Thursday, December 28, 2006

New Family

So it’s been busy the last few days. My parents and I visited Lori and Kent and the new family. Now I have a day to relax a little do some pre-return to Italy shopping. The first photo is the new happy family. Kyle was very well behaved for us. He slept a lot and was pretty quiet. These babies seem easy. Hmmm…

The second is the cutest I think. It’s also the best photo I managed to get with his eyes open. Babies like to flail when they are this young and awake. There’s not much else they can do.


Ciao Kyle

Monday, December 25, 2006

Buon Natale!!


Merry Christmas!! What a lead up to Christmas I've had. I save that for a later date though because all is good now and I hope everyone else out there is having a joyful holiday. Where ever you are.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Winter Solstice Time


The photo for this post is from 2005 when I went to Sardinia in August. I consider it my anti-Winter Solstice photo. I leave tomorrow on the first plane so some quick updates on how I’m leaving things here and where I'll pick up in 2007:

Fastweb is even deeper on my sh*t list. They say I need to go to the store in Monopoli to exchange the broken modem for one that works. Monopoli is a smaller town than Brindisi and about an hour away. I HAVE TO DO this because the modem THEY SENT ME doesn’t work. Plus, I’m still not convinced that this will solve the problem. In the meantime they are sending me more than 4 SMS text messages everyday telling me to activate the line. I can’t! It doesn’t work. In 2007 I may get an ADSL line. Stay tuned!

My soccer team at work is in the finals. We won our semifinal game rather easily but the real test will be the finals. We should have played the game this week but there have been issues with the other semifinal game. It seems the second place team has disbanded so the teams in the other semifinal have changed (3 vs 5 instead of 2 vs 3). In 2007 we will play the Title match, finally.

The gifts are all done and I feel really good about them. Never has so many of my gifts been related to charities. Now if they all make it to the US with me! Unfortunately I still don’t have my suitcase situation figured out completely. I want to travel as light as possible but I know I’ll need warm clothes in the States!

Also today and tomorrow (depends on where you are) marks the Winter Solstice, like I mentioned above. I love this because it’s the longest night of the year. From now on the days start getting longer! Yes, it is technically the start of winter but since there’s no snow here I look forward to it staying light out longer.

It’s funny because I’m very happy right now and it shows. I think I’m happiest when I’m within a week of being back home and when I first get back to the States. Then the reverse happens. At some point I start to get antsy to get back to Italy then I’m also really happy for a few days when I first get back to Italy. Then I get into a routine of sorts and there is less energy or excitement. How can I channel this energy to everyday life? Maybe I need to increase my intake of coffee and gelato?!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The Cats


Mom was asking for a new photo of the cats (they are getting to big to be kittens), so here we have a more recent photo. Mara (the black one) is getting big. This picture is a little strange because Nello is twice the size of Mara but he doesn't look it here.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Over There...


I’m going over there. This photo is from inside St. Peters in Rome if you don’t recognize it. I only have a few days and I’ll be jumping on a plane again heading home, well to that other home in the States. I still have a ton of things to do but I’ve already started eating everything that would go bad while I’m gone.
The flights are done! I have are my favorite route so I’m going thru Rome then Newark. In Rome I could pick up a last minute gift item, if needed. Then in Newark there is a restaurant that has a 60’s theme and they serve a nice big juicy burger. And with these flights I’ll be getting in just at the right time on Friday for a burger. Burgers and Mexican food here I come!
Plans in the states are done but...I don’t have much time in Indianapolis. I HAVE to meet up with some friends there. I’ll have to work it out!
The lists are done! I have two lists of things I’m going to buy to bring back to Italy, one is for me and the other is for my friends here. Thank you Marco for finally not asking me to bring back a bowling ball from the States!!! I’m not even sure where I could find a bowling ball with flames on it.

The Missing Statues?


This photo is of the main duomo in Brindisi before a major renovation of the exterior started this summer. I was walking past a newsstand and saw a headline that said “Le Statue Distrutte”. I couldn’t believe what I read so I went past the duomo myself this weekend and it’s true. The 4 statues you see on top of the duomo in this picture are gone. The scaffolding is almost gone and the church looks great but I can’t believe these statues are not going to come back. The newspaper article is very short and gives no details. It seems that “Striscia La Notizia” will be doing a story on it this week. This TV program is a comedy but they expose some very real problems in Italy. So I’ll be watching Striscia to find out the rest of the story.
I did find out that the statues aren’t that old. Maybe someone decided that they were a recent addition that didn’t fit with the historical style of the church. The original church was finished 1143 and then rebuilt in 1743 after an earthquake. The statues, it seems, didn’t come along until 1957 if what I read is true. Do they belong?

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Good Cheer


I was trying to get into the Christmas mind frame this weekend so I broke out the Christmas music. I have copied music from a lot of people so I’m not sure where I got this curious song “A Christmas without Weed”, or do I? It’s a hilarious song, that’s all I’ll say. Here at work someone has Christmas songs playing at a low level and it’s nice.
It's starting to work and I'm getting into the Christmas spirit but not because of songs or decorations. It started when I have a few gifts in hand that I know people will like. Last night I went to Lecce and I picked up something good. I just hope it makes it back to the US! Having that gift in hand and knowing that it is perfect for “so and so” is intoxicating. I plan on going back to Lecce this weekend during the day, for gelato!!!!! Maybe I’ll find something for Uncle Joe or Aunt Cherie there. To me Christmas is great when you get that present that you think is perfect for someone. It’s not how much it costs or even “the thought that counts” to me it’s that giddy feeling when you think “That would be perfect for ......” Of course, I could be completely wrong but I get excited thinking about how much they will like what I found for them. The problem is that it’s getting harder and harder. I don’t think I can pack a suitcase full of wine and olive oil, again. Well, this weekend will be the final real chance for me to get gifts. Then I have to start looking at the packing and weight situation.
Also I ate Lori’s chocolate and biscotti but I can get more of that later!!

And I just noticed that this is my 300th blog entry. OHH the times we have had here in cyberspace...

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Fastweb NEVER!!!

I have lost my patience. I WILL NEVER recommend Fastweb to ANYONE, EVER!! They may be good in other parts of Italy or the world but in Puglia they can all go to.... I signed up to have an ADSL line for my apartment 3 monthes ago. I knew I would need patience but now it's officially over. I'm a very patient person but they keep calling me asking if it works now and finally today they say they tried everything so my modem (that they sent me) is broken. So they say I should take it to the store and they will give me a new one. WHAT A _____ joke. I'm sorry but I've already been back to the store and they are simply a place that signs people up. They won't have a modem. So right now I'm out 45 euros as that was what I paid when the modem arrived in the mail. I know people have waited longer but I've never seen their technician. Everytime they call, they ask "What did the technician do?" and I repeat that I have never seen this mythical technician. He called me once and said be at home at 17:00 a couple a weeks ago. He never showed up. But someone else from Fastweb called later and said everything looks to be ok. I said "No, it's not!" I can do nothing except recommend that you stay far away from these idiots.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Zio, Dio mio!!

You can call me Zio Jeffo now! My brother's wife made me an uncle and more importantly my parents are now grandparents!!! Whoa, no wonder they are going to Florida for the month of January!!! And the kid is just like me, so far. Over 9 lbs when born and he has my middle name, Kyle Fredrick Gromen. Fredrick was my grandfather on my Dad's side and I must say I like the name and wish the whole family well. I hope to see this big kid between Christmas and New Years.
Let's just hope he has the amazing natural Gromen ability to throw a frisbee. I don't want him to grow up playing Rugby like his Dad!!!

Tour del Gelato

Link to Tour
This is my contribution to the “Tour del Gelato” in Italy. I’m always critiquing Italy so I should do an official “state of gelato address”. The top three places to get gelato in Brindisi all have outdoor seating with a view of sea (they are on the sea) and the evening passeggiata, so only the gelato sets one apart from the others, sort of….

The top spot goes to the Vertigo. This place is a must stop every weekend (or every night). In the summer there can be huge lines after midnight, so come early and often! One of the secrets of good gelato is selling a lot. You don’t want gelato that has been sitting around! At the Vertigo it usually goes quickly. This place is the favorite hang out of the teens through 30 somethings. The picture shows the Vertigo and the new white building is Le Corniche (3rd place). The gelato in the picture is caffe and dark chocolate. Both places block off part of the street for tables in the summer so you can sit down.


Second place is Bar Betty. Bar Betty has actually been around longer than the Vertigo so some Brindisinos will tell you that they have the best. That may be true and it’s a tough choice. In the winter Bar Betty seems to keep a better selection of flavors, probably due to their diehard fans. They also make beautiful fancy ice cream cakes. The Vertigo is only starting to dabble in this area. They also have the benefit of the biggest outdoor area to congregate and talk while enjoying the gelato. This may be the reason that this place seems to be better for the family and it’s still THE place for an aperitivo and people watching, even if the drinks are expensive.

Third place goes to Le Corniche. This is a brand new place (March 2006) that needs to be around a little longer before it can be moved above Bar Betty and/or the Vertigo. They have a lot of nerve because they opened up right next door to the Vertigo and they have a French name. The gelato bars themselves are only about 15 feet from each other (there was a time in Italy when it was illegal for businesses to this). Also Bar Betty is only a 5-minute walk along the same road, so Le Corniche knows they can’t get by with OK gelato. It HAS to be good to compete in this area of town. I give Le Corniche good marks because they completely redid an old building that was an eyesore on the seafront. Now it looks great with a really nice restaurant and nice courtyard. Problem is, who wants to hide in a courtyard. You want to be out front! You want to be seen with your gelato! Still their gelato is good and the reputation is building.

So in summary all the great gelato in Brindisi is on the same street, Via Lungomare (right on the sea), and they’re all a 15-minute walk from my apartment (this is needed to burn off all the calories of the ice cream). I recommend all three from my experiences. I’m sure there are good gelato places out in other areas of Brindisi but the vast majority of Brindisi goes to these places.
Everything written here is based on the opinions of the author and is a matter of taste and based on no scientific fact. Use only as directed. Results may vary. Consult your local physician before starting your own “Tour del Gelato”.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Turkey Run


Just a random Fall photo from Indianapolis. I think I competely missed Fall again. I'll be home for Christmas but if we get 10 inches a snow like last year I may stay here for Christmas 2007!

Food of the Day



It seems in Italy there is almost a different food that should be eaten every around every holiday. Today, for some odd reason connected with the Immacolata, we were having puccia for lunch. I thought puccia was bread with olives in it but evidently it is also a type of panino. There was a 10-minute discussion on puccia from Brindisi verses the others in the region and I won’t get into here because mainly I was dieing of hunger and not paying attention. Where are these pucce? That’s all I could think about.
So the food arrives late but that’s ok until it became painfully obvious that we are very short. Everyone was SUPPOSED to get 2 pucce because they are pretty small. Our original group of around 15 had grown to 32 people so we ordered 70 (the day before) just to be sure. Well in the end it seems that we only got 50 pucce and most of those were eaten before this was realized. So I got screwed (along with about 5 others) because I didn’t attack the sack of sandwiches like a wild dog. Somehow I did get the above photos with my phone before the panini disappeared. I’m just a little pissed off right now. I wouldn’t be so upset if this was the first time we were short, but it seems to happen a lot. One of the drawbacks of doing things in a large group!! I did get my 5 euros back since I didn’t get anything to eat. I sure hope that they called back to the store and asked for a refund.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Sunday Morning Coffee

When will I learn? Sunday morning I headed off to get a quick coffee at a café just a few blocks from my apartment. It was a short trip so I just threw on an old sweater and jeans. Of course I forgot that this is the first Sunday of the month, which means there is a big street sale in town. It’s everything from antique furniture to cheap plastic jewelry. I realized my mistake when I turned the corner and looked down the street at saw a mass of people. But it was too late, I didn’t feeling like turning back and my coffee was calling to me from my favorite café, which was within sight. I trudged down to the café, which is right where the merchants start so I could go in and out without getting caught up in the madness, I thought. I drank my cherished breakfast drink and decided to take a look at the excitement because IT IS close to Christmas so who knows what I will find. So there I am in an old sweater and jeans, unshaved and I run into everyone. It seemed every 50 feet or so I run into someone else and they are dressed very nicely, naturally.
I’m just coming back to life as the caffeine soaks in and I find just what I’m looking for! In a true Christmas tradition I found something perfect for ME! It was in the form of two small books of photos from 1918-1921. They were taken by the official photographer for the Navy Base in Taranto. All the photos are about 1 inch square. On the cover is listed what is in each book. In one book there are two pages of an official state funeral, one page showing a battleship firing the main guns, one page showing a torpedo being fired, and in the other book there are some of a large three masted sailing vessel, and an overturned boat (just the hull) that is being made into a monument.
I love these old photos because back then they only took photos when something was very important. I worry that digital photography lets us take so many photos that the importance of a photo is completely lost. This photographer was probably very limited on the number of pictures he could take and the angles he could get, etc, etc. The photos he left behind are the best of what he could do at the time. He also mounted them in true military precision in a book of thick black paper. Nothing fancy but then it was just meant for the archives. My favorite book is still the one I found in Monopoli made by a German that traveled from Germany to Los Angeles to Mexico City to Brazil in the 1930s.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Local news

I need to stop reading the local newspaper. I only get more confused. I see what seems to be a good idea that is here in Italy and not in the US and then I read something that I don’t understand.
Case in point: the banks in Italy have this airlock that you have to go through to get in and out of the bank. Seems like a foolproof system. Who would rob a bank in broad daylight with a guard in a bulletproof room controlling the front door airlock? So Saturday I read this article where two “kids”, the article called them kids, went into a bank (around noon on Friday) and armed only with a knife they stole 15,000 euros. How do two kids armed with a knife rob a bank? They don’t have a guard? The article doesn’t say how they got out of the bank. I have to know how the system was so easily beaten. A few days before this robbery I read that a bank in Lecce was robbed of 300,000 euros. How did they do it? They came in through the bathroom window. The funny part about this, the article mentions in the very last sentence that the bank was robbed the same way 3 years ago, but the current management was not aware that this happened!

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Matera in the Movies, again

Matera is being featured in the movies again. Mel Gibson put the town on the movie map with "The Passion of the Christ". Now the movie "Nativity" is coming out tomorrow and once again Matera is used as a huge movie set. I decided to post two of my photos here so you can say "That's Matera!" when show a wide shot. This first one is from the a cave on the opposite side of the huge ravine that matera was built on. I'm standing it what was someone's home hundreds of years ago. They all lived in caves and slowly built houses on to the front of the caves. The result is what you see here.

This next photo has more color and shows the one road in town. It also shows how they really are built on top of each other. The ravine is off to the left. Neither picture really shows there is a cliff there. I'll have to go back and get another shot of that.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Walk to work day

Davide asked me a short time ago how far it was from the Train Station to work. I live right next to it and it’s something I drive everyday so I measured it on the odometer in my car. Turns out that it is exactly 2 km. I thought WHAT?! It’s only 2 km to work. I could walk that!! So this morning I did. This is how it went down.

8:04 leaving the front door. Timers set!
8:06 pass by the train station and the first temptation of coffee.
8:12 pass the stop sign you never stop at (unless you want to be rear ended).
8:14 buy a newspaper and saw someone I knew but I can’t remember his name
8:16 pass the Questura on my shortcut.
8:22 emerge from shortcut within sight of work
8:30 enter the front gate. Almost exactly 26 minutes after leaving home and I stopped to buy a paper.
8:36 finish explaining to the guards at the front gate why I don’t have my car
8:39 go for a coffee.

I figure I only lose 15 or 20 minutes with the time it takes to get the car out of the garage. Of course this will be weather permitting. I'm very close to not needing a car for ANYTHING.

Also what do Julio Cesar and I have in common? We are both goalies for the best team in our respective leagues. After that there is very little in common. Last night we had a spirited game (that's putting it nicely) that ended in a 5-4 win for us. We have now beaten the teams we lost to and tied in the first round of soccer tournament at work. All we have to do is win out and we’ll have the company trophy. The teams left didn’t seem that good the first round so as long as they don’t pick up any ringers we should be ok. The pressure was terrible leading up to last night. As the goalie you’re the last line of defense (and I'm not that good). In the end I had a decent game but the game wasn’t as close as score makes it seem. It was 5-3 with one minute left. That last minute seemed to go on for a loooonnggg time. Did I mention there were some tensions between the teams?

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Fall Colors


Here is a collection of leaves for Kent. They are all from the chestnut tree on my balcony. Last year I planted one of my chestnuts instead of roasting and eating it. In true fall fashion it lost all leaves. It still has one green leaf for some odd reason.

Pumpkin Pie, Si!!!



What is this? A small Chirstmas miracle arrived in November. There is a coworker that worked in the States for a while so he has seen several Thanksgivings. His wife made a pumpkin pie and he brought me a piece to try. She did an amazing job and my compliments to the chef. I'll have to ask him the story behind it. Does his family like it? And where did she get all the ingredients? etc etc. At the time all I said was thanks and then hid it away from curious Italians.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Thanks!!!

Thanksgiving is the greatest of all the holidays. Bill Bryson mentioned this in one of his books. He had some strong arguments that I couldn’t deny. I can’t remember exactly what he said but it was something like:
No presents to buy (probably the greatest single reason to like Thanksgiving)
No cards (but I just received one from Nonna!!)
No caroling
No costumes
No decorations really.
No real religious implications
There IS plenty of food and it’s ok to eat as much as you want.
There IS plenty of football
There IS plenty of family time
YES, there are TWO days off of work.

I couldn’t go without turkey so I picked up a turkey breast at the “Salu…mino” the other day. It’s not as good as a whole roast turkey made by Nonna but it’s pretty good. How do I know already? Because I kinda ate it last night. I’ll have to get more tonight. I also jumped the gun and opened a new bottle of wine last night. The weather was lousy so I thought as long as I’m eating at home and watching Champions League Soccer I should have some wine and try out the turkey. I couldn’t resist.
I have no special plans for tonight. I did just have a great idea. I should take some of the turkey to my pizzeria and see if they will put it on a pizza. I think that would be good! Turkey pizza for thanksgiving!!!!

Happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Webcams

There are two webcams to see what's going on in Brindisi. The old one that has practically the same view as my apartment:
My View
but it for some reason was stuck on November 7th the last time I checked.
and the new one that shows the park down by the see. You might see people on the passeggiata in this one but it's really a little too far down the street:
Porto!

If the picture doesn't load right when you click the link then try hitting the refresh button on your browser. I think because the picture updates every 2 minutes the link doesn't always work.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The Kids on video (Part 2)

I had a request for more videos on the kids to I added this to my Youtube account.kids

The curtains that Mara is swinging on has now been pulled down. Nello makes a guest appearance at the end. I think Emily will like the "hopping" action. The next video I was thinking of putting up is one of Kent's from the celebration of the World Cup. Is that ok Kent?

Monday, November 20, 2006

A Good Story



Maybe it’s the holiday season but I was thinking I would post a good story. I always feel good when I think back about this one time that I was teaching an overnight at the zoo. That night was just a good night that reminds me of the unexpected pleasures that you never know until they hit you.
To get the whole picture an overnight at the zoo is when a large group of students come to the zoo after school, go through about 3 or 4 classes from 7:30 PM to 10:00 PM and then sleep overnight at the zoo (usually in the dolphin pavilion). The next day they have breakfast and then time for a brief look at the animals before they’re off, back to school. I volunteered and worked overnights for years, because I could easily go to the zoo after my day job. It kept me off of the streets and away from the TV.
This particular night I was teaching a class about marine invertebrates. I’m in the Waters Building, surrounded by tanks of sharks, fish, eels, lobsters, and all other kinds underwater creatures. You only have the light that filters out from the tanks so it can be dark and mysterious like you really are underwater peering eye to eye with these creatures. And if this setting isn’t enough to get the kids excited about the class, there is also an added tank that I wheel out from behind the scenes. It’s called “The Touch Tank” and it’s an important part of the class. After a brief lesson about one family of marine invertebrates I then get one animal out for everyone to see and touch. Sea stars (starfish, it’s not a fish!) sea urchins, crabs, and giant snails, the kids are always excited when the class involves live animals. The important part was after one of the classes, a parent comes up to talk to me.
She says, “So you’re Jeff” in a matter of fact sort of way.
I naturally reply back “I’m sorry, do I know you?”
She quickly responds “No, of course you don’t know me, but I know you because of my oldest. He was on an overnight 2 years ago and I distinctly remember him talking about this really cool teacher at the zoo named Jeff. I’m glad I got to see you this time.” She went on to explain more about how her oldest child really enjoyed the overnight at the zoo so this time when her youngest child was going she signed up to be a chaperone. We talked briefly about what she found interesting and then she had to rush off to the next class with the group.
After she left it all fell into place for me. This was how it was supposed to work. I would teach a class and the kids learn something and get excited about learning and nature. The bonus was how everything else worked, which I never thought about before that night. The parent listened and remembered what her child said and maybe even learned something too. Then she was moved to become more involved so she and her youngest child got even more out the second experience at the zoo. All you ask is for the kids’ attention for an hour and you hope they take something away from the class. In this case it seemed to work more beautifully then I could have imagined. I felt like I really made a difference and who knows how many other kids learned from my classes. Maybe I should be a teacher but after several years of teaching at the zoo I was getting a little burnt out. I don’t think I could have kept it up for much longer. It still makes me happy to think of the chain of events that were set into motion.

PS I should make that photo even smaller as it's horrible but it's the only one I have "at work at the zoo".

Thursday, November 16, 2006

The Oldest



It’s very strange how long it takes and how you learn things some things in life. All of my life my older brother has complained, …no let’s say “expressed”, how difficult it is to be the oldest. I never appreciated or accepted this fact or opinion…until now. Bro, I have a little more understanding now. I come to this conclusion from a strange source. Watching my cats. It’s only after the recent addition of Mara to my household that I could make this discovery. Yes, Emily I have changed Smeagol’s name to Mara. Mara is close to “mare” which means sea in Italian and Mara was found in the sea so it seems to fit. I could call her “tempesta nera” (black storm), which is what she becomes when all worked up. Back to my observations, I find that I’m much more tolerant of Mara’s transgressions. I realize that most of them are just phases that she will grow out of but with Nello I feared I had to put my foot down or he would group up to be a “bad kitty”. Things like when Nello attacked his first roll of toilet paper and made a huge mess of it. I smacked his little cat butt and promised him he wouldn’t see the inside of the bathroom again for a long time. When Mara did it I got the camera out to take a picture. And sure enough even without the threats she has already outgrown that game. Yes, the oldest does get the pleasure of beating the crap out of the younger, which I see on a daily basis (and remember growing up) but he is the explorer that has to live under a more totalitarian regime from the parents for fear that “if once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny” (to quote Yoda). So it seems to be true that the oldest has it the toughest from what I’ve seen. I’ll finally agree with you on that bro. That’s just my opinion and I’m the middle child so what do I know. Wait, all of this doesn’t change the FACT that the middle child is always the best!!!!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The Fight for a good Lunch!!!

Sciopero!!
We did it yesterday. It was THE most unusual strike I’ve ever done. We had a strike against the cafeteria here at work. Nothing radical, we just ordered panini from a little place down the road instead of eating in the cafeteria. This was done to protest the decreasing quality of the food being served. It’s funny because I still think the food we have for lunch is great but I have noticed that it’s not as good as it was when I arrived 3 years ago. We also need to remember in this time I have become a bit of a pasta snob. Having it everyday tends to have that effect. Way back 3 years ago I was amazed at what I could have for lunch every day. It was the highlight of the day. Everyday we have:
1. Bread always a little bun like thing called rosette.
2. Primi is always a choice between 2 pastas or maybe between a minestrone soup and pasta.
3. Secondi is always a choice between 2 meat dishes. Wed usually chicken (my favorite Baked Rosemary Chicken), Thursday a paper thin steak, and Friday is always fish or seafood.
4. Contorni is a seasonal cooked vegetable (always available options to this are a slice of cheese or green salad).
5. Water, beer or wine (yes beer or wine but the wine is Tavernello-the worst wine of Italy and it’s in a juice box like thing!)

So today we are back in the cafeteria at work. Was our point taken? Will things improve? We’ll see. I hope so, because I like panini but I would rather have that on the weekend when I don’t feel like cooking.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Superbollo!!!

Superbollo, no it’s not a big end of the season football match! Let me explain. Lately this superbollo has been getting a lot of press and it answers a lot of questions for me. Cars in Italy are taxed on the horsepower of the engine, or to be exact the kilowatts of the engine. The magic number is 100 kilowatts or 134 HP. Every car new and old is taxed for every kw (HP) at one rate, up to 100 kw (134 HP) after that the rate goes up. This is the superbollo, the tax over 100 kw. Lately the new government decided that if you can have a powerful car then you could afford to pay MORE taxes, so the superbollo is creating a stir, as nobody likes more taxes and more people have been buying more powerful cars.
One of the quotes I heard from Prodi could be translated to “If everyone pays the tax then maybe we could lower it in the future” (I hope I translated it right). So he’s going to tax the nice law abating people back to the Stone Age but those that don’t pay, well, now they are saving even more. I think more people will decide a less than honest approach when facing more taxes. I have to say I like the method in the US where you pay based on the value of the car. I can’t imagine someone with big old 5.0L 1982 Ford Mustang paying more taxes than some yuppie with a BMW. Yes I appreciate how this helps the environment but I dislike taxes that aren’t connected to right thing. And to me this doesn’t seem to be the right way. Something about that just doesn’t seem right.
Now I can respond when people ask me “Why are all the cars so small over here?” An ape with a lawnmower engine would cost almost nothing to have and it still gets you around town. An SUV will cost a fortune.
Oh and by the way they are also passing a new “tourism tax”. Hotels in the cities will be throwing on another 5 euro a night in taxes. The smaller communes are supposed to go 2 or 3 euro. I can’t remember exactly. This money is supposed to go to the upkeep of local tourism attractions. If that’s true then I’m all for it. Everyone agrees that Italian Museums and wealth of cultural history needs more upkeep

Uncover the Truth!!!

Just a quick plug for the new website! "Puglia Posse" has changed to "Puglia Uncovered" in my link list. The area where we talk about local problems is in the "Forum". This website could become a beacon of information on this area. We have a group of "stranieri" that live here and can give you the straight talk on Puglia and we have some local Italians that can shed light on why things are the way they are. I think it could easily become the best resource for this area. Maybe I'm a little biased because I hope to be helping out as much as I can.
My friends and family already know how much I like showing people around so it's only natural that I try to help others through the internet and let's face it this blog just isn't that informative!!!

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Brindisi Basket

What? Brindisi is leading it's division in Basketball and I would really like to go see a game. I copied down the schedule a long time ago and it seems there is a game tomorrow, or not? I looked at the schedule today online to check and the game is now on Sunday. That's better for me, but get this the location is "da stabilire" and the referee is "da stabilire". So there is a game Sunday at 6:30 PM but they don't where and they don't know who is going to be the referee!!! UGGHHH. No wonder I haven't been to a game yet! I couldn't understand why I didn't know more about them. In their defense they are just finishing up a new "stadium" for the team here in town. I say stadium because it looks like a high school gym, but all the better. I bet there isn't a bad seat in the place and when it's open I bet it will be packed. I'll keep checking their website and maybe I'll get to a game!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Norcia Piazza


One more photo of Norcia. This is the Piazza of San Benedetto da Norcia. You can see San Benedetto there in middle. Also notice the incredible blue cloudless sky that sunshine kept me warm.

My Birthday is done and over!

Yes, it was my birthday yesterday and it went well in so many ways. It started out almost like in the US, except I went to work with cornetti instead of doughnuts. In the US I was always one to harass people for doughnuts on their birthday so I understand completely the concept of cornetti for coworkers. Back in Indianapolis we even had two approved sources for doughnuts. The preferred place was Long’s Doughnuts in Speedway. Krispy Crème was the second and accepted as not everyone could get to Long’s before work. I remember once we managed to guilt Michael Mann into bringing in doughnuts to celebrate his new shoes. Hey, they were very nice shoes!
At work I took a break to go to the Questura to get the best present of all. My brand new permesso di soggiorno. This is THE all-important permit to live in Italy. Renewal isn’t usually a problem but they’ve gone to a new system in Brindisi. Instead of boring piece of paper I have fancy laminated credit card. It has holograms and chips in it, so I held my breath as they tested it make sure it worked. They put the card in one end of a machine. I put a finger on the little fingerprint scanner on the other end and machine gave me the green light. Very high tech! The permit is for two years, which is the remaining time on my contract here, so now I can legally stay here until the end with no more visits to the Questura to harass my friend there, knock on wood. I guess I’ll have to marry a beautiful Italian woman to stay longer!
Then I learned at work that we were playing calcio (soccer) on Monday night instead of Thursday. This threw a wrench in my plans but it worked out after all. The match turned into the second best present of the day as we won in good form. After a loss and a tie we were getting little “on each others’ nerves”. Nothing like a good win to make everyone happy again.
After the game I rushed home for the big Juventus vs Napoli match on TV. People filtered in and we had focaccia, cake, and salumi from Norcia to celebrate my birthday and watch the game. I appreciate everyone who was there last night and it was funny as it was almost like the World Cup again. We had a big match on the TV, the food, the cats in a state of panic, and then some of us looking at photos of the past parties on the computer.
It’s a birthday I won’t forget and that’s saying something because there are getting harder to remember!!!! I think I’ve forgotten 31-34. I remember 30 well because Emily put 30 plastic flamingos and a big sign in my front yard. That seems like ages ago!!!!

Monday, November 06, 2006

Norcia


This is the valley that Norcia is in. A nice fertile plain with mountains full of wild pig and truffles!

Cinghiale


Wild boar. This is what makes the salumi from Norcia so gooood.

Norcia!!!

Well I’m back at work after a 5-day weekend. They closed the plant November 1 for All Saints day and then made an extended “ponte” to the weekend. It’s an attempt to save money at the end of the year.
I used this time to go on that trip to Norcia that I cancelled a few weeks ago. My trip started out with a rather uneventful train ride from Brindisi to Rome. The train was almost empty so I didn’t sit near any interesting people. By the time I arrived my neck was hurting from trying to see out the window. It was a beautiful bright sunny day but there was sinister wind blowing in from the North. The whole country has changed seasons in matter of hours. I walked around Rome on Thursday after finding a decent hotel. I think I’m addicted to walking in Rome. I went from the hotel near Termini to St. Peter’s in seemingly no time. The guards were closing the line for the “cupola” right before I got there, so I didn’t get to go up top of St. Peter’s and that’s always one of my favorite things to do in Rome. So I had to be happy with just going inside, but inside St. Peters it seems a lot more areas are roped off. I don’t want to go wherever I want but I was a little disappointed. That night I eat focaccia in a little place near the hotel. The owner and I chatted a little but he seemed preoccupied with whatever was going on outside. The hotel clerk recommended I check on the bus but I was confident there would be plenty of buses to Norcia, but I went to Tiburtina and checked at her recommendation. I was wrong. There was only one bus to Norcia at 7:30 AM and one bus back at 15:30. The bus didn’t go direct so it took 3 hours to get there. Ugh, I had to get up at 5:30 AM (on Thursday) to catch the train and now 6:00 AM (on Friday) to catch a bus. On vacation I like to sleep in, but I was on a mission.
Friday morning I worked like clockwork and I was at the bus station at 7:00 AM waiting with about 3 other people for the bus. Naturally all the other buses arrived, loaded, and started leaving but no bus to Norcia. Finally at 7:25 it arrived and everyone jumped on and off we went. The bus driver was a VERY chatty fellow. He talked constantly to a lady in the front seat. They were talking mainly about energy prices and taxes. Among other things, I was amazed to learn that he had 4 solar panels on his house and she had 5. No wonder they liked to talk about energy prices. At Terni he said we have a 10-minute break and then we’re off for Norcia. So you could imagine my surprise when in 10 minutes we left but with a new bus driver. I missed something there. Also at Terni a little old man got on and sat right behind me. He immediately started up a conversation. He wanted to tell me how the stainless steel they were producing there in Terni is the best in the world. We passed one amazing stone building that was part a company that produces huge steel shafts from what he said. I was a little sorry to see him get off shortly after we left town. Now the bus was almost quiet and the new driver didn’t talk at all. Instead he played with the radio even as the road twisted and turned tighter and tighter. He would be honking before a sharp turn, hitting buttons on the radio and turning all at the same time. You wanted to yell, just drive the bus! Then he stops about 10 km from Norcia, “get off here for Norcia” is basically want he yelled to all 6 of us on the bus. There was another smaller bus waiting and it took us the last bit.
Norcia was almost exactly like I expected. The wall around the town is still completely encircling the historic center and there are only a few buildings outside this wall. Strolling down the main street is amazing. The cold wind brought the smell of wood fires and salumi. Norcia is famous for it’s salumi made from wild pigs and also for truffles. I stopped in the first store I saw, excited to tell anyone about my connection with the town. The butcher was interested and agreed that the Ottaviani’s were an important family in the town. I walked out proud of my heritage and with two nice salumi from Norcia. I saw the monument in town to the fallen soldiers of WWI and WWII. Sure enough there was an Ottaviani, Stanchetti and Carucci. All names I remember from huge holiday parties of the past. I had lunch next door to the monument at a restaurant called “La Locanda del Teatro” (the theater was across the street). I had a lunch based completely on the famous local wild pig and it was good. No fish dishes this far inland! Then I wandered around the town staying in the sun, where it was warm. Luckily, I could wait for the bus in the sun or I would have a cold right now. Finally I have seen my Italian origins. There are a lot of other observations but this is getting long so maybe I’ll make rest another post another day.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Capital City

Ciao from the "La Citta Eterna". I had a long day but I made it all the to Norcia and back. What a bus ride. First we changed bus drivers at Terni and then we changed buses by the side of the road about 10 km from Norcia. The same deal on the way back. I hope to post some photos of the town on Monday, maybe Sunday. It depends on when I get to good old Brindisi. Tomorrow I hope to go up in the cupola of St. Peter's. Ciao for now.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Halloween, Where's the CANDY?

I don't have a pumpkin this year so you'll have to look at my post from two years ago for Halloween jack-o-lantern. This year I see more pumpkins around but still they are for eating and not carving. Also check out the next day when I celebrated All Saints Day with Turibio in 2004. I haven't heard from that crazy kid this year. I wonder what happened to him.
Last year I didn't post on Halloween but I think it was because I was too worried about getting back to USA for my cousin's wedding. I still can't believe I made it.
Tonight there is something going on at all the bars but no costume parties. My mom will confirm that I was never that excited about dressing up for Halloween so I'm not missing that aspect. The only good costume I ever had was in 1999. I was the "millenium bug". I dressed up as an insect with computer parts and big clock hanging around my neck.
I do miss the candy. I'll solve that problem with a quick trip to the store tonight!!

Monday, October 30, 2006

Happy Birthday Teddy


It's Teodoro's birthday and I'm saying it in the blog so everyone knows!! He's the guy in the middle with the yellow and green shirt and baseball hat. Buon Compleanno Teddy!! This photo was taken over the summer after one of the wins in the World Cup. Not the Finals but some other game.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Black Cat in the Sun


This is a photo I took today of the kitten. She's growing fast and I found you need sunlight to get a good photo of black cat. It's getting dark really early these days so my best chance for a photo is on the weekend. Right now Nello is in my lap and Smeagol is climbing my leg. Ahhh, what claws she has.....Go play in the curtains you crazy kids...

Road Work part 2


Look what they did to my street. It was only a few months ago that finished repaving it and now they have destroyed it with that black mark you see in the photo. This new work was filled in very badly so I have no doubt it will be a nice pothole in few weeks.

Friday, October 27, 2006

The good ole days



In this photo you see a piece of history, a reminder of much different time when life was much simpler, more focused and well planned. What am I reflecting upon? I noticed that my pilot’s license was issued on October 28 1990. Sixteen years ago tomorrow. What a time that was. I was 18 years old! I was working my butt off every weekend in Hardees (fast food like McDonalds) to make enough money to take flying lessons and it all culminated with this license. Also in October of 1990 I was just starting my freshman year at the University of Cincinnati. Man how things have changed, but Paul Simon once said, “After changes upon changes we are more or less the same, after changes we are more or less the same”. Where's that from Kent? Mom and Dad can't answer because it would be easy for them.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Light email day

What a boring day so far. I come in and there are no work related emails and just one personal email in my inbox. Now I don’t feel too unloved because there were 19 spam emails to delete. Even for those $^#^* that’s unusually low. I’ll have to check the news on the Internet to see what’s going on.
I need help. My iPod has been diagnosed as terminally ill so I'm drooling over the possibilities. Should I wait and see what comes out next or dive into the biggest monster Apple has available right now? Dare I even think of buying a Microsoft product like the Zune? There’s getting to be so many choices. I don’t feel like shelling out a lot of money this time but I really liked having ALL my music in the car.
Also in the technology department, I'm one step closer to having high speed Internet at home. I know what you’re all thinking. Wasn’t he saying that a month ago? Yes I was. But now I have a note that says a package is waiting for me at the post office. They tried to deliver it yesterday but I was at work (how inconsiderate of me). This package is, I believe, the modem and wireless router from Fastweb. I’m hoping that I can hook it up myself but I think they will need to send out a “tecnico” who will do the installation from what I’ve heard. So I’ll have the equipment but I’ll still be waiting. Still if there is anything I’ve learned in Italy, it’s to be patient. Once I have this I will be surfing 24/7 and I’ll be able to watch and upload YouTube videos, which may not be a good thing.
And last but not least I found out that Giuliano Palma and the Bluebeaters are in concert in Rome on November 16. I would love to go to this but it's on a Thrusday night. I suppose I could try that same train I was supposed to take last weekend. Or maybe go the plane route. I really would like to see them in concert and they don't tour a lot.
Here are the lyrics from one of their Italian songs, Come le viole (means like the violets)

Come le viole

Son tornate le viole quaggiù
Ma non hanno colore per te
Quella calda tenerezza che tu
Portavi nei tuoi occhi
No, non c'è più

Come le viole anche tu
ritornerai
La primavera con te riporterai

Avevi la mia vita
Avevi la mia vita fra le tue braccia
Te ne sei andata non so
Te ne sei andata con chi dai sogni miei
Forse domani chissà tu piangerai
Quando il mio amore lo so tu capirai
Rifioriranno tante primavere

Come le viole anche tu
Ritornerai
Rifioriranno tante primavere
Come le viole anche tu
Ritornerai.

It's about lost love but the song itself is upbeat and fun.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

New Ostuni


Lori wanted the big version of this picture so I'm putting it up. I take so many pictures of Ostuni that I loose track of them. In this one you can see the church is just finishing up it's renovations. It was covered in scaffolding for most of the summer.

The Lonely Fruit Fly

I don’t know why but the other day I had one fruit fly in my bathroom. Maybe this is the result of buying a bunch of bananas at the market on Saturday but it still doesn’t explain why this one fly was in the bathroom. I tried to rationalize it, because the bananas are gone. So I thought, maybe he was on a desperate search for food and while on this search he came across a big mirror in my bathroom. There are only two things on the mind of this dumb insect and that’s food and other fruit flies. I can only assume from his actions with the mirror that this fruit fly was either vain or incredibly lonely. It seemed like he hadn’t seen another fruit fly in days, which is a long time in the life of this poor insect. I made a couple of stabs at killing him before taking a shower but I kept missing and I didn’t like all the fingerprints I was putting on the mirror. I thought “I’ll take a shower and come back and smash this bugger after I get nice and clean”. Sure enough after the shower the little guy was still hard at it trying to get at that other fly. So I took aim and squashed him against the mirror. And that’s the end of the story of the lonely fruit fly. I’m sure there is a lesson in there somewhere….

Monday, October 23, 2006

congrats sis

Well my sister and brother in law have joined the collective. Go see their blog at:
Lori and Kent! Now I get to harass her about not writing often enough. She's lucky though because Kent is always taking good photos.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Video!!

video! This is a link to a video Nello and Smeagol playing. I posted it on You Tube.

Reorganization

As you could tell from my last entry I was getting a little upset with work lately and someone up there heard me. We'll see....

Thursday, October 19, 2006

The Best Laid Plans...fall apart sometimes

Ughhh, my plans for this weekend are falling apart. My plans were:
1. Thursday (today), take a train to Rome tonight and stay there near the train station.
2. Friday, take a bus to Perugia in the morning and stay in Perugia (EUROCHOCOLATE 2006 is in Perugia right NOW!!!)
4. Saturday, go to Norcia in the morning and stay there Saturday night. This is the town of my grandfather's side of the family. I’ve been wanting to see since I arrived in Italy.
6. Sunday, make my way back to Brindisi Sunday.
It was a beautiful plan. It started to fall apart yesterday when the hotel in Norcia said they couldn't honor my reservation. I called around and the town is full (it's not that big so it doesn't take much). So I can't stay in Norcia, which was the most important part to me. Now I'm still at work (waiting for a call from the States) which means I missed the train I was planning to take to Rome tonight. There is another overnight train that leaves later, but it means I would spend two nights on trains out of four and I don't know where I'll be Saturday night at this point. And if I don't get this call today then naturally it will come tomorrow when I'm trying to enjoy myself. I think I'm going to bail on the whole thing. I think going to Perugia would be great but after that I would have to go back to Rome to find a place to stay Saturday night and then take another bus to Norcia just for a few hours on Sunday and then back to Rome to catch another train back to Brindisi. I would be spending the whole 3-day weekend on a train or bus.
I even looked at the other side and thought about driving up there myself. Then I could get away from bus and train schedules and find a place between Perugia and Norcia for Saturday night. Interesting to see that mapquest has Brindisi to Perugia as 9 hours 17 minutes while an Italian program that a friend has says you can go Brindisi to Perugia in 7 hours 1 minute!!! No wonder they drive fast. The program says I can make there in 7 hours!!!!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The Magic Buses!!!

When I wrote my entry on Thursday, I didn’t even realize that Friday was “Friday the 13th”. It’s no big deal here because the number 13 is good luck. I also have a black cat now and guess what, a black cat is considered good luck in Italy. Go Figure!!!
But the big news this weekend is: The new buses are here! Saturday morning I went for my usual trip to the market for veggies, fruit, bread, and meat when I was greeted by these green buses parked all over the center of town. I picked up the one of flyers and it was very interesting news. Brindisi has 15 new buses that run on methane. These “green” buses (literally and environmentally) pollute less, run quieter, and cost less to run. It’s a win, win, win situation. The only question left is “Why didn’t they do it sooner?”
It’s so interesting to see the progress towards the environment being made here. The south is notoriously bad on its environmental record but in the time I’ve been here I’ve seen some good signs. New recycling bins, curbside pickup for some recyclables, and now much better buses. Mindsets still haven’t changed much though. How many people use these recycling bins and why is there still so much litter on the streets and beaches? As soon as the wind kicks up you realize how dirty it still is. Suddenly little tornadoes of trash appear where the wind spirals around buildings. Still I see progress and that’s the important part!!!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

All alone...and it's getting spooky...

Well my mom and dad are on there way back to the good ole United States. I was feeling down about them going back but last night Valiero called to ask me to play soccer tonight and Andrea sent an SMS saying he was organizing a pizza night for Friday, (already –strange to plan so far in advance, must be something big). On top of this I have the Puglia Posse night out Saturday night. So I’m sad that my parents are gone but at least I know I won’t be lacking something to do until at least Sunday. Also I should see the whole family shortly, be it Thanksgiving or Christmas, maybe even both!
My mom didn’t get to see Sicily. Their trip was too short for that! Maybe when we do go the A3 will be done and the drive will be easier. Boy am I an optimist!! The A3…done…maybe I’m not thinking straight since I got up at 4:30 AM to get them to the airport for the 6:10 AM flight. I still can’t believe Alitalia has a flight that early. No wonder they’re loosing money. You have to pay an Italian pilot a lot to get up and fly that early!!! I thought only bakers and fisherman work that early!!
The town was strangely quiet in the predawn hours this morning. When I was walking from my garage to the apartment I felt a slight breeze but everything was so still. Even the trees and flowers didn’t move. There was also a wispy hint of fog in the air. All I needed was some scary music and a howling wolf for a horror movie. I must have Halloween on my mind….

Monday, October 09, 2006

Santa Maria di Leuca


This is a picture from Sunday with the parents. We started out with a visit to Otranto and then took the road from Otranto along the coast to Santa Maria di Leuca. I call this drive the "mini Amalfi coast". The road is slow going with amazing cliffs down to the sea. At the end you arrive at this monastery. This is at the very tip of the heel of Italy. There is a cafe just off to the left of this photo. We had a very relaxing lunch there and soaked in the sun.

With the 'rents


This is a photo from Saturday. I hope Mom doesn't get mad at me for for putting her in the blog. I think she's pretty small in the photo so you can't tell that her hair's getting blown around. It was windy all weekend! We had a snack here by this small beach on the way home from Polignano a Mare. The water is still warm and some people were going in. That would be fun but you would be freezing getting out in that wind!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Change is good?

Trying out a change. I seem to have lost some things and others aren't where I want them!! I should have left it alone! Don't go to Blogger Beta just yet!

Things are getting into place now. I'm much happier with what I can do now but there are a few things that I want to screw with. Feel free to let me know what you think.

Brindisi in the News

Wow, did you see the news? We have terrorists right here in Brindisi. Well the story has changed a little. When we first heard about the plane it was this: Terrorists had hijacked a plane and wanted to fly it to Rome “as a message to the Pope”.
Now it turns out that it was just one guy (he implied he had an accomplice to make sure his plan worked) who was seeking asylum in Italy. He’s actually a convert to Christianity and trying to get out of serving in the Turkish Army, which as we know gets you killed in Turkey. So last night it was all concerns of safety of the Pope and relations between Muslims and Christians when really it’s just one kid scared to go back to Turkey.
Side note: The English people on BBC better stop butchering the pronunciation of Brindisi. It’s not brenDESE. It’s BRENdese

Today it’s another beautiful day. Why am I happy? Because Gina is going to clean my apartment this afternoon. This is going to save me a lot of time and concern. After she gets done with my place my mom shouldn’t have a problem with her allergies when she gets here Friday. With the new kitten things have been busy around the house. Nello is now playing nicely with Smigol.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Sunday Lunch

So Saturday night Andrea said lets go eat in a little place he knows in the country. That's always a good idea in my book, so I was in, immediately.



This is the classic "in the car picture" Giulio is driving, Mariaellena on camera, Francesco and I in the back.



The biker shot. Andrea and Viviana are on the Harley and Marco is on the Ducati. It was a beautiful day to be out on a motocycle.



You know this is a restaurant www.ottavapiccola.com and not someone's house because of the sign. Most people don't have an "ingresso" sign at their front door. We arrived around 2:00 and they were ready for us. The menu is already decided for you. You just sit down and they start serving. There is no way you could do that in the States.

The first dish was actually two different dishes of pasta. Wait a minute; I took a picture of the menu. It was:

Antipasti della Masseria

Primi: Laganori con il Ragu`, Cavatelli con Pancetta e Fagioli

Secondo: Grigliata Mista di Agnello, Salsciccia, Bottbege, e Gnummaredde

Contorni: Insalata e Patate al Forno

Torta della Masseria


After the meal when went on a “modified” passeggiata. Modified because we went to this grassy field by the sea and laid down.


This spot is perfect for throwing Frisbee. I’ve been searching for a place like this and couldn’t figure out why it was here. It turns out that it’s a landing strip for Ultralight aircraft. We found this out when a guy with a parachute and fan strapped to his back took off. Later, when he came back the kids playing soccer had to get out of his way. With the work the Flying Club must put into this field I can’t believe they let people hang out on their grass runway.

To put it simply, the day was one of those that remind how nice it is to live in Italy with friends, good food, and always something new to around the corner.

Update on Nello's Friend




Smigol (the name is temporary still) is doing great. He's been well fed and cleaned. Nello just started to actually play with him Saturday night. This morning I was getting worried because Nello was getting a little rough.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Nello's friend?



What do you think? Have we found a friend for my cat Nello? This poor kitten looks to be about 3 weeks old. Andrea found him in the sea yesterday. He and Mariellena naturally thought of me to help nurse him back to health. I'm such a soft touch this kitten is now temporarily calling my place home. It appears the recent storms washed him down the sewer until he reached the sea (from the smell of him). Anyway he starting eating and seems to be in much better great condition this morning.
His temporary name is "Smeagol" after the character in The Lord of the Rings.
Nello has no idea what to think of this "thing". He has been studying it though.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Reflection


Yes I took this while driving. I was going slow. I need to go back to this spot. That pine tree just towers over everything else and looks so strong and solitary against the sunset.

Spiritoso



The pizza from last night. A different flavor in every slice was the selling point. I have to say I liked it even with yellow peppers on one part (it's a really small part).

A good day

Yesterday was a pretty good day. There was no one thing that made it great but a lot of little things. Mainly it was after work that things were so good so I’ll start there. I went to the gym to work out. The usual crowd was there and I was happy because I remembered the phrase that Umberto taught me on Monday. The phrase is “Ti puzza la fatia”. This is Brindisi dialect and not real Italian so don’t bother looking it up. Literally it would mean, “You smell of fatigue”. Nicely put it something like “Not working too hard are we?” It started as a joke in the gym when I was waiting to use a specific machine. Now we decided to make a phrase in local dialect part of the gym routine. A new phrase for every day I’m in the gym. Last night he went deeper into dialect. “Osci non ti sta` ncodda`”. Now first we translate this into Italian “Oggi non ti sta una cosa”. Now in English “Today, you don’t feel like doing a thing.” This is very similar to the first phrase joking about how you’re not working hard. Today I realized if I change the “ti” to “mi” then I could say, “Today, I don’t feel like doing anything” (Osci non mi sta` ncodda`”).
Back to yesterday. On the way out of the gym I ran into Monica and we talked for a short time. She always has a plan for something to get her out of town. Classes in Venice, work in Spain. She should realize that going out with me would be the best plan but I’ve gotten over that a long time ago. She didn’t seem to have a new plan just yet. It was funny because everyone was stopping to talk to her because no one has seen her in a while. It made having a conversation difficult so I resumed my walk home and she tried to continue her way into town. Still it's always fun to run into someone you haven't seen in a while.
About 50 feet up the road I ran into Alberta my neighbor talking to a pharmacist outside his store. She said that Nello was watching her work on the computer about a half hour ago. Nello has learned if he gets up on the balcony railing and goes all the way to one corner then he can see into Alberta’s apartment. It worries me because he could probably jump from the railing in her window if he wanted to and the window was open. Plus, he really seems to like her so he would do it. She said she opened the window and yelled at him to get down and he did. But we all know that sort of tactic will only work a few more times and then he’ll ignore it when he realizes she can’t stop him. Still I think she likes having him watching and it’s just funny to think of his curiosity in everything around him.
Further along on my way back I stopped to get a pizza at THE pizza place. It was only around 8:15 PM so almost no one was there. I showed off my new phrases and they almost split a gut laughing so hard. They really liked hearing it and offered many new phrases but without writing them down I’m at loss to remember them. This pizzeria could be the heart of Brindisi’s dialect as it used to be “La Brindisina” (Now it’s “La Antica Sapore”) and they had the lyrics to a song on the menu that was so deep in dialect I could only find a few words in a dictionary. I didn’t know what I wanted for dinner and the old man (I forget his name) offered to make the “Spiritoso”. It’s a pizza with a different flavor in every slice. Hmmm, I don’t remember seeing that on the menu. He carefully placed toppings to make about 8 different pizzas on this one. It was perfect, except for the part with yellow peppers but I ate around them. I have a picture of the pizza that I’ll put up.
The day couldn’t be perfect though because I arrived home just in time to watch the Inter –Bayern Monaco game. The game was not good at all. Inter lost 0-2 and two Inter players were sent off with red cards.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Tiger Moth

My package arrived this morning. Bad news. It is 96 kg (211 lb). It’s full and it’s in a huge wooden box that will not fit in any way in my car. So what is IT?
This is the story…
Some months ago a coworker and friend in England sent me an email saying a friend of his is flying his own plane from England to South Africa. Ok, how does that involve me? Well getting across Europe is pretty easy as there are plenty of places to land but after Brindisi the trip starts to get a little tricky. Like an ancient explorer he has to be completely ready to enter a new world before heading across the Mediterranean Sea and then across the Sahara Desert. To cross these two things he needs to add a long-range fuel tank to his plane and he plans on doing that here. The mystery package is this long-range fuel tank and now it’s here waiting for him and his plane. So on Thursday he will arrive, install the tank on his plane, and then continue on his incredible journey. I’m not sure how long he will be here. I guess it depends on the weather. I’m in awe of this man that I have never met and what he’s doing. He is a modern day explorer and having an experience that can be done no other way. Imagine his path from England across France, over the snow-covered Alps, down Italy, over the Med, then into green lushness of Tunisia that will quickly lead to miles and miles of desert. Then he will emerge from the desert to cross jungles, savannah, and all the beauty of Africa not from Land Rover or on a TV set.
The thing that excites me the most is the plane. He’s coming here in a Tiger Moth. For those in the aviation circles you don’t have to say another word. This is a famous plane built by the thousands to train pilots between WWI and WWII. That’s right this plane is almost as old as aviation itself. It’s a classic and the kind of thing you would expect to see in museum depicting life in the 1930s. It immediately conjures up imagines of pilots in a flowing white silk scarf and goggles, black and white movies, Duke Ellington, Clark Gable and the list goes on and on!
It puts all kinds of new ideas in my head for what I could do in retirement. What an adventure! On top of all this my coworker in England said he has already flown the plane from England to Australia.
To put it simply I can’t wait to meet this guy and his plane.

Monday, September 25, 2006

We lost...che peccato!

So Brett and the Americans lost over the weekend. They didn't even come close. I’ll have to give him some advice from the School of Hard Knocks, again! I couldn’t watch it because nobody in Italy cares about it, even though it was Europe vs. the USA. The sports channels would rather show women’s rhythmic gymnastics, or whatever that’s called, then golf. I get 4 sports channels but two always have soccer or news about soccer so there is two channels for all the other stuff in the world. You would not believe how many times I’ve seen Monster Truck Rallies on one of those channels. Do we even still have those in the US? Anyway for 2 years we have to hang our head in shame because we Americans are not good in team golf. Golf a sport that everyone thinks of as a “team sport”.
Also my package hasn’t arrived yet, but I have found out that it is not 90 kg. More like 9 kg and it should arrive today. I guess everyone is not nearly excited about it like I am. I thought you would be a little more curious. Marco was only one NOT allowed to guess and he guessed anyway. I like his guess though because I had forgotten all about his bowling ball.
And the Bengals win against the Steelers, 3-0!! It was payback for last year. I don’t care what the players are saying.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Ryder Cup and the Mystery Package

YEAAAHHH it’s Ryder Cup time. USA! USA! USA! I know what you’re thinking, “Since when do you give a hill of beans about golf?” It’s true I’ve only thought of golf as a sleep aid for Saturday afternoon. Have you ever laid on the couch and listened to golf on TV? The announcers are talking in those soft soothing voices and the there’s absolutely nothing going on. There’s an occasional swing, then some sky pictures, and then ball landing on another patch of green grass. I guarantee you’ll be asleep faster than my mom listening to the Reds on the radio.
So anyway the reason I’m watching the Ryder Cup this weekend is because my old neighbor Brett Wetterich is on the team. I can’t believe that the same person I used to beat up is now hanging out with Tiger Woods and Tom Lehman. Don’t get me wrong; I wasn’t a bully growing up, far from it!! In fact, Brett was the only kid I think I ever fought more than once. He always had it coming because he would tease our dog and I’m sure he stole our soccer ball at least once. How about that? That dog-teasing thief is now representing America in the Ryder Cup. He better win, OR ELSE…
Ok here’s a mystery for you. I have a package coming to me either tomorrow or Monday. It’s a 1-meter (3.2 ft) square box and weighs 90 kg (198 lbs). I hope the delivery company is wrong about the weight. I could understand if the package is 90 kgs FULL but it should be sent EMPTY (big hint). This package is not for me. A friend who I have never met is sending it to me from England so he can pick it up when he gets here. What in the world could this be? I’ll give you another hint: it has something to do with either airplanes or animals. I can’t wait until he arrives, then I can tell you the whole story and it’ll all make sense. Marco you can’t guess because I told you what it is.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

My house


Two pictures of my house back in Indianapolis. The poor thing is empty right now because my friends moved out. It's scary to think they have lived in the house for 3 years, which is longer than me. Anyway I put these photos up because I'm told there are stacks of shingles in the back yard so it's finally going to get it's new roof. Hey, it's one less thing I have to worry about.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Peaches and Fastweb

Well it’s Monday but I’m in a better mood then Friday. The first thing is the weekend was good for sleeping as it rained Saturday morning and stayed cool all weekend (but still a little humid). It also rained a little Saturday night but nothing like the floods they are having up north. I could never live in Northern Italy, as it seems like they are always having floods, or fog, or snow.
I didn’t do much but in between the showers I did get some incredible peaches at the farmer’s market. I thought the season was over but the “usual guy” had some monster peaches. They were a little more expensive than the others places but I bought 4 because I trust him. They are good. If they weren’t so big I would have eaten all of them Saturday but I’m having just one a day in the morning. There’s no need to go crazy.
Mom, did I mention that now I eat peaches and pears? I’m not sure why but growing up I hated them but this summer people would bring sliced up beaches and pears to the beach and I liked them and now I buy them all the time. But I STILL hate green peppers. That will never change!
Also at the market I see that prickly pear fruit at coming into season, I’m not a big fan but they are something different and they’ll be really cheap soon. Grapes are dirt-cheap right now. They’re everywhere and I hear Ottavio is not hanging out with us in the evening because he’s breaking his back in the fields collecting grapes.
Something completely different is this weekend a sign appeared on the door to my building now that says “Fastweb” now covers my apartment. Fastweb is alternative to TelecomItalia and it has cable television, Internet access, and phone access all in one package. I’ve already been drooling at the idea of having an ASDL line at home and new international TV channels. I’ll probably just get phone and Internet access deal because I don’t need more channels on TV (we all know that more TV channels always sounds better, but in reality!!!). Still I want to go to the store and find out the details before I get too excited.
I also had a laugh this morning because I read an article where the BBC had their car (a Land Rover full of television equipment) stolen in Ostuni. They were here to do a story on Puglian food and couldn’t finish it. The car was stolen on Sept 7th and turned up today with most of the equipment still in it. Just when you think Puglia is making strides to be the next Tuscany…
Also I have to mention that the Bengals beat the Browns. It’s always good to here that!!! The Bengals 2-0.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Leave me alone!!!

I feel uncomfortable and in a very bad mood. It seems that a combination of things have me in this very bad mood right now. Most importantly is the fact that I didn’t sleep well last night. The cat was making a lot a noise and someone’s stupid door kept slamming in the wind all night. I finally checked this morning and it was my stupid door to the balcony that was slamming and Nello was probably crying to tell me to get up and close it.
Today it has been very overcast and VERY humid all day. The office is hot and I’m sweating just sitting here at the desk. My legs ache from playing basketball last night and I can’t find a comfortable position to sit. I also feel bad because last night I almost put Mino in the hospital while we were playing basketball. He came driving down the lane and at the last second my reflexes said, “Let’s not take the charge” so I tried to turn out of the way but it was too late and he went right into my shoulder as I turned. Both of us are skinny and boney so it was a hard impact and he definitely got the worst of it. I barely felt it so I guess going to the gym paid off. I think something similar happened with him when we played soccer one time. He’s going to think I’m out to get him.
So I’m sweaty, tired, uncomfortable, and I’m accidentally beating up my friends. I’ll be going home soon, so My mood should pick up then and it looks like it’s going to rain today and tomorrow so it will be good sleeping weather. But until I've had some sleep, leave me alone!!!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Grand Albergo Internazionale



This picture shows another area that would be car free. The Grand Albergo Internazionale (the nicest hotel in town) is in the middle and the Windsurf (restuarant) is to your left and the Vertigo is to your right. Eating at the Windsurf outside is nicer without the cars but people would still have to be able to drive to the Hotel. It's the only way to get there. Also the old sailboat in the middle is the "Big Nose" I love that name for a boat.

Town Improvements



A story about last night: I called Teddy and Allassandra to see what they were doing and they were on their way into town so they picked me up and we went and had a gelato at the Vertigo. The strange thing is that at 10:30 PM on a Monday the road along the sea was closed. Now the Police have been blocking this street almost every night July and August to allow people to stroll along without the noise and fumes of cars. It’s been really nice. I just thought that is was strange that on a Monday night in September it was still in force. The traffic last night was very light so the need to block the street didn’t seem necessary. We parked and had our gelatos and by the time we were leaving the street was open again (around midnight).
I hear rumors that they are going to close the road for good one of these days and make the area into a piazza. It really would make walking around in Brindisi nicer but it would also add to the headaches of people trying to park in town. The picture above shows the area that would be closed to cars. From the sea to first buildings could all be a piazza.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Fall, but no colors

The weather this weekend has been very nice. Friday at work it was hot, mainly because there was no wind. A good breeze kicked up yesterday and now it's almost perfect here. So Fall is here but we have no changing of the leaves, palm trees are funny like that. The thing I notice is how early the sun is going down. It's very strange.
Yesterday I was going to go to an airshow in Otranto. I wasn't too excited because my big old film camera was broken. It has a monster lens that allows you to zoom in and get good photos of things like planes that would be a dot on my digital camera. I also loved this monster lens for getting photos of animals. I took it to a shop a long time ago and they said just to look at it would cost so much that it's probably not worth it. I bought the camera and the lens used so I agreed and went off into digital world.
Yesterday I thought, wait a minute, if this thing is worthless then why not take it apart (I think that is the engineer's code). I started taking out screws and parts. I noticed something strange. This one screw in the lens didn't turn. I played around with all the other screws. Then it seemed to click into place and the screw turned. To make a long story short the screw that wasn't turning was actually what the camera body uses to focus the lens. The camera coudn't try to focus because that screw had been knocked out of place (did I mentioned I dropped the camera way back). So I put everything back together and it works. Now it's not perfect because I'm sure some dirt and dust probably got into the camera but now I'm excited to get the big film camera out again.
Then as I was playing around with it I was amazed at how much that old camera weighs. The lens alone probaby weighs three times my digital camera. I'll let you know how it goes but you'll have to wait. There is no place to get film developed on Sunday and then I'll have to scan the photo in at work and then I can post it.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

My baby...



I just received an email that's good and bad news. It looks like I get to keep my baby for another 2 years. By “my baby” I mean my car, a silver Alfa Romeo 147, that’s pictured above. Don’t be fooled by the photo, I’m showing it’s good side. The passenger side is where all the scratches and dents are.
It’s mixed news to me because I didn’t like the idea of getting a Ford Focus (my only option), but I would love to have a 4-door car. Also I fear the hassle of changing cars. Now I know where to go to get this one fixed. I have worked through all the “bugs”. Then again, getting the 2 door Alfa was huge mistake. It’s hard to get into the back seat and it’s impossible to open the doors without hitting another car in a parking lot.
In related news I saw that Alfa Romeo will be selling cars in the US again in 2009!!

Monday, September 04, 2006

End of Summer

And so it’s now September and the summer is over. Sunday was a beautiful day at the beach but there were still only half the people that would normally be there. Also it gets dark too early to go after work so my next chance won’t be until at least Saturday.

This weekend was also the big festival in town to celebrate the two patron saints of Brindisi, San Teodoro d’Amasea and San Lorenzo da Brindisi. I think the fireworks were bigger and better than last year. I really noticed a difference. I committed the photographer’s greatest sin. I showed up and had a perfect spot turned on the camera and the little battery light comes on. Perfect planning except for the simplest thing. I guess I don’t really need any more pictures of fireworks. This show reminds me that the big Labor Fireworks in Cincinnati were last night. The show here was nowhere near that big.

Every saint’s festival seems to have a new trivial item that is being sold everywhere. This year it was two magnetic balls that when you toss them up in the air they make an annoying sound like a bug hitting a bug zapper. The magnets hold the balls together and they rub on each other to make the annoying sound. Vendors were everywhere and now I’m sure I will hear them everywhere until the kids loose one of the two magnets.

Some things never change though, I was happy to see THE great salesman was back. This guy spends all night selling dishes. He’s incredible. You have to admire his ability in every way. He demonstrates the durability of the dishes by slamming them on the table from time to time. He can stack a huge set of plates in one hand in a matter of seconds. Then he carries them around like it’s nothing. I’ve seen circus performers that didn’t have this balance and control. All this and then at the end he gives you a ridiculous low price. 10 euro for all 25 pieces, aspetta!!!! 5!!! Solo 5 EURO!!!

Monday, August 28, 2006

I did it!!!

This week marks the 3rd Anniversary of my move to Italy (August 29th). This is amazing because there has been soooo many times that I thought I would never make it this long. Why is it a surprise that I’m still here? The reasons can be grouped in two general categories, a big problem at work or being homesick. Somehow I made it through and now I start what is supposed to be another 2 years here. Let’s see how that goes.
I still think about how many phases I’ve gone through. The first phase was exploring Italy. Taking little trips whenever I could around Puglia and random trips to other large towns up North. Then there was the time spent with Paola and doing little else. Now I’m in a phase where I’m hanging out in Brindisi almost exclusively and with the same people almost all the time. It’s definitely strange. I’m still learning about them and they are still learning new things about me. Who would have thunk that it would take 2.5 years of being here that I would then melt in and be making friends? I expected it to be like this after 6 months. Expectations can be way to high when you move someplace new.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Giuliano Palma and the Bluebeaters

The title is the latest in my addition to my music collection. I've heard them several times at parties here and I finally went out and bought the CD Long Playing. It's hilarious. Definitely a good time band. It is officially ska/regggae. They play mainly American songs and a few in Italian. The songs range from the theme to the Munsters to Jump. Did you ever want to hear a reggae version of Van Halen? The most popular with the locals here is their version of "Back on the Chain Gang".

Their website is http://www.myspace.com/thebluebeaters.

So this is the lastest in the list of Zucchero and Jovanotti.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Beach Shot


This is a random shot at the end of the day at the beach. The night before the sunset was great so I brought my camera the next day and, of course, the sunset was boring. I took this picture anyway. Also, this is when everyone is almost gone and good time to break out the Frisbee or play some beach soccer.

Pomodori!!!!


It's tomatoe time. Here we have Nello checking out the tomatoes I bought a few days ago. It was only 1 euro for 3 kilos which is around 6 pounds of tomatoes. I turned most of them into sauce and the others I've been eating raw with cheese or cucumbers or some type of salad. I couldn't resist the bargain.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Last shot for Ferragosto



This is last shot. I know one of the two people is Mariellena but I don't know who the other person was out there. Several people went in and only one was involuntary. It was a little to cold for me. After this shot it was time to go and get some sleep before heading out to the beach this afternoon. I got home at around 6:30 AM and slept for a few hours then when out to the beach this afternoon. It's a rough life.

Sunrise on the 15th



How's this for a cool artist shot. You have to click on it and get it bigger to really enjoy it. The fire is still going and the band is still playing.
Blogger is really getting on my nerves right now. I have a few other photos I want to put up but it keeps saying the site not there or it gets to the end of uploading the photo and does nothing. If I could though Blogger out the window I would right now.

Ferragosto on the beach



This is a shot with the flash on and me it. I have the time on this photo at 4:10 AM I think that's about when I called Mom and also about the time we stopped throwing frisbee. Lori the light up disc was a huge hit. At times we would have about 12 people in a big circle. I was getting upset because I couldn't get the disc enough. The disc did finally go in the sea but I dried it out and it's working fine again.

Ferragosto at the Beach



This year I did THE southern Italian thing and spent the night of Ferragosto on the beach (but sleeping is the norm). Unlike the other sleeping groups we sang (the band was 3 bongo drums, a diggerido (sp) and a guitar) talked, drank, and ate all night. There must have been about 30 in the group and we had have been a terrible bother to those around us.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

FERIE!!! BOH!

My vacation so far… The weather is being a big son of a ****. It’s been cloudy or raining for 3 days. The weekend was completely beach free. On the plus side it did cool off. It was so cool that yesterday morning Nello jumped into my lap the first chance he had. Last night I wore shoes instead of sandals. Only 2 great days on the beach so far!
The one highlight was going to the Sagra te lu Purrrpu. The picture of the bottle of wine I bought is below. It was a little scary driving home. I was just into Brindisi (at around 3:00AM) and the Carbinieri appear out of nowhere and pulled me over. They asked for my license. They looked at my license for 2 seconds and said nevermind, ciao. I was really lucky.
I’ve given up going somewhere. I thought of Albania but I just saw in the paper that there are thousands of Albanians trying to go home for August. The port in Ancona was closed and they all went down to Bari and there aren’t enough boats for them so they will probably be arriving here soon. Also Airone cancelled some flights and left tons of people stranded at the airport. I even thought about going to England and look what’s happened there this morning. It's like a trip for me is not meant to be. The only mode of transport that seems to be reliable and not overwhelmed right now is the train (I won't even mention the highways here right now). Maybe I’ll take the train up north or I’ll just hang out here and go to concerts and the beach when it doesn’t rain.
Oh and the match fixing scandal in Italian Soccer has not ended yet. The season is going to start 2 weeks late because the teams are still fighting their penalties in court. They say the season will start September 9th. We’ll see.