Daily Archives: February 16, 2011

Young and Determined: Tennis Strives for Third MAAC Championship

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Mirror File Photo

For the third year in a row, the Fairfield Women’s tennis team has been picked to finish at the top of the Metro-Atlantic Athletic Conference.

According to the votes by the league’s head coaches, the Stags received a total of 49 points in the poll and the selection as the top finishers amongst the other MAAC teams.

Last season, the team went 19-6 overall and had an undefeated 7-0 record in regular season conference play.

Their success did not end there.

Their impressive record led them to a second consecutive MAAC Championship and Fairfield’s third-ever NCAA tournament bid.

The Stags will have All-MAAC Selections, Kristin Liu ’11 and Alyssa Ruiz ’11, returning this year, as well as sophomore Nikki Jackson, all of whom have proved to be powerhouse competitors on the court. Fairfield also welcomes five newcomers to the team, Caroline Emhardt ’14, Carolina Koladzyn ’14, Victoria Pirrello ’14, Sharissa Ryan ’14, and Monica Yajima ’14.

Although the Stags have a young team, Liu says that it should not pose as problem once the season gets underway.

“Last year we had four graduating seniors and this year we have five freshmen. Our team is relatively young, leaving Alyssa and I the only upperclassmen,” Liu said. “We just try to have the same goals in mind which [are] to work hard, have a winning season, and win the MAAC– That’s what keeps us as a team.”

Even though the team consists of mainly new players, Liu and her few fellow upperclassmen do not think it will affect their chances of winning the MAAC.

“Our team may be young, but it may also be the most talented recruitment class Fairfield women’s tennis has ever had.  All our new members have been playing USTA tournaments all their lives so the competition aspect is not foreign to them,” she explained. “In previous years, our team cohesiveness has contributed most to our success.  If our bond can be as strong as it has been in the past years, we’re definitely going to have great success this season.”

The coaching staffs for the Men’s and Women’s tennis teams have proven to be an invaluable aspect of the winning seasons this team has experienced. Head Coach Ed Paige is in his fifth season and coaches both the Men’s and Women’s teams. Assistant coaches Ryan Berthod and Marisa Voloshin are both Fairfield graduates and were key contributors during their Fairfield tennis careers.

Berthod graduated from Fairfield in 2010 as the Stags’ combined victories leader. In his final years as a Stag, Berthod earned All-MAAC Second Team honors in both singles and doubles; he went 18-14 overall in singles and 26-13 in doubles. He also advanced to the Round of 32 doubles at the ITA Regionals. Voloshin is in her second season as an assistant coach. While playing on the courts as a Stag, she helped the Fairfield Women’s tennis team to a MAAC Tournament Championship and an NCAA Tournament appearance in 2009 as a team captain. She also earned All-MAAC honors for her doubles play with partner Dana Postupack and left Fairfield with a career record of 37-16.

“We are lucky to have Ryan and Marisa as our assistant coaches this year. They both have had great success as previous members of the Fairfield teams and their guidance, along with our head coach Ed Paige, will contribute a great deal to both teams this season,” said Liu when asked about the impact of the coaching staff.

Tennis may not be the most popular spectator sport, as it has to compete with lacrosse, baseball and other spring sporting events, but Liu and her teammates have proven that tennis is a tough sport with the potential to be extremely rewarding.

“Tennis may look like an easy sport: you have a racquet in your hand, you move, and hit the ball,” she explained.

“Easier said than done. The hardest part of tennis is the mental aspect of it, which I think is the most challenging part of the game. You can have the greatest strokes, be the fastest mover on court, but if you are not mentally focused in your match, it’s hard to win.”

Liu and her teammates know their goals for the season and what is at stake with every match that they play. The thought of living up to the success that is expected of this team has not caused fear or uncertainty amongst the players, but rather acted as a motivator to train harder, play better, and come together as a team.

“There’s no doubt that our team this year is the most talented Fairfield women’s tennis has ever been.  We’ve been lucky to have talented freshmen joining the team and I feel very confident that we can live up to the expectations of winning the MAAC for the third consecutive year in a row,” Liu noted.  “It will be a great accomplishment not only for me, but definitely for Fairfield athletics.”

Hopefully the Stags will channel the same winning mentality that they have had these past two years to bring home another MAAC Championship and earn another trip to the NCAA tournament.

The 2011 MAAC Men’s and Women’s Tennis Championships will take place at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, N.Y. from April 20-21.

So far, the Stags are 2-1 with victories over Manhattan, 7-0, and Fordham, 5-2.

Johnson Poised to Lead Women’s Basketball to Season Success

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Peter Caty/The Mirror

Over the past couple of years, two different forwards have been the primary forces to lead their Fairfield University women’s basketball teams to successful seasons.  During the current 2010-2011 campaign, Taryn Johnson is well on her way to carrying her squad to a third.

“She’s been fantastic,” Head Coach Joe Frager said.  “I really think she’s maturing and coming into her own as a player.”

The junior has reached double figures in eleven straight games including narrowly missing a career high with 21 points against St. Peters.  Her recent hot streak has helped the club to win seven of their last eight conference contests and earn a 10-4 record in the MAAC.

“I just try and do what I can,” Johnson said.“[I] try and contribute inside my role and do what I can to help my team win.”

Over the past three weeks she is averaging 17 PPG, good enough to earn two MAAC Player of the Week Honors.  Coach Frager has seen the progression of her game since her freshmen season, noting that “in the past we would see this out of her every once in a while, but she’s really stringing it together and playing some very good basketball for us.”

However, she takes none of the credit.  Even though Johnson might be piloting the Stags in the last few games, this team still believes that they need to connect together and all contribute if they want to reach their potential heights.   Their recent results are showing that growth.

“We’re …comfortable more so now than in the beginning of the season because we’re young,” Johnson said.

A difficult final stretch will test this young team.  As the season nears the end it becomes time for all the lessons of the year to pay off if the Stags want to cash in on their development.  They can look at the positives of this winning streak to build on heading into the vital final four games on the schedule.  Over the weekend, the Stags improved their game in the second half by shooting 52 percent in their two wins, a practice that can help them over these next games.

“I think that’s a credit to the girls,” Frager said.  “When you talk to them at halftime, they’re coachable and they listen and they try to the best of their ability to do what the coaching staff asks them to do.”

These last four games are against the only MAAC teams to have defeated the Stags this season: Loyola, Siena, Manhattan, and Marist.  With their current record of 10-4, they sit in fourth place in the conference, and will play against the top three teams ahead of them in the standings.  The Stags enter this crucial period with something to prove.  “We feel as though we could play better and we want to try and play up to our standards,” Frager said.

They are at the position where they wish to be with the season nearly ending.  They are playing arguably their best basketball as they approach these tough games and the players are happy about their recent play.

“That’s what you want,” Johnson said.  “By the end of the season you would hope to improve and that’s what we’ve been doing.  We’ve been progressing and going into these games with confidence.”

Senior starting forward Joelle Nawrocki also believes that these last few games are to prove to people that they are for real.

“We didn’t play our best games against those three,” she said.

This squad has finished its contests against the weaker teams in the league, and is left with the upper portion of the MAAC.  The Stags have not defeated a team this year that had a better record than them going into the game.  If they want to reach the goals of the season, obviously that needs to change – but this team is ready.

Nawrocki said, “We want to come together and show them how good we really are, and play Fairfield basketball against them.”

Introducing…Erik Kremheller: Men’s Tennis

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« The Bio: Kremheller, a sophomore from Riverside, CT, has excelled as a member of the Men’s Tennis team. He has two older siblings who are also students at Fairfield, including his brother Mark, a senior member of the Tennis team. An accounting major, Kremheller is also involved in other extracurriculars on campus as a member of the Accounting Club and a SAAC representative.

Contributed Photo

«The Props: With only one full season under his belt so far, Kremheller has already drawn attention from the MAAC – he was a member of the All-MAAC Second Team No.5 Singles and the All-MAAC First Team No.1 Doubles in his freshman year. After going 26-9 last year – winning 13 of his final 15 matches and going 16-16 in doubles – Kremheller appears to be continuing his success streak this season. He secured the win for the Stags in Friday’s match against NJIT with his performance in singles play.

« The Outlook: Kremheller and the Stags hope to improve upon their overall record of 3-1 when they take on the Hawks of the University of Hartford on Friday, February 25 in East Hartford.

Four Cigarettes For a Room

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Yuri Sendzimir/The Mirror

Prologue:

Two years ago (sophomore year) I took a literary journalism course that would change my life forever. Originally the assignment that I chose was to go to Brigdgeport and spend the night as a homeless man in a shelter, talk to some of the residents and get their stories. What actually happened was much, much different. As an expose on homelessness, this piece fails miserably but it’s in this failure that I got a glimpse of how difficult life is when you have nothing. Some may wonder why two years later I chose to run this piece, the reason is that prior to The Vine there was no outlet for literary journalism on campus and I was shamefully too lazy to post it online. In part it’s becuse this piece is a deeply personal part of me and it’s only until now that I feel like sharing it with the world. To those who question the timing of this piece and wonder why it didn’t run during Fairfield’s Homeless Village my response is that homelessness doesn’t last a week, it doesn’t end when we clean up the cardboard boxes, it happens every day to millions of people around the world day in and day out. It’s to these people that I dedicate this piece and I hope they can forgive me for my shortcomings.

Steve and I get into the car with Bright Eyes and I almost s**t myself. I’m actually going through with this.

“Do we look homeless?” I ask Bright Eyes.

“Are you kidding me?” He glances over my outfit for less than a second. “Hell no.”

This is very reassuring.

“What? Why not? What’s missing?”

“Dirt” he replies, “You guys are too clean; you should roll around on the ground for a while or something.”

I’ve been building myself up for this moment all day and I’m not about to get out of the car and roll around in the dirt because I know if I get out of the car I won’t be getting back in.

“F**k it, let’s go,” Steve says. He giggles in the backseat like a little kid who just found out he gets a peek at his Christmas presents early. I’m wondering why my heart isn’t pounding in my chest. Maybe it’s because in my head this still doesn’t feel real. Yeah, that’s it.

We pull off campus and head towards Bridgeport. Bright Eyes has an Audi station wagon. This is ridiculous, we can’t be rolling into the ghetto like this, but we don’t have a choice; Bright Eyes is the only one free on a Wednesday night crazy enough to drive us into the inner city of Bridgeport. On the way there he’s telling us about what he’s going to be doing for Thanksgiving break. Hawaii, he says. He’s spending Saturday to Saturday in Hawaii. Poor kid, I envy this b*****d deeply but he has a good heart. He didn’t once hesitate when I told him where we were going.

He doesn’t know how to get to the shelter so he’s using the navigation system to find it. He keeps looking at it to type in the location. I swear we’re going to get into a car accident. What a sheltered life we lead, using a navigation system in a fancy car to find the homeless shelter. I weep for my generation.

As we leave the comfort of Fairfield, things start looking real trashy. Liquor store, liquor store, deli, liquor store – it’s somewhere along the lines where Post road turns into Fairfield Ave when everything just gets so trashy. Good, I’m thinking to myself, we’re really going to get the ‘real’ experience. Oh, how stupid we were, we had no f**king idea what we were getting ourselves into.

“I can’t find Washington Ave,” Bright Eyes says.

“Turn left” the navigation system tells him.

What the f**k? This car talks? I don’t question it. This car is nicer than I thought and I thought this was pretty damn nice car to begin with. This realization only makes me more worried about what will happen to us when we get to the inner city and people see us walk out of it dressed like bums; they’re not stupid, they’ll know what we’re up to. I was wrong, no one gave a s**t. As we get closer to Washington Ave we see more liquor stores than delis.

“Maybe I should buy you guys some booze, you know, something to get you through the night,” Bright Eyes says. He looks at me. “You guys got any money?”

“Nope, we left our wallets and s**t back on campus. I got my cell phone hidden in case of an emergency, my Stagcard to ID me with and two wrinkled-up old dollars in my pocket.”

“I’ll see what I can do.”

“Prepare for arrival at destination,” the robot woman says to us.

We just passed a liquor store but we’re going to find another. Bright Eyes drives past them – the street and the store – and we find a package store at the end of the street. We scrape the car for loose change and find around six dollars.

This isn’t going to get us s**t.

After the Indian guys kick me and Steve out of the store, we go back to the car.

“I have to have more money in my car,” he says confidently.

With a flashlight we tear apart the car. Lo and behold, Bright Eyes finds a ten dollar bill in the crack next to the driver’s seat. He marches back into the liquor store and comes out two minutes later with a bottle wrapped in a brown paper bag.

“Here you go gentlemen, the finest liquor sixteen dollars can buy.” He hands me the bottle and I pull down the bag to see what it is.

“Brandy?”

“Yes sir.”

Dear Lord. What a vile and disgusting creation brandy is. It tastes like s**t and makes you feel even worse – but we didn’t know that then.

We were fools.

Alcohol in hand, I’m anxious to get out of the car. Bright Eyes just looks nervous.

“You sure you guys are going to be ok?”

“Yeah dude, we’ll be fine, don’t worry about it.”

He casually changes the subject, asking, “So, how do I get back onto 95?”

“How the hell should I know? You’re asking the kid from California for directions in Connecticut.” This doesn’t seem to mean anything to him. I think for minute, then say, “Well, I guess just keep going straight on this street… it looks like it’s heading in that direction.”

I’m wondering why he doesn’t just use his f**king GPS device built into his car. Poor b*****d probably doesn’t want to feel responsible for anyone’s death. After a couple handshakes for good luck, all we see are his taillights as he heads back to the safety and comfort of his own room and bed, things that will be luxuries to us tonight.

Steve and I start to walk down the street. F**k, its cold. We wouldn’t realize it until after we’d come back to campus and checked the weather reports, but that night the temperature would drop to the low twenties. Some people think they know cold because they’ve grown up around it; I respectfully say f**k that. No one knows cold until they’ve lost their home, until they’ve lost the hope of an alternative for their situation – that is a cold beyond belief.

“F**k, dude, it’s f**king freezing out here,” Steve giggles again. It’s easy for him to laugh, he’s wearing my thick green plaid jacket with more than four different layers of clothing underneath it. The cold is starting to gnaw at the hand holding the bottle; primarily at the fingertips that are left uncovered by my so-called bum gloves. I no longer have any idea why any homeless person would wear gloves that would leave their fingers exposed to frost bite. Steve is wearing my other pair of gloves, the kind with tips, but he’s only sticking his hands in his pockets. We trade. It doesn’t make much of a difference.

If we don’t find a place to stay soon, my fingertips are going to be the least of our problems.

Before he had left, Bright Eyes had joked about how we would need to find a place to stoop so that we would be able to drink our booze. As more cops start passing, I start thinking that maybe that isn’t such a bad idea after all.

“Hurry! Cross,” I shout to Steve as I run across the street to the other darker and less visible side of the street. Behind one of the houses we find a large steel container, like the kind you see on cargo ships, placed behind the building. Seeing it as a sign, we stoop behind it and start the first of a long list of mistakes of the night.

I take a swig then pass it to Steve. S**t’s strong and rough going down but we don’t give a f**k. You do the most with what you can with what you’ve got and we have nothing but pain and liquor. Steve drinks the brandy like its water.

“I wish it were that easy,” I think to myself as I take another swig.

Cop car. We penetrate deeper into the shadow of the steel container to keep from getting noticed. That’s the third one I’ve seen tonight. I’m starting to get uncomfortable being so exposed with a bottle of liquor.

“Yo, dude, let’s find another place to keep drinking, this spot’s getting mad sketchy,” I say to Steve.

“Yeah dude, that’s what I was gonna start saying, there’s so many cop cars that keep driving by… you know what I mean?”

I’m glad he agrees.

I look back at him and say, “Yeah, and I really don’t feel like getting caught with this s**t, but even so what would they do to us if they did? Ask us for ID? I’d be like ‘dude, I’m f**king homeless, of course I ain’t got no ID’, but then again he’d probably just take us in for loitering.” There’s no way to win.

“Yeah I know what you mean,” Steve agrees. Steve always knows what I mean.

We keep walking down the poorly dim street. It looks like at one point this used to be a nice neighborhood; all the houses are two stories tall with a Victorian-esque architecture remiscent of a time when the people who lived in them had the means to keep these homes looking nice. Now Cadillacs litter the street alongside the beat up old cars and chain link fences; motion-sensor lights chase our shadows away with every move we make. A Hispanic woman steps outside of her house as she shouts to someone inside. She’s going to throw out the trash but pauses as she sees us; I can feel her eyes follow us in silence as we walk past her home. She doesn’t move until we’re far enough away from her that she could run back inside before we had time to reach her, if she had to.

“So this is how it is,” I think to myself. I can’t say I blame her mistrust – I just never thought I’d be the one getting this kind of treatment.

We get to the end of the road and reach the juxtaposing street.

“Which way should we go?” Steve asks.

“F**k it, let’s make a left,” I say, we make our way deeper into the ghettoes. The only thing lighting the streets are the signs from the businesses. Everything is made out of bricks, there’s trash on the streets, and hardly anybody’s outside.

“Check that one out,” Steve says, pointing to the barbershop to the left of us; the sign says that the barbershop also doubles as a repair shop and TV installation store.

“Is there anything they don’t do?” I laugh. The poor people must be trying to make ends meet any way they can.  I start to pay closer attention to all of the business signs. There are a lot of delis and liquor stores. I notice how one of the signs used to say that they accepted credit cards but now the words have been scratched out. Every one of the stores here accepts food stamps and we think it’s funny. I’ll never laugh at that again.

Every so often Steve and I stop in the shadow of a car or large object and take swigs from the bottle.

“Dude, I’m still not feeling s**t,” Steve says to me, his voice revealing his frustration.

“Yeah me neither…my lips are getting numb though.”

“Let’s find a legit place to stoop and enjoy our fine refreshment,” Steve says, laughing again.

“Yeah, that sounds good.”

But where to go? All the houses are so dark; we don’t know what’s abandoned and what’s not. The longer we walk the less I start to care. There’s a house up ahead with all of the lights out and the gate to the backyard has been left open.

“This thing has to be abandoned,” I say to Steve, pointing at the house.

“You think so?”

“Yeah dude, who the f**k leaves their s**t open around here?”

Good point.

There’s a man across the street going back inside his house after saying good-bye to whomever had been visiting that is now driving away. He stops and eyes us suspiciously. Steve and I try to be as inconspicuous as possible.

“Wait.”

Pause.

“Wait.”

Pause.

“Is he still looking?”

“Nah.”

“Alright – let’s go.”

We slip past the gate and make ourselves familiar with this abandoned house. I don’t even try to open the front door; we head straight for the back.

“Dude I gotta take a piss,” I tell Steve as I find a suitable spot. “Dude, we have to avoid peeing in places where we may end up sleeping,” I say to him, and Steve laughs with me.

This house is two stories tall and used to be white at one point. The backyard consists of a driveway made of asphalt and not much else. The fence surrounding it is too low to hide us from prying eyes but I’m guessing this isn’t the first time a homeless person has found this place. There are steps leading up a locked back door covered in shattered glass. I brush the shards away and take a seat. Steve stands instead. By now the cold of the night is biting hard, sinking its teeth deep into my bones, devouring my feet and my hands, licking my face and neck before plunging into my veins; there it would stay for days after.

By this point, Steve and I have made some progress with our bottle but now we huddle around it like a fire. We pray for warmth with every sip that moves past our lips and enters our mouths but the brandy is an idol god. I push the disgust into the back of the mind as I hold the false promise that we will forget the cold with more alcohol. But it tricked me, that vile disgusting drink tricked me. This was not our salvation from cold! No, this was to be my damnation! The source of my torment and lamentation! Vile! Vile! Vile! Never again!

Between the black mass and wake, Steve and I share our philosophies of life; he talks about Buddhism and Daoism and of his salvation. I listen intently sharing my own stories and philosophies. He tells me how everyone takes this life for granted. I concur. Our words dance on the smoke that escapes our mouths; with every word we speak clouds form. It’s so cold its scarring my bones. Steve talks about the times he used to run away from home and sleep in the woods near his house in a sleeping bag, all by choice and during the summer. He tells me how nothing compares to this experience tonight. I tell him about the days my dad used to throw me out of the house. How it was days like those that showed me who my true friends were. The ones who had a place for me in their homes, regardless of what they had going on in their lives – those were the friends I needed to keep. I’m telling Steve how these days I can count all of my true friends on one hand. I’ve never been so open with anyone in my life.

All of this is hitting me hard, the alcohol is filling my tongue with lead and before I know it I can’t spit out the words in my head. My rambles on rebellion turn into slurs of salvation. I talk about the loneliness of existence, he preaches nirvana. To hell with nirvana, to hell with meditation, I need to feel the pain inside so bad. I need to feel alive.

After what feels like an eternity of praying to our idol god the brandy bottle, I shake it to see how much is left. Two thirds of the bottle are gone – not bad for two guys of 5’8” and 5’6” stature.

I look at Steve with a smile. I’m feeling fantastic. “Let’s scope this place out a bit,” I say to him.

“Alright.”

Just past the place where I peed there seems to be a small slant of dirt leading towards a door that’s been broken near the handle, a hole just big enough to stick my hand into. I stick my hand in not know what might be on the other side – almost unwittingly my curiosity takes over my self preservation instincts. I turn the handle on the other side but the door won’t open. I try harder.

Nothing happens. It seems to be jammed on something. I look inside the hole. The door leads into a space similar to that of a cellar. Just visible by cell phone light, I see a large metal table propped up against the door to keep intruders out. I think to myself that if the person who made the hole in the door gave up after seeing the table then maybe I should do the same.

“Anything?” Steve asks.

“Nah dude, door’s jammed shut by some table on the other side and I’m way too f**king cold and drunk to waste my time on that f**king door.”

“Oh alright,” he says. He sounds a little disappointed.

“Dude are you drunk yet?” I ask him.

“Kinda,” he says to me.

“Because I am feeling fantastic!” I reply excitedly. Oh, I had no clue what was in store for us. And without much more said between the two of us, Steve and I made our way to find the shelter.

“Do you know which way you’re going?” Steve asks me.

“I’m nottttt a hundred perccccent shuuuuurrrrrrrre but I thinnkkkkkkkkkk it’s thissssssss wayyyyy,” I say. F**k. I’m drunk. “S******ttt duuude, I’m ssssstartin to sssslllurrrr my wordsss.”

“Yeah, man, maybe you should take it easy and let me do the talking.”

We keep walking down the street, a pair of idiots heading towards unknown disaster. At the end of the street I begin to forget the way. Fortunately, I see a Hispanic man and decide to ask him for directions. Steve won’t let me, telling me I’m too drunk to make any sense.

Steve asks, “Hey, do you know the way to the homeless shelter?”

The man stares at him confused.

“Do you know the way to the shelter?” Steve repeats.

“I no speakie eeenglish,” the man replies in a thick Hispanic accent.

“Hablas español?” I interrupt.

“Si,” he responds.

“Sabes cómo llegar al….” I say, my words trailing off. I forget the word for shelter in Spanish and instantly I become ashamed of how I’ve slowly begun to lose my first language and native tongue. I finally just say, “shelter.”

“Si,” he responds to me. He gives me a series of directions which I quickly forget as soon as he’s out of eyesight.

“Do you know how to get there now?” Steve asks.

“Well kinda now… we have to go this way.” I make a left and keep going. “He said we’d hit it if we just kept going this way.”

Normally it’s a bad idea to roam the streets at night, but on this occasion we’re so f**ked up in our heads from all the booze that we are no longer outsiders in this area. We understand perfectly what the druggies and crack-heads mean because we are now at their level of insanity. It’s as if for this one night the frequency of our minds has been tuned to match that of the slums where our feet now walk. The streetlights create a fog of light in contrast to these buildings that have all put out their own lights. I point out a hole in a chain link fence that leads to a small clearing – a meadow scattered with junk.

“That might be the place where we’ll need to sleep if we can’t find anything or get into a shelter,” I say.

Steve laughs. He doesn’t believe me.

Walk, walk, walk – it seems like all we do is walk now.

“Is that it up ahead?” he asks me.

We get closer.

“Nope.” None of these buildings are the shelter. “We have to be getting closer,” I say to him. Failure after failure, I start to lose hope. This can’t be happening to me, this wasn’t part of the plan, I was never supposed to actually end up homeless; I was supposed to find a shelter and spend the night there, not on the streets.

We see a church up ahead and head towards it. As we get closer, a black man exits and makes his way down the adjacent street at an alarmingly fast pace.

“HEY, EXCUSE ME!” I yell to him.

Steve freaks out. “Let me talk to him,” he quickly interrupts.

The guy slows down enough for us to stumble up to him.

“Hey, excuse me, you wouldn’t happen to know where the homeless shelter is, would you?” Steve asks.

“I sure do” he replies, “follow me.” He bolts down the street. He’s walking way too fast; I don’t know how Steve, who is shorter than me, manages to keep up with him while I’m a good ten to fifteen feet behind. Down the street we go, faster and faster -  every muscle in my body shakes and my jaw rattles in my mouth as if it were loosely held there by a single screw. I can’t take it anymore. Steve is making small talk with the guy but I’m too far away to hear what they’re saying. All I need to know is where the shelter is and how long it will take before I can be warm again. After what seems like an eternity of speed walking, we make it to a homeless shelter that is surrounded by hedges. Steve and I hide the bottle in the bushes lest the people working there think we’re drunks hoping to cause trouble. We thank the man kindly for helping us find the shelter and he says good bye as he hurriedly makes his way back home.

We knock on the door of the shelter; we can see figures lying everywhere but we don’t care, it looks more promising than the cold out here. A man answers the door.

“Hi, we’re looking for a place to stay; do you guys have any room left?”

“I’m sorry fellas, but we don’t, this place filled up hours ago.”

F**k, f**k, f**k, f**k, f**k, no! That wasn’t what you were supposed to say, I think to myself. You were supposed to say that it was ok, that you would rescue us from the cold outside, not turn us away. This wasn’t how the plan was supposed to go.

“Oh ok, we understand,” we say. It is all we can say to him as we turn away from the door and head back to the street. F**k. Now what are we supposed to do? This was our only option. Steve knows we’re f**ked too. This time there’s no nice black guy ready to take us to another homeless shelter. We don’t know where the next homeless shelter is. How does anybody?

“We could try a church” he suggests. “Do you think they’ll be open?”

“I don’t know about that but I know that sometimes they do leave tool sheds and places like that open for people who don’t have a home or a place to go, you know?”

It makes sense, and I remember passing at least three churches on our way to the shelter. At least one of them has to have something open for us. All hope is not lost… yet.

We finally arrive at a church.

“Locked!” Steve exclaims.

“Both doors?”

“Yeah,” he yells back to me.

I check the side doors without a different result. “You have got to be kidding me! I thought this was supposed to be the church of f**king God! Who are they to lock the doors on those who need help? Hmm? What would Jesus do, my ass! That’s why I hate religion, it’s so full of hypocrisy.” I make no effort to hide just how furious I am.

We try the church across the street but it’s the same story there, all the doors are locked and there’s nowhere for us to go.

“F**K!!!!” I scream out to no one. No one cares, no one listens, we have no one, nothing.

I pull out the bottle of brandy that has been tucked safely away in my jacket, cradled by my arm as if it were a small child of some sorts. I take a swig in hopes that it will lay my worried mind to rest, I want to forget the cold but nothing seems to be working.

Steve finds some spare change in his pockets from earlier when we had ransacked the insides of Bright Eye’s car in search for booze money. He suggests that we head back up the way of the shelter because there’s a gas station there and maybe he could buy some loose cigarettes. Only Steve could think about smoking loosies at a time like this. With nothing better to do, I stumble my way behind him back up the street to the gas station and wait for him to get what he wants. Moments later he walks out with his prize; cigarettes.

Walking aimlessly in the direction of the churches on our way back from the gas station, I look drunkenly to the side and notice an elementary school. Maybe we could sleep in the tunnel slide? We walk in to the playground. I still have the bottle but hand it to Steve because gravity is no longer pulling me down, it’s pulling me back as if there were a tornado up ahead.

I almost fall backwards. I hold onto the ground and try to throw up to alleviate the symptoms but nothing seems to be working. I feel like s**t. Steve goes to take a swig from the bottle and lets it drop straight on the ground in front of him.

It shatters and I look up. He can’t feel his fingers, even in the gloves, so he had no idea that the bottle was falling through until it hit the ground.

“F**k, I really didn’t want to do that,” he says, angry.

“Yeah, I know man, but maybe it’s for the best.”

“I really could have used another swig of that, ya know what mean?” He’s still mad.

“Yeah dude, I know, but I’m way too f**ked up and at least now the temptation is gone.” I can’t believe I’m even bothering to convince him.

“Yeah, that’s true, but I still wanted just another swig of that… I’m so pissed off with myself right now dude… like you don’t even know.” The guy just won’t let it go.

“Don’t worry about it man.”

“Yeah, but I can’t – it’s all over the ground,” he laments.

“Well, f**k it then, you’re homeless, drink it off the ground.”

“You think I should?” he asks me.

“I don’t see why not.”

And so we lose our humanity at that elementary school. Steve gets on all fours and begins to sip the alcohol off the frozen asphalt.

Just like an animal, I think to myself, look at what this place has done to us in only a matter of hours in the cold night. There are people who spend years like this and here we are resorting to the level of the animals in less than a day.

Steve rises from getting his fill of booze off the ground. A piece of the shattered glass has dug into his top lip but he pulls it out effortlessly. Putting his hand to the bleeding cut, he asks, “Is it bad?”

“Nah, you’ll live,” I tell him.

Now in addition to having nothing, we have no alcohol and still no place to go. Things are starting to look bleak.

So this is what hopelessness must feel like, I tell myself, the sensation of truly having nothing, no hope, no food, no idea of how we’ll survive the night. I wonder how it’s possible that anybody can make it for longer than a day out here. How cruel can we truly be to allow people to live this way in our society? If we’re such an advanced society, I just can’t understand why this s**t happens. It doesn’t make sense to me.

With the realization that if we sit and wait for the morning to come we might not make it out alive, we decide there has be a way out of this mess. Failure is not an option. There has to be another shelter, there just has to be.

And just like that, we go looking for something that we can only hope exists. Down the street we’ve walked down so many times already we drunkenly stumble up to a deli where we see four black guys gathered around the front counter. We go inside.

“Do you guys know where the nearest homeless shelter is?” I ask.

“Yeah I do, but you’re too late for that s**t, all the places have already filled up,” one man tells us.

F**k! Why does this happen to us?

“Well do you know any place where we can stay then?” Steve asks the men.

Three of the men just stay silent, but one speaks up.

“You got any money?” he asks.

“Nah man, I’m homeless,” I tell him.

“How’d a couple of white boys like you end up homeless?”

I don’t know what to say. In the back of my mind I’m thinking of a statistic I once read, about how about 30 percent of homeless youth in the city are homosexuals cast out by their parents – but for some reason, at this moment, I don’t think it is the best idea to lie and tell them we’re gay. The last thing we need right now is a group of homophobes kicking the s**t out of us.

“S**t happens,” is all I end up saying to him.

“Dat’s straight… you sure you ain’t got nothin’ on you, though?” he asks me.

“Nah.”

“Yo, but I got some cigarettes,” says Steve.

A different member of the group of men in front of us perks his ears. He asks, “how menee?”

“Four.”

“Well, alright,” he says. “Give us da cigarettes and we jus might know uh place.”

I look at Steve skeptically. He gives me one of those ‘f**k it what do we have to lose?’ looks and I just go with it.

Steve holds out the cigarettes. One of the guys takes them and starts to walk around the side of the deli; without any questions, we follow him. He leads us to the house next door with half of its side completely demolished; he takes us through the front door, then through a long series of twists and turns. I feel like a mouse in a maze.

I wonder what we have gotten ourselves into and if we’ll ever see the end but I’m too drunk to run, too drunk to care. It doesn’t make sense now to have trusted these people as blindly as we did, but when you lose your mind to a substance you upset the pattern, the frequency to which your mind is attuned. Suddenly, you find yourself in a different world that lives within the one you know. Had we had acted like our normal selves, God only knows what they might have done to us. if they knew that we were college students from Fairfield playing make-believe in their reality, I don’t want to think about what could have happened…but I’ll never forget that this life we took on for a night is someone’s reality everyday all over the world.

Somehow, after we made our way through the maze, we end up outside in what looks like some sort of backyard. Trash and ruined bicycles litter the ground – everything is broken. There are steps that lead to a door; this is where he’s taking us.

Maybe he’s going to kill us. No, my drunk mind tells me, what would be the point? I never thought that death really had to have a point, but for some reason, this thought is enough to appease me.

The stairs are missing steps, the wood has been ripped off a couple of them, and I struggle against the broken railing as my drunk staggering takes its toll. The man walks in through the door and into a bare room. The floor is wooden, as if this used to be a nice house. Lying on top of the wooden panels is the most welcoming-looking, beaten, and stained with God-knows-what mattress I’ve ever seen. I don’t care how many whores or crack heads have called this bed their own for a night; tonight it is mine and I am grateful. To the far side of the room there is a window; in front of it is a broken mini-fridge with an empty bottle of Jack sitting on its top. There’s an empty closet with its doors ripped off and that’s about it for this room.

“Make sure you gone bah sun ryes cuz thas when da landlawd come back and you don’t wan uh be here when he duz,” the man says to us as he walks out of the room, leaving us to our fate.

Steve and I aren’t very talkative anymore. The night has taken its toll on us and all we want to do is sleep and get through this night alive. Steve gets the right side of the bed, I get the left side; we both huddle into our respective fetal positions as we try to cocoon ourselves in our warmth.

It’s not working.

In my head I’m trying to think warm, think warm, think warm, but it’s just not working. I can’t feel my feet, the cold is chewing on my calves right now, and I want to cry. To make matters worse, my head won’t stop spinning. I can’t get it to sit still long enough to pass out, and even in the darkness of closed eyes the room still seems to be spinning. I curse the man who created brandy.

The minutes seem to be passing like hours, and the constant gnawing at my body by the cold and the spinning in my head is keeping me awake. I’m exhausted and piss drunk, yet somehow I can’t pass out.

Please, I cry out to my body, just stop, just stop long enough for me to get some sleep… that’s the least you can do. Please have mercy on me.

Nothing. My silent cries fall on deaf ears.

Slowly, my legs and Steve’s legs have gotten closer. Finally, I can’t take the cold anymore. I don’t give a f**k how gay this looks, I think to myself, and I turn around to face him and lock my calves with his. If someone were looking down from the ceiling, the shape we were making would resemble a heart.

I squeeze my legs tight hoping that it will produce heat but it doesn’t work. My insomniadic eyes point to the closet. I get an idea.

“Steve, get up,” I say.

“What? What’s going on?”

“I have an idea.”

I pull the mattress off the ground and tell Steve to get in the closet. As we both huddle inside I use the mattress as a door, hoping that the enclosed space will retain more heat. Minutes of uncomfortable neck-cramping positions pass. My head is throbbing. My throat hurts. I feel sick.

“Yo, I can’t do this man, I can’t sleep like this, I’d much rather have it out in the cold than be like this, man,” Steve says to me, his voice groggy.

I start to agree, my body is in so much pain. We take the mattress and put it back on the ground. We both get on it and that’s when it hits me.

The nausea.

I stumble out the door without saying anything, looking for a place to hurl. I look left, then right, then left again. There, in the corner, I think to myself. I push my hands against the corners of the wooden face and unload the contents of my stomach onto the dirt ground. Out it comes, all of it at once. It doesn’t stop, it keeps coming like an avalanche. My eyes are crying, my throat is burning, and for some reason I can’t hear out of my right ear. There’s a pause to breathe before I resume puking.

After about three minutes of vomiting I head back inside and I try to get some sleep but the world is still spinning. Sure enough, about twenty minutes after, I run out the door again. I grip the fence and repeat. Spit dangles from my lips, freezing in the night air. I grip the fence with hands I can’t feel, I stand up on feet I can’t feel, teary eyed from the vomit. My whole body hurts like it’s never hurt before. The convulsions are tearing up my back, my neck hurts from sleeping in the closet, I have a sore throat, I still can’t hear out of my right ear and it’s still 19 degrees outside. At this particular moment in time I’m praying for some gangster to come up from behind the house and shoot me. I want him to bust a cap in me and just put me out of my f**king misery. I don’t want live. I don’t want to f**king live anymore. Dear God, please someone kill me! KILL ME!!

God is cruel and no one comes. No friendly warm bullets – not so much a disturbance in the cold wind. Enough is enough, I think to myself; I walk back into the room. I lay next to Steve.

“I feel like I’m going to die, dude,” I tell him.

“Well, what do you want to do?” he asks me with sincere concern in his voice.

I pause for a brief moment.

“Die,” I tell him and curl up into a ball on the mattress. He puts his arms around me and holds me close, keeping me warm for the rest of the night. I still feel sick but I know there’s nothing left in me.

The next hour before sunrise was the longest of my life. I stared into the darkness wondering how anybody could live like this. This is no way to live; how does anyone handle this? And how can anyone stand idle knowing people live like this? Why can’t I live like this? What is wrong with me? Am I weak?

Originally, I had thought I was strong for doing this, for volunteering to go through with this.  Now I know what I’m really made of. I’m a soft pathetic little boy on a mattress pretending to be a journalist.

What am I learning? Is it how far the human spirit can be pushed? I don’t know. I don’t know what I’m doing out here anymore. I thought I was exposing homelessness but the more I live like the homeless the less I know. How do they do it? I keep asking myself this question over and over again. It haunts me in this sleepless night.

Finally sunlight pierces through the window. Mercy.

“Alright, let’s go,” I say.

Steve doesn’t question a thing. We walk out of the room. Thankfully, he doesn’t ask where I puked, he just keeps walking around the backyard through the demolished side of the house and back onto the street as I follow. It is still freezing and I’m still feeling sick. I don’t want to move – I want to crawl up in a ball and die but I know we need to keep moving. Down the street we go.

“Where we going?” he asks.

“Gas station,” I tell him and we’re off.

Steve walks fast for a short guy. I keep lagging half-drunk, half-sick and entirely freezing to death. My jaw is jumping up and down in my mouth from the uncontrollable shivering. I pause for a second to see if I can concentrate on the shivering long enough to get it to stop. It works for a second before my body goes back into convulsive shivering. Down the street we go.

Faster, faster, I think to myself. There has to be warmth there. We head to the gas station like the Jews to the Promised Land. Finally I see it. We cross the street and half-run, half-stumble inside.

Oh dear God, the warmth hugs me in such a sweet embrace it feels like a mother holding her child for the very first time. I just stand there taking it all in.

Life is beautiful.

The Indian guy behind the counter asks me if I’m stoned. I don’t bother responding. Somehow Steve has found some more change and buys himself some more loosies. He asks the guy if he has water, to which the guy replies that Steve can use the bathroom. Steve goes in and comes out about five minutes later.

“So, what do you want to do?” Steve says, his voice filling the silent morning air.

“We’re not gonna make it on our own man… I’m calling public safety, they’ll get us out of here,” I reply.

“You sure about that?” he asks me.

“What choice do we have?”

“That’s true.”

I make the call.

A woman responds on the other end. I tell her that we need someone to rescue us. She asks where we are. I tell her Bridgeport, to which she replies that she’s not sure if she can send someone, she has to go check.

A few moments later an officer is on the phone.

“Where you at, son?” he asks me, his voice a combination of concern and anger.

“I’m in Bridgeport freezing to death – I was working on a journalism project for my class but now we have no way back,” I say.

“Someone else is there with you?”

“Yeah, another student. We really need your help,” I tell him.

“Where are you?” he asks.

“Bridgeport.”

“I know that – but what street, what intersection?”

“Umm…. Lemme see… Clinton and Fairfield,” I tell him.

His voice gets deadly serious. “Stay right there. We’re coming for you.” I hear a click on his end of the call.

Hallelujah! I tell Steve they’re coming. I ask the Indian man for water; I’m dehydrated from vomiting all night. He offers me the bathroom and I do the unthinkable. I drink the water out the faucet of the bathroom of a gas station. Water has never tasted so sweet. I drink until my stomach hurts, until I can’t have anymore and then some more. I walk back outside and quickly yell for to Steve to come.

“They’re here!” I tell him, relieved. I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to see a public safety vehicle.

The officer tells us how stupid we were to be where we were. He tells us how that’s the area where the most robberies and stabbings occur, and that he should know because he used to be a paramedic in Bridgeport before he became a public safety officer. I don’t care anymore. I’m just happy to be alive and to be going back to my room and my bed.

I tell him how I was inspired by Hunter Thompson and he goes on some long spiel about how much he loved the Hells Angels’ story, but how times were different then and that we’re only kids. Yet halfway through his lecture he changes his mind.

“I guess if there’s ever a point in your life when you can do stupid s**t like this it’s now… you guys are young healthy college students, this time in your life only happens once. I guess you’re making the most of it.”

I’m touched.

But by what? The sickness inside of me. Oh no, I think to myself, not in the car. I hold down the urge to vomit. I cannot get in trouble again. With the last remains of my reserve energy I manage to keep a composed face and act normal long enough for him to drop us off in front of Loyola and drive away. I walk up the steps with Steve. I swipe the door open and I know that I’m not going to make it to the bathroom. I see the recycling container and put my mouth to the slit where the newspaper goes. I throw up all the water and keep going ’til I can’t go on anymore, till there’s nothing left.

I pray that the priest doesn’t come out and see me.

I’m dry heaving but feeling better. I walk to my room and get an Advil. I drink some water and say goodbye to Steve with a simple handshake; we’re both too shaken by the experience to know how to say anything to one another right now.

I climb up to my bed atop my roommate and wrap myself up in my blanket; I don’t even take off my clothes or shoes. I lay there and stare at the sunlit wall, trying to turn off my brain so I can sleep. It’s seven in the morning now and slowly the exhaustion settles like anesthesia; I unknowingly fall asleep until four in the afternoon.

My dad calls and wakes me up from my nap. I tell him of how I just survived the night and how I appreciate my life so much more now because I know what it’s like to be homeless. He stops me and says to me that I have no idea what it’s like to be homeless, that I learned what it’s like to sleep outside in the cold. He tells me that I knew I’d be coming back to a warm bed and a meal and a shower and clean clothes, but to truly be homeless is to know what it’s like to wake up knowing you won’t have any of those things, and to not know when you ever will.

“It is a sense of helplessness that you will never, ever understand.”

What Exactly Is a Photo, But a Memory?

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In most cases when looking at a photograph from childhood, a fond memory returns from that instantaneous moment in which the photo was captured, even though the rest of the day may be a blur.

But if we don’t remember all that happened that day, are what we see and what our mind perceives of the event all true?

As the common saying goes, “a picture is worth a thousand words.” That is exactly what psychology professor Dr. Linda Henkel has researched with Fairfield University undergraduate students.

In Henkel’s recent study concerning photograph-induced memory errors, undergraduate students served as research assistants in supervised research. Collaborating with the professor on their own studies, students are able to apply their knowledge of science first hand.

Many find it fascinating to know how our memories perceive certain images, and Fairfield students were able to engage in this scientific research with Dr. Henkel. A new world of cognitive research has unfolded on our very own campus, and all of it is relatable to our daily tasks.

Dr. Henkel said, “Students can be involved by participating in research studies, by serving as research assistants working with a faculty mentor for supervised research, and by developing their own research study as part of independent research.”

The main focus of Dr. Henkel’s latest research was experimenting with students using a series of objects and photos. The students attended three different sessions.

They began by “performing and imagining actions,” and then “being exposed to photographs” of these actions.

The participants then looked at pictures of actions from the first session which they completed, imagined completing, or that never actually occurred. They concluded with a  “memory test” that determined which events the brain actually remembered performing.

As published in this month’s issue of “Applied Cognitive Psychology,” Dr. Henkel’s end results of the experiments concluded, “people may state with confidence that they remember doing something that they did not do.”

By frequently viewing the picture of an event in which you did not actively participate, your brain begins to pick up the visual cues, resulting in false beliefs that you actually did what is seen on the photo before you.

Henkel’s study implies that once we begin to fall into our daily routines at school or work, it can be difficult to decipher between actions we completed and actions we think we completed.

By conversing with a classmate about a past event or envisioning where you last saw your keys as you scrambled out the door, you may begin to mistakenly imagine something that did not in fact happen.

Although photo-induced memory errors may be Henkel’s most recent study done on campus, she is a strong advocate of student research.

In this study she worked with Fairfield undergraduate students, but the possibilities for all students to get involved with scientific research while in school are endless.

Dr. Henkel said, “I think it is also worthwhile to have students be aware that part of the function of a university is the generation of new knowledge through scientific discovery and that there are active researchers in all of our science departments, and they should learn more about the research that is going on here and get involved.”

If you are looking to get involved in research on campus, opportunities will be available in the next few months. In the spring, undergraduate students will join Sigma Xi’s annual poster session to present their very own research studies and experiments.

In October of the coming school year, Dr. Henkel encourages all to engage in the New England Psychological Association’s annual conference, which Fairfield will host.

At the conference, faculty, graduate students, and undergraduate students from all over New England will showcase their work.

Let’s Talk About Sex

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“Let’s talk sex!” a middle-aged woman yelled down the 3rd floor of Campion Hall.

Not something anyone expects at 8 p.m. on an average Fairfield night, but that’s what everyone who attendedSex and Food” on Feb. 9 experienced.

The chocolate fountain and the array of fruits and snacks were only secondary aspects to the program. The most anticipated portion of the program was the talk about a dominant trend in college life: sex.

Jeanne “Mrs. D” DiMuzio, former director of the university’s Health and Wellness center, came to the freshmen residence hall to lead an RCC-sponsored program about the misconceptions of sex.

She didn’t criticize as students expected her to do. Instead, she put the topic into a different perspective, adding to her speech a few of her own stories.

DiMuzio recalled an experiment where men and women were asked to carry a clicker in their pockets. Each time they thought of sex, they were required to click in the number of times.

The end result?

The male subjects clicked about 256 times while females entered in two clicks.

According to a study done by New Strategists Publications, Inc about sexual behavior in the United States, “among women aged 15 to 44, [the] average age at first sexual intercourse was 17.3 years…with male counterparts at…17.0 years on average.”

DiMuzio mentioned that the statistics did not include numbers on oral sex.

DiMuzio then asked the attendees to separate into groups by gender. Everyone wrote down what displays of affection they preferred from the opposite sex.

Females, DiMuzio noted, wrote down phrases like ‘cuddling,’ ‘in-depth conversations’ and acts of ‘chivalry’—actions in nurturing and emotional relationships. Males, however, considered more physical activities.

DiMuzio also discussed the darker side of college sex, such as the rise of “drunken sex,” in which the parties involved consumed alcohol before having intercourse.

She said that no matter how it is viewed by the participants, the act would be considered rape in a court of law.

To end her lecture, DiMuzio warned everyone to have a plan and be safe whenever heading to unfamiliar parties.

DiMuzio is familiar with talking about sex to a younger audience. She has lectured to students numerous times over approximately 30 years, and she said that she enjoyed her time at Fairfield University very much.

“I was so honored to be asked to come back. In every lecture, I try to use a balance of facts, discussion and humor,” DiMuzio said.

Students reacted positively to the program. Henry DeMaso ‘14 described the session as “informative” yet “lighthearted.”

Resident Assistant Mary DiPastina ‘12 agreed. “It gave residents a way to talk openly about sex and relationships in a comfortable setting,” she said.