Friday, June 30, 2006

Day 1 - Wilkommen Zum Fussball!

From Pele's lips to the world's ears! After getting a comfortable 3 hours of so of sleep on the flight, I arrived in Zurich at around 7:00am local time. I had a nice little five hour layover in the country of watches and chocolate and did plenty of meandering through the duty-free designer and watch stores, only to remind myself that I couldn't, or wouldn't, afford any of the items. Unless there was something I really wanted....but there wasn't. I was tired and annoyed that I could be in Germany but instead was stuck in Zurich. I gorged on some pastries and a sandwhich that was painful to eat because my teeth were still sore and, for the first time in a while, drank a cappucino. Not surprisingly, I was awake after that and unable to sleep despite listening to my sleepy-time mix on the hurting iPod. I think I brushed my teeth about three times, washed my face twice, and bought some rum at the duty-free. Other than that, I was just wasting my time away.

Enough about that. I arrived in Germany and, with the coffee worn off, was feeling a bit sluggish. But as soon as I walked through the exit gates and saw Stefan and Alex waiting for me, as was intricately planned, I got a burst of energy that carried me through the night. This was the moment who's brainchild was launched almost four years ago and was what I'd planned for for over a year, and it was finally here!

We rushed out to our waiting ride with Alex's dad and headed off to Dreiech to Alex's parent's house. Minutes into the car ride, our orders were taken on how hungry we were and how many weisswursts we would eat. Weisswurst is the breakfast sausage of choice for Bavarians, which they wash down with a nice half-liter of hefe-weizen beer. Alex's mom had some damn-tasty weisswursts ready for us when we walked through the door. And the mustard? Ahh, it felt good to be home :o) ! Following regional traditions, we obliged ourselves to drink a hefe-weizen as well.

After lunch, we quickly unpacked and donned our soccer gear in preparation for the Argentina vs. Germany game. I was wearing my newly acquired Germany soccer jersey and Stefan was in his "tricolor" Azzurri Italy jersey for the Italy vs. Ukraine game that followed the initial game. But everyone knew that would be a blowout and wasn't too interested in it. The viewing destination for the Germany game was to be at the local Dreieich Rathouse (city hall) with Alex's friends and a few hundred other locals. We were rushed down there by car and secured some seats with some of my old Germany buddies like Sven, Steffi, Daniel, Alex (she was looking good!), Katherine, and we ran into some other familiar faces like Jonas (my parent's exchange student) and his sisters Sarah and Janina.

I was totally pumped for the game and was high on football euphoria and soaked up the environment. Quality beers were purchased and drinken by everyone there and we watched as Argentina took the lead in the tense game. In the 80th, the crowd was jumping and screaming as Germany's lead striker tied the game up and sent the game into overtime. Thirty minutes later, they won the game when their goalkeeper blocked a penalty kick and the crowd went ballistic. THIS is what I came here for!!

After the game, we loitered around the Burgerhaus, played some kicker with some of the kids who were mimicking their favorite stars with the ball on a grassy patch before we headed back home. Famished and delirious from the excitement of the game, we put in our orders for a doener with Alex, who rode his bike down and picked up some of the Turkish specialty dish (aka shawarma or gyro) from the local Imbiss. We scarfed those down like we hadn't eaten for a week and, like always, it hit the spot. The Italy game started and we watched it with mild interest as Italy decimated Ukraine, as expected.

We went back to the Burgerhaus to watch some more of the Italy game with the few Italian fans in the area before we departed for a house-party at Irene's house. Irene was a friend of Alex's girlfriends who I'd met a few years previous in Portugal when she met up with us with her boyfriend. The weather was fantastic and the outdoor party was pretty mellow with some beers and some new people to meet. At some point, probably around midnight, we decided that the day had been long enough and we wandered back to Alex's house and crashed hard and heavy.

Justinho, I've found the best way to beat eastward jet-lag is to stay up as late as possible the first night. It worked!

[Edit] Pictures are now available to the general public at

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Day 0.5 - Liftoff

Sometimes I wonder. At some point during the week, I decided, for the hell of it, to actually open my paper ticket and take a look at it. I already knew I was departing at 10:30pm on Thursday night but I was so amped up, I wanted to see what it felt like to hold that ticket and hand it to the flight-check-in clerk. Sure enough, my timing was wrong - as usual. 5:30 departure time. Scheisse. That means that I have to leave work early. And this happened to be the day that my boss said I have to actually start earning my money and work a "professional workday", i.e. 10 hours. [Side note: 10 hours is professional? Grrr....the Euros have got the right idea, how about quality of life? I could digress, but I won't].

To make matters worse, this screwed up my whole plan as far as sleep is concerned. I prefer 10:00pm flight because I buy a mini bottle of wine preceding the flight and sip-sip-sip-sleep. But 5:30? Hells no would I be able to sleep at that time. And I needed ENERGY because kickoff for the Argentina-Germany Quarter-Final was just three hours after we arrived! We're talking about one of THE games of the tournament - a heavy favorite to win the World Cup vs. the Host Country! In lieu of this situation, I had to improvise. It just so happens that I'd been building up the trip by listening to a daily soccer radio show based in LA from a couple of Brits and they started the show every day with a Come On England song (to the tune of Come on Eileen, that great 80's song). I HAD to have that song. For some reason, it didn't occur to me that I should download it illegally like I do with everything else. I actually went to iTunes and purchased it! I was so pumped up listening to this song that I knew I'd have plenty of energy when I touched down in deutschland with the song blasting through my tired iPod.

I also improved the sleeping odds by procrastinating all week on cleaning my apartment and packing until about 9:00pm on Wednesday night. Packing took about 10 minutes to accomplish [Soccer shirts: check. Camera: check. Shorts: check. Glossy white Pumas: check. Extra memory card for said camera: oops.] . Cleaning my apartment took a few hours (I even cleaned my sink in the bathroom) and I got to bed at 1:00am, giving me little time to sleep that night, but ensuring moodiness at work and unconsciousness on the plane...

Justinho, I was incredibly unproductive during my half-day of work prior to my flight. As an aside, the Czechs were already eliminated by this time and their jersey stayed home with all my cotton t-shirts :-/ .

Vacation Blog Time!

I'm back from Germany and the World Cup! You know what that better set aside a few hours each day to read my infamous vacation stories. I am still recovering, so have patience...

Justinho, I'm tired just thinking about how much I have to write...

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The Fifth Sense

I'll be brief - I taste dead people.

This is a huge week for Justinho the J. Riley:

1.) Earlier this week I finally got to talk to HR at my client about becoming a full-time corporate, job-hating, cubicle-residing employee of a monolithic, greedy, global company. Exciting, I know!!! Of utmost importance was the fact that they are offering me twice as much vacation as my current employer. I got no problems selling my soul for that. Time to start scheduling 2007's worlwide trips...

2.) Tomorrow I am departing on 2006's climactic worldwide trip to Germany for the World Cup. I am so psyched!
a.) I downloaded England's World Cup anthem "Come on England" (to the tune of that eighties tune "Come on Irene" or whatever it is) and was bouncing off of the wall and memorizing the words tonight so I can sing it in our Passat on the autobahn to the disgust of everyone else in the car.
b.) Vas, in his tireless endeavor to wreak havoc on our travel plans, finally found a cheap way to get to Germany a weak late that requires me to leave two parties and drive three hours to Munich to pick his ass up. I was annoyed that better options weren't available, especially since no one could seem to tell us where he was going to be dropped off by the bus. Once we figured that out, I was okay and am looking forward to repaying my bottomless debt of being picked up and driven around Eastern Europe last summer. Not to mention other Eastern European eye-candy that Vas payed for last year ;o)
c.) Brazil will be playing their quarter-final match on Saturday, a day after I get to Germany, in Frankfurt, which is where we are staying for the first weekend. This means mad parties in town with my Brazilian friends, who arrive earlier in the day. And they are playing France, so it will be a rematch of the 98 World Cup final!
d.) The epic game of the tournament so far will happen five hours after I touch down in Germany with tournament-favourites Argentina playing the host Germany. Yowser, that's going to be a hot one!
e.) etc.

3.) Oh yea, about that fifth sense: I got my arch expander off today! My mouth is a little sore right now, but I amazed at how cavernous my mouth is and how non-intrusive these braces really are. My ultra-sensitive palette tickles every time I touch it with my tongue, but it was loving life when I got home and treated it to a pack of Newman's Own Peanut Butter Cups (like Reeses) and a big, 0.5 liter Bitburger Pils, followed by an over-spiced pasta dinner. Oh man, I can't wait to eat in Europa!

J. Riley, it's 9:00pm, I better clean up my apartment, start packing, do my dishes, and fold my laundry

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Jersey (Thump Thump) Respect

Last night, for the first time in my life, I found some serious respect for Jersey. No, it's not the tax-free shopping, no it's not the plethora of Olive Gardens available to choose from, and no it's not the Costco sangria mix. Melissa had phase one of her birthday celebrations over in Hoboken, the notorious area with a plethora of fresh out of college "kids" (said in a very snooty tone of voice ;o). The last thing I want to do on a Wednesday night is go to Hoboken for an event that doesn't even start until 9:00pm. But this event sounded somewhat interesting: a public, open-air showing of the movie "Crash", which I really liked. The New York area has all sorts of fun summer activities like this but I rarely have anyone to attend them with so I haven't gone to any yet in the last three years.

I was amazed when I arrived at the movie showing location. I had no idea that the PATH train drops you off so close to the water. And I had no idea that there were parks all along the Hudson river, directly across from Manhattan. On a warm summer night, you can imagine watching the light fade and an unobstructed view of the city in all of it's glory lighting up at dusk and continuing into the night. It was crystal clear out and was an amazing backdrop to a gigantic movie screen and several thousand people watching the show. Next time I'm bringing my camera. I gotta hand it to them - that idea was right on the money! Respect...

In exactly seven days, I will be boarding a jet plane to Euroland once again. The World Cup beckons! I've recently been promoted at work from windowless consultant room to "give him a cube because he's gonna get hired eventually" and along with such stature comes a laptop. I will definitely be lugging that thing with me on this vacation to commensurate J. Riley's infamous "vacation blogging". Clear off your calendars on July 11th ;o)

Justinho, my high-tech torture device known as a pallete or arch expander is coming out in T-minus-six-days

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Football - What Else?

As the first round (group stages) of the World Cup comes to a close, I am almost
worn out from watching hours upon hours of football. There have been three games
a day for the past week and a half and the middle game conveniently starts at
noon EST, just in time for lunch! The industrial area where I work conveniently
has an Irish pub down the street that normally serves the construction workers
their two-to-three-Budweisers-per-lunch meals but has been transformed into a
local soccer-fan mecca during the 'Copa do Mundial'. Suffice to say that I am
tired of eating pub grub and have been surprisingly motivated to cook vast
quantities of food at night so that I can have leftovers the following day for

Justinho, my apartment's cleanliness is suffering as a result of the 'Mondial'

Wednesday, June 14, 2006


I'm in a somber mood after learning that my extended family has been reduced by one with the loss of my sister-in-law's mother after a long fight with cancer. My thoughts are with you guys and your unconsolable loss.


Friday, June 09, 2006


I remember almost exactly 10 years ago, sitting at the kitchen table at home
with Daniel (Brazil), Carlos (Colombia), Roland (Slovakia), and Stefan
discussing the future. We were all about to graduate from high school and the
exchange students were going home and who knew when or if we would ever see
each other again. We were discussing a reunion of sorts sometime down the road,
possibly once we were all done with college. We could all meet up and go
backpacking through Europe together. Six years later, most of us met up for the
first time again in Peru and Brazil for a reunion of sorts, all grown up and
matured since our pre-voting age. We enjoyed each other's company so much that
we knew that we'd have to meet up again someday and we decided that the next
event would be in Germany, 2006, for the World Cup. After much planning and
deliberation, we decided to go at the end of June for the Quarter-Finals,
Semi-Finals, and Finals. But there was much more football to watch before that!

Kickoff day has arrived.

Justinho, I almost wore a jersey to work today

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Three Days Until Kickoff

With just three days remaining until the World Cup, it is essential for me to
pour over the charts and schedules to determine where I'm going to be and when
I'm gonna be there. Thus far, I've discovered English pubs, Czech pubs,
Brazilian pubs, Ecuadorian pubs, German pubs, and Polish pubs. Those should
keep me busy during the four weekend days (plus x number of sick days) of
football that are in the first couple of rounds. For those non-weekend and
non-sick day games, I'll be tivo'ing them and watching the good ones at night.

As for my predictions for the first round, I will lay claim to the following:

Group A:
Winner - Germany
Runner-Up - Poland

Group B:
Winner - England
Runner-Up - Sweden

Group C:
Winner - Argentina
Runner-Up - Ivory Coast

Group D:
Winner - Portugal
Runner-Up - Mexico

Group E:
Winner - Czech Republic
Runner-Up - Italy

Group F:
Winner - Brazil
Runner-Up - Australia

Group G:
Winner - Switzerland
Runner-Up - France

Group H:
Winner - Spain
Runner-Up - Ukraine

Justinho, please leave *your* predictions as comments.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

X-Men Trilogy

Forgive me Fast Food Nation, for I have sinned.

It wasn't entirely my fault, I'd rather deflect the blame to the location in which I was at noon this morning and the lack of organic, high-class culinary options in the Bronx. Last night Melissa finally had her housewarming (roughly two years after moving in) and New Roommate party at her nice pad up in the BX. It started and ended really late and a handful of us chose to stay up there for the night - errr, morning..... and we were famished by noon on Sunday morning.

Part of the reason for Sean and I staying up there was that we were having an X-Men party on Sunday morning that arose because the three of us really wanted to see the new X-Men movie and it was playing at the cheap theater by Melissa's pad. So, we woke up at 10:30, popped in X-Men 1, followed by fast-food ordering and eating, and X-Men 2 (and napping - imagine Justin napping during an action film :-/ ) shortly thereafter. That brought us to about 2:40pm with X-Men 3 starting at the theater at 3:00. Talk about a lazy Sunday!

Saturday consisted of submitting myself to my regularly-scheduled torture session at the orthodontist. Actually, it's not all that bad, but my teeth were actually pretty sore for once after getting a couple brackets on the furthest-back teeth in my upper jaw. My mouth is amazingly different from what it was back in January. In three weeks, I get the arch-expander taken out finally and start planning for surgery number deux. More on that to follow in a few weeks....

After the ortho, I did a little shopping at Zara and then started getting pumped up about the impending World Cup (starts Friday, June 9th) by stopping in my local soccer stores to check out jerseys and shoot the breeze about the games. I am like a little kid right now, so giddy about the games. I've already blocked my calendar off from 9:00am - 5:00pm every weekend day for the next few weeks. I've got a list of bars showing the games and plan on going to a different one for every day, including a place in BFE, Queens where the local Czechs will congregate :o). I'll be watching the Czech v. Ghana and Italy v. USA games there in a few weeks. After shooting the breeze there, I stopped by the soccer supply store to see if they had any new Pumas for me to investigate and, lo-and-behold, they did. Me and this guy with an England shirt on both tried on a pair in the same size and both walked away satisfied customers with something along the lines of these babies (mine are darker blue like my old ones):
Mom and Dad were out last weekend for four excellent days. As always, we did more than I have time to write about, but a couple of new noteworthy spring-time activities that I hadn't done before included heading over to Brooklyn to walk through Brooklyn Heights and along the Promenade, which has the best view of New York City as far as I can tell. On Monday, Central Park beckoned us and we rented some bikes at a nearby store and cruised around all of the park for a few hours to enjoy the wonderful weather, sites such as the castle, Strawberry Fields, and the roller-dancing area that I frequently admire. The weather was fantastic for the weekend, unlike their last trip out here where it was cold and wet the whole time.

Naturally, we did more than enough eating during the weekend as well. The big meal of the trip was 'inoteca, where we were joined by Sean and Melissa for some wonderful Italian small-plates and wine. We also did Carnegie Deli after watching The Producers for the first time, where we were fed a ridiculous, ludicrous amount of pastrami and roast beef, which was preceeded by a wonderful brunch at Diner 24, which is next to the recently-deceased Rue de Crepes. They had these ricotta cheese and poppy-seed pancakes that were to die for. Gotta investigate that recipe online!

J. Riley, the grain of the evening is hulled barley!

And a niece (and sister!) picture for the masses: