Saturday, July 31, 2010

Tickling the Ivories

I've had my piano for two weeks now, and so far, I seem to be concentrating mostly on two pieces: J.S. Bach's Invention No. 13, and Arabesque by Debussy. They were both pieces I played in college and they came back to me pretty quickly. Now I'm just working on getting the details down. I've also been messing around with a Mozart sonata, a short Schumann Reverie, and, very cautiously, Joplin's Maple Leaf Rag. I'm trying to get works from all the different eras. The strange thing is, years ago I hated the more technical pieces and loved the romantic ones I could mess around with more. But now, I find myself favouring the more rigid ones. It's probably a good thing, as those are the ones better suited to practice.
Again, I know I won't get them as polished as they were back in the day, but I'm doing my best. Once I get them down pretty good, I'd like to try some new ones I've never played before. I still have tons of music I've never played, so the possibilities are endless. Any suggestions?

Thursday, July 29, 2010

We thought you should know how special you are.

Yesterday was Cheyenne's birthday, and a huge group of us went to a restaurant called La Masiere for dinner. It was a traditional Italian meal with several courses lasting nearly four hours. We all ate, drank, laughed, and showed Cheyenne how much we love her.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Mixing It Up

Something I really missed in the desert was being able to cook for myself. True, cooking for one isn't easy, but I have guests over so often, it's usually not an issue, especially when I make something I can take to work the rest of the week. But I digress.
Even though there was plenty of variety, the food at the chow hall started to taste the same, day after day. And I found myself surfing recipe sites with the fervour of a 13-year-old surfing porn. My mouth would water at the thought of such simplicities as hummus or chips and salsa. And let's not even get into the depraved things I would have done for a slice of cheesecake.
As I was looking at recipes, I noticed a lot of them called for mixing ingredients in a food processor. I remember in the 80s when food processors were the kitchen accessory of choice, but we never had one at home, and I figured it was just a luxury I could always do without. But for some reason, I found myself browsing food processors on Amazon, natch. I ended up ordering one before I even left so it was waiting in my mailbox when I got back to Italy.
So far, I've been using it for various slicing and chopping, plus making small things like the hummus and salsa I mentioned earlier. But I can't even explain how amazing that hummus and salsa was. I'm one of those cooks that likes to randomly throw things into the pot, hoping for something wonderful to appear, and I'm usually pretty lucky. The red pepper I added to the hummus was particularly delightful. I'm sure this food processor will become more and more useful as I venture out into the cooking world.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Whiz Quiz

Today, I had to do something I haven't had to do in about six years--pee in front of someone. I was randomly selected today for the Air Force's Drug Demand Reduction Program, meaning I had two hours to report to a little room and produce a urine specimen. And I'm not pee-shy, by any means, but it's not exactly easy to go when someone is all up in your stuff.
And it's so serious. I don't recommend making small talk with the pecker checker. ("Heard any good jokes lately?" definitely didn't go over well.)
The worst part is after I left, I had to pee every 30 minutes for the rest of the day. But when I mentioned this to Allyson (who's six months pregnant), she had no sympathy at all.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Unexpected Delights

I didn't really have much going on this weekend. The weather has been amazing, and I spent most of yesterday sitting on my balcony with a glass of sweet tea and a book. It was wonderful.
Last night, I had planned on relaxing and watching a movie or something, but Mike called and asked if I was down for dinner with him and Bobbi, so I decided to go. We went to a new place up the street from my house. It used to be a bar, but it closed before I left for the desert. While I was gone, it re-opened as Come na Volta (which literally translates to "like the time", but is an Italian expression for nostalgia). They didn't have a menu and when we sat down, the waiter recited everything they had available. I ordered the tagliatelle al pesto, which was amazing. On our way out, we talked to the manager, who was super cool, and I think it's a place I'll be going to again and again, especially since it's within walking distance of my house.
After dinner, we went bar-hopping in Sacile, which is fast becoming one of my favourite towns around. I met some cool people and laughed hysterically. These are the night I'm glad I didn't stay home.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Pearly Whites

I had a physical yesterday, which took all of ten minutes, and I didn't even have to drop my pants. After that, I had a dental exam, which went equally well. When the dentist came in, she and the dental tech were having a conversation about Italians. They were totally cracking me up the whole time, and it's not easy to laugh when someone has their hands in your mouth. But my point is this: if you floss every night, your dental check-ups are a breeze.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Return of the Rentals

We have a new guy in our shop, Isaac, who was stationed with me in Japan. I've been taking him around this week helping him get in-processed and finding him a house. Today, we had some appointments with various landlords in the area with vacant rentals. The first one we saw was at an apartment just off base, and when we arrived, we were greeted by a very old, very frail looking man. He was very friendly, and spoke only Italian. I'm not fluent, but I got most of what he had to say. He showed us around the house, and didn't stop talking the whole time. He told us he was 90 years old and that he fought in World War II, greeting the Americans as they liberated parts of northern Italy. Unfortunately, the house wasn't very well kept, and Isaac and his family were ready to move on to the next one. As we were walking back out to my truck, the old man grabbed my arm and begged me to get them to take the house. He kept saying how poor he was and that if they took the house, he'd give me a few hundred Euros as a bonus. My heart just broke for this poor guy. I wished I could help him somehow, but I can't make the call on what house Isaac chooses. It was an awkward situation, and part of me is tempted to go over to that house, clean it up, and hope someone will eventually rent it. I still don't know what to think about it.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

88 Keys

I've fallen a bit out of practice on the piano, something I used to have such a passion for. It's mostly due to lack of availability, as there are few pianos around here, and the ones that are here aren't easily accessible.
When I was in the desert, I started doing a little research on digital pianos. I know they're not as good as the real thing, but for someone with a small house who moves around a lot, it's ideal. Mostly, I just wanted something to practice on and bring my fingers back to their 1994-era dexterity.
After tons of online research, I decided the best model for me and my budget was the Yamaha Arius YDP140. And when I got back home, the first thing I did was order one on Amazon. (Is there anything they DON'T have?) Unfortunately, a few days after ordering it, I got an e-mail from Amazon stating they couldn't deliver it, as it was heavier than the USPS could ship to an APO box. So I sat, brokenhearted, lusting after a piano I couldn't get.
That was, until Thursday afternoon when Rick and I were walking through the B/X, and I happened to see, for sale in the electronics section, a Yamaha Arius YDP140. I actually did a double take, then a triple take when I saw the price was only $749 (compared to $899 at Amazon).
I picked it up yesterday morning, and it's sitting comfortably in my guest bedroom. I've already dug up all my old music, complete with scribbles from Rita Roth and Diane K. Earle. I'm really looking forward to practicing as a means to relax in the evenings and on weekends. Without proper lessons, I don't expect to play as well as I did in 1994, but it's something that's a part of me, and it's been missing for far too long. See Mom and Dad? All that money you spent on my college education isn't totally going to waste!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Back Into The Swing

Honestly, I was kinda dreading going back to work. Not necessarily the work part or even the getting-up-early part. Just the adjusting-to-all-the-changes part. And boy, have there been changes, with even more changes in store over the next few months.
But it really wasn't that bad. In fact, it was pretty good. Wednesday was a little weird, but Thursday was spectacular. I was productive and energetic. I know not every day is going to be like that, but it's still a good sign. Today, we had a shop cookout and everyone seemed really glad to have us back.
Still, there are things that need improvement. The lazy ones are still lazy, and the workers are still working. Some programs have fallen by the wayside, mostly due to lack of manning. When I see things I don't like, my first instinct is to fix it; but I realise I might be stepping on someone's toes, so I ask around before acting.
Another adjustment I'm feeling is all the extra off-duty time. I've been working such long hours for the past six months that I'm not used to getting home from work and still having all this free time before bed. Yeah, it's a good problem to have, but it will take some getting used to.
I know it will take another couple weeks before I'm totally reintegrated back at work, and that's fine. I just don't want to become a work-zombie, getting up and doing the same thing every day, like in the desert. There's really no such thing as a solid routine at home station, which is a good thing. Routine makes time go by faster, and I want to cherish every moment I have here in Italy.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Last Supper

Piazza di Sacile
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
To celebrate my last day off work, Cheyenne, Chelsey, and Mike took me out to dinner last night at Cellini's, a great restaurant in Sacile with outdoor seating that overlooks the canals. As we were finishing our meal, it began storming, which was great because our tables were covered and it really cooled things off quite a bit.

Chiesa di Sacile
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
It was a quick, violent storm, and after the rain stopped, the sun was setting and the light was reflecting off the clouds, giving the whole piazza a crazy orange glow. It was kinda surreal and absolutely beautiful.

Chelsey, Mike, & Cheyenne
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
I'm so lucky to have friends that are always down for impromptu adventures (read: photo shoots). Man, is it ever good to be home.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

All Good Things

Today is my last day of R&R, and I have to say, my time off has been great. I was hoping to get my house totally in order, but I did a little too much relaxing, so there's still a mobility bag in my bedroom with uniforms in it. And tons of dirty laundry. And boxes in my garage. I don't care, though. It will get done eventually.
To celebrate the end of our freedom, Steven and Berg came over last night and we drank and drank and smoked Berg's hookah and drank some more. By the time I went to bed, I was feeling pretty light-headed, but it was a good time. I felt the effects of the hookah on my run this morning, though. It's definitely not something I'll make a habit of, but it's a nice, social activity that everyone should try at least once.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Jess & Me

Jess & Me
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
This morning, I went over to Cheyenne's for a little farewell breakfast for Jess. I don't know why, but just the way Jess says things makes me bust out laughing. She's like a humour magnet. She's on a flight to Madrid right now, and then back to the States tomorrow. I'll see her again in December for what's become our bi-annual friendship booster shot, but even that seems too far away. Gonna miss ya, J!

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Kickin' Around

Originally uploaded by currtdawg
Last night, a big group of us decided to go to the Sacile Piazza because they had a big video screen set up for the World Cup matches. Jess has spent a lot of time in Spain, so we were all kinda pulling for them.
The evening began earlier with dinner at Cheyenne's, which included lots of wine. So the trip to Sacile was an adventure in itself. Thanks to Chelsey and Jess for staying sober.

Originally uploaded by currtdawg
After we parked, we took a shortcut to the piazza through some buildings, and came across this beautiful scenery. I can't believe I've spent so much time in Sacile and never seen this.

So we decided to take advantage of the scenery with the first of many group photos of the evening.

Originally uploaded by currtdawg
We sat in the piazza and Cheyenne broke out more wine. That's when things started to get a little fuzzy.

Mary & some Italians
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
By half-time, we'd grown tired of the piazza, but still wanted to watch the game, so we strolled through the streets, stopping in random bars. We eventually ran into Mary, Melissa, Andy, and a bunch of their Italian friends.

Melissa & Chelsey
Originally uploaded by currtdawg

We started taking tons of random pictures, which sometimes, after lots of wine and Mojitos, can be a bit of a disaster, but this group of pics ended up turning out pretty good.

This one was totally random, and there's nothing I don't love about it.

Andy & Jess
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
I've always thought Jess has the best facial expressions, but Andy's is...I mean, how does he get his eyebrows to do that?

It was a great night, made even better by Spain's victory. We all crashed at Cheyenne's place and felt mysteriously refreshed the next morning. Jess kept us in stitches, and I wish she could just move to Italy permanently.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

A Thousand Puppies Licking My Face

Cheyenne has been in Chicago for a wedding, and flew back yesterday. Jess also flew in yesterday and will be visiting until Saturday. I got to pick everyone up at the airport. Seeing Jess always makes my heart feel like it's on a sugar high, and I love that feeling you have when you're at the airport, waiting for someone to come out, and the anticipation is about to make your head explode. Jess's flight got in a couple hours before Cheyenne's, so after she arrived, we had some time to get cappuccinos and share about what's been going on since we last saw each other in December.
I love the kind of friends you can not talk to for months, and then when you see them, you're just as close as if no time had passed at all.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

"Please, mind the gap."

Steve, Connor, Nick, & Me
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
You know what they like to do in England? Drink! And I did my best to fit in with the British all weekend long.
I flew up late Wednesday night. Steve picked me up, but he had to work Thursday, so I just mellowed out. Thursday night, a group of us went to Cambridge to hit some pubs and check out the scene.

Drunk Food
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
I'm not sure how many pubs we hit up, but it was a lot. The other guys had to work on Friday, but we still managed to stay out pretty late. On the way back to the car, we stopped for food. I'm not normally a drunk eater, but I had one of the best veggie burgers of my life there.

Originally uploaded by currtdawg
We got lost on the way to the car park, walking down alleyways and over bridges; and for some reason, Steve thought he was Spider-Man.

Nick & Me
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
The ride home was interesting, to say the least, but you'll have to ask Steve about the details.

Originally uploaded by currtdawg
Friday, Steve and I took the tube into London. Our hotel was right on Trafalgar Square, in the heart of Westminster. I wasn't really into seeing all the historical sights; however, we were only a couple blocks from Big Ben...

Westminster Abby
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
...and Westminster Abby. We spent Friday afternoon walking around, dipping into pubs, eating, and watching World Cup matches.

James, Eddy, & Me
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
Friday night, we met up with Eddy and James, and went out dancing. It was really crowded, and we all ended up getting separated.

Originally uploaded by currtdawg
I left the club and found myself roaming the streets of Soho, so I decided to take pictures of myself in front of famous landmarks.

Steve & Me
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
I randomly ran into Steve, so we continued roaming the streets, talking, eating, and people-watching. Then we noticed the sun starting to come up, so we took a rikisha back to our hotel.

London Pride
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
Steve and I woke up late Saturday and started walking around the city again. After the best breakfast of my entire life, we headed to Oxford Street for some shopping. Coincidentally, it was Gay Pride weekend in London, and the parade was going on.

Oxford Street
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
The parade went on for miles, and there were so many people that came from all over. It was like a huge city-wide party filled with people drinking, dancing, and enjoying life.

James, ?, & Eddy
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
Saturday night was more pubs and clubs, only this time we were joined by Brian and Damien. I got kinda lost and ended up across the Thames where I stopped in random pubs and talked to locals.
Sunday, Brian, Steve, and I went to Camden for some shopping before heading back to Brian's place in Cambridge.

Steve & Andrew
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
My flight left early Monday morning, so we decided to crash at Brian's place, which is near several pubs. We were joined by Andrew, and ended up staying up all night, drinking and laughing. And somehow, somebody convinced me to do Tequila shots. The person next to me on the plane was probably thinking, "Who is this guy, and why does he smell like a bar bathroom floor?"

It was an amazing weekend, and even though I only saw a small part of London, I really fell in love with it. I really can't thank Steve enough for taking me around and showing me a great time. I'll definitely be planning more trips up to the UK in the future.