hinton james rm. 244


Do you know what tonight is in Chapel Hill, North Carolina? I’ll tell you. It’s the magical warm night when everything comes together. As a freshman, you finally know where everything is; you’re not daunted by the crowds, and if you’re from northern climes, you’re noticing that the winter starts so much later.

That girl you liked and almost kissed? Except she had a boyfriend? She just went home and broke up with him over Thanksgiving. He ended up at a different college and is full of resentment, or maybe he is beginning to realize how he ruled the roost in high school. Either way, he said something stupid, and she drove off furious. She will need time, but you are now square in front of her, and Christmas cocktails – just as friends for now – loom in the coming weeks.

The shortness of days means the drinking can begin earlier. Dinners are planned, liquor stores empty of Jim Beam, you may even buy a bottle of Bailey’s Irish Cream. The impending exams fill you with anxiety, but those are still a week away, and besides, you’re amped anyway, right? Your paper is almost done, and you’re not noticeably behind.

You got your tickets for tonight’s game and saw everybody on the way there. It was almost seventy degrees, and you took off your coat, tied it around your waist. When you entered the Dean Dome, you were jolted by the sight of a real game, the light-blue heaven, and a team ranked #1 coming in to embarrass you. For twenty minutes, they did.

And then the comeback, as predictable and powerful as the tides. Before long you are tied, then up two, then up TEN! The rafters are shaking, and when Roy Williams called that trap defense leading to Ellington’s steal, you blew a gasket of joy. It was his 19th birthday and he wanted 19 points; he got them exactly.

It’s this sort of magic that follows you home, a scant three yards away from that girl. Maybe later you’ll be drinking – somebody’s roommate is a senior and had some Amstel Light – and the timetable for a kiss just got unexpectedly bumped up.

There is so much work and so much excitement, so much hope and talk of road trips, and it seems like it could never end. That’s what tonight is like in Chapel Hill.


33 thoughts on “hinton james rm. 244

  1. DFB's&T's

    Ian, you have hit the nail on the head! Of everything you have written about UNC, this one is one of the best at capturing part of the glow.

  2. emma

    My husband was invited to go to this game but had already volunteered to help with Frederick’s basketball tryouts. Amazing how our priorities change as we get older. As we were watching the game, I kept saying, That sure looks like a good game to be at. You know, at least you wouldn’t have to listen to Dick Vitale if you were at the game.
    Yes, Sarah, Greg Oden is probably a great bball player because he has been playing for at least thirty years. No way that guy is 18 years old.

  3. Anne

    Ian, that was beautiful.
    Hard to believe now, but the winter ritual of Brown hockey games used to be like that. The walk to the rink in the early evenings under midnight-blue cold skies, waiting in line, running for your favorite seat, screaming along with the band’s naughty refrains (“Eat it, ref!”). Yes, in the early 70s, Brown hockey games were THE campus passion and usually were SRO. Today we’re lucky if the rink is hall full by the end of the first period. (sob)
    I fell in love with hockey my freshman year at the first game I attended — Brown vs. Cornell, with Ken Dryden in Cornell’s net. (Yes, *that* Ken Dryden, later of the Canadiens.) An all-out thrillfest that went into sudden-death OT. We lost, 5-4, but it almost didn’t matter.
    Here’s to those peak college memories. There is nothing else like them in the world.

  4. Megan

    Yes, Sarah, Greg Ogden does look wizened. I’m glad I wasn’t the only one who noticed that.
    For me, the Chapel Hill magic didn’t happen until I came here for grad school (we were all too intellectually tortured at my Northeastern liberal arts college to have that much fun), but it was a powerful thing and I’m still happy to call NC home, lo these 13 years later.
    Well written, Ian.

  5. GFWD

    If you go back to the fall of 1988, make the date December 17th, substitute UCLA for Ohio State and J.R. Reid for Tyler Hansbrough and Bacardi rum for Jim Beam, you were writing about me.
    And I did later get the kiss . . .
    Go Tar Heels!

  6. craighill

    i was on the fence about going to chapel hill for the kentucky the game saturday. no more.
    might even get a bucket of bones at time out for old times’ sake!

  7. Neva

    You captured it so well Ian.
    Craighill – I drove past Time Out today and after reading Ian’s post had a craving for a Bucket of Bones as well. Never had one while sober however, not sure I want to start now!

  8. Scott

    Painfully beautiful.
    This entry is why I check in every day, hoping to have my persistence rewarded by a few words that completely derail my otherwise predictable day.
    Thanks Ian.

  9. wyatt

    Time Out, Billy Ray, and a Bucket of Bones! Granville should capitalize on their proximity to Time Out in their advertising, and give up that tired “The Place to Be at UNC” that I noticed on the Smith Center plasma screen last night.
    The ‘Heels took command last night after I switched from Stella Artois to an oatmeal porter. So, my newest superstition is dark beer only, from tipoff, for the rest of the season.

  10. Neva

    Unfortunately Billy is not there anymore I believe. Sadly, he had to retire due to heart problems I think. I’m sure the place is not quite the same.

  11. GFWD

    I tried explaining to some folks the joy of timing your arrival at Time Out just so in order to reap the benefit of a heaping tub of bones. Somehow the mental image of chowing down on a whole bucket of “used” chicken breasts didn’t sound as appealing in the re-telling.
    Ask DFB’s & T’s to recount the details of one of the most surreal “fights” ever witnessed while in line one night at Time Out. I’ll only say that it involved a guy with a limp, a crack ho, an old codger with a roundhouse punch and a stalk of celery.

  12. emma

    In case there is someone out there who was not lucky enough to meet Billy at Time-Out, I just posted a picture of him that was taken circa 1997 at Time-Out on the night of my bachelorette party. Just click on the link above.

  13. wottop

    Got to go to the game. Got a to kiss my wife and 6 week old twins when I got home.
    I was young when I experienced what Ian recounted [except I lived in Ehaus] and I grew up to experience last night. They were equally magical.
    Herman, try to not grow up all the way.

  14. christi

    That blog entry may have just sealed the deal on my family’s oft-debated potential return to Chapel Hill. Great post!

  15. kent

    B-Ball at the University of Iowa doesn’t have any of that atmosphere and cameraderie, partly because it’s cold as fuck during basketball season, and the arean is situated such that the wind from Canada has an unobstructed path from the North Pole to the Will Call window.
    On the other hand, learning to deal with -10F and 30MPH winds builds character. As does having a team that starts out the year nationally ranked but always falls apart in the second half of the Big 10 season.

  16. Rebecca

    My Mother-In-Law once asked my husband (as he wore a UNC t-shirt) when he was going to “get over this whole Tarheel thing.” He looked her straight in the eyes and said, “Mom, this is for life.” I was so proud of him!
    Poor Herman. A man who has never loved.

  17. joan

    Today, while I was at work, my husband taught our 21 month old son to say, “Tyler Hansbrough.” I was so proud of both of them.

  18. Annie

    Watched the game at the Cellar with my bf, a huge Heels fan, and shocked myself by unconsciously shouting out “F*ck!” or “Yeah!” (each burst accompanied by a loud and sharp single clap) at least as often and with as much gusto as he. Though he adds in the occasional “Go, baby!” Haven’t gone there yet…
    But it was so…damn…satisfying! To see the Heels win and win so well. Especially after growing up a firmly Deaconized Tar-Heel-Hater. (Converted after watching our boys beat dook in ’96)
    And yes, Greg Oden’s bizarrely aged appearance was roundly noted and puzzled over by all patrons. How the HIZZELL could he possibly be 19?
    Ellington just made you want to weep, he was so outstanding.

  19. Salem

    Holy,$%#%$,%$^#^, that’s our Ian. Damn! Damn! Damn!
    I can feel the backpack on my right shoulder.
    Daaamn! Daaamn! Daaamn!

  20. Cason D

    Great writing. Of course I didn’t have tickets because of the damned online distributions, but it was great to see everyone on campus united again and everyone thinking the same thing. And I’ll find out soon about that kiss…

  21. MJT

    Ran across the blog post for the first time in almost a decade and it still hits me right between the eyes. I was an undergraduate at Carolina from 1984-1988, four of the best years of my life. What you describe, Ian, is exactly how it was for me and at least a few of my friends. Well done, and thank you!


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