Thursday, January 18, 2018


Clone of "Dave" Meeting Bob
Maybe you missed it.  Maybe you are too young or living in a foreign land.    There was a time, a really good time, when if you had 60 cents you could meet this big plastic Big Boy at the front door of Bob’s Big Boy Restaurant. Ah, those were the days!  Their burgers were so good that some teens made this the prom night restaurant.  Imagine a bunch of teens in tuxedos and fancy dresses having a burger.  It DID happen.
Real Prices

Not to Pass Up!
When I was a teenager in high school, you could get a great double decker burger for 60 cents, fries for a dime (10 cent), and even a cup of coffee only cost 10 cents.  This burger was made on a grill, not from a factory box, warmed up in a microwave contraption.  (You know who I am talking about right?)
Those aren't real burgers at Mickey D's!

Thank you, Brits!
Caramel Inside Was Better
Let me divert for a second and explain how things have changed. This  will help you realize how prices have sky rocketed by inflation and the greed and world wide profit making.  We can now find burgers for ten dollars or more.  Just last week I saw one for 20 euros.  Items like Snicker Bars use to cost 5 cents while a Mars bar was 10 cents, and chewing gum, 5 cents.  I think I have seen Snicker Bars here in Italy for 1 euro, and they are a lot smaller than they used to be!  A real premium candy bar from Great Britain called  Cadbury had creamy caramel inside cost 10 cents.  

Due to the fact that I announced one evening during dinner that I would be going on strike and not washing dishes anymore until my parents raise my allowance above one dollar.  I had been studying American history and we were learning about worker rights and how the economy expanded through union action.  My father, a union man who knew how to negotiate the hard way and always quick to see good luck, told me, “Fine, you can now wash the dishes for free!”  This was not the outcome I had expected.  My plans for extra money in my wallet went out the window.   I actually thought about making a sign and marching up and down the sidewalk in protest. 

Later on in life, I got the chance to carry a sign on the streets of Seattle, and I even carried one in protest against Arnold Schwarzenegger , who was governor of California at the time.  Another story.

How I Remember It.
Was A Bad Governor Of California

I had to go into survival mode, by not eating lunch and pocketing my lunch money,. IMy mother gave me 2 dollars a week to buy my lunches at school.  2 dollars for the whole week could cover the dreaded school cafeteria offerings.   By starving myself I would have 2 dollars for the weekend girlfriend activity.  It was far easier back then, here is how I did it.  

The Truth Hurts!

Our Ford Was Corporate Grey
(We Were Ahead Of The Times)

In order to use the family car I had to buy gas.   1 dollar went into the gas tank of the family car.   Gasoline prices, in the 60’s were lower and 1 dollar would buy at least 3 gallons or more.   Sometimes there would be a gas war between stations, and one could find gas for 17 cents a gallon.   It was smart to look out the window when driving around to find the cheapest station.  We didn’t have texting back then so teens actually were aware of their surroundings.   They could even carry on a discussion with a real person.  
The local “drive in movie” had a price of 1 dollar a  car load, so if I double dated with a friend I would have 50 cents left over for popcorn (10 cents) and sodas, also 10 cents. 

Bring This Back
Don't Remember the Hypnotist

Weekend Entertainment
How We Saw Most Movies Back Then
Recent Movies Were Never on TV

Ask a teenager how much money they spend now on a weekend!  Those of you who have teenagers, don’t you wish two dollars was back in style?   My parents never actually knew how lucky they were.  I bet those Bob’s Big Boy Hamburgers now cost a lot more, if you can find one of their restaurants.    I do miss their burgers.

To help you further understand the times back then here are a few reminders.
They Sold The Rights To Their
Music to Michael Jackson!
The Bee Gees Were Better

A Lot Of Boys Got This Stupid Haircut

During English Class
Announcement to Go Home
School Cancelled For Days

I believe that this headline announces the slow death of the American spirit.  We sadly sat in front of the television for three days and watched.  Another Story.....
Go have a burger this weekend.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Amazing Monument to Battle of Britain

We were in London over Christmas, and enjoyed seeing how London celebrates Christmas, in comparison to how the rest of Europe celebrates with lighting and markets.  There didn't seem to be the large Christmas market like we had seen in Manchester, and on Christmas day everything was closed down, and there was no public transportation.  Trains were not running for two days in a row, which caused a huge mess for people trying to get to the airports without spending a fortune.  It wasn't a  total loss, however, in the 4 days, we did take in a performance of The Phantom of the Opera, and  we got in a lot of walking, were we saw Parliament, Big Ben (enclosed by construction), and we found that Westminster Abbey was closed.    

What We Found Cast in Bronze

Walking along the Thames river we found a wonderful monument to the people who fought in the Battle of Britain.  The casting in bronze was amazing in itself to see, yet really told the story through a great work of art.   You can feel the courage people had to face danger, the artist, Paul Day, has created a masterpiece.  If you don’t know about the Battle of Britain, here is some background.

Hitler ordered a massive amount of destructive air raids from the 10th of July through the 31st of October, 1940,   German pilots only had to fly across the Channel as France had fallen.  The Royall Air Force  (RAF) Fighter Command, had far fewer planes but put up a stubborn defence.
Fighting with fewer fighter planes the British air force endured and overcame the Luftwaffe.   The result of which was that Hitler decided not to invade Great Britain.  

The monument to the battle was not just fought by the pilots, but also by the civilians on the ground who were involved fire fighting, caring for the bombing victims, artillery, and clean up of the damage.  The monument clearly shows all who were involved in great detail.  The faces sculpted with care show the angst and shock of war,  they show the courage people had to face danger.  The artist put a lot of thought into his creation.  This, to me, is one of the finest monuments I have seen dedicated to  past events while living in Europe these past 9 years.  

No Government Funds Used
The funds used to build the monument were made from public donations.  It is located on the north side of the Thames, opposite the Eye.  The Sculptor was Paul Day and it was cast by  the Morris Singer foundry.  One can also see the names of all the airmen who are credited as flying during the battle.

The monument was unveiled on  September 18, 2005 by Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales.

Detail is Amazing
The horror of war, the destruction of London is well crafted here.  If you are in  London, be sure and make a visit to see this.  My Facebook British friends, hats off to you!  
ciao tutti!

Friday, December 22, 2017

Christmas Market And Music

Greetings, and Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays to you!

Another short blog posting!
We visited Vienna a weekend ago, took in the Christmas market, and walked to find some interesting sites.  I wanted to show you something that many people miss, as they either do not follow classical music or know that in the Vienna cemetery the people of Vienna have placed the burial sites of all of their famous composers,  Beethoven to Brahms to the Strauss family and more, they are all there together in once place.  What I did notice and want to mention is that when you are in Vienna you will find that the tourist industry and the city really push Mozart's  name.  You can buy t shirts, mugs, pens, napkins, chocolates, etc., all with Mozart's  name on them.  Mozart's house is a big item to see.  Beethoven lived in several different places in Vienna, but you won't see much about this.  What I did see was a big difference in people's actions towards the two composers.  You will see this in the photos I am including here.

Mozart is buried here

Mozart has just a few flowers at his tombstone.  Beethoven has a blanket of many flowers left by many many people.  Perhaps Vienna is missing something?

I could joke that they are still making up for the poor showing of people at the funeral for Mozart and his procession to the cemetery.  When Beethoven died the people had realized their big mistake on showing respect and the city was shut down for the day.

The two composers were as different as night and day!  Both had a gift, that we don't see often.  Mozart came away from hearing the special music of the Vatican that was protected from being stolen, he wrote it from memory days after.  Beethoven stretched music far beyond what it was, and thank goodness he began to use the brass section and percussion to full advantage.  His 9th Symphony is wonderful to hear, and I got to hear it while being on stage as a performer on trombone.  I can tell you that when the choir stood up behind the orchestra and began singing, the hairs on the back of my neck stood at attention.  It was a real thrill.  If you have never heard the 9th Symphony, take a listen.  Stick with it all the way to the end because it gets better and better. Beethoven planned it that way.  Then be glad you heard it, because he never did.  He was completely deaf when he wrote it.
At the grand performance he  was standing by the conductor to guide the tempos of the various movements, and when it was finished he was afraid to face the audience because it might be regarded as a failure.  Beethoven was in ill health and knew it would be one of his last compositions.  The conductor turned him around and he saw the audience standing and applauding like a sports team just won the big game.   We all know that feeling, right?
Maybe this is the reason Beethoven gets all the flowers.
If you are in Vienna, plan a few hours to visit that huge cemetery.
Not to take away from the Christmas Market, here are two photos.
I wish you a safe holiday.  Ciao!
Food, Drinks and More

This Will Become A Watercolor Soon

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Starbucks Milano News

Sad news for Starbucks fans!  Another year will pass before the lines grow outside of the new Starbucks in Milano.  The latest information is that it will open in 2018.  If my calculations are correct, this will be a total of two years of renovating a building and furnishing it with the usual Starbucks furniture.  Devotees must be getting very uptight about the delay.  Collectors of those countrified coffee cups have dusted their shelf in anticipation.  Do you know that those cups grow in value and are traded on Ebay?  This whole trading thing began with baseball cards decades ago.  A minor exageration.

When we were in Spain we noticed that they used toilets which are the same in America.   Nothing like making things look “corporate style”.  How can it take so long to refurbish an old building?  I think it was previously the post office in Milano.  Whoever owns the franchise to that Starbucks must be beating his/her head on the wall in frustration.  Wheelbarrows of euros, gone.   Things take a lot longer in Italy.  I just purchased a new car in Padova, and it took longer than a week to drive it off the premises.  In America it would have been an hour and a half.   

I guess they bring the toilets over on a boat?  Maybe the boat has been blocked by the EU?   Maybe the Russians?  Someone has to take the blame.   

This has been a short blog.  News has been minimal.  Ciao!

If you would like to read more news on this grand opening, here are two links you can check out.  Just copy and paste.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

What Are Venetians Eating This Week

Buon Giorno!
It has been awhile since the last posting.  I have been very busy painting watercolors almost every day, as I am planning an exhibition  in a few months.
This will be a short read for you.  There are two things on my mind.  I want to mention a dish served in Venezia, which is common to the people who live in the Veneto.  When I was a kid, my mother served this dish about once a month, and I hated it so much that I put a mountain of ketchup on it to survive the meal.  She didn’t really know how to cook it like the people here do.  That dish is liver and onions, commonly know here as fegato alla Veneziana.
featured with soft polenta

When we have guests from abroad, I always encourage them to try it.  I tell them if they don’t like it they can have what I have ordered, that way they won’t miss a chance to taste a regional dish.  
This weekend I ordered it in a restaurant in the hills called Colli Euganei, south of Padova.  One can find many good places for dining in these hills. There are many people from Germany that come here for the hot mineral pools, spa and hot mud treatments offered by a great number of hotels there.   Of course, they get hungry and venture away from the hotel food.  I think there are so many restaurants there that we could eat every night at a new one for many months and never run out of restaurants.  Almost all feature regional food, I can think of only one that features German cuisine and only  3 Asian.  
The taste of fegato alla veneziana is quite light, and they slice the meat thinly, which I think helps the flavor.  You won’t need ketchup.  The sauce is made from the juices of the meat, and it always seems to taste the same here no matter which restaurant makes it.  I suggest to you if you come to the Veneto to try it.  
My second item is a short discussion of the characteristics of Italians.  One of the more maddening things about them is when they have to line up.  You will find that they do not seem to know how to line up single file, in fact, I think they kind of resent lining up.  They seem to enjoy breaking what would be a rule in most countries, similar to when Italians come to a stop sign.  They won’t stop unless they have to miss a collision.  

Last weekend we were at the Venice Airport, and the announcement is made to line up for boarding.   We wanted to get a jump on things so we were already in a line behind about 25 others.  This was not a straight line, but you could tell it was a line formed for boarding.  People started coming and some were lining up behind us, but the majority of them began taking cuts, and standing at the side but closer to the attendant than us.  I stood there, always shocked at the blatant behavior, and I hope that they would turn and look behind them.  I am waiting to give them the stare, a visual that would tell them they are taking advantage of everyone who has tried to line up.  They NEVER look back.  They never look to the side.  But what really gets me is that they act like it is normal to just crowd in, and not line up.  BTW, this behavior can be seen in other occasions, bus stations, post office and even sometimes at my doctor’s office.    You begin to think that they have never considered standing in line.  
However on the way home, at the Barcelona airport, these same Italian folks made a  line, single file when the announcement was made.  Not one person took cuts, or tried to sneak in ahead of others.  It was very orderly.  I told my Italian wife, that I could not believe what we were seeing.  She was also a bit shocked to see such orderliness.   When you come to Italy for a visit, watch how the lines form and see if you experience the same thing.  Good luck, or buona fortuna, as they say here.

How they line up.....Have a smile on me.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Not Bricks, Nor Sticks, But Straw

You Ever Wonder Who Made These
And Where Did They Come From?
Those Romantic Chianti Bottles
Italy is filled with amazing mini adventures.  This weekend we left the Veneto, entered the Province of Ferrara and drove south towards Ravenna.   We would stay overnight at an agritourismo and do some minor bird watching.  The area around the Po River is known for such.  We were also going to take in a Goya exhibition in a nearby village.  While there the owner of the agritourismo told us about an herb museum in the nearby village of Villanova di Bagnacavallo and we decided to check it out.  This was the tip of the day!

Hats, etc!

It was not an herb museum but a straw….. a bit of everything made out of straw museum.  Walking room to room through the past, viewing baskets, shoes, hats, implements, rugs, made me stop to consider how plastic has replaced this old method.  We should have rejected plastic.  Soon to come, I hope.  
Harvesting Items


There was a video of how the Po River had flooded and made basically a swamp out of a huge amount of farm land.  Now tamed, the ground is responsible for producing some of Italy’s best produce.  We also learned that the people in times past made straw things that were exported and were valued as being “in style”.   I was amazed at how many things were produced by weaving straw.   What a fine museum this village has made to show their heritage. 

No Trying It Out!

Several times during the year they offer a weekend to learn from the older residents how to make a basket.  80 Euros gets you all the items you need to make your basket  plus plenty of stories from the past.
Some of the baskets have very intricate designs, they all seem to be a bit different; however, I think a student will end up with a basic design at the end of the weekend.  

Various Items
All The Straw Is
Different Design

In the same building you can find a restaurant that features, as atmosphere, undies from the past hanging overhead.  Hundreds of white undies, mens and womens, many with embroidered initials hang above.  Who would have thought?  They also have old implements for cooking and making coffee.  Of course you get the guided tour if they are not too busy.  Be sure and ask to see the outdoor thatched roofed buildings which have interesting items from the past.

Home Made Nails
Shown in Thatch Roof Buildings
In the past 8 years in Italy,  I have seen a lot of museums.    This one I would actually place in the top 10 on my list.  It actually was exceptional in the grouping of items, and how they displayed them.,  They have included a lot of history, well explained on the walls.  We are going back to learn how to make a basket and learn more about this small village that once was so important to Italy.   BTW, the food is exceptional in this area.  

More about this area in the next two blog postings, one on the farm stay and one on a Goya exhibit.


Monday, September 11, 2017

Directions To Nowhere

Perhaps you know Karl Pilkington, a worldly maladjusted man on tv, who was forced to visit famous places all over the world.   I have had my own frustrating Pilkinton experiences, discouraging me to be disheartened and frustrated.   There have been many incidences where I wanted to throw up my hands and raise a white flag in desperation.  

One of the first of these episodes occured when I was first in Padova, completely lost, and in need of directions to an internet shop.   This became a fishing expedition to find someone who could give me exact directions.  My immediate plan was to seek someone on the street who looked like he or she would know where to find  internet shop.  All the people I asked  seemed to know a place, and after speaking to each one, I followed their directions.  Back and forth I walked through Padova, but each time finding that the previous person’s directions led me on a wild goose chase.  After never finding what I was seekiing,  I began to perceive that Italians don’t like to admit that, either they do not know where I wanted to go, or they are really lousy in giving directions.  

Finally I eventually ended up back where I started at the big market in the center of Padova.  I decided to ask a taxi driver to help me.  He, in turn, consulted another taxi driver, and eventually  a group of taxi drivers gathered and using Italian hand gestures and loud conversation they came to a conclusion.  The first driver then motioned for me to get into his car, and I, being tired from walking, crawled into his tiny Italian made car.  
We drove through the city, and after 10 minutes I began wondering if I was being taken on a long ride to unload my wallet.  Blocks went by as I realized I was getting further from the center.  Surely there was an internet shop in the center, why were we driving away?  
The driver stopped in front of a sporting goods store.  He pointed for me to go inside.  Out of frustration I suggested a few ideas in English, which he did not understand!  But what the heck, I paid some euros, got out and went inside the store.  You can imagine the  sporting good clerks  when I told them that the taxi brought me to their shop and told me that there was internet to use there.  You can also imagine how I felt!

That day Italy lost that romantic place in my mind.   I never did use the internet that day.  It was a low point in my life in Italy, but it was also my first day to learn survival tactics in asking directions.  Here is what I have learned.

First, when speaking in English to an Italian who understands English, I always ask, “Please point, as the bird flies, where I will end up.”  By getting them to point with their finger, I usually have better success in ending up where I want to go.  You see, you are not only battling directions that could be a bit off, but you are also up against streets that are crooked, and with changed names every block.

I have had Italians point to the right, while saying go left, which is frustrating, but I also find that many times they do not know the place you are seeking but will refused to admit it.  They will actually blather on, pointing and gesticulating as if they know exactly  the place I am seeking.  This is a serious problem in the basic make up of Italians.  And they do this to each other, which is quite hilarious.  

Bad Directions But Great Pasta
In case you are planning a visit I have made a list of phrases to help you survive your adventure.   At the very least you can point to the phrase and then fill in where you want to go.  

Buona Fortuna!  Good luck!

Scusa, dov’è  -– Excuse me, where is … ?
mi sono perso  — I am lost
punta nella direzione in cui e’  — point in the direction where it is
girare a destra – turn right
girare a sinistra – turn left
andare dritto – go straight on
attraversare la strada – cross the street
strada —street
angolo — corner
a piedi 50 metri —walk 50 meters
poi — then
va a 40 metri — you go 40 meters
trove  — find
guarda —look

Scusa, c’è  ______  qui vicino? – Excuse me, is there a (bancomat) near here?