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.