Thursday, June 19, 2008

Officially graduated, and a gigantic golden retriever

Due to the aforementioned difficult night (nightmares, 6 adults in one room, etc.) I woke up in a very foul mood on Sunday. Neither Dan nor I got to shower and we had only a few minutes to get dressed and ready for the graduation ceremony, since it was at 9 AM and we still had a drive ahead of us to get there. At least the stupid hotel gave us free continental breakfast, which included eggs and a good variety of other things, so I loaded up on protein-ish items to stave off blood sugar problems (I had two episodes on Saturday, both stemming from waiting too long to eat, I think). We left the hotel by 7:45 and drove up to UC Santa Barbara, finding free parking in a lot, and walking across campus to the lagoon. We passed a clock tower that had no clock (which would be what, a bell tower? It was very angular, resembling a stack of square blocks) and made our way down an expanse of lawn, finding a row of seats and saving some for the people who would be joining us (Laurel's BF, her best friend and her best friend's sister). Everything was bright and colorful in the muggy, foggy morning, flags of 31 countries flapping in the breeze, people selling garish purple orchid leis and bunches of roses and commemorative commencement programs that included the names of each graduate. I spent a while in line for the women's bathroom in one of the buildings and listened to a mom trying to convince her young daughter to use the potty. As soon as I got back to my seat, the music started and went on and on for what seemed like hours as the graduates filed in (and this was just graduates for the social science programs).

The rest of the morning went as graduations normally do. There were speeches, and more speeches, a keynote speech, tortillas were tossed by the graduates, some awards given out, and then every graduate's name was called. Laurel text messaged us to let us know when she was close to the stage so we wouldn't have to be listening for her name, and we all cheered when her name was called. Many audience members made far more noise than we did with air horns. There were more names called. And then it was all over, and the group of us met in the back corner and took photos of the new graduate. I felt extremely proud of her. Laurel held down two and sometimes three jobs throughout her four years at UCSB and graduated with a major and a minor and a respectable GPA.

We hiked back across campus in the throngs and crowds, attempting to keep the group together. Alas, as in any situation where thousands of people attempt to leave one place at the same time, traffic was horribly snarled up. We actually made it back to Laurel's house before she did (her boyfriend was first, but he bicycled back) and enjoyed the ocean view from her balcony while we waited. Finally, everyone was there, so we figured out who was going in which car and where we were going, and eventually we all made it to Laurel's boss's house where he was having a graduation party for her and two of her coworkers (all three of them UCSB grads this year). So it was an interesting party, a mix of family and friends of the three girls and the boss and his family and their GIGANTIC golden retriever named Bo who was the biggest dog I've ever seen that wasn't a great dane or a giant English mastiff. Seriously enormous. We snacked on snacks, admired the gorgeous house and yard, sipped tasty beverages, and enjoyed the afternoon, and finally all the food was grilled so then we ate that. Dan and I both ate a lot, since we knew we wouldn't be having dinner. Then there were two kinds of cake, and I could only eat a few bites because I was STUFFED.

Finally, it was time to go. Dan and I hugged everyone goodbye and climbed into the rental car and headed south on 101. It was the worst traffic I'd seen in a long time, and there was absolutely no obvious reason - no accidents, no construction. It took us an hour and a half to get to Ventura (should have been half an hour) and then we hit some more traffic a bit father south. But once we got to LA, there was no traffic at all. We made it to the rental car place three hours after we'd left Santa Barbara (good thing we left so early, is all I can say!) and there was some sort of mixup and they charged me an extra $9, so when I went back to the counter to ask them to remove the charge, they ended up only charging me for half the rental. Which was kind of surprising, but hey, I'm not going to complain. The airport was an airport, the flight was a flight, I managed a little nap and we landed safe and sound in Denver at 11:30 PM. When we got home around 1 AM, both of us decided we desperately needed showers (having never bathed since the tar incident of the day before).

Needless to say, I was a zombie on Monday. Which was why I didn't post.

Anyhow, all in all it was a good trip, if a little rushed. We didn't make it to Hearst Castle or even to the Santa Ynez valley, and I'd love to make it back to SoCal sometime in the not-too-distant future.

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