you can't even taste the coffee. Around late morning/early afteroon, I switch to the regular cafe. Throughout the course of a day, I'll usually have anywhere from 3 - 5 cafes. In Italy, a cafe normally costs around .85 Euro cents. In the cities, you'll pay more. In Venice, I've paid as much as E2.00. Same in Rome and Milan, but you can still get it cheaper. What feeds my habit is that we have a bar on base that is here for the Italian Caribinieri, but Americans can frequent it to. We affectionately refer to it as the "Car Bar" (Cah Bah for those of us from the Boston area). The best thing about it is that a cafe there costs only .30 Euro cents. Best bargain in Italy.

When I first met Virginia, everytime I would order a coffee, she would always jokingly say "Coffee, tea or me?!". I always thought this was a strange joke until one day we were staying at a little hotel up in Germany called Pensione Letti. Letti was an older Filipina lady, so her and Virginia got along swimmingly. The next morning at breakfast, Letti comes to take our table and says, "Coffee, tea or me?". Virginia started laughing and I just shook my head. Must be a Filipina thing...

Anyway, I'm going to get a coffee.



Wednesday, January 26, 2005

10 CDs That Are In My Car Right Now

  1. U2, "How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb"
  2. Gypsy Kings, "The Very Best of"
  3. John Denver, "The Best of"
  4. Green Day, "Nimrod"
  5. Bowling for Soup, "Drunk Enough to Dance"
  6. Frank Sinatra, "Sinatra Reprise, the Very Good Years"
  7. Jimmy Buffet, "Ballads"
  8. The Commodores, "The Best of"
  9. The Ramones, "Anthology"
  10. Johnny Cash, "Classic Cash, Hall of Fame Series"

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Welcome to Travel Tuesday

A friend of mine, John Jacks has been blogging for a while now. He has been giving me some good ideas for my blog over the past couple days and I've decided to use one of them. He uses themes for different days of the week, and I thought, perfect. With that in mind, I've decided that every Tuesday will be reserved strictly for Travel blogs. Since I live here, and since it's probably my favorite country, Italy seems like a logical place to start. And since Rome is one of my alltime favorite cities, we'll start there...

The first time I came to Italy was in October 1998. I was living in Germany at the time and came down on the train to visit my friend Randy Pouliot who was living in Naples. We met up in Rome, he arrived accompanied by the aforementioned John Jacks and his girlfriend at the time. Her name was Stacey, that's all I can remember. True to my nature, the first thing I noticed in Italy were the women. Unbelievably beautiful. We spent a couple days around Rome, Randy showing me the sights. Then drove to Naples for a couple more days, then I took the train back to Rome for a few more days before heading back to Germany. Funny story - while in Rome by myself, I stayed at a little pensione near the train station. I was heading out to the pubs and an Aussie asks if he can join me. So we're walking around through the crowded streets on the way to the Druids Den, and all of a sudden, I feel something strange. I look down just in time to see a hand - not mine! - rubbing against my crotch. I turn around and see a gorgeous 6 foot Amazon black lady turned around smiling at me as she's walking away. I know what you're thinking - "prostitute!" - but I don't think so. It was too early in the evening, and she was too fine and impeccably dressed for that. But whatever she was, it was a funny moment. When I told the Aussie guy what she did, he laughed uncontrollably. Then, after a few pints, we went back to find her. Kidding!
The next day, I went to check out the Vatican City. The Vatican is actually the smallest country in the world. Yes, it is actually it's own country. Even has it's own postal service. The day I went, the Pope himself was holding court. I waited around for a while to see him - I'm not Catholic, but he IS the Pope afterall - but got tired of waiting for him, so I figured I'd check out the Vatican Museum. Wow, what an impressive place, maybe my favorite tourist attraction in all the World. Gotta see it to understand. Staring up at the Sistine Chapel was one of the greatest moments of my life, almost felt as if I finally made it. Made it where you ask? I don't know, humor me, I'm trying to be dramatic here.
I've since been back to Rome a few times. On the last trip, I took Virginia there. She loved it too of course. Her favorite things to see were the ruins and the art.
Another cool thing that Randy showed me that I've always tried to share with people is the Picture Rock. If you go to the coliseum, you'll notice that it's so big that it's impossible to get a good picture with most of it in the background. However, there is a rock not too far away that looks like it was put there on purpose, as it is the perfect set up for a picture. It's hard to find, but I've so many requests for directions over the years that I actually created a rudimentary powerpoint map showing the location. (If you'd like to see it, go to the Rome page of my website, here's the link: The 4th picture down is taken on the PR; next to it, you'll see a link to click that will will give you the map. You'll need powerpoint to be able to view it however.) It's not unusual to see wedding pictures being taken on the rock as well. It's the perfect spot for it.
Another of my favorite places in Rome is the John Bull Pub. Virginia and I discovered it by accident. I saw the sign and said, oh, let's get a pint of Guinness! To my chagrin, they didn't serve Guinness. I was about to walk out in disgust, but the hand of destiny made me ask what they did have. Turned out, they had a beer called Allsop's Cream Ale. I decided to try it, and my God! It was heavenly! I took a sip and heard angels singing and the wind started blowing through my hair. It was good that I dragged Virginia back there the next day for a few more pints before we had to catch our train. To my pleasant surprise, there happened to be a Lazio match on as well. It was the perfect day.
Among my favorite things to do in Rome is to sit outside one of the cafes on the Piazza Navona, drink some wine (or beer) and just relax and watch the happenings around you. Piazza Navona is perfect for that too, plenty of artists and street performers.
Almost got ripped off by the damn gypsies too. I'd read that one of the main tricks they use is that the little kids run up and distract you with newspaper or cardboard while the older ones grab whatever is in your pockets. I remember reading that and laughing at how anyone could be so stupid as to fall for that. So one day as I'm leaving the hotel, I'm walking down a side street and there they are. A whole gaggle of them. I confidently walk towards them (they were blocking the street), thinking I know their tricks. There's NO WAY they're going to get anything out of my front pocket. How could I not feel it? Sure enough, the kids come at me flashing newspaper. I start to swat them away like gnats when suddenly I realizewhat's going on. I look down just in time to see the old gypsy woman's hand flying out of my pocket with a 50,000 lira bill. I smacked her hand and she dropped the bill. I picked it up and got thee hell outta there. I never even felt her hand, it was amazing. But that's Rome for you.

As always, here's the link to the Travel section of my website:

You can see pictures and read more about my trips to Rome and many other places there.


Monday, January 24, 2005

Of weekends, wine and the Superbowl...

Things have been pretty boring while Virginia's been in the States. I go to work, I come home, fall asleep watching TV, wake up, go to work, etc etc. The weekends are even worse (if I'm not working), so I like to try to go somewhere. Last weekend I went to Milan. Didn't really do anything special, just got a hotel room and went out to a few bars. I've always been somewhat of a social smoker - that is, I like to occasionally have a smoke when I'm out at a bar. Anyway, they passed that stupid law banning smoking indoors a few weeks ago, so now I can't even do that. Found a terrific Chinese restaurant in Milan, they even have some Thai food. What I wouldn't give for a Thai restaurant in Vicenza.

Then, a friend of mine in Venice emailed me and said she had an apartment free if I wanted to use it. I, of course, jumped at the chance. Didn't do a whole lot in Venice either, but that's what I love about Venice; I don't feel the need to run around looking at everything, I just enjoy being in the city. And it's better when I've got a place to stay, as I can spend the night in the pubs I love so much. Started out at the old standby - the Devil's Forest. From there, went to the Fiddler's Elbow before ending the night at the Inishark. Ended up having dinner at an Indian restaurant I've been wanting to try and it was fantastic. I love Indian food. I'd go on a curry only diet if I could. Gotta take Virginia there next time we're in Venice...

Had to get up at 1230 this morning to watch the Patriots game, so I'm really dragging ass today. But it was worth it, as they demolished the Steelers. Next up: Philadelphia Eagles in the Superbowl. If they win, it'll be three Superbowls in 4 years. I smell dynasty...

And then, to cap it all off, I get to work this morning and Will Nason has the wine I asked him to get next time he went out to Valpolicella. 5 bottles of Valpolicella Classico Superiore and 1 bottle of Recioto. Valpolicella is such a fantastic wine. And it arrived just in time, as I'm almost out of the rosso di Montalcino...

So Virginia and the X Man get back Sunday. Apparently, the X Man learned to walk while he was in the States, I can't wait to see that for myself. My little man is growing up so fast.

Hey, this blogging stuff is kind of fun.

Welcome...An introduction.

Well, well, well...welcome to my blog. I'm new to this stuff, so forgive the spartan appearance. A little background:

After graduating from Franklin Pierce College in 1993, I spent 5 years in the sales/advertising business, in varying capacities. I hated it. I just wasn't made for the regular 9-5 world, at least not in the same place I'd lived my whole life (Nashua, NH, north of Boston). I was restless. Unsatisfied. I yearned to explore faraway places beyond the usual yearly two week vacations. So it was in the spring of 1998 that I decided to quit everything and join the US Army. I was guaranteed an assignment in Germany (which is what I wanted), as well as money for my Master's degree. It was quite a leap of faith, but turned out to be the best decision I ever made. I quickly fell in love with Europe and got a transfer to Italy in the year 2000. I've been here ever since - I've since separated from the Army, but still work as a contractor.

Suffice to say, traveling around Europe was my main motivation for joining the Army. Had they not agreed to send me to Europe, I never would have re-enlisted. Because of that, every spare moment in Germany was spent traveling. Those were memorable times to be sure. I had no responsibilities, no strings, nobody to worry about but myself. Most weekends I would just go down to the train station, look at the map of Europe in my travel bible (I'm holding it in my profile picture), pick a place, and go. By the time I got to Italy, I had outgrown European travel a bit and therefore decided to expand my travel scope to include Asia. To that end, I ended up meeting and falling in love with a beautiful Filipina who had been living in Hong Kong and I'm happy to say that she's now my wife. We also have a 13 month old boy named Xavier - better known as the X Man. With my new responsibilities, traveling has slowed to a trickle. Also, as I'm no longer in the Army, I don't have as much leisure time in which to do it. So now that I'm a civilian again, I'm back to the yearly two week vacation and occasional weekend trips. Alas, it seems I've come full circle.

I have a website that originally started out as a place to post my travel photos, but ended up growing exponentially. If you'd like to see the "Travel" section of it, click on this link: There's also a list I call "The Best and Worst of Europe", where I list 'em as I see 'em. Check it out and please, feel free to chime in.

So why am I telling you all this? Hopefully it'll give you some background as you read my mundane posts and give you a better understanding of who I am and where I'm coming from. I was planning on keeping this blog mostly travel related, but why limit myself? I'll just write whatever is on my mind.

One note however: I'm busy, and there's absolutely no way I'm going tobe able to keep this thing updated as often as I'd like. Between this and my website, I just don't have the time. So just accept that fact now...