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Archive for the ‘By Mike’ Category

Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day. Flowers, candy, dinner, romance and love. When I first heard that Shannon would be out-of-town for work starting Tuesday of this week, I had a momentary feeling of disappointment. No Valentine’s Day? Then I thought about it. We’re not that couple. We don’t need a holiday to tell us to remember that we love each other. As the day neared, we joked a little about not being together for Valentine’s Day, but we didn’t really even think about it seriously. It was just another day.

The mutual lack of significance we placed on Valentine’s Day gave me the idea that a surprise gift would really be cool. So, while Shannon was out with her sisters doing yoga, I made the call to 1800 Flowers and ordered a gift basket to be delivered to the hotel she would be checking into on Tuesday evening. Brilliant. That’s when things went to hell. And they went to hell in stages.

Stage 1: The missing address. Somehow, the polite Indian fellow who took my order (his name was “Jeff,” but that’s another post) forgot to get the address of the hotel from me. He got the name of the hotel and the zip code, but no street address. 1800 Flowers proceeded to call me thirty-seven times in the course of 1 hour while I was sitting next to Shannon. Finally I gave in and answered, which forced me to make up a story about Walgreens calling about my prescription. To get the address, which was accessible by internet, I sneaked outside with Shannon’s sister (thanks Kelli) and pretended to help her put in her car seat while I explained what I needed from her, and her smart phone. On the way to a family dinner, she covertly found the address and wrote it on a receipt that I had sitting in the car. When Shannon went to the bathroom during dinner, I sneaked out again and called 1800 Flowers back. They assured me that, with this last piece of information, the package would be delivered by 7pm Tuesday. One more white lie about my Mom calling and asking for help moving something and I was home free.

Stage 2: The waiting game. On Tuesday, I woke up giddy. I left Shannon a little note wishing her a good trip, and headed off to work. After a long day at work and a long afternoon wondering when Shannon would check in, she called me from her hotel room. She then proceeded to ask me for help with her credit card bill, complain about travel complications, and make absolutely no mention of her surprise at my gift. What the hell? After calling the hotel, it was determined that the package did not arrive. I called 1800 Flowers, but apparently the don’t take calls on Valentine’s Day. I went through their automated system for several minutes, and was hung up on. Cool.

Stage 3: Tracking the problems. On Wednesday, after innocuously determining that Shannon would still be at her hotel that night, I called the hotel again. Still no delivery. The hotel, a Country Inn and Suites, suggested that maybe it was delivered to the Comfort Inn and Suites across the street. Another phone call, still no gift. I called 1800 Flowers again, and actually got to talk to a person, who informed me that the package was delivered on Tuesday. Um…pretty sure it wasn’t. When I disagreed with him, he immediately told me that, even though it was delivered, if I did not receive the package then he could refund my purchase and give me a $20 voucher toward a future purchase.

Stage 4: Decompression. After fuming about poor customer service and the stress of coming up with a fun idea, and then having it blow up in my face, I told Shannon the whole story. She of course thought it was hilarious and thought I was adorable for trying. Since she wasn’t expecting anything, she wasn’t disappointed. And it is a pretty funny story. But I’m still kind of annoyed.

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!

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Recently, we moved into my Dad’s house. He got married, and moved into his new wife’s house, so we got to rent his on the cheap. It’s nice, because it’s kind of like owning a house without the debt. So far, I’ve had mixed experiences pretending to be a homeowner. Here is a partial recap of my escapades.

The towel bar fiasco:

We have a very small bathroom. Like closet-sized. As a space-saving measure, the previous owners (before Dad), installed a 2-tiered towel bar. It stuck out pretty far, and the weight of freshly dampened towels over the years pulled it loose. Easy fix right? I bought a new towel bar and set out with the best of intentions to remove the old bar and install the new one. 10 minutes and several gaping holes later, I removed what seemed to me to be a not so expertly installed towel bar. Installing mine would be simple. The bar came with wall anchors, so I carefully avoided the studs and drilled my holes. 20 frustrating seconds later, I determined that my stud-finder was broken as I flattened my wall anchor against a stud. Awesome. It was then time to pull out the big guns. I wall-dogged it. Wall-dogs are massive screws on steroids, designed for anchoring into studs or drywall. They did not disappoint, and the towel bar is still hanging. After several coats of Spackle, the walls are even mostly patched. It’s important to note also that Shannon gave me explicit instructions not to attempt the towel bar installation after my first fail. Instructions that I promptly ignored. Had the wall-dogs failed, I would have been in trouble. I love to live dangerously.

The flood of 2011:

On Black Friday, while strategically avoiding humanity at it’s worst by chilling at home, I was washing some dishes and my foot got soaked. I discovered a  plumbing problem that could not be fixed without parts. Off to Home Depot. Fortunately, most of the shoppers were gone, and I was able to pick up a new connector for the drain for $1.99. I even picked up a higher-end toilet seat to replace the cheap plastic one opposite our newly installed towel bar. The sink repair went perfectly, and has been holding since. I also must mention that this was shortly after I successfully installed a saddle-valve and connected the water line to our refrigerator ice/water dispenser. Apparently I don’t suck at plumbing.

Yard-Crashing:

I’m an awesome raker. Our yard was consistently one of the cleanest on the street this fall. After a weird lull in November and December, I’m now making a name as a driveway shoveler extraordinaire. I gotta give props to the man-plow for this. The man-plow was a conciliation prize after I chickened out on buying a snow blower at a pre-thanksgiving sale. It’s essentially a small plastic plow blade with a lawn-mower style handlebar. A man (or woman, of course) can get behind this plow and push lots of snow. It’s cut down my shoveling time by, I would guess, 25%. Plus, I get to announce that I’m going out to “man-plow.” I’m not super-excited about the fact that I’m now writing this post to avoid man-plowing for the 3rd time in less than 48 hours, but I guess it was inevitable.

Laundry:

This is just funny and stupid. Right now, I’m waiting for a load of laundry to finish washing for the 2nd time. I had a load of dirty clothes, plus a load in the washer and dryer. I emptied the dryer, transferred the washer to the dryer, then proceeded to load the dryer with the clothes I had just taken out of the dryer. Worse yet, I didn’t realize it until I had folded almost all of the basket of dirty clothes that I brought back upstairs with me from the basement laundry room. Nice work Mike…nice work.

All in all, it’s good to be a homeowner. A sort-of, not really, quasi homeowner.

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Mike’s birthday was waaay back in September, but I just realized we never wrote about it. Well, Mike told you about how I bought him a corndog maker, but we also did some fun stuff to celebrate. We got all dressed up and went to dinner at a nice place that offers free lobster to birthday boys and girls.

I was quite frightened of Mike’s lobster, and I was glad I stuck to the halibut. After dinner, we went to the local comedy club. I had never been to a live comedy show, so it was really fun. We intentionally sat in the back to avoid becoming part of the act though.

So now Mike is 30… less than two months before I turn 31. He’s such a baby.

Happy (belated) birthday hon!

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My Wife’s Closets

That’s right…plural.

First, a disclaimer. This post is a good-natured commentary on Shannon’s adorable  attachment to clothing, and in no way is a criticism of any kind. I love my wife and find her style both fun and sophisticated. Love you honey!

So, in our temporary home on the road between our jobs, we had a huge walk-in master closet. Shannon took it over. She filled it. Literally, we couldn’t close the closet door. I was relegated to the outpost of guest bedroom closet. To be fair, this was actually a good situation, since I get up several hours before Shan every morning. She gets to sleep, and I get to access my clothing.

Before our move out, we made the obligatory Goodwill pile. Out of my meager clothing collection, I put together 2 kitchen-sized garbage bags full of old sweaters, tee-shirts, slacks, and shirts that will no doubt sit at Goodwill for years until the luckiest giant in the world happens across them. My wife, out of her room-o-clothes, came up with about 12 items. And I will not mention The Shoe Collection, which could be rotated for 2 full months with no repeating (ok, I just mentioned it). Adorable. 🙂

After the move, we found ourselves with a unique problem. We have a master bedroom with a tiny closet, and a guest bedroom with a large, double closet. The only realistic solution was to switch our arrangement, so I take over the master closet and Shan takes over the guest bedroom closet…I mean closets). It works. It really does. The end result however, is a mostly full closet and a 2/3 full dresser in the master bedroom, along with an entire dresser that is, so far, completely empty. In the other room, we have an almost overflowing double closet and 2 full dressers (we inherited two dresses in the move and suddenly find ourselves with a low of drawer space).

In fairness to my beautiful wife, she has been equally indulgent of me when it comes to the kitchen. The most notable culprit, the mixer. The beautiful, 25-pound KitchenAid mixer that I had to have, and now barely use. We all have our things.

I guess the round-about message here is, I find this clothing situation funny and cute, which must mean I love my wife, right?

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Marriage is about lots of things, and many of those things are about evolving. Recently, Shan and I discussed birthday presents. We’ve recently had some pretty fun birthdays. Last year we went on a hot air balloon ride for my birthday. And for Shan’s last birthday her family and I surprised her with an ’80s themed surprise party. This year we went to dinner and a comedy club for my birthday. In addition to these activities, we give gifts. But, recently, we decided to forgo the gift-giving. We will still give each other gifts, should the mood strike us, but we no longer feel the need to buy something specifically for birthdays. If we want anything special and need an excuse to buy it, we’ve agreed to treat ourselves out of our joint checking account to a little birthday gift.

This discussion took place weeks before my birthday. I’m not much of a birthday person anyway, so I wasn’t really expecting a gift in the first place. After our birthday evolution discussion, I really didn’t anticipate anything. Much to my surprise, Shannon gave me a corn dog maker!

One of these days I’ll learn how to insert pictures into a post (or get my wife to do it for me). Until then, imagine a George Foreman grill, but with 6 depressions that can hold enough cornbread batter to surround an average-sized hot dog. Not quite the same as a fried corn dog, but pretty awesome.

(Thank you for the photo, Shannon.)

Devoted blog readers might be aware that corn dogs are my favorite bachelor-snack whenever Shannon is out of town or just absent for dinner. Now I can make my own, anytime I want!

Evolution, it seems, is a slow process. Shannon insists that she didn’t spend much on this gift, but it happened right after we agreed to stop buying birthday gifts. Hmm… Perhaps I’ll do better when her birthday rolls around in December.

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The Weirdness of Growing Up

When Shannon and I met, we had lots of conversations about fun vacations we wanted to take, exciting future jobs, the movies and TV shows we both loved, and lots of other things that were exciting to talk about. Lots of things centered on the here-and-now. Lately, the tide has turned.

Yesterday, we had a discussion about scheduling a meeting with our retirement account representative to assess our investment strategy and decide how to maximize our retirement account effectiveness. Not nearly as exciting a conversations as where to take our dream vacation. But, probably more important?

Let’s be clear. I’m not disappointing that we talk about retirement accounts, work schedules, home improvement, and bills more than we used to. I actually kind of love it. I’m a planner at heart, and I’m so glad that Shannon is too. And it’s not like we never talk about the fun stuff anymore. Hell, we even do the fun stuff we talk about. Look at our summer! Europe, horseback riding, whitewater rafting, skydiving, babysitting. We are wild and crazy! But I’m glad we do the boring grown-up stuff too. And I’m excited to talk to a professional about our retirement. If we can save right, I know we could have some great years of talking about and doing the fun stuff when we retire.

Ultimately, it’s about the balance. Having fun is nice, but growing up is also nice. Nice, and weird.

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So, my Dad is getting married. This is what is happening in my life right now.

Back story. My Mom and Dad split up about 6 years ago. I was living in California, and from what I can gather it was a good decision. There was no animosity. Since then, my Mom has been living in a condo, and my Dad has moved from a rental to a house. It was a little weird to get used to my parents being apart, but I’m handling it. Christmases are even smaller now, but whatever.

And now, this.

Dad went on a dating website, and after some fits and starts, met a woman named Penny. They got serious…fast. Shan and I met her at Thanksgiving, and shortly after that spent a Christmas celebration with her and my Dad at my Aunt’s house. Then the long winter set in. My Dad and Penny went on a vacation together. As far as I know, this is the first vacation he has been on with a woman other than my Mom in at least 30 years. When Shan and I went to his house for Easter, she was wearing a ring. I noticed this within 23 seconds of walking in the door. Several excruciating minutes (hours?) later, he announced what I (and Shannon, I later found out) had already pieced together. And so, my Dad is to be wed.

I’m very happy for my Dad. If he has a chance to be happy late in life (later, anyway), then good for him. And I love Penny. She’s a down-to-earth, genuinely nice person. She’s cool, and I’m glad she and my Dad are happy. However, this is weird. If your parent has never married someone other than your other parent, you wouldn’t understand. I’m also a little freaked out by the fact that my Dad will become a grandparent when he gets married. It’s selfish, but I wanted him to become a grandparent when WE had kids (or my little brother, I guess). I actually got to watch him interact with Penny’s grand kids the other day, and it was unsettling.

One upside in this is that he and Penny are buying a house together. Since my Dad bought his house not-too-long-ago, and got a tax credit, he can’t sell. That means we get to rent a house without going through the nightmare search that goes along with that. Also, I get to be a best man! That’s not really that big of a deal, and it’ll be fairly duty-free, but still…fun!

So, that’s the big news in my life. And. So. Weird. But hey…at least the blog is about weddings again for a post.

Editor’s Note: Mike gives me too much credit. I (Shannon) had NO idea anything was going on until his dad announced their engagement at dinner. I didn’t see the ring, I didn’t suspect anything, and I was completely surprised. I guess I’m not very observant…

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A friend asked for a detailed account of our skydiving experience, and I realized I’d like to remember all the details too, so here it is.

Even before we met, both Mike and I wanted to go skydiving someday. It’s been on my “to do” list for at least a decade, so when Groupon had a 50% off deal with Central Michigan Skydivers, we jumped at the chance. That was nearly a year ago. We waited until just about the last minute to cash in and actually go for it, but thank god we did. It. Was. Amazing.

A couple weeks before our scheduled jump date, I started to get nervous. What the hell was I thinking? And part of me, I admit, hoped it would somehow not end up happening. So the night before the jump, when it started to pour and storm, I was a little relieved. Maybe this wouldn’t happen afterall. But by 10:00am, the sun was peaking out and we hadn’t received a phone call telling us it was off, so I gathered my wits about me and we headed to the airfield. I hadn’t slept at all the night before, but fatigue was the last thing on my mind. I was nervous!

When we got there, everyone kind of looked at us funny. “Um… we have a reservation…?” “Oh, nobody called you?”

Yeah, they had canceled everyone else’s jump for the day, but somehow missed us. They said we could either reschedule right now, or we could fill out the paperwork, get trained, suit up and then see if it was safe. I was tempted to reschedule, but I knew if I didn’t do it now, I may never work up the nerve again. So we signed about a thousand pages of liability releases while my sister (the skydive place was near her house, so we stayed with her and her husband the night before) chatted up the instructors. Then Geoff, one of the instructors, walked us through everything we needed to know.

The night before I had done some research about skydiving, and it actually eased my mind to know more about what would be happening. And the thorough instructions from Geoff helped even more. I was a little bit freaking out during the training, but I was glad to know exactly what would be happening and what it would feel like. Plus he promised us it would be half as scary as we thought and twice as fun, so ok!

Next we got into jumpsuits. From this point, everything moved really fast. In minutes we were fully suited up and the instructors were strapping harnesses on us.

That’s me and my dude Chuck. He was a real jokester.

That’s Mike and his dude Geoff. Apparently even super tall people can tandem jump!

I, of course, asked a million questions. Including “Are there bugs that high up?” and “Has anyone ever become detached from their instructor?” Both answers were no. I thought I needed a little time to compose myself, but with a few harness adjustments, we were suddenly walking off to toward the plane. The little bitty teeny tiny plane. During training Geoff referenced the “big plane” and the “small plane” because he wasn’t sure which one we’d be using yet. Turns out: small plane.

We took this before we knew for sure we were actually going to be jumping!

Look at me! Practicing my arch!

Even while we were getting harnessed, we weren’t positive we were jumping. But as we walked to the plane, it hit me, yep, this was happening. Holy eff. Honestly though, I was feeling pretty chill. Yeah I was nervous, but not the barfy out of control nervous I was sure I would feel. Even on the plane ride up, I was shockingly calm. I knew it would be ok all along, that nothing awful was going to happen, but I was sure I’d be a nervous wreck and want to change my mind. Instead we all chatted (well, more like yelled) and joked around, and got ourselves ready to go.

The plan was pretty cramped. Four people plus the pilot in a space the size of my teeny bathroom. My instructor, Chuck, was quite the comedian. It definitely helped ease the craziness of the situation a little. I was worried I’d get motion sickness in the plane, but thankfully I felt fine the whole time. At around 3,000 feet I thought surely we were high enough, but nope, not even a third of the way there. We were going up to 10,000 feet! The ride took about 12 minutes, and after about 9 minutes the instructors started getting ready. I had to climb up on Chuck’s lap which was, well, intimate. He strapped me to him, and when I asked to be reassured I was firmly in place, he tickled me a little, to which I obviously squirmed and tried to get away. And couldn’t move. Point taken.

The  next two minutes were the scariest of the whole experience. I heard the pilot say “one minute” and I think I squealed. Eeeek! Then the pilot said “door” and Chuck opened the fucking door. Please realize I was directly next to the door, like, touching it. And suddenly it was open and the wind was out of control. And they’re telling me to swing my legs around and out onto the step. I distinctly remember thinking “In a few seconds I will be plummeting toward earth. This is happening and there’s nothing I can do about it now.”

Then I was flying. I’m not kidding, I have no idea how I got out of that plane. Chuck titled my head back, I heard “ready set arch” in my ear, and then I was airborne. I know in theory, Chuck got us out by sort of tipping forward, but I have zero recollection of what happened. Luckily, I remembered to get into the arch position, we did a little flip and I got a split second glimpse of the plane above us, and whoosh. Flying.

I’m scared of heights and I was really scared of the free fall, but it’s less like flying and more like really loud floating. The ground is so far away, you really have no concept of getting closer. Basically it’s a lot of wind in your ears, a lot of pressure pushing up on your body (not uncomfortable), and it’s cold. I started with my arms crossed at my chest, as instructed, and when Chuck tapped my shoulders, I put them out like I was being arrested.

After about 40 seconds (or what felt like 10), he pulled the rip cord and we were floating. Immediately Chuck told me to look up and I saw a tiny pinprick of dark spot falling through the air and then a parachute open up. It was Mike! It was pretty crazy to be together so high in the sky. When you’re floating, it’s pretty quiet and peaceful. And actually, I was a little more scared during this part than the free fall. When you’re free falling, you’re not even thinking about anything. But when you’re floating, suddenly it’s like, holy shit I’m in the air!

It’s Mike!

It’s me!

Chuck loosened my harness a little, which was a bit scary, but more comfortable. And then he had me hold the reins of the chute. He was still in control, but I could at least feel the power of the parachute. He took me through a cloud, we steered around a little, and he had me practice lifting my legs for the landing. I watched Mike a little too. They were falling a lot faster than us, probably because of the weight difference, so I also got to watch him land.

Then it was my turn. We approached the ground, and I waved like crazy at Em and Drew. Then I looked at the ground and damn, it was approaching fast. I worried he forgot to tell me to lift, so I frantically asked, “Do I lift my legs now?” He said go ahead, I did, and a couple seconds later we hit the ground. You kind of come in at a angle and land on your butts. The instructor takes the brunt of the landing, hence getting your feet up, but somehow my right foot still grazed the ground and I hurt my ankle. I didn’t notice at first, but that night I had to ice it. A skydiving injury! How cool am I?

Em and Drew ran out to meet us, and we were both high on adrenaline. We couldn’t stop talking about it, and I’ve been replaying it in my head for days.

I already want to do it again. I told Mike I’d go right back up and jump again if it wasn’t so expensive. But in reality it’ll probably be awhile. Maybe for our fifth anniversary? And I told my little sister I’d take her when she graduates from high school in eight years. But I definitely want to do this again sometime.

It’s funny because if they had called us to cancel like they had with everyone else, we wouldn’t have jumped that day. But the universe was looking out for us. They didn’t call, we showed up, the weather cleared just long enough, and we had the time of our lives.

I was scared to go and I was nervous, but it was more amazing than I can describe. Such a fucking rush. It really was twice as fun and half as scary as I thought it would be. If you haven’t done it, and you’ve been thinking about it, go! Go skydiving!

From Mike’s perspective:

I did not have the same trepidations that Shannon had. I believe this means I’m not very smart, and probably shouldn’t be in a position to take risks in my life. Seriously though, it never crossed my mind how scary of a thing it is to fall out of a plane at ten thousand feet and plummet toward the earth. Even when I read the part about serious injury or death on the waivers. In hindsight, I was so amped up for the prospect of doing this thing, that I just didn’t have room in my mind for the fear.

Then, we were in the plane. I was behind the pilot, away from the door, so the door opening didn’t freak me out as much as it did Shannon. What totally freaked me out was when, shortly after the door opened, I watched my wife try to get her feet out the door and, seconds later, watched the empty door where my wife had been a moment ago. It wasn’t like watching a car drive away, or even like watching someone dive into a pool. It was as if she literally vanished.

Before I had time to contemplate this much, Geoff and I were shuffling toward the door. I swung my feet out and we were falling. As I was wrapping my mind around that fact, I heard Geoff scream “ARCH” in my ear. I had forgotten to arch with so much of my brain power devoted to processing the fact that I was falling through the sky. I arched, we fell, and, before I knew it, the chute was open.

This is where my experience goes down-hill. I am not a cushioned individual, and I don’t fit in most things. Apparently this includes my harness, because when that chute opened and the harness took my full weight, I became aware that I was 6’8″ of guy in 6’7″ of harness. That extra inch meant that I was squeezed at the crotch and the chest for the entire float down. This was not comfortable, and I have the bruising to prove it.

I did, however, nail the landing, which was surprising since it entailed lifting my legs up so my toes were parallel to my nose. This is not an easy task for a tall man, but I managed it…mostly out of fear of terrible bodily injury. As my butt slid to a stop on the grass, I began laughing uncontrollably. We got unhooked, and I staggered to Shannon and gave her a hug.

While I am not quite as excited as Shan about doing this again (remember the bruising?), I am definitely glad I did it, and sort of like the idea of giving it another whirl. All in all, it was incredible.

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Shan: I’m going out of town for work the week after next.

Mike (out loud): Oh…ok.

Mike (in his head): I better get some movies and stock up on corn dogs.

 

Here’s the thing. Every so often, Shannon has to go on the road for work. Usually it’s a few days, and it’s never too far away. But it happens, and it changes the days she’s gone. I feel a reduction in purpose when Shan is away. I have no one to cook dinner for and no one to watch tv with. That purpose needs to be filled, and I do it with movies, video games and food. Movies that Shannon generally doesn’t show an interest in, and food that she doesn’t like.

This week, I filled that purpose with the following.

“Surugates”
“The Expendables”
“Rescue Dawn”
“Bad Lieutenant; Port of Call: New Orleans”
NBA Jam
Brats and coleslaw
Corn dogs
Ham and pineapple pizza
Chunky Monkey

It’s not that I don’t miss my wife when she’s gone. I do. I miss her and I look forward to her return. It’s just that, if she has to be gone, I might as well have pizza with fruit on it. Life’s all about purpose.

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When in Rome…eat pizza and gelato.

In Rome, we were, once again, on our own for meals. For dinner the first night, as Shan mentioned, we got roped into a touristy restaurant. The Italian marketing strategy for food is, apparently, stand in the street with a menu in your hand and forcibly hand it to unsuspecting tourists. Then subtly guide them into a chair and begin bringing them food. Seriously…this is how it’s done.

This charming gentleman (who eagerly grabbed Shan’s sunglasses and posed with Richie) talked us into sitting down in an outdoor cafe on a street so narrow that, sitting on the street-side, I could feel the heat from the exhaust of each car that passed by while we were eating. He first asked if we would like some wine, and then talked us up form the half-liter we were going to order to a full bottle of Italian white wine. It was light and refreshing, tasting a bit like Chardonnay.

Then he asked if we wanted bread, which of course we did. After bringing it, our tour friend Ty astutely noticed that it cost 2 Euro, although our server had made it seem like compliments of the house. Very sneaky.

It was really good though, so we didn’t mind too much. After bread, we ordered pizza. I got a margherita pizza, and it was actually a little disappointing. The crust was crispy and chewy, and was the best part. It had almost no basil on it, my favorite part of a margherita pizza. It was still pretty good, just not the transcendent experience I was hoping for. Shan got a pizza with eggplant, artichoke and basil, which was delicious. Ty and Richie got pizzas too. We all ate our fill, and then headed out as the sun set on Rome.

The next day, after walking forever, we had lunch outside the Vatican. In our most dissatisfying Italian meal of the trip, we ordered sandwiches and waters in an Italian combo meal. The sandwiches had plenty of Italian cured meats and cheese, but very little moisture. Richie had to conscript a bottle of olive oil from another part of the cafe so we could dowse our sandwiches and make them palatable. They gave us the energy we needed to keep moving though, and, as Shan detailed in the saga of the huge effing wall, it was a good thing they did.

Our final evening in Rome found us back at the Colosseum for dinner at a cafe with an awesome-looking pasta menu. We started with an appetizer of caprese salad, which turned out to be even better than in Venice. We even talked Shannon into trying a bite of tomato, which blew my mind. My mind was reassembled when she decided she still didn’t like tomatoes and gave the rest to me.

For dinner, we both got pasta. Shan ordered a cheese-stuffed pasta with marinara sauce, and I ordered tagiatelle with bolognese (Italian meat sauce).

The pasta was house-made, and you could tell. It had a structure and bite to it that processed pasta can’t replicate. It was tender, and it clung to the sauce for dear life. It was incredible.

We ended our last meal in Rome with tiramisu. This was another one of those things we knew we had to eat in Europe, and it didn’t disappoint. The lady-fingers soaked up so much rich espresso that they were like little pillows of caffeine-soaked awesomeness. The custard was equally delicious. We even managed to eat it without inhaling any of the cocoa powder on top.

I couldn’t have thought of a better final meal in Europe than pasta and tiramisu in the shadow of the Colosseum with four great friends.

The next morning found us eating our actual last meal in Europe…the breakfast box. Since this box contained no actual breakfast foods, and most of it was terrible, I don’t really count it. I’ll just hold onto the image of that pasta by the Colosseum. Grazie Roma!

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