Thursday, April 30, 2009

Life: College Acceptance

As many of you probably already know, I've received my acceptance to the Philosophy departments of both UCLA and UCI. I will soon be submitting my intent to register to one of the two universities, most likely UCLA as that has been my first choice from the start. I've also got my provisional financial aid letters and it's looking like this is really going to be manageable.

I'm so excited.

Looking over the list of classes for the Philosophy department at UCLA has been so exhilarating. I wanted to do a dance... really. My only disappointment is that I'll never have the time to take all of them, and I really really want to... minus some of the logic classes perhaps.  There are whole quarter long classes on individual philosophers: Kant, Plato, Kierkegaard and many many more. There's an entire class, a WHOLE ENTIRE CLASS on the philosophy of Time and Space. I'm literally bursting with excitement. This is going to rock so much!

Thank you all for your support and prayers. I hope that you'll all continue to follow me as I go on this journey and support me along the way. It's going to be a blast.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Life: Road Trip, Day Three

Early the next day, but not too early, I awoke in my cousins apartment. I had slept the night in their recliner, and it was one of the most comfortable sleeps I had ever had. My cousin Tiffany, who had stayed the night at a friend’s house, was coming in the door and carrying a box of donuts which she had bought for us. My family is, as I have said, the most amazing family in existence.

It took me some time to rise, being as comfortable as I was, and still a little tired from the previous days adventures. I also was, unfortunately, suffering from an allergy attack. I had forgotten to bring my antihistamines along on the journey and my cousins kept a cat. Eventually, we all got out of our beds, packed, showered and shared donuts and conversation, and when the time was right Nate, Tyler and I got once more into Tyler’s car to head for San Francisco and I, with reluctance, said goodbye to my cousins.

The drive down to San Francisco from Santa Rosa was mostly uneventful. We had one close call along the way, however. The 101 is a strange freeway, having all along its route certain strange features that are artifacts of its age. In northern California, this eccentricity manifests in driveways which open up straight onto the freeway. As we traveled along that morning, a wishing to turn in to one of these, turned too soon and an accident was barely avoided. Thankfully, Tyler’s breaks work. After some time driving, we entered a tunnel, emerging on the other side we were shocked with the sudden majestic view of Golden Gate bridge. Few manmade things can match the grandeur of that sight. I would have liked to have gotten a picture of it, though I know the camera would not have captured the scope of it, but sadly my camera was put away at the time. The bridge, really, was the only part of our journey into San Francisco that was really enjoyable.


We came into the city a little before noon and began immediately to search for a place to park. I found myself, at this point, impressed with the architecture of the city and began to think I might enjoy our time there. Failing to find any parking on our own, we turned to Maggie to guide us, and for the first time she betrayed us. She did, it is true, guide us to a parking garage, a strange little underground place, the entrance of which was tucked between two other buildings, but, we would learn later, this parking garage was in the Tenderloin district. Perhaps it was the asthma attack I had as soon as we arrived, perhaps it was my preconceived notions of San Francisco, or perhaps it was the fact that we started in the worst possible area of town, but from the very moment we stepped out of Tyler’s car I stopped enjoying myself. We walked for a while and found ourselves at City Hall. If any of us had known anything about San Francisco, this would have told us something, but we didn’t and so we continued to walk. We found a map of the city pretty easily and decided to try and make for Golden Gate park. It was a good distance away, but we’re all good walkers so we felt pretty sure we could make it. After an hour of walking, however, we realized that we had misread the map and had headed in the wrong direction. Turning around we headed back to where we had started and tried to find food along the way. All we found, however, were gentleman’s clubs, tea rooms and locked up restaurants. Finally, on a street corner close to where we had started, a man offered us drugs in broad daylight. This, for Nate at least, was the straw that broke the camels back. We walked the block left to get to the parking garage and left the city behind us. Someday, I would like to go back to San Francisco with someone who knows the city and then maybe I will enjoy it.


After leaving San Francisco, we went to San Jose to visit a friend of Tyler’s mom whom we all knew somewhat. She is one of those rare people who is a natural friend to everyone. She treats each person genuinely as if they were her best friend in the world. It is quite refreshing. She took us all out for beer and pizza at place called Mountain Mike’s and I learned how to play dominos for the first time. The pizza was some of the best I’ve ever had, and the beer was Fat Tire, which is always nice (Tyler, of course, did not have any beer).

Finally, at around six in the evening, we left San Jose and headed for home. It was decided we would get as far as we could and at two in the morning we returned to Orange County and to our lives. This road trip was one of the best experiences of my life, and I recommend that everyone should take at least one such trip.


Monday, April 20, 2009

Life: Road Trip, Day Two

The sun dawned on the second day of our road trip and we did all the necessary things like showers and breakfast to get our day going. After getting ready, we took some time to just stand on Matt’s balcony and enjoy the beautiful view of Morro Bay on a sunny morning. As we watched the city, we discussed where we would like to go and decided we would head up to San Francisco. I have cousins up in that area, so I called them to see if I could visit and they readily agreed.


 Ready to leave, we packed up and once again got into Tyler’s car and onto the 101. The view had been beautiful the day before, but it paled in comparison to the gorgeous scenery we witnessed as we headed further north. The scenery of Northern California was truly a testament to the wonderful handiwork of God.

We travelled for several hours until we were ready eat and pulled of the freeway and into the parking lot of a gas station in the middle of nowhere to make and eat our peanut butter sandwiches. We finished eating our meal almost without incident (Nate did manage to spill water all over his shirt), and we walked into the dinner that was next to the gas station to buy some apple pie, because we simply had to have American apple pie in a roadside dinner to make our trip complete. It was good apple pie, though cold, but the experience was well worth the price tag.

Getting back on the road after having our fill of apple pie, we set out to reach San Francisco as soon as possible, but we would quickly find ourselves sidetracked by a worthy distraction. Visible prominently was a sign pointing the direction towards Monterey California. Ed Ricketts and the famous aquarium called our name and we took turn. Close to an hour later we rolled into the bayside town and I was immediately glad that we’d made the decision to come. There are, in my experience, faceless towns entirely without character, and then there are those that are alive with their own soul and history. Monterey is one of the later kind, and the steep narrow streets and old building transported me to a different time and place, while the gorgeous bay tossed into foam by a brisk wind filled me once again with that wondrous sense of the sublime. Thanks to the guidance of Maggie the faithful GPS we found our way quickly to the old Cannery Row, though finding parking proved to be a bit more difficult. Eventually however, we managed to park and headed into the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Getting to see the many creatures contained their was one of the highlights of our trip, though the price tag was a little high and it wasn’t quite as amazing of an aquarium as I had expected, being about equal to the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach.


My next task after our journey into the aquarium was to find the lab of the famous oceanographer Ed Ricketts. If you don’t know who he is, look him up. He revolutionized the study of tidal ecology and is the star of several of John Steinbeck’s books, including Cannery Row. The lab is a little brown building tucked between two shops and is entirely without any marker to indicate where it is. I asked a few folks where it might be found, including a tour guide at the aquarium, and only one of them was able to give me any direction at all. Luckily, I’d seen a picture of it before on Wikipedia and was able to find it. My oceanography teacher Dr. Garrison had recommended that I worship at the altar, but I contented myself with snapping a picture of it (as a side note, if your any sort of student and you live in Orange County, I highly recommend taking Dr. Garrison’s oceanography class while he’s still available as a teacher. You will not regret it.)

It was high time for a meal when we finished our quest for the elusive lab and we headed for Monterey Bay’s Fisherman’s Wharf to have a meal of Fish and Chips. We found a little pub called London Bridges Pub and ordered Fish and Chips and Guinness. The Guinness was so well poured, with a mountain of foam on top, that I was loathe to drink it, but I did. I have to say that Fish and Chips and Guinness is a top notch combination, so if you find yourself in Monterey Bay, head to Fisherman’s Wharf and get yourself some (and don’t forget to pay Ed Ricketts’ lab a visit).


Finally, we got back on our way to San Francisco and nearly got ourselves killed by a driver who decided to use the shoulder as a passing lane. When we finally reached the city it was after dark, and, while Tyler wanted to stop, Nate and I decided that San Francisco at night wouldn’t be a good idea for three guys who really didn’t know the area at all. We would discover the next day just how right we were. Because of this decision, we kept heading North and an hour later arrived in Santa Rosa and got to spend some time with my cousins Chris and Tiffany, as well as paying my aunt a visit. This was honestly the best part of my trip, as I pretty much have to coolest cousins in existence. After sharing some pizza, we headed back to their apartment and they offered to let us stay the night(didn’t I tell you they were awesome), which was much preferable to sleeping  in Tyler’s car so we accepted. The next day would take us into San Francisco, which would lead us into some of our more colorful adventures, but that is a story for another day. Look for my account of the final leg of our journey to come in the next few days.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Life: Road Trip, Day One

I find that in general I am not a very impulsive person. The necessity of informing bosses well ahead of time when I needed time off, as well as planning around breaks from school, has created in me the habit of scheduling events far in the future. So, when Tyler, Nate and I firmly decided only a week before leaving that we were going to go on a road trip north, and that we would not plan where we were going along the way beyond our first stop in Morro Bay, this was unusually impromptu for me.

It was on a slightly overcast Thursday afternoon that we set out on our journey. We piled our luggage and food into my friend’s Scion and then set out down the Pacific Coast Highway. The first leg of the journey was along familiar territory and we passed such familiar sights as Harbor House. To our left was the Pacific Ocean, a heavy gray-blue reflecting the overcast sky. One of those brilliantly sunny days that turns the ocean into a shining brilliant blue would have been nice to inaugurate our journey, but the gray skies did nothing to dampen our spirits and the great open ocean still caused our hearts to swell.

Not long after leaving familiar territory we encountered our first obstacle in a thing frightening to any good Orange County bred individuals – a roundabout. Luckily for all of us, Tyler had driven on one before and was able to navigate it and our journey northwards continued. Unfortunately, traffic and mad drivers soon picked up as we entered the city of LA and our trip slowed to a crawl. As we crept along PCH in LA, we encountered the first in what would prove to be a series of difficulties that would lead us to eventually getting onto the 101 Freeway. As we traveled along, we noticed a sign telling us that to stay on PCH we needed to turn left. Since we noticed this sign in time, we were able to get over and stay on PCH. The next time this happened we wouldn’t be so lucky. I don’t mean to imply that we didn’t enjoy this stage of our journey – we chatted up a storm, made plenty of inappropriate jokes, and discussed mock-philosophically the various merits of the drivers around us.

You’re probably wondering, however, just what happened to us the next time PCH ditched us. Well, the second time was not too dramatic. I noticed a sign telling us that we needed to turn left too late, and we were forced to U-turn. However, the third time the road disappeared, none of us noticed the sign and we ended up in a residential area and on another roundabout. It was at this point that we decided we’d had enough of PCH’s fickle and unfaithful ways and abandoned her for a more faithful companion, the famous 101 freeway.
I cannot really express in words the powerful change that came over the landscape as we continued to head north. That’s not to say that Southern California does not have its own kind of beauty, but much of it was chocked by smog filled city streets and sprawling suburbs, but as we went further and further up the coast the land began to open up into wide vistas of deepest green surrounded by majestic mountains. Truly, this beauty is something everyone should witness for themselves. In the end my words will only seem cheesy. It only got better the second day.

Finally, at the end of our day we arrived in Morro Bay, a small town lying just south of San Louis Obispo. The area around the town is wooded and green and it hugs a blue bay out of which juts a huge piece of volcanic rock. The sun was already setting as we drove into Morro Bay, and we were ready to have our dinner. Nate’s brother Matt lives in Morro Bay, and we met him and his friends at a local Italian restaurant. It was nice little place, with good food and bad service.

After having our fill of hot bread and spaghetti, we went back to Nate’s brother’s place and then Nate, Tyler and I got Matt’s truck and he drove us up a long windy road to a high spot famous for its beautiful view of the stars. The sky had cleared by now and we were excited to actually get to see the heavens for once. The way up was dark and mysterious, the road wound back and forth up the side of the mountain and all we could see were the colorless shapes of the trees illuminated by the headlights of Matt’s truck. There’s something about dark roads, especially those that hug the mountains, that gives me an absolute sense of serenity, so the way up to the viewing spot was extremely peaceful (though this peace was disturbed somewhat by Matt’s bizarre taste in music). Sadly, by the time we reached our destination the clouds had swooped back in and only the moon was visible. Nevertheless, the spot was gorgeous. The spot we arrived at was stretch of grass on the edge of a cliff overlooking the bay. The moon was reflected in the dark waters below and we could hear the waves thundering against the cliff, while a furious wind came off of the sea and whipped the grass around and chilled our bones. Such scenes birth a wonderful sense of the sublime, and I found myself transported inwardly to a mystical otherworld of dreams and shadow shapes. I would have lingered there longer, but Matt wished to return home, and as he was our host we obliged.

We arrived at Matt’s house some time later. His house is rather grand for a bachelor pad, and is full of long stairways to trip down in the dark, but otherwise it fits the bill. He rooms with several other guys from the Coast Guard (I never did figure out how many) and the house comes stocked complete with beer, ax body wash and (sadly) porn magazines. The others decided we would watch a movie and we headed up stairs to begin. One of Matt’s roommates had already started watching something and we stuck with his choice. It was some new sports movie about a football star and was well done and entirely typical. I found myself bored with it and withdrew to a corner to draw and read Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. Finally, after the movie was done we shared a beer, goofed around for some time and then drifted off to sleep.

Look for the second day of our trip in the coming days.

Life: I return

After a long hiatus, I have decided to finally come out of hiding and start updating this blog again. While I’m certainly still busy with school and work, things have let up quite a bit. I’m sure that being finished
with the Victorian novel in my literature class has quite a lot to do with that.

Life in general has been going very well. I've already received my acceptance letter from UCI and will find out from UCLA at the end of this month whether or not I got in. UCLA is still my first choice, but if situations force me to go to UCI I won't be complaining. Work at Primerica is going well, I've now got my life insurance license and am currently involved in a program to get me promoted to Team Captain by the middle of summer.

I realize this post was short, but I wanted to give a quick update. My first real post back from my blog sabbatical will be one detailing my spring break journey into northern California. Look for it soon.