Posts Tagged ‘volvo’

It Was The Sound Of A Crescendo

June 26th, 2009

As He Came Into The Window
It Was The Sound Of A Crescendo
He Came Into Her Apartment
He Left The Bloodstains On The Carpet
She Ran Underneath The Table
He Could See She Was Unable
So She Ran Into The Bedroom
She Was Struck Down, It Was Her Doom

billie-jean-jacksonYesterday afternoon at approximately 3:00 PM pacific time, the “King of Pop” passed away.  Michael Jackson was a tortured soul and must have lived both a thrilling and a stressful, worried-filled life.  While learning his A-B-C’s as a child, he seemed to take no greater joy than being on stage performing.  He was a smiling, dancing, happy kid.

After becoming “King of the World” you could see a person that both wanted to heal the world (perhaps as Captain EO), yet despite his success, he had to retreat and isolate himself.  He would have to remind himself that he was not alone.

He had odd moments with marriages, odd moments with his own children, and questioned moments with other children.

He was both one of the most celebrated and revered musical artists not just of our time, but in the entire history of the world.  But he was also a little off the wall, and confusing to the world.  The part that confused me the most, was the fact that by the end of his life, you really couldn’t tell if his appearance was black or white, human or alien.  He had multiple surgeries on his face.  He just couldn’t help it.  He could no longer recognize the man in the mirror.

mjgloveNo matter your perspective–whether your view of him is of a musical dancing genius, or whether you see him as a bad, deranged man– the fact remains that he was a global icon.  His popularity went further then just the girl named Billie Jean, but stretched throughout the world.  The girls were his, the men were his, the world was his.  At the height of his popularity, he could do no wrong.  He was invincible.  He could even walk on the moon.

He is gone too soon.

News of his death quickly passed around the eInternet and it even caused sites to go down.

News of Jackson’s death spread quickly online, causing many websites to experience technical difficulties under the unanticipated swell of users. Google announced technical difficulties after a sudden swell in searches for “Michael Jackson” led the company to believe it was under attack from hackers, while social networking site Twitter reported a crash after record numbers of users used the site to spread the news of Jackson’s death.  Wikipedia itself had temporarily experienced technical difficulties and crashed at 3:15 PDT reportedly due to excessive edits and user overload. Many news organizations were generally very cautious about the initial reports of his death.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Jackson#2009:_Death

mjleanAs I heard the news, and quickly reflected on his life and death I wondered if he would be remembered as Elvis or Buddy Holly are remembered.  Author Samuel Roy has argued: “Elvis’ death did occur at a time when it could only help his reputation. Just before his death, Elvis had been forgotten by society.”  You could probably say the same about Michael Jackson.  He had become an anomaly to culture.  Hopefully his death will make people remember the time when they danced, sang, and just couldn’t get enough of his music rather than the disfigured man, sharing wine and beds with boys, trying to free willy.  Will Neverland Ranch become his Graceland?

As I contemplated his legacy, I at first thought that although I viewed him as filthy (in the baseball sense–amazingly good), I didn’t have any sort of connection or tie to his music.  But then as I thought about it more, I realized that I have 2 (actually, just thought of a third) vivid memories of his music.

The first was when I was only six years old.  It was late 1982 and my family was renting a winter cabin for a week or weekend in the mountains.  When I was younger this was kind of a tradition.  We had another family come visit and share our time for a few days.  One of my brothers friends (I think it was Tyler Monroe), brought with him the new Thriller album.  We listened to the album non-stop and even pretended we were making a video for it.  I also remember being scared and having nightmares of the title track.  It was really a freaky song for a newly six year old boy in a dark musty cabin.

mjperformingMy next vivid memory (both of these memories I can still see very clearly in my mind’s eye), took place when I was in junior high school.  It was a Sunday morning, and I was waiting in our Volvo (Volvo for life), for my dad to finish chatting with people after church.  It was parked on Martincoit road, along the street, right outside my former elementary school that housed our church.  I was sitting there listening to the radio, and Casey Casem’s top 40 countdown.  The number one song that day was Man in the Mirror.  It was a spiritual moment for me, as I sang and cried to the song.  It inspired me that day, to want to make myself a better person, to want to help people, and to focus on my own problems, rather than the faults of others.  It’s a trait that I have hung onto and grown my entire life–within each problem, fight, scenario that I might encounter, I look to see where I could have blame so that I can attempt to change that pattern in the future.  I think this is sometimes a detriment to myself, as I too often claim more blame than I should.  But overall I think it is a good concept.  Why blame others and hurt them with anger, when I can find and fix the role I played and build up the esteem of the other person?

michaeljacksongloveThe third vivid memory that I have in my photographic memory (or would it now be called a videographic memory?), is my senior year in college.  It was a week before school started, and I was hanging out preparing for the year with the other R.A’s in my dorm–Erin, Erin, Angeline, Rebecca and Jon.  We were setting up our R.A office (does anyone remember “the Dugout?”), using bleach to clean out the mold in the refrigerator from a long summer.  We were setting up our pet miniature illegal turtles (what did we name them?  M.J was one I think), and getting the entire dorm prepared for the rush of students and the new year.  Our dorm,V.K, was shaped similar to how you might view a Motel 6.  It was two stories, rectangle in shape, that all surrounded a large green courtyard with cement walkways.  While we were busting our humps cleaning, laughing and enjoying new friendships and experiences, we were blasting in the courtyard Jackson’s album, HIStory.  We just couldn’t get enough.  It was a precious moment in my life, and along with laughter, love, and hope, Jackson was providing the soundtrack.

There are probably many other moments of my life that Michael Jackson provided soundtrack to.  But these 3 are the most vivid.  I remember them so crisply and can picture them on a loop in my head.  Whether I am 6, 12, 21 or now practically 33, his music and life have been integrated with mine.

Will you (if I have any readers) share any specific memories, moments, or flashbacks that you may have had with Jackson and or his songs?  How did he make you feel?

michael-jackson

mjreagan

President Ronald Reagan and Nancy in 1984 before receiving an award for his contribution to a drunk driving awareness program.

mjthriller

Pinch This

May 21st, 2009

May 21, 2009

Alle LoggeStarted the morning the same way most mornings here in Montalcino would start for me, and that was downstairs at the winebar/internet cafe.  It is such a great convenience having it just outside the front door.  Almost as convenient as having it inside the apartment, but with better coffe.

We were meeting up today with Ceylan Tumgoren, who runs the winery at Casanuova delle Cerbaie Winery in Montalcino.  When we ran into her this morning, she wanted to sit with her mom for some coffee first, so we took the opportunity to walk over with my parents to a church that was currently being restored.  My mom has taken great pride in this little town and all of its events and undertakings.  You pinchcould see the pride in both of my parents faces as they discussed this church, its sinking, the art that was hanging, and the statue of peter that was here.

Rather than squeeze 6 in the car again, Lisa and I rode with Ceylan while the Volvo was behind.  We learned a lot about Ceylan on this car ride.  Her mother lives in New York and is divorced.  Her father is from Turkey.  To go along with her American citizenship she also held citizenship of Ireland.  She worked for a wine distributor out of NY called Zachy’s.  She then spent time working for a vineyard in Bordeaux France before moving to Montalcino where she has been for almost 2 years.  She speaks fluent French, Italian and some Turkish.   She told us how it was first a tough transition having an American work ethic while working with Italians because a coffee break would sometimes last 3 hours.

Lisa Likes Wine We arrived and we walked amongst the grape vines as she told us some of the history of the winery and some of the patterns of growth.  She told us about Brunello-gate(tangent:  I’m really tired of something controversial being called blank-gate.  Watergate was the name of the office complex in the Nixon controversy.  It had an actual reason of being called “gate.”  However, now everything gets labeled “gate” and its flat out annoying.  One recent example was when the Patriots were caught cheating, it was labeled “spygate.”  For an inconclusive list of many others read here).

One for you, two for meShe also told us about pinching the grapes  and how they do not want too many grapes growing on any particular vine because then all the energy of the vine is spread out through larger numbers, rather than focusing all its strength and flavors on a smaller number of grapes.  We walked up and down some vines, pinching the vines. 

two for meWe then went into the barrel rooms where we were gonna taste some of the wines that were in the middle of the aging process as well as some fresh wines.

In order for a wine to be classified as Brunello, it must be 100% sangiovese grape, grown in the region of Montalcino.  It must age in the barrel or vat for a minimum of 5 years.  If it is bottled after 2 years it is called a Rosa di Montalcino.  If it is less than 2 years it is called “Tabalo” or table wine.  I can’t imagine the patience that goes into a bottle of Brunello.  Not only do you have to grow the vine for a certain number of years in order to yield fruit, but then once you do you have to wait 5 years for it to properly age.

We tasted some of the wines that had been in the barrel for 2 years, and others that had been longer.  On one taste she immediately said “this one is ready to be moved out of the barrel” and she took note to make sure that got done immediately.  To me it just tasted like wine, as I am not sure I would have noticed it was ready to move.

Straight From The BarrelsIt was a great experience and I really enjoyed the first hand tour and imparted knowledge.

We made our way back to Montalcino and I spent some time posting to this site while at the internet wine bar.  We then all went to St. Antimowhere we spent time at a 30 minute service of Gregorian chants.  It was a really pretty church whose history dates back to the late 8th century.  After the beautiful service, we walked around the grounds and made our way back to Montalcino.   

antimo

Back in town, we walked around, ate some gelato, and then had dinner of wine and bruschetta, and then risotto with chicken.  All very delicious as we watched the moon come up over this beautiful valley.

Our conversation started toward Bridge and how my parents play often with Kathie.  We then spent 20 minutes trying to give me a bridge lesson and playing a hand.

Time for bed.

cork

Fattoria Resta

May 20th, 2009

May 20

Fattoria RestaWe piled all 6 of us into the tiny volvo convertable.  It was tight.  We closed the roof so that we’d be less visible to the local police, and we drove over to Fattoria Resta where we were scheduled to meet and have a cooking class with Anna Lisaat 10:00 am.    Anna Lisa lives in a former monastery that even houses its very own chapel.  We received a tour of the grounds that has a great view out towards Montalcino.  She showed us her gardens, and of course her vineyards where she grows mostly sangiovese grapes that produces a wine that yields approximately 4, 000 bottles per year.  She took us down to the wine cellar and on the way we passed a stone inscription that basically said that Napoleon stayed there back in the 1805.  Once down in the cellar she told us a wonderful story of how they named their napoleanwine.  In the cellar etched on the stone wall, was an inscription that was chiseled by the builder, Martin del Nero in 1573.  The carving was a humble prayer asking for blessings on the cellar, and hopes that he did a good job tending the land, and that he was sorry if he did not.  Anna Lisa was touched by the humility and tenderness of this prayer that she named her wine after him.  The wine recently scored 87 pts from the Wine Spector.  She described for us the white feather artwork her friend made for the label and how she didn’t want a very pretentious crest label.  It was a great tour, a great property and what was the beginning of a great day.

PinciIt was now time to cook.  On top of caring for the grounds, running a winery, having a family, Anna Lisa has a passion for cooking.  Today we were going to cook a fine Italian meal together.  You may have jumped ahead of yourself and already seen the pictures of our noodles, or read my mom’s site, but we also made focaccia bread, eggplant with tomato and mozzarella, and tiramisu for desert.

We donned our aprons and began with the focaccia bread.  We kneaded it out and seasoned half of it with her special seasoning, and half with some fresh herbs.  We then started on the noodles.  We were making pinci and tagliatelle noodles.  Pinci is made from just water and flour and the ladies took turns mixing the flour and the noodlewater right in a pile on the table.  Once there was a dough, they cut strips and then came the hard part of rolling the noodle.  We all tried.  Most of us failed.  It’s an act of rolling the noodle between your palm and the table so that it becomes perfectly round, shaped like a pencil.  Most of us had the problem of squishing it flat instead of keeping it round.  It was very frustrating, and a lot of work for a pasta noodle.  But I thoroughly enjoyed the attempt, and later the eating.

The next noodle we made was tagliatelle, a long flat noodle that is tagliatelesimilar to a fettuccine noodle.  This dough we took and spread through a pasta machine/roller over and over till it stretched and thinned itself out.  There was more pasta than space on the table so our long strands would sometimes be touching.  We learned the hard way that this was not good, as the noodle dough would stick to each other and we’d have to back track a little.  Steve and Lisa ran the noodles through the machine over and over till we had a really large flat pasta, which we later sliced into noodles.  This was a really fun experience.  I once attempted to make a fettuccini noodle on my own back in high school.  Without the machine to stretch and thin the noodle, I tried it by hand and rolling pin.  I was always proud of myself, but my noodle definetly was thick and not so great back then.

Our next dish was eggplant.  I have had eggplant once or twice in my life and did not enjoy it at all.  Anna Lisa taught us a trick.  We thinly sliced the eggplant and placed it on a rectangle pan.  We drizzled it with sauce and then found something heavy to place on it.  We let it sit for about 30 minutes and the salt and the pressure would leak out the bitter flavors leaving a fine tasting eggplant.  After letting it sit and soak all its horrible juices out, we patted them dry and then topped them with tomatoes and mozzarella and put them in the oven.kitchen

The final dish we prepared was Tiramisu.  Much like eggplant, I have never been a fan of tiramisu.  However, I would later find out that this was the best one I have ever tasted.  It was a simple recipe where we took these Italian cookies, that were these thin wafers.  We dunked them in espresso, but we had to dunk them really fast so that it would merely coat it, but not soak in it.  Then in a dish it was a layer of coated cookie, followed by a layer of mascarpone cheese, then another layer of cookie.  We Tiramasudid this till we reached the top, and then we grated fresh chocolate on top.  We let it set in the refrigerator till desert time.

I loved our cooking kitchen.  It was quaint and we had herbs, olive oil, and flour spread across this table that the 7 of us worked around.  We were all dressed up in our aprons as well.  It was very picturesque.

We made some tomato based sauce and then we sat down on the patio to enjoy the cooking, the wine, and each other’s company.  We drank some white wine with the appetizer of the focaccia (the side with her spices was the best!) and some artichokes and homemade pate.  Then it was the main dish time where we ate both of the pastas, drank some of her Martin del Nero red wine.  I could not get enough.  It was delicious!

And now for desert.  Wow.  I have never tasted tiramisu so tasty.  It was very light in flavor and was a perfect finish to a grand time.  Although, I could have easily gone for more pasta if only I had room.

We took a group picture and said our farewells.  I knew that I would never forget this experience.  It was splendid and perfect.  Anna Lisa was such a gracious, kind, and fun host today. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for blessing my family with your time, your spirit, and your great teachings. We had a delightful day that we will not forget.Resta

We left her place around 3:00 PM and made our way back to Montalcino.  We parked the car and started our 10-40 minute walk back to the apartment (depending on whom I was walking with).  On our walk we stopped at one of the cathederal’s where my mom played the organ.  As we further progressed through the town, my parents told me stories of Montalcino and how they have 4 quadrants that take communal competitive pride with each other.

The rest of our evening went like this:  grocery store, walk through town, ceramic shop, wine, shop, wine, finished with meats, cheeses, and more wine on the patio.

Tuscany has a charm of its own.

Luigi Steve

Yummy

What A Pitti

May 19th, 2009

May19th

luggagestop_sm

Today we are leaving to go to Montalcino.  However, we do not meet up with JeanE and Kathie till 5pm at the train station, so we have the whole day here in Florence.  However, due to my mom’s fall, she can barely move as her whole side is in pain.  So we decide to do very minimal today.  Nope, we will not be hitting the Pitti Palace or the gardens as intended.  I actually didn’t mind as I wasn’t really looking forward to that long hike again up the hill.  If I could have done something tourist this day though, I think I would have hit the Duomo museum (Mary Magdalene statue) or the Borgello museum (Donatello’s David and other sculptures).

After a great night of food and fun, and lots of wine, it was a slow moving morning.  We took our time eating breakfast, and then packed up our rooms and left our baggage with the front desk.  And then we just sat in the bar area.  We discussed things like bidet usage, we did work on the Internet and computer, and we looked at pictures.  My dad ran all over town looking for my moms cross necklace, chain, and angel pin.  He was successful on 2 of the 3, but quite sweaty after literally running around.

We ate lunch down the street at a pizza place, and we were approached by a lady about a charitable organization.

luggage_sm

We head thru the market one last time for shopping.  My mom bought more scarfs, probably, I don’t really remember.  But it was time for last minute shopping in Florence before we headed out.  We got towards the end of the market, and we sat my mom down, left her a couple bags, and my dad’s camera.  Then the 3 of us walked back to the hotel to grab all the luggage.

We got the luggage and then trekked it through the town.  Luggage is heavy when you are carrying multiple pieces for multiple blocks.  We have had to do these long walks usually when we first get to a city, and when we leave the city.  I didn’t want to get any hotels right near the train station, as that tends to be more of the seedy parts of town, as well as a little bit of distance from the city centers.

We made it back to my mom, and then trekked through the city some more until we arrived at the train station.  We were scheduled to meet our new travelers here, as they were coming in from Venice.

We waited about 20 minutes, protecting our bags from pick-pockets and crowds, and eventually JeanE and Kathie met up with us at the McDonald’s there.  We then walked to binari 2 and waited about 45 minutes for our train.

pickup_sm

We took the train, and the first stop was about 5 minutes away, it was a secondary Florence stop.  Then it seemed that everyone got on the train.  Meanwhile, my dad is asking my mom for the camera and she has no idea where she put it, or if she even had it.  I have visions right now of when my dad emptied the entire suitcase of clothing once, in the paris airport, looking for something that K.C had misplaced.  We have stacks of luggage now, all over the seats on top of each other, and there is no way he could possibly do that now.  Though, I am sure he wants to.  He is frustrated and agitated, as travelling with many people is not easy.  We try to calm him down by letting him know that at this point, its either in the bags, or its not, and there is nothing he can do.  But more than likely, it is somewhere in the bags and we will find it when we reach our destination.

It’s really crowded on the train right now, and we have our luggage taking up seats and people are irritated with us. This Italian guy sat down across from Lisa and  is breathing his bad breath in sighs of frustration on us.  I’m having a hard time concentrating on typing and its really hot and uncomfortable.  I think it must be train rush hour time.  Meanwhile, my dad is irritated because he thinks that he may have lost the camera or misplaced it somewhere in Florence.  Meanwhile, we have met up with 2 new travelers and so there is always transition time of getting used to people and group dynamics.  I am curious to see how this will all work out.

We sit on the train for about 20 minutes without it moving, when over the speaker in Italian, they announce that the train is having problems and we would need to exit and find a new train.  Brilliant.

dtwnbuonconvento

Downtown Buonconvento

We hop off the train, high-tail it to a different track, only to see the train that we really wanted, was just leaving a different track.  We hop on a new train.  Lisa runs down the track to ask the conductor if it is the train we want, and he says no.  We all quickly jump off the train with our luggage before it takes us to an unknown destination.  We eventually find the right track, after lugging the luggage up and down stairs.  At one point, I thought there was a nice citizen.  I was carrying multiple bags (mine, Lisa’s, Jeane’s…I don’t remember anymore), and taking my time up the stairs.  Someone came by and grabbed the side of one of the bags, and helped me carry it to the top.  How nice!  How kind and caring these Italians are.

Five minutes later, he came by begging for change.  I was set up.  The “norm of reciprocity” strikes again.  Eventually our train arrived, and it was the nicest train we had been on yet.  We enjoyed a 2 hour train ride through the country side.  We were covered with green hills.  It was beautiful.

We arrived at the Buonconvento train station and saw for the first time my parents new car.  While my dad was walking the couple blocks to pick it up, we rummaged through our bags and found his missing camera.  He will be so happy.  Because they have a convertible, we couldn’t fit everyone (this time) and our luggage so Lisa and I stayed behind to wait for trip #2.

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We walked thru the streets of Buonconvento, used the restroom, checked out the 7-11 type convenient store, and eventually sat outside the tiny train station at a little restaurant and ate a snack of pasta with bolognese sauce.

Dad came back and picked us up, and we drove the 10 minutes to Montalcino, with the stars above us, the top down, and my dad blasting Michael W. Smithmusic because its the song on his ipod that gets the most bass and he wanted me to experience the woofer in the back.  Very funny when a 1980’s Christian pop/worship music singer is your idea of heavy bass.  It was a beautiful drive.  One that I wish we could do again, over and over.  It was a very pleasant evening and it was nice with the wind in our hair.

We arrived in town, walked our bags up and down hills and made it to the cute little apartment with a fabulous view of the green country side.  There was pizza waiting, and jugs, yes, jugs of wine waiting.  We ate, we drank, we looked out through the peaceful valley, and we enjoyed catching up with everyone.

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This Week I'm Thinking About: Kelly Le