January - Get in and start grad school. A friend asks me how I could turnaround like that so soon after graduating. I tell her, I don’t know how not to be in school.
February - Watch with a crowd as two old dorms on my college campus are imploded. This happens at the very moment the space shuttle Columbia blows up, which leads to our local meteorologist being interviewed on CNN an hour later claiming he heard it. What he actually heard was the implosion. Our university lost a plant project on the shuttle.
Later that month, my friend is killed in a motorcycle accident, and his rider - also a friend - is critically injured. Around this time, another friend inexplicably stops breathing and dies. Crazy month.
3/20 - War on Iraq begins. More uncomfortable conversations.
4/30 - See Los Lobos live at Festival Internationale de Louisiane with friends. The band plays a fun, high-energy set, but saves “La Bamba” for last, and leads everyone to believe they’re finished before they get to it, meaning we were nearly at our car before we heard it off in the distance. Still, a good time had by all.
May - Semester ends; job hunt begins. I apply for a freelance reporting job.
May-July - A lot of late-night computer solitaire and bike-riding.
July - Apply for my old job at FedEx Ground. Told they’d be happy to have me back, but the computer application apparently considers me overqualified since I now have a college degree. Curse what I think is a rock-bottom job market. The next day, get a call from the newspaper. Get a good stringer gig I keep for more than two years.
August - Start what turns out to be my single hardest semester in grad school. One professor will tell me I’m “headed for disaster.” Feeling the love.
9/11 - R.I.P., John Ritter. Will tragedies never cease?
10/7 - Write column in UL paper ridiculing a girl in California who tried to start a Caucasian Club at her high school. Leads to weeks of hot letters, one of which is by an anonymous white guy who is angry he can’t spew the N-word while singing rap lyrics, and another who calls me a race traitor; other letters defend me with equal passion and facts. Love it. Love it.
November - Start listening to the Commodores’ “Nightshift” a lot for some reason. Love it. Love it.
December - Manage to pass all my classes, even the “disaster” one. Don’t know how, but breathe sigh of relief.