Friday, April 29, 2005

Have Bra, Will Travel

Should you ever find yourself in Venice enjoying a drink at the Bacaro Jazz, and if you're a female (or a crossdresser), you will find yourself presented with a unique opportunity. For the price of your bra, you may receive a FREE Bacaro Jazz t-shirt. Your bra will then be hung up on the ceiling next to all the other bras of ladies (or crossdressers) like yourselves who wanted a unique Venice souvenir:



Sadly, in the past two Venice Pub Crawls, we could not find a single girl (or crossdresser) who was willing to make the swap. We're thinking of making the bra-for-t-shirt swap a prerequisite for any ladies (or crossdressers) who want to join us on future Venice Pub Crawls. Ladies (and crossdressers): you have been warned. So bring an extra bra...


Rik

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Strip Twister Anyone?

Somebody recently sent this to me on email:



Sometimes there are just no words...


Rik

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Another Example of "Military Intelligence"

I recently came across this gem lying around in the building where I work. It's a binder that some organized soldier is using to keep track of what equipment has been turned in:




Now, in case you can't quite make out what it says on the front of his binder, here's a close-up:



Presumably, he meant to title his binder "EQUIPMENT TURN IN". And the fact that he took the time to do it on his computer and print it out to make his binder look more professional makes it that much funnier.

God bless our troops...


Rik

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

My First Crush

Yesterday, I was checking out the Classmates.com website and noticed that they’ve added my elementary school on there. I was perusing the names and a couple of them really brought back some memories, none more than Gail Leach, a girl 3 years older than me that I was in love with in 5th grade (Guess I’ve always liked older women). So that got me thinking about the first crush I’ve ever had…

Her name was Bethellen Hawkes and we were in second grade at Griffin Memorial School. My mother used to babysit a kid named Craig Aussant and one day we were on the playground and he said “Look at Beth, she’s so pretty”. I looked and suddenly the wind starting blowing ever so gently through her hair, and somewhere in the heavens a chorus of angels started singing. From that moment on and for about the next two or three years, Bethellen Hawkes was the object of my tender childhood affection. I was infatuated with her. I used to worship her from afar. I would sit in class and steal glances at her when she wasn’t looking. I never missed an opportunity to show off in front of her. I used to ride my bike by her house and try to act nonchalant. About the only thing I didn’t do was talk to her. In fact, I don’t think she ever even knew that I had a crush on her. When you’re that young and you have a crush on someone, usually all you do is tease them. I never did that though, I was way too scared.

Once, in 3rd grade, Beth caught me picking my nose in class and went “Oh, gross!” and walked away in disgust. I was absolutely devastated. There was no way she would ever talk to me after that I thought. But I didn’t give up.

Another time, during Valentine’s Day in 4th grade, Mrs. Clapp made everyone in the class give a little paper valentine to each classmate (Remember those?). So I did mine and when I was done, I had 3 leftover. So I promptly put them in the little envelopes, gave two to Bethellen and one to her best friend, Michelle Wharton. Even back then I was smart enough to try to get in good with the best friend. My gesture was never acknowledged however and I was heartbroken.

Eventually I forgot all about Bethellen and moved on. Last I knew, I think she had a baby in high school and ended up marrying the father. I have no idea where she is today, but in my mind, she’ll always be the cute, sweet little girl that I had my first crush on so many years ago.

Ah, the things you remember…


Rik

Monday, April 25, 2005

Battle on the Train!

Well, my plans to go to Piedmont on Saturday and stock up on Barolo were dashed by Wayne who had so much fun last week that he decided to plan another Venice Pub Crawl. This one turned out to be a success as well. To view the Pub Crawl pics, click on this link:

Venice Pub Crawl (Act II) Pics

The one disappointment was that we had to take the last train back to Vicenza, so we couldn’t stay as long as we’d have liked. On the bright side, we managed to cram quite a bit of revelry into the time that we did have. And as it turned out, the train ride home was almost as eventful as the pub crawl itself.

We had to literally run through the streets of Venice to catch our train and made it about 20 seconds before it pulled out of the station. The train was unbelievably crowded; it was standing room only and even the standing room was limited. So we eventually settled into a space between two of the cars. Somehow we got separated and Wayne, his girlfriend Nikki, a New Yorker named Chris, and I were on one side of the glass, everyone else on the other. At the Padova stop, a bunch of people got on and one of them, an African looking guy with a do-rag on his head under a ball cap ends up standing right next to us. We were all still a bit hammered, so Nikki and I start talking to him. He says he’s from Philly and for some reason, Wayne and I don’t believe him, because he’s got a very thick African/Caribbean accent ("Yes mon, I am from Phee-lee mon!"). So we’re engaged in a really animated conversation with this guy – his name was Maxwell – and all the Italians on the train are watching it chuckling. Eventually Maxwell admits that he’s really from Ghana (it’s in Africa), not Philly.

All of a sudden, out of nowhere, the guy breaks out into a rap. Something about my shoes or Wayne’s hair, I don’t remember. What he was rhyming about was not important. What WAS important was that we were obviously being challenged. And I just could not let it go unanswered. So no sooner did he finish than I launched into a rap of my own which I culled from my extensive musical library. I had to show this guy that he wasn’t dealing with any average white boy here. Everyone in the train seemed pretty shocked when I came right back at him like that, but I had no choice. Maxwell had thrown down the proverbial gauntlet. The challenge was on...it was go time.

Wayne, Maxwell, me and Nikki

So I finish and now it’s his turn again. He comes back at me with some weak rap about some random thing and I answered him once again. By now, everyone in the train is watching intently and really getting into it. They’d never witnessed the likes of me before. Maxwell takes his turn again and then I decide to get serious. I reached down, got in touch with my “inner gangsta” and threw some L’il Jon and Ludacris at him. He seemed flustered but came right back at me. I was starting to wonder if I was going to able to take this guy. But, fueled by a mixture of ale and adrenaline, I did. I decided to go old school on him and whipped out some Public Enemy. By now he was reeling. It was obvious who the real MC on the train was. He managed one more rhyme but by the time I hit him with Tupac, the battle was over. He gave me the congratulatory handshake and half hug, and we all laughed the rest of the way to Vicenza. I doubt the Italians have ever seen anything like that before.

We made our way back to Wayne and Nikki’s place for a couple more drinks before crashing. Venice Pub Crawl, Act II was a success. Can't wait to see what happens on the next one...


Rik

Thursday, April 21, 2005

The Truth About Gondolas

Since we’re on a Venice kick lately, let’s explore the Gondola phenomenon. Someone made a comment about the gondolas being expensive and as I was answering her comment, I realized I had much to say, so I decided to write an entry about it for those who may be going to Venice and considering riding a gondola.

Let me start off by saying that the gondola rides in Venice can be described in two words: RIP OFF. On my website I have a page entitled “The Best and Worst of Europe”, in which I give my choices for the best and/or worst that Europe has to offer in various categories. My pick for “Worst Tourist Attraction” is a gondola ride in Venice.

Gondolas - avoid them if you can help it

People ask me all the time about the gondolas. “Is it worth it?” they ask. Here’s my standard reply: “Have you ever ridden in a canoe? Would you pay 120 bucks to ride in a canoe for a half and hour?” If the answer is no, then don’t ride a gondola. The current rate for a gondola ride is a whopping 80 Euros. Unfortunately, many people get scammed into paying as much as 100 Euros or more for a ride. I just can’t fathom paying that much.

I rode a gondola on my first foray into Venice back in September of 2000. At the time, it cost us 120,000 lire, which was about 60 bucks. There were 4 of us so we split the cost and each paid 15 bucks. The guy said the ride would last an hour. We hopped in and rode down a small canal, into the Grand Canal, then back. The entire ride took 40 minutes. I got out of the gondola thinking “I paid 15 bucks for that?!” So can you imagine how much more disgusted I’d have been if I’d paid over 100 bucks? The gondoliers are the richest guys in all of Venice. Many of them make up to 300,000 Euros or more and don’t even work the whole year.

Of course, I realize it’s Venice and if you go, you just HAVE to ride a gondola, if only for the photo op. And so, I don’t fault anyone for doing it. And fortunately, many people do ride them, which has provided me with many good photo ops over the years of gondolas making their way through the canals. But if you can resist the temptation, don’t do it. Venice is extremely expensive and that 80-100 Euros could be much better spent.

A Vaperetto - Venice's best and cheapest form of public transportation

If you just want the experience of riding the water in Venice, buy a ticket to the vaporetto, which is like a water bus. 5 euros will get you a ticket that’ll take you all the way down the Grand Canal. Or ride a traghetto, which is a public gondola that crosses the Grand Canal in a handful of places. That way you can have the experience of riding in a gondola, although it’s a shorter ride and there’ll be other people in the gondola with you. The price? 40 cents.

Rik

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Venice Pictures Posted!

At Kitty's behest, I've decided to post the pics from my "post-pub crawl morning after" foray around Venice. To view them, go here:

Post Pub Crawl Venice Photos


Rik

Venice Pub Crawl Recap (Part II)

Upon leaving the Bacaro Jazz, we made our way to the Fiddler’s Elbow. We were starting to get a bit hungry which worked out perfectly, because there is a kebap shop right next door to the Fiddler’s Elbow. Wayne’s eyes glazed over when he saw it and made a beeline with me close behind. The right drunk food is paramount to any pub crawl, and the kebaps were about the best thing we’d ever eaten at that moment. Ian was conspicuous by his absence, so I thought he was dissing us. I called him and he showed up a half hour later with his lovely wife Allison. Allison was very quiet, but a “fantastic bird”, as the Brits would say. We spent the next hour or so listening to Ian’s stories, making jokes, and downing pints – me of Guinness, Wayne and Ian of cider, the American guys of Kilkenny Cream Ale (at my urging). Soon it was time for Wayne and the Americans to depart.

Ian and his lovely wife Allison


Allison, Ian, me and Wayne at the Fiddler's Elbow

So I walked with Wayne and the 3 American guys to the train station (Kevin, Bo, and MIKE, that’s the other guy’s name!) and headed back towards the Fiddler’s Elbow. Along the way, the Guinness, combined with the Cabernet, was starting to hit me pretty hard and I’m ashamed to admit that I actually started to consider cutting Venice Pub Crawl short. I figured most of the guys had left, so what’s the point? Luckily for me, it was Ian to the rescue. As I’m walking back, debating what to do (geez, it was only like 11pm! Shame on me!), I get a text message from Ian saying something about “Let’s go mate, we need you here”. Suddenly I was jolted back to reality, given new vim and vigor by the fresh Venice air and pungent canal water aroma. I got back to the Fiddler’s Elbow and lo and behold, Ian and Allison had met three British girls from Ian’s hometown (Ian was rapidly approaching “pub crawl legend” status). A couple of them were sort of reserved, but there was one who was just a laugh a minute. She kept doing the thing to me where you make a pistol out of your hands and pretend to shoot someone. We ended up spending another hour or two there just telling more stories, jokes, and laughing uncontrollably. Eventually the Fiddler’s Elbow must have been about to close because we left and Ian says “Oy, let’s go to the Jazz bar!”. So back to Bacaro Jazz we went. Mary was thrilled to see me (twice in one night!) as you can imagine. Things started out sort of laid back, but eventually an entire gaggle of beautiful women came in and sat at the tables right next to us. Must have been about 20 of them. They seemed to be on some kind of mission as well as they were playing games, talking and joking around loudly, and singing. I mean these girls would sing constantly. We’d be sitting there and all of a sudden, one of them would just start belting out an ABBA song and away they’d go. After a few times, Ian and I started joining in. Then it was Rod Stewart – “You’re in my heeeeeart, you’re in my soul” – with us singing right along with ‘em.

At some point, an Irish girl named Eefa (not sure how to spell it, but it’s pronounced ee-fa) and her British boyfriend came over and joined us. Eefa was pretty tanked too and was very friendly, and a lot of fun. I can’t remember her boyfriend’s name, but he was a little quieter. Eventually Eefa starts buying Sambuca shots for the table. I normally don’t mix liquor with my beer, but I’d already had beer and wine so I figured what the hell, let’s go for the Trifecta! Eefa’s boyfriend was a smoker and kept dragging me outside with him to smoke (can’t smoke indoors in Italy anymore) where we met some other crazy characters. Venice Pub Crawl was now officially an unqualified success.

Bacaro Jazz - Eefa and her boyfriend are in front

Back inside, the songs were coming full force. At one point, Ian grabbed my shoulder and starts singing U2’s Van Diemen’s Land; “Hold me nooooooow…Oh hold me noooow…” which we ended up doing a few times as I recall. The night went on like this for a while longer and eventually the Bacaro Jazz, the last vestige of Venice Pub Crawl, had to close. We all said our goodbyes and crawled out into the Venice night. I finally made it to bed around 3:30 and immediately passed out.

Sunday morning was a little rough. I woke at 10 and had to check out by 11. I cleaned up as quickly as my hangover would allow and planned to just go home and sleep it off. However, upon stepping outside, I was met with an absolutely gorgeous day. The sun was shining brightly and I felt recharged. So much so that I dropped my bag off at the car and spent the next few hours walking around Venice taking pictures and enjoying the beautiful day, my hangover mysteriously absent.

I want to thank everyone who helped make the April ’05 Venice Pub Crawl a smashing success. Probably the best ever. Many thanks go out to Wayne, Ian, Allison, Kevin, Mike, Bo (yes, even you Bo), June, Jill, April, Eefa, her boyfriend, Mary, the weird bartender at the Devil’s Forest, and the chorus girls from the Bacaro Jazz. You all contributed to a great night. Can’t wait for the next Venice Pub Crawl...

Next up: Amsterdam Pub Crawl!

And Ian, if you’re reading this: Dude, you got much game. You were the shining start of Venice Pub Crawl. Tell Allison I said “cheerio”, and I’m looking forward to hoisting a few pints with you again in the future…

Rik

Monday, April 18, 2005

Venice Pub Crawl Recap (Part I)

Well, the Venice Pub Crawl was a rousing success. Beers were imbibed, new friends were made, songs were sung, and it was just a great night all around. Here’s a brief recap:


The First Pint

Things got off to a rough start as it was pouring rain Saturday. Two of my British friends here, Wayne and Nicki had planned to accompany me but Nicki got an early start the night before and was hung over so stayed home. Wayne and I arrived in Venice around three and the rain was slowing to a drizzle. We headed straight for the Fiddler’s Elbow to catch the Tottenham-Liverpool match as Wayne is from London and is a huge Tottenham supporter. To our chagrin, the Fiddler’s Elbow was not open yet. As it turned out, this turned out to be the pivotal moment of as were decided to go to the Devil’s Forest instead, where unbeknownst to us, we would meet the central figure behind the success of Venice Pub Crawl. As the match was about to begin, a British looking guy sat on the stool next to us with a pint to watch the match. A few minutes later he overheard us talking about football (soccer) and chimed in with a comment. Next thing we knew, we were all chatting like old friends. His name was Ian. He’s from near Birmingham, he’s a fun dude, and he tells some great stories.

Me, Ian and Wayne at the Devil's Forest

Eventually we also met 3 American soldiers who were here from the US for 2 weeks and decided to see Venice. We asked them if they wanted to join us for the night, they said sure, and suddenly our pub crawl group was picking up steam. After several pints, jokes, stories, and other such nonsense, we decided to make our way to our second stop; The Inishark.


Me, Wayne and the American Guys at the Inishark

The Inishark was almost empty so had most of it to ourselves. I opted for the Guinness of course, Wayne got a pint of cider – Wayne LOVES his cider – and then I decided to have the American guys, who were so lost they were actually drinking Italian beer at the Devil’s Forest, try a decent beer. I ordered them a round of Hoegaarden which they enjoyed. Ian had to go find the wife so he didn’t come to the Inishark with us. Just as well, it was pretty uneventful. We stayed only long enough for a couple pints and then departed for the Fiddler’s Elbow before Wayne and the American guys had to catch the last train back to Vicenza.

Along the way to the Fiddler’s Elbow, we made the obligatory stop at Bacaro Jazz to say hello to Mary. Mary is an American from the Niagra Falls area who we met a couple years ago. We always pop in to say hello and she always remembers me, although I think she just knows me as “the drunk American guy”. I had Mary pour everyone a nice glass of Cabernet Sauvignon so the Kevin, Bo and the other guy (what the hell was his name?!) could get a taste for Italy.

Cabernet Sauvignon at Bacaro Jazz


Me and Mary, Bacaro Jazz

After a bit, we left and hit the Fiddler’s Elbow where we would meet up with Ian and his wife and the night would really take off...

Click here for Part II of the Venice Pub Crawl Recap!


Rik

Friday, April 15, 2005

Pub Crawl in Venice This Weekend!

So I'm planning on going to Venice tomorrow for a good old fashioned pub crawl. I've done pub crawls in cities all over the world, but Venice is by far my favorite. In most places, the pub crawl is about, well, the pubs. But not Venice. No, in Venice, it's about so much more. Venice at night is whole different city. Gone are the crowds of obnoxious tourists and hundreds of souvenir stands selling kitschy garbage. It's peaceful, quiet, tranquil even - Venice as the average tourist never sees it. If you've been to Venice but never walked around there at night, you really missed something special. My favorite time of the day in Venice is the night, into the early morning.

Venice is not a "party" city per se. Nobody ever says "Hey, we're going to Venice to party and go crazy!"...well, I do sometimes, but that's a different story...


Steve Lester and I at the Devil's Forest Pub

While lacking in overall nightlife, Venice does have three excellent Irish Pubs. The first is the Devil's Forest Pub. Located just off the main tourist route, this one is fun, but a little small. There are times when we can't even get in to get a pint because there's just no room. At one time, this was my favorite because in addition to Guinness, they have Kilkenny Cream Ale on tap. I'm not a big Kilkenny fan, but their Cream Ale is excellent.

The second option is probably my favorite - The Fiddler's Elbow. They have Guinness and Kilkenny Cream Ale as well but it's closer to the train station, right on the tourist route. I like it because it's a lot bigger than the Devil's Forest and they have an additional feature that the DF does not - outdoor seating. They also have a huge flat screen TV and severa lsmaller ones, so it's a great place to go watch football (soccer) and rugby.

The other pub in Venice is called the Inishark (great name!). It's a little further off the beaten path, but it has a certain old world charm about it. This is usually where we end up at the end of the night for one or two last pints.


Steve and I outside the Inishark

One of my favorite things in the world is to start out in one pub, meet some wayward travelers, and end up pub hopping with them the rest of the night. And if it's their first time in Venice, I make sure to hit a few sights betwen pubs so they can see Venice as they probably never would.

I'll be sure to post the details on Monday. So let the "Venice Pub Crawl April '05" begin...


Rik

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Tales From the Gym

I enjoy going to gym and getting my 'swoll' on a few times a week. I’m lucky to be on a military base because we have a pretty good gym and it’s free to use. The only drawback is that I’m forced to share it with Army guys. Personally, when I go to the gym, I like to just keep my head down, do my workout and get out of there. Unfortunately, there are just too many characters in the gym. I just can’t help watch them sometimes. Here are some of the observations I’ve made over the years…

First, you have the guys that are there because they’re small and want to get bigger. The problem is, they get there and realize that they’re going to have to put in a lot of time and hard work. When they realize that they can’t just show up, lift a few weights and go home looking like Ah-nold, they give up.

Then you have the show-offs. They’ve got all the newest gym gear and they love to look at themselves in the mirror. Doesn’t matter if they’re big or not. They walk around like they own the place. These guys make me cringe because they always put on more weight than they can lift correctly and then they flail about like a contortionist just to squeeze out 3 reps. Then it’s back to the mirror to see how much bigger they’ve gotten in the last 5 minutes.

Perhaps the most annoying ones are the grunters. We’ve all seen – and heard – them. With ever single rep, they let out an animalistic “RRRAAHH!”. We’ve got a couple of these at our gym. I want to just go drop a 45 lb plate on their heads.

Another thing that cracks me up are the guys who work out in wifebeaters. Now, I love wifebeaters. I own several and wear them pretty much everyday. But they’re undershirts. You don’t wear them to work out at the gym. Guys who do this are trying desperately to look like tough guys. We get a lot of these on base.

You have your socializers. These guys don’t come to work out, they come to lift a few weights and spend the rest of the time talking to their buddies. One of my pet peeves is people who talk to me while I’m working out. When I’m there, I just want to focus on what I’m doing and get out of there. So if you ever see me in the gym, just nod hello and keep walking. I promise I won’t be offended. If you try to talk to me in the middle of a workout, I will be forced to thrash you.

The weight hog. This prick loves to grab all of the weights and hoard them for the duration of his workout. When you ask if he’s done with, say, the 25’s, he replies with a snarky “No, I’m using those”. What he means is, he will be using them eventually and doesn’t want anyone else to touch them until he’s finished. These guys are few and far between but they’re out there and they’re pricks.

It’s easy to see why many people start going to the gym with best of intentions but end up giving up after one or two visits. Someday I want to start my own gym so I can make the rules and force people to follow them. Then there will be no more of the people I described above. If I see some in a wifebeater, I’ll tell them to go home and change. If I hear someone grunt more than 3 times, I’ll tell them there’s a 3 grunt limit. If I see people talking for more than 2 minutes at a time, they get a warning. If it happens again, they’re out. And for the love of all things holy, if I see ANYONE hogging the weights, they will forever be “persona non grata” at my gym.


Rik

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Why I Love Italy, Reasons #526 & #527






Rik

"A piper is down...We've got a piper down!"

Well, just as I was starting to get my game back to where it was years ago, I suffered a setback at soccer practice last night - a pulled quad muscle. It's a bit painful and I'm limping a bit today. I must be getting old.

Is there a sports therapist in the house? Does anyone know how to treat a pulled quad muscle?


Rik

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Let Freedom Reign!

Well, Virginia and the X Man got off fine yesterday. Their flight left at 1850 hours (6:50pm for all you civilians) out of Milan Malpensa. After a transfer in London Heathrow, they should be landing in Hong Kong in about an hour or so.

I now have about 6 weeks of “freedom” facing me. Although I will obviously miss the wife and kid, this is no time to sit around the house moping. You have to look at this as an opportunity to do some things that you might not do when the family is here. With that in mind, here are some things I plan on doing in the next 6 weeks:

Visit at least 2 of the following: Paris, Edinburgh, London, Dublin, Rome, Amsterdam (Queen's Day baby!), Geneva, Belgium
Do a pub crawl in Venice.
Tour the Piedmont wine region and stock up on Barolo and Barbera D’Asti
Watch at least 5 more films on the AFI Top 100
Take at least 1 road trip
Have a pint of REAL British ale somewhere in the UK.
Climb Mt. Pasubio with Giampietro and Agnese (my upstairs neighbors)
Lose 5 pounds (shouldn’t be hard without Virginia’s cooking)
Water the plants every other day (Last time, the plants all died)
Hook up with Ara and Peter for some vino when they come to Italy

Hopefully I can look back 6 weeks from now and not be disappointed. But time will tell. If there’s anyone in Europe reading this who wants to join me in my quest to accomplish any of these, you're more than welcome (and I promise not to get drunk and start any fights with Italians on Vespas...), so bring it on if you think you can hang.

But I’m warning you – you’d better bring your ‘A’ game…


Rik

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Things the Wife and I Have Fought About

The most interesting fight Virginia and I ever had was in Rome a couple years ago. We went down for a long weekend and were out sampling the Rome nightlife which for us basically means all the Irish pubs. We finished our night at the John Bull Pub, which is an English style pub near the Vittorio Emmanuel II monument in Palazzo Venezia. By that time, I’d managed to put away my share of pints (as well as a few other people’s shares) of Guinness and Allsop’s Cream Stout, so we decided to go back to the hotel and call it a night, me feeling very saucy from the stout.

We were laughing and joking as we start walking back towards the Coloseum to catch the metro. Now, let me set the scene for you – the road that goes around the Palazzo Venezia is very wide, enough for several cars. During the day, it’s very crowded with traffic and very dangerous. But late at night, with no cars, it’s wiiiiiiide open. So we’re walking across it holding hands and this idiot on a Vespa approaches the Palazzo. There were no other cars and no other pedestrians in the street. Yet, for some reason, this guy decides that instead of switching to one of the other 5 unoccupied lanes, I should get out of his way. He even goes so far as to drive straight at us and stop suddenly right in front of us, giving us a dirty look. I’m watching him the whole way thinking, “What’s this idiot doing? Is he trying to hit us?” As I’m watching this all unfold, I suddenly start feeling very snarky. So I’m looking at the guy as we keep walking and saying something like “Yeah that’s right dude, you’d better stop. You got all this room, you don’t need to raise up on me. Go ahead and drive around me”. He drives off still looking back at us with a dirty look, which really gets to me so I start jawing at him, throwing all kinds of tough guy clich├ęs at him like “Yeah, you feeling froggy? Go ahead and jump!” and “Got sumpin’ for me? C’mon back here with your faggy little motor scooter, tough guy!”.

It was admittedly not my finest moment.

So while this display of machismo was happening, Virginia is grabbing my arm, trying to get me to shut up because she’s scared of me getting in a fight in Rome in the middle of the night. She’s yelling at me to just keep walking but it was too late; the gauntlet had been thrown down and this aggression could not stand. As it turned out, the guy stopped, then when he saw I wasn’t backing down, yelled a few Italian obscenities at me and drove away. I was a bit relieved that I didn’t have to fight, as the stout had compromised my equilibrium a bit – little did I know that the real fight was about to come. By now, Virginia is extremely upset with me for the gross display of male bravado that she was forced to witness. She decides to subject me to the silent treatment that women are so adept at. I still had enough left over testosterone coursing through my veins that I was not going to stand for the silent treatment. So I start arguing, backing up my case with gems like “What did you expect me to do, back down to a guy on a Vespa?!”. Apparently I went too far and the tears made their inevitable appearance. By the time we got back to the hotel, she was still crying but I wasn’t backing down because I didn’t think I did anything wrong. The boiling point came when she decided to storm out of the room. Now, back in Caldogno, this would have been acceptable. But our hotel was near the train station, which is one of the more seedy areas of Rome, so I would not allow it. I stopped her from going out the door and said, “OK, this has gone far enough, there’s no way you’re going out in this area at this time of night by yourself. She got into bed, we went to sleep and in the morning, we apologized to each other for being stupid and made up over cannoli.

To this day, we still laugh about the incident. And no matter what, I still don’t think I was wrong. Just don’t tell that to Virginia…


Rik

Thursday, April 07, 2005

X Man Update


The X Man is growing up so fast. I continue to be amazed at how quickly he picks up on things. He's about 15 months now and starting to ape everything I do. Here are some of the things he's picked up in the past month:

We're at the stage now where everytime I come home from work, he goes absolutely bat nuts. He screams and runs at me like a madman. Then all he wants to do is chase me around the house and play with me. This is such a great stage.

Every time he sees my cell phone on the table, he picks it up and puts it to his ear. And if we're sitting around and I say "Pronto!" (that's how Italians answer the phone), he'll go find the phone and put it to his ear.

Virginia is constantly teaching him new words and he's almost able to say a lot of them. He says 'dada' all the time, especially when I get home from work. He also knows how to say 'caca'. When he's thirsty he points to the water and says 'wa-wa'. Another of his words, 'na-na', has two meanings; he says it for 'banana' when he's hungry and 'ni-night' when it's bedtime. If we ask him if he wants to go bye-bye, he'll grab his shoes and say "soo...soo". Virginia has been teaching him the parts of the face such as eyes, nose, ears, etc. So last night, I walk in the door and he runs into my arms, puts his finger on my nose and yells "NO...NO...NO!". Just amazed me. His new favorite thing seems to be flowers (not a good sign I know...). Everytime he sees them he says 'fah-wah' and tries to smell them.

He loves to go outside for walks and riding in the car. When I take him downstairs, he walk up to the car and try to open the door. When we don't get in the car right away, he goes and grabs his stroller and drags it outside.

Another new thing is kisses. When we used to say "kiss", he would open his mouth wide and put it on you, which was kinda gross. But now he's figured out how to do a real kiss and he kisses everything in sight - me, Virginia, his toys, his stuffed animals, everything.

Perhaps the cutest thing he does is something he started almost two months ago. In Italy, a popular way to say hello or goodbye is to put your hand up in the air with your palm facing you and open and close your fist while saying "ciao"! He actually does it all the time, except his 'ciao' comes out as 'dow'. We'll be walking around somewhere and he'll just start doing it to every person that walks by. And let me tell you, the Italians just eat it up like candy. A lot of times, we just have to sit and wait for him because he'll be engaged in a 'conversation' with an Italian. They can't get enough of the X Man.

He's also learning other useful stuff, like how to listen to mama. He does almost everything Virginia tells him to. We'll be in separate rooms and I'll hear her tell him "go give it to papa". Next thing I know, here comes the X Man giving me something. And if something is too hot, she'll tell him "be careful..hot...hot" and he'll stay away from it. Or if it's food, he'll touch it carefully to see how hot it is. Sometimes she'll give him some trash and say 'go put it in the trash', and sure enough, he'll go throw it away.

I just can't believe how fast my little man is growing up. What astounds me is how you never see it coming. He'll do something out of the blue and I'll just be sitting there thinking, "When did he learn that?!". On the negative side, he still drools a lot. Anyone who has been out drinking with me knows that he gets this from me...

Rik

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Scouring the Net So You Don't Have To!

Came across this gem earlier and it turned out to be the best laugh I've had in a while. Check it out, it's coverage from the recent San Francisco Anarchist Bookfair, complete with guest speaker Ward Churchill:

Anarchist Bookfair of San Francisco



Rik

Random Picture of Me and The X Man


Venice, Summer 2004



Rik

10 Great Seinfeld Quotes

1. "No way my Gino did that...that's an Enzo!"

2. "When I was working, I spent baby!"

3. "Who's this chucker?"

4. "You better be careful on those rocks tomorrow, buddy. And you're not getting any sandwiches either!"

5. "The sea was angry that day my friends. Like an old man trying to send back soup in a deli."

6. "And the peat...aaah, the peat!"

7. "I'm Cosmo Kramer, the Assman!"

8. "May I have one of those, madam?"

9. "Well, I wouldn't hear of it. I said 'Nice try, Granny,' and I sent her to the back of the line."

10. "The Ukraine is weak. It's feeble. I think it's time to put the hurt on the Ukraine."


Rik

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Conundrum

Let me start by saying that the University of North Carolina Tar Heels won the NCAA basketball tournament last night. This is noteworthy because I picked them to win it all before the tournament so I'm publicly patting myself on the back.

I've decided to start playing soccer again. Lately they've been running announcements on AFN about needing people to sign up to play in the recreational league on base. I figured this is perfect, as it wouldn't be too serious and competitive. It's been many years since I've played competitively so I'm not sure I could jump right into playing like that. I need to get my legs first. Alas, with everybody deployed to Afghanistan, it looks like there won't be enough people for the recreational league. So my only option is to play on the community team which plays against other bases around Europe as well as some local Italian rec league teams - and let me tell you, those guys play hard and serious. This is probably way out of my skill range right now for the aforementioned reasons, but I've decided to do it anyway. And therein lies the titular conundrum. The community team practices every Tuesday and Thursday from 7-9pm but the games are all on Saturdays. With Virginia leaving for the next 2 months, I was planning on spending the weekends traveling which means that I can't play in the games. So I asked the coach if I could just practice with the team during the week and play on the Saturdays when I'm here. He agreed because the team needs people desperately, but the problem is that he's really pushing me to play every Saturday since they're so short handed (the deployment has depleted 75% of the squad). So I'm thinking that eventually he may give me an ultimatum of either play in the games or don't play at all. I really want to play. And I think that within a few weeks of regular training, my legendary and mythical skills will return and I just may be in shape enough to compete at a higher level. But at the same time, I'm really looking forward to some weekend trips over the next couple months. What to do, what to do...


Rik

Monday, April 04, 2005

Move along, nothing to see here...

There will be no blog entry today due to my attitude. I'm having one of those days where everything little thing is going wrong and seemingly every minute that passes brings some new devilry.

It started when, for some unknown reason, I woke up at 0200 this morning to watch the Red Sox get their asses kicked by the hated New York Yankees (and their $200 million payroll). It has gotten continually worse from there. Ever have one of those days where each succession of events makes you start to think that the Man above is toying with your emotions? That's my day so far.

So come back tomorrow when I'm in a better mood. Or don't. I don't care.

Rik