Wednesday, April 19, 2006

A weekend in Bama...

We spent the weekend in Alabama. We had decided to use our Easter break to visit Greta’s sister, Nancy, who lives in Birmingham. Here are some highlights and some lowlights of our trip to Alabama and all places in between.

-For my birthday, a few weeks ago, Nancy sent me a t-shirt that simply says “Alabama” across the chest. This is the “officially licensed apparel” of the University of Alabama. I was stoked. I even saved it so that the first wearing of the shirt would take place while we were in ‘Bama. Alabama is football crazy and a pretty divided state. Alabama and Auburn are each in the state and the allegiances people have to one or the other run deep and often back through a number of generations. The Alabama Crimson Tide and the Auburn Tigers do not play well together. This is all back story so that you can properly understand what follows.

While spending a gorgeous Saturday afternoon in the Birmingham Zoo, Greta, Nancy and I were enjoying the animals. I was proudly sporting my Alabama t-shirt. We had just left the alligator swamp and were bound for the primates when this old man—probably in his 70’s—walked by. As he passed us he looked at me and yelled, “Roll Tide!” This was the single greatest moment of my time at the zoo. This old man, otherwise calm and cool, just couldn’t resist the opportunity to commiserate with a fellow ‘Bama Backer. I didn’t have the heart to tell him I’m a UCLA fan from California. He’s better off not knowing.

-We attended a Southern Baptist Easter service. Another new experience for me. The music was great and the message was well crafted. Overall, it was a very enjoyable experience, but I was disappointed that there was only one altar call and no potluck.

-We got to visit Nancy at work. She works at the American Village, just outside of Birmingham. She serves as a historic interpreter and the queen of all stitching for this endeavor in which 18th century Boston has been recreated. School children from all over the greater Birmingham area come to learn about the causes of the Revolutionary War and the characteristics of the colonists who dared to separate from the Crown. We had a great time sitting in a recreation of the Old North Church as Nancy delivered a secret spy message. I thought about turning her in to General Gage, but then realized that such an act might lead to the spread of cricket in the States. Out of a deep love for my fellow Americans, I sat still.

-We attended a Birmingham Barons baseball game on Sunday night. If you’ve never gone to a minor league baseball game, you’re missing out. We sat on the lower level for $8 a piece and have fun trying to catch t-shirts, Frisbees and other such objects that were tossed into the crowd between innings. The players all play hard, knowing that their ticket to AAA depends on it. I even adopted a player into my heart—Wally Rosa, catcher for the Barons, who, as best I can tell, still doesn’t have a hit this season. This must change! If you think about it, send Wally some good mental vibes. His season depends on you!

-On the drive home, we decided that we were going to eat at a Hardee’s or Carl’s Jr. This proved problematic as there are, and we can firmly attest to this, no Hardee’s or Carl’s Jr. restaurants anywhere along I-20 through Mississippi or Louisiana. We saw myriad Wendy’s and McDonald’s, but when you’ve got your heart set on Carl’s, how can you settle? Settle we did not. And a mere five hours after first mentioning our hunger and our desire for Famous Stars, we pulled in to Carl’s Jr. in Van, Texas. Good things do indeed come to those who wait. Like indigestion from eating a Double Western Bacon Cheeseburger, onion rings, criss-cut fries and two root beers.

-Alabama is a very pretty state. The green hills and plentiful countryside remind me of a painting I saw in Los Angeles once. Louisiana and Mississippi, however, not pretty. And since they rudely stand in the way of anyone wanting to travel from Texas to Alabama, we were forced to endure them. These two states are tied in the “Most Disgusting Bathrooms in the Known World” contest that I initiated while on this trip. Who would have thought that filthy, disgusting and smoke-filled gas stations would have filthy, disgusting and smoke-filled bathrooms. Probably not coincidentally, my wife is sick today.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Crunch time...

This part of the semester always kills me. At this time last year I was uttering curse words about Greek (Seriously, you can ask my friend Tim). We have entered crunch time.

Crunch time comes with its own set of rules. To wit:

-During crunch time, professors who you previously considered normal will suddenly increase the amount of reading expected for a typical week. You must face this trial with silence. So much as a whimper and the load will increase.

-During crunch time, you may forget to take part in valuable activities such as bathing. Make sure that you surround yourself with people who have strong stomachs and won’t hesitate to point out your stench.

-During crunch time, all of the books you need will be checked out of the library. If you are lucky, you might be able to locate the gaps in the system where the books you need typically reside. At this point a whimper is acceptable, but you must whimper quietly. You are, after all, in the library.

-During crunch time, you will learn to survive on 2 hours of sleep, feel “somewhat awake” with 3, write a paper on 4, and feel “positively chipper” with 5.

-During crunch time, the people in your classes just aren’t that funny anymore. (Unless I’m in your class, then I’m still funny. Right? Anyone?)

-During crunch time, you will consistently struggle through the following train of thought: “Before I forget, I really need to…um…curse word! What did I need to do?”

-During crunch time, eating becomes a timed event. You must not dally long at the table. Remember, each bite of sandwich = one less quarter-page of a paper you could be finishing.

-During crunch time, instead of having time to read, write and study, you will find your weekends unexpectedly filled with things like changing bike tires, chopping down redwoods and brokering peace between Yankees and Red Sox fans. Granted, these things may never happen during the rest of the year, but we’re dealing with crunch time here.

I hope that you all may negotiate the tricky waters of crunch time with grace and peace. Rest assured, this too shall pass…just in time for summer school.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

My sports odyssey...

Since Saturday, I've embarked upon a bit of a sports odyssey. The journey has been marked by joy, pride, frustration and some deep sadness. I want you to journey with me.


Never been prouder.

Lots of fun, a little suburned and disappointed with the results.
Sad. Deeply sad.
Excitement. (What a way to start things off!)

Hopeful. (On the Nor-Cal side, of course.)

Thanks for journeying with me. Looking back, it's been a good run. It also may explain why I have so much homework that must get finished TODAY.