The Michael Lyon Experience

The Part About Arriving On Campus

There is an old road that goes by the name of Clinton, which merges into an old road called Utica. Follow Utica southwest for some 15 miles, and allow it to turn into College Street. You follow College Street, and allow it to turn into College Hill Road. Churn up College Hill road, and then take it in. There she sits, in all her glory. She is an esteemed place of learning, steeped in tradition, overflowing with pride. She has seen many a great scholar walk through her halls, many a great woman grace her presence, and one man sneak into her chapel’s belfry at night. She is a cold bitch—both literally and figuratively. She is the girl who’s skin is the perfect color, who never looks bad, who has those high, sharp cheeks, and who lets just about nobody be her friend. You want to get with this girl? You better be quite a guy. Her name is Hamilton, and she is the scene for the tale that is about to unfold.  

            His name was Matthew Thomas. He came from humble roots, with parents who emphasized academics, athletics, and wholesomeness. He played sports—just like his Olympian mother—and indulged in some of the finer aspects of high school life. He liked to hang out with his friends, drive around Spokane, Washington, do homework, and occasionally nap during school in the students lounge with an episode of Seinfeld playing in the background. On sunny days, it wouldn’t be out of the ordinary for Matthew to abandon school with his good friend Mason, head to the local dog track, and bet on the greyhounds as they raced. He had quite a few friends in his High School days, and carried with him a nice, genuine air of confidence. He aced the SAT, dominated any sort of essay that Hamilton could throw at him, and flawlessly played the game of earning Hamilton’s initial respect. His work paid off, and after a short time he was able to join Hamilton’s micro little circle of trustees.  She was happy to have him, but he wasn’t sure he could say the same about her.

            Matt arrived for the first week, and quickly realized that life had hit him. Here he was, in New York, in the middle of nowhere, accompanied only by his high school friend John, whom he wouldn’t be allowed to room with for the first semester.  It was a nightmare. Hamilton was once idyllic to him, once an object of his affection, but as he stood there on that day he realized that his expectations were sorely misplaced, and far too high. The feeling in his stomach was simply not right, he was uneasy, nauseated, and anxious.

It had hit him: Spokane, Washington was 3,000 miles away.

As his mother and father departed, he said, “Mom, I hate this place so much, and I can’t believe you’re leaving me here.”

She cried the whole way home.

He moved into his dorm.

John ate cereal.

Matt sulked.



Pt. II. The Dog Days of First Term

So by and by he got settled.  As time wore on, he found himself more and more aggravated by the college. It seemed as though there had been a giant farce. He had been tricked, and he was the innocent victim of a great bait and switch.  His roommate was helplessly messy and detestable, and day after day of returning from class to a filthy dorm room began to wear on his mind.

            A part of every housing application asks about sanitary preferences. You are given several options, and choose according to your own preferences and habits. Matthew was quite afraid of getting stuck with a neat freak, so he chose the middle path and checked the box that said, “you prefer your dorm to be somewhat clean.”

            This was a monumental error.

As it would turn out, Matt was the neat freak, and the filth of his room was like some kind of cancer that was wearing away at his mind. He became negative. The people were all jerks, the professors were all arrogant, the campus was ugly. It was terrible.

            Yet sometimes in life the very smallest things can pull us through. Sometimes it is a great triumph in sports, a well-timed bottle of beer, or a much needed shower. In this case, it was a hat.

            The hat was made of leather, and Matt wore it everywhere. Despite Hamilton being freezing for nearly the entire academic year, it is quite hot in the first few months. With inadequate air conditioning in many of her old buildings, Hamilton would often times be sweltering both inside and out. Matt wore the hat everywhere, and before long it was a decaying, salt licked, twisted piece of trash. But it wore well, and Matt pushed it to the breaking point. As long as the hat would hold on, so would Matt. Onward he pushed, awaiting Christmas break and a chance to get home.  The months dragged on, and eventually the prospect of Christmas loomed. Matt was growing weary of class, but there was some kind of silent force pushing him onward. He was determined to begin strong, and his leather hat refused to let him down. The grass began to fade, and the nights grew longer. The temperature started to drop daily, and the winds that once were natures air conditioner, were now her cold whip.

            One night he put his head down on the pillow after throwing some of his roommates clothes of his bed, and closed his eyes. As he did so, he heard the distinct noise of snow lightly badgering his window. It was the first fall of the white powder, and as it dropped the chapel belfry began ringing out the night hours.

            In another room not too far away, John Innes was struck with an idea.