This was Tara's 10 year college reunion, and though neither of us had been back to campus since she graduated, we decided that this would be a good year to return.
Actually, if you want to know the truth, we missed Tara's dad's birthday, so when we called, we told him we'd accompany him to a Northwestern game. Ever since Tara was in the marching band, he's gone to the games, and he's been a season ticket holder for some 10+ years (and he's always looking for someone to go to the games with him).
So we made the trip after dropping the boys off at my parents' house in Kentucky (yes, we took the long route to Evanston).
I don't have time to give a complete run-down of everything we did, so I'll give a list of some highlights...
- We loved the changes on campus. The Starbucks coffee shop at the (formerly very lame) Norris Center (where I followed by brother in working all four years on campus) was a very good addition. The sports and aquatics center has been updated and was really great. I loved seeing all the school spirit as many, many undergrads were wearing purple and Northwestern gear around campus (and not just on game day). That's sure a change from my day!
- The more things change, the more they stay the same. I visited my old fraternity house, and though there is now a dorm practically on the front step, it was like stepping back 13 years in time. The house still looked the same and smelled the same. Besides the rooms looking different inside (which happened every few years anyway) and new couches and big screen TVs (with satellite TV), the only change I noticed was that the floor of the living room was darker.
- NU knows how to treat her alumni. When I was a student, I often grumbled, "Northwestern really rolls out the red carpet for the alumni." This was, of course, a complaint with the implied contrast between alumni and student. Now that I've been back for a homecoming & reunion function, I have this to say: "Northwestern really rolls out the red carpet for the alumni!" They had a really nice reception for us with all sorts of food and drinks (all free, of course). Waiters were contantly circling with more food, too. Which made one scene all the more strange and out of the ordinary...
- There are some really strange people around. There was this guy we saw while we were registering - he somehow stuck out. Maybe it was the crustache, or maybe the mullet. Or possibly it was the backpack. He had a name badge that marked him as a member of the 30th year class reunion (class of 77). He didn't quite look old enough to have graduated then, but who knows? Anyway, we saw him at the reception... snaking a half-eaten hors d'oeuvre off a discarded plate. I saw him again following the football game, gleaning from the stands. And, yes, he did indeed eat popcorn from a dicarded box.
- Chicago is a fun place to visit. It still takes an hour to get anywhere, but it was fun to take the el to Belmont Street and have some ethnic food (which is surprisingly unavailable in small town northwest Ohio) and to see all sorts of people (that you don't see in small town northwest Ohio!). Of course, certain rubes didn't know how to use the el anymore, so we (I mean "they") had to be helped by some local. heh heh heh.
- Tailgating has changed. Of course it has. When I was an undergrad, they didn't charge us for game admission; all we had to do was show a student ID. So we'd hit the tailgate and go in sometime during the first quarter only to go back out shortly before halftime (sorry, band) to hit the tailgate again. Then in the third quarter we'd head back in, only to leave during the fourth (at which time we'd be down 35-0 or so). The east lot was full of fraternity tailgates... After graduation, I'd always go to Garrick's tailgate (with the tallest flag in the west lot) and hang out, but we'd get there waaaay early so we could go in to hear the band. By this time there was no more in-and-out service, so we were in for the long haul once we went in. Anyway, now there are much fewer tailgates all around. Their parking pass restrictions have lessened the tailgating presence. Still, I managed to find the Chi Phi alumni tailgate and see some people I knew, and though I missed the kick-off, I wanted to get in to see the game.
- The football game... What can I say about this game? Maybe they should partner with a pharmacy to hand out nitroglycerin tablets at the games... This ended up being a double overtime thriller with the Cats finally winning 49-48. We had a blast.
- After the game, we went out to eat. Having all of Evanston to choose from, and having every restaurant seemingly changed since last I was there, we chose an old standby in a "new" location (new since I'd been there, anyway). We went to Dave's Italian Kitchen, somewhere I remember ordering from (quite frequently) for Sunday dinners at the fraternity. I don't know that I'd ever actually been to the restaurant before, but I'd eaten their food. Anyway, we had a great time except for the extremely loud cell-phone user (two booths away) who drowned out all attempts at conversation for a while. We got a pizza, and it was quite good (the sausage was especially tasty). But then my father-in-law's week was made when NU Quarterback C.J. Bachér walked in. Chuck yelled across the restaurant (only slightly louder than cell-phone boy had been talking), "C.J.! GrrrrREAT GAME!" At that, C.J. turned and immediately walked over to our table and thanked Chuck (and the rest of us) for supporting him. Before he left, he shook all of our hands. We tried to convince Chuck to go back and get an autograph, but he didn't. We did joke about "not washing our right hands" again (and we'd have to switch to shaking everyone's left hand - probably wouldn't go over so well, would it?)