Sunday, August 29, 2004

OK, there's really no way to catch up at this point, so here's a brief summary and "snapshot" of each day since we last met here in the blogosphere:

8/17: Summary: Moved out, packed car with Tim, started driving, in Ehrenburg (Arizona) was shocked to find that truck stops are now WiFi hotspots, went to Arizona, saw Diamondbacks/Pirates, drove on to Flagstaff

Snapshot: At The BOB, they have a concession stand called "Taste of the Majors" which samples cuisine from other National League ballparks/cities. (Tim's observation: what National League East team, pray tell, is represented by New England clam chowder?) They also have a similarly themed sausage stand. I went to the sausage stand and got a Pittsburgh Stacker--a Primanti's-style sausage. You can't screw up a footlong sausage, so it was tasty, but it was a lousy attempt at Primanti's. The key fact about Primanti's sandwiches, for non 'Burghers, is that they are served with cole slaw and fries on the sandwich, as was the Stacker. But Primanti's uses fresh-cut fries and a very stringy cole slaw, while the Stacker used crappy frozen fries, a very creamy cole slaw and, for some reason, Cheez.

8/18 Summary: Woke up in lovely-as-always Flagstaff, found the only Starbucks in Flagstaff, drove to almost New Mexico, took roughly 25-mile detour to drive on decommissioned Devil's Highway, got Sonic tater tots and beverages, got to Chris's house, searched all of Albuquerque and failed to find Isotope paraphrenalia, had New Mexican food, had beers, slept

Snapshot: We had our beers at this place with an open patio, which was really nice except that several times water would just fall out of the sky for minutes on end. Apparently outside of L.A. this happens periodically, as I've found pretty much every day since. Also, it was a brewpub with about 15 options shown on the menu by color, but the colors the waitress kept bringing us didn't even remotely match the descriptions.

8/19 Summary: Sometime in the middle of the night Tim concussed himself when he passed out from a headrush, said goodbye to Chris, drove, drove, went to the Big Texan, ate 6.9444% of the meat required for a free lunch, drove, drove, drove, ate at Sonic, drove, arrived in Rolla

Snapshot: When you drive 930 miles in a day, there's not much of a snapshot. We tried playing Perquackey in the car, but it turns out that was a lot safer in Wyoming, so it didn't last. Oh, but Frank Pastore is a god!

8/20 Summary: Went to Shoney's, overate, drove to St. Louis, found a Starbucks, found parking, went to Busch Stadium for day part of day/night doubleheader, went to International Bowling Hall of Fame and Museum, drove to Rockford, played track 6 off POTUSA CD as we approached the city because that's precisely the kind of dork I am, collapsed at Rockford Howard Johnson's and alleged Convention Center.

Snapshot: It turns out that there were a lot of proto-bowling type of rituals in the medieval Catholic church, and the one singular quotation I will take away from this trip was: "Priests who failed to lead holy lives spend eternity bowling." We spent 2 hours there and could've spent three; the less said here the better.

8/21 Summary: Found the only Starbucks in Rockford, bought ridiculous book for travel at Barnes and Noble, drove to Madison, circumnavigated Madison on foot with the Infield-Harms, ate East African food and Wisconsin ice cream, sat on Monona Terrace, drove to Greatest Starbucks In The World, ate at The Brat Stop in Kenosha, arrived at Alexis' in Chicago.

Snapshot: Three years ago, Tim and I drove from L.A. to Ann Arbor stopping at numerous baseball parks (and, thus, their associated cities) along the way. Then, as obviously now, we some of that time in search of Starbucks. The day we went to Milwaukee we had some time to kill, so we drove around downtown and stopped at a place in what I now know to be Milwaukee's Historic Third Ward. Inside we were shocked. They had put a Starbucks into a renovated old warehouse, with a beautiful fireplace, more comfy seating than any Starbucks I'd ever been to, and just a beautiful overall space. When we realized sometime last week that it would add at most half an hour for us to go from Madison to Chicago via Milwaukee rather than directly, we both knew exactly where we had to go. I got several of those short stories read, Tim got to tell the barista that he's been to Starbucks on three continents (and God knows how many states) but that this one was his favorite.

Oh, and I know it's a second snapshot, but if you're ever in Kenosha and are carni-/omnivorous, stop at the Brat Stop. Just trust me on this one.

8/22 Summary/Snapshot: The Answer Guy has already done the work on this one. (Just to be clear, Answer Guy Tim is not travelling partner Tim--we just met up at Alexis' via a series of coincidences.)

8/23 Summary: Left Chicago early but not before getting coffee you-know-where, drove across Michigan, deposited Tim at Detroit Metro, drove back to Ann Arbor, walked around town a bit, headed back to Mike's for the evening.

Snapshot: Pretty much a functional day, little to report.

8/24 Summary: Got up in a very lazy manner, hung around Mike's doing laundry, drove to campus, got Michigan ID and uniqname (jorite), got parking pass, fretted at proximity of parking to Law Quad (or, rather, lack thereof), sat in freakin' huge Ann Arbor Starbucks, went to MAP banquet, drove back to Mike's and did homework (sigh)

Snapshot: MAP is the Michigan Access Program, which we were told used to be the Minority (something) Program, but this year was opened up to all students. The idea was to show up a week before orientation, spend a few days getting to know peers and the school. Most people who showed up come from a historically underrepresented group of some sort--either racial, LBGT, older student, etc. I guess I'm #3. The program was open to all incoming students, but for the most part the traditional populations showed up.

At the banquet we went around the room and it was a little scary. A lot of introductions felt like, "Hi, I graduated from Harvard and Princeton, for the last two years I've been teaching kindergarten in an inner city and on an Indian reservation, and by night I've been doing investment banking. Now I'm here." I felt a little better after walking back to parking with people who said, "Yeah, I didn't want to get up there and say, I graduated from college, and now I work at a coffee shop."

8/25 and 8/26 Summary: Did homework at Starbucks, went to program, went out, went back to Mike's/hotel.

Snapshot: The Program was really outstanding. It was clear that everybody was smart and interested, but not over-the-top intense. Information spread through the days, so by the middle of Wednesday pretty much everyone had figured out their section, even though we don't register until next week. Mostly, the Program was social and allowed a group of realy interesting people to spend a couple of days getting to know one another.

At some point I discovered that lodging was free for the Program, which I had missed in the materials, so I managed to get myself moved into the hotel on Thursday so I could go out without having to drive afterwards. Around 8:30 the BYOB impromptu hotel party got going, and a couple guys showed up looking to go get something. I said I'd throw in, just bring me back whatever. They came back with 40s (pronounced: fo'-teez). So I had some vodka, some Olde English, transferred the party to Rick's bar across campus, had a Long Island Iced Tea and half a pitcher of beer, in that order. Just because I was hanging with 22-25 year olds does not mean I should've been drinking like a 19-year-old, but so be it. Somehow I staggered back to the hotel with some guidance (though, proudly, no physical assistance) at about 2:30, and I don't think I did anything too too stupid, at least nothing I remember or have heard about yet.

8/27 Summary: Woke up still drunk, drove to Law Quad, moved in, almost died, sat in on one session, took someone to airport, drove home

Snapshot: I showed up at around 8:20 for move-in. I was handed my keys, and then I got the big surprise. OK, to set the stage, look at this picture and this map of the Lawyer's Club and the Law Quad. From the picture, you can see that the building is basically 3 stories tall. From the map, you can see that the long block of University that much of the Club spans is broken up with a walkway.

What you don't see is that the walkway is actually an archway, designed in such a way that there are two, two-bedroom dorm rooms on the fourth floor and two on the fifth floor above the arch. I now have the privilege of being one of four Club residents with a fifth-floor walk-up. No elevator. During move-in, by the 8th trip up the stairs I thought I was going to die. On the plus side, I suppose it did sober me up. I'm actually kind of excited about it though; I told my folks I'll be disappointed if I'm not 30 pounds lighter when I come home over Christmas.

8/28 - 8/30 Summary: Bumming around Beallsville.

Tuesday I drive back to AA, Wednesday-Friday is orientation, Saturday is my first game at The Big House, and classes start the following Tuesday. Somewhere in all that, I'm going to find time to revamp this site, so stay tuned.

Monday, August 16, 2004

I'm hoping to write my "goodbye to L.A./Koreatown" post later today, but it just might not happen. It might get wrapped up in an omnibus post or series later on. Suffice it to say, Tim and I are on the road tomorrow. Phoenix tomorrow and maybe Flagstaff after the game. Albuquerque Wednesday night. Rolla, MO, Thursday, and Cardinals/Bucs on Friday afternoon. After that, wandering around the upper Midwest until taking in Sunday Night Baseball--Sox v. Sox. Then into Ann Arbor Monday afternoon. That's the itinerary. If not before, I'll be checking in from AA with much to tell, and a new blog name. Get your blogroll updates ready...

Friday, August 06, 2004

One of the little things I'll miss when I move is walking past the Ilgan Sports USA newspaper box every morning. (If your browser doesn't mind Korean, here's a link.) This is the Korean sports daily for the U.S. market. As you might imagine, their take on sports is slightly different--at least based on the single daily above-the-fold picture, which is all I can understand.

Until this week, you could count on one of the following being the above-the-fold picture, in roughly this order of frequency:

  1. Michelle Wie
  2. Whichever of the half-dozen or so Korean MLB players had the best day
  3. Kobe Bryant
  4. A Korean female golfer other than Michelle Wie
  5. A South Korean soccer player
  6. That Korean guy who got drafted late in the NBA 2nd round/Adrian Beltre (tie)

The last two on the list each appeared once--Jeff and I took it as a sign that Beltre had arrived, when he was featured recently. Interestingly, Laker triumphs inevitably ended with Kobe featured, never Shaq.

Last Saturday, though, after a certain transaction, I said to Jeff that the cover might have found its permanent poster boy. I don't know about permanent, but new Dodger Hee Seop Choi has been featured literally every day this week. This was a neat trick on Wednesday in particular, since Choi was DNP--Coach's Decision in Tuesday night's game.

Lots of people are trying to make sense of the Dodgers' deadline trades, but consider this. There's a huge Korean community in L.A., and it's centered not very far from Chavez Ravine. The Dodgers used to be able to count on a noticeable boost in attendance every five days when Chan Ho Park pitched. The prospect of having a Korean everyday player pulling in more Korean fans every day had to have played at least some role in the thinking behind the trade. I'm not saying Choi is a token--he has plenty of potential and a little bit of a pedigree already; I'm just guessing that it was a factor.

Now all Dodger fans and Koreans can hope that Hee is truly The Chosun One.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Last night was the first night of a planned month full of baseball, and particularly full of Pirate baseball. Brad Penny's debut in Dodger Blue was painful for Bucco fans--8 innings, 2 hits (both infield singles), faced 2 over the minimum. There were two mitigating factors: a comeback in the 9th that almost knocked off Gagne's new shorter streak, and 14 K's by Pirate pitchers in 8 innings, including 10 in 5 innings by Oliver Perez. Perez is 22. We like the Oliver Perez. He's one of those small, crafty lefties whose every pitch seems to move about 3 feet. Between him and the National League Rookie of the Month for June and July, the Brian Giles trade is looking better and better every day.

OK, there was actually a third mitigating factor: the scoreboard showing this picture of Jack Wilson looking as if someone has just hit him in a way so as to earn a Star Punch. Plus this picture of Ty Wigginton making his oooh face. Oooh. Oooh.

If all goes as planned, I'll be seeing those ridiculous pictures a lot. This Sunday I'm going with a bunch of people to Petco Park to see Pirates/Padres. On the 17th or 18th, the drive to Ann Arbor kicks off with the first leg, a drive to Phoenix to see the Pirates at the Diamondbacks. That Friday the Pirates will be in St. Louis, and so will I. At the end of the month I go home to Beallsville for 4 days, and the Pirates go home for three more with the Cards. If you're counting, that's one month, 5 games, 5 cities. Add in a possible trip to Angels/Tigers on my way out of town and a stop in Chicago after St. Louis for Sox/Sox, and that's a whole lot of hardball. In fact, I'll have seen baseball, from Maine to San Diego.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Yesterday I was getting on the 405 after having Pakistani food with one of my former advisors when I heard this loud pop as if something large had hit the passenger's side of the car. About three miles later, I started hearing some weird noises from the rear of the car. I pulled over and found that I had my first ever blow-out. Luckily, I pulled over about six blocks from The Average Mulder's house, and after a quick phone call he immediately came and helped me change the tire. (Or more accurately, I helped him. A little.) The odds here are staggering--keep in mind that even Jules and Vincent only had one friend in the 818, so it was a bizarre and extremely fortunate coincidence that I was so close to help.

There's not much else to tell, except that I can attest that if you would ever want to have all of your built up notions about the glitz and glamour of Hollywood destroyed in one fell swoop, spend your Monday evening at the Pep Boys at Hollywood and Gower sometime. That'll do it.

Sunday, August 01, 2004

I saw a couple of movies yesterday. The Village reminded me of a couple of things:

  1. I really enjoy "auteur" type movies where you can absolutely tell who directed the thing because they have a distinctive style and tone. The enjoyment I get from movies by Tarantino, Kubrick, the Coens, and M. Night Shamalamadingdong outstrips the amount of enjoyment I get from their stories and plots, because they keep me interested stylistically.
  2. Relatedly, I like it when directors play with color in interesting ways. Exhibit A here would be Far From Heaven, which is exceptional if only for that reason.
  3. M Night's movies have a profound sense of claustrophobia that adds to their creepiness. In The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable, this is often manifested in tight shots in closets and confined apartment spaces. In Signs much of this tension plays out in a farmhouse. In The Village, he actually manages to do this with outdoors scenes, which is quite an accomplishment.
  4. Having a Knob Creek and soda (more like a double, actually) at the theater can make for a lovely buzz during the first half hour of a movie.
  5. Regardless of all this, The Village is really boring. I got enough enjoyment out of the things above to make it a 2.5 star experience, but plot-wise I found it a yawner, even though I didn't see a lot of things coming.
  6. I get so caught up in the M. Night style that I always forget there's a twist coming. This probably means I'm a moron.
The other movie I saw was Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle. (See item #6, sentence 2 above.) All I can say is that this movie will live up to your expectations, regardless of how good or bad those expectations are. Mine were somewhat high for humor, and I wasn't disappointed. If you never like dumb movies, you don't need to be told to stay away. If you love dumb movies, you don't need to be told to go. If you sometimes like them, this one's probably one of the better ones, and so worth at least a rental. The extreme guys' music and the Newark beating of lesser versions are worth the price of admission.