Ode to Sam Riley


Virginia Tech lost a legend last week. Sam Riley, a communications professor, passed away last month and I was absolutely jarred to hear the news.

Professor Riley was witty, cheerful, vibrant, and practically every other positive descriptor you could assign a person. I deliberately sought out his classes and would’ve listened to him read names out of a phone book. He’d proudly call himself a geezer and had mastered the art of dad jokes. He taught to never take yourself too seriously and to not shy away from a little silliness, two pillars I keep close in my life as a writer and as a human. I’m honored to have my work enshrined in his Blog of Fame, and I owe him many thanks for helping me become the writer I am now.

I put a lot of stock in Hunter S. Thompson’s old quote, “Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming ‘Wow! What a ride!'” Sam Riley definitely skid in broadside.

Thanks for everything, Professor Riley. We’ll miss you.

So here we are


I started writing this over the summer, and it’s sat on ice in the drafts folder because I wasn’t quite ready to admit that college is ending. But I’ve had such a good time being a functioning derelict the last four and a half years that I feel obligated to finish this.

College has been a running gag full of trial and (mostly) error.

I walked into Gladding Residence Center as innocent as I was awkward. I was really psyched to be in a new area and around friends consistently, but I was also really unaware of what to expect, and a major rookie to drinking to boot (I can, sadly, be quoted as saying, “Yeah, I don’t see why I won’t just keep drinking Burnett’s. It’s cheap, gets the job done, and really isn’t that bad.” *yacks*).

I was the biggest freshman to ever freshman. And I’m damn proud of it. If you weren’t a total try-hard goober as a freshie you missed out. Some awesome memories of ’09 include rushing but not pledging a frat, going apeshit in the VCU student section, swiping into Shafer with Miles and meeting Justin Pierre of Motion City Soundtrack after he played an impromptu acoustic set on the Compass.

It bums me out whenever I think of what things would be like if I stayed at VCU, so I’m glad that I’ll be in Richmond this spring. I’ve got nothing but love for VCU.

Transferring to Virginia Tech was the most I’ve ever deliberately gone out of my comfort zone. I was anxious for four months straight. From the time I handed in my transcript, until the day I packed my Jetta and left for Tech, I wasn’t sure if I made the right choice. Leaving behind tons of both new and old friends, an awesome girl, a familiar area, and great education was terrifying, but I just couldn’t say no to Virginia Tech.

As a Hokie, I…

  • Played club hockey
  • Was a cheerleader
  • Rode the porcelain express
  • Boogie-boogie hedgehog’d
  • Stayed at Waffle House until 4am
  • Ate a ton of Carol Lee donuts
  • Ate even more Benny’s
  • Spent a summer in Blacksburg
  • Lived with some of my best friends
  • Drank lots of Keystone and rum (not together, but come to think of it…)
  • Saw NFG in Greensboro with Fabio
  • Gambled ’til I was broke in Atlantic City
  • Had a trampoline in my backyard
  • Bought a Jetta…again
  • Met a ton of awesome people

I couldn’t possibly list every great memory from my time at Tech. Each year here has been totally different but the common denominator’s been that I’ve had a ton of fun with awesome people. Have I used the word awesome enough? Probably, but it’s all true. I experienced the Hell out of Virginia Tech.

I’m ambivalent about graduating. Take one part pride, one part nervousness and a whole lot of ambition and that’s about what I’m feeling right now. I need to thank my friends for partaking in the silliness, my sister for teaching me so, so much, and my parents for supporting me with no reservations.

And thanks to you if you’ve made it this far down the page. Let’s get drinks sometime. 

I can’t believe it’s over.

But I’m off to great places, today is my day! My mountain is waiting, so I’ll be on my way!

“The world doesn’t give you four choices with a bubble to fill in. There are millions of choices and the questions are much harder.”Ed Weathers

All I know is I don’t know nothin’


Right after beating Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2, I ran into my driveway and flailed around on my first skateboard, thinking about how cool it must feel to grind. The idea of being on a skateboard as it slides across a rail or ledge was just crazy. Hell, I thought that ollieing was impossible (how can I make something not attached to my feet go in the air when I jump?!). Today, I’m proud to say that as I went through adolescence, I made that little twerp proud.

When my family and I packed up and moved from New York to Virginia when I was in middle school, my small world came crashing down. We had just moved into a new neighborhood in N.Y. and having to hit reset and go through being the new kid all over again was something I wasn’t ready for at only 12. But skating was the literal and figurative vehicle I used to meet new people.


Back when I was a teenager I really didn’t appreciate my innocence. My mom would scold me weekly that I tear up shoes to quickly, that all my clothes have holes in them and that there was no way her son would ever have a lip ring (I still think about going out and getting my lip pierced just to make my old self proud and scare the bejesus out of her). I wasn’t nearly self-aware enough to realize that I was just a kid and had no real reason to be worried about anything.

Skateboarding was everything. What I wore, what I watched, what I listened to, and most importantly, who I hung out with were influenced by skating. I look back at the most awkward years of my life with a smile thanks to it. As a teenager who was trying to be pissed off at the world, anytime I was upset I’d grab my board and get the sweet catharsis of skating where I wasn’t supposed to.


My iPod Mini was stuffed with bands like The Adicts, Neighborhood Friendly, Rancid and every other punk band I could download from MySpace Music. I dug up my dad’s old vinyl records and learned about some rad old bands like The Cure, The Jam and The Clash. Minor Threat introduced me to straight edge which would be my moral compass for the better part of high school. I got countless citations from Rent-A-Cops and security guards for skating where I shouldn’t, and at the time I felt like I was doomed to end up in a jail cell. But now I’m glad that I was getting in trouble for skateboarding instead of drugs or alcohol. Skating helped keep my head straight, despite the trouble I’d get into.

I rocked skinny jeans before they were in fashion magazines and got called every derogatory term out there by “preps” for doing so. If a t-shirt didn’t have a band’s name or skating brand’s logo on it, I wouldn’t be caught dead in it. I was terrified of being just like everyone else, and I still fear that today. Skateboarding taught me to be weird, but damnit I thought my crew was the sickest group of dudes there was.


I really ought to have realized that I wanted to be a writer when I was 16 and won “Letter of the Month” in Transworld Skateboarding‘s August 2007 issue (which I still have framed in my room), but instead of thinking about my future I just kept skating with not a care in the world. And I’m glad I did.

Maybe now I enjoy wearing suits, getting an education and caring about how my hair looks, but I still feel like a kid. My perfect meal is still Gino’s pizza and an Arnold Palmer, I still wear Vans everyday, I still put stickers all over everything I own and I’ll always get down to Operation Ivy. Every time I hit the park these days I find myself thinking that I really don’t skate as much as I should, and someday I hope I’ll be the cool dad who rips the miniramp in his backyard with his son’s friends.