Grits and Tamales

Life in the Deep South, by Gabriel Aguilera

Monthly Archives: July 2011

One Month Down

One month down and all is well in Dixie.  Perhaps the think I like least about this place is the layout.  Ubiquitous strip malls and big roads are unpleasant.  They are deflating.  Mercifully, traffic is rarely bad.

So far I have been too busy to sort out whether I can be happy here beyond the medium run (3 years).  I certainly can be happy and, I believe, highly productive in the short run.

Work should be productive, particularly early in the morning.  I usually arrive at the office around 6:45.  At 7:00 a handful of colleagues get together for coffee and gossip.  The group is called the “Liar’s Club” and it is quite fun.  We tease each other and make fun of our colleagues who are not there.  It’s also a good place to learn about the Air War College and its history.  Several of my colleagues have been there many years and are good at reading the political and administrative winds.  It’s a good half hour.  The trickiest part will be to carve out a couple of hours a day to write/edit.  It will be hard when teaching starts in late October, but it has been impossible in July because of settling in, orientation, and service responsibilities.  I agreed to help set up a writing center at the AWC.   I’m hoping that this is the week we’re I’ll get my legs underneath me so I can get back to substantive work of writing, preparing classes, etc.  Last week I commuted to the office via bike three times.  I hope to keep this up.  This adds up to 90 miles of riding in a week.  On days that I commute to work, whatever else happens, I rode 30 miles.  This is a good thing.

Personally, I feel OK.  I’ve had a couple of dates here and there and am looking forward to a few more this month.  A steady girlfriend would cheer me up.  I get along well with my colleagues, but most are married and have lives.   Still, the loneliness of not having good pals around does take its toll.  Settling in occupies much of my energy when I’m not at work, as does cycling.  My apartment is still not ready.  Stuff is not hanging on my walls yet and there are a few boxes cluttering up the guest room.  There is, in short, too much to do to get too lonely.  The pals will come.  They always do.

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John Hall 50 Mile Ride

John Hall 50 Loop by gaofla67 at Garmin Connect – Details.

The link above maps where I rode today.  It was a brutal ride.  The folks I pedaled with were much fitter than me and I paid the price.  All was well through mile 37 or so and then I got cooked, quite literally.  As we headed towards the our midway stop at a country store, the heat was wearing on me pretty good.  I felt myself overheating.  I knew I was in trouble because I had to force down fluids and a small sandwich I brought with me.  This is a bad bad sign and I was more than a little bit concerned.  But after a few minutes rest in the shade I felt better.  I hung in with the group for another 10 miles or so when I finally bonked.  There was short cut back to the car that I unwisely eschewed.  Instead, I followed a group that actually picked up the pace.  I hung in for a bit before I tanked and got dropped.  I limped all the way back to the car.

The folks — who I had just met that morning — were kind and kept me within eyesight to make sure I got back to the car.  Here I must note that I have now ridden with cycling groups in several places, including L.A., Boston, Chico, and Mexico City.  Cyclists in general are friendly and supportive.  Montgomery cyclists are the nicest I have ever encountered.   The worst, let it be said, are those in Mexico City.  They are elitist snobs (mamones) who deserve the awful riding they get in that city.

The stop at the country store was weird.  There was a cute albeit depressed white goose in a small cage in the sun.  The water was bad and it had no food.  One of the lady riders got a water hose and poured lots of water into its bowl and hosed her down.  The goose, thoroughly enjoying herself, quacked with relish and took in fresh water.  I shared some of my sandwich with her though it was clearly more thirsty than hungry.  We were all delighted to perk up the bird’s day though we were all disgusted with the careless owner who had left her out to suffer.

Settling in (1)

I rolled into town on June 30th and am still settling in.  Montgomery is a peculiar conurbation made up of interconnected suburban communities and strip malls.  Basically, two interstates run through the place, the I66 runs north to south and the I85 runs east to west.  The bulk of the city runs east of I65 and is divided more or less evenly above and below I85.  I live on the far east side of town, which has the feel of so many recently built communities that rode the wave of the last real estate bubble.  There are too many shopping centers and many housing developments look half cooked. I live approximately 14 miles from the base.  The good news is that there is little traffic here.  The locals complain but it does not seem at all bad to someone who has lived in Los Angeles and other big cities.  My door to door commute takes approximately 25 minutes.

I plan to start riding my bike to work 3-4 times per week the week after next, after my orientation is completed.  I’ve done a practice ride to and from work and it takes an hour and fifteen minutes, door to door.  This might be a stupid idea because Alabamians are not accustomed to cyclists.  Less charitably, they seem to believe that cyclists belong on the sidewalk, never mind the law.  Everyone thinks I’m crazy for considering a cycle commute, but I’ve scouted a route that just might work.  Really, it’s only one awful stretch from downtown to the base and a couple of other sketchy short bits.  Mostly I will be cruising through neighborhoods.  We’ll see if this works.  If it does not I will almost certainly search for a commuting car.

So far, quite apart from the chats with folks I bump into casually, the only Southerners I have interacted with are a couple of the administrative assistants at work and people of I have met on cycling rides.  I usually get mileage out of these two tropes: “To my people, you all are Northerners” and “I’m from the Deep Deep South.”   Southerners are friendly, engaging, polite, and laugh easily.  They are also garrulous.  One has to be careful chatting someone up — anywhere — because one might get stuck there smiling and nodding with somewhere to be.

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