Saturday, September 29, 2007

A Nerd Again

I have been trying to wait to post until I upload my pictures from Orlando, Marie and Dan's wedding in Zions, and Las Vegas. Unfortunately, I haven't yet gotten the camera cord to connect to the computer from David, so I still have not done this. However, I actually did purchase a new printer today that also has scanning capabilities, so I feel like my printing capabilities have finally moved into the 21st century.

It has been a busy first week back to school, but I am absolutely loving it. I can't possibly understate this. I love it. I love being back in an academic environment all day. I love working in the law library. I love taking notes from reading assignments. In fact, it is Saturday night and I am getting excited to do a reading assignment for class on Tuesday.

This feeling is in direct contrast to my views that I expressed after seing the movie "Into the Wild" last night. I was complaining about how the central character, whatever his name is, happens to be, in my view, one of the most selfish people on the planet. In fact, I went so far as to say that his selfishness is what killed him in the wilderness of Alaska. He was so starved because he falsely believed that he didn't need other people and that he was capable of doing all things on his own. Along the way of his journey, he successively and successfully blew off so many people whose lives he could have truly impacted, that is, were he not so selfish to only see the world in terms of what he wanted. He was blinded by his own ambition, when he hypocritically claimed that the materialist world in which we live blinds us from what is really important. Then, by the time he realized that life is only worth living when it is shared with others and when we are doing something to improve the lives of others, it was too late. Guess he should have realized that basic seasonal fact that springtime runoff from snow makes alpine rivers swell tremendously in size.

Here I am now, hypocritcally content with my own academic isolationism.

On a different note, here is something else good about today: I made a delicious fish po' boy sandwich for dinner. It really was very tasty. My cornmeal crust was perfect.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Back to School

I realize I have been slow in posting new content as of late. I haven't been lazy, just busy. Today I started my Law MLIS program, and since I only returned to Seattle late last night, I have been trying to get organized. My last week on vacation was very action packed. I had the opportunity to visit the two biggest tourists traps in America - Orlando and Las Vegas for two entirely unrelated, yet similar reasons. I will post more on this later.

As for now I need to go to sleep so as to prepare for my exciting second day back to school. I am still adjusting to being back on Pacific Time and I do not have the energy to post anything lengthier this evening.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Two weeks at the gym

What have I been doing since I have been home aside from attending high school football games and visiting Mississippi? Well, I have taken up my family's favorite hobby and have been spending alot of time at the gym. Both of my sisters, as former athletes, have always been pretty big into exercising. We joke around with Sarah that she has exercise bulimia because of how much she works out. My mom was also pretty athletic in earlier days. Now again, in the past few years, my mom has been working out daily and looks better than ever. Well, feeling like the lazy slob in the family, because my working out is spotty and isolated at best, I have used these past couple of weeks to work out daily. This means taking the favored class amongst my family at the gym, Body Pump, which basically is the most strength training that I have ever done in my life. As a result of this, I have had some days where muscles that I didn't know exisited on my body have been quite sore, but I truthfully feel better than ever. The goal is to keep this up when I get back to Seattle because I really do want to have toned arms and an actual waistline for my wedding dress. Unfortunately, my gym in Seattle doesn't have the Body Pump program. I have learned alot about how a fitness program needs to include more than just cardiovascular fitness, but needs to incoporate strength training and flexibility for overall health.

The other benefit from taking Body Pump and spending time at the gym is that I have caught up on the latest in pop music. Just when I thought I didn't recognize any of the songs played on popular radio, anymore. . .

Monday, September 10, 2007

Gothic Mississippi

When I write about going to Mississippi, I usually write about how much fun it is to see family, or to spend time at the farm, or how it reminds me of the English Countryside of Jane Austen settings. All of those things are still true, but it isn't entirely what compels me so much about that place. I usually leave out the darker parts that I am not quite sure what to do with or how to process. Nonetheless, I feel like I should say something about this, because I am more and more concerned with the degredation of rural America. It is a forgotten footnote to the cities and suburbs that dot the American landscape and command the attention of media because those places possess the consumer buying power that controls what places are worthy of attention.

Six weeks after my grandmother died, her house was burglarized in a pretty major way. My Aunt Barbara was living there at the time, and was at work, when the perpetrators cut a fence down the pasture and drove up a flatbed truck to remove whatever they could carry out. Aunt Barbara's dog Petey was kicked and tied up in a dog house while they systematically removed anything that wasn't tied down from the house. They got interrupted when trying to remove my Dad's John Deere Gator. However, they took the keys to that as well as the keys to Dad's tractor. They came back that night to remove the Gator, when Aunt Barbara was home. However, the investigator and a friend of my Dad's had disabled the Gator. They came back a third time, but Aunt Barbara frightened them away with her handgun, nearly shooting one of the intruders.

The part that I find so distressing about home invasions is that they have no respect for the history of the person whose property is invaded. In American society, for better or worse, it is quite often our property, what we own, that defines us. The history of my grandparents and their home was taken away in one desparate crime. When the pasture was searched, we found family mementos that were valueless to these criminals but were priceless to us: Pa-Paw's Polaroid Camera, for example. It was a symbol of our childhood, because Pa-paw followed us around everywhere snapping photos of my cousins, sisters and I at play. No, instead the intruders were more concerned with gathering up the unfilled prescriptions for Morphine and other pain medication that Ma-maw never took.

When the investigators came, they said that the door into the garage looked like it had been breached several times - opened with a sharp object. When Ma-maw was ill, she frequently talked about people coming in her home when she was there. She claimed that she could hear them talking. She claimed that she could hear them opening her closet door where she kept her medication. She claimed that one night, when she went to get a glass of water, she saw someone in her rocking chair. Now at this time in Ma-maw's life, she couldn't see very well. She had a brain tumor that eventually would take her life. We thought she was just seeing things, that it all was in her head. In retrospect, she probably wasn't making it up.

There is this kind of desparation born of drug use in rural America. A few days after the home invasion occurred, an African American boy went to a pharmacy in a nearby town, trying to fill one of Ma-maw's prescriptions for morphine. The security camera caught him, but the authorities never did. In fact, the authorities made little to no effort to apprehend any of the participants in the crime. The one person arrested, a girl, was the daughter of a recent candidate for Walthall County Sherriff. She is out of jail on five years probation. She didn't give up the name of any accomplices. Her family claims that she is clean now, but Aunt Barbara said that she better not see her on the road to her house, otherwise... When the intruders returned to the house, and Aunt Barbara called the authorities, they told her that she was crazy like her mom, that she was just seeing things. They didn't do anything. Law enforcement in rural Mississippi is a joke. During the Jim Crow era, they could be counted on to enforce racial separation and justice for no one, and now they delight themselves on being as corrupt as ever and protecting their own friends and family only. For the rest, we have no option but to attempt to protect ourselves, knowing that calling the police will bring a hasty response.

When Aunt Barbara and a neighbor observed a low flying aircraft routinely dropping packages on the gas pipeline, they didn't call the local sherriff. They called the feds located in Jackson - the DEA. They came, and ran an operation to try to apprehend the cargo plane dropping drugs in a place that they assumed that had been forgotten. The plane came, lowered down for the drop, saw the agents, pulled up and never returned again.

Why do I write all of this? Because this is a place that is home to my family. It isn't supposed to be that way in rural America. That is where we go to see the stars, to catch fireflies, to hear the birds sing. You can't see the stars if you are afraid to go outside at night.

There is a heaviness there. The place has so much history and so much hardship. But that same heaviness does make for great stories and great storytellers. Could William Faulkner have come from anywhere else? I love it but I confess that it does make me a little afraid.

I should say, these things happened four years ago. Since then, Aunt Barbara has said that she hasn't had any problems. They think she is Annie Oakley out there with her gun. But should it have to be that way? Shouldn't we care about the blight of drugs in the country? Walthall County, and places like it, are so far from the radar of any presidential candidate or person of influence or power.

I feel guilty. I sometimes think I should never have left the South because there is so much work to do here.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Friday Night Lights

I have been a little bit tardy in creating a new post. I have been back home in the South, and as expected, I become a little bit lazier when I come here. I have been home for a week. My schedule has basically consisted of playing tennis, watching tennis (the US open), going to the beach (only to have it rain), and spending alot of time at the gym. Oh yes, a trip to the South also includes alot of eating at all of my favorite restaurants, but I have spent alot of time talking about food before. So, I will bypass that discussion for an event that I haven't been able to do in over 10 years because I am never home at the right time. This event has only been made all the more exciting because of my love of the NBC critically acclaimed television series, "Friday Night Lights." It reminded me of how much fun it was to attend high school football games in the South back when I was a high school student. There is nothing like a late summer evening in a high school football stadium in the South. I wanted to live it again.

So tonight, my sister, Melissa, and I headed to our alma mater to see the Pensacola Tigers take on the Pine Forest Eagles.
It was a perfect steamy evening for the event. Pine Forest won the 2006 Florida State AAA Championship. Pensacola High has been picked to be a contender for State this year. I knew this game would be good.

To start the evening off with good football karma, Melissa and I headed to Krispy Kreme. In honor of football season, they have created a delicious doughnut treat in the shape of a football. Tasty and enthusiastic!

The setting: Jim Scoggins Stadium Pensacola, Florida; Air Temperature: 86 degrees Farenheit; Humidity: 95%; Wind: slight breeze from the Southeast; Kickoff time: 7:30 pm; Add all of these up - an evening of gridiron excitement.
The Tigers started out slow - allowing the Pine Forest Eagles to score 14 points before finally turning on their defensive might.
PHS blocked a punt and scored a safety, and then ended the first half with a field goal. Halftime score: Pine Forest leading 14 - 5.

Halftime Show! The Pine Forest Band performed first. This is where it gets weird. Pine Forest, known throughout Northwest Florida as a redneck school, peformed "A Tribute to Tiannaman Square." The opening number was called, "The Dawning of Democracy." What the H?

I didn't capture the most magical moment of the performance, though. I hope that it was a symbolic part of the show, representing the hopeful Chinese students who lost their lives standing defiantly in front of those Red Army tanks. At the end of the Dawning of Democracy, a tuba player fell down on the field. Suddenly, there were band members tripping all over her. She was stuck inside of her tuba, a lifeless form down on the 50 yard line. After the number was over, the band director rushed out to check on her. She was okay, she just twisted her ankle and couldn't get up (she was a rather large tuba player).

How could PHS's marching band compete with that. Two words: electric guitars.

Actually, I have to say, the PHS band made me very, very sad. Back in the day when I was a student at Pensacola High School, we had a drum line that could make you booty dance like nobody's business. Now, the drumline dwindled in size to only six people! And even worse than that, Pine Forest's band stole all of our old booty dancing songs. It was postively depressing. I mean, what is a Pensacola High School football game without some good booty dancing?

Without a good drum line, I was concerned about the ability of the Fighting Tigers to take control of the game in the second half. What was left to motivate them? I tried to convince Melissa to show a little more school spirit.

This picture may not be too convincing, but Melissa did bust out the Tiger Pride in the second half.

It was up to the cheerleaders (led by two girls named Jasmine and two girls named Ebony)to get the crowd back into the game. Note: back in the day, my sister Sarah would sometimes wear the PHS mascot uniform. There was no Tiger at the game. What happened to the mascot? Does Sarah need to come back and sweat up the costume again?

What else could PHS count on for generating some school spirit? Well, the standing IB geeks of course. This is a tradition that I am glad to see has survived the IB generations. We did the same thing back in my day - stand up during the entire game, sticking out like sore thumbs from the rest of the crowd. I used to be one of those IB geeks. It makes me all weepy and nostalgic.

You have to give it to those IB kids though - they certainly are the most spirited people in the stadium. That is the ironic fun of being a nerd at an inner city high school.

More gridiron game action:

Anyway, did the Tiger Pride have an effect? Well, we did manage to finally score a touchdown in the fourth quarter: Score 14-12. Pine Forest responded by marching the sticks back down the field the other way. Then, uh oh, with 1:10 left in the game, fumbled on the five yard line. Tiger Football! Tiger Football!

We moved the sticks back in the other direction. Unfortunately, with 1.1 seconds left on the clock, we only just made it into Pine Forest Territory at the 45 yard line. It was time for that Friday Night Lights moment. With the feeling of optimism that takes over the Dillon High Panthers game during the last few seconds on every episode of Friday Night Lights, I knew the field goal was a longshot but it just might happen. The kick was up and was going the distance and. . . and. . .

Final Score:

The kick was wide. The kicker was devastated. It was a very long kick. I didn't fault him at all. Those kind of endings only happen on scripted television shows.

Still, it was a very exciting game and a great way to spend a Friday Night. Pensacola Tigers, you will always be #1 to me!

Tomorrow, I am headed over to Mississippi.