Sadly, in 1973 Fairthy Farthington was limited by the closed mind and lack of imagination so prevalent in our sport of rowing. Ever notice how we are all held back by the limits of our imaginations? This seems to be a species-wide human failing, certainly not just a Farthington trait, not even just a rowing thing . . . though it is my observation that rowers are especially prone to closed minds and limited imaginations.
After all, each of us is constrained, even defined, by our dreams. Hell, we are our dreams, no more, no less. Someone once wrote that people respond to dreams more than to flesh and blood, and that rings true to me.
One of my dearest friends in college wasn't a rower at all. His parents had named him William Joseph Lohmeyer, and he came to the University of Pennsylvania to play Quaker Basketball. He and I met our freshman year as pledge-mates at Kappa Sigma Fraternity, and while I was heading to the boathouse each afternoon, Bill would head to Hutchinson Gymnasium.
Let me tell you. My good friend and fellow Quaker and fraternity brother William Joseph Lohmeyer had dreams!
One day, as the entire Penn Freshman Basketball Squad soaped up in the showers after their workout, steam billowing up all around them, or so my favorite version of the legend now describes, my good friend was overheard musing out loud to no one in particular: "Bill Lohmeyer . . . Bill Lohmeyer . . . What a boring name for a boring life! I wish I had an exciting name . . . you know . . . something cool . . . like . . . I don't know . . . maybe like . . . Lance . . . Lohmeyer? . . . "
Well, you know what's coming. As they say, the rest is history. By our senior year, not a soul on campus with the possible exception of the registrar and a couple of professors was even aware that his father and his mother had lacked the foresight to name him Lance from the get-go. By the end of our senior year, Lance had earned a championship ring as a member of Penn's 1966 Ivy League Champion Basketball Team . . . Lance had earned a degree from the Wharton School of Finance and Commerce . . . and Lance had earned the consent of the woman he had loved at first sight to become his wife. Lance had become his dream. The once and former William Joseph Lohmeyer had truly become Lance Lohmeyer, simple as that.
And I was the person who astonished Lance's future fiancé by breaking the news to her that her future husband and soul mate had actually begun his life with an ordinary handle. And I was also the person who brought these two together . . . got to play Cupid as it were. Imagine my pride! And it's a great story, too . . .
One winter day during our last year at Penn, a breathless Lance Lohmeyer tracks me down to ask a huge favor. Seems he had met this fabulous babe named Darleen Hollinger, recent Queen of the Interfraternity Ball, for Heaven's sake, and much to his astonishment she'd actually agreed to be his date that very Saturday night!
Hurrah! Hurrah! But Saturday night dates were complicated affairs for important men, for truly big men on campus like Lance Lohmeyer. After all, on Saturday evenings he wore with pride the Royal Red and Blue Penn Varsity Basketball uniform and received the accolades of the collective Penn Student body cheering in unison:
"We want Lance! We want Lance!"
- collective Penn student body
Lance was very popular with the fans, not surprising given that he had a killer 3-point shot before there were 3-point shots and given that one of the cheerleaders and a big portion of the student section just happened to be his fraternity brothers. Anyway, Lance needed me and my girlfriend to pick up Darleen at her dormitory, sit with her during the game and deliver her to the locker room exit afterwards. Lance would then take her on to the weekly Kappa Sig party.
Good work if you can get it! I enthusiastically agreed to help my eager and animated friend, fellow Quaker and fraternity brother.
That Saturday morning, I got back from crew practice to find the following handwritten note from Lance:
Just my luck. Darleen phoned to tell me she has to study this weekend. She's agreed to go with you to the game, but I'll have to walk her straight home afterwards. These things always happen to me - Lance.
Seems that even a great man like Lance Lohmeyer was open to self-doubt, open to questioning on that particular day what would soon prove to be his fondest of fulfilled dreams. (For some reason I folded the note carefully and put it into my wallet.)
That night I picked up Darleen and took her to the game. My girlfriend and I found her to be absolutely adorable . . . warm, open, human. We began a rambling, three-way conversation about the gentle man we had come to watch below us on the historic hardwood floor of the Penn Palestra, legendary home of Big Five Basketball, home court to the Penn Quaker Hoopsters. I confessed to her how disappointed Lance was that he wasn't going to be able to spend the evening with her after all.
On a whim, I let her read the note. Darleen was deeply touched.
Later that night I ran into the two of them at the fraternity party. Seems she had changed her mind. Lucky guy. Lucky girl. And their dreams came true, starting that night. I framed that note and gave it to them as a wedding present. They're still married, and the note is still on their wall.
They're still dreaming. True story.
I'm still dreaming myself, and Lance and Darleen are my heroes.
To be continued . . .
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