Wednesday, January 17, 2018

EuroBall Adventure XII Kicks Off at Last


Mon.-Tues., 15-16 January, 2018

Finally, after months of waiting and planning, it was time to begin our newest adventure coaching American football in Europe with Italy's Varese Skorpions.

This would be my tenth tour of duty on the Continent with previous stops in Sweden (three times), Italy (two times), Spain (twice), Switzerland and France.

Add in our two Europe Warriors all-star games in Mexico this past August and December and it makes an even dozen extensions of my coaching career thanks to EuroBall and a whole bunch of friends that I have met overseas in these first ten years of quiet, sedate retired life.

As always, Laurie has been a rock during the preparation and I already am counting the days until she too arrives in Italy's Lombardy region later this Spring.

So let's start our look at what would be a long day.

Some final packing and re-arranging of gear filled the morning followed by one last Mexican cuisine lunch at Camarillo's landmark El Tecolote Restaurant.

Laurie drove me to LAX on a traffic light Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday evening.

Check in with Polish Airlines
was smooth and efficient

I was flying economy class as usual.

We had to do one final juggling act once we weighed my check-in bag (23 kilos max), carry-on bag (8 kilos max) and backpack (just an eyeball check by the attendant) before actually approaching the Polish Airlines ticket counter.

It is a good thing that the Skorpions' Barbara (part Medici/part Borgia in her powers) got me a work visa before I flew out!

For the first time ever for me at LAX, the tone of the questions at check-in left me no doubt that if I had not had the official Italian work visa in my passport, I would not have been allowed to start my five month journey.

Remember, you can only stay in the European Union countries for 90 days as a tourist without a special visa. After that you need the proper papers.

And I had them!

Grazie a lei, Barbara!

A kiss goodbye with Laurie and we sadly parted. It is funny how much you miss the ones you love as soon as you know that you will be apart for an extended time.

The TSA security check was a bit more hectic but not a problem really.

 Of course, LAX's Tom Bradley Center
has a Caviar and Champagne Bar

Due to the ease going through the initial hoops at LAX, I arrived at my gate about 2 1/2 hours before takeoff.

Time to start reading a new book.

A funny thing happened while I waited, an obvious prisoner with two armed guards loaded onto our flight about 30 minutes before the rest of us. One guard came back out and the other one stayed on board to accompany the prisoner to Warsaw. In Warsaw, the prisoner would exit last and there was another armed guard waiting on the jet ramp to escort him on whatever the next leg of his journey might be.

Or maybe he was one of Mr. Trump's DACA movements.

First Leg LAX to Warsaw, Poland
took off at 10:05 p.m. Monday

We started our 11 hour and 35 minute flight on time on a delightful, new Boeing 787 aircraft. 

The flight was only half full and I had all three seats in my section to myself to stretch out. I think that I have never slept so comfortably ever on one of these overseas flights. I had lots of leg room for once too.

I met Tim Morovick, a player for Poland's DI Wroclaw Panthers who is from Hemet, California on the flight also about to start a new season of EuroBall, his second with the Panthers and third overall.

Nice young man.

 Arrival at Warsaw's
Frédéric Chopin Airport

We arrived in Warsaw a little earlier than advertised and I had an hour and 30 minute layover before catching my last flight of the day.

I did have to go through a passport check and have myself and my carry-on luggage scanned again but the lines were quite short and efficient.

Milan passengers to the left,
traveling to Gdansk, go to the right

This final leg of my journey left on time from the gate at 8:00 p.m. Tuesday Warsaw time.

After de-icing the wings, it was -5° C, about 20°F, outside with a light dusting of snow on the ground, we were parked on the runway for about 30 minutes awaiting final clearance to take off on our two hour and ten minute flight to Milan.

 Finally, I was in my new home Italy
at Milan's Malpensa Airport

It was about 10:40 p.m. Milan time.

Would there be any Skorpions
at Malpensa to meet me?

Why yes indeed!

Coaches Giorgio and Pietro on the left and team President Enzo Petrillo with his wife and their children on the right.

I've got a new sweatshirt!

We drove about 25 minutes north to our team's practice facility in Varese. The Skorpions finished the evening's practice at 10:30 p.m. but some of the players stayed afterwards to dine and meet the new coach.

 Some of the Skorpions

 Great old school Skorpions logo

I came away from meeting the coaches and players with but one impression . . . HIGH ENERGY!

I have a feeling that we are going to do good things here with people who seem highly motivated to achieve greatness.

On to my new digs, the Villa Skorpion . . .

I am being housed in a two-story home that includes two bathrooms, a washing machine, two kitchens, a dining room and, count them . . .

 Not one . . .

 . . . not two . . .

. . . but THREE bedrooms!

This last one is the one that I will be using.

More importantly for when Laurie gets here . . .

. . . she has her always wanted
and this time HUGE bathtub

There were gifts when I arrived

After a short coaches meeting at Villa Skorpion, I got a much needed good night's rest .

Let the good times roll!

Monday, January 15, 2018

The Last Weekend Before the Start of EuroBall Adventure XII


hectic but fun final weekend before joining our beloved Varese Skorpions in Italy for another EuroBall Adventure was on the schedule.

First up was a lunch in Camarillo with Debi and Cyndy Murphy at a new Mexican restaurant for us, Chili Peppers.

Laurie and I had a delightful time catching up with them after not seeing them for way too long a time.

I ordered a new dish for me,
Molacajete

It sizzled and steamed

It was also delicious!

It included cheese, chorizo, beef, chicken, shrimp and cactus cooked in an excellent spicy salsa. The rice, beans and tortillas on the side made for a great meal.

Our President had another moment

On a MUCH happier note . . .

On Friday, we had Jacob for a sleepover.

After picking him up from school and having our traditional late lunch at McDonalds, he asked to go to our local Home Depot to check out what they had in his quest to build a tree house today.

He loved the lumber section

He had a ball inspecting almost every section of the store.

My favorite moment was when he asked one of the salesmen where he could find the saws.

When he asked me to buy him a jackhammer was also a highlight of our trip to the Home Depot.

On the way home Jacob had a
shout out moment to his Mom

Saturday morning after a
sleepover means only one thing . . .

. . . PANCAKES!

For the first time Jacob got to
pour the batter onto the grill

They were all pretty darn good
regardless of their shape

Saturday night we went down to Newport Beach to visit our dear friends Loren and Sandy Brucker.

Laurie and Sandy swapping stories

GREAT visit!

Sunday we headed to my Mother's house in San Marino to say goodbye.

Interestingly named business in Alhambra

I wonder what their logo looks like?

In front of our first home in San Marino
1430 Belhaven Road

With my Mom,
Chuny Contreras

Back in Camarillo with Jacob

Mary likes digging in the dirt
when not playing with her dolls

A good choice for Sunday
night dinner

A Double-Double with grilled onions was the obvious choice.

Especially after finally packing with sizable help from our son Michael!

So now it is Monday and I fly to Milan from LAX via Warsaw on Polish Air tonight.

It is finally time to join the
Varese Skorpions to gear up
for the 2018 season

Our first DII game is on Sunday, February 25th and is a Derby at that as we will travel just a few kilometers to play the Varese Gorillas.

 The weather this morning
when I awakened in Camarillo

Although it was only 48°F at the moment in Camarillo, it was scheduled to get up to a balmy 72°F by midday.

Meanwhile in Varese, Italy . . .

The high today was 41°F!

The low was scheduled to be 32°F, i.e., FREEZING!

Brrrrrrr . . .

Still, all in all . . .

. . . It's GREAT to be a Skorpion!

I'm excited to finally get this Adventure started with a new bunch of hungry players, coaches and fans.

Reading Is FUNdamental

"The man lay still,
as still as a piece of meat on a slab,
as still as death itself."

That was the opening line of the book, I was hooked.

This was another good read in Donna Leon's Commissario Guido Brunetti series based in Venice, Italy.

That makes the tenth book in the Brunetti series that I have devoured and I'm not even half way through this interesting series yet.

ANDIAMO A ITALIA!

Thursday, January 11, 2018

The Italian Consulate and Another American Football Weekend


As my take-off date for Italy continued to come closer, there were many loose ends that needed to be tied up.

Not the least of which was the need to apply for an Italian work visa so that I had a legal right to stay inside the European Union for more than the normal 90 days that tourists are allowed to stay.

Thus, I was off to the Century City neighborhood of Los Angeles for my appointment, thanks to the Varese Skorpions mover and shaker known only as Barbara.

I had been trying in vain to get an appointment for about a week when I asked Barbara to see what she could do and . . . voilà I had one for the next day!

When queried about how she was able to do this so quickly from her office in Italy, she simply replied "I know someone."

THAT my friends is Italy summed up in three words.

An impressive shield
at the Los Angeles Consulate

The flags of Italy and the
European Union

The lovely lady who worked with me was 100% Italian, efficient and helpful. We got through the process in about 30 minutes and I received my official work visa in just two working days!

Of course, parking for about 40 minutes in ritzy Century City cost me $17.60.

It was time to celebrate my successful trip to the Italian Consulate with a hearty American breakfast.

But where . . .

Bobby's Coffee Shop in the beautiful
San Fernando Valley!

It was only about 11:00 a.m.

Serving breakfast all day long is a great idea.

Bobby at the grill with mountains
of delicious hash browns

The NFL's Wildcard Playoffs were this past weekend and after years without a team in Los Angeles much less a playoff appearance, our Los Angeles Rams were playing.

The Alanta Falcons were the opponent

Would Goff and Gurley be up
for the challenge?

Two games on Saturday and
another two on Sunday

Of course, the Falcons-Rams game was the only one of interest.

Our kitchen table would soon
be full of good things to eat

Mike, Jacob and Mary
joined my in all out support
of the Rams!

Mike and Jacob
doing a few 1-on-1 drills
during pre-game warm-ups

So how did our beloved Rams do . . .

NUTS!

The Falcons were clearly the
better team today

WAIT 'TIL NEXT YEAR!


On Sunday, the Italian American Football League's Division II structure for the 2018 season was announced.

There will be 24 clubs competing in DII this season.

FIDAF, the governing body of DII, has grouped the 24 teams into six geographically oriented Groups of four clubs each.

Every club plays a home and away series with their three fellow Group members plus two non-group games against two teams, one home and one away, for a regular season total of eight games.

The exact dates of these games have not been announced as of yet.

Our Varese Skorpions will be in Group C with the same three cubs as last year.

Our three Group C members are:

Busto Arsizo Blue Storms
7-1 regular season, 8-2 overall in 2017

Cagliari Crusaders
0-8 regular season, 0-8 overall in 2017

Varese Gorillas
3-5 regular season, 3-5 overall in 2017

Our two inter-Group games are with these two nearby clubs:

From Group A
Sant'Agata Knights
It will be our home game
2-6 regular season, 2-6 overall in 2017

From Group F
Sarzana Red Jackets
It will be a road game for us
2-6 regular season, 2-6 overall in 2017

Monday was NCAA National Championship Game Night.

The Georgia Bulldogs (13-1)
vs.
The Alabama Crimson Tide (12-1)

Jacob was suited up in his
best Herschel Walker jersey
to support Bulldogs

Jacob running on to the field
with Georgia . . .

. . . just like this

Alabama won an overtime, all-SEC game 26-23.

NUTS!

On Tuesday, I had lunch with good
friend David Lassen

He is seen here on a recent trip through the Panamas Canal.

It is always great to see David who now lives in Wisconsin.

Reading Is FUNdamental

"As the ancient cogwheel train clawed its way up to the dizzying incline, Edmund Kirsch surveyed the jagged mountaintop above him."

Another excellent read from Dan Brown that was made even more interesting to me due to its locale in and around Madrid, Barcelona and Bilbao.

"He noticed the woman
on their way to dinner."

Venetian Commissario Guido Brunetti never disappoints me.