Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Life in the Slow Lane...

I can’t put my finger on it but life seems to be moving slowly lately, for instance, its STILL January. How can that be? It seems ages ago when I arrived back in Brindisi after the holidays and all this putanatta in 2008 makes it seem like it’s been 2008 for two months. I’ve been cursing 2008 a little because a few lousy things have happened in this first month of the year. I can’t complain too much because so far every time something comes up that sounds really bad it turns out to be much better then first reported. For instance when I first arrived in Brindisi someone told me that the Goldoni Pub, which I told you about in November, had been closed down by the Guardia di Finanza. This is a common occurrence but I was upset because my friend Ottavio had spent 2 years working on that pub. Well the reports proved false as I stopped in a few days later and he wasn’t closed. There were some “concerns” about his stage and the lights but it was resolved. Basically he couldn’t have a bunch of stage lights. There have been other things like that but I don’t feel like going into details.
I did go out to the beach for a photo trip on Saturday so I guess I could should you a few of those photos… It was REALLY windy and the sea was rough on Saturday as you see in the photos. It’s been like that lately though one day REALLY windy and the next day calm.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Italy in Crisis???

Nah, they’re just changing the whole government, again and at a really bad time for the economy. You see Berlusconi was the first Prime Minister to actually serve the whole entire 5-year term since WWII. And he’s convinced he’s the only one that can do that. To prove this Berlusconi has spent the last 20 months constantly trying every trick to get the Prodi government thrown out of power. It seemed like every time something didn’t go well Berli would be on TV saying the Prodi government needs to “go home.” I really thought it was funny when Berli said, “If Prodi can’t solve the trash crisis in Naples then his government needs to go home.” We should ask Berli what he did to solve the trash crisis in the 5 years he was in power; by the way the trash crisis in Naples has been a crisis for 15 years now. Well yesterday Berli won. Prodi lost his vote of confidence in the Senate and now the government is in a state of limbo until the President decides what to do next. This is the only time the President does anything by the way. The most likely thing is new elections. That’s right, after only 20 months, another election.
In case you didn’t follow how this could happen, good for you. I’ll briefly sum it up. The bottom line is that a member of Udeur party (the Udeur Party holds 3 seats in the over 300 seat Senate) is under investigation for corruption and fraud. The Party is upset that the Prodi government didn’t “support” them against the investigation so they switched sides and are now against Prodi. These 3 little seats in the Senate are enough to stop Prodi from getting any bills through the Senate. They called a vote of confidence to see if it’s even worthwhile to discuss bills if they are going to be voted down. The confidence vote last night basically said that anything Prodi brings to the Senate would be voted down. So we need a new government that has a majority and can get bills completed.
You want to hear the really funny part. Yesterday in the Senate they were about to vote and one of the 3 Udeur Senators decided he was going to vote with Prodi because he wanted the government to stay and continue. The other Udeur Senator went nuts verbally assaulting his fellow party member. Some accounts say he even spit on him before he was escorted out (YouTube should have video proof under “Tommaso Barbato” and “sputo” by now!). The Udeur Senator that changed his mind fainted and had to be carried out under a barrage of insults from other Senators. The 3rd Udeur Senator, oh yeah, he wasn’t even there and he’s the one under investigation too. Hmmm. I like this quote from the spitter “Questo Paese non risorgerà mai se ci sarà gente di merda a rappresentarlo” (In English that's something like: “This country will never rise again if there are people of shit to represent it”). What a nice thing to say about your fellow party member. There are many other subplots and wicked tales that make it almost impossible to find the truth. Did the Prodi government buy the one Senator’s vote? Did Berli buy the Udeur Party’s support? Are they all bunch of overpaid, power-hungry idiots incapable of doing anything for the good of the country?!!!!
On the plus side Beppe Grillo is getting ready for a new election. Will his Civic Lists make an impact? He’s asking that no CONVICTED criminals be allowed in Parliament. I won’t even touch the fact that they were just about to pass a law that changes how Italian elections are done. Stay tuned…

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


I may be dreaming but here’s the deal. I’ll let you in on it. When the dollar started to go up Monday (it has since gone…never mind) my curiosity was peaked and I went online looking at real estate sites here in Brindisi. I came across one particular property that interested me. The funny thing is that it is right across the street from where I am now. So what are the details?
It’s a 3 bedroom 2 bath apartment just like the place I’m renting now but a little smaller. I really would like a 2 bedroom 1 bath but this apartment may be easier to resell in the future.

Here’s the big good point. It has a huge terrace. I debated back and forth on weather I would like to live in the country or the city. I’ve decided that in the city would be better but only with a large terrace that gets plenty of sun. I could make it into a little garden. I envision a tranquil garden oasis in the city. This place could be it. Living in the country would be nice too but I love not NEEDING my car to go everywhere. I love my current location where I can walk to work. This place is like my current apartment only with a big terrace.

It’s on the top floor (the 7th floor in this case) of the building. One of the bad things about my current apartment is the street noise. I would hope this place is high enough that the street noises are less of a problem. The building across from it is not very tall so the noise should disperse whereas in my place the noise is kind of channeled or bounced between buildings. Also a majority of this apartment faces Via Appia whereas my apartment faces more the main road Via Bastioni San Giorgio (but it still doesn’t have the address “Via Appia”, which would have been another plus in my book, damn).

Some of the downsides…
The 7th floor, ouch, that’s high, so I need to make sure the elevator works all the time. I would still use the stairs a lot like I do now but if I have luggage or groceries and I need the elevator then it better work. A friend of mine, Andrea lives in the building so I need to ask him about it. The outside of the building looks like crap. It has chipping concrete and the first floor offices have been empty forever. Is this building kept in decent shape or about to collapse? A possible big problem is that there is no mention of a garage. I know there is an underground garage under the building and USUALLY each apartment has one garage but that probably isn’t the case here because it’s not stated in the ads. No garage is really bad because I can’t leave my car on the street and there’s no place to park, legally that is…
The price is pretty good for Brindisi but it’s still really high for me (with the exchange rate). Will the owner raise the price if he hears a rich American is interested in it? How much will I get when I start renting my house again? And when will that be? OF course I’m just dreamin’ so lets say I get the apartment, put a few solar panels on the roof and make a calm, beautiful garden with a hot tub, yeah, hot tub. All with everything still within walking distance....

Monday, January 21, 2008

For Pete's sake....

I don’t use that phrase normally but today I am. Things are a little ridiculous at work right now. I think I mentioned some time ago that my coworkers are not satisfied with the food served in the cafeteria. There was a survey done and nothing seems to have changed. Come to think of it, I never saw the results of that survey. Hmmm… Fast-forward to Friday of last week when the workers took actions into their own hands and did what Italians LOVE to do. They went on strike against the cafeteria. At lunchtime on Friday, instead of going to eat in the cafeteria they hung around outside it making a lot of noise. Refusing to eat in the cafeteria and not letting anyone else go in. I waited until most of them went back to work and then went in and ate. There was still two guys hanging around asking us “nicely” not to go in but I did anyway. There was even a security guard in front of the cafeteria making sure that if someone wanted to go in they could. This striking business is out of control and if I don’t agree with their position then I have every right to go in there and eat. A strike would be necessary if the food was not eatable or if there were health concerns, but the food is fine. I have noticed a slight decline in the quality over the years (I’m sure to Italians this decline probably seems like the end of the world). But the bottom line is that food is getting more expensive and I’m sure the cafeteria is just getting by on the same budget they have always had. I would be taking my complaints to the person here at work that is in charge of the cafeteria. This striking business is just used way too often. Anyway, today I’m having a panino from a little store outside of work because they say I shouldn’t go in to the cafeteria again during this strike. This is so ridiculous. Do they really think they will get better food by striking? Anyway I would love to have a hot meal for lunch today but instead I’ve caved in and I’m a cold panino. Their big statement is that I’ll benefit from this strike in the long run. What happens if the strike doesn’t work?
Also there are no photos today as the Vodafone network is on the blink. It’s really slow. I switched my Vodafone Connect Card from 3G to GPRS just to get a connection that stays connected! I wonder if that new fancy new “Internet Key” that they show on TV is having this problem. Maybe it’s causing it!!!

To quote Sheryl Crow, “Every day is winding road…”

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Focara di Novoli part 2

For the story of the Focara click on this: my write up on the Focara last year. This year I'll just give you some photos.

There's always a ton of lights for these festivals. This one I'm taking trying to get the church in the photo. If you look closely you'll see it.

This one is looking right down the heart of the lights. There's noone around because the fireworks just went off way down after the end of the lights. In a few minutes the street was packed with people heading against us. We were salmon swimming upstream until we arrived at the fire. Don't arrive just late. Arrive really late or early!

I don't remember this from last year. These wooden buckets are filled with anchovies in some strange yellow paste. The white bucket has what I think is sardines. I knew I should have taken a picture of the names because now I don't know, Marco auitemi, ti prego!!

Another photo of the yellow fish. I didn't try it. Sorry, but I had a panino of questionable meat. I didn't want to add fish to that equation.

The normal vendor you see at these festivals. Lots of nuts and dried stuff.

Another one. How much nuts and dried stuff do Italians use? He also had olives, figs, and other things....I'm always amazed at the number of people selling almost the same things.

Here we are sneaking a peak in a local restaurant. This place was FULL of smoke. There must have been a problem with their wood fired oven. It was a sweet smelling smoke but thick.

Monday, January 14, 2008

I'll have a scontrino with that....

There was an interesting article in the paper this weekend. It said that 70% of stores in Italy don’t issue a proper receipt all the time (highest was 84% in Campania and lowest was 45% in Umbria). What does this mean? Well in Italy there is a 20% VAT or IVA or sales tax, whatever it's called. One of the down sides of many small stores is that it’s hard for the government to know what they are selling. So if a store doesn’t issue a receipt then the government doesn’t know about the transaction and doesn’t get the VAT. Instead the storeowner gets it. This upsets me because it’s plain and simple tax evasion, cheating, stealing, or whatever else you want to call it. I hate giving the government my money too but if all these stores are cheating the government then “they” still get their money from somewhere and that’s me because I honestly report all my income, so the government takes more from me. I'm getting hit twice because I paid the VAT that the government didn’t receive and my income taxes. It brings about a vicious circle. People cheat the system so the government raises the taxes to get the money they want. So more people cheat because there’s more to gain by cheating. In the big business capitalist society of the USA people still cheat but it isn’t as obvious and widespread, but of course I could be wrong. Well at least I'm not getting hit twice, I think.
This brings me to a second point that these people then have no right to criticize the state of Italian hospitals and schools. If you’re a café owner and you don’t give everyone a receipt and short change the government then how to you expect them to keep your schools and hospitals clean and new? I love shopping at these little stores, as it just feels right. It’s what you imagine when you think of Italy, but like all good things it has a down side too. I think just about EVERY store I’ve shopped at has at some point not given me a receipt. It happens more when they know you because they know you’re not from the Guardia di Finanza. The GdiF is government’s answer to finding all these lying and cheating stores (another expense I pay for!) All of this is really funny when you realize that I could get in trouble for leaving a store without a receipt. So I'll ask for a scontrino and they will give me a double take and wonder what I'm up to. Just a little Monday morning rant. Maybe I’m too idealistic because I think everyone will do the right thing and we’ll get along, blah, blah, blah…
Well at least I put up a photo of the pretty spring like flowers we have already. Along with this I had two mosquitos in my apartment last night! I swear they hang out by my door waiting for me. Maybe that's why I'm in a whiny mood...

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Ok, Ok, Something new...

It's just that there isn't much to write about these days. After La Befana the days are pretty boring. This week we have the Focara at Novoli but I went last year and it wasn't that great. Check out January of last year for that review.

One thing about this weekend is I did finally see "Il Padrino" (The Godfather). Yes all this time I had never seen the movie. I figured I really should and then my sister gave me the book for Christmas last year(well technically 2007 is last year). I read through it quickly as I really got into the characters so the next step was to see the movie. Is it just me or does it seem like every time you read a book and then see the movie you're disappointed? The book gives you so much more. Did the movie even mention Rocco Lampone by name? I think the only time I've been satisfied with a movie after the book is the Lord of the Rings. I can see why the movie was such a hit but I still didn't get the same feeling of tension like I did in the book.

Monday, January 07, 2008

I'm pro-tourism again!

Let’s see so much to write about. I guess I’ll leave out the little stuff. I had a good weekend and I hope you did too. First of all I was going to do a good new/bad news post but the bad news is all crap that’s the usual crap, gas prices, politics, trash problems in Naples. Some of the good news…
As you see in the photo La Befana was here yesterday. She didn’t leave much candy but I guess she knows I’ll just eat it all right away. I still have a big Pandore that I just bought for 50% off because it’s the end of the season sale. Along that line I’m proud of myself because this weekend all the sales started and I didn’t buy any clothes. I don’t really need anything so that’s not a big surprise but just to help Friday I went online and paid my credit card bill for December. That was enough to put me off spending more money!!!!
In the news the big story is that in June THE POPE is coming to Brindisi. That’s right the guy with the funny hat is coming here. I’m excited and I’m not even catholic, maybe that’s why he’s coming!! Although this excitement may wear off the first time I hear about some hair-brained idea to block off the town to cars or make my life a mess. Suddenly it all makes sense. In the last 4 years just about every church in town has had some major restoration. Right now they are taking down the scaffolding on two churches, Santa Teresa and Santa Maria degl’Angeli. I don’t think the Pope is going to visit all the churches but I bet they wanted them all to look nice for people who come here from other areas. So this year is a good time to visit our churches in the best condition they have been in for years. The newspaper article says they will spend a million euros in preparations for his visit just in the next 6 months. One thing they didn’t mention is when was the last time a Pope came to Brindisi.
Other good news. I’m back on a pro-tourism push for Brindisi. Last night some friends and I went out to look at some presepi (nativity scenes). I guess after last night they will all be packed up until next Christmas. This one below is one of my favorites.

Walking from one mostra (exhibition) to another we passed something new. I read about this but I didn’t know it was open until we saw it. It’s Brindisi’s new “Sala di Colonna”. Brindisi has made a special room where the capital (top) of the Roman column that marked the end of the Via Appia is now housed. The one exposed to the elements in the harbor is a copy and the second one, as we all know, is still in Lecce (where’s my column stealing posse?). Right now the room is kind of bare but I imagine they will add other artifacts from the same period as time goes by. The other great part of this is that this room in inside a building called the Palazzo Granafei Nervegna (16th Century) that has stone balconies outside that remind you of Romeo and Juliet and also this building is across the street from theater with the Roman ruins under it. It makes a good combination. To come and see just one of these two things would be ok but to be able to see both makes the trip worthwhile. My friends tell me they have been working on this Palazzo for 10 years so I’m going to whine a little and say, "Why does everything take to long?” For more info on all the things to see in town (besides Churches then go to this link: historical town center

Upstairs from the column there was another little exhibit showing models of some plans for Brindisi. They were closing as we entered so I didn’t get chance to see everything. I did see a very nice looking park but I don’t know where in Brindisi it was going to be built. I’ll have to go back.
That's one big piece of 2000 year old marble! And it's really getting the star treatment. Good job Brindisi.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Review of 2007

This photo should help brighten up the cold dark days of January.

I guess everyone should review his or her life once in a while. I looked back at my blog entries to get an idea of what I did last year. So here are some highlights month by month.
Gennaio- Mysterious date (OK it was my neighbor, Alberta) that never grew into a relationship. A lot of big fires in Gennaio. I’ll try to do a better job covering the festival of Sant’Antonio Abate this year.
Febbraio- The Colts won the Super Bowl but that’s not a local event. Mara broke my digital camera but somehow I brought it back from the dead. It must have 9 lives too.
Marzo- This was when I introduced you to the R-Rated pizza called the Pizza Sofia. That reminds me that I haven’t put a thing on my Youtube site in a while. Also in that month the Big Ben was robbed at gunpoint and I was there.
Aprile- I had my first visitor of the year. We went to Venice, Rome, and Ostuni!!! Also our bickering at the Salu…mino brought about my introduction to bacon in Italy. Yes, Italy has bacon just like in America.
Maggio-Was the month of “Brindisi in Bicicletta” and our group won two prizes. I hope we can do that again this year. I also went to a Brindisi Basket playoff game. They won the game and they were so close to being promoted to Serie A, the highest level. Maybe this year we’ll move up although they aren’t playing that well right now.
Giugno- The big story was me buying a “Man bag”. Just for your information I don’t use it in the winter because I have enough pockets in my jacket. June is also when I started taking my digital camera underwater. This summer I’ll try to get more and better shots of marine life in the Adriatic.
Luglio- Lori and Kent were here. Most of the blogs revolved around our hiking trip in Basilicata.
Agusto- Holy cow August was big. Erika and Valerio were married in a great traditional Southern Italian wedding. Then later in the month I traveled to Colorado where Kristen and Brian were married in a Ski Lodge at 12,000 feet.
Settembre- I fulfilled my resolution to visit a new country every year. I went to Budapest and had a great time with Juli and Juli and the wine festival. I still think there is nothing like going on a vacation where you know some locals.
Ottobre- I didn’t blog much. Maybe I was holding out for November
Novembre- I blogged EVERY DAY of November so there is plenty to talk about there. For me I still remember going to the EVIL dentist, twice. That reminds me that this weekend is the La Befana and there is tons of candy being advertised everywhere. What should I do? What can I do?
Dicembre- Was a quiet month again. I did get you some photos of Gianna e I Rinoplastici. Of course that month includes the great trip home to see my family for Christmas.

In amongst all this I had 4 trips back to the USA in May, August, October and December, which is new record (3 of these trips were primarily for work!)

In 2008 I need to: Visit another new country maybe two and most importantly decide once and for all if I’m going to stay or leave. There is a possibility that I could stay in Brindisi for another 3 years but there many things to consider on both sides of this issue. That's a whole blog in itself.

One last Christmas photo...Remember, there is no parking in the piazza.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

How not to spend New Years

Let me explain and this could get long…. It started several days before December 31 so maybe it’s 2007s fault. I checked my flights back to Italy and I found out I was flying back to Bari and not Brindisi. Why, because Alitalia cancelled the Brindisi flight. Keep in mind that when I left for the USA they didn’t mention this. It wasn’t technical problems or a strike, no I found out they changed the time of the flight. So now I have new reason to hate Alitalia. They change flight times without warning. How could they not know when I was leaving for USA that the flight back was changed? Did I mention I’ll dance in the streets when Alitalia is no more?!!
However, Alitalia did arrange for a bus to take us (about 30 people) from Bari to Brindisi. I didn’t know this until I arrived in Rome and as an added surprise the bus turned into a funny story. In Rome they asked who needed the bus and about 30 people put their names on the list, so at least I knew I wasn’t the only one Alitalia was screwing. In Bari I rushed out of the airport because my stuff had to be checked out by dogana and I was afraid the bus would leave without me (even though they had my name). And I was the last one to get on the bus. The funny thing is that there are only 6 other people on the bus. The bus driver gets on cursing and muttering under his breath how they told him “they needed a bus for 30.” I don’t know where the others went but we left with only 7 people. Then the story gets funnier. The first turn out of the airport is a left turn that he can’t make because we’re in this HUGE bus made for 60. He has to go right because that’s the only turn he can make. Down the road a way we come to a police officer directing traffic. He says there’s an accident on the road ahead and we have to turn at this intersection. The driver asks him how to get to the Autostrada and the police officer gives him some directions that I can’t hear. We wander around for a while bus stops again and the driver asks someone on the street for directions. I only here the bus drivers muttering but it’s not good. Finally we do the most incredible U-turn in this busy Y-shaped intersection. I loved watching the honking and hand waving from my plush seat in the sky. Man, you’re high up in those buses. We end up going all the way back to the airport only this time we’re pointing in the right direction for the Autostrada. I wanted to sleep but this driving was so entertaining I couldn’t. Although, once we were on the highway I feel asleep for the first time in 24 hours but only for about 30 minutes.
I come home to two cats that are afraid of me and for good reason. My neighbor left me a plant (I had commented about it when I saw it on her balcony) and the cats proceeded to destroy it making a huge mess of dirt on the kitchen table. She probably left it there knowing I would be home soon but what she didn’t realize is how quickly they can get into things, especially a plant. I think it may live. I hope.
All this was before the celebration last night. I would write about that but I completely missed it. I went out at 11:00 PM to see what was going on. The town was a ghost town. Except for people throwing fireworks off their balconies everywhere (and not looking to see if some idiot foreigner was walking around) you would have been convinced there was no one alive in the town. Everything was closed. I suddenly realized that party was going to be much later than I’m used to. I passed a café and it had a sign “Apertura 00:15”. Yes that means they were going to open at 12:15 AM. I texted Marco and said they were meeting at 1:00 AM. I was already running on fumes at 11:30 PM. I just wanted to stay up until midnight thinking that’s when everyone would be out. I was so completely wrong. Everyone was still at home at midnight. So I spent New Years at home, alone. I tried to stay up a little later and go out but failed. I laughed when I looked out the window and saw people leaving their homes at 1:00 AM to go out. I gave in and feel asleep for next 12 hours. I have to say it was the worst New Years for me. Why do I learn these things the hard way? I should have gone to sleep when I arrived home and then I would have naturally woke up at midnight. Either way I didn’t really experience my first New Years in Italy. I slept through it. I hope you all had more fun!

Of course if you're Keith and Pam then 12 hours of uninterrupted sleep would be a great New Years when you're taking care of this little monster!!!

Boun Anno, Tutti!!!