Thursday, July 31, 2008

Dig Your Own Hole

Joann & Scott
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
Today, I got to do some real work. Not that I wouldn't call the jobs I normally do "work;" it's just that this was a big project with a backhoe and shovels and stuff. There was a busted water line in the ammo area, so Joann, Corey, and I were sent to take care of business. We were assisted by Scott from the Heavy shop.

Corey & Joann
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
We ended up digging about five feet down before finding the line. We finished around 3:00, and MSgt Lewis told us we could have the rest of the day off. As I left the shop, I looked down to see my filthy uniform and muddy boots, and knew it was a good day. These are the projects that take me back to my time at Nellis, when every day I felt a sense of accomplishment.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Acrylic Afternoons

Every day beginning at 12:30 and lasting two to three hours, Italians observe "riposa," which translates literally to "rest." It's similar to the Mexican siesta. During this time, nearly all businesses and restaurants shut down. And during riposa, there is NOTHING going on. Old people at the cafe - gone. Neighbours trimming their hedges - absent. Kids playing in the yard - disappeared. They're all sleeping. I've heard it's best not to do anything too loud outside, like mow your lawn, unless you want to get nasty looks.
Sometimes, it's a bit of an inconvenience, especially when I need to get gas. I've learned to schedule my day so, at this time, I can take care of stuff on base, like checking my mail or hitting the gym. I guess this is why Italians eat dinner so late, and don't sleep much at night. It's a custom I can see myself adopting.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

A Light Elite

Sometimes, I get the feeling people at work think of me as a little snobbish. It's not that I ever exclude or deliberately talk down to anyone; quite the opposite. I think it all boils down to a matter of taste. I like Beck, while Bill prefers Toby Keith. I brought in "The Shining," but Aaron opted for "The Hills Have Eyes 2." I rarely laugh at their jokes, and they rarely laugh at mine. I asked if anyone had read the new David Sedaris book, and I got blank stares. I manage a slight chuckle when Corey passes gas on Joann's desk, but I feel like a fake.
Still, I enjoy their company, both on and off duty, despite our differences. One time, Johnny told me I was "well-spoken," and I almost took offence. I've never been the type to care what people think of me, but these are my co-workers, so it's more than just a social status. It's like family.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Sing Along Songs Will Be Our Scriptures - Mad Props #9

The Hold Steady are often cited as "America's greatest bar band." I don't listen to a lot of bar bands, or really even know what constitutes a bar band, but I sure dig these guys. They first came on the scene in 2004 with their debut "Almost Killed Me," but I didn't catch on until 2006 with "Boys and Girls in America."
Their songs have a raw, almost classic rock feel to them, with catchy riffs and extended solos. It's impossible not to get caught up in the shout-out choruses. But what really sets these guys apart is Craig Finn's lyrics. He tells stories of people whose lives have been made and broken, ruined by drugs or alcohol, or encountered a crisis of faith. Their 2005 album "Separation Sunday" was basically a concept album about a girl trying to find her faith through drugs and alcohol. Their newest record, "Stay Positive" was just released, and I'm already addicted. It's a collection of great summer songs, full of optimism and heartache. I saw them last year in SLC, and all this emotion is even more potent in a live setting. So, Mad Props to The Hold Steady. Thanks for your testament to rousing, thick, spirited rock and roll.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Molto Bene!

I found out today that I made an A in Italian, and I'm pretty proud of myself. I really want to take the second semester, but it's another lunchtime class, and I'm debating on whether to ask my boss if it's cool. I just don't want to wait too long. We've only been out of class a week, and I've already forgotten so much. Guess I should keep my flash cards handy.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Binky the Doormat

A friend asked me for a favor today, and I really went out of my way to help him. Normally, this kind of thing doesn't bother me, usually making me feel good about helping a brother out. But this time, something's not right. I have a weird feeling in my stomach that I might be getting walked on, or possibly even screwed over in the process. It's all speculation, and I'm going to give him the benefit of the doubt. Time will tell.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Blue Monday

Alec & Nick
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
After working last weekend, I had Monday and Tuesday off as compensation. So, since Monday was kinda like my Saturday, I wanted to go and have some fun. But do you know how hard it is to get people to go out drinking on a Monday night? It's pretty hard. Luckily, Alec and Nick were up for the challenge...possibly because it was also Alec's birthday.

And after some text-prompting, we were joined by Joann, Ryan, and Jarred. My original intention was to get really shitty, but we ended up having some great conversation over a few mellow drinks, capped off with a few rounds of darts. In hindsight, it was probably better that way.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Faking It

Have you ever called someone--sometimes in the morning, sometimes not--and it rings for a bit, and when he or she finally picks up, you hear some background noise, and finally, "MsupHwoyHello?"
"Oh, I'm sorry. We're you sleeping?"
" What's up?"
I always feel bad when I wake someone up, even if it's for something important. They might lie and say they weren't sleeping, but it's not hard to tell.
Conversely, I'm really good at totally disguising my sleepy voice. Even if I've been way off in dreamland, as soon as I hear the phone, I can answer as chipper as if I'd just got done running. It's one of my many hidden talents, and practical because I don't want anyone to feel bad for waking me up, especially when I probably should have been up hours before.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Truth or Consequences

Between rounds at work today, I watched a movie called 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days. It tells the story of two college roommates in 1987 Communist Romania who arrange an illegal abortion. It was the most sobering film I've seen in a while. I appreciated that it put all politics aside and gave a bleak impression of the lengths to which people will go and the disturbing results. I recommend it, but not for the faint of heart. It's tough to watch, with layers upon layers of emotion and tense realism. It's well crafted, brilliantly acted, and totally unforgettable.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Bending Over Backward

Johnny is going to a class in Texas the same time as me, so this week, we've been running all over base to make our travel arrangements. One of the offices we've frequented is the passenger travel office. We first went there last week to turn in our original orders. We were helped by a young Senior Airman named Heather Wells, who was the most delightful person I've met in a while. She was intent to help us, and it made our day much easier.
After making our original plans, we somehow managed to swing a rental car authorisation, which was an odyssey in itself. Therefore, we had to go back to passenger travel. As we walked up the stairs, I confessed to hoping SRA Wells would be working, and Johnny agreed. Luckily, she was, and changing our arrangements was a breeze, thanks to her assistance.
Yesterday, we both received our itineraries from the travel agent on base, and they were both wrong. We could (or should) have gone to the travel agent on base to fix the errors. However, we decided to go to passenger travel because we knew SRA Wells would be able to help us better than the Italians at the travel agency. Again, she greeted us with a smile and acted as though our travel issues were nothing to worry about. Within a few minutes, we were booked on better flights in better seats, and she even arranged for me to get vegetarian meals.
It's not often I come across people that are so eager to please, especially in the Air Force. So when I meet someone as enthusiastic as Heather Wells, I take note. Plus, Johnny and I both thought she had a sexy voice, which didn't hurt.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Miss Manners Says, "Really?"

Sunday night, some friends and I went to the theatre on base to see Wall-E (another Pixar masterpiece). As Aaron, Steven, and Bob were getting snacks, Johnny and I went into the theatre to find seats. It was kinda crowded with tons of kids, which we expected, so we picked a row near the back.
As soon as we sat down, a middle-aged couple in front of us turned around and said to Johnny, "You're not going to be popping your gum during the movie are you?"
"," replied Johnny.
"Okay. Please don't. Thanks," they said, and turned back around.
Johnny turned to me with the most stunned look on his face. Yeah, he was chewing gum, but neither of us had made a sound. We were dumbstruck and it kinda put a damper on our evening.
Since then, every time I see Johnny, we talk about things we could have said to let them know exactly what kind of assholes they were being. Things like:
"Do you realise this is a kids movie? And any sound I make is probably going to be drowned out by the sound of little hellions running around like headless chickens."
"Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't realise you paid more for your ticket than we did."
Next time, we'll be ready.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


I have my final exam for Italian tomorrow. It's a comprehensive final, and we've spent the past three days reviewing. The professor told us what's going to be on there, almost verbatim, so I should be okay. I've studied, and, on Shaun's recommendation, made flash cards. I'm just worried I'll sit down and totally draw a blank, especially on those damned irregular verbs. Okay...back to studying.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Three Dog Night, Plus Two Additional Bonus Nights

I've always been a dog person. Maybe it's because we had dachshunds when I was growing up. Maybe it's because I'm horribly allergic to cats. Maybe it's because I've always been a little jealous of their ability to lick themselves. Regardless, I've never had a dog since I left home. The companionship would be nice, but I don't think I'd be around enough to give it the attention it needs or deserves. Still, I often think how great it would be to come home from a long day and have a little friend so grateful to see me.

Originally uploaded by currtdawg
So, when my boss, MSgt Lewis, asked if I'd dog-sit for him this week, I felt a little flutter in my heart. This is Daisy, his chihuahua--probably the most low-maintenance dog on the planet. She's well-trained and has a great personality. My only role is to let her outside every so often and make sure she has food and water. I'm keeping her while he and his family are in Rome this week, and we're having a blast, despite the fact she sits in the doorway of the bathroom while I shower, which is rather disconcerting. I chase her around the yard every morning, and she sleeps with me at night. Now's the time where I'm supposed to crack a joke about getting a bitch in my bed, but I'll just leave it alone.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Twisted Nerve

I'm on nights again this week, and therefore, standby and weekend duty, as well. I just did this a few weeks ago, but the schedule had to be shifted around because of people taking leave and stuff. I'm cool with it, though, because it leaves me very little free time for things like spending money, which I've done a lot of since I got to Italy. Still, I really don't like standby. Luckily, we just had a bunch of people get back from the desert, so I won't have to do this again for a very long time.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Ich bin ein Budoia-er!

Budoia Party
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
Every year, a local lady puts on a big party in the park across from my house. It's open to everyone in our neighbourhood, and includes a full course meal. And wine. Lots and lots of wine. We had a slight drizzle early in the evening, but soon, things cleared up and everyone was having a good time.

Karaoke Guys
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
By far, the highlight of the evening was the karaoke. An older gentleman started out by singing mostly American songs--everything from standards like "I've Got You Under My Skin" to showtunes like "Hello, Dolly!" He eventually moved on to traditional Italian songs. The three guys on the truck were singing back-up, and were so drunk, I was worried they'd fall off the back. But they never did.

Originally uploaded by currtdawg
It was just for our neighbourhood, and there were about 120 people present. But only about 15 Americans. And, of course, we sat together. As the evening progressed, I tried to go around to the other tables and make small talk; but my Italian is limited to basic phrases and verbs in the present tense.

Originally uploaded by currtdawg
Still, they were all very gracious and appreciated my effort. The party went on until almost midnight, with plenty of music, dancing, and laughter. And, of course, wine.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Rubbing Elbows

Joann & Me
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
Last night, Joann, Annie, Corey, Johnny, and I went out to dinner, and then did some light bar-hopping. Traditionally, I don't usually hang out with work people outside of work, but my crew here is pretty kick-ass.

Bob & Steven
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
We met up with Aaron, Bob, and Steven at our second bar. Bob and Steven are brand new to the Air Force, and have been in Italy for less than two weeks. I picked Steven up at the airport, and he didn't say too much that first day. Last night, however, he kinda came out of his shell.

Corey, Me, & Steven
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
Our final stop was a bar called Mr. Frankies to watch Joann's boyfriend's band play a few sets. It was a fun night, and I didn't stay out too late. Plus, I got the chance to show off my new specs.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Back Across The Pond

I found out today I'll be attending a two-week class at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas next month. The class itself doesn't bother me, but it starts on August 11th, meaning I'll probably be on an aeroplane on the birthday. It's just bad timing.
I had the option to take leave en route, but I turned it down. Going back and seeing some friends in Utah is really tempting, but I have two trips this autumn, and I need to save up some serious cash.
On the bright side, another guy in my squadron is also going to Sheppard for a class the same time as me. We're trying to work out our reservations to fly back at the same time. It will be nice to have someone to hang out with while I'm there.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Mo Money, Mo Problems

A couple weeks ago, I was checking my LES (Leave & Earnings Statement) like I do at the end of every month. Usually, I just look at what I'll be paid and how many days of leave I have; but this time, something caught my eye. For some reason, I was collecting dependent-rate housing allowance plus a few other benefits, even though I'm single. I immediately went to the finance office (quickly becoming my favourite place on base!), and asked why I was getting overpaid and what I needed to do about it. At first glance, the guy told me I'd been getting paid an extra $800 per month. That's when I blacked out. After the smelling salts, they told me they'd look into it, and to come back this week to find out what's going on.
Needless to say, I've been a little nervous for the past few days.
I went back today and found out things weren't as bad as they first seemed. It seems I caught the mistake before finance did, or at least the biggest part of it. My next paycheck is going to be about $8000 over what it should be, because they thought they'd made an error and are trying to give me back-pay. After it gets deposited into my account, I have to immediately write a check for that amount back to the Air Force. Also, over the past five months, I've been overpaid a total of about $3000, which will be taken out of my pay in equal installments over the next year (about $250 per month). So, yeah, it kinda stinks, but it's not nearly as bad as it could have been.
But as long as I'm on the subject, I'd just like to bring up the topic of single vs. dependent-rate pay and allowances. I sometimes feel like single people are treated a little unfairly in the military. For instance, brand new single airmen are forced to live in dormitories, while a married airman of the same rank and age can opt to live off-base. And how does the married airman pay for off-base quarters? He gets paid more money. To me, that's kinda bullshit. It's not like the military issued the married guy his family. It's his choice to get married and/or have children. Why should the single guy with no dependents get paid any less for doing the same work?
I could also go on another tangent about gay marriage and not allowing homosexuals to serve openly in the military, but I think I've ranted enough for now.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Snow White and the Seven Dudes

Originally uploaded by currtdawg
Saturday morning. 2 AM. Seven friends set off on a mission. We left Aviano in a rental van headed for Hintertux, a glacier in western Austria. Our purpose? Snowboarding.

Shaun & Jason
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
We arrived in Hintertux just after 7 AM, and immediately began putting on our gear.

Originally uploaded by currtdawg
On this trip was Keena, Jason, Shaun, Ruben, Jarred, Nate, and I. It didn't matter that none of us had slept more than a couple hours. We were just ready to hit the slopes.

Originally uploaded by currtdawg
We parked in a valley at the base of the mountains. We left in the middle of the night, but after the sun came up, there was some really amazing scenery. I think the Alps are the most impressive mountain range I've ever seen.

Originally uploaded by currtdawg

Originally uploaded by currtdawg
45 minutes and three gondola rides later, we made it to the top of the glacier, an altitude of 3250 m (or 10,662 ft). It was sunny and about 40 degrees outside; and we were excited.

Strapping In
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
It felt good to be strapping on my board again. Plus, it was the first time I got to break in my new snowboarding pants I got for a super discount just before I left Utah. (Thanks, Scott!) All seven of us were looking forward to some serious carving.

Shaun & Ruben
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
And then we went down the first run. Have you ever been boarding, and you occasionally run across an icy patch and it freaks you out because you can't manoeuvre at all and you start bitching about how crappy the conditions are? Well, imagine if the whole run was like that. We got about halfway down, and realised we were boarding on a solid sheet of ice.

Originally uploaded by currtdawg
We all looked at each other and the gleam that was in our eyes a few moments earlier turned to an expression of "What the F were we thinking?"

Originally uploaded by currtdawg
But all hope was not lost. Not being the type to give up easily, we headed to another section of the glacier, and found much better conditions. It was somewhere between powder and slush, making it much easier to navigate and less painful to fall.

Originally uploaded by currtdawg
Most of the guys spent the day at the park, but I took turns between the park and carving down the slope. There were some serious boarders there doing 720s and flips and stuff, so I felt a little insignificant when landing a 180, which is my greatest accomplishment thus far.

Pile On
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
See, Jarred? This is what happens when you throw snowballs and hit people in the junk.

Maybe it was the altitude. Maybe it was the lack of sleep. Maybe it was the fact none of us had been boarding in several months. Regardless, by 2 PM, after six hours of solid boarding, we were exhausted and decided to call it a day.

Hintertux Village
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
On the way home, I realised I'd forgotten to wear sunscreen. The lower half of my face, below where my goggles sit, is totally fried and I look like a freak. Along with everyone else, I'm tired and sore. But I don't care. We went snowboarding.

On a glacier.
In Austria.
In July.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Roll Call

I've been doing a little maintenance on the wax, and recently updated the "Prose" section to the right. Before, it was links to friends' sites, listed in order of whom I'd known the longest. Many of the sites were rarely updated (I'm talking to you, Paul), and since changing the template was somewhat of a pain, the links occasionally became invalid. Blogger has recently added a feature enabling me to link to sites I read, and listing them in the order in which they've most recently been updated. If you'd rather not have me link to your site, let me know. Consequently, if you'd like a little more exposure (and really, who wouldn't?), I can add your site in a jiffy. Just remember, the more frequently updated sites go to the top of the list. It's like working extra hard to gain the approval of people with little influence over your life. Kind of like high school.

More Caramel Than The Louisiana Purchase

It's our nation's 232nd birthday. I celebrated by waking up early and mowing my lawn. This afternoon, I'll study some Italian and read the new Rolling Stone article on Barack Obama. I'll finish things off by watching movies and inhaling an entire pint of Steven Colbert's Americone Dream, my favourite Ben & Jerry's flavour. It's the American Way!

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Culture Club

I really enjoy The AV Club, an entertainment counterpart to The Onion. It's not a satire, but it still strives for a humorous tone, full of irony and obscure pop culture references. Each week begins with a list of entertainment-related things meeting a certain criterion (i.e. 21 Songs About Law Enforcement, 11 Films That Responded Well To National Crises, etc.) The site is updated daily with album, film, game, and book reviews. There are also several other features all revolving around pop culture in some way. I recently read an article about the despicably wonderful movie Wild Things, which, to set the tone, began with an insightful essay about irony and camp. Also good reading are articles about Pixar, what's on Paul Rudd's iPod, and, a personal favourite, Simpsons quotes for everyday use. I don't know how they keep coming up with fresh material week after week, but as long as they do, I'll keep reading.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Gasoline Dreams

Due to the Status of Forces Agreement (or SOFA), there isn't a gas station on base. Apparently, Italy wants us to help their economy as much as possible, so we have to buy gas on the economy, which is now about 1.57 Euro per litre ($9.44 / gal). Luckily, we're allowed up to 300 litres per month in NATO gas coupons. These are sold at the B/X, and can be used at certain gas stations all around Italy. When I first arrived, the coupon books were $101 for 100 litres (up from $65 a year ago); but now the price has skyrocketed to $127. So, even with our gas coupons, we're still paying $4.81 / gal.
Actually getting gas can be rather tricky, too. There are two gas station chains where we can use our coupons. There are plenty of locations all over Italy, but the only ones open late are located along the autostrada (similar to US interstate highways). The local ones are open in the morning until 12:30 PM, and then again from 2:30 PM until 7. And only a few random locations are open on weekends.
I'm used to being in the States where there are plenty of 24-hour gas stations (or at least the kind where you can use your credit card 24/7). Few things make me more anxious than driving late at night in the middle of nowhere when my little fuel light comes on. It's made me watch my gas gauge very closely.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Ole! Ole, Ole, Ole!

Alec, Shaun, & Nate
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
Sunday night, several of us went to Pogue Mahone's, an Irish pub in Aviano's piazza, to watch the final game of the 2008 European Football Championship.

Nick & Me
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
Unfortunately, Italy was defeated last week by Spain, but we still wanted to watch the final match between Spain and Germany. And I just wanted to toss back a few pints of Guinness.

Happy Spain Fans
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
Spain won, 1-0, and when the time finally ran out, the ladies at the other table went ballistic. Those crazy Europeans and their football.

Shaun, Alec, & Nick
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
The whole night reminded me of when we watched the '02 World Cup matches at Paddy's in Misawa. (Wish you were here, Ben.) I always forget how easily Guinness goes down until I'm on my third pint. Thanks to Shaun for driving and letting me crash. Getting up Monday morning wasn't easy, but it was worth it.