Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Summer of Brendan (Not Mada)

If you're not legally blind, then you've probably already made the discovery that I, Brendan Cavanagh, will be taking over Mada's post (so to speak) for today. Sorry guys, I know you're expecting her, AND this post is really long, but I've been patiently waiting for this moment all summer. Bear with me.

I'd like to write today about a particular theme that has run with me throughout the last few months: me. LOL! The instant I walked out of SHG's doors for the last time (a moment later diluted when I ended up having to go back to school over the next few days for errands), I declared, a la George Costanza, that the three months preceding my departure for college would be my best, the Summer of Brendan. Looking back over the numerous significant events that have transpired this summer, I'd say I was successful in realizing my goals. But it didn't start out that way.

Sometime in the middle of April, I got a callback to my seasonal job at Illini Country Club, in the Pro Shop (that's a golf thing, for those not in the know). Initially I was thrilled to have my job back, for multiple reasons: It gave me something to do, other than watching crummy movies on Turner Classic Movies or Independent Film Channel all day (which I grew to appreciate recently); There are free staff meals provided by a chef next door in the clubhouse; And the job wasn't too demanding, to my knowledge. When I worked there last September and October, it was never too busy, and my managers and fellow employees were easy to get along with.

However, hardly anything about my job last year played out this time around! First of all, I began to find that I had very few days off, and due to the bumbling inefficiency of my manager/scheduler, my hours at Illini began to overlap with my shifts at Carrie McMenamin's dad's law office, where I perform "general office duties" and take part in "political research." As a result, I constantly had to reschedule my shifts both at Illini and Dunn & McMenamin, often having to cancel my shifts at one place or the other. Or I went towards the opposite end of the spectrum, and pulled a shift at both places. One day in June I worked from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Illini, then 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. at Dunn & McMenamin, and finally closed the day from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. with a bonus shift at Illini's Casino Night, where my exhaustion was soon diminished after I made $75 in tips for my extraordinary ability to do look the other way while the players at my blackjack table shuffled chips and cards around to enable their success.

And the reason work was never busy is because when I worked there last year, it was the end of the fucking season! And it rained every day! How I deluded myself coming in this summer. It was super busy all the time, and one of my managers, who inexplicably hated me, mumbled like a fiend (I'm fucking haring impaired, man!), and I just felt insecure and hassled all the time. Also- and this is a big deal- the free staff meals were done away with! The chef who specially made the meals for us was fired and Illini was all, "Ohhhh we couldn't find anyone elssssssse dammmnnn."

Anyway, you get the point. I worked a shitload. Why did I whore myself for most of the summer to a couple jobs? Easy. I had to financially fuel my three big trips for the summer, save for college and provide myself with a steady amount of spending money throughout.

Continuing on, June is a bit hazy in my mind. Working so often sort of fused each day together so the entire month seems to me like one massive, sweaty day. June also saw me devoting an immense amount of time to my new friends, a ragtag collection of misfits from Sacred Heart-Griffin, Springfield High, Glenwood and Pleasant Plains. This was great- I greatly enjoyed seeing these somewhat new faces every night and making memories with them before college. Unfortunately, my feelings of accomplishment and happiness were spent at a weighty price: almost no time did I spend with the people I had gotten close to and established bonds with over the last few years, my best friends from SHG.

The truth is, most of the time I sincerely did not want to hang out with them. That sounds pretty cruel, but I was sick and tired of the same old shit every night. It seemed like these people, as corroborated by my buddy last night, locked themselves into this small group so tightly that they were rendered unable to meet new people or forge new relationships unless somebody new just happened to walk in on one of their get-togethers. And these get-togethers mainly comprised of drinking every night. And hey, I like drinking, I do, but I prefer to keep it casual and possible to remember what happened when I wake up the next day. Most of my friends drank themselves into oblivion repeatedly, thinking the only way to properly get drunk is to black out. And I admit, I've made that mistake before, but I've learned my lesson after a couple regrettable, sporadic instances, whereas my friends continued to do it night after night.

I began to rapidly become disenchanted with the lack of change in my friends. And as I expanded my friend base, I learned that my interests and ideals were quite different than I previously realized. Once I allowed myself to hang out with new friends, friends who are outgoing and artistic and musical and talented, my interest and participation in certain fields began to flourish. It's as if I had been stunted in my pursuits throughout most of high school. Sure I had fun, but it's only now I realize how much I could have taken part in had I allowed myself to meet new people and adequately examine my interests. Instead, I spent most of my time talking shit, feeling exalted over others (but not the popular kids, of course) and waiting for opportunities (girls...) to come to me. So I decided to use Summer Dub Ten! to become more active and hopefully feel a sense of accomplishment.

So what I did first is I took a train to St. Louis and stayed with my cousin and his family for a week. My cousin is 19, an an incoming sophomore in college, and he's my best friend. The week I spent in St. Louis this summer was full of bonding, not only with my cousin, who was going through a messy breakup, but with his close friends, some of whom I feel comfortable calling my friends now. I can't really articulate what that week meant to me, but basically, it was a welcome respite from the side effects of overwork and the banal circumstances that began to take place in my social life by the end of June- you know, that time when the fresh feeling of summer begins to fade away and you spend most of your boring nights in random parking lots across the city. Anyway, my first major accomplishment, one of the three trips I mentioned earlier, was going to St. Louis, and it was fucking awesome. So awesome, in fact, that on the train ride home, I cried for the first time since I was, like, nine (and I'm excluding the time in eighth grade when I was going to SHG to shadow another cousin and my parents wouldn't allow me to wear jeans and a t-shirt, instead opting for a cute pair of khakis and a striped polo. I was so upset with them I teared up a bit, no big deal). Yeah that's right, sometimes I cry, big fucking deal!

My second major trip of the summer came towards the end of July, less than a month after my return home from St. Louis. I had the opportunity to take part in Westminster Presbyterian Church's Mission Trip to New Castle, Pennsylvania with the members of the WPC Youth Group and some of their parents. This was a week spent doing service for some of New Castle's needier residents (though mine lived in Youngstown, 20 minutes away...) during the day, and devoting, like, an hour at night to God and stuff, while all the rest of the time I got to hang out with friends, old and new. You might think a week without a cell phone and iPod would be tough (how do I pretend I have a text message during an awkward point in the conversation, Eliot?), but no no no no no no no. I spent that week auditioning for a talent show with P. Race (we performed one of his original raps, and lost the spot to some freshmen nerds and a pair of girls with Down's. That sounded mean.), playing frisbee, swimming, freestyling daily at the same round cafeteria table, drinking a shitload of LEMONADE and learning how highly other people think of me (and no, I was unable to make myself cry, but damn it if I didn't tear up every four seconds). I learned that eating, sleeping and showering with the same people caused me to become incredibly close to these down-to-earth, kind, intelligent, funny, cool people. It was a week-long dream as far as I'm convinced, and coming back to town was the hardest way to wake up (I knew I shouldn't have seen Inception the day before I left; it planted erroneous notions in my head all week, causing me to question the trip's existence). But the fact that twice this summer I had come home so reluctantly after making new friends made me realize, hey! I'm ready for college. It's something I've been trying to tackle all year, but I think going out and doing new things has adequately prepared me for severing my bonds to Springfield.

But that's not the main point of this post. Let's save that for the other member of Classic Brian. The final hurrah of summer, of Springfield, of youth came just this weekend, and I think the two people who read this blog probably took part in it, too, and can agree with what I say. Lollapalooza, man. Fuck. That was a frenetic five-day weekend. We saw a shitload of music, risking shin splints, dehydration, starvation, claustrophobia and hurt feelings in order to see some of our favorite bands. But honestly, about as important as the music itself was the feeling of autonomy, or at least small-group collaboration minus adults. Other than being provided with a place to crash each night (which we literally did) by Conor's uber-hospitable brother and his girlfriend, we were on our own for finding food, water, transportation and...other stuff (remember when we did a favor for some people locked on a balcony in return for free alcohol? No? You probably weren't there). We learned a lot about ourselves, how we handle situations and freedom in a big city, and about each other. Sure, at times we pissed each other off as a result of too much time spent together and lack of sleep and all, but I think, looking back, that stuff''s pure pettiness. We bonded (at least, anyone who was present for Arcade Fire's "Wake Up"). None of us would take that weekend back for anything.

So finally, as I've once again reluctantly returned to Springfield, I am again faced with the guilt of ditching my old friends for a new set of comrades. It's something I think about every day. Therefore, I used this one convenient down night, while everyone who went to Lollapalooza convalesced, to meet up with my old chums at a little shindig at Dom's house, a prominent location in my memory. And though I was worn out and terribly nervous of how my arrival would go over, surprisingly, things went rather swimmingly. In fact, nothing changed (except for the appearance of two Italian friends of Carter's). Logan still emitted putrid stenches without notifying anyone in his vicinity, Dom still drank his weight in vodka, and Griffin was just...Griffin. It was like having my best friend again (literal friend, cousins excluded). Everyone was genuinely pleased to see me, and it just killed me to think that though I was a jerk and ditched them all summer, they still appreciated my presence and expressed rather emotionally how much they missed seeing me all the time. I'm glad I went. If I'm unable to see most of them again before we head our separate ways, I'm glad I could reconcile and allow their last memory of me be one of companionship and happiness.

Though I nearly severed my ties with some of my best old friends, I still think the summer of 2010 has been a success. In that summer, I worked (a clever euphemism for making money), traveled, made new friends, solidified my pre-existing friendships, made music, got a tan, grew several beards, had a little more luck with the ladies due to my new found confidence (beard), painted three kitchens, two bathrooms, a dining room, a house's foundation, a patio and a hallway (with a little bit of this thrown in there), made at least seven thousand trips to Sno Bizz for my beloved honeydew (Are you doing anything right now? No? Wanna go to Sno Bizz?), read at least a quarter of the book I vowed to finish, saw my favorite bands live, quit smoking at least ten times, somehow did not struggle running afterward (SPORTS!), and was finally asked to contribute to Classic Brian!

Fuck college, I'm going to keep doing cool shit until I leave.

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