Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Summer of '94 Take 3 (Finally!)

Ok, back to the summer of '94, finally. I realize talking about college days exactly ten years later may seem unnecessarily nostalgic, but given the recent frequency of contact with the people from that era (weddings, 30th birthdays, coincidents, etc.), it seemed appropriate to reminisce about that period of time -- it was one of the best years of my life thus far for sundry reasons.

That said, a quick recap: it was determined Dave Tohill and I would move just down the street to 215 College Avenue into Lilly Shapiro and Colleen Craig's apartment. Our lease at 139 College Avenue wasn't up until the end of May, so I lived there for a few weeks after school was out, and Catie moved in with me for those few weeks, since she was still living in a dorm and needed to move out at the end of the school year (she was a Freshman at the time).

I believe it was around this time that Elisa was also coming to visit not infrequently -- I remember one day that she, Jacob Millard, and Dave Tohill watched the solar eclipse together on our roof and talking about it. It was also around this time that my housemates' band, Gus (later became Guster), was opening for one of my favorite bands of all time, Live, at some college auditorium in New Hampshire, so Catie, Mike Carcamo, and I drove up together to see them -- it was a fantastic show!

Once we were done with classes, we did our annual jaunt to Cape Cod, to Chatham (right on the elbow, on the Atlantic side), at my freshman year roommate's, John Kolb's, house, to celebrate the end of school and beginning of summer. Only this year, Catie joined the crew with me.

There are many a stories to tell about the times in Chatham and the angels of mayhem, John Kolb, John McKenna, Peter Jefferies, and Alex Muller. I must say, I really lucked out when it came to my freshman year roommate. John Kolb is one of the most intelligent guys I've met thus far, usually mild-mannered, albeit with one hitch: ADD and hyperactivity. When he and the others didn't take their Ritalin, it was immediately apparent -- mind you, they were a somewhat mischievous crowd: they'd all gone to boarding schools. But, without that Ritalin, it was truly bordering on insanity. Hilarious, however. See Exhibit A below:

John Kolb, John McKenna, and Peter Jefferies in a moment of typical hilarity

Being in their company caused constant belly-aches from all of the laughing -- I didn't need a TV the entire time they were near. One of the best memories I have with them is freshman year, during the spring term. Pete Jefferies had just returned from South Carolina where he was during Spring Break, and he came into our room with his signature mischievous smirk. Without a word, he motioned to us to follow him, so we follow him all the way out to his car. He pops his trunk open, and it is filled literally to the brim with fireworks. We were instantly like children at a candy store, gleefully giggling with mischief.

So, we take a small batch back to our room and begin shooting off bottle rockets out of our window (of course!). Sure enough, campus police showed within minutes -- by this time, we were familiar with each other, and the police simply said: "listen. We have to tell you to stop, because if we don't, we get in trouble. Plus, once the Somerville Police show up, you can be in a lot of trouble yourselves." Normally, for sane people, this would signal the end of that. Not for this crew.

This only prompted the crew to begin using the fireworks INDOORS. The dorm building we lived in, South Hall, was a brand new dorm, and we were the first people that resided in this dorm -- we'd already done our share of "breaking in" the dorm, but this one has left a permanent mark. Not only did we move the fireworks indoors, we went bigger, finalizing in a Roman Candle duct taped to one of the stairwell rungs. Ah, youth. Needless to say, Chatham was pretty much the same type of mayhem, only even more space and even less supervision.

It was also during this time in late May I unilaterally decided (as Catie insists to this day) it wouldn't be a good idea for us to live together at 215 College. I will say, it is likely because she and I were working together already, catering for Tufts events at Fletcher (the picture of her and me at the way beginning of this blog is from then). So came the end of May, and Catie had found a place to live from June 1st on. Because I was the last one to move out of 139 College, Catie and I took full advantage of this fact...

I should note here that not a day passed at 139 College without a belly full of laughter as well, and moving day was no exception. The one instance in particular I remember involves Jake Sherman (who just got married two weekends ago with his girlfriend since that era, Shawna Wakefield). I should mention that in that house of eight, Jake Sherman was likely the calmest and most down-to-earth (some may argue that, given the motley crew, that really isn't saying much).

As I mentioned before, the house was on a roundabout, and on moving day, Neil Foster had parked his notorious navy Saab 900 up front to load his car. Jake Sherman, not wanting to carry the futon frame down the steep front steps, decided that he could roll the frame on its side, down the steps and claims to this day he had calculated it precisely so that it would fall to its side, at the bottom of the stairs on the sidewalk. HOWEVER (of course!), under our hushed gaze, the futon frame executed its rolls beautifully and promptly slammed right into Neil's Saab, full tilt and corner first, thereby leaving its (deep) mark permanently on Neil's car. This in of itself was hilarious, but the expression on Jake's face was priceless.

Also on this roundabout...I'd returned home one day giddy as heck about the burrito I'd just gotten that I was going to devour. Noticing that many of the house members were on the front porch, I decided to park my car in front of the house. I happily jumped up the stairs ready to bite into my burrito, when Neil gave me a quick look and dared: "How many times do you think you can go around Powderhouse Circle in one minute?"

Naively, I took on the challenge and jumped right back into my car, and commenced to screech around the circle as quickly as I could. Several laps later and still spinning, I park the car and run back up to the porch, ready to dare Neil back...only to discover my housemates laughing so hard, they were barely able to keep from snarfing up my burrito they'd just scarfed down. Bastards. But clever bastards.

I could go on and on with stories (most famed among them is the "Upper Tank" debacle, which I'll have to save for another day), but I won't. At least, not in this post. So, to move on...

So came the end of May, and I move into 215 College. I don't really want to harp on old wounds, so I will say that the relationship between Catie and me soured relatively abruptly in June. What made the break-up somewhat awkward was that Catie and I would run into each other at some of the most unlikely of places -- we ran into each other at that year's Lollapalooza in Providence, where millions were in attendance; and then again for the Fourth of July, at the Hatch Shell on the Charles (I will say, this is one of the nicer Fourth of July annual events I've seen -- John Williams and the Boston Pops performed there then), where millions were also in attendance. Although my closest friends were gone for the summer, thankfully, I'd already begun working as a carpenter with Tom Kaplan-Maxfield, which allowed me to have a place to take my mind off of things for one and someone much wiser than I to talk with for two.

Then arrived Sydney.

Now it needs mentioning that practically every guy I knew at Tufts at one point or another had a crush on (ok, we weren't in high school any more, so I should say...maybe "fancied"?) either Colleen Craig or Lilly Shapiro. Both beautiful girls, and both in Sarabande, the dance group. So, it wasn't exactly a surprise that Sydney, Lilly's little sister, who was spending the summer in Boston to go to theater school, was absolutely beautiful as well (not surprisingly, she was modeling in her hometown, Miami) -- basically identical to Lilly, except slightly slimmer and with strawberry blonde hair.

I don't really remember our first encounter, but I do remember her being very quiet, at least at first. Because she had just arrived in Boston and didn't have too any friends yet, I'd invited her out to see Gus at the Paradise one night, where I knew a lot of my friends would be.

According to Sydney (or, as I used to call her, Syd), I'd made a rock-star entrance at the Paradise, greeting everyone there. But the fact is that Tufts isn't that big of a school, I'd been there for three years, and the members of Gus were friends of mine, so it only made sense that I would know practically everyone there. What was revealing, however, was the fact that Sydney felt that I only knew women, and was busy hugging all the women.

Admittedly, I was more openly physically affectionate in college than I have been since -- years of professionalism conditioned into my behavior. But obviously, there was a tinge of jealousy/envy there, since I'd been completely hands-off with Sydney since her arrival -- she was my housemate and my housemate's little sister, after all.

That said, I will make it explicitly clear that I never had intercourse with Sydney, despite the presumptions all of my friends have made, and continue to grill me for (e.g., "Hey Masa, have you ever been in the capitol of Australia?"). Bastards. I will say that she was a good companion to keep my spirits up, and she was very well read (we would talk about Anais Nin, Ferlinghetti, Sartre, Camus, et al.). Despite her level of sophistication, at heart, she was a sweetheart, and we did shower each other with small gifts fairly frequently. I should also note that she was incredibly candid, and was one of the first women in my life at that point that made me realize how blatantly clueless I was when it came to rules of attraction...but my cluelessness with attraction will be reserved for another day, another post, likely under the title: "Missed Opportunities."

Now, as silly as it may seem in retrospect, she and I were conscientious about keeping it under the wraps from Lilly -- she would often sleep in my bed by me, but wake in time to return to hers, etc. Of course, Lilly knew the entire time, and when I did fess up to her several months later, she gave me the: "like I didn't know" laugh, thanked me for telling her anyway, and ended with saying that I was sweet to her and she was thankful to me for it. As a matter of fact, she was working at Country Road on Newbury that summer, and at the end of the summer, she'd given me a nice shirt from there "for taking care of Sydney." Sydney seemed discontent about it, since it apparently made her feel as though I was babysitting her the entire time, but nevertheless...

I should also add that, one of the least diplomatic slip-up's I've had to date occurred toward the end of that summer, when Mrs. Shapiro had came to visit. Mrs. Shapiro thanked me for having taken such good care of Sydney, and without thinking, in a sort of a reactionary response, I replied: "Oh, no, no, it was a pleasure." Jake Sherman, who was in the living room with us, had to run out of the living room because he was busting out laughing, as I realized what I'd just said -- thankfully (I don't think) Mrs. Shapiro read too much into it. A few weeks later, it was time for Sydney's departure, and I'd taken her to Logan, and waited with her for her flight by her gate. As she was about to board the plane, I gave her a hug, and to my surprise, she gave me a big kiss -- an old lady who witnessed this gave me a funny smile, and just like that, Sydney was gone.

In other aspects of that summer, I must say, of all the odd-jobs I had through college, and even including the past near decade of working professionally, carpentry was the most satisfying work I have done. There is something so gratifying about working with your hands, laboring in the sun, getting splinters and just getting filthy dirty from sweat, dust, and the occasional blood while building things that people will live in and use for years to come.

That summer, we demo'd and rebuilt an entire second floor of a house, built and roofed a garage, and built a deck for another house. I learned a lot about building and all the tools involved, under the constant barrage of jokes by Tom Kaplan-Maxfield and his friend (I forget his name now...), both of whom were significantly older than me, and getting a kick out of stories about Catie and then Sydney. However, there was one instance when the jokes did stop for a day -- I was putting down some floor boards on the deck while Tom's friend was roofing the deck.

There is a sort of a music and a rhythm to building when everything is going smoothly, the nail guns going off, the compressor pressurizing, boards being placed, and so forth. I was standing pretty much right under Tom's friend, when it seemed there was an inordinate length of silence. I felt a stare from above and so I look up, when I notice Tom's friend looking down at me in some wonderment, and finally musters to ask: "are you alright?" Not sure what he meant, I responded with: "uh, yeah, sure -- why?" It turned out he'd misfired his nail gun right above me, and had shot a nail right in my direction. Hearing this, I looked down, and sure enough, noticed a huge gash on my belt buckle, and the said nail buried in the board by my right foot. At which point I decided it was a good time to take a break. For the rest of the day.

So that was the summer of '94. I should say, the remainder of the year was a great one as well, what with the first semester of the senior year beginning, along with my paid internship at Lotus Development, in their Usability Lab -- Mary Beth Butler had seen the presentation of the results from my internship at GTE Laboratories in the prior semester, wherein our team determined the effects of a prototype's fidelity on the nature and quantity of usability data attained during usability testing -- she was very much impressed, and had offered me to begin working there.

But since this post has gotten ridiculously lengthy, I will leave the remainder of '94 to another post...

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