Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Hiatus, Part II

I'm afraid the blog is going t obe on hiatus again until I can get all my technical issues straightened out. Until then, keep your ear to the ground and keep rrrreaching for the stars...

Monday, September 26, 2005

I Hate Technology.

For some strange reason, I am not currently able to upload files to my website, so I can't post pictures of the weeeknd trips to Verona and Florence. As soon as I can get the problem straightened out, I'll post the link here...

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Venice Highlights

So the other night, we went to Venice to meet up with my friend Steve Lester from back home. He was in Europe to attend Oktoberfest with some friends from work and they made a 2 day detour south of the Alps to see Venice. The wife took her friend Christina, who is also visiting, to Venice in the morning via the train and I met everyone there after work. I hadn't seen Steve in a couple years, so it was really good to see him again.

Steve and I at the Piazza San Marco (click photo to see full size)

I showed everyone around Venice for a little while, then Virginia and Christina left to go do some shopping while I took the guys to the Devil's Forest Pub for a couple pints. After that, I brought them to my new favorite little wine bar to sample a few wines before dinner. For dinner, we followed the recommendation of a good friend named Theresa who lives in Venice and tried the Alle Madonna, near the Rialto Bridge. The food was really good, the waiters were friendly and full of personality, and best of all, the prices were actually cheap for Venice. Everybody was able to sample a variety of good Italian food, from meat and pasta to seafood and vegetables. I established an excellent rapport with the waiter with my broken Italian and must have done a good job because he actually gave us a few dishes on the house. We even splurged for a bottle of Brunello di Montalcino, which I had the waiter decant and let breathe for about 45 minutes. It was the smoothest and tastiest wine I've ever had. After dinner, Steve surprises me by saying the guys got a little gift as a thank you for showing them around - then pulls out a bottle of 1997 Brunello di Montalcino. My eyes actually got misty at the sight of such a prized wine. Here's a picture from dinner (click on photo to see full size):

From L-R: Mike, Patrick, Dan, Scott, Steve, Me

During dinner, Steve kept asking the wife if I could stay and hang out with them in Venice the rest of the night. Eventually the asking turned to begging and we decided that the wife and Christina would take the train home and I would be free to show the guys some of Venice's nightlife. We started at the Fiddler's Elbow where we ran into some girls that the guys had met that morning in the laundromat. There were two Canadians, Natalie and Michelle and two Swedish girls, Andrea and Lovissa. We just sat and chatted with them over pints of Kilkenny Cream Ale for a couple hours, at one point even breaking into some Canadian/Irish folk songs, then the pub was closing so we went to my old reliable - The Bacaro Jazz. They know me in there by now and everyone smiled when I walked through the door. It was awesome. They also informed me that Mary was in the hospital sick (hope you're feeling better Mary!), so we weren't able to visit with her but we did have some cold Hoegaarden straight off the tap and some late night snacks (I had the linguine with pesto). Finally they informed us that they were closing so we got up to leave, but they would not let me leave without giving us all a free round or two of shots. I was even surprised to hear one of the waiters calling me by my name - I felt like Norm on "Cheers".
Anyway, we walked back to the hotel through the totally empty Venice streets, enjoyed one last beer in the lobby (from a vending machine no less), then headed for bed. I hadn't planned on staying overnight so I had no other clothes or anything. Just got up, threw on the clothes I wore there, slapped some deodorant, and headed to work on a couple hours sleep.

Sometimes I wonder if I'm getting too old for this.


Wednesday, September 21, 2005


So we went to Venice last night to visit one of my best friends from home who was there visiting with 5 of his colleagues. One thing led to another and yada yada yada, I'm wearing the same clothes to work that I wore yesterday.

Details to follow...

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Weekend Highlights

As you know, the wife's friend Christina from Hong Kong is visiting us for a week or so. I have the resposibility of making sure she sees as much of Italy as possible during her stay, so Saturday we took her to Bassano del Grappa (click on photo to view full size):

And then to Marostica, which is a medieval town that still has the original walls surrounding it:

On Sunday, we had planned to do Venice but it rained all day so in a genius move, I decided to make the 3 hour drive up to Innsbruck, Austria. Christina absolutely loved it. In fact, I think she enjoyed the drive through the Alps as much as seeing the city.

The highlight of Innsbruck was finding a little schnapps shop that was offering free schnapps tasting. They must have had about 50 different kinds of schnapps:

All in all, a pretty good weekend. The wife is taking Christina to Venice today. I'll be joining them after work as one of my best friends from back home is also coming to Venice today with some friends. You know me, I never get tired of Venice...

Monday, September 19, 2005

I'm Bitter.

I was so excited going into this past weekend. It was to be a huge weekend for me sportswise. Notre Dame was playing their first game at home after a huge upset of Michigan last week that propelled them to a number 10 ranking in the nation. The Patriots were playing the Carolina Panthers, a team they should have beaten easily. The Red Sox, who are involved in a heated pennant race with the hated Yankees, were at home for three games against the A's. And of course, AC Milan was playing Sampdoria.

Well, I'm sure you can guess what happened.

Notre Dame lost in overtime to Michigan St. and are now down to 16th. The Patriots lost to Carolina 27-17. The Red Sox got creamed by the A's, 12-3. I drove to work this morning feeling very bitter. And so it should have been no surprise when I stopped for a cafe on the way to work, checked the Gazetto dello Sport and saw that Milan was upset by Sampdoria 2-1. My weekend failure was complete.

So anyway, I'm very bitter today. I'll post the weekend highlights tomorrow when my bitterness over this disastrous weekend subsides a bit.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Weekend Preview

A friend of ours named Christina is coming to visit us for the next week or so. She was the wife's former employer and good friend in Hong Kong and is in Europe visiting her sister in Amsterdam. She's always wanted to see Itay, so we invited her down and she arrives tonight in Verona. So this weekend will be spent showing her around a bit. Venice for sure, perhaps Verona or Bolgna. Or maybe even San Marino.

Pictures on Monday...


Thursday, September 15, 2005

Rik Through the Ages

Here's my senior picture from high school (1989):

And my yearbook quote:

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Rik Through the Ages

Here's me in my Little League uniform. I think I was in 5th grade:

Monday, September 12, 2005

Drama on the River!

Yesterday my Italian friend Fausto and I hit the Brenta River up in the mountains north of Bassano. Our chosen spot was below a little dam in a little hamlet called Collicello. We parked the cars, suited up, and got to it. I had some immediate success, nailing a gorgeous 13 inch brown trout on a little nymph. Eventually Fausto moved downstream; "Richard, you stay here, is good place...I go down" (Most Italians can't seem to say "Rik", so they call me Richard). A couple hours later I continued downstream as well. The river is very shallow in many spots so I crossed to the other side and worked my way down towards Fausto. I found a nice hole and worked it for about an hour or so before giving up. Fausto, seeing me, stopped and started walking towards me. He showed me the beautiful little hybrid he had caught and we compared notes for a few minutes before deciding to head back towards the dam as it was getting late and we'd had enough.

La diga - the dam - as it normally looks.

As soon as we started back, I noticed something didn't look right. The rocks that I had walked on by the edge of the river were now completely underwater and the tall grass on the river bank was halfway submerged as well. It took me a second to figure out what was happening - the dam was slowly being opened and the river was slowly rising. We looked for a place to cross, but in about 15 minutes, the river had risen at least a foot and all the places that were usually up to our knees were now up to our waists. And with a river moving that fast, there is absolutely no way you can cross in waist deep water. You would be swept away for sure. The full scope of the situation was suddenly clear to us; we were trapped on the far side of the river, separated from our cars and being slowly but surely pinned up against the wall of trees and brush behind us. What was worse, our cars were parked on the little dirt road near the base of the dam. If the river rose high enough, our cars would be submerged.


Fear set in. Panic struck. We frantically moved as fast as we could in the slowly rising water. We were moving so fast that we faced the added danger of injury, as the rocks kept rolling under our feet and we kept tripping over underwater weeds. I was moving as fast as I could, but Fausto kept yelling at me to wait for him. Fausto appears to be in good shape, but he's 50 and a chain smoker, a fact that escaped my frantic mind. At one point, he fell and banged his arm, nearly being swept away by the raging river. I helped him up and continued on, but within seconds, he was yelling at me again - "Richard! Richard! You wait me! Richard! Stop!". I turned to make sure he was ok and he said "Richard...my heart...you wait." Now, the only thing that could have made that situation worse would be for me to have to carry someone who was having a heart attack through the forest so I stopped. The river had pushed us into the trees and was at our knees now so we had no choice but to fight our way through the thick brush onto dry land. We literally had to crawl on our hands and knees and got plenty of scrapes and cuts. Eventually we hit a clearing which turned into a little path and we walked towards the dam, hoping that somewhere above it the river would be crossable. The water was steadily rising but hadn't gotten to the road yet. Suddenly we saw two others guys walking and by the grace of God, one of them was a friend of Fausto. He explained our situation and they told him they'd give us a ride to our cars, no problem. We both sucked down about two cigarettes to calm our shaky nerves.

The view from the base of the dam. By the time we got back to our cars, the river was at the edge of the road.

We were saved. By the time we got to the cars, the river was at the edge of the road, a mere ten feet or so from where we were parked. We had learned a harsh lesson but we had survived.

I don't think we'll be fishing Collicello again.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Meet Denise and Judi

As you may know, we have some very good friends who live in Venice. Denise and Maurizio are two of them. In a bizarre coincidence, Denise's mother Judi came to visit her for a couple of weeks. Why is that bizarre you ask? Well, she arrived the very same day my wife left and she left the very same day my wife returned. Not only that, but they had the exact same flight, going opposite directions (Venice-Philadelphia-Boston). So anyway, we were able to meet up with them in the airport the other day and visit for a bit before Judi had to get on her plane. Here are a couple pics..

Denise is the tall drink of water on the left, Judi is the young fox on the right and Virginia and the X Man are in the middle:

Judi, Denise and some other guy:

Judi and Denise are originally from the Boston area so we get on very well as you can imagine. Denise and Maurizio have a business called Venice Rentals that specializes in short and long term rentals in Venice (See their website HERE), and we usually get together with them for a cafe or a pint at the Devil's Forest Pub when we're in Venice.

Anyway, it was great meeting you Judi - make sure you let usknow next time you're in town so we can all do dinner!


Thursday, September 08, 2005

How I Spent My Last Night of Parole

The wife and kid got in this morning, picked 'em up at Venice and they're at home right now. The X Man never even made it into the apartment - Giampietro and Agnese met us in the driveway and carted him off.

So anyway, here's how I spent my last night as a free man:

Dinner upstairs with Giampietro and Agnese:

Followed by some damn fine Cabernet while we watched Italy destroy Bielorussia 4-1:

The neighbors are so thrilled to have the X Man back...


Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Weekend Wrapup

The weekend was very uneventful. Laundry Saturday morning, Soccer matches at Bar da Sylvia in the afternoon (England beat Wales, 1-0), Soccer match upstairs at Giampietro's Saturday night (Italy tied Scotland 1-1).

Sunday morning was spent up on the Brenta River in the mountains (caught 11 small brown trout), Sunday afternoon spent re-watching season 1 of "The Office" (British version), Sunday evening watching my beloved Notre Dame Fighting Irish destroy Pitt in Charlie Weis' first game as head coach.

Monday morning, went to Bassano dal Grappa in the morning, then spent the rest of the day up in the mountains on the Brenta again.

It was an uneventful weekend, I took no pictures, and I'm too tired to write much more than that. The wife and kid come home on Thursday so I still have the daunting task of cleaning the house ahead of me.

Anyone know a good maid?


Friday, September 02, 2005

Weekend Preview

I'm almost embarrassed to say it, but I've got a three day weekend and I have absolutely no plans. What's happening to me? The wife and kid are away until next week, I've got three days off from work, and I'm not going anywhere. In fact, I'm actually planning on doing laundry tomorrow morning. I'm not kidding. Either I'm getting old or I'm coming down with something.

Actually, I do have minor plans. Some friends and I were planning on going to a nearby vinyard to try some wine but those plans fell through (I think I need some new friends). So I'm planning on spending most of the weekend up on the Brenta River with my fly rod. And of course, tomorrow night is World Cup qualifying night for Europe, so I'll either be at Bar da Sylvia watching it, or upstairs with Giampietro. I'm leaning towards going upstairs and watching it with Giampietro because I recently acquired a bottle of 2002 Rosso di Montalcino and I'm planning on sharing it with him.

If I get too bored, I'm sure I'll end up in Venice again. Of course, with the wife and kid away, I'm liable to end up anywhere. So don't be surprised if you check in Tuesday and see pictures of me drinking vodka in the Ukraine...


Thursday, September 01, 2005

Italy Has Bad Beer

If you know me, you know how much I love good beer. Therefore it's hard to be in Italy sometimes because there is simply not a good Italian beer in existence. The most famous Italian beer is Peroni and it is disgusting. The other night I was picking up a pizza at Antonio's and out of the goodness of his heart, he gave me a free can of Peroni to take home with me. To turn it down would have been rude, so I took it home and threw it in the fridge. Last night I decided to drink it and sure enough, it was plain nasty. In fact, I'm adding it to the Beer Hall of Shame as soon as I finish this post. In case you need a visual of how bad Peroni is, here you go: