Sunday, March 22, 2009

Old age and nostalgia

Maybe this is a byproduct of advancing geezerdom, but more and more often, ordinary things have acquired the rosy tinge of bittersweet nostalgia. The latest case in point is my would-be alma mater, Cleveland State University. When I first enrolled there waaaay back when, the school's basketball program had just skyrocketed into the national limelight by first reaching the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament and becoming America's underdog sweetheart du jour, only to come crashing down harder and faster than Satan following his expulsion from Heaven (the God of the Old Testament will ALWAYS be the one I cite -- vengeance is mine, bitches!) due to an astounding double-play of ineptitude courtesy of then-coach Kevin Mackey: first, the program was slapped with an almost infinite variety of violations, and scholarships were banned for what seemed like an eternity; and almost immediately thereafter, coach "McCrackey" was arrested just after leaving a notorious Chester Ave. crackhouse and charged with driving drunk, being all hopped up on the crack cocaine, and attempting to perform sodomy on a statue of General Moses Cleavland. OK, I made the last one up, but it was still an acutely embarrassing slap on the face of an embattled city that was still trying to get over the "Mistake by the Lake" moniker that was bestowed upon it thanks to the Cuyahoga River catching fire and the tumultuous reign of Mayor Dennis "I bankrupted the city and furthermore believe in space aliens, and this unfortunate combination somehow makes me worthy of repeatedly running for the US Presidency" Kucinich.

Now, a few hours after Cleveland State's return to the NCAA Tournament after a 23-year absence came to a whimpering end, I found myself yearning for a glimpse of the ugly collection of scattered utilitarian high-rises on the edges of crack city that made up Cleveland State's not-quite-downtown campus, and fell to remembering "the good old days": being there for the inauguration of the Convocation Center, running down dozens of flights of stairs (I hated elevators even back then) to feed the parking meter on 22nd Avenue between classes, waiting for a chance to use the disgusting pay phones on Fenn Tower because the then-fiancée would cut me off for a week if I didn't check in periodically, feeling like I'd wandered into Antarctica whenever I walked the 24th Avenue building wind tunnel from hell in the dead of winter, waiting in line forever at the understaffed computer lab for my hated Pascal class... it was, as they say, the best of times, and the worst of times.

And yet, embarrassing pussy-tickler mustache student ID photo notwithstanding, I now wish my tortuous, long-winding college path had never strayed from Cleveland State. CSU Vikings, welcome back into the fold o'frustration: Wait 'til next year.

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