Archive for July, 2010

FLASHBACK: Shifting Gears

Jul 29 2010 Published by under Ramble On

What follows is a piece I wrote for an online publication back in 2004.  What some of you may know is that back then my brother and I were pretty active in the “Dog World”.  We raised and showed Boxers, and eventually, Kelly and I also showed a Cavalier King Charles.

The dog world is a very strange place.  If you’ve seen “Best In Show” – well – yeah.

So anyway – here’s the article I wrote – and every word is true:

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Shifting Gears

by Pete Perry ~ Wiltwyck Boxers

January 2004

I’ve been to my share of dog shows over the past 10 years – some local, some not so local.  Many times there are headaches and heartaches. This weekend moved to the top of the headache list for me.

We had planned to enter “Mister” in the Buffalo shows a long time ago.  This was supposed to be a couple of “test shows” to see if he was ready.  He doesn’t always LOVE to show and we were waiting for him to come up to his full potential.  The point is, we’d been waiting for this for a while.

The headache started on Thursday night, when I found out that my 1999 van had blown a head gasket and shouldn’t go on long trips.  Friday morning was spent looking for alternative transportation, none of which was really reasonable. Renting a car was going to be much too costly.  Another option was to go for the Saturday show only and return with my brother – who already had to cut the trip short due to unexpected commitments – but the thought of not seeing Mister, or worse yet, pulling him, was out of the question.  The only feasible option was to drive an hour out of the way and pick up my wife’s car.  Unfortunately it is a small sporty model left over from her early mid-life crisis (when she became a mom and got a tattoo and a sports car – temporary insanity).  MUCH too small a transport vehicle for a comfortable trip with a 70 pound Boxer.

OK, dilemma solved and off we went. Fortunately for Mister, who lives with my brother, he got to ride in my brothers much roomier Volvo.  We recently discovered a shortcut to our mentor’s house (which was near the show site), shaving about 1/2 hour and $20 in tolls from our 5 1/2 hour trip.  This route was a much more beautiful trip than the NY State Thruway – with mountains and valleys and stretches of deserted highway overlooking small northern snow-covered towns.  Wonderful ride.

Our dog got his doors blown off both days of the show, placing third in his class of three.  There’s your obligatory heartache.  You grow to accept and even expect defeat at dog shows.  No big shake as they say.  The people we met and the friendships that were strengthened have value that far exceeds ribbons. Rosettes would be nice though.

As I said, my brother and partner in crime was forced to leave after the Saturday show, and taking the new “back route,” was home in under 5 hours and before sunset.  Me?  I stuck around until 2:30 on Sunday since Boxers were not on until 1pm.  Ironically (and for the sake of adding a little foreshadowing), I had earlier had problems getting my wife’s car to turn over in the cold Buffalo morning air, and I had turned to a friend and remarked at how I NEVER have car problems.

After the show on Sunday, I hit the road, and after a McDonald’s hamburger and large diet soda, I was on my way.  Of course I decided to take the short way home hoping to be able to tuck the kids in at bedtime.  The shortcut’s hilly and twisty road had areas that were slushy and some that were downright icy, but nonetheless completely manageable.  I decided after about 30 minutes that I might be best served to stop and get a gallon of windshield washer fluid.  I filled up the car – but of course there is always more in the jug than will fit in the car – so into the backseat it went, next to the CRATED 70 pound Boxer.  Yes, I had actually managed to get the crate in the car, open it, and persuade my dog to get into it.  A rather funny sight.  Pulling away from the Quick-Mart I made note that it seemed hard to get the car into gear.  Oh well, onward – only 4 1/2 hours to go!

The shifting problem worsened and it soon became painfully obvious that I had blown my clutch.  I was now stuck in 3rd gear and faced with hills and snow and slush and ice, not to mention stop-signs and red lights.  After some quick thinking and a phone call to dear old dad (since I was of course without a map!), I figured out how to get to the thruway and decided that once there, I could force it into 5th gear and cruise home without stopping.  No easy task though as I still had 25 miles of hills and towns with red lights before I could get to the highway. After one wrong turn and an illegal turnaround to get back on track – then timing several stop signs and red lights PERFECTLY and really ticking off quite a few fellow drivers – I found an interstate that led eventually to the thruway, jammed the car into 5th and got it up to cruising speed and remembered that I would still have to navigate a toll booth or two.  THANK GOD for EasyPass, as I simply left the car in 5th and cruised thru the Tollbooth at more than SEVEN TIMES the speed limit!!!  (They ask for 5mph – HA!)

Home free!!!  On the thruway – 325 miles till the next tollbooth and nothing standing in my way!  Or so I thought.  After a few phone calls to let everyone know that the plan had worked and my ETA, I realized that I had to relieve myself!  That large diet soda was starting to kick in.  Well, they used to call me Iron Bladder in college and I can still hold my own (pardon the pun), so I decided that I had no choice but to do just that – hold it for 4 1/2 hours.

I lasted about 3 hours.

In that three hours, I had devised a plan that involved an empty Dr. Pepper bottle from Friday night.  However I knew that the hole was too small to avoid disaster and 12 ounces wasn’t gonna cut it either!  Then I remembered the windshield washer fluid.  I opened the window and dumped about a half gallon onto the thruway.  Of course half of that came back in the car and got all over me and Mister, but oh well.  So at 70 miles per hour, in the dark and the snow, with wind blowing small animals across the road,  I put my pants around my knees, slid the seat way back and proceeded to thank God I was a man!!!  Oh the joy of relief!

90 miles to go.  Home free.  Except there was one thing I had left out of my calculations:  Driving a car in 3rd gear at various speeds and 5th gear at various speeds tends to use up more than the usual amount of fuel.  I was almost out.  I’d have guessed that I would now only make it to within 20 miles of the house.  My tank was now as empty as my bladder.  I slowed down to 60, found a nice big tractor trailer to tailgate, and called Dad to put him on standby.  Luckily I made it by the skin of my teeth, again cruising thru the tollbooth at completely unacceptable speeds, to leave the car at the park-and-ride and transfer all of its contents into Dad’s car for the ride back to my house.

All of its contents except that yellow windshield washer fluid, that is!

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gettin’ all medieval on your ass

Jul 13 2010 Published by under Ramble On

We’re back from Italy. We decided to do a whirlwind tour of central Italy in one of the worst heat waves in years. Yay us! Someone said it reached 103 degrees in Rome while we were there. I am pretty sure I drank 700 gallons of acqua (some con some sansa gas) during the trip. And much to my suprise, I actually drank more beer than wine. Imagine that.

So about the trip.

We were lucky enough to be able to get a taste of four differnet slices of La Dolce Vita:

City Life in Rome
la dolce far niente (the sweetness of doing nothing) in Tuscany
Beach Life of Sardinia
Medieval Hill Town in Umbria

Rome

Rome

Ah Roma! I have never been to a city that is so purely ALIVE than Rome. Step off the train and I swear you can hear the city’s heart beating. Our first afternoon and evening was spent getting settled, and then walking from our hotel near Termini, thru Piazza della Repubblica, and down to the Colosseum and up the Capitoline Hill. Dinner at a little pizzeria, and of course some gelato before meeting up with Mark and Gwen as they checked in. The following day was our only full day in Rome, and I had put together a Walking Tour that covered the Colosseum, Forum, Pantheon, Trevi, Spanish Steps, Capuchine Monks, and Piazza del Popolo. We got most of the way thru it before we melted into the fountain at the base of the Spanish Steps, poured ourselves onto the metro, and went home to take cold showers. Back to Piazza di Spagna to dine under the steps at Alla Rampa – where the food is only ok (read made for tourists), but the Tiramisu is incredible. By the way – we stayed at a hotel called Una Hotel Roma – which was nice, clean, modern, and had what was probably the best breakfast in Europe. And it was cheap too.

Sunday we headed out to Leonardo Da Vinci Aeroporto to collect the rental cars. If you have ever rented a car at the airport in Rome, you are already laughing. A perfect combination of chaos and disinterest. We waited for about an hour – but it turned out that ours was the only car that was actually ready, waiting, and available. Hopped in and drove up the “Ah Uno” (A1) to Tuscany. As we were headed up to the Winery on roads with more curves than Sofia Loren, we got behind some very slow moving vehicles. This is REALLY unusual in Italy as only the occasional Brit drives slowly (and only because they feel dyslexic). It turned out to be a wedding party for a wedding that was taking place at the winery – exactly at the time of our arrival. I have not seen more sequin clad, 7 inch high heel wearin’, big haired, chain smoking women since high school! Holy shit! And all of them panicing because the bride hadn’t shown up. We actually witnessed the bride pulling out of the convoy so as to make her fashionably late panic inducing entrance. And so did most of them. But every wedding could use a little drama.

Badia a Coltibuono

The monastery turned into winery with gardens that give even the English a chubby (it’s not easy to do, as I understand) was simply beautiful. The grounds and building itself were breathtaking – and appear unchanged in over 500 years. The sleeping quarters were a bit creepy though. Brady said it looked like something out of The Grudge – Kelly and I agree that it’s more like The Shining. Long, dark (900 year old) hallway with a million doors and one window on each end. BOO! I’m not trying to turn you off from this place though. Badia a Coltibuono is a top end, high class, fully functioning winery in the hills of Tuscany – complete with a cooking school, and a maze of hedges out back (“Here’s Johnny!”). The rooms were spacious and breezy and comfortable – and the place is simply beautiful. We toured Siena (after stopping to let one of our traveling companions throw up her breakfast due to the windy roads (or maybe due to my driving – whichever the case may be)). Siena was hot and crowded, but pretty damn cool.

After that, we headed down the coast and got on a Ferry that was themed to the gills with Looney Tunes (seriously – I couldn’t make it up if I tried). After the first fender bender of the week (not me!), we ended up at the hotel and sweated thru the nite. Next day was spent on a beach with some of the clearest water and saggiest breasts I have ever seen. Great view of the Island of Tavarola, cold beer at the beachside cabana, and a game of soccer-volley-ball that would impress your socks off – but ended in a fist-fight. (also not me!).  Drove back to hotel to clean up and sweat some more, but not before another fender bender (once more: not me!)

Dinner that night was at an Agriturismo owned by the owner of our hotel – up a crazy winding dirt road where I swear I heard banjos. It was one of those places where there is no menu – they just bring you food. And LOTS of it. At least 6 antipasti, 2 primi (both pastas), and then piglet roasted over an open fire and some sweet honey dipped things for dolce. There’s no better way to eat – I promise. I went outside and “talked” to the dude turning the piglet on the spit. My Italiain is good enough (thank you Gabrielle) that I can actually hold a “converastion” of sorts. We “discussed” where I was from, and the current Calcio (soccer) situation – as well as the poor but yummy souls crackiling nearby. Baffo di Ferro (the owner, who’s nickname appropriately translates to Iron Wiskers) came outside and offered me the local “digestive” Mirto – made from the Myrtle Flower – but not until I got back to the hotel because I was driving.

Have I mentioned that not una solo oscillazione cazzo in Sardinia speaks English??? Not one that I met anyway. So yeah – conversations were fun. That’s not sarcasm – they really were fun. It’s so rewarding to be able to communicate with people who do not speak your language. Sure, mistakes are made – such as the last nite when I accidentally ordered 10 servings of salami instead of 1 to share – but it is still fun and rewarding (and we ate the fucking salami like it was our last meal) – but overall I was up to the challenge and like I said – FUN!

Sardinia's Emerald Coast

The following day was spent driving here and there, looking for, but not really finding, that perfect Italian town. We saw two extremes actually. Up the Emerald Coast, we drooled over 20 million dollar yachts, and small boutiques we probably wouldn’t be allowed into. South of the main port town of Olbia, we witnessed a town that I swear was bombed in 1947 and never seen since.

After traveling by boat with Daffy and Bugs again (accident free this time), we listend to Julie Tom-Tom (she’s a dirty dirty whore, by the way) and went thru 10 too many hill towns to get to Orvieto – the hill town to end all hill towns. Checked into the Hotel Corso – a really great little place right in the heart of town. If you’ve never been to Orvieto – and you probably have not – you need to know that it is completely 100 percent cobble stone roads and buildings built in the 1200′s to 1500′s. If a knight rode by on his horse with his jousting pole you wouldn’t look twice. The first word that comes to mind when I think of Orvieto is grey. The buildings and roads are primarly charcoal grey. That does not sound beautiful, I know. But it is. It’s SOOOO damn medieval that it transports you back in time. Except that there’s a Benneton and 5 perfume shops, and really nice jewelers. However, these are next door to the butcher with the side-o-wild-boar (head intact) hanging in the window, or the Deruta Porcelain shop that’s been there since the plague. In fact, I’m pretty sure I saw that dude with the dead people in the cart yelling “bring out your dead”.

Kidding aside, I love Orvieto. LOVE. It is truly one of my favorite places on earth. The other favorite is about 40 clicks away on a hill that has been the home to civilzation for over 4000 years – but we didnt’ make it to Todi this time. We will soon though.

So the last day in Italy, I woke up early (as usual) and hit the streets of Orvieto, camera in hand. The bells of the various churches marked the time as I strolled thru streets I’d never seen before, and stumbled upon streets I remembered from last time. Wishing buon giorno to street sweepers, nuns, and other tourists as I made my way to my favorite little hole in the wall cafe, and orded my “caffe” (espresso to the uneducated). I found myself on a bench up a little side street/alley – maybe two blocks from the Duomo. I sat there for about 20 minutes, listening to the pigeons and the occasional car shifting gears up the hill and around the tight corners. I daydreamed about how quickly I could get back there – because I really am starting to feel that my soul needs to be there. I looked up at the windows of the apartments surrounding me – curtains still drawn – and tried to figure out how to make one of them mine. Right there. On that very block. Waking up early (as usual) to walk downstairs and down to that hole in the wall for my caffe. Having dinner once or twice (or 5 times) a week at the restaurant below my window. Becoming such a part of this town that the restaruant owner gives me the local menu and a wink everytime I walk in – that I know without looking at my watch that the Duomo bells are about to toll – and that I notice when a cobble stone is becoming loose because I see it every day.

Someday Umbria. Someday you are going to be mine, and I am going to be yours.

Orvieto Duomo

Orvieto Duomo

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