When I look back on my college years, I sometimes get a little sad that I don't see endless vistas of drunken parties, clumsy hook-ups and elaborate pranks involving the dean of our school and an inebriated donkey.
I do remember the donkey, of course, but he wasn't inebriated. And the dean wasn't involved.
Okay, you got me. There was no donkey, and if there had been, I'm not sure I would have known what kind of cool Animal House-style mischief I could have conspired with the anxious animal.
That's not to say I didn't have fun and go to parties. But they weren't the orgiastic, drug-fueled, mostly illegal romps that I know a lot of people fondly don't remember to this day.
Instead, I remember people standing in coats, holding little plastic cups of beer in backyards, huddling around a mini keg, enthusiastically pumping the keg top and dribbling out whatever cheap beer the pre-party pool had been able to buy.
I remember Clarence Carter's "Strokin' " playing at every college-newspaper party I attended. (That was courtesy of my friend Joy, whom I could definitely lump into the sacred trust group of those folks known as "Party People.")
I remember my 21st birthday, which actually did come closest to the parties I feel I've missed most. It was at my house. I bought maybe $50 worth of liquor. I invited everybody I knew. People hooked up, made out in bathrooms, stumbled outside and rolled drunkenly on the street. Music thumped along. The next morning, about five or six of us (some in bed) woke up, hazily trying to recall the events of the night before.
That was a great party. I have pictures to prove it. Three trash bags worth of fun.
Except for the few parties that I throw once every century (the last one was for my birthday last year), and a few house parties that friends throw, I don't go to a lot of old-school, stereo-thumping, back-yard crowding parties. And a lot of the time, especially when a Saturday night consists of going to a late dinner, watching a movie and coming home to crash in front of the Sega Dreamcast, I regret not living it up more in school.
I was working all the time. I usually had a girlfriend I was spending time with. I wasn't in a frat and didn't know a lot of Party People (except Joy, of course).
And now, except for going-away parties thrown for co-workers (and I refuse to get down and loose at work-related parties. I won't drink more than a beer or two), I rarely get invited to anything resembling a real party.
I tend to always have stuff to write and stuff to get up early for, so except for the odd karaoke binge, I just don't go out much anymore.
Last week, my friend Gina moved back into town. She and I were interns at the newspaper when I started here and while she went on to live in Mexico, and then later in South Texas, I stayed here.
Now, she's back in town with a new job and we're getting to hang out again. Saturday night, Rebecca, Greg, Gina and I took in a movie (Before Night Falls, which in addition to showing a lot of schlong, was just too damned long and aimless). Rebecca needed to do some studying and get some rest, as did Greg, so Gina and I met up with Andy and had some drinks at Trudy's, the best place in town to get Mexican Martinis.
Andy and Gina hit it off, having never met before, which I knew they would. They're both sweet, great people and there wasn't any reason they wouldn't see that in each other. So after a few hours of increasingly drunken chatter, we ended up closing the place.
Gina got invited to a party and asked if I wanted to go.
It was natural instinct. Would I rather go to a party with a bunch of people I don't know or go to my warm bed and cuddle up with the GameBoy? It really isn't at pathetic as it sounds, I swear. Okay, maybe it is.
But it was 2:15 a.m. already. I was tired. I didn't feel up to chatting with people. My contact lenses were clouding up. The Mexican Martinis had made me lazy-brained and mellow. It was too late.
But I went. Gina talked me into it, and my dormant adventurous side emerged.
We arrived at a nondescript house in a South Austin neighborhood. We walked in and most of the party had cleared out. But the music was loud, the beers and bathtub punch were cold and a few minutes later, I was introducing myself to people from South Texas, near the town I'm from. Turns out that these people I don't have much in common with (electrical engineers, chemical engineers, rocket scientists, floating brains so smart they needed no corporeal bodies) were very nice. I had a great time.
It made me wonder why I never go to parties; I don't just not go, I actively avoid gatherings like that.
I got home around 5 a.m., hazy and happy. It's been maybe a year or two since I've stayed out that late.
Sunday, I woke up too early with a bad hangover. Until I got out of bed, my head felt like a lead weight bound to the pillow. The bedroom's ceiling seemed to push the weight of air against my head, pressuring it in pain.
And it felt really good.
I never knew you could miss hangovers.
I've made a good friend recently. This person is funny and cool and far hipper than I am about a lot of things. One tiny feather on the large pigeon of my friend's coolness is that they invited me to do a comic book store run on Saturday.
I haven't bought comic books in years. Everything I've read since I last bought comics in college have been Alan Moore graphic novels and the odd Frank Miller "Sin City" book.
Now all of a sudden, I'm spending $50 on a stack of Ted McKeever and Alan Moore comics, trying to catch up on everything I've missed in the last four years.
My friend also lent me a bunch of recommended books to facilitate my return to the comic book fold.
So instead of curling up in bed with the Gameboy, I can start reading "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen."
Because I'm not a geek, and this isn't just a means of changing one geek vice for another, right?
Oh my God. I totally called it. Check this out:
That's it. I gotta get out of this neighborhood. The invasion has begun.
"Dude, this is gonna be the best ice cream maker ever!"