Monday, February 4, 2008

Super Bowl Monday?


Friday was a big day for football at the office. There was a lot of discussion about our offensive schemes and a we had a good planning session for Saturday’s three hour practice.

After eating a pizza in Aci Castello, we went to the apartment and the four Americanos studied DVD’s of 2007 games of Milano, Bergamo and Bolzano trying to get a feel for their style of play and proficiency.

Then it was time to take the newbies out for a Friday night at Piazza Bellini that included two gelatos, the Chiave, the Fundo Bianco and, of course, a stop at Jonathan’s for a panini. We saw none of the usual players and to our great collective disappointment only one of the Pink Elephants, Elisa, at all that night. Could they possibly all have been getting rest for Saturday’s practice?

I must mention that at the Fundo Bianco, Brandon gave Atilio, the owner, the biker t-shirt he wore the night before when they hit it off so well. This gesture got us a free round of drinks and Atilio insisted that the four of us go behind the bar for a group picture with him on the far left and Pope Benedict’s picture above us, a rare honor indeed! Brandon has made us instant locals.

Because so many Elefanti were missing, two other great moments occurred at the Fundo Bianco. We are still operating on a two drink maximum limit per night. O.K., Matt Obi Won Cannoli had WAY more than two Cokes with his gelatos and Brandon’s two beers are big enough that they really should be brought out by a waitress from a beer garden in Munich. Jason ordered a rum and coke and I mentioned that he should be sure to get the Havana Club rum from the forbidden island. This got Brandon started on leading a discussion about Castro and his effects on the Cuban economy and culture. Brandon had a good grasp of the subject and swore to cut block Fidel HARD if he ever got the chance! From there the discussion turned to The Da Vinci Code. Two areas were discussed at length, the book vs. the movie…the book won easily. The second subject that Brandon and I addressed was contrasting and comparing The Da Vinci Code vs. Dan Brown’s earlier novel, Angels and Demons. Neither Matt nor Jason had read Angels and Demons so it was up to us to inform them about how we both believed that it was the better read of the two books. The subject matter is just not as controversial, but a better book nonetheless in the opinions of the two resident experts on the topic in a small bar…on a small side street…in Catania, Sicilia, Italia.

Groundhog’s Day 2008…Happy Groundhog’s Day mi’amore!  In 1968 Laurie, picture at Christmas in Las Vegas, and I were in our third year of dating. I was attending the University of Washington while she worked there as a secretary in the Educational Foundations office. We had a typical spat that couples in their teens have from time to time on or about February 1st. As a make up on February 2nd, I bought her a small gift (I think) and a card (I KNOW). In the card I asked her to be my Groundhog because in America the second of February is indeed Groundhog’s Day. For my Italian brothers, there is a small town in Pennsylvania that each year on this date has their own festival (parade, brass band, fireworks, confetti, the usual stuff we have here in Catania every night) and a large groundhog is somewhat like their town’s patron saint that day. The tradition is that at a big ceremony at sunrise they take Phil, as the groundhog is called, out of his cage and if he can see his shadow, i.e., a sunny day, winter will last six weeks longer, maybe shorter…”I do not know”. It is all just an excuse to have fun and Bill Murray made a funny movie perhaps ten year’s ago about the town and their festival, it was an instant Contreras family cult classic. Since that fateful Groundhog’s Day in 1968, Laurie and I do not honor Valentine’s Day on February 14th like the rest of Western Civilization. This may sound strange to you but think about it, dinner reservations at a nice restaurant are easy, flowers are MUCH cheaper, no hassle with crowds at the Hallmark store. The only drawback of our now 40 year tradition is finding an appropriate card for the occasion. Usually I find one I can tweak a little in about June or July, buy it and try not to forget where I hid it for half a year. This is surely the first time that we have not been able to share this special day together. We have had great fun with Groundhog’s Day for a long time. I wonder what we fought about?

Everyone here thinks that Jason is at least half Japanese, he is constantly taking pictures with the impressive array of picture and video cameras he brought with him. He plans to make a documentary of our shared experiences, maybe a book and if nothing else have a great, detailed visual record of our time here. He is very good with computers, has a mind that is in hyper-drive with ideas about life, football and fun. If there were a video game called High Energy, Jason would surely be a PLAYER!

Jason is very excited about Saturday’s practice, his first chance to work with the receivers in particular and the team in general. I know the team feels the same way about finally getting to see him in action.

The competition level in practice just went up a BIG notch. Jason has great composure and patience. He continues to be a good teacher to our hosts. His high definition video camera is a great tool in combination with his computer skills. We stopped by the office to bring home the video projector and watched the practice tape for about a half hour before going out to dinner. It will be a great teaching tool for the Elefanti. Jason looked very good today with great command and presence, just what you want at QB.

Dinner tonight at 9:30 p.m. will be at a Mexican food ristorante. This is a very big stretch for me as I live by a very simple rule, i.e., “Never eat Mexican food above the 45th parallel or in the Eastern Hemisphere”. We’ll see…

No we didn’t see. In terrible news, Davide called as we were on our way to meet him and Daniela, with the news that their home had been broken into and many things had been stolen including all of her jewelry. Of course, they would not be joining us as they were dealing with the police. I can’t think of many things that would be more of a violation than this, terrible…

We picked a nice ristorante near the Zo Club where Renato D.J.’s and where we were to meet other Elefanti  after our two hour dinner. Matt expanded his gastronomic horizons with swordfish and calamari. The talk at the table revolved around Saturdays practice and how to improve the team. When we got home, rather early by Catania standards, at 2:30 a.m., Jason and I watched the practice video tape again for about 45 minutes.

My best parking job of the weekend is pictured.

 The picture of Matt coming out of the mandated, end of the evening Gelateria if of him with a gelato in one hand and a marmalade fiiled cornetto in the other. The white bag in his pocket contains another cornetto for the road. Matt is quickly moving up the depth to number two chart at offensive right guard.

Sunday started with Matt, Jason and I driving the half hour out of town to Motta Sant’Anastasia for church, Brandon slept in and stayed in Catania for the day. We got somewhat pressed to be on time when we got stuck behind a flock of sheep blocking the road, picture. While they heard a sermon about “…being a MAN!”, I attended Mass in the old hilltop church in this picturesque little village.

After our religious experiences we decided that it was time for a road trip! We drove inland to the town of Piazza Armerina to look at the Villa del Casale and it’s famous mosaics. This site is an 1,800 year old villa that was buried in mud by a massive flood in the 1,100’s and was rediscovered in the 1,800’s. Each room and corridor of this very large villa was decorated with intricate mosaic floors which are very well preserved, pictures.

We then proceeded to take the back roads back to Catania and took several pictures of the towns and countryside.

We met with some of the players, again at the house of former Elephant player/coach Matteo as we did two weeks ago, for our first ever Super Bowl MONDAY party, pictures. The game started at 12:15 a.m. Catania time and lasted until after 4:15 a.m. I picked the Giants as did everyone except Brandon and Jason. It was great fun and a good game to watch.

To warm up our Italian friends for the game, we brought the Elefanti blow-up video projector and broke down the Saturday practice film for about half an hour with the players present. It was an eye opening experience for them and it was fun to coach all of them up in such a short time. They really do love football, want so much to learn and the four of us like teaching them our game of football…REFRESHING!

NEW GASOLINE RECORD: Last Saturday, after practice, we filled up the Nissan Micra for 56.07 euros, breaking the old record by 7 cents! To give you a better perspective on the subject, there are about 3.75 liters in a gallon. We paid 1.37 euros per liter, the equivalent of $5.14 a gallon!

Random Thought for the Weekend: In the late 1960’s or early 1970’s there was a show on American TV starring an actor by the name of Ben Gazzara. The show was called something like “Run for Your Life” and the premise was simple. Ben was told by a doctor that he had a terminal disease and only had one year to live. Ben’s character was in his 30’s, so decided to try to cram 30 years of life into the one he had left. I feel like I’ve experienced his quest for 30 years of life experiences in my first 30 days in Catania. I realized that I have yet to wake up and then go to bed in the same day since I got here, i.e., I have not gone to bed before 12:30 a.m. once this whole time and it is usually much more like 3:00 a.m. when I hit the sack.

1 comment:

Laurie said...

They were beautiful pink roses, I still have the card, and I don't remember what the argument was about either.

This year's card was wonderful, as always. You should all be so lucky!