Tuesday, January 26, 2010

(Plutonic) Man 'L' Word

Before we begin, please copy the link below and open it in a different page. Make sure your volume is up...


Legend has it that in the year of our Lord, 1979, a bearded man named Pat was propagated in a snowy field in South Dakota. Legend has it that he crawled out of the womb and exclaimed in Czech, "I am the SPA." Legend has it that in high school his dominance in the yearbook room sparked comparisons to King Leonidas' dominance on the battle field. Yes, Pat took no prisoners, edited those yearbooks like a mad man, and earned the highly coveted honor of being an All-State Yearbooker. While certain fame and an abundance of money was awaiting this humble humanitarian, he turned down a professional yearbook career to spread the Gospel to thousands. Legend has it that he inspired many during the school-year with a couple stints on NET, a year as a gourmet chef, and several years of campus ministry. Legend has it that his summers were spent serving at Camp Gray (which btw is considered by at least one man to be the best Catholic camp in the country), not for a mere summer or two, but for nearly a quarter of a century.

Legend has it that a simple blog writer that hailed originally from the panhandled state of Oklahoma became acquaintances with Pat in 2006 AD.

And now, this is where things get hazy among historians.

After several years of friendship, there was a man embrace between Pat and the blog writer not unlike: click here. While most historians agree that there would have certainly been a high level of awkwardness during a hug between Pat and the blog writer, what isn't agreed on is the comment that came forth from the bloggers mouth. Some argue that "I love ya, brah," was exclaimed, while many others claim there is clear evidence that "Alligator shoe, draw," was said.

While I can't be certain of which holds the most validity, what I do know is that Pat Andera is a man amongst boys (Literally. I mean come on, he's 30 years old and he works at a kids camp), and I'm humbled to have him as my friend.

- Peace be da journey.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Adventures in train travel, part 2

If you haven't read part 1, yet, click here.

1:45pm - After boarding a new train that will take me from Chicago to Little Rock, I discover that while there are not assigned seats on the train, there are sections which are reserved for couples, and I lacked .5 of a couple. The train attendant moved me to the front of the train where I sat by a seasoned Amtrak veteran - we'll call her Lisa. She was eager to help this novice with some inside information to traveling the world of rails.

2:07 - 2:36 - Power nap, which was ended by an: "Excuse me, can I get by you to use the restroom," from Lisa.

2:44 - All this bathroom talk reminded me that a visit to the facilities was long overdue, and upon Lisa's return, I received directions to the bathroom.

3:28 - I finally wandered over to the observation car, which confirmed my thought that traveling by rail would be quite a relaxing experience. The observation car definitely does not lack in great views, making a journey through the snowy midwest quite beautiful. The seating is different in the observation deck as well in that there are seats that face directly toward the window, rather than forward like in a plane, AND, there are several restaurant style booths to sit in to read/write/people watch - with an electrical outlet at each seat!

4:31 - As I navigated the swaying train back and forth between the observation cart and my seat, an elderly man walking towards me heading the opposite direction says, “So we dance.” (Isn't it cool how elderly folks can say and do pretty much anything they want? At what age does this begin? I'm not wishing away my childhood [I'm told that it ends at 30 {which reminds me, I was recently told that a double parenthesis is faux pas, but it is legal to throw a bracketed sentence into a parenthesised sentence, however, can you put a bracketed sentence inside the bracketed sentence which is inside the parenthesis, or do you move to something like this squiggly line thing...}], but I'm excited to be a grandpa someday.).

4:47 - Caleb calls to tell me he’s leaving work to start his 2-week wedding/honeymoon vacation. As we're talking, I see two deer off in the distance scurrying across a snowy midwestern field. "Dude, you're getting married," I say somewhat in disbelief, as if he needed a reminder. I've had other friends get married, but I think because I still hadn't met his lady friend, it seemed a bit unreal...

5:41 - I wander to the food cart with the hopes of purchasing a delicious train style meal, only to find that the cheapest food item available was a hot dog for $3.95. I resort to the Austin Peanut Butter Crackers and a bag of Frosted Animal Crackers that I packed for the journey, because it’s a known fact that when you can pay a mere 50 cents for a quality roller-dog at the Baraboo BP Station, why pay 8 times as much for one that isn’t even a roller...?

6:04 - The linebacker from Remember the Titans is seated in the booth near me.

6:49 - You may not have heard, but word of my illustrious middle school basketball career made it to Baraboo, WI, inspiring the principal of St. Joseph Catholic Elementary School to recruit myself and a fellow Camp Grayer, Moty, to coach the girls 5th grade basketball team (which actually doesn't have any 5th graders - but we do have two 6th graders, three 4th graders, and a 3rd grader). I have aspirations of writing an article about the hilariousness and greatness of this experience, but for now, I'm going to watch Hoosiers for inspiration.

7:48 - I paused the movie as we take a pit stop in St. Louis.

10:17 - That Jimmy Chitwood is so hot right now.

11:41 - I finally decide to quit fighting my tiredness and I try to sleep in my seat. Although the seats recline pretty far and there is a foot rest at each seat, I've never been very successful at sleeping in a chair.

12:21am - After a brief snooze, I notice the two seats behind me were unoccupied, so I do my best to curl my 6'4'' frame into fetal position.

2:04 - Caleb calls to check the status of my journey. With an ETA of 3:00am, he's eager for me to arrive. I realize that we're stopped, and after stumbling around for a few minutes to find an Amtrak staffer, I learn that we've been stopped for nearly an hour, pushing our arrival back to closer to 4.

2:31 - I called Caleb to pass along the unfortunate news. I then return to fetal position.

3:48 - 10 minute warning from Amtrak staff. We're almost to Little Rock.

3:58 - Train pulls into Little Rock Train Station.

4:09am - Caleb and Hedger arrive with sleep goop in their eyes and smiles on their faces. While the train travel adventure of two hundred and one - zero ended nearly as quickly as it began, the real adventure of an extended weekend in Little Rock for the wedding of my good friend Caleb has just begun. While stories and pictures from the wedding weekend await publication from the editor of a blog, allow me to recommend, in the meantime, that you research your own personal train adventure. It'll be an adventure you won't soon forget.

Thanks for tuning in, friends!

Peace be da journey!


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Adventures in train travel, part 1

I seem to fly a lot. Whether I’m flying to my folks place in Oklahoma, Grandma’s place in Florida, my folks place in Oklahoma, or some other random location, I’ve become so accustomed to flying that one might say that it has lost its luster (and that one person would be me). While road-tripping and I have a special thing going - a special thing that I’m not sure will ever lose its luster - I can only solo roadtrip so much (If you were to define my relationship status with roadtripping on facebook, it would say "In an Open Relationship") Back in July, when my buddy Caleb asked me to stand in his wedding in Little Rock, I knew I had a tough decision to make. Do I fly (again)? Do I solo roadtrip (again)? OR, do I embark on a journey the likes of which this young adventurer has never before experienced?

That’s right, friends. Amtrak it is.

I purchased my ticket back in October - a one-way ticket from Milwaukee to Little Rock - and have been anxiously awaiting the journey ever since. A phone call to the Amtrak office the night before I embarked helped to answer a few last minute questions, and as I went to bed that night, visions of the Polar Express (okay, I've never actually read/watched this story, but when the wife of a friend heard I was traveling by train she said, "Oh, like in Harry Potter!", which was met with a blank stare, because likewise, I haven't read/watched. Seemingly disgusted, she countered with, "Or, like in the Polar Express!" Not wanting to doubly disappoint/disgust, I enthusiastically nodded my head) were dancing in my head...

And now, in an effort to mimic my favorite article style of espn.com writer Bill Simmons, what follows is the play-by-play of my latest adventure...

6:00am - My Nokia 5600 cell phone alarm abruptly erupted (yeah, say that three times fast), followed by a swift poke at the snooze button.

6:10 - My Nokia 5600 cell phone alarm abruptly erupted (what if we morphed that into one word: abrupted) followed by a swift poke at the snooze button.

6:20 - My Nokia 5600 cell phone alarm abruptly erupted (are you still reading these lines or do you assume they are the same as before because they start the same?) followed by a swift poke at the snooze button.

6:30 - Okay, I'm up. After a nice long shower and two cups of coffee, the finishing touches were put on my packing, and I then loaded up an ice chest (or, for those of you in the north, a COOLER) with cokes (or, for those of you in the north, sodas) and snacks (or, for my brother, snack'ms).

Editors note: Go do an image search on google.com of "ice chest" and see which image comes up first. Seriously, go do it. I'll wait....

... And, boom goes the dynamite.

7:50am - A fellow Camp Grayer, Sean, kindly agreed to take me to the train station, which meant I didn’t have to deal with paying for parking (which seemed like a solid idea until I had 16 hours of solitude on a train to weigh the cost of $5/day parking vs. an extra round-trip from Camp to Milwaukee. At the end of the day, I'll call it a push.")

8:38 - Sean and I paid a quick visit to my old friends at the East Madison Panera Bread Co. Unhesitatingly, I ordered a cinnamon crunch bagel, which of course was bread sliced to my proper specifications (If you've never ordered a bagel "bread sliced" at Panera, do it now.).

10:23 - After being dropped at the Milwaukee train station, I strolled into the station feeling a bit out of place, even if my suitcase no doubt screamed, "The guy carrying me has traveled by trains for years..."

(this isn't actually my suitcase, but does have a solid resemblance.)

11:11 - The station in Milwaukee isn't a "hub," so once the train arrives, you simply load up and go. There isn't any security, no frisking, no bag checking, or even assigned seats. You just grab your stuff and go.

11:47 - As the conductor meandered through the train collecting tickets, he excitedly asked about my Pittsburgh Pirates hat. He told me that he has followed the Pirates extensively ever since the Pirates radio play-by-play man once traveled on his train. Two women behind me overheard our conversation and mentioned that they too were Pirates fans. This, of course, thrilled me - for a while now I've assumed I was alone in my Pirates fandom - and it also debunked a comment a man said later on my journey:

a man: "You play ball?"

Me: (Assuming he is making mention of my Aderhold Height) "Basketball?"

a man: "No, baseball, I noticed your Pirates hat..."

Me: (Surprisingly excited that he actually thought I was a professional athlete) "Ah, nope, just a fan."

a man: "Oh, well, there aren't many Pirates fans out there."

Me: (Hoping to end the conversation rather than get into a debate about how I was recently surrounded by 3 fellow Pirates fans...) "Yep"

12:29 - Arrive in Chicago, where an old college friend, Katie, is waiting for me with a Chicken Caesar Sandwich from Panera Bread Co. (Any day that involves Panera for both breakfast and lunch is a good day!) We reminisce about the good ole days (she once ate a spaghetti dinner with my family and flipped a fork-full of noodles onto her white shirt), devoured our sandwiches, made eye contact with a fellow train traveler that appeared two eye-contacts away from an all out conniption fit, discussed the improbability of my friend Caleb tying the knot, and then find where I'll be boarding for the next leg of my journey. The first portion of the journey was relatively quick and easy, but this next section of rail will test my adventure seeking mettle...

To be continued.... (soon!) (like in a day or two!) (Go Pirates!) (Go Thunder!)

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Happy Two Hundred and One - Zero!

Greetings friends!

How the heck are ya?

I was reminded recently that it had been a long, long time since I gave the pages of a blog any love (I actually didn't need a reminder, as the pain I've felt neglecting these pages has been nearly unbearable). It's fitting that the last post I published way back in September was in regards to my newest adventure; grad school, as it has been mostly-to-completely responsible for the long layoff (which, if you're scoring at home, was longer than the recent sabbatical for summer camp - an unfortunate fact).

To update, grad school has been going very well, albeit more challenging than I could have ever imagined. (Who knew that a business degree wouldn't properly prepare me for the rigors of a Masters in Theology?) But, I've been able to keep my head afloat, and survived to live another semester, which doesn't start until the end of this month. Yes friends, that gives us nearly 4 weeks to catch up and to tell a few stories.

I'll be embarking tomorrow morning on an odyssey of epic proportions - a 16-hour train ride from Milwaukee to Little Rock to take in the festivities of the Bloyd - Johnson wedding. Mr. Bloyd and I met back in college at Oklahoma State, and haven't agreed on an OSU coaching hire since.

I'm excited to have 16-hours of people watching, blog writing time, reading, and more people watching, but mostly, I'm excited to see my friends in Arkansas. It's been much too long since I've been in the company of my close friends from college.

A 16-hour train ride? Yeah, look for a Bill Simmonsesque time table update in the coming days for an intense and exact play-by-play story chronicling this adventure.

I hope you and your family had a lovely yule-tide Christmas, and that your New Year brings nothing but fun adventures. Oh, and the staff at a blog are starting an underground movement... A discussion was hatched the other day: Is it 'Two thousand and ten' or do we call it 'Twenty-ten'? Nay... I say neither. The year is: Two hundred and one - zero.

Thanks for tuning in, friends.

Check back soon!

Peace be da journey!