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.