Of winter ice and covered bridges

In my previous post about my dating life, I wrote about how I saw my girlfriend only a few times during most of 1995 because I was working in Florida. One of the days we did get to spend together was at my fraternity formal in 1995. Rick and I had flown up from Florida for the weekend. My car was still in Atlanta, so I drove him and his date to the dance also.

Rick’s date was a girl named Bonnie Lee that I had never met before. He gave me the directions to her house and so he, my girlfriend and I set out west of Atlanta to pick her up. The freeways soon became busy four-laned thoroughfares and eventually two lane winding roads through the winter night. As we wandered through country roads, we soon reached a one-lane covered bridge! “How far out of town does this girl live?” I asked Rick. We slowly crossed the wooden bridge and continued on our way to her house.

What I remember most about Bonnie Lee is the dress she wore. She had made the dress herself and it was beautiful. I couldn’t help but wonder to myself how much that kind of dress would cost if she had bought it one of the expensive mall stores or the like. What an amazing talent to possess. I remember that late in the night it rained and it was so cold that the water froze on my car, effectively sealing it such that I had to chip away at the ice just to get my key in the door. I remember driving carefully home again, back out to the far-reaching country away from the city, gingerly crossing that covered bridge again watchful for ice to drop her off at home.

The humorous part of all this is that the “far off” country covered bridge is now no less than 10 miles from my home (and closer to Atlanta than my house, to boot.) I often go running in an area very near the bridge and when traffic is heavy on East-West Connector I will use the bridge as an alternate route to go home.

Every time I cross the bridge, I think of that night, the fun I had, and Bonnie Lee and her homemade dress. I wonder whatever happened to her.

Postscript: I did a google search on Concord Covered Bridge and found that the Georgia DOT has its own site for the bridge. There is also a webpage dedicated to the covered bridge that my grandfather rebuilt! (A plaque with his name can be seen here.) There really is a web page for everything these days.

Invading the Plains

Heading to Jordan-Hare On September 3, 2005, Georgia Tech will travel to Auburn for the first time in 19 years. While Georgia and Auburn rightfully own the title of the “Oldest Rivalry in the Deep South” having met 108 times since 1892, Georgia Tech and Auburn have a pretty longstanding rivalry of their own, having met 91 times since their first meeting in 1892 also.

Georgia Tech and Auburn first met at Brisbine Park in Atlanta in 1892, with Auburn winning 26-0.

Auburn began their “Wreck Tech” pajama parade tradition in 1896. Some Auburn ROTC students, still in their nightshirts, greased the tracks of the railroad from Atlanta into Auburn on the evening before the Tech game. Legend has it that the train carrying Tech’s players slid five miles past the station before stopping and the Tech players were forced to walk back into Auburn where they were routed. Since then, Auburn students haven’t messed with the train tracks, but every year before the Georgia Tech game, the Auburn students would don their flannels and parade through town before the game.

During the first years of the rivalry, Tech was generally unsuccessful against Auburn, going 1-15-1 against the Tigers until 1915. Now, Georgia and Georgia Tech meet annually during Thanksgiving weekend, but between 1915 and 1929, Georgia Tech and Auburn met on Thanksgiving Day each year. For each of those games, Auburn travelled up to Grant Field and Tech enjoyed the home-field advantage going 12-1-2 over those years. Playing in Grant Field was the norm for this series as Tech hosted Auburn for 53 straight games between 1906 and 1959. It’s no surprise that Tech had the upper-hand in this series, winning 31-20-2 over this time, including a 12 year winning streak.

Tech and Auburn alternated playing in Atlanta and Legion Field in Birmingham from 1960 to 1969. It wasn’t until 1970 that Georgia Tech played at Jordan-Hare Stadium, then called Cliff Hare Stadium. The rise of Ralph “Shug” Jordan and later Pat Dye had turned the tables and Auburn starting winning year after year over Tech.

Georgia Tech left the SEC in 1963, but kept SEC foe Auburn on their yearly schedule. In the down years of Georgia Tech football in the late 70’s and early 80’s, the Auburn game along with the Georgia game was one of the few games that sold out badly aging Grant Field. Auburn went on a run against some woeful Tech teams, winning nine straight times from 1979 to 1987. By 1987, Georgia Tech was interested in scaling back their athletics program and playing a less demanding schedule. Auburn was no longer interested in playing in a game where they had little to gain. As a result, the grand series quietly ended.

With Tech football getting a little color in their cheeks in the late 90’s and Auburn churning along strong under Tommy Tuberville, the teams renewed the series for a couple of games. Orignally, the series was to be a home and home game, plus a game at the Georgia Dome (I think the game at the Dome has since been nixed.) Georgia Tech had renovated and expanded Bobby Dodd Stadium and the Auburn game was to be the dedication game for the newly remodeled stadium. On September 6, 2003, the Auburn fans arrived in droves, swaggering and confident in their highly-touted team, sure of certain victory over the lowly Jackets. In fact, so many Auburn fans came to the game that the newly built upper deck in the endzone was awash in orange to the point that I remarked that it could be called “Little Jordan-Hare.”

Something funny happened though…. Auburn didn’t dominate the game. On Tech’s first offensive play of the game, Reggie Ball slinged the ball 54 yards down the field to find Nate Curry behind the defense to open up the game on a field goal 3-0. Quarterback Jason Campbell appeared confused by Tech’s blitzing scheme and the deafening noise from the crowd and was repeatedly sacked. Carnell Williams and Ronnie Brown were shut down, Williams only gaining 37 yards and Brown only gaining 47 yards and Auburn was totally unable to solve Tech’s blitz which dared them to throw it long all day.

Mark Logan's catch

Reggie Ball, playing in his first start at home ever as a freshman sealed the deal in the third quarter with a pass to Mark Logan for a touchdown to up the score to 17-3. I think I held my breath for just about the entire second half, waiting for the bottom to fall out. We stood in the crowd thinking, “this can’t be happening…. any minute Auburn is going to wake up and score two or three touchdowns before we can catch our breath”, but it never happened. At the end of the game, the students stormed the field and both goal posts came down. The Auburn Tigers had swaggered into Atlanta for a win and left with a black eye.

The crowd carries Reggie Ball off the field

Now, Georgia Tech returns the favor by visiting Jordan-Hare Stadium for the first time since 1986. Tech hasn’t won in Auburn since 1978. I don’t know if they’ll win this year, but hopefully it will be a lively game. I’m looking forward most to soaking in the Auburn traditions. With all the trips I’ve made to Auburn, I’ve never been there for a game day. I’m looking forward to seeing the “Tiger Walk”, the rolling of Toomer’s Square (well, hopefully it won’t get rolled, but let’s be realistic here.), and I have a feeling the frenzy of 80,000 fans all screaming “War Eagle” on kickoff might cause me to pass out.

I can’t wait.

The long distance ache

During the year of 1995, I spent nine of the twelve months in Florida. I didn’t plan it that way, but that’s the way things sorted out. While in Florida, I had to laugh at myself at the irony. Up until that point in my life I had been utterly incapable of being in a long-term romantic relationship, but as soon I started into one I would be moved 600 miles away from her.

I had finally talked myself into dating a friend from high school and the results were far better than I could have possibly imagined. Things were going great for us and so with my amazing timing, I packed up my things and moved away to Florida to work for IBM for the winter. I returned for a semester of school in the spring and then headed back to Boca Raton for the summer. I shared an apartment with my friend and fraternity brother Rick for the summer break. I had anticipated staying for only the summer, but it turned out IBM wanted me there for the rest of the year. When it came time for school to start in the fall, Rick and I made such a sorry pair. We would’ve gladly exchanged places as he would’ve given anything to stay in Florida with his friends and his church and I would’ve given anything to go home to my friends and my girlfriend. Of course, she was starting college that fall, so it’s not like she would’ve been in town anyways, but Atlanta was two hours away from her college as opposed to ten hours, so it would’ve been a little better at least. Also, some of her friends were starting school at Georgia Tech, so I’m sure she would be frequenting Atlanta often. All that was moot however, I was stuck in Florida far away from seemingly everyone.

Thankfully, I had made some friends in Florida during my time there and shared an apartment with a friend from church who was gracious enough to let me take up his second bedroom. Most of that year was very hard for me and I went through feelings of loneliness, withdrawl, and homesickness. I feel for people who are in long-distance relationships, for those people who are on separate college campuses, or meet someone and to move away because of a job, or those who love someone in the military who is in service far away. I know a little of the ache they feel. During the fall when my girlfriend started college, she went through all the highs and lows of the first year in college and it was very hard for me to only hear about it on the phone and not be there to celebrate the good times and comfort her in the hard times. A relationship is hard to sustain over the phone, because there’s so much going on where I was at and where she was at and not all of it was getting communicated. There were a lot of things going in my life that I don’t think she fully grasped and I know there were things going on in her life that I didn’t understand totally.

However, looking back on it all now, it’s clear to see that God had a purpose for keeping me away from everything in Atlanta for a season. At the time, I experienced periods of sorrow, but now with a greater perspective I see all the amazing joy that God brought during that year. For a brief time, he pulled together many different college students from all over the world for a season and we all enjoyed each others company and spurred each other on and then just quickly, God scattered us to the four winds where we all had our ministries. We were from Wisconsin, New York, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Colorado, and even at home in Florida, but for that summer, we were all in Florida. I still enjoy reading about what some of these people are doing across the world now. As the year progressed and they departed one by one, I found my group of local friends shrinking. I’m very thankful for the small group of friends I still had for the last couple of months as Florida. They were my only connection with all my friends in Georgia starting back in college and resuming their busy lives. I had to learn a hard lesson to be content in my circumstances and also accept that the loneliness and solitude was only for a season and it was prime opportunity for prayer and meditation on Scripture. I’ve haven’t since had that kind of time to devote to prayer and study and it’s missed.

One of my most vivid memories while in Florida came late in 1995 when during the Christmas season I went with two friends to watch the boat parade on the canal in Fort Lauderdale. I remember sitting on the bank of the canal and watching the boats travel down the river with twinkling lights in the warm Florida night surrounded by palm trees wrapped in Christmas lights. I was with two attractive, very nice girls, but I’d have gladly exchanged them with someone else. Such is the ache of a long distance relationship. On Christmas Eve, I packed my car and drove up the Florida coast, following the ocean all the way to Jacksonville before heading inland towards Atlanta. Just returning home was the greatest Christmas gift I could’ve gotten that year.

Book review: Perelandra

If Lewis’ first book in the trilogy, Out of the Silent Planet reminded me strongly of works by authors such as H.G. Wells or Isaac Asimov, the next book in the series, Perelandra reminds me strongly of another one of Lewis’ works, The Screwtape Letters for reasons that quickly become obvious upon reading.

Our protagonist is once again the philologist Ransom, quite possibily a caricature of Tolkein. Instead of being kidnaped and carried to Mars, this time Ransom is willingly carried supernaturally to the planet of Venus. Again, Lewis uses vivid landscape descriptions to depict a planet that lies underneath a permanent cloud cover and has no solid land, save one island in a sea filled with floating land masses. Here, Ransom encounters several alien animals and one single humanoid, a woman. Ransom also soon discovers that one of his enemies from the previous book has followed him to the planet.

From here, the book takes a sharp left turn from a science fiction novel and takes on the form of a religious or philisophical discussion. The lone woman turns out to be the “Eve” of her planet, the first creation and the mother of her race. Ransom also learns that his old enemy is possessed by none other than the old Serpent himself. The whole planet of Venus unfolds as another Garden of Eden, another creation about to begin its own story. Ransom has a first person view of the opening chapters of Genesis as the Un-man tempts the woman to stay overnight on the island, the one thing she has been commanded not to do. From here, the story opens into a powerful dialogue as Ransom intervenes and engages the Un-man, giving the reader the most challenging part of all three books.

The part that fascinated me the most at this point was the tactics and schemes that the Un-man imposed. Much like the writer in The Screwtape Letters, we find that the devil is far more clever and insidious that we can possibly imagine and that he knows so well how to get to us. Ransom finds himself a wits end as he continually parries away argument after endless argument by the Un-man and from here the book takes a twist that I totally did not expect. (Without ruining the story, I’ll just say that Ransom believed strongly in the verse about resisting the devil.)

Lewis is at his best in this book during the verbal fencing between the devil and Ransom as Lewis sets up theory after theory that was presented by the scientific and philosophical community of his time, using Ransom to refute them. The book delves deeply into the concept of obedience and also the concept of redemption. For me, this book was the most “philsophical” of the three books and therefore was the slowest of the three to read, because there was much to chew on. I would also say it’s the book of the three that would most require a re-read, because I’m sure there’s a lot that I missed in the first pass.