August 1, 2010

pilgrimage to anteater central

Last month I took a trip out to Los Angeles for the first time in several years. I was visiting a good friend for the Fourth of July weekend, but on my first day there she had to work, so I knew I'd have some time on my hands. After making my way from the airport to her office on the UCLA campus, I asked to borrow her car. I decided not to tell her right away what I was going to do with it; I worried she'd try to put the fear of LA traffic into me and insist that it was impossible. But I was not to be deterred!

It was not my first experience with LA's horrible, horrible freeways, but it was the first time I would brave them during rush hour. The day before a holiday weekend. And, as I had to meet my friend at a certain hour back at her office, under a time crunch. Right.

Of course by now you've guessed my destination, no? It was none other than the mecca of all things giant anteater: the University of California at Irvine, about 40 miles south of UCLA. I had for many, many years wanted to make a pilgrimage to the campus of the only college in the world whose mascot is my favorite animal. And now I was getting my chance! In case you're unfamiliar with the legacy of UCI's Peter the Anteater, by the way, I urge you to check it out. It. Is. Awesome.

Traffic indeed sucked, so it was a real crawl to Irvine. This left me with but an hour to take in all I could see before turning around and braving the reverse commute back into the heart of LA. Turning onto the main campus drive, the first thing I noticed was giant anteaters on the street signs! Very cool. I parked and tried to find my bearings. After a brief stop in the visitor center I meandered around that corner of what turned out to be a huge campus. Signs of anteater life were everywhere—on walkways, on signs, in the form of statues both whimsical and stately, even on vending machines! I tried to find the main athletic arena, where surely Eater nation would be on full display, but students I met kept telling me it wasn't in walking distance, and I didn't have time to drive. So, with the minutes slipping by at an unbelievable pace, I ducked into the school store to purchase a few anteater knick-knacks before reluctantly turning back toward UCI's cousin to the north.

Fortunately, traffic was kinder to me on the return, and my friend could only laugh when I told her that I'd spent my afternoon in search of a certain mammal with a large fuzzy snout. Whatever. She knows me well enough to know that this crazy obsession isn't going away anytime soon! Of course, someday, when I have a little more flexibility in my schedule, I'll have to make it back for a real visit. But if I die tomorrow, I can at least say that I've stepped foot in the land of the Anteaters. Zot! •>~

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