Dan DeConinck ’13

Over Thanksgiving break I went to visit one of my best friends at her house (Congratulations, Hannah, you made the blog!). I’ve been to Hannah’s house and been around her family countless times over the past five years, and each time I pull into the driveway I have a basic idea of what to expect when I knock on the door. Two dogs will bark and run to the door to greet me, and someone will come to open the door for me within a minute or two. I step inside, kick off my shoes, say hello to whoever’s around, and take it from there.

When I knocked on the door over break, the normal ritual took place. But something was different. Instead of two dogs greeting me, it was three. Hannah’s sister had just gotten a cute new puppy.

A good portion of my visit was spent watching the puppy run around and play with one of the older dogs. Every few minutes the puppy would do something interesting or funny. Everyone was enjoying sitting around and taking part in the youthful exuberance that the puppy emanated. Everyone, with one exception.

The third dog was curled up quietly at the foot of the couch, paying no attention whatsoever to the puppy. I asked Hannah what was wrong with Zelda, and she told me, “Nothing. She just ignores the puppy.” My first thought was jealousy. It seemed that all the focus, energy, and attention had shifted to the newcomer and Zelda was feeling neglected.

Then I thought more about the situation. Maybe, I decided, Zelda wasn’t being jealous. Maybe Zelda was doing something admirable by letting the puppy have its time to shine. Maybe Zelda remembered her earliest years when she was in the same position and she didn’t want to detract from the youthful experiences every puppy should have by trying to steal the spotlight.

If you’re still reading you’re probably wondering what any of this has to do with anything. Let me explain.

A couple months ago the first-year student bloggers began posting for the first time. The first-years are fresh, they’re excited, they’re soaking in every ounce of every new experience that college life brings. They’re eager to share and prospective students who read these blogs are eager to listen. They are the metaphorical puppies, and they’ve taken the blogosphere by storm.

As for me? I’ve been curled up at the foot of the couch watching it all unfold. But what I’ve come to realize, and what I’m sure Zelda will realize if she hasn’t already, is that adding new players doesn’t always have to mean putting someone on the bench. I’m an asset to the Holy Cross blog page just like Zelda is an important member of Hannah’s family. That’s why I’m whipping off my warmup gear and putting myself back into the blogging game today.

I promise not to sniff any of the new bloggers’ butts.

Hey Folks!

I’m back and bloggier than ever. I’ve been hard at work in the beginning stages of my compilation of the Sophomore Year Top Ten, and it’s already looking like it might give last year a run for its money.

I’ll be back in a few days to share some recent interesting experiences, but this post serves a different purpose. Here’s the deal:

My sister found a scholarship for college bloggers and sent it to me, encouraging me to throw myself into the competition and see what happened. My sister is probably the smartest person I know, so I took her advice.

The application required a 300 word essay, and I’d like to share mine with you today, readers. The question made me look closely at myself and my writing and clarify my mission as a blogger. Enjoy.

Why did you start blogging? What does blogging mean to you? Why is blogging important to you?

Choosing a college is nothing if not a daunting undertaking. How are 17 and 18-year olds supposed to know which school is right for them when stacks of viewbooks, catalogues, pamphlets and emails tower over their lives? How much foliage, forced diversity, and hired models can one high school senior take before the maddening task of distinguishing between schools starts to weigh them down? I faced this very dilemma two years ago, but thanks to the student blogs on the Holy Cross website, I was able to get a true sense of what campus life was like. It was the students who showed me what it truly meant to be a Crusader, and as a prospective student, that was what I wanted more than anything else.

It’s no coincidence, then, that my ears perked up when first-year students were invited to apply for a blog of their own. A freelance writer before college, I’ve long understood the power of the written word, and blogging is a new medium that allows me to share everything from the life-altering episode to the simplest anecdote with prospective students. Despite what the media might suggest, there’s a lot more to post-graduate life than sex, parties and frisbee. I’m here to cover it all: the good, the bad, the regrettable, and the unforgettable.

Whether my blog entices or turns off prospective students, I don’t much care. If my experiences help them make the right decision for themselves, I consider myself a successful blogger. Most schools have entire offices dedicated to baiting high schoolers, and I’ll leave that task to them. I’m here for the truth. I’m here to help the kids who, like me, just want to hear from the people who can tell them everything they want to know: the students themselves.

—–

In short, my blog is your blog, prospective students. Get to know me, and you’ll get to know a version of your future self if you choose Holy Cross. For your sake, my sake, and the school’s sake, I hope you like me.

Be back soon with some second-year specials.

You know the feeling you get when you wake up on the morning of an important day? Your eyes snap open when the first note of your alarm clock knocks on your eardrum. You’re on your feet, wide awake, ready to go. That’s how I would have felt this morning if the alarm had gone off around 10 instead of 7. Despite the fact that I wore my snooze button down until it too was exhausted, though, today was indeed a very important day. Today was the day that I would be publishing the final installment of the Freshman Year Top Ten. One internship orientation, three classes, 65 pages of reading, and an info session later, it’s finally time. As promised, here are the top four moments of my freshman year at Holy Cross.

#4 St. Patrick’s Day

I’m not Irish. I’m Belgian, Polish, and a few other things. I’ve got friends who are Italian, Scottish, French; I know people on campus from Uganda and Tokyo. It wouldn’t be accurate to say that Holy Cross is a super-heterogeneous cultural melting pot, but we do have a fair amount of diversity on campus…except for one day of the year. On St. Patrick’s Day, everyone is Irish.

Last year the big day fell on a Wednesday, but the atmosphere was one of a kickaround summer afternoon. Students, professors, faculty and staff alike injected a little extra relaxation into their lifestyles, and though the classroom is a place for the collisions and fusions of the greatest minds in all of academia, this was truly a day to let loose and have some fun.

I feel like in this restless time of global climate control I can’t go a day or two without hearing the term “Going Green.” But until last St. Patrick’s Day I had no idea what that could actually mean. I’ve been to dozens of Boston Celtics games in my life, and I’m still not sure I’ve ever seen as much green on one day as I did on March 17th, 2010.

To be completely honest it was probably a stupid idea for me to blog about this, because I can sprinkle all the spices in my adjective kitchen on this memory and it still won’t give the same taste as the actual experience (corned beef and cabbage, anyone?). So am I wasting your time right now with a “You had to be there moment”? Yes. But also, no.

Yes because, well, yeah, you kinda had to be there. But at the same time, no. I feel like I usually do a pretty decent job of decorating my stories and giving you, the loyal readership, a complete picture of each story. So if I’m struggling to splash my wordpaint across the canvas this time around, that should be a pretty significant indicator that this is the type of event you don’t want to miss when it rolls around in the spring.

Just trust me.

#3 Spring Weekend

Probably the most looked-forward-to event of the school year, Spring Weekend leaves itself some monster shoes to fill every year. I would always hear about it, but as a freshman I was having a hard time wrapping my head around the whole concept. How could one weekend be so superior to all the others? What could possibly separate it from the rest of the pack? Why was every upperclassman telling me to have my homework due Monday finished by Thursday afternoon?

I was confused, but I took the advice of my elders, banged out a thirteen page paper on Wednesday night, finished up all my reading on Thursday morning, and freed up my schedule. Good call.

There were literally too many festivities for me to remember that weekend. Dunk tanks? Yep. Soapbox derby? Yep. Easy Street packed with vendors, booths, inflatable pools? Yep. Fireworks? Yep. Drake performing in the Hart Center? Yep.

Sometimes when I was in high school I would see a movie or a TV show about college and it looked too fun to be real. I would think, ‘No way that’s what it’s really like.’ And for the most part, it isn’t. But on Spring Weekend, it is. There’s a reason that the library is packed on Wednesday and Thursday before Spring Weekend. If you’re still wondering if one weekend is really worth jamming five days’ worth of work into a day or two, let me be clear: the answer is yes. If there is one weekend that you want to be outside, carefree, sipping in the first few drops of the summer sun, it’s Spring Weekend.

#2 Forest Haunt Road

One of my closest friends at school is a girl named Cory Beck. Cory is from New Jersey but her family has a ski house in Vermont that they use in the winter. When we were dismissed from classes for Winter Break, my friends and I decided collectively that we should plan a get together for some point during our month vacation. Cory and her parents were generous enough to offer up the ski house as a location.

All of the details were worked out and I hopped in Charlie’s car on the day of the trip to carpool. We both had to go a day late because of prior engagements, so we planned on arriving to a house full of our friends. Charlie and I worked out a deal: he would drive his car if I brought my GPS to help us navigate and if I helped out with gas and snack money. Simple enough, we thought.

When the GPS told us we were within three miles of our destination we perked up and started to concentrate. We turned down the music, as if that would help us recognize the streets in this town we had never visited. At about 2.6 miles, the two-laned, well-paved and well-painted road narrowed. Then the yellow lines disappeared. At 1.3, the pavement turned to dirt. We began to grow skeptical. I flipped through the pages of memories in my head and tried to remember if I had somehow offended the GPS.  It seemed that my “navigational partner” was exacting some sort of revenge on me and Charlie.

It was about one in the afternoon, but as we became more and more disoriented and ventured further down this road that was quickly becoming enclosed by pine trees, light was filtered out and life got a whole lot darker. Nevertheless, the GPS told us we were just 300 yards away from our destination. 260 yards out, the road ended. It became a snowbank. I glanced out my window up at the tree next to the car. There was a street sign that indicated the lump of powder in front of us was actually a road.

Forest Haunt Road. How appropriate. This was beginning to feel like a low budget horror movie. But there was no room to turn around, and we were so close…

Charlie took a deep breath, looked at me, nodded, and pressed the accelerator to the floor. We shot over the bank and exploded in a cannonball of powder. The car was determined, Charlie was focused, I was laughing uncontrollably at the sheer ridiculousness of the scenario. We came over a small hill. For a moment I truly believed that we were badass enough to defeat Forest Haunt Road with sheer willpower.

That moment was very brief. Roughly one half-second later I was getting out the passenger side door and walking to the back of the car to start pushing. The car wouldn’t budge. We were stuck. No, let me be more specific. We were REALLY stuck. We were “call all of our friends to come help and we probably still won’t be able to move this car” stuck.

We tried to wedge some sticks and logs under the tires to create traction, but our efforts were futile. We started hearing scurrying in the woods around us. If a film crew had stepped out from behind the trees and told us to get ready for the murder scene, I would not have thought twice. Sometimes life seems too fake, too scripted. This was one such moment.

I decided to complete the last leg of the journey on foot, find the house, assemble a rescue team, and get this problem solved. Enough was enough. Unfortunately, the windchill was around zero and the houses had been renumbered so the GPS was useless. I called Loftus, but I had no service. This was becoming a disaster. I finally reached him and asked for him to bring help. Everyone else was out skiing.

I know what you’re thinking. ‘How could they be skiing at a time like this?!’ I was wondering the same thing. But rest assured, I’m here writing this blog, so you know that I ultimately lived to tell the tale. It’s like in the Harry Potter books when you think Harry might die, but then you realize it’s just the first book out of seven so he’s obviously going to make it.

In what turned out to be the greatest reversal of fortune I’ve ever been a part of, Charlie’s mom had a friend who had a friend who happened to live in the same town that we were stuck in, and this friend of my friend’s mother’s friend just so happened to tow cars part-time in the winter. A few phone calls and a ten minute wait later, we were done with Forest Haunt Road forever.

To this very day I still have trouble believing that all of this ridiculousness happened on the same day. It felt absurd then, and it feels absurd now, but I definitely won’t be forgetting that experience any time soon.

#1 Loftus vs. Tom: Two Men Enter, One Man Explodes

Sometimes life just takes our breath away. Sometimes it simply renders us speechless. Sometimes, moments transcend greatness and reach an unparalleled level of awesomeness. Such a moment not only took the top spot on this countdown, it conquered it. This moment is a model for all other moments for the rest of history. When I turn 80 years old and reflect on my freshman year of college I probably won’t remember getting destroyed in intramural floor hockey. There might be a shard of a memory of a food fight in Kimball. I might be able to give you a detail or two about someone putting packing peanuts in my bed one night. Every other item on this countdown was either fun, interesting, ridiculous, or memorable in some other way. But the number one spot in the Top Ten of Freshmen Year… unforgettable. To quote Neil Patrick Harris, it was “Legen…wait for it…dary.”

Let me be upfront and say right now that the details of this story are insignificant. For the sake of storytelling, however, here is the general layout:

It was a Saturday night. I was in Wheeler with a group of friends (all guys to begin with, the girls came later). Nothing seemed out of the ordinary. There was music, we were on the second floor in our friend Steve’s room, people were relaxed, playing Xbox, conversing, laughing, the usual.

Seems pretty straightforward, which is why it’s so incredible that such an extraordinary moment sprouted from such average soil.

At approximately 11 p.m. the girls showed up at Steve’s door. To the best of my recollection, there were three of them. But like I said, the details are not important. At this point, we’ll switch over to Danny-cam to give you the complete picture of my experience.

I look around the room. I’m a little bored, but I don’t want to give up on the night. There are a couple of animated conversations going on around me, but nothing I’m interested in. I like this song…who is this singer? Should I ask someone? I don’t want to look like I don’t know anything about cool music. Did I wear deodorant tonight? …Yeah, I did. Did anyone see me discreetly sniff my armpit?

WAIT! What’s that? Dan and Tom look mad at each other! I need to get closer. What are they talking about? I think it’s about the girls.

Oh my god! What is Dan doing!?

“I CAN’T TAKE IT ANYMORE! I CAN’T EVEN STAND IN THE SAME ROOM AS YOU! YOUR EGO IS TAKING UP ALL THE SPACE!”

Wow! Loftus never gets upset…wait…woah…no way…

[DOOR SLAMS, LOFTUS IS GONE]

Okay so let’s go back and put it all together. Dan and Tom were talking, the girls came in and a minute or two later and Dan and Tom started arguing. This doesn’t seem like a big deal, but Dan is ordinarily the least confrontational kid you’ll ever meet. When he started to raise his voice, my ears perked up and I located the problem and moved closer. And then, out of nowhere, Dan was screaming. It made no sense. It was like the first time I heard my mom quote Kesha. It was just wrong. My mom should never talk about the Po-Po shutting us down.

The yelling was one thing. Very strange, yes, but not impossible. What came next in the “…wait…woah…no way…” section, now that defied reality. During the argument, Dan was holding a can of Coke. It was almost new and almost completely full. When he finished yelling at Tom, Dan spiked the can into the ground like he had just scored a Super Bowl winning touchdown. The liquid came exploding out of the can and shot straight into the air. It even took the exact shape of an exclamation point, the perfect cherry on top of the argument sundae. I’ve never seen Old Faithful in person, but I can’t imagine it being any more magnificent than the Coke that came jetting out of that can. The liquid careened off the ceiling (I don’t know how it didn’t burst through the tile). It splattered all of us in the face. It covered the window. That can was like Santa’s bag, we were all wondering so how much could fit in so small a container…I swear that can held gallons upon gallons of liquid.

Dan slammed the door on his way out, a nice touch. Tom looked baffled. Steve dropped to his knees without a word and began wiping up the spill. I looked all around until I finally found my jaw (it had dropped all the way to the floor). Time stood still.

About two minutes later I regained my ability to form words.

“That. Was. AWESOME!”

And that was freshman year.

Welcome back for Part Two of this jaunt down memory lane. If you missed part one, make sure you check it out. Before we get back to the countdown, just a quick clarification – I’m recounting moments, and nothing more vague. Generally, the formula goes something like this: Remember that time when _______ [insert memory here]. For example, we could call #10 on this list Remember That Time When Loftus Tried to Jump The Fence During Manhunt and Almost Lost His…

With that being said, let us move on down the list. We pick things up at number seven.

#7 Heartbreak Hill

Many, if not most Holy Cross students played at least one varsity sport in high school. Our most gifted athletes make up our Division I varsity teams, and just a tier or two below are the Club team kids. But alas, what about the rest of us? Well that’s where intramurals come into play.

Intramurals. For some of us, just the word itself sends shivers down the spine. These leagues are designed for the common athlete. The recreational competitor. The gym class almost-hero. Or at least that’s what they say.

True, the level of competition is not on the same plane or even in the same universe as the Varsity sports. But let’s make one thing clear – intramurals are nothing to sneeze at. My freshman friends and I found this out the hard way on our first year, and the trials and tribulations we endured were almost comical at times. Let’s have a brief recap of each intramural season that I competed in, starting with first semester.

(Note: All of my teams were comprised of the same kids for the most part. Every one of us played a high school varsity sport, about half of us were captains of our teams, and a few of us made All-State teams or won state titles. The point? It was not our first time competing, which will be important to remember as you scroll through the defeats that follow.)

Flag Football

There’s a nip in the air that wakes up the hair on my neck as I step outside of Wheeler. My ankle pulses in its brace and the competitive juices are shooting through my veins. This was it. This was our first form of intramural competition. As I glance around at my teammates in their makeshift uniforms I see a band of brothers. We haven’t known each other for long, but we’re ready to go to battle together.

The hill to Freshman Field is steep, and the grass is wet. My friend, and our team’s quarterback, Tom, slides down the hill like a four year-old. I’m embarrassed. The rest of us make it to the bottom like adults and we begin to warm up. The referee calls out for the teams, and we all assemble. I’m slightly nervous since I didn’t play football in high school, but I figure I’m decently built and athletic enough that flag football shouldn’t be too horrific.

Team by team is called out and matched against its opponent. When everyone else is gone, my team stands alone with a group of men who look older for their age than Greg Oden. Slowly and hauntingly, the realization that these behemoths are our opponents sets in. One of them burps. I’m standing close enough to catch a whiff of his breath. It reeks of dead freshmen. I bend down to tighten my ankle brace and think about how awesome it would be to still be in bed. But the way things look, I might be back under the covers before long…except in a hospital instead of my dorm room. Too late now.

At halftime we’re down 21-7. It’s not a total slaughter, but we’re physically overmatched. Our halftime talk goes something like this:

Tom: I have no time in the pocket. I’m never going to find anyone who’s open if I have to run for my life.

Greg (in native Bronx accent): Well, Tom, I’m sorry I can’t block these guys. I think I just saw my dad on their team.

We step back on the field. I try to ignore the fact that the members of the other team had shown up clean-shaven and now they all have full beards.

Somehow, my team manages to chip away at the lead, and at the end of regulation we’re tied at 28. All of our hope is deflated though when the He-Men march the ball down our throats and score the winning touchdown. And that, my friends is just a microcosm of our season.

Against all odds, we made the playoffs. We started to believe in ourselves. We booked pedicures so that our glass slipper would look fantastic as we slipped it on and completed our Cinderella story. We were so wrong. We lost in the first round, 60-6. So much for flag football. But at least we had floor hockey to look forward to…

Floor Hockey

Let’s not beat around the bush here. We sucked at floor hockey. Only two of our players had any hockey experience whatsoever, and it seemed like Canada was smuggling superstars across the border every game just to kick the snot out of us.

Basketball

I played a year of JV in high school and Loftus had some varsity experience. Other than that, we planned to rely on hustle and pure athleticism to pick up the slack. Another stupid idea. I shot the lights out in our first game, Dan played to his full potential, and we still got absolutely torched. One kid on the other team took particular pride in tearing our intramural hearts out. He must have scored 40 by himself. I think our entire team scored 48. It was like that scene from Gladiator when Russell Crowe destroys everything in his path and then calls out everyone in the crowd just for good measure.

We pulled out a few victories, but once again suffered a first round exit from the playoffs. We had just one final hope…

Kickball

If there were ever a sport we could truly compete in, this was it. For once, we were good at something. We lost just two games and made the playoffs with ease. We marched to the finals. We took no prisoners. We had found our sport. In the championship we jumped out to a four run lead. A new taste started to formulate on our tongues. It was unfamiliar. Most of us hadn’t experienced it since high school. It was victory.

Too bad we blew the lead in the last inning and lost by one.

We’ll get ‘em next year.

#6 Dan Loses More Blood

One sport that I didn’t cover in #7 was soccer. As a matter of fact, our soccer team was pretty competitive. I wasn’t actually a member of the team, so I left it out, but my friends held their own on the pitch. But it was the image of Dan holding something else that grabs the spotlight and earns the sixth slot on the countdown.

He was holding his ear.

I was in my room finishing up some work one night when my phone rang. It was around 11 and no one was around because all of my friends were busy with intramural soccer. I was surprised to see Dan’s name pop up on the caller I.D. since he’s one of the fiercest players on the team.

“Hey, Danny…uhhhh…are you busy?”

“Not really, what’s going on?”

“You want to come with me to the hospital?”

When I climbed in the Public Safety car I saw a grimacing Dan holding his ear. His shirt was soaked in blood, which was also caking up on his face and neck. It still isn’t clear to me how it happened, but somehow a metal cleat sliced through the upper ear and required stitches.

I was somewhat excited to be along for the journey to the hospital, and we decided to make the best of a bloody situation. Since everyone back on campus was concerned about Dan’s well-being, I decided to chronicle our experiences with my Blackberry camera and upload the pictures to Facebook to let everyone know our progress.

Our night began in the waiting room

After a wait that we’ll file under “Long Enough,” we made it into a room.

Dan was pleased that we were finally shown into a private room
Once we got in though, time seemed to drag. No one was coming in to see us and Dan’s makeshift bandage was underperforming.
The wait was long and arduous. I decided to take matters into my own hands.
At this point, everyone back on the hill was back in their rooms and following us on Facebook. The texts and comments came pouring in. It was as if all of our friends had come along with us.
The final result. Four stitches and an awe-inspiring head wrap.
We got back to campus sometime around 3 a.m. I missed class in the morning, but it was all worth it. Those hours spent joking around in the waiting room, those hours spent blowing up latex gloves and trying on patient robes and doing the best we could to ignore the blood seeping out of Dan’s ear…those are the hours that I’ll remember.

#5 Kimball’s Last Hoorah

I did work-study in Kimball for my first two semesters. I liked it enough that I applied, and was accepted, to be a captain for my three remaining years. I met a lot of interesting people and saw a lot of interesting things. Number five will elaborate.

It was my last shift of the year, which meant it was the last shift ever for two of my senior captains. We had all worked shifts that we hadn’t wanted to work. We had all scraped sticky food off of dirty dishes. Most of us had broken dishes, spilled drinks, or gotten locked in the cleaning supply closet at one point or another (okay, maybe the last one was just me). Needless to say, we all felt an overwhelming sense of accomplishment that we had survived a year in Kimball. Needless to say, the seniors wanted to leave their mark and go out on top.

It had been a fun shift to begin with. We took a four minute and fourteen second break to line up and do the Macarena, ignoring the dirty dishes sliding past us, getting lost in the music. We took a popsicle break. It was the last shift of the year, we had earned it.

It was during the last fifteen minutes that I noticed something was wrong. All of the extra food was coming in, and for some reason it wasn’t being disposed of like it normally would. One of my co-workers pointed this out to me. I knew immediately what was coming.

“Get ready.”

I grabbed an extra tray off the counter just as I saw it happening in my peripheral. A hand was reaching down into tub of food and scooping it out. I covered my face with the tray. I absorbed the impact as the ‘splat’ of coleslaw against my plastic shield echoed throughout the kitchen. And then came the two words that every young child dreams of hearing.

“FOOOOOOD FIIIIIIIGHT!”

The rest is a blur in my mind. I remember crawling under the pulper. I remember throwing chunks of Jell-O like grenades at the graduates-to-be. I try not to remember that we had to clean up the mess when it was all over.

In the end it all comes down to memories, and every month or so when I discover a fleck of mashed potato on my neck or a chunk of broccoli lodged in my ear, I remember how it got there. I remember the last shift of the year.

Check back soon for the conclusion of the countdown. The final four promises everything from a winter disaster to a feud among friends that no one will ever forget. You don’t want to miss it.

If you’ve ever watched Sportscenter, David Letterman, or pretty much any show on the Travel Channel, you’re probably familiar with Top Tens. These days we love to concoct lists and rankings. Whether it’s the top ten plays of the day, the top ten beaches in America, or even the top ten childhood celebrities gone bad (E! viewers you know who you are), we love to sort them out and then count them down, always saving the best for last. In ten days I’ll be returning to campus to embark on another year’s journey at Holy Cross. But before I package up the memories from Freshman year and stick them in the attic, I think it’s only right to take a look back at some of the top moments from year one. This post is the first installment of a three part series. Today we deal with numbers ten, nine, and eight. So, without further adieu, let’s count ‘em down.

#10 Loftus Goes Nuts

It was just the second week on campus and the awkwardness of meeting new people and getting acquainted with campus had long since subsided. Roughly twenty dorm-mates and I had begun a tradition that we called ‘Wheeler Wednesdays.’ Since most of us didn’t have class on Thursday morning, we took the opportunity to get out and run around a bit when the darkness set in. The game? Manhunt. If you’ve never heard of Manhunt and you think it sounds violent or dangerous, feel free to return your skeptically furrowed brow to it’s upright and locked position. Manhunt is simply a more competitive combination of Tag and Hide and Go Seek. Nevertheless, Manhunt requires both creativity when deciding on hiding spots, and athleticism to escape when the spots are discovered. Dan Loftus was and is one of the most athletic and most competitive members of my friend group, but he is by no means the fastest. That honor belongs to Charlie Cunningham – my friend, my roommate, and Track team extraordinaire. So when Dan was ousted from his shadowy nook and had to depend on pure foot speed to secure his escape, the rest of us looked for Charlie to track him down.

You know baby gazelles? You know how when they first learn to walk they look more awkward than the kid who peed his pants in pre-school because he really had to go but he was too shy to ask to be excused? (Okay, I’m getting off track, but for the record I’ve become more outspoken since then.) Well one day that baby gazelle gets separated from the pack and has to try to outrun a ferocious cheetah. It never escapes. Watching Dan and Charlie was a lot like that. Sorry Loftus. Dan the Gazelle had one hope and one hope only – a near impossible leap over a very sharp and very unforgiving fence. “For the love of elevation!” No, Linda Cohn, not this time. Next time you’re in Kimball Quad, check out the black iron around the statue. Then imagine a young freshman hanging from it by a ripped up sweatshirt. Later on, Dan revealed to us that one of the sharp iron points pierced the skin on his upper thigh, merely inches from his…well yeah. So anyways, the number 10 spot goes to a fear-stricken Dan Loftus during an overly-competitive game that 6 year-olds play. He went nuts that night trying to escape. We’re just glad his nuts didn’t go with him.

Wait, can I say that? We’ll find out. Let’s move on.

#9 Tyson Offers Wings, Brings Cake

My freshman year roommate and I had little in common. We came from different places, had different interests, and hung out with different people. I always heard about situations like this before I got to college, and it seemed that they always ended badly. I will never forget my first night at college. I stretched out on my skinny little mattress and tried to get some shuteye. I was nervous and excited, and it must have been around 2 a.m. before I finally drifted off. My roommate was still out. Just moments after I fell asleep, the door opened and Tyson walked in. I heard chewing and I smelled barbeque sauce. I rolled over and opened my eyes. There was Tyson, lounging on his bed with takeout from Wings Over Worcester. He saw me look at him, swallowed, and then held out the plate, “Want a wing?”

I wasn’t hungry. All I could think about was how strange the whole situation seemed. It was at that moment that I realized that college would be full of new and sometimes strange experiences.

Despite our strange encounter on my first night, Tyson and I struck a nice balance and enjoyed a peaceful coexistence. Between both of our busy schedules though, there were days and sometimes weeks during which we saw each other very little.

I had gone away for a weekend and when I came back Tyson was out somewhere on campus. I was tired so I went to bed early, before Tyson came back. In the morning I had to leave for class before Tyson woke up, and when I got back he had already gone to lunch. Our schedules seemed to clash more than Craig Sager’s outfits.

Sometime during that stretch I accidentally drank one of Tyson’s waters out of the fridge. When I realized my sin I bought two bottles to replace the stolen one. Tyson was quite grateful, and when I got back from work that same night I found a piece of chocolate cake waiting for me on my desk. “I brought you a piece of cake, Dan. I know how much you love cake.” He could not have been more right. It may seem like a simple exchange between roommates, but the water and the cake were in fact much more than that. For two people as different as Tyson and I were, our living situation could have been disastrous. Instead, I made sure he was hydrated and he made sure I satisfied my sweet tooth.

#8 Tom’s Biggest Mistake (He Just Doesn’t Know It Yet)

Whenever something went amiss on my half of the hallway, most people knew where to look. Tom Casavant, my neighbor and friend, put the tom in tomfoolery. So when I crawled into my bed after a four hour study session the night before a test and found it filled with packing peanuts, I knew exactly which door to knock on first.

“You mind cleaning up the mess you made, buddy?”

“What are you talking about?”

His act, I will admit, was convincing. He seemed to have no idea what I was talking about, but out of the goodness of his heart he helped me rid my bed of pesky little styrofoam nuggets. I thanked him and went to bed for the second time that night. But the longer I laid there the more convinced I became that Tom had done it. It had to be him. I couldn’t sleep, so I got up and put all of the skills I acquired from watching CSI: to work. Packing peanuts could only mean one thing…a package. And sure enough when I peeked into the trash can my eyes fell on a brown shipping box addressed to a Thomas Casavant. I hitched up my pants, squatted down to get a better look, said something incredibly cheesy, and put on my sunglasses just before the theme music. YEEEAHHHHH! Having completed my Horatio Caine moment, I tucked myself back in and fell asleep to dreams of revenge on Tom.

It took him a few days to confess, but the confession did come. And as Tom acknowledged, one prank deserves another in return. So what did I do? Nothing. Not yet. I’m letting it simmer. Tom, if you’re reading this, just know that I haven’t forgotten. I promise you that my revenge will appear on my sophomore Top Ten a year from now, and I promise you it will do better than #8.

Stay tuned for the next installment. Moments seven, six, and five are up next.

Well I guess it’s that time once again – time to rouse the brain from its summer slumber and start preparing for another year on the hill. If you followed my blog at all last year, you know how much I enjoyed my first two semesters at HC, so it should come as no surprise that I’m excited to see what Sophomore year will be like for me and for my classmates.

If you’re an incoming freshman, you’re undoubtedly feeling the peaks and valleys of the emotional rollercoaster that we all ride on the way to our first post-secondary year. I know that at this time last year I was full of questions. I had no idea what college held in store for me, and I hadn’t the slightest idea what to do when I got there. Having spoken with my friends and classmates, I get the sense that most people felt just as lost as I did on my first day at school.

If any of this sounds familiar to you, the members of the Class of 2014, rest assured. I’m here to help. Welcome to your pocket guide for freshman year. I learn something new about college every single day, so I won’t pretend I’ve got it all figured out. But I’ve completed my first year, and that’s probably the only year that you’re thinking of right now.

The following is the best, most condensed advice I can offer to make your transition as smooth as possible.

1. Dive In – Whether you’re a social butterfly or something of a hermit, this is the single-most important piece of advice. College is going to pick you up and throw you into the pool of new experiences no matter what, so you might as well make a stylish splash as you go (just make sure you get your phone out of your pocket). If your summer orientation was like mine, you probably stepped out of your comfort zone once or twice. Maybe you embarrassed yourself. Yeah, you probably did. All I can say is, embrace the awkwardness. You know what? I had to do the Beyonce Single Ladies dance when I was there. Did I feel comfortable with that? Not at all. But neither did the guy next to me, or the girl next to him. You’re all in it together, so bond with your classmates. Holy Cross knows what it’s doing to get you started on the right track, so trust them. Once fall orientation ends, the new experiences will continue. Just remember that what’s new for you is new for everyone. You’re not alone.

2. Leave your Door Open – Only if you’re inside the room, of course. This is probably the easiest way to meet and make friends with your neighbors. If you’re not hard at work or doing anything that requires privacy, give others the chance to wander in and chat. On the flip side, make an effort to wander around yourself and strike up some conversation with the other people whose open doors give off the ‘me casa es su casa’ vibe. Look for posters or other indicators of what your neighbors are interested in and you’ll undoubtedly find out how much you have in common.

3. Be Patient – One of the most popular comments I heard during my first few days on campus was “I just want to start classes.” During fall orientation I heard a lot of complaints from peers about how many sessions we had to attend and how early we had to get up. A lot of kids wanted to get away from the structured schedule and get a taste of some of that much heralded freedom that we all heard so much about in the months leading up to school. As delicious as the post-orientation independence is though, I can tell you that I met all of my best friends, except for one, in my fall orientation group. Orientation gave me the chance to get to know the people I’d be living with (and, you know, get oriented) and that early opportunity to bond proved effective enough to last us an entire year and counting. That being said, if you don’t feel that the kids in your orientation group are the birds of your feather, don’t fret – there is certainly no shortage of places to meet people once you get to school.

4. Don’t Forget the Academics – This is probably the most important piece of advice, but it fell to number four on the list because no one wants to hear it. Nevertheless, don’t let this one slip through the cracks. Though at first it may not seem like it, college is indeed school. There are classes, labs, practicums, homework, study groups, tests, quizzes, presentations…all those little bundles of sunshine we adored so much in high school (if you’re wondering where that last comment landed on the Sarcasm Scale, it was a 6, maybe a 7).  Regardless of how moving in, meeting people, and getting acquainted with the campus plays out, make sure you take the time to shake off the dust and the cobwebs that summer may have spun in your brain. Many who suffered from Senioritis in high school coasted for the final semester, or maybe even all of senior year. Well its time to strap it back in my friends. Put the foot back on the academic accelerator and buckle up. If you’re mentally prepared for class before class actually starts, you’ll be fine. No one should feel academically overmatched – HC doesn’t accept students who aren’t up to snuff.

And that’s about it. You may be reading this and thinking, ‘Wait, what? That’s all he’s going to tell us?’ Well, yes. Those are the basics. I hammered in the first couple of nails and built the frame of the metaphorical house of college experiences, and now it’s up to you to furnish it and make it your own.

If you’re dying to know something that I didn’t cover, you have a couple of options. First, be sure to check out the posts I wrote during freshman year while I was experiencing my first two semesters. In fact, check out all of the blogs written by all of the bloggers. No other resource will paint a more accurate and complete picture of what life is really like at Holy Cross. If you’re still burning with more questions, feel free to comment on this post or email me at dpdeco13@holycross.edu.

Welcome to college. I think you’ll like what you’ll find.

It’s that time of year for prospective students. Decision time. At this point, most high school seniors know their options for the future, and for those who haven’t made a choice yet, the deadlines are rapidly approaching. I remember feeling somewhat overwhelmed by the entire college application process, and I remember spending hours debating my future and hoping to make the choice that suited me best.

As it turned out, I made the right decision. When I interviewed for this position as a student blogger, I expressed that my primary goal was to help provide prospective students with a realistic inside look at what it means to be a student at Holy Cross. Up until this point, I’ve done so primarily through personal stories and anecdotes, and I’ve attempted to paint a sort of literary portrait that might help my readers garner a certain understanding of what day to day life entails.

Seeing as this is a fundamentally important time in the life of hundreds of prospective students, however, I’d like to shift the theme a little bit this time around. This is not to say I’ll be abandoning the life stories that must be told, believe me, I will tell them. But at the same time, I’d like to make this blog more interactive. It will no longer just be me writing. Instead, it will be you, the reader, interacting and playing a greater role in what you read. Consider this post an invitation.

One of my idols is Bill Simmons. Simmons and I share a lot in common: we both grew up in New England, we both love the same sports teams, we both love to write, and yes, Bill Simmons went to Holy Cross. Today, Simmons is a columnist for ESPN.com (Read his work here) and the writer of one of my favorite books of all time, The Book of Basketball (you can ask my family, they saw me laughing myself to tears one day while I was reading). You may be wondering what any of this has to do with what I was getting at earlier, but here comes the connection: Simmons includes in a “Mailbag” in his column, in which he answers the emails that his readers send him. Some emails ask for his opinion, others present interesting ideas, and others don’t seem to have much relevance to anything, but are entertaining nonetheless.

So, to borrow an idea from on of my heroes, I’d like to cordially invite you to write in and to make this blog yours as much as it is mine. After all, the writer is nothing without the reader.

Have questions? Ask them. Comments? Leave them. Personal stories? Ideas? Seemingly irrelevant tidbits? Share them.

You can flip through catalogs, visit websites, take tours, and do any number of other things to get a sense for college life, but you can never get too much information. That’s why it’s my pleasure to provide a new forum for information: my inbox.

Comment on this post below, or email me directly at dpdeco13@holycross.edu.

Welcome aboard. Happy to have you.

When orientation started back in August there were a lot of responsibilities and expectations thrust upon incoming freshmen. We had to rise from our new beds, make the conscious effort to put on sandals before showering, remember the codes to our rooms, find out where we had to be for daily activities, arrive on time, and of course, make sure we were presenting ourselves in a way that we believed our new peers would admire. None of these tasks were particularly overwhelming alone, but the combinations of them would occasionally wear on us. For me, it was a wake-up call: this was not Goffstown, New Hampshire. My mom would not be rolling me out of bed and sliding french toast onto my plate. It was time to fend for myself, in a sense. Though I was already a legal adult at that point, the beginning of college was the true indicator that it was time to grow up.

NOTE: This is not, of course, to say that I would ever refuse my mom’s french toast. French toast is on an entirely different level and is thus exempt from any debate involving maturity.

I think it’s safe to say that the typical American college student associates working a job as an integral aspect of adulthood. I could feel the transition from teenagerdom to adulthood occurring within myself, and beginning work at Kimball Dining Hall was nothing short of a major catalyst for this change. This post is the story of my experiences working at Kimball.

My story of Kimball is many things. It is, at times, tragic. It is, at times, inspirational. It is, at times, funny. But although these dramatic elements have cycled in and out throughout the course of two semesters of work, two things have stood out as constant. First, every shift at Kimball is a learning experience. Whether it’s a small tidbit like finding out where we keep extra napkins or a major revelation like realizing the true effort running a dining hall requires, every shift offers a lesson. Second is the value of teamwork. When work started, the freshmen (myself included) were slightly intimidated by the prospect of being responsible for the positive dining experiences of hundreds of students on any given day. Honestly, things started out on somewhat of a rough note, but as soon as we came to realize as workers that we could rely on each other to reach our collective goals, work and life became a lot easier.

I will never forget my first shift working at Kimball Dining Hall. It was a Wednesday night in September. I showed up slightly nervous and not knowing what to expect. When I found the table to which I was required to report, my shift captains gave a quick overview of all of the jobs that needed to be done that night. I had some trouble wrapping my head around all of the names of the jobs and what each job entailed. My memory is fuzzy, but I remember that I somehow ended up on the Beverage Unit (henceforth referred to as simply, BU).

Being the BU man essentially meant I was responsible for filling any and all empty juices and milks, keeping the counters around the drinks clean, and a bundle of other, smaller tasks. For one of my classes, I had to write a short story about myself, and I chose to describe the first time I ever changed a milk. At this point, I’d like to share that story with you.

Now what? My work captain had showed me how to change the milk, but she flew through the demonstration. I can’t remember if I thread the nozzle and then cut the plastic tubing, or if I peel off the extra layer before or after I take the metal piece out. Even the little diagram on the inside of the milk machine is unfathomable to me. Out of my peripheral I can see a line forming behind me. Great, they look like football players. I need to hurry up. My mind starts to wander…I had no idea so many people liked milk. I mean, honestly, how could so many people have lined up in the 20 seconds I’d been standing here staring blankly at the milk machine? Better get going, Danny.

I dive in. I bring my mind into focus and try to recall the exact procedure I should follow. I tear off the extra plastic. Nothing bad happens! I take out the old milk. Another good move. I cut off the plastic tubing. Not good. The milk is flowing onto my apron and forming a small lake around my feet. No, this definitely doesn’t seem to be the way they showed me to do this. I plug the leak with my trembling finger. People walk away in a mixture of frustration and impatience. Somehow, I get the milk to stop making my life hell and I scramble into the back kitchen. I’d like to quit. That was humiliating and I’m mortified. But, no. No, I can’t give up after one incident. Where’s the next milk that needs changing? It’s time to learn. It’s time to improve on my weaknesses.

As you can see, this single experience reflects all of the elements I mentioned earlier. It was tragic in the sense that I was a helpless freshmen covered in milk and failing at my appointed duty. It was funny (though not at the time) simply for the embarrassment factor. And in the end, it was somewhat inspirational in that I was able to use this experience as a chance to motivate myself to improve my work. So there you have it, two and a half minutes into my first shift at Kimball, I realized I had a lot to learn.

And learn I did. And learn I still do, all these months later. That night, I took a minute to collect myself and suppress my emotions, and I went back to work. Like anything else, skill in the BU is the result of hard work and practice. I learned a little bit more about the job (as well as all of the other jobs, BU is just one of many important roles that students fill in Kimball) each time I worked, and today I am confident that my work abilities exceed most expectations.

In the interest of both the reader’s and my own time, I’ll wrap up this post. I could literally write for days about the experiences I’ve had working, and as much satisfaction as that would give me, I’ll spare you my life story. I will, however, depart with a few final remarks.

I’ve met a lot of my friends through work-study. Just throwing it out there. This school is full of awesome people, so any opportunity to meet and interact with other students is one that should be taken advantage of. I’ve been able to hone a deep appreciation for the product of hard work, which in this case is the Dining Hall full of happy people with food on their plates and drinks in the cups. More than anything else though, I’ve come to fully understand what it means to be a part of a team. A team is, yes, a group of people working together towards a common goal. But in actuality, it’s much more than that – it’s a way of life. I heard this adage sometime back in middle school, but it never made more sense to me than it does now that I’ve become a part of the Kimball work-study community: Together Everyone Achieves More.

TEAM.

When college started, everyone was looking to make connections. Some people came in knowing others already, others like myself had made a few friends at summer orientation but didn’t really have any solid foundation, and still others came in completely alone. Since we all crave companionship in life, everyone set out in the first week of school to establish themselves in social circles that they felt comfortable in. Most kids would chat with various people they saw throughout the day, and before long everyone began to get a feel for where they might like to fit in.

For me, and I think for a lot of freshmen, my friend base started out in my fall orientation group. This group spent three whole days together, and since they were arranged by residence halls everyone lived close to one another. Naturally, this mixture of extended daily exposure and close living proximity led to bonding, and as is often the case, bonding led to friendship.

Obviously, as time went on, each member of the group got to know and like other members of the campus community, and everyone’s social circle grew. But in many cases the heart of the friend circle remained concrete. This is certainly true for me, as all of my closest friends except for one were people who I met during my first three days on campus.

Now, not everyone who lives on the same floor shared the same orientation group. What this meant at the very beginning was we all lived in a mix of strangers and friendly faces. As time goes on, the strangers become less strange and more neighborly, and a community atmosphere develops. Even so, there are cases in which neighbors never truly elevate themselves to the status of friends. With each day that passes, it seems less and less likely that neighbor relationships will blossom into full-blown friendships, which is in a sense, sad.

This post is the heartwarming tale of a young man named Craig Richardson. Craig took it upon himself to redefine the term ‘neighbor’ on the fourth floor of Wheeler and to break down the barrier that seemed to exist since the first semester. Is Craig a hero? It’s too early to say. But let’s have a look at his story.

Friday, 8:30 p.m. – My friends and I sit in a dorm room – the same room that we always go to when it’s time to hang out and relax. At this point the Xbox is in full swing, music is playing, people are conversing, and all signs are pointing to a typical Friday night. No one is complaining, it’s nice just to kick back.

9:15 p.m. – A few of the girls that we’re friends with come wandering upstairs to hang out with us. Dancing ensues. Again, nothing mind-boggling, but nonetheless a fun time.

9:27 p.m. – A knock on the door. A quick glance around shows that everyone is accounted for. Everyone who we normally spend time with is already inside the room. Could it be an RA? Was the music too loud? Possibly. But a quick glance through the peep hole proved otherwise.

9:28 p.m. - My friend Dan opens the door, and in steps Craig. Everyone in the room is fond of Craig, he is one of the cordial neighbors with whom we interacted on occasion but not on a daily basis. We wait to see what he has to say. Would he ask to borrow an Xbox controller? Would he ask for the number for the pizza delivery guy? No one knew.

9:28.45 p.m. – “What are you guys up to?” Boom. Barrier broken. Those six words show that Craig cares. So in comes Craig, and he is greeted warmly. After a few minutes, he says he’ll be right back.

9:35 p.m. - Another knock on the door and another peep through the peephole reveals another appearance by Craig – this time with three of his friends. They all come inside. They all converse. Everything is awesome.

That night, we never even left my friend’s room. Time seemed to fly. We had always said that we liked our neighbors and we should spend more time together as a large group, and we’d heard that they shared the same sentiments, but no one had been willing to take the first step until Craig.

The next day my friends and I talked over the events from the previous night, and we all agreed that we hadn’t had that much fun in our dorm rooms in a while. Craig’s action had brought a sort of freshness and renewed camaraderie to the floor.

In one sense, what Craig did was logical. We live together, we share a home, we share experiences and interests, so why shouldn’t we hang out? But on the other hand, its almost March and it hadn’t happened yet, so why would anyone expect it to on a random Friday night? It’s that second part that makes this whole situation so great.

So, is Craig Richardson a hero? Well, that’s not something that one little blogger can decide. But is Craig Richardson a pioneer? Absolutely.

Some of those kids on the far side of the floor that use the other bathroom still seem kind of weird though.

Baby steps.

This week has been quiet – suspiciously quiet. Somehow I was not only up to date on my homework this week, I was ahead. It was a feeling with which I had little experience, and quite honestly, I didn’t know what to do with myself. I can’t help but wonder how it happened. After all, since arriving at college I’ve had the pedal pressed firmly to the floor, totally foreign to the idea of slowing down. And now this? Now I have time for naps? Now I can get back from the gym or the basketball court at 11 p.m. and not have to finish homework? Now I can sleep for eight, nine, or ten hours every night? I’m scaring myself. It’s like I don’t even know me anymore.

That’s not to say I don’t enjoy my free time; I’m just confused by it. That’s why this post will take an investigative look into the details that brought me to this juncture. ‘But Danny,’ you might be thinking, ‘why would you spend a whole blog trying to pinpoint the reason you have free time?’ Well, the answer lies in the question. I’ve got some down time.

Here are the possible causes, as I’ve identified them, in no particular order:

Cause #1 – Home for the weekend

Why it could be:

Last weekend, I took a trip back home to the great state of New Hampshire to see my family. At home I’ve got a lot of my own space where I can enjoy the peace and quiet. At school the lively atmosphere can at times grab my attention and thus prolong my work time. Since I was able to complete all of my work for Monday and Tuesday on Saturday, I had a head start on the week. Since everyone I knew was working on the work due at the beginning of the week, I was able to get a jump on the Wednesday-Thursday assignments. My NH visit seems to be a strong candidate for leading reason for down time.

The problem: I won’t be going home every weekend (sorry Mom and Dad). If I’m still ahead next week, this cause will lose credibility.

Cause #2 – Course load

Why it could be:

My schedule seems to be working in my favor thus far, and the work of my courses hasn’t been altogether gruesome. My Montserrat is more interesting this semester than last, so the readings go quicker. I got a hang of the processes of Spanish classes last semester, so I know how to handle those assignments. Philosophy requires a great deal of mental focus during class time, but the amounts of homework are not so copious that I feel overwhelmed. Sociology demands a good deal of reading, but the total homework time is significantly less than that of the poetry class I took during the same time slot last semester.

The problem: Holy Cross doesn’t offer too many courses with small workloads. This either means the “Homework Monster” (a term coined by my friend and co-blogger Katharine Shapleigh) is waiting to strike, or I’ve somehow landed in an alternate reality. Unfortunately, the former seems most likely. I’ll have my mom check under my bed.

Cause #3 – A skyrocketing motivation

Why it could be:

It seems to be a logical explanation. Maybe the reason I felt so crammed last semester was that I didn’t have the drive to get ahead. Maybe something clicked this week. Maybe I’ve been inspired by something and I’m never looking back to the days of procrastination. Maybe for the remainder of my academic career I’ll have the ‘work now, relax later’ attitude instead of the opposite.

The problem:

Maybe none of what I just wrote was true.

Cause #4 – I’ve got it all figured out

Why it could be:

Just humor me. I’ve got a semester under my belt. I’ve got a lot more experience with the college world now than I did in August, and I’ve learned a lot about time management. Perhaps I’ve struck the perfect balance between academics, extracurriculars, and free time, and that balance is here to stay.

The problem:

Trust me, I want this to be the real cause more than any of the others, but I’ve got my doubts. This solution definitely seems too good to be true.

What we can conclude

All of the potential causes have merit. It could be one of, none of, or a combination of, any of them. I’m not ready to testify in front of a jury with regard to my free time, but if nothing else we’ve scratched the surface on a seemingly-phenomenal issue.

More than anything though, I was able to kill an hour of free time with this post.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I think a nap is in order.