Monday, January 21, 2008

Opera, Matt, Practice and Friends

Buon giorno, another great weekend in Catania!

Opera, pictures, like ice hockey and all Gaul, is divided into three parts each lasting about one hour. Giacomo Puccini's "Madama Butterfly", as it is called in Italian, was a great evening. As I wrote earlier, one of our starting falcons, "Tony call me Pony", has a brother-in-law who runs the Teatro Massimo Bellini opera house. He comped us an entire six seat box on the second level, over the orchestra pit and close enough to shake hands with the actors! Besides myself, only Daniella (Davide's wife who loves the opera) and her father, Mauro, were in the box. It was worth it to see Daniella's eyes light up when they pulled back the curtain and she saw the location of the box seats.

The opera itself was very good, although Mauro thought the male lead was only average. The real star of the night was the Teatro itself. Over 200 years old, it has perfect acoustics. The singers and the orchestra do not use any amplification of any type and this beautiful, ornate old Teatro has five stories of box seating above the ground floor seats. Still you could hear every note and word clearly wherever you sat.

After the opera I met Matt, the guys and their girlfriends at the team hangout right around the corner from the Teatro. I saw Pony there and thanked him for the tickets. I then met his wife Ika. She is very nice, the mother of four and as it turns out was a foreign exchange student her senior year of high school in Amarillo, Texas at Caprock H.S. home of the Longhorns. Our receiver Matt played for the Rebels of Tascosa H.S. also in Amarillo. A small world moment indeed! We left at about 2:00 a.m. about 15 minutes after Davide and the very pregnant Daniella showed up to start the night!

New record on the way to the opera, 56 euros for a tank of gas.

A few words about Matt , picture of us at the Festival in Aci Reale, I now call him "Il Conte"..."The Count" in in he only comes out at night. After three days, he is making a serious assault on every significant Sicilian sleeping record and has yet to see the morning sun! Still, he's a good guy! I liked that he was first in all the sprints before practice and made two GREAT catches during the practice. He fits in well with the other players and has warmed to the role of mentor to the other players.

Practice attendance continues to be a problem. Individually we keep improving, but we have about 10 to 15 players missing each practice making team improvement difficult. Davide continues to impress me with his knowledge of the game. He is a very good offensive line coach and has great passion for the Elefanti! This, of course, leads to frustration on his part when players miss practice. Players at practice, picture, included from left to right, LB Fabio, DL Matteo, WR/DB Mario, LB/Falcon Gustavo, DE Matthieu, WR Gregorio, WR Claudio, and LB Gianmarco.

On the way home we stopped at the Cityper Market and Gustavo introduced me to a box of Chicchere, a traditional "biscotti di Sicilia" desert cookie, picture with wine and cheese, covered in powdered sugar. This was a huge dietary mistake!

My strategy was to limit myself to one church and one museum per week. My plan was to go to a different church each Sunday and then visit a museum right after Mass. Yesterday I took the 10 minute walk into Aci Trezza to go to the 8:00 a.m. Mass at San Giovanni Battista Church built in 1696. The Mass only took 34 minutes, so much for my plan to visit a different church each Sunday! After Mass I did visit the, picture, Museum of the 1943 Sicilian Invasion by the Allies. Very nice exhibits, videos and memorabilia. The Sicilian campaign lasted 38 days and Catania it turns out was the most heavily bombed city in Sicily during the fighting with 87 Allied bombing raids. Palermo was a distant second in this terrible statistic with 69 air raids. Hard to believe that my wonderful new city suffered so much back then.

In the afternoon, Matt and I went into Catania to introduce him to the city. I made a major purchase. All the men here were a scarf to look even more dashing so I bought a black and white one on Via Etnea, the main shopping street of Catania. Another step avanti in my becoming more Italian like.

In the evening Matt and I drove 10 minutes up to Aci Realle for the Festival of San Sebastiano, their patron saint. We stayed about an hour and then drove back into Catania to the beautiful home of Matteo, a new friend and great host who was a longtime Elefanti player and coach. Our TE Giuseppe and two of our WR's, Claudio and Salvo were also there. The purpose of the visit was to watch the two NFL Conference Championship Games. The first one started at 9:00 p.m. our time. We left at 2:00 a.m. during halftime of the second game. In the picture, left to right seated is Claudio and Matt. Standing left to right, are Matteo, Salvo and Giuseppe.

A few words about Claudio, he speaks great English, is very outgoing and helpful. He has good speed and will really help our team. I sometimes think he is a twin or triplet because he shows up everywhere we go, lots of energy!

I'm again having trouble uploading pictures to the blog, I'll try again Tuesday, ciao!


Pryingi said...

Don't make me fly out there and suit up. But hey, if you need bodies...?

I don't know if you get the news from the states too often (week delay?)
Super Bowl XLII (and that's 42, not extra large times 2):
Patriots (-12) v. NY Giants


PS. I'm proud of you for behaving at the opera. It makes us all look good.

George said...

Take the Pats.

I always behave!

eppy said...

Your small world moment just got smaller. I'm at lunch with some co-workers yesterday at a local eatery and the others were talking about graduating from Amarillo Caprock High School. Remembering your post from several days ago and just making conversation, I asked one of them how long he had been out of school. He said he would be coming up on 20 years in the next year or so. I told him Matt was in Italy playing football and met an Italian Foreign Exchange Student that had gone to Caprock High School several years ago. He immediately turned to me and said, Ika? He said she used to grab his tests off his desk and copy from them when the teacher wasn't looking, but I'm sure it was probably the other way around.