Saturday, March 24, 2007

On the way back, pre-dinner... content.

The Agenda for Day II

EURO TRIP 2007!!! (Part II)

Ok, let's see... When last we met, Frank and Chet were out trying to find me when
Chet was ambushed by a couple of goons that looked suspiciously like my Father's latest clients, and...

...Oh, sorry, wrong life.

ACTUALLY, when last we met, Megan, Liz, Rob, and I were on our way back to Rome after our first day on the road. The trip back, as I recall, was uneventful. We were all rather relaxed and content, enjoying the sights and so forth. Well, we DID make it back safely, save for one unfortunate turn we made. See, as we were leaving base, I decided (and the others agreed, what with me being behind the wheel and all :P) we should go to pompay. Actually, we had been discussing it earlier, but we feared it was too late in the day. Well, we went for it anyway. The directions we got, however, were a little hazy. Follow the signs to Naples, eh? Ok... so we followed the signs to Naples. Then we got to Naples, and strangely enough, the signs for Naples stopped.

Imagine that.

Naples, the city. Holy freakin' crap. What a horrifying place. All the stories you've heard are true. We stopped at ONE stop light, and already the decay of society was spraying my windshield with what could only be described as SmearGrease Plus™. Seriously, he did a terrible job. So why would I pay for it? As he looked at me expectantly, I rolled up the window, shrugged my shoulders, jabbered at him in English, and sped away. Rob and I needed only use two more words for the duration of our stay:


After several trips in a circle around Naples, we realized we couldn't really leave the way we came. BUT, we DID find the way to the bridge outta there, and sped away.

NOW, as promised, Day 2.

Adgenda: San Giovanni Rotunda and St. Michael's cave.
When I woke up on sunday, I had some spare time to just chill, and decided to get a shot of all the massive amounts of food I purchased for everyone here:

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MAN, people missed their peanut butter!! And this isn't even all of it.

So we all met outside at about 7:30 Sunday morning, ready to embark on our trip.

I think our very first turn was a wrong one.

A bad omen, yes, but fortunately for us, we're Catholic, and don't give a lick about omens. We proceeded on, undaunted. Riiight up until the moment the mountain swallowed us.

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I thought it was the coolest thing in the world... there's the mountain, and there's the hole in the mountain.

I mean honestly, in the states, we just blast our way through. Just cleave right theough the damn mountain. I wonder which way is more difficult?
Now sure, the mountains looked cool from up close, and on the inside, but let me TRY to share with you some of the sights we saw on our way. With every turn we made, you never knew what we might see off in the distance.

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This doesn'treally do it justice... like many things, you had to be there.

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Megan was in charge of the camera... didn't she do a good job?

I mean, honestly, if I got a picture that good, you guy's would've yelled at me for not paying attention to the road. And you would be right to do so. There are, as always, more pictures of this stuff, but I'm trying to save room.

After more driving(not to make it seem like wasted time... did I mention I love roadtrips? And in good company, forget about it! :) ), we started to run out of gas, as cars tend to do. So, we got gas. I even pumped it myself! That's not a big deal usually, but I wasn't sure there WERE any self-service pumps around here... not that I saved much money doing it. Behold.

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Can you say "Holy F'ing F!"?

Remember: 1 Euro = $1.40 US. That translates to a varitable bevy of money.
After running out of money, we hit the road again. We got to San Giavanni Rotunda and looked around a bit, had some lunch, etc. We were about a half-hour late for Mass, so we figured we'd just try to hit it at St. Michael's cave. But at least we figured out where to go, and everything. SO...
We hit the road once again to go find St. Michael's cave, figuring we'd have time afterwards to explore San Giovanni Rotunda a little better. Se we're drivin' along, drivin' along, going around some pretty cool mountains and valleys. Well, as we were driving through one particularly nice-looking meadow, Liz off-handedly commented that the meadow was filling her with an urge to go running through it barefooted.

Me: "OKAY!"

So I pulled over immediately, thankful that there was a shoulder RIGHT THERE on the side of the road, but nowhere else. So, we got out. Liz didn't get her frolick, since, upon closer inspection, the meadow was rather filthy. But we all just kinda relaxed for a while... Megan found some mushy almonds in the field, and for some reason, we ate them. I think we were really tired and hungry, and kinda confused. Anyway, I haven't died yet, so I guess we're ok. As we were piling back into the car, I took a shot:

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They LOOK happy, but they were actually screaming at me to get the hell back in the car.

So, I did. We got to St. Michael's cave, which was actually pretty cool... went to Mass, and all. Have you ever heard of St. Michael's cave? Apperently, he appeared there... not sure why. But they've since turned it into a basilica. VERY cool place to go to church... it's still a cave, after all. And they even have marked exactly where he stood (Megan and Rob got to see it... Liz and I hesitated, and missed out.). But at least the view outside the church was nice:

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St. Michael has good taste!

Ok, fast forward a bit, since I want that keilbasa Rob's cooking up right now. We went back to San Giovanni Rotunda, where Padre Pio is buried. Not really buried, actually... his tomb was right there. This was the place where he died, of course. They preserved most of it since the time he was there... they have his cell, and everything. Everything from the room where he was attacked by the devil, to where he slept everynight, to the room he died in. It's all covered in plexi-glass, o'course. But in the more museum-y parts, they had the crucifix he received the stigmata from, all his relics, the vestments he offered his last Mass in, and the confessional where he would spend 18 hours a day:

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I found his tomb amazing, though... we've been to so many tombs, of so many famous people. Various artists, poets, authors, saints... but they're all just been in the sides of churches, and people would snap shots, just to say there were there.
But at the tomb of Padre Pio, there was a wall of glass surrounding the tomb, and outside the glass was surrounded by kneelers. And they were FULL!
I think the whole time, there wasn't a free space on the kneelers. Everyone was kneeling reverently before the tomb, and if you couldn't kneel on the kneeler, you knelt on the marble. It didn't matter. And inside the glass were flowers, money, and pictures of people asking for prayers. I think, in all of Italy thus far, it was the single most reverent room I've seen yet. The man died 50 years ago, but looking at his tomb, you'd think it was yesterday.

Oh, before I forget - we WERE going to try to go to Lanciano, but we were too late leaving, and figured it was closed. Lanciano is the location of a Eucharistic miracle, where apperently the Priest had doubt in his heart regarding to Transubstantiation during Mass, and so after he said the words of Consecration, the Host became actual heart tissue, and the wine became actual blood.
Take THAT, doubting priest-guy.
Point of note - apperently our Lord's blood type was AB. According to Rob, that's the most common middle-eastern blood type, so it kinda fits. Anyway, we passed right by it, but didn't get a chance to stop in, so that was kinda sad... oh, well.
So eventually, we hit the road (I'll post a video of the trip back after this post), and looked for somewhere to get some food. We found it. Liz insisted on buying dinner, and we grudgingly accepted.
"OK, Liz, I GUESS you can buy dinner... geez..."
During dinner, the girls started asking if I was EVER going to teach them to drive stick(this is something I've been saying I'd do ever since we booked the car). Well, it IS late... I'd like to get back...
The girls turn to one another: "Liz, why doesn't he want to teach us to drive manuel?" "I dunno, but it makes me sad."


So we headed out to the empty parking lot, and got to work. Liz went first, and after a couple of rocky starts(it's so weird to NOT be the one making the car stall for once), she got the hang of it pretty well. Then it was Megan's turn. She did really well, but she also cheated - turns out it's a lot like driving a motorcycle, which she does a lot of. So that was fun. I thought it was pretty funny how they both marveled at putting the car in reverse - the stick is weird here, you have to pull a lever to put it in reverse, and they couldn't figure it out while I was in the commisary the previous day. ANYWAY, Megan asked if she could try it on the freeway. Sure, why not?

Oh.... that's why.

Heh, no, I'm just kidding - she did fine. She was pretty confident, too, which is usually the biggest problem. Fortunately, driving on the freeway is actually easier than driving in a parking lot anyway. Once I was sure she wouldn't kill us all, I started flashing lights in her face, just to test her:

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And she STILL didn't crash!

Yeah, she did really well... after about an hour, I asked Liz if she'd like to try the freeway. Why yes, yes she did. So after we got Megan to ease off the gas pedal:

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...we stopped, and made the switch(and bought more gas). Liz got goin' flawlessly, and we were off once more. As before, once she was sure of herself, I started flashing lights in her face:

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She seems pretty calm and collected to ME...

And so, we sped on back to Rome. I DID eventually take the wheel back, 'cause I was starting to get jealous. I still reserved complaining rights at driving the whole time, but I DID actually enjoy it like no other. In fact...

Thank you, Rob, Megan, and Liz, for that weekend. I think it's been the most memorable experience since I've come to Rome. Freakin' amazing.

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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

EURO TRIP 2007!!! (Part I)

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I just thought these would be the best way to start my post.

Oh. My. GOSH!!! So much has happened since last I posted(including the massive failure of the internet as a way to keep people together), I'm not even sure what to do here. I think I'll forgo mentioning anything that happened up until last weekend, especially since I don't remember any of it anyway.


As most of you know, I was planning on going to Naples on the weekend of the 18th. Rob and I, that is. We wanted to go to the Naval base to pick up some american food. Well, considering how difficult it is to GET american food, we decided to take orders from people who miss their precious peanut butter, and the like. And since Rob and I, with our military IDs, were the only ones who could get INTO the Commisary, we just thought it'd be nice. So, we did.

Wow. People REALLY miss their peanut butter.

I got about a page and a half in my notebook of people's food requests. Well, on top of this, Liz and Megan knew what we were planning, and started remembering all the cool places in South Italy people can go. So, we decided to make it a four-person trip. Well, with all the extra stops we were now making, a train ride would really be prudent, so what do we do?

You know it, baby. We rented a car.

Turns out that number A: I'm one of few people who has bvoth a driver's liscence AND a credit(debit) card, and B: I'm THE only one who can drive stick. So, I found a relatively cheap car rental place, and we booked it.

Adgenda set: Saturday, St. Patrick's day - Go to the church of St. Philomena, then to the Naval base. So at 7 AM (or so), we all got up, met outside, packed a breakfast/lunch (ok, the GIRL'S packed a breakfast/lunch, Rob contributed some stuff, and I brought nothing), and set off for the car rental place. (see the first picture). Finding that place ALONE was an adventure, I think we brought "roundabout" to a WHOLE new level, which was an interesting omen for our trip, but we got there, picked up our rip-roarin' Fiat Panda, and hit the road.

DAMN I love roadtrips.

I don't know what it is about 'em. Maybe it's the listening to music, or random conversations you pick up... maybe it's just hangin' out with friends, but I do love 'em. I've had a taste for roadtrips ever since my first one, when Alyssa and I travelled across several states. Fortunately, we didn't have to stay at a creepy hotel in this instance. ANYway, so, yeah. I drove. In Italy.

Scary? Yes.
Nerve-wracking? You bet.

There are absolutely no rules on the road in Italy. If there ISN'T a car at some particular spot on the asphault, it's your for the taking. Pick a bearing, and GO. If you can squeeze between the semi and the scooter, DO IT. It was a little terrifying at first, but VERY easy to get used to. Oh, I'm sorry, I lied... there's one rule: no passing on the right. This, coupled with the fact that there are no OTHER rules, means that you DAMN well better not block the left lane, 'cause they'll get pissed at you pretty quick. 140 KPH is nowhere near fast enough for it. And don't ask me what IS, 'cause I never, on the whole trip, saw a speed limit sign. All I know is the left lane goes a good 60 KPH faster than the right.

But through it all, I'd say there's no feeling quite like driving free, on the open road, on a beautiful countryside with gorgeous mountains, on a bright, sunny day. It's near indescribable. The freedom of just DRIVING again, not riding a bus or metro, was enough, but this place does have some pretty amazing shots. Allow me to demonstrate with the next post... on this, the first day, I was still kinda getting used to driving here, and wasn't quite ready to take pictures while driving.

But you shouldn't have to wait long for that.

So, about 3 hours later, we got to St. Philomena's. I had personally never heard of her, and apperently neither had the Catholic church until the 1800's sometime, when they discovered her tomb. But that was enough... her tomb told much of the story. She died several deaths before being martyred, that's for sure. Here's her church:

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Very nice, with quality people inside!

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Neat little side chapel, with a model of her which (I think) contained her remains.

I wandered outside for a bit, but then Rob called me back in - it seems the priest was willing to break out some relics for us to venerate... it goes back to the same problem MANY churches in Italy have - I think we were the first visiters to that church in a LONG TIME who prayed AS WELL AS took pictures. Sad stuff, but it was pretty neat for us. Then, we went outside, and I snapped a shot:

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My posse. (as always, more pictures of the PEOPLE of the trip, as opposed to the sights, can be seen on facebook.)

So then, it was off to Naples. Fortunately, we didn't have very far to go. We arrive at the Naval base, talk to some sailors, who spoke english with an AMERICAN ACCENT(!!!), got the girl's some day passes, and went on in.

I'm not sure exactly how to describe THAT feeling either, that is, being back on American soil, but needless to say, after we parked, Rob and I fell to our knees. Well, we went to the Exchange, which had picnic benches outside... the girls broke out their packed food, but Rob and I had heard too many stories of what they have on base to let it go.

We opened the door, and a heavenly choir sang out "KFC... A&W Root Beer... Taco Bell..."!

I made a bee-line(Where does that expression come from? Do bees fly all THAT straight? I guess straighter than most flies... huh...) for Taco Bell, of course... someone had put it in my head last week, and I couldn't stop thinking about it. Rob went for the A&W.

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You all have no idea how beautiful this was to me after being away from it for so long. And yes, that's a grilled stufft burrito. And yes, they made it right. *sigh*

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The girls SAID they were ok with their packed lunch... but they needed nachos. EVERYONE needed nachos. And look, see how happy they are?

Anyway, after that, it was back to Rome... I'm currently working on posting a video I took on the ride back, but it's fighting me, so I'll probably post that tomorrow, along with PART II of Euro Trip 2007.

'Till then!


Relaxing on the road

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Juggling all my various online-updating-service-things.

Oi... and I thought I was giving in when I signed up for BlogSpot.

Now I've given in to Facebook peer pressure. Hence why there's been a lack of updates here... I've been maintaining the facebook things. Now I have to post ALL these friggin' pictures TWICE! But, I'll do my best, to keep you all happy. See, for those of you that can see BOTH of my online-update-things, you should still read both. On facebook, I'll post MORE pictures, but LESS story behind them, whereas HERE, you get the background of the pictures, and better live vicariously through me!! So, don't abandon me here! NEED ME!!!!!

ANYway, I suppose I owe you some aforementioned pictures. Where have I been lately? Ahh, yes....

So first, about a week ago, Carissa Gubash turned 21(woo!!). Woo!! Heap good times! So, to celebrate, a bunch of us went to the Abbey Theatre. I love the Abbey Theatre...

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Oh Rob, you can't be stopped. Always with the beer... that I make you pose with... Rock on, brother!

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A man with two beers envies NO MAN.

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I don't think Emily knew Micah was there... Kinda creepy. All the girls loved thier Harp!!

Then, we went to St. Agnes outside the walls... pretty cool story there, with Constantine building a church to St. Agnes 'cause his daughter had a big devotion to her. Here's a picture of what's left of the original church:

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Gotta hand it to him, Constantine keeps up a fine-lookin' lawn!

So then, for a long time, nothing happened. Then, yesterday, we all went to the Subiaco!! That, for you less informed folks, like myself, is where St. Benedict went to live in a cave for three years. So, maintaining the caves, some benedictines build a church and stuff around it. Gotta say, it was a pretty sweet view.

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The view from one of the ledges. I took a few pictures from there - won't post them all, of course, but here's one, aaannnndddd...

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Here's the other - I jerry-rigged a panarama view... I think it came out pretty well.

So those were the mountains. Once you get into the church area (There were several buildings... it was quite the cool place), there was the church, the actual cave, and so forth... I took some pictures, but again, I won't post 'em all. It'd spoil some surprise, or another. The cool thing, though, is in the courtyard. Apperently...

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Up THERE, on top of the cliff above the courtyard, there used to be a gigantic rock balanced percariously on the ledge. Of course, the benedictines were always wary about it, fearing it would someday fall and destroy thier noble community. Lacking the technology to safely remove it, they built instead a statue of St. Benedict holding his hand out, defying the rock. They put it in the courtyard, asking St. Benedict to protect thier church and courtyard. Well, apperently, it worked. The rock never fell for hundreds of years, until they finally had TNT, or a crane, or something, to safely remove the rock.

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The translation under the statue says: "Stop, O rock, do not harm my sons."

And so, it didn't.

So we wondered a bit more, and found another ledge. There was much, much picture taking going on then, and I got in on the action.

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Colleen gave Emily a flower. Awww. And the mountains are cool, too!

So, that's all I have at the moment. I'll post more on Facebook, but it'll just be pictures of people I know, so those of you that DON'T know the people I know, you aren't missing anything.

Allright friends, 'till next time!