Thursday, March 22, 2012
Sunday, March 18, 2012
Eric and I just spent the past five days in Dublin. I had fond memories from last time I was there, and this time was just as fun.
This was Eric's first time in Dublin, so we basically did all the same stuff I did last time I was there, which was fine with me. I was happy to get reacquainted with the city, including the gorgeous St. Stephen's Green.
And the Guinness Storehouse.
Did you know Guinness has water in it? Insane!
And Eric poured his first Guinness, but he's more of a Jameson guy, so I got to drink it. He did a good job.
As you might know, I'm a big fan of The Hold Steady, and since they've been on hiatus since last year, vocalist Craig Finn has been touring behind a solo album ("Clear Heart Full Eyes"). Coincidentally, he was playing Dublin Thursday night, so I dragged Eric to the show. He plays great bar rock in the same vein as THS, but with more of a country twinge to it. He's very animated when he sings, so Eric and I stood there, swaying with the crowd. I really enjoyed the show, and was glad to hear Eric appreciated it, too.
On Friday, we went to the old Jameson Distillery, which is something I missed last time I was in town. We took a guided tour, which was really fascinating. Of course, the free samples didn't hurt, either.
On Friday evening, we were joined by Tony, Kristin, and Ally.
It was great to have even more people to drink with, not that there was a shortage or anything.
On St. Patrick's Day, Ally and Kristin went on a trip to Cork and Blarney (which Eric and I were supposed to attend, but kinda overslept), so he, Tony, and I watched the parade, then headed to a pub to watch the Ireland vs. England rugby match. The ladies caught up with us later that evening.
It never fails to amaze me how genuine and kind the Dubliners are. They always went out of their way to help us, and we never felt like we were getting swindled just because we were tourists. It's definitely one of my favourite cities in Europe.
Sunday, March 11, 2012
I thought President's Day weekend would be my last chance to go snowboarding this season, but since we put so many hours in last week, we all got Friday off. It was a great opportunity to get a small group together and head up to Nassfeld for the weekend.
Concepcion, Mike, Nate, and I headed up to The Cube Thursday after work. We woke up early Friday morning and headed straight for the slopes. It's been a rather short winter, and at the base of the mountain, the snow was manmade and slushy. However, at the top, it was near perfect.
There were some really nice bars in the area, too. And it always seemed like we could never order just beers. It was always "a beer and a shot!" It made for some rough mornings, but nothing that couldn't be relieved by strapping on our boards.
One night, the bar had dancing girls.
And I met this Italian guy who was former Alpini. Also, I find my Italian gets a little better after I have a few beers in me, for some reason.
We all agreed it was a productive weekend, evidenced by how sore our legs are. We left this morning and headed back to Italy, sad that this would probably be our last time on the slopes this season.
Monday, March 05, 2012
The venue was a place called Tunnel, a tiny bar beneath the train tracks near the central station. There were maybe 150 people in attendance. The opener was a very experimental band, whose name I didn't catch, which is fine because it wasn't music I'd prefer to listen to anytime soon.
When Merrill came out (with a small band consisting of a bassist and two saxophone players), I wasn't really sure what to expect. Her voice on the album is very strong and rather deep for a female. (I almost want to compare it to Phil Collins.) But she was very slight and feminine in person.
All of her shows are unique because she records drum and vocal loops on the spot, then plays them back while singing and playing her ukelele. It's very novel and fun, and as soon as the audience caught on to what was happening, it was inevitable that someone would let out a shout while she was recording, thereby making us part of the song.
The dark lyrics are masked by lively music, which kept us all dancing to the groove. One wouldn't think ukelele, bass, and saxophones would go together as well as they do, but it somehow creates a conglomerate of delicious songs that had me ginning all night.
If you'd like to see how she builds her songs live, check out this impressive performance:
Friday, March 02, 2012
The other day, we had some pipes burst beneath one of the dorms. The area is only used for storage now, but apparently it used to be a children's play area. This was painted on the wall, and it struck us as rather funny. Yes, that blue thing next to SpongeBob is the letter N, but everyone's first impression was "F.U.!"
Wednesday, February 29, 2012
Saturday morning, we started an exercise, which means we're all working 12-hour days through at least tomorrow. So, nobody has had a day off since last Sunday. On top of that, we have a lot of people crammed into the water shop and there's quite a bit of frustration with the exercise scenarios. Obviously, people are getting a little on edge. This evening, Kristen was trying to get out of her chem gear, and somehow all the stress gave way to goofiness which included Renee trying to pull Kristen's boots off with Ryan gawking in astonishment. It was a welcome fit of laughter after a rough ten straight days of work. We're all so ready for some down time.
Friday, February 24, 2012
Yesterday was Renee's birthday, so a big group of us went to dinner at Le Contrade, a French restaurant in Sacile. I'd never been there before, but I always enjoy trying new places.
We all sat around the table, drinking wine and talking. As I browsed the menu, I realised there was nothing vegetarian available. Now, I've been a vegetarian for nearly nine years, but I'm not militant about it.
So what did I do in this situation? I ordered some pasta with clams. Normally, I don't eat seafood, but my reasoning is that it was the least carnivorous item on the menu.
Food is about more than just sustenance. Breaking bread is a special event that draws people together and creates or strengthens bonds of friendship. Renee has had a rough time the past few months, and this was her night. I'm not gonna be the weirdo that sits there and stares at everyone while they eat. I'm going to join in.
I think holding onto one's convictions is important, but I also understand we all have to make compromises for the greater good. And last night, the greater good was enjoying the time together with my friends.
Tuesday, February 21, 2012
I spent this long President's Day weekend in Wildkogel, Austria, with Chris & Mary Miller, their friend Alicia (who flew down from England), and David.
Wildkogel is a little further away than Nassfeld, and I'd never been there before. Chris and Mary did all the planning for this trip, so when they invited me to come along, I was thrilled. We all stayed in an apartment and brought our own food, which meant that half of my sustenance for the weekend consisted of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
The ladies (and David) stuck to sledding all weekend, while Chris and I strapped on our boards. The region had just gotten several inches of fresh snow, which made for great conditions. The best parts were when we went off the groomed trails, through the trees, carving through the powder. And whenever we caught an edge, it was like falling into a cloud.
In fact, on Sunday, I got so far off the groomed run, I ended up going down the opposite side of the mountain. (Chris was smart enough not to get so far off course.) I was riding through some gorgeous powder, when the trees got thicker and thicker, and that's when I started wondering if I was gonna be the guy they had to rescue with a helicopter. My only choice was to keep going and hope I eventually got to the bottom of . . . something. Finally, the trees began to thin out, and I found myself boarding over barbed wire fences and around abandoned cabins. (Still, the whole time, the snow was amazing.) I eventually made it to a road, took my board off, walked to the town at the bottom of the mountain, and took the bus back to the main lift. I'm sure there was a lesson to be learned there, but I doubt I learned it.
And then there was the drinking. We were no strangers to any of the bars scattered around the mountain. It seemed there was one every few hundred metres, regardless of which run we were on. I did some of my drunkest snowboarding ever, and somehow didn't break my neck. (Yet another lesson I probably didn't learn.)
It was great to meet Alicia, who had the best quote of the weekend with, "Did you see those bitches throwing snowballs?" Also, I got the chance to talk a lot with Chris, who, before this weekend, was merely an acquaintance, but is now someone I will share many beers with in the future.
It was yet another great weekend of boarding, which, unfortunately, will probably be my last trip this season. Either way, I'm glad it ended on such a high note.
Wednesday, February 15, 2012
Yesterday was Steven's birthday, so we went to a nearby German restaurant to celebrate. Steven's time in the Air Force is coming to an end, which is kinda sad because I've known him since he got to Italy nearly four years ago. He's easily the most unpredictable drunk I know, but in a good way. Last night was pretty mellow, by most standards, but I'm sure when it's time for his going-away party, we'll pull out all the stops.
Friday, February 10, 2012
I came home and made a tomato-feta omelette, sat on my couch, and watched an episode of Louie. It was the best morning I've had in a long time.
Also, this song is in my head:
I've said it before, and I'll say it again: the Swedes know their way around a good pop hook.
Tuesday, February 07, 2012
So, you can imagine my delight when Madonna announced her world tour this morning, including two dates in Italy in June. Say what you will about her Super Bowl appearance on Sunday (which I thought was decent, but not great), but that woman can put on a live show like nobody's business. I scored a ticket to both shows (Milano and Firenze), and now I'm just waiting for the new record next month, which I will probably listen to ad nauseum until the day of the show. Don't judge me.
Monday, February 06, 2012
This weekend, I went to Milano with Eric and a bunch of his friends to celebrate his birthday. I've been to Milano several times, and always enjoy myself. It's very different from other cities in Italy, modern and industrial. Still, it has its charms, one of which is bundling up in the cold and walking the streets like I belong there.
The birthday celebration consisted mainly of shopping (Milano is the fashion capitol of the world), eating, and drinking. It wasn't anything super flashy or crazy, but it was definitely fun. The next morning, I woke up to take the early train back home. As I was walking from my hotel to the train station, the city was quiet and motionless, and a light snow was gently falling. It was so beautiful, and I wanted to stop and have a seat on a bench, just to appreciate the stillness.
Wednesday, February 01, 2012
In other news, it's been ridiculously cold this winter. I'm trying not to turn up the heat in my house, so I wear sweats in the evening, and I've put an extra extra blanket on my bed. The worst part is that it's also been very dry, so the nearby slopes haven't gotten much snow. My skin is dry, and my knuckles are cracked. If it's going to be like this, I sure hope the groundhog doesn't see his shadow tomorrow.
Monday, January 23, 2012
Sunday, January 22, 2012
1) Offering Kristen a dollar to hit on the cowboy in Bar Bicicletta.
2) Giving Renee, our DD, wrong directions as we drove to Movida, causing us to do a loop around central Sacile.
3) Dancing. A lot.
4) Walking squarely into a big window. Hard.
5) Meeting some really cool people.
This is about the only evidence I have from last night, but it's definitely worthy:
Despite all that, I woke up feeling really good this morning. Still, it will be a while before I have another Saturday night like this one.
Thursday, January 19, 2012
Monday, January 16, 2012
Rodriguez, Boswell, Berg, Steven, and I spent the long weekend in Nassfeld, Austria. We left Friday after work and made the two-hour drive to our hotel, which was right on the slopes. When we went down to breakfast on Saturday morning, there was a little newsletter on our table giving information on the weather, meal times, and other goings-on in the hotel for the day. It was very poorly translated from German and included the line, "Joke: If two scrambled eggs meet, one says: 'Anyhow I am so messy...!'"
On the slopes, there were a lot of people around, and it seemed busy; but there was so much area to ride, we never felt crowded. The runs were wide, and I don't think we took the same one twice all weekend.
There wasn't much going on in the town where our hotel was, but since all our meals were included and there was a bar in the hotel, we didn't really need to venture out at night. On Sunday morning, we were a little disappointed our daily newsletter didn't have another joke. But the weather report was downright poetic:
"On Sunday the last snowy showers fade away, it breaks up and the sun comes in completely Carinthia. The wind decreases, indeed, it remains unmoved." Priceless.
On Sunday, the slopes were nearly empty. We never waited at the lifts, took our turns wider, and acted as if we owned the damned place. And the weather was perfect. One of the great things about being at such high altitudes is how unbelievably blue the sky is.
We kinda took it easy on Saturday, getting into the swing of things and not wanting to take too many chances on the first day of a two-day trip. On Sunday, we decided to hit the park a couple times and looked for jumps on the edges of the groomed runs. These aren't our best jumps, particularly Berg's landing, but they're the ones I got on video:
We spent our evenings in the hotel bar, drinking more and more each night. Our tab for Sunday night was nearly 300 Euros, but it was totally worth it.
The main reason we wanted to take this trip is because Berg will be leaving Italy this week, and we wanted to send him off in style. Before we checked out this morning, we scanned our lift passes and found we rode over 61 kilometres with a total vertical distance of 8968 meters. I'd say that is about as stylin' as you can get.
Friday, January 13, 2012
Last time this happened, I felt hurt and violated. This time, I'm just angry. Probably because I had a rather large stack of gas coupons, half of which I just bought yesterday. I'm a little tempted to set some kind of trap just so I can catch the little bastard(s) that did this. I'm not a violent man, but somebody needs a face punch.
Sunday, January 08, 2012
Last spring, I bought a new board when I was up in Germany. Soon after came new boots, bindings, and even a new jacket. Unfortunately, everything was shut down by the time I got back to Italy, so I haven't been able to try out any of my new gear. Until yesterday.
Steven, Berg, and I headed up to Piancavallo for the day. It's been a very dry winter so far, and we were a little nervous the conditions wouldn't be very good. They weren't exactly ideal (a few closed runs and random icy patches), but overall, we couldn't complain. I was just excited to get on the slopes again and try out my new board, which handled wonderfully. It's a little longer than my old board, giving me a little more speed, and the curve and bounce are just about perfect. All in all, I was thrilled, and I'm already looking forward to next weekend.
Wednesday, January 04, 2012
I'd been debating for the past couple months whether to do anything special for New Year's. I considered just laying around some more, but figured I'd regret it if I did. I had some friends from Germany going to Paris, and at last minute, decided to join them. I'm so glad I did.
This was my first time in Paris, and I'd mentally prepared myself for a dirty city that was difficult to navigate and full of rude natives. But you know what? It was the total opposite.
We had a crew of about twenty people, which hindered our ability to see everything everyone wanted to see. It didn't really bother me, though. I was just thrilled to be walking around such an amazing place. Plus, going back is so easy. I can't believe I'd never been before.
Particularly magnificent was the Eiffel Tower. It's something I've seen so often in pictures, but laying eyes on it for the first time was absolutely breathtaking. We spent New Year's Eve there, but I could have stayed forever, just staring at it. No wonder it's become such a symbol of France.
I didn't make it to the Louvre, Notre Dame, the catacombs, or countless other staples of the Parisian tourist, but again, I'm not worried. I will make it back there soon.
Also, due to popular demand, I made another video. You can check it out here. Hope you enjoy it. Merci!