Lots of fun the past few weekends…
Happy New Year to all!
Mrs Portfolio and I moved into a new apartment for the new year, on the Upper East Side of Manhattan! Emphasis on east, but hey, we love the place and are really excited to be in the city after three years across the river in Hoboken. I’ll post some pics soon. Pull-out couch is available to friends swinging through town 🙂
Hung out with some friends yesterday watching football. I am further convinced that the Packers are going to win the Superbowl on the back of Aaron Rodgers. It really is looking like his year. The story of how he was passed over in the draft six years ago provides some great perspective on what is driving him. It’s going to be a great game against Evil Rapist Big Ben and the Steelers…
In other family news, Will finished just one shot out of the money in his latest effort on the Florida Professional Golf Tour. Hang in there buddy! Check out Will’s new blog for updates on his season. And Gia has a new blog too! Wow, Portfolio Family blog network!
I rode the Chinatown Bus down to Baltimore for Easter Weekend and had a great time at the Barbagallos! Katie and Bob really know how to throw a good party, and I had so much fun catching up with everybody. I saw a whole bunch of the Boyland clan, and it had been awhile.
I played golf with Nick and Will, and we realized with some amazement that it was the first time Nick and I have played together. I once played with Will back in ’07, when he had gotten stung on the hand by a few wasps who were living in one of the ball-washers. This time, he almost got stung again as he was sitting in the cart! I had several pars and a few nice drives, but I mostly rode the bogey train, and on the back nine I was struggling against physical exhaustion and just started hacking it up. First round of the year is a 94, and I was just glad to break 100 (and have the low round of the group :-))
On the way back, I was glad I could speak Chinese. The bus was late, or so I thought, because I was waiting in the wrong place. When I found the bus, they were ready to leave, but another person and I were running and flagging it down. The Chinese driver looked at our tickets, waived her on, and told me I couldn’t board. My tickets had something wrong with them. So I started speaking Mandarin to the guy, asking him what was wrong with my ticket, and we went back and forth for 5 minutes while everyone waited. He gave me the phone number I had already tried several times with no one answering. I cajoled him to call them himself, and he did, and they said let me on. Disaster averted! But when I boarded I could feel everybody looking at me, like, Who’s this asshole who just delayed us 10 minutes? So I said, “Sorry everybody! Thanks for picking me up!”
March Madness is back. Having disconnected the cable about a year ago, I had to trek out to the local watering hole to catch the Big East final between my Hoyas and West Virginia last weekend. It was raining something spectacular, and Xianyi and I were hanging at home. I said, “Well, I’ve gotta go watch this game. I’ll be back in two hours.” Wherein I proceeded to one of the many shitty bars that I despise, alone, and sure to run into no one. It’s literally 45 seconds away, and I was drenched when I got there.
Georgetown lost on the final shot, which was some kind of miracle thrown up in desperation, and maybe the ugliest winning shot of any game in the history of basketball, but whatever. We have more Big East trophies than any other team, and this was the first for the Mountaineers. So, well done. Now we move onto the Big Dance.
How you like them Hoyas?
So Tiger’s coming back. Everybody knew he’d never miss the Masters. But why no warm-up tournament? I gotta think Arnie is a little miffed that Tiger won’t be at Bay Hill. My theory is that Billy Payne and the Augusta whitebreads will enforce a strict zero-sex-questions policy in the press tent, and employ plainclothes officers to follow El Tigre around the course from outside the ropes, ready to make an example of any “patrons” who wanna get cute.
The world of Tiger Woods is falling apart, his reputation is dinged and he may end up paying lots of money to one or more women – but at least one good thing has resulted. This is the end of the Church of Tiger Woods movement.
Seriously. You didn’t know about www.tigerwoodsisgod.com? The First Church of Tiger Woods, where they rejoice in “the emergence of the ‘true’ messiah”, was recently renamed by its Pastor, “The Damnation of Tiger Woods.” There you can find several long posts directed at Tiger from the Pastor, who founded the church back in 1996 but has now decided to disband it, on account of Tiger’s Transgressions.
… you might think that such a decision might be difficult. In this case, it was not. Unfortunately, Tiger Woods has made it all to easy to realize that he is no longer worthy of any special admiration.
Check it out soon, because the Pastor won’t be renewing the domain. My favorite part is the photo captioned: “Proud Father looks on as Tiger Woods wins the Masters.”
With the sun setting early now that daylight savings time has ended, I’m reflecting on my recent trip to Italy.
I was lucky to receive an invitation from my good friend Andreas. He is an aspiring professional golfer, and had reserved a space in the qualifying tournament for the European Tour. Stage One was a series of 4-round tournaments, and ours took place in a little town called Bogogno, near Milan. Andreas offered to pay my airfare and hotel for the week in exchange for caddying for him during the tournament. How could I say no?
We stayed in a town called Veruno, a short drive from Bogogno. Our hotel room overlooked a small family vineyard, where one day I saw people harvesting grapes. The town roads were mostly very small and narrow, built long before the need to accommodate car traffic. In the center of the small town there was a church with a bell tower.
The people we met were helpful and pleasant without exception, from the mothers and daughters who ran our hotel, to the bag room attendants at the golf club, to the merchants and waiters in the town’s shops and restaurants. Many of them spoke English quite well, which allowed Andreas and our pal Chewy to get away with not even trying any Italian phrases in most situations. I appeared to be the intrepid traveler because I purchased a language book before the trip – I failed Italian twice in college, and yet in our threesome I was the de facto language expert.
One night we had dinner in a small trattoria which had a small menu with just a few pasta dishes. This was several days in, and Andreas was tired of eating only pasta and pizza. “I need some protein,” he kept saying, extolling the virtues of his daily protein shake and how he’d gotten his dad to start drinking it. “Rindo,” he says, “why don’t you go practice your Italian and try to rustle up a little chicken and vegetables for me?”
I engaged the bar owner, a woman about my mother’s age, to see if they had any pollo and verdura. Really, not the hardest thing to get across. She explained that the only chicken they had was a frozen, breaded breast. This I understood only because she brought it out to show me. She said they also had some spinach, so I agreed that would be fine. When it arrived, it turned out that the chicken was processed in such a way that the spinach was inside the meat – little specks of green. It looked pretty disgusting, and he hated it. The lessons here are many: when abroad, order something on the menu, buy a phrase book, don’t trust your caddy to order for you…
Besides that regrettable dish, the food was all excellent. Cheese gnocchi, ravioli, linguine, lasagna, tortellini, salami, prosciutto, and pizza! Red wine at every meal! And of course, fresh bread with lots of olive oil! One of the funniest moments of the week was Andreas and Chewy asking the waiter for olive oil for the bread. “Ummm, can we get some oil? Oil?” To a blank stare. “What’s the word for oil?” they asked me. “Olio.” And a wave of recognition swept over the waiter’s face. Haha!
The golf itself was not spectacular. Of the three golfers in our group, none made it through. But it was fun for me to witness the game at that level, and to see the nuances of the game in Italy as opposed to home. For example, it’s customary for US tournament hosts to put out some refreshments for the players – bottles of water, fruit, energy bars. In Italy, though, they put out bottles of San Pelegrino and salami on fresh baguettes. Slightly better!
About half the players had caddies, but it was rare to see them actually carry the bags. They all put them on pull-carts. This I found to be an insult to the trade, and refused to employ one. I noticed there were a lot of female caddies; it seems a lot of the guys have their wives and girlfriends on the bag. One guy we played with the first two rounds – he ended up winning the tournament – had his girlfriend caddying, and she was five months pregnant! She wasn’t just walking around out there, either, she was a true looper who knew what her job was. (Unlike the girl with us the following day, whose main purpose seemed to be necking with her man on every hole.)
The coolest part about the course was, on clear days, you could see the peaks of the Alps. The biggest one looming in the distance was Monte Rosa, the Pink Mountain, so named because of the tint it took on in the early morning sun. A quick google tells me it is the 2nd-highest in the Alps.
The last round of the tournament was Friday, and Chewy and Andreas were both around the same position on the leaderboard: they needed very low scores to have any chance of making it. Andreas got it to 3-under at one point, but just couldn’t capitalize as we came down the stretch. I was sitting in the car after the round, waiting for Chewy to finish up, and I saw him walking out of the club like he was in a daze.
“How’d it go?” I asked.
“Mate, I had it to seven-under! And I gave five shots back in the last four holes!”
Poor kid was drilling it, making birdies everywhere, and looking like he had a shot to make it to second stage. But he finished bogey-bogey-double-bogey and that was that. Better luck next year. He excused himself to make a phone call, and wandered off toward the tennis court, looking weary. He came back 20 minutes later and had shaken it off, was back to his upbeat self, and as Andreas came out to meet us, we were getting excited to hit the big city.
We packed up the car, a tiny, tiny thing called the Nissan Micra, with all our gear, and it barely had enough room left for us in it. Two hours later we were in Milan. The concierge at the hotel saw three bedraggled foreigners in front of him, asking where to go for a good time on a Friday night. He smiled.
“You guys wanna go to Club Hollywood!”
Indeed we did. The tournament behind us, we ponied up to the bar for ten-Euro vodka/red bulls and sank into the atmosphere. Beautiful people in town for Fashion Week surrounded us, while DJ Sinatra, flown in from NYC, commanded the room, making it fade into a blur…
The next day we did our tourist bit, checking out the Duomo Cathedral, which is absolutely massive, and the Armani complex, which we found absolutely hilarious. The man whose name is synonymous with the highest quality bestows that label not only on clothing and sunglasses, but on bedroom furniture sets and office garbage cans. It became a running joke: “You see that lamp? Armani. And that shower curtain? Armani.” We were supposed to go to the Armani restaurant to review it for Candice, but they turned out to be under renovation, along with the Armani hotel. Later that night we stood outside the Armani night club, but they weren’t about to let us in.
Saturday night in Milan we had what I considered the best meal of the week. Acting on a tip from a website, we went to some famous restaurant, but it was closed, because we showed up close to midnight (we had napped the afternoon away). They suggested we go down the street to Paper Moon. Friends, if you are ever in Milan, this is the spot. It has the ambiance of a cafe, but the waiters wear pressed whites like a fine dining establishment. The clientèle are the cool-but-not-chic creative class – people you can tell know what’s going on. The hostess actually laughed at Chewy for putting Parmesan on his linguine and clams – although she followed it up with a genuine, “If you like it, it’s OK.” Order the house specialty appetizer. It’s a simple dish of flat noodles with a basil and tomato cream sauce. Nothing fancy, but made with love – and something to write home about.
For more pics from Milan, check out my Balconies series