Saturday, November 18, 2006

Fear And Loathing In Academia

"Reality is the leading cause of stress amongst those in touch with it." - Jane Wagner

I wonder now and then what it's like for people who attend school and focus on academics. I was fortunate to earn academic honours with studying being a peripheral endeavor.

My college experience was not conventional. I spent time at a small private college and a large state university. In fact, I shuttled between the two; spending a year or two at a time here and a semester or three there.

Joining a fraternity, with chapters at both schools, working for school newspapers and becoming involved in athletics added layers of intrigue. One year when I didn't attend classes I was as involved in campus life as I ever was as a student.

There was another year during which I did not attend classes that I lived in the fraternity house at one of the country's most well known universities and indulged in student activities. That's a chapter best left for future exploration.

My taste leaned toward the small school planted in the heart of the city. There is something special, though, about living in a "college town" that I would have hated to miss. It's interesting how the town and the school exist in a symbiotic relationship.

...This might be a good time to introduce the brothers in my pledge class: Weever, Biff, Sapling, Peanuts, Gilligan, Hoss and CoolCat {It was the fall semester of my sophomore year when I pledged; The Master Baiter, whom I previously wrote about, was my roommate.}

...I loved dating theatre and dance majors at Park College. {Never more than two at a time} My favorite little sister, though, was a photographer. At UPM, I favored education and nursing majors. My little sister there was a basketball player.

...CoolCat was taking an advertising class; the majority of his grade was going to come from a termpaper. It involved creating a product, generating a advertising budget - using ratesheets provided by the teacher - and producing the ads for print and broadcast media. A week before it was due, he asked if I'd help him. I agreed to work on the paper with him for an ounce and a case of Heineken. The night before it was due, we hit a few bars and burned through about a quarter ounce of sinsemilla. My product idea, Weefer - a legal marijuana substitute. Cool had another quarter stashed which got us through the night while I did the ads and most of the work on the budget. It was about 8:30 when we finished {for his 9 o'clock class}. There was less than $100 of the budget left unspent. When he got the "A" paper back, there was a comment; Great product!!

...When I went to UPM I took an American History class. I actually took it over three semesters. The first semester I got an Incomplete. The scond semester I did an assignment and took a test. I got another Incomplete. The third semester I wrote a paper on the historical background of a small town George Washington surveyed and later owned property. I ended up with a B in the class. Some years later I saw the professor on campus; I was somewhat surprised when he said he was happy to see me and talked about what a good student I was.

...I met LeadGuitar my first week at Park. I was shooting pinball in the student lounge; eating cheeseburgers and drinking chocolate milkshakes. He beat me three out of five. One of the games I won, I turned over the machine --- pop pop pop. He didn't lose very often; we became fast friends. He started recruiting me to pledge the next semester. As it turned out, the guy who lived across the hall, Potsie, was in the same fraternity. He was a film major. One night the three of us were watching footage he shot of a Neil Young concert. Neil got off the bus, walked over to Potsie and shook his hand! The first night LeadGuitar took me to Primanti Brothers we took a cab. He asked the driver if he ever drove any celebrities. He started naming off this one and that one. I couldn't believe it when he said he had a guy named Neil Young. It seemed he was too old to be making the name up; and not enough of an actor to be pretending. As he told it, Neil asked if he could drive the cab; the guy told him no. Neil kept asking; the guy told him no. Neil offered him $500. The guy told him he would lose his license if anyone saw he was not the one driving. All I wanna do is drive the cab, he said Neil told him. We had a good laugh over that one.

...When I was the sports editor for the school paper at UPM, I was going to interview the basketball coach to do a season preview. I took a quaalude before I went to do the interview. There was a walkway up to the gym; a wall started at the base only a few bricks high and rose to about 10 feet at the top. As I walked up to it, I didn't give any thought; for some reason at the last moment instead of going around I decided to jump over the wall. I almost made it, stumbled and went down on my hands. I popped back up and looked around. Nobody had seen me. I laughed at myself and went on to do the interview. It went very well.

...The second semester of my freshman year at Park, my favorite drink was lime vodka and ginger ale. I had a bar in my room built from two mini refrigerators, 2x4's and milkcrates. To maximize space in the freezer of one frig, I had trays of small round icecubes. I had a tankard I would fill with cubes, then lime vodka and then ginger ale. Invariably, there would be too much I'd have to drink some and then add more ginger ale. {Yes, I know I should have put the vodka in last 8-) } A favorite hobby that semester was to play frisbee in the hall, me at one end and The Master Baiter at the other. We never hit anyone; athough now and then someone walking out of their room ducked back in, QUICKLY.

...A few of the brothers at Park had a band called Smithfield News; they played one or two nights a week at a bar in Market Square for about a year. One of the barmaids, who knew we were underage, told us to always come to her when we got to the bar. Once she started serving us we never got carded. {I'm not sure how that worked, but it made things easier than having to get someone's driver's license and memorize the information. In those days they didn't have pictures.} I was shooting pinball with one of the brothers - Big John - with the loser buying the Heinekens. We went through a case and a half and I never bought. Come the end of the night, LeadGuitar bought me a drink that had seven layers. I don't know what they called it, but it was a big hit. The barmaid was lighting matches behind it and people were looking at the layers, amazed how they stayed seperated. I walked over and threw it back; the only one I tasted was the grenadine which was the heaviest liquor at the bottom of the drink. I remember going outside afterward and telling Big John I was feeling fine. The next day he told me that when we got back to school and up to the room, he picked me up and threw me in bed...which I guessed explained why my shirt was torn. I remembered nothing after, I'm ok.

...There was a rule at Park that cases of beer were not allowed. Weever and I would walk across the Smithfield Street Bridge to a Budweiser distributor. We'd each buy a case and carry them back to school. {We went frequently so they were happy to give us beer signs too; they were great for my bar.} Before going in, we'd sit on the steps of Academic Hall and drink one beer out of each case; then we could take the beer through security. We also made frequent trips to The Peanut Shoppe where you could get freshly roasted nuts. Our rooms were next to each other. One Saturday we were sitting on the floor in the hall. The RA came and said we couldn't drink beer in the hall. Without a word or any hesitation we each reached around and put the beers in our rooms.

...About 10 years ago, Biff called me. His son was a senior at Cornell; he had to write a 50-page research paper to graduate. {think, George W. Bush at Yale} When I asked what Slacker was going to be writing about, Biff said he was hoping I could help him decide. I agreed to get together with Slacker to talk it over. When we met, Slacker brought a list of potential topics, a bottle of Johnnie Walker Blue Label and a note from Biff. I was pouring my third glass when I called Biff; I agreed to "research" the paper and "write a draft" for Slacker. The topic I chose was, "Will Democracy Survive In Russia?". Biff agreed to pay me $750, and five more bottles of scotch, for a paper that I guaranteed would get Slacker the B he needed. Within a week, Slacker delivered 15 books that I could use to research the paper. Two weeks later I delivered a 65-page "draft" to Slacker. {not including a cover page; where the name of the "author" had to appear} When I went to Slacker's graduation party, Biff had something for me. A case of scotch and another $750. Slacker received an A.
"No drug, not even alcohol, causes the fundamental ills of society. If we're looking for the source of our troubles, we shouldn't test people for drugs, we should test them for stupidity, ignorance, greed and love of power." -
P. J. O'Rourke

"53 of 1,000"
9 days {inclusive}


Mother of Invention said...

University was a fabulous and fun lifestyle! So many people concentrated in one place who had so much in common! I did 4 years Honours in Psych/Soc/ was a lot of work but I didn't dwell totally on that. It was very social. I still miss it and it was a VERY long time ago!

Anonymous said...

I like your choices of motivators and 'mini' bar.

skinnylittleblonde said...

LOL @ Slacker! Picturing Slacker as Bush @ Yale, I must are cheap! LOL. I'm sure that paper was worth at least 1500 & a case of your booze of choice!

Anonymous said...

Bad ass. Just bad ass. And I've got this line running through my head after reading it all, in that big announcer voice: It was an innocent time in America...

The RA came and said we couldn't drink beer in the hall. Without a word or any hesitation we each reached around and put the beers in our rooms.


I was just thinking about you, and then bam, saw you had posted comments.

One of the rare parties I went to at my undergrad, I was walking around with a bottle of DeKuyper Schnapps. For some reason, that scared people. It scares me now. I'd rather have whiskey.

Anonymous said...

Howdy fellow Gonzo, where is that list you were discussing? Or is it at another blog?

BlueDuck said...

This really makes me miss college.

Best years of my life. If only I had the time now for random road trips and all-night parties and videogames. Alas.

Annelisa said...

Like your stories! One that brought back a particular memory was the wall one. One I was younger (!) I was quite athletic, and maybe now and then I showed off a little... :-)

In our village was some caste-iron, flat-topped posts, about waist high. I got the sudden urge to leap-frog over them. Which I did. Or rather didn't - half way over the second one, my backside got caught, and I flipped head first down onto the pavement.

Like you, I was unharmed, so quickly got up and dusted myself down, pretending nothing had happened, hoping no-one had seen.

Turned round, and there was all the people at the bus-stop grinning at me! :-S :-D

honkeie said...

I totaly missed the college life exsperience. I have been to many frat party's and hung out at many frat houses but I never belonged to any of them. Sometimes life throws a real curve and you miss the mark completly.
I wanted to go to LSU, I had visited it many times and loved the feel there and the campus life. But as I said shit happens and we make due with what we have, not with what we want.
But I have your stories to smile at and its always good to know that the old college mentality is still alive.