Thursday, January 25, 2018

Lone Pilgrim

Tuesday January 23, 2018.  Bands of rain swept across Pennsylvania, some of which were pretty severe.  And I drove through them.

I was headed to Penn State to visit an old friend for the last time.  I know that sounds kind of morbid, but that's the truth.  You see, the Rathskeller is closing.  It has been open since 1933- just three days after Prohibition ended, and has been operating continuously since then.  It is the longest continuously operating bar in Pennsylvania, and it is closing.  This Saturday the 27th will be last call.  It is closing because a corporation, Herlocker pretzels, bought the building and decided that they wanted to do something else with the space.  So now this Landmark is going away.  I would wager that almost every single living Penn State Alumni has been in that bar, because those who were before it are probably dead by now.  In any case, it is a landmark, and I killed many brain cells there during my college days.

I used to see many bands there.  I saw Stolyn Hours, and I saw Queen Bee and the Blue Hornet Band, which, after all these years, I still say was the best Bar band that I have ever laid eyes on, and I should know- I've seen many of them.  (The guitar player, Mark Ross, still lives in State College and still plays around town, but Tanya Brown, lead singer,  tragically passed away some time ago.)

In any case, I was there to have one last drink in what was one of my favorite watering holes in college.  The drive-up was through many storms.  I was alone- my bestie Linda decided not to come with me.  Driving through the rain, I couldn't help but think of all the Ghosts riding with me- of all the different people I've taken up to Penn State: like my girlfriend/fiance/Wife, who really wasn't a big fan of going to Penn State, but knew how important it was to me.

I remember driving up alone to visit my friend Dr. Dave, who was attending Penn State before me.  I drove up to visit him, and it was because of those visits that I chose Penn State.  I can't help but to think of those times driving up with a whole weekend ahead of me, not knowing what was going to happen.  Just another wonderful weekend of college antics; of fun of drinking and meeting people. Later, when I was enrolled there, the times that I had meeting people- love, heartbreak, eventual depression.  Yet the fact remains that Penn State is still my happy place, as it is I'm sure for many people.

For Sale

I found a parking spot in a parking lot that I've been parking in ever since I graduated.  It's really, really cheap, and I also noticed that it's for sale- that someone is going to put a building up there.  Another building: just what they need.  After parking, I went up to the LGBT Center in Boucke building. I stopped there for maybe fifteen minutes, and then I walked with the assistant director down toward College Avenue.  She was going to get a flu shot.  I was going to drink.  I was going to the Skeller.

Last call, at least for me.

I took some pictures going in, and sat down at the bar.  It was actually fairly busy, but I found a seat, and sat.  To my right was a gentleman with gray hair in a ponytail and beard.  He was reading something quietly to himself.  To my left were a couple.  He was wearing a black Texas Longhorns hat, and she was the one who was sitting to my side.  Eventually we began talking, and I found out that they live an hour away from State College.  They were not Penn Staters, but they came here occasionally.  They didn't know that the bar was closing.  I drank a couple Rolling Rocks, and the couple was kind enough to buy me another.  I walked around to the back room, where the bands used to play.  I took pictures.  How many sweaty nights did I spend packed into this room with tons of other college kids, drinking and dancing?

The Bandstand

The nice couple was kind enough to buy me a couple shots.  At this point, I knew I would have to walk this off.  After finishing my last Rolling Rock, (which I hate but that's what you she was that's what you drink when you go to the Skeller.)  I walked around for a little bit.

Last beer

Sitting next to that couple was another Penn Stater. I found out she was also class of '89 like me. I asked her if she was Greek, she said she was a Crow little sister.  I asked her name, and she told me: Michelle  It turns out that I knew her very well- in fact one of her college roommates was one of my dearest friends!  We talked for a little bit and caught up.

Michelle and I

She didn't recognize me at first, of course, but how could she?  When I told her who I used to be, she recognized me instantly.  After a hug, I left and walked back down College Avenue toward my car.

After getting into my car, I drove over to the Nittany Lion shrine, and took a few pictures.  Then cut across to University Drive, and then the trip back east towards home.

I've written many times that Penn State is a major part of my heart and identity, but so many things have changed.  Most of the roads that I used to take up here have changed.  There used to be three bottlenecks on the trip up: one east of Lewistown; another around a town called Milroy, and another around a town called Dauphin.  Those are all gone now, as they've been replaced by two lanes In both directions.   It took years to build these large highways.

On the way home, I did something that I often do on my trips to State College when I ride alone: I cried.

I cried like a baby.  I cried for all that was, and is no longer. I cried for my lost youth.  I wanted to scream at the students and tell them to treasure the time that they have now, because for some of them it will never get any better.  The fact is that they are now, in their late teens and early twenties, in an area specifically built to cater to them- a Fantasyland.

My Penn State is gone.  Sure there are landmarks.  Most of the buildings are still there, but looking around looking around I saw so many new buildings.  Tall buildings.  Large buildings.  Buildings in places that used to have little green quads; Sports Fields; trees that one used to be able to sit under and read a book or play a guitar or talk.   These places are gone now.

So yes, I cried.  I cried for things that are Gone.  You lose so much in transition, but this loss was not due to that.  No, this loss is something far more powerful: Time.  My time at Penn State is long past- thirty years now. I'm an artifact to these kids.  To them I'm ancient.  The comparison would be if I had met people from the 1950s while I was there.  Actually, I did: however they were Senators, cabinet members, CEOs...  and I work retail.

Driving east through the cloudy twilight, I Cried.  A sad reality is that tears will not stop time. Time never stops- it's merciless.

Be well


  1. Please take a moment to review "Emily's Virtual Rocket". ( This has reviews of transgender life, plus a critical view of Donald Trump. Here’s what I cover:

    1- Donald Trump
    2- international (random)
    3- civil rights
    4- states (random)
    5- feature


    Emily Shorette

  2. Lovely post, hon. Thank you for sharing it.

    == Cass xoxoxo

  3. Beautifully written. Thank you.

    Time does not stop, and we go on. What we did and where we went shapes us, even if those places are gone or changed.

    Someone once told me that when I think of what had been, to look back and be grateful, rather than mourn what's no longer there. Easier said, than done.