Monday, April 30, 2007

My Night With Guster

As my final days of being able to check that little box that says "student" on every random form that I fill out are drawing to a close, I can't help but shun every form of scholastic responsibility in exchange for days and nights on end of pure, debaucherous, alcohol-soaked fun.

This past weekend in its entirety was perhaps one of my all-time favorite Loyola memories. Friday kick started the weekend with brownies, my last Field's cheeseburger, Chordbusters, and a blow-out Chimes after party at our house that happily trailed on until the wee hours of the morning. We spent our Saturday afternoon and evening drinking Milwaukee's Best from WonTon soup containers in a beer/pee puddled York Road parking lot at Craig's Fest followed by a reluctant second night of hosting the Chimes party which winded down after 6 kegs were emptied, 4 taps were broken, and one toothbrush was missing.

My Loyola career reached its pinnacle Sunday afternoon with Loyolapalooza. Mimosas in the McAuley courtyard, water balloon launching, and lots of laughter among the Very Good Friends. We spent our time in the quad squealing on the giant pirate ship and ruthlessly throwing our bodies through the colossal moon bounce obstacle course before Guster took the stage. Amazing. It was the perfect spring day for an outdoor concert and as the band played on, a swirl of cherry blossom flowers swirled above our heads in the breeze. We danced as the music permeated our skin and mixed with the alcohol in our veins.

Following the show, we waited around the stage as the techies broke down and I managed to score a drumstick from Andrew, our soon-to-be new best friend, that I later got signed by the bongo-pounding, cymbal-slapping, drummer extraordinaire, Brian. Giddy with excitement, I gave Andrew my number and prayed to God that he would call me to hang out later, which we were very insistent upon.

And, after a few hours of stomach churning waiting, he did.

And then they came, quite excited at the prospect of college drinking games.

Andrew and Brian arrived, trailed by a drunken entourage of Loyola ultimate Frisbee players, and they were ready to play. Their comfort in the situation was impressive, as was their stunning capability of blending right in. Andrew sported jeans, a casual stripped t-shirt that you could tell was comfortable just by looking at it, and a very lived in hooded zip-up. Brian was wearing a flannel shirt and a sweater that looks like it had gone through more washes than there were beer cans littering our back deck. Wasting no time, Andrew and I partnered up for what I was sure would be an amusing night. After a crushing game of beer ball, Andrew and I took to the beer pong table for an unbelievable run of skill and drinking.

We talked about life on the road with the as if we were discussing a history class. We talked about his nickname, Scooter, that had been given to him by the band a few years ago and he had been unable to shake.
"We were talking about stupid nicknames and I said one of the worst was Scooter Libby. So then at that night's show Adam introduced me to the crowd as Scooter and they just started chanting it so it stuck."
Oh, right the crowd was chanting his name because he plays drums for Guster. We spoke with such ease that it was easy to forget exactly who I was talking to. And because (at least I like to think) we were becoming actual friends. The mystique of the musician was quickly passed over for the pure fun of the person.

For one night, I lived my dream. Have you ever sat around with your friends and discussed who you would hang out with if you could choose one famous person in the world? Well I chose Guster, and it actually happened. We drank, we smoked, and I loved every second of it. We were all truly happy, especially Moira. All of the sadness that had latched on to our lives for the past few weeks had completely dissolved for a few short hours.

The boys headed out around 12:30, on their way to catch the tour bus to Cleveland. The reality of the evening set in as they said their goodbyes and were whisked away to bigger and better things. Left with nothing more than hundreds of empty beer cans (Andrew and I had shamelessly been drinking from floaters prior to their departure) the friends and I found little else to do except head out to Swallows.

In total, the evening was unbelievable. The nearly overwhelming thought of meeting members of Guster quickly dissipated when I actually did meet them and they turned out to be some pretty great people. I had a blast and I'm fairly certain they did too.

I spent the hours after Andrew and Brian left replaying the night in my head over and over again. The conversations, the possibilities. I was ready to go home and pack my bags, call up one of the guys and offer my services on the road. Visions of strumming guitars and games of solitaire on the surely cramped tour bus as it rolled across the country danced in my head as I fell to sleep at night. Of course, I have no skills and little to offer but they already liked me, how hard could it be?

But I realize that right now, Loyola is my bigger and better thing. I stumbled upon an amazing life here filled with amazing people and we do a lot of amazing things, like party with Guster. As close to graduation as we are, my life has an alarming amount of questions and uncertainties. The one thing I do know though, is that these are the memories that I will never forget, and these are the friends who will be there until the end.

And hey, should the band ever call and offer a spot on the bus, it's not like I'd say no. Oh, Life.

Friday, April 13, 2007

A couple of things you should know.

It has been a year since I was in the midst of my New Zealand adventures. It's easy to get caught up here and forget what life used to be like. Almost exactly one year ago I was driving a camper van through the South Island with three of my closest friends on the adventure of a lifetime. A trip that changed my life and awakened in me a keen sense and insatiable desire to travel. As I sit in my cozy collegiate row home, curled up at my computer, debating on whether or not I should go for a run because I certainly did eat a lot of those peanut M&M's last night, I am suddenly struck with the painful pang of missing New Zealand.
I pulled off my wall a list that Jeff had compiled during the last days of our abroad experience summing up some of the highlights of our life in Auckland and I thought I would write them here.

1 (one) list compiled in my mind periodically. Sporadically truthful, often guesstimations on the brink of truth or a valid attempt thereof. 100% Natural & Pure Brokedown Snapshot of a Day in the Queen's City.

37 late-night McDonald's trips.
10 people kicked out of bars one or more times.
8 times Jeff asked for a White Lady t-shirt (an infamous burger stand) and got shut down.
149 pictures taken of John dancing.
3 times Drew has sworn off Loyola girls forever.
times I've signed my life away.

3.9 million people live in New Zealand.
47.2 million sheep live in New Zealand.
1 blue starfish Ryan attempted to consume.
3 bucks for a bottle of Heineken at Provedor on Thursdays.
7 times I've passed people dressed in medieval garb and fighting with broadswords and spears on my way to class.
3 harnesses worn.
2 rugby games attended
1,097 miles driven in a camper in the South Island.
9 stores we went searching in for Solo cups before finally getting them imported.
24 iced coffees I've purchased from Mascot Cafe.
4 Media Studies lectures I've attended.
10 weeks Garry went without shaving.
12,133 feet of freefalls.
4 more finals and
20 more days in Auckland.

I miss it.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

True Life - encountering death

The year Moira's mom died was the best year of our lives. It was the year of late night dancing and endless parties. Of adventures abroad and reunions at home. Of way too many drinks last night and not enough sleep. Of dream lovers, boyfriends, ex-boyfriends, and Very Good Friends. Of oh my God can you believe I did that's, oh no he did not's, and you know you make me wanna shout's. Of laughing, fighting, crying, and loving.

I will never forget the night Moira called me from Pittsburgh to pack her bag for her mother's funeral. We went through her closet together. Her voice, five hundred miles away, sounded just like the Moira who had left the week before, before we knew her mother would be gone before the next time we would see Moira again.

I sifted through her clothes, and we debated on what colors would be most appropriate for your own mother's funeral -- our voices as casual as if we were discussing what to wear out that night.

It was one of those nights that will stand out in my mind the way a car crash stands out for the person who picked themselves up from the broken glass and tire marks, and walked away while others lay on the warm asphalt bleeding.

I wish we could have been in the city for something other than what we were there for. The weather was nice. The air carried the dense smell of spring. When we got there, the city lights shone and bounced between the river, buildings, and cars passing each other on the highway. The city radiated life, but in the back of our minds the idea of death clung like moss.

When we finally got to the front of the line it was so good to see Moira. We talked and laughed as if we were standing around our own living room; as if we weren't stuffed inside the living room of the funeral parlor.

We smiled and delicately spoke to Moira as if she was retuning from vacation and we were happy to see her. The momentary lapses in conversation were heavy, but our smiles never faded. She told us her mouth was sore from fake smiling all night, and we all laughed and teased her for the photographs of her awkward years that we found in the collages of her mother's life.

Tears glistened in her father's eyes. Moira, her father, and her younger sister stood stoically with their backs to the casket, greeting the endless line of visitors who had come to share their sympathies. Not once did I see them turn around to face what lay behind them.

Inside, Margot lay like a delicately placed china doll. The cancer had drained the color from her skin and left her bruised, powdered, and hairless. Her fragile arms lay at rest. I wanted to touch her hands, but I knew they would be cold. The last time I had seen her, had touched her, they had been filled with life. I could not bear to see them otherwise. I did not let Moira see me cry.

At mass the next morning we said goodbye to Mrs. Jones. I watched Moira and her family process in and out of the church, following the casket, and felt the blood in my stomach churn as the tears stung my eyes. As Danny Boy wafted from the organ, I opened my hymnal and read the first page. A prayer for World Peace.

My heart broke for Mr. Jones. They were still so in love. Their wedding picture was displayed prominently on the cover of her funeral program. A photo of the two of them dancing in a driveway, band playing, a wide shaft of sunlight glowing from behind the garage.

As we drove home that day we were thankful for the soft rain. We vowed to come back to Pittsburgh in summer to experience the city with Moira for a reason other than death. For a reason that was more within the realm of our twenty-something spirits -- for late nights, new bars, dancing, laughter, and each other.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

A Profile of Erik - a few words on a good friend

On a Friday morning, I wake up at 7:30 am and get myself ready because Erik is picking me up in ten minutes. Thirty five minutes later I find myself hands splayed, head down, legs straight, butt extended into the air, all extremities shaking to support my unsteady body. Every Monday and Friday mornings Erik takes a yoga class at the Fitness and Aquatics Center. Today I have joined him.

"Plank," he whispers to me. I am concentrating on flexing my calves and do not look up.
"What?" I whisper back.
"We're in plank."

I look over and see that I am very clearly and very awkwardly not even holding the correct position. I cringe as I correct myself according to Erik's body. He giggles kindly, and it is apparent that these yoga stances are effortless for him.

He is comfortable in his position; his strong, lean arms supporting the weight of his straight back and long legs, body stretched, smooth muscles emerging from his slender shoulders. After years of practice, Erik Schmitz is comfortable in his skin.

Erik loves Asia. He also loves riding his bike, camping, writing, organic food, and beautiful things. But most passionately right now, he loves Asia.

Erik is tall, lean, and usually unkempt. Most of his head is covered in an untamable cluster of brown hair. His skin is imperfect and his considerable mouth is quick to smile. Although he is not handsome, Erik is one of the most attractive men I have ever met.

Though notably intelligent and hard working, Erik's mind is as scattered and as unpredictable as he has found his own life to be. All of our minds embody a strewn miscellany of what we have seen, what we hope to see, and what we believe. In Erik's brain, all are filtered through into a package of heartbreaking passion. What follows demonstrates this.

Throughout our times together Erik has commented, either in passing or in painstaking detail, his views on everything from childhood to China.

"When I was young, I always wanted to do things in the sciences. I went through phases of fascination with different aspects of the natural world. I think I found weather the most mind-blowing. Tornadoes used to scare the shit out of me. I wanted to be a meteorologist. I wasn't intense enough to want to be a storm chaser. At other points I wanted to research space, or birds, or dinosaurs, but it was always in the sciences -- a psychologist, an evolutionary biologist, a professional atheist -- up until freshman year of college when I got more into the arts."

"Organic food is real. It's like you have to pay extra to get the real thing that's not altered genetically or covered in chemicals but it's just the real food. It's natural. You really shouldn't eat food that isn't organic."

"Think of a bee visiting a flower and sucking all of the pollen out of it until it dies and then the bee just goes on to the next flower. But that never happens in nature. It only happens in man's industry. With what man creates. That's what I think of when I think of things like puppy mills."

"Look at the statues of the greyhounds outside of the FAC. I think it's so funny that the girl dog has nipples. At least our school isn't so Catholic that they put up sexless statues. Father Linnane probably wouldn't like that I lock my bike to those dogs."

"Bumper stickers are so funny. I love that one that says, Jesus loves you but everyone else thinks you're an asshole."

Erik and I sit together at the kitchen table of a mutual friend. He is wearing a white t-shirt underneath an old, blue, pinstripe suit jacket with khaki shorts. Many of Erik's clothes come from places we can only suppose -- an old man's closet cleaned out by his widow after his death and sold for a dollar or two.

Some of his clothes still carry the musty odor of poverty. The staleness clings to the fibers of his jacket and reminds me of damp attics and forsaken moth balls. While many people shop at thrift stores to save money, Erik's reason is neither poverty nor charity, but rather corporate protest.

We have been drinking tequila for many reasons, and I can feel my face beginning to flush. Erik puts his hand firmly around my arm and leans close to my face. His long, willowy fingers nearly wrap completely around my upper arm.

"I need to tell you something," he says. When he speaks it is usually in the same, deep intonation. His laughter is a number of chords higher than his speaking tone, and it erupts very loudly and very suddenly. We have learned through years of classes together that neither of us have ever been good at whispering.

He leans closer and I am worried he is about to try. "I want you to know that you are beautiful," he says. He erupts into his penetrating giggle, and is all at once serious. "I just needed to tell you that because it's important that people know these things."

Erik's vocabulary is strewn with words like "beautiful," "talented," and "smart." Those who are loved by him are acutely aware of his affection.

He thinks I am beautiful, but he is not attracted to me because I am not a boy.

When I think of Erik, I often recall walking with him on a cool, clear day through the woods of northern Maryland over three years ago, the fall of our freshman year of college. The walk stands out in my memory for many reasons, primarily though because it was the day Erik and I became friends.

It was also the day he told me he was gay. We talked about many things -- our homes, our families, our struggles that came with growing older. The late October sky was clear and blue and the leaves crunched beneath our feet. Our talk was unpretentious and unguarded.

Later that night, when Erik quietly and courageously revealed his sexuality to me, I was calmly unchanged. Rather, I was proud of him, and thankful for the bond of trust that we had established in a new and changing life. One of the first people at college to know of Erik's sexuality, I credit this night as one of the reasons for our lasting friendship.

Reflecting back on his own process of "coming out," Erik describes the progression as, "messy. It'll get messier too." As a twenty-one-year-old college student, he struggles with a father who will not recognize his homosexuality, and a mother who refuses to believe that sexual orientation is neither a choice, nor a phase.

Erik and I have spoken about his homosexuality at length. In response to list of questions I wrote for him to consider, Erik has written:

Is there anyone important in my life who still doesn't know that I'm gay? Yes, I still have not come out to my father. I mean, he should know but he just doesn't. Not only should I have told him, but he should have put two and two together. First, there was the time he found gay porn on my computer sophomore year of high school. Then there has been my mother who has made it obvious to him that something is "wrong" with me. She leaves books lying around like The Homosexual Next Door, which is some Christian-Right book about how to bring homosexuals back from sin without going too far to sound like you're telling them its wrong...even though that's exactly what they're saying! But despite all of that, plus the fact that I've never had a girlfriend, should equal…my son is a homosexual. But apparently he still thinks I'm going to end up with a woman.

It is now November of 2006, and Erik and I are sitting together on an overnight bus from Baltimore, M.D. to Columbus, Ga.

"Your dad found your porn on the computer in high school? Oh my God," I say.
"I know!" Erik responds.
"What happened? What did he do?"
"I don't know what he did. I only know it happened because my mom told me. I didn't ask her what he did or said."

We laugh, picturing Erik's father as images of muscular, sweaty men stream before his face and consume his computer screen. We laugh, yet I know that we both silently recognize the frustration behind Erik's drollness.

It is interesting to stand back and watch a person transform. Perhaps Erik has grown more in the past year than ever before. He spent four months taking classes in Beijing, China and traveling throughout the country in the fall of 2005. This trip has significantly and permanently changed the way Erik's mind works.

He returned to America with a renewed sense of social justice, an affinity for eastern culture, medicine, and food, and an insatiable desire to go back.

China, a country that has jailed people for public displays of homosexual affection, did not at first seem like a suitable fit for Erik. In Beijing, Erik found skies grayed by layers of pollution thick enough to stain buildings, statues, and windows; and political propaganda as equally choking.

However, after leaving behind parents who have not yet accepted or forgiven his sexuality, he found a new family among his fellow students and the ex-pat scene in Beijing. He drenched himself in culture, ethos, and discernment. In a land of oppressed political sovereignty, Erik discovered his own life of freedom in only a single semester.

"I returned to life in America, just as I had left it, as if Customs had lost everything I achieved or learned in China."

Although he carries a heartbreaking awareness of his parents' misunderstandings, fears, and prejudices, Erik is not without love for them. For him, just like every other child, there was a time in his life when he knew was loved unconditionally.

As children grow, change, and develop into highly individualized people, they lose pieces of the perfect family they knew. Sometimes gradually, and sometimes in great chunks, illusions are chipped away and replaced with understandings of reality. Layers of naivety and innocence are shed for a thicker skin.

Although we all grow up in different ways, and struggle through our own particular trials, each life challenge unites us as Generation Next -- a generation with new and perhaps more complex problems than our parents knew of.

No child ever expects to grow up to realize that their parents' love has faded. No child ever expects to be a stranger in their own house. No child ever expects to learn to cope with difficulties such as depression, cancer, eating disorders, drug abuse, or mental disease. But we do.

Life, we find, is sometimes like climbing a wall of ice -- every once and a while your pick hits a loose spot, and you pull sharp, icy debris down on top of yourself. All you can do is shield your face, and watch as the pieces fall to the ground far below. The key is to hold your footing.

Erik understands that he can either sever his ties with his parents, or he can stay and simply live with their disapproval because regardless of what they believe, they still love him, although imperfectly. His sexual orientation has de-valued him in their eyes. He loves them, but he resents them in a way he rarely puts into words.

Six months after returning to America, Erik left again and backpacked alone throughout Asia, where he took thousands of pictures. A photography student at our school, Loyola College in Maryland, he takes beautiful pictures.

I am struck by the color and emotion in his pictures. A slight Chinese priestess reveals her face from a window, and smiles shyly back at me amidst a sea of vibrant beaded necklaces for sale. A string of colorful Tibetan prayer flags blow atop a jagged, ice-capped mountain. I peer past them at the rough descent to the smooth, green hills below.

On his journey, Erik witnessed social injustices and agonizing poverty. He discovered families struggling to survive, and governments bulldozing every semblance of political or social freedom. But in the midst of all the imperfections and tragedies, Erik found staggering beauty and a love that he expresses in his writing, his photography, and his life.

By the end of the semester - our last fall semester together -- yoga class has become a regular event for me and Erik.

The early morning air is biting, and our hands feel raw against the handlebars of our bicycles as we ride back from the class. We stop pedaling as our bikes gain momentum from a descending hill as we cut through the campus of Notre Dame.

Slightly ahead of me, Erik straightens his back and releases of the handles of his bike. We laugh at the recognition of the childlike exhilaration of letting a really good hill take control of you. We live with the knowledge there are elements of our lives that we will never be able to control. And though there are times when we struggle, we both know that sometimes we just need to let go.

Everyday we are growing. We are changing. We are becoming the people our lives are shaping us to be. And we are enjoying the ride. The wind rushes by and the cold magnificently shocks our faces and draws tears from our eyes as we are sucked into the hill's vacuum. Faster and faster. We are almost home.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

About Yellaphant

All that down there doesn't exist anymore. It's gone. Kaput. This is a blog about starting over. From scratch. I'm a few years older, carry a few new scars, and know a hell of a lot more. Like, you don't really ever have it all figured out. Because as soon as you think you do, your tennis pro husband might leave you for one of his country club housewives. Shit happens.

But then one day you pull yourself out of bed and put on real pants and decide it's time to be human again. Maybe you move to the city. Maybe you eventually start dating again and decide, hell, this new life is pretty good. And it is.

My name is Bridget Horne and this is my blog. You probably most recently remember me as Bridget Hanahan. But look, I didn't even have to change my towels!

If you don't know me in real life, you can read 101 things you probably wouldn't want to know about me anyway here, and decide that actually, you probably wouldn't want to know me in real life because bananas? Really?

I live with my husband Billy, who I refer to here as B, which at first was to protect his identity in case I ever decided to talk about things like blow jobs or something that would be awkward if his mother ever read this, but now his mother actually does read so talking about blow jobs is entirely out the question and she's probably reading this right now so no, dear readers, no blow jobs, but now it's too late and he's B and you're stuck with it.

We got married in September 2009, which at first opened an entire new floodgate of crazy in me, but then was the best week of my life. And yes, I said week. It was a motherflippin' party, ya'll. But now with the wedding comes the move, and what do you get when you take a Philadelphia girl and plop her down on the Massachusetts coast? I guess we'll find out.

We have a dog named Rooney. We don't really know what he is, but he sure is cute. And in my book, that's all that matters, because if there's one word that describes me, it's shallow. I kid. When we adopted him, he was a pretty big dick. But now he's a great dog. That's just what happens when you spend enough time with me. You get great.

I work for an amazing organization where I get to do amazing things with amazing people and if you know me, it isn't hard to figure out what that is.

I am in love with my friends and despise the fact that we are now spread out throughout the country and world. Seriously, it blows.

I started this blog in college because that's what all the cool journalism majors and emo kids were doing, but I never gave it much TLC until 2008. I love pictures, words, and late night dance parties and this blog lets me do all of the above.

And I love my life so much that I've decided to share it with you. So take a look into the mind of a 20-something Philadelphia writer as she makes her way through the ups and downs of post-college life. From politics to relationships, entertainment to the environment, Yellaphant has something to say. And sometimes I get loud.

Need more than just Yellaphant? You can also find me on Twitter and Facebook. Or just shoot me an email.


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