A walk around Ashland University

posted by Jeff | Friday, July 3, 2009, 2:02 AM | comments: 0

We headed down to Ashland this morning to start off my birthday with a hair cut from Darcy. After 16 years of nearly uninterrupted cuts, Diana felt like she was meeting my mom for the first time. I can't explain why I still go to her other than she's a sweetheart of a person, and because I go so infrequently, the 45 minute drive isn't that big of a deal.

We followed up with lunch at the place I did my college drinking, for the last three months of my college career, anyway. The rest of my senior year, it was Lucy's, one of only three bars in town, and easily the most convenient. It's strange to go in there, because it still smells familiar, and even with Ohio's no smoking law, it still smells well smoked in. Smells played a big part in much of the trip.

After lunch, we started by driving around a bit, first around Broad Street to see the stadium going up where I used to rent Scott Paxson's house. Looks like it'll be a nice looking place, and it's long, long overdue. That they used to play at the high school is half the reason I never went to any games after my freshman year.

From there we drove around to King and Samaritan, where the university has taken over. The new student center, the rec center, the senior apartments, the new education building, the Kettering expansion, the closed Grant Street... it's crazy what has gone on in 16 years. Plus there's the business building where Grant Elementary used to be. I barely recognize the place.

Though I suspected no one would be around, we did try to get into R/TV, but it was quite vacant. Fortunately I just recently got the tour from Dr. Gretchen, and saw Tom G. there, but I hoped to show Diana where the magic used to happen. Although, it only kinda happened there, since the radio floor was gutted and rebuilt. Ah the days of the green shag carpet walls.

The scene shop to the theatre was open, so Diana had a brief moment to geek out there. Looks like they replaced the ancient dimmers out of there at some point, which is good since they seemed like a fire risk back in the day. And to think that awful building was built in that shape because it looked good from the sky.

We walked out along College Avenue, where I explained to Diana that all of the cast iron eagles around campus had names, there was some story about them all, and that's all I remember. We looped around the front lawn and then walked through the church, and back out to King Road.

We got pretty lost in looking at all of the photos around the new (well, new to me) student center. I figured I'd find myself in there somewhere, and sure enough, the 1992 R/TV banquet photo was there. I never appeared in subsequent photos, which is something I'll get back to. Still, people from the early to mid 90's were well represented there, and it was neat to see many faces that I hadn't thought about in years.

They had some big old photos of the board of trustees, and I was thrilled to see that Dan Lehman, my journalism professor, was among them. I remember him expressing certain frustrations with the school at various times, and I hope that in his position now he's able to have meaningful impact on the place. He was absolutely one of my favorite professors in all of the time I was there.

I was impressed peeking into the new rec center. That's a really nice building. Not sure why they didn't build a bigger pool when they had the chance. Overall, it was nice to see intramural space, the pool, pool tables and everything in one place.

We walked though several dorms, most of which were open as there was some massive convergence of Indian families from around the US (they had name tags with cities), and they were staying there. First through Kilhefner, which has held up remarkably well since the 1992 lobby renovation. It stinks less than it used to. Then into Myers, which really brought back a hundred memories, all of girls I was friends with, made out with or wanted to make out with. We dropped into Redwood just to see it, and Diana thought that was a neat space. Jacobs was open too, aside from some paint, the lobby looks the same. We went up for shits and giggles to see if 201, my junior year room and the largest regular double on campus, was open for some reason, but no joy. They've replaced all of the doors and put drywall over the block walls, recently it seems. Between that and new carpet, it no longer echos in the halls. It's strange to go out the back door and see the senior apartments.

The quad looks dramatically different. The Kettering expansion reduced it in size by a good 50 feet or more, and the trees on all sides have grown in so much. The eagle in front of Myers faces into a tree and is barely visible. The Avenue of The Eagles has a thick jungle canopy over it now. It generally feels more rustic, and I mean that in a good way. Though I suppose, as a sign of the times, it also is home to a security panic phone.

Seeing Grant Street closed off is odd, but with the new education building, it really makes sense. It could benefit from some bigger trees, though I think they did save some on the old house properties where the ed building is.

The whole experience was completely surreal. It's like so much time has passed, and yet, it seems like yesterday that I lived there. There's something about the on-campus environment that is amazing, and Diana nailed it when she said it was the sense of community you have from living and working with people in such close quarters. She went to several schools of similar size, so we had similar experiences. It's strange how the electronic bells, the smell of A&H and those silly metal birds create such rich and detailed memories.

For me, Ashland was a place I loved and often hated. Having spent a lot of time doing TV stuff before I got there, it was exciting to have the opportunity to do even more, get my own shows and even do radio within a week of being there. I got the sweet freshman in TV award or something. By my sophomore year, when I wasn't being depressed over a girl, I was getting involved in other stuff, including residence life. Mid way through my junior year, I branched out of R/TV a bit, and my frustrations with Ego Papppas made me crave something more, driving me out to a commercial radio job. I was doing Collegian stuff and started journalism as a second major. By my senior year, I was in many ways done with R/TV, though not with my classmates. I just didn't see them as much, which I somewhat regret, but there were so many other things going on, and I figured I'd be doing that broadcast shit the rest of my life. I was dating someone, spending Thursday's at Lucy's, making new friends, more newspaper stuff, Y-105 on weekends, Super NES... I felt like I was finally taking advantage of everything that was college!

But for all of the bullshit I had to deal with, there were good things going on as well, and both prepared me for life in many ways. I wouldn't change many things (aside from a concerted effort to not be such a prude). The weird thing today is that, despite programming being my primary profession, all of the R/TV and journalism stuff serves me today. It just serves me in ways I wouldn't have imagined. I get to do a goofy audio show distributed over the Internet, I get to cut high definition video in a very loose format and post that on the Internet, and I get to decide what stories in a niche interest are newsworthy and, you guessed it, put them on the Internet. The distribution medium has changed, but I still get to do many of the things I loved to do back then, and largely on my own terms.

I miss that sense of community though. I've had something almost as cool in a couple of jobs, but you still tend to take it for granted when you're there. What's neat to see is how everyone has rolled with the changes life sends your way, thanks largely to Facebook. I had lunch with Shari in December, just before she moved to the Carolinas, and I have great admiration for the way her professional life has gone. She stuck in TV for a long time, and finally bailed, got into a corporate situation that may have made her wealthy, and recently left that to start over to do something that makes her happy.

That story is representative of the thing you can't possibly learn in college. Larry Hiner, who I loved dearly, even though I often disagreed with him, used to tell us that most of us in R/TV would end up "selling sneakers." He was right, but no one ever told us that it wasn't an indication of failure, especially if you like shoes! Indeed, some of us went on to be opthomologists, PR experts, stay-at-home moms, voice talent for anime, and yes, even software developers. Almost every person I went to school with was above average in the ways of broadcast ninjas, and most left the biz by choice. (Hang in there, Ted!) I think it speaks volumes about the quality of the people, in that they've been successful in completely new professions.

I'm not even sure where I'm rambling with this. I guess being there reminded me of a time when we all had to prove ourselves, and as time has passed, the only thing that still matters is that we had the opportunity to be there, and laugh, cry, drink (and get naked from time to time). I'm thankful for that chapter of my life.


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