Grass is Greener

Ryan Sim recommends roaming the earth and living out of a backpack like Kane from "Kung Fu." E-mail your journeys to [email protected]

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It's amazing how people can become engulfed in their own little world. Stockbrokers live and die by the rise and fall of the stock exchange. Athletes eat, sleep and breathe the sports they play. Students believe their future hinges on every paper and every exam.

It's even more amazing to see how willing our brains and bodies are to escape these worlds. The closing bells, off-seasons and vacations are lights at the end of the proverbial tunnel. I do not exclude myself from this fanaticism or folly. I love being a student, but I have been looking forward to Thanksgiving break since classes began this semester. With a hundred things I needed to get done here at school, I ran out of Berkeley two weekends ago like my ass was on fire.

During the past ten days I have been on six airplanes, three trains and slept in six different places. For those of you who were unable to escape your duties, I offer you a glimpse of what is happening beyond Berkeley.

My escape pod landed me in Philadelphia late Friday evening where a friend was waiting to pick me up. We decided to go grab a bite to eat at a local diner. I would say the presence and quality of diners on the East Coast is equivalent to that of taco stands on the West Coast - ghetto, but good. I didn't think old-school diners like the one on the old show "Alice" actually existed. The short, button-up polyester dress the waitress was wearing told me otherwise, and the number of people sporting mullets made me a little concerned for my well-being. I could just hear one of them saying, "Mmm, Chinese food. All them ornamentals look alike; they wouldn't notice one of them missing." I managed to get out of the diner alive, but the oil and grease I ate there cost me a few years.

Next, I visited one of my best friends who plays football at a Catholic university outside of Philly, which he affectionately calls "Vanilla-nova." If you didn't catch last week's column ("IP All Over," Nov. 22), this stop resulted in my encountering many large drunk men. This, by the way, is my first reason to advocate marijuana over alcohol. Escaping the testosterone, I fled to New York City via public transportation (The trip from Philadelphia only takes three hours and costs $15) to visit with some of my old roommates.

Manhattan is probably the only place on this planet that rivals the variety in Berkeley. If you don't agree with me, then tell me where else you can see a Japanese tourist, a drunken hobo, a guy in a three-piece power suit, a peanut vendor, a gothic cathedral and a glass skyscraper in the same picture. And if you think the cost of living in the Bay Area is bad, then you need to stop by The City, where two grand might get you a two-bedroom apartment that makes an elevator look spacious. So what better way is there to blow your money than going to a bar?

Late Thanksgiving night, we found ourselves at a bar called Hogs and Heifers, which happens to be the same bar that the movie "Coyote Ugly" is based on. That's right, there were bartenders dancing on top of a flaming bar. To make matters worse for the wallet, the bartenders were hot chicks with megaphones. If a guy tipped poorly or a girl was buying a drink, then the bartender let the whole bar know about it.

As a heterosexual male patron, I would have to say the best part of this bar was the wall that had over 1,000 bras hanging from it. These were not bras that were bought off the rack; they were bras off of girls' racks. To the delight of every guy in that bar, Thanksgiving night would see the addition of bra number 1,001 to the wonder wall. (This is reason number two for the advocacy of weed over the wicked water.) About half an hour after the woman's topless offering to the bra gods, she headed to the bathroom to worship the porcelain gods. I'm sure she was confused when she woke up the next morning with no underwear.

After seeing such crazy sights in the big city I sought the shelter of Middle America and hopped on another plane, this time to Michigan, to visit my sister. Driving from the airport, I saw average cars, average homes and average people. It seemed very quiet and very quaint as well. The highlights of my stay were the midwestern hospitality and a trip to the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. I didn't get to see too many students, but the facilities they have are just a tad bit nicer than ours. Their student union looks like it could be a ballroom on the Titanic. However, I would never trade the "fruits and nuts," Telegraph Avenue or the sunshine of California for the Abercrombie-wearing average, State Street, or the cold-ass snow.

After all was said and done, it was the Sunday after Thanksgiving, and I needed to fly home on the busiest travel day of the year. Blatantly disregarding this fact, I intended to fly standby and somehow get from Detroit to St. Louis and from St. Louis back to San Francisco by the end of the day. The idea that I was actually going to make it to San Francisco flying standby on Thanksgiving weekend may be the dumbest thought I have ever had.

I did manage to get into St. Louis from Detroit, but that was as far as I was getting. I saw four flights to San Francisco leave without me because the airline I was using overbooked by 40 seats. This resulted in many angry travelers and me calling Lambert-St. Louis International Airport my home for an evening.

After all this, I couldn't wait to get back to Berkeley. Now I'm in Berkeley, and I can't wait to get out again.


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