This past weekend brought me back to one of my favorite institutes of higher learning. A land where students are always smiling, the sun is rarely shining, and there's always a fresh supply of soap in the fountain; York College of Pennsylvania. YCP's a capella group, Rhapsody, where I used to hum my share of jingles, was having its winter concert and it was awesome to see the group perform from the audience for the first time since my first semester at York. I'll definitely get back to the show and whatnot, but I figure I'll start at the beginning of the weekend and work my way up to the concert.
As with any story worth recanting, it all began on the train rumbling towards Penn Station. I sat across from a young mother and her admittedly rather adorable daughter. She kept staring and smiling over at me, accidentally kicking me in the knee, and wanting me to play with her stuffed whale of some sort. Her daughter kind of kept to herself.
Just kidding, it was the daughter who was doing these sort of things and as a result I got to talking with them a little bit, which always helps the time go by a little quicker. Plus, what kind of 22-year-old man isn't secretly dying for an excuse to play with stuffed animals? No one I'd care to meet.
I made the transfer to the Lancaster-bound Amtrak at Penn and found myself sitting behind a group of about six Amish women. I was a little surprised at how loud they were throughout the train ride. I mean, I know it's not like they're nuns or under a vow of silence or anything, so it's not like my jaw was on the floor or anything, but I guess with their conservative dress code and semi-isolated lifestyle I kind of expected their demeanor to be as reserved as their clothing. While they weren't obnoxious by any means, they were anything but reserved and sounded like a bunch of gossiping women trading German/Dutch-accented stories. At one point I heard one of the women call another a "hot dog". The turn of phrase in combination with the thick accent made it quite chuckle worthy and fortunately I was far enough away that I wasn't exposed as an eavesdropper.
Their yakking continued well up until we were leaving the train and even as I met Dennis and Dunn in the train station lobby and the Amish ladies left behind, I commented to them both that they were pretty darn boisterous. Dunn, in his all-too-wise monotone replied, "we noticed." Dunn has this relaxed way of speaking sometimes that is really quite intriguing. He can say something with next to no emotion and still make you feel like he's in tune with something larger than the conversation at hand.
Not to jump ahead in the story too much, but when I returned to Dennis' house on Saturday night, I was about ready to pass out when Theo burst into the room with a hubcap in his hand. Such a suspicious, yet almost expected, sight was the perfect note to hit the sack on and after recounting the uncanny vision to a few through text, I passed out. The next morning, the boys noticed that one of the screens to their doors were knocked out. After spending a minute debating how it could have happened, Dunn spoke up and said, "I know Theo was looking to get...reckless." The whole room kind of got quiet and nodded. No one said anything more about it. That, my friends, is the power of Ryan Dunn.
Anyway, Friday stayed pretty mellow. You could tell it was my second time back because it felt more like truly being back at York. There was no real mad dash to see this person or catch up with another, especially with the Rhapsody concert all but guaranteeing I'd see most everyone at some point. I was able to grab a leisurely bite at a diner with Gloves, Dunn, and Sarah and then casually bounce back to what I'll call "The Beatles House" simply because listing everyone's names would take a while. Brett and I wasted little time jumping into NBA talk, Ben and I about headphones and matters of the heart, and Amber and I snide insults combined with truly supportive words of candor and kindness. A style of rhetoric I feel only a select few can pull off. I talked jazz with this cat I had just met, Will, and got to know this cat Dan Street who seemed like a solid dude. He seemed to really enjoy the style in which I spoke and suggested I get into radio, writing, or some sort of self-help field. Let's face it, statements like that are a good way to make a quick friend out of me.
Later on, a few of us slid down to the bar where I was THRILLED to unexpectedly run into my old freshman dorm-mate, Brendan. Definitely a highlight of the trip. Glad to hear he's about done and faring well. Ran the pool table with Joe Mayes while Jackie and Zach provided some on-point commentary. Not to make their jobs seem too easy, but pretty much all of the games went as follows: Poli gets off to a hot start, pocketing about four balls in a row and inexplicably goes quite cold leaving Joe to clean up his mess. After the pool run I caught up with some surprise faces, hit the dance floor for a spell and headed for my designated couch at Dennis' digs.
On Saturday I saw some of the same faces as Zappy was kind enough to extend the invite for me to check out his new domicile of Springetsbury (spelling?). Great spot. Nice to meet his family and housemate, John, who let me rub his snake. Take from that what you will.
With that it was concert time. I grabbed a row with the Czar, dear Sharnell, and the Sultan of Seeds himself, Greg Sullivan. The theme this semester was "Stereotypes" a theme I tossed out via text very much in jest many months ago. Imagine my shock when the theme was actually selected after it taking four years to win the majority over on the power of large hats. At first mention, I considered Stereotypes a pretty dangerous theme, but it was really quite tame, mercifully. With a few favorites of mine being Luke's "Villain" and Justin Rivera's "Redneck". The concert really FLEW by. I mean, I don't know if that's because there were less songs being sung, if there wasn't some blowhard president talking between songs, or if it just goes that quickly from an audience member's perspective. I was really floored at the quality of the tunes and everyone except Jaci did wonderful. I really couldn't pick a favorite if I wanted to, there was so much talent on the stage. However, I will give one quick acknowledgement to Doug Feeney for his work on "Bring Me To Life" I know from experience with that solo that's it's really fun the first couple of times you do it and then kind of a pain in the butt to muster such anger-fueled intensity time and time again. He did great work. As did the rest of the group. If I spent the time complimenting every little thing I liked, you'd be reading all day, so I'll spare you.
Just before intermission of the show, I was speaking with Sharnell and Amber about how in my time in Rhapsody, I really only remember one person keeping the money they won from the 50/50 money. I mentioned that I wanted to give the raffle a shot, but if I did win I'd have a REALLY hard time giving up the money so selflessly. I didn't want to be "that guy" especially "former member that guy" if that makes any sense, yet I eventually decided to just go for it and I bought a single a ticket while those ahead of me and behind bought bunches of five and ten tickets. Naturally, I was under the impression that my internal debate over my mini-morality crisis would be all for naught anyway. Nonetheless, me being me, I talked a big game and asked Sharnell if she wanted to see the winning ticket. She played along as only she could and we had a good time with it, wishing Amber weren't sitting in between us. As the ticket was about to be called, the gravity of the situation set in and I mentioned to Amber to brace herself if I won this. Either she or Sharnell then said, "just don't hit anybody." I laughed and almost missed the beginning of the number. Jaci appeared to call the numbers in slow motion as it was one of the few moments where you caught a glimpse of the uniformity of the universe and how you are but a section of a fingernail of the cosmos. Every now and again you get a cognisant glimpse of the universal being and this was one of those times as the final number was called and I realized I had won the drawing.
In hindsight, it's not like a did cartwheels or anything, but I got a little too excited about 34 dollars, but I just think winning a raffle can be cooler than the prize itself. In one of my less philanthropic moments, I took the money and a cookie from Renee. Carly was kind enough to mention my name to the crowd and they, in addition to the group on stage, gave me a nice ovation to return to my seat to. It was moving. Not like a tears well up kind of moving, mind you, but it was a warming moment.
After the show, I walked back to Brett's house with Amber and we started warming up for the Rhapsody communion. I implored Ben Scott to inject our ears with the Talking Heads and he obliged, much to everyone's (I hope) delight. Doug seemed especially excited for the music choice and after talking with him about the group for a bit, I encouraged him to "get involved" with more of their tunes. Apparently my budding buzz was causing me to channel my inner Thomas Wolfe. Doug seemed to dig the phrase and I, obviously, didn't care one way or the other.
On the walk over to the Rhapsody party, Amber warned me that at some point "Ants Marching" would have to be sung. I kind of expected as much and was neither looking forward to nor dreading the experience. I think overall I was excited at the prospect. Singing with Rhapsody in any context is always super fun, but I did expect to at least ease into the part first. I'm literally in the party for no more than 40 seconds when all of the sudden Amber and Carly are grabbing my arms and pulling me over to the group. Apparently it was showtime and a good time at that. Great to meet new members and catch up with my friends. Isolated stories from the night, but nothing worth troubling you about. On my way out, I signed Justin Rivera's face which, surprisingly, given how often the opportunity came up over the year we spent together, was a first. I feel bad about it, but I wanted him to know I cared. In a twisted way, mission accomplished. Back to Dennis', enter reckless Theo, and you're all caught up.
The next day, Amber was kind enough to have me in tow for her work commute to Harrisburg, dropping me at the station. Even though we left before the sun had risen, I can honestly say that commutes with the Czar are always memorable as even when the sun is down she finds a way to light up a room, or in this case, a vehicle. Okay that's a lie, Amber tends to be more of a cloud than a sunbeam, but nonetheless it was a great time hitting the road with her vibing about this and that. Now, maybe this was the sleep deprivation setting in, but in her cup holder, Amber had this charmingly small orange juice container and I couldn't get enough of it. It was the kind of carton that you give to like a five-year-old for lunch time complete was attached straw (not on that one, but typically.) For some reason, I was smitten with it. Now I realize that most of you (including Amber should she read this) are thinking to yourself, "Good Lord, Poli, it's just a damn juice box. Do you have to be so weird about everything you observe?" To an extent you're right and I apologize, but like I said, I was running on very little sleep and something about the image of Amber sitting in the faculty lounge sipping on her little straw really tickled a chord with me.
After I basically saved our lived by pointing out a "one way" street sign, we got to the train station without much incident and I headed inside after saying goodbye and thanks. I was Philly-bound to visit the Kernel Denny Basens and boarded out of the 'burg. Regrettably no sign of any hot dog Amish, but there was one thing of note that took place on the train.
I boarded the train with my jacket on. This other cat, who was wearing an Easter-yellow (if that's a color) polo with blue jeans and sneakers. He decided to sit next to me. Now, on the surface of things, there's nothing about that which seems peculiar in any way. Except, dear friends, I was wearing the exact same outfit underneath my jacket and that train was heating up quick.
Even now some of you are wondering what the big deal is and five years ago I would be amongst you wondering what the big deal was. However, that all changed one brisk autumn evening of my freshman year of college when Steve Murillo and I went to pick up a pizza. Steve and I both had the same York sweatshirt and happened to be wearing them at the same time when we were going to pick up the pie. He said that one of us should probably change. I was semi in a rush and didn't see what the big deal was and despite his appeals to reason, I stubbornly said not to worry about it and he relented and we left. Together. Matching. Walking down Jackson.
Not since my junior year of high school when I said the Chicago White Sox would win 2 of the next 5 World Series have I eaten my words so thoroughly. We were greeted with many an "aww" from girls and some jibes of varying friendliness from dudes. The whole time Steve was justifiably saying that he told me this would happen and we had to walk back to the dorm separately to avoid the same treatment on the return trip. I can't remember misreading a social situation worse than that in my entire life and to this day I apologize to Steve for a moment of embarrassment that was 110 percent all my fault.
Well anyway, back on the train I know the moment of truth is coming as this train car is really getting warm. Finally, I cave and take off my coat and there we sit, next to each other. Matching to the T. Fortunately the world doesn't implode, but lo and behold, after about five minutes this guy takes out a grey sweatshirt and puts it on. I know in my heart that wasn't coincidence and I wanted to say something like "I'm sorry it got too hot" but I never quite had the guts. In our hearts, we knew.
Spending time with Denny and his family was a good time. We spent most of the time playing basketball and catching up with our very particular brand of humor. The Basenses were very kind and his mother shared my passion for brushing our teeth frequently throughout the day. It was nice to meet a kindred spirit of dental hygiene. I also got to know Denny's new nephew, Devon, spending most of his day nibbling away on his own fingers. I gave him what advice I could about life and basketball and his big ol' eyes seemed to be very appreciative. Great time with Denny and in York. Thanks to all who made it special.
Song of the Day: Flower In The Sun-Janis Joplin
Jazz Song of the Day: I've Got My Love To Keep Me Warm-Billie Holiday