Summiting Shea Center

Posted: Tuesday November 18, 2014

The more structured an adventure the easier it becomes to plan and pull off successfully, but with no threat of randomness and unpredictability an adventure can easily mellow into what winds up feeling like just a paid tour and thus I a tourist. I could not allow myself to sink to such petty tourist levels and so I began to loosely plan just how I would reach that top roof ledge of that tallest building on campus. I purposely allowed the chance for unforeseen error to lethally inject itself into my plan, as the thrills which follow as a result of unpredictability are comparable to the alcohol in beer; the only true appeal. I doubt any student ever climbed to that top roof ledge, such a thought alone was probably never even conceived within their boring mind. But for I, such thought became branded in my mind. I would succeed, I may even be first.

The people attending university were largely dull unimaginative robots, programmed to only come and go, laking any free-will motives. Gone was their ability to think beyond regurgitating textbook knowledge, no internal motive to explore, any imagination hindered by monotony, they at best exhibiting curiosity like dead cats. These people wandered from class to class but never took the time to stop and see, pausing only just to light up a cigarette to calm their stressed nerves or chat with a friend about who failed what, before continuing on their set mental track as if having transformed into a predestined human commuter train. Fortunately no room for me to hop on board this route.

None of these humans ever looked up because the cement sidewalk just below was far too fascinating; solid grey and dotted with monochrome splotches of spat out weathered chewing gum, what an incredible sight, the random patterns created by the flattened bubble gum must have been mind blowing, electrifying the nervous system of their insignificant brains! But perhaps I was thinking too cynically of these people, my peers. Maybe they all suffered from broken necks and wanted nothing more than to look up but couldn't muster the strength for the pain would surely be too overwhelming. Certainly though that couldn't be the case for a mass trauma event to cause cervical fracture zombies would mean they'd all actually be dead, and thus so would I. But I swear I was alive.

I began to notice that this predictable pattern of inattentiveness displayed by the masses of boring people played out day after day, without fail. This pattern I witnessed became just the weak link I was banking on to expose itself. Order is predictable, it's structured, and upon discovering any structure's weakness it can then become easily deciphered, infiltrated. Instead it was randomness I feared, but yet its unexpected characteristics I so craved. I had to find a stable middle ground between structure and thrilling unpredictability.

A system of order is simply just an illusion, but when stuck in such a system you too become delusional, unaware to everything just outside of the soapy bubble of predictability and comfort which encompasses you. However at any moment that bubble could pop, the stinging sensation of soap in your eyes temporarily blinding you before you veer off track, crash and burn at the sight of reality appearing just before your teary eyes. As merely just a spectator to all the systematized people around, by default I inherited the outsider advantage. I realized that I could harness the power of invisibility, for I could almost certainly count on the predicability of the sidewalk staring students not to notice me if I were to climb to the top.

Student habit predictability counterbalanced much of my fears stemming from being spotted during my proposed climbing adventure, I was positive no student would look up. Reaching the rooftop ledge was becoming more and more of an obtainable goal and my will to reach it only became stronger. I daydreamed though various classes during the passing days and weeks and began to ponder the possibility of campus police patrols perhaps turning their necks skyward, spoiling my rooftop thrills. But further people watching proved patrols not to be much of a worry after all. For the big bad boys in blue could almost always be spotted napping away inside their cruisers or driving around aimlessly looking for easy prey that involved as minimal "stepping out of the car" action as possible. Often multiple police relaxing within their vehicles would park in a sort of semicircle fashion in the back of an upper tier of the Rec Center Parking Lot Number 6. I witnessed this near daily assembly of security theater so often I began to personally term the formation "Po-Po Pow-Wow", for the authority actors involved were always just short of singing and dancing around a fire fueled by burning bogus citations.

Conclusion of class began earlier than expected one evening. Everyone hurriedly exited the classroom eager to return home to accomplish something of no importance. I however was feeling an adventure, nothing like a little post-slumber adrenaline rush to repair a lobotomized mind scrambled during a three hour evening lecture. Looking up, the moon was shy, showing just a sliver of it's glowing face, perfect. The night was young and activity around campus null. I took a brisk walk to that building with the rooftop perch. Shea Center for Performing Arts, a hideous 1960's era, 922 seat theater building, notably home to the prestigious William Paterson University college of music. Even under the cover of darkness the structures upper most ledge now nearly out of sight still taunted me, but I knew tonight I'd be sitting up there, chatting with the stars.

It didn't take long, but I knew it wouldn't for I had long ago planned everything out. I reached the summit of Shea, but it all seemed relatively meaningless. The view was absolutely gorgeous, best seat in campus, no doubt. In the distance the NYC skyline polluted the horizon an orange hue, directly across from the radiant City sky, darkness crashed into the distant hills blending together to form a black void, a perfect canvas for the stars to shine. The contrast between the glowing City and dozens distant twinkling suns was seemingly poetic, but with no rhyme or reason, a worthy reward to a less than risky climb.

Below the university buildings glow, a red light flickers atop a distant water tower, a dog barks, its voice too distant to gauge a location. I sat with my legs dangling over the edge, just watching and waiting. Time is paused now, but still the night lingers longer. I watch as prior illuminated buildings became dark and students exiting their last classes for the night walk past just below, heads down as predicted. Not a soul would realize I was sitting just a few dozen feet above, I was masked under the cover of darkness, just watching.

Climbing gives you a feeling of superiority, the feeling burns bright like a flare in the middle of your chest, for in that moment you exist above everyone around you; you're higher, better, brighter. It's addicting, satisfying, but all a mind game, an illusion. This time the game was too easy, too predictable. Back on ground, I walked with my head down, noticing the gum splotches illuminated by the sidewalk lamp posts. Had I just taken a tour? I was now no different than everyone else I had just minutes ago felt superior too. It's only when you're back on ground that the literal high of climbing quickly wears off, the internal flare extinguished. I am now level with the crowd, even though there is no one around. I am no better. I will need to climb again. Plan less.

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