Sunday, April 27, 2008

Where is everyone?

Back in Lawrence. It's impossible to get a hold of anybody. I'm creeping on Caitlin as she works on projects at the Art & Design building.
I need more friends like Caitlin, but not too many. What I mean is that I need friends ONLY like Caitlin, and preferably just a handful.
Realizing that most people are likely busy this afternoon, it's still a hard pill to swallow that none of my phone calls went ignored. I'm having difficulty drawing lines between lasting and fading friends.
When your world expands and experiences grow deeper, the thing you want most is for your friendship pool to remain deep enough that a good friend can throw you a life saver, but shallow enough to never be in over your head.

Texas-sized fun

When I planned my trip to Austin, I assumed that my friend Marcus would be a good host. He was student body VP two years ago and knows all the ins and outs of this town.
Marcus has lived up to the expectation quite selflessly. Ever since he picked me up from Amy's at 4pm on Friday, it's been non-stop Austin insanity.
A lovely bulleted list:

  • Mexican margaritas: you think you're ordering one margarita, but then they bring you the equivalence of 6 or 7. 
  • Downtown Austin/6th street: A scaled-down Bourbon street, but not so small either. The craziest college nightlife I've witnessed. Among it all: The Dizzy Rooster, popular hangout of the Real World: Austin cast, The Wave, where Marcus and friends bought me a wave shot. The bartender throws water in your face after you take the shot. Clever. The Library--yeah, just tell your parents you're going to The Library on a Friday night. No studying there; cheap Long Islands, though, you're sure to discover.
  • Juan in a Million: Authentic Texmex breakfast tacos. Lots of food, hardly any money. And owner Juan-- he's got the most memorable handshake I've received.
  • Canoeing out of Ladybird park: a beautiful day, quiet on the river, so we cast out for an hour.
  • Eeyore's birthday: Yes, Eeyore. From Winnie the Pooh. Every year there is a birthday celebration to "cheer Eeyore up"; he's obviously depressed and needs the upper. Think along the lines of Woodstock, minus the A-list music talent. Hippies, illegal activities, thousands of crazies just dancing hypnotically. Very odd, but fun(ny) to watch. Keeping Austin weird, those hippies.
  • San Antonio spur of the moment: Yes, we decided to drive to San Antonio around dinner; it's just an hour outside Austin. Four of us went to the Fiesta celebration downtown, filled with thousands of Mexican-Americans dancing, feasting, rubbing up on one another. After dinner we walked on the Paseo del Rio all the way to the Alamo. 
A week ago I was worried that my Austin visit was too long, or completely unnecessary. However, in 4 days I have sat in on grad school film classes, had coffee with a seasoned screenwriter, and experienced the charm of an amazing American town (2 to be exact). I have a lot of questions in the next few months about post-grad life. Although the likelihood of ending up here is slim, I feel a few of those questions are already answered. I need a place like this. It needs character, personality, zest, eventfulness. I need friends like Marcus and Amy and their friends, and have to be as proud as they are of my home.

Four days has been perfect. Not too long, not too short. Half spent with Amy, half with Marcus. Half on campus, half on the town. I'll be returning to Lawrence for a few days, then cooling down back home. This is a time in my life that may never repeat itself; the moving around, seeing new things constantly from a youthful perspective with no responsibilities. I'm scared to let it go soon, but confident that it will help shape the rest of my days.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Isn't it ironic?

How coincidental that Amy set me up for a coffee meeting with her screenwriting professor yesterday. He and I had so much to talk about, for one because he lives mere blocks away from where I'll be this summer, and secondly, he teaches things like this. He's a resident professor, just at UT for a semester. Reckon I need to keep in touch, which I'll exactly do. He's learned or worked under Minghella, Ridley Scott, Lucas, Disney... writing, directing, acting. Oy. I didn't meet Mike Judge after all, but this is much better. Yes.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Freeloading in Towns with Men's Names

It's important to always find a theme in your life. What is reoccurring, how can you grow from that cycle?
Right now, my theme is freeloading. I left Sioux Falls last Saturday after a weeklong freeload; coming back home with such a small amount of money, I found that mooching off Mum and Pop was the best solution. But now, I'm in Austin, having flown here today from Lawrence. And the freeloading continues.
Not having any specific agenda is the best life possible. No homework, no bedtime, no job, no responsibility. Sure, there's no income, but seeing friends, enjoying the weather, and flying by the seat of your pants are about as good as life gets. The weather in Lawrence was perfect those first four days. I stayed with Chris, one of my longer-standing KU friends, and he spoiled me rotten with his hospitality. I even came and went with a flexible schedule and saw dozens of friends all over campus or around the town. Mother Nature brought people to Wescoe Beach, Mass Street, and Stauffer Lawn in hundreds. All I had to do was show up and the mental checklist of people to see quickly filled up because everyone flocked to the same place. It felt as if I had never left. However, I did feel the pains of my past political life. I wondered again what it would be like to have all my friends running in the same circle, rather than all of them in different social groups. It gets so taxing trying to hang out with people who don't hang out with one another.
That's how Austin has been a contrast in this first day. My freeload has shifted to my friend Amy, one of my closest buds from Telluride. Tonight I hung out with some UT-film students and teachers--a tight-knit group, right up my alley. Amy has shown me the basics of the city, and tomorrow as she heads off to shoot with the 2nd-crew of Terrence Malick's new picture, I'll mosey around campus and downtown getting a feel for Austin's infamous weirdness. Amy's boyfriend is an animation professor at UT, working on things like this. He's bringing in Mike Judge this weekend, creator of Beavis & Butthead and King of the Hill as well as writer-director of Office Space. I may score the chance to talk with him 1-on-1 this Friday if I'm lucky, but I won't get ahead of myself. Amy is pretty plugged into the UT system, and although I still stand on the fence if I ever intend to do grad school, it's nice knowing that Amy didn't start until she was 27, and that she isn't doing too shabby for herself.
Tonight we sat around nursing beers and playing poker. I felt very grown up, among other film lovers who can laugh at the slightest absurdities. It was my first time playing for money and hey, I doubled my $7 buy-in! Yeah! Yeah!
I'm on my own most of tomorrow. No freeloading until the evening, when I may sit in on some animation talks with Amy's beau, Geoff. I just love being in this atmosphere, around these kinds of people. Everyone does favors for everyone else. I can't wait until I'm in the position to allow others to freeload off of me. Even though I'm homeless right now, I feel like I am richer than any man in any mansion across the world. I have my future in front of me, friends to help who will also help me, and all the potential to work--not freeload--my way to a successful, happy conclusion. Yeah! Yeah!

Monday, April 21, 2008

This is the life

Other than managing my wallet, it's absolute bliss to have no major agenda, just chumming with friends, conversing over a Boulevard Wheat or ice water. The weather perfected itself the very day I arrived--no coincidence, you know--and I'm just living the carefree, envious, college life for the next week and a half. I find it funny how every hour or so I think to myself "Wow, I'm never like this. Happy, laid back, funny, relaxed". Why can't this be actual life? Why can't this be actual college life? I keep forgetting that everyone has homework, org meetings, exams on their mind. Not me. Eat, sleep, bask, repeat.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Words actually said by me

...I would like to take this opportunity to say that I go to the University of Kansas and we are the national champions in basketball.
(followed by a fist pump)

Upon the department store clerk's asking me "What are you in school for?"
Me: "Journalism... (and cue the above)"

Apparently some people just don't care.

Lawrence Lawrence Lawrence
Tomorrow Tomorrow Tomorrow

A Prairie Home X-File

Exhibit 1: Metal, "permanent" retainer, swallowed by 48 year old female. Two failed hospital visits failed to extract the specimen, thus the female had to pass it through her system. No punctures since reported, miraculously seeing as the specimen is over 1-inch long. All smiles now.



Exhibit 2
: Hair strand, extracted from 21 year old male. Subject has Vitiligo, causing white patches to form across the skin. White hair patches are very common. This specimen is white at the tip, but brown at the base and the follicle. This shows that re-pigmentation and possible melanin revitalization in the affected areas. Will white spots disappear? Unlikely, but possible.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The box is open

If you haven't yet discovered Pandora.com, take a peek. I'm trying to find new music, gain a better appreciation for the small guys. You type in an artist, they play songs very similar to that musician's style. It's personalized Internet radio.
Open the box. Tear it open, no mercy!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

It's all coming back to me. So soon.

About a month ago I wrote about how studying abroad would start following me everywhere, like in the DVDs I watch.
Well, watching Paris, Je'Taime is just asking for flashback memories, but it certainly weighed with me much more on this viewing. Seeing familiar places, knowing lingo or ways of life... the film stole a part of me just as Paris did.
And while loafing around watching Scrubs (my newest addiction), I laughed when JD put "going to the top of the Eiffel Tower" on his list of things to do before you die.
I did that!!! A week ago!!!
I love full circles.

The Past Resurfaces/What might have been

Finally, finally I went to Vermillion and to the University of South Dakota to hang out. I spent the night with Tracy and a few other friends just relaxing in SD's college town.
A close high school friend was there, one whom I happen upon maybe once a year. We were inseparable our freshman, sophomore, junior year, and then started to fade out. She went with one crowd, I went with another. And last night, I got to see that she's still the same infectious, delightful person I loved 4 years ago, but that her life has gone an entirely different direction than my own. I don't mean that in a positive or negative sense, but somebody I knew so well has 4 years of life experiences that involve me in no way whatsoever. She is a stranger, our friendship devolved into mere acquaintance. We don't know each other anymore; we knew each other years back, and that's all from which we can draw. I love the annual bumpings into, but it makes me wonder how many of my present-day friendships are sacrificial by this time next year. Nothing is ever intentional, just harshly real.

And being on that campus made me wonder what would be had I gone to school there. If I stayed in-state, USD is where I'd attend. I never applied for those prestigious journalism scholarships a la Al Neuharth, the ones that the Statesman editors before and after me both won. I could have paid in all of undergrad what one semester costs at KU. Not even that--it would have all been paid for by scholarships. I'd be rich in terms of cash, and I'd be so close to home. Everything would be so... easy.

But one thing college has taught me is that you cannot dwell on the what-might-have-beens. What if I had gone to USD? I don't know where the hell I'd be right now. And I'm so content with where I am and where I am going, that I can only attest that to where I have been. And that place is KU. That place is where I took myself, and the debt I have accrued, and the tears and sweat that will require paying all of that off. Yeah, that was my decision. It may not be the smartest one on paper, but it sure makes a helluvalotta sense in this head on these shoulders. A lot of ease has been sacrificed in my life; I have an impeccable ability to make things difficult for myself. But believe me, the internal burden is always lifted at pining's end. I don't regret many things; if you cry too long over spilled milk, the remaining milk is going to curdle.

I miss KU, and Lawrence, and the regulars. T-minus 4 days, children.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Damage Control

When you're MIA for 3 months, your actual life attempts to live on without you, despite measures you took to stop it.
For example, I told Entertainment Weekly to halt my subscription. I came home to 13 issues of outdated magazines. They're getting a friendly phone call from me tomorrow to extend my subscription by 3 months.
My insurance switched to "storage" while I was gone, and lo and behold that ended up costing me 200 bucks more than it would have just to leave the damn car on full coverage. What the!?! That'll be fuuuuuun to sort out.

But I'm home! Sioux Falls home! There is hardly anything to do, but it feels sensational. I don't have to spend money, I have a car to drive, and I can finally get a haircut that I put off since Christmas. To sound very much like a broken record, I am completely content.

Then why is it I miss Europe and the whole gang so much?

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Re-acclimation

Drinking fountains! Worthless money! Family members! DVDs! Cell phone!

This is America. Feels good to be home, although the separation anxiety is still there a pinch. Turns out that pulling an all-nighter was the best thing I could have done. Other than making the haul through Charles DeGaulle a bit more stressful, the lack of sleep coupled with a double dosage of dramamine put me out for about 7 hours on the overseas flight. I was immediately back on US time upon landing in Chicago.

And, while I am home, I am neither in Lawrence nor Sioux Falls. In fact, we drove right past Lawrence last night on the way to Manhattan, KS. My heart has been there all week so that was a difficult few minutes to see the lights of campus fade in and out. But I'll be there in a week, in Sioux Falls tonight, and all shall be well. I'm here now with Mom, Erin, John, and Deena, happy as a lark.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Epilogue

The saddest goodbyes will come from the most surprising places. This last week has likely been the most emotional roller coaster of ups and downs. Maybe I'm extra sensitive right now-- I didn't go to bed tonight, opting to memorialize the final evening with many friends.
Thank you for giving me a chance. Now I can give myself one.

I am a wreck. A happy, messy, tired, weak, optimistic wreck.

The End

Twelve credits later, it's time to fade to black. Are those pesky western civ courses actually, finally behind me? I remember freshman year, breaking down in the rain to Kimi, calling my sister for advice when the class got the better of me. It was killing me, and I officially became a college student after I dropped my first course. Western civ was the class I feared most for the next two years. And there isn't just one class required-- no, they make you take two. And I even attempted the second one, with a similar ending, save the amateur tears.
But now western civ means much more to me, and I can look back happily at the entire package deal. I'll associate these many fond memories with Plato, Rousseau, Freud, Marx, Darwin, Seneca, and cohorts. I believe I have grown up almost entirely on this trip. But we're always growing up, and this summer will inevitably find some ways to weasel more life lessons under my skin.
Normalcy starts tomorrow. But normalcy isn't normal to me anymore. I have grown very comfortable being constantly uncomfortable, always adapting myself to a new, unfamiliar experience.
I finished the whole thing 44 US dollars under budget. Wow! Brotha Sam, isn't your favorite band called "+44"? There's irony for you.
Can't wait to see you all in person, at long last. I'm the same person, really. Don't expect me to elaborate much without solicitation, or to ever pinpoint what was most life-altering and entertaining. The whole damn thing was life-altering and entertaining.
One more night. Making it count.
Merci au revoir, Paris.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Two (remaining) days in Paris

I am trying to picture my future memories of this place. I see myself rummaging through photos a year down the road, the same way I page through Telluride pictures and wish to be back in that moment. But I'm still here now, packing, studying (or not studying), saying goodbye to people and places without actually saying goodbye. Bumping into one of these people on campus is going to be awkward; it'll be a happy reunion, but we'll be removed from our common denominator.
Everyone is ready to be finished. Two tests are behind us, one more to go. A group dinner tomorrow, a jaunt to the top of the Eiffel tonight. I'm meeting a Sioux Falls friend for lunch today, two close KU friends tomorrow. Happy that others have taken the leap across the pond. Our facility directors have told us how to prepare for readjustment back in the states... they say people won't want to listen, or that we won't want to talk, or we'll experience reverse homesickness, be incapable of applying our newfound skills... I'm just anxious to be home, to fold everything neatly into a little furl of my brain, and to carry that warmly with my collective memory for my remaining days. I have changed so much here. You'll notice some of those changes, but others are mental, emotional. Confidence is on my side.
Soon, we'll be leaving the social experiment behind. 25 kids, 2 countries, 3 months. My gossip is your gossip. Your business is mine. I like you, I hate you, I know you, I don't. See you back home, or not. I don't care. Yes, I do.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Rock Chalk and Awe

Mario has always been my favorite Jayhawk to watch. I've said it the past three years. He's scrappy, pure talent, with hard drive. He plays smart and fast, but steady with ambition in his eyes.
I have tears in my eyes after reading each subsequent article about last night's miracle. We were down by nine points with two and a half minutes. And Memphis fell flat. And we rose up.
Maybe it was the European dance we've learned at the clubs here. It's actually called "Rise Up". We did it at halftime, all of us, summoning some sort of basketball god. Perhaps it was Phog Allen, or even James Naismith himself, watching over our guys. It's all such a blur still. The comeback, the legendary shot from Chalmers, the overtime thrashing. We are the best team in college basketball in the entire country. None of us can get that out of our heads.
And even though we weren't part of the 40,000-strong in downtown Lawrence last night, we celebrated in similar fashion as our Final Four win against North Carolina. We screamed, we sang, we drank, we cried, we united. We took our own final today in European Studies, but nobody had time to study. It was 7 in the morning when we got home, but how could we sleep or cram for a test?
I knew it would be a day of highs and possibly lows. We climbed Notre Dame's bell towers yesterday, and it actually snowed on us at the top. Surrounded by gargoyles and a stellar view of Paris, we felt atop the world. We tried going to the catacombs thereafter, but they've been closed our entire stay. No lows for the afternoon. It made me afraid for the game. Analysts, columnists, bloggers-- nobody thought KU could pull it off.
But we did. We did! We did! We did! I am so proud to be a Jayhawk. So privileged and blessed to attend this school. While I'm halfway around the world, my heart is nowhere but in Lawrence, on Mass St., throwing back a pint at Free State. It will make the homecoming all the more glorious.
The tears are still in my eyes. I need constant reminders that it actually happened. We are national champions. We knocked off pesky Davidson, stomped the Tar Heels and avenged Roy (he earned his props back by supporting KU last night... closure and class), and settled the Tigers to stand atop the world.
This is purely euphoric. Hopefully it never wears off. One more reason that the past year has been the best of my 21.
Rock Chalk Jayhawk. Hats off to Super Mario and the boys in crimson and blue. We'll be home soon to join the parade.

Super Mario

This video... means so much.

Monday, April 7, 2008

THIS IS THE FACE OF VICTORY

THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU MARIO





NATIONAL CHAMPIONS!!!! 7 AM IN PARIS!!!! I DON'T CARE THAT I HAVE A FINAL TODAY!!!!!

Chateau weekend. A new goal.

My goals in life slowly evolve into less tangible ones. Nothing like "I want to be an award-winning screenwriter". But rather "I want to write and pay my bills on that alone, and to be happy with a family in the meanwhile".
Another goal of mine is to save a prostitute, a la Pretty Woman. Maybe not fall in love or anything, but you know, save one from the pits of societal abyss. If you have a candidate, send her my way for some motivational encouragement. "You are beautiful, a human being. Go to school, here's some bread." Man, I'd be a good mentor.
But one outlandish goal after this weekend is to live on a chateau. Honestly, they're so beautiful and grand and... beautifully grand. Grandly beautiful, even. I could walk around all day, every day, basking in the organized nature.

I don't have many great pictures from Fontainbleau, but...

Veaux le Vicomte



Versailles


Sorry, but not sorry.

Maybe it's a good sign that I'm not posting as much this last week. I'll probably catch up while procrastinating studying for finals, or once my sleep is caught up after the basketball game tonight.
I'm leaving this place on great notes. It'll be a bittersweet goodbye, but a healthy, confident one at that.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

If being half way around the world means making it to the national championship game...

Then I'm happy to be here.

It's 7:20 a.m. Why should I be asleep when Lawrence is alive with hustle bustle?
We're in the national championship, baby girls.



Even Paris knows it now.



That is 5:30 am on the metro. ROCK CHALK!

Friday, April 4, 2008

The winds have changed

These past few days have been great in terms of the group dynamic. Maybe it's the end-of-the-road jitters, maybe everyone has gotten to the crossroads of branching out a bit more, but we're doing an A+ job of living in this moment.
I have fallen in love with this city even more than before. I am falling in love with these people and this group like I never planned. We all want the comfort of our US lives back, if only momentarily, but there will certainly be separation anxiety once we leave. People at home won't know the exacts of what we did, and how we experienced it all. This group will always have a place for that. In exactly one week I will be in Kansas. Wow. It's too much to wrap my mind around mentally and emotionally.
One day at a time. Baby steps. Large, giant, baby steps.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

The quick turnaround

This afternoon was perfect. To feed my mood (see previous post), I jaunted out alone to Parc des Buttes Chaumont to get some story outlining done. I haven't given myself enough time for writing lately, and the clear skies granted me the opportune chance.
It was probably the single event I will remember most fondly about Paris, which is saying a lot. Honestly, the parks in this city are its greatest redemption. The people were out in hundreds, and the dogs, waterfalls, ducks, families, lovers, sun, and greenery made for the sweetest, quietest, most reflective few hours of my trip.
A killer iTunes playlist helped, too. It melted away the morning's sourness. I'm so ready for this life.

Broken cog

Today was a day. It still is a day. A day where I think to myself "thank God there's only one semester left". If I were a freshman and I had this mentality, I'd be so far dropping out of school. Once you're positive what you want to do with your life, and you're confident in your ability to eventually get there, school is a waste of time and money. I didn't do the Nietzsche readings that were assigned. I don't care what he had to say. I don't care what the historical context was behind his words. Learning other people's philosophies and ideas makes me only feel less original. Why can't I have similar philosophies without calling them my own? It's the same reason I don't obsess over watching old cinema or the thousands of obscurities with which people blame me for not being a true film enthusiast. I watch and consume what makes me comfortable, what makes me satisfied and satiated, what finds me where I am. Having this construct of school and syllabi and western civ and "who said this, and when did he say it" is so unimportant to me. I want to spend my time doing what I want, when I want, how I want, where I want, with whom I want. And why do I want that? Because the frills are forgettable. I am not a robot and I will not be part of any machine. This is flesh on my bones, blood in my veins, a soul in my body. Give me that damn diploma and never call me back again. I will forget this education, but not the important things that came in between.
It's a sunny day, finally. Time to liberate this frustration.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

I'm so excited, I'm so excited, I'm so... scared!

Jessie Spano sums up my outlook on life right now with her truthful words.

http://youtube.com/watch?v=bflYjF90t7c



It's OK to laugh. It's pretty damn funny!

The home stretch

The days are officially down to single digits. A week ago I said that i was ready to go home; it's still true, but I'm feeling that attachment here that I felt in Florence after three weeks. I'm not sure why it took longer in Paris; I figure since there's more to see and more neighborhoods, it all seems foreign longer. But now that our time dwindles, I'm beginning to repeat the things I've loved most. My checklist is nearly complete--there will be a few things I never got around to doing, but not for lack of trying. Paris feels like a home; the customs are setting in, the key phrases are on my tongue, and the boulangerie workers recognize us when we arrive. They know exactly what we want--usually a chocolate baguette with coffee for me--but in 9 days it is no more.
This chapter is winding down, and I think it's appropriate to end it next Friday. I am ready to start the next chapter. Scared, wide-eyed, ever the more confident, but ready.

My entourage



Let's get this out of the way: Andy Warhol is one of the oddest ducks to ever swim in the pond. But that is exactly why I find him so fascinating. His life was really a tragedy; he was so obsessed with his appearance and the celebrity lifestyle that it absorbed him wholly. He was misunderstood by most people, but it's questionable that he ever even understood himself. He went from fashion to painting to film, always seeking the next greatest mode, the higher route to the spotlight. And his personality is unparalleled. His shy, unique persona is iconic.
Adam and I visited a Warhol exhibit at the Modern Museum in Stockholm. Seeing his pop art along with his experimental films, tv show clips, and biography was a good use of an hour; I never knew about the man behind the Marilyns, the Cambell's soup cans, the Elvises. We imitated his art in elementary school but his name didn't carry much weight back then. As I'm learning more and more, the artist's talent isn't often what dictates his or her success. It's the back story and the celebrity that create the lasting impression. And since that's what Warhol lived for--the glory, the glamour, the attention--he found his place in history.
He'll fit in nicely with this bunch o' cronies. I feel like he'd be reserved at first, plotting his rise to the center of attention. And he'd get it, eventually, by pulling some publicity stunt or revolutionizing some form of media. Hey Andy, this is my entourage. Stay in the background.
Not. Possible. Warhol will find a way to pop out.

Posse talk (inspired by Andy Warhol TV):
Me: Andy, do you like hanging out with us?
Andy: Yes, truly. Everyone is so nice. Carmen is so great with her... red coat. And Billy's poetry is so... poetic in my ears. And MIKA is just... good at music. And I love Peggy's taste in art. She really knows... art.
Me: How profound.
Andy: That's why I'm here. Step aside. This is my show now.

Meet the cast x4

Amanda and Laine (in the photo, Laine is on the left) are the definitive "girls to bring home to mother". It's perfectly understandable why I've spent so much time with them since leaving Florence. Everything about these two reeks optimism and congeniality. They have a great relationship going; they were close coming into the program and have been roommates and travel partners everywhere. Amanda and Laine are equal in taking and giving with one another. You get the feeling that they'll be next to one another in rocking chairs someday, bragging about grandchildren and reminiscing about their youthful adventures.
These two are the kind of girls whose parents you want to congratulate. I pool them together because they are equally sincere and honest and laid back. I see myself having been friends with them on campus, had we ever crossed paths in that world. They find a healthy balance between dedication to studies and making fun of reality. Adam and I are joining them for a home-cooked dorm dinner this Thursday before a bunch of us head out for some jazz. Something tells me it'll be a very genuine meal. Every bite will have a little extra love stirred into it. And it's sincere love, too. The Midwest kind. The "bring home to mother" kind.

Nicole is someone I could have and should have written about from the get go. Maybe it's because our relationship is lasting and has history that I've waited until now. This trip and these blog recollections have been so focused on new experiences and new friends, that introducing one of my best friends from home seemed silly; most of you know Nicole as well as I do!
Regardless, Nicole is someone who underscores life's intricate details with gusto. She is so appreciate of the surprises that greet her daily, and you know exactly when she's feeling gleefully explosive, because her face can so classically express it. This trip gives her many daily satisfactions. As we walk into most museums, parks, churches, anything, Nicole always realizes the magnitude, even when others are dulled or ignorant of the grandeur. I wish I had a video of her typical reaction to anything of significance-- something along the lines of "OH MY GOD! OHH! WOW! OHHHHH WOW!" with wide eyes and a gaping mouth.
For those of you who are behind on the times, Nicole was one of my roommates last semester. One reason we operated so well together is because, like me, Nicole runs on routine. In fact, she makes me look unorganized, because she typically has 10 times as many things of which to keep track. She is motivated and passionate about her beliefs and this world. She speaks with conviction and can back up her claims. And one thing I really like about our relationship is that we've seen one another grow. The past couple years have been integral times for both of our paths, and Nicole and I have been able to support one another along the way. Cheerleaders, if you will.
It's odd that we haven't hung out as often as we both planned. That's been unintentional, but it might also be good in the big picture. We can vent when we need someone's opinion, someone who knows our background. Lean-to's for each other. And we can reflect from a wider scope in Lawrence when that time comes. You don't have to be near an old friend 24/7 to absorb the benefits of the relationship. If it's old, it lasts. In Europe and North America, I'll have Nicole, and she'll have me. And something tells me that she's insightful enough to appreciate that simplicity more than anyone else.

Joanie was a fringe friend back home. We have so many mutual pals that our paths inevitably crossed five dozen times, but we never really knew one another comfortably. I was always intrigued with Joanie; she's a year older (in school... she's actually only a week older than me) and is the type of stranger you secretly pray can become a friend. So when I found out that Joanie would be on this trip, I was excited by the idea that yes... I was finally going to befriend this hilarious, beautiful, beloved human being of whom so many people spoke well.
And since then, Joanie has been a surprise. She has met all of my expectations, but has exceeded them in that she's much more affecting. You see, when someone is lauded by their friends as Joanie had been, I assume they exist to please people and to flake away when it comes to sincerity. I still hoped to meet her because I have plenty of flaky friendships that I enjoy in passing. But no, Joanie is worth every kind thing I have heard. As for this trip, Joanie has surprised me in that she's not a people pleaser. At least she doesn't try to be one, because she doesn't have to try. Joanie has this sweet innocence to her; it's a combination of her sense of humor and her ability to brush aside anything fleeting. She doesn't go out to the bars every night to schmooze over small talk, or call attention to herself in class. Every bit of this girl's reputation is earned with those personal connections she builds. Her business is her own until you share stories 1 on 1. She never complains openly; her rationale is so... rational. She balances fun with discipline. The fun is a reward for the discipline.
Obviously I can speak volumes of Joanie. I'm blessed to have befriended her on this trip. I am constantly putting strangers on pedestals, and usually disappointed when meeting them. Joanie is a refreshing exception to this trend.

Wow, this group is one more example of why I love the Midwest. Amanda is a Kansan, Laine a Texan, Nicole is from Missouri and Joanie, Nebraska.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

The Man Who Knew Too Much

Our tour guide from Paris has got to be the most learned individual regarding Europe. He's from Poland and studied in Paris, but that's where the problems begin. Whereas our tour guides in Pisa and Siena and around Italy were locals, this guy lacks the sincerity or personality of a homegrown Parisian insider. His strong suits are factual, historical tidbits and ornate ramblings.
And he can go on and on and on and on and on and on... He doesn't know when to stop talking, or how to abbreviate his dialogues. It's fine when we're on an actual tour, but we still find him overly verbose. The biggest issue is on the bus, when we're trying to fall asleep or watch a movie or listen to music, and he's blaring over the speakers talking about Italian speed limits, ancient French history, or over-elaborating the following day's agenda.
"So, set your alarms for 8:15. That's a quarter after 8, or 45 minutes before 9. Or set it earlier if you have to wash your hair, or your face, or under your fingernails, because maybe you got dirty the night before after climbing on the rocks or walking around town, or just sitting outside or eating..."
He's a kind guy, but he doesn't acknowledge his audience to see that we're looking like this (much less that I am documenting it photographically)...





And a video...

Sugar High at Low Tide

As we stopped for lunch Saturday afternoon before leaving St. Michel, I ordered a double espresso to find an afternoon zing. I fell nowhere short of said zing, as I added not one, not two, not even five sugar cubes. Yes, six sugar cubes soon occupied the small drink and I found myself restless and especially motivated.
It was but a short drive back to St. Malo, just in time for low tide. At any hour of the day, the tide can be up to the city's walls, or as far off as 100 yards. And what perfect timing, as hundreds of giant rocks invited me to jump, spring, leap around effortlessly as we closed the afternoon among seaweed and mussels before the tides washed back ashore.
This was one of those afternoon I'll associate with this trip, similar to last Saturday's Swedish adventure. If you had seen me, you couldn't afford to blink, else I'd be thirty feet away, scaling the next rock. Somewhere in my head I had the Rocky theme song influencing my acrobatics, but it was so liberating. Just me, the English Channel, the mossy rocks, the icy wind. Look ma, top o' the world!

We walked/climbed to this island at low tide.


Ya gotta watch the tides, or else you'll get pummeled by the killer surf...


Island Natives


One of these gents has a high blood-sugar level. Guess who?


Kate catches some deserved R&R from an alternative angle


The height of one's jump is directly proportional to the amount of sugar consumed.