The Sentimentality Lane or Bust Saga

As stated in Mallrats (1995), Kevin Smith as Silent Bob and referencing Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, “Adventure, excitement… a Jedi craves not these things.”

I.  The Last Time

For the first time in a long time–so it feels–I got out of Syracuse.  It was a last minute decision, a plan that was made less than a week in advance, but it worked to every one’s liking.  When I say everyone, I am speaking of me, myself, I, and Zach. 

It has been a few years since my last encounter with Zach.  The last time I visited him, Mr. Parrish was living in a wishy-washy apartment in Walton, working for a less-than-humble radio station in a subsection of The Middle of Nowhere where amber waves of grass swayed like hippies in an open field, listening to the sound of nothing or whatever was playing in their head.  That was to simply overcome the basic idea of nothing. 

That weekend I had visited, stopping by the radio station, Zach was in full control of each of the two or three stations, running from room-to-room, cuing commercials and bringing back the broadcasts for the country and local sports programs.  Aside my talking to him, Zach was on target, timing everything perfectly for flawless radio listeners.

Essentially, Zach was too talented for the job.

To touch upon redundancy, I first met Zach in the latter part of my college years.  I believe the setting was a creative writing class with Prof. Walker, the same class Erick A. and I were almost kicked out of the first day… for talking.  Walker made some snippy comment about having something important to share, degrading Erick and I to our elementary school years; although we had grown up separately, we felt–at that moment–we had known each other for our entire lives. 

However, Zach, decorated with Unsane and punk T-shirts atop giant’s-foot-appropriate boot-cut jeans, flared out wider than the base of a Christmas tree, tinseled with hanging chains around his hip, stood out like a sore thumb.  He encompassed one of my groups of friends from high school into one person.  Walker, the elderly woman she was, swinging from the rope of retirement over a pond of Social Security and Pension bliss, probably judged the hell out of him; she was a bit of a hag when she wanted to be. 

Yet, the kid wore a smile all the time; the guy still does.  His light eyes read that of innocence and honesty still glimmer.  His words step rationally, thoughts float concretely.

Stating the fact that Zach is a talker, is putting it lightly.  That’s his job, his personality, and defines him as one of the most interesting people to speak and listen to.  Some individuals have something to say about everything, often defining that person in a negative light.  Zach has something to say about everything, but that is because of his being worldly and educated, and what he says is objective and pertinent.

Plus, who can dislike an individual who does impersonations?

II.  Going South

I hopped onto Route 81 South for the first half of my trip to Oneonta.  The nostalgia in my head slowly fell over me, encasing my body from my head to my shoulders and eventually to my toes.  Eventually the feeling was so overwhelming that my mouth was severely dry and the excess sensation was dripping off my fingertips and making my feet clammy.  Then I realized how hot the car was getting, and this convinced me to turn on the air conditioning.  Everything quickly returned to a comfortable level.

As always, I stopped off at Exit 6 for some Dunkin’ Donuts.  The crazy guy from May 19th was working, the day my family took the trip to Yankee Stadium, but he was subdued.  I got my coffee with breakfast sandwich before heading back out, to Route 88 East.

The thought of me being ready for this popped into my head.  I’ve been back to Oneonta once since 2006, which was a brief visit to the College Camp a couple years ago, and visiting Zach in Walton before we traveled to Oneonta so I could catch up with my old roommates and friends:  Ross, Cliff and Leanna, Rooney, Mike, Meg and Gilly, Sarah H., and the trifecta of Barnett and Rusty and Ricky.  The list could go on, especially with mentioning the return of Ryan C.

Ryan’s appearance made one thing very clear to me:  this was supposed to happen.  One of the many slight occurrences that make you wonder about certainty, debating for or against coincidence.  On 81 South, this past Saturday, I was driving behind a Brooks’ House of Bar-B-Q van.

Instantly, I eased up.  Yes, this is a path I am supposed to take.  This trip will do me good, will do Zach good.  This trip will most likely mess me up for the better, because I’m going to tap in on my past, thinking of all the times I screwed up and all the times I missed out and all the times I was a fantastic human being.  All this nonsense and glory will ball up and will be expelled into the sky just to explode into a grand finale of sparkle and amazement, raining down upon those around, witnessing.

I just wondered what I would expect once I reached the city that is Oneonta.

III.  All the While…

A soundtrack is probably one of the most valuable components of a road trip.  There are no constants, but experimental variables to shape your mood and decisions on what you want to hear.  Sure, there will be some albums you’ll really want to listen to; once the album is over, there is usually the desire for something else. 

A couple weeks ago, Jeff and I went to see Michael Franti & Spearhead open up for Steve Winwood.  Aside the show being absolutely fantastic, we had a great accompaniment of music to guide us on our way to and from Canandaigua. 

We had the opportunity to indulge and enjoy:

Morphine – Cure for Pain
Rosanne Cash – The List
Mumford and Sons – Sigh No More
Tom Waits – The Heart of Saturday Night
The Tragically Hip – In Between Evolution

Jeff, before we had left, told me to grab some decent music.  Cash’s and Hip’s albums were his, and they were fine choices to throw in the loop.  However, we would have been screwed if we did not bring as many discs as we had.  There would have been repeats, and undertone frustration of hearing the album for a second time. 

That’s why man(kind) created a SHUFFLE option on the iPod Classic.  I have 7,000+ songs to go through. If I could not find anything to satisfy my interest, than life would essentially be a lost cause.  It would be pathetic.  However, I somehow lucked out with the artificial intelligence of my iPod, shuffling songs that took me back to college and before.  The machine was actually on target for once, and I couldn’t have been happier.  I didn’t skip anything, which is a first in itself.  While listening to music on lunch today, the iPod’s decision making was lousy and my relief pitcher was turning the damned thing off. 

If I could create a play list of songs that were played (and I did!):

Muddy Waters – “Louisiana Blues” (Ryan C.)
Deftones – “Engine No. 9”  (KT L.)
Saves the Day – “At Your Funeral” (Billy D.)
The Black Crowes – “Walk, Believer, Walk” (Rooney)
Nevermore – “The River Dragon Has Come” (Scuddz)
Good Charlotte – “Little Things” (Ed J.)
Atreyu – “Someone’s Standing on My Chest” (Matt G.)
Beck – “Que Onda Guero” (Ross)
Howlin’ Wolf – “Smokestack Lightnin'” (Ryan C.)
Jackson Browne – “Running on Empty” (Becky R.)
Paul Butterfield Blues Band – “Nut Popper #1” (Ryan C.)
Jack Johnson – “Staple It Together” (Mike)
Genesis – “No Reply at All” (Cliff)
Led Zeppelin – “Trampled Under Foot” (Dan M. for his freshman year dance routine)
The Mighty Mighty Bosstones – “You Gotta Go!” (Mike)
A3 – “Woke Up This Morning” (Devika and the rest of our The Sopranos watching group)
Senses Fail – “One Eight Seven” (Keefe)

Of course, there was a plethora of songs to follow, so I am not going to go down the list to save time.  I’m sure you get the picture. 

However, riding in the car by yourself is one of the only moments–if it isn’t the only–where you can truly be yourself.  You can talk to yourself, you can use vulgar language at other drivers while slowing your speech and enunciating every syllable, and you can sing as loud and as terribly as you want.

Everybody else is doing it.

IV.  To the Left, To the Left

To get onto 88 East, you have to essentially keep making lefts.  So, begins the second half of the journey.

We can turn the record over, continuing our saga on the other side.

The first half of 88 is similar to the first leg of the trip.  It leaves you shaking your head, wishing you took route 206 instead.  There is more scenery with 206, and it’s shorter; however, it feels that way.  Note to self, you say/think, take 206 on the way home.  Bainbridge, Coventry, Triangle, and Greene:  all beautiful little nooks of New York’s southern region. 

The highway is just tedious, and I think we all agree.  Your bones and joints start to ache even though one has only been driving for less than two hours.  You suddenly start to lose your mind, transitioning into a sober Raoul Duke.  You want to pull off to the side of the road, but just had moments before and you are almost at your destination.  You try to convince yourself, but you don’t.  You can’t stop.  It’s bat country:  bats in the belfry country, that is.

Then you hit Walton and Sydney.  You’re almost there!  Finally!  Exits 13 through 15 are right up the street!

Then flat tire.

I’m just kidding, but that would make the trip that much more interesting. 

Knock on wood.

V.  Oneonta:  “Down on Main Street…”

The first place of distinction I passed was once called The Silver Bullet Saloon.  It used to be the place everyone wanted to get into, and it was the place everyone tried to get into:  success or to no avail.  The foyer was decorated with ID’s, some faked and most not featuring their last owner.  The Silver Bullet was, also, the bar you wanted to save for last due to it’s being the most expensive.  The goal was to be able to have at least one drink there, because of the order of dominoes predicting the course of the night:  pre-shower pregame, in-shower pregame, dorm room pregame, first party, second party, third party (optional), random bars until approved or ID was taken away, and finally a hand at The Silver Bullet or a comparable bar in a college town near you. 

There you have it, folks:  the weekend of an underage college student.  Simple and sadistic.

I, of course, never did such a thing.

Wink.

However, when you could officially get into The Bullet, you started to show your age.  You would laugh at all the underage kids being turned away, or leer at the ones who got in, boasting of their efforts.  It’s the truth.  The only underagers you cared about getting in were the ones who were moments from their 21st and haven’t hit it yet.  They were the fish you were struggling to reel in.  For example:  my spending time with Keefe on his 21st birthday, since I was one of the only few who could take him out.  It was Superbowl Sunday February 6, 2005; the Patriots defeated the Eagles; and Paul McCartney was playing the halftime show.  Needless to say, I made sure he got back safely to Hulbert, and not walking down along the Cow Path, into the abyss of nighttime shadows.

You’ve always had Freddy’s though.  In the words of Sal from Impractical Jokers:  “They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder… In your case:  Yikes.”

Continuing on Main Street, my thoughts started pouring.  There was the Salvation Army where I got my #1 Dad shirt (for myself); it has been retired since, thankfully.  The Autumn Cafe and The Sego Cafe and Wine Bar still standing their ground.  Mama Nina’s displays a new front.  The Old Spanish Tavern (OST) is still a top favorite, stationed proudly with the same aging sign:  like a fine wine, so they say.  The Downtown Deli is still next door.  The Novelty Lounge still looks diseased.

Spiraling around, passing Rail Benders (nee:  The Rail) and looping past the former Deuce dance club, Stella Luna Ristaurante still looked delicious from the outside.  Following the trail:  The Fox precedes Today’s. 

Surprisingly, there were people out and about, enjoying time in the city to make it less than a ghost town.  I was very tempted to have a J.D. daydream segue, imagining a good ol’ fashioned shoot-out. The fake bum, The Guitar Guy, who really was/is a professor at Hartwick (was he not?) could provide the background music.  However, I would prefer some ragtime piano.

Yet a lasting moment was had with the parking garage:  the lovely bus stop where the OPT would bring us back to campus.

I had to venture around the old stomping grounds, which were few.  A few feet from the painted Hartwick wall, I arrived at 40 West, and the bile in my innards curdled.  The knots of disgust and distaste flared up violently, perfectly fitting the grand finale of the destruction of the end of college life as I knew it.  Nothing good came from that apartment; its gray coating was an opaque shell, showing you the tepid historical attitude of the house’s guts. 

But when one travels west, they must return east:  59 East Street.  The white exterior was the counterpart of the West Street abode.  The sun seemed to shine as I passed by to snap a picture.  The two lower apartments were homes of two separate groups of friends, two groups whose individuals intertwined paths on campus.  When it came to Saturday nights:  Mary, Meghan, Andrea, Coop and the rest of the swimmers gang occupied the front while Matt and Degraw occupied the back, bringing in people for the best parties I had ever gone to in college.  I was able to bring my own beer when I wanted to and no one touched it.

The same faces showed up week after week, which was beneficial for everyone:  crowd control.  There were the occasional wannabes, coming in and thinking they ran the place, but they were sifted out by choice or by the majority.  There was no question where this group was going to be, and a good handful of us helped clean up that night and the following morning.  It was all based on respect, because we were lucky to have such a place.

Matt lived in that apartment for three years.  The handmade, folding pong table and bar (Transformers ain’t got shit on that bar) was utilized to its fullest potential. There were Halloween, toga, and marker parties. There were cookouts and games.  There was loud music.  Everything for a measly $5.  The extra semester I stayed at Oneonta, he was still there, but it felt like the third installment of a movie series:  the hype will be huge and the anticipation proves nail biting, but it just wasn’t the same.  There were many new faces overtaking the familiar ones, and the parties were broken up significantly more.  The captain went down with the ship til graduation.

VI.  Oneonta:  Campus

The campus, since 2006, has been revamped!  Zach and I agreed with wishing they had upgraded that significantly when we were attending school there.  The facade of Littell Hall is amazing, but that was done a few years back.  I had the opportunity to show Bill the picture when I visited Schenectady.  However, I posted a picture of it since this past weekend.  Ian, Ed, Caroline, Bill, Dan, Devika, Brianna, John, and other Ed amongst others:  please enjoy.  The place definitely looks more livable.  Golding, Tobey, and Wilber have gone under the knife, too.  Littell:  the home of new beginnings, whipped cream pie fights, water balloon shennanigans to short circuit the front door’s key pad, and a sleepwalk scenario out of the building while carrying random buckets (but we can blame it on the vodka).  I didn’t have my card, and Bill wasn’t around.  I called Ed J. to let me in.

The atmosphere didn’t feel the same, but it wasn’t a terrible difference.  I felt similar to my high school days, looking at the campus for its potential; however, there was more understanding while walking around.  Instead of wondering if I made a good decision; I was confident that I had made a great decision.  SUNY Oneonta was/is a great school.  I made great friendships.  I learned from making great mistakes aside my hitting the books. 

What if I did end up going to Paul Smiths College?  Aside my love for the Adirondacks, I probably would have gone stir crazy due to location and proximity to the closest town.  However, the benefits would have been great.  I would have been less distracted, and probably would have attained a 4.0.  I would have gotten into winter sports easily.  I would have definitely been more likely to grow a beard and attained Mountain Man status:  Yukon Cornelius of the ADK.  I would have been close to North Pole (NY), where Christmas is 24/7, and I could reach into Santa’s grab bag to magically find gifts, saving time and effort.  Ultimately, I would have been more in tune and relaxed.  However, traveling would have been a little more of a trip and sketchy in the winter months; I wouldn’t have been home as often as I was in Oneonta. 

Oneonta offered a boat load of more drama, which is just as healthy.  The earlier you make mistakes, the ever thankful you will be down the road.

Although, I love the Catskill region, complimenting its beauty, Paul Smith’s campus was remarkably more beautiful. 

I wish there was an app for life that would light up all of your footsteps that you’ve taken, and you had the option for panning out.  It would be similar to Google Maps, switching from a street view to satellite.  Through the gymnasium where we played intramural volleyball and into the dance studio where my partner, Amanda, and I were king and queen of the Cha-cha-cha, but I had a seemingly hard time with the waltz.  Across the street sits the field house where Goldfinger and Big Blue Monkey (now they’re Story of the Year) played, starting off the night of craziness with mosh pits, yielding bumps and bruises, to my making a mess.

Ask Bill and Harrington about that.

Yet, if you walk out the opposite door of the studio, you’ll step into the quad, where Wiffleball games and many-a-classes were held.  Of course, this has been only the start of the tour.  The education classrooms where Turits and Campbell let the list of favorites and Stearns barely held onto the bottom slot.  If life was young adult literature, she’d be the antagonist you’d love to hate.  I must say, I took away a lot more information than I wanted to from her classes.  I’ll give her that. Schwarzenegger and I accepted and approved Carr’s method of teaching, taking two consecutive classes in the spring and summer semesters.  Carr griped about how he had to put up with the two of us again, and promising to take us out for drinks; this was especially true for St. Patrick’s Day–he said, “Malone! That’s an Irish name, isn’t it?”–when he said Eric could come, too, even if his obviously lengthy last name proved his being not-so-Irish.

Carr never took us out.

It was that same summer where I learned the backbone of literature, comparing movies and books.  I found out that media, as dissimilar as they may be, have the same innards, awarding me a fantastic score on my thesis.  That summer of 2003, I thrived off of Dinty Moore Beef Stew.  I have not consumed it since.  This is similar to the Friendly’s incident, resulting in my never eating Friendly’s ice cream since:  I asked for mint chocolate chip and the scooper gave me Heavenly Hash.  Granted, I love Heavenly Hash, but it’s still nowhere near mint chocolate chip.

VII.  Zach.

Yes, the period after his name was on purpose.

I made it to Zach’s abode in minutes flat, and we greeted each other with a bear hug.  It had been a while, these last three years.  I took a tour of the apartment, clean as always and decorated eclectically, but not overwhelming eclectic.  I saw his prized beauties:  his guitars, and they are fine pieces of equipment.  We saddled up in the Sub, and we ventured out to Ommegang and Cooperstown Brewing Company. 

In between the stops–yes, the driving aspect–the road was sugarcoated with conversation and Nirvana, Bob Dylan, Sepultura, and many other artists playing in the background.  They literally fit in the back seat and played live.  Max Cavalera is the best GPS navigator ever. “Riiiight! Make-a riiiiiight!” 

In other news, our first stop:  Ommegang.  The last time I was there had been 2005:  a month under seven years too long.  We each enjoyed an Art of Darkness, which was absolutely delicious.  Zach had the opportunity to stumble upon a group of guys he graduated high school from, which made the trip that much more interesting.  The guys were hitting up the breweries while a baby shower was taking place. 

Meanwhile, I got to meet new people, which I cannot complain about. 

We got the opportunity to mosey around the store, looking for swag.  I, having some affinity for flags, was looking at one with the Ommegang emblem.  The growlers, as interesting as they were, did not strike me for $35 unfilled.  They were definitely fancy, but maybe this will be a purchase for next time.  After all, I really do love their beer.  It’s worth it.  Zach ended up purchasing a long sleeve, and I grabbed an eight-pack of glorious grog.

Our next stop:  Cooperstown Brewing Company.  I’m going to be honest:  the place came across as haphazard, like the storage closet in Ommegang’s basement.  It looked worse than the last time I was there.  Also, they ran out of their stout and did not have any growlers.  The tour, however, was much better.  Jerry Garcia, I will call him.  Jerry did a better job than the tool who gave the first tour, the same kid–tie in, everyone!–who explained to me how he went to Hartwick, which made him better than me.  It wouldn’t have annoyed me, but he kept bringing it up.

In my head, the scene of me laughing with him played out.  I then proceeded to grab him by the shirt collar and slam his head into the counter numerous times.  Tony Soprano ain’t got nothin’ on me.

At least Jerry went into detail, included Zach and I in conversation instead of rambling on for himself.  Jerry showed us the entire process, which we pretty much knew of already, but it was more involved.  The mechanical process, the bottling, was explained in further detail and the two of us were able to examine the guts of the line.

Although, I left without a growler, homemade root beer is always the best.  High fructose corn syrup?  If it is that long of a name, we obviously don’t need it.

Food was the next debate:  Brooks’ or pizza?  I volleyed the idea for the barbecue joint due to not having it for the longest time.  When we got there, the line wasn’t out the door, but it was long enough for the two of us to gain an appetite.  Zach went with a burger, and I opted for the pulled pork.  Mouthwatering deliciousness.  For dessert, we picked up a case of Yeungling and headed to Zach’s for debauchery. 

In short, because this entry is already long, the conversation flowed.  Music:  Red Fang and Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats.  Poetry:  Beasts and Violins by Caleb Barber and Love is a Dog from Hell by Charles Bukowski.  Web:  Tales of Mere Existance by Lev Yilmaz.  Video games:  Dead Space and Dead Space 2.  Web:  Dead Space death sequences.  Women/Relationships:  missed opportunities, love lost, love gained, and love down the road.  Television:  my new favorite show is Portlandia

The rapid-fire dialogue was covered from two in the afternoon, Saturday, to two in the morning, Sunday.  We had to cut it short, due to Father’s Day being the following day, and my having to drive back home.  Zach and I hugged it out, promising to not let let this much time pass again before we hang out.

VIII.  Sunday Morning

The sun was gleaming brighter than usual upon my awakening.

After I left Zach’s, I filled up my car’s tank before filling up my tank.  I called my mom, like a good son, to let her know I was on my way, but had stopped downtown Oneonta to grab a quick bite and admire the Once Was

Four years ago, a coffee shop opened up, but I found that out when I walked into the unfamiliar cafe.  I opted for a large dark-roasted coffee, black, and a sausage/egg/cheese breakfast sandwich on a croissant.  It was a generously-sized sandwich, and the coffee was delicious.  However, I was still “hungry.” 

Look, Mama Nina’s doors stuck out like welcoming arms.  I stupidly asked if they still did cold cheese pizza, and the guy replied with a yes.  The slice came with a pound of freshly shredded mozzarella cheese, and I topped off the portion with parm, greens, and pepper flakes. 

Go big for the ride home. 

Needless to say, I forgot how much cheese they put on that pizza.  Please reference the picture in the latest Facebook album.  No wonder we flocked to get those slices after last call.

Yet, the pizza never tasted so amazing.

Route 206 made a beautiful ride home.

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