Thursday, November 17, 2005

Coming Home: The Return to Syracuse

(Keep checking as pictures taken by me will be added to this blog early next week)

To those who read The Pizza Parlor that don't know and those who read The Pizza Parlor that forget (including myself sometimes), I am a proud graduate of Syracuse University. I graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Speech Communication, now called Communications and Rhetorical Studies (looks better on a resume). I am using this degree specifically, to write a blog on my lunch break of my Accounts Payable job to entertain my friends. I haven't submitted this information to the Alumni magazine yet.

About a month ago, Coach told me that his fiancee Stacey was receiving the Young Alumni of the Year Award from Syracuse University (her blog must be REALLY good) and she was being presented the award on the football field during the pregame ceremonies of the Syracuse-South Florida game. After going back almost every week to see my sister twirl baton as the school's "Orange Girl", listening to the undergrads in front of us talk about her ass in a leotard, my dad talk about how great the Carrier Dome was and my mom talk about how many times she dropped the baton compared to the week before, needless to say I had dreamed of going back to SU with friends for a while and this was a great opportunity.

I took the day off Friday and declared war on a cold I had gotten the week prior to my arrival (Cold Eeze Drops + Nyquil + OJ + Cran Juice + A glass of water an hour). I also stayed in all week to make sure I was in "college drinking shape". When I arrived at the University Sheraton (more on this later), I was about 85% there, list me as probable, matter of fact list me as "fuck yeah, I'm drinking".

I arrived at the Sheraton around 6 Friday night. Coach and Stacey had an Alumni Awards Dinner to attend and Greco, my roommate for the weekend, wasn't arriving for another 2 hours. Now the Sheraton was key this weekend as it is located right on Syracuse's campus, a block away from SU's "Marshall Street" District where SU's bars are located (since Konrad's was closed two years ago, none of the bars are actually on Marshall Street). This means I didn't have to drive a mile. Usually I have to cut myself off at least a half hour before departure if I want to get home alive. If i start too early, drinks of water are necessary. But this weekend I can get as plastered as I want, stumble home and get to my bed consequence-free. As you can tell I thought about this A LOT.

Greco, Coach and Stacey (In July she becomes Mrs. Coach, everyone will have a blog name by 2007, I promise) all have the same idea for our Friday night hangout: Faegan's. Faegan's is your typical yuppie bar. About 50 beers available, at least 25 on tap including Amstel Light :o) -. My friend Scott was the DJ there for two years and played 80's rock, stoner music, some Top 40, very little hip-hop, and no techno. As you can guess the clientele is 99.9% White and the counter is filled wall to wall with credit cards that parents are paying for.

The bar is small and is packed with people trying to get out of other people's way, breaking fire code by 100 people easy and people ducking,bobbing and weaving to find their way to the bar. To tell you the truth this was the first "Welcome Back to Syracuse" moment of the weekend. It was kind of charming and nostalgic at first, then of course we just wanted accessible beer. Any Homecoming weekend is going to be filled with encounters with old acquaintences. I was at 6 to 1 to have an awkward conversation with one of my one-night stands from back in the day, her husband, and one year old. This fortunately never happened. We did run into Erin O'Connell, a pretty blonde girl who always enjoyed hanging out with us, but enjoyed dating football players even more and Barry Seigil, a former fraternity brother of mine, who almost single-handedly ruined the weekend with his constant name-throwing (e.g. " you still talk to...[insert fraternity brother i barely got along with during college and don't talk to now here]...what's he doing??") I don't think this point can be made strongly enough in print. But think about it after everything you read hereafter, he almost ruined the weekend by himself.

We left and had late-night breakfast at Cosmo's (my favorite diner Doc's Little Gem required driving which we were in no shape to do). I got their Eggs Benedict, it was topped with Cheez Whiz, I wanted someone arrested. This whole University is debating the Iraq War, the First Amendment, and the influence of Strict Constitutionalist Judges on future Abortion and Civil Rights cases, and they are letting a restaurant on their campus serve Eggs Benedict with FUCKING CHEEZ WHIZ?!?!?! I want to organize a rally, give me some flourescent paper and a stapler immediately.

Saturday is the Syracuse-South Florida football game. Remember my Ohio State blog about how great Ohio State football is and how great of a football town Columbus is. Well Syracuse is pretty much the opposite. Words can not describe how much Syracuse football sucks. But numbers can: 1-7. Last year Syracuse fired Paul Pasqualoni and his pro-style option offense and hired longtime NFL and college assistant Greg Robinson. Robinson is from the Bill Walsh-Mike Shanahan school of coaching and runs a West Coast Offense (the step-drop, timing pattern, pass-oriented offense perfected by the San Francisco 49ers, that's where the name comes from, and later my Denver Broncos). The problem is that he is trying to implement his offense on players recruited to run Pasqualoni's Option offense and needless to say they are not getting it and nobody fears SU's passing offense, making halfway talented RB Damien Rhodes ineffective. There is a plan in place, unfortunately winning one game in 2005 is part of it.

So South Florida, a school that has had football for nine years, with a linebacker named Josh Balloon, is up 13-0 at halftime. The highlight of the game was halftime when Syracuse retired its famed '44' jersey, given to its special Running Backs (Jim Brown, Floyd Little, and Heisman Trophy Winner Ernie Davis) and Rob Konrad. The ceremony is a reminder of the great history of Syracuse football and pains the crowd even more to see this year's joke of a team. To summarize our enjoyment of watching this team, we had fifth row fifty yard line seats...and we left at halftime. We missed nothing... Final Score: South Florida 27, Syracuse 0.

About the only 'landmark' I enjoy in Syracuse is the Dinosaur Barbeque. A poorly lit, pit-barbeque restaurant that achieved a reputation from the constant slew of bike riders from across the country that frequent it. They market their own sauces, the waitresses curse, blues music plays and everyone is full when they leave. I get the traditional sampler (1/4 chicken, 1/4 rack of ribs, beef brisket, french fries, and chili). The waitress is super friendly, calling everyone "sweetie", "doll", or "honey" everytime she asks if we want something. Instead of splitting up the overpay $1.80 each, we put it in on top of the gratuity to send her home very happy. Greco hands her the tab, with a little "There's something extra in there for you honey" violating rule #342 of singlehood: Don't hit on anybody working for tips.

In between dinner and drinks, Coach and I watch Rocky III in the hotel room. Even I notice how horrible the acting is in the Rocky-Adrian argument on the beach scene is (“Whatuwantmetosay, I’m afwaid! For the first time in my life, I’m afwaid!” “It’s okay to be afraid!”) and how gay the Apollo-Rocky frolic in the water is but I would never turn away even for a second. III and IV are by far my favorite Rocky movies.

On Saturday night, ten years came full circle as we spent the night at Hungry Charley’s (affectionately known as Chuck’s). When I was a freshman, Chuck’s was the only 18+ bar in Syracuse. Anyone older than 21 avoided the place like the plague. So of course you know what that meant. Underage drinking was never easier. 10 freshmen would get together and go with one person having a good ID, and buying pitchers for everyone. Bouncers would walk around useless as to enforce underage drinking laws would mean killing 99% of the business the bar did. Cops would raid occasionally and people would dump their beer on the ground and pretend to play pool or cards. It was a truly wretched place, your feet stuck to the floor, the beer was usually flat, you drank off tables with carvings that said things like “Lisa’s a Slut”, they had no liquor license so the girls had to drink Boone’s wine. This said, I have nothing but fond memories of Chuck’s. This version of Chuck’s opened upstairs from the original, and I assume condemned Chuck’s, at the old Sutter’s location (Sutter’s closed before my time). It is now a spacious bar with tons of TVs, pretty much the ideal college bar, and the pitchers and wood carved tables were brought up from the original. A group of about eight of us, sat around two tables playing “asshole” and drinking pitchers of Miller Lite and felt 18 again.

After Chuck’s we stopped at Cosmo’s again and ate pizza, cheese fries, and egg sandwiches, drank milkshakes and finished everything off with a Toasted Honey Bun Sundae. I commented that this is how those 700 pound people that need to have walls removed to get out of their house get that way. I have never ate so much food in one weekend.

The next morning I visited some of the places I used to live at Syracuse. 920 Ackerman (the house I had the most fun), 730 Livingston (the house where I got the most ass), and Brewster/Boland hall (the dorm where it all began). As if the drinking, the football, the food, and the friends didn’t drive the point home, standing between Brewster and Boland hall I realized you can come home again.



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