Thursday, August 30, 2018

A Sunday Family BBQ, a Trip to LAX and More American Football Gear for EuroBall

Sunday, August 26 - Wednesday, August 29, 2018

I was unusually busy the past few days and I enjoyed every minute of it!

All around the USA school is starting again which means that it was time for the traditional First Day of School Photographs.

Kevin starting the First Grade
in Las Vegas, Nevada

Jacob starting the First Grade
in Oxnard, California

Mary, at only three years of age,
is still in the School of Disney Princesses 

Marta, Nicolas and Jacob at our house
on Sunday for a BBQ

Playing Army in the back yard

Casualties of War

Marta and Mary bonding

Time out from the War Games
to settle down before dinner

Grillin' Time

On Monday we bid farewell
 Nicolas and Marta who were
returning to Milan after three
weeks in the New World

After dropping off our friends at LAX
I stopped off Baby Blues BBQ in Venice
for a tri-tip sandwich, mashed sweet
potatoes and a diet Coke

Seeing our friends off to Italy was a bit depressing. When I'm down, I eat.

I felt better afterward.

More depressing news on Santa Monica's
3rd Street Promenade

Being old school, I like the feel and smell of a book in my hands when reading. Another book store closing just kills me.

Continuing up the Pacific Ocean's coast, I had to make a EuroBall related stop on the way home.

Stopped off at Malibu H.S. to pick
some gear for the Skorpions Varese

After the Sharks team meeting was
over, I collected . . .

helmets for the Skorpions

And some face masks too!

We should be able to ship these off these helmets and face masks efficiently to Italy in three large boxes I believe.


Just a random reminder of
our beloved life in Italy when I
got home to Casa Contreras

LOVE this book series

We were able to see so many interesting things using this series books about odd things to see in first Stockholm two years ago and then in Milan this year.

Amazingly, having lived all my life in the greater Los Angeles area, I have only been to six of the places listed in their L.A. book.

Not so amazingly, of the six sights that I have visited, three were food related.

No arguments from me about visiting Clifton's Cafeteria, Philippe's Home of the French Dipped Sandwich and the San Antonio Winery when you are in the southland.

HUGE season opener
for the Huskies this Saturday

I hope the Huskies aren't looking past
Auburn to the big North Dakota game
next week

We are going to the Utah and UCLA games for sure and will probably drive up to the Bay Area for the Cal game.

The November 3rd game against Stanford in Seattle looks like a possibility too.

I am resuming my "career" as the color commentator on the weekly Ventura County Star's Game-of-the-Week podcasts this Friday but this year only on a limited basis.

Our game this Friday should be a dandy as the county's #3 team, the Oxnard Yellowjackets (2-0), travel to play the county's #2 team, the Westlake Warriors (2-0).

I'm not sure what to make of the fact that these two clubs will be playing their third games of the ten game season and it will still be AUGUST.

On Tuesday I headed over to Westlake H.S. to interview their Head Coach Tim Kirksey and watch the Warriors practice in order to get a better feel for their club.

I had to watch where I stepped

The scene of Friday's epic contest

With WHS Special Teams Coach
Kevin Flye

One of the good guys in our profession, he played locally as a LB for Hueneme H.S. back in the day and was the Head Coach at Royal H.S. for many years.

WHS bag drills

When I got home after the Warriors' practice, Laurie and I had work to do.

Last Fall coaches in Ventura County donated about 80 used shoulder pads to the EuroBall cause, many of which landed in Varese, Italy for our beloved Skorpions.

A year later, we still had 30 shoulder
pads in our garage

Thanks to our friend Aiki Parts who is now the President of the Stockholm American Football Federation, we were contacted by the Sweden's Upplands Bro Broncos about our shoulder pads.

As a result . . . 

30 Shoulder Pads in five boxes
to Sweden it is!

The shipping company will pick up these boxes on Thursday and then they head to the greater Stockholm megalopolis. 

Our garage will be emptier and Laurie will be happier!


As for my education . . .

. . . it will continue starting
at 5:45 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 10th

On Wednesday, I visited Oxnard H.S. to interview their Head Coach Jon Mack and watch a bit of their practice for background to use on Friday night's podcast.

At Westlake I had to worry about rattlesnakes . . .

. . . at Oxnard the danger was
possible swarms of Yellowjackets

Oxnard has one of the very few
natural grass game fields left
in Ventura County

Oxnard H.S. Offense vs. Air

Things went well at Oxnard as they had a Westlake the day before. I thankfully have plenty of background for my part of the podcast on Friday night.

On the drive home from Oxnard H.S., I had to drive past Pacifica H.S. where friends Head Coach Mike Moon and Triton assistants Dean Litten and Tomec Czerwinski were having a workout of their own.

So I stopped off to visit them
and watch the Tritons practice

The Tritons (1-0) are coming off of a season opening 49-0 win at Dos Pueblos H.S. last Saturday night. They will host the Newbury Park Panthers (1-0) who defeated the Thousand Oaks Lancers 37-0 last Friday in the game we attended.

Staying busy is a good thing.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Home to California and a Fun Week with Our Italian Friends

Sunday, August 19 - Saturday, August 25, 2018

After pulling a near all-nighter after our win in Chihuahua, Saturday night, WR Dane Arakawa joined Coach Mike Contreras, DB Nicolas Principi and myself for the 4:30 a.m. taxi ride to the airport to start our long treks home.

The reason for our quick departure from Mexico was that Mike had to report bright and early on Monday for the start of the school year at Newbury Park H.S. where he teaches.

Dane was headed back to his family home in Hawaii via Dallas while the rest of us were going to Houston for a six hour layover before boarding a second flight to Los Angeles.

Our flights were both on time and smooth with the only highlight of the journey being the excellent Texas BBQ restaurant that we frequented during the layover.

Laurie picked us up at LAX and we were back in Ventura County in no time.

While we were enjoying eating street tacos and practicing/playing American football south of the border, Laurie and Marta Crosta, Nicolas' significant other, had spent a week bonding at Casa Contreras and along California's Gold Coast.

Once we were all reunited, we started to enjoy a week together doing touristy/vacation things in the area.

A day at the beach in Carpinteria
hard by the Pacific Ocean . . .

. . . was followed by an adult beverage
at Carpinteria's Islands Brewery

A few days later we headed to the
harbor at Santa Barbara for . . .

. . . lunch at Brophy Brothers

It was a good half way stopping point on our way to some delicious wine tasting in Los Olivos.

Nicolas' new 1940s American football
helmet that he found in a Los Olivos
Antique Store

Face masks had not yet been invented.

No, really!

On to Solvang, the central
California city founded by three
Danish families in 1911

Small World
with Robert Buckley

While the ladies were shopping (surprise, surprise) for Danish made treasures, Nicolas and I sat on a sidewalk bench watching the world go by.

Within 30 seconds, Robert Buckley ambled by.

Robert and I were school mates at St. Francis H.S. in La Cañada-Flintridge, California about three hours south of Solvang back in the 1960s!

I graduated from SFHS in 1965 while Robert was part of the class of 1967. On a side note, both of his children were students of mine at Rio Mesa H.S.

Yep, small world indeed!

On Thursday morning, a workout
in the Rio Mesa H.S. weight room
was called for

Not to worry, I ran into RMHS teachers Jeff Wrout and Mary Wayne which gave me the perfect excuse not to exercise as I caught up on what both of my former colleagues did this Summer.


Nicolas was excited to continue to take in as much of the typical American football experience as he could while visiting the Golden State.

Thus we headed to Moorpark College
on Thursday night to watch a scrimmage
between the Moorpark College Raiders
and the California Lutheran University Kingsmen

Nicolas with Cal Lutheran
Head Coach Ben McEnroe

Nicolas with Moorpark
Offensive Coordinator Jason Sabolic

It was a BEAUTIFUL night for
American football!

Let the scrimmage begin!

The scrimmage lasted for
almost three hours

Both teams got a ton of reps and I'm sure benefited from the competition. 

With Jason and Nicolas

Jason is a longtime family friend who is the son of Paul and Joanne Sabolic who we have known for about 40+ cherished years.

As always, it was lots of fun sitting with Paul and Joanne in the stands during the scrimmage retelling old tales and a few new ones as well.

Additionally, Paul is one of this blog's two die-hard groupies.

Michael D'Antuono is the other one.

Love them both!

Post-Scrimmage de-briefing at
Ventura County's premier pastrami
sandwich shop

Friday at Cal Lutheran

Both Nicolas and Marta were interested in finding out more about the process of a foreign student enrolling in an American college.

The nice people at Cal Lutheran gave them both some solid insights.

Outside of the CLU American
football complex

The Kingsmen play in the NCAA's Division III for non-athletic scholarship colleges.

By the statue honoring CLU's
1971 NAIA Championship American
football team

Friday night at Thousand Oaks H.S.

We came to watch the Newbury Park Panthers (0-0), in white, take on the Thousand Oaks Lancers (0-1) for the 50th time in their storied rivalry that started back in 1970 with an epic 48-48 tie.

Alessandro Zazzetta, on the left, is a
JV player for NPHS from Rome

Those are Alessandro's parents behind the fence and their family moved to America just a few months ago.

This is his first ever experience playing American football and Nicolas did a great job bolstering both Alessandro's and his parent's spirits and stressing the importance of persevering and focusing on learning the game in his initial campaign.

46.1 seconds until Kickoff

Marta, Nicols and Mike enjoying
the view from the sidelines

Marta and Nicolas

TOHS on Goal Line Defense


They didn't, Panthers with a quick 7-0 lead on a flawless opening drive of their season.

Nice Catch by the NPHS receiver

From a Ventura County Star
newspaper photo

All of us are in the background, sort of.

Laurie is on the left, parts of Marta can be seen behind the ball carrier's body, Nicolas is partially hidden by the chasing DB in green as is our Grandson Jacob in front of me with Unicorn shirted Mike on the right.

We were famous in a small way.

Jacob LOVES Nicolas

But I think that Jacob loves Marta more.

Nicolas about to make an
open field tackle on a shifty Jacob

Friday Night Lights
Final Score
Newbury Park 37 - Thousand Oaks 0

So in two days Nicolas had experienced first a taste for college football and then a high school rivalry game.

Only one thing left to experience . . .

An NFL pre-season game

Saturday YOUR Los Angeles Rams (1-1) were hosting the Houston Texans (1-1) at the Coliseum.

We were able to buy tickets on-line for $6 each which was $2 less than the cost of a ticket to Friday night's Newbury Park at Thousand Oaks game!

Go Rams GO!

The Rams cheerleaders begged us
to take a picture with them

So we did.

Gold Medal winners from the
1932 Los Angeles Olympics

The Track and Field portion of those Olympics happened at this very Coliseum spot.

Italian Gold in 1932 in Gymnastics

More Gold Medalists from Italy
from Los Angeles' 1984 Olympiad

This time it was for winning the Modern Pentathlon.

$12 for TWO street tacos?

HIGHWAY ROBBERY inside the Coliseum!

Get me back to Chihuahua NOW!

The view from our $6 seats

The crowd was small for this pre-season contest where many key Rams players had been announced in advance as non-suits.

In was too hot in the direct, scorching Summer sun at the 1:00 p.m. Kickoff, so we climbed to up to the only shade in the Coliseum.

MUCH cooler!

Many of the seats in front of us were soon filled as the giant scoreboard's shadow behind us grew.

Whose house?

Marta, Nicolas and I enjoyed
the end of our American football
weekend immensely!

Los Angeles 21 - Houston 20

Somewhat hungry after avoiding the outrageous Coliseum food prices, we headed to an iconic East L.A. dining spot for some authentic Mexican food.

El Tepeyac on Evergreen is an absolute 
MUST place to eat on any visit to L.A.

A tribute at El Tepeyac to the Eastside

The famous Manuel Special Burrito

It was both HUGE and delicious!

We only ordered one burrito and divided it four ways, one for each of us and one for a homeless man to be named later that we would be bound to meet later in Old Town Pasadena.

This burrito was filled with pork, rice, beans, guacamole with cheese and a spicy salsa atop it all.

The one we tried to consume is made for four people. They now make this same burrito in an incredible eight person size too.

We needed dessert.

The Cheesecake Factory in
Old Town Pasadena filled the bill

We ordered slices of three different cheesecakes and even shared a bite of each one with each other before turning back into starved locusts in attacking the slice we each had ordered.


And so good for you too!

Final stop of the day . . .

The Rose Bowl in Pasadena
Home of the "Grandaddy of then All"

Thanks to the D'Antuonos both
the Sabolic and the Contreras
families are part of the
University of Washington's area
in the Rose Bowl's Court of Honor

Life continues to astound me daily.

Mostly for the good.