5 Year Reunion at Grinnell

This past weekend was the reunion for Grinnell College. A lot of different graduation years were having their reunions, but among them was a combined “5 year” reunion for ’02, ’03, and ’04. Having graduated in ’03, it actually was my 5 year reunion, which I guess is a lucky thing, and I also got the benefit of being around people who are both older and younger, which theoretically should maximize the amount of people someone from the middle year will see. I don’t think it actually did in my case, because I generally made friends with first-years every year, so an ’03, ’04, ’05, ’06 reunion would have been optimal. Nevertheless, good times were had.

I didn’t go straight to Grinnell, Iowa. I first stayed in Chicago for about two days with my friend David. David is an aspiring actor and a pretty good Magic: The Gathering player. We spent the first evening playing Magic: The Gathering in a pretty awesome 27th floor apartment that overlooked the city. I’m not too familiar with it and these guys were all pros so I mostly watched and only played a few games.

The next day we had breakfast at a place called The Chicago Diner, where I had a good vegetarian Rueben sandwich, which is pretty much what I order at all veggie / vegan restaurants. In the afternoon, we headed downtown to get a day pass for the CTA and then decided to try to explore an area of the city called Pilsen. We ended up getting lost and wandering around the decidedly non-walkable “Illinois Medical District,” but eventually we found our way out of it. I made some dumb mistakes with my day pass that meant we had to walk a little farther than we otherwise would have.

Eventually we ended up with a burrito and some tasty baked goods from the Hispanic-leaning Pilsen area.

When I got to Grinnell, I found out that they put me in Norris Hall, which is the temporary housing from the ’70s that isn’t exactly loved on campus. It was alright with me, though, because I lived there my first year, and there was some nostalgia involved. After the fact, someone pointed out to me that Norris has air conditioning as well, which many of the dorms don’t. The first day I was there I made three wrong turns which were a direct result of me heading toward where I thought my room from first year would be. It’s amazing what you recall when you go back to a familiar environment.

The dining hall at Grinnell is all new, in the new Joe Rosenfield Center building (some call it the Joe, or the JRC; the “Jerk”). The new dining hall style involves a lot of little stations you can go to stand in line and pick up various freshly prepared dishes. It’s a good idea, but waiting in the station lines was a little annoying. Also, on the first day they ran out of the vegetarian option before I got in to eat.

The social activities included a Waltz / dance party. I’ve learned to waltz twice in the past, so I was hoping if I got the chance, I would remember how to get it done. I only really worked up the courage to ask one person to try to waltz, and I couldn’t find her, so I guess I got a reprieve. I did end up doing a litle bit of dancing at the later party, but I didn’t stick around for very long.

All weekend I had a little bit of time to think as I wandered from event to event, and my thoughts kept coming around to the social scene at Grinnell and, I presume, many college campuses. It seems to me that debauchery is the norm. Now, I’m not one to knock debauchery; it’s a perfectly valid approach to having a good time. There’s nothing evil or wrong about it, but it’s not the kind of time I prefer.

I feel like the comparison I want to make is between debauchery: drinking, loud music, dancing, hooking up and love: serenity, conversation, intimacy, respect. Both of these are useful and interesting social situations for people to learn to navigate. I prefer, personally, the latter and sometimes I feel as though the former is being emphasized. I don’t know if the emphasis comes from the college or the students or what. When I was in college, I sought out the non-drinkers and the clever wits and the interesting philosophers, and luckily I found a lot of them. The kinds of situations where you find them and the contexts that arise when you do, I felt, were not really available to me from the structured situations at reunion. That’s the kind of thing I was thinking about when I was at a Harris party. I guess I’m kind of a nerd.

On the last day, just before I was leaving, I got a bit of a surprise. A beautiful girl kind of snuck up behind me to say goodbye. When this happens, some sort of weird autopilot kicks in. I don’t even have a chance to think, I just act. The feeling of weird helplessness reminded me of a time back in Grinnell when I was at the Hy-Vee grocery store, and another old friend who I was quite enamored of came around the corner. I gave her a hug and kissed her on the top of her head without even realizing what was happening, and that’s kind of abnormal for me to do. So, I felt the same way here and I just thought it was interesting thing to note that feeling, since it was so intense and rare.

I posted some vignettes on Plans but I want to keep them in perpetuity for memory’s sake, so I’ll post them here too. I’m going to only use first names to keep them Google-proof (except where last names are merited!).

  • David knows how to find his way out of the Illinois Medical District.
  • Paul rocks the mutton chops and somehow keeps things interesting for 10 hours of car travel.
  • Mr. Stone prides himself on stirring up controversy yet again.
  • Mr. Wellons almost ran out of space on his camera and definitely knows his way around the observatory.
  • Esther has psychic powers and a mesmerizing gaze.
  • Piper is pretty chill in Norris Lounge and shows off her awesome power of using my name as an exclamation.
  • Angela apparently uses an open door as an alarm clock on Sunday mornings.
  • Elvis totally rocks out on piano and also on accompanying people to their first bakery run.
  • Sam is king of the water balloons.
  • Natalie’s smile is the only thing I’ve discovered that can make setting up a nerd feedback loop between myself and Mr. Wellons even better.
  • Jonathan and Cassie are the cutest couple ever, but they should be living in Seattle.
  • Shannon sees Grinnellians everywhere!
  • Josh knows everything there is to know about frisbee and alcohol.
  • Choed is a smooth operator.
  • Jennifer set me straight on my Grinnell lore.  Scientists graduate!

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