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!