What is Forever Wild?
Forever Wild is a beautiful place. It is Keene, N.Y. Home of the High Peaks, my birthplace and my home.
But it is not just a place.
It is my parents. Two city kids who decided they wanted to live somewhere where they could ski or hike every day and my dad could pee off the back porch if he wanted to. A man and a woman who met at a Cornell law school party, had their first date at the Palms and the rest was history.
It is the scars and stories of my childhood. There are 46 mountains in New York that stand over 4,000 feet, and by my 11th summer, I had climbed them all. The scar on my chin is from sliding face first down a rock slide on Haystack Mountain. I did the Seward Range backpacking trip when I was nine, and I was introduced to teamwork when I found out I had to make room in my pack for community gear. I learned about facing my fears on the Nippletop slide, thinking each step would be my last, and I would tumble down the polished rock until I fell over the edge of the cliff at the bottom.
It is a look. The way most people at Cornell stare at me when I say there were 14 kids on stage at my high school graduation, I dated a guy who did Ironman triathlons for fun, or that I think gutting fish and shooting guns is really fun.
It is what I want for my life. The feeling I get driving north on I-87 with nothing but sky and forest stretched out before me. The desire that drives me to follow an Alaskan waterfall to a summit that gives me a bird’s eye view of a monstrous glacier. The spirit that prompts me to strip naked in the wind on top of a mountain in New Mexico, just because, and the humor that forces me to laugh at myself when I slip and sit on a cactus on the way down.
It’s how I sound. Possibly on the page, and definitely in person when you realize there are only a few faulty traffic signals between my mind and my mouth.
It’s how I look. When I’m jumping in the leaf piles on the Arts Quad, stopping to smell the lilacs outside the law school, or just stopping to play with leaves and seeds in the quads. And definitely when I’m walking home from the library at sunrise.
It’s why I write about sports. For me, Ithaca is a big city. It has public transportation and people who are out on the streets after 7 p.m., both things I had neverlived with before August 2003. In Ithaca, getting away from the sounds of traffic takes more than walking into the woods behind my house. Escaping the glare of streetlights to gaze at the stars is more complicated than lying on my front lawn.
But in this unfamiliar territory, one thing felt like home, and that was spending part of every day talking to people who challenge themselves physically, mentally and even spiritually on a daily basis. Because that it what being an athlete means to me, whether you’re hiking in the woods or tackling someone on the turf. The games we play are at their best a test. A test of willpower, work, faith, love, skill, trust, joy, doubt, fear, and every other emotion under the sun that is pure and true. When I didn’t know who I was or what I was doing at Cornell, writing about sports for the Sun felt like home.
After four years, Cornell feels like home too. Now, with less than a month until I don my cap and gown, I’ll start saying my thank-yous and goodbyes.
Mom: The JBA who taught me about dangling participles. It was your idea for me to come to Cornell, and it looks like you were right after all. Thank you for paying my tuition even when the GPA began to fall and for not taking away my CitiBucks no matter how much Fro-Yo, bagels or beer I consume. I owe you a bottomless debt of gratitude for reading every word I’ve ever written and always having something good to say about it and for being my biggest fan.
Dad: The lawyer who always told me to be more specific and cite my sources. Fighting you for the Sports section and reading four newspapers a day was the beginning. I wish you were here to see where it’s taken me, if only so I could cringe when I hear your embarrassing cheer of “Go Owl!” one more time.
I love you both, and I hope I can be someone who shows the world what great parents you are.
Wiggy: Without you, I never would have signed up to be an Assistant Sports Editor, and for that I cannot thank you enough. Your compliments are the only ones I believe, and you are the best big sister ever.
Bubble and Meat-Man: You probably won’t read this, but I love you anyways and many preemptive thanks for allowing me to live vicariously through your college experiences at Notre Dame and whatever school Peter picks – guaranteed it will win a national championship, just to spite me.
The Girls: My second family. Sarah — without you, Cornell would have just been the college I transferred from instead of where I graduated. Tracie — the best sportswriter ever. You two are first-team All-American roommates for coming on road trips with me. Michy —your heart is big enough to save the world. Ali — my first pick in the gym class of life. KT — my No. 1 girl, no matter how weird I think your clothes are. Cara — sometimes I think you’re already more successful than I will ever be. Brook —let’s play! Danielle — proof that saving the best for last applies to college roommates as well. And Jojo, Alister, Jess, and Momo too. I love you all.
Sexy Paul: My roommates will be chartering the first official Paul Testa Fan Club any day now, that’s how wonderful you are. Thank you for everything, from dragging yourself out of bed on a Saturday morning to watch squash to letting me beat you up in the office and anything in between. I can’t imagine doing this job with anyone else.
Timmy!: The first conversation I had with you was about Syracuse basketball, and things just got better from there. Whether it my first volleyball beat, my first NHL game, my first NFL draft, my first round of golf – well, working with you has been a life-changing experience. Thanks, buddy. You’re the greatest.
Tsao Sauce: You taught me most of what I know, and I can’t thank you enough. Cornell is much more sober experience without you, in every sense of the word. I owe you a phone call.
O-Zone: O-dogger, what can I say? The bar tab after elections my sophomore year will always be one of the best nights of my life because that was the night you gave me your keys to the office. I hope I’ve earned them.
Beefy: Some people go to war, others compet under you. Just kidding. Without you, I would not have been able to do this job. Thank you for making me earn it. And I mean it.
Kyle: I wish I was as pretty as you, but I’ll have to settle for trying to be as good a writer as you are. You set the bar for the section and the paper for as long as I’ve been here, so thank you for making everyone work a little harder.
EJ: Thanks for explaining the term “elephant walk” and introducing the word “Beer-B-Q” into my vocabulary, all the while making compet more entertaining than it had any right to be.
Spice Rack: I blame at least 75 percent of Mascaro’s crankiness during compet on the fact that you left for Italy and gave him no choice but to hand the reins over to a girl, so thanks for that. And for too many ridiculous and hilarious moments to count, including a detour to Perth Amboy and every nickname you ever thought of for a Cornell athlete or Sun writer.
Per Ostman: The legend himself. Thanks for bashing my first column and then retracting it. For better or worse, I’ve gone with my instincts ever since.
Scott Jones: I met you as a pre-frosh, and I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that you sold me on Cornell and The Sun.
Matt Janiga: After an afternoon with you, I was ready for the Chris Mascaros of the world, so thank you.
Josh “Steve Nash” Perlin: You’re off to a great start. Keep it up and please don’t give me too many reasons to spam your inbox.
Lancey-poo, Harry-son, Cor-Dawg and the Mixmaster: The next generation of the best damn Sports section in the Ivy League. I know you’re capable of living up to it, even if your style drives me absolutely nuts. Make us all proud.
Cor-Dawg again: You are a prince.
All of my writers, especially Gorman, Reich, Goodrich and Blakemore: For all your hard work and graciously tolerating my emails and phone calls. Without you, the greatest experience of my life would not have been possible.
Devon, Meredith and Allie: There may be fewer of us girls in the Sports section, but when I read your work I know that less is more. I can’t wait to see what you’ll do next.
Rob(ert): For letting me control the iPod; you are the best road trip partner ever. I will miss our venting sessions. I will not miss you taking random, ugly photographs of me.
Emily and Claire: Where did you go?! How could you abandon me?! This semester has felt like a decade, at least. You were the greatest designers, and on behalf of many future sports editors, thank you for establishing the tradition of the Design snack drawer. People call you one person but I love you each more than I can say.
Will: Thanks for coming back to the Sun and bringing a little J.C. into my life.
Fink and Morisy: A formidable tandem at the top of the masthead. I don’t know how you did it, I’m just happy I got to ride your coattails. Thank you for an incredible board.
Carlos: My homeland brought you Guinness. Yours brought me tequila. No wonder we are friends. Anytime, any place, I would be proud to raise a glass with you.
Ryan Dunn: This what happens when you catch me after a few drinks: I love your hair and in a perfect world you and Rob would have both been on my board.
To the 124th: I’ve tried to articulate this in many midnight edit meetings and it never comes out right, but thank you for changing my life.
To the 125th: I think the best thing the 124th ever did was get all of you to follow in our footsteps. From top to bottom, you blow me away.
Temel, Finkelstein, and Freda: For being the best role models an editor could ask for.
Zach Jones: For being the first guy who would seriously talk sports with me and writing the Valentine’s Day column every girl is waiting for.
Ali P.: For being the other girl in sports! Thank God I had you, or else I would have been in a straight jacket before the end of compet.
Jeremy Hartigan: Thank you for always having time to talk to me and send story ideas my way. Every time I stepped into your office, I felt like I had a backstage pass to the only show on Earth I wanted to see.
Julie Greco, Kevin Zeise, Lindsey Michelik: Thank you for your time, patience, and friendship. Even if my face in your doorway meant an addition to your endless to-do lists, you were always happy to see me, and I can’t tell you how much I appreciate all your help.
Marlene Crockford and Thelma Reeves: The true gatekeepers of Cornell Athletics. Thank you for taking such good care of me and helping me with anything and everything I asked for.
Andy Noel: It was a pleasure working with you, and refreshing to see that the person in charge of it all had the same enthusiasm and passion for Cornell sports that I do.
Dick Blood, Deitre Collins-Parker, Jim Knowles ’87, Steve Donahue, Jeff Tambroni: My mom asked me if I would introduce her to professors at graduation, and I told her that I would rather introduce her to the coaches I have worked with at Cornell. You are the best that Cornell has to offer. Thank you for sharing your insight on the games I love, and more importantly, teaching me all the intangible and unspoken things that sports have to offer.
Rob Koll: For the offering up the best and most outrageous quotes every time, without fail. I wish there were more interviews like you.
To the other coaches and athletes: For being the unwitting guinea pigs as I tried to figure out how this whole thing worked and taking me seriously and treating me with respect along the way.
Dan and Will: For giving me faith in Cornell fans and inviting me to play on all your intramural teams, which were truly the highlight of my life.
Schoeder: One day in the future, you will hear the door to the office open and a certain distinctive shriek pierce the calm air of the newsroom. I hope you’ll be happy to see me!
To Marty, Mrs. Bishop and Amy: Thank you for all your help and kindness, whether it was just a friendly hello or a bottomless candy dish.
To the readers: I haven’t felt this way since August, 2005, the night before my first column appeared on this page. I was full of so much nervous energy I couldn’t sit still and so scared of what you might think that I felt physically ill. All I wanted was for what would run next to my picture in the paper to matter and effect someone at least at little bit. Without you, that would not have been possible, so thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Keene is in the Adirondacks, protected in the New York State Constitution in 1895 as a place that would remain “forever wild.”
Thank you. It’s been a wild ride, and I will cherish it forever.