Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008 By The Numbers

12 - Books Read
11 - Trips to Venice Made
10 - Fingers Still Attached (I needed to fill this slot)
9 - Base Perimeters Ran
8 - Cheesecakes Made (from scratch!)
7 - Overnight Guests Hosted
6 - Bottles of Maker's Mark Emptied (with help)
5 - New Countries Travelled
4 - Games of Settlers Won (out of about 23 played)
3 - Trans-Atlantic Flights Made
2 - Concerts Attended (only 2?)
1 - College Course Taken (and passed)
Innumerable - Cups of Fine Italian Cappuccino Drank

Puppy Love

Johnny, Boston, & Jenny
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
Johnny and Jenny are in the process of moving because their old place doesn't allow pets, and Jenny has been desperate to get a dog. They picked one up at the Aviano market yesterday, a mix of some kind they named Boston. She's only two months old, and totally adorable.
While in transition, they've been staying with Corey; so, last night, I had them over for dinner, mostly because I wanted to see this dog. They don't have any hot water at their new house yet, so I told them they could give Boston a bath at my place if they wanted to. And they the bidet.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Playing On My Pod

Last year, I attempted a Top Ten Music List, but it ended up being a Top 17, plus honourable mentions. For some reason, I decided to do one again this year, but I'm seriously limiting it to ten. They're all very different albums, ranging from punk to euro-pop to indie rock. Again, in no particular order:

"Vampire Weekend" by Vampire Weekend
"Stay Positive" by The Hold Steady
"The Rhumb Line" by Ra Ra Riot
"Acid Tongue" by Jenny Lewis
"Brain Thrust Mastery" by We Are Scientists
"Volume One" by She & Him
"Santogold" by Santogold
"Robyn" by Robyn
"Get Awkward" by Be Your Own Pet
"The Odd Couple" by Gnarls Barkley

Sorry, Madonna and Britney, but you're noticeably absent. I've come to expect certain things from you ladies, and if I can't shake my ass through the whole thing, then you're not making my list. Due to low expectations, I didn't even pick up the latest from Weezer or Coldplay.
Older albums I got into were "Rabbit Fur Coat" by Jenny Lewis (with the Watson Twins), "Oracular Spectacular" by MGMT, "Made of Bricks" by Kate Nash, and basically the entire Pixies back catalogue. I also continued my love for Arcade Fire and Broken Social Scene.
Some of the year's great singles included "I'm Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How To Dance With You" by Black Kids, "Sex on Fire" by Kings of Leon, and Beyonce's "Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)"
Also, there are some promising albums in my iTunes cart such as "Fleet Foxes" by Fleet Foxes, "For Emma, Forever Ago" by Bon Iver, and "London Zoo" by The Bug. Plus, 2009 promises to be a good music year with new releases from Franz Ferdinand, Courtney Love, Missy Elliott, No Doubt, and (fingers crossed) Blur. Perhaps I'll write about them this time next year.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Sigh of Relief

I just got home from my last of seven consecutive days of work. The only potential hazard is the possibility of a stand-by call tonight. I'm actually crossing my fingers as I type this. Also, Jason gets back from the States tonight, and should be picking up Azrael any time.
Now I'm off until the 5th, time which will be spent taking care of a large list of tasks such as
1) cleaning the dog hair which has accumulated over the past two weeks.
2) helping Johnny and Jenny move some stuff to their new house.
3) making two cheesecakes for New Years Eve.
4) changing the oil and rotating the tires on my truck.
5) hopefully getting a day of boarding in there somewhere.
Due to my busy work schedule and even busier dog-sitting schedule, I haven't had the time or energy to run. Add to that my frequent ingestion of unhealthy holiday snacks, and I have a slightly increased gut size. I'm not sure if I'll make it to the gym this week, but if I don't, I won't worry. I read recently that it's natural for the body to store up a little extra fat in the winter, so I figure I'm just helping it along.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Lightly Dusted

I was pretty successful in my Christmas boycott. I didn't do anything I wouldn't have done on any other normal work day, except call my parents. The local radio stations didn't play much holiday music, and there wasn't a soul on base. I just treated it like any other day to avoid any potential depression (post or otherwise), and I succeeded.

Originally uploaded by currtdawg
We had a slightly delayed white Christmas here in northern Italy. It didn't start snowing until I got home last night, and when I woke up this morning, there was a thin white powder over everything. Luckily, the roads were too warm to ice over. I had already started my rounds when the sun was rising, and when it hit the mountains, I was awestruck. I climbed the water tower and took a couple pictures.

Originally uploaded by currtdawg
There has been snow on the mountains for a while now, and it will probably stick around until June. But it rarely snows here in the valley. I just came home for lunch, and already, it's almost all gone. I'm glad I was up early enough to see it, and they way it made everything look so peaceful.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008


For a while, I was starting to regret volunteering to work over Christmas. You'd think there wouldn't be much going on this week, but we've had inspections, a shop renovation, and some major jobs going on. Stand-by calls have been steady. Plus, I've been driving home for lunch so I can let Azrael out for a few minutes. Needless to say, my stress level is a little higher than normal.
Lately, though, when people find out I volunteered to work over Christmas, they smile and tell me they appreciate it, even if it doesn't directly affect them. It makes me feel better about my decision.
So, yeah, I'm working today, and my Christmas spirit has been hindered a bit. I wish I were home with my family like last year, or at least relaxing with friends and sipping cider. However, I have several friends spending this Christmas in the desert, and I can't dwell on my own situation when theirs is so much worse. So, if you get a chance, send up a prayer for those guys. I'm sure they'll appreciate it.
Buon Natale!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Deth Stars

When Scott was here in October, he mentioned a show on Adult Swim called Metalocalypse. It's a series of 12-minute epsiodes about the fictional metal band Dethklok. I was curious, and luckily, Johnny had the first season on DVD, which I watched in its entirety last weekend.
Dethklok is the biggest band in the world, whose concerts are so intense, fans often die from seeing them live, and are required to sign wavers upon entry. Their popularity is so immense, they can get away with whatever they want with no repercussions, including mass murders, inciting riots, and waking giant trolls from the depths of Finnish lakes. The members are rather clueless, only thinking of ways to be metal or consume more alcohol, and the only one holding the band together is their manager.
There wasn't a lot that made me laugh hysterically, but it was consistently medium-funny, which is better, I think. It's definitely an over-the-top kind of humour, and I'll be looking around for season two very soon.

Monday, December 22, 2008

If you don't vote for me, then the terrorists win.

There's an organisation within our squadron called the Booster Club. The main purpose of the Booster Club is to raise money throughout the year for the Christmas Party. They also handle squadron recreational activities, sports days, volunteer opportunities, and various fund raisers (breakfast burrito sales, etc.). The Booster Club is headed up by officers which are elected every six months. My friend Jo is the out-going president, and has been encouraging me to run for something. Plus, our superintendent has been trying to get someone in our shop on the council, as well. After much prodding, I finally agreed to be nominated for Vice President. I figured I'm:
a) smarter than Palin, but unable to see Russia from my house.
b) nicer than Cheney, but not guaranteed to shoot you in the face.
c) a better speller than Quayle, but sorely lacking Gore's Oscar.
Elections were last week, and today, I found out I won. My competition doesn't have the greatest reputation in the squadron, so I'm not really sure if people were voting for me or against him. Regardless, I'm going to have some added responsibilities over the next six months, which will probably result in increased bourbon consumption. Just a warning.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Under the Weather

Friday, just as I was getting off work, I started to feel a little ill. By the time I got home, I was nauseated and had a horrible headache. I took my temperature, but didn't have a fever, so I took a shower and some Motrin, then fell asleep on my couch.
I awoke Saturday morning feeling much better, but still fatigued. I ended up watching movies most of the day, interspersed with naps and cups of hot tea. I eventually made it to Corey's place to watch football last night, but didn't stay too late.
I made it to Church this morning, but the rest of today will most likely be more of the same. Probably the only physical activity I get today will be playing with Azrael. I feel okay, but I just don't have the motivation to do much. Since I'll be at work so much this week, I don't feel bad at all.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Clutter Catcher

Mi Cucina
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
MSgt Lewis, who's been in charge of our shop for a few years, is getting ready to retire. His wife is also active duty, and next month, they'll be moving to San Antonio, where she'll finish out her career in the Air Force. They have a huge house in Sacile, and since they'll be packing out later this week, they've been giving away lots of stuff. Corey got a recliner, and I got their old table and chairs. It's in great condition, and fits perfectly in my kitchen. I usually eat on my couch, but it provides extra counter space, and it's great for playing cards or Settlers. Plus, I always need another flat surface to set stuff on. If it's not completely littered with magazines and papers in a month, I'll be very proud of myself.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Getting Along Famously

Originally uploaded by currtdawg
Things have gotten much better between Azrael and me. Saturday, she hated me. Sunday, she tolerated me. Monday, we were on speaking terms. Tuesday, we were friendly. And now, we're inseparable. I guess she just had to get used to me. Or maybe she figured, "Well, this is the guy who feeds me, so I'd probably better be nice to him." Either way, I'm glad she's here.
I've never been around a large dog this much, and it's pretty fun. She has a short length of rope as a chew toy, and loves playing tug-of-war. I'm rather aggressive when I wrestle around with her, and we get our daily cardio by chasing each other around the yard. She doesn't chew on my stuff or get into the garbage, and she only does her business outside.
Still, her size isn't without its inconveniences. She can open nearly every door in the house, including the ones leading outside, so when I leave in the morning for work, I have to make sure to lock the doors from the outside. Plus, I have to lock the doors to each bathroom. Otherwise, she'll open the lid to the toilet and start drinking.
Speaking of drinking, I think this dog used to belong to the Kennedy's or something. I fill her water bowl eleven or twelve times a day. This, of course, results in her waking me at 3 AM every night in order to be let outside. Speaking of sleep, each night she sprawls out on the covers of my bed, forcing me to the opposite edge. I think she's trying to establish her dominance. It's working.
Despite all this, I feel bad when I leave to go to work in the morning. When she sees me in uniform, she knows I'm getting ready to leave. I can hear her scratching at the door when I get in my truck; and when I pull away, I see her staring out the window. It will be even worse when I'm working 14-hour days over Christmas and the following weekend. She's high-maintenance and requires lots of attention. She deserves to be out in the country running around a big pasture, not cooped up in a little house. Jason said he's been looking for a better family to take her. I sure hope he finds one soon.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Bad Santa

Corey, Stan, & Jeremiah
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
When I said yesterday that I hadn't bought any Christmas presents, I was lying. I did buy one--for a gift exchange at my shop. Joann and I planned the whole thing, which was totally voluntary. Also, a couple weeks ago at our squadron Christmas party, our shop won a pizza party because we had the best centrepiece (a gold toilet with a tree coming out), so we set everything up for today.

Joann, Aaron, & Trever
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
We drew numbers and opened our presents. We all agreed on a $20 limit, and everyone was pretty creative. I bought this, which ended up going to Johnny. I received a basket full of marinara, pesto, and parmesan. I think everyone was pretty happy with what they received, though Joann and I both decided we had enough pizza to last us until the New Year.

Monday, December 15, 2008

If There Were A 13th Day Of Christmas, It Totally Would Have Been "13 Plumbers Plumbing"

I'm working mornings this week, which means I'll be working swings next week, which also includes stand-by. Yes, I'll be on stand-by for Christmas--something I totally volunteered to do. Most everyone in my shop is going home or has a family, and I know they don't want to do it. The only other single guys live in the dorm, and I figure it's bad enough living in the dorm even when you don't have to work on Christmas. So, since I'm all by myself, I just put myself on the schedule.
I'm borderline boycotting Christmas this year. I haven't put up any decorations or bought any presents, and the holiday music has been at a minimum. I'm not trying to be a Scrooge or anything, but I'm just not feeling it. It doesn't help that I'm kinda broke or that it's done nothing but rain for the past month. I'm going to muddle through the next two weeks, and when it comes time to celebrate New Years, I'll more than make up for it.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Doggie Daycare

Originally uploaded by currtdawg
It seems I've become the go-to guy for dog-sitting. My friend Jason has asked me to watch Azrael, his rather large Belgian Malinois. It resembles a German Shepherd, only leaner, with shorter hair, and a bit scarier. Jason brought her over last night.
I've always been a dog person, and I've never had any problem getting along with them. Azrael, however, doesn't seem to like me very much. She doesn't bite, but barks every time I put my hand out. Jason said if I grabbed her toy and played with her, she might warm up to me, but no luck so far. The only time she's been near me is when I sat on the couch, and she laid next to me. She let me pet her for a bit, but as soon as I stood up, she went back to barking. The only other time she appeared happy was when I laid on the floor and played dead. Probably not a good sign.
I hope things change pretty soon because Jason is in the States for two weeks. Either Azrael or I am gonna have to give in, and seeing how she has her eye on my jugular, it will probably be me.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Formaggio Fan - Mad Props #10

I'm constantly on the lookout for recipes for people like me--vegetarian bachelors who can't afford to eat out all the time. A few months ago, I found a great one. I think the ingredient that makes these so amazing is the Pepper Jack Cheese; in fact, every time I make them, I always add twice what the recipe calls for.
I've always been a big cheese lover, but never really got into Pepper Jack until this year. Now, I always keep a block in my fridge, putting it on crackers and melting it on burritos. It's zesty, yet delicate flavour never fails to satisfy. It's one of the few things I pick up every time I go to the Commissary. So Mad Props to you, Pepper Jack Cheese. I think I'll go cut off a slab right now.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Denied, Shot Down, and Other Euphemisms for Rejection

This was originally supposed to be the post where I post pictures of Shuan, Ryan, RJ, Alec, and I carving through beautiful, white powder. But this morning, we were driving up to Piancavallo and saw a sign that said the mountain was closed due to bad weather. You could literally hear our hearts sink as we turned around and headed back to Aviano.
So now, it's a post about how I laid on my couch all day and watched movies. Exciting, huh?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Soldier Cards and Cities

As somewhat of an early Christmas present, our superintendent told the shop leads to give each of us an extra day off sometime in December. Mine is tomorrow, so I asked Shaun to come over tonight and bring a few people with so we could play a round of Settlers--something we haven't done in way too long. We hung out, ate more than our fair share of munchies, and then Jason, Ruben, RJ, Shaun, Ryan, Alec, and I played one of the longest games of Settlers in history. Congrats to RJ, who won, even though before tonight, he was a Settlers virgin.
Now I'm all hyped up on sugar, and probably won't get to sleep for a while. I guess it's a good thing I'm off tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Fare Thee Well

Alec, Jason, & Jenn
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
Jason is getting ready to separate from the Air Force, and Tall Nate is getting ready to PCS to Oklahoma, so last night, we had a little going-away dinner in honour of them.

Tall Nate, Shaun, & Nate
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
Rachel knows an Italian lady who hosts private dinners at her house. For a fixed price, she served us a full course Italian meal, plus two different wines.

Ryan, RJ, & Rachel
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
Italians take eating very seriously, and whenever they dine out, they spend hours eating and socialising--which is exactly what we did. We all told stories and laughed for over three hours.

Cheyenne & Me
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
I doubt Jason and Nate will have any problems with their transitions. We all wished them the best of luck in their future endeavours.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

The Day We All Collectively Rolled Our Eyes

Apparently, the Air Force doesn't think its people can act like adults. Because of this, they've started having so-called "Wingman Days." Wingman days have been around for a while, but they used to promote camaraderie within the squadrons through activities and recreation. Now, they've devolved into us wearing our blues in a crowded auditorium so we can get talked down to for hours about how we're horrible people for letting all these DUIs and sexual assaults happen. After that, we ran in formation--which is the least beneficial way to run--and then broke into small groups to discuss ridiculous scenarios.
The intent was to boost morale and nip a few key issues in the bud; but it ended up making everyone bitter and apathetic. Our discontent is supposed to be channelled up to the commander, but chances are it will get filtered so many times, the message will be missed. It takes a lot to give me a bad attitude about something, but if we have too many more of these, Joann and I decided we're going to defect to Fiji.

Monday, December 08, 2008

The More, The Merrier

Dinner Crew
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
A few weeks ago, Shaun and I were talking, and we thought about how much fun it was last time I made dinner. We decided to do it again, and after a few setbacks, it ended up being last night. I was planning on hosting five or six, but word got out and I had a house full of ten people. I made a pot of chili (which was gone within minutes) and a cheesecake (which Cheyenne described as "decadent"). After dinner, we hung out and watched "Half-Baked," a movie everyone was surprised I owned because, apparently, it's just not "a Curtis type of movie." Regardless, thanks to Martina, Rachel, Cheyenne, Shaun, Alec, Jason, Ryan, Nate, Tall Nate, and RJ for making my Sunday evening extra fun.

Sunday, December 07, 2008


Johnny is a big fan of college football. Saturday nights, when most people are out bar-hopping, he's at home watching the games. The first game kicks off around 6:30 PM, Italy time, and the last one ends around 5 AM Sunday morning. I've been hanging out over there on random Saturdays for the past few weeks. It's kinda nice to just relax and chat and toss back a couple beers.
Yesterday included lots of conference championship games, so Johnny put together a little pool with a $10 buy in. I'm not normally one for gambling, especially on sports--something about which I have absolutely no knowledge whatsoever--but Johnny convinced me to at least give it a shot.
He called this afternoon to tell me I'd won 80 bucks. Each pick I made was purely a guess. Even funnier is the fact Johnny did all this research on the players and statistics and stuff, and came in next-to-last.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Acid Tongue

Lately, I've found my speech to be a little, um...bitchy. It's mostly at work, and usually involves whispering in my office with someone about people we don't like. We don't really gossip, but we make rude, albeit humorous, remarks about those excluded from our clique.
I know it's wrong, and I'm not normally the type to indulge in this kind of behaviour. It's definitely a slippery slope. So, I'm making an early New Year's Resolution to reform this habit. If you hear me making disparaging remarks about someone, you have permission to punch me in the face.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Decking Said Halls

Last night was our squadron holiday party (because, apparently, we're not allowed to call it a Christmas party). Because it was on a Thursday, we don't have to report to work until noon today, so we had a pretty good turnout.
We had one huge table for our entire shop, and had a great time eating and drinking and laughing. It's cool to see everyone dressed up.
The biggest draw for holiday parties is the prizes. Some are pure luck, and others you have to earn. Stan's ticket number was called, and he won some wine glasses. Johnny and I both won 25 bucks for identifying baby pictures, and Dan won a digital camera in the dance-off. There's probably already video circulating on the internet, but trust me--you don't want to see it.
Thanks to Aaron for staying sober and driving us all home. Now I have to find a way to get back to base to retrieve my truck.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Geyser Averted

For the past two days, Joann, Corey, and I have been waging an all-out war against a certain fire hydrant and its corresponding isolation valve. We finished switching the hydrant yesterday, but it took us until this afternoon just to take the bolts off the old valve. Even more difficult was fitting the gaskets between the new valve and the flange. My thighs are sore from squatting in the hole and pulling and pushing wrenches all day (plus running the perimeter this morning with Johnny, who, I suspect, only asks me to run with him because he knows he's faster than me). After plenty of grunts and gnashed teeth, everything finally went together, and all we have left to do tomorrow is backfill.
Our job site is near the Communications Squadron. At least once every hour, a huge group would come outside to smoke, passing by our hole on their way. Whenever they walked by, they would always get quiet and stare. It was almost like they were observing a new species or something. The office workers gazing at the labourers. Fascinating!

Tuesday, December 02, 2008


Friday night, I was getting ready to go over to Shaun's place to watch some snowboarding videos. I had been off all day, laying around and watching movies, so before I left home, I showered and put in my contacts. My left contact was bothering me, and when I put my shirt on, it popped out, and I totally lost it. This has never happened to me before, but I had another pair, so I just took the left one and put it in. But now I only have one right contact left. Contacts aren't cheap, and even after I get more, I'll always be one off. Not a big deal, but just frustrating. Laser surgery looks better every day.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Dog Gone

I had to give Daisy back today. I didn't realise how much I'd miss her until I came home this evening and there was nobody greeting me at the door, wagging her tail. It kinda makes me want to get a dog of my own, despite my better judgement. I know training a dog would try my patience, but the rewards and companionship are priceless. Maybe one day...

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Slingin' Ink

Yesterday, Jenny, Johnny, Joann, Jake, Stan, Corey, and I took the train to Trieste for a tattoo convention. We arrived at 1 PM, and Corey managed to find the beer vendor within five minutes of walking in the door. (Why were we not surprised?) I had no idea there were so many studios in the area. I didn't have any intention of getting any work done, but I wanted to look around at the different booths and get ideas for my next one. Jake, however, managed to find some bare skin on his right arm and got a couple sparrows.
Sorry, Mom. I know you've forbidden me to get any more, but I can't help it. I've been tattooed in Australia, Japan, and all over the States, and I fully intend to get another before I leave Italy.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Chopped Liver?

Tuesday, when we were working on the fire hydrant, our squadron commander came out to the job site, as he sometimes does for high priority jobs. He showed up right when we were placing the new hydrant. Corey was working the backhoe, while Joann and I were down in the hole lining up the bolts. It's not an easy task, and the backhoe is kinda loud so we have to yell at each other what we're doing. Meanwhile, the commander is standing next to the whole trying to hold a conversation with us. The whole job was taking much longer than anticipated, so when we got to a stopping point, and decided to finish things Wednesday morning after PT. Then we were informed by our superintendent not to go to PT because the hydrant took priority.
Yesterday, Johnny was telling me about the commander's morning briefing at PT, wherein he recognised the efforts of SSgt Burger and SSgt Tofte and how hard they were working on the fire hydrants.
You're welcome...sir.

Food Hangover

Originally uploaded by currtdawg
For Thanksgiving, I went to Johnny and Jenny's place. Also there were Corey, Stan, and his three daughters. Johnny had deep fried two turkeys, and Stan brought a ham. I made bread and two different kinds of stuffing. (Johnny is a southern boy and insisted on cornbread stuffing, but Corey wanted the regular bread kind.) Jenny took care of everything else. I think the only thing we had more of than food was beer.

Originally uploaded by currtdawg
After we gorged ourselves like all patriotic Americans, we sat around the rest of the evening and watched football. We all agreed to run an extra mile next time we did PT.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Clear-Headed, Somehow

If i had to list one thing for which I'm thankful today, it's that I'm not hung over after all the JagerBombs people kept buying me last night.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Doggie In The Window

Predictably, we were released from work a little early today, but I think Joann, Corey, and I totally earned it. Yesterday's hydrant was worse than Monday's. Joann and I stayed in the hole all day, even when it filled with water because the valve behind the hydrant didn't hold. Luckily, it wasn't as cold, but we were shivering nonetheless. Fred, one of our Italians, kept making Joann and I laugh because he refused to believe the valve was bad, even when we closed it and water still kept surging through. We finished everything up this morning, and kind of took it easy the rest of the day. Even though I just had last week off, I'm totally ready for the long weekend.
In other news, MSgt Lewis and his family are going to Paris for Thanksgiving, so I'm dog-sitting Daisy until Monday. It's good to know there will be someone around to take care of any leftover tofurkey tomorrow.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Popsicle Toes

Joann and I have been planning a project at work to switch out some broken fire hydrants. Since I was on leave last week, we set everything up to start today. I knew it would be a rough first day back at work, but it had to be done.
Last night, Johnny shot me a text asking if I'd be down for running the base perimeter this morning. Reluctantly, I accepted. It was a little brisk outside this morning, but we had a great run and I was more than ready to tackle the hydrants.

Johnny, Joann, & Corey
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
When we finally got started digging our first hydrant, the temperature dropped and it started to snow. The mountains get plenty of snow, but Joann says it hasn't snowed in the valley since 2005. So, Joann, Johnny, Corey, and I are out there digging up this hydrant and it's absolutely freezing and wet.

Originally uploaded by currtdawg
We were each taking turns in the hole, not because we wanted to work, but because it was warmer down there out of the wind and snow. To make matters worse, the bolts on the old hydrant were so badly corroded, we had to use a grinder to cut them off. We were hoping to finish two hydrants today, but just completing the first one was an all-day project.
We have more hydrants to fix, plus Johnny wants to run the perimeter again on Wednesday. It's going to be an exhausting week, but I guess that's what happens when you try to fit five days worth of work into only three days.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Cover to Cover

Over the past few years, my reading habits have gradually increased. After college, I never read for leisure, and now, I can't go to sleep at night until I've read a few pages to help me unwind after a long day. I stick mostly to modern fiction, while throwing in a biography here and there. My "Books Read" pile is slowly growing, but my "Books Bought" pile always seems to be growing, too. (It's good to know I'm not the only one with this problem.)
One of the great things about travelling by train (or plane) is all the useful reading time either on the train or stuck at a station. Most recently, while roaming around with Ben and crew, I started Michael Chabon's "The Mysteries of Pittsburgh." Usually, while travelling, I'll alternate between reading a few chapters, listening to my iPod, and staring out the window. But there was something about this book--maybe how well I related to the main character, maybe the interesting dialogue, maybe because it's just so damn good. I started it on the train to Florence Wednesday and finished it just as I was pulling into Sacile Saturday night. It's by far the fastest I've ever read a novel. I'm not sure what I'm going to read next, but I'll be heading to bed in a little while, so I'd better decide soon.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Sound of the Surf

Originally uploaded by currtdawg
Thursday afternoon, Mel headed up to Genova to see a friend, while Sarah, Ben, Jacob, and I went to the Cinque Terre. It was only a month ago that I was there with Scott, but this time, it was far less crowded and many of the shops were closed for the season. We lucked out again, finding an apartment right on the water for a great price. It was dark when we arrived, but when we woke up the next morning, we looked out our window and saw this.

Cinque Terre
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
It was warm enough that we left our windows open and slept to the sound of the waves crashing against the rocks. Friday morning, it was a little overcast, but the only water we felt was the spray from the ocean. We decided to take our time on the hike, stopping in each town for cappuccino or a panini.

Originally uploaded by currtdawg
The water was much rougher this time, so much so that whenever we tried to walk down, there were barriers and warnings.

Sarah, Ben, & Jacob
Originally uploaded by currtdawg

Jacob, Ben, & Sarah
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
Last time, Scott and I took the boat from the fourth village (Vernazza) to the fifth village (Monterossa); but this time, we decided to hike the whole thing. The last part of the hike was kinda rough, but totally worth it.

Cinque Terre
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
Last time I was in the Cinque Terre, I felt like I had to take pictures of everything; and when I was looking at them after I got home, I realised how much time I'd spent taking pictures of the scenery without really looking at it. I still took pictures this time, but not nearly as many. And I made sure to stop at each picturesque overlook and take in God's beauty.

Waves Crashing
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
We arrived in Monterossa just as the sun was going down. It was the perfect end to a perfect day. I snapped this picture as we were walking down the last slope into the town, right when a huge wave hit this rock.

We took the train back down to Riomaggiore, ate dinner, and relaxed for the evening. Mel and her friend Alicia joined back up with us and we caught up with each other about the day's excitement. We all slept well, the roar of the ocean in our ears.
Saturday morning, the rest of the crew caught a train to Rome, but I had to come back home. (Whoa--that rhymed.) I can't wait to hear their stories and see pictures. Next time I see this crew, I'll be crashing at Ben's house in Germany.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Down In Tuscany

Wednesday, we slept in, and then headed down to Florence. I'd never stayed overnight in Florence before, but we lucked out with a great hostel near the train station. We walked around all afternoon, checking out the Duomo and the Accademia. Again, I'll never get tired of seeing Michelangelo's David.

Originally uploaded by currtdawg

Palazzo Vecchio
Originally uploaded by currtdawg

Ponte Vecchio
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
I'd never been in Florence after nightfall, and everything looked really cool.

Ponte Vecchio
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
After walking around, I took everyone to my favourite Florentine restaurant, where we gorged ourselves on pasta and tiramisu.

The next morning, we decided to do some shopping. There are streets and streets full of markets in Florence. I've always been able to resist buying anything, but this time, after much bartering, I picked up a scarf and a trilby that both looked great on me. Everyone else picked up souvenirs, and before heading to the train station, we all had gelato. It was the perfect trip to Florence.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Touring the Lagoon

Mel, Jacob, Sarah, & Ben
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
Tuesday morning, each of us fell out of bed whenever we felt like it. After showers, I walked them around Budoia, stopping for cappuccino and to check out our church. We then grabbed a train to Venice. It was a little cool, but not very crowded, so we stepped up the pace to keep ourselves warm.

Piazza San Marco
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
When we got to St. Mark's Square, we had the opportunity to go inside the Basilica, something I've never done because it's either closed or too crowded. We weren't allowed to take pictures inside, but we got to walk out on the balcony.

Piazza San Marco
Originally uploaded by currtdawg

Piazza San Marco
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
There were some amazing views of the square.

Basilica San Marco
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
And different perspectives of the Basilica I'd never seen.

Basilica San Marco
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
I thought this statue was equal parts beautiful and creepy.

After checking out all the main sights, we took the water taxi over to Murano, the island famous for its glass making. But by the time we got there, everything was closed, so we went back to Venice for dinner and laughter.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A Reunion of Sorts

Ben and Jacob flew in last night, along with their friends Sarah and Melissa. We're all staying in my house, which at first, I thought would be a little cramped, but instead, it's nicely cosy. Their main goal is to have a few relaxed days in Italy, so we slept in this morning. We'll make our way to Venice, and tomorrow, Florence is on the agenda. It's great to see Ben and Jacob again, and Sarah and Mel are keeping me in stitches. More to come in the next few days.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Pure of Heart

I've always been a Momma's boy. When my brother was riding motorcycles with Dad, Mom and I were shopping. She's always been very supportive of me, even during the times when I wasn't making such great choices. She cries when I get off the plane, and she cries when I get back on. She can fall asleep on the sofa with a cup of tea in her hand and not spill a drop. She's probably the classiest person I know, never speaking ill of anyone and always treating people with kindness and respect. She's probably going to kill me for mentioning this, but what kind of son would I be if I didn't wish my Mom a Happy 60th Birthday? Love ya.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Expatriate Discrimination

One of the things I like to do on lazy Sunday evenings is check out the SNL website and see which skits they've posted from the previous night's broadcast. But a few minutes ago, when I tried to check out a short featuring Paul Rudd and Andy Samburg, I was met with the message, "We're sorry, but the clip you selected isn't available from your location. Please select another clip." Even more unfortunately, this message shows up with every clip, even ones I've previously watched. What's up, NBC?

Hat City

Originally uploaded by currtdawg
Johnny and I stayed in Milan Friday night. Saturday morning, we were joined by Jenny and Daniel, who'd taken the early train. None of them had seen much of Italy outside of the Aviano area, so we didn't really have a major agenda. They just wanted to see the big stuff, so we basically walked around the whole city. After checking out the Duomo, we decided to head toward Santa Maria della Grazie to see if we could see da Vinci's The Last Supper painting. On the way there, we stumbled into a random church decorated completely with frescoes. It was pretty amazing.

Santa Maria della Grazie
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
Unfortunately, when we got to where the painting is, we found out we needed reservations, and it was booked for the rest of the year. From there, we walked down to Wok, the store where Brian's opening was last month, and got to chat with Frederica for a few minutes.
It was getting late, so we headed back to the Milano Centrale to get tickets back home, stopping for dinner. We had a great time walking and walking and walking some more. And last night, I slept like a rock.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Headbanger's Ball

I'd never really been to a metal show before, so I wasn't sure what to expect, exactly. For all I knew, we'd be in a crowd of people sacrificing virgins and carving things into our chests. Luckily, it wasn't that drastic.
The event was called The Unholy Alliance Tour. The venue, right outside of a metro station in northwestern Milan, was called Palasharp. We got there before the doors opened, so we walked around amongst the Italians, who were all dressed in their denim vests and black t-shirts. I hadn't seen that many pony tails since the last time I was in Kentucky (where they were actual tails...on ponies).
The first band was already playing when we got inside. They were an Italian metal band with eight members. Since they were singing in Italian, I couldn't understand what they were saying; I later learned it didn't matter what language they were singing, I couldn't understand regardless. They only played five or six songs before Amon Amarth came out. They're a Swedish metal band, and between songs, the singer would yell, in his most monstrous voice, "Grazie mille, Milano!" I thought it was kinda funny.
The next band was Mastodon, whose lyrics deal mostly with mythology and folklore. After them was Trivium. They were a much younger band, and Johnny's favourite of the evening. It was the only band for whom we left the stands and went onto the floor.

Originally uploaded by currtdawg
Before we went to the show, Johnny gave me a brief history of Slayer and their influence on thrash metal. When they came out on stage, the crowd went crazy. Their set was full of satanic symbols and songs about the devil. It was so over the top, I found it almost humorous.
Johnny and I left before the show was over. We weren't sure when the trains shut down, and we didn't want to get stuck in the crowd. On the way back to our hotel, we discussed the show, and how all the satanic stuff is probably an act, something the band members don't really believe. Regardless, I'm not going to miss Church tomorrow morning.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Thrash Man

Johnny is a big metal head, and last week, he asked if I'd be interested in going to see Slayer in Milan. Truth be told, few things would interest me less than going to see Slayer; however, Johnny really, REALLY wants to go, and he's not yet familiar with how to get around Italy anywhere outside of Aviano. So I told him I'd go with him, and now I'm getting kinda excited about it.
This will be my first true hardcore heavy metal show, and I'm not sure what to expect, especially since it's in Italy. I doubt I'll have the balls to get down in the pit (if there is one). I'll probably be the only one wearing ear plugs, but I don't care.
We haven't yet decided if we'll come back Saturday or Sunday, but rest assured, you'll hear all about it.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Il Dolce

I've become a little adventurous in the kitchen lately, and developed a passion for making cheesecake. The first, a chocolate cheesecake with a layer of caramel in the middle, was about six weeks ago. For Scott's visit, I made a straight-up New York cheesecake. Yesterday, I attempted a white chocolate raspberry. All three have turned out fairly well. The raspberry swirl in yesterday's effort didn't swirl too well, and ended up melding with the crust. I took it to work today, and nobody seemed to care (or notice).
Making a cheesecake from scratch is rather time consuming. Putting the whole thing together takes about an hour. The baking requires near constant supervision. Plus, there's a certain way they have to be cooled in order to avoid cracks in the surface. Then they have to chill for several hours. It isn't any kind of instant gratification, but the gratification that does come is amazing.
I'm debating over a pumpkin cheesecake for Thanksgiving. I'm not a fan of pumpkin-flavoured anything, but it might be cool to bring to the home of whomever invites me over (if someone invites me over). If so, I'll just make a second one of my choosing.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Long Lost Friend

An amazing thing happened today. After an extra-long run and a quick trip to the Commissary, I decided to go by the Shoppette to grab a sixer of beer. I didn't even make it to the beer isle. As soon as I walked in the door, my eyes immediately focussed on the liquor isle where I saw the most wonderful sight:
Maker's Mark.
Not only was it in stock, but it was $18 a bottle. (I paid $24.50 in Utah.) I bought two, and they go nicely with the bottle I picked up in the States that I've been saving for a special occasion. If there's a better way to celebrate Veteran's Day, I don't know what it is.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Freeze Out

I'm seeing how long I can go without turning my heat on. I don't have a problem paying my bills, and I'm not a masochist. I just haven't really needed it yet, so why not try to save some money? It hasn't gotten that cold yet (the low tonight is 48 degrees), so it's not too big of an inconvenience. What's strange is that, after my Mom, I'm probably the most cold-natured person on Earth. I have an extra blanket on my bed, and when I get home from work, I shower and throw on some sweats. In a way, it's almost more comfortable.
Ben and a few others are visiting from Germany next week. We don't plan on spending much time at home anyway, so unless they ask why my house feels like a Frigidaire, I'm still not going to turn it on.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Century Club

I was looking at some numbers yesterday, and found out that "Dashboard" by Modest Mouse is the first song to reach 100 plays on my iPod. I guess it's not surprising since I was totally obsessed with this album for nearly all of 2007.
I'm sure there have been other songs I've heard more than 100 times. A few that come to mind include "Vogue" by Madonna and Hole's "Celebrity Skin." It's just that this is the first one since I've had my iPod. A contributing factor was getting my iPod hooked up to my truck--probably the best money I've ever spent.
There are a few other artists who have songs nearing the "100 Plays" achievement. Among them, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, We Are Scientists, The Distillers, Peaches, Luscious Jackson, the Arcade Fire, and of course, Sleater-Kinney.
Occasionally, I'll listen to an album non-stop and get tired of it after a few weeks; but some albums never get old. If anyone has the formula for a timeless record, let me know.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Take only what you need from it.

A few nights ago, I was hanging out at Shaun's house with a few people, including Keena, who's just spent the past two months in the States. He brought back a snowboarding DVD called "That's It, That's All." We put it in, and as soon as we saw the beautiful white peaks, our eyes glazed over in anticipation of what we'll be doing all winter.
Snowboarding videos are pretty cool because you get to see all these professional boarders tackling huge slopes and landing crazy jumps. Plus, the scenery is amazing. But perhaps the best thing about them is the music. You can put just about any type of music with snowboarding footage, and it somehow fits. Punk, electronic, hip-hop, ambient, doesn't matter. Often, I'll hear a catchy new tune that would go nicely on my iPod.
On the video the other night, one such song caught my ear, and I couldn't get it out of my head. I did some internet research, and found out it was called "Kids" by MGMT. Their album was only $7.99 on iTunes, and I've been listening to it ever since.
Back in the day, there were songs I would hear on commercials or in movies and then obsess about for weeks. That's the great thing about the internet. Sure, it's good for e-mail, online shopping, and, ahem, other things; but it's probably the most useful tool I have. (Sorry, hammer. You were this close.)

Friday, November 07, 2008

Life Imitates

Whenever I have a little extra cash to spare, instead of splurging on something wasteful, I try to spend it on something for my house. Since my travels with Scott came in under budget, I decided to purchase some artwork for my guest room.
I did some research and looked around for something modern by an Italian artist. I finally decided on a piece called "Essenza" (Essence) by Maurizio Piovan, who happens to be from Padova, a town just west of Venice. I picked it up from the framing shop yesterday, and I'm really happy with how it looks on the wall. And no, I'm not posting pictures. You'll just have to come see for yourself.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Let Down and Hanging Around

I think I'm suffering from post-election blues. It's kinda like the post-Christmas blues; but instead of being depressed because all the holiday build-up is suddenly over, it's because Prop 8 passed. (I might expect this out of Florida, but not you, California.)

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

So, that happened.

I'm not disappointed, but I'm not thrilled, either. It's definitely an historic day for our country, and I look forward to seeing what the next four years have in store.
Now I'm going to try to resist going back to bed.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Quadrennially, The First Tuesday After The First Monday In November

Election Day excitement ran throughout my shop today--it's all we talked about. Ironically, when I took a poll to see how many out of the 14 people in my shop voted, I was disappointed to find I was the only one. So, if any of them start complaining about the outcome, I'm going to tell them to shove it.
It's barely 10 AM on the west coast right now, and it's tempting to pull an all-nighter to stay updated. But I'll probably hit the sack, let democracy take its course, and, barring any 2000-ish debacles, wake up to a new President-Elect. Whomever it is, I pray they'll take our country in the right direction.

Monday, November 03, 2008

A Little Late For Halloween, But...

Thursday night, I was hanging out with Shaun, Alec, and Ruben. At the last minute, we decided to see the movie on base, Quarantine. It's a horror movie about people trapped inside a building with aggressive zombie-like people. It had plenty of jumpy scary parts, but it wasn't the kind of movie that sticks with you after you leave the theatre. It didn't help that Shaun kept texting the whole time.
I think the first real horror movie I ever saw was The Amityville Horror (1979 version). I was maybe 5 or 6 and we were at my grandparents' house in South Carolina for Christmas. My grandparents had HBO, and when the movie came on, for some reason the whole family sat around and watched it. (Fine holiday fun, eh?) I don't know what my parents were thinking letting my brother and I watch that. My Mom had to take me in the other room to look at the Christmas tree to get me to calm down. I'm sure I had nightmares, but I don't remember very well.
The first horror movie that had a real impact on me was Halloween (1978 version). My brother and I were home alone one night, and it came on television. It was the edited version, but it was still incredibly scary. I was probably 10 or 11, but I couldn't sleep for months without seeing that horrible face.
Since then, I've had a fondness for the horror genre. I don't see many in the theatre because most of the ones that come out now are total shit. They confuse sudden loud noises with fear, and they're just not very realistic. Instead, I do research and add the classics to my Netflix queue. Most recently, I watched Suspiria, an Italian horror classic. Sometimes, the older movies seem cheesy, but they're also the ones you can't stop thinking about long after they're over and you're laying in bed in a dark, empty house wondering why the dog next door is barking.

Ornaments Of My Home

I was thrilled when Scott told me he'd be visiting. Finally, someone I could host and play tour guide and show all the wonders of Italy. But as his arrival got closer, I became a little nervous.
For starters, Scott and I didn't really know each other that well. We'd only met in December, and I left Utah in February. Granted, we'd e-mailed and chatted online quite a bit, but once he arrived, there could have been a total personality conflict.
On top of that, two weeks is a long time to spend with someone non-stop, even if he or she is a good friend. The first night he was here, I told him not to be shy, and if he needed some alone time, it wouldn't hurt my feelings.
Luckily, we didn't encounter any problems at all. There have been house guests I've been happy to see walk out the door, but I was really sad Scott had to head back home. Maybe it was because we had such a great time. Maybe this house is too big for me. Maybe I just miss Utah. Whatever it is, I'm already excited for my next guests, Ben and his friends, who'll be arriving on the 17th.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Sunday Blues

You know how on Sundays, you try to appreciate your day off, but the fact that you have to work the next day is looming overhead? I've got that feeling of dread right now, only it's three times as bad since I've been off for three weeks.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Monster Mash

Me & Joann
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
Last night, Joann and Jake had a big Halloween party at their house. They'd been planning it for weeks, and I was pretty excited about it. I spent most of yesterday working on my costume (zombie-tastic!), and rode over with Jenny and Johnny. We were disappointed at how few people dressed up, but Joann made a pretty good Pocahontas.

Originally uploaded by currtdawg
Jake had gotten a keg, something of which Steven took full advantage.

Jenny & Johnny
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
Jenny and Johnny had both ordered costumes online, but neither of them fit, so they did some last minute improvisation and went as football players.

Jo & Me
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
I think Jo came as a Hot Topic employee or something. We all sat around the bonfire and told stories, and I met some cool new people. It wasn't a super wild party, but it was fun nonetheless.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Putting the Die in Diet

I went to the gym today for the first time in over two weeks. Running wasn't as bad as I thought it would be, probably because we did so much walking. We also did so much eating, and (I know I'm going to sound like a girl right now, but) I gained four pounds. I wish somebody would do something about how fat I am.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Lessons Learned

1) Don't expect Scott to stay awake in moving vehicles. This includes trains. When we were road-tripping, every night I'd be ready to hit the sack, and all he wanted to do was walk around more. Well, gee, Scott, maybe if I'd had a two hour nap in the car, I'd be ready to party, too!

2) You can get away with wearing the same underwear two days in a row, but always make sure you have enough socks. They don't come cheap in Switzerland.

Originally uploaded by currtdawg
3) If a European asks who you voted for, tell them Obama, even if it isn't true. They'll be nicer to you. There are no McCain fans in Europe, and if you mention Nader, they'll just look at you funny.

4) Hostels are totally the way to go. I'd never stayed in hostels before, but if I'm ever travelling by myself, I'll never try anything else. They're much cheaper than hotels, and usually have good information for people travelling on a budget. Scott and I never made reservations, and only did a little online research for each place we went. The only minor bad luck we had was in Cinque Terre. Our first choice was booked, so we had to walk around looking for another room. We ended up finding a really nice room for a good price, so it was little more than an inconvenience. So yeah, if you don't mind staying in a room with seven other people or sharing a bathroom, look into hostels.

5) Bring a book.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Little Italy

Monday night, after we got back to Milan, Scott and I met up with Brian, Simona, and Frederica for dinner. After that, we went to a party with some of their friends. Again, Scott and I felt a little out-of-place, not just because we couldn't communicate very well, but because we're not exactly in the artsy crowd. Our pants didn't fit too tight and we weren't wearing scarves indoors. Still, they had a pretty kickin' DJ and more free beer.
Frederica dropped us off at our hostel, and on the way there, we discovered Frederica's parents live in Budoia. We had a nice conversation about our travels and how she got involved with Simona's store. She said next time she's in Budoia, she'll take me to some places for "great fun." I can't wait.
This morning, I made sure Scott and Brian made their flight, and then took the next train home from Milan. The past two weeks have been a whirlwind of travel and fun and adventure. Luckily, I have the rest of the week off to relax.

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Five Lands

Cinque Terre Coast
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
Sunday morning, Scott and I caught an early train headed for the Cinqe Terre. It's an area on the Italian Riviera where five little villages are built right on the coast line. Geographically, it's not far away from Milan, but we had to switch trains twice, so it was mid-afternoon by the time we arrived.

Originally uploaded by currtdawg
We found a room in Riomaggiore, the southernmost town. We spent the evening walking around and eating some of the local cuisine, including pesto.

Originally uploaded by currtdawg
Since the town is so compact, many of the main roads are little more than alleyways. If it weren't so quaint and adorable, it would almost resemble a ghetto.

Originally uploaded by currtdawg
We woke up early Monday morning, and headed north. All five villages are easily within hiking distance, though some areas are a little steep.

Originally uploaded by currtdawg
When we started our hike, it was sprinkling a bit, but we didn't care. It kept the temperature a little cooler and made for better photography.

Originally uploaded by currtdawg

Originally uploaded by currtdawg
Normal people would see this rocky, treacherous coastline and maybe use it for hiking or diving. But the Italians, who've never been accused of doing things the easy way, decided to build entire towns along it. I'm sure glad they did.

Originally uploaded by currtdawg

Originally uploaded by currtdawg
We hiked all the way to Vernazza, the fourth town. We decided to take the boat to Monterosso, not because we were tired, but because we wanted to see the town from far off.

Originally uploaded by currtdawg
Monterosso has a pretty nice beach, and by the time we got there, it had cleared up somewhat. The water was warm, and if we would have had our swimming trunks, we would have gone for a swim. After a stroll along the beach, we had a late lunch, and then took the next train back to Milan.