I graduated Spring of 2015 with a one-way ticket to California. An incredible job with eBay beckoned to me from San Jose, and I was determined to drive my first love, a red 2004 Toyota Corolla, through the heartland over to it. By the time I left my childhood home in New Jersey I had 17 days to burn as I weaved my way from sea to shining sea.
During my time as an undergrad in the Pi Lam I house I was known as the spreadsheet master (or nerd depending on who you asked). I meticulously designed sheets to help brothers sign up for volunteer shifts, keep track of brotherhood points, and even for fun one weekend I put together a flexible income calculator that could dynamically calculate federal and state taxes for all 50 states plus D.C. My borderline obsessions with rows and columns overtook my road trip, and I began filling in points of interest I would stop in along the way.
Column B, Row 3 – Pittsburgh, PA – August 5th – August 6th 2015
I pulled up to a nice house in a sprawling residential neighborhood right as a gray day was turning into a grayer evening. Evan Botos, the freshman NIB who lived here, wasn’t even home yet. Instead I was greeted at the door by his parents, who I maybe met once (definitely not sober). They welcomed me in, fixed me dinner, and set me up in the basement for my overnight stay. I think they even left briefly at one point before Evan got back. It was incredible that the Pi Lam relationship instilled so much trust in the Botoses that they felt comfortable leaving me alone in their house while they ran errands.
Eventually Evan came home, and we bro’d out to American History X and some extracurriculars. It was a quick stop, but a greater reminder of how the Pi Lam bond can extend beyond just the brothers and into their families and friends. I was just getting warmed up and got back on I-80 for some overdue cholo debauchery.
Column B Row 4 – Chicago, IL – August 6th – August 10th 2015
Lucas Oleiveira is a name that’s as difficult to spell as it is to pronounce. It was also a name I first learned by reading the Psi class paddle when pledging in the Fall of 2011. Lucas and I never overlapped during undergrad, but through various alumni events and a random meet up in London we became good friends. Lucky for me he was at an age where his career was trending up, which meant I would be crashing at his trendy Gold Coast apartment on Lakeshore drive in Chicago.
When I arrived at his building, Lucas wasn’t there (seems to be a trend right?). He was flying in the next morning from a client, so I was able to use his apartment and meet his roomates without him there. Again, I thought the trust Lucas had for me, having never gone to school with me or spent more than a few days in the same state as me, was incredible.
When he did arrive the next day, it was a bonanza. We started at an alcoholic improv comedy show, did some Guido Drinking at Oak Street Beach, rented a boat and bonged champagne bottles in Chicago’s play pen, hit some apartment parties, and remembered roughly 40% of what we actually did the whole weekend. I left thinking that Chicago in the summer is America’s greatest city, even better than my beloved home city of NYC. I shook Lucas’ manicured hands good-bye, transitioned it to an awkward bro-hug, and headed straight south for my next stop.
Column B, Row 5 – Springfield, MO – August 10th – August 11th 2015
As you could have predicted at this point, by the time I pulled up to Brandon Haake’s house he was not there. In fact, he wasn’t coming at all. I was heading from Chicago to Fayetteville, Arkansas where some buddies of mine lived, and I needed a stop in the middle to keep my sanity. Luckily, Haake said I could stop by his place. He didn’t say he’d be back in Chapel Hill when I swung through.
At first it was just myself, his sister Kameron, and a delivery dinner his mom Carol Ann arranged for us. Then his younger brother came home. Then his mom. I maybe met one of them once at a Parent’s event (again not sober), but was still welcomed in as a cherished guest. I got the house tour, saw some embarrassing pictures of hake, got ice cream milk shakes with the family, played with the cat and dog, and slept in Haake’s room. If a stranger walked in they might’ve thought I lived there. It was comfortable.
The next day Carol Ann took me to lunch at their country club before I headed out. We talked about Brandon and the fraternity, about myself and my job, and about herself and her incredible multinational career. Although we were learning a lot about each other since it was our first real conversation, it felt normal, like we had known each other for a while. Again, the Pi Lam connection created an ease that would normally take months for true strangers to create.
My journey continued for 10 more days, but my Pi Lam couch crashing was over. During those long stretches on the road I had a lot of time to reflect about a lot of things. I thought about my past four years at school and the undetermined years I had ahead of me at eBay in California. I thought about the family and girlfriend that I left in Jersey. And I thought about the fraternity. I thought about why we call each other brothers, why “Brother Mine Forever” isn’t called “My Best Friend for Life.”
To me, it was because only a brother could have experienced the hospitality and trust I experienced in Pittsburgh, Chicago, and Springfield. When your son’s friend who you’ve barely met shows up at your door and he’s not home, you’re cautious. When his brother shows up, you bring him in like he’s your own. When a distant friend who went to the same school as you a year after you graduated gets to your apartment and you’re not there, you tell him to get a hotel. When a brother shows up, you leave him the key.
Our brotherhood is uniquely filled with different people from different places. I got to see that firsthand on my travels. But the unifying fact is that we are all brothers. And brothers care for their brothers. They are bound together, by a bond that stronger grows, as years roll by.