Monday, June 8, 2009

Old Friends (pt. 1)

Like your favorite pair of slippers, which make an accommodation for every bent toe and sore heel and feel perfect as soon as you think about them, seeing old friends again has a very special texture.

You know what needs massaging and what needs attention and can take a deep breath and know that it will be understood immediately. A look, a raised eyebrow, a glance is all it takes.

You agree about the past and it doesn't seem that far away, even if 30-some years have gone by. Just sitting on a ledge behind the fraternity house brings the sound of Ruler typing his last paper - after the graduation ceremony - from his room overlooking the deck. TBG's big brother in a black fishnet V-neck top, blue jeans shorts, black socks and wing tips - Joe College, he thought - is coming up the steps just as he did years ago to celebrate with classmates now far-flung, dead, divorced but with us in that moment.

The years slipped away. We were 20 again, and the world was our oyster. No aneurysms nor aging parents. Just the sounds of laughter and loud music and friendship.

The school is changing, of course. Cranes are everywhere, views are obstructed by new, misplaced buildings, and yet it is exactly the same. The red steel framed Uris Hall is still as awful as it was when it was dedicated and no, it has not become more beautiful as it ages and rusts, despite the architect's promise at graduation that we would love it at our 20th reunion. The brain collection has moved from Stimson Hall, and it really doesn't include Einstein's brain, despite 30 years of rumors promising that it was there. College Town has chain restaurants, Martha Van is half-way deconstructed, the old power plant has fallen into the gorge and yet everything feels just like it did when we arrived on campus in another century.

The grass, to our desert dried starved eyes, is the greenest green and the smell screams SPRING. Of course, this being Ithaca, the temperatures are slowly dropping from a balmy 56 when we awoke to a low of 34 the first night - with a frost warning to boot. Not exactly what I had in mind while packing for a hot and humid summer week far above Cayuga's waters, but not that surprising, either. The Suspension Bridge still shakes when you cross it, and the walk up Libe Slope has certainly not gotten any easier. Downtown Ithaca is still a disappointment, and the townies still sneer at the students, but Hal's Deli still exists and Cornell Dairy still serves the world's best ice cream.

It may be centrally isolated and directions may include go nowhere, then turn left but it's still our favorite place on the planet.

(More on the experience as the week goes on.)

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