Granite State of Mind, #3: Power Alley, Memorial Union Building, UNH, Durham
There are some places, the University of New Hampshire among them, that can't be encapsulated with a single entry. There are multiple locations at UNH that require their own conversations. First and foremost is the Memorial Union Building, the venerable old MUB, the state's official war memorial, the student union building. While there are plenty of spaces in that building I remember fondly, there's one hallway in particular I cherish: the lower level hallway known to generations of MUB rats as Power Alley, home to the historically vibrant student organization and student government culture at UNH.
Power Alley began (Begins? Is it still called that? Should it be?) atop the long wooden ramp from the Upper Quad where the student government offices could be found. Following my freshman year, in the summer of 1994, the Student Senate offices moved across the hall into their current digs, cohabiting with the MUB Board of Governors, the SBP/VP, the graduate council, and IFC/Panhel as part of the grand experiment called the Student Government Association. The student government at UNH was robust, aggressive, prepared, and consistently deserving of the place at the table we demanded in the university's councils of power. That student autonomy and influence has eroded in the past couple of decades, from what I understand. It's a pity - it was a rare and hard-won thing, and deeply formative for many of us. I'd tag you guys here, but there are hundreds of you!
From the student government digs, Power Alley wound past the commuter student lounge, took a hard left at the entrance to the university bookstore and then became a long and arrow-straight corridor lined with wooden doorways to whole galaxies of student involvement. WUNH, the student radio station Joel Mellin and Daniel Holmes and Dustin Ruoff and many others called home, and where I had the singular experience of co-hosting a political talk show with Matthew Saunders and Liz Purdy and future Boston mayor Tito Jackson. The Diversity Support Coalition, including the Black Student Union and the Alliance and others lived there, as did the Campus Activities Board (home of the future former missus, Jen Strickland Cyr), and a host of others. At the far end were the student press operations, including The New Hampshire, UNH's then-thriving student newspaper. There were plenty of Monday and Thursday nights I'd be a professional irritant to those trying to put out the next day's edition, including Kara Kuzirian Kirby, Michelle Morrissey, Andrew Steere, and Brian Bosworth. TNH abutted the area that once held a crumbling candlepin bowling alley, and was repurposed as Denny's/Lumpy's/whatever other names came and went. Welcome to the Theatre of Magic!
That hallway, and the rooms it embraced, were my home during those four years. My fraternity, my dorm, my tribe. I learned more there than in any classrooms on campus, and the lessons endure to this day. Find your passion and your talents. Surround yourself with people just as passionate and just as talented, though their interests and poltiics may differ from yours. We had a community down there, a whole society writ small, a simmering crucible of opinions and experiences and mistakes and challenges. One of my favorite memories is from the summer of 1995, when the building was undergoing wholesale renovations and I joined the student maintenance crew under the supervision of the immortal Dave Emanuel (I think that was when I met Kevin Cormier, unless memory fails). We painted, we replaced ceilings, we unpacked furniture. One of my tasks was to take down all the wooden doors along Power Alley, sand, refinish, and rehang them. Dozens of doors, every one precious for the students who considered it the front door to their home. That summer I acquired a tangible intimacy with the Alley, and a sense of shared ownership with all my fellow denizens of the deep in that awesome, experimental, once-upon-a-time place. What we did there mattered, if only to us and to each other.
The MUB, I hear, is still open.