I'm not a Rutgers alumnus, but I do live in New Jersey (and Illinois, but that's for another day) and over the last few years, I've followed the school's football team. Its history is distinguished; Rutgers has been playing collegiate football for 137 years, including the first known intercollegiate game, against fellow New Jersey university Princeton, back in 1869. Nevertheless Rutgers achieved national notoriety for its 25-game losing streak a few years ago. In general, since it joined the Big East football conference in 1991, Rutgers teams have compiled middling or losing losing records, and hadn't gone to a bowl game since 1978. That is, until last year, when Rutgers compiled a 7-5 record, its best in years, making it eligible to face Arizona State University (its 1978 opponent as well) in the Insight Bowl, which it lost 45-40. Rutgers lost, but the long-beleaguered state university of New Jersey's football program was definitely on the upswing. Yet I doubt anyone--anyone--thought things would be swinging like this: Rutgers, one of only six undefeated teams in the nation, is now 9-0, having triumphed over 3rd-ranked powerhouse University of Louisville, and not only is going to a bowl game, but conceivably could play for the national championship if it wins its next few games. This was probably the biggest game, after that initial one back in the 19th century, in the program's history. I caught the tail end of the game, played in New Brunswick amidst a sea of excited scarlet-clad fans, and found myself cheering as a Louisville player's penalty invalidated a missed Rutgers field goal, allowing the host team another chance, which it seized, to win 28-25. It was incredible, in the true sense of that word. What happens now? Rutgers still faces tests against Cincinnati and 10th-ranked West Virginia, but no matter what happens, this will still be one of the greatest Rutgers season in decades--perhaps in a century.
Homolatte Reading Series
Tuesday night I read in the Homolatte reading series, which musician Scott Free founded a few years back and curates. The reading took place at a cute bar-restaurant I've never been to and didn't even know existed, Big Chicks/Tweet, at 5024 N Sheridan Road, not far past the turnoff onto Lake Shore Drive. I'd originally intended to read new fiction, but when I saw that both Scott, who started off the set with a couple of mood-setting original songs, and my fellow reader, musician Monica del Castillo (at left, my cellphone photo) had guitars, I realized plan A wasn't going to work. I very well could have tossed bricks rather than read fiction, even humorous prose. So I read the handful of poems I'd had the foresight to bring with me, and then ceded the stage to Monica, who sang a number of beautiful, stirring songs, including a moving rendition of the Mexican folk song "La Llorona," which is about a weeping woman who just happens to be Death itself (or a harbinger of it). I first heard the song in Frida, though I liked Monica's version more. Some of the lines:
Ay de mi llorona, llorona, llorona de negros ojos;
Ya con esta se despide, llorona, tu negrito soñador.
Todos me dicen el negro, llorona, negro pero cariñoso;
Yo soy como el chile verde, llorona, picante pero sabroso.
Si porque te quiero quieres, llorona, quieres que te quiera más;
Si ya te he dado la vida, llorona, que más quieres? quieres más?
Dos besos llevo en el alma, llorona, que no se apartan de mi;
el último de mi madre, llorona, y el primero que te di.
Ay de mi llorona, llorona, llorona busca un porrillo;
Y el que no sabe de amores llorona, no sabe lo que es martirio.
No sé que tienen las flores, llorona, las flores del camposanto;
que cuando las mece el viento, llorona, parece que están llorando.
I could have listened to her all night!