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2001-05-23 - 12:13 a.m.

The Flashbacks of Notre Dame

My first Diaryland disclaimer (because I only write for myself, though I love you all – all 18 readers per day average) ...

This entry contains scattered thoughts and random names. There are no explanations. It's a collection of college memories conjured up by a late-night walk around campus, whatever popped into my mind as I passed numerous buildings and landmarks. As a result, it includes some, um, stuff about ... (sex). So for those of you with a clean wholesome image of me you do not want to taint, procede at your own risk. The rest of you be jealous (but don't get your hopes up, because there's not really much – it's like a PG movie, with stuff insinuated and the like). And Heather, you already got the G-rated version e-mailed to you, so it's your choice. Just don't look at me weird.


May 20, 2001

My last sad look down a Notre Dame dorm hallway. Boxes piled along the wall down by one room, an ironing board proped against the opposite wall, a graduate and her parents moving out of Lyons Hall, the rest of the floor quiet, the students and the parents staying the graduation weekend now gone for the most part.

I stood and looked at Notre Dame – my Notre Dame, this place I’ve been connected to for seven years. I wanted to see it all, remember it all, every hidden corner of campus. It all looked so beautiful in the May dusk – everything, from the cars parked on the Lyons basketball courts to the moths darting around like bats in miniature beneath the flood lights, to the streetlamps shimmering on the surface of the lake. The cool night breeze after a long, hot day was reminiscent of August ’94 and every August one after, those first nights – alone and on my own, truly. I wanted to take it all in and later went for a walk, stopping on the steps of Rockne Memorial and gazing down South Quad first, remembering Freshman Orientation scavenger hunt with rommate Matt and girls I no longer know – women I barely knew past that first weekend.

Every sidewalk, every building has a memory and they come flooding back – drunken Currant night in Leanne’s Lyons room, one of my first drunk nights with Bryan and Mia sophomore year, and our walk – Bryan’s crutching – back to North Quad. I hear the footsteps on the sidewalk and remember passing strangers in the night, a hello as we passed, and did I ever see her again? – “God bless you”s from passers by on the sidewalk in hay fever afternoons, a salutation for a sneeze from an anonymous benefactor.

This is Notre Dame.

Pangborn and the night I ran up the ramp and shouted an “Adrian!” for laughs from my friends. Trying to drink for every “Fuck” in Pulp Fiction one night in Dillon and not making it halfway through and then the dip in Stonehenge fountain on the walk home to Grace.

Pangborn, where one Sarah lived and I spent a freshman seminar class looking at her panties as she sat in short skirt that day across from me in the rectangular setup. I asked her to a dance once and was turned down.

The putting green near the Rock and freshman phys. ed. and Coach ... Callhoun? ... and his now-forgotten mantra ... Racquetball inside the Rock ... Section football on the quad ... A throwing session with Joe one sunny day junior year walking over from O’Neill ...

The campus is quiet now, nearly all mine, like in early dawn walks home from Observer offices and the silence of daybreak and lonely dorm window lights ...

Fisher – I went there once.

West Quad – the new – where dorms opened junior year and Bryan and I moved to 324 O’Neill. I later learned the joys of oral pleasure in my second-floor single where Colleen often visited and spent the night. I walk on basketball courts I never played, bathed in the light on what was once the back nine but now houses two women’s dorms with the men’s and these courts and fields.

Back behind O’Neill and up the steps we didn’t use during further construction, past the door we exited during Dec. ’96 – junior year – finals week fire false alarm. That night, I grabbed my new $400 class ring and stepped out into the cold. The next day I left, a goodbye to then-friend Colleen, with the open blouse and lacy bra and potential for the future.

South Dining Hall, where Colleen invited me to the Snowball. The bushes outside the dining hall where I once threw up – no, not that – from eating walnuts baked into sweet chocolate chip cookies, just before sleeping naked, bathed in Calomine lotion for the hives.

I wonder what it’d be like to show Casey around after last night’s phone introduction – just as I daydreamed freshman year of showing Marion and other home friends this beautiful place. Would she understand – could they? Could they see a little bit from my eyes?

Coleman-Morse – new this year, once where the bookstore stood in an ugly building – an improvement to beautiful South Quad, so alive on football weekends, beginning the first Thursday afternoon before with the Dillon Pep Rally. That first game back after graduation, Sept. 1998, I sat on the wall near the South Dining Hall entrance, watching the pep rally unfold, and looking down the sidewalk I see Brad walking over, smiling as we recognize a familiar face. He was on his way back to Chicago from a trip home to Ft. Wayne and just felt a need to stop.

“That’s what I love about Notre Dame,” he said, “I make a random stop on campus, and I see someone I know right away.”

The stained glass of Alumni Hall chapel ... Main Circle, where Randy Kinder said hello in passing and I thought, “Yeah, I know a football player.”

The archway outside DeBartolo, where Jaime and I sat that first visit eight summers ago during June sports camps, driving out with our mothers, staying in old Morris Inn. And DeBart, home to many classes and many hallway smiles. Ahead: the Stadium, where I stood in disbelief of that first home game, the close loss to Michigan that would foreshadow so many – too many – more to come. Then went for Huddle pizza with Kathleen from NJ and her roommate, two people who would no longer be friends that time the next year.

There – that sidewalk between O’Shag and Cushing – I asked Sonia to a dance, sultry, sexy Sonia – and she accepted (though maybe shouldn’t have).

O’Shaughnessy statues and outdoor classes there – spring warmth. A set of those second-floor O’Shag windows where Crowe’s freshman sem class met and Bryan and I became friends with a common frustration and we all complained outside the professor’s prescence. “Are you sad it’s over?” Kathleen from Connecticut asked me in the dining hall in late April ’95. “Kind of,” I told her. “You know, like I was sad when Nixon died.” And then Crowe had us over to her house that Christmastime, for dinner and a movie, and we all felt warm and welcome as the holidays approached and we were so far from home.

The Niewland shortcut from North Dining Hall breakfast to O’Shag/DeBart classes.

Hesburgh Library – the Word of Life – it’s Touchdown Jesus lit up in nighttime luminescence. I stand alone at the foot of the reflecting pool, watching Him shimmer before me. The library east side – old bicycles here for years, a Cape Cod Road Runner, in pink. The Transpo bus stop where Mandy and I hopped a ride to the UP Mall one freshman fall day, my very first visitor from home who never returned to South Bend from Kenyon and I’ve seen little since. She sat in my Grace Hall room that Saturday while I went to see the Stanford game, still naive in the sport of finding extra tickets to sold-out sporting events, and she didn’t mind.

To Knott – where beautiful redheaded Shannon from the Shore lived, one of the first friends I made, beginning in August at the sendoff at one of our local Catholic high schools. Knott, where I first got drunk, dizzy drunk, wobbly-walk-home drunk, nearly-hooking-up-with-random-girl drunk (thwarted by her passing out on the couch after telling me she wanted to kiss me). The walkway an X to the heart of Mod Quad – PE, Knott, Siegfried, PW, Flanner ... Grace – now devoid of the famous towers as dorms but now new offices. Once Vetville here, home to those men married after the war, and once where Chris Miller and I roller bladed one fine April afternoon in 1995, the end of freshman year when I first felt welcome, comfortable, like I belonged.

Outside Grace, my first home, I among the last to call it that, where I met Joe in the Pit while Bryan and I struggled with freshman Calculus before a test. Where the green shamrock Christmas display stayed lit in 308 through the semester into May and earned compliments. And Tim, Tony, Mike, Chris, Rob, Matt, Steve, Sharpy, Tom, Joe and those from 10D sophomore year crew. Where I got that first intriguing call from the Valentine’s Day column sitting alone in 1007 after the big Feb. 14 dinner date with friends.

Where the breakup began ...

Passing P-Dub I invent a new memory, where I meet Katie on her return and stop to tell her of her cheerful smile, the kind of smile that makes you smile just to see it.

That sidewalk there, where I stumbled onto the grass on a return from BP dance and Bryan said, “He’s so drunk he can’t stay on the sidewalk!” before knowing it’s me; when he does, he tells me to go wait in his room for more beer after he walks his date home. That BP dance of setups and spilling the drink on Courtenay’s/Mindy’s/Barb’s/Jen’s/Michelle’s – whomever’s – newly washed white carpet. Farley behind me, where Kelly lived, whom I met on that first football trip to Chicago – Ron Powlus’ big debut in Soldier Field – and spent the ride home talking to, getting to know after going as a stranger the day after my first birthday away from home. The cake Mom had sent to me, which I shared with the few new friends – more people I no longer know – and then went to Keenan party, my first cramped dorm party, dancing on the couch, struggling to like beer (can’t imagine that feeling now).

North Dining Hall and the smell of the back ...

My freshman Grotto walk – past NDH and the ramp I once dove down head first on icy South Bend night – across North Quad between Zahm and Keenan, Stonehenge splashing in the distance, the Dome, the back of Mary rising above the buildings. St. Ed’s and the health center – one trip junior year with Colleen and friend Courtney to those infirmary/convent halls. To Lewis, a Grace sister dorm where Matt and I picked up our scavenger hunt partners, and home to Shannan and Heather and Skalcaholiks’ first campus show.

Off in a corner beneath the Dome I gave Shannan that first kiss – “You won’t go telling stories about me if I try to kiss you?” I asked, referring to another boy she once mentioned. “No,” she whispered, looking up at me ...

Behind the Dome and Basilica the sidewalk begins its descent to the lakes, past Earth Sciences – two classrooms but four classes for me. I pass a couple coming from the Grotto, the woman crying after the last visit, the last night in South Bend. Past the Grotto and on to Saint Mary’s the road goes, where Mandy and I roller bladed on that October visit – the weekend that ended on the 2nd, once an anniversary for me. There’s the hill behind Lewis where you could get some “sledding” – at least sliding – in on winter days and where Shannan and I kissed on the picnic table at the top one night it wasn’t so cold.

Here now before me the Grotto candles flicker. I see my sister’s silhouette on the bench where she and Katie sit and I stay back to let them have their own moment – and I want solitude myself. I lean against a tree at safe distance – the lakes behind me, the bugs around me, peace in front of me.

The memories are too much now, spinning, swirling, swarming so much that I can’t capture them. But I remember my solo visits in new IRISH sweatshirt and that first accompanied trip, with Kathleen from Montclair as friends, then my first prayer after surprise visit to Marion on the field hockey field in North Carolina one November weekend – did the geese honk then? – when I missed the United Limo to O’Hare at Morris Inn and took the South Shore train from the airport. I listened to the Florida State game on the radio, Notre Dame’s early lead, and spoke with a girl in an IRISH jacket as we got off the train in the Loop. I’d recognize her the following August, back on campus to work on the Freshman Orientation edition of The Observer. I bragged of air-conditioned Grace; she lived in old Farley: Liz F.

My first true walk around the lakes – it was with Julie, who’ll be married come June. We made out on the shore and I photographed the view later, one of my most popular prints. And Colleen and I after her Snowball, talking for hours, I wanted a kiss, but then asked for a dance – my O’Neill Mardi Gras – where I got it and so much more.

I could fall asleep right here beneath this tree.

Or Erin – what if I brought Erin here, or Keri – Catholic-school educated Keri? The revived thoughts of showing them my Notre Dame, the approach to the Grotto from the side, keeping it hidden until down the steps, holding hands with interlocked fingers and the “oh-how-beautiful” gasp.

It’s a busy Grotto tonight.

A woman videotapes her last walk up the sidewalk as I head that way toward Corby Hall and the dumpster beneath Father Hesburgh’s longtime room. I could stay longer, but that same Grotto feeling will not come tonight. It will again – not tonight.

On past the Basilica I look at the clock – it’s a fast 40 minutes that’s passed since I last looked, from behind the Dome at 11:45.

Sorin Hall – where I danced on your Quint bar and swung on your porch swing Sophomore Sibs weekend and another time tumbled in the snow by Jesus and found Bryan’s lost keys. The Quint parties where as managers, Julie and I met the others already drunk, and Laura and I became friends with September birthdays, young for our class.

The Main Building porch, where Shannan and I met in November snowstorm I’d just barely beaten coming back from Boston, that road trip with Bryan and Erin H. and Mia for the football game.

The Jesus statue that fell over during freshman year storm, with its new base Colleen didn’t like and she once told me she wore no panties that day – or often, as I learned. Between Zahm and Cavanaugh I remembered Colleen’s freshman year room facing the men’s dorm and making out in front of her open window to make the guys jealous as Sarah McLaughlin played and intensified the turnon. Between BP and Farley, where Grace Path still lives I backtrack a bit to complete my Grace-to-Grotto circuit.

I do pass Katie, near Farley, giving me a last meeting with a familiar face I pass on campus. A fitting end, a fabulous final conversation about nothing beneath the Dome.

Doubling back to Stonehenge, cooled by water, site of Skalcoholics concerts, near the Cavanaugh entrance where I picked Colleen up for Mardi Gras formal and never returned her.

I’m here now at the final stop – LaFortune – where Jaime and I made a first stop on that high school visit and I later spent many late nights in Observer offices cultivating friendships – Matt, Heather, Brad, Michelle, Jamie, Lori, Shannon, Tom, Katie K., Allison among them. Where I arrived back from Easter ’97 surprise trip home with Hale-Bopp in the sky near the Dome and left many times through west side doors into the dark night.

Onto the road around God Quad and the pines, the Sorin statue where I once passed Elisabeth from home and her freshman friends.

I thank you, Father. This is a special place.

This is Notre Dame.

Previous page: Graduation: Fading in the mirror
Next page: Grade school crushes (Or: "Does she know I know she knows I like her?")

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