Wednesday, July 30, 2008

10 Things I miss about living in the US

1. The Boston Globe sports section

2. Barnes and Noble

3. Watching a movie when it first comes out in the theater

4. Fenway Park

5. Customer service

6. Commercials

7. Pizza delivery

8. Buying something - anything - at 3 AM

9. 157 Channels

10. Batting cages

Monday, July 28, 2008

I shoulda punched him...

If you read this blog regularly then you know that our favorite hangout is our local pub, The Dubliner. I don't have German TV so I usually go down there anytime I want to watch a soccer or rugby match. Pub culture in Europe is much different in Europe than it is in the States. In the US, a pub is little more than a place for adults to go and drink. In Europe, a pub is more of a social gathering place and it's common during the day to see entire families in there enjoying themselves. For us, nearly all of our local friends were met at the Dub. We are such good customers that the owner and staff have taken to us and they have practically adopted the X Man. He absolutely loves going to the pub; it's almost like a playground for him as he plays checkers and other games they have there and there are a few regulars who take him out to play soccer in the street or build little houses with the coasters while I watch the matches. One of the waitresses has a son about his age and occasionally he comes in and the two play together. Another thing that often happens is, because he is such a ham and so comfortable at the Dub, people in the pub will end up playing with him. It happens a lot, strangers fall in love with him and tell us on the way out how adorable he is, etc. It also works well to give the wife a break since she's always exhausted from caring for the baby AND the X Man.


Saturday afternoon there was a match I really wanted to see so we went down to the Dub. As soon as we walked in, the X Man ran up to the bar, climbed up on the stool and asked for the dice game that they had as I settled in to my table. There were three American guys sitting at the bar next to him. They were obviously tourists as they were dressed like tourists and were a little too "hefty" to be military. The one next to him started playing the dice game with him which I didn't think much of, as it happens often. They seemed to take to him and spent about an hour playing with him and laughing at his antics. My friend Rainer had joined me as the match had started and after about an hour, the three guys got up to leave. As they did, they came over to my table and the one on the end who was playing with the X Man said "Excuse me, I don't mean to interrupt..." and of course my first thought was that he was about to tell me how cute the X Man was, yada yada. Instead, he says this:

"Well, first of all, whose little boy is that?"

"He's mine"

"I'm going to tell you something - your poor son is STARVING for attention..."

Now I'm thinking to myself "What is he, some kind of child psychologist, where is he going with this?"

"And the fact that you're taking him to the pub and letting him play with a complete stranger at a bar tells me that you are not giving him the attention he needs...I've got kids at home and I-..."

"OK, thank you, good bye now. Thank you, GOODBYE""

"And see, now you're just being a complete prick."

Such anger welled up inside of me but the X Man was sitting right next to me so I kept my cool, shot him a look, and just calmly responded again, "OK, thank you...goodbye" everytime he tried to say something else. He got the hint that his comments were not welcome and they all left, leaving a few rude comments on the way out.

I sat there stunned that someone could come to such asinine conclusions about my family life after spending an hour playing with my kid. I was so angry, I wanted to follow him out to the street and deck him but Rainer calmed me down and told me I did the right thing. I guess so...

But I really wish I woulda punched him.

Friday, July 25, 2008

A day in the life of Rik and Gino

GINO: The talk about corona makes me remember a time I was with my detachment in Honduras. We drank Cerveza Nacional that looked exactly like the corona bottle. (they are now out of business). Anyway, it was returnable bottles of course and the local distributors would take back the bottles, sterilize them and refill. So one day at lunch I'm drinking my beer and there's a huge black spider floating inside the bottle. He must be 1/2 inch in diameter and he's completely intact and just sort of hovering right behind the Nacional logo. I'm debating whether to finish it or not and my commo sergeant goes "Jefe, we've got to bottle plastic spiders inside of the beer and import kids would buy those like crazy" I told him he was nuts, dumped out the beer and grabbed another one...two years later everybody in the effing world is sticking lime slices in cheap ass mexican Corona beer. I think I missed making my million dollars on that one.

ME: Yeah, because plastic spiders are the same as limes...

GINO: Jerk.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

We made pizza

Another of our favorite little family activities is to make pizza. Our supplies are limited so we buy a couple of boboli pizza crust things, some sauce, a few toppings, and we make our pizza. The X Man likes to put the toppings on but he hasn't quite figured out how to spread the toppings evenly so we usually have to help him we'll end up with one giant clump of tomato sauce and one giant clump of cheese. I've often lamented that it is impossible to get a good pizza here in Germany, even in the Italian restaurants. The funniest thing is that the pizza we make at home is the closest we've come to Italia...

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The X Man goes fishing

They have a little pond owned by the Army up in Baumholder (30 minutes north of Ramstein) that they stock with trout for people to fish in so I decided to take the X Man for his first ever fishing trip. It was a rousing success. He caught one nice rainbow trout and several little carp (or as he calls them, "carpenters"). He had a blast and I enjoyed the experience of taking my son fishing for the first time immensely. We will go back for sure. I landed a monster rainbow as well so we took both trout home and the wife cooked them up and served them with a nice side salad and a lovely chardonnay. The X Man, fussy eater that he is, would not eat the fish so he had mac and cheese instead.

Here are some pictures from our excursion. Click on them to embiggen...

You can't buy worms for bait in Germany as the Germans consider it cruelty to animals so we used corn instead. One guy there had powerbait and caught his limit in about 20 minutes so I might just have to order some of that stuff for next time...

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Mullett is alive and well in Germany

Got behind this guy in line at the local beerfest a couple weeks ago...

Friday, July 18, 2008

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

More Renaissance humor...

"Michelangelo's famous statue, David, returns to Italy this week after a very successful 12-week, 20-city tour in the United States .

Sponsored by McDonalds."

(h/t to Steve-O Lester)

Sunday, July 13, 2008


My brother Eric used to live and work in Puerto Rico. While there, he dated a local girl and the stories he tells of her sometimes leave us shaking our heads in laughter, such as the time she was trying to remember the word "alligator" and said "How do you say...big lizard...a-gu-lator!"

Where we live is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe and we live right on the Hauptstrasse (main street) which is a pedestrian only street that goes right through the heart of the historic Altstadt (old town) of Heidelberg. The Hauptstrasse is always extremely crowded with tourists, locals, street performers and all manner of freaks you can imagine. There are a lot of religious groups as well such as Jehovah Witnesses, Hare Krishnas and the ubiquitous Mormons. You can spot the Mormons a mile away, they are young men with dark slacks, white shirts and dark ties with name tags over their left pocket.

Last time Eric visited he saw the Mormons and told a funny story of one time when he and his girlfriend in Puerto Rico were walking somewhere and as they passed by a couple of Mormons she got a scared look on her face and in a terrified voice exclaimed to him "Los Mormones!" as if she had seen El Diablo himself. I still laugh at that story and now every time Virginia and I are on the Hauptstrasse and we see the Mormons I get a pseudo-terrified look on my face and exclaim "Los Mormones!".

So yesterday we enjoyed a day around town which ended with us sitting outside the Dubliner with some friends enjoying the sun and a few glasses of vino. Eventually we left and headed down the crowded Hauptstrasse for home, ...and wouldn't you know it, halfway home there was a bunch of Mormons who had set up a makeshift choir right on the Hauptstrasse. About 20 if them were singing in the choir for people who were stopped to watch and listen while a couple others were passing out flyers or literature to passers-by. The vino had put me in a fun, frisky mood so as we passed by the choir, my face adopted a slight look of fear and I loudly exclaimed "Los Mormones!" which drew a smattering of chuckles from the people watching. No sooner had I said it when one of them appeared in front of me trying to hand me some literature. Without missing a beat my face adopted a full on look of fear as I repeated the cry..."Los Mormones!" And then, as if something out of a horror movie, a second Mormon jumped in front of me pushing some kind of literature in front of my face, which by this time had taken on a look of full-fledged terror; I pointed to his name tag and loudly shrieked "LOS MORMONES!!!!!" Half the people there were now laughing out loud while the other half was trying to figure out what was going on. I can only hope that some unknowing tourist recorded it and it will someday end up on Youtube. Never a dull moment on the Hauptstrasse...


Thursday, July 10, 2008

Soup's on!

Who's hungry?

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Monday, July 07, 2008

My first date...

...was with a girl named Meredith Durkee. I was 15 (I was a late bloomer) which meant that her mom had to drop her off at the movie theater and pick her up afterwards. We had dinner at the Chinese restaurant next to the theater called The Haluwa. Afterwards we saw "Soul Man" starring 80's icon Thomas C. Howell.

It was a pretty uneventful evening, nothing exciting happened and I didn't even get a goodnight kiss. About the only detail I can actually remember from the night was the fortune that I got in my fortune cookie:

"Go after what you want...there's no better time than the present."

Strange, the things you remember.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Kitchen Nightmares Dreams

It's been several years since there was a show on TV that I actually went out of my way to watch. In fact, I can't think of a single one in the past 10 years that I actually got excited each week about watching.

Until now.

For some reason I have become addicted to cooking shows lately. It started when I was in the US last autumn and the hotel cable system got the Food Network. I found myself spending most of my hotel room time with the dial alternating between the History Channel, the Discovery Channel and the Food Network. When I got back home I realized that AFN carried a few of the more popular shows from the Food Network and I started half-heartedly watching them. One such program was called Hells Kitchen and although AFN advertised it non-stop with teaser trailers, I just had no interest in checking it out. Boy I wished I had as it features an unforgiving world class chef named Gordon Ramsey.

I first became interested in some cooking show with Chef Bobby Flay and another called "$40 a Day" with Rachel Ray. I was hooked instantly. It got to the point where, when I woke up on the weekends, I would check the TV schedule to see if there were any kind of cooking shows coming on soon.

Well anyway, long story short, about a month ago AFN started showing a program called "Kitchen Nightmares" and in the past few weeks it has become my weekly addiction. Chef Gordon Ramsey is a world class chef, perhaps the best in the world. He has opened million dollar restaurants and has the magic touch like no other chef in the world short, he is not just a world class chef but he is also a brilliant restauranteur, someone who knows how to make a restaurant successful. "Kitchen Nightmares" plays on all of his strengths and each episode has him spending a week at some generic restaurant that is underachieving and on the verge of bankruptcy. After a week he turns the restaurant around but never without plenty of drama, conflict and push-back from the restaurant's owner and staff.

Apparently the show is an Americanized version of the original British "Kitchen Nightmares". I know this because, as is my custom, I went to Youtube to search for clips and most of what I found were clips of the original British version. But no matter...Chef Gordon Ramsey is freaking awesome to watch, his passion for food cooked and served perfectly is just astounding and the root of plenty of entertaining clips featuring no shortage of vulgarities and demeaning diatribes against those would-be chefs that he deems not worthy of being in his kitchen.

The wife and I were talking earlier tonight and I told her that maybe she should start spending more time with the two boys in the kitchen; if, by some miracle, they don't end up being professional soccer players, maybe they could have a future as TV culinary stars...

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Denmark is the happiest country in the world.

It's official: The Danes are the happiest people in the world.

Hard to believe the Italians weren't higher, seeing as how they live in paradise and all...