A birthday morning reverie
be a way to celebrate for me.
I like the choices I’ve made in my life. I like
where I am at this stage in my own little personal human career.
Speaking of birthdays, my 21st has some remark worthy memories associated with it. Perhaps the most odd of which now strikes me as an association with football, and its association with birthday as a kind of annual new beginning for each person each year. So my year begins in the fall with the football season and new school years. And of all those beginnings, my 21st Birthday was a very significant beginning as well — an ending and a beginning all at once, like a birthday should be, and not just because I could all of a sudden at 12:01 AM drink alcoholic beverages legally.
Weird how I follow certain social rituals like football. I don’t really care
about football in a communal or deeply shared caring way at all. In fact, if the game ceased
to be played altogether, I think it would possibly be a good thing for society. But other
people do care with obvious fan-like fervor, and some of my friends
have been associated with universities and some care about their
football teams, so I keep an idle eye on scores most years, at least.
Ann Arbor has a
lot of history for me. Wolverine football was the talk of all the people
around me while I was growing up on that farm out on Dixboro Road, northeast of Ann Arbor, and like the cyber-humonoid looking beings in the Sarah Connor Chronicles
I’ve been watching from Netflix recently, I was the ever outsider, trying to
make sense of it all, and trying to blend in and to act like the humans,
though I could never really feel natural, like I was engaged in their interests — interests like the pervasive culture of football that dominated the atmosphere in the fall, the time for new beginnings, new school years, new grades of study, new many things in the annual round of life. Through all that I had somehow programmed into my mind a kind of
ritualistic concern for the UofM football team even though I later did my undergraduate studies at the main in-state Big Ten rival, MSU. I even noticed that my alma mater, MSU, beat UofM last week,
and for some strange reason I realized that I’d had some habitual sense that UofM should have had the winning score, though I haven’t a clue who the coaches and players
are, and I have lived more than 2300 miles from Ann Arbor for most of my adult life.
My cousin Diane went to UofM through about the same four years I went
through the Navy. And once during that four years I was home during
the football season. We were fairly close growing up. She was my
mother’s sister’s daughter and we are nine months apart in age. Diane and her "Apple Pie" (Alpha Pi) sorority girls took me to a UofM
football game. It was October the 14th, the week of my birthday I
believe. I’d just turned 21 that year. I remember we walked from the
sorority house to the stadium in the midst of a beautiful clear fall
day, with the turning of crisp and brilliantly colorful leaves on the
trees, and with some already fallen on the lawns. I remember sitting
in the midst of all this chaos and hubbub on a hard bench watching
these uniformed, helmeted, faceless figures play a game I barely
There was something about uniformity and systematic symmetry of play that seemed vaguely military, now that I’d experienced the military form of behavior. So I could not ignore the understanding of uniformity I
had begun to grasp at that point in my life, and I saw that taking
place on that football field more prominently than any thing else, because what I was observing occurred as something I
did not really understand. It was like listening to a song sung in a foreign language, and the words are just sounds, like just more of the music played by instruments making noise. One listens to what one can hear. All that one hears becomes the music. Any meaningful poetry is lost. The poetry of play was lost on me in that way as well. I didn’t understand it. I only knew the score by watching a scoreboard. Occasionally people would all
stand up and cheer. I would stand up with them, mainly because it felt
weird to stay seated. It was like that time I went to church with
those evangelicals for that period before they tried to save me, and
while we were seated in rows on these hard benches listening to the preacher, they would occasionally all do these same things at the same time, but I didn’t
particularly understand what or why, I just did it too so I wouldn’t
feel weird. But I felt weird anyway.
This was the only football game I ever went to — high school, college, or professional. I didn’t really enjoy the football game itself, but it was an interesting experience, and one I still can remember fairly well. I remember that everyone thought
I was on leave from the Navy. But I was AWOL. And I was thinking about a lot of
things that didn’t exactly match what was going on around me. And what was going on in my home town did not have much to do with the world I’d left some 2300 miles away, which was connected to another world on the opposite side of the globe which I’d recently engaged, a place everyone was calling Vietnam.
girls were polite enough to me, but they mostly seemed to regard me like I was some kind of oddity. That was my feeling. There was, after all, little for us to talk about, and I was
even more emotionally withdrawn at that time than has been my habit most of my life. My cousin and I had
already moved past our familiar childhood engagements, which I guess I would call our playful period, at least I always looked at it that way, so we had little but our past
relationship at that point, which for me was now a distant and inaccessible world, and we had gradually become
awkward with each other even before I went into the Navy, and now it seemed our sense of closeness had become somewhat vestigial. I was now her "cousin in the military." I might easily have been waved around like one of those triangular maze and blue banners they had at the game. That was about the only connection she could make between herself, her friends, and me. The structure of that didn’t seem to fit anything they all had in common with other relationships in the midst of all that was collegiate, none of which was a set of relationships I knew much about at that time, and it left a palpable feeling of awkwardness all around.
Maybe it was just me. It seems to me that two years later when I finally got home from the service, Diane and I were essentially strangers, but that’s another story. During that visit, I was acutely conscious that I was not one of the frat boys who were
studying some interesting subject at the university, I did not understand why everyone was so excited about the football game. I was like… well, a visitor from another world.