Sunday, July 8, 2018

Of a Few Days Getting Over Jet Lag and Seeing Family and Friends


Wed.-Sat., July 4-7, 2018

Home, sweet home . . .

On the Fourth Of July we joined our friends Koreen and Brian FitzGerald at their beach condo in Carpinteria to celebrate our nation's 242nd birthday.

Prosecco Time in Carpinteria!

Skorpion culture meets California lifestyle.

It worked. Our friends enjoyed it, too!

On Thursday we got some good news from the world of EuroBall . . . 

It's OFFICIAL!

Skorpion WR Martino Piazzi is going to join us for the Europe Warriors game in August in Mexico against the University of Chihuahua.

 LB Ivan "Swito" Raso in Prague

Apparently Swito hits the European road at the start of every Summer for an extended tour of the Continent on his Harley-Davidson.

He sent me this picture of him in Prague today.

Why is he in full Skorpion game gear?

Does he ride all over Europe dressed like this?

Meanwhile, back in Camarillo on Thursday . . .

We now have a family of birds
squatting under our house's eave

Vanessa, Mike, Jacob and Mary came to the house for a visit.

Mike eating lunch out of his new
wooden bowl made by Pacio

It was well over 100°F/38°C in Camarillo which is a rarity to say the least.

This heat wave meant only one thing . . .

SLIP AND SLIDE!

Mary was a bit tentative

After a great afternoon with our loved ones, we gladly accepted Jacob's request for a sleepover.

Jacob and I went to the park at the Camarillo Community Center to enjoy their playground facilities where they were setting up for a free concert later in the evening.

Jacob said he wanted to go, so we went back and collected Laurie for a night of culture.

The small stage was set

Jacob the Volunteer

The two of us walked up to the only lady handing out the free concert programs. She commented that she could use some help on this warm night.

Lacking anyone to enforce California's Child Labor Laws, Jacob excitedly got to work.

Turns out Jacob is a good worker

Mac and cheese, a tape measure
to play with and music

What more could a boy ask for on a warm Summer night?

The Community Band was GOOD!

So was the snuggling
  
 A bible bath was Jacob's idea
of a perfect ending to a long day

Friday was a long day for me as I had to drive in the continuing heat wave and traffic back down to LAX to pick up our two missing bags.

Originally told by Norwegian Air that they would drive the bags out to Camarillo, I was now told that since it was Vueling Air who had lost them that I would have to drive to LAX to pick them up.

Round trip on a hot Friday getaway afternoon, FIVE HOURS!

The only thing that took the edge off of the driving ordeal was breaking it up with a fun lunch meeting in Burbank with Mike D'Antuono and Paul Sabolic. 

Paul and Mike are wonderful old friends from our shared University of Washington days and two of my dyed-in-the-wool blog followers.

As always, it was fun catching up with these two zanies.

In the evening we gathered with some Rio Mesa H.S. friends at Institution Ale in Camarillo for a much needed beer on this hot day and a surprisingly good pizza even by Varese standards. 

Friday and Saturday was Italian
Football League Championship
Weekend in Parma

Friday night featured the
DIII Championship Game

The 10-0 Imola Ravens beat the
8-3 Catania Elephants 28-20

NUTS!

I coached the Elephants back in 2008 and 2009 and was rooting for them to bring home the Gold.

On Saturday afternoon the DIII
Championship Game kicked-off

 The 11-0 Bologna Warriors beat
the 10-2 Roma Pretoriani 30-14

I was pulling for the Warriors in this one because of their young WR/K Edoardo Gulisano.

Edoardo was just a young pup back in my Catania Elephants days when hid Elephant Hall-of-Fame Father, Tony "The Pony" was playing LB for us.

Tony's entire family was wonderful to us, so I had to root for the Warriors.

I was now 1-1 on the weekend.

The DI Final was set for Saturday night

 The DI Playoff Bracket

The 12-0 Milano Seamen defeated
the 10-3 Bolzano Giants 28-14

After a rocky start, the Seamen played a flawless Second Half to bring home their second consecutive Italian Football League DI Championship.

The Seamen's Head Coach is Mike Wood who was my roommate in Mexico City last Summer when our Europe Warriors All-Star team played the University of Mexico in Olympic Stadium.

Mike serves as the Warriors' Defensive Coordinator while I am in charge of the Warriors' Special Teams and Offensive Line.

Final Championship record for "my" teams, 2-1.

On Saturday, Frontier
Communications fixed our
wifi problem

YAHOO, we were back on-line!

Saturday was also my . . .

. . . 71st Birthday

How did that happen?

Laurie and I had a quiet day at home before enjoying a good dinner at Oxnard's Lazy Dog Restaurant and Bar.

It was a good day despite the . . .

. . . lizards attacking our
backyard rabbits

"Dogs and cats living together . . ."

Yes, we do miss Italy already

But our family, friends and California are pretty sensational too!

The Long Trip Home to California


Tuesday, 3 July, 2018

Apologies to Paul Sabolic and Mike D'Antuono for this post coming five days after the fact. We have had wifi issues at Casa Contreras.

Tuesday was a long day for us as we made our way home from Venegono Superiore to Camarillo.

We were up by 6:00 a.m. and ready to go by 7:00 a.m. but our ride to Milan's Malpensa Airport was not going to arrive until 9:15 a.m.

Only one thing to do . . . MANGIA!

The only problem was that we were out of food at the Villa Skorpion.

The simple solution was to drive down to the Venegono Inferiore train station and get some sustenance at Le Due Isole.

Papa Francesco

Papa Francesco and his wife Laura are the owners of Le De Isole and their lovely daughter Jada hangs out there after school as well.

This friendly, outgoing family has been very kind to us over the last five and a half months and today was no different.

Besides serving us our usual cappuccini and brioches they had a parting gift for our long trip home.

They had specially prepared four calzones for us to enjoy on our journey home. Knowing our individual tastes, two of them were spicy (me) and two were mild (Laurie).

Truly good people.

GRAZIE PAPA FRANCESCO,
LAURA and JADA!

Pietro Caprioli

Pietro was our ride to Malpensa and arrived right on schedule to whisk us away.

This portion of the trip was easy as traffic was not an issue.

GRAZIE PIETRO!

Once at Malpensa, check in was a breeze as was going through security.

Too easy . . .

Once pass security we were enticed
to buy a few final souvenirs

A tough choice but the answer was a firm NO!

It killed me but again, NO!

We even passed on a last gelato

What were the odds of that?

The first of our two flights today was a . . .

. . . 95 minute Vueling Air
flight to Barcelona

It took off right on time at 12:20 p.m.

Vueling Air is definitely
NOT noted for their leg room

Once in Barcelona, we had a four hour layover before our final flight to Los Angeles.

The FC Barcelona store in the airport
was tempting but again NO!

One thing about Barcelona's El Prat Airport, they sell tapas.

si, Si, SI!

One can not live on calzones alone as it turns out.

Incredibly, I did share this tray with Laurie.

Norwegian Air's 12 hour and 20 minute
flight to LAX was also on time

For us, this was a HUGE upset as our three previous flights on Norwegian Air had been an hour and a half, two hours and a half and four hours and 20 minutes late in taking off.

Too easy . . .

Again, little leg room

Suck it up big boy, it's only for 12 hours and 20 minutes.

It was a smooth flight and thankfully the seats were wide.

Perhaps it was the 7 kilos/15.5 pounds of weight that I lost in Italy that made the seat feel wider.

We were back in the USA!

Thankfully no huge photo of
President Trump to ruin our mood

We LOVE L.A.!

I knew that things had gone along too easily.

When we checked in our two pieces of luggage with Vueling Air in Italy, we were told that they would be transferred for us to our Norwegian Air flight departing from Barcelona.

We had a four hour layover as I stated earlier so this transfer should have been easy enough.

Wrong.

At LAX our bags were missing. We filled out the appropriate paperwork and were assured by the kind, patient people at Norwegian Air that they would track them down and notify us when they got to LAX.

Our son Michael picked us up at LAX and quickly got us home in under an hour as there was little traffic by Los Angeles standards at 11:00 p.m.

GRAZIE MICHAEL!

Our trip home turned a little more sour once home as our wifi was not working and both of our cars had dead batteries.

Nothing insurmountable but irritating.

It was still good to be home.

Reading Is FUNdamental

Finished this one on the
plane flight to LAX

This was another good, action packed read that I highly recommend.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Last Full Day in Italy


Monday, 2 July, 2018

My 168th day living in northern Italy would be somewhat hectic, as one might expect, being that we fly home to California on tomorrow.

We had a lot of loose ends to tie up today.

Among my morning chores was sending a post card to a friend in California who shall remain nameless, Cyndy Murphy, who recently complained that in all of my EuroBall years I had never sent her a postcard.

So I would remedy that today, simple task, no?

NO!

Walkway dome on my way
 to the stamp selling tobacco store

Of course he was out of the 2.20 Euro stamps needed to mail a .30 Euro postcard.

He suggested that I go down the street to the . . . 
  
. . . DREADED Post Office

What the Hell, a trip here is always good for a story.

So here goes . . .

When my turn came, I used damn near perfect Italian to request my one 2.20 Euro stamp for the postcard that I had handed her.

After trying to read the card but being stymied by it being written in English, she proceeded to weigh the postcard, not once but twice, to determine if it was overweight.

It wasn't.

Once that hurdle was cleared, we dealt with the next problem. She did not have the right stamp and God forbid any attempt to use a combination of smaller priced stamps to equal the one that I needed.

Her solution to the problem was to just have her computer have a 2.20 Euro stamp printed.

And it did.

Only this makeshift stamp was so big that when she first tried to apply it she realized that it would effectively cover up the top 1/3 of the card thus eliminating much of my message and half of the address.

Her answer this time was to place the mega-stamp at a rakish tilt where the stamp should be thus covering up much of the picture side of the card.

As I said, every trip to the Italian Post Office is good for a story!

Packing our bags took up the rest of our afternoon.

In the evening I had to head to . . .         
. . . the gym to test a few more
Skorpions before embarking on our
off-season strength training routine

On the way to the gym, I passed a ristorante that I have never entered but whose two statues always catch my eye when driving by it.

Cool Hat . . .

. . . worthy of Carmen Miranda's suitor

After the positive weight room tests, I picked up Laurie for one last truly authentic Italian dining experience.

La Trattoria di Torba was our choice

A great little hidden away spot in nearby Torba run by two sisters who are veterans of the business. 

A great, homey feeling at the
Trattoria di Torba

The antipasto was amazing, the gnocchi and ravioli were perfect and the dessert was spot on.

What a wonderful meal to end our stay in Italy!

Tomorrow the journey will start at Milano's Malpensa Airport with a 95 minute Vueling Air flight to Barcelona, a four hour layover and then a 12 hour and 15 minute Norwegian Air flight to Los Angeles.

We love it here but it is indeed time to go home!

GRAZIE SKORPION FAMILY!

A Warm Sunday BBQ and a Palio


Sunday, 1 July, 2018

It was another scorching day in the greater Venegono Superiore megalopolis, perfect for but one thing . . .

. . . a backyard BBQ with a whole
bunch of Skorpion friends!

The meat was grilling when we got
to the home of our hosts the Giorgio and
Santisima Barbara

They, along with their children Federica and Raffaele, live in a historic home in Varese built in the 1500s that was intended as an inn for people traveling to and from Milan to Switzerland.

Today it is a five unit housing edifice that is appropriately rustic on the outside but modern and efficient on the inside. 

Shade under a grapevine arbor
worked for us

 It worked just fine for
Santisima Barbara and Stefania
as well

Today marked Stefania and Pietro's 22nd wedding anniversary, AUGURI!

Giorgio overseeing the BBQ tables

Did I mention that there was wine, Prosecco and beer?

In copious amounts?

 Now we were rolling!

It was at about this time that Giorgio, Santisima Barbara and Federica pulled Laurie and I aside.

They wanted to show us something. 

No, not just this vintage
communication device

 Nor just these vintage helmets
that Giorgio wore back in the day

Not even just this incredibly
carved hutch

What they were showing us was all of this unit in their building that will be the Villa Skorpion II in 2019!

We will be living in the same building as the Nardi family in a 500 year old building and we even will have a 600 year old church right next door.

The critical question that I had was about the proximity of a good gelateria. The answer was about 350 meters down the street.

PERFETTO! When do we sign the papers?

Soon after having happily inspected our future home, a strange thing happened in the complexes huge back yard.

The Skorpions had a meeting . . .

. . . and a touch football
game broke out

At a Summer BBQ in Italy, who would have guessed?

QB Dario being chased
by Dani

 Baffo with a catch!

Baffo trying to catch Betto
  
 The stands were PACKED!

Offensive Tackle Nikko even got
to launch a pass

What are these two pointing at?

PASS!

Dani, PUT THAT BALL AWAY!

Going DEEP!

Too Deep

After the halftime break, Dario D'Adelfio who is Sicilian by birth, approached me with an offer that he simply told me I could not refuse.

He wanted me to enter the game for one play on the Goal Line as a Wide Receiver.

Fearing the complete annihilation of my family if I said no, I acquiesced. 

Using a modified Iowa TE stance
vs. Dani's Cover Two Zone technique

 I released hard inside . . .

. . . worked up the field . . .

. . . and went to the outside, the
structural weakness of Cover Two . . .

. . . and hid behind a tree

As anticipated, the defense completely lost track of me but Dario's pass was overthrown.

At least my family was safe.

We had a great time, as usual, with the Skorpion Family and really want to again thank Santisima Barbara, Giorgio, Federica and Raffaele for their hospitality not just for today but for the entire five and a half months I've been living in Italy.

We said our final good-byes to everyone and headed home to continue preparing for our six month vacation in California.

After a few hours at the Villa Skorpion, I got the itch to see one more event nearby.

Laurie was too far into the World Cup games on TV and opted to stay home while I went to see . . .

Castiglione Olona's
Palio dei Castelli XLIII
festivities

 I got there just in time for the tail end
of the medieval costume parade

Looking GOOD in red

A tad hot for those costumes
I would guess

 Here come the flags!

HEY!
Don't let those drag on the ground!

Regal

Really Regal!

Old Guys Rule!

Serious crown bearers

 THE BAND!

Drums, apparently, were
THE instrument in medieval times
  
Laurie was a Flag Girl
at Crescenta Valley H.S.
  
 She twirled them just like this . . .

. . . if memory serves me correctly

But I don't think that she . . .

. . . tossed them this high in the air

I like the ear covers

 Good looking horse

 A serious looking man

That horse is in a lather!

I said it was a good looking horse

 Another noble steed that
is seriously overheating

The parade was over and now I had to find out exactly where the big deal of the day would be held, the Corsa delle Botti.

One man said that it would
start in the historic center
of Castiglione Olona

This flag is the symbol of the
Centro Storico Contrada or neighborhood

 There's a wine keg with
the crests of the eight contradas
next to the words PRO LOCO

I must be getting close.

 How old is this mural in
Centro Storico?

 I liked the sign but I was told
that a better spot to see all of the
action was up the hill at the Castle

When I got there, the grounds that were empty yesterday when Laurie and I visited were PACKED!

The line to get a beer was about 50 meters long and all the other concession stands had long queues as well.

Parade done, several of the more
militant medieval re-enactors got
comfortable in the warm conditions

Now I just needed to stake out a good place to see where the wine kegs used in the Corsa Delle Botti would be driven to the finish line of this unique Paleo race.

A nice police officer told me that this
would be a good corner to see the action

So I sat and waited.

About 45 minutes before the race,
this member of the five-man Ciapa
team came by on a warm-up run

Nice outfit.

The Corsa Delle Botti was set to start at 9:00 p.m. sharp.

Of course, it started 15 minutes late.

Which hurt as the rapid loss of sunlight would make picture taking a bit dicey.

Here comes the pack up the hill
towards me

The Somadeo Contrada was easily in front and had already made the turn up the street to my right about 2o seconds earlier.

The race went around the large block where I stood and as I switched sides of the street then . . .

. . . circled back to me

The boys from Somadeo had increased their lead to about 30 seconds with the other seven Contrada squads still in a bunch and fighting fiercely for the Silver Medal.

Fortunately, my phone camera took decent videos of the race. 

Somadeo in the lead
at the turn

The pack trailing the leaders

Somadeo bringing home the GOLD!

This was a huge win for the Somadeo Contrada, their first since 1999, and only their second victory in the 43 year history of the event. They were the last Contrada without multiple wins.

The all-time wins leaders are the Centro Storico and the Madonna in Campagna Contradas with eight wins apiece.

On the walk back to the car I ran across . . .

. . . this street named after
this Sicilian poet, the 1959 winner
of the Nobel Prize for Literature


I wonder if he had a . . .

Never mind, definitely a non-PC thought.

What can I say other than . . .

IT WAS ANOTHER MADCAP DAY
TO BE LIVING IN ITALY!