The Court Go Back

I've always had a lot of creative thoughts. I also have a good memory. However, I never considered becoming a professional writer. In February 1996, the Air Force moved me to Italy. I was stationed at the 603 Air Control Squadron in Aviano, which is in the Northeast section of Italy, about an hour North of Venice. I worked with a guy I knew from Florida: Master Sergeant (Retired) Robert Williams. Bob showed me a newsletter that he made, where he told stateside family and friends about his Italian life. Since I, unlike Bob, am a Man of Action, decided to copy what Bob was doing and build a much better product. Because I was universally known and referred to as King Brian, the name of my publication was called the King's Court. I wrote about all the things I was doing in Europe. I thought I would stop doing it once I left Aviano and moved to Northwest Florida and eventually Phoenix. However I brought back the KC several times. Due to saving early KCs as Microsoft Works documents and having to break them up so I could move to other computers, I don't have pristine electronic copies. My plan is take excerpts from various editions and post them here. Other than fixing minor grammatical errors, here are original King's Court articles that my faithful subscribers received.


Italian Apartments
Volume 1 #3
02 June 1996

৳ When you sign the lease to move into your apartment, the military loans you certain things like a stove, refrigerator, closets (more later), washer and dryer. The refrigerator is great. The stove, washer and dryer are European: the stove is small. I could not fit a turkey in the oven (like I would actually make a turkey!). The dryer is great. My clothes are dry in about 25 minutes. The washer is a different story. It is a front loading washer that is small. It takes two hours just to wash a small load of clothes. The military loans you closets and a kitchen cabinet because Italian apartments comes with two things: no-thing. Some of the apartments I saw did not have a kitchen sink! You have to buy one for yourself. As we all know, I have a lot of clothes and they all don't fit in my two closets so I had to put things I seldom wear in my storage room. Today, I went to the Gelateria to get some ice cream. The Italians make some good ice cream. You can really taste the flavors. It is made fresh every day and it is cheap. I got some chocolate, vanilla, melon and peach. Very good.


Random Notes
Volume 2 #4
26 June 1997

৳ I've been riding my bicycle around the neighborhood. I ride down streets that I have never been just to see what's going on. I ride to the basketball court near my house and shoot ball. Bike riders have more respect here because it is a major mode of transportation since gas prices are so high (Germany $3, Italy $5 a gallon). There are even special sidewalks marked only for bikes. I still go to the same ice cream shop just like last year. There are three people that work there: Giovanni, Gradsiosa and Lara. They call me by my name and know that I always buy 2 scoops in a cup to go. Gradsiosa barely speaks any English while Giovanni and Lara speak a little, Giovanni more. I usually read up on Italian before I go and try to talk about the weather or other things in Italian. When I went on my wine tasting trip last month, I bought bottles of wine for the three of them and now they love me. I can get free ice cream anytime I want but I still pay.


Vieste
Volume 2 #1
9 February 1997

৳ I left Aviano to drive to our deployed site on 28 December. It took about 8 hours and it was approximately 500 miles. I had to drive slower in some spots because it snowed and there were some slick spots plus some Italians were driving slow. The town that I am staying in is Vieste. Vieste is on the east coast of Italy on the spur sticking out into the Adriatic Sea. This is the same place where I stayed at in 1994 (when I was on temporary duty). The hotel owner remembered me from then. I am doing a different job that what I was doing in 1994. I am working a four days on/ two days off schedule. The hours that I work are flexible due to flying requirements. I probably work eight hours a day but actually do the work for four hours. Vieste is a lot like Panama City Beach in that they are both summer towns and they both virtually close up during the winter. There is one bar called Grottinos that stays open so that's where all the Americans go. I went there for New Years Eve. I was the Designated Driver and I drove seven people to the bar and then to a club called the Waikiki. The Waikiki was packed and it cost 40,000 lire ($25) to get in. The music was standard Italian Techno. For some reason, there were a lot of men there dressed up as women. You could tell because this 'female' walked right past me and she was ugly, had no breast, and had an Adam's Apple bigger than mine. We stayed there for four hours.


Amsterdam
Volume 2 #4
26 June 1997

৳ Three friends and me rented a car and drove to Amsterdam, Netherlands our first weekend there. A-Dam is three hours away from Alhorn (Germany). Once we got there Saturday afternoon, we went to a museum. After that, because it looked like rain, we ducked into a bar and it started storming. We stayed there for awhile then we started walking around. We ate Greek, at McDonald's and KENTUCKY FRIED CHICKEN! A-Dam is known for two things: legal drugs and legal prostitution. First, drugs. From the moment we parked the car, street walkers asked us did we want to buy "weed, or cocaine." A lot of the bars, including the Hard Rock Cafe, had people openly smoking pot. There even was a museum called "The History of Hemp." I saw at least 10 crack heads walking around. Next, prostitution. There were windows that women either stood or sat in wearing lingerie. There had to be at least sixty of these windows. Between 9pm-3am, they were asking as much as 120 Dutch Guilders (about $63) but after that, the price dropped to 50 Guilders ($26) [Note: there were written price lists in English]. We stayed up all night going to a club. We caught a nap in the car before we drove back. It was funny because where we were parked, we saw a lot of the girls getting off of 'work' and going to the train station at 7am.


My Townhouse!
Volume 4 #1
21 June 1998

৳ I am renting a two story townhouse. It has 2 bedrooms and 1½ baths. I love it. It is 10 minutes away from work, I have a lot of room for all of my junk and it has a swimming pool in back!!! I looked at 18 different places and I narrowed it down to 3: this one, another townhouse and an apartment. The other townhouse was virtually the same but it costs more and was farther from work. The apartment was on the 2nd floor and it did not have a pool. Also, the apartment was brand new and it was a 'gated apartment complex.' There is one house attached to mine on the right and I never hear anything from them and they have kids. Again, I made a good choice.


Italia 503
Volume 1 #5
11 August 1996

৳ Some small things about living in Italy. In an earlier King's Court, I talked about how high gas prices are and how I get gas coupons to offset the price. All of the gas stations are full-service: they pump your gas for you. At some gas stations, when the attendants leave for the night (I have not yet seen a 24 hour gas station) the pumps are automated: you put your money in a slot and then you pump your gas. These machines do not take coupons so either you wait until tomorrow or you pay the high price in gas. One day I got off of work late and I wanted to go to the gas station that is in my city. The attendants had just left and I was on "E." I had to drive to work the next morning and then wait for a station to open so that I could fill up. Also, I have become friendly with the local Gelateria or ice cream shop owners. I go there everyday except Lunedi (Monday) when they are closed so I buy double on Domenica (Sunday). I try to speak Italian and they try to speak English. The ice cream tastes good. It is made with fresh fruit. I usually rotate between 18 different flavors out of the 30+ that they make.


Oktoberfest!
(Note: This did not appear in KC but retrieved from memory)
October 1994

৳ For the last couple of years I've gone to the Tempe Oktoberfest. It's a good time. However, my first Oktoberfest was actually in Munich, Germany. Back in 1994, I was on 6 month temporary duty in Italy. There was a day trip to Oktoberfest sponsored by Armed Forces Information, Tickets and Tours. I went with Bob Williams. The bus trip was less than 6 hours. Bob and I walked around looking into several beer tents trying to find a place to sit. We finally found a spot inside the Augustiner-Brau garden. We sat next to 6 German partiers. I drank a good amount and had German food. Our waitress actually spilled my meal on my pants and she got me another order. The almost-critical mistake that I made was Bob and I got separated. He wanted to locate our bus while it was still daylight. I wanted to hang out with German friends a while longer. Bob left. I went looking for the bus and couldn't find it! There were dozens of buses that all looked the same. Luckily, and because I'm smart, I waited by the only exit. I saw our bus (it had unique windshield stickers) and got on. Bob was sorry but it was 100% my fault. We made it safely back to Aviano Air Base. Overall I had a great time experiencing the real Oktoberfest.


Gardaland
Volume 1 #4
09 July 1996

৳ I went to Gardaland, an amusement park that is on Lake Garda, the largest lake in Italy, about 2 hours East of Aviano. You all know that I love amusement parks and that I am a thrill seeker, since I have parasailed and bungee-jumped. This park is probably the worst place that I have been! It had maybe two rides that were good, but it was a lot like Epcot Center in Disney World: mostly educational rides. Gardaland did have this unique ride where you hang face first towards the ground for 10 seconds. That didn't make up for their 'prize' roller coaster: a 3 loop coaster that was exactly like the Corkscrew at Cedar Point. The Corkscrew is 20 years old! Also it rained so it was a bad day.


My New Car!
Volume 4 #1
21 June 1998

৳ On 17 March 1998, I flew into Pensacola, Florida, to pick up my red Chevrolet Cavalier. It was just the way I ordered it. The dealership did not have my door lock remote programmed so I had to go back and get that done. I applied for a Florida drivers license. I have 'normal' Florida plates on the back and my old Michigan BRIAN 4 plates on the front (totally legal). I said in KC Volume 2 #4 "I will never get another white car!" Well, now I'm saying this: "I will NEVER get another red car!!!" I love the color, but after 10 years of being a good driver, I got TWO speeding tickets in 3 months. Now, I drive just like an 83 year-old man.


Dating 301
Volume 1 #2
29 April 1996

৳ On 2 May, I have been here 2 two months and the dating prospects are not too bad. To start off with, in the military, the majority is white males, then black males, white females, and black females. Sisters are a premium and they know it. A black female could be "less than attractive" to some people, but here she may look like Bobby Brown but men are on her like Whitney Houston. The first woman I approached was named Tracy. She lived in the same hotel as me. We met one day in the laundry room. Tracy is short. She is so short, my father (who is 5'3") would say, "Tracy, you are short!" Later, I saw Tracy in the grocery store and she offered me a ride home. She had a flower on the front seat that someone obviously gave her. A couple of days later, I saw Tracy again and I asked her did she want to do something that weekend. She said that she was busy and I never saw her again until she checked out of the hotel. My actual first date was a woman named Darlene. I met her on a trip to the city of Pisa. We both came alone so we walked together. Over the next few weeks, we went out to several different restaurants in the area, went to Venice and we went to the movies to see Heat (A good movie but it was too long), Toy Story (I liked it) and Waiting to Exhale (Four crybabies! {No wonder than I never have been married!}). Darlene was only here temporarily and she has since gone back to the states. So now I am starting all over again. Wish me luck!


Rome!
Volume 3 #1
14 January 1998

৳ Since I did not have anything to do during the week between Christmas and New Years, I decided I should go back to Rome before I leave (Italy) for good. When I was on temporary duty in Aviano in 1994, me and some friends drove from Vieste (my temporary duty station) to Rome for 3 days. We met up with some people there. Imagine: 2 American males, 1 Italian male, 2 Bosnian women & 4 Dutch women in the Eternal City. That was the most fun I had that year. This time, I took the train down to Rome by myself. Again, no problems from the Italian railway system. I stopped in Venice to change trains and then took a direct train to Rome. My car had 2 seats that faced 2 other seats with a table between them. It wasn't a lot of leg room, but not too bad either.

৳ Once I got to Roma, I took the subway to my hotel. My hotel was less than a five minute walk to the center of Rome. After checking into the hotel and changing clothes, I went back to the Colosseum, which was in front of the subway entrance. I got there at 2:00 and it closed at 3:00 and there was a long line to get in. Since I went inside in 1994, I figured I could wait until the next morning to go in.

৳ The only mistake I made during my trip was not to go into the Roman Forum ruins next, but to see some steps. The Scala Sancta or Holy Staircase were the steps that Jesus Christ ascended in the house of Pontius Pilate, the man who condemned Jesus to death. According to legend, St. Helena, mother of Constantine the Great, brought the Stairs to Rome about 326. If you want to climb the Stairs, you can only do so by kneeling, just like everyone had to do over the centuries. So when in Rome... I did it, but the actual 28 marble Stairs are encased in wood, so my knees were aching by the time I reached the top. After that, I went back to the Colosseum and then to the Forum to see what time it opened, which was at 9:00.

৳ Next, I went to San Pietro in Vincoli Basilica. Here, they have the chains used by King Herod to imprison St Peter. The chains are in a pretty bronze urn with glass so that you can see them. You can't get close but I got a good picture. Also in the same building: the statue of Moses by Michelangelo. An incredible piece of art and his third best sculpture. My hotel wasn't that far away, so I walked back to rest. While I was at the hotel, I thought since my trip was only 2 days, I'd better see what time the Sistine Chapel museum opened. I also got directions to Planet Hollywood restaurant.

৳ I took a cab to Piazzo San Pietro in Stato della Citta del Vaticano. I found the sign saying the museum opens at 8:45. I knew there would be a line so I'd better get there when it opens. I proceeded to stroll around half of Rome to get to Planet Hollywood. The walk wasn't that bad and I didn't want to take a cab because there is so much to see on the way. After dinner, I walked to the most popular spot in Rome: Scalinata della Trinita dei Monti or Spanish Steps. The streets leading up to the Stairs have all of the designer shots like Gucci, Ralph Lauren, Versace, etc. After that, I went to the Trevi fountain, the best of several fountains in Rome. Trevi is built on the side of a building and, according to legend, if you throw a coin in the fountain, someday you will return to Rome. In 94, I threw a coin and look what happened! Next, I went to the Pantheon, the oldest and best preserved tomb/church in Rome and my favorite building. It was made in 27 B.C. The best time to see the Pantheon is at night, because it looks spooky. Finally, I straggled back to my hotel at 1:00 AM.

৳ In the morning, I took a taxi to the Musei Vaticani. There was a long line at 9:00 but it was moving good. Once I got in, there were 4 different tours I could take from 1 hour to 3 hours. I chose 1 hour. The museum had many different rooms but I rushed through to get to the Chapel. In the actual Chapel, the light is dim and you can't take pictures. The ceiling is very high but you can see Michelangelo's painting good. The Last Judgment, also done by Mike, is on the wall behind/above the main altar. I have studied the ceiling/wall in pictures but to see it live is something else. Easily the best paintings I've ever seen, even better than DaVinci's Last Supper in Milan. Then I walked around the exterior to St. Peter's Square and into the Basilica, the largest Christian church in the world. Inside, where the Pope holds mass, is Michelangelo's sculpture Pieta. This has to be Mike's best work, with David second and Moses third. The Pieta is behind glass because in 1972 some nutcase tried to destroy it. It's a shame that you can only get so close to it. Then I went to the top of St. Peter's Dome. In 94, I climbed all 341 steps. Since my legs were aching from all of the walking, this time I took the elevator. The Dome was designed by Michelangelo (he sure did get around, but the man was a genius). I went outside of the Dome and could see all of Rome.

৳ After all that, I ate lunch and took a cab to the Forum. The Foro Romano was great. I traveled around the ruins and rented a cassette player that spoke about each building. Then I went to find La Bocca della Verita. The Mouth of Truth is a huge marble mask placed on the side a church. According to legend, if you put your hand in the mouth and tell a lie, you won't be able to remove your hand. Some of these legends are funny. Subsequently, I was dead tired. I went back to the hotel and fell asleep.

৳ My final morning in Rome. My train into Venice was late and I missed my connecting train home but another train came less than an hour later so no problem. In conclusion, I did almost everything I wanted to do in Rome, except going into the Colosseum. But I changed my mind about that. By far, Rome is my second favorite city in the world, right after El Segundo, California.

Mouth of Truth The Forum
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