Sheri decided to tag along on this trip, and then would leave for home when my classes started. She joined me for many of the rounds of golf, and the exploration of the quaint village of Pinehurst. We found that the village is a great way to kill time, shop, and eat. We found lots of art galleries, golf shops, and restaurants. We had lunch at an excellent Greek place. In fact, we spent the morning there our first day until the rains subsided. It was exactly how I envisioned the Old South to be in the 1800’s.
So, the golf started out on a high, as I was able to play the famous #2 course my first day there. Donald Ross, the course designer and pro, was a Scotsman who believed in very traditional golf courses. The course proved that it can stand the test of time when it hosted 2 U.S. Opens that were great successes. Unfortunately, after a birdie on the very first hole, I was lucky to come out alive. Many of the greens are shaped like inverted saucers. Though I did not 4 putt, my playing partners managed to do this several times. Also, the caddies wear white overalls, like they do at the Masters in Augusta.
It takes a while to get accustomed to southern cooking. Breakfast had alot of pork products and gravies. Lunch was okay with the usual sandwiches and soup. Dinner was more of the south, with barbeque, fried chicken, fried veggies, and more of the breakfast gravy. But they serve some excellent drinks, and their desserts were outstanding. The wait staff could not be nicer, and we began to feel more comfortable as the week progressed.
I got paired up on the next few days with some stock analysts from New York. At the time, Viagra was the rage and it turns out they were specialists in the pharmaceutical companies. Needless to say, we had plenty to talk about, even with Sheri riding in my cart within earshot. We played for some money, though they were all better than me. But, as luck would have it, I won most of the money, and had to buy the drinks at the end of each round. I played two more rounds with them. They even invited me to play a couple more days, but I had to head up to Chapel Hill.
When it was time to leave for Chapel Hill, we drove back through country roads rather than the freeway. We saw a lot of the poor south, nestled between a world famous golf resort, and a well known University. We were going to find out more as the week went on.
There were about 40 in my class, so on the first day, they made us do a campus wide scavenger hunt. Grown up pharmacists, looking for things like grave markers, Dean Smith’s office, and curios from the student bookstore. It served its purpose to build some camaraderie and competition, which would continue through the week in class. Our team actually won, so it only meant we got to eat our Carolina barbeque first. The next day, I took Sheri to the airport, and had a half day to kill before classes formally started.
Rather than bore you about the class, let me tell you more about North Carolina. First, and most obviously, they live for basketball and tobacco, not necessarily in that order. Michael Jordan is a god, and Dean Smith (the coach) is like a saint. All other basketball players are royalty as well. Even the profs on campus live and die by the basketball team’s success and failure.
It is hard to find any place in town that is not smoke filled, or smells like old smoke. Every bar, restaurant, meeting room, bus stop, grocery store, and park. Smokers everywhere, all the time, day and night, old and young. Even then, we knew we were spoiled in California.
The area of Raleigh-Durham and Chapel Hill is known as the triangle. Many pharmaceutical and high techs companies have moved there to take advantage of the brain power. Duke, UNC, and Wake Forest are there too. They think the world revolves around this triangle. I think they need a lesson in geometry or astronomy. Most of the east coasters thought we were a bunch of flakes from California. We even sneaked out one afternoon, and played the golf course at Duke University.
Speaking of Duke University, the rivalry between Duke and UNC is a lot like Stanford-Cal or USC-UCLA. However, back here, it extends beyond sports to include academics, research contributions to companies in the triangle, and the alumni that populate the area. The Dukies from Durham wear a shade of blue almost royal or darker. The UNC Tarheel bunch wears baby blue. I am sure the Duke lacrosse scandal received a lot of snickers in Chapel Hill.
I made several really good friends in class. We met fairly regularly at pharmacy seminars and conventions throughout the country. One invited me to Guatemala to do a week of volunteer work. Others extended job offers, and a place to stay when we visited. Somehow we made it through the course and were able to get our certificates on the closing night dinner. The head prof mentioned that he hates kids who wear their baseball caps backwards. So, when he got up to speak, and give us our certificates, we (on our table only)all stood, placed a baseball cap on our heads, and on the count of 3, placed them backwards!!! The place was roaring, and he gave us a reluctant touché’.
The Chapel Hill environment does create a great learning environment, even for those of us who have been out of school for a while. The profs have a lot of energy and great ideals. It really is a labor of love, since most of us easily make more money than any of the professors. However, they seem to lack the one thing I found so prevalent in the sciences, as an undergraduate. The one thing is real life experiences. I guess that is why they brought all of us in to the classroom. We challenged their theories, mostly with our own professional experiences. It provided for a very interesting give and take.
Our hotel was the classic old Carolina Inn, about a block from campus. We were told all of the visiting teams stay there since it is the best hotel in town. It seemed very formal, even in the bar, where we met each afternoon after class. Most of our meals were at the hotel, except for the golf outing, and the awards dinner. Southern cooking gets very boring after 2 weeks of it. We started asking for vegetarian, since one of our friends was Hindu. His food turned out better than ours.
Every class has someone they pick on. Our class chose a woman named Lori, from the University Hospital at Ohio State. So, when we went out for pizza one night, guess who got the bill, after each of us sneaked out to the boys room? She was a good sport, and got even during one of the many competitions in class. We also spent one evening at the bar, trying to figure out why certain people were selected to attend this class. We decided that our little group of eight was the most worthy.
If you ever get the chance to go back to school, however it occurs, please take it. I remember telling my kids that if I did not have to work, I would choose to go to school the rest of my life. Even for a few weeks, it is invigorating, and challenges the thought processes and belief system. One of these summers, I plan to take some more courses at Oxford or Cambridge, AFTER attending Wimbledon. See you there!!!