Monday, March 24, 2008

Life on the road, part I...

My swanky job requires me to do a fair bit of traveling over a week typically dedicated to drunken parties in tropical locations. No, I'm not a cameraman for MTV. My traveling has a rather more sober and "did not come to be served but to serve" feel to it. 200+ of my students chose blood, sweat and tears while some of their peers around the country opt for drugs, sex and beer. A few stories from the week...

Started off visiting Spring Break in the City, a group that works in inner-city San Francisco. They serve alongside--not in place of--long-term workers who are seeking to save the lost among the lost. My students served meals, removed graffiti, ran youth center programs and generally poured themselves out as offerings.

Some SF highlights:
-walking through the Mission District and the Castro, seeking to understand what makes the City one of the most unique anywhere.
-having my first impressions of "the street kid with the glare" blown up when we played basketball together. (Nice kid. Quick first step.)
-being told by "random homeless guy in the wheelchair" that I was well-dressed and that he loved me.
-watching the group lay hands and pray for the suddenly grandfatherless girl just before she left to drive to Arizona to be with her family.
-watching leaders emerge when sickness struck.
-losing to "the kid who seems to get picked on" in foosball.
-losing to the girl nobody dares to pick on in ping pong.

Random SF story:
-I leave the City on Tuesday morning for the second leg of my excursion (more on that in part II). I get on the road early in order to A. not get stuck in traffic, B. not get stuck in the middle seat on a Southwest flight (No assigned seats? Really?) Apparently, nobody leaves San Francisco to go to Oakland (with good reason, too). With so little company in the lanes beside me, I cross the Bay Bridge rather quickly in my "world's smallest car" entry. Plenty of time for a real breakfast. Not a fast-food, let's grab a bacon Mcsomethin and then run to the terminal type of breakfast, but a sit-down, use a fork and a ceramic coffee mug breakfast. Problem: someone with my depleted supply of attention-span needs something to read. So, I cruise outside of Carrows and survey my newspaper options. San Jose Mercury-News, Oakland Trib, SF Chronicle. Chronicle it is (my condolences to the Hearst family).
I open it up and find soon that I'm flipping through the obits. Not really steady reading for folks in my age bracket, so I'm just about to turn to the sports section when I see a name I know. Yeah, that's right. One of my high school baseball assistant coaches died and I randomly saw the obit in the Chronicle at a Carrows in Oakland. Coach Z--I had to read closely to make sure it was really him because I only knew Matthew J. Zidich as Coach Z--lived an incredible life. He played baseball in the Pacific Coast League with Joe DiMaggio. He owned an Oyster Restaurant. He taught me the hitting philosophy that trumps all others: "You gotta be a low ball hitter and a highball drinker." Mom said the funeral was huge. No surprise there. One of those folks you just assume won't die had just died and I read the condensed story of his life, kinda shook my head and took another bite of bacon, avocado, jack. On to the airport...

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