O’ Sunken Garden, you beautiful land,
Bountiful as any could be.
We give to you our clapping hands,
O’ Sunken Garden, you beautiful land,
The bare grasses, the fruit stands,
No springtime was fairer than thee.
O’ Sunken Garden, you beautiful land,
Bountiful as any could be.

I wanted my MTV, but cable had not made it out to Carter’s Grove yet. Everyone was talking about music videos and I was pretty much left out of those conversations. Then one day after shooting some hoops at Blow Gym, I stopped at the old Campus Center at William and Mary to grab a bite to eat. There on the television was my ticket into the cool world.

I had my MTV.

MTV was such a great thing when it first came out. I bought into the craziness pretty quickly. The programming was fresh and unpredictable. Finally, I got to see U2, The Talking Heads, and Saga. That’s right, I put Saga on the list. The video was quite cinematic. Besides, if people can like Taylor Swift and Justin Bieber, I can say that I once liked Saga. Some of you liked Culture Club, so don’t judge… In fact, once I was sitting at a cool kid’s house in Season’s Trace (during school, sorry Mom) and he said the woman singing was kind of hot. It was Boy George. You see, we all make mistakes. Back at the Campus Center, not only was I getting to watch MTV, but as a high school freshman, I thought I was real s*** to be watching all this coolness at W&M.

If I had only known.

Eventually, I would bore of the videos. If I got there and the room was empty I would put on ESPN. That didn’t last long. The college students would come in and change the station to General Hospital. I lost interest in sitting there after that. It’s kind of funny, but GH and ESPN are both pretty much unwatchable, too.

I had a few high school hangouts where I went without my friends. There was the library which kind of went by the wayside after I learned to drive. There was the beach

Blow Gym after it was converted.

at Carter’s Grove where I lived. Mostly, though, there was Blow Gym at William and Mary. Some genius decided to convert it to offices, but I made that place my afternoon home for many years.

The smell of the old gym might be my most vivid memory. The aroma was a mix of chlorine and decades of funk from all of the sweating that went on in every crevice of the gym. The universal weights were straight out of antiquity. The racquet ball/squash courts were caged off giving them a prison feel. The basketball courts were so different. The front court was small with tight rims and the back court was open with the shooters rims.

The Little Sue is now a Wawa.

My first trip there was for a karate tournament. I must say it was pretty boring. We waited and waited for my not yet uncle to compete. I’m not sure he ever did, but that day must have altered my DNA because I loved going to Blow Gym for whatever the workout. Twenty-two laps made for a mile on the third level track that was banked in a style suitable for NASCAR or skate boarding. I miss the goofy sports scenes that were painted on the walls that were so close to the court that they really were part of the action.

After a workout or day of shooting hoops it was a quick run across the street to the Little Sue for a chili dog, moon pie, and Dr. Pepper. Maybe there would be some hoops after or maybe I’d walk down to the Campus Center for a little MTV.

That’s a whole ‘nutha story.

Being a teenager can be kind of rough, especially when you are trying to do the cool stuff and your father is a cop. So was my lot growing up in the ‘Burg. Sometimes there were benefits to having a policeman father. Admission to sporting events, a break on a speeding ticket, and one semi-serious get out a jam card. When it came to going to concerts, though, there was no slack to be given.

At least when I was in seventh grade and Kansas came to town. Okay, say what you will about Kansas, but they used to be the deal. Who from my era doesn’t know “Dust in the Wind” or “Carry On My Wayward Son?” Theirs was one of the first albums I got from the Columbia Record and Tape scam. I did it… I’m owning it… So for my first non-Busch Gardens concert, my parents agreed that three tickets would do the trick.

Three?

My father was working so he was out. My friend’s parents said he could go. Who, then, would be using the third ticket?

MY MOM???

I thought they were joking, but my father made it clear that he did not want me at William and Mary Hall with all of those pot smoking hippies unless my mother went. I had no choice. My first concert was with my mom.

We got there and had sort of decent seats until I realized that about half the seventh grade was sitting just a few rows behind me. I wanted to walk around, but I suppose we had reached the point of no return, so like any embarrassed teenager, I pretended all those guys
weren’t back there. Luckily, no pot smoking hippies got to us and my classmates never realized I was there with my mom. That was good and for the record my mom is pretty cool. She was also in tune with good music back then, Eagles, Willie Nelson, Helen Reddy. (Told you…)

As for my father, years later he hooked me up with a security job in the pit at a Police concert. One of the fraternity dudes who was also there to pull people out of the general admission seating asked me if I would like a hit on his “funny little cigarette.” I mentioned I would have to ask my father who the frat boy was familiar with. I didn’t partake and he faced me towards the stage, telling me to just watch the show.

Best seats I ever had. And to think, they were courtesy of my father and a pot smoking preppie. That’ll teach him…