April 24, 2005

Have you really been there?

here are songs out there that it seems like everyone knows and loves. I’m not talking about the latest Top 40 hit necessarily, but songs that have been around for years that upon hearing the first few notes, we’ll put our arms around each other and sing every word. Even as college students, we seem to cherish songs like “Summer of ‘69”, “Sweet Home Alabama”, or “Piano Man”.

What makes these songs in particular so radically popular? While the instrumental parts of these songs are undoubtedly well written, so are many other songs. The only reason I have heard and can seem to be accurate is that so many people “can relate” to the words and melodies. I can only assume that by ‘relating’ to something, a person is able to think of the situation or ideas described in the lyrics and put themselves in that spot because of their own experiences in life. They’ve ‘been there.’

But have they really? Let’s examine these songs and you be the judge.

The classic “Summer of ’69” describes the story of a guy, perhaps Bryan Adams himself, and his dream of starting a band with his friends in the summer of 1969. Have you ever bought or played a six string? Have you ever been to a five and dime? Do you even know what a five and dime is? Have you ever started a band? He then talks about how he met what can be assumed to be a girl, while hanging out at a drive-in who says she’ll wait for him, likely on Mama’s porch. My mama didn’t have a porch, and I’ve only been to a drive-in twice, and it was merely a novelty. Also- did you know he was Canadian? Yeah, this wholesome tale happened in Ontario, not small town America like I had previously believed.

“Sweet Home Alabama” is another popular song that everybody knows. It was actually written in response to Neil Young’s song “Southern Man”. (Hence the lyrics in the second verse.) Have you ever been to Alabama? I drove through it once, and I wasn’t impressed. Do they really love the Governor in Birmingham? Do you? Does Watergate not bother you? Really? Are you really going home to Alabama?

Everyone loves “Piano Man”. Have you ever been a piano man, or worked in a piano bar? Honestly, I think this song is kind of depressing. Have you ever been a regular at a bar and shared your loneliness with a stranger? I know I haven’t. Can you wallow in your sorrows about memories of being much younger and regret what your life has become?

I was just thinking about this recently when I heard a large group singing along to one of these songs. In all fairness, each person has their own right to interpret the meanings of these songs as they see fit. They mean different things to different people. Even I can extrapolate a meaning. For example, “Summer of ‘69” could represent a dream we had when we were younger that we never realized, but now reflect on. Do most people take the time to think about it and consider what the song really means? I don’t know. I think it’s more likely that we’re simply caught up in what we believe to be a “classic song” and join the chorus.

April 12, 2005

The Right Place at the Right Time

It’s been a busy week. We had ritual on Friday night which finished off I week. We now have two more active Lambda Chi’s to cause trouble around Athens.

The last few days have been pretty nice around here. The sun has been shining and it has been warm. Under these conditions, I love this town.

I love the bright warm days where you can walk up college street and see all the greeks hanging around outside, then through college green to see the hippies building their rope bridges between the trees. I love the squirrels and chipmunks running across the paths, and how they’ll stand right in front of you to nibble on an acorn and not move til you almost step on them.

I love the OU golf course, the intramural fields and the tennis courts. I love being outside on nice days just doing whatever. I love sitting on the porch with guys, either shooting the breeze, reading, or enjoying some suds. I love cooking out in the evenings and making a special trip to Kroger to get a nice steak for dinner.

For these reasons, I love Athens. I love being here at OU, especially in the springtime. Days like these make the whole rest of the year worthwhile. I can’t stand those nasty rainy days we have in winter quarter, where the weather is just miserable. That kind of weather just brings me down. The opposite is also true. The nice days totally pick me up and put me in a great mood.

The thing about Athens though is that it’s a place I can only see myself living at this time in my life. I couldn’t fathom growing up here, and I certainly couldn’t imagine living out my career in this Appalachian town.

I come from the suburbs of a decent sized city, so rural Athens would have been quite the change while growing up. Being this far from the entertainment and excitement of the city would have killed me… I would have to drive at least an hour and a half to catch a blue jackets game or to see a concert. I would definitely have become quite bored here.

Having a career in Athens wouldn’t be all that much fun either. For the same reasons, I wouldn’t want to be this far from the worldly things I like to do. The nearest major airport is so for away, making my dreams of traveling the world difficult. Exploring other career options would be difficult too. The only career in Athens I could see myself ever pursuing is as a professor- an occupation I’m not completely jumping for at this point.

In Athens, little changes. I’ve been here all but a few weeks of the past year. The students come and go, the seasons change, and that’s pretty much it. The lifestyle here just isn’t me at any other stage of my life. However, as a 20 year old college student, it’s perfect.

Athens is a great place to go to school. When and where else can I be immediately surrounded by almost 20,000 people my own age? Where else can I walk to just about anywhere I’d conceivably want to go? Athens has geography too- there’s a river, plenty of hills, and lakes nearby. There’s open fields for coed sunbathers, and a crazy nightlife. The roads and the buildings are both made of bricks, and the quaint small town atmosphere gives it a different feel from the suburbs.

If only for these four years, I love Athens and wouldn’t trade it for anyplace else.

April 04, 2005

Our Debt to Society

On Saturday, four of us at the house paid our debt to society. In order to make up for community faux pas last quarter, we “volunteered” at the local Red Cross.

Apparently our party was too loud, and the police noticed. The law for that sort of thing in Athens doesn’t necessitate that someone actually complain about the noise. The police can use their judgment and assess a citation without it actually being a problem to any other member of the community.

As retribution for or crime against society, we were assigned 4 hours community service and had to pay a fine. The fine was around 100 bucks, I think, and we paid for it out of what we’ll call “communal funds”. I was surprised that we were only given 4 hours of community service. Four hours seems like so little service for the community. Stranger still, but also fortunate, was that other people could help with that service. We were assigned to the Athens Red Cross. They were holding a Disaster Relief Drill on Saturday, and we were to go there to help with whatever they needed.

We arrived at our assigned time of 8:30am. The place was full of volunteers, and only a couple of people seemed to really know what was going on. After filling out some quick paperwork, we were instructed to load a van full of water in milk jug containers. Being four of us, we made short work of that. We also had to put a few large supply containers in the van.

Much of the time was spent standing around, waiting for instructions. Eventually we were sent to the back room to wait for “the call.” Everyone else it seemed was in it for the whole day’s affair. They were setting up a drill to rehearse their relief skills and the call would tell them the situation.

The call finally came right around 930. According to the scenario, there was an explosion at the technical school in Nelsonville. Shots had been fired; there were casualties and a potential hostage situation. Four hundred people were being evacuated to the student center at Hocking College. In a matter of minutes, all of the volunteers were out the door and headed for Nelsonville.

The whole situation was pretty neat. It’s admirable that these volunteers take the time to rehearse their services so that they’ll be ready for a future disaster. I did find it puzzling that they chose this sort of scenario to use as a drill. I mean, what’s really the likelihood of some sort of terrorist attack in Nelsonville? In my mind, they should rehearse a more likely situation- like flooding. Southeast Ohio and Athens County in particular flood all the time, throughout the winter and spring. That would be a much more useful drill.

Regardless, the whole situation was pretty neat. We picked up some information on how to volunteer again in the future. If they needed us, we could bring twenty guys to help disaster relief efforts. I’d completely be willing to help out.