Djembe drummer drives a diverse beat on Court Street

Goodbye fall semester 2014. Along with your crisp air and changing leaves, you brought the feeling of freshness, of excitement, of keenness. The town seemed to burst with crisp, bright freshmen faces like the colors of autumn. These “Bobkittens” were also changing, starting a journey that will change them forever.

The journey for these “newbies” may have started at the back of a long line at one of the dining halls. And it probably continued during the search for an open table through the seven floors of Alden library, a nearly impossible feat. The presence of construction workers was the norm around town. They were hastily building new residence halls to house the largest incoming class in the history of Ohio University. The city of Athens was swarming with youth. But now, as most students head home for the holidays, who will occupy the streets? Actually, just one street in particular. The street that might be described as the heart and soul of Athens. A street full of red bricks and rich history. A street that supports the feet of diverse demographics and cultures. The one and only Court Street.

Those born and raised in this Appalachian town surely will take advantage of the emptiness winter break brings. Many “townies” appreciate the chance to get a seat at the bar. But others who call Athens home don’t necessary look forward to the empty streets. One man in particular is 72-year-old Don Canterbury. Decades older than those Bobkittens, Canterbury’s journey through life has lead him to unexpected relationships, unbelievable experiences, and great admiration through an unorthodox talent!

Canterbury often is found in the same seat at the end of the bar at The Pub, sipping a Sprite or black coffee (specially brewed for him) and watching whatever football game is on TV. The Pub is his spot. For Canterbury, early days turn into late nights at the place where everyone knows his name. A plump, white-haired senior citizen with blue eyes and a gentle smile isn’t the typical customer one would expect to see at a bar on Court.

Many elderly folk wouldn’t feel comfortable surrounded by youth. Not Canterbury. “You all keep me feeling young,” he laughed. But hanging out with the other regulars ends around 10 p.m. when Canterbury gets the itch to play.

“It’s called a djembe (pronounced jem-bay),” Canterbury explained. “These drums are handmade, made of mahogany and goatskin.” Djembe’s are rope-tuned, skin-covered goblet drums played with bare hands. “Some people ask if they can play my congo or bongo,” Canterbury said. “Many people have never heard of djembes.”

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When  it’s time to venture out for the night, Canterbury gathers his djembe from a cozy spot atop a dish cabinet at The Pub and searches for a venue along Court to perform for passersby. One normally can find Canterbury on the bench next to Subway or the ledge outside of Pawpurr’s bar. But simply following the sounds of Canterbury’s djembe will lead you to his whereabouts.

“I was a little surprised when I first saw this older guy playing an African drum so confidently outside my door. But then again, it’s Athens. You never know what your going to see. It’s funny though. I can hear him from the fourth floor when I open my window at night,” Lindsey Jerina said. Jerina lives on Court Street and said she expects to see or hear him every weekend.

The sound escaping the drum is loud, rich, and an unexpected musical treat as this music is native to Ghana, a country about 6,000 miles away.

“My old neighbor, Dr. Paschal Younge, teaches African drumming here at Ohio University. He gave me a free ticket to see the OU African Ensemble perform for Mom’s Weekend at the Memorial Auditorium a couple years ago,” Canterbury said. He explained that Dr. Younge invited him to attend practices regularly, and that’s how he learned to play. They are now great friends.

“I used to play in a band in high school. I played the snare drum and guitar. But I can’t read music,” Canterbury says. “You don’t need to know how to read music to play the djembe. I learned from Dr. Younge that it’s all about the rhythm and the sound and listening to the other drummers.” Dr. Younge and his wife, Dr. Zelma Badu-Younge, travel to Ghana every summer. They visit different tribes and learn the traditional style of drumming, and eventually spread their knowledge to their students. “Dr. Younge gave me my djembe for a birthday present,” Canterbury said. “It’s one of my most prized possessions.”

“My wife and I would give Don tickets to all of the performances, and in exchange he would help us cook for the students. He was very interested so I started teaching him how to play. I gave him one of my djembes to practice with,” Dr. Younge said. “We had a lot of fun playing and performing together during those times. Then we found out we were going to have to move. Don was upset. I remember him coming to the house, carrying the djembe with tears in his eyes. I told him to keep it,” said Dr. Young. “Don is a good man. He’s down to earth and enjoys life.” Dr. Younge plans to surprise Canterbury one night while he’s performing on Court Street.

Canterbury chooses to play the djembe for primarily college-age American students. The instrument dates to around 1230 AD and is considered sacred to many West African tribes. Considering his audience, it’s not always an easy crowd. Many students running around Court Street on a Friday or Saturday night are looking to get drunk rather than listen to an African drum. But Canterbury does find fans on Court Street.  “A lot of the international students are drawn to my music, especially Africans and Saudi Arabians,” he said. “It’s funny. People pay thousands of dollars to go to Africa, and here in Athens, Ohio, Africans come to me!”

One international student in particular has shown an interest in Canterbury’s hobby. Maurice Ndour, well known for being on OU’s basketball team, often shares the spotlight with Canterbury. Ndour is from Senegal and grew up playing an African drum similar to Canterbury’s. If he’s not resting up for game day, there’s a chance you can find him next to Canterbury on Court.

“I handed Maurice my djembe one night and he started to play,” Canterbury said. “The next night he came back with his drum! We normally play his style. He’ll say, “try this,” and I’ll keep the beat going and he’ll play a more difficult part. His style of beating is interesting, like sometimes he just uses his fingers instead of his entire hand.”

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Canterbury’s interaction with Ndour is a perfect example of the diversity this college town fosters. Two men from different sides of the world are united on Court Street in Athens, Ohio, through their passion for music. Suddenly age, race, and background are forgotten, and the pure sound of an instrument allows that to happen.

“Don just has a big heart. He embraces African culture through the teachings of a professor here,” Ndour said. “His curiosity made him fall in love with the djembe, and since the day he was introduced, he couldn’t put it down. I think he just wants to play and let people hear good music. Sometimes you have to let music speak to people, and the djembe is a very special instrument that catches the attention of people with a mix of different sounds. Don loves to be out there, meeting people, having fun, and playing from his soul.”

Canterbury doesn’t take his life in Athens for granted. He feels grateful for the opportunity to learn, experience and potentially inspire others. “People in life, they’re always in a hurry,” Canterbury said. “If someone stops for just a minute to hear the music, it’s worth it to me.”

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Katie Derr is a senior broadcast journalism student at Ohio University. She currently produces a student-run entertainment talk show, called Straight Up and works as a bartender at Buffalo Wild Wings and The Pub in Athens, Ohio. Her interests include golf, documentary films, and cooking.

What makes the OU experience YOUnique?

As you write your college essays and ask your teachers for college recommendations, you picture what your life will be like. You picture your classes, your new friend group and your living arrangements. Once you pick where you want to go to school you have this crazy idea of what it is going to be like. You watch college movies and dream of your first semester, but you really have no idea what is actually ahead of you.

So enter that daily thou mayest grow in knowledge wisdom and love.” At Ohio University, this quote can be found on College Gate as you walk into College Green. This quote explains our college experience in one sentence. We grow with this university every day. Whether it is gaining knowledge through our classes, wisdom through our experiences or love through our relationships, we are growing every day. We are not the same people the first day of our freshman year as we are the last day of our senior year. Ohio University changes us, but is it really Ohio University that changes us or is it just the time period in our lives?

Every year a new group of students joins in to experience the madness, the wonder and the beauty that is Ohio University. However, what these students don’t know is that they are about to be taken on the wildest ride of their life. Just as the seasons change, every semester brings something new. But how does Ohio University change us? Is it just “the college experience” or is it something bigger than that?

Theresa Ianni, a strategic communication major and 2014 graduate of Ohio University, thought she was going to get involved, go to every football game and join a sorority when she went away to college. However, unlike many other OU students, Ianni was not in love with OU before coming here.

“It wasn’t my top choice, but it was the best choice since I got accepted to Scripps,” said Ianni. “I wanted to attend Ohio State University. I went to an all girls high school, so the idea of a Big Ten school (football games, tailgating, etc.) was really appealing. However, I was extremely excited to start college and stayed optimistic because I had tons of alumni and current students telling me how amazing OU actually is.”

As soon as Ianni started school at OU she fell in love with the campus and knew she was in the right place. She didn’t go to every football game and didn’t join a sorority, but she was right in her assumption that she would get involved. Coming to OU alone, she didn’t realize how easy it would be to make friends. Within her first quarter of attending OU, she knew that she was going to have a busy, eventful and exciting four years.

Since her freshman year she has grown immensely, both personally and professionally. “I remember being terrified to public speak freshman year of college, and now I’m presenting at companywide meetings and leading my superiors in different groups,” said Ianni. “Socially, I see myself adapting to situations easier than I used to be able to. I’ve grown fond of putting myself in situations where I don’t know anyone. Freshman year, I never went anywhere without a friend.”

You can now find Ianni working as a media relations specialist at Walker Sands in Chicago. She was hired in September 2014 after completing a post-grad internship with Walker Sands over the summer. The biggest change for her was “going out” during the week. “Weekends are the same. I don’t go out as much as I did on weekdays, but yeah I still have no money and no dignity at the end of the weekend.”

During Ianni’s four years at Ohio University OU did nothing but improve as a university, she said. “The website, marketing strategies, and even a bit of the vision evolved and I think that’s great. OU demonstrated throughout my four years that students were the priority,” said Ianni. “I don’t know if that changed over my four years, but it was very evident. Court Street was perfect all four years, but I definitely feel like it changed. More food establishments moved in and really showed that the college town has room to grow. The bars got both less and more classy but all in all it’s still the amazing street it always was.”

Mark Wilcox, a 1984 graduate of Ohio University’s Scripps College of Communication, said his time at OU bridged the years between his childhood and adulthood. “I discovered real academics, learned to interact with people from different backgrounds, made great friends learned how to manage time and during those four years grew into an adult.” Wilcox reminisced about his years at OU and said that he used to go jogging with the men in his fraternity (Delta Tau Delta) and they would end with Jeff Hill. Although he said he could never do this now, he thought it built character and really kept him in shape.

Some things that changed at OU were that Jeff Hall used to be a freshman all-girls dorm and that the drinking age was 18 when he was in school. Wilcox stated that the bars were crazy back then because everyone could be there legally. He has so many great memories, including Halloween, uptown bar parties at The Phase (now Pawpurrs) and CI, homecoming parades, football games, Stroud’s Run and hitting golf balls off the back porch of the Delt house (now the Athletes in Action house next to Alpha Gamma Delta) over Jeff Hall. Wilcox is now a retired Navy commander and currently an associate with Booz Allen Hamilton.

Mark Kuhar graduated from Ohio University in 1980 with a Bachelor of Arts in English with a specialization in creative writing. He is the editor of Rock Products and Cement Americas magazine. When asked how his experience at OU shaped where he is now, Kuhar said, “At OU, I was exposed to wide variety of different people from all over the world, which was a far cry from the narrow demographic I grew up around in the rural Hinckley, Ohio, of the 1970s. I made it a point to get a well-rounded education, so every class I took offered me something new, something memorable and some experience I was able to tuck away for future reference. All of this has served me well in a career in business journalism that often requires critical thinking, open-mindedness and personal interaction with people from all walks of life.”

Without Ohio University, Nicole Spears thinks she would be a different person. “OU pushed me to be a more tolerant, more open-minded person while also helping me break out of my shell. I left knowing how to appreciate the little things in life, and learning how important it could be to cherish the daily happenings and ritual you grow accustomed to,” said Spears. “Academically, I learned the importance of a holistic approach and gained the confidence that my unique career path had to offer me.” Spears graduated from Ohio University with a bachelor of science in journalism and a major in strategic communication in 2014. She is currently working at Launch Squad in New York City as an account associate with tech startups and a Brit + Co. freelance editor.

Ianni agreed with Spears and said being a Bobcat makes you humble, yet proud, passionate and determined. She thinks part of this is due to the people she was surrounded by. “These people were unlike any other university. They motivated me to be the best I could be in all aspects. Whether it was PR, being on the executive board of organizations, or even drinking!”

Ianni said that her biggest motivator was her boss at Ohio University Intramural Sports, Nick Brigati. “He always challenged me to think one step ahead of my plans, and helped me step out of my comfort zone with new opportunities,” said Ianni. “For example, he made me attend flag football’s officiating workshop. I’ve never done anything like that before, so it was terrifying. But the workshop taught me a lot about managing others and poise.”

“I feel like sometimes OU is so underrated as far as education goes, and that’s not fair. I know people who have done amazing things, and I know I got a great education. It’s all about what you make of it,” said Ianni. “I want to say that coming back for homecoming this year, it felt like nothing changed. I still felt at home, and I think I was will at OU. That’s the magic of Athens.”

Even though Ohio University may be changing physically and culturally, it is all about what you make it. The magic of Athens is the people and the experiences you have. No other school has the students Ohio University has and that is special. However, this is also what makes other universities unique too. To be honest your college experience at Ohio University won’t be that unique. Where you tell people you went to drink and the places that you went will be unique, but the overall experience of college isn’t. Every university’s purpose is to develop their students professionally and socially and to give them an excellent education. While not every university student may be as passionate about their school as Ohio University students are, we all have the same experiences. By making Ohio University your hOUme, you allow yourself to be opened up to new experiences and to let yourself change. Finding the person that will be your mentor and finding your group of friends is important no matter where you go. Cherish your experiences and remember that OU is unique for its location, its students and its specific memories.

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Marisa FioreMarisa Fiore is a junior majoring in strategic communication with a focus in public relations, minoring in business administration and is obtaining a global leadership certificate and a social media certificate at Ohio University. Her passions include travel, competitive Irish dance and writing. Visit www.marisafiore.com or follow her on Twitter @MarisaFiore1 to connect with Marisa.

Looking back at the Class of ’14

When we begin college we are usually between the ages of 17 and 18. During our four to five (or more) years at Ohio University, we change. We grow up and learn how to be a person in the real world. I took on the task of showing how people change physically over their four years at Ohio University. All of the following are recent 2014 graduates of Ohio University.

Arielle Busch

Arielle Busch
Majors: video production and interactive design, Currently: digital media director at Keystone Science School – Denver

Ava Miller

Ava Miller
Major: Dance, Currently: Teach for America – Summerville, South Carolina

Colin Pacelli

Major: Strategic Communication - Advertising, Currently: Research Assistant at Vizeum - New York, New York
Major: strategic communication – advertising, Currently: research assistant at Vizeum – New York City

Nicole Spears

Major: Strategic Communication - Public Relations, Currently: Account Associate at LaunchSquad
Major: strategic communication – public relations, Currently: account associate at LaunchSquad – New York City

Theresa Ianni  

Major: Strategic Communication - Public Relations, Currently: Walker Sands - Chicago, Illinois
Major: strategic communication – public relations, Currently: Walker Sands – Chicago

For love of our bricks …

We have raced down them on our way to class. We have tripped on them in the four-inch heals we never should have worn out on a Saturday night. We have stood in line on them waiting for GoodFella’s pizza, and we have gone hunting on them for the best Halloween costume each year. They have seen our reunions, our goodbyes, 21st birthdays, impromptu fests, and lots of ugly Christmas sweaters.

The bricks of Court Street are our home for our four years at Ohio University. We build the foundation of our adult lives on the bricks of our favorite college street.

But what happens after graduation day?

Why do Bobcat alumni spread their Court Street tales like old family stories, near and dear, to their new friends?

People can tell you hundreds of stories and give you thousands of reasons, but the feeling is almost unexplainable. The reason we love Court Street almost goes beyond words.

First memories

“My sister decided to give me a tour of the campus the summer before I started school that year. She showed me every brick and every corner that Athens had to offer.” —Alex Blanchard, education, Class of 2015

Blanchard and his sister stepped into Pigskin, where she told him all about her 21st birthday on Court Street. “The one thing that struck me about her story was the pure excitement about that evening,” he says. “Not the excitement over finally being able to drink (legally), but the details of how complete strangers celebrated with her. This idea of a community within the school is what inspired me to come here.”

Our first memories, while they might not stand out, stick with us.

 The businesses

“If we didn’t meet in someone’s room, it was at one of the businesses. All were close by, all catered to the students and the students respected them for it.” —Jeff Brediger, mechanical engineering, Class of 1981

Brediger was amazed at all the bars and eating places and realized soon after arriving in Athens that Court Street was the central gathering place in town. It was the perfect spot to get together, filled with a variety of establishments that were centered around the students.

“You could go up and down Court Street easily and see so much without really going far,” said Michelle Igelhart, community nutrition and dietetics, Class of 1994

Today, 19 bars sit within a mile radius of Court Street, not to mention a variety of restaurants, thrift shops buried with hidden treasures, local boutiques, and our favorite bookstores for essential Bobcat apparel.

“(Court Street) impacted how I lived, what I bought, and who I saw. It made college a fun place to be,” said Edie Dale, civil engineering, Class of 1995

The Bagel Buggy evolved into Burrito Buggy and now students shop for school supplies at the College Bookstore instead of Woolworth’s. O’Hooleys turned into Jackie O’s and big name franchises like Cold Stone Creamery turned into small-town favorite Fluff Bakery. Even though it has changed over time, the businesses on Court Street have been an essential part of the Uptown experience for every Bobcat and are often the most memorable part.

 The people

“The biggest part of being an alumna is I can come back whenever, but it’s not the same without the people and places you made the memories with. Court Street in general is a place where we have an emotional connection because it’s so special.” —Stephanie Caesar, public relations, Class of 2013

 It was a cold winter’s night and fresh powdery snow blanketed Court Street, Blanchard recalls. Students dressed in holiday apparel and shuffled between the bars on Court Street, celebrating their last night of freedom before finals and the students’ newest fest, Santa Fest. Everyone was in great spirits and the bars were alive with Christmas music.

“A large portion of my friends would go on to graduate that winter so this was the last time we were all together, and it truly was a memory I will never forget” Blanchard says.

The people make Court Street. It’s the feel good, no worry attitude that filled the street on the weekends, and the work hard and dream big ambitions we held ourselves to throughout the week. We worked hard to play hard, and it was the people around us who made all of the hard work worth it.

Weekend rituals

“There was always the Thursday night Lucky’s gang. It was my group of friends that I hung out with all of the time. It was understood that we would get that same booth, in the same bar, with the same people, every Thursday. It was the only thing we ever really needed.” –Danny Sudetic, business, Class of 2014

Liquor pitchers on Wednesday, all night study sessions at Donkey, Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” at closing time, a favorite booth in the Pub, or a slice of pizza on Slice Night at Courtside —our week-to-week routines were the same.

Our nights on Court Street were often spent with the same people in the places. Some might argue we found ourselves caught up in the midst of normality, but we’d argue back that these were some of the best times of our lives.

“All we ever needed were good friends, good food, and good times,” Sudetic said.

 Living life on our own terms

“We were somewhere that is not only beautiful but also somewhere we were comfortable and happy to be because you know people who truly mean something to you are there and you are doing things on your own terms and going after your dreams in college. Its the epicenter of campus that holds true the character of Ohio University.” – Stephanie Caesar

 When we came to Athens as a freshman, it was the first time in our lives that we were free from the confines of our parents. No more curfews, rules, or disappointed looks when we came home an hour late. Court Street was freedom. We were free to stay out, go out, and hang out with whomever. We decided whom our families away from our families would be made up of.

 It was the breath of fresh air that we had never had before and following graduation would never truly have again. Our only worries were class and, for some, work. We lived life the way we wanted to live it, not worried about anything else besides having a good time.

What we tell others

“People who wouldn’t have a connection to Court Street haven’t experienced it. It’s always upbeat. Epicenter of amazing.” –Stephanie Caesar

 As many students and alumni already know, trying to explain Court Street to others without breaking out in pure joy is close to impossible. It is also something that can be hard to understand to those we tell about it.

“You don’t hear stories like ours at other colleges and universities,” said Ron Smith,  organizational communication, Class of 1997. “Other schools talk about how proud OU alumni are … as we should be!”

 Our pride in our school goes beyond campus. We not only take pride in being Bobcats, but we are also proud of supporting the community on Court Street and sharing the stories about them wherever we go.

It’s timeless

“This answer (to why Court Street is so special) lies in what we call the ‘Magic of Athens.’ Court Street adds to the small, college-town feel. The bricks, the old history of the buildings and all the locally owned business make Court Street an OU experience.” – Ron Smith

 The buildings look like a replica of Bedford Falls from It’s a Wonderful Life. The majestic Athena time warps you back to the 1950s as buildings line streets that were built back to the late 1800s. But not only does Court Street seem physically timeless, the spirit has never changed.

Court Street is our common ground. I know when I come back that is where I’ll find everyone and it feels like it hasn’t changed,” said Sudetic.

We valued traditions and worked to uphold them. Things we might not have understood as freshmen became a part of us by the time we graduated. We might have thought back then that the seniors were strange for being so sad about leaving but now we know the feeling.

“I enjoy every chance I can to walk down the street again and remember a lot of good times,” Brediger said.

It’s home

“When I come back and I am driving across route 50, I always come in the back way so I see the river (which was re-routed) and South Green. It is like someone is waving a magic wand. I am transported!” –Denise Gibbons, fashion merchandising, Class of 1978

Our connection with Court Street is classic and timeless. We can leave for years but the second we step foot on the corner of Union and Court Street it almost feels as if we never left.

 “I love hearing my name called out and turning to see an old friend that just pulled in. It means I’m home,” said Dale.

 While we may have left Athens for years and businesses and establishments have changed, there are moments on Court Street that can take you back 10 years like nothing has changed. That’s Dale’s favorite part of returning as an alumna. Today, she enjoys returning for homecoming and the excitement of returning to the bricks she still considers home for her.

 The Future

“Now that I have a child, (what it means to be an alumnus is) introducing her to the magic of Athens in hopes that it will catch on.” –Ron Smith

 We joke with our friends that our children will have no choice but to attend OU someday, when really we pray that they do. We don’t except them to have the same experiences as we had necessarily. But truly, we wish them all of the joy and happiness in their college lives as we had because we know that there is no better place than the bricks of Court Street.

Trying to grasp our love for Court Street is like trying to catch air in your hands. It’s impossible. The outside world might not understand it, but we do, and we know that there is nothing like it. We valued our college years because we always knew how time would fly and that our days on the bricks would be limited. We were sentimental, knowing that each drink during that last semester as seniors was strong yet bittersweet. It’s a love that is pure and filled with all-intensive good. It’s the best kind of love that is unexplainable, and maybe that’s the way it should just be explained.

Tell us your story

Bobcats love to talk about OU. If you have a story or recollection, post it below in the comments …

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Sarah Kenney is a senior at Ohio University pursuing two undergraduate degrees in journalism and video production. She is a  coffee loving travel enthusiast and adventure seeker who enjoys classic films, skiing, good laughs, football games on Sunday afternoons, and time at home with her two dogs, Marley and Mia. She aspires to someday write for a comedy or drama television series or work in travel media or visual branding.

5 tips for dealing with stress

  1.  Find a strong support system
    Whether it’s friends or family, surround yourself with people who will support you. A lot of times you may find out that your friends are going through the same stressors. As Kendra Jackson at Hopewell Health Center would say, “It creates a sense of universality just to know that someone is going through the same thing, and that we can all make it together so that you won’t be traveling through this journey alone.”
  1. Write
    As simple as it sounds, writing down what you’re feeling can work wonders. Whether it is poetry, doodling, or diary entries, writing gives you a chance to see your feelings on paper as well as giving you a chance to re-create those feelings into a more positive outcome. Jackson calls this narrative therapy, recreating or reframing a story with a different ending.
  1. Read
    No matter your interests, there will always be a book out there for you. Reading creates a way for you to put yourself inside a story and experience a sort of escape from reality. Connecting with the characters and seeing their decisions might make you rethink and reframe your own as well.
  1. Spirituality
    Spirituality can be an effective way of dealing with stress. And it doesn’t have to be something that everyone else believes. Spirituality comes from within, and when you find what you believe in, it gives you a reason to live.
  1. Go back to the basics
    Find the things that soothe you, and that you find joy, happiness, and contentment from. People are always looking for some new “AHA!” invention to help them with stress, but what helped you in the past? What brought you joy before? When you find it, that is what you want to go back to when you’re having a bad day.

Source: Kendra Jackson, Counselor at Hopewell Health Center

Suicide awareness: my battle

Being under 24-hour surveillance feels like prison. My room is right outside the nurse’s station. Blinds and door open. No privacy.

If I need to use the bathroom, the nurse has to bring in a portable toilet with handles you see old people use. She even stays to watch while I do my business. I have an IV in my hand giving me fluids. I am stuck in this sterile, white hell until there isn’t a single drop of alcohol in my system, which might take awhile.

The doctors say that only then will I be in the right mind to talk about what I have done to myself. But they’re wrong. I’m thinking fine, maybe even thinking clearly for the first time in years. Tears are streaming down my face and I stare at the ceiling wishing more than anything that I could just go home and forget what happened.

Above my door in the Intensive Care Unit, the dry-erase board reads “high-risk patient.”

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How in the hell did I get in this situation? What was I doing in the ICU being watched like a 20-year-old criminal that Saturday after Thanksgiving of 2012? How did I lose control, and why would I put my family through this? Why, that time, was it so severe?

No matter how many questions I asked, I had to remind myself how lucky I was that I was still alive to ask them. I had been given a second chance. I was one of the lucky ones. Mental illness is real, and I want my story to not only spread awareness, but to let others know they are not alone.

According to the World Health Organization, more than 800,000 people die due to suicide every year, and for every suicide, there are many more attempts. It is the second leading cause of death among 15-29 year olds. There is often a strong link between suicide and mental disorders, but there are also a large number of suicides that happen impulsively after experiencing trauma, disaster, violence, etc.

Despite these statistics, there are many people suffering from mental illness who never get diagnosed. There are different reasons, ranging from an inability to afford help to the general stigma associated with mental illness.

But why is this stigma even here? Why do so many people want to hide the fact that they are in pain?

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My depression started in middle school when I went through my first heartbreak. As a young teenager, I felt like it was the end of the world, but I had no idea that this one stressor in my life would snowball and start collecting many other things. I was 14 and I felt insignificant, unwanted, and worthless. I felt ashamed of the way I looked and was so nervous to say the wrong thing I started to not speak at all. I blamed myself for all of the bad things going on in my life, so I decided I deserved to be punished. What I didn’t know was that the beginning of my self-inflicted punishment would just be the start of a painful and dangerous road ahead.

My mom always told me I was impulsive, and that due to family history, would likely have an addictive personality. She couldn’t have been more right. I started taking apart my shaving razors to make tiny little cuts all over my body almost every day. This first, impulsive action turned into my addiction.

After plastering a fake smile on my face all day at school, I would come home and be so consumed in pain I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I was mad at myself for feeling so sad. I was sad for so many reasons I couldn’t find the root of my problem anymore, and I felt like if anybody on the outside knew, they would tell me how stupid I was because my life was just fine. Nobody would understand me because I didn’t even understand myself. So I would argue with myself. I had so many voices in my head telling me what I should do that my head started to spin. I wondered if any of it was real, and when I felt so breathless I didn’t think I could go on, I cut. I cut just deep enough for blood to form into little pools on my arm. At the same time I was punishing myself, it reminded me that I was alive. It was the release I needed and the only outlet I knew.

I was lost in the mess of myself.

***

Many children who consistently see counselors often have experienced some kind of physical or sexual abuse, have experienced some sort of trauma, or suffer from anxiety. Some children also live in poverty, so combine all of that together and throw in going to school, and sometimes kids don’t know how to cope with the stress. That’s when they start looking for a way out of their problems, and suicide seems to be an available option.

For people a little older, the triggers for depression can change. Krystal Hernandez, a counselor at Counseling and Psychological Services at OU, explained that anyone, no matter the age, might be vulnerable to depression. Stressors such as a job/career loss, trauma, body image, managing academic pressures, dating, and decrease in self-esteem can all play a role in depression. Factors such as family history, culture, and individual coping skills also can play a role.

Hernandez explains that mental disorders are typically caused by a combination of biological and environment factors, and some individuals have a “biological/genetic vulnerability to develop mental illness, and their environment at a given time may serve to help protect them or put them at a greater risk of a disorder.” This disproves the argument that a person can just decide to not be depressed anymore. Sometimes there is more to it than what a person can do on his or her own.

 ***

Family has always been my No. 1 priority. I come from a big family full of aunts, uncles, cousins, and we are all close.

I was a junior in high school when my cousin Jena was pregnant with her first child. Earlier that year she got married and moved out of state, but after some marital problems decided to return home to the support of her family. Her mom, Cindy, was overjoyed with excitement about having a grandchild. I could see in her eyes how happy she was.

Jena was 25 and had reached her sixth month of pregnancy. The day was Friday, Nov. 13, and anyone superstitious was already weary of the day. I was sitting in class when I got a note to get my things and go to the office. When I walked into the office and saw my mom and dad, my heart dropped. I stayed quiet until we walked out of the school and got into the car. My mom already had tears in her eyes when she told me that Aunt Cindy and Uncle Ralph had come home from work and couldn’t find Jena. They went downstairs to check on her and found her hanging from a rope from the ceiling.

She and the baby were gone.

***

I didn’t know it then, but Jena had been suffering from bipolar disorder as well as manic depression. My first reaction — shared by some other family members — was shock and anger. I kept thinking, How could she be so selfish? And why would she do this to her family? I thought she took the easy way out and left her family to pick up the pieces.

But it didn’t take me long to realize how wrong I was to think that. The real questions should have been what was she going through? What kind of pain was hurting her so much that she couldn’t bear it any longer? None of the rest of the family knew how much she was suffering, but if we did, would it have made a difference?

Mental illness is real and it is invasive.

***

 I started college at Ohio University in 2011 as a journalism student in the Scripps School. I was living the dream. School always came easy to me, so drinking every night while still making the Dean’s List wasn’t uncommon. I didn’t have a care in the world besides having fun.

 The euphoria didn’t last long. By the last quarter of my freshman year I started to feel a familiar sense of sadness creeping into my chest. My first reaction was embarrassment. I was living the dream in college and knew not even my friends would believe me if I told them I had a problem. I hadn’t suffered from depression since early high school, but I knew that it would destroy me if I let it, so I gathered my courage and for the first time, told my mom that I needed help. I saw my family doctor and he prescribed Celexa, an anti-anxiety/depression medication.

 They say college is where you find yourself. But I can honestly say college is where I lost myself. Into my sophomore year, my anxiety grew stronger. To try and curb my anxiety, I started binge drinking almost every night. I was fully immersed into the party scene, being around asshole guys who only wanted to sleep with me and attention-seeking girls who didn’t care what happened to me. Life started to blur and as hard as I tried, I just didn’t feel like I fit in anywhere.

 I didn’t know it at the time, but all I wanted was love. But I was looking for it in all the wrong places.

 The frustration and anxiety continued to build. I felt used and unwanted. All I wanted was for someone to reach out to me and love me for me, not for the party and the crazy nights, not for my looks, and not for convenience.

 It was November 2012 and I went home for Thanksgiving break. That next weekend, I went out to the bars with some family and friends and my binge-drinking habits continued. Into the night, I could see the crowd getting drunker, and the more we drank, the more attention I started getting from guys. After finding out my boyfriend got back with his ex a couple days before, I was pushed over the edge. I felt so violated and thought the only reason I ever got attention was for all of the wrong reasons.

 I was upset, but held it together until I got home. My feelings of worthlessness and being used told me it was my fault. So I quietly went up to my room when I got home, grabbed a razor from the bathroom and took it apart. I wanted to make the pain I felt inside physical. I used to do this all the time years before. I knew I could hide it. So I pressed the blade onto my wrist just like before, but I looked down and knew this was bad. Too bad to keep this mistake a secret because I knew I needed to go to the hospital.

 I immediately felt embarrassed, stupid, guilty, and so wrong for what I did. My mom and sister rushed me into the car and as I walked in with a blood-covered towel on my arm and tears streaming down my face, I saw Aunt Cindy, on call as an ER nurse. She had to deal with losing her daughter and grandchild from suicide a few years earlier. Now she had to deal with me.

***

Why is it so hard to talk about feeling sad? Why do we feel like we always have to have a smile? I knew I was embarrassed to talk to my family about it, and that’s why the first time they found out (besides my mom) was when I had stitches in my wrist. I isolated myself from my family and friends. I felt like I didn’t have a good enough excuse for feeling so down, and too ashamed to tell them I was upset about a boy.

But we are social creatures. As Hernandez would put it, “Suicidality is also characterized as a relational phenomenon, as someone contemplating suicide may feel lonely and isolated from others, withdrawn from those critical social bonds, or worry about feeling like a burden to loved ones.”

 People act and react to situations in very different ways. Sometimes the people who appear the happiest are the ones struggling the most. But we won’t know about it until we ask. Sometimes all it takes is something simple to let someone know you care, and that simple thing might be the thing that makes someone decide this life is worth it. Depression isn’t something that can’t be cured. We are stronger than we think, and our words hold strength. The trick is being brave enough to say them before it’s too late.

***

I got this tattoo on the inside of my ankle about a year after Cait passed away. It is in memory of my two beautiful cousins, Cait and Jena. The butterfly is colorful because I want it to not remind me just of their death, but of the way they lived, and the good memories with them. The body is a yellow ribbon for suicide awareness.
I got this tattoo on the inside of my ankle about a year after Cait passed away. It is in memory of my two beautiful cousins, Cait and Jena. The butterfly is colorful because I want it to not remind me just of their death, but of the way they lived, and the good memories with them. The body is a yellow ribbon for suicide awareness.

Caitlin was beautiful. She was my cousin and one of my best friends. Cait was exuberant, positive, smart, creative, unique…the list could go on. She taught me that deep in one’s soul is where you find true beauty. She taught me not to judge, but to accept. Her friends called her a bundle of sunshine and a lover of light. It was impossible not to be affected by Cait. Just her presence could light up a room, and her smile was unforgettable. She was 23-years-old and had the power to change the world.

But no one knew there was a darker side to Cait. Yes, from the outside it looked like she had everything going for her. She just graduated from college and had her whole life ahead of her.

It was two months after I got out of the hospital. I had only told immediate family what had happened, but didn’t talk about it with the rest of my family. It was February 2013 when my mom called. It was late, and I was hanging out with some friends. The first thing my mom said was, “I didn’t want to do this over the phone, but I think you need to know now.”

Cait, just like Jena, had been struggling with bipolar disorder and manic depression. And just like Jena, no one knew she was struggling with something so serious. Cait’s parents didn’t know what else to do, so Cait was placed in a mental hospital with 24/7 surveillance. It was in this place, the place that was supposed to be the safest, that Cait attempted suicide by hanging. By the time the nurses found her, her oxygen supply had been cut so long she was in a coma.

 Cait lasted two weeks in that coma.We all prayed as our beautiful Cait lay in a peaceful slumber, but her oxygen deprivation proved too much for her body.  Even if she woke up, it wouldn’t be Cait anymore…

***

Just a short two months before, I had been sitting in my own hospital bed. If I had opened up to her about what had happened to me, would it have made a difference? Would it have shown her a glimpse of how much it would hurt the family to lose me, so much so that she would decide against suicide herself?

I ask myself these questions every day. Could I have made an impact? Could I have saved her? Even though we were miles apart, we were going through a similar situation at the same time. And now I live with this regret that I could’ve stopped it.

I don’t want to have to lose anyone else to this disease. If all it takes is a simple reminder that someone matters, I want to share my story with everyone in hopes that it will shed a new light on this life, and show that no matter how much pain you are in, you matter. It doesn’t matter how someone acts on the outside it’s what goes on inside that counts. I still struggle sometimes. It’s easy to fall into a darkness of stress and sadness that consumes me, but I know it can be overcome, and I know this life is worth living.

This picture shows Caitlin's family, representing her at a Suicide Prevention Walk. As you can see, they are continuing to spread her energy and light on to others.
This picture shows Caitlin’s family, representing her at a Suicide Prevention Walk. As you can see, they are continuing to spread her energy and light on to others.

If you or someone you know is struggling and in need of help, don’t wait to take action. Here are some places that can help.

***

Katie Curry is a senior at Ohio University majoring in journalism and minoring in world religion. She loves to cook, draw, and spend time with her family and friends. She is preparing to move to Atlanta, GA, to intern for CNN spring semester.

What to order

Here are a few things worth trying next time you’re at the Donkey, Brenen’s or Court Street Coffee:

  • You can try a Chaider at Donkey for $3.95 (for a small), a hot chocolate for $3.05 (small — $3.55 for soy option) or any herbal tea for $4.25.
  • The organic black bean salads at Donkey are $2.85 each (one size).
  • You could get a hot chocolate at Brenen’s for $2.75 (small). A cup of potato soup would be $3.75 (smallest size).
  • If you visit Court Street Coffee, you could try the Mayan Mocha for $3.75 (small) and a latte, either Red Velvet or Vanilla, for $3.25 (small).

Donkey, Brenen’s, Court St. Coffee jolt java junkies

The hardest decision students must make during their time in college has nothing to do with choosing their major or making career plans. For students who spend hours upon hours of time on campus, the most important decision they will make is where to buy their coffee.

This may sound like an exaggeration, but the truth is that coffee is an integral part of the college experience for many people. Some don’t start drinking coffee until they get to school. Some can’t function without their morning latté. Even tea lovers and pop drinkers can agree that caffeine is what keeps the college engine running smoothly (maybe aside from something along the lines of “hard work and dedication”).

Athens is the perfect college town: a place where people from all different backgrounds can come together to bond over their love of knowledge and coffee. Court Street is home to so many different shops, eateries and personalities. There are a lot of options for where to fill your OU travel mug, but the culture of a coffee shop is much more than just who has the best macchiato. Students and faculty visit these shops to fuel up on caffeine as well as study, eat with friends and colleagues, and attend shows.

Donkey Coffee, Court Street Coffee and Brenen’s are three of the most popular places to enjoy the full coffee shop experience. Each shop has its own personality, a fan club of regulars who will support it over the others, and at least one unique feature to pull people in. The differences between the shops are what make the regulars so loyal to their café of choice.

Megan Geldien, a sophomore, visits Donkey Coffee, 17 W. Washington St., about once a week. She grabs a drink then finds a place to sit and get some work done. She describes the atmosphere at Donkey as “cozy.”

“It’s a good place to focus and have a quiet place to study,” Geldien says. As she studies, Geldien usually sips on a chaider, which is a combination of chai tea and apple cider. The chaider is her favorite drink, but she gets coffee from time to time. “I like getting the coffee here because it’s a local place. They participate in fair trade. It’s an all-around good deal.”

Sitting in Donkey Coffee is a lot like sitting in someone else’s grandmother’s house. Comfy chairs and couches can be found alongside wooden table-and-chair sets that seat two to four people. This is the place you come to for your soy hot chocolate and organic black bean salad. When you get your order “for here” at Donkey, you will receive your snack or beverage in reusable ceramic dishware. Artwork from local artists hangs on nearly every inch of the paneled walls of the shop. In the back lounge, there is a bookcase full of board games. Of all the shops on Court Street, Donkey is possibly the most talked about. Students and faculty rave about the cool vibe and friendly faces found there.

Maddy Stees, a sophomore and self-proclaimed regular at Donkey, says the place has an “organic” vibe. “There’s just no bullshit about it,” Stees says. “It’s got just a really great college-coffee-shop vibe and the people there are just really, really fun and some of the goofiest people I think I’ve ever met.”

At Donkey, you may encounter a barista wearing a kilt, and if it’s not too busy, someone behind the counter will probably be singing. The shop has a way of making its customers feel comfortable, especially when it’s cold and snowing outside and you are tucked in a corner chair by the window, sipping organic herbal tea.

Donkey is known for its open mic nights on Thursdays as well as other performances that are frequently hosted in the back lounge on the first floor, where there is a small stage and a fair amount of sitting room for show-goers. Geldien appreciates these performances, especially the music nights on weekends.

Where Donkey Coffee is inviting and cozy, Brenen’s (38 S. Court St) is classy and perhaps a bit intimidating.

If you’ve never been before, Brenen’s has a way of making the new customer feel out of place. Maybe it’s the green and black color scheme, or the look of the dark wood floors, but there is a very hip feeling about the shop. When you first walk in you might think, “I am not cool enough for this place.” But the people behind the counter will be especially nice to you. If you look lost they will smile. After about the third visit, once you’ve had a chance to sit down and get settled, you will realize that, actually, you fit right in.

Brenen’s doesn’t feature a lot of elbow room during busy hours. The small tables and chairs are narrowly distanced in a food-court-style setup, and although there is not a lot of space to work with, high ceilings and large glass windows give the shop an airy, open feel.  Several large menu boards advertise various specialty drinks and, at the back counter, food options. On an average day, you will find people stationed in front of their Macbooks, headphones in, clearly focused. Some small groups of about two or three will be chatting over soup and sandwiches. The place has a classy feeling, like the cool coffee shop you might see in a movie. And even if you find the buzz of the place too distracting to study, you may still want to stop by for the best hot chocolate you’ll ever taste.

Erin Belka, a junior, visited Brenen’s one afternoon to meet with a friend for lunch. She was drinking from a Court Street Coffee cup. “I went to Court Street before class [because] it’s close to Copeland,” Belka said. She and her friend agreed to have lunch at Brenen’s because of the soup and sandwiches served there, and Belka hadn’t finished her morning coffee before arriving. But she said she comes to Brenen’s every once in a while, and she does like their coffee. She even brought her parents to Brenen’s for lunch during Parents Weekend one year. “A lot of professors recommend it,” she said.

There is definitely a belief that Brenen’s is the professor’s coffee shop. Nick Paumgaertel, a Brenen’s employee, said the customers actually are about “half and half” (professors-students). “But compared to other places to eat, I see more professors and faculty here. I think it’s ‘cuz the owner is friends with a lot of them.”

According to Paumgaertel and a lot of OU students, the coffee isn’t really what draws people to Brenen’s. A lot of people come for the food. Kate Blyth, a regular customer and student, said the reason she chose Brenen’s was because, on that particular day, they had potato soup, “and they have free WiFi.” Of course, Donkey offers free WiFi as well — it just wouldn’t feel like a coffee shop if it didn’t.

With food as the focus, Brenen’s is a bit different than the average coffee shop. If the cozy-coffee-nook vibe is what you’re after, Court Street Coffee (67 S Court St.) is more your speed.

Michelle Frantz visits Court Street Coffee an average of once a week. “I love Court Street because I’ve never tried a drink from there that I don’t like,” Frantz says. The Mayan Mocha, which is like a regular mocha but with cinnamon and almond flavors, is her favorite beverage, hot or frozen. “They have a lot of options, especially with drinks that have more unique flavors than the average cup of coffee.”

The Mayan Mocha may be one of the most noteworthy beverages served at Court Street but it is not even advertised on the shop’s menu. The neat list of beverage options posted on the store’s website is identical to the one hanging on the wall behind the short, crowded countertop inside. This list is simple, and not all-inclusive. But some of the most creative beverages one could order from this small café are not posted on the menu. Instead, large posters featuring each beverage and the unique flavor combinations manifested within them are posted all around the shop. Some of these posters hang on the wall in sleek glass frames like movie ads and others decorate the base of the main counter, much like wallpaper.

Court Street Coffee is one of the smallest coffee shops on Court Street, located across the street from Chubb Hall and next door to Copeland Hall, home to the College of Business. Coffee-lovers who spend a lot of their time in Copeland stop in to Court Street to grab something classic like iced coffee or a fancy specialty like the Red Velvet latté. There is not a lot of seating in the little shop. About five tables in the aisle at the back of the store can seat somewhere around 10 people, then there’s a couch and some soft chairs in the front of the store, a high counter with bar stools on one wall, and three more tables to the left of the main counter. There are a couple seats just outside the building for those days with nice weather. If about 30 people go to study in Court Street Coffee, there will not be room for anyone else to sit. For this reason, some find that Court Street is the best place to study.

Lizzy Knapp, a senior, likes to come to Court Street to study if she can score one specific little table in a corner of the shop. The corner table is behind a wall so she can’t see anyone in the main part of the shop; it’s not completely isolated, but still closed off enough so that she feels productive. Knapp prefers the atmosphere of Court Street to other coffee shops. “It doesn’t feel super crowded, or like there’s too much going on on the walls that I could get distracted [by],” she says. Also, “the WiFi is better here.”

If you can find a place to sit, Court Street is warm and welcoming. The atmosphere is calm enough, even during the rushes, that you can focus on your work. If you have a big exam coming up and need a change of scenery from the library or your dorm room, something about the vibe at Court Street is super motivating. Perhaps it’s the orange walls or the sound of the espresso machine, which is never more than a few steps away.

Probably due to the limited seating options, a lot of people sweep through Court Street on an average day, but most grab their drink and leave. Something about the shop, though, keeps the same people coming back. For some, it’s the location — near College Green, next to Copeland, across from Chubb. For others, it’s the quality beverage that they can’t get enough of, or perhaps the new specialty they’d like to try.

Lindsey Cohagan, a senior and regular of Court Street Coffee, has never been to Donkey. “People think Donkey is the best atmosphere,” she says. “I like sitting here.” Cohagan says she prefers to get her coffee from Fluff, which is closer to the end of Court Street, but she visits Court Street Coffee regularly for her vanilla latté, “mostly ’cuz it’s next to Copeland and I’m always in Copeland.” Like Knapp, Cohagan also has a favorite seat in the shop: one of the small tables along the wall in the very back of the shop. Since it’s located in the back, in a hallway behind the main counter, she doesn’t think a lot of people even know the seats are there. The table is big enough to sit only two people, or one student with a lot of books.

Of all the places to get coffee uptown, Court Street is the least likely to disappoint. They have so many different beverage options, from fancy mochas to sweet smoothies. If you want to try something unique one morning, or are just looking for a quick stop on your way to class, Court Street is the place to go. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you like, there is definitely something on the menu for you. And, like Frantz, you might find that you like just about everything they serve, on and off the menu.

 

A lone Patriot in Bengals-Browns-Steelers land

I’m a Patriots fan. Yes, a Patriots fan.

If it isn’t already hard enough to find the Patriots game televised at an Athens bar, I’ve got petty Browns fans yelling down my neck, “Brady’s washed up!”

Sure if you want to call seven AFC Championship appearances in the last 10 years “washed up,” then I’d agree with you.

But that’s another story.

It’s cold, way too cold to be moving out of bed after the weekend I had. But football’s on! I turn out of my single bed only to touch my bare feet to the ice-cold wooden planks of my bedroom floor. GameDay! It’s about time Sunday rolled around. By now I’m already suited up in my navy blue Tom Brady jersey, preferably with a Patriots long sleeve under it for added warmth. Shortly after, walking down my hallway, I hear a facetious, “Nice jersey, Carpenter. ” I can’t even walk around my own apartment without being ridiculed about my “bandwagon” antics and how I’m “not an actual Patriots fan.” The bars won’t be much better.

Whether or not you want to drink on Sunday, that’s your call.  Some do, some don’t.  Some local bars are more fitting come Sunday than others, but for a Patriots fan – and other NFL fans who don’t pledge allegiance to the BrownsBengalsSteelers – it’s a lonely waltz down Court Street. Where to go?

In Athens, Courtside Pizza is the go-to bar to watch the NFL. Sure, the floors are still sticky from the night before, and the aroma of stale beer and body odor masks most of the fresh air. I’ll walk in and plop myself in the nearest booth anyway.

The atmosphere is tailored toward your football addiction, yet focused on the inevitable Browns, Bengals, or Steelers fan.  Every television screen, pushing 30 of them, is playing live NFL games that Courtside employees keep loud to ensure the desired fan atmosphere. The televisions are massive near the door. As you move along the bar the screens get drastically smaller. The more isolated the spot, the smaller the screen. Yet I see no Patriots game.  Beer prices go down, though not much. Averaging $2-$2.50 normally, drafts are $1.75 on game day. I asked the bartender, “Hey, you think we can get a Patriots game on around here?”

He laughed. By then, I was moving on.

The vast variety of bars on Court Street is astonishing. My roommate Logan Cassidy had been working at The Crystal for around eight months, including the summer, so I thought I’d head that way.

As I’m passing the BP Gas station, I’m surprised to see small piles of vomit, each spaced out about 3 feet apart, heading up Court Street. It’s not even 1:30 p.m. at this point, come on people. I finally stumble into The Crystal. Literally. There was a huge 2-by-4 poking out from behind the front-door entrance. Way to “ensure safety,” Crystal staff.

While I dust off my pants from biting it at the doorway, I raise my head to see nothing but Browns fans. Ugh, here we go. They’re all staring at me. It had to be the jersey. Sure, Browns fans are bitter after giving up a 12-point lead with a minute to go in the fourth quarter to the Patriots last year. Get over it. I find the nearest stool and finally saw Logan.

“What can I get you, brother?” Cassidy asks. Double-shot of Jameson? I thought. Yeah, right, as if I had the money.

“Just a Bud Light man,” I answer. Logan walked away, fetching my $1.75 draft as I sat alone. As I waited, I decided I’d use the restroom. Fatal mistake. The Crystal bathrooms reeked of ungodly feces. I immediately turned around, almost throwing up. I reclaimed my seat only to hear the pack of hyenas calling themselves Browns fans snickering at me. I damn near turned around to say something, but my beer arrived just in time.

Logan and I talked for awhile. The bar wasn’t too busy, never really is at The Crystal come Sunday. Wednesday through Saturday at the Crystal is mayhem. Times where just you are the only person actually sitting at the bar are enjoyable. Knowing this didn’t happen very often, I continued drinking delightfully.

“These Browns fans man, I’m telling you. I’ve never seen fans so desperate to see their team win. They’ll hate you before they even know you just to see their team win. It makes me laugh,” Cassidy said. He was right. The Browns have been so abysmal the past 10 years I guess their fans have gone crazy for them to finally be good. Don’t get your hopes up, Dawg Pound.

Come to figure out, I’ve been sitting at The Crystal for about 45 minutes now watching the local televised game, Bengals at Buccaneers. This wasn’t nearly as bad as watching the Browns-Ravens game, even though four television screens surrounding me were broadcasting it. I asked Logan, “Any way you can throw the Pats game on?” He said he would if the company’s Sunday Ticket program (allowing access to watch any given game from DIRECTV) hadn’t been canceled. “For now it’s just local broadcasts,” Cassidy said. Thus meaning, Browns, Bengals, Steelers games.

At this point it’s getting ridiculous.

Next I head to The Pub across the street.  The Pub does an excellent job at mixing great food with great football.  There’s nothing like a hot meal alongside a cheap draft ($1.75) on Sundays. Walking into The Pub I thought, This is it! The smell of hamburger damn near knocked me out while there was a subtle aroma of buffalo sauce.

Sitting down in the nearest booth, I ordered a Bug Light pitcher for my buddy Ethan and me. Immediately I was surprised by the price. “It’ll be $7.25,” the surprisingly attractive bartender, blonde hair, piercing eyes, says to me. We were downing a couple drinks when our friends — Ravens fans, unfortunately — stumbled through the door. Here we go, I thought. To my astonishment, they bought us a pitcher. I guess since the prices were cheaper they felt more inclined to show they had $7.25. Whatever, I’ll take it.

Still trying to watch my Patriots, the game is obviously not on and by now it’s 2:15 p.m. At this point I’m getting sick of looking at all four screens in front of me seeing the same dreadful colors of orange, black, white, and brown. Hardly anyone in Athens is a Patriots fan so no reason to put the game on. Sure I’m following it on my SportsCenter app – Pats up 17-7 – but still. Near the end of our second pitcher, I begin looking around, scoping out the other committed fans. First person I see is a petite blonde woman. I asked her what team she rooted for. “I don’t like football,” she said. Hm, alright. So she doesn’t like football, yet chose one of the most fan-driven bars to come to on a Sunday? Confusing. “I just come here because my cousin is the bartender and gives me free drinks,” she continued. ­Ah ha! I thought. There it was. Plain and simple. Where the drinks are cheap, and in this case “free,” the customers will flock.

So the idea is “free drinks.” Sure I’m still trying to find the Patriots game televised somewhere, but I know a bartender, Anna Rutkousky, at The Pigskin so I thought why not?

Crossing the street once again, I stop into The Pigskin.  Like The Pub, this bar offers great food with a large capacity, enabling you to actually relax and not be shoulder-to-shoulder, like at Courtside.  The Pigskin is large, larger than most bars. It’s extremely long, but wide as well, enabling its 235-person capacity to fill up comfortably. The bar also has a back patio, which is nice for football during great weather.

First thing I see is a 42-inch LCD television where Tom Brady is throwing a touchdown. Yes! Finally! I think, almost screaming it out loud. Finally I made it to a bar that was televising the game I originally came out to watch.

Turning the corner, I see Anna. I told her how thankful I was that they were actually showing the Patriots game. “I don’t know much about football but I know management makes us show a different game on almost every TV,” Anna said. There are around 18 TVs in the bar so that was perfectly fine by me as I ordered a 32-ounce Bud Light draft ($2.25). At this point, there were three minutes left in the game, but I was content, sitting alone, finishing off the game happily.

Some bars come alive on Sunday, some don’t.  Football definitely brings students out, even if they don’t want to “get drunk.”  Come Sunday, head to one of the bars earlier suggested and don’t drink, you’ll still have a good time. This week I found the Patriots game. Next week my first stop will be the Pigskin. Finally finding what I was looking for, I still know that with the bundles of exaggerated Cleveland, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh fans around here, at any moment I might have to go searching again.

This is the struggle of the Lone Patriots Fan.

***

John Carpenter is a senior at Ohio University’s Scripps School of Journalism.  John is a huge Patriots fan and is planning on graduating in Spring 2015, majoring in broadcast journalism.