Sunday, April 8, 2007



I'm not a superstitious person. My background in physics and philosophy together with a Catholic upbringing sometimes leads me to get on self-contradictory arguments in my head between multiple points of view about the nature of God and the Universe and the Big Bang. Especially on long stretches of straight highways without variation of terrain. I am yet to resolve anything.

But I do have one quirky connection to what I hope is the heaven's above, or at least to remembering a good person from my past, the way I believe many would like to be remembered. That connection is channeled to me thanks to the breakthough of LCD's in the mid part of last century. Liquid Crystal Displays which allow us to know the exact time, as opposed to a shadow from a stick perpendicular to the ground compared to a line drawn in the sand. In my case, it is the time 10:01. Whenever I see that displayed on a timepiece I feel strength and energy, the power to stick to my guns, do the right thing, to try and be the best I can be, to question everything and try and make the world a better place. All thanks to my old fraternity brother Mark Schneider.

Mark was a year older than me, we met in 1984 at Wabash College where we became pledge and fraternity brothers at Phi Kappa Psi our freshman year. We became friends, as many of us Wally's did through our shared classes, activities and hijinks. Mark was a very thoughtful person, with a quick, strong, biting wit, who read with a passion, played hackysack and whiffleball, and was a defuser of situations, definitely the "why can't we all get along type". He was about 6 feet tall, with thin medium length brown hair, average build, and occasional scraggle of a beard. He had a love and knowledge of music of all types, and we would trade albums, tapes, thoughts and information constantly. We also would talk politics, communism, capitalism, socialism, with both of us sharing a strong sense of social justice.

When he was in high school at North Central in Indianapolis Mark started a student newspaper that questioned different school policies, priorities, and poked fun at various high school related things. He crossed the wrong people with the power of his pen and was expelled for exercising his first amendment rights. The ACLU took up his case and he was restored to the proper place in his public high school, with all the rights and priviledges due to every teenager, and citizen, in the United States.

Mark's family was medium large, working class, with five or six siblings looked after by his mother as I recall. One of his brothers worked as a band manager for local rock and roll acts. One of the acts that he managed was a band named 10:01, and Mark had one of their "concert" T-shirts a fairly non-descript black shirt, with some white squiggly lines and "10:01" printed across the chest. Nothing special about it, the band I had never heard of, nor have I to this day, nothing cool about the design, only significant because it was a shirt Mark wore.

Near the end of our freshman year, I invited Mark to come to Boston with me for the summer, a place he hadn't been. Neither of us had jobs, but my mom was willing to let a friend stay with us and see what came of it. I will never forget the 16 or so hour overnight drive from Indy to Massachusetts, where we stayed awake by a long game of Alphabet Rock N Roll. The game was simple: go through the alphabet one letter at a time, for each letter the two of us would alternate naming a band that started with that letter of the alphabet. The person who couldn't name a band during their turn would lose that letter of the alphabet. The timer was the radio; if someone couldn't name a band in the amount of time that a whole song played on the radio, they would lose that letter. So, for A we would go Aerosmith, ABBA, Aldo Nova, Allman Brothers, Asia, A Flock of Seagulls....with discussion about the merits of any group named, favorite songs, or anecdotes superceding the game at any and many points. I'm not sure who won, or even if we got all the way to ZZ Top, or even X, but we certainly stayed awake all night and arrived safely on the East Coast.

We, especially me, went through a few jobs that summer. One job we tried was selling pots and pans, Mark opted out the first day, I took a few days longer to give up the ghost. Mark, true to his nature, ended up working for MASSPIRG which is a non-profit organization that raises money to advocate for environmental causes. It was a tough door to door job with a lot of rejection and not much money, but offered Mark a chance to meet and talk with many people and advocate for something he believed in. I eventually did some painting and carpentry to help pay for school, not much of note. One weekend a friend of my mother's in Concord, MA organized a house painting party which Mark and I got roped into helping out with for the day. Mark happened to be wearing his 10:01 shirt that day, and someone snapped a picture of us in the yard sitting in the aluminum and nylon lawn chairs of the day. Both so youthful, long hair, ill fitting and looking clothes (me especially!), yet both full of potential. I still have that picture, on the top of a clothes drawer in my bedroom.

We returned to Crawfordsville, IN, home of Wabash, in the fall and enjoyed a great year. The Little Giant Football team was strong, Mark was studying English, I was filled up with Physics and Math courses, we had a great group of guys at the frat house which ended up winning Intramurals, and enjoyed many other fun events and hijinks filling our time as we all prepared for bright futures.

The following summer I returned to Boston and worked for hi-tech company Bolt Beranek and Newman working with the advanced programming group on something that has never really reached its potential called the internet. Mark ended up going to the Caribbean to visit his aunt and cousins. One day when they were driving into town, their car was hit by a truck. Among the many casualties was Mark Schneider.

Since then whenever I see 10:01 I think of Mark up there looking down on me, asking questions as he always did: "is what you are doing significant?",
"are you doing the right thing?", "are you caring for the planet and those less fortunate than you?". I also seem to see 10:01 at odd times, or times of conflict, or self-doubt and it is a reassuring message I receive. The message seems to say "you may not have won, but you did the right thing", or "have strength you are not alone, and you are on the right path". Sometimes I see 10:01 when things are going well, and it is a pat on the back, and a reminder that I get: "congratulations, you worked hard for what you achieved, but you can do even more!" Finally, at times it is just a reminder of how fleeting life can be, to live it to the fullest and the best, with no regrets for what I've done because I did so consciously and knowlingly of my own free will, as Mark appreciated more than most.

A few years ago I went back to Wabash for a big football game and for a fundraiser to renovate our fraternity house. There was a communal breakfast in one of the school buildings and about a hundred Phi Psi alumni were on hand. The previous year in the Monon Bell game against our arch rival, on the final play of the game a Hail Mary pass was thrown from the quarterback, and tipped from one reciever into another reciever's hands to win the game on the final play. It was probably the most exciting play in over a hundred years of football at Wabash and they had ordered a limited number of replica footballs from that day and had them signed by the three players involved. That morning they were raffling one of the balls off among all the alumni in attendance. As the wife of a prominent Wabash person stuck her hand into the hat and handed the slip to our fraternity brother, a smile crossed his lips as he said "this is probably very appropriate that it should go to Kevin!" as he threw a spiral across the room to me in my Red and White striped Wabash Overalls. There was good applause and we had great fun throwing the ball around, then later as we beat our rivals again. Later, as I was on my connecting flight to Boston out of Chicago I finally had a chance to relax and enjoy the great weekend I had seeing old friends and fraternity brothers, some not seen since I left school. As I was reminiscing, I looked at the football closely for the first time. Unbelieveably, on the back of the football, in large numbers was stamped 10:01, apparently the model number of this officially sanctioned NCAA football. Mark had been there, with me, with us.

Why write about this now? I've told a few friends about this over the years, usually people that also knew Mark. As I traveled over the bridge from Mexico to the United States, when this adventure truly began I happened to look down at the console on my bike where 10:01 was displayed on the digital clock. Sure enough, on the biggest trip of my life Mark was right there with me, indicating that it was the right thing to do, to see the world, to meet it's people because without seeing the problem you can't always fix the problem. Oddly enough, in Belize where Clara and I were having a rough time I saw 10:01 three days in a row reminding me then of being the person I hope to be, to affect change, to show compassion. Finally, this morning as we woke up in this beautiful house on April 4, 2007 with nothing but a day of relaxation in front of us, 10:01 showed on the blackberry telling me the day had finally come to memorialize what a great, idealistic person Mark was, how much he meant to me and still means to me, and maybe to get others to take a moment and appreciate some of the good people in their lives, how lucky most of us are to be where we are, and to think about how to make the world around us better.


1 comment:

Doug said...

Bravo, Igor, Yaasher Koach!