It is time to pack our things. The remnants of our stay will be left hanging from the telephone wires out front – the only sign we once reigned supreme in this brick shit-hole will be shoelaces of Nikes and Adidas wrapped around black cord.
The Meyran house was a hurricane of good times. It was impossible to escape. Its sun covered roof and weather proof porch were enough to convince you that studying was a secondary priority for more than two years.
The broken and holed walls inside left a winter draft that would chill you to the bone, but it was nothing the bottom of a few bottles couldn’t help.
Heat in the Meyran house didn’t run on gas, it ran on Vladimir.
It took hold of legendary names, the Bhasvars and the DeAngelis' and the McClendons and the Deleos and the Walters and even the Reds and Polens. Its summers brought in family from Virginia and Atlanta – a three month blur of time spent adventuring and exploring, breaking laws and traveling, living off one another in a black market of goods, and never being less than estatic to have this run down Oakland goliath as our home base.
We’ve hosted the proud alumni of the Pittsburgh Ultimate team and the proud employees of the XXX Easter special strip show.
Its rooms have been clouded with smoke from fires and smoke from glass; its couches have witnessed some historic make out sessions; its parties have given birth to some wholesome relationships.
Inside its walls, the house grew minds just as often as it destroyed them. It was home to the creation of Philaburgh, freestyle Friday’s and Chris McClendon bottle-breaks-take-one.
Of course, inside those same walls, we've also grown. We've lived through death, heard and seen tragedy as real as it can come, made steps in our lives as students and potential employees, lived, learned, and loved. Through all those times, we've always had a bed to come lay in when the night came to a close.
Those same beds have a history, no matter where you look. They’ve hosted friends and lovers and family from California to New York, West Chester to IUP, Florida to Boston, Ultimate teams traveling the country and the Oakland stragglers just looking for a warm place to rest their head. Occasionally, those beds have even seen the reality of a ménage à trios.
Our porches have been intruded by the legendary Shuffles, and they’ve also given view to a true Old Man Rivers. We bless this baby for her stadium seating to some of the most epic car accidents, fights and parallel parking jobs you’ve ever seen in your life.
It’s televisions have broadcasted the Flyers’ triumph over the Pens, the Eagles’ Monday Night destruction of the Redskins, Obama’s announcement that he sniped Bin Laden, Eli’s shocking victory over Brady and even the premiers and finales of Boardwalk Empire to the epic takeover that was Kenny Powers (now we’re fucking out, bitches).
Of course, the Meyran house was nothing without its women. On many evenings, we raised our glasses to the Slacks and McInerneys, the Lyons and Tantums, the Fields and Cannons, the Edgewood Tigers who never left, the Bobs and Easy Deazys and of course the neighbors – the 303 squad, the Tony Buis and Anna Schneiders, the whole 319 crew that were always there to finish the night with some hookah when things just didn’t pan out.
Without question, the 317 house has grazed disaster. We all survived the fall and the hospital stay that ensued. We’ve caught intruders trying to bring down our doors with flat head screw drivers and brute strength. We found the melted silver wear holder, moments from engulfing the house in flames, caught by a forgotten oven.
The Meyran house was just as much about survival as it was about living. Somehow, we’ve managed the latter. Whether it be the ghost infested basement or the angelically guided porch, some would argue we’ve touched God in this house.
We’ve looked on at its sturdy walls as outsiders, too. Some of us have left and returned, some have left without looking back, and some will never remove their heart from three seventeen.
At the surface, she may just be brick and dry wall, holes abundant and insulation non-existent, windows broken and the smell of York way’s trash seeping in through the back. But, beauty isn’t always external.
No, here, beauty is internal. Beauty is in the things that have happened under this roof, under her roof; the love shared, the hot sauce chugged, the four locos bonged, the carpets that can only begin to tell a story you can’t imagine, and even the historic family dinners we devoured.
In her final days, the Meyran house stood on the shoulders of Passion Pit and drank heavily with friends, her porch playing host to classics like the word game and freestyles, boombox blaring and lungs blackening.
With a lifetime of memories we leave this house, 317 Meyran Avenue, an address that could bring a smile to the face of many. But, with our exit comes a new group to endure, a new group of survivors – a worthy group. So today, tomorrow, and for the weeks to come, we celebrate the division of a family that can’t be replaced, and a reunification that is as certain nature herself.
Through all this, the one thing I’ll always remember about the Meyran house was how pig-proof she proved to be. The fuzz couldn’t touch us. Whether they never tried or never bothered, I’ll never know. What I do know is that they’d stop, they’d stare, they’d wave and smile or frown and scold, sometimes they’d even shine they’re lights and yell, bang on doors and wait, but in more than two good years of work, not once did they get one ticket. They never cuffed one friend, never handed out one underage, never truly stopped one party. Even when they thought they did, we stood strong, hidden with Meyran's brother Dunseith, delving in Macho Mugz and the last of a good ol' fashion Mellinger's shell.
And for that, Ms. Meyran, we thank you.
As we stood in line to hand Mr. Lusk our jerseys – the same jersey his son had once worn in brotherhood – it was a true moment of awe. We had lost a friend, a brother and a teammate in an instant, in the duration of one phone call. With tears running down the faces of all those present, we placed our jerseys in his arms one by one.
Then, a peculiar object was handed to Jack’s dad. It wasn’t the black and orange that screamed Pennsbury Ultimate; there were no falcons or cacti or trees on it, all symbols that had represented the many teams who stood behind Jackson “Beard” Lusk.
Instead, placed delicately into the waiting arms of Jack’s father was a plain white navy hat.
That hat stood for more than just a division of the U.S. military forces. It stood for more than just the young, brave, charming young lad who owned it. It stood for change, for life, for death, for honor, for time.
In that moment, I reflected quietly on the military men who had influenced my life. I thought of Mr. Robert Glass, a green beret who had lived across the street from me in my youth; a man who had given me the early inklings of what it is to be a man; a father figure who had given me friends and family and even a comforting second home.
As a maggot in training, I was one of a few of Mr. Glass’ surrogate military children. I spent as many hours across the street under his roof as I did under my own. For years, I was the youngest of a group of boys who followed him on Mischief Night military missions filled with smoke grenades and ladders and toilet paper. We embarked on secret missions armed with super soakers and bb-guns, crammed into everything from mini-vans to Jeeps.
But, as the military often rings up memories of death, so does the topic of Mr. Glass. He was a hero lost too soon, a father whose life ended with a teary eyed salute from his eldest son.
Then, in the image of that navy hat, I see the angry face of my former teammate and captain. A man on the verge of enlisting, with such ferocity and competitiveness in his demeanor that I have little doubt he will succeed in an organization deemed “the armed forces.” It is the same organization that has already turned his twin brother into a machine, a top-of-the-line soldier in the thick of the Middle East as we speak.
There, resting idly at the top of our jerseys, the hat has me consider its owner – the teammate and friend and confidant who left the comfort of his home, his parents’ financial support and the warm weather and beautiful women of Florida to take a stand for something he believes in.
I consider the many reasons people join the military: some, as you may expect, have no other choice.
There are users and criminals and dropouts who see the Marine core or the army as an escape – a fresh start.
There are men who have found more value in what hangs between their legs than what sits between their ears – born with a toughness so gritty and concrete they strike fear into their companions.
There are also the tech nerds and brilliant Americans who join with the expectation of serving their country behind a computer, within the safety of our own borders.
There are the athletes who know they’d be better at scaling walls and shooting automatic weapons than they would be at taking notes and filing papers.
There are the patriots whose loyalty stands only with the red, white and blue, ready to do anything and everything for the protection of our country’s stance as a world power – a power that aims to reflect democracy and freedom for all individuals.
And I’m sure there are others – those whose reasons for joining the military are beyond me. Family histories and personal experience can drive a man to any decision, no matter how foreign or dangerous or illogical it may seem to anyone else.
And here this navy hat sat, a reminder that I had a lost a friend in the depths of hell called addiction, a reminder that I had a friend who was willing to face the depths of hell called war.
On May 14th of this year, I will be celebrating my 21st birthday. On that same day, Mike Auld and his white navy hat will deploy for Afghanistan – a land I can neither fathom nor ignore, a place analyzed so thoroughly in American politics and discussion that I admit honestly our need for the Mike Auld’s of this world to be there sometimes seems asinine.
But, while I may wonder at the politics of war, I never wonder at the kind of a man it takes to survive it. My choice to go to college instead of joining the military had much more to do with choice of passion than fear of war, but there are certainly those that fear things military men don’t.
So, when I raise my glass to 21 years of life and the immeasurable joy in being a legal consumer of alcohol, in the back of mind that plain, white navy hat will sit; a representation of change, life, death, honor and time. It will stare at me with the same cold, calculating gaze that a sniper may stare down his enemy.
Yet, with it I will have nothing but pride in those things in represents. Pride that I survived change, life, death, and time – that I may have even survived those things with honor. I will have pride that a man who once introduced me to the band Dispatch could one day be a General himself, standing tall with bravery in the name of our nation. I will have pride in our country, knowing that it found someone who has earned my infinite respect, someone that I’m confident will fight the good fight, and – when given the choice – will do the right thing.
On this birthday, I will celebrate not just my life, but the life of Mr. Glass and Mike Auld and all those that fall in between.
“Honor is simply the morality of superior men.”
For the Glass family, Jack Lusk, the memories, those that continue to serve with honor, and for Mike Auld; stay safe brother. Keep that head on a swivel.