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They Met…On the Internet (A York College Love Story)

October 22, 2014 Leave a comment

Scan0002Twenty years ago this weekend, I returned to York College of Pennsylvania following a few days home for fall break. It was a Tuesday, October 25. I went to my office at The Spartan, the college newspaper. I logged on to one of the computers and began chatting via Telnet with a girl I had recently become friends with.  We had a class together and were both on the forensics team, but our primary way of talking was through email and the chat client.

I liked her. I liked her a lot. I thought she was one of the prettiest girls on campus and the more I got to know her, the more I realized that beauty wasn’t just on the outside. While my confidence that fall was at an all time high, the written form of communication was where I was most comfortable, especially since I couldn’t believe a girl like that was interested in anything I had to say.

The truth is, I had crushed on her from afar for at least a year, even asking my roommates the prior fall if they knew her. Now, I wasn’t exactly a stalker, but I may have gone the long way to a destination just to keep her in sight for a few minutes.  Okay, maybe I was a stalker, but I was also sucker for her in her tennis skirt.

I don’t remember exactly what we were chatting about that night, but mid conversation, all the computers shut down at midnight. I forget if the network dropped or if we lost power or something like that, but our conversation was cut off (the IT guy in me still tries to analyze what happened).

I wasn’t ready to let the conversation go and I got it in my head that I could catch her before she left the computer lab. I grabbed my green jacket and went. I got about halfway there, when I noticed she was headed towards me. The midway point was under a small tree, dropping yellow leaves to the ground in front and to the right of the library.

From that moment on, our relationship changed. We talked more in person and went out of our ways to see each other. We spent time together and grew closer. As I mentioned, I often took the long way to a destination regarding her and that is a good metaphor for us. We both went the long way to get to that destination under that tree. Despite mutual activities and groups, our paths never crossed directly in the two prior years that we went to York College at the same time. We both had a lot of maturing to do before it was our time to arrive. When it was finally our time to arrive together, God flipped off the computers and sent us hurtling towards each other.

Three days short of five years later, fifteen years ago on October 23rd, we would again have a very meaningful encounter. However, instead of an unexpected one, it was a well planned event. Instead of being surrounded by the cool autumn air and yellow leaves, we were surrounded by friends and family (but also cool autumn air and yellow leaves). Instead of shorts and windbreakers, she was in a wedding dress and I in a tux.

The nearly five years that separated us from under that little yellow tree and us at that little altar were transformational (I think I am making up words now). A light year is a measure of distance rather than time and those five years, likewise, felt like a measure of distance from who we were to who we became. We went from being kids in college to kids pretending to be grown-up. There was a lot of turmoil in that distance, and even some distance in that distance at times. There were times of confusion and fear, much of which didn’t just disappear with our vows.

However, there was always love there filling that distance. I believe I loved her from that moment we met at the tree. And there was always laughter (oh God, do I love to hear her laugh) and respect for each other and our own dreams. At the very base and foundation of our love is our friendship.

I love playing golf with my brothers. I love going to the movies with my sons. I love going and grabbing a beer with my friends. However, Andrea will always be my first choice for doing those things with. Even when I had tickets to see the Eagles and Giants play, Andrea was the person I wanted to go with, even though she is an Eagles fan. She is my best friend. Our relationship started in friendship and it is the core of our love.

I talked about how time passes so quickly a couple of weeks ago when I was talking about the Orioles and it is the same here. I look at old photos of Andrea and I and it seems just a moment ago that the photos were taken. When I picture her and I under that tree on the York College campus, it’s odd that I don’t picture her and I as our 20 and 21 year old selves. I picture her and I as we are now, our 40 and 41 year old selves. I even have to look past my beer gut to see my foot nervously kicking the yellow leaves around, in my mind. I my mind, as I relive that early morning encounter, I pick out the spots in my peripheral where Benjamin and Matthew would be playing or hiding and wonder why they aren’t in bed. Somehow, in my mind, that moment and every moment since happened just a moment ago and all live together. And, yes, even the bad moments exist there. Yet, I know how much deeper our friendship and love runs than it did in all those moments because our friendship and love is a culmination of all those moments.

Our love is those leaves and our first kiss and 20 New Years Eves together (the only holiday we have been together for every year since we met) and graduations and train rides and broken down cars and break ups and an awkward engagement and too many baseball games and subway rides and youth groups and New York City in September and Hoboken in the fall and snowfalls and moving trucks and Spain in the Spring and marathons and the birth of our children and new jobs and no jobs and foreign countries and new houses and family events and first days of school and last days of school and bulldog puppies and children growing too fast and a beer gut growing to fast and savings accounts not growing fast enough and friendships and marriages and love and all the little moments in between that would take me another 15 years to write down.

And we are all those moments that have yet to be lived and loved.

Fifteen and twenty years have come and gone and I look forward with excitement to the next 20 years.

Thank you to all of you who have been part of these moments.

Happy Anniversary Andrea. I love you and everything you make me.

Happy Memories in the Warehouse

October 10, 2014 1 comment

20141010_010315The sun has risen and set 6,203 times since the last time the Baltimore Orioles played in an American League Championship Series game. That’s 17 years since Armando Benitez gave up that heart breaking home (with Benitez, you usually need to be more specific when talking about heartbreaks) and Robbie Alomar struck out without swinging his bat. So much water has gone under the Bay Bridge since that chilly October night, yet, with the Orioles dominant again, it seems like yesterday as the memories come flooding back.

A few weeks after that game, I asked Andrea to marry me. A few months after that, I headed to New York to take on my dream job at the Mets. Three years later, I’d get my National League Champions ring from the Mets (to this day, I know in my heart it was that choke artist Benitez that kept me from a World Series Champions ring). Eight years later I’d look into the eyes of my new born son. Ten years later, my second son was born. Fifteen years later, I’d be standing on a Little League field coaching my boys’ Tee Ball team. Seventeen years later, I sit in front of a computer with a million different memories of those days with the Birds and I go from happy to sad as the nostalgia of all of it confounds my emotions.

It’s been a long 17 years, especially in terms of being an Orioles fan.

It’s funny, when I think about those days and those Orioles, it’s really not the team or the players that stick in my mind. In fact, I need to look up details of those games, as they don’t readily come to mind. What I do remember most are the people that I worked around, for and with. Memories of victories aren’t of the team celebrating on the field, they are of celebrating with my co-workers when our jobs were done. Winning the 1996 NLDS against the Indians was awesome, but it was celebrating with my managers as they got off the bus from the airport with what seemed like the entire city of Baltimore surrounding us. I don’t remember the last out of the 1997 NLDS win against the Seattle Mariners, but I remember hugging, laughing and cheering with the other interns in the hallways of the warehouse afterwards.

When there wasn’t much to celebrate, during the long middle months of the season, there was still whiffle ball games in the warehouse halls after extra inning games, philosophical discussions about the powder eggs they served in the press lounge on early Sunday mornings and making plans for after game shenanigans in Fells Point as we waited for them to call rain outs. A baseball job is demanding and, in many ways, our coworkers were like family.

Even in losses, it’s the bittersweet moments with those people that I remember most. Even in the hours after Alomar struck out, I remember sitting in the warehouse quietly laughing between tears with these wonderful, hard working friends. Even after losing to that other damned team from New York in 1996, we still celebrated well into the early morning hours the next day, bar hopping and laughing like we had just won the World Series…We weren’t happy that we lost, and if my co-workers were like me, we cried ourselves to sleep when we did finally find a bed (that damned kid, his glove and Derek-feaking-Jeter), but we had worked so hard for 10 months and the only thing we could do was enjoy that time together when there was nothing left to worry about.

It was hard work and even longer hours (I once put in a 36 straight hour stretch without leaving the warehouse) and I am not going to pretend that all of us got along. There were tense times and moments when you just wanted to be left alone. But I think that was what was special about those times and those people. They were bonds that were forged in fire and moments that so few people could really understand. The lows of that job would go so low and the highs…well, there was just nothing like that. In between those moments were a group of people who loved baseball, loved the Orioles and, at some level, loved those moments with each other.

A very vivid memory for me was in the early morning hours after the last ALCS game in 1997 when a few of us were left hanging out in the warehouse. The stands were empty, the AL Champions were on their way back to Cleveland and we had nothing left to do except wait for the stats to transmit to MLB and do our best at finishing off the beer. The lights were turned low on the field (one of my favorite views of a baseball diamond) and most of the staff had left. Hoping to rally the city and the team before, we had thousands of “WE BELIEVE” signs printed and given out at the stadium. There was one of them on the door to reception. After we finished our beers and realized there was nothing left to do but go home, we gathered our stuff and walked out. On my way out, I ripped the “BE” from the sign so that it just read, “WE LIEVE.” We laughed about it, and went home. However, the altered sign ended up having a much deeper meaning. People started leaving the Orioles for other jobs. I left in February of 1998, and at the time, it felt like I was one of the last ones out the door. Of course, it wasn’t true…it just felt that way. A few people still work for the Orioles. However, that just seemed like the end of an era, whether or not it was a good ending, and we went our separate ways.

It was a sad way to leave and even in the great moments with the New York Mets, parts of me still wished to be celebrating with my friends in Baltimore.  When I look back at my 40 plus years, those days were among my happiest. Never in a million years would I trade my current life for those days, but those times and the people in them will forever hold a very special place in my heart. After all these years, especially in the light of the Orioles recent successes, I still feel close to them…still feel that special bond, reaching across 17 years. It’s probably been 15 years since I’ve spoken to many of them, it still feel like I am celebrating with them.

And while the New York Mets will always have a lock on my baseball heart, the Baltimore Orioles will always be so very special to me. I’m not going to pretend and say I am a huge fan of the Orioles today, but I always quietly says “O’S!” to myself whenever I hear the National Anthem. It fills my heart with joy to see them doing so well and them winning the ALCS and World Series would make me almost as happy as if the Mets won. The team and the people I worked with there will always be dear to me.

I hope that the current members of their back office staff are enjoying these times as much as we did.

Go O’s!