Home(coming) is where the beer is

“It’s good to be home.” – myself to a friend at Pat’s Pizza this past Saturday at ’round 5 pm.

If you went to college (or a really cool high school), you know about the word Homecoming. It’s a pretty simple theory: people want to return to a place where they spent a favorable portion of time. For most, college is it. I mean, c’mon. You spend four, five or even seven years at an institution based on learning but really, learning is just as much outside the classroom as it is inside. It connects people and helps them figure out who they are, or at least, where they’re starting out the adult part of their life.

I only went to one college, so I’m not sure what other Homecomings are like. This past weekend, I took the drive up 95 and headed to UMaine for a weekend of debauchery, reminiscing and overall tomfoolery. Unfortunately, the rest of everyone that I went to school with forgot to head up and do the same thing. After being at work longer than I wanted Friday and thanks to hard rain that made driving slow going, I didn’t make it up to the great college town of Orono until past 10 pm. I stopped by a fraternity’s brother place – one of the very few that I still know from up there – and we headed into the nightlife, baby, to find our small gang of nare-do-wells that was already out.

For anyone that’s had the pleasure of experiencing UMaine at night, I can sum it up pretty quickly: there’s not a lot to do. It’s a very strange college town in that it seems the school and local authorities aren’t big fans of the traditional college town. I don’t know exactly where it started, but everything seems to center around 1995 when UMaine was supposedly selected by Playboy as one of the top 10 party schools in the country. That didn’t sit too well with the Eastern Maine gang, so they decided to start cracking down on both on-campus and off-campus parties, making the fraternity houses a top target.

Side note: one of the things that burns me every time I read another story of a house shutting down is the overlying assumption that drinking incidents are strictly thanks to Greeks and not a problem for the overall college populus. Fraternities and sororities make easy targets because they’re, well, organizations. It’s easier for people to assume that the problems would simply go away if they go away, right? Wrong. If anything, I feel it’s safer to be drinking with your brothers or sorority sisters because you tend to look out for your own. Even 20-somethings have senses of responsibility that are brought out when the situations call for it. It’s a classic debate between those who joined the Greek system and those that didn’t and my guess is that when my kid’s blog comes out in 2076, he’ll be writing the same thing. Hopefully, he’ll be better at beer die than yours truly but that’ll be for another day….

Back to Friday: around 10:30, we went into to Margarita’s to look for our group. They weren’t there, but apparently a lot of other people decided to not be there as well. This was a running theme throughout the weekend as we saw just a handful of people we knew out and about. Traditionally, these “Holy sh*t! How are you?” moments can make or break a Homecoming and outside of our gang, they just really didn’t happen in the frequency I was looking for. I think the University is now feeling an unforseen side-effect of the afore-mentioned decade-long crackdown: alums don’t want to come back because it just isn’t fun. The annual football game doesn’t have that same emotional draw, because quite simply, they’ve never really grabbed people’s interest like the hockey team. Add in the overall ill will that some have toward the way we were treated while there and voila.

But having said all that, we still had fun. There’s something about Eastern Maine in the fall that brings me right back to some of the best times of my life. No matter how much the powers-that-be tried to corral the cowboys, we all seemed to make it work and I guess that’s really all that matters. We were all in it together. We can’t go back and change history, but we certainly did a good job at killing the brain cells so we couldn’t remember it.

Then again, I do have a few random UMaine memories like the shitty apartments we rented and partied at, the time I got my first criminal offense, the Angelo’s Steak and Cheese special, Gin and Juice, us vs. the Delta Taus, my run at the Maine Campus, the ups and downs of being a Maine Sigma Chi, a haunted Thanksgiving Eve night spent at the haunted fraternity house, oversized glasses and dressing in black, the Ballantine conversation, breaking sinks, planning the first Milleystock, Cult Horror Films class, the Beach Party, high Clyde, drives in the Grand Prix and thinking life was actually stressful, even on those first days of warm weather when a drive up College Avenue was like visiting the Playboy Mansion.

I could ramble about red Hondas being towed away, pasta dinners that were both awful and great at the same time, hanging out in the Stodder Party Room, being walked home drunk from my first formal by my date, the Hive, the Foyer, the House, the Dome, Thriftway, the Studmill, the Plex, the IGA, Talmar Wood, Spotlight Cinemas, Pogo and the bike, Nick punching the glass, Bert and his rims, the intramural softball catch that didn’t happen, Cutler, recruiting those who didn’t want to be recruited, singing Knocking On Heaven’s Door at random hours, skipping class, the yearly poster sale at the Union, Cindy Blodgett, running out of MaineCard funds and friends forgetting the words to a single word song called Mario.

And what about Jennie, Becky, Jen, Penny, Heather, Sara, Cindy, Cynthia, that random Canadian girl, the girl I hung out with for a few hours that suddenly made bus plans to come see me, Shannon the field hockey player, the girl with too much makeup or any other girl that stood out from the thousands that attended during my time. Of course, I can’t leave out Clyde, Milley, Nads, Page, Pazzy, Jorge, Tommy, Matty P., Stan, Scotty, Bill, Mr. Eko, Boof, Bailes, Buns, King, the Haneys, Tony, Dykes, Club Kid and, of course, a guy named Pod. You meet a lot but remember a few.

Guess I remembered more than I thought. Thanks UMaine.

And for those of you that are still a bit hazy on your Black Bear days, here’s one of the funnier emails I ever read: “You Know You Got To UMaine If…” I actually added some when I first got this, marked by Nason Add. Enjoy!

You know how many times the Union steps have been rebuilt.

You think Bananas is a good name for a giant bear.

You have had to attend 3 alcohol-free events and write about them.

You have mistaken Pizza Dome delivery cars for Public Safety.

You have walked frat row in sub zero temperatures.

You drink Mr. Pib and like it.

You know who the Helium Penguin is.

You know more English than your professor does.

You have lost a toe to frostbite walking to class.

You hope eternally for the snow day that never comes.

You think Margaritas is the place to be.

You open your dorm window when it's 12 below because its 120 in your room.

Your RA is gay as hell and proud of it.

You don't remember Bumstock and you don't care.

You personally know a horse rapist.

You consider a coffee in the Oaks room a study session.

You would riot after hockey games but it's too damn cold.

Every frat you used to go to is either shut down or burnt up.

Your landlord is Lou and has a mail order Korean wife.

You take more than your one allotted fruit or dessert.

You then threw the fruit at something because it was free.

Your next door neighbors are computer geek anti-social shut-ins
who never leave their room.

You return your cans to Skeeters so you can accept beer in exchange.

Orloff and 5 O'Clock are your vodkas of choice.

You know that Orloff is bottled in Lewiston, not Russia.

You consider empty liquor bottles legitimate room decorations,
especially if they're filled with highlighted water.

Pizza delivered in stapled paper plates seems normal to you.

What's the student Senate?

You've hidden a green bike.

You've cursed whoever found the green bike you hid so well.

You've gone to Cutler just for the basket-o-condoms.

You wish the golf cart guy would come back.

You know what a "bad mill day" is.

You park illegally because you have to.

You know that at UMaine, it's the "freshman 40" not 15.

You have to walk to York on the weekends and consider it quite a trek.

You like Mondays because the toilets are finally clean again.

You've lost patches of skin to the power showers.

Your janitor spends more time smoking than cleaning.

You've stalked people for their parking space.

You've stayed home just to keep your awesome parking spot.

Your jokes about the elevator falling are only half joking.

The movies on the ROC channel make or break your day.

You've thanked God for the Drunk Bus.

You've walked to Washburn and back trying to pretend
your bag is full of books.

$2.00 Maine card charges piss you off.

You think it is normal when it gets dark at 3:00 pm.

You didn't know we had a radio station.

If you did, you never listen to it.

You haven't bought a CD or movie since you got Direct Connect.

You spend more time putting up away messages than doing things.

You think hockey is the only sport that matters.

You spend two hours per meal in the dining commons.

You hate UNH.

You liked snow before you came here, now you don't.

You buy a Latti pass a week before spring break.

You wonder where the hot girls go from October to May.

You read the Police Beat first everytime you pick up the Maine Campus.

You check First Class 15 times a day.

You shop at Wal-Mart exclusively.

You run into people you know at Wal-Mart.

You can actually escape from the mess
that is the Bangor Mall shopping center.

Proximity determines who your friends are.

Snow removal is a valid reason to tow you.

You have more than $100 in parking tickets and the year is only half over.

You stayed up till 4 am trying to register for classes.

You know you're not a freshman, but beyond that.......

You've puked off your loft.

You hate the fact that the vending machines don't take Maine Cards.

You can tell who freshmen are by the key around their neck.

You've never actually seen President Hoff.

Your Maine Card is in more than one piece,
but you refuse to pay $15 to replace it.

You "almost fought some guy last night."

You only smoke when you drink (too bad that's all the time).

You know the walk of shame.

You buy Milwaukee's Beast for one reason: it's 10.99 for a 30 pack.

You have to shit 45 minutes after eating commons food.

You save your meals for steak and lobster day.

You heckle people from the safety of your fourth floor window.

You brave the Taco Bell line for a tasty quesadilla.

You know that Professor Palmer dates students and loves it.

You've ever lived off Spaghettios for more than a week just to avoid eating at
Stewart Commons.

Nason Adds

You considered a protest when your apartment complex
(Riverplex, Washburn, Park Place) went keg-free.

You figured out Mission Impossible-like ways to sneak
said-kegs inside said-complexes.

You still don't know how to spell Ushusahaia and never bothered to learn.

You know how to make a room full of drunk people go silent
with two simple words: "Public Safety!"

You know at least two people who went to college for more than six years
and got just their bachelor's degree.

You're well-aware of who Cindy Blodgett was.

You remember 'the troughs' and exactly what establishment featured them.

Spending $2 on a pair of movie tickets at Spotlight Cinemas
for a date was perfectily acceptable.

Thanks for reading,

Into The Abyss

While others spent Friday, October 6th watching movies, eating a nice dinner or relaxing, I was putting up banners and moving 10,000 rally flags inside a half-lit arena until 12:30 am. And so, it begins again. “It” being hockey season and ”it” being the combination of emotions that comes along with working in a front office of a professional sports team.

Part of the responsibilities in my new position with the team are to oversee the game presentation department. What’s that? Well, I usually explain as “all of the fun stuff that happens at games.” Think videos, think music, think intermissions. For an organization like ours, it’s a tall task because of the bar that we’ve set for ourselves in five seasons here. Daunting? Yes. Frustrating? Yes. Creative and exhilirating when it works? Absolutely. There’s nothing like that rush you get when an idea you’ve created gets a great reaction. On the flip side, it can be an empty, hollow feeling when something flops miserably. But the show must go on. That’s show biz for you.

Saturday was our Opening Night, the kickoff to the season. It’s like the season premiere of a good TV show as you debut a lot of the cool new stuff you worked on during the offseason, while also bringing back some of the familiarity that makes people remember why they came in the first place. The process of an Opening Night is nerve-wracking and intense. I have never worked as hard and as many hours as I did over the past two months. I paced for almost an hour in our zamboni tunnel, waiting for everything to come together. My mouth was dry and I wasn’t making any sense at times. Friends will say that’s nothing new, but that’s why they’re friends.

Sleepless nights, a few ‘Oh my god’ breakdowns, breakthroughs and breakdowns were all stops along the road to Saturday night. Have you been watching the new NBC show, Studio 60? (If not, you’re missing a great hour of TV. More on this later.) If you are familiar with it, the Matthew Perry character and myself have a lot in common, especially when it comes to ‘The Clock.’ The mental clock in my head has been ticking down to 6:30 pm for months and got a bit more pulse pounding in the 24 hours leading up to the game. What would happen? Would the wheels fall off? Could we make a big night happen? Disaster? Success? I was on an emotional roller coaster to be sure, par for the course when you’re talking about ol’ J.H. Nason.

As I sit in my apartment on a Sunday night, I am happy to report that everything went great. Phew…it’s awesome to say that. No major disasters, a few glitches but overall, a successful October 7th, 2006. 9500 fans seemed to be having a kick-ass time and I’m glad that I was part of it. The staff working for me pushed and pushed and it all came together in a strange, beautful and chaotic way. We kicked off some major initiatives and nothing fell down. No matter where I find myself mentally or physically in the Fall of 2007, I know that we did something special in the Fall of 2006.

Now? 39 more games, seven more games and life getting back to what I consider normal. After talking and planning for so long, I needed that first game to happen just so I could truly grasp the monster that’s in front of me. Monday begins one of those ‘first day of the rest of your life’ deals as I finally get to roll up the sleeves and help us improve where I think we need it. It’s my favorite part of the job and I’m excited to get at it.

I think.

Questions For You:

1 – Any Killers fans out there? Despite what critics are saying, their latest disc “Sam’s Town,” is really good. It’s not as synthesizer-driven as their first CD, but they admitted they were going for something different. I think it’s going to be one of those records that is seen in a better light months down the road. Also, I’m getting into Flyleaf, a female-fronted hard rock band that is starting to make some noise on the alt rock scene. I’m also looking forward to listening to the new Hot Hot Heat and Evanesence releases too. Fall is a good time for everything, including music.

2 – Catch the opening of New Orleans Saints’ first post-Katrina game a few weeks ago? The Green Day/U2 collaboration was awesome. And seriously, who doesn’t want to be Bono for a day?

3 – Anyone looking forward to an announce team of Bryant Gumbel and Chris Collinsworth for the NFL Network games? Yeah, me neither.

4 – I guess that five-game sweep the Yanks pulled off on the Sox in August really made a difference, right? I love the disarray that group of pinstripers constantly find themselves in. Yeah, firing Joe Torre will change everything. I still am shocked that either Detroit or Oakland is going to the World Series. Say what you want about football, but baseball is more parity-driven than the NFL. There hasn’t been a repeat champion since the Yankees in 2000.

5 – When does it become ok to admit that you Tivo Last Call With Carson Daly? Is it now?

6 – Finally, I’ve been checking out some new shows that I’m really liking: Studio 60 and Heroes, both on NBC. Studio 60 is a dramedy about the day-to-day running of an SNL-like show starring Matthew Perry and one of the people that used to be on The West Wing, no coincedence since Aaron Sorkin also writes this show. Long story short, check it out Mondays at 10 pm. It’s awesome. Heroes is right before it and focuses on people that are finding that they might have some powers that are reserved for the comics. This one is a little more complex in the story they’re trying to tell, but I’m liking it so far.

And Lost? Awesome as always.

Thanks for reading,