Sunday, November 7, 2010

Being Considerate vs. Being a Gentleman

Growing up with an older sister, I was constantly (and sometimes forcefully) reminded of two things as soon as I was tall enough to pee standing up:

1. Always, put the seat up when you pee, and put it back down when you're done. Do it every time.

2. Do not, under any circumstances, leave drops on the seat.  The toilet paper is your friend, so grab a few squares and wipe them all away.

It wasn't my first lesson in basic consideration, but it definitely was a prelude to being a gentleman for my future lady as well as how to properly share a commode.  Nevertheless, it was a powerful and effective lesson, but I will reserve any thank you to my sister until after I finish writing this.

Now, I have spent more time than I would like to admit going out to bars with my friends. Don't get me wrong, these outings have truly brought plenty of enjoyment into my life.  Ultimately, I am fulfilled by every experience--good or bad--because I have a great time with my friends.  I try new beer.  I network.  I share great laughs and stories.  I talk politics.  I meet interesting people (and sometimes exchange a few numbers).  I definitely flirt.  And more often than not, I watch a decent game of football or baseball.  Go Giants!

In the last few years, however, I have been constantly confronted by an interesting conundrum when I am out with my friends, and it sneaks up on me unexpectedly and all too frequently.

The right things need to be in place for this conundrum to be present: the people, the bar, the night of week, et cetera, but I have discovered the underlying cause for why I find myself dealing with it.

It all goes back to those two early lessons in basic consideration from my sister, and lately, I have found myself paying the price of being considerate in full as I am haunted by my sister's two simple rules.  It always happens when the following are in place:

--The bar will have only one or two restrooms.  These restrooms will also be unisex.

--It has to be a later in the night when people in the bar have had more than one or two beers.  You know, they've broken the seal, and coincidentally, a line has formed in front of the unisex bathroom(s).

--I will be in this line, and a girl (or two) will be in line directly behind me.  Maybe one of them is doing a pee pee dance--just for the sake of this story.

--As I reach the front of the line, the conundrum begins to take flight...

--When I enter the restroom, more often than not, the toilet seat is down.  As you can imagine, the guys before me have broken rule number two.  What I am then faced with is the conundrum because of the following options:  do I, (a) keep the seat down, do my business, and then exit the restroom--knowing full well the girl behind me in line will use the restroom in the condition I left it; (b) put the seat up, do my business, and then leave it up to show that I was not the perp who broke rule number two--leaving a flood of drops on the seat; or (c) do my business, wipe off all the drops with an incredible amount of toilet paper, and leave it worthy for a woman?

I find myself constantly doing the third option (c), but I can't figure out whether I do it out of consideration for the girl behind me or to be a gentleman.  Regardless, I'd like to think I am doing a big gesture for guys in general.  You see, when the girl goes into the bathroom after me, I personally do not want her thinking I was the culprit who left the drops, and when I stick to option (c), I help to create the illusion that guys are considerate creatures.

When I shared this conundrum for the first time a few weeks ago, I was in NYC and it had just presented itself in a bakery my cousin and I were at.  After I explained it, my cousin's friend told me that I cared too much and shouldn't think so much about that kind of thing.

I disagree.

Thanks to my sister (thank you Erin), I care about it way too much.  Honestly, I care to know that I am not the guy that women think about when they can't sit on a seat they have to share.  I'd like to think that one small, considerate gesture (with a thick layer of toilet paper) allows women to hold us to a higher standard as gentleman.

So guys, even if you put the seat up when you piss in the unisex bathrooms, you may not be doing enough.  Then again, you may not care about this at all--let alone even think of it--but trust me: it makes a world of difference to women if you do.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Now that the dust has settled from the elephant stampede . . .

Washington – Republicans have taken control of the House, gaining 60 seats but were four seats shy of gaining a majority in the Senate and having total control of Congress.

Republicans did not have quite the electoral strength to completely flip Congress into their control this election year, but the 112th session will assuredly head in a different, more conservative direction.

The more interesting results for the Senate races were the tea party favorites Rand Paul and Marco Rubio who won in Kentucky and Florida.  These came as big wins for the tea party movement.  

As well, the results were proof of an American electorate deeply dissatisfied with the direction of the country.

In Delaware, however, Democrat Chris Coons was instantly declared the winner over the embattled GOP nominee and tea party supporter Christine O’Donnell in a race that may come to haunt Senate Republicans.

Former White House deputy chief of staff Karl Rove, still one of the GOP’s leading strategist, declared that O’Donnell’s defeat was “a lesson.”

O’Donnell is a candidate who was right on the issues, but who has mishandled a series of questions brought up by the press” Rove said.

With one of the last elections to report, largely due to the conditions of Alaskan ballots this year, Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski fought for another term as a write-in candidate after losing the GOP primary to tea-party-backed conservative Joe Miller.

But the write-in candidate from Alaska is just a side-note in the bigger picture from this election.

Similar to 2006, Democrats, who after twelve years under Republican control, gained control of Congress due to the growing frustration with the Bush agenda.  

Now, the complete opposite holds true.  

Republicans, after working four years in Congress under the control of Democrats and for the past two years under the Obama agenda, have finally regained a significant position of power and leadership in Congress.

But what do the results of the election really mean?

First of all, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) only has the remaining weeks of the 111th Congress to be House speaker before the majority takes over, bringing with them a new speaker.  

It’s not official who will be the Republican party's new House speaker until Congress reconvenes in a few weeks, but all signs point to Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) to be the one slamming the gavel.  Plus, owning a majority in the House allows Republicans to set the agenda and control what bills are brought to the House floor--especially bills relating to the budget and federal funding.

Additionally, the numerous states who had traditionally been conservative-voting states, turned blue in 2006 and remained blue for Obama in 2008.  Now, in 2010, they have almost entirely returned their support to Republicans--putting conservative candidates into available offices.  

By far, the most important gain from last night’s elections was made in state Legislatures, giving the Republican party greater influence in redrawing congressional districts next year.

The party will control 25 Legislatures, including Ohio, North Carolina, and Minnesota boosting their power in statehouses by the most since 1928, according to the National Conference of States Legislatures.  

Republicans won the House and Senate in Alabama for the first time since the end of the Civil War. Republicans won governors’ seats from Democrats in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and at least eight other states.

Regardless of the gains Republicans make in the House of Representatives . . . the fight for House continues next year,” said Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, chairman of the Republican Governors Association in a news release early Wednesday morning.

By controlling a majority or more of reapportionment states we can make sure that the Democrats don’t take from us tomorrow, what we fought so hard for today.”

Congressional seats will be reapportioned following the 2010 national census. States with shrinking populations will lose congressional seats and those with growing ones will gain seats.  The party that draws the election map in each state will shape the political landscape for the next 10 years.

On election night, Sen. John McCain said that tea party supporters are "the messengers,” and the message they've sent from the ballot boxes was not an "affirmation" of Republicans but rather a rejection of the president.

"That is their message, and [Republicans] had better understand it," McCain said

"And it isn't just the tea partiers. They're the catalysts. They're the messengers. But this repudiation of the Obamacare and the spending etc. is not just from tea partiers. It's from a majority of Americans."


Friday, October 29, 2010

All that remains after a stampede of elephants is one big lame duck.

Disclaimer:  The following is a news story for my media seminar in DC.  It was due today, and after some great editing (thanks again Sara!), I feel confident enough to share it with you.  Since I am posting this to my blog, I also felt confident to keep the editorial comments at the end--ones that did not make it into final draft for class...

Washington — The next session of Congress may see a lame-duck pattern similar to last session if Republicans win the House majority next Tuesday—reinforcing partisan divides and delaying key issues.

After the election, Congress will have stacks of unfinished budget legislation to mark-up in committees and debate on the floor, but the larger issues facing the upcoming lame-duck (expiring Bush tax cuts, an energy bill, immigration, cap-and-trade, or even for the new Obama stimulus package) could bring policymaking on Capitol Hill to a screeching halt.

Currently, an omnibus budget bill for FY2011, the bill that keeps lights on in Washington and an entire payroll of federal employees happy, still awaits legislation, but Congress does not return to Washington until after Veteran’s Day.

Meanwhile, Republicans would like the chance to put off other important legislation until the 112th Congress is sworn in—a potential Republican majority for both houses—but the funding bill can’t wait.

In August of this year, Congressman Tom Price (R-GA) forced a vote on a resolution to block passage of any “controversial” policy proposals during a lame-duck.

He warned against the “last chance” for Democrats to pass card-check, an energy tax, and other government programs.

While his resolution failed on a largely party-line vote, Rep. Price set the tone for the weeks and months following the mid-term elections.

He also hinted to a few interesting points:

What if lame-duck sessions freed lawmakers to vote differently then they otherwise would have? Would we see radically different behavior from legislators during the lame-duck session after they see defeat at the polls?

That rarely ever happens, but lame-duck sessions have been quite commonplace: there were 17 held from 1940 through 2008, or one after every two elections.

To be sure, some sessions were pro forma and accomplished very little while others targeted a single issue or action.

In the weeks before groups of Democrats were sworn in to compete with Republican presidents Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan after the 1982 election, the lame-duck passed numerous delayed appropriations bills, an increase in the gasoline tax, and a pay raise for itself.

When Republicans took control over the House in the 1994 elections after 40 years under control of Democrats, the lame-duck Congress passed one piece of legislation: a major trade bill to implement the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), which was accomplished on a bipartisan basis.

Newt Gingrich, a potential Republican nominee for the 2012 Presidential election, recently said Democrats have “no moral authority” to legislate during a lame-duck session.

“There’s a good chance [2010] is going to be a bigger election than 1994,” Gingrich said.

While Gingrich largely repeated the rallying cry used by Republicans to fire up the base this election season, he didn’t mention his use of a lame-duck session to impeach then-President Bill Clinton after significant Republican losses in the 1998 midterms.

The most interesting aspect about the lame-duck could be one of two possibilities not commonly discussed:

First, Congress could set a date to convene the new session after the election and adjourn the existing one with no date for resumption until January.

Second, President Obama could call the recessed Congress back into session at a specified date following mid-term elections.

Regardless, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has talked up the possibility of “staying in session as long as it takes” for lame-duck action.

If Democrats lose their majority in November, the lame-duck session might be their last chance to achieve many of their legislative goals for at least two more years--if not more.

For those Democrats facing defeat on November 2, they really have little left to lose. In fact, they might as well go to the gallows, set a new precedent, and be historic liberal reformers by legislating.

Monday, October 18, 2010

More than just a few missing words...

I am no longer hesitant to admit that my parents are correct about a slew of things that occur in my life.  In fact, their advice and words of wisdom arrive with near fortune-telling precision.

I wouldn't have agreed with that statement a few years ago, but as I mature into my late twenties, I am more aware of many things they've been telling me, or told me, growing up.   Honestly, I've started to see much of what they said and predicted come to fruition, and here's an example that prompted this post.  It might just work to raise your awareness.

Five or six years ago, my mom and I were having a random conversation about words and the English language in general.  Out of nowhere, the word "texting" came up.  At that time, texting was somewhat of a new word, and texting alone was still quite the phenomenon.  Anyway, we started to joke about how texting was beginning to consume an entire form of communication between people.  Jokingly, we put the word "text" into its many forms ("sexting" and "flexting" had not, however, been thought up yet).  We agreed that our favorite was "texted" because when commonly said, no emphasis is added to either syllable since the second, -ted, is said with such vigor.  TEX-TED!

It was during this conversation where my mom dropped some of that knowledge, which I have somewhat avoided--until recently.  Boy, was she spot-on!  Almost word for word, she said, "Trevor, texting will be the downfall of the English language."

Sound and substantial advice, yet simple, subtle, and precise.  Here's why:

At that time, cell phone service providers were still trying to figure ways to divy out and make profits from text messaging plans, and I guarantee you that neither of my parents had ever read texts before--let alone sent one.  (A brief side note: I think we can all remember that first text message from each parent *awkwardbut it has grown on you.  Eventually, you came to relish in an ability to delay the inevitable phone conversations with a mere tap of the thumbs.  Ahh, what splendid freedom!)

Now, let's get back to the point I am trying to make.

Basically, my mom had it right a few years back.  She predicted, with precision, what has now metamorphosed typed and texted English, and here's the bottom line: we are getting very, very lazy.

Over the next few days, take notice of emails and texts you receive and send--especially the emails.  You might just notice what I'm telling you.  What will appear to be normal sentences, with basic elements compiled to make complete sentences, are now truncated, shortened, and abbreviated.  I'm not talking about acronyms (LOL; LMAO; DAB; DTF); I'm talking about when the typer or texter has dropped more than a few words and fragmented the hell out of their sentence.  Here's a few examples:

(Text) "Played football at the white house."
(Text) "Not a fan of the nickname."
(Text) "Sorry about missing your call." -- This is one is my pet peeve because it removes ownership to the apology when you don't say "I'm sorry."
(Email) "Thought you might get a kick out of this."
(Text) "Was watching the Giants game."
(Text) "Still feel like getting drinks?"

What happened to the pronouns?  Is it really that much effort to add an "I" or "You" or "I'm" at the beginning of a sentence or question?  Seriously, it's a problem, and this is exactly what my mom was referring to.  What's worse, the laziness has infiltrated the type of emails being exchanged in professional settings, and it's frightening.

Here's a thought: try and counteract the effect of being lazy in your writing, typing and texting, and instead, be grammatically correct with EVERYTHING.  It truly commands respect, and I have to say, it's also contagious.

I only say this now because from what I can tell, as I scroll through previous text messages and emails, I reply to the texters and typers who use proper English with proper English of my own.  And then I come across texts and emails where I succumb to the lazy culprits, and alas, I give my thumbs a rest.

So just try it.  Dare ya.  Should be easy.  Nothing to lose!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Not my typical Wednesday morning.

Every Wednesday since I moved to DC, I sleep in, make coffee, make something for breakfast, and then attend my research seminar on the first floor.  Wednesdays provide a nice break in the middle of my busy week; plus, it's a day off from working my internship.  Last Wednesday, however, began with a much later than usual wake-up, and I had a rough start as soon as I wiped the sleep from my eyes.

Waking up later than expected was largely attributed to the fact I was out celebrating a birthday very late into the night, so I had no time for making breakfast or waiting for the coffee to brew.  I couldn't even take a shower before class, so I threw on some clothes as quickly as possible, got a few things together for class, and headed to the nearest Starbucks for a very large coffee.

I typically do not frequent any coffee shops nearby the Center because we (The Guys in 608) brew our own, but I remembered there was a Starbucks only two blocks away.  I headed straight there.

As I rounded the corner, I noticed all of the furniture had been moved onto the patio right by the front entrance.  I immediately thought to myself, "Shit, it's like 9:45am, and I need to be back at the Center for class in fifteen minutes."  More importantly, I thought, was where the hell another Starbucks was and how I desperately needed coffee to cure my hangover--waking me up for my three hour class.

So, with a quick search on my coveted BlackBerry, I found another location for caffeination not far away (And by the way, 'decaffeination' is a word but 'caffeination' is not? Bullshit.  It is now.).  Now walking in double-time and struggling with my hangover twice as bad, I was on my way to Dupont Circle for a red eye.

As I walked up Connecticut Avenue in quick pursuit, my headache intensified with an instant flood of sirens making their way towards me.  Motorcycle after motorcycle and car after car, the motorcade approached the intersection where I had Starbucks in my sights.  Instead of walking the zebras, I waited a full thirty seconds for this parade of red and blues to pass, sirens blaring, only to find myself catching a quick glimpse of the POTUS in the back of his Cadillac One.

I'm no sucker for a glimpse of anyone--especially when I've seen them before--but only in DC will my right-of-way be impeded on to let the presidential motorcade through.

I guess that's one right I'm willing to give up while living in DC.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Wedding in Seattle.

Check out this great short my cousin put together from the wedding in Seattle.

Until next time . . .

Monday, September 27, 2010

Hitting the Ground Walking in D.C.

Well, I've arrived.  I now live in the District of Columbia.

Actually, I arrived almost a month ago, and from the looks of things, I will be consolidating this Danydgram and catching you up on what's happened in the last thirty days. 

You'd think after living in this amazing, fast-paced, and happy-hour-friendly city for nearly a month, I'd have my shit together, but think again!  As soon as I arrived, I was ignited with energy: something I thought I had left behind with the sleep I finally started to get once I was in Indiana.  The surge of energy, however, put me on a full-force, flip-flop-walking spree around the entire District with my dad and stepmom (Linda)--from Adams Morgan to the National Mall, the Glenn Beck Rally to the crazy rush-hour-filled lanes of Whole Foods.  We even trekked it out to Mount Vernon, but we made that trek in our rental.  Still, we didn't take a jeep tour on the grounds . . . just saying.

My first weekend here, 30 days ago exactly, was incredible.  It was probably one of the best so far.  I managed to get into great shape after my month-long lethargy of highway driving; meanwhile, I got a chance to discover some sights, sounds, food, and speakeasies before the rest of my UCDC cohorts arrived.  Needless to say when they finally did, I was bushwacked, but I prevailed, rallied, and pushed through to show the west-coasters from UC a real treat for their first week/weekend in DC.

Before I go much further, I need to pause and recognize what truly great parents I have, the places we went while they were here, and for driving my firecracker ass all the way from Indianapolis, IN.

Thank you Dad and Linda.  I love you both.

George Washington's swanky home and resting place.  Mount Vernon, Alexandria, VA

Yup, I was there--so were about 400k tea-baggers.

So was she.  Sexy teabagher.

From Thailand to the Smithsonian Natural History Museum, with love.  I think this lizard shows why our mothers say "do not make that face because it will stick."

Mind trick.

It's safe to say I work here part-time . . . in lobbies. 

Like a good friend of mine would say, "So sick!"

Another mind trick--Jedi style.

Self explanatory: a pose.

Just your typical ginger's presidential monument.

 Bronze ginger.  Name: T.J.

Not bad from the BlackBerry.

Thanks Dad because you did.

From the GW Monument, we can clearly see that a few tax dollars should be used for better grass.  Seriously.

We saw POTUS smoking a cigarette on the roof with some of the Secret Service guys via binoculars.  (Almost) a true story.

Lincoln passed on grass for water--my man.

TJ got a lake--ante up Lincoln.

Ford Theatre looks just like I remembered from 1993.

As you can see, we were very busy: early mornings, late nights, and loads of walking.  We only had the rental car our first day, and that was the day we went to Mount Vernon--totally worth the trip, expense, hassle, and before-8am-wake-up.

I checked into my new residence that following Monday (frame of reference: this was August 30), and a few hours later, good ole buddy ole pal o' mine, Mr. Ruben Chavez, showed up just in time for dinner.  I let him hang out in the room long enough to unzip his bags, but I eventually lured him out with the words: "free dinner if we meet my parents in Adams Morgan."  He quickly obliged.

We met at a nice place for dinner, but it wasn't Lauriol Plaza (one of my all-time favorite restaurants in this city and a place my Dad and stepmom took me to during the weekend).  Anyway, it was a very pleasant, tasty and free dinner; mostly, I was happy to have a companion now in DC to run amuck with--Rat Pack style.  Although the Rat Pack grew by one rat that night, the others weren't far behind . . .

(L-R: Sean Miller, Ruben Chavez, me, and Kevin Miller, guest and friend)

It was something of an extraordinary week once our other suite-mates--Waiswa (not pictured above) and Sean--checked in because due to some poor planning or whatever, we didn't start our internships or attend any of our classes until the Tuesday after Labor Day, so we literally had 8 days to run amuck in Washington, D.C.  Largely contributing to this running amuck was the fact that my old friend from the US Air Force, Rich Jones, came into DC from Delaware for the weekend and took me to his family's (Chesapeake) Bay house for Labor Day and then the following weekend, mine and Ruben's friend Kevin stopped in for about a week on his way to study in London for a year.  Here's the photo re-cap:

First night out with a big (and growing) group.

Just your typical Air Force One shoeshine.  He's a buddy of mine, Eddie Varley, and we think he looks a lot like Peyton Manning.

Homemade sangria for the 'Double Decker Booze Cruise" tour, but it fell through, so we used it for Sangria Pong instead.

The Guys in 608 were handed down the legendary UCDC beer pong table.  It's been getting a lot of use!

One night out, we met Mr. Belding--the principal from Saved By the Bell.

The Friday night before Rich came in from Delaware, I made last-minute plans and took a bus up to see my cousin Lindsey in NYC.  She lives in a beautiful flat in Williamsburg/Brooklyn, and above is a shot from her roof of Manhattan.

(L-R: Rich, Ruben, me)  Boys being boys.  He kicked my ass.

Beautiful Sunday at the Bay house with Rich's family.

Only the greatest chips around and choice care-package item.

Boise State v. Virginia Tech.  86,500 people attended this game.  Insane!

This is what happens when it gets too late and people just need to go to bed.  LMAO.  Sorry Kevin--I had to.

Singing loud and proud to who-remembers-what 80s song it was.

Great view of the GW Monument from W Hotel.

For the best breakfast in DC, I suggest the chilaquiles at Lauriol Plaza.

Live reggae band at Eighteenth Street Lounge has consistently pared for a good night for the past four Wednesdays.

Just a few in the UCDC crew after a small gathering in 608.  We did not, however, manage to fit in one elevator.

Aaaand casual Friday last week.

Well, there you have it.  The month of September is almost over, and things are continually getting better and better each week.  I'll be writing more frequently now and providing much shorter, quick reads to keep you entertained, full of random moments backed with laugh-out-louds.  


Sunday, September 19, 2010

California to D.C. in 30 Days . . . or BUST!

Last month, my return trip from Bangkok was quite an experience.  It wasn't because of the flight or the plane or my seat.  Instead, it was because of the flight attendants!

I'm totally kidding.  It was an experience because I left Bangkok on a Monday (August 3) at 4pm, and after just a short two-hour layover in Taipei, Taiwan, I was back on a plane to then arrive in San Francisco at 9pm that same Monday night. Talk about making up some time!  You know, I could really afford to do that more often--especially on days before finals.

I made it back safely to San Francisco, but I was completely phone-less until the following day (since I somehow lost my BlackBerry during my trip despite never once using it).  Fortunately, I secured plans with a few close friends to meet me at my favorite spot for some long-awaited IPAs in the heart of downtown Berkeley.  They came--thankfully--because I was homeless and in dire straights for a place to crash the next two nights in Berkeley.

Walking out of the Downtown Berkeley Bart station, I was immediately hit with the accompanying smells, sights, and sounds of Shattuck Avenue.  This felt quite similar to the culture shock I had experienced when I arrived into Bangkok because in many ways, I had been conditioned to numerous aspects of Thai lifestyle--growing accustomed to the smells and sounds of Bangkok after ten weeks.  This feeling soon subsided when I found my friends waiting for me at Jupiter with beers in hand.  We got to drinking our tasty IPAs (very good beer at Jupiter, I might add), and it wasn't long before I shared stories to catch them up from my time in abroad.  Thank you to everyone for coming out--both nights!

With only one full day (and another night) in Berkeley, I had a laundry list of tasks I needed to get accomplished in preparation for my month-long journey across the United States (as well as four months in DC and a month-long Christmas vacation to Europe).  

Waking up early the next morning (but not yet jet-lagged . . . ), I was immediately too busy to think: I needed a new phone; I needed to pick up my car that was parked three hours away; I needed to get a storage unit; I needed to sort through the things I owned into a car's worth of things I'd need for DC; I needed, still, to visit a bunch of people in Berkeley; I needed to pick up my mail; and finally, I needed to plan all my stops for my cross-country trip.  Oh yeah, I also needed to fit in a few meals, a shower, and call my parents.  

Thanks to a good recommendation for breakfast from Mike Lorek for breakfast at Meal Ticket in Berkeley, we were able to quickly fill our stomachs with a trout and scrambled egg breakfast--my first meal stateside.  I think I did it right:

I (somehow and miraculously) managed to get everything on my to-do list accomplished, and not only that, my car started right up after sitting unattended for ten weeks.  Looking back now, I don't think I could have completed all of the tasks I had on my plate in that single day had I encountered even the slightest hiccup/setback.  

Later that evening, I mapped out a serious agenda for my road trip.  Here's how it looked:

Berkeley, CA (3 days) -- Sacramento, CA (1 day) -- Los Angeles, CA (2 days) -- Phoenix, AZ (4 days) -- Albuquerque, NM (1 day) -- Roswell, NM (1/2 day) -- San Antonio, TX (2 days) -- New Orleans, LA (1 day) -- Tallahassee, FL (1 day) -- Atlanta, GA (2 days) -- Asheville, NC (2 days) -- Knoxville, TN (1 day) -- Lexington, KY (1 day) -- South Bend, IN (1 day) -- Indianapolis, IN (4 days) -- Washington, DC (4 months!).

Wow.  As I read back over this, I am exhausted--even overwhelmed--by my aspirations, but I am quickly reminded of my ability to reunite with many distant friends from my days in the Air Force as well as my chance to visit family on their home turfs. 

Below is a brief photo recap of my stops along the way.  Unfortunately, I didn't take a picture with every person I saw or every place I visited, but the photos should provide a good account of the adventure and unique opportunity to drive across our beautiful nation. (Disclaimer: The photos were taken with my BlackBerry, so I apologize for poor quality).

In Sacramento, CA visiting Air Force and Sac City friends.  (L-R) Hudson, Justin, Kelli, me, Ian, and Mindy).

In Los Angeles about to eat jerk chicken enchiladas at Santa Monica Beach with my cousin Rachel, her boo Nate, and their pup Ooshki.

Santa Monica Beach, Los Angeles, CA

A reunion! These three  (L-R: Brady, Nate, and Rachel) put me up in Chiang Rai, Thailand, and again here in Santa Monica.  Thanks Rachie and Nate--I miss you both, Brady, and Ooshki too.

Obviously, 10 weeks without driving did a number on my parallel parking skills.

Second day in Los Angeles--on my way to see Mr. Justin Granath.

Me and old friend, Chris Hart, from USAF.  I hadn't seen him in over 6 years.  Coincidentally, he happened to be in Los Angeles visiting his family while on a mid-tour from Seoul, Korea.  Great seeing you brother.

Mr. Sparks and Mr. Granath doing it big at Beso.

Arriving into the great state of Arizona to see my momma and my favorite picture from my road trip.

Just your typical Phoenix sunset later that night.  Second favorite picture.

Big party weekend in Scottsdale, AZ, for Miss Celia's birthday. (L-R: Kevin, Amanda Cocciotti, Celia Cocciotti, shme)

Poolside with Kevin in Scottsdale, AZ.

Me and Mr. Dave Lopez in his hometown, Albuquerque, NM.  We partied (and worked) together in the Air Force and did it big in Cyprus for four months in the summer of 2004.  That was about the last time I saw him.  We look much sexier now.

The real deal: the UFO Museum in Roswell, NM.  

Aliens.  No joke.

Me my beautiful and only sister, Erin Elizabeth, outside her home in San Antonio, TX.  I love you sis.

Southern cooking done right: Creole and Dixie beer on Bourbon Street, New Orleans, LA.

Real jazz at Preservation Hall in the French Quarter, New Orleans, LA.

A Saturday night on Bourbon Street in New Orleans, LA.  Insane.
Swimming with Makenzie Ann, my cousin's daughter in Asheville, NC (think: the place where the Obamas had a vacation).  For the record, she has the largest Silly Bandz collection I have ever seen, and she didn't share a single one.  Stinker.

The matriarch of the Sparks' family, Mrs. Marie Grace Sparks.  An angel on Earth and my gramma.

I now realize I didn't take enough pictures, but I really want to thank everyone during my trip who accommodated me, took me out, fed me, baked for me, hugged me, kissed me, set me straight, shared music with me, and laughed with me.  So, thank you: Ruben Chavez, Mike Lorek, Kevin Miller, Christa Hall, Arjun Ghosh, Elliott Garcia, Michael Cooper, Blanche Levy, Sunchai Duday Muy, Melanie Haller, Justin Turner, Kelli Hanniford, Hudson Brower, Ian "Skian" Brown, Rachel Sparks-Graeser, Nate Graeser, Ooshki, Brady McGowan, Justin Granath, Chris Hart, Aunt Amy and Uncle Phil, Momma and Jim, Celia Cocciotti, Shelby Stark, Amanda Cocciotti, Jessica Hughes, Dave Lopez, Sis, Jeff Montgomery, Ally Niemier, Damion Leimbach, Shawn and Andrea Ondeck, Leslie and Makenzie Cunningham, The Mann Group, Nicholas Gross, Emily and Jeff Presley, Dad and Linda, Granny and Bob, Grandma and Grandpa, Carly Niemier, and Desmond and Patricia Hunt.  If you are reading this, thank you and know I want to return the favor while I live in DC--please come!

Now that I have been settled in D.C. for just over three weeks already, it's high time I get to blogging about all the craziness that is D.C. with updates on my internship, my residential building, my new friends, cooking, and our crazy nights out.  Needless to say, there is a lot to share, but for now, I need sleep.  Goodnight.

Next up on The Dandygram: Hitting the Ground Walking in D.C.