Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Adventures in Athens

This is an excerpt from the archives of my student blog, now unpublished. But you can read today's Converse Student Blogs here.

Man, spring break was way too short. My friend Triona and I decided that Spring Break needs to be two weeks long. The first week for students and faculty to just collapse and breathe, the second week to get bored and actually start doing productive things. It seems it's impossible, as hard as you try, to catch up on everything you want to. Inevitably, the last day of Spring break is spent facing up to the mountain of work you neglected.

Nonetheless... Athens was fantastic. I did get some work done, but I'm afraid the exploratory spirit got the better of me.

I started out with $25 cash and $75 in the bank. I packed my poetry books, laptop, Bible, journals, clothes and necessities, iPod, and lots of snacks. My hostess, Joy, was so kind. I had a room to myself, wireless internet, free breakfast and dinner when I was around, a ride to campus around noon each day, a ride back each night, and someone to answer my many questions. Oh, and she let me borrow her camera, so I have pictures! Couldn't have asked for more.

Day 1: Rode the free University of Georgia bus.

UGA is HUGE! Picked up literature, map of campus, bus map, etc. at the student center. It was Meat Out 2008, which is a vegan/vegetarian education day that they basically made a party out of, so I was treated to free food, break dancing, and live music on the plaza of the student center. Great band. Some nice vegetarians helped me get my bearings. They introduced me to Flagpole, which is this free weekly newspaper – community, culture, politics, pretty much everything interesting. From it I learned about all the fun things that go on in Athens…way too much fun to be had, every single night of the week…I'm kind of glad I didn't go to UGA...I would never have been able to force myself to stay in and study!

In the afternoon, I called my friend Tiffany and she was having a Bible study with the Full-Timers (= men and women whose full-time job is serving the saints – they conduct Bible studies, pray with people, listen, give godly advice, etc) so I went to that, it was nice, and then Tiffany and I hung out and talked for a while.

That night I ended up at the Sisters’ House, which is, in my church, where some of the college girls live along with the full-time sisters. (There’s also a brothers’ house.) My friend Lauren lives there, she cooked me tilapia and spaghetti squash, and we talked and looked at some saints’ wedding pictures. Did you know that tree climbing is an “official” hobby? This couple loved to tree climb, in fact, they had this whole series of pre (or maybe post) – wedding pictures in a big tree. They use harnesses and gear like rock climbers. Who knew?

Day 2: I love downtown Athens. Musicians walking around with their instruments, stopping and playing, people just hanging out. They’re not all after some agenda. I mean there were plenty of suit-type people and college kids who were just trying to get from point A to point B, but some people were actually there to just be there.

Wish this pic weren't so blurry, took it while walking. There was a guy playing guitar and singing, sounded like rockabilly, he had talent. I stopped and listened for a while.

These guys were on opposite street corners, right across from the Arch, UGA's historical entrance. The street between them is what I'd call the heart of downtown. The People's Party, understandably, drew a big crowd, but the Victory guy got plenty of honks.

That night I ate dinner at a nice family's house with Joy, the full time sisters, and a cool chic named Gene. Joy's the one holding the baby in this picture:

Day 3: Gene had told me about the Hot Corner, a 24 hour vegan-friendly coffee shop where the creative types hang out. She thought I'd like it, and I did, a lot. I spent most of Wednesday there.

  Lunch was a sarsparilla and a chocolate muffin that I think had cornmeal in it. Different, but good. Met a nice guy named Travis who helped me find some wireless internet when Hot Corner's broke.

  There at that big table is Ethan. I took that picture before I met him. We spent an hour or so at the same table basically ignoring eachother, he was reading a novel and I was reading Gerard Manley Hopkins and Lucille Clifton. Turned out, it was his 19th birthday and we ended up having a good long conversation. We talked a lot about Athens and Spartanburg. Also Jack Keruac, life choices, backpacking in times.

I found out in Flagpole that Mandala, UGA's literary journal, was having their release party Wednesday night. What a lucky coincidence, here I am about to throw a release party for Concept! So I went. It was at Barcafe Cine which was a neat place, wish I'd took pictures. Several poets read their work from the journal, and Shawn Hill read as a special guest. I met a really sweet lady, Pam, a retired cop-cum-watercolor artist, who helped me get to this other event I found out about in Flagpole, Poetic Confessionz, like an open mic poetry thing.

Unfortunately, this is the best photo I have. That's the MC, Montu. Dreaded Mindz Family was the host. They've got a real vision for their community. I respect that.

Entry was half-price for performers, so I pulled up a poem on my laptop and read it. It died halfway through, that was embarrassing, but Montu let me try again a little while later, and everyone was really supportive. They liked my poem, I think, but it was way different from most of their stuff. They had...attitude. Some of them incorporated song. I hadn't heard much like it before, but it was cool.

At midnight, back at Joy's place, I realized I hadn't eaten since the sarsparilla and muffin, so I made some quesadillas with leftover chicken and bell peppers. Oh, how I miss a fully-stocked kitchen!

Day 4: Funny, I stayed out latest on Wednesday night and woke up the earliest Thursday morning. Read some Seamus Heaney while eating Velveeta and crackers in the student center. I'd heard, at the journal release, about a poetry event on Thursday. I got real lucky, again, it was the Cave Canem annual symposium, and I got to hear Shawn Hill (again) and Nikky Finney with some superb poetry and a Q&A session. Turns out, Nikky Finney is from Newberry, SC! She just finished a poetry comission from Wofford! Talk about small world.

At the reading I met a cool gal named Scout, she's an English major at UGA, and we ended up going out for sushi.

Isn't it pretty? It was all very good, except for the raw quail egg.

After that late lunch, Scout took me traipsing around the UGA campus. It was lots of fun, again UGA is HUGE so there were plenty of hidden nooks, like this lovely little garden:

Scout doesn't really like photos of herself, but she took this one of me shortly before we parted ways:

I bought that Dreaded Mindz T-shirt at Diverse Universe the night before. They were raising money for some kind of cool community project. Oh, speaking of raising money, on Monday, there were these sorority girls having a yard sale to raise money for two Mongolian children to have cleft palate surgery. Good cause, really cute stuff for cheap, a lot of it from Asia. Athens stores, while totally awesome, are fairly pricey, so I didn't do too much shopping. Nonetheless, my bank account's scraping the bottom of the barrel. Glad pay day is tommorow. (Today, actually...)

I got back home late Thursday night, and the rest of the break consisted of spending time with family and friends, and trying to get a little more work done.

The moral of the story is, you can have your cake and eat it wait, that's been about, you don't have to have a lot of money, know your surroundings, or even know what the heck you're doing, to have an unforgettable Spring Break.

Now I'd like to get at least a few hours' sleep...
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