uc davis

Exit 240. The harvest is plentiful.

You may have noticed I made a little change to this site today (or, more precisely, I changed something back to how it used to be).  But more about that later.  And let’s agree not to argue politics on this post, because that isn’t the point I’m trying to make.  Stay with me.

I don’t normally get political on this blog, although I’ve done that a little more than usual lately.  And I’m going to try to be respectful about it… but let’s be honest here.  The political environment in California is getting a bit oppressive.  Some of the actions recently taken or proposed by the California State Legislature, or by various city and county governments, no longer seem to be about financial policy or safety.  Instead, it seems like California’s government wants complete control over every aspect of its citizens’ lives.  (Of course, some of the local ordinances cited here do not affect me… yet.)  They want to control what we eat and drink, who gets how much money and why, how and where we travel, how teachers are allowed to do their jobs, the age at which children are introduced to certain sensitive topics, whom we are allowed to vote for, when we run certain appliances, how much water we are allowed to use, and what religious beliefs certain organizations are allowed to have.  While some of these at least have a point behind them, while possibly misguided, none of them seem to me compatible with the concept of freedom espoused by our Founding Fathers.

This lust for power echoes The Party from Orwell’s 1984 (not to be confused with a similarly named early-90s teen pop group).  While torturing Winston Smith, another character whom I will not name so as to avoid spoilers says, “The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake… We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it.  Power is not a means; it is an end… The object of power is power.  Now do you begin to understand me?”

So what does this have to do with me?  Fourteen years ago, a lot of people around me were similarly angry about a Republican being in the White House, and much like today, I was feeling (for a variety of reasons) like I did not fit in among the culture around me.  As you probably know, if you have known me for a while, I hit the road in June 2005 and wandered around the country, living out of my car, sleeping in Motel 6s and KOAs and friends’ couches.  I intended to come back to California only to get my stuff.  But after 117 days on the road, and a great experience in and of itself, I returned to where I started (my parents’ house) with more questions than answers.  I spent the holidays with my parents and moved to where I am now in January 2006.  I opted for a shorter move instead, to Sacramento County, which feels to me like California’s Happy Medium.  It was far enough away to make a real fresh start, but still within day trip distance of everything I knew.

Recently, with the contentious political environment of 2019, I’m really beginning to regret not having moved away when I had the chance.  It’s pretty obvious from the above list why I would want to leave.  But I have a lot more to lose now than I did in 2005.  I have a house and a mortgage.  I’m working at a school where I get along with my administration and coworkers, and while most people whose heads are not stuck up their posteriors agree that teachers are underpaid, most of the states that are less controlling than California pay teachers even less.  And I’d probably experience a bit of reverse culture shock in any of those other places; while those ruling California disgust me, I didn’t vote for President Trump either, and most of my hobbies aren’t the kinds of things I’d find in rural areas.

On the way to church Sunday morning, a week ago, I was planning on bringing up my inner turmoil as a prayer request.  Last week we finished a series planned around Easter by talking about the crowds who praised Jesus and then shouted for his crucifixion just five days later.  Jesus came into a world where the religious leaders were corrupt and many of the people around him were lost and confused.  Earlier in Jesus’ life, he makes a statement that shows clearly how he viewed these crowds.  “When he [Jesus] saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.  Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.  Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field'” (Matthew 9:36).  Then we had a little discussion on how this same thing plays out in today’s world, how there are many people harassed and helpless who do not know the Gospel and God’s love for them.  That led to a discussion specifically about California and how hostile the culture here can be to Christianity, and how Jesus is calling us to go out there and minister to people and tell them about God’s love through words and actions.

Six days later (last night, as I write this), I was in Davis for the annual alumni night of the Christian student group I was a part of in the late 1990s.  (I’ve written about this event before; in 2016, I was invited to speak.)  One of the people sharing was talking about this organization’s vision to open chapters on thousands of campi where they currently have no presence.  He said that college and university students are searching for meaning in their lives, and he quoted this same verse in the context of students being ripe for the harvest, ready to learn about and experience the love of Jesus.

So… the point I’m making… having heard this twice in less than a week, I’m pretty sure this is God telling me that now is not the right time for me to leave California.

As much as I disagree with much of the “California values” that those in power continue to cite as justification for their policies, God has a purpose for me here in California.  California is my home.  It’s a beautiful state as far as the natural world is concerned.  And it’s a part of who I am.

So, in light of all that, I’m changing the logo for this site from the US highway sign back to the California highway sign I used previously.  The change initially was borne of anger toward California politics, but it’s time to put that aside.  God has me here for a reason.  Jesus never came to institute a political system.  And as for my tax dollars going to support things I’m morally opposed to, Jesus also said in response to a question about taxes to “give to Caesar what is Caesar’s” (Matthew 22:21).  So there are more important things I should be looking at, and first and foremost among them would be all the lost souls around me searching for meaning, like sheep without a shepherd.  Here I am.  Send me (Isaiah 6:8).

Exit 226. This kind of thing doesn’t happen here.

Last Thursday night (January 10, 2019), Natalie Corona, a police officer in Davis, was shot while investigating a routine car accident.  A bystander rode by on a bicycle, shot the officer from behind, and began firing indiscriminately in multiple directions. Eventually, the suspect was found in his home, about a block away from the accident, dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

This tragedy hit a little close to home for me… literally, because it happened just 30 miles from my house.  Not only that, but as I have said multiple times, I lived in Davis for seven years (1994-2001). I still have friends who live there, and I go back fairly often to see some of them and also for football and basketball games at the university.  I feel more connected to the community than many people who just moved there for school, because I volunteered with a church youth group for over half of the time that I lived there. And I’m going to be meeting a friend for lunch in Davis later today, in fact, for reasons unrelated to Officer Corona’s death.

Since this happened, I haven’t talked to any of my Davis friends (other than finalizing today’s lunch plans), but from what I remember about Davis residents, and from a few Facebook and Instagram posts I’ve read, the community seems pretty shocked by this, as I would expect.  There is a culture among long-time Davis residents that this kind of thing doesn’t happen here in this quiet little town. I’m not trying to say that there is anything wrong with this kind of thinking. Typically, Davis does not have much crime beyond drunken college shenanigans, and people aren’t used to this kind of thing happening there.

I started writing this about 24 hours before I published it, and two important details worth noting have emerged in that time.  Investigators found a suicide note indicating a motive, in which the suspect said that he believed that he was sensitive to the ultrasonic devices used by police to stop dogs from barking, that no one took his complaints seriously, and that he could not continue living because of that.  The suspect had shown no outward signs of mental illness before this, although he did have a recent misdemeanor conviction from getting in a fight with a coworker. Also, a student group at UC Davis (not representing the university as a whole) released a statement trying to stir up controversy about the relationship between law enforcement and certain communities.  I’m not even going to dignify that with any more of a response than this; that might come in a later post. I don’t want to debate the role of law enforcement in a community or in a society right now. It’s not the time.

Even though people tend to think that things like that can’t happen where they are, the truth is that it can happen anywhere.  I lived in Davis during the time of the Columbine shooting in Colorado, and I remember the youth pastor at church saying that he had been to that area before and could see a lot of similarities with Davis, with so many overworked parents and disconnected and angry teens and a culture that doesn’t expect it.  This wasn’t the same kind of situation as what happened in Columbine, of course. This was the act of one adult man with misguided motives.

But one thing is clear to me from all of this: evil is everywhere, and we all need Jesus.

My prayers are with Davis and with Officer Corona’s family (they lived in a rural area in the next county to the north of where this happened), as well as with any anti-law enforcement activists who are using this tragedy to create controversy, because they have been hurt too, and they need healing.  And my prayers are with anyone who disapproves of the concept of prayers, for the same reason.

Exit 198. It’s okay to have two hometowns.

I was born in Salinas.  Salinas is a medium-sized city in central California, by which I mean it is considered small by California standards, but if it were located in Wyoming or West Virginia, it would be the largest city in the state.  It is located 100 miles south of San Francisco and one row of hills inland from the Monterey Bay, an inlet of the Pacific Ocean.  I lived there until I was 18, the day I moved away to begin my university education, in the same house where my parents live now.

In some ways, Salinas will always be home.  That is where my memories of school take place, and that is where I spent many hours playing with Legos and Hot Wheels.  That is where I watched Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoons, Full House, the 80s-90s Mickey Mouse Club, and the early seasons of the Simpsons.  That is where I spent hours in my room reading Choose Your Own Adventure books and playing the early Mario and Zelda games.

But in other ways, Salinas does not feel like home.  In addition to the memories above, many people seem to have memories of home that involve good friends, organized youth activities like Boy/Girl Scouts or sports, and first loves.  I don’t have many of those memories associated with Salinas.  I did not really have friends until I was a teenager.  There were kids in the neighborhood, but many of them only lived there for a short time, and some of them also weren’t so much friends as people who came over to play with my toys.  I went to school one town over from where I should have, as I have explained before, so until I was old enough to drive, I never saw my school friends outside of school.  My brief forays into Cub Scouts and tee ball were very forgettable, and I did not have anything resembling a first love, beyond a couple of formal school dances that I actually did go to with someone, and a few crushes that left me heartbroken, with the other person never knowing how I felt in most cases.

Yesterday was Picnic Day, a large event that I have mentioned a few other times in this blog; it is essentially an open house and community festival event at my alma mater, UC Davis.  And I realized that I have a second place that feels like home in some ways.  I lived in Davis, a university town just outside of Sacramento, from age 18 until a few weeks before age 25.  Many of those maturing experiences revolving around friendship happened to me there.  This is where I finally felt like I had a community that wanted me around.  Davis is where I came to faith, and where I finally felt like I had connections to the greater community, after I started getting involved in church activities and volunteering with the youth group.  In many ways, going to Davis and the adjacent campus also feels like going home.

I should point out that I don’t mean to put down Salinas or any of my old neighbors or school friends.  I’m just stating things the way they were.  There were some neighborhood kids and classmates who were nice to me, and I started to finally have something resembling a group of close friends by the end of high school.  I think if I had had another year or two around those friends before we all scattered for college, I would have grown a lot closer to them.

Neither Salinas or Davis feels completely like home, and neither one is home anymore.  But being both places gives me a feeling of going back home, each in its own ways.  And that’s okay.  Everyone is different.  Not everyone has one place they consider home; many people move away during childhood, for example.  And, of course, I did not experience a first love in either Salinas nor Davis.  What I would call my first true relationship, with Vega The Nice Ex, happened later during a time when I really did not have a home, but that’s another story.  For now, it’s okay to have two hometowns.

Exit 173. Finding my people.

A few months ago, I saw an invitation on Facebook for a reunion for 1990s alumni of the UC Davis chapter of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship.  IVCF is an international para-church organization (i.e., not affiliated with a particular church or denomination) that runs Christian groups and ministries on university and college campuses, and I’ve mentioned before that I was involved with this organization during my university years.  It was through this group that I first came to know Jesus on a personal level, that all the stories I’d heard as a child about Jesus and God’s people really started to mean something to me and affect my life.  Some of the people in my life from this group I’m sporadically in Facebook contact with, but there are many others with whom I lost touch long ago.  So when I saw last summer that the couple who led the group from 1992 to 2002 would be flying out to California in October and speaking at an IVCF reunion for alumni who were part of the group during those years, I signed up right away.  In fact, I was told that I was the first one to register and buy my ticket.

The event happened at the end of my school’s fall break.  I was hoping for the fall break to be low-key and relaxing, allowing either for a spontaneous adventure or two or lots of time sitting around doing things I enjoy.  Some of that happened, but the week ended up being much more full of adult responsibilities than I was hoping: car maintenance, bike repairs, my phone dying unexpectedly, and its brand new successor stopping working after a day, to mention a few.  In the days leading up to the reunion, my mind was rapidly heading into a downward spiral of negative thoughts and stress.

But this day was exactly what I needed, emotionally and spiritually.  It felt like I was getting back to my roots as a Christian, worshiping the Lord in the same environment that I did twenty years ago, before I became so disillusioned with church culture and jaded by the various ways I’ve been mistreated since then.  I enjoyed catching up with so many old friends, getting to share stories about what I’m doing today and hear their stories.  These were the people who were here for me at a very difficult time in my life.  Things weren’t always smooth, as I shared last week, but is it ever?

Nine days later, as I write this, two conversations stick out the most in my mind.  The first was with a woman a few years older than me who was on staff with InterVarsity during the time I was there.  I found her on Facebook a few years ago, when she commented to one of my friends from this time period who I’ve stayed in touch with, so she has seen a lot of my Facebook posts about my tabletop game and retro video game friends, Kings games, and partner dancing.  But this was the first time we had spoken face to face in a long time.  I didn’t have a social life anything like this twenty years ago, and that was something I often felt discouraged about.  She told me, “I’m really glad you found your people.”

I didn’t respond to that comment in the best way I could have.  I should have thought about how she’s right.  For the first thirty-plus years of my life, I never had friends who understood the things I enjoy doing to the extent that my friends now do.  I was never able to invite people over and get a good response and have a good time.  I really have found my people, in that sense.

But that wasn’t my response.  Instead, I took a negative view of the subject.  I said, “But it doesn’t feel like they’re completely my people.  Most of those friends are either not Christians, or way younger than me.”  True, but this isn’t what I should be focusing on.  I really need to stop being so negative.

Hold that thought.  More on that later.  The second conversation that sticks out to me was with someone who had been a freshman when I was a senior.  She eventually moved back to the area where she grew up, about an hour and a half drive away, and somehow the topic came up of how often we’ve been back to Davis since then.  I only live 30 miles away, and I go to a lot of UC Davis football and basketball games, and I have met a few other friends who live in Davis over the last few years who have no connection to my time living there, so I have been back to Davis more often than most of the students who attended the reunion, except for the handful who actually live in Davis today.  I mentioned to this friend that I think about moving back sometimes, even to the point that I’ve sent job applications at two distinct points in my life.  But I don’t think that moving back is a good idea for me, given what I know about myself.  Truthfully, this thought isn’t about wanting to move back so much as as it is that I just want my old life back.  And that just isn’t realistic, because so much has changed in the last twenty years.  The world is a different place and everyone has grown up, and if I were to move back to Davis, I would not get my old life back.  None of these were really new thoughts for me, but it seemed like I explained it a bit more clearly than usual.

Later, we had a sharing time, about things that we learned during our InterVarsity days that have borne fruit in our adult lives.  Someone was talking about how at one point as an adult, she was looking for the kind of community she had in college, only to realize that as adults, we have to make our own community.  I’ve been struggling with this for a long time, spending decades of my life trying to find a church that has a group like InterVarsity for my age, only to realize that this group doesn’t exist.

I will always have my InterVarsity memories, and these memories will always be precious to me.  But life moves on.  Which brings me back to the other conversation about finding my people.  I’m glad to be in touch with people I knew twenty years ago, but my people in 2017 are the game group friends and my other current social friends.  God put me in this place for a reason, and I still have work to do where I am right now.  And although it doesn’t hurt to embrace nostalgia to some point, looking backward ultimately is not the answer when I can’t find the way forward.

Exit 141. Versatile Blogger Award and things about myself.

There are a lot of deep topics I could write about this week.  Today is a national holiday here in the USA commemorating the birthday of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr.  The controversial businessman Donald J. Trump will be inaugurated later this week as the 45th President of the United States of America.  A controversial political journalist was scheduled to speak at my alma mater, and the speech was cancelled due to protests in a move that some say sounds suspiciously like censorship.

But I really don’t feel like writing something that deep right now.  I’m going to keep it light this week.

One of my readers whom I do not know in person, Anna from the blog My Little Corner, nominated me for the Versatile Blogger Award.  I’ve seen these kind of blog nominations going around for a while now, and this is the first time I’ve ever been tagged in one.  Thank you, Anna.

the-versatile-blogger-award

Now I’m supposed to do these things:

  1. Display Award.
  2. Thank the person who gave this award (and include a link to their blog.)
  3. Share seven things about yourself.
  4. Nominate bloggers.

The first two are already done, so now I get to share seven things about myself.  I’ll try to stick to things that I haven’t written about before on here, although some of these might be common knowledge to my friends in real life.

1. I have never seen the movie Titanic, and I have no desire to.
Yes, I know it’s one of the most popular and highest grossing movies of all time, but I haven’t seen it.  Yes, I know it’s a love story, and if you think that’s going to make me want to see it, you don’t know me very well.  (Read this for more information, especially the paragraph starting with “A couple years ago.”) I wanted to see Titanic at the time it was in theaters (which was my last year as an undergrad at UC Davis), mostly just because everyone was talking about it, and because they built and sank a replica of the actual Titanic to make the movie.  That sounded awesome.  I had plans to see it with a female friend (I’ll call her Aldebaran) who I got along with wonderfully and probably would have been interested in as more than a friend except that she had a boyfriend back home.  Aldebaran cancelled on me, and we never got to reschedule.  A couple weeks later, she moved away to do an internship related to her future career.  When I saw her again in the fall, her boyfriend had moved to Davis, and she pretty much disappeared once he was around.  I think I saw her once or twice that year, we didn’t say much more than hi, and 18 years later I have never heard from her again.  But back to my main story… at some point during the time she was gone, I heard all the stories about middle-aged women being so obsessed with Leonardo DiCaprio that they had seen Titanic 20 times, and I heard from friends whose opinions I trusted that it really wasn’t that good, and I decided I wasn’t missing much.  Eventually, it sort of became something I was proud of that I never saw that movie.

2. I don’t like coffee.
Again, I apologize if you find that blasphemous.  I’m not going to stop any of you from drinking coffee.  You do you.  But I just can’t handle the taste.  I’ve mentioned this a little bit in this blog before (follow the same link in the Titanic paragraph above).  I’ve tried to like coffee.  Being a college student in the 90s, I felt like my dislike of coffee stunted my social life.  But no matter what I added to the drink, I couldn’t get past the fact that I could taste the coffee.  Since there’s not much of a story to this, I’ll tell a related story: A while back, I was in my early 30s, and I brought a friend to a football game at UC Davis.  After the game, she didn’t want to go home right away; she suggested going to a coffee shop to hang out and talk.  (I had no problem with this; my plan was to order a hot chocolate.)  She asked, since I used to live in Davis, where was a good local non-Starbucks coffee shop?  One came to mind right away that I was pretty sure was still there (it was Mishka’s, for my readers who are familiar with Davis).  Once we walked in, I looked around and realized something interesting: I had never been inside Mishka’s before.  I only knew of it because my friends were always talking about it and how good it was.

3. I have never consumed alcohol.
Not technically entirely true, because I grew up Catholic, where they use real wine for Communion, but that’s just a tiny sip.  And once I was trying to make bootleg Vanilla Coke using generic cola and vanilla extract, and I didn’t realize that vanilla extract contains alcohol.  But that’s all; no alcohol other than those situations.  I have mentioned this several times, but I haven’t told the whole story.  As with coffee, sometimes I feel that not drinking has stunted my social life.  But I have different reasons for this.  My father is a recovering alcoholic, and this kind of thing tends to run in families.  Dad has been sober since the early 80s, so I’m too young to really remember most of his problem days.  But I remember him being kind of distant when I was a kid, and much of that was because he was still fighting his own demons.  I also see in myself the kind of personality tendencies where I could easily turn to alcohol to run away, and I’d just rather not play with proverbial fire, so to speak.  Plus, I never have to worry about knowing whether or not I’m too impaired to drive, and I save a lot of money not drinking.  But if you enjoy alcohol in moderation, I’m not going to stop you, and I’m fine being around you.  You do you.

4. I’m not one who always embraces the latest technology with enthusiasm.
This surprises some people, considering how much time I spend behind a computer screen, how I tend to figure things out on computers pretty easily, and how I knew the basics of what would today be called coding by my preteen years.  Growing up, I did a lot of reading about computers, but much of it was wishful thinking because we did not spend a lot of money on expensive technological devices.  As an adult, now that I have more money, I understand the wisdom of not spending it prodigiously, so now I don’t always go out and buy the latest thing.  It also makes me angry the way that slightly older technologies that work perfectly well are forced into obsolescence by corporations (smartphones without headphone jacks and MicroSD card slots, for example).  All that accomplishes is making me NOT want to buy your latest product.

5. I have only been to Yosemite National Park once, for one day, at age 38, despite living pretty much my whole life within a few hours’ drive.
This may not mean much to my readers outside of California, but I know people for whom this fact is completely inconceivable; to them, it’s just something you do growing up in California.  Not me.  I grew up in a family that was not outdoorsy at all, and family outings and vacations themselves were relatively rare growing up because everyone had such different and incompatible schedules.  It was also a trip I hesitated to take because, from what I had heard, Yosemite was always so crowded, and it was very difficult and expensive to find a place to stay.  Around 2000, I got the idea to take a day trip there, to leave very early in the morning in late spring or early summer when there would be lots of daylight, arrive at the park mid-morning, explore until it got dark, and get home in time for bed.  Someone I knew at the time shot down that idea (even though they weren’t invited, this was to be a solo trip), saying that I was underestimating the drive time, so it wouldn’t be worth the trip for just one day.  I listened to them and cancelled this plan.  I got the same idea around 2011 when I was dating Acrux, and she again told me I couldn’t do that, for the same reason.  I’d get there, drive up and down the Valley, and then it would be time to leave, according to her.  By 2015, I did a little more research and decided that my original plan would be feasible.  Screw you, naysayers.  The people shooting down my ideas were presumably assuming that it would take forever to get ready in the morning, and that they would want to get home in time for dinner.  They weren’t counting on the fact that I was perfectly willing to pack the night before, leave my house at 5:30am, and not get home until 11pm.  So I did just that, which gave me around 10 hours of actual time to explore in the park.  It was a wonderful day.  Of course, the park is so big that I just barely scratched the surface, seeing some of the most popular attractions, but the trip was still well worth it.

6. I’m terrible at skateboarding, roller skating, rollerblading, ice skating, skiing, or anything else along those lines.  I just don’t have that kind of coordination or balance.  I suppose I might get better with practice, but it’s hard for me to justify spending a lot of money on a hobby that results in nothing but me falling down over and over again.  (Snowboarding isn’t on this list because I’ve never tried it.)

7. My favorite number is pi, and my least favorite number is 19.
Pi is because it is a symbol of the field of mathematics, which is what my degree is in.  (This is why I named my blog as I did.)  And 19 is because it seems like every time I meet a cute single girl, that’s how old she ends up being.  Either that, or that’s how old she ends up acting.

So, now that I’ve given my seven facts about myself, I’m supposed to nominate bloggers.  I’m going to modify this step, though.  I’m going to say feel free to do this if you want to, and if you don’t, then don’t.  Besides, I think all my blog friends deserve an award.  But if you are going to accept my quasi-nomination, post a link to your blog in the comments so that other readers can follow it.

 

Exit 110. It goes nowhere.

About thirty miles from my house, in rural Solano County, Calif. near the border with Yolo County (yes, it’s really called that, I lived there for seven years), Kidwell Road crosses Interstate 80.  I have driven past this interchange many times over the years.  I used to live just a few miles away from there, in Davis, and for a significant portion of that time, my daily commute took me that way.  That route is also part of the most direct route from Sacramento to San Francisco, and I do that drive often enough that I still see Kidwell Road fairly often.  What always confused me about Kidwell Road is that it goes nowhere.

South of the freeway, Kidwell Road ends in a T-intersection with a frontage road; this frontage road dead-ends into the fields one way, and runs for about another mile or so to the next road, which also has ramps to and from I-80, in the other direction.  North of the freeway, Kidwell Road makes a 90 degree turn, changing its name for some unnecessary reason, and promptly dead-ending into some other fields.  The story I read is that this was built to settle a promise from decades earlier to farmers in the region.  They had been promised that when I-80 was built, they would still be able to conveniently access the highway, even though Interstates don’t have driveways.  Of course, there was another interchange about a mile away, and there are plenty of other agricultural regions in California where the interchanges on the freeways are much more than a mile apart.  So these farmers, whoever they were, must have been politically powerful.

In keeping with the title and logo, I have always titled my weekly posts in this blog as highway exits.  So, if we keep up that theme, this week’s post is a bit like Kidwell Road.  It goes nowhere.

For being off work, I’ve had an unusually busy week.  At least it has felt busy, although much of that has been taken up by afternoon naps, and the rest has been out having fun with friends.  I have stuff on my mind, and a lot has gone on in the world, and I haven’t really processed it all.  Every time I sit down and try to write something, it never really works.  I’m already a week behind, I promised two posts in a week at some point to make up for that, but I haven’t done that yet.

So this post is the Kidwell Road interchange on Highway Pi.  I’m just letting all of you know I’m still here, and I appreciate you reading it.  Thank you.  Now if you’ll excuse me, I need some rest… which I think is a good lesson for all of us.

Exit 51. There is so much to miss when you don’t pay attention to your surroundings.

I was recently walking around the campus of UC Davis when I noticed something interesting: the campus buildings have street addresses now.  I’m pretty sure this is a recent change; I’m the kind of guy who would notice something like this, after all.  When I started at UC Davis as a freshman, in 1994, the streets on campus had names, but the mailing addresses for buildings didn’t contain the street names.  Mail was just addressed to the room number, building number, and “UC Davis,” followed by the standard “Davis, CA 95616” on the last line.  During the time I was there, the Postal Service apparently told the school that this was not an appropriate form for addresses, so all buildings on campus were given the mailing address “1 Shields Ave.” to go along with the room and building number.  (Shields Avenue is one of the streets in the central part of campus, named after a judge who was influential in choosing Davis as the site of the University of California Farm, which eventually grew and became UC Davis.)  As far as I can tell, the addition of street addresses to the buildings has not changed most of the mailing addresses; academic departments still have 1 Shields Ave. as their mailing address.  Residential buildings (i.e., dormitories and on-campus apartments), however, use the new form of the street addresses.

I’m not sure why this change has been made, but I have a guess.  Perhaps the buildings have been given addresses so that GPSs and online map services can give better directions to and from the buildings.  And it makes me sad that this is even necessary.  It seems like no one has a sense of direction anymore, no one knows how to read a map anymore, and no one pays attention to their surroundings anymore.

I’ve always been fascinated by maps and roads and things of that nature.  I didn’t realize until I was an adult that some people don’t read maps and don’t pay attention to street signs.  Of course, a lot of this is just the result of different people having different learning and thinking styles.  I took an education class in which this was used as an example of how there are different types of learners.  Some people find their way better using maps, some prefer written directions with where to turn left or right, some prefer to look for landmarks, and some prefer to wing it.  But it seems more and more common these days to just blindly follow what one’s GPS tells them, without thinking about whether or not the directions feel right.

In 2006ish, I was carpooling with some people I used to know to go miniature golfing.  I had been there before (although only once or twice), and I was pretty sure I remembered how to get there, but the driver of the car, who had not been there before, had just gotten a GPS and didn’t care that I knew how to get there, because her GPS was going to give her directions.  I said something on the way about where we were going, and she got really upset with me, about how I was being a jerk and all this mean stuff that I had no idea where it came from.  As we took our exit, the miniature golf place was visible on the opposite side of the freeway.  But somehow, the driver couldn’t figure out where to go, and whatever her GPS was saying wasn’t making sense to her.  She pulled over at a gas station to ask for directions.  Remember, the miniature golf place was in plain sight from where we had just exited, so it was pretty obvious to any rational human being which way to turn.  She had told me earlier that she didn’t want me to talk, so I didn’t say anything.  As soon as the car stopped in the gas station parking lot, I got out and walked the rest of the way.  And I beat them there by 10 minutes.  I tried apologizing to the driver of my car later, but she told me she didn’t want to hear it, and she never spoke to me again.

Now I’m pretty sure that’s an extreme case.  GPSs don’t turn everyone into assholes.  But there is so much to miss when you don’t pay attention to your surroundings.  So many people know so little about the area in which they live, and so many people are content to go through life without thinking, even laughing proudly about having no sense of direction.  Now I’m not claiming some kind of sense of superiority over people with no sense of direction; not everyone’s brain works like mine.  And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the buildings at UC Davis having street addresses.  For that matter, my theory might not even be correct in the first place; I just tried typing some of those street addresses into Google Maps, and they didn’t all work.  Maybe they’re still working out the kinks.  But anyway, having a sense of direction these days is just another way that I don’t understand others, and they don’t understand me.  And I think the world would be a better place if we paid more attention to little things like that.

Exit 27. Knowing when to hold on to something and when to let it go.

Twenty years ago, I was a freshman at UC Davis, and early in that school year, I attended my first football game.  (For the non-sports people reading this, trust me, this entire article isn’t going to be just football; it’s more of a backdrop for something I was thinking about earlier.)  I watched a lot of school football games the last couple years of high school, so I figured I’d just keep doing that.  I don’t remember the opponent or the final score (I just spent a couple minutes on Google to find that it was a win over Southern Utah, 41-16).  I remember it being crowded, and loud, and I remember someone giving me a lyric sheet to the school fight songs and thinking that some of the lyrics were kind of strange, since I had no idea at the time of the history behind the songs.  I went to every home game that year, and while I did not keep up that level of participation in following years, I still went to a couple games every year that I was an undergraduate, as well as a few basketball games every year.

I have close friends who are almost like family who have season tickets to University of Virginia football, and during my adventures on the road in 2005, I went to a game with them.  I realized at the time that this was the first time I had seen football live, at any level, since five years earlier when I was running the scoreboard at the first school where I worked.  I decided that if I ever ended up settling back in northern California, I would get back into UC Davis football.  On October 29, 2005, my time on the road had ended, I was staying at my parents’ house indefinitely, and I took an overnight trip to Davis to watch the Aggies’ football game, a win against Cal Poly.  It was my first UC Davis football game in eight years.  I attended the other remaining home game that year, a win against the Bears of Northern Colorado, and since then, nine years later, I have only missed six home football games.

Watching the Aggies beat Cal Poly is always special.  They’re one of the Aggies’ two primary rivals, but also one of the reasons I chose UC Davis over Cal Poly was because when I visited the campuses (campi?), everyone at UC Davis seemed friendly and welcoming, and everyone at Cal Poly seemed unhelpful and snooty.  (Of course, I have friends now who attended Cal Poly whom I would not describe using words like this, so please don’t take offense at what I just said.  But this just goes to show how first impressions make a difference.)  That year especially, though, the win over Northern Colorado felt just as special.  Two months earlier, while on the road, I had spent a weekend in Greeley (where the University of Northern Colorado is located) staying with an off-again-on-again online acquaintance.  I didn’t know her as well as most of the online friends I met in person during that adventure, and to be completely honest, as I got to know her that weekend, I thought she was an arrogant hipster snob.  She regularly put down things I like, both hobbies and political positions.  I went to her church the Sunday I was there, the kind of church where almost everyone was under 40 and they try to reach out to people who don’t like the traditional church experience.  Her church seemed to give off the vibe that they were better than traditional churches, with pews and hymns and old people and Republicans, because they were authentic, and relevant, and postmodern, and insert whatever other Christian pop culture buzzwords apply.  According to their mentaily, that makes them really spiritual, whereas traditional churches are full of a bunch of fake people who only care about the superficialities and don’t really love Jesus.  So I know this is pretty much irrational, but ever since that weekend, anything at all related to Greeley makes me think of her and that snooty messed-up church, so therefore I particularly enjoy watching the college football team from there lose.

Anyway, last night I was in Davis for the football game, also against Northern Colorado.  I thought several times about how it was the least fun I’ve had at an Aggie football game in a long time.  That got me thinking, why do I still go to every game?  What purpose does it serve in my life?  Am I going to keep going to every home game forever?  If I am no longer enjoying Aggie football, maybe it’s time to cut back.

Now there are reasons specific to tonight that made this game less fun than usual.  The crowd was pretty sparse, particularly in the loud and raucous Aggie Pack section where all the students sit.  (I’m not allowed in that section anymore, of course, but they’re fun to watch.)  My theory is that a lot of students were still nursing their Halloween hangovers by the time the game started at 4pm.  I was exhausted from a late night of Halloween parties myself, and I found myself nodding off a few times during the first quarter.  It was a slow first half; at halftime, the Aggies were behind, but the score was only 7-0.  And it was cold, or at least colder than it’s been in this part of California for the last few months, and I didn’t bring my big jacket.  And, finally, the Aggie team is pretty bad this year.

But as much as I enjoy watching football, I’m starting to wonder if maybe it’d be okay not to go to every game.  I started going back to Aggie football (and basketball, and, for the first time ever, baseball) games during the 2005-06 school year, alone, partially because I had no other social life at the time.  Now I do, and sometimes I get busy with other things, or I have to arrive late at a friend’s event because I was at the game.  This year in particular, there have been Saturdays when I’ve been tired and behind on housework and life in general to the point that going to the game starts to feel more burdensome than enjoyable.  I missed a game this year for a non-sports social obligation.  And going to games alone isn’t particularly productive socially; I occasionally run into people I know,  but I’m not meeting new people at football games or anything.  Sometimes I need alone time, and I enjoy spending my alone time going to a football game, but tonight I just wasn’t feeling that.

I don’t like change.  Aggie football has been my fall tradition for ten football seasons now, and even before that it was a connection I had to the past.  I remember that 2005 game against Cal Poly, the first one I went to as an adult, how much I enjoyed hearing the same fight songs that I learned as an 18-year-old freshman.  And while there is a lot to be said for keeping traditions alive, there is also great value in knowing when to hold on to something and when to let it go.  I love returning to the campus of my alma mater with all the old buildings, all the big trees, all the memories of that time in my life.  However, as I’ve said before, it’s really easy for that kind of nostalgia to degenerate into a longing for a past that truly only existed in my selective memory, with the bad parts forgotten, and a frustration over how life was so much simpler back then, without providing any solutions for navigating the current reality.

Fortunately, I have ten months to decide whether or not to stop going to Aggie football games.  There is only one home game left this year, against Sacramento State.  The Hornets are the Aggies’ other primary rival and the next closest college football team to UC Davis; their respective stadiums (stadia?) are just 22 miles apart.  I already bought a ticket to this one, since that game is always exciting and actually has a chance of selling out every year, so I’m definitely going to that one no matter what.  So I won’t have to decide to change my tradition until next fall.  And I don’t have to stop going entirely; I can still go to some games without making it the primary focus of my Saturdays in the fall, which may leave room for something new I might need in my life.

Incidentally, last night, after falling behind 24-7 early in the fourth quarter, the Aggies made the rest of the game exciting.  They looked pretty good for most of the fourth quarter and closed to within 24-21 before fumbling away the first turnover of the game.  That led to a field goal, so it was still a one-possession game (27-21), and the Aggies drove down to the Bears’ 18-yard line before throwing several incomplete passes, followed by an interception with eight seconds left.  Oh well… at least they fought hard.