Where Are You, Sarge?

I reached a kind of milestone with the Pony last week.  I put the last of five coats of yellow paint on the rear left wheel, and with that the entire Pony has  been painted.  From here on out there should just be occasional touch-up work.  Later this week I’ll start wet sanding and using rubbing compound on that wheel, and it’ll then be ready to remount.  There are a number of mechanical issues that still need to be dealt with yet, but hey, the end is, well,  would you believe, just around the corner.

I’ve written in the past about chiggers, ticks, bees and even bed bugs, but I was thinking recently that I don’t often get bitten by mosquitoes.  I wondered about that, you know, why don’t they like me.  One reason I don’t get bitten when I’m out with The Princess is that mosquitoes do love her.  We can sit outside eating breakfast at a restaurant and she’ll come home with three or four bites around her ankles, but I’ll have none.

But even without The Princess shield, I get very few bites.  I’m not sure when it popped into my head, but a possible answer occurred to me last week.   Maybe it was my comments on Chikungunya (chikungunya! chikungunya!) that jogged my memory.  Back in the mid-1950’s the town of Waukesha, WI where we lived had a mosquito control program.  On calm, summer evenings the town would send trucks through the neighborhoods equipped with big spray machines.  Giant, white clouds of DDT would emanate from the sprayers and gradually waft from the streets throughout the neighborhoods.  As kids we thought it was great fun to hop on our bikes and ride in the clouds behind the trucks.  My theory is that I still maintain traces of the mega-doses of DDT I got back then, so that when mosquitoes check me out they think, “Yuck, he tastes of DDT; let’s go find The Princess.”

Downsides of the DDT.  Hmmmm, well, why did my hair start falling out in college while to this day my brothers still have heads covered with the stuff.  And The Princess says that I have what she calls “stink head.”  She claims that just laying my head on the pillow for a night leaves some kind of residual nastiness on the pillow cover.  Maybe it’s the DDT, but I think she’s nuts.  I don’t smell anything.

Since you’re not sitting here with me, I can’t turn to you and say, “Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.”  That’s why it’s great to have a “search function” as part of my blogging app.  For example, recently when I was about to make a reference to toilets I thought I’d check to see in how many previous posts the word “toilet” popped up.  If you’ve been reading my blog for a while you probably won’t be surprised to find out that 10 of the posts I’ve done have had something to do with toilets.  So, just to be sure I hadn’t mentioned my “stink head” before, I put that phrase into the search function.  Lo and behold, I had discussed stink head before, but of a totally different kind.  If you’d like to click on the following link to a post I did in October, 2012, I think you’ll enjoy the other stink head story:  October 12,2012.

This will slay you.  The Princess was reading the paper last week, and there was an article discussing interesting things about the area we live in and things to visit in the surrounding counties.  She said, “Hey, it says here that before the invention of toilet paper the folks over in Alamance County wiped themselves with corn husks.  What do you think of that?”  I said good grief, first of all that’s hardly something that would make me want to go visit Burlington, but more seriously, I wished I’d never even heard about it.  How can I ever eat an ear of sweet corn again without thinking of that.  Thanks a lot!

Last subject.  I was at the gym last week talking to a guy I know.  We’ve discussed politics before, a subject that is “verboten” in this post, and he had an interesting idea.  He suggested that our congress would get a lot more done if only women were allowed to hold office.  I guess my thought was, well, things can’t get much worse, so couldn’t hurt.  But a recent event unfolded on our deck that has caused me to reconsider.  I know, you are wondering what’s his deck got to do with women being in charge.  Well, I’ll tell you. 

This summer as usual we put our hummingbird feeder out.  Hummingbirds for their size can be extremely feisty and territorial.  It unfolded this summer that one alpha male hummer took control of the feeder.  He’d sit in a nearby tree, or even on the feeder hanger and give chase to any other hummer, male or female that tried to drink from his own personal “watering hole.”  We named him “Sarge,” and even though we found his behavior selfish and nasty, we forgave him somewhat, you know, the “law of the wild,” “survival of the fittest,” and all that.

But I had an idea to even the playing field a bit.  I hung another feeder on the lower level thinking that Sarge couldn’t possibly defend them both.  Well, the scheme partially worked.  Although he tried to defend them both, other hummers were getting in for short drinks before he’d chase them off.  While all of this was taking place, I’d noticed a number of times too that there was one rather fierce female that would fly right up in Sarge’s face.  He’d send her packing eventually, but she was “getting in her licks” (literally).  Then, about a week ago, Sarge disappeared.  We’re not sure what happened, but I feel a little guilty about perhaps stretching him a little thin with the two feeders to defend.  On top of that, there was that aggressive female.

This is where we circle back to the “all female Congress idea.”  Just as soon as Sarge disappeared, a dominant female began following all of Sarge’s old tactics.  She sits in the tree shooting out at both feeders trying to control things, but things seem way worse.  The other hummers, almost all females, are flying frantically around and fighting with “Spawn of Sarge” (credit to The Princess for that name) and among themselves.  They all seem to think they should be in charge.  It’s an absolute circus; none of them seem to be getting anything, what a mess.  Folks, I’m sure after reading these unbiased and scientific observations you can draw your own conclusions about how effective an all female Congress might be.  As for me, I worry about what happened to our dear, little tyrant, Sarge.  Rest in peace, boy.

Thanks for reading.

 

Forty Years of Deception and Conflict

I have no one overriding subject this week, just various little things that have been building up in the idiotic brain.  Like, for example, the Italian economy.  What’s wrong with you people; don’t you ever listen to me.  I asked you  (nicely) in a recent post to spend more money in Italy, because its economy was just barely grinding along.  Even if you did, I guess it was too little too late, because this week the Wall Street Journal reported that Italy has officially slipped back into recession.  Now listen, you can make up for not taking the Idiotic author’s advice seriously.  Go on line, buy a complete, Campagnolo Super Record, electronic, Ergo-shift, component “groupo” for my bike and send it to me.  You’ll make a lot of people happy, especially me!

The Princess and I were driving somewhere last week.  I had the radio on, and it’s my habit to turn it off whenever the news comes on; it’s just too awful.  This time I was a little late, and just before I cut it off the phrase “40 years of deception and conflict” came across.  The Princess, never missing an opportunity to give me a shot said, “Well that just about sums it up for me.”  I was ready for her though and retorted, “Oh come on, you’re well aware we’ve been married for more like 45!

I was out doing some more painting on the Pony.  The left rear axle housing is now done, and I’m within one coat of being done with the that left rear wheel.  Here are a couple of pics.

I think the Camry looks pretty good with the Pony wheel in front, don’t you?

The Camry photo reminds me, I often pick-up ticks when out painting in the drive.  It is now confirmed that the Lone Star tick can cause a person to become severely allergic to red meat.  So, if you enjoy hamburgers like I do, be damn careful out in the woods.  I’m not kidding, get some spray with DEET and use it!  And it seems this week that one topic just leads to another.  How about that chikungunya!  That’s the mosquito-spread virus that has been gradually trying to take hold in the US.  The media tried to scare us recently by reporting a case in South Carolina even though the dude picked it up in Haiti.  Me, I just like saying chikungunya…chikungunya, chickunguya, chikungunya!  And holy cow, the hysteria over Ebola is breathtaking.  They’ve got me so scared, I’m no longer reading emails from Africa, even the ones that offer “incredible investment opportunities.”

Public Service Announcement
If you have OCD, or even tend toward that affliction do not under any circumstances buy a Fitbit.  I’m talking about the little device that keeps track of how many steps you take, records them on your mobile device, flashes lights and vibrates (not even going there) at milestones, sends you little notes of encouragement, presents “badges” for achieving goals and, in general, ends up defining your life by how many steps you take.  I’m not going to try to be funny about this, because Raleigh native David Sedaris has already written most humorously on this subject (see New Yorker article dated June 30, 2014).  But I will tell you how the Fitbit has changed things around here.

Several weeks ago The Princess bought a Fitbit and had one sent to our son, Andy, as well.  They had both recently begun informal fitness programs, so it seemed a good idea.  In no time, all I heard from The Princess was how the Fitbit was cheating her out of steps, how “the damn thing wouldn’t light-up when she expected and worst of all how she wasn’t getting the “buzz” for doing 10,000 steps.  Well, I thought (most definitely keeping it to myself) you do actually have to walk the 10,000 steps.

Eventually, it became clear to her that she couldn’t achieve the goals by just painting in her studio, doing the puzzles in the daily paper and watching QVC.  That’s when the serious walking started.  She practically cried the first day she got 10,000 steps and the damn vibrator didn’t go off (the battery was low)!  I’ve got to give her credit, she’s getting in a lot of steps now.  Unfortunately, and here’s the downside, stuff that doesn’t yield lots of steps, like say doing dishes, is even less popular now.  I made the mistake one evening of offering to do the dishes while she went out walking.  Dammit, she called my bluff on that one!

Last week Andy was visiting.  Between the two of them it wore me out just watching them.  The Princess got in 14,000 steps one day.  And holy cow, I hadn’t seen Andy run since he was maybe 6, but one night he was out after dark, running under the street lights, just so he could get in his 10,000 steps.  I’m sure glad they had each other though, because I’m still “milking” that broken toe and getting in a lot of bench time.

But watch out, yesterday I broke down and bought “the bit.”  Comedy ensued when trying to set up my Fitbit account.  I got our Fitbits mixed up and got credit in my account for the Princess’s 11,000 steps.  When I told Andy about the screw up, with legitimate worry in his voice he said, “Oh man, mom’s really going to be pissed!”  Andy called from New  York Friday night.  He was out walking along the East River and wanted to brag that he was in the process of nailing down his first 20,000 step day.  Be careful people, not everyone can handle the Fitbit responsibly.

The Princess walked out wearing Fitbit,
and racked-up her steps like a nitwit.
What a mess it was
When she missed the buzz.
Her Fitbit had died, oh shit!

Have a wonderful week, and thanks for reading.

 

 

 

 

 

The Ultimate Bundle!

Crazy isn’t it how certain phrases come in and out of fashion.  One that’s driving me nuts right now, and it’s often expressed in corporate emails, someone wants to “reach out to you.”  That just feels creepy to me.  I feel like answering, “You reach out to me one more time and I’ll have you brought up on assault charges.”

Here’s another one that’s been sneaking up on me, but it hit the conscious mind this morning when I opened the Sunday paper.  In the gob of advertising flyers, at least three were trying to sell me a bundle.  There was Best Buy wanting to sell me not just one appliance, but a “MAJOR APPLIANCE BUNDLE.”  Verizon upped the ante by warning me not to miss out on Sony’s “AMAZING BUNDLE.”  But in an apparent effort not to be topped, Direct TV offered “THE ULTIMATE BUNDLE.”  What, are they selling babies?  Of course all of these folks are hoping you’ll forget about the old fashioned use of the word, example: This stuff is going to cost you a BUNDLE. (1)

Back in the 1950’s my dad probably invented the idea of bundling stuff.  But he practiced it from the buyers angle.  Dad was a big “garage sailor,”  and Saturday mornings he’d head out early, with the Classifieds section of the newspaper as his guide and hit as many garage sales as possible.  Wherever he could, he’d bring several items he was interested in to the sales table and ask the owner what kind of a deal he could get if he bought all of them.  We kids had seen this maneuver so often, that we called it “the package deal.”  It got to the point where we’d be extremely disappointed if we couldn’t come home and tell mom about the great deal dad got on that mangle, the side horse and the ping pong table by putting together a fabulous “package deal.” (3)

Getting back to things that feel creepy, how about all those perverts out there?  I think there has been a rather consistent percentage of perverts in the general population since, well, forever.  Case in point.  The Idiotic Brother (no, not him!) he just sent me an email asking if I could remember a pervy experience from our old caddying days.  Jeez man, which one!  The one he was thinking of occurred on “Ladies Day.”  He was caddying for in a foursome of women, when a truck driver pulled his rig over to the side of the road, walked out on the fairway, and exposed himself!  Hey, Jimbo, did one of the women say, “Oh for God’s sake man, you’re gonna need more club than that!”

Just a year or two before that, I had an incident while out on my early morning paper route.  I’d climbed off my bike to deliver a paper, and when I turned around there was a guy standing by my bike.  I walked over and he put his hand on my crotch and said, “Has anyone ever touched you like this before?”  Yeah, right, all the time.  I somehow disengaged myself from this nut, stood up on the pedals and took-off.

I never told my parents about this, but I did confide in the Idiotic Brother.  There had come a point, I’m not sure why, when we had split his old paper route between the two of us.  Anyway, when I told him about the guy who grabbed me he said, “Oh yeah, that guy grabbed me once too!”  Gee, I wonder why he gave me that half of the route.  Can you see why I don’t trust him?

Moving on.  I was having my blood pressure checked by a very personable young lady at the doctor’s office last week.  We were talking weather, and I lamented the long dry spell we had been going through.  She said, “You know, I’m just an old farm girl, but my grand daddy always says, when the leaves turn up, it’s going to rain.  And this morning I saw those leaves were all turned up.”  I thought yeah, uh huh.  It wasn’t more than a couple of hours later that a pretty good rain spread over the area.  But there’s better rain indicators.  The next day I finished waxing the Camry.  Oh yeah, it rained even bigger that afternoon.  But the absolute best rain maker, guaranteed to bring on a real gully washer is when we call Mr. Squeegee like I did today to come out and wash our windows.  This is just fair warning, no matter what the forecast says, it’s going to rain beavers and battleships this Thursday night, mark my words.

Pony News
Just briefly, I continue on the paint work, that left rear wheel and axle housing, nothing exciting.

left rear axle housing 2left rear wheel, inside.2

I did make a purchase, however, that has changed things a lot.  Some of you will remember that I once wrote that one of the places where time seems to stand still is Gene’s garage, where all the Pony work is done.  I said that, because in four years  I can never remember the old clock in there having the right time.  Hell, most of the time it didn’t even run.  Well, check this out.

new garage clock

I’m not so sure whether this was a good idea or not.  It was kind of nice before, not knowing how the hours were slipping by.  Until next time friends, thanks for reading.
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(1)  One exception, you can still view “classic” (old) posts of That Idiotic Tractor, bundled FREE at the website:  ThatIdioticTractor.com.  Remember, even though they’re reruns, if you haven’t read them before, or if you’re over age 65, they’ll be new to you.  Hell, every now and then I read one and can’t even remember writing it!  Choose one, or a bundle by clicking on the highlighted dates on the home page calendar.  It’s a bundle of fun.(2)
(2)  Footnote to the footnote:  This offer good only until such time as the much anticipated book “Classic Posts from That Idiotic Tractor” is published, at which time this website function will be disabled.   Hey, even TIT has a mercenary streak.  Go read ‘em, quick!
(3)  For you young folks, a mangle was a fancy, sit-down ironing device that housewives used for pressing shirts, slacks, etc.  Even in the 50’s they weren’t common, but by gum thanks to dad, our mom had one!

Whose Fault Was It?

Here in the good ol’ US of A it isn’t so much what happened anymore, it’s whose fault is it that it did happen.  So, it was in that frame of mind that I began the accident investigation into how the fourth toe on my right foot became broken on Sunday evening.

Here’s what happened.  At approximately 6:00 pm on Sunday I was walking from my chair in the living room into the kitchen.  As I rounded the corner of the kitchen counter I caught my foot on a leg of one of the counter stools, and hit it so hard that I fell to the floor clutching my foot in pain.  The next 24 hours were taken up by a fitful night’s sleep, doctor visits and x-rays.  But this morning, with only the pain to think about and facing 3-4 weeks off of the bicycle, I thought it appropriate to try to get to the bottom of how I got into this predicament.

Now you might be asking yourself, how does my clipping my foot on the leg of a stool become anyone’s fault but my own?  The easy assumption would be to say that the whole thing is due to my own damn clumsiness.  But finding that an unacceptable cause, like any good investigator I looked deeper.  I asked myself, “Why did I clip that stool leg.”  Then I remembered that earlier in the day the man from Anti-Pesto was at the house for his regular preventive bug spraying.  In preparation for his arrival I had pulled the stool out of its normal position, so that he could more easily spray along the base of the counter.  Now again, the easy call would be to blame me, because after the guy sprayed, I didn’t put the stool back in its proper position.  But once again, upon looking deeper, I had to lay the blame elsewhere, this time on Anti-Pesto.  If that guy hadn’t come out to spray in the first place, no broken toe.  Was that assessment fair?

I decided, no, there had to be something else involved.  I thought back on how I had just finished my cocktail before getting up from my chair to go into the kitchen.  Hmmm, could I be charged with a WWI, “walking while impaired?”  Then it dawned on me.   I had just finished a new cocktail I was “experimenting” with.  I’m not sure what it is called, but I made it by pouring Campari in a glass over ice (I didn’t measure).  Then I put in a shot of Beefeater’s gin, and finished it off with some soda water and (in keeping with my nutrition advice) a slice of orange (to make it a “balanced meal.”  I have to be fair and say that it is possible that pouring that amount of alcohol into a person of my size could impair judgement and other things, like depth perception.  So my fault, right?

Emphatically, no.  That outcome being unacceptable, I analyzed the cocktail thing further.  Until recently I’d never even tasted Campari.  What got me hooked on cocktails with Campari in them?  Well, that’s easy.  Campari is made in Italy, and I tasted it for the first time on my recent bike trip to Italy.  And why was I in Italy, BECAUSE THE PRINCESS SAID I SHOULD GO.  It’s all her fault.  And once again it has been shown that thorough, scientific investigation yields the correct result.

Now that that is settled we can move on.  Look at this.

cannon ball

I was struck with how happy that kid looks and thought, yeah, when  I was nine, I’d a been one proud, happy kid too if I’d a found a live cannonball.  Hell, at 67 I’d be tickled to find one.  Of course three-fourths of the article ranted on about how no one should mess with live, civil war munitions, kind of ruining the whole fun of the thing.  Funny, further on in the paper I came across this ad.

cremation

Uh huh, I was just “thinking” the other day, Cremation, wouldn’t that be great… right.  When my “time” is near, I think I’ll just go cannonball hunting.  I’m pretty sure that just messing with a live cannonball would take care of everything in one “swell foop,” both the ashes and the sprinkling thereof.  Moving on.

Tractor News
Holy cow, that’s right, temperatures dropped into the 80’s, so I got a few days of work in on the Pony.  Here are a few pictures.

You may think you’ve seen these photos before, but actually what you saw were photos of the other side of the tractor with the wheel off.  Even though the Pony may have looked fairly complete, I had never gotten around to doing the inside of the left rear wheel and that axle housing.  By the way, you’ll note that I am wearing safety glasses and a mask.  The mask is to protect your Idiotic author from the lead most likely lurking in the Pony’s 60-year-old paint.  The glasses are to protect against pieces of wire that fly off the wire brush attachment to the electric drill.  Interestingly, three days after that photo was taken I felt something like a sliver in my ankle.  I got a tweezers, pulled on the offending sliver and found it to be a 3/8 in piece of wire from the drill attachment neatly imbedded in my ankle.  Like my dad always used to say before any of his three sons left on a date, “Always wear protection.”

Finally, you know I have no compunction about writing of things scatological, but how about that third photo…of my stool!  After my stool in the garage kept disappearing (OK, it wasn’t really my stool) Lynne got a fancy one of her own just for doing yard work, and she designated this one for my use only.  I couldn’t be happier.  Thanks, Lynne!

Gads, 3 to 4 weeks off the bike!  I guess that’ll teach The Princess a lesson.  Just sitting around here on my keester, I’m gonna drive her nuts!  Thanks for reading.

Your Primer on Italian Travel

With the Italy trip fresh in my mind, I thought some travel tips might be helpful to the 3 or 4 Americans who have not yet traveled there.  The rest of you, shame on you for getting there ahead of me, turning all of the Italians against us, and giving them an inflated idea of what their stuff is worth.  If you haven’t read the previous post, “I Waited 47 Years for That?” you should include that valuable reading as part of your trip prep.

Learning the Language
This is very important.  About 30 days before your trip buy an Italian phrase book, chuck it in your suitcase and forget about it.  Then start practicing your ability to speak very simple English words, but at about twice the volume at which you would normally speak.  If you use these things you have practiced you’ll find that they immediately label you as American, the Italian turns away in disgust and luckily you are saved from having to communicate.  Also, hand gestures, critical;  if you can point at something and say, “quanto costa,” (how much) you know 90% of what you need to know.

Vowels, the Italians love their vowels, and they pronounce them all.  Here is a partial list of the towns we rode our bikes through on the trip:  Figazzano, Monteguerra, Locorotondo, Mozzabrucio, Alberobello, Pietrapertosa, Laurenzano, Marsicovetere, Campomaggiore, Castelmezzano, Montescaglioso, and the winner with 7 vowels, Buonobitacola.  I’ll bet you wouldn’t even know if I made some of those up.(1)  By the way, this does not even include town names made up of two or more words.

When you come up on an Italian, never say “Buon giorno.”  Don’t even grumpily say “Giorno” in a gravelly undertone like they do.  This gives the Italian the false impression that you speak Italian, so that after he or she has spoken about three totally non-nonsensical sentences, wasting both your time and his, you have to break in saying, “no speeka di Italian.”  At that point you are both left frustrated, depressed and at a loss as to what to say next.

Money
Buy some Euros from your local bank before you cross the pond and plant the idea firmly in your brain that a Euro is worth approximately 1.5 times what a US dollar is worth.  That way it will take at least 24 hours to forget there is a difference, and it won’t be until the second day that you are happily spending Euros as if they were the same as dollars.  You’ll breeze in and out of restaurants and retail establishments congratulating yourself on the wise decision you made to travel to this country where everything seems to cost about the same as in the US.  This works really great for as long as you are actually in Italy.  When you get home, however, and review your credit card and bank statements, ouch!

What to buy
If you want Italy to be around for a return trip, buy anything and everything that looks vaguely interesting.  The Italian economy is just barely grinding along, so your efforts are important.  Don’t concern yourself with cash versus credit, because Italians don’t pay their taxes anyway.  The tax laws there are merely suggested giving levels.

Seriously,  great things to buy to give as gifts or just for personal use:  linen items, leather goods, jewelry and clothes.  If the Italians have one thing it’s style sense, so on this kind of stuff you can’t hardly go wrong.  I bought a purse for The Princess at a store where the bag they put the purse in was better looking than most purses you see women carrying here in the US.  I’m not kidding.  The Princess gives her stamp of approval to all Italian gifts in aforementioned categories.  Finally, from this most catholic of nations be sure to buy plenty of saints medals to assure a safe trip home and to ward off the stuff that scares you most going forward.  If something frightens you, there’s a saint for it.  For example, The Princess is afraid of being attacked by loose dogs.  No problem, St. Vitus protects against among other things, animal attacks.  Here’s a photo of a statue honoring this great saint.

St. Vitus

What to see
Italy is just full of really old stuff.  Make sure you see a lot of it.  I don’t just mean the buildings.  As we rode the Italian countryside our group probably saw a million olive trees.  They all seemed kind of short and squat with incredibly thick, gnarly trunks.  I asked our Italian guide how old the trees were, and he said it isn’t unusual for the trees to be 200 to 300 years old, with a few still yielding fruit after 900 years!  That makes my mind spin.

The men are really old here too.  The typical Italian village square, or piazza, contains a war memorial, a fountain and about a dozen old men loafing about.  Here’s a photo of two such men.

Day 9, two old guys on a bench

I blew the doors off this guy as we climbed the hill leaving town, but some of the others weren’t so easy to beat.

Italian Hotels
Bring a couple of things with you that you wouldn’t think to bring along on a trip in the US:  a few small packages of Kleenex, some good quality toilet paper, and a nice, big bar of soap.  In Italy there will be no Kleenex in your room, soap bars the size of postage stamps and a grudging amount of TP that is so thin, it’s transparent.  I’m pretty sure that the toilet paper thing relates to the bidet thing.  They figure that if you’re washing your hinder in the bidet, why do you need all that toilet paper?  But come on, it takes time to get used to those things.  I kept banging my back side into the faucet, shooting water all over the room, and still ended up needing the TP.  Sheesh!  The tiny showers, well they’re just impossible.  How small are they?  In one of them I dropped the soap, and there was simply no way I could pick it up without allowing my dripping butt to go out the shower door into the bathroom.

Without much explanation, I’m going to insert a gallery here, with just some brief captions. You can click on any you want to enlarge.

Just in general, we rode over 400 miles from the Adriatic Sea on the east coast to the Tyrrhenian Sea on the west coast and through the Italian states of Puglia, Basilicata and Calabria. (2)  I swam in both seas, rode up and down mountains, visited ancient cities, ate fabulous food and drank a lot of wine and cappuccinos.

One funny thing, that first photo, “My Motivation,” depicts the rocky beach in Polignano, and I didn’t know this until I got closer to her, but a beautiful woman in a bikini.  She was in the water by the time I approached her, but  I asked her whether the water was cold.  Although obviously not American or English, she did speak English and said, ” You just need some motivation.”  I thought well what more motivation do I need and headed back to the hotel for my swimsuit.  On the way to and from the hotel, the thought went through my mind, why not just bag this crazy bike trip and spend two weeks here with her.  I was in high spirits with a spring in my step as I hustled down the stairs that led back to the beach.  Alas, when I made the turn and the beach opened up before me my “motivation” was gone.  It wasn’t easy, but I eventually ducked my head under the icy water, as frigid reality set in.

I hope these travel tips serve you well on your trip to Italy.  Whether you follow them or not, it’s almost impossible not to have a great time over there.
Thanks for reading.
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(1) OK, you probably guessed, the one I made up:  Mozzabrucio, named after my now favorite cheese, mozzarella, and my namesake coffee drink, the Brucio (an Americano with an extra shot of espresso.).
(2) Yes, that’s the same Calabria where the Pope just excommunicated mafia members who said they were good Catholics.  You go Pope!

I Waited 47 Years for That?

I know, I know, it’s been a long time, and I owe you one.  I got home from the two-week trip to Italy Sunday night.  I’ve been sending reports in from the road to family, but will reread those, boil them down and see if there is anything worth passing along.  If it’s worthless, you can be sure I’ll tell you about it.  In the meantime, I thought I’d just cover my visit on the last day to the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel in Rome.

Forty-seven years ago (1967), I was on an extended trip to Europe with a college friend and my cousin, Ed.  We had a blast, but unfortunately I picked up a nasty infection in Yugoslavia, so my time in Rome was spent in a hospital.  I lay there getting shots of penicillin while my pals “did the city.”  Ever since then, I have wondered what I’d missed by not getting to see the Sistine Chapel.  So I decided since I had a lay-over in Rome at the end of my cycling trip I’d take care of some unfinished business.

I had pre-purchased a ticket on-line before my trip, and since they are “timed tickets,” I bought one for 3:00pm on Saturday, my last day in Italy.  My plane arrived on time, I dumped the suitcase at an airport hotel, took a free bus back to the airport train station, took a train to Termini station in Rome and cab to the Vatican Museum.

Rome airport train

Isn’t that a great looking…train?  I got to the museum at 3:05, whew!

At the Vatican it was pandemonium.  My ticket said to present it to someone at the right side of the entrance.  There were probably 500 people there, I think qualifying them as a horde.  Tons of tour groups, all getting fitted-out with listening gear, being lectured to by earnest sounding men and women.  The tour guides were holding long poles, each with its own distinguishing flag or doodad, so that the guide could be found in the mob.

I finally found a guard, waved my piece of paper and was allowed to enter.  I thought, OK, I’m in, no waiting, COOL!  I’ll shoot to the Sistine Chapel, check it out and scram.  Ohhhh no.  This is the point at which the real pain began.  After another guy gave me a little ticket and map and waved toward the stairs (I was stupid enough to ask where the chapel was.) I joined the horde INSIDE.  This was the beginning of an agonizingly slow, forced march.

Think of the Sistine Chapel as the milk in the cooler at the grocery store.  You have to go through the whole store to get to the milk, and on the way, of course, buy other stuff on your way in and out.  In this case it’s the Vatican trinkets that are strategically placed along what felt like a one-mile walk to the chapel.  Take a look at this  little map they hand out, and I think you’ll see what I mean.

Vatican Museum Map

The line in fact weaves through the entire Vatican museum.  From the cab I had seen it.  It covers at least several square blocks, maybe more. Imagine not a line but a mass of humans (some smelling, someone farting constantly, all looking dazed and unhappy) writhing like a big snake through stuffy, humid halls and rooms filled with ancient catholic stuff.  Some brought kids, oooo they were the most unhappy of all.  Every now and then there was a kind of “you are here sign.”  Oh my god, I have so far to go before I get to The Capella Sistine and the blessed cappuccino.  Yeah, next to the words, Sistine Chapel, the sign always depicts a nice steaming cappuccino.  What the hell is that about?

I spent more money in my two weeks in Italy on cappuccino’s than on any other single thing. They’re really good! I thought, well, this chapel is going to be pretty damn special if they’re equating it to a cappuccino.

On we writhe. You can’t believe how happy I am that, as bad as this is, I’m not being lectured to besides.  With the tour guides poles bobbing in the crowd, the place is like New Orleans Jazz Fest, but in a stuffy, tight, old building, and without the jazz, the fun, and the sun.  So OK, it’s not much like Jazz Fest.  Every now and then there’s a little open space and I am able to slip ahead of a few people, but there are thousands ahead of me before we get to the much-anticipated holy Cappuccino Chapel.

In spots along the way there are opportunities to buy junk, catholic junk for the most part.  They don’t have one cotton-pickin thing here for a Lutheran.  I’m under orders from the Princess to bring back a good Sistine Chapel book, so I stop for a few precious minutes while many in the horde get ahead of me, damn! I find the book, whip out the Amex card and am surprised, but not really, that the Vatican does not take AMEX.   If the Catholics understand anything its money. I move on.

I begin to think I may have missed the chapel. Every room in the place has ceilings covered in frescoes.  Who painted this stuff?  Oh, OK , I haven’t missed the main event, only some guy named Rafael painted these, plus I still see the cappuccino on the sign.  In a brief interlude of “less horde” and more breathing space, I find that I am in the part called contemporary art, which means, this stuff is only about a century old. And, I like the works by Chagall, Diego Rivera, etc, snap a few pics for The Princess and move on. I’m beginning to recognize people in the line every now and then. We are compatriots in our agony, plodding forward.  Up stairs, down stairs, narrow halls, wide halls, I haven’t seen any toilette in a long time.  No wonder people are starting to get gassy, me too.
But I sense we are getting close.  A final few twists and turns and we enter a big room, higher than the others, with stuff painted on the ceiling.  Yup, sure enough, right smack in the middle, there is God…handing Adam a cappuccino.  Oh, you thought it was God giving Adam life?  No, it’s God giving Adam a cappuccino, which, in turn, gives Adam life.  Just to prove I was there, here’s one of my unauthorized photos of the ceiling.  I think it’s probably to small to see the cappuccino.

Cappella Sistina
It’s funny, the guards are constantly shushing people, because we’re supposed to be respectful.  There’s so much shushing it’s not a bit respectful.  Of course, no pictures are allowed, so like everyone else, I take a bunch of pictures, and move on.   One of the guides for the cycling trip was Italian.  He said, in Italy there are no laws, well there are laws, but people treat them like suggestions.

Then, on leaving the chapel it turns out, you can get a cappuccino, and you can get cafeteria food, even visit the separate Vatican pizza parlor.  Hell, by this point you’re so worn out you need nourishment of some sort.

But believe it or not, the exit is still many twists and turns away, the halls and rooms lined with books and trinket junk. This place is an absolute, Vatican money machine.  The final staircase is a death-defying, circular corkscrew (see map), after which if you can come through it standing, you are put in line for consideration as a Cardinal.  It took Michelangelo about four years to paint the ceiling; I think I managed to walk to and from it in just a little less.  When I finally hit fresh air outside, I am not kidding, I feel as if I have come through if not hell at least purgatory. Praise God!

I should be leaving for Florida to visit Mom tomorrow, but as punishment for this blasphemous post, God killed our refrigerator last night.  I’ll miss you, Mom, and Jim, but know that I am thinking of you.

Thanks for reading.

Squirrels Call for Gun Control

Ahhh, spring segues into summer.  On the “morning 40,” the smells of car exhaust, honey suckle and 3-day-old road kill mingle in the air.  And although a couple of weeks late this year, the local strawberries are in.  I was out in the patch for a second time today, and asked the lady in the row next to me to take my picture.

strawberry pickin

strawberry hand

As I look at that first photo, it’s funny, but I see a kid with an old man’s face, but believe me, it’s a happy face.  The second shot is, well, just one of those freaks of nature.  The guy in the weigh-in tent said that berries like this are caused by the way the bee pollinates the flower.  I guess you could say, “he had a hand in it.”  The berries have all been turned into jam, so once again there’ll be something sweet to enjoy all through the winter.

Old Business
Just a bit of follow-up on that “hairy” story in the last post.  The Princess read the post (she never sees them before they’re published) and said that I got it wrong.  She claims she was not using a “dipilitater,” which is a thing for removing the pills that show-up on a sweater as it ages, but was using an “epilator,” which is for hair removal.  My opinion, she’s just saying that now, so that she doesn’t get any grief from you all, who are naturally concerned about me.  I’m pretty sure it was the dipilitater.

New Business
This news came in too late for the last post, but someone’s been shootin our squirrels!

Do you believe that?  One of the incidents took place right in my neighborhood.  As if crossing the street wasn’t hard enough for the little varmints, now they have to duck gun fire too.  Sheesh!  Like them, I like playing in the street (1), but I believe I’m going to give up wearing any clothing with fur on it for a while.  No sense taking any more chances than I already do.

Our local county and  city police hold a once-a-year “shred-a-thon.”  They limit the amount that any one person can bring to 5 file boxes, I suppose so that no businesses show up to do their shredding.  We took in two paper, grocery sacks full ourselves.  After the event the county reported that over 14 tons of paper had been shredded, and for some reason they wanted us to know that it was all destined to become toilet paper.  Seems appropriate to me that my sensitive information should go full circle and end up providing service to my sensitive hinder.

Oooo, this just in, I had another whacky dream last night.  I was in class to take a test.  It was a geography test, and don’t ask me why, but my current MD was the teacher.  I hadn’t studied for the test (naturally) and it feels this morning as if I spent half of last night staring at the test paper and wondering how to answer the questions.  I ended up with my head eventually drooping to the desk top as I fell asleep.  I awakened to an empty class room in darkness, except for a sliver of light coming in through the window where a cat sat on the window sill looking out.  Looking over at the cat I said, “Turn the lights on,” and he responded, “I don’t turn lights on.”  I thought, isn’t that typical; you can’t get a cat to do anything!

Pony News
Gene and I got the old boy running again last week.  I did give it a brief run out out to the street, so it does have enough power now to get in and out of the garage.  It doesn’t seem to be running smoothly yet, so there may be some more adjustment necessary.  We also added some radiator stop leak to the coolant, and so far the coolant has been staying put.  I’m crossing my fingers that we’ve solved that problem, because I’d hate to have to pull the radiator again and take it into the shop.

Finally, remember that post I did a few months ago entitled, Why Aren’t We All Italian?  Based on absolutely nothing, I espoused the opinion that Italians had more hair than people of other nationalities, and on that flimsy basis proceeded to other pronouncements.  Well, I’ve decided to actually research this issue, and in one of the most flagrant boondoggles of all time I will be writing off (as tax a deductible expense of this blog) a two-week cycling trip in southern Italy.  When The Princess (best wife on the planet) approved this trip, she did not realize that in order to do proper research I’ll need to see a lot of naked Italians.  I leave Sunday flying through Rome down to Bari on the Adriatic coast.  I’ll then be cycling across “the boot” to the opposite coast.  This trip could be done a lot faster, but you know…the research….

I’m certain I’ll bring back a few interesting stories from Italy and, of course, the results of my research.  Thanks for reading and “a dopo!”(2)

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(1)  While doing “the morning 40″ on the bike, I’ve had a few notable encounters with squirrels.  One of them ran right through the spokes of my front wheel, while the other didn’t fare so well.  He zigged when he should have zagged, and I ran him right over.
(2)  No, this does not mean “you’re a dope.”  According to my handy Italian phrase book it means very casually, “See ya later.”