Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Typical Days in Camarillo

After just a couple of days back in California, I'm back into the Rio Mesa H.S. football routine although I'm nowhere close to getting over jet lag!


The NFL Dallas Cowboys Training Camp

The Dallas Cowboys have a very long history of holding their pre-season training camps in Ventura County.

During the Golden Years from the early 1960's until the late 1980's when the legendary Tom Landry was their head coach, the Cowboys trained at California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks.

When Jerry Jones bought the team 1989 he quickly decided to move the Cowboys training site to someplace in Texas after 1 or 2 more summers at Cal Lu.

Jones brought the team back to Oxnard about 3 years ago and spent 2 great camps there so naturally he moved them back to Texas last summer. This summer he is back in Oxnard! 

Oxnard's River Ridge

The Dallas training camp is held on 2 manicured fields that sit side by side next to the River Ridge Golf Course (behind the trees in the background) and a Marriott Hotel where the players are housed.

This site is only about 3 miles from Rio Mesa H.S. where I coach. 

Spectator Rules

I think that Rule #1 may be the reason you see so few Italians at the practices.

The Cowboys even bring their own portable mini-Hall-of-Fame.

Super Bowl Trivia

Every REAL Cowboy fan knows that Chuck Howley is the correct answer to the question: "Who is the ONLY player on the losing team to ever be named the Super Bowl MVP?"


You have to be under 13 years of age to get into this autograph line, QB Tony Romo IS the hot number around the camp amongst fans.

Offense is in White

Defense is in Blue

Be More Fan Friendly

One thing that bothers me about Cowboy practices is that when it comes time for team work they always move the team to the field farthest away from the fans.

In the Landry days, the fans were allowed as close as 10 yards from ALL practice activities!

Cowboy Souvenirs

The Cowboys will sell you any and everything! Nice leather helmet on the salesman.

They will sell you Jerseys, Pictures...

... Seats from the old Texas Stadium...

... and even Paving Stones at their new stadium

Cowboy Mascot on the Rampage

Norm Chow visits the Cowboys

Norm Chow is one of the greatest offensive minds in football having been the very successful Offensive Coordinator at BYU, USC, the NFL Tennessee Titans and now starting his first season at UCLA.



As you know if you follow the blog, I just signed my Letter of Intent with Arsenal to be their newest fan. As it turns out I may be their newest fan but at the Cowboys camp I wasn't the biggest fan! I don't know where this large fellow is from but I know his dream is to someday see an Arsenal game at Emirates Stadium.

The glove I'm wearing is NOT a tribute to Michael Jackson, I'm actually at the Cowboy's Camp...

... Working the Rio Mesa H.S. Football Food Booth

As a result, I have to wear these gloves if I'm handling the food.

The Cowboys have offered the local high schools the opportunity to sell food concessions to the spectators during their time in Oxnard. Our booth sells pizza, breakfast croissants, nachos, meat ball sandwiches and all sorts of non-alcoholic beverages.

Labor intensive, it is a GREAT fund raiser for us!

I know, we are not up to Sicilian standards

I'm in charge of cooking these steaks on the BBQ to later cut up and add to our nachos. I fully understand that there SHOULD be cipolata, involtini and Italian sausages on the grill too but I've only been back 4 days!


Arsenal Fans Are All Over Ventura County

After finishing my morning shift at Cowboy Camp, I met the Ventura County Star's ace sports reporter, David P. Lassen, for lunch at Jack's Deli in Westlake.

We both showed up wearing Arsenal jerseys. David's O2 (a communications company) style is the former sponsor's version. I'm sporting the current sponsor's red version.

We had a nice visit about the end of the Elephant's season and his upcoming trip to Beijing to cover the 2008 Summer Olympics where he will be following the 10 or so U.S. Olympians with Ventura County roots. After the Olympics are over he will vacation in Australia, I'm jealous!



After lunch it was back to Rio Mesa to open up the weight room for the team to work out. I got their about 45 minutes before the players were scheduled to arrive.

It has taken several years to equip this room and we are very proud of it!

Rio Mesa Football History

Besides being a workout facility, we also try to instill pride in our program in this room. Here are pictures of many of R.M.H.S. alumni who have gone on to play college and NFL football.


The highest honor a player can earn in Southern California is to be named to the All-C.I.F. team. In our 43 year history, 41 players have earned this honor. When they do, their jersey number, name and position are added to the ceiling as depicted here.

We had a great Nose Guard by the name of Calvin Burnett a few years ago. He made All-C.I.F. his senior year and asked me to tell him when I was going to install his information onto this Row of Fame. When the time came he steadied the ladder for me and told me that the first day of summer as a freshman when he saw these numbers, he vowed to someday be up there too! I guess it worked as a motivational tool.

Team Pictures

All 43 varsity teams that have represented Rio Mesa on the football field have their team pictures on the walls too. These are the photos from the last four very successful seasons.

So, that's it, the drill is basically football, football, football.


Sunday, July 27, 2008

European Notes

Elephants Catania
American Football Team

With apologies to Billy Joel, here is my European Grand Tour version of his great hit song "We Didn't Start the Fire"... as a warning, this IS the long version.

Reggiano Parmesano

Paddington Station

Gustavo and Elena




The British Library

San Marino

The Champs-Elyeese

Hyde Park

Davide, Daniella and Alesandro


Piccadilly Circus


Katerina, "The Get Back Referee"

Roman Ruins

Big Ben


The Dorm

The Tower of London

The Internet Café at the Dorm



The Orsay Museum

Lucky, Federica, Danielle and Simone

Wearing Scarves in winter

The Pantheon

"Pony", Ika, Eduardo, Alicia, Ruggiero and Federico

“Obie Wan Cannoli”, a.k.a., Matt Epperson

Gino, Connie and the town of Enna

Westminster Abbey

“Mt. Etna’s erupting!”

Etoile d’Or

“The 39 Steps”

The glace at Berthillon’s

“The Big Bianco”, a.k.a., Brandon Bennett

The Deportation Monument

St. Paul’s Cathedral

The Medici Chapels

Padre Pio


“The Doctor” Salvo Sicali

Spaghetti al nero


Castel Sant’Angelo

Fratelli la Bufala

Baia Verde Runs

St. Peter’s Basillica

Green Park

Golf at Il Picciolo

Wind Jet’s on time air service

Covent Garden

Katerina and Bruno

MAC Officials

The Palace at Versailles

Giorgio’s Master Plan

Nutella Crepes

“The Woman in Black”

The Arc de Triomphe


Schonbrunn Palace

La Sorbetteria Castiglione

The British Museum


Alcantara Gorge

Michelangelo’s David

The Two Marias

“But you can call me Smith”

Winter Midnight Run to Mt. Etna

Gianmarco and Simona


The Walled city of Lucca

Andy and Jenn get engaged in Rome

Festival of Sant’Agata


Nazi Pill Boxes

British House of Parliament


Cristian DiMauro will hit you


Massimo Tribulato

The Palermo Corsari at Catania pre-game fiasco

L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele

The Block of Discord

Alfonse Mucha

Taking Gustavo to the hospital

Meeting Laurie in romantic Rome

Piazza Navonna


The Fiat Cinquecento

The Louvre

The Elephant Statue

Super Bowl Party starting at 2:00 a.m.

Fabio Russo’s fashion sense


“Blood Brothers”

The Vatican Museum

Mike and Vanessa get engaged in Paris

Victoria Station

Street Performers all over Europe

The Trevi Fountain

Giulio and Fabio

221B Baker Street

The Duomo

Claudio and Roberta

Crazy Vespa/motorcycle Drivers

Churchill Museum and Cabinet War Rooms

Buckingham Palace

Salvo, Tiziana, Riccardo and Guglielmo

The Twin Towers in Bologna

Wine Tasting


The Autogrille


“I do not know”

Gregorio and Alessandra

Al Tubo’s

The Italian Advertising Community

The Catania Fish Market

“MASAGEE?” by Linda at Giardini Naxos

Mike’s Graduation

The Swiss Guards

Cinque Terra

The Eiffel Tower

Havana Club Rum

St. Paul’s Cathedral


Mt. Etna Molten Lava Red jerseys

Acireale ‘08

Pino Anello, always interesting


Watching Enrico Lombardo run

The Charles Bridge

The Antique Market


Renato Gargiulio

Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar

The Ponte Vecchio

“Madame Butterfly”


The Statue of Bob

“Elefanti Mai Stanchi!”


Tapas in Barcelona

The Palio in Siena

Piazza Armerina

Plaza Mayor

Pisa’s Field of Miracles

The Medusa

Palazzo Adriano and the Cinema Paradiso

Sicilian BBQ’s


Brunelleschi’s Dome

Piazza Bellini

The Crown Jewels

Peppe and Valeria


Atilio and Fundo Bianco flaming shots

Reverend Seth

The Royal Palace in Madrid

The Circumnavigation of Mt. Etna

Las Ramblas

The Pieta

St. George, the Dragon and now the Naked Woman

Visits by Paul, Joe, Mark and Susie

The Italian Communist Party

Francesca from Palermo

Sicilian Weddings

“Palermo = AIDS”

The Cathedral of Notre Dame



Fully decorated Sicilian fishing boats

Parking and Driving in Catania

Gilly’s stance

Santal Fruit Juices

“J Twice” and Christie once

Monday nights at Jonica’s Pizzeria

“The Night of the Broken Glass”

Getting mugged

San Gimignano

Puerta del Sol

Playing in the Elephant's post-season calcio game

Mathieu and Giordana


All of the Elephants!!!

Matteo Belfiore

Sagrada Familia


The Running of the Bulls

Lidos in the summer

Football practice all over Catania


Saturday, July 26, 2008

Hello America!

In answer to a question I have been asked many times in the last month, I AM going to keep the blog going now that I am back in California, just not every day I would think.

Normally at the end of a vacation I feel sad about going home but I have been so excited to get back to California that I could not sleep the last two nights in London. After 10 1/2 hours in the air, I finally alit in LAX to find that British Air had NOT lost my one checked-in bag!!!

When I did my check-in at the electronic kiosk in London's Heathrow Airport, it said I had a window seat. Now normally I take the aisle seat so that I can spill out into the aisle to some degree. The negative of this seat is that I would get the hell beat out of me by the food and drink cart as well as everybody walking to or from the rest room for nearly half a day! So I took a chance and opted for the window.

I completely forgot about going to the rest room myself and it made for two epic balancing acts just getting to the aisle.

The 15 year old British lad sitting next to me was interesting. I believe that he was on his way to U.C.L.A. to deliver a speech on his life experiences dealing with Attention Deficit Disorder (A.D.D.) while at the same time trying to form relationships with strangers. He pretty much beat me up too during the flight!

A last reflection on the past seven months in Europe:

When I was still teaching American Government at Rio Mesa H.S. in beautiful El Rio, California, we would start every semester talking about the roots of our system in large part starting with our countries English roots. One of the things I would try to get across to the students was that difficulties in communication and travel were big factors that led up to the American revolution in 1776.

I read somewhere that in 1776, the average American colonist never traveled more than 100 miles from their birthplace. This factoid always made me think how fortunate we are to live in these times of instant communication and the ability to fly, literally, half way across the world in less than 11 hours!

I have spent the last seven months traveling all over Europe visiting eight countries, countless cities and meeting so many wonderful people!


But my reflection is really this, I used to feel bad about those people during our American Colonial Era who, by and large, never saw much of the world. As I sat on the airplane I came to the realization that almost everybody (loved ones in Las Vegas and friends in Seattle being notable exceptions) and everything I love and treasure is indeed within 100 miles of my birthplace, Long Beach, California.

I think that all those American colonists may have been O.K. after all.

Koreen FitzGerald and her husband Brian picked me up at the
Los Angeles International Airport

Note the In-n-Out Double-Double Cheeseburger in the sack that they greeted me with!

With my friends that evening at Cronies Sports Grill in Camarillo

Brian even got me this cake to celebrate my return home

Note the gelato sign on the lower right side.

Greg, the manager of Cronies, forced me to drink a beer while everyone in the bar sang "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow"