Top 10 Reasons I Am Not Old ... Just Older
Inspired by the Bon Jovi song "Just Older," I looked in the mirror and what did I see? A few more lines staring back at me.
But I immediately began to gather the reasons why I am not old, just older.
So here they are: The Top 10 Reasons I am not old ... just older
10: A Tie. Though Frugal McDougal is gone, The Corner Room is still The Corner Room, The Diner is still The Diner and Hammond Building across the street still makes no sense to me at all.
This is a group-hug sort of thing. They are all linked to my memories. Obviously the first two are positives – the consumption of tasty morsels that delight – and the other a building that confounds me and I hope never to enter again. Besides having to take meteorology prerequisite math courses in there from time to time and a com sci course that involved me massaging the computer and begging it to spit out my cards, the building has numerous passageways that make no sense to me. Since it was designed by engineers whose sole purpose was to bust the curve on exams for unsuspecting non-engineering majors required to take the same math courses they did, I naturally never wish to enter this building again, and always walk on the side of College Avenue that has the aforementioned eateries on it.
I heard rumors that Hammond moves an inch every thousand years, or something like that, toward College Avenue. I hope future generations of Bastardis are not still here when the building decides to overtake that part of town.
And while I am at it, I am avoiding those old EE buildings, too.
9. I am still competing in bodybuilding.
Last year about this time, I wrote a column about what it was like to gear up for one more bodybuilding competition. Well, though I am but a small dog in the pack I hang out with, I not only refuse to stop competing (I did win my height class in the over 50 Nationals last November, then won again in December, even winning my class in the open-ages competition), I am now dragging one of those dogs in with me: Penn State wrestling strength coach Shawn Contos. We will compete in the Keystone Championships on June 4.
8. Wrestling is still in Rec Hall.
Just as in the days of Charlie Speidel, the last national championship coach at Penn State, who happens to have the same classic, tough-guy, old-school look as the current national championship coach, the team still competes where it did when I was here – mainly watching from the stands, occasionally from the bench and, yes, a couple of times from the mat, one of which did not turn out so good.
But speaking of old school, in spite of the fact that associate head coach Cody Sanderson keeps telling me wrestling has changed, the attitude of winners in the sport has not. Coach Bill Koll would be livid if one of his wrestlers wound up getting taken down or not getting off the bottom at the end of the match, even if he won. Well, I can remember Cody being very upset, even at his own brother Cyler, after Cyler had beaten the No. 2 man in the country at the time, because he did not finish the match on his feet or on top. The old school is still in session here. It's just been updated a bit.
7. Rec Hall showers still scorch me when someone flushes the toilet.
The key here is to block the bathroom so no one can get in and actually flush; and if that fails, be quick enough when you hear the flush to get out from under the shower. My former teammate Jerry Villecco and I wrote a letter into The Collegian about this. Villecco got in trouble about the letter and was called into the office. I didn't because no one knew me, but they knew him. Still, years later, it's good to know that a vital link to my youth remains.
Gone, however, are the secret spray nozzles outside the old wrestling locker room Coach Koll used to spray unsuspecting new guys with. He used to get you in your stance and walk back about 20 feet, come back toward you, adjust you in a good attack position, say, "That's perfect," then reach up to some nozzle and shoot a jet of water at you. That is gone, and it's too bad. It was a good way to improve your quickness on your feet.
6. The Red Horse Tavern is still around.
Former teammates Sam Sallit and Terry Shultz clued me in to the fact that outside town, in the Red Horse Tavern of the 1970s, wrestling was king and the people there loved us. So though I was a second-team guy, they all knew who was on the team. Sam and I, who both lifted weights and did not drink but liked food, would occasionally drive up to the Red Horse in Sam's old car and eat all the mac and cheese we could for one price while people talked to us about "the team" and asked us if we ever wrestled this guy or that one. They would gawk at Sam's arms because they were the biggest in the country at that weight class. I was his scrawny friend, but acted tough anyway.
Terry even would take us up to the Old Big Trout in Bellefonte – we shot pinball, played darts and pool and ate some good food – as he wanted to make sure we all became, as he would say, "county boys." I ran into Terry in one of the waffle shops the other day and we both just looked at each other and said, "Well, here we are" and as county boys (OK, I am an adopted one), here we will stay, Big Trout or not.
Bogie had Paris; we still have the Red Horse.
5. Meyer Dairy is still open.
I marvel at how so many things that make me think I am not old have links to wrestling. Meyer Dairy is another one. We used to have a preseason milkshake-drinking contest, which the first year I walked on, I won. It's about the only thing I ever won – five milkshakes. Afterward, outside, Villecco bear-hugged me from behind and a lot of those milkshakes wound up in the parking lot. But the lines to some of the greatest ice cream in the known universe are still there, the same way they were back then.
4. The Boalsburg Bull still stands.
Few days go by when I don't see the Boalsburg Bovine still guarding the eastern "entrance" to the heart of Happy Valley. Sure, it's a long view from the Mount Nittany Expressway now, but the bull sees and knows all. When the wind blows in his face in the winter, snow is coming – a vital weather fact that few here stop and think about. But it knows, and that's no bull.
3. The Screaming Ducks are still playing.
My favorite cover band of all time is the Screaming Ducks, and on May 30 in Boalsburg, I will stand in front of the stage as I try to do as often as possible and scream at the top of my lungs for them to play the vastly under-appreciated Neil Young song "Powderfinger" You can sing Neil Diamond's "Sweet Caroline" at all the football games you want, but one Screaming Duck rendition of "Powderfinger" blows it all away.
Come to think of it, that would be something to hear at a football game – the crowd singing "Powderfinger."
Speaking of football ...
2. There are still no names on the Penn State uniforms.
While this may seem like some socialist plot to make everyone look the same, if, as an individual, you are good enough so that, despite just having a number, everyone knows your name, it speaks volumes about someone who is able to rise to be the best within the framework of his team. So not only can I live with that, I applaud it.
I once was in the Commodore Inn in Easton, marveling at all the pictures of the great heavyweight boxing champs. They all had nameplates, except one. There was Joe Louis by himself, but no name on his picture. I asked the guy at the desk about it, and he said Larry Holmes, the former champ and the owner at the time, said he felt that Joe Louis needed no introduction, he was so good.
Now I don't know if that was the reason, but it was good enough for me. If you are that good, you don't need to tell people you are. Old school is timeless, and so is the Number 1 reason.
1: Joe Paterno is still coaching.
C'mon, that is a no brainer.