Friday, July 30, 2010


Our time in Iraq is swiftly drawing to a close. People are packing up, mailing excess stuff home, getting ready to leave. We have already sent our advance party ahead. We have started our RIP, which stands for 'Relief in Place,' meaning training up our replacements. There is a palatable sense of relief. Almost over.

I'm looking back on this tour and it wasn't what I expected. Not that I really knew what to expect, but still. I came over expecting on some level for the security situation to be about what it was in 2007, 2008. Aside from hearing some explosions in the distance and probably maybe perhaps getting sniped at that one time, this has been a very safe, quiet and ultimately boring tour. I'm not complaining.

No, really, I'm not.

I would have liked to have earned my CIB, but I much more prefer bringing all my guys home safe and sound. Nobody got hurt, nobody got blown up, nobody died. Good enough.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Italia: Blooper Reel

Crush crush crush.

Man's best friend.
(I'm not actually touching him.)

"Jack, stop trying to take my picture when I'm not looking."

"Jack, I think it's gonna be too dark."
"Pfft, it'll be fine."

"Jack, did you remember to zoom out?"
"Pfft, of course."

This little dude joined us on our picnic.

Italian Commies.

Italian Commie Hippie Pothead.

"Okay, a little more...little more..perfect!"

"Okay, you're almost...yes! Hold that!"

"Jack! Will you please..."

"I really think's this is gonna be too dark."
"Pfft, it's fine. Trust me."

Nice kitty #1.

I have clue what she was doing here.

Nice kitty #2.

Nice kitty #3.

Evil Devil Kitty.

Yeah, I'm a big overgrown infant.

"No, baby, of course I don't mind carrying your shopping bags."

"You remembered to zoom out this time, right, Jack?"
"Pfft, of course, what kind of idiot do you think I am?"

"Seriously, Jack, it's going to be too dark."
"Pfft, it's fine, I tell you."

I don't know why she puts up with me, but I'm so glad she does.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Italia: Venezia

After a few relaxing days in the beautiful Cinque Terre, it was time to pack up and head for our final destination, Venice. But first, a quick stop in Milan.

A couple of hours on the train and we were there. Here's Connie checking out the main square in front of the 
Duomo di Milano. Beautiful, no?

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele. 

Inside the cathedral. A bit blurry. The red light in the dome above the aspe marks the spot where one of the nails from the crucifixion of Christ has been stored.
Milan is known for its shopping. We hit up the ritzy shopping district where I took this picture of a fancy car. That was all we got there, luckily for both of our bank accounts. Our time was up, and we hopped back on the train to continue on to Venice.

And here we are. Gondola man in action. 

Here is the Piazza San Marco. Venice has one of the most striking squares of all the ones we saw. The domes are St Mark's Basilica. To the far left is St. Mark's Clocktower. To the right is Doge's Palace.

In the Piazza with the much battered Rick Dees. I hope y'all are clicking these links, there's so much amazing history about this place. I'm just too lazy to write it all here.

St Mark's Clocktower, the back of my baby's head, and some doofus tourist guys. Nice 'stache, dude. The Piazza is prone to flooding, as you can see from the standing water from an earlier shower.

A close up of the two metal men who beat the clock. The first robots ever. One is old, and one is young to symbolize the passage of time.

Connie with St Mark's Campanile in the background. Originally built in 1514, it collapsed in 1902 and was rebuilt ten years later. Click the link for the lowdown on what was probably the first photoshopped picture ever passed off as the real deal.

The Piazetta San Marco. Atop the two columns are the patrons or Venice, the lion of St Mark called Marco, and St Teodoro of Amasea, known as Todaro. It's bad luck to walk between the two columns, because they used to execute prisoners there back in the day.

A closer shot of Marco.

Here we are cruising past some place semi-famous on the ferry on the Grand Canal.

A shot of a side canal from the ferry.

The view from our hotel room.

One of the twisty turny alleys in Venice. Get this: NO cars. It's either a boat or walking.

My sweetie and the Grand Canal at twilight.

Our last night, just after our gondola ride. Bittersweet.

Well, that's it. Hope y'all enjoyed. It was an amazing trip. The food, the sights, the good. And over way too soon. It was the vacation of a lifetime, and I know we will be going back.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Italia: Cinque Terre

So, after the hustle and bustle of Rome and Florence, and with all the side trips and what not, it was time to slow our roll. Destination? Cinque Terre. It means 'Five Lands.' It's five little villages built into the seaside cliffs overlooking the Med. They are all pretty close together, and are connected by walking trails and the train line, so hopping back and forth between the towns is a simple proposition. We stayed in Levanto, which isn't one one the Cinque Terre villages proper, but it is very close and scenic in its own right.

We took a late afternoon stroll down the Via Dell'Amore

It means 'Love Walk,' and it's the trail between Riomaggiore to Manarola. The windows in the distance along the top is the trail, the ones below is where the train runs. 

According to Rick Dees, they call it the Love Walk because when the trail was finally built connecting the two villages, teenagers would go back and forth, for the hugging and the kissing and the stuff teenagers do. There is a local tradition for lovers to clasp a lock along the trail.

The rocky shore below.

I dig the rock work. Less so the graffiti. 

Locks from lovers.

Yeah, we did it, too. A second after this picture was taken, a little old Italian lady went by and shook her finger at me for standing on the rail. "Peligroso," she warned. Lady, that's my middle name.

Me and my sweetie.

A peek down onto the beach in Manarola.

Our dinner view.

Looking back at Manarola. We ate dinner at the outdoor restaurant to the left below the pink building. There's a naked chick in this picture.

More amazing views. These are between Manarola and Corniglia.

We had to cross this bridge. She took like a million years because she was so scared.

I made her carry my pack. Good job, Sherpa Girl!

We spent like three days in Cinque Terre, yet other than our hike, we didn't take many pictures. It was very relaxing. We hit the beach in Levanto, stayed up late at a sidewalk cafe, and generally just took it easy. Our last evening we dressed up just a bit and went for a nice dinner in (I think) Vernazza. 

Goodbye, Cinque Terre. Next stop: Venice!