Saturday, December 31, 2005

Best and Worst of 2005, Part II

A few more highlights and memorable moments from 2005...

* Amsterdam. Amster-"damn!". Spent a weekend there back in May hanging out with some online friends and man, what a crazy weekend. One of the best weekends of 2005. (MAY 10)

* Florence. I love this city and got to know it a lot better in 2005. Can't wait to go back. (OCT 19)

* One of the most memorable moments of the year almost saw me and my Italian friend Fausto drown in a near-tragic fly-fishing incident. (SEPT 12)

* Holidays haven't meant much since being overseas away from friends and family, but this year Thanksgiving was special because the wife prepared a fantastic Thanksgiving dinner. (NOV 25)

* The X Man turned 2 in 2005 (DEC 14 & 15). In fact, watching him grow has been a constant highlight. Nothing really prepares you for being a dad and seeing how much your child changes in such a short amount of time. I swear, sometimes I catch myself just staring in awe at him and how fast he is growing and learning and becoming a real little man. I can't wait to see what happens in 2006. The X Man had a highlight of his own in 2005 as he got to spend almost two full months meeting his mother's family and friends in both Hong Kong and the Philippines.

All in all, 2005 was quite a year for me. It was a year of changes and adjustments, as it was my first year as a civilian since 1998. But experiencing Europe as a civilian is 100 times better than as a member of the military. More freedom, more money, etc. Wonderful.

Saw a lot of movies in 2005 but the only one that stands out was the last installment of the Star Wars franchise, which I had been anticipating since I first saw Star Wars as a first grader in 1977. The funniest movie I saw all year was by far "Team America: World Police". I'm not much of a reader but I read a few books in 2005. The one I enjoyed most, believe it or not, was Jose Canseco's "Juiced". I can't say that there was any new music in 2005 that really made a huge mark on me with the exception of U2's "How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb". But that was definitely my favorite CD of the year.

Sportswise, the highlight (other than the Pats' Superbowl win) was seeing Charlie Weis return the Notre Dame Fighting Irish to glory. The Celtics and Bruins have been a lowlight for about 15 years now and 2005 was no different. The Red Sox had a disappointing 2005 as well, culminating in their losing Johnny "Traitor" Damon to the New York Yank-me's. As I look forward to 2006, the sports highlight will undoubtedly be the World Cup, which takes place in Germany.

Being in Italy means that food and wine are always a highlight and 2005 was a perfect example of that for me. As I mentioned, I discovered the best food in all of Italy in Bologna. We also found a new favorite local restaurant (Al Mulino's) and I discovered a new favorite dish - the Scallopini al Curry from Ristorante da Fernando nearby our house. Best thing I've ever tasted in my life.

I made alot of new friends in 2005. Some the ones that come to mind are Mike and Grace, Bill and Cielo, Jori and Ton, Felix, Fausto and Zora, Jermane and Denise, and a few others. I also reconnected with a few old friends that I haven't seen or talked to in years but who I now consider among my closest friends (and you know who are...). I also said goodbye to some special people in 2005, the hardest being 1SG Michael Bordelon and SPC Tran, both of whom were killed in Iraq. Sadly, Mark and Jane went back to the States, which was a definite lowlight of 2005. They've only been gone a couple weeks and we miss them immensely.

So here's to 2005, another year in the books. And looking forward to a great 2006, which starts in about 6 hours....

Friday, December 30, 2005

Best and Worst of 2005, Part I

One of the things I've always loved about the week between Christmas and New Years is that all the year end lists come out. You know what I'm talking about - best songs of the year, most memorable moments of the year, top news stories of the year, etc. I devour just about every list I can find and usually end up buying a bunch of magazines with such lists.

And so I decided that I would make my own list this year for my friends and family back home and abroad. I've broken it up into two parts and if I wrote about it in the blog, I put the date of the blog entry next to it in parentheses in case anyone wants to read more about it (Just go to the "ARCHIVES" on the sidebar at left).

So without further ado, here are the highlights, lowlights, and memorable moments of Rik's 2005...

* Gotta start with the Patriots winning their third Superbowl in 4 years. Definite highlight, even though I had to get up at about midnight to watch the game and go to work as soon as it was over.

* Probably the best thing that happened to me in 2005 was getting my Italian fishing license and being able to fly-fish the Brenta River, which I did pretty much every weekend from July through September. (JULY 18)

* Venice Pub Crawl '05, Parts I & II! (APRIL 18, 19 & 25)

* I finally discovered Bologna, best food (and gelato) in all of Italy. (MAY 2)

* A couple of good friends came to visit and I was able to show them around Italy - my friend Steve from back home (SEP 22) and Virginia's friend Christina from Hong Kong (SEP 20)

* Back to back weekends in Rome - I got to see the new Star Wars movie, got some new Popeners, almost got ass-raped by the Italian police and discovered a plethora of new pubs. (MAY 23 & JUNE 1)

* Caught the biggest fish of my life - a 17 inch rainbow trout - on the Brenta River. (AUG 8)

* Best TV shows I watched on DVD in 2005: "Curb Your Enthusiasm", "Freaks and Geeks" and "The Office" (British version).

* I got my 15 minutes of fame - my hometown newspaper, the Nashua Telegraph actually wrote a story about me. (FEB 28)

* 4th of July weekend was a definite highlight. Spent it in Cinque Terra hiking and enjoying the sun, food, and vino. (JULY 5)

* The wife and I celebrated three years of marital bliss with a trip to Milan (OCT 28)

* I discovered a new little wine bar in Venice that has become my favorite but I'm not telling you where it is. If you want to know then you must come visit and I'll take you there.

* Without a doubt, the sports lowlight of 2005 was seeing Notre Dame come this close to upsetting USC only to lose on the last play of the game. It still hurts. (OCT 17)

* The X Man took his first steps in 2005. He also learned how to swear. (OCT 12)

* Who could forget the "Battle on the Train"?! (APR 25)

* I finally made it to Geneva, Switzerland, which I'd always wanted to see. Also did Lausanne. What a crazy weekend it was too...Flanagan's Pub, flaming shots, and another near ass-raping at the border! (MAY 17)


Thursday, December 29, 2005

Global Warming, my Ass.

I've often said that I would never move back to New England for one reason - I HATE the cold weather, especially snow. I don't ski, so snow has no redeeming qualities as far as I'm concerned. One of the things I like most about where we live is that we usually have mild winters and very little to no snow. On average, it snows maybe once or twice a year, we get an inch or two, and it's gone in a few days.

However, so far it's already snowed three times this year and it's only December. This morning I got outside to find it snowing pretty hard and we already had about 3 inches. And it snows so little here that the locals do not know how to drive in it. Either they drive crazy and out of control - it's common to see cars overturned in ditches or plowed into trees when it snows bad - or they drive entirely too slow. There never seems to be any middle ground. This morning I got behind some lady who was going 15 miles an hour the whole way. Sure, you're saying better safe than sorry, I know. But next time you get in your car, try going 15 miles an hour for a couple miles to get an idea of exactly how slow that is.

The worst part is, I work on top of a small mountain so you can just imagine how much difficulty I had getting to the office this morning. I was fearing for my life a few times thinking I was going to slide right off the side and roll down the hillside. I made it but just barely. Some people actually had to leave their cars below and walk up in the snowstorm. Sucks to be them.

Anyway, screw winter and screw snow.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Christmas Wrap up

Christmas was all about the X Man this year. His birthday a couple weeks ago was a good primer for him; by the time Christmas morning came, he knew full well what the strange-looking colorful packages under the tree were for. I decided to adopt my mother's tradition and let the X Man open one gift on Christmas Eve. He was thrilled to see a huge robot ("Oh...ROBOT! ROBOT!") that made sounds and actually walked - that is, until he actually saw it in action, which scared the heck out of him.

The next morning I was up at the crack of dawn as usual but had to wait a few hours for the wife and kid. Far cry from when Eric and I were kids and used to sleep next to the tree in our sleeping bags. But eventually I got tired of waiting and woke the X Man up. He made a beeline for the tree yelling "Toys! Toys!". With each new gift his excitement grew and eventually he was actually squealing with delight.

He got quite a haul; plenty of toys, a new soccer ball and orange cones (ok, that one was for me too...), and a new bank which kept hm busy for a long time. He's fascinated by putting money in his new bank.

The neighbors had invited us over for a special Christmas lunch so we headed upstairs. Eating upstairs is always a big affair and Christmas was no exception. Agnese made pasticcio (lasagna), pollo al forno (baked chicken), carciofi (artichokes), radicchio con panchetta (special radicchio from Treviso, best in Italy, with shaved pork),and polenta. And of course, Giampietro secured a special bottle of vino for the occasion - an aged Refola from Valpolicella. They also got the X Man another toy car ("AUTO!")

The meal was unbelievable but the X Man was so excited with all his new toys that he wouldn't eat a single bite. All he wanted to do was play.

So another Christmas is in the books. The encouraging thing is that although the X Man got a lot of toys, several of them were educational toys and those were the ones he liked the most. I also caught him kicking his new soccer ball around the living room last night. Very encouraging indeed...

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Christmas Through the Years

Since tomorrow is Christmas, I thought I'd take a minute to relive some of my more favorite memories from Christmases past...

I think most people's fondest holiday memories are from their childhood and I'm no exception. My fondest memories are from the Christmases we spent at my Memere & Pepere's house. My mom has a big family and grew up in a big house that was always fun for us when we were kids. But Christmas was the best.

Of course, being from a divorced family meant that we actually got TWO Christmases every year. When were younger, I think I always enjoyed the ones with mom's family, but those ended around 1985. I remember the year because it was a pretty memorable Christmas. Memere & Pepere had just moved into a new (much smaller) house and I guess it was decided that it would be the last one they hosted. So it was a big one. Their new house had a cool bar downstairs and my cousin Brent and I took it upon ourselves to play bartender for the night. We set up behind the bar with our mixed drink book and tip jar and had a ball. A couple things stick out about that night. The first is that I got to watch my first ever Patriots playoff game. In it, the Pats beat the Jets 26-14 en route to their first ever Superbowl (we won't go there). The other thing I remember about that night was my Aunt Joanne's new husband Bill. Bill was a Jehovah's Witness. Aunt Joanne had met him in the hospital where she worked, converted, and they got married. They didn't celebrate Christmas of course, but I guess they agreed to attend since it was the last Christmas everyone would be together and a good opportunity for everyone to meet Bill. As it turned out, Bill was our best customer that night. He was quite a drinker that Bill, at the bar every 15 minutes asking for another 7 and 7. And the funniest part was that I, being a typical 14 year old, was wearing an AC/DC t-shirt. On one of his many visits to the bar, he decided to take me to task for wearing such an evil piece of clothing.

"AC/DC huh? You know what AC/DC stands for? AFTER CHRIST, DEVIL COMES!"

I just laughed, explained that they actually got the name after seeing it on a vacuum cleaner, and poured him another 7 and 7.

Christmases with my dad's family were usually pretty entertaining as well. Right around '86 my dad had moved into a new condo and decided to host the family at his place. Christmases over his place each year were legendary for one reason - food. My dad is a tremendous cook, and we have a large French Canadian family, so there was plenty of food. In fact, each year most of my friends always found time to at least stop by to say Merry Christmas to my dad for the sole purpose of having a few plates of food. Steak tips, shrimp cocktail, manicotti, spare ribs, meat pie, the food was phenomenal. In fact, if Tracy or Eric read this, feel free to comment and remind me of the stuff I forgot...

Of course, the best and funniest Christmas ever was in 1984 at my Aunt Fran's house. It was the best because of the haul that I got that year - a stereo boom box, 3 albums that I wanted (Rush's "Moving Pictures" and "Signals" and Quiet Riot's "Metal Health"), a .22 caliber rifle, and a new fly rod. And the funniest because of my dad; he got drunk and became the life of the party, keeping everyone is stitches all night. He played Santa (the guy who hands out the presents) and one of the first gifts that he opened was a pair of ski goggles which he wore the rest of the night while handing out the gifts and cracking jokes. At one point, he came across a long rectangular box for my great aunt Alice. He grabbed it, held it against his crotch in a phallic manner and exclaimed "Hey Aunt Alice, I got a big one here for you!", which had everyone in the room laughing for about 10 minutes. To this day, my brother and sister and I laugh about it. And the funniest part was the next morning when my very hungover father called my Aunt and said "Fran, I think I accidentally took someone's ski goggles home..."

Friday, December 23, 2005

Why I Love Italy, Reason #317

You may think you've had bruschetta before but trust me, if you haven't had the real stuff in Italy, you haven't had Bruschetta. The one you see in the picture above is from our favorite little paninoteca in Bassano dal Grappa. It's covered with Asiago cheese and speck (speck doesn't exist in the US. It's sort of like a thinly sliced bacon). And in case you're wondering, yes, it tasted every bit as good as it looks.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

The Unforgivable Sin.

"There's no way I can go play for the Yankees, but I know they are going to come after me hard. It's definitely not the most important thing to go out there for the top dollar, which the Yankees are going to offer me. It's not what I need."
-Johnny Damon, May 2005.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Il Naso Rosso?

So last night Agnese brought the X Man back down and came in to say hello for a bit. I showed her the Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer DVD and asked her if she knew it. She seemed puzzled and said no.

Rudolfo, Il Renna di Naso Rosso?

So I did my best to explain the story in Italian to her and she said no, she'd never heard of it.I was flabbergasted. Flummoxed even. Do they not know the story of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer in Italy?

So now I'm curious (it's my nature). Do children in Italy have the same Christmas stories and characters as in the US? How about Frosty the Snowman - does he frolic through the village with a broomstick in his hand in the hearts and minds of children only in America, or do Italian children also say he could laugh and play, just the same as you and me?

I'm going to have to investigate this further. Until then, if there any Italians reading this, please feel free to weigh in...

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Yes Dear.

The wife often complains to me that I don't have any pictures of her on the blog so here you go honey...

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Pictures of the X Man's Birthday Party

We had a small party for the X Man last night complete with a soccer player cake. We had the neighbors and the landlady over for cake, prosecco, and presents. The X Man is quite the attention whore and was about as happy and playful as I've ever seen him. Giampietro and Monica are very familiar with his usual antics, but Marissa and Paolo have never spent any amount of time with him and were just floored by how smart, funny, and cute he is.

Yep, he takes after me alright...

Click here to see the birthday party pictures


Wednesday, December 14, 2005

The X Man is 2 Years Old

Hard to believe, but it was two years ago today that we welcomed Xavier Michelangelo Thibodeau - otherwise known as the X Man - into our lives. He has brought us plenty of joy and funny moments these past 2 years. I'm so enjoying watching him grow and seeing him explore his world and learn new things everyday. Seeing the world through the eyes of your child is one of the greatest gifts a parent can receive.

So Happy Birthday e tanti augurri X Man!



Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Oh Those Wonderful Christmas Specials

When I was a kid, one of the best things about the lead up to Christmas were the ubiquitous Christmas specials. Some of my favorites were "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer", "Rudolph's Shiny New Year" and "The Year Without a Santa Claus". The latter was great because of the two main antagonists:

Cold Miser and Heat Miser of course.

My favorite of all time however had to be "Santa Claus is Comin to Town":


Last night I watched it again after not seeing it for many years. I took the X Man and put him on the couch next to me and to my astonishment, he sat still and watched the entire thing with me. It was a special moment for me to have my little boy enjoying the same program that I grew up on.

Next up: "Emmit Otter's Jugband Christmas"...

Monday, December 12, 2005

I screwed up again...

You may have noticed that there are a few things missing from the sidebar. The other night I was trying to add a link to a friend site but I wasn't really paying attention to what I was doing and somehow, someway, I screwed up the blog template. I had to reinstall it from scratch, which means that all the extemporaneous stuff I added - links, tagboard, etc. - disappeared.

Once I get time I'll go back in and add everything back. Until then, sorry for the inconvenience.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Jake is the MAN!

So I asked the IT guy here, Jake, to look at my laptop. He went online and did some research on possible fixes, tried a few and lo and behold, I have a working computer again!!

All he did was pop out the RAM and pop it back in. We turned it on and it booted right up.

Jake is the man. I owe him dinner.


Well, one of my worst fears became reality last night - my laptop crashed. The wife was watching her online Filipino channel for an hour or so, then I asked her to turn it off so I could call my sister on Skype. When I called, I could hear the other end but they could not hear me so I figured I'd just reboot the computer. I hit restart, it turned off and never came back on. For some reason, when you hit the power button, the light comes on and you can hear it try to start up for about a second or two, then it shuts down.

I don't know if we got hit with some kind of virus or worm or something, but whatever it is, the computer will not power up. So we're screwed. I'm taking it the PX to try and get it repaired but based on my dealings with them I have little hope that I will be able to get this matter resolved in a timely, painless, and inexpensive manner.

So we're back to the dark ages of no internet. No sports scores, no news, no email, nothing. I forget what life was even like before we went online at home. Unfortunately I'm about to be reminded...

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Two More Days...

This coming Friday is a day I have been looking forward to for a looooong time. As everyone outside the US knows, Friday is the day they will conduct the draw for World Cup 2006, which takes place in Germany next summer. The World Cup is of course the biggest sporting event in the world (yes America, bigger than the Superbowl). Every four years my life basically comes to a halt for a month as the pinnacle of International Football dominates all.

BTW, a couple friends of mine and I have been trying desperately to acquire tickets but it's next to impossible. If anyone knows where we might do so, PLEASE let me know. Short of having sex with farm animals or handing over my first born son, there isn't much I wouldn't do for tickets...

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

I Love Limewire

I got Limewire a couple months ago after getting my ADSL hookup in the house and everyday I find a new reason to love it. Limewire is a downloading program and is a dream come true for me. So often I hear a song that I love but I refuse to go buy the CD just for one song. Plus, if I bought a CD of every song that popped into my head that I wanted, I'd be in the poor house very quickly. But with Limewire, I paid about 20 bucks for a year of unlimited downloads. I liked it so much that I upgraded to the Pro version (faster) for an additional twenty bucks. I have become a certified downloading fool.

So anyway, this past weekend we decided to put up our makeshift Christmas tree so I opened Limewire and began downloading a bunch of Christmas music. It was so great. For the past couple years I've lamented the fact that I cannot find a decent Christmas CD but now that's not a problem. I just searched for every song I wanted and once I found the right version I downloaded it. I mean I found everything - even songs that I loved but have been unable to find on any CD. The wife even went a little crazy downloading some Filipino Christmas songs.

God bless us everyone. And God bless Limewire.

Thursday, December 01, 2005