Q4 2018 Patreon Q&A

Hey all!

If you weren’t already aware, I have a Patreon where you can help support my blog, my writing, and my other creative endeavors. One of the items I do in conjunction with my Patreon is a quarterly Q&A session where you can ask me questions, be it about my writing, podcasts, or really anything.

To access this month’s podcast, click on this link. You can also get to the podcast by going to my Patreon (https://patreon.com/timbaughmanjr) and clicking Posts.

If you want to submit questions for future Q&A posts, I would recommend becoming a patron. While I was able to get to all of the questions (both patron and non-patron) this quarter, I think that I’m going to try to keep future Q&A podcasts in the 25-35 minute range like this one was. This means that if I have too many questions to fit in that time span, the non-patron questions will likely be the first ones cut. Beyond that, there’s some pretty awesome perks you can get as a patron, including bonus podcasts, bonus blog posts, and bonus signed images.

Finally, a huge thank you is owed to Mike Lampasone for serving as my question deliverer on this quarter’s podcast. Mike is one of my co-hosts on We Were (Kind of) a Big Deal in College. Check out our latest episode on your favorite podcast player of choice (Apple Podcasts here, as that’s what I use).

A Slight Bend in the Road

We interrupt your regularly scheduled posts about nothing to have a post about something. A novel concept isn’t it? And no, this isn’t a work in progress update. I’ll likely have my next one of those sometime in November1That’s my hope at least. We’ll see if that happens..

Over the past few months, I’ve intermittently lamented on Twitter how things aren’t exactly taking off for me. It’s a phenomenon I’ve faced before with my first book, as well as one I’m facing now both with my Patreon, as well as the editing services I offer. It’s frustrating to say the least. I feel like I promote the work I do pretty frequently on the limited social media I have. It’s to the point where I feel like I’m doing self-promotion too frequently, which has to be annoying as all hell to those who follow me.

So I took to Twitter looking for advice. How could I better use my blog to show off what I do? I’m wasn’t necessarily looking to make drastic changes before receiving advice, though I wasn’t opposed to the idea if it made sense at the time. My main goal, however, was to find out if people I interact with — be they other bloggers, readers of this blog, writers, or just people who give me good advice — thought making drastic changes to push my freelancing/Patreon work made sense with my blog.

I was fortunate enough to receive some great feedback from this request. Leading this off (as well as spawning quite a bit of additional feedback from others) was a few tweets from David Carlson of Young Adult Money. I’ve watched David grow his side projects significantly in the time I’ve followed him and his blog, so if anyone has advice on this from personal experience, it’d be him.

If all I’m looking to do with my site is freelancing, I think what David is saying makes a lot of sense. I need a portfolio of works that I can clearly show on my site to highlight the work I’ve done. While I’m building a portfolio currently, aside from the resume writing I’ve done, I don’t have a particularly long portfolio at this point. Even beyond that, a couple of the projects I have worked on have been writers who are writing under pen names, meaning that they’ve also hesitant to tie testimonials to their work2While this hasn’t always been my experience with authors writing semi-anonymously, I have found it’s more frequent than not.. So, what other ideas would potentially help spread the word about what I do? Dem and Charles provided some insight that had crossed my mind, but that I didn’t think about too much.

Human interaction. Cool. I can do that. I already do it in a lot of cases. I make an effort to personally reply to every person who leaves a comment on my blog3Except for that one guy who left comments on my Fire Emblem posts in Portuguese. The extent of my knowledge of Portuguese was a few words I learned to flirt with a girl from Sao Paulo in one of my college classes. I don’t think that’ll help.. I do my best to interact with people I know who read my blog, be that on Twitter, by sharing their content, or by being a consumer of their work myself. I feel like I do this a good bit now.

With that said, I also feel like this runs the risk of becoming super annoying, as I mentioned earlier in the post. It can feel disingenuous to constantly be trying to promote your work. I did that very early on with my college radio show on my Facebook, only to get feedback from quite a few people that I was talking about my show way too much. I’m not sure if that stuck with me more than it should of or if I really was that annoying4And since my Facebook is long deleted, I have no way of checking., however I do worry about being that annoying guy on social media who doesn’t shut up about the work I do.

One of my regular reads, Todd, shared this sentiment in his feedback.

I do get a lot of traffic to the regular blog content I write. I reached my entire 2017 blog traffic volume before mid-August of this year. The past four months have been four of the five best months my blog has ever had traffic wise (though comments are lagging recently). And in order to get eyes on my site, I need traffic. So I do think keeping the blog itself is great, both short and long term. Plus there’s always the idea that Victoria presented about trying to keep the current blog format and just better highlight my technical knowledge, either on the blog or in stories I write.

With all that feedback in mind, I’ve decided to make some modest changes to my site in order to better emphasize the work I do, along with keeping my blog active. You might have noticed the new home page5This went up September 15 for those wondering. Thanks to Stephanie, Tabitha, and my wife for their feedback on the layout. when you came here. This page now features a slider with some of my commonly accessed content, as well as a quick link to my freelancing work. Just below that, you’ll find other links, which include my Patreon and more info about the other media I have (including my book). I’ve also added testimonials to the home page (which is still being worked on as we speak).

While much of what I mentioned above is still being built out or is a work in progress in some capacity, I have transitioned the site to a new color scheme. While I’m not 100% sure exactly how I want the color scheme to fully be used on the site yet — especially with the slider — I did decide that it was time to go away from my previous scheme. Keeping the charcoal gray and Volunteer orange theme was something I seriously considered, as I do love that color pairing. That said, you’ll start to see some greens, teals, and beige/golds on the site in the near future. A new logo is coming soon too, as I really haven’t had a good one of those to speak of6This is because I’m garbage at Photoshop/Canva..

Although this is still a work in progress, I do very much feel like I’ve taken some steps in the right direction. I appreciate the feedback everyone gave to me as part of my desperate search for inspiration. If you have additional feedback about my quandary as to how to market my work better, or you just want to talk about the site redesign, feel free to throw some of your thoughts in the comments.

Travel for Travel’s Sake

Over the past decade or so, I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to travel a good bit for work at various jobs. I’ve gone on work trips with three of my last four employers, including trips to Manila, San Diego, Boston, Chicago, and other locations. I’ve written about a handful of those trips, including a recent venture to the city with the worst food on the planet.

One of the few places I haven’t had the chance to visit — either directly or via an airplane layover — was the state of New York. I’ve technically been there via a short layover in LaGuardia during undergrad, however I haven’t set foot in the actual state for any reason. So I went to the place that everyone thinks of when they think of the state of New York. Buffalo.

The thing about travelling that I’ve noticed7And I’m certain I’m not the only person to think this way. is that the more I like the food available in the city I’m in, the more likely I am to like the city itself. There are some exceptions to the rule, as there are cities with really good food that I’m not a particular fan of (Pittsburgh, Cleveland), as well as cities I love with food that isn’t so great (Santander, Spain comes to mind). Regardless of my thoughts on each individual city, the act of travelling is pretty great.

Prior to the age of 18, I had never been out of a one state radius of Ohio. Even then, nearly all of my trips out of state were to visit family that lived in the southeastern part of Kentucky. It wasn’t until college when I got to travel by myself for the first time that I truly understood the appeal to travel. Yeah, airports and planning can be hectic. And yes, if you pack your travel schedule too tightly with too many activities, travelling can be a draining experience. But the idea of exploring somewhere new for the first time is exciting.

That’s not to say I go into my travel blind. I’m the type of person that looks at maps8Be that Google Maps now or paper maps in my childhood and early adulthood. Even though I wasn’t travelling as a child, I still loved looking at maps. in excruciating detail prior to going on any planned trip. I love to know the layout of the city I’m travelling to. In many cases, I want to know where the history of the city is. That way, if time and funds allow me to, I can see that historical place for myself. And while some cities have more interesting places to visit than others9Every cathedral in Spain was the same thing. I know they’re all different. But I wanted to pull my hair out after hearing about how yet another church was built by rich people to honor some saint I didn’t care about., there’s still an appeal to it all, regardless of exactly what the location is.

In an ideal situation, there’s lots of places I’d love to visit. I might even write a post about those locations at some point in the nearish future. But until then, I’m going to be happy that I’ve been fortunate enough to travel a good bit for various jobs. This travel has allowed me to see interesting places (and also Tampa), eat tasty food, and get to experience locations I don’t believe I otherwise would have had the chance to see for myself.

Oh…and if you’re in Buffalo, get a pizza pod. They’re really good.

Dasani Sparkling Water Flavors, Ranked

I have a not particularly surprising confession to make. I like sparkling water. I blame a trip to my old job’s Boston office, where I grabbed a bottle of sparkling water from the cafeteria on accident, thinking I had grabbed lime flavored flat water. In the time since then, I’ve made somewhat of an effort to try to replace some of my pop consumption with sparkling water.

I’m not terribly picky about sparkling water brands. I’ll buy whatever’s on sale typically. Most brands do have one flavor that they do better than other brands. For example, La Croix does grapefruit/pamplemousse (and cherry-lime) better than anyone else, Schweppes makes great black cherry water, and Simply Balanced10Yes. Target’s generic brand of all things. has an awesome lime flavor. That said, if nothing’s on sale, I will buy Dasani over other brands. It’s not really a brand loyalty thing — when it comes to pop, I buy pretty much everything but Coke products — I just think that Dasani does enough flavors well that I get some variety to my beverage choices. Plus La Croix lists have been done to death. Seriously. Even writers in the city with the worst food in the world feel the need to talk about how superior La Croix is to everything else.

So…how do I rank the 1411As of July 1, 2018. flavors of sparkling water that Dasani offers? My list from 12 through 1 is below. There are two flavors — tropical pineapple and strawberry guava — I’ve yet to try. If I do try either of those at some point in the near future12Read: before Dasani adds a new flavor that I’m made aware of., I’ll add them to this list. If only Dasani had a cherry-lime flavor…

Also, this post isn’t sponsored by Dasani, the Coca-Cola company, or any other brand in any way. That said, if someone wants to throw money at me to drink their sparkling water, I’m listening.

12. Watermelon
As a fruit, watermelon is an enjoyable, if not iconic part of the summertime experience in most of the United States. It’s a sweet, mouthwatering fruit that pairs well as a dessert with so many of the hottest part of the year’s best cookout foods. As an artificial flavoring though, watermelon is genuinely the worst thing you could possible make. It’s not just that watermelon flavoring is bad — it’s that it’s such a disappointment in comparison to real watermelon. Don’t even bother with this flavor.

11. Original
If I wanted flavorless water, I’d buy actual Dasani. Herein lies what baffles me so much about Dasani sparkling water. Their bottled water isn’t good. It has a weird plasticy aftertaste that no other bottled water has. I bought it from time to time in high school, but that was only because our school’s water fountains pumped out a chalky off-white fluid that could barely legally claim to be water. Even Dasani was an improvement over that. But for a brand that makes bottle water that is subpar, Dasani does a really good job with their sparkling water.

10. White Peach
Meh. Peach suffers from the same problems as watermelon (both in terms of this sparkling water and as a fruit). The only reason peach gets the nod here over watermelon is because it isn’t quite as much of a punch you in the mouth flavor as watermelon is.

9. Pear Kiwi
I’d love to hear the conversations in the flavor mixing room when pear kiwi was decided on. Kiwi is one of my favorite fruits. It goes good with so many things. Of course, the most iconic fruit to mix kiwi with is strawberry. It’s a great mix of sweet and tart. That said, it’s clearly not the only option — you could do raspberry kiwi, kiwi lime, kiwi kumquat13I really just wanted to work kumquat into this post somehow., even banana kiwi14Best yogurt and fruit combo I’ve had recently? Vanilla yogurt (not greek) with banana, kiwi, blueberry, and brown sugar. From a turnpike gas station, no less!. And yet you decide kiwi goes best with…pear? The shortbread cookie of the fruit world? I mean, yeah, it’s a flavor, but it’s not a particularly pleasing one. Of the bad flavors of Dasani — and there’s not that many — this one is the best. It’s the Joe Thomas on the 2017 Cleveland Browns of bad Dasani flavors.

8. Raspberry Lemonade
I’m a big fan of lemonade in general, particularly flavored lemonades. The rise of brands like Simply Lemonade have made flavored lemonades more easily accessible, much to my delight. That said, part of the appeal to drinking lemonade — or most fruit juices like lemonade, orange juice, or limeade — is that you get both the strong flavor of the fruit(s) in question, as well as the pulp of the fruit15My wife and I have strongly opposed opinions on this. It’s one of the very few areas where I’m right.. The raspberry lemonade Dasani tastes like essence of raspberry lemonade. As sparkling water should. But when it comes to lemonade flavor, the essence of the flavor is a disappointment. It’s raspberry lemonade, so it’s still good…but not as good as it could be.

7. Meyer Lemon
For those unfamiliar with the meyer lemon, it’s basically the traditional lemon’s smaller, sweeter cousin. As someone who regularly puts lemon in my water at restaurants, I will say this is flavor does not taste like that. At all. It’s still a good flavor though, if for no other reason than the sweetness is a nice departure from the many bitter sparkling water flavors on the market. It’s not as overpoweringly sweet as Sparkling Ice,16If Sparkling Ice didn’t leave me feeling like I just ingested a pound of Splenda with every bottle, I’d drink them over everyone else. Their cherry limeade and black raspberry flavors are great, but I can only drink a bottle every few weeks or so, because it tastes like it’s terrible for me. but it’s still sweeter than you’d expect.

6. Pink Grapefruit
Grapefruit is a terribly underrated flavor for fruit flavored items. From pop17Squirt. to Torani syrup to sparkling water, grapefruit flavored foodstuffs are a safe bet for a delicious time. This is true even if you’re turned off by the extremely sour flavor of the fruit itself. There’s two main problems with Dasani’s pink grapefruit flavor. The first is that I love actual grapefruit, and their sparkling water doesn’t taste all that strongly of grapefruit. The second is that grapefruit and coconut are the two flavors that La Croix truly seems to have the market cornered on in terms of flavor. In comparison to other grapefruit options out there, it’s a let down. In comparison to some of Dasani’s other flavors, it’s fine, but you could better.

5. Black Cherry
Cherry is the safest flavor to buy for any liquid drink. It doesn’t matter what. 7Up. Pepsi. Dr. Pepper. Robitussin. Everything is better as a cherry flavor. Dasani’s black cherry flavor makes the top five solely based on that fact and that fact alone. Of the flavors I can readily find in my local grocery store, this is one of the ones I usually buy. The only downside is that there’s just so many other cherry flavored things that taste better than black cherry sparkling water18Literally everything I listed at the start of this paragraph other than the cough syrup.. It’s good. And when I want sparkling water, black cherry is one of the best flavor options available, thanks in large part to its availability. There’s still a few flavors that out class it though.

4. Berry
While the cherry is the safest flavor to buy for most liquids, berry flavors tend to be the safest flavors to buy for water. I don’t understand how it works. It’s just science19Your science mileage may vary.. Based on the can design for the berry flavor, I think it’s technically supposed to be a raspberry and blackberry mix. Why they couldn’t call it that, I’m not sure. Is it because raspberry lemonade is already a flavor? Are people concerned about blackberries? Is there secretly blackcurrant in it20Sadly, no. I’d buy a blackcurrent water so fast.? No lingonberries? It really doesn’t matter. It’s good regardless of what kind of berry is in it.

3. Lime
One of the two flavors in the top four of this list that made it here in part because of how close to the real fruit they smell, I love me some lime sparkling water. It’s the lone flavor that seems to be available as a stand alone flavor for nearly every sparkling water brand21Except for Sparkling Ice. Because, once again, we can’t have nice things., which works great for me as limes are my favorite fruit. Dasani and Simply Balanced are in a dead heat for my favorite brand of lime sparkling water. The fact that lime is only #3 on my list of Dasani flavors is more a testament to the strength of the two flavors above it than anything else. This is a great flavor.

2. Blood Orange
Why aren’t more things blood orange flavored? It’s such a good flavor. Mike’s Hard Lemonade used to make a blood orange flavor that showed up around Christmas time. It was great. This water is great. The biggest issue is that I can never find the packs of it at my local grocery store. When I do run into the packs, I tend to get two or three of them because of how uncommon they are. Seriously though…if blood orange becomes the next fad food flavor, I will be overjoyed. Yes, this isn’t the top flavor on the list, but that’s only because the blood orange Dasani must be drank cold. I have to wait for it to cool down which, I know, is a first world problem. But the top flavor from this list doesn’t suffer from this problem.

1. Pomegranate Blueberry
A friend of mine in college made me a fan of pomegranate. Since then, I’ll buy pomegranate arils22The seeds are called arils. Full pomegranates are kind of a bitch to take apart. when I see them in a container that doesn’t leak all over the place — looking at you Pom. On top of that, blueberries are my favorite berry. When I was a kid, one of my favorite breakfasts to eat during the summer was a small handful of frozen blueberries, covered in a spoon of white sugar and skim milk. The way the milk and sugar froze around the blueberries was a really interesting texture that I’ve yet to replicate with any other berry. This flavor is good warm, cold, room temperature, or over ice. Just try it. You’ll be thankful you did.

Sparkling water fans — what your favorite brand and flavor of sparkling water? Sound off in the comments.

Five Short Graybles From a Bachelor Party (and Other Times)

The following post contains a series of true short stories, also known as graybles in the Adventure Time universe, that occurred over the past twelve years. All of these stories, either in part or in full, were discussed or happened during a bachelor party I attended back in June. Congrats to my best friend, Mike. I hope you enjoy marriage.

I have to begin with a story that happened rather recently — at your bachelor party, in fact. You, our fishy friend who I’ll talk about more in a coming story, and I were sitting at the bar at a local establishment that you (and Fish) had frequented numerous times in college. It was, however, my first time being there, as my college experience was largely devoted to trying to graduate early while working multiple jobs. The three of us were chatting about whatever happened to come up, be that the fact that Johnny Manziel’s CFL team was on TV, the fact that everyone thought the bartender looked suspiciously like one of my ex-girlfriends23It wasn’t. Had it just been me, I would have blamed it on my face blindness and a faulty memory., or where else we needed to go that evening before turning in for the night.

This was until an older man walked up to the bar and sat down beside me. His flannel overshirt covered a tattered Mark Martin t-shirt from his Valvoline sponsorship days, though the overshirt seemed out-of-place on a 90 degree day. He flagged down both bartenders and ordered a piece of pizza. The male bartender ran off to grab the pizza while the female bartender attempted to collect payment.

“That’ll be $2,” she said.

“One dollar?” the bar patron asked in a confused tone.

The female bartender shook her head at him as the male bartender sat the pizza down and ran off to help other customers.

“Nope,” she replied, “that’s just on Thursdays. It’s two dollars.”

It was at this point that I notice that the man was fiddling with three quarters in his hand, running them through his fingers. How he was planning to pay for $1 worth of food with $0.75 is beyond me, but I didn’t have much time to think about it, as he put the quarters in his pocket, removed his wallet, and pulled out a credit card.

“Just put it on my tab,” he said.

The bartender took his card at this point, but nearly instantly after she took his card, the man reached out his hand to stop her.

“Wait! No!” he pleaded. “Can I run to the bank?”

“Sure,” she responded. “I’ll keep your pizza warm.”

The older man started digging through his pockets looking for something. He was struggling to stay on his bar stool in the process, leading the bartender to shoot our group some judgmental looks. After 10-15 seconds of searching, the man sat up rigidly straight.

“Actually, put it on my tab and get me a Coors Light. Draft.”

The bartender turned and walked to the register with his card. Meanwhile, the man powerwalked to the back of the bar, presumably to the restroom. We stayed another 15-20 minutes, but we didn’t see him again.

I was only in town for a little less than 24 hours. Yet, despite the short amount of time there, we saw that strange interaction. It’s not like seeing weird things from people who had been drinking was a recurring theme of the time we spent together in college or anything.

Our first year at college was interesting, if for no other reason than the first semester at college was not particularly indicative of what we would end up being either at the end of college or later in life. While I was mostly a shut-in, wallowing in self-pity over the ending of a five year relationship24We’ll come back to this a bit later, as it was the impetus for another story., you were off making friends and (briefly) trying to join a fraternity. Yet, despite those differences from our future trajectories, that first semester produced a handful of entertaining stories, including this one.

One of the things that our RA during our first year was very vocal about encouraging was the act of keeping your dorm room door propped open if you weren’t sleeping/studying/changing/etc. He had this grand idea of being an entire floor community between his residents and those of the other two RAs on the floor. It worked for all of half of a semester. During that half semester though, we had people floating in and out of our room at all hours of the day and night. One of these people was a guy who we’ll call Ricky. If Ricky was in our room, Ricky was drunk. Usually significantly so. Ricky also liked to ask us for our food or drinks when he came in the room empty-handed, which was more common in retrospect than I think we realized at the time.

There was an evening when the two of us had decided to play either Rock Band or Guitar Hero prior to you going out drinking and me needing to go to bed to go to work25I tended to work from either midnight or 4am until 8am 3-4 days a week. I’d pick up the occasional shift at other times of the day, but it usually meant I slept through the day when I wasn’t in class. If I was fortunate enough to have a 4am shift, I’d sleep 11pm-350am or something obnoxious like that since we lived in the same building that I worked in.. We had ordered wings from our favorite chicken wing place in Bowling Green, Mister Spots. After being back in town recently and going there, I’m reminded how well their food holds up. They’re damn good wings26Please sponsor me.. My favorite kind of their wings to get is a wing sauce known as the wiseguy wings. I adore spicy food — the spicier, the better — and these wings make me sweat profusely every time I eat them. They’re not just hot, as they really do taste amazing. But they’re a kick in the face, even when you know what you’re getting yourself into.

Ricky didn’t know what he was getting himself into.

Around 10pm, Ricky stumbled into our room, reeking of cheap beer and vodka. He was stumbling everywhere, slurring his words as he repeatedly asked us for food. He was very intent on wanting one of my chicken wings specifically. I kept telling him that it was a bad idea and that he didn’t want to do that. Ricky was persistent though, so I gave in and handed him a wing. Ricky took a big bite, chewed for five or ten seconds, and produced a thousand yard stare that I’ve never seen before or since. The chicken wing dropped to the ground. In a perfectly understandable, non-slurring voice, Ricky spoke.

“I have made a mistake.”

Ricky shambled off to the bathroom where (we’re told) he had his head under the faucet of the sink for the next 20 to 30 minutes. Ricky never asked us for food again.

For all the weirdness that happened throughout college — and I assure you there was a lot of it, in spite of the fact that I was only there two and a half years — one of the most enduring memories of college was running a radio show with you and Fish. If memory serves, you didn’t join our “staff” until midway through our first semester on air. Even then you were our “researcher” as you weren’t allowed on air unless you became part of the radio organization we were in. You eventually became our third talking head in the spring of that first year, though your primary gimmick was hating Penn State and playing World of Warcraft instead of actually fact checking for us.  In spite of that gimmick, you were an integral part of our show, as you helped us to come up with some of the show’s weirdest ideas, including the live wing tasting contest we held on air27I know that sounds like it wouldn’t work, but it surprisingly did really well..

You also put up with a lot of bullshit from me and (and occasionally Fish) just to go on air with us once a week. There was the time I thought it would be a good idea to trudge across campus during a snowstorm that dropped nearly two feet of snow and closed campus for two days. On the plus side, the closure announcement went out while we were on air, so we got to share the news. There was also a time where you had to run a show by yourself for half of its run time because I was busy taking Fish to the emergency room. Such was life. As a reminder, fish can swim, but they don’t do well on ice.

I was really proud of the work we did with our show. It won our radio organization’s show of the year award in its first year on the air. I’d like to think it was partly because we were funny, partly because we were entertaining, and partly because we weren’t afraid to discuss hard issues. We talked about the Virginia Tech shootings on air just days after they occurred. We called out (and then subsequently got a sternly worded email from the then-President of) the University of Delaware for their repeated ducking of in-state institution (and historically black college) Delaware State. We brought to light concerns with concussions and brain health.

The show had its flaws for sure. We got pulled off air for a week for not clearing our interviews. We had a terribly sexist and cringeworthy hottest college athlete bracket that we managed to drag a then-Sports Illustrated writer onto air to talk with us about28In the event I ever meet Mallory Rubin in person, I feel like I’m just going to spend the entire time apologizing to her for putting her through that.. But ultimately, the show was a ton of fun. It’s not like there’s a reason we sort of revived it for a podcast or anything29Following your wedding, I find it important to point out that not only did your grandma listen to your show, but that the main thing she remembers from our show was a throwaway ad we created where one of our friends made fun of people eating Cheetos naked. This ad was read in a super sultry voice. Because reasons..

For the next to last story, I want to recount to my readers the single most memorable story to come out of our time together in college. I use the word memorable loosely, as this story has been pieced together from my memory, fragments that other folks on campus shared with us, and the few bits and pieces I was able to pull from your mind the morning after.

As I mentioned earlier in this post, I worked a lot of weird hours during college and you drank just a bit in an effort to join a fraternity. One early October day was the crown jewel of those two scenarios coming together. You went out to a party on Friday evening, while I worked at the dorm from around 7pm until midnight. You swung by the front desk and chatted for a few minutes when you left for your party at around 930, while my evening went largely quietly at work. After someone unexpectedly called off, I stayed at the front desk until around 2am to help them out before going back up to our room to head to bed. It didn’t take me long to get ready to sleep and with the few weeks I was having, I desperately just wanted to sleep.

I had just finished curling up under my blanket when I heard keys fumbling outside of our door. I leaned up to look and make sure it was you coming in, as after a few failed attempts to stick a key in the lock, I was starting to grow a bit concerned. But after a few tries, you succeeded, only to notice me sitting up in my bunked bed, wide awake.

“Shit,” you said. “Did I wake you, man?”

“No,” I replied. “I just got to bed.”

“That’s good.”

It was at this point, you took a step forward. Said step was subsequently followed by you crashing to the ground face first. You did your best to lift yourself up off the ground, however our university’s insistence of using rocking chairs for the in-dorm desk chairs was not aiding your battle with gravity at this juncture. After a few, struggled filled attempts, you managed to climb into your chair and sit quietly.

The next few minutes brought little excitement. We were still relative strangers at this point, so you asked to borrow a cup so you could get water from the fountain down the hall. How you managed to get the cup, fill it, and make it back without spilling it on the tile hallway was beyond me, particularly considering your fall moments prior. That said, you managed to avoid harming yourself in the process. You drank some of the water and then asked if you could play Guitar Hero, as you weren’t tired.

For those reading who weren’t there themselves, I want to take a moment to explain the layout of the dorm room that Mike and I shared. The room was small — maybe 10 foot deep by 8 foot wide — with a window on the opposite side of a centered door. If you stood in the doorway, my closet and desk would be immediately to your right and Mike’s to the left. Beyond those desks were our beds, both bunked four and a half feet or so in the air, mine again on the right and his on the left. A futon ran perpendicularly below the head of both beds, while a TV was under the foot of my bed and a mini fridge and pantry were under the foot of Mike’s bed. I give this description to help the next two sequences of the story make sense.

Anyway…so after you (Mike) decided you wanted to play Guitar Hero, I rolled over and faced the wall in an effort to not be bothered by the light of the TV. I heard the game go through its loading screens, but before it even got to the start menu, I heard you get up and shut off both your Xbox and the television.

“I’m going to bed!” you announced triumphantly. “Good night.”

You changed clothes and climbed into bed. Within minutes, you were asleep. I curled up more under my blankets and tried to fall asleep, though I couldn’t sleep. I kept feeling like I was forgetting to do something. I had no idea what it could be for a few minutes, but then it hit me. I owed someone — though I have no idea who anymore30I’m 90% sure it was someone I was working on a group project with. That’s the version of the story we’ve always retold. It’s just been so long that I’m not completely sure. — an email. So I got out of bed, opened my laptop and began writing an email.

The funny thing about mid-2000s laptop computers is that when you booted them up, their screens were so bright that several small planets could conceivably consider them to be suns. I should have saved my email for the next morning. I really should have. But when my Dell White Dwarf 2005 came on, you groggily rubbed your eyes and mumbled at me.

“What time is it?” you asked.

“2:25. Sorry, I didn’t mean to wake you.”

“What time is it?” you asked again, confused.

“2:25. You’re late for class.”

Several years after this event, we both know full well that the other is sarcastic more often than not. We also know that I enjoy messing with my friends. I’m unsure if this was an understood fact at this point in time or if you were just too drunk to realize what was going on. But what happened next set off a chain of events that perplex both of us to this day.

“Oh shit!” you yelled.

With a deftness and agility I’ve not seen you move with at any other point in your life, you bounded out of bed and dove to the floor, landing as you did a half-tuck roll towards your closet. You threw on pants and a shirt, slipped on your shoes, and grabbed your backpack, all before I could realize what was going on. You threw open the door and sprinted out into the hallway, running headfirst into the cinder block wall across from our door. Not stopping your momentum, you barrel rolled hard to the right, taking off down the hallway toward the stairs.

It was at that moment I realized what was going on. Not even bothering to pause and put on my own shoes, I ran down the hall after you, but you were long gone. I made my way down to the front desk and asked one of my co-workers if they had seen you. They had, but you had taken off outside at a dead sprint. I looked out the front door, but you were no where to be seen. So I did the only thing I thought was rational at that point in time — I went upstairs and went to bed. Surely you were fucking with me and would be back in a few minutes.

I went back upstairs and laid down. I expected to see you in a few minutes, but instead, I fell asleep. Around 4:30 in the morning, the door flew open. You were standing in the middle of the door way, water POURING off of your clothes. You stared up toward my bed and spoke with deadpanned seriousness.

“I fucking hate you.”

You crawled into bed — wet clothes, shoes, and backpack all still on — and went to sleep.

The next morning, I woke up relatively early and went to take a shower. When I came back in the room, you were wide awake, your backpack sitting on the futon, but you fully dressed otherwise. I expected you to be furious with me, but instead, you asked me to help you retrace your steps from the night before.

Between me recounting the above story, as well as the eyewitness accounts of a handful of drunken students from the night before, we were able to determine that you did, in fact, run off to one of your afternoon classes. Reports differ as to whether or not you got in the building, however you were for sure sighted near the Thinker statue (below) on campus trying to open a nearby door, presumably for sake of attending class.

As to why you were wet, we’re not 100% sure whatever happened there. The university did have a habit of running the sprinkler system during the wee hours of the morning. There’s no way you would have had water running off of you solely from that though. There is also a lake on campus near the music building. Considering its proximity to our dorm, this makes the most sense, however most other reports of your whereabouts had you on the opposite end of campus. Perhaps it was a combination of the two.

Despite diving into the deepest, darkest reaches of your mind, you’ve never been able to reconstruct any of that night for yourself. It’s a shame, as it was definitely one of the funniest experiences of my entire time knowing you. So why not end with it? There’s a more important grayble to tell.

The final story I want to tell isn’t a particularly funny or long story, but it is a critical one to helping to understand why I’ve devoted a 4100+ word blog post that nearly no one will read the whole way through to the fact that you’re getting married.

My first semester of college was rough to say the least. A lot of that was self-inflicted. It was during that semester that I decided I was going to try to graduate a four-year program in two and a half years. I picked up the aforementioned job with odd hours and started the aforementioned radio show from scratch that semester. It was also the semester that my high school girlfriend and I finally broke up for good.

We’d been in a relationship on life support for the better part of six months when we got to college, but being at college ended up doing us in. We weren’t in the same place in life, as evidenced by the fact that I was a far less mature person than she was at the time. In early October of that year (just one week before the previous story), she and I split up. I spent the better part of that windy afternoon wandering around campus. A friend of mine from high school came up and stayed with us for the weekend because she was concerned for my mental health31She was right to be at that point.. That weekend was the second drunkest I’d seen you, as said friend changed clothes in front of you and you were too inebriated to notice. That’s not the point of this story, but it does amuse me, so I thought I’d bring it up.

My relationship with my high school girlfriend was off at that point, but we stayed lukewarm towards each other over the course of the next few weeks. On a Friday night in mid-November, she called me and we spent the evening sitting in chairs in her dorm’s common area talking. By midnight, we had decided that we were going to get back together. I fell asleep on the futon beneath her dorm bed (as I was sick and didn’t want to get her sick) incredibly happy about how things had changed for the positive — on the day before my birthday no less.

The next morning, she woke me up at six in the morning. She told me that our discussion from the night before was a mistake and that we should stay split up. I was devastated all over again. Beyond that, a bunch of our friends from high school were coming down to visit from Eastern Michigan University. We decided in that moment that it was better that I not be there so that things wouldn’t be awkward and that my cold would be the excuse.

Had the day’s disappointments stopped there, it would have been a shitty birthday, but not the worst imaginable32Or even the worst I’d had to that point…hooray having to choose which parent to live with at age 8.. The notable thing about this birthday was that it happened to coincide with the Ohio State-Michigan football game. While I detest Ohio State and generally don’t care about Michigan, the Ohio State-Michigan game made the rivalry unavoidable, as all of my friends and family took sides for the game, most of them VERY vocally.

During this specific year, Ohio State and Michigan were the top two teams in the country, meaning their game got moved to prime time for television audiences. This led to everyone I came in contact with all day talking about the game and nothing else. I didn’t hear from a single friend or family member the entire day about anything other than OSU-Michigan. The only birthday wish I got from anyone was from my now-ex-girlfriend, just as I was walking out the door from us breaking up.

You were off somewhere that Friday and didn’t get back until late Saturday evening, so I didn’t see you all day. Just before kickoff, you came back to our dorm room where I was working on a group project for one of my classes with two people who also didn’t care about football. Neither of said people knew it was my birthday, but you did. It was at that point you made the group of four of us33Me, you, and the two girls from my class. get up and we walked to the student union and got dinner from Wendy’s for my birthday. We sat at these tall tables over the entrance to the building and marveled at the fact that on any other Saturday night, people would be migrating across campus to go to parties, but that tonight they were too distracted by a sports matchup involving two colleges that they didn’t go to for this to be a thing.

After dinner, we left the union, all walked to the combination Tim Horton’s and Cold Stone to get coffee and ice cream. You left and went off somewhere — I think a party — while I finished the group project. That moment stuck with me. It was the moment I realized that I had found my new best friend. I’ve always been grateful to you for that moment. Thank you.

This story, of course, has a pair of happy endings. You’ve found your new best friend. My hope is that she gives you the happiness you deserve. The other happy ending? Ohio State got humiliated in the national title game that year.