I’m not a fan of the “best years of our lives” label, since there are so many ways to measure that. Nonetheless, Kenyon is #1 in many of those measures. I learned so much, pushed my mind more than at almost any time since, and made friendships that hold strong 20 years later. It is for that latter reason that my best memory from Ohio is not from my actual time at Kenyon, but from a reunion in May 2001.
Chasers, the a cappella group I was a part of, has reunions every four years or so. The only one I’ve been able to attend was that year. Most of the key representatives from my era (which I classify as the classes of 1988-ish to 1996-ish) were there, albeit with a dearth of women. One tenor buddy of mine, brought a camera to record stuff. I showed him my belly button lint. We rehearsed like bonkers, partied like crazy, and put on a concert where I sang my big hit “Escape (The Pina Colada Song).” As another buddy put it, “I can’t remember ever getting so little sleep—and wanting so little sleep.” It was basically a 3-day-long party.
On Sunday, after all official reunion activities had ended, we gathered at a married Chaser couple's house in nearby Mount Vernon. I caught up with a lot of people who genuinely cared about what had gone on in my life. One, an English teacher at Mount Vernon High, listened to the latest political travails from my school. Another, a guy who graduated in 1988 and therefore had never shared a day with me at Kenyon or as a Chaser, listened to a particularly difficult life era of mine (the Pitt saga) and nearly cried. That’s how close we were.
But what I’ll remember most is the laughing. The amount of laughing that transpired actually put me in physical pain, but we just couldn’t stop. Almost none of what was funny will translate well here, but I’ll try to highlight the biggest laugh of the day..
We had filmed a really-god-awful Christmas special for the recording studio that we used (the largest studio in Pataskala, Ohio!). Libby Benson, the star of that recording label, was almost unwatchably cheesy that day. The conversation moved forward, and suddenly we wondered…what was she up to?
Libby had a website (which I cannot find right now, I'm afraid) that was so hilarious that we couldn’t stop laughing. She had contributed the theme song to the “In Memory of Pets” website, singing about people’s late, lamented Fidoes and Fuzzballs. She received a letter of commendation from Norman Schwazkopf for sending her Christmas special to the troops in Desert Storm. (Fortunately not our Christmas special…I couldn’t have that on my conscience.) And she wrote poetry so bad that we invented a game: the challenge was to read one whole Libby Benson poem, called “Touch Someone,” without laughing. Anyone who could make it through the 25 lines of lamentable free verse without cracking couldn’t get through the last lines, which had a fantastic typo: “if you/really and truly/took the time/to youch someone.”
The whole weekend had been amazing, and it ended with uncontrollable laughter and deep love. I love Kenyon. It fostered friendships deeper and more intense that any I’ve had the privilege of knowing.