Given that the big institutions in life turn out to be cruel behemoths that don’t care about your well-being, I decided to spend this Thanksgiving being thankful for the little groups I’ve been a part of. The fraternities/sororities, the engaged coterie of like-minded souls, the odd brother-and-sisterhoods I found myself in. They range in size, but if it weren’t for them, then I would truly be a lost electron buzzing through space.
• the collection of ham radio guys in the early ’80s in Cedar Rapids, IA. You were all a lot older than me, but you taught me how to string a 40m dipole antenna and told dirty jokes, and the first unofficial “club” that would ever have me.
• the fiercely intellectual clique of inscrutably droll “Happy Seven” folks in my high school, who set the bar impossibly high for all smarts and humor.
• the Four Guys Not Named Biff, who coalesced in 1985 at Carolina, and never broke up. One is now my brother-in-law, one is Lucy’s godfather, and the other remains a fierce friend constant.
• the Daily Tar Heel, a staff that was as brilliant as it was fun-loving, and a group of editors who knew just how much rope they’d give me on Wednesdays. When they shouted out “Budget!” every evening, I felt enormous pride to be a part of them (especially since I didn’t have to go to the budget meeting).
• the Lodge at Carolina, a fraternity so bizarre in its day that they would take me, Chip, and Fred Weller without any philosophical gymnastics. I loathed some of my time there, but it definitely taught me how to relate to other men, and for brief shining moments, I bought into a magic so powerful that it lasted years. (oh, and thanks to the Kappas and Pi Phis for putting up with my tomcat bullshit as well)
• the small salon of creative writers at the English Department where I met my wife, crossed with the explosive creativity of the Lab! Theater back when they allowed it to happen – we took brilliance for granted, and now you can see our kin all over Broadway and Hollywood.
• “From the Hip” – a failed photography/book project that spawned a small collective of friends in the mid-90s… and taught me that there are jobs that can be loved.
• the Pink and Purple Houses.
• the extended Jartacular world, a large collection of lightning-witted, funny, casual philosophers that aren’t afraid to tackle an issue once broached, and aren’t afraid to down half a bottle of 45-year-old scotch in one swig.
• the even bigger Carolina world, a group of people I fully/half/hardly know that share the same irrational love for a team in sky blue that I do, and understand Dean Smith’s worldview to be more important than basketball (without getting creepy about it like some other teams I could mention).
• and over the past seven-and-a-half years, you!