April 28, 2004
Delaware. Delaware! I came to Delaware, and this is what I did.
I was picked up at the airport by Nikolay, a researcher in the Permafrost research group of the University of Delaware. We drove to Newark (pronounced New Ark), Delaware. He handed over the keys of the U. of Delaware Ford Taurus. Yeah. He led me in his car to my hotel, and left me to get settled in. In the Sleep Inn.
I knew there was such a thing as the Sleep Inn. Now Iíve experienced it. Itís the usual fare: Moderately helpful, young front desk person, chincy continental breakfast served in the morning (cereal in Styrofoam bowls, bagels, donuts, mini muffins) (I donít know that Iíve ever seen this mini-muffin phenomena before. Bite-sized muffins. Or, for me, two-bite-sized muffins. One-two-gone. They were cute).
The room was fine. The bathroom door was closed, no fold in the toiled paper roll to indicate the bathroom had been cleaned after the last use, the drapes were open onto a view of the back parking lot. The room was cold. I wasnít in love. But there were two beds, and a TV that received both MTV and VH1. A phone. An empty refrigerator that didnít appear to be on. All I needed, really. I proceeded to take over both beds with my small amount of stuff and myself, sprawled on top.
Nikolay came back for me within the hour. We went to dinner and met the others: Dmitriy, Russia (Moscow); Sylvia, Peru (Lima); Fritz, Michigan. Would it be too American to order a hamburger? Not so long as at least one other person was eating one. Fritz, Nikolay, and I ate hamburgers. Dmitriy and Sylvia ate chicken sandwiches. We all drank beer.
I slept ealy and well. I woke early and well. I prepared for the class. One wouldnít want to be prepared too far ahead of time for this sort of thing. I thought about what to present, and in what order, and modified a Power Point or two to suit my needs. I left in just enough time to arrive just a little bit late for the early start time of 10 AM. I took one wrong turn, which was easily corrected. I apologized for being late. It was a forgiving crowd. The crowd from the evening before was present, plus another graduate student: Andrea, Philadelphia.
I taught. They listened. They asked good questions. Sometimes I made up the answer and sometimes I said I could find out the answer. I referenced my boss, Jim, a lot. In the morning, we were inside, and after lunch, which I ate in the cafeteria downstairs with Dmitriy, we were outside. Outside was nice. By the time we were done looking over the equipment for our first hands-on outside, Nikolay (Kolia) had to go. We ended for the day. Relief. It was starting to rain. I drove back to the hotel the long way. I donít know that itís so much that I took a wrong turn as that I maybe just didnít turn when I was supposed to. It looked like an interesting route, but I really just wanted to get back to the hotel and curl up into a ball and rest. So thatís pretty much what I did. Except the curl up into a ball part. I really just sprawled out on the bed. I turned on MTV and there was something stupid on so I changed to VH1 and there was something stupid on so I flipped back to MTV. I learned about Eminem and the rest of D12. They were on a lot of shows. I turned VH1 back on after a while and the stupid thing was over and something else stupid, but really funny, was on. It was one of those funniest/most outrageous moments shows, pulling from game shows. Mostly old game shows. Some of it was really frickiní funny. I mean, the kind of thing I think is really funny. So I laughed. Afterwards, there was a show about Ozzie Osborn. I watched part of it. Throughout the course of the evening, I called 4 friends who didnít call me back. I called my parents, who were there for me. They were happy to talk. After a while, though, I began to flip through the channels with the volume muted, something that I would be extremely annoyed by had I been in their position. I saw an interview with Owen Wilson and Ben Stiller on Conan OíBrien. I love Owen Wilson. Love him. You do? asked my mom. Do you know if heís married? No, I donít know that I love him that way, I said. There are different kinds of love. I just love him. I think she understood.
I ordered pizza in and it took forever to arrive but it got to me, and I ate half of it. I went to sleep around 11, probably without brushing my teeth.
The next morning I slept in. I didnít get lost on the way to the geography department. We started again at 10. I lectured briefly and showed them how to download and showed them how to process and then we broke for lunch. Sylvia, Dmitriy, Andrea, and I walked to Main Street and got pizza from the place Iíd ordered from the night before. I didnít tell them I still had half a pizza left.
We went back to school. We took the instruments outside and I made them collect data.
Dmitriy wrote out a dirty word in Russian with the GPS and Kolia tried to scratch it out with the GPS by walking over it.
We processed some of the data. I made them do it. We worked and questioned and discussed until 6. My mom said I should go to the ocean, I said, not realizing that in the east the ocean is called the shore. Yes, go to Rehoboth, Kolia said. How far is it? I asked. I did a search on the internet. Mapquest said 1 hr 57 min. Hmmm, I said. Sounds far. Not so far as that says, said Andrea.
Somehow, Andrea, Dima, Sylvia and I ended up piling into my University of Delaware Ford Taurus. Weíre going to the beach! If weíre lucky, weíll get there before the sun sets.
We were close. There was still some light, and still a little bit of time for frolicking.
But everything in town was closed, just about. Wednesday night in the off-season. Is there even a place to get some crab? Go back to highway 1, said the guy in the ice cream shop. But thatís not eating seafood at the shore.
We found two places open that werenít pizza joints. One was called the Blue Moon Cafť. I like the moon. The menu looked nice, too, but the prices didnít. The next was called Cafť Sole. I like the sun, too. The menu looked nice, and the prices were reasonable. Reasonable for a restaurant in a tourist town on the shore. So we went in. And sat down. And debated for a long time not about whether we were going to eat, but what, mainly because both Andrea and I seemed to want everything. In particular, I wanted crab. I was in Delaware, I wanted crab. Andrea talked me into ordering both a cup of cream of crab soup and the crab cakes entrťe. Thatís a good friend. She pointed out that I could have a crab cake left over for lunch the next day and be the envy of all the geographers. It was a nice thought, but I ate it all. I felt fat. But it was good. It was so good, it tasted (and lookedóvery nice presentation) like something my friend Lael would cook. My friend Lael is an amazing cook. To say that food in a restaurant is even half as good as what Lael would cook is quite a compliment. Laelís amazing. The crab cakes were, too. I asked the server to thank the cook for me.
Then, we drove home.
We talked about life in different cultures and Sylvia asked what the average age for marriage was in Arizona. We were very confused and laughed and laughed and said What? It made more sense once Sylvia said she forgot I lived in Colorado, not Arizona. I donít know the average age for marriage in Colorado, either.
I dropped Dima off at the department, Sylvia off at her apartment, and Andrea off at her house, but not before making plans to go to New Castle the next morning. Might as well see some of the local attractions.
I agreed to pick up Andrea at 8:15 the next morning. I made it there by about 8:30. New Castle was supposedly about 20 minutes away. We were supposed to get class started a bit early, at 9:30, which means Andrea and I would have 40 minutes of driving and 20 minutes of seeing the town. If we didnít get lost and if we didnít get stuck in morning traffic, and if we didnít mind not getting to the department a little early.
We hit traffic. I decided to ignore the time and let Andrea make the calls, since she was the local. We made it to New Castle before 9:30, and since we were there, we may as well walk around, we figured. New Castle is an old settlementówe wandered around the old part of town with original cobbles and signs dating the buildings in the 1700s, something we donít see a lot of on the west coast. I canít say the architecture was particularly exciting back then, but it was quite pleasant to get a bit of a feel for an old U.S. town.
We left for Newark sometime around 9:30, I think, and arrived at the department sometime around 10:10. We figured we could pretend we forgot weíd moved the class time up, which would put us only 10 minutes late, but it turned out to be a non-issue. Fritz and Nikolay were upstairs discussing budgets for future projects, an issue slightly more critical than learning about the last bits of processing GPS data, since Fritz was leaving the next day. Andrea and I went to New Castle, I began, and our time management isnít the bestÖ We hit traffic on the way there, and-- Thatís all I needed to say. Fritz was enthusiastic. Oh, you went to New Castle? Yeah, traffic out that way can be really bad. Iím glad youíve gotten to see a bit of Delaware, beside just flat and boringÖ And we went on from there. I donít deserve to get off so easy half the time, but Iíll take it. It turned out that the remainder of the material to go through with the group only took about an hour, and then we were all comfortable with the knowledge transferred and broke for the afternoon. Andrea, my trusty and amazingly willing tour guide, took me for a walk around campus and along the main drag. Spring in Delaware. The trees were in bloom, some pink and some white, the grass was green (which was a refreshing change from Boulder), and the temperature was sometimes pleasant.
I was on a mission to find something to bring back to a friend that said he had played and partied in Newark back in his rockstar days. Hats, sweatshirts, shorts, bumper stickers, shot glasses. I chose a jar of cheese sauce with a cartoon drawing of a blue hen, the school mascot, on the label.
I also bought two wigs, one blue and one black, in preparation for this coming Antarctic season. Here are some shots of my housemates and myself modeling them upon my return.