Thursday, January 6, 2011

A Brief History of Me in College, aka I Don't Know How I Did Not Die or get Arrested

Ah college.  It's kind of funny because a lot of people don't expect me to be the daredevil type.  My inline hockey commissioner was surprised to know that I had first learned how to skate on aggressive skates by jumping down staircases and grinding ledges (which explains why crashing into shit and blocking shots isn't a big deal for me).  Even though I didn't drink, I had a fairly wild, and often stupid, college existence.

And So it Begins, The First Injury:
Spoiler alert, I didn't almost die, or get arrested on this one, but it was my first introduction to the Canton-Potsdam Hospital.  I played intramural football which was eight on eight, full contact, and without pads.  Now I am 5'10" and 145 pounds, not exactly the ideal build for rugby-type contact.  Surprisingly, my injury did not occurred while I was being hit, but rather while I was making a tackle.

It was kind of stupid because it happened right near the goal line, and it wasn't fourth down so there wasn't a whole lot to be gained by stopping him.  I did what little people do when they have to make a tackle, tried to wrap the legs, but I only succeeded in getting my thumb caught under his foot, bent around backwards, and stepped on.  Instant sprain.  I played the rest of the game until we called it early because another kid on our team hurt his back.  Pussy.  I didn't think anything of the fact that I couldn't grip a football until a few hours later when it swelled up to the size of a pear.

I drove myself to the hospital sometime at night, but the fun thing is, I was only seventeen at the time.  So the hospital needed to call my parents to be allowed to treat me.  The nurse/receptionist chose her words very carefully.  "He's okay...but we have your son here at CP Hospital..."  I think she was somewhat surprised by my mother's response, a tired "what did he do now?"  (That may have been my 7th or so hospital visit in my life.)  They informed me that I sprained it, gave me a temporary wrap-cast that I needed to keep on for a week and a prescription for bullshit pain meds, aka 600mg acetominophen.  Um, why not tell me to take three ibuprofen?

The real fun came during the week.  I had two exams that week, and I couldn't so much as lift a pencil if it required my right thumb, so Student Special Services (note: not Nazis) set me up with a scribe and a location in which to take my exams.  No big deal if they're multiple choice or something, but they were chemistry and calculus.  "Um yeah...draw the little squiggly line thing..."  It actually worked to my advantage because there was a typo on the calc exam that turned some weirdo integration into integrating something like 4x so I basically got ten free points.  I also got the sympathy of the professor since I took the exam on time instead of trying to reschedule.  Score.

The Hamlin-Powers Roof
Has there ever been a time when man has looked at a roof and not said, "I want to be on that roof?"  I do not think so.  When my friend Billings and I met Peter and Michelle, one of the first things we had in common was a desire to get on the roof of our dorm.  the dorm was comprised of twin three story buildings connected by a one and a half story (height-wise) common room in between.  Atop the common room were ladders leading up the side of the dorms.  I should point out that this building was in no way secluded being downhill from the rest of the campus and across a semi-busy street from town.

The way to get on these buildings was by using the overhangs above the two entrances to the center building.  Getting onto those overhangs involved getting a boost from the adjacent windowsill, one of which belonged to the Resident Director, who can only be described as a large angry black woman on a campus that was 90% skinny nerdy white people.  I'm glad I was there to point out how stupid it was to use her window.  Once onto the ledge that hung about ten feet off the ground, it was a relatively easy jump to grab hold of the lip on the top of the center building.  Relatively easy for an athletic guy like myself anyways.

At some point we decided that Peter's girlfriend Michelle should join us.  Michelle was an exceedingly nice girl that, for some reason, was willing to assist us in all our escapades.  Mostly likely out of a desire to make sure we didn't get arrested or die.  Now Michelle is a pretty skinny girl, so we didn't think it would be a huge deal to help her onto the ledge, and then the center building.  Boy was that not true.  The movies make it look so easy, the damsel is hanging off a cliff and then the hero grabs her arm and pulls her up like she's a bag of marshmallows.

 She made a good penis-drawing spotter too

We eventually got Michelle onto the center building where she was only a ladder away, but it took all three of us, and several hands on her butt to get her up there.  Once on the roof, there was a large chimney coming up from the basement laundry room that kept us out of sight.  Sitting against it, and looking out into the lights of downtown Potsdam at night was incredibly peaceful.  I regret not going up there more often as the University has since added a fourth floor and a peaked roof.



Tossing a TV off the Hamlin-Powers Roof
Two of the guys on the floor had their TV die, so we decided that the best course of action was to toss it off the roof.  There is actually video of this, and if you're friends with me on facebook, you can watch it here.  I won't tell you which one I am, just that I'm not engaging in trespassing.  :)


The Plywood Incident
I actually lucked out on this one and avoided the incident, but it's kind of amusing.  Peter, Billings, Michelle, Crawford, our friend Jacob, and Myself had wandered into town to get ice cream or something.  Peter and Jacob, both avid skaters, wanted material to build a ramp out of.  This was when we parted ways since it was cold, I was tired, and I think I still had my cast on.

So Peter and Jacob led the group to a construction site where they just grabbed one of the pieces of plywood and started walking it back to the dorms.  Now Potsdam is a pretty centralized town, so they were walking this giant piece of plywood basically through the busiest street within thirty miles in a town populated by 7,000 residents and another 7,000 college students.  The word "covert" was never in the picture.  Predictably they were stopped by the cops and asked why they were carrying a huge ass piece of plywood through town for no reason.  Apparently "we just found it," wasn't terribly believable, and the cops made them walk it back to the construction site.

Nearly Getting Caught
One night, Billings and I decided to "go roofing" because we could, and because it was actually a pretty sweet place to be.  After sitting up there for a while and taking pictures of town, Billings turned around the chimney to see if the coast was clear.  It was not.  A couple students saw what must have appeared to be a black-clad sketchy-ass figure on the roof and within a minute the RD was outside.  Shit.

Seeing where this was headed, we decided to chance climbing down the ladder, which put us in full view of basically everyone.  We figured we could jump down the ledge side of the building and be off before anyone could make their way through the building to apprehend us.  Not wasting any time, we high tailed it back to my room to hide out for a little while.

A few minutes later my roommate came in.  "Hey, campus safety is outside with the RD, apparently there were some kids on the roof."  Now my roommate was a cool kid, and had been involved with the roofing escapades pretty much since we figured out it was possible to get on the roof.  (He may have assisted with the TV.)  So he already knew what had happened and found it pretty funny.  Billings hung around my room for an hour before going back to his own room, safely.  And there ended getting on the roof.

Or not!  Either later that year, or the following year, we read in the campus police blotter about two students who had gotten caught on the roof, been arrested, and fined.  Glad to have dodged that bullet.


The Sledding Jump of Death and Ass Pain
Remember the penis on the hill pic?  Okay, you're looking at the short and shallow part of the hill.  Further to the right it's about five feet higher and twice as steep.  One wintry evening, we decided to build a ramp at the top of this fifteen foot hill-cliff.  It was about a foot high, and when finished, it was decided I would test it out, being the lightest, and therefore the one who would fly the farthest.  This story can best be told through photos.







Yes that is a pillow, because by the time we were finished I felt like I had been dry humped from behind by the grand canyon.

Bungee Sledding
Being engineers and having unspectacular terrain, there were a few kids that Peter knew that had rigged up a series of bungee cords for added sledding speed.  We used these on the moderate, but relatively unimpressive hill heading down to our dorm.  It wasn't horribly dangerous, aside from the need to bail out before you reached the bottom of the hill and crashed into the building.

Down by the River
Clarkson University is located in Potsdam New York.  You probably haven't heard of the town because it is only about 7,000 people strong.  Even with the two colleges in the area (Clarkson and SUNY Potsdam), the population barely passes 15,000.  Up until 2009, there wasn't even a wal-mart within 30 miles.  Suffice it to say, there isn't much to do...you kind of have to make your own entertainment.

Winding through Potsdam is the Raquette River.  Unimpressive at maybe a hundred feet wide at the most, it nevertheless provided much entertainment for my friends and I.  Beginning in the fall of our freshman year, Billings, Crawford, Jacob, Peter, Michelle, Timmy, and myself would typically head down to the river every Sunday evening. There was a dirt access off one of the country roads that we could maneuver Billings' Jeep pretty far down, and some loosely defined "trails" leading down to a large (think 60' x 20') rock that jutted out over the water, which we called "the burning rock."  We called it that because that's primarily what we did down there, burned things.  Well, that's not entirely true.  We also set off fireworks inside of pudding filled condoms and tried to make draino bombs with bottles of soda.

Probably the most frightening experience was when we had left all our stuff on the burning rock and had gone to explore the nearby woods.  We were probably a few hundred yards upstream when we heard a siren.  We took the siren to mean that the dam was being opened, and we were several hundred feet away from our stuff.  Peter and myself, the fastest of everyone took off down the trail towards the burning rock that was at beast three feet above water level, expecting to be racing torrents of water.  Well anti-climatically nothing happened, but it was scary.  So fuck you.


One day, Billings and I drove down there alone in the middle of the afternoon.  I have no idea why, we were probably just bored.  Well, the water level was fairly low, revealing a bunch of rocks scattered across the river.  I was always curious as to what was on the unexplored far bank, so we decided to rock-hop across.  Well, I'm fairly athletic, and it was tough for me.  Billings, less so, and at one point he ended up coming up short on a jump and dunked himself in the surprisingly swift river.  The water was only abour three feet deep, but with that volume, moving at that speed...it's quite a tug.  Add to that the fact that the bottom of the river was slippery mold-slime-whatever and getting back across became a harrowing trek.  The water made everything more slippery for Mr. Billings, and he ended up dunking himself in the water and nearly getting swept away by the current several more times.  Still, we made it out, and were able to enjoy a wet ride home.  (Ooh baby.)

The Rope Swing
"Hey want to go to the rope swing?!"  "Sure!"  Nevermind that there was still snow on the ground in the shade, and ice on some parts of the river.  The rope swing itself was not that dangerous, even though it was a tattered brown thing with one knot on a pier that was held up by a cinderblock and a pile of rocks beneath one of the supports.  (If I can find the video of this experience, I will post it.)  No the dangerous part was the fact that it was about seventy degrees out and the water was what?  Maybe 45 degrees at best (I really have no idea).

So we rock-paper-scissors decided that Timmy would go first.  Since the water was cold and gross, everyone opted to keep their clothes on.  Because that's a good idea.  I had the good fortune of going last after watching everyone take a tip and subsequently attempt to coax their balls out of hibernation.

Swinging out was fun.  Dropping from fifteen feet was fun.  Going from the warm water to the cold air was like having a corset wrapped around your upper body and instantly shrunk to half size.  The air gets knocked out of your lungs like you've been punched.  It scared the shit out of me, and the fact that it became instantly apparent how horrible of an idea keeping my shoes on had been didn't help either.  I got the fuck out of the water as fast as could and the four of us were done for the day.

Crane Mountain
Going to Crane Mountain in the Adirondack State Park freshman year is one of my fondest memories from college, even though I probably almost got eaten by at least eighteen bears.  I drove Peter, Billings, Michelle, Jacob, and myself (duh), and we met up with Timmy.

Roughly four seconds into the trail, we veered off into the woods to use Billings' grappling hook on some rock faces.  Because that's a good idea.  As we were attempting to scale a ten foot boulder ledge from a vantage point already a good thirty feet above what could be called ground, I decided to wander around for an easier way up.  The goal was to impress everyone by appearing on top of said rock face.  The result was me getting lost on the side of Crane Mountain.



Yelling did nothing, nor did my cell phone because on foot, the Adirondack State Park might as well be Siberia.  So I did what made sense.  I headed up.  I figured we were all heading towards the same place so instead of fucking around trying to find the trail again, I would head towards that place.  So for about a half hour, I wandered through the woods, alone, up Crane mountain until I found the trail a few hundred feet from the top.  I actually managed to beat my friends there without getting eaten by any bears.


Running On Ice
Sometime during my sophomore year, between winter and spring, Peter and I decided to go for a run.  We headed towards the ROTC trails in the woods near campus, but quickly wandered off into the woods.  We had fun splashing though balls freezing cold puddles until we camed over an iced over and marshy part of the Raquette River.  You can see where this is going.

For some reason, running out onto the ice didn't strike either of us as a terrible idea.  At least not until Peter fell in.  It was sudden and comical.  First he was running, then he was wasit deep in water intent on neutering him.  I have no idea how I too did not fall in as I was right behind him and stopped less an a foot short of the edge of the ice.  Luckily before I could figure out how to get him out, he'd pulled himself up onto the ice.  We decided that going inside was probably a good idea.

Wind Skating
Occasionally in New York, you get days where the wind gusts at 40-60 miles per hour.  As many runners can attest, that kind of wind sucks.  It is also awesome.  Peter, Jacob and Myself came up with the idea of using our bedsheets as sails, with two corners tied to our skates, and two held in our hands.

Maybe not the most dangerous activity, until you consider that we were humming around a parking lot at pretty significant speeds with navy blue sheets obscuring our vision.  And, should any part of that sheet get caught in a skate...well...face, meet pavement.

I've broken at least a half a dozen bones in my life, so by now, I know how to fall pretty well.  So instead of being surprised by a sudden plummet, I did it on my own terms...every single run.  Skate, let go, tuck, roll, rub elbows and knees, repeat.  Awesome.


Cheel Ski Jump

I wish I had photos of this, but photographic evidence is damning.  This is a live webcam that looks out into the Cheel parking lot.  That row in the center of the screen?  That's what's important.  At the end of that row there is a grassy mound about six feet high that separated the lot from the road that runs parallel to the dorms you can barely see in the background.  The access to the lot from that road is basically straight down the row to the far right.

So one winter afternoon, Peter, Jacob, and Myself decided to build a ski-jump on that grassy mound.  I don't ski, but I'm pretty much always up for stupid shit, and this was pretty damn stupid.  Now you might notice that the terrain is relatively flat.  Who needs hills when you have a jeep?

It was a multi-person operation.  Two people would stand atop the jump on either side, checking for traffic both ways down the road.  One person would be scouring the parking lot, and another would be driving the jeep, pulling the skier down that center row.  Now in order to avoid crashing into the jump, the jeep had to cut a hard right at the end of the run, then a hard left back down to the road.  In snowy weather...yeah.

And we did this in the middle of the afternoon on a weekday for over an hour.  I have no idea how no one reported us, or how campus safety didn't randomly drive by and catch us in the act.  Furthermore, as you maye have noticed...THERE'S A FUCKING WEBCAM WATCHING THE WHOLE THING.  Unbelievable.


Afterword
All of these happened my first two years of college.  My later years I didn't live near Peter, Jacob, and Timmy, and ended up playing more football than doing daredevil stuff.  Peter and Michelle also broke up and I had always been closer to her than to Peter so I hung out with her a lot.  And I would still do every single one of those again.

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