Friday, July 31, 2009

Surgery Update...and another Top 5 list.

Had an appointment with the surgeon this morning and my surgery is scheduled for Wednesday, September 2nd up at Aviano AFB. They're going to knock me out and then he's going to go in and basically cut a centimeter off my clavicle. Or my collarbone, I forgot which one. I'll be in a sling for a couple days followed by two months of physical therapy. I'm not looking forward to it but at this point i just want this damned thing fixed. I don't enjoy hospitals.

Speaking of hospitals...

The 5 Things I Have Been in the Hospital For:

1. Being born

2. Tonsils removed

3. Adenoids removed

4. Hit in the ribs with a Matt Briggs fastball in little league

5. Hit in the eye with a softball in a church league softball game

Thursday, July 30, 2009

The 5 Best Foods I've Eaten in Italy

1. Penne w/ white pesto (Il Castello in Vernazza, Cinque Terra)

2. Tortellini al balsamico (Tinello’s in Bologna)

3. Pizza w/ Olives (Napoli)

4. Scaloppini al curry (Ristorante da Fernando in Rettorgole, Vicenza)

5. Risotto frutti di mare (Ristorante al Company, Vicenza)

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The 5 People I would like to spend an evening drinking with

1. Geno

2. Steve-O

3. Steve Lentz

4. Fergusi

5. Ramsey Farrell

5 Things That Might Surprise You to Know About Me

1. I don't own an iPOD.

2. I have never in my life been to a strip club. Seriously. I've never even had any interest in going either, I don't see the point in throwing away all kinds of money to see a girl dance naked when I can see the same thing in a magazine for 5 bucks or on late night Italian tv for free.

3. I have a weird attraction to airports and train stations. I love being in them and seeing all the people from different places going to who-knows-where. I guess it just appeals to the travel fiend in me. Every once in a great while I go to the Vicenza train station and have a panini or pizza for lunch just as an excuse to go to the train station. And I jump at the chance to give people rides to the airport or pick them up. The Venice airport is one of my favorite places.

4. I can make my pecs dance. After all those hours in the gym, this is what I am left with.

5. I have no interest in doing the one thing I might be best at. For years people have been telling me that I should have been a travel writer. And you know, I probably would have been a good one. But I've always thought that if it were a job and something I had to actually work at, I wouldn't enjoy it anymore. The idea has always intrigued me though. After all, I love to travel and I love to write.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

It's Ferie time again.

For those who don't know, August is not a fun time to be in Italy. August in Italy means "Ferie". Ferie is what the Italians call it when they take their yearly vacation, which almost the entire country does at the same time - in August. August is also the hottest month in Italy and the stifling heat makes it hard to do anything so the entire country takes vacation and goes either to the sea or to the mountains. For an american, it's like nothing we've ever seen before, you walk around some cities and towns and every single bar, store, restaurant and shop is closed. The typical thing for them to do is put a sign on the window telling the exact dates that they will be closed for ferie. For those of us whose routine remains the same, August can be a very frustrating month as nothing is open. Imagine a world where everything closes at the same time. At least that's how it used to be when I first got here back in 2000. Back then I can remember driving over half hour through 4 or 5 different towns just looking for an open pizzeria.

Lately however, I've noticed that more businesses are opting to close for only two weeks in August rather than the traditional full month. Some places in fact are even staying open entirely. These places usually announce this with a huge sign saying something like "SEMPRE APERTO IN AGOSTO!" - still open in August.

Most other western European countries do their vacations in August as well so it's also not a good time to drive on the autostradas as they are crammed full of Germans and Dutch travelers towing their big clumsy camper trailers around the peninsula. When we were in Germany we didn't even attempt to come visit during August as it would mean sitting in traffic jams for hours. I've often wondered why the northern Europeans do it year after year.

As for me, I'll be working as usual. but we're considering taking a weeks vacation to go to Cinque Terra around the first week of September...after all the Germans and Dutch have left of course.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Random Memory: Memorial Day, 2004.

In May of 2004, I got selected to participate in a Memorial Day ceremony at the American Cemetary in Florence, Italy. I knew I was getting out of the Army at the end of the year so I was happy and proud to do it as one of my last big things before rejoining the ranks of the civilian world.

The plan was to leave on Sunday and stay overnight at Camp Darby, which is a small logistical base about an hour away from Florence. We were a big group and there is no lodging on Camp Darby so we had to bring our sleeping bags and sleep in the gym on base Sunday night. The bus arrived sometime in the afternoon and we got our orders from the NCOIC who was in charge if the detail, SFC Stugartt. SFC Stugartt was a no-nonsense kind of guy and told us in no uncertain terms that we were there for the ceremony only, that we had to leave early the next morning, and that nobody was allowed to go off post because that would invariably lead to someone getting drunk and stupid and then getting in trouble. Camp Darby is so small that on the weekends pretty much everything is closed so the only options for dinner were the shoppette or a little snack bar that had burgers and pizzas and such. I grabbed the only thing I could find at the shoppette for dinner - a bag of beef jerky - and stashed it in my sleeping bag before heading out to find something to do. There was a Memorial Day softball tournament going on so I grabbed a bottle of beer at the snack bar and sat on the lawn to watch. Eventually another guy I worked with, SSG Luman joined me as did the legal NCO, SSG Denny. The three of us just chatted for a couple hours until eventually it was evening and I said "Well, nothing else to do around here so might as well hit it." I ate the rest of my beef jerky and went to sleep. Sometime in the middle of the night I woke up and had to go to the bathroom so I got out of my sleeping bag and stumbled to the bathroom in the men's lockeroom. As I was standing at the urinal, my stomach started feeling really nauseous for some reason. It got worse as I finished my business so I took a few sips from the water fountain. And that's all I remember.

Next thing I knew I woke up again feeling very strange and feeling something cold on my cheek. As my eyes focused, I realized that I was lying face down on the tile floor in the lockeroom. No sooner did I realize this when I felt something warm and wet on my cheek so I tried to sit up and suddenly I saw copious amounts of blood all over the floor. I touched my face and my hand became covered with blood. I struggled to get up and walked over to the mirror and saw that my entire face was covered with blood which was oozing from my left eye. Everything was feeling so surreal, I couldn't figure out what the hell was going on. Was I attacked? That was my initial thought but eventually I deduced that I had passed out after drinking from the water fountain. I tried in vain to stop the bleeding with paper towels but the gash was just way too deep. It would require medical attention for sure. I went back to my sleeping bag and called SFC Stugartt on my cell phone. It was somewhere around 2 or 3 am so he was sound asleep. I told him I had just passed out in the bathroom and swore to him that I wasn't drunk. He called the medic we had brought with us and she dressed the wound and put some kind of butterfly stitch or something on it that stopped the bleeding and said that I'd probably have to go to the hospital in Pisa the next morning to get stitches. I went back to bed wondering what the hell had just happened to me.

A few hours later we got up, put on our Class A uniforms and boarded the bus. Since the bleeding had stopped, they decided I would not go to the hospital but because of the amount of blood I had lost SFC Stugartt informed me that I would not participate in the ceremony that morning. The temperature was headed into the 90's and he felt that the combination of my wound and the extreme heat would be dangerous. I was devastated as I really wanted to do it but I understood. At least I was able to see the American Cemetary and get some pictures before the ceremony anyway.

When we got back home I went to see the doctor on base to get checked out. I told him what happened and he knew exactly what it was. When your sleeping, your body temperature is warm. When you get up in the middle of the night, your body heat suddenly drops considerably and the blood rushes to the head and voom, down you go. He said it is very common and that there is even a medical term for it (which I can't remember). He also said it happens most frequently to men when they go to the bathroom in the middle of the night and they often end up with injuries similar to mine as they are usually at the urinal or toilet when it happens and they end up hitting their head when they go down.

I still have scar from the incident. Thank God it's never happened again...

If you look really close, you can see the bandage over my left eye.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Happy Birthday Grammy...

...From Luca and the X Man!

Friday, July 24, 2009

The Soundtrack of my Life: Against the Wind

"Against the Wind" has always been my favorite Bob Seger song. The second and third verses pretty much sum up the last 11 years of my life:

And the years rolled slowly past
And I found myself alone
Surrounded bv strangers I thought were my friends
I found myself further and further from my home
And I guess I lost my way
There were oh so many roads
I was living to run and running to live
Never worried about paying or even how much I owed
Moving eight miles a minute for months at a time
Breaking all of the rules that would bend
I began to find myself searchin
Searching for shelter again and again
Against the wind
A little something against the wind
I found myself seeking shelter against the wind

Well those drifters days are past me now
Ive got so much more to think about
Deadlines and commitments
What to leave in, what to leave out

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

You know what they say about those that can't do...

Something most people don't know about me is that when I was younger one of the things I often thought about doing when I grew up was being a teacher. My favorite subject throughout my school years was always history (aka "social studies") and for many years I had it in the back of my mind that my destiny was to be a history teacher. It helped quite a bit that I had some unbelievably great history teachers in high school. Mr. Laperriere, Ms. Lavoie, Mr. Johnson, Ms. Dickson...every single one I had was fantastic and social studies was always the one class I looked forward to going to. I also used to read various history books on my own time which was a rarity for me. Alas, when I got to college history was more of a hobby than an prospective vocation for me as I found that studying history on that level was so much work that it became less enjoyable to me, ergo I never seriously considered majoring in it.

Years later when I had enlisted active duty Army, one of the reasons I did so was to get money for my Masters Degree, so I could go back to school to study - and make a career out of - something I was interested in. The Army has a program called "Troops to Teachers" which I thought was outstanding. Basically you get your degree and then they help you find a job as a teacher when you get out. I was really interested in it but with all the traveling I was doing I never found the time to start on my Masters Degree then I came to Italy and the rest, as they say, is history (pardon the pun).

Lately I've been thinking about my youthful dream of being a teacher and I gotta say, it still does appeal to me. I see young kids today who can't read or write on an academic level commensurate with their age and experience and it makes me cringe sometimes. The two subjects I was always interested in and was pretty good at were history and English. I could not do math and science to save my life but history and English just came naturally to me.

At 38 years old I doubt I'll ever become a teacher but I guess you never know what the future holds, right? After all, you know what they say - "Those that can't do, teach"...and let's face it, there's a hell of a lot that I can't do!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Those Were The Days

Boy, the way Glen Miller played
Songs that made the Hit Parade
Guys like us, we had it made
Those were the days!
Didn't need no welfare state
Everybody pulled his weight
Gee, our old LaSalle ran great
Those were the days!
And you knew where you were then
Girls were girls and men were men
Mister, we could use a man like Herbert Hoover again
People seemed to be content
Fifty dollars paid the rent
Freaks were in a circus tent
Those were the days!
Take a little Sunday spin
go to watch the Dodgers win.
Have yourself a dandy day that cost you under a fin (five dollar bill)
Hair was short and skirts were long
Kate Smith really sold a song
I don't know just what went wrong
Those Were the Days!"

Thursday, July 16, 2009


Well our extraordinary run of bad luck since coming back to Italy continues; it looks like I'll be going under the knife in a couple weeks or so. As you know, I have been having problems with my shoulder for a little over 5 months now. I've seen the orthopedist on base three times and after x-rays and two steroid injections, nothing worked and he had no idea what it was so this past week I had an MRI. This morning I received the following email from him:

...the MRI results point to a problem with the AC joint; degeneration. Ligaments, tendons and labrum are intact. My question is are you getting better after the steroid injection at the AC joint? Do you constant pain that you are considering surgery? The Aviano orthopedic surgeon will be here in late July and I have slots available. Call me

Since I am still in constant pain (or at least severe discomfort), it looks like surgery will be the way to go. I'll know more after I call him later this morning and get more details. I really don't want surgery but we've exhausted every other option.

This web article seems to be spot on in describing exactly what is wrong with my shoulder:

Osteoarthritis of the Acromioclavicular Joint

I wonder if I will ever be able to use my kettlebells again. Sigh.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Back from Germany.

Had a great weekend up in Germany. I was able to go up a day early and spend a few days with Steve-O before my appointment in Karlsruhe. I had never seen Karlsruhe before and I was pretty impressed with it. There's not really any touristy things to see except the Scloss (palace) but it's got a lot of energy. Steve-O is very lucky to live where he does.

The MRI at Landstuhl went fine but I won't get the results for "48-72 hours" so hopefully I'll know within the next couple days what the hell is wrong with me. I am anxious to start my kettlebell workouts again. I bought a nice treadmill a couple weeks ago and I've been running up to 30 minutes on it but the kettlebells are what really do it for me.

The drive back was great. No matter how many times I drive through the Alps they never disappoint me. My only disappointment is that I wish someone else could drive so I could spend the entire trip marveling at them instead of having to watch the road. I had considered staying in Innsbruck on my way home as I love that city, it's so much fun but opted instead for our usual halfway point of Heiterwang. It's a tiny little town in Austria that has nothing to do but sit out on the balcony and admire the mountains, which I did while reading a book and enjoying a crisp Austrian pils (or three...). Austria really is a fantastic country, one of my favorites. And then you go through the Brenner Pass and the drive through the very northern part of Italy is just as beautiful, maybe even more so. Growing up in New Hampshire, the White Mountains were a huge part of my life; living in Italy and Germany, the Alps have become just as big.

So now it's back to the grind. We had to cancel our usual 4th of July pilgrimage to Cinque Terra because of my MRI thing so we weren't able to enjoy a nice vacation this year. I may try to take a few days leave in August or September so we can go somewhere. I really need a vacation. I hate my job.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Be back in a bit...

Headed up to Germany for a few days, be back either Monday or Tuesday. In the meantime, sit back and relax...

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Did I ever tell you about the time...

...that I called my mom a dildo?

A little background first; we grew up about 200 yards from an X-rated outdoor drive in theater. Growing up, we would often find dirty magazines and stuff like that on the side of the road and of course, being little perverts, we would pick them up and keep them in our tree forts. I was really too young to understand most of the stuff in there but I recall reading one and seeing an ad for something called a dildo. There was no picture so I had no clue what it was, I only knew it must be something dirty if it was in a dirty magazine.

So one Sunday afternoon after church we decided to all play Monopoly as a family, my mother, my sister, my brother and I. I think I was 10 or 11 at the time. A while into the game I was close to being out of money as I rolled the dice. I ended up landing on one of my mom's properties, which just happened to have a hotel on it. I could not afford the rent so I was out of the game. I got so mad I wanted to call my mother a name but swearing was not allowed in Judy's house so I blurted out the only other thing that popped into my mind and yelled "You...DILDO!"


The room got very silent very quick and the ashen look on my mother's face made me realize right away that the word dildo was...well...probably not a good thing to call your mother. After a few tense seconds, my brother and sister started laughing and my brother exclaimed "Ricky, do you know what you just said?!". I of course did not so I pleaded ignorance. Thank God my mother accepted this and let me off with a stern warning to never...EVER...let her hear that word again.

Looking back, it was quite a funny moment...but still not as funny as the time I called her a motherf****r...

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

The Soundtrack of my Life: Rocky Mountain High

There are several songs that occupy special places in my mind for various reasons. Some remind me of friends or girlfriends past, some instantly whisk me off to a certain time in my life every time I hear them, some bring back memories of a particular moment or happening. There are some however that just sort of, for lack of a better term, "sum things up". One such song is "Rocky Mountain High" by the late John Denver.

I've heard the song since I was a kid but it never held any kind of meaning for me until I left for Europe back in 1998. The lyrics of the song are about a young man coming to the Rocky Mountains and being reborn by the beauty of what he encounters. I've always loved the song and used to listen to it often and then one day the meaning changed for me when I pondered the opening verse:

He was born in the summer of his 27th year
Coming home to a place he'd never been before
He left yesterday behind him, you might say he was born again
you might say he found the key to every door

It occurred to me that I was also in my 27th year when I came to Europe and, as I arrived in May, the summer of my 27th year was when it all changed for me. Although it's hard to explain, the second line - "coming home to a place he'd never been before" - also had personal meaning to me. My family are all French Canadians, I'd studied and tutored French in high school and college and had always wanted to see the land of my ancestors. The first time I went to France, it was a feeling of coming home even though I'd never been there.

What eventually dawned on me (I'm a little slow...) is that if you replace the Rocky Mountains with Europe, the song could almost describe my situation exactly. Like the man in the song, I had come to a different place in my 27th year and without even realizing it, was practically reborn into a new life, leaving my old one behind.

"Rocky Mountain High"...part of the soundtrack of my life.

Monday, July 06, 2009

I have a dream.

Move to Hong Kong for the rest of my life. *Sigh*

Thursday, July 02, 2009


My favorite clip from a show over here called "Ti lascio una cansone" (which translates roughly as "Leaving you a song"). The premise of the show is that young people give their interpretations of Italy's most beloved songs from generations gone by. It's kind of a way to ensure that the greatest songs in Italy's history are not forgotten by the younger generation.