Friday, October 30, 2009

I Don't Particularly Care for MPs.

I've never really been one to buck authority. I do believe we need laws in a society and the military is no exception. Despite this, I cannot stand military policemen ("MPs" for short). They are some of the most arrogant, hypocritical people I've ever met in the military. I'm sure there are some really good ones but I've met and observed so many bad ones that it's impossible for me to have a favorable opinion of them, especially when you see them doing the very things they are so fond of giving other people tickets for such as speeding or parking in no parking areas. They get a little bit of authority and it goes right to their heads and affects their ability to use common sense and reason. For example, an MP on base once gave me a ticket for going 13 MPH in a 10 MPH zone. I assure you, I am not kidding.

The base here is one of the worst I've seen. Part ofthe problem is that most of the MPs here are Reserve or National Guard units that come here for a few weeks to do their time, then go home. They throw on the uniform and suddenly they all think they're freaking Serpico. And to make matters worse, most of them are young E3's or E4's which means they've only been doing it for a couple years or less. They are not content to come to Italy for a few weeks, do their job, enjoy the sights and go home. Nay, they feel they must leave a trail of ridiculous tickets and harassing traffic stops in their wake. Consider this story...

We have a shoppette on base which is like a little convenient store. It's the kind of place where people run into real quick to pick something up or drop a movie rental off. There's an expansive area in front where you are not supposed to park at but people do all the time when they are just dropping a movie off as it takes about 20 seconds to run in and run out. About 5 years ago I was on base with the wife and the X Man (who was just a baby) in the car and we needed to return a movie. There were no parking spots and I didn't want to have to unhook the baby seat and carry him in so I pulled up to the front and told the wife to run in and drop it off. No sooner did she get out of the car when I noticed an MP car so I backed out so as not to get a ticket. As soon as I did, the sirens came on and he proceeded to follow me with the sirens blaring as I parked in an open spot. I can hear him on the radio calling it in and then a few minutes later he gets out of his cruiser and slowly walks to my window WITH HIS HAND ON HIS GUN. I'm watching all of this thinking "WTF, do you think me and my newborn baby are packing heat?!". He asks for the usual documents and I tried to explain that I was just dropping my wife off to return a movie but it didn't matter, he tells me "When I see you stopped in front of the shoppette, for all I know, you could be inside doing your grocery shopping". Seriously, he saw my wife get out of the car and he saw me sitting in the drivers seat with a baby in the back. He then proceeded to hold me there for TWENTY minutes while he ran my info and then let me off with a warning to "Watch yourself next time" as he might not be as lenient.

Thank you Cagney, say hi to Lacey for me...

Well I had another incident this morning. We had a cold snap last week and one of my headlights went out. Changing a headlight on my car is no small feat, the entire thing has to be removed and replaced and it's way above my knowledge and skill level. Since I had to go to Germany for work this past week I figured I'd get it fixed when I got back. So I'm driving onto the base this morning and sure enough, there's a reservist MP who takes my ID, then asks me to turn my headlights on for him. When he sees one of them is out he tells me to pull into the temporary holding area and asks for my license, registration, proof of insurance, etc. Then he disappears for 15 minutes before I even get a chance to explain that it just went out and that I just got back from Germany so I haven't had a chance to get it fixed. He comes back, gives me a ticket and asks me if I have any questions. My reply was "Yeah, here's a question, how am I supposed to get my headlight fixed right away when it takes two weeks to get an appointment at the garage on base?". The kid looks at me and says, very condescendingly "You can change a headlight yourself". Well, I started to go off on him about how replacing a headlight on my car is a big job and that I just got back from Germany but then remembered that MPs are complete dickheads so I just stopped my self and said "Nevermind, just give me the damned ticket."

There is a reason why the MPs are the most hated people on military bases. If anyone has any MP stories, please feel free to share in the comments section...

The Wife Comes Home Tomorrow.

Thank God.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Dinner at the Neighbors.

Our neighbors are Calabrese, that is, they are from the region of Italy named Calabria. Calabria is found way down south, in the "toe" area of Italy that is kicking the island of Sicily. Giorgia and Daniele are their names and they also have three daughters, two who live with them and one who lives in town, and a grandson, little Daniele who I previously wrote about on here. Giorgia is a teacher in the X Man's school and she is wonderful, we love her to death. The whole family is great actually and we love having them as neighbors. In typical Italian fashion, they always want to have us over for dinner. Although I love eating dinner over there, I have to decline sometimes for a couple reasons; first, like most Italians, they eat dinner very late, usually around 8 or 8:30. That's just way too late for me as I'm usually in bed by 9 since I get up around 0430 for work. Also, dinner at their house means way too much food for me. A normal Italian meal has 4 or 5 different courses, then they force dessert on you and then maybe some cheese or fruit afterwards, not to mention the vino flowing freely throughout the's just too much for me, especially late at night.

With the wife away, I think Giorgia took pity on me and the first week asked me to come have dinner with them. I didn't want to be rude but I explained that they eat too late and that I'm usually in bed around 9 so I would have to pass. She understood and was not offended but since I mentioned that weekends were better since I don't work, she wanted to invite me on a weekend but every weekend so far has been either full or they have been in Tuscany visitng her brother. She invited us for lunch this past Sunday but we had plans to be in Venice all day so I had to decline once again but I felt bad so I agreed to come to dinner on Wednesday. It worked out perfectly as there is an American kid named Jeremy staying with me this week, he is the son of a girl I went to school with back home. He's a freshman in college spending his first semester in Florence on an exchange program and he's on semester break so I offered for him to come up here if he wanted to see Venice and experience some real Italian culture. Well, let me tell you, if you want real Italian culture, go to dinner at an Italian's house.

We ended up eating around 8 and what a freaking meal. Antipasto was prosciutto crudo from Tuscany, then bigoli all'anitra (fat pasta with duck meat) which is a speciality of the Veneto region where live. After that they brought out a huge plate of homemade polpette done in Calabria style. Polpette is similar to a meatball except it's mostly flat instead of round and they make theirs with meat, cheese, parsley, cream and one or two other ingredients I can't recall. Absolutely delicious. Along with the polpette was a big plate of a special sweet salsiccia (sausage) from Asiago, the famous alpine town nearby known mostly for it's cheese. As a contorni (side dish), there was also a huge plate of steak fries (which I avoided) and a big bowl of salad. I was completely stuffed but then Daniele insisted on bringing out the big block of Asiago cheese and then a big bowl of roasted chestnuts. Dessert was a torta (cake) with pear on top. We also had three different kinds of vino.

The food was amazing but the best part of the night, as it often is, was the fellowship. The entire evening was spent with us learning a lot of Italian language and culture as well as introducing the neighbors to a lot of American language and culture. That kind of thing has always been one of my favorite parts of living in Italy. And it was quite an experience for Jeremy as well, as he was able to practice his Italian and the look on his face was priceless and I'm certain that he will keep that experience in his mind forever.

I didn't get any pics from dinner but I found a few online of some of the dishes:

Prosciutto Crudo

Bigoli all'anitra


Monday, October 19, 2009

Update on the Wife

The main reason the wife and kid went back to the Philippines was because her family had decided to hold a huge family reunion this month. Unfortunately the typhoons came one after the other and her family's farm was hit hard, losing all of their crops before they had a chance to harvest them. the reunion was scheduled for Saturday, October 17th and I was wondering if they would even still have it since they are still recovering from the floods but I heard from the wife on Saturday and she said that all of her aunts and uncles and other relatives showed up and that it was a fantastic time. She says it was weird seeing family members that she hasn't seen in 20 years and I can just imagine but I could sense the excitement at it all. She says that everything is fine and the recovery is going well. Her family is just in love with Luca and having a ball with him and he is enjoying himself quite a bit, playing with his cousins and grandparents. hopefully she's taking a lot of pictures and videos so I can post some of them when they get back. They're arriving back in Milan on Saturday, October 31st.

On the homefront everything is well. I had another great weekend with the X Man. We spent the day in Venice again yesterday and he was well behaved and didn't whine a bit, I was quite surprised. When we got home he went right over to Daniele's house for the rest fo the evening before going back to Giampi and Agnese's house for the week.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Sometimes I Wish I Were Italian. Or Irish. Or...

I'm French. More specifically, I'm French Canadian. 100%. As far as I know, there is only French blood running through my veins. Both my mother's and father's side of the family can be traced immediately back to Canada, most of them to Quebec. Growing up, French Canadians - lovingly referred to as Canucks - were predominant in my neighborhood, my town and my schools. Most of my classmates had last names like Levesque, Francoeur, Boucher, Gagnon or Cote and many were fluent in French. Most of my older relatives spoke French and when I got to high school I started learning French partly because I wanted to feel like part of my heritage. After college my brother and I went to Montreal and Quebec a couple times and for the first time I saw where my family had come from. When I got to Europe in 1998, I cherished every trip to France because I wanted to sort of get in touch with my ancestry and culture. I even got a tattoo of the Fleur-de-Lis, the symbol of Quebec (also their flag).

But the truth is, I've never felt much nationalistic or ethic pride in being French Canadian. Over the years I've come to be envious of people with other backgrounds. Italians, Irish, Germans, Mexicans, Filipinos, hell even Puerto Ricans. They have so much pride in their heritage and wear it like a badge of honor. Italian Americans and Irish Americans in particular, two of the proudest groups there are in the US. There are plenty of Italian Americans who are 3rd, 4th or even 5th generation but they can still speak the language and still identify themselves as more Italian than American. Italians have made a huge mark on the US with their food, culture, etc. Same with the Irish, I mean they even have their own holiday. All of these groups have identifiable cultures. French Canadians...not so much, unless you want to count meatpies, construction, sheetrock or drywall. Somehow, saying "Kiss me I'm French Canadian" doesn't have the same ring to it as "Kiss me I'm Irish" does.

The funny thing is, living in Italy for almost 10 years now I've developed a lot of Italian traits and can even speak the language decently. In some ways, I'm a lot more "Italian" than many of the real Italian Americans back in the US but because my blood is 100% French Canadian, I'll never part of the club. I've accepted that. But sometimes I wish that I WAS Italian. Or Irish. Or one of those other nationalities who have so much pride in their heritage. In the meantime, I guess I'll just have to say "Je me Souviens!"...and pass me another piece of meatpie.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

5 Underrated 80's movies

1. Big Trouble in Little China

2. Adventures in Babysitting

3. F/X

4. Masquerade

5. Shoot to Kill

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Love...Exciting and new...

A few weeks ago I finally got Sky Italia. Sky Italia is the satellite TV package in Italy, it's got about 800 channels ranging from sports to variety to movies to music. I'm loving it so far as I get all the soccer I can handle and occasionally a movie will come on that I haven't seen in a while (Last week it was "Major League"). One of my favorite channels is Fox Retro. As the name would imply, it shows a bunch of stuff from the 70's and 80's so I love it. i'm enjoying watching shows I haven't seen since I was a kid but I've been surprised at how many of them just don't hold up very well. There is one show however that is just as enjoyable now as it was 30 years ago: The Love Boat.

It comes on a few times a day and I'm loving it. It's amazing to see how many famous people were on it, every episode is like a who's who of American culture. The storylines are laughable, the acting is over the top, and the jokes are corny at best but I don't care. The Love Boat rocks. And the theme song! you cannot hear the Love Boat theme song and not feel happy. You just can't.

The Love Boat Theme Song

Saturday, October 10, 2009


I thought the worst of the storms was over in the Philippines but apparently I was wrong. Typhoon Parma completely destroyed the Pangasinan region, where the wife is staying with her family. I spoke to her on the phone yesterday and she described the devastation to me, it sounds really bad. The good news is that her family's house where they're staying somehow escaped the flooding and everyone is safe and sound. The bad news is that the farm and all of her family's crops - basically, their entire livelihood - have been lost to the flooding. The bridge that leads the highway was also destroyed but she says it should be fixed by the time they are supposed to come home at the end of the month. I was worried about Luca and told her that if it was really bad she might want to think about coming home early but she says the worst is over and the waters are already starting to go down. Plus, the house is fine so there's not really much danger for them at this point I guess. It's probably good that she's there right now as she can help them buy things that they really need to recover. We're going to do what we can to help them get back on their feet but I'm sure it won't be easy to recover from something like this. She sounded pretty upbeat about everything on the phone though so I'm not too worried about her and Luca.

In a way, it's kind of ironic; the last time they had a flood this bad was almost 20 years ago. In that flood they also lost everything and were so desperate that the wife, as the oldest girl in the family, had to go to Hong Kong and take a job as a domestic helper to help support the family. About 10 years after that, we met. And now she's back home visiting her family with our youngest kid and it happens all over again. At least this time she's in a much better position to help them...

Friday, October 09, 2009

The X Man and Daniele

One of the best things about coming back to Italy is that the X Man has started school and has plenty of friends his own age. We live in a duplex and the people who live in the other side have a grandson living with them named Daniele. Daniele is 4 years old, one year younger than the X Man and they've become best friends. Almost every day Daniele goes outside in the driveway which is separated from our front yard by a little wire fence, and starts his familiar chant: "Xavier...Xavier...Xavier..." and he will not stop until the X Man goes out to the terrazza and visits with him. It's actually kind of cute. Daniele asks everyday if Xavier can come to his house and he usually does. He probably spends more time next door than at home and often eats dinner over there. The neighbors absolutely love him and love having him over as he's a good influence on Daniele.

But things are not always rosy between the X Man and Daniele.

Daniele, although being a year younger, is bigger than the X Man. He's also a brute who doesn't always play well with others. When the X Man is with him, he becomes a lot more unruly than normal and suddenly has trouble listening to the wife and I. I've had to drop the hammer on him a few times and he seems to have learned his lesson. But overall, I'm happy that he has Daniele to hang out and play with, it's good for him to have a best friend. Yesterday, Daniele's grandmother picked up the X Man after school and he played with Daniele in their driveway. When I got home after work and walked up on the terrazza, the X Man was clinging to the fence and in a soft, weepy voice said "Daddy, I want to come home". I saw that he was crying so I asked what happened but he didn't want to say, he just kept saying he wanted to come home. So I went over and he met me at the end of the driveway and took my hand. I picked him up and told Daniele to tell his grandmother that I was taking him home but she was sitting on their steps and jumped up when she heard me and came over. Whatever had happened, she didn't see it and had no idea anything was wrong until she saw the the X Man was crying. When she asked him what happened, he told her that Daniele had hit him. Well she flipped out and started chasing Daniele around screaming at him, it was actually kind of comical. She apologized to me and I took the X Man home and he was fine. According to him, he wanted to "pick a flower for mommy because I miss her" and Daniele wouldn't let him and an argument ensued which resulted in Daniele hitting him several times.

I'm sure it's all been forgotten and Daniele will be outside today calling for him like every other day. But it looks like I'm going have to teach the X Man to defend himself...

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Quick Update

Nothing much new to report. Got a few emails from the wife; her and Luca are doing fine. They haven't gotten hit too hard by the numerous tropical storms that are wreaking havoc on the Philippines fortunately but they've been having rain constantly which makes it impossible to do much except sit around the house. Because of this, she reports that she's pretty bored and ready to come home already. Luca seems to be doing fine except that he caught a little cold and has a runny nose. They all went to her mom's church on Sunday, when they walked in the congregation was singing some praise and worship songs and Luca is such a music nut that he promptly ran to the front and started dancing which made everybody just go crazy. He's become as popular as the X Man was when she took him there. It's great that her family is able to spend time with their grandkids.

On the homefront, everything is good albeit uneventful. I have to take a day off here and there to watch the X Man when Giampietro and Agnese go out of town which I always enjoy. It's a bit difficult but between them, myself and our next door neighbor Giorgia, we are able to make it work with his school. I was kind of worried that he didn't like being shuffled around between all of us but yesterday I told him "See, there are so many people that love you and want to spend time with you that we have to take turns!" and he got a big smile on his face. It was a great fatherhood moment for me. They don't happen to me very often but they do happen. Overall I think he likes staying with Giampi and Agnese most of the time. They are like grandparents to him and spoil him rotten which he loves. We're very lucky to have them in our lives.

That's pretty much it. I'll post another update next week or so.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Daddy and the X Man in Venice

Took the X Man to Venice today for a little while. Didn't take many photos but here they are:

Click me!

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Wife and Kid Are Fine

For those who haven't been following, there is/was another huge typhoon that hit the Philippines this weekend called tropical storm Parma (How ironic). It was supposed to be even worse than the one that hit last weekend causing massive flooding and damage and almost 300 deaths.

Anyway, got an email from the wife this morning and she said they are fine, apparently the new storm all but passed right by them. All they got was some rain. For anyone who is curious, her family lives in the San Fabian area in the Pangasinan province, near Lingayen Gulf.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Joke of the Day

Q. Did you hear about about the man who got a viagra stuck in his throat?

A. He got a stiff neck.

Thank you, I'll be here all week...don't forget to tip your waitress and try the veal...