Tuesday, July 26, 2005

No al Rigassificatore!!

There is so much to write about lately. The most important thing is I spent last weekend in Rome having a great time. Rome has so much it’s always great to visit that city. Then as soon as I got back Sunday night I wandered into town for a gelato and saw that a free concert was going on. It was an American guy called Sonny Rhodes and he was billed as “The Last Great Texas Bluesman”. He sounded great and in the end I bought his CD and he signed it afterwards. Then last night there was a big demonstration in town against a gas refinery they want to build in Brindisi. I saw several people I knew so I joined in. I got my first glimpse of Nichi Vendola the governor of Puglia.
The weekend in Rome. Not much to say really. Paola was in Rome on business so I seized the chance to see her again when she was near. It was hot and dry as July will always be and the city was full of tourists. I like the off-season a little better. I can’t imagine living there and putting up with the tourists.
The blues concert Sunday night was amazing I think mainly because Sonny Rhodes took the crowd by surprise. He must be at least 70 years old so it just felt like someone who should be singing the blues. If you’re young you just don’t know the blues. There’s no way they could understand him but the music was so good, especially the guy playing the harmonica. Sonny took a wireless microphone and walked out into the crowd while singing “Standin’ on Shaky Ground”. The people loved it. At one point he was even riding on the front of a “bike” (it has 4 wheels and it’s for 4 people) still singing as they pedaled him back towards the stage. It was hilarious.Then last night there was the big demonstration against gas refinery. There have been signs up for weeks “No al Rigassificatore” and last night everyone came together. It seems some English company wants to bring in and refine natural gas and petroleum products here. Crude oil and gas would come in by ship and be refined here and then shipped out again to other parts of the world. So Brindisi gets a few jobs and all the pollution created by this plant. Many groups were there last night WWF, Legambiente, Verde, the farmers (with tractors!!) and the communists, all the people that elected Nichi Vendola. So I have to believe this thing doesn’t have a chance because Nichi himself was there last night talking against it. I’ll have to keep on top of what happens.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Gina at the Store

Those of you who have visited me will recognize Gina "the fruit and vegatable lady". Watermelons are as cheap and good as the get right now. In the background you see Porta Napoli. You've seen the other side in earlier pictures. Posted by Picasa
Tonight there was a demonstration against the building of a gas refinery in Brindisi. This is the start of parade through town to the piazza where fiery speeches were made. More about this tomorrow. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Castle FOR SALE!!!

I mentioned to sis a while ago that the castle in Oria was for sale. This small town is on top of one of the few hills in the heel of the boot, so it has some nice views and a great cathedral. It’s one of the places I like to go now. My favorite king, Fredrick II, made the castle in the 11th century. He made all the castles around here. Freddy’s most famous is Castel del Monte, which is on the one-cent coin in Italy. Before you say one-cent coin, BIG DEAL, remember we have Abraham Lincoln on our one-cent coin! Now the website with the castle in Oria said to “ask for details” on the price. That to me meant if you have to ask you can’t afford it, which is true. I found out today that a coworker lives in this nice little town and he knows the asking price for the castle is roughly 8 million dollars.
It’s funny because I thought what would you do with a castle and who would buy it? The best answer I came up with was that it would make the perfect place for a James Bond villain to set up shop to hatch a plan to rule the world. It’s a little out of the way and hidden, but not tough commute. It has a great round tower that would be perfect as a secret helicopter landing pad or missile silo or both. It has a very nice garden attached to it because you know the bad guy always has some natural passion like pet sharks and tigers or a pool full beautiful women or both. It’s just a perfect setting for the some 007-type movie. Oh and I just remembered there are lots of caves around here so I’m SURE you could drill down to one that leads all the way to the sea. So you have it all. The streets in the town would also make a great scooter chase scene. It would need to be scooters because cars barely fit on the streets in old city center. Can I copyright this idea?

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

What a sweet ride....

I have to put something up today about what happened last night. It was raining cats and dogs like a good old thunderstorm back home in July. I spotted Manuela standing in a storefront on my street. I stopped, as I feared my cheap piece of junk umbrella was going to give out at any moment. We talked for a little while and she agreed to drive me to the grocery store if I could get her to her car without getting soaked. I agreed immediately because I have wanted to ride in her car. Why, because it’s a white 1975 FIAT 500. I have to get a picture of this car. It’s INCREDIBLY small and basic. The engine is in the back so the hood in front is actually used as legroom. I noticed this first because I was amazed how easily I fit into this car. Manuela is maybe 5’ tall so I could understand how she could have this car but I think I could drive it too. The dashboard consists of 1 dial (speedometer) and 3 switches. So the conversation was (in Italian)…
Me:“Manuela, what does this switch do?”
Manu: “Lights”
Me: “this one”
Manu: “wipers”
Me: “this one”
Manu: “I don’t know”.
No radio, no vents, no power anything. It doesn’t even have a fuel gauge, just a light that comes on when you need gas (well diesel, of course)!! I still didn’t quite understand how you started the car. It had a key you turned but it also has something like a choke lever that you pulled for a short time. A couple other things about this particular car (it’s actually her mother’s car), it has a fabric sunroof that is really cool (but of no use yesterday) it’s 30 years old but with only about 106,000 km on it (that’s about 66,000 miles). It’s probably never been used over 40 or 50 mph, well it may not be capable of 50 mph, or in ice or snow. And yes it’s in great condition and yes I would like to buy it because I’m a nut. It’s such a novelty but still so useful in Italy. It’s the Italian version of VW beetle only a lot smaller. It reminds you of what you need. I think dad’s lawnmower has more hp and options then this thing but it got us to the store and back which is all they need it for. And it’s easy to park.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Pantanagianni (that's the name of the town)

This is Ottavio and Daniele's summer bar. They run the Big Ben in the winter and now they will be running this place for the next 3 summers. This place was a complete dump before they came in this spring and cleaned it up. I helped (sort of) but now I can park right behind the bar and have a short walk to the beach. Time for an Sunday afternoon nap... Posted by Picasa

Da Beach

This is the view of the beach from the bar. There is a beach right out front of the bar but the view is blocked by a big sand dune that you see at the very left of this picture. Posted by Picasa

Friday, July 08, 2005

North vs. South

Even before I moved here people have been telling me about the differences between the North and South. Now that my Italian is getting better I seem to be reading the paper more (usually La Gazzetta del Mezzogiorno) and learning more about this difference. People can have stereotypes that will last forever so I’m looking for facts. Some recent facts I’ve seen are these…
In Puglia water is the most expensive in Italy. I thought this was no big deal because it makes sense since it is very dry here. There is only one “river” (I would call it a stream) and not many lakes so I could see why water would be expensive but Molise just north of us has much cheaper water and in the Milano area they have the cheapest. Also just out in the news is recycling. It seems in the North they recycle up to 70% or 80% of their trash, which ranks as high as some of the best areas of Europe, while in the south they are at 12% or 13% and some areas below 10%. To make a long story short, the water is blamed on corruption and the trash is blamed on people’s attitudes (which confirms a few stereotypes). Another strange example of southern Italy, just the other day, right out in front of where I work, someone stole 300 feet of railroad tracks in the middle of the night (not the ties just the metal tracks). That’s no small feat and to get away unnoticed…. Lastly politics. When I moved here I remember a few weeks later I learned the word for mayor, sindaco, because Brindisi’s mayor was all over the papers. Why? Because he was in jail for corruption. Also did I mention that the Governor of Puglia, Nichi Vendola, is a gay communist? It’s funny because he says he speaks for the average working man in his Armani suits with his boyfriend. Does that sound like your average Southern Italian? So I have to say that some of the stereotypes seem to be true and division between North and South are there. I bet you didn’t know that there is a small group up North that are calling for the North to split off and become it’s own country called “Padania”. Strange but true.

Monday, July 04, 2005


Happy 4th of July. This is flag on the balcony for the day. I don't think people can even see it because I'm up on the 4th floor (5th to you Americans). And yes, Emily this is the little Old Navy flag you left at my house. Posted by Picasa