Home Gone

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Regret washed over me as I ventured through the front door of my old fraternity.  It was recently rebuilt due to a multiple million-dollar, tax-deductible, alumni fundraiser.  The result of the largest donation of my life was a complete disaster.  A maze of rooms with names like ‘Stank’, ‘Pig’s Nest’, and ‘Icebox’ were replaced with long, sterile hallways and numbered doors.  My brothers of the new generation sat in their rooms playing with their phones instead of congregating in the common areas and destroying each with verbal jabs.  The few brothers who attempted a conversation with me were not impressed of my stories of throwing a couch engulfed in flames off the roof, three-story beer bongs, or firing road-killed squirrels from a balloon launcher at a rival fraternity on Mom’s weekend. 

The new members were sensitive guys.  They spoke of submission to the Greek governing body which sought banishment for drinking on the front porch.  So much for doing a one arm keg stand on the lawn for nostalgia less I risk shutting down the pathetic shell of what was once a venerable landmark.  They told me there was talk of the campus going dry next year, and the brothers were accepting of this hypocrisy.  A college without booze is like high school, and everyone knows high school is as much fun as getting run over by a car.  I couldn’t take the pain any longer.  I drifted down the street lost in my thoughts of yesteryear.

As I wandered, I was almost run over by an Aston Martin DB11.  I knew he was a student because when my head was within inches of his car, I could read his license plate holder “STUDENT AT UNIVERISTY OF…”  As he sped off, he swore at me in a tongue I didn’t understand 

Lusting after the timeless classics of O and O’s, $1 U-Call-It’s, and Strong Island’s, I went to my other sanctuary in college: 

The Bar

“You’re really carding me?” I asked the backward hat wearing frat guy as my grey, thinning hair identified me as relic from the past.  As much as I used to despise cocky, get-laid-all-the-time, guys in way cooler houses than mine, I was overjoyed to find bouncers were of a timeless design.

“$5,” he demanded.  Instinctively, I dropped the name ‘Steel’.  He was the old general manager of this place in my glory days.  Throwing cold water on sleeping bros, taping pledges to flagpoles, and placing cars in perilous situations on top of high porches were things Steel did in grade school.  Steel was a college legend.  Steel dominated college the way Wilt Chamberlain played basketball-by bagging ass.

The Legend

Random hook ups for him were like maintaining a regular heart beat for the rest of us.  One semester in the fraternity house we were short on beds.  Rather than hot bunking or forcing a new member to sleep on the foyer couch, Steel jumped on the grenade- “I’ll just take a closet for some clothes.  Forget the bed,” he announced.  His plan was to test his mettle by hooking up with a random female every night, and in doing so, find a series of warm and adventurous beds to sleep in for the semester.  Only once did I have to step over the kid on the front porch on a morning during finals week.  I’m sure he earned some extra credit during his dalliances securing him an ‘A+’ in the toughest course in college. 

I figured his name still had some pull given his legendary status as the unofficial ambassador to College (note this is a capital ‘C’, like Church).

The drone at the door splayed his fingers in my face.  I relented.  I paid the cover and then full price for a beer.  Gen Zer’s are worse than millennials.  Who can’t respect a solid name drop and a willingness to sell reduced priced alcohol in exchange for an outsized tip?

‘Salt-N-Peppa’ blasted through the speakers, there was an inch of piss and stale beer pooled on the floor, and an overserved kid puked in a garbage can.  The walls still had the same paint.  The only missing element was a fog of cigarette smoking rendering the air unbreathable and requiring all clothes be laundered the following day.  By all measures, I was back.

I looked for the ghosts of college past.  Horse talking to any girl who would talk to him.  Chubby, at the bar, controlling his piss shooter with his left hand while ordering test tube shots with his right hand.  His reasoning was sound, “the bathroom was too far away and there was booze to drink.”  Absent was Shotzy and his crew of pledges holding up placards ranking women with an “8”, “9” or “10” as they walked past their table.  I recognized no one.

I attempted a lap.  When I reached the back of the bar, I was blockaded by wall which was new since the last time I was there.  The main bar had been transformed from an island into a peninsula.  I couldn’t complete the full circle.  I was trapped.  I stood and observed as I forced down my Bud Light.

Tight fitting black bar pants were extinct as were jeans cresting low enough to expose the top inch of a female’s butt crack.  Instead, girls wore jeans with the belt line near their navels insulating them from eye-groping dudes.  Guys dressed no better.  Most of them appeared to wear some type of uniform for the entire semester; class, bar, dinner with the parents.  It was a part of the “college guy outfit in a bag”-get it when you buy your books for the semester, one size fits all.  No returns.

A fear for the future of humanity swept over me as I stared into a sea of asexual coeds.  Guys talked to guys.  Girls talked to girls.  There was no intermingling of the sexes.  How were these young adults going to bang and carry on the human race if they don’t converse?  I was witnessing youth in its purist form-perfect health, excess free time, and a financial stipend from dad.  They were doing more than abusing the gift.  They were blowing it.

I left the bar.  I was more disassociated with the modern collegiate experience than I had been at my most difficult times when I attended the university.  The walk back to my hotel was filled with questions but lacking resolution.  Had my time passed?  Maybe the college was having an off weekend?  Was I too sober?  It couldn’t be me.  When I went here, I was a manifestation of College in the human form.  Constantly drunk, brotherhood, and chasing tail.  Today’s students failed to excel at these life skills.  My legacy was left in the past.

I had my first beer here when it was a bar. Now it is going to be a Costco, Waffle House, or some other corporate giant.

The Return

I picked up the toothpaste my wife requested prior to my campus journey.  The store clerk laughed and called me a “dotard”.  It was nearly midnight when I snuck back into the hotel room and resumed my life as a middle-aged dude.  Early morning soccer, never ending messes around the house, and learning no one is stretched for time until they have kids. 

The realization I couldn’t go back finally took hold sending me into a sleepless night.  My time had passed.  I live for today which, in time, becomes a better yesterday.  Steel will never be reminiscent.  Steel went back, but he also never really left.  He opened a conglomerate of bars in the southwest corner of the USA after graduating.  There he pours ‘O and O’s‘ and canoes porn stars as you read this on your couch while half paying attention to Netflix, in your car on the way to work, or sitting on the toilet ignoring the screams of your kids fighting in the playroom.

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