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Wayne and his roommate, Tex, lived on the second floor of our dorm, which was technically the third floor. Their room was at the end of the hall, directly across from the bathroom, which was probably the worst location on the floor, apart from the guys who lived across the hall, next to the bathroom.
The second floor was a unique combination of people in as much as it was also home to several other residents that were student athletes and a couple. The other floors were pretty exclusively us and our roommates. These student athletes were simultaneously terrifying and fascinating. Terrifying because a few of them were gigantic and unfriendly. Fascinating because they weren’t dorky, pre-journalism major white kids from the suburbs like us. As for the couple, well, they were one of us. We called them “The Wegmanns” and they were alright by us, although they were pretty much as married as two 18 year olds playing house in the dorms could be.
The Wegmanns did not come to the Superbowl Party that Wayne and Tex hosted, which was considered somewhat unforgivable. About as unforgivable as spilling the last beer or getting up before your roommate on a Saturday.
Regardless, we watched the Ravens and the Giants on the 13-inch TV on top of the dorm fridge and drank. And drank. And then took a break and drank some more. Later, we watched the half-time show that Lewis Black would eventually call the Trifecta From Hell.
At one point, I left the party briefly and retired to my room on the third floor. I probably left to throw up in my floor’s bathroom.
When I ventured back downstairs to Wayne and Tex’s, I could hear “American Pie” from the landing. And the shouting.
I knew they were never going to be able to hear me knocking – Wayne, Tex, Pea, Lou, Ryan, Rob and whoever else was barracaded in the room. But I started knocking anyway in the hopes that someone would answer.
Rob answered the door wearing the bucket from the fall semester finals care package on his head.
“No sluts!” He shouted and slammed the door again in my face.
The door of the room next ot theirs creaked open and one of the giant football players peeked his head out. I nearly crapped myself. We called the room next door to Wayne and Tex “The Dick Sweat Room” and it was home to two football players, one of whom was huge and now, not happy.
I knocked again. “Let me in! Now!”
The door flew open and the sound flew out. American Pie is a song that never, ever ends. I ran into it. It was hot in the room and Lou was solitary moshing to the music.
Rob had the bucket on his head and upon further inspection I realized he had written “Drunk Bucket” on it. When I asked about that, he turned it around to show me that also, with the letters upside-down, there was a capital N and W. He had made them to then read “No Water”.
Tex was shouting out of the window when the screen broke. Wayne tried to put it back in order, but it remained defiant. Their window screen would stay at a 90 degreee angle, resting against the air conditioner until finally crashing to its end, months later.
It was a good party. The Dick Sweat Room wasn’t happy, but I was laughing.
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Steve was walking back to his house from the Boys’ House wearing a lab coat. He had no business wearing the lab coat, it wasn’t his to begin with.
He and the boys took advantage of an open door in the university building next to the research field, which the Boys’ House front door looked out upon. After some general mischief, they broke up and headed their separate ways, with Steve walking up Fraternity Row alone, in the lab coat.
Waiting for a light to change at an intersection, Steve found himself standing with a few drunk girls.
“Oh my gah, are you a doctor?”
“Yes,” Steve tells them, seriously. “You know, it was a tough day.”
“Oh! What happened?!”
“Well, there was a little girl,” Steve told them. “We were doing heart surgery, and she, unfortunately, passed away.”
“Oh no! That’s terrible!”
The light changes, and Steve starts to walk away but waits, looks at them and says, “Yeah, I know. I’m an English major.”
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That’s what started it, anyway.
It was May, south of the Mason-Dixon, and miserable. We were leaving an outdoor concert of Blink-182, Green Day and Jimmy Eat World, and we were all sweaty and dehydrated. We craved delightful fountain drinks and air-conditioned vinyl seating.
I had shouted into the back of the Steak n’ Shake with an easy-on-and-off of the major highway for several minutes that someone should take our orders. We wanted pay them for food. They said their computer was broken and they couldn’t serve any food. We could not wrap our heads around how this was possible, forget about the fact that they were acting very open-for-business – the lights were all on, neon illuminated and buzzing, doors unlocked.
Pea finally got worked up and shouted, “This…Fuck! Inefficient!” He then went behind the counter of the road-side Steak n’ Shake and started filling everyone to-go cups. Even the other group of kids waiting to not be served by the obviously high employees.
All of us crammed back into Lou’s car and drove across the street to the Denny’s. The Denny’s wait was over an hour, thanks to all the kids coming from the concert like us. Pea and I were still surprisingly furious for being completely sober. Something had to be done. Who keeps a restaurant open at night when they have absolutely no interest in serving food? You know there’s always going to be drunk kids and people who work overnights who want to eat chili at 2am! You know this because you work there!
“It’s like the most…fucking…ridiculous…thing on Earth!” Pea shouted, nearly shaking.
“Let’s go back,” I suggested.
So we did. We took Lou’s Bonneville back across the street again to the Steak n’ Shake.
An entirely new group of kids were waiting to not be served inside.
“They ain’t serving nothing,” one of them said when we walked in. I thought, then why are you here? And then I realized I was back in the same place we had left minutes ago. Where I knew they were high and not serving food. But before I could explain any of that to the kids, Pea spoke up.
“Oh, we’re not here for the food,” he reported confidently. He walked into the restaurant and started looking around. His gaze fixed on the ceiling hangers.
He was short, yes, but he was determined to get those ceiling hangers to his level and started yanking them from their attachments in the tiles of the dropped ceiling.
I looked down and saw my prize. I should have helped Pea work on the ceiling hangers, but I couldn’t resist the call of the entry way mat.
Out loud, I said, “Oh, this is mine.”
I bent over and rolled up the mat and took it outside to the waiting Bonneville. I tossed it into the trunk and moved the Bonneville next to the front doors. You know, like a getaway car. I looked into the restaurant as I parked and saw Pea in the kitchen. Grabbing plates. Pea was brazenly taking plates from a Steak n’ Shake.
I went back inside and Pea shouted to start taking the stuff into the car. I started loading the ceiling hangers into the trunk and then helped him carry the plates. We went back for two condiment carriers and carefully placed those with the plates and the mat and the ceiling hangers. To see it, you’d think we were supposed to be taking this stuff. The employees never came outside. The kids who were basically loitering inside didn’t even say anything. There was nothing.
I started the car on our final trip out, Pea holding the “Please wait to be seated/Seat Yourself” sign in his hand. Try as we might, it did not fit lengthwise into the trunk.
“Oh, fuck it,” Pea said, hopping into the passenger’s seat, and left the sign outside of the resturant on the curb.
I started screaming as we pulled away, waiting at the end of the parking lot to make the left turn.
“Oh. My. God!” I screamed, adrenaline pumping.
“Ahhhh! Oh my God! Oh my God!” Pea echoed.
Arriving back at the Denny’s, our friends were waiting for us.
“You guys!” Pea screamed.
We took everyone else out to the car to see the blessed bounty of completely stolen property. I expected that the police would be arriving any moment. There was just no possible way for us to get away with this. There was just no way.
Somehow, we did. We chatted and ate at the Denny’s, Pea and I looking nervously out of the windows for any sign of law enforcement. There wouldn’t be any.
We drove the rest of the 75 miles home to our apartments and divvied up the goods. Everyone got a round plate and an oblong plate, as well as a ceiling hanger. I loaned the Boys House the mat, because it didn’t fit in the kitchen at my place.
I have continuously eaten at Steak n’ Shakes through out the past seven years since this incident, without incident. We never went back to that one, but who needed to? We took all their stuff, remember?
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Rob was right.
Besides Survivor, one of Pea’s favorite shows was ER. None of us could appreciate it in the same way. It was a source of dischord in the Boys’ House, and Pea would often find himself alone on Thursday nights catching up with the doctors and the drama. At a loud volume. Because Pea rarely did anything quietly.
We knew that ER could never continue if he wasn’t around to watch it. I am confident in the knowledge that Pea was one of the seven or eight people left on earth who regularly tuned in.
There was a temperate evening at the Boys’ House and we were all out on the porch. Pea probably gave a synopsis of the past week’s ER to us, which usually meant he would put his head down and shake it while making a pouty face. After these gestures, he would simply say, “Oh my God, shit went down.”
And because I hadn’t watched the show since Sally Field was the drug-addicted mother of a doctor, I took his summary with a head nodding in agreement. It was best to accept that shit had in fact gone down, because no one wanted to start the coversation.
But Rob – Rob boldly predicted that not only would the show end, but he described the ending of the show in detail.
I think at the time, Pea’s heart might have broken a little bit to think about the end of such a beloved show.
Rob explained to us that when the show ended, there would be some sort of choas, some kind emergency. And all of the doctors would spring into action, like they always do. That’s when the score would rise up from the background and the camera would pan out. Faced with this latest challenge, they would all look at each other and then it would fade to black.
I watched the show for the final episode because I felt like I had to. Not the whole three hours, that’s just unreasonable. Pea would have watched and relished in every hour, but he was forgiving enough to understand that we would not have the inner constitution necessary to get through all of it. I chose to watch the last 20 minutes.
And I stared in disbelief that Rob’s prediction had come true, almost exactly.
And then it was over. ER was finished.
And I wasn’t really sad about it, it was just over.
And I bring it up only because Rob had predicted it perfectly nearly 6 years ago. Before Pea was sick. Before we had packed up our things and moved away. Before we had bigger problems.
And I guess the end of ER means more than just the end of the show, it’s the full circle of a little piece of our journey together.
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I guess it really was hard to explain where we were coming from.
Ryan stammered as the police officer asked again, “Where y’all from?” West Virginia State Troopers were not kind to out-of-towners.
He looked at Dreyfuss. “Where are we from?”
Dreyfuss did not hesitate and said, “Alabama.”
This was partially true. We had been in Alabama the previous morning. We had also been in Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina the day before and spent the night in Virginia. We were a fair way through West Virginia. We were headed toward Ohio. Ryan’s Explorer which we were traveling in had California plates; he was from San Diego. Dreyfuss was from outside of Madison, Wisconsin. Lou was from a corn and soybean farm outside of Springfield, IL. I was from the Chicago suburbs, but technically, I was from New Jersey.
A seemingly simple question with a complicated answer.
“Y’all got any alcohol or firearms in this vehicle?” The officer asked. If only we had.
We had been driving for two days, with occasional stops: bathroom, food, the Unclaimed Baggage Center in rural Alabama, a night in a Days Inn somewhere in Virginia. We were tired. We had our crabby pants on. I am confident we may have smelled. We had showered the night before, but for some reason, I had neglected to bring a brush. The radio had just gone out (I would later claim it was because Ryan kept listening to the Eagles), and we had been looking for an exit so we could try to fix it.
That’s when we got pulled over.
Lou was sleeping next to me, and he wasn’t wearing a seat belt. I don’t think I was either. I shook him.
“Get up! Get up!” I shouted through gritted teeth.
He cursed me under his breath.
“We are getting pulled over!”
He sat up, quickly, and belted himself in.
* * *
I had called my parents on Thursday, a day before we left, and acted like nothing was going on. I knew they wouldn’t call again until Sunday or Monday night. I packed my bag for the weekend. My first road trip. We were going to drive to the Unclaimed Baggage Center in Scottsboro, Alabama, spend the night, and head back the next day. I took my $60 of birthday cash I had already received and packed my back pack. It was the weekend before my 19th birthday.
We left Friday afternoon, stopping in St. Louis to drop off a friend who wanted a ride home for the weekend. We drove through the southern portion of Illinois, Indiana then south through Kentucky and into Tennessee. We plotted our route the old-fashioned way, with a map found in the car, illuminated by dome lights as we headed deeper into the South.
In Tennessee at about 3 am we saw a 24 Hour Fireworks Superstore clear the horizon. It was obvious this was going to be our first stop. There was a girl working there, probably about the same age as us.
“Can we shoot these off in the parking lot?” Dreyf asked. The girl said she didn’t care. I bought a t-shirt.
We were riding high. Fireworks, road trips, middle of the night? My God, this is the greatest experience ever.
We continued to drive, ending up in Alabama much too early for the Unclaimed Baggage Center to open. So we drove to Georgia, because it was close.
At a gas station in Georgia, Lou and Dreyf smoked. Dreyf was the only one of us who had a cell phone and Lou called his friend, Jon. The scenery was gorgeous. We were in a valley of hilly forests and the sun was coming up. He was telling Jon how beautiful everything was, here, in Georgia. Possibly, also, in life.
We were getting ready to head back to Alabama and Lou wouldn’t get in the car.
“Hey, we’re leaving,” I said. “Get in the car.”
“I can’t sit down, “Lou replied, eyes wide.
“Please just get in the car.”
“I can’t sit down.”
“Lou – get in the car!”
Silence. As he climbed into the backseat he said, “I am going to live here.”
We were headed back to Alabama, were we ate at a Shoney’s. During breakfast Dreyfuss was talking to us about Southern gentility. While I was asking a question about grits, Ryan and Lou flipped a hunk of chicken nuggets into my drink.
The Unclaimed Baggage Center was a bust. They claimed that it would be all the things that were gleaned from lost luggage. It ended up being a lot of things that looked like it fell off a truck. We decided to abandon our original plan of spending the night in Alabama and driving home.
New goal: Drive to as many states as possible before Sunday night.
And so we did. We were intercepted by local police only once in West Virginia.
Our other hiccup occurred shortly after “claiming Ohio”. To “claim” a state to add into the total, we had to stop there and use the bathroom. We went just barely over the border. We were heading back on the bridge toward Kentucky again and Dreyf opened the passenger side door.
“Oh, buh-bye,” he said as, from the back of the car, Lou and I could see the map burst into shreds behind us.
“What did you just do!?” Ryan was upset.
“We know the way home now,” Dreyf said.
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I changed my mind about the way in which you can access information about the website on Facebook. I started a page. Please ” fan” it, or whatever it is that you do to such a thing.
Look to this place as this blog’s online chit-chat home and way to connect you more frequently…
Death to Twitter!
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I was naked. Naked, kneeling on the bathroom floor and upset. Upset that I was throwing up. Upset that I was naked and dripping, the shower still pounding the tub beside me.
It was awful and yellow and the taste stayed in my mouth, even as nausea subsided. I knew I could feel better – I had to feel better than this.
I was cold and still dripping when my body finally stopped. The shower was still on. My hair, which had found my quick exit from the shower disruptive, had begun to get wavy in revolt. The ends of it were dripping cold dots onto my pale, heaving chest. I was completely undignified, unladylike, unapologetic.
I hadn’t thrown up sober like that in years. And this is what it felt like. I was in fact not superhuman, as I had begun to believe during the course of events the night previous. My false belief started somewhere inbetween when Nellie was curling and spraying my hair while everyone fluttered around dressed up, and that last swig of apricot brandy I took down, before becoming a concern to everyone. I had assumed, wrongly, having woken in my bed, clothed and unhurt, that my consumption had not been without consequence. But in fact, it had.
I eventually got back into the shower and felt better, but not before I felt worse. Brushing my teeth was repulsive. When I had finished, I put on my robe, threw out the disgusting toothbrush and went downstairs to join everyone else’s day, already in progress.