The guy you see here, with the “Let’s GO Mets” towel tucked into his jacket, is a die hard Yankees fan…
As you may know, I moved from Brooklyn to Charlotte my junior year of high school. I spent 2 years there before going away to college. It was early summer of 1996, before my freshman year, when Mom and I went up to Raleigh. Why I chose NC State is a story unto itself, but here we were, her going to the parent’s weekend dorm and me to the future student’s dorm. It was Bragaw Hall I think, the big X building on the western side of campus. My roommate had arrived before I did and had his stuff all setup, by default I took the other closet and other uncomfortable bed.
Somewhere that day I met Kristi as well, though I can’t remember exactly how. Kristi was a high energy, full of life girl from Maryland. We were similar in the subtle class-clown kind of way. Her and I buddied up and simultaneously scoffed at orientation together as we were herded through the procedures that weekend. In retrospect, maybe I should’ve paid more attention when we walked the campus and they showed us the campus map. If so I might not have had to drop English first semester… Anyway, Kristi and I ended up building a little crew that weekend and we remained friends through first half of freshman year until she transferred.
Throughout the first day of orientation, back and forth to my room I went, between meetings and tours and whatever other types of gatherings Kristi and I laughed our way through. The roommate was never to be seen, we must’ve had alternating schedules. Now I’d been away at football camp every year since about 10, which had it’s own share of weird and crazy, but it’s getting near dark and I’m about to sleep in a room with a stranger I’ve never met. This was getting a little too weird. I was a bit apprehensive about this bunk-with-a-stranger weekend to begin with, but I’d assumed I’d have at least met him and we shared a laugh or two before rooming together.
It gets to the last meeting, I kiss my mother good night and head back to Bragaw. Entering the room I see the back of a stocky incoming freshman as he reached to put something up in his closet (I have a very similar problem). I greeted him with my usual “What’s up bro.” Now, for the record, the term “bro” was not as common in most places in 1996 as is it today.
Instantly, and in a distinct accent I recognized, I was greeted in return with a “What’s up bro.” The tone was deep and the pace too rapid for these parts. With his back still to me I wanted to be sure I heard that right. I replied “did you just say ‘what’s up bro’?” As he turned around, perhaps even surprised by my question, he agreed that those were indeed his words.
“Bro, where are you from?” I asked excitedly.
And so it was that by sheer happenstance, NC State University placed a Charlotte high school graduate, who unbeknownst to them was a transplant from Brooklyn, with a cross country adventurer from Staten Island named Vinnie. Yes, no shit, Vinnie from Staten Island. And even more surprising than that initial meeting, 20+ years on, Vinnie from Staten Island remains one of the best people I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing in my life. We’ve had an incredible and remarkable friendship, been on many adventures together and we remain good friends to this day. I am a better person today for having Vinnie in my life for so long.
OK, so am I encouraging you to go out and find a stranger to spend a night with? Of course not! (Well, not in this context anyway). I only want to share that you never really know what could come from a simple greeting.
So to you all I say, “What’s up bros!”