Here Comes the Wedding & The World Cup

Well it is nary a month before the grand nuptials and I am still alive to write this, which must be a good sign. Ali has yet to murder me in my sleep, although I must admit the closer things get and the more odd-ball occurrences the more I am inclined to sleep with one eye open. Truth be told, Ali is anything but a bridezilla, but anyone that knows her understands that la maestra is a planner. It is part of her genetic code. She definitely gets it from her father, another “i”s dotted “t”s crossed sort, to be sure. Thus, when others are impeding the planning, her stress level rises. So those of you that read this and have yet to send your response cards, get them in the mail!

Of course, I frightfully admit that I have not been the greatest ally in the planning department, which draws the bright-hot light of her searing eyeball on occasion. More to the point, when someone else is faltering a bit and threatening “the plan,” as her husband to be, I get a front row seat to watch the mercury of my beloved’s stressometer rise. Those are the nights that I am a lighter sleeper. All in all, I have to say she has handled things like a champ and we are in full swing for the final preparations. It is really quite exciting. I am far too fortunate, honestly.

Photo: Germany 2006 Logo

Aside from the occasional wedding task set before me, I am headlong into World Cup fever and have been for two weeks running. Of all the sporting events, this is the one for me. Nothing compares! Nothing competes! It is the heavyweight champion of the sporting world (If I may mix my sports metaphors.). The best players from the world over assembled for a single month, followed by the brightest lights and greatest number of eyeballs, representing their nations and know-how in the simplest and most beautiful game. I am a junkie in the extreme.

Photo: German Strikers - Podolski and Klose Photo: Argentina's Riquelme!

With the group stage over and the round of sixteen complete the match-ups become increasingly interesting and potentially entertaining. For my money Argentina and Germany have been the class teams of the tournament. The fatherland’s team has been positively steamrolling the competition, riding waves of adulation from the home crowd as the hosts. They have been increasingly impressive. They are always one of the teams I like and while this group hasn’t quite earned the same affection that the ‘90 winning eleven had, they are gaining ground. The powder blue and white stripes on the other hand readily dispatched teams they were suppose to beat and still managed to look imposing when struggling against better competition. There is a long history between these two teams, including two consecutive finals in ’86 and ’90, where they split the spoils, the former being Maradona’s famous campaign to cup victory and the latter a physically brutal final where the more disciplined Germans prevailed. It is a shame that only one of them will be left after this match.

Photo: Maradona with the Cup!

Being an ardent Dutch fan, I was gravely disappointed to see them lose, but the Portuguese teams that fell them is clearly in the next tier of teams with the Brazilians. It always comes down to them, doesn’t it? But they have yet to really show the depth and character of their enormously talented side. Nearly every member of the famed yellow, blue, and white could make a bid for the tournament’s best eleven awards. Be that as it may, Kaka seems to be the one true player of quality right now, rising above his more famed mates. Despite winning all their matches they have failed to really play impressively. Yet, there is no team in the world that will capitalize on a mistake and punish an opponent with greater speed and efficiency than the Seleção. Every team they have faced thus far have learned this the hard way, needing to fish the ball from the netting before the team can identify what tactical error was made. Conversely, Portugal has played with great flash and, at times, ferocity. Unfortunately, there blood-match with the Netherlands has left them with some missing personnel for their tilt with England.

Photo: Ronaldo and Roberto Carlos Celebrate

Amongst the rest of the teams, the Queen’s men have also been less than impressive, but just good enough to win. Fortunate to only be tested against Sweden, a match that they let slip away, they have been dangerously hanging on to their weak goal scoring efforts (albeit Beckham’s free-kicks aside). Another team I always like is Italy, and they have yet to find their form, as well. Yet, the Azzurri are notorious for ruggedly enduring and outlasting the opposition, only to accomplish a victory with a swift strike of brilliance emanating from their trademark defense. When they attack they bring speed, numbers, and this year size, like few other teams in the world. The betting scandal back home can’t be anything but a distraction, despite any comments to the contrary. Yet, they have the easiest quarter final opponent by far in the Ukraine. The Ukraine team can be summed up in a word, awful. So of all the teams they have the safest passage to the semis. Most surprising is the resurgence of France. Initially they looked lost and confused, unable to generate any kind of creative play and even less offense. Then they grew inspired, made it to the knockout phase and bested a very talented Spanish team, vanquishing the World Cup’s eternal bad luck team. Granted they came out of the weakest group, but Les Bleus earned a rematch of their ’98 cup victory match with universal favorites Brazil. Again, it gets back to them.

Photo: Brazil - Team Photo

I have to mention that as great as these games look to be, the semifinals should prove to be the best of all. They almost always exceed the pressure packed, tense play of the finals. Yet, I definitely think the Argentina-Germany and Brazil-France clashes will reveal the eventual teams placed in the final, with the potential for an all South American final on European soil, a first to be sure. Of course, you never know what surprises are lurking in the referee’s pocket. The men in black have done almost everything imaginable to nearly wreck the tournament. However, that is material for another post entirely.

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.

Also During the Last Month

Considering there was about a month between the last two postings, a fair amount happened. In some ways the problem was it was all kind of happening at the same time and interfering with the updates. Between trying to wrap up the school year, short trips, visiting peoples, holiday celebrations, wedding preparations, and, of course, the World Cup, it seems like there has been nary a moment to craft any witty, or not so witty, postings.

Photo: Me and Davey in Rockport

One of the cooler things that happened in this time was that my brother David made his first trip to Boston. As part of a sales related job that he will be endeavoring to do over the summer, he arrived and spent most of the time in Quincy hotel for a couple of days, but made sure that he stuck around on the weekend so we could get together. Of course, all it did was rain! It seems like that has been the curse for anyone visiting us, buckets and buckets of rain. Still, we were able to run up the North Shore and show him some of the regular sites, despite the weather and limited time. It was a pretty nice time all things considered.

Photo: Me and Davey in Gloucester

Also during the last month, I made a return trip to perhaps my all-time favorite local event, the Scooper Bowl. Fortunately, I went on the best day of the run. The weather broke for a day or so and it was nothing but blue skies, sun, and dairy deliciousness. I hopped the train and raced downtown for all the ice cream I could inhale. As expected, it was absolutely fantastic! With a new personal best, I knocked down seventeen scoops in the span of a about a half an hour, an impressive increase over last year. This achievement filled me with a new found pride and exuberance. Yet, I have to mention that I felt like anything after a baker’s dozen was consumed by sheer force of will. This fact left me even more devastated when I was informed that Ali and her co-worker, Marlena, took this feat as a kind of throwing down the gauntlet. Thus, they ventured to Government Center, site of the event, during a springtime noreaster, to eclipse my newly established record. First, Ali reached for and consumed an impressive twenty scoops, only to be outdone by Marlena, who bested everyone by racking up a stack of twenty-one cups filled with all the cool creamy goodness that the vendor creameries could provide. In a word, impressive!

Photo: Ali and Dave at Scooper Bowl

Photo: Marlena at Scooper Bowl

So, my tenure as ice cream champ was brief, but there is always next year. Plus, with an arch-nemesis, namely Marlena, I am confident I will be prepared for the challenge.

Last Son Standing -Cap and Gown and All

Well, it has been a long time coming to the pages of ye old Fritzwinkle, but Ali and I recently took a short jaunt south to Charlottesville, Virginia for my youngest brother’s graduation. That’s right, the kid donned the cap and gown on a beautiful day to walk the Lawn and fetch a handsome parchment, proving he learned more than how to drink. I have long thought University of Virginia to be one of the most beautiful campuses and this graduation day it did not disappoint, as the pictures will attest.

Photo: Waiting on the UVA Lawn

Photo: UVA Rotunda Colonnade Photo: Professors

Photo: Waiting Near the Rotunda

The cool thing is how the graduation day is broken up with a much larger, more informal ceremony of sorts, where a larger body of students files down a wide passageway that is the Lawn of the Academical Village. This is the original section of the campus designed by Founding Father, Thomas Jefferson. With a significant rotunda as a backdrop and an assortment of classical colonnades flanking the wide green-space that runs about a quarter of a mile in length, the students descended the stairs of the rotunda. A variety of the photos capture the classical beauty of the place and event.

Photo: Down the Steps of the Rotunda

Photo: Graduates Walking the Lawn

Photo: Glimpse of the Rotunda

After the mid-day ceremony on the Lawn, the graduates got to the real business of pinching their parchments with ecstatic glee, fully realizing that all the work, stress, and procrastination actually achieved something after all. No more Mountain Dew induced all-nighters to cram all those lecture notes and undone textbook readings into an alcohol softened brain, in hopes of just getting through this one test to pass the godforsaken course. Aaron’s School of Sociology convened indoors in a rather lovely hall, which was also a welcome relief from the sun and heat. So, amongst a neoclassical colonnade, my family sat and watched the graduates proceed across the boards of an auditorium stage, with an enormous reproduction of Raphael’s School of Athens as a backdrop, adding some solemnity to the occasion. It was an impressive scene in which my baby brother capped his collegiate career.

Photo: School of Athens

Photo: Aaron Getting Diploma

Of course, thanks to Ali for many of these photos, she’s the best. I wish I had more photos of her from this graduation. However, she has assumed the role of primary photographer of human subjects, while I stick mainly to scenery and still life-like shots. As she lamented, here is the only one.

Photo: The Family

Photo: The Haas Men

Ultimately, congratulations are in order for my kid brother. Well done, Aaron! Also impressive, my parents deserve some well earned credit for getting three sons through bachelor’s degrees and footing the bill for the majority of all three.

Photo: Proud Parents with their Graduate Photo: A Little Love from the Baby Boy

As my Dad remarked to Ali, he felt pretty damn good, “All of my friends that stayed in the city, none of their kids finished college and all three of mine got degrees.” Not bad for a couple of kids who, before turning twenty-five, fled the city, found a way to buy a house in the suburbs with virtually no money down and the promise of a VA loan, so they could put me, a kindergartner, in what at that time was one of the best school systems in the area. Just over twenty-five years later their youngest son made good on their risky decision that would involve more work, sacrifice, and money than they could imagine or we three can yet fully understand. So, congratulations to you to Mom and Dad. You deserve it, perhaps most of all!

Photo: The Three Haas Graduates