Monday, April 28, 2008

6 Degrees of Kevin Bacon

There is a game called 6 Degrees of Kevin Bacon. The whole concept of the game is that actor Kevic Bacon is connected to every other actor through 6 different movies. Surprisingly enough, I have yet to find a situation where it does not work. Of course, this game is based on the mentality that every person in the world is connected somehow through six degrees of varying relationships. When I moved to Houston, I knew three people- the two gents with the Dynamo who hired me and the guy they hired at the same time as me. So it's safe to say I hardly knew anyone in America's fourth largest market. However, through this 6 Degrees of Kevin Bacon reasoning, I have been amazed at how many people I really do know.

I frequent this Irish pub called Brien O'Neils. The place has great beers on tap and cheap appetizers- the perfect venue to unwind on a Friday evening. Little did I know that I was connected to one of the waitresses. After a little discussion, I find out she is the niece of my dad's fraternity brother. Strange? You bet.

I can go on. During the first round of the NCAA basketball tournament, another IU grad and I watched our dismal Hoosiers at the time lose to Arkansas. Just before tip-off, I noticed another Cream and Crimson clad young person sitting by himself alone. There aren't many of us in South Texas, so I was polite and invited him over to watch the game with us. He works for the Rockets, so we had a lot to talk about. Turns out, one of his co-workers is a roommate and good friend of my friend Hannah.

I could go one, but those are two that stick out the most. Most people have an attention span of five seconds, so I'm sure you readers out there are already wanting to read something else.

I would like to wrap things up and give a shout to my friend Jackie. I wish her the best as she takes an incredible opportunity with the Pacers Sports and Entertainment group. We went to high school together and she has been so helpful to me here in Houston and I wish her all the best. Good luck Jacks and God bless you.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Share the trail!

Memorial Park is an oasis within Houston's I-610 loop that makes up the bulk of the metro-area. The park has baseball diamonds, soccer fields, swimming pool, golf course, and most importantly mountain bike trails. My mountain bike has been getting much more love than normal because I'm afraid to ride on the roads after work. I've had way too many close calls in my truck which has left me petrified to ride on just two wheels. So after a hard day's work, I speed down Memorial Drive to vent off the day's frustrations. When I get there I'm excited. I can't wait to bunny hop over some logs, burn up some trail, and get a good sweat going. I unload my bike and spin off to the trail head. About two minutes go by and I see some riders coming my way. I say "heads up!" by they ignore my call and whiz right by forcing me into the brush losing my momentum before a steep climb. Since I no longer have physics on my side, I unclip and walk up the hill. I jump back on the bike and spin off again. I ride for about 5 minutes this time and the same thing happens with a different, larger group of riders. I call out again and they act as if I'm not even there. So much for getting away from it all. Yet, I keep riding wanting to get back in cycling shape after being inspired by last weekend's Little 500. This whole predicament happens a few more times, but the last time I had had enough. This time I lost my balance and ate the dirt. I dropped an f-bomb, and all the guy could say was: "Dude, it's crowded- what do you want me to do about it?" Well dude, I'm not saying you have to do anything about the crowded trails, but you could show some common courtesy and slow down when you see someone up ahead.

So to all you Houston urbanite mountain bikers- SHARE THE TRAIL!

-Upper Management

Monday, April 14, 2008

I go back

Jack and Diane painted a picture of a life in my dreams,
Suddenly this crazy world made more sense to me. . .

In his song "I Go Back," Country artist Kenny Chesney alluded to the lyrics of John Mellencamp's hit "Jack and Diane." The song sheds light on what its like to grow up and live in a small town in the heartland. In Chesney's song, he reflects on several stages of his life and how every time he hears Mellencamp's song, he "goes back" to that lifestyle of long ago.

Whenever I am homesick or just flat out fed up with the big city that is Houston, TX; I find myself listening to the tunes of the Indiana born and raised Mellencamp. This past weekend I took it a step further when I travelled back to Indiana University for the 58th Running of the Little 500 bicycle race.

Unless you have experience Little 500 for yourself, there is really no way to describe the event and truly do it justice. Seven-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong tried when he said "I've been to Super Bowls, World Series, and the Monaco Grand Prix, but the coolest thing I have seen was the Little 500- every sports fan should see it live."

I went back for a few reasons, but the main reason was because I had unfinished business on the track. I led a team of mostly rookies to a respectable finish of 15th. Three of those riders would return with a freshman that made all of the veterans look like school boys I was told. They needed my help on race day. I also had not seen most of my friends since August before I left for Houston.

My flight Thursday was scheduled to depart at 7:45pm and get me in B-town just the night scene was picking up around 11pm local time, but my flight was delayed three hours because of the nasty weather that had plagued most of the country all day. I didn't arrive in Indy until 1:30am which posed another problem because the car rental places had all closed. A fraternity brother arranged for a pledge to pick me up from the airport, I did not learn this until as I was walking down the tunnel and onto the airplane. When I finally arrived almost everyone was already in bed from a long afternoon and evening of drinking. I was still wired. My friend John and I had a few beers then we called in a night.

The next day I went over to the Sigma Nu-Beta Eta house. Everyone was excited to me my return for the World's Greatest College Weekend. After checking in with the bike team riders, I was off to the women's race pre-party my pledge brother's apartment who have a patio on there rooftop which made for the perfect party venue. For the second straight year, the pair of the men of Sigma Nu had claimed victory in the women's Little 500. Congratulations to the women of Delta Gamma. After the women's race, I had dinner with the Sigma Nu bike team then I was off for more partying in one of the country's most beautiful college towns. I caught up with an old friend that night on Kirkwood Ave, but all the bars we liked we too crowded so we went to a place neither one of us had been as actual students.

Soon enough it was time for the big show- the men's race. The SNU's started of strong and led the race at one point, but soon enough their lack of actual bicycle race experience showed. The cold weather, wind, and snow flurries did not help much either- especially when one of the stronger riders began to cramp. Thank God I had hand warmers. I think the overall fitness of the team could have been better, but as I have learned this past 365 days is that 365 days from now it won't really matter. What is important is that you did do it and did take on the challenge because there are so many IU students who don't.

After the race, I crashed the big IUSF party at Nick's English Hut and that is where I ran into most of my old friends. The IUSF is a big family at IU and I met some great people through my involvement with the race. Going back to IU this weekend was good for me in several way. First, I enjoyed seeing my friends. Second, I realized that my time at IU has passed. For the longest time I felt like I was the only one who graduated and left, and for some reason I thought this weekend would be just like old times. Yes, in some ways it was, but in most ways it wasn't. When you go to your favorite hangouts and don't recognized anyone- it's a sign. I'm thankful for my time at IU but it made me realize that it is indeed time to move on. I just hate the fact that it is so hard for me to get back if I wanted to go to a football or basketball game.

But every time I hear that song (Jack and Diane) ... I go back.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Opening Day

I don't know what it is about the start of baseball season that gets my spirits up, but some reason it always does. I guess because I grew up in the Midwest it was the first real sign that spring was here and summer would soon follow. Even in South Texas where it rarely gets below 60 degrees it had the same effect. What better way to see real, live baseball than by watching my beloved St. Louis Cardinals. When I first told my sister I was moving to Houston, the first thing that left her mouth was "You better not become an Astros fan." Of course not. Since 1892, the Redbird have been a cornerstone in the National League. The Cardinals are the All-American baseball franchise. The location of St. Louis geographically allows the Cardinals brand to reach out to the vast expanses of the American heartland. Yes, the Yankees and Red Sox are popular, but their true fans remain in the frozen Northeast. The Cardinals Radio Network expands over nine state: Missouri, Kentucky, Indiana, Mississippi, Iowa, Tennesee, Illinois, Arkansas, and Oklahoma- that's a huge chunk of real estate. The Cardinals is the kind of team that everyone can become of a fan because of its players. They don't buy championships and not every man on the roster is a celebrity. The players come from all backgrounds and act just like everyday folks (Albert Pujols was seen at a Chuck E. Cheese with his family).

Although Astros fans in general need an education on what real baseball tradition is all about, Opening Day is special regardless of the teams playing and I am grateful to the Houston Astros fan who gave me her extra ticket. I had fun. I enjoyed myself. And even though my team lost that first game, I knew we would come back and win the next two games and capture the series.

Cardinals lead the Cards-Stros Challenge 2-1

Saturday, April 5, 2008

A big pile of shift work

So there I was ... on my Saturday morning, staring from 34th floor office building trying to sell some tickets for the Dynamo's regular season home opener against FC Dallas ... and all I could think was ...


And I don't think I have ever meant it more.

The corporate world has been kicking my ass lately. For nine hours a day, 5 days a week, my life is consumed by it. For another 7-8 hours, I'm sleeping. That remaining 8 hours just does not seem to exist. I feel like I have no time for pleasure and adventure- two things that Edward Abbey said were mandatory for a long, happy life.

I talked to my friends who live in Colorado the other week. They talk about going skiing on the weekends and stepping out their front door to those majestic Rocky Mountains. When I hear this it really makes me think about what I'm really living my life for. I love soccer and I love working for a professional soccer team helping to grow the sport, but is it really worth all the extra hours,nights, weekends etc that take away from the other things I enjoy? Some days I really wonder. Maybe I'm just still so green to this working fulltime thing that I just don't know any better. Flooding recently devastated the town my parents live close to- that put everything into perspective.

Well, when I finally do get out of here, I'm going to clear my head with a long bike ride through Houston, maybe go fishing, and then I'm going to watch some basketball. Big game against FC Dallas tomorrow.