Monday, September 19, 2011

I was the ugly bearded guy with sunburn and vacuous look in his eyes.

That's how one might describe my appearance at Susquehanna University's Homecoming 2011 this past weekend (September 16-18).

Now, as I'm a story teller I have to start at the beginning. Thursday I left work after the graveyard shift and made sure I had everything packed for my trip the next morning. I still needed to print out some writing pieces to bring just in case I got to participate in an alumni reading. Well, I wanted a bedtime snack (at what's considered traditionally as lunch time) and while gnawing on my last handful of spicy trail mix I noticed my trusty steed had a flat. Not surprising per se because there's all kinds of debris on the ground from the roof replacement debacle at HQ. That turned out to be an omen.

I was frustrated because bedtime was now abolished in favor of getting my flat fixed. In reality, both front tires got replaced. Now, before my trip I not only needed to print out the pieces I wanted to read (and failed to find one) but I also needed to get the lugs retorqued after the first 25 miles. Okay no big deal, I don't REALLY need to be on campus until 4pm.

By the time I was done arguing with my parents' computer I had been awake for over 36 hours, but I got the important stuff done and hit the road for the four to five hour trip to Selinsgrove, PA.

The drive was fine. Now, I'd been aware of flooding along the Susquehanna River throughout the region, but seeing first hand how families were STILL recovering over a week later was an eye opener. West Nanticoke and Shickshinny were gutting their basements filling roll-off dumpsters and piling destroyed items in large masses at the curb.
Flood Aftermath
Ruined Items from flooding
Skid steers were scraping mud like snow removal from parking lots and driveways (PennDOT should be commended for leaving nary a trace of earth on Route 11 so soon after the flood). In Bloomsburg, Fisher's Creek and the mighty Susquehanna both rose to converge upon the causeway which holds the fairgrounds and a neighborhood, opening up the earth and swallowing two homes up to their second floors.
Bloomsburg Damage
A gazebo roof was balanced by Mother Nature against the water side of the railing on the Route 11 bridge over Fisher's Creek. The National Guard was keeping order. I could easily believe the area to be a war zone.

I made it into Selinsgrove with about 15 minutes to spare and immediately set about attending the events I'd signed up for Friday night. There was a bittersweet memorial for a beloved instructor -- long time fixture on campus and following a fantastic off-campus dinner at Hoss's (of my own choice) I was back on school grounds for the ghosts and legends tour. The theme for Homecoming 2011 was Fear (hmm, wonder if it has anything to do with a certain Marvel Comics event or if Fear is a trend this season, like warm hues in fashion...achem I digress).

The tour Friday night was enjoyable but not very scary. Given more investigative time the SU Paranormal Society might have had a more informative and spooky event -- which they made up for with Saturday night's Haunted House -- but I'm getting ahead of myself.

Saturday morning I'd slept in feeling a bit under the weather. Likely the tainted air of the smoking room (I don't smoke and can be easily affected by it)combined with over 48 hours of no sleep the previous two days. Ultimately, that meant by the time I would make the pig roast lunch and catch up with classmates for our 15th reunion I would need to be at my next function, so I went to the Communications Department reception for noon. That was enjoyable as I got to mingle with my beloved former student advisor. The other side of the coin, however were the couples stopping by. I felt some pangs of loneliness.

My beacon of hope and intellect in the sea of uncertainty (my advisor from above) suggested I take in the book reading next on the agenda, which I hadn't originally intended, but she always pointed me in the right direction back in the day so I went and listened, stopping at the 9/11 memorial for that service along the way. (It came out of nowhere, it was listed TBA in all of the fliers. I happened to be in the right place at the right time for it).

There was a little bit of time to add some morsels to my system in order to partake a pain reliever (how did I EVER power-walk that campus 15 years ago? My ankles STILL hurt!) and then it was on to the Writer's Institute reception, where I got the warmest of receptions from the one person I recognized in the room, the department head. Turns out, I was the only author present who never benefited from a writing Major, as the program came into fruition the semester after I graduated. However, those who minored in writing were also invited, hence my being welcomed.

Here's where the other hiccup occurred. The Homecoming parade was scheduled and published to be at 4:30 pm. They ran it early so I missed all of the floats which were supposed to depict horror movies. B'ah!!!

So back ALL THE WAY ACROSS CAMPUS AGAIN for the alumni reading (which I wasn't a part of due to timing constraints which would have precluded me being behind the podium even if I had been able to RSVP sooner -- there's actually more to the story but due to space and time constraints those details aren't important at this time). Regardless I'm still bummed because I like to orate. (obviously right?)

Then, you guessed it 100% back to the opposite end of campus for the alumni dinner, which is winding down as it was concurrent with the alumni reading I'd just left from.

After dinner, back across campus AGAIN for the Haunted House. The Paranormal Club transformed the Chapel for the night. Some I've heard from since have said it was silly or hokey, but that's the nature of these attractions which need to be all ages. Hey, costumes, acting and decorations were all good -- especially the freaky thunderstorm and lightning in the auditorium of the building). I even got surprised by a decoration hanging into the hallway in the dark. That's my measure of a good attraction.

Once more back across the campus for the Badlees concert and one more last time back to the car. I wrote on Facebook I felt as if I watched everything (except the parade *frowns* instead of living it. All in all a bittersweet time overall. One really can't metaphorically go home again. I pined that night tweeting away in my hotel room that I was born too soon (instead of too late as in the old popular song) and wished I was the person I am now back then, things would be so different now. But then I rationalized I'd just get myself into trouble somehow anyway, and basically my feelings of loneliness are what's behind my ruminations anyways. Realizing this, I'm not sure how many future reunions I'll be attending. I've become the dirty old man ogling the women like who we used to make fun of in our younger days. It's very sobering.

So after tallying the scores, the low points outnumber the highs this year, the only thing that's the University's fault is events held concurrently with other events but admittedly there's only so few hours in a day. That's why agendas are drawn and followed by attendees. I just tried too much I think and had high expectations borne from nostalgia.

After checking out of the hotel and psyching myself up to be home and asleep to go back to work on graveyard shift I pointed the van home and made a brief visit atop Shikellamy's profile for some photos.

I navigated the steep decline with no troubles and headed for a bite to eat and pit stop in Danville. As I eased to a stop at the intersection of Routes 11 and 54 the brake pedal suddenly lost pressure and went to the floor, allowing the van to gain momentum and run the red light. THANKFULLY being a Sunday no one else was on the road at that moment. One last let down for the weekend and additional expense on an already pricey adventure.

So I limped all the way home, 200 or so remaining miles without brakes. Yeah, fun. Then, I couldn't sleep once I made it home. That graveyard shift was difficult.

How was YOUR last adventure?

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Our Banner Yet Waves

Never Forget
Two symbols of freedom are represented in this slide. Obviously, the twin towers of the World Trade Center as they appeared on a beautiful May 1991 day. Also, a point belonging to the Statue of Liberty can be seen on the left. That's because this view was photographed from inside Miss Liberty's crown.

This post is my tribute to those victims we lost (I knew two of them).

I wrote the following on October 1, 2001 to get some emotions on paper:

"Our Banner Yet Waves"

I can't believe what just happened today
in a neighborhood that's not far away
This blind hatred for you and me
People running and no one can see

At first I was surprised
at those unfriendly skies
Such a beautiful day
We all had not much to say

Well, it's not Jericho
It's New York dontcha know
Our freedom's at stake
In these terrorists's wake

With Mixed Information
The news washed over the nation
The Twin Towers had fallen
Our great land was balling

We'll never find all who are lost
The loss of life's a high cost
While I know we're all hoping
This great nation is coping

And now our ire's in rage
This man must be put away
For what he did to our friends
Our nightmares will never end

Well, it's not Jericho
It's New York dontcha know
Our freedom's at stake
In these terrorists's wake

Our memories won't fade
of the heroes that day
Whose resolve makes us strong
And Our Banner Yet Waves

--Mark J Osmun revised 9/9/2011