Sunday, August 31, 2003

Auf Wiedersehen Amerika (yeah, it's not Greek, but it is foreign!)

I'm going to be on my way in a couple of hours, so this is the last post from America for a while. I don't know when I'll get a chance to post in Greece, so there may be a little downtime here at Spargel. Don't worry though...I'll get to it as soon as I can. I know everyone is sad, but try not to cry too much. Enjoy the Labor Day holiday. I will miss the whole day, seeing as I leave here at 5:41 the day before and arrive in Greece at 5:30 the day of. Isn't it strange how you can just lose a whole day like it's a sock or a dog or your car keys? So farewell for a while folks. I'll see some of you at Christmas. Or you may be graced by my presence sooner than that if you happen to be in Europe! Oh happy day!

Saturday, August 30, 2003

From The Grab Bag

My bags are packed. I have one big suitcase, one smaller travel backpack, one small carry-on and my computer case. My plane leaves at 5:41pm tomorrow . I think my biggest concerns right now are...1. Will my luggage meet all the dumb airport requirements (50lbs is not a lot, especially compared to the previous 70lb limit). 2. Will my luggage make it to Athens with me? 3. When am I going to get to eat?

I can now speak Greek in case anyone was worried. I can say "Yes," "No," "Please," "Thank you," "Good morning/evening/night," "Hello," "Goodbye," "I don't understand," "I don't speak Greek," "Do you speak English," and "Excuse me." I have no idea how to introduce myself, ask where the bathroom is, order food, etc., but I'm not real concerned. I plan to stick to the "I don't speak Greek. Do you speak English?" mode of communication. Hey, at least I learned that much, and I'm not just going to wander around saying "English? English?"

I hate airplanes. I especially hate being on airplanes for something like 17 hours.

I now have a comment button. Use it, okay? It would be neat if I felt like there was someone out there actually reading this.

Please Work

Are there comments yet???? Please!!!!!

Thursday, August 28, 2003

Three Down, One to Go

So Gregory started college yesterday. For the next five years he'll be studying architecture at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. This means that Mark is now the only one left at home, which is indescribably weird. Going from having seven people in the house all summer to only three when I leave on Sunday is rather odd.

It's strange for me to think that Gregory is old enough to be in college. You see, Gregory being born is my first memory. I've been cognizant enough to remember his entire life, and it really doesn't seem possible that 18.5 years of that life have already passed. They aren't kidding when they say that time flies. How is he already in college and I am already out?

I think Gregory will have a wonderful time at college. Among the four of us, he is the most easy-going. It's practically impossible not to get along with him. He's comfortable around anyone, makes his own decisions regardless of what everyone else is doing, knows exactly what he wants, and has a fabulous sense of humor. Because of this, I think Gregory will be incredibly successful. He's never liked school, but I think he will love college, because he is getting to do things on his own terms. While Matthew and I are still forty years old and wavering about what it is we really want to do, Gregory will be out doing the things he's always wanted to do and doing them magnificently. Maybe Mark will end up as focused as Gregory...we'll have to wait and see on that one.

Gregory, if you're listening here's what my four years at Rice taught me...
1. Get involved as a freshman. The longer you wait the harder it is.
2. Meet lots of people. Don't judge them until you know them. If you end up not liking them, fine. Just give them a chance first.
3. Take your classes seriously. But take having fun just as seriously.
4. Never refuse an offer for free food.
5. Use your summers well. Intern to make sure what you are studying is what you really want to do. But give yourself a few weeks off to do nothing but have fun.
6. Consider studying abroad. It's a great way to see the world and meet new people.
7. If you have a professor you like, take the time to really get to know him/her. Professors can open a lot of doors, but you have to take the initiative.
8. Have fun. Be silly. Do all the things you probably won't get to do once you are out of college. Take pictures of it so you can laugh about it later. Enjoy being a college student. Make the type of memories you'll still enjoy when you're old and can remember nothing but things that happened decades before.

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

So This Is College

I spent four years at Rice. I have a diploma to prove it. Officially, I went to college. But that's not really true. You see, I went to Rice, and Rice is...well...Rice. It belongs to its own special world which can only really be understood from the inside. Superficially it might appear like college. We studied. We partied. We fought with roommates. We complained about classes and professors. We cheered on our sports teams (okay about 25 of us did, but still). We stayed up all night talking, writing papers, wasting time, and doing nothing that can really be accounted for. We went to college. Or at least we thought we did.

But no, Rice isn't really college. This weekend I took Matthew back up to Dayton for his senior year of college, and I stayed around for a few days to check out UD life. UD is college, for real. It's college the way you imagine it is before you've ever been. All the upperclassmen live in houses owned by the university which border the campus and are in an area affectionately known as "The Ghetto". All of the houses have big porches where everyone resides weather-permitting and where you are always welcome even if you aren't sure of the names of the people living in that house. And when night falls on the weekend, everyone wanders house to house. Partying isn't confined to a house or a street. It's a neighborhood event. You can swim in the inflatable pool in the frontyard of one house, get free freezer pops from the people at the next house, grab a beer a few houses down, play a game of Cornhole at the house on the corner, mudwrestle in the backyard of someone you don't really know, throw away some money playing poker in the basement of a friend of a friend of a friend, and then waste away the rest of the night on your own front porch with the couple of hundred people who stop by for a minute or a few hours. It's a whole different world. And it's fun.

I had a lot of good times at Rice. I'm not really interested in playing "If I Could Do It All Over Again, I'd..." There's always things we'd change. And there's always things we wouldn't give up no matter what. I'm glad I went to Rice. And I'm glad I can now say that I've also been to college. Thanks for a good time, Matthew. Have a great senior year.

Thursday, August 21, 2003

Score This One A Loss

If you've ever been into the Hawley-Cooke Bookstore on Bardstown Road, you've probably glanced at the wall to the left of the doors and noticed the many plaques on the wall proclaiming this bookstore as "The Best of Louisville." Year after year Louisvillians vote that Hawley-Cooke is the best bookstore in town. It beats out the much bigger Barnes & Noble on Hurstbourne Lane and the Walden Books (owned by Borders) and B. Daltons (owned by B&N) which make their homes in the malls around town. This assessment, in my opinion, is right on target. Hawley-Cooke is the perfect bookstore, because it is an independent bookstore which caters to local interests. Have you ever browsed through their selection of books of local interest? It's not just a shelf or a bookcase; it's an entire section. When I was in the store last week at least a half dozen people came in within fifteen minutes requesting the recently published book about local geology "Why are the Highlands High?" People know that if you want a book unique to this area you go to Hawley-Cooke. The community supports the store, so the store, in turn, supports the locals. You don't have to be Barbara Kingsolver or Robert Penn Warren to have your book sold and even highlighted at Hawley-Cooke. You can be the little guy with a little-known publisher who just happened to write a damn good book.

But guess what? You can vote Hawley-Cooke the best bookstore in Louisville over and over, but if you don't buy books there, they can't stay in business. You can't just go meander through the the store, muse over their fantastic collection of literature, and converse with the wonderfully friendly salespeople and then go home and order the book through or Barnes & Noble in order to save a buck or two. While Hawley-Cooke is a great place to simply hang out and read (and no one ever bothers you if that's all you go there to do), it's also a business. They have to turn a profit. That's the bottom line. Plaques on the wall don't pay the bills. People buying books do. Unfortunately while Hawley-Cooke has been supporting us, we haven't been supporting them. And now they are gone. The stores are still there, but they are now under the ownership of Borders. Although they say they intend to keep the stores much the same, it's just a matter of time until the tables on the sidewalk out front displaying an eclectic mixture of reduced-price books disappear and the massive section of local literature is whittled down to a single shelf so that the other shelves can be filled with dime-a-dozen romance novels and mysteries. One of the places that made Louisville a unique place to live is going to be replaced with a store that will make Louisville just another middle-size, middle-class city. In a letter to the public written by Hawley-Cooke, they expressed genuine sadness over their closing. They were apologizing to us, when really we should be the ones apologizing to them.

One day I hope I'm wealthy enough to own an independent bookstore. I'll stock it with wonderful books that I hand-select. I'll fill it with comfy chairs and friendly people. I'll invite local writers struggling to break into the market to give readings. I'll let people sit and read and browse for as long as they like, and I won't care if they buy a book or not. I'll remind people that this is the way bookstores used to be before corporate giants bought out the little man. I don't want to be wealthy so I can buy fancy cars or homes. I want to be wealthy so I can run a bookstore the way they were meant to be run, and when the end of the day comes and I've lost more money than I've made, I can look at the bottom line, laugh, and not give a damn.

Monday, August 18, 2003

Get Angry

I'm not much for bumper stickers. Generally I think they look tacky, and I would never put one on my car (Not that I actually own a car, so really this is a non-issue), but I do enjoy reading what other people feel compelled to put on their car. This past month I saw a mini-van covered in bumper stickers advertising the owner's atheist beliefs. The stickers were not restricted to the bumper, but covered all sides of the car and while stopped at a redlight I enjoyed reading the ones on my side. It struck me as kind of funny, because I never really think about people being hard-core atheist. It's like theists of any sort feel a need to convince other people of their beliefs, while atheists just sit quietly, acting smugly superior to anyone who might feel a need to believe in something bigger than themselves.

But anyhow, this post wasn't supposed to be about atheists and their bumper stickers. It's actually supposed to be about the one bumper sticker I would consider putting on my car. It says "If you're not outraged, you're not paying attention." Honestly, I don't really think I want to put it on my car. I just want to give it to a whole slew of people I know. Not that they're even paying enough attention to understand my intentions. Yes, I'm feeling a bit cranky toward some people I know. How in the hell did we all get to be so self-absorbed? Since when is something not a problem if it doesn't affect you? Damn it people, wake up. It is a problem that there are people who work two full-time jobs and still can't make enough to do any more than live from hand to mouth. It is a problem that there's no longer a place in American society for "the little man". It is a problem that we drive cars that pollute our world and that we destroy the little bit of wilderness that remains to build million-dollar houses. It is a problem that we value money over people. And most of all, it's a problem that the majority of people in this country don't care or are too complacent to do anything about it. There's plenty to be outraged about. Start paying attention. And then do something.