In the 1980’s, in Colleges and Universities across this great nation, you would’ve found two types of people: Idea People, and People Who Would (usually) Drunkenly Cry: “THAT’S a GREAT IDEA! LET’S DO IT!”
I am an Idea Guy. It’s a role that I am most comfortable with: sitting contentedly in the shadows, just outside of the outrageous and the scandalous goings on, with a drink in my hand, sending suggestions for even more bad behavior into the huge pile of human stupidity before me; like a coach on the sidelines of a football game. If the coaches were allowed to drink during the game, and if “football” were more like having some drunken idiot throw an empty keg through a closed third floor dorm room window.
Not to say that I haven’t actually participated directly in my fair share of depraved comportment, as any loyal reader of this blog would know.
In fact, the story of how I got banned from a major American University for life should, as it is often said, start with the words: “One day, I was drunk and…” because no great story ever starts with: “One day, I had a salad and…”, but in fact, the story begins at the beginning: I made a bad decision.
I graduated early from high school. I had all the credits I needed halfway through my senior year and decided I was done with an experience that had been, on the whole, a screamingly tortuous twelve-year Hellscape. The morning after I got my diploma in the mail, my father who had, over the previous few years, grown sick of my nonsense, woke me up and said, “I don’t care whether you get a job or go to college, but you CAN’T STAY HERE!”
Fortunately, I had made some contacts playing underage in bars and strip clubs around the area, and I received an invitation to play on a tour of blues clubs in New York and all along the East Coast with Big Pete Pearson and The Detroit Blues Band.
I was on the road for the better part of the year after that, and when the tour ended, I came home to find my father “worried about my future”, as fathers are inclined to do.
“You need a back-up plan, son,” he said. “You need to have something to fall back on if this music thing doesn’t work out for you.”
Higher Education, he proclaimed, would fix all of my problems: it would give me a career path, a way through the dog-eat-dog world to an island of success where food was plentiful and drinks were served everyday by scantily clad girls wearing…
What was I talking about?
Oh yes: College. Fortunately, I had graduated high school with a 3.89 grade point average (it would have been a straight 4.0 through three and a half years of high school if it wasn’t for my grades in Gym classes and one explosion in the Chem lab…), so I qualified for a couple of scholarships and, with funding secure for the first couple of years of College, I enrolled.
Of course, this was complete folly. The LAST thing I wanted to do was sit in classrooms again, listening to some fart huffing educator drone on with the effect on my consciousness and attention span of an Ambien Daiquiri. I had been out in the world! I had played clubs in Harlem with Big Pete where I was probably the only white face for blocks, with an audience of people who were, at first, upset a kid like me was on the bandstand. Upset, that is, until we started playing.
Big Pete tipped me $100 that night, after the gig.
That was one of the proudest moments of my life.
Immediately, there was trouble. I had enrolled in the music program, much to the consternation of my father, and being a guitarist who had endured a bit of classical training, I wanted to audition for the school playing an Andres Segovia arrangement of Torroba’s Sonatina, but the Dean of Music rejected this outright; claiming the guitar was not a true classical instrument. After much angry gnashing of teeth, I auditioned and won a place in the music program by playing the piece on guitar anyway, and then banging out Moonlight Sonata on piano.
Then, I found out that I could not live off campus. School rules forced me into the dorms for the first two years of my college experience, ostensibly to gain a sense of camaraderie, focus, and “school spirit”, things which filled me with the urge to wretch.
Also, I was not allowed to have a car the first two years I was there.
Indeed, after twelve years of school, I was to go out into the world as an adult only to be caged in a prison made of forced prolonged adolescence; obligated into a living situation with rules, people to enforce those rules, and no way to escape.
I was put into a dorm room with a roommate that turned out to be a rather devout Muslim from Turkey, who wore silk shirts and frequently smelled of cheap cologne and lamb kabobs. I made friends with two guys down the hall who always had weed and had a huge hooka in the middle of their room; it was the entertainment center of our floor, and my roommate’s hatred of me increased as he dutifully faced Mecca and prayed the four or five times he was required while I sat in bed smoking huge joints for breakfast and blasting Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix music.
But the war REALLY started between the dorm floor’s RA and I. A resident adviser or ‘RA’ is an upperclassman who is available to college students living in dorm rooms and resident halls. A resident adviser is a person who those living in the dorm can supposedly go to who may be more comfortable to talk to than an older adult in a sterile on-campus housing office.
The RA, or “Resident Assistant”, was a guy named “Steve”, a big, smarmy, sweaty jock type with a crew cut and an overly eager and condescending attitude. We instantly took a dislike to each other. In the first of what would turn out to be MANY “consultations” regarding my attitude about dorm life, my loud guitar playing, my constant use of obscenities, the unending smell of marijuana coming from my room, the complaints of my roommate, and the one night I came in late past the dorm curfew and took a piss on the door of his room, I told Steve outright that I wanted him to kick me out of the dorms, so I could live like an adult in off campus housing.
He refused to kick me out, however. “I want to see what makes you tick,” he said.
A-HA! The gauntlet had been thrown down!
I was subjected to a heart-to-heart counselling session with Steve and two other Resident Assistants, and I confessed all. I told him that I was a compulsive bed-wetter, had an unnatural sexual attraction to pumpkins, and that I had been abducted by aliens when I was six and taken to another dimension where I learned Great Universal Secrets. I started walking around the dorm floor naked. I superglued Playboy centerfolds to the walls of my dorm room, which of course thoroughly disgusted my roommate.
Still, I was caged, treated like a child.
In the meantime, the war raged with the Dean of the Music School. I had started a band by then, and was put on academic probation for sneaking the band and its equipment into the music building after classes and holding rehearsal on the stage of one of the performance rooms. Forced to play piano in the rehearsal rooms, I would loudly bang out “Chopsticks” over and over again, or play some Fats Waller boogie-woogie piano number which would send the Dean into an apocalyptic fit. I once turned in a five-page paper seriously arguing that Mozart’s Piano Concerto no. 23 was written by the composer as a celebration of his penis.
I stopped going to classes and started playing the clubs in town with the band. I would put up flyers advertising our next performance all over the music school; all of which would immediately be torn down.
Meanwhile, back at the dorms, my stoner friends on the floor started having Theme Parties. We had “Come As The Person You Most Hate”, where I jimmied Steve’s door, raided his closet and came as him. We had “Zombie Celebrity” night, “Come As Your Favorite Virus”, and the infamous “Steve Is Pregnant-Baby Shower”. It was during THIS party that the empty keg was thrown out of the window, though not by me. I just told the hulking drunken dorm mate that it would be a good idea to get rid of it out the window while the new keg was being tapped.
It wasn’t MY fault the idiot didn’t see that the window was closed…
It was the “Underwear Party” that turned out to be the penultimate disgrace in my college career. Somehow, a soccer ball was found. In the middle of the madness of drunken male and female students prancing around the floor in their underwear, the inevitable alcohol fueled fornication, and the general degenerate madness, I sat in my chair at the edge of the hormone infused, thoroughly liquored throng wearing my special “Kiss Me Here” boxer shorts and suggested that it would be fun to get a soccer game going in the hallway.
That little proposition ended up costing almost ten thousand dollars of damage to the dorm hallway and a couple of the rooms before the police showed up to break up the party and it earned me notification by an angry and red-faced Steve that I would be put before the Dean of the College and the student court two days hence.
Then, the next night, I was drunk with a couple of friends on the top of the parking garage that had been built next to the music school. It was getting dark, and I needed a piss. I decided, after taking a quick look over the side and seeing no one there, that I would piss over the side of the parking garage just to see how long it would take for the stream to hit the ground. Unfortunately, there was time passed between me checking no one was walking below me, and me actually getting ready to relieve myself. Unbeknownst to me, the Dean of Music came out of the Music building. He had been working late, probably gathering notes on his various complaints about me to be presented the next day at my “hearing” when he felt…a sprinkle…of liquid…on his head.
THAT was the final nail in my educational coffin.
The next day, I stood before The Dean Of The College, members of the student body Senate, and my parents; whilst wearing a dark blue suit with white sneakers and a tie that had a naked woman painted on it. The file Steve threw down on the table before me was two inches thick. The Dean of Music was apoplectic, as was my Father. My Mother, on the other hand, who understood my desire to quit this College nonsense and go out to California to find success making the most of my musical talents, found the whole event humorous, and she even chuckled a few times as the long list of my outrageous acts perpetrated on the hapless RA and my antics antagonizing the Dean of Music were read out.
But even she was a little mortified when it was revealed to the gathering that I had, in fact, accidentally pissed on the Dean of Music’s head.
That was it. Banned for life. I was never to be allowed to step foot on the campus again.
I left for California two days later.