Thursday, December 6

We've Been on the Run, Driving in the Sun

Odometer: 17,678
Location: Coalinga, CA

Note: This posting should technically be dated the morning of Sunday, December 2. Just pretend that's when you're reading it.

With my fourth quarter about to come to a close, I had one last game to meet, greet, and eat. Fatigue had really gotten the better of me at this point, and while I knew I was going to miss this wonderful experience, it was hard to keep my focus with only one game to go.

I wanted to check out the USC campus and its coeds on Friday, but it rained the entire day, causing me to hole up in a bubble tea café. On their flatscreen, they aired Poetic Justice followed be The Last King of Scotland. Does anyone know if it’s normal to show R-rated movies feature violence, nudity, profanity and liberal use of the N-word in Los Angeles eateries? ‘Cause I can’t see this flying too many other places. Anyway, Saturday’s weather was much more cooperative – it was beautiful, actually, and I was surprised to see that it full of revelers by the time I arrived at 8am.
I still had no idea where anything was in Los Angeles, but Grandma knew the way and got me to the campus before LA traffic had a chance to slow us down. Ominous electronic signs declared the Coliseum lots “JAMMED”, even at my early arriving hour. All open lots were charging 50 bucks a car which is the most I’ve seen this entire season. Furthermore, it’s not like you’re going to tailgate in the Shrine Auditorium parking lot, so it’s truly highway robbery. Safety concerns be damned, I opted for street parking a mile away from campus, figuring the daylight would keep any folks with evil intent away from my car and its contents.
My trip to USC was a bit different than all the others because I had no contacts set up before my arrival. Usually, a blogger or friend of a friend, or a random person I met on the internet acts as a partial host, giving me the tips on what to see and expect. But no matter, at this point, I’ve become quite accustomed to crashing people’s tailgates and sampling their food in addition to their thoughts, feelings and concerns about the wonderful game of college football. When I saw an entire lamb turning on a spit, I knew I had to chat with the people doing the turning. In my conversation with a man named Jack, I asked one of my usual questions: “If you could change one thing about the game, what would you like to see be done differently?” After sixteen games at various levels all across the country, Jack was the first person to express his disapproval of the college overtime format. I happen to wholeheartedly agree with him, and have been consistently surprised that nobody else shared this opinion with me earlier. We bonded immediately. I also learned that they squeezed 32 lemons for the lamb’s marinade. I said, “that sounds like a lot of work,” to which the main squeezer replied, “You don’t want to know.” The campus was packed with people of all ages, genders, and races, with plenty of UCLA fans to boot. The crowd was in full revelry mode, but in a more laid back fashion than most of the places I’ve visited. That may have been in part due to the home team’s status as heavy favorites, but I have to think that it’s a SoCal thing as well. The diverse fan base meant diverse food as well, and I was lucky enough to sample various meats, many of which were served in tortillas. One Trojan fan chastised my choice of corn tortillas over flour. In Chicago, only the gringos go for flour, but perhaps in LA, things are different. Anyone have an inclination on that? I was also pleased to find Patron and Modelo Especial, a major step up from the Jack Daniels and Coors Light I’ve encountered across the rest of the country. Unfortunately, I never made it back to taste that lamb. I can only assume it was succulent and delicious.
Couldn't find my cardinal and gold shirt

Everyone told me I had to go see Tommy Trojan, the statue located in the heart of USC’s campus. Apparently there was great concern over UCLA pranksters because when I found him, Tommy was covered in duct tape so that he would not be painted in blue and gold. That’s right, the Trojan was wrapped for his protection.
Insert condom joke... now

I have to give major thanks to my doppelganger, Jonathan who managed to set me up with an excellent ticket for face value. At the gate, the woman working security told me, “You can’t bring that bag in because it’s a backpack.” I have brought my black shoulderbag in to 14 other stadiums this season without issue. I said, “It’s not a backpack, it’s a shoulderbag.” “Well, you can’t bring it in because it’s bigger than 14 inches.” “It’s exactly 14 inches, those are the dimensions. It’s been 14 inches since I bought it.” Not wanting to argue with me anymore, she allowed me and my bag passage. Turns out it’s 15 inches, but I’m glad she didn’t break out a ruler because my car was over a mile away. The Coliseum always looks huge on TV, but in person it has an intimate feel. Their mascot, a white horse named Traveler, sprints down the sidelines chasing a scrawny guy with a flag in his hat who surely runs for the cross country team. The band is quite good, though the sunglasses look comes off as rather cheesy to me. Between the third and fourth quarters, they light the Olympic Torch at the end of the stadium. It’s a pretty sweet tradition that no one else in the country can claim. UCLA played sloppy and erratic. There’s clearly some talent on the team, but they’re so horribly coached that they never stood a chance in this game. The home crowd never really made much noise or seemed overly engaged in the game. I’m sure the Bruins deserve part of the blame. The game ended on a four yard run by Hershel Dennis. The last play of my season. No profound thoughts came to me at that point. I’d had my share of wistfulness near the end of the Iron Bowl. But this time I was pretty much just satisfied with the journey. Relieved to be done, and more than anything, glad that I’ve done this. Had UCLA made it more of a game, perhaps there would have been some sort of climactic end for me, but the game just ended and that was that. Poo tee weet and whatnot. I returned to revel with some of the fans I’d met before the game. They were all pleased and eagerly looking forward to the Rose Bowl matchup against Ohio State. Apparently I missed a pretty significant brawl between friends at the next tailgate over. Nobody knew what sparked the incident, but all who witnessed agreed that it was surprisingly violent. Fight On, indeed.

And so that’s it. Well, sort of. I’m heading up to San Francisco to see some friends and have some fun. I think I’ve earned a little R&R.

1 comment:

jonathantu said...

Safe trip home and, more importantly, good luck with the coach search.

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