Categories
Gators UF

It's homecoming

It’s homecoming… a weird concept if you happen to live in the town where you went to school… but nonetheless, a holiday the City of Gainesville takes very seriously. Yes, I said holiday.

You see, in town the schools are closed. Many businesses close their doors or have allowances for people to leave early. There’s a parade (which means UPS drivers come in a few hours early to make sure they can deal with the traffic/road closures).

Categories
Gators

Bernie Machen Donates Some Bonus Money to UF

Back in 2007, I was floored by the University of Florida’s President (Bernie Machen) accepting more than $200,000 in bonuses. I was so floored, I sent him a letter (below) and asked him to decline the bonus. After all, he already receives in base salary more than 10 times the annual income for a Florida family sending their child to the University of Florida.

As expected, I did not receive a response and there was no mention of donations, declines, or anything else from Bernie Machen.

Categories
Forrest

Forrest's Anniversary

That little spec in the center is the duck. And in the bottom right corner is the one mom threw in.
That little spec in the center is the duck. And in the bottom right corner is the one mom threw in.

So today (December 20th) marks the 2nd Anniversary of Forrest’s passing. Last year, I rode the Harley out to Cedar Key, Florida and threw a duck into the ocean.

Why a duck?

Well, when I graduated UF back in 2006 (Go Gators), my parents threw an open house graduation party for me. My mom decorated the house with an army of little foam ducks wearing a graduation cap.  Forrest loved them. He absolutely loved them and would quickly remove the head from the body, shake it around a little bit, find a new duck, lather, rinse, repeat. When we returned to Gainesville, I must have brought about 20 ducks with me and every now and then I’d leave one for him to seek and destroy.

After he passed away, I had a handful of them left, so on 12/20/2007 I rode out to Cedar Key on the bike (read the post) and had brought one of the ducks with me. I didn’t really have a plan; I was just pretty sad and seeing the ocean always makes me feel better.

When I got to Cedar Key, I had the duck in my hand and was just kind of squeezing it (like one of those stress relief balls). For no particular reason I reached back and hurled the duck as far as I could into the ocean… watching as the duck “swam” out to see. I don’t know why, but I loved it. And I said I’d do it every year I could.

Giants Stadium at AT&T Park
Giants Stadium at AT&T Park

This year, I happened to be in San Francisco on 12/20, which of course wasn’t an issue — since the ocean is right there. I had brought a duck and coincidentally my mom also brought one out for me (there’s a long story there… but in 5 words or less, Great minds think alike). We went out to the Giants stadium and we launched the ducks into the Pacific.

 

And with that, I was reminded how much I still miss my dog.

Categories
Family

Thanksgiving 2008

To me, Thanksgiving represents not just a “vacation” day, but rather a day to reflect on the past year — no matter how bad — and be thankful for what life has given to us. Every year I look forward to celebrating two days with my family and friends; selfishly, the first day (my birthday) is all about me. And, as you can guess, the second day I look forward to comes on the fourth Thursday in November.

No one truly knows the origin of Thanksgiving. Although we have been taught in school that the first Thanksgiving occurred in 1621 with the Pilgrims, the settlers of Saint Augustine celebrated a “Thanksgiving” more than 50 years earlier. Of course, those thanksgiving celebrations were more religious in nature. In fact, the Saint Augustine celebration featured a “Mass of Thanksgiving” offering thanks for safely arriving in Florida (aka the New World). And, much like the Florida Thanksgivings of today, the earliest one featured an enormous feast. But as usual, I digress.

Fred’s Thanksgiving tradition involves a pilgrimage (yes, it’s a pun — deal with it) to my parent’s house in Davie, Florida. In the last 20 years, I can only remember two Thanksgivings not spent in Davie. One was a road trip that David and I made to Pensacola (while my parents celebrated elsewhere) and the other I spent in Gainesville; not having enough seniority to skip the UF-FSU football game.

Thanksgiving at my parent’s house involves the three F’s — Family, Food, and Food. But wait, did I just say Food twice? Yes, and why? Because there’s that much Food. Mmmmm food. Anyway, Family from all over the country flock to Davie much like the Cliff Swallows to San Juan Capistrano, California. Although the numbers vary yearly (small celebrations have 12 people, large are well over 25), there are constants that never change. First, we will have brisket, turkey, stuffing, and more food than one person can eat in one sitting. Second, family will be there and will be welcomed. And, lastly, we remember why we have gathered together.

Much like Prince said in the eighties, we have gathered to celebrate this thing called life (yes, technically, he said gathered to “get through” this thing called life, but I’m taking liberty here). Anyway, no matter what the day brings, at the end of our trials, our family and friends remain to either share our joy or sorrow. They lend a shoulder for consolation or hug for congratulations. Our family provides the support we need to “get through this thing called life.”

Although I’ve said it before, I like to say it every year… I truly believe that family does not merely consist of shared blood or upbringing. Our friends are the family we choose. Let’s face it, I know I’m one of the lucky ones. I was lucky to be born into a family I truly love. A family I can count on when times are tough, and I family that can count on me to be there for them. But, I’ve also been able to add to my family great friends that have helped me grow (yes, I’m on a diet 🙂 ) and well, let me say this:

Yes, I look forward each year for 2 days — my birthday and Thanksgiving. This year, my birthday witnessed the brutal killing of a dear friend; a person I considered family. And although it’s been just over a month since Ricardo’s death, I am thankful for the laughter we shared and to have been able to consider him not only a great friend, but also a part of family. He was the first to respond to my Thanksgiving messages (he kept odd hours) and always returned both kind words and a reminder that there is no Thanksgiving in Argentina. Sadly, this year, I’m afraid he’s right on that one.

The trials of life remind us that we live. This year, I am choosing to remember on Thanksgiving that even when family are taken from us, we must be thankful for the time we shared. I am thankful for many things. My health, my relationship, and of course my family. My family provides me the ability to smile, the tissues to wipe away tears, and the moral compass to always find my way.

So, my thanks are to you — yes… YOU. You are my family, and today, I give thanks to have you in my life.

Categories
esposa Family Gators Harley-Davidson UF

Summary: Ann Arbor to Fort Lauderdale

Fred enjoying Dunkin' Donuts
Fred enjoying Dunkin' Donuts

Yeni and I started early — very early — Saturday morning. After loading the truck and topping off the tank, we hit I-94 somewhere around 4 am. It was BEYOND cold with the truck showing outside temperatures ranging from 10 – 15 degrees. Normally, I make as few stops as humanly possible; combing fuel stops with rest breaks (and yes, “rest breaks” means exactly what it sounds like). I learned quickly, that while traveling with someone else (aka Yeni) brings great joy, it also requires more frequent “rest breaks.”

Our first break was near Dayton, OH. Finding a Dunkin’ Donuts, we stopped for “rest,” coffee, and an egg bagel. Mmmm, egg bagel. After topping off the tank, we heading back on the highway hitting a major traffic jam in Cincinnati, OH. After staying in place for the better part of an hour, we were able to cross the bridge, enter Kentucky, and put Ohio behind us.

When we reached Lexington, KY, we got off the main road and visited a college friend of Yeni’s (Maria Fernanda and her husband Diego). After a nice visit and a great breakfast, we dropped Mafe at the Univeristy of Kentucky and continued south. I’d never been to the University, and it’s always nice to visit a place where the Gators have dominated (this year we destroyed Kentucky, but that was a home game).

My favorite part of driving to/from Michigan is the leg from Lexington, KY to Knoxville, TN. The trip takes you through the Cumberland Mountains (southeastern section of the Appalachian Mountains) and provides beautiful climbs, views, and scenery. Although best experienced riding on a Harley, the trip is still enjoyable from the truck.

Little Lil puts a smile on Fred's face
Little Lil puts a smile on Fred's face

After reaching Knoxville, we called my good friend Patrick and met with him, his daughter, and wife (Jessi) at a local Italian restaurant. It was great to see their family and playing with lil’ Lil put a big smile on my face. After eating some pasta, rolls, and cannoli , we were back on the road — this time with Yeni at the wheel.

Chattanooga is only a few miles north of Georgia, and the drive through Georgia is long; very long. Did we mention construction? Georgia’s I-75 passage can be described in three words: Pecans, Outlets, Construction. Despite being on the road for more than 20 hours, Yeni was determined to drive through Georgia by herself. She made creative efforts to stay alert, such as talking to the GPS device, counting Juanes songs, and singing.

We reached Florida around 2am and I took over the wheel. When we arrived to the house in Gainesville, Yeni wisely suggested we inflate the bed, grab some shuteye, and rest for a few hours. We rested until around 7 am, loaded Grandma’s chandelier into the truck, grabbed breakfast at DD, and hit the road. Yeni had never seen Florida’s west coast or the Everglades, so I decided to take I-75 straight through to Fort Lauderdale.

Spider-bear at the Gulf of Mexico
Spider-bear at the Gulf of Mexico

When we reached Tampa, we took I-275 to visit the Tampa Bay and see the ocean. I-275 takes you over the Sunshine Skyway bridge (the world’s longest cable bridge) and the ocean view provides a great contrast to the snow we woke up to on the previous morning. Yeni seemed to enjoy the ocean, and Spider-bear was excited to play on the rocks (during one of the “rest” stops).

We continued driving (well, I drove while Yeni napped), and after crossing the Everglades reached the Casa de Parientes. I cannot wait for the rest of the family to arrive and celebrate my favorite holiday.

Yeni sleeps in the Everglades
Yeni sleeps in the Everglades