Friday, January 9, 2015

Auburn Football From an Outsider

View of the field from my seat.
Now that the college football season is coming to a close with the final championship ahead, I felt it was a good time to share my experience of attending an Auburn University football game. Even if you have no interest in football, you have probably heard of the Auburn tigers, and I was no exception. I, however, am one who has very little interest in football, college or otherwise, but I was interested in experiencing the pomp involved at a school with so much football clout.

A couple friends were in town, so it was the perfect weekend to throw ourselves into the local culture of waking up early after a late return home the previous night, watching people park their cars creatively around town, and even drink an early afternoon margarita while walking downtown. Auburn fans did not disappoint on this weekend despite playing a no name team from a state that I no longer remember. They went all out with their orange and blue adorned vehicles driving circles around the blocks blaring marching band music screaming "WAR EAGLE!" at every turn.

Tailgating is an event at Auburn. It is here where the men dress in navy blue suits and bright orange ties and the women sport elaborate dresses of the same colors one trying to out-do the next. No ladies and gentlemen, this is not just any old sporting event, it is a place to find your mate, and it's serious business. You must have the right outfit, be invited into the right tailgating tents with no less than three large screen televisions and a catered spread that would feed the hungry people of a small nation, and you must live and breathe Auburn football. Anything less is blasphemy, and I was teetering on the edge in my not quite orange striped tank, black jersey skirt, and flip flops wandering around slack-jawed wondering how much money was involved in one brief afternoon.

Taken just after the eagle flew past
The 90,000 seat stadium was a sea of orange and blue, full to the brim on this cloudy day in October. We slowly trudged up the ramp in spirals to get to the top to our seats. Just when I was beginning to think that I would be in heaven before I got to the top, I looked to my left as an enormous eagle (the famous war eagle) was leaping from the concrete edge in front of me. All football aside, it was amazing to see this giant bird fly around, mind focused, despite the deafening cheers of tens of thousands of people as he launched himself toward the rubber prey in the middle of the field.

We squeezed past fans to our small space on a metal bench at one of the highest points in the stadium. As I settled in for a long afternoon of clanking helmets and a whole lot of stop and start that made little sense to me, I was immediately distracted by the fans. These southerners breathed new life into the meaning of fanatic. As I mentioned earlier, this game was an easy win for the tigers, but that didn't stop the fans from treating it like a championship playoff. The other team managed to get a touchdown. I thought, wow, good for them as angry men on all sides clad in tiger stripes spewed expletives as they upbraided the young men on the field who were doing the best they could to run and catch and tackle for our enjoyment.

They are still boys after all.

And just when I thought my new friends and I were having a private conversation on what on earth the Iron Bowl was (just like any of the other bowl games right?), a middle aged lady sitting in front of us turned around and in perfect southern drawl said the following:

Lady: "You do know what the Civil War is right?"

Us: "Umm yes."

Lady: "The Iron Bowl is just like that."

A controversial tradition
And the conversation went on in that fashion comparing the football rivalry with the University of Alabama to an actual war where people died. Respect was lost on my end, and I continued to take in my surroundings as an anthropologist instead of a fan. It was much more interesting that way.

The game was easily won, and the Auburn gods were satisfied. People poured from the stadium to all of the local watering holes and proceeded to toilet paper the trees in front of the university. It's tradition they say, but I could never quite figure out how defacing their own campus and causing a lot of extra work for university staff on Sunday equated to celebration. I guess that's why I'll always be an outsider.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

2014- Looking Back to Forge Ahead

Last year around this time I wrote a year in review. I had visited many new places and done a lot of new things, and I had the photos to prove it. This year, this review post is a bit different because I am a bit different. 2014 for me has been a year for learning, about myself, about what I want in my life, and about how the world works. So for those who know me and for those who stumbled upon this blog here's a bit about what happened this year.

I'm a bad blogger. I realized this fact this year. This year has marked a lot of changes both personally and geographically, and while I have had tons to write about, I just haven't . It's not because I haven't wanted to, but because I realized that it wasn't something I wanted to make a life out of. Some people do, and they are good at it. They write all the time, publishing ebooks and going on press trips. It's just not me, and I'm ok with it.

I spent the beginning of 2014 carving out a career in travel writing. I wrote for some excellent websites and a couple questionable ones. I reached a point where I was blogging twice a week, and travel writing was becoming something that I could have made a living doing. People even started finding me and asking me to write for their sites. And they paid me! But every time I sat down to write an article, a little voice in the back of my head was telling me that this wasn't what I was supposed to be doing. I ignored it for a while because I was living the dream- working in my PJ's and able to pick up and go whenever and wherever I wanted.

I lived in Washington state, Auburn, Alabama, and I visited family and friends all over the country including Hawaii. I went to Thailand for the first time, and I wrote about some of it. I even went back to the novel I started the previous November. But I soon realized that all of that wasn't enough. While I enjoy travel and writing about my experiences, and I love the freedom to be able to work on a novel for an entire day if I want, it wasn't enough. It wasn't making me jump out of bed in the morning; it wasn't my passion.

When I got to Alabama, I was itching to do something. I didn't know what it was though. And I don't even remember what prompted me to jump head first into this next step, but I did. I decided to apply to grad. school, to go back and get my PhD in education. It was that little voice again telling me that I had to get back in. While it causes me stress, it is that stress that allows me to make a difference. In order for that to happen, I knew a couple things: I needed to get a full ride, and I wanted an excellent program. I set my sights on schools that may be a bit out of reach, but "faith is taking the first step even when you can't see the whole staircase." I went for it.

So that's where I am as I kiss another year goodbye and usher in a new one, waiting to hear my fate and putting the finishing touches on my novel before I send it out to publishers. I'm not a travel writer, but I will continue to write. I will always continue to write, but it will be on my terms. Whatever may happen in the coming months, I'm ready for it, and that in and of itself is a grand accomplishment.

A giant thank you to all of the people who follow this blog and who have been so supportive in my journey to follow the road less traveled. It's been a rough ride and a great adventure, and I'm looking forward to what lies ahead. I enjoy writing it, and I hope you enjoy reading it. All the best for a happy, healthy 2015. Cheers!