November 7, 1999 Sunday
I woke up Saturday morning to the memorial service for my childhood hero Walter Payton at Soldier Field, being shown life on WGN, CNN, ESPN, Fox Sports, and other stations. It was going to be that kind of weekend.
All of the Alpha Sigs next door at 714 wanted to leave by one o’clock but there were running late, so I went to Lincoln to try to decode the Ecom-encryped e-mail from Sidney. At first it looked liked a goner (“Hey, would you mind remind resending the message you might have not wanted to write in the first place?” I pictured myself writing in a horrible future). It took a lab worker fifteen minutes to crack it because she had sent it with an attachment or something. I had to get back to Calhoun fast, because now I was very late (“Be right back!” I had called to Tom as I took off out the back door and across our backya, now some time ago), so I hastily printed it out to take with me, stuffing it in my inner coat pocket.
We drove north past Galesburg and on to the Radisson in the Quad Cities; almost all of the conversation come from Tom and Taryn in the back seat while I played DJ with Just Friends Kim’s CD collection. It wasn’t until we finally got to the hotel’s lobby, more than two hours later, that I finally could break away to sit down my myself to read the letter. It was short. Here it is:
Hey, I have no “free time,” but I am writing this to you anyway. I’m alive, in school, and in the country. Things here are crazy–I’m doing a million things at once but I love every minute of it. Glad to know that you will still grace my presence with your emails. What they lack in caring, they certainly make up for in content.
Without saying anything, I handed it to Tom, who was sitting next to me, probably impatiently wanting to know too. Although it seemed a little terse, it seemed to be going fairly well until the final line. Sidney and I had once had a sarcastic thing about each other, so I didn’t think of it as negative letter, and then the last two lines together seemed worse. I was immediately disheartened, and put it back into my coat pocket.
The formal overall was pretty good. First we went to our rooms and hing out for a little while. This next part is amusing. Now, there are 69 total Alpha Sigs–so the changes of his happening of this is pretty astronomical–but as we were unpacking, our roomies for the night arrived–Haley and her boyfriend Jackson. Now I ask you, WHAT ARE THE CHANCES?
The dinner was all right, the usual thing, but I wasn’t saying much to Just Friends Kim. She just isn’t a person that is easy to talk to, at least for me. Haley sat on my other side at the table (I hate you, Universe.) Actually, I kind of take that back, beyond the point I raised above. Haley and I talked a lot, and it was very easy, but then I felt bad for Just Friends Kim, so I tried bringing her into the conversations. I won a small glass container that read “1999 Alpha Sigma Alpha Ruby Slipper Ball.” Then many pictures were taken, and then some more pictures were taken.
Thankfully the dance itself did not last long, quickly fizzling out when many of the girls got tired of dancing, so Tom and I went to watch football on the big screen. Then the six of us, Tom and Taryn, Haley and Jackson, and Just Friends Kim and I, played a game in my room. Jackson seems like a really nice guy, but Tom also concurred that he is a dork. But still a good guy.
Afterwards Tom and Taryn went swimming and Just Friends Kim and I walked around the hotel. When we got back Haley was not looking the best, because the the feather pillows in our room it turn out she is allergic to. She took a few things for it from the personal pharmacy Jackson brought for himself in his large suitcase. I had to admit the two of them looked good together during the dinner and on the dance floor, so I am happy they have each other. Just Friends Kim and I played some cards games while the other two went to sleep, and then an impromptu pillow fight broke out that had us at odds for a while (my own way of saying “Thanks for inviting me?”) and then we went to sleep to. I guess I had fun to the Rudy Slipper Ball, and it also turned out exactly as I thought it would. We can’t say that many times in our lives–and why, really, would we want that?–but I am glad it did here. Arrived back in Macomb the next day at 1:30.
The game Tom and I made it back for was between the Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears, the 158th meeting between the teams. Coming in the Bears had not beaten the Packers since 1994, and I was a sophomore in high school. In the final seconds of the game, the Chicago home crowd held their breath and prepared to gain in defeat once again as the Packers kicker came onto the field to score an easy field goal to extend the win streak into the next century. Then, Brian Robinson, leaping high into the air–later admitting to reporters he just can’t jump as high as he did–and wearing a small “34” patch on his jersey, blocked the attempt to finally beat the Green Bay Packers.