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Sophomore Year

The Godfather

I'm in a Southern state of mind. What can I say? I just spent an hour front porch sitting* with a blue blood Louisianian. I heard the exclamation "well shoot me dead!"and not as a joke. I wasn't the only one saying goodness. I ate red white and blue velvet cake. Wagon Wheel just came onto my shuffle. Last night I ate my weight in fried chicken. And then to top it all off, a thunderstorm just rolled in. I was defenseless against a Southern livin' ambush of that magnitude. I'll be honest, it doesn't take much to put me over the edge in terms of missing my beloved South. Don't get me wrong, I am fiercely loyal to the Pacific Northwest as essentially everyone at school can attest. I've been known to claim that you "hardly notice" the rain. And that the indie-loving, barefoot, handmade instrument playing, "I-choose-to-live-on-the-street-because-I'm-against-the-man" people are "charming". And that eco-terrorism is "exaggerated", the public school system is "great" and that Portland is hands-down the best city "ON EARTH". I can neither confirm nor deny the fact that I've seen this video: 128293845784 times. Ok I can confirm.

All it takes though is one whiff of pecans and the slightest glimpse of an oak tree and I'm ya'llin like my life depends on it when I'm in Oregon.

Sidenote: I have discovered that I adopt a thick Southern accent whenever I'm presented with a situation in which I don't know how to behave or am uncomfortable in. Read: every time a salesperson speaks to me. Like an accent so bad that people think I'm from out of town. It's moderately embarrassing, but I can't stop it. I don't know where it comes from, I haven't ever even heard someone speak near as bad as it is.

Luckily, there are plenty of things in Portland to distract from my intense nostalgia for my adopted city. First is my father, whom I love dearly and who wears naked girl trucker socks. You might have seen them. They've gone completely viral. Second is my older sister, whom I also love dearly. She's a disgustingly perky morning person but makes up for it by always finding new and fun things to do on Third is my younger sister, whom I also love dearly and who has learned that when she screams, I scream. This is distracting in that I'm constantly on the verge of a heart attack. Fourth is my brother, whom I also love dearly but whose age makes him operate on a completely different level than the rest of us, which makes for great tension and creates never-ending opportunities for me to wonder, "Dear God, was I ever like that?" Then I remember that I've blocked out my middle school years totally so the question is pretty much moot. And last but not least, I have my mother, whom I also love dearly and who just showed me martha stewart's dogs' blog. This is real life. And may I point out, like mother like daughter. Martha seems to be a reoccurring theme in the Hobson household, believe it or not.

Mostly we roll as a 6-person wolf pack, coming in and taking over whatever party, service, farmer's market or coffee shop we go to. I get the impression that once we leave, people don't know what hit them. I would like to think that they're overwhelmed by our grace, gratitude, kindness, shiny teeth and good hair, but the jury's still out on that one. Adding to the experience is our extraordinarily large extended family--everyone knows a Hobson, and whether that's good or bad depends entirely on which Hobson you've met. Once I had a friend describe our family, after a run-in in a town a half an hour outside of Milwaukie, as similar to the Mafia. I tell everyone this, and I don't mention that it was only in terms of our omni-presence in the Milwaukie and surrounding areas, not in terms of taking out hits and who's sleeping with the fishes.** I like a little Godfather-inspired fear now and then.

So yes, the South is great. But not great enough to persuade me to leave my band of Roy Orbison loving compatriots. It's nice to be somewhere where everyone knows me as a part of the Hobson sisters, and they know my grandparents are a little sideways, that my Uncle married my Aunt after they met through my little sister, and that my Uncle and Dad look surprisingly and confusingly alike. And not only does Oregon have the upper hand when it comes my family, I will say there is nothing like Oregon geography. More on that later. Also, Oregon has weather that can't really kill you. I mean comparatively, we are golden. I'm just sayin'.

xoxo, Lauren

*Technically, we were in the backyard, but the concept was front porch sitting. We just don't really have front porches. Too much wood for the rain to rot. Or something like that.

**Vinny, but you didn't hear it from me.

The Good Life

Sometimes I wake up and wonder, where I am? How did I get here? This is because I live a life of fabulous jet-setting, making my way around the globe like it's my job. New Orleans, Portland, Seville, all in a week? No sweat. But even a seasoned traveler like myself experiences a little cognitive confusion now and then. Of course this kind of traveling really only happens maybe once every four years, so I'm not really sure how that fits into the fabulous jet-setting life equation. Maybe it negates it, I don't know. I'm not that great at math. What I am great at is getting through security. I'm a machine. I'm one of those people that gets my stuff through, makes it look easy, and then helps other people.* You know who I'm talking about. The ones who still look bewildered when they have to take their shoes off.

I will admit I was thrown off guard when we hit security in Barcelona, but not because I was under-prepared. I was over-prepared. I chugged an entire bottle of water in the line while an old German man chanted like it was Oktoberfest, I took my shoes off ahead of time, I pulled my liquids out and had them ready in a clear plastic bag, none more than 3 oz. You might be asking, what's the problem here? And I'm saying, there isn't one, I'm a pro, except I WAS THE ONLY ONE doing any of these things. Heads up, Spain's rolling out the welcome mat for every terrorist in the EU. Terrific. Adding to my outrage was the fact that my Aunt got through with her full water bottle, although at the time I was so puffy from our trans-Atlantic flight that I looked like the Stay Puft marshmallow man at the end of Ghostbusters, so downing that bottle in line probably did me a favor. Also, the German man and I had a moment that I will treasure forever. I have found my people.

Finally, after six hours in the Barcelona airport (not as horrendous as you might imagine, but more on that later) and one grueling flight through which I slept (but only after boarding to a bizarre mix of new wave europop music), we reached Seville and the point of our travels--my dearest Minky, the eldest of the Hobson brood, Rachelle. She and my Mom cried when they saw each other. I was excited to see her, but I was also tired and had new wave europop echoing in my head, so I didn't. I'm not a big public crier, it's not personal. But soon we were sitting in a taxi watching Seville fly by out the window, listening to the minky jabber in spanish to the driver, and relaxing into the light and warmth that my sister never fails to emanate. That's when I thought, this is the life!

But I had no idea what was yet to come: beautiful boutique hotels with (not always new wave europop) music in the bathroom, rooftop terraces with pools and young Spanish bartenders, wine tours that end in tastings, national monuments whose existence defy conventional notions of age, awe-inspiring cathedrals, Spanish women putting my entire wardrobe to shame, Spanish children putting every American child to shame, orange trees everywhere, food that was both hearty and light and almost always had jamon, Spanish families that embraced my sister like their own, bad accents, wine with every meal, narrow cobblestone streets and 15th-century farmhouses, sunshine, and of course, every second of every day with my sister and my mom, aunt, and grandparents--which was, more than anything else, the defining aspect of our incredible trip. Take away the cooking classes and guided tours, fabulous lodgings and delicious meals, way too much wine, and still would have been a memorable two weeks, if only because we all were able to bask in the glow of one another's company.

Cheesy? Yes, but necessary because the next part of the story is horrifically sad (in my opinion) and nobody likes a downer. Life is about balance. Our first week was fantastic and then I went into room 207 in Barcelona on a Friday night and didn't come out until Monday morning. Why? Because I was hit with a crippling case of fever, vomiting and diarrhea--it was unholy. I stumbled home from a walking tour and right into an inordinately high tech shower (at the time it was rocket science) where I had to remind myself repeatedly that people can drown in less than an inch of water and that's why it's inappropriate to lay on the shower floor, regardless of how vehement your rolling chills are. So I spent the next 48 hours mostly alone, shunning light and anything that wasn't immodium or aspirin. On the plus side, I no longer had to worry about gaining weight on our trip--and bonus, I picked up some Spanish digestion drugs as fun souvenirs!

I recuperated in the Catalonian countryside outside Barcelona, where our accommodations were too incredible to accurately describe, both quaint and luxurious, and where the garden, lawn and pool were tended by Jaime and his gorgeous and ever-present Springer Spaniel Naoula who informed us upon arrival that we simply must try the cherries, they were in season and delicious fresh from the garden. I wasn't about to argue. That part of our trip was sublime and will remain forever in my memory untouched as the ultimate in relaxation and bougie living.

As you can imagine, it was sad when we had to leave. It was even more sad when we got onto the plane and I watched Harry Potter 7 Part 1, because it is a complete downer. I'm just saying. Now we're home and jet lagged, which to be honest, I don't completely understand. My theory is that when in a new place, you can just never think about what time it is in the other place. It works like a charm. Half the time when I tried to figure out the time it would be in Spain, I count wrong anyway.

It's nice to be back as a whole family now though, where we all can feed off of each other and have Roy Orbison dance parties. Spanish wonderland life was fun, but it's back to reality--which, in all honesty, isn't so bad anyway.

xoxo, Lauren

*I haven't actually helped anyone else. This is theoretical. I have enough extra time, I just haven't done it. Heartless? Maybe. But when I travel I prefer to speak to as few people as possible. Especially the people sitting next to me on the plane. There is nothing worse than a chatty seatmate.

10,000 Maniacs

I've been on a brief blogging hiatus. This was unintentional. All I know is that one second it was Easter, and the next second my room smelled like new cardboard boxes, school was out and I was on a plane back to Portland. Don't ask me how it happened, I don't know--time moves in mysterious ways. In those 3 weeks or so, I wrote 3 papers, took 3 finals, went to LSU and met Mike the Tiger, sang God Bless the USA on Bruff quad, said good-bye to Toni Weiss forever, and said sad good-byes to my dearest friends. But not for forever.

I think my hesitation to write about my last few weeks at school was purely an inability to acknowledge that soon my stint in that sun-drenched wonderland would be coming to an end. There were moments of happiness that seemed like they would go on forever--laughing in a booth at the Boot, laying stretched out at the social pool, stepping outside into the heat of the night. I suppose the magic came from knowing that it wouldn't go on infinitely, that we are not infinite, but I'm not about to admit that out loud. Sometimes I would think, these are the days! but I have a strict suppression policy. Writing about those last few weeks would have inevitably led me to recognizing that in 10 days, 8 days, 5 days, tomorrow--I would be leaving. And not just leaving the place that I love so much, that is now so familiar to me, but I'd be leaving the warm weather, the accents, service people who call you baby, late night coffee, southern food, the list goes on and on. I would be leaving my friends, the bread and butter of my existence in New Orleans, and I knew I would miss with a sad ache the very essence of their companionship. Knowing all this makes it hard to focus on the present, trust me.

It's not that Portland is a bad place to come back to, don't get me wrong. I often sing the praises of my hometown, it's a beautiful city that I love tremendously and I probably won't ever want to leave for too long. But yesterday when I was sitting in traffic on a bridge over a gray river, watching a gray sky drop gray misty rain so far down the hill I was facing that it looked like the water and the sky were combining--trapping me in a cocoon of intermediary color. To be fair, I was driving to a massage, and I was drinking sweet sweet Windhorse Coffee, so I can't complain too much. And in a weird way, the rain is comforting and timeless, it's been tapping out the rhythm of my life for as long as I can remember. Also, as an added bonus, my bed feels warmer when it's colder outside. I can't explain it but I love it.

And of course, my family is here. The maddeningly lovable crowd I call my own is an integral part of my life here, ready and willing to integrate me back into the herd whether I like it or not. Most of the time I like it, sometimes I need Lauren alone time. It's what's best for everybody.

In one sense I feel like I'm swapping one life for the other, New Orleans for Portland. But I don't think it's an even trade, and I can't favor either place. Whenever I leave one for the other and whine and cry about how I hate leaving and how it never gets easier, I have a friend in Portland who without fail reminds me that it's better to hate leaving both and miss each equally, than have it be lopsided one way, or not miss either. And then I remember, albeit grudgingly, how lucky I am to have been afforded the opportunity to establish such excellent existences in both New Orleans and Portland. I have the best of both worlds. I'll tell you what I won't miss: the humidity that's about to hit school for a solid three months. I'm just saying.

xoxo, Lauren

Risen, Indeed

Today is Easter Sunday. Or it will be for another 14 minutes. Little known fact about Easter and myself--it's either my favorite or second favorite holiday, depending on how you look at it. Because my first favorite is my birthday, but some people claim that's not technically a real holiday. Haters to the left. Another little known fact about Easter and myself: some years it falls on my birthday. Or my birthday falls on it, depending again, on how you look at it. And one more little known fact about Easter and yes, me: Easter was the day I discovered I had chicken pox--by finding one in my mouth. You would think it's a love-hate relationship, like a majority of mine are, but it's not really, it's all love. I am a huge fan of peeps. Also the Reese's Pieces that come in the carrot packaging bag, it's hilarious. I love brunches and eggs in mass quantities. Preferably deviled, but I'm not too picky. I love Easter dresses, pastels are so flattering on me. I love easter baskets, bows and bunnies--I could read the Country Bunny over and over. Also I'm a pro egg dyer.

And, of course, I love Easter service.

Frankly, this surprises even me. Normally I bristle when someone tells me I'm not perfect--even though I'm the first to own up to my multitude of shortcomings, my threshold for criticism is low. The gloves will come off. And then of course, I am highly critical of everyone else. Also, I'm skeptical. There are a variety of reasons a pew is generally the last place one might imagine I would be.

I have great faith though, and without delving into any theology whatsoever, because that's a story for a different day, I've come to realize I have very little to lose and much to gain. I believe in the power of a church community, of a network of devout, like-minded and good-hearted people. Religion gets an awful rap, and there are people who use it for the wrong reasons. But for me, my church at home has always been a place of inclusion and compassion. And what I've discovered is that service can provide a reassuring sense of stability in a very unstable world. I like the order of things, knowing exactly what to expect. Sometimes I need to be reminded to live simply and live well, to live with purpose and peace in my heart. I like knowing all the words to the Lord's Prayer, I like saying peace be with you and also with you to the people sitting next to you. There is so much comfort in church, if nothing else, because it's a good reminder to love thy neighbor.

These are all reasons why I love Easter. I know all the songs, it's a great big celebration, a pastor would have to work hard to make the sermon a downer. There's call and response you can count on! My dear friend here at Tulane shares my sentiments towards the reassuring nature of the good old Presbyterian church, so we went together this morning. It was a little different than at home, but essentially the same, and I left feeling more peaceful than I had in a long time. So peaceful, in fact, that I laid out in the sun for 2 and a half hours and took a nap. It's a tough life.

And for everyone who's secretly thinking Christmas is better, I've spent many an idle hour debating the various merits. I'm sticking with birthday, Easter, and then Christmas. It's complicated, but the only way.

xoxo, Lauren

Bittersweet Symphony

While at Tulane I've had the pleasure of having an unparalleled learning experience brought to me by a unique cast of professorial characters--this semester in particular, I had some altogether eccentric people entrusting me with their knowledge. For example, my EuroGov professor reminded me a lot of Miss Frizzle, if Miss Frizzle were Italian, taught EuroGov, didn't have a flying school bus and brought every lesson back to the Berlin wall. My Econ professor, when she wasn't harassing me, would tell us stories; like how sometimes when she ran her sweat would make the leftover soap in her shirts bubble and how her coffee also sometimes tasted like leftover soap. Which to me raises the question, what's wrong with the spin and rinse cycle on your appliances? But that's neither here nor there. My Dana-Carvey-in-Wayne's-World-Lookalike of a Music professor cracked himself up when he showed us Juvenile's "Back That Azz Up"* and told us that he always thought it was funny to show it in an auditorium where kids had been learning to play the cello for a hundred years. My French professor, originally from the Cameroon, constantly hated on Yale and had a laugh (and roughly the same sense of humor) as Rafiki from the Lion King. And we all know how delightful my English professor is. Now that we're nearing the end of the semester, and by nearing I mean tomorrow is the last day of classes (praise Him), I am elated to be free from forced 18th-century novel nightly reading, "pop-up" quizzes (in the words of the Italian), and living under the constant fear the my Econ professor will ask me why I look worried again. She did once. In the middle of class. I wanted to tell her I was worried about whether or not you can be poisoned from ingesting too much soap, since apparently that's an issue for her, but it didn't seem 100 percent appropriate at the time.

Anyway, I can say that it will be nice, even with finals, to only be thinking about being on my own time for the next few weeks. And yet, for some odd reason, I was cranky leaving my English class. Was I going to miss it? Well, yes. It was interesting. I didn't always like having to sit for 3 hours a week in a class and listen to theories of the English language but I enjoyed most of it--and now I was apparently sad because I got 3 hours of time back.

My Professor also announced he would no longer be teaching at Tulane, he would be moving on to the University of Connecticut. Actually he didn't tell us that he'd be going to Connecticut, I just googled that out of curiosity. Now I have to find a new major advisor, which is frustrating on top of depressing, because I doubt I'll find another advisor with this one's sense of aestheticism.

It was in this stormy mood that I headed to my final class of the day--to be honest, I was feeling better, I grabbed an iced coffee on the way which lifted my spirits considerably, but either way I wasn't jumping up and down over heading over to Contemporary Political Ideology. Which sounds like a really interesting class, right? And it is, if you like philosophy, and knowing how modern political ideology got to be the way it is today. I only half like both, so sometimes this class puts me in the middle of struggle city. Also, sometimes when I'm sitting in there listening to what all the other kids are saying, I think, "I'm way too dumb for this school." But that's a story for a different day.

This class is taught by perhaps one of the greatest characters of all--an aged, chain-smoking Englishmen with a bristly, white handlebar mustache and a general disdain for Americans, but greater disdain for the Brits. He's funny though and I enjoy him immensely, except when he writes, "try again" on my papers. I have a theory that he actually lived through all of history because he talks about these philosophers like they're old friends. Like, "when Karl and I were hanging out, oh you know Karl Marx, of course..." Sometimes he would wax poetic about his dogs, and how they were proof morality only applies to humans. And as soon as it started getting nice out, we would have class outside so he could smoke. The whole time.

Today he walked in and said, alright class, we should probably wrap this class up early and head to the Boot, shouldn't we? And that's what we did. The perfect cure to the bittersweet feeling of the end of the year! Leave it to the Brit.

xoxo, Lauren

*Juvenile is from New Orleans, 3rd Ward, and we were doing our hip-hop section. Also a really terrific number--one of my all time favorite party songs. Sad, demeaning, and very true.