Monday, May 24, 2004

Notre Dame Commencement: A Year Later

By Pete Godlewski - Special to KankaNation

So after choosing my thesis lab here in Philadelphia, I took a little vacation. For this vacation I went out to South Bend, IN for senior week and commencement to spend time with my girlfriend Jess.
I flew into the Bend on Thursday afternoon of senior week. It was rather sunny and a pretty good day there. Jess came to pick me up at the airport and the merry time began. (As you’re going to find with this, I’m only really going to hit the major points…I mean come on, it’s South Bend.)
We went out to dinner that night and proceeded to my first (and probably last) trip to Heartland. Apparently it was a crowded night as the juniors who were wrapping up exams were all out as were the seniors. As it happened this was my first of four Tom Timmermans sightings. Now remember everyone…Ellen lllllllllloooooooovvvvvvvveeeeeeesssssss him. Some rather small looking girl had dragged him out to the dance floor. Needless to say someone who is about 5’5” grinding on Tom Timmermans while he looks around with the face of a great Dane was highly amusing. After the evening was over we went outside to grab a cab and noticed that a hot dog vendor had conveniently set up shop right next to the entrance. A great idea seeing as how Borracho and Nick’s Patio were nowhere close. In Philly the post-drinking food is cheesesteaks, in the Bend it is hot dogs.
The next day we went to the Dunes. We drove out to Michigan City, where Jess and some of her friends got the brilliant idea of running up the side of Mt. Baldy. After giving up two of them for dead we made it to the top and proceeded to roll down the other side. So I look up the beach and see a giant steam stack, similar to the ones seen at nuclear power plants. It was attached to a coal power plant situated right at the end of the beach. Now I know where greenpeace gets their photos. When I get the picture I will send it along. During a stop at Meijer to get food before hand I picked up a foam baseball bat and sand toys. The girls started making a sand castle, which in the end turned out to look like a giant nipple. Joey Lopez armed with a digital camera and I had a great time. Nothing like three girls on top of a giant nipple. After fun and frolicking on the beach we started to drive back when my girlfriend had a stupid moment. Now I must preface this by saying she was in the top ten for the accounting class. She turned to all of us and asked, “So was that a man made lake?” I looked at her like Cronk does whenever he can’t wrap his brain around an idea. Apparently Lake Michigan is not big enough for her.
Saturday was a trip to Potato Creek State Park right outside South Bend with Jess because she wanted to use paddle boats. The people at the rental place said that we should watch out because they had a thunderstorm warning. She said she wanted to go anyways, so we got in the boat and started paddling. We get out to the middle of the lake and of course the thunderstorm is upon us. I hear a boom and then get poured on for about 10 minutes straight. Jess asked me why I was backpaddling. After that we went hiking around and back to campus to grab showers. That night after dinner we went to Legends to grab a drink and relax. I was looking through their extensive and weird beer list when one caught my eye. Monty Python’s Holy Grail Ale. It was extremely good and I kept the bottle if only for the writing on the bottom of the label that said, “Tempered Over Burning Witches.” If you guys are back there I highly recommend it.
The rest of the weekend was pretty low key. Monday evening was the highly entertaining Band Pub Crawl, aka, All the Places Pete Has Never Been before. It began at BW3’s with mass consumption of wings and the handing out of heinous orange shirts with an 8 bit picture of Dr. Dye on the front. After BW3’s we went to Fiddler’s Hearth and the Oyster Bar right next door. From there we took our bus to Coveleski Stadium and dollar Monday’s. From there we went to Finnigan’s, which opened especially for us on a Monday night. Onto Corby’s, which was much more crowded and then there was the first band person who decided to lose it outside due to too much drink. This also marked another Timmerman’s sighting, he was near a pool table attempting to lean down and play but couldn’t get enough people out of the way to take a shot. Finally we ended up at the Backer, where Mike Siembor had some problems outside the bar with stomach issues. Most of the people left around 12:30AM because the Backer wasn’t all that exciting. Jess, I and some of her piccolo friends (DAH), went to Nick’s Patio and stayed there for quite awhile whilst they sobered up. All in all a good night.
Tuesday, most seniors went to Cedar Point, but since Jess sold her soul to the band for commencement week and a trip to New Zealand and Australia, we stayed around campus for a lazy day. This was actually better because most of these nuts left for Sandusky between 5 and 7 in the morning, and I was nowhere near sober enough to follow them plus I got sleep.
Wednesday marked the night of the Senior Formal. Jess gave me her digital camera and I resembled a Japanese tourist most of the night while I snapped photos of her and her friends for the majority of the night. Apparently the senior formal committee decided to spend the majority of their money on fireworks which lasted five minutes. They also decided the dance would only go until about 1 with last call at 12:30. So all of the people in their formal attire decided to walk (and by walk I mean fall all over themselves) outside in the rain to State. There was a huge line outside, but again with the aforementioned hot dog stand. We got in to State and saw Tom Timmermans for the third time. Once again, seeing Timmy dance is about one of the scariest things you could possibly lay eyes on.
Thursday was the Seniors’ Last Trip to the Grotto, which was actually a great event. Fr. Paul Doyle was their senior fellow and gave a pretty touching speech. Four of the seniors read a montage of different stories about their times on campus, hearing about drinking escapades in the basilica while also seeing Fr. Poorman twist his face as much as Cronk does when he says something strange was priceless. Thank God Poorman isn’t President. Anyways, everyone filed out of the church afterwards and there were lit candles on the paths down to the Grotto which everyone was supposed to take with them. Monk gave a blessing over everyone of the seniors and their class rings. It was something I wish I would’ve done last year but didn’t. Definitely glad I got a second chance to watch and be a part of it.
Friday was the beginning of graduation ceremonies. Jess double majored in accounting and psychology. The first of the things we went to was the psychology graduation ceremony and reception. There were a bunch of speeches by faculty and the chairman (which was terrible by the way). Finally the psych student with the highest academic standing or award got up and started to talk. You know for as much as Arts and Letters people were taught to read and write you would think a speech at your graduation would be good. Oh well, maybe I’m just heartless. After that we ducked through the rain to the reception where there was no food. Meeting up with Jess’ family, we went to the band building for the “lawn concert”. It was good, but far too long. They actually had a good turnout for the fact that it was so far from the dome and there is a ton of construction in front of the band building now. After that I had my first Red Lobster experience of my life, and as far as fish in the middle of Indiana goes, it was pretty good.
Saturday morning came and so did the accounting department graduation. Dean Woo had a great address on the subject of fear and how it shouldn’t hold anyone back. The top accounting major spoke and strung so many accounting puns together it took everything I had from choking. He did say that we had accrued a national championship. Interesting. Jess had to go off to a two hour rehearsal with the choirs right before the mass and I spent time with her family for that. The mass was incredible as always. Got one of my first glimpses of Fr. Jenkins. Monk was actually pretty good when it came to public speaking over the course of the weekend. It was a sharp departure from his usual self. Maybe he’s relieved that it’s almost over. We went to the cake dinner after that at North Dining Hall. Although we did pass the dinner in the JACC and they had 1000 cakes in a rather impressive pyramid. The food was pretty good for the dining hall, you could buy bottles of wine, and more than once I heard parents saying to their kids, “You complain about this food? This is great stuff!”
Sunday I pulled the Japanese tourist routine again as we walked around campus taking pictures. Turned out to be a gorgeous day considering the entire week had been thunderstorms and rain. We dropped Jess off at her entrance and moved onto ours. Her brother (my former RA) and I sat up in the bleachers. Justice Alan Page was the commencement speaker and gave a much better speech than our speaker, Sen. Lugar. He spoke on Notre Dame, a little bit about football, and a lot about race. There was no Lifetime special about women at Notre Dame this year, but nothing about Fr. Joyce which I found a little surprising. The valedictorian’s speech was about how there is no pamphlet for how real life is unlike the pamphlet we got about going to Notre Dame. It was ok, not great. The archies had great buildings on their mortarboards again, the most impressive being a four foot tall column from Italy. A great ceremony though, much better than last year’s. We then loaded up Jess’ room after the ceremony, and her parents left. I don’t think it hit her yet, it definitely didn’t hit me until she told me about band camp and the first football game. It was kind of tough going back and seeing all of it in so much detail again. Just felt kind of out of place.
Monday morning I dropped Jess at the band building where I was greeted with Cieslak being wheeled around in a laundry cart…scary enough on a Monday morning. She went on her way to New Zealand and Australia where she is currently. I went back to Castle Point where I had been staying with a former roommate of mine, and then onto the airport. Storms had come through earlier in the day and everything at O’Hare was backed up. My flight in the evening had gotten canceled, but I managed to the get the last seat on the flight before that. I got onto that flight because it had been stuck out on the tarmac at O’Hare for two hours and was very late. So I got my ticket, went through security, saw the plane, and then they announced that it was canceled because the flight crew had gone over their allotted FAA flying time, and there were no more flights out that day. United also said the earliest available open flights were at 7:30PM the next night. I ended up taking the 5:30AM bus the next morning to O’Hare, getting stuck on it for four hours when we got held up in Chicago traffic and then catching an 11AM flight back to Philly. Thankfully I have a pretty understanding boss so life was good.
All in all it was a great week. It’s a place I think we all miss, and it was definitely different to be sitting in the cheap seats looking on and wishing I was back there. It’s hard because it is different now. Leaving a place that felt so much like home is really difficult. But I’m glad I have the opportunity to share it with all of you guys, my friends. Thanks.