friday, september 09, 2011
Arizona State vs MissouriMy 2011 football watching season got officially underway as my dad and I headed over to Tempe to see the Sun Devils take on the Tigers. Weirdly enough, the last time I was at Sun Devil Stadium it was to see Missouri. This time it didn't end any better for the boys from Mizzou.
The weather all week has been consistently past the century mark and that was the expectation for this one, even though kickoff was well after sunset. A band of thunderstorms moved through during the day and the temperatures were... well, still pretty warm but very nice for an early-season game.
The ASU folks decided to run a gameday special on lower level tickets, probably due to the fact it was a nationally-telecast game. Dad said the nosebleed ones were fine so we hiked up to our aerie just below the luxury boxes for this one. We got there about half an hour before kickoff and there were lots of open spots around the stadium.
wednesday, february 16, 2011
Why Toomer's Corner is ImportantThe Iron Bowl is the one time each and every season an Alabama fan cannot hold anything in reserve. It is the game you are completely invested in no matter whether you think the Crimson Tide are a lock to win or have hardly a chance at all.
As a result, the outcome of the game is marked by the most extreme of emotions by the faithful. Some years Alabama wins and I enjoy the most delightful rush of ecstasy and joy that lingers with me for weeks on end. Some years Alabama loses and I'm crushed emotionally and physically, left in a dour mood that takes at least a fortnight to shake.
No matter what, when the game ends it's over. Until next year...
Harvey Updyke couldn't wait till next year. When Alabama fell to Auburn last November he felt the formidable sting of the loss and instead of accepting it and rising to the challenge it presented -- which is what we ask of the players -- he chose to strike back in the most destructive manner he could think of. read more
friday, january 14, 2011
Kleph Looks Back on the 2010 SeasonWith the fall of confetti to the field at the University of Phoenix stadium in Glendale on Monday, the 2010 college football season has come to a bittersweet close.
It has been one hell of a memorable season for me. In the course of the last three-and-a-half months I've been able to see no less than 15 football games (including 12 college contests) involving 24 different teams. I've traveled to five separate states and seen games in nine different stadiums.
That's more football in general and Alabama football in particular than I've ever been able to see live and in person over the course of a single season in my entire life. And it was a blast from start to finish. During the course of it all I endured my team suffering two painful losses. Weirdly, this only made the experience that much more meaningful. read more
wednesday, january 12, 2011
The Tostitos Fiesta Bowl Gameday
Few bowl games this year inspired less enthusiasm than the matchup of No. 4 Oklahoma against No. 25 UConn in the Fiesta Bowl. As the champions of the Big XII and Big East conferences respectively, both earned their way to the game but the mismatch was apparent to any reasonable person who had been watching this season.
As great a time I had earlier this season visiting Connecticut's Rentschler Field for their matchup with Buffalo, I certainly didn't see anything in the team's performance to lead me to believe they were any kind of giant killer. Still, there's a reason they play the games and so, after watching my beloved Crimson Tide annihilate Michigan State, off I went to Glendale. read more
tuesday, january 04, 2011
Kleph Doesn't Go to the BCS National ChampionshipBack in October, I purchased a suite of tickets to bowl games here in Arizona affiliated with the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl. The whole thing was a deal to pick up a ticket to the BCS National Championship Game: if you wanted to see the title matchup you had to buy the rest. Which was fine by me since my goal this season was to see as much college football in person as I possibly could.
Now I certainly was hoping my Crimson Tide was going to be in the game but I knew it was a long shot. Never in my worst nightmares did I think our most hated rival Auburn would earn the honor. But that's exactly what came to pass and, in a weird way, I took a perverse pride in the fact I would be going to see the game. It was a twisted testament to my hate.
Then the resale prices for the ticket started to climb. And they climbed a lot. read more
wednesday, december 29, 2010
The Insight Bowl Gameday
When the bowl lineups were announced earlier this month, The Insight Bowl was probably the one I was most excited about.
While Iowa fans had to feel their team's had a disappointing 7-5 season but my impression of seeing them play in September was that this was a squad with a lot of talent and potential. Missouri flirted with the No. 1 ranking in the nation for a week after beating Oklahoma but their stellar 10-2 record, while legitimately achieved, smacked a tad of overachievement.
What I was expecting was a high octane offense match up against a solid bend-but-don't-break defense for a great 60 minutes of football. And guess what? That's exactly what I got.
saturday, december 25, 2010
The MAACO Las Vegas Bowl Gameday
Las Vegas is only about a five hour drive away from where I am and the journey didn't seem too insane to watch what promised to be one of the better matchups in the bowl season - The No. 20 team in the land, the Utah Utes (10-2) taking on the No. 10 Boise State State Broncos (11-1).
Sounds like a pre-New Year's Day bowl dream but then Mother Nature decided to step in.
For much of the week, the West Coast was pounded by rainstorms and on gameday one of these systems had moved over Southern Nevada and was just sitting there. Hovering over Las Vegas dropping a copious amount of rain on the region.
Getting on Highway 93 going north in Phoenix there wasn't any precipitation to contend with but the skies sure weren't welcoming either. Pretty much across the whole of Arizona things went smoothly enough but right about Kingman the rain started. read more
tuesday, december 14, 2010
AIA High School Championships Gameday
It's a long tough slog from the end of the college football regular season to the start of the bowl games. Not as tough as the brutal 8-month death march of the off-season of course, but a difficult stretch nonetheless. Luckily, I found something to get me through it - the Arizona High School football championships.
Arizona splits its highest division 5A into two independent divisions. The 5A-I game was featuring the Hamilton High School Huskies from Chandler versus Mesa's Desert Ridge Jaguars. The 5A-II contest pitted Scottsdale's Chaparral High School Firebirds against the Centennial High School Coyotes from Peoria, AZ. These are all from the Phoenix metro area so I figured there would be a decent number of folks out at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale to see these games. read more
monday, december 06, 2010
A Few Thoughts on Alabama's 2010 Regular SeasonIt’s not the will to win that matters. Everyone has that. It’s the will to prepare to win that matters. – Paul W. Bryant
There are few times in my long love affair with Alabama football that have been as painful and disheartening as the end of this year’s Iron Bowl. To see a team this talented come that close to victory and squander it away simply stung in a way few loses over the years ever have. It’s not a game that will or should be forgotten anytime soon.
Which makes it a little odd that I find myself not only optimistic about this team in particular, but in a pretty good mood about the state of the Crimson Tide nation in general. And to understand why you need to start with Coach Saban’s book, “How Good Do You Want to Be?” read more
wednesday, december 01, 2010
Georga Tech vs Georgia Gameday
While I was initially disappointed that the powers-that-be had forced the Iron Bowl to be moved to the Friday following Thanksgiving it turned out to be a bit of a boon for my game-going expedition. There were a host of other rivalry games occurring the following day and one that I had a particular curiosity about was the one pitting the Georgia Bulldogs against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets.
So I got in contact with T. Kyle King, the proprietor of Dawg Sports website which covers all things concerning the University of Georgia athletics and asked if he could help me get to see the game and he was more than happy to help. read more
monday, november 29, 2010
Auburn vs Alabama Gameday
First and foremost, even three days since this game I'm still wincing from the thought of it. The 75th Iron Bowl was not the Crimson Tide's greatest moment on the gridiron. Pretty much all our hopes for the 2010 season went "POOF!" in the second half of the game at the hands of our greatest rivals. In some ways, the lost to Louisiana-Monroe in 2007 stung less.
But this blog is about the experience of attending these games. And as godawful as the outcome o the contest was, the atmosphere leading up to this game was one of the most electric I've had the pleasure of experiencing in Tuscaloosa.
The students were at the gates five hours before kickoff for seats. Given the weather -- temperatures in the low 40s and dropping with intermittent rain -- not to mention the likelihood of hangovers this was an impressive level of dedication. I offered a heartfelt "Roll Tide" in support but then hurried on to find a warmer location to wait for the game. read more
friday, november 19, 2010
Georgia State vs Alabama Gameday
Due to a series of scheduling quirks, Alabama was playing on Thursday night this week. It was the first Thursday contest for the Crimson Tide since 2001 when a matchup with Southern Mississippi was moved back due to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The foe this week was Georgia State, whose football team was in its inaugural year under former Crimson Tide head coach Bill Curry.
My mom, who is from Atlanta, was incredulous this summer when I told her Alabama was playing the Panthers. Her brother, a Georgia grad who follows college football pretty casually if at all, simply didn't believe her when he was told last week. But, yes, it was true and Georgia State fans were on hand in T-town to prove it. read more
monday, november 15, 2010
Mississippi State vs Alabama Gameday
I returned to Tuscaloosa in the wake of the LSU game to an Alabama fanbase oddly distracted from the next SEC West matchup. The aspirations of an SEC Championship and possibly even more were dashed in Baton Rouge and, for the most part, the enthusiasm for football seems to have waned significantly in comparison to my visit in September.
Interestingly, this feels similar to the 1986 season when I was a student at Alabama. An undefeated run and aspirations of post-season success were dashed after a loss to Penn State. The Tide went into a tailspin that year, I was hoping history wouldn't repeat in that respect. read more
monday, november 08, 2010
Alabama vs LSU Gameday
Now my family is originally from Louisiana and I grew up in the state. So LSU fandom is something I like to think I know a bit about. I've got a healthy respect for the more colorful aspects of the experience but an ample amount of caution for it's less redeeming qualities. So I was pretty excited about going to this game.
I stayed with my cousins in Loreauville near New Iberia the week before the game. It is sugar cane harvesting season in Iberia Parish and the tractors hauling the cut cane to the mill are on the roads from first light. On gameday I got up really early to get out before they descended en masse and made my journey a little more perilous from the start than I would like. read more
sunday, october 31, 2010
Washington State vs Arizona State Gameday
This week was Alabama's bye week so I didn't have to hang around the house/bar waiting for the game and could head afield and see one live. Which worked out rather well since Arizona State is just down the road and they were hosting their conference rivals Washington State this week. Even better, it was ASU's homecoming.
I got to downtown Tempe well ahead of kickoff to wander around and see what was going on in anticipation of the matchup. There was a lot of the usual stuff -- the band performing for the fans, people wandering too and fro in tailgates and such. And a little bit of Halloween weirdness just to make it interesting.
There was also a school fair where various departments had set up tables and students were showing off stuff while telling folks about all the fun stuff they did. I looked around for the Philosophy department but I guess they were too busy defining a priori truths or something. read more
saturday, october 09, 2010
Mountain View vs Mesquite gameday
While high school football in Arizona doesn't reach the level of intensity as you find in places like Texas, it's still a pretty big deal. The vast suburbs of Phoenix abound with high schools of every size and Friday nights in the fall are a vast tapestry of gridiron action. The local paper lists more than 100 games for the football aficionado to choose from.
So I asked my friend Paul -- a fellow Crimson Tide fan who grew up out here -- what matchup might be worth checking out and he suggested we go to Mountain View High School in Mesa to watch the Toros take on the Wildcats from Mesquite High School in Gilbert. Sounded good to me. read more
sunday, september 26, 2010
Buffalo vs UConn Gameday
I was out on the East Coast visiting my brother in Connecticut this week and took the opportunity to pop in on a football game while in the neighborhood. Initially, I wanted to go see Yale play simply to check out the Yale Bowl which is the template for Pasadena's famed Rose Bowl Stadium. But the Bulldogs were playing an away game and so the next option was UConn.
The Huskies play at Rentschler Field in East Hartford, Connecticut. The 40,000-capacity venue opened in 2003 on the former site of the company airfield for the airplane engine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney. Before that time UConn played at Memorial Stadium in Storrs, CT. The history of the place is immediately evident as the retired runway is the main access to the parking areas. read more
sunday, september 19, 2010
Arizona vs. Iowa Gameday
This game was an unexpected opportunity when I learned about it during the off-season. Iowa plays that kind of smash-mouth, defense-oriented cro-magnon-type football that Alabama fans love so much. Arizona is... um, close geographically.
So dad picked up a pair of tickets and after watching my beloved Crimson Tide under-perform against a cupcake opponent for a half of football we set out to Tucson (Alabama eventually bested Duke 62-13). As we left Phoenix the temperature was in the 110 degree-range and the humidity in the teens.
Tucson isn't that big but it can be a bit confusing given the weird alignment of some of the streets. We found a Vietnamese restaurant about a half-mile from the stadium that let us park in their lot for $10 (after seeing such spots go for $40 or more in T-town, I had no problem taking the offer).
monday, september 13, 2010
Alabama vs Penn State Gameday
I was out the door by 8 a.m., and it was clear that it was gonna be a hot one in T-town. The heat and humidity were already significant and the bright sun only promised more of the same as the day progressed.
My first stop was the Walk of Champions in front of Bryant-Denny Stadium where ESPN's College GameDay was set up. Sure enough, there was a decent crowd of people present and doing their best to get their signage and banners on the TeeVee.
A lot of the folks were clearly from the nearby fraternity and sororities but there were a number of tents about the grassy areas where the die-hards had waited overnight.
As entertaining as the people-watching promised to be, I knew it would be wise to take the sweltering weather in increments throughout the day. So I headed up the strip to Egan's to enjoy the air conditioning and hold down the corner of the bar in case anyone wanted to meet a quasi-famous blogging celebrity. This plan went awry the second I walked in the door since it was scarcely cooler inside than on the street.
wednesday, september 08, 2010
Returning to TuscaloosaTuscaloosa holds a really strange place in my memory. The map in my mind isn't simply a quarter-century out of date, its landmarks tend to be tied more strongly to emotion and image than anything having to do with reality. And juxtaposing that mental map with the existing reality of streets and structures can be disorienting to say the least.
Wandering around last night with some friends they pointed out the former location of a number of haunts I remember vividly. But my memory is of the interiors and events (and those tend to be alcohol-enhanced more often than not), assembling them in a geographic manner that has any relation with this city's current arrangement is impossible.
Still, as odd as the sense of place may be geographically, it certainly isn't socially. The same types of folks I remember from my days haunting the nooks and crannies of this little town seem to still be here -- for better and for worse. read more
thursday, may 01, 2008
The Paradigm Shift in American SportswritingEarlier this week, Will Lietch, the man behind the fantastically popular sports blog, Deadspin, decided to take part in a panel on Bob Costas's HBO show, CostasNow. Also taking part was Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist H.G. "Buzz" Bissinger, who has made a name as an author of books on various sports themes.
The discourse died the second Bissinger told Lietch "You're full of shit."
Now, I might not possess a Pulitzer Prize but years ago, when I was setting out to get a degree in Philosophy, I learned the hard way that the hallmark of a losing argument was when you became incensed. Cursing means you have graduated to simply showing your ass.
Undaunted, Bissinger went on to excoriate Lietch as an exemplar of all the excesses attributable to those who write under the aegis of bloggers. In one sense, Lietch is a valid target due to the sheer dominance his site has over its niche. But the vitrol this lauded writer spewed out obliterated any possibility of discourse. read more
monday, july 30, 2007
A Requiem for Foreign JournalismI got an email from a gentleman I know very slightly through another website this week asking for information about Peru. Turns out he is about to head down here with his family and had some serious concerns about the situation in the country.
He did his research and came up with a number of stories about recent unrest which, allied with a State Department warning issued last week, had sharpened his concerns.
“It is hard to judge from the limited info I can find what the feeling is like down there,” he wrote.
I was able to give him an “on the ground” report – as well as pointing him to my entries on the incidents I’ve posted on my other blog Andean Currents - that assuaged his concerns but the fact he felt the need to even contact me over this was troubling to me. read more
monday, may 14, 2007
SoberTwo years ago I woke up with a bit of a hangover after having a bunch of friends over for dinner the night before and decided that was the last one I would ever put myself through.
And, so, with that, I joined the ranks of the non-drinkers.
The first question I get when I tell folks I don't drink is "Why?" My glib answer is that everyone says “I can quit whenever I want to” and I did. The real answer is a bit more thorny.
I like beer. I like all different types of alcohol. I enjoy reveling in a well made brew or mixed drink. Few things in this world are more sublime than a 30-year-old single malt scotch. Also, I like having a buzz but, if I was drinking for drinking sake, I didn’t waste good alcohol on the effort.
That stated, I never liked being drunk - particularly to the point I could not function. The feeling of being out of control was never enjoyable to me. read more
wednesday, april 18, 2007
Cashing in on Socialism in EcuadorLast year, I headed up to Quito, Ecuador on assignment and stumbled across a very interesting t-shirt shop in the Simon Bolivar section of the city – Stefan Brandt’s Only Nature Materials factory outlet.
The owner turned out to be a 44-year-old entrepreneur who came to South America from from Germany with an advanced degree in physics in 1993 and a desire to start over. Brandt made a few attempts at the business until 2000 when he found the key to make it work; “use only the very best materials.”
The result was his prices shot up but the quality of the product was so high he found a waiting market.
These t-shirts cost about $30 apiece. His other clothing such as light jackets, pullover sweaters and such are priced similarly. In a region where mass-produced clothing pushes tourist tees into the $5 range that seems like a suicidal business plan. read more
monday, april 09, 2007
An Interview with Jaime RazuriOn New Years Day, a Peruvian photojournalist for Agency France-Presse, Jaime Razuri, was kidnapped at gunpoint in the Gaza Strip. For six days his whereabouts were unknown as journalists and diplomats from around the globe demanded his release. He was freed, unharmed, on Jan. 7.
The incident made him a minor international celebrity and a major one in his home country. But it also overshadows a more than 20-year career that has included covering some of the most turbulent conflicts in our times.
Jaime studied photography at the University of Lima and then journeyed to Spain to hone his skills further. By the end of the 1980s he was working as a photojournalist in Lima during the devastating conflict led by communist insurgents that included the infamous Shining Path. read more
monday, april 02, 2007
All the President's Men - Carl Bernstein and Bob WoodwardI had the good fortune (or prescience) to not read All the President’s Men until after I became a working journalist. As a result I was less swayed by the drama of sticking it to the man than the book’s vivid depiction of real journalists at work.
It’s my firm belief that every journalist can be classified by their favorite episode in the book (or scene in the movie). Most of the go-getting investigative types I've ever met were inspired by the idea of Bernstein jotting down the notes from the reluctant source on napkins, matchbooks, whatever.
That one always bothered me. It seemed somewhat… unethical. The source clearly is concerned about how they will be affected by giving out the information and the reporter is bending over backwards not to break that spell. Of course when the story is in the paper it’s not going to matter much is it? read more
monday, february 26, 2007
Soft Drinks in South AmericaYou are what you drink. And nowhere is that more true than in South America.
Soft drinks – or gasiosas, as they are called in Spanish – can vary widely across South America. With interesting histories and cultural significance that are as important to the people that drink them as the taste itself. The different herbs and fruits that are indigenous to the region give many of the most popular brands their distinct taste.
These also pose a bit of the challenge for outsiders trying them for the first time. Venturing out of my coca-cola universe into this strange world of drinks took as much courage as getting on the plane to come south in the first place.
The most formidable hurdle has to be the undeniable fact that many soft drinks in South America are a god bit sweeter than what you get in the US. A lot sweeter, in fact. Part of this is due to the fact that US soft-drink makers tend to use corn syrup as a sweetener. In South America, sugar prices are much lower and the drinks feature the real thing. read more
monday, december 18, 2006
The Mendívil figurinesThe San Blas section of Cusco has long been a center for Peruvian artists. Every storefront along the steep cobblestone streets is an entryway to the handiwork of a local master.
Even so, the Hilario Mendívil Museum stands out. Located in the corner of the San Blas Plaza the bold blue doors and balcony are as eye catching as the tile paintings that line the wall. This is the former workshop and home of one of Peru’s most famed artists.
The Mendívil sculptures are ornate and impossibly detailed figurines that depict Madonnas, archangels, saints and many other religious figures. The one characteristic that has become most closely identified with the Mendívil sculptures is the long graceful necks of the figures.
It was a touch Hilario Mendívil took from his childhood – seeing the llamas and alpacas for sale in the streets of his native Cusco. read more
wednesday, october 18, 2006
The Lord of MiraclesThere is, perhaps, nothing more Peruvian than The Lord of Miracles. For almost the whole month of October is devoted to this unique religious icon and it is venerated by Peruvians across the globe
The Lord of Miracles, or El Señor de los Milagros as it is known in Spanish, is actually a centuries-old painting on the wall of a relatively obscure church in central Lima.
According to tradition, in 1651 a slave who had converted to Catholicism painted the depiction of Christ on the cross on the wall of a building in the outskirts of Lima where new devotees to the faith gathered to pray.
When a devastating earthquake struck the city four years later the entire building collapsed except for the wall adorned with the painting. Over the next several decades, the image became associated with miraculous incidents. More and more people, particularly the descendents of slaves, began to worship at the site. read more
wednesday, october 04, 2006
Keeping Track of TimeIn 1950, Dimas de Melo Pimenta, a businessman in Sao Paulo, Brazil, bought a pocket watch. From that humble purchase he began an obsession with time.
He became a specialist in watches, clocks and timepieces and later founded Dimep, a company that today specializes in clocks and timekeeping services.
And he started collecting.
Today there are more than 700 timepieces in the late-inventor’s collection on display at the Dimep offices in Sao Paulo. The oldest being a silver clock from Germany made in 1535 that consists of just an hour hand – minute hands wouldn’t arrive for another century and a half.
The existence of a museum in Brazil might strike some as incongruous in a region of the world where the perception of time is often a bit less. . . restrictive than in most English-speaking countries. read more
sunday, june 11, 2006
How Coffee Changed the Modern WorldIt is difficult to overestimate the impact of coffee on our modern world. In fact, an peek at how this interesting plant has changed the world we live in can be illuminating on where we might be headed.
A few years ago I happened to pick up Peter L. Bernstein’s Against the Gods: The Remarkable Story of Risk. It’s a fascinating look at mankind’s long and complex effort to understand risk and probability; or, more precisely, to find a way to predict the future from the confines of the present. It turns out that coffee has an interesting chapter in that tale. read more
saturday, december 03, 2005
Life as a Foreign JounalistSince heading to South America to make my way as a foreign journalist I have noticed many of my friends who still toil in the bosom of daily domestic newspapers are a touch envious. They shouldn't be. The grind of being a freelance foreign journalist provides as much frustration and irritation as working a cruddy bureau beat. It provides some of the same ethical dangers as well.
Recently, COX News Service put out a story that was blatantly plagiarized from other sources. The usual hand wringing and recriminations followed. They blamed their contract freelancer who, in turn, blamed his “fixer.”
Don’t know what a “fixer” is? Well neither did I and I am a contract freelancer by trade. Luckily, former South American contract freelancer David Paulin penned an interesting article for Editor & Publisher magazine examining exactly how foreign journalism works in the wake of this mess. read more
sunday, september 04, 2005
Rising Tide - Jason M. BerryIn a few weeks, the world will forget Hurricane Katrina. The cameras will leave, the news coverage will become an addendum after dutiful reports of suicide bombings somewhere suitably arid and Louisiana and Mississippi will be left to rebuild as best they can alone.
For decades this region of the country has been entirely forgotten except as the butt of jokes and patronizing interest in the more salubrious elements of our rich culture.
Those of us who come from this area know very well that the fact the rest of the country has lost interest, the effect of what has just happened will continue to roll onward. This hurricane will likely transform America as we know it and, likely, in ways more profound than even 9/11.
In 1998, Jason M. Berry published a fascinating book titled “Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and How It Changed America.” It would do the country good to revisit this tome as we watch the carnage on CNN. read more
wednesday, august 17, 2005
Marlin BoulevardThere is a place in the deep blue water of the Pacific about 35 miles off the coast of Northern Peru that was once known as "marlin boulevard." During the 1950’s a unique combination of ocean currents and underwater geography led the sleepy little fishing village of Cabo Blanco to become the nexus of the booming sport of deep-sea sport fishing.
Sport fishermen from around the world knew about the abundance of Peruvian waters as early as the 1930s but it wasn’t until after World War II that several Americans came and began looking using scientific analysis. Texas oilman Alfred C. Glassell, Jr. proved the theories right on April 7, 1952 when he caught a 1,025-pound black marlin that was the first fish ever caught that weighed more than 1,000 pounds. read more
saturday, may 14, 2005
Almost precisely halfway down the brick-paved street is a little-noticed memorial. A harsh steel obelisk with a jagged lightening-like design. It stands in sharp contrast to the casual walking area where young children ride their bikes, tourists amble by and restaurant proprietors invite you in to try their food.
This is Tarata.
On July 16, 1992 a car bomb exploded at this site killing 25 people and injuring hundreds more. It was the single most bloody day in the most bloody of conflicts. read more
thursday, february 26, 2004
Peruvian Drinking EtiquetteOne of the strangest nights of my life came just about a decade ago when I traveled from Dallas Texas to Austin with my friend John Wayne. The ostensible reason was to watch the NCAA final four with some friends of his; the practical reason was to waste a weekend having fun in Austin. Which we proceeded to do.
I have a lot of interesting memories from that trip - whacking golf balls out of the backyard at 3 a.m., playing sink-the-keg, the restaurant where they insult you as they cook your burger - but the most interesting was learning the brutal intricacies of three man.
Now, as a longtime undergraduate, I had encountered the excitement of three man in the past. It is a drinking game where you roll the dice and members of the group must drink according to what numbers are exposed. It is called three man because one person is always designated the "three man" and must drink whenever a three appears. not an enviable slot. read more
thursday, february 05, 2004
Climbing Mount MistiWhen Lawrence said he planned on climbing Mount Misti, I simply passed it off as the bluster of an English tourist caught up in the excitement of travel. We had already been up to Colca Canyon which, to reach, you have to pass the 4,800 meter mark. Sure it gave you a bit of a headache to be that high but seemed easy enough when we got off the bus and wandered around.
So I was more than a little surprised to find myself a few days later sitting on a rock in the middle of the night amid an absurdly steep snowfield approximately 5,000 meters above sea level.
As Lawrence and I tried gulping down breaths in the thin air the freezing wind whipped past us with absolutely no inclination of letting up.
"Who the hell's idea was this?" he said.
I was too exhausted to even offer my regular sarcastic reply. With still had more than two hours left to climb I had reached the point of giving up on this adventure. My legs hurt, I was freezing cold, I could not breath, I had no energy left and I had finally realized that I had absolutely no good reason to be there. read more
tuesday, february 03, 2004
A Mother of a Tongue - Learning SpanishLearning Spanish is, to use the expression, a bitch.
I made at least a dozen attempts to master a foreign language in my checkered career in higher education and none were the slightest bit successful. The blame lies with equal parts indolence, dyslexia and sheer outright difficulty. But, now I am in Peru and I am hoping the immersion method has some promise.
Peru is actually a great place to study Spanish. They speak a very conservative version of the language – Mexican Spanish, for example, has a lot of slang – and they articulate very well. On the downside, they speak it fast.
I have found that, for the most part, people here are patient with you and try to speak in their broken English or very slowly in Spanish. Often though, if you are with a group of people, at some point they slip into normal conversational mode. Then you find yourself sitting alone. It is a disconcerting feeling, much like when you were a child and the grownups were talking. read more
sunday, february 01, 2004
Observations and Errata about PeruAssorted observations about Peru in no particular order:
There is a glorious absence of power engines. The workers sweep parking lots and sidewalks rather than blast the detritus with the scream of leaf blowers. And despite the luxury, it is a sad statement on the state of employment, pay and the price of mechanical goods. Similarly the whine of chainsaws is exchanged for the persistent hacks of machetes. A daunting task given the girth of many trees targeted for trimming. of course the abundance of motorcycle taxies in the northern area of the country makes up the difference.
Dinner at a rural restaurant will bring in the stray dog or two looking for scraps. Usually this ends with a hearty yelp and a dash for the door when the proprietor arrives. You leave the chickens alone, that could be your meal tomorrow. Musical duos are just as common. They wander from restaurant to restaurant and, with the owner’s permission, play a few songs for tips. Although i am not even the slightest expert on authentic Peruvian music, these guys usually are pretty good. Lots of practice, I guess. read more
wednesday, january 28, 2004
The White City - Ariquipa, PeruArequipa is called the white city. Which makes you think about something out of Tolkien but it is much more down to earth. The entire town is constructed of a white volcanic stone that gives it a bright sheen in the sun. There are more than a million people who live here making it the second largest city in Peru.
But I heard that from a tour guide. The first lesson you learn here is never to trust a tour guide. To their credit, there is always a bit of truth in what they tell you but take five different city tours and you will be introduced to five very different cities.
While some of the major attractions are well worth a look, I have greatly enjoyed just walking around the city and finding it’s little treasures. Another lesson you learn quickly if you come to Arequipa is to expect a climb. (That turned out to be even more true for me this visit but more on that later) built in a river valley between three volcanoes the geography is wildly uneven. A turn down the wrong street often presents a startlingly steep ascent or descent. The cobblestones give an impression of security and the promise of ample traction but it is hard to overcome the intimidating power of gravity. read more
thursday, january 22, 2004
Riding the Bus in PeruIf you are going to travel in Peru eventually you are going to have to take the bus. it is best to prepare yourself early for this because it can be a bit different than what one expects. In the not-so-distant-past I used to travel by bus pretty regularly in the United States. Not the cross-town bus with graffiti on the seat and the shoeless man talking in tongues next to you but the cross-country bus that serves a different caliber individual.
In the United States, riding in the bus puts you in touch with a whole new class of person. I’ve met the most interesting and friendly people and I have met the most irritating and despicable brand of individual as well.
You kind of cower in your own little corner of the bus until you figure out what is going on. After a few trips you get used to the pints of old granddad being passed around in the dark in the back, the people trying to get their kids to sleep and the dissonant chatter of a dozen CD players on the heads of anyone under 30. Eventually, you mentally find your own place and, to use the expression, ride it out. After that, it is the luck of the draw to if you will have a companion or not. read more
friday, january 16, 2004
An Oasis for the SensesThe cities of Peru can be sensory overload for the unwary.
Coming from the United States, where the whole of suburbia is ceaselessly sanitized, places like Peru have a wild element that can take some getting used to. it isn’t to be confused with being uncivilized, because, in some ways, Peru is one of the most civilized places I have ever seen. There were empires here millennia before much of the rest of the world, and there is an assured sensibility to the culture today that derives from that.
it is mid-summer here in Piura. The warm winds blow the tall mesquite trees with a rustle that is almost a sigh of exhaustion. The motor taxis are a whirring rainbow on the streets, always in a hurry, but the dust settles behind them with a resignation brought on by the heat. But, just when you think the temperature is becoming unbearable, a cool breeze redeems your spirits. It dries the sweat from your forehead and makes the world relax for a moment. read more
monday, january 12, 2004
Setting forthSo who is the orange guy?
Well, my friends, meet Ganesha the lord of and destroyer of obstacles. He is petitioned for siddhi, success in undertakings, and buddhi, intelligence. He is worshiped before any venture is started be it project or travel. Otherwise he also holds the reigns as the god of education, knowledge and wisdom, literature, and the fine arts. Which isn’t bad work if you can get it.
And, given what I’m about to walk into, I need all the help I can get. Because, to be honest, I’m scared shitless. I’ve been a bundle of anxieties and over-reactions for several days now. I have a lot that I am trying to accomplish with this venture and the safety net is minimal if there at all. No pressure.
But it is kind of like every breaking news story I’ve ever raced out on. I never have any idea how the hell I am going to handle getting all the information and reporting done and in on time. Usually there is a lightening moment of panic and sheer naked fear when I start trying to strategize. Then I make myself stop. read more
saturday, january 10, 2004
Laissez faire and the Fourth EstateA few days ago I laid out my reasoning for skipping the country in light of the abysmal conditions of working in modern journalism. Not the super-high-end-major-daily journalism where the halls are paved with gold and the cafeteria serves ambrosia… well, where they at least pay a decent wage and you have the resources to do something worthwhile. No, I mean the middle and lower tiers of the industry where 90 percent of us toil in rude obscurity.
A bit of news released yesterday kind of highlighted the doublespeak that envelops your life when you are working in these types of places. It seems the economy isn’t doing as peachy as once thought. According to the labor department the U.S. economy was only able to tack on 1,000 non-farm jobs last month – a little short of the 150,000 the government predicted would be in the offing. read more
thursday, january 08, 2004
Why Peru?I never intended to go to Peru in the first place. When I had my dark night of the soul about my future all I knew was that I was about to go somewhere but there wasn't a destination I felt intensely enough about to focus my wandering urge.
I have some friends in Australia and, after visiting there for several weeks in 2002; I know that I want to go back. It is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been lucky enough to behold and, despite some of their irritating peculiarities, the folks who live there are pretty nice as well. Returning there to live is one of my long-term goals. But it's not what I needed to do when I decided to change my life.
My father has taught at a university in Peru several times in the past few years and, when I quit my job in California, he was about to head down there. He invited me to come live with him. It was as good an option as any I had at the time and it would be good to spend the time with him. But I had no intention of anything more than going there, reporting a few stories, then coming back to start a new direction in my life. read more
wednesday, january 07, 2004
A New DirectionIt is difficult to tell if people think I’m crazier now for heading back to Peru than when I first decided to go in the middle of last year. The first time there seemed to be a general shock at giving up my job and Peru as a destination was just the icing. Now, with my plan of heading off indefinitely, folks genuinely question my sanity.
But that's pretty normal.
Yet, this decision to head off to parts unknown isn't as rash or insane as it may appear. I’ve actually thought it out pretty well and have a clear idea of what I would like to achieve. The spur-of-the-moment airs I put on are only to play to my legend.
I spent a good deal of my 20s dead broke with no real hope for a career and tortured by the anxiety it brought. There’s little more depressing than being an unemployed line cook week late with the rent and financially reduced to the point of fishing through the ashtray for butts with a bit of cigarette left. Going somewhere exciting and doing something important seemed as remote a possibility as visiting the moon. read more