It is sad I'm having to do so while still working. I write to you from the lovely confines of Hawkins Field. Yes, baseball season is here. We are in the third inning of our second home game, and it is nice to see at least a few people in the stands. A little breezy out here today, but that is what this warm pressbox is for.
Since I left you last, the Horsemen have hosted a kick-ass Super Bowl party, with its own half time show, and I've returned from a trip to Los Angeles (both of which brought about some funny pictures - just email if you care to see). I'd like to say things have been calm around here, but not so much. I've been running around like an idiot trying to get things ready for baseball season, wrap up basketball, and prepare for NCAA hoops and SEC golf. Ugh. A busy spring indeed. Hell, I'm just hoping we don't have to throw in any NIT basketball games. Our teams are struggling this year. The women have lost just about as many games as the men, but the majority of their losses are to top 25 teams. The men's team has had a bit of an identity crisis, sometimes showing brilliance, other times showing confusion. I'm hoping they make a run here at the end, but chances are they will have to win the SEC to make the NCAAs.
Speaking of the men's SEC championship, the men are playing in Nashville in a few weeks. Typically I drive to Atlanta and work the event in the Georgia Dome. I'm thrilled to have it in my backyard this year. Sleeping in my own bed has its privileges. Plus it gives me a chance to see some of my buddies from the SEC office. A couple of them owe me a beer, so it is time to collect.
So my impressions of L.A. were that it is big, it has way too much traffic, tremendous views and a ton of poverty. I started to wonder if any of the homeless in the city actually came to L.A. to make something of their lives. I was very fortunate to have some very good friends with my while I was there. I traveled with our baseball time to L.A. for a tournament at USC. When I knew I was going to be out there, I emailed my old friends Eric Hampton and Raphael Davis. Eric is a friend from high school, who attended college at Emory in Atlanta. We kept in touch over the years but hadn't seen each other since a wedding in July of 2000. Raphael was an assistant wrestling coach while I was working at NIU. He moved back to his home town of L.A., and his girlfriend Amy followed him. Yeah, she is crazy. Regardless, all three of them spent time with me making sure I was enjoying my stay, which I absolutely did. It was a great time. I did watch baseball games on Friday and Sunday, but I skipped Saturday's game. I feel like L.A. is one of those places you go and you just have to be prepared to run yourself into the ground. I did just that. While I was there, I was able to take in the following:
- USC's campus is nice, but their athletic facilities are not that great. For a university that has tons of national championships, they certainly don't sink a lot of money into facilities. It just goes to show winning and tradition are keys to success just as are facilities.
- The Coliseum, home to the Trojans, was cool to see, yet severely run down. Here is something I did not know: the Coliseum was not built for the 1984 Olympics, but instead was built for the 1932 Olympics. I had no clue.
- The Hollywood sign is really small ... from a long distance. I never did make it to the actual sign, but it was cool to see it on the horizon as we drove around the city.
- Hollywood Boulevard was your typical tourist trap. I did see Spider Man perched on a trash can though, so that made it worth the walk.
- The Standard is this insanely trendy club in L.A. It was the first bar Eric took me to. $20 a person to get in. Once you are in, you go up an escalator, then hop in an elevator and ride up until the doors open to this rooftop bar with this beautiful view of the downtown skyline. As I walked around the bar, I was just taken back by the trendy lights, couches and chairs. There was a pool in the middle of the place, and some interesting techno music. This is exactly what I expected out of an L.A. club. Awesome.
- Hermosa Beach, CA, is home to Raph and Amy. It is a great place, and another place that was just what I thought L.A. would be. It is a cool as hell little Beach town, with now my favorite California dive bar, the Poop Deck.
- Venice Beach is basically like Winston-Salem's old Dixie Classic Fair, just located beside the ocean. Vendors everywhere hawking their hemp-ware and funny t-shirts. Although, it was a highlight of the trip to see both the courts where they filmed "White Men Can't Jump" and the roller-skating guitar player that was in the first few moments of the movie. Yep, he is still there.
- UCLA's campus is cool. I love the little downtown in Westwood. All of these shops, single movie theaters and bars. I saw the outside of Pauley Pavilion, and their insane track and field complex. I think it might be larger than our football stadium.
- I had dinner at an In-N-Out. Awesome. Simple menu and kick ass burgers.
- I also had dinner at Aunt Kizzy's Back Porch, a southern soul food restaurant. Great food, although ... if you are going to say you are southern food, make sure you have some sweet tea.
- I drove around Rodeo Drive. Didn't do any shopping because I was afraid I'd be arrested just for walking down the street.
All in all, it was a great trip. I realized how lucky I am to have really good friends all over the place. Eric, Raph and Amy gave up their weekends (especially E, who drove up from San Diego to crash on a hotel floor ... poor guy) just to spend time with me. They are damn good people, and I really do feel fortunate to have folks like that in my life.
The next couple of months will suck, I will not lie. Work is going to repeatedly kick me in the nuts and I don't get to see my little lady much. I've just try to dredge on through the muck and make the best of all of this work.
Hell, at least I was able to secure Cubs tickets for my trip to Chicago this summer. Heading back again ... I can't stay away!