…in my hometown of Columbia, SC (GO COCKS!) went by some fun and memorable landmarks that will pretty much mean nothing to anyone reading this post, so what better reason than that to write about them?
First off, I cruised down from my Mom’s house (about a half mile from the USC campus) past the Solomon Blatt Physical Education Center. “Solomon Blatt“! HA HA HA!! That was funny 30 years ago, and I’m still laughing today! Of course, today, there’s the huge and improved Strom Thurmond PE Center. “Strom Thurmond PE Center”! I’m in tears.
Anyway, as hard as it is to imagine, what with my superior athleticism, the only real memory I have of old Blatt is the big playing field next to it where I saw Bonnie Raitt when I was a junior at USC in 1981. No one really knew who Bonnie was, so everyone pretty much just got bombed and threw Frisbees around really poorly. Bonnie got bonked in the head with a Frisbee three times and got pretty pissed.
Next up was the climb up the hill to Greene Street and past my old apartment:
I lived upstairs on the left….the apartment currently blocked by a tree that wasn’t even remotely there when I lived there. There’s nothing like the startling appearance of a 40-foot tree to remind one of just how fucking old they are. Thanks a lot, stupid tree!
I lived there until my senior year (whereupon I shared a house over on the corner of Queen and Devine with three gay men. You can’t make this stuff up!) and enjoyed some poignant memories in that little corner of co-ed nirvana. One night I got the bright idea to spray our bathroom for roaches (like it was a big shock to see cockroaches anywhere on the USC campus), and practically unleashed an entire can in the can. Anyhoo, about 3 a.m. I awoke to the odd sound of light skittering everywhere and even a slight buzzing of the strings of my guitar.
I flipped a light on and HOLY SHIT. Roach blowout! I don’t know if it was an act of roach revenge or if the bathroom pipes led back through my room, but every damned roach in 1819 Greene St. was in my room. I’m pretty sure some of them had their hands on their hips and were shaking their little roach heads angrily at me. There was nary a wink more of sleep that night.
By the bye, notice that thing off to the left that looks like a UFO? I have no idea what they do with that space anymore, but it used to be a rotating restaurant on top of a dorm building. Yes folks, you read that correctly. A spinning dining experience atop dorm rooms. From my kitchen window at night, it really did look like a UFO. I may or may not have smoked something before gazing at it dreamily for hours on end while eating a loaf of bread.
So, then. On down the hill into Five Points. These spoiled college kids today have every imaginable alternative to studying, from Jillians to Daiquiri Explosion to Draught Emporium Deluxe. But back in my day, we had either a horror of a dump called The Jungle or this place:
Conveniently established the year before I turned 18 (legal age back then), and a mere half mile from my apartment, I once estimated that I could have bought a lightly-used VW Bug with the money I spent in Group. Fun and little-known facts about My Life at Group Therapy: I once slept with a bartender there who was engaged to be married a month later. And my best friend and I used to write snippets of Emily Dickinson poetry on the bathroom walls with jaunty original additions: “I heard a fly buzz when I died…How about you?” or “I felt a funeral in my brain…So I had a Bud Light.”
Anyway, on past Group and across to Harden St. (look, I just lived in Columbia. I didn’t make up the street names.) where I passed my old place of employment during my junior and senior years:
I know, right? I actually worked in a running store thirty years ago. Nay, not just a worker, but the manager, bitches! Of course, back then it was called “Runner’s Choice” followed in time with the regrettable and dorktastic name, “Phidippides” and it finally morphed into “Strictly Running” which is satisfyingly smug, pompous, and exclusive all at once.
It wasn’t always easy spending the days deconstructing Shakespeare and then fitting Nike Waffle Trainers onto big stinky feet in the evenings. Lots of chicken-bone-wristed dudes used to come into the store and stand around all sweaty and super-serious talking about Bill Rogers and the most absorbent headband/wristband combos and whether or not something called a “running watch” would ever get invented. I had just started running two years earlier, so sometimes I had to walk back into the shoe stacks and roll my eyes.
So, on through Five Points and over to Saluda Avenue to the big hill that leads back up to my mom’s house. This was about mile 2 of the annual Governor’s Cup 15-Miler of yore. As I slog up that hill now, I’m reminded of how every single time I ran that race, I thought I was going to throw up midway up Saluda (I never did, though I pee’d my pants once and snapped a stress fracture there a few years later. Good times!). My fastest time ever on that course averaged a 6:58-minute pace….hella faster than I can even run a 5K today. Stupid years! Stupid huge tree!
Nonetheless, the USC (GO COCKS) loop is mostly a pretty sweet run. The old Hit-Bonnie-in-the-head playing field, my apartment, Group, the running store, and the hill….all of it still nearly exactly like it was when I ran this loop a billion times in my teens and twenties. Kind of surreal.