Sunday, April 30, 2006

So 10 games in 4 days did wonders for Joe's physique but sitting on the beach watching 10 games in 4 days didn't do much for me except give me a great tan. This works to my advantage, though, since classes have started again here at Johannes Gutenberg Uni--my students are cowed into submission by my impressive array of freckles, jealous that they were stuck here in chilly Mainz for their six weeks off. Ha!

Friday, April 28, 2006

Here's to chasing D through Venice after a conversation the night before with a traveling Canadian who couldn't quite grasp the layout of the city and became a little bored hanging with the pigeons in St. Mark's Square, thus making me happy to follow D's expertise. If you asked me to take you there now, I would still be undoubtedly lost. Which, I think, is a great way to know a city. And no, we did not ride in a gondola. I did, however, wink at every gondoleer I saw, as if to say, "I know what's going on here" or "we'll hang out later at the bar to tell funny stories about the tourists in this place." In reality, I was quite busy keeping track of D's zip through the alleys to know what was going on at all.

Most impressive were all these hidden paths and small streets along with little courtyards gated off with full gardens one could barely see. The canals made it interesting, sure, but judging by the ease illegal street vendors were able to out run the police, this seemed like a great place to keep a secret.

"Make Venice your travel destination: the one place in Italy where you can't be killed by a scooter."

So 10 games on sand in four days really works you in shape, and I'm almost back into the condition I had at the Zoo. Our 10 man team finished 7th out of 48, having had a great time in Rimini despite some poor team performances in important games. And even though I won't be in D-land next year, I hope to make it out to play with them at Paganello again. It was one of the most organized tournaments I've been to, with daily newsletters, nightly parties, and a slew of sponsors offering free and/or discounted services throughout the weekend. All this running smoothly for the 1500+ players in attendance...

We saw Bologna on our first night in Italy and our last day before getting back on our plane to Frankfurt. It was election day when we arrived, and we hung out in the main courtyard that night as left-wing supporters gathered around a radio, waiting for the results. Gathered around the supporters were about twenty members of the police, completely prepared for trouble with their paddy wagon. Much to D's disappointment, however, nothing happened on a night with no real political resolution anyway, and we rode the bus back to our hotel.

Our second stint in was as uneventful, walking away hours before our flight back to Frankfurt. After the tournament, there were a ton of ultimate players waiting out flight times in Bologna (that person standing to the left of me is about to catch a disc), including most of my team. We used the occasion to get a few final tastes of Italian ice and cappacinos, and also climbed the 452 steps of the Torre degli Asinelli for a hazy view of our surroundings. As if our legs had had enough on the beach...

So we're back in the M-bach these days, still reeling from overindulgence in the food. Not much on the travel calendar these days except for a couple quick May events in Frankfurt and Rotterdam. Look for reports on German spring in the coming weeks on Dotde.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Happy Mainzer German-American Friendship Day!

Boy, what treats were laid out all over the center of Mainz today as Germans and Americans gathered together to celebrate our mutual relationship. This special holiday, rumored to be a PR smoothing response to the virtual lockdown suffered in Mainz when GWB himself came to visiting in 2005, displays the best qualities of our relationship with each other. From our perspective spending the afternoon hours walking through Mainz, here are the top 7 reasons why Germans and Americans have continued to buddy up over the years:

7) Balloons. They were all over Mainz today. And I'm not talking about hottish air-filled ones that offer rides and land on farms touting bottles of wine, I mean the classic child-don't-let-me-go-cause-I'll-look-super-sad-floating-away-from-you-in-the-sky sort of balloon. Bulbously inflated rubber...very popular today in commemoration of friends.

6) Beer. Yet again, the beer carts were set up again schlogging out brew to the masses. Man, after a straight hour hanging out by one of these, I couldn't tell who was American and who was German. I even thought I was in Boston for a while.

5) Processed meats. People here are usually pretty conscientious of their schnitzel wielding, but for some reason if you throw a hot dog into the grips of a Mainzer local, you set yourself up to be, upon walking collision, slothered with ketchup and bun. Perhaps it was the city-wide fervor towards the ideals of friendship, but you had to be careful out there on the streets today. Hot Dog Stands EVERYWHERE.

4) Signs proclaiming our bond. These witty graffiti artists and poster-makers have developed the eye-catching "F! Bush!" as a shortened version of the popular slogan, "Friend! Bush!"

3) Cars. Dealers' wares were parked all around the Altstadt, including German, American, and French manufacturers. Perhaps the most interesting were the Hollywood Cars, which allowed us to see our first stretch limo since arriving to D-land. If you need a US-Police Car or a NYC Taxi to take you to your international school's prom, well, this is the place.

2) Military Demonstrations: The local Air Force Base's choral group was on stage in the central courtyard, belting out such hits as Thriller and Shout. They were, actually, fun to watch. The area around the Dom was packed with people singing along. The Chorus was even cheered out for an encore. After that, the local Mainzer breakdancing crew spun out to some beats, accompanied by what appeared to be a group of American military officer's daughters-as-background-dancers. We clapped thunderously, if only for the looming scandal.

1) Okay, seriously. I have plenty of friends who are pretty special to me, and it's not like once a year I go up to one, throw them a hot dog, and sing the boogie woogie blues before telling 'em how much they mean to me. Gleason, how weird would that be? And it looks like the people of Mainz agree. Thousands of people were wandering around, merely excited to be allowed to shop! on a Sunday (Palm Sunday, nonetheless). Yes yes, if that's not representative of us heathens 'cross the Atlantic, what is? But for the most part, everyone was walking around with a look on their face as if to say, was machen wir hier?

Wir kaufen unsere Freunde, wir kaufen.


In other news, D and I are flying off tomorrow to Italy for touring and sport. First, we visit (or re-visit) Venice, and then we're down to Rimini as I'm playing in my first Paga with the local German club team. We'll try our best to get online at some point and upload some pictures. If not, expect a full report after our return on the 18th.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

"We are counting down to Paris and Ullrich is not yet out of the running," Ullrich said, uncharacteristically referring to himself in the third person. 3 April 2006 Velonews Eurofile.

While the latest news of a recurring pain in Jan Ullrich's once-injured knee unsettles our potential plans to watch May's Giro as we lounge in the Italian Alps, Ullrich still maintains that Ullrich himself will be riding laps on the Champs-Élysées come July. A literary scholar might read his most recent remarks as showing an ethereal claim on Parisian victory--a consciousness stepping beyond the body to express assurance that Jan will indeed hold a place on the podium. But we here at Dotde are a little skeptical about this view: too many athletes tend to talk of themselves in the third person to make this unique. Too many of these athletes are also, well, crazy. With such stars like Casey Stengal and Ricky Henderson, once the media actually notices the habit it's usually a sign of physical or mental deterioration. Reporters stop caring about what someone says and start caring about how they say it when, it seems, there's nothing really to report. But we don't have pressures to just fill space here on Dotde, given our small but steady base of readers (miss you Mom and Dad!).

So despite the negative reports flying through the German press and the negative attitudes of most cycling fans I meet here in D-land, we're still dedicated in our support this magentic rider. Our humble weblog's opinion on Ullrich's bowing out of le Circuit de la Sarthe is that this maneuver is purely strategic. Three cycling juggernauts (and Tour favorites) are already showing that they're prepared to dominate the seventh month. American Floyd Landis of Phonak took the inaugural Tour of California and the 64th Paris Nice, Kazakh legend Alexander Vinokourov of Liberty Seguros-Wurth swiped the 21st Vuelta a Castilla y Leon, and Italian Ivan Basso of CSC eased his way onto the top podium spot of the Criterium International.

Sprinters Tom Boonen (Quick Step) and Stuart O'Grady (CSC) are also making noise, though it'd be miraculous if they ended in most-mattered yellow (green would be a pleasure for them). Ineligible Tyler Hamilton is even trying to get into the action with thwarted attempts to race a few on the sly. So with Armstrong gone, everyone's wanting to make some early season noise--noise that in had been quelled in past years by remarks such as "Yeah, have your fun now. But it's Lance in France."

Nonetheless, Ullrich's displaying a season-long strategic side that pairs his consummate (if not frightening) poker face on the bike. And this is one more reason why D and I will be holding magenta mimosas in Paris come July 23rd. Jan has a ace he can play all season (past premonition: remember Armstrong's rope-a-dope on 2001's L'Alpe d'Huez?) While every other big rider dances the "Look at Me!" jig, Jan's the only one saying "Ullrich will see you on the slopes."

Monday, April 03, 2006

Since the changing weather also shifts Dotde's editorial slant to include increased feats of outdoor athleticism, we'd like to preview our evercoming spring and summer issues with the latest venture into Mombach out-of-doors. An idle Sunday, sans typical physical endeavours such as ultimate and paper grading, D and I hit the neighborhood streets with some major aggression to exude on the Table Tennis playing youths living in our area.

As Mombach contains the roughest of the Mainzer roughs, the most rugged of the roughest can be revealed on any given weekday lingering concrete waiting for a game, all the while spouting the jabber I won't learn in my German course but can only discover around the Tisch.

So, here are a few action shots from our day out fighting to keep our table from a kid named Uwe, who left the area with a couple plastic ball bruises and these two new English words: Oh and No. We're English teachers, aren't we? Next week, his vocabulary lesson includes "Have mercy!" and "Is there a God???" German speakers reading this now...can you tell me how to command "Say yer prayers, toad!"

"Willst du einen Paddeltattoo??" (Do you want a Paddle Tattoo?)

"Ich arbrauchte du" (I destroyed you OR I smoked you)

Finally, notice D's cackling:

"Es ist Bettzeit, Uwe!" (It's bedtime, Uwe!)