“Next stop, Stamford. Stamford, next stop.”
As if I needed to be told twice
I had been waiting
Nervous since New Jersey
Anticipating my return home
Clutching the handle
I drag my old black Dakota suitcase
The one with the sqeaky wheels
The doors slide open
To a place I knew
It is night
I follow the crowd up
A woman searching frantically
At the top of the stairs
A worried look on her face
A look of fear, sadness, hope
And I smile and wave
And she waves and smiles
I reach the top
And hug her
And she looks into my eyes
About to say these words
I had been longing to hear
Those months away from home-
“Hurry up! I parked in an illegal zone.”
And as she drags me through the crowd
To the cars below
I cannot stop smiling
It is good to be back home
I came across this poem that I had written for an English class in what now seems ages ago as I was sorting through my valuables, or “useless crap” as my parents call it, back home in CT. Here is the backstory…
In April it rained three times the average, resulting in massive flooding, and our basement was a casualty. Since I moved out for college and beyond, everything I have owned or decided to keep has ended up in my parent’s basement. As my parents dealt with the natural disaster they had to throw away tons of stuff, and the boxes and crates with my items were fully soaked as well. My mom asked her friends why I still needed to keep items from years ago and what to do with the “ruined” goods. They all answered, “chuck it,” “he won’t need any of it,” and “who cares? he won’t notice it’s gone…” Well, even though past history did not serve her well (my parents at one point were caught by me selling my stuff on ebay…see what happens when you teach them the internet?) my mom did care. She painstakingly took a blow dryer, and page by page, item by item, dried the contents of my basement boxes, an archeologist preserving some snapshot of history that otherwise would have disintegrated away. So thanks Mom, for all the effort, and as the poem above perhaps reflected, my love may be unconditional, but I know I can rely on you for the things that matter most to me.
So anyway, that’s how I spent a lot of my weekend back at home, sorting through my boxes and deciding what to keep and throw away. Some of the stuff was destroyed and irrecoverable, but I did come across a slew of interesting saved items from my past, some that I knew I still had and some which were surprising.
Here is a sampling:
– A Basic HTML guide from 7th grade social studies, along with my first ever “hyperlinked” essay. The year was 1995, and the internet was still fairly new. Our computer center had just upgraded from Apple IIE’s, which were useful for Number Munchers and Spellevators in elementary school but not much else, andwe just received Power Macs with Claris Works. Our social studies teacher insisted that we get comfortable with this new medium that he (correctly) forecasted would be needed for our upcoming education (although he neglected to mention social life). For our four page essay we needed to include a minimum of 15 links, which would lead to further information on the topics mentioned, as well as a hyperlinked bibliography. The essay I wrote was on the outbreak of the Civil War, and it had hyperlinks to pictures of Fort Sumter, newspaper articles on the abolitionist John Brown, and web sites with articles on the role slavery played in leading to war, among others. I realized after seeing this again after so many years that I forgot a lot of the coding, and never used it again, but writing a blog has provided a refresher course of sorts.
– Stories I kept from English class (I was a big reader back in the day), such as “The Handsomest Drowned Man In the World”, a short story by Gabriel García Márquez.
– A letter from my congressional representative Chris Shays I received in response to one I had written as a class assignment. My letter dealt with gun control, and he, or as I now know, his staff, wrote me back a two page letter outlining his stance on the issue. It would be interesting to see if this has changed, I haven’t had a chance to look at it closer…
– A paper I had written as an ode to a best friend who was killed in seventh grade. Tom moved down the street from me in sixth grade and we shared the bus to and from middle school each day, and he shared many of the same classes with me. Transitioning from elementary school to middle school is always tough, and his energetic but laid back demeanor helped ease that for me, as he too was a newcomer and needed to integrate himself into this new community. He had moved from North Carolina and had a heavy accent, which made him a pecularity for a bit but also popular. The essayI wrote reflected one experience during a trip to our beach in which I was walking along the shore collecting seashells. Tom, even though we hadn’t cemented a friendship yet at that point, without hesitation joined me in my endevour, and explained what each shell was, where it came from, what it was called, having grown up on the shore himself. He was very interested in the world around him, had magnimous personality, and was one of the friendliest, down to earth kids I had met up to that point in my life. So of course it was a shock to all of us when we learned one summer day that he had been shot to death. This was my first experience with death (since my grandparents all passed away before I was born), and I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it, it was too unreal. To add to the tragedy, it was his own younger brother who had shot him from point blank range, playing cops and robbers on their front driveway down the street from me with the loaded guns of their father. The brother had called 911, but by the time the paramedics arrived it was too late. We attended his funeral at the church where his father was the pastor, and the brother, tearing, sang “World’s Apart”. For all the lack of emotion I had on the day, he must have been a mess…
I see the same stars through my window
That you see through yours
But we’re worlds apart
And I see the same skies through brown eyes
That you see through blue
But we’re worlds apart, worlds apart
Just like the earth, just like the sun
Two worlds together are better than one
I see the sun rise in your eyes
That you see in mine
But we’re worlds apart, worlds apart
– A Time Capsule from 1994, where we had to fill in a questionnaire and then open it at the end of the school year. Apparently my favorite movie was Rookie of the Year, my favorite band was Supertramp, and favorite TV Show was Doug (gotta love Quailman!).
– A 1996 Summer Olympics guide I bought in London. I was in Europe for the summer, and because of the time difference (the Olympics were in Atlanta that year) I didn’t want to miss out on the action. I did get to watch some of the events, though, and still remember Donovan Bailey and Michael Johnson setting word records in the 100m and 200m, and of course Kerri Strug’s heroics as part of the”Maginifcent Seven”.
– Cal Ripken memorabilia. As part of the welcome package to Georgetown, incoming freshman has a choice to participate in attending an Orioles-Red Sox game at Camden or a Six Flags trip. At the time I had managed to never have attended a MLB game, and so I signed up right away. It was slated for sometime in September, but then 9/11 happened. The baseball season was put on hold for several weeks, and these games added to the end of the season. It just so happened that our game that we had tickets to was the last one cancelled, so became the de facto last game of the season. Cal Ripken, the Oriole great, was to retire in 2001, and so my first game was his last. I feel bad for all those that paid high prices for his “last game” and ended up seeing his “tenth to last game”, but that $15 dollar ticket led to one my most memorable experiences to date.
Cal Ripken’s Last Game
We loaded up on the souveniers they handed out, including a cup with his milestones listed on it and a guide, and made sure to hold on to our ticket stub. We cheered loudly everytime he came up, loudest of all when he was on the on deck circle with two outs and a 3-2 count on Brady Anderson (also playing his last game for the Orioles), desperate to see him one more time, prolong his career by just one more at bat (Anderson swung and missed on a high fastball, by the way). We stayed as he gave his farewell speech, and we stood and gave a standing ovation as he circled the field in a red convertible with his family. A magical, memorable night indeed.
*Although I rarely attend games, this began a streak of fortuitous events for me, including a no hitter that went to the eighth by Derek Lowe, Roger Clemen’s 300 win/4,000th strikeout game, Barry Bond’s home run 746 (snapping his longest HR drought), and the classic 2006 Georgetown-UNC Elite Eight game.
The Washington Post from 9/12, 9/13, 9/14, as well as 9/11/02. I know we all had gut reactions following 9/11, and I wanted to keep these as a record of what initial reactions were at the time, and one year out. It wasn’t pretty, I’ll tell you that much. Might as well tell you mine…
I was, of course, in the library on the Tuesday morning, finishing up an assignment for English class, which would begin at 10:15 am. I woke up around 8 am, and walked across campus to the library – I still remember how clear and blue the skies were and crispthe weather. A little after 9 I headed back to my dorm room to get ready for class, and was crossing Harbin patio when one of my friends who lived just two doors down from me ran up the stairs from street level and met me, with a look I had never seen before but would see several more times that day. I said casually, “Going for a morning jog?” since he was runner, and he just gave me a stare and said no, he had gone up to the rooftops to see the smoke. Hadn’t I heard? “Smoke? No, what are you talking about?” The he started to claim the Twin Towers had been hit, with one collapsing, at which point I lost him. We ran up to our floor and into my next door neighbor’s room, who had the TV on, just in time to see the second tower collapse as well. Again, I wasn’t sure how to react to this, it was so unreal, even as I saw what could only be humans falling to their death. CNN then replayed the tapes from earlier in the day, but I really couldn’t watch much more. My dormmates all took out their cell phones, trying to reach their parents, panic setting in as those from Boston/DC/NYC were such a large portion of the studne body. The smoke my friend had been watching was from the Pentagon, which was visible from Georgetown on the horizon, and had also been hit. After an emergency meeting for students in the cafeteria, those from my floor were led by our RA to Ben and Jerrys, if for no other reason to calm our nerves and add some normalness to the day. I do not remember feeling anger on that day, but I do remember thinking, “Fuck. There will be hell to pay for this, and its coming soon.” So I was not surprised we went to war, I was surprised by how long it took to get there. And at the time I was very afraid of what the consequences would be. And now, six years later, those fears have merely been confirmed.
* This would begin a streak of unfortuitous events for me. Not only was I in DC for 9/11, but I was in London for the 7/7 bombings – had I not slept in I would have been using the Tube – and in Spain for the Madrid bombings, where I was waiting for friends to come in via train from Madrid that very morning (they texted us: Bombings on train. May be late.). What was interesting was the reactions of those around me during these tragedies. In London, everything was calm, and life went on as normal pretty quickly – I think this stems from having such incidents expected, with the IRA nearby and all. With Spain, the news did not hold back at all in showing the bloodshed (CNN largely refrained from depicting the grotesque). Also, there was little time for mourning: that very night the populace gathered in the city square, protesting with their voices and signs against the Basque militant seperatist group Eta, who they were sure was responsible for the bombings.
–Ticket stubs from on campus speakers, such as Georgetown grad Bill Clinton and Afgahnistan President Hamid Karzai. My favorite part was while walking into McDonough Gymnasium, I ran into CNN correspondent Wolf Blitzer. “Uh… Hi Wolf.”
– Newspaper from 1998 highlighting the record 11 Oscars won by Titanic. Random, not sure I can provide an explanation. I did (and still do) hate Celine Dion for ever writing “My Heart Will Go On”, as that was played every third song on the radio over the summer.
– A lacrosse playbook. This must have been from freshman year of high school, my last playing lacrosse (I had started in fourth grade with the sport – hey, its CT, its practically a ritual). However, lacrosse followed swim season, and my ankles couldn’t take the wear and tear of the sprints and practices after joining the team several weeks late into the season because of the sports overlap, plus I think I was growing then too. So sophomore year I switched to tennis, and then rugby. Next to dressage, I think I had the preppy sports covered…
– A daily journal from seventh grade English class. We were instructed to write ona topic every day, some fun and some serious. One entry was choosing a disability and then imitating it for a day to see what it is like. I chose losing my dominant hand/arm, which I tied behind my back for an afternoon, and then related how difficult it was to eat, write, etc. More relevant was an entry on the OJ Simpson trial. I remember how big this was – during our ski trip my parents, who don’t follow American culture at all, would have the car radio on and listen in on the court proceedings. Anyhow, my journal entry covered three main points. 1) OJ received a very quick trial, which I stated was unfair just beacuse he was famous. 2) The trial in itself was helpful to the nation since it did highlight many issues of racism. 3) I was upset because OJ dominated all issues at the time. it was OJ this, OJ that, and I expressed concern more important issues were not being dealt with. Echoes of the Paris Hilton ordeal huh?
– A letter from Bill Clinton commending me for passing the physical fitness test. I don’t remember if this was part of an iniative or something, but the president would send a congratulatory letter for passing the state fitness test. I killed in pullups, ran a decent mile, situps no problem…not much of a stretcher though. I think this held me back one year, as I couldn’t reach past my toes.
– A scholarship letter for having the highest grades in high school from my elementary school. This was great, going back to elementary school with old classmates. My teachers still remembered me, which was surprising, but I thought they more than anyone else formed who I am today. I actually dropped by a college interviewer’s house to complete that part of my application process, and lo and behold, my second grade teacher opens the door, as it was her daughter interviewing me. Talk about flashbacks…
– Poetry and more poetry. I feel like I must have done a lot of this during my school tenure, or more likely it was convenient to keep. I especially liked the one about my teacher, which totally got me an A for the project. Here is one more about my cat:
Stealth, staccato steps up the staircase
He saunters somewhat into the starlit scenery
Soothing in manner, soundless in thought, spectacular in soul
Soon snoring, sleeping
So spirited at times , yet sorrowful as well
Socially surly, but super always