Saturday, August 31, 2013


One of my favorite videos by my favorite internet person, Jenna Marbles, is this lovely gem entitled "What Are This?". While "what are this" is applied quite nicely in Jenna's dog-related iteration of the phrase, today showed me the true reason that these words were ever strung together.

Throughout this first encounter of the student body with the new Notre Dame Stadium seating policy, three little words kept returning to my mind. Notre Dame...what ARE this?

The first "what are this" moment of my general admission adventure came around lunchtime, when I realized that I have no idea how to spend my time when I don't have friends who are contractually obligated by a $300 ticket booklet to hang out with me. At least in theory, this is a pretty great perk of the new ticket system. You aren't assigned specific people to sit with, so you can sit with as many people from your various friend groups as you want. Diversity!

When it's noon on gameday and you're alone in your room furiously chopping the sleeves off your The Shirt to beat the August heat/achieve maximum rain-on-skin surface area, however, the freedom to spend your time with whomever you choose is slightly overwhelming. For the Folk Choir, this "what are this" conundrum was compounded by the our entrapment in the Keenan-Stanford chapel all morning for a 4- and 5-figure-donor mass.

(With regards to this infuriating morning's activity, FC's resident class president emeritus put it best: "I would feel a lot better about singing for you people if your names were on a building.")

I eventually solved my who-to-hang-out-with problem by texting everyone in my phone book until I landed on someone with a similar desire to hit up the one tailgate we knew about and head into the stadium before all "what-are-this" hell broke loose.

We made it to said tailgate, ran into everyone we had ever met, and ate some baked goods, and before you knew it, it was time to meet up with the girls I had arranged to walk into the stadium with. A few detours and incorrect gates later, we were in - and into a tiny, tiny space.

As per always with Notre Dame, we had wandered in in a giant group, and the 5 or so of us who remained when we spotted friends in row 37 all squeezed into a stretch of bench designed for approximately two 13-year-olds. This complete lack of organization and actual "seat"-ing was "what are this" enough in itself, but before long, the feeling grew as a group of impossibly tall, unspeakably drunk guys stumble-forced their way into the aisle behind our row.

Though this seating phenomenon never fails to drive me insane, it's far from unusual for people to pop into the between-rows space to briefly chat with friends before finishing the trek up to their seats. These gentlemen, however, barely knew anyone in about a 5-row radius of us. One of my friends had been close with one of them early on in freshman year, and another had been in class with some of the guys, but essentially, these were strangers. And they didn't pop in to say hi - they popped in to stand there. Permanently.

In the absence of assigned seat numbers, these giants had taken it upon themselves to create seats for themselves in the six-inch space between two rows of not-drunk-enough-for-this girls who, like, sing in choirs and stuff. Two of the three most conspicuous offenders eventually wandered off to the more intoxicated waters of the upper rows, but the third - Drunk Tommy - was determined to make this non-seat his permanent place in the stadium. Occasionally, he'd shove his Hawaiian-shirted way onto an actual seat, only to make us all (against all odds) even more uncomfortable.

Drunk Tommy: everyone's favorite seat buddy

Shortly after my friends and I returned from a brief trip to the concessions area for a break from the madness of the senior section and to search for the backstage seating that - spoiler alert - no longer exists, Drunk Tommy stumbled back out of our row for a bathroom break or second round of hip-flask-chaser buying or something, and all in the vicinity of his now-recaptured seat was well. 

...For a while. Sometime just before the One Direction number in the band's halftime show, Drunk Tommy's friends returned from the upper-row drunk tank they'd been stewing in to torture us once more. It started innocently enough - yelling, the occasional miniature stumble - but then came The Fall. 

Just as I was settling in for "The Best Song Ever," one of the boys took a tumble that was truly nothing short of epic. In the process of stepping down from a bench to the concrete, the fellow lost his footing. And I mean he really lost it. Truly, madly, deeply lost it. And between the size of this falling human and the size of the space left between knees and backs when the entire student section sits at once, this kid was irreparably wedged between our rows. 

Taken when I realized that if I couldn't help the kid, I might as well let him help me.

The boy's shoulders had pinned me against the person in front of me in such a way that I literally could not have stood up to un-wedge him had I wanted to. Everyone who could still move, though, stood to give the kid some room, and slowly, with the aid of what seemed like 90 well-meaning seniors, the fallen drunkard was restored to his feet. Student section...what ARE this?! 

Of course, the biggest "what are this" of them all was reserved for the last ten or so rows of the three blocks of seats reserved for seniors. This strange yet somehow predictable phenomenon is by far the best and most dangerous side effect of the new ticket policy. The truest drunks, you see, won't let the mere fact of a seat in the stratosphere deter them from their day-long tailgates. As they always have, the people who go the hardest out in the tailgate lots began trickling into the stadium somewhere in the middle of the first half. With the rest of their classmates having stopped their tailgating early to secure the good seats, these late-arriving drunks were forced to occupy the final rows of the senior sections. Though there's plenty of inebriation in the lower seats, these top rows take it to a level as yet unimagined by mankind. The falling on top of people that so angered and surprised us in row 37 is a literal constant once you pass row 50. Vomit - liters of the stuff - is guaranteed. I would venture to guess that not one person from this student section drunk tank could approach the right numbers if I asked them what today's final score was. More than one are probably unsure of who we played. It seems that this intoxicated mass must be some kind of enormous liability for the university. At the same time, though, it's also a stroke of absolute genius. It saves the sober (or at least soberer) of us from the alcoholics that we would previously have been legally forced to sit next to, and it keeps the worst antics in one neat space from which the ushers can pick the ripest law-breaking fruit from the "what are this" tree. Here's hoping none of them fall too straight forward, though - because if one starts collapsing into the rows below, I have a feeling that all 60 are coming down with him. 

New ticket policy, I think I'm probably going to like you at some point before this season ends. It's nice to have the luxury of sitting with whomever I want, and it's cool that, should I ever get my act together enough to bother with this, I can be in the front row for a game in my final season as a student at ND regardless of the whim of the ticket-assigning system. But after today, general admission policy, I've got a lot of questions - and all of them start with "what are this." 

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Blocking Roads & Breaking Hearts

For eight primetime midday hours this past Friday and Saturday, the intersection outside of the Logansport City Building was taken over by volunteers in neon vests and utility belts organizing the latest roadblock fundraiser for the Logansport Children's Choir. When we ended up one volunteer short on Friday afternoon, I was torn from my marathon Gossip Girl watching and forced into Director's Kid duty for three hours. During my time with the roadblock, I learned a lot of things: the sun shines brighter from the city-building side of the road despite the shadows from the buildings being longer, the tar that fills up the cracks on your average city street is really much stickier than it looks, sending a mass Snapchat of yourself in the middle of a busy road engenders surprisingly little concern. Most importantly, though, it gave me an all-new picture of what a strange place Logansport really is.

Let's begin with the music I heard people playing as they drove through town on this fine summer's day. For those unfamiliar with this style of fundraiser, I'll clarify now that, in a roadblock, volunteers stand in the road at a stoplight and collect small bills and loose change from drivers as donations to their cause. Doing this for three hours, you hear the radio stations of choice of a whole lot of people.

Now, the size of Logansport being what it is (18,396), there obviously aren't a ton of choices available to us in non-Sirius XM radio entertainment. Our two local FM stations are Hoosier Country 103.7 (not kidding) and Mix 102, which used to be cool but then started playing oldies. Radio stations from nearby towns expand our options a good bit, but, in my experience, everyone who's anyone listens to the always hip Lafayette station, Z 96.5. Z 96.5 plays top 40 hits. Songs by Ke$ha! Nationally syndicated countdowns hosted by Ryan Seacrest! Everyone in town must listen to this station, right?

Wrong. In my entire time standing in the middle of East Broadway - let's put it this way -  I heard "Blurred Lines" one time. Do you know how unusual it is, in the United States, on August 9, 2013, to hear "Blurred Lines" only one time in a progression of what had to be several hundred radio-blasting cars? Upon hearing this first and last evidence of top 40 pop music near the end of my shift, it hit me that something strange was afoot in the listening habits of the people of Logansport. I heard what seemed like at least nine thousand individual, ear- and soul-destroying country songs. I heard a lifetime's worth of what Daddy Yankee taught me is "reggaeton." I heard a serious deep cut from an old Tupac record from the pickup truck of an elderly man. But only one time all day did I hear pop music. What even is this city?

Things got even weirder when you consider the types of vehicles from which the people of Logansport were tossing money into my collection bucket. Among my favorites of the day was a tiny compact stuffed to the point of absolute absurdity. Each of the seven barely-English-speaking Burmese denizens of the clown car gave at least two dollars, which both A) was great for the children's choir and B) made me somewhat concerned that they thought donation was required to get through the intersection. Great, too, was the driver of the enormous trash truck who threw some change down from ten feet up as he forced me practically back to the sidewalk with the width of his vehicle. By far the greatest vehicle of the day, though, was the BACKHOE that came lumbering down the street at a cool 10 miles per hour whose driver tossed a few dollars into my bucket without setting foot on the brake or, apparently, noticing my shameless staring at him for driving down Logansport's main street at midday in a backhoe.

But weirder than the listening choices or the vehicles of the people of Logansport, of  course, were the people themselves. On four occasions, I walked up to people's open windows with my bucket at the ready to discover that they were not digging for change but, in fact, texting. On another, a driver leaned out his window and "HEY"ed at me to get my attention, which I would probably have found quite rude were he not giving my bucket its first and only ten dollar bill. I discovered that an almost alarming number of people apparently have reason to drive past the city building two or even three times in a one- or two-hour span on a Friday afternoon, but that only one of those is awesome enough to donate to the children's choir on both passes through the intersection. I found that way more of my former high school classmates are in town right now than I would ever have guessed - and that three hours of standing in the middle of the road in 90 degree heat leaves me capable of noticing only one of them waving at me. To the car full of LHS Class of 2010 graduates who waved quite nicely at me and got no response until you were about a block down the road and I realized who you were....sorry.

(To the guy about my age who stared at me for 10 straight minutes while sitting in the back seat of his parents' SUV, puffing away on a cigarette, and flicking ashes into the occasional open window driving past while waiting for your dad to return from whatever business he had in the city are frightening.)

Ultimately, the roadblock can be summed up in the words of a guy who donated some change about halfway through my shift. I saw him sort of chuckle and start to lower his window from a few feet off, and when he came to a full stop in front of the green light in my lane, I'll admit I had to laugh. "I just want you to know," he said, tossing his money into my collection bucket, "that this is only because you look so excited."

There it pretty much is, people. A bored, easily-sunburn-able college kid, standing in the middle of the road in a neon pink safety vest, ill-chosen electric blue running shorts, comically oversized sunglasses, and a rhinestone-encrusted headband, is what the city of Logansport grants its organizations as a valuable fundraising tool. This town is almost as strange as the roadblock tan lines I currently have across my right bicep, in a triangle across my chest (thanks, V-Neck Pocket Tee), and in patches all over the sun-facing side of my face.

For the remainder of my time in Logansport this summer, you can find me tending to my fading sunburn, counting the surprisingly large sums of money that the roadblock brought in, or, for the rest of today, celebrating my mother's birthday. You should all help us with this last task by sending my mother emoji-filled birthday texts like my sister's friends did. After all, nothing says "I love you" like a tiny picture of cake.