THE HAIR SHIRT (REUNION PT. I)
Reunion weekend was an amazing experience and not just because I had a massive sinus/nerves/PMS-fueled headache the entire time. First, we spent Friday night with our classmates at the official cocktail party and later on at The Lantern (the only place to get a beer and a burger in the mostly-dry Enchanted Forest). That's where some of our more Greek-oriented peers declined to join us at our long table that included people from a variety of social groups (radio, eurotrash, potheads-cum-lawyers/government policy analysts, general GDI's, and truly nice people like Page who maneuvered freely between all groups). They found it necessary to move to a different room, and poor Dr. Bob (another nice person who was able to negotiate a variety of groups) was caught in the middle. Twenty-year-old habits die hard.
On Saturday our alternative Homecoming schedule included a long and leisurely breakfast at the Deerpath Inn followed by an optional trip to the candy store Sweets, which is no longer owned by Mr. Dick (where o where do they get off charging $10/pound for mediocre chocolate?), and the takeover of the campus radio station. Especially after watching old videos, listening to old radio shows and looking at old pictures on Saturday night, one could not help but be flooded with memories of how easy things used to be, how much free time we had, and how we were indulged by the adminstration (You want to be on the radio? Go ahead! You want to write a smart-assy little column for the newspaper? We won't censor you! You can't decide on a major? Make up your own! You want to be in a band that plays original three-chord postpunk ditties about US intervention in central America and students named Elizabeth DeNoma, or covers songs like "Damaged Goods" and changes the lyrics from Bowie's "Sufragette City" to "Calumet City?" Go for it! You want to protest Apartheid? The president of the college will come out and watch, but be careful because you may be pelted with garbage by the strivers in the Alpha Chi fraternity. You want to take the campus van to a Cure concert in a dangerous neighborhood? Here are the keys! You want Naked Raygun to play in Commons? Here's some money! You want T-Bone Burnett to host the Ra Weekend talent show? Here's some more money! You want to try to kill yourself by taking too much aspirin? Go right ahead -- but do it too many times and we may just have to kick you off campus for a semester).
At one point JT pointed out the obvious: how ill-equipped we were to handle that first year out of college. It was the middle of the reign of Reagan and the worst year ever for college graduates as far as job prospects were concerned. Expensive liberal arts educations were considered a joke, and we shared dark $600/month apartments and went to graduate school in order to put off reality for as long as possible or landed menial jobs at places like Mrs. Field's Cookies and Guadalaharry's restaurant and Crate & Barrel.
Some of us of course quit grad school once twice three times before figuring out what we wanted to do nearly a decade later. And we're still not happy, are we....
And one couldn't help but think what it would have been like for us if there had been blogs and The Internets and podcasting and Pro Tools and digital video cameras and iMovie. Instead we struggled with trying to find outlets for the crap we wrote on our Tandy 1000's (or gave up altogether) and worked in (expensive) film or tried to land gigs for our little analog bands or begged for DJ gigs that paid $30 a night or signed up to learn how to use the bulky 3/4 -inch video equipment at the public access station.
Maybe it wasn't that bad after all. But still.... We didn't even have air conditioners or cable TV or computers in our dorm rooms. We waited hours to use the pay phone in the basement so we could call Ma Bell to hook up the telephones in our rooms. We had to wait hours in front of College Hall on registration day so we could sign up for the classes we needed to graduate. We had go to the library if we wanted to use a computer and composed most of our papers on TYPEWRITERS, for cryin' out loud. MySpace my ass -- we had to attend actual parties and "video dances" in order to meet people....
And we walked miles in the snow in order to do it.