Thursday, December 31, 2009

Breath of Fresh Air

It's a little weird looking back on this year, as not really much has changed. I basically spent the past 12 months just living life. There were a few significant events (making Tech, parental visit, trips around Europe, concerts), but it all pales in comparison to the events of 21-22 August.
Seeing that little baby open his eyes for the first time, so precious and frail, was a life-changing experience. Maybe the sequence of events in my life won't change that much, but my perspective and attitude toward them definitely will. I've always considered myself a rather compassionate person, and I like to think I have a positive outlook. But after helping Brayden come into the world, I feel so much more in touch with life. Its ups and downs. Its constant state of flux. Its unpredictability. And through it all, how God just wants me to be happy.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Fittings and Flashbacks

Along with nine other people, I made a trip to downtown Doha today, which was the first time I'd been since 2003. It's changed quite a bit, as the Qatari economy has grown considerably. Our mission was to find new vendors for parts, but I wasn't too lucky. I was looking for water heaters and adapters from PEX pipe to PVC. Unfortunately, none of the places we visited had anything I needed, leaving my options to whatever I can find online.
On the way back to base, we stopped at the new mall downtown for lunch. It's called the Vellagio, and it looks exactly like the Canal Shops inside The Venetian Casino in Las Vegas, which is a really bad replica of Venice. I couldn't decide which place I missed more--Italy or Vegas. To boot, we ate at the Macaroni Grill. Oh, the coincidental irony...or possibly the ironic coincidence...?

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Words Vs. Pictures

As I'll be here for six months, I brought quite a few books with me. If I don't finish all of them, I'll blame it on my current addiction to Parks and Recreation, which I've been watching on Hulu (which I can't access in Italy, but for some reason, it flies here in Qatar). I know it's similar to The Office, which I like, but I feel like I didn't really get in on the ground floor. Perhaps, one day, I'll start renting it on Netflix and make my way through the whole series. Until then, I'll stick with P&R, most of which I can currently watch online.
As for the books, here's what I brought:

The Dart League King by Keith Lee Morris
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
The Insanity Defense by Woody Allen
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami
Rabbit, Run by John Updike
Zeitoun by Dave Eggers
House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski
The Song Is You by Arthur Phillips

Friday, December 25, 2009

Holiday Ho-Hum

It's Christmas, and I'm off; but I almost wish I was working. There's not really much going on today, so I'm just hanging out, watching movies, and doing laundry. All the buildings on base are decked with lights and decorations, but in a way, it seems like they're almost taunting us. When I'm deployed, I'd rather just skip Christmas. I might sound like a Scrooge, but if I can't be around my family or friends, or even look outside and see snow (it's 84 degrees outside right now), I'd rather save my enthusiasm for another time.
Still, to all those who are singing carols and opening gifts, I wish you a very Merry Christmas. God Bless.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

My Quarters For Two Quarters

My Room
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
This is my place for the next six months. It's basically like a hotel room. What you can't see in the picture is my armoire with television, my closet, sink, or the kitchen and bathroom I share with the guy next door. I know I keep going on about how great it is, but yeah, I'm totally hooked up.
The only bad thing is that everyone I know or work with is on the other part of the base. They don't make it up here too often, so it's kinda lonely. Maybe once we get into a routine, I'll start hosting game nights and dance parties.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Survivor's Remorse

Our shop chief (the guy I'm replacing) told all of us from Aviano that we didn't really need to come into work today, but I did anyway, just to see how things run. He'll be leaving in two weeks, and I'm gonna need all the information and help I can get.
But first, did I mention how amazing my room is? Like, really amazing. It's dirty right now, but I'm getting ready to clean and move some furniture around, and as soon as I get done, it will be even better than amazing.
So, yeah, as the shop chief and I were driving around checking out our job sites today, we stopped by the dorms the other guys are living in. As soon as I looked in the room, I felt a wave of guilt. Those guys basically live in a double-wide coffin. It's a tiny room with two sets of bunk beds, two wall lockers, and barely enough room to turn around. They asked how my room was, and I told them they're never allowed to visit because if they saw my room, they might kill me and move in themselves.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Sweet Digs

I made it to Qatar. Getting our bags and going through customs was a chore, but now I'm in my room. And let me just say, my room is pretty nice. I have my own room with bed, desk, chairs, television, walk-in closet, and sink. I share a kitchen and bathroom with the guy next door. And I have wi-fi. The gym, BX, and chow hall are a two-minute walk out my door. It's almost like I'm not even deployed.
As for work, I'm going to be running the "Tiger Team," which is a crew of about eight guys who are building new facilities. Three of the guys on my team will be Rick, Diaz, and Steven, who came here with me from Aviano. Another on my team is Ryan, my old roommate from Utah. (It's a small Air Force.) It's my first time in a real NCOIC position with major responsibilities for an extended period of time. I hope I'm up to the challenge.
For now, I'm going to clean up and make my bed and try to get some sleep. The guy who picked me up told me to just give him a call whenever I wake up tomorrow, but I'd like to go in early just to get a head start on how things move here. I'm pretty excited.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Paid Vacation

I'm in Germany right now, and since yesterday, I've been laying in my hotel room and gorging myself food from every restaurant in the area. I don't feel bad, though, because I know I'm getting ready to endure six months in a place that, while not exactly a hardship, still isn't a life of luxury.
Our flight leaves here tomorrow, but I'm not sure what time we'll land in Qatar. I'm hoping for smooth in-processing and gradual integration into a nice daily routine. I'd like the next six months to go by quickly and without incident. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Stolen Winter

Finances in order; house clean; bags packed. Cheyenne is house-sitting for me, and everything is pretty much taken care of. I think this is the most prepared I've ever been for a deployment. I was running errands and tying up loose ends today, and as I was driving, I realised how much I'm really looking forward to this trip. Granted, I won't be sleeping in my own bed for six months, and I'm really gonna miss Italy, my friends, and the entire snowboarding season. Still, I'm looking at it as an adventure.
We'll be spending a couple days in Germany before we fly into Qatar, so I'll get to see Ben, Sarah, and Jacob. Living conditions once we get there will be pretty nice. I should have my own dorm room, and I'll be sharing a bathroom with one other guy. They even have wi-fi there, which makes it seem even crazier that I can't get it in my house here in Italy. I'll have access to my e-mail, blog, and facebook, so keeping in touch shouldn't be a problem. Speaking of which, my address is:

TSgt Curtis W. Sutton
APO, AE 09309

Ciao, Italia!

Monday, December 14, 2009

A Decade of Ditties

Lately, I've been seeing lots of lists of the decade's top movies, albums, books, etc., but if I were to compile a list of my favourite albums from 2000 to 2009, I'd be writing for a very long time. So I'm doing something a little different.
But first, a little back story: Last week, I was scanning around on my iPod, looking for something to go with my mood. It was chilly outside, and I wanted to hear something powerful that I hadn't heard in a while. I eventually settled on PJ Harvey's "Stories From the City, Stories From the Sea." I really like this album, and considering the amount of music I have, I listen to it comparatively often. But for some reason, this particular time, as soon as I heard those first guitar chords ring out, I was instantly transported back to the winter/spring of 2000. It was my first winter in Japan, and I was loving life. This album was playing in my car non-stop that year, and to this day, whenever PJ belts out "Good Fortune" or "You Said Something," I get all nostalgic for driving on the left-hand side of the road.
This whole scenario got me thinking about the albums that define certain eras for me; particularly, if I had to pick my personal album from each year, what those albums would be. This isn't necessarily my pick for the best album of each year. It's more like the album that takes me back to that year.

2000 - "Return Of Saturn" by No Doubt
2001 - "Stories From the City, Stories From the Sea" by PJ Harvey
2002 - "Bleed American" by Jimmy Eat World
2003 - "Elephant" by The White Stripes
2004 - "Coral Fang" by The Distillers
2005 - "Antics" by Interpol
2006 - "Show Your Bones" by The Yeah Yeah Yeahs
2007 - "We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank" by Modest Mouse
2008 - "Stay Positive" by The Hold Steady
2009 - "These Four Walls" by We Were Promised Jetpacks

Like I said, these aren't really the best albums of each year; just the albums that I'll always identify with these spans of time. Radiohead's "In Rainbows" is probably a better album than "WWDBTSES" by Modest Mouse, but when I hear the Radiohead, I don't think about rocking out while southbound on I-15 getting ready to party with my friends in SLC. I love how music is so transcendent. It can make us feel things, take us back in time, and tug at our emotions like nothing else.
By the way, if I did make a decade-spanning list of the best albums, it would probably be a hybrid of this one from NPR and this one from The AV Club. Hope you appreciate them as much as I do.

Music To My Ears

I just realised I'm getting ready to leave in a couple days, and there are some loose ends I needed to tie up. Including this. So here it is, my
Top Ten Albums of 2009

The Dirty Projectors – Bitte Orca
St. Vincent – Actor
Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavilion
(It's been a good year for weird indie rock, as these first three albums can testify. And the Animal Collective wins the award for weirdest album of the year. My friend Scott recommended it, and it took a while for me to really appreciate it, but now I love it.)
(The) Gossip – Music For Men
Lily Allen – It’s Not Me, It’s You
(Not as witty as her first record, but she still cuts deep with her social commentary.)
The xx - xx
Peaches – I Feel Cream
(She shifted her focus from lust to love, but the attitude is still there.)
Spinnerette – Spinnerette
(Brody Dalle's new band, which isn't much of a departure from The Distillers. She definitely knows how to lay down the hooks.)
The Yeah Yeah Yeahs – It’s Blitz!
(It's amazing how a band can evolve so much and still sound unmistakably like themselves.)
We Were Promised Jetpacks – These Four Walls
(The best debut of the year. I couldn't stop listening to it. Dark, hopeful, singable, and full of thick Scottish accents.)

Older albums I got into: Whip-Smart by Liz Phair, O by Tilly and the Wall, and the entire back catalogue of Eagles of Death Metal.
I didn’t get the Blur or No Doubt albums I’d been hoping for this year, and it doesn’t look like the Blur album is going to happen at all. Fingers are crossed for the No Doubt next year, as well as records from Courtney Love (which may bear the Hole moniker), Missy Elliott, Vampire Weekend, and Garbage. If you have any suggestions for bands I might like, please let me know.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Yuletide Ya-Ya's

Deana, Me, JoAnn, & Renee
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
Last night was our squadron holiday party. Over the past year, I've put in a lot of work toward it, including fund raisers, menu decisions, door prize shopping, endless meetings, etc. I was a little worried I'd be running around making sure everyone was having a good time and not be able to enjoy it myself. Luckily, a little thing called Wild Turkey put my fears to rest.

Jenni & Johnny
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
The holiday party is one of the few times work people get to see each other all dressed up. And this year, we had a casino theme, so some people went all out.

John & Me
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
Did I mention I was drinking Wild Turkey? For some reason, the club doesn't stock Makers Mark, and since I'm a Kentucky boy, I went for the only thing they had from my home state. It went down surprisingly easy. It didn't hurt that the bartender, Tina, is a friend of mine, and every time she saw me coming, she already had it poured.

Trish & JoAnn
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
This was the first of several borderline inappropriate pictures taken throughout the evening, many of which are on other people's cameras.

Poker Table
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
I was a little worried about the logistics of the gambling tables, but everything went off quite smoothly.

Me & Jo
Originally uploaded by currtdawg

Deana, Me, & JoAnn
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
I wasn't the only one for whom the liquor was liberally flowing.

Steven, Stan, & Rick
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
Steven has issues with smiling in pictures. It might not look like it, but he was having the time of his life, mostly because he was winning at poker. That, and the alcohol.

Me, Steve, & Travis
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
We knew the party was pretty kick-ass because nearly everyone stayed until midnight, when the club turned on all the lights and basically kicked us out.

Steven & JoAnn
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
We all knew we'd be in no condition to drive after the party, so last week, several of us reserved rooms in lodging, which is right across the street from the club. The after-party commenced in my room, where we continued to drink and dance.

Wrestling Match
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
Somehow, JoAnn, Deana, and Steven got into a big wrestling match. It was probably the most hysterical thing I've seen in a long time. On top of this, the radio was blaring and everyone was dancing. I kept expecting the cops to knock on our door, but they never did. It was after 3 AM by the time everyone left.
After checking out this morning, we all met for breakfast and laughed about everything that happened the night before. We kept quoting each other with funny one-liners, such as:
"How does everyone know what colour underwear I have
"This is how I kiss Brayden."
"Take your shirt off when you're talking to me!"
"I would totally stick it in the commander."
"You're like the George Clooney of the Air Force."
After breakfast, I made a quick trip to the grocery store, where I ran into several people from my squadron, and they all told me how much fun they had and how it was the best holiday party they've ever been to. I'm glad all the hard work we put into it really paid off. And to quote Deana, "Most successful party ever."

Friday, December 11, 2009

Four More Years

Capt Sha & Stan
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
Stan re-enlisted yesterday, and he tried to not make a big deal out of it. In fact, he didn't even tell anyone. But I just happened to walk into the conference room as he and Captain Sha were getting ready to recite the oath. I made them wait until I got my camera. Congratulations, Stan! (Even though I saw you roll your eyes as I started snapping pictures.)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

An Alternate Reality

I don't normally have to get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, but last night, I had multiple cups of tea while watching a movie. So, at about 2 AM, I woke up, peed, and went back to bed. But then I couldn't fall back asleep again.
So I laid there. And laid there. And laid there.
Finally, around 4, I started to drift off. But it was a weird in-and-out kind of sleep, and I was having a bunch of strange dreams that I don't really remember. So I decided to just get up and get some stuff done. I got out of bed and started walking down the stairs, but when I got to the first floor of my house, it didn't look right at all. My living room had changed into this really long room with doors and windows on either side, and a long wooden table in the middle. I walked through the room, slowly, and saw another set of stairs leading up on the other side. They were really shallow stairs, and they curved to the left. I started climbing the stairs when I realised, "Hey, this isn't right at all! Am I dreaming or something?"
I decided to perform a test. "If I take a big jump up these stairs and start flying, then I'm definitely dreaming." So I pushed off with my foot, and suddenly, I found myself floating through the air. I was totally having a lucid dream, and it was pretty awesome.
I wanted it to last a while, but I kept drifting in and out of consciousness. One second I was high above those stairs, and the next, I was laying in my bed. I was going back and forth between both places. And I could physically feel a weird tingling all over my body. It was one of the strangest sensations I've ever experienced.
I've done a little research on how to induce lucid dreams, and it's something I'd like to experience again. There's really no limit to what one's subconscious can conceive. I hope it happens again soon.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Sharp Shooter

MSgt Hammes told all the deployers we could have off work until we leave. And even though I'm glad to have some time to relax and get things in order before I deploy, I still find myself spending a lot of time at work. Yesterday, I had to go in for a first aid class. Today, I had to shoot M-16. Tomorrow, I have to take care of holiday party stuff. And so on.
My M-16 class should have been done by 1 PM today, but for some reason, lasted until 5. I was feeling really optimistic as we were shooting our practice rounds. I was hitting the centre of the target each time. But by the time we started qualifying, my eyes were fatigued, and I didn't do as well. Still, I shot a 32, which is a qualifying score (barely), and that's all I really care about. Besides, if it ever comes to pass that the Air Force is relying on my marksman skills, we're in some serious shit.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Sunday Night Snacking

Originally uploaded by currtdawg
I had the whole crew over for dinner last night. It's going to be a busy week full of Christmas Party preparation and out-processing, and I wasn't sure I'd get to see Jess again before she leaves tomorrow. Seriously, I don't think anyone in the world can make me laugh as hard as that girl. We had a great time dining on pasta and bread, and tossing back some of the wine we got Saturday.
Sundays are the best time to have everyone over. We just relax, recap our weekends, and try not think about how we all have to go back to work the next morning.

Sunday, December 06, 2009


Red Velvet Cheesecake
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
Jess flew in Friday night to hang out for a few days. As soon as she arrived, we all went dancing at Oddisea's. And yesterday morning, we went winery hopping in Spilimbergo. Last night, Cheyenne hosted a little gathering in Jess's honour.
A few weeks ago, I was searching around for a new cheesecake challenge, and found a recipe for red velvet cheesecake. And what better reason to make it than Jess's visit? It was so gorgeous, we almost didn't want to cut into it, but we're glad we did. It turned out wonderfully. Definitely something festive for the Christmas season.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Finish Line

Originally uploaded by currtdawg
Johnny doesn't really like working in CE, and has been working really hard the past few months to cross-train to Tactical Air Control Party, or TACP. They're the guys who do ground combat manoeuvres, and advise air attack plans. Basically, they're hardcore. He found out a few months ago he'll start training in Florida in January. Since most of our crew is deploying next week, Johnny asked if we could have his going-away party early, so last night, we all met for dinner, followed by go-cart racing.
I don't think Steven has ever lost at go-cart racing, but last night, he came in second to Johnny. He said the only reason he lost is because Jenni got in his way, but I think he was just going easy on Johnny since it was his party and all.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Moving On

We found out yesterday we'll be leaving on the 16th, which made everyone happy because we'll all be here for the Christmas party on the 12th. I don't know who made our arrangements, but we're riding on two different busses and two different planes through Germany to get to Qatar. This is so ridiculous because a) there are direct flights from here to Qatar on a weekly basis, and b) aren't we the Air Force? Regardless, I'm just glad we have a set date, and I can work on getting things in order before we go.
Equally as satisfying is MSgt Hammes called me today and told me the Commander finally signed my extension. Again, it's only for twelve months, but that's another year I get to spend in Italy, and that makes me happy.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Get-Along Gang

We had our shop Christmas Party/Chili Lunch today. We also invited the heavy equipment shop to participate. We had seven huge pots of chili, and ended everything with a "Dirty Santa" gift exchange. Everybody got good stuff, but a few things were a little misplaced. For instance, Mike got a big box of condoms and cigarettes, but he's married and doesn't smoke. Jeremiah got a bartender's guide, but he's Mormon and doesn't drink. It made for a fun afternoon with plenty of laughs.

Steven, Travis, & Aaron
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
Particularly special was JoAnn's gift to me: a copy of "Going Rogue" by Sarah Palin. We had hours of fun picking out random sentences and laughing at the absurdity of it all.
I know I sometimes complain about work, but I really can't complain about the people in my shop. We might not always be the most productive crew, but we get along great. It's a shame we can't all just deploy together.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Raining On My Parade

Here in northern Italy, we haven't seen the sun in about three weeks. I'm a pretty optimistic person, but this dreary weather had started to get me down. That is, until today, when the clouds broke and those golden rays shone through. Not only did we get some sun, we even saw the tops of the mountains! And, oh, how gloriously white and thick with snow they were! I stood outside for a while during lunch, just staring at the peaks, hoping I'll get a chance to board down them before I depart for Qatar.
Just as I went inside, SMSgt Campbell, our superintendent, came by the shop holding a familiar-looking blue folder. It was my extension paperwork, still unsigned by the commander. SMSgt Campbell told me the commander wouldn't approve my 24-month extension, and that my best bet was to go for a 12-month extension. Then, at the end of that time, we'll have a new commander, and I can apply for another extension. It's annoying, exhausting, and ridiculous; but at this point, I'll take what I can get.
After SMSgt Campbell left, I looked back outside to see the clouds gathering again, enveloping the mountains and blocking the sun. I hope it's not a sign.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Revolving Door

Mike left yesterday for Nice. From there, he goes to Paris, and then, finally, back to the States. My house is empty and quiet once again (not that Mike made a lot of noise or anything). I'm glad he got to have Thanksgiving with us, and I hope he has safe travels back home.
I go back to work tomorrow for what should be my last full week before I deploy. I still have tons to take care of with out-processing, making sure my house is in order, packing, etc. We still don't have an exact departure date yet, but since it's my nature to procrastinate, I probably won't do much until I have plane tickets in my hand.
Luckily, Jess flies in Friday night for a few days. So, no matter how stressed I get, I know there won't be a single minute that isn't fun when she's around.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Day-Late Delicacies

Cheyenne with Brayden
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
Since so many of us went to the concert on Thursday, JoAnn decided to have Thanksgiving dinner at her place on Friday. It ended up working out really well and those who didn't go to the show got to eat twice.
I got to JoAnn's place around 2 PM and she, Austin, and Pat were already working on the turkey. I brought stuffing, macaroni and cheese, some home-made bread, and, of course, a cheesecake.

Heather, Kelly, & Jo
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
Tons of people showed up, some of whom I'd never met before. And I think the baby-to-adult ratio must have been in the millions, because there seemed to be babies everywhere.

Cheyenne, Travis, & Doug
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
I made it my personal mission to lower the wine-to-person ratio, and finished an entire bottle of savignon by myself before we even started eating.
JoAnn: Hey, Sutton! Did you just finish that whole bottle of wine?
Me: Maybe.
It turns out I'm the most social drunk ever, and became very huggy.

Doug & Ryan
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
After everyone's food digested, we continued to drink and play cards and dominoes. By 10 o'clock, the music was up and we were all dancing in the living room. We didn't leave until 1 AM, and surprisingly, I felt great this morning.
Thanks so much to JoAnn for hosting everyone. This is the kind of stuff I'm really going to miss when I deploy.

Friday, November 27, 2009

To celebrate the holiday, we were expecting him to to bite the head off a live turkey.

Don't judge me, but last night, I went to see Marilyn Manson. I'm not a fan, really, but I've always heard his live performances are not to be missed. Travis rode with me, and at the venue, we met up with Heather and Jo. Travis and I arrived late and missed the opening band. (I couldn't even tell you who it was.) Travis went to the floor and I sat in the stands with the ladies.

Marilyn Manson
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
When the curtain dropped, all we saw was smoke. So much, in fact, we couldn't even see Manson for the first two songs. Eventually, it cleared, and we watched him and his band work their way through material off his latest album, "The High End Of Low," which I'm not really familiar with at all.
You'd think a shock-rocker like Manson would thrive in a live-show environment, but despite some dollar sign/swastika imagery, most of the show seemed rather tame. Manson himself was pretty impressive, though, moving around the stage and spitting water on the crowd to show his faux-disgust with all things fame-oriented, capitalist, etc. Thankfully, he threw in some familiar hits toward the end of the show, and we all sang along to "The Dope Show." The 90-minute set closed, predictably, with "The Beautiful People," and even though I disagree with everything that song stands for, it's impossible to hear it without jumping around with your hands in the air when it plays.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Mike is back in town for a few days. He had a great time in Croatia, and now he's on his way back to Paris before returning to the States. We're both still a little bummed that Ben didn't make it this week, but I think Mike will really enjoy spending Thanksgiving with a bunch of Americans. We won't be stuffing ourselves like pigs until Friday, but the food will taste great, just the same.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Vertical Rhythm

The Gossip is a disco-punk/soul trio from Portland. They came though Utah twice when I lived there, but once I was deployed, and the second, I don't remember what happened the second time, but I was pretty bummed I missed them. Their first three albums had a raw, under-produced feel that fit nicely with Beth Ditto's soul-sister voice. Their newest, "Music For Men," was produced by Rick Rubin. Purists think it's too slick, but I don't care. The band's passion still shows through, and I've been rocking out to it since June. They're barely heard-of in the States, but in Europe, they're superstars. I bought a ticket to last night's concert in Milan back in August, but they were selling so well, they had to move the show to a bigger venue.
The opener was an electro-clash outfit from Kansas City called Ssion (pronounced "shun"). I wasn't really sure what to expect, but lead singer/song-writer Cody Critcheloe clearly had his tongue in his cheek when he wrote songs about Christian hypocrisy and hipster cred. The great things is that it was all so danceable.

The Gossip
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
After intermission, the lights went down, and the sold-out venue went crazy. First, Hannah Billie began pounding the skins. She was followed by Brace Paine laying down the guitar licks. Then, gently but with authority, Beth Ditto emerged sporting a crimson red Dorothy Hamill hairdo and belting out the first lines of "Dimestore Diamond." It's the only mid-tempo song on the record, and it's a good thing they sang it first, because their second song was equal-rights anthem "Pop Goes The World," and once all those Italians started jumping, there was no stopping them.
Beth had complete control of us, and didn't slow down for the entire two-hour set. She moved across the stage with grace and conviction, working the crowd until we were as covered in sweat as she was. She owned that stage. And there's nothing like looking around to see thousands of Italians jumping in sync to "Yr Mangled Heart." It was strange to hear her talk because when she spoke, she sounded like a little girl; but when she sang, she totally wailed.
For an encore, Beth sang a simple, quiet, and intense a cappella version of Tina Turner's "What's Love Got To Do With It." Then she was joined by her band-mates to end the night with "Standing In The Way Of Control" where she leapt out into the crowd and joined us in our dancing fury. This is why The Gossip has a reputation as such an amazing live act. I'm about tempted to become a groupie.
You can never capture the energy of a live show on camera, but you should still probably check this out:

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Accentuate the Positive

Our Chief just sewed on her stripe this month, which is a pretty big deal. But she's been sitting in the Chief Enlisted Manager position for a few months now. As the Booster Club Vice President, I've been interacting with her quite a bit over the past year, and at first, I didn't really know what to think of her. It's hard to believe people who are always cheerful don't have something to hide.
Chief Jacobs has been my number one ally in getting my extension. She's helped me figure out all my options, and yesterday, we spent an hour editing a one-page memo to the Commander detailing my justification for staying in Italy. I feel really good about our finished product, and I hope all our efforts won't be in vain.
As I was leaving, I told the Chief how much I appreciate her help. I mentioned that I think of her as an idealist, which many confuse with naïveté, and we had a short discussion about maintaining a positive attitude. There are many in our squadron who think her optimism and sunny disposition is annoying, or worse, fake. But I tend to think of these things as contagious. I know her guise is genuine, and I hope it filters through the rest of our organisation.
Usually, issues can be handled on a much lower level, and I hope I don't require the Chief's assistance for anything like this ever again. But if I do, I know she's on my side.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Nine Days of Bliss

Today was my last day of work until the 30th. Other than a short trip to Milan on Monday and some slightly altered Thanksgiving festivities, I don't have much planned. This is the first leave I've taken in a long time, and it feels good not to have to worry about work for a while. I'll still probably go into the office next week to check on the status of my extension, but if the phone rings, I will not answer it.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Hanging On By A Thread

I originally came to Italy on a three-year tour, which is an extended long tour for a single person. I had the option to come here on a two-year tour, but knew I'd enjoy this country (and I do), so why not stay as long as possible? As it turns out, not only do I enjoy Italy, but I've completely fallen in love with it. So, I'm doing my best to stay here as long as possible.
People stationed overseas have what is called a DEROS, or Date Eligible to Return from Over Seas. Since I came here in February 2008 on a three-year tour, my current DEROS is February 2011. There are tons of options out there for trying to stay overseas, and I could go into it all, but it would only bore you, or confuse you, or both.
So, basically, right now, I'm going through a bunch of red tape trying to find out my best option for staying in Italy past 2011. I was hoping to stay here until 2014, but I keep running into walls and obstacles and assholes trying to get in my way. I'm in the middle of putting together a rather detailed package explaining why the Air Force should keep me here. I spent the bigger part of today researching regulations to support my cause, and I'm hoping to take my case to the Chief (who loves me) and the Commander. But even if things get past my Commander, there's no guarantee everything will be approved at HQ level. Honestly, I think it's bullshit that I should even have to justify why I want to stay or why they should let me, but I'm willing to jump through these hoops if that's what it takes.
Particularly worrisome is the fact I'm getting ready to go to the desert, and if this whole ordeal isn't resolved before I leave, I'll be relying on other people to take care of a lot of footwork for me. And I make it a point never to rely on others when it comes to something so crucial. Therefore, I'll be doing twice as much work getting things done from a deployed location. Let's just hope it doesn't come to that.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Dig Dug

It bothers me when I have a really busy day at work, but as I leave my office, I don't really feel a sense of accomplishment. These days are usually full of computer time and running paperwork all over the place. They're hectic and ridiculous and my desk is as cluttered at the end of the day as it was in the beginning.
Then there are days when I get to do real work. Today, for instance, JoAnn, Rick, and I changed out a fire hydrant with the help of the heavy equipment shop. Fire hydrant jobs are somewhat of a gamble--if they go smoothly, we can finish before lunch; if not, it could take as long as two days. As we were digging, we encountered a few things that made us think it was going to be a big job (i.e. unmarked lines, kickers, etc.). Luckily, we overcame each of these obstacles (mostly thanks to Rick, who seems to have the best luck on big jobs), and finished in time to have a big lunch at the club.
The afternoon was still full of frustrating paperwork, but it didn't detract from the fact that we completed a big job. We left our mark on the base, and things will operate smoother because of us. Mission: accomplished.

Monday, November 16, 2009

A Den of Slack

Physical activity has been rather foreign to me over the past month or so. It seemed like there was always something going on preventing me from hitting the gym on a regular basis. Now all the exercises, tests, holidays, and guests are over, and the only thing between me and this deployment is a PT test.
Not only have I been slacking in the gym department, I've been particularly lazy by just laying around my house so much. And it's almost like this downward spiral of sloth. The more I veg on my couch, the harder it is to keep myself from vegging on my couch.
Normally, I can get into a really good workout routine while deployed; but this time, I'm trying to get into that routine before I deploy. I just don't want to make any more excuses to put it off. We'll see how it goes.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Lonely Guest Room

Mike left this afternoon. The original plan was for him to leave Friday and then swing back through the week of Thanksgiving when Ben got here. But, unfortunately, Ben had to cancel his trip, so Mike ended up staying until today, without plans to return in a few weeks.
We didn't really do too much during his visit. He mostly just wanted a place to relax for a while and recuperate from his two-month non-stop European travel binge. While I was at work this week, he watched movies and walked around Budoia. And when I got home at night, we'd watch more movies and eat until our stomachs were beyond full. The only moderately touristy thing we did was take a day trip to Venice on Saturday, wherein we only covered the basics (i.e. Rialto, Piazza San Marco, etc.).
He's on his was to Florence for a short visit before catching a ferry over to Croatia. His tourist visa expires on December 5th, so he'll be heading back to the States pretty soon. He's had some great experiences over the past few weeks, and I'm glad he got a chance to unwind at my place for a while.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Crossed Wires

I've been having a little difficulty getting the info on my old computer transferred to my new computer. I've tried just about everything. Mike is, by trade, an IT guy (who specialises in Windows), and he's tinkered with it, too, but to no avail. If I were in the States, I'd just call Apple directly and ask them what's up. There's an Italian Apple help line, but I'm not sure if anyone there would speak enough English to help me out, and I know I don't speak enough Italian. I just ordered a new cable to connect both computers hoping that will do the trick, but if not, I might just resort to calling Italian Apple. If I don't get everything switched over to the new computer before I deploy, I'm going to be very upset and disappointed. More to come.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

aka Armistice Day

Veteran's Day is the only holiday I feel like I've really earned. I mean, I wasn't the one who "discovered" America, so should I really get to sleep in on Columbus Day? But since I'm a veteran, I fully took advantage of my day off by sleeping in. I don't really know what I'm supposed to do, exactly, to "observe" this holiday, but if it involves a drive through the Italian countryside followed by a little shopping, then I succeeded.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

If it weren't for house guests, I'd probably never clean.

My friend Mike has been travelling around Europe for the past two months. He's seen Paris, London, Barcelona, Lisbon, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Nice, and tons of other places. And he's doing it the right way--staying at each place long enough to get a real feel for the culture and people.
He arrived here last night. I haven't seen him since I left Utah, and it's great to hang out again. Since his life has been rather hectic over the past few weeks (and since the weather is miserable), we spent today laying around, eating, drinking wine, and watching movies.
Even though I'm not taking any time off work this week (except for Wednesday, because it's Veterans' Day), Mike's going to hang out for a while before heading to Croatia for a few days. He'll swing back through the week of Thanksgiving because our friend Ben will arrive on the 24th. Then I'll be taking some time off to show these guys around northern Italy. I love being the host / travel guide.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Rat Race

The past few weeks have been incredibly busy, and as a result, I've been missing lots of gym/running time. I haven't gained any weight, really, but I just feel fat and disgusting. It's like this vicious cycle of laziness and overeating.
Lazy Self tries to rationalise by saying, "I'm deploying next month, so I'll have six months to get fit and toned." However, Realist Self answers with, "But I'll have to PT test before I go; and the more I slack of now, the harder it will be to get back in shape later." You win again, Realist Self. You always do.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Load Off My Shoulders

I had my end-of-course exam today, and scored an 87. The test was harder than I anticipated, and I'm not really thrilled with my score; however, I'm mostly just glad to be done with the whole ordeal. It's been hanging over my head for over a year, and now I don't have any other major stress-inducers before my deployment.
To celebrate, JoAnn (who passed her test last week) and I are celebrating tonight with beer and pizza. And I'm sure more celebrating will go on this weekend, when we don't have to worry about work the next morning.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Powdered Sugar

The weekend was chilly, but sunny and clear. Yesterday, it started raining and the temperature dropped even more. This morning, it was still dark when I woke up, but after I finished breakfast, I looked outside to see the mountains had been nicely dusted. I get this giddy feeling every year when the first snow hits. I just hope I'll be able to strap my board on a few times before I deploy in December.

Monday, November 02, 2009

"That was my favourite arm!"

When I was little, sometimes in the summer, my friends and I would walk downtown, which wasn't very far. Our main destination was the drugstore which had an old-fashioined soda fountain. But on the way there, we'd usually stop at the library for a while. I still remember the first time I read "Where The Wild Things Are." The artwork was like nothing I'd ever seen before, and the story, while simple, remained in my memory for years.
When I heard there was going to be a live action movie, I was cautiously optimistic. When I heard Spike Jonze was directing, I was thrilled. When I saw early trailers, I was ecstatic.
I finally saw the finished product last night, and I can safely say it was one of the most unique, wondrous, spirited films I've ever seen. Even though it did't really seem like a kids' movie, Cheyenne, Rachel, and I all agreed it took us back to our childhoods. The monsters were real, the actors were on par, and the soundtrack by Karen O fit the mood perfectly.
"I could eat you up, I love you so." Indeed.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

One Holiday To The Next

I worked our booth at the bazaar all day yesterday and today. I know last night was Halloween and all, but after flipping burgers all day, I just wanted to go home and relax. And even after a long, hot shower, I could still smell the meat emanating from my pores. And as a vegetarian, it made me a little nauseated.
We were done by 5 PM today, and pretty impressed by how much money we made. It will all go to our squadron holiday party (because we can't call it a Christmas party, even though we all know that's exactly what it is).
Frank and I are the only Booster Club officers that haven't deployed, so all the fund-raising has fallen on our shoulders. This was the last major one, so all we have left is finalising the details for the holiday party. I'm pretty excited about it, as we're totally doing things different this year, and I think everyone will have a great time. Plus, several of us will be deploying a few days afterward, so it should be a nice send-off, as well.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Light At The End

The exercise ended just over an hour ago. I'm home and hoping to somehow fall asleep sometime soon. I told the other guys on night shift they don't have to come in until noon tomorrow, but I'm going to try to make it to the shop in the morning.
This is the last exercise I'll have to endure for a long time, but I still have a few things over the next week preventing me from being totally stress-free. This weekend (including any Halloween festivities I might have been able to attend) will be eclipsed by Booster Club activities I have to run. Also, I'll hopefully be taking my end-of-course test for my CDCs next week. I tried to take it last week, but the test room was booked. It's frustrating because I was really ready to test, and since it got delayed, I feel like I've forgotten a lot already.
Anyway, I think I'm gonna do a couple shots of bourbon, take a hot shower, and try to drift off to sleep.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

You made me feel shiny and new!

I made it to 6 AM this morning, but woke up at 9 AM. I tried to force myself back to sleep, but realised I was just wasting time. So I decided to get up and be constructive. I ran some errands and picked up a few things from my shop. Then I came to the Community Centre on base to use their wireless. Speaking of which...
I'm typing this post on my brand new MacBook Pro. Yeah, it was about time to get something a little newer. I love my PowerBook, but it's nearly seven years old. The hard drive on it is full, so I can't download any new music or anything, and it was also causing me to lose pictures I uploaded onto it. On top of that, the wireless doesn't work very well, either.
This Mac is only a 13-inch, which, when compared with my old 17-inch, takes some getting used to. But everything else about it is superior. The Snow Leopard OS flows so smoothly. The screen is brighter with more vivid colours. The whole machine is just streamlined and beautiful. Along with the new computer, I splurged for a new iPod Touch, which is equally amazing. i could seriously play with it all day long.
Right now, I'm registering and making sure all the software is up-to-date. It's taking a while, but it's definitely quicker than if I did it at home. As soon as this is done, I'm heading home to catch a nap before I have to go into work tonight. And I'll probably have my new Mac laying in bed next to me. Is it possible to have romantic feelings for a machine?

Monday, October 26, 2009

To The Dark Side

I'm going back to night shift this week for what is hopefully our final exercise. I worked a normal day shift today, and I'm trying to stay up tonight. I had Cheyenne, Rachel, Dan, and Nate over for a late dinner, and I think I might make a cheesecake just to keep myself occupied. If I make it to 6 AM, I'll be thrilled.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Putting Up With Kids In Masks

Since Italy doesn't really celebrate Halloween, much less Trick or Treat, the base puts on a yearly activity known as "Trunk or Treat." What happens is people decorate the trunks of their cars to look like haunted houses, monsters, etc., and they line up along a street on base so the kids can come by and get candy. It's inventive and very popular (read: crowded).
Our Booster Club had a booth, so I pretty much spent the entire day setting up, selling hamburgers, and tearing everything down. It was long and exhausting, so I was glad that I got an extra hour of sleep last night. (The EU still ends daylight savings time on the last Sunday of October.) And today was absolutely beautiful, sunny, and warm. I took the opportunity to relax and rest up before a week that's going to be filled with general pain-in-the-ass-ery. (It's a technical term.)

Saturday, October 24, 2009

A Love/Hate Relationship With My GPS

A few weeks ago, I bought a ticket to see The Eagles of Death Metal in a little town just outside Treviso. The show was last night and didn't start until 10. I left my house at 9, giving me just enough time to get there. I should note that I had just less than a half tank of fuel in my truck, which should have been more than enough to get to the show and back home.
I know how to get to Treviso, but wasn't sure exactly how to get to the club where the show was, so I decided to use my GPS. When I plugged in the address, it estimated my arrival time at 9:57 PM. "Perfect," I thought to myself. But as I drove, the time mysteriously became later and later. I found myself taking rarely-travelled backroads at the suggestion of that little device. Suddenly, it was 10:47, and my gas tank was getting dangerously low.
I had no idea where I was, and was starting to consider my options. Ultimately, I decided to ditch the show and just head back home, praying I had enough gas to get me there. I punched this into my GPS, and cautiously followed its instructions.
And that's when the little fuel light came on.
Panic ensued.
I told my GPS to take me to the nearest gas station, knowing they'd be closed, but hoping they'd have one of those machines that takes cash. I breathed a sigh of relief when I saw the lights above the gas pumps. I pulled up and slid in my last 20 Euro bill. It lit up and buzzed and beeped. I grabbed the hose and put it in my gas tank, but nothing happened. I started hitting random buttons on the machine, and after several seconds, it finally gave me a receipt for the 20 Euro I fed it.
"Um, okay, I somehow just lost 20 Euro, but I still have my credit card, and right now, all I care about is getting enough gas to get me home."
I put card into the slot. What I failed to realise is these machines don't take anything but Italian bank cards. So, every time I put it in, it would hold on to it for a second, and then literally shoot it right back at me.
"Shit. Please, God, let there be an ATM somewhere nearby."
I got back into my truck, followed random roads, finally made it to Conegliano, and found an ATM. I got some cash out, found another gas station, and somehow got the pump to actually put gas into my truck.
Biggest sigh of relief ever.
And that's when the prostitute showed up.
I should also note that there's a section of highway SS13 near Conegliano that's notorious for its multitude of prostitutes. As I was fueling my truck, a young lady approached wearing typical slut attire (short skirt, high boots, long jacket, excessive makeup, etc.). She spoke to me in Italian, but I only caught every third or fourth word. I did my best to respond in Italian. It went something like this:

Prostitute: Good evening.
Curtis: Good evening.
P: Yadda yadda enjoy yourself yadda?
C: I only want gas.
P: Yadda your car yadda. Yadda my house yadda.
C: I only want gas. I go home now.
P: Are you military?
C: I only speak a little Italian.
P: Yadda yadda. (Puts her foot on the rear bumper of my truck.) Yadda handsome yadda.
C: Um.....
P: Yadda yadda love.
C: I go home now!

I quickly got back in my truck and sped away.
So, yeah, it was kind of a failed outing, but an adventure, nonetheless. The lesson learned is next time, I'll probably do the Google Maps / GPS combo. And make sure I have a full tank. And learn the Italian phrases for "I'm not interested" and "I have herpes."

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Leisure Suite

I thought I'd be studying all week, but since my test has been delayed, I've decided to try and have a little fun. Last night, Renee, Aaron, Steven, and I went to bingo. I hadn't been since June, and I'd forgotten how exciting and intense it gets. Some of the ladies that go get pretty vicious about the rules and the little caller guy and stuff. The others had never been before, but they enjoyed it, too, mostly because Aaron won 75 bucks and Steven won 100. Oh, yeah, they'll be back.
And tonight, I did a little after-work bowling with Dan and Nate. Nate was excited because he ordered his own bowling ball a few weeks ago and it finally came in. His score actually went down, but he said it's just because he has to get used to the new ball. (A likely story.) Dan and I were in a little jukebox war with some guys on another lane. It was pretty obvious who picked which songs. While ours was a mix of everything from Sam Cooke to Modest Mouse, theirs could have been mixed into a compilation entitled "Ghetto Booty Mix, Vol. 7."
There's something extra-fun about weekday activities. I mean, anyone can do this stuff on the weekend, but if you go during the week, stuff is usually less crowded, cheaper, and it's somehow more enjoyable. And maybe it's because there's the stigma attached that I'm going out on a "school night," something I never did as a teenager. It almost adds an element of risk or danger, like I'm getting away with something. Of course, the chances of things getting out of control are slim to none. And even if they did, I'm lucky enough to have a boss who would let it slide if I showed up to work severely hung over.
Not that I've ever done that.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Delayed Gratification

I was hoping to be done with the whole CDC ordeal tomorrow. I took a pre-test this morning and scored well on it, meaning I could take the real test as soon as I wanted. Unfortunately, there were no slots available to test this week. Next week, we'll be in an exercise during which I'll be working night shift, and I'm not about to work a 12-hour shift all night and then try to take a test that could potentially ruin my career. So now, I have to wait until the 4th of November at the soonest. On one hand, this will give me plenty of time to study; on the other, I just want this odyssey to end.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Ignis Fatuus

Cheyenne, Rachel, & Dan
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
All Hallow's Eve is upon us, and when I was a kid, that meant one thing: candy. I still love candy, but now, Halloween just doesn't seem like a big deal anymore. But a couple years ago, when I was in Utah, I got invited to a few different pumpkin-carving parties, and had a blast at every one. This year, I decided to host one of my own.

Cheyenne & Dan
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
Cheyenne, Rachel, and Dan came over, and we each had different ideas about what our pumpkins would look like.

Jack O'Lanterns
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
Everyone's finished product was unique. Nate arrived after we were done, so we asked him to guess who created which Jack O'Lantern. He was half right, only mixing up Rachel and me.

After we finished our creations, we kept out the cold weather by feasting on chili and huddling together on the couch for some scary movies. Somehow, the Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974 version) is a little less scary when you're so squeezed together that you don't have room to shiver.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Booty Call, Redial, Unlisted Number

Nearly three weeks after I lost my phone, I gave up hope and broke down and bought a new one. Don't get me wrong--it was nice using a phone the government pays for, but it was only temporary. I stopped by the Vodafone store this morning and picked up a Nokia 3600. It's pretty sleek and since it's last year's model, it wasn't too expensive. (I considered the new iPhone 3GS, but nearly fainted when she told me the price.) The good news is I still have my old phone number. The bad news is there's no way to get back all the numbers from my old phone. Oh, well, with my luck, my old phone will probably turn up tomorrow.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Friday Night Lights

Aviano vs. ISB
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
Tonight was the Aviano High School homecoming game. We thought it might be fun to watch, so JoAnn, Jenni, Johnny, Stan, and I headed out to support our team. It was just like I remember high school games from back when I was a teenager--parents in the stand with blankets and hot cocoa, cheerleaders, cheesy mascot, and a really bad announcer. We dressed for the chilly weather, but we were still cold. But that just helped us justify going over to the club for a half-time drink.
Unfortunately, the Aviano Saints aren't the best team, and they lost 41-8. Still, it was a fun time, and kinda nostalgic. It also made me glad I'm not in high school anymore.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Short Days and Falling Leaves

When we stepped off the plane Monday night, each of us kinda freaked out a little bit. We were only gone a few days, but it seemed like Italy got quite a bit colder. Or maybe it just seemed so cool because it was so nice in Barcelona.
Regardless, it's definitely chilly now, and as I was mowing my lawn earlier tonight, I was looking toward the mountains and couldn't help but get a little homesick for Utah. They already have snow there, and I have to admit, I'm a little jealous, mostly because I'm going to miss most of the season this year.
So, yeah, I really enjoyed my summer, but the cooler temperatures have me excited for autumn. The brisk air, the extra blanket on my bed, pulling out my sweaters, Sunday afternoons eating chili and watching movies with friends in my living room. I'm going to savour this.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Cruising the Catalan Capital -or- There's a She-Wolf Heavy Petting In

Barcelona was nothing short of spectacular. From the moment we stepped off the plane, I knew it was going to be a great weekend.
We arrived Friday night and took a taxi to our apartment. We still had to wait on Jess to fly down from Madrid, but after she got there, we did a little walking tour of the neighbourhood. We ended up in a smoky little Irish bar with a band and tons of people. But after long days capped with travelling, we ended up not staying too late.

Sagrada Familia
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
Saturday morning, we woke up and set off on our tour of the city. Our first stop was the Sagrada Familia, which we could see from our apartment. Gaudi began construction in 1882 and it won't finish until 2026, the 100th anniversary of his death. The size and detail of the entire structure was mesmerising, and we didn't even go inside. I'm definitely willing to make a trip back in 20 years to see the finished composition.

From there, we headed to Park Guell, another of Gaudi's works. It was a nice place to hike around with a wonderful view of the city. All the structures were completely covered in mosaics, and the building almost looked like something out of Alice in Wonderland.

Originally uploaded by currtdawg
For lunch, we met up with Casey, who also lives in Aviano, and her cousin, Vanessa, who's visiting for the summer. From there, we walked down La Rambla, a wide street with great shopping, where we found this little shop. It's actually a candy store and they package their confections in little pill bottles with funny prescription-like labels on them.

Originally uploaded by currtdawg
After a late afternoon nap back at the apartment, Jess made some Spanish cuisine for everyone. Then it was time to head out on the town. We headed to a few different districts, stopping in random bars, but what we really wanted to do was dance.

Dan & Nate
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
We asked around and eventually found a place called Roxy Blue Barcelona. It was packed, the music was great, and we barely got in. We went straight to the bar, then to the floor, and didn't leave until 5 AM. Yeah, I definitely got my dancing fix.

Originally uploaded by currtdawg
Sunday, we slept pretty late, but then managed to hit up the Picasso museum and get in a little more shopping. For dinner, we ate tapas and drank sangria. Then more shopping. Helpful hint: never shop for sunglasses after you've been drinking, because every pair you try on looks amazing.

Street Pirates
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
That evening, Dan, Nate, and I kinda split up from the girls. We spent the evening in El Born, a district full of neat little bars, drinking mojitos followed by more mojitos. While walking down the street, we came upon these girls who were racing wagons decked out to look like ships. I mean, what DIDN'T we see on this trip?

Barceloneta Beach
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
Monday morning, Cheyenne and I woke up early knowing we had to leave that evening. And we didn't want to leave Barcelona without seeing one of its beaches. We trekked down to Barceloneta and strolled the entire length, finally stopping to rest in the sand for a couple hours and soak up the Spanish sun.

Even though the weekend went by so quick and we didn't get to see everything, Barcelona has become one of my favourite cities. It's clean, modern, and easy to navigate; the people are friendly; the nightlife is fun and diverse; and there's art everywhere. Even on the Metro, there were little television screens showing short independent films. It has an almost bohemian quality that I find very relaxing and inviting.
Unfortunately, I somehow lost a few of the pictures I took. The ones I managed to salvage can be found in a photostream here. Hopefully, I'll travel back there one day soon so I can see (and photograph) everything I missed this time.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Going for Gaudi

I know I've been writing a lot lately about work, but really, work has been the focus of my life for the past few weeks. Yeah, it's been stressful, but for some reason, I still find myself looking forward to my day when I wake up each morning. I just have to endure a few more weeks and things should mellow out.
Luckily, this is a long weekend, so Cheyenne, Nate, Dan, and I are flying to a city in another country. And, as an added bonus, Jess is going to meet us there. I'm not going to tell you where it is, but here's a hint: this city hosted the Summer Olympics the year I graduated high school.
I'll be back on Tuesday with stories and pictures. Hope everyone has a good weekend!

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Out of the Frying Pan...

MSgt Hammes came back to work Thursday, totally easing my burden. But now that he's back, I have other worries. The most urgent being the deadline to finish testing on our CDCs is less than three weeks away. Nobody in the shop is done yet. I'm on my fifth and final volume, and I'm pretty confident everything will go okay. My biggest problem is forcing myself to study each night. It's so easy to get distracted. But I know if I just hunker down and get this over with, I'll have nothing on my plate except deployment preparation.
There's also an exercise going on this week, which is more of just a nuisance. I'm only on call for the UCC, so I'm spending my days getting paperwork done and trying to study when I can. Our shop is just outside the play area, so basically the whole squadron is staging out of there, which means they're all playing cards and watching movies, which is yet another distraction from studying.
JoAnn and I are working on a plot to abduct the training manager and force him to give us all the answers when we take our final test. Seriously, it might be easier than actually studying.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Where it's totally acceptable to be drunk by 9 AM

Dan, Nate, & Me
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
To celebrate Dan's birthday, which was Friday, he, Nate, and I decided to take a bus up to Munich on Saturday for Oktoberfest. None of us had ever been before; nor did any of us have a clue of what to expect. But the whole trip was nothing short of phenomenal.

Beer Tent
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
This was the final weekend of the three-week festival, which is basically a big fair with lots and lots of beer. We arrived around 9:30 AM, and everything was already packed. We went to a few different tents looking for tables, and even tried bribing waitresses, but had no luck at all.

Originally uploaded by currtdawg
After walking around, we stood outside the Hofbrau Tent, and apparently looked pathetic enough for a waitress to have mercy on us and invite us into the outdoor area. It was sunny and in the mid-60s, so that suited us just fine. I was thrilled because, in my opinion, the Hofbrau Tent is the best one to get into. For the rest of the day, the cycle was "Beer. Pretzel. Repeat."

Stan & Deana
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
We sat down and began talking to the people around us, who came from everywhere from Switzerland to Canada. And in the early afternoon, we were joined by Deana, Stan, Aaron, and Steven, who'd been there since Thursday.

Nathan, Dan, & Andre
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
Nathan and Andre, two of Dan's friends stationed at Ramstein also found room at our table. It's amazing how easy it is to get to know people when you're beered up.

Kristy & Spencer
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
By mid-afternoon, we were joined by Kristy (who swears she knows me, but I don't know from where) and her friends Star and Spencer. Needless to say, our table was getting pretty packed, but we didn't care. Everyone was standing up, eager to get more people in.

Deana & Steven
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
The key was to get a nice buzz in the morning, and then keep a steady pace for the rest of the day, just enough to keep it going. It was loud and we were all laughing so much, I was hoarse by 6 PM, but that just meant the cold beer felt even better going down.

Our Table
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
The atmosphere was one of pure fun. There was a lot of security, but nobody really seemed like the type to pick a fight or anything. Everyone was just there to have a good time and meet people from all over the world.

Nate, Star, & Aaron
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
A day of drinking out in the sun can be pretty exhausting, and the tents stop serving at 10 PM; so things were starting to die down as it got later. It didn't bother us because our bus was leaving for Italy at 9:30, and we made it just in time.

Originally uploaded by currtdawg
The full photostream can be seen here. Just be warned: whenever I'd take a picture of people, I'd always say, "Okay, now, make out." before snapping another one real quick. Sometimes it worked; usually it didn't.
So, yeah, even though we only spent one day there, I was pretty impressed with Oktoberfest. It was exactly what I needed to take my mind of the last two very stressful weeks at work. I wish we could have walked around the grounds a little more, and maybe even spent some time in Munich; but the good news is that next year is the 200th anniversary of Oktoberfest. I've already got solid confirmations from several people who want to come, and we're looking at hotel rooms, or possibly renting an apartment. If you're gonna be around next year, let me know. Because as we saw yesterday, the more, the merrier. Indeed.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Daugherty's Departure

Originally uploaded by currtdawg
Ed has spent his entire four-year tenure in the Air Force here in Aviano. In that time, he's deployed to Kyrgyzstan, Qatar, and Iraq, causing him to be away almost as much as he was home. We didn't get to work together very much, but we did hang out after work from time to time. I've met few people who are so dedicated to their beliefs and values, and it's been interesting getting to know him.
Next week, Ed separates from the military and flies back home to Florida. He's not really sure what's in store, but he knows the Air Force isn't really for him. Whatever he does, I'm sure he'll do very well.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

I'm Going Nucking Futs!

So, remember last week when I said I was learning to deal better with all the work stress? Yeah, that was a big ol' lie. This week has been even worse. I've even had to stay late a couple times, which I hate more than anything. The added bonus of organising today's promotion ceremony and preparing for an upcoming unit compliance inspection hasn't helped. I feel like I'm juggling way too many things, and I have about a billion sticky notes all over my desk to help me remember everything. I think my biggest pet peeve right now is when I'm trying to run paperwork around the head shed, and someone stops me and asks about some crappy little job. Don't you see I have a million things going on right now, and that the chances of me remembering your request by the time I get back to my desk are slim to none?
On top of all this, I lost my phone yesterday. I have the boss phone (which the government pays for) as long as I need it, so I'm not totally without communication. But still, all my numbers were stored on my phone, and the whole situation is just a big bother.
There are two silver linings, though. The first is that the promotion ceremony went off without a hitch. I even got compliments from several people on how smooth everything went. The other is that the boss will finally be back tomorrow. This will take so much pressure off me, and I'll once again be able to enjoy work a little. It's just in time, too, because I have trips planned for the next two weekends, and I'd much rather enjoy myself than constantly be pre-occupied with thoughts of which work orders have been done.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

On The Trail

Last night, I went to my second hash. I took Dominic with me, who'd hashed before, but it was back in North Carolina. It was a much bigger turn-out this time, and it made it even more fun. Plus, my friends Mark and Chrystal were there. And including everyone I met at the first hash, it made it much easier to socialise. The beer didn't hurt, either.

Just Chrystal
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
After the actual hash, there was a beer circle with songs and traditions. The plunger is full of beer, and Chrystal had to drink it. I'd like to go into all the rituals, but it's really something you have to experience first-hand. Plus, there are so many, I don't think I could recap all of them.

Flip Cup
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
The night went on with talking, laughter, and drinking games. I'm going to miss the next hash, but I already can't wait until I can do it again.