Saturday, February 28, 2009

Saturday Workout

A VERY competitive practice today with the veterans and the rookies blending in well as we stressed some short yardage and goal line situations.

The 2009 Italian Football League season kicks off next weekend with two games followed by two more the following week.

We have byes both of these weeks and do not play our first game at Ancona until March 22nd, three weeks from tomorrow.  The season is upon us!

The keys to a successful Elephant's season are staying healthy, a BIG issue in 2008, vastly improving on defense and special teams while trying to maintain our high flying offense of last season. 

Larry "LA" Atkinson

Exemplifying our new and improved team attitude, "LA" moved to offensive guard from his normal cornerback position to fill a void in the offensive line at practice today.

He can trap block with the best of them!!!

Friday, February 27, 2009

The Second Circumnavigation of Mt. Etna

Paul and I embarked on what would turn out be my second "Circumnavigation of Mt. Etna".  Last year my bride Laurie and I successfully completed the Circumnavigation by going in a counterclockwise fashion.

On Friday we decided to attempt the very tricky clockwise Circumnavigation.  Many lives have been lost over the years by people that have tried this approach to Mt. Etna.  Being two guys who only 24 hours ago ate a Milza sandwich, we felt we were both man enough to give this somewhat deadly trek a go. 

Mt. Etna's Southern View Near Paterno

The town, not Joe

The Doors to the Chapel at the
Admiral Horatio Nelson Estate

Bourbon King Ferdinand gave Admiral Nelson of the British Navy this huge feudal estate in 1799 located outside of the town of Bronte on the east side of Mt. Etna as a magnanimous gift for his blockade of Naples that eventually forced Napoleon Bonaparte's French troops to surrender thus returning Naples to King Ferdinand's control.

During Giuseppe Garibaldi's rule over Sicily in the 1850's, many peasants died over this estate in the belief that land reform would include Nelson's land.  To keep peace with an English government that was friendly to Garibaldi's cause, Nelson's land was ruled exempt from Garibaldi's promised land reform policy.  Riots ensued and eventually five of these peasant rioters were tried and executed by Garibaldi's government.

"Admiral, watch out for that first step in the green doorway on the left!" 

Dormant Growth

The Nelson Estate's Courtyard Well

New and Old Roofs Meet

A VERY Regal Proclamation from King George III of England for Admiral Nelson

A Mossy Celtic Cross in the Nelson Courtyard

A View Towards the Entrance to the Courtyard

Farther North, the town of Maletto in the distance

Outside of Randazzo facing the North slope of Mt. Etna

We drove up into the Nebrodi Mountains near Messina as we tried to find the town of Tortorici.  Instead we found snow!

The reason for our side trip to find Tortorici is that one of our friend's family roots are in this village.  Carmen Di Paolo, a long time football coach in Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties, is that friend and we are sad to report that we did not get there on this journey as we had to hurry back to Catania for our 6:00 p.m. staff meeting in the Elephant's War Room.

Though thwarted in our effort Friday, another full scale assault on Tortorici is in the planning stages for this Sunday.

The remote but beautiful
Nebrodi Mountains

Mt. Etna's Ominous North Face

Our drive to Catania was momentarily halted by, of all things, a Sheep Crossing!

The Dashing Shepherd of the Flock

He was thankful that we stopped to let his flock cross peacefully.

Catania's "La Paglia" Fish Ristorante

After our staff meeting it was time to eat and celebrate the success of the day's expedition!  We invited Denver Wade, our offensive line coach to join us.

This was another very solid meal at a restaurant suggested to us by Paul's "Lonely Planet Italy" guidebook.  If you are traveling to Italy in the near future, you should definitely check this tome out for it's list of eating establishments.

By the way, Paul did accidentally kick over this sign just before I took this picture!!!

Denver and Paul checking out some of our dinner choices.

Afterwards at the "Etoile d'Or" pasticceria, Denver enjoys his first Ricotta Cannolo in Sicily

One's first Sicilian cannolo is always a moment of great shared joy for me!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Palermo's Culinary Delicacies

As I stated in the last post, defensive line coach Paul Petrich Jr. and our QB Luke Tracy, packed up our spiffy Ford Fiesta for the two hour drive to Palermo to hold a two hour practice for our seven teammates who live in the greater Palermo megalopolis.

On the drive towards the northwest corner of Sicily, Paul was again in charge of figuring out where to eat lunch.  He relied on his trusty "Lonely Planet Italy" guidebook and found us another great spot for a locals oriented meal.

Antica Focacceria di San Francesco

Established in 1834, as noted on their storefront, this place is a Palemo institution and is one of the city's oldest eating houses.  It hosted the first Sicilian parliament and was a favorite haunt of the notorious Mafia Boss, 'Lucky' Luciano.

My simple but tasty lunch.

On the left is pannelle (chickpea fritters) and mini-potato croquettes with a Fanta to wash them down.  On the right is a delicious arancino (a deep-fried rice ball stuffed with meat, cheese and vegetables).  A cannolo, for which I had to wait because they were making fresh ones as I ate, was included in this #1 meal for only 6 Euros.

Now, because this place is so packed at lunch, I held down an open table for about five minutes while Luke and Paul got their food.  This will become critical to our story soon.
What was this tasty looking dish that they were cooking?

When they returned with their meals that each included what appeared to be a roast beef sandwich made from this large cooking pan near our table.

Sandwich... What Sandwich?

As you can clearly see here, by the time I got back to the table with my lunch, the two sandwiches were just a distant memory.

Now, Paul had read to us on the drive across the island about a signature meat dish that  is served here called "Milza".  They had purchased and consumed a Milza sandwich without really being sure what they were doing, they were ordering based on how the food looked, no problem there from my dining experiences.

So what is Milza?  Milza is a sandwich made of veal spleens and a little veal lungs with a little ricotta cheese.  They actually liked it, go figure.

We ate next to this table of ladies from Messina.

They spoke very good English and were the ones who confirmed what was in those interesting Milza sandwiches.

Vito, honest, the Brains of the Antica Focacceria di San Francesco

The Challenge

After finally getting and quickly consuming one of the best cannolos I've ever had for dessert, I started to feel like an outsider.  I was the only one who had not eaten a Milza sandwich.

By the time we started to leave both Paul and Luke were walking and talking with a bit of cockiness over there new culinary boundaries.

I couldn't take it anymore so I ordered a Milza sandwich to go.  Here you see me about to join the exclusive Milza Sandwich Club.  Though we all ate one of these, I would like it noted that I was the only one who was 100% cognizant of what he was doing at the time of consumption!

The Always Colorful and Fun-Loving
Marx, Engels, Lennin and ?

After lunch, we opted to let the veal spleen digest as we toured Palermo by foot.

We decided that the three of us in one of these would be a little strange so we passed.

An Interesting Door

The Quatro Canti

The main intersection of the oldest part of Palermo, each of the four corners looks similar to this one and each has its own unique fountain.

San Giovanni degli Eremiti

The exterior is Arab-Norman style with one of its signature pink bijoux domes.

The Chiesa di San Cataldo

The interior is full of these gold mosaics.

San Cataldo also has fantastic mosaic floors.

Palermo's Our Lady of the Assumption Cathedral

Francesco di Paula, 1416-1507

The founder of the Minims, he was noted for the severe purity and piety of his life.

I think this would be a VERY cool way for Vanessa and Mike to leave Santa Clara Church after their wedding in August! 

What do you think?

DB Manolo, in red and black, covering TE Emanuelle at practice.

Once again we got a lot accomplished in terms of individual technique improvement.  All in all, it was a great road trip!

Crusading for Safer Streets

Thursday is our scheduled day to drive to the Northwestern corner of Sicily to have a workout for the seven Palermo area based Elephants.

Although Luke and Paul were there to primarily coach football, I was there to spread the word!

First I met with members of the
Palermo Police Department.

I am proud to report that these five representatives of the said that the P.P.D. is ON BOARD!  Look for great improvements in parking safety in Palermo over the next few months!!!

In Palermo you can actually purchase official badges like these.

Unfortunately I couldn't find an SOstare parking police badge.

The Carabinieri Are in FULL Support Also!

I met with two members of Italy's superb national law enforcement agency before lunch in Palermo.  Their only comment was to wonder why nobody started a crusade against these parking violators decades ago!

The Movement Grows!!!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

A Day at the Doctor's Office

Before leaving America to come to Catania to coach the Elephant's defensive line, Paul Petrich Jr. decided to go swimming in a Santa Barbara, California area pool.  Unfortunately while jumping into the pool he cracked his elbow into the cement edge of the pool thus creating... 


The net result was that three weeks later he had a rather large build up of fluid in his elbow as you can see.  What to do?

Easy, make an appointment for Paul to see our team physician, Dr. Angelo di Giunta who was also one of the original Elephants a quarter of a century ago.

So Drain It He Did!

Right before my very eyes, Angelo stuck this needle into Paul's engorged elbow and proceeded to suction out all the liquid you see in this tasteful medical school textbook picture.

Why is it that I suddenly craved some blood orange juice???

Forbidden Hospital Fruit

Paul was sorely tempted after his medical procedure to take a raste from this forbidden fruit tree on the hospital's grounds.  I, of course, tried to point out the significance of the skull and crossbones in any and all eating situations.

David going over tonight's offensive plan with Luke, Taber and Larry.

Cold, damp weather kept our turnout to a season low of about 23 players.  Still, we accomplished a lot at the individual technique level.

I really like the bright future that rookie linebacker, Cristoforo Grasso, has in store for himself.  With time, coaching and experience, he has the chance to be a VERY special player over the next decade.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Being a Tourist in Our Own Town

I have just finished reading this excellent book by Sandra Benjamin on the history of my beloved island.  It really gives you a great perspective on how Sicily became the quirky place is is today.

A MUST read for Mike D'Antuono and
Chris Pagliaro, two Sicilian-American friends back in California.

This book follows the constant invasions and dominance of the island by a wide variety of civilizations that have each woven their mark into the tapestry of current day Sicilian life.

Sicily over the last 3,000 years has been ruled by, in order, the Greeks, the Romans, the Vandals, the Goths, the Byzantines, the Muslims, the Normans, the Hohenstaufens, the Spanish, the Bourbons and the Savoy Kingdom of Italy.  Each civilization has added to the advancement of the Sicilian people and their influences can still be seen in the customs, architecture and food of the island.

As great and informative as this book was, it was written in 2006 before, possibly, the greatest technological advancement in Sicilian history...

... The PosteItaliane

Those of you who followed my blog last year may recall the adventure that was any trip to the Aci Castello branch of the Italian Post Office and it's unique form of extra sensory perception queuing.  Basically, only the first three people actually stood in line with the other 20+ just scattered around the room intuitively knowing who they followed and knowing when to actually get in the 3 person line.  Of course, no one told me and I just joined the line causing a near international incident that almost required U.N. intervention.

So yesterday, I walked into the Post Office to mail Andy and Jenn three DVDs of the wedding photos and videos that we all took.  I asked who was last in my line for postage issues only (there are other lines for paying utility bills and traffic/parking fines).  The people said only the two people already in line so I queued up.  When I got to the front of the line the postal employee asked me for my number... NUMBER?

Since I left Catania last year one of the most important technological advancements in Sicilian history had taken place without my knowledge... "TAKE A NUMBER"

In the photo above you see the yellow number dispenser on the lower right.  You press the appropriate button for the line you need and voila you have your high-tech number!

IT GETS BETTER... then you sit back and read the big board with the red and green lights to see which number they are serving in your appropriate line... SLICK AS SNOT!!!

I wonder how many pages Sandra Benjamin will add to her Sicilian history book's first revision to chronicle this incredibly significant advancement?

Wasn't George Jugum #49?

After the epiphany at the Post Office, I wandered around town in a daze for several hours, taking random pictures of whatever caught my glazed over eyes.

Dried Grapes on #49's Walls

Paul got me to drive, not walk into Catania

Here you see him in a Cafe looking at his guide book for things to see today.

Paul thought that an espresso might shock me back to normal

As usual, he was right!

First stop, Catania's Roman Theater

Closed for repairs as were the St. Moritz Pasticceria, the Menza Ristorante and the Museum of the 1943 Sicilian Invasion.

Paul checking out San Nicolo l'Arena

Built on the site of a Benedictine monastery, it now houses the Catania University's Faculty of Letters and Philosophy.

Established in 1434 as Sicily's first University

C.U.'s campus is spread out at sights all over the city.

C.U.'s citywide campus has many very ornate buildings.

Drafty but VERY Interesting

On the wall outside the entrance to C.U. is this tribute the die-hard Forza Catania calcio/soccer team and their Curva Nord Ultra Fans

"Freedom Ultras Passion and Violence"

"Curva Nord Versus Everyone"

Ninety percent of all the graffiti in Catania deals with either calcio/soccer, politics or pleas of undying love.

Catania's former Cardinal Dusmet

I'm guessing that we won't have to worry about her between the legs dribble move...

Just Another Church


By walking around Catania in the afternoon, something we rarely did last year, we discovered all sorts of passageways that were open that we had never seen at night.

Whatever Flavor This Is, I'm NOT Buying Any!!!

Art Show at the Palazzo Valle

No pictures allowed of the Degas, Mapplethorpe, Matisse and Picasso art amongst many other artists and I honored their request but still took some shots out their windows.


Manchester United 0 - Inter Milan 0

After a long day of being a tourist in our own town of Catania, Paul and I agreed on dinner out in Aci Trezza in an establishment that was new to me, Chili Peppers American Bar Pizza and Pub.  He wanted to go for the food and I agreed to try it when I saw their sign outside saying that they were showing the Man U vs. Inter Champions League game.  Who would have guessed a 0-0 final result?

At the end of this titanic showdown, they aired highlights of the Champions League Roma at Arsenal game.  The Gunners killed them 1-0!