Monday, August 31, 2009

Two more days...

Only a couple more days until my shoulder surgery and it feels like forever. My shoulder has been really hurting the past couple days so I'm actually really looking forward to going under the knife and getting this damned thing fixed once and for all. It's almost as if my shoulder knows it's getting operated on and is trying to make my last two days as miserable as possible. My coworker is taking me up to Aviano tomorrow and we'll stay overnight there since I have to be at the hospital by 0630 on Wednesday. I'll be home probably Wednesday night and then I'll be taking a week or two off from work to recuperate. I won't be able to lift my arm past my shoulder for a few days or so and I won't be able to drive for at least a week so I'll be confined to home and it's going to be extremely boring as I haven't set up my satellite dish and only get a few Italian channels and of course I can't drive anywhere. Times like this I wish I lived back on the Hauptstrasse in Heidelberg. Caldogno is a nice town but there's not a whole lot to do there. Also, the X Man doesn't start school until the 14th so the house will be anything but peaceful and quiet. I'm going to go to the library today or tomorrow and pick up a few books I guess. I'm also planning on chopping all my hair off since I won't be able to brush it for the next couple weeks...

Friday, August 28, 2009

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Bees are trying to kill me. And my family.

A few months ago the wife was walking around town with the kids. Suddenly a bee appeared out of nowhere and flew close to the X Man. He is terrified of bees and when he saw it he flipped out and ran out into the street to get away from it. Fortunately no cars were driving by at that moment or he would have been run over for sure. It's pretty scary to think what could have happened if a car actually had been driving by at that moment. I shudder to think about it.

Yesterday I was driving back to the base and I was on a little small road that is barely big enough for two cars and has drainage ditches on either side of it. As I'm driving, some kind of big bug flies in through my window and almost hits me in the head. I look down at my leg and there it is, a huge freaking bee sitting there looking ominous. Well I hate bees almost as much as the X Man - especially after getting stung at work a couple weeks ago - so I temporarily lost control of my faculties as I saw this ugly thing sitting on my thigh. When you're behind the wheel, there's nowhere to run so I instinctively slapped it with my open hand as you would a mosquito. Fortunately that killed it but as I looked up I quickly realized that I was in the other lane with a car headed right for me. Thankfully I looked up in time and swerved back over to my lane. Had the timing been different, I could have easily either hit another car head on or ended up in the drainage ditch on the side of the road. It's funny because over the years of driving down that road, I've often seen cars overturned in one of those ditches. I'd say I've seen it about 5 or 6 times. I've always laughed to myself and figured it was the Italians driving too fast and crazy that they went off the road but now I'm starting to realize that it was probably the bees. They are apparently as cunning as they are frightening and ugly. They tried to take out the X Man a few months ago and failed. They tried to take me out yesterday and failed. From now I roll my window up whenever I'm on that stretch of road - they may be smart but they will not outsmart me. I'm on to them now.

Beware the bees.

Friday, August 21, 2009

My Top 5 of Italy

Yesterday a friend mentioned that her and her daughter might take a vacation in Italy and asked me what the 5 things I would recommend are. Immediately I thought this might make a good blog post so here goes...

5. Bologna. People are always surprised when I tell them this but I really think Bologna is one of the best kept secrets in Italy. I've often said that Bologna features the best food in all of Italy and since food is a major reason why a lot of people come to italy, it's surprising to me that Bologna isn't more popular. One of the best tasting dishes I've ever eaten in my life was a plate of freshly made tortellini cooked in a balsamic vinegar sauce at a little ristorante next to Il Due Torri (Two Towers) called Tinellos. Bologna is the capital of the Emilia Romagna region which is Italy's culinary heartland. In Emilia-Romagna you find balsamic vinegar from Modena (Pavarotti's hometown) as well as the city of Parma, famous of course for Parmesan cheese and Parma ham. For gelato lovers, Bologna is generally known as having the best gelato in all of Italy as well. But it isn't just the food that attracts me to "Bologna la Grassa" (Bologna the fat). There is quite a bit of history there as well. There is a big Duomo worth seeing as well as the famous Two Towers, all of which have an interesting and quirky history behind them. Bologna is also home to the oldest university and the university population drives a surprisingly enjoyable nightlife scene. Bologna is truly a hidden gem.

4. Florence. I sort of have a love-hate relationship with Florence. One on hand, there is no shortage of things to see there. It is, after all, the cradle of the Renaissance. However it's so famous and beloved that everytime I go
it's so unbelievably crowded that it's difficult to enjoy as much as I normally would. For me the highlight is the area around world famous Duomo, perhaps the most famous in the world. One tip I give people is to wake up early, around 6 or 7 and go walk around before the tourists arrive. Then, just as it opens, climb to the top of the Campanile (bell tower) that stands next to the Duomo for some of the most spectacular views of bella Firenze. Florence is the undisputed king of Tuscany so the side streets are littered with enotecas where you can sample some of the best vino in the world. Not to mention that some of the most famous and beautiful works of art reside in Florence, most in the Uffizi Gallery. The Ponte Vecchio is famous but these days is nothing more than one big outdoor jewelry shop. Despite the crowds, Florence is a wonderful city with no shortage of man-made wonders to marvel at.

3. Cinque Terra. Some friends took me to Cinque Terra for the first time way back in 2000 and I was instantly smitten. You won't find glorious churches and expensive works of art here; this is nature at it's finest. Cinque Terra basically consists of 5 little small fishing villages on the Ligurian coast that have evolved into a popular tourist destination over the years. The entire area has been turned into a national park and is a popular hiking destination as well.
What makes them special is the way they are positioned on the water with the mountains so close to them that they seem to be pushing them into the sea. Each of the 5 villages has its own charm and personality but my favorite is Vernazza. We usually go there every 4th of July to relax and enjoy life as it should be. In some ways, Cinque Terra is Italian living at its best. The pace of life is slow and sometimes the most enjoyable thing is to just sit in the pizza with a glass of vino and watch the children play in the water. The seafood is plentiful and delicious and the scenery is some of the most beautiful and dramatic in all of Italy. I'm a big hiker so that's one reason I love Cinque Terra so much. The hikes are the most enjoyable I've ever done. I can't say enough about the place, it's just magnificent.

2. Rome. I really go back and forth with Rome on whether it's my favorite or my second favorite. For most people it would probably be number one but this is my list so I'm putting it as #2, although in reality it's probably more like 1A. Rome just might be the most famous city in the world and for good reason. So much of the world's history was influenced by Rome in some way. I'm a huge history buff and Ancient Rome has always fascinated me so whenever I go to Rome - and I've been there I think 6 or 7 times now - I find new things to discover and explore. Rome is so big you'd need a month to really see everything. You could spend an entire week exploring the Vatican. One of my favorite things about Rome is that you can get blown away just walking around. The list of historical places in Rome reads like a history book: The Colosseum, The Pantheon, Circus Maximus, The Spanish Steps, The Trevi Fountain, The Forum, Piazza Navona, The Campidoglio, etc. Rome is huge and this is perhaps one of its few turn offs. The Metro goes around the edges but if you want to explore the city center, you either take a bus and risk getting pickpocketed or you walk. For me, I love exploring big cities, there's such an energy and excitement to them and Rome is right at the top of the list. You can choose to visit all the famous monuments along with the crowds, you can sit in one of the many piazzas and sip vino as you watch the struggling artists work, you can take an evening passagiata down Corso Palladio with all the lovers, young and old alike, or you can cross the Tiber and relax in Trastevere, Rome's Bohemian area. The city is packed full of bars and pubs too and I once spent an entire weekend visiting as many different pubs as I could. Rome is mysterious and seductive. She is historic and wondrous. And I always miss her tremendously if I go too long without seeing her.

1. Venice. I'm sure that many people would disagree with me on this and I can certainly understand why. There is no middle ground on Venice, most people go and either love it or hate it but believe me, you cannot form an accurate opinion of Venice from just one visit. I'm fortunate to live a mere 30 minute drive from Venice and have been going continuously since I first came here almost 10 years ago. Venice has its turn offs, the crowds being probably the biggest. I would say that Florence and Venice are the two most crowded places I've been to in Italy. In the summertime, the heat in Venice can be oppresive, the humidity brings out the mosquitoes and the combination of the two can make the canals give off a less-than-appealing odor. Despite all this, I have always enjoyed Venice immensely. I've been there no less than 50 times and I can honestly say that I have never not enjoyed myself. Every time I go, it's like seeing it for the first time. I never tire of walking around along the canals, over the endless bridges, taking in the eroding splendor of what was once the most powerful empire in the world. Venice is expensive but savvy tourists can get by cheaply. There are also parts of Venice where tourists seldom venture. It's joy to discover these areas. Perhaps I enjoy Venice more than the average person because I've learned my way around it by now and yet despite my familiarity with Venice, she always manages to show something different every time I go. Venice has so much to offer for those who are willing to accept. If you want to see the real Venice, the best time is very early in the morning and late at night. During these times, all the tour groups and tourists are back at their hotels in Mestre, the industrial wasteland across the lagoon on the mainland where the cheap hotels are. I like to walk around Venice around 6 or 7 in the morning. The city is almost completely empty except for some locals getting ready for the day. It's like you have the entire city to yourself. Several years ago a friend and I did an impromptu pub crawl in Venice and it was so enjoyable that it has become a regular tradition. Pub crawls in Venice are different than in any other city as the enjoyment is as much in seeing the city at night as it is in enjoying the drinks and cameraderie. I don't do much when I go to Venice these days. I mostly just like to wander aimlessly through the streets and back alleys, pop into the Devil's Forest or the Fiddler's Elbow for a pint (or 3), grab a panini and just take it all in. Being in Venice gives me a sense of comfort. Venice is unique, there is no other place like it in the world.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

A Painful High School Memory

Not all of my high school memories are happy. In fact, my entire freshman year was miserable. I grew up in a small town called Litchfield. Litchfield was so small at the time that it did not have a high school. You went through grades 1-8 at Griffin Memorial School (GMS) and then, depending on which part of town you lived in, you attended high school either in Manchester or Hudson. Myself, I ended up at Alvirne High School in Hudson. It was a real crappy deal for us Litchfield kids - you had the same classmates for 8 straight years and then half your class ends up going to a different high school and the ones that go to the same one as you, you usually end up losing touch with. For me it was terrible. I was cock of the walk at GMS, I had tons of friends and was pretty popular, like a big fish in a small pond. Then I end up going to this huge high school where I hardly knew anybody. It was very difficult for me as every single friend I had at GMS ended up in different classes than me at Alvirne so I literally knew nobody. And even worse, the kids from Hudson in my class had all gone through 8 years together and pretty much all knew each other and, as 14 year olds will do, weren't especially welcoming to kids they didn't know.

Some Litchfield kids were able to adapt and make new friends...and I might have too were it not for my sister. My sister Tracy was a senior during my freshman year. We were 4 years apart and had never really gotten along that well growing up. She wanted nothing to do with her little nerdy freshman brother; for example, she drove to school every day in her little Chevy Chevette but would not give me a ride so I had to take the bus. I never understood why she didn't seem to like me in those days but I didn't let it bother me, I was too busy trying to fit in in my new surroundings. Now, back then there was said to be a tradition wherein seniors would embarrass freshman by making them do things like sing or clean their table at lunch. Nobody ever knew anybody who had ever actually done it or had it done to them, it was just something meant to scare incoming freshamn, as I was told. Well, my sister decided that it needed to be done to me. She was friends with pretty rough and tumble guys in high school so she got two of them who looked like cavemen to do her bidding one lunch period during the first week of school. Somehow I had gotten word that she was planning on doing it at the start of the lunch period. The cafeteria was completely packed and everyone seemed to be looking over at me and whispering. My stomach was completely in knots and I was so nervous and scared that I thought I might pass out. And then it happened. The two cavemen appeared at my table and informed me that, at my sister's request, I was to go clean their table. I looked around for a teacher and tried to stall but nothing doing. I was trapped. In front of everybody, I got up, walked over to their table, picked up the trash and put it in the trashcan. I tried to keep a smile on my face as I did it, so as to not let them know that it bothered me but in reality I had never, ever felt so embarrassed and small. Any chance I had to ever be popular and be one of the "cool kids" - things everybody wanted in high school - were killed by those five minutes.

We got home that night and I was almost in tears at the embarrassment my sister put me through and the subsequent teasing and abuse I was subjected to by kids in my class. I told my mother what had happened and to my astonishment, she took my sister's side, said it was funny and that I was making a big deal out of nothing. To me, it felt like my life was over. I don't think I've ever as much hate and anger for my mother and sister as I did in that moment. I was so distraught and upset that I actually spent the rest of the night in my room making a list of ways to get even with my sister. Stuff like putting cat shit in her food or cutting off her hair while she was sleeping but in the end I did nothing. The rest of the year I continued to get teased by other kids about the episode and I pretty much just went into a shell and kept to myself. My entire freshman year was probably one of the most miserable times in my life.

Eventually the year ended and by the time sophomore year came around I started to come out of my shell a little bit. I joined the soccer team, made a few friends and even had two girlfriends by the end of the school year (of course, they were both freshmen and weren't aware of my embarrassing episode the year before!). Every now and then someone would recognize me and say something like "hey, aren't you the kid who had to clean your sister's table last year?" but for the most part it was forgotten.

I don't think my sister ever realized what a horrible thing she truly did to me or how much anger I felt towards her for a long time after that. I made a lot of friends and memories at Alvirne but I also spent 4 years convinced that she had completely ruined my high school years before they even began. You have to remember that I was a 14 year old kid, in a new school with no friends, hoping just to fit in. Of course I got over it and my sister and I are pretty close these days. I laugh about it now because I've got a lot more good memories from high school than bad ones. But that definitely is one of the bad ones...

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Not that there's anything wrong with that...

More from 1989: The Time Mike Sold me Down the River.

So senior year I'm working at the video store. Often my friends would call and tell me to grab a movie and come over after work. One Sunday, my best friend Mike calls me up and says his parents will be at church for the whole night and suggests that I bring a porno over. The video store had the movies categorized and color coded - anything with a yellow dot on it meant "Adult" so before I left for the night I quickly grabbed the first yellow stickered movie I could and my friend Troy and I headed over to Mike's. Mike decides to hook up dual VCRs and tapes the entire movie while we watch it. I open the case and the name of the movie is "Blonde Heat: The Case of the Maltese Dildo" (By this time, I was fully aware of what a dildo was, I can assure you). We watched the entire movie (with pillows on our laps of course...), we go home and the next day I slipped the movie back in it's place with nobody noticing.

Back in those days I spent more time at Mike's house than at my own as I was practically part of the family. I even called his parents mom and dad. So one morning several months later I was sitting at their kitchen table having coffee and Mike's mother asks me if I've seen any good movies lately. Seemed like a strange question from her but I said no without looking up from the sports page. She continues with the movie theme saying stuff like "Hmm...well, we've seen some good movies lately" and "In fact we saw a really good movie the other night...". It didn't take long for me to realize what she was talking about even though it had been several months since that night so I looked at Mike and he nodded. I then received a lecture from Mike's mom about how serial killer Ted Bundy, after he was caught, talked about how he was addicted to porn as a youngster and how it had warped his mind, yada yada yada. But as I'm listening to her, I couldn't help wondering how she knew that I was there? The only way they could have known is if Mike told her and surely my best friend wouldn't do that, would he?

Well here's what had happened. After taping the movie, Mike had hidden the tape up in the ceiling of his room, which was in the basement, and forgotten all about it. Several months later there was a big storm which knocked out the cable to his sister's room. His sister's room happened to be right above his so when his father went to fix it, he had to go in through Mike's ceiling and of course in doing so he finds this video. This seemed strange to him so he went to the VCR and popped it in and after seeing it called his wife down and Mike was nailed. They confronted Mike about it and apparently the conversation went like this:

Mike's Mom: Where did you get this trash? Did RIK get this for you?!

Mike: YES!

And there you have it. No attempt whatsoever to protect me, just gave me right up. I asked him about it afterwards and he said he was sorry but he had panicked and didn't know what to say. We still laugh about it to this day of course and to be honest I even found it funny back then when it first happened. But I've never let Mike forget about the time in 1989 when my best friend sold me down the river...

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

High School Memories, take 1

I had a music appreciation class my senior year where we studied all the classic composers. It was in that class that I developed an obsession with Mozart and his music. I liked most of the others but there was something about Mozart's music that just appealed to me on a different level from anyone else. Mrs. Friborg showed us the film "Amadeus" in that class. I had never seen it but was instantly hooked and ended up watching it about 100 times and memorizing all the lines. It remains to this day one of my all time top 5 movies. Years later I had a chance to spend a weekend in Salzburg, Austria (Mozart's birthplace) and it was unbelievable. The entire city is a shrine to him. There was a girl in my class named Robyn Oster, she had trouble with osme of the composer's names for some reason and the one that is sticks in my mind is Bach; for some reason, she could not say his name correctly. She pronounced it "Bark". Both Robyn and I were addicts of the soap opera One Life to Live which came on every afternoon at 2pm. We were stuck in class until 2:19pm so we had to miss the first half hour so for some reason we developed a strange tradition - every day when the clock hit 2pm, we would look at each other and hit our desks three times to symbolize the last three notes of the OLTL theme song ("cause we only have one lift to live...bum bum bum!"). God, the things you remember. Robyn is now a professional singer in Las Vegas.

I was a big soccer player growing up and at the risk of sounding immodest, I was really good. I played for the JV team my sophomore year but since I was from a different town the coach did not know me and stuck me at left wing all year which is a very unnatural position for me. I ended up only scoring one goal since the coach would only allow me to cross the ball and never shoot. not only that but I kind of felt like an outsider since I was from a different town than everyone else on the team. It really left a bad taste in my mouth and I didn't bother playing junior year. But I missed it so bad and had made friends with a few other guys who played by then so I had planned to play senior year no matter what. But fate had other plans. Going into senior year I had a job as a video store clerk but I had planned on quitting when soccer season started. Unfortunately I had a car that I had to pay for, then senior pictures (which were over 200 bucks), then prom tickets, not to mention college less than a year away and all of a sudden I realized that I couldn't quit my job. I lived in a one parent home and my mother worked to make ends meet so I didn't have the luxury of just asking my parents for the money for stuff I needed. In the end I made the heartbreaking decision to forego playing my senior year in order to be able to pay for the stuff I needed. It was tough and the coach made it even tougher. his name was Mr. Taft, he was a gym teacher and he also went to my church. He watched me play in phys ed class quite a bit and lobbied hard to get me to come play for him, told me he really needed me, etc. And as luck would have it, my school went to the state championship that year and lost a devastating 1-0 decision to arch rival Nashua High. Not playing that year has always been one of the biggest regrets of my life. It's 20 years later and it still bothers me. I missed so much that year. Ever since then I've always told myself that if my kids get involved in sports I will not only encourage them but I'll do whatever I can to ensure that they don't have to miss out on playing because of something stupid like I did. You can never get those memories back. And besides, I had a shitty time at my prom anyway...

Monday, August 17, 2009


This past weekend was my 20 year high school reunion. For the mathematically challenged among you, that means I graduated high school in 1989. 1989 was quite a year in my life. It brought many changes, some new beginnings and some endings. It was one of the more enjoyable years of high school for me as I was a senior and enjoyed quite a bit of freedom.

My two best friends in high school that year were Randy Pouliot and Dan "Bubba" Francouer. Study hall that year was the best ever as all three of us were in there and the teacher/monitor was Ms. Dickson who was a history teacher that liked to treat seniors like they were adults rather than students. It was Bubba who gave me the nickname by which I would be known for the next 5 years or so. Since I was learning French, the guys used to call me Richard, but with a French accent so it sounded like "Ree-shard". I watched the Superbowl at my sister's house that year. Randy, Bubba and a bunch of others were watching elsewhere and drinking beers. Suddenly Bubba realized that I wasn't there and asked "Hey, where's Ree-shard?!". As he did so, sportscaster Ahmad Rashad came on the screen which led to some "Ahmad Ree-shard" jokes and by the end of the Superbowl (49ers over the Bengals) I became known as Ahmad. The name stuck so well that during the following 4 years in college, not a single person knew my real name was Rik. I was Ahmad Thibodeau and to this day, my college friends still call me Ahmad, the name I acquired in 1989.

I had been accepted to Franklin Pierce College (since renamed Franklin Pierce University) by the time 1989 had started but I had no idea how I was going to pay for it. So on a whim I enlisted in the US Army Reserves in the summer of 1989, a move that would have a bigger impact on my life than any other I've ever made. The years I would spend in the reserves were mostly uneventful. But years later, tired of a dead end job and a dead end life, I would enlist active duty and come to Europe to start a new life. My preference was to join the Air Force as it would have been a better quality of life and better job training but because I had been in the Army Reserves, I was not allowed to join the Air Force. I had to join the Army or nothing. The Army it was. In the end it turned out very well for me as I have lived in Europe for over 11 years now, have seen the world and have started a family. But oh how different it might have been if I had not made that fateful decision to join the Army Reserves to get money for college way back in 1989.

There was a poignant moment in the summer of 1989 that I have never forgotten. I played in a church softball league with a bunch of friends from my church. One Friday in the summer of 1989 my best friend Mike Buczynski picked me up in his little gray Toyota Tercel and we headed to the ball field. One of the most popular songs that summer was "The End of the Innocence" by Don Henley and it came on as we pulled into the parking lot. Mike said to me "Have you heard this song?" and I said yes, I really liked it. Then he said "you know, if you think about it, it really is the perfect song for us right now. We just finished high school and we're about to go to college. We'll be on our own for the first time and suddenly we have to grow up. So it really is the end of the innocence for us.". It may sound corny to you but it really hit me when he said that. We had reached the end of an era. High school was fun, we had no responsibilities, no worries. And now things were about to change and we were all about to go our separate ways. I guess it might have been different if I were going to University of New Hampshire with Mike, Jen, Steve and most of my other Nashua friends but that was the one school I applied to that didn't accept me. Within two months I would be starting college and military service (such as it was). Looking back, I don't think I was prepared for either. It truly was the end of the innocence for me; the summer of 1989.

I have a feeling there will be more high school posts forthcoming...

Friday, August 14, 2009

Thursday, August 13, 2009

My Top 5 Underrated Rock Songs

1. Stone in love (Journey)

2. American Girl (Tom Petty)

3. Flirting With Disaster (Molly Hatchet)

4. Little Guitars (Van Halen)

5. Train, Train (Blackfoot)

Me and the X Man

Watching the Italy-Switzerland match last night...

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Life was so much easier...20 years ago.

This Saturday is my 20 year high school reunion. 20 years. Amazing how fast they fly by. The peculiar thing is that, at 38, I still feel relatively young. Certainly not like someone who graduated from high school 20 years ago. I've accomplished quite a bit in those 20 years although nothing that I expected. It was actually 20 years ago this month that I enlisted in the Army Reserves to help pay for college. I then went through 4 years of college and got a Bachelor's Degree. I entered the work force and spent 5 years in sales and advertising only to realize that it was not for me. I even spent a year living on the beach.

I survived 8 weeks of basic training at Ft. Dix, New Jersey and another 12 weeks of training at Ft Gordon, Georgia. While definitely not enjoyable I count them among the experiences that helped shape me into a man.

I spent 2 weeks in Honduras with my Reserve unit helping build a school and a medical facility for poor villagers. I'll never forget it, they had no school or medical clinic in the entire village before we got there...but they had a bar.

9 years after graduating from high school I felt like I was going nowhere so I started over, joined the Army and came to Europe to see if I could find what I was looking for and ended up getting it in spades.

Looking back, I think my fascination with Europe was born in high school. My family are all French Canadians and I hated the fact that when I got together with my older relatives, they would be speaking French and I couldn't even though I was only one generation removed from them. I took French class in high school and it opened up new horizons for me. For one thing I was lucky enough to have a teacher, Mr. Cote, who was funny and got me really interested in learning the language of my people. Of course the French that was taught in school was from France not Canada so a lot of the lessons incorporated everyday life in the motherland, which I found fascinating. In fact, years later when I finally did come to Europe, I was in Germany and my favorite trips back then were always to France because I was experiencing first hand the type of life that I had studied years before in Mr. Cote's class (And Mmes. Ravenelle and Mulhern too of course). I guess I'll always be thankful to Mr. Cote for planting that seed so many years ago.

The funny thing is, when I was in Germany and wanted to transfer to another place in Europe, my dream at the time was to go to Belgium. I loved the whole "Benelux" area and was convinced that after a tour in Belgium I would be fluent in French for sure. At the time I was probably about halfway there anyway. I put Italy second on the list as a fallback and what a fallback it turned out to be. I've spent the past 9 years of my life immersed in all things Italian and have developed a love affair with this endearing country that has never subsided or abated. It's funny to look back and realize how it all could have turned out different if I had been approved to go to Belgium instead of Italy 10 years ago.

I've been fortunate to be able to see a bit of Asia as well. In the 20 years since I graduated, in all the places that I have seen, Hong Kong still remains my favorite place in the world. I've been there three times and it breaks my heart that I am not able to go there every year to get at least a taste of it. I could never explain what draws me to the place, it's just something I feel when I'm there. Hong Kong has given me a wonderful wife and 2 beautiful kids. So yeah, I guess you could say it's had quite an impact on my life.

It's funny, a week or so ago out of nowhere, the song "Twenty Years Ago" by Kenny Rogers just popped into my head. I downloaded it on iTunes and have listened to it a thousand times since then. Something about it just really takes me back to twenty years ago and all the high school memories, good and bad, come back to me. I picture in my mind sitting at my 20 year high school reunion watching a slide show of all of us from back then with the song playing in the background. Unfortunately I won't be there. I've got a wife and two kids now and a job that takes up way too much of my time, not to mention that I'm an entire continent away. I wish it was as easy as jumping into my crappy old Chevy Cavalier station wagon that I used to drive in high school and driving down to see everyone but I guess it's like Kenny says; life was so much easier...20 years ago.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

My 5 Favorite Beer Countries in the World

1. Belgium

2. England

3. Germany

4. Ireland

5. Czech Republic

Top 5 Non-European Cities I've Been to

1. Hong Kong

2. New Orleans

3. Las Vegas

4. Bangkok

5. Montreal

5 US States I Wouldn't Mind Living In

1. Maryland

2. Montana

3. Washington

4. Oregon

5. Pennsylvania

The 5 Sports Teams I Hate the Most

1. New York Yankees

2. Los Angeles Lakers

3. New York Jets

4. Montreal Canadiens

5. USC Trojans

My 5 Favorite TV Show Theme Songs

1. The Love Boat

2. Cheers

3. Dallas

4. Welcome Back Kotter

5. The Jeffersons

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

5 Embarrassing TV Shows I Used to Watch Regularly

1. Beverly Hills 90210

2. 7th Heaven

3. Saved by the Bell

4. Blossom

5. Boy Meets World

I'm Buying These Shirts for Luca...

5 Colleges I Applied to in High School

1. Franklin Pierce College

2. Plymouth State College

3. Castleton State College

4. University of New Hampshire

5. Southern Vermont College

5 Girls I Had a Crush on in High School

1. Gwen Storey

2. Stacey Lee

3. Melissa Chasse

4. Kim Lorrey

5. Peggy Campbell

Top 5 Classic Films (pre-1960)

1. Casablanca

2. Singin in the Rain

3. From Here to Eternity

4. It's a Wonderful Life

5. Stagecoach

5 80's Movies I Can Watch Over and Over

1. Vision Quest

2. Top Gun

3. The Last American Virgin

4. The Breakfast Club

5. Fast Times at Ridgemont High

Monday, August 03, 2009


You may recall my terrifying encounter with a snake while fishing up in Valstagna a couple months ago. I'm still a bit traumatized and every time I head up to the river I step cautiously and am constantly scanning the area for any sign of the vile demonic serpents. Thankfully I have encountered none since that fateful day back in June.

Yesterday was a beautiful day so I decided to hit the river once again. The X Man always asks to go with me and watch me fish but the only way is if the wife goes to watch him while I'm in the river and she is afraid that he will spend the whole time whining about the bugs or being too hot. However I talked her into coming with me yesterday and we decided to go to one of my favorite spots, Valstagna. The area is a popular tourist destination and is especially crowded on Sundays. Sure enough there were people everywhere so I wasn't worried about snakes as I figured all the people would keep them far away.

Now, you may remember that the reason I almost stepped on the satanic creature in the first place was because I was looking for a way through the brush and overgrowth to the really good spot just around the bend from my spot in Valstagna. Right now the river is so low due to the heat that it was obvious that I could actually walk to the spot around the bend in the water with my waders on. I entered the river and started wading slowly upstream however the river was still a bit deep where I was so it was obvious that I would have to wade probably about 3 or 4 feet from the shoreline. This did not worry me as I figured as long as I'm in the water I have nothing to worry about. I continued to head closer to the shoreline as I made my way upriver and suddenly stopped as I got about 8 feet away. About a foot from the shore there was what appeared to be a stick poking out of the water. Normally this wouldn't have even phased me but since my horrifying episode with the offending viper a couple months earlier, anything long and thin - such as a stick - makes me do a double take. So I looked at the stick for a second and wouldn't you know was a snake. THERE WAS A FREAKING SNAKE IN THE FREAKING WATER. What I thought was a stick was actually it's head and as I watched, you could see his little forked tongue going in and out of his mouth as if he was aware of my presence. Thankfully I was not close enough to make him actually start swimming or I would have flipped out and fallen in as I was about up to my waist at that moment. I slowly started backing away and moved about 100 yards back downstream, into the middle of the damned river where I felt safe.

I honestly think this little bastard is stalking me.