Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Musings on Cleanliness

As my younger sister has so wisely observed, many people become more aware of their messiness when living with others (who are not related to them). This is obviously a generalization, but it definitely has merit. When you live with other people, you are more likely to notice how your particular messiness affects these other people (assuming that you generally have a clue about what’s going on around you. Which I have realized is apparently a pretty big assumption to make). For example: I am much more aware of how often and how long I leave my dishes in the sink (we don’t have a dishwasher) when I’m living with people who aren’t in my family (don’t ask why I’m ok with it with my family. I don’t know why).

I am by no means a neat-freak, and I will be the first to admit it. In the realm of mess, I inhabit the arena of clutter.

Visual Evidence

Exhibit A: my old office

Exhibit B: my current desk and surrounding area

I collect clutter quite easily. My desk has looked like that since about 5 days after I moved into my apartment. My school supplies – notebooks, stuff for production class, etc. – are sitting on the floor and have been since the first week of classes. Sitting right in front of my computer are my beloved-but-broken giant white sunglasses that I just can’t bring myself to throw out. You get the idea.

I sometimes wish I was an organized person, but I’m just not and probably never will be. I actually prefer a slightly cluttered work area to a completely organized area – when everything is organized and perfect all the time, it makes me nervous to move anything or put anything on the desk, for fear of messing up the organization. And then it sucks when I do eventually mess up the organization. So I just keep it cluttered and avoid that problem.

I don’t usually mind other people’s tendency to clutter either. I don’t mind cereal boxes out on the counter or the baking sheet left on top of the stove or a certain amount of dishes stacked in the sink. I don’t care if you leave your school books on the coffee table or your laptop charger in the outlet in the living room.

That all being said, there are certain forms of messiness where even I draw a line. Primarily – food. An actual statement spoken by me to one of my roommates a few weeks ago: “Do you know who left a half-eaten roll sitting on a magazine on the coffee table?” (that roll sat there for two days). Right now, I could easily replace the second half of that sentence with “…half of an opened stick of butter on the counter?” or “…a single rotting banana on the counter?”

I am probably borderline paranoid about food in some ways. I don’t like putting my food directly on countertops unless I known the countertop is clean. I don’t even like putting my utensils directly on the counter unless I know it’s clean. I always seal my food properly before putting it in the refrigerator and if there’s any question in my mind about whether or not food has gone bad, I throw it out. I honestly can’t even wrap my mind around the idea that someone would leave half of an opened stick of butter (sitting on the wrapper, at least) sitting on the counter for several days. This is the second time I’ve seen that, by the way.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Movie Reviews II

More movie reviews, including a bonus, extra-special, slightly-drunken review. (Please note that I was not drunk at 10:24 am when I posted this, just typed it up on a Friday night and posted it the morning after. I sensed you were judging me).

Stranger Than Fiction (2005): Let me get this out of the way - I. Love. This. Movie. I love everything about this movie. The writing, the story, the cinematography, the it all. Will Ferrell plays Harold, a dull IRS agent who can suddenly and inexplicably hear his life being narrated by an omniscient voice. There's the love interest (Maggie Gyllenhaal) - a feisty baker Harold is auditing, the literary expert (Dustin Hoffman) who's trying to help Harold figure out what type of story he's in and who the narrator is, and the narrator (Emma Thompson) who is actually an author writing a book about Harold (who she thinks is only a character). Do yourself a favor - forget what you thought about Will Ferrell before and watch this movie.

Punch-Drunk Love (2002): A downtrodden small business owner with seven nosy and belittling sisters and no social life has to deal with an escalating credit card scheme all while trying to start a relationship with the woman of his dreams. This was a strange movie. That's really all I can think to say. The plot is simple (and strange), but looking back it's also fairly solid. Like Will Ferrell in Stranger Than Fiction, Adam Sandler gives a surprising performance. Very understated and nuanced, especially coming from a man previously seen yelling about SnackPacks and beating up Bob Barker. If you typically like quirkier movies, you'll probably like this one. Otherwise, rent Spanglish for a more mainstream but still great performance from Sandler.

Sophie's Choice (1982): Let me get another thing out of the way - I want to be Meryl Streep when I grow up. And I think you do too. Set in 1947, Meryl Streep plays Sophie, a Holocaust survivor now living in Brooklyn with Nathan, an eccentric biologist (Kevin Kline) who had nursed her back to good health when she first arrived in America. Peter MacNicol plays Stingo, a young Southern man who moves to Brooklyn to be a writer. The three become best friends but as Nathan's behavior becomes more erratic, Stingo becomes curious about Sophie's life and what brought her to Brooklyn. She reveals her experiences during the Holocaust, including the heart-wrenching choice she was forced to make when taken to Auschwitz. Great performances from all three main characters and a supremely depressing story. You have to really invest yourself in the story - the choice is not revealed until the end, at which point you begin to understand Sophie's previous behavior. If you haven't connected to the movie prior to the final scenes, it probably won't resonate too much. It's long and it's slow at points, but overall it's a good movie.

Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991)(slightly-drunken review): You know the story...steal from the rich to give to the poor while wearing tights and waving swords around yada yada yada. The main problem with this movie is that Kevin Costner does not at any point in time attempt to play baseball. If he had just taken a swing at a ball at some point in time or at least given a speech about baseball, it might have been a better movie. The acting is almost universally bad, and from actors who are normally pretty good (really, Morgan Freeman?) which leads me to believe that the script is probably the root of the problem. The script and a distinct lack of baseball are the roots of the problem. The only redeeming element for me was Alan Rickman, who seemed to realize that the script was shit and decided to just make the best of it and have some fun with the part. By the way, I changed the words of the Bryan Adams song to "everything I do...I do it for Rickman..." It's better that way. Trust me.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Entering, and Then Leaving, Las Vegas

This past weekend, I drove to Las Vegas to visit Cybill, who was in town for work and offered to let me stay at her hotel with her. She was essentially my sugar mama for the weekend, as we were staying in a posh suite at Mandalay Bay. Things we marveled over: two bathrooms, a phone in the bathroom, a tv in the bathroom, and a cool view of the strip (we were on the 25th floor). Yes, 75% of the marvelous things were related to the bathrooms.

Remarkably enough, I finished my work for my Monday class on Friday (don’t expect that to ever happen again) so I could have a carefree weekend. I left on Saturday afternoon and it’s about a 5 hour drive from Los Angeles, but it’s a much prettier drive than say…west Texas, so it wasn’t too bad. The route takes you right through the Mojave Desert and the mountains don’t even look real sometimes. Then Vegas just sort of pops up out of nowhere. We were both a little tired on Saturday night, me from driving and Cybill from jet lag, so we just went to the Bellagio to see the water show and then grabbed some dessert at a little pastry shop, at which point we literally saw three men and a baby. Specifically, we saw three men and beer and a baby. It was actually a little frightening.

Sunday we got up and walked all over the place. Mandalay Bay is connected to the Luxor, which is connected to MGM, which is either connected to or really damn close to New York New York. Either way, we wandered through those four for a bit, then went back to the hotel to see the Shark Reef. It’s a pretty neat little aquarium in Mandalay Bay…not sure it’s worth $17, but it was cool. And I can add an animal to my list of weird animals I’ve touched this year: skate. The others are zebra, rhinoceros, giraffe, and penguin. In case you were curious.

I took Cybill for her first In-N-Out Burger experience, then we took the monorail and saw Harrah’s, The Venetian, The Mirage, and Caesar’s Palace. We literally walked in circles most of the time because all of these places are ridiculously confusing and everything starts to look the same. We made several large and unnecessary circles in each of the casinos we visited. Over the course of the day, we passed at least 11 Starbucks. I say “at least” because we stopped counting after the 11th (I think the 24-hour Starbucks was the 11th.)

Speaking of Starbucks…a lot of Starbucks' now will put your name on the cup when you order so people don’t mistakenly take someone else’s drink. The first time Cybill and I went, I looked at her cup and saw that her name had become “Silva.” The second time we went, she said her name, then spelled it. It ended up on the cup as something along the lines of “Sybhill.”

Sunday night we went to dinner at House of Blues, conveniently located right in the hotel. Barbecue, booze, and blues…good night. I was up and out early on Monday for the drive back to L.A. so I could go to class that afternoon. Boo.

If I had to guess, I'd say that Cybill's favorite part of the weekend was when I explained various archaeological artifact-dating techniques. Surely a moment she'll never forget.

All-in-all, it was a great weekend. And no, I didn’t forget to tell you about the part where we gambled, because we didn’t actually gamble at all. I’m sorry. (The person that apology is for knows who he is…)

And now I must go do an assignment for my scary production class. More movie reviews coming soon probably.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Hercules Would Never Make It in the FBI

There is a battle raging within the walls of my apartment complex. A battle so fierce and with such far-reaching consequences, that all who come in contact with its warriors can only shake their heads and wonder when the carnage will end.

It all started quite innocently enough. I was sitting in class with my friend, who I will call Hercules, for reasons very soon to be revealed. We were discussing television shows and which shows we will potentially be writing our research papers about. Hercules commented that he would like to write about the show Hercules, starring Kevin Sorbo. Classmate Hercules stated "In my mind, Kevin Sorbo is one of the finest television actors of the 90s."

Now, I have nothing personal against Kevin Sorbo.* He just committed a heinous and unforgivable sin. That's all.

What did he do to offend me, you ask? Did he make nasty remarks about one of my sisters? Did he spit on my grandmother? Did he kick a three-legged orphan puppy into a puddle of raw sewerage and shards of glass? No. To the best of my knowledge, Kevin Sorbo has done none of these things.**

His offense was much worse. Ok, maybe not worse than the spitting on my grandmother thing, because it's pretty ridiculous to spit on anybody's grandmother, but for the sake of effect let's just go with the much worse theme.***

I didn't really know anything about Kevin Sorbo for most of my life. I knew he was Hercules. I knew he had long hair (I don't do long hair).**** And that's about all I knew.

Until I came across an interview with Mr. Sorbo.

You see...back in the early 90s, an idealistic and apparently stupid young man named Kevin Sorbo auditioned for the role of Special Agent Fox Mulder on a new show called the X-Files. The part eventually went to David Duchovny (an excellent decision) and Kevin Sorbo went on to star in the tv show Hercules (good for him).

And he would have remained completely off my radar if it were not for his comments in an interview that happened across my path. In this particular interview, Kevin Sorbo dared to imply...wait for it...that he would have made a better Fox Mulder than David Duchovny.

I'm'll have to give me a moment to try and stop laughing at the thought of Kevin Sorbo playing Mulder...

...nope, not done yet...

Ok. I think I've composed myself. ******

Hercules and I continue to clash over this important argument. I promise to bring you updates about this ongoing battle as it develops.

*That's a lie.
**I don't know the man though.
***My grandmother would kick Kevin Sorbo's ass.
**** With the exception of Brad Pitt in Legends of the Fall.*****
*****And maybe Johnny Depp in Chocolat.
******Still laughing in my head though.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

What's a wind chill?

Lately I haven’t been doing much other than reading and writing. And going to In-N-Out Burger. And watching tv (which I consider research for my classes). So alas, I present you with another random collection of thoughts.

First, three points…

Religion point: there is a crucifix above the door in all of my classrooms.

Personal hygiene point: I shower every day, but I don’t have to wash my hair every day here. It’s glorious. And it’s saving me money on shampoo.

Class point: I joked about it above, but watching tv is actually a part of one of my classes. Just clips, but still awesome. So far we’ve watched clips from: The Twilight Zone, I Love Lucy, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, All in the Family, Super Friends, Harvey Birdman, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Twin Peaks, and Lost. And of all the things I could be assigned to write a 20 page research paper about, I’m guessing that a tv show of my choosing isn’t the worst.

Things I miss about home (other than family and friends, of course):

- Knowing where I’m going. I’m still in that awkward phase of feeling slightly uncomfortable when I’m out driving. Also, my Maryland plates make me a little self-conscious…like they all look at me and mark me as an outsider…damn hippies.

- Rain. I know that sounds crazy (because last I heard, you all back on the east coast are still getting poured on quite frequently), but I actually miss having a rainy day now and then. Apparently it does rain here occasionally, and I’ve seen it actually get cloudy a few times as well…but I miss those wicked summer thunderstorms, like the one that happened the night before we left to drive out here. I think Angela and I were both pretty sure we were going to die that night. It was awesome.

- Beer prices. People keep telling me how expensive L.A. is, but so far the only thing I’ve noticed with a higher price (other than gas) is beer. $10 for 6-pack of Sam Adams. About $2 more than back home, which doesn’t seem like a lot…but that $2 is one less cheeseburger at In-N-Out. I guess I haven’t noticed the price thing too much because Easy Mac, Ramen, and Pop-Tarts cost the same just about everywhere.

Random roommate conversations:

Note: All three of my roommates grew up west of the Rockies. Two are native Californians.

Convo 1:

Roommate 2: So like…snow days…
Me: What about them?
R2: They actually exist?
Me: Uh…yeah.
R2: That is so awesome.

Convo 2:

Roommate 3: I’m fine with earthquakes, but hurricanes…
Me: Seriously?
R3: Well we don’t get weather here, so hurricanes and stuff freak me out.
Me: We kinda get everything in Maryland, but nothing really to extremes. We get thunderstorms, hurricanes, snow storms, tornadoes…
R2: Tornadoes? What’s that like??
Me: Uh…scary?
R2: What do you do? Do you like…go outside to see it?
Me: You generally just get your ass to the basement. Haven’t you seen Twister?

Convo 3:

Me: I’ve never had a fish taco.
R3: You’ve never had a fish taco?!
R2: What do you eat on the east coast?!

Convo 4 (not really a convo, but it's the inspiration for the title. And by 'inspiration for' I mean that it is the title):

R2: What’s a wind chill?

Perhaps I will have more to dazzle you with soon...heading for Vegas this weekend...

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Movie Reviews

It seems that I don't lead a very interesting life (don't listen to what Angela says, someone stole my phone and sent her those drunken text messages...). In order to fill in gaps I think I'll keep you posted on the movies I watch, whether it's for a class or in my personal time. These will probably be movies I've just seen for the first time, but some may be old favorites I re-watch.

Let The Right One In (2008) (class assignment): A 12-year old Swedish boy with morbid interests and problems with bullies falls for the mysterious girl who moves in next door. Turns out she's actually a vampire. I hate when that happens. It was an ok movie, I generally don't do the vampire thing but I get the feeling that this one is quite unlike all that Twilight stuff. It's essentially a coming of age story but, you know, with a vampire. Good if you're into darker subject matter. It's in Swedish but you have the option for English dubbing or English subtitles. It's also being remade in America...which means it more than likely will be a very different movie.

Stormy Monday (1988) (someone else's class assignment): A corrupt American businessman (Tommy Lee Jones) tries to buy out a jazz club (owned by Sting!) in Newcastle, England. His plan is foiled by Sean Bean and Melanie Griffith, because that's what they do. The action is slow and the plot is thin but it has a noir-ish feel and involves a Polish jazz band and a young Sean Bean. That's gotta be worth something, right?

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007) (personal time...3 hours of personal time...long title, long movie): The title pretty much sums it up...a look at the last few months of the life of Jesse James. There's not a lot of action, only one robbery that I can remember. It's more about the decline of the infamous James gang and insight into Jesse's and Robert Ford's personal lives and motivations. The cast is excellent - Brad Pitt as Jesse James, Casey Affleck as Robert Ford, Mary-Louise Parker as Zee James (Jesse's wife), Sam Rockwell as Charlie Ford (Robert's brother), and some fantastic supporting character actors. I also loved the cinematography. There's a dusty and faded quality, almost like you're looking at an old tintype photograph. That all being's a slow movie. Watch it if you: like character-driven stuff, don't need explosions every 5 minutes to stay interested, and have 2 hours and 40 minutes to spare.

Something the Lord Made (2004 - HBO Original)(personal time): I actually first saw this movie a few months ago and then caught part of it again this morning. Two words for you: Alan. Rickman. A few more words for you: The true story of cocky cardiologist Alfred Blalock (Rickman) and his black janitor-turned-surgical assistant Vivien Thomas (Mos Def). Set in the 1930s-1950s in Tennessee and Baltimore, Blalock and Thomas's groundbreaking discovery of a treatment for "blue baby syndrome" is set to a backdrop of racial inequality. Great story, great cast, great movie. Watch it if you ever get the chance (they replay it on HBO now and then).

Monday, September 7, 2009

Things Overheard

I think there is a great need for me to let you know about the odd and amusing things that I overhear on campus, around the city, wherever. And so begins what will hopefully be a recurring topic known as Things Overheard (unless I, or you, come up with a more interesting title).

Today's Thing was overheard yesterday, while I sat on a bench on the edge of an aisle of palm trees, reading and enjoying the 75 degree temperature and pleasant ocean breeze. Not that I'm rubbing it in or anything...

So anycrap, this girl walks by on her phone and this is what I caught of her conversation:

"I had to go visit her and see the new bunny she got. [pause] Yeah. It's like...this illegal genetically-modified rabbit she got in the fashion district."

In other news, there have been several more Mr. California sightings. Two sources have given me the following details about Mr. California:
- He frequents the dining hall where he was first discovered
- He is usually surrounded by a "posse" of giggling females and wannabe males
- He is most likely an undergraduate, possibly even a freshmen

While my sources (both male graduate students) are certain that Mr. California is a freshmen and not a creeper who just likes hanging around freshmen girls, I am not convinced. When I asked for proof, they responded that they had seen Mr. California with his posse on a quad near the undergraduate dorms. My inquiries about two male graduate students trolling around by the undergraduate dorms were dismissed as "not the same" and "totally different."

Saturday, September 5, 2009

On Creatures Assumed To Be Mythical

The other night, I was sitting in one of the campus dining halls with a few friends, just shootin' the breeze after class. We were discussing classes, our previous lives, Megan Fox's stupidity, you know...the usual.

Suddenly, the door near our table swung open and in walked the most magnificent creature I've ever seen. Possibly the most magnificent creature I might ever see in the rest of my lifetime. I would say that he's half man, half god but really I think it's more of a 25-75 man-god split. 40-60 at the least.

He had the most beautiful blond hair cascading over his perfectly tanned skin, muscles bulging out of his colorful Ocean Pacific-esque tank top, and a saunter that could only belong to a surfer. A man-god surfer at home amongst the waves of the universe.

In short, he is the embodiment of Southern California. I call him Mr. California, and it is my new life goal to capture him on film and bring him to you all. He was last spotted sauntering down a sidewalk near the south entrance to campus. Stay tuned for updates.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Little Things

Random collection of thoughts and observations so far:

The very first thing I noticed on campus during move-in was that I was pretty much the only girl not wearing tiny shorts and a tight t-shirt or tank top. Some were even wearing dresses or skirts. Fortunately I'm not really the type to worry too much about how I'm dressed compared to others, especially on a manual labor sort of day (unless of course I look like a complete jackass, which to them I probably did in my hiking pants, t-shirt, and tennis shoes). Nonetheless, I found it amusing to think of all these clothing-challenged folk trying to haul their belongings all over campus. I was slightly disappointed when I realized that the sole reason they dragged their parents along was to do all the work for them. And when I say that their parents did all the work, I mean that their fathers did all the work. Part of me cringed as the mothers and daughters stood around talking, perpetuating the helpless female image. But the part of me that was pushing a wonky-wheeled cart overflowing with my boxes and bags thought "those lucky bitches."

The next odd thing I noticed seemed at first like it was perhaps just an anomaly. A single skateboarder rolled by on a sidewalk as Angela and I walked across campus. It struck me as odd because I couldn't remember the last time I saw someone skateboarding. I started seeing more and more skateboarders as the weekend progressed and I wondered if they would all be trying to do tricks all over campus and jumping off of anything they could, turning a walk to class into an obstacle course of flailing limbs. But when classes started on Monday and things were in full swing, there was no jumping, no sliding on railings, no shouts of "Duuude! You got mad air, bro!" You see...they actually skateboard here. a means of transportation. They roll to class, to the bookstore, to their dorms, they slap hands with other skateboarders, and sometimes they roll along really slowly while they're talking to people who are walking...and that's about it.


The other day, someone said something to the effect of "oh my god, it's sooo humid out!" It was cute.

I saw two barefoot guys in the bookstore the other day. The bookstore isn't really near any dorms or apartments.

From certain spots on campus, we can see smoke from the fires. Earlier this week it looked like a mushroom cloud from an atom bomb. I haven't noticed any difference in the air quality, but my roommate said her contacts have been messed up pretty much since she moved here.

We're close to the ocean so we get some nice breezes, but it does get hot here still. And the fact that it's a "dry heat" doesn't make any damn difference. When you're in the sun, you're baking.

I think I'll try the gym for the first time today. This should be an interesting experience...I can't wait to unleash my paleness on an unsuspecting population...

Continued Introduction

Picking up where I left off...

I moved into my on-campus apartment last Friday. I didn't actually get to unpack most of my stuff, because I didn't have any hangers or any additional drawers to put stuff in. So I mostly just updated myself on a weeks-worth of extremely important internet offerings - Facebook, fmylife, textsfromlastnight, awkwardfamilyphotos, failblog, etc. etc. etc.

I've now met all 3 of my roommates and everyone seems normal and nice so far.

Saturday morning was my program orientation. The faculty and staff all seem very nice so far. The dean is definitely a character...quite a cusser... At one point, he said "If my language offends anyone..." and we all figured he was going to apologize...we didn't expect this ending - "'re in the wrong field." Good times.

All of the students in my program seem nice as well. There are 12 screenwriting students, and I'm one of two women. Girl power.

Quite a few of the screenwriters and film production students are living on campus. In fact there are seven dispersed in the four apartments above mine, and two 2nd year students up there somewhere as well. We've all been hanging out and getting to know each other and all is well so far.

On Saturday night, we were all invited to an informal meet-and-greet with 2nd and 3rd year students from the program. We went to a local bar and it turns out that this bar (under it's former owners) was the inspiration for a certain bar in a certain animated series that I certainly love. Let's just of the highlights of my life so far. Try not to focus on how sad that is.

Sunday was a lazy-ish day. I went to Target, which ended up being one of the poorer life decisions I've ever made, since the Target I chose is situated nearby to my school as well as 2 or 3 others. The parking lot was ridiculously designed and it was a zoo inside. I got most of what I needed though, including hangers and drawers so I could actually unpack.

Monday was my first day of classes. My screenwriting class was not nearly as bad as I had anticipated.

You see, I was quite nervous before class. I haven't written much in a while and I'm probably a little rusty. I was expecting an intimidating professor to point and shout at me to "WRITE SOMETHING RIGHT NOW!" and then tell me that it was shit. Instead we have a very pleasant woman who started the course slow and easy. Then most of us went out to a little Mexican place near campus for dinner. $8 for a delicious quesadilla with homemade tortillas and tons of chicken...muy bueno. When I got home, it was the first time that all four of us in our apartment were home at the same time, so we sat up talking until after midnight.

So basically I was feeling all warm and fuzzy inside. Which was great because it probably made it much more fun for the universe to crush my soul on Tuesday.

My production seminar class was Tuesday and it was a bit more...intense. It's generally accepted that most screenwriters are not that interested in production. Well...I think there's generally an interest in the elements of it, but not in actually doing it. And this professor stated quite bluntly that while most production professors teach differently to screenwriting students (i.e. make it a little less involved), he will not be doing that. He also says "rad." We all left class with a slightly dazed look on our faces.

Ok so from here on out, I will try to avoid making this a day-by-day account of exactly what I'm doing, I just wanted to cover the basics that most people have been asking me about (roommates and classes). Hopefully this will become some wacky combination of:
- my East Coast-minded observations of life on the West Coast
- insight into the life of a graduate student
- random entertaining things that happen to me
- things that I say in my sleep

Just tell me if I'm being boring or if you want me to write about something in particular.


I understand that people have been wanting updates about my adventures on the west coast, so I figured that this might be the easiest way. I started a blog a few months ago when I went to Switzerland, updated once about the trip to New Orleans, then...nothing. Apparently nothing interesting happened between then and now.

But now...NOW...I'm in Los Angeles. And I'm told that that's interesting. So welcome to my new blog! I think I set it so that you can still comment even if you don't have a Google account...just leave your name so it doesn't just say anonymous.

Let me backtrack a bit just so everyone's on the same page... I'm starting as a grad student in Writing for Screen and Television at a school in L.A. I grabbed my trusty sidekick Angela and started the long drive to the Pacific on Saturday, August 22.

We stopped on Saturday night in Athens, Tennessee (a favorite little spot of Morgan's and mine - only this time no one rolled over in bed and woke me up at midnight to ask if we brought the $1250 check to pay the church in New Orleans). Sunday was a short driving day and we got to Vicksburg, Mississippi around 3 p.m. I taught Angela a very important Smith family driving rule along the way - if you can't see the gas station from the end of the exit ramp, get back on the highway and find another. Especially when there's a risk that you'll unknowingly end up in East Deliverance, Alabama...

We stayed with my wonderful cousin and her husband in Vicksburg on Sunday night. We went to the buffet at one of the casinos on the was delicious. Mmm...cornbread and sweet tea... The next morning we were up and out by 8 a.m. to start one of our long driving days. We got some awesome barbecue, or rather Bodacious Barbecue, as the restaurant was called, as soon as we got into Texas. There were seriously men in overalls and cowboy hats walking around. Yeehaw.

After that great experience, Texas betrayed us and revealed its true self: a vast wasteland of nothingness. Nothingness broken only by billboards for three things: booze, adult superstores, and churches. We finally made it to Odessa for the night, setting of the Friday Night Lights book, movie, and tv series. Along the way we happened to discover that a sane person's breaking point comes about 7 hours into Texas. How broken were our minds by the end of the day, you ask? Angela accused me of being a serial fairy killer (not a fairy serial killer, because that would imply that I'm a fairy), and in the hotel lobby I told Angela not to put her bags down because the floor was lava. Lava filled with sharks. Sharks with laserbeams on their heads. Texas will do that to you.

We got an early start again the next morning for another long-ass drive. We thought we'd seen the worst of it...but we were wrong. The scenery was actually nicer as we got closer to the mountains and all that good stuff, and at one point we were pretty much scraping the border of Mexico. Around the time we were passing through El Paso/Ciudad Juarez, we looked at the gps (who shall henceforth be called by her given name - Bernice) and saw that our arrival time in Phoenix was 6 p.m. It was about 1 p.m. at that point and I thought to myself "wow, only 5 more hours!"

Then we hit New Mexico.

Suddenly it was only 12 p.m. Welcome to the Mountain Time Zone. Also of note in New Mexico - they had border patrol set up and were randomly stopping cars. We were of course stopped and asked if everyone in the vehicle was a U.S. citizen. I blame Angela.

Anycrap, we're coasting along through New Mexico, which is not much better than Texas, and we're it rolls around to 2 p.m. and I'm thinking to myself "wow, only 4 more hours!"

Then we hit Arizona.

Suddenly it was only 1 p.m. Welcome to the Pacific Time Zone. Damn time zones.

We took pictures of all the nothingness, but I haven't had time to load everything onto my computer yet.

We finally made it to Phoenix (during rush hour...awesome) and settled in at my wonderful friends' apartment. I had built in an extra travel day just in case of an emergency, but since there were no emergencies we had the day off on Wednesday. We mostly just sat around and watched tv all day. It was glorious. Especially considering that it was 111 degrees outside. Thursday morning we were up and out by 8:30 for the drive into L.A.!

It's about a 6 hour drive to Los Angeles and it's more nothingness for most of the way. We finally started to hit the outer edges of the city around 1:30. The traffic wasn't too bad, kinda felt like the beltway at rush hour...but with palm trees. It was still hectic though just because it was all so unfamiliar to me. Bernice only let us down once, but she re-routed us very quickly and there were no problems. We got to the hotel, dropped our stuff in the room, then made a beeline for In-N-Out Burger. After not eating since breakfast, it was perhaps the most glorious hamburger I've ever eaten. We went back to the hotel and lay around in bed watching tv the rest of the night because we didn't have the energy to do anything else.

Friday morning was another bright and early morning - move-in day! We got to campus by 8 a.m. and did all the check-in stuff (which, by the way, made SU look like the ultimate champion-of-champions when it comes to move in). Despite the chaos and disorganization, we got my stuff moved into my apartment (I'm living on campus) and I got Angela back to the hotel to catch the airport shuttle. So I basically dragged her out of bed at 6:30 a.m., made her lug my belongings through a huge parking lot and into my apartment in 95 degree heat, then made her take a hotel shuttle to the airport for a 6 hour flight that was really 9 hours because of the time change. On her birthday. Whoops.

This post is long enough already, so I think I'll actually stop here and save the next phase for the next entry!

You stay classy, Maryland. (It'll be easier without me there...)