Monday, June 30, 2008

What the Hell...

Paul Stanley of Kiss and me
at Florence's Amerigo Vespucci Airport

So, I was waiting Monday at Florence's Amerigo Vespucci  Airport for my teaching buddy from Rio Mesa H.S., Joe Mollica, who was flying in from a two week stay in Great Britain to join me for this Wednesday's "Il Palio" horse race in Siena.

His plane was delayed by 30 minutes, so I was in the waiting area next this shall we say "interesting" looking man who turned out to be Paul Stanley. Paul is one of only two original members still Rockin' & Rollin' with the band KISS! Of course, Gene Simmons is the other one.

KISS, he told me, has just finished a 30 city tour and now it's time to rest and relax at his villa in Tuscany for the next two months. His parents are both here already and he was waiting for his wife, two sons and her parents who were due in from Zurich.

We talked about that fateful Halloween in 2000 when our group imitated KISS at Rio Mesa, about coaching American football in Italy and about how he should spend a few days relaxing in Sicily.

What a great and humble guy! My day was made and Joe hadn't even arrived yet!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Heather Linderman Ad of the Day

Today's Ad is from the Sicily Tourism Board.

The slogan is a simple one,

Come to Sicily,
Beautiful Sea...

The choice for you today is to pick which of these two pictures of the fabulous Sicilian Super Model, Roberta D'antona, you think would best fit the mood and spirit of this summer's tourist attracting campaign?

Option 1


Option 2


Today the IFL Announced a Change in this weekends Semi-Finals Dates and Times.

According to the IFL website, the semi-final playoff games are now BOTH scheduled for this Saturday, July 5th.

The Parma at Bergamo game now kicks off at 5:00 p.m.

Our Catania at Bolzano game starts at 8:00 p.m.

Capo Mulini Sunday

NEWS FLASH: This just in from Vienna, Spain beats Germany 1-0 to win the 2008 UEFA Euro Cup Championship. It was Spain's first Euro Cup title sine 1964!

1-0... imagine that

Today was another scorcher in Aci Castello, so we accepted Claudio (starting CB) and Roberta's offer to join them at our starting center, Gili's beach house in nearby Capo Mulini. It was a must on a day like today.


A Cassetta

At Capo Mulini we went straight to a private beach surrounded by these Cassettas that surround the small harbor/beach.

A Rocky Beach

In Sicily there are two types of beaches, traditional sandy ones like in California and rocky, volcanic ones like the one at Capo Mulini. The five towels to the middle right of the picture are ours. Note the perfect alignment of our towels in respect to the sun's powerful rays.

Sea Life

The little inlets in the rocks make a perfect spot for sea flora to flourish.

Our beach was teeming with all sorts of flora and fauna.

Nazi World War II Pill Box

Amongst this fun and tranquil scene was this grim reminder that things were not always so smooth in Sicily. This machine gun turret is actually in a cassetta's back yard between the cassetta and the spectacular view of the Ionian Sea.

The gang in the old swimming hole.

Dive In, The Water Is FINE!

Two options here, climb to the top of the rocks and jump in or dive in from the lower walkway. I opted for the lower walkway SEVERAL times in order to cool off. The water was PERFECT!

A RARE sighting of a Cuban Sea Otter

Cute isn't he?

Gelato/Granita Stand on wheels

When he blew his whistle we all came a running! It was hot so I ordered both a gelato and a granita.

This view is for you Vanessa.

The "Love Couple" after another hard day at the beach.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Italian Football League Week #14 Results


Parma 34 – Bologna 17

BYES: Ancona, Bergamo, Bolzano, Catania, Milan, Palermo Corsari and Palermo Sharks


10-0 Bolzano Giants *

8-2 Bergamo Lions *

8-2 Parma Panthers *

6-4 Catania Elephants *

5-5 Bologna Doves

4-6 Milan Rhinos

2-8 Palermo Corsari

1-9 Ancona Dolphins

1-9 Palermo Sharks



Saturday, July 5th:

Parma (8-2) at Bergamo (8-2) at 5:00 p.m.

Catania (6-4) at Bolzano (10-0) at 8:00 p.m.



Saturday, July 19th at 8:30 p.m.:

The two semi-final winners will meet at the neutral site stadium in Cattolica, Italy

Oh my God, it happened...

The 1951 Brooklyn Dodgers and the 1964 Philadelphia Phillies are considered to be two of the biggest end of the season collapses in sports history. To this list you may need to add the 2008 Bologna Doves.

The Doves pretty much physically dominated us in what was our 9th contest of the season (it was their 7th game of the campaign) by a score of 57-43. The game really was not as close as the score indicated. Now, all the Doves had to do to make the playoffs was win just one of their last three games.

We got the phone call from Davide at about 11:00 p.m. tonight saying that Parma had defeated Bologna 34-17. They LOST ALL THREE GAMES to, in order, Bergamo, Bolzano and Parma to finish their season at 5-5. All three of these teams that the Doves lost to made the playoffs, so Bologna did NOT have it easy down the stretch.

The bottom line is that YOUR fourth place, 6-4 Catania Elephants are playing the #1 seeded, 10-0 Bolzano Giants in Bolzano next Sunday, July 6th at 8:30 p.m. in an IFL Semi-Final Playoff Game!!! Bolzano beat us 49-42 in our final regular season game two weeks ago.

The winner of our game plays the winner of next Saturday's Parma at Bergamo game on Saturday, July 19th at 8:30 p.m. at a neutral site, the Adriatic Sea coast town of Cattolica, in the 2008 IFL Super Bowl. Cattolica is located about 20 miles south of the awesome resort beach town of Rimini.

My picks for Defensive Co-MVP's

On the left is Outside LB, Gianmarco Pecoraro with Free Safety Christian DiMauro

Elephant RB Enrico Lombardo at practice today

Dazzling shorts Enrico! Davide had to put on his sunglasses so as not to be blinded.


After practice we stopped at the Auchan Supermercato by the airport and I found this tempting package of Speck.

Before I came to Italy, someone wanted to know what the heck Speck is.

It is a form of ham and it is quite good.


This large piece of mortadella that the lady is about to cut in half is part of the HUGE mortadella laying behind it. She said the entire thing weighs about 150 kilos!

That's a BIG hunk of luncheon meat!

Does Oscar Mayer make this Italian delicacy?

Friday, June 27, 2008

And one more thing I'll miss...

My apologies but since my last post was a very late one last night here at Malibu after a long beach day, I forgot to mention one of the more amusing customs in Sicilia, the aversion to making change by merchants.

Travel guru, Rick Steves, advises you that when touring Europe, try to have as close to exact change as possible when transacting business. Rick's main reason for this travel tip is that in some cases you may be dealing with an unscrupulous businessman who will try to short change you if you give him say a 50 Euro note for a 6.64 Euro bill. This seems like sage advice from the guru of European travel.

Now for someone the likes of financial goddess, Koreen FitzGerald, exact change is NEVER a problem in any currency, continent or country. For us mere mortals, this is rarely the case.  

I have made it a point to carry 1 and 2 Euro coins so as to make transactions all the more simple. I have found Sicilian merchants to be honest but they fear change also. The cause of their phobia... I don't think some of them can make change without having to take off their shoes to count. I have actually had storeowners refuse to sell me a 2 Euro bottle of Fanta because all I had was a 20 Euro note and they did not want to make change and maybe shortchange themselves!

Another factor in the making change issue are the ATM or Bancomat machines as they are called here. About 95% of these handy money dispensers dole out no less than 50 Euros at a time and only distribute currency in 50 Euro notes. This of course is too big a bill for most merchants to even fathom for an under 10 Euros purchase.

The IPERSIMPLY Change Crisis
of June 27, 2008

With all of this as background, here is yesterday's chain of events.

First I stopped at a Bancomat and got out 100Euros, as usual it gave me two 50 Euro notes.

No problem, I went to the Post Office and paid my 37 Euro parking ticket figuring the Italian Postal System would certainly be able to come up with 13 Euros as change. They did, neatly handing me back a 10 Euro bill plus three 1 Euro coins.

Next it was off to the Two Marias to pick up 4 Hawaiian shirts they had dry cleaned for me for 12 Euros. Easy doing business with them and I still had 1 Euro left from the first 50 Euro note.

Also of note at this juncture, fashion conscious Italians give me very funny looks when I wear one of these American fashion statements. I may possess the only four known reproductions of the elusive hibiscus flower in all of Italy. I am kind of hoping some local botanist will ask to borrow a shirt to do research on this mysterious tropical flora.

I was able to manage the rest of my day with the 20 Euros I had in my wallet before the trip to the Bancomat but on the way home from the beach I knew I had to stop and buy a few groceries. The perfect spot was the IPERSIMPLY supermercato right on the highway in Acireale.

It was 5:30 in the afternoon and the IPERSIMPLY opens at 8:00 in the morning so I figured my last 50 Euro note would again be no problem at a big concern like this one. WRONG!

As you can see if you click on the picture above, the bill came to 24.48 Euros, I handed her the now offending 50 Euros and she went into a panic even though her machine will tell her exactly how much change to give me once she inputs how much money I gave her.

"Do you have anything smaller than a 50?" Nope, at least not enough to cover the bill.

She fumbles around in the cash drawer trying to come up with a solution. I know that all she needs is one 20 Euro note, one 5 Euro note, one 50 cent piece and one 2 cent piece and we can all go home and nobody gets hurt. This should not be hard to do this late in the business day.

"Do you have 48 cents?" No, all I have is 40 cents. "Give it to me."

I am not sure how that is going to help the situation but at this point I figure let's just go with her flow and see where our saga ends up.

She punches in that I gave her 50.40 Euros and her computerized teller says reports back smartly that she should give me 25.92 in change.

She proceeds to hand me one 20 Euro note, ten 50 cent pieces and five 20 cent pieces for a total of 26 Euros, 8 cents more than I had coming to me.

This practice of, I guess you would call it, long changing customers is also a rule in business. There is no one cent coin in the Euro world but there are the rare two and five cent coins. Merchants would rather give you back too much money that have to deal with these elusive coins.

I wonder at a supermercato like IPERSIMPLY, how much money do they give away each day due to this change phobia?

I LOVE this land mass!

Typical Sicilian Life I'll Miss

It is late Friday night and I am just starting to really realize that this great adventure is quickly coming to an end. When I left California on January 2nd for a 7 month coaching run in Sicily, I literally left some of my closest friends in tears both at Cronies and on their cellphones as we said our good-byes. It seemed like such an incredibly long time to be away from home and loved ones.

I looked at the calendar today and it said that my flight home from London's Heathrow Airport on July 25th was only 28 days away. How fast the time has flown by!

As we entered the final 24 hours of waiting to see if we make the playoffs and, perhaps, our last practice Saturday at 3:00 p.m., I reflect back on some of the most intersting facets of Sicilian life. 

The Aci Castello Post Office
The Great Bologna Parking Ticket Fiasco

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I got a 36 Euro parking ticket while touring Bologna after our game with the Doves. I had purchased an all day 5 Euro parking card which was prominently displayed on my dash and was told would allow me to park in ANY blue lined space in the city except, it turns out, the one I parked in.

I talked with Davide and Gus about it and was instructed that I need to fill out the form attached to the ticket, go to any Post Office, pay the 36 Euros plus one more Euro as a handling fee by the Post Office.

Now what I will really miss is the, shall we say, interesting and somewhat intuitive Sicilian system that exists once you walk in the doors.

From past experience at the Aci Castello Post Office, I knew that there are five customer windows. Window #1 only sells stamps, a novel approach since this IS billed as a POST OFFICE. The other four windows, two of which were closed today, are for the paying of utility bills, license fees, bribing of public officials and, of course, the paying of traffic/parking tickets.

When I walked in, I saw several people either sitting or milling around the room but only two people in line to pay for something, GREAT, this was going to be quick and easy. I stood at the #3 post in the line for about five minutes before two men came up to inform me that I had to wait my turn and that all the sitters and millers were ahead of me. How stupid of me not to know this interesting Sicilian queueing strategy!

I asked who was last and one of the two guys said he was so I milled about waiting for him to get in line at the appropriate time. During the 15 minutes I waited, others in the know came into the Post Office and immediately asked "Who's last?".

Now the best part occurred. While I was milling, two of the ladies who had come in separately after me and knew each other struck up a conversation. They were so intently involved in trying to outdo each other's hand gestures that they failed to notice that a man, who was scheduled to get into the three person line just before one of these ladies, had gotten fed up with the wait and walked out the door. Fortunately I had already advanced to the on-deck position in the queue. Pandemonium broke out, nobody knew who followed the person behind me because of our 1 missing player!

Loud talking, more hand gestures and exasperated voices all took turns in trying to solve this crisis. After about two frantic minutes, a new pecking order was established and peace was restored without having to call the Carabinieri Headquarters next door.

When I finished paying my fine I asked the man if it I could buy one stamp to send a card to the USA. "EEMPOSSIBLE! Go to window #1."

Window #1 was only had one person in line and I was careful to make eye contact with everyone to make sure I didn't foolishly cut in again. I got nods all around, got in line and waited about five minutes for my turn.

The guy in front of me had about 10 manilla envelopes which he said all contained the same things and would all then weigh the same. The lady weighed all 10 envelopes SLOWLY. He paid for the stamps, left and I approached with my 1 card. Easy, right?

Nope, she now had to place two separate stamps on each of the 10 manilla envelopes, running out of one denomination in the process, disappearing for about five minutes before she found more stamps. The whole time I was at the window hoping that the people behind me realized the delay was not because of me but due to the previous guy who was long gone by now.

I bought my stamp, she put it on the card for me and I got out of there as fast as I could.

The Italian Postal System wears very cool uniforms but it is their office organization which will always make me smile.


Another thing I will miss is the weddings, although we will be having 2 sometime in the next year in our family thanks to Andy and Jenn and Mike and Vanessa.

In America, weddings are usually weekend affairs, here there are weddings 7 days a week. This couple exchanged their vows in Aci Castello today and were having their pictures taken at the Norman Castle which seems to be a very common photo op for newly weds.

I really like just coming across groups of very happy people, who doesn't love a good Disco-Mania wedding reception? 

Sicilian Graffiti

As I have commented before, graffiti in Sicily runs about 45% expressions of undying love, about 45% calcio (soccer) slogans and about 10% political in nature.

This is one of the 10% I noticed in Aci Trezza today. April 25the is an Italian National Holiday, Liberation Day. That is the day Italy was liberated from Fascist rule.

Apparently not everyone is down with this Holiday since it translates as "April 25th, Festival of the Traitors of Italy".

It's posters like these at the beach in Giardini-Naxos today that make me proud to have joined the Italian Communist Party in protest of our second Palermo Corsari game weeks ago!
One last thing I will miss is Linda who does "Massagees" on the beach at Giardini-Naxos for 10 Euros. She is from China and I think she is close to buying the necessary tickets to get the rest of her family out before the start of the Beijing Summer Olympics based on just the number of "Massagees" she has performed on me and Jason's dad, Jim!

Today's trip to the beach proved one thing, She's Getting Better!

I just pray she doesn't have to go to the Post Office to buy plane tickets for her family!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Aci Castello's Parrucchiere per Uomo

Translated into English, Barbershop for Men, although I did see one woman getting her hair cut one time months ago.

When I first got here back in January, I needed to find a trustworthy place to manicure this fine crop of hair (singular?) I'm sporting.

"Mr. Aci Castello", Gustavo Bonnano, promptly called his barber and got me an appointment at Parrucchiere per Uomo with his barber, who is also the owner, Luigi.

On my first visit, Luigi looked at my hopeless situation and quickly passed me off to his assistant, Giorgio. Sharing the same name quickly formed a bond between us during that first tonsorial adventure.

Giorgio checked out the lay of the land and asked me how long I would be living in Aci Castello. After replying that I would be here for 7 months, his response, in decent English, was "I have a plan...".  GAME ON!

The haircuts and beard trims have all been good and Luigi himself even took a stab at taming my mane at one juncture.

What I've enjoyed the most about my trip to this parrucchiere on my monthly visits are the people who hang out there and are always laughing and having a good time. I only catch about every fourth word or phrase but they use the universal Italian hand gestures and they do laugh a lot!

Luigi and Giorgio are constantly bantering back and forth and the crowd of people getting their haircut, waiting to get their haircut or just hanging out makes it a happening, not just a haircut. Because of all of these antics, a haircut, like everything else in Italy takes a long time but it is always worth it for the laughs. I always leave feeling sharp and with a big smile on my face. 


The outside of the Parrucchiere per Uomo is simple and does not foretell of the fun to be found inside.

Three Thumbs Up for Giorgio's Master Plan

The veteran Luigi, who flew to Chicago a couple of months ago to partake in an international hairstyling contest, is on the left and the young Master Strategist, Giorgio, is on the right.

Oh, to have their hair to work with!!!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

I See Marvelous Things...

First, from the "it's a small world" file.

Last night when I got back to the hotel from dinner in Trapani, I checked my e-mail one more time before going to bed and found only one new one from someone I didn't know named Scott Gorman. Apparently he has followed the blog and is coming to Italy in mid-July to attend a wedding in Rome with his wife Courtney. He really wants to see one of our games but the only way that would be possible is if we somehow made it to the championship game on July 19.

It turns out that Scott is the Chief Aide to the Owner of the Indianapolis Colts! The small world part is that the Colts have a starting LB by the name of Freddie Keiaho who played at San Diego State and Buena H.S. in Ventura, California.

At Buena, Freddie's head football coach was Rick Scott. Rick is the reason I'm coaching in Italy. It is a long story but if you go back to the very first entry in the blog dated December 6, 2007 and titled "Why I'm Coaching American Football in Italy", and re-read it, you'll agree that it truly IS a small world.

Dinner in Trapani

I had a great seafood pasta at this neighborhood eatery followed by two sausages that were worthy of being served at an Elephants' BBQ! I found Trapani at night and on foot, no thanks to Garmin, to be a very charming port city.

Is Lucky in the Advertising Game part-time?

The Hydra-Foil to the Egadi Islands

I was up bright an early this morning to catch the 8:00 a.m. hydra-foil to the Favignana for a full day of sun and refreshing sea water. We made the crossing in about 20 minutes and I was raring to go!

The Ceramic Port Map Was Very Nice

This is still a very active fishing town and it was a center for tuna fishing.

This reminds me, I'm in need of nourishment!

A Raspberry Granita should do the trick.


While trying to find a good beach I ran across these old anchors.
Oh what tales they could tell!

The Lido Burrone

I walked about 15 minutes to the other side of the island and found the Lido Burrone on a beautiful spiaggia, i.e., beach.

The water was crystal clear and looked refreshing.

People were already enjoying the penetrating rays of the Sicilian sun.

Then it hit me as to what was missing, no one was in the water as of yet.
So I decided that someone had to be the first, so why not me.

Are those little brown rocks in the water?


So much for refreshing sea water! As a result I halted my beach day quite early and headed back into the town of Favignana for lunch and to try an earlier hydra-foil to Trapani than the 5:30 p.m. one I was scheduled to load.

The Camarillo Brillo Music Cafe

Madonna was blaring as artist of the moment, so how could I resist a smoked tuna, speck (that's a form of ham) and cheese pannino at a place named after the city, Camarillo, where you will find stately Casa Contreras? It was a good one!

The Havana Club Banner on the back wall sealed the deal!


As I mentioned yesterday, Garmin and I did not get along trying to maneuver the streets of Trapani.

Did I mention that she yelled at me to "FOLLOW THE HIGHLIGHTED ROUTE" after I missed a right turn she wanted me to make that did not exist and would have driven me off a 1,000 foot cliff near Erice if I had listened to her!

On the Hydra-Foil back to Trapani I programmed in two cities I wanted to visit now that I had bought time due to the jellyfish in Favignana. My idea was to save some time and not drive recklessly by already having her ready to navigate for me. The only problem is that since we were at sea she was going CRAZY trying to figure the best route for our CAR! I let her go for about two minutes...PAYBACK BABY!

Did I mention that she is THE worst at trying to pronounce Italian street names. It makes her sound very laughable.

I decided that I didn't really want to see the ruins at Selinunte or drive the southern coast and just see more beaches and water, so what to do?

It suddenly hit me, in the mid 1990's an Art teacher by the name of Jay Shelton at Rio Mesa H.S. where I taught came up with the idea of Movie Club. With the likes of fellow teachers Tom FitzGerald, Dick Bellman, Albert Lorenzanz, John Tierney, myself plus a few guest members, it was a go!

The premise was simple enough, we all loved movies but not the same ones necessarily. We would meet on Wednesday nights once or twice a month to watch a movie and eat dinner. We rotated hosting it and the host picked the movie of his choice and provided the sustenance. I saw movies that I had heard of but never seen as well as some favorites that re-seeing was worthwhile. We each had our own unique tastes and the post-viewing film discussions were very entertaining as well.

Unfortunately, Jay, our founding father, had to leave town suddenly and under a cloud of mystery for a new job back in his native New York state. Without his driving force, the Rio Mesa Movie Club died a rather quick death.

Now I bring all this up because the memory of Movie Club is what made me drive to the next two towns. 


The home of the Godfather himself, Don Vito. Who can forget his impetuous son Sonny and the reserved son, Michael, a.k.a, Claudio Mangano.

What a movie!!! Winner of the 1972 Academy Award for Best Picture. Definitely in the Top 5 All Time Best picture List if not THE best.

I tried to buy gas in Corleone but couldn't. They would not accept my credit card, CASH ONLY! Of course, no paper trail that way...

The town looked normal to me.

I did park my car and walk away with Garmin still inside.

"Sunday, Monday, Thursday, Saturday..." but no explosion, I had to try it.

Liberty and Justice

This touch in the main piazza has Michael Corleone written all over it

It is an interesting little hilltop town for any movie buff to experience.

A view of Corleone from above.

Why this town next?

Because, as this mosaic attests, this is the town where the movie "Cinema Paradiso" was filmed!

This is my favorite Italian film which won the 1990 Oscar for Best Foreign Film. The version that won the Academy Award is very sweet but the original Director's Cut is a much longer, darker and disturbing view of the life in yet another small hilltop Sicilian town.

I asked some of these men in the Piazza where the film was shot if they could give me some insights as to the making of the movie.

They directed me here, where many photos of the making of the movie are on display.

The "Cinema Paradiso" Gang of Four

Inside I met these four ladies who went out of their way to supply me with about 10 brochures about the town of Palazzo Adriano and the shooting of the film. The lady on the far right was actually in the movie as a town extra as a young child!

The Cinema Paradiso building stood right where I am taking this picture.

The Church

To the right of the church you can see the building where a movie was projected onto it on a very fateful turning point night for the characters in the film.

And Now for Something Totally Different...

The ISLAND of Sicily

After driving  from Catania to Palermo to Segesta to Erice to Trapani to Corleone to Palazzo Adriano and back to Catania the last two days, I must ask the members at the National Geographic Society the question, "Why is Sicily referred to as an island?"

Now, I know the definition initially fits, "A body of land completely surrounded by water". My point is that Catalina is an island, Manhatten is an island, Navignana is an island, Vashon is an island. I can walk from one side to the other of any of these with no problem. On Sicily, NO WAY! I used about a tank and a half on my road trip the last two days.

Members of the Society, I say Sicily deserves to be upgraded from island to a LAND MASS! There is precedence, Australia is an island but we have deemed to call it a Continent due to it's size. All I ask for is that from now on we refer to it as "The Land Mass of Sicily". I think it would be much more apt! Please consider it.

Meanwhile, back in reality...

As a youngster learning how to read at K.L. Carver School in San Marino, California, we were given a heavy dose of the "Fun With Dick and Jane" books.

They lived with their parents and had a dog named Spot.

I only remember a very few things from those books, but one thing always stayed with me. One day Dick and Jane's parents packed the kids into the car with Spot and they went for a drive in the country where the kids got to see all sorts of farm animals.

Now even in 1953, as a first grader, I knew that there was no way that this would happen in our family or anybody else's family in the class since we lived, basically, in Los Angeles. Now, L.A. is many things but it is NOT farm country!

If we had read these same books in the LAND MASS of Sicily, NO PROBLEM!

"Look, Dick, see the vineyard grow grapes for Mother's wine spritzers."

"Jane, would you like to ride the horse when Massimo is finished?"

"See Spot run after the cows. Run, Spot, run!"

I also saw shorn sheep, two rams wearing cowbells and butting heads plus a shepherd that made you wonder.

The road I drove today was nicknamed the "Vie dei Fromaggio", I think I'll go home and eat some.

So, I'm back in Aci Castello none the worse for wear, having greatly enjoyed two days of discovering even more reasons to love this LAND MASS!

Did I fail to mention that my bride, Laurie, arrives in ONLY 7 days?