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Up on the roof

Posted: Tuesday, May. 15, 2012

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John Syme

John Syme graduated from Davidson College with a bachelor of arts degree in French in 1985. He worked as a general-assignment reporter at The Winston-Salem Journal, where he later wrote freelance travel stories during his first solo cross-country road trip in the summer of 1989. He worked as a copywriter at a Charlotte advertising agency, as a research translator at a French nutrition center outside Paris, and as a politics and education newspaper reporter in Charlotte. He returned in 2001 to Davidson, where he is senior writer, alumni editor and instigator of the "Road Trip 2009" blog, which evolved into his current blog, "Daybook Davidson."

Forgive me, Dear Readers, for recycling this vintage piece from spring 2006. But recycling is good, right? Anyway, it’s the week before graduation and we’re all about efficiency on a hard deadline right now. I must dash. Enjoy! —JSS

It is the first day of spring — not by the calendar, but by the campus daffodils — and there is a cool breeze and warm sunshine streaming all around the Chambers dome, which is at arm’s length from me this fine Carolina morning. On the other side of me, there is empty space, much more of it and far emptier than I might have imagined from the brick walkway down below. I stand very still near the edge of the roof facing Main Street, then slowly turn a 360.

“Kind of gives you a loose feeling behind you, doesn’t it?” deadpans Ruben McIntosh. Ruben has worked in Davidson’s physical plant since July 1962, and he holds the key that got us up here. I laugh out loud with College Communications Fellow Jonathan Crooms ’04. The two of us failed last summer to jimmy the newfangled locks in Hance Auditorium (aka Perkins, aka Dome Room) to get out here, so we jumped at the chance this morning to accompany Ruben to the roof.

“Now, I feel like my Davidson experience is complete,” Jonathan says, taking a deep breath and casting a far gaze across several county lines.

You know that feeling of a “Davidson moment”? Well, here was a whole cascade of them, rolling fast and thick and all mixed in together across the years and blue-green acres, from Davidson’s own “Lake Wylie,” built right over there near the future Erwin Lodge in the 1890s; to the golf course that cropped up in the early 1900s behind today’s soccer field; to the strapping young graduates who momentously stripped off their graduation robes to reveal the military uniforms they would wear to herald a new age through the battles of World War II; to the DCPC steeple cross itself, on which Ruben once laid his own hand, by God, doggedly outstretched from a shaky repair construction scaffold in 1968. Davidson moments cascading on down through the disasters and the joys and the grudges and the friendships and the unbridled intellect and the romantic souls that still resonate and inform this nearly terquasquicentennial (175th; I had to look it up) Davidson spring.

Chambers trembles, and up here on the roof, the big bell dutifully tolls its standing orders to an empty spring break campus. And I think to myself, there astride the topmost center of my daily universe: Nothing could be finer.

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