CLASSIC REDUX: A Thanksgiving harbinger …

NOV

27

2013

7:00 am

Here’s how long ago these Centaur Seasons were. I used to hitchhike back and forth to school. Who hitchhikes anymore?

Just one of a few thoughts here on the day before Thanksgiving.

* * * * *   ‘THANKSGIVING HARBINGER …’ CONTINUES BELOW   * * * * *

Welcome to a CENTAUR SEASONS “Classic Redux.” Every day from October 15 (March Madness!) through Thanksgiving CENTAUR SEASONS is re-posting shortened versions of last year’s efforts. (Read the original.) Come December, CENTAUR SEASONS II will tip off with brand-new Centaur stories.

* * * * *  NOW, BACK TO ‘THANKSGIVING HARBINGER …’  * * * * *  

It was 111 miles from the driveway of my house in York, Pennsylvania, to the dorm parking lot in Center Valley. A two-hour drive. Sometimes on the hitch I made it in less than three hours. I don’t recall any 10-hour disasters, hanging by the side of the road. A few times people even drove me right to my house, or to the dorm parking lot. Really.

I know. Seems as alien as the story already told here by the Centaurs themselves — in onetwothree parts — about the time we had to push the bus twice around a New Jersey traffic circle to jump start the engine and then later, with the bus driver falling asleep, Jerry Wilkinson, junior forward, drove us the rest of the way home.

I don’t recall ever hitching home at Thanksgiving. Too dark too early. And we always had a practice late that afternoon.

Which was fine. I loved staying to the bitter end. I loved being there in that empty space, autumn darkness pushing in around me in a way that it didn’t when I was also surrounded by students.

The cafeteria provided a box-lunch dinner for stragglers. One year I wound up in The Atrium, the student lounge, for a picnic of sorts with Walt Pfiel and Jerry Wilkinson, both Centaurs during their years, and Mike Dowd, better known as “Turtle.”

Turtle had been in the class of 1970, but due to some Coast Guard commitments he was back to finish up. He’d played on the first two collegiate teams, which put him in a Centaur uniform for, among other games, the 70-point loss to York College, bestowing upon him a certain star-crossed honor. Turtle had a shaggy afro, mustache and John Lennon wire-rimmed glasses. Rangy and long-limbed,about 6-3, the proverbial coat hanger stuck across his shoulders, in lots of ways the Centaur’s Phil Jackson.

So there the four of us sat, by ourselves in a the gloaming of the Atrium, eating our box lunches.  Then Turtle grabbed three of the apples and much to our delight started juggling. He kept the apples orbiting in a tight cascade,  his large hands expert cradles, one, two, three.

That Wednesday practice was always a spirited affair. Not because we were glad to be there, but glad rather because we were about not to be there. We’d already put in nearly six weeks of preseason, with Saturday practices at a school that cleared out on the weekends. For the hardcore diehards who had stuck around, it was always a huge point of pride that we had stuck around. Now we just wanted to get away.

We also knew we’d be back in four days, and with that it would all commence.

The start of the season. The end of the semester. Five, six games. Three, four exams.

Christmas hovering. Everything crammed into less than three weeks.

Of all the days of Centaur Seasons, these were the best, every year. Getting to this Wednesday before Thanksgiving meant they had now arrived.

Happy Thanksgiving from CENTAUR SEASONS.

STARTING NEXT WEEK: YEAR II, SENIOR SEASON…

What was “The Atrium,” ask? Only the very center of the cornfield college in Center Valley.  Read about it here in “The Heart of the Matter.”