November 30, 2007

The Bridge

I first heard the Chili Peppers on the radio. Local Harrisburg classic rock radio. 1991. "Under the Bridge". Yes, I was late to the game. But that didn't change my appreciation of its epic and accessible sadness. I listened. I became one with the elaborate but understanding bass line. The siren song of the call- and-response chorus sucked me in. I got it. I really did.

So when a high school classmate condescendingly asked "You know that song's about heroin, right?" I realized that I didn't really get it. This whole alt universe was new to me; I knew something outside my small-town world existed and I wanted to be there. Outside Harrisburg, and outside classic rock and into the libidinous world of college, edginess, and the big city. That was what I saw in "Under the Bridge", Nirvana, and anything else alt that snuck into my small world. Lyrics be damned.

My time was coming. Everything was set. My senior football year had just ended and I was scheduled to take a recruiting trip to Georgetown University. My nervousness was off the charts. What had I gotten myself into? The drinking, the girls, the big city, the alt-ness. Every part of me knew that I wasn't ready.

When I crossed the Key Bridge I saw the hilltop campus. It looked like a scary impenetrable fortress. The sky had a greenish-navy glow that spoke of doom. The parking lot I pulled into was nearly empty. There were no signs of life. No students. Just drifting leaves and the harsh glow of the parking lot lighting. I parked outside the McDonough Gym, the place where I was to meet the coaches, even more scared and more out-of-place than when I had left home.

I took a deep breath and headed up to the building's massive front doors. I gave a big tug. They were locked. I walked around the building. Lights all off. Every single door locked. I was all alone. A cold short lonely walk into campus revealed no more students. Everyone was gone. It was their winter break. The coaches had confused the dates. From a pay phone I contacted the necessaries (coach and parents) and decided to drive the two hours back home.

When I crossed the Key Bridge again "Under the Bridge" came on the radio and this time I really got it.

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