Saturday, May 29, 2010

Slacking Off in Europe

Germany is proving to be more of a distraction than I thought it would be. Hence the lack of "Capri: Part Two."

We leave Monday morning for Paris.  Sunday night for most of you.  We'll spend the week in Paris, then be back in the states on Saturday.  I'll try to write before then, but I'm not sure it will be possible.  But I'm alive and well in Berlin and I'll post again as soon as I can.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Capri Sun

I'm tempted to tell you that all you need to know about Capri is that it is beautiful, because I don't know if any words I write will give you the proper impression. Much like how I felt about Pompeii. Clearly I'm not as gifted a writer as I'd like to believe. I'll work on that.

I actually should say that Capri is not just beautiful; it's probably the most beautiful place I've ever seen. Maybe I'm only saying that now because it's also the most recent place I've seen, but I don't think so. It's high on the list. Let's give you an overview: Capri is an island off the Sorrentine Peninsula.  The Gulf of Naples is to the north, and the Tyrrhenian Sea (part of the Mediterranean) is to the south. The island itself is not that big. There are essentially two parts to it: Capri and Anacapri. I guess they're just little towns on the rock named Capri. A woman in a shop in Anacapri told us that the city of Capri has a population of 7,000, while Anacapri has 5,000 residents. During tourist season, I'm sure those numbers at least double.

After we got back from Pompeii on Sunday afternoon, we took a cab to our hotel, got our bags, then got a cab to the ferry terminal. Our ferry left Naples at 2:40 pm, scheduled to take 45 minutes. It took closer to an hour, but it doesn't matter. The ship was pretty big, but not in the least bit crowded. Looked a lot like this:

One thing you may have learned about me by now is that I am a worrywart from way back. I am scared of everything. Here is just a partial list:

The ocean
Disneyland's Haunted Mansion
Bats/Rabies (a partial explanation can be found here)
Normal human emotion

It would seem that a trip to Italy is good way to broaden one's horizons. I'm not saying I've conquered all those fears in the last six weeks, and I'm not even saying which of those fears I've had to face; but I've at least managed to face some of them, and perhaps that puts me on the road to recovery.

(That said, I started this post while sitting in the Rome airport, freaking out about my two-hour flight to Berlin)

The point is, though I started the boat trip across the Gulf of Naples with a fair amount of trepidation, eventually I just sat back and enjoyed the ride. It was a clear day, and we all know how far you can see on one of those days.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


Turns out, there is internet everywhere. Which means I can not only check baseball scores, but even watch a game, like I did Sunday night. I saw the Red Sox win, then turned off the Dodgers game in the seventh inning. It was late; I was tired. Give me a break.

I had good reason to be tired, so I hope you (and the Dodgers) will forgive me for bowing out early. I've had a busy few days. Saturday morning I got up to catch the train to Naples. I don't have a whole lot to say about Naples, except that the pizza is phenomenal. We walked around the city for a few hours, and it was okay, but nothing spectacular. But we had dinner at this place called Sorbillo, and it was amazing.  I went with just the standard margherita, because I am a ridiculously picky eater. Christine had the nonna carolina, which involved pesto. I don't know. I had a bite and thought it tasted like hot dogs. So I'm not the person you want describing ingredients to you.

We left Naples early Sunday morning to catch the train to Pompeii. The cab driver who took us to the train station tried to get us to hire him to take us to Pompeii. Only €90 roundtrip. Since I happened to know that the train costs €2.40 each way, we declined his offer.

The train from Naples to Pompeii is called the "Circumvesuviana." Turns out this is quite the clever name, since the train does, in fact, circle Mount Vesuvius. It's sort of a city train, not like the ones we took from Venice to Florence, Rome and Naples. Rickety and noisy, but not as slow as you might think. We were on the express, which took only 27 minutes (advertised as taking 23), as compared to the 36 minutes that the local train takes. Either ride is fine, since you get a nice view of Vesuvius pretty much the whole way. This makes it easier to accept all the graffiti and the layer of dirt that seems to cover the whole train.

The thing about Vesuvius is that it's big. Bigger than I thought it would be. I guess I've seen pictures, but that's not the same thing. I suppose I just thought that if a big volcano exploded and buried a thriving town, maybe there wouldn't be so much of that volcano left. Vesuvius in my mind was not nearly as imposing as it is in real life.

I happen to know that at least one of my readers is planning a trip to Italy for next March. He wanted to know if it's worth it to go to Pompeii. My short answer is absolutely, without a doubt, yes. The long answer is after the jump.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Ciao Venezia

Last day in Venice. It feels like we are heading out just in time, as the number of voices speaking English has increased dramatically in the last two weeks. Now it seems as though there are almost more native English speakers than there are native Italian speakers. And that just ain't right. I should be the only one speaking English here. I didn't travel thousands of miles to listen to a bunch of Americans blather about trivial crap; if I wanted that, I would have stayed home.

I've experienced quite a few unexpected pleasures during my stay in Venice. I wanted to come, and was excited about it, but in some ways that was only because I like lists and accomplishments; checking Italy off a "places I've been" list had a certain appeal to a headcase like me. But it turns out I love this place, and I am truly going to miss it when I'm gone. My memories of pushy, smelly Italians will fade, and I will be left with the gorgeous images of life on the Grand Canal. Not a bad way to spend six weeks, for sure.

We have just a little more than twelve hours to go, but we've been saying goodbye to Venice all week.  Today we went to the Ponte degli Scalzi, which is one of the four bridges that span the Grand Canal.  This one is near Ferrovia, the train station. If you ever see this bridge, and look closely, you'll notice that all along the hand rails, there are lots and lots of padlocks. I guess the story is that "lovers" (I hate that word) place the locks on the bridge as a symbol of the strength and longevity of their love. So, of course Christine and I added ours to the mix. I don't know what it says about the metaphor that the locks are periodically snapped off and thrown away, but I'll just ignore that part of it. Here is the result (I was just a supervisor, and Christine did the actual artwork):

One side of our lock. 

The other side of the lock, as it looked after we put it on the bridge.

I don't know if/when I'll be able to write during the next two weeks, as I travel through Napoli, Pompeii, Capri, Roma, Berlin and Paris. I will have internet, and you can be certain I will be checking baseball scores as often as I possibly can, but writing a post might prove to be difficult. I hope you'll understand.

The gondoliers who go by our window sing various songs to their passengers. I love them all, but I have a favorite. And since "ciao" means both "hello" and "goodbye," it is only fitting to leave you, and Venice, with this (I did not take this video):

Friday, May 14, 2010

Dear Christine

I have about seven days left in Venice. Well, six if you take out Sunday, because I'll be spending that day in Milan. Did you know you have to book your tickets to see The Last Supper in advance? Like, three months in advance? No? Well, neither did we. So barring a lucky turn of events, I guess we won't be seeing that particular fresco. Anyone have other suggestions for Milan? This will just be a day trip, so I'm looking for quick, interesting sights that will allow me to later say, "Milan? Yeah, I've seen it," and then be able to back up that comment with some knowledge.

So, we will be leaving Venice on the morning of Saturday, May 22. We will be spending Saturday night in Naples, and getting up the next morning to head to Pompeii. I don't know how much time Pompeii takes, but we are banking on not more than a few hours, because then we are heading to Sorrento to catch a boat to Capri. Three nights on Capri ought to be at least a little bit relaxing. Then on May 26 it's back to Naples by boat to catch a train to Rome, where we catch a flight to Berlin. Five nights in Rome, followed by five nights in Paris. Then back to Denver.

Denver just doesn't have quite the same ring to it, does it? But my pup and my nephew are there, so it's paradise as far as I'm concerned.

Oh, but the fun doesn't end there, because once we get back to Denver and unwind for about a week, we'll be off on a road trip. Probably to New Orleans first, then back west to Marfa for a few days, followed by a day or two in Scottsdale (where we will try to not spend any money, as we are definitely part of any boycott) to see Lindsay's family, and then finally back home. We're thinking late June or early July as an ETA in Los Angeles. That adds up to a total of five months away from the City of Angels. What's changed, Angelenos?

The other day, Christine teared up at the idea of leaving Italy. These are her people, ancestrally speaking, so she hates to leave them. I can only partially understand that, since I don't even have a real hometown, let alone an entire heritage. But I do like the Italian people. They're incredibly nice and they have a beautiful country. So what's not to like?

That actually wasn't a rhetorical question. I have a list. Composed as a letter to Christine. Honey, just read this when you get sad, and you'll be reminded of a few reasons to be happy you're leaving.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Pictures Florentine

I'm annoyed with Picasa, as it seems to be stripping the colors of my uploaded photos.  So here you get a post comprised entirely of photos.

(I know there is a slight weirdness with the centering here, but I have no idea what the hell to do about it.  Blogger tells me the photos are all centered, even though they're clearly not in line with one another.  It's not really that noticeable, so let's all just deal with it, shall we?)

Two girls on a bridge.

         The dome of Santa Maria Fiore (I think).

      Santa Maria Fiore (I think).

The front of Santa Maria Fiore.

The square where a copy of David stands.

Christine looking at Ponte Vecchio.

Ponte Vecchio.

Christine on a bridge.

Two girls on a different bridge.

Piazza Santa Maria Novella.

Santa Maria Novella train station, at 7:27 pm.

Monday, May 10, 2010

A Little Pretty, A Little Ugly

Christine and I went to Florence this weekend.  Well, really just on Saturday.  Got up early, caught a train, and got to Florence at about 10:30 in the morning.  The number one thing we were there to see was Michelangelo's David.  Everything else was just a bonus.

We caught a cab to the Gallerie dell'Accademia, where David is displayed.  I suppose we probably stood in line outside for about an hour, during which it started to rain.  But I had come prepared with an umbrella, so we were good to go.  We got inside, paid the admission price, and headed into the first room.

You'll remember that when we went to see the Sistine Chapel, we had to walk for a mile before we even got to the big attraction.  I fully expected this to be the case for David as well.  So imagine my surprise when I walked into a room and started looking at one of Michelangelo's practice pieces, and Christine said, "there he is," and I turned to my right and looked down the hall and there was the man himself.

I should note here that I'm not what you'd call a huge fan of a lot of the art in Italy.  I might be crazy, but while I find it impressive that people could create that sort of thing in that era, I'm also of the opinion that one can only see so many paintings of Jesus and the saints and Mary without thinking they all pretty much look the same.  It's been a bit of sensory overload, and I'm sure that the "religious art" section of my brain is filled to the brim.

Now, while I realize that Michelangelo's David is technically religious, in that it's found in the bible, I'm not going to remember it as religious art.  I'm going to remember it as awesome.  But not in the way the word "awesome" is overused these days (especially by me).  No, David is awesome in the original meaning of the word.  The thing truly inspires awe.

We walked around and looked it from every angle.  We got up close, then went further down the hall to see it from a distance, which I think is the best view.  It looks bigger that way somehow. It's all alone underneath a domed skylight.  It's about seventeen feet high, and sits on a pedestal that must be about six feet tall. So it's an imposing figure in the room.  But it's not just about the size.  It's just how completely perfect it is.  This was once a giant chunk of marble and Michelangelo made something that looks like it could come alive at any moment.  David's muscles ripple the way they would in life, the veins in his arms pop, and his face tells you everything you need to know about what he's thinking in that moment.

I'm sure I'm not doing a decent enough job explaining this.  I guess you can't really "explain" art anyway.  One just has to see to believe.  I was not expecting to think much of David.  Hell, I had always assumed (when I thought of him at all) that he was a life-size sculpture.  He's definitely not.  He is larger than life in every sense of that term, and it's something all of you should see if you haven't already.

Christine took an illegal picture while we were in there.  They don't want you snapping photos because they want to make sure you'll buy postcards and posters in the gift shop afterward.  We did both.

And now for the "ugly" portion of the trip.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Adorable, Defined

I've mentioned that I'm missing my dog, but it would be silly of me not to mention that I'm missing this guy, too:

Wilson sits on his grandma's lap as he watches "Grandma" Alicia cook steaks.

That's Wilson in Scottsdale on Thursday afternoon.  The boy is almost four months old and he's already taken two big trips (the other one was to Idaho).  He's a jet-setter.  Look out, world!

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Something From My Past

I was cleaning up my computer the other day when I ran across this beauty.  Five and a half years ago I decided to try to be a little (emphasis on "little") creative with my parents' 25th anniversary.  So I came up with this video.  I realize many of you do not know the people in the video (though you might recognize me a few times), but I think it's worth sticking with it until the end.  Or I suppose you could skip to 3:14 if you're that bored and/or you hate it that much.  And then stay for the cheesy credits for the one "outtake" I threw on the end.  I'll explain it after the video.  Oh, and if you like surprises, I'd suggest not reading anything below the video until you've watched the thing.

I was just going to get Ellen to sign a card, but then I thought, "Hell, I am, among other things, the 'B' camera operator for field shoots on this show. Why don't I get her on tape?"  So I did.  All I did was show her two pictures of my parents, tell her their names and what anniversary it was, and she was off.  You can occasionally see me in the mirror, holding the camera.  I'm actually surprised the shot is so steady, since I was rather nervous.  It's not like I hadn't talked to Ellen before, but there were about a dozen other people in the room, all watching this little moment.

I really miss being able to like Ellen.  I explained here why I can't like her (there's a little more to the story, but I'm not writing about it now), so go read it if you must.  I guess I take comfort in the fact that I have this one bit of proof that she could be a decent human being at times.

The "outtake" at the end actually happened when I first started shooting, which is why it ends with me handing Ellen the pictures.  Ellen knew about the one talent I have, which is to immediately tell you how many letters are in any word you give me.  This trick never failed to amaze and impress Ellen, which of course always made me proud.  Anyway, in the outtake she is getting her mom (Betty) to quiz me on a word.  Betty says, "constellation," and I say, "thirteen."  Then Ellen says, "ridiculous" and I say, "ten."  If you ever meet me in person, try this game with me.  It's fun.

After I shut off the camera, Ellen said, "I don't know why I said bastard.  Is that okay?  Do your parents curse?"

I said, "Like sailors."**

And Ellen said, "Oh, well then I should have said 'fucker.'"

**This is not true.  I must point this out because if I don't, it will be the first thing my mother mentions the next time we talk.  So, Mom, now my readers know that you don't actually have a potty mouth.  You're welcome.  Happy Mother's Day!

Monday, May 03, 2010

Another Italian Weekend

This past weekend was all about Tuscany.  I learned the name of the place we stayed, but I still can't tell you, because it's a celebrity's private residence.  We were, in fact, the guests of said celebrity.  Am I bragging?  You're damn right.  All weekend I had meals--amazing, extraordinary meals--prepared for me by the nicest, most talented people.  I had free reign over a huge amount of property, and I had a freakin' blast.  Here are a few pictures to give you an idea (for some reason uploading to Picasa changed the pictures just enough that you don't get the richness of the colors; I don't know why, so just imagine everything looking more brilliant):


Meanwhile, my ability to keep track of what's happening in the baseball world gets worse by the day.  At this point it's all I can do to remember to check scores and try to maintain a general sense of the season thus far, but it's difficult.  My knowledge at this point breaks down to: Dodgers can score a lot of runs, but can't really pitch that well, and they've been a little bit streaky (currently on a three-game winning streak after losing a bunch, for instance); and the Red Sox suck (no analysis necessary on that one, as all I need is to see that they keep losing to the Orioles).  I'm looking forward to getting back to the states and maybe being able to watch a game or two (the internet issue we've had for the last two weeks hasn't made it easy for me to even attempt to catch an game, but I'll be trying this week), but for now I hope you'll forgive me for not making this much of a baseball blog.

Also, I miss my dog.  A lot.  For those who don't know or remember what she looks like:

On the left is the first picture taken of Jack when she arrived at the Pasadena Humane Society in February 2006.  On the right is what Christine calls Jack's "school picture," taken when Christine decided to do a photo shoot in the costume department of "Public Enemies" back in June 2008.  My heart seriously hurts every time I look at that first picture.

And a more recent shot, with baby Wilson: