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.