I’m so full. I ate like too much for dinner last night and I ate too much for lunch today. I feel kinda gross, actually.

Yesterday I participated in my second huge meeting in two weeks. By huge, I mean they lasted for 10 straight hours, two days in a row. As part of the most recent meeting, we were all taken to the Angus Barn for dinner. For those of you not living in Raleigh, Angus Barn is one of the top five restaurants in the Research Triangle. It’s extremely expensive and I was anticipating a nice décor, but it wasn’t; to maintain the ‘feel’ of a barn, the restaurant – both inside and out – is, for all intensive purposes, a barn. I had a hard time believing that I was at a quote unquote fancy restaurant when the tablecloths were blue and white checkers and bails of hay hung above my head. Once I opened the menu, though, I realized that I was indeed eating somewhere nice. The prices rivaled those of Ruth’s Chris (which I enjoyed more). I figured since I didn’t have to pay, I’d get a full course meal (haha); I got a NY Strip steak, garlic mashed potatoes, spinach salad, chocolate fudge pie and cappuccino. Also, plates of appetizers – consisting of shrimp, crab claws, crab cakes, ribs, etc… – were passed around along w/ a bottle or two of red wine. The food was great, but, as mentioned previously, I ate too damn much. The best part about Angus Barn was the conversation; I sat between an Italian Catholic from NY and a Christian from Costa Rica. Across from me were a boisterous Scotsman and a native North Carolinian. It was a really, really nice experience and it was fantastic getting to talk to such a wide array of people. I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

I talked to both of my brothers last night, which was awesome. Jason and Wendy are back together, which makes me happy because I know Wendy makes Jason happy. All I want in this world is for the people I love to be happy. Anyway. So, yeah, I talked to Jason (and embarrassed him completely) and even chatted w/ Wendy for a minute or two. Then, I called Gregory because he left me a message on IM saying that he needed to talk to me. Turns out he wants to be a pharmaceutical sales rep and wanted some advice because I work for a pharma company. I don’t know how much I’ll be able to help him besides getting him internship information, but I’ll do whatever I can. I just love those two so much!

My weekend was blah. Completely blah. The only bright spot was dinner w/ Mr. Brannan (Shel’s grandfather) on Saturday. We went to Golden Corral, which was naaassstttyyy (hahaha) and then spent some time in his grandfather’s living room chatting. I made Mr. Brannan some cupcakes, which he seemed to enjoy. They actually turned out well! I genuinely like his grandfather; he’s such a sweet and sincere Southern gentleman. There’s a lot of love between he and Shel and I like to see the two of them interact.

The weekend was so blah primarily because of the weather. It wasn’t cold, but there was no sun for like two straight days. I was pooped from the previous hectic week, there was no sun, my apartment was in desperate need of cleaning, the Steelers lost, etc… It was crappy. With any luck this weekend will be better.

Love was in the air over the weekend not just because of Jason and Wendy, but because of Laura as well. She has a new man – officially!! She stumbled upon this nice, nice guy named Brian, they’ve been ‘talking’ for a few weeks and now they’re together – yay!! That’s so cool because Laura is a really great girl. I hope Brian treats her as such. Laura has a boyfriend, Laura has a boyfriend…

Ugh. I’m totally going to explode. POP! I can’t imagine eating dinner tonight and if I do, it’ll be soup. I’m also a bit sleepy and I think it’s because all of the blood has gone from my brain down to my stomach for digestive purposes. I feel like such a heifer. Moo.

I am terribly tired, but haven’t written here in a while. I’m going to write this post in bullets so I don’t have to emit much energy…

  • I celebrated my 24th birthday, which wasn’t all that happy. I was kinda lonely.
  • Melissa came for a visit: we went to the beach and to the fair and had tons of fun
  • While at the fair I ate a Monster Bag (that’s what it was actually called) of cotton candy and I got to pet a cow. Life doesn’t get much better than that!
  • Laura came for a visit and we shopped till we dropped
  • I participated in the GSK North American Supply Chain Partnership Meeting. It only lasted for two solid days. Blah! (but hey, I got paid lots o’ overtime)
  • WVU, an unranked team, destroyed Virginia Tech, ranked 3 nationally, on ESPN. GO MOUNTAINEERS!!
  • I finally bought shoe organizers to tame my out of control shoe problem

    Now I’m going to get a shower and go to bed. Goodnight!

  • I wrote this yesterday

    My Aunt Natalie’s in the hospital right now having her colon stitched up. The doctors did a colonoscopy recently and accidentally made a little hole, which is causing her problems. I feel bad that she’s back in surgery, but she’s handling it so, so well. She’s such a remarkable lady. I’m truly astounded by her strength and optimism. My God, if I was dying of cancer, I would feel so sorry for myself. I would sulk and moan and throw myself a pity party every single day until I died. But my Aunt Natalie – although she’s accepted that she doesn’t have much time left – is optimistic and cheery. She says she’s so thankful for the time she’s had that she can’t be upset about dying. I wish there was some award I could nominate her for or something. She’s just amazing.

    Yesterday I woke up w/ a fever and when I got to my office I decided that I didn’t want to deal w/ the chills and the sweat, so I took work home. After lying in bed for a while I felt better. I went to lunch w/ Shel and Marcus, which was great. They’re seriously my two favorite boys in North Carolina. I feel bad that Marcus is still trapped at Hell-Rom. He deserves so much better. After lunch I ran some errands. Target is like my new favorite store! When I got back home I did some work, redecorated a little, baked cupcakes, got Shel a new phone, etc… It was a good, relaxing day.

    Laura’s coming into town today – woo hoo! I’m all excited because she’ll be here the weekend before my birthday and then Melissa will be here the weekend after my birthday. So, I’ll have two special birthday weekends! Speaking of my birthday… yesterday at lunch I reminded Marcus that my birthday was on the 15th and he was like, “I know – you wrote it on my calendar!” Hahahaha. Oh jeeze…

    Ok, so now I have to write about something that happened on Monday: I BEAT SHEL AT TIGER WOODS GOLF!!! Hahahahahaha! Shel! You suck! We had to go into extra rounds because we were tied forever, but when it came down to the deciding moment, Virtual Ali proved to be a better golfer than Virtual Shel. Oh yes. Virtual Ali kicks ass. (imagine the Rocky theme playing and a pony-tailed Virtual Ali skipping down the golf course in victory)

    The ‘Take Me Home’ Field Advantage
    On Game Days, Morgantown, W.Va., Is Mountain Mayhem

    By Sean Daly
    Special to The Washington Post
    Wednesday, September 17, 2003; Page C02

    On select autumn Saturdays in Morgantown, W.Va., John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads” — so gentle, so sweet, so aw-shucks wholesome — becomes a menacing battle cry. You can hear threatening snippets of the song being chanted for scenic miles and miles around Mountaineer Field, the looming concrete home of the West Virginia University football team. It’s the tailgate-party anthem here, and if you’re gutsy enough to flaunt enemy colors, there’s a strong chance you’ll be beaned by an ice cube by the time they get to “mountain momma.”
    The targets of mass derision today are Wisconsin Badgers fans, who are visiting this gray, drizzly weekend for the first game of the season for both teams. The out-of-towners are wearing bright red — not exactly the best color when you’re trying to sneak through a roiling sea of blue and gold.
    When the Badger faithful, including cute little old ladies with fluffy pompoms, stroll past “the Pit” — a sunken gravel-and-mud keg zone where hundreds of WVU students get rowdy before games — they are greeted with four-letter words and one-finger salutes. The old ladies, God bless ‘em, simply wave back.
    Welcome to what the Princeton Review, Playboy magazine and ESPN have all agreed is one of the wildest parties in the country. And seeing as how America is a tailgate-loony nation — we’re second to none at guzzling Bud at 9 a.m. and zipping Nerf footballs around asphalt wastelands — that’s saying something.
    Tucked away high and isolated on the western edge of the Appalachian Mountains — to get there, you basically go up, up, up, often surrounded by nothing but nature — Morgantown is normally a laid-back, blue-collar burg, proud of its rich mining history. Its pastoral surroundings are perfect for hikers hungry for trails and kayakers intent on conquering the Monongahela River, which winds lazily through the city. The sprawling WVU campus, a handsome mixture of Colonial-style old and modern new, sits regally over the historic downtown.
    But when the Mountaineers — or simply “the ‘Eers!!!” if you’re in the know — are playing at home, this town of 27,000 pulls a gridiron-induced Jekyll and Hyde. It wakes up in blue and gold, the beer stores make a fortune, and some 63,500 alums, locals and students swarm 20-acre Mountaineer Field and parking lot.
    In Morgantown, the game is important — it’s the only “big” game in the state, really — but the party is key. Just about every one of the 3,000 parking spaces is throwing its own food-stuffed, beer-fueled shindig. They call this place Touchdown City, but with so many denim-clad people crooning John Denver tunes, flashing tanned flesh and waving around open containers of tight-budget alcohol, it feels more like a mountain Mardi Gras.
    “Big Cat,” the self-proclaimed “No. 1 Mountaineer fan,” is the Gandalf of the tailgating masses — except instead of carrying a wooden staff he carries a yard of cheap beer. When the 3,000 kids in the Pit get riled up by a suicidal Wisconsin fan mocking them with a red flag, Big Cat calms the mob by slowly raising his arms — and then raising his blue-and-yellow apron, which hides a nasty rubber prop that’s definitely not for the squeamish.
    It’s not even 10 a.m. There’s still more than two hours until kickoff.
    “I’m kind of famous around here,” says the Morgantown native, who refuses to give his name — “just Big Cat” — or his age — “whaddaya need my age for?” (Quick lesson: You don’t argue with someone named Big Cat.) “I’ve only missed four games in 23 years. There’s nothing like this anywhere.”
    Dressed head-to-toe in WVU-splattered garb — gold hard-hat, XXXL shirt, sweat pants, that naughty apron — the construction worker says he helped build Mountaineer Field back in 1980. Today he wanders the wide expanse of the Blue Lot, the main tailgating area that features dozens of party tents and hundreds of baby-grand-size grills sending up a thick smoke of sizzling meats. Big Cat also stops every few feet for people requesting a snapshot — usually with the apron up. It takes him an hour to go 100 yards.
    Big Cat gives a happy wave as he passes Doug Gray, who, as president of the alumni-driven Touchdown Club, has the best tailgating spot in all the land. His fortresslike 1975 Vogue Motor Home (five miles to the gallon) is parked right in front of the entrance to the stadium — and far enough away from the terrors of the Pit. A legitimate challenger to Big Cat’s No. 1 fan throne, Gray’s been tailgating here for 19 years and collecting Mountaineer paraphernalia for even longer.
    “This is my only hobby,” he says.
    Inside his motor home, the 61-year-old Gray shows off his prized possessions: WVU fluorescent beer lights, WVU bathroom towels, WVU night lights, WVU autographed footballs, and a navy blue suit and tie featuring — you guessed it — hundreds of gold W’s, V’s and U’s. “I had this made special,” he says.
    Gray has a full spread of veggies, chips and cookies set up for passersby, but “this is nothing. We’ll fire up the grill in a little bit. You should see that.” He arrived at 7 a.m. to start setting up and says he’ll be parked here “until 11 a.m. Sunday. It’s the same mood if we don’t win. We’ll still be here the next game and the next.”
    Gray admits that Morgantown’s tailgating scene is certainly a whopper, but adds with a frown that “Ohio State’s is probably just as good.” It should be noted, however, that Columbus, Ohio, has a population of more than 700,000. Also, the Mountaineers, although a Division I school in the Big East Conference, are not exactly a powerhouse. Last year, Ohio State won the national championship.
    Mountaineer Field, a no-frills, open-air stadium that shakes and shimmies when the home team makes a first down, does not serve beer, so at halftime — with WVU up by 6 — fans are given appropriately named “pass out” cards, so that they can leave the stadium, tailgate for 20 minutes and be allowed back in.
    Today, however, the fans would have been better off staying outside: The ‘Eers play a lousy second half and eventually lose to the Badgers, 24-17.
    Maybe that’s just as well. Last year, when West Virginia beat hated rival Virginia Tech — that is, beat them on the road — Morgantown made national newscasts not for the win but for a series of fires that were started around town. Since then, there’s been a stronger police presence on football Saturdays, giving the citywide party a slightly sinister vibe. (Fair warning: The Virginia Tech game is here this year, on Oct. 22.)
    Walking down bustling High Street — downtown’s bar-packed main thoroughfare — with three former classmates, Lisa Allen, 32, says not to believe the bad stuff. Well, at least not all of it. In fact, she says things were a lot worse when she went to school here in the early ’90s: “Oh yeah, it was like ‘Animal House.’ ”
    Allen’s friend Noel Goldberg, 32, says the group chose Mountaineer football over a beach or spa trip. “It’s a football weekend in Morgantown with your girlfriends. It doesn’t get any better than that.”

    I wrote this yesterday morning:

    It’s the day after my first yoga class and I’m happy to report that I’m still alive! Yay! Haha. I really enjoyed my first yoga experience, but I had no idea how physically demanding it would be. Jeez!! Yesterday, after class, my body felt like complete jelly, but I was extremely relaxed. And today I can feel so many muscles in my body when I move (because they’re sore), but it’s a good thing. My instructor is this new-age hippie chick w/ tattoos on her back and an iddy biddy nose ring. She speaks w/ a very prominent valley girl accent and is a tiny little thing. She’s pretty cool and from what I can tell, she’s a good instructor. When she was ending class she thanked us for sharing our light and energy w/ her.

    But, as fun as yoga was, something about yesterday was even better… Matthew’s joining the Army!!!! Matthew is my cousin and he was born on my 5th birthday to a mother who couldn’t care less about him. So, he’s (going to be) 19 and is kind of wondering around aimlessly in life. A lot of people in my family, myself included, thought the best thing for him would be the military. He could make decent money, get away from his terrible family life and finally have some opportunities. While I was at home the other weekend, I took Matthew to Eat N Park at 11:00 at night and tried to convince him to join the Army. He was very, very reluctant. But, he took the pamphlets and agreed to at least call the recruiter (I met the recruiter at the Steeler’s game and got all kinds of Army info from him). I didn’t think he’d actually make the call, but he did! The recruiter went to his house and talked to him for a few hours and now Matthew’s enlisted! I’m so thrilled!! He’s going to make a good life for himself and get the hell away from Etna, PA. Shel said that I’ve fulfilled a purpose in my life, and I honestly kinda feel like I have. I couldn’t sit back and watch his life slip away while he befriended druggies and alcoholics (Matthew doesn’t do drugs). I couldn’t watch him drift from restaurant to grocery store in an attempt to find work. So, now he’ll go into the Army, make friends, make money for a car and for school, travel, have benefits, etc… Who knows, maybe he’ll be a military man for life. He may go through basic training at Fort Bragg – which I’m hoping for – and then I’ll be able to go to his graduation and stuff. Eeekk! I’m so happy for him!!

    So, anyway. This weekend I got Tiger Woods 2004 for Xbox and I’m determined to improve my video game skills. I’m not terrible, but I haven’t earned enough money to make my player – Ali – get any better. I also made an anatomically incorrect virtual player named Bambi. Use your imagination to figure out what she looks like! I don’t ordinarily buy video games, but Shel really wanted it and Tiger Woods Golf is the only video game I enjoy playing. I used to sit in John’s room at Stalnaker and play w/ him, Blake and Eric for hours. Fun times!