Wednesday, September 27, 2006


I've decided to take a break from the blog for a while. It's gotten to be somewhat of a chore lately and after receiving some criticisms from people about various things I realized that a break is long overdue.

I don't know when I'll start up again, maybe in a week or maybe in a couple months, but I'm sure I will eventually. As for now, i'm just spent.


Monday, September 11, 2006


My blogging friend Kitty has this posted on her blog and I laughed so hard I just had to share...


Wednesday, September 06, 2006

What I did on my Italian vacation

Click on photo to enlarge

I visited with my Italian fishing buddy Fausto and his wife Zora. They brought the X Man a huge toy truck. They know the way to the X Man's heart.

I ate pizza at Antonio's. And bresaoula with rucola and grana and olive oil. And Mio Dio was it buono. I had to waddle back to Giampi and Angese's house.

I went fly fishing on the Brenta River in Bassano dal Grappa with Fausto and his friend Andrea. I didn't catch anything but I didn't care, it felt so good to be on the river.

I enjoyed one unbelievable meal after another prepared by Agnese. This one was spaghetti with prawns and gamberi (shrimp) and was indescribably good.

Had dinner with our friend Kevin who is from Worcester, MA and moonlights as an Elvis impersonator. He's really good too, you ought to see him. His website is:

Watched in dismay with Giampi and Kevin as Italy, who had won the World Cup barely two months ago, were held to a 1-1 draw by lowly Lithuania in a Euro 2008 qualifier.

(We did a lot of other stuff too but blogger won't let me upload any more photos right now so I'll leave it here. Next time I'll post what Virginia and the X Man did on their Italian vacation and if we ever get the photos loaded into a photo album I'll post the link...)

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Italia! Italia! Italia!

One more day and I'll be on the Autostrada on my way back to Bella Italia for the Labor Day weekend. It promises to be a long drive but I'm really looking forward to it. For one thing the wife and kid have been in Italy for a week now which means fewer stops for bathroom breaks and no whining X Man to contend with. The only thing I have yet to decide is exactly which route to take. I'm pretty sure I'll go around Stuttgart and then down through the Fernpass as I usually do but I'm toying with the idea of going through Switzerland since I'll be driving alone. Both routes are phenomenally gorgeous so I can't go wrong either way. No matter how many times I make the drive through the Alps, they never cease to awe me with their natural beauty and inspiring landscapes.

Anyway, the first thing I will do is stop at the Autogrill once I get to Italy and eat a panini, something I miss dearly. Should I get the Capri or the Positano? Hell, I'll probably get both. And I foresee much pizza in my immediate future, not to mention vino. Pictures will be posted upon my return to Germany on Monday.

Friday, August 25, 2006

O Solo Mio...

Last night the wife and kid flew down to Italy to spend an extra week with Giampi and Agnese before I drive down there next weekend for Labor Day. So now I have a week alone with no wife and kid and the house to myself, which means I'll spend the next week living on vino and doner kebaps, sitting around the house in my underwear watching porn.


Thursday, August 24, 2006

The X Man makes pizza. And has spiked hair.

Last weekend we thought it would be fun to buy some ingredients and make pizza with
the X Man. He certainly enjoyed making the pizza, but he didn't want to eat any of it.

Oh yeah, he also has spiked hair.


Sunday, August 20, 2006

Pronto = Paradise

If you know me or have followed my blog then you can just imagine how much I miss Italy since moving to Germany a few months ago. I do like it here and there's a lot about Germany to love. But It's not Italy. I miss everything from the weather to the landscape to the places I used to spend my time to driving on the Autostrada to...well, just about everything. And if you know Italy well, you can magine how much I especially miss the food and vino. There ae a ton of Italian restaurants here and almost all of them are run by Italian emmigrants which is great because I can usually practice my Italian a little bit and get a small taste of Italy. I've managed to find a couple decent restaurants that have a couple decent Italian dishes but overall it's just not nearly as good and here's the worst part - I have not found a single restaurant or pizzeria up here that produces a pizza even remotely resembling the pizza in Italy. And considering that we usually ate pizza at least once or twice a week down there, that's a big void.


Recently Antonio, an Italian friend of mine (he's from Napoli) who runs the Italian bistro on the base told me about an Italian grocery store right in town and suggested I check it out. Last weekend we did It really is an Italian grocery store, complete with just about everything we could get at the supermercato (supermarket) back in Italy! Meats, cheeses, pasta, sauces, seafood, coffee, truffles, you name it, all directly from Italy and alot of them are the exact same products we used to buy in Italy at roughly the same prices.

And the vino! There's a whole separate section for the wine and they have a decent selection from every region in Italy, also at decent prices. In fact, there are a few lesser known wines that I used to like in Italy that I've regretted not stocking up on when we left and believe it or not, I've found them at this place.

The store is officially called "Pronto" but I just call it Paradise. Now if I could just find a decent pizzeria...

(Tried to post photos but Blogger wouldn't cooperate. I'll try again later.)

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Funny picture of the day

I'm sure there's a 7-11 joke in here somewhere...

In fact, if anyone can come up with a good caption, feel free to leave it in the comments!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

He is the X Man, Hear Him Roar.

I have no idea what the heck he's doing here but it was too funny not to share...

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

There are no mosquitoes in Germany.

Seriously, I have not been woken up once by a single mosquito buzzing in my ear since I've been in Germany. And I haven't been bitten once since I've been here. In fact the only mosquito I can remember even seeing here was in the elevator this morning and I killed him.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

The X Man has a bike

And he rides it everywhere. He calls it "my bee-chee-ketta", which is sort of Italian for bicycle (bicicletta). He won't let anyone help him either - if you try to help him he'll yell at you; "No, don't help me!".

Friday, July 21, 2006

Funny things the X Man says

* I'm a big fan of the show "24" and I often exclaim how awesome Jack Bauer is. A couple weeks ago the X Man came up to me and said " Jack Bauer-head!"

* Last night after dinner we stopped in to the local pub for a few pints. It was hot so the wife took the X Man outside in the cool air. As they exited the pub the X Man said "Mommy, let's sit here and watch people...". After they sat down he said "Mommy, I'm great. And you're great too."

* Sometimes when the X Man and I are playing on the couch things get a bit rough and he'll stand up with a serious look on his face, place his hands over his private parts and say "Daddy, don't hit my nuts..."

Friday, July 14, 2006

World Cup Perspective

Thanks to my beer buddy Diz for sending these to me and to my Dutch buddy Mike for hosting them for me...






It's all about your perspective...

Tuesday, July 11, 2006


As I watched Italy celebrating with the Jules Rimet Trophy, I started wondering what the other 31 teams in the tournament had to be thinking at that moment. I think it was probably something along these lines:

Costa Rica – “At least we scored two goals against Germany.”

Ecuador – “If only we didn’t roll over against Germany we would have won Group A and avoided England”

Poland – “If Klose and Podolski had never left, that would be us holding the third place trophy!”

England – “I can’t believe we lost on penalty kicks AGAIN - and to a team whose best player looks and acts like the lead singer of a boy band.”

Sweden – “Where the hell was Ibrahamovic?!”

Argentina – “Hey, at least Brazil didn’t win either!”

Brazil – “Hey, at least Argentina didn’t win either!”

Serbia & Montenegro – “We’ll do better now that we don’t have Montenegro bogging us down”

Australia – “@#$%^ Italians!”

United States – “Italy, Ghana and the Czech Republic, you’re the new ‘Axis of Evil’; we’ll be invading any day now…”

Switzerland – “Watch out for us in 2008”


South Korea – “It’s too bad we can’t we play every World Cup in Korea with Hiddink as our coach”

Spain – “Whew, for a minute there I thought we were going to have to play Brazil in the Quarterfinal…”

Togo – “At least now people have heard of us!”

Saudi Arabia – “I think it’s time to raise oil prices on Europe…”

Ivory Coast – “Damn, I knew we should have brought more witch doctors”

Mexico – “At least we’re still the best team in CONCACAF”

Czech Republic – “If Koller and Baros had been healthy, that might be us holding the Jules Rimet”

Japan – “We’re fast but we need to improve our technical abilities if we’re ever going to get better. And we could use some height too.”

Paraguay – “Chilavert should have been coaching us. And probably should have played in net too”

Trinidad and Tobago – “Damn, now we have to go back to our real jobs. At least we did our country proud.”

Ghana – “Why oh why did we have to draw Brazil in the second round?”

Angola – “Sure was nice to get out of Angola for a couple weeks”

Iran – “At least the Great Satan didn’t get further than us”

Portugal – “At least we were voted ‘Most Entertaining Team’, even if it was more for our theatrics than our football…”

Croatia – “If Prso had scored, it might have been us losing to the Italians in the second round instead of the Australians!”

Tunisia – “We should have beaten Saudi Arabia”

Netherlands – “If Van Nistelroy ever gets his head on straight, we might actually have quite a team”

Germany – “Two minutes…we couldn’t hold on for two more lousy minutes…”

France – “We didn’t win it all because the Italians said some very hurtful things to us in the final. At least we made it all the way through the match without surrendering”

OK, that last one was kind of mean...

Campioni del Mondo!

Got in late last night from an exhausting 2 day trip to Italy. As you might imagine I'm dead on my feet right now after being up all night celebrating with the Italians but it was totally worth every second. I'll try to get some pictures downloaded and posted when I get home tonight.



Thursday, July 06, 2006

Italia, I'm coming home!

On Saturday, I'll be getting on a cheap Ryan Air flight from Frankfurt, Germany to Bergamo, Italy. I shall then rent a car and head home to Caldogno where I will be witnessing a dream come true - watching Italy in the World Cup final with my Italian friends. On Monday I'll drive down to Bologna where I'll catch a flight back to Germany. Hopefully by the time I get on the plane in Bologna, Italy will be world champions. Otherwise it's going to be a long, depressing ride home.


Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Andiamo a Berlin!

Best match of the tournament last night. Italy goes into Dortmund where the Germans had never lost and wins the match literally 2 minutes before the final whistle. I went to the pub clad in my Italia jersey as I have for every match except this time I was surrounded by about 500 Germans all dressed in red, gold and black. It was a bit unnerving at times as I got plenty of dirty looks sent my way and feared for my life everytime I got up to go to the bathroom. But overall it was a great atmosphere, at times you couldn't even hear yourself think. However, when Grosso scored in 119th minute, the place got deathly quiet. I had to mute my celebration a bit but inside I was jumping up and down and screaming. After the match I got a celebratory call from Giampietro and Agnese to share in the excitement which made the moment even better. On the way home, as we got to the gate, a handful of drunk German hooligans spotted me and started cursing me and all things Italian in German. I just smiled and said "Ciao, Arrivederci!" as I went through my gate. It was fantastic.

So now it's on to Berlin for the final on Sunday against either France or Portugal. God I wish I was back in Italy...

Friday, June 30, 2006

Happy Birthday To Me!

I only want one thing for my birthday - a convincing victory by Italy tonight over the Ukraine.


Thursday, June 29, 2006

World Cup Update: Tensions are High!

We've got a two day breather until the Quarterfinals start so I thought I'd try to squeeze in an update. The World Cup has not disappointed me yet except for one particular aspect - Italy seems to have become the most despised team here due to some questionable calls that have gone in their favor, a sentiment which I feel is grossly undeserved. It started in the Italy-US match a couple weeks ago. It was an extremely physical and brutal match played by both teams. There were three red cards given in the match, 1 to Italy and 2 to the US. All were justified. For sure the first two were and yet American fans who seemingly know nothing about the sport have not stopped whining that they were screwed. I'm sad to say that American fans here have become a bit of a laughing stock to the many Brits and Germans I've been watching the matches with due to their incessant complaining about calls that were proven correct in replays. Anyway, the US came away with a miraculous draw that gave them a great chance to advance to the second round if they had just beaten Ghana in their last match, a match that they ended up losing 2-1.

Italy and Ghana advanced from the real "Group of Death" and Italy drew the surprising Australia team, playing in their first World Cup since 1974. The match was in Kaiserslautern which is only 45 minutes away so my friend Mike and I went there to hang out in the Fan Zone with all the crazy fans and experience the atmosphere. It was an amazingly good time with fans from both teams well represented and in a festive mood. The match was a tight one until the beginning of the second half, the Italian defender Materazzi was given an absurd red card for a tackle in which there was almost no contact at all. So Italy were down to 10 men and Australia were in great shape but Italy went into their customary defensive shell and played some of the best football I've seen them play. The Aussies controlled the ball but they didn't get a single shot on net. Despite playing defensive, Italy even had the better scoring chances. Just when it looked like the games was headed into overtime, Fabio Grosso dribbled the ball into the Aussie box, around Bresciano and Lucas Neill. Neill stupidly slid towards Grosso as he dribbled by him and Grosso stumbled over him. The ref instantly awarded Italy a penalty kick. Every Aussie in the world, as well as most non-Italians, cried BS and claimed that Grosso dove. Did he dive? It sure liked like it. However, the fact remains that Grosso had a clear path to the goal which was impeded by Neill lying on the ground after his tackle, which is called obstruction and when it happens inside the box, it is a penalty kick. So it doesn't matter if he dove or not. Francesco Totti calmly stepped up and buried the kick with no time left on the clock and the Italians escaped with their lives. I honestly feel bad for the Aussies. It was a devastating and terrible way to lose a game in which they played fantastic. But, as can be expected, the whining started right away. A few Aussies started trouble outside the stadium after the match but nothing too bad.

For us, the real trouble was back in Heidelberg, from an American fan no less. We got back home around 10, just in time to watch the second half of the Switzerland-Ukraine match at the pub. There were a few Americans at the table in front of us who apparently didn't like the fact that I was wearing an Italy jersey. One of them made a sarcastic remark under his breath as I walked by on my way to the bathroom. I noticed he was wearing a jersey from a team back home so when he got up I asked him where he was from. Sure enough, he was from the Boston suburb of Somerville (affectionately called "Slum-erville" by the locals). I told him I was from Nashua and said "How 'bout them Sox?". He responded "No, how about that US team." and walked away. Later, when they showed the Italy-Australia highlights, he further showed his maturity by pretend-diving over chairs in the pub. He then proceeded to get up and commiserate with some Aussies seated near our table, complaining in a very loud voiced directed at our table about how the Aussies got F'd by the refs just like they did and how Italy F'ing sucks, etc. We ignored him but when I was walking out I tried to be the bigger man and said "Go Sox" to which he replied "Yeah, keep paying off those refs". I chuckled and held up my fingers in the OK sign and he started taunting me as I was leaving, chastising me for not supporting my own country, blah, blah, blah. He was about my size and I probably could have taken him but I wasn't about to get into a fist fight over a damned soccer match. I was content to just let him make an ass out of himself.

Anyway, we went back the next night for the Brazil-Ghana and France-Spain match and sure enough the three idiots come in with their US national team jerseys on. They shot us dirty looks all night but didn't bother me as I was sitting with a few of my English hooligan friends. I kind of hope they're there tomorrow night when Italy play Ukraine (unless they lose of course...).

So, if you're one of the many Italy haters out there who are convinced that they're paying off the refs, please explain to me why Conrad's shirt pull that should have given Italy a penalty kick near the end of the US match wasn't called? And also explain why Materazzi was given that absurd red card that almost cost them the match against Australia? The point is, in both games that Italy supposedly got all the calls, there was at least one huge call against them that could have cost them the match yet the whiners never mention those. Italians haven't complained about either of them even though they justifiably could have.

As the Italians say, "Calcio e cosi"...Football is like this.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Death by World Cup

As you may know, the World Cup is going on right now. It's taking place in Germany. The biggest soccer tournament in the world, which only happens every 4 years, is going on right in my backyard. So you can imagine how crazed I am right now. There is no sporting event - in fact, no event period - that I look forward to more than the World Cup. It started on June 9th and finishes on July 9th. For some reason, my building doesn't have German cable so I am forced to watch every match at the pub. In the first round, there are 3 matches a day - 3pm, 6pm, and 9pm. Each match lasts about 2 hours. I've been going to work early so I can get out early so every day I get out, go home, kiss the wife and kid, then head to the pub to catch the end of the first match. I head home after the last match ends around 11, crawl into bed, then get up and do it all over again. Thankfully the first round will be over soon because I'm exhausted. This World Cup might end up killing me. Occasionally the wife and kid come down to the pub with me - ostensibly to watch the matches with me, but they usually end up playing with the X Man's cars while I watch. The wife doesn't care about football but this is pretty much the only way she'll me over the next month...

As far as who I'm supporting...sorry but it's not the US. If you follow this blog then it will come as no surprise to hear that I support Italy. They looked really good in their first match so I'm hopeful. It's going to be tough this Saturday when they play the US though, my loyalties are a really a bit divided.

The best matches to watch are when England play as their fans are far and away the best in the world. Many of them have been teaching me some of their chants and songs. Some of them - especially the anti-German ones - are hilarious. Perhaps I'll post some eventually. Here's me and the X Man with a couple Brits that we watched last night's match with - they made me wear their England hat, which looks a bit ridiculous...

I'm sure you're wondering if I was able to get any tickets. The answer is no and I'm more than a bit pissed off about it. The stupid Germans only released something like one-third of the tickets for public sale. The rest went to corporate sponsors and the like. So the average soccer fan really got screwed in this World Cup. Thanks Germany! I hope you lose badly for what you've done. I've searched for tickets online and such but the cheapest tickets to any decent match is well over 500 bucks and, well, yeah, no thanks. But watching it in the pub surrounded by a bunch of rowdy fans is the next best thing so I don't mind.

We're about a week into it and here are some thoughts on the tournament so far...

* Brazil can be beaten. They did not look sharp in their opening match against Croatia and are not a lock to win the tournament. I would love to see someone beat them as I'm getting really annoyed by al the Brazilian "fans" who are coming out of the woodwork.

* Whenever the World Cup is played in Europe, the European teams usually do well and this year looks no different - the strongest teams so far have been the Czech Republic, Spain, Italy and the Netherlands. Argentina also looked good in their opening match.

* The biggest surprise so far has been Ecuador. They've won their first two matches convincingly (over Poland and Costa Rica) and if they beat Germany in the next match, they will win their group, relegating the hosts to second place. That would be one the biggest upsets ever.

* So far the biggest disappointment would have to be France. They were one of the favorites coming in but looked horrible against Switzerland in a match that featured some of the worst finishing I've ever seen.

* It's been a bad tournament so far for teams that begin with the letter "U". Both the US and the Ukraine turned in performances that were nothing short of embarrassing. The US had the misfortune of receiving one the toughest draws of the tournament but the Ukraine is in a weak group and could still recover.

* Best goal of the tournament so far is probably Torsten Fring's 35 yard laser beam in the opening match for Germany. Truly one of the best ever.

It's been a pretty good tournament so far. It'll get even better if Italy win their group...FORZA AZZURRI!!!!!

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

I Have a Wine Cellar

So after an extremely stressful couple weeks, we are finally scheduled to move into our new place this Friday, June 2nd. After everything that has happened to us up to this point, I will not be surprised at all if something comes up that prevents that but for now I'm thinking positive. It'll probably be another few weeks before we get a phone line and internet installed so it'll be a while before I post pictures.

As I mentioned earlier, the place we are moving into is a dream come true. It's 200 square meters over two floors in a 400 year old converted house right in the heart of the Heidelberg Altstadt. The Altstadt (Old Town) is the historic part of Heidelberg, complete with a medieval castle overlooking it from high on a hill. We fell in love with it at first glance but we had to wait for the landlord to finally agree to rent to us (he didn't want to rent to Americans). It's on the third and fourth floor, but there is an elevator that opens right up to our front door. There's more storage room than we know what to do with. There's a balcony on the bottom (3rd) floor that comes off the living room and a huge terrace on the top (4th) floor, half of which is covered with glass. All the rooms are huge. The master bedroom actually has a walk in closet, very rare in Germany. Parking in the Altstadt is virtually non-existent but I have a reserved parking space in the underground garage adjacent to our building.

Now, the best part. After I had signed the contract, it occured to me that the listing mentioned a "keller" (cellar), which wasn't shown to us when we viewed the place. So when I dropped off the security deposit a few days ago I asked Frau Klinge (the landlord's daughter) about it. "Oh yes" she replied, "Come, I get the key and show it to you". I thought we were fortunate because a cellar to store junk in would be an added bonus for us. So we descended down the long stairway to a cool, dusty medieval looking cellar where Frau Klinge showed us our cellar. To my astonishment, it's a converted wine cellar! My eyes got ten sizes wide as Frau Klinge explained that the building was built 380 years ago and it was probably originally intended as a wine cellar. I had been worried about where to store my prized wine collection and was even considering investing in a cooler storage unit. So seeing that cellar was nothing short of a miracle.

"Fairy tales can come can happen to you..."

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

It's official - we got it!

We got the dream house that I mentioned in the last post.. 200 square meters over two floors right in the heart of the Altstadt (Old Town), which is not only the main historical district featuring a large Medieval castle overlooking it, but also is home to the oldest university in Germany. All of this means that we'll be right in the middle of the action. We're talking about 5000 bars, pubs, restaurants, shops, department stores, markets, sightseeing...all within a 15 minute walk of our apartment.

We're scheduled to move in June 1st. I'll try to get some pictures posted after we move in. Til then, we've got plenty of room should anyone ever want to visit...

Friday, May 12, 2006

We might have a place to live...

We looked at a place this morning that is 100% what we're looking for. It could not have been any better. Perfect location, perfect size, well within our budget. Perfect. It's almost too good to be true. In fact, it actually just might be too good to be true - the German gentleman who owns it is very hesitant to rent to an American. I'm guessing he probably had a bad experience with an American family in the past, who knows. When the German rental agent called Natascha (the German woman who works at the housing office on base), he initially told her that the landlord would not rent to Americans. However Natascha told him that I'm not in the army, I'm a civilian, that I would be a great tenant and that she's met my wife and that we're both extremely nice people and would not give them any problems, please give us a chance, yada, yada. They agreed to at least meet us and show it to us, which they did this morning. It turned out to be everything we were hoping for. The landlord's daughter actually showed us the place and she speaks a bit of English The landlord speaks no English and is apparently concerned that we will make no attempt to learn any German at all. I did my best to charm him and allay his fears by using what little German I know every chance I could. We had the immobilien agent explain that I lived in Italy for 6 years and learned Italian and that I lived in Germany for two years before that.

Anyway, they seemed to like us and said that we should each take a couple days to think about it. I told them we didn't need a couple days, we wanted the place for sure but they said to take a couple days anyway just to be sure. I'm kind of worried that they're stalling, hoping that a German family will come in and take it. But, I went to see Natascha after we left to do the application and when she called the immobilien rep, he informed her that it appeared positive for us.

We're supposed to get an answer by Monday or Tuesday so it will be a nerve wracking weekend. If we get the place I'll post some pictures and a description to make you all jealous. If we don't get it then maybe I'll just post a picture of me sobbing uncontrollably...

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Finding housing in Heidelberg sucks

One of the best things about working for the government overseas is that they pay for your housing and utilities. I came into the system at a pretty high level so I receive a pretty high housing rate which means there are very few places that I can't afford here. With that in mind we were excited about the opportunity to be able to pick and choose where we want to live. Our first choice is to find a nice 3 or 4 bedroom apartment right in the Altstadt (Old Town). The Altstadt of Heidelberg is magical. It's not that big and is the center of the tourist district as well as home to the university. That means it is packed full of a plethora of bars, restaurants, shops, historical sights, etc. And the best part is that there is a huge medieval Castle on a mountain overlooking the Altstadt (Click here to see some pictures of the Altstadt). Living right ion the middle of it all wouild be a dream come true. Plus, the wife doesn't drive, which is another reason to live there. And I can more than afford it with my housing allowance.

Enter Murphy's Law.

We have a housing office on base that acts as a rental agency for people stationed here. They have several listings in the area, they negotiate leases, etc. However, they seldom have any listings for downtown or the Altstadt. Apparently most of those places are represented by the German rental agencies, called "Immobilien". And the immobilien charge two months rent as a finder's fee, in addition to the rental requirement of two month's rent security deposit. That means that if you use an immobilien, you'll have to come up with 4 months rent before you even move in. And rents in the Altstadt are usually between $2000-2500 a month. That means anywhere from $8,000-10,000 up front. How the hell do Germans afford to move?!

Luckily, there is a consolation in the listings that the housing office does have. They're a little further out (commute...yuck), but with my housing allowance, I can afford a 4 bedroom palace in the suburbs with a yard, terrace, 2 car garage, etc.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Germans love pork (and David Hasselhof).

So we're driving up to Germany from Italy last weekend. We decided to stay overnight about halfway because the X Man doesn't do well at all on long car trips (or short trips for that matter). We made it to Fussen, which you may know as the home of the Neuschwanstein Castle. We managed to find the most gorgeous little pensione that had a balcony featuring a fantastic view of the Zugspitze, which is the highest mountain in all of Germany. I delighted in sitting on the balcony and sipping a Rosso di Montalcino that I had brought with us from Italy.

So anyway, we settled into the hotel and asked about dinner. The hostess informed us that they didn't do a dinner but that the little pensione right next door did so off we went. It had been a few years since I left Germany but I had a fond recollection of German sausages and schnitzel, etc. I scanned the menu and spied a grilled pork dish that looked promising. As a side dish, the menu described something along the lines of pork and bananas but that didn't seem quite right to me. Bananas? In Bavaria? I figured my limited German was deceiving me. But sure enough, the dish arrived...and the side dish to my grilled pork in curry sauce was bananas wrapped in bacon. Think about that for a minute. Bananas with bacon wrapped around them. As a side dish.

You gotta really love your pork to wrap your bananas in it.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

My last Italy post, Part 2

OK, so earlier today I finally got around to finishing and posting the last post that I had started in Italy. However, it seems that refuses to post it as a new post. Ergo (therefore) you will need to scroll down a bit to read it. It's headline is "My Last Italy Post". Please read it so my efforts weren't in vain...

Sunday, April 23, 2006

We're here

We arrived in Germany yesterday and are now in the hotel until we find a house. I have internet access in the hotel so I'll try to post the update when I have time, as well as answer the 17,578 emails I got while we were out of the loop. I start my new job tomorrow. I also have our new address so if anyone needs it please email me...

Sunday, April 16, 2006

I'm not ignoring you...

Our ADSL hookup at the house was turned off almost a week ago and our household goods are currently on their way to Deutschland. So if you've sent me an email in the past week or so and haven't received a response, that's why. We're currently staying at the hotel on base which surprisingly does not have internet access which means I'm reduced to the occasional trip to the library to wait a half hour for a public computer.

We're on schedule to depart Italy either Friday (21st) afternoon or Saturday (22nd) morning for Germany. Don't know how often I'll be able to check email up there either while I inprocess and search for a house, etc. So please be patient and remember that I'm not ignoring you. Well, at least not most of you, har har...


Monday, April 10, 2006

My last Italy Post

[EDITOR'S (OK Me...) NOTE: I wrote this entry a couple weeks ago while we were still getting things ready to go. Things got so crazy that I never had a chance to post it so I'm doing so now to get finality on the Italy section of my blog. Consider this my last post about my expoits in the land of Bella Italia before starting my new life in Deutschland.]

With everything going on lately I haven't had a chance to do the recap from our trip to Venice last weekend. Since we're leaving in a couple weeks, it might actually turn out to be our last trip to Venice. If so, I'm satisfied that we got our money's worth.

Our friends Mike and Grace from Rotterdam in the Netherlands came down for the weekend to experience a bit of Bella Italia. And if you know me, I love to play host to anyone wanting to experience Italy. We picked them up Friday afternoon and set out for Venice. By the time we checked into our hotel, it was dinner time so we headed to the Alla Madonna where we had a less than stellar meal. Typical Venice - Si spenda tanto e si mangia male (you spend a lot and you eat badly). We should have just done panini. But I digress...

Mike and Grace

Anyway, we were there to show Mike and Grace the city and visit the bars so after dinner we headed towards my old standby, the Devil's Forest Pub. Had some Guinness and chatted while the X Man played with a couple other kids who were there. From there we hit the Bacaro Jazz which, if you know me, is my favorite drinking establishment in Venice. They've got good wine, good beer, the place is usually crowded and lively, and the bartender Mary is one cool chick (she's from Niagra Falls, btw).

Bacaro Jazz, my favorite Venetian watering hole

We had some vino there, then headed for another one of my favorite pubs - the Fiddler's Elbow. One of the best things about the Fiddler's Elbow is the Kebab shop right next door. It's by far the best kebab I've ever had. I go there everytime we're in Venice and the guy there knows me by now.

The kebab dude

From there it was back to Bacaro Jazz which was quite packed by that point. Mike and I kept yelling "If it's not Scottish, it's CRAP!" (It's from a Saturday Night Live skit...) for some reason so imagine how funny it was when this dude walking by stopped and asked us if we were from Scotland, which of course, he happened to be. We ended drinking with him and a bunch of others all night:

The Scottish dude

The night ended badly however as we were not able to locate any drunk food due to the late hour. Good drunk food is paramount to any night out in Venice so it detracted from the experience but we persevered like the troopers that we are.

The next day was exremely full. We took Mike and Grace to some of the main sights - the Piazza San marco, the Bridge of Sighs, the Accademia, etc. Grace runs a little business where she makes and sells hand-made jewelry and beads, etc, so she was in heaven in the many glass and bead shops:

Grace among the beads

We packed in quite a bit for one day - so much so that by the time we made it to the car, all of us were practically limping. If we wer horses, you would have lined us up and shot us one by one.

So we left Venice, but Mike and Grace's real Italian experience was yet to come. I had lined up a dinner with our upstairs neighbors, Giampietro and Agnese, for that night. Agnese made some pasta with asparagus and we also had some bresaola with rucola and grana and some nice steaks that Virginia cooked up. I wanted to ensure that Mike and Grace got the absolute most out of their 2 days here so I broke out one of my prized Brunello di Montalcino's for dinner. God, it was exquisite. After dinner came the ever present cheeses, no less than 6 different types. It was a very special - and international - night. American, Italian, Filipino, and Dutch, all at the same table. And despite the language barrier, we were all like old friends. That's one of the things I love about Giampi and Agnese, and the main reason I wanted to do dinner with them upstairs rather than take Mike and Grace out to a really good local restaurant for dinner. I'm satisfied that I made the right choice. Here's a couple of pics from dinner:

We finished the night at home watching the movie "Euro Trip" which Mike go ta kick out of, being European and all. I was feeling the moment so I even delved back into my collection and opened a 1997 Barbaresco. It, too, was fanastic.

Overall, it was an outstanding weekend, one of the most enjoyable I've had in quite some time. As I mentioned, I always enjoy showing people my Bella Italia, but when they really enjoy it and I can see how much they appreciate the things they see and experience, it just makes it that much better. Here are some more pics from the weekend:

As you can tell by that last picture, Mike and Grace were pretty much spent by the time we dropped them off at the airport. I was extremely satisfied that they received a true Italian experience so the drive home was nice. I had met Mike and Grace about a year earlier on my Amsterdam trip (check the blog archives, last May) but I wasn't sure how well Virginia and Grace would hit it off. Turns out they got along great and we all had the best weekend. As for the X Man, he really took to both Mike and Grace - especially Grace. So, I'm wondering...Grace, what the hell did you do to my kid?! Har guys better visit again soon...

[ADDENDUM: We're in Germany and indeed the X Man seems to have developed an infatuation with Grace. For example, on the drive up here we told him that he had to wear his seatbelt and he responded "Anche Grace!", which is Italian for "Grace has to wear hers too!". He has also commented a few times "Call Grace" when I log onto the computer. Also, everytime we pull up their website and he sees it he yells "Mikie Grace!". And the "coup de grace" (no pun intended) was today as we were walking around the Altstadt (old town) in Heidelberg, he saw an Asian girl who looked sort of like Grace and he pointed and yelled "Grace! Grace!"

This is sort of a first as usually it's the other way around - the women always develop a crush on him. Grace, you are certainly special...]

Friday, April 07, 2006

Germany Timeline

OK, here's the deal:

Friday, April 14th - Household goods get picked up.

Tuesday, April 18 - Final inspection/move out of house.

Friday, April 21 - Last official day with Northrop Grumman IT.

Saturday, April 22 - Drive up to Germany.

Monday, April 24 - First day at work on the new job.

So that's that. I'll try to update the blog with more Italy stuff before we leave, including a recap of our friends Mike and Grace's visit here last weekend. Stay tuned...

Monday, April 03, 2006


It's official; we're going to Germany. Got the offer this morning and already accepted.


Friday, March 31, 2006

Yet another update

Just got an email from the guy in Germany and he informed me that the guy in Hawaii has decided to decline the position afterall. So assuming he gets his declination letter to the hiring office within the next day or two, I should be receiving a formal offer soon. I'm looking forward to getting final resolution to all this very soon so I can start sleeping again.

Monday, March 27, 2006

No Update Yet

Still haven't gotten any official word from Germany. If they take much longer I might have to go to Hawaii...

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

A miracle?

I received an email yesterday from the hiring guy in Germany telling me to expect a job offer in the next day or two. Apparently they worked an arrangement to bring both me AND the other guy on board. I'm still waiting for the official notification but but it looks like I may have received a miracle...

Saturday, March 18, 2006

St Patrick's Day in Venice

If you follow my blog or my website, you know that I'm very fond of pub hopping in Venice. So we decided to jump on train with a couple friends of ours, Danny and Adriana Arrowood, and hit Venice for St. Pattie's Day. We had to catch the last train home so the night ended way too soon but it was fun nonetheless. Here's a few pics:

Me and Danny getting into the spirit

Some guy from Chicago that we met

Heading back to the train station, feeling wee

"I want have another Guinness!"

Friday, March 17, 2006

Fate, thou art cruel.

I just got word that the guy they selected for the Germany position changed his mind at the last minute and decided to accept it.

We're going to Hawaii.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

I <3 Vino

Yeah so I'm making the most of my remaining few weeks in Italy by drinking as much vino as possible. I'm saving the really really good stuff (Brunello, Barolo, etc), but am still getting the most out of my viniculturo. I'm currently on a 2003 Sangiovese and it is very good. Once I get to my next job - whether Germany or Hawaii - I intend on cutting out the wine almost altogether so I'm getting as much as I can for the next 3 weeks...

In Vino Veritas!!!!!!


Still not sure on the Germany position. However, I spoke with the hiring supervisor up there yesterday and he informed me that he's about 90% certain that the guy they selected will turn it down. If he does I'm all up in it. I should have an answer by the end of the week hopefully. This is really getting tiring.

Friday, March 10, 2006

"As Thib's World Turns"

Well, here we go again. This is getting to be quite a soap opera. Just as I finally accept the fact that we're heading to Hawaii, there is another development that threatens to derail it. This one is actually kind of humorous:

Remember the GS11 position in Germany? Well, as it turns out, it went to someone else up there. Not the inside track guy, but someone else. As it turns out, I was selected as the 1st alternate which means is he turns it down, it's mine. I figured that there's no way the guy they picked would turn it down but I spoke to a guy in his office yesterday who informed me that he also was offered a GS12 position in...wait for it...Hawaii. So he might not accept the Germany position.

As you can imagine, I'm on pins and needles here waiting to see what he does. Hopefully he won't take a long time to decide as my start date in Hawaii is right around the corner.

Stay tuned...

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

The countdown is on

As it stands now, my start date in Hawaii is April 7. I have to admit that I'm still hoping for some kind of miracle but not counting on it. I have so many different wines to discover and so little time...

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

I've had it.

If you've been following my job situation, then you know that my job has been converted to a GS11 position. Being that I have actually been in the position for the past 6 years, I would normally have the inside track for it. However, the hiring official decided to hire someone else. I accepted another contract position in Hawaii but I continued to nominate myself for other GS positions both here and in Germany as we don't want to leave Europe. Most of the positions I put in for, I was a little underqualified for so I didn't expect much. However, there is a GS11 position similar to the one I do here that recently opened in Heidelberg, Germany.

I put in for it and was not surprised to find out a few days ago that I made the initial referral list. So yesterday I received a call from an acquaintance up in US Army Europe Headquarters. He called to tell me that the head guy up there was pulling strings to get one of his guys in the position. Now this happens all the time so I wasn't surprised. But he went on to tell me that he knows of at least 2 people (me and another guy) who submitted for it and who were much much more qualified for it. Apparently, the guy who is in line for it has only been at this job for a little less than a year and is only a GS9 (I'm a contractor, but I'm considered a GS12 Equivalent). He suggested that me and the other guy submit a grievance if this guy gets the position. I briefly considered it, but in the long run, it'd be a big mistake for one reason. The head guy who I would filing the grievance against is a full bird Colonel and is a very powerful man in this theater. He controls all the people who work for the Army in Europe in my particular career field. So if I ever want to come back and work in this theater again someday, filing a grievance against him would be a big mistake. I know what you're thinking - he's a Colonel so he won't be there forever, right? Well, it just so happens that he's been there more than 7 years now and will probably be there until he decides to retire someday. And then he'll get a cushy civilian job and stay there until he dies.

So in case anyone is missing the irony here, let me spell it out for you; I had the inside track for the position here but I lost out to someone who was supposedly more qualified. I am probably the most qualified guy for the job in Germany but will probably lose out to someone less qualified who has the inside track.

I've had it. The GS system sucks.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006


It's definite. We'll soon be trading "Ciao" for "Aloha" and calling Pearl Harbor, Hawaii home.

More details to come.

Job Update

I might have a final announcement on Hawaii later today.

Stay tuned...


Tuesday, February 28, 2006

"I la you dad-dy"

Last night the X Man said "I la you dad-dy", which is X Man-speak for "I love you daddy". It was the first time I've ever heard him say that and it made my eyes well up and my heart swell.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Venice Carnivale Photos

We were lucky to have a beautiful day yesterday at Carnivale in Venice. The costumes were even more magnificent than the weather and the wife went crazy with the camera while I drank my fill of Vin Brule. To see the photos, click the link below:

Venice Carnivale Photos

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Job Update

Unfortunately there isn't much movement in the job search yet. I've done the requisite resume flinging to see what will stick but very little has come back yet. So far the best lead continues to be Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. My company (Northrop Grumman) has an opening there and I've been trading emails with the site manager but nothing firm yet. I'm not as excited as I probably should be however because it's so expensive there that I kind of doubt they'll even offer me enough to make it worth it.

The most common question I've been getting lately is "Can't you find something else in Italy?". The short answer is almost certainly not. I happen to do a pretty specialized job which means there aren't many opening in general wolrdwide. And until this one was created, one didn't even exist here. There actually is an opening for a similar position down in Livorno and I'm putting in for it but it's a very long shot so I'm not getting my hopes up.

As far as my present position, here's what I've been told: they plan on keeping me here until the new guy arrives and gets settled. And since he's coming from the States, it could be as long as 3 or 4 months from now. The absolute latest date would be June 30, which is when the funding for the contract runs out. I hope to have a job by then but it's good that I have some time to see how things play out. That means I won't have to settle for the first offer that comes along if I consider it subpar.

Anyway, the neighbors are watching the X Man tomorrow and we're going to Carnivale in Venice. That should help take my mind off things, if only for a little while...

Monday, February 20, 2006

I will not go gently into that dark night...

I've been in quite a rut since finding out that I'm being forced out of the Garden of Eden otherwise known as Bella Italia. I've been moping around for over a week now and just can't seem to find joy or happiness in anything. Every minute of the day is spent reflecting on the past 6 years here and how great life has been. And then, inevitably, it always comes to a crashing halt by the realization that it's all going to end soon. Everywhere I go I find my self looking around and seeing all the familiar places that have meant so much to me.

My one consolation is that I've never for one second taken any of this for granted. From the second I stepped foot in this country I've never stopped admiring the beauty and history and culture and everything that Italy has to offer. And just because I'll soon be gone, there's no reason to stop now. I've always said that when it's time to leave, they'll have to drag me kicking and screaming from this place. I refuse to go quietly and meekly with my head hung low.

No, I will not go gently into that dark night. I'm going out in style. I'm going to enjoy as much of Italy as I possibly can until the day I get on that plane. If I feel like stuffing myself full of pasta, I'll do it. If the spirit moves me, I'll take a sick day from work and spend the day in Venice or go for a stroll downtown. If I feel like drinking vino, I'll drink as much damn vino as I want. Hell, I may even splurge for a Brunello di Montalcino or a Barolo. Might as well get my fill while I can. I'll take Old Triple 7 for a spin down the Autostrada at over 200 kph. I'll eat pizza for dinner every night if I want. I'll eat as many fritelle as I feel like. I'll watch as much soccer as I can find on TV because God knows I won't be able to do that in the States. If I'm still here when the season opens, I'll spend every weekend fly fishing the Brenta River. I'm going to suck the proverbial marrow right out of the Italian bone.

I'm going to miss this place but I'm not going down without a fight.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Caldogno is weeping.

Our little town of Caldogno is sharing in the grief of our impending exit from Italy. We've been making the usual rounds since I found out that I didn't get hired for my position here and as I inform people that we're leaving soon, the news is inevitably met with disbelief, shock and sorrow.

As expected, the worst so far has been Giampietro. He's devastated at the thought of losing the X Man who has become his best buddy. He's having almost as hard a time with the news as I am. Every time he opens his mouth, all that manages to come out is "Porco Cane", which is an Italian slang expression conveying great woe over some very bad happening. Agnese is distraught as well but hasn't shown it as much as Giampi. She cried last year when the X Man was away for two months so she's really going to have a hard time when we leave.

Fausto, my Italian fishing buddy, is also taking the news very badly. He actually refuses to accept it. In fact, he has promised to go Padova and pray to Saint Anthony several times a week that we won't have to leave. He tells me that St. Anthony saved his life from drowning several years ago and guarantees me that we're not going anywhere as long as he prays to him. And in case you're still not convinced at how much Fausto and his wife want us to stay, his wife Zora - who is a Muslim born in Algeria - goes to the church in Padova and prays to St Anthony as well for us to stay. She has gotten so attached to the X Man that she can't stand the thought of him leaving.

This past weekend we made our usual trip to Bar da Sylvia for some vino and panini and Sylvia took the news pretty hard as well. The X Man recently started warming up to her and actually spent the entire time on her lap while she worked on her laptop. It was cute, every so often he would look across the bar at our table, wave, and say "Hi buddy!", then go back to playing with Sylvia. Elisa at the Sports Bar was not much happier. The X Man really has become a celebrity around town. Everywhere we go everyone knows him and gives him free candy and toys. Next to Roberto Baggio, he's probably the most famous person in Caldogno!

The fallout continues...

Saturday, February 11, 2006


I found out yesterday that I was not hired for the job here. My job. The job I've been doing better than anyone for the past 6 years.

I'm just numb right now. I just cannot fathom leaving Italy. If anyone needs me, I'll be at home all weekend drinking heavily.

Friday, February 10, 2006

So we might be moving to Hawaii...

As you know from an earlier post, my job situation is sort of up in the air right now. My contract is getting cancelled no later than June. My job will continue but as a Government Service job rather than a contract position. I've put in for it and I've made the initial referral list. However, it's been almost 3 weeks now and I still have not heard anything so the past couple days I've started looking at other jobs just in case this one does not come through. Yesterday I noticed that my company has an opening in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. It seemed like something I was sort of qualified for so I emailed the recruiter who was handling it and attached my resume.

Long story short, he called last night and told me that I was definitely qualified and asked if I was interested and when I'd be available. He also said that the position had been open for a while and they were anxious to fill it. All of this adds up to this being a potentially good opportunity.

Of course, my preference is to stay here. Yes, I love Italy that much. But I don't know how long the committee here will take to make their decision about my position and if it doesn't work out, at least I know I've got other options. And let's face it, Hawaii is one hell of an option...

You're the expert...

Have you ever met someone who just has to be the expert on EVERYTHING? I think we all have, and we all know how annoying those people are. And how especially annoying it is to actually have to talk to them. Doesn't matter what the topic is, they know everything about it and woe to anyone who tries to correct them or - worse - disagree with them.

I happen to work with just such a person here. Actually, I worked for him when I was still in the Army which was 10 times worse. At least now when he talks to me I can just ignore him but it doesn't make him any less annoying. The most pathetic thing is when you know for a fact that he's either wrong or making stuff up and yet he still will not concede that he's full of crap.

If he wasn't such a !@#$%, I'd almost fell sorry for him. Almost.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Sad. Just...Sad.

As you may know, recently Coretta Scotta King, widow of Martin Luthor King, passed away. She was a tireless champion of civil rights, continuing the fight of her late husband. In fact, the flag on the base I work at was lowered to half-staff in her honor. In case you didn't know, only the President of the United States can order such an action.

Fast forward to her memorial service yesterday. It was billed as a celebration of her life and all she accomplished. Unfortunately, a few individuals decided to take it in another direction and turn it into a "bash George Bush" party.

Listen, I don't care how anyone feels personally about GWB as a President. I don't care how anyone feels about the war in Iraq or Afghanistan. I don't care if anyone feels that Hurricane Katrina was GWB's fault. This was supposed to be a memorial service for a great American who dedicated her life to equality not only in the US, but around the world. Those despicable individuals who turned it into a divisive political event sullied her - and her husband's - memory.

There is a time and a place for political debate and rhetoric. This was not it. The President of the US attended the ceremony out of respect for CSK. The offending individuals showed none to either him OR CSK. As I read the transcript, I just bowed my head in disgust. I don't care what political party a President represents, this was just disgusting.

I make it a point to never get political on my blog but this is not about politics in my opinion, it is about decorum, manners, and tact.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006


The wife just informed me that the picture of the X Man in the last post is actually from last November. I feel stupid now. Sorry.

Monday, February 06, 2006


I got up at midnight last night to watch what turned out to be the worst Superbowl I've ever watched in my life. I was starting to wonder if either team even wanted to win the damn thing. Sloppy, boring, bad officiating...this was an awful game all around. I've only missed one Superbowl in the past 25 years and I gotta say that this was definitely the worst one I've ever watched.

On a happier note, here's a picture of the X Man from a few days ago (click to enlarge)...

Friday, February 03, 2006


We've finally found a kid's show that the X Man is addicted to: Bob the Builder. It shouldn't surprise me - after all, he is absolutley enamored with any type of moving vehicle. His most often used word is "auto". He goes crazy everytime he sees a bus or a big truck. He won't go to sleep without at least two cars and the first thing he does when he wakes up is search his crib frantically for his autos.

So yesterday I get home from work and he's sitting on the couch with his toy tractor watching Bob the Builder. He didn't even look at me. I kept saying "Hey buddy, are you going to say hi to daddy?", but nothing could pry his eyes off the tv.

Later on he was starting to get a bit grumpy so I asked him "Wanna watch Bob the Builder?". My God, his eyes got wide, his neck whipped around at me and he started yelling "BA-DA-BI-DA! BA-DA-BI-DA!", then started squealing with delight. I just could not stop laughing.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Bella Giornata!

So the past two days the weather has been in the 60's. Seriously, I'm walking around outside with no jacket on. I don't know how long this weather will last but i'm enjoying every minute of it...

Monday, January 30, 2006

RIP Snowmen...

Remember the snowmen that we made (pics from last post)? They were almost totally melted the next day. Typical of the weatehr pattern here - we'll get a bunch of snow and it'll all be melted within a few days.

The good news is that I saw Fausto this morning and he gave me my copy of the new Vicenza fishing rules and regulations for 2006. Everyday brings me closer to the river...

Friday, January 27, 2006

Snow Day! (Now with more pics!)

We had a huge snowstorm here last night. It's probably the most snow I can remember seeing in my almost 6 years here. As you can imagine, the Italians re not handling it very well. I walked to the bar for my coffee this morning and there cars stuck everywhere. Those that weren't stuck were sliding all over the road. It was actually sort of comical.

Anyway, I was relieved to hear that the base is closed today and we were told not to come to work. I was going to go in anyway but my boss reminded me that we work on top of a mountain and there's no way my car would make it up to the top. So I'm relieved because the only thing I hate more than driving in Italy is driving in the snow in Italy...

EDIT: Here's how we spent the day: