|Wheels up to Carolina|
The meatball was wonderful enough to make the 90-mile drive from Columbia to Charlotte to pick me up on a school night, and we made our way back to South Carolina. You gotta have tunes for a trip like that, right? So as I rummaged through her glove compartment navigating my fingers through countless cords and chargers searching for something to plug my iPod into her stereo, I was coming up empty. After turning her overhead lights on, we were finally able to find the right cord, and the rest of the ride was smooth sailing. Or so I thought, until the morning.
Gina had an exam Friday morning, so we got up early to prepare, and by prepare I mean she studied her marketing research material that would've put me back to sleep immediately (I don't understand a single word of it) while I read Bill Bryson's endlessly entertaining A Walk in the Woods, the author's account of hiking the Appalachian Trail. Because her exam wasn't going to take long and we wanted to go to lunch right after, I wanted to come onto campus with her and just wait in the Business School (hey, Darla) for her to finish. That unique combination of New Jersey and Italian feistyness burst into the house after going out to her car, White Sauce, with the unfortunate news that it wouldn't start. Turns out we, and by we I mean I, didn't turn the overhead light off after trying to find my iPod, and the battery died. The most powerful of jump-starts from her roommate Julie's impressively huge, and tank-like, Jeep Wrangler, was needed to bring White Sauce back to life. We were on our way.
Her exam took, with no exaggeration, 12 whole minutes. I didn't even have a chance to get comfy in my chair or listen to any of the podcasts I wanted to catch up on. How selfish of her to excel in school. God. From there it was onto lunch at DiPrato's, which has the best bacon and pimiento cheese dip with pita bread one could imagine. Truly food of the heavens. The man upstairs himself couldn't eat anything more delicious.
According to my lovely mother, and I must admit that I fully agreed wholeheartedly, the state of my pants situation lately has been dire. Holes everywhere in the few pairs of jeans that I have, which date from high school, and I can't wear shorts for much longer this year. After much hand-wringing and protestation, then, it was off to the mall in Columbia. I could never stomach shopping for clothes with my mom, and it wasn't much more appealing with my girlfriend, but I suppose women always know best. I guess. Many stores and wrong sizes and trying-on-of-things later, I emerged with three new pairs of pants and four pairs of fun socks, the highlight of the excursion for me. I'm just so playful and carefree.
Saturday was going to be a busy day, so the rest of Friday was spent pretty quietly. I met another of Gina's roommates, Emily, who was out of town the previous time I visited Columbia this fall. Emily is a gem. It was great to get to know her the whole weekend, and suffice it to say she knows what I think about her. We went out to a couple bars in town that night, but nothing too crazy since we had to be up early the next morning. Football!!
Unsurprisingly, the game itself was a blowout. South Carolina destroyed Furman, 41-10, but it was the entire experience that stood out for me. Tailgating with so many students on gameday, right next to the stadium, was terrific, and I can only imagine how much better it would have been had the opponent been more appealing or had the game started later in the afternoon. I've been on the field at Texas A&M, at Nebraska in the snow, been right next to Ohio State's stadium in the parking lot, and down the street from Wisconsin's, but none of those trips occurred for a game. Williams-Brice Stadium and the 78,101 people in attendance weren't particularly loud on this day, even though it was Homecoming, but I was able to cross a bucket list item off nonetheless.
In my classic fashion, I forgot to wear sunscreen and was truly worried to no end that I was going to resemble a lobster before we went to the South Carolina State Fair that evening. Luckily Gina came to the rescue, as always, and procured one of those towels they hand out to fans to wave at key points in the game. Believe me when I tell you those towels weren't used often at this game, but one served as a nice headband/helmet to protect my face.
Saturday evening was spent in rapturous, rip-roaring fashion, watching Gerard Butler save the country from the invasion of Koreans and their capture of the White House. Nothing says America like a Scottish actor single-handedly destroying North Koreans, amIright?
We had no particular plans for Sunday, other than to make dinner before I had to head back to the airport, so it was perfect when Emily, a girl after my own heart, came over and asked if we wanted to watch USC's women's soccer team play that afternoon. I'm never one to turn down a sporting event so obviously I was in, and we all settled in to watch the Gamecocks cruise to a 2-0 victory over visiting Ole Miss. The Rebels contributed absolutely nothing to the game, but unlike USC, they're a real football school so their lack of talent on the pitch could be forgiven. Oh Cocks, I kid because I love. Just been a tough year for the boyz.
Gina and I went grocery shopping to make dinner. We had the best intentions -- salmon with lemon, pepper, and garlic, asparagus with cheese and butter, and mashed potatoes. Everything was going well until we actually pulled the salmon out of the oven. A bit dry, but c'est la vie. Can't win 'em all. Whatever other cliche you'd like to insert here.
I packed up and we made the drive back to Charlotte, this time for a non-stop flight back to Baltimore. I fell asleep before takeoff, a particular talent of mine, but due to my own moronic actions, I ended up not getting home until much later than was necessary. Credit to the shuttle bus driver and the airport parking guy who stayed very late into the night with me, cruising Long Term Lot B. Another story for another day.
Heading back to my roots in New Jersey this weekend to visit my uncle's family. No trip to Jerz would be complete without a recap. Until then.