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November 26, 2014 - Image 10

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The Michigan Daily, 2014-11-26

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Wednesday, November6 ' / S ement 7B
Personal Statement: What it really means to be gone

ann arbor affairs: why i'm smitten with 'SNL'
BY ERIKA HARWOOD

Ican't really recall the specif-
ics of my first time - but I do
remember loving it. It happened
in the middle of the day, around 1
p.m. I was perched on the edge of
my couch, dazed with anticipation
because it was finally, after all those
years, happening.
My parents - in an attempt at
"parenting" - never let me watch
"Saturday Night Live" when I was
a kid. I'm an only child and they
had me at a rather ripe
age, so while they wereI
pretty lax about most
things, they liked to
crack down on my TV
habits. Up until third or v
fourth grade, I almost
exclusively watched
TV Land - not because.
they made me, but .
because I genuinely and
wholeheartedly loved it.
My biggest only-child
quirk is that I was basi-
cally raised tobe some- ILLUSTR
one who was born in
1955, which may also account for
my typically grumpy disposition.
At the age of six, I could give you a
season-by-season account of "The
Brady Bunch," sing the theme song
to "Green Acres" on cue and go on
for hours about why Eddie Haskell
was a real piece of shit.
The one show that trumped them
all though was "I Love Lucy" - and
I didn't have to explicitly tell you
that to make it clear. I watched it
with psychopathic intensity and
collected any and all paraphernalia
I came across. I had books, orna-
ments that lit up and a VHS tape I
took almost everywhere with me
on the off chance there would be a
VCR around (you know the '90s). I
even buried my pet goldfish Lucky
in an "I Love Lucy" themed mint tin

labeled "Lucy's Predicamints." He
was two years old and up until that*
point in my life, his death was the
biggest predicament I had faced, so
it seemed like the right move.
"I Love Lucy" was my gateway
drug into a dangerous addiction to
comedy. I'm thankful to this day that
I grew up admiring funny women
because now L ,have a very who-
gives-a-shit attitude toward the "are
women funny" debate. There's no

THE WEEKLY REEL
Fraternities Nlav football for awareness

WATCH MORE AT MICHIGAN DAILY.COM
T H E statement
Magazine Editor: Photo Editor: Managing Editor:
Carlina Duan Ruby Wallau Katie Burke
Deputy Editors: lIlustrator: Copy Editors:
Max Radwin Megan Mulholland Mark Ossolinski
Amrutha Sivakumar Editor in Chief: Meaghan Thompson
Design Editor: Peter Shahin
Amy Mackens
COVER BY AMY MACKENS

ATIONS BY MEGAN MULHOLLAND
question - just look at Lucille Ball.
Also, this is 2014 - get it together.
I spent the next formative years
of my life reveling in anything that
made me laugh, even if I didn't get it.
I would watch movies like "Tommy
Boy," "Groundhog Day" and "Cad-
dyshack" with my dad, echoing his
cackleswith added confusion.
As my love for comedy developed,
"Saturday Night Live" was always
in the back of my mind. My dad
would constantly reference old skits
from the '70s and '80s and mention
names I'd be familiar with like Steve
Martin and John Belushi. Yet every
time I brought it up, he'd shut down
my wishes to watch it, telling me it
wasn't appropriate for someone my
age. There was no way around this.,
Our house was very open and I was
afraid he'd hear the TV in the living
room late at night. Also, I diln'treal-
ly know how to operate the remote.
It was mainly the latter holding me
back.
But then my parents got divorced
and my dad had almost zero author-
ity over me. OK, that's not true at
all, but it was definitely a lot easier
to peruse NBC's listings when I
was only confronted with his televi-
sion restrictions every other week-
end, and my mom's attitude toward
my pop culture interests became
increasingly blase.

So then it happened. The first
time I watched "Saturday Night
Live" was directly after I got home
from seventh grade camp, which
was a winter hellscape I thought I'd
never return from. My mom bought
me lunch and I parked my butt
squarely in front of a TV tray and the
E! network. It was a rerun airing in
the middle of the day - a shortened,
hour-longversion of an episode from
the '90s. I don't remember the spe-
cifics; I don't know who the host was
or the musical guest, but I remember
being completely engrossed by the
cast. People like Will Ferrell, Rachel
Dratch and Molly Shannon. From
that point, I was all in. I watched
every rerun on E! that I could, quot-
ing sketches at every opportune (and
inopportune) moment and citing
Chris Kattan as my middle school
crush - yes, the guy who played
Mango.
I started staying up until 11:30
p.m. each Saturday night in order to
finally watch episodes in real time.
This was the era of Tina Fey, Amy
Poehler, Maya Rudolph and Kris-
ten Wiig - I undoubtedly picked
the right time to get into it. I would
record each episode and rewatch
them as often as I could, memoriz-
ing lines and analyzing Weekend
Update jokes - still not fully under-
standing all of them. I'd make friends
reenact my favorite skits (which
were recorded on home videos I'm
afraid to revisit) and embark on what
I assume were excruciatingly long
discussions on the past week's show.
I was in love and Lorne Michaels
was cupid.
The affair accompanied me to col-
lege, where I would frequently opt
out of healthy social interactions in
order to stay in and watch TV on Sat-
urday nights. I was miserable - as
most bratty18 year olds are - for the
bulkofmyfreshmanyear,andwould
relish in the moments I got to be by
myself and watch "SNL."
The show has changed alot since
I started watching, and at times, I'm
critical of it, but in the way a high
school football coach from Texas
is critical of his star quarterback.
"SNL" is the reason I started writing
and the reason I wasn't a bigger pain
in the ass as a teenager. It's the rea-
son I fell so deeply in love with com-
edy - a feeling I've yet to shake years
and years after that one afternoon on
my couch.

A village means to not be alone,
to know that there's some-
hing of you in the people, in
the plants, and in the soil, that even
when you are not there it waits to
welcomeyou."
- Cesare Pavese, "The Moon
and the Bonfires"
My grandmother died this year
on a Monday night in September.
My brother called me at work
that night and told me she had been
admitted to the University Hospi-
tal. He said it was serious, so I left
work, got on my bike and frantically
pedaled over to the
emergency room.
She was already
unconscious when I
arrived, a respirator
keeping her alive as the
doctors and my aunts
and uncles decided
whether to turn off the
machine. The aneu-
rysm resting near her
heart had finally burst,
and there was nothing
left to be done. They
turned off the respira-
tor. I watched her heart
rate slowly drop to zero }
on the monitor. I held n
her hand as the doctor
felt for a missing pulse.
In a way, it seemed
fitting that she should
go on a Monday. Every
week from when I was
about five years old,
I had spent Monday
evenings sitting in the
armchair on the left side of her
living room, "America's Funniest
Home Videos" playing on the TV
while Iate bowls ofstrawberry Jell-
O and butter pecan ice cream.
Monday nights didn't vary too
much from week to week. They
started with opening the sliding
door to her condo, being greeted by
the smell of rosemary, the warmth
of the stove, the pitcher of mint
iced tea ready to be poured and she,
looking very much like a little Ital-
ian grandma in her purple blouse,
pearl necklace and glasses, waiting
for me to hand her the mail.
In the evening, while I ate my
Jell-O, she would sit in her reclin-
er on the other side of the room,
thumbing through a magazine or
looking at old pictures. Between
commercials, when both my broth-
er and my dad had dozed off in their
chairs, we would talk about her
friends Rose and Diana, her latest

bingo winnings at the senior center
and about the new Spanish mass at
her church.
We would say goodbye at
around 10 - a kiss for my dad, a
hug for my brother and I - and as
we pulled away she stood behind
the glass of her sliding door, waving
until we were out of view.
When she died, I didn't have any
regrets. Having spent four or five
hours with her every week for the
better part of 15 years, it wasn't like
there was any dinner we could have
had together, but didn't; any words
we never got the chance to say.

by Adam DePollo
disjointed phrases, the faint residue
of smells and sounds, a missing feel-
ing of home.
She was fading into the back-
ground of faces from my childhood,
becoming another one of the dead
relatives lining the pages of our
photo albums, turning into a set of
anecdotal stories. She seemed, with
each day, less and less like the per-
son I knew, with all her affectations
and complexities, and more like an
ossified, idealized caricature of her-
self. This was what it really meant
for her to be gone.

tion home by any of the Michigan
DePollos willing to make the eight-
hour drive.
My friends and I stayed in her
house for a few days, cooking piero-
gies on her stove and watching her
DVDs of "The Andy Griffith Show."
My aunt used to call TV the "idiot
box," which sounded more like "ijit
box" in her West Virginia twang.
She thought it was an unnecessary
waste of time, which she preferred
to spend spying on the neighbors
through her windows and listen-
ing for the slightest crackle coming
from her police scanner.

As I buttoned my pants and
dried my hands, the uncle I never
met smiling back at me through the
glass, I felt myself trying to stifle a
chuckle. It was a funny scene, after
all. Here we were, the only DePol- A#
los left in DePollo's Store, having a
wordless conversation over a toilet.
Maybe he was a pretty charming
guy.
Following the calendar, it was
still summer when I was in Davis.
But fall comes early in West Vir-
ginia. At night, cool, moist airblows
down from the mountaintop, con-
densing into a thick fog
when it meets the tree-
lined roads warmed by
the August sunshine.
Our last night on
the mountain was one
of those foggy nights,
when the air is thick
and the houses are out
of focus. Looking down
into the mist from a win-
dow in my Aunt Lucy's
bedroom, I thought
about what I would tell
my grandmother when
Q I got back to Michigan.
I thought I would 4
tell her about meeting
my uncle in the bath-
room at DePollo's Store,
about watching the
"ijit box" in her sister's
house, about the fog on
the mountain, about the
S- AD pierogies and almond
brittle.
I knew the stories
she would tell me about her broth-
er-in-law John. I could see the bit-
tersweet smile that would come
across her face when I told her
about watching Aunt Lucy's TV.
I could hear her laugh when she
tried to picture me, the grandson
that never learned to cook, burn-
ing pierogies and setting off smoke
detectors in her sister's kitchen.
I didn't get to tell her about
West Virginia before she died but,
in a way, it didn't matter.
In that moment, though she was
400 miles away, watching her last
few episodes of "Dancing with the
Stars" in a condo in Novi, I could-
picture her with as much clarity as
if she were in Lucy's bedroom with
me, looking down into the fog-filled
streets.
In that mountaintop town in
West Virginia, there's something of
her that's much more real than an
old face in a photo album.

If anything, it had seemed in
recent years that we were running
out of things to say. She was 94 and
it was getting harder for her to stay
up talking until 10 o'clock. She start-
ed repeating the same stories week
after week, the TV filled up longer
and longer silences. I hadn't spoken
to her in three weeks before that
last Monday night in September.
In hindsight, she seemed to be
slowly fading away. And after the
funeral, after the out-of-town rela-
tives had returned home, after the
tearful remembrances and divvied
up assets, she was gone.
What bothered me was how dif-
ferent this type of "gone" felt from
simple absence. Even when I think
of her now, I don't hear her voice or
see her face. I remember the smell
of warm rosemary, Tom Bergeron
narrating crotch shots, tears drop-
ping on a wrinkled hand hanging
off the side of a hospital bed. A set of

Three weeks before she died,
I was driving with two friends on
narrow mountain roads, listening
to Biggie Smalls and eating almond
brittle.
We were 3,100 feet above sea
level in Davis, West Virginia, the
tiny coal mining town where my
grandma grew up and where her
younger sister Lucy retired after
a long career sewing car seats at
a Ford Motor Company factory in
Detroit. Their parents had immi-
grated to Davis from Sulmona, a
small city in Italy's mountainous
Abruzzo region, to join the commu-
nity of expatriate Italians digging
tunnels into the peaks around the
town.
Aunt Lucy had moved back into
her parents' house in the '80s, but
she died last spring and, since then,
the precariously perched, sheet*
metal-encased building was sitting
empty, waitingto be used as a vaca-

As I lay in her old bed, watch-
ing a young Ron Howard cavort
across the screen, I remembered
that she had been learning to play
the piano in her old age. She wasn't
done being a person. I wondered if
she had changed her mind about the
"ijit box."
On our last night in West Vir-
ginia, we went to watch a five-piece
band from Alabama play rockabilly
at the Purple Fiddle, a cafe built in
what was once my family's general
store. I paid the $10 cover charge
while looking at a sign resting over
the hostess's shoulder, mixed in
with the other antique odds and
ends liningthe cafe's shelves. It read
"DePollo's Store."
An obituary for my great uncle
John, the last DePollo to own the
family store, was hanging in the
cafe's bathroom. I never knew him,
but my aunts and uncles always told
me that he was a real lady-killer.

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