40 Years Later And The Ties Still Bind

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Yale 82 Davenporters

D’porters (et al) begin to assemble at Yorkside

Heraclitus has visited this page in the past (“You Can’t Go Home Again… Or Can You?Mendon-Honeoye Falls-Lima Sentinel, September 22, 2016). For those new to this column, he’s the Greek fella who said “You can’t step into the same river twice.”

Get it? It might be the same river, but the constant current means the water isn’t the same. It’s a nifty little metaphor about the ever-changing world.

Cool. You can live with that, right?

Now, let me throw a monkey wrench into those churning waters of the relentless ticktock of life’s clock.

French writer Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr wrote in 1859, “plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.” Those like me whose familiarity with French is limited to “fries,” might not recognize the familiar translation of this quote as “the more things change, the more they stay the same.”

Hearkening back to our river metaphor, though the waters may change, the bedrock underlying that stream remains as unchanging and rock solid as ever.

And so begins the stand-off between Heraclitus and Karr.

Such was my disposition when I entered the hallowed gates of Pierson College to celebrate my 40th reunion. Will the inexorable march of time dispel any notion of youth, or will old habits die hard and rekindle something only Ponce de León would appreciate?

This story actually starts ten years ago, when our reunion was held in Davenport, my residential college. Well in advance of festivities, I trekked on down to the alumni office and humbly requested, on behalf of my senior year roommates and myself, we be assigned our old room. Although called “The Cottage,” back then it was hardly the location of quaint idle activities.

It wasn’t quite Animal House. Instead, our motto was “constructive chaos.” We left it for others to determine what that phrase meant. Still, it capped off four years of mutual bonding not just among us roomies, but with many if not most of our other residential college classmates. In fact, if Karr were to be believed, the collective experience of those few years would tether us together despite whatever ravages we may have faced since graduation.

At least in theory.

When I made that request to reune in familiar digs ten years ago, the powers that be denied it. “Too many alumni seem to return to their youth, and we can’t afford to keep cleaning up the damage,” said the powers that be.

“Damage?” I asked incredulously. “We’re more than 50 years old, what kind of damage can we realistically do?”

Taking her eyes off the paper she had buried them in, the woman at the desk glared at me in the most serious manner. “Oh, you’d be surprised what they do at the 50th reunion.”

I left, trying to imagine the reckless wrecking septuagenarians can muster over a three-day period. Alas, Heraclitus rang true.

They moved us to Pierson College five years ago, perhaps as an attempt to further dissuade us. It was a rival college back in the day. We didn’t know if our kind would be welcome. As a more pointed statement, they assigned us to an annex far from the main courtyard of activities.

That was their first mistake.

This year, we requested the same room. Initially, they again denied that request, but a certain set of puppy-dog eyes (OK, really a Mountain Dew-induced manic attack) convinced them to honor our request.

That was their second mistake.

It wasn’t quite the same river, but the bedrock runs deep. You see, this particular suite of rooms, unlike most, had a second exit. While the primary portal opened up to the isolated “lower courtyard,” this secondary egress opened up to… the main entrance.

We quickly claimed our outdoor space, including as far as staking our banner into the (what seemed to be overgrown) landscape bed by our door. Chairs were assembled, beverages were distributed, and we began greeting all those who passed, inviting them to partake of our unscheduled (and continuous) event.

Nearly everyone shared a happy smile in return, some took us up on our offer, a few even asked if they could officially register for the reunion with us. We faithfully instructed them where to go for this, but not before asking them to return once they received their name tag.

“And who are you?” they would invariably ask.

“Cottage 2.0”

Later that evening, in another unofficial event, we of Davenport met at Yorkside for our traditional opening meal. Others might venture into the wild of the city to sample Sally’s or Pepe’s, but we stuck to that solid culinary rock. Old habits die hard on shared commonality is the oldest of habits.

We talked. We imbibed. We ate. All with a gusto not unlike that of forty years earlier. Even the conversations moved in that direction. After a short current update, discussions rambled from the philosophical pondering to creative conniving.

All in good fun. All in expanding our minds.

As the chaos unfolded through the medley of familiar faces, we found ourselves shedding the veneer of the present to return, both metaphorically and literally – albeit at a new address (thanks Heraclitus) – to the tables down at Rudy’s (the place where Louie dwelt).

For the next 72 hours, we reveled in the joy of our unique friendship. No matter how fate may have distanced us, we returned to that river, not the same people today, but the similar people we will always be.

Time cannot undo what the camaraderie has forged.

And that sharing never ends. In the days following our departure, many of us caught a cold (or worse, but the symptoms were all the same, thankfully none too serious).

Heraclitus may have been technically correct, but Karr won the day.

We are all thankful for that.


  1. Tom "Commander" Midney says

    Very good summation of an epic return to our college roots! It certainly was a great time, and so enjoyable to spend a long weekend with so many good old friends.

    Only one note of rectification, concerning the motto – not “chaos” but rather “irresponsibility.” While the former describes a state of disorder and confused actions, our efforts have always been deliberately preconceived and directed toward a desired outcome. These efforts may at times be done somewhat carelessly without any concern for potential consequences (LOL, Rink of Dreams), but they have always been intended per some objective for the fun and benefit of us and others.

    I believe the success of our “Cottage 2.0” is an apt example of this “constructive irresponsibility” and its objective. We kept the party going during idle periods in the reunion schedule, and fun was had by all!

    In the immortal words of the Two Great Ones, Bill S. Preston, Esq., and “Ted” Theodore Logan:
    “Be excellent to each other, and party on, dudes!”

    Oh, and I must add, the YAA was premature in its voiced concerns – we left no damage or cleanup needs …

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