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Freedom Fighter

I'm back in the states and I'm pretty much over the blog but a few people told me it needs closure. Below is an email from my friend Guy (Israeli that I befriended on birthright) detailing my last day in Israel and our trip to the gun range. I got a lesson from a passionate german-israeli instructor and fired mini uzi's and glock handguns.

"...Which brings me to the next part of my tale.. Guess who came around my 'hood on his way back from traveling Europe with Jen, his name starts with a B and everyone called him Blaze?

That's right! 'Twas the Blaze hisself.

'Course, he timed his arrival on the dates I was in Eilat, so I only saw him
on his last day here. Took him to an Indian lunch (the real Indian, not Native Americans. Stupid Columbus, they're not even vaguely similar! Didn't he watch Bollywood movies?).

The place was established by Israelis that spent a few months in India, then came back and created an atmosphere that tries to mimic the experiences they went through, which was hanging out, eating, doing drugs and having sex. Kinda like the 60's, I guess. Basically they just put lots of mattresses and couches together, and cook the food right there. Was actually pretty good.

Anyway, I don't remember how it popped up, but he said that he never fired a gun before, which is weird for me cuz I fired my first gun at 15, but whatever. So I took him to the olympic gun range in Hertzliya, and he got a weapons instructor\guide all for himself. What a character... the guide was old-school, and had a personal quest to make sure every Jew that came under his tutelage would be able to react under extreme circumstances.

Ths made for an interesting combination. Take one Blaze, which is as laid-back as you can get, pair him up with a prosthetic-legged, 50-year old moustached ex-paratrooper, and you'll get a Blaze shooting a mini-uzi on automatic while having Alla Akhbar screamed in his ear. Now that's something to remember..."


Book Club of One

For years I've been talking about starting a book club. Basically, the vision is to get a group of somewhat intelligent and inquisitive people together in a coffee shop or apartment and discuss a book, share some thoughts, nosh a bit, etc. I'm a big fan of reading and literature, and believe it is one of the most overlooked and underrated activities of our generation. Anyway, so far I’ve been all talk and not sure if I will ever get the book club off the ground but in a perfect world...

I did do a decent amount of reading on this trip. Reading is great when you are traveling. Your mind is wide open to accept anything, you have the down time and it is easy to get lost in a book. I, who will never be mistaken for a chit-chatter, ran out of things to talk about with Jen by around Day 20 and therefore got deeper and deeper into books. In some cities it was hard to find English books, so I basically read whatever i could get my hands on. Below is a quick review in chronological order.

The Source by James Michner
This was on an Birthright recommended reading list. I started it a few weeks before i went on Birthright and was glad that I did. The book goes through the history of the land of Israel from the beginning of time till the book was published (mid 60's). There are about 15 different stories that take place in different eras and it gave me a sense of history of the holy land. The climax of the book is when a few of the main characters are part of the battle to win Tzvat, a mystical city that we had visited earlier in the week and saw where the decisive victory took place (the police station at the top of the hill). Historical fiction is great because you get to learn a great deal with all the excitement and drama of a fictional tale.

Angels and Demons by Dan Brown
I thought this was horribly dumb. I liked Da Vinchi code, but this was the boogie league version. Bad story, the cryptic symbolism stuff was kind of lame as well. Only positive was that I read it right before Rome and therefore had a little more understanding of some of the landmarks and monuments that we visited.

The Zahir by Paulo Cuelho
Cuelho, the author of the Alchemist, isn't at his best, but the book is still pretty good. The story of a withdrawn husband who is abandoned by a wife that has grown apart from him and his obsessive quest to regain her love. The story isn't all that good, but every so often there are passages, or ideas that really resonate with the reader and make the book worthwhile to read.

The Covenant by Naomi Reagen
A pretty good thriller (although somewhat of a girls book) and plays well for the Israel motif that I was on. Jamie gave it to read in Milan. It is the story of a Jewish family living in a settlement in the West Bank. The Dad and daughter get kidnapped by Palestinian terrorist and it takes the power of a grandma and her holocaust survivor friends to pull some strings to try and rescue the kidnapped. Naturally, all these women invoke a long-standing covenant to always protect and fight to keep their lineage strong.

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
Borrowed from Marni when she joined us. Marni had doubles of this book and why you need doubles of a bad book when your traveling I am still trying to figure out. In the form of Angela's Ashes and all the "I was so poor and now I am a proud author" memoirs, the book is a decent story but I wasn't feeling it much. Basically, Jeannette and her siblings lived a trying childhood, moving from place to place in extreme poverty. Her tight-knit family and loving parents just didn't have what it takes to fit into society and therefore always marched to their own drummers.

The Partner by John Grishmam
Borrowed from Greenblatt in Switzerland. I usually stay away from Grisham books because I consider them glorified movies and not really "reading". Like all his books this one was pretty suspenseful and interesting. It's about a southern lawyer that swindles his firm for 90 million and dissapears to Brazil. After plotting his own capture and extradition to America, he is able to get off all the charges with 15 million in his pocket only to be swindled by the women he loves (who has all his money). Typical bitch.

A Plot Against American by Phillip Roth
Bought in a London airport on the way back to Israel. The plot here is that the Nazi aviator Lindbergh runs against FDR for the presidency and wins. From there it is an all out shitstorm for the Jews of America. I'm not the biggest fan of Roth's style of writing (don't get the humor in the humorous parts and overall not that enthralled in his writing). My favorite part of the book was the creative plot.

A Million Little Pieces by James Frey

Picked this up at Beyda's. I had heard so much about this book that I figured it had to be overrated. Plus, it has come out that this guy Frey is as legit as your local dope dealer. I actually really enjoyed the story though. First, whether it is all true or partly true doesn't really matter. The book really gets into what it is to have an addiction and how it feels to go through rehab. It does this in a way that is easy and enjoyable to read.
Sidenote: If any of the book is true, and with all the criticism that it has inflicted over the last few months, I think this guy Frey definitely has had to have had a relapse by now. Life sucks.


LittyHoops in Israel

There are two professional basketball teams in Israel. Maccabi Tel Avivi and Hapoel Tel Aviv. I have good stories about both teams and I’ll be kind enough to share with you.

Maccabi - Maccabi Tel Aviv is akin to the New York Yankees of Israeli basketball (money and domination). Fans either love them or hate them. They have won the Israeli league like 20 out of the last 21 seasons and have also won the Champions Euroleague the last two seasons. This past fall they even beat the Toronto Raptors in an exhibition game (first time an NBA team lost to a non-NBA team in a long while). Maccabi gets all the best Israeli players and also has some of the best Americans in Europe (Will Solomon from Clemson and Anthony Parker). Isn't it great that there is a black dude on the team with the last name of Solomon. Last year their star was Jesekevich (sp?) who now plays on the Pacers.

I was real pumped to see a Maccabi game and set out yesterday afternoon to do just that. I left Beyda's apartment at 3 p.m. with the intention of going for a stroll, coming back to the apartment and then taking a cab to the stadium. I started walking into Tel Aviv and then just figured I would get something to eat, finish my book and walk to the game. Bad move. I walked for about 2 hours (those 4 inches on the map sure did take a long time to traverse) and I got myself real lost (started to have visions of fining myself wondering into a Palestinian outpost hanging from my feet -- no, Israel is not like that and you don't just stumble into an Arab stronghold.) Let Bygons be Bygons (don't know what bygon means by itself but when you put them side by side I'm golden), I jumped in a cab and got to the stadium a few minutes before tip-off.

This was a Israeli league game (as opposed to an euroleague game) so nobody cares. There were only about 2,000 people in the 10,000 person stadium and wasn't really much energey or excitement in the crowd. Maccabi had doubled up their opposition by halftime and went on to cruise by a 30 point margin. The basketball is somewhere between the college and pro level, and I left kind of unimpressed.

Hapoel Tel Aviv - This is the workers team and is also the team of one Mr. Marcus Hatten -- the inspiration for Littyhoops itself. Hapoel has fallen on hard times and recently announced plans to tear down their barn box of a stadium to play in the same arena as Maccabi. Unfortunately, the fanatical Hapoel fans aren't having any of this and they are boycotting all Hapoel home games. How do I know all this you might ask, well I could have looked it up on the internet (http://www.answers.com/topic/hapoel-tel-aviv-basketball?method=6). But no, I Littyhoops got the scoop in person.

To get from Beyda's apartment in Ramat Aviv to downtown Tel Aviv it is about a 25 minute walk. Each time I make this journey I pass by this shitty rundown gym, with a bunch of signs and graffiti and about 20-30 people standing outside protesting. Once I realized that these were the Hapoel Ultras fans, I went down to investigate.

Trip #1
I stare and stare and stare and try and figure out what is going on. I don't dare go down to talk to these people because who knows what they are protesting...last thing I need is to get into some occupied land rally. I have a suspicion is has something to do with Hapoel Tel Aviv but not really sure.

Trip #2
After some detective work on the internet I assume that this is the old stadium they are tearing down. I walk up to a kid and start talking about it with him. He was telling me about how a new owner bought the stadium, doesn't give a shit about the fans, and is getting money from the city to move so they can tear it down and build a park. The fans protest outside of the gym, and are doing anything possible to keep the city from tearing it down -- including boycotting Hapoel home games. They do go to all the road games and were planning to trek up to the Golan Heights that night for a game.

More Importantly, I ask about Marcus Hatten. His reaction is lukewarm. Says Hatten can score, but shoots too much, is inconsistent, and that the team has no chance unless he is on fire. I try to tell him about what he did to the likes of Duke, Georgetown, UConn and Rutgers, but he doesn't feel me. I tell him Hatten is clutch and will lead them to a Championship but he says that Hapoel is a bunch of losers just like the New York Knicks. Jeez!

Trip #3
After going to the Maccabi game I get the idea that I need a Hapoel Hatten jersey with his name in Hebrew. Unfortunately, Hapoel lost the night before so not sure how friendly these guys are going to be. I pick my target, a young kid carrying a basketball hoop and ask him a few questions...

LHoops: Why are they tearing down the stadium (ice-breaker)
Israeli: Because they are all Nazis (keeps on walking)
LHoops: You like Marcus Hatten?
Israeli: Nah, he isn't good, maybe ok (keeps on walking)
LHoops (scrambling to keep up): How can i get his jersey?
Israeli: (icey stare and no response)

Guess the Israeli hatten jersey is going to have to wait. It has broken into my top 5 of jersey's I must have

1) 92-93 Malik Sealy Home St. John's jersey (#21)
2) 93-94 Serge Zwikker Carolina blue UNC jersey
3) 05-06 Marcus Hatten Hapoel Tel Aviv jersey (hebrew lettering)
4) 00-01 Ron Artest #15 St. John's jersey
5) 02-03 Rickey Paulding Missouri jersey


My return to Eretz Yisrael

Right now I'm back in the holy land, staying at Beyda's. It's nice to be in Israel for a bunch of reasons.

1) The weather is perfect. It's been in the low 70's and sunny the last two days and I've hit up the beach twice. This is a welcome reprieve after sightseeing through Europe in bitter cold, rain and snow. It got especially bad over the last 10 days as we continuously got stuck in the rain in Rome and then had to fight off hail storms in Amsterdam.

2) I have my own room! Beyda has a two bedroom apartment so i get the royal treatment in the guestroom. After months of sleeping in crowded hostels, floors or couches of friends and friends of friends, overnight train cars and squished in a bed with my platonic friend Jen.

3) It's a nice way to chill out before i return to the real world and have to figure out what to do with my life next. Tel Aviv is a great city, with a young and hip vibe and great places to eat, drink and hang out.

Tomorrow I plan on going to see Maccabi Tel Aviv play basketball. They are the reigning champs of European Champions League and excited to see what the Atmosphere is like in the arena (supposed to be awesome). Unfortunately, Hapoel Tel Aviv, the team of the one and only MARCUS HATTEN (the leading scorer in the Israeli league no less) does not play this week. I have mixed feelings as it would have been amazing to see my idol play in person, but at the same time there is no way hatten can live up to the fantasy i have created, and no need for my heart to be crushed only days before i come home.


Check out this emai below....

Im in israel now but almost went back to florence instead , upon invitation by the wonderful alix colby, and be the new BGB, already got the name.

Basically these girls went from "who the heck is this kid on our couch" in florence to "we love you litty" and stay with us forever after a weekend in interlocken.

Im not the hearthrob that colby and troy are, and Im not the funny man greenblatt is (their rumor is he sucks when his girlfriend is around though) but i almost pulled off the old guy on the couch move.

Subject:COME BACK!!!!
Date:Thu, 02 Mar 2006 06:16:33 -0500


Please come back... This is our last attempt to get you to move in with us. Andrea spruced up the skank room for you and it is ready and waiting...

Don't worry, we have you sweater and we will keep it safe (if you come live with us it will be yours in a jiffy!!!)

we really miss you and let us know your plans,

Love you tons,
Your favorite girls


My last few days

I'm in a Kinko's in London right now and fly back to israel in a few hours. I haven't written in a hot sec but will do a brief rundown now and try and add some good stories later.

I arrived beaten and battered in Interlocken last friday night. I met up with Alix Colby and her friends at Balmers Herberge (hostel) who rolled in their crew of 50 to switzerland for the weekend from florence. A few girls and I went to a Swiss pub of some sorts across the street and had a dandy time. We were the only patrons under 60 and nobody spoke English. But on this cold, snowy, Swiss alpian night I feel like we bonded with the locals. Perhaps it was the free rounds of beer, perhaps it was the nine-finger man that shared a dance with Alix or perhaps it was the girls turning the night into a karaoke party with splendid renditions of the Beetles "Let It Be", perhaps it was the state of our minds. Anyway, too bad nobody had a camera because their were some amazing pictures begging to be taken.

The rest of the time in Interlocken was pretty mellow. We stayed at Funny Farm, which is supposedly this awesome hippy commune. It didn't seem like anything that great but i guess the best time to go is when the weather is warm and some recent legislation makes partying a bit more difficult in the town.

I didn't really do anything extreme (Interlocken is know for sky diving, bungee jumping, etc.). Jen, Justin and Marni went canyon jumping, which is like bungee jumping but better. I was too sore from skiing, too big of a pussy, too lazy and too broke to do it.

I did go on a hike with me and myself to some castle ruins across the river. But then my groin cramped up and I got lost and was about to cry before i found a bus station and got a ride back to the hotel.

From Interlocken we took an overnight train to Amsterdam. Amsterdam is exactly what you want it to be. We quickly got ourselves immersed in the culture. Went to Van Gogh museum, Ann Franke Haus, and walked the Red Light Districts (Hookers in a window -- why didn't my entrepreneurial mind think of that). Food in Amsterdam is amazing

Best foods in Amsterdam

1) Dessert Pancakes with ice cream
2) Dessert Waffles with ice cream
3) Anything next to a coffee shop
4) Anything edible

Last night i took the train to Brussels and stayed over for a day, ate some waffles, and then flew to London this afternoon. Next it's on to Israel.

I got a bunch of good entries planned that hopefully I'll get to in Israel. Jen flew back to NY today and Marni and Justin are somewhere in Italy (god knows what is going to happen to them.....they open a subway door and give each other a high five for accomplishing something on their own!)

I'm glad to be resting in tel aviv for a few days. Got to get my brain firing on the right cylinders again. Otherwise, i would have gone back to great neck for a few days - broke out a map of middle neck road, walked to the saddle rock gristmill and the Persian mansions and then taken the LIRR to managed to look for a hostel.


Skiing with Lil Guy

Throughout the entire trip I had been looking forward to meeting Jeff and Jaclyn, who are with Jacklyn's family on vacation in switzerland. I woke up early thursday morning, bid adeiu to Jen for the first time in six weeks, and headed on a train up to milan and then to switzerland.

I made great time thanks to recognizing the right train stop and jumping out of the train just in time (original plan was to take the train all the way to geneva and then jump on a train and head directly back so my quick thinking saved 5 hours).

The name of the mountain is called crans montana and it is in the southest of Switzerland. The first night i had dinner with Jeff, Jaclyn and her family. It was my first time speaking with adults in weeks and my first thoughts were (ah, shit, i got to act normal and make coherent sentences). Jaclyn's parents were great and made me feel real comfortable being there.

We woke up to go skiing at 7am. Everyday the group skis together. There are 12 people in all (including the other families). The big question all week is how good of a skiier I am. We found the answer out real quicky.....

I told Jeff i needed some warm up runs before we went up to the more difficult mountains. That idea got denied pretty quickly and before you know it Im 3000 feet up a mountain staring down the steepest slope Ive ever seen. I swear, it could have been a 90 degree drop, or so it looked. Within 30 seconds i had crashed 4 times. I had no control and would just ski until i was going way to fast and then crash. 12 people were mocking me. Little girls were skiing circles around me, one women goes to Jeff "it's like when your friend has a fat girlfriend" whatever that means, etc. etc. The leader of the group was growling and thinking "how dare this punk show up and ruin my last day of skiing".

Luckily, Jeff and Jaclyn were gracious enough to take me to some easier slopes and right when i thought i had it down and was just catching my breath we go back to the first slope. Oh shit, Im fucked.

Too make a long story short.

1) I continue to fall
2) Jeff keeps on telling me to get out of my wedge and ski parellel. This is impossible to me. Its like telling a one armed bandit to hold his gun with two hands.
3) After six straight days of sun the conditions take a turn for the worst. I can't see an inch in front of me, snow is flying in my face, and their is ice everywhere.
4) Jaclyn's mom takes pity on me and rides down in the gondola with me. (Yup, im that big of a pussey that i didnt even make it down the mountain).

Anyway, my body is still sore and i hate skiing. Good to see ya little guy.

Im in interlocken now, think this place is past its prime, and have no idea what to do next.

Gold Sweet Gold

Littyhoops and Women's halfpipe gold medalist Hannah Teter share a moment in time. This pic was taken one day before Hannah won the gold medal.


A party of Four

Marni, jen's roommate and my friend from SD, arrived on Sunday with Justin, a dude they are both friends with (perhaps more than friends, a bit perplexed on how to classify it) from SD. Now we roll deep in a crew of 4. Luckily, Marni and Justin know absolutely nothing about europe and just follow along with whatever the plan is. We could tell them to draw a cartoon of a muslim and fly to denmark and parade around the streets and they would do it. Anyway, thank god, because if their were four different opinions on everything we would go crazy.

Unfortunately, the intensity of decision making has risen a level because its seems that me and jen disagree on everything now. My philosopy is simple and I think if i stick to it, Ill be ok.

1) When i dont care and i follow Jen.
2) When i dont know i say i dont know.
3) When i know am right, i gently go "well i think this is the right way but what do you think"
4) When in doubt or a dicey situation just zone out and pretend like your in your own world and have no idea whats going on

Its been over 5 weeks with Jen and for the most part we are getting along splendidly and I couldnt ask for a better travel buddy. I guess she is part of my life/life stories forever now.

Seventy years from now, I can tell my grandkids about the time i went to europe with this girl Jenifer Schloss and then I can end the story with "but then i met your grandma and we fell in love and i only travelled with her for the rest of my life". On the other hand, Ive been planning a 25 year reunion tour with Jen. So at the age of 50 i will tell my four kids and my wife, "hey, ill be back in six weeks...got to meet this chick, Jen (whatever her last name will be), in europe...keep the flanken warm in the oven and text me the st. john scores (by the way, great job pops with the college basketball updates).

Anyway, last paragraph probably didnt make much sense. I am in the stream of conciousness style of prose, aka henry miller, or is it henry james. Tropics of Cancer guy. Also, in the spelling style of a GED dropout.

This is getting stupid...will try to right soon...i know i am on a four day delay but its not me...the interent wires are real slow in italy (another poor joke).

The Pimp of Valentine's Day

So i went out to valentine's day dinner with 7 girls, to an amazing restaurant in Florence called Il Latino (i think). It was Jen, myself and alix colby and a bunch of her freinds. The meal unfolded as follows (btw, i am not the pimp referred to in the title).

After getting lost for the fourth time that day (don't assume the girls who live their have any clue what they are doing) we finally find the restaurant. We heard that reservations dont matter at this place, they just seat whoever they want. Luckily, they sat us right away. Il Latino just brings food out, you dont have to order. Here is a course by course rundown.

1) Wine. Two big crafts of wine are at the table and you pour yourself a glass when you first sit down. For me it was one glass after another throughout the two hour dinner and I probably drank more than the other seven girls combined.

2) Appetizers. Bruchetta followed by a liver patte, followed by mozzerella and bacon. One right after the other in astonishing speed. This course gets you mentally and physicall ready for what lies ahead.

3) Pasta. Huge, huge plates of Lasgna, Wild Board ravioli, and penne with meat sauce. The pasta is amazing and is enough for a full meal. I have three or four plates. I realize that im about to be screwed because im already full and havent even made it to the main course. I drink my wy through it and call myself a panza until i am more hungry again.

4) The main course is a huge plate of meat consisting of lamb, roast beef and veal. The veal is amazing. So is the lamb. I eat and eat. This is the best i have ever felt in my life. I am at a 10 in the scale of life.

5) To make sure you leave wasted they serve you a sweet digestiv drink and a glass of super sweet champagne.

6) Dessert is a tray of assorted cakes and biscotti. I go to work. I realize the girl next to me hasnt eaten in hours and i feel for her.

7) The owner of the place strolls over, gives the table a once over, spits out a few lines in italian, rubs his stomach for awhile, smiles, and goes "30 euro". Yup, that's how they determine the bill at this place. Amazing. He is the REAL PIMP.

8) I walk home happy, my stomach popping out like mount everestt and my brain convinced their was vicodin in the lamb.

P.S. A few hours later i endugled in the leftover wild boar pasta. Who would have known that Wild Boar makes for a great late night snack. Perhaps its the freedom of the boar that can be tasted, perhaps not...its still did the job.


Olympic Luck Runs Dry

Its 3am In florence and im a bit tipsy so bear (mom, hope that bare is spelled the right way) with me as i attempt to do my best to humor the masses.

My first week in Torino at the olympics and Jen and I were on fire with luck. We scalped tickets to the opening ceremonies for 100 each (the cheapest ticket face value was 250). The first day we randomly went to speedskating and saw chad hendrick win the gold medal, he cried, we cheered. The second day we went to snowboarding. It was impossible to get a ticket and peole were paying 150 each but we found a guy who gave us two free tickets. Furthermore, we saw Shaun White, the flying tomato himself, win gold.

After the snowboard half pipe we skipped under a rope and were hanging out with the atheltes. We talked to Seth Wescott and Hannah Teter for a while. They were both super cool. I asked Hannah to make out with me because Im losing to jen by alot in the make out with people in europe contest and olympic atheltes are worth a bunch of points. She was like, maybe in your next life loser, but i got a picture with her and still wished her luck in her race. She won.

Seth was also awesome. His mom was giving him the third degree as it was the first time she had seen him and he was being real sweet. He was explaining snowboard cross to be for a few minutes and then we were talking about the olympics for awhile. Jen was too nervous to ask him to take a picture, and i had talked to him for too long to be a gay tourist, so we have no footage but it is a true story. He won gold a few days later.

Its cool to think that we met these normal people who now have an awesome medal and an awesome life because they won!

After going to florence we got back to Torino and went to curling. The USA won again and curling is amazing. My theory real quick, curling became an olympic sport because it gives any person the dream to belive they could have been an olympian. If somebody told me at the age of twleve, "litty, you are a lefty and have a slick glove but you cant hit for shit or find home plate from the mound with a magnifying glass". then i could have taken up curling right then and there and been on my way to becoming a famous athlete. Everybody who curls is from Bimidji, Minnesota. I got coordination. I sweep brooms. Littyhoops, the olympian.

Anyway, I also saw the USA beat Kazakstan. "In my country, we lose at hockey".

I thought i was on fire. I had only seen the USA win gold or win their match and we had scalped ticket for every event at below face value.

But then we went to skeleton, where the best usa guy was suspeneded for rogaine, and saw no USA medal. The next night we trield to go to short track speedskating and hockey and were shut out from both because their were absolutely no tickets. Luck runs dry.

On saturday we did end up going to the Budweiser "Club Bud" party. I was trying to get into this all week and thanks to Jen meeting some dude at skeleton we did get pases. For 10 minutes i thought it would be the greatest party ever but it ended up being pretty lame. My two highlihts

1) Meeting gold medal olympian kerri walsh. She was drunk as shit and I went up to her and told her she is my favorite volleyball player ever, even more thank Karch Kiraly. She goes bullshit and then says, you probably think my name is misty. I told her no, i love her, and she gave me a hug. Some other guy comes over and whispers something in her ear and she goes "ew, that is disgusting and im married". I tell her i would beat him up, she says its ok and gives me another hug. I lover her.

2) Bruce Beck is drunk as shit. He used to announce St. Johns games and do MSG sportsdesk. I go up to him and go, Bruce, you are my favorite announcer ever. I try to talk about Johhny hoops but he is too drunk to care. I ask him what he is doing her and he says that he is working for NBC New York. I go oh, give me your best "back to you Len". He gives me a look of defeat, and goes exactly. I keep on repeating "back to you len" and then jen starts saying it. He loves Jen. We take a picture together and then throw it back to len. Nothing happens so we throw it back to Len again and leave.


Ann Arbor, Florence

After a full slate of olympic events last weekend we decided to head down to florence from Mon-Wed. Everybody always has great things to say about florence (including my parents and my sis) so figured it was worth checking out. Plus, Aaron and Troy sisters are both studying abroad there so we had a place to stay.

Before, I rehash the weekend in florence I want to go on the record to say that Florence is the whackest abroad experience in the world. Basically, it is like they moved parts of Long Island to Italy in an sociological experiment that went bad. If somebody actually goes abroad to florence thinking they will immerse himself in the culture, and learn about another people and speak in another language they have less of a clue then helen keller. That person would probably jump off the ponte vechio to kill himself as quickly as possible because there is no longer hope in this world. The scene in florence is to take the 10 most spoiled kids from Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana, Syracuse, sprinkle in a few kids from Maryland, BU and NYU and let them do their whacky thing. Clubs, bottles, rediculous dinners, shop shop shop. loud obnoxious conversations, yup, yup, and yup.

Ok, now that i got that out of my system....

We arrive in florence around 8pm and meet up with Alix and Jenna (as well as the other 7 girls in their crew and the entire michigan guy crew) at a restaurant. Jenna made it her job to freak out that Jen and I dont date and then went on to ask me in every conceivable way if we hook up. It's girl troy and it freaks me the fuck out. One kid asked jenna if she had any siblings and her face lit up and she goes "isnt it great when people dont know me as troy and blakes brother". Girl Power. Anyway, they are both sweethearts and were so gracious to Jen and I all weekend. In fact, all the girls were great and we are meeting up with them in Switzerland next weekend.

Monday night we went out to this club YAB. Apparently, Monday's at Yab are like Palidium in Acapulco and it is also the historically landmark where jon hillman dropped kicked an itailian girl and hid under lindsey sobel table. I wasn't that impressed though. The club was way overcrowded with smelly black guys, and they punch a ticket every time you buy a drink and then rip you off at the end.

We got back to the girls apartment at about 3am Monday night and Alix Colby pulls me aside and goes "let's go to McDonalds". It does not register in my little brain that we are in the food/restaurant capitol of the world. McDonalds, fucked up and late night, is quite simply the "best thing ever". (I am going to write another post dedicated to my McDonalds journey, but that is for another time.)

So, obviously we cab it to McDonalds. Im thinking Sundae and a small fries. By the time we left McDonalds we had 3 Big and Tasty meals, 6 extra orders of fries, and 3 chicken nuggets. 32 euros, or about 40 bucks. We definitely got ripped off but i was so wasted and happy that i saw the big number as was so impressed by the amount of food we must have and happily payed. I also begged the guy for extra bbq sauce, and would have compromised my morals if he didnt deliver (whatever that means).

Anyway, we get back to Alix's apartmenbt and I'm the hero - but only in my own mind. I keep on asking this girl from wisconsin

Me: "can move into your "skank room" (extra room in her apt)
Wisco Girl: Do you mean for the night or the semester?
Me: The semester...dont worry your mom is cool with it.
Her: Who are you?
Her (to everybody else): Who the fuck is this kid?
Me: So you cool with it, pass the nuggets?

Wait five minutes and the repeat conversation

Anyways, next thing i know i wake up in the skank room at 9am dying of thirst. I drink water, feel better and go see the David. Big ass statue and best piece of art ive seen on this here continent.


Olympic Weekend By Jamie Milhrad

Hey, burnt out from writing so Im passing along the email Jamie wrote. Blaze is me, or rather, it is my israeli doppleganger.

Well, i just had the BEST weekend in torino with blaze and jen!  Best of all, blaze took jen and i to a kelly clarkson concert as an early valentine’s day present, i mean, how sweet is blaze?  Did anyone know he was so romantic? But more on that later:)

So, brian and jen went to opening ceremonies Friday night, but i don’t get out of work until 730 and they started at 8pm, so i watched them on TV.  So jealous they went...but i met them first thing sat morning on the 818 train from milan...got to hotel nizza at 10:45am where i was promptly greeted by paolo, mine and jen’s new italian boyfriend (he loves us...he’s not really out italian bf)...so psyched to see brian and jen...who are on quite the whirlwind tour of europe, but i’m absolutely sure that all anyone does at work is check blaze’s blog, so no one needs to be caught up.

So, we hung out for a little in the hotel, then we put on layers and walked around the Olympic Village a little before we went to 5000m men’s speed skating...kind of a random first event, but there wasn’t so much going on Saturday because it was the first day.  So we go to speed skating and EVERYONE is wearing orange...like a big huge sea of orange people.  Turns out the orange people = dutch people, and speed skating is the ONLY event that dutch people are good at.  As a result, the entire Dutch population puts on orange clothing, of which they apparently have closets full, and come to torino to show their support for the Dutch speed skaters (who are like rock stars in the netherlands).  First of all, Dutch people are so nice.  And this is why i feel kind of bad, but yeah! We beat them!  We got the gold medal, obv, and Chad Hedrick (who is super super cute, see below) took the gold medal from right under their dutch noses!  

They got silver, don’t feel too bad for them.  It was so exciting...and after chad hedrick was doing his victory lap around the ring, he looked right at us and gave us a little YEAH!!!!  (just like the pic above) It was amazing.  We didn’t even have an american flag at that point...but we were screaming for him like crazy.  It’s SO much more fun when you win things!

So, we got out of speed skating at like 8 something, and decided we had to go to the heinekin house where all the dutch people were going.  Each country apparently has their own house at the Olympics...we’re not positive about this, but we think it’s true.  Anyway, most houses don’t let all nationalities come in (that’s the spirit of the olympics, huh?) but the heinekin house totally does (am i spelling heinekin wrong?)...even though we weren’t so sure they were going to let americans in after we beat them on their big day.  No problems..after we FOUND the heinekin house (following orange people is not as easy as it sounds) it was soo fun...cheap beer, lots of fun orange people...a free rock concert (we were the only people who knew the words to all the songs, of course...which we didn’t get because apparently the band singing was the most famous band in the netherlands?) AND free ice skating.  Free drunk ice skating! I mean, amazing.  

Then we left around 11:30 and ate dinner...which was some sort of mystery meat on a roll with mystery vegetables and mystery cheese from a little truck outside the heinekin house.  Brian had two.  Yikes. This from a boy who didn’t like the food in israel, but he likes mystery sandwiches in italy (blaze is eating by the way, but he’s on like a one-meal-a-day plan)

Went back to the hotel to change and go out, but passed out instead. Being with blaze and jen in italy is like being with shakar and dinah in israel...it’s EXHAUSTING.

Sunday morning we were going to wake up super early to go to Bardoneccia (Bar-Dow-Neck-E-Ah) where skiing and snowboarding are in the mountains, but since it takes almost 2 hours to get there (you have to wait for a train, take a 1hr 20min train, and then a bus) we decided to just go for the afternoon for the finals (Preliminaries for men’s halp-pipe snowboarding were from 10-1 and then finals 2-330).  It was the same ticket for whole day, so prob we should have just gone the whole day, but jen and I were really enjoying breakfast in the hotel and so we took our time.  First order of business, we bought an American flag.  We’re still looking for bandannas...we’re thinking of making them for next weekend.

(on a side note, can i just point out that while brian may seem like he’s high and doing nothing all the time, he is, in fact, a real go-to guy and is an excellent travel guide and olympic event planner extraordinaire.  Good job bri.)

We made it to bardoneccia by 12:30pm, and began to try to get tickets.  Now  you have to remember, most people go to these events with tickets.  Yeah, we were on a bit of a different plan that was more like to get them from people standing outside once we got there.  This worked swimmingly for speed skating which was far from sold out and far from popular, but snowboarding men’s half-pipe is super popular and was super sold out.  Lots of people went only to the morning and were leaving, but they weren’t letting people back in with ripped ticket stubs.  Once you’re out, you’re out.  So we try to sweet talk the ticket guys but no good, and we proceed to just ask every single person walking in if they have tickets.  Some american guy is like ‘oh yeah, i have two tickets, and just gives them to us — 90 euro seats!  Good job brian, and that was amazing.  But we still needed one more, and there were two single people also looking for one ticket by the gate....long story short, after a lot of asking and bothering people, and after receiving SO many dirty looks (i’m sorry, jen and i look like nice girls, but people were looking at us like we were the scum of the earth when we asked if they had extra tickets) we found an american couple that had two extras and totally ripped us off for one ticket, but since we didn’t pay for the others, it was fine.  If we didn’t buy one, the other two people were ready to pay whatever they asked.

And, snowboarding was amazing, the weather was incredible and sunny, and we won again!!!! Which totally proves that we’re good luck.  Here’s shaun white after he won, and us at snowboarding:

It took about hours to get back on a bus after snowboarding was over.  First, somehow we managed to get on the platform where all the snowboarders were standing (not the half-pipe snowboarders, the ones that do the other SB events) so we were meeting some of them and thinking we were cool for a little while.  Brian asked one of the girl snowboarders to make out. (That plan didn’t work out so well)   And then by the time we decided to leave, about 1000 other people had already decided the same thing, so we stood in the FREEZING cold snow and waited for almost 2 hours for a bus back to bardoneccia.  It was awful.  And it was pretty much my fault because jen and bri wanted to climb over the fence and walk across this river thing that would have gotten us on a bus about an hour earlier, but i was being a baby.  Obv. They’re right, i repelled in israel...but seriously, does that make me an olympic athlete??

The good thing is, that we got back to torino too late to go to short track at 7pm, which was our original plan, so we decided the backup would be to try to go to the medal ceremony at 8 (since we had had so much to do with the US already winning 2 gold medals!) which was the best thing ever!

So the medal ceremony each night is free, and apparently (we found this out a little too late) at 2pm every day in piazza san carlo, 400 free tickets are given out.  But people get there at like 9am to get the free tickets, because after every night’s medal ceremony there is a free concert.  This is where my little cousin marisa would have DIED...last night was kelly clarkson!  Yup, the one and only true AMERICAN IDOL! There are some good ones..wed is duran duran, thurs is jamaroqui, Sunday is whitney houston, etc etc

So, tix to last night were done of course when we got to the atrium at 7:30pm, so we ended up getting lucky and scalping them for 10 euro each, which ended up being the best 10 euro i ever spent!  The medal ceremony was great because we got to sing the star spangled banner (oh, how i love america!) twice!!!  And we had our flag we walked around flaunting all day, and we were super obnoxious about it, and then we got to see a kelly clarkson concert.  Omigod, she was AMAZING.  So good.  She has the most beautiful voice, and we managed to push ourselves up to about 9 rows back!!! Brian didn’t like that because all the other guys in the audience kept being like ‘dude, why do you need to be so close to kelly clarkson’ but it was so much fun, and don’t listen to anything brian says on his blog, he was LOVING it.  He even sang “the trouble with love is....” to me and jen last night before we went to bed.

And then we took a 10:50 pm train back to milan and i’m at work, BUT we get to do it all over again next weekend!  My friends Matt, liz, and erika  will be with us, too...jen and bri are prob going back this thurs or so so they’ll get to see jamaroqui...

Hope everyone had a great weekend, and i love and miss you all. Going to meet jen and brian for lunch, then they’re off to florence for 2 days.  Was anyone studying in florence that can remember the name of the waxing place in florence...international something and or/do you have the number by any chance?

Any last minute suggestions for bri and jen in florence or rome send them asap. Wish you were all here this weekend. Feel free to check for last minute flights.

How was shabbat dinner fri night?




Torino, Italy - Im at the olympics now, been here since Friday. On Friday night we went to the opening ceremonies. Cheapest ticket was $250 but we were able to scalp for $150 each. Ceremonies were pretty cool, alot going on at once and at time visually overwhelming. Cool to be there as it really made us feel apart of the games. Afterwards I went to a few bars in torino but was real beat and headed back to our hotel kind of early (weak lhoops, weak).

Saturday, Jamie, our friend we met in israel and lives in milan, met us. Good to see her and a welcome addition as me and jen have run out of things to say to each other and kind of just communicate by staring at each other, mumbling, and her throwing shit at me when i snore in my sleep.

Yesterday, we decided to go to speedskating, mens 5k, at the last minute. Amazing move as we saw Texas Chad Hendrick win America's first gold medal. The event was neat. Almost all the fans their were Dutch, as speedskating is the only winter sport they are good at. The place was roaring when the dutch guys took the first and second spots but then Hendrick raced and blew everybody away. He won by over two seconds and just missed an olympic record. As he was taking his cool down lap he skated passed our section and us three being the only americans were cheering like crazy. As he skated by he saw us and screamed out to us in celebration. Cool moment.

Speedskating is kind of funny to watch. Part intuition to try and figure out who is going the fastest, but its mostly waiting to see the guys time for each lap and measure their splits against the other racers. After a while you get the hang of it.
1)Watch skaters skates past you
3)wait till they finish their lap
4)look at the scorboard
5)do a little math in your head to figure out if they are fast

Then last night we went to the Holland Heineken House which was basically a big party that anybody could get into. Had about 6 or 7 Heine's and then went ice skating on a small skating ring inside of the tent. Let me tell you, Hendrick need not worry about me on the ice.

So far my pull between CSTV, lisa at the NHL, and other random contacts hasnt got me much good stuff. I just emailed Jonny Mosley via my old boss at CSTV, and we will see if he writes back. Judging from our lunch with big air this summer it would be miraculous if he knows how to use email.

Today we are going to halfpipe to see the Flying Tomato Shaun White and then to short track to see Ohno. Psyched for both events. Missing out on the downhill which should be huge with bode and darren rahlves but heard you can see only very little in person and the halfpipe should be festive.