ONCE A MONTH or so, The Weeklings editors are each required to respond to a single cultural question in this wildly popular parlor game. Music, movies, television, books, dance, sex, sports, art, and death are all up for grabs. There are no correct answers, no political correctness allowed, and only one rule: sheer, brute honesty.
As always, please, no wagering.
What’s the absolute craziest thing y0u did in college?
Initially, I tried to make it to every single class first semester, freshman year. That was too crazy for comfort. First semester, sophomore year, a few of my less than sagacious friends and I decided we were going to spend the weekend of fall break on an extended road trip. Not so ambitious. The goal: to have at least one drink at every major university in the state. Kind of ambitious. And asinine. The ringleader, borrowing his parents’ Volkswagen Vanagon, a poorer man’s Mystery Machine, offered to drive the first leg. A few hours later it was Friday night and we were drunk. The ringleader, in addition to winning the Spirit Award for piloting us sans spirits, arguably saved my life when I decided, with the beer-brain of a nineteen year old, to take a quick mid-October dip in the Atlantic ocean. He talked me out of it; when that failed, he tackled me. A few hours later everyone was passed out in the back of our ship of fools. I was playing DJ, the ringleader now officially hero status for abstaining all evening. “Let’s call it a night,” I said. “No,” he said. “We can still hit one more school; knock it off the list.” A few minutes later I looked over admiringly, as he sipped from his Super Big Gulp. Then I noticed the previously full bottle of Jim Beam beside him was 2/3 gone. Who had done that? Not me. And not the sleeping buffoons behind me. I looked at the bottle, I looked at the Big Gulp, I looked at my friend. He turned to me and winked. Before I could castigate him, I saw what appeared to be an actual person standing in the middle of the highway. Before I could tell my friend to slow down, he barreled past the man (who was wearing a uniform, I noticed, as we blew by), and then right through a wooden barrier. “Pull over,” I told my friend. “We’re about to get arrested.” My boy, the ringleader and team player, had unwittingly driven onto the Norfolk Naval Base. Bright lights appeared on all sides and hilarity did not ensue. Miraculously, no one was injured. But since we survived, we reserve the right –as older if not wiser fools– to invoke this event as both cautionary tale and badge of idiotic honor. Mostly the former.
I went to a small mid-western school full of feminists, punks, hippies, and self-identified artists. So, basically a bunch of entitled kids who had no clue what they were talking about. One thing we did both know and embrace, was nudity. It was rampant on campus. “Don’t be ashamed of your body, man!” One day we decided to hitchhike naked. I know that sounds apocryphal, if not like outright bullshit, but it’s true. We were bored. It seemed funny at the time. So me and this other guy and a woman stripped down and stood on the road at the edge of campus with our thumbs out. There were almost a few accidents. After a while, a guy in a Camaro pulled over (again, sounds like the too-perfect detail of an elaborate lie, but it was, in fact, a Camaro. It was also red). He got out, stared and just kept saying “Holy shit, holy shit, holy shit.” He opened the passenger side door for us. We did not get in. For one, we didn’t really want to go anywhere with him, but also because a cop pulled up behind. So, we did what all responsible nudists do. We ran. Back across the quad. Dangles flapping, parts jangling. The cop drove up on the grass and chased us, manouevering in-between trees with flashers on. I was laughing my ass off, but also didn’t want to spend the night in jail. Fortunately, I was also the fastest. The cop chased us all the way across the lawn. We ran into the door and hid in the showers. It was a woman’s bathroom. I asked someone if they’d go to my dorm and get some clothes. They kindly did. I think I studied the rest of the night.
We snuck into the stadium at midnight and walked the balcony rail on the 11th floor of Bowling Hall and rode bicycles through the quad in our boxers and jumped off roofs into motel swimming pools. We had headlight dance parties in the thicket of trees behind sorority row and went mud bogging in a Cutlass Brougham and wiped out the fried chicken at the K-Mart cafeteria Tuesday night all-you-can-eat buffet. We shot out the pizza delivery dude’s light-up sign with pellet guns and got arrested for a fake brawl at the dollar movies. We wore roller skates and cowboy hats to Botany class and shot bottle rockets at campus cops and hung banners down the sides of the library making fun of the dean, in Greek. We flooded the honors dorm and papered the Baptist Student Union with flyers for a Too Short show. We rigged bathroom light switches to play bullfight music and bought each other outfits for Friday Night at Goodwill. We climbed clock towers, radio towers, fire towers and the railroad bridge. We ran alongside boxcars, spray-painting our names down the side. We played Twister in the beds of pickup trucks going 75 and threw flour bombs off the overpass. We jumped the fence at the airport and laid between the runway lights while red-eye jets soared over us into the night. We swam the black river and turned over boats and strung Christmas lights in the live oaks at the water’s edge. We were completely sober when we did all these things.
Spending £80 on drinks at The Ritz in London. It was my birthday, and for a moment I forgot I was a 19-year-old on a student loan subsiding on a steady diet of Special K and Ramen, and believed I was Carrie Bradshaw. For £80, I wish I’d gotten a tattoo or done something illegal that would’ve made for a better story.
Antioch College, by the time I landed there, was an unkempt heap. Still, a less than manicured college has merits: with cobwebs comes ghostliness. And so one perfect autumnal afternoon I went creeping down a stairwell into a musty concrete basement, the re-purposed air thick with an urgent and almost indignant curiosity. The kind that accompanied your first illegal purchase of beer, that rang in your head as your fingers brought the engine of a stranger’s a car to an exaggerated roar, crime a new staccato breath you sucked in with pride. In one of the basement rooms I’d already explored, there was a black wooden deprivation tank some psychology students had created. In another, mindless graffiti about people I’d never know. The flickering wall sconces cast shadowy waveforms that sucked up what light they gave off. But then there it was… The camera room. I took a job busting suds as a dishwasher in the local diner to pay for it all. For the film, for the processing, for every other goddamned cost associated with this movie-making stuff because the old man believed you held yourself responsible for your own artfulness. Financially responsible. The camera came in one of those G-Man suitcases that made you feel like you were handling advanced weaponry, redacted documents or MK ULTRA. I flung it open and feigned checking the gear against the list provided. I wasn’t checking anything. I was holding insanity. I was tempting deliverance. I was a crucible and this was my molten steel. A few nights later, I walked the quiet village streets surrounding the college, capturing footage of all the neon signs at twilight. When the reversal stock came back, it looked beautiful, like something bathed in genius. I’d never bathed in genius before, I had never taken responsibility for this kind of lunatic creativity before. I felt like Thelonious Monk must have felt when he’d step away from the piano and do his shuffling dance. It felt good to be that kind of crazy.