It was a little over a year ago that I was in Nashville, Tennessee. This was before the Covid enzymes were conspiring. Well, before we knew they were conspiring. Before I knew, anyway. Those jerks.
I was in Nashville for an academic conference. The National Council of Teacher’s of English Assemblies of Research. Fancy name. It was held at Vanderbilt. Fancy college. I’ve been to Vanderbilt a handful of times. My friend is a professor there. I’ve become a regular Vandy Boy. Which is a slogan you’ll find on a t-shirt if you go to the Vanderbilt book store.
Yes, I was in Nashville for a conference. But I was also there to be with friends from high school. We were turning 40 last year, so a buddy planned a weekend away. And he was gracious to accommodate my poverty, and plan the vacation around my conference schedule. Which meant Nashville. It also meant that Penn State covered the bill. Two birds with the same stone. I presented at a conference. Wore sweater vests and acted very scholarly. But I also participated in the debaucherous exploits of my friends. Gently. I’m not much for debauchery. Never have been. Give me a cup of a coffee, a book, and an early bedtime over a frat party any day of the week. Saturday included. Still, it was good to be with my friends. Played video games. Played poker. Went downtown Nashville. Listened to bands. Etc.
Then I got back to State College and the world ended. I’d be a little concerned if I believed the God of Abraham was the type to punish debauchery with pandemics. But I don’t believe that. Jesus doesn’t illustrate a raging God hellbent on hurting humanity. Quite the opposite, really.
There’s no Spring Break this year. Penn State put the kibosh on that. Tried to limit the degree to which students can travel the world contracting viruses (and STD’s?) on beaches and in bars. Debauchery. I think students will figure out a way to do both of those things anyway. They are resourceful. Especially the rich ones that end up at Penn State. But the university is trying.
What do we get instead of Spring Break? A smattering of wellness days throughout the semester. So I had last Thursday off. Lots of wellness. I played NBA 2K21 and took a nap. I’m building up a pretty solid player. Samuel Jaye Tanner has 94 for speed, 90 for pass, and 55 for shooting. Sounds like my game in real life. I’m also 5’4′. A tiny white man running the floor at the Target Center. Making crisp passes to my boy Karl Anthony Towns. Sign me, Glen Taylor, and maybe we can turn this franchise around.
The Tanner family hasn’t traveled anywhere since last March. Makes me sad. The boys are old enough to enjoy the Smithsonian. Or to return to the Baltimore Aquarium. Or check out the Liberty Bell. We’re only a couple of hours from all sorts of great cities. Museums and restaurants. And the boys are finally of age to enjoy such things. Sadly, the pandemic rages. I’m not sure that traveling is a great idea yet. For those of you out there sailing the seven seas? So be it, jetsetter. I’m not one to cast stones. Because of the theological comment made above. As for me and my house, we’ll remain cautious when it comes to family road trips during these strange times. Looking forward to getting out though. I’m not much for debauchery, but I love me a good museum. And there’s some great ones just down the road. East on I-80. Through the rolling hills of Pennsylvania, and into the sprawling cities of the Eastern Seaboard. I could use a change of scenery. My basement bunker is getting old.
I usually end up writing some sort of Spring Break blog around this time of year. And I tend to add exclamation marks. Like this: Spring Break! I do so with irony. To capture some of the silliness of the debauchery that accompanies how I imagine my students imagine Spring Break. There’s not much “Spring Breaking!” around here. Just NBA 2k21 and sleeping in 10 minutes late. Wellness days.
It’s been a year since I went to Nashville. Flew in a plane. Saw my friends and connected with colleagues. Had a few beers, did some improv theatre, and listened to some talks. I hate being away from my family when I go to conferences. My wife and my boys. But I also miss an occasional change of scenery. What a year. Oi vey.