Sunday, February 18, 2007

pioneer valley days...

Dateline: Shrewsbury...

The coffee is brewing and I'm underslept. Fortunately today's Sunday and that's easily remedied.

Spent a fine yesterday afternoon in Amherst, or, more specifically, on campus. Starting point, of course, at the campus center (why not, it's next to the parking garage), where, through all the bustle on a typically busy day, I could have... and probably should have... pitched a tent in some corner for all the time spent over the four-plus years I was matriculated.

So little has changed and yet it's somehow different; a next-generation/alternative universe vibe, or something.

The Coffee Shop is now *gag* "The Pita Pit" (somebody apparently having overdosed on 90210 or something); the University Store is now jizzed up with the most recent and now unremarkable "UMass" logo. I wanted to get a maroon sweatshirt reading "Massachusetts" across the front but it was all "UMass" or "UMass Amherst" wear, and I was made to remember a letter to the Daily Collegian I had published freshman year when I argued the school, as was "Virginia" or "Michigan," say, should be referred to as "Massachusetts" and not be dismissed with the more facile "UMass," while encouraging its bastardized "party school" appelation "Zoo-Mass."

And we can all see how well that flew, eh?

The Blue Wall's still there. Back in the day, they went back and forth from being an ice cream flinger to a friday nite beer banger. I suppose that corresponded to the drinking age slinkying between 18 and 21. The doors were open but the establishment was closed as was most of the campus, such that I wondered if the school was not in session. It was, but more people go away on the weekends here than I seem to remember.

I took the escalator down to the basement level, an area where I recall watching entirely too much television. Basken will be pleased to know The Collegian's offices are still there, right across from my favorite of favored haunts, the insularly intimate studios of WMUA radio. I am pleased to report that not a thing has changed there; wall2wall & ceiling2floor stacks of record albums, and I do mean vinyl -- still there. I have had strange and wonderous dreams about this place, haven for my solace.

I made the acquaintance of a radio showhost and his daughter, Mitch & Jen; the two just finishing their Saturday afternoon polka program, one with which he'd been regular since when I was still doing news and sports there -- in the 80s ferchryeye. Curiously, I didn't remember him. Lovely people though.

I wandered to the Student Union. Nearly everything and every office was unchanged. The Hatch was still the Hatch. The billiard room, arts and crafts, etc., were still what they were. Oh, the video arcade had a completely different inventory of machines than as I had once subsidized. (Sigh, how I do miss my Asteroids.)

Upstairs, the credit union was moved, but the Student Union Ballroom, where I saw speak, among many, Alger Hiss and Tip O'Neill, and particularly a memorable debate between Phyllis Schaffley and then NOW president Judy Goldsmith, was still there. The Cape Cod lounge, a favorite study & snooze haunt, was still there; the mini-store, and the Earthfoods, where I learned I could eat macro-biotically and not die from hunger or boredom.

Hunh! Never thought I'd be wistful for hairy-legged Earthbabes in birkenstocks and nose-rings. Oh, to be young again now that spring is . . . a month away.

I wandered outside. There was Machmer, just like it useta be. But then I didn't really expect the buildings themselves to change much. Machmer was my most frequented as it contained the Communications department, my preferred (and degreed, thank you very much) course of study. Heading south, there was Thompson Hall, where, Naahm will be interested, I took a semester of Con Law, dubbed "Civil Liberties." Still have the book of cases: Griswald v. Connecticut, Mapp v. Ohio, Bowers v. Hardwick, Marbury v. Madison, etc.

Walked into Goodell Library. Oh, did I tell you yet, the buildings were closed and the campus was nearly deserted? The only real disappointment. If it wasn't for the weather, I'd've thought it was summer for all the quietude. Anyway, Goodell was closed but it was unlocked. And so I went in. I have fond memories of Goodell. Where a certain sweet someone and I found a discreet quiet area for a little... oh, uhm... nevermind! Suffice it to say I made friends on campus.

Back outside, there was South College, where all the band geeks practiced; Bartlett, where I enjoyed my Lit and English classes; Herter, where I flunked many a French class. Boyden gym in the distance and the more recently named Garber Field, where the nat'l runner-up lacrosse team was having a practice (Come to think of it, along with the football team it's looking these days like we're always a bridesmaid and never a bride); Curry Hicks, and its immortal "The Cage," where the hoop teams (anybody remember a man named Julius Erving?) played before they built the Mullins Center, and where I tried out for the freshman baseball team back in spring '81 and didn't make the cut.

Erg! Whitmore, the admin building. Where I begged, borrowed and stole from various bureaucratic sorts, where I set a record for giving away highlighters while dressed as a ROTC cadet, and where, while I think of my days in ROTC, off the roof of which I rappelled.

I wandered past Whitmore and down the hill. There was the ROTC building. How many anecdotes do I have in there, I wondered. I deliberated going in to check, but turned around instead and headed back to the Campus Center. (Sorry, SouthWesties, I was Orchard Hill.)

Megan had returned my call. I had phoned her earlier to see if she was up for a late afternoon drink. She was. Sweet!

I drove to Northampton and we met outside Fitzwilly's. I knew the place well, having worked there for all of two weeks in '87 as a host. I was doing okay but then the powers-that-be brought in some newly minted and overzealous assistant manager barely removed from delivering papers, who, with his style of micro-management, got up my wazoo, ergo the shortened tenure. Stuff happens. Still a great hangout.

When Meg arrived, we deliberated our options and decided to go over to Wiggins Tavern in the Hotel Northampton. We shared a terrific bottle of Cabernet, some stuffed mushrooms and a shrimp cocktail (note to non-New Englanders: the best seafood in the world is reserved for the natives). She added a salad while I had the Lobster Bisque. And as the Paul Simon song goes, we laughed about some old times (though we drank ourselves no beers), still crazy after all these years.

Later that evening, Meg went home and I popped in to Fitzy's. What the heck, it was only 9 o'clock and it was Saturday night.

And, my, but the women get younger and more beautiful every year here.

1 comment:

Naahm Deplume said...

Ah, the memories. Is Vinnie Bevilaqua still in the ComStu dept.? Could never one-up him.

Fitzwilly's Yes, Long Island Iced Teas (too many actually) and the Spanish Sisters (with whom nothing salacious happened, unfortunately). But good memories nonethless.

Next time you plan that road trip, I gotta go too.