Not sure why.
Time for a Lagunitas. Maybe two.
(…and Emily, Connor, Lindsay, Courtney, Melina and Ellie)
It’s been many years (no snickering) since I was in college, but I wanted to share some thoughts before you head off to school. Given that this is the Digital Age, it seems more likely that you will read them if they are online, rather than on paper. So, here goes:
– Study. And, get good grades. But realize that your education is broader than what you are being taught in class.
– In this regard, your “world” has just grown beyond your home and high school and it’s important that you understand your place in it. So, even if you’re busy, attend those guest lectures about the presidential elections in Egypt, the economics of the European Union or the impact of limited access to clean water in Africa.
– Find out what your roommate paid for school books. Go spend the same amount on iTunes, that nice summer dress or tickets to Gotye. Switch receipts and give your roommate’s to your parents for reimbursement.
– Road trip to L.A.!
– Handed down from generation to generation like a Freemason handshake, master the ancient craft of building dorm room shelves using only cinder blocks, a can of spray paint and 1×10 pine boards.
– Discover that shampoo and toothpaste are not spontaneously created. You now actually need to go to the store and purchase them yourself.
– Learn to surf. It’s an activity that you can do throughout your life.
– Road trip to San Diego!
– Teach yourself how to play “My Body“. Whip out your tuba at a frat party and rip it up! (Query: Can one “whip out” a tuba?)
– Do your laundry with shavings from a bar of soap when you run out of laundry detergent and don’t have any quarters.
-Those things you shouldn’t be doing? (And you will know what they are.) Just be smart and safe about them.
-Sign up for a few classes that are far outside your major. For example, that class on Sub-Mycenaean pottery – take it. Better yet, come home at break and freak out your father by excitedly telling him that you want to make it your career.
– Road trip to Vegas!
– Fall in love. Fall out of love. Realize that you will be okay.
– Get an on-campus job. Nothing sharpens the scholastic focus like emptying the cafeteria trash several times a day.
– Find that special place to study – an empty classroom; the top floor of the library near the stacks dedicated to ancient Greek literature; or on the roof of your dorm. Also, discover your preferred pre-exam night “cramming” foods. (I highly recommend a six-pack of Mountain Dew and a large bag of Cheetos.)
– Identify a professor you like and get to know him or her. It’s the first step in building your network.
– Text or call your family every few days, but try to do it at times when you aren’t asking for money. They may not be worried, but they will certainly miss you.
And, remember: “Semper a Limax”.
“I don’t know if it would be good for the world if I suddenly spent all day at home.” – Jens Voigt
Perhaps, it’s just the advent of my middle years, but increasingly I find myself admiring those who are excelling later in life. The thought occurred to me again the other night while watching the first stage of the Tour de California. Several times during the more than five hours of racing, the camera would pan to the front of the peloton and show it being led at a furious pace by Jens Voigt.
For those of you unfamiliar with Mr. Voigt, he is a German cyclist for the RadioShack Nissan Trek team. I’d best describe him as a 170 lbs of nervous energy encased in a thin membrane of epidermis. Hook him up to the grid and he’d power a small city.
He’s also relentless. Last year, during the Tour de France, Voigt broke away from the peloton early in the race with a few other riders, but on a steep descent crashed and went over the side of a hill and into a ravine. A television crew captured footage of him climbing back up to the road carrying his bike. He then brushed himself off and rode like hell to catch up with the other riders. A few miles later, Voigt went down again, landing painfully on the side of his body and sliding across the asphalt. Agitated and injured, Voigt yelled at himself and his bike and then hopped back on and pedaled away. After I saw this, I didn’t think much more about Jens. After all, after two high-speed crashes, he most certainly was going to call it a day and “phone it in”. But, at the end of the race hours later, when the cameras cut to the peloton approaching the finish, there was Jens crushing it at the head of the pack.
In the 2010 Tour de France something similar occurred. On a 40 mph descent, Voigt’s tire blew and he crashed. His carbon fiber bike was destroyed, his ribs cracked and his body covered with blood and abrasions. It’s at this point that most mortals raise their hand and yell the equivalent of “check, please”. Voigt? He flagged down a car carrying bicycles for a group of young school students and borrowed one. Then he rode off on an undersized children’s bike (with toe clips) to make sure he could complete the race.
Here’s the thing. At 41 years old, Voigt is one of the oldest riders in professional cycling – arguably the most demanding of all professional sports. When he is driving at the head of the peloton, he is leading many riders that are young enough to be one of his children (he has six of them, by the way). He’s no longer a premier rider and rarely achieves a podium finish anymore. But, he is more popular than most cyclists that do. Why? Because it isn’t always about what you achieve. It’s also about how you achieve it. In Voigt’s case it is with passion, single-minded focus and tenacity. And, in the process, he has become a favorite of fans, who share their adulation and grow his legend with quotes like these:
“Scientists used to believe that diamond was the world’s hardest substance. But then they met Jens Voigt.”
“Jens’ testicles are bald because hair does not grow on a mixture of titanium, brass, steel, and cold, hard granite.”
“If Jens Voigt was a country, his principle exports would be Pain, Suffering, and Agony.”
“You are what you eat. Jens Voigt eats spring steel for breakfast, fire for lunch, and a mixture of titanium and carbon fiber for dinner. For between-meal snacks he eats men’s souls, and downs it with a tall cool glass of The Milk of Human Suffering.”
“The grass is always greener on the other side. Unless Jens Voigt has been riding on the other side in which case it’s white with the salty, dried tears of all the riders whose souls he has crushed.”
A few weeks ago my daughter and I played hooky and went to New Orleans for a weekend of beignets and Jazz Fest. (For those of you who haven’t been, two words: “Trombone Shorty”). It was to be a quick visit – only three days. As a result, I had planned our visit with the precision of the Normandy Invasion. Our airline, however, didn’t share my priorities and when we arrived in Houston at 11:30 pm we had missed our connecting flight. Worse yet, the next flight we could book would not arrive in New Orleans until the following evening.
As I tried to control my blood pressure by going to “my happy place” while looking for late night lodgings, my daughter approached me and said: “Let’s drive.”
And, that’s what we did.
We rented a car and drove I-10 through the warm, humid southern night, past the refineries of Houston, through Eastern Texas and into the bayous of Louisiana. For seven hours we motored through the darkness just talking. A father and his daughter. Near Lake Charles, I introduced her to the characters you only meet at 2 am over breakfast at The Waffle House. In a run down “Tiger” gas station near Grosse Tete we pumped gas and watched a caged Bengal tiger pace it’s cage in the darkness, 30 feet away. As we drove, we passed exit signs to places like De Ridder and Opelousas – towns I had passed through two years earlier during a long bike ride.
And somewhere along the way, I decided that I felt like writing again.