Friday, August 31, 2007


Sorry I couldn't get Phil's picture in the last post—all his stuff is password protected. But I swiped a picture of the chap, and here he is:

The Inimitable Philip Hays

Anyway, I was thinking about my twin, David Grover of David Grover and the Big Bear Band, and it occured to me just how much my life has to do with Muppets. I mean, first of all my last name is Grover. You all remember him, the lovable furry blue monster with a big heart but somewhat limited skills. His attempts at helping others, though always well-intentioned and executed with fervor, didn't always turn out the way he envisioned. I can identify with that, I think. Plus, I think I have his eyes. No really—check it out. They droop just a little on the outside, which my sisters always teased me about as a kid. Like Grover, I've waited tables and made a blues album.

Grover also apparently has a degree

Speaking of blues, I was in a band a few years back with a guy named Rolf, though he played drums, not piano.1

And, as it turns out, my twin of the Big Bear Band was actually made into a Muppet. Years ago he played with Arlo Guthrie and they were all guests on The Muppet Show. Rather than have the whole band crowding the stage, they just made muppets for the band. Click here to see it on YouTube (sorry; embedding is disabled); you can see me—I mean David Grover—out in front playing guitar. Or, if you're so inclined, below is a clip of Grover on Jimmy Kimmel Live.

I was also once told I bear a striking resemblance to Sam the Eagle, but I'm just not buying it. Although, maybe my serious side is channeled through him somehow.

Anyway, I thought I should document my connection to puppet heritage. As a bonus treat, let me share two things I came across in my research for this post. The first is, when you see it as an adult and really think about it, truly bizarre but somehow genious. The other is one of my favorite songs—turns out the Pointer Sisters sang it and I never knew.

1 At the time I was dating a girl named Leisel and there was always an unspoken sentiment that maybe the two should run off or something. But this is a Muppets post, not a Sound of Music post.

Thursday, August 30, 2007


Why is it that wherever you go you meet people who either look or act just like someone else you know? Ever since I got here I keep meeting people who remind me of old friends in Utah or Texas. If it only happened once or twice I wouldn't say anything, but basically every person—including people I only see on the street—is a mirror of someone else I know. I've met a Gwen; a Pam; a grown-up, cool Brandon Cottrell; a Pogue, and even a guy who I swear is a double for Little John in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.

Some are mixes of more than one person, say, two parts the B. F. and one part Wickman. And the B. F. was already a replacement Phil, so now it's third-generation (and don't forget Jake, who is obviously the next generation).

A few months ago a friend came back from a trip to Mexico swearing she'd met my twin. I once had a class with a guy I could swear I had met in Korea, only this version wasn't Asian. They both had the same face (can a face be both Korean and American without losing something essential?), the same inflections when they spoke, and the very same way of knowing everything and saying too much about it. They probably had the same name, for all I can remember.

Even that guy I mentioned at the bar the other night—I would've laid money down he was a brother or close cousin of my old roommate Scott.

So what's the deal? Did God run short on templates? Is our genetic material not as elastic as the scientists claim? Are all our parents secretly having round-the-world affairs or are aliens cleverly distributing their collected DNA samples? Are the monkeys typing out closer and closer copies of Hamlet or maybe a passable Origin of Species?

Whatever it is, it's freaking me out. (Oh, and I really do have a doppelgänger. He's sort of a cross between me and Brian Doyle.)

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Biological Clock

Mine's all screwed up. I left Utah to move here, meaning my body's running two hours before the local time. But add to that the fact that I was going to sleep between 4 and 6 in the morning most days this last month and things begin to be complicated. The fact that I have to be up, showered and on campus by 8:30 every day this week is not helping. Do the math: to get down there by 8:30 in any decent order I have to get up at around 7; 7 is the new 5; 5 is when I was going to sleep. Conclusion? I've somehow pulled a full one-eighty, getting out of bed at the very time I should be getting in.

But it gets worse. For the last few days before I left Provo I was homeless and busy with my brother's wedding. Moving my stuff and cleaning my apartment required me to sleep few and odd hours, as did crashing on the love seat at the house in Sandy my family rented for the week. Up till the wee hours because of habit, up again early in the morning for weddings and whatnot, I figured I could make it up on the plane. But I spent Thursday in the airport trying not to doze off lest I miss an important announcement concerning my long-delayed flight through Chicago. Eventually the flight was cancelled and I made my way back to Provo to snatch a few hours in a strange bed (thanks Dak) before getting up at 6 to go to the airport yet again.

Two nights on my Ohio floor until I procured a bed.

So let me tell you what my body is telling me. It gets up slowly at 7, showers and dresses with little complaint, and walks pleasantly to campus in the cool morning air. In the early afternoon I get a little sleepy, but I manage. At 8 in the evening I am overcome by one of those inexorable naps that drop over your consciousness like a mountain of quilts. At around midnight I come wide awake again, puzzle over whether it is too late or too much trouble to make dinner (read: peanut butter sandwich), and wonder how I'll get to sleep again. Eventually the alarm goes off at 7, but what happens in between is still somewhat of a mystery.

Tonight I'm listening to Sting and writing this blog entry.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Fish Out of Water

When I was a kid we played "Marco Polo" at the public pool just down the street pretty much all the time. Either that or we dived for pennies or asked the life guards to open the diving board in the deep end, effectively avoiding yet another game of "Sharks and Minnows." During Adult Swim, those last ten minutes of the hour which seemed to drag unendurably, we would run back home for Otter Pops and Mario 3.

But that's not what I'm getting at. I'm thinking about the phrase "fish out of water"—what someone shouts in "Marco Polo" when they suspect their opponents have gotten fully out of the pool to avoid being caught. Did the game create the cliché or did the cliché lend itself so nicely to the game? I mean, the phrase fits in so literally that it calls into question the central phrase of the game as somehow implausible; what sense does it make to splash around yelling "Marco!" when kids, slippery and slick as fish themselves, are actually beaching themselves?

Marco Polo, a Venetian out of Italy

In the last two days I've spent considerable time as a worm out of dirt. Yesterday I went to a local bar to meet and mingle with other members of the OU English grad program. As a non-drinker, I don't typically spend a lot of time in bars—I used to watch my high school girlfriend's family get slowly drunk on Sunday afternoons, but other than that I'm pretty inexperienced. Today I hung out with 3 married couples and their children for several hours. As the single single guy in the room, I had a bit of a challenge relating to much of the conversation, it often being about home buying, male-pattern baldness, and keeping unwanted articles out of toddlers' mouths.

But that isn't to say I didn't have a great time, and it isn't to say I didn't blend in. Just as a kid out of the pool will stoop low when shouting "Polo!" to avoid his voice sounding from too high and smile excitedly self-satisfied with his successful ruse, I did my best to sway just a little bit to the too loud music in the bar (a great selection I might add: Prince's "Kiss," Tom Petty's "It's Good to Be King," and more) while learning names and trading stories. I met T, who works as a baker in a local organic bakery supplying nearby restaurants and a farmer's market; T, a woman who until recently had several feet of red hair and is debating whether to write her thesis in modern American writers of color or Shakespeare (quite a difference!); and K, a sweet girl with the brightest eyes recently engaged to a jazz saxophonist. Charming people, really—really nice, really welcoming, anxious to know what I think about Athens, and genuinely interested in giving me a good impression of the place.

So what made me a stranger in a strange land? Was it my Mormon-ness, my refusal to drink? I'd say that's true to an extent. I definitely walked in there expecting to be different, feeling different. The fact of my leaving Utah has indeed been on my mind. One guy I met, J, asked me right away when I told him I had come from BYU in Provo whether it was a big change to go from such a private university to such a secular one. His tone was one of near concern and slight astonishment, completely well-intentioned (I should add that he looked and talked exactly like my old roommate Scott). We got into a conversation and he told me about his plans to go to Jerusalem in a week for an internship with the Associated Press. Having lived for a time in South Korea, I could really relate to his situation, so I offered my advice on things, listened to his excitement about going, and generally had an engaging talk. When I first mentioned Korea he asked how I came to be there and I replied that I was a missionary there. He paused and tentatively asked, "So are you a Mormon?"

"Yes," I replied. And he said, "Yeah, I was putting that together earlier with the BYU thing, but I didn't want to just ask, you know." So polite; so polite. And that didn't change anything either: a few minutes later he noticed his beer was rather empty and my hands were completely thus, so he said, "I'm gonna run back to the bar—do you drink?"

"No," I smiled.

"Oh. Cause I'd love to buy you a—or even just some water?"

"Thanks; I'm good."

How kind and completely unassuming. I hope I can do as well. To him I was merely me, a guy in a bar meeting people—no fish, no water.

And what about my new married friends? All in the room had been at church that morning; the only difference was my bachelorhood. Ordinarily (meaning at BYU), I would only have hung out with married folks if we were very good friends before hand. Doing so with three couples at once would've been outrageous (my bishopric, perhaps?), and I would've left severely chastened and booked with blind dates for weekends to come. But that's not what it was at all. I was invited cause I was new, I was being shown hospitality. It wasn't me versus them; it was just us, boys and girls chatting and having a good time. I didn't even notice at the time that the conversation was characteristic of the demographic, and I chimed in as much as ever, commiserating with my thinning-haired companions, comparing the virtues of David McKay and Dallin Oaks. If I was or felt like a camel out of desert, it was my own doing. It was too much thinking about it later in this case, to much thinking about it before in the case of the bar.

David O. McKay and Dallin H. Oaks, angels out of heaven

It's like the kid who can't stand the possibility that he might get caught so he gets caught on purpose, either splashing wildly out of the pool or walking right up to It and getting tagged. As if he could preserve some his dignity by pretending his lack of nerve was really some kind of courage.

So I take it back: I wasn't swaying to the music in the bar because I wanted to fit in (was anyone but K swaying?); I was doing it because I can't resist a line like:

"I just want your extra time and your

Prince, a genius out of his time

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Instructions for the Technically Cautious

For the benefit of those who haven't spent hours piddling around the internet or who lack an innate sense of dot-comity, I thought I'd give a few pointers on how to enjoy a blog.

The trick is to get the feed. Someone invented something called "RSS" and it's great. I'm not sure it works on every computer or with every browser, but if you can do it you'll find keeping up with things much easier. Here's the deal: certain websites, like this one, can automatically let you know when they've been updated. That way you don't have to get on all the time to check, nor do you have to go searching the entire website to find new stuff.

If you're running a Mac with Safari, you know a site has RSS if those letters show up at the end of the address bar when you visit a page. Click on the letters and the page will change to the RSS feed view, a series of headlines of the most recent updates. If you add this page to your favorites, you can always come back and see what's new. If you put the site in your bookmarks bar, a number in parentheses after the link name will tell you if there are any updates, and how many. (You can set these things in the Preferences under the RSS tab—check it out!)

If you are using the new Internet Explorer 7, RSS is built into the browser—it looks like an orange box with three white, curved lines in it. Look for it on the top right of the window, in with the home button and the other helps. If the box is lit up, that means RSS is available for the site. You can goof around with it and see how it works—I'd tell you but I'm not sure myself.

I hope this helps a little. It sure helps me, and it makes it much easier to enjoy the internet without feeling like a total nerd. (Oh, also there's a link near the bottom of this page that asks if you want to subscribe. Click it?)

First and Other Impressions

I just got up from a nap. I was stretched out on a folded quilt, a folded pilow under my head, a folded blanket under my knees to compensate for the lack of padding. I was sweating, but only in the minimal way a body does in a warm climate. It is reminding me of Korea, where sweating was the norm at least six months of the year.

Indeed, in Korea we didn't have AC either. Most of Athens seems to follow this pattern; you can see window units all over the place. Is that typical of this latitude? I guess it's hot enough in Houston to merit central air in nearly every edifice, but here, a college town wedged in an Appalacian armpit, such luxuries are for renters with disposable income.

I left the house early this morning—maybe 8—to check out a garage sale around the corner and see what I could see of this new town. As luck would have it, as I was walking down Grosvenor (my street), Joey and his family were driving up it, heading to the same sale. So they invited me along for a morning of sale-ing (sailing?). Callan took to calling me "Big Grove," apparently of his own volition (though I suspect Joey had something to do with it). After a fruitless search for Joey's new kitchen table, he dropped me off on campus and I continued my explorations on foot. Athens is a college town. Downtown, just above campus, it is a mess of brick streets lined with odd shops selling the normal wire-sculpture and stained-glass, faintly drug-related, college-town paraphenalia. Between those stores are ones with familiar names—Wendy's, Subway, and Starbucks—crammed in unfamiliar spaces, as downtown doesn't provide the typical suburban architecture I normally associate with such institutions. It reminds me of Galveston with its funkiness, minus the salt-tinged air. Of Park City with its refusal to let a hill or two halt its sprawl, minus the money. Of the U, minus the space and the residual classiness of an originally Mormon valley.

As I walked back up the hill to my house, my jeans were riding low with the humidity, curling under my heals and slowly shredding themselves against the asphalt. A cloudy day, it brought back the heat of my Houston youth, a heat that travels with the water in the air, pushing into lungs and clothes and crevices with the constancy and patience of osmosis, effective even when shade diffuses the light. Four years in Utah where the heat rides down directly on sunbeams was almost enough to forget the way it makes you heavy, makes you want to sleep right where you stand, but now I'm back. At my doorstep was Emily Plicka, the Young Single Adult leader in our local branch, just finishing a note she intended to leave me. We chatted for a few minutes and she invited me to the air-conditioned comfort of her house where I got to know her husband Joe, a PhD student also in the English department.

A few hours later I was home in my room, quickly lulled to sleep by the stagnant air in my room. I was awakened just a few minutes ago by a crack of killer thunder and the beginning of a full-blown rain shower. I opened my windows, let the cool air billow in, and typed this up to the punctuation of a brilliant lightning display. Suddenly Athens reminds me of Houston—of home—with its green and its wet and its respite from the elements with other, equally violent elements. And even though it lacks family and donuts and sentient traffic signals that intuit the presence of cars and pedestrians, I could live here. Besides, even Utah lacked donuts.

Friday, August 24, 2007


Well I finally made it out to Ohio. I left Provo on Wednesday night after Andrew's reception having said my final goodbyes to friends, only to come back on Thursday having to do it all over again. See, my flight was cancelled. That's right. After sitting in the airport for hours (long enough for my dad, who dropped me off there, to go back to Sandy, pick up the family, ride around Salt Lake City, come back to the airport, check in, clear security, find and make fun of me, and leave on his own flight), they gave us the news that we were going nowhere that day on account of a big storm in Chicago.

So I caught a ride back to Provo (thanks A and K) to spend one more glorious night under the watchful gaze of the Y. How embarassing. We ended up playing Hearts on Matt Dinger's porch. I came in second.

So today I spent my second full day in airports, this time going through Dallas, eating bagels and fast food for more than it was worth, trying to catch up on lost sleep without missing crucial gate-change announcements or drooling on anyone nearby. Joey picked me up in Columbus and drove me back to Athens where I got my first glimpse of the campus in the failing light and found my new house high on a hill north of the university. It's a big place with wooden floors and high ceilings, but the law limits the number of unrelated inhabitants to three (though I think we've got four booked for the year).

Right now the house is occupied by the summer residents, nice college sophomores with long hair and a large collection of video games and beer. It feels like your typical college house: a cluttered, ragged box of walls furnished with mixed'n'matched furniture and patchwork decorations. The garbage strewn about the rooms is akin to the homework the guys had last semester—they had always meant to do something about it, but before they knew it finals had come and gone and it is time to move out. It reminds me of a missionary house in that it has so much more potential than it can grasp; the residents are so busy with the business of living—for missionaries it was the urgency of proselytizing, for students it seems to be the urgency of cramming as many cigarette butts into this or that empty bottle as possible—that they fail to do the simplest upkeeps that make a house livable. Is it just me and my chemical heritage that sees a house like this and dreams of spring cleaning? I'm not complaining. I see this kind of house as a project, just as I saw the house in Seodaemun or in Monticello. I wonder if my new roommates (grad students like me, arriving in the next couple of days) will share my love of a clean, organized house.

We'll see. In the meantime I need to furnish my 14'x14' square of a room. It came with a dresser and a desk but nothing else. Two closets though.