This is a slightly overdue flashback.
In the fall of 1990, I was a sophomore at Bowling Green State University, and my friend Dave – whom I’m pretty sure I’ve known longer than anyone who’s not related to me – was a sophomore at Miami University. Prior to the start of the school year, James Taylor announced a concert date at Miami U. shortly after fall classes started, and Dave got tickets for me and my friend Jennifer.
Something came up, though, and Jen couldn’t make the trip, so she loaned me her car (Bob – for Bucket Of Bolts), and I invited my high school friend Amy, who had just started her freshman year at BG.
It was about a three-hour drive from Bowling Green to Oxford, a great concert, and an all-around fun trip. I have a few snapshot memories of specific songs – “Never Die Young”, “You’ve Got A Friend”, and the show-closing “Steamroller” – and remember having a really good time seeing Dave and catching up with Amy on the drive. Looking back, I realize what a bridging sort of night it was, where faces and voices of high school past and college present and future swirled and collided and ricocheted.
After the concert, Dave & his friends offered us each a place to crash if we wanted, but Amy and I both needed to get back for early classes the next morning, so we hit the road north again.
It was pretty cold, which I remember because Don Henley’s “The Boys of Summer” came on the radio, and both of us were all “VOLUME UP, WINDOWS DOWN!” To this day, when I’m alone in the car, that rule still stands, a quarter-century later. It’s been bent here & there, of course – but even in the dead of winter, I will blast the heat and crack the window just enough to get some outside air swirling through.
Well, Jenn and I are officially the parents of a kid who’s off at college.
After some late-night car-packing-Tetris (including a late-game miracle “hey-where’s-the-chair-going” solution from Kelsey) last Thursday, the three of us got up a couple hours before dawn on Friday and headed west, then north, to Eastern Michigan University.
EMU seems to have the traffic flow and vehicle unloading system down to a science: Plenty of signs on the roads in directing everyone to their specific buildings; efficient use of the small adjacent parking lots to get stuff out of cars and onto the sidewalks and grass, then redirecting to larger, more distant parking for the rest of the day. Kelsey queued up to get her key and get signed in while we waited by her belongings. An army of student volunteers helped everyone’s families carry their things to their rooms when it was time.
I’ve thought a lot over the past few weeks about moving over to Bowling Green State University with my friend Adam in the fall of 1989, and I raided the family photo albums in search of pictures.
This one looks like it’s from a day or two prior to our move. I seem to be sick of packing.
Which reminds me: I think it’s time for me to bring back my distinctive three-wristwatch look, this time with each timepiece set to a different city.
I feel like moving to college was a much bigger hassle for Adam & me, although Kelsey and her roommates smartly planned ahead and combined their resources – so she didn’t need to bring a refrigerator, for instance. The biggest things we packed were a folding living-room chair, a microwave, and an unassembled floor fan.
Here’s a shot from my own college move-in, with half-hidden flashback joys such as rabbit ears on the black & white TV and a bowling pin (room aesthetics, y’know). Also, that thigh-high box there next to the fridge? That, kids, is a single speaker from Adam’s kick-ass stereo. There was another just like it, plus the stereo system itself, slightly larger. Occupied a nice chunk of precious dorm room real estate, but it was (at least in memory) unparalleled in our hall.
Also: I do not know what is up with that striped shirt I’m wearing. I seem to think Adam gave it to me, but he claims to have no memory of it. (Heck, if it wasn’t for these pictures, I wouldn’t admit to having worn it either.)
So here’s me, first day of college:
…and here’s the shot my parents took from the parking lot. Adam and I lived in Chapman Hall, Harshman Quad.
It occurred to me that this picture reflects my parents dropping their first kid off at college, and Adam’s parents dropping off their last.
Now, that’s all there was that day at BGSU, as far as I can recall. My brothers remember it similarly: We drove to Bowling Green, moved in, probably ate lunch at the McDonald’s or Wendy’s across the street, and then they left.
After we got Kelsey moved into her dorm at EMU, there was a picnic lunch for students and families, so we picked up some sandwiches, salad and pasta, and ate at the edge of the campus pond. There was a convocation planned for 2 p.m., so before that, we went and picked up Kelsey’s books and a few supplies, and walked them back to her room.
The ceremony at the convocation center was only about an hour long, I think. When it was done, we said goodbye, and the students headed out as a group for a class photo on the football field:
I’m proud and excited and nervous for all of us – Kelsey, Jenn and me – as the journey continues.
My daughter’s high school graduation ceremony was more than a month ago, but her graduation party this weekend felt much more like the door closing on this chapter.
Earlier in the week, K and one of her friends had spent several hours selecting pictures and putting them on poster boards to display at the party. This picture in particular – which I had actually forgotten about – really jumped out at me:
She’s holding a fuzzy caterpillar. Something about her expression and posture and the sunlight just come together in a way that somehow both reflects the moment the picture was taken and strikes chords of her personality that still ring true today.
When I was in elementary school, my friend Mike and I pitched a small orange tent in my backyard and camped out one night. I’m sure we stayed up late talking about Star Wars or playing cards by flashlight or something.
I woke up in the gray light before sunrise, surprised by how many birds were singing. It was a little chilly, with mist hanging over the cornfield behind the house.
We’d brought my dad’s old Boy Scout cooking set and some stuff for breakfast – although we were only a couple dozen steps from the house, at most – and I poured myself a bowl of Apple Jacks.
I went for a run before sunup today. The smell and feel of the air, the chattering of birds, and the color of the sky brought that long ago morning almost back to reality.
For various reasons (none of them really good ones), I haven’t been running lately. I felt the need to get into the woods at Quail Hollow today, though, so I put on some boots and warm clothes and went for a 2-mile hike.
It was sunny and in the mid-30s, with no wind. Really nice day to be out there.
It’s a little strange going out and walking on the trails I’m used to running, and it’s a completely different experience in the woods this time of year compared with summer: The sun reaches deeper pockets, with no leaves overhead – with the exception of the pine stands – and you can see further off the trails.
I made a few stops along this stream, because it was running high compared to summer, and I liked the way it looked and sounded.
Found a culvert, kind of oddly placed, since it’s not on any sort of trail.
And discovered that the Woodland Swamp Trail has had an eventful fall:
Then there was this weird thing. I thought it was a big blob of sap at first – it was probably 4-5 inches long – but it was squishy, like a giant rotted grape.
I also found a small, empty turtle shell.
I was out in the woods for a little more than an hour, and felt like maybe I’d needed it more than I realized.
Twenty-five years ago this month, I started my freshman year of college at Bowling Green State University.
Tonight, I drove a few miles out on some of the narrow, field-lined roads here in Lake Township. The sun hadn’t completely set, and there was an unusual (for early August) bit of coolness to the air, even though the corn is tall yet. Perfect night to put the windows down and crank the CD I burned a few years ago and labeled BG 89-91. It’s a mix of songs that take me back the most powerfully to my favorite years at BGSU. The songs are not all from those years, but they’re definitely among those that I listened to the most, and which still dig up the deepest memories and impressions of the friends and the places and the times.
My drive wasn’t long enough to get through the whole CD, but I had a few in particular that I wanted to hear, and as always, they mixed heartbreakingly well with the smell of the fields and the lingering pink-orange clouds.
Here they are, in the order they appear on the CD:
New Order – Blue Monday
Real Life – Send Me An Angel
Depeche Mode – Strangelove
Pixies – Dig for Fire
Joy Division – Love Will Tear Us Apart
Depeche Mode – A Question of Lust
Yaz – Only You
Don Henley – The Boys of Summer
The Cure – A Few Hours After This
I signed up to join the Ohio Star Wars Collectors Club shortly after Jenn & Kelsey & I moved to Ohio fifteen years ago, in the summer of 1999.
I had learned about OSWCC through the vintage Star Wars collecting Usenet newsgroup, and was intrigued by the idea of a group of collectors getting together in real life to geek out and swap stories, trade stuff, and share new finds and favorite pieces.
I seem to remember that the club communicated mostly through email lists at the time, and even though I soon felt comfortable contributing online, it was still quite awhile before I actually found the nerve to attend one of the monthly meetings of the North Region. I remember being nervous about actually meeting my fellow OSWCCers in person, and wondering whether the few pieces from my own collection I’d brought to share would be blown off as lame, and whether I’d feel odd and left out. It was kind of like heading off to a week at Camp Tippecanoe when I was a kid.
Turns out it was really cool and low-key and just a bunch of Star Wars fans hanging out and nerding it up for a few hours. And I loved it. For a few years there, I hardly missed a regional meeting, and I spent a crazy awesome 30+ hours with OSWCC friends at Star Wars Celebration II in Indianapolis.
In 2001, I had to cancel my trip to what was supposed to be my first OSWCC Summer Social, due to a seriously violent 24-hour-case of the barfs that swore me off Chik-Fil-A for life. I started a 10-year streak of Summer Social attendance in 2002, though, making it a priority every year even though along the way, my attendance at the regional meetings had trailed off. And the social was a highlight every year: road tripping with friends or bringing Kelsey along; catching up with everyone and browsing the tables; picking up really cool pieces and meeting some really interesting folks.
The OSWCC gang was my first audience for the essays that eventually became Collect All 21!, and my friends there were the first to embrace and support it.
My trips to Celebrations III, V, and VI included more fine times hanging out with OSWCCers.
My social attendance streak came to an end in 2012 when we were treated to a once-in-a-lifetime family vacation, and I missed last year’s as well, due to a family move.
And honestly, I wasn’t sure about this year – again, I haven’t been to meetings or active in the club forums for some time – until my friend and fellow OSWCCer Matt asked if I’d like to share some of my Star Wars nostalgia with a presentation at this year’s social in Cincinnati. (The location rotates annually between the Cleveland, Cincy, and Columbus regions.) It had been awhile since I’d done one, so I accepted the invitation, stayed up late the night before the July 12 social writing and rehearsing, and hit the road that Saturday morning with my daughter and her friend.
Digression: Kelsey had not been to a social since 2007, and had only been to one other before that. It was a pleasant surprise when, the Thursday before this year’s, she said, “Hey – you didn’t invite me! What’s up with that?”
We left early and met up with my buddy Josh in Ashland to share the rest of the there-and-back-in-a-day trip. (Yes: More time on the highway that day than actually spent at the social. Still worth it.)
Man, what a fantastic day: Scott D.M. Simmons and his dad, Kim D.M. Simmons were there – that’s a Kim Simmons vintage Kenner photograph up at the top of the page – along with a bunch of OSWCC friends who I had a ton of fun catching up with. Many of us have now known each other long enough to have seen each others’ kids grow up.
Despite the support OSWCC has always given my writing, I was really nervous about my presentation, because these are people I know. It’s different doing a reading at a library or convention where the audience is people you’ve never met. But you know what? Once I started, I wound up having fun. And people said some incredibly nice things to me afterward, and I was grateful to Matt for the opportunity and glad to have made a few people laugh, and happy to have sparked some other childhood memories.
I’ve missed this. And even if I don’t meet my goal of making it to a North Region meeting again soon, I’m awfully glad I made the trip.
(Also: If you’re a Star Wars fan and you live in Ohio, and you haven’t looked into joining OSWCC, why the heck not?)
My earliest memories trace an elliptical orbit around two places: Lima and Upper Sandusky, Ohio.
If you ask me where the first place is that I remember living, my mind goes to this house on North Main Street in Lima:
That picture’s from sometime in 1972-73. (Here’s what the house looked like in summer 2012.)
But I also have many memories of the farm and house in Upper Sandusky where my mom grew up, since we lived there while my dad was serving in Korea in 1971 and ’72. While I can remember several things about being there, I can’t say that I recall having a sense of home in those memories, the way I do about the house in Lima.
That’s me and my maternal grandfather, Reuben Schoenberger. Here’s another one:
The pieces I remember from the farm and the farmhouse are mostly sensory snapshots: The smell of dirt and wood and oil in the barn, and the pile of gravel behind it where I played; sitting on the metal cover to something in the yard (a well, maybe, or a cistern?); the place under the front porch where I crawled with the family dog, Alfie; the pattern on the kitchen floor; the yard and the long driveway tucked into the cornfields.
That’s me and my grandma Joan and Alfie. I can remember that tricycle seeming huge – it had a double-decker step on the back! and needing those block-and-band accessories to reach the pedals. (Those things had a long life: after I outgrew needing them on the tricycle, they went into the box of toy blocks that lasted through me and my brothers.)
Now let’s go back to Lima.
I seem to think this area was just off the kitchen, at the back of the house. I still remember exactly how that rug felt under my hands and knees, and beneath the wheels of my toys. The wooden toy box in the background? My grandpa made it, and I still have it. And I remember taking everything out of it and making a complete mess of the room so that I could sit in it.
This was my parents’ second car (according to the back of the picture). Again, I can remember the texture of the seats. At some point, the Bug developed a hole in the backseat floor, and I wasn’t allowed to ride there. I loved two things in particular about the car: riding with the top down, and pushing the button that made the windshield washers squirt. This latter activity was most fun when carried out unsupervised with my best friend, Alberto – he’s in the middle of the photo below:
Alberto and his family lived next door, and it seems like every interaction I remember between our families involved laughing. Also, I could eat his mom’s homemade tortillas by the dozen. Man, they were good.
Finally, a trio of seasonal pictures, starting with me and mom in winter:
Summer. (I don’t know who that guy is, but I loved that swinging pole thing, and I love the ’70s feel of this picture.)
And fall. Me and my trike and our dog, Punkin.
Punkin got lost for a couple days once. I think I remember dad saying he found her out in a field by some railroad tracks.
Larger versions of these pictures – and a couple others – are in this Flickr photoset.
Growing up, I heard the term “tornado slide” used to describe this piece of playground equipment, and I’ve always loved it. This one’s in Harrison Smith Park in Upper Sandusky, Ohio, and I’m pretty sure it’s The Best One In The World.
I mean, look at it. All metal. Three full revolutions. Angle of descent: Approximately badass degrees. Turns tight enough to cause right-leg friction burns on the center pole. An ascent that includes a landing, for Pete’s sake, presumably so you can acclimate to the altitude and get even more scared. Look at the bottom of the slide: I’m pretty sure that kid was kissing the ground out of his thankfulness for having survived – Oh, God, no, wait! Look closely! I think there’s another kid down there. THE SLIDE WAS BAITING US INTO COLLISIONS AND TRYING TO KILL US ALL.
Yeah, I loved this thing. I’m pretty sure it was installed in 1976, in tune with the nationwide bicentennial celebration, and that around the time of this photo, it was brand new. Check out that line of thrill-seekers. I’m one step up from the halfway landing, five years old. That’s my mom – also an adventurous type – right behind me.
Playgrounds have changed a lot in the three-plus decades since this slide was installed, including the park in Upper Sandusky. But the World’s Best Tornado Slide lasts. My daughter’s tackled it. Maybe my nephews, too. Last I checked, it’s still there – visible on Google Maps, even. Waiting.
My running goal for 2013 was to reach 365 total miles. In a year with no scheduled race training, the challenge was to make myself get out enough to average a mile a day, even without the incentive of a “Race Day” circled on the calendar. (I did wind up running a race a few weeks ago, but it wasn’t the kind that required weeks of highly-structured training for what I wanted to get out of it.)
Here’s how the last few weeks of December shook out:
The weekend after the Ohio Outside Trail Series race, I did two four-mile road loops. The following weekend, we had bizarre warm & wet weather: Steady rain and the necessity of Christmas shopping kept me from running on Saturday, but I got lucky with a late Sunday morning where the sky was mixed, but things stayed dry and about 60 degrees during my run, which I stretched to six miles. That left me with seven miles to go before the end of the month.
I did four miles on the road Thursday, Dec. 26, and on Saturday the 28th, we had sun and a high in the mid-40s, and my youngest brother finally had the chance to come join me at Quail Hollow for a trail run.
We hit the three-mile mark – and my goal for the year – around 11:35 a.m. (My official Forerunner total, which includes all the extra fractions of a mile from the year, is actually almost 366 miles. Just a bit of cushion.)
A few more notes/stats on the year:
- I ran all but January in my new shoes, after retiring my first real pair.
- I ran 96 days, which means I averaged just about 3.8 miles per run.
- I was most active in August (42 miles on 11 days), in large part to make up for a weak July, when I ran just 17 miles over 5 days.
- My longest run was 8.25 miles, back on April 21. Five other days (March 31, April 7, Aug. 10, Oct. 20 and Nov. 3), I passed the seven-mile mark. One of those was a 7.5-miler that was almost entirely trail.
- I didn’t manage to get in any double-digit mileage runs, since I didn’t have any long races to prep for. Whatever my running goal is in 2014, I’d like to crack the ten-mile barrier at least a few times, if not regularly.
- I’m glad I finally decided to give trail running a serious shot. While I still put in most of my miles on the road, I really enjoyed my time in the woods and the meadows and the swamplands. Maybe I’ll set a trail mileage goal for 2014, since I’m hoping to return to the Ohio Outside series in the fall.
Given the rollercoaster we’ve ridden in our house this year, I’m happy that I managed to hit my target, even if it was less ambitious in some respects than what I was shooting for the past few years.
Still: I ran new paths and new roads; I ran a lot of streets that I’ve driven on – or past – for much of my life and saw how different they are on foot; I fell way behind my goal and scraped to make up the miles (this was a big personal hurdle); and I made more than a few spur-of-the-moment turns, not all of which turned out to be wise, but every one of which I’m glad I took.