One of the best things about journalism is the field trips. You get to travel to different corners of the world, meet new people, have interesting conversations, get a taste of places you wouldn’t normally go. For our cover story, staff writer John Monczunski went to Cuba. Jon accompanied Victor Deupi, an assistant professor of architecture, and nine students to study the reclusive nation’s cities, examining the state of urban planning and development there. His story is a window to a little island neighbor that seems mysteriously remote.
While John was away, some of us did research of a different sort. Ed Cohen, an associate editor here, had been heading up a comprehensive search for things to do on football weekends. He had gotten a good many suggestions and was diligently compiling a top-100 list when we agreed a field trip was in order — a kind of laboratory scheme in which real-world conditions might be replicated as authentically as possible.
So one day a bunch of us headed — after work — to the Linebacker, a sort of musky bear-den an arm’s length from campus, for some beers and burgers and good talk about Notre Dame. Joining us were a few other keepers of Irish folklore and myth, Dennis Brown and Denny Moore ’70, from the public relations department. From the same office but a raconteur in his own class, Mike Garvey ’74 came armed with the biting wit to keep us honest. Trying for more intellectual ingredients, we invited Ted Mandell ’86, from the Department of Film, Television and Theatre, whose book and CD relives 100 of the greatest climaxes in college football, and Jim Bellis, anthropologist, consummate storyteller and distinguished silverback of the clan. The institutional memory was in high beam.
Of course, we talked about a lot more than football weekends. We talked about old-time faculty; retold the legendary tales; laughed at the strange, the curious, the idiosyncratic. We had a good time, and it reminded me of some things Dick Conklin ’59 M.A. had said at his retirement dinner a few weeks before. Conklin, who has been essential to the lifeblood of this place for decades, said, “Notre Dame is a place nurtured by myth. Its reality cannot be encompassed by the mind alone; much of its meaning is intuited. It is a place sustained by taking seriously the imponderables. And at the core if its culture is belief in the transcendent, that the ultimate meaning of life is found just beyond where reason can take us.
“But when Notre Dame people gather, they do not talk about their alma mater’s transcendency any more than swimmers converse about water’s buoyancy. Notre Dame people tell stories.”
So we were there swapping stories, telling tales, recreating some favorite moments, redrawing some favorite characters. In the end we came up with a few things for the football weekend list. Mainly we enjoyed our time in those buoyant waters.
I hope this issue takes you there too.
Kerry Temple is editor of Notre Dame Magazine.