Arrival and Preparations Commencing

Prologue

My dad has always said, “You don’t need hills to find hillrods!” Never was there a greater item of proof than our brief hotel stay outside of Akron. We should have known we were in for a treat when we arrived at our room and had to slalom through the multiple removable pick-up, truckbed toolboxes filled with ice and beer that inhabited the corridor that led to our room. If that wasn’t enough, a handful of screechy, grubby kids tore out of adjoining rooms, where the sounds of Playstations and country-music-playing boomboxes poured into the corridor. We were virtually surrounded by innumerable numbers of intoxicated adults milling between a host of rooms. Unfortuntately, the fact that our room was the temperature of a meat cooler when we entered meant that the air conditioner could not serve the dual purpose of drowning out the thoughtful bunch. Things grew more comforting when the phone continued to ring off the hook, because as we were to find out one of their own had been staying in the room that we now inhabited for the night. Our consolation was a reduced charge. Fortunately, we were able to salvage some shut-eye after about 1:30 AM. Morning came a little later than normal, then it was back on the road.

Main Event

With little more than a day to go before Ali and I stake our claim in the land of matrimonial bliss the prospect of matricide looms large across the horizon of that narrowest isthmus. Since we arrived in Chicagoland, things have moved at a breakneck pace, easing to a nice steady busy that will inevitably ratchet up to an altogether chaotic frenzy.

Photo: View from the Skyway

All things considered, la Maestra has been spot on in her management of all event aspects. It is the “others” that continually complicate and create a mild, but nevertheless monotonously present, unease. Generally, people have been extremely gracious in their offers to assist, yet the omnipresent spectre of the ill-informed do-gooder lingers at the moment. My mother is in a particular state, since she will be playing the hostess. Still, Ali has accounted for everything in her bulging binder (Those of you that have seen it know exactly to what I am referring.). If only my mother would recognize that everything has been planned to letter and in an effort to minimize any responsibility on her part, since she is, in fact, the hostess. Never one to trust with any sense of ease, Janet remains a wreck and her skittishness has become a contagion, infecting my sweet bride-to-be somewhat. What we are really fighting is the possibility of some roguish act of whimsy on the part of any possible do-gooder.

Photo: Construction on the Skyway

Photo: Chicago Skyline from Skyway

On the host-site front, I must mention that my parents have done themselves outstandingly proud in transforming their yard into quite a majestic setting of subruban liesure. Of course when we opted to hold the wedding at their house and yard, we were both of the opinion that little was in landscape preparation. My parents had other ideas, as the deadline of a larger event provided the stimulus to overhaul their entire yard. Part preparation, part conclusion to long-lasting desires that they both harbored, they reenvisioned the look and feel of the landscape and realized it with dramatic results, thanks in part to the Olmsteadian inspiration of Bryan Eastman (brother to one of my best and oldest friends). While it is next impossible to realize the full effect of the transformation without “before” shots, I will let the new work showcase itself.

Photo: View of Haas House from the Street

Photo: The Patio

Photo: Haas House Front Walk Photo: Alternative view of Patio

Photo: Another Patio View

Also, we managed a little pre-wedding family fun with an a short venture to a minor league baseball game. Courtesy of Ali’s dad, a group of us headed to enjoy the Kane County Cougars, an Oakland Atheletics affiliate, and a spectacular post-game fireworks display. The boys seemed to enjoy our great seats behind the plate, despite their fading with fatigue. I for one got to chat-up some of my best friends Lisa and Vince.

Photo: The Terwedows Watching the Cougars

One simply cannot say enough about one of my absolute best friends, Vince. His assistance can simply be summed up in a single word, “Clutch!” Anything and everything that we have asked him to help us out with has been nothing short of exemplary. Among the highlights of his contributions, the program that he designed is a stunningly beautiful piece. He thought of everything in the design, as he mentioned upon presenting it, “And it easily fits into a 5×7 picture frame, as a keepsake.”

Photo: Me, Vince, and Lisa

It is a two layer piece with a transluscent vellum upper displaying all the vital information, backed by a firm cardstock lower, featuring a prominent daisy blow-up, which folds over to create a binding, complete with grommets and a ribbon, holding the whole kit together. He really outdid himself and thoroughly exceeded our expectations; however, a photo will have to be forthcoming. More than that, he will also be filling in as the ceremonial videographer, as the original, my friend Sean, got a new television gig in Fresno and cannot make it. Ultimately, he has been so much the utility player extraordinaire, that Ali even asked if Vince might do some last minute tailoring of her dress.

That’s all for now folks. More to come.

Barely Ten Days ‘Til We’re Legal

So now there are less the ten days and counting until Ali and I are bound together in matrimonial bliss. In a way, it is hard to believe that two high school sweethearts will be joined forever in little more than a week from now. I mean it really is an unlikely story, but one with the all the sweetness that could potentially rot a tooth.

The crew at CASCAP, Ali’s collegaues, had a little shower of sorts for the two us this week, which was really very kind and generous. Everyone that was there certainly gets our most grateful thanks. It seemed like everyone I have ever met from the company was there and even more people that I had only ever hear mentiond. Ali enjoyed herself thouroughly and I had quite a time myself. So thanks to you all once again. You are all very thoughtful.

All the last minute planning is now finally upon us and should only increase in intensity with the coming week, as we arrive in Illinois. Inevitably something minor will go wrong, and we will have to make some adjustments. That is just the way weddings go. There is always a wildcard in every event. However, I am pretty confident that everyone involved will keep everything moving along without a hitch. We have way too many people involved and pulling for us to let that happen. So the trick is getting Ali to our frontyard, makeshift altar without any bloodshed. Her stress level has been rising for sure. Hopefully the time off of work and the swell of people willing to help, will allow her to feel a bit more relaxed.

I must mention that I am very excited about seening my parent’s home with all the improvements that have been made. Since it became the site of the ceremony they have taken to an exterior overhaul that by all accounts is a startling transformation. They had wanted to finish some things and do some landscaping for some time, so having the wedding there was the needed excuse to get all the simultaneous projects underway. I haven’t seen any photos, but I am defintiely excited to see the real thing.

So bookmark ye old fritzwinkle, and I will endeavor to bring all of those that will not be attending the Illinois nuptials up-to-the-minute details.

Azzurri Clinch Their Fourth: Capping a Satisfying Cup Run

Well, forza Italia! The Azzurri win in what began as an exciting end-to-end match complete with attacking, creative play and then gradually degenerated into a certain battle of attrition with a bizarre twist. The French were clearly more the aggressive and attack-driven team, playing with creative menace in the midfield. Despite their phantom fould penalty kick, they were taking it to the Italian side for most of the match. Of course, Italy often absorbs most of the opposition’s offensive play in favor of lighting quick counterattacks, but this match was a little different as it wore into extra time.

Strangely, for some time the Azzurri held the majority of possession, but they didn’t seem to be playing with the zeal previously seen in the tournament. Instead, most of the match, they played the ball back a lot and just held the ball, rather than driving forward with numbers eager to penetrate the French final third. More than that, their playmaker, Francesco Totti, was virtually invisible during his minutes. As the match progressed, Italy seemed more leaden and negative in their approach. Even after the absolutely disgraceful ending to the international career of Zinedine Zidane, with his ferocious, ram-like head-butt and subsequent red card, the Italians never really siezed the man advantage.

Interestingly enough, in an irony among ironies, Zizou has since been named the player of the World Cup, winning the Golden Ball award. Perhaps this off-field award will mitigate his gross on-field indiscretion, but I have to say that I think his winning is a travesty. For one, being sent off in such a manner should have immediately eliminated him from contention. I am not sure what Materazzi said to him, but it had to be serious, because it was as if his words stopped Zidane dead in his tracks and catapulted the crown of Zizou’s head. Plus, I would even go so far as to say that Zidane may have been justified in nailing Materazzi, but in his iternational curtain call? But beyond that one incident, he served a one game suspension earlier in the first stage, after lackluster performanes, to be sure. Aside from all that, he really had one amazing game, against Brazil. He played well in the semi-final, but it was more of a solid effort against a Portugese team that picked the worst match to struggle. Sure he scored, but it was on a penalty, which is hardly a strike that garners great admiration. It is as if a single game is the reason for his individual recognition,a s opposed to either of the other two Italian candidates that played every minute of every game and never received as much as an admonition from any of the ridiculously overzealous referees. It jst seems like a horrendously wrong message to send, and that comes from a player who was known to get a red card or two in his younger days.

Ultimately, I am glad the Italians won, I just wish they would have done so in a much grander fashion. A final that arrives at penalty kicks is not much to cheer. That statement is even more substantiated by the fact that all anyone could talk about after the game was Zidane’s violent reaction. It was a really disappointing end to tournament that has been heavily criticized for lacking exceptional play. On that point, I don’t completely agree. I think the tournament had wonderful drama and pagentry, with electric performances and exciting games. Emerging nations showed extremely well and althought he goal count was low, most of the matches were far better than the results suggested. There are always bad games and negative play, but that is because the stakes are so high. Plus, the referees weren’t exactly consistent in their approach to the game, causing all kinds of unnecessary problems. As I have said, nothing beats the World Cup for me and a weak final can’t kill the brighter aspects of a decent month of world class soccer.

A Brilliant Sports Weekend

What a sports weekend! The Tour de France rolls, while Wimbledon has reached the men’s and women’s finals, and of course the World Cup wraps. Of course the Tour is only ending the first of many grueling weeks, so the peloton has begun to settle a bit. On the All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club, Muaresmo kicked the nerves and hoisted the “Rosewater Dish,” while Roger Federer is on track to go deeper into the history books with a fourth consecutive championship; yet his current nemesis Raphael Nadal is all that stands in the way. Nadal seems like the only player on the tour that ever has a chance of beating the Swiss number one, beating him the last four matches. It has become a rivalry of impressive note. Then, there is the World Cup.

Well, my prediction was flat wrong, as Italy looks dangerously positioned to win it all. The Germans seemed to lose some of the attacking spirit in their last two games, although Italy’s defense is historically world renowned. In a lot of ways, this reminds me of 1990, only in reverse. Then Germany raised the cup in Italy, when the then hosts seemed clearly the team to beat, also with the tourney’s leading scorer, but ended up with a third place finish. The Azzurri are the clear favorites going into tomorrow’s match, but Les Bleus cannot be counted out easily. In Zinedine Zidane’s final game of his incandescent career, the sheer force of his inspirational presence is an enigmatic x-factor (or should that be z-factor?). Moreover, this French squad retains a core of players from their ’98 championship. Still, Italy has improved and grown in their strength and quality of play with each game. Considering that they have yet to allow a goal from the opposition and their goals have come from ten different players, I just don’t see them losing the final, despite the Zizou affect. In fact, I can actually see Italy rising up and running away with a wider margin of victory, like two or three goals. My only hope is that it is an exciting game played with flair and not one of the conservative foul fests that can sometimes infect the final. I now doubt will be pulling for the Azzurri.

Making the Most of Massachusetts

This holiday weekend, Ali was looking to break our routine a little and wanted a bit more adventure than spending Sunday perusing the paper and getting groceries. She was restless and seized upon one of our roadside attractions books, looking for some destinations that spoke to the local color. We had recently been tipped off by a couple of places on television; so with a combination of the books and the web, she had a potential itinerary of places with particular attention to those that served up some grub. With a quick ring to Keri, the three of us hit the road looking to “Make the most of Massachusetts.”

First on the list of target was lunch at the Clam Box in Ipswich. A traditional New England clam shack, it is most notable for the building’s architecture, shaped in an obvious form. Maybe more noteworthy is the extraordinary wait that greets all potential customers. Pulling into the jam-packed parking lot, we were forced to park down the side street. From that point, we got into the line streaming out the doors and proceeded to wait about an hour before we were presented with heaps of deliciously fried seafood.

Photo: The Famous Clam Box

Not being regulars, we were a bit novice at navigating the seating of the establishment, which is nothing short of ridiculous. There are a host of idiotic people that stake out a table and sit there while someone else is waiting to order. Yet, with the line being as long and time-consuming as it is, it creates a situation where one person prevents people with food from eating anywhere other than the hood of your car. It is the one truly negative aspect of the place. However, as luck would have it, we were able to spin a negative into a truly positive experience.

Photo: Waiting in Line

Not being terribly shy, I headed to the picnic area outside and inquired whether we might share a table with some fellow clam connoisseurs. Seeing the couple that was standing in front of us the whole time in the line, I figured I would ask them if we might join them. Of course, that was far too much. The prospect of five people sitting at a regular size, rectangular picnic table is really just too many. The response I got was “Not three! That would be too many.” Instantly a couple of middle aged gentlemen at the next table, a much larger, hexagonal one, were more than accommodating and saved me from casting a couple of foul aspersions toward the former.

Photo: Girls with Clam Box Food Photo: Me and Ali at Clam Box

What a joy they turned out to be. A couple of old-time, neighborhood guys, they were lively, engaging, and thoroughly entertaining. With a slicked back mane of silver hair, dark shades, and a black sleeveless t-shirt, sporting his inked guns, all dripping in gold chains and rings, one of the gentlemen had all the looks of a Sha Na Na cast-off. He even had L-O-V-E across the knuckles of his left hand. Unfortunately, I never was able to glimpse what was undoubtedly on the right set. Ultimately, Ali, Keri, and I feasted and chatted with the gentlemen about the unlikely topic pairings of baseball and lottery winners, while they awaited their wives and wittles. In fact, we were off right before their ladies arrived.

Additionally, Ali discovered that just down the road from the Clam Box, in Rowley, another alluring attraction awaited us in the form of the Giant Gumdrop building. So we headed down Route 1 for a stretch, keeping our eyes peeled the whole time. I spotted the unlikely structure, much to the protest of Ali. Both she and Keri couldn’t believe that what I spied was in fact the Gumdrop. Once we had driven clear into the next town north and had to spin around, they were still slightly unwilling to concede, until we pulled up for a closer look. I had indeed identified the Gumdrop, corroborated by the mailbox. As Ali put it, “Wow! That [Gumdrop] was awesome! By awesome I mean (insert air-quotes) bullshit!” Still, none of other sites released tears of laughter, as we joked mercilessly about what could only be categorized as a self-proclaimed attraction.

From there, we angled south in search of one of the two milk bottle buildings, formerly built by Frate’s. It was a long stretch from Ipswich to Raynham, but we were up for it. We got lucky because the other milk bottle is in New Bedford, which was about fifty miles further south. Unfortunately, the milk bottle keeps strange hours and was closed by 3:00 PM. So we cannot attest to the ice cream served up at the joint, but we definitely got some pictures. Maybe we’ll have better luck next time.

Photo: Keri Presents the Milk Bottle

Also, on the itinerary, however, was a quick jaunt for a Paul Bunyan sighting. Although not quite as impressive as we might have expected, it certainly was not “gumdrop,” which we had already coined as a euphemism for the aforementioned (insert air-quotes) bullshit! Although Paul was a little on the thin side, he was clearly sculpted from a single large tree, which I suppose is impressive enough. I guess, I for one, was expecting a much larger and intimidating Bunyan. Perhaps, that stems from my childhood, where I was regularly tortured by my uncle, who always threatened to feed me to, what seemed to me at that time, an enormous fiberglass Paul Bunyan that loomed over a used car dealership on Irving Park Boulevard, in Chicago. The mere sight of the thing terrified me for years, so much so I refused to look at it from the car as we would drive past it. My mother would warn me to close my eyes as we passed and tell me when the coast was clear. Of course it has long since been removed, but obviously the memory remains.

Photo: Ali with Paul Bunyan

In true Ali dedication, she tried to orchestrate as many roadside attractions as we could conveniently glimpse in a day, one which didn’t really get going until about lunch time. Better still, we were able to even hit the outlet mall at Wrentham, a destination Keri had planned to visit the following day. So everyone got a little fun out of the deal.

More on the World Cup – The Semifinals Approach

Who could have predicted the all European semi-finals? How the mighty South American’s fell from the tournament on European soil. In a gritty quarterfinal opening, the hosts were able to stay close for the entire game, clawing a matching goal to draw even and pushing Argentina to the dreaded penalty kick lottery. In the end, Coach Klinsmann’s keeper choice, guessing the direction of all four Albiceleste shooters he faced, courtesy of a now infamous note, stoning two key players so that the fifth wasn’t even necessary. While not the greatest of contests it did have its dramatic moments, most of which seemed to adversely effect the South American side, including an injured goal keeper that cost a key substitution. As good as the Argentineans were in the tournament, I have to admit that I was definitely happy that the Nationalmannschaft prevailed.

Photo: Spain's Roberto Abbondanzieri Leaves Match

Photo: Germany's Jens Lehmann Saves

As expected, the Italians made easy work of the Ukrainians. It took them a little while to get started, but, once things got rolling, the Azzurri looked their most impressive to date in the tournament, which is a dangerous sign as they prepare to square off with the hosts today. Hopefully, this will be the kind of match that goes down in the lore of this cup.

Photo: Italy's Luca Toni Scores

In a match that made almost every attempt to kill any excitement, Portugal bested England. The most notable event in their tilt was hothead Wayne Rooney’s getting sent off for rucking a the groin of a Portuguese opponent, then subsequently shoving Man.U teammate, Cristiano Ronaldo, when he arrived on the scene to appeal the case of the cleat castrated Carvalho (see below). Mind you, all of this was done with the referee less than two yards from the evolving spectacle. It was a less than shining moment for the player that was widely considered England’s golden boy. Now he, like another previous “golden boy,” David Beckham, becomes two of the three Queen’s men ever to be sent off in a World Cup, a rather inauspicious dis-honor, to say the least.

Photo: England's Rooney Clipping Carvalho

Finally, in the stunner of the round of eight, the boys from Brazil make an earlier than expected exit. Having not last a World Cup match since the last clash with France, the match sized up to be one of the more intriguing of the entire tournament. France, still fielding a handful of the key players from their championship run, seemed to have Brazil’s number. From the whistle France jumped on the South Americans, taking the game directly to them and sending them reeling for answers. Although, it would seem that even before the match France had penetrated the Brazilian psyche, as Carlos Alberto Parreira benched striker Adriano, in favor of a fifth midfielder, Juninho, in an effort to tame Les Bleus. Yet, nothing seemed capable of slowing a rejuvenated Zinedine Zidane, who was positively brilliant in nearly every facet of the game. Also a former two-time footballer of the year, the wily veteran who had gotten off to such a faltering start, managed his side and the game with mesmerizing grace and grit, leaving anyone who watched with nothing but questions about current world footballer of the year Ronaldinho. It would seem as though age and treachery were no match for the youth and exuberance. Even Kaka, the brightest of the Brazilians during the tournament, seemed without answers. By the end Brazil seemed to unravel in haste and panic as they attempted to level the score.

Photo: France's Zinedine Zidane

So now the semi-finals are an all Euro affair. My picks are Germany and France to meet with a not so quiet Western Front. Even though Portugal’s golden generation have survived, it seems as though France has found their stride and are simply insanely inspired by Zidane’s inevitable curtain call. Yet, Deutschland uber alles! As Sean Wisely recently put it in National Geographic magazine’s feature on the World Cup, “There’s a weird power in home-team advantage. Hosts find a level of success disproportionate to their talents on paper, triumphing over stronger teams, as if exerting a gravitational pull on the game, causing it to be played the way they want to play it, as if, to carry this metaphor to its inevitable conclusion, God were on their side.” I only wish I had written that!

Note: All World Cup photos seen in this post can be found at the FIFA World Cup official site. In fact, clicking any of the photos will take you the the Photo Zone.

Finally, happy Independence Day!