Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Winter has come to Vicenza

Took these the other day from the upstairs balcony. In my previous six years here, I think it snowed three or four times and it was usually gone within a day. In my first month here this time it has already snowed three times and this time the snow has been here almost a week. So much for global warming. I absolutely hate winter, snow and cold weather but I have to admit, the view of the Alps is quite breathtaking this time of year...




Sunday, December 28, 2008

I'm in a bad way.

I'm going through possibly the worst "bad health" stretch of my life right now. In fact I have not been more than 75% for about 3 months now. I finally dragged my goat-smelling ass to the clinic yesterday and found out that I have some kind of upper respiratory virus/infection. I'm currently on my second day of antibiotics as well as some kind of medicinal inhaler and I am praying that they work their magic and quick because I just cannot take this much longer. I'm starting to forget what it feels like to be healthy and have energy enough to do more than lay on the couch with a blanket over me. As you can imagine, it has not made the big move down here very easy, particularly the unpacking and such.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Luca is learning how to stand

Luca is now about 7 months old and learning things at such a rapid rate that I fear he might be walking by next week. I'm kidding of course but consider this; he learned how to crawl in about one day a few weeks ago and since then he has been trying desperately to stand up. He often goes from a crawl position to balancing on his hands and feet with his butt straight up in the air but gets stuck there. And then yesterday, Virginia had to do some housework so she put him in his little bouncer thing. When she came back into the room a few minutes later, he had not only worked his way out of the bouncer but this is what she saw:



Luca might be a superbaby.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

We're moved in.

But still living out of boxes somewhat. Blog posts will commence once we get a little more settled...

Friday, December 19, 2008

Moving day...finally!

We finally move into our house today. We got a phone line turned on yesterday so we might be online sometime today if I have time to set it up...

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Sign of the times.

This past weekend we were at the PX on base to do some last minute birthday shopping for the X Man. The wife kept him distracted, I grabbed the stuff and took it out to the car. As I walked back in across the parking lot, I could not believe what I witnessed - there was a really large woman, probably in her late 30's, driving a huge SUV and due to both the size of the vehicle and the amount of room it took up...combined with her enormous girth, she could not get into her vehicle. She had to ask some random woman who was walking by if she would back her truck out of the parking space for her so she could get in. The woman gave her a strange, hesitant look but obliged and obviously didn't know how to drive a stick because she stutter-stopped the vehicle out a few inches at a time and at one point actually almost hit another car. Kind of made me wonder...if she had hit another car, how would that have gone down with the insurance company?

Probably not a big deal to some people, I just found it a bit strange, never having witnessed anything like that before. If you're so big that you have to ask strangers to back your car out of parking spaces because you can't fit then maybe it's time to drop a few pounds. I'm just sayin.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The X Man is 5 years old today


Seems like only yesterday we were welcoming you into this world and now you're growing up so fast...happy birthday buddy!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

"The Mother of all Pizzas"


You may have heard me rave about the ristorante/pizzeria in our hotel. Every meal has been great, ranging from fantastic to otherworldly. The place is family run but mostly by the two sons, Luca and Dario. On the menu, there is a pizza called "Pizza Luca" that has intrigued us since our first meal there. It has: Cheese, tomato, proscuitto, mushrooms, hot salami, asparagus, peppers, artichokes, wurstel, tuna fish and anchovies. Now my theory on Italian pizza is, simple is better. I prefer no more than one or two toppings; any more just fills you up too much and gives you heartburn, plus too many different flavors ruins the taste. I normally opt for pizza with olives, pizza with spinach and ricotta cheese, or pizza with proscuitto e funghi (ham and mushrooms). But every time we eat there, the X Man tries to goad me into trying the Pizza Luca since he is convinced that it is named after his little brother. I always tell him there is no way I am attempting to tackle that monstrosity. However, last night I was feeling froggy so I decided to go for it, if only to see the beast in real life. In the interest of full disclosure, I asked for no anchovies (yech!). The X Man ate a small slice and I ate the rest and we barely finished half of the thing.

To see all of the pics, CLICK HERE!

Friday, December 12, 2008

A few pics of the house

Virginia put them on her Facebook page...someone let me know if the link does not work...

Pictures of the house

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

House inspection today

We have our house inspection this afternoon...I'll try to get some decent photos to post on here in the next day or two...

Saturday, December 06, 2008

10 random facts you probably didn't know about me.

1. I grew up in New Hampshire but have never downhill skied in my life.

2. My favorite color is blue.

3. I've never eaten at a Wendy's.

4. I once stole a t-shirt at the mall in college but I felt so guilty that I went back a few months later and paid the owner for it.

5. I think sandwiches are the perfect food.

6. I'm secretly addicted to my son's online Spongebob Squarepants game.

7. I've never broken any bones.

8. I once burned an entire forest down when I was a kid.

9. I peaked in 2001.

10. I've never eaten the worm.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Update

So here we are, back in Italy. You cannot possibly imagine how good it feels to be back here. The only way I can describe it is to say that it feels like we have come back home. I've run into several people who still remember us and all have been very welcoming. It's not a very big community here which makes it easier to get to know a lot of people and develop friendships. As I've already posted earlier, we were lucky enough to find a beautiful house in the absolute perfect location back in our old town of Caldogno. Everybody (myself included) was quite surprised that we found a place so quickly. Unfortunately we won't be moving in until around the 19th of December, which means we'll be in this hotel for another 2 weeks. I'm not happy about that as I hate living in hotels but all things considered it could be a lot worse. I think it took us almost two months to find a place in Germany when we went there.

We do have an address and I have a cell phone number so if anyone needs it, send me an email and I'll pass it along.

All in all, we're very happy to be back. The X Man is pretty excited and is trying to speak Italian, God bless his little heart. He can't wait to start school and we can't wait to send him. I'm also excited at the fact that Luca will grow up with Giampi and Agnese, just as the X Man did. But for right now, we're all extremely anxious to move into our new house. The next two weeks are going to drag by very slowly I'm sure...

Update coming soon...

I'll post an update of what's going on here soon but in the meantime, here's a picture of me and the X Man from Thanksgiving dinner at - where else? - Giampi and Agnese's house...

Sunday, November 30, 2008

We found a house. And it's beautiful.

Things just keep getting better and better for us. When we knew we were coming back to Italy, there was of course only one place we would consider living: Caldogno. Caldogno is where I lived my entire six years here before. We have several friends here, including our old neighbors, Giampietro and Agnese who pretty much adopted us when we lived here before and are surrogate grandparents to our two kids. As I mentioned before, Giampi is adamant about walking the X Man to school every day once he starts. For all these reasons, we were determined to find a place in Caldogno. We had a long list of things we were looking for however and I anticipated that it would take at least a month or two to find something that fit the bill. I was also prepared to accept the fact that we probably wouldn't find a place that matched our list 100% so we'd have to sacrifice a few of them. Turns out I was wrong on both accounts.

We'd gotten word that a high ranking officer living one street over from where we used to live was leaving soon and his place would be coming open. When I mentioned it to Giampi the other night, he not only knew exactly which place I was talking about but he also happens to know the couple who owns the place really well. He called them immediately and it turns out the people had moved out the day before so he set up a meeting for us to look at it. I didn't get my hopes up because the two places we looked at prior were disappointing. But both the wife and I - and even the X Man - were blown away when we saw it. It has everything on our list and more. Three bedrooms, as well as a couple other rooms that we could use as bedrooms. Big front yard that I can use for my kettlebell workouts as well as play soccer or catch with the X Man (something we didn't have in Germany). Huge two car garage. Big garden for the wife as well as rose bushes and other flowers around the yard. Huge, furnished kitchen as well as a big porch/terrace right off the kitchen. No less than three balconies; one in the living room, one in the master bedroom and one in the guest bedroom. Downstairs, there is a finished basement with a huge rec room and a separate room we'll use as a gym/hobby room. There is also a big brick fireplace/stove in the basement that is perfect for barbeques. When Giampi saw it, he went ga-ga; he said they are coming over the first chance they get and we're going to cook some big steaks on it. And one of my favorite features: built-in air conditioning in almost every room! I had anticipated looking at a few other places before we made a decision but the place was so perfect that we took it immediately. Fortunately the owners liked us - I'm sure that Giampi being there and me conversing with them in Italian didn't hurt. Perhaps the best part is the location, about a two minute walk to Giampi and Agnese's house. Giampi says that as soon as we move in, the X Man will sleep over their place a lot so they can get his Italian up to speed quickly and he can start school. We're very excited. For those of you who saw our house in Germany, I honestly think this place is nicer - the only difference is that it's not in the middle of the Heidelberg Altstadt (sorry Eric), an admitted disadvantage. I may not live in the shadow of a castle anymore but we've got more room, a yard for the kids, a garden for the wife, and neighbors one street over who are practically family.

I'll post pictures after we move in and get settled, which should hopefully be in about a week or two. And rest assured, if you're one of our friends or family, we'll have plenty of room whenever you want to come visit!

Friday, November 28, 2008

A chance meeting with a legend, 15 years in the making.

I first became familiar with Roberto Baggio way back in 1994. The World Cup was coming to the US for the first time ever and, as I am a soccer junkie, I devoured every little piece of information on all the teams and players that I could get my hands on. Now, you have to remember that this was the early 90's and there was no internet or satellite TV. Information on international soccer was hard to come by back then. I read about this guy named Baggio who was recently name FIFA world player of the year. He seemed interesting; he was a Buddhist who wore his hair in a little braided ponytail, earning him the nickname "Il Divin Codino" ("The Divine Ponytail"). I watched every single match that I could in that tournament and I even was able to get tickets to three matches played in Boston (actually Foxboro). The highlight was when my friend Dave and I scored tickets to the quarterfinal between Italy and Spain. I wore my AC Milan shirt and Dave wore his Inter Milan shirt which caused a lot of stares and rebukes from Italian fans (probably a good thing I didn't speak any Italian back then). Italy went ahead through the "other" Baggio on the team - Dino Baggio - and soon after Spain equalized. Just when it seemed we were headed for extra time, Beppe Signori took a ball at midfield and fed a streaking Baggio (Roberto this time). Baggio calmly collected the ball, dribbled right past the keeper and scored the winning goal from an almost impossible angle with about three minutes left in the match. We were going crazy, it was pandemonium. I then watched as Baggio almost single-handedly brought home the World Cup for Italy. He scored an incredible 5 goals in the knockout stages, including two against Nigeria in the first round - one to send the game into extra time and another one to win it in extra time. Then the heroics against Spain. Then another two in the semifinal against Bulgaria to send Italy through to the final. Alas, Baggio was hurt in the final and could not continue the magic. Sadly, the defining moment of his career was when he missed the penalty that handed the World Cup to Brazil (although, even if he had made it, Brazil still would have won if they'd converted theirs). For me, it didn't matter; I was a Baggio fan for life.

Baggio had actually made his name at World Cup 1990, four years earlier, but I was in Basic Training with the Army that summer and missed everything. He had scored a goal against Czechoslovakia that was not only voted the best of the tournament but was also later voted the second best World Cup goal of all time.

I followed his career as much as I could back then but without internet or satellite TV, it was difficult at best. I mostly had to settle for write-ups in World Soccer magazine. In 1998 I enlisted in the Army full time and came to Germany and watched Baggio almost lead Italy past eventual champion France, losing in the quarterfinal to them. Two years later I asked for, and received a transfer to Italy, to the city of Vicenza. I ended up taking a little two bedroom apartment in a small bedroom suburb of Vicenza called Caldogno. Looking back, I can only guess it was fate that had brought me to Caldogno. The 2000 European Championships were only a few days away and so I walked down to the sports bar (conveniently called "Bar dello Sport") to inquire if they would be showing the matches. Indeed they would. When the first match came on, I made my way down and took a seat and as I looked at the walls, a familiar face stared back at me; the entire bar was adorned with posters, pictures, photos, newspaper clippings, memorabilia...everything of Roberto Baggio. I figured he must be a bigger star in Italy than I thought but imagine my tremendous shock when they told me that Baggio was actually from Caldogno! I was floored - my favorite soccer player of all time was from the little town that I had just landed in. It was unfathomable. I excitedly told them - or least tried to tell them as I spoke more French than Italian back then - of my love for Baggio the player and how I was actually at the match back in 1994 and they were instantly impressed. They could not believe that an American not only knew so much about soccer but that I had long been a fan of their beloved native son and had even seen him live in a World Cup match. Caldogno is a very small town and everybody knows each other so it came as no surprise that everybody in town had known Baggio since...well, pretty much since birth. He wasn't still living in Caldogno but the rest of his family was and he still spent quite a bit of time there so naturally my thoughts went straight to when I would be able to meet him in person.

And it very nearly happened very quickly.

By the end of Euro 2000, I had become a regular at the sports bar and the owner, Daniele had started to sort of adopt me as a local due to my love of calcio (soccer is called "calcio" in Italy) and the fact that I was spending money regularly in his bar. Towards the end of the summer, Daniele's eldest daughter Elisa told me that the bar was hosting a special dinner for Baggio. It was only for family and close friends and was invite only, but she asked if I would like to come meet Roberto. Well, you could have knocked me over with a feather. I was in heaven. I graciously accepted and the next three days dragged by. Then disaster struck. I received an sms from Elisa telling me to come to the bar. I arrived and she apologized as she pointed to the TV - it seemed Baggio had signed with Serie A club Brescia that day and they had to cancel the dinner as he had to go do the press conference and media crap. I was devastated. I had missed my chance. The only thing that consoled me was the fact that I would be in Caldogno for at least the next year and a half so there should be plenty of chances to meet him.

But as I've said so many times before...it was not to be.

I ended up staying in Caldogno for six years altogether and never once was lucky enough to meet him. There were plenty of near misses in those six year. I saw him driving his BMW X6 through town two or three times. A few times I arrived at one of the bars or cafes in Caldogno only to be told that Baggio had been there earlier to say hi or have a drink and that I had missed him. Through friends in Caldogno I had been able to receive his autograph on a few items - my favorite of which is my 1994 Italy World Cup jersey with Baggio's number (#10 of course) on the back. But I never got to meet the man in person. In 2004, we were driving back from the European Championships in Portugal. We stopped for dinner at a little bar in a town about three hours south of Vicenza called Voghera. As I chatted with the locals during the match I gave them my usual routine - I lived in a small town outside of Vicenza called Caldogno and asked if they'd heard of it. They said of course, it's the hometown of Roberto Baggio, but they seemed unimpressed. One guy then proceeded to tell me that Baggio spends a lot of time in Vorghera bird hunting (He's an avid hunter, something I always found funny, him being a Buddhist and all). In fact, they said, he was just there a day or two ago. Can you believe that? We stop at a random little town in Italy and just happen to just miss Baggio...again. It seemed that the fates that had brought me to live in Baggio's hometown were also conspiring to keep me from actually meeting him.

And there's more.

One Sunday afternoon when the X Man was about a year and a half old, the wife said she's taking him for a walk and asked if I want to go. I was half asleep on the couch so I said no. I awoke a couple hours later to her excitedly telling me that she had seen Baggio. Baggio's parent lived pretty close to us and as she walked past their house, sure enough, Baggio was in the driveway talking with his father. He saw the X Man and gave a little smile and wave. Had I gone with them, I would have met Baggio. I kicked myself. When we found out that we were having a boy, my first thought was that I wanted to name him Baggio. Of course the wife hated it so it never came to pass. I brought it up again with our second boy but it was shot down again just as quickly.

When we left Italy in 2006, I was rather dismayed at the fact that I had spent six years Baggio's hometown and had never once met him. The fates had indeed been cruel to me...and there was still more cruelty to come. Upon visiting our neighbors, Giampietro and Agnese for the first time since leaving, they informed me that the person who had moved into our apartment after we left was named Anna Baggio. That's right...Roberto Baggio's sister. My first thought was that if I could meet her and tell her what a huge fan of her brother I was, perhaps she could arrange a meeting. Eventually I did run into her and told her that I was a huge fan and such but no dice. Giampi and Agnese informed me that apparently Roberto and Anna were not on good terms and never spoke to each other. Once again, the fates had gotten my hopes up, only to bring me crashing back down.

Only this time, the story has a happy ending.

After two and a half long years in Germany, I recently got my old job here in Italy back. We arrived here last Sunday and the only place we considered living is of course Caldogno. Our friends and neighbors are there and Giampi is adamant about walking the X Man to school every day. Yesterday was Thanksgiving and a few days ago I remarked to the wife that, since we are still in the hotel, this was the first year in my life that I would not be enjoying a big Thanksgiving dinner as none of my American friends here had invited us. She said "why don't we do it at Giampi and Agnese's, I can cook Thanksgiving dinner there?" It was a great idea and thankfully Giampi and Agnese had no plans and agreed. So went over around noon as Agnese was preparing lunch. The usual routine is that Giampietro goes out to get the pane (bread) and always takes the X Man with him so he can show him off around town. Never once had I ever gone with them but for some reason I told Giampi that I wanted to go as well. We got the bread, then took a slight detour to Giampi's brother Lino's house to say hi. We rang the bell but there was no answer so after a few minutes we started to walk home. As we did, Giampi leaned in and whispered "That's Baggio's papa" in my ear as he nodded towards the two men across the street in grubby workmen's clothes unloading stuff out of a truck and into the empty garage. I stared intently, trying to size up the man who had blessed the world with the brilliance of Roberto Baggio. As I did so, Giampi exclaimed "Oh, that's Roby!". Sure enough, the other guy working with him in grubby clothes, doing manual labor with his father was none other than Roberto Baggio himself. Il Divin Codino.

I froze. Giampi started crossing the street towards them and I followed. He greeted them warmly (remember, everybody in Caldogno knows each other) and Roberto said he'd be out in a second, he just had to finish putting the load in the garage. He came out and exchanged pleasantries with Giampi. And then...finally...15 years after first hearing the name Baggio...8 years after moving to his hometown...2 and a half years after leaving his hometown without ever meeting him...I was face to face with Roberto Baggio. He extended his hand to me, and I shook it. Never have I ever been so glad that I can communicate in Italian as I told him how big a fan I am, how I was at the World Cup match in 1994, how I lived in Caldogno so many years but never got to meet him. It was a short meeting as Baggio and his father obviously had a lot of work to do but after so many years and so many near misses, it was a thrill I will never forget.

And if we ever have another kid...

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy to be back in Italy.

This is the seafood meal I alluded to in my last post: Spaghetti alla scoglio (spaghetti with clams, mussels, prawns and shrimp)...



Monday, November 24, 2008

Italia: A Sort of Homecoming

Well, we are finally back in Italy albeit it not without incident. As you all know, our usual routine when coming to Italy is to leave on Saturday, stay overnight at a small town in the Austrian Alps called Heiterwang, then conclude the journey the next morning, traveling through the Fern Pass en route to the Brenner Pass It splits up the driving for the kids, as making the drive all in one day would be too much for them.

So, we left Saturday right at noon and headed south. As we got further south on autobahn 7 towards the Alps, it started snowing harder and harder. By the time we hit Fussen, right on the border, it was reaching blizzard proportions. The Fernpass can be treacherous even in decent weather so there was no way I would even attempt it in a blizzard, especially with a baby in the car. I was starting to think that I should have opted for the Munich route; it takes longer but it's autobahn the whole way. To my chagrin, the normal road between Fussen and Heiterwang was closed so we had to take a detour. Not a problem normally but a huge problem in a blizzard because the detour was on a smaller road. We finally reached Heiterwang and I started to breathe easy as we could now check into our hotel and relax...but it was not to be. The Heiterwang Hof was inexplicably closed, as was our fallback, the Forellen Hof. I was right on the edge of the Fern Pass and suddenly feeling very nervous. Just then, as if on cue, Luca started crying. I drove on, planning on checking into the first hotel we came to but there were none. Panic was starting to set in - it was dark now, the roads were practically undriveable, there was no hotel in sight and I had a 5 year old, a crying 6 month old and my prized wine collection in the car. One little slip and I might lose everything. The choice was clear; there was no way I was going to make it any further so I did a nerve-racking three point turn in the mountain road and headed back. We drove all the way back into Germany and searched several little towns for a hotel but everything was either closed or had no room. We finally did find a hotel about an hour north of the Fern Pass with room and checked in, my nerves still shaking from our near disaster.

I was now faced with the daunting prospect of having to backtrack all the way to autobahn 8 and take the Munich route the next day, which would take about an extra 3 hours. I woke early in the morning and went out to clean the snow off the car. This simple task took about 30 minutes and was made more difficult by the fact that I had no snow brush or ice scraper, no gloves, and nothing but a pair of dress shoes. If I ever hated the cold and snow - and I always have, with a passion - then I really was not liking it now. I asked the guy at the desk if there was any chance that the Fern Pass would be passable that morning, he checked on it and said it should be but that we should have breakfast first, relax, and give them time to clear the roads. I did NOT want to do the Munich thing so I did as he suggested. And sure enough, the Austrians had the road through the Fern Pass cleared and passable. When I reached the point at which I finally turned around the night before, I got a slight chill - there was no guard rail and the drop was at least a couple hundred feet. Thank the Lord Jesus that I turned around when I did as who knows what might have happened.

We arrived in Vicenza somewhere around 2 in the afternoon and as we did so I looked the temperature gauge in the car; 50 degrees F. I told the wife "Thank God we're in Italy and I won't have to deal with the damned snow anymore". We checked into the hotel and had one of the very best (and cheapest) seafood dinners I have enjoyed in quite some time. Then the X Man and I went to the hotel bar to watch the Milan match. Things were finally as they should be. I honestly could not remember the last time I had felt so content and I made mention of this fact several times during the course of the evening. Finally I went to bed, ready to wake the next day and start in-processing.

I awoke this morning, took a shower, got dressed, looked outside the window and was greeted by...wait for it...a blizzard.

That's right - a freaking blizzard, reminiscent of the one we had survived in the Alps. I weaved my way onto to post only to find that they had closed it due to the weather so I got a couple DVDs and am now holed up in our hotel room for the day, held hostage once again by the snow.

I wonder if there are any job openings in Hawaii?

Monday, November 17, 2008

We'll be right back...

Movers come today and internet will be turned off shortly so there will probably be no blog posts for the next week or two during the transition. In the meantime, I invite you to sit back, relax, and let your worries and cares melt away as you enjoy the most relaxing piece of music ever written...

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Italy Move Update

Well, we're getting close now. This is our last weekend in our house and it's really starting to hit me that we're leaving very soon. In fact, I'm starting to get that twinge of sadness as I walk around Heidelberg now at the thought of leaving this beautiful fairytale of a city. We have certainly lived a charmed life here over the past two and a half years and we've savored every minute. If it were anywhere else but my beloved Italia, there is no way we would ever leave this place. But alas, Bella Italia beckons and I must heed her call.

So the movers come on Monday to start packing our stuff. They say it will take three days but I'm hoping they can do it in two due to our compacted schedule. Our house inspection is Thursday morning, then assuming that goes well I should finish clearing housing and everything else on Friday and we are planning on departing Saturday morning the 22nd. As usual we will stay overnight at our favorite little inn in the Austrian Alps and then arrive in Italy on Sunday the 23rd in time to start my new (old) job on Monday the 24th. We will be checking into the hotel at the Dubliner (where else?!) this Tuesday so I probably won't be online next week.

My last day at work was yesterday so the end of an era has passed. We had my goodbye luncheon on Thursday and I received a nice plaque, which is customary when someone leaves. And, to my great astonishment, I was awarded a $1,000.00 bonus for what the chain of command deemed my "above and beyond" performance. I was quite shocked to say the least but the bonus will certainly come in handy with moving costs and whatnot.

The X Man is getting excited but he seems a bit curious and cautious about the move. He knows he will be starting school when we get to Italy but he is worried because he can't speak Italian. But we keep reassuring him that he will learn it quick and I'm already practicing with him. He still remembers a lot and occasionally he will utter a word or phrase in Italian so I know he's trying. I'm not too worried about it though because Giampi and Agnese say they will have him fluent in about two weeks and I believe them as he was more fluent in Italian than English when we left two and a half years ago. His main concern is his toys of course. He needs constant reassurance that all of his toys will go with us to Italy.

As I mentioned, we'll be checking into the hotel at the Dubliner this Tuesday but there are a few places around town that have free wireless so I might be online here and there next week. If not, then the next update will be from Italy...with a bicchieri di vino!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Moc Quote Board, Part 2

“Do you think we can get G2 to provide updates on Anna Nicole Smith during the brief?”

“He's bent over MSG Winslow’s desk…”

“It’s not so much the knob that’s missing, it’s the shaft.”

“Can I have a long one this time?”

“Don’t worry Sir, I’m already spanking myself”

“You can take your stick and jam it in there hard…”

“I’m doing the band right now”

“And trust me, he’s a master-baiter”

“Hey what’s in those sensitive items containers, sensitive items, right?”

“She'd better be nice to ME… or I’ll break her off something proper…”

“It’s really good…it’s got big nuts.”

“You pack fudge…you pound sand.”

“Why do I have the sudden urge to sing ‘Ebony and Ivory’?”

“Jimmy’s a furniture mover…moving his chest into his drawers”

“One of these days, your ass is mine buddy…”

“I’m telling you, if I ever go gay, I’m gonna open a bar and call it the ‘Fisty Goat’”

“I know, that’s why we’re going to embarrass him in a public forum!”

“Casio makes a good CD player…for 13 year old girls…”

“Jack, Jack, he’s our man, if he can’t do it, f**k it.”

Person A: “See, we took the brain trust from 21st TSC and brought it here…”
Person B: “Yeah and the IQ in both places went down!”

“Is your CAC in there?”

“Don’t touch my Monster…”

Person A: “They got this underground bar that goes on for miles, it’s awesome…”
Person B: “No Jack, that’s the subway.”

“I’m going to make Yarbro cry if he ever puts his hands on my Monster again.”

“He's probably the only person who has to take leave to get a haircut…”

“Hey Otto, show CPT Schonauer your peanuts!”

“Otto, did you stick it in yet?!”

“She got the biggest one”

Person A: “It’s the toughest stage of the Tour de France…”
Person B: “What, the drug-free stage?”

Person A: “Remember, you can’t spell “Reggae” without ‘Gay’”
Person B: “Or ‘Ray’…”

“It’s national ‘Love Your Pole’ day!”

“He’s the little Undercover Brother!”

“Hey Mr. Perez…I got your pants…and I got the peanut butter”

“It’s a special relationship until they decide to pull out”

“I got the head at home”

“No, I told her I was gonna do her”

“Well, you know you gotta stay on top of him.”

“What, you guys don’t wash your meat?”

“The thing I hate the most about Texas is Ft. Lauderdale.”

“I let the dude do me”

“Everyday for the last month, Otto’s had a foot long…”

“They’ve been massaging that unit for almost two weeks now”

Person A: “I want to see you put that whole thing in your mouth”
Person B: “I wish”

Person A: “Can you drink a gallon of protein in an hour?”
Person B: “Can you provide a gallon of protein in an hour?”

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The MOC Quote Board, Part I

I have but 3 working days left at my current job. In honor of this occasion I have decided to share the MOC Quote Board with the rest of the world. The MQB started back in May of 2006 during my first week in the MOC (Movement Ops Center); I noticed that a lot of funny things were being said around me so I decided to capture them for posterity. What makes the MQB so funny is that these are actual quotes that have been uttered in my office and they are recorded sans context. It's pretty extensive so I'll have to break it up over a couple parts and I'll leave off the names to protect the (not-so) innocent. Without further ado, I present...The MOC Quote Board:

“It only comes when I hold it”

“I had Mandy’s for dinner last night”

“Every time they take them to the hole they’re naked”

“He needs a little more meat”

“Is Jack off today?”

“I’m gonna need Josh’s stick”

“Don’t let ‘em fool you with that ‘it’s the motion of the ocean’ crap…”

“It felt like you poked me”

“You put pork in your mouth!”

“Damn, I wish you were my mother…”

“Can I get a happy ending?”

“Follow me and I’ll give it to you now.”

“Size does matter”

“It’ll take a lot of rubbing and a long time”

“I can do it good if I can do it loud”

“Maybe we can do some pottery shopping, that’ll be nice!”

“What a gay conversation between two men”

“Here, take this, it’s still hard”

“Definitely goggles and socks if I walk out with nothing else”

“Don’t you EVER touch my balls again!”

“He coulda been light-bright, damn-near-white”

“You can either get the long one or the fat one”

“Send me the Dick in the box!”

“I had to stop cause he was going down on me”

“I need one with small holes, I don’t like the big holes”

“It’s in either Holland or the Netherlands”

“I’ve got a six-pack…I just keep it in a cooler”

“I keep my six-pack in a refrigerator”

“Curry, you still got that canned air? I need a blowjob…”

“Strangely enough, my plums are the perfect temperature”

“Why don’t you go outside and mount it?”

“I never had an experience like that before”

“Man I could go for a stiff one”

“Let it go while I’m pulling!”

“I look hot…is that what you’re trying to say?”

“1 AD, I think you’re hot…”

“Hey LTC Finley, Rik volunteered to do that S&M stuff with you…”

“And now we’re S&M masters…”

“I got my ass jumped by a Marine First Sergeant”

“It always scares me when I get that stuff in my mouth”

“So a tornado hit Alabama and did what…twelve dollars worth of damage?”

“It used to be the red screen of death but now it’s just the red screen of mild discomfort”

“Can I get a little squirt, man?”

Sunday, November 09, 2008

The X Man wets his bed.

Any advice or suggestions are welcome.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Update on the Italy move

Things are progressing...not real smooth, but at least they're progressing. Here's where we are right now;

Our household goods are scheduled to be picked up starting Monday, November 17th. They say the pickup could take up to 3 days. My housing inspection is scheduled for Thursday the 20th and hopefully it will go well because my start date in Italy is Monday, November 24th. That means we'll be leaving Germany on Saturday, November 22nd, stay overnight in the Alps, and arrive in Vicenza on Sunday the 23rd where we'll check into a hotel until we find a place to live.

We've still got a ton of stuff to do before we leave and it's getting stressful but it will all be worth it in the end. My last day at work here will be Friday, November 14th as the next week will be spent doing household goods pickup and clearing.

Updates as they occur...

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Monday, November 03, 2008

Italian work visa: Day Two.

I was a bit frustrated on the way home for a couple reasons. First, I was going to have to buy another ticket to come back up the next day. Second, I had already taken Tuesday off and was also taking Friday off as well; now I would have to use another half day of comp time during a week at work that was pretty busy. I called work and let them know the situation and told them that I was planning on taking the early train the next morning so that I would be at the consulate as soon as they opened, pick up the visas, then be back at work by lunchtime.

Once again, it was not to be.

I took an early train and got to the Italian consulate about 5 minutes before they opened at 0830. The old bald guy remembered me of course and buzzed me right in. I took a seat in the waiting area and waited. Sometime around quarter past nine, Sr. Morganti arrived to work, saw me, gave me a slight nod and disappeared. About 5 minutes later he came back into the waiting area and said "Did you not receive my email yesterday afternoon?" I replied no, that I had taken the previous day off so I wasn't at work to be able to check my work email account. He then said "Oh no, I emailed you to tell you that I was not able to get to your visas and asked you to come in this afternoon..." (Wednesday is the one day of the week that the consulate is open in the afternoon). Things were clearly not going well for me. I got a look of disdain on my face and considered my options. Obviously going back home and coming back was not among them. Sr. Morganti must have been starting to feel bad by this point because he told me he had appointments all morning but would do everything he could to try and get them processed that morning since I was there. I told him I would go get some coffee and come back later as I was starving and he said fine, just come back by about 11:45 since they close for lunch at noon. I went down and found a newsstand that had international papers and bought my Italian sports paper, then went and got a caffe and panini at a bistro next to the consulate while I read it. I managed to kill almost an hour and a half by then so I figured I'd go back and hope for the best although I expected the worst...and of course, the worst is what I got. It was only about quarter to 11 as I took my seat in the waiting area. For some reason I cannot fathom, the consulate has nothing to read in their waiting area. Fortunately for me, my phone has a couple games on it - a golf game and a car racing game - so I played those while I waited to pass the time. Sr. Morganti came through a few times and assured me that he was working on our visas, giving me (false) hope. I can't explain how incredibly bored I was getting as noon approached and the employees started shuffling out the door while I continued to sit there and wait, my chin in my hands. At one point I asked the old bald guy if I should just go to lunch and come back when they reopened at 1430. He told me I should wait and assured me that the visas would be ready soon. Eventually even he must have felt bad for me as he came out and started showing me newspaper clipping of his friend back in Italy who had won a bunch of sailing competitions about 40 years ago. I was now at the pinnacle of boredom. It was past 1300 now, the consulate was closed as everyone was at lunch but I continued to sit in the waiting room as, supposedly, Sr. Morganti was still downstairs working on our visas. Somewhere around 1330 the old bald guy put his jacket on and was about to go to lunch but stopped, looked at me, and said "Follow me, I take you downstairs to check". We went down to Sr. Morganti's office and he told us that the visas would be ready in about 5 minutes. So I took a seat in the downstairs waiting area and waited. 5 minutes later he came out and spent about 10 minutes making photocopies of God knows what. Finally he walked over and handed the finished visas to me with the requisite apologies for the delays and such. I was in no mood to listen so I shook his hand, thanked him and made a beeline for the train station where I jumped the first train to Heidelberg.

So the nightmare is over and now things will be moving fast as we prepare to leave. I have a transportation brief this morning as our household goods are scheduled to be picked up November 17th. The plan right now is to depart for Italy on Saturday morning, November 22nd, stay overnight in the Alps, arrive to Vicenza on Sunday and start my new (old) job on Monday the 24th. I'll update things on here as they come more into focus...

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Italian Work Visa: Not for the faint of heart...

When I first came to Europe back in 1998 I came to Germany. While here, I kept hearing people referring to something called "German efficiency". For the life of me I just could not understand where the term came from because this country was far from efficient. Two years later I moved to Italy and immediately realized that, in comparison, Germany must seem to Europeans to be the most efficient place in the world.

During my 6 years in Italy I was constantly amazed at how disorganized and inefficient the country is. Most Americans that I worked with down there just could not get used to it and couldn't wait to leave. A select few of us learned to live with it and were the lucky ones. The past couple days however, my love of - and patience with - Italy was severely tested. Come with me now as I relive the tempestuous journey to receiving my Italian work visas...

It started several weeks ago when I was notified that I had been selected for my old job. I was given a litany of documents I had to acquire before I even applied for the work visa. I finally had everything I needed and emailed the Italian consulate in Frankfurt to set up my appointment. The gentleman I corresponded with was Signor Morganti who seemed very pleasant and helpful. My appointment was for Tuesday, October 28th at 1000. All of us had to apply in person so we got up early and jumped on the train. The visa applications that I carried had the address as 17 Beethovenstrasse so I had google-mapped it the day before and was happy to see that it was a walkable distance from the train station. Of course it rained so we got a bit wet. I was adamant that we be early to avert any last minute crises that might come up. We arrived on Beethovenstrasse at 0930 and all seemed well. Since we had a half hour til out appointment, we popped into a little cafe and got something to drink and a sandwich. As I'm paying for the sandwich I said to the girl "The Italian consulate is on this street, yeah?" She replied "Oh no, they moved a long time ago!".

Panic set in immediately as I tried to size up the situation. It was now 0940 and I only had 20 minutes to figure out where the consulate had moved to and then get all of us - including Luca, who was in a baby stroller - there. The girl says that she has been working there 4 years and the consulate had moved THREE YEARS AGO. I showed her the visa application that they had sent me which said Beethovenstrasse and she made a few comments about "Typical Italians...". Apparently we were not the first ones to make this mistake. Fortunately she knew where it had moved to and asked if she should call me a cab and assured me that the two kids would be able to ride in the cab so I agreed. The cab arrived and we rushed to get everyone in but we were blocking traffic and the cabbie was in such a hurry that we ended up riding all the way with both the X Man and Luca (in his car seat) unsecured in the backseat which made me very nervous. But we arrived at the consulate without incident.

We checked in and waited. Finally the old bald guy at the desk said "if you or the children need to go to the bathroom, please go now because in 5 minutes we will go downstairs and there is no bathroom there". 5 minutes later he took us downstairs where we joined a group of about 6 or 7 other people waiting. 10 minutes later Sr. Morganti came out and called my name and took us into his office. He spoke really good English but I still used my Italian as much as I could because that usually gets you better treatment. As he did the applications we bantered about his hometown of Bologna, soccer, Italy in general and things seemed to be going well. He finished up and said he was going to try and get them finished quickly but he had to take care of everyone else as well. I asked if we were going to get them back same day and he said probably. I was pleasantly surprised. It would be short lived. It was about 1045 by that time and all the other people that were in the waiting room with us were gone so I figured we wouldn't have to wait that long. So we waited. And waited. The X Man was getting bored so I started playing cars with him on the floor. We waited some more. I had to pee but there was no bathroom. We waited some more. Finally, sometime after noon, Sr. Morganti came out and asked me to follow him upstairs to the cashier to pay for the visas. I was elated as I thought sure I was going to have to make a return trip to Frankfurt a few days later when the visas were ready so the fact that we got them same day was great. But it was not to be. I paid the 300 euros (about $400) - visas cost 75 euro each - and then Sr. Morganti informed me that we could wait for the visas if we wanted to or come back. I said we'd come back after lunch and he said "No, sorry, the consulate is now closed so you must either wait now or come back tomorrow". I asked how long the wait would be and he got that classic Italian look and said he had a staff meeting and it would probably be at least 2 hours. The thought of waiting down in that room with two kids, nothing to eat, nothing to read, for another 2 hours...well, it just wasn't happening. I told him I would come back first thing in the morning and we left.

Thus ended day one of my Italian visa saga. Coming tomorrow: "Day Two"...

Monday, October 27, 2008

Anniversary pics

Celebrated year number six with dinner at Il Bianco Cavallino, then drinks at the Dubliner. Loaded a bunch of pics on my Facebook page:

Anniversary Photos

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Celebrating 6 years of wedded bliss today!

Seems like only yesterday we were tying the knot. Six years on, it's been quite an adventure that I wouldn't trade for the world...

Friday, October 24, 2008

Conversations with the X Man

X Man: Daddy...ask me how my burger is.

Me: How's your burger buddy?

X Man: It's BURGER-TASTIC!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

How do you say "racial profiling" in German?

This is Monty:

Monty is the NCOIC in the office where I work (NCOIC = top enlisted soldier). He's been here a while now and we've become really good friends in that time. Both he and his Dutch wife Marlene are super people, easy going and fun to hang out with.

About a week ago, Monty was running in the morning before work on the Bismarckplatz near our house. It was early in the morning and there usually aren't a lot of people out around that time. At one point there was a lone German woman walking a bit ahead of him and as he was getting closer he let out a little cough. She heard the cough and turned around and as soon as she saw Monty, she immediately clutched her purse, shifted it to her other arm and adopted a terrified look. Fortunately, Monty is not one to be offended by such things. In fact he usually has a sense of humor about them, so as he passed by the woman, he got sort of close to her and let out a huge "AAAAHHHHHH!" with his arms spread out to his sides. Scared the hell out of her. Then he turned and laughed and said "I'm not going to steal your purse, don't worry!". She obviously recognized how silly she must have looked because she started laughing as he continued to run on, suddenly aware of her faux pas.

But we all got a pretty good laugh out of it in the office...

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Red Ox: Boiled beef with a side order of shame...

One of the best (or worst, depending on how you look at it) things about living right in the Heidelberg "Altstadt" is the plethora of fantastic restaurants. Pretty much any kind of food you like, you can find it in the Altstadt. Over the past couple years we've tried quite a few of them and have seldom been disappointed. Believe it or not, the ones we usually avoid are the German restaurants. I do like German food occasionally but it's so unhealthy that I usually avoid it. Germany is a meat and potatoes country for sure; unfortunately, the preferred meat is usually pork or sausage and the preferred potatoes are usually french fries (pommes). Seriously, it seems like every German restaurant serves pommes as a side dish.

Yesterday we were taking our afternoon walk, looking for a place for lunch. I decided to try someplace new but nothing was seeming all that appealing so we just kept walking and eventually were up near the castle where I spied the "Roten Ochsen" (Red Ox). The Red Ox is a Heidelberg institution, very historic and famous. Several celebrities have eaten there over the years such as Ernest Hemingway and John Wayne. I'd heard all about it but several people have told me that it's gotten so touristy over the years that it's lost its luster. I've looked over the menu a few times and found the usual German fare, so all of these things together have prevented me from ever stepping foot inside...until yesterday that is.

I looked at the menu yesterday and saw a few things that looked appealing so I told the wife we might as well try it once before we leave, if only to say that we've been there. The moment we walked in, I fell in love with the place. As I sat down and took in the ambiance, I immediately felt great shame that I have been living here over two years and had never tried it before. It is about as old-time as any place I've ever eaten, the walls are covered with memorabilia and old photographs. There are ox horns hanging from the ceiling and old style beer steins everywhere. Believe it or not, the place goes back to the year 1703. And the menu! Sure there were the usual suspects - bratwurst and saurkraut, schnitzel, etc. - but there was a good selection of other stuff such as deer steak and sauerbraten. I could not decide between the boiled beef with horseradish sauce and pumpkin or the grilled turkey steak with mushroom gravy so I got the beef, the wife got the turkey and we shared. The bolied beef dish was so amazingly delicious that I started thinking that maybe I didn't want to share after all! But, since sacrifice and compromise are paramount to any marriage, I held true to my word and switched plates with the wife halfway through. And damn if the turkey steak with the mushroom gravy wasn't every bit as tasty as the beef dish. I was just floored at how good the food was, I cannot remember enjoying a meal so much in a long time.

With only a few weeks left here, I am ruing the fact that I have only just now discovered the Red Ox. We'll definitely eat there again at least a couple times before we leave. Here's their website: Roten Ochsen if you'd like to check it out.

And here's a few photos from our lunch yesterday, click on the pic to enlarge...





Friday, October 17, 2008

I love being a Red Sox fan.

I wake up this morning at 0445 and turn on the TV hoping to find my beloved Red Sox ahead in game 5. To my dismay, they were losing 7-0 in the bottom of the 7th inning. I was so disgusted that I changed the channel. A few minutes later I thought to myself "Well, it's the last time I'll get to watch them this year so I might as well torture myself" and put the game back on. Shortly after, the Red Sox scored a run and I thought to myself "Well, at least they didn't get shut out". I got up to go make my morning espresso as Big Papi strolled to the plate with two men on base. I put the mokka on the stove and went back into the living room just in time to hear the announcer saying "and just like that, it's a 3 run game!". I was unimpressed as I figured it was too little, too late. But at least they had made it close. I continued to watch.

One inning later they tied the game on a JD Drew home run and a Coco Crisp single. I was excited.

One inning after that, in the bottom of the 9th, they won the game on a JD Drew single. They were down 7-0 with a mere 7 outs left in their season and somehow, someway, they pulled it out. They now go to Tampa Bay for game 6 and if they win that, they will play game 7. If they win that, they will go to the World Series. Yesterday at this time, they were down 3 games to 1, looking horrible, and my boss (who is from Tampa) was relentlessly rubbing it in. They still have to win two more games on the road against a very good team but at least there is a "Ray" of hope (pun intended)...

I love being a Red Sox fan. And I have developed a severe man-crush on JD Drew.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

"Nightmare on Elm Street der Hauptstrasse"

So I met Freddie Krueger at the Herbstfest a few weeks ago...

Some good news for a change...

Just introduced the landlord to a guy who really wants to move in here after we move out and after some extensive grilling, a urinalysis test, and a body cavity search, they finally agreed to allow him in. They wanted him to put down his first born as collateral but as he is 54 years old and single, they were forced to settle on his right pinky finger. He is very excited and I am very relieved as the first hurdle has been successfully navigated. I have to wait until we get the work visas before I know exactly what day we'll be moving out but my guess is somewhere around the first or second week of November. At least that's what I'm shooting for.

In the meantime, I'll try to post some pics of our place in the next day or so...

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Update on the Italy move

OK, here's the deal. My tentative start date in Italy is November 9th. It's tentative because it is dependent on us getting the proper documents first and that is no small task. When you work in Italy as a civilian, there are a lot of document/visa issues you have to wade through before you even step foot in the country. I'm not sure if we're going to make the November 9th date or not but it's looking pretty good at this point. The only other trained, experienced guy at work took another job as well and left a couple days ago so my workload just doubled, right at the time that I am trying to start all my outprocessing, making things even more difficult. I have several issues here to deal with before we leave which are making things hard and on top of everything, my drivers license got suspended for two months due to a speeding ticket back in April which is making things nigh impossible to manage. I'm trying to take things one day at a time so I don't get too stressed out. Don't want that aneurysm coming back, lol...

The main thing right now is that I had to agree to a 3 month termination notice when we moved in here. At the time it was the only thing standing between us and the palace we currently live in so it seemed like a small concession to make. Now however, it is extremely problematic because of the Draconian laws in this country. I gave notice yesterday but it doesn't take affect until the end of the month. That means that I am technically on the hook for the rent until the end of January. My LQA (living quarters allowance) will be stopped once we clear the house, which could be by the end of October. If that happens, that means I pay three months rent and utilities out of my own pocket - to the tune of about $3,000 a month. OUCH. The only way the landlord will let me out of the lease early is if I am able to find someone to move in before we leave. I'm hoping this shouldn't be too difficult because anyone who has seen this place knows how amazing it is - it sells itself. Sure enough, I have showed it to one guy so far and within 2 minutes of walking in, he declared that he wants it bad. But, in keeping with my "things are never easy" theme, the landlord has to personally approve of the person(s) first. So I've been coaching the guy on how to talk and act when he meets Herr Klinge.

Anyway, that's pretty much where we are. I'm actually starting to get really sad at the thought of leaving this place, Heidelberg has been very good to us. I can't imagine a better place to live - the only bad thing about it is that, well, it's not Italy!

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

The X Man's kung fu is stronger than yours.

The X Man's new favorite movie is Kung Fu Panda and it has inspired him to become a Kung Fu Master. Here, he shows off some of his moves...I think this is Shaolin Style...



Monday, October 06, 2008

Sunday, October 05, 2008

I'm back baby...

Well, I am back from my 1 week in the States at Scott AFB, right outside of St. Louis and I gotta tell you - while I still think the US is the best country in the world, I am not missing living in the US at all. It's kind of ironic that just about the time that Michelle Obama is finally proud of her country, I am starting lose my pride in it.

Rude, overweight, ignorant, self-important people seem to be the norm now. It saddens me. What happened to the country I grew up in?

Have I just been in Europe too long?

Sunday, September 28, 2008

We interupt this regularly scheduled blog...

I'm leaving in about 3 hours for the airport, flying to beautiful, sunny...St. Louis. I'll be there for one week for work, returning next weekend. With our impending move back to paradise Italy, this stupid conference comes at a bad time as I should be spending my time getting things ready for the move but I'll just have to bite my lower lip and get through it.

See everyone next week...

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

DO YOU BELIEVE IN MIRACLES? SI!



Some of my hardcore readers may recall how I was unbelievably screwed out of my old job in Italy over two years ago. You may recall how devastated I was and how I have spent the past two and a half years here trying desperately to get back down there somehow, someway, with no luck.

Well it has finally happened. We are going home.

They had posted my old job way back in June, I applied and was notified that I made the referral list in mid July but have been on pins and needles since then waiting to hear if I would get selected or get screwed again. This was my last chance. If I had not gotten selected this time, the dream would be over and I would accept the fact that we would never return to the land that we love so much. In the past few weeks I had heard whispers that I had a good chance of getting selected but I would not allow myself to get my hopes up because I could not take the heartbreak of getting passed over yet again. So imagine my excitement and pure, unadulterated joy when I got the phone call this morning informing me that I have been selected for the position! The impossible dream has come true! I have a ton of paperwork and documents to do before we go back but if all goes well we should be back in paradise sometime in November.

You cannot possibly imagine how excited I am. You think you can imagine but trust me, you can't. In the coming days and weeks I'll be posting more updates on Italy but for now I am celebrating with a silky smooth Barbera d'Alba and some Grana Padano. The wife and the X Man are excited as well as the X Man will be starting in the Italian school when we get there. Giampietro has already told us that he plans on taking the X Man to school each day.

Life is good...and about to get so much better!

Some pics from Luca's first trip to Italy

Luca meets Giampietro, Agnese, Monica, Luca and another Luca...






Monday, September 22, 2008

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Guess where we're going tomorrow...


We're taking off right after work, staying in the Austrian Alps tomorrow night and should arrive in paradise (aka Italia) sometime Saturday morning. As usual I plan on doing some fly fishing on the Brenta River in Bassano dal Grappa, eating plenty of pizza, pasta and panini, drinking plenty of vino buono, visiting all of nostra amici (our good friends), spending a day in Venezia visiting with our Venetian friends Denise, Theresa and Michelangelo, and of course watching a lot of calcio (soccer). We'll be staying with Giampietro and Agnese's house and you cannot imagine how anxious and excited they are to meet little Luca.

I'm so excited to get there that I'm already dreading having to return to Germany.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Luca is Baptised.

This past Friday we did Luca's baptism at the base chapel. In a strange coincidence, the Chaplain who did the X Man's baptism 4 years ago happens to be stationed here now so we had him do Luca's as well. Virginia's best friend from back home, Bhing, and her husband Toni are Luca's godparents - Toni is a German from the city of Darmstadt which is only about 30 minutes away and they were here with their 2 kids visiting his family so we took advantage of the opportunity to do the ceremony while they were here. Of course, the real party was afterwards, we had a huge reception at our house. Virginia had been really wanting to do a big party with tons of food and man did we ever. Bhing came over the day before and they cooked all day, then they cooked all the next day and were joined by another Filipina friend of Virginia's named Fely and later on by two more Filipina friends of Fely. When we got back from the church, there were two more Filipinas in the kitchen that I didn't even know. I've never seen so much food in one place but it's just as well as we had probably around 50 people over plus a dozen or so kids. Since I knew there would be plenty of kids, I bought a pinata and hung it up on our terrace and it was a huge hit. Overall, it was a fantastic night, one of the best we've had since we came to Germany. Here are some pics (the last picture is Bhing and Toni)...





Thursday, September 04, 2008

Sarah Palin



Seriously, I don't care what anybody says...this woman is HAWT.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Friday, August 29, 2008

I am one in a milliion 108.


HowManyOfMe.com
LogoThere are
108
people with my name in the U.S.A.

How many have your name?


If they included Canada, this number would probably increase tenfold. And when I use "Rik" instead of my full name (Richard), it says I am the only one in the US!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Rik's Blog, 80's Edition: Sports

I could actually dedicate a month's worth of posts dedicated to sports in the 80's. I grew up an avowed sports junkie and about the only sport I never got into in the 80's was of course car racing. Boston was a great place to be for sports fans in the 80's. It started with the Miracle on Ice in 1980 which had a heavy Boston tilt to it. My mother, for some inexplicable reason, became a huge Celtics fan in the early 80's and I really got spoiled growing up watching the Big 2 (Bird, McHale, Parish) and all the great Celtics teams of the 80's. We got a flicker of success in the mid 80's with the Patriots before it all came crashing down. I cried in 1986 when the ball went through Buckner's legs. Thankfully, the hated Yankees didn't win a World Series title in the 80's either. But I think what I miss most is watching the Bruins teams they had in the 80's. They never won the Stanley Cup but they had some great characters, guys like Rick Middleton, Brad Park, Gord Kluzak, Mike Milbury.

As far as playing, we played everything in the 80's. I played little league baseball, youth league basketball and soccer and spent the winters playing pick up hockey on the frozen ponds around our town, usually with our neighbors the Roys who were from Canada (and yes, the youngest son was named Patrick).

One memory that sticks out in my mind was somewhere around 1981, my father had taken us to Boston for the day and we were having lunch in the North End, which is the Italian section of Boston and has some amazing pizza. So we're in the pizzeria and I look over and in one of the booths is a guy who looks just like Larry Bird. I tell my father and of course, he's not a sports fan so he says "Go over and ask him". At first I was shy but I was such a huge fan that eventually I did go over and ask "Excuse me...are you Larry Bird?" The guy gave me a nervous laugh and said "No, sorry, I'm not". So I was disappointed but when I got home that night I looked in the paper and they did have a home game that day...and the guy was with a woman and young girl and Larry did have a wife and young daughter...so I've always preferred to think that he really was Larry Legend and that he just didn't want to be recognized.

Anyway, I could on forever about being a sports fan in Boston in the 80's but luckily for me, WBZ-TV did it for me. I remember seeing this on TV at the close of the decade and was lucky enough to find it online a while back...



Every clip in that video is a memory...

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

STEVE-O COMETH!


Steve-O needs no introduction on my blog, but if you need a reminder, read this old post. As I've written before, the thing I look forward to most every year is Steve-O's annual visit. But life is about to get a lot better: Steve-O recently got a job in Karlsruhe, which is only about about 30 minutes away from Heidelberg. He arrives this weekend to begin his new life in Germany and I cannot tell you how excited I am about it. I foresee many road trips, movie and TV quotes, pints of Guinness and an endless supply of quips, stories and laughs in my future...

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Rik's Blog, 80's Edition: Forgotten Songs

We all know that the 80's had some great music. The past few years, 80's music has been making a comeback - everybody knows all the well known songs but there were a lot of great songs that a lot of people have forgotten and that's a shame. With that in mind, I thought I'd try to list some of the songs that I loved in the 80's despite them not being very popular, not getting a lot of airplay, or not having reached very high on the charts. Some of them are one-hit wonders, some of them are follow-ups to smash hits, and some actually were hits but don't get played much anymore. Some of them I liked mostly because the song's video was cool or maybe because they make me remember a particular memory. Anyway, I hope you enjoy them and feel free to recommend any I might have missed...

Queen Of Hearts ~ Juice Newton
I Love You ~ Climax Blues Band (One of my two favorite songs of all time)
I’ve Done Everything For You ~Rick Springfield (I had this 45)
Don’t Talk To Strangers ~ Rick Springfield
Pop Goes the World ~ Men Without Hats
One in a Million ~ The Romantics (Great 80's video)
When You Close Your Eyes ~ Night Ranger
You Got Lucky ~ Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
In a Big Country ~ Big Country
Space Age Love Song ~ Flock of Seagulls
I Do ~ J. Geils Band
I Don’t Wanna Dance ~ Eddie Grant
Don’t Answer Me ~ Alan Parsons Project
Leather and Lace ~ Stevie Nicks and Don Henley
Stop Dragging My Heart Around ~ Stevie Nicks and Tom Petty
You Should Hear How She Talks About You ~ Melissa Manchester (Great Youtube clip of her singing this on Solid Gold)
Somebody’s Baby ~ Jackson Brown
Leader of the Band ~ Dan Fogelberg
Vacation ~ The Go-Go's
Break it to me gently ~ Juice Newton
One Hundred Ways ~ James Ingram
Southern Cross ~ Crosby, Stills and Nash
Only Time Will Tell ~ Asia
Love me tomorrow ~ Chicago
Bobbie Sue ~ Oak Ridge Boys
Do You Wanna Touch Me ~ Joan Jett and the Blackhearts
Fantasy ~ Aldo Nova
Rumors ~ Aldo Nova
Nobody Said It Was Easy ~ Le Roux
Words ~ Missing Persons
Solitaire ~ Gloria Branigan
They Don’t Know ~ Tracey Ullman
Personally ~ Karla Banoff
Desert Moon ~ Dennis DeYoung
Major Tom ~ Peter Schilling
Rock Me Tonight ~ Billy Squier
Give it Up ~ KC
So Bad ~ Paul McCartney
Run Runaway ~ Slade
My Oh My ~ Slade
No Way Out ~ Starship
The Curly Shuffle ~ Jump 'n the Saddle
Catch me I’m falling ~ Real Life (If you want to see what the 80's looked like, watch this video)
All I Need ~ Jack Wagner (He of General Hospital fame...)
Lovergirl ~ Teena Marie (Takes me back to fishing in Brickyard Brook for some reason)
Obsession ~ Animotion
The Search Is Over ~ Survivor
Heart and Soul ~ T'Pau
Sleeping Bag ~ ZZ Top
Party All the Time ~ Eddie Murphy
Think She Likes Me ~ Treat Her Right
Burning Flame ~ Vitamin Z
Secret Separation ~ The Fixx (Saw these guys in concert with the Moody Blues in '86)
She Sells Sanctuary ~ The Cult
Calling on You ~ Stryper (Saw these guys in concert too...twice!)
Electric Blue ~ Icehouse
King Of Rock ~ Run DMC
Lovin Every Minute of it ~ Loverboy
Cry ~ Godley and Creme
Kayleigh ~ Marillion
Tender Years ~ John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band (Eddie and the Cruisers, 80's classic)
I Wonder If I Take You Home ~ Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam
Someday ~ Glass Tiger (Only in an 80's video would a dude wear a pink shirt and a maroon beret)
If You Leave ~ OMD
Tuff Enuff ~ The Fabulous Thunderbirds
Beat’s So Lonely ~ Charlie Sexton
The Captain of her Heart ~ Double
I Might Lie ~ Andy Taylor (Duran Duran pretty boy turns into hard rocker)
At This Moment ~ Billy Vera and the Beaters (Every time I hear this song, it reminds me of the Family Ties episode where Ellen breaks up with Alex)
You Got It All ~ The Jets
Take It Easy ~ Andy Taylor (Another great 80's movie - American Anthem)
Meet Me Halfway ~ Kenny Loggins (Great 80's song from a great 80's movie - Over the Top)
Since You’ve Been Gone ~ The Outfield (Very underrated 80's band, their first album was one of my favorites)
Naughty Girls Need Love ~ Samantha Fox
I Want To Be Your Man ~ Roger
I Want Her ~ Keith Sweat
Oak Tree ~ Morris Day and the Time (Remember the Oak Tree dance that went along with it?)
Girl I’m Gonna Miss You ~ Milli Vanilli (I don't care what anybody says, I liked their music)

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Rik's Blog, 80's Edition: Boston Bands

One thing I remember about the 80's was a couple local bands: Jon Butcher Axis and The Stompers. As far as I know, neither of them hit it big outside Boston and pretty much made a living playing clubs in and around the Boston area. I listened mostly to rock stations back then and their shows were always being advertised. Occasionally they would have a hit that would get a lot of airplay on the radio. JBA in particular I really liked as he was a his songs had a lot of energy and blazing guitars. My favorite song of his was called "Don't Say Goodnight" and I recently found it on Youtube, although it's actually just a homemade video that someone posted but the song sounds as good as ever:



The Stompers were also a local institution in Boston. They had a little more commercial success than JBA did but were still pretty much resigned to local clubs and venues. One thing I remember about the Stompers is that they had a couple videos that got a lot of airplay on Boston's local video channel called V66 (People who grew up around Boston in the 80's will remember V66!) Their biggest hit was called "Never Tell an Angel" and it's extremely catchy. They have a live version of it on Youtube but you can hear the actual version on, of places, their Myspace page:

The Stompers Myspace

I remember 'em like it was yesterday...

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Rik's Blog, 80's Edition: BLASPHEMY!

One American Olympic athlete that I will NOT be rooting for at the Beijing games is wrestler Ben Askrin. Mr. Askrin has seen fit to denigrate one of the greatest 80's movies of all time: Vision Quest. But he didn't stop there - he also took a veiled shot at the 80's in general. Here's what he said:

"'Vision Quest' is a terrible, terrible movie," Askren says during a deep-thoughts session from his room in the Olympic Village. "It's just so stereotypical and '80s."

Let me tell you something Ben Askrin. You may be competing at the Olympics...but you, my friend, are no Louden Swain.