Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Cave

The Cave, the fortress, the dungeon or the hole, all names apply. It is where I spent the majority of my days the past three years. It is where I drank swill, aka the coffee from the business office, with Brad Jones in the morning to start the day. The cave almost wasn’t even my home. Brad pulled me out of the Sports Information office, seeing that it was already cramped and would become even more cramped once students arrived, and into his newly converted storage closet that would serve as command central for the newly created Duke athletics video department. On day one, all that existed in the room was a long desk that was mounted on the wall stretching the length of the room, a Dell laptop, a Mac Desktop and two Penn State graduates. A recipe, if not for disaster, but the potential for a lot of hilarity, both ensued.

In a blink of an eye all the space that existed would become engulfed by cameras, racks, towers, bags, monitors, switchers, audio boards, lights, tripods, cables and just the general clutter that two people who grew up in Western Pennsylvania generally amass over the course of a few weeks. A filing system was non-existent. Once a day a notepad would exist with scribblings from a meeting written on it, the next day that same notepad would be long gone. Flash drives, forget about it, they never stood a chance, countless were lost, but never forgotten.

“Have you seen the blue junk drive?”

“Not in weeks.”

But somehow it worked. Before long the new video board in Cameron Indoor Stadium was installed and with it a rack of equipment would be stationed in the back left corner, taking up more space. Another monitor. A switcher. A TV mounted on the wall. An Aja digital conversion box, a beta player, external hard drives, firewires, old cups of coffee, bottles of water that were now half way filled with chew spit, a Mac laptop, a box of donuts, all of this now filled the room, the desk, the work space, and essentially, the storage closest that was emptied to house the video department became a storage closest once again, but yet, it was still so much more.

This was only the beginning of the mess that would be created, over even more time Croc Pots would be used to keep beer cold, five pound bags of Mike & Ike’s, Reese Cups and peanut M&M’s would live on the desk, if only briefly. A shot clock, yes that’s right, the backup shot clock for Cameron Indoor Stadium would make The Cave its home, of course with its buzzer disabled, but other than that fully functioning. Another desk would be added, pulled from the hallway because Brad would have rather kept it in the office than have it thrown away. The desk just added another location for us to pile coffee makers, clothes, whisky and paper.

Since shelves were not in the budget, we improvised. Finding an old basketball rack in the hallway, along with some wooden planks, and before you knew it we had ourselves a shelf. Quickly it was covered with DVD’s (Seinfeld, Dumb & Dumber, Gladiator), a giant stuffed lobster, a Pittsburgh Maulers helmet, a bottle of Aleve that had an assortment of different colored pills in it, Blowpops, trophy’s, books, media guides, papers, everything, simply, we had everything but somehow we never could FIND anything.

That first year, with The Cave still evolving into what it would fully become, was my favorite, and my proudest year for what Brad was able to accomplish and pull off with zero budget. Things might not have always looked great. Cables may have been hung off lights and through ceiling tiles. The Fire Marshall may have given us fearful looks, but everything worked. It functioned in a way that the people out enjoying the show in Cameron, watching the videos on, would have thought everything was roses behind the scenes. In reality, we were rushing. Software and hard drives were crashing. Video boards were freezing, but somehow, and I give all the credit to Brad, it worked when it needed to.

And in a way that is the best way to describe The Cave and us. It worked when it needed to and we had things done when we needed to. When the chips were down and the deadlines were upon us, we got things to work; we finished projects, exported files, filmed games, created highlights all when it needed to be done, even if we had went home at 3:00 a.m. the night before or were going on our seventh game in ten nights. So what if occasionally we spent an hour on YouTube laughing at videos, or Facebook, or making an extra coffee run, or taking a little bit longer at lunch, or simply just driving around Durham, because as much as we needed The Cave to be our place and feel like it belonged to us, there were times when we needed to be anywhere else but that room.

I’m sure I’ll never work inside an office like The Cave again. It was its own animal. It was not for the weak minded. It was our brainchild. It functioned how we thought… scattered in 10 different directions. But it was home, through the good times and the bad, the one constant was that office. It was always there, ready to house whoever wanted to stop by, to talk about work, to complain about their boss, to vent, to cry, to laugh, it served as something for everyone that stepped into it… If only those walls could talk….

Three years later the room has come full circle. Brad is gone. Chad is fully situated as the new director of video operations. He tried to clean up The Cave. He succeeded for about eight months. It is back to being a mess now, despite some slight changes. I fought Chad's need to be organized and brought the room back to its rightful clutter just before walking away. It looks good.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Short Story (Part II)

…. And now at 9:00 a.m., while Erin was sitting in class, sipping on a tepid cup of coffee she grabbed quickly from the common’s of McCabe Hall, Chad was rolling over, shutting the buzz of his alarm clock off and rolling out of bed, emitting a sound more often heard coming from a family of grizzly bears than people.

In triumphant fashion, Chad’s day had officially begun.

He managed to grab his toothbrush and tube of Crest as he wandered out his dorm and across his hallway to the co-ed bathroom. His first sight was a female student, one that he saw often spending way too much time in the bathroom applying her makeup and meticulously grooming her hair just so. Paying little attention, he made his way over to the sink, splashing water on his face to help the wake-up process. Then, placed a generous portion of toothpaste onto his toothbrush as he gently massaged the bristles along his teeth and gums. Two spits later and he was back in his dorm.

He pulled a pair of grey sweatpants with a Clemson Tiger paw logo embroidered on the left leg just below the pocket out of a pile of clothes on the floor. Checking for any noticeable stains, Chad decided they were suitable for the day ahead. He then removed an orange Clemson t-shirt from a hanger in his closet. His closet doors doubled as mirror, mockingly, to nobody in particular, Chad gave a quick once over of his appearance in the mirror, checking that his hair, which couldn’t have been longer than an eighth of an inch was in pristine condition.

It must have been because Chad whipped his black Nike book bag over his shoulder and locked the door behind him.

Clemson University, located in Clemson, South Carolina and founded in 1889 is home to 15,346 undergraduate students. When the school opened over 100 year ago, it was educational institute to just 446 students and 15 faculty members. Now Chad was one of those 15,000. Erin was another. Both had arrived in South Carolina via different paths. Currently though, the only path that mattered to Chad was the one to Harcombe’s Dining Hall.

He exited through McCabe’s Hall North exit. In front of him, just a few hundred feet of quad separated him from his destination. To his left was Holmes Hall, just up ahead of that was Student Government Building and to his right was the Edgar Brown University Union. Resting between all that was Harcombe, the dining hall Chad frequented daily. The building was located on the corner of Union Drive and Alpha Beta Circle.

Twenty of so students milled around the quad between the buildings, some returning to their dorms, other just leaving, some on the same path as Chad. One though happened to catch Chad’s eye. A female student, wearing a black dress and her heels in her hands, was walking toward him. He recognized her. She lived in his dorm. He had seen her in the laundry room occasional. It was obvious she wasn’t returning from class. She was performing the ‘walk of shame’ for the 20 or so students in the quad. She was still 100 feet in front of him, but Chad could see the embarrassment on the girls face. Her eyes focused on the ground just in front of her. Two male students, wearing Chi Psi fraternity t-shirts asked, “fun night?”, as they passed her on the sidewalk. If their comment bothered her it didn’t show. Her focus never left the concrete.

The frat boys comment actually bothered Chad more. While his initial reaction to spotting the girl on the ‘walk of shame’ was smirk at the situation, the slight smile was quickly removed. He thought about Erin rushing out of the dorm earlier that morning, late for class and fumbling with her shoes as she hopped out of his room. How was she feeling about having to run out of his dorm and to her first class this morning in the same clothes she had the night before? Her difference though was that she was wearing tennis shoes, jeans and a long sleeved shirt that morning. Still, it bothered Chad. If somebody were to make a comment, like the frat boys to the girl who was now passing Chad on his left, to Erin, Chad wouldn’t have liked it. So whatever desire existed to laugh at the humorless comment by the frat boys at first was completely gone and filled with thoughts of Erin and if she has ever been harassed that way.

He would ask her later.

His attention turned back to Harcombe Hall, which was just a few feet in front of him. He hurried up the 10 steps that led up to the door, taking them two at a time. At the door, he paused, took one long last breath of the crisp November air, and then entered.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Short Story (Work in Progress)

I'm working on a short story about a college student who spends his whole day in the school's dining hall talking with classmates instead of going to class.... This is the beginning, be kind, it's a work in progress.

8:00 A.M.

8:02 A.M.

The incessant buzz of the alarm clock had been beeping for two minutes. Finally, Chad rolled to his left, his girlfriend Erin’s sleeping face stared back at him, her eyes still closed, her mind lost in a dream, maybe about the life they would one day have together, the three kids, the house, the white picket fence, the golden retriever that would guard the house at night from intruders or the monsters that inevitably haunt every child’s nightmares while they sleep. Or maybe she was simply dreaming about the day ahead, the English midterm that afternoon, the meeting with her advisor afterward to plan her final semester’s schedule of classes, the dinner she would have with Chad in Harcombe Dining Hall that evening.

Chad on the other hand smiled as he looked deep into the back of her eyelids. Any moment he would see her bold green eyes in the morning sunlight that was creeping through the slits in the blinds. He reached his left arm over her body gently grazing her right shoulder with his elbow. His fingers, extending fully, reached the alarm clock, his index finger pressing the button to stop the buzzing. By the time his arm was back by his side Erin’s eyes were open, already gazing back at him. She blinked four times in succession, focusing her vision, then smiling, then leaning forward, then parting her lips slightly giving Chad a kiss on his forehead.

“Good morning”, sung from her voice. “What time is it?”

“Just after 8”

“Shit,” she shrieked, the moment completely gone. “I’m late for class.”

Leaping our of the bed, Erin fumbled for the hair tie that rested on his desk, in the process knocking over a Styrofoam Bojangles cup that once was the home of sweet tea, but now just housed the remnants of crushed ice that hadn’t melted yet.

“Shit. Sorry. I need to go. Love you. See you tonight.”

And as quickly as she woke up she was out the door and headed to her first class, the ice from the Bojangles Cup scattered across the hard-wood floor.

Chad, unfazed, reset his alarm. His first class of the day, HIST 400 - Medieval History with Caroline Dunn would take attendance in 27 minutes. Chad would not be there. His 9:00 a.m. wake up call would buzz precisely 30 minutes after Dunn would have called his name. He resigned himself to his bed until at least 9 o’clock, with his first class of the day being breakfast at Harcombe Dining Hall.

For Chad, Harcombe Dining Hall was a short walk. Living in McCabe Hall, a five-story building that houses about 290 Clemson students, the trip over to the dining hall took Chad no more than eight minutes. For Erin on the other hand, the trip to Harcombe’s dining hall was much longer. She lived in Smith Hall, an all female dorm on the opposite side of campus. Her commute was much longer to the favorite dining destination of her boyfriend, who would graduate with her in just less than three months.