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College

Colleges are back. Some have thrown the doors open and some have taken a more moderate approach….half on-line and half “try-not-to-breathe-on-each-other”. Some have thrown in the towel entirely and go full online. It is what it is. Stay safe out there. And if anybody thinks college kids onsite ain’t gonna spread the shit out of this thing in about 6 seconds, you probably didn’t go to college.

Enjoy it now. ‘Cause we’re all gonna be back home soon.

Whatever. I was the class of 1988. Things were a little different back then, and not only because a credit cost $125. Today’s books cost more than yesterday’s class credits.

I was distinctly unmotivated back then. Not by design….it was just that I tended to live inside my own head. I wasn’t much good at anything. Surrounded myself with books and old movies and Sanford and Son re-runs and never worried about what was going on over the next hill. I’d rush home from wherever, desperate to get re-lost inside whatever memoir or novel or history I had put down. I worked a retail job…..lots of hours but no money. Didn’t have a girl. Never felt like I was missing something more important than what I was doing, even if I wasn’t doing much at all. I figured all this was normal. Today we even have a word for all of this. It’s called “immaturity”. Or at the very least crippling social anxiety. But ain’t nobody got time for that now.

marywoodBut summer was ending, and college was an expectation. I knew I’d go, I just didn’t think about it all that much. Or at all. So with a few weeks left I had to choose, and since I didn’t have a driver’s license at the time and could not afford to go away, I chose a college I could walk to. Not driving distance mind you. WALKING distance.

Don’t try this at home, kids.

So that September I’d wake up way too early and cut through Dunmore high school property, about a mile or so away, find the sliced hole in the fence by the football field, enter a large graveyard, and climb up a hill that brought me to the back of the Marywood College campus (upgraded to University status years later). It was like walking as the crow flies. If I followed the streets it would take three times as long. I’d emerge near the old science building, mindful of the dead nun headstones in the front yard. And I’d be dragging the 20+ poundage business textbooks the entire way. Business was the major you chose if you had no idea what to do with your life. So, it’s the major I would chose now if I had to do things all over again.

This plan was bearable in the fall. In the winter, it become problematic, for obvious reasons. And so it came to pass that I showed up for my freshman Management class mid-term exam, only to be stopped at the door because the teacher didn’t recognize me. It wasn’t my fault he had such a poor memory. But I did get to sleep in a lot.

Eventually I’d get my license, but that was largely irrelevant since I didn’t have a car. These days we simply buy our kids cars. Back then? Not so much. I made $3.70 an hour at the drug store, the kind of salary that kept you walking to school. If I asked my dad for money he’d inevitably pull his wallet out and say “You can have whatever is in there..” and after I while I stopped calling his bluff because I realized he was dead serious.

Without a car I didn’t have many options between classes. I could study in the library or…well….come to think of it….I rarely did this.

So I’d nap on one of the student union couches or shoot pool and listen to the jukebox in the cafeteria. “Pink Cadillac” and “Owner of a Lonely Heart” would pour out of the thing incessantly. Interesting how lots of details fade but the music remains. And when the last class of the day was let out, back through the graveyards I’d go, making my way back home. All in all it was a pretty bizarre college life thinking back on it. I don’t think I came out of there with a single new friend…..skulking around campus with a walkman jammed in my ears, too shy to engage despite the 75-25 female to male student ratio at the time. It felt more like an extension of high school.

Did I mention that my walk to school took my past my favorite bar? When I started taking night classes….this became a problem. It’s pretty easy to whistle past a bar at 8am, but 5:30pm? How much time do I have? Maybe just one……I can still make it. And then….well….predicable really. The fact that I was able to graduate on time and with slightly middle of the road grades is still a constant source of wonder to me. I wasn’t intentionally deviant…..just prone to distraction.

And I regret it all. I should have gone away……or at the very least tried to engage. I should have done all the stupid things that college kids do and made all the same mistakes that college kids make….I should have noticed at the very least how beautiful Marywood’s campus was….and tramped through the place like I owned it instead of like I was stealing something.

And some 30+ years later, it’s more stunning than ever. Expanded. New buildings everywhere. Pretty sure that front yard nun graveyard is gone, wherever it is that nun graveyards go when donors dig deep and need the real estate. Along with that slice in the fence by the high school. No more short cuts. If you’re gonna choose a college, ask more serious questions than I did.

All the best to the class of 2024. The one thing you deserve more than anything else is normalcy, and since you ain’t gonna get that here’s hoping for engaging weirdness. At the very least.

In a bit..

–tf

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