Monday, December 31, 2012

Full Circle

"We'll talk about it later" she said in regards to our set New Year’s plans.  It didn't seem promising.  So here I am again practically trying to force my date to spend New Year’s with me.  It was deja vu all over again.  My turbulent first year in Austin ended with a thud on New Year’s 2011.  It now seems that 2012 will end how it started...not well.

My time here is Austin has been a serious of up and downs.  Year one was pretty much a getting acquainted period with my new surroundings.  I didn't have many friends or social contact for the first six months here.  Eventually over the summer I met girl who became my first girlfriend in Texas.  It was my first real friend in Texas all together.  The relationship was relatively brief, about four months.  But it was very meaningful, given my circumstances of being in a new place.  It ended awkwardly with a New Year’s date that couldn't have gone worse.  In reality thought the relationship had been over for a few weeks.  Oddly enough I met someone else relatively quickly.  She was young and it was really just a two month fling.  Most importantly though it help soften the blow of the previous breakup.  When that ran its course by spring I found myself back to being alone.  Should I stay in Austin or just return home? 

I wasn't so sure what the future held for me here.  I knew this town had much to offer and I was determined to enjoy myself here at least for the time being.  I began to record videos of different places that I liked in Austin.  I wanted to have the memories in case I ever left.  On one of these occasions I went this local coffee shop called the Spider House.  The rest of my year would never be the same.  By sheer chance or destiny I met this girl there with her little boy.  He was very friendly and started talking to me.  Soon I was sitting at the table talking with his mother.  It was very sweet encounter and a little bit surreal.  Almost like something out of a romantic comedy movie.  We all ended up getting ice cream together afterwards.  Later that night we agreed to go out again on a date.

So a couple weeks later we went back to the Spider House and the rest was history.  We clicked immediately and began seeing each other regularly.  Her beautiful smile, her creativity, quirky and sometimes sarcastic personality were very attractive to me.  It was so much more than that though.  We just seemed to have that chemistry that you need.  Mutual likes in music, sports, conspiracies and our often cynical viewpoints on things just seemed to go together.  More than anything though it was her unwavering dedication and love for her son that won me over.  I knew she was a very genuine, loving woman. 

We spent much of the next four months together.  We often joked of the "3 day rule." We didn't like going more than three days without seeing each other.  Trips to San Antonio, Lady Bird Lake, movies, holiday BBQ's would soon come.  But mostly we stayed at home watching movies and documentaries.  We didn't need to go out to have fun.  We just enjoyed each other company...that was enough.  The simple life just seemed to work.  It was my first real 30's relationship.  We didn't need crazy night at the bars like I did in my 20's.  I really was in this comfort zone that I hadn't felt in Austin.  Hadn't really even felt that in Chicago in a long time. 

Life was good but it wasn't perfect.  My life here in Texas was still a work in progress.  I still hadn't landed a real permanent job or career here.  I am still in a sense finding my way.  I knew that would be problematic eventually with someone with greater needs than just herself.  After a mid-summer trip to Ireland I returned to a world that wasn't quite the same.  We had our first fight that day and I began to have a creeping sense of anxiety over the next few months.  We still had lots of fun most the time but the honeymoon seemed to be over.  It seemed that I was becoming more attached each passing month and she had a hit a stopping point.  I knew she cared about me but I still couldn't close the deal.  It was difficult position to be in...what are you to do?  There are three people’s feelings I had to keep in mind.  I was ready to give it my all.  My heart was fully in it but that appeared to be not quite enough.  Relationships are complex and just because I had most the ingredients didn't mean I had them all.

So here on New Year’s Eve I'm back to where I started.  As the year draws to a close it appears the sun is setting on my relationship.  My heart still holds out for hope but I need to prepare myself for the worst.  I don't know what life holds for me in 2013.  Things feel bleak right now but I know life always get better.  That's one thing I have learned here in Austin.

Happy New Years

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Stranger than Fiction

"The fact that Northern Illinois is in the BCS in 2012 is really a sad state for college football and where we are with the current system," Herbstreit said. "And the fact, thank goodness, we're moving toward a new system in 2014. They don't deserve to be in the BCS this year. Are you kidding me with Northern Illinois playing in the BCS?"

I texted my dad asking him could you believe what they're saying?  I literally wanted to drive the 1,900 miles to Bristol, CT and smack the son of a bitch.  This was the crowning moment in the history of the program and the network was shitting all over it.  I shouldn't have come to expect anything less from ESPN.  The same network they shoves Yankees/Red Sox down our throats all year long, the network that acts like the NHL doesn't exist (ok, they may be right on that) and the ones who gave us the LeBron James debacle known as The Decision.  But nothing ESPN said could take this away from Huskie nation. Between the Northern Illinois Huskies and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish it has been an unforgettable college football season to say the least.

Living in Austin, Texas I have gotten used to the college football mania that infects this town every fall.  College football is big in Texas and in the south in general.  Coming from Chicago though I never gave much thought to college football.  Chicago is a pro sports kind of a town.  It’s all about the Bears there.  College football was just a way to kill time until Sunday.  Most folks there just root for their Alma matter or wherever their kids go.  The smart kids went to the University of Illinois.  Some of them went to the University of Iowa or Wisconsin.  The real overachievers went o Northwestern or Notre Dame.  Then the rest of them went to...Northern Illinois University.  That's where the regular kids like me went.
My father graduated from Northern Illinois in 1971.  My brother Colin is currently living in DeKalb and attending school there.  I attended school there myself from 2003-2005.  In fact, I think half my friends and family attended school there at some point in their lives.  Mostly everybody in Chicago knows somebody who goes or went to NIU.  They are a de facto Chicago "home team" in a loose sense.  The football program started to take off about ten years ago when I was there.  They knocked off Alabama in Tuscaloosa back in 2003.  They have produced a fair number of NFL players over the years.  They have had an increasing number of national televised games each year.  They are a perennial bowl team.  Northern Illinois has become somewhat a powerhouse over the years (in a mid-major sense.)  On New Year’s Day the program will reach its highest pinnacle yet.  The Orange Bowl vs. Florida State (more on them later.)

I can't talk college football though without mentioning another Chicago area team.  The #1 ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish.  Like NIU, Notre Dame has a lot of alumni in the Chicagoland area.  Being a bigger program Notre Dame has had more of a love-hate relationship with the locals.  Mainly either you love them or you hate them.  I was part of the latter.  I had no room in my heart for a bunch of spoiled rich Catholic kids.  I've hated too many of those types in my lifetime.  Furthermore, I was still pissed about a game from 1993.  Back then it was my favorite team, #1 Florida State vs. #2 Notre Dame in one of the most famous college games ever.  Notre Dame knocked off FSU 31-24 by deflecting a last second pass from quarterback (and future New York Knick) Charlie Ward.  I was heartbroken by the loss.  Florida State did recover and won the championship that year.  I've been a huge fan ever since.  Meanwhile I've hated Notre Dame for the last nineteen years least I thought I did? 
Funny thing happen this year though.  Notre Dame opened the season in Dublin, Ireland last summer just after I had been there.  They must have had a little luck of the Irish rub off on them.  The unranked Irish won the opener and then won again the following week.  Week after week they were grinding out wins with defense in an era where no one plays defense.  It was very old school, almost like it was out of the 1960's.  As each week went by I found myself actually rooting for them.  I couldn't understand it...what had happened to me?  It was impossible for me to not respect a team of real students (and smart ones at that) in a world full of pseudo student-athletes.  I didn't think it was possible for Notre Dame to win big in the modern college sports era.  I had been proven wrong.  They knocked off USC in their final game and I was officially on the bandwagon.

So this January I'll be rooting for Notre Dame to win the National Championship over Alabama.  I also will be putting my love of Florida State aside for one night.  I will be rooting for my Northern Illinois in the Orange Bowl.  In that case blood is thicker than water.  Both teams will be heavy underdogs in their games.  That doesn't matter much though.  They have already done what was said couldn't be done.  In some ways they've already won.
Go Irish, Go Huskies